The Sharon Surprise

"Parties surprised: 9 months prison for Sharon". That front page lead headline in the Hebrew version of Haaretz says it all. The political establishment was taken by shock, and so was the media, evidently, when the court slammed Omri Sharon hard for breaking the party financing laws.

Surprise? Why? Sharon the son, to recap, raised in NIS 6 million through prohibited means, where the law allowed him to raise in 800,000 to finance Ariel Sharon's primaries campaign in 1999. Sharon did win the  internal Likud election and was named party chairman. Assuming the donations helped him win (if they had not, why wound the son commit serial fraud to hide them) then what we have here is stealing the election. Buying it. Surely election fraud in a democratic country should be punished soundly, for instance by nine months' prison, if not more.

 But elections were not the only thing stolen here. Sharon the younger, to recap, maintained silence during police questioning.

Because of his silence, we still do not know who provided the NIS 6 million. In the absence of knowledge, we can speculate as to their identity and as to whether they expected to be rewarded.

The possibility that the Sharons were bought for filthy lucre, and harnessed the government they had bought to serve the interests of the donors, cannot be overlooked. Thus the Sharon son must be suspected not only of stealing elections, but of stealing the fairness of government in Israel. Fairness is the stuff of life to democracy: without it, without people having confidence that an elected government is worthy of their trust, democracy cannot survive.

Sharon the younger was not overlooked in the allocation of the NIS 6 million. He did not "lie on the fence for his father", as put by MK Danny Naveh (now under investigation himself). He lay on the fence because he was also rewarded amply by the system. By virtue of his father's election as party chairman, Sharon the son became one of the most powerful people in Israel. He was the fixer in government and even won a seat in parliament, with all the perks that involves. The fact that he accepted the blame for acts which his father may have abetted does not detract from the gravity of his guilt or the harm he did to the State of Israel.

Surprise? Yes, there is a surprise.

Surprise at the degree of surprise demonstrated by the political echelon. It demonstrates how unable it is to understand the gravity of its own corruption.

The real surprise should have been at the lenience of Sharon's sentence, not its gravity. The real surprise should have been that the state did not really exact the debt it was owed from Omri Sharon.

Sharon the son used the NIS 6 million to steal the public's most important assets: fairness in elections and in government. Sharon the son owes the public NIS 6 million. At least that much, since it can be assumed that the fruits of government brought the Sharon family much more than NIS 6 million.

No, this is not metaphor. The money-laundering laws state that the financial fruits of crime should be returned to the victim - in this case, the public, the state. There is no reason for Sharon not to return the NIS 6 million used to hurt government in Israel, to the public  He has the wherewithal to do it: there is the family ranch, Sycamore, which is worth that much at least.

If that had happened, it really would have been a surprise. It would be a surprise that crimes against democracy are taken seriously and should be handled accordingly. A criminal committing such acts should be handled like any other criminal: return the fruits of the crime, in full, to society. Government is not a toy for the politicians: if they don't get the message through words, maybe they'll get it through their pockets. That would really be a surprise, that might finally do something about the corruption in government.