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Daily Archives: January 4, 2008

CTM pushes double digit price cut

 Sample Image  Lower prices for broadband and higher bandwidths will be introduced by the dominant telecommunications provid-er, CTM, if a currentproposal with the government goes through, the company's ceo said yesterday.

Two years after stroke, Israel still feels Sharon’s absence

by Ron Bousso* Two years after suffering a massive stroke, former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon remains in a coma, but the legacy of his dramatic and often controversial leadership remains strong.Sharon's condition has changed little since the 79-year-old "Bulldozer" was rushed to a Jerusalem hospital on January 4, just six weeks after suffering a more minor stroke.Today the former general who became prime minister in 2001 is hospitalised in a Tel Aviv rehabilitation centre away from the limelight of Israeli politics and in the care of his two sons and their immediate family.Although Sharon is connected to a feeding tube, friends and doctors say his body otherwise functions normally. His mind activity remains very low, but he does show some responses to the sound of the voices of his close family."He has not been in deep coma since his admission and throughout this period there have been some signs of response to several kinds of stimuli," the Sheba Medical Centre at Tel Hashomer said in a statement."He has been treated with the adequate medications and no operations were required," it said.Raanan Gissin, one of Sharon's closest friends and former advisor, said he may yet emerge from the coma, but that any hope or speculation that Sharon could return to politics are unrealistic."There is hope in my heart for his return. I would be overjoyed if he did, but I don't think he would want to return to politics if he saw everything that has happened," Gissin told AFP.Sharon's abrupt departure from political life left a leadership vacuum that many in Israel feel has never been filled.And one of his last and perhaps most divisive political acts — the decision to unilaterally withdraw Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 — continues to reverberate across the region.His successor Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assumed power immediately after the stroke and later won elections as head of the centrist Kadima party which Sharon formed in 2005 based on the idea of "unilateral disengagement" from the Palestinians.But he has never had the political presence of his predecessor and mentor, and at one point in his term registered the lowest approval ratings — in single digits — of any Israeli leader.A string of corruption scandals linked to Olmert, the percieved failures of the 2006 war in Lebanon against the Shiite Hezbollah militia and fears of a nuclear Iran underscore the importance of Sharon's strong and often forceful leadership."Israelis feel the absence of a leadership that takes actions not only out of immediate political necessity. Sharon did things out of a sense of mission, he would take responsibility and act," said one senior Israeli correspondent."People miss his leadership even if they didn't always agree with his policies," he said.Gissin said that "Sharon's disappearance from the scene had a dramatic effect on events in 2006, and in 2007 we still felt the vacuum he created. He was a true leader."He wasn't always popular, but when a crisis would rise, everyone knew he could be trusted."Sharon, who fought in all of Israel's wars since its creation in 1948, left a complex legacy and his actions caused deep divisions in Israeli society.In 1982 Sharon was defence minister during Israel's invasion of Lebanon, a war that ultimately cost him his job after Lebanese militiamen massacred Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatila camps as Israeli troops stood by.But shortly after becoming premier in 2001, Sharon underwent a dramatic shift from a right-wing champion of Israel's settlement policies to the founder of a new centrist movement based on withdrawing from parts of the Palestinian territories.Less than four months before his stroke he withdrew Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, which today is ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement, a hardline group pledged to Israel's destruction which seized control of Gaza in June 2006.The Hamas takeover and the 2006 Lebanon war have since buried the idea of unilateral withdrawal enshrined in his Kadima Party, with Olmert once again embracing bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians.In November he and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas relaunched peace talks in the United States with the aim of creating a Palestinian state by the end of 2008.Sharon himself may not even be aware of the talks, but his complex legacy — the controversial West Bank separation barrier, his refusal to negotiate with Abbas, and his withdrawal from the Gaza — are etched in today's political realities.