by Eli Clifton
Billionaire Haim Saban, a longtime Clinton donor, defended Hillary Clinton’s commitment to Israel in an interview on Israel’s Channel One preceding the former secretary of state’s announcement of her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination last Sunday. When asked about Clinton’s position on the Iran framework agreement, Saban claimed to “know where she stands but I can’t talk about it.”
When pressed, Saban responded, “everything that she thinks and everything she has done and will do will always be for the good of Israel. We don’t need to worry about this.” This blanket statement led The Hill’s Naomi Friedman, to leap to the conclusion that “Clinton is against the deal.”
That conclusion runs counter to Clinton’s statement applauding the deal as an “important step.” Clinton acknowledged that “the devil is always in the details” but “diplomacy deserves a chance to succeed.”
There is little indication to suggest that Hillary Clinton has chosen to oppose the deal brokered between the P5+1 and Iran. But Clinton’s ties to Saban will be an important relationship to keep an eye on as she rolls out her campaign’s foreign policy positions and announces her support or opposition to a nuclear deal with Iran.
Saban, a pro-Israel powerhouse within the Democratic Party, lavishly funds Bill Clinton’s presidential foundation as well as the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF). This fundraising arm of AIPAC arranges for congressional junkets to Israel, among other projects.
Between 2008 and 2013, Saban’s family foundation pumped over $8 million into the Clinton presidential foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas and contributed $5 million to the AIEF. AIPAC has expressed reservations about the framework agreement, warning that it “could result in a final agreement that will leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state.”
Saban has gone even further. Speaking alongside GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson at an Israeli-American Council conference in November, Saban criticized the Obama administration’s negotiating tactics with Iran, complaining, “we’ve shown too many carrots and a very small stick.” He warned that if necessary to defend Israel against Iran, “I would bomb the living daylights out of the sons of bitches.”
Indeed, Saban, a dual Israeli-U.S. citizen, has also been supportive of the Israeli military. Between 2008 and 2013, Saban gave $7.43 million to Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a group that provides support for serving members of the IDF and the families of fallen soldiers, according to tax documents.
Nothing Saban said in the interview provides any real indication that Hillary Clinton opposes the framework agreement or the Obama administration’s efforts to reach an agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear program. But Saban’s eagerness to appear as “in the know” and his philanthropy to the Clinton’s alongside pro-Israel and pro-IDF charities, gives some indication as to how he will be lobbying Hillary Clinton over the coming nineteen months … and possibly beyond.