Ariel Sharon: A Biography
From military hawk to political pragmatist
Ariel Sharon was born Ariel Scheinermann in Kfar Malal, mandatory Palestine, on February 27, 1928. He joined the Haganah underground at the age of 14 in 1942 (1947 according to some sources).
A Young Soldier
During the 1948 War of Independence, Sharon commanded an infantry company in the Alexandroni Brigade and distinguished himself in fighting in Jerusalem and elsewhere. He was wounded in one of the battles of Latrun. Sharon was appointed Central Command and North Command intelligence officer in 1951-52. He then went to study in the Hebrew University, but his studies were interrupted in 1953 when he was recalled to found and lead the "101" special commando unit which carried out retaliatory operations. Sharon and 101 were responsible for an infamous bloody raid in Qibieh, in October 1953, in which 69 civilians were killed. The raid was a reprisal for a terror attack on Tirat Yehuda. Sharon and others have since claimed that they did not know civilians were being killed, but in an Israeli television documentary, Sharon said the raid was necessary and he would do it again.
Sharon was made commander of the paratroop brigade ("Hativat Tzanchanim") in 1956 and helped to establish its tactics and reputation. In the Sinai Campaign he led a controversial operation against orders to conquer the Mitla Pass. In 1957 he was sent by the IDF to study at the Camberley Staff College in Great Britain.
In 1958 Sharon became an Infantry Brigade Commander and later was made commander of the IDF infantry training school. He then studied law at Tel Aviv University and received an LLD degree. Sharon became Chief of Staff of the Northern Command in 1964 and Head of the Army Training Department in 1966. He fought in the 1967 Six Day War as commander of an armored division. In 1969 he was appointed Head of the Southern Command Staff.
Sharon resigned from the army in June 1972. He was recalled to active military service in the 1973 Yom Kippur War to command an armored division. He became involved in a controversy over the crossing of the Suez Canal. According to some versions of the war, Sharon's action allowed the IDF to surround the Egyptian Third Army and end the war in a superior tactical position. Others claim that his disobedience and recklessness cost many lives needlessly.
Birth of a Politician
Ariel Sharon was elected to the Knesset in December 1973 on the right-wing Gahal ticket. However, he resigned a year later and served as Security Adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (1975). He was elected to the Knesset in 1977 on the Shlomzion ticket. Following the elections, he helped organize and joined the right-wing Likud party and was appointed Minister of Agriculture in Menachem Begin's first government (1977-81). During the peace negotiations with Egypt, Sharon persuaded Menachem Begin to agree to remove the settlements in Sinai in order to obtain peace with Egypt. One of his priorities was to pursue agricultural cooperation with Egypt, but his major priority was expansion of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza, often circumventing legal channels to found and support new settlements.