The absence of Ariel Sharon will not have any impact on the military and security services because no changes will be made in the headquarters. Ehud Olmert does not have a direct military experience, but he does have a great experience in security matters. He is far from being a beginner and will exert his influence as a head of government. But my experience tells me that every important decision is thought, weighed and discussed. The Prime Minister dos not need to know how to conduct an attack.
I believe that Olmert will follow the withdrawal policy of Ariel Sharon because he is one of the main supporters of such a policy. Even he was the first to talk about the need for withdrawal. I think that, more than Sharon, Olmert will try to associate the Palestinians to future withdrawals. One of his first decisions was to persecute the settlers who cut thousands of olive groves in the Palestinian fields. He has just authorized the principle of voting for the residents in eastern-Jerusalem in the Palestinian elections, which is a sign. Olmert does not consider the unilateral withdrawal as a first option, but if no interlocutor is found he will remain alone, under the condition of taking power, which means, being elected by a majority large enough to be able to act upon.
The priority issues are the fight against anarchy in the Palestinian territories and against terrorism. It is obvious that some Palestinian groups, within his own electoral campaign, would like to show that he has continued Sharon’s work, but differently. Israel will judge him for his reaction. Therefore, it is necessary for him to show his determination while preserving the future.

Nouvel Observateur (France)
Left wing weekly newspaper. Circulation: 550 000 copies.

Olmert dans les bottes de Sharon”, by Danny Rothschild, Nouvel Observateur, January 12, 2006. Text adapted from an interview.