Arms dealers, major capitalists fund Peres’ 90th birthday bash

Israeli President Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday was the central show aired on all three Israeli TV channels Tuesday night. A look into who paid for the extravagant bash?

Arms dealers, major capitalists fund Peres' 90th birthday bash
President Peres presents the Presidential Award of Distinction to former U.S. President Bill Clinton on the sidelines of Peres’ 90th birthday celebrations, June 19, 2013 (Moshe Milner/GPO)

It was an 11-million shekel production dubbed by many as a “North Korea-style event” for the man who brought ‘The Bomb’ to Israel, tried to offer it to Apartheid South Africa when the rest of the world was already boycotting it, was an active partner in promoting some of Israel’s more aggressive wars and one of the architects of the Israeli neo-liberal economy of privatization. In a film made in honor of the event, Peres was shown accepting the Nobel Prize for Peace – but Yasser Arafat and any mention of Oslo was edited out.

Celebrities of all sorts attended, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who the very next day began meetings with Israeli officials in order to protect Nobel Energy’s interests in Israel’s natural gas finds – in his capacity as a lobbyist for the company.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the funders of this celebration were, among others, big-time arms dealers and local capitalists. Hebrew-language website News1 looked into 10 of the funders listed on the Israeli Presidential Conference’s official website. This is what they found (translation is mine, partly edited based on information from The Real Economy website).

First on the list is local capitalist Ahron Frenkel. Honorary chair of the conference. An international businessman who has brokered military deals for Israel Aerospace Industries and who now owns a company producing military drones and which employs several former IDF officers. Frenkel is a close friend to Peres and other prominent figures in Israeli politics. [Updated December 19, 2019]

The list continues thus:

2. Marcos Katz – Arms dealer residing in Mexico. Brokered sales to dictatorships, amongst other things.

3. Michael Federmann – Major shareholder in Elbit (weapons manufacturer, H.M.).

4. Alfred Akirov – Shareholder in Leumi Bank, one of the most prominent men in Israeli real estate.

5. Ronald Cohen – Founder of Apax Partners. If you don’t know them, they’re behind Tnuva’s cottage cheese prices (one of the symbols of the #J14 social justice protests, H.M.)

6. Marc Rich – In the years 1983-2001, he was wanted in the U.S. after fleeing the country following an indictment for dealing with Iran during a time of sanctions and a $48-million tax evasion scheme. At the Presidential Conference, he’ll meet Bill Clinton, who on his last day of office pardoned Rich at the request of Ehud Barak.

7. David Weisman – Owner of the Alon Group, which includes the Ribua Kakhol and AM:PM supermarket chains.

8. Raya Strauss – One of the owners of the Strauss-Elite group (one of the biggest food producers in Israel, H.M).

9. Hapoalim Bank (the largest bank in Israel).