No. 1 on the Forbes list of wealthy Israeli politicians is Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, a former high-tech executive. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ranked No. 4 in the new ranking by wealth published by Forbes Israel magazine. But at a personal financial worth of 42 million shekels (nearly $11 million), the prime minister is wealthier than United States President Barack Obama, whose latest financial disclosure statement puts him in the $2 million to $7 million range.
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In addition to Netanyahu’s private home in the Mediterranean coastal town of Caesarea and the private apartment that he owns in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood, which are valued together at about 25 million shekels, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, have a partial interest with a combined estimated value of 3 to 4 million shekels from inheritances. That brings the couple’s real estate holdings to 28 to 29 million shekels.
One of the inheritance interests is a private home in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem with an estimated value of at least 4 million shekels that was the residence of the prime minister’s father, Benzion. It is thought that the only two heirs of the house are the prime minister and his brother, Iddo. A publication ban has been imposed on information pertaining to inheritance of a home owned by Sara Netanyahu’s late father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood that is thought to be worth at least 1.8 million to 2 million shekels.
The prime minister made most of his fortune from the appreciation in the value of real estate that he owns. There was also the period between 1999 and 2002 when he took a time-out from politics after losing the prime minister’s position to Ehud Barak, that he was a sought-after public speaker. Netanyahu reportedly commanded about 50,000 shekels per speech during that time.
Jerusalem Mayor Barkat’s estimated fortune of 450 million shekels is what places him top of the Forbes list. In 1988 Barkat, his brother Eli, Yuval Rakavy and Omri Mann established BRM, a company reflecting their initials that was one of the first in the world to develop anti-virus software. Over the years, the company spawned others in the Israeli high-tech sector in which it invested, including Check Point Technologies and BackWeb. The current Jerusalem mayor, who lives in a large house in the capital’s Beit Hakerem neighborhood, served as chairman of the companies during the initial years. The investment in Check Point yielded a profit of hundreds of millions of shekels.
Zionist Union Knesset member Erel Margalit, a former venture capitalist, is ranked No. 2, with a personal wealth estimated at 220 million shekels. He was founder and chairman of Jerusalem Venture Partners, which manages assets of more than $900 million invested in Israeli and foreign startups. He lives in Jerusalem’s Ein Karem neighborhood.
Interior Minister Silvan Shalom is No. 3 on the list of wealthy politicians, at about 150 million shekels, mostly due to the shares of the newspaper publishing group Yedioth Ahronoth held by his wife, Judy Nir Mozes. The family lives in Judy Nir Mozes’ childhood home in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. The house is thought to be worth about 8 million shekels.
Rounding out the top five on the list is Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the Habayit Hayehudi party, who is himself a former high-tech executive. His wealth is estimated at 30 million shekels. He co-founded the anti-fraud firm Cyota, which was ultimately sold to RSA Security.