American Jewish billionaire Larry Mizel is described as the "go-to person for Republicans looking to understand Israel and demonstrate their support for it,” in a profile article published by Politico website on Wednesday.
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Mizel, a Republican Jewish Coalition board member, isn't in the same league as casino mogul Sheldon Adelson – he's given only $600,000 in political contributions since 1998 compared to the $100 million Adelson spent in 2012 – but he's become the minder of choice for Republican governors, senators and presidential aspirants traveling to Israel, according to Politico.
"He opens doors, arranges meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of Israel’s ruling class, and provides the kind of guidance that helps his party’s candidates avoid the gaffes that can befall politicians abroad," the article states.
Mizel's latest project is Wisconsin Governor Scott Wilson, who is making his first ever trip to Israel next week. Walker is widely expected to announce his presidential candidacy soon.
“For Larry, it’s about building relationships and giving elected officials or aspiring elected officials that powerful on-the-ground experience that connects them to Israel and to him,” said Ken Toltz, a longtime activist with The American Israel Public Affairs Committee who has worked closely with Mizel for decades.
“Within our primary, foreign policy is pre-eminent and that’s probably not something a lot of our candidates planned on,” said John Weaver, a Republican consultant who has advised a number of presidential campaigns. “There are a number of tests you have to pass and this is a big one.”
One Republican presidential candidate has already fallen short on the test, Politico writes. A "fact-finding mission" to Israel earlier this year by Ben Carson, "seemed to do more harm than good," after a magazine profile depicted him asking staffers incredibly mundane questions about the Knesset, which he seemed to know nothing about.
Walker is wary of being outflanked on Israel issues by other hawkish primary rivals, including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham.
“He’s doing it because the way the Republican primary is set up, this is the only foreign policy issue that seems to exist,” said Scott McConnell, co-founder of The American Conservative magazine. “The Adelson primary seems to be the only issue that matters.”