Comatose former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s condition has gravely deteriorated and he is near death, doctors said on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer Hospital said Sharon’s condition began taking a turn for the worse in recent days.
Doctors said Sharon, 85, who has been in a vegetative state since 2006, was suffering from renal failure that could lead to multiple organ system failure and death.
Hebrew media reports late Wednesday said doctors had told the family that Sharon had, at most, no more than four days to live.
“The situation now depends mainly on the family and the decisions they make,” a senior doctor at Sheba told Walla News.
Channel 2 reported that doctors were unlikely to take drastic measures to keep him alive, given his condition and age.
In September, doctors reinstalled a feeding tube in Sharon’s digestive system. The procedure was completed without incident, and the former prime minister was returned to the hospital’s Department of Respiratory Care and Rehabilitation, where he has been in treatment in recent years.
Sharon is one of Israel’s most iconic and controversial figures. As one of Israel’s most famous generals, Sharon was known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders. As a politician he became known as “The Bulldozer,” a man contemptuous of his critics while also capable of getting things done.
As defense minister, he led Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and was forced to resign the post after a commission of inquiry found him responsible for failing to prevent the massacre by Christian Phalangists of Palestinian refugees in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila camps.
A prominent hard-line voice over the decades, he was elected prime minister in 2001.
In mid-2005, he directed a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, ending a 38-year military control of the territory. It was a shocking turnaround for a man who had been a leading player in building Jewish settlements in captured territories.
He bolted the Likud party and established the centrist Kadima party, where he was joined by Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. He appeared on his way to an easy reelection when he suffered a severe stroke in January 2006. His deputy, Olmert, took over and was elected prime minister a few months later.
Sharon had a first, small stroke in December 2005 and was put on blood thinners before experiencing a severe brain hemorrhage on January 4, 2006. After spending months in the Jerusalem hospital where he was initially treated, Sharon was transferred to the long-term care facility at Tel Hashomer Hospital. He was taken home briefly at one point but was returned to the hospital, where he has been since.
On her Facebook page, Livni posted a status update Wednesday, which said simply, “I can’t stop thinking about Arik this evening.”
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.