(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today (Tuesday), 23 November 2004, issued the following statement on the tragic death of Rafael “Raful” Eitan, 11th IDF Chief-of-Staff, Israeli hero, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister, public leader and man of the earth:

“Raful’s is the story of this country. From his youth, Raful had a brave and generous heart, and with uncompromising dedication and constant readiness, served the nascent nation. His life’s story is characterized by a warm and courageous bond to the land; he recognized that we have to fight in order to defend the existence of the State of Israel. He played a main role in all of Israel’s wars and in the struggle against terrorism; he left – for future generations – glorious chapters in brotherhood-in-arms and Israeli heroism.

Raful understood the centrality of the IDF in social life and as Chief-of-Staff initiated a brilliant educational enterprise, in the framework of which a second chance was given to thousands of young people to join the cutting edge of Israeli society and take a productive part in building a better society.  Today, those thousands of “Raful’s kids” are proud citizens who take a full part in Israeli life.

Even after his discharge from the IDF, in his public activities, Raful continued to be a different and unique voice in the battle for leadership of the state.

Throughout his life, Raful never forgot his great love – the land and labor. Thus, to our sorrow, he met his end.

Today, the State of Israel lost a brave fighter, commander and leader.  I lost a comrade-in-arms and a friend.”