Two leading figures on the American left, Rob Malley and Chris Hayes, cannot honestly discuss the role of Israel in foreign policy-making, specifically Sheldon Adelson’s influence over Donald Trump’s historic and tragic decision to scrap the Iran deal, a landmark of international diplomacy.
Malley, a former Obama security aide, gave a one-hour interview on Trump’s destruction of the Iran deal and cited three reasons for Trump’s decision: He wants to demolish Obama’s legacy (“That’s an obsession”), Trump wants to fulfill promises he made to his “base,” the “electorate;” and he has advisers who counsel “regime change” in Iran.
No one would question that Trump wants to destroy Obama’s achievements. But the base? When Trump campaigned in March in rural Pennsylvania for a Republican congressional candidate (who lost), he didn’t once mention Iran or the Jerusalem embassy. Trump’s base doesn’t care about those things. And to the extent they do, they don’t want Middle East wars. Rob Malley writes for the New York Review of Books, and ought to be more responsible.
Malley failed to mention the elephant in the room: Sheldon Adelson, Trump’s largest donor. As Eli Clifton has reported, Trump scrapped the deal because of three billionaire donors, Adelson, Bernard Marcus and Paul Singer, whose “investment [is] total alignment by the U.S. behind Israel.” The three men are all rightwing Jewish Zionists (though Adelson and Singer are liberal on social issues), and their influence is significant: Trump trashed his original foreign policy braintrust of Tillerson/McMaster that supported the Iran deal, and replaced it with two hacks Pompeo/Bolton, whom Adelson surely adores.
Adelson has incredible access. Peter Stone of McClatchy reported that the day after the Iran decision,
Adelson quietly slipped into the White House for a private meeting with Trump and three top administration officials: Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and an Adelson favorite, National Security Adviser John Bolton
Lately Adelson gave $30 million to the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund to try and thwart a Democratic takeover of the House in the midterms. That’s hugely meaningful to our transactional president. His neck could be on the line in these elections.
The McClatchy story on Adelson’s influence states that both the Jerusalem and Iran decisions stemmed from Adelson’s power. “The White House actions partially are testament to Adelson’s clout and that of like-minded pro-Israel conservatives, many observers believe.”
McClatchy named a source who ought to know. Mel Sembler, a former fundraising chair of the Republican National Committee, “thinks Adelson’s influence was palpable. ‘I’d say he was an important factor in all these decisions,’ said Sembler.”
At The Nation, Amy Wilentz is also honest about Adelson’s role:
To my mind, he is single-handedly responsible for this grotesque change in US policy. He’s a giant contributor to the super PACs that funded Trump’s election. He supports conservative super PACs, both for the House and the Senate to the tune of $20 and $25 million for each. You could even say that there was a quid pro quo for this embassy: I give you $25 million, you move the embassy.
Again, this is influence that Rob Malley (for whom we have considerable respect) cannot report. Why not? Because to do so smacks of assertions of outsize Jewish influence that were a hallmark of murderous, anti-Semitic campaigns in Europe. I understand the apprehension; but journalists have to go where the facts are, and follow the money.
Chris Hayes, the progressive host at MSNBC, is almost as bad as Malley. On May 10, he did a segment (below) on the fact that the Republican Party was getting that $30 million from Adelson and ascribed it to Adelson’s being a “satisfied customer” on his foreign policy priorities: scuttling the Iran deal and moving the embassy.
But Hayes made it a point not to dwell on Adelson’s agenda in any depth. The segment was devoted to smoke-screen speculation that Adelson’s game was trying to get estate-tax changes from Republicans that would personally profit him $670 million. That’s absurd. Adelson once urged Obama to nuke Iran and has said that he wished he had served in the Israeli army not the American one. Hayes’s panel said it was all about voter suppression, or the “endless corruption” of Republican-backed campaign financing provisions. Jason Kander, a former secretary of state in Missouri, said the Democratic side “thinks… we should change these [campaign finance] rules.”
Kander is an opponent of the Iran deal himself, and all but congratulated Trump on breaking the deal. That’s what Hayes is up against, the Democratic Party leadership also loves Israel and has never stood up firmly for the Iran deal.
Hayes covered his behind toward the end of the segment, the only time Israel was mentioned.
There’s also a foreign policy component here. The rich donors might have different foreign policy priorities. Sheldon Adelson has very intense foreign policy priorities as relate to Israel. You can imagine people having intense foreign policy priorities as to Brexit or NATO or Ukraine… You get a US foreign policy where you have to wonder what is guiding it.
That’s far too little too late, and deceptive. Could Hayes’s mystification have anything to do with the fact that Comcast executive David Cohen held fundraisers for the Israeli Defense Forces and pro-Israel American Jewish groups? I think so.
The New Yorker Radio Hour also mystified Trump’s motivation, implying in that segment last weekend that Trump was trying to satisfy his electorate.
But Adelson can take credit for turning Trump away from his initial isolationist statements during the campaign. Back in January 2016, Trump said that the Iran deal was bad for American business, and that was the problem.
Iran is going to buy 114 jetliners with a small part of the $150 billion we are giving them…but they won't buy from U.S., rather Airbus!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2016
That was before Sheldon Adelson signed on to the Trump campaign, when he was still giving money to Ted Cruz.
But as usual, the Democrats and progressive media are more worried about the Koch brothers.
Thanks to Annie Robbins.