Tuesday, January 24, 2006

ARIEL SHARON BIOGRAPHY (by guess who?)

Surprisingly even handed, no really. Though, my gut is telling me the Kahan Commission quote is either out of context or not accurate. I thought their finding stated that Sharon 'should have known' what would have happened but that they found that he didn't expect what would happen.
Highlights are mine.

Al Jazeera
Ariel Sharon
1/1/2003 GMT

Ariel Sharon, the eleventh Prime Minister of Israel, spent many years in the Israel Defense Forces before being elected in March 2001.

Sharon was born Ariel Scheinermann in 1928 to a German-Polish father and Russian mother in Kfar Malal village in the British Mandate of Palestine. Sharon's parents were socialists with a secular worldview, but with a willingness to both compromise and fight.

Sharon is a controversial figure, both inside and outside Israel, attracting diverse and often polar views. Many Arabs and supporters of the Arab-Palestiniancause and some other critics refer to him as "the Butcher of Beirut"and have sought his prosecution as a war criminal. His opponents on the Israeli right believe he is compromising too much with the Palestinian leadership.
Military life

At the creation of Israel, Sharon was a platoon commander in the Alexandroni Brigade. In 1949, he was promoted to company commander and in 1951 to intelligence officer. He then took leave to begin studies of history and Middle Eastern culture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

A year and a half later, he was asked to return to active service in the rank of major and as the leader of the new Unit 101, Israel's first special forces unit. Unit 101 undertook a series of retaliatory raids against Palestinians and neighboring Arab states that helped bolster Israeli morale and fortify its deterrent image. However, the unit was also criticized for targeting civilians as well as Arab soldiers, resulting in the widely condemned Qibya massacre in the fall of 1953, in which more than sixty Palestinian civilians were killed in an attack on their West Bank village.

In the 1956 Suez War ,Sharon commanded the 202nd Brigade and was responsible for taking over ground east of the Sinai's Mitla Pass and eventually overtaking the pass itself. Having successfully carried out the first part of his mission (joining a battalion paratrooped near Mitla with the rest of the brigade moving on ground), Sharon's unit was deployed near the pass. Neither reconnaissance aircraft nor scouts reported enemy forces inside the Mitla Pass. Sharon, whose forces were initially heading east, away from the pass, reported to his superiors that he was increasingly concerned with the possibility of an enemy thrust through the pass, which could attack his brigade from the flank or the rear.

Sharon asked for permission to attack the pass several times but his requests were denied although he was allowed to check its status so that if the pass was empty, he could receive permission to take it later. Sharon sent a small scout force which was met with heavy fire and became bogged down due to vehicle malfunction in the middle of the pass. Sharon ordered the rest of his troops to attack in order to aid their comrades. In the ensuing successful battle to capture the pass more than forty Israeli soldiers were killed. Sharon was not only criticized by his superiors, he was damaged by revelations several years later by several former subordinates (one of IDF's first major revelations to the press), who claimed that Sharon tried to provoke the Egyptians and sent out the scouts in bad faith, ensuring that a battle would ensue. Deliberate or not, the attack was strategically reckless because the Egyptian forces were expected to withdraw from the pass in the following one or two days.

The Mitla incident hindered Sharon's military career for several years. In the meanwhile, he occupied the position of an infantry brigade commander and received a law degree from Tel Aviv University. When Yitzhak Rabin (who within a few years became associated with the Labour Party) became Chief of Staff in 1962, however, Sharon began again to rise rapidly in ranks, occupying the positions of Infantry School Commander and Head of Army Training Branch, eventually achieving the rank of Major General (Aluf).

Sabra and Shatila massacre

During the 1982 Lebanon War, while Ariel Sharon was Defense Minister, the Sabra and Shatila massacre took place, in which between 460 and 3,500 Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps were killed by Lebanese Christian forces under the command of Lebanese Maronite Phalange militia. The Security Chief of the Phalange militia, Elie Hobeika, was the ground commander of the militiamen who entered the Palestinian camps and killed the Palestinians. The Phalange had been sent into the camps to clear out PLO fighters, and Israeli forces had been sent to the camps at Sharon's command to provide them with logistical support and to guard camp exits.

The Kahan Commission investigating these massacres recommended in early 1983 the removal of Sharon from his post as Defense Minister. In their recommendations and closing remarks, the commission stated:

  • "We have found, as has been detailed in this report, that the Minister of Defense [Ariel Sharon] bears personal responsibility. In our opinion, it is fitting that the Minister of Defense draw the appropriate personal conclusions arising out of the defects revealed with regard to the manner in which he discharged the duties of his office - and if necessary, that the Prime Minister consider whether he should exercise his authority under Section 21-A(a) of the Basic Law: the Government, according to which "the Prime Minister may, after informing the Cabinet of his intention to do so, remove a minister from office."

Sharon was dismissed by Prime Minister Menachem Begin but he remained in successive governments as a Minister.

Political career

After he retired from the military and started a political career, Sharon even considered joining Labor, but was turned off by its cronyism. However, Sharon did propose a joint list of Labor and his own list party, Shlomtzion. When Labor rejected Shlomtzion, Sharon tried to form a joint list with the centrist Shinui party, though his party met denial there as well. Only after two rejections did Sharon form a political alliance with Menachem Begin.

In combination with Begin, the center-right won the Israeli elections of 1977 for the first time ever.

Sharon was a member of the Knesset 1973–1974, and then from 1977 to the present. In 1975–1976, he served as the security adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He then served as Minister of Agriculture (1977–1981), and as Defense Minister (1981–1983) in Begin's Likud government.

During this period, Sharon supported the Gush Emunim settlements movement and was viewed as the patron of the messianic settlers' movement. He used his position to encourage the establishment of a network of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to prevent the possibility of the return of these territories to Palestinian Arabs. Sharon doubled the number of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip during his tenure.

After being dismissed from the Defense Minister post for his involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Sharon remained in successive governments as a Minister without portfolio (1983–1984), Minister for Trade and Industry (1984–1990), and Minister for Housing Construction (1990–1992). In Benjamin Netanyahu's 1996–1999 government, he was Minister of National Infrastructure (1996–1998), and Foreign Minister (1998–1999). Upon the election of the Barak Labor government, Sharon became leader of the Likud party. After the collapse of Barak's government, he was elected Prime Minister in February 2001.

According to the Palestinians, Ariel Sharon has followed an aggressive policy of non-negotiation. Palestinians allege that the al-Aqsa Intifada was sparked by a visit by Sharon and an escort of several hundred policemen to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount complex, site of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque. Sharon's visit came after archeologists claimed that extensive building operations at the site were destroying priceless antiquities and a few months before the election. While visiting the site, Sharon declared that the complex would remain under perpetual Israeli control. Palestinian commentators accused Sharon of purposely inflaming emotions with the event to provoke a violent response and obstruct success of delicate ongoing peace talks.

The Mitchell Report, based on a subsequent investigation, also found that the Sharon visit did not cause the Al-Aqsa Intifada, though it was poorly timed and would clearly have a provocative effect.

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