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Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 15:40 GMT
Israeli media vents fury at Likud
Ariel Sharon and the Likud party
Corruption allegations have surfaced against Ariel Sharon's Likud party
The news that Israel's National Fraud Squad is investigating alleged bribery in the Likud party during last week's internal elections has unleashed anger across the Israeli media.

The internal elections were held to select Likud's candidates for the Israeli general elections in January 2003. Since then several party members have come forward claiming that Likud Central Committee members were bribed to vote for certain candidates.

Organised crime has spawned a political wing and is penetrating the government echelons

Ha'aretz

Commentators are aghast at what they perceive as the level of corruption in Israeli politics, and there are allegations that organized crime has permeated the party.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's leadership also comes in for fierce criticism.

Degrees of corruption

"The Likud Centre does not own the copyrights on corruption in Israeli politics," says a Ma'ariv commentator. "Corruption existed in another era and another place."

But what enrages him is that "the Likud centre has turned corruption from a partial phenomenon into a total epidemic".

"What is infuriating is that the dimension of corruption in the Likud has reached an extent liable to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the government to be formed by the biggest party," he adds.

The chilling aspect is that the sense of shame was lost

Ma'ariv

The liberal daily Ha'aretz wonders how "the suspicion of electoral corruption" in the Likud will affect Mr Sharon's political prospects.

"Two of the biggest upsets in this country," the paper reminds its readers, "the fall of Labour in 1977 and [Binyamin] Netanyahu's defeat in 1992 - were a response to political corruption."

In contrast, a commentator in the conservative Jerusalem Post plays down Likud's culpability. "Although it seems that the corruption in the nominating process was larger in the Likud than in any other party, very few [selection] lists are clear of any wrongdoing."

According to AFP news agency, Likud is not alone. On Monday, the agency said, Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein authorised a corruption probe into the Labour Party's internal elections.

'Organized crime'

The concern that criminals are active in the body politic is evident across the media spectrum.

"Organised crime has spawned a political wing and is penetrating the government echelons," warns a Ha'aretz commentator.

Sharon knows how to satisfy the cravings of a large public that wants to be duped. And duped they are

Ha'aretz

"It is literally taking the law into its own hands... very few organs of power [have] remained outside the control of crime."

"Never before," says another Jerusalem Post commentator, "have such overtly criminal and unsavoury elements dared to involve themselves so openly in choosing a ruling party's list of candidates."

Ma'ariv's commentator claims that "in three cases, the underworld penetrated the Likud's Knesset faction".

"The chilling aspect is that the sense of shame was lost," he laments.

Sharon under fire

Mr Sharon's leadership comes under attack in several papers.

Sharon... is a man without limits

Yedi'ot Aharonot

"Whatever troubles we may have, economic or military, none of it has anything to do with Sharon's failed leadership," says a sarcastic piece in Ha'aretz. "It's all because of terror, the Arabs, the Labour Party, the leftists, the hostile media."

"Sharon knows how to satisfy the cravings of a large public that wants to be duped," it says. "And duped they are."

"Sharon... is a man without limits," says a commentator in Yedi'ot Aharonot, Israel's largest circulation daily, "running a state without boundaries, in a way that knows no bounds."

"[Sharon's] lack of self-restraint is damning evidence of a weakness that will try to mould a whole country in its defective image," it warns.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

16 Dec 02 | Middle East
28 Nov 02 | Middle East
28 Nov 02 | Middle East
21 Nov 02 | profiles
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