Ariel Sharon (Hebrew: אריאל שרון ,also known by his diminutive Arik אַריק) (born Ariel Scheinermann (אריאל שיינרמן) on February 27, 1928) is a former Israeli Prime Minister and military leader. Sharon served as Prime Minister from March 2001 until April 2006, though the powers of his office were exercised by acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert following Sharon's massive stroke on January 4, 2006. At that time, Sharon fell into a coma; as of May 2008, he is in a persistent vegetative state.
During his lengthy career, Sharon was a highly controversial figure among many factions, both inside and outside Israel. Some of his critics have sought to prosecute him as a war criminal for alleged crimes related to the Sabra and Shatila massacre during the 1982 Lebanon War. The Kahan Commission held him personally responsible for the massacre. Sharon lost his post as Defense Minister as a result, but remained in the cabinet as minister without portfolio.
Sharon continued as a leading figure in the Likud Party, and held various senior cabinet and party posts, ultimately becoming party leader in 1999 and Prime Minister in 2001.
During his tenure as Prime Minister, Sharon's policies caused a rift within the Likud Party, and he ultimately left Likud to form a new party called Kadima. He became the first Prime Minister of Israel who did not belong to either Labor or Likud — the two parties that have traditionally dominated Israeli politics. The new party created by Sharon, with Olmert having stepped in as its leader, won the most Knesset seats in the 2006 elections, and is now the senior coalition partner in the Israeli government.
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