update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Ben-Gvir cuts police ties with ‘radical left’ Wexner Foundation

The organization offers scholarships for Israeli officials to spend time at Harvard.

Otzma Yehudit Party head MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai at Ben-Gvir's daughter's bat mitzvah in Kiryat Arba, Dec. 8, 2022. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.
Otzma Yehudit Party head MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai at Ben-Gvir's daughter's bat mitzvah in Kiryat Arba, Dec. 8, 2022. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has instructed the Israel Police to immediately cut all ties with the U.S.-based Wexner Foundation, which funds programs for Israeli public servants at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

The decision, which applies to all police officers and ministry employees, was taken after years of complaints over the foundation’s “radical left political affiliation and cooperation with prominent left-wing organizations like Breaking the Silence,” Ben-Gvir said on Tuesday.

“Politics stay out of the police,” the minister wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

The Wexner Foundation, which operates out of Ohio, claims to “develop and inspire leaders in the North American Jewish Community and the State of Israel” through “pluralistic, cohort-based educational programs.” The organization offers scholarships for Israeli officials, allowing them to spend between four weeks and a year at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Past recipients of Wexner scholarships include National Unity Party lawmaker Orit Farkash-Hacohen, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Aviv Kochavi, and Maj. Gen. (res.) Yair Golan, a former Knesset member and deputy economy minister for the far-left Meretz Party.

Ben-Gvir’s order will block five senior police officers from attending Harvard next year as they had been selected to do, Israel’s Channel 14 reported.

Right-wing NGOs have long accused the fund of promoting left-wing political causes. In 2018, the Lavi Organization, which works to bring about a “Zionist worldview in Israel’s government,” published a 30-page report outlining “the damage resulting from the operations of the Wexner Foundation in Israel.”

Critics of the Wexner Foundation’s work have also pointed at the organization’s connections to former premier Ehud Barak, whom it once paid $2.3 million for two studies, as well as the organization’s well-documented ties to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Ben-Gvir’s decision to stop the police’s cooperation with the fund was welcomed by right-wing politicians and activists.

“A governing right-wing means acknowledging the shadow regime and the fact that left-wing ideas are being inculcated in a sophisticated manner. Kudos to Minister Ben-Gvir for severing the police’s ties with the Wexner Foundation, which is a long arm of the deep state,” said MK Tali Gottlieb, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing Likud Party.

“Bye-bye to the fund that poisons IDF and police officials,” Lizi Hameiri, a social activist and member of the IDF Fortitude Forum, wrote in a post on X.

Others criticized the move. “People are being murdered in the streets — there is a record high level of crime and lack of personal security in the Arab community and in the Jewish community—and what is this minister of national failing dealing with? The Wexner Foundation,” Yesh Atid lawmaker MK Meirav Cohen wrote on X, adding: “What a failed minister.”

Torat Lehima, an association that “works to strengthen the Jewish identity and fighting spirit in the IDF and the security establishment,” called on Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to follow Ben-Gvir’s example.

“We are calling for the end to the cooperation between the Israel Police and the Wexner Foundation to be extended to the IDF as well. This is a political foundation clearly identified with the left,” Chairman Aviad Gadot told Israel’s 103FM radio channel on Tuesday.

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