S. Daniel Abraham, founder of the Slimfast diet product company, which he sold for $2.3-billion to Unilever, has led a colorful life in the entourage of Ehud Olmert. The former prime minister was recently convicted of taking bribes in the Holyland development case. Back in 2008, Olmert fundraiser-bag man, Morris Talansky “sang” to Israeli police about the ways, dates and times he brought his bounty to the Israeli prime minister. At least some of those songs he sang had the name “Abraham” prominently displayed in the lyrics.
In one case described on Israeli TV news and recounted by ABC, a limo driver hired by Abraham brought Slimfast boxes filled with cash to Olmert’s New York hotel suite, which Talansky delivered to the prime minister. Israel’s News1 writes (Hebrew) that Abraham also bought Olmert’s Jerusalem home for an exorbitant amount and then rented it back to the former PM for a deflated amount. The arrangement was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Olmert. In most circles that’s a sweetheart deal that raises huge red flags.
Abraham kept the cash spigot open for former Olmert confidant, Shula Zaken, as well. She was the latter’s former personal assistant and a key aide and conduit for many of Olmert’s corrupt schemes. Until recently, Zaken had stood by Olmert’s side and refused to roll over on him. She would not testify against him no matter what was offered.
But in the past month, as the chance that Olmert would be convicted (and her along with him) became more real, she reconsidered. She offered to testify, but her testimony wasn’t required before the guilty verdict wasn’t offered. The judge is now considering whether to allow her to testify against her former boss. News1 reports that she will testify that at least two Olmert “benefactors,” one of whom was Abraham, passed cash to her via Olmert’s lawyer, Roi Belcher. Though the money was offered ostensibly to support payment of her legal fees, it was essentially a bribe intended to silence her. Clearly, it didn’t work.
The Israeli police is very interested in speaking with Abraham, who normally travels to Israel three times a year on the major religious holidays. News1 notes drily that he’s not expected in Israel for the upcoming Passover holiday.
It’s an interesting diet Abraham concocted for his Israeli pals: cash-rich and value-poor. The man who helped convince the world it was fat and needed slimming, has readily led Ehud Olmert to the trough to feast on the fat of the land.
Abraham founded the Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, which appears to be little more than a vanity project that showcases his commitment to liberal Zionism and the rapidly expiring two-state solution. The current director is Bob Wexler, who served in Congress as Obama’s chief Jewish point-man. As best I can tell, this is Wexler’s sinecure, a reward for his years of faithful service to both Abraham and Democratic presidents. I heard Wexler once speak at a J Street conference and thought he was a boring mouthpiece who could’ve made the same speech to Aipac (and probably did).
As Anshel Pfeffer noted in a recent Haaretz article, Olmert’s corruption is nothing unusual. Since the founding of the State there have been wealthy Diaspora Jews who were happy to open their wallets for Israel prime ministers. They considered it their duty as Zionists to do so. From Abe Feinberg, who answered the call to privately finance Israel’s nuclear program with American Jewish funding, to those doing favors for Bibi Netanyahu–the line is long. Every prime minister has his cronies and favorites. Pfeffer even notes that Ariel Sharon’s beloved Sycamore Ranch was bought by Meshulam Riklis (remember him?) for the IDF general.
Avigdor Lieberman was under suspicion for similar arrangements with his ‘financiers.’ When you get power there is no end of corporate chieftains who are happy to wine and dine you and earn your favor. And there is no end of Israeli generals and politicians willing to receive such flattery and attention. The entire Israeli political system is corrupt. Not just individual politicians, but the entire system. That is why Israeli electoral politics is essentially meaningless. The game is fixed, the outcome guaranteed. The wealthy win. The poor remain shut out.