Jewish billionaire Lev (Levi) Leviev was born in the former Soviet Union, and is known in the Israeli public as a “Russian Oligarch”. Leviev earned his initial fortune in the diamond business, but he has since expended his financial empire to include several telecommunication and real estate companies. Among others, he controls the Russian-Israeli “Channel 9” cable station, and the currently-in-construction first private prison in Israel.
Mr. Leviev is a religious man, and he’s continuously donating great sums of money to religious Jewish institutions — particularly the “Habbad” movement. He alone makes it possible for about 5,000 Haredi men to spend all their time in Yeshivas, and out of the labor force. The financial support he provides them is more than likely to affect their voting patterns — theirs, and their family and friends.
In the political arena, Knesset Member Amnon Cohen from the Haredi “Shas” party is known to be a close friend of Lev Leviev. They both belong to the Bukharan community: Mr. Cohen is the representative of the Bukharan community in the Knesset, while Mr. Leviev founded the Ohr Avner Foundation which supports the Bukharan population both in Israel and abroad.
Both The Marker and The Calcalist report that Mr. Cohen, who is a member of the finance committee, intervened yesterday in behalf of Leviev’s Channel 9, and demanded the committee perform a re-vote on a failed proposal that could have a profound effect on Channel 9’s revenues. The proposal dealt with the inclusion of Channel 9 into the free Digital TV project — a governmental initiative that plans to broadcast several state-wide channels via a cable infrastructure.
It’s amazing how much power money can buy.