Sharon, Ariel (ärˈēĕl shärōnˈ) [key], 1928–, Israeli general and politician, b. Kfar Malal. He gained attention for his superb military leadership in the 1948 and 1956 Arab-Israeli Wars and was made a major general months before the 1967 war. In the 1973 conflict Israeli forces under his command captured Egypt's 3d Army. That year, Sharon resigned from the army, helped establish the right-wing Likud party, and won a seat in the Israeli parliament. He served as security adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (1975–77), as minister of agriculture (1977–81), and became defense minister in 1981 in the second Begin government.
A controversial figure, Sharon was the chief architect of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He was widely criticized for allowing Lebanese Christian forces into Palestinian refugee camps in West Beirut and held at least indirectly responsible for their subsequent massacre of civilians in the Sabra and Shatila camps. He resigned (1983) from the defense ministry but remained in parliament. He subsequently was minister of trade and industry (1984–90) and minister of construction and housing (1990–92); in the latter post he worked to increase Jewish settlement in the occupied territories. In 1996 Sharon became minister of national infrastructure in Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet, and in 1998 he was also appointed foreign minister. After Netanyahu lost the prime ministership to One Israel (Labor) party leader Ehud Barak in 1999, Sharon succeeded Netanyahu as leader of the Likud bloc.
In 2000, Sharon, accompanied by soldiers, visited to the Al Aksa Mosque (Temple Mount), a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, located in Palestinian East Jerusalem; his stated aim was to show that Israel had sovereignty over this and other holy sites. The visit sparked Arab demonstrations in Jerusalem and in many Arab enclaves, leading to a bloody Palestinian insurrection and, less directly, a prime-ministerial election in which Sharon, pledging to try to reach a workable Arab-Israeli peace while promoting domestic calm, unity, and security, overwhelmingly defeated Barak (2001). Sharon formed a broad-based government of national unity, but pursued a hard line with the Palestinians. Violence escalated in both the occupied territories and Israel, and in 2002 Sharon ordered the reoccupation of West Bank towns in an attempt to prevent attacks against Israelis. The national unity government broke up in Oct., 2002, forcing Sharon to call elections for early 2003, which resulted in a Likud victory.
In 2003 his government accepted the internationally supported "road map for peace," and resumed talks with the Palestinians until violence again broke out that August. In 2005, however, he withdrew Israeli settlers and forces from the Gaza Strip because of security issues; the move was opposed by many in Likud, and forced him into a coalition (2005) with Labor. Following the withdrawal, Netanyahu unsuccessfully challenged Sharon for the Likud party leadership post, but Sharon later withdrew from Likud to form the centrist Kadima [Forward] party. A stroke in Jan., 2006, however, left him hospitalized in a coma. Ehud Olmert succeeded him as prime minister.
See his autobiography (1989); biographies by U. Benziman (1985) and A. Miller et al. (2002).
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