Bill Clinton's $500K Speech in Israel for Foundation Draws Criticism

Tuesday, 04 Jun 2013 11:53 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Former President Bill Clinton is set to deliver a half-million dollar speech at the Peres Academic Center in Rehovot, Israel, later this month honoring the 90th birthday of Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The $500,000 payment will reportedly go towards the William J. Clinton Foundation which focuses on economic empowerment, leadership development, health security, and citizen service.

The speech is being commissioned by the Jewish National Fund, which paid the considerable fee to secure Clinton's appearance one year in advance, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

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The nonprofit is known for planting trees around Israel and has been criticized by pro-Palestinian groups for at times panting on what is considered by some to be Palestinian land.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the JNF's selection of Clinton was an attempt "to generate positive PR for itself abroad."

The move sought to counteract "pro-Palestinian activists [which] have been attacking the agency," Haaretz writes. "By inviting Clinton to speak on sustainability at its annual conference, while at the same time introducing some of its biggest donors to Clinton. This was in the hope of facilitating the JNF’s long-term fund-raising goals."

Despite the explanation, Israeli criticism to the half-million dollar speech was swift.

Haaretz itself described the fee as a "cause for embarrassment," while a chief diplomatic correspondent for Israel TV, Ayala Hasson, said the payment indicated "a loss of all shame," the Blaze notes.

"The founders of the JNF are turning in their graves," Hasson tweeted. "The JNF spokeswoman didn’t answer me who approved this scandalous amount. She only responded that it is a great honor blah blah…"

Hasson was joined in her outrage on Twitter by Amir Mizroch, who edits Israel Hayom’s English language edition.

"Aren’t they supposed to plant trees with donor cash?" Mizroch tweeted. "I guess money does grow on trees."

Accepting considerably high fees for his speeches is nothing new for the 42nd President, who in 2011 earned $13.4 million for speaking fees. Clinton's most lucrative payout that year was in November, 2011, during an appearance in Hong Kong where he reportedly collected $750,000.

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Clinton will be appearing with various American celebrities, such as Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Barbra Streisand later in the week in Jerusalem, as well as several former world leaders including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.

In its assessment, the Blaze notes that Clinton will earn $11,111 per minute for his foundation during the 45-minute speech.

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