Israel’s Bank Hapoalim denies putting ‘Peres & Associates’ on monthly retainer of $30,000 is aimed to help block projected government reforms.
• Peres’ company says revenues generated “goes to philanthropic & social projects, and to charity.”
By Hezi Sternlicht, Zeev Klein, and Israel Hayom Staff
Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, has retained the services of former President Shimon Peres to promote some of its business interests, the financial daily The Marker reported Monday.
According to the report, the bank pays Peres and Associates, a company owned by the former president and managed by his son, Chemi Peres, a monthly retainer of $30,000 in consulting fees.
Peres and Associates routinely provides consulting services for foreign companies seeking business opportunities in Israel and the Middle East, and for Israeli companies seeking to promote their business interests overseas.
The report hedged that Peres was contracted by Bank Hapoalim to assist it in dealing with a future banking system reform, which Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon said he would promote once he is named finance minister.
An adviser to the former president said in a statement that Peres’ contract with the bank “is based only on promoting the bank’s businesses overseas and Peres does not intend to deal with any matter related to the bank in Israel, [such as] legislation or lobbying.”
Peres and Associates said in a statement that the funds were earmarked for philanthropic work and charity, adding that the company has been employing consultants who are close to Peres since his days in office. The company stressed that neither the former president nor his son were paid by Bank Hapoalim, and that “Shimon Peres does not work with any of the banks in Israel.”
Bank Hapoalim declined to comment on the report, but according to Channel 10 News, the retainer paid to Peres’ company was classified as funds earmarked for “a project to promote peace.”
Sources familiar with the issue told Israel Hayom the former president “does not pocket one shekel and if [the company] generates any revenue it goes to philanthropic and social projects, and to charity.”
Bank Hapoalim did however confirm that Peres will be the guest of honor at an event is it hosting in New York next week. Some 700 of the bank’s American clients are expected to attend the event, which will be held at the American Museum of Natural History, and whose production is believes to have cost the bank some $1.5 million. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will also be one of the event’s guests of honor.
News of the retainer paid to Peres irked officials across the political spectrum.
“Some former presidents are busy with global warming, world peace, and helping underprivileged population, but [Peres] has chosen to help Bank Hapoalim, on retainer,” Likud MK Miri Regev wrote in a post on her Facebook page.
“Funny how someone who spends millions on birthday celebrations and whose services are contracted by a bank calls [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s policies ‘hoggish capitalism,'” the post read.
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich tweeted, “I knew he loves honor, apparently money as well. Unnecessary, bizarre, annoying, embarrassing. Talking about peace and money.”
Attorney Eldad Yaniv, who failed to be elected to the Zionist Union’s Knesset roster prior to the March 17 election, tweeted, “Peres, resume lobbying for the people.”
Dani Dayan, formerly head of the Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, also denounced the move, tweeting, “As usual I denounce this price-tag act, this time by Shimon Peres.”
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=24959