Former President Shimon Peres announced on Thursday that he was canceling the contract with Bank Hapoalim, which was met with criticism by MKs from both left and right.
Under the contract, as reported by the financial newspaper The Marker, Peres would have promoted the bank for $30,000 a month.
Speaking to Channel 2 News, Peres said that the money he would have received from the bank was meant for socially-oriented projects and was not meant for his own pocket, but added he was canceling the agreement with the bank “out of the desire to be responsive to public sentiments and the false interpretations [about the contract].”
“I am not earning a penny because I am not taking a penny of that money. All this money is invested in science, social needs, and I make sure of that,” he said, adding, “I would not have done anything that even smells of money. I'm surprised that anyone is doubting that. I am not a lobbyist at all.”
Peres claimed that reports this week about the contract were incorrect, saying, “What we agreed about had no connection to what was published. Bank Hapoalim turned to me and said it has a branch in the United States, and it wants to bring more investors to Israel, and asked if I would help in doing that in the United States, with no connection to the state of Israel. I agreed.”
“Then I read a newspaper story that has no connection to reality, I'm not going to argue. I decided, in any case for me it is not a financial issue but an issue of public interest, and it is important for me to maintain the public’s trust, to cancel and that was it,” said Peres.
“I want it to be clear, this is how I have conducted myself throughout my entire life and I do not want anyone to spoil it with a false publication,” added the former president, who then noted that Bank Hapoalim “obviously felt that damage was done to it [because of the cancellation] and I did not want to cause them harm, but I said - I do not have a bank, I have a name, and my good name is the only bank I have.”
While in office, Peres was criticized for his lavish 90th birthday celebrations which were attended by some 2,000 people. In fact, the presidential institution cost the state a whopping 62 million shekels ($17.6 million) in 2012, a figure three times higher than a decade earlier.
Nevertheless, Peres in December chose to criticize Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government, saying it "talks but doesn't act" against poverty.