WASHINGTON - Six days before his first meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump met Thursday evening with Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, the owner of a pro-Netanyahu newspaper and one of the Israeli leader's strongest supporters.
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According to a report in the Washington Post, Trump and Adelson were set to dine together with a number of Trump's senior advisers and Adelson’s wife, Miriam. The news website Axios quoted a "source close to Adelson" as saying that during the dinner, Adelson will lobby Trump against a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will bring up Trump’s election promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Adelson and Trump have met since the election last November, but their conversation on Thurday evening could be consequential, because of its proximity to Netanyahu's U.S. visit, scheduled to begin next Monday.
Adelson donated tens of millions of dollars to Trump's election campaign, including during the last stretch of the election. The two billionaires also spent time together on the eve of Trump's third debate against Hillary Clinton, which was held in Las Vegas, Adelson's home city. Adelson is known to hold hawkish opinions on issues related to Israel and the Middle East. In the past, he has publicly spoken out against holding Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and has mentioned the possibility of the U.S. using a nuclear weapon against Iran.
Three weeks ago, Adelson and his wife attended a black-tie gala evening honoring Trump in Washington, D.C., just days before the new president's inauguration. At the event, they were spotted together with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has recently visited Israel and met with Netanyahu. Dermer, it should be noted, was one of more than a hundred foreign diplomats who were invited to the event.
The other major political issue that Adelson's name has been tied to, besides Israel, is online gambling, which he strongly opposes. Adelson has spent millions fighting against online gambling and pushing for legislation that would put burdens and limitations on it. Trump, who as a businessman invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the gambling industry and owned a number of casinos, could also hear from his top donor about this issue, aside from Israel and the Middle East.