After attending the funeral in London Wednesday of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had “a very warm relationship” with her, and greatly admired her.
Thatcher was laid to rest at an official ceremony attended by thousands, including world leaders and members of the Royal Family.
Netanyahu said the ceremony was “deeply moving,” and called Thatcher “a great leader” who helped “change world history” along with president Ronald Reagan by ending the Cold War “bloodlessly.”
She inspired “many around the world with her conviction, determination and courage,” he said.
He recalled that Thatcher wrote him a hand-written note following his loss to Ehud Barak in the1999 elections, saying “I’m sorry you lost.”
It was appropriate and important for him to be Israel’s representative at the funeral, Netanyahu said. “She was a very special woman and I greatly appreciated her.”
Netanyahu met later Wednesday with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron. Israeli TV reports said the two were to discuss plans for new sanctions on Iran to be imposed after the Islamic Republic’s presidential elections in the summer.
Netanyahu was personally invited to the funeral by the Thatcher family. President Shimon Peres was also invited, but it was decided after consultations that only Netanyahu would attend.
Both Israeli leaders issued warm statements eulogizing Thatcher after her death last Monday at age 87.
Aides to Netanyahu said he had a good relationship with Thatcher over the years, met with her several times when he was opposition leader and finance minister, and discussed economic policy with her.
Thatcher “was truly a great leader, a woman of principle, of determination, of conviction, of strength… a woman of greatness,” Netanyahu said last week. “She was a staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish people. She inspired a generation of political leaders. I send my most sincere condolences to her family and to the government and people of Great Britain.”
Peres called Thatcher a “friend” and “an exceptional leader.” In a statement, the president praised her “strength of character,” saying “she served as an inspiration for other leaders. As the first female prime minister of Great Britain, she broke new ground.” Thatcher represented “vision,” the president said, noting that Thatcher was a culmination of “people” and “ideas.”
“She was a true and dedicated friend of Israel, who stood with us in times of crisis and used her influence to help us in trying to make peace,” the president said. “During our negotiations with Jordan in the late 1980s, she stood as a mediator and a source of wisdom for me and the king of Jordan.”