PM opposes 'PR stunts of billionaires'

Gaydamak defends funding weekend getaway to Eilat for Sderot residents.

yacimovich 224.88 (photo credit: Knesset Website)
yacimovich 224.88
(photo credit: Knesset Website)
In the latest attack on Russian billionaire Arkady Gaydamak, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lashed out at the Betar Jerusalem owner at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. "I am opposed to smuggling southern residents out of their homes, and opposed to the PR stunts of millionaires which come out of irrelevant considerations," the prime minister said. "Do we want to be depicted as a nation that flees from their homes…to five-star hotels? It looks like a declaration of defeat."
  • AJC to donate $300,000 to Sderot Olmert added that "it is not easy to come to the residents and tell them they need to stay in Sderot, but it is not a serious move to make them flee their homes. We as a government will give them a meaningful system of solutions." The Russian-born billionaire responded on Sunday to criticism leveled against him over his decision to fund a weekend getaway to Eilat for Sderot residents. "I'm not playing political games," he said in an interview with Army Radio, reacting to accusations that he was attempting to take over the government by buying the country's loyalty. "I was trying to actualize the deep sense of responsibility I have toward the Jewish people," he said. "I only did what for generations upon generations every member of the Jewish community has done." Among Gaydamak's detractors was MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), who, according to Israel Radio, said earlier that Gaydamak was planning to seize control of Israel by its purse strings. "The gifts Gaydamak is giving out to Israelis are an enticing trap along the path to this goal," she said. "The Knesset must be on its guard against his intentions, and the government must be careful not to create a vacuum that Gaydamak and other businessmen could infiltrate." NU/NRP Chairman Zevulun Orlev also slammed the well-known billionaire, accusing him of "exposing the government in all its nakedness and devastation." Over the weekend, Gaydamak gave Sderot residents and all-expense-paid trip to Eilat as a relief from Kassam fire. However, he soon found himself under fire from, among others, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, who accused him of trying to undermine government planning. "The State of Israel won't allow wealthy donors to take over by taking advantage of the citizens' distress," Peretz said Thursday. Sderot officials also came down on Gaydamak for failing to coordinate his activities with the municipality.