Sharansky, Natan (1948–)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

SHARANSKY, NATAN (1948–)

Israeli political figure, born in the Ukraine, in the Soviet Union. Natan Scharansky graduated from the Moscow Institute of Physics and became an activist for human rights. He was imprisoned in 1973 for his opposition to the Soviet regime. In 1977, accused of "treason and espionage" on behalf of the American Central Intelligence Agency, he was sentenced to thirteen years of forced labor. His wife organized an international campaign that allowed him to be freed after nine years. In February 1986 he was exchanged for Eastern-bloc spies in Western custody. After a few weeks in Berlin, Sharansky emigrated to Israel, where he worked to integrate Soviet immigrants, who represented a considerable political bloc, into Israeli society. In 1988 he created the Zionist Forum of Soviet Union Jews, a center-right political grouping. He was courted by both Likud and the Labor Party. In June 1995, along with his friend Yuli Edelstein, he created the Israel be-Aliyah Party, which in the platform published on the following 1 November upheld "the inalienable rights of the Israeli people over the country of Israel, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan" and rejected the creation of a Palestinian state, while recommending autonomy for the Occupied Territories.

In the May 1996 parliamentary elections, Sharansky's party won seven seats in the Knesset. A few weeks later, Sharansky was named minister of commerce and industry in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Three years later he became minister of the interior in the Labor government of Ehud Barak. On 9 July 2000, opposing the Israeli-Palestinian summit in Washington, D.C. that Barak was participating in, Sharansky resigned his post in the Labor government. On 7 March 2001, after the election for prime minister, he was appointed minister of housing and construction in the cabinet of Likud's Ariel Sharon. In 2003 he became minister for diaspora, social, and Jerusalem affairs. In this capacity he has lectured widely on the topic of anti-Semitism and its connection to anti-Israel sentiment.

SEE ALSO Barak, Ehud; Israel be-Aliyah; Israel Labor Party; Knesset; Likud; Netanyahu, Benjamin; Sharon, Ariel.