Sharon's colorful legacy: unexpected Middle East quotes on the late Israeli frontman

Published January 12th, 2014 - 11:51 GMT

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Ariel Sharon
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Image 1 of 9: Ariel Sharon: Responding to claims that he was aiming to conquer the Holy city after withdrawing Israeli troops, Sharon himself hit back in 2005: "I am the last person who would divide Jerusalem. I have said this many times. I don't plan to discuss any division of Jerusalem".

Mubarak and Sharon
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Image 1 of 9: Hosni Mubarak: Sharon may of had one supporter in the Arab world - former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak seemed to be impressed with Sharon's Gaza pullout, and said in 2005 that "Sharon is capable of making [Middle Eastern] peace".

Muammar Gaddafi
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Image 1 of 9: Muammar Gaddafi: During a particularly dramatic U.N. speech in 2009, the late Libyan leader Gaddafi ripped up the U.N. charter and proclaimed that "Sharon and Arafat are over" - adding that the Two-State solution was impractical and that Israelis and Palestinians just wanted to live in peace.

Rafik Hariri
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Image 1 of 9: Rafik Hariri: Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri slammed Sharon in an interview with the BBC in 2001. "Nobody in Lebanon can imagine that Sharon is related to peace,” Hariri - who was assassinated in 2005 - said, adding that Sharon would forever be linked to the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut.

Gilad Sharon
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Image 1 of 9: Uzi Benziman: Sharon's biographer Benziman was a harsh critic of the former prime minister who never held back when speaking publicly about his subject. "He [Sharon] leaves behind great political chaos of the kind that I don't remember in the history of the country of Israel," Benziman said of the 2005 plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Ahmadinejad
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Image 1 of 9: Mahmoud Ahmedinejad: There was zero love lost between Iran's former President Ahmedinejad and Sharon. After Ariel Sharon slipped into a coma, Ahmedinejad said in 2006: "Hopefully the news that the criminal of Sabra and Shatila has joined his ancestors is final". He famously called Sharon's state a "tumour" that should be "wiped off the map".

Saudi foreign minister
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Image 1 of 9: Saud al-Faisal: Having been Saudi Foreign Minister since 1975, al-Faisal saw all of Sharon's misdemeanours - and wasn't impressed. Speaking in an interview in 2002, al-Faisal - speaking of Sharon's role in Sabra and Shatila and ruthless negotations over land in Gaza and the West Bank, said: "Sharon is pushing the Middle East to the precipice".

Amr Moussa
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Image 1 of 9: Amr Moussa: Nicknamed the "Egyptian Rambo" for his rabid anti-Israeli views, Amr Moussa had some choice words for Sharon and his colleagues when Sharon was Foreign Minister - he said the officials of Israel’s foreign ministry "suffer from mental retardation".

Ariel Sharon Jerusalem
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Image 1 of 9: Arnon Perlman: One of Sharon's top political advisers until 2004, Perlman spoke of the former PM's move towards peace with Palestine: "He never thought he would bring final peace, but he certainly thought he would take the steps that would eventually lead to it."

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died on Saturday after spending eight years in a coma, has left a mixed legacy in the Middle East where for the Arab camp he is largely public enemy number one. But what impact did he have on his fellow Middle Eastern leaders - enemies and friends- prior to his death and how will he be remembered by the region's old school who often 'worked' side by side with this larger than life ex-PM.

A commander in the IDF, Sharon is widely considered to be a war-hero to the Israeli camp (by the same token a war-monger to the Arab contingent) due to his role in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. With his illustrious military background, how Sharon has been hailed by the Israeli press since his death this weekend has come as no surprise. Israeli President Shimon Peres, giving a public obituary for his friend said: "Arik (the public nickname Sharon) was a brave soldier and a daring leader who loved his nation and his nation loved him. He was one of Israel's great protectors and most important architects, who knew no fear and certainly never feared vision." 

"The State of Israel bows its head over the passing of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon," current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, expressing "deep sorrow" over the news, Al Jazeera reported.

"His memory will forever be held in the heart of the nation," the current prime minister said of his forerunner.

People are forgiving him for what happened in the past, and he is seen as a national icon today,” his longtime media adviser, Ra’anan Gisson told U.S. magazine TIME last week. 

This may not be strictly true - for some, what Sharon is responsible for can never be forgotten. He may have tried to remove Israeli troops from Gaza, but he ended up cementing the occupation of the West Bank and made the Israeli fight for East Jerusalem more vicious. He was also found by a tribunal to be guilty of aiding and abetting the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982, where up to 3,500 civilians died at the hands of Lebanese militants, backed up by Israeli forces. The Kahan commission, opened into the massacre after it happened, found that Ariel Sharon "bears personal responsibility" for the deaths of the innocent Palestinians.

With Palestinians handing out sweets in the streets after the news of his death, and the horrific memories of Sabra and Shatila being brought to the forefront of the Middle Eastern psyche with Sharon's passing, it is fair to say that his legacy is mixed and controversial.

Perhaps the best way to understand how Sharon will be remembered by the Arab world as a man and as a leader is to look back at quotes made about him while he was alive - before PC behaviour kicked in and the slew of heartfelt obituaries flooded the press.

From Rafik Hariri to Mubarak to Sharon himself, here's how Ariel was seen in the Middle East before he passed away on 11/01/2014.

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