Tuesday, February 26, 2019

General/Prime Minister Sharon

Ariel “Arik” Sharon served with unusual distinction and considerable controversy both in a military uniform and as a politician. Sharon’s life of accomplishment was punctuated by his ruthless grit and legendary Israeli confidence.

Ariel Scheinerman was born on February 26, 1928 to Shmuel and Vera Scheinerman in Moshav Kfar Malal, near Raanana, Palestine (now Israel). David Ben Gurion requested that Scheinerman Hebraicize his last name to Sharon.

As a teen, Ariel joined the Haganah, which eventually became the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Ariel Sharon fought for Israel’s independence (where Sharon was wounded in the groin, stomach and foot). He created Israel’s first commando unit that eventually became the IDF’s Paratroopers Brigade, and was a hero of the 1967 Six Day War, leading an armored division in the Sinai. Sharon came out of retirement when the Yom Kippur War broke out. Arriving at the front in his civilian car, Sharon’s forces crossed the Suez Canal, encircled the Egyptian Third Army, and effectively, ended the war.

Sharon helped found the right-leaning Likud (unity) political party in July, 1973. As a supporter of settlements, Sharon became the patron saint of the “Gush Emunim” movement, who strove to build Jewish settlements in the internationally-disputed areas that Israel gained during the Six Day War. Sharon emerged from the 1977 Knesset elections as Minister of Agriculture, and after the 1981 election, Minister of Defense. In this capacity, in 1982, he helped launch “Operation Peace for Galilee” to expel the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from their base in Lebanon. While the PLO was forced to relocate, the war is remembered for a massacre of Lebanese Moslems by Lebanese Christian troops. A blue ribbon Israeli commission concluded that Sharon, who had overall responsibility as Defense Minister, didn’t stop the carnage, and found him indirectly culpable. Sharon resigned as Defense Minister but remained in Prime Minister Begin’s cabinet. Sharon eventually became the Likud’s leader and was elected Prime Minister on February 6, 2001.

Despite Sharon’s history as a hard-liner, in May, 2003, Sharon endorsed U.S. President George W. Bush’s “Roadmap for Peace.” To allow for Palestinian autonomy in Gaza, Sharon supported removing all Israeli citizens and forces from the Gaza Strip, captured in the Six Day War. In August, 2005, 9,480 Israelis were expelled from 21 settlements on the Gaza Strip. Although 80% of Israelis supported the Gaza disengagement, the move was extremely unpopular within the Likud party. On November 21, 2005 Sharon resigned as head of Likud and created the Kadima party.

On January 4, 2006 Sharon suffered a massive stroke, which left him in a coma. Ehud Olmert assumed the prime ministership upon Sharon’s debilitation and won the Knesset elections in March, 2006. Sharon succumbed on January 11, 2014.

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