Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Nobody was surprised that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided not to indict Ariel Sharon and his son Gilad in the Greek island affair. Many were surpised, though, by the question marks that Mr Mazuz raised over the integrity and judgment of the newly appointed Supreme Court justice Edna Arbel, and even more people - including some of the Sharons' closest associates - were amazed by the praise that Mr Mazuz heaped on the head of Sharon's youngest son: "Yesterday it turned out that every dollar paid to him was paid lawfully. And they, the close associates, didn't know he had it in him." ( Yossi Verter in Ha'Aretz ). If we are to believe the AG, Mrs Arbel really conducted a witchhunt. Otherwise, how can we explain such enormous differences between the conclusions of two supposedly highly professional teams? What remains of this whole affair - which officially has not ended yet, but few judges will risk burning their fingers on this case, after the AG had publicly made it so clear that he believes that Sharon and son are not guilty whatsoever of any wrongdoing - is a bad aftertaste in the mouths of each and every Zionist who would like to see some sort of clean government here. As Hannah Kim writes, " The prime minister's acquittal and the songs of praise, written by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, for the talents of his son Gilad legitimize a system that includes David Appel among its founders: businessmen entering politics to influence politicians so as to help their businesses. Those who got excited about the Gavrieli family and Shlomo Oz's gang joining the Likud can relax now. It's okay, it's allowed. " Yossi Sarid also said some true things: "If the millions of shekels the Sharon family received from David Appel is not bribery, I don't know what bribery is. [...] If the attorney general does not see fit to indict in this case, highly connected public figures in Israel will never be indicted, and they will be able to do what they want without fearing the law." Even Tommy Lapid - apparently without being aware of it: if he says something that is in agreement with what people like Sarid say, that can only be a coincidence - expressed concern, during his press conference after that given by the AG, about the links between big money and government in Israel. Appeals to the Supreme Court will probably be of no avail. From now on, every effort by organizations such as the Movement for Quality Government in Israel to make politicians accountable for 'grey dealings' will be branded as an attempt by Leftists and the legal system to wrongly persecute law-abiding citizens. No matter who is to blame, Arbel or Mazuz, the damage to the rule of law in Israel seems to be enormous. Obviously, those close to Sharon and to the PM Office were overjoyed and felt vindicated yesterday ( see Ehud Olmert's reaction in Q&A ). One of them, commenting on the failure by Edna Arbel ( and the media ) to crucify Sharon, even " noted that "in Japan it is customary to commit hara-kiri after such a failure" and recommended that "some people in Israel" adopt that custom." An interesting conclusion, by Yossi Verter: "One thing will remain forever unknown - whether, as many believe, the main reason for the disengagement plan's delivery by one who never supported unilateral withdrawal was the legal plight of Sharon, who, so the theory goes, sought to influence the attorney general and public opinion to spare him. If that was indeed the case, fate had quite a laugh."

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