Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban is more than just the owner of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers franchise. He is also a major Democratic donor with close ties to the White House.
Once a Hillary Clinton supporter who sat on his hands after Barack Obama won the nomination in 2008, the rift between Saban and the Democrats had healed in time for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.
In 2012, Saban was so intensely courted by the Obama administration that they nominated his wife, Cheryl Saban, to serve as a U.S. representative to the United Nations General Assembly. For his part, Saban penned a New York Times op-ed which ran in the fall of 2012 in which he defended the administration’s approach to Israel.
“When I enter the voting booth, I’m going to ask myself, what do I prefer for Israel and its relationship with the United States: meaningful action or empty rhetoric?” Saban wrote. “To me the answer is clear: I’ll take another four years of Mr. Obama’s steadfast support over Mr. Romney’s sweet nothings.”
It looks like Saban has had enough of Obama’s “steadfast support” for Israel.
When private disputes between the White House and Jerusalem went public last month, and in an unseemly and diplomatically inept fashion, Saban’s final straw broke. In the words of an unnamed presidential advisor, Saban appears to be calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop being a “chickens***” if Obama strikes a nuclear deal with Iran that leaves the Islamic Republic a threshold nuclear state.
The long-time Democratic donor said that Israel should “bomb the living daylights out of these sons of bitches.”
“At the moment we could have increased the sanctions, we decreased them, and that was a mistake in my view,” he said.
He said that he hopes Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed bill to vote yes or no on the potential Iran deal will pass, and that “We should have taken some steps to show that we, the United States, mean business.” The military option, he said, needs to be “a real option and not lip service.”
If he were Netanyahu in the event of a bad Iran deal, “First of all I’d come to the full realization we’re screwed maybe.”
Saban said he believes Obama will be a “foreign policy president” in the last two years of his time in office because the new Republican congress will make it hard for him to get things done domestically. [Emphasis added]
Saban, a lifelong Democrat, is not going to begin donating to the GOP anytime soon (he has promised to spend “whatever it takes” to get Clinton in the Oval Office), but his favorable mention of quintessential Republican hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in the context of nuclear negotiations with Iran is striking. Graham’s position on Iran is one the Democratic Party insisted in 2008 was overly aggressive and counterproductive. Today, the White House’s obvious bad faith approach toward diplomacy with Israel is clearly leaving American supporters of Israel, even those of the liberal variety, with a bad taste in their mouths.
The 2014 exit polls contained some stunning information about American political demography. Once a reliable Democratic voting bloc, the polls showed that Asian-Americans shifted their votes toward the GOP by an astounding 17 points over the party’s 2010 performance. American Jews may not be ready to abandon their support for the president’s party just yet, but Saban’s frustrations with how Obama has handled Israel could be a canary in the coalmine.