Peres Cancels Lucrative Hapoalim Bank Contract: I Would Never Do Anything That Even Smells of Money
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres canceled a lucrative bank contract he held with Bank Hapoalim after media outlets reported that he was earning $30,000 a month from the deal.
At first, Peres had defended the arrangement. “I do not earn a single penny from the contract, because I do not take a single penny from that money,” Peres told Channel 2 News’ Yonit Levy, during a special interview for Israel’s Independence Day.
Instead of taking the money himself, Peres said he invested the money in science and social services.
“And I make a point out of doing that,” he said.
“I would never do anything that even has the smell of money. I am surprised that I am even being asked about this, and I think this is a proper service. I am not a lobbyist at all,” he said.
Peres said he did not think that the issue warranted a controversy, but one day after his interview with Levi, public criticism escalated. He asked Channel 2 for a follow-up interview so he could announce his decision to cancel the contract.
When asked what convinced him to cancel the deal, the former president responded, “What we have agreed to, and what was published, there was no connection between the two. Bank HaPoalim turned to me and told me they had a branch in the United States, and they want to bring more investors to Israel, and that I would help them to do this in the United States, and what would be done with the bank would be done without any connection to the State of Israel. I agreed,” he explained.
After that, Peres said, he read a newspaper story that was completely inaccurate and disconnected from the reality of the deal. “I’m not going to argue. I decided, since for me this is truly not a money issue, but a public issue, and it is important for me to maintain public confidence, that I would cancel the contract and that the issue would be over.” Peres stressed that he does not think that he was doing anything wrong, and that is not why he canceled the contract. Instead, he said he took that action to “prevent [the talk] of loose lips or improper appearances.”
Peres said he wanted this point to be “absolutely clear. I have always been cautious in this regard, my entire life, and I do not want anyone tarnishing me with an untrue report.”
When he was asked about how Bank HaPoalim felt about him canceling the contract, the former president responded, “Of course they feel like they were hurt, and I did not want to cause them any harm. However, I told them – I personally don’t have a bank, I have a name, and my good name is the only bank that I have.”