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MORE SHARON SCANDAL

IDF RADIO: 'Police Enquiry Into Sharon Scandals Will Not Be Completed Before March 28th Election'

Opposition Parties: 'Sharon Should Come Clean & Attorney General Must Speed Up Enquiry'

Latest Poll Shows Sharon's Kadima Party Stronger Than Ever

PM Ariel Sharon (Photo: Amit Shabi)

A Channel 10 TV report has quoted Israel Police sources, as saying there is 'circumstantial evidence' that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received a $3 million bribe. Part of the illegal money was used to pay election debts while the rest remained in the Sharon family coffers. The kickback was said to have come from Austrian gambling tycoons. The opposition parties are demanding full disclosure from the PM and a speedy enquiry. So, what impact is the latest leak likely to have on the election campaign?

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Unless there is new hard evidence, the new scandal swirling around Prime Minister Ariel Sharon may not have all that impact on the current election campaign.

Attorney General Mazuz

Financial scandals are not new for Ariel Sharon and his family. His son Omri has just resigned from the Knesset after pleading guilty to violating the election law while running his father's campaign in the last election. Omri Sharon could go to jail. Sharon's other son Gilad was the subject of an intensive police enquiry after accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a building tycoon for doing virtually nothing. No criminal intent could be proved. The Prime Minister was also questioned but said he had no knowledge of his sons' affairs. The latest TV revelation has sparked a firestorm. The opposition parties are all demanding that Sharon come clean while calling on the Attorney General to speed up the Sharon enquiry that has dragged on for over four years. However, Sharon officials charge the enquiry is being exploited to smear the Prime Minister in the middle of the election campaign. IDF Radio reports there is little or no chance the Attorney General will decide on whether to prosecute Sharon before Israeli voters cast their ballots on March 28th.

The impact - an opinion poll conducted before the TV expose, shows Sharon's Kadima's party gaining up to 42 Knesset seats. This, although Sharon is about to undergo a heart procedure after suffering a mild stroke recently. Apparently, most Israeli voters are sticking with Sharon despite allegations of scandal and his health problems. The poll also asked the question 'would you buy a used car from this or that politician?' But a squeaky clean image is not what concerns Israeli voters in this campaign. Chaos and violence rule the roost in the Palestinian areas. Shabak Security Chief Yuval Diskin has just warned that Hamas could win the Palestinian election giving Israel an even bigger headache. And IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz also says the new security zone cannot protect the Israeli town of Ashkelon from all the Qassam rockets being launched from the Gaza Strip that was evacuated last summer. Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas continues to wring his hands in dismay while refusing to crack down on the terrorists. Moreover, Iran has just thumbed its nose again at the international community by renewing its drive to acquire nuclear weapons. The real question that should be put to Israeli voters today is not about 'buying a used car', but who is the best leader to cope with the looming threats that will have to dealt with, if not before, then after the March 28th election. Sharon officials say they are confident of the answer - so, put in Middle East jargon: 'The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on'.

David Essing

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