Corrupting the peace? Israel’s richest politicians put their Shekels on the table

Published September 16th, 2013 - 12:27 GMT

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Nir Barakat
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Image 1 of 10: Nir Barakat tops Forbes' list with an estimated net wealth of NIS 450 million ($122 mn), which amounts to more than the combined value of the next three politicians on the list. With this heavy checkbook, altruist Barakat now works for free as the Mayor of Jerusalem!

Erel Margalit
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Image 1 of 10: Lefty logic? Erel Margalit has a doctorate in philosophy and logic from Columbia University, but made his fortune the good old fashioned way. Named the best venture capitalist in Israel, this is only the tip of Margalit’s iceberg of accolades. Minister Margalit has a fortune of NIS 220 million ($60 mn) and the kudos of a Labour seat at Knesset.

Silvan Shalom
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Image 1 of 10: Behind every successful man: Silvan Shalom’s background offers no business leads to explain away his ranking 3rd wealthiest politician in Israel. His digits? NIS 150 mn ($40 mn). Before politics, Shalom reported for the now-defunct Hadashot. His wife, media mogul Judy Nir-Mozes, hails from money, with shares of Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

Yair Shamir
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Image 1 of 10: After a stint in the IDF, Yair Shamir wasted no time heading up as many corporations and venture capital funds as he could get his financial fingers on. With a bankroll of NIS 65 million ($17 mn), he has been working pro bono for the Israel Aerospace Industries for 6 years. His leap into space aside, his sources of wealth are grounded.

Meir Sheetrit
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Image 1 of 10: Another one for the Mrs: Meir Sheetrit's MA in Public Policy paid off with a portfolio of assorted ministries -- of finance, justice, transport, education, culture & sport. Rich-pickings, but how did this policy-guru earn his spot top of the rich charts? Fingers have pointed at the corporate wife Ruthie, owner & CEO of Sheetrit Media Group.

Netanyahu
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Image 1 of 10: It pays to talk! The gift of the gab and carry-on soapbox work wonders for hawkish politician & public speaker extraordinaire, Bibi Netanyahu. Israel's PM made a fast buck on the lecture marathon he took on political sabbatical between 1999-2002. He reportedly raked in NIS 50,000 (around $14,000) per speech, putting his money where his mouth is!

Naftali Bennett
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Image 1 of 10: Living on a prayer: Naftali Bennett conquered the American dream before occupying his Aliyah! He moved to the U.S. to build a silicone software career and 'entrepreneured' his way to his own anti-fraud software company that sold for $145 mn. Bennet (and wife) got their piece of the pie in Israel: he went political and the wife turned pastry chef.

Yair Lapid no armchair activist!
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Image 1 of 10: Whopping wastas: From high-school drop-out to political stardom via small screen hot-shot news anchor and movie star, Yair Lapid's good looks seemed to land him everything but the doctorate he coveted - Lapid got a university department shut down for being too 'lax'. Still the Israeli government took him on as Finance minister.

Isaac Herzog
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Image 1 of 10: A gay fortune! Isaac Herzog comes from a mini political dynasty -- tied to father and ex-president Chiam Herzog -- that propelled him into the heart of Israel's corridors of power. Four ministerial posts and a seat in Knesset in the bag, Herzog Junior fanned a media storm for his recent attempt to pass laws permitting gay couples to adopt!

Yaakov Perry
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Image 1 of 10: Yaakov Perry took the political route first, later winding up in business. Head of Israel’s internal security Shin Bet, he cut his political run short after 'Oslo' for Harvard. He returned as CEO of Israel’s largest telecommunications firm, Cellcom, which in turn landed him the Technology Ministry. Power and the money, money and the power!

As John Kerry forays further and further into Middle Eastern crisis -- looking to set things right in Syria and Palestine/ Israel, no less, and only in the capital of disputed territory, Jerusalem, this week -- we look at some of his potential partners in peace on the Israeli side of the field. Who are the newer and ‘fatter’ figures in the Israeli halls of power? Or are the political kingpins of the Jewish state still thick on the older guard of re-shuffled ‘war-criminals’ (Arab dictator style) from ancient battles?

Where is that female touch? Or are Israel’s female brigade busy lending the IDF’s front line the sex-factor?

Israel might set itself apart from its Arab neighbors in as many ways as you can skin a cat, but it plays no exception to brokering the marriage between money and power, wherein business and politics share a bed. Last week, the Hebrew edition of Forbes magazine exposed Israel’s richest politicians in an index to get the wealth vultures and voyeurs’ tongues’ vibrating.

Forbes’ ‘over-share’ of Israel’s political fat-cats came complete with controversy. Among the flashy short-listed guilty of glorifying themselves as champions of the middle class was Yair Lapid, who upon winning elections on his “middle class” platform, left a legacy of cutting child welfare benefits.

For a state boasting gender equality and democratic ideals in a sea of rising Islamism and un-stymied dictatorship, “Forbes Israel” list is acutely devoid of women and sometimes of merit. Still, two flush fellows featured did acquire their bounties with a little help from their ladies: The Minister of Energy and Water Resources Silvan Shalom and MK Meri Sheetrit of the Hatnua party, and a third thanks to his daddy ex-President: Isaac Herzog.

Perhaps when it comes to money, power, and women Israel has a more ‘Middle Eastern’ flavor than the world would prefer to think.  

Will John Kerry be doing business with these Israeli tycoons and power houses? A run-down of Israel’s richest politicians according to Forbes.

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