WHAT SHELDON’S MONEY BUYS

Sheldon’s Money Talks: Newt Gingrich has toed an ultra-right wing line on Israel. Could that be because Sheldon Adelson and his wife have donated $10 million to a pro-Gingrich Super PAC?

Adelson Millions Ensure Gingrich Steers to Far Right on Israel

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It is safe to say that without multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s help the  chances of Newt Gingrich becoming the Republican nominee for president would be  zero — and consequently the race itself, going into Florida at the moment, would  not be the competitive, drag-out fight it has become. Adelson, the hotel and  casino magnate, has kept Gingrich alive, first through an infusion of $5 million  into a super PAC, which allowed the former speaker to defend himself against  attacks by Mitt Romney and led to Gingrich’s thumping victory in South Carolina.  And now we know that Adelson’s wife, Miriam, has committed another $5 million to  the cause of Newt.

One of Adelson’s passions — and a reason for his desire to play such a big  role in American politics — is undoubtedly Israel. And his positions are  unambiguously right-wing and hawkish to the extreme. When it comes to the  Palestinians, there is no one to be trusted. The New Yorker quotes him as  calling Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister widely respected in the  West, as being one of the “terrorists” running the Palestinian Authoriy. Even  AIPAC was not far enough to the right for him. After being a diehard supporter — funding a new building in Washington, D.C. — he split with the group in 2007  when it decided to support a congressional initiative, backed by the Israelis,  to increase economic aid to the Palestinians. “I don’t continue to support  organizations that help friends committing suicide just because they want to  jump,” he said at the time by way of explanation. He had the same reaction when  Ehud Olmert, whom Adelson had once befriended, came to the conclusion that he  had to pursue negotiations with the Palestinian leadership.

In short, Adelson does not believe in the two-state solution. As he told The  Jewish Week last year, “The two-state solution is a stepping stone for the  destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.”

What does it mean to have someone with these views have such an outsized  influence on a candidate and the race he is in? Well, for Gingrich it seems this  has translated into him tripping over himself to prove his pro-Israel bona  fides, to the point where he was willing to say, this past December in an  interview with the Jewish Channel, that the Palestinians were an “invented” people who “had the chance to go many places.’’ No Palestinians, no need to  negotiate a state. And Adelson clearly showed his satisfaction with Gingrich’s  line. As he told a group of Birthright participants at a Hanukkah party a few  weeks later, “Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and  you will hear why Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented  people.”

As Wayne Barrett recently reported in The Daily Beast, there has been a  marked turn in Gingrich’s positions on Israel since his political life began  depending on Adelson. Not that long ago, in a 2005 Middle East Quarterly  article, Gingrich urged the “Palestinian diaspora” to invest in “their ancestral  lands,” and even proposed that Congress “establish a program of economic aid for  the Palestinians to match the aid the U.S. government provides Israel.”

You will not hear anything like this from Gingrich again any time soon.

But the greater concern is that because of his influence on Gingrich, Adelson  has turned the Republican contest into a competition of extreme rhetoric, in  which there is no room for compromise or diplomacy, and the only answer to any  international problem is unmitigated toughness. No one wants to be outflanked by  the right when it comes to foreign policy (no one, I should say, besides Ron  Paul) and so Gingrich’s apparent parroting of Adelson’s hardline attitudes about  Israel — and, I should add, Iran — means that the whole tone of the race is  affected.

So in a recent debate in Florida, Gingrich advocated a covert war with Cuba  to deal with the problem of Fidel Castro. Romney, at a number of the now  mind-numbingly frequent candidate gatherings, answered that he would not be  negotiating with the Taliban. When asked by Brian Williams, “Governor, how do  you end the war in Afghanistan without talking to the Taliban?” Romney simply  said, “By beating them.” Isn’t this what we’ve been trying to do without much  success for a decade now?

And then there is Iran. The only tool in the toolbox for these candidates is  belligerence. Rick Santorum might present the most extreme example, advocating  preemptive action, telling David Gregory on Meet the Press recently that he  would demand the Iranians open up their nuclear facilities, “or we will degrade  those facilities through air strikes — and make it very public that we are doing  that.” This is, of course, one of the implicit last options in the president’s  repeated threat that “all options are on the table.” But for Santorum there  seems to be no other method but the threat itself, no carrots, no sticks,  nothing besides a bomb. Nor do Romney or Gingrich have any other ideas. They  don’t talk of a preemptive strike, but they speak about war as an inevitability.  Romney says that “if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear  weapon,” and calls for regime change as well as “covert and overt” actions.  Gingrich says he would “break the Iranian regime” within a year by “cutting off  the gasoline supply to Iran and then, frankly, sabotaging the only refinery they  have.”

Regardless of what you believe needs to be done to avoid a nuclear Iran — and  something surely has to be done — this is just toughness for toughness sake,  without much thought to its implications for the United States and the world or  the realities of actual leadership.

Can one man’s predilections and attitudes — his worldview — have an effect on  an entire election? If he’s willing to spend enough money, the answer is,  apparently, yes.

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