Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: June 5, 2019
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Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: June 5, 2019

Jewish leaders sit with Senate democrats in meeting chaired by Amy Klobuchar; Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen ‘loving’ prison life, ‘hates’ the food

In this file photo taken on April 16, 2018, US President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen exits the US Federal Court in New York. (AFP Photo/Eduardo Muoz Alvarez)
In this file photo taken on April 16, 2018, US President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen exits the US Federal Court in New York. (AFP Photo/Eduardo Muoz Alvarez)

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THE RUNDOWN: Jewish leaders are meeting with Senate Democrats today. As with last year, the meeting is chaired by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and includes at least 9 other senators. Yesterday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries announced that he’s joining the Black-Jewish Caucus. More below:

TALK OF THE REGION — Israel and Lebanon are expected to launch direct talks over its shared maritime border, a senior Israeli official told Ch. 13’s Barak Ravid. The talks, mediated by the U.S., will seek to resolve a long-standing dispute between the two countries over offshore natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.

Over the past few months, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield has been traveling between Israel and Lebanon trying to reduce tensions. “The talks will happen at the U.N. facility in Naqoura in southern Lebanon and with U.S. mediation by Satterfield,” an Israeli official told Reuters.

A senior administration told reporters on Tuesday that the upcoming trilateral United States-Russia-Israel summit later this month in Jerusalem will be an “unprecedented diplomatic opportunity” for the U.S. to convince Russia to make a greater effort in getting rid of “the primary irritant in the Middle East, which is the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The official added, “We are sure the Iranians are not happy that this meeting is taking place and that the Israelis are publicly hosting the Americans and the Russians together in Jerusalem to talk about Iran. The fact the Russians are attending this meeting is important in itself.”

NBC reported on Tuesday that the Trump administration “approved the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia twice after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.”

Robert Satloff tweeted“Rumor has it some senators want to punish POTUS for Saudi arms sales by nixing [the] nomination of my highly respected Washington Institute colleague David Schenker to be [the] State Dept. Assistant Secretary for Near East affairs. Terrible mistake! Fight that battle another way, please, Sen. Schumer [and Sen. McConnell].”

From today’s Senate floor schedule — at 9:30 am: “Convene and proceed to executive session to resume consideration of David Schenker to be an Assistant Secretary of State.”

AROUND THE TABLE — Jewish leaders attending today’s meeting with Senate Democrats include AIPAC’s Howard Kohr, J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami, ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt, JNFA’s Mark Wilf, Conference of President’s Arthur Stark, Democratic Majority for Israel’s Mark Mellman, Jewish Democratic Council of America’s Ron Klein, Israel Policy Forum’s Susie Gelman, Bend the Arc’s Stosh Cotler, The Rabbinical Assembly’s Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Union for Reform Judaism’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Orthodox Union’s Avi Katz, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society’s Mark Hetfield, National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry’s Mark B. Levin, Jewish Women International’s Loribeth Weinstein, and Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ David Bernstein.

The Democratic Senators at Klobuchar’s meeting include Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). [JewishInsider]

OF NOTE: As has become the tradition of this annual meeting, AIPAC’s Kohr and J Street’s Ben-Ami are sitting next to each other across the table from Klobuchar and Schumer. See the seating chart [Pic]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Jared Kushner met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels on Tuesday. The two said stressedto Kushner that any economic plan the administration offers the Palestinians “must be accompanied by [a] viable political solution that takes into account the legitimate aspirations of both the Palestinians and the Israelis and the agreed international parameters,” according to a statement released following the meeting. [Pic]

On Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned in an interview with the New York Times, “We are in a collapsing situation. It’s a very hot summer. At every level. I hope we will not reach that point… Our backs are really tight to the wall. We are now in control of the situation. I don’t know for how long.”

Shtayyeh also attacked the Trump administration for convening the ‘economic workshop’ in Bahrain while cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority, describing it as a ‘blackmail strategy.’ “It will be born dead. Nothing will come out of it,” he predicted about the summit. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to the Palestinian criticism of the administration’s pro-Israel approach in an interview with AJC CEO David Harris, published on Tuesday.

Harris: The Palestinians say, how can we get a fair deal from an administration that has been tilted so much in favor of Israel?

Pompeo: “I’ve heard that critique, that risk identified. Our role in this is to try and provide helpful ideas, a vision, some guidance, some of our diplomatic capacity to share these things and help think through, we also think, and you’ll see this at the end of June, we think we can bring resources that will help the Palestinian people as well. I think when the world sees this, when the Gulf states see this, and when the Palestinians see this, when the Israelis see this, I’m very hopeful that they’ll keep an open mind. And when they see the paragraph that they don’t like, or the phrase that they prefer not to be contained it, that they’ll mark it, they’ll flag it, and they’ll consider it, but they’ll take the entire context of what we are proposing as our vision for moving forward, and we can begin to build from that.”

ON THE HILL – By JI’s Laura Kelly: Both the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) closed out their Washington conferences yesterday, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers calling out antisemitism.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, spoke at both the AJC and ADL confabs, announcing himself as one of the founding members of the recently launched bipartisan Congressional Black-Jewish Caucus. Jeffries obliquely referred to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) comments in February, saying the caucus “will denounce accusations of dual loyalty.”

The congressman also drew the connection between rising antisemitism and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. “Based on my experiences, [I can] draw some of the connections between what is happening in this country as it relates to the rise of hate crimes and antisemitic behavior and some of the efforts to do things like delegitimize the state of Israel,” Jeffries said at the ADL conference. “If you are trying to delegitimize the state of Israel, you are fostering a rise in hatred against the Jewish people, with Israel being a Jewish and Democratic state. And I of course have been proud to recognize that dynamic.”

HEARD AT AJC – Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) described his bipartisan resolution condemning antisemitism, introduced with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), as a more forceful rebuke than the anti-hate resolution voted on in the House following antisemitic comments by Ilhan Omar. “I think it will be very important at this point in time to see a unanimous, bipartisan clear condemnation of antisemitism,” Cruz said.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) touted an increase in funding to the non-profit security grant program, which provides synagogues with funds to increase safety measures. He also drew a connection between antisemitism and the BDS movement, saying it unfairly singles out the Jewish state. “The BDS movement shows an unacceptable, selective outrage about one country while ignoring territorial disputes and atrocious behavior around the globe.”

HEARD AT ADL – Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV): “Like you I am angry and I am frustrated by what I am seeing and what I have been hearing. We all know that this madness must stop and we are sick and tired of being told that our perceptions, our perceptions of antisemitism, well they’re just all in our head. They are not in our head, they are real and they are here.”

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned against using charges of antisemitism as a political weapon, and criticized those who call it out from their opponents but are “not fully committed to fighting antisemitism.”

Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX), a member of the Congressional Task Force on Antisemitism, said he believes that some people who express antisemitic views are ignorant of its origins. “I think that sometimes there are people that are antisemitic, and say antisemitic things, and quite frankly they don’t even — but just because it’s been part of their system for so long, they really don’t understand it. I know as a Black American, that I’ve heard people say things about me before, and I realize that they just really, they really didn’t get it. It’s just been a part of the way they speak for so long, and the way that they articulate, for so long, that they just really don’t understand it until it’s really brought to their attention.”

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said in an interview with Al-Monitor that he would not support Congress withholding aid to Israel if the Israeli government moves forward with West Bank annexation plans: “I have not supported withholding US assistance to Israel. I think Israel remains a good friend and strong ally. I have very deep disagreements with the policies that have been deployed by Prime Minister Netanyahu… But my view is the United States will continue to maintain its strong security commitment to the state of Israel.”

Van Hollen also suggested that President Trump expressing his support for Netanyahu in the Israeli Knesset elections is “an inappropriate” position. “But that apparently is the primary goal right now of President Trump with respect to the upcoming new elections in Israel.” [Al-Monitor]

Steve King pledges to fight GOP over his exile — by Melanie Zanona: “Rep. Steve King, hellbent on making a congressional comeback, is vowing to look at all procedural options to force his way back onto the committees from which he was exiled. But the Iowa Republican is finding little support from his colleagues for the doomed mission, which comes nearly six months after King was kicked off the panels for making racist remarks. ‘It was a political lynch mob. I had to let the blood cool,’ King said in a rare interview Tuesday.”

“King, who has already drawn multiple GOP primary challenges, has struggled to fundraise since the controversy unfolded this year. In the first three months of 2019, he raised just $61,666 — an ominous sign for the nine-term incumbent as he seeks to hang on to his congressional seat. While King has been largely ostracized in the GOP there is at least one party leader who he feels hasn’t abandoned him: President Donald Trump.” [Politico]

WATCH — Rep. Jeffries acknowledged Esta Epstein, Chair of ADL’s Board of Directors, who in November 2018 became the organization’s second woman to assume the role since its founding. “We are thankful for your historic engagement. Or as we say in Brooklyn, Mazel Tov.” [Video]

TRANSITION — Harriet Schleifer was elected as president of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on Tuesday. Schleifer is the first woman to head AJC since its founding in 1906.

SCENE IN D.C. — The National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (NCSEJ) board met Tuesday morning at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Leaders from the American Jewish Committee, B’nai Brith, World Jewish Restitution Organization, World Jewish Congress and Jewish Federations of North America attended the meeting. According to someone in the room, the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine said that antisemitism in Ukraine is not nearly as bad as in the rest of Europe. The Bulgarian deputy foreign minister also spoke along with Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). Special Envoy Elan Carr keynoted the meeting. [Pic]

Carr spoke about antisemitism in Europe and said the administration is confronting antisemitism wherever it is found, on both the far-left and far-right. Carr called the Polish government’s rhetoric on the JUST Act and on restitution “unacceptable” while pointing out that Poland has made progress in combating antisemitism in other areas. A source says that Carr told the gathering that just because the Polish right is pro-Israel and pro-America, it should not appease antisemites by promoting a misleading narrative about restitution and the JUST Act. He said this led to a far-right, “anti-American” rally against restitution last month. Carr said that Secretary Pompeo will continue to press Poland to fulfill the restitution obligations that it made under the Terezin Declaration.

2020 WATCH — Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) defended his harsh criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video message to the AJC conference attendees. “As someone who believes absolutely and unequivocally in Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, who was a young man who lived in Israel for a number of months, as someone who is deeply concerned about the global rise of antisemitism, we must say loudly and clearly that to oppose the reactionary policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make anyone anti-Israel,” Sanders said. “Let me say it again: I am vigorously opposed to the reactionary, racist and authoritarian policies of Donald Trump. That does not make me anti-American, and I am not anti-Israel because I oppose Netanyahu’s policies.” [JewishInsider]

2020 BRIEFS — Joe Biden called on fundraisers to raise up to $100,000 to join his 2020 finance committee… Pete Buttigieg’s struggle to win over Latinos could limit his rise in California… GOP primary challenge against Trump on life support after Larry Hogan opts out, John Kasich raises doubts… Mark Cuban believes Joe Biden has ‘good chance’ at beating Trump in 2020… Some Never Trump Republicans are contemplating quietly redirecting their energy toward boosting Joe Biden.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — William A. Galston writes… “Israel Reveals Populism’s Risks: Mr. Netanyahu does not fit altogether comfortably into the populist frame. A career politician, he is hardly an outsider… He plays the parliamentary insider game better than anyone else, which helps explain why he has led Israel for so long. On the other hand, Mr. Netanyahu has been willing to muster public sentiment against the advice of senior officials… He may be pre-eminent but he is not indispensable, and his personalization of politics — a hallmark of contemporary populism — now works to his country’s disadvantage.” [WSJ]

** 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: Shari Redstone: CBS, Viacom need to grow even with a merger [TheInformation• Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor IPO asks potential investors to bet on risky vision [Variety] • Mark Cuban keeps a book in his bathroom that he says makes him a better investor [CNBC] • Jewish dating app JCrush exposed user data and private messages [TechCrunch• Israel Discount Bank CEO Lilach Asher-Topilsky to resign, join FIMI Fund [Reuters]

MEDIA WATCH — ABC News boss James Goldston joined Trump at royal dinner — by Sara Nathan: “ABC News boss James Goldston was at President Trump’s table at a glitzy dinner Tuesday night in London to honor Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall… We’ve also been told that Goldston, who has dual American and British citizenship and is married to BBC anchor Laura Trevelyan, also procured a prestigious invite to the state banquet — which only had 170 guests.” [PageSix]

SPOTLIGHT — W Hotel Creator Evokes Childhood With New Lodging Brand — by Craig Karmin: “Real-estate investor Barry Sternlicht is known for hotels featuring sleek designs, sophisticated cocktail lounges and opulent furnishings. His latest creation is meant to remind guests of their childhood. With a new brand called Treehouse Hotels, Mr. Sternlicht said he wants to bring to mind the feeling children have when they escape to a backyard clubhouse—high up in the tree branches.” [WSJ]

Daniel Barenboim’s Contract Is Extended Despite Bullying Accusations — by Thomas Rogers and Alex Marshall: “Daniel Barenboim, the venerated musical director of Berlin’s Staatsoper who was accused this year by some of its orchestra members of creating a culture of bullying and a ‘climate of fear’ in the institution, has had his contract extended until 2027. The decision was announced at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon by Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s highest-ranking representative for culture. Mr. Barenboim’s contract had been set to expire in 2022. In a statement, Mr. Lederer described Mr. Barenboim as an ‘exceptional artist,’ and said that a third-party investigation initiated by Berlin’s culture ministry this year, had found that ‘none of the legally relevant accusations could be confirmed.'”[NYTimes]

LIFE BEHIND BARS — Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen ‘loving’ prison life, ‘hates’ the food: source — by Aram Roston and Brendan Pierson: “Michael Cohen… says he is making new friends in prison and enjoying time away from the spotlight, according to a person familiar with Cohen’s first few weeks there. ‘He’s loving it there,’ the person told Reuters… The person familiar with Cohen’s time in Otisville said that Cohen was relieved to be free of public attention… Cohen works on the prison’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and he cut his hand on the job but did not need medical care… Cohen ‘hates the food,’ the source said. ‘This is a guy who ate in all the best restaurants.'” [Reuters• Michael Cohen ‘Treated Like a Celebrity’ in Prison [DailyBeast]

CAMPUS BEAT —Williams College under federal investigation for discriminating against Jewish students ― by Jeremiah Poff: “The U.S. Department of Education is investigating Williams College over concerns that it violated anti-discrimination law when the student government refused to recognize a pro-Israel student group. In a May 31 letter, the Office for Civil Rights’ Boston office said it had accepted a complaint alleging the College Council violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act… David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University, had filed the complaint May 2… The government letter is dated 17 days after the Williams administration voted to recognize the Williams Initiative for Israel… using a separate process that largely excludes the College Council.” [TheCollegeFix]

SPOTTED YESTERDAY — Frank Luntz on line at Chick-Fil-A at Union Station. He had the waffle fries. [Pic]

LAST NIGHT — AIPAC hosted a Pride reception on Capitol Hill Tuesday night celebrating the LGBTQ community with over 130 attendees, including Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Angie Craig (D-MN) [Pic], Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ); Elad Strohmayer, Marilyn Rosenthal, David Gillette, Ester Kurz, Carmiel Arbit, Dan Granot, Sally Greenberg, Stuart Kurlander, Quentin Hill, Zehorit Sorek, Jeff Mendelsohn and Stephanie Hausner. INVITE: [Pic]

SCENE IN JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the National Council of Young Israel delegation headed by former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at his office in Jerusalem on Tuesday. [Pic]

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker praying at the Western Wall. [Pic]

DESSERT — The Store Where Philip Roth Ate Chopped Herring — by Reggie Nadelson: “Barney Greengrass, who learned his trade working at an appetizing shop downtown in the early part of the 20th century, founded the original store at the corner of West 113th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in 1908, when Harlem was still a heavily Jewish neighborhood… Today, the display cases are crammed with smoked fish, herring, gefilte fish, potato salad, blintzes and latkes, the marble counters piled with bagels, bialys, babka, rugelach, black-and-white cookies — all the things beloved of New York Jews.”

“In ‘Operation Shylock’ (1993), one of [Philip] Roth’s wildest and funniest novels, the main character, named Philip Roth, describes what is clearly Barney Greengrass as the place where he goes to ‘satisfy my own inextinguishable appetite for the chopped-herring salad as it was unceremoniously served up (that was the ceremony).'” [NYTimes]

REMEMBERING — Last known survivor of Sobibor death camp uprising, Semion Rosenfeld, dies aged 96: “Semion Rosenfeld — the last known survivor of the uprising at the Nazi extermination camp at Sobibor — has died in Israel aged 96… Rosenfeld was captured by the Germans while serving in the Soviet Army in 1941 and sent to the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland because he was Jewish. In October 1943, he managed to escape together with some 300 prisoners. A third of the escapees were caught almost immediately. Of the 200 who got out, only 47 survived World War Two.” [BBC]

BIRTHDAYS: Owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots, Robert Kraftturns 78… Lithuanian-born Holocaust survivor, co-founder of the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia, known for his ever-present cowboy hat, Jay M. Ipson turns 84… Barbara Pergament turns 81… Training director and broker associate of the Santa Monica, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services branch, Saul Bubis turns 79… Project manager at CSA Group, Dan Yurman turns 71… VP of new business development at Maresco & Partners, Linda Greenfield turns 69… Author of ten personal finance books, financial advisor, motivational speaker and television host, Susan Lynn “Suze” Orman turns 68… Office manager at Burbank Temple Emanu El in Burbank, California, Audrey Freedman-Habush turns 68…

Portrait photographer and visual anthropologist whose work is on display in many museums, she is the author of The Jews of Wyoming: Fringe of the Diaspora, Penny Diane Wolin turns 66… Commissioner on the US International Trade Commission (2007-2017), now an international trade attorney at Hughes Hubbard, Dean A. Pinkert turns 63… Best-selling instrumental musician, the saxophonist “Kenny G,” Kenneth Bruce Gorelick turns 63… General counsel in the Brentwood, California office of Compass / Pacific Union International, Sam Kraemer turns 59… Optometrist, elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018 as a member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament belonging to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, Gila Deborah Martow turns 58…

Partner in the government law and policy practice of Greenberg Traurig, he was previously Deputy Secretary of Legislative Affairs for New York State and member of the New York City Council, Mark Weprin turns 58… Member since 2010 of the Virginia House of Delegates from the Fairfax County suburbs of Washington DC, Eileen R. Filler-Corn turns 55… Member of Congress (D-PA-6), first elected in 2018, she does not identify as Jewish but her father is a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Poland, Christina Jampoler Houlahanturns 52… Member of the British Parliament since 2005 from the Conservative Party, he served as Minister of Culture (2010-2016) under PM David Cameron, Ed Vaizey turns 51… Entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author, he holds more than 100 granted and pending patents, Nova Spivack turns 50…

Professor of political science, international affairs and Israel studies at Northeastern University in Boston, Dov Waxman turns 45… Co-founder of BlueLabs and director of analytics for the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012, his father and grandfather were both rabbis, Elan Alter Kriegel turns 38… Director of policy at Ed Choice, he was previously a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and a member of the New Hampshire state legislature, Jason Bedrick turns 36… Recent graduate with a Masters of Jewish Education from Hebrew College in Newton Centre, MA, she was previously the operations manager at the Texas Hillel Foundation in Austin, Texas, Arielle Levy turns 30… Clara Moskowitz… Beth A. Freeman… Susan Stein

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