Donor’s done

Arthur Dantchik said to cut funding to Kohelet Policy Forum, architect of Israel’s judicial overhaul

In a statement, the American philanthropist calls for ‘healing and national unity’; the organization says it won’t discuss ‘individual donors’

Jewish American businessman and philanthropist Arthur Dantchik has stopped funding the Kohelet Policy Forum think tank, the institution that developed many of the core aspects of the government’s proposed judicial overhaul, and is calling for “healing and national unity” in Israel, the Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist reported Friday.

In a statement, the billionaire Dantchik, co-founder and managing director of the financial services firm Susquehanna International Group, said he was halting his donations to “think tanks in Israel, including the Kohelet Policy Forum.”

The Kohelet Policy Forum refused to discuss the matter, telling eJP, “We do not comment on individual donors.” Dantchik is the organization’s largest donor, having reportedly provided tens of millions of shekels to the group over the years. The Kohelet Policy Forum, which was founded in 2012, is one of Israel’s largest and most influential right-wing think tanks, employing dozens of researchers and lobbyists and maintaining close ties with politicians from the Likud and Religious Zionism party in particular.

Dantchik has faced significant criticism for his support for the Kohelet Policy Forum. Earlier this year, an Israeli protest group took out a full-page advertisement in his local Jewish newspaper, the Philadelphia-area Jewish Exponent, calling for him to “get [his] hands off our democracy.” Israelis and American Jewish supporters have also protested outside his home.

It was not immediately clear if Dantchik’s cessation of funding Israeli think tanks includes groups like the Shalom Hartman Institute, which he has also supported. When asked about the matter, the Shalom Hartman Institute, whose leaders have defended Dantchik from the criticism against him, responded: “No comment.”

“Throughout my life, I have supported a diverse array of organizations that promote individual liberties and economic freedoms for all people,” Dantchik told Calcalist in a statement.  Nevertheless, when a society becomes dangerously fragmented, people must come together to preserve democracy…I believe what is most critical at this time is for Israel to focus on healing and national unity.”

The Israeli protest group UnXeptable hailed Dantchik’s decision, saying it was “encouraging to see Mr. Danchick realizes that his contributions are harming Israeli society and undermining democracy.” In a message to supporters and followers, the group said it would continue “standing against those who threaten our beloved Israel.”