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U.S. Exempts Donations to Illegal Outposts

Policy supports settlements, which gov’t opposes

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An ultra-Orthodox family in a northern West Bank settlement.(Bar-On/AFP/Getty Images)

The New York Times has a nearly 5,000-word article sure to provoke conversation amid Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting at the White House today. It reports that in the past decade U.S. law has allowed the tax-exempt donation of $200 million to further Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem—which the U.S. government opposes.

Most of the money, which must pass through an American charity to become tax-exempt, goes to established settlements near the Green Line that are permitted under Israeli law; two-state endgames typically envision land-swaps that would place these conurbations in Israel proper.

But, to the consternation even of Israeli security officials, smaller (but impactful) amounts of tax-exempt funds flow to illegal outposts inhabited by radical settlers unlikely to leave without a fight.

The Times isn’t breaking this story; if anything, the news is that this dynamic has long been an open secret. “It drove us crazy,” former U.S. Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer says. “It was a thing you didn’t talk about in polite company.”

The article will likely prompt closer looks at and arguments over the current state of Israeli settlements and settlement policy; the Obama administration’s relative friendliness to Israel (or lack thereof); and even The New York Times, which pretty clearly intended to publish the piece on the day that was supposed to culminate the months-long reinforcement of U.S.-Israeli ties.

The piece certainly hits home in the context of the typical locution, “I don’t want my tax money going toward” a given cause.

Says the Times:

While a succession of American administrations have opposed the settlements here, Mr. Obama has particularly focused on them as obstacles to peace. A two-state solution in the Middle East, he says, is vital to defusing Muslim anger at the West. Under American pressure, Mr. Netanyahu has temporarily frozen new construction to get peace talks going. The freeze and negotiations, in turn, have injected new urgency into the settlers’ cause—and into fund-raising for it.

The article, co-written by Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner, quotes a “senior State Department official” on the tax policy: “It’s a problem. It’s unhelpful to the efforts that we’re trying to make.” (The article notes that the Free Gaza Movement, which sponsored the flotilla, welcomes tax-deductible donations.)

Donors tend to be either right-wing Jews or Christian conservatives. The controversial Rev. John Hagee is a prominent evangelical for the cause of pro-settler philanthropy.

The Times also catches a few pro-settler groups flirting with law-breaking “by using the money for political campaigning and residential property purchases, by failing to file tax returns, by setting up boards of trustees in name only and by improperly funneling donations directly to foreign organizations.” Jack Abramoff was in the past involved with one of the sketchier charities.

The article paints a scenario whereby future forcibly evacuated settlers “will very likely be aided by tax-deductible donations from Americans who believe that far from quelling Muslim anger, as Mr. Obama argues, handing over the West Bank will only encourage militant Islamists bent on destroying Israel.”

Incidentally, the article profiles one David Ha’Ivri, a leader among some of the more radical settlers. He was born in Queens as David Axelrod—the same name as one of President Obama’s top advisers.

Tax-Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank [NYT]

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Heaven knows if the Times says its a bad thing, then it has to be horrible. You really need to leave the west side of New York once in awhile. You schill too much for the Obama administration’s views of the Middle East. Next are you going to pick up the mantra that Israel should not exist because it was a historical mistake…that seems to be the new outlook being pushed by the left/State Department and MSM.You could invite Helen Thomas to be a contributor.

MaxS says:

When are we going to see stories about the billions of dollars being funneled into Gaza by Europe and the US to support a regime that openly calls for genocide on the Jewish people and supports attacks on European and US targets?

David says:

Marc, just like you said, this is an old story. I wonder why the Times felt like they needed to publish this article today. Oh that’s right, Bibi’s in town, and G-d forbid the NY Slimes had anything nice to say about Bibi or Israel for that matter.

It would be nice if this blog actually posted arguments against this latest NYT hit piece on Israel. I guess that would be asking too much, since the owners of Tablet Mag only see the need to pay you guys enough money to read left-wing POVs.

But I’ll save you and your audience the trouble. Here you go.

NY Times: Tax-Exempt Status Only for Groups That Agree with the Administration

Marc Tracy says:

Sorry I didn’t see this earlier, but you have my word that I was planning my 4 pm post (which you’ll hopefully see in a bit) even before I read your comment. I appreciate your at least knowing that, well, I *did* say it’s an old story.

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U.S. Exempts Donations to Illegal Outposts

Policy supports settlements, which gov’t opposes

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