Sheldon Adelson, in effect, contributes $36 million every year to support the election and rule of Bibi Netanyahu. No, you won’t find that figure in any public donation record because he doesn’t give this money directly to Bibi. This is the amount of his subsidy of Yisrael Hayom, Israel’s most popular daily newspaper. Bibi himself credits the paper with putting him in office and keeping him there. Yossi Verter wrote in Haaretz a few weeks ago:
The truth comes out. Netanyahu believes that without Yisrael Hayom, his personal journal edited, as it were, night by night in his own office, he would never have been elected and the right-wing bloc would not win a majority.
There is no comparable phenomenon in U.S. journalism. It would be as if Gannett had a billionaire owner for whom money was no object in advancing the specific political career of one far-right American politician. Imagine USA Today as a free paper totally funded by ads and the owner’s largess. Imagine too, that virtually the entire newspaper is given over to promotion of the views of Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich, along with other hot tabloidy subjects. Then you’d approach the impact that Yisrael Hayom is having on Israeli politics and journalism.
With Bibi about to destroy Channel 10 by revoking its broadcast license in revenge for its robust exposes of his vices and those of his patron, Adelson, it would provide a perfect opening for the latter to buy his own TV station as well. That would further the right-wing revolution in Israeli media which Bibi and Shelly have been crafting for a number of years.
The reason this is all interesting is that Adelson has now closed in on a Republican presidential candidate who he will support in the same way he supported Bibi. The Forward recently profiled his efforts on behalf of Newt Gingrich and noted that Adelson was in a distinct minority among wealthy Jewish Republicans who were largely supporting Mitt Romney as the most electable (because most moderate) Republican in the pack. Sheldon Adelson, like George Bush and Dick Cheney before him, isn’t interested in pragmatism or electability. He’s interested in true believer ideological purity. And he isn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth and pocketbook are.
All of this explains this item in Shuki Taussig’s 7th Eye blog about the vast increase in coverage of Gingrich in the pages of Yisrael Hayom:
In the past few weeks, it has devoted an unusual amount of attention to Newt Gingrich…The number of stories the paper devotes to this American politician stands in stark contrast to the paucity of its normal foreign [affairs] coverage…The question is whether this is merely an initiative of the paper’s editors which will have no further influence than inside Israel, or whether it may impact a political campaign an ocean away.
Certainly, in the mind of a megalomaniac like Adelson the impact should carry over from Israel to America. Whether it does or not is another question. Luckily for us in America, while there is great media concentration in the hands of a few companies, it is still not as concentrated as it is in Israel, where there are four major dailies for the whole country. In such an environment, with one of those four in the hands of a right wing oligarch with unlimited resources and a voracious political ambition, he can ride roughshod over the other three which are bound by more conventional matters of profits and losses.
So Adelson’s patronage of Gingrich won’t have as much of an impact as it does inside Israel. Where it will have an impact is on Israeli attitudes toward the U.S. It will encourage precisely the sort of supercilious, rejectionist approach taken by Bibi toward Barack Obama. It will encourage the end-arounds by which Bibi has attempted (successfully due to Obama’s political tumesence) to go over the president’s head and appeal directly to Congress. Which means that with a Democratic president, Adelson and Bibi have a veto and with a Republican president, they have it in the bag. Even if Gingrich doesn’t win the nomination and Romney does, the winner will take notice of the Gingrich-Adelson patronage and seek as close a set of relations as possible with the gambling tycoon. Which means that Israel would have the U.S. in its pocket during any Republican administration.
Finally, if Adelson is willing to sink nearly $40 million to ensure a far right Israeli leader, then he’d certainly be willing to spend even more to get his sort of candidate elected president. If that candidate was Newt Gingrich. I doubt he would do the same for Mitt Romney or almost anyone else. If Newt wins the nomination, follow Shelly’s money. It’ll be everything on Newt to win in the sweepstakes race.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.