Israel plunged into crisis as Sharon suffers massive stroke
Claims that prime minister's career could be at an end after haemorrhage
Israel was thrown into political crisis last night after Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, suffered a massive stroke which observers said could end his political career.
The 77-year-old was rushed to hospital in Jerusalem after saying he felt unwell at his ranch in the Negev desert. A spokesman said the stroke developed during the hour-long ambulance journey.
The deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, took over Mr Sharon's powers as the prime minster was rushed into surgery at the Hadassah hospital. The cabinet will hold a special meeting today, when Mr Olmert is expected to formally assume Mr Sharon's duties.
Dr Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the hospital's director, said Mr Sharon had suffered "a significant stroke", adding that he was "under anaesthetic and receiving breathing assistance". Tests showed that Mr Sharon had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage, or bleeding inside his brain.
Television reports suggested that Mr Sharon was partially paralysed and that his life was in serious danger. "It looks very bad. I don't know if he will recover," a senior political source told the Reuters news agency. However, the prime minister's personal physician, Shlomo Segev, was more positive: "We need to wait patiently. I expect him to emerge from it safely."
President George Bush said in a statement: "[First lady] Laura and I share the concerns of the Israeli people about prime minister Ariel Sharon's health, and we are praying for his recovery."
Ra'anan Gissin, the prime minister's spokesman, told CNN that Mr Sharon had felt some chest discomfort yesterday evening. "He felt slight pains in the chest and some weakness," and his doctor advised that he go to hospital, he said. Mr Sharon had been due to go to hospital to undergo a heart operation today. Doctors planned to plug a hole in his heart which they believe caused a minor stroke on December 18. He was supposed to begin pre-operation fasting at midnight last night.
Since the December stroke, Mr Sharon has been taking treatment to thin his blood and trying to lose weight.
His health problems and the reappearance of corruption allegations did nothing to harm him politically. Yesterday newspapers reported opinion polls that showed his new party, Kadima, continuing to grow despite the absence of any policies. For many Israelis, it was enough to know that Mr Sharon was the leader of Kadima to ensure their support. Pollsters believe his new party would lose at least 50% of its support if Mr Sharon does not play an active part in the general election campaign, leaving the results of the March 28 elections impossible to predict.
No figure has dominated Israel to the same extent as Mr Sharon since the founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. "The moment he goes, everything will change," said political scientist Shmuel Sandler of Bar-Ilan University.
Mr Sharon has played a part in every one of Israel's wars. He was injured in the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, and became a controversial military leader and then a controversial politician. It is only in recent years, with his groundbreaking plan to withdraw from Gaza, that he has become viewed as statesman, earning respect from all sides of the political spectrum.
However, he has not had time to set out a legacy for his colleagues to follow, according to Yaron Ezrahi, a political scientist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "Sharon is driven by the late recognition of the necessity of fixing Israel's borders as a matter of vital national importance. He has not disclosed the reason for his change of heart because he felt that it would incur too much political resistance to his plans," he said.
Mr Sharon is internationally infamous for being judged partly responsible for allowing the massacre of Palestinians by Christian Falangists at refugee camps in Beirut in 1982. In Israel he is well known for an audacious counter attack against the Egyptians in the Yom Kippur war in 1973.
Last year he walked out of the Likud party and formed a new party which analysts believed aimed to withdraw from more settlements.
aku tak nak sgt komen pasal his history, tetapi, kebelakangan ni, dia sedikit sebanyak ada cuba mencari jln permulaan untuk mencapai perdamaian antara palestine dan israel, especially dengan withdrawal from certain areas in gaza.
dia juga telah menubuhkan parti baru dia selepas meninggalkan parti lamanya yg dia sendiri tubuhkan.
btw, sebelum korang 'bersorak' mengenai berita ni, perlu pertimbangkan dahulu pencabar terdekat ariel sharon, nethanyahu, dikatakan seorang yg lebih orthodox dan mempunyai pendirian yg lebih conservative. dia juga telah menentang israel's withdrawal from gaza.