Following Haaretz Report, Justice Ministry to Probe East Jerusalem Settler Group's Donors

Elad focuses on settling Jews in the Palestinian Silwan neighborhood and running tourist and excavation sites. Last month Haaretz revealed that group received 275 million shekels from companies registered in global tax havens.

Olivier Fitoussi

The Justice Ministry has begun to look into donations of millions of dollars to the right-wing organization Elad, following Haaretz's report last month.

The State Comptroller has also said he was examining the organization's activity.

Last month Haaretz published an expose based on documents Elad submitted to the Justice Ministry's Registrar of Non-Profit organizations, detailing the donations it received in the last eight years. During this period, Elad received more than 450 million shekels ($115 million), Haaretz found. Most of the money, 275 million shekels, came from companies registered in global tax shelters like the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands and the Seychelles, and it isn't clear who is behind them or controls them.

Elad, which operates in East Jerusalem, focuses on settling Jews in the Palestinian Silwan neighborhood and running tourist and excavation sites. Elad is also embroiled in a legal battle with the government over a planned archaeology park next to the Western Wall.

Following the report, MK Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List) asked the attorney general to open an investigation into the NGO's funding sources.

"According to Haaretz's investigation, the settlers' NGO Elad receives hundreds of millions of shekels in donations from companies registered in tax shelters worldwide – whose controllers' identity is not at all clear," Khenin wrote to the attorney general.

"This makes it extremely difficult to trace the real donors or their business. On the face of it, Elad has not fulfilled the requirement that the donors and source of the money are clear and transparent. This makes it necessary to put an immediate stop to funneling public funds to Elad, including funds from Keren Hayesod, the Jewish Agency and state funds," he wrote.

Khenin wrote the law enforcement agencies must investigate Elad's conduct, "which is deep in the gray area."

Meretz leader MK Zehava Galon asked the state comptroller to examine the state's contracts with Elad and whether the NGO's license has been properly issued.

"Perhaps the NGOs law itself hasn't been breached, but there is no doubt that the spirit of the law and its goals have been breached. This is not transparency but clever, dangerous camouflage that enables using concealed companies as a means to 'launder donations' both from foreign states and from illegal funds abroad," Galon wrote.

An aide to the attorney general said on Wednesday that the matter is being looked into.

Some of the companies that donate money to Elad contribute to other right-wing groups like the Yesha Council of settlements, or to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At least one company is linked to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of the Chelsea soccer club.