Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: July 11, 2019

Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: July 11, 2019

Netanyahu talks Iran in Time Magazine cover story; Israeli Hollywood mogul Haim Saban calls Sanders ‘disaster’ for Democrats; Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘infinite means’ may be a mirage

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a conference hosted by the Israel Hayom newspaper in Jerusalem's Old City on June 27, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a conference hosted by the Israel Hayom newspaper in Jerusalem's Old City on June 27, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

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DIPLOMATIC CABLE — Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Zalman Shoval sat down with Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro to talk about President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the prospect of the U.S.-Israel relationship once they’re both out of office.

“The Jewish community in America, which has historically been more supportive of the Democrats, is not enthusiastic” about the chummy relationship between Trump and Netanyahu, the 89-year-old said. “The majority of the Jewish community in America has a visceral, antagonistic attitude” toward the current U.S. president. What is desperately needed, he said, is “responsible Jewish leadership, which will be able to separate their own domestic political concerns from the question of ‘Do we support what this government, this administration, has done for Israel?’”

Looking at the 2020 race, Shoval said he’s worried that “the Republican Party is moving away from its traditional conservatism. It’s becoming a more populist party. The Democratic Party is also moving away from its centrist position; moving to the left.” The Democratic candidates who say they would rejoin the Iran deal “are disregarding Israel’s vital interests, its vital concerns.”[JewishInsider]

FIRST LOOK — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu graces the cover of this week’s TIME magazine, granting an interview touching on tensions with Iran, the corruption charges against him and burgeoning ties with Arab states.

Netanyahu lauded growing ties with many Arab nations in the region, including the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates. “For so many years, people first of all believed that the cause of all the conflicts in the Middle East was the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” he said. “Well, that’s gone.” The prime minister said he has generated an “informal peace” with Arab states: “Once you eliminate the idea of eliminating Israel, you can solve the problem” of peace with Israel’s neighbors. “In many ways, the Arab governments around us have already moved.”

With a repeat election coming up in September, Netanyahu dismissed the idea that the pending indictment against him will affect his chances, calling the charges a “concoction… My people by and large, my supporters, have been energized by it.” [Time]

HAPPENING TODAY — Former Vice President and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will outline out his foreign policy vision in an address at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center at 1:00 PM EST. The speech will focus on “restoring dignified leadership at home and respected leadership on the world stage,” according to the Biden campaign.

HEARD ON THE TRAIL — Speaking in Iowa on Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Steve Bullock said he would keep the U.S. embassy in Israel in Jerusalem “because it’s moved.”

The Montana governor criticized the decision that led to the embassy’s relocation, saying “I wouldn’t have moved the embassy without getting something out of it.” Bullock also said the prospect of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians is “becoming much more difficult because of the actions of this administration.” [JewishInsider]

WEIGHING IN — Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), a 2020 hopeful, tellsJI’s Laura Kelly: “I hope that Jeremy Corbyn is not the next [British] prime minister.”

Foreign policy not the priority of Iowa voters — JI’s Ben Jacobs reporting from Des Moines, Iowa: Foreign policy once dominated the Iowa caucuses. In both 2004 and 2008, Democrats were divided on the Iraq War and its aftermath. This cycle, foreign policy has become an afterthought for candidates. Voters shared this lack of engagement with foreign policy issues in conversations that Jewish Insider had with more than a dozen Iowans at events for four different presidential candidates.

Dave Peterson, a political science professor at Iowa State, noted that he doesn’t “see much difference [on foreign policy] at least among the top tier candidates.” Others point simply to the need for any Democrat to replace Trump. Speaking at a Des Moines event for Kamala Harris, Carrie Russell, a 50-year-old from Des Moines, said that “foreign policy experience matters, but I would have more confidence in either one of those people to pick the people who actually know something” than Trump.

The lack of focus on foreign policy surprises Scott Brennan, the former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. It seems “like everybody is focused on economic issues and environmental issues,” Brennan noted, adding that his ”assumption is they don’t think that’s what motivates voters and they only want [what] motivates voters.” [JewishInsider] 

TOP TALKER — In a wide-ranging interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban slammed Bernie Sanders as a “disaster” for the Democratic Party. “I profoundly dislike Bernie Sanders, and you can write it. I don’t give a hoot,” Saban told the magazine. “He’s a communist under the cover of being a socialist. He thinks that every billionaire is a crook.”

Saban also is unimpressed with Sanders’ pronouncements on Israel. “I can’t deny the impact that Bernie has had on the Democratic Party,” he adds. “I love it when Bernie says, ‘I recognize Israel’s right to exist.’ That’s how he expresses his support of Israel. Well, thank you so very much. Are you out of your freaking mind? Oh, I’m allowed to live. Hallelujah, praise the lord.”

Asked about President Trump, Saban remained tight-lipped, offering only one sentence on the president’s actions toward Israel: “There are some steps that he took that I am very pleased with, and there are some steps that he took that could’ve been taken but in a broader context.” [JewishInsiderPic]

In response, the Bernie Sanders campaign released a list of anti-endorsements made up of corporate CEOs and billionaires. The list includes Saban, Bob Iger, Bernie Marcus, Lloyd Blankfein, Leon Cooperman, Alan Greenspan, Jeffrey Immelt and Stanley Druckenmiller.

The Sanders campaign described Saban as “a billionaire that has spent millions of dollars buying elections for his candidates. He called on the United States to bomb Iran in 2014, criticized President Obama’s attempts to bring peace to the Middle East, and attacked senators for urging humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.” [JewishInsider]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted the Trump administration for initially inviting far-right cartoonist Ben Garrison, who has been accused of creating ‘a blatantly antisemitic’ illustration, to a social media summit, taking place later today. The White House disinvited Garrison after facing fierce criticism.

“It is an absolute disgrace — disgrace — that it was extended in the first place, and that it took so long to rescind,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “And it is a disgrace that the White House has not rescinded the invitations for several other individuals planning to attend who have spewed hateful and bigoted views online. The plain truth is this: this president, this administration, is shockingly willing to provide succor to some of the most hateful ideologues, ideologies and viewpoints.” 

Schumer accused congressional Republicans of hypocrisy for not speaking out on the matter: “We hear the White House and Congressional Republicans all too eager to decry antisemitism when they perceive it in a political opponent on the left. Well, where are those folks when the White House does something like this? Where are they? It seems some of our friends on the other side of the aisle want to politicize the issue of antisemitism, which should be condemned when anybody talks about it.”

While Garrison’s invite was rescinded, today’s summit is still expected to include “a network of social media personalities who repeatedly target politicians and social media users with disinformation, trolling and harassment campaigns,” according to NBC News. The guest list reportedly includes regular Infowars guest Bill Mitchell; YouTube personality Tim Pool, a Seth Rich conspiracy theorist; and Ali Alexander, who recently questioned Kamala Harris’s ethnicity. Vice reported that the CEO of Minds[dot]com, a social network once home to neo-Nazi groups, is also on the guest list.

IRAN WATCH  — Britain said Thursday morning that Iran attempted to block the passage of a British ship through the Strait of Hormuz, but withdrew after warnings from a British warship. According to the Fars news agency, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the British claim “worthless.”

The U.S. called an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna in response to the Iranian moves, and accused Tehran of “nuclear extortion.”

President Trump warned on Wednesday that U.S. sanctions on Iran would be increased “substantially” soon. Trump tweeted: “Iran has long been secretly ‘enriching,’ in total violation of the terrible 150 Billion Dollar deal made by John Kerry and the Obama Administration. Remember, that deal was to expire in a short number of years. Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!”

Chatting with Israelis via Facebook live, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had discussed the sanctions with Trump. “I heard from my friend President Trump a very firm statement about further sanctions against Iran. It is important. I really appreciate it,” he said. “I talk to the president from time to time and I realize that he understands the Iranian threat well and acts against it, as we do.”

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — On Wednesday, speaking at a reception marking Egypt’s National Day at the residence of Egyptian Ambassador Khaled Azmi in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said he’s keeping “an open heart and mind” about Trump’s peace plan and will “examine the specific proposals that will be made” upon its release.

But earlier in the day, Netanyahu declared that he will not allow the eviction of any communities in the West Bank. “I personally commit to this, and the commitment has no expiration date. We will not let any community or town in the Land of Israel be evicted, neither Jewish nor Arab,” Netanyahu said during an event marking the 40th anniversary of the Samaria regional council at the settlement of Revava. “We don’t forcibly evict people. We’re done with this nonsense. Israel under my leadership will not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: The House Foreign Affairs Committee is moving ahead on Rep. Brad Schneider’s (D-IL) resolutionopposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) called the bill “unconstitutional” on Twitter: “@HouseForeign wants to move forward w/ #HR246 #AntiBDS bill to silence opposition of Israel’s blatantly racist policies that demonize both Palestinians & Ethiopians. Our 1st Amd. right to free speech allows boycott of inhumane policies. This bill is unconstitutional.”

The nonbinding resolution has 336 co-sponsors. About 69 Democrats and at least 31 Republicans have yet to sign on.

Several moderate Democrats, including Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Max Rose (D-NY), have expressed frustration with the delay in bringing the bill to the floor, with Luria telling JI that some Democrats have entertained joining a Republican discharge petition that would bring a more robust anti-BDS bill to the floor for a vote. 

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), a senior member of the HFAC, said Republicans stand behind the bill. “There’s strong Republican support for it, so whatever Democrats are lost we’ll make up.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reportedly scolded progressive Democrats in a closed-door meeting Wednesday over their use of Twitter in airing party grievances. “You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it,” she reportedly told Democrats. “But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK.”

The newly founded Democratic Majority for Israel is coaching 2020 presidential candidates how to handle left-wing activists, The Huffington Postreported. The group sent a memo this week with “suggestions on how to answer questions about pressuring the Israeli government to end its military occupation of Palestinian lands.” The memo advised Democrats to “stick to formulations that emphasize the responsibility of both sides… to act to defuse the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

2020 BRIEFS — Tom Steyer’s campaign rolled out a seven-figure television ad campaign promoting his presidential campaign… Team Biden keeps insisting he isn’t racist. It’s a defense that misses the point… Kamala Harris is back on track after her debate win. Will it last?… When it comes to fundraising, the 2020 front-runners are pulling away from the field…

RACE TO THE KNESSET — Rather than debate substantive policy issues, Israeli politicians have been focused on a viral video challenge over the past 24 hours. It all began when former Prime Minister Ehud Barak — who entered the race last month to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — posted a video of himself performing the viral “bottle cap challenge.” Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid followed up with his own take on the challenge, and Netanyahu then mocked them both, tweeting clips of their videos as a PSA for staying hydrated in the summer.

Later, during a Facebook live Q&A, Netanyahu was asked about the challenge, and produced a bottle of nasal spray, referencing a recent Channel 12 News report that he regularly uses the product.

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Diplomat Charles Rivkin, CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, joins the board of Israeli ridesharing company Via [NewsWire• Scooter Braun’s SB Projects strikes first-look television deal with Amazon Studios [Deadline] • Epstein’s ties to Wall Street elite revealed in filing, notably with Leon Black, billionaire founder of Apollo Global Management [FinancialTimes]

MORE BRIEFS: U.S. Fed Chair remarks stoke strong shekel gains [Globes] • YL Ventures, a specialist in Israeli cybersecurity startups, has closed its fourth fund with $120 million [TechCrunch• Bridgepoint buys majority stake in Israeli firm Qualitest for $420m [Reuters] • El Al phasing out Boeing 747 Jumbos this year, replacing them with Dreamliners [Globes]

DEEP DIVE — Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘infinite means’ may be a mirage — by James B. Stewart, Matthew Goldstein, Kate Kelly and David Enrich: “There is little evidence that Mr. Epstein is a billionaire. Mr. Epstein’s wealth may have depended less on his math acumen than his connections to two men — Steven J. Hoffenberg, a onetime owner of The New York Post and a notorious fraudster later convicted of running a $460 million Ponzi scheme, and Leslie H. Wexner, the billionaire founder of retail chains including The Limited and the chief executive of the company that owns Victoria’s Secret.”[NYTimes]

ACROSS THE POND — A bombshell BBC report that aired Wednesday evening revealed that top Labour Party figures have been interfering in antisemitism disputes. “Senior Labour figures have interfered in the disciplinary process of dealing with accusations of antisemitism… Seumas Milne, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest aides, told officials the party was ‘muddling up political disputes with racism’ and must review processes. And General Secretary Jennie Formby attempted to interfere in who sat on a panel examining a high-profile case… Sam Matthews, the party’s former head of disputes, said he interpreted an e-mail sent by Mr Milne — the Labour leader’s communications chief — in March 2018, calling for a review into how complaints were handled, as an instruction.” [BBC]

The Labour Party denied the claims, saying that it completely rejects “any claim that Labour is antisemitic. We stand in solidarity with Jewish people, and we’re taking decisive action to root out the social cancer of antisemitism from our movement and society.” But for the vast majority of the U.K. Jewish community, the BBC documentary confirmed what it has been alleging for years.

The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said that the BBC documentary merely “gives added weight to what we have suspected all along. It suggests that the issue of antisemitism has been treated with disdain by the Labour leader and as a joke by Seumas Milne, and that Jennie Formby and her appointments have repeatedly obstructed justice in disciplinary cases.”

TALK OF SUN VALLEY — Richard Plepler to create his own consultancy — by Alexandra Steigrad: “EX-HBO Chief Executive Officer Richard Plepler has his next project in the works. The well-connected exec is starting his own consultancy, dubbed “RLP & Company,” The Post has learned. There are few details available on Plepler’s new gig, but sources close to the exec said he is bound by a non-disclosure agreement that prohibits working for any HBO competitors. Plepler, who is expected to attend Allen & Co,’s annual conference here, has yet to be spotted.” [NYPost]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — Sports engagement startup Heed shuts down — by Meir Orbach: Sports engagement startup Heed Technology Ltd. has shut down… Operational since 2017, Heed developed artificial intelligence sensor systems for tracking sports and entertainment events, designed to provide insights and analytics in real time… Heed was co-founded by Israeli businessman Mati Kochavi, founder of Zurich-based IoT company AGT International, and by entertainment executive Ari Emanuel, founder of media company Endeavor.” [Calcalist]

How Endeavor’s IPO became a focus of the bitter WGA-agencies war — by Cynthia Littleton and Brent Lang: “Instead of a coronation of Ari Emanuel, the CEO who built Endeavor from its humble beginnings in 1995 as a start-up talent agency, the launch of Endeavor’s IPO process in May has opened the company to tough scrutiny of its finances and the strategy underlying the buying spree of the past few years. The firm hopes to grow beyond its talent agency roots into the big leagues of publicly traded media and content companies. But the response on Wall Street to the disclosure of Endeavor’s financial data for the past three years has been tepid.” [Variety]

SPORTS BLINK — Stoudemire: Still ‘have a lot to offer’ NBA teams: “Amar’e Stoudemire told MSG Network on Tuesday that he can bring needed leadership to young NBA teams and still ‘has a lot of game left’ as he attempts to return to the league… Stoudemire played the past two seasons for Hapoel Jerusalem in Israel and has been playing this year in the Big3.” [ESPN]

TALK OF OUR NATION — Blair Nodelman, an organizer with Never Again Action, writes… “Why Jewish activists are on the front lines in mass protests against ICE: When the Jewish people say ‘never again,’ we mean now. We mean that the suffering of our people and our inherited trauma is not a political tool for politicians to rephrase. We’re not here to argue semantics over whether we can call them ‘concentration camps’; when we say ‘never again,’ we mean it is time to close all camps throughout the country.” [TeenVogue]

What and Whom Are Jewish Museums For? — by Melissa Eddy: “What is the role of a Jewish museum? Is it for the Jewish community, or those non-Jews around it? And must its leader be Jewish? These questions are swirling around the future of the Jewish Museum Berlin, one of the city’s most popular visitor attractions, after the abrupt departure last month of its director, Peter Schäfer. He left after a string of controversies in which critics — including the Israeli government and the main organization representing Jews in Germany — said the institution had gone beyond its mission and become overly political.” [NYTimes]

LONG READ — Descendants of Jews who fled Nazis unite to fight for German citizenship; Hundreds of applicants turned down by the government are now looking for answers — by Kate Connolly: “A group of more than 100 descendants of Jewish refugees who fled the Nazi regime are challenging the German government’s rejection of their applications to restore their citizenship… The anger and dismay caused by the growing number of rejections has prompted the creation of the Article 116 Exclusions Group, a UK-based campaign group that takes its name from the article of Germany’s basic law that provides for the restoration of citizenship.”[TheGuardian]

DESSERT — The king of treif goes kosher — by Deborah Danan: “A celebrity chef who shuns celebrity, Yoram Nitzan has been a reluctant icon of Tel Aviv’s culinary scene for decades… Since the mid-1990s, the 55-year-old has been at the helm of renowned treif Tel Aviv restaurants Bindella and Mul Yam, so when he resurfaced this past winter as the head chef at the David Intercontinental’s new upscale — and decidedly kosher — restaurant, nomi, in Tel Aviv, it sent shockwaves through the culinary classes.” [JewishJournal]

REMEMBERING — Film producer and Holocaust survivor Artur Brauner dies — by Geir Moulson: “Artur Brauner, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor who became one of post-World War II Germany’s most prominent film producers, died Sunday at age 100… The son of a Jewish wood merchant, he was born as Abraham Brauner on Aug. 1, 1918, in the Polish city of Lodz. Brauner discovered his love for the cinema at an early age and often went straight from school to a screening… Brauner, his parents and four siblings fled east and survived the war. His parents later emigrated to Israel… Brauner co-founded the Central Cinema Co., which went on to become one of Europe’s most important production firms, increasingly expanding into television in the 1960s.” [AP]

BIRTHDAYS: IRS Commissioner during the JFK and LBJ administrations (1961-1964), founding member of prestigious tax law firm of Caplin & Drysdale, Mortimer Caplin turns 103… Professor of Humanities at Yale, author of more than 40 books and noted literary critic, Harold Bloom turns 89… Professor of Social Sciences emeritus at Harvard, Ezra Feivel Vogel turns 89… Entrepreneur, investment banker, civil servant and political advisor, co-founder and chairman of Odyssey Investment Partners, he was previously EVP of GE Capital Corporation (1990-1993), Stephen Berger turns 80… Member of the UK’s House of Lords since 1997 and the leading fundraiser for the British Labour Party from 1994 to 2007, he was formerly PM Tony Blair’s special envoy to the Middle East, Baron Michael Abraham Levy turns 75… Partner in the Santa Monica-based law firm of Maron & Sandler, EVP of the Milken Family Foundation and immediate past Chair of the Board of Trustees of JFNA, Richard V. Sandler turns 71…

Founder in 1992 of Schnur Associates, a marketing, PR and lobbying firm, she spent 12 years as Executive Director of the Greater New York Coalition for Soviet Jewry, Zeesy Schnur turns 70… West Orange, New Jersey resident, Jeffrey Maas turns 70… Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, known by his stage name “RebbeSoul,” Bruce Burger turns 62… CEO of Sidewalk Labs (an Alphabet company), he was previously CEO and president of Bloomberg L.P. (2008-2014), Daniel L. Doctoroff turns 61… Los Angeles-based Group EVP of Public Relations for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel, Laurie Goldberg turns 60… Radiation oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvey Jay Mamon, MD, PhD turns 58… Managing Member at Samuel Capital Management, Barry Mannis turns 58… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party (2015-2019), he last served as Deputy Environmental Protection Minister, Yaron Mazuz turns 57…

Born in Marrakesh, Morocco, he served as commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, now in the IDF Reserves, Major General Shlomo “Sami” Turgeman turns 55… Deputy editor with The City and a former member of the NY Daily News editorial board, she is the author of a book on the outsized influence of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Alyssa A. Katz turns 51… Graduate of Stanford U Law School, then White House aide in the Bush 43 administration, now based in Los Angeles at land-use law firm of Park and Velayos, Lindsey Caren Kozberg turns 49… Consultant focused upon social impact strategies, he was previously COO of the DNC, chief strategy officer at Share Our Strength, and director of community relations at the NBA, Joshua D. Wachs turns 48… Ukrainian-born, he moved to Chicago when he was 15 years old, computer scientist and internet entrepreneur, CEO of the digital lending start-up Affirm and former chief technology officer of PayPal, Max Levchin turns 44… Founder and CEO of Wisconsin-based Good Karma Brands, he is the son of Mel Karmazin (former CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio and Viacom), Craig Karmazin turns 44… Celine Mizrahi turns 41…

Chabad rabbi at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, Rabbi Hershey Novackturns 41… Screenwriter known for The Green Hornet (2011), 50/50 (2011) and Bad Sports (2013), Theodore Beren Bressman turns 35… Chief of staff for Congressman Max Rose (D-NY-11), she was previously legislative director for Representative Tim Ryan and a former fellow at the American Jewish Committee, Anne Sokolov turns 34… as does her twin sister, a brand marketing manager at Google, Kate Sokolov (daughters of shopping mall executive Rick Sokolov)… Retired offensive guard in the NFL for eight seasons for the Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants, Geoffrey Isaiah “Geoff” Schwartz (his Hebrew name is Gedalia Yitzhak) turns 33… Prior litigation associate at the DC office of Paul Weiss, he was previously special advisor to the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Matthew J. Rosenbaum turns 33… Bryan Stone

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