Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mourned the passing of American businessman Sheldon Adelson, whom he called a wonderful personal friend and “an incredible champion of the Jewish people.”

“Sara and I are heartbroken… by the passing of Sheldon Adelson. He was a wonderful friend to us personally and an incredible champion of the Jewish people, the Jewish State and the alliance between Israel and America,” Netanyahu said in an official statement.

“Sheldon unabashedly loved America and cherished the freedom and opportunity it gave him. He worked tirelessly to ensure that very same freedom and opportunity would be given to others in America and around the world,” Netanyahu added.

The family of Adelson, 87, announced on Monday that he had passed away from complications of a long illness. Adelson was known for his close ties to Israel and Netanyahu.

“The warmth of his heart, the clarity of his thinking and the decisiveness of his actions were truly exceptional,” Netanyahu said. “From humble beginnings in a suburb of Boston, he rose to be one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and philanthropists.”

Adelson was “a great friend, a great man, and a great Jewish patriot. We will never forget him. May his memory be blessed,” he said.

Netanyahu was joined by other Israeli political leaders from across the political spectrum who praised Adelson as a great friend of Israel.

“Saddened by the passing of Sheldon Adelson, who loved the Jewish people and Israel, was a great American patriot, and who strengthened the bonds between Israel and America with boundless generosity,” tweeted Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin.