The Sharon Files - the Ongoing Story

The indictment of Omri Sharon is a drop that is diverting attention from an ocean. To judge by the winds that are blowing from Mazuz's office, the State Prosecutor's Office will try to bury the ILDC case in the dunes as well.

"With regard to Oded Tal, there is a conversation between Gilad Sharon and Appel in which Gilad says that now that their man in the [Israel Lands] Administration - he is referring to Oded Tal - is leaving, someone else has to be planted in his place, even before the elections."

That amazing quotation, from the transcript of the police wiretap of a conversation between arch-entrepreneur David Appel and the son of then-minister of infrastructure, Ariel Sharon, in the Spring of 1999, is taken from a collection of police documents submitted to the court last month - by Appel himself, the public will be interested to know - as part of a request to cancel an indictment against him on the grounds that it is fundamentally unjust, asking the court to nullify the case, without connection to the strength of the case against him.

Appel, in an interesting gamble by his lawyer, quotes the targets of the wiretap and ostensibly justifies the prolonged investigation against him: if the police truly recorded him talking about such a broad range of initiatives, getting favors from cabinet ministers and Knesset members both in and out of the coalition, having land rezoned and building violations approved, influencing the appointment of judges in the civil and religious courts as well as rabbis (the latter, under the control of the hevra kadisha religious burial society, will contribute to "moves to gain control of land in Ramat Aviv Gimmel totaling 350 dunams" - 87.5 acres - "worth, he says $650 million"), and even getting favorable legislation passed and thwarting efforts of Supreme Court President Aharon Barak - the authorities had the right and the obligation to investigate whether this was not megalomania but an octopus extending tentacles in every direction.

Appel does not deny the statements from the wiretapping. His complaints lie elsewhere. He says, for example, that he was discriminated against as compared to his partners in the various cases, who allegedly participated in his deeds. Most of them are not being tried, whereas he is being targeted. If everyone is in the same boat, why are the captain and his sons being forgiven, along with the first officer and the ensign, while only the sweaty seaman from the boiler room is tied to the mast?

The attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, ignored the Gilad Sharon-David Appel conversation about Tal - the director of the Central District in the Israel Lands Administration (ILA), who went out of his way to help Appel - when he explained, last year, why he was closing the "Greek Island" case - and the case involving land in the center of the country - against Ariel and Gilad Sharon.

The draft indictment against the Sharons, drawn up by Edna Arbel (then the state prosecutor, now a Supreme Court justice), mentions the head of the ILA, Avi Drexler, who interfered with Appel's activities; but in Drexler, who complained about Appel to minister Sharon and to the attorney general at the time, Elyakim Rubinstein, Mazuz found evidence in favor of Ariel Sharon.

Mazuz dealt with Gilad Sharon without finding anything wrong, in regard to his important and handsomely rewarded professional work in the Greek Island project; it did not bother Mazuz that the son of the national infrastructure minister was talking with his employer from the tourism field about "their man" at the ILA.

Who was more senior than Drexler and capable of fulfilling Gilad Sharon's desire to "plant" someone new in place of Tal, and before the elections, which could force Sharon the father out of office? And how would the minister guess that his son and their mutual friend Appel were interested in the appointment of a new version of Tal?

One has to be Rubinstein, or Mazuz, to read the material that Appel has now made public without being moved and without admitting that the police and the State Prosecutor's Office were right in the way they handled the case. True, it's a long way from an undercover investigation to a public one, and from there to an indictment and then a conviction, but the picture Appel is showing us is appalling.

In reference to Labor's Dalia Itzik, Appel reports to attorney Roni Bar-On - now a Likud MK - that he sent "the Iraqi clique to deal with her." To MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) - now Speaker of the Knesset - whom Appel calls "Izak" and who sends him regards from Fuad Ben-Eliezer, the communications minister in the Ehud Barak government, Appel says, "He is in communications, not construction" (a sentence that embodies everything, the police tell the judge who authorized the wiretapping; if Fuad is not in infrastructure, "Appel no longer needs him").

The multimillion dollar contract to employ Gilad Sharon as adviser to Appel was signed with the Sharon family's Sycamore Ranch company. The ranch is owned by Gilad and Omri Sharon, but Ariel also uses its financial accounts freely. Other Sycamore Ranch business activity, the investigation of which is about to conclude, was conducted jointly with the Israel Land Development Corporation (ILDC).

On the desk of attorney Ita Nachman from the Central District of the State Prosecutor's Office, is the file of a case - rigorously compartmentalized - which was investigated in recent months by the police International Investigations Department. It involves the suspicion that an option purchased by the ILDC in a granddaughter company (a subsidiary of a subsidiary) of Sycamore Ranch with a value of NIS 1.3 million, and which expired without being exercised in the Fall of 2002, was actually a way of making an illegal donation to Sharon.

Nachman, who was a key figure in the Edna Arbel team that drafted the indictments of Ariel and Gilad Sharon, is supposed to decide whether the evidence in the case is sufficient to file indictments against members of the Sharon and Nimrodi families or others (the Nimrodi family owns the ILDC). The ILDC and Gilad Sharon's lawyer stated at the outset of the investigation that the option was a "legitimate business contract" and a "valid deal."

The indictment of Omri Sharon is a drop that is diverting attention from an ocean. To judge by the winds that are blowing from Mazuz's office, the State Prosecutor's Office will try to bury the ILDC case in the dunes as well.