Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: August 13, 2019
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Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: August 13, 2019

Trump undecided on when to release Middle East peace plan, envoy says; US army finalizes deal to buy two Iron Dome systems; ‘Iran tortured me into confessing to be an Israeli spy’

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on July 30, 2019. (Alastair Pike/AFP)
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on July 30, 2019. (Alastair Pike/AFP)

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2020 INTERVIEW — John Delaney: When others drop out of 2020 race, I will shine — by JI’s Ben Jacobs in Iowa: John Delaney is ready for his moment. The former Maryland congressman believes “the field is probably going to shrink soon, and that’s going to be a good moment” for his campaign. Once those who are running “thematically similar campaigns” drop out, he said, he’ll be able to take advantage.

During a recent interview with Jewish Insider, Delaney said he was frustrated with the 2020 primary: “We have several people running for president and they’ve never done any public service in their life. Never served in office. Which is what our current president has. That’s crazy. And the American people should reject that out of hand. But they’re not.”

Delaney, who has self-financed his campaign, sees the DNC as an accomplice in the creation of the social media primary he believes forces candidates to “play to the audience” of Democrats who donate to campaigns online. “I think that’s dangerous because I think it degrades the seriousness of politics,” he said. He further argued that online donors are “a relatively small percentage of the population” who are mostly from California and New York and “by and large are fairly well off.”

On 2020 candidates criticizing Israel: “I don’t understand what’s going on in the Democratic Party because there’s a lot of bad actors around the world. I don’t understand why we become so preoccupied with what a very good ally of ours is doing… Israel is a very, very strong ally of the United States — one of our strongest, not just in the Middle East, but anywhere in the world. We share a lot of things with them, including a set of values. Can you criticize your friends? Of course. You know that. But there seems to be a bit of an obsession with criticizing Israel right now in the Democratic Party and there’s a lot of other more questionable actors and bad actors obviously around the world that deserve our attention.”

On Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I’m not a big fan but, at this point I don’t follow his speeches and his sayings every day to make that kind of an accusation about him. I don’t think it’s constructive to spend a lot of time beating up on the leader of a very important ally.”

On recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights: “I’ve been to the Golan. I don’t believe that should go back to Syria, which at this moment in time, I mean that’s a crazy idea. I don’t know why would we want… to give anything to Syria at this point.”

Click here for the full interview, including Delaney’s views on gun control, campaign finance and Brexit. [JewishInsider]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Jeff Weaver, a senior advisor on the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, told reporters on a conference call that the Vermont senator’s Jewish background puts him in a strong position to challenge President Donald Trump on white supremacy. Sanders is reportedly facing growing pressure from his advisors to discuss his upbringing on the trail.

“Senator Sanders has spoken out quite forcefully on the issue of white supremacy,” Weaver explained. “He grew up in an ethnic community in which many people still wore numbers on their arms from the Holocaust. Much of his father’s family were killed in the Holocaust. So Bernie Sanders is extremely and very personally familiar with the impact of white supremacy and how it can be taken to levels of barbarism in [an] advanced and industrial country.”

Weaver added: “Certainly in terms of politics, I think Bernie Sanders is well-positioned to speak about white supremacy [and] its impact in a very real and personal way.” [JewishInsider]

WORD FROM JERUSALEM — Twenty-one Knesset members — including five senior Likud lawmakers — sent a letter to members of Congress on Monday cautioning them that the language in support of a two-state solution included in the recently passed H. Res. 246, a resolution opposing the BDS movement, was a “grave error” because the creation of a Palestinian state would be “far more dangerous for Israel” than the BDS movement.

“As politicians, we understand that these resolutions are accompanied by many compromises along the way in order to reach a language agreed upon by a majority. However, the affirmation of support for establishing a Palestinian state is so dangerous that we respectfully request that you take that into consideration, and in the future avoid determining that establishing an additional Arab state on territory that is the Land of Israel is part of the solution to the dispute,” the MKs wrote in the letter directed to the authors of the anti-BDS resolution — Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Ann Wagner (R-MO) — and supporters of AIPAC.

Katie Vincentz, a spokesperson for Rep. Zeldin, said in a statement to JI“The Congressman supports a strong U.S.-Israel partnership. The text of the resolution as it relates to negotiated peace on the ground in and around Israel is entirely consistent with longstanding policy. That part of the resolution was not new.”

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) tweeted“I took some heat for being the only Republican to vote NAY on this bill. I stand by my vote. 21 members of the Israeli Knesset had an issue with this bill, because they read it too.”

An AIPAC spokesperson declined to comment.

Matt Duss, a foreign policy advisor to Bernie Sanders, tweeted on Monday: “Whatever one’s views on BDS, the idea that it’s more deserving of censure than an Israeli occupation whose intended purpose is to prevent a [two-state solution] is obviously absurd. But that’s Congress for you. In closing, anti-BDS hysteria is a con and Democrats should stop being suckers.”

Seth Mandel, editor of the Washington Examiner magazine, tweeted: “Congress should write back: Thank you for your letter. Our commitment to the right to self-rule leads us to oppose BDS, which opposes Jewish self-determination. It also leads us to support a two-state solution, in which Palestinians are afforded the same.”

TOP-OP — Marc Schulman writes… “Dear Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ihan Omar: When you visit Israel, speak also to Israelis: If you are in Tel Aviv, you can also ask former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about his attempt at reaching a peace agreement in 2008. He never received an answer from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. All of this is not to suggest we Israelis are blameless in hindering a peace agreement. We also have extremists, some of whom are in our government, who believe that holding on to all of the Land of Israel is more important than reaching peace… Yet, if Israelis believed there was a real chance of peace, those extremists would quickly be marginalized.” [Newsweek]

SCENE IN JERUSALEM — A Republican House delegation headed by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz at the Foreign Ministry on Monday. [VideoPic]

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg met with President Reuven “Ruvi” Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem on Monday. Sandberg is in Israel to attend the inauguration ceremony of Facebook’s new Tel Aviv space for startups and businesses, called Playground. [Pic]

REPORT — Netanyahu is advocating for a public declaration from President Donald Trump in support of Israeli annexation in the West Bank, according to a report by Zman Yisrael, the Hebrew version of Times of Israel. Such a move is viewed as a benefit to Netanyahu’s Likud in the September 17 election. A spokesperson for the prime minister described the report as “incorrect.”

The U.S. army has finalized a deal to purchase two Iron Dome systems for its interim cruise missile defense capability, according to a reportby Defense News. The Iron Dome was co-developed by American company Raytheon and Israeli defense firm Rafael. It is partly manufactured in the United States.

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Trump undecided on when to release Middle East peace plan, envoy says — by Kevin Cirilli and Nick Wadhams: “President Donald Trump hasn’t decided whether to unveil his Middle East peace plan before or after Israeli elections set for next month, and the U.S. hopes eventually to engage with the Palestinian Authority on an accord, special envoy Jason Greenblatt said… Greenblatt gave no indication of what the political plan would look like, but said Trump would have to ‘decide soon’ whether to roll it out before the [September 17] Israeli elections or after — and whether to wait until after a new government has been formed.”[BloombergVideo]

IRAN WATCH — ‘Iran tortured me into confessing to be an Israeli spy’ — by Jiyar Gol: “A once-successful Iranian businessman says he is lucky to be alive after being tortured by the Iranian authorities into a false confession of spying for Israel and assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists — a crime punishable by hanging. The story of Mazyar Ebrahimi, who now lives abroad, also sheds a light on a bitter rivalry between Iran’s intelligence agencies… I met Mazyar Ebrahimi in Frankfurt in July, several months after he called me out of the blue from Germany. I was surprised, as I had assumed he had been executed long ago.” [BBC]

Iran said Tuesday that Britain may release an Iranian oil tanker it seized last month “soon.” Jalil Eslami, the deputy head of Iran’s ports and Maritime Organization, said that “Britain is interested in releasing Iran’s oil tanker Grace 1… following the exchange of some documents, we hope the release will take place soon.”

2020 BRIEFS — The uneasiness of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is about more than gaffes… Cory Booker is hoping to follow the path cut by Barack Obama in 2008: Use a strong showing in Iowa to become a serious threat to the establishment front-runner… Can Kamala Harris catch Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren in Iowa?

Bill Weld, the Republican running against Donald Trump, took his messageto the Iowa State Fair. Few listened… Tulsi Gabbard will take a two-week break from the campaign trail for National Guard duty… Mark Sanford heading to New Hampshire to further explore 2020 presidential bid… Republicans launching innovation fund to match Democrats.

RACE TO THE KNESSET — Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich escaped with his job on Monday after being forced to apologize to Netanyahu over comments he made Sunday. Smotrich was summoned to Netanyahu’s office on Monday and told that if he did not apologize, he would be fired. The transportation minister accused Netanyahu of “a surrender to Arab terrorism and violence at the holiest place in Judaism” after Jews were briefly banned from accessing the Temple Mount on Tisha B’av. He also said the prime minister showed “zero leadership” in response to a court ruling prohibiting gender segregation at public events.

Later that day, Smotrich presided over the official campaign launch of the united right-wing parties, now known as Yamina (“rightward”). There he offered a muted apology to the prime minister, saying: “From this real pain, things were said in a fashion that should not have been said and were inappropriate to say, for sure not in the relationship between a prime minister and a minister in his government, and I regret this.”

** Good Tuesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: CBS, Viacom in final stages of deal talks [WSJ] • CBS and Viacom shares drop as merger talks drag on [Variety] • Stephen Ross backlash hits Hudson Yards [RealDeal] • ‪The real reason Stephen Ross can’t quit Donald Trump‬ [VanityFair• Geneva prosecutors indict Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz in Guinea corruption case [Reuters• Hedgie Leon Cooperman waffling on New Media-Gannett: sources [NYPost]

MORE BRIEFS: Goldman Sachs has a new strategy for beating the market during the trade war [CNBC• Elghanayan family’s Rockrose is moving into Brooklyn [RealDeal• Delek in talks to raise $300 million ahead of Ithaca IPO [Reuters] • Israeli firm stole millions using bogus options, CFTC says [Bloomberg]

SPOTLIGHT — Goodbye Och-Ziff. Hello, Sculptor. Hedge fund tries on new name — by Nabila Ahmed and Katherine Burton: “At Och-Ziff Capital Management Inc., executives sought out branding professionals and spent tens of thousands of dollars to come up with a new name: Sculptor Capital Management… The more practical reason for the change: The New York-based firm decided it needed a reboot to reflect the departure of its founder — Dan Och. It also helps to distance itself from recent legal troubles that have caused a massive client exodus… The new name, Sculptor, goes into effect on Sept. 12.” [Bloomberg]

HOLLYWOOD — “Our Boys,” an HBO miniseries depicting the events of summer 2014 in Israel, premiered in the United States last night, drawing praise from television reviewers and comparisons to racially motivated violence in the U.S. The creators shared the political motivations behind the show in an interview with Jewish Insider published last week. The New York Timescalled the show “a powerfully unsettling story… its exploration of how hate crimes shatter and reverberate throughout a society is depressingly universal.” Vulture said the series — which focuses on the retaliatory killing of a young Palestinian by several Jews angered at the murder of three Jewish teens — depicts “ways in which nationalist violence rots away the soul of both the Jewish state and the Land of the Free.”

The writers and creators of the show told Vanity Fair that “the ‘Our Boys’ writers room quickly became a creative exercise in Israeli-Palestinian détente: ‘We had to learn how to cooperate,’ [co-writer Hagai] Levi said diplomatically. ‘Maybe it’s a good example for the rest of the world.’”

Sarah Silverman says she was fired from a movie for an old blackface sketch — by Rob Picheta: “Comedian Sarah Silverman has said she was once fired from a movie after producers found a sketch from 2007 in which she wore blackface make-up. In an episode of her former Comedy Central show ‘The Sarah Silverman Program’ that she has said she no longer stands by, Silverman’s character dons dark face paint to see whether it is more difficult to be black or Jewish.” [CNN]

SPORTS BLINK — After a groundbreaking career in the NBA, Israeli basketball player Omri Casspi is officially returning to Israel, inking a three-year deal with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Hebrew media reports indicated Casspi would be paid $1.2-1.3 million for his first year back in Israel. “I am returning home, returning to Maccabi Tel Aviv,” Casspi said Tuesday. “I got here for the first time when I was 13 years old. I am proud and excited to be wearing the Maccabi jersey with the Star of David on the back. This is a very big privilege.”

LONG READ — Plaque by plaque, Lithuania confronts its wartime past — by Jillian Deutsch: “Silvia Foti was brought up to believe her grandfather was a hero… he was executed in 1947 at the age of 36 and elevated into the Lithuanian pantheon of wartime freedom fighters, commemorated with plaques and statues after the fall of the Iron Curtain… Foti didn’t know it at the time, but it was a task that would lead her to reexamine her grandfather’s place in history — and add fuel to a fiery debate in Lithuania about the country’s role in World War II and the Holocaust.” [Politico]

The wartime rescue you’ve never heard about, told by the 100-year-old Jewish woman who led it — by Dina Kraft: “On a cold morning in March 1941, when it was still very much winter in Sweden and Hitler was gaining ground across Europe, a 22-year-old nurse named Ilse Ganz Koppel boarded a train in her hometown of Stockholm together with 60 Jewish refugee children. Along with three other adult chaperones, they set out over land and sea toward British Mandatory Palestine. ‘Everybody was engaged to help. You don’t know what it is to have a Nazi regime around you,’ says Ganz Koppel, who at the age of 100 has decided to publicly share her account of the dangerous rescue mission that took 16 nerve-fraying days and covered some 3,500 miles (5,630 kilometers).” [Haaretz]

TALK OF THE TOWN — South Bend a haven for growing number of Orthodox Jews — by Jeff Parrott: “The Michiana Jewish Business Association’s Community Development Initiative has been recruiting [Orthodox Jews] and helping them settle into the community for a decade… But the growth has accelerated since new CDI executive director Simon Springer took the job in August 2017… Springer said it’s become more socially acceptable in recent years for Orthodox in New York, Chicago and L.A. to leave their tightly knit but crowded communities to escape spiraling living costs and congestion. South Bend is one of 57 communities that the Orthodox Union… promotes on its website as places to consider for those who are looking to move.”[SouthBendTribune]

NYPD Hate Crimes Unit investigating after 3 Hasidic Jews attacked within an hour: “At least three people were violently mugged early this morning in Williamsburg, Brooklyn… The suspects allegedly struck three Hasidic Jews, between the ages of 56 and 71, within an hour. Friends told CBS2’s Christina Fan the men were walking to synagogue or work when the suspects ambushed them.
Now, the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Unit is on the case.” [CBS2NYPost

As New York once again targets religious schools, a history lesson in communal resistance — by Marvin Schick: “I and other yeshiva leaders are facing an additional and significant challenge [this year], an attempt by New York State to impose a rigid set of rules that would alter the essential character of private schools, parochial and independent alike, where parents and educators work together to instill their values and strengthen their communities… In bracing for this conflict, it occurred to me that all those interested in its outcome would do well to recall what happened 80 years ago, when the state last attempted to transform private religious education.”[Tablet]

California’s proposed ethnic studies curriculum decried as antisemitic, left-wing ‘propaganda’ — by Valerie Richardson: “A proposed ethnic-studies curriculum developed for California public high schools has ignited outrage over its shabby treatment of Jewish Americans and Israel, leading to fears that students could soon receive a crash course in antisemitism… The California Board of Education is accepting comments on the [ethnic studies model] draft curriculum until Aug. 15, and already the California Legislative Jewish Caucus has condemned the proposal’s ‘anti-Jewish bias,’ saying it would ‘institutionalize the teaching of antisemitic stereotypes in our public schools.’” [WashTimes]

French Jewish group condemns reported Abu Nidal terror deal — by Victor Mallet: “France’s main Jewish organisation has said a reported non-aggression pact between the French secret service and the Abu Nidal terror group after a lethal attack in Paris in 1982 would be an ‘unprecedented state scandal’ if it proved to be true… According to a report last week in Le Parisien, Mr. Bonnet, now 83, testified to an investigating judge in January this year that France reached ‘a sort of verbal deal’ with the Palestinian Abu Nidal group under which the French said ‘I don’t want any more attacks on French soil and in exchange I will let you come to France and guarantee that nothing will happen to you.’” [FinancialTimes]

DESSERT — Cass Street Deli brings a New York-inspired Jewish delicatessen to Tampa — by Helen Freund: “For owner Sean O’Brien, designs for a New York-inspired deli have been years in the making. Born in Connecticut to a Jewish mother and raised in the Tampa Bay area, O’Brien made frequent trips home to the East Coast, the visits always peppered with outings to Manhattan’s many delicatessens. Every time he returned home, however, he realized that finding the perfect pastrami sandwich was not easy… O’Brien reached out to friends Edward Shumard… and Garrett Garcia. The trio decided to go into business together and, following a series of popups around town, they opened their [Cass Street Deli] location in June.” [TampaBay]

REMEMBERING — Beacon of Masorti Judaism, Rabbi Reuven Hammer, dies at 86 — by Ilanit Chernick and David Brinn: “Rabbi Reuven Hammer, one of the founders and driving forces of the Masorti Movement of Judaism in Israel, died Monday in Jerusalem at the age of 86 after a short illness. A scholar of Jewish liturgy, author and lecturer, Hammer was past president of the International Rabbinical Assembly and served many years as head of the Masorti Beth Din in Israel. He headed the Israel programs of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Jerusalem and was also the founding director of the Seminary of Judaic Studies, today the Schechter Institute.”[JPost]

Paul Findley, 11-term Republican congressman from Illinois, dies at 98 — by Matt Schudel: “Paul Findley, an 11-term Republican congressman from Illinois who was known for supporting civil rights and opposing the Vietnam War, and whose overtures to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat brought sharp criticism, died Aug. 9 at a hospital in Jacksonville, Ill… In 1974, Mr. Findley helped obtain the release of a schoolteacher from his district who had been arrested in South Yemen and charged with being a spy. In his travels, Mr. Findley visited refu­gee camps and contacted Arafat and other Arab leaders… When asked whether his views gave legitimacy to the PLO and terrorism, Mr. Findley said, ‘That’s the position of the Israeli lobby and the Jewish lobby.’ Some people denounced his remarks as antisemitic — an accusation Mr. Findley and several mainstream Jewish organizations rejected.” [WashPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Long-time DC reporter and columnist, Trude Feldman turns 95… Member of the New York State Assembly from Queens (1987-2011) and then the County Clerk of Queens County, Audrey Pheffer turns 78… Retired CPA and senior executive in Los Angeles, now serving as a mentor and volunteer at SCORE, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Morton Algaze turns 76… Former Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2014-2018), Janet Yellen turns 73… Board member of the Beverly Hills Synagogue, Ruth Fay Kellermanturns 61…

VP and Chief of Staff at the Aspen Institute, he also manages Aspen’s monthly Washington Ideas Roundtable and its Gildenhorn Book Series, James M. Spiegelman turns 61… Michael Landau turns 55… Founder and managing director at Beacon Global Strategies, he was chief of staff at the CIA (2009-2011) and Department of Defense (2011-2013), he is a graduate of CESJDS, Jeremy B. Bash turns 48… President of Accessibility Partners, a Maryland firm that hires people with disabilities for tech jobs, she is also the founder of a non-profit Support the Girls, Dana Marlowe turns 43…

Professor of Government at Harvard University, he was the Director of the Harvard Center for Jewish Studies (2012-2015), Eric M. Nelson turns 42… Deputy editor of PowerPost, a Washington Post vertical exploring the power centers of the nation’s capital, Sara Sorcher turns 32… J.D. Candidate at Cardozo School of Law, he was previously a business development manager at Politico (2014-2017), Nathan Jablow turns 28… Strategy and projects associate at Nadav Foundation, formerly an associate director of APCO Worldwide, David Angel… Elaine Hall… Jonathan Gerber… Jodie Singer..

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