JERUSALEM (AP) _ Ariel Sharon, Israel's most charismatic hawk, believes the Jewish state must rely on military might rather than the art of diplomacy to ensure its survival.

The burly former defense minister and engineer of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon will become Israel's housing minister in Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's new government that received parliamentary approval Monday.

In that post, Sharon will be in charge of coordinating the absorption of tens of thousands of Soviet immigrants expected to arrive in the Jewish state in the 1990s.

Critics fear Sharon could raise tensions between Israel and the United States by channeling Soviet immigrants into the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The U.S. administration opposes moving Soviet Jews into the occupied territories, which it calls an obstacle to peace.

Sharon has remained mum about his plans.

''I will only repeat that Israel is a democratic state and citizens can live where they want,'' he said Sunday.

Sharon, 62, who has often followed his own path in politics, recently angered Washington with his active support of a Jewish settlement in Jerusalem's Christian quarter.

Sharon would stroll over daily from his nearby apartment in the Moslem quarter as a show of Israel's sovereignty over the disputed city.

He moved into the Moslem quarter in December 1987 and his apartment has a permanent detachment of soldiers and paramilitary border police standing guard outside.

Sharon has set his sights on succeeding Shamir as prime minister and the two traded bitter insults a few months ago when Sharon led a campaign to torpedo Shamir's proposal for peace talks with the Palestinians.

The hard-line conditions Sharon wanted to append to Shamir's peace plan have all been adopted as part of the new government's guidelines.

But the Israeli-born Sharon's attempts to become prime minister have been thwarted by his responsibility for the much-criticized war in Lebanon in which hundreds of Israeli troops were killed.

Sharon was forced to resign as defense minister in 1983 when an Israeli inquiry commission found him indirectly responsible for the slayings of hundreds of Palestinians by Israeli-backed Lebanese forces in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps in Beirut.

Sharon often boasts about how he crushed Arab unrest when he served as army commander in the Gaza Strip in 1971 and says it should be used as a model for suppressing the 30-month-old Palestinian uprising in the occupied lands.

But critics have charged that Sharon's ruthless 1971 campaign was against guerrilla cells and that the current uprising is a popular revolt consisting mainly of stoning attacks.

Last year, Sharon called on the Israeli government to ''liquidate'' PLO chief Yasser Arafat.