View Point / With All Due Respect to the Disengag Ement

The hottest rumor in town is about "caravillas," the hundreds of so-called luxury mobile homes brought to Israel to house the thousands of evacuees of the Gaza disengagement.

Who imported them? The rumor is that the importers are Omri's friends from the ports. Of course we don't have to say which Omri or which port. Everyone knows that we are talking about the prime minister's son, Omri Sharon, and Ashdod Port. Everyone we know also responded in exactly the same way: We would be shocked if it turned out not to be true.

But you can rest easy; the rumor appears not to be true. The Defense Ministry, which is managing the entire relocation project, said that all the contractors who are building the new neighborhoods were chosen via public tenders. Omri Sharon, according to the ministry's response, is not connected to the mobile home project, and has no share of the profits that the various contractors will rake in for building the new neighborhoods in the south.

The ministry's reply is an all-clear siren, at least as far as the disengagement project is concerned. But it is hard to say that we are calm. The speed in which the rumor about the mobile homes spread and the overwhelming response - "We would be shocked if it turned out not to be true" - teaches that Omri Sharon already has a serious problem. Or more accurately, we have a problem, since we have become used to hearing such rumors and believing them as obvious.

"Now, after our man in the [Israel Lands] Administration has left, we need to plant someone else in his place - even before the elections." This quote was exposed Wednesday in Haaretz by Amir Oren, and is taken from a transcript of a conversation between Gilad Sharon and David Appel made when the police were collecting evidence against Appel. Gilad made the statement while his father was national infrastructures minister - the minister responsible for the Israel Lands Administration (ILA).

Gilad Sharon had a good reason to hurry up and "plant" someone on his side in the authority, just before a certain minister might lose his job after the elections.

The secret wiretap was part of yet another police investigation against the Sharon family. This time, the police are examining a NIS 1.3-million payment made by the Israel Land Development Corporation (ILDC) to the Sharon family-owned Sycamore Ranch as an option on a joint real-estate deal.

The option was purchased by the ILDC in 1999 when Sharon was national infrastructures minister, and it expired without being exercised. Of course, the initial payment remained in the Sharon family bank account when Sharon was already the prime minister. The State Prosecutor's Office is investigating whether this payment constitutes an illegal campaign contribution to Sharon.

Like the mobile homes story, no one would be surprised to discover that this story is true, too. Just as no one was surprised Appel employed the young and inexperienced Gilad Sharon at a salary of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Greek Island affair; or that Omri Sharon is on his way to trial for collecting illegal campaign contributions - and all Omri can say about it is that the law concerning party fundraising is "absurd."

No one is surprised either when the prime minister does not remove himself from dealing with the privatization of Bank Leumi - the same bank that forgave his personal debts a few years earlier. We also are not surprised to hear that the prime minister supports the national infrastructures minister's position to again delay the splitting up of the Oil Refineries, partially owned by the Ofer family, even though for the last 15 years all the professional committees that have studied the issue recommended the same solution: splitting up the refineries.

And it is impossible to be surprised once again when Sharon interferes in matters relating to cellular antennas, and prevents a decision against the cellular companies. And then two days later, he calls on the same companies to "compromise" over the antennas. Sure, the easiest thing to do is to hand them a gift on a silver platter and then come out publicly as if you are the shining defender of the public interest.

When it comes to the Sharon family, and to father Ariel, no one is surprised by anything that happens any more. The rule of law certainly is not one of the more important values of the Sharon family - even the State Prosecutor's Office finally agrees, since finally it was willing to sign an indictment against Omri Sharon - and whole country knows it and acts accordingly. The norms relating to the rule of law in Israel are in free fall, and the plunge starts at the prime minister's doorstep.

True, Sharon is a real Israeli hero. Sharon was also a renowned general, who is now facing one of the most important battles in his personal history, and that of Israel. With all due respect, the disengagement is not the only thing in the world, and at the same time that Sharon may be saving Israel's future security, he is destroying it in a different manner.

The disengagement is a battle that will likely decide whether Israel is sentenced to more wars, or maybe, peace is possible. But the truth must be told: If the country continues to be run the way Sharon is running it now, then it will not matter much at all.

In any case, there won't be a country here worth fighting for.