On Friday, Sharon will complete a 100-day stay at hospital, paving the way for declaring him permanently unfit to lead the country by law. Throughout the period, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz refrained from declaring Sharon permanently unfit, while Olmert made sure to work from the Trade and Industry Ministry and not from the Prime Minister's Office.
Tuesday's government session – a sad day (Photo: Flash 90)
The government convened Tuesday as a result of the upcoming Passover holiday, which will prevent a later meeting. The change in status would only go into effect Friday, but the act is largely symbolic and Olmert's powers will remain virtually unchanged. Mostly, the government session marked an official farewell from Sharon's leadership.
"I thank the government members, who expressed their trust in me," Olmert said after the government unanimously approved the change in his status.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon said: "This is a difficult and sad day for all of us, the personal aides that worked with Sharon, the secretaries, and all employees at the prime minister's office. This is certainly a difficult day for members of Sharon's family."
"We didn't imagine we'd reach this moment. We're praying and hoping for Ariel Sharon's wellbeing from here," Maimon said.
Ariel Sharon served as Israel's prime minister for more than five years, since he beat Labor's Ehud Barak in the 2001 elections. Sharon entered the Prime Minister's Office shortly after the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada and served during one of the most turbulent periods in the State of Israel's history.
The highlight of Sharon's term in office was the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, which followed a determined parliamentarian and public struggle.
Late last year, Sharon initiated a "big bang" that shook up Israeli politics by quitting the Likud party, the political home he established more than 30 years earlier. The ailing prime minister proceeded to establish Kadima, the recent elections winner, but he did not get to see its successful showing at the polls.
Sharon underwent several surgeries in recent months and will soon be transferred to a rehabilitation center. His condition continues to be characterized as "serious and stable" and he is still in a coma. Yet even now, close to 100 days since he was hospitalized following a massive stroke, close associates and family members continue to regularly visit him in hospital and believe he will open his eyes.