TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday mourned the passing of U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, one of Netanyahu’s staunchest American supporters, lauding his efforts to bolster ties between the U.S. and Israel that helped drive pro-Israel policy under the Trump administration.
With Adelson’s death, Netanyahu loses a key U.S. backer who for the last four years had the ear of the American president and worked tirelessly to push Israel’s priorities at the White House and in Congress. He also bids farewell to an important backroom player in Israeli politics who funded an influential free daily newspaper that served as an unofficial mouthpiece for Netanyahu.
His attachment to Israel was life-long and so deep that he once said he wished his military service had been in an Israeli uniform instead of an American one. Adelson was also active in Israeli politics, launching a free newspaper called Israel Hayom.
Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., was also a major donor to numerous mainstream causes, and his foundation was a prolific giver to Jewish and Israeli groups, including Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.
His family foundation’s tax return for 2018 showed donations of $34 million to the Birthright Israel Foundation in New York, a program that brings young Jews from around the world on free trips to Israel.
It also lists a $10.7 million donation to the Maccabbee Task Force Foundation. The group says on its website that it’s dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism generally, and the Palestinian-led movement promoting boycotts and sanctions against Israel specifically, on college campuses. Adelson’s return also features more modest contributions, such as $10,000 to the Caribbean Jewish Community.
In the U.S., Adelson helped underwrite congressional trips to Israel.
helped build a new headquarters for the lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and later was a top supporter of the Israeli-American Council, whose conferences have attracted top Republicans and Democrats.
Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.