The Connection Between Peres and Netanyahu

Tainted by the Bank Hapoalim affair, Shimon Peres must decide whether he is with us or those who rob us.

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Shimon PeresCredit: Olivier Fitoussi
Yossi Sarid

Shimon Peres doesn’t understand what people want from him. After all, everyone knows he’s not concerned with material goods or advancing his career. He is motivated purely by a vision and lofty spiritual considerations. He didn’t cancel his ties with Bank Hapoalim [in which he would have been paid $30,000 a month for lectures that would have promoted the bank’s business overseas] because the link is tainted, but because his feelings were hurt: Malicious people presented his good intentions as something that is not done.

When he left the President’s Residence 10 months ago, Israel’s ninth president decided to seek full employment – after all, a person of his stature can’t just sit at home idling. He’s full of energy and time is running out – if Peres doesn’t pursue peace, who will?

This decision should be respected, but one must always be wary of the rich and their enticements. Peres never was a cautious man, and there are precedents for his missteps. Two years ago, this column was stunned to learn that the Jewish National Fund was paying Bill Clinton $500,000 for a lecture at the Peres Academic Center. At the time, it was said that “Shimon didn’t know.” This time, no one told him that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating Bank Hapoalim for its alleged role in aiding tax evasion. Shimon has a natural talent when it comes to devotion to his native land – he flies high in-between his much-celebrated birthdays.

All that glitters is not gold, as every child knows. But the weakness of Israel’s most senior politician for global and Peres-embracing, glittering events is also well-known. Tell us who your friends are and we’ll say: Not everything Bill and Hillary allow themselves is permitted for you as well; self-righteous wishes do not always cleanse stains.

Another friend, Tony Blair, is also not worthy of emulation. He, too, is devoted to peace in the region, just like Peres. But in his abundant free time, he looks after himself, engaging in some very lucrative and questionable dealings. Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor, is now working for Vladimir Putin. All of them are paid “door-openers” who forgot to shut the door when they left office, leaving us to catch a cold.

But why should we seek testimony from afar when we can search closer to home? A riddle: What’s the connection between Peres, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu? All three were born without that healthy instinct in which one puts one’s hand in one’s own pocket, pulling out bills and coins to pay for products and services. All three have a guiding principle in life: when it comes to choosing between their own money and ours, they always pick ours.

It’s unseemly for Peres to appear in their company. They represent a generation that grabs, eats and drinks as if there were no tomorrow. But he is a man of the future – tomorrow’s man.

Peres always was surrounded by donors, and donations are the root of all evil. There are no free meals shared by politicians and plutocrats; they are always at our expense. Someone who hasn’t been a “private” citizen for the last 70 years and who received payment from the public purse – from which he continues to draw – cannot plead for privacy in his remaining years. He has lost his right for a discretion that overrides the need for full disclosure.

It would be better for this lofty person to come down to the level of the ordinary person, to utilize his legendary vigor and excellent health and perform some good deeds. Maybe he can restore the glory of pioneer-style volunteering to what it was in the days of Ben-Gurion. Everyone has his own Sde Boker lurking somewhere.

But Peres’ needs are plentiful, driving him on: “There is a group of people who were with him over the years, and it was impossible to budget [for] them ... these funds pay for his team, which accompanies him on all his trips,” explained his son, Chemi Peres, to TheMarker this week.

“How much longer?” Peres’ late wife, Sonia, used to ask. Maybe it’s time for some active rest for the weary? Maybe at 91 Peres should decide: Is he with us or with those who rob us? The one who coined the phrase “swinish capitalism” back in 2004 when he was an MK should not dwell in the same pen as the pig.

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