World leaders paid tribute to Ariel Sharon following the announcement of the former Israeli Prime Minister’s death Saturday morning.
Credit: Hikmet Saatci/Anadolu Agency/Gety Images
His son, Gilad, speaking outside the hospital near Tel Aviv where Sharon had been treated in recent years, said, “He has gone. He went when he decided to go.”
Sharon had been in a coma since 2006. He was 85 years old.
In a statement, President Obama said Sharon “dedicated his life to the State of Israel,” and pledged the United States’ “unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”
On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel on the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel. 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. As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country.
The Spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement saying Sharon was “a hero to his people” as a soldier and statesman.
The Secretary-General is saddened by the death of Mr. Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister of the State of Israel. He offers his condolences to the bereaved family and to the Government and people of Israel. Throughout a life dedicated to the State of Israel, Ariel Sharon was a hero to his people, first as a soldier and then a statesman.
Prime Minister 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.
The Secretary-General calls on Israel to build on the late Prime Minister’s legacy of pragmatism to work towards the long overdue achievement of an independent and viable Palestinian state, next to a secure Israel. At this time of national mourning, the Secretary-General renews the commitment of the United Nations to work alongside the Government and the people of Israel for peace and security.
President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton praised Sharon for giving “his life to Israel.”
Ariel Sharon gave his life to Israel–to bring it into being, to sustain and preserve it, and at the end of his long service, to create a new political party committed to both a just peace and lasting security. It was an honor to work with him, argue with him, and watch him always trying to find the right path for his beloved country. Hillary and I join his fellow citizens in honoring his memory and offering our condolences to his sons and his family
House Speaker John Boehner issued the following statement on Sharon’s death:
I join the people of the Jewish state of Israel in mourning the loss of Ariel Sharon, one of the greatest warrior-statesmen in modern history. Sharon’s contribution to establishing and defending Israel’s independence is incalculable and his devotion to peace undisputed. The people of America and Israel have forged a friendship based on a common love of freedom, a relationship strengthened by farsighted leaders like Ariel Sharon. He knew, as ancient Scripture attests, ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.’ I send condolences to his family, friends, and countrymen.
British Prime Minister David Cameron offered his condolences, calling Sharon “one of the most significant figured in Israeli history.” Cameron said:
Ariel Sharon is one of the most significant figures in Israeli history and 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.
Sharon was also remembered in tweets:
In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed Sharon’s life and legacy in Israel.
The State of Israel bows its head on the passing of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Ariel Sharon played a central role in the struggle for the security of the State of Israel over all its years. He was, first and foremost, a courageous fighter and an outstanding general, and was among the IDF’s greatest commanders.
From youth, he served the people of Israel on the battlefield. He did so as a soldier in the War of Independence, a commander in the Sinai. campaign and the 6 Day War and up to his decisive role in the battle over the Suez Canal that led to the turning point in the Yom Kippur War. He established Unit 101 and took the initiative in the war against terrorism, which became a central pillar of the State of Israel.
Upon leaving the military, Ariel Sharon continued to work on behalf of the people of Israel both in his many government roles, and as the 11th prime minister of the State of Israel. His memory will be enshrined forever in the heart of the nation.
PM Netanyahu expresses his deep sorrow over the passing of former PM Ariel Sharon:”he was a great warrior and military leader” 1/2
— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) January 11, 2014
Today, former PM Ariel Sharon passed away. He was a courageous leader & defender of Israel. May his memory be blessed pic.twitter.com/YCEJPPsE6R
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) January 11, 2014
My dear friend, Arik Sharon, lost his final battle today. I send my condolences to the Sharon family, may he rest in peace.
— PresidentPeres (@PresidentPeres) January 11, 2014
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) January 11, 2014
Palestinians react to announcement of Sharon’s death:
Even in death, Sharon remains a controversial figure in the Middle East.
Associated Press correspondent Mohammed Daraghmeh writes Sharon is loathed by many Palestinians for his role leading military offensives against them in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
Reuters reports Palestinians in Gaza on Saturday passed out sweets in celebration of the former leader’s death. Photographs posted on Getty Images showed jubilant teens burning posters of Sharon in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis.
While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not have an immediate comment about Sharon’s death, Palestinian groups have issued statements to the media.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters the group was “more confident in victory with the departure of this tyrant (Sharon).”
Reuters also posted comments from Wael Abu Youself, senior member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
“The Palestinian people remember what Sharon did and tried to do to our people and their dream of forming a state,” Youself said.
“Despite the settlements and wars that he launched against us, here and in Lebanon and with the war crime of Sabra and Shatila (camps), Sharon has departed and the Palestinian people remain on their land.”