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Sharon Family Scandals Buried in Favor of Pullout

Top political, media personalities admit: Public silence on criminal suspicions against Sharon and family stems from media's support for his plan. MK Hendel: This was Sharon's strategy all along.
First Publish: 2/22/2005, 6:15 PM / Last Update: 2/22/2005, 1:07 PM

Eitan Haber, a former top aide to Yitzchak Rabin and a writer for Yediot Acharonot, put it poetically: "Our products – values and norms – are drowning in the sea, and the left-wing is singing praises."

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said yesterday, "The Sharon family is corrupt to its very foundations, and in any other normal country, Sharon would have no longer been in power." Though Barak currently does not have many allies in Labor – the party he headed when he became Prime Minister – many left-wing personalities in the Knesset, not for attribution, agree with him. If not for the fact that he was promoting the disengagement plan, said at least one MK, "a public outcry would have arisen regarding the accusations against Sharon in the Greek Island and campaign funding scandals."

MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union), a resident of Gush Katif, has long said that the reason Sharon initiated the disengagement plan was to avoid being arraigned on criminal charges. Sharon assumed, Hendel's thesis goes, that the press and left-wing politicians would be silent and would not risk the disengagement plan merely to have him put in jail.

Hendel says that Sharon met with his close advisors in his Shikmim Farm home in the Negev sometime in 2003 and discussed the looming prospect that he would be charged with wrongdoing in the Greek Island affair. Atty. Dov Weisglass, still Sharon's most trusted aide today, told the assembled that history shows that a leader who carried out historic moves is "forgiven" for criminal and other crimes. At first, Hendel maintains, a war was considered, but this was rejected given the expected public opposition to such a move in light of Sharon's military history. "Sharon's press aide then proposed that Sharon withdraw from Gaza," Hendel recounts, "but Sharon reminded him that Israel had already done that, during the Oslo period. The press aide said that no one would remember that, and it would be easy to market such a move to the Israeli public."

Hendel says, "For three weeks, his aides tried to convince him, and only after his son Gilad made it clear that this is the only option they have in order to prevent the indictment, he was convinced to make this move against his will. I am willing to debate Sharon or any one else regarding the accuracy of this story."

Hendel also notes that throughout Sharon's entire ministerial career, "whether he was Agriculture Minister, Housing Minister or Infrastructures Minister, he always made sure that the Israel Lands Authority would be under his purview. I always thought this was for the good of the country, but now I know that he was only worried about his own personal good."

Speaking with Army Radio today, Eitan Haber said that the media's silence vis-a-vis Sharon stems only because of the disengagement plan. "The left, and not only the left, is as silent as sheep because it's convenient for it that he's carrying out his political plan."

Even more surprising was when this viewpoint was reiterated by Channel Ten TV's Moti Kirschenbaum, the former head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority who is considered to hold extreme left-wing views. "There's no doubt," he told Army Radio on the same program, "that the media are dealing with the Sharon family with uncharacteristic tenderness because of their [the media's] empathy towards his diplomatic plans."

"The Greek Island scandal is 1,000 times worse than the campaign funding issue," Kirschenbaum said, "and the media's silence regarding Sharon's behavior in the Greek Island affair are much graver than regarding the campaign funding." He had criticism for Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz, as well, who refused to indict PM Sharon in the Greek Island affair: "Mazuz's reasoning in clearing Sharon was so weak that it was really terrible. If the evidence presented to the Attorney-General, including recordings, protocols, and more, was not proof of his guilt, then I don't know what evidence is."

Last week, Ariel Sharon's son MK Omri Sharon was indicted on charges of setting up dummy companies to direct cash to his father's 1999 campaign to win the Likud primaries.

Army Radio host Razi Barkai asked Haber and Kirschenbaum, "So how does it work? Is there someone above who gives out instructions of what and how to report?" Kirschenbaum said, "It's not a coordinated decision, but rather stems from the fact that the reporters and the commentators are sick of the current situation and they want to see personally if there's a chance to change the situation." Haber agreed that there is no conspiracy, but rather that the reporters are individually slanted in a particular direction.

Kirschenbaum hinted that the press is planning to deal with the suspicions against Sharon after the withdrawal from Gaza and northern Shomron.

Arutz-7's Shimon Cohen notes that an example of the media's silence concerns its treatment of information that he himself uncovered regarding Sharon's connections with Greek Orthodox Church Patriarch Irineos. Cohen found evidence purportedly showing that the Prime Minister advanced Irineos' appointment as Patriarch – which required Israeli government approval – in order that Irineos, a friend of Yasser Arafat, approve the sale of a Greek island for the purpose of the construction of a spectacular resort that was to earn Sharon's son Gilad millions of dollars. "Before we published this on Arutz-7," Cohen says, "I gave it to senior reporters and investigative reporters on Channels One and Two, and to Haaretz and Maariv, but no one chose to take up the gauntlet and to deal with the grave findings."