Omri Sharon Is Not Alone

The Omri Sharon scandal has demonstrated that morality and personal integrity are not highly regarded traits in public life.

Omri Sharon's sentence closed a circle: the son who volunteered to be his father's bullet-proof vest is paying the price of his sacrifice. Meanwhile, the father who thanks to the son's devotion became prime minister and realized his life-long ambition, is lying unconscious and unaware of the prison sentence the son has received.

On a symbolic level, it is as if physical calamity that befell the father expresses his inability to face the outcome of his behavior and that of his sons: this tight-knit family became enmeshed in unworthy acts for which the piper must be paid. The result is the removal of Omri Sharon to prison, and the decline of the father.

At the basis of the dubious deeds, which brought the son to the dock and the father to the police interrogation rooms, was arrogance. Ariel Sharon got used to believing that regulations could be skirted, and instructions ignored. His sons grew up apparently under the impression that everyone could be maneuvered all the time. Only disdain for written regulations and haughtiness can explain the actions of Omri Sharon, as have been revealed in the way he acted during the election campaign that finally brought him to jail. Only a sense of omnipotence and unbridled ambition explain Ariel Sharon's willingness to allow his inexperienced son to do as he wished with the campaign coffers (assuming the father really did not know what was happening).

Lack of fear of the law, rooted in excessive self-confidence, is also the lot of other politicians, as seen from the list of outgoing MKs who are in the process of investigation and trial: Tzachi Hanegbi, to be tried for the serious infraction of allegedly making political appointments in the Environment Ministry; Shlomo Benizri, indicted for bribery; Yair Peretz, who admitted copying an academic paper and was investigated for allegedly accepting a bribe; ministers Dan Naveh and Yisrael Katz, whose names have been linked to suspicions of political appointments; and Yehiel Hazan and Michael Gorlovsky, accused of double voting in the Knesset, exhibiting (besides stupidity) an arrogance of character. These people believed nothing bad would happen to them if they behaved wrongly.

The conclusion is inevitable: morality and personal integrity are not highly regarded traits in public life. Israeli voters prefer their candidates devious, aggressive and cunning. Only a small minority of public figures are considered straight as arrows; typically, this behavior brands them as nerds (Benny Begin, Dan Meridor).

The 16th Knesset did take things too far: the behavior of not a small number of members shamed the legislature and lowered its stature. However even after some of them have now been ejected from the political arena, there are candidates on the lists for the 17th Knesset who attest to the ongoing distortion of moral norms. Tzachi Hanegbi continues to star in the leadership of Kadima, Yisrael Katz, Dan Naveh and Naomi Blumenthal (convicted Sunday of election bribery) are still on the Likud list, and Benizri and Peretz are still on Shas' roster.

Not only the formal test of conviction determines the moral character of public life. A proper society would filter out of government institutions politicians whose behavior is unacceptable even if not necessarily criminal. According to slightly more stringent standards than those accepted in Israel, one might wonder whether Benjamin Netanyahu, Tzachi Hanegbi and Avigdor Lieberman would be proper candidates for the Knesset (not to mention for the office of prime minister), if only because of the findings of the police and its recommendations regarding the Bar On-Hebron affair. Although the attorney general and the state attorney decided there was not enough evidence to try the three, that conspiracy exuded enough of an odor to reject them, on moral grounds, from taking part in the leadership of the country.