Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon lights a Hanukkah candle at his Jerusalem office on December, 27 2005, days before suffering a massive stroke.(KEVIN FRAYER/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died, eight years after suffering a massive stroke that left him in a persistent vegetative state. He was 85.

Sharon’s condition had worsened in recent days, with his doctors at the Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv reporting last week that he was in organ failure.

Sharon, a decorated commander who had served as prime minister from 2001 until his 2006 stroke, was known as “the Bulldozer” in his dealings with the Palestinians. He made waves with his 2005 unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, in which he removed all settlements in the area (and four in the northern West Bank). If not for Sharon’s stroke, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice commented in 2009, “I think we would have a Palestinian state.”

As Benny Morris writes today in Tablet, “When Sharon disappeared from the political arena, in January 2006, both Palestinian and Jewish extremists rejoiced. But there was a real sense of shock, sadness, and loss among most Israelis, who felt—probably correctly—that the only political figure willing and able to extricate—liberate—Israel from the West Bank and thus able to change the course of the country’s history, was gone.”

You can read the rest of Morris’ tribute to Sharon and his complex political legacy here.