In 1996, ten years after arriving in Israel, Natan Sharansky was elected to the Knesset. Mr. Sharansky's party, Yisrael B’Aliya, won seven seats in its first election. As a result of the party's success in the 1999 elections, Natan Sharansky was appointed to the post of Minister of Interior. He resigned from the post in July 2000, in protest over then Prime Minister Barak’s willingness to offer unprecedented concessions in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. As one of the leaders of the Israeli opposition, Mr. Sharansky waged a tireless battle against the division of Jerusalem, and against Israel’s capitulation to Palestinian demands under the threat of violence. He was the
initiator and driving force behind the 400,000-person strong “Solidarity with Jerusalem” rally held in January 2001.
Today, Natan Sharansky, who has always been a fervent believer in the need for a Unity Government in Israel, is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Housing.
Yisrael B’Aliya means both "Israel on the Rise" and "Israel for Immigration", an indication of Mr. Sharansky's goals. As party chairman, he believes that kibbutz galuyot – the ingathering of exiles – is the raison d’être of the State of Israel, and as such he seeks to turn Israel into a magnet for attracting aliya from all corners of the Diaspora.
Mr. Sharansky graduated with a degree in computer science from the prestigious Physical Technical Institute in Moscow. After graduation, he applied for an exit visa to Israel, which he was denied for "security reasons". In 1977, a Soviet newspaper alleged that Mr. Sharansky was collaborating with the CIA. Despite denials from every level of the U.S. Government, including President Carter himself, Mr. Sharansky was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years of solitary confinement and hard labor. Due to intense international pressure, Mr. Sharansky was released nine years later in a prisoner exchange, and immigrated to Israel the same day.
Anatoly Sharansky's Final Statement in the Soviet Court
Presented before being sentenced on charges for treason and espionage.
July 14, 1978
Sharansky addressed his first remarks to those who were not in the courtroom, his wife Avital who emigrated to Israel and the Jewish people:
During my interrogation the chief investigators threatened me that I might be executed by a firing squad, or imprisoned for at least fifteen years. But if I agreed to cooperate with the investigation for the purpose of destroying the Jewish emigration movement, they promised me freedom and a quick reunion with my wife.
Five years ago, I submitted my application for exit to Israel. Now I am further than ever from my dream. It would seem to be cause for regret. But it is absolutely the other way around. I am happy. I am happy that I lived honorably, at peace with my conscience. I never compromised my soul, even under the threat of death.
I am happy that I helped people. I am proud that I knew and worked with such honorable, brave and courageous people as Sakharov, Orlov, Ginzburg, who are carrying on the traditions of the Russian intelligentsia [in defending human rights in the Soviet Union]. I am fortunate to have been witness to the process of the liberation of Jews of the USSR.
I hope that the absurd accusation against me and the entire Jewish emigration movement will not hinder the liberation of my people. My near ones and friends know how I wanted to exchange activity in the emigration movement for a life with my wife Avital, in Israel.
For more that two thousand years the Jewish people, my people, have been dispersed. But wherever they are, wherever Jews are found, every year they have repeated, 'Next year in Jerusalem.' Now, when I am further than ever from my people, from Avital, facing many arduous years of imprisonment, I say, turning to my people, my Avital, 'Next year in Jerusalem.'
Now I turn to you, the court, who were required to confirm a predetermined sentence: To you I have nothing to say.
Natan Sharansky has long been involved in the struggle for human rights. In 1976, he helped establish the Helsinki Monitoring Group, a human rights movement based in Moscow and headed by the late Andrei Sakharov. Prior to his advent on the Israeli political scene, Mr. Sharansky worked tirelessly as the President of the Zionist Forum, an umbrella organization of former Soviet activist groups dedicated to helping new olim and educating the public about absorption issues. In early 1994, he co-founded Peace Watch - an independent non-partisan group committed to monitoring the compliance to agreements signed by Israel and the PLO.
From 1990 to 1996 Mr. Sharansky served as Associate Editor of "The Jerusalem Report".
In 2000, Mr. Sharansky was one of the founders of the organization "One Jerusalem".
His memoirs, Fear No Evil, were published in the United States in 1988 and translated into nine languages.
Mr. Sharansky is married to Avital (Shtieiglitz) Sharansky. They reside in Jerusalem with their two daughters, Rachel and Hanna.