Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, May 14, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO) (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Shinzo Abe Netanyahu

Israel’s Ambassador to Japan said former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the “driving force behind” Israel’s friendly relations with Japan.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Israel’s leadership expressed shock and sorrow following the assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was considered a close friend of Israel and who worked to build close ties between the two countries.

Abe, who was the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history, was shot dead in the southern city of Nara on Friday during a political campaign event

Prime Minister Yair Lapid stated on Friday “on behalf of the Government and people of Israel, I send my condolences to the Japanese people and their government on the tragic death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.”

“Abe was one of the most important leaders of modern Japan, and a true friend of Israel who brought about flourishing and prosperous relations between Israel and Japan,” he added.

“His heinous murder will not change his distinguished legacy. Today, Israel bows its head and mourns the loss of Abe together with the people of Japan,” he said.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog said he was “horrified by the despicable murder of Abe, one of Japan’s most preeminent leaders in modern times.”

He recalled that they met when Herzog chaired Israel’s Opposition and remembered being “deeply impressed by his leadership, vision and respect for Israel. Grieving with his family and the whole Japanese people.”

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he “mourns the tragic assassination of a great leader of Japan and a wonderful friend of Israel, our dear friend Shinzo Abe. I will always remember Shinzo Abe and cherish our deep friendship.”

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy said he was “appalled by the assassination” and sent his condolences on behalf of the Knesset to the Japanese people and Abe’s family.

“Abe was a true friend of Israel for many years and he even made time for an unplanned meeting with the Knesset’s interparliamentary friendship group a month and a half ago in Japan,” he shared.

Israel’s embassy in Japan said Abe was “one of the leading politicians of modern Japan, calling him “a true friend of Israel who contributed significantly to the building and prosperity of today’s friendship between Israel and Japan.”

Gilad Cohen, Israel’s Ambassador to Japan, stated he was “surprised at the shocking incident that occurred in Nara. One of Japan’s leading leaders, Abe, was the driving force behind the building of today’s friendly relations between Israel and Japan, and the strong bond between the two countries would not have been possible without his presence.”