Reuven Rivlin
Reuven Rivlin Israel news photo: Flash 90

Former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin praised deceased former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a post to Facebook on Sunday.

Sharon “was one of the heroes of the Jewish nation of the past 100 years,” Rivlin declared.

Rivlin previously served alongside Sharon in the Likud party, and the two were considered close political allies. However, a rift developed between them over Sharon’s Disengagement policy, which included a forced withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria, and his subsequent departure from Likud to create the Kadima party.

Rivlin wrote, “Despite his contradictory public image, Arik identified first and foremost as a Jew, and the Jewish nation’s journey to its land was his life’s mission. In every position he held, he was ready to sacrifice all he had for his land, his country and his people.”

“Arik was, and remained, a student of Ben-Gurion and a pragmatic Zionist who became a national leader,” Rivlin continued. “Despite the disputes between us, and the things he did, I always knew that the Jewish nation’s continuing presence in its land was the more important thing to him.

“Arik was a sensitive man and a hard man, sometimes friendly, sometimes showing his displeasure, sometimes aggressive, sometimes teary-eyed. But he was always a leader first of all.

“Even if you didn’t agree with him, you couldn’t ignore his ability to gather followers and to lead,” Rivlin concluded.

Sharon passed away over the weekend after several years in a coma. His coffin will be placed in the Knesset at noon on Sunday, and the public will be able to pay its respects until 6 p.m. Sharon will be buried Monday alongside his late wife, Lilly.