Yossi Beilin, from peace activist to businessman
And so, if you, too, have despaired of the whole peace thing and you're interested in the agriculture business, give him a call. Yossi Beilink, that's the name now.
Yossi Beilin still wears a black suit and a red tie. In the photograph accompanying the interview in the Hebrew edition of MarkerWeek on June 9, we could see Beilin's hair was still carefully styled, his hands clapsed as a sign of restraint. His statements are as eloquent as always, linked by infinitely passionate logic.
The photograph revealed the essential backdrop - an overflowing bookshelf as befitting an intellectual. At least three of the titles, the picture showed, pertained to his spiritual grandfather, David Ben-Gurion. Also in the shot were another book, bound in purple and displaying the word, "hope," in big letters, a small sculpture of a scale and another of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker, and two red notebooks stuffed with documents.
Yes, it looks more or less like the same old Beilin, the one from the peace business.
But Beilin is no longer in the peace business. He has replaced peace with agriculture, water and domestic security - and, to a lesser extent, health too. He has established Beilink, a company that promotes private firms in foreign countries, a kind of a "foreign ministry for business."
The method is simple: "I know what the Foreign Ministry is and is not allowed to give." Beilin provides what the Foreign Ministry cannot.
He does so by means of the political connections he wove over the years. He cooperates with a worldwide network of former senior politicians, the good folk from the peace business - Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, Joschka Fischer, Igor Ivanov, Bernard Kouchner. "No one will ever demand that a person erase his connections," Beilin says. "Am I a baby who has nothing and is just beginning to travel the world?"
He certainly is no baby. He is 63 years old, and after decades in one position, he has the right to hold another, more profitable one. And Beilin is indeed pleased with his career change. "I don't miss the world of politics," he says. "When I was there, I felt almost as if I was doing a shift."
If so, the shift is over.
The original objects of Beilin's passions have found themselves suitable replacements. The satisfaction he derived from the possibility of making peace in a blood-soaked region is now derived from "giving clients in Israel experience and connections with entities abroad."
He has substituted the Geneva Initiative with a joint initiative with former MK Rafi Elul to promote agricultural businesses in Arab countries; the spark that burned in him when he put together the "Beilin-Abu Mazen understandings" now does so when his company helps an Indian get a loan from a certain European country; his inexhaustible subversiveness on the way to the end of the conflict has been exchanged for the aspiration to connect Israelis to profit-making real estate across the sea.
"The field is so varied that it drives me out of my mind," Beilin says with pleasure.
Of course, Beilin, like any careful craftsman, "takes only what interests me, that is a challenge and of whose value I'm certain." He has his red lines, and naturally, they all touch on the moral realm. "We will never deal in offensive weaponry... We will not make deals with pariah countries... We will not accept unethical payments."
He looks well, Beilin does. Still in his black suit and red tie. Still carefully coiffed. Still with his fluent text, his clapsed hands and his restrained tone. Still with Madeleine Albright and Joschka Fischer. Still a kind of foreign minister, albeit somewhat differently so.
And so, if you, too, have despaired of the whole peace thing and you're interested in the agriculture business, give him a call. Yossi Beilink, that's the name now. It's written the same way - only with an invoice at the end.