Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fast Talker Who Has Become the Voice of Change; ISRAEL ELECTION as More Tales of Political Scandal Come to Light

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fast Talker Who Has Become the Voice of Change; ISRAEL ELECTION as More Tales of Political Scandal Come to Light

Article excerpt

Byline: BERNARD WASSERSTEIN

DEPORT the f***ers!" screams the lamp post flier in English and Hebrew. The identity of the expellees is uncertain - Palestinian terrorists, foreign workers, heart-on-sleeve liberal intellectuals? Whatever the target, the mood is unmistakable: unfocused resentment, barely contained rage, and scattergun hostility against the nearest convenient victim.

As Israelis prepare to cast ballots in next Tuesday's general election, a grim fatalism has settled on the public mind. Almost every day new revelations appear about political corruption. Yesterday, in an attempt to stanch the flow, the Attorney General ordered the suspension of a female official in his office. She has admitted leaking details of the investigation of Gil'ad Sharon, younger son of the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who is battling for his political life.

Gil'ad allegedly acted as bagman for his father, laundering a million-pound loan from a South African businessman. Foreign donations to Israeli political parties are illegal, but the prime minister claims he paid back the money, with interest, and his champions say that should be the end of the matter.

The reaction of the general public is an unsurprised cynicism. They've seen it all before.

Yitzhak Rabin was forced to resign as prime minister during an election campaign in 1977 when it was revealed that his wife held a small sum in an illegal overseas bank account.

Dubious foreign businessmen have long been bankrolling Israeli politics.

Didn't Robert Maxwell earn a state funeral in Jerusalem? Didn't former prime minister Ehud Barak intercede successfully with Bill Clinton on the president's last day in office to secure a pardon for Marc Rich, supposedly the largest tax law flouter in US history?

In some countries the recent deluge of scandalous disclosures might have engendered a "throw out the rascals" response. Here it tends to evoke a shrug of the shoulders.

Two men have benefited from this gloomy antipolitical atmosphere. The first is Sharon who, in spite of everything, still holds a commanding lead in the polls. …

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