Ariel Sharon (Kfar Malal, 1928 - ) was prime minister of Israel from March 2001 until January 2006, when he suffered a debilitating stroke and was succeeded by Ehud Olmert. Sharon has been in a coma since that time. As the leader of the Likud party, Sharon swept into power after the breakout of the Second Intifada in 2000. Sharon's firm response to the subsequent wave of Palestinian terrorism left Yassir Arafat increasingly isolated until he was confined to a single compound in Ramallah. When Arafat fell ill in October 2004 he left for France and died the following month. The Second Intifada died with him.
Sharon then announced he would unilaterally evacuate all the settlements in the Gaza Strip, which he carried out in August 2005. It was an action that split his own Likud party and led to Sharon leading elements of the Likud to form the new centrist Kadima party with members of the Labour and other parties. Still hugely popular, Sharon was in the early planning stages for a similar finalization of the status of the West Bank settlements when he suffered the stroke that left him in a coma. He was often said to be the one figure who could form a consensus in the fractured Israeli polity.