COMING SOON — According to multiple sources, the Trump administration has picked a new Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and will be announcing the nominee shortly. The appointment requires Senate approval.
FIRST LOOK — Talking With Ambassador Nominee Lana Marks, Who’s Ready to Ditch Palm Beach for Pretoria — by Tish Durkin: “Since her nomination [to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to South Africa] was announced in November, Marks has been slammed for, among other things, belonging to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, lacking any diplomatic experience whatsoever, and engaging in relentless self-promotion to advance her decidedly flashy business.”
On joining Mar-a-Lago: “‘I was quite limited because I am of the Jewish faith, and my husband is also of the Jewish faith,’ she says, for example. ‘We live on the south end of the island [near the Trump estate], and we didn’t have terribly many opportunities where we could go play tennis, which is an extramural of mine, and so we decided it would be very nice if we joined Mar-a-Lago.’ She seems completely unperturbed by the reality she is describing — that, as of 2010, when she and her husband joined Trump’s club, they were barred by their religion from joining the others. But given her backstory, it has to bother her a little.”
Family history: “Blond hair and blue eyes saved Marks’s father, Alec Bank. Fleeing Lithuania in the 1930s, his mother pointed to her family’s fair coloring as proof that they couldn’t possibly be Jews. Arriving in Johannesburg as a boy, Bank grew up to make a fortune as a property developer, eventually becoming a prominent member of the Jewish community in East London. With his wife, Blanche, he raised his three children — Marks is the eldest — in comfort. Their house had a pool, a small movie theater, and (once Lana had won enough competitions to earn it in her father’s eyes) a tennis court. Marks’s sister now lives in Australia and her brother in Israel. She is bitterly estranged from both over the family trust and the care of their mother, now 89.” [NYMag]
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — Trump’s favorite compliment — by Alayna Treene and Jonathan Swan: “Kevin Warsh had prepared deeply for his interview with President Trump. It was the fall of 2017, and Trump had narrowed his search for the next chairman of the Federal Reserve down to four candidates. Warsh was one of them. The former Federal Reserve governor arrived at the White House with a set of sharp points to make to Trump about monetary policy, according to a friend of his. But that’s not quite how the conversation went. ‘You’re a really handsome guy, aren’t you?’ Trump said, per the friend. ‘How old are you?’ Warsh was 47. ‘Well, you look good for 47,’ Trump told Warsh.” [Axios]
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Palestinians refuse to meet with Trump’s adviser, so he’s tweeting them — by Ruth Eglash: “It’s been more than a year since senior Palestinian officials have agreed to meet or even speak with representatives of the Trump administration, but now President Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, appears to have adopted a new diplomatic channel: Twitter. During the past few weeks, Greenblatt has been tweeting his thoughts, requests and criticisms to those Palestinian leaders who are active on the popular social media platform.”[WashPost]
— Greenblatt tweeted on Saturday evening: “Dr. [Hanan] Ashrawi- my door is always open to the PA and Palestinians to speak… I’m happy to meet anytime — you, Saeb [Erekat] and all your colleagues are always welcome to visit me at the White House to speak in person.”
TALK OF THE REGION — Jewish and Palestinian Teens Reach for Understanding One More Time — by Daniel Gordis: “Israeli and Palestinian teenagers hardly ever meet… The Roots program that brought these teens together, however, is the brainchild of a Palestinian peace activist, Ali Abu Awwad, and is now co-directed by Ali’s brother Haled… What turned him around, he told me when we met at his home, was the sight of Jewish tears. He was attending a meeting of Jews and Palestinians who had lost family members in the conflict, and in the course of the conversation, a Jewish woman wept. The sight, he said, shocked him. Perhaps hyperbolically, he said that it had never crossed his mind that Jews cry, too. It was then, he said, that he decided to devote his life to a different solution to the endless conflict.” [Bloomberg]
Israeli government report claims terrorists have ‘infiltrated’ Palestinian NGOs — by Raphael Ahren: “‘The terror groups have realized that armed conflict is not achieving its objective and is perceived as illegitimate by the majority of Western society,’ the Strategic Affairs Ministry report states. ‘Hamas and PFLP operatives have infiltrated and adopted seemingly benign NGOs in the Palestinian Authority, Europe, North America and South Africa, for the purpose of advancing their ideological goal: the elimination of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.'” [ToI]
As West Bank Violence Surges, Israel Is Silent on Attacks by Jews — by Isabel Kershner: “Attacks by settlers on Palestinians, their property and Israeli security forces increased by 50 percent last year and have threatened to ignite the West Bank, Israeli security officials say… While Palestinian and United Nations officials have condemned the violence… Israel’s right-wing government has remained conspicuously silent, wary of alienating settlers and other potential supporters in an election year.” [NYTimes]
Rivlin impresses Jewish connection to Jerusalem on UN ambassadors — by Greer Fay Cashman: “In a meeting at the President’s Residence on Sunday, with close to 40 ambassadors to the UN from many parts of the world, Rivlin acknowledged the importance of the UN as a multi-national entity that deals with numerous national and international issues, but was highly critical of its tendency to ignore history, specifically with regard to the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.” [JPost]
Kontorovich elaborates in an email to JI: “The Security Council resolution calls on countries to ‘differentiate’ between Israel and territories that came under its control in 1967. The resolution is of course not binding, and by going on in official state visit across the green line in the company of Israeli government officials, these UN ambassadors show that they are fully aware what a dead letter the resolution is.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — President Trump on Syria withdrawal in an interview with Margaret Brennan on CBS’s Face the Nation:“Ultimately some will be coming home. But we’re going to be there and we’re going to be staying… We have to protect Israel…One of the reasons I want to keep [the U.S. military base in Iraq] is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.”
Brennan: Whoa, that’s news. You’re keeping troops in Iraq because you want to be able to strike in Iran?
Trump: ”No, because I want to be able to watch Iran. All I want to do is be able to watch.”
Trump on disagreeing with intelligence chiefs regarding the Iranian threat: “My intelligence people, if they said in fact that Iran is a wonderful kindergarten, I disagree with them 100 percent. It is a vicious country that kills many people.”
Brennan: I should say your intel chiefs do say Iran’s abiding by that nuclear deal.
Trump: “I disagree with them… I have intel people, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree.” [Video]
INSIDE THE ADMIN — John Bolton Is Living His Dream — by Elise Labott: “It was clear from our encounter that [Trump exiting the Iran deal] is one of the proudest achievements of Bolton’s professional life, commemorated by a picture hanging on his office wall. A gift from Ivanka Trump, it is a framed Wall Street Journal cartoon published shortly after Trump exited the nuclear deal. It shows Trump, with Bolton right behind him, squaring off across a chessboard against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Scrawled on the bottom is a note from the president, ‘John, Great Job.'” [PoliticoMag]
ON THE HILL — The Senate is expected to resume debate on S.1, Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act. Procedural votes will follow later in the evening. [CSPAN]
— “The Senate bill, which has considerable Democratic support, is destined to fail in the House, where Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic Caucus chairman, has labeled it a ‘political stunt.'” [NYTimes]
HOW IT’S BEING PLAYED —Senate reasserts foreign policy role, reshapes Trump agenda — by Lisa Mascaro: “The Republican-led Senate is reasserting itself as a check on Trump’s instincts… Pushed forward by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the legislation also is driving a political wedge dividing Democrats, particularly those running for president in 2020, over the troop withdrawal and a separate provision supporting Israel.”[AP]
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — From Celebrated to Vilified, House’s Muslim Women Absorb Blows Over Israel —by Sheryl Gay Stolberg: “Almost daily, Republicans brashly accuse Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar of anti-Semitism and bigotry, hoping to make them the Democrats’ version of Representative Steve King (R-IA)… And while Democratic leaders publicly defend them, some Democratic colleagues are clearly uneasy. Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida and a founder of a bipartisan task force to combat anti-Semitism, said some of the lawmakers’ comments ‘fall into longstanding anti-Semitic tropes.’ When Ms. Omar was named to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, its chairman, Representative Eliot Engel of New York, told her privately that he would not allow some of her ‘particularly hurtful’ remarks to be ‘swept under the rug,’ Mr. Engel said.”
“Democratic leaders are standing by the women. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the caucus chairman, called them ‘thoughtful colleagues.’ Representative Steny D. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader and a staunch ally of Israel, said, ‘I don’t know that I draw the conclusion that these two members are anti-Semitic.'” [NYTimes]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT — An old-school Democrat takes on Trump’s foreign policy — by Nahal Toosi and Marianne Levine: “Even as he calls one hearing after another that will feature pointed criticism of the president, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) hopes to retain his bipartisan credentials… Asked about how he will get along with [Ilhan] Omar and others more to left than him, Engel said ‘reasonable people can disagree’ and that views can change. ‘I’m not going to slam the door on anybody,’ he said. ‘And I will judge each person, certainly on my committee, the way he or she acts in a collegial way.'”[Politico]
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in an interview with the LATimes:“There are many people who get caught up in the BDS movement who are not anti-Semitic at all and who see it as a form of social protest. I understand that. But its strategy is to demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel. We find that deeply wrong.”
TOP TALKER — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) faced Twitter backlash on Sunday evening after she praised UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn following a phone conversation between the two. “Great to speak to AOC on the phone this evening and hear first hand how she’s challenging the status quo,” Corbyn wrote on Twitter. Ocasio-Cortez celebrated the call with the British leader accused of anti-Semitism. “It was an honor to share such a lovely and wide-reaching conversation with you, Jeremy Corbyn!” she tweeted.
Bret Stephens tweeted: “Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite, AOC, a view widely shared by Jewish members of the U.K. Labour Party. Please educate yourself before you embarrass yourself. Again.”
Yair Rosenberg added: “85% of British Jews think Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic. 87% of Jews refused to vote for his Labour party in the last election, and for good reason. AOC might want to have her staff screen her calls more carefully.”
— Ocasio-Cortez responded to the criticism by a ‘huge fan’ of hers, Elad Nehorai, who goes by the name Pop Chassid on Twitter: “Thank you for bringing this to me. We cannot + will not move forward without deep fellowship and leadership with the Jewish community. I’ll have my team reach out.