A Political Biography
by Staff Writer
Ariel Sharon (Arik) was born in 1928 in the Israeli Moshav Kfar Malal as Ariel Sheinerman. His family belonged to Mapai, the party of Ben-Gurion, which controlled Israeli politics for many years. Sharon himself was a member of Mapai, then a Zionist-socialist party. As a young man he joined the majority para-military organization which was controlled by Mapai, the 'Hagana' (defense). It was the underground of the majority of the 'Yishuv' (the Jews in Palestine under the British mandate 1918-1948).
Arik Sharon participated in the 1948 Independence War and fought in the battle of Latrun. After the war he went to study history but the military service attracted him and he went back to the army. In the 1950's the army had to cope with various Arab attacks on Israeli settlements. Often the Jordanian Legion joined the battles or tried to cut the Negev from Israel. The Egyptian launched attacks on Israel from the Gaza strip by using Palestinians. These terrorist units were called 'Fadaiuns.' They caused panic in Israel's society. Israel of the 1950's was a weak country. The army did not have the proper military equipment. In order to challenge these attacks in which many were killed or wounded, the army 'Tsahal' decided to form a special commando unit, a new Palmach. This unit was called the 101st Unit.
Its members were dedicated, unique soldiers such as Meir Har-Tsion. Their weapon was the improvisations. Their methods were unique. The 101st Unit became a legend. Furthermore, it became a model for Tsahal, the Israeli army. It built new military norms. The Israeli army turned out to be a macro model of the 101st Unit. The charismatic commander of 101 was Arik Sharon. He became a model commander. In 1956 he fought in the Sinai campaign. It was clear that he will enjoy a military career. In 1957-1958, he studied in Great Britain's military school. He resumed his career and moved up to be the head of the Northern Command in 1964 and head of the Southern Command in 1969.
Sharon was always a tough leader. Often he challenged his superiors in command. There were others who envied his military excellence as well. They said that he is a ruthless person, a wild animal. But he was Israel's best field commander, a walking legend. Sharon suffered from his lack of public relations. He was not nominated to be, as he deserved, a chief of staff. He resigned from the army as a General who also had achievements in the Six Days War. But in the Yom Kippur War he saved Israel from the terrible disaster. The Israeli army and Moshe Dayan, then Minister of Defense, were in a state of panic. The Generals did not know what to do in order to stop the advancing Egyptian army. In the North, the Syrian armies penetrated the Golan Heights. Israel was in a process of national shock. There was also a need for more ammunition. Then Arik Sharon came and launched the attack which saved Israel. Israelis shouted: "Arik, the King of the Jews." He founded the formula by which he won the war in the south, crossing the Suez Canal. It was a great military success.
Arik decided to go into politics. He joined the Likud party. We must note that he managed to unit two parties - the General Zionists and Herut, Menachem Begin's party. He established one political block, a more hawkish one. Later he left the Knesset to help Rabin (1974) and in 1976 tried to establish his own party. He failed. Later he became Begin's Minister of Agriculture. He helped to enlarge the settlement in the West Bank. He became more and more hawkish. He also enlarged the Jewish settlements in the Galilee. He became more pro-religious. But all his life he dedicated himself to the building of a strong security network for Israel's survival. He was always an activist and pragmatist like David Ben-Gurion. He served as minister in the various cabinets of the last decade. In 1982, as Begin's Minister of Defense, he launched the Lebanon War against the P.L.O. There were problems which caused Sharon troubles. The war was not a successful one. Many soldiers were killed and the war's mission was not accomplished.
Sharon was blamed for the 'Massacre of Sabra and Shatila' which was committed by the Christians in Lebanon. For many years Sharon suffered for this murder of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. But this is history.
In 1990, Sharon became Minister of Trade and Industry. Later as Housing Minister. He served as a member of the Knesset since 1980. In 1996, Bibi appointed Sharon as a Minister of National Infrastructure and in 1998 as a Foreign Minister. When Bibi decided to leave the political life in Sept. 1999, Sharon was elected as the Likud's new chairman. Sharon became the Likud's candidate for Prime Minister because Bibi declined to run for the office. Bibi also saved the Likud from an inside war which could split the Likud.
Arik Sharon certainly built a new Likud after Bibi's defeat to Ehud Barak in 1996. Sharon had to stop the damages which bibi caused then. For example, the fact that leaders such as David Levy or Dan Meridor had to leave the party, and even Yitzhak Shamir had to leave the party of his life. There were many ramifications to Bibi's leadership, negative ones. Sharon took over as a new healer of the party's loss of power and prestige. Today, we know that his leadership is very effective. He built a party that can win and reach power. Many here and in Israel do not like Sharon's politics but let the Israelis or the Knesset make the democratic decisions.
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