Currently (9/30/00) the leader of the Likud party in Israel, Sharon is a right-wing nationalist who is currently Israel's most powerful politician in opposition to president Ehud Barak. Sharon vehemently opposes the peace process in the Middle East, with the argument (unfortunately, not completely specious) that any deal with the Palestinians will not be honored, and will result in a net destabilization of the country as Israel gives away land for empty promises.

Like most Israeli polititions, Sharon became famous through military deeds. In the Yom Kippur War of 1973, his troops successfully battled and surrounded the Egyptian third army, and were only prevented from crushing them by the diplomatic intervention of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, in a successful bid by them to win the support of Anwar Sadat.

In 1982, with the assistance of the local Phalangist Christian militia, Israel successfully invaded Lebanon in an attempt to clamp down on terrorist attacks being launched from that country. During the occupation, a phalangist was elected president of the country (in a process overseen by the IDF), then killed in an explosion three weeks later. At the time, the Phalangists believed the killing to be the work of a Palestinian terrorist. To keep the fallout from the attack at a minimum, Sharon, who was at time the Minister of Defense for Israel, took steps to lock down the area around Beirut. Part of this lockdown involved entering the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and weeding out members of the PLO from the rest of the civilians living there. In spite of the fact that the Phalangists were known to hate Palestinians and wanted revenge for the assassination, Sharon ordered Israeli forces to bus 150 Phalangists to the camps, then to seal the camps against entry or exit while the terrorists were rounded up. For 40 hours during September 16-18, the Phalangists massacred over 800 refugees (some estimates are as high as 3000) while Israeli troops stood guard, before international outrage forced the atrocity to end. According to some reports, the IDF even assisted the Phalangists by giving them a steady supply of ammunition, and dropping flares to light the camps during the night. In 1983, the Israeli Kahan Commission found Sharon indirectly responsible for the massacres, and he was forced to step down from his position as minister.

Sharon was most recently in the news when he triggered the worst round of violence in four years: He made a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in a gesture of Israeli sovereignty over the area.

Editors note:

After spending eight years in a coma, Ariel Sharon died on January 11, 2014.