Ethan Bronner
The New York Times
November 12, 2010 - 1:00am

Ariel Sharon, who had a major stroke while prime minister of Israel nearly five years ago and has since been in a coma in a hospital room, was moved on Friday to his ranch in the Negev Desert, hospital officials told Israel Radio.

A former close aide, Raanan Gissen, said in an interview that Mr. Sharon’s sons had been in discussion with Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv about the move. An elevator and other equipment had been installed at the family ranch to accommodate his arrival and long-term care.

Hospital officials said Mr. Sharon would at first spend several days at a time at home and then return to Sheba Medical Center to be to monitored. Only after several successful trials at the ranch would he stay there permanently.

Mr. Sharon, 82, breathes on his own but is fed intravenously, Mr. Gissen said. Visits to his sterile hospital room had been tightly limited because of a fear of infection. The cost of keeping Mr. Sharon in the hospital, which is borne by the taxpayer, has been high and some commentators urged that he be moved to a long-term care facility or home.

Mr. Gissen said that given his age and the duration of the coma, it seemed like Mr. Sharon was unlikely to regain consciousness, but his sons remained hopeful. He noted that Mr. Sharon used to say that he enjoyed spending time at the ranch, surrounded by livestock and nature, and perhaps returning there would help. Mr. Sharon was widowed twice. His sons, Omri and Gilad, are in charge of his care and estate.

A former general who held nearly every major ministerial post, Mr. Sharon was elected prime minister in 2001 and was at the height of his power when he had the stroke in January 2006. Having spent his career as a noted hawk and champion of the settler movement, he stunned the world by removing Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza in the summer of 2005 and leaving his political home in the right-leaning Likud, establishing the centrist party Kadima instead.

After his stroke, his deputy, Ehud Olmert, was elected prime minister.


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