Sharon, Ariel

born 1928

Israeli general and politician. He gained attention for his military leadership in the 1948 and 1956 Arab-Israeli Wars, and was made a major general months before the 1967 war. In the 1973 conflict, Israeli forces under his command captured Egypt's 3d Army. That year, Sharon helped establish the right-wing Likud party and won a seat in the Israeli parliament. He served as minister of agriculture (1977-81) and became defense minister in 1981 in the second Begin government. Sharon was the chief architect of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and was criticized for allowing Lebanese Christian forces into Palestinian refugee camps in West Beirut and held responsible for the subsequent massacre of civilians. He resigned (1983) from the defense ministry but remained in parliament. He subsequently was minister of trade and industry (1984-90) and minister of housing (1990-92); in the latter post he worked to increase Jewish settlement in the occupied territories. In 1996, Sharon became minister of national infrastructure in Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet. Sharon became leader of the Likud party in 1999, succeeding Netanyahu, who had failed to win reelection as prime minister. After Netanyahu lost the prime ministership to One Israel (Labor) party leader Ehud Barak in 1999, Sharon succeeded Netanyahu as leader of the Likud bloc.