Billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak is definitely on the move these days. And this move appears to be heading towards a bid to become an important element in Israel’s political scene, with possibilities of even one day becoming the country’s prime minister. After purchasing several Israeli corporations and also the Jerusalem based Beitar Football Club, Arkadi Gaydamak has now heading in some new directions and is increasing his support to a number of philanthropic projects.
Gaydamak has recently been making appearances in a number of Israeli communities, including Netanya and Or Akiva. In Netanya, he strolled through the ‘shuk ‘ or open air public market, where he was enthusiastically greeted by both vendors and shoppers alike. In fact, the loud acclaims of “Gaydamak!, Gaydamak!” were so loud that he couldn’t get a word in edgewise in either Russian, English, or Hebrew – the few Hebrew words he knows that is. At Or Akiva, his next stop on this particular tour, his big black “van-limo” stopped at a religious school and yeshiva where he was also greeted with much enthusiasm. According to sources, he promised the Yeshiva a generous donation of around one million ILS, close to $260,000 at today’s currency rates.
When asked by an accompanying Channel 2 News reporter if his philanthropy appears to be a tactic to gain popularity, he replied: “I’m not buying anything – nothing!” Since the outbreak of the 2006 war in Lebanon and Gaza, Gaydamak has been involved in several projects in which he furnished assistance to those in need, including a tent city for residents of northern Israel who fled the onslaught of missiles fired at them from Hezbollah forces, as well as offering the beleaguered residents of the southern town of Sderot a holiday in Eilat following a siege of Palestinian launched Kassam missiles from near-by Gaza.
Gaydamak has made generous contributions to a number of organizations including the nationwide ambulance and emergency medical service Magen David Adom. He founded his own political party, the Party for Social Justice in February, 2007, with which he plans to enter the next parliamentary election on a right winged platform similar to that of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. While not presently expressing a desire to be either a member of the Knesset or the prime minister, Gaydamak does appear very interested in becoming the next mayor of Jerusalem; a position in which his ownership of the Beitar Football Club would be a definite asset.
Although the next elections are at least a year away, Gaydamak appears to be conducting an impressive enough PR campaign that may bear him significant political fruit. When asked if he thought his lack of Hebrew might be a problem, he replied: “I don’t need to speak! My actions are louder than words! Besides, I will have a proper “team” to conduct the affairs of government.”
Team or not, it appears that Arkadi Gaydamak is moving in the direction he wants to head in. And that “direction” might lead him all to way the top.