TEL AVIV (JTA) — Israel’s deputy defense minister and an American donor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 electoral campaign gave money to groups seeking to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, according to a Haaretz investigation.
The investigation found that Eli Ben Dahan, who serves in Netanyahu’s government, donated approximately $12,000 in 2010 to the Temple Institute, a group that educates about the Temple Mount and seeks to build the Third Temple at the site. Dahan’s office told Haaretz that the donation was made to support an illustrated edition of the Talmud.
Kenneth Abramowitz, according to the investigation, donated to the Israel Independence Fund, a group that supports two organizations in Israel that seek to increase the Jewish presence at the site. The fund’s U.S. office is based out of Abramowitz’s offices. Abramowitz told Haaretz that the fund distributes money to 15 Israeli organizations.
Abramowitz is the chairman of American Friends of Likud and donated $10,000 to Netanyahu’s campaign. He also donated to the primary campaigns of several other Likud politicians.
Netanyahu has stressed that he has no intention of altering the status quo at the Temple Mount, which is revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Under policy set by a Jordanian religious council that oversees the holy site, Jewish prayer there is prohibited and Jews may only visit during restricted periods.
The recent wave of violence in Israel began following unrest at the Temple Mount.
In 2013, according to Haaretz, the Temple Institute received some $56,000 in tax-exempt donations from donors in the United States. The organization has also received tens of thousands of dollars in American donations in previous years.