Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid joined the stream of leaders in the US and around the world eulogizing former US Senate majority leader Harry Reid on Wednesday.
“Harry Reid was a fearless leader and a true American patriot,” Bennett tweeted. “His deep commitment to the State of Israel and the Jewish people will leave a legacy to be remembered. May his memory be a blessing.”
“Senator Harry Reid was a dedicated public servant, a distinguished leader, and a true friend of Israel who made a significant contribution to strengthening the relationship between our two countries. I send my condolences to his family, friends, and to the American people,” wrote Lapid in his Twitter post.
Opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu called Reid “a dedicated public servant of America, a great supporter of the US-Israel alliance and a personal friend of many years.”
“I will never forget Harry’s moving words to my family and me after he had read the book of my brother Yoni’s letters. Rest in peace, Harry,” Netanyahu added.
The former Democratic senator and Nevada’s longest-serving member of Congress died Tuesday at the age of 82 after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
Reid was a strong advocate for Israel, working to secure funding for Israeli defense and joint Israel-US projects, but in 2015 he angered Israel by throwing his support behind Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, which was bitterly opposed by Jerusalem.
He justified his stance, saying that Israel’s security is “of utmost importance.”
“I support this deal because I believe it is the best option to halt any Iranian nuclear weapons program and therefore to protect the State of Israel,” he said.
He also worked tirelessly to combat antisemitism, continuing to act even after he retired.
“To think that this issue is back now is really hard to accept,” Reid told The Nevada Independent in an interview in 2019 after swastikas were unfurled at a Bernie Sanders campaign rally.
Reid, whose wife, Landra, is the daughter of Jewish immigrants, later hosted an event on antisemitism at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
He urged politicians on both sides not to make antisemitism a partisan issue.
Reid started buying Israel bonds early in his career. “I’d say, ‘Harry, you can’t afford to give that much,’” a close friend, Neil Galatz, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2006, after Democrats swept Congress and Reid launched his eight-year stint as majority leader. “He’d say, ‘I can’t afford not to.’”
Reid was a leader on pro-Israel legislation and he took time in 2010, when as majority leader he was muscling the Affordable Care Act forward, to shepherd through major sanctions targeting Iran.
Reid made headlines in 2011 when he spoke at AIPAC’s annual policy conference and criticized Obama’s call for a peace deal based on the 1967 lines.
It was not the only time Reid sided with the pro-Israel community against Obama administration policies. In 2016, he joined five other top Democrats in rapping the administration for not extending its anti-boycott policies to products made in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. On the Iran nuclear deal though, he toed the party line.
Agencies contributed to this report.