As we all brace for Donald Trump to say he will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, people are speculating why, and last night David Makovsky, a pro-Israel analyst who favors moving the embassy, said that Trump will play to his domestic “base” by moving the embassy.
Shibley Telhami of Brookings promptly debunked that claim, saying on the PBS News Hour that his polling shows that voters are not pushing for the move: 63 percent of Americans oppose moving the embassy to Jerusalem, including 44 percent of Republicans. “While 53 percent of Evangelicals support the move, 40 percent oppose it.”
Telhami offered his own theory: Trump will use the uproar over the (anticipated) move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to cover for the failure of his vaunted “deal of the century” between Israelis and Palestinians:
Why do it? What’s driving the president to do it? There’s no pressure from the Israelis. There’s no pressure on him from the Arab world. It doesn’t advance America’s ends in the Middle East, so why is he doing it?… This issue plays into the hands of America’s enemies in the Middle East… I don’t see an upside, that’s why I’m led to a belief that maybe the administration has already given up on making peace and they think this will enable them to blame someone else.”
Telhami and Makovsky are both leaving out one person who is pushing for this: Just Trump’s biggest donor.
Eli Clifton notes that Sheldon Adelson– who along with his wife Miriam are Trump’s biggest donors at $35 million — has expressed impatience with the Trump administration’s failure to move the embassy, and expressed fury when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was opposed to the move.
Adelson’s own newspaper in Nevada said that Adelson was nettled by Trump’s hesitancy to move the embassy, in October. While the Times of Israel said that Adelson was so pissed last spring, that he had shut off the “spigot” of cash to Trump.
Trump has a history of pleasing Adelson, which Clifton has documented:
Trump dramatically changed his message on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular, saying that he would move the embassy to Jerusalem and wouldn’t call for a freeze on the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank, as he closed in on the nomination and sought to secure Adelson’s support for his general election campaign.
The failure to talk about Sheldon Adelson’s influence is scandalous when you consider that Adelson did the same thing in the George W. Bush Administration, 18 years ago. Alarmed by the possible division of Jerusalem at Camp David in 2000, neoconservatives including Douglas Feith founded a group called One Jerusalem. Adelson gave money to that group. And at least tons of money to the Republican campaign for the White House, too. And lo and behold, Feith was installed at the Pentagon in a policy-making position. And the “peace process” was backburnered, till Condoleezza Rice demanded Annapolis, and Elliott Abrams fought her every step of the way…
When Adelson sought to stop Annapolis, George Bush tried to temporize with Adelson by saying (per Connie Bruck) “I can’t be more Catholic than the Pope.” (I.e., I’m not Netanyahu, give me some breathing room.)
Adelson has said that he wished he’d fought for the Israeli army, not the U.S. one, and he urged Obama to fire a nuclear weapon on Iran.
On this issue, no one’s allowed to recognize a pattern. (Though P.S. Trump tried to block the UN Security Council resolution against settlements a year ago, while he and Mike Flynn and Jared Kushner were civilians, and maybe just maybe that’s a problem.)