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Posts tagged ‘Sergei Lavrov’

Merkel Gets Tough as Russian Troops Hold War Games.


Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, showing no sign of backing down on plans to annex its neighbour’s Crimea region despite a stronger than expected drive for sanctions from the EU and United States.

In an unusually robust and emotional speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of “catastrophe” unless Russia changes course, while a man was killed in Ukraine in fighting between rival protesters in a mainly Russian-speaking city.

At the U.N. Security Council, the United States circulated a draft resolution that would declare illegal Sunday’s planned referendum on independence for Ukraine’s Crimea region.

But Russia, one of the Security Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members, made clear it opposed the draft.

“Russia announced they will kill it,” a senior Western diplomat told Reuters.

In Berlin, Merkel removed any suspicion she might try to avoid a confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We would not only see it, also as neighbors of Russia, as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union’s relationship with Russia,” she told parliament. “No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said serious steps would be imposed on Monday by the United States and Europe if the referendum on Crimea joining Russia takes place on Sunday as planned.

Merkel, a fluent Russian speaker who grew up in communist East Germany, has emerged in recent days as a leading figure in threatening tough measures against Moscow.

Her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said that over the weekend, European states would draw up a list of Russians who will face visa restrictions and asset freezes.

Putin declared Russia’s right to invade its neighbor on March 1, as Russian troops were already seizing control of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula with a narrow ethnic Russian majority and a Russian naval base.

Events have moved rapidly, perhaps signalling an effort by Moscow to turn the annexation into a fait accompli before the West can coordinate a response.

In the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, a young man was stabbed to death and more than a dozen people were in hospital after pro-Russian and pro-European demonstrators clashed. The violence was the worst since last month’s overthrow of the Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovich.

But in an apparently conciliatory move, Russia backed deployment of an OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, including Crimea, the Swiss chairman of the European rights watchdog said.

The leader of pro-Moscow separatist politicians in Crimea, who took power there after armed men seized the regional parliament on Feb. 27, predicted a strong vote in favor of union with Russia in Sunday’s referendum.

“We have a survey by renowned Ukrainian and Crimean polling experts showing clearly and plainly that more than 80 percent of people in Crimea are ready to join the Russian Federation,” Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov told Reuters.

Aksyonov, whose election in a closed session of the regional parliament is not recognized by Kiev, dismissed opponents’ accusations he will fix the referendum on Moscow’s orders. “We guarantee that all aspects of European law will be followed, including security for voters,” he said in an interview.

Western countries dismiss the vote as illegal. “The referendum on Sunday will have no legitimacy, no legal effect, it can have no moral effect. It is a piece of political theater that is being perpetrated at the barrel of a gun,” Daniel Baer, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, told reporters in Vienna.

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said time was running out for a peaceful solution. She urged Russia to listen to the “remarkably unified” voices of its 14 fellow members of the Security Council and the Ukrainian people.

Diplomats said the one-page resolution would urge countries not to recognize the results of the vote in Crimea. A vote on the draft was postponed until Saturday at the latest to allow time for more negotiations.

Russia has taken territory from its former Soviet neighbors in the past with no serious consequences — in 2008 it invaded Georgia and seized two breakaway regions. But if Putin was hoping for a similarly tepid response this time, he may have misjudged.

In particular, he seems to have alienated Merkel, the Western leader with whom Putin, a German speaker who was once a KGB spy in East Germany, has had the closest relationship.

Merkel was initially more cautious than other Western leaders on the Crimean crisis, but in recent days she has pushed the European Union to match U.S. sanctions. EU action is critical because Europe does 10 times as much trade with Russia as the United States, buying most of its gas and oil exports.

The prospect that EU measures could be implemented as soon as Monday has weighed down the Russian economy.

Goldman Sachs revised its prediction for Russian economic growth this year down to 1 percent from 3 percent, blaming the tension over Ukraine for capital flight that would cripple investment. It said $45 billion had already left Russia this year, mostly Russians stashing money abroad.

The Russian stock market hit a 4-1/2-year low on Thursday and is down 20 percent since mid-February. The cost of insuring Moscow’s debt against default rose to its highest level in nearly two years.

The crisis has already forced several Russian firms to put plans on hold for public offerings to raise cash abroad.

Yet none of that appears to have slowed down Putin, who told officials of the Winter Paralympic Games he is hosting in Sochi that Russia was “not the initiator” of the crisis.

The Russian Defense Ministry said 8,500 troops were taking part in new military exercises near the Ukrainian border, testing artillery and rocket launchers.

It was the second big exercise Moscow has ordered since the crisis began; the first, involving 150,000 troops, started a few days before Russian forces seized Crimea.

In a gesture of support for NATO’s eastern members, U.S. F-16 fighter jets landed at Poland’s Lask air base on Thursday.

Among efforts by the West to isolate Russia politically, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a 34-member rich nations’ club, announced it was suspending membership talks with Russia, under way since 2007.

Moscow has pledged to respond in kind to any Western sanctions. The prime minister of Lithuania, a former Soviet republic that is now an EU member state, said Russia had suspended food product imports through its port of Klaipeda.

But European leaders appear to be calculating that the damage to Russia would be far worse than to Europe. EU-Russian trade makes up 15 percent of Russia’s economy and just 1 percent of Europe’s. Although EU countries depend on Russian gas imports, storage tanks are full after a mild winter.

Diplomatic lines have been open between Russia and the West throughout the crisis: Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke on Thursday, as they have nearly every day. They are due to meet in London on Friday.

Russia’s top general discussed Ukraine with the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee by telephone on Thursday, the Interfax news agency said.

The crisis over Crimea began after Yanukovich fled Kiev and pro-European politicians took charge, following three months of demonstrations.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

US, France Warn Russia of ‘New Measures’ Over Ukraine.


President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande warned Saturday of “new measures” against Russia if it fails to work toward defusing the crisis in Ukraine, the French presidency said.

In a phone call on Saturday, Obama and Hollande insisted on the “need for Russia to withdraw forces sent to Crimea since the end of February and to do everything to allow the deployment of international observers,” it said.
Obama’s conversation with Hollande was one of a half dozen telephone conversations he had with world leaders Saturday about Ukraine, the White House says.

He  also spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and held a conference call with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The new warnings come in the wake of Russia’s insistence that any U.S. sanctions will have a boomerang effect on the United States and that Crimea has the right to self-determination as armed men tried to seize another Ukrainian military base on the peninsula.

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In a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned against “hasty and reckless steps” that could harm Russian-American relations, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

“Sanctions…would inevitably hit the United States like a boomerang,” it added.

It was the second tense, high-level exchange between the former Cold War foes in 24 hours over the pro-Russian takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after an hour-long call with U.S. President Barack Obama that their positions on the former Soviet republic were still far apart. Obama announced the first sanctions against Russia on Thursday.

Putin, who later opened the Paralympic Games in Sochi which have been boycotted by a string of Western dignitaries, said Ukraine’s new, pro-Western authorities had acted illegitimately over the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions.

“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” he said.

Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the Ukrainian border guards’ commander, said 30,000 Russian soldiers were now in Crimea, compared to the 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis.

On Friday evening armed men drove a truck into a Ukrainian missile defence post in Sevastopol, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene. But no shots were fired and Crimea’s pro-Russian premier said later the standoff was over.

Putin denies the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow’s command, although their vehicles have Russian military plates. The West has ridiculed his assertion.

The most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War – resulting from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after protests in Kiev that led to violence – escalated on Thursday when Crimea’s parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia.

The region’s government set a referendum for March 16 – in just nine days’ time.

JETS, DESTROYER

Turkey scrambled jets after a Russian surveillance plane flew along its Black Sea coast and a U.S. warship passed through Turkey’s Bosphorus straits on its way to the Black Sea, although the U.S. military said it was a routine deployment.

European Union leaders and Obama said the referendum plan was illegitimate and would violate Ukraine’s constitution.

The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament said after meeting visiting Crimean lawmakers on Friday that Crimea had a right to self-determination, and ruled out any risk of war between “the two brotherly nations”.

Obama ordered visa bans and asset freezes on Thursday against so far unidentified people deemed responsible for threatening European Union leaders Ukraine’s sovereignty. Earlier in the week, a Kremlin aide said Moscow might refuse to pay off any loans to U.S. banks, the top four of which have around $24 billion in exposure to Russia.

Japan endorsed the Western position that the actions of Russia constitute “a threat to international peace and security”, after Obama spoke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

China, often a Russian ally in blocking Western moves in the U.N. Security Council, was more cautious, saying economic sanctions were not the best way to solve the crisis and avoiding comment on the Crimean referendum.

The EU, Russia’s biggest economic partner and energy customer, adopted a three-stage plan to try to force a negotiated solution but stopped short of immediate sanctions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded angrily on Friday, calling the EU decision to freeze talks on visa-free travel and on a broad new pact governing Russia-EU ties “extremely unconstructive”. It pledged to retaliate.

“GUERRILLA WAR?”

Senior Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko, freed from prison after Yanukovich’s overthrow, met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin and appealed for immediate EU sanctions against Russia, warning that Crimea might otherwise slide into a guerrilla war.

Brussels and Washington rushed to strengthen the new authorities in economically shattered Ukraine, announcing both political and financial assistance. The regional director of the International Monetary Fund said talks with Kiev on a loan agreement were going well and praised the new government’s openness to economic reform and transparency.

The European Commission has said Ukraine could receive up to 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in the next couple of years provided it reaches agreement with the IMF, which requires painful economic reforms like ending gas subsidies.

Promises of billions of dollars in Western aid for the Kiev government, and the perception that Russian troops are not likely to go beyond Crimea into other parts of Ukraine, have helped reverse a rout in the local hryvnia currency.

In the past two days it has traded above 9.0 to the dollar for the first time since the Crimea crisis began last week. Local dealers said emergency currency restrictions imposed last week were also supporting the hryvnia.

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said Ukraine had not paid its $440 million gas bill for February, bringing its arrears to $1.89 billion and hinted it could turn off the taps as it did in 2009, when a halt in Russian deliveries to Ukraine reduced supplies to Europe during a cold snap.

In Moscow, a huge crowd gathered near the Kremlin at a government-sanctioned rally and concert billed as being “in support of the Crimean people”. Pop stars took to the stage and demonstrators held signs with slogans such as “Crimea is Russian land”, and “We believe in Putin”.

IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said no one in the civilised world would recognise the result of the “so-called referendum” in Crimea.

He repeated Kiev’s willingness to negotiate with Russia if Moscow pulls its additional troops out of Crimea and said he had requested a telephone call with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov ridiculed calls for Russia to join an international “contact group” with Ukraine proposed by the West, saying they “make us smile”.

Demonstrators encamped in Kiev’s central Independence Square to defend the revolution that ousted Yanukovich said they did not believe Crimea would be allowed to secede.

Alexander Zaporozhets, 40, from central Ukraine’s Kirovograd region, put his faith in international pressure.

“I don’t think the Russians will be allowed to take Crimea from us: you can’t behave like that to an independent state. We have the support of the whole world. But I think we are losing time. While the Russians are preparing, we are just talking.”

Unarmed military observers from the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were blocked from entering Crimea for a second day in a row on Friday, the OSCE said on Twitter.

The United Nations said it had sent its assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, to Kiev to conduct a preliminary humans rights assessment.

Ukrainian television has been replaced with Russian state channels in Crimea and the streets largely belong to people who support Moscow’s rule, some of whom have harassed journalists and occasional pro-Kiev protesters.

Part of the Crimea’s 2 million population opposes Moscow’s rule, including members of the region’s ethnic Russian majority. The last time Crimeans were asked, in 1991, they voted narrowly for independence along with the rest of Ukraine.

“With all these soldiers here, it is like we are living in a zoo,” Tatyana, 41, an ethnic Russian. “Everyone fully understands this is an occupation.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

GOP’s Blakeman: Hillary Could Have Prevented Russian Attack.


Hillary Clinton failed to anticipate Vladimir Putin’s designs on Ukraine territory and should have taken steps to deter Russian aggression, former Bush-era presidential assistant Bradley A. Blakeman charged Wednesday.

Blakeman noted that Clinton, the former secretary of state and leading Democratic contender for the nomination in 2016, played a high-profile role in hitting the “reset button” on U.S.-Russian relations.

“Maybe she could have prevented this if she had done her job correctly,” he said, “and had [used] the power of persuasion with our allies and others to call attention to Russia’s intentions.”

Blakeman, speaking in an exclusive Newsmax interview, said that while Hillary was pressing the reset button with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “the Russians were pressing the reject button.”

He added: “They saw America as being weak. They saw Obama as being weak, and somebody that could be exploited.”

Clinton has come under increasing attack from Republicans in recent weeks on issues ranging from Benghazi to her advocacy of the individual mandate that became the linchpin of Obamacare. She appeared to try to get out in front of the Ukraine issue Tuesday while speaking to the media in Long Beach, Calif.

She likened Russia’s pretext for the invasion to Nazi Germany’s push for Lebensraum in the 1930s.  Said Clinton: “The ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right, I must go and protect my people. And that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

Any resolution of the conflict, Clinton said, must not sanction a de facto annexation by Russia of the Crimea.

During the 2012 campaign, Clinton criticized GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney for his view that Russia was America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe. “I think it’s somewhat dated to be looking backwards instead of being realistic about where we agree, where we don’t agree,” Clinton told CNN that April in response to Romney’s statement.

But now it appears Romney had a point, Blakeman said.

“She was so out of touch with foreign policy and relationships,” said Blakeman, “that she couldn’t see the forest for the trees that Romney was right, that Putin was no friend of the United States, and had every inclination in causing us problems whether it was in Syria or Iran, and using his power of division to conquer. And that’s exactly what he did.”

He added that Clinton should have discerned Russia’s interest in seizing Ukrainian territory and taken steps to deter it.

Blakeman is a GOP strategist and former assistant to then-President George W. Bush. Now a faculty member at Georgetown University, he is among a growing number of Republicans taking a second look at Clinton’s record in light of Putin’s unchecked militarism in central Europe.

The full geopolitical ramifications of the Russian occupation of Crimea are only now emerging.

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, in an appearance Tuesday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, noted that Ukraine gave up a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons in 1994 in return for Russian guarantees to honor its territorial sovereignty. Kristol said the West’s apparent tolerance for the Russian invasion sends a strong message that encourages nuclear proliferation.

“The signal it sends is not only don’t give up your nuclear weapons, [but] build nuclear weapons!” he remarked. “That will guarantee your safety. Everything else is just talk. It’s a horrible, horrible message to let get out in Europe itself, in Eastern Europe especially.”

Kristol added that the Obama administration’s view that it could induce Putin’s Russia into becoming a cooperative member of the world community — the objective of its much-maligned “reset” strategy — should be fair game for criticism.

“That was a centerpiece of Obama administration policy,” Kristol said. “…I think some of us who have been critical of that for a few years are entitled to say, ‘Can we now acknowledge that was a mistake and has failed?'”

According to Blakeman, Clinton’s role in the administration’s attempt to woo the Russians could become a major issue in the 2016 campaign — particularly if Putin continues to provoke Western powers.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By David A. Patten

China Joins Russia In Support For Ukraine Military Action.


Sky News: Russia has said China is largely “in agreement” over Ukraine, after other world powers condemned Moscow for sending troops into the country. Hundreds of Russian soldiers have surrounded a military base in Crimea, preventing Ukrainian soldiers from going in or out. The convoy blockading the site, near the Crimean capital Simferopol, includes at least 17 military vehicles.

russia-and-china-in-agreement-over-ukraine-crisis

Armed servicemen wait near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, March 1, 2014

Russian troops are also reported to have taken control of a ferry terminal in the city of Kerch on the eastern tip of Crimea, which has a majority Russian-speaking population.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said two Russian fighter jets violated the country’s air space in the Black Sea on Sunday night and that it had scrambled an interceptor aircraft to prevent the “provocative actions”. And reports claimed pro-Russian protesters had occupied a floor of the regional government building in Donetsk. The 11-storey building has been flying the Russian flag for the last three days.

Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk has insisted his country “will never give up Crimea to anyone” and urged Russian forces to withdraw.

Mr Yatseniuk said: “I was and am a supporter of a diplomatic solution to the crisis, as a conflict would destroy the foundations for stability in the whole region.”  In an interview with Sky News, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the crisis is likely to take some time to resolve.

He said: “I think we probably are looking at a long period of very active diplomacy and looking for solutions to this since there is no sign of a change in the Russian position on this. ”It’s impossible to be optimistic at the moment. We’re not in any position to be optimistic about the security situation and what is happening in the Crimea.”

The crisis has had a huge knock-on effect on global stock markets, with Moscow’s stock exchange plunging as much as 10% on Monday morning.

Russia’s central bank raised its rate to 7% from 5.5% as the ruble hit an historic low against the dollar and the euro.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Ukraine by telephone with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Monday, and claimed they had “broadly coinciding points of view” on the situation there, according to a ministry statement.

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva later, Mr Lavrov said Russian troops were necessary in Ukraine “until the normalization of the political situation” and dismissed threats of sanctions and boycotts.source – Sky News.

by NTEB News Desk

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

LIGNET: Is the West Selling Out on Syria?.


The agreement between the United States and Russia to hold an international peace conference on Syria next month could very well undermine the Syrian opposition‘s recent gains and set back the support that had been growing in Washington and Brussels for arming the rebels. As such, it has raised suspicions among some observers that the West is not leading on the issue of Syria: It is selling out.

Click here to read the full analysis from top intelligence experts at LIGNET.com.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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