Under Frihetskriget 1948 ledde Sharon ett infanterikompani från Alexandronibrigaden. 1953 grundade och ledde han en specialenhet kallad Enhet 101. 1956 utnämndes han till överstelöjtnant för en fallskärmsjägarbrigad som deltog i Sinaikampanjen. Året efter befann han sig i Storbritannien och var inskriven vid Camberley Staff College.
1964 utnämndes han till chef för IDF:s nordkommando och 1966 till chef för Army Training Branch. Han deltog i sexdagarskriget 1967 och ledde en pansardivision. Två år senare utnämndes han till chef för IDF:s sydkommando.
Sharon lämnade armén 1973 men återkallades till aktiv militärtjänst under Oktoberkriget för att leda en pansardivision. I ett motanfall korsade Sharon och hans styrkor Suezkanalen vilket ledde till seger och i förlängningen fred med Egypten.
Redan samma år, i december, valdes Sharon in i Knesset men lämnade sin plats redan ett år senare och arbetade istället som säkerhetsrådgivare till premiärminister Yitzhak Rabin.
1977 valdes han återigen in i Knesset och utsågs till jordbruksminister under Menachem Begin. Han arbetade bland annat med att utveckla samarbete med Egypten.
1981 utsågs Sharon till försvarminister och tjänstgjorde som sådan under Libanonkriget. Inom den internationella arenan gjorde han avgörande insatser då han förnyade diplomatiska relationer med ett antal afrikanska länder som hade brutit med Israel under Oktoberkriget. I november 1981 inledde han det första strategiska samarbetet med USA och inledde även försvarssamarbeten med ett antal länder. Utöver detta hjälpte han tusentals judar från Etiopien att ta sig till Israel via Sudan.
Under 1983-1984 var Sharon minister utan portfölj (konsultativt statsråd) och från 1984-1990 handelsminister. Det var som handelsminister han slöt frihandelsavtalet med USA 1985.
Från 1990-1992 var Sharon bostadsminister och ansvarig för immigration och integration. Efter att Sovjetunionen föll satte han igång ett enormt projekt som bland annat innebar byggandet av 144 000 lägenheter till de nyanlända immigranterna.
Under 1992-1996 satt han i kommittén för utrikespolitik- och försvar för att 1996 bli infrastrukturminister.
Två år senare blev han Israels utrikesminister och ledde bland annat samtalen med den palestinska myndigheten.
I september 1999, efter att Ehud Barak valts till premiärminister, valdes Sharon till ordförande för Likud och den 6:e februari 2001 blev Sharon Israels premiärminister. Genom ett uttalande bekräftade den israeliska regeringen sin beslutsamhet att uppnå fred med sina palestinska grannar. I maj 2003 accepterade regeringen ett amerikanskt fredsförslag och i juni 2004 godkände regeringen ”Disengagement Plan from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria” vilken genomfördes året därpå, allt för att skapa förutsättningar för fred.
Efter att han skapat ett nytt politiskt parti inför det 17:e Knessetvalet den 4 januari 2006 drabbades Sharon av ett allvarligt slaganfall och fördes till sjukhus.
Ariel Sharon återfick aldrig medvetandet och avled åtta år senare, den 11 januari 2014.
Arik, friend, leader, commander,
We are saying goodbye to you today, Arik. You were the shoulder on whom Israel’s security rested. The story of your life is bound to the story of this country. And your life was dedicated to the life of this country. Your footprints are imprinted on every hill and in every valley. You cultivated the land with your scythe and defended it with your sword. Your fingerprints are on every diplomatic situation and every military outpost. You took and implemented the difficult decisions.
I remember during the early 1950s, the Commander of the Jerusalem Brigade asked to introduce David Ben Gurion to a young officer. He was a history student and that he had original ideas for dealing with the Fedayeen infiltrations into Jerusalem. The description of this young officer sounded to me more like a song than a biography. I was told he was smart and brave, unorthodox and daring. An officer who was both a leader and a decision maker. A soldier who never retreats from the enemy and a leader who doesn’t fear vision. This young officer, Arik Sharon was his name, was born for greatness.
We met Arik and a friendship was instantly formed. I felt that before me stood an extraordinary young man with both the desire and rare quality to serve his people until the end. Ben Gurion loved him from first sight. His words conquered hearts. His soldiers followed him with total faith. If one of them was injured he wouldn’t leave them until they recovered. To bereaved families he was a brother and a comforter. He knew how to tell the stories of their fallen loved ones with unforgettable emotion.
The nation loved him and he loved Israel, both its people and its land.
Arik was a man of the land. He loved the smell; he cultivated the hills, he sowed and he reaped. He defended this land like a lion and he taught its children to swing a scythe. He was a military legend in his lifetime and then turned his gaze to the day Israel would dwell in safety. When our children would return to our borders and peace would grace the Promised Land.
There were parts of his personality which were not written in his military biography. His emotional intelligence which shone through whenever he described a flower or a tree, a butterfly or a bird. And of course when he spoke of his friends. The greatness of Arik and Lilly’s love was known to everyone. His children were dear to him and he to them. Omri and Gilad stood by him day and night with a sense of mission and an unending love, until his final breath.
We are accompanying to his final resting place today, a soldier, an exceptional soldier, a commander who knew how to win. A leader who breathed a dream, a man who charmed us all even during the most difficult hours.
Arik, You were unique. You turned the seemingly impossible into endless opportunity. You fought off dangers and never delayed decisions. You decided and you were victorious. May you rest in peace, a great leader. You never rested when in service of your people, when defending your land and when making it flourish. The land from which you came will embrace you in the warm arms of the history of our nation to which you added an unforgettable chapter.
In the words of the poet – “As the nation arises, Torn at heart but still breathing, To receive its miracle, the only miracle.” May your memory be blessed, Arik.
Ariel Sharon was one of the greatest military leaders of the people of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces. Arik belonged to our founding generation, the generation of our national revival. Israel’s revival depended first and foremost on a generation of Jewish leaders who reintroduced the legacy of Jewish bravery in the Land of Israel – a legacy that seemed to have vanished during our years in exile. Arik Sharon played a central role in building this legacy of bravery. He fought with the Israel Defense Forces for many years – from the War of Independence to the fateful battles of the Yom Kippur War.
He laid the foundations for the IDF war doctrine, primarily the concept of retaliation and offensive measures in the fight against terrorism. He did so when he established Unit 101, commanding heroic fighters such as Meir Har-Zion and his comrades. Arik also personified and implemented the “outflanking doctrine” in battle. He did so when he parachuted at the Mitla Pass during the Sinai Operation and in the great outflanking maneuvers of the Six Day War. However, his maneuvering and command abilities were demonstrated primarily during the Yom Kippur War when he led the IDF forces across the Suez Canal and surrounded the Egyptian Third Army. This maneuver, under his command, reversed the direction of the battle and led to the successful conclusion of the war, which began under very difficult circumstances for the State of Israel. On those occasions, Arik demonstrated courage and resourcefulness – which filtered down to his soldiers and served to significantly embolden the fighters.
As minister and Prime Minister he insisted on our right to defend ourselves in this region so that we can live here safely – a right we continue to defend today and which is a necessary precondition for our existence and for the achievement of peace.
I did not always agree with Arik and he did not always agree with me. But when we served in each other’s governments we worked in cooperation for the benefit of Israel’s security and economy. Arik was a practical and pragmatic man. His pragmatism was rooted in his deep emotional ties to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. He understood all too well the essence of anti-Semitism and the need for the Jews to be masters of their own fate in a country of their own. He attributed great importance to our relations with our greatest ally, the United States, but also stood firm in defending Israel’s vital interests in times of trial.
When the international reaction to one of the terror attacks against us seemed too conciliatory to him, he appealed to the international community and said the following: “Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938 when enlightened democracies in Europe decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for a convenient temporary solution. Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense. We will not tolerate it”. End quote.
Arik understood that when it came to our existence and our security, we must stand firm. These are principles that we continue to safeguard. The State of Israel will continue to fight terrorism; the State of Israel will continue to strive for peace while preserving its security; and the State of Israel will make every effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Ariel Sharon will go down in history as one of Israel’s greatest military leaders and one of the greatest fighters for the people of Israel in their land.
Arik, the people of Israel bid you farewell today. Your unique contribution to Israel’s security is etched on the pages of our nation’s history. May your memory be forever cherished in the heart of this nation.