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For the first time in a week, hourly news bulletins have begun without a report on the prime minister's condition. Many of the fifteen hundred foreign correspondents who camped outside the hospital have gone home. There is not much to report, except for slight movements in response to pain stimuli, and an increase in blood pressure in response to his favorite music or the speech of his sons. Physicians have not given up hope, but say that if it happens, it will be a long recovery. He has yet to open his eyes.
Ehud Olmert has an invitation to the White House prior to the Israeli election, so we know who Bush wants to govern Israel. Olmert may not need American help. The Labor Party has dismissed a campaign chair for the third time, and there are angry noises directed at Binyamin Netanyahu from key figures in the Likud Party. Latest polls give the Sharon/Olmert Kadima Party up to 44 seats in the Knesset, along with a continued decline for Labor.
Some have not given up on a political resurrection. They want to honor Sharon by putting him Number #1 on the Kadima list. Their intentions are more likely to be votes than honor, of which there is little in the politics of Israel or anywhere else. But there is a looming official deadline for submitting candidacies, and each candidate must sign an application. That is not in Sharon's immediate future.
Putting Shimon Peres Number #2 on the Kadima list, after Olmert, will not be as attractive as putting Sharon #1. Peres has asserted that he sought no position for himself, but virtually every media commentator has ridiculed the claim. He says that whenever a distinguished position opens, while his minions speak for him, and he reminds all who will listen of his qualifications. Peres's name on the ticket may be worth the equivalent of 3 or 4 Knesset seats, and Olmert has no shortage of political sense. It is said that Peres had to give up the prospect of being Foreign Minister in exchange for the Number #2 position, but no concession is final with Peres. Assuming Kadima gets to form the next government, it will only be a matter of time until someone says that the country cannot afford to manage a foreign policy without Shimon Peres at the helm.
The country's physicians are arguing in the media about Sharon's medical treatment. According to claims, he should have been sent to the hospital in Beersheba, an hour closer to the site of his illness, than to Jerusalem. He should not have been given the medicine prescribed after his first, minor stroke. He should not have been allowed to reside at his distant farm while he was susceptible to another attack. There should have been more pressure on him to avoid returning to a bruising work routine. The chair of the medical society has tried to silence the uproar, but to no avail. One of the critics is angry at the radio network for not giving him an opportunity to respond to a severe condemnation of his comments.
Sharon has been sanctified, like Yitzhak Rabin before him, for being taken away at a point in his career when he had done something very popular. With those sympathetic to such things, Sharon's disengagement from Gaza is parallel to Rabin's signing of the Oslo accords.
Binyamin Netanyahu is claiming to be the inheritor of the Sharon heritage, which has replaced his boast of being invited to be Finance Minister of Italy. A media clip of Netanyahu's pious assertion of January goes well when coupled with a clip showing Netanyahu's sharp attack against the prime minister when he resigned from Sharon's government in August.
The Sharon story is not over, but it is fading.
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