After eight years of being left in a coma as a result of a stroke, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon passed away on Saturday at the age of eighty-five. His death was announced by his son, Gilad Sharon, who stated on behalf of his father, “He has gone. He went when he decided to go.” The stroke that debilitated Sharon occurred back in 2006, when Sharon was at the peak of his political reign. Ariel “The Bulldozer” Sharon will be forever remembered as one of the most controversial figures of Israel.
The legacy that is Sharon’s life will be remembered by three recognizable periods of his life: the bold and controversial period of his life that he spent in uniform as a general, the period of his life in which he served as a vehement political figure who assisted in building Israel’s settlement movement and, finally, the term he served as a successful pragmatist prime minister. As an individual, Sharon, one of Israel’s most famous soldiers, was well-known for his bold strategies and occasional defiance in obeying orders.
On the Sunday following Sharon’s death, thousands of Israelis lined themselves outside the Israeli parliament building to pay their final respects, as that is where the former prime minister’s body is currently lying in state. During this time, President Shimon Peres was joined by Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of parliament, and they made their way past the roped-off section leading to Sharon’s flag-draped coffin to hold their own moment of silence. In addition, the two placed a wreath next to Sharon’s coffin. According to the prime minister’s office, a memorial service is to be held on Monday, with the attendance consisting of Israeli and world leaders. From there, Sharon’s body will be escorted by military convoy to his ranch for the burial.
Mixed feelings have been expressed by many political figures, speaking out in regard to the loss of Sharon. The office of the U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, released a statement saying, “Sharon will be remembered for his political courage and determination to carry through with the painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip. His successor faces the difficult challenge of realizing the aspirations of peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people.” From the U.S., President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Joe Biden expressed a variety of feelings regarding the matter. Obama noted, “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.” Whereas John Kerry stated, “”During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the United States had differences with him. But whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions–and Arik was always crystal clear about where he stood–you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State.” Finally, Biden will act as the lead delegate for the U.S. during Sharon’s memorial service.
Regardless of the attitudes felt by many, countless thoughts and prayers go out to Israel for the loss of their iconic leader, Ariel Sharon.
By Aaron Weis