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SHARON, ARIEL. (1928-2014). Israeli general and the country’s 11th prime minister. TLS. (“Ariel Sharon”). 2/3p. 4to. (Jerusalem), January 4, 1999. On Minister of Foreign Affairs letterhead, with the blind embossed seal of Israel. To American autograph collector Robert J. Cohen.
“I appreciate dearly your personal trust and faith in me and my way, and moreover I appreciate your fidelity to Zionism and to its enormous personalities as Zeev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin.
I am sorry I have to return your check, but upon the Israeli law I can not accept it.
Nevertheless, I thank you for thinking and writing to me… [in holograph] ‘Shalom’ …”
Born in Mandatory Palestine to Russian immigrants Schmuel and Vera Scheinerman, Sharon participated in the night patrols of his moshav as a teenager and, in 1942, joined the paramilitary youth organization Gadna, after which he joined the Haganah to fight in the 1948 War. David Ben-Gurion Hebraized his name to Sharon, and he earned a reputation as a hardened fighter who survived multiple battle wounds while ascending through the ranks of the newly formed Israeli Defense Forces and leading the newly formed special forces Unit 101 and the Paratroopers Brigade. During the early decades of Israel’s history, he led forces in the 1956 Suez Crisis, the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom-Kippur War, and his long military career prompted Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to call Sharon the “greatest field commander in our history,” (“Israel’s Man of War,” New York, Kramer). After retiring from the military, Sharon embarked on a political career, helping found the Likud party and winning a Knesset seat in 1973. From 1981-1983 he served as Menachem Begin’s minister of defense and held several other ministerial roles before acting as prime minister from 2001-2006.
Influential Russian-Jewish, Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky (1880-1940) was born Vladimir Zhabotinsky in Odessa, where he received a secular Russian education before dropping out of school at 17 to become a newspaper correspondent where he earned a reputation for his dispatches from Italy. His work subjected him to the scrutiny of the Tsarist police who imprisoned him for several months after he published an anti-establishment article. Following the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, Jabotinsky became a Zionist, learned Hebrew, changed his name from Vladimir to Ze’ev and organized the militant Jewish Self-Defense Organization to help protect Russian Jewish villages against ever increasing violence. A passionate orator, he traveled widely throughout Russia and Europe advocating for Zionism and stressing the need to learn Hebrew. However, unlike more moderate Zionists, Jabotinsky was skeptical that Jews could live peacefully in the territories they had settled and focused on self-defense rather than assimilation. At the outbreak of World War I, he and Joseph Trumpeldor convinced the British military in Egypt to allow them to organize Jews deported from the Ottoman Empire into a military organization and join the British in liberating Palestine from the Ottomans. In 1915, Trumpeldor and Jabotinsky established the Zion Mule Corps, or Jewish Legion, as part of the 38th and 42nd battalions of Royal Fusiliers. Most of these volunteers, including Jabotinsky, fought heroically against the Turks at the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli Campaign. After the war, Jabotinsky settled in Palestine, where, in 1920, he was elected to the first Assembly of Representatives. That same year, the threat of Arab riots near Jerusalem led him, once again, to organize a defense organization. He was subsequently arrested by the British for illegal possession of weapons but served only a few months of his 15-year sentence. He quickly grew disillusioned with the British administration of Palestine, parted ways with Chaim Weizmann, and in 1923, formed the Alliance of Revisionists-Zionists and the related youth movement, Betar, whose goal was to establish a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River. He continued to work toward that goal and lectured around the world despite his banishment from Palestine in 1930. His influence on Israeli politics continues to this day.
A militant Russian Zionist, Menachem Begin (1913-1992) survived torture in Vilnius’ Lukiškės Prison and enforced labor in a Russian gulag, eventually settling in the British Mandate of Palestine, where he became a prominent leader in the Jewish uprising to force a British withdrawal from the region. After Israel’s founding, Begin became an outspoken and indefatigable member of the Knesset’s Likud opposition party until his election as prime minister in 1977. Begin is best remembered for negotiating the Camp David Accords with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. From September 17-29, 1978, the two leaders held intense negotiations moderated by American President Jimmy Carter at Camp David, the Maryland presidential retreat. The result was the creation of two documents: A Framework for Peace in the Middle East and A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel. For the Camp David Accords Begin and Sadat shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. Begin remained prime minister until 1983 when he was succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin.