Ariel Sharon, 1928-2014
(Jerusalem/m.m.l.v.) – Military leader and former Israeli prime minister from 2001 to 2006, Ariel Sharon was buried January 13 next to his second wife Lily at his request on Anemones Hill on his family farm in southern Israel.
The senior leader of the Israeli right remained in a coma following a devastating brain hemorrhage January 4, 2006. He died on January 11 in Tel Aviv at age 85.
Israel called a day of national mourning, which will be observed yearly on January 12. It is estimated that 15,000 Israelis lined up to pay their last respects at Sharon’s coffin that was placed outside the country’s parliament, the Knesset, in Jerusalem. The official funeral ceremony was held the morning of January 13 and attended by diplomatic representatives from across the globe.
The grief over the disappearance of one of Israel’s national heroes is not, however, shared by all. In the Arab world, and particularly in the Palestinian Territories, Sharon was considered a war criminal, whose death has provided an opportunity revisit his controversial political and military tactics.
Evoking the disastrous invasion of Lebanon ordered by Sharon in 1982 while he was defense minister, the Palestinian movement Fatah and the NGO Human Rights Watch expressed regret that Sharon was never tried by an international tribunal for war crimes, and point to the former leader for the failure to prevent the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacres of September 18, 1982.
Palestinian militant Islamist organization Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zouhri also emphasized the possible role of Sharon in the assassination of its movement’s leader in 2004. “For our people, the disappearance of this criminal whose hands are covered in blood is a historic moment for Palestinians.” Sharon is also suspected of involvement in the possible polonium poisoning of the historic leader of the Palestinian people, Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004.
However, Sharon showed undeniable political courage in 2005 when he ordered the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. U.S. President Barack Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, along with many heads of state and government officials, called on Israel to be inspired by the legacy of pragmatism left by Sharon from the peace negotiations that were held to establish a Palestinian state.
The life of a man whose personal history is so intimately linked to that of his country is impossible to summarize through just a few select examples. Following the news of his death, thousands of pages describing the former leader have already been filled. Just which of Sharon’s decisions were right for the good of his country and the region will only be seen with the passing of time.