Ariel Sharon dies aged 85: Barack Obama praises former prime minister for 'dedicating his life to the State of Israel'

The former Israeli Prime Minister suffered a rapid deterioration in his condition this week, which caused his organs to fail

World leaders have reacted to the death of Ariel Sharon, the former Prime Minister of Israel, and commented on his controversial legacy.

Barack Obama, President of the US, praised him for “dedicating his life to the State of Israel”.

He added: “We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel's security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples.

"We continue to strive for lasting peace and security for the people of Israel, including through our commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security."

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, paid tribute to him as "one of the most significant figures in Israeli history".

He added: "As Prime Minister, he took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace, before he was so tragically incapacitated. Israel has today lost an important leader."

Mr Sharon died in hospital on Saturday at the age of 85.

He had been in a coma since 2006, but suffered a rapid deterioration in his condition this week, which caused his organs to fail.

Shlomo Noy, the director of Sheba Medical Centre where he was treated, said Mr Sharon was in a “state of minimal consciousness with ups and downs” for the last seven years.

“During the past week, he struggled with surprising strength and determination against the deterioration in his condition and died peacefully,” he told a news conference.

“His heart weakened and he peacefully departed from his family, who were always at his side with love and support.''

At the end of December, a hospital spokesperson Zeev Rotstein described the leader’s condition as "critical", saying that his life was "in danger".

It was an emotional day for the country, where he was one of the most renowned but controversial leaders.

Read more:
Obituary: Unlike his right-wing predecessors, he was ‘a pragmatist who could make concessions without feeling that he was committing sacrilege’
Medical background: The stroke from which there was no comeback
Ariel Sharon: A life in pictures
Ariel Sharon: A timeline of his life

 

Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, cried as he remembered his former political rival.

“He was an outstanding man and an exceptional commander,” he said.

“He knew no fear. He took difficult decisions and implemented them courageously.”

The current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called his predecessor a “great military leader”, adding that “his memory will live forever in the nation's heart”.

But to many Palestinians, he was a war criminal and hated enemy.

“We will remember Ariel Sharon as the man who killed, destroyed and caused the suffering for several Palestinian generations,” said Khalil Al Hayya , a leader of Hamas - the ruling Islamist group in the Gaza Strip.

“After eight years, he is going the same direction as other tyrants and criminals whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood.”

Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper reported that Palestinians at the Ain al-Hilweh, in south Lebanon, ”rejoiced“ at the news of his death.

“We wish he had fallen in battle,” they reportedly cheered, while playing revolutionary songs inside the camp.

Mr Sharon was long regarded as a standard bearer of the Israeli right after playing a leading role in both the Six Day War of 1967 and Yom Kippur conflict six years later.

After retiring from the Israeli army as a general, he joined the right wing Likud party and was swiftly promoted into the ministerial ranks.

Never one to shun controversy, he was accused, especially by the Palestinians, of being a warmonger and held responsible for many deaths.

He was labelled the ‘Butcher of Beirut’ by some after the deaths of as many as 3,500 Palestinian refugees in the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut in 1982 when he was Israel’s defence minister.

 

In September 2000, during his ultimately successful bid to become prime minister he entered the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem’s Old City with an escort of hundreds of security officials and declared that the site – the holiest in Judaism and third holiest in Islam - would remain under perpetual Israeli control.

Palestinians reacted with fury and many analysts argue that the visit was the trigger for what became the second Palestinian uprising, or Intifada.

His subsequent premiership was dominated by the resultant violence that led to the deaths of more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,500 Palestinians.

As a politician, be became known as "the bulldozer" for his bold tactics, contempt for his critics and hard-line approach.

He was elected prime minister in 2001.

In 2005, he directed the withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, bringing an end to the country’s 38-year military control 0f the territory.

Ariel Sharon dies: Former Israeli PM was ‘a pragmatist who could make concessions without feeling that he was committing sacrilege’

The move was seen as a shocking turnaround for Sharon, who had been a forerunner in the building of Jewish settlements in the captured area.

Later quitting the Likud Party, he formed a more central Kadima Party.

He appeared on his way to re-election, but suffered a stroke in January 2006 that left him in a coma. His deputy, Ehud Olmert, took over. A few months later, Olmert was elected prime minister.

At one point, Sharon was taken home briefly, but returned to the hospital where he has remained ever since. He occasionally opens his eyes and moves his fingers, but has remained incapacitated since his admission.

Read his full obituary here

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little