WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Saturday remembered former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "commitment to his country," and Vice President Joe Biden will lead the U.S. delegation for the memorial service.
The Israeli soldier-turned-politician-turned statesman died on Saturday, eight years after a stroke put him in a coma. He was 85.
"We join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country," Obama said in a written statement. Obama also used the occasion to reaffirm "our unshakeable commitment to Israel's security."
"We continue to strive for a lasting peace and security for the people of Israel," Obama said.
Biden said he looked forward to the opportunity "to pay respects to the man and to pay tribute to the unshakeable partnership between the United States and Israel."
Tributes poured in from Secretary of State John Kerry, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and other Washington leaders.
Kerry said he would never forget meeting "this big bear of a man" after Sharon became prime minister.
"In his final years as prime minister, he surprised many in his pursuit of peace and, today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger," said Kerry.