- [The “Americans for Peace Now” in the US and “Peace Now” in Israel are registered as non-profit organizations, a legal ststus in both countries which would forbid either organization from providing funds for a political party. That ststus did not prevent both organizations from doing just that in 1999]
Yossi Sarid himself and Peace Now naturally joined forces with Ehud Barak, and became an integral part of his election campaign in 1999.
Only after he was elected did the close connection between Peace Now and Barak’s election headquarters become known, in the context of the nonprofit organizations affair.
Three central Peace Now figures worked very closely with Barak – Janet Aviad and Amiram Goldblum, as the heads of two of the nonprofit groups, and Yuli Tamir, who would later become Minister Yuli Tamir. Peace Now took an active role and was directly involved in Barak’s second round headquarters in the final month before the elections. The headquarters, which was compartmentalized from everyone else, was managed by Haim Mandel Shaked.
Someone there came up with the idea of running a secret advertising campaign for Barak, using the figure of the late Yitzhak Rabin.
But there was a problem how to fund such a campaign, which could not be directly associated with Barak’s election campaign. Its memorable slogan was “Following in his footsteps.” It was planned as a national poster campaign, which was set in motion with the help of Noar Meretz (Meretz’s youth division) and volunteers from the kibbutzim, but also using Moshe Nur’s sign system.
Musi Raz, then the head of Peace Now and now a Knesset member for Meretz, suggested that Haim Mandel Shaked solve the funding problem by raising funds from “American Friends of Peace Now”.
Everything remained confidential because Peace Now was prohibited from any involvement in party politics. Immediatel afterwards, Haim Mandel Shaked told the poster campaign operations people, “We have the funding. Ask Musi Raz.” “The amount was about $100,000,” Musi Raz confirmed to me. A source in Barak’s 1999 election headquarters says, “The campaign funded by Peace Now was Ehud Barak’s campaign.”
Contact was made with Moshe Nur’s staff on a purely commercial basis. One of them told me this week, “In my opinion, what you have is dynamite. The source of the money is known. The money came from a contribution from the United States. It was a completely circular deal. The people we were in contact with were Musi Raz and his assistant.”
The posters themselves were done by the Gal advertising firm and the checks were made out to “DealTov.” Photographer Gadi Dagon was paid about $5,000 for the rights to his photograph of Yitzhak Rabin.
At the offices of Meretz on Homa Umigdal Street in Tel Aviv, they were very proud of the project, a large part of which was handed over to Meretz’s youth division to carry out. They spoke quietly and proudly of “Peace Now’s trick.” Two of their main activists, artist Avital Geva and Hemi Sal, both from Kibbutz Ein-Shemer, were responsible for hanging the huge poster with Rabin’s picture on the gigantic buildings of the Granot factory at the Gan-Shmuel junction.
There was nothing on the posters to identify who was behind them, neither One Israel (remember them?) nor Peace Now. The reason was that Peace Now is registered in Israel as a nonprofit organization which does not participate in party politics, making it possible for it to raise funds in the United States, for tax purposes. The question is whether the use of Peace Now funds raised in the United States to participate in the funding of an election campaign in Israel is not in violation of American law.
“I see nothing illegal in the campaign,” says Musi Raz. “What is wrong with Peace Now running a campaign with a picture of Yitzhak Rabin?”
This piece ran in Makor Rishon on May 10, 2002