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Last Updated: Friday, 17 December, 2004, 11:11 GMT
Press sees Sharon riding high
Israeli press graphic

Israeli papers see Ariel Sharon's speech in the town of Herzliya as a further sign of a new upbeat prime minister basking in the glory of his latest poll ratings.

Commentators believe that ultimately this bodes well for Mr Sharon's coalition talks with Labour, as well as for his Gaza disengagement plan. One paper, however, remains suspicious of what it calls the 'old' Mr Sharon.

Sharon gave a classic campaign speech yesterday, brimming with promises of peace, prosperity and success, with no controversial declarations. A few hours earlier, Sharon received the results of the weekend surveys showing record-high popularity. Labour is moments away from joining his government, and a convoy of foreign statesmen is en route to Ben Gurion International Airport to squeeze in a visit before Christmas. Under these conditions, any new message would only spoil things.

Analysis by Aluf Benn in Haaretz

Sharon's new language, which includes all the historic terms of the left, each time surprises anew...The prime minister was optimistic, confident, relaxed and smiling, as though he knew something we do not know, or as though suddenly, overnight, he was infected with [Labour leader] Shimon Peres' vision. Who knows, perhaps there is a need for Sharon, in order to realize Peres' vision?

Analysis by Ben Kaspit in Maariv

This week's polls smile at Ariel Sharon from all directions. No matter where he looks he'll find excellent results. "Sharon's index" has reached an all-time record with 56% support... Support for disengagement continues to rise and has already reached 64%. Also, the personal security index keeps climbing from one week to the next and now stands at 65%. Finally, it is possible that the coalition crisis could play in favour of Sharon... Many believe that the new government about to be formed will not be less good (and might perhaps be even better) than the outgoing one.

Commentary by Uri Rosen in Maariv

This, perhaps, is the primary reason why the Labour Party must enter the government at any price: to keep a close watch on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, so that he does not follow the familiar yearnings of his heart from years gone by, and fill the West Bank with new settlements, while all attention is focused on the evacuation of the Gaza Strip... The time has come to put an end to this. The Jewish settlements are the main obstacle today to an agreement with the Palestinians.

Editorial in Haaretz

The accepted wisdom is that Ariel Sharon's desire for Shimon Peres and his party stems from a will to admit to the government loyal partners to implement his plans. The 'new' Sharon, the peace lover and occupation eliminator, is seeking companions for the road who, like him, see in the disengagement plan salvation bells...

However, knowing 'old' Sharon and the lessons of the recent past indicate that it is much more likely that the purpose of Sharon's courting of Peres is totally different. Sharon wants Peres as someone to take the blame... The one who will eat the rotten fish in his place, be whipped and be expelled from the city in the end.

Commentary by B. Mikhail in Yediot Aharonot

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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