Israel’s former prime minister to be given a state funeral today


ERUSALEM – Israelis were
filing Sunday past the body of
ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
who has died aged 85 of heart
failure after eight years in a
coma. Draped in the national
flag, the body is lying in state at
the parliament building in
Jerusalem. Israeli and world figures
have paid tribute to a man
who fought in four major wars
before taking up politics. But
there was little sorrow among
Palestinians who saw him as an
enemy, the BBC reports.
Politicians will hold a special
commemoration today, before
Mr Sharon is buried next to his
wife Lili in a private ceremony
at his ranch in Sderot, in the
Negev desert in southern Israel.
Dignitaries from around the
world are expected to attend his
funeral, including the American
Vice President, Joe Biden, and
the Russian Foreign Minister,
Sergei Lavrov and the Romanian
Deputy Premier Liviu Dragnea.
Israel’s President Shimon
Peres, a long-time friend and
political rival who joined a unity
government with Mr Sharon in
2001, described Mr Sharon on
Saturday as “an exceptional man
and an exceptional commander
who moved his people and loved
them and the people loved him”.
Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu described him as a
warrior and a political leader.
Mr Sharon, known as “The
Bulldozer”, was a giant of Israel’s
military and political scene
whose term as prime minister
ended abruptly when he had a
major stroke that put him in a
coma in January 2006. Months
before his stroke, he had guided
Israelis through a unilateral
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip,
with the declared aim of easing
tensions with the Palestinians.
The same decisions that
made him a controversial figure
during his lengthy tenure as a
military man and politician
were back on display in the initial
reactions to his death,
CNN. These moments include
his role as defense minister during
the 1982 war in Lebanon.
During that conflict, he was
held indirectly responsible by an
Israeli inquiry in 1983 for the
massacre of hundreds of
Palestinians at the Sabra and
Shatila refugee camps. He was
forced to resign. He also raised
ire in the Arab world by encouraging
Israelis to build settlements
on occupied Palestinian
land, but later did an about-face
and pushed for the historic
withdrawal from settlements in
the West Bank and Gaza, which
were turned over to Palestinian
rule for the first time in nearly
four decades.
But Hamas, the Palestinian
movement that runs Gaza, paints
Sharon with a darker legacy.
“We deal with the death of
Sharon as an end for the crimes
he committed against the
Palestinian people,” said Israr
Almodallal, spokesman for
Hamas in Gaza. “The biggest
crime was the Sabra and Shatila
massacre in Lebanon, and we deal
with Sharon as a criminal person.
“We will not forgive Sharon any
way or another,” he said.
U.S. President Barack
Obama offered condolences to
Sharon and the Israeli people.
But his statement did not single
out any milestones in the late
prime minister’s life for praise
besides noting that Sharon dedicated
his life to Israel.
Romanian Premier Victor
Ponta offered condolences to
the family and the people Israel,
saying that Sharon was a ‘real
leader” who fought for his country
on the front as a military and
as a political man and prime
minister. President Traian
Basescu said the death of the
former Israeli PM, who in his
view ‘will remain one of the
forefront personalities of Israel’s
modern history”, represents a
considerable loss for his people
and the entire world.
The office of U.N. Secretary-
General Ban Ki-moon,
released a statement focusing on
his shift toward negotiations
with the Palestinians.
French President Francois
Hollande offered his condolences,
also emphasizing his
actions at the end of his career.
“After a long military and political
career, he made the choice
to turn towards dialogue with
the Palestinians,” Hollande said
in a statement.
The reaction from Russian
President Vladimir Putin was
less specific and, overall, laudatory
for Sharon’s contributions
to Israel and toward fostering
Israeli-Russian relations.
“It’s a shame that Sharon has
gone to his grave without facing
justice for his role in Sabra and
Shatilla and other abuses,” said
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East
director at Human Rights Watch.
Khaled Abu Al Noor, head
of the Democratic Front, a
Palestinian faction, described
Sharon as “a murderer.”

Leave a Reply