Former prime minister Ariel Sharon dies at 85 By JPOST.COM STAFF, GIL HOFFMAN, TOVAH LAZAROFF
LAST UPDATED: 01/11/2014 14:22
Israel’s 11th premier passes away eight years after a stroke left him comatose; Sharon was one of Israel’s legendary politicians and military leaders; Sharon’s son Gilad: “He went when he decided to go.”
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon died on Saturday at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, days after his condition deteriorated .
Sharon would have turned 86 next month. His family gathered at the hospital to be with him in his final moments. His sons Omri and and Gilad had been by his side since his condition deteriorated on January 1.
Gilad Sharon reacted to the death of his father on Saturday, saying that “he went when he decided to go.”
Professor Shlomo Noy, the director of the Rehabilitation Unit at Sheba Medical Center, officially announced Sharon’s death at a press conference.
Noi stated that Sharon had continued to fight for his life in the past week as his health further deteriorated “against all odds.”
He added that, on Saturday, Sharon’s heart had weakened and he “peacefully separated from his family.”
A state funeral will be organized for Sharon by the Prime Minister’s Office. Current and former world leaders are expected to come to Israel for the funeral. His body will lie in state at the Knesset before the funeral on his Negev ranch beside his wife Lily, who died in 2000.
Sharon’s vital organs failed, including his kidneys and his lungs. His blood pressure and heartbeat, which returned to normal on Monday, deteriorated again on Thursday. Hospital officials said others in his condition would not have lasted as long as he did.
Media from around the world gathered at the hospital to deliver the news as soon as Sharon’s passing was formally announced.
Sharon’s career ended in January 2006 when he suffered a debilitating stroke, his second in under a month. Since then, he has been in a coma on life support systems.
Sheba director Ze’ev Rotstein said Monday that only a miracle could save Sharon’s life. A day earlier Rotstein said that Sharon, whose first name means lion in Hebrew, was “fighting like a lion.”
Sharon was one of Israel’s legendary politicians and military leaders. He played an instrumental role in IDF victories in the Sinai desert in both the 1967 Six Day War and in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. His victories on the battlefield, immortalized by the image of him in an IDF uniform with a white bandage wrapped around his wounded forehead, earned him the title, “Arik, King of Israel.”
He was equally fearless in the political arena, where he was the father of two parties, Likud and Kadima. As defense minister in 1982, he oversaw the Lebanon War before he was ousted from office in 1983 as a result of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre for which the Kahn Commission of Inquiry found him indirectly responsible.
But he returned to politics. As construction and housing minister from 1990 to 1992, he was responsible for a massive building effort of 144,000 apartments to house the flood of Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union bloc. As the father of the settlement movement, he was also instrumental in building thousands of homes in Judea and Samaria and is famous for urging right-wing activists “to run for the hilltops.”
He rose to the post of foreign minister in 1998. In September 2000, as the head of the Likud party, his walk on the Temple Mount was cited by Palestinians as the trigger for the second intifada.
He was elected prime minister in 2001 and under his leadership Israel began to build its security barrier in the West Bank.
He was famous for the slogan “The fate of Netzarim [a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip] is the fate of Tel Aviv.” But as prime minister, he formulated and executed the disengagement, in which Israel evacuated 21 Gaza settlements along with another four in northern Samaria. In 2005, he left the Likud in anger, choosing to create Kadima with Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert and Livni.
After his stroke, Kadima went on to win the 2006 election under Olmert’s leadership.