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Israeli right wanted Trump to be president, and it has reaped the rewards

Media Analysis

Two years ago it was said that Israeli PM Netanyahu was resigned to Hillary Clinton being elected president, but when Trump won it was a “dream come true.” A story in the New York Times suggests that the Israeli right tried to influence the outcome for Trump.

Earlier this week the Times reported that back in 2016 Trump campaign officials reached out to an Israeli security firm over the possibility of creating fake online identities in order to sway the Republican nomination process and then the general election. The Israeli firm came up with proposals

to use social media manipulation and to gather intelligence to help defeat Republican primary race opponents and Hillary Clinton, according to interviews and copies of the proposals.

While “there is no evidence that the Trump campaign acted on the proposals,” The Times story said, it noted that the Israeli firm “is staffed by former Israeli intelligence operatives” and that the idea was first seeded with Trump aides by “George Birnbaum, a Republican consultant with close ties to current and former Israeli government officials” and a protege of the late rightwing guru Arthur Finkelstein, who helped Netanyahu come to power.

The Times did not say what Wikipedia does: that George Birnbaum was once Netanyahu’s chief of staff. Indeed, the Times story is silent on the Israeli government’s interest in manipulating the election. So is the rest of the liberal press. When MSNBC’s Joy Reid interviewed Times reporter Ronen Bergman (the man from AIPAC), she ignored the question of the Israeli government’s interest in the outcome of the election, while Rachel Maddow used the story to say, This is how Russia ultimately influenced the election. Though Ben Rhodes did say on MSNBC that the story suggests a “bread crumb trail” of Israelis, Saudis, and Emiratis all trying to influence our foreign policy, and that’s not a good thing.

If you look closely at that bread crumb trail, you see that Birnbaum has worked closely with Avigdor Lieberman, who has been a key part of the Netanyahu coalition.

Lieberman became Netanyahu’s Defense Minister during the time that the Times says Birnbaum was reaching out to the Trump campaign. The connection suggests that the Israeli right, including high government officials, took steps to try to help Donald Trump to win the election.

And demonstrably, the Israeli right’s rich American friends supported Trump as a better bet for Israel than Hillary Clinton; and when Trump got in, he executed policy after policy in Israel’s interest, notably killing the Iran Deal and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, tolerating the growth of Israeli settlements, defunding UNRWA undercutting the U.N. program for Palestinian refugees as Israeli officials have been hoping to “trim its roster of Palestinian refugees” for a long time.  And most recently, the Trump administration’s closing the Palestinian delegation’s office in Washington D.C.

Yes, Vladimir Putin has said that he wanted Trump elected, and surely took actions to help him. But Russia has reaped nothing like Israel’s harvest from Trump.

Let’s run back through the record of Trump’s Israel-supporting actions and the Americans and Israelis they’ve pleased.

In December 2016, as Trump prepared to enter the White House, his national security aide Mike Flynn and son-in-law Jared Kushner “called several officials of [the United Nations] Security Council member states in order to block or delay” a resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Flynn called on a Russian ambassador in the effort and later lied about the call, according to his guilty plea with the special prosecutor investigating Russian influence. (The Obama administration angered Israel by allowing that settlements resolution to pass, in one of its last foreign policy moves.)

In his first year in office, Trump announced that he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, reversing policy of three presidents before him, and a few months later he killed Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement, the Iran deal, thereby defying his own top aides and leading Republicans.

Killing the Iran deal “may have been exactly what two of Trump’s biggest donors, Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus, and what one of his biggest inaugural supporters, Paul Singer, paid for when they threw their financial weight behind Trump,” Eli Clifton wrote at the time.

In the 2016 cycle, Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam contributed $90 million to the Trump campaign and Republican congressional efforts. Adelson’s main issue is Israel. Adelson is a close ally of Netanyahu and publishes a rightwing newspaper in Israel that supports the premier. He opposes the peace process, once called on Obama to nuke Iran, and after the Iran Deal was signed, he and Netanyahu put a great deal of effort into undoing the deal.

After Trump killed the Iran deal, Adelson rewarded five Senators who had opposed the deal with big contributions– and also contributed to Senator Robert Menendez’s legal defense fund, even though Menendez is a Democrat. Because Menendez was one of four Democratic senators to buck Obama on the Iran deal.

Last February, Trump’s Justice Department dropped its case for corruption against Menendez. Menendez then resumed his role as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and went right back to being a mouthpiece for Israel. Clifton suggests that maybe the fix was in between Justice and Trump’s biggest donor: perhaps a “quid pro quo was reached between Adelson, Trump, and Menendez in which Menendez would back Adelson’s hawkish foreign policy positions in the Senate.”

Adelson offered to pay for the move of the embassy earlier this year, and days after Trump opened the new embassy in Jerusalem, in defiance of international law, it was reported that Adelson was giving $30 million to the Republican House superpac that is pushing to protect the Republican majority.

At his famous press conference with Putin in Helsinki– Trump repeatedly praised Israel and bragged of all he’d done for Israel.

We’ve worked with Israel long and hard for many years, many decades.  I think we’ve never — never has anyone, any country been closer than we are.  President Putin also is helping Israel.  And we both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu, and they would like to do certain things with respect to Syria having to do with the safety of Israel.  So in that respect, we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel, and Israel will be working with us…..I think that working with Israel is a great thing, and creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much.

As CNN commented acidly. “It wasn’t the security of American citizens, however, but rather those of Israel that the US President appeared to have on his mind.”

The next day, it was reported in Israel that Netanyahu had boasted to members of his rightwing political party that he had convinced Trump to exit the Iran deal.

“We convinced the US president [to exit the deal] and I had to stand up against the whole world and come out against this agreement… And we didn’t give up.”

In August Adelson and his wife poured another $25 million into the Republican effort to keep the Senate.

Today the Times reports that the Adelsons have put in another $25 million, bringing their total for this federal election cycle to over $100 million.

Of course, it’s not as if Democrats don’t experience the same pressure. Haim Saban is an Israel man all the way; he also contributed to Robert Menendez’s legal defense fund.

And of course he was a big supporter of Hillary Clinton in the last presidential campaign. In 2015, Clinton came out in support of Obama’s Iran deal, but as she prepared to go public, her campaign spent weeks trying to craft the proper cover for that support: a letter to Haim Saban expressing her opposition to BDS, or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel.

According to leaked emails, Clinton needed to assuage several large donors as she prepared to announce her support for the Iran deal. One campaign aide wrote, “[H]as she made a clear statement on Israel yet? I get this question from donors all the time. Does she need to state her principles on Israel before Iran? Or do both at the same time?” Another aide responded, “That’s basically the goal of the BDS letter.”

Clinton also received advice on BDS from Benjamin Netanyahu, according to those emails: “Israel must attack its attackers. The best defense is a good offense: ‘attack, attack, attack’”. She promised to meet with Netanyahu in her first month in office at the urging of a pro-Israel aide who had met with Netanyahu and said she needed to repair President Obama’s damage to the special relationship. She made a call to the pro-settlement Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein so as to distance herself from the Obama administration, resulting in a headline in the New York Times “Clinton Wants to Improve Ties to Israel.” And Haim Saban promptly thanked Clinton by citing other donors: “pls be aware that these articles will be mailed to thousands of people who are interested in the subject matter and who have been asking themselves ,,,,and me ,many times ‘Where is Hillary on this.’”

Saban may be to the left of Adelson, but the two teamed up against BDS. And last month Saban and Trump donor Paul Singer had a dinner in New York at the Pierre Hotel with Jewish leaders to meet with the Trump aides who are crafting the latest peace plan. It featured “U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, Jared Kushner, and Jason Greenblatt.”

Jared Kushner’s family funds illegal settlements in the West Bank and Kushner lobbied to kill the Security Council resolution condemning settlements. Now he’s crafting a peace plan.

One other stray fact. Back in 2008, Obama hired Hillary Clinton as secretary of state by reaching out to her through a leading Israel lobbyist. The New York Times:

Once elected, Obama seemed to understand that he needed someone to lend him credibility with the Israeli government and its American defenders, a tough friend of Israel who could muscle the country away from settlements and toward a peace agreement. An aide to Obama called Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, and asked him to call Hillary Clinton to see if she would be “agreeable” to being named secretary of state.

So that’s the pattern. Pro-Israel donors exert policy influence over presidential candidates. The presidential candidates respond.

The latest report in the Times is evidence that the right wing of the Israeli government tried to help out the Trump campaign, even as Sheldon Adelson was the campaign’s lead backer. The Israeli government was deeply pleased when Trump won, and overjoyed when he trashed the Iran deal and moved the embassy.

But the liberal press reports the latest evidence of an Israeli presence in the 2016 campaign as if it’s just some independent contractor.

Phil Weiss and Annie Robbins

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss

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14 Responses

  1. HarryLaw on October 12, 2018, 12:54 pm

    All this money paid out by those donors is very close to corruption, compounded by this story in vanity Fair
    “ProPublica reports that in February 2017, one day after dining at the White House with billionaire casino magnate and G.O.P. sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson, the president used a state visit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe —naturally held at Mar-a-Lago—to lobby for his pal to win a long-sought casino license in Japan. Adelson and his company, Las Vegas Sands, have been pushing to build a multi-billion-dollar casino and resort in the country for more than a decade, calling expansion into Japan their “holy grail.” And although he’s competing for one of the limited number of licenses that would allow him to enter a market worth a staggering $25 billion a year, having POTUS call in a favor would presumably put him at the front of the line. The Japanese, for their part, were said to be stunned that Trump raised the issue, given that, per Brian Harding, a Japan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a top donor’s business interests “should be nowhere near the agenda of senior officials.” According to one of the people briefed on the exchange, “it was totally brought up out of the blue,” and Abe was “a little incredulous that [Trump] would be so brazen.” But brazen or not, Trump’s wink-wink appears to have worked!
    Adelson has told his shareholders to expect good news. On a recent earnings call, Adelson cited unnamed insiders as saying Sands’ efforts to win a place in the Japanese market will pay off. “The estimates by people who know, say they know, whom we believe they know, say that we’re in the No. 1 pole position,” he said.
    America has the best democracy that money can buy.

  2. HarryLaw on October 12, 2018, 1:12 pm

    Those donations to Trumps campaign are chump change compared to gaining a license to enter Japans gambling market worth 25 Billion dollars a year, add in all those concessions to Israel wow what a deal. I thought Trump was a good businessman Adelson has conned him.

  3. festus on October 12, 2018, 1:44 pm

    Israel reaped the rewards when W Bush was president, when Clinton was president, when Obama was president, and would have reaped them had Hillary been elected president.

  4. DaBakr on October 12, 2018, 4:49 pm

    Trump was a surprise for everybody. That means everybody. That bibi was more enthusiastic about trump over the tired old, same ol Clinton is hardly the’scoop’phil wishes it was.

    And while the far left is still obsessed wth Russia and bk, nobody has pinned the very unusual circumstances at the Libyan embassy on clinton. We know there are massive lies. A job much easier then proving Ford, sweitnick, credible

    • annie on October 12, 2018, 5:15 pm

      That netanyahu was more enthusiastic about trump over clinton is not even the point of the article, much less the “scoop”.

      this is about election shinanigans, and the payoff.

      the Israeli right, including high government officials, took steps to try to help Donald Trump to win the election.

      • Misterioso on October 13, 2018, 10:15 am

        @Annie, et al

        On the horizon:

        “Israel’s Irreconcilable Differences With U.S. Jews and the Democratic Party May Soon Lead to Final Divorce”

        “Netanyahu is accelerating the pace of his country’s estrangement from everyone but ethnocentric and anti-democratic nationalists and xenophobes”
        By Chemi Shalev, Sept. 16/18, Haaretz.

        “These are some of the events concerning Israel that have recently made headlines in the U.S. and the West: Paul Manafort reveals an Israeli accomplice to his Ukrainian dirty tricks; the prime minister’s spokesperson stands accused of serial sexual harassment, a charge downplayed and ignored by the Israeli ambassador to Washington; the universally-opposed impending evacuation of Bedouin outpost Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank; humanitarian crisis in Gaza and massive bloodshed on its fence; wild cheers for Donald Trump’s harsh measures against the Palestinians; the nation-state law and anti-democratic legislation; political filtering of critics at the airport; and a prime minister mired in corruption charges….

        “And so on and so forth, for the list is long. Israelis may still believe they are a chosen and embattled people, a light unto start-up nations, a paragon of morality and virtue and the most unfairly maligned country on the face of the earth, but Israel is having an increasingly hard time convincing anyone who is not a right-wing ideologue or Evangelical believer of these supposedly self-evident truths. For all the rest, in varying degrees, Israel’s stature has steadily deteriorated from good to bad to worse.”

        “What’s more, Netanyahu and his cohorts don’t seem to care anymore. They play to their populist galleries at home and are oblivious to the damage their actions create abroad. They are now prisoners of their concocted piousness. Israel and its supporters abroad, most significantly in the American Jewish right, have practically given up on convincing, persuading or at least keeping an open ear to legitimate objections. Instead they rely on character assassination, undeclared boycotts, secret enemies’ lists, the demonization of BDS and the weaponization of anti-Semitism. As far as the left is concerned, Israel has adopted a sure-fire formula to lose friends as well as the ability to influence them to reconsider.

        “The process of jettisoning inexorably moves from fringe to the center. First, in the wake of the Six Day War, the occupation of Palestinians and Jerusalem’s increasingly tight relations with Washington, Israel lost the radical left. Then, from the First Lebanon War through the intifada, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the rise of Netanyahu himself, Israel’s behavior began to sow doubts among moderates as well, losing sympathy among centrist and left-of-center parties throughout the world. Now, it seems, Netanyahu and his allies are going for broke, by distancing Israel from American Jews and by ignoring the sentiments of the Democratic Party, for which U.S. Jews overwhelmingly vote. The principle of U.S. bipartisan support, long considered a lynchpin and vital component of Israel’s national security, has fallen prey to an ever-rising tide of self-centered arrogance, imperiousness, resentfulness and total lack of self-awareness.

        “Which is why, three years after Netanyahu’s abrupt turn to the right, Israel is fast approaching a tipping point, from which there may be no return. It stands on the edge of a precipice as it speedily and voluntarily removes the last barriers that prevent its fall. It is following in the footsteps of South Africa before the imposition of universal sanctions, as it tightened apartheid in response to global criticism – which also emanated mainly from the left.

        “The gap between Israel’s self-absorption and willful blindness and the basic tenets of enlightened liberals will soon become unbridgeable. They already amount to ‘irreconcilable differences’ that, in many countries, constitute valid grounds for turning a trial separation into a no-fault divorce. Which is all fine and dandy, perhaps, as long as Trump stays in power, Evangelicals remain committed, Republicans offer blind support, Sheldon Adelson keeps his cheque book open, right-wingers are ascendant throughout Europe and widespread fear and loathing of emigrating Muslims translate into default support for the country whose leader openly boasts of serving as the forward Western outpost that keeps them at bay.

        “Otherwise, Israel will ultimately and inevitably pay a steep price for its foolhardy neglect of the liberal world. The first accounting may come as early as November 6, if the U.S. Congress falls into the hands of a reinvigorated Democratic Party, depleted of its pro-Israeli stalwarts, increasingly beholden to its liberal, left-wing flank, eager to flex its muscles and to start exacting its revenge. It’s what the genuinely Israel-hating part of the liberal-leftist world, once miniscule and insignificant, has been waiting for all along.”

    • Misterioso on October 13, 2018, 10:03 am


      Wake up and smell the coffee!!
      If Americans Knew Blog, Sept. 23/18

      “Sheldon Adelson spending $100 million to keep control of U.S. policies on Israel”

      “Casino billionaire’s total contributions on behalf of Israel in 2016 & 2018 reported to surpass $100 million, possibly making him the largest single donor in American politics today”
      By Amir Tibon, reposted from Ha’aretz

      WASHINGTON – “Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson is reportedly spending at least $55 million during the upcoming midterm elections in order to keep Republicans in control of Congress. Adelson’s spending commitment was first reported on Saturday by the New York Times, in an article describing how Adelson has become the most influential donor in the Republican Party during U.S. President Donald Trump’s time in office.

      “According to the report, Adelson’s total spending on behalf of the Republicans in the 2016 and 2018 election combined, will surpass $100 million, probably making him the largest single donor in American politics today. Adelson had previously spent tens of millions of dollars during the 2012 election in a failed attempt to help Mitt Romney, that year’s Republican nominee, oust Barack Obama from the White House.”
      Sheldon Adelson: “Best Government Money Can Buy” By Philip M. Giraldi
      October 6/18

      “Very few Americans know who Sheldon Adelson is and fewer still appreciate that, as America’s leading political donor, when he speaks the Republican Party listens. By virtue of his largesse, he has been able to direct GOP policy in the Middle East in favor of Israel, which might well be regarded as his true home while the United States exists more as a faithful friend that can be produced at intervals whenever Israel finds itself in need of a bit of cash or political cover.”

      Also, to be brief, it seems that both Bibi and Trump are unfamiliar with the old adage applicable to them both: “lie down with dogs and you’ll get up with fleas.”

      Thankfully, the U.S. public is waking up and grasping the fact that the entity known as “Israel” and its “bought and paid for” politicians have been conning America for over 70 years. Zionism’s honeymoon will end.

      • HarryLaw on October 13, 2018, 10:55 am

        Misterioso, Could not agree more, but if Mr Adelson is of Jewish origin then criticizing him and his associates because of his influence on US Presidents, controlling Government etc [no matter how true] is a familiar Anti-Semitic trope [see IHRA definition] which could get you branded for life as an Anti-Semite, hunted down and ejected from such Associations as the UK Labour party. Now just don’t go there. Sarc,

  5. MHughes976 on October 12, 2018, 4:58 pm

    What happened to that moment when candidate Trump said that he would be even handed between Israel and Palestine?

  6. wondering jew on October 13, 2018, 12:13 am

    Methinks that Mr. Netanyahu does not see past the next new moon, very short term thinker. We do not know how long it will take before the United States ends up being dominated by Democrats (neglecting the possibility of secession by Republicans) if things continue bad but not explosively different, the Democrats will dominate the US and this love affair between Netanyahu (and thus Israel) with Trump will be the turning point recalled by Democrats as the day that they realized that there was no love left in that relationship. Very short term thinker.

  7. HarryLaw on October 13, 2018, 6:14 am

    Justin Elliott has a long piece at ProPublica on the influence Sheldon Adelson has with the Trump administration, especially on Israel and Iran, it is disgraceful that one casino billionaire can almost decide whether WW3 gets underway.

    “Adelson’s influence has spread across the Trump administration. In August 2017, the Zionist Organization of America, to which the Adelsons are major donors, launched a campaign against National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. ZOA chief Mort Klein charged McMaster “clearly has animus toward Israel.”

    Adelson said he was convinced to support the attack on McMaster after Adelson spoke with Safra Catz, the Israeli-born CEO of Oracle, who “enlightened me quite a bit” about McMaster, according to an email Klein later released to the media. Adelson pressed Trump to appoint the hawkish John Bolton to a high position, The New York Times reported. In March, Trump fired McMaster and replaced him with Bolton. The president and other cabinet officials also clashed with McMaster on policy and style issues”.

  8. Ossinev on October 13, 2018, 1:57 pm

    ” is a familiar Anti-Semitic trope [see IHRA definition] which could get you branded for life as an Anti-Semite, hunted down and ejected from such Associations as the UK Labour party. Now just don’t go there. Sarc,”

    Speaking of which am yet to hear of any ” prosecution” as a result of the UK Government`s adoption of the Zionist inspired repeat Zionist inspired absurdity which the IHRA definition is. Apart from the laughing stock it would make of Zionists (as if they weren`t already a seiously sick joke ) it would potentially trigger a whole range of requests for Government adopted definitions to cover eg Anti – Palestinianism , Anti – Arabism , Anti – Celtism , anti Anglo -Saxonism , Anti Aryanism etc with perhaps a longed for revival of Antidiestablishmentarianism.

    Apologies for lapsing into inflammatorisationism (see 5 below).

    As I have said the IHRA is a seriously sick joke and simply proves the point that anti – Zionists have been making and will continue to make until Zionism is washed away into the sewer of history.

    A racist , brutal murdering land thief is precisely that irrespective of whether they are Jewish or followers of any other religion under the sun.

    To wit:

    “5.‘Zionism’ as a concept remains a valid topic for academic and political debate, both within and outside Israel. The word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse, however, has no place in a civilised society. It has been tarnished by its repeated use in antisemitic and aggressive contexts. Antisemites frequently use the word ‘Zionist’ when they are in fact referring to Jews, whether in Israel or elsewhere. Those claiming to be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic”, should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticise the policies of the Government of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise “the Israeli Government”, and not “Zionists”. For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic. This should be communicated by the Government and political parties to those responsible for determining whether or not an incident should be regarded as antisemitic. (Paragraph 32)”

    Loved the “59%”.of British Jewish people”. Obviously based on a poll of some kind possibly inspired by a Zionis inspired “Peace” Think Tank. Interesting percentage. Apparently according to another poll in 2015l 59% of 18-24 year olds in the UK believe in extra terrestrials.

    Criticism of these latter could of course be defined as anti-extraterrestrialism.

  9. Rashers2 on October 14, 2018, 5:19 am

    All this nonsense about “Zionist” and “Zio- (suffix of your choice, including “pathy”, “think”, etc.)” being cover for anti-Semitism is exactly that; iow, bullsh*t! Zionism, as I’ve said ad nauseam here and elsewhere, is a political ideology, not a religion or some form of “ethnic” identity. This ideology, which has spawned the colonialist, supremacist project in Palestine, is rooted in flawed premises, false assertions and the misrepresentation of historical timelines and of previously-prevailing demography. Its results have been dispossession, displacement, occupation, murder, injustice and tyranny.
    Trying to turn the Zio-word into a latter-day “N” word in order to place it off-limits and render it a taboo is another attempt to stifle criticism of the ideology itself. It is an extension of the familiar conflation of criticism of Israel/Israeli policies and behaviour with anti-Semitism; and it won’t work! What it WILL do is further debase and devalue the public perception of risks posed by genuine anti-Semitism, namely an irrational animus against Jews qua Jews for which, in the United Kingdom at least, there are already adequate legal protections and remedies in the extant, broader anti-racism and anti- hate crime legislation.
    What if 59 percent of British Jews identify as Zionists? It means that by arguing against Zionism or even insulting the ideology (plenty of people insult Fascism, Marxism, globalism, élitism, liberalism, etc.), I am opposed to the support of 59 percent of British Jews for Zionism. What it DOESN’T mean is that I hate 59 percent of British Jews because of their Jewish faith/their identification of themselves as Jewish.

  10. James Canning on October 15, 2018, 6:21 pm

    Trump seems happy to serve as Sheldon Adelson’s stooge, and this of course suits those Israelis hoping the Palestinians will disappear.

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