Rubio’s Biggest Donor Funded West Bank Settlement


by Eli Clifton

Last week I touched on Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) largely unnoticed Senate resolution demanding a “swift and transparent” investigation into the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman. The resolution, which also accused Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of conspiring “to cover up Iranian involvement in the 1994 terrorist bombing” that was investigated by Nisman, seemed to kill two birds with one stone. Rubio, who has positioned himself as a staunch neoconservative in a crowded GOP presidential primary field, bolstered his credentials as a hardline Iran hawk while helping further the financial interests of Elliott Management. Managed by GOP megadonor Paul Singer, the hedge fund just so happens to have been Rubio’s second biggest source of campaign contributions between 2009 and 2014.

Singer, as we’ve detailed extensively on this blog, is seeking full repayment on $2 billion of Argentine debt, which his fund bought for pennies on the dollar. Elliott’s campaign to seek repayment has incorporated a number of legal and extrajudicial strategies, including painting Kirchner, who has sworn to resist Singer’s pressure campaign, as anti-Semitic and a close friend of Iran.

But Rubio has another donor with an interesting foreign policy agenda, which runs well outside the mainstream.

Rubio’s Financial Muscle

The Saturday New York Times profiled billionaire auto dealer Norman Braman as the financial powerhouse behind Rubio’s stunning political ascendancy on the Florida and national political stages. Braman is Rubio’s single biggest campaign donor, expected to spend $10-25 million on Rubio’s presidential campaign.

Braman’s generosity goes beyond funding Rubio’s campaigns. According to the Times, “[Braman] hired Mr. Rubio, then a Senate candidate, as a lawyer; employed his wife to advise the Braman family’s philanthropic foundation; helped cover the cost of Mr. Rubio’s salary as an instructor at a Miami college; and gave Mr. Rubio access to his private plane.” Rubio, in turn, directed public funds to causes favored by Braman, including $80 million to fund a genomics center at the University of Miami (where Braman served as vice chair of the board of trustees) and $5 million for cancer research at a Miami institute Braman supports.

A hint to how Rubio’s mentor-mentee (and apparent quid-pro-quo) relationship with Braman might play out if Rubio were elected president can be found in Braman’s discarded family foundation, the successor to which is advised by Rubio’s wife, Jeanette. Between 2004 and 2008, Brahman’s family foundation contributed $311,000 to American Friends of Ariel, an organization that funds the development of Ariel, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

The settlement is located on the other side of Israel’s 1967 border—a border that the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have uniformly endorsed as the basis for a negotiated two-state solution between Israel and a future Palestinian state. As such, Ariel is illegal under international law and in direct contradiction of U.S. policy.

Braman helped promote and raise money for the settlement at a 2007 “Peace with Security Dinner” for American Friends of Ariel, held in Fort Lauderdale. Braman served as honorary chairman of the dinner and the “dinner committee” included Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein and bingo-magnate Irving Moskowitz, a high profile funder of Israeli settlements.

Last year, Ariel mayor Eliyahu Shaviro made an “inaugural trip to the USA” in which he met with “generous supporters like Norman Braman,” according to a Friends of Ariel press release.

Braman hasn’t just spoken through his pocket book. Blogger Phil Weiss flagged a 2011 interview with Braman in which the billionaire said his primary concern with the struggling U.S. economy is that “a strong America is the greatest factor which insures a great Israel and a sustaining Israel. A weak America poses a threat to the future of Israel.”

Braman expressed worry about “young Jews living here who really do not understand how much Israel means to them,” and declared the United Nations has “developed into organizations that have one basic purpose, and that is to discredit Israel and actually delegitimize Israel.”

Views on Israeli-Palestinian Relations

And Braman isn’t sold on the two-state solution. He characterizes Muslim intellectuals as “more hostile to peace and relationships with Israel,” and describes “the fundamental problem” with the peace process as, “How do you make peace with people who want to destroy you and are dedicated to your destruction?”

Indeed, when viewed through such a pessimistic worldview, contributing to settlement construction, which serves as an impediment to a two-state solution, would seem relatively harmless.

That’s not a worldview shared by any U.S. president. But it might be U.S. policy if Braman gets his preferred candidate elected.

A Rubio presidency might break away from the current bipartisan consensus in support of a two-state solution along the pre-1967 borders with mutually agreed-upon swaps.

Back in October, the Obama administration criticized the Israeli government for approving new settlement construction in East Jerusalem. Rubio, as reported by The Hill, shot back:

The Obama administration’s decision to criticize Israel for housing construction in Jerusalem, even as the President hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House yesterday, was deplorable,” Rubio said Thursday. “This is another case of President Obama’s bizarre logic of tearing down our closest partners while building up those who do not share our values.

Indeed, Rubio has gone out of his way to stake out a series of far-right positions and neoconservative foreign policy positions, even going so far as telling the Associated Press that he’d “absolutely” be willing to scuttle Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and defy European allies if elected president. He also proposed an amendment to the Corker-Cardin bill that would have required Iran to recognize Israel as part of any nuclear agreement.

One thing is clear: Braman and Singer seem to like what they’re hearing as Rubio emerges as the GOP presidential candidate most sympathetic to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, although he has heavy competition. Rubio, for his part, appears to be on a well-paid campaign to disrupt diplomacy with Iran as well as any possibility of a two-state solution between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. So now we have three who are bankrolling the US political process -Singer, Adelson and Braman.

    Which reminds me of an old joke: “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Why does everyone keep calling me a three headed monster!”

  2. @Don Bacon: I suspect there is a good deal of support for option #4, and it’s being expressed openly by some Israelis in high office. And that’s why I’m suggesting Palestinians are squandering a golden opportunity. Most of the past Israeli leaders have been pretty good about not sounding belligerent or genocidal as it would have undermined the image that Israel was cultivating in order to keep the unconditional Western support going: the image of a beleaguered, victimized country, an underdog, hopelessly surrounded on all sides by its own genocidal enemies unwilling to accept her. Israel has been shattering that image all by her lonesome self for a while now. Many in the West no longer fall for that victim tripe when in this age of instant news and social media it’s getting harder and harder to control the narrative. I’m saying as much as some Israelis might be getting seduced by the unconditional support, genocide and apartheid are too tough for the rest of the world to tolerate. Israel might be able to continue the occupation and land confiscations for a few more years or decades, but to me after 70 years it appears the pendulum has finally begun to swing the other way. Palestinians have an opportunity to help the pendulum to swing faster by using Israel’s own missteps against it, much the same way in martial arts they teach you to use your opponent’s strengths and momentum against themselves.

  3. @ Ron Hawk
    Yes, but “many in the West ” excludes the most important faction, the U.S. where the public is fully behind the media-fed story that “Palestinians = terrorists” and Israel deserves full support in anything and everything it does, however horrendous. The U.S. position, in fact, is that anti-Israel = anti-Semitic.
    So “Palestinians have an opportunity” won’t work in the U.S., which will continue to control I/P, and allow Israel to do its worst. We see it happening, just like that. Genocide & apartheid.

  4. @Don Bacon: I appreciate the points you’re making. Nevertheless, the entire U.S. establishment could be bought and made to vote in favor of Israel, and that’s still not enough. If after all that unconditional support, all the billionaire spending sprees on candidates, all the bombings, pre-emptive strikes, jailing and “targeted killings” Israel has not been able to completely achieve its goal of ethnic cleaning and takeover of all the land that means that despite all their missteps and corrupt leadership the Palestinians have been able to withstand the worst part during the period most favorable to Israel, when the world opinion was almost 100% in her favor. The world opinion is increasingly turning against Israel for multiple reasons. The suicide bombings that used to fuel sympathy for Israel have evaporated while the periodic “mowing of the lawn” massacres of Palestinians have picked up. It has led to a change in the world opinion about who the real underdog and favorite are in this fight. While the U.S. Congress might be a lost cause under the disgraceful atmosphere that allows the purchase of politicians by moneyed interests, the American citizenry is not. It is decidedly moving away from overwhelmingly supporting Israel. I don’t remember years ago seeing any sympathy expressed by our fellow Americans toward the plight of Palestinians. While the majority are still under the spell of the big media players, that picture is changing. This site is one example, and it’s not the only one that’s providing alternate and impartial views on the topic that makes much more logical sense than the twisted and nonsensical explanations of the mainstream media for what’s happening there. In the past, if the American people had opposing views they remained isolated because the big media players had a stranglehold on what opinions get expressed and thus managed public opinion. That stranglehold is breaking by the day. The canard of expressing views against Israeli policies equating Antisemitism is crumbling before our eyes because of its overuse. Even the younger Jewish Americans that I know do not hold the same favorable views of Israel that their parents do. That’s why I mentioned Israel using the so-called Iranian threat as a distraction because Likudniks have realized the subject of Palestinians now puts them in a bad light and so they have to train the spotlight on another manufactured threat, such as Iran. That’s a sign of great weakness. And that’s exactly why it is important for Palestinians to change the topic back to what Israel does not want to talk about. It is an opportunity for them because Israel is running scared and in its panic is committing strategic mistakes such as insulting a large number of Americans with that dreadfully miscalculated Congress speech, or making a last minute campaign pledge of no peace or acting so belligerent it’s pushing away old allies.

  5. I support #3 above. Palestinians also have made the mistake if falling in the trap of whatever excuse of the day Israel makes up. One day it is PLO, the other day Hamas , one day Lebanon and Hizbullah, the other day Iran, another day recognition of Israel as Jewish state. They should have always kept the original story alive: ethnic cleaning of Palestinians in 1948. In fact, the main issue has always been return of refugees; occupation has been a distraction to the this main grievance. (By the way, one democratic state of Palestine of jews and arabs was in the charter of PLO until it was changed under US pressure prior to Oslo accords, I beleve.)

Comments are closed.