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Friday, August 29, 2014

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Former British PM Margaret Thatcher, ‘staunch friend of Israel,’ dies

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Margaret Thatcher

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was considered a good friend of Israel despite a rocky relationship with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, has died.

Thatcher died Monday after suffering a stroke. She was 87. Thatcher suffered from dementia at the end of her life, which was dramatized in the 2011 movie "The Iron Lady."

The only female to serve as prime minister of Britain, she also was the longest continuously serving prime minister in the 20th century,  leading the country and her Conservative Party from 1979 to 1990.

Thatcher was supportive of Israel but had a troubled relationship with Begin, who served two terms in the 1980s. She called Begin the "most difficult" man she had to deal with, according to the Chronicle. She also strongly opposed Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mourned her passing in a statement.

"She was truly a great leader, a woman of principle, of determination, of conviction, of strength; a woman of greatness," Netanyahu said. "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."

Thatcher had a strong relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and together they fought communism, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Her cabinets included several Jewish members, including Nigel Lawson, Malcolm Rifkind, Keith Joseph and Leon Brittan, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

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