TEL AVIV – Senior officials in the opposition Labor and Meretz parties have said that Ehud Barak’s ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein have severely impacted the chances of their parties merging with Barak’s Israel Democratic Party, a TV report said Friday.
According to leaked conversations, the officials said that any association with the hedge-fund manager, who is suspecting of sex trafficking, would harm their parties’ stated aims of fighting corruption, Channel 12 reported.
They have decided to wait until party lists are finalized before making any mergers with the Israel Democratic Party, the report said.
Epstein has been indicted for creating what prosecutors described as a network of underage girls whom he molested and exploited in the early 2000s.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week charged Barak, who served as prime minister, with having ties to Epstein a day after the billionaire was arrested in New York on allegations of child sex trafficking.
Barak in 2015 formed a limited partnership company in Israel called Sum (E.B.) 2015 in which he was majority shareholder. The aim was to invest in a startup called Reporty which last year changed its name to Carbyne. The company offers live audio, video and geolocation transmission for emergency services.
Barak, who serves as a director in the company, invested millions of shekels in it. A large part of the funds to buy Reporty stock was provided by Epstein, according to Haaretz.
Epstein was sentenced to 13 months in jail in 2008 after pleading guilty to a charge of soliciting prostitution from a minor. He was subsequently required to register as a sex offender.
Last week, Netanyahu tweeted a screenshot of a Hebrew-language report about Epstein’s arrest and his connection to Barak, calling for the former prime minister to be “investigated immediately.”
“And the media is silent,” Netanyahu wrote.
The report claimed that one of Epstein’s top clients is the founder of the Wexner Foundation, which gave Barak $2.3 million between 2004-2006. According to the report, it was the largest grant awarded by the foundation during those years, comprising half of its total expenditure in Israel. Barak made the claim that he was awarded the grant for his research, the report said. However, to date no such research has come to light and both Barak and the foundation have refused to give details.
It added that Epstein had been a trustee of the foundation when it again awarded Barak $1 million in 2004.
In an interview with Channel 12 Saturday, Barak said he was in contact with a company run by Epstein, but refused to disclose to what ends he had received the millions from the Wexner Foundation.
“There is no claim of any wrongdoing on my part,” Barak said. “Meanwhile, a sitting prime minister who is up to the neck in criminal cases is trying to create a comparison between himself and me with a story about a third private citizen of another country who has committed crimes. It’s one big spin and it’s important that the left does not fall into this trap of the prime minister’s making.”
About Epstein, Barak said, “he is accused of truly terrible things” and again drawing a comparison with Netanyahu, he added, “It’s not pleasant that people you know for years are involved in criminal activity.”