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Press speculate on post-Sharon era

swissinfo.ch

The power vacuum in Israel following the severe stroke suffered by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is the subject of much debate in Swiss newspapers on Friday.

This content was published on January 6, 2006 - 09:04

Many believe that Sharon, despite a controversial history, is the only figure who could have brought the Middle East closer to peace.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung says the likely end of Sharon's political career will leave a huge gap: "The bulldozer will be sorely missed."

The paper says he achieved what no other Israeli politician could have done in withdrawing troops from the Gaza Strip despite opposition at home and in the United States.

Zurich's other major daily, the Tages-Anzeiger, focuses on the likely impact of Sharon's exit from politics on the volatile situation in the Middle East. It describes him as one of the few hopes for peace in the region.

"It is too early to say whether his strategy would have contributed to defusing the conflict in the long term. But it appears that a solution is now farther away than almost ever before."

Uncertainty

Bern's Der Bund highlights Sharon's personality and his hard-line stance, which made him a hate figure for many Palestinians.

"But they have no reason to celebrate Sharon's likely demise," it says.

Der Bund suggests that Israel under Sharon would have continued to make small steps towards a withdrawal from the occupied territories, but "now the Middle East holds its breath as the cards are being reshuffled".

According to the Basler Zeitung, Sharon was clearly the dominant figure on the political stage in the Middle East. It says the race to succeed him will put stability in the region to the test.

"It could prove to be a huge disadvantage that Israeli politics has been a one-man show," comments the paper.

Legacy

Newspapers in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, such as Geneva's Le Temps, stress the uncertain future for the Middle East with Sharon out of the political picture.

Le Temps says Sharon's legacy is not clear and it is far from certain that much will be left once the dust has settled.

"Everybody in Israel will have to live in his big shadow. There is a risk is that other players will want to outdo their rivals in a bid to be in the limelight."

Le Temps compares the current situation in Israel to that which followed the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin ten years ago.

"Without them much remains unclear and a new path will have to found again," it says.

In the same vein, the Tribune de Genève states that the head of the Israeli government assured his place in the country's history a long time ago.

"But without him Israeli politics will become more unpredictable."

swissinfo

Key facts

The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, suffered a massive stroke on Wednesday and is lying in a coma.
The 77-year-old underwent surgery and his condition is said to be critical, but stable.
His deputy, Ehud Olmert, was named acting prime minister.
Sharon, a former army general, first joined the Israeli cabinet in 1977.
An opponent of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, he became prime minister in 2001.

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