News & Politics

Hillary Clinton Tells Israeli Billionaire and Mega-Donor She Will Support Israel, Fight Palestinian Movement

Pro-Israel billionaires like Haim Saban have long supported Clinton, but she is risking her support from the Democratic base.

Israeli-American Haim Saban is one of America's richest men, the owner of numerous media and entertainment outlets — and a big Democratic donor. When the Democratic National Committee needed a new building, he coughed up $7 million to fund it, “one of the largest known donations ever made to an American political party.”

What does Saban want for all that money? “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel,” he said.

In order to pursue this objective, Saban has been pouring money into Hillary Clinton's super PAC, $2 million by one estimate. This week, Hillary returned the favor. She wrote a long letter to Saban praising Israel and pledging to fight the Palestinian-led boycott movement, which seeks to use economic pressures to end the occupation of their territories.

Saban was so proud of the letter he took the rare step of publishing it in full through a public relations firm, broadcasting it to the world. Here it is:

Hillary Clinton's letter to Haim Saban.
Photo Credit: 
c/o Haim Saban

In the letter, Clinton clearly links the boycott movement to anti-semitism, even raising the terrorist attack in Paris. She also condemns the increasingly popular apartheid analogy, one that current Secretary of State John Kerry used. This is likely intentional messaging, distancing herself from Obama so as to tell pro-Israel donors like Saban that she's on their team.

In the past, Hillary's smears against the Palestinians and exuberant praise of Israel (she calls it a “vibrant democracy,” a phrase few on the Israeli left would use) would be considered par for the course. But Clinton may be miscalculating here. Pro-Israel billionaires like Saban have long supported Clinton, but she is risking her support from the Democratic base, which is increasingly disturbed by Israel's behavior.

Gallup polling earlier this year found that less than half of Democrats now sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, a 10-point drop from the previous year. Polling during the 2014 Gaza war found that young Americans two-to-one blamed Israel, not the people of Gaza, for the conflict. Numbers were particularly dim among Hispanics and African Americans, and the latter group was the most opposed to Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress.

Perhaps most telling are the viewpoints of the Democratic elites and opinion shapers. Pollster Frank Luntz polled an array of Democratic elites and found that three quarters of them felt Israel has too much influence on American policy; 47 percent of them agree that Israel “is a racist country.”

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

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