Israeli Army Radio reported on Saturday that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had passed away. He had been in a coma after suffering a stroke in his 5th year as prime minister in 2006.
Sharon also served as Israel’s defense minister and was a famous general in the army. His 5 decade career as a military and political figure was riddled with controversy, leaving people with mixed feelings.
For example, in 1983 Sharon was forced to resign as defense minister after being found indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Shatila camps during the Lebanon War of 1982.
After being elected prime minister in 2001 during a particularly tense time in Israeli-Palestinian relations, Sharon pursued a hard-line military approach to the Palestinians, ordering the re-occupation of the disputed West Bank by the Israeli military.
However, in 2005 he reversed his long-time view of occupation and settlement of the disputed lands, calling for withdrawals from 25 settlements in Gaza and the West Bank territory, turning them over to Palestinian control for the first time in 38 years.
He suffered a small stroke in December of that year, followed by a massive brain hemorrhage on January 4, 2006 which left him comatose.
So what is his legacy? He spent many years protecting Israel through deft but often bloody and controversial moves, leading many to call him a destructive and inflammatory influence on the region.
However, he also made history by extending the peace branch by calling for the withdrawals in 2005. One thing is unarguable: he played a huge part in shaping Israel, the Middle East and the world during his lifetime.
- Former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon Dies (USA Today)
- Ariel Sharon, Former Israeli Prime Minister, Dead at 85 (CNN)
- Ariel Sharon, Whose Life and Career Shaped Israeli History, Dies (NPR)