In his final days as mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani traveled to Jerusalem to express his solidarity after a series of terrorist bombings struck the holy city. Coming just three months after terrorists flew two planes into New York's World Trade Center towers, killing thousands, Giuliani's visit resonated throughout Jerusalem. Israel's elite turned out for the Dec. 10, 2001, banquet in his honor, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Jerusalem's Mayor Ehud Olmert and, one of the most extraordinary operators in world business, Arcadi Gaydamak.
That Gaydamak was invited at all was a singular achievement. Just a year earlier, in December 2000, Gaydamak had fled France, where he was wanted for illegal gun running, tax evasion, money laundering and corruption. He stood accused of helping turn one of the world's longest-standing wars into a honey pot of enrichment for himself and influential friends in Angola, Israel, Russia and France.
Giuliani likely did not know that the short, stocky man he was introduced to was a fugitive from justice and a central figure in an arms scandal that had rocked the French political establishment. Gaydamak, who by then had Hebraized his name to Ari Barlev, was invited, he said, because he had contributed a million dollars to the fund for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
The invitation was illustrative of Gaydamak's trademark ability to buy access and influence people. He attended the dinner with his friend and business partner, Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, the former Israeli tourism minister and ex-chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces. He numbered among his other business associates Danny Yatom, who headed Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, before being appointed security advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Gaydamak also employed Avi Dagan, Mossad's former head of intelligence gathering.