Israel / Politics /
Hebrew: ari'el sharon
(1928-) Israeli prime minister (2001-2006), military officer and politician, former defence and building minister.
Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister in a landslide election in February 2001, probably more as a protest against the lack of cohesive politics in Ehud Barak's government.
Ariel Sharon is one of the most controversial politicians of Israel. From his actions in Lebanon in 1982 as defence minister (where 2,000 Palestinians were murdered with Israeli passive acceptance), and his accelerated building projects in occupied territory from 1990 to 1992, he has managed to become the most unpopular Israeli politician among his opponents and deeply hated among Arabs. The graveness of these acts of his is best illustrated by him being found indirectly responsible for war crimes by an Israeli national investigation committee.
With the exception of USA, where president George W. Bush in April 2002 called him a "man of peace", Sharon has come to be presented as cynical and evil. Hardly any state leader has expressed this view, but commentators and journalists have. It is however clear that Sharon in Europe, is dealt with because Europe has to. Not because Sharon gets any support from the main political forces of Europe. Sharon's politics as a prime minister is by many described as terrorism against the Palestinian people.
As of late April 2002, it is clear that the state of Israel has fewer friends than ever, and that many of its friends are generally considered right-wing and often with extremist views (like strong anti-Arab sentiments).
Sharon has however become very popular in Israel, or better, 3 of 4 Israelis back his politics towards Palestine and its people. But Sharon has never been accused of hiding his political views and aims. He always stands by his conviction even in times when this has made him unpopular and denounced. But towards the West, Sharon has shown little respect and honesty. His politics has aimed at destroying the infrastructure of Palestine, while declaring full intention of achieving peace with the Palestinians.
In his own words we hear:
"I am for lasting peace... United, I believe, we [Jews and Arabs together] can win the battle for peace. But it must be a different peace, one with full recognition of the rights of the Jews in their one and only land: peace with security for generations and peace with a united Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish people in the state of Israel forever."
But looking back on the first year of Sharon as prime minister, we see a man who is not interested in cooperating with the Palestinians and their leader Yassir Arafat. In March 2002 he called Arafat "irrelevant". Sharon is reported to have told his Turkish ally, prime minister Bülent Ecevit, that the secret aim of his politics is to drive Arafat out of office. Many Western observers believe that Israel is just waiting for an opportunity to take back control over the important parts of Palestine that are officially under Palestinian control.
November 14, 2000
Sharon's politics with Palestine has been on one hand to destroy the infrastructure of the Palestinian authorities, on the other hand to demand that Arafat manages to curb all opposition in Palestine. This is an unrealistic this demand: Sharon asks Arafat to exercise more security control than the state of Israel has been able to exercise in Israel. Yet, it is clear that little has been done from Arafat to curb terrorist groups like Hamas, and Palestinian state TV has over years been agitating for uprising against Israel.
1928: Born in Kafr Malal in Palestine, with the name Ariel Shinerman. Being born into a family with strong Zionist sympathies, he joined the Haganah at an early age.
1948: Sharon participated in the First Palestinian War. After the war he stayed on in the army, and came in charge of intelligence work and retaliation attacks on Arab neighbours.
1956: In the Suez-Sinai War, Sharon acted beyond orders, causing many victims on Israeli side. This seriously hurt the further advancement of his career.
1965: With Yitzhak Rabin as the new chief of staff, Sharon's career could continue, and he saw new advancement.
1967: Appointed brigadier-general.
June: Active as commander of a division during the Six-Day War.
1973: Sharon leaves the army and enters Israeli politics. He joins the party Gahal, and he was active in the formation of Likud.
October: Commanding a division in the Yom Kippur War with success.
December: Elected to the Knesset.
1974: Resigns as member of parliament to take a senior emergency position in the military reserves.
1975: Becomes advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
1976: Forms the party Shlomzion.
1977: Shlomzion gets 2 seats in the Knesset in the elections.
Sharon joins Shlomzion with the Herut faction of Likud, and becomes minister of agriculture.
1981: Appointed defence minister.
1982: Sharon is effectively responsible for the brutal attack on Lebanon, which goes on for weeks despite little resistance. This was topped by the Israeli passive acceptance of the killing of 2,000 Palestinians in refugee camps outside Beirut, by Maronite Christians. The actions were strongly criticised by the Israeli public and the international community.
1983 February 14: Sharon is forced to resign as defence minister after heavy pressure from Israeli public and media, and especially after an investigation committee has found him unfit to be a defence minister.
1984: Sharon loses the election of becoming the new leader of Likud.
September: Sharon is appointed minister of trade and industry in the government of Shimon Peres.
1990: Sharon resigns as minister of trade and industry, by which the government is destabilized and later overthrown.
May: Sharon becomes minister of housing in the government of Yitzhak Shamir, and he accelerated the building of settlements in Palestine, making himself even more unpopular than before.
1992 With the defeat of Likud in the elections, Sharon resigns as minister.
1997 June/July: Heavy discussions on whether Sharon could take the position as minister of finance in Benjamin Netanyahu government, against Netanyahu's own will. Sharon is also demanding for extended powers, so that he could act with the Palestinian issue. By foreign observers this possibility is seen upon as a hardening of Israel's politics with its Arab neighbours.
1998 October 9: Sharon is appointed foreign minister by Netanyahu.
1999 January 3: Sharon's wants to have talks with foreign minster of USA, Madeleine Albright, but she rejects as a reaction to Israel not fulfilling signed agreements with the Palestinians.
May 27: Netanyahu resigns as leader of the Likud party, and Sharon becomes its new leader.
2000 September 28: Sharon ignites heavy Palestinian protests after trespassing Muslim sanctities in Jerusalem/Al Quds. Without being the reason for the Palestinian anger, he becomes the symbol of Israel lack of respect for Palestinians/Muslims as seen with Palestinian eyes, relating principally to his responsibility for the massacres of 1982 (see above).
2001 February 6: After an election campaign that focuses on Sharon as the family man and loving grandfather, he wins the prime minister elections against Ehud Barak with nearly 60% of the cast votes. He proposes to Ehud Barak to form a coalition government with Barak as defence minister, but Barak refuse.
December: The verbal and military conflict with the Palestinian president Yassir Arafat reaches a critical stage, following several Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israel civilians. Sharon orders destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, killing of both terrorists and civilians, and stripping of the powers of Arafat, putting him in a virtual house arrest in Ramallah.
2002 March: As crown prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia presents a peace plan for Israel involving full withdrawal from Palestine in exchange for full Arab recognition of Israel, Sharon loses the moral initiative in the eyes of the US government. For the first time in his leadership he is put under pressure of withdrawing military personnel from areas defined as under the authority of the temporary Palestinian Authority.
2004 February 2: Ariel Sharon declares a plan to remove all Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip.
2005 November 20: Resigns from the Likud, in protest of the decision of the Labour Party and their new leader, Amir Peretz, to step out of the coalition government, and opposition in his own party against peace initiatives towards the Palestinians. New elections are planned for March 2006.
November 21: Sharon forms a new centrist party, Kadima.
December 18: Sharon suffers a minor stroke, but could after a brief hopitalization return to public in a seemingly healthy condition.
2006 January 4: Sharon suffers a serious hemorrhagic stroke, with bleeding in the brain. He undergoes surgery, stopping the bleeding, but Sharon goes into induced coma. Ehud Olmert, the Deputy Prime Minister, becomes acting Prime Minister.