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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Israel - JNF pays Bill Clinton $500,000 for 45-minute talk

The Jewish National Fund has paid former US president Bill Clinton $500,000 for a 45-minute speech at the Peres Academic Center in Rehovot on June 17 in honor of the Israeli president’s 90th birthday.

Guests were last week sent invitations requiring them to stump up NIS 3,000 (just over $800) apiece to attend the gala dinner, and thus to help cover his fee, but that requirement has now been canceled.

The fee is not destined for Clinton’s personal account, but will rather be paid to the William J. Clinton Foundation, which encourages awareness of environmental protection and public health along with projects promoting those causes.

Clinton was invited to Israel jointly by President Shimon Peres, for his Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, and the JNF. The former US president’s trip to Israel was initiated by the JNF as the highlight of the organization’s summit of presidents taking place in Israel during the summer.

The cover charge for the gala dinner in Rehovot was canceled after Peres stated he wouldn’t attend the event if it functioned as a fundraiser. “No fundraising will take place that evening, and no payment will be requested from any of its participants,” the Peres Academic Center, which is hosting the event, told the Haaretz daily Sunday.

As a result, the JNF and Peres Academic Center in Rehovot will absorb the costs, Yedioth Ahronoth reported, noting that the sum was transferred to Clinton nearly a year in advance to guarantee his participation.

Clinton will also receive the President’s Award from Peres on June 19 at a plenary session of the Presidential Conference entitled “Leadership That Makes a Difference.”

Other speakers at the session include Israeli newscaster and journalist Dana Weiss; Middle East Quartet envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair; and the last president of the former Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorbachev initiated “perestroika,” the process of reforms within the Communist Party that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

Earlier this month, noted British physicist Stephen Hawking canceled his scheduled participation in the Peres conference, announcing that he was boycotting it for political reasons.

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