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VOTING ALLOWED AS SHARON IMPROVES

Prepared by: CFR.org Staff
January 10, 2006

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Israel, with strong U.S. prodding (al-Jazeera), has said it will allow Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote in upcoming January 25 parliamentary elections, greatly increasing the poll's chances of taking place (BBC). Meanwhile, ailing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon is showing improvement for the first time since his debilitating stroke last week (J. Post). Sharon's sudden illness fundamentally changed the political landscape of the Middle East. CFR President and former Mideast policymaker Richard Haass tells cfr.org's Bernard Gwertzman peace talks are "unlikely to move significantly forward"for some time to come, and the New York Times' Jerusalem correspondent Steven Erlanger tells cfr.org "the Sharon era is over," leaving tremendous uncertainty. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert --profiled in the J. Post -- has taken over governing powers, and Israelis are asking whether Olmert and the newly founded Kadima Party will be able to survive (CS Monitor) during a critical time for the region. The Guardian predicts that, without Sharon's leadership, Israeli politics will revert to stasis and only Hamas will benefit. Haaretz says Olmert is not strong enough to lead another disengagement and will need intensive international support. Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria writes the political loss of Sharon is not as threatening to Mideast peace prospects as the lack of Palestinian governing capabilities.

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