Scoop: DeSantis dines with Miriam Adelson, other major GOP donors in Israel
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dined with Miriam Adelson — former President Trump's top financial backer in 2020 — and other major GOP donors in Jerusalem on Wednesday, according to two sources who attended the dinner.
Why it matters: DeSantis, considered Trump's top rival for the GOP nomination, is expected to announce his presidential exploratory committee in the coming weeks.
- Politico reported in October 2022 that Adelson, widow to the late billionaire Sheldon Adelson, told several possible Republican candidates that she plans stay neutral in the 2024 primary.
- Representatives for Adelson did not respond to a request for comment. DeSantis' campaign declined to comment.
Driving the news: DeSantis arrived in Israel on Wednesday as part of a four-leg trip that could help the likely presidential candidate boost his foreign policy credentials.
- DeSantis met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog before attending a dinner at the Museum of Tolerance, where he was the guest of honor, according to sources in the room.
- The dinner was hosted by Larry Mizel, a Denver-based business executive and philanthropist who founded the museum. In 2016, Mizel was the finance chairman for the Trump campaign in Colorado.
- Mizel did not respond to Axios' request for comment.
Behind the scenes: DeSantis sat in between Adelson and Mizel during the dinner in Jerusalem, which lasted for about two hours, according to sources in the room.
- The Adelsons were early backers of DeSantis when he ran for governor in 2018, contributing at least $500,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC.
- Sheldon and Miriam Adelson were also Trump’s biggest donors. In the 2020 election, $90 million of the more than $200 million they contributed to Republican groups and candidates went to Trump's presidential campaign.
- Trump awarded Miriam Adelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018. Sheldon Adelson died in 2021.
Mizel, meanwhile, has been one of the biggest donors to Trump and Republican groups in Colorado.
- Lee Samson, another GOP donor, also attended the dinner. In 2019, Samson held a fundraiser for Trump at his Beverly Hills home.
- DeSantis briefly addressed the attendees of the dinner, but did not speak about his political plans or possible presidential campaign. Instead, he focused on the U.S.-Israel relationship, according to the sources who attended.
The big picture: The U.S.-Israeli relationship and DeSantis' record on Israel were also the basis of a speech DeSantis gave at the Museum of Tolerance on Thursday.
- Miriam Adelson also attended the speech, with DeSantis acknowledging her as his "friend" during his remarks.
- DeSantis presented the Trump administration's decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as his own achievement, saying he worked to "cajole" the former president to make the move. He didn't mention Trump by name.
- DeSantis also stressed that he opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and said it failed because it only emboldened the regime in Tehran. He made no mention of Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the deal.