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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 14:10 GMT
Sharon health scare grips Israeli press
Israeli press graphic

The state of health of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has suffered a mild stroke, is front page news in the Israeli press and grips writers and commentators.

"I'm all right, we'll continue forward" is a Sharon quote one paper uses as a headline, but another highlights a phone call from Mr Sharon to his son - "Gilad, I am feeling unwell."

Commentators focus on the consequences of the health scare for Mr Sharon's political survival as an election campaign looms, for his new Kadima party, and for his former colleagues in the Likud.

BEN KASPIT IN MAARIV

The election campaign in Israel has been reborn this morning... The ultimate nightmare for Kadima happened in a live broadcast in front of our eyes. This could be a passing episode - Sharon could recover his strength and perform juggling acts in three months. But it could be otherwise. The doubts will persist... It has suddenly become clear that it is not totally sure that Sharon will be the next prime minister.

ALUF BENN IN HAARETZ

Regardless of the results of Ariel Sharon's medical examinations, his health will from now on become an item on the public agenda and form part of the election campaign... The problem is not just Sharon's actions, but also his plans for the future. The oldest prime minister who has ever headed this country is now asking the voters to elect him for another four years, while his opponents are much younger. The public will certainly wonder whether Sharon will be able to maintain his abilities after his surprise hospitalisation.

SIMA KADMON IN YEDIOT AHARONOT

Regardless of which party one belongs to or supports one would have to be totally blind or impervious not to understand in what condition the state would have found itself had Sharon not joked with his doctors: we would have had a prime minister who could not function, with a government that had no majority in the Knesset, with a Knesset on the eve of elections, with a disintegrating ruling party and another party, Sharon's Kadima, which is leading in the polls but is not worthy of the paper it is registered on without the prime minister... What is certain is that the prime minister's state of health will play a significant role in the Likud's propaganda campaign.

GIL HOFFMAN IN JERUSALEM POST

Whether Sharon's aides like it or not, the health of the prime minister has just become the primary issue of this election and the greatest threat to Sharon's continued reign. The damage has already been done. Even if Sharon emerges from the stroke feeling like a 20-year-old, voters will no longer be able to forget that there is a risk in electing a prime minister who turns 78 in two months and whose main political ally, Shimon Peres, is 82.

NAHUM BARNEA IN YEDIOT AHARONOT

For two hours the country held its breath... The stroke the prime minister suffered drove home to the Israelis how much they need him at this moment. In the eyes of many, including those who support rival parties, he is the ultimate authority with all that has to do with security. There are many issues on the agenda waiting for his decision: nuclear Iran; the Palestinian Authority; Hamas; the Qassam rockets; along with difficult social issues. As always, Israel needs a prime minister and a prime minister who can lead.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.





MIDDLE EAST PRESS PROFILES
 

SEE ALSO:
Sharon 'doing well' after stroke
19 Dec 05 |  Middle East
Israel's Sharon suffers a stroke
18 Dec 05 |  Middle East
Profile: Ariel Sharon
19 Dec 05 |  Middle East


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