Tuesday, January 31, 2006

HAMAS VICTORY IS A GOOD THING

Hamas winning is a great thing dare I say? A ray of truth perhaps being shone on the conflict for at least a while anyway.

It's BAD FOR
  1. Hamas - Now they have to govern themselves.
  2. Western Liberals - Used to get away with fronting that Fatah was a "secular" alternative that "accepted Israel's existence" and "could be negotiated with".... They can't possibly make this fantasy stick about Hamas. (Fatah is the one who mainstreamed suicide bombing to Pali kids -and- NEVER repealed Charter calling for the Destuction of Israel) Hamas is just more honest in English and Arabic than Fatah. Now the UN, EU and State Dept can't paint the same false fantasy about Hamas.

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe agrees with me 100%.

Hamas victory is good news
By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist January 29, 2006

WESTERN reactions to the outcome of the Palestinian election last week came in two varieties: highly negative and decidedly undecided.

In the first category was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who moaned that the Hamas defeat of Fatah was a ''very, very, very bad result." In New York, the Anti-Defamation League pronounced the results ''a tremendous setback."

Others insisted that the significance of the election couldn't be known until Hamas decides whether or not to abandon its foremost objective: the liquidation of Israel. In the words of FBI Director Robert Mueller, ''Hamas has a choice to make." It was a line echoed everywhere, from the British Foreign Office to the New York Times editorial page.

Well, put me in a third camp: I think the sweeping Hamas victory is by far the best result that could have been hoped for.

I say that not because Hamas is anything other than a blood-drenched terrorist group, but because its lopsided win is an unambiguous reality check into the nature of Palestinian society. And if there is one thing that the West badly needs, it is more realism and less delusion about the Palestinians.

Some of that delusion was on display at the White House on Thursday, when President Bush painted the Palestinian election as a ''healthy" exercise in civic reform:

  • ''Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo," Bush explained. ''The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find healthcare. And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the Palestinian territories. . . . There's something healthy about a system that does that."

Spare us, Mr. President. If a slate of neo-Nazi skinheads swept to power in a European election, would you say that the voters were seeking ''honest government" and ''services"?

Palestinians are not stupid, and it insults their intelligence to pretend that when they vote to empower a genocidal organization with a platform straight out of ''Mein Kampf," what they're really after is better healthcare. Islamist extremism isn't needed to fix Palestinian hospitals any more than fascism was needed to make Italian trains run on time in the 1920s. If Palestinians turned out en masse to elect a party that unapologetically stands for hatred and mass murder, it's a safe bet that hatred and mass murder had something to do with the turnout.

By the same token, Hamas's new duties are not going to turn it into a moderate group of diligent civil servants. When violent Islamists win political power, their brutality and zealotry do not diminish. (See Khomeini, Ayatollah and Taliban, Afghan). The notion that Hamas now has ''a choice to make" is just another example of the delusional thinking that is so pervasive when it comes to the Palestinian Authority.

In his remarks on Thursday, Bush went on to say that he didn't ''see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform" or ''if your party has got an armed wing" and that Hamas is therefore ''a party with which we will not deal." If that means that the Bush administration will shun the new Hamas government as it once shunned Yasser Arafat, well and good. But why was Mahmoud Abbas treated any differently?

  • Like Hamas, Fatah -- the PLO faction Abbas and Arafat co-founded 45 years ago -- advocates Israel's destruction in its basic charter.
  • Like Hamas, Fatah has an ''armed wing" -- the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- that is guilty of horrific terror attacks.
  • Fatah's emblem shows crossed rifles against a map of ''Palestine" that depicts all of Israel; on the Hamas emblem, the map is the same, but the crossed weapons are swords.

The only important difference between the ousted Fatah party and the incoming Hamas leadership is that for PR purposes the former sometimes pretended to accept Israel's right to exist, while the latter is openly and unabashedly committed to Israel's elimination.

Yet that is why the Hamas landslide is good news.

It will now be much harder to wish away the unpleasant fact that after a dozen years of PLO misrule, Palestinian society is deeply dysfunctional, steeped in hatred and violence. All but the willfully blind can now see that the Palestinian Authority is no ''partner in peace." Until it is decisively defeated and thoroughly detoxified, the Palestinian people will never enjoy the blessings of liberty and decent governance. Ironically, the ascendancy of Hamas may have brought that day a little closer.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is jacoby@globe.com

UPDATE: Richard Landes Keeping Our Eye On the ball three reflections on Hamas makes the basic point that Hamas will eventually become whitewashed as well. They'll either have their "military and social" wings recognized as actually being distinct and different, aka the IRA or they'll just be whitewashed. The reason?

In my opinion the Western World and UN needs this show to continue for -

  • Altruistic reasons - there has to be a silver rainbow we can strive to
  • Its a business - UN and EU bureaucrats need something to be "accomplishing" to feel/look important.
  • You have to recognize Hamas bcs everyone else will eventually do so and whitewash them, so if you don't you are an "extremist" and articles on Hamas being bad and genocidal don't sell as well as the ones that actually show Israel is equal or "worse than".
  • Parent syndrome - We can't say no to or really withhold anything and the Palestinian gov't forces even Hamas know this. They simply need to wink and nod a little and the $$ will keep coming as well as contacts either un-official or officially.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Iranian Blogger Hossein Derakhshan to Visit Israel Against Wishes of Mullah

Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan is visiting Israel, risking the possibility of never returning to his home. Here’s why:
  • This might mean that I won’t be able to go back to Iran for a long time, since Iran doesn't recognize Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it, and apparently considers traveling there illegal. Too bad, but I don't care. Fortunately, I'm a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I want.

    I'm going to Israel as a citizen journalist and a peace activist.

    As a citizen journalist, I'm going to show my 20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel really looks like and how people live there. The Islamic Republic has long portrayed Israel as an evil state, with a consensual political agenda of killing every single man and woman who prays to Allah, including Iranians.

    I'm going to challenge that image.

Palestinian Christian responds to Hamas

Palestinian Christian responds to Hamas
The absence of Palestinian Christian voices in all the coverage of today’s PA elections makes this report in Toronto’s Globe & Mail stand out. A Christian pharmacist in Ramallah shares his fears:

"We're all afraid. We're worried about the future, that we'll become a second Iran."
It's a common sentiment in Ramallah, especially among the city's dwindling Christian community. Where Christians once made up an about 10 per cent of the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the share is believed to have fallen to less than 2 per cent as many left to escape both the rising Islamicization of society and the constant violence.

While Hamas has worked hard to moderate its message during the campaign -- stressing that its primary goal is ending corruption within the Palestinian Authority, and even dropping some of its rhetoric about destroying Israel -- many Palestinian Christians are still nervous about being governed by a movement that proclaims "Islam is the answer" in response to tough questions about the collapsed Palestinian economy and prospects for future statehood.
Will the election results spark more Christians to leave?

I'm worried about my daughters, my sisters, my wife. I'm worried about their liberties. I don't want my wife to have to wear a head scarf. I don't want Islam to rule my life," said Abu Harb, the 40-year-old owner of a shop in Ramallah's Christian district. For fear of retribution, he didn't want his full name used or his store identified.

A Fatah supporter, he said Hamas was too inflexible to govern. "You can't argue with them. They just use the Koran to escape from any debate."

It's a sentiment that has spread well beyond the tiny Christian community. Many liberal-minded Muslims say they're just as worried that Hamas, if it does well enough to shape the next government, will try to force its social values onto Palestinian society.

Liberals point to the strictly conservative atmosphere that hangs over the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is most popular, as an example of what worries them. Where Ramallah has a reputation for the best nightlife in the West Bank, alcohol is no longer sold in Gaza, and few women there venture outdoors without donning a head scarf.

Soccer Dad found a related summary in National Review. Hamas is already trying to impose it's agenda on Christians and other non-Muslims in Bethlehem:

  • Might the exercise of political power have a moderating influence on Hamas extremists, as the starry-eyed hope?
  • In an interview published in the Wall Street Journal just before Christmas, Bethlehem city councilor and local Hamas leader Hassan El-Masalmeh advocated a special tax on non-Muslim residents of the future Palestinian state. The tax, known as al-jeziya, is required by the Koran for dhimmis, second-class Jews and Christians.

  • "We in Hamas intend to implement this tax someday," he told an interviewer,
  • "We say it openly — we welcome everyone to Palestine but only if they agree to live under our rules."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

ARIEL SHARON BIOGRAPHY (by guess who?)

Surprisingly even handed, no really. Though, my gut is telling me the Kahan Commission quote is either out of context or not accurate. I thought their finding stated that Sharon 'should have known' what would have happened but that they found that he didn't expect what would happen.
Highlights are mine.

Al Jazeera
Ariel Sharon
1/1/2003 GMT

Ariel Sharon, the eleventh Prime Minister of Israel, spent many years in the Israel Defense Forces before being elected in March 2001.

Sharon was born Ariel Scheinermann in 1928 to a German-Polish father and Russian mother in Kfar Malal village in the British Mandate of Palestine. Sharon's parents were socialists with a secular worldview, but with a willingness to both compromise and fight.

Sharon is a controversial figure, both inside and outside Israel, attracting diverse and often polar views. Many Arabs and supporters of the Arab-Palestiniancause and some other critics refer to him as "the Butcher of Beirut"and have sought his prosecution as a war criminal. His opponents on the Israeli right believe he is compromising too much with the Palestinian leadership.
Military life

At the creation of Israel, Sharon was a platoon commander in the Alexandroni Brigade. In 1949, he was promoted to company commander and in 1951 to intelligence officer. He then took leave to begin studies of history and Middle Eastern culture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

A year and a half later, he was asked to return to active service in the rank of major and as the leader of the new Unit 101, Israel's first special forces unit. Unit 101 undertook a series of retaliatory raids against Palestinians and neighboring Arab states that helped bolster Israeli morale and fortify its deterrent image. However, the unit was also criticized for targeting civilians as well as Arab soldiers, resulting in the widely condemned Qibya massacre in the fall of 1953, in which more than sixty Palestinian civilians were killed in an attack on their West Bank village.

In the 1956 Suez War ,Sharon commanded the 202nd Brigade and was responsible for taking over ground east of the Sinai's Mitla Pass and eventually overtaking the pass itself. Having successfully carried out the first part of his mission (joining a battalion paratrooped near Mitla with the rest of the brigade moving on ground), Sharon's unit was deployed near the pass. Neither reconnaissance aircraft nor scouts reported enemy forces inside the Mitla Pass. Sharon, whose forces were initially heading east, away from the pass, reported to his superiors that he was increasingly concerned with the possibility of an enemy thrust through the pass, which could attack his brigade from the flank or the rear.

Sharon asked for permission to attack the pass several times but his requests were denied although he was allowed to check its status so that if the pass was empty, he could receive permission to take it later. Sharon sent a small scout force which was met with heavy fire and became bogged down due to vehicle malfunction in the middle of the pass. Sharon ordered the rest of his troops to attack in order to aid their comrades. In the ensuing successful battle to capture the pass more than forty Israeli soldiers were killed. Sharon was not only criticized by his superiors, he was damaged by revelations several years later by several former subordinates (one of IDF's first major revelations to the press), who claimed that Sharon tried to provoke the Egyptians and sent out the scouts in bad faith, ensuring that a battle would ensue. Deliberate or not, the attack was strategically reckless because the Egyptian forces were expected to withdraw from the pass in the following one or two days.

The Mitla incident hindered Sharon's military career for several years. In the meanwhile, he occupied the position of an infantry brigade commander and received a law degree from Tel Aviv University. When Yitzhak Rabin (who within a few years became associated with the Labour Party) became Chief of Staff in 1962, however, Sharon began again to rise rapidly in ranks, occupying the positions of Infantry School Commander and Head of Army Training Branch, eventually achieving the rank of Major General (Aluf).

Sabra and Shatila massacre

During the 1982 Lebanon War, while Ariel Sharon was Defense Minister, the Sabra and Shatila massacre took place, in which between 460 and 3,500 Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps were killed by Lebanese Christian forces under the command of Lebanese Maronite Phalange militia. The Security Chief of the Phalange militia, Elie Hobeika, was the ground commander of the militiamen who entered the Palestinian camps and killed the Palestinians. The Phalange had been sent into the camps to clear out PLO fighters, and Israeli forces had been sent to the camps at Sharon's command to provide them with logistical support and to guard camp exits.

The Kahan Commission investigating these massacres recommended in early 1983 the removal of Sharon from his post as Defense Minister. In their recommendations and closing remarks, the commission stated:

  • "We have found, as has been detailed in this report, that the Minister of Defense [Ariel Sharon] bears personal responsibility. In our opinion, it is fitting that the Minister of Defense draw the appropriate personal conclusions arising out of the defects revealed with regard to the manner in which he discharged the duties of his office - and if necessary, that the Prime Minister consider whether he should exercise his authority under Section 21-A(a) of the Basic Law: the Government, according to which "the Prime Minister may, after informing the Cabinet of his intention to do so, remove a minister from office."

Sharon was dismissed by Prime Minister Menachem Begin but he remained in successive governments as a Minister.

Political career

After he retired from the military and started a political career, Sharon even considered joining Labor, but was turned off by its cronyism. However, Sharon did propose a joint list of Labor and his own list party, Shlomtzion. When Labor rejected Shlomtzion, Sharon tried to form a joint list with the centrist Shinui party, though his party met denial there as well. Only after two rejections did Sharon form a political alliance with Menachem Begin.

In combination with Begin, the center-right won the Israeli elections of 1977 for the first time ever.

Sharon was a member of the Knesset 1973–1974, and then from 1977 to the present. In 1975–1976, he served as the security adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He then served as Minister of Agriculture (1977–1981), and as Defense Minister (1981–1983) in Begin's Likud government.

During this period, Sharon supported the Gush Emunim settlements movement and was viewed as the patron of the messianic settlers' movement. He used his position to encourage the establishment of a network of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to prevent the possibility of the return of these territories to Palestinian Arabs. Sharon doubled the number of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip during his tenure.

After being dismissed from the Defense Minister post for his involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Sharon remained in successive governments as a Minister without portfolio (1983–1984), Minister for Trade and Industry (1984–1990), and Minister for Housing Construction (1990–1992). In Benjamin Netanyahu's 1996–1999 government, he was Minister of National Infrastructure (1996–1998), and Foreign Minister (1998–1999). Upon the election of the Barak Labor government, Sharon became leader of the Likud party. After the collapse of Barak's government, he was elected Prime Minister in February 2001.

According to the Palestinians, Ariel Sharon has followed an aggressive policy of non-negotiation. Palestinians allege that the al-Aqsa Intifada was sparked by a visit by Sharon and an escort of several hundred policemen to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount complex, site of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque. Sharon's visit came after archeologists claimed that extensive building operations at the site were destroying priceless antiquities and a few months before the election. While visiting the site, Sharon declared that the complex would remain under perpetual Israeli control. Palestinian commentators accused Sharon of purposely inflaming emotions with the event to provoke a violent response and obstruct success of delicate ongoing peace talks.

The Mitchell Report, based on a subsequent investigation, also found that the Sharon visit did not cause the Al-Aqsa Intifada, though it was poorly timed and would clearly have a provocative effect.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Israel is "The Thieving, Zionist Enemy"PA TV

Yeah, and in the next breath without even hesitating people still actually talk about what will Israel give away and how soon for "peace"? lol....


Israel is "The Thieving, Zionist Enemy"PA TV broadcasts a classic PLO hate speech of a PLO official in Egypt
By Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

PA TV recently broadcast a ceremony from Egypt celebrating the founding of the PLO in 1965. Barakat Al-Fara of the PLO, formerly deputy to the Palestinian ambassador to Egypt, spoke in the name of the Palestinian factions. His speech stressed that the origin of the conflict with Israel is not Israel's control of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) but is Israel's existence. His speech included the denying of Israel's right to exist, using the term "Zionist enemy" four times and refusing to say the word "Israel." "The Zionist enemy" he said is "oppressive," the "Zionist oppression and aggression [is] supported by world imperialism," and that "the Zionist enemy … does not know the language of peace." Israel pre-1967 is called the "thieving enemy" and he glorifies Fatah, who in 1965 planted "hope in the heart of the Palestinian nation" - stressing the basis of conflict was Israel's existence - before Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Stip were under Israeli administration. Former Egyptian Ambassador Muhammad Basyuni and Usama Al-Baz, political advisor of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, attended the ceremony.

Continue reading "PMW: Israel is "The Thieving, Zionist Enemy""

Sharon as the Quintessential Arab leader

I don't agree with much of what Mona says but of course she is writing to the Arab world who likely is going to tune her out if she dare write anything too positive about a man they love demonize as a blood thirsty murderer, while many of the same name their kids Osama and secretly root for the MASS murderer and depraved torturer Saddam Hussein.

Mona tries to wrap it up by asking if Israel can move away "from domineering leaders" and can Hamas and the Arab world do the same. Of course, Israel as she earlier noted is a far cry from anything in Arab politics.

1 point Mona didn't write was how not only the Israeli people admire and respect Arik, but how many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle with and against him respect him. The "brutal" general is noted often with surprise by others for how engaging, calm and cool he is in crises and how his word is his bond. His political skills in maneuvering is the mark of any great leader. Only someone with a strong and respected personality can continuously bring together so many opposed and looses parties.

Sharon as the Quintessential Arab leader
09/01/2006
Mona Eltahawy

The Arab world hates Ariel Sharon so much not because he is responsible for the death of so many Arabs but because he is essentially the mirror image of the Arab leaders that have ruled us for decades. He is the better and improved mirror image.

If hatred for Sharon was based solely on the number of Arabs he has killed, then he would probably lose out to those responsible for the thousands killed in the fighting of Black September and the thousands more killed in Hama.

And when it comes to the massacres at Sabra and Shatila, with which Sharon’s name is synonymous, it is important to remember that an Israeli state inquiry in 1983 found Sharon, then defense minister, indirectly responsible for the killings of hundreds of men, women and children at the refugee camps during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. An Arab inquiry has yet to hold directly responsible members of the Lebanese militias who actually slaughtered those men, women and children with their guns and knives.

The Israeli inquiry forced Sharon’s resignation and hundreds of thousands of Israelis demonstrated their horror and disgust at his role in the massacre. I won’t ask where are the Arab demonstrations against the massacres of Arabs by fellow Arabs. The answer is evident in every Arab news story that holds only Sharon responsible for the slaughter at Sabra and Shatila. It is an answer that reminds us again that Arab victimhood makes sense only when we are being victimized by Israel. The horrors we visit upon each other are irrelevant.

Sharon is the better and improved mirror image of an Arab leader because we have held what he does to us in much higher regard than anything we have done to each other.

Furthermore, Sharon is the typical military-man-turned-politician that so many Arab leaders are. But unlike so many of these military men whose paths to power in the Arab world have been paved with forged elections, Sharon was actually democratically elected. (twice I might add)

The resemblance between Sharon and Arab leaders was most closely brought home to me by these passages from former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami’s recently published book “Scars of War, Wound of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy”.

“The wide national support (Sharon) managed to elicit at different crossroads in his controversial career as a military man and politician was born out of his ability to manoeuvre through periods of despair that he himself had often been instrumental in generating in the first place” Ben-Ami writes.

“The support for Sharon was always the result of the hopelessness and despair he himself had generated. Somehow the national consensus around him invariably looked like a collective voyage into the abyss. Sharon’s career has frequently defied Napoleon’s definition of the leader as ‘a dealer in hope’. He dealt with despair, hopelessness and fear,” Ben-Ami concludes.

While the names of many Arab leaders could easily be substituted for Sharon’s in the above passage, he continues to outdo and outpace them with a move that Ben-Ami’s book has not included because it occurred after the book’s publication.

Shortly before his latest and most debilitating stroke, Sharon split with Likud to launch the centrist Kadima party as a centrist alternative to the traditional left and right wing poles of Israeli politics. At a time when politics in the Middle East has been stuck – between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, between Fatah and Hamas in Palestine and between Labour and Likud in Israel – Sharon introduced the tantalizing prospect of a third way.
Whether Sharon survives his latest stroke or not, he is unlikely to ever resume the post of prime minister. So while many write his political obituary if not his actual obituary, it is pertinent to ponder this ultimate irony of Sharon’s legacy to both Israel and to the Arab world.
During the Egyptian parliamentary elections, an Egyptian commentator who has his own television show actually asked an Egyptian politician why someone couldn’t launch a new party in Egypt in the way that Sharon just had with Kadima in Israel.

Is it possible that Sharon the general, the bulldozer, the butcher of Beirut, and owner of all those other names that the Arab world suffixes to his real name, is now the role model of how a military man turns into a politician who turns into an innovator of a new brand of politics?
Sharon’s departure from politics is another sign of the passing away of the old men who have stood as giants on the shoulders of politics in this part of the world for so long. But by launching Kadima he has also initiated a debate in Israel that is exactly the one we need in the Arab world.
Can Kadima the party survive without Sharon the icon? Can Israel move beyond the politics of charisma and strong-arm tactics? Which direction will Israeli politics head as one by one the old guard that has dominated its politics passes away?

Just as with the Ben-Ami passage above, these same questions and concerns are equally relevant to the Arab world.

If Hamas takes advantage of this transitional phase in Israeli politics to attack, it will make Kadima and the above questions irrelevant. Hamas must not be allowed to drive Israelis – who are worried enough about Hamas’ expected strong showing in the Palestinian elections, if they are held – away from the centre and into the arms of the waiting Benjamin Netanyahu.
Just like Arab world – is it the party that’s important or its leader?

monaeltahawy@yahoo.com

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

SHARON ON OPERATING TABLE AGAIN - GREEK TRAGEDY GETS WORSE

For all the demonization of Sharon and all the cowards who are now afraid to speak about what this guy was, the last best hope for any kind of reduction of violence in the region may have been lost by the "best, quickest and brightest doctors supposedly in the world".... from A-Z they caused the stroke, worsened it, and then took their time getting an overweight 78 year old man who already suffered a stroke a few weeks ago to the hospital.
This after they delayed operating on his heart for a few weeks and keeping him on the blood thinners that likely caused, and then recaused his last 2 operations.

SHARON RETURNS TO OPERATING TABLE
Policeman at Hadassah Hospital late Wed.
Pictures of the week »

After a six-hour operation for cerebral hemorrhaging that continued for most of Wednesday night, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was returned to the operating room following a CAT scan that revealed additional areas of cerebral bleeding.

Several of Sharon's advisors left the emergency room with what journalists described as "poker faces." When pressed for details on his condition, they refused to comment.

Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef, Director General of the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, said Thursday morning that the first operation had apparently stopped the hemhorraging, but a CAT scan showed "extensive" bleeding in additional areas. Sharon was therefore returned to the operating room for an operation that was expected to last several hours.

Mor-Yosef explained that the prime minister was, of course, under general anesthesia and receiving artificial respiration during the procedure. "The situation is serious," Mor-Yosef stated.

Sharon suffered a massive brain hemhorrage late Wednesday, which caused extensive cerebral bleeding.

Some doctors proffered an opinion that the process of stopping Sharon's brain hemorrhage was complicated by the blood thinners that the prime minister has been receiving twice daily since his first, minor, stroke some two weeks ago. Hadassah doctors neither confirmed nor denied this theory.

A short while after 1 a.m., Sharon's personal physician, Dr. Shlomo Segev told reporters, "The prime minister is in surgery; the surgery is going as planned. We need to be patient. I have nothing else to add."

PM Spokesman Raanan Gissin said, "Once the operation ends, the public will be notified. Until then, I suggest not to engage in speculation."

According to a medical expert, the procedure is life threatening. Asked what are the chances of surviving this type of surgery, the doctor replied, "Let's be optimistic, some people survive it."

The prime minister's close associates said of his condition: "Hope for a miracle."

Justice Ministry spokesman Ya'acov Galant said that a prime minister legally remains in his post only as long as he is capable of making decisions. Since Sharon is not conscious after suffering from what doctors termed "a serious stroke," his powers and prerogatives were transferred to his deputy, Finance Minister Ehud Olmert.

Olmert will convene a special cabinet meeting on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. in order to brief the ministers on the temporary transfer of powers.

The Rabbinate was organizing a prayer rally service at the Western Wall.
It appears that initially, Sharon's condition was not as severe. According to well-placed sources, there were two deteriorations, the first just prior to the arrival at Hadassah and the second, upon entering the trauma unit.

While on his way to the hospital, Sharon's spokesmen claimed that the prime minister was conscious and able to speak, but had complained that he was suffering from weakness and "felt ill."

The prime minister initially complained of feeling chest pressure and pain. Two Sharon associates said the prime minister was feeling unwell at his Negev ranch, and following a discussion with his personal doctor, decided to be taken to the hospital.

He could have been taken to the closer Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, but it was decided to take him to the further Jerusalem hospital, where he was to have a pre-scheduled catheterization on Thursday.

Sharon's son Gilad was reportedly in the car with him, along with a physician, while his other son, Omri Sharon, arrived at the hospital as well.

After suffering a mild stroke 18 days ago, the prime minister had been scheduled to undergo the heart procedure Thursday morning.

However, the procedure was reportedly delayed due to the events of Wednesday evening.

High-ranking Likud sources hinted that the Likud could end up staying in the government if Sharon's health situation turned out to be serious, but a Netanyahu spokesman said the party would not issue any statement other than to wish the prime minister well.

The dramatic downturn in Sharon's health came as Sharon was running for reelection on March 28 at the head of a new centrist party, Kadima. He was enjoying a wide lead in the polls. The party's strength is centered on Sharon himself, and if he were forced to leave the scene, Israel's political scene would be thrown into turmoil.

With Judy Siegel-Itzkovitch, Dan Izenberg and AP