Saturday, January 14, 2006

Some good news from Israel

Perhaps Sharon's removal from the scene won't be as disasterous as first predicted. Story.

JERUSALEM - Ariel Sharon's heir-apparent, Ehud Olmert, scored a whopping 71 percent approval rating after his first week as acting prime minister - defying predictions that Sharon's new Kadima Party would disintegrate after his massive stroke.

Olmert pulled off the delicate task of not appearing overeager to replace his ailing boss, while reassuring Israel and the world that he can carry out Sharon's agenda of drawing the country's final borders, with or without a deal with the Palestinians.

Two polls published Friday indicated support for Kadima keeps growing and Olmert is the overwhelming favorite to become prime minister in a March 28 general election. In the surveys, Kadima won 42 and 43 seats, respectively, in the 120-member parliament, meaning it would form the next government.

The results appeared to be a testament to Olmert's deft handling of the transition at a time of uncertainty. They also signaled continued backing in Israel for a unilateral separation from the Palestinians by unloading much of the West Bank. Sharon withdrew from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank Jewish settlements last summer.

''He is going to be prime minister after the election, unless something incredible happens,'' said political scientist Abraham Diskin.