(JTA) — Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said he will back Donald Trump now that Trump has locked up the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
“I think that Donald Trump will be good for Israel,” Adelson, who is Jewish, told the BBC on Thursday, appearing at a gala in New York for the World Values Network.
What was unclear is if Adelson, one of the world’s richest men and a major pro-Israel giver, meant he would help fund Trump’s campaign, and to what extent. Trump, a real estate magnate and reality TV star, is himself a billionaire and has mostly-self funded throughout the primaries. However, he has said he would reach out to major donors now that he is heading into a heated general election likely to cost billions of dollars.
Adelson, who donated more than $90 million to federal political races in 2012, is among the Republican Party’s most heavily courted contributors.
Pressed if his thinking that Trump would be good for Israel meant Trump would receive his support, Adelson said, “I plan to, yes I do. Yes, I’m a Republican, he’s a Republican. He’s our nominee.” He was not asked whether that meant financial support.
In a departure from the 2012 race, when he spent heavily to boost Newt Gingrich’s unsuccessful primary bid and then gave generously to nominee Mitt Romney, Adelson had until now remained neutral in the 2016 nomination battle. This time around, Adelson did not want to handicap the eventual nominee. The perception among Republicans in 2012 was that the money Romney spent to defeat Gingrich early in the campaign had hobbled his campaign against President Barack Obama’s reelection.
Adelson nonetheless had hinted that he backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and the Israeli newspaper he owns, Israel Hayom, provided Rubio with favorable coverage. Adelson’s wife Miriam favored Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Both candidates ultimately dropped out.
The question of whether Trump would be “good for Israel” surfaced in December, when Trump, addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition — another major Adelson beneficiary — said he would not pander to the group or ask for its members’ money. He also said he would remain neutral on Israeli-Palestinian talks and would not before being elected say whether he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He has since walked back those remarks, most prominently in an appearance in March at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Adelson, quoted separately at the same event by The New York Times, suggested that supporting Trump was the right thing to do because he had bested his rivals.
“Whoever the nominee would turn out to be, any one of the 17 — he was one of the 17. He won fair and square,” said Adelson.