Sunday, May 18, 2008

Know Bush By The Friend That Keeps Him

UPDATE: Read more about Sheldon Adelson in this National Journal article. (Thanks to this Jim Lobe post.) This quote popped out at me:

Given Adelson's vast wealth and wide-ranging interests, it's not surprising that he's a rising star in Republican circles in Washington, evidenced by the attention lavished on him at the White House Hanukkah party last year. "People were falling all over themselves to meet Sheldon," says one person who attended. "There were two receiving lines--one for Sheldon and the other for the president."

Over at War & Piece, Laura Rozen posted an article entitled, If I Were Sheldon. It references "One of Israel's top journalists and commentators Nahum Barnea" and his column at Yediot Aharonot. It's about the guy from Las Vegas that traveled with Bush to Israel, Sheldon Adelson.

I hadn't heard of this guy before. But, evidently, he's a billionaire neo-con. I am going to repost all the text of the article below, because it's an eye-opener. This information has been reported nowhere else (other than at Mother Jones, but that article is also written by Laura Rozen) that I can find. I have not been able to find the original article, because Laura did not link to it. From the comments on her page, I am assuming that she had someone translate it from the original Hebrew. I'm not sure why it didn't show up on the English version of Yediot Aharonot online. (Link to all of Barnea's columns in English)

Anyway, with all those caveats, here's the article text:

When Sheldon Adelson gave his speech on the podium of the International Convention Center two days ago, I looked at Shimon Peres.

I was happy for him. The impressive, sparkling conference that he convened will warm his heart on the cold evenings when he is stuck alone, he and his security guards, in the desolate cage on Jabotinsky Street in Jerusalem. Many important, highly-respected people. An excellent organization. Well done.

As a citizen of the country, I was less happy. I saw a gambling tycoon from Las Vegas who bought my country's birthday with three million dollars. I thought with sorrow: Is the country worth so very little? Were the champagne and the wine and the sushi that were given out for free in the lobby, unlike what is conventional for such events, worth the humiliation?

Adelson is a Jew who loves Israel. Like some other Jews who live at a safe distance from here, his love is great, passionate, smothering. It is important to him that he influence the policies, decisions and compositions of Israeli governments. He is not alone in this, either: even back in the days of Baron Rothschild, wealthy Jews from the Diaspora felt that this country lay in their pocket, alongside their wallet. Regrettably, in the latest generation, we are being led by politicians who look at these millionaires with calf's eyes.

This kowtowing to other people's wallets-that is the common denominator of Rabin and Peres, Netanyahu, Barak and Olmert. Where are the good old days of Pinhas Sapir, who used to shout from the top of his lungs about these millionaires, who would let them wait for hours near the door of his office, who would pour soda into the glass of Chateau Rothschild that he was served and, afterwards, would make them sign the check? Sapir did not abase himself to anyone because, unlike them, he never expected to receive anything for himself.

Adelson is like the others, and yet different. He has the gift of authority and the bluntness of someone who made a lot of money quickly. He does not ask. He commands.

"He talks to me as though I were his property," the director of an important Jewish-American organization, one of the guests at the conference, told me. I heard similar complaints from others, Israelis and Americans, who got scandals from Adelson. Not long ago, the mayor of a large city received word that he had to meet Adelson immediately. He acceded, of course: the man is a big donor. When they met, Adelson ordered him to tell the municipal inspectors to leave the employees of his business, who were violating municipal law, alone.

There is a story about an anti-Arab propaganda film that Adelson heard about. He telephoned the director-general of a Jewish organization, asking him to buy and distribute the film. But the film is distorted, said the man. No one will believe it. So edit it, Adelson commanded. The film is not editable, said the man. All right, Adelson said. I will buy the film at my expense, but you will distribute it.

"He would like all the Arabs to disappear," another activist for a Jewish organization told me. "It seems that he thinks that the Arabs are gambling chips."

Several months ago, Adelson contacted another Jewish-American millionaire and asked him to donate a large sum of money for a campaign that he was organizing against the current Israeli government. The man politely refused. You know what, Adelson told him, do not donate. Just sign. The man refused again. Adelson accused him of funding anti-Israel research. I do not know what you mean, the man answered. When my man in charge of these things is in Las Vegas, he will come to you. Look into the matter.

The meeting at Adelson's office, in the Venetian hotel-casino, was a stormy one. Adelson took out a written list of accusations, many of them childish. You hosted (PA prime minister) Salam Fayyad, he said. He is a terrorist with blood on his hands. He is one of the founders of Fatah. Salam Fayyad was never involved in terrorism, his interlocutor said. He is not a member of Fatah. Where did you get these accusations from?

From Steve Emerson, said the billionaire. Emerson is an American Jew who often analyzes terror matters. You work with Olmert's government, accused Adelson. This is an illegitimate government. It must be thrown out.

I thought that Olmert is your friend, said the man.

And, indeed, they were friends. Such good friends that Olmert wrote him a letter and asked him to buy mini-bars for his hotels from a company that Talansky represented.

("This is not something new," one of the Americans who came to the conference told me. "One day I get a call from an Israeli, a former senior government official. I have a request, he said. Talk to Adelson about buying safes for the rooms in his hotels from a company that I work with. If the deal goes through, your organization will get a donation of USD 1 million." The man absolutely rejected the request.)

Adelman is convinced that Netanyahu, not Olmert, must be prime minister of Israel. In order to advance this idea, he established a newspaper, which devotes it pages to the fight against Olmert and praises Netanyahu. Allegedly, this investment is the largest election gift given to Israel ever. I do not claim this. Firstly, it is a legal gift, legitimate. Secondly, when Netanyahu is elected prime minister, he will have to act within the constraints of the State of Israel, not take dictates from a patron in Las Vegas.

Adelson, surrounded by guards, was king of the conference. He sat in the first row, with Shimon Peres between him and Olmert. He put his hand out to Olmert. Olmert shook it with a sour face. They did not exchange a single word.

In doing some background research, I found this article about Adelson, and John Bolton, on TPMCafe.