Sheldon Adelson on creating 'Ambassadors for Israel'
Sheldon Adelson (born August 1933 in Boston, USA) is a US casino mogul, a hardline Zionist and a key bankroller of several Israel lobby initiatives. Owner of casino chains in both Nevada and Macao, Adelson, whose estimated net worth of $26.5 billion which, according to Forbes, made him the third richest man in the US and the sixth richest in the world, has suffered losses of between £10-16 billion this year as a result of the world financial crisis. (He is now ranked 13th in the US.) A member of the Board of Directors of the conservative Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Adelson is also a generous contributor to such Israel lobby projects as AIPAC, One Jerusalem, Freedom's Watch, Taglit Birthright and the Jerusalem-based Adelson Institute. Adelson is a staunch opponent of the two-state solution in Israel-Palestine. 
In 2007 Adelson's financial support helped launch Freedom's Watch, a hardline advocacy group established to build public support against withdrawal from Iraq and an aggressive US posture on Iran. The idea for the group was conceived by Adelson and his allies at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Florida, and according to Thomas Edsall of the Huffington Post, he has acted in effect as "the CEO of Freedom's Watch". "Officials of Freedom's Watch", Edsall adds, "are interpreting an obscure Federal Election Commission regulation issued last December 26th in such a way as to permit non-disclosure of all of Adelson's contributions made since the day that regulation was issued." However, according to JTA, Adelson is "believed to have contributed the bulk of the group's $15 million startup costs". He is also believed to have pledged a significant portion of the money used by AIPAC to pay for its new seven-story premises. According to journalist Philip Weiss,
- Adelson has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Republican National State Elections Committee...according to the FEC, Adelson gave $300,000 to the Elections Committee before Bush took office, and one of those gifts, $100,000, was made in December 2000, right as Bush was awarded the White House by the Supreme Court. At that very moment, Douglas Feith says vaguely in his new book, Feith...got "feelers" from the Bush team. And lo and behold, Feith became an Under Secretary for Defense...Did Adelson's gift play a part?
Although the prime beneficiaries of Adelson's munificience are the Republicans, he also takes bipartisan Congressional delegations to Israel. Adelson also contributed generously enough to Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign to qualify as a "Bush Pioneer". According to Haaretz,
- the door of [Bush's] office is always open to them. Bush invites Miriam to the White House for events related to her medical concerns. She, for her part, encourages decision-makers to visit her clinics. Cabinet ministers, senators, Knesset members, judges, mayors, even the chancellor of Germany - all are happy to visit.
In October 2007 Adelson and his wife accompanied a group of Republican donors to the White House to meet with George W. Bush to dissuade him from organizing the Annapolis conference, an effort to re-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. According to Connie Bruck of the New Yorker,
- Adelson protested to Bush that Rice was thinking of her legacy, not the President’s, and that she would ruin him if she continued to pursue this disastrous course. 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.)
Not long after the meeting an Israeli government source told Bruck that Bush remarked to someone: “I had this crazy Jewish billionaire, yelling at me.”
Adelson is equally harsh on other Israel lobby organizations that do not adopt a hard line similar to his. In November 2007 when the Saban Center for Middle East Policy invited the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad to appear with Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, at the opening of the Saban Forum, Adelson tried to dissuade the Center's funder, Haim Saban from inviting the Palestinian.
- Adelson accused [Saban] of funding anti-Israel research at the Saban Center. Saban was surprised, but suggested that when the center’s director, Martin Indyk, was next in Las Vegas he and Adelson could talk. Not long afterward, Indyk met with Adelson at his office at the Venetian, on the Las Vegas Strip. According to a person familiar with what happened at the meeting, Adelson berated Indyk for hosting “terrorists” like Fayyad.
Adelson has been a generous donor to AIPAC, underwriting many congressional trips to Israel sponsored by AIPAC's educational affiliate. Before the Annapolis summit when it was revealed that the hawkish AIPAC and Israel were supporting a congressional letter signed by more than a hundred and thirty members of the House urging Bush to increase economic aid to Mahmoud Abbas's government, Adelson was furious. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that, “I don’t continue to support organizations that help friends committing suicide just because they want to jump.” 
Adelson is also a "generous supporter" of disgraced terrorologist Steve Emerson. After the Prague conference Adelson and Miriam attended a fundraiser for Emerson in Los Angeles, where apropos his desire to attack Iran, he told Pooya Dayanim a Jewish-Iranian regime-change activist: “I really don’t care what happens to Iran. I am for Israel.”
In July 2012, though initially a supporter of Newt Gingrich, Adleson lent financial support to presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, donating $10 million to pro-Romney PAC Restore Our Future. The Republican Jewish Coalition funded an anti-Obama ad campaign in key swing states with $6.5m as Romney sought to win American Jewish votes by portraying himself as more supportive of Israel. Adelson also attended a fundraiser for Romney's campaign at the Kind David Hotel in Jerusalem on 30 July 2012.
According to Bruck Adelson's focus on Israel intensified with his marriage to Miriam in 1991, his political views becoming more conservative. He began spending a lot of time in Israel, where he also developed a close friendship with Netanyahu helping him in his successful 1996 bid for Prime Minister against Labor's Shimon Peres. Adleson has invested in high-tech companies, but his lobbying for the legalization of gaming have so far foundered in the face of Orthodox Jewish opposition to gambling.
Through his charitable foundation Adelson also funds Israeli causes and groups; he regularly appears at charitable events in Israel and makes lavish donations. In 2006 Adelson donated $25 million - the largest donation ever given by an individual - to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, where a museum of Holocaust art is named after his wife Miriam's parents as well as family members who perished in the Holocaust. Adelson gave Taglit-Birthright Israel - the program that flies Jewish youth to Israel for free tours - $60 million over a period of two years. He is the single largest donor to the program whose annual budget stands at $86 million.
A staunch opponent of the two-state solution, Adelson has reportedly also tried to influence Israeli policy away from negotiating a peace with the Palestinians. In order to wield greater influence in Israel's internal politics Adelson has invested in the local media via Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today, a free daily paper) after a failed bid to take over major Israeli newspapers. The paper is seen widely as established solely to provide Likud's hardline leader Benjamin Netanyahu - a close friend of the Adelson's - with a platform. Netanyahu, reportedly, was also the middleman between Adelson and another friend of his, Shlomo Ben Zvi, in the failed partnership that produced the now-defunct freebie Yisraeli.
Furthermore, writes Amir Zohar:
- Last year, they visited the Museum of Independence in Tel Aviv, and upon noticing a stained carpet immediately announced a donation to renovate the institution. During the Second Lebanon War they donated funds to renovate and maintain hospitals in northern Israel, and for an academic training center for former members of the air force. In conjunction with their growing philanthropic activity, they created the Adelson Foundation, which will henceforth operate on a budget of about $200 million a year.
According to Bruck, Adelson was so enraged by the participation of Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert - with whom Adelson had been friendly since the '90s when he was still a member of Likud - in the Annapolis conference that he has waged a concerted campaign to force him from office. Adelson saw Olmert’s attempts to negotiate with the Palestinians as a betrayal of principle. He had long wanted Netanyahu returned as Prime Minister, but, writes Bruck, "a revived peace process gave that goal new urgency". Writes Bruck:
- The Zionist Organization of America, to which Adelson is a major contributor, ran a full-page ad in the Times, headlined, “SECRETARY RICE: DON’T PROMOTE A STATE FOR PALESTINIANS WHILE THEIR 10 COMMANDMENTS PROMOTE TERRORISM AND ISRAEL’S DESTRUCTION.” The “10 Commandments” referred to the constitution of Fatah, Abbas’s party. “Osama Bin-Laden and Hamas would be proud of Abbas’ Fatah Constitution,” the ad stated. Two weeks before the start of the conference, a Washington, D.C., think tank that shares office space and several board members with the Republican Jewish Coalition—another organization to which Adelson makes significant contributions—circulated an article on its Listserve which asserted, “Olmert is now chasing peace with the Palestinians at all costs, in a desperate attempt to secure his place in world history.”
Adelson has disparaged Olmert’s motivation as an attempt to divert attention from the several corruption investigations dogging him, the concessions a mere attempt “to stay out of jail.” According to Adelson Olmert's is an "illegitimate government and should be thrown out".
In an escalation against Olmert in December 2007 Adelson met two far-right ministers in Olmert’s coalition — Avigdor Liberman, of Beytenu Party, and Eli Yishai, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party — to persuade them to leave the government. Liberman left the government in January however he insists it has to do with Olmert's participation in the Annapolis conference rather than inducement from Adelson. In February, Adelson was assisted by One Jerusalem to deliver pamphlets to ultra-Orthodox synagogues throughout Israel, urging them to tell Yishai to leave the government. However, Yishai remains in government though he has threatened to leave if Olmert negotiates on Jerusalem.
Despite the acrimonious relationship between Adelson and the Labor and Kadima leaders, in 2008 Peres had to turn to the gambling tycoon for a donation when he couldn't raise the necessary funds for a conference he was organizing to celebrate Israel’s sixtieth birthday. Adelson's $3 million earned him and Miriam honorary conference chairs, deferential treatment, a place in the receiving line, a chance to address the conference, and a seat next to Peres and Olmert. Afterwards, according to Ha'aretz, Adelson, offered his solution to Israel's so-called "demographic problem": “I think Jews should have lots of sex.”
Adelson has also tried to intervene directly in Israeli politics by using the media. Bruck observes: 'never before has someone with virtually unlimited means tried to use a newspaper to make a politician Prime Minister.' Adelson made two abortive attempts to buy Ma’ariv, one of Israel's three largest circulation dailies (another attempt was reportedly underway in April 2008). He also started a free daily in 2006 with an Israeli partner, ending up in court before withdrawing from the venture. Eventually, in August 2007, Adelson launched another free daily Israel Hayom (Israel Today)in which he is reported planning to invest $180 million. Journalists at the paper -- referred to as "Bibi-ton" in the Israeli media world because it is seen as a mouthpiece for Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu -- are reportedly under strict orders not to speak publicly about their paper. The paper’s objective, according to one Israeli academic who spoke to Bruck, "is to make Bibi Netanyahu Prime Minister.” Amos Regev, the editor, has recruited several high-profile journalists, such as Dan Margalit, formerly of Ma’ariv, who attack the government from the right with articles bearing such vitriolic headlines as “THE ASS-COVERING OF THE GOVERNMENT.” The paper's foreign editor, Boaz Bismuth -- a former Israeli ambassador to Mauritania and longtime Paris correspondent for Yediot Aharonot -- embraces comparison to Fox News. He elaborated:
- "If there are rumors about the bad conduct of a soldier, it won't immediately be our main headline."
Nahum Barnea, one of Israel’s preeminent journalists, characterized the paper as publishing "only what Adelson himself would want to read". "This is the stuff propaganda is made of, not journalism,” he added. The government refuses to acknowledge the paper as journalism, referring to it as “printed material”. However, the paper is thriving with a survey in January showing that it is gaining on established publications. It challenging Israel's biggest daily Yedioth Ahronoth by using rival Ha’aretz’s printing and distribution systems.
According to Michael Steinhardt, the co-founding chairman of Taglit-Birthright Israel to which his friend Adelson is a contributor: “These things are not done to make money...They’re done because Sheldon’s an ideologue — he really cares about things that are of the spirit and not of the pocketbook.”
In summer 2010, Israel Hayom became the most widely distributed paper in Israel. According to Ben Smith of Politico, it has caused concern in Israel 'strong enough that legislators have sought to hobble it with laws banning foreign ownership and selling below cost.'
One of Adelson's former business associates Shlomo Ben-Zvi has revealed that the paper loses $3 million per month.
The paper brooks no dissent. In September 2011 it terminated the column of Ido Rosenblum Toro for expressing centre left opinions.
Adelson has also helped establish Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, a far-right Likudnik think-tank with a $4.5-million grant at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. Staffed by Netanyahu allies, the think tank is chaired by Natan Sharansky who also heads One Jerusalem. It was Sharansky who helped organize the Prague conference in June 2007, attended amongst others by Bush, where the focus of regime change in Iran.
Despite Adelson's aggressive intervention in Israeli politics criticism has been muted, mostly because of his massive philanthropic ventures which provide cover for his hardline politics. According to Ha’aretz, Adelson is creating a foundation that would give more than two hundred million dollars annually to Jewish causes. Bruck was told:
- “There is a discernible amount of self-censorship going on,” the liberal Israeli-American writer Bernard Avishai said. “There is no ideological justification for what Sheldon is doing among the Israeli intelligentsia—and a revulsion at an American weighing in so heavily on Israeli politics, in such a crude, reactionary way. But they won’t speak.”
In June 2007 Adelson attended the Democracy & Security International Conference in Prague, a gathering of what journalist Jim Lobe dubbed a 'Neoconservative International'. The event was cosponsored by the Adelson Institute, the Czech Foreign Ministry, the Prague Security Studies Institute, and Spain's Foundation for Social Studies and Analysis. 
In July, 2001, Adelson met with a Vice-Premier of China, Qian Qichen, in the historic Purple Light Pavilion, in Zhongnanhai, where Qichen broached the subject of casinos and hotels on Macao. The meeting had been arranged by Richard Suen, a Hong Kong businessman with connections to top Chinese officials, also a friend of Adelson’s brother Lenny. Adelson was also accompanied by Bill Weidner, the president Las Vegas Sands. Gambling was banned on the Chinese mainland in 1949 as a "capitalistic vice". But the Chinese remained avid gamblers, and gambling continued in Macao, where Stanley Ho a controversial businessman held the monopoly. In the meeting, according to Bruck, "Qian, who was well briefed on Adelson, pointed out that during the Second World War China had accepted more than twenty thousand Jewish refugees in Shanghai."
In 2004 Adelson completed Macao Sands at a cost of $265 million, an investment he recovered in the very first year of business, followed three years later by the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel a $2.4 billion project with 3,000 suites, the first of three towers in a compound which is also reminiscent of the original Venice and includes a 15,000-seat stadium and a 2,000-seat theater. For the launch, Adelson flew on more than 1,000 journalists from around the world at the expense of the project's PR budget. Amir Zohar reported in Haaretz:
- According to reports by the Las Vegas Sands Corp., more than 26 million tourists have already visited Macau this year. But there is more to come: Israeli-born architect Moshe Safdie is planning a tourism and gambling center in Singapore for the Adelsons on a scale similar to Macau, and the work is already under way. Similar activities in Asia are taking place in other sites, such as India, where Miriam Adelson visited in late January on business for the Adelson Group.
After praising the government for the way it runs the country while in China, Adelson disparaged its critics and added: “I don’t think the U.S. should be the policeman of the whole world." It has since been revealed that Adelson triumphed over competitors for the Macao contract such as MGM Mirage and, in a joint venture, Park Place Entertainment and Mandalay Bay Resort by using his influence with the Republican party, in particular the House majority leader Tom DeLay - a recipient of Adelson's 'generous support' including junkets to Israel - to break opposition to China's Olympic bid for the 2008 summer games.
Orit Arfa, a Jerusalem Post columnist hosted by Adelson in Macao recently wrote of the casinos: "But the Zionist in me was comforted as I watched people's chips dwindle. Without their knowing it, Asians are indirectly contributing to Israel".. According to the Financial Times, Adelson has already invested $4 billion in a similar project in Singapore.
- Adelson Family Charitable Foundation - Founder
- Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies - Funder
- AIPAC - Major funder
- Freedom's Watch - Funder
- One Jerusalem - Funder
- Republican Jewish Coalition - Board of Directors
- Yisrael Hayom - Publisher
- Zionist Organization of America - Major funder
- Netanyahu's Millionaires - Adelson is on top of a list of potential major donors prepared by by the Likud party during the 2007 election campaign.
- Las Vegas Sands - CEO; he owns two of city's giant casino resorts, the Venetian and the Palazzo.
- Comdex - Developer
- Dan Raviv - PR man in charge of the worldwide positioning of the Adelson Group
Contact, References and Resources
- Sheldon Adelson ,Right Web Profile, Somerville, MA: Political Research Associates, 15 February 2008.
- Ophir Bar-Zohar, Noam Rodeh and Nimrod Halpern, TheMarker, Global financial storms threaten empire of Jewish billionaire, philanthropist Adelson, Haaretz, 9 November 2008.
- Ron Kampeas, AIPAC stance irks donors, JTA, 16 November 2007
- Iain Dey and Dominic Rushe, [5 days that shook the world], Sunday Times,12 October 2008
- Ophir Bar-Zohar, Noam Rodeh and Nimrod Halpern, TheMarker, Global financial storms threaten empire of Jewish billionaire, philanthropist Adelson, Haaretz, 9 November 2008
- Ben Smith, GOP figure shakes up Israeli media, Politico, 28 November 2010
- Connie Bruck, The Brass Ring: A multibillionaire’s relentless quest for global influence, New Yorker, 30 June 2008.
- Thomas Edsall, Shy Sheldon: Secrecy Surrounds Billionaire's Contributions To Pro-Republican Group, Huffington Post, 14 August 2008
- Kampeas, op.cit.
- Philip Weiss, 'Salon' and Other Right-Thinking Journalists Insult Readers' Intelligence on the Role of Jewish Money in Politics, MondoWeiss, 3 July 2008
- Bruck, op.cit.
- Zohard, op.cit.
- Bruck, op.cit
- Alicia Mundy and Sara Murray, Adelson Gives $10 Million to Pro-Romney Super PAC, Wall Street Journal, accessed 31 July 2012
- Paul Harris, Romney on to Israel as Republicans launch bid for Jewish Vote in US, The Guardian, accessed 29 July 2012
- Harriet Sherwood, Mitt Romney 'providence' comments in Israel outrage Palestinians, The Guardian, accessed 31 July 2012
- Kampeas, op. cit.; Zohar op. cit.; Bruck op.cit.
- Zohar op. cit.
- Bruck, op.cit.
- Chen Ma'anit, "Israel Today loses $3m a month", Globes, 2 October 2011
- Emily Grunzweig, יקירתי, ביוש, Israel Today, 22 September 2011
- A Neoconservative International targets Iran, LobeLog, 9 June 2007.
- Zohar, op. cit.
- Bruck, op. cit
- Orit Arfa, [Made in China], Jerusalem Post, 12 October 2008
- Netanyahu's 'list of millionaires', YNet, 22 October 2010