Mondoweiss / September 19, 2023
Biden will meet Netanyahu at the U.N. and do nothing to pressure his racist rightwing government because he needs megadonor Haim Saban for 2024, and Saban says, “I’m a one issue guy and my issue is Israel.”
Every now and then Democratic Party megadonor Haim Saban surfaces and makes refreshing remarks to the press. “I am a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel,” the Israeli-American businessman told The New York Times in 2004. And he repeated that line to the New Yorker in 2010.
Saban popped up again ten days ago, giving an interview to an Israeli newspaper in which he made some startling statements, printed in Hebrew, including:
– He was invited to lunch at the Biden White House in early September, and the meeting was supposed to last an hour but it lasted three hours.
– He justifies giving money to AIPAC, which supports Republican election deniers, because his one issue is Israel:
“The only goal of this organization is to prevent people who are against U.S.-Israel relations from advancing and to support those who support relations between Jerusalem and Washington… Many Democrats called me and said ‘are you stupid? you’re a Democrat who supports [2020 election deniers]?’ I always say the same thing: It’s a specific, defined issue, and that is the U.S.-Israel relationship. In that sense, I’m not interested in anything else.”
– Saban has complete confidence in the Democratic Party leadership and Joe Biden. The party is “still solidly pro-Israel, and there are only about a dozen members of Congress who are anti-Israel” (as Jewish Insider translated that bit).
It must be pointed out, first, that Saban’s meeting with Biden and his comments have gone unreported in the U.S. press outside of Jewish Insider and our Michael Arria.
But Saban is scripting Biden’s policy on Israel.
Because Haim and Cheryl Saban were crucial to Biden’s successful run for the presidency, and they are crucial to his hopes of reelection. They raised $4.5 million for Biden at a fundraiser weeks before the 2020 election. And they gave over $4 million to Democrats in that cycle.
Saban is true to his word. He’s a one-issue guy, and he has a long record of supporting presidential candidates and demanding that they offer uncritical support to Israel.
The Sabans supported Hillary Clinton in 2008 because she was a warhorse for Israel; and Saban was reportedly deflated by Clinton’s loss to Obama, whom he did not trust on Israel. For instance, Saban was angered when Obama refused to echo Hillary Clinton’s call to ‘obliterate’ Iran if Iran attacked Israel.
And Obama refused to meet Saban, as Saban told Connie Bruck of the New Yorker in 2010:
“I had a list of questions… And Chicago’—Obama campaign headquarters—‘could not organize that meeting. … I was ready and willing to be helpful, but ‘helpful’ is not to write a check for two thousand three hundred dollars. It’s to raise millions, which I am fully capable of doing. But Chicago wasn’t able to deliver the meeting, so I couldn’t get on board.’
Later, Obama came to appreciate Saban’s millions, and Obama pulled in his horns on Israel. By 2013, President Obama was the speaker at a fundraiser at the Sabans’ house in L.A. , attended by 120 people who paid between $16,200 and $32,400 each to attend. (Karen Bass now mayor of L.A. was there, so was Adam Schiff.) Saban said of Obama, “[I]ntelligence cooperation with Israel – our staunchest ally in the Middle East, arguably in the world, has never been deeper and the president’s commitment to Israel’s security has never been stronger.”
Saban gave as much as $30 million to the Clinton Foundation when Hillary was secretary of State (ethically questionable) and gave over $16 million to her presidential run in 2016. Saban spoke regularly to the Clinton campaign team about Israel strategy, according to emails leaked by Wikileaks. At a crucial moment in 2015, when donors were questioning where Clinton stood on Israel (as Saban stated), she wrote an anti-BDS letter to Saban in an effort to overshadow her support for the Iran deal.
Connie Bruck reported that he tried to buy the Los Angeles Times because he regarded it as a pro-Palestinian paper. “During the period of the second intifada, Jews were being killed every day over there, and this paper was publishing images of a Palestinian woman sitting with her dead child, and, on the Israeli side, a destroyed house. I got sick of it.’”
So this is the guy that Joe Biden spent three hours with, and it’s not a story.
There is no difference aside from party really between Saban and the late Sheldon Adelson, the largest Republican donor, who demanded that Republicans support Israel and who urged Obama to bomb Iran.
Saban has a kinder and gentler approach, funding a think-tank at the Brookings Institution and hosting peace process types. But Saban and Adelson saw eye to eye on BDS, and got together to fight that “tsunami” in 2015. They supported the Israeli army together in 2018. They both supported the indoctrination trip to Israel for American Jewish youth — Birthright.
They share the view that the U.S. government must stand by the Israeli government, no matter what.
And Biden’s policy is now being scripted by Haim Saban, whose money he needs for the 2024 campaign.
That’s why Democrats flooded to Israel this summer on AIPAC trips, to kiss up to Netanyahu. Hakeem Jeffries sat next to an AIPAC official at one of those meetings. Because Haim Saban likes AIPAC. And an organization that supports Republican election deniers is completely fine with the Democratic leadership.
And no, Saban doesn’t like Netanyahu’s fascistic ministers Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, and neither does Biden– but that’s just a detail. “We can take issue with some Israeli policies out of love and remain pro-Israel” (as AIPAC spinoff Democratic Majority for Israel says). “We must continue fighting back against those who want to use Israel’s shortcomings as an excuse to unravel the mutually beneficial U.S.-Israel relationship.”
So Biden will meet with Netanyahu at the U.N. and make like they are best friends and do nothing to bring down Netanyahu’s rightwing racist government. “The kind of United States pressure that would be needed to bring down Netanyahu’s government is highly unlikely in the coming year,” Yossi Alpher writes at Americans for Peace Now.
That’s the script. Everyone is on board. Except for the Squad. And the Democratic base too. But we don’t count. As Saban explained to Obama’s people years ago:
“‘Helpful’ is not to write a check for two thousand three hundred dollars. It’s to raise millions, which I am fully capable of doing.”
And the press will tiptoe by all this.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006