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Daily Israel Report

Year-Long Coma Weakened Images of Sharon and Olmert

The legacy of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the image of his predecessor Ehud Olmert have suffered in the year since a stroke left the former military hero unconscious.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 1/5/2007, 8:41 AM / Last Update: 1/5/2007, 10:32 AM

One year and a day ago, Sharon complained of chest pains while at his Negev ranch home and was rushed to the hospital. En route, he suffered a severe brain hemorrhage and lapsed into a coma.

His dramatic Disengagement policy made him unpopular with the nationalist movement with which he was associated for years, and the policy increasingly appears to have failed in its aim at reducing terror, wrote the British Guardian in a report this week.

His legacy also may suffer if Iran becomes a nuclear power, according to Uzi Arad, a former advisor to former Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. "Only when we know if Iran succeeds in acquiring nuclear weapons will we know if Sharon was wise to focus on Gaza rather than concentrating on the emerging threat from Iran," he said.

"If Iran goes nuclear, it will imply that Sharon was terribly wrong in insisting on disengagement from Gaza, which was a non-urgent and non-relevant matter, which could have been carried out 10 years before or 10 years after," Arad added.

The destruction of Jewish communities, the expulsion of its residents and turning over of the area to the Palestinian Authority (PA) not only has not removed the danger of terrorist attack but also has moved the center of action closer to the center of the country.

"Many of today's problems in Gaza were inherent in Sharon's plan," The Guardian wrote. "Little attention was paid to how Gaza was going to interact with the outside world, the West Bank and Israel, and an isolated and impoverished enclave was unlikely to prosper or remain stable."

As for Prime Minister Olmert, "When he started to talk, he showed a lack of competence, courage and decisiveness. He projected a sense of power when he was with Sharon, but when Sharon went, so did the power," said Yaron Ezrahi, a political scientist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

"A survey of the Israeli press reveals a sense of crisis in the army, bureaucracy and government," the British newspaper wrote. "The president faces charges of rape. The former minister of justice is being tried for sexual assault. The prime minister, like Sharon, is encumbered with corruption investigations. And there are 40 investigations into Israel's conduct of its war in Lebanon this summer."

Israel Harel, a leader of the nationalist movement who worked with Sharon for decades, stated, "It turns out he left no legacy at all. He left a ruined country and a torn-apart society."