Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas billionaire and one of the largest donors in Republican politics, has expressed no opinion to US President Donald Trump on either Steve Bannon, the chief White House strategist, or H. R. McMaster, his national security adviser, amidst a battle between the two aides over Israel and the administration's national security posture.
Adelson has "never really met" either man, said one of his associates in a phone call with The Jerusalem Post.
"He doesn't have an opinion on Steve Bannon," said Andy Abboud, a senior vice president for Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. "He certainly has not called for his dismissal."
Abboud was clarifying reports from earlier this week in US press that Adelson was distancing himself from a conservative campaign to cast McMaster as "deeply hostile" to Israel— a campaign that has been facilitated in part by the Zionist Organization of America, funded by Adelson.
In fact, Adelson does not have enough information on McMaster to judge, the mega-donor told ZOA's Mort Klein in a phone call this week.
"I know that he and Miriam appreciate that Bannon is sincerely and ardently Zionist and pro-Israel," Klein told the Post
, referring to Sheldon's wife.
Asked whether Bannon had directed ZOA's campaign questioning McMaster's Israel positions, Klein offered an unequivocal denial.
"Steve Bannon and I never discussed McMaster, ever ever, nor had I discussed him with Sheldon," Klein said. "[Adelson] didn't say he was upset that I did it, or happy that I did it. He's not saying positive or negative things about McMaster either way."
The campaign against McMaster has been waged through Breitbart.com and other conservative websites and columnists, alleging he is antagonistic toward Israel and privately characterizes the state as an aggressive, occupying power. Trump defended McMaster as “pro-Israel” in a recent statement.
According to the publication Axios, Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has vouched for McMaster, but was unable to convince Klein of his friendship with the Jewish state.
Bannon is Trump’s most visible connection to the alt-Right movement and is considered a loose alliance of white nationalists, white supremacists, anti-immigrant groups and neo-fascists. Violence at a rally to “Unite the Right” around this alliance in Charlottesville
, Virginia, this weekend challenged Trump to denounce the very groups marching in his name – a task that proved difficult for the president, who took two days to identify the hate groups.
Bannon joined the administration in its early days with extraordinary power and was assigned a permanent seat on the National Security Council despite having no experience in a related field. He was swiftly removed from that role, and is now in a pitched fight with McMaster over direction of the president’s foreign policies.