Republicans have their own take on Israel policy

By Emanuele Ottolenghi, February 2, 2012
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For once, Sheldon Adelson may have thrown his money at a lost cause.

As a man whose fortune is tied to the gambling industry, he bet on the wrong horse: he and his wife recently donated $5 million each to public interest organisations established to support Newt Gingrich in his bid to win the Republican nomination.

For despite the injection of funds in the Gingrich campaign, Mitt Romney's clear victory in the Florida primary this week has all but sealed the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Even if Gingrich chose to stay in the game, the outcome would not be altered - only postponed in official terms.

Adelson is one of America's wealthiest men and a committed funder of pro-Israel causes - his philanthropic commitments are largely responsible for endeavours such as the Birthright programme. To some, his considerable financial contributions may appear as an attempt to influence Gingrich's worldview on the Middle East.

It was not - and it matters little for Israel either way. Gingrich was a committed friend of Israel before Adelson put his money into his campaign and there is little evidence that such financial injection had anything to do with Gingrich describing the Palestinians as "an invented people" during a recent interview with a Jewish cable channel. The fact is, Gingrich is known to shoot from the hip, rhetorically speaking, and his comment, which caused a firestorm, is more a reflexion of his mercurial character and style than the improbable input from Adelson.

Besides, with the single exception of the non-electable Ron Paul, all Republican candidates are pro-Israel. Romney has no equivalent financial backer in the ranks of America's wealthiest Jews but is very pro-Israel - possibly a function of his upbringing as a Mormon. He has made it abundantly clear in repeated statements and answers from questions at debates. It is also obvious when one looks at the foreign policy team advising his campaign - their worldview will not cause the kind of tensions for US-Israel relations seen over the past three years.

Rick Santorum, a staunch Catholic conservative with little chance of winning, is similarly devoted to Israel and its security.

Israel has little to worry from the Republican nomination outcome, whoever wins. More importantly, campaign contributors are unlikely to shape foreign policy if their candidate wins. While their loyalty and generosity is often rewarded with ambassadorships, that is hardly going to make a dent on American aims in the MidEast.

Nations have enduring interests, and America's fundamental policy on Israel is not going to change regardless of who wins the November general elections.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies

    Last updated: 3:56pm, February 2 2012