The 81-year-old McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who was the Republican nominee for president in 2008, passed away on Saturday at his home in Arizona after a battle with brain cancer.
During his three decades in the Senate, McCain — the son and grandson of four-star admirals who graduated from the Naval Academy and served his country as a fighter pilot — was known as a staunch advocate for freedom around the world.
Part of this outlook was manifested by his backing of a strong US-Israel relationship.
“Throughout his congressional career Senator McCain stood with Israel because throughout his life he stood up for America’s allies and our shared democratic values,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said in a statement on Saturday. “As Chairman and longtime member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator McCain consistently worked to ensure that Israel had the critical resources to defend herself. In times of crisis, his eloquent voice could always be counted on to speak out in solidarity with the Jewish state.”
American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris remembered McCain as a “statesman and a national treasure — and an avid supporter of Israel, an ally he first visited nearly 40 years ago.”
“A passionate advocate for American global leadership, Senator McCain rightly bemoaned those who favored a US pullback from world affairs,” Harris added.
Former Senator Norm Coleman, the head of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), said, “Senator McCain was a patriot and a fighter. He fought for his country in war and in peace with a dedication that was awe-inspiring. It was an honor for me to serve with him in the U.S. Senate, where he was a leader on defense and security issues. His record of service to our country is a testament to a great man. We are diminished by his passing.”
The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) stated, “We honor Sen. McCain’s remarkable legacy and principled leadership, especially on issues related to national security and foreign policy. During his sixty years of service to our country, Sen. McCain rose above politics and represented his values. He was a true giant in the Senate, and he will be deeply missed.”
Top Israeli officials were also quick to express their condolences over McCain’s death.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I am deeply saddened by the passing of John McCain, a great American patriot and a great supporter of Israel. I will always treasure the constant friendship he showed to the people of Israel and to me personally. His support for Israel never wavered. It sprang from his belief in democracy and freedom. The State of Israel salutes John McCain.”
President Reuven Rivlin called McCain a “great leader, a defender of his people, a man of strong values, and a true supporter of Israel.”
Opposition leader and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, “John McCain was not only an American hero, but a hero to many all over the world. Standing up for his values, he showed us the way a true leader should act. Honorable and courageous. Israel is grateful for his support. We will all miss the great man that he was.”