US president-elect Donald Trump made a $10,000 donation to the West Bank settlement of Beit El in 2003, a leader of the Ramallah-area community revealed on Sunday.
Former MK and Beit El Founder Yaakov Katz told the Galey Israel radio station that Trump’s gift was made in honor of his friend David Friedman, who went on to become his adviser and whom Trump last week nominated as the next US ambassador to Israel.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret: When Friedman was our guest of honor at a fundraiser years ago, incoming president Trump sent us a donation of $10,000,” Katz said.
According to a tax filing, the Donald J. Trump Foundation made the donation to the American Friends of Bet El Institutions — of which Friedman serves as president — a group that raises funds for the Beit El settlement’s seminary, a news organization affiliated with the settler movement and other activities in the settlement.
“I had no idea that one day he would become president, otherwise I would have saved that check,” Katz added.
He clarified that Trump’s contribution was designated for the building of a yeshiva in Beit El, and not for the expansion of the community itself.
In the interview, Katz also said that he and Friedman had been friends for over 40 years, and “were like brothers in every sense.”
“He is a great lover of Israel and Zionism,” he said.
Friedman, 57, an Orthodox Jew and a Hebrew speaker, has been an outspoken and active supporter of the settlement movement, and has argued that Israel doesn’t face a “demographic threat” to its Jewish character if it fails to separate from the Palestinians.
Over the last year, Friedman has excoriated groups who express criticism of Israel’s settlement policy.
In a June column for the pro-settlement Israel National News website, Friedman accused the dovish group’s supporters of being “far worse than kapos,” referring to Jews who aided Nazis during the Holocaust. He subsequently doubled down on that assertion and asserted that J Street was “not Jewish.”
In an interview with The Times of Israel last month, Friedman said Trump would not “put his finger on the scale or tell Israel what policies they should adopt,” adding that the president-elect “doesn’t see Israel as in need of any particular correction at this point.”
Unlike President Barack Obama, who made Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank a fundamental issue of criticism throughout his presidency, Friedman said Trump would not “dictate to Israel where it can and cannot build” in the West Bank.
Since 1967, official US policy — during both Republican and Democratic administrations — has opposed Israeli construction in areas that the Palestinians claim for their future state.
Obama, like the liberal pro-Israel community in the US, maintains that settlement expansion hobbles the prospect of a comprehensive two-state deal with the Palestinians, and that a failure to reach such an outcome would jeopardize Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
Friedman’s appointment last week drew praise from right-wing Israeli politicians, as well as furious condemnations by American Jewish groups J Street, the National Jewish Democratic Council and Americans for Peace Now.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Friday warned that Friedman’s appointment would destroy prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The New York Times in its Friday editorial slammed Friedman’s appointment as “dangerous,” saying he “would be far more likely to provoke conflict in Israel and the occupied territories, heighten regional tensions and undermine American leadership.”
Friedman’s appointment also ramped up speculation that Trump could make good on his pledge to move the embassy to Jerusalem. In a statement Thursday, Friedman said he looked forward to taking up his diplomatic post in “the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem,” indicating Trump’s apparent intentness to do what a number of other presidential candidates have promised, but failed to deliver once they took office.
Earlier this week, it was reported that the Trump team was already planning the relocation, including undertaking advance work on the project, after his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said it was “a very big priority for him.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.