For two hours the country held its breath: The fear was real, not only for the health of a man named Ariel Sharon, but also for Prime Minister Sharon's continued ability to function.
Sharon's stroke illustrates just how much Israel needs him at the moment. In the eyes of many, including many supporters of opposing parties, he is the final authority with regard to all matters related to security.
There are several existential problems that must be dealt with: Iran's nuclear program, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Qassam rockets, in addition to several difficult social issues.
As always, Israel needs not only a prime minister, but a prime minister who can really lead.
After a couple of hours, we breathed easy: it was a minor stroke, and Sharon came through unscathed. After a few hours, he was joking with doctors.
What's the secret?
But with the relief came the anger. Israel is a country with few secretes; it is inconceivable that one of the most guarded secrets
In addition, the country is in the midst of an election campaign, and the ruling party, Kadima, isn't really a party of any substance. It doesn't have any party institutions, no organized method of internal party elections. The party rests on the shoulders of one man only: Ariel Sharon. And he is 78-years-old, and (as we discovered last night) he is no superman.
Voters are entitled to know – must know – what medical science can predict for Sharon during his next term. Today, we know that doctors failed to tell us the truth about the health of former prime ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir or Menachem Begin at advanced stages of their terms of office. In doing so, they did an injustice, not only to them, but to the governments they headed. Sharon would do well to instruct his doctors to maintain complete transparency.
One can assume that the timing of the stroke, as well as the dramatic circumstances under which they occurred, the even will cost Kadima electorally. Sharon will not be able to conduct an election campaign while closed off in his office. He must get out to the voters, to convince people he's full of life, and is looking forward to his third term in office.
Kadima's electoral expectations will almost certainly shrink a bit. That's what happens when a party's entire fortunes rise and fall with one man.
Questions about the future
Sharon must answer questions about the future: What will happen in his government if this happens? What about the party? The Israeli government is strong and stable. It has no trouble withstanding shock. But the tools must be prepared.
Sharon is a very healthy man. From time to time he reminds friends, and especially enemies, what the life-expectancy is in his family. Only a very healthy man can withstand the work habits and eating habits he has accustomed himself to.
Sharon has many friends and many enemies. If I'm not mistaken, most of them joined together last night with one united thought: May he continue to be healthy.