Image 1 of 12: Ariel Sharon, 84, entered a coma seven years ago and since then the region has changed beyond recognition. With news that the former Israeli prime minister’s brain is showing activity for the first time, how has the Middle East, and Israel changed, from Iranian space monkeys to the “mad dog” in the kennel in the sky?
Image 1 of 12: Sharon entered his coma when the Arab world was ruled by autocratic regimes, but the last two years have seen protests sweep away dictators across the region. Egypt, one of only two nations to sign a peace deal with Israel, elected Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood as president.
Image 1 of 12: Sharon just missed out on playing a part in the Lebanon War of 2006. Without the supervision of Sharon, Israel badly miscalculated this particular bloody adventure. Now Hezbollah stands against Israel in an arguably stronger and more authorized position than ever before.
Image 1 of 12: Despite Sharon, one of Israel’s top generals in his heyday, being off the political map, the Jewish state has carried out several assaults on the Gaza strip, as well as an ongoing blockade. Their most recent - Operation Pillar of Defense, in November 2012 - as well as numerous smaller raids, have devastated the area since 2006.
Image 1 of 12: The Middle East’s “mad dog”, Colonel Gaddafi, was savagely killed in a bloody uprising, hunted down, sodomized with a bayonet and shot for all the world to see. Sharon could have a shock wake up call with Arabs empowered to take on their dictators in such a brutal fashion.
Image 1 of 12: Palestinians got one step closer to achieving their dreams of statehood in November when the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of recognizing them as a non-member state. This new-found international support for the thorn in Israel’s side would give Sharon good reason to return to bed.
Image 1 of 12: Last week’s elections proved that the political landscape of Israel is shifting. Everyone expected a landslide victory for the right but results were closer than anyone could have anticipated. However, Sharon would be disappointed that his Kadima party still failed to make the cut.
Image 1 of 12: Far from the squares of Cairo, Israelis have been having their own Spring, complete with self-immolation and economic gripes. After his years of plenty while in office, Sharon would be waking up to a much more austere Jewish state.
Image 1 of 12: Entente inhabituel: The two major Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, unexpectedly struck a deal last year to work together, much to the dismay of Tel Aviv and the surprise of many. Sharon would perhaps share in the dismay. After all, his premiership did all it could to fragment Palestinian politics.
Image 1 of 12: The U.S. has always been Israel’s biggest supporter but with the election of a new liberal president, relations have soured considerably. President Obama’s last swipe at Bibi included reportedly calling him a “political coward”. Sharon could find himself a much more isolated leader post-coma than before.
Image 1 of 12: While Sharon has been in a coma, a bloody civil war has erupted on Israel’s doorstep that has claimed over 60,000 lives, according to UN figures. With Assad’s atrocities all over the news, Sharon might be facing a rival in the international criminal court.
Image 1 of 12: Israel has long since been worried about Iran’s nuclear ambitions but since Sharon has been out of action, the Persian state has entered a new and potentially dangerous technological era. Claiming to have successfully launched a primate into orbit and back to earth again, monkeys in space could trump nuclear arms as the new red line.
Seven years after he first slipped into a coma, former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has begun to show evidence of brain activity. Those on watch for signs of life have been disappointed before when, two years ago, a report was released suggesting Sharon was stirring from his slumber. However, according to Israeli scientists, the ex-general is now demonstrating ‘normal brain activity’, a significant change on his vegetative state.
Although a hero to many Israelis, Sharon has been no friend to the region’s Arabs. Known variously as ‘Bulldozer’, ‘war criminal’ and ‘Baby Butcher’, the former statesmen is vilified from Baghdad to Tripoli. But the images of this retired general are not all black and white and towards the end of his political career, Sharon seemed to have a change of heart.
The Israeli politician moved his stance from hero of the settlement movement to head of the left wing, Kadima party, now under the wing of Tzipi Livni. But Arabs have not been quick to forget his part in the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982 or his role in the Six Day War.
And pigs might fly?
For the last seven years, though, Sharon has been neither liberal nor right-wing, as he sleeps through some of the most radical changes the region has seen in decades. The remote likelihood has been creatively explored before, but if he were to wake from his coma now, a bewildered Sharon would find an austere Israel, more isolated than ever from its neighbors, only just clinging on to its most important ally: the U.S.
Although there has been no vaunted ‘peace in the Middle East’, the region would be barely recognizable to him. Post-Arab Spring, Arabs have voted in leaders who have to spend more time appeasing their electorate and less time jetting around the world stage. Empowered populations of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and even Yemen, ousted long-time dictators and demanded change. In effect, the landscape for an Israeli leader is a much more nerve-wracking one, seven years on.
Here we set the scene for the awakening of an Israeli leader effectively stuck in a time-warp. What would Sharon be greeted by if he was to wake up in the winter of 2013?
What do you think Ariel Sharon would think if he suddenly regained consiousness? How do you think things would have panned out differently if he'd maintained his health over the past seven years? Comment below.