The Israel Defense Forces Disabled Veterans Organization has sold for about $3 million a luxury apartment in Paris it received in a bequest to an unlikely buyer — the ermir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The apartment had been left to the otherwise cash-strapped veterans’ organization by a Frenchwoman, Danielle Susan Davis.
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Although Qatar has recently reconciled with more conservative forces in the Arab world, such as the Egyptian government, the sale is particularly surprising considering Qatar’s recent support for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which last summer waged a 50-day war against Israel. In recent years, Qatar has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas, money that in part funded the network of tunnels that Hamas built in Gaza and under the Gaza border into Israel.
The sale of the Paris apartment takes on particular irony in light of last summer’s war, in which 67 Israel Defense Force soldiers were killed and 1,600 wounded. Around 20% of the soldiers injured in the fighting were rendered disabled.
Although the disabled veterans organization, which is also known in English as the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization, claims that the emir of Qatar submitted the highest bid and that all legal formalities were observed, there is no detail supporting this in the minutes of the organization that were obtained by TheMarker. Despite repeated requests, the organization has refused to turn over basic documentation related to the sale that would support the group’s contention that the sale to the Qatari sheikh came after a bidding process in which there were a number of offers.
And for his part, former Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset member Moshe Matalon, who served as the organization’s chairman until 2009, called the receipt of the funds from the emir of Qatar “a total loss of values,” adding that “an apartment that is received from a donor can’t be sold to a country that funds terror in Gaza. ...”
According to the minutes of the October 29 meeting of the organization, which last year had a 30-million-shekel ($7.7 million) deficit, the group’s outside legal counsel, Tamar Haimovich, announced that “an offer to purchase the property in the gross sum of 2.5 million euros (about $3 million) was received (with the real estate commission to be paid by the purchaser” from the emir of Qatar in a cash transaction. The minutes make no mention of other bids.
A month later, on November 25, minutes recount that the organization’s finance director, Moti Rabinovitz, reported that 10 million shekels were to be received shortly from the sale of the Davis apartment. At current exchange rates, 10 million shekels translates into just over 2 million euros. The October minutes stated that the bequest would be exempt from French inheritance taxes so it is not clear how the remaining half million euros is to be accounted for and what attorney’s fees might have been involved.
The Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization said all accepted practices were observed in the handling of the estate including an appraisal and the submission of bids to the executor of the estate. “In the course of the process, an estate tax exemption was provided, an appraiser’s valuation was carried out on the property and ultimately a monetary offer was received that was tens of percentages higher than both the appraisal and any other offer.”
The matter was presented to at least six different board meetings of the organization as the matter progressed, the statement continued. “We stress that the balance of the sale proceeds that have not yet been transferred to the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization have been deposited in accordance with the requirements of French law, in trust, until the matter of the purchase tax is taken care of, and for which an exemption as also been requested.”
“We are proud of any contribution given to the Zahal Disabled Veterans that is devoted to advancing projects for the disabled. This involves an achievement for the IDF Disabled [Veterans] fund, which operates all over the world to raise funds for the benefit of disabled IDF [veterans], including bequests. We are pleased that in this instance, we have maximized the process both in that we have overcome the estate tax obligation and in light of the high monetary offer that received, providing disabled IDF [veterans] hundreds of thousands of euros in additional [funding].”