Miriam Adelson lent Mike Pence a plane for a campaign-style tour of Israel


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Miriam Adelson, the widow of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and a Republican kingmaker in her own right, lent former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a plane this week — giving him the kind of photo ops that presidential candidates cherish.

Pence met in Israel with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog, visited a settler enclave in the West Bank and stopped on his way back to Ukraine to observe the devastation wrought by Russia’s war on the country. .

Axios reported Thursday on Pence’s trip to Israel with his wife Karen on Adelson’s plane. If Pence decides to challenge Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, loaning the plane could be a signal of the billionaire philanthropist’s pre-race inclinations. Pence was accompanied by Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition who is close to Adelson.

Adelson, an Israeli-American who funds an array of Jewish philanthropies, was a key Trump backer in the last election, but she suggested last year during an RJC conference at her resort hotel in Las Vegas that it was time to move beyond the divisions Trump stoked. Trump is reportedly set to decide whether to run again in 2024.

In addition to meeting Bennett and Herzog, Pence sat down for an interview with the Adelson-owned daily Israel Hayom, in which he pledged to drop any nuclear deal with Iran that Biden is negotiating. The abandonment of the Iran deal was one of the litmus tests the Adelsons set up for candidates who have sought their support in the past. Bennett, in a statement, said he discussed the Iran deal with Pence.

Pence posed for the required photos while praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Former US Vice President Mike Pence outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, March 9, 2022. MK Itamar Ben-Gvir is on the far right. (Mike Pence/Twitter)

Pence also visited the settler enclave in Hebron for the kind of photos that are eye candy for right-wing American Jews and pro-Israel evangelical Christians who want Israel to annex the area.

Photos circulated of Pence chatting with Baruch Marzel, an extremist who was once associated with Kach, the far-right movement in Israel that the United States has designated as a terrorist group. It drew sharp attacks from the left in Israel and the United States, but sources close to Pence said the former vice president had not planned or caught the attention of Marzel, who lives in the settler enclave.

Brooks posted photos on social media Thursday of Pence meeting with refugees and troops in Ukraine.

Pence has been bolder in recent weeks in parting ways with Trump, signaling his interest in running for the top job in two years. He directly chastised Trump for the former president’s insistence that Pence had the power to overturn the 2020 election and reinstate Trump, who lost. More recently, Pence denounced “the apologists of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” which was also seen as a dig at Trump.

Pence has been loyal to Trump throughout his tenure, but was surprised when Trump let him off vitriolic for refusing to take illegal steps to void the January 6, 2021 election, when Pence presided over the assertion by Congress of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

Some of the insurgents on Capitol Hill that day who interrupted the proceedings for several hours called for Pence to be hanged; a makeshift gallows was in place on the Capitol grounds.

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