Putting all our eggs in one basket

The sudden and unexpected illness of PM Ariel Sharon has acted as a splash of
cold water in the face of the electorate. Even though it was a minor
transient ischemic attack (TIA) and seems to have had no long-term effect, the
fact is that our PM is a 78 year old man who is grossly overweight. The
question is not whether he is currently healthy, but can we expect him to
remain healthy enough for 4 more years. And can we expect him to lead a new
party and a new Government under the present trying circumstances.
There is little doubt that this incident, thankfully with little health danger
for Sharon, nevertheless must reduce his electoral chances. Who will benefit
most from it? Probably the Likud, and Netanyahu who has won today’s
Likud primary. So it may come down to a choice for many voters between a
young active Netanyahu and an aging (although not conspicuously ailing)
Sharon. This is actually the choice that both Netanyahu and Sharon wanted
the electorate to have, and that required one of them, actually Sharon, to
bolt Likud and form his own party in order to bring it about.
As time has gone on the number of projected mandates for Sharon’s Kadima
party have gone down a bit (now standing at 35 from a high of 40) and for
Likud have gone up a bit (now 15 from a low of 12), while Labor has also gone
down slightly (to ca. 20 from 26). But, now that Likud have chosen a leader,
you can also expect their share to go up.
It has been said that Kadima is a one person party, i.e. without Sharon it is
nothing. This is not quite true, but certainly he is the strong glue that
holds some diverse elements together. No one would ever have believed that
Tzahi Hanegbi, a former Likud stalwart and Party Chairman, would ever be in
the same party as Shimon Peres. Without Sharon to hold them together they will
split apart as every other centrist party in Israeli history has done. Ehud
Olmert is putting a brave face on it, and for a while, assuming no further
incidents, he and Sharon will be going out of their way to show how healthy
and active he is, but in the longer run, the cat is out of the bag and its not
so easy to get it back in. Sharon is human after all.
Sharon has received regards from Pres. Bush, Tony Blair, Hosni Mubarak of
Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan, and his good friend, Pres Abbas of the PA.
But, in Gaza the streets were in festive mood and members of various
organizations were handing out cakes to celebrate Sharon’s ill health. Just
to show the difference between us and them, we never even did that when Arafat
was ill, and we had better reason to. Giving up Israeli settlements in Gaza
obviously did not earn Sharon any points from there, and as predicted by some,
the terrorists have now fired their second Kassam rocket from the northern
border of Gaza, from what used to be Israeli territory, at the factories of
the industrial zone of Ashkelon, clearly visible in the distance on a clear
day, so far without effect. Perhaps some people will choose to vote against
Sharon more because of this ominous consequence than because of his potential
health risks.

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