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Sharon out of hospital, joking and confident

Sharon out of hospital, joking and confident
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Ariel Sharon is out of hospital and keen to show he is in top form. The Israeli Prime Minister has been discharged after a minor stroke on Sunday. “It appears you have missed me,” he told reporters. “Now I must quickly get back to work and move forward,” he said, a pun on the name of his new political party Kadima, which means forward in Hebrew.

The scare over the health of the 77-year-old has sparked debate in the media about how long he can continue to dominate Israeli politics. Opinion polls today though seem to suggest the stroke has not harmed his position as favourite to win big in elections in March.

Likud, the party Sharon defected from to set up Kadima, has elected a new leader, former Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Sharon quit Likud last month amid internal fighting over Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, while Netanyahu left Sharon’s government in protest over the pullout. Political analyst Ari Shavat talks about a political big bang: “What we have now is the three party system, with clear, different ideas, with clear ideological differences. We have Labour returning to the real left-wing party of the left, we have Sharon as the new leader of the Israeli centre and we have Netanyahu giving a renewed voice to the Israeli right.” Likud has led Israel for all but ten years since it first took power in 1977, but is now battling for third place in the opinion polls.