(Jerusalem)  --  Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died.  The 85-year-old Sharon had been in a coma since he suffered a major stroke in January of 2006.  His condition recently took a turn for the worst as he battled serious kidney problems.  Sharon was a decorated military figure before being elected prime minister in 2001.  

As prime minister, Sharon led one of the most dramatic turnarounds in Israeli politics when he pulled out settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005.  The land was then handed over to Palestinians, who hope it will be a part of their envisioned state.  With that move, Sharon, once called the "Bulldozer," earned worldwide praise for helping to promote peace.  Political analysts say no figure has dominated the Israeli political stage like Sharon since founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.