Israel is one of four countries to have reportedly discussed how to exploit the business interests, financial headaches and lack of diplomatic experience of Jared Kushner, according to the Washington Post on Tuesday. But what financial connections does the son-in-law of President Donald Trump have with the Jewish state?
Kushner Companies, the real estate empire founded in 1985 by his father Charles Kushner, owns stakes in dozens of residential buildings and offices, mainly in New York and New Jersey. The company has reportedly been involved in $7 billion worth of acquisitions over the past decade, with some Israeli connections.
After Kushner Sr. was convicted of tax evasion and witness tampering in 2005 (spending 14 months in prison), he handed over control of the company to his oldest son, who was 24 at the time.
When he joined the Trump administration last year as senior adviser in charge of – among many other things – Middle East peace efforts, Jared Kushner resigned as chief executive of the family business. However, he is still a beneficiary of trusts that have holdings in Kushner properties.
In January, The New York Times reported that just before Kushner accompanied his father-in-law on his first presidential visit to Israel last May, his family’s real estate company received a $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim – an insurer and one of Israel’s largest financial institutions.
Menora Mivtachim manages the largest pension fund in Israel and, according to its website, is the top provider of car insurance policies in the country.
According to The New York Times, the Israeli investment was used to finance 10 apartment complexes owned by Kushner Companies in Maryland. Although the president’s son-in-law sold off many of his holdings in the family business when he assumed his government role, The New York Times reported that he still held an interest in the Maryland real estate project.
The deal with Menora Mivtachim did not seem to violate federal ethics laws, according to the report, since no evidence existed that Kushner had been personally involved in it.
At the time, a spokeswoman for the family business said Kushner Companies “does no business with foreign sovereigns or governments, and is not precluded from doing business with any foreign company simply because Jared is working in the government.”
Last April, The New York Times reported that Kushner had partnered with Raz Steinmetz, a member of one of Israel’s wealthiest families, in purchasing $190 million worth of apartment buildings in several lower Manhattan neighborhoods – including the East Village, the West Village and SoHo. The Steinmetz family made its fortune in diamond trading.
According to the report, Kushner received much of the $50 million down payments required for these acquisitions from Steinmetz, whose uncle Beny Steinmetz is currently under investigation for bribery and money laundering in four different countries – the United States, Israel, Switzerland and Guinea.
Kushner Companies also reportedly received at least four loans from Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, which is under investigation in the United States for allegedly helping U.S. citizens evade taxes through its Swiss division.
Kushner has also had business dealings with Lev Leviev, a Soviet-born Israeli real estate tycoon and diamond mogul. In 2015, the president’s son-in-law purchased four floors of the former New York Times headquarters in Manhattan from Africa-Israel Investments, whose chairman is Leviev, for $295 million.
Last July, British daily The Guardian reported on several joint business ventures between Africa-Israel Investments and Prevezon Holdings – a Russian firm in which Leviev was also a partner. These deals were later investigated by members of Congress as potential money-laundering cases.
Kushner almost became a major shareholder in an Israeli company in July 2014. Kushner Companies originally agreed to purchase a 47 percent controlling stake in the Phoenix insurance company from the Delek group for $435 million, but the deal fell through six months later; Delek owns stakes in the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields off Israel’s Mediterranean coast.
The Kushners also donate considerable sums to projects in Israel through their family foundation. As first reported in Haaretz, the family has donated tens of thousands of dollars in recent years to organizations and institutions in settlements in the West Bank through the Charles and Seryl Kushner Foundation.
A leading beneficiary has been Friends of Bet El Institutions, the American fundraising arm of one of the West Bank’s most radical settlements (otherwise spelled as Beit El). The settlement received $20,000 from the Kushner family in 2013.
Another key beneficiary of the Kushners’ donations is Ohr Torah Stone, headquartered in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank. Ohr Torah Stone operates a network of high school, college and graduate programs in Israel and the United States. The institution was founded by Shlomo Riskin, the American-born rabbi of Efrat and a prominent figure in Modern Orthodoxy.
In recent years, the Kushners’ pet Israeli project has been Shaare Zedek Medical Center. In 2014, the family pledged $18 million to the Jerusalem hospital, in addition to $2 million it had already committed.
Another key Israeli beneficiary is the Israel Defense Forces. Between 2011 and 2013, the family foundation donated a total of $315,000 to Friends of the IDF (FIDF) – a U.S. organization doing fundraising for the Israeli army. Indeed, until he joined the Trump administration in January 2017, Jared Kushner served on the FIDF national board. A day after Haaretz submitted questions to FIDF and a Kushner family spokesperson about his continued involvement on the board, his name was suddenly removed from FIDF’s website.
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