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Who is Ariel Sharon?

By Matthew F.
Updated May 23, 2024
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Ariel Sharon was Israel's prime minister from 2001 to 2006. A former general, strategist, and member of parliament, Sharon had been a prominent figure in Israeli politics and military affairs from 1973 until a stroke forced his resignation in 2006. A controversial figure, he was born in 1928 and began his career towards the end of World War II. Ariel Sharon has been criticized as a war criminal for acts of violence, and was also responsible as prime minister for the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Born Kfar Malal, Ariel Sharon gained notoriety as a leader of the Israeli army in the Arab-Israeli Wars of 1948 and 1956. Rising to the rank of major general a mere months before the 1967 war, he would continue to gain power until 1973 when he took the Israeli army into Egypt, capturing their 3rd Army. After his military exploits of 1973, Ariel Sharon ended his illustrious army career to venture into the Israel political realm. In that year, Sharon helped to form the Likud Party, a major right-wing political party in Israel.

Having won a seat in parliament due to his military success, Ariel Sharon began his political career with some prestige. He then served as security advisor from 1975-1977 for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin before becoming minister of agriculture from 1977-1981. In 1981, Ariel Sharon took on a position of national importance as he became defense minister under the administration of Menachem Begin, where he helped construct the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

This campaign brought Ariel Sharon worldwide controversy as he was held responsible for a massacre that resulted from his allowing Lebanese forces into Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila. Forced into resignation in 1983, Ariel Sharon remained in parliament until he was made minister of trade and industry the next year. He served in this post until 1990, when he served for two years as minister of construction and housing. In 1996 he became minister of national infrastructure and foreign minister in 1998, where he emerged to leadership of the Likud Party in 1999.

In 2001 Ariel Sharon was made prime minister of Israel, where he immediately made it known he would not shy away from conflict with hostile Palestine. Sharon ordered the reoccupation of the West Bank in 2002 to ensure Israeli safety in the region. In 2003 he tried for peace until violence again erupted later that year. Ariel Sharon upset many within the political framework of Israel’s parliament when he withdrew Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip in 2005. This would be his last major act of office as a January 2006 stroke would leave him incapacitated and unable to carry out his duties since he was in a coma-like state.

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