As Sharon Lies in State, Israel Bids a Tricky Farewell

Public, political rivals pay respects ahead of funeral tomorrow
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2014 9:03 AM CST
As Sharon Lies in State, Israel Bids a Tricky Farewell
Israel's President Shimon Peres lays a wreath next the coffin of late Israeli PM Ariel Sharon at the Knesset Plaza, Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014.   (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Israelis are filing through the Knesset Plaza today to pay their respects to Ariel Sharon, who died yesterday after being in a coma since 2005, as the former prime minister's coffin lies in state today ahead of a military funeral tomorrow. "My heart is broken. Israel lost the King of David. There is no other word to describe this man, they don't make people like this anymore," one mourner said, as per the AP. Current PM Benjamin Netanyahu eulogized Sharon thusly at a Cabinet meeting today, reports the Jerusalem Post: "Arik was first and foremost a fighter and a commander, one of the greatest military men the people of Israel has seen in modern times and in its history."

Israeli political luminaries including President Shimon Peres and former PM Ehud Olmert, who succeeded Sharon after his 2005 stroke, were among those who paid respects today. But, as Politico notes, Sharon's controversial legacy made paying tribute something of a dicey matter, with President Obama issuing this bland statement: "As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country." The timing is particularly tricky, given Netanyahu's turbulent history with Sharon, as John Kerry works to hammer out a peace "framework" between Israel and the Palestinians in the coming weeks. Vice President Joe Biden will lead a US delegation to Sharon's funeral tomorrow; Kerry is also expected to attend. (More Ariel Sharon stories.)

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