Sharon's death: Observers question if another Israeli leader can bring peace
JERUSALEM (REUTERS) - As Israel prepares to bury former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, it might also be saying goodbye to the last man capable of enacting the sort of tough decisions needed to secure peace with the Palestinians.
Eight years after a stroke pitched him into a coma, Israelis and Palestinians continue to grope for a deal in terms bequeathed by Sharon, a war hero at home and a war criminal to Arabs, a hawkish prophet of settlement on occupied land who dramatically gave up Gaza in what he called a bid for peace.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who replaced Sharon as head of the right-wing Likud when the party rebelled in 2005 against the withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza Strip, has since endorsed relinquishing land for peace, in principle - a minimal condition for any accord with the Palestinians.
Surveys show as many as two Israelis in three could accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, on lines first promoted after US-brokered talks by left-wing, Labour leaders - notably Yitzhak Rabin, another war hero, who was assassinated by a fellow Israeli in 1995 for offering to end the occupation.