Sat, 20 Oct 2018

From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, via Las Vegas

International desk
12 Jun 2018, 15:14 GMT+10

President Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was done at the request of a Jewish billionaire, who in response to a commitment from Mr Trump to comply with his request, solidly backed the Trump campaign to win the 2016 presidential election.

The backer, Sheldon Adelson, an American born Jew aged 84, who lives in, and owns and operates casinos in Las Vegas including The Venetian, The Palazzo, and the Sands Expo, and owns casinos in Macau and Singapore, reportedly pumped upwards of $100 million into Mr Trump's campaign.

The revelation is made in an investigative report completed by The New Yorker, which has been published on the magazine's website and will feature in its June 18 2018 print edition.

Mr Adelson, in addition to his casino interests in Las Vegas and Macau, owns a popular newspaper in Israel called Israel Hayom, which is a solid backer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In 2015 he laid out $140 million to buy The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the major newspaper in the casino city, and the only prominent U.S. newspaper to endorse Mr Trump in the 2016 election. Mr Adelson reportedly built the new headquarters for the Israeli lobby group AIPAC's headquarters in Washington.

He owns the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino in Singapore, built in 2006. According to Forbes magazine, Mr Adelson is worth more than $43 billion as of June 2018, making him the 21st wealthiest person on earth. He is also regarded by Forbes as one of 'The World’s 100 Greatest Living Business Minds,' an honor he received in September last year.

The tycoon, according to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, had his newspaper Israel Hayom target him because, according to Olmert, he wanted him "deposed of," because he had tried to strike an agreement with the Palestinians. Olmert left office facing serious corruption charges which ultimately landed him in prison. When he went, Adelson went to bat for Netanyahu. “Sheldon didn’t work for Bibi. Bibi worked for Sheldon,” Olmert told The New Yorker article author, Adam Entous.

It would appear the casino baron exerts as much influence on electoral politics in the U.S. as he does in Israel. 'No Republican candidate can easily afford to ignore him. Adelson considered Obama an enemy of Israel, and, in the 2012 election, he and his wife, Miriam, contributed at least $93 million to groups supporting the G.O.P. Officials in the U.S. and Israel said that they learned from American Jewish leaders that Adelson had vowed to spend “whatever it takes” to prevent Obama from securing a peace agreement while in office,' Entous wrote.

At an event in Washington, when Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, asked Trump how he would handle negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Trump was relatively neutral. “People are going to have to make sacrifices, one way or the other,” he said.

Brooks followed up. “Can I, at least, try to pin you down on Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel? Is that a position you support?” he asked. Trump replied, “I want to wait until I meet with Bibi.”

Two weeks later at Adelson's Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas there was a primary debate. While there, Trump met with Adelson, and the pair met again later in New York. The Trump people reportedly told Adelson not to waste his money backing Marco Rubio.

In May, 2016, Trump was firming as the favorite to win the Republican nomination, Adelson endorsed him, but, according to The New Yorker, told the campaign he wanted a commitment to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Part of the Mideast peace negotiations over many years included the Palestinians having a part of East Jerusalem as the capital for their future state. Adelson wanted to take the issue of dividing the capital “off the table.” A Trump confidant told Entous, “That was the sole issue for him. It was his dream.” It was at this time that The New York Times reported that Mr Adelson had committed to Trump to spend more on his campaign than that of any other president, a figure that could exceed $100 billion.

'A few weeks after the party Conventions in the summer of 2016, Trump dipped in the national polls. His campaign was concerned that the Republican establishment would withdraw its support, and, in mid-August, Adelson met with Trump, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon in New York, The New Yorker revealed. Adelson asked again about moving the Embassy. “We have to win this,” Bannon said at the meeting, according to someone familiar with the exchange. “If we don’t, forget about moving the Embassy.” Later, Adelson told associates that he had received a commitment that Trump would, if elected, announce the Embassy move on his first day in office. Soon after the meeting, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson started writing checks to back the campaign.

Adelson’s support, one of Trump’s senior aides said, was evidence that “the legit part of the Republican establishment was coming in big” behind Trump. “Within ten days or fifteen days, we basically secured legitimate Republican muscle. Adelson was critical.”

After Trump’s victory, Bannon began drafting his “Day One” project, a list of executive actions that Trump intended to take as soon as the swearing-in ceremony was over, Entours wrote. At the top of the list was an executive order moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

The Adelsons visited Trump Tower, and spoke of the victory as a “miracle.” When Trump mentioned how he looked forward to moving the Embassy, Miriam wept with joy. Adelson, according to The New Yorker, told Trump, “Everything else you do, a thousand years from now, you’ll be remembered for this.”

When Trump delayed the embassy re-location announcement, Adelson complained. “You’re making a fool of me!” he shouted on the phone to a senior White House aide. Eventually, Adelson and others pressured Trump to stop delaying by warning him that he risked losing support among evangelical Christians, wrote Entous.

On December 6 Trump made the announcement. “While previous Presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver,” he said. “Today, I am delivering.”

Adelson was overwhelmed. According to The New Yorker he then set his sights on Trump's national-security adviser, General H. R. McMaster, saying he was anti-Israel. In March, McMaster was ousted and replaced by John Bolton, one of the architects of the Iraq war and a strong advocate for regime-change in Iran. Bolton is also a major supporter of Israel, who worked closely with the Jewish state when he was the U.S. ambassador to the UN.

At the May 14 opening ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked President Trump for his “courage” and willingness to keep his promises and said that he had “made history.”

“It’s a great day for peace,” Netanyahu said.

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson sat in the front row with Netanyahu and his wife, and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, underscoring the roles they played behind the scenes in making the Embassy move happen, The New Yorker article said. Later that evening, Adelson attended a Republican Jewish Coalition reception.

“Adelson’s established himself as an influential figure in American politics with the amount of money that he has contributed,” Logan Bayroff of the liberal pro-Israel group, J Street told The Guardian last week. “There’s no doubt that he has very strong, very far-right dangerous positions and that, at very least, those positions are really being heard and thought about at the highest levels of government.”

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