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A foreign leader — Netanyahu — set Trump’s agenda in Middle East, Michael Wolff book says

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With everyone talking about the Russia story again, fed by Michael Wolff’s bombshell new book on the Trump White House, it must be pointed out that the book documents that a foreign leader not Vladimir Putin pushed one of the Trump administration’s most grievous foreign policy moves, the decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as the supposed capital of the Jewish people. Benjamin Netanyahu influenced that decision, and so did Trump mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. And they are also pushing Trump to end U.S. policy of opposing the Israeli occupation.

In his new book, Fire and Fury, excerpted in New York Magazine, Wolff reports on a meeting between Trump adviser Steve Bannon and the late Fox News boss Roger Ailes at a dinner party in Greenwich Village a year ago, during the transition after the 2016 election.

Bannon plunged on with the Trump agenda. “Day one we’re moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s all-in. Sheldon” — Adelson, the casino billionaire and far-right Israel defender — “is all-in. We know where we’re heading on this … Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza. Let them deal with it. Or sink trying.”

“Where’s Donald on this?” asked Ailes, the clear implication being that Bannon was far out ahead of his benefactor.

“He’s totally onboard.”

“I wouldn’t give Donald too much to think about,” said an amused Ailes.

Let’s be clear that this is a major change in U.S. policy they were talking about (and that Ailes raised an eyebrow about). This week brings new reports that the U.S. is not going to call the occupation an occupation– well, here are the fingerprints. Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly interfered in U.S. matters of state, without an outcry. Sheldon Adelson– who is very close to Netanyahu and a major player in Israeli politics– has been personally pushing the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty since Camp David threatened to divide Jerusalem, in 2000, and using his wealth to do so. George W. Bush reportedly put Adelson off his agenda at that time by saying that he supported Israel but he couldn’t be more Catholic than the pope.

The vision of the Middle East here is the neoconservative one supported by Israeli rightwingers: Let Jordan absorb Palestinian population areas in the West Bank, or encourage Palestinians to leave Palestine; let Palestinians vote in Jordan.

Adelson’s influence reflects the fact that according to the Wolff book, he was willing to put more money on the possibility of a Trump presidency than Trump himself. Trump, a shrewd businessman, did not believe that he was going to win, and was reluctant to loan the campaign even $10 million, Wolff says. But Adelson is a fervent ideologue, far wealthier than Trump; and he and his wife spent upwards of $25 million on the Trump campaign and inauguration. So no wonder the embassy decision was announced…

No one gives Adelson credit for this influence because such reports would feed the idea that a rightwing militaristic Israel lobby is influencing U.S. policy in the Middle East, a supposed anti-Semitic canard. But that just happens to be true.

Consider Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s nutty full-page ad in The Washington Post, attacking the New Zealand singer Lorde as an alleged anti-Semite for choosing not to play Israel. However loony this ad is, it feeds the malignant characterizations of the boycott Israel movement; and who is behind Shmuley Boteach? Why– Sheldon Adelson. Though again, no one reports this. Here’s a shot of the Adelson Family Foundation’s federal tax reporting from 2016. Over $1 million to Rabbi Shmuley.

Sheldon Adelson’s contribution to Botech’s World Values Network, of over $1 million

Boteach praised Adelson’s wealth to his face at Yeshiva University four years ago:

Boteach: There has not been a Jewish philanthropist who bestrides the Jewish world as a colossus the way you do since the Rothschild family or maybe Moses Montefiore… there hasn’t been someone who has so dominated the field, becoming one of the top ten or so richest men in the world. Thank God. May you continue to prosper.

Adelson: It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

By the way, the Wolff book also speaks of cultural tensions in the White House involving Jews. Henry Kissinger saw a “war” between Jews and non-Jews in the White House. As the Forward notes:

Another big theme of the book is the bad blood between Bannon and the president’s family members, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

“It is a war between the Jews and the non-Jews,” said former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about the White House.

But if that’s the case, we must ask, Who won? The answer is that Bannon is out, and whatever else he stood for, Bannon represented the antiwar strain in U.S. nationalist thinking. Note Bannon’s angry reference to neoconservative influence, also reported by Wolff. Bannon tells Ailes that it’s hard to find Republican advisers who are not pro-war:

 “When you take out all the Never Trump guys who signed all those letters and all the neocons who got us in all these wars … it’s not a deep bench.”

This is the great divide in U.S. foreign policy. Not over Russia; but over the extent of Israel’s influence. Realists and leftists are opposed to the Israel lobby. And realists are excommunicated by the Republicans, leftists by the Democrats.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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29 Responses

  1. ckg on January 4, 2018, 10:29 am

    Matt Lee is hilarious at the State Dept daily briefing:

    QUESTION: Well, hold on. Just one more on this issue. It has to do with this report about the ambassador in Tel Aviv, who is reported to have wanted the administration to stop calling the West Bank occupied. Without getting into internal government deliberations, does the administration still believe that the West Bank is occupied?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t confirm that conversation or what —

    QUESTION: I’m not asking you to. But do you still – does the administration believe that the West Bank is occupied by Israel?

    MS NAUERT: I can only say that our position has not changed. Our position on that hasn’t changed.

    QUESTION: Well, does that mean that – does that mean that you still regard the West Bank as being occupied?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I can just tell you our position hasn’t changed. I’m going to be very careful with the words because anything related to this region, as many others —

    QUESTION: Exactly.

    MS NAUERT: — is extremely sensitive.

    QUESTION: Exactly.

    MS NAUERT: Our position has not changed, and I won’t budge from that.

    QUESTION: Okay. At some point it would be nice to find out exactly what that position is. You shouldn’t be afraid – precisely because it is so sensitive, you shouldn’t be afraid, unless you’re embarrassed by what the policy is. Not you personally, but whoever. You shouldn’t be afraid to say what it is instead of just saying it hasn’t changed.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t think – Matt, as you have seen, when America speaks about a matter, it is taken very seriously.

    QUESTION: I know.

    MS NAUERT: And so that is why it’s important for the United States to be careful with its words. And you may not get all the words that you were hoping to get, but I’m going to be careful with the words. Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay. Well, does that include tweeting stuff about “little Rocket Man” and things like that?

    MS NAUERT: Matt.

    QUESTION: Be careful with your words? Or “fire and fury” is going to rain down on North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not even going to go there, Matt. Okay?

    • Donald on January 4, 2018, 12:28 pm

      Thanks for that. For those interested, here is a link.

      You can also watch the video. I think the conversation about Palestine starts somewhere around the 20 minute mark, but I forgot to look.

    • RoHa on January 4, 2018, 6:19 pm

      This Ms Nauert is a new one to me, but I’m pleased to see that she is keeping up the standards I have come to expect from State Department spokespeople.

      • ckg on January 4, 2018, 9:03 pm

        At times, RoHa, Ms Nauert can make WH spox Ms Sanders seem adorably sweet in comparison.

    • Misterioso on January 5, 2018, 12:28 pm

      For the record:

      “Poll: Americans Oppose Cutting Aid to Countries That Condemn US Jerusalem Policy”

      “Foreign countries unlikely to respond like US politicians to Israeli initiatives.”

      “The Trump administration threatened to end billions of dollars in US foreign aid to countries opposing recent US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On December 21, despite US threats, 128 UN member states voted to uphold long-standing international consensus that the status of Jerusalem can only be settled through a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians. An additional 35 countries abstained. Both Palestinians and Israelis want Jerusalem to be their capital.

      “According to a poll conducted between December 22-January 2, the majority of Americans (56.6%) oppose using US foreign aid as a tool to coerce international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

      “The IRmep poll was fielded by Google surveys to 2,505 adult Internet users from December 22-January 2 and has an RMSE score of 7.6%. Demographic filtering and raw data are available online from Google.”

    • James Canning on January 5, 2018, 6:00 pm

      Ms. Nauert presumably comprehends Trump is a bit of an idiot.

  2. Donald on January 4, 2018, 11:40 am

    Bannon sounds like he favored the Jerusalem move, so if he was the antiwar voice it didn’t mean much.

  3. wondering jew on January 4, 2018, 12:13 pm

    Netanyahu is proof that term limits for a head of state is a good thing. I read some columnist counseling Netanyahu to leave the stage with his reputation intact rather than drag it down with further machinations in the face of the current array of scandals. What has bibi accomplished? 1. He has solidified the occupation; made a 2 state solution more difficult to imagine. (I consider these mistakes, but to him, they’re accomplishments.) 2. He has alienated American Jewish liberals, and American non-Jewish liberals. (Considering #1, this would have been inevitable, but hubris and autism has worsened the result.) 3. He has presided over: a war with gaza, an unsuccessful policy vis a vis iran, a us recognition of Jerusalem as israel’s capital.

    Since the rabin assassination there have been five prime ministers, but bibi has predominated. His attitude towards change has been the most negative of the 5, most similar to shamir’s attitude of doing nothing, which adds up to solidifying the occupation.

    • ritzl on January 5, 2018, 7:43 pm

      Term limits? How about Occupation limits?

      All Israeli PMs have expanded (or allowed/enabled) settlements and/or future retention (Jordan Valley agri-biz). It really isn’t just Netanyahu.

      It’s just an Israeli thing (to steal others’ resources, etc.). As far as I can tell, there is ZERO resistance in Jewish-Israeli politics to the morality, let alone the implementation, of Israeli theft of Palestinian anything.

    • Mooser on January 5, 2018, 10:24 pm

      “Netanyahu is proof that term limits for a head of state is a good thing”

      Israeli term limits? They tried it with Rabin, and then gave up on the idea. I guess nobody else deserved to have their term limited like that.

      But thanks for pointing out that if the Israelis get a Prime Minister who might make a deal with the Palestinians, they limit his term.

  4. annie on January 4, 2018, 12:17 pm

    great reporting phil

    • Donald on January 4, 2018, 12:34 pm

      Agreed. There was a brief acknowledgement in the msm of the Israeli collusion angle in connection with Flynn’s meeting, but most ignored it and now it is safely down the memory hole. For all the talk you hear about the need to investigate collusion, they only mean the Russians. They don’t want to go looking for any possible quid pro quos elsewhere.

      • Citizen on January 4, 2018, 10:42 pm

        For sure.

      • hophmi on January 6, 2018, 9:34 am

        None of this qualifies as “reporting.” It would have to contain actual facts for that.

  5. inbound39 on January 4, 2018, 1:01 pm

    Weeeeelllllllll, the book doesn’t appear to tell us anymore than we already knew. That is to say, and clarify, that the United States Government is run from Israel by Benjamin Netanyahu and not from Washington by Donald Duck….er…..I mean Donald Trump.

  6. atime forpeace on January 4, 2018, 1:14 pm

    You sure do have a nice online magazine Philip, it is so informative. Congratulations.

  7. inbound39 on January 4, 2018, 1:20 pm

    I’d love to see private citizens in America demand a referendum on whether the Govt should back and supply arms to Israel and give it AID money. It would be an interesting outcome I suspect.

    • JLewisDickerson on January 4, 2018, 2:31 pm

      Money The Global Arms Trade makes the world go ’round
      The world go ’round
      The world go ’round

      “A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound
      A buck or a pound
      A buck or a pound
      Is all that makes the world go around,
      That clinking clanking sound
      Can make the world go ’round…
      …Money money money money money money
      Money money money money money money…
      The Global Arms Trade makes the world go around,
      Of that we can be sure…”

      Andrew Feinstein: The Shadow World of the Global Arms Trade
      Fall 2017 Wall Exchange

    • echinococcus on January 4, 2018, 3:10 pm

      You better start demanding a referendum to ask if we want to get rid of the current military dictatorship and go back to some kind of democracy.

      I’m afraid the overwhelming response will be No.

  8. HarryLaw on January 4, 2018, 1:28 pm

    Trump Sends C&D To Wolff, Demands Halt To Publication Of Explosive Book About His Presidency
    The letter by Beverly Hills-based attorney Charles J. Harder demanded the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book,” including excerpts and summaries of the book’s contents, and requests a copy of the book in its entirety as they pursue possible legal action.”
    The lawyers also seek a full copy of the book as part of their investigation.

  9. Mahmoud El-Yousseph on January 5, 2018, 8:50 am

    Outstanding article by Philip Weiss. Adelson is a nothing more than a “kapo” and ungrateful American citizen. In a talk to an Israeli group in July, 2010, Adelson said he wished he had served in the Israeli Army rather the U.S. military–and that he hoped his young son will come back to Israel and “be a sniper for the IDF,” a reference to the Israel Defense Forces. (YouTube video of speech)

    “I am not Israeli. The uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform. It was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF … our two little boys, one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow, hopefully he’ll come back– his hobby is shooting – and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF,” Adelson said at the event.

    “All we care about is being good Zionists, being good citizens of Israel, because even though I am not Israeli born, Israel is in my heart,” he said toward the end of his talk. Talking about disloyalty!

  10. Mahmoud El-Yousseph on January 5, 2018, 10:01 am

    Adelson in Israel regrets to have worn uniform of the US armed forces and how he wisheed his son will join the IOF to be a sniper. Why put the interest of ISISrael ahead of your own country?

  11. Ossinev on January 5, 2018, 1:19 pm

    What a slimy Zionist turd. I note that towards the end of clip he gets a cute and smiley little nod from wifey Miriam and responds by ending his blatantly Un – American rant. Presumably the nod conveyed ” STFU you stupid old git you are giving the game away – there may be lots of intelligent patriotic American servicemen and ex servicemen out there who will not like you dissing the US military”.

    They deserve each other

  12. James Canning on January 5, 2018, 1:31 pm

    More evidence Trump is a stooge of Sheldon Adelson, the well-known promoter of gross violations of international law by Israel. And a ceaseless promoter of the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

  13. Misterioso on January 5, 2018, 4:43 pm

    Recently released video:

    Sabeel Canada

    Published on Dec 5, 2017

    Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine speaking on “50 Years and Counting: Legality of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.”

  14. ritzl on January 5, 2018, 7:15 pm

    So Walt and Mersheimer were right? Who knew?!!

    It will be interesting to see if this aspect of Bannon’s insight into Trump gets play or condemnation. Surely it has to be one or the other. Can one/media totally ignore one aspect of this book and totally hype another? From the same source??

    Probably, yes, but still…

    Strange times.

    We’re getting closer and closer to total, obvious, nonsensical media meltdown/non-believeability. Who knows what that means for this issue, but my suspicion is that it can’t be a negative.

    Perceptual, 52-card pickup on Israel is where we’re headed.

  15. Vera Gottlieb on January 6, 2018, 11:10 am

    I hope I live long enough to see all this blow up in Bibi’s face…

  16. W.Jones on January 6, 2018, 4:41 pm

    Let’s talk about Trump’s political base of support and Breitbart. This can help us understand why Trump relies so much on them, and how as the title of the post says, “A foreign leader — Netanyahu — set Trump’s agenda in Middle East”.

    Trump needed powerful forces to get where he is, and apparently a big part of that is Kushner. Phil can tell us alot about Kushner, having worked for him. He wants a major part of the Israeli lobby to support him, like Kushner. And Breitbart is a big part of that.

    Breitbart was set up as a pro-Israeli propaganda outfit to get the “Alt-Right” into the Pro-Israeli camp. Here is Wikipedia’s biography page on Andrew Breitbart:

    Breitbart later said of his profession: “I’m glad I’ve become a journalist because I’d like to fight on behalf of the Israeli people…

    During a stay in Israel, Breitbart and Larry Solov conceived of the idea of founding Breitbart News Network, with “the aim of starting a site that would be unapologetically pro-freedom and pro-Israel. We were sick of the anti-Israel bias of the mainstream media and J-Street.”[28]

    Solov has written:

    One night in Jerusalem, when we were getting ready for dinner, Andrew turned to me and asked if I would de-partner from the 800-person law firm where I was practicing and become business partners with him. He said he needed my help to create a media company. He needed my help to “change the world.” … We were blown away by the spirit, tenacity, and resourcefulness of the Israeli people on that trip. Andrew could be quite convincing, not to mention inspiring, and I decided right there and then to “throw away” (my Mom’s phrase) a perfectly good, successful and safe career in order to start a “new media” company with Andrew Breitbart.


    So Breitbart’s tactic is to get the Alt-Right to support the Israeli system and Trump. The Alt Right has a major portion of economically and politically disenfranchised voters. They do not feel like Bush or Obama addressed their needs and gave them a voice, as the economy continued to tumble under Bush & the NeoCons and under Obama. Breitbart realized that to appeal to them, he needed to divert their attention and outrage away from Neocon policies in the Middle East and economic concerns and back onto the “Whipping boy” of Muslims and Arabs. This way, even a historically antisemitic leaning demographic could be turned to support Neocon policies beneficial ot the Israeli system.

    Trump realized that he could use the Alt-Right, Breitbart, and the pro-Israeli lobby as a base of support, because the Alt-Right was unhappy with Obama, and the pro-Israeli lobby was quite powerful. The Pro-Israeli forces were unhappy with Obama for not doing enough for them, and Trump can fulfill their desires by moving the embassy to Jerusalem, etc. Meanwhile, the “Alt-right” does not realize that it’s getting taken for a ride by what is in fact a repackaged NeoCon proIsraeli platform and political program.

    Getting back to the title of this article, the Israeli lobby is able to set the foreign policy agenda easily because it provides a major support base that Trump needs.

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