Skip to main content
Select Source:

Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon

Following a distinguished, if controversial, military career, General Ariel Sharon (born 1928) entered Israeli politics in 1973. He then became a prominent public figure, serving as defense minister during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Ariel ("Arik") Sharon, one of Israel's most controversial military and political figures, was born in 1928 at Kfar Mallah, an early Jewish farming settlement in the central Sharon valley of what was then British-mandated Palestine. His parents were Shmuel and Dvora Scheinerman, ardent Zionists who had emigrated from Russia following World War I. Growing up at a time when the Arab-Jewish struggle over Palestine intensified, young Sharon combined a high school education with membership in the underground Jewish military organization, the Haganah.

In 1945 Sharon began a military career which continued until 1973 and which saw him participate in each of the major campaigns waged by the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Prior to Israel's establishment as a nation in 1948 he completed an officer's training course and served as an instructor for Jewish police units. During the War of Independence he fought as a platoon commander in the battle of Latrun, where he was seriously wounded. Afterwards Sharon became a military intelligence officer, and in 1952 he obtained a leave of absence to study Middle Eastern affairs at the Hebrew University.

The following year Sharon was chosen to form and lead a small elite commando force trained for special operations behind enemy lines. Both Sharon and Unit 101" were to become famous for their carrying out of a series of daring raids across Israel's vulnerable borders, thus enforcing a defense doctrine of retaliation for Arab violations of the 1949 armistice agreements and attacks against Israeli civilian targets.

Sharon Continued to Rise through the Ranks of the IDF

In the 1956 Sinai campaign against Egypt, Sharon commanded a paratroop brigade, which came under heavy fire and suffered many casualties in the Mitla pass. By then he already had the reputation of a tough, unconventional fighter whose undisciplined, independent action in battle bordered in the view of his superiors on insubordination. Still, Sharon continued to rise through the ranks of the IDF. After a year's interlude at the Staff College in Camberley, England, where he studied military science, Sharon, promoted in 1958 to colonel, spent the next three years as senior administrative officer in the training division of the General Staff, heading the Infantry School. Successive assignments were: brigade commander of the armored corps, 1962; chief of staff at Northern Command headquarters, 1964; and head of training division of the General Staff, 1966. During that period he received a law degree, and he was promoted to major-general in early 1967.

The next Arab-Israeli conflict, the Six Day War in June 1967, saw Sharon commanding a brigade on the southern front, where he again distinguished himself in battling against Egyptian forces in the Sinai desert. After two years as brigadier-general at the Southern Command during the 1968-70 war of attrition" along the Suez Canal, Sharon in 1970 was entrusted with the difficult task of suppressing Palestinian terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip. He succeeded in restoring internal security there despite charges of ruthlessness. He generated additional controversy inside the IDF by challenging the prevailing notion of a static defense line at the Suez Canal. Nevertheless, he was appointed head of the Southern Command in 1970.

Sharon, denied his ambition to become the next chief of staff, resigned from the army and entered politics in July 1973. Identifying with the right-of-center Gahal alignment, he helped to negotiate the formation of a Likud (unity) front headed by opposition leader Menachem Begin in September. In October, however, the Yom Kippur war intervened and Sharon once more saw battle when urgently summoned to lead a reserve army division in containing the Egyptian advance. It was then that Sharon registered his greatest military success. Smashing through the enemy lines, he personally led the Israeli forces in establishing a bridgehead at Ismailia and in crossing to the western side of the canal, thereby regaining the initiative.

Returning to politics after the war, Sharon was elected to the Knesset (Israel's parliament) on the Likud ticket in December 1973. However, he resigned a year later; shortly thereafter, in 1975, Premier Yitzhak Rabin appointed him to the post of special advisor on security affairs, which he relinquished in 1976 in order to form the independent Shlomtzion (peace of Zion) Party pledged to retaining the territories occupied in the 1967 war. When he only succeeded in gaining two seats in the May 1977 elections, Sharon opted to merge with the victorious Likud block. Appointed to the cabinet post of minister of agriculture by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Sharon actively promoted Jewish settlement in the territories, especially in Judea and Samaria on the West Bank of the Jordan River.

Advocated a Forceful Approach

During the second Begin government Sharon served as minister of defense from 1981 to 1983. In this capacity he advocated a forceful approach to the increased military presence and activity of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Beirut and in southern Lebanon. He is widely regarded as having been the principal architect of operation peace for Galilee launched into Lebanon in June 1982, from which Israel did not disengage until June 1985. Sharply criticized for the conduct of the war and the siege of Beirut, Sharon remained in the public eye, successfully defending himself in a libel suit against Time magazine in 1984. He even resumed his political career as minister of industry and trade in the National Unity Government, formed in September 1984 under Premier Shimon Peres.

Further Reading

Ariel Sharon's military exploits are described in Ze'ev Schiff, A History of the Israeli Army (1974); and he is a central figure in the account of operation peace for Galilee" by Schiff and Ehud Yaari, Israel's Lebanon War (1984). The libel suit against Time is covered in Renata Adler's Reckless Disregard: Westmoreland v. CBS et al; Sharon v. Time (1986). Information on Ariel Sharon can also be found through online resources, such as Magazine Index Plus, ProQuest's Newspaper Abstract, both available in many public libraries, or using one's PC to access NewsWorks (www.newsworks.com), a consortium owned by nine major media companies. The Electric Library (www.elibrary.com/) (a subscription service) is an excellent source for information from a variety of media, ranging from radio scripts to books (such as Countries of the World, which list Sharon in at least two chapters. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ariel Sharon." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ariel Sharon." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ariel-sharon

"Ariel Sharon." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ariel-sharon

Sharon, Ariel

Sharon, Ariel 1928

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Born on February 27, 1928, in the British Mandate of Palestine, Israeli leader Ariel Sharons long and controversial military and political career embodies the tension between pragmatism and idealism inherent in modern nationalist movements. Oscillating between extremist Jewish ethno-nationalism and pragmatic secular Zionism, Sharons leadership has triggered strong and contradictory responses. It provokes hate and revulsion among the many who see him as a dogmatic and reckless bully and a war criminal. Others view Sharon with great appreciation as a brilliant strategist and pragmatic statesman who took courageous steps toward making peace with Egypt and ending the Israeli occupation in Gaza.

Sharon joined the Israeli Haganah, an underground paramilitary organization, at age fourteen. In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War he served as a platoon commander and was severely wounded in the Battle of Latrun against the Jordanian Legion. In 1953 Sharon commanded a special commando unit (101), which carried out retaliatory military raids against Palestinian infiltrators from refugee camps who harassed the new border settlements, trying to reappropriate property or kill Israelis. Because of the political impact of Unit 101s controversial operations, which targeted both civilians and Arab soldiers, Sharon obtained direct access to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) and to Army Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan (1915-1981).

Throughout his career, Sharon exploited his privileged position to undertake military operations, often despite the objections of his direct superiors. In the 1956 Suez War, Sharon led a controversial operation to conquer the Mitla Pass against orders. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Sharon distinguished himself as a strategist commanding the most powerful armored division on the Sinai front.

Sharon resigned from the army in June 1972 and was instrumental in creating the right-wing Likud Party. In October 1973 he was recalled to service following the Yom Kippur War. Commanding a reserve armored division, Sharon located a breach between the Egyptian forces, which he then used to capture a bridgehead and lead a crossing of the Suez Canal. Sharon again violated his orders by exploiting this success to cut off and encircle the Egyptian Third Army. Because of this move, which was regarded as the turning point of the war, Sharon is considered by many in Israel as a war hero who saved Israel from defeat.

After Likud won the 1977 elections, Sharon became the minister of agriculture. In all his subsequent ministerial postsdefense (1981-1983), industry and commerce (1984-1990), construction and housing (1990-1992), infrastructure (1996-1998), and foreign affairs (19981999)Sharon found ways to support and encourage the settlement activities in the occupied territories to prevent the possibility of returning them. Yet, during the peace negotiations with Egypt, he persuaded the Likud government to remove the settlements in Sinai.

As minister of defense, Sharon was the architect of the 1982 Lebanon War, bringing about the destruction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) infrastructure in Lebanon. What started as a limited operation developed under Sharons command into a full-scale war with controversial military operations and far-reaching political goals, many of which were never approved by the Israeli cabinet. Sharon was forced to resign as defense minister after a government commission found him indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacres, in which hundreds of Palestinian civilians in refugee camps were killed by Lebanese Christian-Maronite militias.

In 2000, shortly after the breakdown of the Camp David peace negotiations, Sharon visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. His visit was followed by a bloody Palestinian uprising (the Al-Aqsa Intifada), marking the end to the Oslo peace process and the fall of Ehud Baraks left-wing government.

In February 2001 Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel. With Palestinian violence escalating, Sharon ordered in 2002 the reoccupation of West Bank towns and the building of a controversial security fence between Israel and the occupied territories. Sharon later accepted, however, the internationally supported road map to peace in 2003, and in 2005 he withdrew the Israeli Army and settlers from the Gaza Strip, citing security issues. This move was opposed by many in Likud and forced Sharon into a coalition with the Labor Party. He eventually formed a new centrist party, Kadima, and declared a new election. In January 2006, just two months before the election, Sharon suffered a stroke that left him hospitalized in a coma. Kadima was temporarily leaderless until Ehud Olmert took over the party and won narrowly in the ensuing elections.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kimmerling, Baruch. 2003. Politicide: Ariel Sharons Wars Against the Palestinians. London and New York: Verso.

Miller, Anita, Jordan Miller, and Sigalit Zetouni. 2002. Sharon: Israels Warrior-Politician. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers and Olive Publishing.

Nadav Gabay

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sharon, Ariel." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sharon, Ariel." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/sharon-ariel

"Sharon, Ariel." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/sharon-ariel

Sharon, Ariel

Ariel Sharon (är´ēĕl shärōn´), 1928–2014, Israeli general and politician, b. Kfar Malal as Ariel Scheinerman. As a teenager he joined the Haganah, the underground Zionist military brigade, and took his Hebrew name from the Sharon Plain, where he worked in 1947. A superb military leader in the 1948 and 1956 Arab-Israeli Wars, he 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 parliament. He served as security adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (1975–77) and as minister of agriculture (1977–81). He became (1981) defense minister in the second Begin government, and engineered the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Sharon was the chief architect of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and 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. Ousted (1983) from the defense ministry, 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 Likud leader.

In 2000, Sharon, accompanied by hundreds of soldiers and police, visited to the Al Aksa Mosque (Temple Mount), a site holy to both Muslims and Jews, located in Palestinian East Jerusalem, ostensibly to show that Israel had sovereignty over it 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 security, defeated Barak (2001). Sharon formed a 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, and new elections in early 2003 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, and Sharon subsequently formed the centrist Kadima [Forward] party. A stroke in 2006 left Sharon hospitalized in a coma until his death; Ehud Olmert succeeded him as prime minister.

See his autobiography, Warrior (1989); biographies by U. Benziman (1985), A. Miller et al. (2002), and D. Landau (2014).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sharon, Ariel." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sharon, Ariel." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sharon-ariel

"Sharon, Ariel." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sharon-ariel

Sharon, Ariel

Sharon, Ariel (1928– ) Israeli statesman and general, prime minister (2001– ). A commander in the first of the Arab-Israeli Wars (1948) and the Six-Day War (1967), he was a founder of the right-wing Likud Party. As minister of defence (1981–83) under Menachem Begin, Sharon was the main architect of Israel's invasion of Lebanon. He served as minister of foreign affairs (1999) under Binyamin Netanyahu, supporting further Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. In 2000, Sharon succeeded Netanyahu as leader of Likud and led the party to a landslide victory over Ehud Barak.

http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH00ge0

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sharon, Ariel." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sharon, Ariel." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sharon-ariel

"Sharon, Ariel." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sharon-ariel