Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: August 21, 2019
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Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: August 21, 2019

Democratic 2020 candidates weigh in on Trump ‘disloyalty’ comment; US to scale back planned foreign aid cuts after plea from Pompeo; Op-ed: How the peace process became a farce

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press availability with Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at the State Department in Washington, August 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press availability with Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at the State Department in Washington, August 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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DRIVING THE CONVO — On Tuesday, President Donald Trump dropped another bombastic claim in his campaign to paint Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) as the face of the Democratic Party. “I think Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

On Twitter, Trump also mocked Tlaib over her emotional performance on Monday in response to Israel’s decision to restrict her travel last week. “Sorry, I don’t buy Rep. Tlaib’s tears,” Trump wrote. “I have watched her violence, craziness and, most importantly, WORDS, for far too long. Now tears? She hates Israel and all Jewish people. She is an antisemite.”

Jewish Democrats and mainstream American Jewish groups rushed to condemn Trump’s statement, while the Republican Jewish Coalition defended the president. Read all the reactions here: [JewishInsider]

Several 2020 candidates also chimed in. Former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted: “these comments are insulting and inexcusable — just like your previous dual loyalty insinuations. Stop dividing Americans and disparaging your fellow citizens.” Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke wrote: “The Jewish people don’t need to prove their loyalty to you, Donald Trump — or to anyone else.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) shared on Twitter: “I am a proud Jewish person and I have no concerns about voting Democratic. And in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States.”

Israeli officials, meanwhile, were largely silent on Trump’s comments. Netanyahu’s office declined to respond, and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on the radio Israel “must not intervene in the political disagreements in the United States. We keep good relations with both the Democrats and Republicans and we must continue to do so.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 79% of Jewish voters supported Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.

MORE REACTION — Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro tells JI, “Actual LOL. There are lots of uncertainties in American politics. How the Jewish vote will break in the next presidential election is not one of them. Faced with a Democratic candidate who reflects their values and supports a strong, secure, Jewish, democratic Israel and a two-state solution with Palestinians versus Donald Trump’s cruel, divisive politics… and his approach that threatens to help lead Israel into becoming a binational state, you can mark 75 percent as the floor for the Jewish vote for Democrats in 2020. Eighty percent is not out of the question.”

Ann Lewis, who served as White House director of communications for President Bill Clinton, emails JI: “Donald Trump has now attacked the more than 70 percent of American Jews who dare to disagree with him politically by using one of the most dangerous, deadly accusations Jews have faced over the years.”

Matt Brooks, RJC’s executive director, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: “Of course the president was not trafficking in dual loyalty and antisemitism. The reality is that what the president gave voice to is a question that I get all the time in all of my speeches, in large part from folks who aren’t Jewish and want to understand how people in the Jewish community — given the issues that are important to them — can support the policies of individuals like Omar and Tlaib. You know, it’s a question that has a lot of people scratching their heads.”

Matt Nosanchuk, former Obama Jewish liaison, emails JI: “We have a president with the chutzpah to attack American Jews by trotting out the antisemitic trope of disloyalty. He either ignores or fails to recognize the values and priorities of the overwhelming majority of American Jews, who have been turning out by the thousands to protest the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies and are outraged by the president’s divisive and antidemocratic attacks on two members of Congress — notwithstanding strong policy disagreements with them over Israel. Only a president whose Rasputin [is] Stephen Miller and political doppelgänger is Benjamin Netanyahu would think that he can resort to craven demagoguery in a futile and transparent effort to bolster his standing within the American Jewish community.”

David Halperin, executive director of the Israel Policy Forum: “Something is very wrong — the president claims Jews who vote for one party over another are disloyal and it feels like just another Tuesday in the United States of America. It is abhorrent and dangerous — but this isn’t the first time in the past week he has said something abhorrent and dangerous.”

Abe Foxman, former ADL national director, alluding to a biblical story: “And there comes a president upon the land who knew ‘Joseph’ and proclaimed himself to be the best friend of Israel and the Jewish people. I want to believe he believes that he is. And yet, this same president finds it difficult to condemn neo-Nazis in Charlottesville or white supremacists in Oregon. And now in an effort to publicly proclaim his pro-Israel views, he embraces and gives credibility to the most prevalent and pernicious antisemitic canard. I don’t know if he doesn’t understand it, or does understand but doesn’t care. And I don’t know what is worse… The president is, in reality, giving life to this antisemitic belief from the most important bully pulpit in the world. We need to find a way to help him undo this.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Centersaid in a phone interview with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that one should not be surprised with the term the president used. “You’re talking about the first president of the United States to communicate via tweets and who has a very rough and tumble approach in almost everything he sends out. It’s not unique.” Cooper added that Trump “has what to talk about in terms of what has been achieved with Israel. Don’t be surprised in a political season that you’re going to have Republicans saying, ‘Take a look and see what’s happened so far in the bilateral relations between the U.S. and Israel. And I think one of the reasons why you see so much commentary coming from Trump when it comes to Omar and Tlaib is because in many ways it has just been lacking from Democratic colleagues. This is a crisis that never had to happen, but that will continue to happen as long as they are treated with a different set of standards.”

In an interview on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said that Trump reserves the right to escalate his attacks against the Democratic congresswomen because he “is standing up for the American people, he’s standing up for our ally in Israel, but these two women are clearly against the existence even of Israel.”

HOW IT PLAYED — Trump decides that Democratic-voting Jewish Americans are either ignorant or ‘disloyal’ [WashPost] • Trump accuses Jewish Democrats of ‘great disloyalty’ [NYTimes] • Trump accuses Jewish Americans of ‘disloyalty’ for voting Democratic, in antisemitic trope [TheGuardian] • Trump has some predictably antisemitic advice for America’s Jews [VanityFair]

Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor of the Forward, writes… “This week proves it: Politicians won’t call out antisemitism on their own side: Who in the Republican Party — so quick to call out Democrats for their failures — will call him out for this?… Of course, the Democrats are already lining up to condemn the President’s words. But they have been all too reticent to tackle the same problem in their own ranks. The truth is, it’s been a tough week for American Jews.” [Forward]

HOURS LATER —Trump scraps trip to Denmark, as Greenland is not for sale [NYTimes]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “willing to go head to head” with Trump if the Kushner-led peace plan would include demands that Israel’s right-wing government would not be willing to accept, a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. The official was quoted as saying that Netanyahu has proven in the past he can stand up to U.S. presidents and “is willing to do the same with Trump, if necessary.”

Tom Friedman writes… “How the Palestinian-Israeli peace process became a farce: President Trump says he will release Kushner’s plan after the Israeli election, but I would not trust that for a second. Trump’s only participation in this process has been to exploit it by being slavishly pro-Bibi to win political donations from Sheldon Adelson and votes from Jews in Florida. If Bibi doesn’t want Kushner’s plan released, it won’t be.” [NYTimes]

Shalom Lipner writes: “Trump doesn’t care about Israel. He cares about reelection: Trump’s antics last week, when he upended the Netanyahu government’s decision to open Israel’s borders to two of the country’s harshest congressional opponents, have put Israel’s indispensable relationship with the United States at grave risk… Israel is now… in the hot seat with an expanded circle of elected U.S. officials who may be inclined to put Netanyahu on notice.” [ForeignPolicy]

DUELING OPS — Two columnists in The Washington Post on Wednesday both defended and criticized Netanyahu’s recent decisions. Dana Milbank wrote: “Dear Israel: Please dump Netanyahu. Your friend, America.” The column argued that “Netanyahu has hitched Israel’s future to a fading constituency in U.S. politics… Without a change in leadership in Israel, it’s just a matter of time until the Jewish state loses U.S. aid.” But columnist Marc A. Thiessen defended the Israeli prime minister in an op-ed titled “If Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib can boycott Israel, why can’t Israel boycott them?” Thiessen argued that the decision to bar them was a mistake, “but Omar and Tlaib don’t just oppose Netanyahu’s policies; they oppose the State of Israel. How sad that so many prominent Democrats are condemning Israel’s decision to bar these antisemites more vigorously than they have condemned their antisemitism.”

STATE VISIT — Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Mike Braun (R-IN) toured the Golan Heights during a trip to Israel on Tuesday. [Pic]

INSIDE THE ADMINISTRATION — Trump to scale back planned foreign aid cuts after Pompeo plea — by Nick Wadhams and Jordan Fabian: “President Donald Trump agreed to drastically scale back plans to slash billions of dollars in foreign assistance after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo persuaded him against the move… After speaking with Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday, Trump agreed to limit the cuts to a few hundred million dollars, overruling demands by the Office of Management and Budget to reduce foreign-assistance spending by more than $4 billion.” [BloombergPolitico]

GOV’T EXPANSION PLANS — Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson is proposing the creation of a cabinet-level “Department of Peace” to “proactively and systematically promote national and international conflict prevention.” According to the plan, released on Monday, the “secretary of peace” will serve as a member of the National Security Council and will be empowered to coordinate with all federal agencies on “existing peace-building and violence-reducing efforts within the federal government.”

Internationally, the new department will “provide peace-building support to assist governments and communities in attempts to end conflicts, instead of providing military aid which often prolongs conflicts.” The Williamson campaign did not respond to Jewish Insider’s inquiry on what role the proposed department would have in facilitating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

IRAN WATCH — Fox News’s Trey Yingst reported on Wednesday that an Iranian oil tanker is heading to Syria. According to the report, the ship, loaded with 600,000 barrels of crude oil, departed on August 2 and is headed to Dubai, where it will refuel before traveling to the shores of Syria. Greece saidWednesday it will not facilitate the transfer in any way. On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said if Iran attempts to make the transfer, the United States will take action: “We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States.”

Pompeo maintained on Tuesday that the sanctions regime on Iran is “working.” Addressing a United Nations Security Council meeting on the Middle East, Pompeo declared, “We now have a countdown clock on the State Department’s Iran webpage. Time is drawing short to continue this activity of restricting Iran’s capacity to foment its terror regime. The international community will have plenty of time to see how long it has until Iran is unshackled to create new turmoil, and figure out what it must do to prevent this from happening.”

2020 WATCH — While in New York, Pompeo reportedly met with John Catsimatidis, Art Laffer, Steve Forbes and Steve Moore as he mulls a Senate run in Kansas. Pompeo also met with World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, who maintains a close relationship with Trump, according to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.

2020 BRIEFS — Concerns about Joe Biden’s age and mental fitness are likely overblown, according to experts on aging and the brain… Bernie Sanders wanted to play softball with the press. But his campaign got in the way… Trump team braces GOP donors for a potential ‘moderate and short’ recession… CNN poll: Joe Biden regains a double-digit lead over 2020 Democratic field… What do rally playlists say about the candidates?… Sanders to unveil climate plan on Thursday.

ROAD TO THE KNESSET — In a jab at Netanyahu, Israel Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman signed a vote-surplus agreement with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party. Lieberman said the deal was strictly technical, but the Likud slammed him for abandoning the right wing. Separately, a 2013 video of Lieberman — who has been running on a campaign denouncing ultra-Orthodox influence on the government — was released on Tuesday showing him making a deal with a hardline haredi rabbi to support then-candidate for Jerusalem mayor, Moshe Lion.

Blue and White, meanwhile, is roiling amid leaks within the party, and reports that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction had considered splitting off and running with Lieberman. Blue and White denied Wednesday that a Yesh Atid MK was responsible for leaking embarrassing secret recordings of Gantz, including those saying he’d considering joining a coalition with Netanyahu.

** Good Wednesday 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: Amazon announces official launch in Israel [Globes] • Porsche invests in Israeli road visibility startup TriEye [Reuters• Private equity: the generational feud that rocked Apollo [FinancialTimes• Jane Lauder joins world’s richest in boom year for cosmetics [Bloomberg• Rabsky Group lands $200M refi for 500-unit Bushwick building [RealDeal] • WeWork analyst warns IPO filing a ‘masterpiece of obfuscation’ [Bloomberg]• Intel announces first AI Chip developed in Israel [Calcalist• Teva launches generic version of EpiPen for young children [Reuters]

SPOTLIGHT — Mysterious Israeli businessman behind mega-deal to supply spy planes to UAE — by Uri Blau and Avi Scharf: “For the past few weeks an innocent-looking white executive jet has been taking off from the Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, cruising for hours in the airspace above the Persian Gulf… A Haaretz investigation reveals that the person behind the supply of the planes is Israeli businessman and entrepreneur Matanya ‘Mati’ Kochavi… The deal involved total payments of about 3 billion shekels ($846 million according to the current exchange rate). The documents note that at least part of this sum was paid for in cash, and they name UAE leaders as being connected to one of the companies involved in the transaction.” [Haaretz

Strong shekel seen by finance minister as problem for fortunate — by Ivan Levingston and Gwen Ackerman: “Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is unfazed even as the country’s own central bank is struggling to get a handle on currency gains and sees them as a top impediment to its policy goals. ‘These are the troubles of the rich, troubles of a strong state,’ Kahlon said in an interview Monday in Tel Aviv… ‘The exporters will complain about it, and justifiably. But the consumers will be happy, because the cars will be cheaper, the trips abroad will be cheaper.’” [Bloomberg]

Israel seeks to beat PTSD with ‘ecstasy’ therapy: “Nachum Pachenick says he lived a nightmare for nearly two decades after being sexually abused and developing post-traumatic stress disorder — until MDMA therapy came to his rescue… Pachenick said relief came in 2014, when he took part in a clinical trial that included the use of MDMA, the active component in the drug known to nightclubbers as ecstasy. The treatment’s success on him and dozens of others has led Israel’s health ministry to approve its own pilot for MDMA-assisted therapy for people with treatment-resistant PTSD.” [AFP]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Man arrested with 17 guns, grenade launcher and Nazi paraphernalia — by Ali Watkins: “In a subsequent search of [Joseph] Rubino’s home, the police said they found more than a dozen other weapons, drugs and a box of… bumper stickers and clothing with S.S. Bolts — ‘Common white supremacist and Nazi symbols,’ prosecutors said. Officers also found a document labeled with a racial epithet ‘containing racist material and purporting to be an instruction manual for owning a slave,’ prosecutors said.” [NYTimes]

Harvey Weinstein asks to move trial out of New York City — by Corinne Ramey: “A lawyer for Harvey Weinstein has asked to move the former Hollywood producer’s coming criminal trial out of New York City, saying jurors can’t fairly decide his case in Manhattan. Mr. Weinstein, 67 years old, is scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 9 on sex-crime charges including rape.”[WSJ]

French Jewish spy at 99: ‘I’m still fighting the same battles every day’ — by Kate Irish Collin: “She was a French Jew, but she was also blond, with blue eyes and fair skin, who could speak and read German fluently. That’s how Marthe Cohn, now 99, became a spy for the French Free Forces in the latter days of World War II… In an interview with The Forecaster from her home in California, Cohn said she continues to tell her story because ‘human beings have very short memories and it’s extremely important to remind them of what happened.’ … Cohn said her message of combating hate is particularly important today, because of the rise of white nationalist and populist sentiment over the past few years, not just in the U.S., but in Europe, too. ‘These movements remind me very much of the [rhetoric] in the 1930s,’ she said. ‘I am absolutely concerned,’ Cohn added about the increase in antisemitism around the world… ‘Even at 99 years old, I have to keep telling what happened,’ Cohn said. Even 75 years later, she said, ‘I’m still fighting the same battles every day.’”[PressHerald]

HOLLYWOOD — Barry Manilow’s ‘Harmony’ set for New York debut at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — by Lindsey Sullivan: “‘Harmony,’ Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman’s long-gestating original musical, has a New York premiere date on the books. According to The New York Post, the production is scheduled to begin performances at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on February 11, 2020. Presented by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene… The show tells the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a sextet of Jewish and gentile talents, who came together in 1920s Germany and took the world by storm, but their fame coincided with the Nazis’ rise to power.” [Broadway

Mayim Bialik signs Warner Bros. TV production, talent holding deal — by Will Thorne: “Bialik and her newly launched Sad Clown Productions banner have signed an exclusive multi-year production deal with the [CBS production] studio, coupled with a talent holding provision for her acting services. Bialik is bringing on former Chuck Lorre Productions exec Mackenzie Gabriel-Vaught to head development for her new shingle.” [Variety]

Larry King seeks divorce from seventh wife after 22 years: “Larry King is seeking a divorce from his seventh wife, Shawn King, after 22 years. The 85-year-old talk show host filed a petition to end the marriage Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court… Larry King has been married eight times to seven different women and has five children. He married and divorced Alene Akins twice.” [AP]

SPORTS BLINK — Tyler Dorsey, a Greek-American basketball player and a former NBA shooting guard for the Memphis Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks, signed a one-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv on Saturday, Eurohoopsreported. The deal also includes an option for 2020-21.

DESSERT — The Milky Way in Los Angeles offers kosher dishes honoring Steven Spielberg’s mom — by Jada Montemarano: “The Milky Way is mixing up the kosher dining scene and it all started with Leah Adler 40 years ago… After Adler passed away two years ago the restaurant closed its doors. But her children, including Steven Spielberg, decided to re-open this year in honor of their mother… Chef Phil Kastel joined the team to update the menu with what they feel Leah would eat today.”[SpectrumNews1]

Philadelphia Chinatown’s last kosher, vegetarian restaurant is closing for good — by Rachel Vigoda: “New Harmony, a long-running kosher and vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown, is closing for good at the end of August. It’s the last of its kind in the neighborhood. The restaurant… [has] always been popular in both the kosher and vegetarian/vegan communities.”[EaterPhilly]

BIRTHDAYS: Google co-founder, Sergey Brin turns 46… Retired owner of Effective Strategy Consultants, Irwin Wecker turns 84… Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Judge Ilana Kara Diamond Rovner turns 81… President of MIT, L. Rafael Reif turns 69… Israeli-born pawnbroker and star of the reality television series “Beverly Hills Pawn,” Yossi Dina turns 65… Israeli physician who was a member of the Knesset (1999-2003), he now serves as mayor of Ashdod, Dr. Yehiel Lasri turns 62… Co-founder of BlueLine Grid, he was previously an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles and later a member of the Los Angeles City Council, Jack Weiss turns 55…

Manager of strategic partnerships for UJA’s Day School Challenge Fund, Chavie N. Kahn turns 54… Global head of public affairs at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Ken Mehlman turns 53… MLB pitcher for 9 teams and a starting pitcher in three of Team Israel’s first four games in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, all of which the team won, Jason Marquis turns 41… Senior strategist at PSB Research, Adam Rosenblatt turns 34… Senior manager of informational design at Athena Global Advisors and formerly at AIPAC, Erica N. Miller turns 34… Tzippy Baitch… Lynn Sharon… James Barton… Elon Issashar..

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