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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4583160.stm

Israeli PM critical after stroke

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is in a critical condition after seven hours of surgery following a major stroke, doctors say.

Doctors managed to stop the bleeding in the 77-year-old's brain, the director of Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem said.

He is to be kept "under heavy anaesthesia and ventilation" for the next 24 hours, Shlomo Mor-Yosef said.

Deputy PM Ehud Olmert has become acting prime minister. Elections scheduled for 28 March are to go ahead as planned.

"The dissolution of parliament and the early elections... are not affected by the prime minister's health condition," Israel's Justice Ministry said in a statement.

Israeli media and political figures are speculating that even if Mr Sharon recovers, he will not continue to lead the country.

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen in Jerusalem says his stroke changes every political calculation in Israel.

None of the other candidates for prime minister can command the same level of trust from Israelis and may not have the will, experience or desire to follow pursue Mr Sharon's plans, our correspondent says.

Two operations

At the hospital, Mr Mor-Yosef said Mr Sharon had been transferred to a neurosurgery intensive care unit for evaluation and treatment.

He was taken to hospital on Wednesday evening, less than three weeks after being treated for a minor stroke in December.

Doctors said the prime minister had suffered a "significant" stroke and subsequently required two separate operations to stop bleeding in his brain.

Mr Sharon, who is seriously overweight, was prescribed blood-thinning drugs after December's stroke and told to diet.

He was due to have an operation on Thursday to close up a small hole in the heart which doctors believed may have caused the earlier stroke.

'Praying'

US President George Bush said in a statement he shared the concerns of the Israeli people "and we are praying for his recovery".

Two senior US envoys who were supposed to travel to Israel to discuss arrangements for Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote in forthcoming elections cancelled their trip in light of Mr Sharon's illness, as did Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the BBC's The World at One programme he was concerned about the possible effect Mr Sharon's absence would have on the peace process.

"I'm really worried that the competition to replace Mr Sharon will be marred with more escalation against the Palestinians whether in the form of assassinations, arrests, incursions of settlements and that worries me a lot," he said.

Condition updates

Newspapers and television in the Arab world have been carrying minute-by-minute updates on the condition of the Israeli leader, a deeply unpopular figure among many Arabs.

Reporting has been largely neutral, observers say.

Mr Sharon, who has been prime minister since 2001, had been planning to run for a third term in office under his newly formed centrist party, Kadima, after quitting the ruling Likud party in November.

Polls had suggested his new party was in the lead ahead of the election in March.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says one of the questions to be answered is whether Kadima can rally smoothly around a new leader, presumably Mr Olmert, will suffer a bruising leadership struggle.

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I'm really saddened by this. I liked Sharon, and was really excited about the shake-up to Israeli politics he was about to cause in the coming elections. Now we can only hope Israel elects a strong leader and doesn't fall back on Labour and their socialist policies.

My thoughts are with Sharon, his family and the state of Israel.

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Sharon has always been a giant. He's an individual who shapes the room he's in, rather than the other way around. Highly independent and of sound judgment, he was always called the "bulldozer" because of his consistency, lack of regard for his opposition and his determination. He is truly a testament that one man, by his acts alone, may grab history by the beitzim and force it to heel and beg for mercy. Reading his autobiography, I was amazed at his ability to create success out of the ingredients of failure. In all aspects but one he is the model Sabra.

His military genius combined with his political acumen are the greatest of current Israeli leaders... unfortunately, he's also involved in several scandals (accepting bribes, nepotism, etc) to which Israeli politics have become so accustomed of late... (his son too is in a bit of trouble legally)... I will not apologize for him by becoming his mouthpiece, but I will only accept the man's life as it was - with both its stunning successes and occasional failures.

In the end, a truly great man!

Incidentally, it is always interesting to note the "Arab street" response to Israeli leaders. The more Arabs yell that the Israeli leader is a war criminal, terrorist, thief, etc. the more likely that leader is/was a powerful one. The opposite is also true (some regional Arab leaders decried Barak to be a powerful, progressive Israeli leader). Judging by the outpour of hate, Sharon must have been the greatest Israeli leader second only to Ben Gurion!

Get well soon, bulldozer!

Issack D.

Edited by issackd

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Incidentally, it is always interesting to note the "Arab street" response to Israeli leaders. The more Arabs yell that the Israeli leader is a war criminal, terrorist, thief, etc. the more likely that leader is/was a powerful one. The opposite is also true (some regional Arab leaders decried Barak to be a powerful, progressive Israeli leader). Judging by the outpour of hate, Sharon must have been the greatest Israeli leader second only to Ben Gurion!

Get well soon, bulldozer!

Issack D.

Interesting. The news coverage here has been that the Palestinian community is missing him since he was such a moderate. They even had local coverage of an Orthodox temple that was having some special prayer service for him and a leader of a local Palestenian group saying they'd miss him. Interesting how it is being spun.

In fact, recently the press I've seen has been couching him as a distinct moderate.

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Now we can only hope Israel elects a strong leader and doesn't fall back on Labour and their socialist policies.

The Sharon government’s massive economic reforms were generated by Sharon`s "nemesis" former finance minister Netanyahu, probably as a result of a quiet understanding between the two: Sharon would not stop Netanyahu on this issue, and Netanyahu would not show a strong objection to Sharon’s “disengagement” program, a program dislocating thousands of citizens from their property (with a pre-determined compensation).

Sharon himself is hardly a socialist (like the current leader of the Labour party), but he is not capitalist either- not by a long shot. Just last week finance minister (and now acting prime minister…) Ehud Olmert said that Sharon was very sad about the Netanyahu reforms (that “heart the poor”, meaning cut back the government allowances), and that he “had to allow it” for the disengagement program to be approved. Given that Sharon was about to go to the elections with a new party that mixed Likud former members and Labour former members, and that he was probably to form a coalition with Labour after the elections, I hardly think he was about to be any real hope for capitalists.

And since I don’t want to show too much bad taste while Sharon is fighting for his life, I will not go to the issue of “strong leader” as described in a post above.

Edited by A.A

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Ya gotta love (sarcastically) Pat Robertson in times like these.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10728347/

Sharon's stroke is his punishment from God for dividing God's land. One can only hope that Robertson is scaring Christians away from their religion.

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I was saddened by the news of Sharon's stroke, because I have a great deal of respect for him. I lost a certain amount of respect for him when he decided to pull out of Gaza, but I try to look at the whole picture, and I believe that, overall, he has been a benefit to Israel. He was certainly better than Ehud Barak, and it remains to be see what Netanyahu will do if elected.

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