Ariel SharonSoldier / Prime Minister of Israel
Born: 26 February 1928
Birthplace: Kefar Malal, Palestine
Best known as: Prime minister of Israel, 2001-2006
Ariel Sharon was prime minister of Israel from 2001 until 2006, when a massive stroke ended his political career. Sharon already had a long history of service in Israel's military and government: he was active in all of the Israeli-Arab wars, rising to the rank of major general by 1967 and distinguishing himself as a strategist in the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The same year he helped form the Likud party, and in 1974 he was elected to his first term as member of Israel's parliament, the Knesset. Sharon served as minister of agriculture and then minister of defense under Menachem Begin, and led the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. When hundreds of Palestinian refugees were murdered by Lebanese Christian militiamen, Sharon was severely criticized and forced to resign his position. He remained in the cabinet, however, and served as minister of national infrastructure under Benjamin Netanyahu. In 1998 Sharon was named minister of foreign affairs. Sharon capped his political comeback by winning election to the post of prime minister in February of 2001, unseating Ehud Barak in a landslide. On 4 January 2006, Sharon suffered what was described as a "significant" stroke with "massive bleeding" in his brain, just three weeks after a mild stroke put him briefly in the hospital. The stroke left him comatose, and he was replaced by acting prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Extra credit: In November of 2005, Sharon resigned from the Likud party, asked that the current parliament be dissolved, and announced he would form a new centrist party called Kadima, the Hebrew word for "forward." Kadima won 28 seats in Israeli general elections of March 2006, making Ehud Olmert the new prime minister-designate... Israel's cabinet declared Sharon officially "permanently incapacitated" in April of 2006... Sharon's birthplace, Kefar Malal, can also be spelled Kfar Malal.
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