Former President Donald J. Trump will return a set of ancient coins and ceramic oil lamps to the government of Israel after reports last week that Israeli officials were pushing to get them back.
The items were not removed from the White House by Trump, like the classified documents that led to his indictment on federal espionage charges. They were not ignored, like the official gifts from foreign leaders that were highlighted earlier this year by Democrats on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, who detailed ways the Trump White House broke the law in how it handled gifts.
In fact, the artifacts never reached the White House.
Rather, they have been at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private home and club in Palm Beach, Florida, since December 2021. That’s when Saul Fox, a wealthy donor from both Israel and the Republican Party, presented the items to him during a Hanukkah celebration, calling them an expression of Israel’s gratitude to Trump.
Fox, who runs a private equity firm, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. He said The Wall Street Journal that he hoped to present the items to Mr. Trump at a Hanukkah party at the White House in 2019, and Israel Hasson, the head of the Israel Antiquities Authority at the time, gave him the go-ahead to do so, but the State Department insisted on inspecting them first.
The delay forced Fox to send a courier to retrieve the old items, and then the pandemic dashed his hopes of giving them to Trump, he told The Journal. So he kept them at his California home.
He ultimately presented the lamps and coins to Trump at a Hanukkah party at Mar-a-Lago in 2021. Prior to that visit, Fox wrote in an email reviewed by The Times that Hasson said the antiquities authority’s new director, Eli Eskosido, had “wholeheartedly approved” giving the lamps to Trump for a “permanent display.” Mr. Eskosido did not respond to a request for comment.
The lamps were displayed at Mar-a-Lago in a case with a bronze plaque bearing the logo of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
However, a year and a half later, the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on July 18 that the lamps and coins were “stranded at Trump’s Florida estate” and that “senior Israeli figures have tried unsuccessfully to have them returned to Israel.”
In a statement, Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesman, said the artifacts had been “loaned for permanent display” at the behest of the Israel Antiquities Authority “to honor and celebrate American Jewish heritage” and Trump’s close friendship with Israel.
“As the items were displayed as originally intended, the office will expedite their return to the organization’s representative,” Mr. Cheung said.
The antiquities authority, for its part, said in a statement that it had “no claims against Mr. Donald Trump” and that Israeli and US officials were “working together to return the objects to their proper home.”
gabby sobelman contributed reporting.