Grapevine, Sept. 27, 2020: Her father’s daughter – or maybe her mother’s

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

SHULA RECANATI and Reuven Krupik.  (photo credit: AVIV GOTTLIEB)
SHULA RECANATI and Reuven Krupik.
(photo credit: AVIV GOTTLIEB)
The Knesset’s official representative to the International Criminal Court in the Hague is MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, who is an attorney, and who happens to be the daughter of former Canadian justice minister, and international human rights activist Irwin Cotler. Irwin Cotler spoke out at many international forums on behalf of Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky when each was inhumanly incarcerated. Jerusalem Post Knesset correspondent Gil Hoffman says the appointment of Cotler-Wunsh, a Blue and White legislator, was made by Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, who is as Likud as one can get.
Despite the alliance between the two parties, there’s also an undercurrent of animosity. Cotler-Wunsh is one of several lawyers who happen to be MKs, but Levin obviously has great respect for her legal abilities, as well as her pedigree. It’s not only her father’s reputation that counts. Her mother, Ariela, was the parliamentary secretary to Gahal and later Likud when they were led by Menachem Begin.
“Israel needs to rise from the docket of the accused,” says Cotler-Wunsh. “The battle for public opinion at the International Criminal Court has been waged in absentia. Israel has been not fighting or fighting with two hands behind its back. We don’t have the privilege to not speak the language of international law that our opponents have been speaking.”
■ LIFE IS not fair, especially when it comes to matters of the law. In August 2016, after spending almost 15 years of a 17 year sentence in prison, Eti Alon, who was responsible for one of the biggest bank heists in Israel’s history, was released from Neveh Tirza women’s prison. She had embezzled close to NIS 300 million to help pay the gambling debts of her brother Ofer Maximov, who was being pursued by various criminal elements. At the time she had been deputy head of the now-defunct Trade Bank. Although she was a model prisoner and had agreed to undergo rehabilitation therapy, the state prosecutor objected to her early release on the grounds that she had toppled Israel’s banking system, which subsequently required radical reforms. The objections were eventually retracted. Maximov, who was convicted in 2003 was released from prison at the end of last year after the prisons parole board had previously denied several of his requests for reduction of sentence.
Alon had been torn between her loyalty to her brother and her loyalty to the bank. The choice she made cost her what until then had been a good marriage, and she also missed seeing developments in the lives of her children as they grew up. Now, two channels – Yes and Keshet – will be screening docudramas based on the Eti Alon case. Dana Ivgi will star as Alon and Yehuda Levy as her brother in the Yes series, and Chen Amsalem portrays her in the Keshet production.
Alon has already paid heavily for her crime, and now this old story is being revived and splashed over television screens, thus denying Alon anonymity and the chance to rebuild her life.
■ IT’S INTERESTING that the same producers and directors have not investigated a more intriguing banking story, that of Bank Leumi chairman Ernst Japhet, who reluctantly resigned in May 1986 after a state committee of inquiry reached the conclusion that he and other leading bankers were responsible for Israel’s 1983 stock market crash. In its investigations the committee learned that several leading bankers had manipulated share prices resulting in estimated total losses of $2 billion to stock market investors. Even today, $2b. is a lot of money. It was worth considerably more in terms of buying power nearly four decades ago. The committee demanded the resignations of the bank managers involved, as well as that of Moshe Mandelbaum, the governor of the Bank of Israel.
Japhet and Bank Hapoalim managing director Giora Gazit resigned, but Raphael Recanati, the chairman of Israel Discount Bank; Aharon Meir, the managing director of United Mizrahi Bank and Ephraim Reiner, the chairman of Ampal Corp., the New York-based subsidiary of Bank Hapoalim, refused to accept the committee’s report or its demand that they resign. Mandelbaum announced his intention to resign, but could not do so until the government appointed a successor in his place. Mandelbaum later went on to a career in academia.
Even though he resigned, Japhet found fault with the committee’s report claiming that the committee had overlooked the fact that at the time of the alleged manipulation Israel’s inflation was skyrocketing, a factor that required bankers to control share prices to prevent massive bank losses which would undermine the nation’s money market.
Fearing legal repercussions in the wake of the commission’s report, Japhet fled to New York where he remained for 10 years before returning to Israel in the mistaken belief that, due to the statute of limitations, nothing would happen to him. Four months later, Judge Miriam Naor, who then headed the Jerusalem District Court sentenced him to 11 months in prison and a fine of $300,000. Japhet, who before his disgrace was held in high esteem and considered the personification of Israel’s banking establishment, received the most severe of all the sentences imposed on bankers, with Naor stating that he was responsible for the major share of the crisis.
The prison sentence was later repealed by the High Court of Justice, though Japhet was still required to pay the fine. He went back to New York where in May 1997, he died at the age of 75, while undergoing surgery. Naor went on to become the president of the Supreme Court.
■ ANOTHER MORE exciting banking case that would make a great television series was that of the biker-bandit Roni Leibovitch, a 30-year-old married man who, between February 1989 and October 1990, robbed 22 banks. Wielding a pistol, he would ride to the bank on his motorbike and threaten the clerks, each time taking a relatively small amount of cash in the range of NIS 10,000-NIS 12,000. He managed to evade police for nearly two years, and in the process became somewhat of a folk hero. During the pandemic, he wrote on his Facebook account how the world has changed. 30 years ago, he would have been arrested if he walked into the bank wearing a mask, and these days, he would be arrested if he walked into the bank without a mask.
■ GETTING BACK to Neveh Tirza, it’s a safe bet that after Tzipi Refaeli completes her 16 month prison sentence for tax evasion, television producers and directors will be scrambling to do a docudrama about her taking the rap for her supermodel daughter, Bar Refaeli – who is meanwhile serving nine months of community service at the Beit Noam special needs school in Kiryat Ono. The school is an educational facility for adults with severe disabilities, and her service there will be less of a punishment than a benefit to Bar Refaeli, who could possibly be asked to star as her mother in a future television series. The 35-year-old model also has acting experience, and her familiarity with the main character makes her a natural for the role.
■ ANOTHER OF Israel’s top models, Esti Ginzburg, who is married to Adi Keizman – who has a reputation for being a highly successful real estate wheeler dealer – currently lives with him and their children in Los Angeles. Some people who have been burned by Keizman’s deals in a major housing project in Berlin, say that the couple escaped to LA, though their friends say that they were talking about moving for quite some time before they actually got around to it. One of the latest victims of the Berlin operation as reported in Yediot Aharonot, is Paralympic gold medalist Noam Gershoni, a former combat pilot whose helicopter crashed during the Second Lebanon War, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Gershoni became a champion wheelchair tennis player and a passionate spokesman for Israel.
He also was among the torch-lighters at the Independence Day ceremony celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary of statehood, and more recently has been running a campaign to encourage members of the public to wear masks. Gershoni claims that he trusted Keizman, through whom he purchased an apartment in Berlin for investment purposes. He paid a deposit with two checks, one for NIS150,000 and the other for NIS100,000, and then discovered that he had misunderstood the payment conditions.
He drew Keizman’s attention to this, and Keizman admitted that he was correct in doing so and returned the check for NIS150, 000, but not the one for NIS100,000 – despite repeated reminders. It got to the stage that he did not reply to emails, nor did he answer phone calls. Gershoni was later shocked to discover that the NIS100,000 check had been deposited in Ginzburg’s private account. Ultimately Gershoni felt he had no other choice than to sue, and through his lawyer Guy Hershkowitz, he is suing the couple for NIS 305,000.
Keizman has denied Gershoni’s claims, but there are so many other elements to the Berlin story, Keizman will find it difficult to stay out of court.
■ WHILE HEALTH and economics are universal priority concerns during the pandemic, in Israel and in many other parts of the world, there is also increasing worry about what school children from kindergarten to 12th grade are missing out on in terms of education. There is consensus that long-distance learning, though partially compensating, cannot replace the frontal connection between teacher and student. For all that, Bank Hapoalim, through its education fund, decided to award more scholarships than usual this year in light of the fact that this year there were 20,000 applications for scholarships.
Recently appointed bank chairman Reuven Krupik, in his initial consultation with the fund’s advisory board, decided to increase the number of scholarships from 70 to 100, worth a total of NIS 1 million.
Members of the advisory board include, among others, Shula Recanati, who chairs Education for Excellence; Google Israel CEO Barak Regev; CISCO Israel CEO Oren Sagi and Prof. Alean Al-Krenawi of the School of Social Work at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
■ THE PRAYER services in Sokolow Park written about in Wednesday’s Grapevine column were organized by Dayan Eliyahu and Chanie Canterman – Chabad emissaries to Talbiyeh.