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Preparing For Life After Sharon

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon listens during a meeting at his office in Jerusalem, in this March 22, 2005 file photo.
AP (file)
As Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon clings to life in a Jerusalem hospital, anxiety abounds throughout the city over the direction of the Middle East peace process.

Though Sharon showed "significant improvement" after five hours of emergency brain surgery Friday, he is still in serious condition and doctors said he would be kept in a medically-induced coma for at least two more days. Sharon underwent a planned brain scan Saturday.

Despite Sharon's progress, his days as Israel's leader are likely over.

Sharon's chief surgeon said it was too early to assess the damage the prime minister suffered after two surgeries to stop brain hemorrhaging in as many days, but independent medical experts said the prognosis appeared dire.

The same could be said of the prospects for peace if Sharon dies, CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports.

Last summer, in an effort to make Israelis more secure, Sharon ordered the eviction of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. The move made Sharon a demon in the eyes of settlers who once revered him as
a military leader.

"As a politician, as prime minister, he has done more to damage the security of the state of Israel than Yasser Arafat, Hamas and Hezbollah put together," evicted Gaza settler Moshe Saperstein says of Sharon.

And while some Arab newspapers described Sharon as a butcher and war criminal, some Palestinians expressed concern that life in the region would worsen if he died. How ever much Palestinians despised Sharon, Pizzey says, he represented possibly the only person

.

"Actually I'm more worried about the peace process, more than ever, because of the fact of, that they was going to give back land," Palestinian Raad Nasser says. "And now, only God knows what is going to happen."

Palestinian leaders, holding a parliamentary election of their own Jan. 25, said they were in touch with Israeli officials about Sharon's condition. "We are closely monitoring the situation," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

The White House declined to speculate on how Sharon's illness could affect the peace process.

"The United States view of the Middle East is that the desire for progress and peace runs wide and deep," spokesman Trent Duffy said. "The president continues to pray for the recovery of Prime Minister Sharon."

Sharon's illness froze politics across the region, and its repercussions were felt around the world. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled a six-day trip to Indonesia and Australia because of Sharon's struggle to survive.

Sharon's aides held a grim vigil at the hospital and Israeli elder statesmen Shimon Peres said he is "very worried" about his old friend.

Rice called acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Friday. "Every U.S. citizen, from the President to the last citizen are praying for Sharon's health," Rice said, according to Olmert's office.

"Despite the difficult situation, this evening Israeli citizens have a little more hope," Olmert told her.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com