Buffett Teaches a Lesson

Apparently Buffett is completely crazy: Not only did he donate $30 billion, he donated it to a foundation that did not belong to him.

In the course of my political life, I didn't have any rich friends. They didn't seek my company, and I didn't seek theirs; they didn't invest in me, and I didn't invest in them, and we all knew why. The loss is all mine, of course, whereas they didn't lose anything, because they had nothing to gain in the first place.

The friendship of millionaires and billionaires with politicians has strings attached; it is usually a friendship based on interests - unless they were classmates in first grade and have been inseparable ever since. They decided on their interests, I decided on mine, and we therefore didn't wind up being pals.

But it's not only a matter of interests, it's also a matter of personal taste. Using an unfair generalization, I will say that I don't like Israeli billionaires; they aren't nice. I have never felt that they had any real commitment to society and its problems. Although one can with difficulty find some positive exceptions, these are few and far between. An underprivileged child can count them, and while they do their duty, they don't always go beyond that.

Everything I have felt towards them, I now know for sure: Warren Buffett taught me to know. The second-richest man in the world has decided to donate $30 billion to the richest man in the world - to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This sum constitutes about 80 percent of his vast wealth, and he is also bequeathing the rest of his money to other humanitarian funds.

Buffett and Gates have often declared that they consider this their debt to everyone in the world, and they are determined to pay it back: The community of mankind has given to them, the community of mankind will receive from them, so that the future of mankind may be less cursed and more blessed. The two have decided to save the inhabitants of the planet, those who live in its back alleys, from terrible infectious plagues and from malignant ignorance, which is also a plague.

The two men - as they have long been saying - do not believe in heredity and in inheritance. More than owing their heirs, they owe all those who have made them wealthy. And it is the poor who enrich the wealthy, for the most part.

Israeli billionaires in general and bankers, in particular, who live and get fat off the service charges paid by working people, think otherwise. They treat our money as though it were money they brought with them from home and with which they are allowed to do whatever they wish. Public relations man Rani Rahav can publish the acts of loving-kindness and mercy and the overt giving of his clients - the vultures, on a daily basis, but he will be unable to conceal the fact that the gift is small, an insignificant percentage of their capital, and usually fractions of a percent.

Guy Rolnik wrote in TheMarker about a year ago: "Many millionaires who excel in distributing donations to the needy, to hospitals and to social institutions - have deprived the state coffers of hundreds of millions of shekels with the money that they conceal from the treasury." And turning to those outstanding donors he added: "Do not try to clear your conscience or to polish your image with a little money that you throw at fundraising cocktail parties."

Apparently Buffett is completely crazy: Not only did he donate $30 billion, he donated it to a foundation that did not belong to him. Not only does the foundation belong to a friend and his wife, he didn't even ask to have his name added to it. Not only did he not add his name to the foundation, he insisted that none of its enterprises be named after him. Bill and Melinda were forced to plead with him, until he agreed to serve as a rank-and-file member of the board of trustees. I must confess - Buffett has succeeded in confusing the enemy: me.

I recently read that Angelina Jolie, who is neither Gates nor Buffett, but nevertheless manages to make ends meet somehow, also donates 30 percent of her income to charity: "I have a stupid income for what I do," she explained. Doesn't Shari Arison, for example, want to act like a movie star?

I am not a big fan of charitable contributions, which are sometimes similar to donations and cover for crimes by countries against their citizens: Let donors and volunteers do what weak or corrupt governments do not do. They won't do it, because there are not many Buffetts, and even all the Buffetts in the world won't meet the basic needs. But if we are already in need of the generosity of billionaires - mainly in Africa and in all the Africas in the universe - then better a Buffett like that than a Sami Ofer like that.

Ofer, with his great generosity, planned to donate $20 million to construct the new wing of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. In return for the donation, the too-famous benefactor demanded that the entire museum be named after him and his wife. When he encountered widespread public protest, he cancelled his donation. "Excuse us for wanting to donate," he wrote. "Instead of being grateful to us, they condemned us."

Maybe now Ofer will take an example from Buffett, follow in his footsteps, and give back his donation anonymously: Doesn't the second-richest man in Israel want to be like the second-richest man in the world?