Council for the National Interest

Hawkish Hillary Clinton and Her Israel-First Political Sugar Daddy Haim Saban

Jun 15 2015 / 2:39 pm

 Hillary Clinton’s greatest billionaire backer has been Haim Saban, a dual United States-Israel citizen and hardline supporter of Israel, who has openly commented, “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel… Saban is her “major financial backer: one could go so far as to say that he and his donor circle constitute her ‘base’ or at least a significant part of it… Opposition to Hillary is going to be depicted as misogynistic, like opposition to Obama has been depicted as racist…

By Stephen J. Sniegoski

Considerable attention has been devoted to the millions of dollars Bill and Hillary Clinton have received from wealthy individuals and corporations for their foundation and for themselves. Like many other things they have done, the Clintons were skirting on the fringes of illegality. And given the fact that Hillary was not just an ex-government official, like many who have benefited from their positions after they left the federal government, but someone who intended to return to the federal government in the very topmost spot, she and husband Bill were engaging in something quite unseemly. For it would not be beyond the realm of possibility that those who handed over tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Clinton Foundation (some of which took place while Hillary was Secretary of State) or to the couple themselves for speaker fees expected favors in return. Now all of this has been bandied about in the mainstream media, but what gets little attention is that Hillary Clinton’s greatest billionaire backer has been Haim Saban, a dual United States-Israel citizen and hardline supporter of Israel, who has openly commented, “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”[1]

With a net worth estimated at $3 billion, Saban is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 143rd richest person in the United States.   When asked last July how much he would give to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, he responded, “As much as is needed.”[2]

Saban’s support for the Clintons goes back to Bill Clinton’s presidency when Saban and his wife slept in the Lincoln bedroom on a number of occasions, a privilege reserved for only the largest donors to the Democratic Party. Saban has supported Hillary in her senatorial and 2008 presidential campaigns and he, along with his Saban Family Foundation, donated from $10 million to $25 million to the Clinton Foundation.[3] The paleoconservative commentator Scott McConnell writes that in Hillary’s current run for the presidency, Haim Saban is her “major financial backer: one could go so far as to say that he and his donor circle constitute her ‘base’ or at least a significant part of it.”[4]

Saban was born in Egypt to a family that emigrated to Israel in 1956 with most of the Egyptian Jewish population after the Suez War, in which Israel, along with Britain and France, attacked Egypt. Although he has lived in the United States for over thirty years, Saban maintains a strong loyalty to Israel. For example, between 2008 and 2013, Saban gave $7.43 million to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a recognized tax exempt charitable group in the US that provides support for the well-being of members of the Israeli military, and he has headed campaigns that raised millions more for that organization.[5]

Saban’s foremost purpose is to aid Israel by increasing American support for the Jewish state. He has publicly described his method to achieve this goal by stating that the “three ways to be influential in American politics” are to make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.[6] Saban has used all those ways. In line with that thinking, he funds the American Israel Education Foundation, which is essentially a branch of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—located in the same building—and specializes in taking members of Congress on all-expenses-paid tours of Israel where they receive huge doses of pro-Zionist propaganda.[7]

In 2002, Saban contributed $7 million dollars toward the cost of a new building for the Democratic National Committee, which was one of the largest known donations ever made to an American political party. In 2012, Saban gave $1 million to Unity 2012, a joint fund-raising Super Pac that divided its funds between Priorities USA Action, a PAC supporting President Obama’s candidacy, and two other PACs backing House and Senate Democrats.[8]

In 2002, he founded the Saban Center for Middle East Policy (which in 2014 dropped the name Saban, though maintaining the connection with him) at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.[9] Brookings has been considered liberal or liberal/centrist in its orientation and is highly regarded in the mainstream. The purpose of the Saban Center appears to have been to bring aboard some scholars with the aforementioned liberal-centrist orientation who also take pro-Israel, neocon-like positions, and mixing them with scholars without those pro-Israel, neoconnish inclinations—a factor that protects the Center’s reputation for objectivity in line with the overall Brookings Institution. However, with the establishment of the Saban Center, pro-Israel neoconnish individuals have spread to other parts of the Brookings Institution.

While the Center could have only come into existence as a result of Saban’s money, it seems to have been largely the brainchild of Martin Indyk, a former deputy director of research at AIPAC, who wanted to create a foreign policy think tank with something of a pro-Israel tilt, but without an obvious pro-Israel bias, so that it could gain acceptance in mainstream circles. Indyk would become the founding director of the Saban Center and is currently executive vice president of the Brookings Institution. [10] In Hillary’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2008, Indyk served as an advisor on foreign policy.[11]

A few more examples of Brookings’ pro-Israel neocon orientation are as follows. Michael O’Hanlon, who was in the Saban Center and is now Co-Director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, supported the US war on Iraq in 2003, backed troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, signed letters and policy statements of the neocon Project for the New American Century, and advocated the use of American ground troops in Syria to oust the Assad regime.[12] In 2008, O’Hanlon supported John McCain for president, though he had been listed as an advisor to Hillary Clinton before she lost the nomination to Obama.[13]

Also, at the Saban Center, and remaining there after the Saban name was dropped, is Kenneth M. Pollack, who supported the invasion of Iraq, being the author of the influential 2002 book, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq. Pollack was described by Philip Weiss, a critic of US and Israeli Middle East policies on the website Mondoweiss, as “the expert who did more than anyone else to promote the Iraq war among liberals, in New York Times editorials and a book saying that invading Iraq would remake the US image in the Arab world and get their minds off Palestine!”[14] Pollack also backed the 2007 surge in Iraq. In the Lawrence Franklin espionage trial, Pollack was mentioned as also having provided classified information to AIPAC employees in 2000 during the Clinton Administration when he was a Middle East analyst in the National Security Council.[15] Although Pollack was not charged with a crime, his apparent involvement would illustrate that he is recognized as a supporter of Israel by AIPAC. Much more recently, on March 24, 2015, Pollack testified before a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain, that Iran was far more dangerous than ISIS or al Qaeda, stating that “It has a greater ability to control the region and sustain that control if allowed to do so.”[16] Note that Israel perceives Iran as the greater danger. Pollack also was one of Hillary Clinton’s chief foreign policy advisors while she was in the Senate and supported her candidacy for president in 2008.[17]

The most significant war hawk who happens to be, or at least has been, a bona fide neocon in the Brookings Institution is Robert Kagan of the seemingly omnipresent Kagan clan—father Donald, brother Frederick, sister-in-law Kimberly and wife Victoria Nuland (who, as a leading figure in the US State Department, played a major role in fomenting the Russia-Ukraine crisis). Among his neocon credentials, Robert Kagan was a contributing editor of The Weekly Standard, the original director of the notorious (in anti-war circles) Project for a New American Century, and with Bill Kristol, the cofounder of the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neocon organization considered to be the successor to the Project for a New American Century. He was also the foreign policy advisor to John McCain in 2008.

In recent years, however, Kagan, who joined Brookings in 2010, has tried to distance himself from his neocon past, describing himself as a “liberal interventionist” and actually taking some positions at odds with the neocons and the Israeli Right.[18] Instead of 100 percent neoconism, he now espouses something that could be described as neocon-lite. His new persona has opened for him the halls of power in the mainstream and enabled him to become close to Hillary Clinton, something that the old Robert Kagan, with his harder-line neocon baggage, probably could not have achieved.

While Saban did not bring Kagan over to Brookings, the huge funds that he has provided to the Institution likely were a factor. As Washington insider Steve Clemons wrote at the time: “Kagan’s move is important for Brookings as the institution has been working hard to get Haim Saban to give another large infusion of resources to his namesake unit, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, at Brookings. Securing Kagan is one way that Brookings may have sweetened the pot for Saban who is according to one Brookings source ‘painfully flamboyant’ about using his money to try and influence the DC establishment through think tanks and other vehicles to secure Israel-first, Israel-defending policies out of Washington.” [19]

Kagan helped establish a bipartisan civilian advisory board for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.[20] In 2014, Kagan implied that he might support Hillary Clinton for President. “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” he remarked. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue, it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”[21] And while it would be very unlikely that Kagan would receive a Cabinet post in a Clinton administration, it is quite conceivable that he would be given some type of advisory position with considerable influence on foreign policy.

While there is no proof that Kagan’s new, more moderate stance is simply a strategic pose, the fact that his position could be used as Hillary Clinton’s counterpoise to the hardline neocon-Israel lobby position of the Republicans would serve to keep debate on US Middle East policy within even more narrow limits than has been the case during the Obama administration. Since the neocons would likely squawk that Clinton’s position was insufficiently protective of Israel and the United States, the actual similarity of the two positions would likely be obfuscated rather than clarified by the mainstream media.

Saban’s monetary contribution to Hillary Clinton’s campaign is not the only way that he can advance her candidacy. He is the executive chairman of Univision Communications, which owns and operates the Univision television network, the largest Spanish-language television network in the United States, and the fifth largest television network overall in the country, reaching more than 93.8 million households. The Hispanic vote has become a significant part of the overall presidential vote and, since the great majority of Hispanics are Democrats, is especially important in the Democratic primaries. “You have to go to Univision to get to Latino voters,” commented Gabriela Domenzain, who was Obama’s Hispanic media director in the 2012 election.[22]

Even before the 2016 election campaign began, Clinton was able to rely upon Univision to generate favorable publicity for herself. In early 2014, she joined with Univision in a multi-year initiative to present mainstream expert information on the television network intended to aid Hispanic parents in helping their pre-school-age children develop language skills. In regard to this program, Hillary Clinton has been featured widely on Univision’s network and website. [23] As an article in the Washington Post observed when the program was announced, “For Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, the partnership with Univision provides a valuable platform to promote her causes with the country’s fast-growing and politically influential Hispanic community.”[24]

Since Clinton is taking a very favorable position toward currently illegal immigrants, stating that as President she would go beyond Obama in providing them legal status and citizenship, publicity from Univision should help her to capture the Hispanic vote in the Democratic primary elections by at least the same proportions as she did in 2008, when she defeated Obama by a two to one margin. The Hispanic vote is expected to be much larger in 2016, and it should be pointed out that in regard to total votes in the Democratic primaries in 2008, Clinton actually received slightly more votes than Obama,[25] which indicates that she was then about as popular as Obama among Democrats.[26] Where Hillary Clinton was hurt in 2008 was in those states that had caucuses rather than primaries in which activists of a more anti-war leftist orientation tended to be disproportionately represented. Clinton and her close advisors had taken for granted that she would be the Democratic nominee and failed to organize effectively in caucus states, being focused instead on the general election. Her campaign is not likely to be overconfident this time. [27]

Much is being made in the mainstream media about Hillary Clinton’s alleged floundering in recent polls. Although there is some truth here since her negative ratings in the polls are rising, she is still far ahead of any of her rivals, having substantially more than 50 percent of the vote in the polls for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.[28] With the expanded Hispanic vote, a divided opposition and the lack of a potential opponent with anything like Obama’s appeal (especially in regard to the black vote) in 2008,[29] and by organizing for the caucuses, it is hard to see how Clinton would fail to be the Democratic nominee, barring some momentous event, such as ill health or a major scandal. And though the general election is far more difficult to predict, she should be seen as the likely winner based upon demographic changes in the US voting population.[30]

In many areas, Hillary’s hawkishness does not need Saban’s prompting, though since self-aggrandizement looms very large in her political career, it is likely that placating the powerful has always played a significant role in shaping her political positions. In April 2014, an article in the New York Times, which dealt with her positions as Obama’s Secretary of State, related that “in recent interviews, two dozen current and former administration officials, foreign diplomats, friends and outside analysts described Mrs. Clinton as almost always the advocate of the most aggressive actions considered by Mr. Obama’s national security team — and not just in well-documented cases, like the debate over how many additional American troops to send to Afghanistan or the NATO airstrikes in Libya.

“Mrs. Clinton’s advocates — a swelling number in Washington, where people are already looking to the next administration — are quick to cite other cases in which she took more hawkish positions than the White House: arguing for funneling weapons to Syrian rebels and for leaving more troops behind in postwar Iraq, and criticizing the results of a 2011 parliamentary election in Russia.”[31]

Numerous commentators have pointed out that Hillary is not only hawkish but is attracting support from neocons and neoconnish Democrats. Veteran establishment liberal commentator Leslie Gelb sees this as part of “[s]omething pivotal [that] is germinating in the politics of American foreign policy. It is a shift rightward toward a tougher line, notably among powerful Democrats. It is dislodging the leftward thrust that was triggered in the mid-2000s, when George W. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq became widely seen as disasters.”[32] In 2014, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glen Greenwald, an anti-war leftist, commented bluntly about Hillary Clinton: “She’s a f***ing hawk and like a neocon, practically. She’s surrounded by all these sleazy money types who are just corrupting everything everywhere. But she’s going to be the first female president, and women in America are going to be completely invested in her candidacy. Opposition to her is going to be depicted as misogynistic, like opposition to Obama has been depicted as racist. It’s going to be this completely symbolic messaging that’s going to overshadow the fact that she’ll do nothing but continue everything in pursuit of her own power.”[33]

Given the possible threat of Democratic anti-war leftists fielding a third party that could threaten to siphon off a few percentage points from Clinton’s vote in the general election—or at least the possibility that a substantial number of liberal party regulars would be too disenchanted to actively campaign for her—she might, out of political expediency, moderate her hawkishness in her campaigning, including that which pertains to Israel. Such a political tactic would seem to be acceptable to Saban. As Saban mentioned in an interview on Israel Channel One television in regard to Clinton’s true position on Obama’s Iran deal: “I can’t reveal to you things that were said behind closed doors. She has an opinion, a very well-defined opinion. And in any case, 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.”[34] And as a self-made billionaire, it would seem apparent that Saban has not often been wrong in his expectations.

Moreover, in the unlikely event that Clinton were defeated by the Republican nominee—unless that Republican were Rand Paul, whose nomination is an ultra-longshot—then Saban, who admits that Israel is his only issue, would have little to complain about since the new Republican President would pursue policies much more in line with the positions of the Israeli Right than had the Obama administration, which itself was hardly anti-Israel. In short, no matter who wins the upcoming presidential election, Israel and its supporters will emerge victorious.

Dr. Stephen Sniegoski is the author of The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel

Related article: Jeb Bush, James Baker, and the Pro-Israel Mega-Donors: The Making of the Republicans’ Middle East Policy


[1] Andrew Ross Sorokin, “Schlepping to Moguldom,” New York Times, September 5, 2004,


[2] Hadas Gold and Marc Caputo, “Inside the Univision-Clinton network,” Politico, May 12, 2015,


[3] Eddie Scarry, “Univision owner: ‘When Hillary Clinton is president…’,” Washington Examiner, April 17, 2015,…/article/2563246.


[4] Scott McConnell, “Hillary’s Sheldon Adelson,” The American Conservative, November 12. 2014,


[5] Eli Clifton, “Where Does Hillary Stand on the Iran Agreement?,” LobeLog, April 19, 2015,; Malina Saval, “Haim Saban’s Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Gala Raises Record $33 Million,” Variety, November 7, 2014,; “AIPAC Congressional Lobbying Junkets to Israel Illegal Charges IRS and DOJ Filing – Irmep,”—irmep-129535868.html.


[6] Connie Bruck, “The Influencer: An entertainment mogul sets his sights on foreign policy,”

The New Yorker, May 10, 2010.


[7] Amanda Becker and Rachael Bade, “Members Flock to Israel With Travel Loophole,” Roll Call, September 12, 2011,


[8] Ted Johnson, “Zionist tycoon vows to contribute ‘as much as needed’ to a Hillary Clinton campaign,” Council for the National Interest (CNI), July 28 2014,


[9]Connie Bruck, “The Influencer: An entertainment mogul sets his sights on foreign policy,” The New Yorker, May 10, 2010,;

“Brookings Saban Center is No Longer,” Think Tank Watch, July 22, 2014,; The continuing Saban Forum is a significant part of the Center. According to the Brookings Website: “The Saban Forum is an annual dialogue between American and Israeli leaders from across the political and social spectrum, organized by the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.” Brookings, Center for Middle East Policy,


[10] Grant F. Smith, “Why AIPAC Took Over Brookings,” Dissident Voice. November 21, 2007; Martin S. Indyk, Brookings,; Philip Weiss, “How fair is Martin Indyk, who says he was motivated by ‘my… connection to Israel’?,” Mondoweiss, July 22, 2013,


[11]“The War Over the Wonks,” Washington Post, October 2, 2007,


[12] Philip Weiss, “O’Hanlon of Brookings Sorts Out the Wrong Neocons From the Right Ones,” Mondoweiss, July 24, 2008,;

Michael O’Hanlon, Right Web, May 9, 2013,


[13] “The War Over the Wonks,” Washington Post, October 2, 2007,; Michael O’Hanlon, “Michael O’Hanlon: American boots needed in Syria,” USA Today, May 21, 2015,


[14] Philip Weiss, “‘NPR’ airs Ken Pollack’s Iran war games and leaves out his last war,” Mondoweiss, September 28,2012,


[15] Ron Kampeas, “Guilty plea in AIPAC case,” Jewish Telegraph Agency, October 6, 2005,

Guilty plea in AIPAC case


[16] James Warren, “Iran is more dangerous to Iraq than ISIS, terror experts tell U.S. Senate panel,” New York Daily News, March 24, 2015,


[17] Dmfox, “Kenneth Pollack: surge working, turn Iraq into Switzerland,”Daily Kos, December 28, 2007,


[18] Jim Lobe, “Robert Kagan: Neocon Renegade?,” LobeLog, April 11, 2015,


[19] Steve Clemons, “Brookings Loses Bid on Orszag but Takes Kagan From Carnegie,” The Blog, Huffington Post, July 10, 2010, Updated: May 25, 2011,


[20] “Robert Kagan,” Right Web,


[21] Jason Horowitz, “Events in Iraq Open Door for Interventionist Revival, Historian Says,” New York Times, June 15, 2014,


[22] Hadas Gold and Marc Caputo, “Inside the Univision-Clinton network,” Politico, May 12, 2015,


[23] Hadas Gold and Marc Caputo, “Inside the Univision-Clinton network,” Politico, May 12, 2015,

[24] Philip Rucker, “Hillary Clinton partners with Univision for early childhood development,” Washington Post, February 4, 2014,


[25] The Green Papers, 2008 Presidential Primaries, Caucuses, and Conventions,


[26] Obama was not in the Michigan primary, so it perhaps cannot be said that she would have won more votes had he been a candidate there, but, nonetheless, their vote totals were about the same.


[27] Philip Rucker, “Hillary Clinton supporters get a head start organizing for 2016 Iowa caucuses,” Washington Post, January 26, 2014,; Eleanor Clift, “Hillary’s Plan to Win Big Everywhere,”Daily Beast, May 7, 2015,


[28] “Democratic Presidential Primary 2016,” Public Policy Polling, June 4, 2015,


[29] S.A. Miller, “Hillary Clinton alone at top even as Democrats re-examine their 2016 options,” Washington Times, June 7, 2015,


[30] Jonathan Chait, “Why Hillary Clinton Is Probably Going to Win the 2016 Election,” Daily Intelligencer, April 12, 2015,


[31] Mark Landler and Amy Chozick, “Hillary Clinton Struggles to Define a Legacy in Progress,” New York Times, April 16, 2014,; Bob and Barbara Dreyfuss, “The Left Ought to Worry About Hillary Clinton, Hawk and Militarist, in 2016,” Nation, May 27, 2014,


[32]Leslie H. Gelb, Countering the Neocon Comeback, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Winter 2015,


[33] Quoted in Matt Wilstein, “Greenwald Bashes ‘Neocon’ Hillary Clinton: ‘She’s a F*cking Hawk’,” Mediaite, May 12, 2014,


[34] Philip Weiss, “‘Everything Hillary Clinton will do will always be for Israel’ — Saban warns the Republicans,” Mondoweiss, April 18, 2015,


Posted by on Jun 15 2015 . Filed under Commentary & Analysis, Costs to the U.S., Featured articles, Israel Lobby, Media distortion, Politicians . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 . Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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