Israel's Sharon Suffers Massive Stroke
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Israel's Sharon Suffers Massive Stroke
By STEVE WEIZMAN, Associated Press Writer
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke
Wednesday and was on a respirator after falling ill at his ranch.
Doctors operated to drain excess blood from his brain.
Powers were transferred to his deputy, Vice Premier Ehud Olmert.
Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem,
said Sharon suffered "a significant stroke," adding that he
was "under anesthetic and receiving breathing assistance." A few
minutes later, Mor-Yosef emerged to say that initial tests showed
Sharon had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, or bleeding in his brain.
Mor-Yosef said Sharon, 77 and overweight, had "massive bleeding and
was being transferred to an operating theater."
Dr. Shmuel Shapira of Hadassah Hospital told Channel 10 TV that
Sharon was taken to an operating room to drain the blood after
suffering what he termed a "massive stroke." Israeli TV said the
operation would likely take several hours.
Sharon was put in an ambulance at his ranch in the Negev Desert
after complaining about feeling unwell. Shapira said the stroke
developed while he was being taken to the hospital, a drive of about
Sharon's personal physician said early Thursday that he expects
Sharon to emerge from surgery "safely."
"The prime minister is currently in surgery, it is proceeding
properly," said Dr. Shlomo Segev. "We need to wait patiently. "I
expect him to emerge from it safely."
Channel 2 TV said Sharon was suffering from paralysis in his lower
body. Analysts on Israeli TV stations said his life could be in
The health crisis came hours before Sharon was to undergo a
procedure to seal a hole in his heart that contributed to a mild
stroke on Dec. 18. Since then, Sharon has been receiving blood
thinners to try to prevent a recurrence of the clotting that caused
the initial stroke.
Cerebral hemorrhages account for only about 10 percent of strokes
and can result either from rupture of blood vessels or leaking due
to too much blood thinner medication.
Doctors who have not examined Sharon but are experts in the field
said his chances of a full recovery are slim.
"It's among the most dangerous of all types of strokes," with half
of victims dying within a month, said Dr. Robert A. Felberg, a
neurologist at Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans. "Any time they give
blood thinners to prevent clots there is a risk" that too much can
cause a hemorrhage, he said.
"The fact that he's on a respirator means its extremely serious,"
said Dr. Philip Steig, chair of neurosurgery at Weill-Cornell
Medical Center in New York. However, he said that depending on the
severity of the stroke, doctors may be able to sustain Sharon on a
respirator for weeks.
Sharon is about 5-foot-7 and weighs 250-300 pounds, but doctors
checking him last month said he otherwise was in good health.
Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon said Sharon's authority was
transferred to Olmert because the premier was under general
The dramatic decline in Sharon's health comes as Sharon runs for re-
election on March 28 at the head of a new centrist party, Kadima. He
enjoys a wide lead in the polls. The party's strength is centered on
Sharon, and if he were forced to step down, Israel's political scene
would be thrown into turmoil.
Security agents and police spread out around the Jerusalem hospital
before Sharon arrived, setting up a security perimeter. Later, they
surrounded Olmert's residence in Jerusalem. Under Israeli law,
Olmert is to serve as acting prime minister until Sharon can resume
On Dec. 18, Sharon was taken to Hadassah Hospital from his office
after suffering the mild stroke. Doctors said he would not suffer
long-term effects, but they discovered a birth defect in his heart
that apparently contributed to the stroke.
Sharon had been scheduled to check into Hadassah Hospital on
Thursday for a procedure to repair a tiny hole between the upper
chambers of his heart. Doctors said the blood clot that briefly
lodged in Sharon's brain last month, causing the mild stroke, made
its way through the hole and from there to a cranial artery. Sharon
first came to prominence as an army officer, setting up a unit that
fought Palestinian infiltrators in the 1950s. Advancing through the
ranks of the army, he served as commander of the Gaza region after
Israel captured the territory in the 1967 war, launching punishing
After serving in the 1973 Mideast war, Sharon left the military and
entered politics, forging the hardline Likud Party, which came to
power in 1977.
As defense minister, he directed Israel's ill-fated invasion of
Lebanon in 1982 and was forced to step down by an Israeli commission
of inquiry, which found him indirectly responsible for a massacre of
Palestinians in two refugee camps by Christian Phalangist soldiers.
Sharon re-emerged as prime minister in 2001, and two years later he
reversed his course of decades of support for Jewish settlement
construction and expansion in the West Bank and Gaza, promoting a
plan for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and part of the West Bank.
The pullout was completed in September.
The withdrawal fractured his Likud party, and he left it to form
Kadima. He was putting together a list of candidates for the
parliamentary election when he fell ill Wednesday.
A Look at What Could Be Next for Israel
By The Associated Press
A look at issues raised by strokes suffered by Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon.
PRECEDENT: Sharon, 77, is the oldest serving prime minister. But his
strokes are not the first health scare to hit the office. In 1969,
Prime Minister Levy Eshkol died in office and his deputy, Yigal
Allon, served as caretaker leader until the Labor Party chose Golda
Meir as successor. When Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was
assassinated in 1995, Shimon Peres assumed power until general
elections. Menachem Begin experienced numerous health problems,
including heart attacks, depression and a stroke, while in office in
the late 1970s and early 1980s. Aides sometimes hid his afflictions,
and no caretaker leader was named.
SUCCESSION: If an Israeli prime minister becomes incapacitated, the
deputy premier assumes the post for 100 days. Then, Israel's
ceremonial president meets with political leaders and chooses
someone to form a coalition government.
ELECTIONS: Sharon's strokes do not necessarily affect plans to hold
Israeli elections March 28. But concerns about his health could
affect Kadima, the centrist party he founded. The party, which
advocates peace talks with the Palestinians, revolves around
POSSIBLE SUCCESSORS: Kadima includes a mix of politicians who have
left the hard-line Likud Party and dovish Labor Party. If Sharon
cannot run, potential replacements include Justice Minister Tzipi
Livni, former premier Shimon Peres and Finance Minister and Deputy
Premier Ehud Olmert.
Jan. 5, 2006
Sharon Ally Olmert Takes Reins of Power
By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI
Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM Ehud Olmert, a blunt cigar-smoking political operator,
was Ariel Sharon's staunchest ally during the prime minister's
transformation from hawk to moderate. With Sharon's sudden collapse,
a grim-faced Olmert took the reins of power Thursday, trying to
convey continuity but acknowledging in a special Cabinet session
that the nation, like his mentor, is in a "serious situation."
"Arik is not only a prime minister and a leader, but also a close
friend to us all," Olmert said, referring to Sharon by his
nickname. "This is a difficult time and we will stand together."
Sharon's wide chair at the center of the long Cabinet table was left
empty, a sign of the temporary nature of Olmert's position.
If Sharon remains incapacitated after his massive stroke, Olmert
could be one of the top contenders for prime minister in a March 28
election. Still, the 60-year-old Olmert will likely never be as
popular as his mentor, placing the future of the new centrist Kadima
party established by Sharon in political limbo.
Olmert was Sharon's strongest supporter as the prime minister
withdrew Israeli settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip in
September. When other members of the hard-line Likud Party turned on
Sharon because of the Gaza pullout, Olmert stood by the prime
And he served as Sharon's point man, floating ideas before they
"Olmert can take credit for having sponsored disengagement before
Sharon. He served as his vanguard in putting the plan to the
public," said analyst Yossi Alpher.
Olmert was first elected to parliament at age 28, serving as a
lawmaker for seven terms, and holding several ministerial posts. In
those years, Olmert was investigated repeatedly for corruption, but
was never convicted of wrongdoing.
Elected mayor of Jerusalem in 1993, Olmert held the office for 10
years, supporting Israeli moves to settle in Palestinian-dominated
areas of the city. In 1996, he opened a tunnel along a disputed
Jerusalem holy site, an act that sparked days of Israeli-
Palestinians clashes in which 80 people were killed.
Olmert once backed moves to build settlements in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. In
1979, he opposed then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin's decision to
withdraw from the Sinai Desert as part of a peace deal with Egypt.
Recently, Olmert acknowledged he had erred.
He said he wished Begin were still alive so he could tell him that
he was wrong and that pulling out of Sinai was the right thing to do.
A recent opinion poll found that Olmert, as leader of Kadima, could
win by a small margin _ but the situation is fluid and analysts said
it is difficult to predict what would happen to the movement in
Olmert's closest rival for Kadima leadership, Justice Minister Tzipi
Livni, would bring more votes for the party, according to the same
Many of Kadima's potential voters, and many of the politicians who
defected from Likud and the dovish Labor Party joined Sharon, not
necessarily his party, analysts said.
"He (Olmert) is known to be a very shrewd politician and a very able
guy. People always respected his intellect but maybe didn't like his
personality," said Menachem Hofnung, a political scientist at
Jerusalem's Hebrew University. "He's very outspoken, he's not known
to be very warm to people."
As acting prime minister, the public could come to see Olmert as a
leader, said analyst Gadi Wolfsfeld. "No one really loves Olmert,
but no one really hates him, therefore he has a chance of convincing
the public," he said.
Jan. 5, 2006
Robertson Links Sharon's Stroke to Wrath
By SONJA BARISIC
Associated Press Writer
NORFOLK, Va. Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested
Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was
divine punishment for "dividing God's land."
"God considers this land to be his," Robertson said on his TV
program "The 700 Club." "You read the Bible and he says `This is my
land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going
to carve it up and give it away, God says, `No, this is mine.'"
Sharon, who ordered Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year,
suffered a severe stroke on Wednesday.
In Robertson's broadcast from his Christian Broadcasting Network in
Virginia Beach, the evangelist said he had personally prayed about a
year ago with Sharon, whom he called "a very tender-hearted man and
a good friend." He said he was sad to see Sharon in this condition.
He also said, however, that in the Bible, the prophet Joel "makes it
very clear that God has enmity against those who 'divide my land.'"
Sharon "was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any prime
minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU
(European Union), the United Nations, or the United States of
America," Robertson said.
In discussing what he said was God's insistence that Israel not be
divided, Robertson also referred to the 1995 assassination of Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had sought to achieve peace by giving
land to the Palestinians. "It was a terrible thing that happened,
but nevertheless he was dead," he said.
People For the American Way Foundation, which monitors "The 700
Club," criticized Robertson's remarks, calling them "an implicit
reference to recent steps the prime minister has taken to advance
the Israeli-Palestinian peace process."
"Once again, Pat Robertson leaves us speechless with his
insensitivity and arrogance," the group's president, Ralph G. Neas,
said in a statement.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State, said a religious leader "should not
be making callous political points while a man is struggling for his
"Pat Robertson has a political agenda for the entire world, and he
seems to think God is ready to take out any world leader who stands
in the way of that agenda," Lynn said in a statement.
Robertson spokeswoman Angell Watts said of critics who challenged
his remarks, "What they're basically saying is, `How dare Pat
Robertson quote the Bible?'"
"This is what the word of God says," Watts said. "This is nothing
new to the Christian community."
In August, Robertson suggested on "The 700 Club" that American
agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has
long been at odds with U.S. foreign policy. Robertson later
apologized for his remarks, saying he "spoke in frustration."
On the Net:
Christian Broadcasting Network: http://www.cbn.org
Sharon is 'not coming back'
By Harry de Quetteville in Jerusalem
Ariel Sharon is unlikely to return as Israel's prime minister after
his massive stroke, doctors said last night, threatening to derail
faltering steps towards peace in the Middle East.
As Mr Sharon was placed under heavy sedation, Israeli politicians
promised to continue his policies, while quietly jockeying for the
Dr Shlomo Mor-Yosef promised to issue statements
Confirmation that Mr Sharon's military and political career spanning
more than half a century was effectively over was given by Dr Shlomo
Mor-Yosef, the director of the Hadassah Hospital outside Jerusalem.
Asked if the prime minister could return to work, he said: "Under
the current circumstances it will not be possible."
The 77-year-old leader had a seven-hour operation to stem bleeding
in his brain on Wednesday night after suffering a massive
haemorrhage. Doctors placed him under deep sedation and on a
respirator for at least 48 hours to allow him to "recover from
As tributes and get-well messages arrived from world leaders,
rumours persisted that Mr Sharon had died. Two Arab news networks
claimed that he was dead before Dr Mor-Yosef's statement.
Ehud Olmert next to the prime minister's empty chair
The doctor promised to issue statements on every change in condition
as Israel's political establishment struggled to continue as normal.
Ehud Olmert, 60, Mr Sharon's deputy, was named acting prime minister
and, after meeting military and intelligence chiefs, convened a
brief cabinet meeting during which Mr Sharon's chair was left