Former president Shimon Peres..
(photo credit: EUROPEAN JEWISH ASSOCIATION)
Former President Shimon Peres pulled out a lucrative deal to represent Bank Hapoalim, but said that media reports about the nature of the deal were inaccurate.
Financial newspaper The Marker had reported earlier in the week that Bank Hapoalim was paying Peres $30,000 a month to serve as a lobbyist, representing its interests to players such as likely finance minister Moshe Kahlon. The story caused an uproar, inviting criticism from politicians and commentators.
In a Thursday interview with Channel 2, Peres said that the deal had actually been to help a US branch of the bank bring more investors to Israel, and had no relation to domestic issues.
"What we agreed to and what was publicized, there was no connection between the two," Peres said. The point, he said, "was to explain to them that Israel is a good investment. I'm essentially explaining why they should invest in Israel."
He also said that he intended to put the money into social causes and investing in science. "I wouldn't have done something that has the smell of money. I'm surprised they're even asking about this, I think this is proper service. I am not a lobbyist at all," he said.
Peres said he decided to cancel the deal altogether instead of simply explaining his perspective in order to put any doubts to rest.
"I decided that in any case, for me, it's not really a financial issue but a public issue, and it's important for me to maintain public trust, so I canceled the deal and the that's the end of it," he said.
"I want it to be crystal clear. That's how I've behaved all my life, and I don't want someone to spoil it because of an incorrect story," he added.