There is something unseemly about announcing your candidacy for a major elected post in one country on the same day as your trial for illegal weapons dealing begins in another. Yet this does not seem to be stopping Arkady Gaydamak, whom I previously posted on as the most colorful figure in Israeli politics. On Monday, he announced his candidacy for mayor of Jerusalem. But he is also one of the two chief suspects in France’s “Angola-Gate” scandal (they really should come up with a better title), in which over 40 prominent Frenchmen, including the son of Francois Mitterand, who was president at the time of the alleged arms deals in the 1990’s, are accused of assisting in the transfer of Soviet-made weapons to the Angolan government in contravention of French law. The trial opened on Monday as well.
Gaydamak is not doing too well in the polls, and has lately begun trying to appeal to the Arab sector, which constitutes a large minority of the city’s eligible citizens, even if most of them choose not to participate. At the same time, he appears to have enlisted the support of the government of Angola, which has petitioned the French to stop the trial. The municipal elections are this November, whereas the trial is expected to last into next spring. In the meantime, many Israelis are starting, I suspect, to put their fingers on what it is that bugs them about Gaydamak’s endless generosity.