Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: June 11, 2019

Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: June 11, 2019

US House introduces bill to put conditions on military aid to Lebanon; Why the upcoming rematch elections are a race to the bottom; The ‘Iron Dome’ phone app for mosquitoes

File photo of Lebanese army special forces marching during a military parade to mark the 74th anniversary of Lebanon's independence from France in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, November 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
File photo of Lebanese army special forces marching during a military parade to mark the 74th anniversary of Lebanon's independence from France in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, November 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

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WHILE WE WERE AWAY — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told The New York Times that Israel “has the right” to annex parts of the West Bank “under certain circumstances.”… Palestinian officials and Israeli human rights groups called on the administration to fire Friedman, but the White House “has given no indication” that it will ask Friedman to retract his comments.

Less than two weeks away, Israel has yet to receive an official invitation to the Kushner-led ‘economic workshop’ summit in Bahrain… A senior Israeli official told Ch. 13 that Kushner told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that the administration is waiting for Jordan, Eygpt and other countries to first confirm their attendance.

ON THE HILL – By JI’s Laura Kelly: Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) will introduce a bill this week that if passed, applies conditions on military aid to Lebanon. It’s part of the lawmaker’s effort to combat Hezbollah’s influence in the Levant.

What’s going on: The “Countering Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Military Act of 2019” applies conditions to 20 percent of American military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). To comply, the Lebanese government and military must show that they are working to limit Hezbollah’s role in the army, with the U.S. secretaries of state and defense expected to “actively engage” in discussions to keep officials from the terrorist organization out of key leadership roles in the military.

Why it matters: The U.S. has provided at least $2.29 billion in military assistance to the LAF since 2005, calling the country’s military the “sole, legitimate defender of Lebanon.” Zeldin’s bill  is a rebuke of Hezbollah’s influence in the country and its aggression towards Israel. At least six Hezbollah-built cross-border tunnels from Southern Lebanon into Israel were discovered by the Israeli Defense Forces, with the U.N. peacekeepers confirming at least three.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said the tunnels violate the 2006 ceasefire agreement between Lebanon and Israel, and said it took the matter to the Lebanese government.

What’s next: It’s unclear if the legislation will attract any Democratic cosponsors, which it would need to move along in the Democrat-controlled House. [JewishInsider]

Congress is working to give the U.S. Army the go-ahead to purchase two Iron Dome Missile Defense systems from Israel, with a bipartisan bill introduced Monday by Reps. Mikie Sherill (D-NJ) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) to pave the way forward.

The “U.S.-Israel Indirect Fire Protection Act of 2019” authorizes the secretary of the army to buy the short-range rocket defense system batteries. 

Rep. Sherrill said in a statement, “Iron Dome is a proven defense system that will provide increased protection for our troops in the field. Access to this technology addresses critical gaps in our current capabilities.”

ANTISEMITISM WATCH – On Monday, a bipartisan group of members of the House antisemitism task force issued a statement supporting recent moves by the general secretariat of the Organization of American States to adopt formal language defining antisemitism, and praised the move as a serious investment in combatting anti-Jewish sentiment.

Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Kay Granger (R-TX), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Randy Weber (R-TX), Marc Veasey (D-TX) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) applauded Secretary General Luis Almagro for endorsing the working definition of antisemitism, developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

“Anti-Semitism knows no boundaries. Sadly, cases of violence, vandalism, and intimidation against Jews occur throughout the Americas. But we are deeply encouraged by OAS Secretary General Almagro’s unequivocal stance against anti-Semitism and his pledge to adopt IHRA’s working definition for the countries of the Americas,” the task force, which includes nearly 100 members of Congress, said in its statement.

Secretary Almagro, who made his announcement at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum last week in Washington D.C., also condemned the entrenched presence of Hezbollah and Iran in Latin America and malign activities against the Jewish communities, specifically mentioning the 1994 AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 and wounded hundreds.

“Iran and Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, that have a solid base of operations in South America,” Almagro said at the conference, “the cowards that attack democracy and the values of human dignity it represents have found fertile ground to operate in Cuba and Venezuela. And because evil breeds evil, and evil attracts evil, Latin American dictators in the 21st century have partnered with terrorists and anti-Semitic actors and organizations.”

TALK OF THE TOWN — Rabbi attacked in central Argentina: “A rabbi in Rosario, the third most populous city in Argentina, was verbally and physically attacked in violence that has been characterized as anti-Semitic. Rabbi Shlomo Tawil, of the local Chabad-Lubavitch organization, was attacked Sunday night by three men in the city center of Rosario… The men shouted anti-Semitic epithets before removing the rabbi’s hat and trampling it on the ground, and then beating the rabbi, who was walking alone.” [JTA]

The New York Times announced on Monday that it will stop publishing editorial cartoons in the paper’s international edition following the uproar over an antisemitic cartoon mocking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We plan to continue investing in forms of Opinion journalism, including visual journalism, that express nuance, complexity and strong voice from a diversity of viewpoints across all of our platforms,” the Times’ editorial page editor James Bennet said in a statement.

Patrick Chappatte, a Lebanese-Swiss cartoonist and the newspaper’s editorial cartoonist, wrote in a blog post, “I’m putting down my pen, with a sigh: that’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon — not even mine — that should never have run in the best newspaper of the world. I’m afraid this is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow.”

IRAN WATCH — The Trump administration is reportedly considering imposing sanctions on the Special Trade and Finance Institute (STFI), which Iran had established as a counterpart to the European’s Instex that was created earlier this year to help shield limited trade with Iran from U.S. sanctions. A U.S. official told Bloomberg that the STFI is being viewed as an extension of Iran’s central bank, which is already under U.S. sanctions.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the U.S. that it “cannot expect to stay safe” after it “launched an economic war against Iran.” Zarif issued the threat during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who visited Tehran to try and salvagethe 2015 nuclear deal. In his meeting with Maas, President Hassan Rouhani called on the remaining partners in the JCPOA to “resist the economic war on Iran imposed by America.”

Netanyahu and Zarif also traded threats on Monday. “You should ask a regime possessing nuclear weapons about how Netanyahu stands next to the Dimona (reactor), a nuclear weapons site, and says Iran should be destroyed,” Zarif said. Netanyahu, in response, called him “a serial liar.” It is “Iran who is openly threatening destruction,” Netanyahu said in a video.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told reporters that Iran has accelerated its production of enriched uranium. But Amano said it is unclear when the Iranians may reach the limit set in the nuclear deal.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), told the Wall Street Journal that he is considering asking for a larger U.S. military presence in the Gulf region after concluding that the recent deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier helped to deter attacks by Iranian forces. “We think this is having a very good stabilizing effect,” Gen. McKenzie said.

Iran Bars Times Correspondent From Reporting — by Rick Gladstone: “The authorities in Iran have barred the Tehran-based correspondent for The New York Times from working for the past four months, the newspaper said Monday. The correspondent, Thomas Erdbrink, a Netherlands citizen, has reported for The Times from Iran since 2012.” [NYTimes]

ON THE GROUND — According to a report in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat, the National Liberation Front, a group of Syrian opposition officers, has documented the site of several Iranian missile caches in Syria. The group also found Toophan-1 anti-tank missiles stored in the T-4 airport that had previously been struck by Israel.

Israel’s Kan 11 reported that the Mossad tipped off British authorities of Hezbollah attempted efforts to stockpile explosives in London back in 2015.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave in to an ultimatum issued by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, confirming that he will attend his pre-indictment hearing on October 2nd. At the same time, Netanyahu’s attorney Amit Hadad suggested that “it would be right to consider delaying it to a later date.” Last week, the PM requested to postpone the hearing — which had already been moved from July — until next year because of the repeat Knesset elections taking place on September 17, but Mandelblit rejected the request.

MK Miki Zohar (Likud) said in a radio interview that voters — not the Israeli justice system — would decide Netanyahu’s legal fate, signaling a renewed effort to pass the immunity law after the September 17 elections.

Why the Upcoming Israeli Rematch Elections Are a Race to the Bottom —by Eylon Aslan-Levy: “Israel’s repeat elections on Sept. 17 are going to be a race to the bottom. Not just because the campaigns will likely be dirtier than last time, but also because they will be decided by whomever can fish the most votes out of the garbage, persuading the many Israelis who “wasted” their votes on minor parties in April or did not vote to switch allegiances.” [Tablet]

Aaron David Miller writes… “Trump’s bromance with Netanyahu is about to heat up for Israel’s do-over election: The Trump administration went out of its way to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu win the April Israeli elections, and even tried to boost him in his failed attempt to form a governing coalition… Netanyahu, still under indictment, faces real challenges in the coming election and beyond. Can Trump’s back pats and favors make the difference? As my grandmother used to say about her chicken soup, it couldn’t hurt.” [LATimes]

Yair Netanyahu, the PM’s oldest son, said in an interview with BlazeTV, “President Trump is the best friend that Israel and the Jewish people ever had in the White House. He will be remembered in Jewish history forever for moving the embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights… The vast majority of Israelis adore America and President Trump. He is a real rock star in Israel.” [Video]

2020 BRIEFS — Trump needs a target to stay interested in his campaign. For now, it’s Biden… Biden’s slow rollout rankles Iowa Dems… Bill de Blasio tries to find someone, somewhere, who wants to vote for him… Tulsi Gabbard had a very strange childhood — which may help explain why she’s out of place in today’s Democratic Party.

Beto O’Rourke said on Saturday he’s unfazed by sinking poll numbers in Iowa… South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg puts focus on foreign policy as he hammers Trump… Bernie Sanders is expected to deliver a speech on democratic socialism at the George Washington University on Wednesday…

REPORT — Top Democrats are buzzing about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) primarying Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in 2022, or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in 2024, Mike Allen reported on Monday. Corbin Trent, Ocasio-Cortez’s communications director, told Axios: “Having worked on her campaign, I don’t think we’re going to be moving to a different role any time soon.”

The Battle for AOC’s Progressive Soul — by Abigail Tracy: “There is a growing perception among some progressives that Ocasio-Cortez is succumbing to the institutional pressures of Congress, going along to get along in the old Washington way. ‘I think she’s learning. She’s learning how to play the game. The problem is that the game is broken and that’s what even more devastating, she doesn’t see that and isn’t seeing the power she has to do more,’ a progressive Democratic congressional aide told me. ‘She’s being manipulated by these lawmakers who’ve gotten nothing done for the last few decades.'”[VanityFair]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Marc Benioff’s Salesforce is buying data visualization company Tableau for $15.7B in all-stock deal [TechCrunch] • Company part-owned by Jared Kushner, Cadre, got $90m from unknown offshore investors since 2017 [TheGuardian] • Leon Black’s Apollo to Buy Shutterfly, Snapfish[WSJ• Bryan Goldberg Would Like to Buy Your Dying Online Media Property [Bloomberg• Joel Silver settles $8 million lawsuit over Jeff Koons art; case secretly funded by billionaire Ronald Perelman [TheBlastArtNet]

STARTUP NATION — The ‘Iron Dome’ for mosquitoes — by Yisrael Wolman: “Israeli technology start-up Bzigo has developed a machine that scans a room for mosquitoes and once it detects that it has landed, the device points a laser beam at it, while sending a message to a phone app, allowing the recipient to easily locate the pest and kill it. The device was developed over three years and looks like a box the size of a compact smartphone that can be connected to the wall or stand-alone on a flat surface. Although the current model only helps locate the mosquito, according to Bzigo CEO Nadav Benedek, they are working a future model that will be able to eliminate the mosquito on its own.” [Ynet]

SPOTLIGHT — How did WeWork’s Adam Neumann turn office space with “community” into a $47 billion company? Not by sharing — by Reeves Wiedeman: “On a practical level, SoftBank’s cash infusion helped WeWork cover the increasing costs of its whirlwind expansion as the real-estate market got more expensive. It also began spending heavily to fill all the desks it was adding. Just a few weeks after SoftBank’s investment, Shlomo Silber, the owner of Bond Collective, a  New York–based co-working company, turned on his phone at the end of Rosh Hashanah to find dozens of his customers had forwarded an email from WeWork offering to buy them out of their leases and give them as much as a year of free rent. WeWork’s occupancy rate went up, but the deals made it difficult to determine the natural demand for its product.”

“With an IPO on the horizon, he thought the company needed to start doing fewer things better. It was canceling Summer Camp. He wouldn’t pursue WeSail and WeBank, two old ideas that were recently unearthed, despite telling another reporter in January that WeBank was ‘coming.’ (I didn’t get a chance to ask for an update on WeWork Mars.) Neumann was open to change. He even thought he might get his long hair cut short. But he wasn’t giving up on his grandest visions, and he asked a spokesperson to email me an internal company ‘narrative’ he was using to summarize its near-term ambitions. It included the koan ‘We are captivated by the limitless potential of We.'” [NYMag]

PROFILE — Toy Mogul Isaac Larian Plays for Keeps — by Paul Ziobro: “Almost two decades ago, Mr. Larian’s Bratz dolls toppled Mattel’s storied Barbie brand—sparking an epic legal fight that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and still isn’t over. Today, the 65-year-old Mr. Larian, the founder and chief executive of MGA Entertainment Inc., may have an even bigger hit on his hands and a far simpler one than Bratz: L.O.L. Surprise, a line of miniature, collectible dolls and accessories packed inside plastic balls. The toy won four awards at the Toy Association’s gala, including best toy of the year… Mr. Larian grew up in the slums of Tehran in an Iranian Jewish family. His father was a failed textile merchant, and his mother was a seamstress and saleswoman at his father’s shop. They didn’t have any toys. ‘The only toy that I had, which I made myself, was a kite from newspaper and a couple of wooden sticks,’ he says.”[WSJ]

RISING STAR — RapidAPI, backed by Microsoft’s VC fund M12, closes $25 million — by Rosalie Chan: “Back in 2014, RapidAPI founder and CEO Iddo Gino had helped organize World Hackathon Day in Tel Aviv… Gino created a page called ‘Awesome APIs,’ a directory full of some of the most popular APIs, as a resource for hackathon participants. Soon, however, people started using this page not only at the hackathon Gino organized, but also for their own personal edification… ‘Awesome APIs’ soon evolved into RapidAPI, a startup making tools to help developers pick and manage their API usage. And on Tuesday, it announced that it closed $25 million in Series B funding led by M12, Microsoft’s venture fund.” [BusinessInsider]

NEXT GEN — Comcast Wants CEO’s 29-Year-Old Son to Own the Future of E-Sports — by Christopher Palmeri: “On Sunday mornings, [Brian Leon Tucker Roberts Jr.] wakes up and plays Overwatch with a group of childhood friends. ‘It’s a way to keep in touch,’ he says. ‘We’re really bad, but we have a lot of fun.’ Although right now Roberts reports to David Scott, Comcast Spectacor’s CEO, there’s a chance that someday he’ll be asked to succeed his father, much as Brian took over from his dad 17 years ago. Roberts says he’s daunted by the prospect. ‘People don’t understand how hard my dad works,’ he says. Presumably, were he running a company with a market cap close to $190 billion, there wouldn’t be a lot of time left over to quell robotic uprisings and perfect his tank skills.” [Bloomberg]

MEDIA WATCH — Qatar, a country without a free press, hosts a D.C. party celebrating … the free press — by Lia Kvatum: “Jassim Bin Mansour al-Thani, media attache for the Qatari Embassy, said this was the first correspondents’ dinner event the country had hosted. ‘In all instances our co-hosting is dependent on the cause,’ he said in an email. As for whether the cause in this case is inconsistent with the government’s treatment of the press at home, al-Thani said: ‘Qatar treats media in Qatar and around the world with respect’ and ‘believes firmly in a strong, fair, and independent press.’ He pointed out that the country hosts Al Jazeera, which is renowned for its aggressive reporting, much to the irritation of Qatar’s neighbors. Indeed, shutting down Al Jazeera is among the demands Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have made to end their two-year-old blockade of Qatar.”

“Inside Qatar, however, Al Jazeera and other local media offer a ‘very limited’ amount of critical reporting, says Sabrina Bennoui, from Reporters Without Borders’ Middle East bureau. Doha News, an online publication, operated freely for seven years, looking at issues in Qatar with a critical lens. But in 2016, the government blocked the site inside the country. The Doha Centre for Media Freedom, which was founded more than a decade ago by Qatar’s emir, shuttered abruptly on April 16, 10 days before the party in D.C. The country, according to Reporters Without Borders, has a ‘draconian system of censorship.'”

“Almost none of the people I approached at the party knew about Qatar’s treatment of the media. As the night wore on, I spoke to a guy who said he was a World Bank economist. He didn’t think it was that big a deal to be at an event celebrating press freedom thrown by a country that restricts it. But his companion said she found it troubling that authoritarian countries like Qatar could throw parties celebrating journalism in places like the United States. ‘They’re buying an image. It’s not right,’ she said. Then she asked that I not use her name because she is Russian and feared retribution if the government found out she had spoken this way.” [WashPost]

Out today in paperback with a new epilogue — Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor — by Yossi Klein Halevi.

DESSERT — The future of food is in Israel — by Chase Purdy: “Israel has already proven itself a nimble problem solver as the globe thinks more deeply and more seriously about how it will feed its populations in the face of a growing climate crisis. In some ways, Israel, with its vast arid landscape and dwindling water supply, has already had to contend with the effects of the warming planet that have yet to drastically reshape other parts of the world where lots of food is grown. Thanks to their own circumstances, Israelis have innovated their way out of pressing agricultural problems, and the world is starting to notice.” [Quartz]

No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of This Steak — by Gabriella Gershenson: “Menachem Genack, CEO of O.U. Kosher, has been engaged in such questions for a couple of years now. His initial position was that the lab meat may be pareve, since, in his earlier opinion, he was not convinced that it was really meat. But that has changed. ‘It is just a matter of understanding the technology better,’ said Genack… ‘It has all the qualities of meat,’ he said. ‘If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.'”

“There are some people in the O.U. who still believe that meat is pareve if it is grown, rather than born… But the official stance of the O.U. is that artificial meat is indeed meat, and will be subject to kosher laws accordingly. ‘Because there are differing opinions about it, we will take the more stringent opinion that it will be considered meat,’ said Genack. Genack sees a great advantage for the kosher market if a clean meat were to be produced that met the O.U.’s standards… If the promise of kosher clean meat were realized, in Genack’s estimation, it would all be 100% glatt kosher.” [Tablet]

REMEMBERING — Herb Sandler, Banker Who Financed ProPublica, Dies at 87 — by Neil Genzlinger: “Herb Sandler, a banker and philanthropist who with his wife, Marion, provided the initial financing for ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative-reporting organization that seeks to be an alternative model for sustaining vigorous journalism, died on Wednesday at his home in San Francisco… Mr. Sandler and his wife, who died in 2012, made their fortune by building a small bank in Oakland, Calif., into Golden West Financial, a multibillion-dollar lender. They had long supported progressive causes when, in 2007, their Sandler Foundation provided almost all of ProPublica’s initial funding… The Sandler Foundation, which the Sandler family said has given away almost $1 billion, has also supported social justice organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Faith in Action.”[NYTimes]

Judith Kerr Told Her Daughter a Tale and Found a Career — by James Hagerty: “For Ms. Kerr, who died May 22 at age 95, life in England meant art school, a happy marriage, motherhood and a long career as a highly successful author and illustrator of children’s books, including ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ and a series about Mog the cat… More than 10 million copies of Ms. Kerr’s books have been sold world-wide, according to her publisher, HarperCollins… Her latest book, ‘The Curse of the School Rabbit,’ is due to be published in the U.S. in February. Ms. Kerr dedicated her memoir to ‘the one and a half million Jewish children who didn’t have my luck, and all the pictures they might have painted.'” [WSJ]

BIRTHDAYS: Heir to the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, minister in two British governments under prime ministers Major and Thatcher (1990-1994), Sir Timothy Alan Davan Sainsbury turns 87… Executive director of NYC-based government watchdog Citizens Union, she was elected as NYC’s Public Advocate in 2001 and reelected in 2005, Elisabeth A. “Betsy” Gotbaum turns 81… Columbus, Ohio-based chairman of American Eagle Outfitters, Value City Department Stores, DSW and others, sponsor of ArtScroll’s translation of the Babylonian Talmud, Jay Schottenstein turns 65… Member of the Knesset for the Agudat Yisrael faction of the United Torah Judaism party since 2019, Meir Porush turns 64… Hedge fund manager, Steven A. Cohen turns 63…

Member of the Knesset for the Shas party since 2014, Yoav Ben-Tzur turns 61… Barry Friedman turns 61… VP of public affairs and government relations for Duke University, he is based at Duke’s DC center, Michael J. Schoenfeldturns 57… President of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami turns 57… Partner in the DC office of WilmerHale, he previously served as Under Secretary of the Treasury (2011-2015) and Deputy Director of the CIA (2015-2017), David S. Cohen turns 56… Senior advisor at the DC-based crisis management firm Quadrant Strategies, he was the White House Jewish liaison (technically, associate director of the Office of Public Engagement) from 2013 to 2016, Matt Nosanchuk turns 54…

National educational director for Olami Worldwide and founder of Shabbat[dot]com, Rabbi Benzion Zvi Klatzko turns 51… Chabad rabbi noted for his web-based lectures, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (YY) Jacobson turns 47… Budget director at the City Council of the District of Columbia, Jennifer Budoff turns 45… Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, she participated in two seasons of the Israeli reality show Me’usharot, Nicole Raidman turns 33… Actor, performance artist and filmmaker, Shia LaBeouf turns 33… Israeli attorney and VP of development at Dualis Social Venture Fund, she was previously manager of the legal department at the Israel Women’s Network, Dana Naor Mande’el..

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