Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida
Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, FloridaTNS/ABACA via Reuters Connect

Former US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he will return antiquities belonging to Israel that had been kept at his Mar-a-Lago estate for the past several months, Haaretz reported.

Trump said in a statement delivered to the Wall Street Journal that a representative of the Israel Antiquities Authority had given him the artifacts with the authority's full cooperation and that he intended to send them back to Israel.

Among the antiquities are ancient ceramic oil lamps that are part of Israel's national treasures collection. They were sent to the US in 2019 with the approval of the then-director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Israel Hasson, on the condition that they be returned within weeks, Haaretz reported.

Before Trump's announcement, senior Israeli figures had been seeking unsuccessfully to get the objects back to Israel, the report said.

The archeological items were shipped from Israel to the United States for a Hanukkah event attended by Trump, then in office, and Saul Fox, a major Jewish-American donor to the Antiquities Authority, according to the newspaper. Over the years, Fox has donated to the establishment of a national center for antique coins, as well as to the creation of an archeological garden at the Knesset.

According to sources in Israel and abroad, Fox was invited in 2019 to a Hanukkah candle-lighting event at the White House. Ancient oil lamps were sent from Israel for the event, intended to be displayed briefly in Washington, and then returned to Israel.

The oil lamps were ultimately not displayed in the White House, due to a bureaucratic difficulty raised by the Americans. But according to Israeli sources who dealt with the matter, instead of being returned to Israel, they got “stuck” in the United States.

Hasson, then-Director of the Antiquities Authority, told Haaretz that the Authority did not wish to send the items back by regular flight or shipping company, for fear of damage. Instead, he explained, “We wanted our man to go and bring it back, but then COVID broke out, and everything got stuck.”

An Israeli official briefed on the matter described it Tuesday as "a misunderstanding" and said the Antiquities Authority "woke up too late" instead of resolving the issue closer to the original White House event.

It is unknown if Trump had realized that the Israeli antiquities were among the many objects that he took with him upon leaving office in January 2021.