JERUSALEM – The mayor of the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, which was hit by a homicide bombing this week, said Thursday that billionaire Donald Trump is planning to help build a huge beachfront hotel complex there.
Miriam Fireberg-Ikar said a top Trump business associate has visited the city three times on his private jet and was planning to build a number of hotels on 38 acres of empty seaside real estate.
Netanya has been among the Israeli cities hardest hit by terrorism, severely damaging its tourism industry. The Trump associate, Michael Dezer, said plans for the $500 million hotel complex were still on track even after a homicide bomber killed himself and five others at the city's main mall on Monday.
"The bombings are a part of life in Israel. We are used to it, and it doesn't change a thing," said Dezer, an Israeli-born real estate tycoon in the U.S., speaking by phone from Miami.
Dezer came up with the hotel idea six months ago when Fireberg-Ikar was visiting Miami. He said he contacted Trump, who agreed to join the project.
The leading Israeli daily Maariv ran a front-page headline Thursday reading, "Coming Soon: Trump Hotels in Netanya."
Trump spokeswoman Norma Foerderer would not confirm the involvement of the star of NBC's hit reality show "The Apprentice," saying it was "premature" to talk about the Netanya project.
Fireberg-Ikar said Dezer discussed the project with Israel's finance and tourism ministers, who expressed support. The plan is to build 2,500 rooms in several three, four and five-star hotels at the southern end of Netanya's beach, next to an 8-mile promenade.
Dezer said the project included a plan to build several conference centers and a museum for antique cars.
Netanya, 20 miles north of Tel Aviv, has some of Israel's best beaches. The city is also close to the West Bank, making it a frequent target of Palestinian homicide bombers during the past five years of fighting.
Monday's attack was the third on the same mall since 2001. The Park Hotel in Netanya was the target of the deadliest single attack of the Palestinian uprising: the bombing of a ritual Passover meal on March 27, 2002, that killed 29 people.
Fireberg-Ikar said she hoped Trump himself would soon visit her city.
"We are praying that Trump will have the honor of saving Netanya," Fireberg-Ikar said.