UK-based businessman Samuel Hayek arrives in Israel to mediate as coalition talks crumble

The JNF UK chairman is an old friend of both Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman


A British-Israeli businessman has emerged as one of the main mediators attempting to resuscitate talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, his former defence minister.

Samuel Hayek, who is also chairman of JNF UK, arrived in Israel on Monday night and is reported to have met both politicians, who are old friends of his.

Israel could be hurtling towards a repeat election this year after coalition talks between Mr Netanyahu’s Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, led by Mr Lieberman, broke down over the weekend.

Mr Hayek is one of various go-betweens still trying to bridge the differences between the two men ahead of a deadline on Wednesday night.

The 66-year-old has lived in London, where he has extensive real estate holdings, for the last four decades. He was head of the Likud’s youth department in his early twenties, after his military service, and for a short while also served as Ariel Sharon’s spokesperson.

After moving to London, he retained his political connections in Israel and developed friendships with politicians, including the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu leaders and the former foreign minister Tzipi Livni. He also donated to their personal campaigns.

This week is not the first time Mr Hayek has mediated between the two senior Israeli leaders, who once worked closely with each other.

Mr Lieberman was Mr Netanyahu’s political aide, chief of staff and director-general of the prime minister’s office between 1988 and 1997, when they had a disagreement. Mr Lieberman eventually founded his own party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

In 2013, Mr Hayek was one of those who convinced the two leaders to field a joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list of candidates in the election, but despite this, the parties did not merge and ran separately in the elections of 2015 and 2019.

While Mr Hayek is one of the few figures both of them trust, observers of Israeli politics say his chances of achieving a rapprochement are considered slim.

Many believe Mr Lieberman has made an irrevocable decision not to serve in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition and is using a proposed law regulated yeshiva students’ draft into the army, on which there are very real disagreements with the Charedi parties, as an excuse.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive