Recently, billionaire Sheldon Adelson's name has been featured prominently in American media reports on the Republican presidential primaries. As Rafi Mann has already described in this journal, American journalists have been asking pointed questions about the appropriateness of the current system, which allows a tycoon with deep pockets to dramatically influence the selection of the party's candidate. Some have also questioned the legitimacy of financing an election campaign with funds that originate in the gambling industry and have expressed concern about potential damage to the interests of the American Jewish community.

The Americans are going about this issue in the standard ways: They are putting the issue on the agenda of the media and the public, investigating Mr. Adelson's past to check the appropriateness of his actions, and when circumstances demand (or require) it, they are opening inquiries and launching formal investigations. One of the most suggestive claims raised in the public discussion in the United States is that the two leading Republican candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, have been adjusting their positions—especially on the issue of Israel—to conform to the billionaire's expectations.

These developments in the American political arena are relevant to the current situation in Israel because Mr. Adelson also plays a key role in Israeli politics and in the Israeli media, and the questions that are being raised about the legitimacy of his involvement in determining the Republican presidential candidate are even more applicable to his influence on life in Israel.

This issue is not new. It was raised as soon as it became known that Adelson had decided to start a free daily newspaper in Israel. At that time, reporters and commentators pointed out the inherent problems of having a foreign man of means fund a daily newspaper that would be distributed free of charge and would, as a result, have the potential of very large distribution. Many argued that this was a dangerous development because it would enable a wealthy man who is not a citizen of Israel to become deeply involved in political decisions that affect the future of its residents.

This argument was suspected of having ulterior motives, since most of its proponents were associated with newspapers that were financially threatened by the establishment of Yisrael Hayom, Mr. Adelson's free daily. As a result, initial attempts to prevent the newspaper's publication did not succeed. The attempt to block its publication by means of Knesset legislation was similarly unsuccessful, both because Benjamin Netanyahu, who would be the main beneficiary from the newspaper's entry into the Israeli communications market, rallied the political power necessary to thwart the legislative initiative, and because the attempt to prevent the newspaper's publication contravened basic values and Israeli Basic Laws such as freedom of speech and freedom of occupation.

Many people (including the writer of this column) were opposed to the view that held that the establishment of Yisrael Hayom should be forbidden. This, however, does not exempt them from reevaluating their position in light of the newspaper's conduct since its founding, in light of the fact that it now has the largest distribution of any newspaper in Israel, and in light of the role that Mr. Adelson is playing in American politics.

Yisrael Hayom has indeed returned Israel to the era of the partisan press of the 1950s. Day after day, this paper demonstrates that it was founded unabashedly to serve the interest of the Prime Minister. The hundreds of thousands of readers of this free newspaper may not be aware of it, but the paper that they are reading is a partisan newspaper, if not a private newspaper, in every respect. It seeks to present Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a positive light and, most importantly, to conceal his weaknesses and cover up any failures of (his) conduct.

The fact that the editors of Yisrael Hayom choose to present their readers with a misleading picture of reality does not, of course, revoke the paper's right to exist. Nor does the description of Netanyahu's personal involvement in deciding who should be appointed editor of the newspaper (in its previous incarnation as Yisraeli), which was revealed during a court hearing. There is no prohibition on the production and distribution of party newspapers—or, for that matter, of pandering political pamphlets scented with the fragrance of a personality cult. Those who enjoy leafing through such papers are welcome to do so, and may God have mercy on the journalists and editors who are prepared to defile themselves by working for such publications.

The expectation that the journalists who create Yisrael Hayom (some of whom have impressive accomplishments to their credit from previous workplaces) will have the presence of mind to maintain their integrity and to preserve the professional demeanor of the newspaper is indeed being disappointed, but dashed hopes are insufficient grounds for rejecting the newspaper's right to exist or for challenging the legitimacy of its continued publication.

There is room, however, to revisit the question of the appropriateness of the involvement of a foreign citizen in the funding of Yisrael Hayom, since the sole purpose of the newspaper is to inculcate the public with a political-ideological position that is related to the core of Israel's identity and that affects its future. The necessary discussion of this matter cannot take place within the formal context: In the age of globalization, there is no questioning the involvement of tycoons from one country in the media business of another country. Rather, the discussion of Mr. Adelson's willingness to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in founding and sustaining Yisrael Hayom must take place in the political realm. Mr. Adelson's involvement in the American elections and the objections that his involvement is raising in the United States make this discussion imperative.

Is it really proper for a foreign citizen who has a specific ideological view, not to mention a personal predilection, to interfere so blatantly in the Israeli political debate on the nature of the state and of its future by means of a free mass-distribution newspaper that he funds? Should unlimited wealth grant unlimited rights to shape the face of Israeli politics and to determine who will be Israel's leader?

Is a Prime Minister elected with the help of a foreign billionaire independent and autonomous in his decision-making and in his management of state affairs? Or are his views and actions influenced by the expectations of a wealthy supporter who helped him rise to power and whose newspaper continues to serve as his protective shield in the media? Should the restrictions on election financing mandated by Israeli law and the limitations on a candidate's ability to accept donations not also be applicable to the capital that a foreign donor is investing in maintaining a partisan paper?

"Habima," the Israeli national theater, is currently mounting a new production of "The Visit," the famous play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, which portrays the power of wealth to fulfill the expectations, not to mention the personal predilections, of a bitter, elderly millionaire. In this play, the playwright conveys his message via a story in which money buys an entire community's willingness to commit murder. In the current Israeli reality, money is buying public opinion. This is a reality that is worthy of discussion.

This Article was first published on The Seventh Eye. Read it in Hebrew here