Shimon Peres, Israel’s president and the man who oversaw the country’s secret development of a nuclear bomb in the 1960s, held a star-studded 90th birthday party masquerading as a presidential conference in June (see August 2013 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 12).
Aside from the cloud cast by the decision of the renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking to boycott the event, it was an unabashed celebration of Peres’ life and work by a long list of the international “great and good,” from former U.S. President Bill Clinton to songstress Barbra Streisand.
However, as one Israeli website noted, this $3 million salute to the head of the Israeli state was financed chiefly by the arms industry. The three biggest funders were major arms dealers, including the honorary chair of the conference, Aaron Frenkel.
That was fitting given Israel’s stunning ascent through the international rankings of the arms trade over the past decade. Despite having a population smaller than New York City, Israel has emerged in the last few years as one of the world’s largest exporters of weapons.