Israel Policy Forum: The Network of Intrigue

Exposing the wealthy donors working against the Jewish State.

A recent letter to PM Netanyahu opposing the Levy Report organized by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) and signed by 40 critics of Jewish communities built in Judea and Samaria (“settlements”) received wide media attention. With perhaps a few exceptions, those who signed the letter did not read the report, since it was only in Hebrew at that time. This was a typical hit-job by a marginal, tiny elite organization that promotes the “two-state solution,” a second or third Arab Palestinian state and evacuating Jews from the area.

Touted as “American Jewish leaders,” the individuals who signed, except for those associated with the Reform Movement, Eric Yoffee and David Saperstein, represent no organizations or constituencies. They are mega-bucks “philanthropists,” very wealthy businessmen like Charles Bronfman, Lester Crown, Marvin Lender, owner of Lender’s Bagels, and Richard Pearlstone, financier and real estate mogul, who bought their way into Jewish communal organizations, Susi Gelman (heiress to the Levi Strauss fortune), Edith Everett who runs a family foundation, some corporate lawyers, a few academics, a former Clinton advisor, and two former US ambassadors to Israel.

IPF was founded in 1993 with PM Rabin’s blessing to support the Oslo Accords and counter AIPAC – and to carry out propaganda campaigns as part of a network of American organizations with a similar purpose, like Americans for Peace Now, and New Israel Fund, and left-wing Israeli NGOs like ACRI, B’Tselem, etc, think tanks like INSS and the Peres Center for Peace.

IPS’ first president was Jack Bendheim, a wealthy businessman (Phibro and PAHC holdings) and philanthropist living in Riverdale, NY with a home and social and business contacts in Israel.  Jonathan A. Jacoby, IPF’s founding executive VP, worked for Credit Suisse and UBS and is currently Policy and Campaigns Manager at Oxfam America. NGO-Monitor’s research documents that Oxfam is an anti-Israel organization that supports BDS campaigns.

According to Prof Ofira Seliktar (Divided We Stand) in 1996 the IPF, led by Bendheim, along with billionaire S.Daniel Abraham (SlimFast), and Sara Ehrman (Americans for Peace Now) played a major role in convincing then-President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright to apply more pressure on PM Netanyahu for further withdrawals, halting settlement activity and concessions to Arafat as part of the Wye Agreements.

In 2010 IPF collapsed and was absorbed into the Center for American Progress, a controversial organization that has been accused of being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

CAP was started in 2003 by Herb and Marian Sandler, California mortgage/banking tycoons who are generous funders of the anti-Israel NGO Human Rights Watch. CAP also receives funding from George Soros and his Open Society Institute (OSI). Mort Halperin is on the board of CAP and IPF also heads OSI. Daniel Halperin is the program director at IPF.

MJ Rosenberg, a severe critic of Israel, was IPF’s policy director until 2009, when he moved to Media Matters (until fired after referring to Israel supporters as “Israel firsters,” a term widely regarded as anti-Semitic) and was a frequent columnist for the Jerusalem Post during David Horovitz’s tenure as senior editor.

The current president of IPF, Peter A. Joseph, runs Palladium Equity Partners and JLL, large private investment firms. Joseph is on the Board of Governors of the Reform Movement’s Hebrew Union College and local civic organizations.

Chairing IPF is Larry Zicklin, retired chief of Neuberger Berman, the largest asset management company in the world (over $200 billion) and former president of the NY Federation. Although lacking wide support, with access to enormous wealth, Joseph and Zicklin and friends try to wield political influence.

For example, IPF holds an annual Leadership Event to support their agenda, inviting former President Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, former PMs Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, and assorted failing left-wing Israeli politicians like Haim Ramon and Isaac Herzog.

The IPF helped convince newly-elected President Obama to adopt its Middle East Roadmap, basically the Saudi Initiative (Israel’s return to the 1949 Armistice lines, evacuation of all settlements, and the incorporation of Arab refugees and their descendents into Israel – in return for “normal relations”).

Peter Joseph funds Israel-basher Peter Beinart through the New America Foundation, one of George Soros’ beneficiaries. The head of the NAF’s Middle East Task Force is Daniel Levy, who also directs the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation. He was one of the key people in the Geneva Initiative, which proposes broad Israeli withdrawal and concessions, and is on the advisory board of J Street. Levy was close to Gideon Meir, an opponent of Israeli settlements who ran Israel's embassy in London and Levy worked for Peres confidents Yossi Beilin and Haim Ramon (architects of the Oslo Agreements) and DM Ehud Barak.

Daniel’s father, Sir Michael Levy, one of Portland Trust's senior officers, is a major fundraiser for the British Labor Party, has extensive business and political connections in Israel, like Pres. Shimon Peres, and is a staunch opponent of settlements.

The Portland Trust, one of the largest private equity groups in the world, is run by Sir Ronald Cohen, a close friend of Shimon Peres; it sponsors projects intended to advance another Arab Palestinian state, in addition to Jordan.

Cohen supported Ariel Sharon's policy of retreat from Gaza and Northern Shomron, as the beginning of a more extensive withdrawal. Shimon Peres, who was Foreign Minister at the time, was their direct link to policy makers. Cohen & friends did little or nothing to help the Jews who were expelled, however, as they were more interested in investing in building casinos and resorts in Gaza, and helping the Arab sector. They were assisted by James Wolfenshonn, then head of the World Bank who arranged massive loans to the PA. The Portland Fund's CEO, Brig.Gen (ret) Eival Giladi, a close Sharon advisor, along with Dov Weisglass, and Gen (ret) Dan Halutz, former COS, organized and carried out Israel's retreat from Gaza and Northern Shomron – and were handsomely rewarded.

Working with Shimon Peres and the PCP, the Portland Trust, with EU assistance, helps Arab and Israeli businessmen and NGOs advance a Palestinian state. They organized the "Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce" to finance Arab building and business projects in the West Bank. In addition, Cohen runs Apax, a large private investment firm with projects in Israel, which supports the British Labor Party and former heads Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and thus, wields influence in the British government.

These organizations and individuals were enthusiastic supporters of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon (which gave Hezbollah its base) and the Gaza Strip (which became Hamastan) and they continue to support Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.

This connection may help explain why then-PM Ehud Barak in 2000 granted the PA oil and gas rights off the Gaza coast, in which British Gas (BG) – represented by Tony Blair -- was awarded sole exploration and recovery rights. This strange and mysterious deal – which was never approved by the government -- was never examined or investigated.

IPF supported a vicious anti- Israel critic, Charles Freeman to head the US National Intelligence Council.

Nick Bunzl, Executive Director of IPF has held a range of leadership positions in the Jewish community, most notably for the JCC in Manhattan from 1997-2006, including interim executive director and president; he continues to sit on their Board of Directors. Bunzl worked in investment management and international trading, and was Chairman and Managing Director of BTH Ltd, a London-based international group of companies – connected to Sir Michael Levy.

The Manhattan JCC has been criticized for promoting BDS campaigns against Israel.

Other IPF funders include David Avital, who runs MTP investment Group and supports Seeds of Peace (a pro-Palestinian group), J Street, and local civic groups; Marvin Lender runs a half-billion-dollar bagel company and his family foundation; David W Sussman, VP of NBC Universal: Neil Barsky, who ran Alson Capital Partners until he cashed in and now advises the Columbia Journalism Review; James E. Walker III; Marcia Ricklis, heiress to her father Mushullam Ricklis’ fortune. IPF also receives funds from the Alan B Slifka Foundation and the Tides Foundation, which also fund pro-Palestinian anti-settlement groups in Israel.

David Elcott, who replaced Jonathan Jacoby as IPF director in 2006 has supported dialogue with and recognition of Hamas and is opposed to settlements. His like-minded brother, Shalom Elcott, heads the Orange County Federation.

Prof Deborah Lipstadt holds the Dorot Chair in Holocaust Studies at Emory University. Dorot Foundation funds many left-wing causes like NIF and J Street (whose assets are managed by Neuberger Berman).

Other IPF funders are LA billionaire entertainment moguls Norman Lear, David Geffen and Michael Medavoy – all ardent Obama supporters.

In July of this year, Abigail Disney, heiress of the family fortune, announced her participation in a boycott of Israeli products “from the occupied territories” via one of the companies in which she holds shares, Shamrock. Her financial advisor is LA businessman Stanley Gold, who advises Shamrock, is prominent in the LA Jewish Federation and IPF, and supports left-wing causes in Israel, like Hiddush, a Reform Movement front group that promotes “freedom of religion” as a platform for attacking the Orthodox religious establishment.

IPF also works with the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace (JAJP), (Brit Tzedek v'Shalom), founded in 2002 and merged with J Street in 2009, whichcalls for evacuating all Israeli settlements and withdrawing Israeli military forces from Judea and Samaria.

JAJP’s petition, signed by Eric Alterman, Gordon Fellman, Ed Asner, Morton Halperin, Stanley Hoffman , Michael Lerner, Eli Pariser, and Gloria Steinem, calls for $3 billion in cash incentives as a payoff for moving inside Israel's pre-1967 lines. They also support BDS campaigns against products produced by Jews in Judea and Samaria.

JAJP's President is Marcia Freedman, a former member of the Israeli Knesset (Meretz) and a member of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace and Women in Blacklives in San Francisco where she is active in anti-Israel groups, like Jewish Voice for Peace and is on J Street’s Advisory Board. JAJP has received funding from the Ford Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Shefa Fund, the Samuel Rubin Foundation, the Tides Foundation, and The Funding Exchange.

Only the tip of the iceberg, this explains key elements of the juggernaut against Israel.

Add hundreds of millions of Euros that European countries pour into anti-Israel, anti-settlement and pro-Palestinian causes and NGOs, in addition to the UN and its various organs, like UNHRC, UNESCO and UNRWA, heavily funded by US taxpayers.

Add the free anti-settlement services provided by Israeli judicial institutions, like High Court justices, State Prosecutor, State Attorney and Civil Administration – in addition to politicians like DM Ehud Barak. And then add a gaggle of leftist Israeli academics and columnists.

And, to fill the cup of hatred to the top, add the world’s major media which attack Israel and especially settlements every day.

Many of the people mentioned above would probably resent being called anti-Israel. “We are not against the state,” they might say, “only against settlements.” But where does that place them in view of the clear and present danger of a second or third Arab Palestinian state west of the Jordan River? By supporting only Palestinian interests and narratives, they have exposed Israeli Jews to harm and therefore have become essentially anti-Israeli.

Ignoring the threat of Arab terrorism might pass in the fashion shops of LA and skyscrapers of NYC, but here, on the ground, risking someone else’s life – and perhaps Israel’s existence -- for  political beliefs is immoral.

If the IPF were just another “non-partisan think tank,” one might be tempted to overlook its vast network of connections in the financial, social, business and political worlds. Although small, it is part of a powerfully leveraged system that seeks to bring Israel to its knees.

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