Kohelet Forum’s Billionaire Donor Pulls Support
U.S. billionaire Arthur Dantchik announced on Friday he would no longer support the Kohelet Forum, a Jerusalem-based conservative think tank credited with helping develop the Netanyahu government’s judicial reform program.
“Throughout my life, I have supported a diverse array of organizations that promote individual liberties and economic freedoms for all people,” Dantchik, 65, told Israeli business site Calcalist.
“Nevertheless, when a society becomes dangerously fragmented, people must come together to preserve democracy. I stopped donating to think tanks in Israel, including the Kohelet Policy Forum. I believe what is most critical at this time is for Israel to focus on healing and national unity,” he said.
Dantchik, reportedly worth $7.3 billion, is co-founder and managing director of Susquehanna International Group, “one of Wall Street’s largest and most successful trading firms,” according to Forbes.
Dantchik is also on the board of directors of Bytedance, the parent company of the social media app TikTok, Calcalist reported, noting he’s also invested in Israeli high-tech companies, including Payoneer, Outbrain and eToro.
Kohelet was tight-lipped about the news, telling Zenger News only that “we do not comment on individual donors. Donations to Kohelet are broad-based and increasing steadily.”
The Jewish Press reported that Dantchik caved under a relentless assault from anti-judicial reform protesters, who targeted him personally. “Dantchik, who is an extremely private man, succumbed to pressure after thirty weeks during which a group of Israeli expats followed him everywhere armed with signs, megaphones, screaming slogans incessantly, outside his home and his offices,” the paper said.
Anti-judicial reform groups celebrated the announcement. Ran Cohen, director of the Democratic Bloc, whose group took credit for outing Dantchik as a Kohelet donor in 2021, tweeted on Friday:
“Two and a half years have passed since this tweet—the tweet in which we first revealed the names of the anonymous donors of the Kohelet Forum. Today it was announced that Arthur Dantchik will stop donating to them.”
He referred to a March 12, 2021 tweet, which he attached, with a link to a Haaretz article from that time titled, “How the Kohelet Forum was born, the most successful project of the right in the last decade—and who finances it.”
Kohelet became a frequent target of anti-reform protesters. In March, masked members of the Israeli group Achim L’Neshek, (“Brothers in Arms”), placed barbed wire in front of its Jerusalem offices. Protesters waved banners and placards bearing Dantchik’s name.
“The think tank has been the subject of a biased series of stories in left-wing outlets like Haaretz and The Intercept, as well as the formerly centrist Times of Israel, in which its efforts have been demonized as part of a far-right scheme to transform Israel into a conservative dictatorship,” Zenger News’s editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin wrote in March.
The Kohelet Forum had worked behind the scenes on judicial reform. Its chairman, Moshe Koppel, argued that reform was necessary to restore Israel’s system of checks and balances, which had been stripped away by a court system that arrogated powers beyond its purview.
When the Netanyahu government announced its sweeping judicial reform in January, Kohelet’s profile shot to the fore.
The government’s announcement sparked large-scale protests. In March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a timeout in response to the outcry. He said he would give a chance for compromise talks with the opposition to play out.
When those talks collapsed, the government moved ahead, passing the first piece of its reform legislation on July 24.
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate