Whoever said that Donald Trump is opposed to resettling Israeli Jews living in occupied territory?
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If past history is any indication, the U.S. president has nothing against moving Israeli Jews out of land conquered during war. In fact, he’s prepared to write a check to help finance their resettlement.
The evidence is a plaque bearing his name on a wall honoring donors who contributed to the repatriation of Israelis living in Sinai in the early 1980s. The donations were earmarked to help build new communities in the northwestern Negev, near the borders with Egypt and the Gaza Strip, where the evacuees would be housed.
Of the dozens of names featured on the plaques, and inscribed both in English and in Hebrew, Trump’s appears to be among the few, if not the only one, that is not Jewish. There is no indication of how much money he donated to the project.
A sign on the installation says: “Recorded here are the names of those whose generosity helped make possible land reclamation at Pitchat Shalom,” which is the specific region of the Negev.
Israel agreed to pull out from the Sinai desert, which it conquered in 1967, as part of the peace agreement signed with Egypt in 1979.
After the peace treaty was signed, the Jewish National Fund – an organization that raises money from philanthropists abroad for projects in Israel – launched a campaign to help resettle Israelis evacuated from the Sinai settlements. They included two kibbutzim, 11 moshavim (which follow a less rigid form of communal living) and the city of Yamit.
The wall bearing Trump’s name is part of a larger installation made up of several walls honoring Americans who contributed to the resettlement effort. It is located in Dekel, a moshav in the Eshkol Regional Council that was founded in 1982. The installation was strategically set up in the center of the moshav, overlooking a playground on one side and the community clubhouse on the other. Before the moshav was established, the area served as training grounds for Israeli tank forces.
The Israel State Archives released a file last week containing information about Trump’s first and only visit to Israel in 1989, when he was a relatively young real estate mogul. The itinerary indicates that a trip was planned for him to two agricultural communities in the Negev, one of them Dekel. A handwritten note on the side says the following: “Guest’s request: To see the playground he donated to JNF.”
Zehava Shaked, a longtime resident of Dekel, told Haaretz that neither she nor any of the other old-timers recall a visit by Trump to their moshav. A wooden playground, she said, once existed on the premises but had to be removed after it was declared a safety hazard. She said that to the best of her recollection, that playground was not donated by Trump.
It is possible that when JNF fundraisers approached the future American president for a donation, they told him that the money would be earmarked, among other projects, for a playground.
Through his family foundation, Trump has donated to many Jewish causes over the years. More than 10 years ago, he wrote a $10,000 check to American Friends of Beit El Institutions, which raises money for one of the oldest West Bank settlements. Trump’s former lawyer, David Friedman, who is soon to step into his position as ambassador to Israel, served as president of the fundraising organization.