Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, all-but-abandoning America's commitment to a two-state solution, has its roots with the religious politics of Jared Kushner, Trump's Middle East adviser and son-in-law. Kushner, a favorite of both Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and pro-Netanyahu American casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, has tapped for his Middle East "envoy" team two rabidly pro-Israeli expansion ideologues, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman and "Special Representative for International Negotiations" Jason Greenblatt. Friedman was an attorney with the law firm of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, which represented the Trump Organization. Greenblatt was the chief legal officer for the Trump Organization. Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, along with Friedman and Greenblatt, represent a far-right Zionist cabal that rejects both a Palestinian state and a single Israeli-Palestinian nation that fully enfranchises Palestinians as citizens of a secular Israeli state. Kushner, Friedman, and Greenblatt favor an apartheid state, in which Palestinians are second-class citizens.
In addition to Netanyahu and Adelson, there are other hidden hands behind the US recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
In 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) rolled up a group of Syrian-Jewish rabbis in the New Jersey and New York region who held fundraisers for the Binyamin Netanyahu coalition partner, the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. The link between the US rabbis and the corruption-plagued Netanyahu highlighted the secret financing of the expansion of Jewish construction in east Jerusalem. The United Nations does not recognize East Jerusalem as part of Israel and Palestine considers it as the "de jure" capital of the State of Palestine.
A key financier of the east Jerusalem construction is a wealthy American Jewish bingo parlor and gambling tycoon named Irving Moskowitz. A noted neo-conservative, Moskowitz backs such neocon operations as the Hudson Institute, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), American Enterprise Institute, and the Center for Security Policy (CSP). Frank Gaffney, a controversial Islamophobe and former national security adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, heads the CSP.
Moskowitz has been purchasing land from Arabs, mostly in east Jerusalem, to turn the city into an exclusively Jewish city. More troubling for long-term Middle East peace prospects is Moskowitz's funding of the right-wing Ateret Cohanim movement, which seeks to tear down Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine, also known as the Dome of the Rock, to rebuild the Jewish temple.
Of more immediate concern, however, was Moskowitz's purchase of east Jerusalem's Shepherd Hotel, which overlooks Mount Scopus. The hotel, legally considered the property of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, was seized as "war booty" after the 1967 Israeli-Arab war. The hotel was at the center of the expansion controversy between the Obama administration and Netanyahu's government over plans to turn the hotel into apartments exclusively for Jews.
In a July 27 op-ed in the Jerusalem Post by Jeff Baraq, a former editor-in-chief of the newspaper, it is stated: "The fact is that while American Jews like Irving Moskowitz can buy land in East Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods, a Palestinian resident of, say, Sheikh Jarrah [where the Shepherd Hotel is located] cannot purchase an apartment in many parts of west Jerusalem, because the Israel Lands Administration, which owns the land, will only enter into a contract with Israeli citizens of persons entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return." Noting the political instability of the Netanyahu government, Baraq titled his op-ed "Netanyahu Gov't Unstable, Crisis With US Self-Inflicted."
With Netanyahu coalition partner Shas front-and-center in the Syrian-Jewish rabbi scandal in New Jersey and New York and the Kushner family tied to criminal scandals in both states, the influence of right-wing supporters of Israel in the Trump administration becomes more obvious. The FBI used a confidential witness to identify a number of the New Jersey and New York Syrian Jewish rabbis who were using synagogues and yeshivas as money laundering fronts reportedly for the illegal sale of knock-off designer handbags and even human organs. The witness, Solomon Dwek, is a major real estate developer and gambling boat owner, was arrested in 2006 for trying to pass a bad check and defraud PNC Bank of $25 million. Dwek is also a key figure in the powerful Syrian Jewish clan in New Jersey and New York, which has been dubbed the SY Empire" and the "Dwek clan." This clan also has ties to the Kushner Companies, a real estate firm with major holdings in New Jersey and New York.
Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization are under investigation by Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller for money laundering activities involving both the Trump and Kushner families. This probe reportedly involves the laundering of foreign money through purchases of real estate, including condominiums, in Trump and Kushner buildings in Manhattan and New Jersey. This money laundering was at the center of the takedown of the Syrian Jewish syndicate during Mueller's term as FBI director. The following excerpt of the federal indictment explains the type of money laundering engaged in by the Shas operatives. In the criminal complaint against Rabbi Eliahu "Eli" Ben Haim of the Ohel Yaacob congregation in Deal, New Jersey, a co-conspirator only identified as "I.M.," who was based in Israel and was a principal source of cash for Ben Haim, is cited.
"Defendant BEN HAIM told the CW [Confidential Witness] about 'customers from two, three years ago that are calling me,' and indicated that “[t]hat’s a signal that the market is tight.' Defendant BEN HAIM also discussed his source for cash, Coconspirator I.M., and stated that he spoke to Co-conspirator I.M. '[e]very day – every other day.' Referring to Co-conspirator I.M., defendant BEN HAIM then asked the CW '[d]id you know that he had me in the last 4 years send out wires every time to a different place in the world to a different name? It’s unbelievable. I never saw anything like it.' When the CW asked whether defendant BEN HAIM was referring to different locations in only Israel, defendant BEN HAIM replied '[n]o, all over the world… All over the world. From Australia to New Zealand to Uganda. I mean [u/i] [unintelligible] every country imaginable. Turkey, you can’t believe it… All different names. It’s never the same name… Switzerland, everywhere, France, everywhere, Spain… China, Japan.' Defendant BEN HAIM also explained that the market for cash was tight 'only in the beginning of the year and the end of the year.'"
The statement provides the lengths to which those involved in laundering money in support of illegal Israeli construction on Palestinian territory go to cover their tracks. On July 26, 2009, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Rabbi David Yosef, the son of Shas spiritual leader and former Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, left the Long Branch, New Jersey home of Ben-Haim for Israel just hours before the FBI raid that saw Ben-Haim taken into custody. In May 2009, Aryeh Deri visited the Syrian-Jewish community in the New York-New Jersey region seeking funds for a new political party. Deri's successor as the head of Shas, Eliyahu "Eli" Yishai, who left Shas to form the ultra-right Yachad party, served as Interior Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister of Israel. Yishai blocked the Holy See from exercising control over its property in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Ovadia Yosef also condemned President Obama for pressuring Israel to freeze of settlements. Yosef also called for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple on the site of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Yosef complained that there "are Arabs there." It is with this background of Arab hatred that Trump, serving the interests of the Kushner-Moskowitz-Adelson cabal, reversed 70 years of US policy in recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.