|“||Everybody has to move; run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements, because everything we take now will stay ours. Everything we don't grab will go to them.||„|
|~ Ariel Sharon, quoted in The New York Times, 1998|
Ariel Sharon (February 26th, 1928 – January 11th, 2014) was an Israeli general and politician who served as the 11th Prime Minister of Israel from March 2001 until April 2006.
Sharon was born on 26 February 1928 in Kfar Malal, an agricultural moshav, then in Mandatory Palestine, to Shmuel Scheinerman (1896–1956) of Brest-Litovsk and Vera (née Schneirov) Scheinerman (1900–1988) of Mogilev. His mother, Vera, was from a family of Russian Subbotnik Jewish origin.
At age 10, he joined the youth movement HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed. As a teenager, he began to take part in the armed night-patrols of his moshav. In 1942 at the age of 14, Sharon joined the Gadna, a paramilitary youth battalion, and later the Haganah, the underground paramilitary force and the Jewish military precursor to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Sharon was a commander in the Israeli Army from its creation in 1948. As a soldier and then an officer, he participated prominently in the 1948 Palestine war, becoming a platoon commander in the Alexandroni Brigade and taking part in many battles, including Operation Bin Nun Alef. He was an instrumental figure in the creation of Unit 101 and the reprisal operations, as well as in the 1956 Suez Crisis, the Six-Day War of 1967, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Yitzhak Rabin has called Sharon "the greatest field commander in our history".
Sharon served as both Minister of Defense and Minister of Agriculture during Menachem Begin's premiership. He also served in the cabinet of Begin's successor Yitzhak Shamir as both Minister of Housing and Minister of Industry.
During his time in the military, Sharon was responsible for a number of war crimes committed against Palestinians and Arabs during Israel's conflicts with both, most notably the Qibya massacre of October 1953, during which sixty-nine Palestinian villagers were killed, two-thirds of them women and children, and the Sabra and Shatila massacre of September 1982, which resulted in the death of between 460 and 3,500 civilians, mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shi'ites and earning Sharon the nickname "The Butcher of Beirut". He also oversaw numerous bombings of Beirut during the 1982 Lebanon War as Minister of Defense. Though he was never officially prosecuted for his war crimes, in 1982 he was removed as Defense Minister but remained in the cabinet as a minister without portfolio.
Sharon continued his political career after this, notably serving in several positions during Benjamin Netanyahu's first tenure as Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999. Sharon was elected Prime Minister himself in 2001, where he notably improved relations with Vladimir Putin and condemned anti-semitism in France. He also withdraw all Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip starting in 2001 and ending in 2005 - which was met with backlash from a majority of others in the Israeli government, most notably Netanyahu.
During the latter part of his career, Sharon was investigated for alleged involvement in a number of financial scandals, in particular, the Greek Island Affair and irregularities of fundraising during the 1999 election campaign. In the Greek Island Affair, Sharon was accused of promising (during his term as Foreign Minister) to help Israeli businessman David Appel in his development project on a Greek island in exchange for large consultancy payments to Sharon's son Gilad. The charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence.
In the 1999 election fundraising scandal, Sharon was not charged with any wrongdoing, but his son Omri, a Knesset member at the time, was charged and sentenced in 2006 to nine months in prison. On 10 December 2005, Israeli police raided Martin Schlaff's apartment in Jerusalem. Another suspect in the case was Robert Nowikovsky, an Austrian involved in Russian state-owned company Gazprom's business activities in Europe. On 17 December, police announced that they had found evidence of a $3 million bribe paid to Sharon's sons.
According to Haaretz, "The $3 million that parachuted into Gilad and Omri Sharon's bank account toward the end of 2002 was transferred there in the context of a consultancy contract for development of kolkhozes (collective farms) in Russia. Gilad Sharon was brought into the campaign to make the wilderness bloom in Russia by Getex, a large Russian-based exporter of seeds (peas, millet, wheat) from Eastern Europe. Getex also has ties with Israeli firms involved in exporting wheat from Ukraine, for example. The company owns farms in Eastern Europe and is considered large and prominent in its field. It has its Vienna offices in the same building as Jurimex, which was behind the $1-million guarantee to the Yisrael Beiteinu party.
Sharon suffered a stroke on January 4th, 2006 that left him in a permanent comatose state. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by Ehud Olmert. After 8 years in a coma, Sharon passed away on January 11th, 2014. He was 85 years old.