Blocking Mideast Peace
The Millionaire Behind the Tunnel
by Zadok Yehezkeli
Originally published 04 October 1996
in Yediot Aharonot

Dr. Irving Moskowitz contributed to excavating the Tunnel at the Wall and was among the few who participated in the opening. He is a personal friend of Netanyahu, one of his major donors, and is considered the patron of the settlers in East Jerusalem and Gush Katif (in the Gaza Strip).

Just a handful of people close to him were invited to the opening ceremony of the Hasmonean Tunnel that was held the night after Yom Kippur, orchestrated by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert. The media were not there. On the other hand, two Jewish moguls from the American diaspora were present: the millionaire Sandy Eisenstadt of the Lubavitch movement, in the oil drilling business, and Dr. Irving Moskowitz, a right wing extremist, Miami resident, the patron of the settlers in Judea and Samaria, and a member of the club of donors to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Moskowitz has already become a living legend among the right as the largest purchaser of houses in East Jerusalem. He also donated monies for excavating the controversial tunnel. Those in the know do not exclude the possibility that the timing of the opening of the tunnel was set by Moskowitz's movements: the doctor simply was in Israel on Yom Kippur.

In the last ten years, it is estimated that Dr. Moskowitz invested tens of millions of dollars in Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem. Dubbed "the well-known benefactor" by settlers, Moskowitz is the money behind the acquisition of houses by the Ateret Kohanim organization in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City; he is owner of the land and the building of the Beit Orot Yeshiva on the Mount of Olives; he acquired the old Shepherds Hotel (now known as Shetier) in East Jerusalem; he owns land in Ras al-Amud on which a new Jewish neighborhood is planned; he helped finance acquisition of the St. George Hostel near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; and he financed acquisition of the White House at the Gush Katif junction, a building that today serves as a restaurant and minimarket. All of this was in addition to his contributions to propaganda campaigns of the Council for Judea. Samaria and the Golan; to Channel 7 (a pirate religious radio station) to yeshivas; to the campaign to light Palestinian autonomy; and more.

Moskowitz, 69, father of eight, directs his activity from behind the scenes. He does not give interviews and is not seen in the media. He is known as a tough, sharp businessman. He made his career first as a neurologist in Miami, then he bought a clinic and turned it into a private hospital, and eventually became owner of over 20 hospitals for the chronically ill and the elderly in Florida.

His brother, a left winger, immigrated to Israel and settled in Kibbutz Em Dor in the north. Irving, whose friends affectionately call him "Irv", owns a home in the Mishkenot Shaananim section of Jerusalem and a leisure apartment in the Four Seasons Hotel on the Netanya coast. He comes to Israel several times a year, mainly for Rosh Hashana and Passover. Moskowitz generally carries out his land deals through his business representatives in Israel.

Lately it has become clear that Moskowitz is not just the patron of the settlers, but also of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Several dozen people are members of Netanyahus club of millionaires, but only three or four are among the very small group closest to the Prime Minister. Irving Moskowitz was one of those invited by Netanyahu to accompany him to the Washington part of his "inaugural" trip to the United States, following his election as Prime Minister.

This was not the first time that Netanyahu had honored the man who remains in the background. At least four Netanyahu visits to Miami, one of the wealthiest Jewish communities in the United States, occurred in recent years. But the most talked-about visit was the shortest of them all, and also the most secret. According to knowledgeable sources, Netanyahu landed in Miami, checked into the airport hotel, and after three-four hours, he turned around and left Miami.

My source who is knowledgeable about the details of that visit reports that the man for whom Netanyahu made an effort to get to Miami was none other than Irving Moskowitz. By the way, there is no agreement about the date of that meeting: In Miami they claim that it was four months before the recent elections.

Other sources claim that it took place after the Likud primaries. In either case, in the last two-three years. Moskowitz was perhaps closer to the Prime Minister than anyone else in Netanyahus millionaires club. "He can call him up whenever he wants and Netanyahu will respond at once," says someone who knows them both. Moskowitz, according to this source, does not often make use of this privilege.

How did the millionaire from Miami reach this position of influence on the Prime Minister? Sources say that it is based on his personal and financial support of Netanyahu. They have known each other personally for almost 20 years, ever since Moskowitz helped set up the Research Institute named for Yoni Netanyahu (Benjamins brother killed and heroicized during the Entebbe rescue operation). Moskowitz contributed funds to Netanyahus election campaign for the Likud leadership and later also to his race for the prime ministership.

In December 1994, Netanyahu, then leader of the Likud, arrived in New York to attend a festive dinner sponsored by the ZOA (Zionist Organization of America), a right wing organization active campaigning against the peace policies of the Rabin government. Netanyahu was the guest of honor and the keynote speaker that evening, during which the Brandeis Prize was awarded to Irving Moscowitz, a member of the ZOA Board and one of its generous donors.

By the way, Moscowitzs appearance at the evening was rare, as was his public appearance at the opening ceremony of the tunnel. Morton Klein, president of the ZOA, defines him as "one of the most modest people that I ever met in my life. What he does springs from one motivation only: his love of Israel."

The Miami Herald claimed this week that Moskowitz was the secret person of the Likud for funding projects that were too hot to handle in Jerusalem, projects on which fingerprints should not appear. "Some of Moskowitz's vision for Israel is to attain more control of East Jerusalem. Hes the one who finances every project that the government feels is too hot to do itself."

According to the Herald, the millionaires Marmelstein and Belzberg of Ateret Kohanim put pressure on Netanyahu to open the tunnel as early as May, after his election victory. According to knowledgeable sources, the subject was raised in a meeting with Netanyahu during his visit in New York two months ago. When Netanyahu was not convinced, Ateret Kohanim recruited Mayor Olmert to lead the campaign in their name.

Moskowitz knows Olmert well and is close to him. Olmert, as expected, knows how to make use of the doctor for deepening his control over Jerusalem. Thus, in a rare public expression by Moskowitz at a ceremony installing a Torah scroll, contributed by him, to the Ateret Kohanim yeshiva, he said, "We must never forget for a moment that our generation was chosen to carry out the return to Zion. After two thousand years of sacrifice on behalf of the dream of returning to Jerusalem, we must not let it slip from our fingers."

Copyright 1996, Yediot Aharonot. For education and discussion only. Not for commercial use.

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