Biden at Sharon's funeral: 'The work of trying to reach peace continues'

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 13, 2014 

Vice President Joe Biden led the US delegation to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's funeral at the Knesset in Jerusalem, telling the audience "the defining attributes of this great man’s character...have all played out on the canvas of the State of Israel’s historic trajectory."

Biden lauded Sharon as a tenancious fighter for the state of Israel: "When the topic of Israel’s security arose, which it always, always, always did in my many meetings over the years with him, you immediately understood how he acquired...the nickname 'Bulldozer,' Biden said of Sharon. "He was indomitable."

He called Sharon a "complex man,...who engendered strong opinions from everyone." But, Biden added, "Like all historic leaders, all real leaders, he had a North Star that guided him -- a North Star from which he never, in my observation, never deviated. His North Star was the survival of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, wherever they resided."

Biden hailed Sharon for seeking a peace settlement and insisted "he left us too soon, but the work of trying to reach peace continues."

Biden sat between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to his right, and President Shimon Peres, to his left, in a row of seats facing Sharon's casket, draped with the Israeli flag.

Biden, wearing a dark suit and yarmulke, and his signature aviator sunglasses, was in his seat when Netanyahu and Peres joined him. He took his aviators off to greet the party, hugging Peres, then sharing a half-hug, pat on the back and then a firm handshake with Netanyahu. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair sat three seats to Biden's right.

After the service, Biden met in the Knesset Speaker's office with Peres, Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein and other members of the U.S. delegation: Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel; Reps. Eliot Engel of New York and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel.

He's later to attend a working dinner with Netanyahu at the prime minister’s residence.

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