Photo Gallery Ariel Sharon's Confusing Legacy

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma for almost five years, seemed on the road to forging a peace agreement with the Palestinians. But no one knows exactly what he had in mind.
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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon fell into a coma in early January, 2006 following a massive stroke. He left behind a difficult political legacy.

Foto: GIL COHEN MAGEN/ REUTERS
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During most of his military career, Sharon was a feared soldier who showed little mercy to his opponents. In 2005, however, he ordered Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip to be cleared. Some settlement residents had to be removed by force.

Foto: JERRY LAMPEN/ REUTERS
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Sharon also ordered the construction of the wall which now divides Israel from the Palestinian Territories. It was to protect Israel from terrorist attacks, but it also anticipated a possible border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Foto: AWAD AWAD/ AFP
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Ariel Sharon with Moshe Dayan on the western side of the Suez Canal after crossing it against orders during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Sharon was sharply criticized for rushing ahead, though his comrade Chaim Erez says that he was right to push forward.

Foto: HO/ REUTERS
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An ambulance carrying Ariel Sharon to the Sheba medical center in Tel Aviv. Sharon can now breathe on his own and is soon to be transferred home to his beloved ranch on the northern edge of the Negev Desert.

Foto: Getty Images
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Sharon in 1948 during the Arab-Israeli war. Arik, as many call him, was wounded during the fighting and was only rescued after spending hours under fire. "The experience shaped him tremendously," says former comrade-in-arms Chaim Erez.

Foto: AFP
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Ariel Sharon, left, during the Sinai campaign in October of 1956. During the campaign, Sharon made the controversial decision to take the Mitla Pass. Thirty-eight Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting and Sharon was reprimanded by his superiors. He was later accused of provoking the battle unnecessarily.

Foto: HO/ REUTERS
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The Mitla Pass incident significantly slowed Ariel Sharon's rise through the ranks, but by the 1967 Six-Day-War, he had been given command of an armored division. Following his successes during the war, he was made head of the Israeli Army's Southern Command.

Foto: HO/ REUTERS
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Sharon began his political career in the early 1970s. After making unsuccessful attempts to attain leadership positions in the Likud party and the Labor party, he formed his own list, called Shlomzion. Here, he attends the founding of Shlomzion with his wife Lily and his two sons, Gilad (next to Sharon) and Omri (to the right of Lily).

Foto: DUDU GRUNSHPAN/ AP
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Following Prime Minister Menachem Begin's election victory in 1977, Sharon's Shlomzion immediately merged with Likud and Sharon was made minister of agriculture. Here, he visits a memorial for fallen soldiers with Begin in 1981.

Foto: HO/ REUTERS
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Not long later, Sharon became defense minister. In this photo, he is briefing the press on the progress of 1982 Lebanon War. Following the Israeli invasion, the Christian Falangists allied with Israel staged a massacre in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. An investigative commission held Sharon indirectly responsible for the atrocities, and he was forced to resign as defense minister.

Foto: AFP
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Sharon's secretary Marit Danon says that the prime minister often confided in her. "He told me everything that moved him. He was lonely," she says. At difficult times, says Danon, Sharon would often say that it worried him that he didn't feel worried. This photo, from late December 2005, was taken just days before Sharon fell into a coma.

Foto: KEVIN FRAYER/ AP