PM to Undergo Prostate Surgery After Annapolis

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will undergo an operation for the removal of his prostate gland after the Annapolis peace summit. He announced the impending operation to the nation at a hastily convened news conference in Jerusalem yesterday, when he revealed that a cancerous growth was found on his prostate.

The prime minister stressed that it is not life threatening, and that he intends to continue working as usual until the operation, and as soon as he recovers following the surgery.

Olmert's bureau issued a statement yesterday that the operation will be carried out after the summit, because it is necessary to wait several weeks after the biopsy, which was conducted 10 days ago. Following the operation, Olmert will not be able to travel abroad for three to four weeks, "and we do not intend to delay the meeting at Annapolis for this," a source in his bureau said.

In a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - who called to ask about his health yesterday - Olmert said that "I will continue working at full pace... and I will attend the international meeting in Annapolis before the operation."

Olmert also spoke on the telephone with the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and told him that he intends to continue their meetings as planned.

"Initial signs of a cancerous growth have been identified," Olmert said. "It is a microscopic growth, which has not metastasized, and which can be removed in a short surgical procedure."

The prime minister underwent an annual physical examination about six months ago, which also included checks for cancer. Due to unusual blood test results, his doctors recommended that he undergo a biopsy, which he did on October 19, several hours after he returned from a his one-day visit to Moscow.

Following his visit to Paris and London, Olmert was told by his physicians last Wednesday that they had discovered a cancerous growth.

According to Shlomo Segev, one of the doctors, Olmert did not show any signs of anxiety when he was informed about the illness, and "was very quiet."

Olmert continued to function normally after he was informed of the cancer, and also met with Abbas, as scheduled. In parallel, he discussed with his advisers on ways to inform the public about the illness.

Following the cabinet meeting on Sunday, it was decided in Olmert's bureau to hold a news conference.

At the same time, the prime minister's physicians conducted further tests to ensure that their diagnosis was accurate.

Olmert briefed a number of senior figures in the political leadership on Sunday and yesterday about the illness, including President Shimon Peres, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and several other ministers.

At the news conference, the prime minister said that "according to medical opinion, there will be no need for radiation or chemotherapy treatment."

He also noted that following the operation, "I will be fit to fulfill my duties fully, prior to the treatment and also several hours after it."

Olmert said that according to his doctors, "recovery will be full, and there is no growth that is life threatening or that could undermine my ability to function. I intend to carry on with my work and dedicate my all to running the affairs of state."

The prime minister said that he decided to hold the news conference even though he had no legal obligation to do so. "The citizens of Israel have the right to know, and I feel obliged to inform them on this matter," he said.

Olmert's doctors described the cancerous growth as being limited, which does not pose any threat in the short term.

"The surgery was delayed because it is not urgent," said Dr. Segev.

Another physician, Professor Kobi Ramon, added that "the spread of the growth is very slow. According to the statistics, the chances that he will need further treatment [after the operation] is close to zero."

The doctors said that the operation, which will last two hours, can be carried out under local or full anesthesia. If the latter is selected, then the prime minister will have to declare "temporary incapacity" and pass on his authority, temporarily, to Livni. Senior officials at the Prime Minister's Bureau said that in that case, the necessary arrangements will be made with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

Olmert is likely to remain hospitalized for three days after the operation, which will probably be carried out at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, under Professor Ramon.