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Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Page: 29

Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:10): Ariel Sharon was, from any perspective, a significant figure in modern Israeli history. His life, controversial and full of struggle, mirrored much of the development of modern Israel. He was born in 1928, around 20 years before the establishment of the modern Israeli state, in what was then the British mandated territory of Palestine. It was a turbulent time, after a world war which carved national borders—still governing the Middle East—but before a second, which was to create the conditions from which modern Israel was born. In the 1940s, while the Holocaust was taking place in Europe, Sharon joined the military wing of the Zionist movement and was a soldier in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. He became a decorated member of the Israeli Defense Forces, a brigadier general during the 1967 Six-Day War and a commander of an armoured division in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

After the Yom Kippur War, Ariel Sharon turned to politics, where for most of his career he was a stalwart of the Israeli right. His time as defence minister ended in controversy after the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. His rise through Israeli politics to the prime ministership in the first decade of this century dominated the later part of Sharon's life. Israeli politics is, to the outsider, a mosaic built on the seemingly eternal effort to guarantee the country's very existence—an effort Ariel Sharon spent his entire adult life dedicated to.

For someone with Sharon's history, it was perhaps unexpected that his time in office saw a shift towards a two-state solution in the peace process, as well as a large removal of settlers from Gaza. This sparked a ruction in Israeli politics, with Sharon breaking from his traditional Likud bastion to form the centrist Kadima. This took courage, and the fact that it was Ariel Sharon who made such a courageous stand is worthy of praise.

The history of modern Israel, from its establishment, through numerous wars to the current decade, has been a struggle, and Ariel Sharon's whole life has been bound up with this struggle. What we do know is that a man who left the public stage a number of years ago and was, for much of his adult of life, a very significant figure in Israeli public life, has now departed. We offer our condolences to his family and to the state of Israel.