Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
paid tribute Sunday to Ariel Sharon, dedicating his opening remarks at the weekly government meeting to his former Likud political rival.
"Today and tomorrow, we are taking leave from Ariel Sharon, the 11th prime minister of the State of Israel. Arik was first and foremost a fighter and a military commander, one of the greatest generals that the modern State has had," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu's cabinet honors Sharon (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi)
"Sharon understood above all that we have to protect ourselves using our own forces. I believe that he will be remembered as one of the most well-know leaders and daring military commanders of the Jewish people."
Netanyahu also spoke with Sharon's son, Omri, asking him to send condolences in his wife and family's name.
"This is a great loss of a great person," he said. "It's a personal loss and a national loss."
Former defense minister and Kadima
party leader MK Shaul Mofaz
also high praise for the man who was prime minister during his time as IDF chief of staff, telling Ynet that Sharon was courageous and visionary.
Sharon's casket at the Knesset (Photo: Knesset Spokesperson)
"He wasn't prepared for anyone else to lead him, and he saw years ahead," he said. "he left a greatly significant impression on the history of the State of Israel."
Mofaz said Sharon loved to fight and was always determined in his decisions.
"His experience turned him into a man that during the most difficult times he would hear out his advisors and then come out and make a strong decision."
Sharon will be laid to rest on Monday at his family ranch in the Negev. He died Saturday at the age of 85, after suffering a stroke in 2006 that left him in a coma for the past eight years.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report