Keren haYesod - United Israel Appeal (UIA) chairman and former government minister Eliezer (Modi) Sandberg, who was arrested early this week in the German submarines affair, regularly rubs shoulders with world leaders as part of his job.
Once upon a time, the leaders of Zionist institutions spent their time and effort raising money and helping a country-in-the-making - Israel. Sandberg works only a 70% position (as agreed with him when he took the job in 2010), while at the same time fostering his private business.
Without concealment or explanation, Sandberg took on the public function of raising money from donors around the world as one of the official representatives of a public institution, while reserving 30% of his time for doing business deals on the side - deals for Modi, not for the country.
UIA, a national begging institution that should have been put to rest at the founding of the State of Israel, was split off from the Jewish Agency. It functions as a public relations agency for Sandberg, associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Likud party.
In Singapore, for example, Sandberg is part of a consultancy for Israeli startups casting eyes at the Singaporean market. In advertising materials of macroVpoint, a concern in this sector, Sandberg's face adorns the video clips inviting Israeli entrepreneurs to take part in an annual conference in the country. He is portrayed in these ads by name, with the title "UIA chairman," and if the people in the venture close some deal, Sandberg makes a pile. He flies to Singapore, participates in events, and gets the Israeli ambassador to Singapore to participate in them, while at the same time exploiting his position as chairman of UIA, on behalf of which he is supposed to represent the Jewish people. A successor of Yosef Sprinzak, Leib Yaffe, and Arthur Hantke, he is exploiting the startup nation to make his fortune.
This unconscionable dual function is a great embarrassment to the UIA personnel sitting in the institution's offices in Jerusalem. How can they go on raising money from the world's philanthropists when their leader is arrested and suspected of impropriety?
A finger in every pie
Sandberg does not confine himself to business in Singapore. He was on the consultant council of Maglan Information Defense Technologies, he is a director in Dor Chemicals (a fuel manufacturer), and he was revealed this week as the Israeli representative of South Korean shipyard Hyundai Heavy Industries, the company that lost to German company ThyssenKrupp in the Israeli submarines tender. And this is only a partial list.
Seven directors serve with Sandberg on the UIA board. This group has allowed him to keep a finger in every pie. One of them, Yaakov Hagoel, formerly headed the UIA Department for Activities in Israel & Countering Anti-Semitism, and is an associate of Israel Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. Hagoel works at UIA to promote Danon, and Danon works at the UN to promote Hagoel, and this mutual admiration society goes back many years. Many Likud members are aware of this common history, including their public involvement through World Likud.
And on it goes: Sandberg's UIA holds an event in New York, and Danon is the keynote speaker. Danon promotes and holds an event for the struggle against BDS at the UN (a genuinely important event), and Sandberg speaks there, with Hagoel serving as master of ceremonies. This group travels around, constantly helping and meeting with each other, and also meeting with an expanding circle of donors to the Jewish people. Sandberg reserves 30% of his time for his own affairs.
Pressure to cancel a Ya'alon event
What other use has Sandberg made of the tools available to him at UIA? A week ago, the "Yedioth Ahronoth" daily reported that a Jewish community event in Sao Paolo with former Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon was canceled following pressure exerted on the local Jewish community by Israel Ambassador to Brazil and Netanyahu associate Yossi Shelly.
UIA was originally supposed to take part in the conference program. Announcements were already sent, documents prepared, and UIA was there, at least at the beginning. Sources inform "Globes," however, that Shelly was not the only one who took action to cancel the event; former minister Sandberg also had a hand in it. One morning, UIA's emissaries in Brazil awoke to an order from Sandberg to cancel UIA's participation in the meeting with the former defense minister. Sandberg preferred Ya'alon to sit alone in the dark in Sao Paolo. The ambassador made a flanking maneuver on one side and Sandberg on the other - just so that Ya'alon's trip would be cut short, and as few people as possible would hear him.
That is how one of the major events planned for Ya'alon was canceled. Ya'alon arrived in the city last week and met with dozens of local Jewish community leaders, but without any framework of Zionist institutions. A person present at one of the meetings told us that Ya'alon maintained his statesmanlike conduct. He did not address political matters during his visit, and never intended to do so.
In response, Shelly told "Globes" that he had not been involved in canceling the conference.
Our query to Sandberg's lawyer went unanswered.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on September 7, 2017
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