Trump's Israel Ambassador Linked to New Expansion of Radical West Bank Settlement

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Illegal construction work in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.Credit: Azmi Badeer / Yesh Din

An organization headed by David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador-designate to Israel, is behind a new construction project in the West Bank settlement of Beit El recently approved by the government.

The project includes a five-story building – part of which has already been constructed illegally on private Palestinian land and will be retroactively legalized – and 20 housing units, according to the Peace Now Settlement Watch project. It is being funding by American Friends of Beit El Institutions, which raises several million dollars a year for this particular settlement.

Several days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Israel Defense Ministry approved plans for 2,500 new housing units in the settlements. The plans included 100 new units in Beit El, which is located near Ramallah and is not part of the big settlement blocs.

Friedman, who was Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer for 15 years, serves as president of American Friends of Beit El Institutions. The fundraising organization has received donations in past years from the parents of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and from Trump himself.

The new building project in Beit El was submitted to the planning authorities on Sunday. According to the Settlement Watch Project, construction of the building already began in 2014 by Sukkat Ovadia, a non-profit that is funded almost entirely by American Friends of Beit El Institutions. The new plan calls for demolishing part of the building that was constructed on private land, retroactively legalizing the rest of it, and adding several additional floors. 

Sukkat Ovadia is also the organization behind the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El, part of which was torn down in 2012 by a Supreme Court order because it was built illegally on private Palestinian land.

American Friends of Beit El Institutions funds various projects in the settlement, including a yeshiva, a pre-military gap year program, a high school for girls, and Arutz Sheva, a news site widely read among the settler population. Friedman has penned many columns for its English edition, Israel National News.

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