(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Russian-born billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak visited the Kassam-ridden town of Sderot Friday and pledged he would finance the fortifying of security rooms for approximately 1,300 houses in the city.
The businessman announced that he would sign the 60 million dollar contract with the Rolan construction company on Sunday and that the project would be complete within the next four months.
According to data released by the Home Front Command, only 250 families in Sderot have fortified rooms.
Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, who met with the controversial philanthropist during his visit, praised the offer but stressed that he would only confirm after he spoke with the government. He stressed, however, that 'if Gaydamak's proposal is a quicker solution [than the government's], we will accept it.'
On Thursday, Gaydamak also pledged to assist any Sderot resident who wants to get out of town to escape continuing Palestinian rocket attacks.
"I think it is our duty to provide support for any residents - especially children - who want to go to a more secure place," Gaydamak said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post.
The 54-year-old entrepreneur has already bused hundreds of residents out of Sderot to other Israeli cities, and is highly admired in the hard-hit town for his efforts.
Gaydamak dismissed criticism of his actions by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has called the massive evacuation of residents a "victory for Hamas," stating that the government had no business to talk after it failed to secure its own civilians.
"When a state cannot protect its civilians, the prime minister should shut up," Gaydamak said.
"He is not in a position to decide if other children should stay or not," he added.
"I don't work in the government but I just know that I am obligated to act on behalf of Jews, and I am," he said.
During last year's war with Lebanon, Gaydamak similarly won accolades and headlines for spiriting busloads of Israelis out of the harm's way, and taking them to vacation spots in safer parts of the country.
In the interview, Gaydamak affirmed that he would compete in the next Jerusalem mayoral race. "I will be the next mayor of Jerusalem," he declared.
Gaydamak denied that he would run on a joint list headed by the former Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy, saying that he did not know him.
The mayoral elections are scheduled to take place next year.
Earlier this year, Gaydamak said that he would not form his own political party.
Gaydamak, who has been facing suspicions of money-laundering and has been under police investigation for years, also lashed out at the police and State Attorney's Office for their ongoing investigations of his activity, charging them with carrying out a "criminal political" inquiry.
He asserted that he was an easy target for the police investigation both because of the fact that he is Russian, is "somewhat" wealthy and because of concomitant investigations in France - where he is facing arrest - for alleged arms trafficking to Angola in the early 1990s.
"Here in my country I will not let criminally-minded people control my country," he said, vowing to file criminal complaints against senior police figures, and Israel's top law enforcement official, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz.
"I will fight to the death," he concluded.
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