Former prime minister and chairman of Democratic Israel Ehud Barak spoke about the problems he's facing in unifying the center-left bloc and the attacks from Blue and White in an interview on "Meet the Israeli Press" on Saturday. Barak was also asked about Haaretz's investigation, which revealed that Barak and Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire who was recently arrested for sex-trafficking charges, had business dealings in the past.
Barak received $2.3 million from the Wexner Foundation in 2004 but said he would not disclose what he received the money for. Epstein was a trustee of the foundation when Barak received the money for unspecified consulting services.
"There's no claim against me for any offense," Barak said about his relationship with Epstein. "A serving prime minister who is neck-deep in criminal cases is trying to compare himself to me through a story about a third private person in another country who committed crimes. It's complete spin and it's important that the left doesn't fall into this trap - spin which serves the prime minister."
Regarding his business ties with the Wexner Foundation, Barak said, "I intend to be active for another 15 years and make a living from the same things. I can't allow myself to lose my capacity to earn money due to political pressures. I provide consulting services in other places as well and at times I earned more money for less work than I did for the Wexner Foundation."
Barak claimed that his political rivals were trying to probe his past and expose his business connections. "I am a consultant of a large bank in Switzerland and people are sending letters - what advice did I give and what kind of salary I received. They have no right to do this. These people decided to terrorize me - they investigated who I provided consulting services for, they're asking about me - and not only regarding the Wexner Foundation."
Nevertheless, Barak stressed that if the Wexner Foundation says he should reveal everything, "he won't resist for even a second." However, Barak criticized the conduct of the media regarding the report. "Try to remember if you have ever asked a lawyer what he did for clients and for what amounts."
Barak said regarding Epstein: "He served his sentence for soliciting one girl for prostitution. Now it turns out that he is accused of truly terrible things. It's not pleasant when people that you know for years are involved in criminal activity - but not the same type of criminal activity," Barak said, making an implicit comparison between Epstein and Netanyahu.
On the possibility of joining with other parties, Barak said: "I believe that there should be unity. I'll do anything to bring about unity." Barak repeated Amir Peretz's words: "Personal considerations won't be a barrier, I know that most of the center-left voters prefer that I lead a union, but there won't be any personal considerations. The public will decide. We have polls that show us gaining five seats - like a party that's been around for decades."