An era comes to an end
Ariel Sharon is gravely ill. It seems to be highly unlikely that he will be able to recover sufficiently in order to get back to politics. This happens at a very crititical political moment for Israel. Gaza is in total turmoil, elections are scheduled for march and Israel is currently being in an important transitional period. Sharon is also the integrating person for the new political party, Kadima, that is establishing itself in the political center and being the big hope for many Israelis. But Kadima is heavily depending on the personality of Sharon, him being one of the most popular leaders that Israel has seen in decades. His "unilateral" method of getting rid of the Palestinians (security fence, withdrawal from Gaza) has proven to be successful and and to be the best way to improve security for Israelis. It's not an exaggeration to say that he will have been one of the Founding Fathers of Israel.
It's the era of a great man that is coming to an end. The next weeks and months will be crucial.
UPDATE I (05.01.2006; 10:45): Ludovic thinks that there's a risk that Israel could lose the initiative that Sharon so compellingly gained in the fight against Arab terrorism. Ludovic mentions another interesting point though. He states that if Hamas would be allowed to participate in the Palestinian elections, it would have the advantage to enlighten the situation to everyone. It would be clear what chances a so-called "negotiated peace" with the Palestinians nowadays has. If your neighbor repeatedly vows to destroy you, it doesn't really make you feel like you want to talk with him and make concessions. This could help the Israeli public opinion to stay alert and to carry on with Sharon's policy. I share the point of view that Hamas should be able to take part in the elections. Not permitting Hamas to particpate would probably not really weaken its position. But having them in an official political position would allow Israel to treat them like a real state power - and to react in consequece to attacks coming from the Palestinians.
UPDATE II (05.01.2006; 13:50): This was foreseeable of course. Mere Rhetoric on the latest expression of Palestinian Morality™:
Palestinian Reactions to Sharon - Celebrations Begin