Trump Donated $10,000 to West Bank Settlement

Settlement leader says Trump's donation to Beit El was made in honor of David Friedman, Trump's pick for U.S. ambassador to Israel. Jared Kushner's parents also served on founding board of the settlement, Haaretz has learned.

Emil Salman

President-elect Donald Trump donated $10,000 to institutions located in the West Bank settlement of Beit El in 2003, it emerged on Sunday.

The donation appears in the income tax filings of the Donald J. Trump Foundation for 2003. His foundation made a total of $186,700 in charitable donations that year to close to 40 institutions. The gift to Beit El was among the largest.

The donation was also discussed in an interview on settler radio station Galey Israel on Sunday. Yaakov (“Ketsale”) Katz, one of the founders of Beit El, said in the interview that the donation was made in honor of Trump’s lawyer and friend David Friedman, whom he has since chosen as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.  Friedman serves as president of the American Friends of Beit El Institutions, which raises about $2 million a year for projects and institutions in the settlement.

Billionaire real estate developer Donald J. Trump, center, his daughter Ivanka Trump, right, and attorney David Friedman exit U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010.
Bradley C. Bower / Bloomberg

“If I would have known he would be elected president, I would have saved the check,” said Katz.

With a population of about 6,500, Beit El is one of the oldest Israeli settlements. Katz serves today as chairman of the Arutz Sheva news site, one of several projects funded by Friedman’s organization.

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The settlement of Beit El also receives financial support from the family of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Charles and Seryl Kushner, Jared’s parents, were on the founding board of trustees of the fundraising organization, Haaretz has learned. Other members of the founding board included David Friedman and his wife Tammy, as well as the late Irving Moscowitz and his wife Cherna. (Irving Moscowitz was a prominent supporter of the settler movement, best known for buying up properties in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem for the purpose of creating a Jewish majority there.)

In the radio interview, Katz – a well-known settler leader – said he and Friedman had been friends for 40 years and were “like brothers.” He said he was also very close friends with the Kushner family, whom he described as “big donors” to the organization.

Haaretz recently published that the Kushner family foundation had donated $20,000 to American Friends of Beit El Institutions in 2013 – among its biggest donations to a single organization that year.

The honorary chairman of the American fundraising arm of Beit El is Eugen Gluck. His daughter Rosie is married to Mark Friedman, the brother of the designated ambassador to Israel.

Prominent among the institutions that benefit from the organization’s fundraising efforts is a yeshiva headed by a militant rabbi who has urged Israeli soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate settlements and who has argued that homosexual tendencies arise from eating certain foods.

The yeshiva, which combines Jewish learning and army service, was founded and run by Rabbi Zalman Melamed, a founder of the far-right political party Tkuma (today part of Habayit Hayehudi, a member of the governing coalition). 

In 1995, following the Oslo agreements, Melamed was among a group of rabbis that declared it a violation of Jewish law for soldiers to evacuate IDF bases in the occupied territories. In 2005, he urged Israeli soldiers to resist orders to evacuate the Gush Katif settlements in the Gaza Strip.