Blocking Mideast Peace
Opening of the Tunnel at the Wall: Some of Netanyahu's Financial Considerations
by Ya'ir Ettinger
Originally published 27 September 1996
in Kol Ha'Ir

How American donors of Netanyahu and Ateret Hakohanim are tied in with the opening of the Tunnel at the Western Wall

The opening of the tunnel at the Western Wall following Yom Kippur was carefully hidden from the media, and of course from the Palestinians. The only two journalists who were invited promised not to publish anything about it in advance. Among those who knew and were invited were representatives and donors of the Society for the Development of East Jerusalem and the Fund for the Heritage of the Wall. One of the main donors of the Fund who was present at the opening was Dr. Irwin Moskowitz, the patron of Ateret Kohanim, who bought a great deal of property in East Jerusalem (including Beit Orot, Sheffer Hotel, and land in Ras al-Amud). Until the opening of the tunnel to tourists, Ateret Kohanim settlers were among the few who held the keys to the tunnel. Guides trained by them would lead groups of tourists in an effort to get donations on behalf of Ateret Kohanim from those participating in the tours.

Other American friends of Ateret Kohanim are the Organization for the Restoration of Jerusalem, which has so far raised tens of millions of dollars from wealthy Jews who wish to expand the Jewish presence in the heart of East Jerusalem. In 1989 through this organization, Ateret Kohanim acquired St. John's Hospice in the Christian Quarter which had belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church.

For many years, a symbiotic relationship has existed between these donors to the project and the Prime Minister of Israel: Netanyahu provides the air of legitimacy when he appears at their fundraising evenings, while the organization raises the money. The Project for the Restoration of Jerusalem was founded in 1977 with the help of Canadian millionaire Mark Belzberg, and Netanyahu was his guest of honor at the first fundraising dinner. In the United States, donations for large scale acquisition of Arab properties in the West Bank and East Jerusalem constitute a violation of American tax laws. Netanyahu's public support of the organization helped contain the negative publicity that surrounded these acquisitions. President of the Project is Dr. Joseph Prager, who is also a member of the World Committee for Israel, which organized several protest demonstrations against Rabin in the United States and Israel. Netanyahu participated in some of these. Prior to the elections, the organization made generous contributions to Netanyahu. Now, it seems, it is his turn -- and ours -- to pay up.

Copyright 1996, Kol Ha'Ir. For education and discussion only. Not for commercial use.

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