THE FORMER ISRAELI Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died, Israel’s government has confirmed.
Sharon passed in Tel Hashomer hospital days after his condition had become critical. He was 85.
He had spent over eight years in a coma following a debilitating stroke in 2006.
Sharon was nicknamed “The Bulldozer” for his ruthless negotiating methods.
Swept to power in 2001 by an electorate traumatised by suicide bombings, Sharon threw his weight behind the “war on terror”, laying siege once again to PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
Sharon later broke with his life-long convictions and rightwing nationalist allies to push through an unprecedentedly bold plan to withdraw Israeli troops and 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip.
His decision to “disengage” from Gaza and its 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants was motivated by the fear that demographic realities meant Israel would not long be able to maintain a Jewish majority if it continued to retain territories seized in the Six-Day War.
Accused by former allies of “treason” over Gaza, Sharon abandoned his political home in Likud in November 2005 to found the centrist Kadima party with the idea of making further withdrawals from the West Bank.
However, just weeks later he would suffer a stroke at the height of his political career. He would never recover and his legacy has split the Israeli right.