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One might argue against the sale of Development Corporation for Israel bonds, aka Israel bonds, to government entities in the USA because the proceeds fund Israeli violations of international law, particularly the colonization of the West Bank, and other activities which violate internationally accepted norms, to include maintaining Gaza as a vast open air prison. But although these policies are likely to have a negative impact on Israel’s credit rating in the future, it is the characteristics of the Bonds themselves, chiefly their illiquidity, which should put them off limits for states and municipalities in the first place. Treasurers and pension fund managers who buy these toxic, illiquid obligations are putting taxpayers and retirees at risk.

In the past Israel bonds were marketed chiefly to the Jewish community as what might be described as “ethnic affinity” investments. But in 2013 the Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds sold $1.1 billion in Israeli debt obligations in the U.S.A., including some $300 million to US states and municipalities.

To cite one example, last year the state of Ohio increased its ownership of Israeli bonds from $40 million to over $80 million. The state Treasurer, Josh Mandel, the grandson of Holocaust survivors and a college member of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, engineered the largest single state purchase of Israel Bonds ever, some $42 million.

Izzy Tapoohi, the Israeli national who heads the Israel Bond organization in the United States, enthused from his office in New York City that, “Treasurer Mandel’s historic purchase of Israeli Bonds is a great example for fiscal officers who wish to provide a competitive return on taxpayer dollars, while harnessing their state’s economic power to support freedom and democracy…” while Michael Siegal, a member of Development Corporation for Israel’s board of directors and an Ohio resident, commented, “We’re very pleased the treasurer’s office would make a proper decision to support the state of Israel by making a very strong investment for the state of Ohio”.

The chairman of the Israeli Bond Organization for greater Cleveland Alan Gottlieb added “Obviously, we’re thrilled with that…it shows support by Josh Mandel for the state of Israel.” Meanwhile it was left to Mandel’s press secretary, Chris Berry, to explain to the homefolks just how holding more than $80 million in Israeli paper would benefit them: “Israel Bonds are an attractive option for state and municipal public funds because they maintain a high credit rating, are dependable, and yield a competitive interest rate…3-4 times the rates of comparable US Treasury Bonds.”

But despite what Josh Mandel’s office claims, Israel Bonds are in no way comparable to US Treasury Securities. US Treasuries are the most liquid investment on the planet. If a state or city holds US Treasury obligations and needs cash, the obligations can be sold with ease. The secondary market for US government paper is broad and deep, absolutely the gold standard of national and international liquidity. Raising cash by selling US Treasuries is quick, easy and cheap.

In contrast, Israeli obligations purchased through Israel Bonds are completely illiquid and cannot be resold. The Israel Bonds prospectus is straightforward in this regard:

“There is no secondary market for the bonds and transferability is limited. Except under certain limited circumstances, the bonds may not be transferred, sold or pledged. As a result, no secondary market can develop for the bonds, and they will not be traded on an established security market (or the substantial equivalent thereof).”

Assume, for example, that you are a state treasurer and hold Israeli bonds in your general fund or that you are a pension fund manager with unanticipated needs for cash. You want to sell your Israeli bonds to raise money. Well, you are out of luck; you can’t liquidate your holdings; you’re stuck. You can’t even pledge them as collateral for a loan. This is because unlike virtually every other bond sold in the public market place, Israeli bonds have to be held to maturity, two, three, five or ten years from now.

What happens if a bond holder wants to sell his bonds prior to maturity because he fears Israel’s ability to pay may be impaired? He can’t do it. And what if he decides that there is a risk of an Israeli default on its bonds? He still can’t do it. In my view, the risk of default is increasing because of the apparent breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the emergence of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS has grown and prospered because of the broad perception, especially in Western Europe, that Israelis are not negotiating in good faith and intend to continue the colonization of the West Bank while making the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, under occupation since 1967, as miserable as possible.

Certainly the Israeli government itself is worried. In 2010 the Tel Aviv based Reut Institute, a think tank thought to have influence at the highest levels in Israel, stated the BDS movement had “already gained strategic significance and may evolve into an existential threat.” And undoubtedly in reaction to BDS’s growing importance, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned the movement no fewer than18 times during his AIPAC speech this year.

Although Israel’s American enablers have gone all out to crush the nascent BDS movement in the United States, the European Union is taking its own path. European financial institutions have begun to reduce or terminate their relationships with Israeli banks and businesses. For example, citing Israeli violations of international law, the largest banks in Sweden and Denmark have stopped doing business with Israeli banks having branches on the West Bank.

Similarly the Dutch pension giant PGGM announced the sale of its equity holdings in Israel’s commercial banks. And the Dutch water management company Vitens has decided to end joint ventures with the Israeli water company Mekorot to protest Mekorot’s operations in the occupied territories.

EU law and regulations are still evolving with regard to Israeli occupation and settlement of the West Bank, but it is probably fair to say that among the EU’s chattering classes’ patience with Israel and its irksome and utterly unconvincing propaganda is at an end.

Nobody imagined the Apartheid government of South Africa would fall as suddenly as it did. Could Israel face a similar crisis of international confidence? Will slow but steady pressure from the BDS movement effect Israel’s credit worthiness? What would happen to Israel’s ability to refinance/rollover its debt in the face of indictments by the International Criminal Court? Do the citizens of Ohio really want to expose their money to Middle East unknowns and uncertainties?

Israeli dollar denominated bonds merge growing political and financial risk with the inability of bond holders to mitigate their exposure by selling their holdings, a truly toxic combination. It also would appear that Ohio’s acquisition of $80 million in Israel bonds was driven by political motives, and perhaps a personal agenda, and not by what’s best for Ohio citizens and retirees.

John Taylor lived and worked in the Middle East for a number of years as an archaeologist, banker and international civil servant. He worked for a major US bank in New York, Paris, Athens and London and is a graduate of the Universities of Chicago and Cambridge. He has a Commercial Pilot’s License and has been flying high performance and experimental sailplanes for 30 years.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel Lobby 
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  1. Does Mandel work directly for Kaisch or is Mandel an elected official? Was this part of his groveling before Adelson? Inquiring taxpayers of Ohio might want to know.

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  2. NB says: • Website

    Wow, now unz.com is fear-mongering about Israel bonds! Tellingly, the article omits mentioning Israel’s actual credit rating. And as you might guess, ratings agencies have determined that Israel Bonds are NOT a high risk investment, despite the article’s title.
    Moody’s: A1/stable

    https://www.moodys.com/credit-ratings/Israel-Government-of-credit-rating-423305

    Fitch: A/positive

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/29/idUSL2N0JE0WA20131129

    Standard & Poor’s: A+/stable

    http://www.standardandpoors.com/ratings/sovereigns/ratings-list/en/us/;jsessionid=8mvCP9QJRpZy1TydR4GnWF3L8TSH78jsdN0Rf11qw24CBsJjnS5t!1005972207?subSectorCode=39&start=50&range=50

    Also, Ohio’s $80 million investment in Israel bonds constitutes under 1% of the state’s portfolio. This is clearly a matter of great urgency and concern.

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    • Replies: @Philip Giraldi
    I would point out that Israel's positive credit rating is aided by the fact that some of its loans are backed by the US treasury and that congress has, in the past, forgiven direct loans granted to Tel Aviv rather than demanding repayment. Easy to borrow money when you don't have to pay it back. Also, purchasing Israel bonds is a tax deduction for American buyers. No other country's bonds receive that special treatment, yet another example of how everything having to do with Israel is not quite the same as it is with other ostensibly friendly nations.

    http://www.wrmea.org/congress-and-us-aid-to-israel/494-congress-a-us-aid-to-israel/9748-u-s-financial-aid-to-israel-figures-facts-and-impact.html

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  3. Well, NB, the bonds which brought down Lehman Bros, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, WaMu, Merrill Lynch, etc., etc., were all originally rated AAA, not merely A like Israeli paper, and they turned out to be totally worthless.

    Other countries rated in the single A category include Lithuania, South Korea, Trinidad & Tobago, Slovakia, Oman and Malaysia. Do you think that Josh Mandel also arranged for the state of Ohio to buy $80 million in Malaysian and Omani paper because he thought those bonds would be great investments too? Or do you think perhaps something besides the best interests of the state of Ohio and its retirees might have driven Mandel’s decision to put $80 million in Ohio retiree and taxpayer money into Israeli paper?

    In any event, if other bonds in Ohio’s portfolio start to go bad at least the state can sell them. With paper sold thru the Israel Bonds organization, that is obligations of the state of Israel, Ohio is stuck. The bonds are totally illiquid. You can’t sell them. That characteristic alone should have put Israeli paper off limits.

    The US’s relationship with the Zionist enterprise is corrupting yet another aspect of public life here.

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  4. Nuryat’s comment about the government of Israel’s creditworthiness referenced sources that can’t be accessed without paid membership. However, it’s clear that once again, NB shifts arguments as needed to prop up the indefensible. The particular bonds in question and their terms, which make them illiquid, aren’t addressed by the ratings specifically. The distraction is in conflating these bonds with an overall assessment of the government’s creditworthiness, which is not the same as an analysis of this particular Israeli funding mechanism. Moreover, rates of return that are 300-400% higher raise questions of transparency – just how are these extraordinary returns being generated? The folks who weren’t aware of how Madoff managed his attractive investment vehicles, trusted for decades, didn’t know either how such returns were actually made possible.

    The motivations for having investors hooked who can’t divest, is a great political practicality for their purveyors. In order not to lose the value of their hostage investment, policies by the holders will have to be to support and not undermine whatever the seller’s political aims are. It yokes the institutional buyer to the seller’s politics. And that is intentional. When the investors are American governments, the effect is to exercise undue influence, subverting accountability to the American people and therefore democracy.

    A choice made for other than purely economic reasons, ones that appear to have ethnic affinity as a consideration by the decision makers. It wasn’t a good idea for those who trusted Madoff on the basis of his shared Jewishness,either – he didn’t have their interests at heart, but his own.

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  5. @NB
    Wow, now unz.com is fear-mongering about Israel bonds! Tellingly, the article omits mentioning Israel's actual credit rating. And as you might guess, ratings agencies have determined that Israel Bonds are NOT a high risk investment, despite the article's title.
    Moody's: A1/stable
    https://www.moodys.com/credit-ratings/Israel-Government-of-credit-rating-423305
    Fitch: A/positive
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/29/idUSL2N0JE0WA20131129
    Standard & Poor's: A+/stable
    http://www.standardandpoors.com/ratings/sovereigns/ratings-list/en/us/;jsessionid=8mvCP9QJRpZy1TydR4GnWF3L8TSH78jsdN0Rf11qw24CBsJjnS5t!1005972207?subSectorCode=39&start=50&range=50

    Also, Ohio's $80 million investment in Israel bonds constitutes under 1% of the state's portfolio. This is clearly a matter of great urgency and concern.

    I would point out that Israel’s positive credit rating is aided by the fact that some of its loans are backed by the US treasury and that congress has, in the past, forgiven direct loans granted to Tel Aviv rather than demanding repayment. Easy to borrow money when you don’t have to pay it back. Also, purchasing Israel bonds is a tax deduction for American buyers. No other country’s bonds receive that special treatment, yet another example of how everything having to do with Israel is not quite the same as it is with other ostensibly friendly nations.

    http://www.wrmea.org/congress-and-us-aid-to-israel/494-congress-a-us-aid-to-israel/9748-u-s-financial-aid-to-israel-figures-facts-and-impact.html

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  6. Chris says:

    It makes no sense at all for people to invest in these bonds.

    The risks are very high and the interest rate, last time I checked was low relative to the risks involved. I think that most people who choose to purchase these bonds are doing so purely for ideological reasons and not for the best source of putting their money.

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  7. NB says: • Website

    Fran, I have no subscriptions to any of the websites to which I linked, so all of the info in my post is publicly available. And I did not engage in misdirection – I included highly relevant info conveniently omitted in the original piece. Madoff ran a Ponzi scheme. Are you implying Israel is some sort of giant Ponzi scheme? If not, I fail to see the relevance.

    Philip, I skimmed your source, and I do not see that it cites any reputable sources to substantiate its claims. In fact, this source appears to contradict your claim that “Israel’s positive credit rating is aided by the fact that some of its loans are backed by the US treasury”:

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sp-cuts-israeli-bonds-guaranteed-by-us-to-aa-2011-08-08-1052370

    (i.e. Israel’s US-guaranteed bonds have different credit ratings from Israel sovereign’s credit rating, so they appear to be treated differently)

    Furthermore, the Reuters link I posted explains Fitch’s reasoning for its A/positive rating, and I did not see anything about the US-guaranteed bonds affecting Israel’s rating, nor anything about the likelihood the US would forgive Israel’s debt (though admittedly I only skimmed it). btw, when did the US last forgive Israel’s debt? I’m guessing not recently. Plus, it’s not uncommon for the US to forgive other nations’ debt – that’s hardly unique to Israel. Also, it appears that Israel has not issued US-guaranteed bonds since 2004:

    http://ozar.mof.gov.il/debt/ext/funding.asp

    So please cite S&P, Fitch, and/or Moody’s explicitly stating that any of those factors impact Israel’s sovereign credit rating, as they go into quite a bit of detail as to how they determine their credit ratings.

    Furthermore, please cite a source for your claim that “purchasing Israel bonds is a tax deduction for American buyers.” If it were true, you should be able to cite something to that effect from irs.gov, as such a special dispensation would have to be clearly spelled out. This sources says Israel Bonds are not tax deductible, though I don’t know how reliable it is:

    http://www.learnbonds.com/israel-bonds/

    IsraelBonds.com says they “might” be:

    http://www.israelbonds.com/invest/double-mitzvah-program.aspx

    My guess is they’re not, at least federally. Maybe some states have a tax deduction.

    To actually evaluate Israel Bonds as an investment, one has to compare them to other possible investments – credit rating, interest rate, liquidity, etc. This article does not do so (I’m assuming Israel Bonds pay significantly higher rates than US Treasury bonds) and simply fear-mongers about Israel Bonds.

    Finally, I’d like to point out that the forum frequented by the alleged Kansas City shooter shares unz.com’s deep concern about Israel Bonds:

    http://vnnforum.com/showthread.php?t=152946

    I think many unz.com readers will enjoy much of the material on that site, so I hope you appreciate the recommendation.

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  8. Until you can refute the following, all the blather about credit worthiness is just so much squid ink to confuse the issue.

    “In contrast, Israeli obligations purchased through Israel Bonds are completely illiquid and cannot be resold. The Israel Bonds prospectus is straightforward in this regard:”

    “There is no secondary market for the bonds and transferability is limited. Except under certain limited circumstances, the bonds may not be transferred, sold or pledged. As a result, no secondary market can develop for the bonds, and they will not be traded on an established security market (or the substantial equivalent thereof).”

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  9. It seems that Mandel is an elected Treasurer in 2010. Voters may want to know about his sentimental picks for investments in upcoming elections.

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  10. geokat62 says:

    Nurit, in a previous post you wrote:

    “anyway, y’all will be pleased to know I’m probably going to stop posting here soon enough”

    What’s your definition of soon?

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  11. NB states: “To actually evaluate Israel Bonds as an investment, one has to compare them to other possible investments – credit rating, interest rate, liquidity, etc. This article does not do so…”

    NB, please reread the article. The article states clearly, “But despite what Josh Mandel’s office claims, Israel Bonds are in no way comparable to US Treasury Securities. US Treasuries are the most liquid investment on the planet….In contrast, Israeli obligations purchased through Israel Bonds are completely illiquid and cannot be resold.”

    It is OK to sell Israel Bonds to Israel’s friends here. If they are keen to support Israel and willing to accept the risks of holding Israeli bonds until maturity, fine. US states and municipalities, on the other hand, have different requirements, including the need for liquidity.

    The fact that ten of millions of this toxic paper is being stuffed into US public pension plans indicates the corrupting influence of Israel’s friends in the USA extends down even to the pensions of our individual policemen and firefighters.

    Just because Israel’s well heeled friends in Cleveland and New York applaud Josh Mandel for supporting Israel by buying $80 million in Israel bonds doesn’t mean he hasn’t breached his fiduciary duty to the citizens of Ohio.

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  12. “Fran, I have no subscriptions to any of the websites to which I linked, so all of the info in my post is publicly available.”

    I could not access the Moody’s site link provided as Moody’s demanded a subscription. probably someone else at your location has that.

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  13. ” I’d like to point out that the forum frequented by the alleged Kansas City shooter shares unz.com’s deep concern”

    What an absolutely shameless smear attempt.

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  14. NB says: • Website

    Thomas, I said, “To actually evaluate Israel Bonds as an investment, one has to compare them to other possible investments – credit rating, interest rate, liquidity, etc. This article does not do so (I’m assuming Israel Bonds pay significantly higher rates than US Treasury bonds) and simply fear-mongers about Israel Bonds.”

    Israel Bonds pay higher interest rates than US Treasuries (due to their illiquidity and Israel’s lower credit rating). So when deciding on an investment, one has to evaluate whether the illiquidity justifies the higher interest rate. This article did not do so.

    Fran, that the interests and posts of members of the forum frequented by the alleged shooter align so closely with unz.com should give one pause. Why don’t you check out what other sites fear-monger about Israel Bonds? You’ll find few, if any, reputable sites. You will, however, also find Stormfront sharing unz.com’s concerns about Israel Bonds.

    You continue to be mistaken about S&P’s website, but here’s a news article discussing S&P’s rating of Israel:

    http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=16495

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  15. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    One more aspect about Israel Bonds is that the aren’t rated. Pension fund managers are not upholding their fiduciary duty when adding such bonds to their portfolio because they are not taking the investment’s risk into account.For a list of articles about this issue, see: http://www.corkpsc.org/db.php?tid=413

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  16. NB wrote, “So when deciding on an investment, one has to evaluate whether the illiquidity justifies the higher interest rate. This article did not do so.”

    NOTHING justifies buying illiquid bonds by government pension fund investors. These are American pensions we are talking about. Jews buying Israel Bonds out of tribal solidarity is one thing. Putting the pensions of American citizen government employees at the service of your favorite rogue state is quite another. My pension, funded by the State of New Jersey “invests” in Israel. That means that the same fund that pays my pension is involved in financing Israeli land grabs the demolition of Arab dwellings etc.

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  17. “Fran, that the interests and posts of members of the forum frequented by the alleged shooter align so closely with unz.com should give one pause.”

    Nuryat, there is no cause so true and just that it doesn’t attract the less than savory. That applies equally as well to those who’ve made the current Israel government’s self-destructive policies their unexamined cause. Some are willing to distort, lie and character assassinate in pursuit of what they consider their “greater good.” But when you use bad means to try to achieve a good end, you only get the bad means as de facto end instead. Wolves don’t give birth to lambs, regardless of supermarket tabloid untruths.

    Would you also think that in order to to be a good Catholic that covering up and even defending the abuse by priests is necessary? Are those who want justice to prevail all vehemently anti-Catholic? On the contrary, the principled Catholics who expose the truth and desire reform are that Church’s greatest friends.

    One might as well revert to the Clinton-era smears that anyone critical of questionable government actions was responsible for the evil actions of destroying the Oklahoma City building and its innocents. After all, anyone who criticizes anything at all about policy can be conveniently smeared, lumped in with any sort of opponent by those seeking to shut down democratic accountability. This is a problem not limited to advocates for Israel’s current policies, but a lurch generally in our societies towards authoritarianism and blind conformance.

    It stands to reason that the intrinsically anti-Semitic would be critical of Israel and its policies as a proxy for all Jewish people they despise. But why should some of Israel’s leaders and too many of those defending them, if so principled, take refuge in hiding behind notorious anti-Semites to avoid accountability?

    Why would you think I have time for nonsense like that? Do you think I should go there so that you can then attack reason as dismissively? I have no interest in reading garbage like that, just because they are critical – for entirely different, irrelevant and scurrilous motivations.

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  18. Anonymous says: • Website • Disclaimer

    NB’s attempts to link Unz.com to Stormfront are quite amusing but not surprising. When all else fails shout “Anti-Semite”. In any event, when you think about it, as a hard working apologist for the Zionist enterprise, NB is a lot closer to the child murdering IDF than Unz.com is to Stormfront.

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  19. wr says:

    “Israeli violations of international law”? “Apartheid”? This article is sheer fiction. Ill-disguised hate-mongering. For shame.

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  20. Norm says:

    The first day after Israel returned Gaza to the Palestinians, they began firing rockets into Israel, and thousands have been launched since. The Palestinians voted Hamas into office, and Hamas vows to destroy Israel. Gaza a prison? Israel is defending itself! Do you have a fence in your front yard to prevent possible trespassing? Israel has a guarded fence between it and Gaza to keep from getting massacred!

    As for the West Bank, Jordan controlled it, but lost it to Israel after Jordan attacked Israel in concert with other Arab nations for the purpose of destroying it!

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I am an ex Muslim and I am in full agreement with Norm,s comments
    If I ever posted a comment like the one above in some of the Muslim country, I would be beheaded
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  21. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Norm
    The first day after Israel returned Gaza to the Palestinians, they began firing rockets into Israel, and thousands have been launched since. The Palestinians voted Hamas into office, and Hamas vows to destroy Israel. Gaza a prison? Israel is defending itself! Do you have a fence in your front yard to prevent possible trespassing? Israel has a guarded fence between it and Gaza to keep from getting massacred!

    As for the West Bank, Jordan controlled it, but lost it to Israel after Jordan attacked Israel in concert with other Arab nations for the purpose of destroying it!

    I am an ex Muslim and I am in full agreement with Norm,s comments
    If I ever posted a comment like the one above in some of the Muslim country, I would be beheaded

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  22. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    spoken like a true anti semite

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