BY PHILIP WEISS JANUARY 12, 2021
Sheldon Adelson, who died last night, set out to destroy the Iran deal and the peace process and succeeded through his campaign contributions to Republican presidents. A fierce advocate for Israel, he wielded an incredible degree of power over U.S. policy.
Miriam Adelson’s announcement of her husband’s passing is extremely moving and also blunt about his influence.
He crafted the course of nations. Some of the historical achievements he helped effect — in the United States, Israel, and elsewhere, are publicly known. Others are not.
All the memorials to Adelson today cite his support for Israel, though the NYT typically underplays Adelson’s zealotry. George Bush notes that Adelson was a “strong supporter of Israel,” but twenty years ago Bush bridled at how much Adelson expected him to support Israel, saying, “I can’t be more Catholic than the pope.” Connie Bruck reported then:
as Adelson later told an acquaintance, Bush put one arm around his shoulder and another around that of his wife, Miriam, who was born in Israel, and said to her, “You tell your Prime Minister that I need to know what’s right for your people—because at the end of the day it’s going to be my policy, not Condi’s. But I can’t be more Catholic than the Pope.” (The White House denies this account.)
The occasion was Condoleezza Rice pushing the two-state solution at the end of the Bush administration, a policy that Adelson said would “ruin” Bush and that came to nothing.
A former Democrat, who was pro-choice, Adelson nonetheless gave millions to the Republican Party in the 90s and 2000 with the specific aim of defusing the peace process that had begun under Bill Clinton. He succeeded. The peace process was shelved, and even as he was running for reelection in 2004, George Bush exchanged letters with former PM Ariel Sharon recognizing Israeli sovereignty in portions of the West Bank, stating that a two-state solution would never entail Israel returning to the 1949 Green Line.
Adelson helped found an organization called “One Jerusalem” in the 90s, and pushed the move of the Embassy to Jerusalem. He succeeded there, of course, too, under Trump.
Adelson was always more frank about his aims than the media that reported on his contributions. “I’m a one-issue person. That issue is Israel,” he said in 2017, per Pro Publica. He was an extremist who maintained that “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian.” They were south Syrians, Adelson said. And he expressed bigotry against Muslims: “Muslims, you want to kill 100 percent of the Jews.” Trump reflected Adelson’s attitudes when he defunded UNRWA.
Possibly Adelson’s greatest achievement was destroying the Iran deal that was the signature achievement of the Obama administration. Adelson opposed any negotiations with Iran. He spent $150 million in the 2012 election to try to defeat Obama, and the following year advised President Obama to nuke Iran not negotiate. Obama cut the deal of course, and Adelson and his wife then gave over $80 million to the Republican/Trump campaigns in 2016, then another $100 million in 2018.
ADELSON ADVISES OBAMA TO NUKE IRAN, DURING YESHIVA UNIVERSITY EVENT IN 2013.
Trump trashed the Iran deal in 2018 and followed a belligerent policy against Iran, though he never started the war Adelson was pushing for.
Trump fully understood Adelson’s influence. When it appeared that Adelson was backing Marco Rubio ahead of the 2016 primaries, he commented acidly: “Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into the perfect little puppet. I agree!”
Alan Dershowitz has said that Adelson talked to Trump all the time on the phone, and Trump’s statement today on Adelson’s passing mentions his relentlessness.
He tirelessly advocated for the relocation of the United States embassy to Jerusalem, the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights…
This process of cultivating Adelson is now called the Adelson primary in the Republican Party; and by all appearances in today’s memorials, it’s already begun, with leading Republicans making sure to offer condolences to Adelson’s family and Miriam Adelson.
Mike Pompeo sends condolences and prayers to the family. Florida Gov. Ron De Santis repeatedly mentions Miriam, Adelson’s “great wife” and writes, “Were it not for their advocacy the great strides made in recent years… would not have happened.”
Nikki Haley has two photos of herself with Sheldon and Miriam. Though a commenter on Haley’s thread writes,”The family isn’t going to bankroll your presidential ambitions Nik.
John Whitbeck writes (to his email list): “The world’s most powerful man has died.”
H/t Adam Horowitz and James North.