Ariel Sharon, Israeli Hawk Who Sought Peace on His Terms, Dies at 85

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Ariel Sharon, one of the most influential figures in Israel’s history, a military commander and political leader who at the height of his power redrew the country’s electoral map, only to suffer a severe stroke from which he never recovered, died Saturday in a hospital near Tel Aviv. He was 85.

Gilad Sharon, one of his two surviving sons, told reporters at the hospital where the former prime minister spent most of the last eight years that his father “went when he decided to go.”

A cunning and unforgiving general who went on to hold nearly every top government post, including prime minister at the time he was struck ill, Mr. Sharon spent his final years in what doctors defined as a state of minimal consciousness in a sterile suite at the hospital, Sheba Medical Center. Visits were restricted for fear of infection.

Prof. Shlomo Nov of the medical center said heart failure was “the direct cause of his death,” resulting from organ deterioration that had deepened over “a number of days.”

Timeline: Sharon, Through the Years

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the nation bowed its head to a man he described as “first and foremost a brave soldier and an outstanding military commander” who “had a central role in the battle for Israel’s security from the very beginning.”

In many ways, Mr. Sharon’s story was that of his country. A champion of an iron-fisted, territory-expanding Zionism for most of his life, he stunned Israel and the world in 2005 with a Nixon-to-China reversal and withdrew all Israeli settlers and troops from Gaza. He then abandoned his Likud Party and formed a centrist movement called Kadima focused on further territorial withdrawal and a Palestinian state next door.

Mr. Sharon was incapacitated eight years ago, in January 2006, and in elections that followed, Kadima still won the most votes. His former deputy, Ehud Olmert, became prime minister. But the impact of Mr. Sharon’s political shift went beyond Kadima. The hawkish Likud Party, led by his rival, Mr. Netanyahu, was returned to power in 2009, and Mr. Netanyahu, too, said then that he favored a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

An architect of Israeli settlements in the occupied lands, Mr. Sharon gained infamy for his harsh tactics against the Palestinians over whom Israel ruled. That reputation began to soften after his election as prime minister in 2001, when he first talked about the inevitability of Palestinian statehood.

Israeli settlers, who had seen him as their patron, considered him an enemy after he won re-election in 2003. In addition to withdrawing from Gaza and a small portion of the West Bank, he completed part of a 450-mile barrier along and through parts of the West Bank — a barrier he had originally opposed. It not only reduced infiltration by militants into Israel but also provided the outline of a border with a future Palestinian state, albeit one he envisioned as having limited sovereignty.

Before becoming ill, Mr. Sharon was said to have been planning further withdrawals of Jewish settlers and troops from Palestinian lands in hopes of fulfilling the central goal of his life: ensuring a viable and strong state for the Jewish people in their historic homeland.

But even if he had stayed healthy, his plans might have been interrupted by the rise of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, the 2006 conflict with the militant group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and increased concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Sharon viewed negotiating with Palestinian leaders as pointless; he felt they had neither the will nor the power to live up to their promises. Mr. Sharon said he believed that by carrying out the withdrawal unilaterally and building the barrier to include large Israeli settlement blocks, he was ensuring a Jewish state with defensible borders. Critics argued that by redeploying without handing responsibility to the Palestinian Authority, he had increased the power of Hamas.

Mr. Sharon’s final years in power contained surprises beyond the settlement reversal. He had long shown disdain for diplomacy, yet calculated his new path directly in line with what he thought the United States would accept and support. And though he had forced Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, to remain a prisoner in his Ramallah compound, Mr. Sharon built a cordial relationship with his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, after Mr. Arafat  died in 2004.

Despite years of antagonism, Hosni Mubarak, then president of Egypt, and King Abdullah II of Jordan gave Mr. Sharon public support in pursuing a solution to the conflict. Those close to him said he had always been more pragmatic than most people realized.

Pragmatism and Resilience

Thick-limbed and heavyset, with blue eyes, a ready smile and a shock of blond hair that whitened as he aged, Mr. Sharon was the archetypal Zionist farmer-soldier. He was not religiously observant, but he was deeply attached to Jewish history and culture and to the land where much of that history had occurred. He believed unshakably that reliance on others had brought his people disaster, and that Jews must assert and defend their collective needs without embarrassment or fear of censure.

As he put it in “Warrior,” his 1989 autobiography, “The great question of our day is whether we, the Jewish people of Israel, can find within us the will to survive as a nation.”

Defiant and brusque, Mr. Sharon had many enemies, who denounced him as self-promoting, self-righteous and unyielding. But he was also courtly to his political rivals and had a surprising sense of humor. His popular appeal was consistently underestimated.

He was dismissed as washed up in 1983 when he was forced to resign as defense minister after an official committee charged him with “indirect responsibility” for a Lebanese massacre of hundreds of Palestinians the previous year.

Mr. Sharon survived that humiliation and remained politically active enough to take command of his rudderless Likud Party after a 1999 rout by Labor. Even then, he was viewed as a seat warmer for younger leaders, yet he surprised everyone again when, in 2001, he was elected prime minister in the biggest landslide in Israel’s history.

He entered office four months into a violent Palestinian uprising. Israeli voters selected him over Ehud Barak, his predecessor, in the hope that Mr. Sharon would restore security.

Given how he had crushed the Palestinian guerrilla infrastructure in Gaza in the early 1970s, there was logic to his election. But there was a paradox, too. It was Mr. Sharon’s visit, in September 2000, accompanied by hundreds of Israeli police officers, to the holy site in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, that helped set off the riots that became the second Palestinian uprising.

Once elected, he brought dovish members of Labor into his cabinet to form a government of national unity to contend with growing Palestinian and Arab hostility after the collapse of a seven-year Middle East peace effort begun at Oslo, under the Labor-led government of Yitzhak Rabin.

Mr. Sharon faced clashes between, on one side, Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza and, on the other, Palestinian militiamen and guerrillas. And there were many episodes of Palestinian terrorism inside Israel.

He responded by sending envoys to the Palestinian leadership and calling for an end to the violence. But when that proved fruitless, he proceeded with force, moving tanks and heavy equipment into areas that Israel had previously turned over to Palestinian control.

The border with Lebanon also grew tense, and previously cordial relations with Jordan and Egypt, more moderate governments, froze. Hopes for amity between Israel and its neighbors seemed the dimmest in a decade.

But Mr. Sharon said that if peace could be forged out of the century-long conflict, he would be its blacksmith. He had, he said, a firm grasp on Israel’s security needs and understood his adversaries.

In the years before Mr. Sharon’s election, it was often said that the Middle East had entered a new era of coexistence fostered by the Oslo peace negotiations and increased global interdependence. This struck Mr. Sharon as dangerously naïve, and most of his fellow Israelis came to agree with him.

“The war of independence has not ended,” he told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in April 2001. “No, 1948 was just one chapter.” He added: “The end of the conflict will come only when the Arab world recognizes the innate right of the Jewish people to establish an independent Jewish state in the Middle East. And that recognition has not yet come.”

It was a theme taken up later by Mr. Netanyahu as well.

A Zionist Vision

Mr. Sharon was born Ariel Scheinerman on Feb. 27, 1928, on a semicollective farm, or moshav, named Kfar Malal, about 15 miles northeast of Tel Aviv. His parents, Samuel Scheinerman and the former Vera Schneirov, had emigrated from Russia. His mother, from a wealthy Belarussian family, was forced to interrupt her studies in medicine by the Russian Revolution. His father was a Zionist youth leader and agronomy student in Russia and a farmer in Palestine.

The isolation and mistrust of others that characterized Mr. Sharon’s relationships throughout his life had familial roots. His parents, who brought him up to treasure classical music and Russian literature, disdained their fellow moshav dwellers as unlettered and uncouth. Theirs was the only farm on the moshav with a fence around it.

In his autobiography, Mr. Sharon described his father as cantankerous and stingy with love. As a child, he reported, he felt lonely. Known from boyhood by the nickname Arik, Mr. Sharon began his military career in the Gadna, a paramilitary high school organization.

After graduation and a special course, he became a Gadna instructor at an agricultural school. His own instructor, Micah Almog, told biographers that even then Mr. Sharon refused to follow any script given to him and insisted on teaching his own way. He also joined the Haganah, the main underground Zionist fighting brigade, which became the Israel Defense Forces after independence.

In 1947, Mr. Sharon worked for the Haganah in the vast, flat stretch north of Tel Aviv that is called the Sharon Plain. It was from there that he took his new Israeli family name in the emerging Zionist tradition of Hebraizing the names brought from the diaspora. This was part of the plan to create a “new Jew” rooted in the homeland and no longer tied to the Old World.

At the height of the independence war, in May 1948, Mr. Sharon’s unit was sent to take part in the battle of Latrun against the Jordanian Army, at the foot of the hilly entrance to Jerusalem. It was a disastrous battle for the Zionists, and Mr. Sharon was badly wounded in the abdomen. Despite initial rescue efforts, he lay abandoned and bleeding for hours, and nearly died. It was an early and influential encounter with what he considered incompetence above him.

When he was 20, Mr. Sharon married a young Romanian immigrant named Margalit Zimmerman, who had been his student in Gadna and who went by the nickname Gali. After the 1948 war, he remained in the army and served in a number of posts around the country. In 1952, he took a leave from the army, and the couple moved to Jerusalem, where Mr. Sharon began Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University and his wife became a psychiatric nurse.

A Reputation for Boldness

Mr. Sharon had already earned a reputation as an effective battalion commander who believed that Israel had been timid in the face of Arab border provocation. Many of his superiors were wary of him, but others, including David Ben-Gurion, the country’s founding prime minister, admired his boldness.

In 1953, Mr. Sharon was asked to form and lead the first elite commando force for special operations behind enemy lines. It was named Unit 101, and although it operated as an independent unit for less than a year, it became legendary in Israel. The aim of the unit was to retaliate for cross-border raids, Arab violations of the 1949 armistice agreements and attacks against Israeli civilian targets.

The unit’s first major operation came in October 1953, after an Israeli woman and her two children were killed while sleeping in their home in the town of Yehud. Mr. Sharon led a reprisal raid on the Jordanian town of Qibya, which was said to be harboring Palestinian guerrillas.

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Mr. Sharon met with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt at the Movenpick Golf Resort in Sharm El-Sheikh in 2005. Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The battle of Qibya, in which 69 people were killed, more than half of them women and children, and 45 houses were demolished, brought Israel its first condemnation by the United Nations Security Council and became a Palestinian rallying cry for a generation.

A furor erupted in Israel over the civilian deaths, but the government did not investigate and covered up for the commando unit by saying that no Israeli soldiers had been involved. The raid, Ben-Gurion said at the time, must have been by people around Jerusalem, “refugees from Arab countries and survivors of Nazi concentration camps, who had suffered terribly at the hands of their tormentors and had shown great restraint until now.”

Unit 101 cultivated a sense among its members of being above rules and able to operate under the most severe conditions, an attitude that later permeated all elite Israeli military units.

In the 1956 Sinai campaign, Mr. Sharon commanded a paratroop brigade and violated orders by driving his men deep into Sinai to the Mitla Pass, where they were ambushed by Egyptian forces and sustained dozens of deaths, with scores of soldiers wounded. He had been unaware of a deal among Britain, France and Israel regarding the Mitla Pass. He was not shy with his complaints or sense of betrayal, and when the war ended his career suffered.

It was a period of personal loss as well. In May 1962, his wife, Gali, was killed when the car she was driving veered out of its lane and was hit by a truck. Mr. Sharon later married Gali’s younger sister, Lily, who had followed her to Israel. Lily became a mother to his son Gur, and together she and Mr. Sharon had two more sons, Omri and Gilad.

In 1964, Mr. Sharon’s flagging military career was revived by Mr. Rabin, then the chief of staff, who made him chief of the northern command. When the 1967 war broke out in June, Mr. Sharon was sent south to his old command area and played a crucial role on the Egyptian front.

When the war ended in a stunning victory for Israel — which had tripled its land mass and defeated the combined armies of Jordan, Syria and Egypt — Mr. Sharon felt a euphoria nearly unmatched in his life, he wrote in his autobiography.

Personal tragedy struck again soon. In October 1967, Gur, 11, his eldest son, was playing with friends with an old hunting rifle, stuffing it with gunpowder. A neighbor boy playfully aimed it at Gur’s head and pulled the trigger. Mr. Sharon, who was alone in the house at the time, ran out at the sound of the blast, scooped his son off the ground and flagged down a passing car to go to a hospital. The boy died en route.

His wife, Lily, remained Mr. Sharon’s fiercely loyal companion until her death from cancer in 2000. His two sons survive him, as do a number of grandchildren.

A Turn to Politics

Mr. Sharon’s relations with his military superiors remained tense as the country faced intermittent Palestinian guerrilla attacks in what became known as the War of Attrition. He was nearly thrown out of the army in 1969.

In 1970, as commander of the south, Mr. Sharon crushed Palestinian guerrilla units in the Gaza Strip. He bulldozed homes and groves, imposed collective punishment, set up intelligence units of Israelis who could pass for Palestinians and established the first Jewish settlements to hamper travel and communication of Palestinians.

In 1973, Mr. Sharon felt drawn to politics. With help from American friends, he also bought a large farm in the Negev Desert — it remains the largest privately owned farm in the country — and talked about retirement from the military. But that October, a shocking invasion by Egypt and Syria, a war that Israel nearly lost, delayed his plans.

He pulled off his most extraordinary feat of combat when he waged a daring crossing of the Suez Canal behind Egyptian lines, a move often described as either brilliant or foolhardy, and a turning point in the war.

Mr. Sharon had been hit in the head by a shifting tank turret, and photographs of him with his head bandaged appeared in many newspapers and remain a symbol of that war. After that, Mr. Sharon did retire and helped engineer the birth of the Likud bloc, a political union between the Liberal Party and the more right-wing Herut Party of Menachem Begin.

Mr. Begin, who was in many ways more Polish than Israeli, admired Mr. Sharon for his gruffness, courage and energy, and as a native-born symbol of the emancipated Jew. Mr. Sharon won his first election to Parliament, on the Likud ticket, in December 1973. But he quickly found the confines of Parliament, with its wheeling and dealing and endless committee meetings, not to his liking. He fought with his political allies, grew impatient and thirsted for more decisive action.

In the spring, he led a group of Israelis into the West Bank near the city of Nablus and, using the immunity from prosecution enjoyed by members of Parliament, helped them establish an illegal settlement. He then quit Parliament and returned to the army. Mr. Rabin had become prime minister and brought Mr. Sharon into the prime minister’s office as a special adviser. He held the job for about a year, and Mr. Sharon later wrote that this first exposure to central political power was extremely instructive.

In 1977, Mr. Begin’s Likud bloc beat Labor in the general elections, the first time in Israeli history that Labor was ousted from power. Its loss was the result of several factors: the 1973 military debacle, rampant party corruption, and the feeling of neglect and injury of Jewish immigrants from North Africa and the Arab world, the Sephardim, who had become a majority of the population.

Mr. Sharon, who had struck out on his own with an independent party that failed to take off, joined the Begin cabinet as agriculture minister and set about constructing Jewish settlements in the West Bank to prevent Israel from relinquishing the territory. The plan worked well, forcing future Israeli governments to care for and protect the settlers, who now number more than 350,000 in the West Bank, with an additional 200,000 in annexed areas of East Jerusalem.

Shortly after Mr. Begin’s election, the Egyptian president, Anwar el-Sadat, offered to come to Jerusalem and negotiate a peace treaty in exchange for a full return to Egypt of the Sinai Peninsula, lost in the 1967 war, and autonomy for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It was a historic offer, and many Israelis did not know whether the Egyptians could be trusted. Mr. Sharon was among the doubters and voted against the deal as a cabinet member, although he then voted for it in the full Parliament. The offer led to the Camp David accords and the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which returned Sinai to Egypt.

Mr. Sharon made no secret of his ambition to be defense minister, but he had to wait until the 1981 re-election of Mr. Begin. He made clear that his biggest concern was southern Lebanon, where Palestinian guerrilla groups had taken advantage of that country’s chaos and set up a ministate, with militias and weapons, using it as a launching pad for attacks on Israel’s north.

Lebanon and Beyond

In June 1982, after Palestinian guerrillas tried to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London, leaving him critically wounded, Mr. Sharon began the invasion of Lebanon, saying it would last 48 hours. He saw it as an opportunity not only to remove the Palestinian threat but also to form a strategic alliance with Lebanon’s Christian elite by helping install its members in a new government and signing a peace treaty with a second neighbor.

Things went well at first. The Israeli military rooted out the Palestinian groups and built an alliance with the Phalangist Party, led by the Gemayel family. Mr. Sharon’s popularity in Israel soared.

But the Reagan administration and others grew wary and then angry as the Israeli invasion seemed not to end but rather to take on an increasingly punishing nature, including the saturation bombing of Beirut neighborhoods and delaying agreed-upon cease-fires. Some historians have accused Mr. Sharon of deceiving Mr. Begin and the rest of the cabinet on his broader intent for the war as it progressed.

Whether he was acting alone or in concert, Mr. Sharon saw his plans for Lebanon derail. Less than three weeks after his ally Bashir Gemayel was elected president in late August with the Israeli military’s help, he was assassinated in an explosion at his party headquarters.

The Israelis, in violation of a cease-fire agreement with the United States, sent troops into several West Beirut neighborhoods. These included Sabra and Shatila, Palestinian refugee camps where, the Israelis asserted, the Palestine Liberation Organization had residual bases and arms and thousands of fighters. That claim was disputed by American diplomats who said that Palestinian fighters had already been moved out of the area. The Israelis nonetheless sent in the Phalangists, who killed hundreds of civilians.

The massacre provoked international outrage, and many Israelis, already despondent that the “48-hour” Lebanon incursion had turned into a lengthy military and geopolitical adventure, were outraged. There were furious calls for Mr. Sharon’s resignation.

Mr. Sharon and Mr. Begin said this was intolerable slander. As Mr. Begin said, using the Hebrew word for non-Jews, “Goyim kill goyim, and they blame the Jews.” Nonetheless, even Mr. Begin started to distance himself from Mr. Sharon, whose political demise began to seem inevitable.

The government established an official investigation of the massacre, led by Israel’s chief justice, Yitzhak Kahan. The investigating committee absolved Mr. Sharon of direct responsibility, but said he should have anticipated that sending enraged militiamen of the Phalange into Palestinian neighborhoods right after the assassination of the group’s leader amounted to an invitation to carnage. The committee recommended his resignation.

Time magazine reported that Mr. Sharon had actually urged the Gemayel family to have its troops take revenge on the Palestinians for the death of Mr. Gemayel. The magazine said Mr. Sharon made this point during his condolence visit to the family. It claimed further that a secret appendix to the Kahan Commission report made this clear.

Mr. Sharon sued Time for libel and won a partial victory in Federal District Court in New York. The court found that the secret appendix, which contained names of Israeli intelligence officers, included no assertion by Mr. Sharon of the need for Phalangist revenge. But it ruled that Mr. Sharon had not been libeled because he could not prove “malice” on the magazine’s part.

In February 1983, the Israeli cabinet voted 16 to 1 to remove Mr. Sharon as defense minister. He remained as a minister without portfolio. His was the sole dissenting vote.

Depressed over the war and his wife’s recent death, Mr. Begin resigned as prime minister in September 1983 and was succeeded by Yitzhak Shamir. The 1984 election was a tie between Labor and Likud, and Mr. Sharon played a crucial role in negotiating a unity government with Mr. Peres of Labor whereby each party occupied the premiership for two years. Mr. Sharon remained active in politics throughout the 1980s and ’90s.

After Mr. Netanyahu defeated Mr. Peres in 1996 to become prime minister, Mr. Sharon joined Mr. Netanyahu at the Wye Plantation in Maryland to negotiate a continuation of the peace process with Mr. Arafat and the Palestinians.

But Mr. Sharon remained aloof from the talks, and pointedly refused to shake Mr. Arafat’s hand, as Mr. Rabin had done on the White House lawn in 1993. Mr. Sharon said that he had spent years trying to kill Mr. Arafat, and that he was not about to shake his hand.

Mr. Barak, of the Labor Party, defeated Mr. Netanyahu in 1999, but after the collapse of his peace talks with the Palestinians, Mr. Barak called for new elections for early 2001. It was widely expected that Mr. Netanyahu would run for the Likud Party. When he decided not to, Mr. Sharon, the stand-in party chief, became the unexpected candidate and surprise winner.

He brought Mr. Peres in as foreign minister, and the two septuagenarians, who as young men had sat at the elbows of Ben-Gurion when he ran the newly formed country, found themselves back together. Their partnership continued to thrive, and Mr. Peres left the Labor Party, which had been his political home his entire life, to join Mr. Sharon’s Kadima Party. Mr. Peres was later elected the country’s president.

Raanan Gissin, a close aide, said the main reason Mr. Sharon went from a champion of the settlements to an advocate of territorial withdrawal was growing international pressure for a Palestinian state.

“He was not an ideologue; he was a political architect,” Mr. Gissin said. “As a military man he knew one thing from the battlefield — you have to seize the initiative, you have to be the one driving the action. Even if peace was impossible, he wanted the process seeking it to be on his terms. And while he was in power, it was.”

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Israel’s ex-PM Ariel Sharon dies

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Ariel Sharon (November 2005)

Ariel Sharon’s life was intimately entwined with the life of the country he loved from the moment of its birth.

He fought in its war of independence in 1948 and from that point until he slipped into a coma in 2006 it seemed there was hardly a moment of national drama in which he did not play a role.

He was always a controversial figure in Israeli politics – certainly not universally loved – but in mourning his passing, Israelis are marking the loss of one of the few public figures left whose career stretched back to the earliest days of their state.

Ariel Sharon’s roots were in the world of Zionist pioneering zeal – he was born between the two world wars in Palestine when it was under British control – to a Jewish couple who had fled to the Holy Land from Belarus.

Ariel Sharon in Sinai (October 1967)Sharon was admired among Israelis for his military exploits

His reputation as an uncompromising and unapologetic defender of his country’s interests dates back to his military career.

He was still a teenager when he fought in the war of 1948 and in his autobiography, fittingly called Warrior, he described intense fighting against soldiers from the Jordanian Arab Legion for control of a crucial police fort on the road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

He and his men lay in fields ignited by gunfire in the burning heat with water and ammunition running low.

He remained a soldier for many years afterwards, fighting with distinction in Israel’s battles with its Arab enemies in the wars of 1967 and 1973.

He helped set up Unit 101 – a commando detachment whose job was to conduct reprisal operations across the border in Arab territories to retaliate for attacks against Israel.

Such was his reputation as a military commander that some accounts of his army career say he was nicknamed the Lion of God after a particularly daring tactical parachute operation against Egypt in 1967 in the Sinai desert.

Shadow of Lebanon

But already there was a dark undertone. Allegations emerged that Egyptian prisoners had been shot and there were questions at home about whether the operation had been a military necessity.

Fifteen years later, it was another dark episode that brought Ariel Sharon international attention.

Continue reading the main story

Political Career

  • 1973: Elected Knesset member for Likud
  • 1975-77: Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s special security adviser
  • 1977-81: Minister of Agriculture
  • 1981-83: Minister of Defence
  • 1984-90: Minister of Trade and Industry
  • 1990-92: Minister of Construction and Housing
  • 1996-98: Minister of National Infrastructure
  • 1998-99: Foreign Minister
  • 2001-2006: Prime Minister
  • 2005: Left Likud to found Kadima

He was minister of defence when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. The strategic goal was to bring stability to the country’s northern border by crushing Yasser Arafat’s PLO, which was then holed up in southern Lebanon and Beirut.

But the war was deeply controversial at home as well as in the wider world.

And there was worse too.

Fighters from a Christian militia group which was co-operating closely with the Israelis carried out extensive massacres in Palestinian refugee camps in Sabra and Shatilla.

It is likely the names of those camps will be associated with Mr Sharon’s own name as long as the history of that conflict is remembered.

Eventually an Israeli inquiry held that Ariel Sharon was “indirectly responsible” for the killing.

The war cost many lives – Israeli as well as Palestinian and Lebanese – and it casts a long shadow over his historical legacy.

Second intifada

Within Israel Mr Sharon was not finished though.

Long a supporter of the settlers who moved on to the lands Israel captured in the war of 1967 in defiance of international opinion, he saw himself as a natural leader of the Israeli right.

In a volatile place, he could be a provocative figure.

Paul Adams looks back on the life and legacy of Ariel Sharon

In the year 2000, flanked by hundreds of Israeli riot police, he staged a visit to the area of the Old City in Jerusalem which contains sites sacred both to Jews and Muslims – the Temple Mount or Harem al-Sharif.

Even though the area is in the part of East Jerusalem captured by Israel in the war of 1967, Jewish rights to pray there are limited – and it is a microcosm of the tensions that fuel the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

Intense rioting followed his visit there and many people trace the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada to that moment.

Ariel Sharon was characteristically unrepentant.

Bold moves

He became prime minister in 2001, promising to bring peace and security to his country but it was a turbulent period in Israeli politics and he eventually left the governing Likud party to found his own Kadima movement while still in office.

Ariel Sharon in Nitzanim, north of Gaza (May 2005)Sharon pulled Israeli troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, a move which divided his supporters

Peace remained elusive then as it is elusive now.

It was on his watch as prime minister that construction of a barrier began with the intention of preventing suicide attacks on Israel from the Palestinian territories.

His supporters would argue that it worked. Its detractors would say it entrenched an already deep sense of separateness.

He did not shy away from bold political moves though. The man who had supported Israeli settlers ordered their removal from Gaza when he decided to withdraw from the Palestinian enclave beside the Mediterranean in 2005.

It was precisely his reputation as a hardliner that allowed him to sell to his supporters a decision with which many felt instinctively uncomfortable.

Not long afterwards, he slipped into the coma from which he was never to emerge and we will never know how he would have followed up that decision or where it might have led.

Ariel Sharon died hated by Israel’s enemies but there are plenty of Israelis who would argue that the depth of that hatred was a measure of the success with which he always defended the country he served.

Michael R. Bloomberg

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Cost of Being Mayor? $650 Million, if He’s Rich

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has received over $30 million from him since 2002.

<nyt_byline>KITTY BENNETT

Published: December 29, 2013
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<nyt_text><nyt_correction_top>Michael R. Bloomberg loves tropical fish. So when he was elected mayor, he installed two giant aquariums in City Hall.

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The cost to him for having the tanks cleaned out every week for the past 12 years: around $62,400.

The mayor likes to nosh, too. So he paid to feed his staff daily a light breakfast (coffee, bagels, yogurt) and a modest lunch (tuna salad, PB&J, sliced fruit).

The bill for his entire mayoralty: about $890,000.

Mr. Bloomberg, above all, enjoys hassle-free travel. When he took his aides anywhere, from Albany to Athens, it was by private plane.

The price tag for all that jetting around: roughly $6 million.

When Mr. Bloomberg leaves office at midnight Tuesday, he will bequeath a litany of record-shattering statistics on crime reduction, sidewalk safety and skyline-altering construction. But perhaps the most staggering figure is the amount of his own money that he devoted, day in and day out, to being mayor — much of it unseen by the public.

An analysis by The New York Times shows that Mr. Bloomberg has doled out at least $650 million on a wide variety of perks and bonuses, political campaigns and advocacy work, charitable giving and social causes, not to mention travel and lodging, connected to his time and role as mayor. (His estimated tab for a multiday trip to China, with aides and security in tow: $500,000.)

In the process, he has entirely upended the financial dynamics surrounding New York’s top job.

In the past, the city paid its mayor; Mr. Bloomberg paid to be the city’s mayor.

In moves that would make a financial planner’s head spin, he rejected the $2.7 million worth of salary to which he was entitled (accepting just $1 a year) and, starting in 2001, turned on a spigot of cash that has never stopped gushing. He poured at least $268 million of his personal funds into three campaigns for mayor.

He donated at least another $263 million to New York arts, civic, health and cultural groups, personally and through his company, Bloomberg LP.

Campaign donations? He handed out about $23 million of them.

He even chipped in $5 million to renovate an official mayoral residence that he never inhabited. (He preferred the familiar privacy of his own nearby mansion.)

“A modern Medici” is how Mark Green, the former public advocate, described him, reaching back to 15th-century Italy for any kind of precedent.

Mr. Bloomberg’s all-expense-paid mayoralty was, depending on the vantage point, exhilarating (for his aides), infuriating (for his rivals) cost-saving (for his constituents) or selfless (for the beneficiaries of his largess).

But for anyone who interacted with the billionaire, his gilded approach to governing was a breathtaking thing to behold. Guy V. Molinari, the former Staten Island borough president, recalled the time Mr. Bloomberg invited him to see the new commuter ferries that would bear Mr. Molinari’s name.

Mr. Molinari had assumed that the invitation would mean visiting the boats in the humble waters of Staten Island. Mr. Bloomberg had a grander plan: He whisked Mr. Molinari to Wisconsin on his pristine private plane to view the factory where the ships were being built.

“It’s a beautiful plane,” Mr. Molinari said, “and I remember asking him, ‘What does it cost, a plane like this?’ ”

The mayor’s reply: $28 million.

“I thought to myself,” Mr. Molinari said, “how many people could just take $28 million out of your bank account to buy a plane?”

In the eyes of Chris McNickle, a historian who has written about the city’s mayors, Mr. Bloomberg’s financial might made him the most potent mayor since the birth of modern New York City in late 1800s.

Because he was largely liberated from the demands of campaign donors, interest groups or political parties, “his power was both intensified and expanded,” Mr. McNickle said.

To calculate Mr. Bloomberg’s spending, The Times relied on public documents, travel records, philanthropy databases, conversations with vendors and interviews with his government employees.

The $650 million minimum estimate is undoubtedly low. Up-to-date annual reports were not available for several Bloomberg-financed organizations and a wide range of expenses were impossible to firmly establish, like the dinner parties he hosted at his townhouse, meals he bought for government aides and landing fees paid at foreign airports.

Still, the data suggest that Mr. Bloomberg’s fortune has left few corners of the city untouched, from the biggest cultural institutions to the smallest theater troupes. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has received over $30 million from the mayor since 2002, Mr. Bloomberg has paid for audio guides and wireless Internet, reaching “everyone who walks through our doors,” said Harold Holzer, a senior vice president there.

At the Queens Theater in the Park, Mr. Bloomberg’s annual gifts of $100,000, delivered anonymously starting the year he took office, amounted to a financial life raft that seemed to drop from the sky. “It was beyond our realm of comprehension,” the theater’s former director, Jeffrey Rosenstock, recalled of the windfall.

The common touch has long eluded the mayor as an orator, but down-and-out New Yorkers were a recurring focus of his financial outlays. He wrote a $30 million check to create a city program to improve the lives of disadvantaged black and Latino men.

Mr. Bloomberg’s opponents complained that his free-spending ways purchased political acquiescence, access to ballot lines and a national platform. In moments of candor, his own advisers conceded that without his money, he probably would never have won the office, let alone secured a controversial third term.

But from the perspective of City Hall, his fortune brought benefits far beyond Mr. Bloomberg’s electoral success, encouraging gun control ($7 million), immigration reform ($5.7 million) and volunteerism ($6.2 million).

On this, New Yorkers remain divided: In a poll conducted in August by The Times, 30 percent said Mr. Bloomberg’s wealth had made him a better mayor; 27 percent said it had made him a worse mayor; and 35 percent said it had made no difference.

Mr. Bloomberg loathes discussion of his wealth. His office declined to comment for this article or on the analysis of his spending.

Mr. Green, who felt the full force of Mr. Bloomberg’s money during his mayoral bid 12 years ago, once tried broaching the wealth issue with him a year after the election. Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign had just plowed through $73 million to defeat him — four times what Mr. Green had spent.

“Yeah, well, it was expensive,” he recalled the mayor telling him. And that, more or less, was that.

As the Bloomberg era winds down, placing the future of those fish tanks in doubt, there is a widespread sense that making the city’s richest man its leader was a kind of grand experiment: novel and momentous, sometimes heady, other times unsettling, but unlikely to be repeated.

“We’ve never had anybody like him before,” Mr. Molinari said. “And we are never going to see anybody like this again.”

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Andrew Boryga contributed reporting.

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A version of this article appears in print on December 30, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Cost of Being Mayor? $650 Million, if He’s Rich.
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Descartes: Thought Exists, ….therefore. I Exist

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English: Descartes idea of perception

English: Descartes idea of perception (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discourses Model 2011

Discourses Model 2011 (Photo credit: ecolabs)

Diagram from one of René Descartes' works.

Diagram from one of René Descartes’ works. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cartesiano

Cartesiano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Queen Christina of Sweden (left) and ...

English: Queen Christina of Sweden (left) and René Descartes (right). Detail from René Descartes i samtal med Sveriges drottning, Kristina. Español: Descartes en la Corte de la reina Cristina de Suecia (detalle), Pierre Louis Dumesnil. Museo nacional de Versailles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Portrait of René Descartes, dubbed the "F...

Portrait of René Descartes, dubbed the “Father of Modern Philosophy”, after Frans Hals c. 1648 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Descartes Principles of Philosophy 2

Descartes Principles of Philosophy 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Statue of René Descartes with his famous state...

Statue of René Descartes with his famous statement: “Cogito ergo sum”. The statue is placed in Anatole France square, Tours, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

René Descartes at work

René Descartes at work (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discourse on Method by René Descartes

Discourse on Method by René Descartes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The illustration of movement of objects from t...

The illustration of movement of objects from the Principles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his Discourse on the Method, he attempts to arrive at a fundamental set of principles that one can know as true without any doubt. To achieve this, he employs a method called hyperbolical/metaphysical doubt, also sometimes referred to as methodological skepticism: he rejects any ideas that can be doubted, and then reestablishes them in order to acquire a firm foundation for genuine knowledge.[

Initially, Descartes arrives at only a single principle: thought exists. Thought cannot be separated from me, therefore, I exist (Discourse on the Method and Principles of Philosophy). Most famously, this is known as cogito ergo sum (English: “I think, therefore I am”). Therefore, Descartes concluded, if he doubted, then something or someone must be doing the doubting, therefore the very fact that he doubted proved his existence. “The simple meaning of the phrase is that if one is sceptical of existence, that is in and of itself proof that he does exist.”
Doubt is a key world . We have to do our own experience!
“Several years have now elapsed since I first became aware that I had accepted, even from my youth, many false opinions for true, and that consequently what I afterward based on such principles was highly doubtful; and from that time I was convinced of the necessity of undertaking once in my life to rid myself of all the opinions I had adopted, and of commencing anew the work of building from the foundation…”

— René Descartes , Meditation I, 1641