Sheldon Adelson's Effect on Trump's Policies
By: Alena Khan/Arab America Contributing Writer
In the midst of events relating to the Palestine-Israel conflict, there have been ongoing efforts by different groups aiming to minimize the influence of the Israel lobby. What they don’t know though that they’re up against more than just the GOP, in fact, they’re facing the 10th richest man in the world, a “cause donor” also known as “The Godfather”, Sheldon Adelson.
Sheldon Adelson is an American investor, businessman, and the founder of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, owning the Venetian casino in Las Vegas, and two others in Asia. Having a net worth of around $40 billion, Adelson doesn’t shy away from using that net worth to his advantage.
Last week, a US appeals court overturned a $1 billion lawsuit by Palestinians seeking to sue billionaire Sheldon Adelson and more than 30 other pro-Israel defendants liable for alleged war crimes and support of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. In the 3-0 decision, US Court of Appeals in the DC Circuit said a federal district judge was wrong in August 2017 determining that the plaintiffs’ claims could not be decided in American courts.
The plaintiffs included 18 Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans as well as a Palestinian town council, alleged a conspiracy among many defendants to expel non-Jews from the occupied territories, and accused the defendants of committing or aiding in genocide and other war crimes. “A legal determination that Israeli settlers commit genocide in the disputed territory would not decide ownership of the disputed territory and thus would not directly contradict any foreign policy choice,” said Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson in the court’s ruling. Other defendants included the billionaire Larry Ellison, Bank Leumi BM and Bank Hapoalim BM, construction and support companies such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and Volvo AB,13 nonprofits, and the United States.
Adelson a pro-Israel advocate, has been known to use his money to influence policies on behalf of Israel. Adelson has always been more of a “one-issue voter” per se, and during the 2016 elections, he knew that Trump would be “good for Israel” so he spent around $90 million to help Trump and other Republican representatives win.
Last year, The US Embassy in Israel had been moved to Jerusalem, and a key influencer behind that decision was no one other than Adelson himself. After the embassy opening, Adelson donated another $30 million to the Republican party, becoming the largest single donation in US history. Adelson has also influenced Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and various decision making in general US politics. CBC news broadcaster Wendy Mesley did an exposé on Adelson through an interview with New York Times reporter Ken Vogel who says that Adelson has become “a leading figure in this hawkish pro-Israel conservative circle that is so influential in American politics.”
Adelson having many connections, and a strong influence over the GOP has set the stage for US middle east policy. He’s known to act as an enforcer and gets that power because others will hesitate to cross him, especially when donations may be on the line. In addition to getting the US embassy moved to Israel, and the abandonment of the nuclear deal, Adelson has also been effective in placing appointees who are pro-Israel in top government positions. Including, Former US Ambassador of the UN Nikki Haley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Whitney Webb, a writer for MintPress News says that if anything “Trump’s presidency has shown that while Trump has left the promises he made to his base largely unfulfilled, he gladly keeps the promises made to his biggest donor.” According to Vogel, Adelson maintains his influence over the GOP through his close connection with government officials, including President Trump himself. He’s known to have great access to the GOP, having attended private events at the White House, and being able to speak to Trump personally. “He is if not in the very inner circle at least in the next ring out of Trump’s intimates.” Adelson provides Trump with an overflow of supporters including Evangelicals and conservative Jews, pushing for more confrontational foreign policy solutions. According to the New York Times, Adelson is even a member of the “Shadow National Security Council” advising John Bolton. Overall, Adelson and his supporters give the Republican party a “disproportionate” amount of money.
Adelson has successfully used his money as donations to ultimately get what he wants. It’s no surprise that he’s an advocate for all things pro-Israel, however, some of those ideas and his influence on Trump when it comes to foreign policy are more concerning. Adelson has been known to advocate a nuclear attack on Iran “without provocation” and threatening another attack in order to send a message showing that “we mean business.”
If Trump were to follow Adelson’s plan, that entails that the US would drop a nuclear bomb first in the middle of an Iranian desert, then threaten to attack the capital, Tehran, which according to Webb, would result in an estimated 7 million people dead within seconds. According to Adelson himself, “…any sort of diplomatic engagement with Iran is the worst negotiating tactic I could ever imagine.” With one-third of his donations going to anti-Iran groups, Adelson aims to use his connections and power to further promote a US/Israel war with Iran.
When it comes to Trump, it’s all about the money, “he gets paid, then he acts” Mesley says. He will mostly show his appreciation towards Adelson’s donations “driving the US to support a major military confrontation with Iran.” With Trump still in power and his alliance with Adelson, there’s no telling what they could be capable of doing next.