The Gaydamak Effect
When Ehud Olmert and his ministers visited beleaguered Sderot this week, they were heckled and cursed for failing to provide shelters and letting the town sink into poverty in seven years of relentless missile fire from neighboring Gaza.
But Arkadi Gaydamak was greeted with cheers and smiles. The free-spending ex-Russian multibillionaire turned up Friday with two fortification experts and a pledge of IS60m ($15m) of his own money for a three-month crash program to build shelters against Palestinian missiles.
This was a typical Gaydamak exercise. He steps in with tons of cash at the most embarrassing moments for the authorities, at the times and the places of their most striking failures. Monday, the second day of the intense Hamas missile barrage on Sderot, he sent busses to remove distressed mothers and children for recuperation at hotels – all expenses paid. The government was forced next day to follow where he led and expand the evacuation.
He Gaydamaked the government in last year’s Lebanon War by setting up a holiday camp on the beach for thousands of Northerners to relieve the stresses of weeks in bomb shelters under Hizballah attack.
By dramatizing the government’s insensitivities to public needs and his openhanded spending on big popular projects, Gaydamak draws smiles everywhere. The have-nots don’t mind if his philanthropy is a means to a political end. He is there to help and sympathize when there is no one else. The ex-Russian with poor Hebrew has admitted in halting English that he is not qualified to be prime minister, but he may run for the Jerusalem mayoralty…