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Adelson calls Trump ‘charming,’ after discussing Israel with him

Republican Party donor describes ‘nice’ meeting with controversial frontrunner, but says he hasn’t yet decided who to back for presidency

Sheldon Adelson, 2014 (Ethan Miller/Getty Images, via JTA)
Sheldon Adelson, 2014 (Ethan Miller/Getty Images, via JTA)

The casino magnate and Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson praised Donald Trump’s charm following a meeting in which the two men discussed Israel, among other subjects.

Adelson met Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for the presidential elections, earlier this week in Las Vegas, Reuters reported Friday. Adelson spoke about the meeting in Macau, China, saying he had not decided which candidate to back in the presidential race.

“It was very nice,” Adelson, who is Jewish and an outspoken supporter of Israel, told Reuters when asked about the meeting. “He was very charming.” Adelson added that the pair had discussed Israel.

The 82-year-old chief executive of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the world’s biggest gambling company by market value, hosted the latest debate among Republican Party presidential candidates at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, where he is based.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guests following a town hall meeting in Newton, Iowa, on November 19, 2015. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guests following a town hall meeting in Newton, Iowa, on November 19, 2015. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)

“He [Trump] had talked about potentially dividing about Jerusalem and Israel, so I talked about Israel because with our newspaper, my wife being Israeli, we are the few who know more about Israel than people who don’t,” Adelson said. Adelson owns Israel Hayom, a free daily that is Israel’s most read newspaper and is broadly supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking two weeks ago to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, Trump wavered in answering a question about whether he would consider Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel, drawing boos from the crowd.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu names Yossi Cohen as the new head of the Mossad, in an announcement from his office in Jerusalem, December 7, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu names Yossi Cohen as the new head of the Mossad, in an announcement from his office in Jerusalem, December 7, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Trump last week cancelled a planned visit to Israel, during which he had been set to meet Netanyahu, amid controversy over his call to ban Muslims from the United States. That demand was rejected by Netanyahu, who nonetheless said he was still prepared to meet with Trump. But Trump, who filmed a video backing Netanyahu in the 2013 Israeli elections, opted to cancel the trip, he said, because “I didn’t want to put [Netanyahu] under pressure.”

Trump, who says his call to ban Muslims is “temporary,” as the world grapples with Islamic extremism, also claimed that Netanyahu actually agrees with him. “He disagrees with me. I doubt he actually does,” Trump said last week.

Courted by most of the Republican candidates and widely expected to be the party’s top donor in the November 2016 presidential election, Adelson said earlier on Friday during a news conference that he may wait until February’s primaries to decide who to back. He described the field of Republican candidates as “all very good.”

Fourteen candidates are still contending for the GOP presidential nod. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Trump leading the field with support from 35 percent of likely Republican voters, Ben Carson second with 12% and Ted Cruz and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tied for third with 10%.

“We like a lot of the candidates, some more than the others,” Adelson told Reuters. “It’s changing every day. I saw in the news today that Trump said his percentage approval was 41 percent. Out of 14 candidates, 41 percent is unheard of.”

The crucial characteristic for the Republican nominee, he said, was “They have got to be able to win.”

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