So the Ariel Sharon bribery case is alive again – not that it was dead exactly, but we’d managed to stop talking and thinking about it for a few weeks, which was almost as good. Now the police are saying they have new evidence that Sharon and Sons received some $3 million from the Austrian-Jewish Schlaff brothers – who sound like they should be a rather soporific gymnastic act, but are evidently big enough in some sort of business that they can spend several million dollars on a bribe and expect to make a profit on it. Of course, I have no real idea whether the new evidence is all that interesting or convincing; in case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the middle of an election campaign, and the best tactic most of Sharon’s opponents seem to have to attract voters is to raise the possibility that The Big Guy will be running the country from (A) a prison, or (B) the grave. So maybe someone’s manufacturing the story just to hurt Sharon. Maybe it’s all really nothing. Maybe Arik is completely innocent. Maybe the next time I call the TV license office someone will actually answer the phone…
Let’s face it: Most of us do not believe that Ariel Sharon is innocent. The best that even his staunchest partisans can do is to hope that nobody will actually be able to send the guy up the river until after he’s retired from politics. It’s not that we’re stupid, or venal ourselves, or even that we don’t care about corruption in Israeli politics. We do care; it’s just that we don’t have anyone else to vote for.
So what am I, an avowed Ariel Sharon partisan, supposed to do with news like this? Avoid it? Too late. Indulge in denial? Doesn’t work in public; what feels like determined cheerfulness to oneself always seems like determined idiocy to others. Shut up about it? Nice idea, but I can’t – I’m a blogger, after all, and nobody is eager to read a blog composed of knowing – or even non-knowing – silences.
I know – I’ll explain why the Ariel Sharon bribery story is good news!
A Boost to the Economy
Arik Sharon is accused of having received some $4.5 million (two thirds of it evidently from the Schlaffs) in the “Cyril Kern Affair”. This represents a substantial contribution to Israel’s economy and foreign-currency reserves. Israel’s Gross Domestic Product is about $120 billion per year, which means that these alleged bribes constituted almost one twenty-five-thousandth of our economy in the year they were received. Now it’s easy to dismiss one twenty-five-thousandth as a trivial proportion; but after all, how much (on a percentage basis) do you contribute to the Israeli economy in any given year?
Further, these bribes – even if they were never more than a rumor – were a wonderful vote of confidence in the Israeli economy, at a time when we really needed it. Even the most sophisticated businessmen like to run with the herd, and if they start thinking that the smart (or slightly unscrupulous, which amounts to the same thing) money is coming here, they’ll happily follow it with their own. If Ariel Sharon, merely by raking in a few million dollars (most of which he spends to support Israel’s vital meat and snack-food industries, anyway) can encourage massive foreign investment in Israel, I’m all for it. And look! – just a couple of years after Sharon is alleged to have taken these bribes, our economy is in fact recovering from one of its deepest recessions. Post hoc ergo propter hoc for sure, I’d say. (Binyamin Netanyahu takes credit for this as well, of course, with about as much Latin logic. But whom are you going to believe – a current obscure blogger, or an ex-Finance Minister?)
The $4.5 million bribe from Cyril Kern and the Schlaff brothers – if it really was given – wasn’t just a vote of confidence in Israel and its economy. It was a vote of confidence in Ariel Sharon, the man and the national leader. After all, guys like Kern and the Schlaffs didn’t get rich by scattering large bribes all over the place indiscriminately! No, they got rich by (allegedly) scattering large bribes among only the finest, most discriminating, most reliable, and most discrete of national leaders. For Ariel Sharon to be included in this elite group is a great honor for him, for Israel, and for those of us who voted for him.
For those of us with a quantitative outlook on life – and I must admit that I am such a person – it is instructive to look at this alleged bribe as a commodity transaction. Ariel Sharon’s weight was recently reported as being just a bit less than 120 kilograms; I’ll use the latter figure, on the assumption that he ate dinner after the weigh-in. At 31.1035 grams per Troy ounce, Arik weighs some 3858.09 Troy ounces – let’s call it a nice round 3900. Now the market for gold has been exceptionally strong of late; it peaked at just over $540 per Troy ounce about three weeks ago, and is currently trading at between $530 and $535 per ounce. At the latter figure, Ariel Sharon’s weight in gold would be worth some $2,064,076.39; and, of course, gold was considerably cheaper at the time these transactions were initiated. But even with the metal at an almost 25-year high, Ariel Sharon is worth more than twice his weight in gold!
There. I feel much better now.