The Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet Leyisrael) said on Thursday that it will not take part in an upcoming gala event attended by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and will not pay him $500,000 to give a speech at this gala.
Clinton's participation in the event has not been canceled.
Earlier this week it was reported that the JNF would pay Clinton this huge sum for the gala evening, to be held June 17 in honor of President Shimon Peres's 90th birthday. It will be held at the Peres Academic Center in Rehovot, one of the few institutions in Israel that are named for living dignitaries.
The reports said that the Peres Center has been cooperating with the JNF for a year. JNF hoped to improve the organization's image abroad by bringing Clinton to speak about it in Israel, and to have Clinton meet with its largest donors, thus bolstering donations. The reports about the outrageous sum that Clinton would be paid for the speech sparked an uproar both in Israel as well as by JNF donors abroad.
A letter sent to JNF board members on Thursday said that the Peres Academic Center extended the invitation to Clinton back in June of 2012, and that the Peres Center was the one to sign the agreement with Clinton and paid whatever fees were required.
"In order to remove any doubt, neither the JNF nor any of its members have ever had any contact with Clinton or his representatives," said the letter.
"The decision to participate in the Peres Academic Center’s gala, to which Mr. Clinton was invited, was made a few months ago by the International Steering Committee of the Conference of Presidents of the JNF, out of the JNF’s huge appreciation for Mr. Clinton's contribution to the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” the letter, written by JNF CEO Eli Spiegler, read.
In recent days, wrote Spiegler, the members of the steering committee have been updated about the public discourse over Clinton's participation in the event and as a result, had decided “to withdraw our participation in this event, and hold an alternative event instead.”
He made it clear that without the media storm, the Clinton event would have been very successful and would have brought many donations to the JNF.
"As we know, many of these contributions are made at fundraising events held around the world by various JNF offices,” wrote Spiegler. “These events certainly cost money, but it is important to remember that they help us recruit our partners to invest enormous resources in favor of Zionist activity, the community and the state."
Spiegler wrote that because of the storm which was caused, he claimed, by inaccuracies, "not to mention clearly erroneous facts, the steering committee decided to pull out from the gala. The committee decided that the atmosphere created does not allow JNF to pay the due respect to former president Clinton and President Peres and our friends and supporters abroad. "