Ariel Sharon Dead at 85

Former Israeli prime minister had been in coma for years

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jan 11, 2014 6:48 AM CST

(Newser) – Ariel Sharon, the hard-charging Israeli general and prime minister who was admired and hated for his battlefield exploits and ambitions to reshape the Middle East, died today, eight years after a stroke left him in a coma from which he never awoke. He was 85. As one of Israel's most famous soldiers, Sharon was known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders. As a politician he became known as "the bulldozer," a man contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done.

He led his country into a divisive war in Lebanon in 1982 and was branded as indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps outside Beirut when his troops allowed allied Lebanese militias into the camps. Yet ultimately he transformed himself into a prime minister and statesman. The life and career of the man Israelis called "Arik" will be remembered for its three distinct stages: his eventful and controversial time in uniform, his years as a vociferous political operator who helped create Israel's settlement movement and mastermind of the Lebanon invasion, then his successful term as a pragmatist prime minister, capped by a dramatic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and curtailed at the height of his popularity by his sudden stroke.

Ariel Sharon in 2005.
Ariel Sharon in 2005.   (Oded Bality)
Oct. 10, 1973: Maj. Gen. Ariel Sharon, right, views a map with Maj. Gen. Haim Bar-Lev in the Sinai desert, during the 1973 Middle East War.
Oct. 10, 1973: Maj. Gen. Ariel Sharon, right, views a map with Maj. Gen. Haim Bar-Lev in the Sinai desert, during the 1973 Middle East War.   (AP Photo/Israel Government Press Office, File)
June 15, 1982: Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, foreground, rides an armored personnel carrier on a tour of Israeli units advancing to the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon, during the Israeli occupation.
June 15, 1982: Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, foreground, rides an armored personnel carrier on a tour of Israeli units advancing to the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon, during the Israeli occupation.   (AP Photo/Israeli Defense Ministry, File)
Jan. 20, 2001: Ariel Sharon plays with his dog, Schwartz, on his ranch in southern Israel.
Jan. 20, 2001: Ariel Sharon plays with his dog, Schwartz, on his ranch in southern Israel.   (AP Photo/Michael Kremer, File)
Oct. 23, 1973: Israeli Maj. Gen. Ariel Sharon smiles with an Egyptian farmer in an unidentified village near Ismailia in Egypt.
Oct. 23, 1973: Israeli Maj. Gen. Ariel Sharon smiles with an Egyptian farmer in an unidentified village near Ismailia in Egypt.   (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)
Oct. 21, 1998: Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon stands near but does not look at, or shake hands with, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Wye Plantation, Maryland.
Oct. 21, 1998: Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon stands near but does not look at, or shake hands with, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Wye Plantation, Maryland.   (AP Photo/Israel Government Press Office, File)
June 4, 2003: President George W. Bush, Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, left, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas finalize the road map to peace at Beit al Bahar Palace in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba.
June 4, 2003: President George W. Bush, Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, left, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas finalize the road map to peace at Beit al Bahar Palace in the Jordanian Red...   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
March 7, 1984: An Israeli soldier keeps his finger on the trigger of his assault rifle while Former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon stands on the bridge overlooking the Awali River, Israel's most northerly position in Sidon, Lebanon.
March 7, 1984: An Israeli soldier keeps his finger on the trigger of his assault rifle while Former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon stands on the bridge overlooking the Awali River, Israel's most northerly...   (AP Photo/Max Nash, File)
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