JERUSALEM — In 2003, President-elect Donald Trump donated $10,000 to institutions in one of Israel’s oldest and most steadfast West Bank settlements, one of the community’s founders told an Israeli radio station on Sunday.
Yaakov “Katzele” Katz, one of the original settlers of Beit El, said on the radio that Trump had made the donation in honor of his good friend and Jewish adviser David Friedman, now Trump’s pick to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Friedman, a New York lawyer, serves as president of the American Friends of Bet El Institutions.
Katz told the radio station that more than a decade ago, the settlement honored Friedman at a gala dinner in New York. It was then that Trump made his donation.
“If I would have known he would be elected president, I would have saved the check,” Katz said. He said that Friedman was like a brother to him. The two have been friends for 40 years.
Friedman’s nomination as ambassador was warmly welcomed by many Israelis, especially those living in some 300 Jewish communities in the West Bank. But it also drew sharp criticism because Friedman is an outspoken supporter of the settlements, which the Obama administration has often said are the main impediment to achieving a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
Katz, a former member of the Israeli parliament, did not comment further on Trump’s donation but said the money was used for the settlement’s yeshivas, or Jewish learning institutions. Trump has donated money to many yeshivas in Israel and the United States.
The Jerusalem Post published an article Sunday showing a 2003 U.S. tax form from the Trump Foundation, which listed a $10,000 donation to American Friends of Bet El.
The group’s website also shows that financial support for the settlement came from the family of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. The website shows that his parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner, are on the fundraising organization’s founding board of trustees. The group recently held its gala fundraising event in New York.
Beit El was established in 1977 on a hill on the outskirts of the de facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah. Today, about 1,300 families live in the settlement. As well as the yeshiva, the settlers there also run a pre-military academy and house one of Israel’s most right-wing media outlets, Arutz Sheva.