CNN reports: In the explosive second part of his exclusive interview on Friday’s Amanpour, Ehud Olmert, former Israeli Prime Minister, said certain elements in the Jewish community in the United States had deliberately derailed the peace process.
Olmert was speaking of the peace plan he proposed in 2008, when he was Prime Minister. Knowing the political risks, Olmert sought a “full comprehensive peace between us and the Palestinians” – a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.
“It broke my heart, the most difficult decision of my life,” said Olmert, once the Mayor of Jerusalem. “Because for me to propose a division of Jerusalem was really terrible. I did it because I reached a conclusion that without which, there will not be peace.”
“It was a killer for me,” he said. “It was a killer for me not only because of the opposition in Israel. I think that, by the way, in Israel the majority of the Israelis would have supported my plan, had it come for elections.”
Then, he leveled his astonishing charge: “But I had to fight against superior powers, including millions and millions of dollars that were transferred from this country (the U.S.) by figures which were from the extreme right wing, that were aimed to topple me as Prime Minister of Israel. There is no question about it.”
When asked to name names, Olmert answered: “Next time.”
If and when Olmert names names, there’s little doubt who will be at the top of his list: the American casino boss and billionaire, Sheldon Adelson.
In May 2008, this is how Nahum Barnea, a columnist for Israel’s Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot, described Adelson’s plans to topple Olmert. “This is an illegitimate government. It must be thrown out,” Barnea quotes Adelson as saying.
Adelson is convinced that Netanyahu, not Olmert, must be prime minister of Israel. In order to advance this idea, Adelson established an anti-Olmert newspaper devoted to praising Netanyahu. Allegedly, this investment is the largest election gift ever given to Israel.
Adelson’s free tabloid “Israel Hayom” (ישראל היום, Israel today) went on to become the most widely read daily newspaper in Israel.
Daniel Levy translated the bulk of Barnea’s column which appeared just after Adelson appeared as the keynote speaker at a presidential conference celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary.
When Sheldon Adelson gave his speech on the podium of the International Convention Center two days ago, I looked at Shimon Peres. I was happy for him. The impressive, sparkling conference that he convened will warm his heart…Many important, highly-respected people. An excellent organization. Well done.
As a citizen of the country, I was less happy. I saw a gambling tycoon from Las Vegas who bought my country’s birthday with three million dollars. I thought with sorrow: Is the country worth so very little? Were the champagne, wine and sushi that were given out for free in the lobby—breaking convention for such events—worth the humiliation?
Adelson is a Jew who loves Israel. Like some other Jews who live at a safe distance from here, his love is great, passionate, smothering. It is important to him that he influences the policies, decisions and compositions of Israeli governments. He is not alone in this, either: even back in the days of Baron Rothschild, wealthy Jews from the Diaspora felt that this country lay in their pocket, alongside their wallet. Regrettably, in the latest generation, we are being led by politicians who look at these millionaires with calf’s eyes.
Such deference to the wallets of other people—that is the common denominator of Rabin and Peres, Netanyahu, Barak and Olmert…
Adelson is like the others, and yet different. He has the gift of authority and the bluntness of someone who made a lot of money quickly. He does not ask; he commands.
“He talks to me as though I were his property,” the director of an important Jewish-American organization, one of the guests at the conference, told me. I heard similar complaints from others—both Israelis and Americans— about Adelson. Not long ago, the mayor of a large city received word that he had to meet Adelson immediately. He acceded, of course—the man is a big donor. When they met, Adelson ordered him to tell the municipal inspectors to leave the employees of his business (who were violating municipal law) alone.
There is a story about an anti-Arab propaganda film that Adelson had heard of. When he telephoned the director-general of a Jewish organization, asking him to buy and distribute the film, the man told him that the film was distorted, and that no one would believe it. Adelson responded—“so edit it”. When the man countered that film could not be edited, Adelson replied that he would buy the film at his expense, but that the other man would then distribute it. “He would like all the Arabs to disappear,” another activist for a Jewish organization told me. “It seems that he thinks that the Arabs are chips to be gambled with.”
Several months ago, Adelson contacted another Jewish-American millionaire and asked him to donate a large sum of money for a campaign that he was organizing against the current Israeli government. The man politely refused. “You know what”, Adelson told him, “do not donate, just sign”. When the man refused again, Adelson accused him of funding anti-Israel research. “I do not know what you mean”, the man answered. “When my man in charge of these things is in Las Vegas, he will come to you and he’ll look into the matter.”
The ensuing meeting at Adelson’s office, in the Venetian hotel-casino, was a stormy one. Adelson took out a written list of accusations, many of them childish. “You hosted (PA prime minister) Salam Fayyad,” he said. “He is a terrorist with blood on his hands. He is one of the founders of Fatah.” “Salam Fayyad was never involved in terrorism,” said the interlocutor. “He is not a member of Fatah. Where did you get these accusations from?”
Adelson responded that he had gotten them from Steve Emerson (an American Jew who often analyzes terrorism). “You work with Olmert’s government,” he added. “This is an illegitimate government. It must be thrown out.” “I thought”, said the man, “that Olmert is your friend.”
And, indeed, they were friends. Such good friends that Olmert wrote him [Adelson] a letter, asking him to buy mini-bars for his hotels from a company that Talansky represented.
Adelson is convinced that Netanyahu, not Olmert, must be prime minister of Israel. In order to advance this idea, Adelson established an anti-Olmert newspaper devoted to praising Netanyahu. Allegedly, this investment is the largest election gift ever given to Israel. I do not claim this. Firstly, it is a legitimate legal gift. Secondly, when Netanyahu is elected prime minister, he will have to act within the constraints of the State of Israel, not take dictates of a patron from Las Vegas.
Adelson, surrounded by guards, was king of the conference. He sat in the first row, with Shimon Peres between him and Olmert. He put his hand out to Olmert. Olmert shook it with a sour face. They did not exchange a single word.