The death of Ariel Sharon, the tough and divisive leader who dedicated his life to the protection of Israel, has brought outpourings of respect and sympathy, along with harsh condemnation from his detractors. Below find reactions from notable leaders and groups who today remembered the man known as “The Bulldozer,” who played a mammoth role in Israel’s military and political affairs over the past 50 years.
President Barack Obama:
“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. We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples. 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.”
Former President George W. Bush:
“Laura and I join our friends in Israel and around the world in mourning the loss of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. 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. Laura and I send our heartfelt condolences to Ariel’s family and all who will dearly miss him.”
Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
“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,” the Clintons said in a statement. “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.”
Secretary of State John Kerry:
“Ariel Sharon’s journey was Israel’s journey. The dream of Israel was the cause of his life, and he risked it all to live that dream.
“I remember reading about Arik in the papers when I was a young lawyer in Boston and marveling at his commitment to cause and country. 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. He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace.
“During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the United States had differences with him. But whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions — and Arik was always crystal clear about where he stood — you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State. In his final years as Prime Minister, he surprised many in his pursuit of peace, and today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger. We honor Arik’s legacy and those of Israel’s founding generation by working to achieve that goal.
Arik is finally at rest, and all of us in the United States pray along with his sons, Gilad and Omri, the Sharon family, and all the people of Israel. Our nation shares your loss and honors Ariel Sharon’s memory.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“The State of Israel bows its head on the passing of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Ariel Sharon played a central role in the struggle for the security of the State of Israel over all its years. He was, first and foremost, a courageous fighter and an outstanding general, and was among the IDF’s greatest commanders. From his youth, he served the people of Israel on the battlefield. He did so as a soldier in the War of Independence, a commander in the  Sinai campaign and the Six Day War, and up to his decisive role in the battle over the Suez Canal that led to the turning point in the Yom Kippur War. He established Unit 101 and took the initiative in the war against terrorism, which became a central pillar of the State of Israel. Upon leaving the military, he continued to work on behalf of the people of Israel both in his many government roles and as the 11th prime minister of the State of Israel. His memory will be enshrined forever in the heart of the nation.”
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) January 11, 2014
My dear friend, Arik Sharon, lost his final battle today. I send my condolences to the Sharon family, may he rest in peace.
— PresidentPeres (@PresidentPeres) January 11, 2014
More than anything else, PM Ariel Sharon was a brave soldier and an outstanding military leader, one of the IDF’s finest commanders.
— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) January 11, 2014
Vice President Joe Biden:
“Jill and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Ariel Sharon. We send our condolences to his family and to his beloved nation of Israel. I look forward to leading the U.S. delegation to his memorial service, to pay respects to the man and to pay tribute to the unshakeable partnership between the United States and Israel.”
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement released a statement that “our people” feel “extreme happiness” at the death of Ariel Sharon, whom he described as a “tyrant” and a “criminal,” according to ITV News.
“[Sharon's] hands were smeared with the blood of our people and the blood of our leaders here and in exile,” he said.
Human Rights Watch:
Human Rights Watch released a statement today lamenting the fact that Sharon died without facing justice for his role in the massacres in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982.
“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 and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “His passing is another grim reminder that years of virtual impunity for rights abuses have done nothing to bring Israeli-Palestinian peace any closer.”
“For the thousands of victims of abuses, Sharon’s passing without facing justice magnifies their tragedy,” she said.