Late last week, Gilad Sharon's attorney accused the police of infusing partisan motives into the investigation of his client. "They are trying to depose an elected prime minister," he charged.

The Sharon family's contention is reflected in this statement: As the family sees it, police interest in the sequence of events connected to Ariel Sharon's campaign in the Likud party's 1999 primaries is not fueled by genuine suspicion of wrongdoing. Police investigators, the Sharons believe, are not acting within the scope of their duties and authority under the law; instead, they are acting on the basis of an unjustifiable, partisan motive, to remove Ariel Sharon from power.

This is a very serious charge, one whose drastic character vies with its contemptible nature. If it really is true, it means that Israel's police force has become so rotten that it is no longer a viable branch of the state responsible for law enforcement, and has instead become a tool manipulated by shady characters (politicians from Israel's domestic arena, or perhaps from overseas?) whose aim is to use a public investigation as leverage to oust Ariel Sharon from his current job. If the Sharon family's charge does indeed have base motives, they must involve the aim of alienating Likud's constituency from the police, and of impugning in advance, and delegitimizing, findings reached in the police inquiry of suspicions against the Sharons.

The behavior of the Sharon men recalls that of Shas leader and former minister Aryeh Deri when the police investigated him. Like Deri, the Sharons have avoided relaying their version of events to investigators. As in Deri's case, the Sharons are deflecting attention away from the main issue - the serious charges which they face. Instead, the Sharons divert attention to minor issues: leaks from investigation rooms (whose aim is probably to break down the wall of silence put up by the Sharons). Like Deri, the Sharon's are not loath to indulge incitement, and agitate the hearts of their followers: Deri did not hesitate to dredge up long-standing resentments, and accuse his investigators of ethnic prejudice, and the Sharons aren't thinking twice about accusing the police of acting out of political prejudice.

It's worth recalling that the investigation against Ariel Sharon and his sons started in response to a newspaper investigation which exposed apparently illegal handling of campaign donations in the Sharon camp. These suspicions were treated as facts in an inquiry conducted by the state comptroller. The comptroller's findings were relayed to the police, and the police launched an investigation. After findings were compiled by the state comptroller and the police, the Sharon men acted in ways which apparently aggravated their situation. The investigation is now in full swing: it addresses straw companies which the Sharon men allegedly established to finance Ariel Sharon's campaign race, and it also relates to the Greek island and Cyril Kern loan affairs.

What, exactly, in this investigation sequence was motivated by partisan aims? Was it the state comptroller's decision to investigate charges of wrongful campaign contributions? Or was it the government attorney general's decision to order the police to investigate these suspicions? Or is it the police decision to pursue the whole truth?

Whom exactly are the Sharon men accusing of scheming to depose the prime minister? Former Supreme Court justice and current State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg? Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein? Police Commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki? No, these are not the three bad men in this tale: the protagonists are the Sharon men and their spokesmen, who are trying to impugn distinguished, honest public servants by accusing them of rank partisanship.

In a stormy press conference held by Sharon before the last elections, he charged that reports about the investigations against him and against his sons were a conspiracy crafted to prevent his election. This contention sufficed to tip the balance, and restore public confidence in Sharon. The Sharon family members are now trying to recycle this manipulation, a ploy which has proven power when it comes to toying with the emotions of Likud voters.

This is a cynical approach that is liable to undermine the credibility of the legal system, and the state as a whole. Those who claim that they are being victimized by a political conspiracy hatched by the state comptroller, the police and the state attorney's office are trying to cultivate in the public mind the belief that these public servants can never be trusted to be objective and non-partisan. By potentially delegitimizing any decision reached by the police, the state attorney and the state comptroller, the strategy could lead to the collapse of the rule of law.