Former Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak says his ties with Jeffrey Epstein were purely business-related.
Why not believe him that he didn’t participate in any of Epstein’s lust parties? Let’s give Barak the benefit of the doubt that he assumed the sex offenses for which Epstein was convicted in 2007 were minor in nature. After all, wasn’t it former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta who signed the dubious deal that sent Epstein for 13 months to a county jail? And isn’t it that among Epstein’s friends, to mention a few, were also Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew? Are they all now be guilty by association?
Though Israelis, almost all of whom are right-wingers, are now focusing their attacks on Barak’s moral character, the head of the new left-wing party ‘Democratic Israel’ remains resolute, and is now threatening to sue the Daily Mirror for insinuating he participated in Epstein’s parties.
For the populists among Barak’s opponents, the Epstein affair is the kind of juicy gossip just begging to be exploited to damage his chances in the upcoming election.
Those less interested in gossip are trying to figure out the relationship between Barak, Epstein and the Wexner Foundation. Though the ties between the three were published several years ago by Haaretz journalists Tomer Avital and Uri Blau, it became an issue only after right-wing journalist Erel Segal called last October to investigate the $2.3 million “research” grant Barak received from the Wexner Foundation, which has in turn for years been the beneficiary of Epstein’s financial contributions. According to Segal, the grant under question was given to Barak in 2004-2006, when he held no public position. Barak insists he has no authority to disclose details about this grant. Only the Wexner Foundation can, if they so choose (they choose silence).
The Wexner Foundation, established in 1980, is the brainchild of Leslie Wexner, a retailing tycoon, who owns Victoria’s Secrets, among other things. The Foundation’s mission is to cultivate Jewish and Israeli leaders, a worthy cause, or is it?
Specifically, the Wexner Israel Fellowship Program, started in 1989, “annually selects up to 10 outstanding mid-career Israeli public officials to study for a master’s degree in the mid-career program of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. The goal of the fellowship is to provide Israel’s next generation of public leaders with advanced leadership and public management training. By the end of 2018, 260 Israeli public officials will have participated in the Israel Fellowship, including leaders who have gone on to become Directors General of government ministries, Generals and Commanders in the Israeli military and top advisers to Prime Ministers.”
Under this pretense the Wexner Foundation was able to work in Israel without anyone asking any questions about the real agenda behind this exclusive leadership program. Question marks began to appear when the identity of some of the most prominent names of Wexner Israel Fellowship Program graduates began to surface for the first time only in 2016.
In their June 2018 article, published in the news portal Mida, Yossi Ben-Baruch and Ziv Maor wrote that the Wexner leadership training program is “aggressively ideological.” The Wexner graduates, many of whom are senior public servants, claim the authors, are becoming active agents for advancing an American-style progressive agenda in Israel. Mida’s article is based on a report survey conducted by the Lavi organization in 2016, that for the first time exposed some of the graduates’ names, among them Supreme Court Justice Uzi Fogelman, as well as IDF generals like Noam Tibon and current-IDF Chief-of-Staff Aviv Kochavi.
Though not all of Wexner Foundation graduates turn out to be agents of progressivism, Kochavi notwithstanding, and a few might even be right-wingers, the overall picture does substantiate the bottom line proposed by the journalists, that much like the New Israel Fund, the Wexner Foundation is a foreign organ for social change in Israel.
Barak’s connections with shady individuals like Epstein and foreign ideological agents like Wexner don’t bother too much our moral purists, who are now saying out loud that their high moral ground has to give way before their pursuit for political power. And to be fair to our progressives, Barak, as we say here, is careless enough to do from the springboard what others are doing in the water. Or, to put it differently, Barak’s persona is not unique in contemporary Israeli political culture.