'He gave his life to Israel:' World leaders react to Sharon's death


Gilad Sharon, left, the son of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, and family members visit the grave of his mother Lili were his father is expected to be buried after the announcement of his death today on January 11, 2014 near Sharon's farm in Havat Hashikimim, Israel.


Uriel Sinai

World leaders were quick to react after former Israel prime minister Ariel Sharon’s death on Saturday.

After spending eight years in a coma following a 2006 stroke, Sharon died at age 85. While many western leaders offered thoughts to his family, others reminded the world of his controversial time leading Israel’s military.

United States President Barack Obama offered condolences to Sharon’s family, calling Sharon a leader who “dedicated his life to the State of Israel.”

“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,” Obama’s statement said.

The American president then took the opportunity to reaffirm the US-Israel relationship, strained as the world tries to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.

“We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples,” Obama said online.

“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.”

Here are what other world leaders are saying:

Shimon Peres, Israel

"My dear friend, Arik Sharon, lost his final battle today. I send my condolences to the Sharon family, may he rest in peace. Arik was a brave soldier and a daring leader who loved his nation, and his nation loved him. We all loved Arik, and he will be greatly missed."

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“He was a great warrior and military leader. His memory will live forever in the nation’s heart.”

Ehud Olmert, Israel

"Arik was not a warmonger. When it was necessary to fight, he stood at the forefront of the divisions in the most sensitive and painful places, but he was a smart and realistic person and understood well that there is a limit in our ability to conduct wars."

Tawfik Tirawi, who served as Palestinian intelligence chief when Sharon was prime minister

"He wanted to erase the Palestinian people from the map ... He wanted to kill us, but at the end of the day, Sharon is dead and the Palestinian people are alive."

John Kerry, US Secretary of State

"I will never forget meeting with this big bear of a man when he became Prime Minister as he sought to bend the course of history toward peace, even as it meant testing the patience of his own longtime supporters and the limits of his own, lifelong convictions in the process."

Russian President Vladimir Putin

"Ariel Sharon will be remembered in Russia as a consistent supporter of friendly relations between Russia and Israel, who made a significant contribution to expanding mutually beneficial cooperation."

Prime Minister David Cameron, Great Britain

"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."

Khalil al-Haya, a leader in the Islamic militant group Hamas

"After eight years, he is going in the same direction as other tyrants and criminals whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood."

Bill and Hillary Clinton, United States

"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. 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."

Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany

"With his courageous decision to withdraw the Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, he took a historic step on the path to a deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada

“A renowned military leader, Mr. Sharon pursued the security of Israel with unyielding determination that was recognized by friends and foes alike. He also played a central role in the Israeli government for several years, changing the political landscape through his leadership and vision.

“We join today with those mourning the loss of Ariel Sharon, one of the architects of modern day Israel and one of the nation’s staunchest defenders."