The progression of the peace process, attended as it
was by the increase of foreign investments in Israel,
brought the business community's leadership closer than
ever to the Labour regime. In the recent elections, for
the first time in Israel's history, most leading business-
economic concerns turned out in favour of a single
candidate - Shimon Peres. Newspaper advertisements,
support rallies and resolute public pronouncements left
no room for doubt: the business community very much
wanted to see Shimon Peres continue as Prime Minister.
The mere handful of businessmen who went along with
Netanyahu, mostly personal friends of his, did so very
quietly and discreetly. Today, finding that they put
their money on the winning horse, they are emerging into
Days before the elections, Moshe Schnitzer, former
president of the Diamond Exchange, published an
advertisement in support of Netanyahu, listing the names
of 340 diamond merchants. Schnitzer, a Likud member,
while closely acquainted with Peres, declares himself an
"old friend" of Netanyahu, who is his junior by almost
30 years. "Bibi's youthfulness, in fact, was what
What exactly do you like about Netanyahu?
"Not since Sapir's time have I seen anybody as
unbegrudging towards businessmen as Bibi. He simply
wants people to earn profits".
What economic measures will you recommend that he
Bibi understands economics. Now he needs to take some
strong measures to arrest inflation, even if this is
prejudicial to businessmen in the short term. He must
take all precautions to avoid a replay of the Aridor
Netanyahu's first stop on returning to Israel was the
Rim furniture plant. The company's marketing manager had
resigned, Netanyahu was looking for a job, and that was
how he met Rolando Eisen, the then owner of Rim. "My
encounter with Netanyahu", says Eisen, "was fortuitous.
We worked together for three years".
What sort of a marketing man was he?
"Rim's best years in the mattress business were the
years after Bibi left, on the strength of the
infrastructure laid by him. He is a talented individual.
Very talented, in fact. When he told me he was leaving I
was prepared to offer him the job of general manager of
Rim, and also a very large sum of money".
Later, after bitterly competing against the Aminach
company, Eisen sold his shares in the furniture company
and turned instead to entrepreneurship in the
technological and hi-tech business fields.
Did it occur to you, in those days, that Bibi would
manage to sell himself as prime minister?
"We were children then. Both of us had high-placed
positions relative to our age, and I could not then have
supposed how far Bibi would get".
Arison is evidently one of the Prime Minister's
wealthiest and closest friends. Arison first met
Netanyahu in the `eighties, while he was serving as
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations.
Arison, originally an Israeli, met and was deeply
impressed by him. Subsequently becoming fast friends, the
two men take care to keep in touch, despite Arison's
constant travels throughout his business empire. Arison
left Israel in the `fifties, his first steps in America
leading him to partnership in air transportation
businesses. His Carnival Cruise Lines company is a world
leader in cruise tourism.
Some years ago, Arison decided to immigrate to Israel.
Relinquishing his US passport, he returned to this
country. He founded an investment firm, operating in the
fields of real estate and industry; and he could be one
of the main beneficiaries of Netanyahu's vaunted
privatization. Arison, who made an unsuccessful bid for
control of Israel Chemicals, is presently competing for
the controlling core of Bank Hapoalim, and is also party
to the acquisition of control in Shikun & Binui.
Evidently a believer in not putting all one's eggs in
one basket, Arison's partner in the contest for
acquisition of Bank Hapoalim is the Claridge group,
controlled by Charles Bronfman, known to be closely
allied to Shimon Peres.
"In these recent elections", say the Israeli
billionaire's close confidantes, "Arison contributed also
to Labour's election campaign and not merely to that of
the Likud and individuals enjoying his personal esteem".
They are also in a position to inform you that the late
Yitzhak Rabin was Arison's commanding officer in Palmach
days. Arison was the signals operator of the Seventh
Brigade in the War of Independence in the battles over
Latrun and Jerusalem. He had great esteem for Rabin and
is still in touch with Leah Rabin, since the days when
they played together as children in the sands of Tel-
Son of Estee Lauder, founder of the world-wide
cosmetics empire, he was actually the matchmaker between
Netanyahu and the American secret adviser Arthur
Finklestein. Lauder, who summoned Finklestein to his aid
in his abortive attempt to get himself elected Mayor of
New York, was responsible for bringing the two men
together. Lauder made the recommendation, Netanyahu
accepted it, Arthur got things moving.
Lauder, former US Ambassador to Austria, today
controls the RSL group, which dominates communications,
television and telecommunications firms. In the past, he
interested himself in an invitation to bid for the
choice of Channel 2 concessionaires, in the tender for
the second overseas calls operator, and in the
acquisition of the government computer corporation
Malam, which was sold to Clal computers.
At the beginning of the year, Lauder invested
$300,000 in the Ran Shmueli catering company, together
with Irit Colber, wife of Yonatan Colber of the
Renaissance Foundation. In an interview to Globes,
following this acquisition, Lauder said "This was a
first step towards investment in Israel, and undoubtedly
a very tasty step".
"I met Benjamin Netanyahu", says Lauder, "when he was
Israel`s ambassador to the United Nations, since when we
have become good friends". He is believed to be one of
Netanyahu's biggest contributors and Netanyahu's second
wife is presently employed as a financial consultant in
the Estee Lauder company. Itzik Fisher, a young Tel-Aviv
businessman, who also once belonged to Netanyahu's
immediate coterie, also has a hand today in Lauder's