What Sheldon Adelson Gets

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 26 2012 9:48 AM

What Sheldon Adelson Gets

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Sheldon Adelson, CEO Las Vegas Sands Corp, speaks at a luncheon in Macau on June 8, 2011. Adelsen was honored with the G2E Global Gaming Expo Asia Visionary Award. AFP PHOTO/MIKE CLARKE (Photo credit should read MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images)

Photo by MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images

There are complicated political mysteries. There are mysterious-sounding events with not-so-secret explanations. Here's today's mystery: "Why does Sheldon Adelson want to give Newt Gingrich so much money?" The answer, as Gingrich put it: "He knows I'm very pro-israel, and that's the central value of his life. He's worried that Israel will not survive."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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We don't need to doubt this. Adelson's friendship with Gingrich began in the 1990s, when the Speaker of the House helped the casino tycoon message anti-union legislation. But in the Obama era, Adelson's been most outspoken when Gingrich has talked about Israel. Emphasis on "in the Obama era." As Wayne Barrett reported last week, Gingrich was taking a softer line on Israel as recently as 2005. From an essay of the time:

Congress should establish a program of economic aid for the Palestinian people to match the aid the U.S. government provides Israel. Palestinian aid would be largely economic and for policing while security concerns necessitate that Israel receive a far higher military component. The goal of U.S. aid should be to bring education, jobs, and health care to the Palestinians, not to line the pockets of its leadership... The Palestinian diaspora has been remarkably successful in business. It can help modernize and make prosperous the Palestinian people, just as many Iraqi businessmen have chosen since Iraq's liberation to invest in their own homeland. There is great wealth and, even more important, great knowledge and great contacts among the Palestinian expatriates. If they can be convinced to help their fellow Palestinians prosper as Jews across the world have been doing for Israel since 1948, then the prospects of creating a truly prosperous Gaza and West Bank will increase dramatically.

Two years later, Adelson was cutting checks to Freedom's Watch -- a 527 that mostly ran pro-Iraq "surge" ads -- and to Gingrich's 527, American Solutions. And six years later, Gingrich was calling the Palestinians an "invented people." And Sheldon Adelson was agreeing.

Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and you will hear why [Newt] Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people. There are a number of Palestinians who will recognize the truth of this statement.

This is related to another new-ish Gingrich position, the promise to move America's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Romney hasn't committed to that; Gingrich has taken to it like a moon colony. And none of these are issues that might spook Republican voters. In this primary, you cannot be too "pro-Israel."

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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