Portland Trust

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The Portland Trust is a British non-profit organisation whose mission is said to be ‘to promote peace and stability between Israelis and Palestinians through economic development.’[1]It was founded in London in 2003 by Sir Ronald Cohen, co-founder and former Chairman of the private equity firm Apax Partners, together with Sir Harry Solomon, co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Hillsdown Holdings. The trust has offices in London, Tel Aviv and Ramallah.



  • Sir Ronald Cohen, co-founder (born 1945) is an Egyptian-born British businessman. In 1957, in the aftermath of the Suez War, Cohen fled with his family from Egypt to the UK as part of the exodus of Jewish refugees. He is reportedly worth around £250 million.[2] He is the Chairman of Big Society Capital, Founder Chairman of The Portland Trust (2003-) and Bridges Ventures (2002-2012); Founder Director of Social Finance Ltd (2007-2011) and Social Finance USA (2010-). In January 2005, Cohen became a Director of the British Museum. Cohen is also a member of the executive committee of the London based International Institute of Strategic Studies, a right-wing and neoconservative think tank.[3] In 1972 Cohen founded Apax Partners, one of Britain's first and biggest venture capital firms. Apax has invested more than $2 billion in Israel with Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (TASE: BEZQ) and Tnuva Food Industries Ltd. being two of the biggest and best known investments.[4] In 1974 Cohen stood as the parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Party in Kensington North, and in 1979 he stood as its European candidate in London West. In 1996 he switched allegiance to the Labour Party, becoming a supporter of Tony Blair. In 2004, Cohen was the Labour Party's fourth largest financial supporter, after Lord Sainsbury, Sir Christopher Ondaatje and Lord Hamlyn. According to Robert Peston, Cohen has contributed £1.8m to the Labour Party.[5] The Guardian reported that in 2006 Cohen ‘started to take over the role of government [Middle East] emissary from Lord Levy by meeting Israeli leaders, including the prime minister, Ehud Olmert’.[6] About his connections to Israel, Cohen told the Times: ‘If you look at my history: born in Egypt, a refugee, married to the daughter of the commander of the Exodus who's an Israeli, there's an obvious connection between me and the region.’[7] Cohen says he is a believer in two state solution for Israel and Palestine. In regards to the Portland Trust’s activities he claimed:
‘I won't be involved in the settlements, and I think that our great challenge is not the 300,000 to 400,000 people who live beyond the Green Line, but the seven million people who live within it, a quarter of whom live below the poverty line and many of whom suffer from severe social problems, such as chronic unemployment, dropping out of school, and so forth. Personally, I want to support residents within the Green Line, and through the Portland Trust, Palestinians who reside beyond it.’[8]
  • Sir Harry Solomon, (born 1937) is the founder of Hillsdown Holdings, one of the United Kingdom's largest food businesses. He was knighted in 1991. In 2010 he was elected Chair of the board of trustees of the Western Galilee College, a school in northern Israel. The college is supported by UJIA, the British wing of Keren Hayesod.[9] In 1985 he established the Heatshide Charitable Trust.[10] In 2012 it made donations to various causes totaling £608,119 of which £150,000 went to the Portland Trust.[11] In 2009 it donated £126,000 to the UJIA. Solomon is also trustee of the Solomon Charitable Trust (founded in 1984). In 2011 it made a total of 37 grants worth £19,067 without specifying who the recipients were.[12]
  • Lord David Freud, former CEO of The Portland Trust between 2005-2008 after retiring as Vice Chairman from UBS Investment Banking, remains a Trustee and Director. His services had a valuation of £150,000 but they were included in the Trust’s accounts as gifted services.[13].Freud was appointed UK Minister for Welfare and Reform in May 2010.[14]
  • Mick Davis, (born 1958) is a South African/British businessman. He was Chief Executive of Xstrata from October 2001 to 2013 when it was bought by commodity trader Glencore. As a result Davis received a payoff of almost £75 million.[15] He is also Chairman of UJIA, and a member of the Jewish Leadership Council. He is on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and a member of the World Executive of Keren Hayesod – Israel United Appeal.[16] In 2011 the Telegraph reported that Davis gave Michael Gove £7,500 to support him ‘in the capacity as an MP’.[17] He is one of the main donors to the Conservative party, donating£500,000 in 2013 and £150,000 to in 2010/11.[18] Davis also funded the successful No2AV campaign, which fought to maintain the UK s current voting system in a referendum with £100,000.[19] In 2010, the JLC leader provoked widespread debate by criticizing Israeli policy on the peace process. He wrote: 'If… the world community no longer believes that a two-state solution is possible, we de facto become an apartheid state because we then have the majority who are going to be governed by the minority.[20] In 2013 Davis reiterated his criticism of Netanyahu’s government in an online article for the Israeli newspaper writing that diaspora efforts to fight delegitimisation of Israel were being hampered by the actions of his government.[21]
  • Eival Gilady,CEO of the Tel Aviv office of the Portland Trust from 2005 to 2011.[22] Gilady was appointed Head of Coordination and Strategy at the Office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in March 2005, and from 2001 to 2004 he served as Head of the Israel Defense Forces' Strategic Planning Division. He is considered the ‘intellectual father’ of the Gaza Disengagement plan [23] Gilady is the Chairman and the co-founder of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce (IPCC).[24] The IPCC was established to promote trade and commerce between Israelis and Palestinians, to create business opportunities and to improve the economic relations between the two peoples. He is also the Chairman of the Western Galilee College.
  • Yossi Bachar, Chairman of The Portland Trust in Tel Aviv and Chairman of the Board of Israel Discount Group. From 2003 to 2007 Dr Bachar served as Director General of the Ministry of Finance. During this period, he advanced structural reforms and privatisation processes, the most important being a comprehensive reform in the Israeli capital market known as the ‘Bachar Reform’. Dr Bachar was in charge of all the ongoing economic discussions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.[25]
  • Samir Hulileh,Chairman of The Portland Trust in Ramallah and CEO of PADICO. He has held various management positions in the public and private sectors including Cabinet Secretary General of the Palestinian government during 2005-2006 and Assistant Undersecretary for the Ministry of Economy and Trade (1994-1997). Between 2004 and 2005 he was Chairman of the Palestine Trade Centre (PALTRADE) where he was elected as a board member for 2011-2013. He is the Chairman of Palestine International Business Forum, and a board member of Palestinian Banking Corporation, Palestinian-British Business Council, Palestinian-Russian Business Council, and Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS). He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Friends Schools in Ramallah and The International Chamber of Commerce and the Chairman of Birzeit University Alumni Association.[26]
  • Kamel Husseini,the Managing Director of The Portland Trust in Ramallah and the founder of Ellam Tam, the first Communications and Public Relations Company in Palestine and funded by the Palestinian American Chamber of Commerce. Mr Husseini served as Ellam Tam’s Managing Director from 2000 to 2006 and as its Managing Partner from 2010 until July 2013.In 2011 it was revealed that Qorvis communications was serving as subcontractor to Ellam Tam.[27] Qorvis has also represented since 2009 an Israeli military hardware manufacture, Plasan Sasa Ltd and has a history of servicing regimes in the Middle East with a negative human rights record, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.[28]
  • Nicola Cobbold joined The Portland Trust in April 2007 and was appointed CEO in January 2009. Previously Cobbold worked as a lawyer, specialising in media and copyright. From 2001 to 2003 she was a trustee of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, a charity established in 1976 to combat discrimination and promote racial justice in Britain.[29]


Since its launch in 2003, Portland Trust has consistently highlighted the important role of economics and in particular of the private sector in conflict resolution. To support this belief, in March 2013 it published a paper on ‘Lessons from Cyprus, Northern Ireland, South Africa and the South Caucasus’.[30] In 2011 it organised an event in UK with Israel Business and the Palestine Britain Business Council which saw Tony Blair in conversation with Sir Ronald Cohen in front of British business leaders.[31] In January 2012 the Trust hosted a lunch in London for the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.[32]It also regularly publishes printed materials, including the monthly Palestinian Economic Bulletin which covers economic developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


The Trust is registered as a charity in England and Wales (charity no 1106429).

2012 2013
Voluntary Income 1,507,295 1,369,539
Investment income 609 140
Income from Charitable Activities 1,748 15,994
Total incoming resources 1,509,652 1,385,673
Total resources expended 1,410,417 1,430,487
Total Funds 671,834 572,599

In the London office there are five employees. In Tel Aviv there are six members and in Ramallah four members. In 2011 an unnamed employee was paid between £170,000 and £180,000.[33]






  1. The Portland Trust,Homepage, accessed 20 October 2010.
  2. Institutional Investor, http://www.institutionalinvestor.com/Popups/PrintArticle.aspx?ArticleID=1423897 accessed 1 March
  3. Ronald Cohen, About, accessed 1 March 2014
  4. Shahar Smooha and Shlomit Lann, ‘Riding to the Rescue of Israel’s Third Sector’, http://www.globes.co.il/en/article-1000856340, 24 June 2013, Globes, accessed 1 March 2014
  5. Robert Peston, Who Runs Britain?, Hodder and Stoughton, 2008
  6. ‘Sir Ronald Cohen: Financier who is hoping for a peace dividend,’ The Guardian, July 7, 2006
  7. http://www.bollyn.com/who-really-controls-our-political-parties#sthash.ozRphSDA.dpuf accessed 1 March 2014
  8. Shahar Smooha and Shlomit Lann, ‘Riding to the Rescue of Israel’s Third Sector’, http://www.globes.co.il/en/article-1000856340, 24 June 2013, Globes, accessed 1 March 2014
  9. WGC Newsletter, http://www.wgalil.ac.il/files%5C31.8.10_newsletter_september.pdf accessed 1 March 2014
  10. Heathside Charitable Trust, http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends59/0000326959_AC_20121231_E_C.pdf accessed 1 March 2014
  11. Ibid.
  13. http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends29/0001106429_AC_20081231_E_C.PDF accessed 1 March 2014
  14. David Freud, David Freud Biography, The Conservatives, accessed 16-October-2010
  15. Simon Goodley, ‘Mick Davis departs Xstrata with nearly £75m’ The Guardian,16 April 2013, accessed 1 March 2014
  16. http://www.thejlc.org/author/mickd/ accessed 1 March 2014
  17. Holly Watt, and Heidi Blake,’City financiers fund Michael Gove's private office’ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/8840033/City-financiers-fund-Michael-Goves-private office.html, Telegraph, 21 October 2011, accessed 8 March 2014
  18. Christopher Hope, Xstrata's Mick Davis gives £500,000 to Conservatives http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10059773/Xstratas-Mick-Davis-gives-500000-to-Conservatives.html, 15 May 2013, The Telegraph, accessed 10 March 2014
  19. Ibid.
  20. Simon Rocker, ‘Shock over senior UK Jewish leader's Bibi criticism’ JC,18 November 2010, accessed 5 March 2014
  21. Simon Rocker, Mick Davis: Bibi hinders peace efforts and diaspora's attempts to defend Israel, 28 November 2013.
  22. http://www.portlandtrust.org/about-us accessed 1 March 2014
  23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/hardtalk/4146406.stm accessed 1 March 2014
  24. IPCC Board, http://www.ipcc.org.il/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=29&Itemid=68 accessed 8 March 2014
  25. Portland Trust, http://www.portlandtrust.org/senior-management/yossi-bachar accessed 1 March 2014
  26. Portland Trust, http://www.portlandtrust.org/management/samir-hulileh
  27. http://www.fara.gov/docs/5483-Exhibit-AB-20111020-34.pdf accessed 10 March 2014
  28. Business and Human Rights,http://www.business-humanrights.org/Documents/BahrainPRWatch accessed 10 March 2014
  29. Portland Trust,http://www.portlandtrust.org/management/nicola-cobbold accessed 1 March 2014
  31. Tony Blair Office, 'Statebuilding and Economic Growth key to getting Middle East Peace0, http://www.tonyblairoffice.org/quartet/news-entry/tony-blair-statebuilding-and-economic-growth-key-to-getting-middle-east-pea/ accessed 10 March 2014
  32. Portland Trust,Title here accessed 10 March 2014
  35. Ibid.