The Passionate Attachment

America's entanglement with Israel

The Man Behind Gingrich’s Money And His ‘Passion for Israel’

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The New York Times describes how Sheldon Adelson developed a “passion for Israel”:

When Mr. Adelson appeared at the Birthright event in December and spoke approvingly of Mr. Gingrich, he had earned his place on the stage by virtue of his donations to the organization — more than $100 million in all.

He is also the single largest donor to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum, with gifts totaling $50 million. Mr. Adelson’s generosity to Jewish causes is especially striking given that for most of his life he was relatively uninvolved in that world.

Mr. Adelson’s business partners in his early days at Comdex were all much more active in Jewish affairs. But friends say Mr. Adelson experienced something of an awakening after his first visit to Israel in 1988, when he was in his mid-50s.

“He fell in love with the country,” said Ted Cutler, an early business partner.

This coincided with his divorce from his first wife, Sandra. Not long after his trip, he encountered a friend, Sara Aronson, at a Boston restaurant. Mr. Adelson talked excitedly of Israel and mentioned that he was interested in meeting Israeli women, Ms. Aronson recalled.

Ms. Aronson introduced him to her best friend, Dr. Miriam Ochshorn, a divorced physician from Israel in her 40s who was completing a fellowship in addiction medicine at Rockefeller University in New York. As it turned out, Mr. Adelson’s two sons from his previous marriage both struggled with drugs. One would die in 2005.

After the couple married in 1991, Mr. Adelson’s visits to Israel became so frequent that he told friends he was contemplating settling there. His increasing wealth gave him the means to make a lasting imprint on causes important to him and his wife, including the establishment of drug treatment centers in the United States and Israel.

He also became one of the biggest donors to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, and joined its executive committee.

Friends point out that his staunch Zionist beliefs are consistent with his take-no-prisoners personality. They also said the views of his wife, who had lived through so much tumult in Israel, including the 1967 war, undoubtedly helped shape his.

Over time, Mr. Adelson made his conservative views felt not only within the committee, but also in Israel. He started a free daily newspaper in 2007, Israel Hayom, that is widely viewed as supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close friend who shares his hawkish outlook.

Ehud Olmert, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2009, got a taste of the newspaper’s treatment of politicians who fall short of Mr. Adelson’s expectations. He and Mr. Adelson had been friendly, he said, but grew distant after Mr. Olmert tried to negotiate a two-state solution with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

“Once, after I was already prime minister, he asked to come see me with his wife, Miri,” Mr. Olmert recalled in a telephone interview. “He already had his newspaper, and every day it attacked me viciously.

“Toward the end of our meeting, I asked him, ‘Aren’t you ashamed of what your paper is doing to the prime minister?’ ” Mr. Olmert said, referring to himself. “He said, ‘I don’t read Hebrew.’ And Miri said, ‘I do, and I must tell you that we are very aggressive against him.’ ”

Mr. Olmert added that he had heard from senior American officials that Mr. Adelson had advocated firing Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state and getting rid of Mr. Olmert because both were “betraying Israel.”

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Written by Maidhc Ó Cathail

January 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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