Trump Is Desperate for Miriam Adelson’s Cash. Her Condition: West Bank Annexation

Trump Is Desperate for Miriam Adelson’s Cash. Her Condition: West Bank Annexation

The former president is holding a fire sale on future presidential authority. Miriam Adelson wants to be his biggest donor, but in return she wants Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank. Two articles below:

Excerpted from Ha’aretz analysis by Nettanel Slyomovics, June 3, 2024

In the last decade of his life, [Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson] spent an astronomical half-billion dollars supporting politicians. During the 2012 presidential campaign he broke away from big donors’ longtime custom of financing several candidates, thereby hedging their bets, and instead gambled on a single candidate: he gave Newt Gingrich tens of millions of dollars in his failed 2012 Republican primary bid against Mitt Romney.

Adelson may have lost that battle, but he won the war. His willingness to back a candidate with an unprecedented amount of money made him a dominant figure in the GOP almost overnight. Adelson never hid his satisfaction of being in this new position of kingmaker. This is how the “Adelson primaries” were conceived: in the run-up to the 2016 election, no fewer than 17 potential presidential candidates made the pilgrimage to Las Vegas to implore him for funding, leaving their self-respect back home.

[Adelson is infamous for once announcing that he regretted that he had served in the US Army rather than in the Israeli military.]

The New York Times broke the story that in 2016, after Trump won the Republican primary but was left without donors to face Hillary Clinton, Sheldon Adelson offered him a deal: $20 million in exchange for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. [See this foe details.] This was the beginning of a fruitful and rewarding relationship for both men. All in all, Adelson heaped over $90 million on Trump, the embassy moved to Jerusalem (against the advice of Trump’s aides), and Adelson became Trump’s most influential donor.

After Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, one of the organizations funded by Adelson ran a full-page ad in The New York Times. Against an image of a kippa-wearing Trump visiting the Western Wall, the ad congratulated him: “President Trump: You Promised. You delivered.”

Now Trump is desperate for cash, and he’s holding a fire sale on future presidential authority. Anything goes for the man who believes that a presidential victory will save him from prison – which scares him more than anything else. Even though he’s now a convicted felon [see this], Trump still has people to turn to for donations – and New York Magazine devoted its May 20 issue to an extensive profile of one of these donors, Dr. Miriam Adelson. [Read it below..]

With Adelson’s death in January 2021, Republicans were wondering what his widow would do. Though she refrains from giving interviews to journalists who aren’t on her payroll, Miriam Adelson confirmed to The New York Times about a year ago that the Adelson primaries won’t return. She has no intention of being as deeply involved in American politics as her husband. But if anybody thought she was shying away from American politics altogether, they were recently proved wrong.

Adelson used the magazine to send Trump a far from subtle hint: She could be interested in making donations to him and would be happy to be his – and the entire campaign’s – biggest donor, on the condition that he gives her what she wants.

The New York Magazine article on Adelson, written by Elizabeth Weil, doesn’t quote Adelson herself but is full of tidbits of information about the rich widow’s personal life, which makes it hard to believe she didn’t speak with Weil off the record. That’s easy enough to understand: Adelson is using the magazine to send Trump a far from subtle hint: She could be interested in making donations to him and would be happy to be his – and the entire campaign’s – biggest donor, on the condition that he gives her what she wants.

Less than two weeks after this flattering story, which could be read as one woman’s public appeal to one man, Politico reported that Adelson finally decided to donate to Trump. But it wasn’t just any old donation. According to the report, Adelson didn’t name the sum, but is expected “to spend more than [she and her late husband] did four years ago.” This would make her 2024’s biggest campaign donor. Politico’s reporters didn’t give the reason for Adelson’s move, but the New York Magazine story may provide the answer.

An implicit threat

“The press often reported the Adelsons’ giving as Sheldon’s,” while in fact it was also Miriam’s, wrote Weill. “Some Adelson watchers assumed life would be saner once Miriam alone controlled the family fortune. This was wrong. Sheldon was a bully: combative, litigious, blowsy. Miriam is an ideologue.” One former senior executive was quoted as saying, “[Sheldon] was the one who had the bark, but I believe she had the bite. … She was more aggressive. He was more aggressive if she was in the room.”

Adelson tends to be every bit as blunt as her late husband when approaching politicians. After Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, one of the organizations funded by Adelson ran a full-page ad in The New York Times. Against an image of a kippa-wearing Trump visiting the Western Wall, the ad congratulated him: “President Trump: You Promised. You delivered.”

Trump won this year’s primaries easily and quickly in just a few weeks. Having sent away all his contenders, he invited Adelson to Shabbat dinner at Mar-a-Lago in March. According to the New York Magazine article, Trump didn’t come out of the dinner with the check he hoped for, but he seems to have understood how to get it. A few days later, he sat for an interview with Omer Lachmanovitch and Ariel Kahana of the Adelson-owned free daily, Israel Hayom.

“I’m a very loyal person. I’ve been loyal to Israel. I’ve been the best president in history by a factor of 10 to Israel because of all of the things I do, the embassy, Jerusalem being the capital… But then you have the Abraham Accords and then you have the Golan Heights,” Trump told them, referring to American recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the territory. “Nobody even thought that was going to be possible.”

After five months during which he refused to make clear his position on the Israel-Hamas war, instead sniping at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thanks to Adelson, Trump finally expressed unequivocal support for Israel. However, according to Weil’s article, Trump made a tactical error that distanced him from the money he so desperately wants. “You have to finish up your war,” he said. “You have to finish it up. You got it done. And I’m sure you’ll do that. And we got to get to peace.”Adelson, a resident of Herzliya and a megadonor for settlement development in the West Bank, did not wish to hear Trump yearning for peace. She didn’t want to hear anything that could have been construed as criticism of Israel. According to the report, what she really wants from Trump’s second term is an Israeli annexation of the West Bank and a U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in all the regions of the land. Under these conditions, there’s no room for the Palestinian Authority, and nobody to sign a peace accord with.

The New York Magazine story ends with an implicit threat to Trump: “The presidential election is five months away. Adelson continues to sit out the race.” Within just 10 days, Politico reported that the former president and Adelson met and spoke on the phone several times since that March dinner. What they talked about remained unreported, but Trump’s give-and-take relationships with his billionaire donors tend to replicate themselves.

Adelson is not the only major donor; others also come with their lists of demands. The Washington Post recently reported about another meeting between Trump and some donors, a group which, Trump said, included “98 percent of my Jewish friends.” During this meeting in New York on May 14, donors asked Trump about students demonstrating against Israel on campuses, and he replied: “Any student that protests, I throw them out of the country. You know, there are a lot of foreign students. As soon as they hear that, they’re going to behave.” When one of the unnamed donors complained that students and professors could one day hold positions of power, Trump called the demonstrators part of a “radical revolution” that he vowed to defeat. “If you get me elected, and you should really be doing this, … we’re going to set that [pro-Palestinian] movement back 25 or 30 years.”

Speaking to the donors, Trump failed to mention Netanyahu, whom he detests since the prime minister recognized Biden’s victory in 2020. Still, referring to Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack, he provided a heavy-handed clue that his opinion of Netanyahu hasn’t changed: “You go back through history, this is like just before the Holocaust. You had a weak president or head of the country. And it just built and built. And then, all of a sudden, you ended up with Hitler. You ended up with a problem like nobody knew.”

Nettanel Slyomovics is a journalist with Ha’aretz and is also a lecturer at the University of Haifa in Israel.


Miriam Adelson’s Unfinished Business

What does the eighth richest woman in the world want?


President Donald J. Trump receives a menorah from Miriam and Sheldon Adelson at the Israeli American Council National Summit Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Hollywood, Fla. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian) (source)

By Elizabeth Weil, reposted New York Magazine, May 20, 2024 [featured photo added by IAK]

Miriam Adelson often tells a story from her childhood: Around 1950, when she was 4 or 5 years old and the state of Israel itself was one or two, she wanted to dress up for Purim as Queen Esther. Esther, the Tanakh tells us, was a beautiful Jewish woman who married gentile King Ahasuerus. She used her bravery, smarts, and station to thwart a plot to slaughter the Jews. But Miriam didn’t get to be Esther. Her family, like most Israeli families at the time, had no money. Her mother dressed her up in her older brother’s clothes instead.

Miriam Adelson is now 78 and worth $30 billion. She is effectively a queen — the fifth-richest woman in America and the richest Israeli. When she met her late husband, the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, in the late 1980s, she was a divorced addiction doctor who had left Tel Aviv for New York to pursue a research fellowship on methadone treatment. She had dedicated her life to lifting up the weak. But like almost all Israelis of her generation, the protection of the Jewish people, the security of the state of Israel, is her true calling. So after she married Sheldon in 1991, she leaned in. As Cicero put it, endless money forms the sinews of war.

Through the 1990s, Adelson learned her weapon. She switched from making modest donations to Democrats — common practice among Jewish Americans — to making large donations to Republicans, then unexpected and strange. In Israel, she and Sheldon backed Benjamin Netanyahu, a then-young right-wing zealot and Washington insider who rose to prominence by equating peace with surrender. The Netanyahu bet paid off. In 1996, he defeated sitting prime minister Shimon Peres. Two years earlier, Peres had won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, for negotiating the first Oslo Accord.

Money to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Money to the Zionist Organization of America. Money to the Republican Jewish Committee. So much money up and down the ballot and across the globe that a candidate’s position on Israeli foreign policy — that is, a candidate’s position on a tiny country that most voters cared about not at all — determined the size of a campaign war chest. In 2005, trying a new tactic, Adelson gave $250,000 to President George W. Bush’s second inauguration. Sheldon did the same. The $500,000 combined got Adelson enough access to drop off at the White House literature about Islamic Jihad and tell Bush’s chief of staff, “I would like the president to see this.”

“It’s really amazing that we have this influence,” she said at the time. But the $500,000 did not get Adelson all that she wanted. Bush advocated for “two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.” Adelson has never believed in what she called the “useless mold of the so-called peace process.”

Sheldon echoed this. There was always going to be collateral damage. “All we care about is being good Zionists, being good citizens of Israel,” he said, conflating his own nationality with his wife’s. “I don’t think the Bible says anything about democracy.”

Citizens United, ruled on by the Supreme Court in 2010, was, to Adelson, a matanat el, a “gift from God.” Liberated to give unlimited amounts to super-PACs, Adelson donated $46 million to GOP causes in the 2012 election cycle, more than twice as much as the next 15 women donors combined. The Republican Party platform was not a flawless fit. “I don’t agree with the Republican stance on abortion,” she told Hadassah magazine. “Religion shouldn’t be political. But nothing is perfect.”

The press often reported the Adelsons’ giving as Sheldon’s. But it was not just Sheldon’s. Over the course of their marriage, Sheldon made 848 campaign donations. Miriam made 717. Over his lifetime, Sheldon gave $273 million to political campaigns. Miriam, 12 years younger, has given $284 million to date.

With Trump, in 2016, Adelson perfected her craft. At first she liked Ted Cruz, who was flamboyantly pro-Israel, as the Republican presidential nominee. But Adelson switched to Trump once she saw that he had more traction with voters. She and Sheldon donated $25 million to Trump’s super-PACs, understanding this would almost certainly enable them to mold Trump’s Israel policy. Campaign and patron understood each other. Before the first Trump-Clinton presidential debate, Rudy Giuliani kissed Miriam’s hand.

Adelson had learned her lesson from Bush in 2005: $500,000 to an inauguration is useless; $500,000 is chump change. She and Sheldon donated $5 million to Trump’s inauguration. For the swearing-in, they sat up on the dais, a few rows behind Jared Kushner. Sheldon, then 83, looked spectrally pale, his peripheral neuropathy catching up with him. Miriam, 71, looked tanned, radiant, giddy, girlish. She snapped photos on her phone, her platinum-blonde hair glinting against her black camel-wool coat.

In the fourth year of his presidency, Trump announced his Middle East peace plan, which wasn’t really a peace plan at all. Kushner had designed it without any input from Palestinians. Netanyahu called it “the deal of the century.” Trump delivered a few pieces of the plan while still in office: He moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a clear insult to the Palestinians, as they, too, consider Jerusalem their capital. At the ceremony celebrating the Embassy’s move, Adelson beamed from the front row. That same day, at the Gaza border, Israeli soldiers killed 58 Palestinians protesting the Embassy move.

Many political-fundraising experts, including Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s chief ethics lobbyist, believe Adelson will be Trump’s top patron in 2024, as she was in 2020. What will she expect in return? Beyond unconditional support for the Israel-Hamas war, one can assume she’ll press for the unfinished items of Trump’s Israel agenda from last term. Top of that list: Israel annexing the West Bank and the U.S. recognizing its sovereignty there.

This is not just unpopular — it’s illegal under international law. That is not Adelson’s primary concern. October 7 was “another kind of Holocaust,” she said in a recent speech. “We are people that cherish hope and not hatred, that will fight for what is right, even if it means fighting alone.”

In December 2023, Adelson stood at a podium in Texas to give a speech. Nearly seven years had passed since Trump’s inauguration. Sheldon had died. Miriam was now majority shareholder of the family business, the Sands Corporation. As such, in November 2023, she sold $2 billion in stock and, with her daughter Sivan and Sivan’s husband, Patrick Dumont, who is president and COO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, bought a majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. This purchase was nice on a personal level. Adelson’s younger son, 25-year-old Matan, loves basketball. The family had already given him money to buy an Israeli Basketball Premier League team, Hapoel Jerusalem. He could grow into the NBA. Yet the true purpose of the Mavericks purchase was a bet to try to get a piece of the future of gambling in Texas. In 2023, the Texas Sands PAC spent $6 million on 63 lobbyists trying to legalize gambling in the state.

Two months earlier, Israel had been invaded by Hamas. Terrorists killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages. In the process, they mauled the Israeli psyche. Biden had been standing stalwart by Israel, but his policy was not as comforting to Adelson as Trump’s. The new president believed “the only real solution is a two-state solution.” He prized democracy and equal rights under the law. Trump prioritized Israel’s security.

“Hello, friends and colleagues, or maybe being in Austin I could say, ‘Hody, partners.’ Did I say it correct?” Adelson said, in her thick Israeli accent, at the Texas Association of Business Policy Conference. “Hody? Hooody? Howdy? Howdy, partners! For partners we truly are: Christians and Jews, conservatives and liberals, coming together to advance the special relationship between the State of Texas and the State of Israel … Like Texans, Israelis cherish their roots and their religion and their rights. Like Texans, Israelis defend their sovereignty. Like Texans, Israelis stick to their guns and stand up for their principles and don’t give a damn if that means standing alone.”

October 7 had been Adelson’s nightmare — the event itself, of course, but also the world’s response to it. The attack confirmed the existential burden placed on every Jewish person of Adelson’s generation: No one could be counted on to care about the Jewish people; the duty to protect and safeguard Israel rested on them alone. On November 21, 2023, Adelson published an essay in Israel Hayom, a free Israeli newspaper she and Sheldon launched in 2007. In the piece, entitled “Dead to Us,” she discussed the “ghastly gatherings of radical Muslim and BLM activists, ultra-progressives, and career agitators” who, in the aftermath of 10/7, sprinted right past Israel’s grief and sympathized with Hamas. “These people are not our critics. They are our enemies. And, as such, they should be dead to us,” she wrote. “Indeed, we must disavow and shame them, deny them employment and public office, and defund their colleges and political parties. Doing all this will be easy, because the stakes in Israel’s war of survival have never been so clear … If you quibble about how many babies were beheaded, or how many women were violated, in the October 7 pogrom, you’re dead to us … We Israelis, we Jews love life. And we are done with meekly counting our dead.”

In the months that followed — the end of 2023, the beginning of 2024 — Adelson sat out the Republican primary. She focused instead on projects like Maccabee Task Force, a group she helped create in 2015 to counterattack the boycott, divest, and sanction Israel movement that had started taking root on college campuses and is erupting now. Adelson and others use the word Maccabee to describe the select individuals chosen by fate or history or God to defend the Jewish people. MTF, to which Adelson donated $10.9 million in 2022, is explicit about its mission: “We maintain that BDS is an Antisemitic movement that crosses the line from legitimate criticism of Israel into the dangerous demonization of Israel and its supporters. We are determined to help students combat this hate by bringing them the strategies and resources they need to tell the truth about Israel.” The primary MTF tactic is the “Fact Finders” trip to Israel. MTF sends groups of mostly non-Jewish student leaders from 75 “core” — in other words, prestigious — campuses to see firsthand that “the Israel narrative that dominates the progressive left, dominates campus political conversations, that narrative is false,” David Brog, executive director of MTF, tells me. MTF also supports pro-Israel students in “taking back the quad” — by which he means wrestling campus culture away from groups like Students for Justice in Palestine.

This winter, in her heightened distress, Adelson wrote another Israel Hayom editorial. This one, “The Women of Iron,” was frantic and creative. The article argued that the Israel-Hamas war was not just a battle over Israel’s right to exist. The war, Adelson wrote, was part of a feminist mission, “a war against the very essence of violent patriarchy: against the armed and Islamist embodiment of the fear and hatred that certain insecure men have harbored since time immemorial toward girls and women.”

Never mind that Israel had just been ranked last among the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 38 countries on its progress toward erasing gender-based discrimination. (Israel has a huge gender pay gap, not to mention a far-right government anxious to increase the power of rabbinical courts, which do not always recognize women as witnesses.) Adelson clearly enjoyed the femonationalist reasoning. “The fact that slender fingers with painted nails press the trigger that sends many of the terrorists to hell surely creates a special sense of humiliation for those who preach male supremacy. Israel’s success — the blessing for which it constantly gets cursed by its enemies — is its ongoing pursuit of gender equality.”

Israel Hayom held a live event in Tel Aviv to accompany Adelson’s essay. Adelson’s adult daughter Yasmin Lukatz, who stars on the Israeli version of Shark Tank, interviewed her mother onstage. As always, Adelson wore her queenly uniform: custom silk duster, Prada sandals, diamond-encrusted Richard Mille watch. Physically, she’s tiny, almost spritelike, with spiky platinum bangs and tinted rimless glasses. Her aesthetic is a little Yoko Ono, outside the normal rules of the world. Mother and daughter sat facing each other, holding cordless mics, engulfed by huge gray velvet chairs. “We have the women in Saudi Arabia who are covered, we have the women in Iran who are covered,” said Adelson, furthering her argument. The title of her essay, “Women of Iron,” came from a promise in the piece: “The iron swords are heavy but the women wielding them will not let them fall.” She explained to the audience that this war in which 52 percent of the dead were either under 18 or female — this war in which Palestinian mothers were watching their children starve — was actually a fight for women throughout the region, “so that they can be free.”

After the freedom remark, Adelson drifted into a new realm of delusion. She started with banalities. “We have to attain a situation, really attain a situation, that a woman is equal to a man. We are the same in many respects, except that we give birth.” Then Adelson veered into science fiction. “But one can also implant an embryo in a man’s belly and … he can also give birth by C-section.”

Onstage, Lukatz, alarmed, said, “I don’t think so.”

Adelson persevered. “I encountered a few days ago a friend who specializes in uterus implantation for women who had undergone uterus removal. He says that there is no obstacle to implanting a uterus into a man.”

Lukatz switched the topic and wrapped up the event.

When Miriam was a child, her mother, Menucha Zimelson, carried a passport photo: an image of her sister, Adelson’s aunt. The two girls, born ten months apart, grew up in Poland in the 1920s and 1930s, where their family’s Hasidic rabbi told the entire community God is everywhere. God is everywhere, God is in Poland, and God is in Palestine, in Zion — no need to leave. Menucha’s mother repeated this line — God is everywhere, no need to leave — as she walked with Menucha to the train station. Menucha, at age 18, then traveled to Palestine alone.

After she emigrated, Nazis murdered Menucha’s family. “Everyone: her parents, her sister, her brother and his family, cousins. She was left alone in the world,” Adelson has said, recounting her mother’s despair. Menucha’s sister wasn’t allowed to go to Palestine because she hadn’t finished high school. She had one year left.

Miriam was born in Tel Aviv in 1945. Her mother was conservative; her father, Simcha Farbstein, was socialist. He left Poland in 1931, joined a kibbutz. The young family settled in Haifa. Israel declared itself a state in 1948 and immediately went to war. Throughout the nation were children, like Miriam, with decimated families. The only significant variation among the Jewish households were the homes that contained survivors of the concentration camps, and the survivors terrified the rest of the Israelis. How did they not fight off the Nazis? How could anybody be so weak? Gidi Mark, a native Israeli who now runs the Israeli operations of Birthright, the Adelson-backed organization that has sent nearly a million young-adult Jews from around the world on free trips to Israel, tells me that their childhood slang for the survivors was soap. “The Nazis used to make soap out of the Jews, and the Israelis resented it,” Mark says. Israelis needed to be strong.

Miriam had a brother two years older and, eventually, another brother eight years younger. This generation — a cohort known as “children of the state” — was charged with an inviolable mission: to build a safe haven in the ashes of the Holocaust. “Each one of us was educated to be responsible for the existence and survival of the country,” says Uriel Reichman, a longtime friend of Adelson’s who went on to become a law professor and a Knesset member and to found Reichman University, the first private university in Israel, to which the Adelsons donated the Adelson School of Entrepreneurship. After the Ten Commandments, Reichman believes, Judaism’s most important document is Israel’s Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. Like our own founding texts, the declaration is saturated with idealism and hypocrisy.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

“The idea was to build an exemplary society, to prove to the entire world that we can establish and run a country on the highest moral values,” Reichman says. “We were reading the prophets and the sages of social commitment and social justice.” Through the first years of Miriam’s life, posters encouraging Jews to immigrate to Israel showed Holocaust survivors cradling babies, saying, “Now I’m glad he was born.”

As an adolescent, Miriam’s watchful eyes seemed to fill her entire face. She was practical, not dreamy; adept at math and science; and groomed to achieve. That meant excelling in matters of intellect, ideology, Torah, discipline, athleticism, and service, not wealth. The Israel of her youth, up through the mid-1970s, was stridently socialist. “The labor Zionist ethos decried luxury. They even had phrases like ‘the war against luxury,’ ” Harvard Jewish-history professor Derek Penslar explains. “Very few people in Israel in the ’50s and ’60s would have looked favorably upon the idea of the American sugar daddy. They thought they were better than the American Jews. They were tougher, stronger.” One left-wing critic called Prime Minister Ben-Gurion corrupt, Penslar says, “because he lived in a three-bedroom apartment — three -bedrooms! — and he gave his daughter piano lessons.”

Miriam attended the Hebrew Reali School, which set out, according to its literature, to “create a generation of new helpers for the redemption of our country and the liberation of our people.” Miriam did not consider herself exceptional. “In school I was an average girl,” she said. “A little shy, a little modest, not the most popular and not the most hated.” Her vanity was taking exams. “I know it sounds strange,” she said at a reunion. “I liked taking tests, in order to display my knowledge, because I would get high marks — it bolstered my ego.” At age 16, Miriam and her classmates started Gadna, paramilitary training.

It was idyllic and horrible. “Everybody was like a team together,” Sara Aronson, Adelson’s lifelong closest friend, told me this spring in Boston. “Everybody knew everybody.” Miriam lived at 8 Ben Yahuda Street; Sara lived at 7 Ben Yahuda. Almost nobody’s parents had gone to college. They’d come here to farm the desert, build a nation, and defend it. Sara, an only child, grew up in and out of Miriam’s home. She babysat for Miriam’s younger brother. Everyone was steeped in the same loss. “In my case, my mother’s family,” Aronson says. “They were all gathered by the Germans into the synagogue, and they burned the synagogue.”

The whole young country was poor — rationing oil, rice, sugar, eggs, cheese, coffee, meat, fish, and clothes. The whole young country was learning — really, reinventing — Hebrew. (Most of their parents grew up speaking German, Polish, Russian, or Yiddish.) The whole young country, every day, was poised for war. Miriam’s father owned three movie theaters in Haifa. Miriam and Sara watched Hollywood exports like Ben-Hur. The girls made up secret code names for their crushes at school. “Do you like that apple? I love that orange.” Miriam’s biggest crush was Aviem Sella, who later became a fighter pilot and hero in the 1967 Six-Day War. Later still, he was indicted for running Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted in the U.S. for selling intelligence to Israel.

In 1961, Miriam and her classmates listened to the daily radio reels from the Eichmann trial. Ben-Gurion brought the Nazi to a Jerusalem court to educate the children of the state about the horror that shadowed everything but that their traumatized parents couldn’t discuss. At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Adelson studied microbiology and genetics and won a Miss Jerusalem beauty pageant. Then she marched forward: military service, medical school, marriage to fellow doctor Ariel Ochshorn. First daughter, Yasmin, born in 1972. Second daughter, Sivan, in 1975. As a young mother, Adelson worked as an emergency-department doctor at Rokach Hospital in Tel Aviv. There she became captivated by the addicts. “I was especially fascinated by prostitutes whom our unit treated for overdoses, and as soon as they recovered begged for narcotics,” she told an interviewer. Adelson decided to specialize in addiction medicine. “I have a weakness for weak people,” she explained.

In 1986, divorced from Ochshorn, she moved with Yasmin and Sivan to East 63rd Street in New York for a fellowship at Rockefeller University, where she studied under Dr. Mary Jeanne Kreek, a neurobiologist who helped pioneer methadone treatment and the idea that addiction is a biochemical disease. The work was meaningful, gritty, and academic. The two co-authored papers like “Natural killer cell activity and lymphocyte subsets in parenteral heroin abusers and long-term methadone maintenance patients.” Adelson’s plan was to stay in New York for a year. That year became three.

By that point, Sara Aronson had settled in Boston. One day, in 1989, while eating lunch at a Jewish deli in Brookline, Massachusetts, she ran into Sheldon Adelson, an acquaintance. Sheldon — son of a cabdriver who grew up sleeping in one room with his parents and three siblings — was already very rich but not stratospherically rich. His money then mostly came from Comdex, a computer trade show he launched in 1979. (He sold it in 1995 and netted $500 million.) Comdex was huge. Sheldon disliked missing out on profits by renting, instead of owning, convention space. So that year, he bought the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. When Adelson ran into Aronson, he was newly divorced and just home from his first trip to Israel. He told her he’d fallen in love with Israeli women. Did she know anyone to set him up with in Jerusalem?

Aronson did not, but she knew Miriam.

You don’t look like a doctor, Sheldon said to Miriam on their first date. He meant this as a compliment. Sheldon had three adopted kids from his first marriage. His two sons, Mitchell and Gary, both struggled with substance abuse. Miriam’s expertise was not the draw. “We had a subject in common to talk about, but forget it,” she told a reporter about the early days of their relationship. “The subject is very painful for him.”

They quickly fell in love. “What drew me was his Herzl-like vision and drive,” Miriam later wrote, invoking Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement. “His ability both dream and do.”

The Adelsons had two weddings: one at the Sands in Las Vegas, the other at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Following the Jerusalem wedding — which involved flying 150 guests to Israel for two weeks — the couple hosted a luncheon in the Chagall room at the Knesset, a space reserved for public functions. A scandal broke in the newspaper Maariv a few days later: Then–Foreign Minister Netanyahu had lied to secure the venue.

Netanyahu wrote a lame mea culpa. The nuptial luncheon, he said, had been presented to him “not as a private event, but rather as a showing of public recognition to a group of donors.” Sheldon, according to the Israel press, handled the impropriety differently. He gathered up his guests, gave them all goody bags, and asked them to please keep the details of their wedding confidential, as the allegations of impropriety upset him and his new wife.

At the Republican Jewish Coalition’s leadership meeting in Las Vegas in 2019, just before Donald Trump was set to speak. Photo: AL DRAGO/The New York Times/Redux

Adelson described her relationship with Sheldon as “a daily manifestation of the unique relations between our two nations.”

“Sheldon is everything to me,” Miriam told a Fortune reporter in 2012, one of the last times she sat with a journalist for an interview. (She declined to participate in this story.) “He is my best friend, as I know I am to him, and he is a mensch. He claims that I’m an angel and I say he is the wind beneath my wings.”

Sheldon was a notorious asshole — infamous for stiffing contractors, busting unions, and buying his local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, through a shell company and not revealing himself as owner to the newspaper’s staff. (Review-Journal reporters then won a Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for reporting on Adelson’s identity and running the story.) Sheldon sued everybody he felt disrespected by, including suing into bankruptcy veteran Las Vegas journalist John L. Smith, whose daughter had a brain tumor. He was “not the easiest guy in the world, I assure you,” according to his friend ZOA president Mort Klein (also not the easiest guy in the world; Klein has thrown around phrases like “filthy Arabs,” and defended himself from sexual-misconduct allegations by saying the woman accusing him wasn’t pretty enough). Former Las Vegas Sands president William Weidner described working for Sheldon as “a junkyard-dog fight.” But Sheldon not only loved his Israeli wife; he understood her worth. “He did not make a business decision without discussing it with her,” Aronson tells me. “She went to all the board meetings. They did it all together.”

Sheldon knew Miriam made him better across the board: “A better person, a better husband, a better human being, a better businessman,” says Mark, the Birthright Israel head. “That was really the greatest compliment he could give anybody.”

“If you saw Sheldon in public, you saw Miriam,” says the bankrupted journalist Smith, who covered the family for years. “If you saw Steve Wynn in public, you rarely saw Elaine.”

Miriam’s name came first on all their family branding — Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson — the honorific a means of retaining some of her identity from before the marriage and, perhaps, Sheldon’s way of compensating for the fact that he never finished college. In public, he’d stare at her with puppy eyes. He’d rest his hand on her knee. He leaned on her when they walked. (“He ain’t heavy. He’s my husband!” Adelson joked in Israel Hayom, riffing off a line from a Neil Diamond song.) “Our love was whole,” she wrote. “We both thought and felt the same things, in full synchronicity.” Sheldon enjoyed telling the world that his wife was the boss. “When my wife tells me to shut up, I shut up,” he said on the witness stand at one of his trials.

Miriam, too, played up the theater of domestic gendarme. “Everything is sugar free in our home,” she said onstage at one of the many events she did for Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s World Values Network, an organization to ensure “that America benefits from the core values of the Jewish people” funded by the Adelsons. “I am a policewoman in my home, like many other women here, am I right?”

In 1997, at 51, Adelson gave birth to a son, Adam. In 1999, Matan was born. Adelson approached being a new mother again in her 50s “with enthusiasm, commitment, focus, everything,” Aronson says. Combined with Miriam’s two adult children and Sheldon’s three, the boys made for a rangy blended family with a 45-year age difference between the oldest and youngest. (Mitchell, Sheldon’s middle son, died of an overdose at age 48. Miriam addressed his death clinically in Haaretz. “I spoke with him but I was not his professional therapist. There was a period when he lived without drugs, and there were periods when he lived with the drug substitute, methadone.”)

Miriam came up with the idea for the Sands-owned Venetian Hotel. When it opened, in 1999, Cher joined Miriam and Sheldon for a gondola ride. Still, she remained devoted to her medical practice “like someone who took a mortgage and has to work to pay it off,” a friend says. Adelson saw herself as helping addicts in a fight for liberty — “liberation from enslavement, from the torment of withdrawal, and also, all too often, from ostracism by society,” she wrote. Adelson opened two clinics, one in Tel Aviv in 1993 and another in Las Vegas in 2000. “Money is down on the list of my priorities,” she told an interviewer. “I have no problem to change my expensive suit for the white ‘lab coat.’ Ask me which I prefer … It is the white one.”

And yet, for a Maccabee, how could endless money not transform priorities? In 2004, the Sands Corporation went public, making the Adelsons worth $1.8 billion. By 2005, they were worth $11.5 billion. Between 2004 and 2006, they earned about a million dollars per hour. In 2006, the Macao gambling market, where the Adelsons’ biggest casino is located, made more money than Las Vegas. And it kept growing. That year, the Macao market, which catered to gamblers from China, grossed $6.9 billion in gaming revenue. In 2007, $10.3 billion. In 2008, $13.6 billion. In 2009, $14.9 billion. Any child of the state would understand the obligation.

The Adelsons built a 44,000-square-foot house outside Las Vegas in suburban Summerlin, Nevada. The colossus included a tennis court, a basketball court, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a conference facility, a dining table that could seat 40. The estate used 8 million gallons of water a year. The Adelsons also built the Adelson Educational Campus (officially the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson School), a Jewish day school for the boys to attend. Many mornings Adelson showed up to hear the children sing “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem. School policy dictated mandatory drug testing for students and staff. Adelson did some of this testing herself.

In 2007, the Adelsons broke with AIPAC after AIPAC supported the U.S. giving aid to the Palestinian Authority. The Adelsons started investing heavily in the Israeli American Council because, Sheldon explained, “this group, the IAC, won’t even question whether or not we should support Israel.” The Adelsons also switched their synagogue. For many years, they had belonged to a Conservative Jewish congregation, Beth Sholom. But after Sheldon blew up at the congregation’s rabbi — the rabbi had moved an event for an honoree who wouldn’t cross a picket line — the Adelsons joined the Chabad-Lubavitch community of Southern Nevada. The new rabbi made house calls. Sometimes Adelson looked on proudly as Sheldon wrapped tefillin. Always she stayed fit: laps in one of the pools in the morning; a run on the treadmill while reading Israel Hayom in the afternoon. She tried to give her children semi-normal lives (despite the family’s chauffeur dropping them off at school in stretch Hummers). They traveled to Israel several times a year to visit her family. She let her boys make low-key mistakes. This included school videos like “Monopolicious,” an economics rap, based on Fergi’s “Fergalicious,” in which Matan, in basketball clothes, tries to twerk.

President Trump Meets With Israeli PM Netanyahu At The White House

With Trump and Netanyahu in early January 2020, in the White House East Room, as Trump announced his ­Middle East peace plan, which Netanyahu called “the deal of the century.” Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

You can buy a lot with $30 billion.

Miriam bought Sheldon a Torah for his 80th birthday. She bought a Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Palladium Birkin bag. She bought, along with a few other philanthropists, a lunar lander, shot by Israelis to the moon, inscribed with Adelson’s favorite words in Hebrew, AM YISRAEL CHAI, “The People of Israel Live.”

She spent lavishly on nonmaterial things: tens of millions to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. A half-billion to Birthright. The Birthright funds represent a not-so-indirect investment in the production of Jewish babies. Jewish babies, in Adelson’s worldview, fulfill not just the first of the 613 mitzvot laid out in the Torah. (“Be fruitful and multiply.”) They are the path to fixing Jewish demographic problems and returning the Jewish population to pre-Holocaust levels. (Sheldon put this all more bluntly: “I think Jews should have lots of sex.”) The Birthright approach is ingenious and expensive: Send young Jewish people on ten-day, almost-all-expenses-paid, erotically charged trips to encounter other prime-reproductive-age Jews, including IDF soldiers. The Adelsons didn’t start the organization — the Bronfman and Steinhardt families did. But the Adelsons became its primary benefactors in 2007, and they flushed it with money, determined to make it grow. A Pew study showed that Birthright alumni are 160 percent more likely to marry Jews. As Gidi Mark, the Birthright director in Israel, put it, Birthright alumni “represent the foremost strategic asset of the State of Israel.”

Adelson bought from the United States government, for $67 million, the most expensive house in Israel, which happened to be the former U.S. ambassador’s residence in Herzliya, outside Tel Aviv.

She spent $25 million on the creation of the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson School of Medicine at Ariel University in the West Bank. Sheldon referred to the school as a “Zionist wall.” Miriam described it as a gift “to strengthen the settlers in Judea and Samaria.” Building a medical school in the West Bank is aggressive. So is using the biblical place names Judea and Samaria. Those names are meant to imply God gave the West Bank to the Jews — that the land belongs to the state of Israel.

Adelson bought a lot of political leverage. Much of this came through Israel Hayom. Among the newspaper’s first jobs: to create scandal around sitting prime minister Ehud Olmert. The paper launched investigations into the sale of Olmert’s home, the rent he paid on his apartment, supposed bribes he took in the development of the Holyland Apartments, a litany of “endless, frivolous investigations without any regard to what would hold up in court,” as Olmert put it in a chapter titled “There’s More Than One Way to Assassinate a Prime Minister” in his memoir. The strategy worked. Olmert resigned in 2008. After, he sat for an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Working toward peace, he said, “was a killer for me.” Why? It drew the wrath of “superior powers,” “millions and millions of dollars that were transferred into this country — the U.S. — by figures which were from the extreme right wing.” He knew the donors’ names, he said. Amanpour asked who. Olmert said, “Next time.” (He names the Adelsons in the memoir.)

Netanyahu took office in 2009. Except for a stretch between June 2021 and December 2022, he hasn’t left.

Adelson’s political leverage also came from payments to super-PACs. Along with the $25 million she and Sheldon gave to Trump super-PACs in 2016, they gave another $90 million during a three-month stretch of 2020. They gave more to federal GOP causes in 2019 and 2020 than the next three donors combined. Between 2016 and 2022, they gave $300 million to the Republican-focused Senate and Congressional Leadership Funds. This level of patronage kicked up enough influence for Adelson to secure from Trump the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It helped produce a pardon for Aviem Sella, Adelson’s high-school crush and handler for Jonathan Pollard. It led to Trump recognizing Israel’s sovereignty in Golan Heights, territory Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Adelson’s largesse seemed to stir within the Trump family a desire to keep her happy. This, in turn, produced Ivanka Trump talking in public about her conversion to Orthodox Judaism.

“Tell us about your decision to go on this journey,” Adelson asked Ivanka during an event for the IAC, which happened to be in the Adelsons’ home. “Was it because you were in love with Jared? Or also with Torah values?”

“So I never normally talk about this, but we’re amongst friends, right?” Ivanka squirmed but complied. She said she converted before she married Jared. She said she loves raising an Orthodox family. She said both the White House and Air Force One provide her and Jared with kosher meat. “And that’s more than I’ve said on the topic before.”

Adelson bought a lot of cancer research. She bought efforts to thwart the legalization of pot. (Her view: “I must insist, cannabis is indeed a gateway drug to potentially deadly opioids. And the normalization of cannabis in our society directly endangers its most vulnerable members: children.”) Her company bought 108 acres in Irving, Texas, near the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T; Stadium and the Texas Rangers’ Global Life Arena. She bought a dozen acres in the Dallas Design District, a nice spot for a casino.

She bought the ongoing services of HaShomer HaChadash, a sort of reconnect-to-the-land volunteer organization that has been morphing into a militia under the guise of young Israelis guarding farms.

The Adelsons’ wealth, and how they spent it, made them “like heads of state,” says Aronson. The realpolitik power also resulted in Adelson (Miriam, but not Sheldon) being named as a defendant alongside Netanyahu, Trump, AIPAC, and others in a 2020 lawsuit filed in the Washington, D.C., district court.


The lead plaintiff was the Dawabsheh family, whose 18-month-old child, along with his mother and father, were killed by Israeli settlers who firebombed their village in the West Bank. In a cosmically ironic touch, the plaintiff’s attorney cited Eichmann case law to argue for the Dawabsheh’s right to prosecute Adelson et al. from the U.S. The D.C. circuit court dismissed the case in 2021.

Sheldon died in January 2021, the Monday after the MAGA insurrection. Miriam had him buried on the Mount of Olives in a 3,000-year-old Jewish cemetery overlooking Jerusalem. “Farewell, my love darling, my one true love,” she wrote in a statement announcing his death. “He crafted the course of nations.”

Some Adelson watchers assumed life would be saner once Miriam alone controlled the family fortune. This was wrong. Sheldon was a bully: combative, litigious, blowsy. Miriam is an ideologue. “He was the one who had the bark, but I believe she had the bite,” one former senior executive tells me. “I always found my one-on-one visits with him much more comfortable, more relaxed. When you’re sitting with a guy with $35 billion, you know it’s his room. It was less theater. With her you were always on the defensive. She was more aggressive. He was more aggressive if she was in the room.”

Sheldon aimed to be big. For a while, he introduced himself as “Sheldon Adelson the third,” not because his father and grandfather were named Sheldon but because, he said, “I’m the third-richest American!” Miriam avoids public attention. Her preferred status is head down on her Maccabee mission. She’s “a lioness” and “the proudest Jew I have met,” according to Rabbi Boteach. “She’s utterly fearless, has an ironclad conviction, and is prepared to be unpopular for her beliefs.”

Adelson has given away significantly less money per year since Sheldon died. The Adelson Family Foundation, through which most of her nonpolitical donations flow, cut its annual giving from $117 million in 2019, to $99 million in 2020, to $80 million in 2021, to $45 million in 2022. Adelson cut Birthright funding by almost half in 2020 (from $34 million to $19 million), and in half again in 2023 (to $9 million). Perhaps she’s grieving and regrouping. Perhaps she got spooked by the pandemic’s bite into the Sands’ profits, particularly in Macao (though the market is now recovering; Macao netted $1.22 billion in 2023). Perhaps she’s giving up a little on Diaspora Jews and reassessing how she wants to pull the sinews of war.

And yet, among Republicans, fealty lingers. “Miriam, I want to thank you for all you’ve done, for the state of Israel, for our country,” Lindsay Graham said in late October in the middle of his keynote address at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference. “We miss Sheldon. We love you.”

Adelson’s past gifts — along with those of Republican allies including Jeffrey Yass, Paul Singer, Jan Koum, and Bernie Marcus — have reshaped American politics. They’ve pulled public policy on Israel away from public opinion. “Maybe the closest thing is the NRA,” says Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, a moderate pro-Israel lobbying group, of the Jewish far right’s ability to create that gap. The candidates Adelson backs know what she expects. After Trump got the U.S. Embassy in Israel moved to Jerusalem, the RJC, heavily backed by Adelson, ran a full-page ad in the New York Times. It featured an image of Trump, a dark yarmulke on his head, his hand on the Western Wall. It read, “President Trump: You Promised. You Delivered.”

In the Book of Esther, after King Ahasuerus heeds Esther’s plea to save her people from the genocide plotted against them, she falls at the king’s feet one more time and begs him for one more favor. She wants his blessing for revenge. For the Jews not just “to assemble and fight for their lives.” She asks, “If any people or province attacks them, they may destroy, massacre, and exterminate its armed forces together with women and children, and plunder their possessions.”

The Book of Esther is notable, the rabbis say, as one of only two books of the Tanakh that do not mention God.

Adelson invoked Esther again in late March at the annual gala fundraiser for United Hatzalah, an Israeli emergency-medical-response service known for speeding around the country on the bright-orange two-wheeled ambulances they refer to as ambucycles. Outside the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles, protesters banged on pots and shouted “Baby killer” and “Shame on you.”

Michael Milken won a humanitarian award. Adelson was the night’s special guest speaker. After billionaire Sunny Sassoon, part of a Jewish Baghdadi family referred to as “the Rothschilds of the East,” introduced her, she walked onstage in a silk duster adorned with yellow ribbons for the hostages. She told her stock story — growing up poor, wanting to be Esther for Purim, being denied: “If I remember something bad about my mother, because she was an amazing mother, but this I don’t forget.”

Soon after she pivoted to a story of being a young doctor in Tel Aviv and failing to save a life because an ambulance didn’t arrive in time. It was a surprising amount of talk about deprivation for a woman who, the Rothschild of the East joked, made him “feel middle class.”

But the real thing Adelson wanted, the true riches she’d always craved, were more out of reach than ever. She wanted Israel’s security assured. She wanted the world’s support for her vision of the state. Both were slipping away.

Later that week, Adelson ate Shabbat dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Trump. In 2019, Adelson wrote, “Would it be too much to pray for a day when the Bible gets a ‘Book of Trump,’ much like it has a ‘Book of Esther’ celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from ancient Persia?” Now, in 2024, the two have unfinished Israel business from Trump’s presidency. Along with annexing the West Bank, the first Trump administration proposed recognizing Israeli settlers’ right to remain in homes on occupied lands. Also for Israel to remain an occupying force in any future Palestinian state. “I would take them at their word,” says Lara Friedman of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. They told us what they wanted to do in 2020. We should believe them, she thinks. “Last time around, they showed every interest in using antisemitism as a sharp-edged heavy weapon to try to shut down” talk of Palestinian rights.

Trump didn’t leave that Mar-a-Lago dinner with Adelson’s money, yet he did leave with an idea about how to get it. A few days later, he sat down with two Israel Hayom reporters.

“I’m a very loyal person,” Trump said on-camera. “I’ve been the best president in history to Israel by a factor of ten because of all the things I do. The Embassy, Jerusalem being the capital. Then you have Golan Heights … Nobody even thought that was going to be possible. I did that.”

Yet he also made a tactical error. “You have to finish up your war,” he said. “Finish it up. You gotta get it done. And I’m sure you’ll do that. Now, we gotta get to peace.”

March turned into April. April turned into May. Israel escalated the war without its allies’ approval. The International Criminal Court threatened to charge Netanyahu with war crimes. Adelson remained resolute. If you are not with her, you are against her. Everybody except her allies are useless. “Like Jewish parents symbolically sitting shiva for a relative who has brought irretrievable disgrace on the family, we need no longer engage them,” she wrote in Israel Hayom.

The presidential election is five months away. Adelson continues to sit out the race.

Elizabeth Weil is a features writer for New York Magazine. She won an Emmy in 2023, and she lives in San Francisco. Previously, she covered climate and California for ProPublica and was a writer-at-large for The New York Times Magazine. She’s also co-written two best sellers.



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