JERUSALEM (Apr. 26)
Former Deputy Minister of Finance Zvi Dinstein confirmed yesterday that the Treasury had in fact granted a permit to Abba Eban in 1967 to maintain a bank account in New York for reasons it considered legitimate. Dinstein’s statement appeared to absolve the former Foreign Minister of charges that he kept the account in violation of Israel’s foreign currency regulations.
Neither Eban nor Treasury officials have been able to find the permit. But Dinstein’s recollection of it was confirmed by Nizza Pinnes, who once worked for Eban and is now Foreign Minister Yigal Allon’s private secretary, and three other secretaries in Allon’s office who signed a letter to the Treasury saying they distinctly remember that the permit was granted.
Dinstein, who is now the government’s advisor on energy, said that Eban had explained to him in 1967 that he needed a ready source of dollars in New York to pay for research and clerical work in connection with books he wrote. He also needed the money to repay advance royalties from his publishers in the event that he was unable to complete books contracted for.
Dinstein said he advised Eban at the time to apply for a permit through the proper channels and that he learned later from a Treasury source that Eban’s permit was approved. What remains to be proven is that Eban did not exceed the conditions of the permit by using more money abroad than he had originally requested.
Sources close to the Israeli diplomat said yesterday that he had requested a permit for $20,000 but the permit itself had no ceiling. Over the years, much larger sums accrued to his New York account and many tens of thousands of dollars were transferred to Israel as required by law. Eban may be required to explain why he held some of these funds in interest-bearing accounts. But the sources said that no one in their right mind would have done otherwise.