Olmert Has Cancer

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Olmert Has Cancer

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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced today he has prostate cancer. This illustrates how the unexpected sometimes can be a determining factor in a nation's affairs.

Olmert already faces problems from his handling of last year's war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. He experienced an improvement last month when Israel struck deep into Syria and apparently destroyed some type of facility, possibly a nuclear facility. However, he still faces a number of challenges apart from his health.

Here is part of a Stratfor report:

Olmert is a weak, discredited leader. In the summer of 2006 he led Israel without sufficient preparation into a conflict with Hezbollah which, to put it bluntly, he lost. Political restrictions on operations stemming from a fear of casualties resulted in the first-ever defeat of the Israeli army in war since Israel's creation in 1948. Since then his leadership has fallen far short of inspiring, and even his efforts to carry out the revolutionary plans of his onetime mentor, Ariel Sharon, have largely fallen by the wayside. Yet Olmert lingers on. For a state normally obsessed with national security, Israel is impressively fractured politically. A tradition of inclusion allows parties that get as little as 2 percent of the popular vote to gain seats in the Knesset, and the result is that Israel has not had a majority government in over a generation. Coalitions -- oftentimes coalitions of more than three parties -- rule the country, and this forced consensus makes for strange bedfellows and unstable governments. After the last elections, Olmert and Sharon's Kadima party became the largest player, and now Israeli political evolution finds itself hampered by Olmert's deep unpopularity. Kicking Olmert out of the big chair is not the problem. With popularity ratings in the single digits, dethroning the prime minister would be child's play; the hesitation comes from what would happen next. Olmert's unpopularity runs so deep that it has carried over not just to his Kadima party, but also to all the parties in the broad coalition government.

Benjamin Netanyahu is the leading candidate to replace Olmert. But for now Israel is experiencing some paralysis and political stagnation.