Why Wasn't Netanyahu Invited to Inauguration of New Adelson-funded Medical School in West Bank?

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File photo: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.
File photo: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.Credit: \ Ilan Assayag

A new Israeli medical school, located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, will be inaugurated on Sunday. It will be named in honor of American-Jewish casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who donated $20 million towards its construction.

Conspicuously absent from the event, however, will be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was not invited. His exclusion is all the more glaring considering that he was the guest of honor just over a year ago at the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the school.

This could be latest sign of recent tensions between the Israeli prime minister and Adelson, his long-standing patron. The Jewish-American billionaire is the owner of Israel Hayom, the free Israeli newspaper long regarded as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu.

But earlier this year, police recommended that the prime minister be indicted for bribery in a case that involves his relationship with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Israel’s other large newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. Case 2000, as it is known, centers around allegations that Netanyahu promised to help curtail the circulation of Israel Hayom in exchange for more favorable coverage in Yedioth Ahronoth. Adelson was reportedly very upset to learn about the alleged quid pro quo.

A spokeswoman for Ariel University said that Netanyahu had not been invited to the inauguration of the medical school because the event was “of a different nature” than the one held last year.

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson at the cornerstone dedication for the Adelson Medical School at Ariel University, June 28, 2017. Credit: \ Moti Milrod

Asked whether Netanyahu’s absence from the event was a sign that relations with Adelson had cooled, a spokesman for the prime minister said: “Don’t have anything for you on that.”

Signs have emerged over the past year that Adelson is shifting his loyalties from Netanyahu to Naftali Bennett, the education minister, who heads the settler-aligned Habayit Hayehudi party. Bennett will be in attendance at the ceremony on Sunday and will be one of four recipients at the event of a special “honorary fellowship.”

The other recipients are Sheldon Adelson, Miriam Adelson and Moshe Arens, the former defense minister and chairman of the board of governors of Ariel University, who is also a Haaretz columnist. The other Israeli leaders who will be in attendance are President Reuven Rivlin and Deputy Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman.

The medical school, which is slated to open in October 2019, will be Israel’s sixth. Its establishment has been mired in controversy because of its location in a West Bank settlement.