Prominent U.S. Jewish businessman S. Daniel Abraham, an opponent of Israel's settlement construction, donated funds to support the massive social justice protest that brought 300,000 Israelis to the streets this past Saturday, Channel 10 news reported Tuesday night.
The report comes in the wake of tent protest leaders' vehement denial that political motivations lay behind their demonstrations against the high cost of living and housing in Israel.
Israel's Channel 10 news exposed a conversation with Abraham where the businessman stressed, "I support the protest, I have always been an advocate of the peace process and against building in the settlements. The way to improve the standard of living for the average Israeli is by way of halting support for settlements and the Haredim."
Abraham declined to say how much money he has contributed to the demonstration.
Abraham's representative in Israel, Avi Gil, said Tuesday that he had not heard about Abraham's contribution to the demonstration before Channel 10's report on the matter and that other than those statements expressed by Abraham himself, he had "no comment."
Abraham resides in New York City and is one of the most prominent supporters of Israel's left-wing political parties. He was widely considered to be one of those closest to Shimon Peres (before he became president), Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak. Aside from his business ventures, Abraham also devotes his time as chairman of the Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation, which has its headquarters in Washington D.C.
Abraham, 87, made the bulk of his fortune founding "Slim-fast," a company that promotes weight-loss plans and food products. Today his fortune is estimated to be $1.5 billion according to Forbes magazine.
In 2008, Peres invited Abraham to the Israeli Presidential Conference. While in Israel he was required to provide testimony in the "money envelopes" affair involving U.S. Jewish businessman Morris Talansky, for which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is being investigated. Abraham's name also came up in another corruption-related case involving Olmert, regarding a Jerusalem real estate acquisition that was bought at hundreds of thousands of dollars over market value.
Abraham is well connected within U.S. economic and political elites, and is a staunch supporter of the Democratic party. Abraham also authored the book "Peace is Possible," which reiterates his support for the Democratic party, and includes a foreword by former President Bill Clinton.
Abraham has also contributed much of his fortune to promote left-wing organizations, politicians and parties located on the left of Israel's map.
The Prime Minister's Office also did not comment on the report of Abraham's donation to the social protest.
A source within the Likud party indicated, however, that "the political motivations held by the protests leaders are slowly being exposed. The protest itself is justified, and a large portion of the hundreds of thousands of protesters that took part in Saturday's massive demonstrations did so out of pure conviction. Yet more and more activists and their supporters are abandoning the cause due to growing distrust in those pretending to speak on their behalf."
Chairman of the right-wing National Union party and protest supporter MK Ya'akov Katz, said: "The health protests started based on the purest of emotions, but now, unfortunately, there are those who are trying to attach themselves to the cause, including radical anarchists and those collaborating with the worst of our enemies. There is no doubt that the people living in Zion will know to rid themselves of ties to these rotten people."
MK Zahava Gal-On of the left-wing Meretz party said of the protests, "I don't know who donated and for what reason. Donations can finance a stage and lighting, but it's clear that all the money in the world can't bring the nation out to the streets in such masses."
"We must remember that a government that builds settlements does not build housing for young people," Gal-On added.
Meanwhile, protest leaders said they knew nothing about Abraham's donation. "The event, other than the stage, sound and lighting, were all donated by the companies that supplied the equipment," said a statement from the Student Union. "Artists volunteered to preform. The cause is supported by ordinary citizens that are being crushed due to the high cost of living. We welcome further contributions for the cause."