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It would have been perfectly natural, and moral too, for Ariel Sharon to have expressed emotional turmoil regarding the situation of his son, Omri - to have declared that he would do all it takes to rescue him from the dock; to have declared that despite the charges against him, he, his father, would stand by him through it all; to have released a statement that distinguishes between his duty as a public figure to ensure that the laws of the country are upheld and his role as a father to support his son, even when he is found wanting.

But Ariel Sharon made a statement to the journalists who accompanied him on his visit to Paris that had been written, presumably, by those considered to be his sophisticated public relations advisers. He said he regretted the entanglement his son had been caught up in, that he loved and admired him and that he respected the decision of the attorney general to indict him because Israel was a lawful country - a cool, alienated statement as if Sharon senior were responding to a political or diplomatic incident in which he were not personally involved.

The democratic system takes into account situations in which the children of heads of state become mixed up in illegal actions. The remedy is a separation between the law enforcement authority and the leader. At the basis of the separation of powers lies a recognition of human nature: Fathers cannot control their children's actions and are not responsible for their crimes. At the same time, parents are expected to protect their offspring even when they sin. To spare the ruler the contradiction between his duty to the public and his parental instinct, the democratic state employs an independent mechanism that enforces the law, thus allowing the leader to call on the public to uphold the law and, in the same breath, to stand by his son when he gets entangled in criminal offenses.

This is all well and good when there is no connection between the criminal offense committed by the son and the public role filled by the father. As is known, however, this is not the case of Ariel and Omri Sharon: At best, the son committed the offenses attributed to him to further his father's public standing, without the father knowing or being aware of what was happening; at worst, the son is sacrificing himself to protect his father.

In keeping with the conclusions of the attorney general, the first option fits the case in question: From a purely judicial point of view, Menachem Mazuz found that there was insufficient evidence to also indict Ariel Sharon for the offenses to which his son has admitted to committing with the purpose of helping his father to be elected as the Likud's candidate for prime minister.

Morally, Ariel Sharon is not off scot-free. He should have known what his son was doing for him; he should have taken into account that the extensive resources used to finance his election campaign were raised in improper ways too, considering the restrictions on raising funds stipulated in the law (and against which the son has now come out in order to excuse his actions). But Sharon, when questioned, denied any connection to the alleged criminal actions of his son - and Mazuz accepted it.

The Kahan Commission, in contrast, did otherwise, when it found Sharon responsible for another oversight: He should have taken into account the results of his decision to allow the phalanges to go into Sabra and Chatila during the Lebanon War, and he cannot take refuge under the claim that this possibility never entered his mind.

Ariel Sharon is now providing the public with an open opportunity to take a look at the moral values that guide him: His son is accused of offenses designed to further his father's interests - and he responds like someone who is abandoning him to his own devices. The son is destined to sit in the dock, if not in prison, and the father continues to sit on the prime minister's throne and enjoy the perks of power. And this, in keeping with the image it projects, is a uniquely united family that goes about its business in accordance with a particularly strong code of mutual backing.