WASHINGTON — “The Palestinians are an invented people,” said Jewish-American billionaire and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, adding that “the purpose of the existence of Palestinians is to destroy Israel.”
Adelson was speaking at the Israeli American Council in Washington Sunday, in a debate with Haim Saban, the Israeli-American media mogul and Democrat funder.
The event began on Friday, marking the first-ever national gathering of Israelis living in America. Organizers said that the event sold out weeks in advance, noting that the entire Israeli-American community is currently estimated at over 600,000.
“So Israel won’t be a democratic state, so what?” said Adelson, rejecting the feasibility of a two-state solution in response to a comment made by Saban on “securing the future of a democratic Israel.”
“You are committing demographic suicide,” Adelson argued.
He added that the country should build a “big wall” around itself, saying, “I would put up a big wall around my property.”
The two billionaires also discussed ways to fight the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, and joked about buying the New York Times to influence it coverage of Israel, deemed largely unfavorable.
In a move that surprised even veteran Washington observers, Saban delivered a militant message on Iran to the closing plenary of the conference Sunday.
Saban is an entertainment mogul who has for years been close to former president Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, who is now considering her own 2016 presidential run.
Saban said US President Barack Obama made a mistake in helping to strike an interim agreement with Iran to roll back some sanctions in exchange for the rollback of some nuclear activity.
“Take military action, but only after all options have been exhausted. A stick and a carrot yes — but we’ve shown too many carrots and a small stick,” Saban said during the discussion with Adelson.
The one-time top Democratic donor said that if he were in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position, he “would bomb the living daylights out of these sons of bitches,” adding that Netanyahu should realize that a bad Iran deal would leave him “screwed, maybe.”
Saban said the United States should explore “all options” including tougher economic sanctions and do more to make Iran understand “we mean business” if they don’t agree to a nuclear pact.
Adleson concurred with Saban’s critique of the Obama administration’s negotiating stance toward Iran. “I wouldn’t just talk, I would take action,” he said. “Not taking action is too costly.”
Speaking two days after former presidential candidate Mitt Romney slammed the Obama administration’s “naïve” attitude toward Iran, Adelson stressed that the concern regarding Iran and its nuclear threat transcended partisanship. “Everyone in this room — whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat or Independent … when it comes to Israel, we’re on the same side,” Adelson said.
Speakers at the conference displayed a highly critical stance toward the Iranian negotiations, as reports emerged during the weekend that the US was engaged in intensive negotiations to reach a nuclear agreement by a November 24 deadline. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) called for a tougher stance on Iran, and described preventing a nuclear Iran “the most significant event in modern history.”
While the speakers hammered away at the administration’s Iran policy, Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif began talks Sunday in Oman, in a top-level attempt to work toward a comprehensive agreement.
Under fire for writing what some saw as an overly conciliatory letter to Iran calling for an agreement, Obama warned Sunday that “there is still a big gap” between the P5+1 states and Iran.
“We may not be able to get there,” he said during an interview on CBS.
JTA contributed to this report.