Haim Saban is a dual Israeli-American media personality and financier born to a Jewish family in Egypt in 1944.1 At 12, Saban’s family immigrated to Israel where he enlisted as a soldier in the IDF. Saban later immigrated to the USA to become the founder of the Israeli-American television production company Saban Entertainment, the original owner of the famous Power Rangers franchise.
In the US, Saban capitalized significantly on gaining influence within various political and decision making circles, with the primary goal of buying support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Saban has said, “for me, bringing the American president closer to the people of Israel is a life goal.” Saban has described himself in multiple interviews as being “a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.
The New Yorker has described Saban as having a “remarkable ability to cultivate, charm, and manipulate people.2 Speaking at a conference over a decade ago, Saban described his modus operandi. His “three ways to be influential in American politics,” he said, were: making donations to political parties, establishing think tanks, and controlling media outlets.3
“The basic strategy is 50-50. Meaning for every dollar we give in America, we give a dollar in Israel,” he explained.4
Consequentially, Saban is well known for investing in think tanks, the democratic party and Israeli political elite with the main purpose of cementing Israeli influence in the US. A very brief summary of Saban’s main political investments and ties are presented below.
Donations to Democratic Party, Clintons
Saban has donated over $27 million to various Clinton causes and campaigns, most prominently $15 million given directly to the Clinton Foundation.5 These investments have given Saban crucial influence over the Clintons, and by extension, access to top US and foreign officials.
When Bill Clinton was President and Ehud Barak was Israel’s Prime Minister, Saban, who was close to both men, claims to have provided a back channel for communications between the two heads of states.6
Bipartisan Support for Israel
While Saban’s focus in the US has been more on the left-leaning spectrum of US politics, his ties and affiliations within Israel are strongly bipartisan. Saban enjoys close ties with Netanyahu and has expressed support for former US president Donald Trump’s Middle East plan.7 Saban has also lobbied to promote the implementation of the Trump-Netanyahu “Abraham Accords” initiative by communicating directly with UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba and promoting Israeli-UAE cooperation against Iran.8
Brooking’s Center for Middle East Policy
The Center for Middle East Policy (formerly the Saban Center for Middle East Policy) is a center for research within the Brookings Institution focused on US involvement in the Middle East. The think tank was named after Saban. According to a press release from Saban’s charitable foundation, Saban “donated $13 million for the establishment of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.”
The Saban Forum, organized by Brooking’s Center for Middle East Policy, is an annual dialogue between American and Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum.
The Center for Middle East, with the crucial help of Saban, has played a critical role in promoting Israel’s interests within US foreign policy elite focused in the MENA region.
During the height of the international immigration crisis in 2015, Haim Saban called for greater scrutiny against Muslim immigrants entering the US.
“I’m not suggesting we put Muslims through some kind of a torture room to get them to admit that they are or they’re not terrorists. But I am saying we should have more scrutiny.”9
Lobbying against BDS
In 2015, leaked emails revealed communications between Saban and John Podesta, Clinton’s then-campaign chairman, urging Clinton to pursue efforts against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.10
The emails represent an example of the type of behind-the-scenes lobbying Saban has engaged in to crack down on anti-Israel and pro-Palestine sentiment.