AFTER OPENING a branch in Singapore, last month, Bank Hapoalim, is spreading its wings even further, having announced the acquisition of 74 percent of the stock in a bank in Russia. The branch in Singapore gives Hapoalim the distinction of being the first Israeli bank to operate there. Hapoalim chairman Danny Dankner said the opening of a Singapore branch, which provides full offshore services, was the first step in Hapoalim's mission to become a fully global bank. The bank in Russia is only a second step in Hapoalim's strategy to be represented on every continent. LESS THAN 18 months after his appointment, Africa-Israel Investments President and CEO Erez Meltzer and Chairman of the Board and key shareholder Lev Leviev are parting company. The news rocked Israel's financial community and was included in radio news bulletins all day on Sunday and for part of the day on Monday. The official reason given was that Meltzer and Leviev have differing approaches to business strategy and that these differences pose an obstacle to their ability to work together. But sources close to the action say the chemistry that existed between Leviev and Meltzer's predecessor Pini Cohen was simply not there when it came to Meltzer. Cohen and Leviev worked together for eight years before Cohen left in August, 2006. Even then, there was considerable speculation that, despite mutual platitudes, relations were not quite as rosy as they seemed. However, Cohen and Leviev remained on good terms socially and Cohen was on the guest list for Leviev's family celebrations. By sheer coincidence, Sunday was also the day on which Leviev's former partner Shaya Boymelgreen announced that his company Azorim, together with a partner had acquired the Elite plot in Ramat Gan from Crescent Heights for nearly double the sum paid in March last year by American real estate mogul Sonny Kahn, whose intention it was to build a 70-story tower in partnership with Donald Trump. Now after the falling out between, them, it looks like Leviev and Boymelgreen are taking their cue from the song in Annie Get Your Gun - "Anything you can do, I can do betterâ€¦" THE 70th anniversary celebrations of the Commercial and Industrial Club were launched at Beit Hanassi on Sunday. Members of the Club, who filled the reception hall at Beit Hanassi, represent many of Israel's major business enterprises. It was difficult to estimate the combined wealth, but it was certainly in the billions of shekels. The Club, founded in Tel Aviv in 1938, was established in response to the report of an investigative commission on British Mandate Palestine headed by Sir John Hope-Simpson limiting Jewish immigration because there was insufficient agricultural land or industry to sustain any large-scale influx of population. The Jews of the yishuv believed that there was potential for developing industry and, despite the many obstacles placed in their way by the British Mandate authorities, setting up production plants and providing jobs. From 1938 until the mid 1950s, the 500 or so members of the Club met on a daily basis to discuss problems and plan strategies, but now they meet on a weekly basis to discuss not only business, but the Torah portion of the week, the socio-economic problems of the country and the causes the Club elects to support. Guest speakers have included all the presidents and prime ministers of Israel, government ministers, members of Knesset, senior IDF officers, Nobel Prize laureates, leading academics from different fields - and more. President Shimon Peres, is certainly no stranger to the Club, whose President Haim Aharon recalled that Peres had first addressed its members more than 50 years ago when he was director-general of the Defense Ministry. Since then, he had addressed them on 35 additional occasions, and his address on the 70th anniversary of the Club would mark the 37th time he had spoken to the members. Speaking without notes, Peres dwelt on the changes taking place in an increasingly global environment, but said he was concerned by violence, poverty and the fact that so many people with potential were not given the chance to explore and exploit it. It bothered him that young people today are without direction, going to school in the morning, coming home in the afternoon to watch television and then moving on to the Internet for chats, but not really socializing in the traditional sense of the word. But more than anything else, he was upset that because they're not part of mainstream society, the haredi and Arab communities are not being given sufficient opportunities to prove their capabilities. In both communities he noted, there is tremendous potential for hi-tech, and the people just need to be given the chance. Foreign companies are aware of this, he said, which is why, despite the second intifada, they continued to invest in Israeli R&D. Peres had even suggested to some of them that if they provided the right conditions through their investments in Israel, they could tempt at least half the 20,000 Israelis working in Silicon Valley to return home, and work for the same companies out of their Israeli branches. Stressing the need to develop the innate talents of the individual, Peres said a talented person is worth more than an oil well, because the oil runs out, but the talent remains. OTHER SPEAKERS at the 70th anniversary celebrations included Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, who made the point that the Club fosters genuine friendships, even among business rivals; and Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, who clarified that the taxation reforms that have been implemented in recent years actually got their start in the Club, which he addressed while still a greenhorn in the world of politics and public service. He and the late Yitzhak Moda'i, who subsequently became finance minister, had formulated a plan for various tax reductions, and when Lynn was invited to address the Club he had spoken on the subject at length. After his speech, he was approached by a journalist who asked if what he said was really true, and Lynn assured him it was. Banner headlines the following day trumpeted the massive reductions that were on the verge of taking place. Lynn went to see then finance minister Simha Erlich, who was a member of his party, and told him he must go along with it, because otherwise it would look as if the party had been lying; Erlich complied. LOWERING TAXES, earning a law degree, serving in the Knesset and representing the FICC locally and abroad, are not the only attributes of Lynn. He's also a keen cycling fan, who together with FICC employees has established a new tradition of keeping fit on two wheels. In a 15 km ride through hills and muddy valleys in the Rosh Ha'ayin-Petah Tikva area, most of the cyclists followed the instructions of the guide who told them never to look at the obstacle but at what lies beyond it. However, not looking at the obstacle can sometimes be dangerous, as for instance in the case of the FICC human resources manager who slipped and fell off her bike. Lynn gallantly rushed to her assistance and helped her to get up from the ground. Further along, the cyclists had to cross a pool of water beneath the Yarkon bridge. Lynn's secretary just couldn't make it and again Lynn's gallantry came to the fore. He rode back to her aid and patiently demonstrated for her how she could do it. MAJ. Gen. (Res) Oren Shahor has been elected to the executive board of the International Chamber of Commerce. Shahor is chairman of the Israeli National Committee of the ICC and is the ICC's representative in Israel. The ICC executive board comprises 24 members from 14 countries, but its membership includes business people from 140 countries. Shahor said the inclusion of Israel in the ICC's executive board was a significant forward step in Israel's business interests and the national economy. He noted that it would enable Israel to be part of the decision making process in the global economy, and would thus enhance Israel's international influence. ISRAEL TELEVISION's acting news chief Nitzan Chen has asked to be relieved of his duties. Chen made the request several weeks ago, but only the information made public only this week. The Broadcasting Authority management asked him to stay on until such time as a suitable replacement could be found and Chen acquiesced. Chen, who has been with the IBA for 17 years, has worked in a number of capacities including that of Knesset reporter. He has been in his present position since the end of the Second Lebanon War. While he was a reporter, he was publicly embarrassed and humiliated by Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who virtually banished him while Chen was covering a Shas event. "Get outside," barked Yosef. Such an attitude would have opened up the ground beneath the feet of any young journalist, but more in Chen's case, given that he is of North African background and wears a kippa. Although the episode haunted him for a long time, it did not impede his progress on the ladder of success. Chen is regarded as a thorough, conscientious professional. Both IBA chairman Moshe Gavish and director-general Moti Sklar expressed appreciation for his diligence and his contributions to the IBA. Chen said the IBA would always be his professional home, and that he would always be willing to lend a hand if called upon.