Sharon (Scheinerman), Ariel

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SHARON (Scheinerman), ARIEL

SHARON (Scheinerman), ARIEL (Arik ; 1928– ), Israeli soldier and politician, member of the Knesset from the Eighth Knesset. Sharon was born in Kefar Malal and went to high-school in Tel Aviv. He joined the Haganah in 1945, and in 1947 served in the supernumerary police of the Jewish settlements. In the War of Independence he served as a platoon commander in the Alexandroni brigade and was severely wounded in the battle for Latrun. At the beginning of 1949 he was appointed company commander, and in 1951 an intelligence officer in the Central Command. In 1952–53 he studied history and Eastern studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was then appointed commander of the 101 commando unit, established to carry out reprisal operations against Arab marauder attacks. In 1954 the unit was merged with a paratroop regiment, headed by Sharon, and continued its unconventional activities behind enemy lines. The unit's level of performance was considered high, but it was occasionally criticized for its lack of restraint, such as during the operation in Qibyah, in which women and children were also killed. In the Sinai Campaign of 1956 Sharon fought as commander of a paratroop brigade. However, as a result of the large number of casualties in a battle that took place in the Mitleh Pass, which many viewed as being superfluous, he fell out with Chief of Staff Moshe *Dayan. In 1957 he was sent to the Camberley Staff College in Great Britain, and after his return his advancement in the idf was frozen by Chiefs of Staff Ḥayyim *Laskov and Ẓevi Ẓur. In 1958–62 he commanded an infantry brigade and the Infantry School, simultaneously attending the Law School at Tel Aviv University.

It was only after the appointment of Yitzhak *Rabin as chief of staff in 1964 that Sharon's military career once again started to advance. Rabin appointed Sharon head of the Northern Command Staff, and in 1966, after he received the rank of major general, as head of the idf Training Division. In the *Six-Day War he led an armored brigade which broke through Egyptian fortified positions in Um-Kattaf and Abu 'Ageila. After the War he returned to his previous position as head of the Training Division, in which capacity he moved several training bases to the West Bank. In 1969 he was appointed commander of the Southern Command, in which capacity he fortified the Bar-Lev Line and played an active role in the War of Attrition. In this period he was highly critical of Chief of Staff Haim *Bar-Lev. In 1971 he concentrated most of his efforts into fighting against terrorist cells in Gaza and removing the Bedouins from Northern Sinai. The latter activity was criticized by the chief of staff. In this period, though he was still in uniform, Sharon made some proposals of a political nature. In September 1970, in the course of "Black September" in Jordan, he argued (in closed military circles) that Israel should not have helped save King Hussein's skin in his battle against the plo, but rather aligned itself with the plo against the king. The background to this idea was Sharon's objection to any Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and his belief that an alternative solution would have to be offered the Palestinians. Regarding the Sinai, he proposed that Egypt be allowed to maintain a civil administration there, while the idf would continue to hold it for a period of 15 years. In the meantime trust would be established between the two sides, to be followed by negotiations toward a settlement. However, his ideas were not taken seriously by the government of Golda *Meir.

In June 1973, after Sharon reached the conclusion that he was unlikely to be appointed chief of staff, he resigned from the idf and entered the political arena, joining the *Israel Liberal Party. He immediately launched a campaign for the expansion of *Gaḥal through the inclusion of additional parties and groups and played a leading role in the establishment of the Likud. Upon the outbreak of the *Yom Kippur War, however, he returned to active service as commander of an armored division and led his men across the Suez Canal into Egypt proper. Despite the brilliant success of this operation, he was once again severely criticized for disobeying orders and showing disrespect for his superiors.

After demobilization, Sharon ran in the elections to the Eighth Knesset on the Likud list and was elected to the Knesset.

However, feeling ineffective as an ordinary Member of the Knesset in opposition, he resigned from the Knesset in December 1974 and accepted an emergency appointment in the idf. Half a year later he was appointed by Prime Minister Rabin as his special advisor. A year later he resigned as advisor and formed a new political party, Shlomzion, which gained two seats in the elections to the Ninth Knesset in 1977. After the victory of the Likud in the elections, Shlomzion merged with it, and Sharon was appointed by Menaḥem *Begin as minister of agriculture in his government, and chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Settlement, in which capacities he encouraged the establishment of new settlements in the territories occupied during the Six-Day War. In this period he was considered the patron of *Gush Emunim. After the resignation of Ezer *Weizman from the post of minister of defense in May 1980, Begin refused to appoint Sharon to the post. However, after the elections to the Tenth Knesset in 1981, Begin finally gave way, and Sharon was appointed minister of defense. Not long after his appointment, Sharon started planning a major operation in Lebanon to stop the launching of Katyushas on Northern Israel and to oust the plo from Beirut and southern Lebanon. He also sought to remove the Syrians from Beirut and install a government in Lebanon that would be willing to sign a peace treaty with Israel. After an attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to London, Shlomo Argov, Sharon decided, in June 1982, to embark on Operation Peace for Galilee. However, two months before this, he implemented the very sensitive operation of withdrawal from the Rafa Salient and the removal of the settlers from Yamit and other Jewish settlements in the area.

Regarding Lebanon, the government approved a limited operation, at a depth of 40 kilometers from the border with Israel. Yet Sharon continued the operation into Beirut, while, according to Menaḥem Begin's son Ze'ev Binyamin *Begin, keeping vital information from the prime minister and misleading him. Sharon personally approved the entry of the Christian Phalange troops into the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla the day after Lebanon's president-elect, Bashir Jemayel, was assassinated. Following the massacre that occurred in the camps, Sharon was found by the Kahane Committee of Inquiry set up by the Israeli government – after massive popular pressure to investigate the event – to be responsible for not preventing the massacre, and he was forced to resign from the Ministry of Defense, remaining in the government as minister without portfolio. Despite opposition in the *Israel Labor Party, Sharon was appointed minister of industry and trade in the National Unity Government formed in 1984. Soon after entering his new position Sharon traveled to the U.S. to appear in a libel suit that he had brought against Time magazine, which had published an article stating that the Kahane Committee Report included a secret appendix, according to which Sharon had encouraged the Jemayel family to take revenge against the Palestinians for Bashir's assassination. Sharon won the suit on the facts but failed to prove malice. Sharon remained in the Ministry of Industry and Trade until February 1990 and continued to support Jewish settlement in the territories, proposing that the Palestinians be given 11 autonomous areas.

Following the government's decision on May 15, 1989, to hold elections in the territories, Sharon headed a group in the Likud, that also included David *Levy and Yitzhak *Modai, which tried to undermine the plan, and went so far as to leave the government in February 1990, after a stormy meeting of the Likud Central Committee. However, after the Labor Party brought the National Unity Government down in March, he rejoined the narrow government formed by Yitzhak *Shamir as minister of construction and housing. In this position Sharon assisted private associations that were engaged in purchasing property in the Old City of Jerusalem and in East Jerusalem for Jewish settlement, and was involved in purchasing tens of thousands of caravans to house the wave of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union that started pouring into Israel after 1989. Sharon opposed Israel's participation in the Madrid Conference in October 1991. In February 1992 he contended for the Likud leadership, but came in third after Shamir and Levy. He did not contend for the Likud leadership in 1993 opposite Binyamin*Netanyahu, after the Likud's electoral defeat in the elections to the Thirteenth Knesset in 1992.

In the government formed by Netanyahu after the elections to the Fourteenth Knesset in 1996, a new Ministry of National Infrastructures was tailor-made for Sharon. Following Netanyahu's defeat in the direct election for prime minister held in 1999, and Netanyahu's decision to leave politics temporarily, Sharon finally assumed the leadership of the Likud. It was Sharon's decision at the end of September 2000 to pay a well-publicized visit the Temple Mount that triggered the outbreak of the second Intifada and led to the final breakdown of Barak's efforts to work out a permanent settlement with the Palestinians.

In the elections for prime minister held in February 2001 Sharon defeated Ehud *Barak. Following the elections, he set up a national unity government. Soon after his victory he cancelled the system of direct election of the prime minister. With the full cooperation of Minister of Defense Binyamin *Ben-Eliezer, who briefly served as chairman of the Labor Party, Sharon used massive force to try to crush the increasingly violent Intifada and, in the end of March 2002, launched Operation Defensive Shield, involving wide-scale incursions into the Palestinian towns in the West Bank, and preventing Yasser *Arafat from leaving his residence in the Mukata'a compound in Ramallah. In November 2002, the Labor Party decided to leave the government, and new elections were held two months later.

In the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset the Likud, under Sharon's leadership, won an impressive victory. Sharon sought to establish another national unity government, but Labor refused, and he established a coalition with Shinui, the nrp, and the National Union. After the elections, Sharon approved the construction of a defensive fence to separate Israel from the West Bank and make it difficult for terrorists to enter Israel, arguing that the location of the fence did not imply the delineation of Israel's future borders. At the beginning of 2004 he introduced a unilateral disengagement plan, involving the dismantlement of all the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, and several in Northern Samaria, as well as full Israeli withdrawal from these areas. This move led to a serious rift within the Likud and the breakup of his coalition. The disengagement took place in August 2005 (see *Gush Katif). In January 2005 he established an alternative coalition with the Labor Party and the Ashkenazi ḥaredi parties, and with the help of several opposition parties managed to get the Knesset to approve the implementation of the disengagement plan and the 2005 budget on March 30, 2005. At this point Sharon never specified what his plans were following the disengagement. Despite the very difficult political, military, and economic situation, and serious allegations of financial irregularities raised against him and his two sons, Omri and Gilad, Sharon's popularity soared.

In November 2005, with the Likud Central Committee threatening to depose him as party chairman over his political policies and Likud mks and cabinet ministers also opposing him, Sharon left the Likud and founded the Kadimah Party, taking with him leading Likud figures, such as Ehud *Olmert, Tzipi *Livni, and Meir *Sheetrit, and joined by disaffected Labor Party leaders such as Shimon *Peres. On January 4, 2006, Sharon suffered a massive stroke which left him incapacitated. Ehud Olmert of Kadimah became acting prime minister and led the party to an election victory in March 2006.

Sharon's eldest son, Omri, was elected to the Sixteenth Knesset on the Likud list.

With David Chanoff, Sharon published Warrior: the Autobiography of Ariel Sharon (1989).


M. Shavit, On the Wings of Eagles: The Story of Arik Sharon, Commander of the Israel Paratroopers (1972); U. Even, Arik: Darko Shel Lohem (1974); U. Dan, Sharon's Bridgehead (1975); Z. Schiff and Ehud Ya'ari, Milḥemet Sholal (1984); U. Benziman, Sharon, an Israeli Caesar (1985); D. Aharavi, General Sharon's War Against Time Magazine: His Trial and Vindication (1985); U. Dan, Blood Libel: the Inside Story of General Ariel Sharon's History-Making Suit Against Time Magazine (1987); A. Adiv and M. Schwartz, Sharon's Star Wars: Israel's Seven Star Settlement Plan (1992); U. Dan, Ariel Sharon ba-Milḥamah la-Shalom 19482001 (2001); Y. Kotler, Ha-Zarzir ve-ha-Orev: Ariel Sharon ve-Shimon Peres kemot she-Hem (2002).

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]