Olmert Diagnosis Stirs Israel's Political Cauldron

Israel Materials 30 October 2007 04:04 (UTC +04:00)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Monday that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Olmert's face was caked with makeup, but it didn't conceal his pallor as he stood at the podium before a battery of cameras.

At a hastily convened press conference, Olmert, 62, said his doctors called the growth "microscopic," saying "it has not metastasized and it can be removed in a short surgical procedure."

After the announcement Olmert hurriedly left the room with his political and military advisers.

A pair of his doctors stayed behind to explain how the tumor could be easily treated. Olmert probably wouldn't miss a day of work and would likely not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation. Shlomo Segev, one of Olmert's doctors, said a biopsy had been performed Oct. 19, after Olmert's return from talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

He said prostate cancer caught at such an early stage is nearly 100 percent treatable and that the chances that he might live a cancer-free life are 95 percent.

Israeli media swiftly pounced on the story. The networks here broke to live coverage and deferred their traditionally acerbic punditry to panels of sympathetic oncologists and cancer survivors.

That the prostate surgery might shortly follow the much-anticipated U.S.-sponsored peace conference at Annapolis, Md., later this year, sent jitters through the Israeli press.

December marks two years since what doctors called a "minor stroke" eventually unleashed a massive brain hemorrhage in Olmert's predecessor, Ariel Sharon. As vice-premier Olmert took the reigns of government in January 2006.

Nov. 4 marks 12 years since the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Both Rabin and Sharon, like Olmert, were in the midst of leading Israel through a massive upheaval. Rabin broke a decades-old taboo by negotiating with Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organization in a process known as the Oslo Accords. The talks eventually gave rise to the Palestinian Authority headed by Arafat. ( ABC )