Currently (9/30/00) the leader of the Likud party in Israel, Sharon is a right-wing nationalist who is currently Israel's most powerful politician in opposition to president Ehud Barak. Sharon vehemently opposes the peace process in the Middle East, with the argument (unfortunately, not completely specious) that any deal with the Palestinians will not be honored, and will result in a net destabilization of the country as Israel gives away land for empty promises.

Like most Israeli polititions, Sharon became famous through military deeds. In the Yom Kippur War of 1973, his troops successfully battled and surrounded the Egyptian third army, and were only prevented from crushing them by the diplomatic intervention of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, in a successful bid by them to win the support of Anwar Sadat.

In 1982, with the assistance of the local Phalangist Christian militia, Israel successfully invaded Lebanon in an attempt to clamp down on terrorist attacks being launched from that country. During the occupation, a phalangist was elected president of the country (in a process overseen by the IDF), then killed in an explosion three weeks later. At the time, the Phalangists believed the killing to be the work of a Palestinian terrorist. To keep the fallout from the attack at a minimum, Sharon, who was at time the Minister of Defense for Israel, took steps to lock down the area around Beirut. Part of this lockdown involved entering the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and weeding out members of the PLO from the rest of the civilians living there. In spite of the fact that the Phalangists were known to hate Palestinians and wanted revenge for the assassination, Sharon ordered Israeli forces to bus 150 Phalangists to the camps, then to seal the camps against entry or exit while the terrorists were rounded up. For 40 hours during September 16-18, the Phalangists massacred over 800 refugees (some estimates are as high as 3000) while Israeli troops stood guard, before international outrage forced the atrocity to end. According to some reports, the IDF even assisted the Phalangists by giving them a steady supply of ammunition, and dropping flares to light the camps during the night. In 1983, the Israeli Kahan Commission found Sharon indirectly responsible for the massacres, and he was forced to step down from his position as minister.

Sharon was most recently in the news when he triggered the worst round of violence in four years: He made a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in a gesture of Israeli sovereignty over the area.

Editors note:

After spending eight years in a coma, Ariel Sharon died on January 11, 2014.

When I was in Israel a few years ago, I heard this song, which is a protest against Ariel Sharon and the war in Lebanon. The song is a parody of a popular children's song.

Children's Song (Hebrew):
Red eleinu aviron
Kach otanu la marom
Nitofef al rosh eitzim
Veh niyeh ke tziporim.

Children's Song (Translation):
Airplane, come get us
Take us up to the sky
We will fly above the trees
And be like the birds.

Parody (Hebrew):
Red eleinu aviron
Kach otanu le Levanon
Nilachem bishvil Sharon
Venachzor betoch aron.

Parody (Translation):
Airplane, come get us
Take us to Lebanon
We will fight for (Ariel) Sharon
And return in a coffin.

Ariel Sharon won a historic landslide victory in the special Israeli prime minister elections on February 7, 2001.

The former general and defense minister, nicknamed 'Bulldozer', captured 62.6 percent of the vote, with 99.9 percent of ballot papers counted -- a 25 percent majority.

Sharon promised Israelis the country was on a new path of "security and true peace" during his victory speech.

Sharon has taken a hard-line approach to peace talks with the Palestinians, pledging in his victory speech to "strengthen and build the united Jerusalem, Israel's capital and the capital of the Jewish people for all eternity."

Sharon said he had received a call from U.S. President George W. Bush congratulating him.

Sharon is also currently under investigation in Belgium for the Sabra and Shatila massacre. The Belgians are hoping to try him on war crimes charges.

One year into his term he has brought no additional security to the State of Israel. Only war.
The recent election in Israel is one I find very disquieting.

Both the reputation of Sharon--the man responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre--and recent pronouncements regarding the need for the Intifada to end before any talks will occur, do not bode well for the future.

In a recent report on the CBC, its Middle East correspondant Neil MacDonald suggested that Sharon is considering a pacification program similar to the one he carried out previously, where Palestinian men were rounded up, and Palestinian homes were bulldozed--hence his nickname.

The only, vaguely, hopeful fact is that the Israeli parlement, the Knesset, was unchanged, and that Sharon still seems to need representation from the left parties, including the Labor Party of Barak to form a government.

Any person of good will can only be dismayed by the events of recent history, starting with the visit by Sharon to Temple Mount which began the present round of bloodletting.

Personal information:
Ariel ('Arik') Sharon (formerly Sheinerman) was born in 1928 in Kfar Malal. Married twice, his first wife died in a car accident, and his second wife died lately (of cancer?). Sharon had three sons, one of whom was also killed, in a shooting accident.

Sharon timeline:

The military era:
Much of Sharon’s life was spent (or, as some would have it, used) in the military. He joined the “Gadna”, or youth troops, at 1942 (age 14), then part of the “Hagana”. He served in different duties, attending officer’s training course in 1945.
Points of reference in Sharon’s military career:

  • 1948 War of Independence - platoon commander
  • 1949 As part of the integration of resistance movements to IDF – Military intelligence officer in the Northern command
  • 1952 Creates and commands special forces unit 101 (later to become a regular paratrooper unit)
  • 1956 Leads forces para-dropped in Mitla pass in Sinai. Disobeys direct orders in order to achieve his task (successfully)
  • 1964 Chief of staff of Northern command
  • 1966 Chief of training
  • 1967 During six day war commanded an armored division
  • 1969 Chief of staff of the Southern command
  • 1972 Resigns from IDF as he does not expect to become chief of staff
  • 1973 As reserve officer led a bold counter attack in Egyptian front, surrounding the third Egyptian army
The political era:

  • 1973 Elected to the Knesset as a member of the Likud party
  • 1974 Resigns from Knesset and becomes security advisor to prime-minister Rabin
  • 1976 Following Rabin’s resignation Sharon heads a new political party called “Shlomzion”. Wins two seats in elections and Joins Begin led government.
  • 1976-81 Minister of agriculture and chairman of ministerial committee for settlement. During this period Sharon assisted settler movements in the west-bank and Gaza. Mostly considered a friend by the settlers, Sharon is also the one that led the return of the Yamit settlement in Sinai following the Egypt-Israel peace agreement. “Shlomzion” disbanded.
  • 1981-83 Minister of defense in Begin led government. This period will be discussed separately below.
  • 1984-90 Minister of Industry and trade
  • 1990-92 Minister of housing and construction. During this period there’s a big immigration from the former USSR, and Sharon uses his authority and position to settle many of the new immigrants in the occupied territories. He solve serious housing problems, yet leaves his ministry in serious debt.
  • 1992-96 Knesset member
  • 1996-99 Minister of national infrastructure (office created for Sharon)
  • 1999-01 Head of Likud party.
  • 2001 - 2006 Prime-minister
  • 2006 - Suffered a massive stroke on January 5th. Is incapacitated since.

Sharon was always considered a very determined and ruthless man. During his period as an infantry commander in the 50’s he was blamed for “over doing” retaliation actions. When his unit was sent to attack terrorist houses in the village of Qibya, the activity ended with 69 people killed, mostly civilians. His strong headedness also led him to disobey a command not to advance when dropped with his forces near the Mitla pass in Sinai during the Sinai war. Sharon’s troops suffered casualties but successfully completed their mission.

The 1973 war placed Sharon in high public regard. Compared to the collapse of IDF’s regular forces in the first few days of the war, his counter attack appeared brilliant. At risk of being outflanked himself Sharon led his armored division in a risky move, crossing the Suez Canal and surrounding the Egyptian third army. Considered an almost savior, Sharon had no trouble being elected to the Knesset.

Sharon’s career as a minister did not change his image as very determined person, often considering any end he came across as justifying any mean he felt like. He encouraged settlement in the occupied territories and was very popular with Gush-Emonim, a rigt wing settler group. Sharon over did himself, however, in his role as a Minister of Defense.

In 1982 tension was rising between PLO forces deployed in southern Lebanon and elsewhere and Israel. A tense cease fire was broken with the attempted assassination of Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov in London. Israel retaliated by bombing PLO training bases in southern Lebanon, and the PLO responded by bombarding Israeli northern settlements.

The Begin led government was offered two major operational plans by the IDF. The first was a quick strike against terrorist bases in the south of Lebanon, where the PLO was practically governing a small country of its own. The second plan was a more complex and intricate one that would bring IDF forces to the Beirut area, where they were to group with the Maronite Christian forces and after bringing them to power, sign a peace treaty.

The government voted for the first, limited, plan, and the military forces were given their commands. Sadly, these commands were those prepared for the second alternative. Ariel Sharon, aided by chief-of-staff Eitan, had decided that IDF must go for the bigger option. If the government won’t vote for it all at once, it can be given to it in small pieces.

Sharon proceeded to limit the advances of the army on the one hand, and pass the appropriate government resolutions on the other, all the time describing the military advances to the government as a tactical necessity or as a response to attacks by Lebanese factions or Syrian forces. This trustworthy behavior, alongside the responsibility and humanitarianism shown by him in the Sabra and Shatilla incident, led a government committee to declare him unfit to be minister of defense. Little did the committee know that 17 years later he would become prime minister (thus not having even the slightest chance to lie to the prime minister, and not actually being the minister of defense).

On August 2005 Sharon led the Israeli unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza strip. Sharon, formerly popular with the right-wing in Israel became the first Israeli prime minister to actually remove Jewish settlers from Palestinian territories. Amusingly, this militaristic leader was the force behind the two events that led to the most disillusionment of the idealistic Israeli public from the military. In the 80's the war in Lebanon led many in the left to anti militaristic points of view, and in the 00's many right wing settlers are coming to resent the army for its role in the disengagement plan.

Editors note:

After spending eight years in a coma, Ariel Sharon died on January 11, 2014.

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