It was refreshing to hear then aspirant to the GOP nomination for president Donald Trump tell a gathering of Republican Jews in New York City that he didn’t need their money. It was, of course, a lie, like so many other lies that came out of the electoral campaign, but it seemed to open the door on a new era for American foreign policy. Combined with Trump’s pledge that he would not rush headlong into any new wars in the Middle East, linked to a robust condemnation of what had gone wrong in Iraq, it seemed to indicate that the Israel Lobby would no longer be defining the playing field for U.S. engagement in the region and that a Trump presidency just might take office with considerable wariness about Jewish power in the United States. Or so it seemed.
Two years later, how things have changed. The real Donald Trump has emerged as a dedicated supporter of the most hardline elements in Israel, whose aspirations are fueled by the money flowing from American Jewish billionaires. And nowhere in sight is any actual American national interest.
Trump’s A-team in the Middle East is headed by his son-in-law Jared Kushner who is being advised by a group of Orthodox Jews. The ambassador to Israel is David Friedman, a former bankruptcy lawyer, who is a passionate supporter of the illegal Israeli settlements and his chief “international negotiator” for the Middle East is Jason Greenblatt, the former Trump Organization lawyer. Both are Orthodox Jews with strong ties to Israel and Friedman has already distinguished himself by condemning the Palestinians at every opportunity.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing criminal charges for corruption, is reportedly delighted with Trump and his “team.” To be sure, Israel has benefited from the White House’s reconstruction of what might be referred to as U.S. Middle East policy to favor Israel even more strongly than did George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a de facto affirmation of Israel’s “right” to annex and control of all of the city and its surroundings, a violation of the United Nations resolutions that established Israel in 1948. Having received what is perceived to be a green light from the White House, the expansion of Israel’s equally illegal settlements in the West Bank has been accelerating in expectation that Netanyahu will eventually move to incorporate nearly all of what might have become a Palestinian state.
Trump is also making Israel happy in other ways, to include Ambassador Nikki Haley’s Jeremiads at the United Nations and the withholding of U.S. funding to assist Palestinian refugees. Beyond that, the pressure on what Netanyahu perceives as his arch-enemy, the state of Iran, has been unrelenting both from Washington and Jerusalem, with Donald Trump repeatedly asserting that he will tear up the “terrible” nuclear agreement. Some pretext for war will surely follow with the United States having to bear much of the burden as well as most of the consequences, including what is likely to be a large casualty list as the Iranians will surely fight back.
And then there is Syria, where the U.S. looks the other way as Israel bombs targets that it claims to be Iranian or Hezbollah based on alleged intelligence that only it seems to have obtained, while Washington maintains an active presence on the ground to further destabilize the country, a major Israeli objective.
But all of the above pales beside the recent news coming from the bought-and-paid-for politician front, a congenital feature of American democracy capitalist style that Donald Trump promised to end. Jewish-Israeli mega-billionaire and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who contributed $25 million to the Trump campaign and $5 million to his inauguration ceremony, is calling in his markers.
It is widely believed that Adelson is the man who pressured the White House into making the embassy shift in the first place, and now he is offering to help pay for the new building, which will take several years to construct, to accelerate and institutionalize the process. The White House has folded, declaring that a temporary embassy will now be opening in May, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel and the dispossession and scattering of the Palestinians. Trump had previously declared that the opening of the embassy would take some time, but money talks, apparently.
Even the New York Times, citing some “Adelson allies,” expressed concern that the gesture “could be seen as a well-heeled financial contributor effectively privatizing—and politicizing—American foreign policy.” Bingo.
For those who are unfamiliar with Adelson and his obsession with Israel, it is possible to gain some insights from the following reports concerning his views and behavior. Adelson served in the U.S. Army in World War 2 but has since declared that he is ashamed of that service and would much prefer having served in the Israel Defense Forces. He and his wife Miriam, an IDF veteran, have stated that they would like to raise a son who would become an Israeli sniper. Adelson has declared that his primary goal in life is to obtain 100% U.S. support for Israel, to include annexation of all of historic Palestine and expulsion of its Arab inhabitants. He has referred to Palestinians as “fake people.” Regarding Iran, Adelson has recommended that Washington drop a nuclear bomb on it in a desert area with a warning that the next one would be in the middle of Tehran.
So, it turns out that Donald Trump was not so rich that he could not be bought by Adelson, worth an estimated $40 billion, who had to spend less than one-thousandth of that to ensnare an American president. It was a bargain for Israel but a very bad deal for those of us who wish to see a United States government promoting policies that benefit the American people rather than a badly-behaved tiny client-state five thousand miles away.
This article was first published on Mint Press.
Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. Phil is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values and interests.