Israel and US Jews mourn Colin Powell as patriot and friend

Tributes pay homage to soldier-statesman for his friendship with Israel and U.S. Jewry.

By Benjamin Kerstein, The Algemeiner

Top Israeli officials and American Jewish and pro-Israel groups weighed in on Monday to mark the death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War and later as Secretary of State during the lead-up to the Iraq War, died Monday at the age of 84, from a COVID-19 infection complicated by cancer treatments that weakened his immune system.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said, “We mourn the passing of Colin Powell, a great American patriot and a great friend of Israel.”

“His bold leadership and lifelong commitment to freedom and democracy is a legacy that will forever inspire,” he said. “May his memory be a blessing.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid echoed these sentiments, saying, “On behalf of the State of Israel, I wish to express our condolences to the family and friends of General Colin Powell.”

“Throughout his distinguished military and diplomatic career, General Powell was a true friend and committed partner of Israel,” he added. “May his memory be for a blessing.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz called Powell “a great American statesman and military leader,” and also “a pioneer — the first African-American to serve as US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as Secretary of State.”

“I was honored to have met him on several occasions in Washington,” Gantz recalled. “Time and again, he demonstrated that his support for the US-Israel alliance was unwavering. On behalf of Israel’s defense establishment, I express gratitude for his legacy and send my condolences to his loved ones.”

Former prime minister and leader of the opposition Benjamin Netanyahu also offered condolences, saying that Powell “served his country with great dedication and we will always remember his friendship to the State of Israel.”

American Jewish groups weighed in as well, with the American Jewish Committee commemorating Powell as “a soldier-statesman who served as the first African American Secretary of State and was a friend of Israel, of the Jewish community, and of AJC.”

The group extended condolences to Powell’s wife Alma and his family.

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC called Powell “a true patriot and statesman whose life was devoted to America’s security and values” and “a genuine friend of the Jewish people who understood the critical importance of the US-Israel relationship.”

Powell played a key role in adopting the Bush administration’s so-called road map to a two-state solution, and though not uncritical of the Jewish state, was neither perceived as hostile.

In a speech to the American Friends of the Hebrew University in 2013, Powell said, “I reject arguments that say we can’t say anything wrong about Israel. … We shouldn’t feel it necessary to agree with Israel on every issue.”

However, in the same speech he called president Harry Truman’s decision to recognize Israel “one of his wisest, most far-sighted decisions” and asserted “Israel has always been a friend. We’ve always stood by Israel and always will.”