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Posts tagged ‘Ariel Sharon’

Israel, World Dignitaries, Honor Sharon at State Funeral.


Image: Israel, World Dignitaries, Honor Sharon at State FuneralTony Blair eulogizes Ariel Sharon during a state memorial service at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Jan. 13.

JERUSALEM — Israel said its last farewell to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday with a state ceremony outside the parliament building before his flag-draped coffin was taken on a cross-country procession to its final resting place at his family farm in the country’s south.With a high-powered crowd of VIPs and international dignitaries on hand, Sharon was eulogized as a fearless warrior and bold leader who devoted his life to protecting Israel’s security. Vice President Joe Biden and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair headed the long list of visitors.

In a heartfelt address, Biden talked about a decades-long friendship with Sharon, saying the death felt “like a death in the family.”

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts 
When the two discussed Israel’s security, Biden said understood how Sharon earned the nickname “The Bulldozer,” explaining how Sharon would pull out maps and repeatedly make the same points to drive them home.

“He was indomitable,” Biden said. “But like all historic leaders, all real leaders, he had a north star that guided him. A north star from which he never, in my observation, never deviated. His north star was the survival of the state of Israel and the Jewish people wherever they resided,” Biden said.

Sharon died on Saturday, eight years after a devastating stroke left him in a coma from which he never recovered. He was 85.

One of Israel’s greatest and most divisive figures, Sharon rose through the ranks of the military, moving into politics and overcoming scandal and controversy to become prime minister at the time of his stroke.

He spent most of his life battling Arab enemies and promoting Jewish settlement on war-won lands. But in a surprising about-face, he led a historic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, uprooting all soldiers and settlers from the territory after a 38-year presence in a move he said was necessary to ensure Israel’s security.

His backers called him a war hero. His detractors, first and foremost the Palestinians, considered him a war criminal and held him responsible for years of bloodshed.

The speakers at Monday’s ceremony outside parliament largely glossed over the controversy, and instead focused on his leadership and personality.

“Arik was a man of the land,” President Shimon Peres, a longtime friend and sometimes rival, said in his eulogy. “He defended this land like a lion and he taught its children to swing a scythe. He was a military legend in his lifetime and then turned his gaze to the day Israel would dwell in safety, when our children would return to our borders and peace would grace the Promised Land.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who resigned from Sharon’s Cabinet to protest the Gaza withdrawal, said that he and Sharon didn’t always agree with each other. Nonetheless, he called Sharon “one of the big warriors” for the nation of Israel.

“Arik was a man of actions, pragmatic, and his pragmatism was rooted in deep emotion, deep emotion for the country and deep emotion for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said.

Nearly 10 years on, the withdrawal from Gaza remains hotly debated in Israeli society. Supporters say Israel is better off not being bogged down in the crowded territory, which is now home to 1.7 million Palestinians.

Critics say the pullout has only brought more violence. Two years after the withdrawal, Hamas militants seized control of Gaza and stepped up rocket fire on Israel.

In a reminder of the precarious security situation, Palestinian militants on Monday fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip. Sharon’s ranch in southern Israel, where his body was being laid to rest, is within range of such projectiles, though but Monday’s missiles did not hit Israel. No injuries or damage were reported.

Biden praised Sharon’s determination in carrying out the Gaza pullout, which bitterly divided the nation.

“The political courage it took, whether you agreed with him or not, when he told 10,000 Israelis to leave their homes in Gaza, in order from his perspective to strengthen Israel … I can’t think of a more difficult and controversial decision he made. But he believed it and he did it. The security of his people was always Arik’s unwavering mission.”

Blair, who is now an international envoy to the Middle East, said Sharon’s “strategic objective” never changed. “The same iron determination he took to the field of war he took to the chamber of diplomacy. Bold. Unorthodox. Unyielding,” he said.

Sharon’s coffin lay in state at the Knesset’s outdoor plaza where Israelis from all walks of life paid respects throughout Sunday.

In addition to Biden and Blair, the prime minister of the Czech Republic, and foreign ministers of Australia and Germany were among those in attendance at Monday’s ceremony.

Even Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, sent a low-level diplomat, its embassy said.

After the ceremony ended, the closed coffin, draped in a blue and white Israeli flag, was placed in a military vehicle and driven in a police-escorted convoy toward Sharon’s ranch in southern Israel.

Crowds stood along the roadside and on bridges, snapping pictures and getting a final glimpse of the coffin as the procession of vehicles left Jerusalem and snaked down the highway outside the city’s picturesque hills.

The convoy made a brief stop at Latrun, the site of a bloody battle where Sharon was wounded during Israel’s war of independence in 1948, for a brief military ceremony before continuing south. His coffin was lowered into the ground in a military funeral at the family farm in southern Israel.

At Sharon’s graveside, his son Gilad remembered his father for overcoming the odds, whether it was battling a Palestinian uprising after becoming prime minister in 2001 or clinging to life in his final days even after his kidneys had stopped functioning.

“Again and again you turned the impossible to reality. That’s how legends are made. That’s how an ethos of a nation is created,” he said.

Sharon’s life will be remembered for its three distinct stages: First, was his eventful and contentious time in uniform, including leading a deadly raid in the West Bank that killed 69 Arabs, as well as his heroics in the 1973 Mideast war.

Then came his years as a vociferous political operator who helped create Israel’s settlement movement and masterminded the divisive Lebanon invasion in 1982. He was branded as indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps outside Beirut when his troops allowed allied Lebanese militias into the camps. An uproar over the massacre cost him his job.

Yet ultimately he transformed himself into a prime minister and statesman, capped by the dramatic Gaza withdrawal. Sharon appeared to be cruising toward re-election when he suffered the second, devastating stroke in January 2006.

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts 
© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Huckabee: Gaza Pullout Doesn’t Tarnish Sharon Reputation.


Former Arkansas governor, Republican presidential candidate and popular syndicated radio host Mike Huckabee said that the reputation of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who died Saturday at the age of 85, will not be tarnished even though in 2005 he “ordered Israeli citizens to leave Gaza and eventually forced them out of their homes in communities like Gush Katif.”

Commenting on the death of the Israeli war hero and politician, Huckabee noted that “the sincerity of his intentions in giving up lands with the hopes of peace” did not lead to a more friendly Gaza. The area is today controlled by the Islamist Hamas Palestinian faction.

But Huckabee recalled Sharon’s leading role in creating major settlements in Judea and Samaria in the 1990s.

Huckabee, who has not ruled out a possible bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, lauded Sharon as a major figure in modern Israeli history.

“He was a celebrated person as well as immensely powerful military figure, leading troops in all of Israel’s major conflicts including the War for Independence, the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War,” he said.

Sharon’s life was “a living sacrifice for the nation of Israel that he loved and served” and he will be remembered “as one of Israel’s mightiest and most effective warrior and leaders,” said Huckabee, who is a regular visitor to the Jewish state.

Sharon’s life was “a living sacrifice for the nation of Israel that he loved and served. Our prayers go out to his family,” Huckabee concluded.

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Huckabee: Obama Can’t ‘Fully Grasp’ Israeli Politics

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Elliot Jager

Israelis Pay Last Respects to Warrior-Statesman Sharon.


Image: Israelis Pay Last Respects to Warrior-Statesman SharonIsraeli President Shimon Peres stands next to the coffin of late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Jan. 12.

JERUSALEM — Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s body lay in state on Sunday outside parliament in Jerusalem, where thousands of Israelis waited to bid farewell to the maverick warrior-statesman who reshaped the Middle East.Sharon died at the age of 85 on Saturday after eight years in a coma caused by a stroke he suffered at the pinnacle of his political power. He will be buried on Monday in a military funeral on his farm in southern Israel.

“They say old soldiers do not die, they fade away. Arik Sharon faded away eight years ago, and now we truly say goodbye to him,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, using Sharon’s nickname, wrote in a tribute on Sunday.

Sharon was one of Israel’s finest military strategists and most powerful political figures, spearheading military invasion, Jewish settlement-building on land the Palestinians want for a state, and making the shock decision to withdraw from one of those territories, the Gaza Strip.

Prime minister from 2001 to 2006, Sharon’s stroke happened shortly after he quit the right-wing Likud party and founded a centrist faction to advance peace with the Palestinians, whose 2000-2005 “Intifada” uprising he had battled as prime minister.

Sharon was widely hated by Arabs over the 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Shatila camp in Beirut by Lebanese Christian militiamen allied to Israel.But the United States and other foreign powers mourned him as a peacemaker, noting his pursuit of dialogue with the Palestinians. Those negotiations continue under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though differences remain wide.

“He was bound to the land. He knew that the land must be protected. And he understand above all else that our existence is predicated on our ability to protect ourselves by ourselves,” Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday after ministers stood for a minute’s silence as a mark of honor.

Many Israelis will remember Sharon as a brilliant but unpredictable military leader who fought in the 1948 war of Israel’s founding and went on to earn a reputation for trigger-happy disobedience.

But he was also hailed in Israel for the crucial counter-attack across the Suez Canal that helped to turn the tide the 1973 Middle East war with Egypt and Syria.

In 1983 an Israeli state inquiry found Sharon, who as defense minister engineered Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and war against Palestinian guerrillas there, indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila killings, and he was forced to resign his post.

“The Palestinian people remember what Sharon did and tried to do to our people and their dream of forming a state,” Wael Abu Yousef, a senior member of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters.

Palestinians in Gaza handed out sweets to passersby and motorists in celebration of Sharon’s passing.

“We have become more confident in victory with the departure of this tyrant (Sharon),” said Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist faction governing Gaza.

Sharon’s body was to lie in state for several hours on Sunday, and a memorial service will be held in parliament on Monday morning before an afternoon funeral at Sycamore Farm. Top Israeli generals will serve as pallbearers.Among foreign dignitaries expected to attend the ceremonies are U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Israeli-Palestinian peace mediator and former British prime minister Tony Blair, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and delegates from Russia, Canada, Spain and the Czech Republic.

“As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country,” said U.S. President Barack Obama.

“We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries,” said Obama, whose relationship with Netanyahu has been strained by issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and Israeli settlement-building.

Palestinians also accuse Sharon of sparking their “Intifada” with a provocative visit to the al Aqsa mosque plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City in 2000, a year before he took power.

He further angered them with a crushing army sweep of self-rule areas of the West Bank in 2002 after a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings and with his siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah compound.

But Sharon surprised many by withdrawing soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005 under a policy of “disengagement” from conflict and a pursuit of dialogue with the Palestinians.

The pullout, however, led to Gaza’s takeover by Hamas, which, unlike the West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas, spurns co-existence with Israel and often trades fire with it.

Sharon was resented by many settlers who once saw him as their champion. Israeli media quoted lawmaker Orit Strouk of the Jewish Home, an ultranationalist party in Netanyahu’s coalition, as thanking God that Sharon was removed from power before he could order West Bank withdrawals. The remarks sparked outrage and she later apologized.

As Sharon’s finance minister in 2005, Netanyahu quit in protest at the Gaza plan. Netanyahu points to Hamas’s rise as vindication of his stance.

A lifelong farmer renowned for his big appetite, Sharon was known as “the Bulldozer”, in part for his headlong pursuit of hardline policies that included the settlement expansion in territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Dead.


JERUSALEM — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the trailblazing warrior-statesman who transformed the region and was reviled by Arab foes, died on Saturday at the age of 85 and after eight years in a coma caused by a stroke.

The Sheba Medical Center that has been treating Sharon said last week that his health has been declining. Sharon had been suffered from failure vital organs including his kidneys shortly before his death.

The Associated Press reported that his son, Gilad Sharon, said: “He has gone. He went when he decided to go.”

Sharon’s nurse, Marina Lifschitz, said he had not suffered while lying comatose, though he had at times given basic responses to stimuli. She recalled at one point holding up a picture of his late wife, Lily, for him to view.”And suddenly I saw a tear simply rolling out of his eye. That is very difficult to forget,” Lifschitz told reporters.

A maverick in war and politics, Sharon reshaped the Middle East in a career marked by adventurism and disgrace, dramatic reversals and stunning rebounds.

“Arik was a valorous soldier and a bold statesman who contributed much to the security and building up of the State of Israel,” said President Shimon Peres, a former political ally of Sharon and, with the ex-premier’s death, the last of the Jewish state’s founders still in public life.

“Arik loved his people, and his people loved him,” Peres said, using the nickname of Sharon, a famously burly and blunt figure with a prizefighter’s rolling gait.
“He knew no fear and never feared pursuing a vision.”
Officials said Sharon, who took power in 2001 soon after the start of a second Palestinian uprising that raged until 2005, would be given a state funeral.

One official said Sharon’s remains would lie in state in parliament in Jerusalem on Sunday. A memorial service will be held there on Monday morning, followed by an afternoon funeral near Sycamore Farm, Sharon’s residence in southern Israel.Among foreign dignitaries expected to attend are U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and former British prime minister Tony Blair, the official said.

Loathed by many Arabs and a divisive figure within Israel, Sharon left his mark on the region as perhaps no other through military invasion, Jewish settlement building on captured land and a shock decision to pull out of Gaza.
“The nation of Israel has today lost a dear man, a great leader and a bold warrior,” Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.
There was no immediate comment on the death from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with whom Sharon’s Likud party successor, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been holding U.S.-sponsored peace talks.
But in Gaza, the Hamas Islamists whose political fortunes rose with the Israeli withdrawal savored Sharon’s demise.
“We have become more confident in victory with the departure of this tyrant,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zurhi, whose movement preaches the destruction of the Jewish state.
“Our people today feel extreme happiness at the death and departure of this criminal whose hands were smeared with the blood of our people and the blood of our leaders here and in exile.”
A commander in the army from the birth of Israel in 1948, he went on to hold many of the top offices of state, surviving fierce debate over his role in refugee camp massacres in the 1982 Lebanon war to be elected prime minister in 2001.
Famously overweight, he suffered a stroke that put him into a coma in 2006, when he was at the height of his power, and died on Saturday without ever apparently regaining consciousness.
Some diplomats believed that had he remained in good health, he would have secured peace with the Palestinians after overcoming domestic critics to force through the withdrawal of troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
“As one who fought in all of Israel’s wars, and learned from personal experience that without proper force, we do not have a chance of surviving in this region . . . I have also learned from experience that the sword alone cannot decide this bitter dispute in this land,” Sharon said in 2004, explaining his move.
But critics said the unilateralism he favored helped discredit diplomacy and embolden ideological hardliners.
As prime minister, Sharon presided over some of the most turbulent times in Israeli-Palestinian history, a Palestinian uprising that erupted in 2000 and an Israeli military crackdown after peace talks collapsed. As Israel’s leader, he besieged his arch-nemesis Yasser Arafat with tanks after suicide bombers flooded Israel from the occupied West Bank.
Long a champion of Jewish settlement on land Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war, Sharon, serving in 1998 as foreign minister, urged settlers in the West Bank to “run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge settlements, because everything we take now will stay ours.”
He said the contested decision to quit the Gaza Strip, which pulled apart his Likud party and persuaded him to form a new political force, would enable Israel to strengthen its hold over “territory which is essential to our existence.”
It was a reference to the West Bank, where his government began the construction of a massive barrier during the Palestinian uprising. Israel called it a security measure – Palestinians condemned the project as a land grab.
Sharon dominated Israel to a degree not seen since the era of its founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.
Like many native Israeli leaders, Sharon, born in British-mandated Palestine, grew up in a farming community. He later lived in a sprawling ranch in southern Israel, and was often photographed lumbering through its fields.
Sharon joined the pre-state Haganah Jewish underground at the age of 14.
Wounded as a young officer in the 1948 war of Israel’s founding, he went on to lead key commando units and crafted a policy of reprisals – even at the cost of innocent lives – for cross-border Palestinian guerrilla raids.
Along with a reputation in the military for recklessness and disobeying orders, Sharon was hailed for daring operations that brought victories on the battlefield. He retired a major-general.
“It was he who set out the principle that no one who attacked our troops or civilians would be immune, no matter where they were,” said ex-Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai.
Passed over for chief-of-staff, Sharon left the military in the summer of 1973. Three months after he quit, he was back as a reservist-general, commanding troops that launched a counter-offensive that helped rout Egyptian forces in the Yom Kippur 1973 Middle East war.
A photo of Sharon in the desert, in battle fatigues and with his head bandaged, became an iconic image of the conflict.
He helped form the Likud party, which courted Israel’s underclass of Jews of Middle Eastern descent and rose to power in the 1977 election, ending the dominance of the “European” Labor Party.
Appointed agriculture minister, Sharon used that post and his chairmanship of a ministerial settlements committee to break ground on new settlements – helping to earn him the nickname “Bulldozer.”
As defense minister under Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Sharon masterminded the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, one of Israel’s most divisive campaigns.
What started as a stab against Palestinian guerrillas on the border evolved into a murky and costly bid to install a government more friendly to Israel in Beirut.
Arab hatred of Sharon crested with the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Lebanese refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila by Israeli-allied Christian militiamen.

Sharon denied wrongdoing but was eventually forced to resign as defense chief in 1983 after an Israeli probe said he bore “personal responsibility” for not preventing the bloodshed.

Sharon described those findings as a “mark of Cain”, and many thought that his political career was finished. But after holding a series of cabinet posts, he was elected as the head of the Likud in 1999 and prime minister in 2001, serving until his stroke five years later.
As a cabinet minister, he visited Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound in 2000, the third holiest place in Islam, which is also revered by Jews as the site of the Biblical Jewish Temples.
The visit, in a part of Jerusalem that Israel captured in the 1967 war and annexed in a move that has never won international recognition, was widely seen as a spark for the second Palestinian uprising.
During the subsequent tsunami of violence, the respected Palestinian-American academic Edward Said called Sharon a “homicidal prime minister” who deployed “systematic barbarity” against the Palestinians throughout his career.
“Isn’t it clear that Sharon is bent not only on breaking the Palestinians but on trying to eliminate them as a people with national institutions?” Said wrote in The Nation newspaper in 2002, a year before his death.
Known in Israel by his popular nickname “Arik”, Sharon could charm with a grandfatherly glint in his eye and a jocular laugh. He could also flash disapproval with a cold, steely stare. He had a penchant for Broadway musicals and copious amounts of food.
Sharon was married twice. His first wife, Margalit, died in a car accident in 1962. They had one son, who was killed in 1967 when a friend accidentally shot him while playing with a rifle. In 1963, Sharon married Margalit’s sister, Lily, who died of cancer in 2000. They had two sons.
“Sharon was a mass of contradictions – a peerless cynic and a proven patriot, a man who built up the Likud and then walked out on it, who mixed up Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank while pulling out of Gaza,” said Uzi Benziman, author of “Sharon: An Israeli Caesar.”
He noted the varying theories about what motivated the Gaza withdrawal, including that it aimed to distract from corruption allegations at the time that dogged Sharon and his sons.
“Whatever the truth, it cannot be denied that Sharon’s legacy was to convey to Israelis that holding on to all of the (Palestinian) territories would not last,” Benziman said. “He was the last of the real leaders.”

© 2014 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.

By Newsmax Wires

Ariel Sharon Condition Deteriorates: Now ‘Life-Threatening’.


Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, comatose since a 2006 stroke, has detriorated to a “life threatening” condition after suffering kidney malfunction, Israel Radio reported on Wednesday.

Officials at the hospital near Tel Aviv where Sharon, 85, has been treated, did not answer their telephones. A Health Ministry spokeswoman declined to comment.

The ex-general and right-wing leader was known for executing a dramatic political about face with a 2005 Gaza pullout that turned Israeli politics on its head when he quit his party and created a centrist faction that ruled Israel for several years.

The radio, echoing reports by other Israeli media outlets, said Sharon’s condition had worsened in the past several days and that his life was in danger due to kidney failure.

The Haaretz newspaper‘s Web site quoting an unnamed source said that Sharon could die in “a matter of days” if his condition continued to decline. Israel’s Channel 2 television said Sharon’s sons were at his bed side.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Vegetative Ariel Sharon Shows ‘Significant’ Brain Activity.


Israel‘s former prime minister Ariel Sharon has been in what doctors have assumed is a vegetative state since 2006. But in a sign that not all of his critical brain processing has been lost, Sharon showed “significant” neural activity in tests using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a team of scientists said.

During the two-hour test, Sharon was exposed to familiar stimuli, including pictures of his family and his son’s voice, and told to imagine himself performing different tasks, such as hitting a tennis ball and walking through the rooms of his home.

The scientists said they found promising signs that external information is being transferred to the right parts of Sharon’s brain, though it’s not clear that the 84-year-old former leader is aware of it.

“We found faint brain activity indicating that he was complying with the tasks,” Martin Monti, a UCLA brain scientist on the team, said in a statement. “He may be minimally conscious, but the results were weak and should be interpreted with caution.”

Paul Matthews, who heads the division of brain sciences at London’s Imperial College and was not involved in the tests on Sharon, said he thinks the results are encouraging from a clinical standpoint, but added it is hard to predict what they will mean for his future.

“Patients in a vegetative state may have brain function reserved in parts of the brain, yet will always remain in a vegetative state,” Matthews told LiveScience in a phone interview. “It is clear that regions of the brain associated with normal perception can respond to stimuli that we are not aware of at a conscious level.” [10 Greatest Mysteries of the Mind]

There’s no single part of the brain that is alone responsible for consciousness, Matthews added, and scientists don’t have a universal guide to tell them which spikes in brain activity (or blood flow, which is measured by fMRIs) in vegetative patients can be interpreted as signs meaningful, conscious activity in the mind. Matthews said that’s largely because tests using fMRI are generally not practical and only conducted in special cases.

While Sharon might represent one such special case, Tzvi Ganel, of Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who initiated the project, stressed that the former prime minister’s family hoped the tests would further research efforts and eventually help other families in a similar situation, according to a statement from UCLA.

Matthews noted that more tests on similar patients will be crucial for scientists. Analyzing the brains of enough people early enough in their injury could help researchers determine which flickers of activity might hint at recovery. And more tests on a wider spectrum of patients will help doctors flesh out the range of clinical outcomes for people with brain injuries that render them vegetative.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By Megan Gannon, News Editor | LiveScience.com

Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We’re also on Facebook & Google+.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Israel’s Netanyahu appears poised for third term.


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JERUSALEM (AP) — With no viable alternative in sight, incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears poised to secure a third term in office following Tuesday’s general election.

Netanyahu wraps up four years of relatively stable reign, in which he boasts of pushing the Iranian nuclear threat to the top of the international agenda, deterring terrorism against Israel and keeping its economy afloat despite a worldwide recession.

But critics point to a stalemate in peace talks with the Palestinians, an expansion of West Bank settlements and a rift with President Barack Obama that have characterized his term. A protest movement against the country’s high cost of living has cut into his public support, and the huge deficit his government has run up promises tough budget cuts following the election.

Even so, the country’s splintered opposition parties and their largely inexperienced leaders have little hope of unseating him.

Together with his three-year term as premier in the late 1990s, Netanyahu, 63, has now served longer than any other Israeli prime minister besides the country’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion.

Yet he has little to show for it on the diplomatic stage. The reason, academics explain, is Netanyahu’s stand-pat approach: He has refrained from taking bold, yet criticized, steps like those of his predecessors — Ehud Barak’s peace offers to Syria and the Palestinians or Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

“He’s succeeded in doing nothing and therefore he can’t be blamed for anything,” said Reuven Hazan, a professor of political science at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. “The problem is that the status quo doesn’t hold in the Middle East. Things change and time isn’t working in our favor. Something has to be done and this inaction doesn’t help us.”

Since being elected, Netanyahu has sent mixed messages on a variety of fronts. He grudgingly accepted the notion of a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank, and imposed a partial freeze in settlement building to allow a resumption of peace talks. But he also questioned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ commitment to peace and angered the world with renewed settlement construction.

It’s part of the mystery of Netanyahu: Is he a pragmatist who plays to his base with hard-line rhetoric or an ideological hard-liner who pays lip service to international opinion?

The answer is unlikely to be found in his next term. Polls show his Likud earning just over a quarter of parliament’s 120-seats, so Netanyahu will likely form a coalition government that could include hard-line and religious parties opposed to territorial concessions.

On the other hand, with a re-elected Obama and an impatient European leadership expected to put more pressure on him, he may be interested in building a moderate coalition.

Either way, his supporters seem drawn to the tough image Netanyahu has cultivated in dealing with world pressure.

“He’s not afraid of Obama. He cares about the people of Israel and represents the Jewish and Zionist interest better than anyone else,” said Shlomo Lipshitz, a 51-year-old religious Jerusalemite.

Gabi Magzimov, 36, said Netanyahu was the strong leader Israel needed to stave off international pressure.

“He provides security and he wants peace, but not at any price,” he said.

The son of a prominent historian, Netanyahu has a keen sense of Jewish history. In his speeches, he often refers to the Jews’ ancient link to the Holy Land and how modern Israel can survive in its hostile region only by never letting down its guard.

Netanyahu followed his older brother Yonatan’s footsteps in the elite Sayeret Matkal military commando unit. Yonatan died in 1976 while commanding a raid that freed Israeli and Jewish hostages from a hijacked plane at Entebbe, Uganda. His death became etched in Israeli lore, catapulting the Netanyahu family into the national spotlight.

Netanyahu, often referred to by his nickname, ‘Bibi,’ spent part of his youth in the United States, where he acquired his American-accented English, and later completed two degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, represented Israel as a diplomat in Washington and ambassador at the United Nations.

In Israel, he rocketed up the Likud ranks and beat out several veterans to take over the party after the retirement of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. In 1996, he won a narrow election victory to become Israel’s youngest prime minister at age 46.

His three-year term was marred by political deadlock, internal strife and scandals involving his influential wife, Sara. He was voted out and replaced by Barak. He then dramatically retired from politics, wrote his fifth book and made considerable money on the lecture circuit.

He returned to public life in 2002 to serve as Sharon’s foreign minister and finance minister. He criticized the 2005 unilateral Gaza withdrawal but voted for it several times in parliament, before resigning from the government to protest the pullout.

After serving as opposition leader, he recaptured the premiership in 2009 and established a broad coalition government that granted him unprecedented political backing.

“We’ve seen a political learning curve. He’s improved from his first time around,” said Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. “He has a legacy when it comes to the economy: more than anyone else in Israel, he is identified with liberalizing the economy and shifting the country toward capitalism.”

There, too, Netanyahu exhibited his practical side, with populist moves like promoting free education and dental care for children and raising the minimum wage.

One of the main achievements of his second term was securing the release of a Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas militants for five years. The deal included the freeing of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including hundreds of convicted killers. That emboldened Hamas and ran contrary to Netanyahu’s previous opposition to negotiating with terrorists. The exchange, though widely popular, further enhanced his reputation as someone who was easily pressured and whose beliefs were flexible when balanced against his political survival.

He also carried out an eight-day offensive against Gaza rocket squads last November but agreed to a cease-fire that many say helped Hamas.

Inbar said Netanyahu was a man of “most impressive skills and a wonderful communicator” who has proven a steady hand in power and willingness to compromise. He doubted he would emerge as a grand initiator in his third term.

“The chance for major changes is not great,” he said. “I don’t think that is his way.”

____

Follow Heller on Twitter (at)aronhellerap

 Source: YAHOO NEWS.
By ARON HELLER | Associated Press

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