Olmert: I hate everything Sheldon Adelson loved about Israel - opinion

Everything I love about Israel has nothing to do with Adelson.

SHELDON ADELSON attends an American Independence Day celebration in 2009. (photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)
SHELDON ADELSON attends an American Independence Day celebration in 2009.
(photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)
The list of people who penned eulogies in memory of Sheldon Adelson included quite a few names of the Who’s Who of Israeli society and Jewish communities around the world. Some of these eulogies were carefully worded and respectable compositions that expressed all the expected sentiments, in a precise manner, such as those made by President Reuven Rivlin, former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Meir Lau – who has for many years now been serving as chairman of Yad Vashem, which received generous contributions from Adelson – and leaders of Taglit-Birthright, which also received significant sums from the deceased.
Most of the people who offered public condolences, however, took a different path. Prominent among them were individuals who weren’t so much mourning the death of this unpleasant man, but rather shedding crocodile tears in an effort to impress Adelson’s heirs, since at the end of the day, Sheldon’s philanthropic endeavors now belong to history. Now everyone is scrambling to make sure that the people who inherited his money and businesses will continue to channel funds to all the individuals, organizations, political parties, newspapers and journalists that advanced and achieved great heights due to the generosity of Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miri.
I would like to clarify that I am not at all objective with respect to everything connected with Adelson, and I do not pretent that what I write here is fair, just, considerate or dignified according to the hypocritical and sanctimonious standards that are considered acceptable in these types of circumstances.
Adelson’s wealth, as well as his status among wealthy Jews, were extremely important to him.
Once, as he arrived at a reception in the White House, he introduced himself to the US president, saying, “I am Sheldon Adelson the Second.” The US president was confused. It is not a Jewish custom to give your son the same name as yourself and then add on “Junior.”
The president at the time, who knew a little about Jewish tradition, told him, “But Sheldon, I know you. You’re Jewish. What do you mean by Sheldon Adelson the Second?”
According to the president, Adelson said, “I’m the second richest Jew in the world. Next year, I will be Sheldon Adelson the First as the richest Jew in the world.” Adelson never lived to achieve that title.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook; Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle; Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google; and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, are all richer than Adelson was. In fact, he was never even in their league, though he was indeed very, very rich.
During the excessive outpouring of eulogies after his death, many people noted that Sheldon Adelson was born to a poor family and grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with his parents and three siblings. When he was a boy, he had his own paper route so that he could help with family expenses.
WHAT HAS made Adelson so famous here in Israel, as well as in the US, was not his enormous wealth, but what he tried to do with his money and how he used it to try to buy influence that could shape the lives of millions of people in the US and in Israel, and as an inevitable consequence of the former, of people all around the globe.
In the US, he simply tried to buy the presidential election. He didn’t just support a specific candidate, but tried to buy the presidency itself so that he could influence life in American from the highest position of power possible. There have been many mega-political donors in the US over the years. Adelson was certainly not the first one. Two of them contributed close to $100 million, but they donated these funds to their own campaigns.
The first one, Ross Perot of Texas, who owned a computer business, ran for president in 1992. The second, Michael Bloomberg, was elected mayor of New York City in 2001. He once told me that he spent $71 million of his own money on that campaign. The only other person who has ever spent so much of his own personal wealth to buy a candidate was Sheldon Adelson.
In 2012, he donated tens of millions of dollars to the Republican candidate who he preferred to be president, Newt Gingrich. Afterwards, he helped out the Republican candidate Mitt Romney to the tune of close to $100 million. In 2016, Adelson donated $100 million to Trump, and the same amount again in 2020. No other individual in the entire world has ever donated such large sums to a single presidential candidate.
Adelson wanted an extreme right-wing America that was fractious and in conflict with most of the Western world. He supported a nationalistic America that was involved in a conflict of the Cold War variety and that would solve the Iranian problem by dropping a nuclear bomb. That was his approach. He hoped with all his heart that Donald Trump would make his dreams come true. And to some extent, with everything pertaining to Israel, Trump was remarkably close to Adelson.
Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel gave Adelson immense satisfaction. If he could have, Adelson would have been there among the hoodlums who invaded the US Capitol building following Trump’s election fiasco. Instead, it was pure, albeit sad, happenstance that when Trump lost, Adelson died.
Adelson loved Israel and contributed much to a variety of Israeli organizations. And yet, which Israel did he love? Adelson loved an Israel that expels Palestinians from areas under our control. He stated this explicitly on a number of occasions.
ADELSON LOVED an Israel that ignores its Arab citizens and refuses to recognize their equal rights. Adelson believed in a right-wing, nationalistic and fundamentalist Israel, though he himself was not a religious person. He also thought that if Israel had nuclear capability, it should use this power against Iran.
Adelson contributed to public discourse in Israel by fueling hatred toward elements that did not identify with the extreme Right, and that were unwilling to bear the dominance of settlers and their supporters.
Adelson founded the free newspaper Israel Hayom, which was known for its unabashed support of Netanyahu. He invested millions of dollars in Israel Hayom just so he could bring about a change in government leadership while I was serving as prime minister, and also after, in an effort to help the right-wing under Netanyahu who replaced me.
In 2007, after Israel Hayom was established, Adelson and his wife, Miri, asked to meet with me in the Prime Minister’s Office. My advisers recommended against it, but I agreed to meet with them. I believed it was reasonable to meet with someone who does not support a prime minister even if criticizes him sharply. The opposition in Israel did this, too, and I met with them. In the end, the meeting was preposterous. Adelson tried to pressure me not to give up any Israeli territory.
He was quoted some time later saying to senior members of the US administration, “We need to find a way to get rid of Condoleezza Rice and Olmert.” When he was asked what he had against Rice, who was US secretary of state at the time, Adelson replied that she was anti-Israel. (According to Adelson, anyone who didn’t subscribe to his nationalist and extremist line was anti-Israel, including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Kerry and many others.) This same American official also told me that Adelson went on to say, “And Olmert needs to be booted, too, since he’s betraying Israel.”
At the end of my conversation with Adelson, I asked him if as one of Israel’s lovers, didn’t he feel even a little bit uncomfortable bashing the prime minister of the country that is so dear to him. Adelson replied dryly, “I don’t read Israel Hayom.”
Sheldon loved an Israel that most of the residents living here don’t even want. He preached a racism that is inimical to us. He supported discrimination against Arabs, which we are definitely not prepared to go along with. He hated leftists, and did his utmost to make Israeli society fractious. He encouraged internal disputes and rivalries among ourselves, even though he himself didn’t live here.
Everything he loved, I hate.
Everything I love about Israel has nothing to do with Adelson.
May he rest in peace.
The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.