Adelson and His Bibiton

American political observers just getting to know casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has given millions of dollars to Newt Gingrich Super PAC and offered strategic advice to Mitt Romney, may be interested to learn that Adelson’s much-discussed interest in U.S.-Israel relations extends to a very specific interest in right-wing Israeli politics.

Here’s an interesting report via Salon from Noga Tarnopolsky:

It was in order to help a future Netanyahu candidacy that Adelson, in 2007, established Israel Hayom (Israel Today) a daily tabloid newspaper that quickly rose to have the widest circulation in the country. The newspaper was founded on the conviction, widespread among the Israeli right-wing since Netanyahu’s first term in office in the mid-90s, that the media held a deep-seated antipathy to Netanyahu.

A much-repeated rumor, impossible to verify, has it that Adelson has told Israeli friends he is happy to lose even $150 or $200 million dollars on the venture.

Conservative estimates hold that for now, he has lost at least several tens of millions of dollars. The paper boasts an extensive and expensive list of journalists and analysts, it is printed in massive quantities and distributed widely and for free, yet it does not display advertising in sufficient quantities to offset significant costs. It is a rich man’s luxury.

Israelis uncomfortable with the paper’s big shadow have bestowed it with a jokey moniker, Bibiton, a play on Netanyahu’s nickname, Bibi, and on the Hebrew word for newspaper, Iton.

Two playing fields, two different sets of rules, but one fortune to help run up the score. Interesting.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.