Joe Biden to lead delegation to Sharon's funeral; U.S. politicians react
January 11th, 2014
03:37 PM ET
4 years ago

Joe Biden to lead delegation to Sharon's funeral; U.S. politicians react

Updated 7:01 p.m., 1/11/2014

Washington (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden will lead the U.S. delegation to the memorial service of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, according to the White House.

"I look forward to leading the U.S. delegation to his memorial service, to pay respects to the man and to pay tribute to the unshakeable partnership between the United States and Israel," said Biden, expressing his condolences to Sharon's family and Israel.

Sharon died Saturday after a massive stroke in early 2006 left him comatose for eight years. He was 85.

A state memorial ceremony will be held at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, starting at 9:30 a.m. Monday. A funeral procession that will end at Sharon's ranch in the Negev Desert will follow.

The announcement of Sharon's death came as U.S. presidents, diplomats, and politicians eulogized, walking a fine line between honoring his legacy and not endorsing the controversial parts of his record.

President Barack Obama issued his own statement that many categorized as tepid and careful.

"Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel on the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel. We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples," he said - before affirming his "commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security."

Sharon had a turbulent relationship with the Palestinian people, encouraging Israelis to establish settlements on occupied Palestinian land while also leading the push for Israel's historic 2005 withdrawal from 25 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, which were turned over to Palestinian rule for the first time in 38 years.

Much of that history was glossed over as people mourned his loss.

"Ariel Sharon gave his life to Israel - to bring it into being, to sustain and preserve it, and at the end of his long service, to create a new political party committed to both a just peace and lasting security. It was an honor to work with him, argue with him, and watch him always trying to find the right path for his beloved country," said former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The current secretary of state was more effusive in his praise, releasing a long statement "marveling at his commitment to cause and country."

"I will never forget meeting with this big bear of a man when he became Prime Minister as he sought to bend the course of history toward peace, even as it meant testing the patience of his own longtime supporters and the limits of his own, lifelong convictions in the process. He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace," said John Kerry in a statement.

Kerry makes it clear he "admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State" and "surprised many in his pursuit of peace."

Earlier this week, Kerry wrapped up his 10th visit to Middle East as he pushes hard to help broker that peace.

Kerry wasn't alone in offering high praise for Sharon. Republican congressional leaders lionized Sharon and took the opportunity to affirm their commitment to Israel.

"I join the people of the Jewish state of Israel in mourning the loss of Ariel Sharon, one of the greatest warrior-statesmen in modern history. Sharon’s contribution to establishing and defending Israel’s independence is incalculable and his devotion to peace undisputed," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"He was a giant as a leader of Israel, a skilled warrior in battle and a valued friend of our nation. The United States and Israel are stronger partners in peace because of his efforts, and his loss is a great one. Our nation mourns his passing and joins Israel in honoring his tremendous legacy of independence, strength and peace," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia.

Arizona Republic Sen. John McCain said: “Few people in our world have done as much for their countries as Prime Minister Sharon did for his beloved Israel. Few soldiers have fought as selflessly to protect their fellow citizens. Few leaders have shown themselves equal to challenges that were as dire to their nation's existence. And few statesmen have made sacrifices that were as difficult, and were prepared to make more painful sacrifices still, for the sake of peace and the security for their nation.”

Other American officials quietly mourned their friend.

"I was honored to know this man of courage and call him friend. He was a warrior for the ages and a partner in seeking security for the Holy Land and a better, peaceful Middle East," said former President George W. Bush.

Bush's own secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, also grieved "a good friend of the United States."

"Ariel Sharon was a loyal and a fierce defender of peace and prosperity for the Jewish democratic state of Israel. I admired and respected him for his passion and courage," she said, adding, "He will be missed, but never forgotten."

Despite the many tributes, some took the occasion to criticize Sharon - and accuse him of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Ariel Sharon died without facing justice," said the group Human Rights Watch in a statement, citing his role in expanding settlements into Palestinian territory and the 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in the Lebanese refugee camps Sabra and Shatila. Sharon was held indirectly responsible for the deaths by an Israeli inquiry in 1983.

“It’s a shame that Sharon has gone to his grave without facing justice for his role in Sabra and Shatila and other abuses. His passing is another grim reminder that years of virtual impunity for rights abuses have done nothing to bring Israeli-Palestinian peace any closer,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "For the thousands of victims of abuses, Sharon’s passing without facing justice magnifies their tragedy."

–CNN's Alan Duke contributed to this report.

Filed under: Ariel Sharon • Israel • Joe Biden
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Donna

    This is the ONLY thing Biden is truly qualified to do. Hopefully the Gaff-O-Matic just keeps his mouth shut and does say anything else stupid.

    January 11, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  2. bill

    send dennis rodman istead-biden???? hope he keeps his mouth shut for a change.

    January 11, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  3. Thomas

    Who would keep a guy in a coma for five years ?

    January 11, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. Bill Schlosser

    Am I surprised the President isn't going himself? Of course not. It would make his Muslim Brotherhood buddies dislike him. can't have that.

    January 11, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  5. Gurgyl

    -–few senators know that Israel was playing drama to know that Israel tortured Palestine, and few congress guys know that Israel drama caused roadblock to Middle East peace and it was because of Israel nasty ruse to grab an opportunity from USA, few presidents even could not comprehend that there were no WMD, and Israel was the main pillar to go to war with Iraq to drain its treasury. Those few thugs belong to GOP, a pathetic party of NO.--John McCain

    January 11, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  6. Not good!

    Sending the buffoon Biden - who isn't qualified to wipe Sharon's shoes - is a travesty!

    January 11, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. Lakehead

    You die, we fly, the primary duty of the VP.

    January 11, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  8. don in albuquerque

    So proud when I read the posts here. America is really a wonderful place. NOT. Thank You Donna for your normal hateful, clueless take on this and any other subject.

    January 11, 2014 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  9. Thomas

    Israeli plans unveiled Friday to build over 1,800 settler homes are a signal to US Secretary of State John Kerry not to pursue his peace push,

    January 11, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  10. Mary

    Why wasn't Biden send to Thatcher's funeral? Why is Obama so selective about sending representation when leaders or pass leaders die?

    January 11, 2014 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  11. rs

    This is the ONLY thing Biden is truly qualified to do. Hopefully the Gaff-O-Matic just keeps his mouth shut and does say anything else stupid.
    You have clearly forgotten Mr. Romney's big trip abroad during his campaign- 3 countries, three gaffes. Keep believing your lies- they are like your imaginary polling data.

    January 11, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  12. Jerry

    I don't think the USA should send anyone to the funeral. Why pay any respects to that man?

    January 11, 2014 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  13. DJones

    It is truly disgusting that the Human Rights Watch is even allowed to open their sick perverted mouths in the press. Any Islamist can rise up and kill tens of thousands and they don't utter a peep, but let a Jew build a house on land that has been in his families possession for 300 years and they scream that it is a crime against humanity, an act of barbarism, and the monster should be strung up by his thumbs. The Human Rights Watch is nothing more or less than the mouth piece of the Islamic Extremest and deserves to be silenced.

    January 11, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  14. DJones

    You would think it would interest the Human Rights Watch that even though Ariel Sharon was accused of the Sabra and Shatila incident by Times Magazine that Times later retracted the article and printed a public apology to Sharon admitting that they were wrong that there was no evidence that Sharon was in anyway responsible. Anyone with even the slightest regard for the truth wouldn't dare to accuse Sharon of this crime, but here we have the Human Rights Watch once again proving that they couldn't care less about humans or truth and that their only agenda is hate mongering and antisemitism.

    January 11, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  15. Israel is an apartheid state

    Why on earth would we send a delegation to honor a miserable racist and a mass murderer?

    Couldn't we just get someone from the embassy to relieve himself on the creep's grave?

    January 11, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  16. KEVIN

    Netanyahu has a history of being very rude to Biden. Should be interesting.

    January 11, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  17. Erick Holmes

    It's sad to see him go, and I'm glad to hear Biden's heading off to Israel. And I personally don't blame Sharon for what they accuse him of. After-all, we're somewhat still guilty for our treatment of the Indians.

    January 11, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  18. Bill Doll

    Sure, send the Idiot-In-Chief when the prez doesn't have the cojones to stand up for a supposed ally. Maybe he can sell some double-barreled shotguns for home defense to the IDF while he is there.

    January 11, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  19. Hiram3

    Obumma isn't going to attend for fear he will offend those before whom he has bowed – arab potentates !!!

    January 11, 2014 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  20. Elmer

    I sure hope he can keep his mouth shut and avoid embarrassing both himself and our country.

    January 11, 2014 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  21. Drew

    Not good! says:
    January 11, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm
    Sending the buffoon Biden — who isn’t qualified to wipe Sharon’s shoes — is a travesty!
    Better than sending Bachmann to lead a delegation to Margaret Thatcher's memorial

    January 12, 2014 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  22. Chris Asking Question

    Why isn't President Obama attending the funeral? Is it because he doesn't want to offend Muslims?

    January 12, 2014 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  23. Rick McDaniel

    That is dishonest. The current regime does not support Israel.

    January 12, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  24. American

    Can Biden even point to Israel on a map?

    January 12, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  25. don in albuquerque

    Guess we could have sent Cruz, but then he would have just been a national embarrassment again and walked out in the middle of the funeral.

    January 12, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
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