NEW YORK — American Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson said the United States should detonate a nuclear bomb in the Iranian desert to display toughness, though without hurting a soul, before the next stage of negotiations with Tehran. It should then threaten that the next bomb would fall on Tehran, he said.
“What are we going to negotiate about?” Adelson told a crowd at New York’s Yeshiva University on Tuesday night.
As filmed by blogger Philip Weiss, a fierce critic of Israeli policy, Adelson said, “What I would say is, ‘Listen. You see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ …You pick up your cellphone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’ And so there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever. And then you say, ‘See? The next one is in the middle of Tehran.’ So, we mean business.”
Adelson made his comments at a forum on “Iran, Assimilation and the Threat to Israel and Jewish Survival” moderated by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the flamboyant Orthodox leader, nicknamed “America’s Rabbi,” who’s famous for promoting Judaism and Jewish values through mainstream American media.
“You want to be wiped out?” the mogul continued, directing his comments at the Iranians. “Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development. You want to be peaceful? Just reverse it all, and we will guarantee you that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes.”
Over 400 professionals and students packed Yeshiva University’s Lamport Auditorium to hear the panelists: Pulitzer Prize-winner Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal, Adelson, and Yeshiva University president Richard Joel.
The panelists agreed Iran should not be allowed nuclear weapons, with Stephens hitting the main points eloquently.
“Think about this: a regime that is capable of taking a stone in one hand and stoning a woman to death, a regime that hangs gay people from cranes in the streets of Tehran, should not under any circumstances get anywhere near a nuclear bomb,” Stephens said.
The room erupted in applause — not for the first or last time.
Like Adelson, a staunchly conservative Republican, Stephens also denigrated liberals in the context of Iran. He addressed himself to liberals who proclaim, “We need to find peace with Iran,” even in the wake of the regime’s oppressive practices. “If you call yourself a liberal under those circumstances, you need to reexamine what your liberalism is all about,” he said.
Stephens also professed bafflement over the world’s preoccupation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other Iranian figurehead politicians, when, he said, the real problem was still Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“They don’t call you supreme leader if you’re a semi-supreme leader,” Stephens quipped.
Adelson also said negotiations with Iran were unquestionably a demonstration of weakness on the part of the United States.
Adelson, a casino magnate worth $26.5 billion according to Forbes, is a veteran political player in both Israeli and US politics.
A long-time supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he also threw his considerable financial weight behind Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign to become president and reportedly said he was willing to spend up to $100 million to prevent President Barack Obama’s reelection.
Adelson is also the publisher of Israel’s widest-read newspaper, the free Israel Hayom daily, which critics say takes a blatantly pro-Netanyahu line.
When it came to Israel, Adelson, a personal friend of the prime minister, and Stephens deviated slightly. While Adelson said Netanyahu “would not live without taking some kind of action under the threat of harm to the Jewish people or the State of Israel,” Stephens claimed he is “all hat and no cattle.”
Negotiators from Iran and six world powers, known as the P5+1, are due to meet in Geneva for a round of talks on November 7-8, the second round of talks in as many months.
Western powers fear Iran’s nuclear program could be used to build an atomic bomb. Iran says its program is peaceful and its purpose is to advance medical research and power generation.
Last week, Iranian diplomats met in Geneva with negotiators from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Iran hopes to ease the crippling economic and oil sanctions placed on its government over its contested nuclear program.
Among key concessions being demanded by the West, according to two diplomats who spoke with the Associated Press, is that Iran stop enriching uranium to 20 percent. The diplomats say Iran offered to halt 20% enrichment at last week’s Geneva talks. However, the Iranian government hasn’t publicly commented on the issue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.