According to an investigative report published by an Israeli newspaper early this week, private American donors have contributed more than $220 million to Jewish West Bank settlements through tax-deductible donations, thereby funding a policy opposed by the United States government for decades.
The newspaper, the Haaretz daily, discovered that about 50 United States non-profit organizations raised funds for settlements in the West Bank, a region Palestine wants as part of a state, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. All three of these areas were captured by Israel during the 1967 Mideast war.
The newspaper reports that even though the United States objects to settlement construction, the money’s status as tax-deductible means the U.S. government “is incentivizing and indirectly supporting the Israeli settlement movement.”
Peace talks between Israel and Palestine failed last year and a third month of Israeli-Palestinian violence is currently underway.
Israel accuses the religious and political leaders of Palestine of inciting the recent wave of violence. The Palestinians counter that the violence is a result of nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation. Palestine also believes that the continued expansion of Israeli settlements on captured lands shows that Israel has no interest in peace. Israel claims that the settlements issue should be resolved through peace talks along with other disputes between the two sides.
The Palestinians and many countries view the settlements as illegitimate and illegal. Currently, almost 600,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry warned over the weekend that the continued construction of settlements and other Israeli programs in the West Bank could put at risk Israel’s future ability to remain a democratic Jewish state.
The investigation conducted by the Haaretz found that much of the money given by American donors went towards providing legal assistance to extremist Jews via the Israeli group, Honenu.
The paper also reported that some of the donor money paid the salary of settler leader Menachem Livni, an Israeli who was jailed in connection with Jewish attacks on Palestinians in the 1980s. Some of the money also went towards purchasing buildings in east Jerusalem and the West Bank and improving the residential conditions of Jewish settlers.
The newspaper reported that it reviewed donations made between 2009 and 2013.