GOP mega-donor Adelson offers to help pay for Jerusalem embassy

GOP mega-donor Adelson offers to help pay for Jerusalem embassy
Business magnate Adelson has offered to contribute to the US's Jerusalem embassy, though using private donations to pay for a new US facility breaks with all past precedent.
2 min read
23 February, 2018
Sheldon Adelson and Dr. Miriam Adelson, his Israeli-born wife, at a conference in Jerusalem [Getty]

The Trump administration is considering an offer from Republican mega-donor and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson to pay for part of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, officials told AP.

In one possible scenario, evangelical and American Jewish communities would raise funds for the new facility. Adelson would then pay the difference – the total cost is expected to be more than $500 million.

Adelson was previously reported to be "furious" at Trump for not immediately moving the embassy on day one of his term – the billionaire spent $80 million to help elect Trump, according to Forward

Kathy Bethany, the former cost management director for the State Department's Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, said she could not recall any instances of the US government accepting donations to build embassies during her tenure, which ended in 2014.

"I don't know how well that would work," Bethany said. "Would we be beholden to putting their name on the building? I've never heard of that."

Adelson's offer reportedly came around the time Trump announced the new Jerusalem embassy in December. It could explain why the US president approved such a costly measure despite other criticism for spending large sums on bureaucratic facilities.

Last month, Trump was outspoken in criticising the decision to move the US embassy in London and the $1 billion price tag that came with the facility.

Since the Jerusalem announcement, the Trump administration has been sifting through options for fast-tracking the Israel embassy's relocation from Tel Aviv.

During a vist to Israel last month, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the embassy would move by the end of 2019 - possibly earlier. 

State Department lawyers are looking into the legality of accepting donations for the new embassy. If approved, it would carry significant political risk for Trump.