Israeli minister orders police to cut ties with Wexner Foundation
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir accuses the organization of partnering with ‘left-wing political movements’; Wexner spokesperson denies claims
Amir Levy/Getty Images
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir ordered the Israel Police to stop cooperating with the Wexner Foundation on Monday, specifically with its program sending senior Israeli officials to study at Harvard University, alleging that the U.S.-based organization is involved with “obvious left-wing political movements.”
The decision, which went into immediate effect, will prevent five officers — with the rank of chief superintendent and above — from attending Wexner’s fellowship program at Harvard next year as they had been selected to do.
“Due to political involvement and cooperation with obvious left-wing political movements like Breaking the Silence, I have ordered the bodies within my ministry to halt the involvement of officers in the Israel Police in continued education and all other activities with the Wexner Foundation,” Ben-Gvir wrote in a tweet.
A Wexner Foundation spokesperson rejected Ben-Gvir’s allegation, telling eJewishPhilanthropy “we are not now nor have we ever been associated with any political party or ‘movement.’”
The spokesperson also highlighted the organization’s longstanding relationship with the Israeli civil service, which he said stretches back nearly 35 years.
“A review of the names of our alumni will reveal that we support the full diversity of the civil service in Israel. We operate our programs in full cooperation with the Civil Service Commission,” the Wexner spokesman said.
Wexner alumni include top Israel Defense Forces officers, including former Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, as well as ministers, heads of ministry departments, school systems, government lawyers and other mid-career officials who are seen as likely to hold more senior positions in the future.
The minister’s decision was condemned by political opponents, as well as by graduates of the Wexner program.
“People are being murdered in the streets — there is a record high level of crime and lack of personal security in the Arab community and in the Jewish community — and what is this minister of national failing dealing with? The Wexner Foundation,” MK Meirav Cohen, of the Yesh Atid party, said in a statement.
Yehuda Shaffer, a Wexner alumnus and former deputy state’s attorney, called the fellowship “one of the best programs that we have,” in an interview on Israeli radio.
“This is run by a man [Les Wexner] who even [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu considers to be a good Jewish philanthropist who loves Israel and has no ulterior motives in Israel. This is something that is only good, so why are they attacking this foundation?” Shaffer said.
Israeli critics of the Wexner Foundation’s program noted the organization’s ties to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who was once paid over $2 million for two studies on leadership, one of which was never completed, as well as the organization’s alleged ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, which the foundation has disputed.