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Israeli Cabinet Declares Sharon Permanently Incapacitated


Israel has appointed a new leader to replace ailing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The next Israeli government plans to continue with Mr. Sharon's master plan to disengage from conflict with the Palestinians.

Israel's Cabinet declared Prime Minister Ariel Sharon permanently incapacitated, officially marking the end of his five-year tenure in office.

The 78-year-old Mr. Sharon remains in a coma after suffering a massive stroke nearly 100 days ago. Under Israeli law, a replacement must be named within 100 days.

Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon announced that Ehud Olmert has been appointed the new prime minister. Mr. Olmert, who heads the Kadima party founded by Mr. Sharon, won national elections two-weeks ago.

Mr. Olmert said he would work to form a new government quickly that would faithfully serve the state of Israel. He plans to pick up where Mr. Sharon left off in drawing the nation's final borders.

Ariel Sharon pulled Israel out of the Gaza Strip last August, and Ehud Olmert has vowed to withdraw from large parts of the West Bank by 2010. At the same time, he would annex big West Bank settlement blocs.

These moves would be unilateral because with the election of the Islamic militant group Hamas in January, Israel believes it does not have a Palestinian peace partner.

It is all part of Mr. Sharon's vision to separate from the Palestinians and create a strong Jewish majority behind defensible borders. Mr. Sharon's departure from the political scene he dominated for decades marks the end of an era. But his legacy will shape Israeli politics for years to come.

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