(JNS.org) Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon died Saturday at the age of 85. Sharon had a storied career in the Israeli military, later serving as defense minister and foreign minister.
Sharon was Israeli prime minister from 2001-2006. His tenure was noted for his response to the Second Intifada and for leading the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. He suffered a second stroke in 2006 that left him in a permanent coma.
“[Sharon] was a great general, and he really loved the state of Israel. He loved each and every square centimeter of the land. He loved our nation,” Yaakov Katz, a former Knesset member and chairman of Israel’s National Union Party, told JNS.org.
“Many Israelis may fault one or another of Sharon’s political or military decisions,” said World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder in a statement, “but probably no single individual fought harder to safeguard Israel. In a climate of fierce debate, he did what he thought was right for his country, whether it was his brilliant encirclement of Egyptian troops during the Yom Kippur War or the withdrawal from Gaza. His tank maneuvers will be studied as long as there are military colleges. His efforts to house and absorb the nearly one million Russian-speaking Jews who arrived in Israel in the 1990s will forever be appreciated.”
"Ariel Sharon played a central role in the struggle for the security of the State of Israel throughout its years. He was, first and foremost, a courageous fighter and an outstanding general, and was among the IDF's greatest commanders,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
"I was honored to know this man of courage and call him friend. He was a warrior for the ages and a partner in seeking security for the Holy Land and a better, peaceful Middle East,” former U.S. President George W. Bush said of Sharon.