Jerusalem News

Scandal closes on Sharon

Tue Aug 12 20:50:31 2003

Scandal closes on Sharon
10/08/2003 11:40 - (SA),,2-10-1462_1400024,00.html

Jerusalem - Ariel Sharon and his two sons are again under close legal scrutiny, but experts predict little fallout for the Israeli prime minister's political future and immediate ability to handle the country's affairs.

Sharon's son Gilad has been questioned over alleged campaign financing irregularities and a land deal. His insistence on remaining silent has raised suspicion he was covering up for his father and that the family had something to hide.

"The moment of truth will come soon, when Sharon himself and his other son Omri are summoned for questioning" in what is known as the Cyril Kern affair, political analyst Eitan Gilboa explained.

Israeli Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky, from the Shinui party, wrote a letter to Sharon urging him to "show to the Israeli public that he has nothing to hide", in what was seen by the local press as a veiled threat of a government coalition pullout by the centre-right party.

"But it is going to be very difficult to implicate Sharon directly in this case. He will probably make sure to be seen as cooperating with the investigation but claim he knew nothing, and his sons will cover him," he predicted.

SA businessman

Gilad exercised his right to silence on July 17 when he was interrogated by the National Fraud Squad on an affair in which the Sharon family is suspected of violating campaign finance laws by taking out a loan from South African businessman and family friend Cyril Kern in 1999.

Gilad was mum again last week during questioning on the so-called "Greek island" affair, in which he allegedly helped contractor David Appel promote a multi-million dollar resort in exchange for hefty envelope and a commitment by Appel to pour money into the ranch the Sharon family owns in the Negev desert.

Whatever the twists and turns of the investigation, Gilboa reckoned the new splash of scandal would not be sufficient to topple a man who has been nicknamed the "Mr. Teflon" of Israeli politics.

"If this is another attempt by the Labour party to destabilise Sharon, then it's just another indication of the level of disarray they are in and that they just don't learn their lessons," Gilboa said.

He pointed out how the Cyril Kern affair, which broke a few weeks before the March general election, backfired on the opposition after the prosecutor who leaked the story confessed it was politically-motivated move.

Sharon's Likud went on to win the vote in a landslide and Labour is not showing any sign of recovery after the worst defeat of its history.

Silence a right

Gilboa said the fact that Sharon fired MP Naomi Blumenthal over her refusal to co-operate with the police in a pre-election cash-for-votes scandal "could be a bit of an embarrassment, but his ability to manage the country will not be affected".

A poll published on Friday showed that opinion draws a line between Sharon's personal integrity and his performance as a statesman, with 69% of Israelis guessing that he has something to hide and exactly the same proportion giving him full grades for his action as prime minister.

Together with a fringe of the opposition, Israeli lawyer Shamai Leibowitz is one of those hoping to give Ariel Sharon a hard time over the double scandal.

"Sharon and his sons' silence is a fundamental democratic right but an Arab who remains silent is automatically presumed guilty and this case shows that there are two legal systems in Israel, one for Jews and one for Arabs," he said.

Leibowitz, the grandson of a noted left-wing Israeli intellectual who rose to fame last year when he joined Palestinian militant Marwan Barghuti's defence team, said he planned to bring up the argument in the West Bank Fatah leader's next hearing.

But Leibowitz shared Gilboa's analysis that Sharon will never be seriously threatened by the courts unless new charges surface.

"Sharon will survive this one. The same attorney general who defended violations of international law just to support everything Sharon does, is not suddenly going to change his colour."

In 1998, Ariel Sharon was appointed Foreign Minister


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