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David Friedman, Trump’s Israel Ambassador Pick, Said to Push New Settlements

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A recently approved apartment building in a West Bank settlement was reportedly funded by an organization headed by David Friedman, U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel.

The planned five-story apartment building, which will hold 20 apartments, is financed by American Friends of Beit El Institutions, which Friedman chairs, according to a television report Wednesday by Israel’s Channel 2 News. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government OK’d the building in Beit El as part of the first wave of approvals of settler homes since Trump took office.

In the past two weeks, Israel has approved about 6,000 homes in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. Most of the homes are slated to go up in the major settlement blocs, which Israel expects to keep as part of any peace deal with the Palestinians. The apartment in Beit El was an exception, which Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said was approved as part of a High Court of Justice decision.

American Friends of Beit El Institutions, which is an American nonprofit organization, raised almost $667,000 for its Israeli counterpart, the Organization for the Sukkat Ovadia Yeshiva of Beit El, Channel 2 reported. Friedman’s name appears on several buildings in Beit El funded by the American organization.

The Israeli organization funded several illegal construction projects on private Palestinian land, including the expansion of Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood, part of which was evacuated by order of the High Court of Justice in 2012. The planned apartment building is also to be built partly on private Palestinian land, but could be legalized after the fact by the controversial new “regulation law.”

A founder of Beit El has said Trump donated $10,000 to Beit El in 2003 in honor of his friend Friedman. The family of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, has also donated tens of thousands of dollars over the years to West Bank settlements.

Trump named Freidman to be the Israel ambassador in December, but a date has yet to be set for his approval hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Dovish Jewish groups oppose his appointment over his far-right politics and his comment in an op-ed last year that supporters of the left-wing Jewish lobby J Street are worse that Jews who collaborated with the Nazis.

 

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