Larry Ellison, billionaire CEO of Oracle Software, has pledged $500,000 in aid to the Israeli border town of Sderot.
Accompanied by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and US congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), Ellison made the pledge upon hearing that the Sderot community center was not fortified from bombs and offered to pay for its protection.
Whose Responsibility to Fortify Sderot?
Personally, I wonder about the implications of such an investment for international relations and relationships, particularly as they affect Israel and the United States.
Although Ellison is a private individual, the community center in Sderot is a public entity. While it is true that Ellison is not buying the center, only ensuring its continuity, what does it mean for the government of Israel to be seeking donations from Westerners? Is it not a primary job of the government to provide protection for its people? What are the consequences of a private person stepping in to take on such a role?
The same has been asked of Arcadi Gaydamak’s ongoing support for Israelis in crisis. Although full discussion of Gaydamak will be saved for a future post, it is important to note him as an example in our discussion of the roles of private individuals and the government.
During the long days of the Second Lebanon War, Gaydamak donated $15 million (the equivalent of $500,000 a day) to establish tent villages for Northerns who evacuated. In November 2006, he funded a week long trip for residents of Sderot to Eilat, Israel’s seaside resort, to give them a break from the constant barrage of bombs from Gaza.
These donations were met with awe at their generosity and scepticism at their intent as Israelis pondered Gaydamak’s future political plans.
The Role of Private Individuals versus the Government
Both Ellison’s donation to Sderot and Gaydamak’s ongoing support to Israelis in their times of need are to be gratefully appreciated for their direct results. But it does lead one to wonder: what is the role of the government and what is the role of a private citizen?
Ellison did not happen upon the Sderot community center, but was guided there by one of the most powerful players in Israeli politics.
In my post on Charity versus Philanthropy, I stated that philanthropists step up when the government isn’t able to fulfill its role in protecting the people and bridging social divides.
Is that what is happening here? If so, what are the long term implications of Israel’s dependency on foreigners, even foreigners from among the Nation of Israel?