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Bio: Ariel Sharon

President Bush has called Ariel Sharon, the prime minister of Israel, a "man of peace."

Sharon realized his goal plans for Israeli settlers to withdraw from the embattled Gaza Strip and parts of West Bank in August 2005, even though the withdrawal provoked criticism from his supporters. Sharon's former right-wing Likud Party repeatedly voted the issue down. Sharon in November quit the Likud Party to start the more centerist Kadima Party.

Sharon, who suffered a mild stroke on Dec. 18, is to face Benjamin Netanyahu, the new head of the Likud Party, in primary elections in March.

In a special election in February 2001, Ariel Sharon defeated incumbent Ehud Barak with 62.5 percent of the vote to become the 11th prime minister of modern Israel.

Prior to the election, Sharon was a member of the Israeli Parliament, called the Knesset. He was also chairman of the Likud party following the resignation of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sharon served as Minister of Foreign Affairs under Netanyahu between October 1998 and July 1999. He was also Minister of National Infrastructure from July 1996 to July 1999.

Sharon was Minister of Housing and Construction from 1990-1992 and Minister of Industry and Trade from 1984-90 under Prime Minister Shimon Peres. At this time, he served on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee as a member of the Knesset.

Sharon resigned briefly from the government in 1983 after a government commission found him indirectly responsible for the September 1982 massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Lebanese Christians. He was serving as Minister of Defense during that time, in which he orchestrated the War in Lebanon.

Sharon was elected to the Knesset in 1977 on the Shlomzion ticket, a party that he formed. Following that election, he switched to the Likud party led by Prime Minister Menahem Begin and was appointed Minister of Agriculture.

Sharon was first elected to the Knesset as a member of Likud in December 1973, but resigned a year later to serve as Security Adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Sharon has a celebrated military history in Israel. He commanded the armored division that crossed the Suez Canal in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In 1969, he headed the Southern Command Staff, and was commander of an armored division in the 1967 Six Day War.

In 1966, he was head of the Army Training Department. In 1964, he was appointed head of the Northern Command Staff.

During 1958-62, Sharon served as Infantry Brigade Commander and then Infantry School Commander, and attended Law School at Tel Aviv University. In 1957 he attended the Camberley Staff College in Great Britain.

Sharon was appointed commander of a Paratroop Corps in 1956 and fought in the Sinai Campaign.

In 1952-53, he attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in History and Oriental studies

In 1953, he founded and led the "101" special commando unit which carried out retaliatory operations against Palestinian attacks originating in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. During the 1948 War of Independence, he commanded an infantry company in the Alexandroni Brigade. He joined the Haganah, the Jewish self-defense organization, at the age of 14 in 1942.

Sharon was born at Kfar Malal in 1928. He is widowed and has two sons.