Amid criticism, Peres cancels bank contract


(JTA) — Former Israeli president Shimon Peres canceled a deal to promote Bank Hapoalim.

Peres told Channel 2 News on Thursday that the bank “naturally felt hurt” by the cancellation of the agreement, “but I told them: I don’t have a bank, I have a name, and my good name is the only bank that I have.”

Peres, 91, was criticized in Israeli media for signing the deal, under which he was to receive $360,000 annually for attracting overseas investment. Some journalists suggested the deal would allow the bank to profit from Peres’ political network. Peres’ term as president, a largely ceremonial position in Israel, ended last year.

Peres said he had not stood personally to make any money from the arrangement, and that it had been misrepresented in the media. “I [would not have been] taking a penny from this money; it all goes to investment in science, in social needs,” the former president said.

He stressed that he did not believe he had been in the wrong, but still decided to cancel the deal “in order to prevent an appearance” of exploiting his position “and to prevent badmouthing.”

“I want this to be clear,” Peres said, “I’ve conducted myself in this manner all my life, and I won’t let anyone spoil it by publishing a wrong story.”

On Monday, The Marker said that Peres had recently signed the $30,000-a-month contract with the bank. According to the report, improving Hapoalim’s image abroad could also help Israel’s largest lender prepare to battle proposed legislation aimed at increasing competition in the banking sector.

Moshe Kahlon, tapped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be finance minister in the next government, is expected to push for this legislation in the coming Knesset, according to The Times of Israel.

Peres’ lawyer denied the deal included any lobbying.

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