* Sharon is a former general known as the "Bulldozer" for his role in previous governments in planting Jewish settlements. The Arab world reviles Sharon for leading the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and Palestinians accuse him of provoking their uprising through his September 2000 visit to a Jerusalem shrine holy to Muslims and Jews.
* Sharon, as Likud party leader, won elections as prime minister twice, in 2001 and 2003. Born in February 1928, he followed a traditional route in Israel, taking him from the military into politics, and founded the right-wing Likud party that ended Labor's 29-year hold on power in 1977.
* Peres, as foreign minister under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, won a reputation as Israel's leading dove by orchestrating interim peace deals with the Palestinians in the early 1990s. Peres has never left the political battlefield, despite having to endure the scorn of countrymen who tag him a dreamer.
* Peres, born in August 1923, in Wolozyn (Volozhin) in what was then Poland, was once labeled by Yitzhak Rabin as the "indefatigable schemer" for his political maneuvering. Peres, whose Labor party is the successor of Mapai, has won a Nobel Peace Prize but never a national election.