Ariel Sharon (Hebrew: אריאל שרון, also known by his diminutive Arik, אַריק, born Ariel Scheinermann, אריאל שיינרמן on 26 February 1928) is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006.
Sharon was a commander in the Israeli Army since its inception in 1948. As an army officer, he participated in the 1948 War of Independence, the Qibya massacre of 1953, the 1956 Suez War, the Six-Day War of 1967, and the Yom-Kippur War of 1973. After retiring from the army, Sharon joined the right-wing Likud party, and served in a number of ministerial posts in Likud-led governments in 1977–92 and 1996–99. He became the leader of the Likud in 2000, and served as Israel’s Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006.
During his long military and political career, Sharon was considered a controversial and polarizing figure. In 1983 a commission established by the Israeli Government found that as Minister of Defense during the 1982 Lebanon War Sharon bore personal, but indirect, responsibility for the massacre by Lebanese militias of Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. In 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s Sharon championed construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, as Prime Minister, in 2004–05 Sharon orchestrated Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Facing stiff opposition to this policy within the Likud, in November 2005 he left Likud to form a new Kadima party.