Photo Credit:
The late Arik Sharon as I would like to remember him, leading the brigade that crossed over to the Egyptian side of the Suez Canal during the 1973 Yom Kippur War (here with Defense Minister Dayan).

Ariel Sharon, aka Arik, Israel’s 11th Prime Minister and perhaps its most heroic and controversial leader, passed away today at age 85.

On December 18, 2005, then Prime Minister Sharon suffered a mild stroke, followed on January 4, 2006 by a second, far more serious stroke, from a massive cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain).

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On April 6, then President Moshe Katsav (now in jail for sex abuse) formally asked Ehud Olmert (convicted on, and still facing corruption charges) to form a government, making him Prime Minister-Designate.

Thus came to an abrupt end a stellar military and political career, rife with victories, betrayals, achievements and losses.

Israelis from my generation grew up with stories of Arik Sharon the legendary founder and commander of special forces Unit 101. Fifty young men, mostly former paratroopers, were ordered in 1951 by then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion to retaliate for attacks across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders by fedayeen irregulars, against Jewish civilians and their property. Eventually, Unit 101 began to carry out offensive guerrilla warfare missions.

In the fall of 1953 came the first stain on Sharon’s reputation as a warrior, during his unit’s reprisal action for a fedayeen attack in the Israeli village of Yehud. They attacked the village of Qibya, in the disputed territories under Jordanian rule. 69 Arab civilians, including children, were killed when Sharon’s troops dynamited buildings there.

Unit 101 was eliminated and its men were assigned to the Paratroopers Brigade, which Sharon eventually commanded.

The next key controversy in Sharon’s career took place during the Sinai Operation of 1956, when his forces emerged victorious from the bloodiest battle of that war, at the Mitla pass. Historians have blamed then Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan for the way the battle developed, and assigned additional blame to Sharon for his unnecessary aggressiveness, which ended with 38 Israeli dead.

Over those volatile years, Sharon was losing the support of Israel’s political class, which didn’t trust his judgment, despite his obvious leadership skills and his intelligence. Ben Gurion is reputed to have quipped about Sharon: “Is he still having problems with the truth?” For this reason, after several years as commander of the southern front, Sharon was passed up for an appointment as IDF chief of staff.

In August, 1973, Sharon left the military and began his political career, first with a left-leaning party named Shlomzion, and then with the right wing Likud. But a short time later, as the Yom Kippur war erupted and Israel political and military leadership were in a state of near-panic, Sharon was given command over a division at the southern front. That’s when the controversial general, defying his orders–and jeopardizing another division with which he was supposed to cooperate–changed the outcome of the war, taking the fighting to the Egyptian side of the Suez Canal.

In 1981, Sharon joined Likud leader Menachem Begin’s second term as prime minister, landing the position of Defense Minister. Those who didn’t want him as IDF chief of staff now had to accept him as the political boss of the chief of staff.

Sharon’s next, possibly most infamous scandal took place during the 1982 Lebanon war, with the massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila that was perpetrated by the Christian Falange in retaliation for the assassination of their president. Sharon was accused—and later found guilty by an investigating committee—of providing logistical support to the Falange.

Sharon was forced to resign from his Defense post, but continued to serve as government minister under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Throughout his years as Likud minister in various capacities, Sharon was considered the friend and patron of the settlement movement, to the point where his name was synonymous with Jewish life in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan. His contribution in terms of budgets and support was unequaled by any other Israeli politician.

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46 COMMENTS

  1. He instilled fear into the minds and hearts of Israel's enemies. He "spoke" to them with a laguage they understood – if force is not enough use more force…He went straight for the jogular.
    He loathed Arafat, who (in his eyes) was a war criminal, and rightly so. He saw the Palestinian Authority as a bunch of terrorist gangsters in Armani suits and he demolished it without blinkung an eye. He cleaned up the mess of terrorism left by Rabin and Barak in the wake of a preceding mess – Oslo.
    His leadership came from within his character. It was natural. he didn't care for a photogenic shape or politically correct wordspeak. They don't breed people like this any longer…

  2. Ariel Sharon was a man of uncommon bravery and valor. But his greatest accomplishment as both a soldier and as a statesman was to pull Israelis out of Gaza, which was indefensible under Israel's of engagement. Sharon recognized that it was wrong for Israeli soldiers to put themselves at risk to defend a bunch of zealots.

    It's highly debatable whether that policy worked; Gaza is now a hotbed of terrorism, as it was when Jewish settlers lived there among the terrorists. But short of kicking all the Palestinians out, which would be even more indefensible, it was the best that could be done.

  3. How dare this writer & rag of a publication claim, at the end of this article, to know what “Divine” message was manifested in Sharon’s death. The implied underhanded threat to Netanyahu is just revolting. It’s pure hubris, typical of such a lacking publication and its readership. A friend sent me this article. I am not among its readers. If I were I’m sure I would suffer a major stroke. And yes, that would be a message from above.

  4. How dare this writer & rag of a publication claim, at the end of this article, to know what “Divine” message was manifested in Sharon’s death. The implied underhanded threat to Netanyahu is just revolting. It’s pure hubris, typical of such a lacking publication and its readership. A friend sent me this article. I am not among its readers. If I were I’m sure I would suffer a major stroke. And yes, that would be a message from above.

  5. Maybe you should ask the people who are now homeless what they think of Mr.Sharon.He urged people to build Gush Katif.People lost their kids to terrorists there.I had a cousin from Argentina who was murdered there. As for giving back Gaza they have already fought two wars as a result of HAMAS rocket attacks launched out of the land he masered to the Arabs. He could have gone down in history as a great hero,a Jewish Bonaparte. Sadly,he abandoned his greatness and in the words of Maran Ovadia Yosef, was a very "cruel" man.

  6. my deepest sympathy and respect goes out to Ariel's family -friend's and the people of YIsrael ! it was with great sadness over in England that I heard of Ex minister Sharon's passing ! R.I.P. Sir …

  7. The far right Christians in America have the copy right for this obnoxious comment. I think it was Pat Robertson who stated years ago that "Sharon was punished by God for uprooting the Jews from Gaza". Ultra orthodox Jews, Christians and Muslims are the only ones who have God as a friend on facebooke so they must know, cuz they get personal messages from him.

  8. my condolences to his family and Israel for their great loss, I have kept Sharon in my thoughts all these years, I really felt he would pull through…cannot image why the sudden deterioration but I trust God is in control and after hanging on all these years he showed what a fighter for life is was.

  9. Dan Silagi · To date the deportations resulted in 10,000 ruined Jewish lives, hundreds injured and killed in Israel, thousands killed in Gaza, devastation and poverty in Gaza, a kind of dark age comparable to North Korea and some parts of Africa.

    That's all Sharon's doing. Never mind his known support of the massacre of so many Arab civilians in the hands of the Christian militia.

    I see you like your heroes dripping with civilian blood. May I suggest Adolf Eichmann?

  10. Manny Haimoff – I fail to understand why having faith is obnoxious? I believe Sharon was punished. You are free not to, but for some reason the fact that I believe there is order in the world and a Judge and Judgment is abhorrent to you.

    It's as if only moral and spiritual ambivalence are certain in your intellectual and spititual worlds.

  11. We may never know why Arik had the 180 degree turn around of his ideological beliefs and principles. We could not, and still can not, understand how this great soldier and leader who encouraged the settlement of Gush Katif would be the same person who ordered these "salt of the earth" Jews to get out of Gush Katif after these hard workers invested years of sweat and hard labor to make the desert bloom – and we got NOTHING but thousands of kassam rockets in return from the arabs "peace partners" for our one sided generosity. We could only play the guessing game of possible causes: unbearable US pressure to start a "peace process"? too much cost to the military? or some secret event that forced to change his mind. In any case, we can not judge his brilliant military carrier and daring conduct on the battle field by this single greatest debacle of his political leadership. May Arik rest in peace and may his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. May the Gush Katif refugees find good housing, good jobs and may they be able to continue their heavenly work of making the desert bloom once again.

  12. I respected and admired Arik Sharon, whom I had the good fortune to meet briefly when he was on a speaking tour in LA right after the Oslo accords were signed.

    But…and I know this is reflected by others…Sharon was oft compared to our George Patton. Here are the troubling differences.

    Patton, who was said to be an anti-Semite, vowed to SMASH Hitlerism, and did as he said.

    Sharon, the Jew, vowed to SMASH Terrorism, but in the end he capitulated to it, forcibly removing his own and allowing the Hamas missiles in.

    Nonetheless I sadly remember Arik Sharon today, God Bless, RIP.

  13. world leaders non attendance to the state funeral shows the world their poor regard towards the jewish State of Israel. How Israeli's criticized their leaders for not going to mandellas funeral is beyond me and their kiss ass way of life.

  14. Israel needs a ruthless and brave, iron leader like him, that is the only way for Muslims to learn to respect Israel. Regardless what Israel does, there will not be peace, Israel’enermy hates peace. G-D blesses his soul forever.

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