Ariel Sharon is the former Prime Minister of Israel and a military leader. He is ranked among the most powerful leaders in the history of Israel, who succeeded in removing the Israeli soldiers from Gaza thus ending the long time tension between the two countries. Before elected as Prime Minister, Sharon has been appointed to the ministry of defense which he abandoned in the wake of the impeachments of war crimes following the Sabra and Shatila Massacre. He was the first Prime Minister who did not belong to either of the two political parties 'Labor' or 'Likud' that were dominating the Israeli politics for years. After falling out with his party members, Sharon founded and led a party 'Kadima' which is now a majority and the senior coalition partner in the Israeli Government. However, health problems have kept him out of politics in recent years particularly after he went into coma in 2006.
Childhood & Early Life
Ariel Sharon was born in Kfar Malal, then a British Mandate of Palestine, on 26 February 1928. He was the second children of Litvish Jews Shmuel Sheinerman and Dvora. The couple had a daughter, Yehudit, elder to Ariel Sharon, who is commonly known as Dita. Sharon showed fondness for defense services at an early age, when he joined the youth movement Zionist “Hassadeh” at the age of 10. Further, he joined the Gadna, a paramilitary youth battalion in 1942 and Haganah, the underground force, before finally entering the Jewish military precursor to the Israel Defense Forces.
In 1952-53, Sharon studied History and Oriental studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Sharon’s career in military began with his appointment as a platoon commander in the Alexandroni brigade during the creation of Israel, when Haganah was transformed into the Israel Defense Forces. In September 1949, he became the company commander and was promoted to intelligence officer for central command in 1950. During the next few years, he held the position of the leader of the new unit 101, Israel’s first Special Forces, which, under his leadership, conducted several raids and attack, including the widely condemned Qibya Massacre in 1953, in which many Palestinian were killed.
Early Political Career
After retiring from military, Sharon played key role in establishing Likud Party in July 1973, an amalgamation of Herut, The Liberal Party and other independent bodies, having stepped in as the chairman of the campaign staff. During Menachem Begin's government rule in Israel, Sharon was appointed the Minister of Defense. It was during his tenure as Defense minister that Sabra and Shatila massacre took place in 1982, in which thousands of Palestine civilians were killed by the Phalanges - Lebanese Maronite Christian militias. The incident ruined Sharon’s image putting his political career on the threshold of fall.
In an ensuing investigation, Sharon was held responsible for the incident and was asked to resign from his position in early 1983. After initial refusal and protest, Sharon resigned from his position of Defense Minister, but stayed in the cabinet as a Minister without Portfolio till 1984. His removal became the one of the most important event of that year. The relatives of the victims of the massacre demanded a charge sheet filed against him for war crimes, holding a protest march on 18 June 2001; the appeal was rejected however.
Even after his removal from the position as Defense Minister, Sharon remained in cabin and held numerous positions. He became Minister for Trade and Industry in 1984 and served until when he took charge as the Minister of Housing Construction in 1990. He was member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee during 1990-1992, before he was appointed to the chairmanship of the committee overseeing Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union. During 1996-1998, Sharon served as Foreign Minister and became the leader of the Likud Party after the Barak Labor government came in power.
Prime Minister of Israel
Barak’s government was succeeded by Sharon, after elected as the 11th Prime Minister in February 2001. The anti-Semitism in western countries reached its peak during that period. On 20 July 2004, in a controversial incident, Sharon called on French Jews to emigrate from France to Israel, after the anti-Semitism assaults in France kept on making front page news. The French Government took offence and responded by postponing a visit by Sharon. Though the both countries patched up and continued the peace talk soon after.
During his tenure as the Prime Minister, Sharon initiated and welcomed the peace talk with countries like The United states, European Union and Russia. In May 2003, Sharon approved the Road Map for Peace proposed by these countries, which paved the way to open a dialogue with Mahmud Abbas, showing his willingness to establish a Palestinian state very soon. His efforts in this direction gained him appreciation from inside and outside Israel, along with the Palestinian Authority, at the same time his plans have been criticized on religious and security grounds.
Disengagement from Gaza
On 1 December 2004, five ministers of Shinui party were dismissed for opposing the government’s budget for 2005 and established a national unity government in 2005. In a landslide decision, Sharon pulled out Israeli soldiers from Gaza on 11 September 2005, causing a rift within the Likud Party. Albeit the removal of Israel soldiers from Gaza gave rise to intense protests from party members, it was reported as the most popular move of the Prime Minister for which he had to face a leadership challenge on 27 September 2005. Sharon successfully defeated his rivals within the party by winning it. Soon after the leadership challenge, Sharon resigned from his position as head of the Likud party dissolving parliament to establish a new party 'Kadima’.
End of Political Career
Sharon suffered a minor ischemic stroke, while still in office, on 18 December 2005, and was hospitalized. His heavy weight, perhaps a factor in the stroke, coupled with high cholesterol made his condition critical and led to a heart surgery. In spite of firm warning from doctors he returned to work, only to have a hemorrhagic stroke on 4 January 2006. Though two consecutive surgeries stopped the bleeding in his brain, they could not prevent him from slipping into a coma. Ehud Olmert took charge as Acting Prime Minister while Sharon remained the official Prime Minister. Soon the Israeli committee appointed Ehud Olmert as official Prime Minister on 14 April 2006 after the Kadima party won a majority in the March election. Since 6 November 2006, Sharon has undergone a number of surgeries with limited success, as he is in a persistent vegetative state with very bleak chances to recover.
Marriage and Personal Life
Sharon had two marriages and has been widowed twice. He married his first wife Margalit, while serving as a military instructor. His wife died in a car accident in May 1962 and after 5 years of her death, their son Gur, was shot accidentally by his friend in October 1967, while playing with a rifle. After Margalit’s death, he married her younger sister Lily, who died of cancer in year 2000, leaving behind two sons Omri and Gil’sd.
Sharon suffered a stroke on January 4, 2006 and slipped into coma. After spending eight years in a coma, Sharon died on January 11, 2014.