updated 1/4/2006 5:33:32 PM ET 2006-01-04T22:33:32

A look at issues raised by strokes suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon:

Sharon, 77, is the oldest serving prime minister. But his strokes are not the first health scare to hit the office. In 1969, Prime Minister Levy Eshkol died in office and his deputy, Yigal Allon, served as caretaker leader until the Labor Party chose Golda Meir as successor. When Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995, Shimon Peres assumed power until general elections. Menachem Begin experienced numerous health problems, including heart attacks, depression and a stroke, while in office in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Aides sometimes hid his afflictions, and no caretaker leader was named.

If an Israeli prime minister becomes incapacitated, the deputy premier assumes the post for 100 days. Then, Israel’s ceremonial president meets with political leaders and chooses someone to form a coalition government.

Sharon’s strokes do not necessarily affect plans to hold Israeli elections March 28. But concerns about his health could affect Kadima, the centrist party he founded. The party, which advocates peace talks with the Palestinians, revolves around Sharon’s leadership.

Possible successors
Kadima includes a mix of politicians who have left the hard-line Likud Party and dovish Labor Party. If Sharon cannot run, potential replacements include Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, former premier Shimon Peres and Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Ehud Olmert.

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