Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to Republican party, reportedly praised US President Donald Trump’s commitment to the Jewish state on Thursday, asserting that he would likely become “the best president for Israel ever.”
According to CNN, Adelson, a casino magnate who is a strong backer of pro-Israel groups, made the comment at a private event at his home before an audience that included Dick Cheney, who served as vice president in George W. Bush’s administration.
The remark also came on the eve of the Republican Jewish Coalition leadership conference.
Adelson did not commit to a candidate until May 2016. He endorsed Trump after it became apparent the real estate mogul would be the Republican nominee.
He subsequently donated tens of millions to Trump’s election campaign and to his inauguration; he and his wife were on the dais for Trump’s inaugural oath-taking, a rare honor for campaign funders.
Adelson also had dinner with Trump earlier this month, ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington.
In a joint press conference between the two leaders at the White House on February 15, Trump bucked America’s longstanding exclusive commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said, showing receptiveness to Netanyahu’s call for a regional initiative that relied on Israel’s improving relationships with Arab countries.
“The United States will encourage a peace, and really a great peace deal,” said Trump, and added that the matter was “important to me personally.”
At the same time, the US president turned to Netanyahu and said: “I’d like you to hold back on settlements for a little bit.” The US president was also critical of the settlements in a February 10 interview with the Adelson-backed Israel Hayom paper, describing the enterprise as “not a good thing for peace.”
Adelson, 83, a staunch supporter of Netanyahu, is noted for his right-wing views. In November 2014, he told the Israeli American Council in Washington that “the Palestinians are an invented people” and that “the purpose of the existence of Palestinians is to destroy Israel.”
Adelson is also indirectly involved in a graft investigation into Netanyahu, who is being probed into allegations that he colluded with the publisher of an Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth to try and reduce the impact of its competitor, Israel Hayom, in return for better coverage.
JTA contributed to this report.