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Sharon's "I am not a crook" Speech - TEXT

01/12/2003

Following revelations of probable "irregularities" in his campaign financing, Israeli PM Ariel Sharon gave a press conference in the familiar tradition established by Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. We have heard, "I am not a crook" "I did not have sex with that woman" and now we have "despicable plot to usurp the government." The press conference itself was ruled to violate Israeli election law by Judge Cheshin, who ordered the broadcast stopped in the middle. Sharon offered no substantive explanations of the charges against him and his behavior.

Sharon Accuses Labor Party of 'Despicable Conspiracy'

Press conference by Prime Minister Ari'el Sharon at
the prime minister's bureau in Jerusalem carried on Israeli TV and "Reshet Bet" radio.
Jan 9. 03

[Sharon] Good evening. I came here this
evening in order to confront the despicable conspiracy that
was hatched against me and the Likud with but one aim:
To usurp the Israeli Government and to assume power
through slander and deceit. Let me describe to you
the sequence of events over the recent months.

Approximately two months ago, the Labor Party
decided because of its own internal political
considerations to drag the entire country into an
election campaign. Already at that time, I said that
the elections were unnecessary and that the Labor
Party's behavior -- in the midst of a struggle against
terrorism and on the eve of a possible war in Iraq --
is reckless and irresponsible. I must confess that
even I never imagined how reckless and irresponsible
the Labor Party's behavior could prove to be. Let me
give you an example. A few weeks ago, I visited the
IDF's Home Front Command in order to check its
readiness and preparedness prior to a possible attack
on the residents of Israel. We all know that there
is the threat of a war in Iraq. The risk of Israel
being attacked is not large, but it exists.
Therefore, preparations must be made in order to
provide the residents of Israel with the best possible
defense. Every child understands that. Everyone
but the Labor Party, its supporters, and all those who
help it.

This responsibility ultimately rests on my
shoulders. I am the prime minister and I bear
supreme responsibility for defending the Israeli
public. And I supervise and inspect the whole issue
of our readiness and preparations, sometimes holding
surprise visits. That is what I do, and I would be
betraying my duty were I to do otherwise. And here
comes the Labor Party, along with all its supporters,
and starts to attack me personally and to portray our
preparations for the war as an election gimmick. As
though there is no crisis in Iraq. As though the
entire world is not preparing for war. As though we
have not been already attacked in the past by missiles
from Iraq when all the experts at the time were saying
that it wouldn't happen. It happened in the past,
and we must be ready. But the Labor Party doesn't
think so. The only thing on their minds are the
elections. The entire world revolves around them and
their chances of seizing the reigns of power. That
is what they think, or at least that is what they
sound like.

Such behavior, coming at the expense of those
things we hold most sacred, is shameful. Moreover,
such behavior is also reckless and irresponsible.
This is but an example that sheds light on all that
has been happening here in recent weeks. First of
all, they declared open season on the Likud Party and
tried to besmirch an entire movement and all of its
elected officials down to the very last one of them.
They tried to turn all of us into the mafia and
organized crime. All this out of political motives.

You can compare between the way I acted in this
affair and Amram Mitzna's behavior. After all, very
grave patterns of behavior were discovered in the
Labor Party. Election fraud, disappearing ballot
boxes, and the purchasing of slots on the Knesset
list. The Israel Police is investigating.
Indictments have been submitted. There were illegal
appointments, cases of perjury, everything. Mitzna
himself was investigated by the police with regard to
two corruption affairs, and his exploits and failure
to uphold public ethics are legendary, as are his ties
with building contractors and money barons in Haifa.
I took immediate action but Mitzna did nothing.

I immediately announced that I would expel from
the Likud and government anyone found to be wrongfully
elected. And that is what I did. Mitzna did zilch,
absolutely nothing. I appointed a committee to amend
the loopholes in our democratic process and adopted
the committee's recommendations. Mitzna did nothing
when grave evidence of fraud was discovered in the
primaries carried out by his party under his
leadership. He did nothing, nor will he do anything
in future.

Mitzna and the media that are associated with him have no
interest in ethics. They only care about the Likud.
They don't care about corruption. They are only
interested in the Likud. All this has hurt the
Likud. Nevertheless, the Labor Party remained stuck
and Mitzna failed to take off. So they moved on to
the next stage, and tried to hurt me through my sons.
They took Omri, whose only sin was in coming to help
me as prime minister, and tried to portray him as
organized crime. When this didn't work, they tried
to find some alleged affair involving some Greek
island and forcibly link it to my other son, Gil'ad.
Let it be clear, this is an old affair that has been
gathering dust for years. It has nothing to do with
me. My son Gil'ad was never asked a single question
about it by the authorities, nor was he ever asked to
provide an affidavit. Some journalist comes along
and prints some gossip, and the Labor Party
immediately jumps on the bandwagon. Gil'ad, who is
an economist by profession, did some economic
research. What is that? Corruption? Gil'ad was
paid for his work. That is what people are
describing as the mafia. Let me ask you something:
Have you gone mad? Are you insane?

And once again, it didn't help. Mitzna was still
stuck in the polls and couldn't gather steam. The
scent of power was still so far from their nostrils.
There was nothing else to do but to proceed to the
next stage. Someone, whose identity is being
investigated now at the orders of the attorney
general, leaked a document full of gossip and lies
about Gil'ad's business dealings which are ostensibly
connected to me. Let me tell you the precise facts.
More than a year ago, the state comptroller
discovered that contributions had illegally been made
and informed me of this. I was amazed by these
findings. I went home to the ranch and spoke to my
sons. I told them on my own initiative that all the
money must be immediately returned to the donors
without any delay, and that even if we had to mortgage
the ranch and our home a second time, it must be done.
To the best of my knowledge, I am the only one to do
so and return the money. Baraq hasn't done so until
this very day. Nor has Mitzna done so in the case of
his non-profit society, despite being demanded to do
so. I am the only person to return the money on my
own initiative without being compelled to do so. The
state comptroller didn't ask me to return the money.
When I heard that the scope of contributions that had
been collected was beyond what was allowed, I decided
to return all the money on my own initiative.

Now we are talking about a large sum of money,
almost 5 million shekels, and I, after all, have no
financial means. Already in 1989, I divested myself
of all responsibility for managing the ranch, and even
before that it was run by someone else while my sons
were in the army, as required by law. When my sons
completed their military service, they assumed
responsibility for managing the ranch, along with
their other business dealings. Today, Gi'lad
successfully manages the ranch, and I am not involved,
as mandated by the law. I took the savings
accumulated by my late wife Lili, my she rest in
peace, and myself, and transferred 500,000 shekels,
leaving me 250,000 shekels in overdraft at the bank.
Gil'ad took it upon himself to come up with the rest
of the money. And a short time later, he gave me the
remainder of the sum, a little more than 4 million
shekels, and I returned all the money to the donors
and notified the state comptroller that I had done so.
I didn't wait until all the money had been
collected. I immediately transferred the 500,000
shekels that my wife Lili and myself had saved. I
did this first thing so that it would be clear to
everyone that I indeed intended -- contrary to all the
others -- to return the money. As far as I was
concerned, that was the end of the affair.

Let me state here clearly that I didn't know
exactly how the money was collected. We spoke about
mortgaging the ranch and to the best of my knowledge,
that was indeed done at the time. When I was asked
about it by the police that is what I said. I told
them that I didn't know exactly, that my sons had
handled the matter, and that to the best of my
knowledge the ranch was mortgaged. If it later
transpired that another way had been found, then that
is all to the better. My son Gil'ad is a very
successful businessmen with wide-ranging business
interests. He is successful and makes a lot of
money. I am very proud of him. I know that
everything is carried out in a honest and legal
manner. I know that everything is done and reported
on properly. He has documents that prove everything.
The important and relevant documents pertaining to
the loan were presented to the public at a news
conference.

Incidentally, the full version presented by the
Ha'aretz newspaper, which started all these reports,
did not publish our replies in full. The paper has
an important responsibility to present all the facts.
Ha'aretz, however, decided to act differently because
otherwise what would happen to the scandal. After
all, those whose are responsible for leaking and
inflating and celebrating over this story didn't do it
in order to find out the truth. There are far
simpler ways to discover the truth. One asks
questions, gets answers, and examines documents. But
you yourselves know very well that there is no scandal
in doing that. That can't be exploited for political
gain. You can't topple a government that way. So
one fabricates, tells lies, inflates gossip, and deals
in deceit. Take for example the story of my friend
Cyril Kern, who as a young man a little older than 17
came to Israel as a young volunteer from Britain. He
was born in the United Kingdom and is a British
citizen. He came here to fight alongside is in the
War of Independence. He risked his life during the
most difficult times that the state of Israel has ever
experienced. I served together with him for a long
period during the War of Independence. We have been
friends for years and decades, ever since we left the
battlefield. We celebrate holidays today. He has
known my sons ever since their birth. He is my
lifelong companion. He never asked me for anything
and never received anything. He has no business
dealings in Israel, nor has he ever had any. And to
tell you the truth, seeing as he has already reached
the age of 73, I don't think he'll have any in the
future. But he loves us, he loves Israel and the
Israeli people, and yes, we are friends. This is a
friendship that has lasted for dozens of years.
Incidentally, during the 1967 war, he returned to
Israel....
[At this point, the announcer stated that the broadcast was
being stopped by the Central Election Committee]

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by Ami Isseroff @ 02:12 PM CST [Link]

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