JTA Reports: Romney and Gingrich both have deep ties in the Jewish Republican community. Romney’s funders include Mel Sembler, the Florida shopping center magnate, and Fred Zeidman, a Texas lawyer. Gingrich has a long and abiding friendship with Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate.
Both candidates have made Israel a central plank of their anti-Obama rhetoric. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, says Israel would be the first country he visits as president, in contrast to Obama’s failure to do so during his term. Gingrich has explicitly said he would strike Iran should it acquire a nuclear weapon and has said he would move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on his first day in office.
While the two candidates might share views on the Middle East, their personal tensions have boiled over in recent weeks. Some observers are expressing amazement at the latest turn in the feud—not just because it has Gingrich and other GOP candidates taking aim at Romney’s business career, but also because the pro-Gingrich anti-Romney SuperPAC attacks are essentially being funded by Adelson.
But a source close to the casino mogul, a leading funder of Jewish conservative causes, said his $5 million donation last week to the SuperPAC did not necessarily signal agreement with the thrust of its anti-Romney campaign.
“It’s not about the other candidates in the race, it’s about a friend assisting a friend,” said the source.
Zeidman said none of Romney’s Jewish backers held it against Adelson for supporting Gingrich. Yes, Adelson has a longstanding friendship with the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives—but also, Zeidman said, because Gingrich deserved some degree of Jewish backing.
“I’m glad that Newt’s got support, because he was there when we needed him,” Zeidman said, referring to Gingrich’s role in the 1990s pushing back against the Clinton administration-led Oslo peace process and pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu during his firt term as prime minister. “He was phenomenal on Israel when he needed him the worst.”