“Sheldon’s tremendous efforts to strengthen Israel’s status in the United States and to strengthen the ties between Israel and the Diaspora will be remembered for generations,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, as he paid tribute to American-Jewish tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who died Monday at the age of 87.
Indeed, Adelson contributed generously to Birthright, which works to fortify the connection of young Jews to Israel, as well as to Israeli hospitals, medical research and charities. The Adelson family’s fortune even bought a medical school for the university in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
But along with his philanthropic activity, Adelson will be remembered as someone who used the influence that his money granted him on elected officials in the United States, to advance an aggressive right-wing policy in the White House and in Congress.
Adelson’s involvement went beyond America’s borders, crossed continents and penetrated deeply into Israeli society through the free newspaper he founded, Israel Hayom. Adelson and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, invested hundreds of millions of dollars in order to disseminate their worldview among the Israeli public. This manifested itself in remarks like, “If Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state, so what?” and “There’s no such thing as the Palestinian people.”
Israel Hayom served for years as a platform for glorifying Netanyahu, even as the Adelsons disdained the family’s lust for expensive gifts and rejected Netanyahu’s effort to play on his close relationship with them in his negotiations with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes. The Adelsons even said as much to police when they gave evidence in Case 2000, the Yedioth quid-pro-quo case.
Few elected officials could compete with Adelson in terms of leaving a mark on fateful diplomatic processes in the Israeli-American relationship and even in the Middle East. Adelson’s money gave him access to lobbying groups like AIPAC, that pushed American decision makers and lawmakers to promote extreme right-wing policies. It’s enough to recall the pressure he exerted on U.S. President Donald Trump and on members of Congress to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and ruin the relationship with the Palestinians by moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Adelson’s death, along with the removal of Trump from office, provides a good opportunity to reexamine the tripartite relationship between Israel, American Jewry and the U.S. government. With a new administration entering the White House and the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, Israel must cut the umbilical cord connecting it to the conservative wing of the Republican party. It must rehabilitate its relationship with Democrats and with the central stream of the Jewish community, the vast majority of whom have very different positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the injustice of the occupation than those of Sheldon Adelson.
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The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.