Ehud Olmert has been formally designated to replace Ariel Sharon as Israeli Prime Minister. Under Israeli law, Sharon, who will have been in hospital 100 days on Friday, will be declared permanently incapacitated and unable to serve as premier. Olmert will become leader in his own right once the coalition government he hopes to form is sworn in. His Kadima party, founded by Sharon last November, came in first place in Israel’s parliamentary election in March.
Back in December Sharon left hospital just two days after suffering a minor stroke, telling reporters he “had to get back to work”. Less than three weeks later he was back in hospital suffering from a severe brain haemorrhage. He has been in a coma ever since. For decades he was a key figure in shaping the Middle East. Long seen as an archetypal hawk, he made an about-face last summer when he ordered an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. This triggered a revolt by the far-right in his Likud party, which led to his resignation and the creation of Kadima.