S. Daniel Abraham’s message of peace

American Slim-Fast billionaire invests time and money toward strides for Middle East peace.

May 2, 2013 22:02
4 minute read.

S. DANIEL ABRAHAM 370. (photo credit: Abraham Scholarship Fund)


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Let me tell you a short story. S. Daniel Abraham, whose name has been mangled to Danny Abrahams by the Israeli media for many years, is an American billionaire, ardent Zionist and veteran peace activist who continues to visit this region (it’s easier if you have a private plane) almost every year.

He made his fortune through the Slim-Fast company, which invented a popular line of diet products, and then sold it for a billion or two (dollars, of course). Since then, he has invested his time and money in an effort to bring peace to the Middle East.

He lives on the waterfront in Palm Beach and shuttles between Washington, Miami and Middle East capitals.

He spends more time in the air than on land (or on the ocean, on a yacht). Abraham is very close to President Shimon Peres, once bought Ehud Olmert’s apartment, gave money to the tent protesters two summers ago, and oversees the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, which is based in Washington.

Avi Gil, a former head of Peres’s bureau, is Abraham’s top representative in Israel. Gil, too, has matured and withered around our dwindling fire of peace. But he and his boss are still here.

Abraham was in Jerusalem this week. He sat with Peres, traveled to meet Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), did his usual rounds.

I met him in Tel Aviv. He is already 89 years old. There is not a capital in this region that he doesn’t know intimately.

There is no Arab or Israeli leader who hasn’t heard him harp for peace, and if Peres had decided to immigrate to America instead of Danny Abraham, he would now be the American billionaire trying to make peace in our region, and Abraham would be the aging president who never loses hope. They are like twins separated at birth (Peres is exactly one year older than Abraham).

Abraham still has a broad smile and Yiddishe sense of humor, but his optimism isn’t what it once was. He has graphs that show how the Palestinians’ rights to the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan have diminished (from controlling 100 percent of the territory in the past, through the Peel Commission which in 1937 allocated them 75%, the UN partition which gave them 44% and the 1967 lines which left them with only 22%).

They are the persecuted and weak side, Abraham believes, and they are prepared to suffice with just 22%, so what does Israel have to fear? You are a regional superpower with a formidable economy, the best air force in the world, the most sophisticated technology ever invented. You have laid the groundwork for the coming generations; is it not time to get rid of this ulcer that is eating away your insides and sucking your sap? Look around: Is there anyone who can throw you into the sea, for heaven’s sake? Abraham also has surveys he has conducted constantly, via the Dahaf and Smith institutes, indicating the broad support on the part of the Israeli public (between 67% and 85%) for peace on the familiar basis of sound security arrangements and international guarantees.

You want peace, Abraham tells himself, but you don’t do anything to achieve it. Isn’t that a shame? I asked him about his relations with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He tells me that he considers Bibi a friend, with whom he has sat for many hours in the past. I ask: When did you last sit with him? Just over two years ago, he says.

He sat with him, and then went to Abu Mazen. He said he asked the prime minister if he could convey a serious message to Abu Mazen, and see if he could get some results.

Netanyahu said fine, tell Abu Mazen that I insist on Israeli military presence on the Jordan River and warning stations on 50 peaks in Judea and Samaria for 50 years, to ensure Israel’s security.

Abraham said fine and went to Ramallah. He had dinner with Abu Mazen and Saeb Erekat, and relayed Netanyahu’s request.

They thought about it, and said okay. But only for a transitional period of three years.

Abraham asked for five years.

They agreed to five years. Then he turned to Abu Mazen and asked, what do you want of Netanyahu? At this point, Erekat intervened and said, in Hebrew, the following: One, nine, six, seven. 1967. Abu Mazen approved. That’s what we want. That’s what we insist on.

Abraham said he returned to Jerusalem, but Netanyahu was already in Tel Aviv. He tried to relay the message, but neither a meeting nor a telephone call could be scheduled.

That was the last time they had contact.

Why doesn’t he meet with you any more? I asked. I don’t know, Abraham replied.

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