SCENE IN CASABLANCA — Kushner introduces White House peace team to Kabbalist Rabbi: At a cemetery in Casablanca, Morocco on Tuesday, the White House Middle East peace team met with Rabbi David Chananya Pinto, a noted kabbalistic figure, and prayed at the graveside of the rabbi’s grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Pinto.
Upon arriving, Kushner embraced the rabbi with a kiss on each cheek and proceeded to introduce White House advisor Jason Greenblatt, the State Department’s Brian Hook, and White House assistant Avi Berkowitz to the rabbi. Kushner and the rabbi then walked with their arms linked through the cemetery. [JewishInsider]
Last night, Greenblatt tweeted from the Western Wall: “Grateful to have had the opportunity to pray at the Kotel this evening. Lots to pray for!!”
ROAD TO THE KNESSET — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: Benjamin Netanyahu’s future as prime minister of Israel will be put to test for the second time in six months after failing to meet the May 29 deadline to present a majority government. Seventy-four members of the Knesset voted in favor of a bill to disband itself yesterday.
The scenario is unprecedented, with all previous Knesset elections since the country’s founding in 1948 leading to the formation of a government.
HERE IS WHY — Avigdor Lieberman, who held the keys to a 65-member majority government, insisted that he had “no hidden agenda” behind his demand to pass the Haredi draft law in its original form. But every compromise that was presented to him was rejected. In the hours leading up to the midnight deadline, Netanyahu reportedly offered a far-reaching deal to Labor’s Avi Gabbay that included the Defense Ministry and shelving the controversial immunity and overrule laws. Gabbay rejected the offer.
Speaking to reporters at the Knesset, Netanyahu said that Israelis chose him to be prime minister in the April 9th election, blasting Lieberman for “tricking” his own voters. “He is dragging an entire country for elections for personal ambitions.” Netanyahu declared: “Avigdor Lieberman is now part of the left-wing bloc.”
At a press conference on Thursday, Lieberman fired back at Netanyahu: “When a man from Caesarea [Netanyahu] calls a man from [the West Bank settlement of] Nokdim a leftist, I want to remind the prime minister that it was he who voted for the disengagement from Gaza, apologized to the dictator [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, refused the death penalty for terrorists, blocked the evacuation of [the illegal Bedouin outpost of] Khan El-Ahmar, and in response to 700 rockets, transferred $30 million to Hamas.”
“In seventy years of continuous Israeli parliamentary democracy we have not had a situation such as this,” Dr. Einat Wilf, a former member of Knesset, explains to Jewish Insider. “In the Israeli system, the prime minister is not the person who has the most votes, but the person who has the most friends — and this time around, Netanyahu did not have enough parties which were willing to come together and overcome their differences to forge a coalition supporting his prime ministership.”
“We are going to new elections only because the prime minister wanted more than just to continue being prime minister — he wanted to undermine Israel’s entire democratic system so that he personally could avoid a legal process,” says Dr. Wilf. “At least to the credit of Israel’s democracy and parliamentary system, the new elections demonstrate that when the system is being pushed too far — as Netanyahu just tried to do, it resists.” [JewishInsider]
WHY IT MATTERS — The Trump administration was expected to present the first phase of the Mideast peace plan in Bahrain next month. The rollout was initially delayed until June due to the Knesset elections, coalition talks, and out of respect for Ramadan. The political situation could now force the administration to halt or restructure its planning of the economic workshop in Bahrain or put off the rollout of the political part of the plan until a new government is in place — sometime in late October or early November.
The Trump administration said on Wednesday that the Bahrain conference was still set to go ahead next month, Kan 11 reported. The peace plan will be “released at the right time,” the report quotes an administration official.
Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday. Netanyahu told Kushner: “We had a small incident last night, but it will not stop us. We will continue working together. The U.S. under President Trump is bringing allies in the region closer against challenges.”
A source familiar with the administration’s thinking tells Jewish Insider, “There’s no reason to delay the Bahrain meeting but the announcement of the political aspects of the plan might be postponed until we see what Israel’s government will be.”
The source added: “As to U.S.-Israel relations, there’s no reason for concern. A Blue and White victory would not change relations with the U.S. nor would it affect bipartisan support. The foreign and military policy of Gantz and Yaalon would look very familiar to us. Israel is a stable country with a very broad consensus on national security issues.”
Ambassador Daniel Shapiro tells us: “The Trump peace plan is on ice — maybe permanently. No one in the region is calling for it. Netanyahu didn’t want it before the April elections, and won’t want it before September’s. You can’t present it during coalition negotiations, so now you’re in November. Then Trump’s reelection politics become a factor. For now, we may see the Bahrain economic workshop take place, but it will be a ghost meeting — pretend pledges in support of a phantom plan that could only come into focus much later, if and when the political program can be resurrected.”
Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller: “The Bahrain investors conference will go ahead as planned as proof of life. They can’t afford to cancel it. But if they’re smart, they’ll use the election to shelve part two, reassess after September 17. But are they smart? If the plan has enough goodies and honey in it maybe they will think it will help Bibi. But if there’s vinegar, watch out.”
Israel Policy Forum’s Susie Gelman: “I think it’s obvious that this means another delay for the Trump peace plan. I don’t see how they proceed. It does raise the question of whether or not they move ahead with the economic workshop in Bahrain on June 25th. But all of their plan seems to hinge on betting on a horse that may not even leave the gate now.”
“As for the peace process in general — we need to wait and see. Will the Israeli electorate choose differently in mid-September? Will Bennett and Shaked succeed in being elected to the next Knesset? At the least — the current reality would seem to put annexation plans on hold. But as we have never been in this situation before, I don’t know how it will work for the next three months. How does Bibi govern when he hasn’t managed to form a coalition government? We are in uncharted territory here. And what if, God forbid, Gaza erupts?”
Washington Institute’s David Makovsky tweets: “The re-do election in Israel both good/not good news for Donald Trump’s peace plan. [The Good short-term: creates public rationale why not [to] present political aspects of [the] plan now — amid international skepticism. [The] bad news: out of sync. [There’ll be] no government in Israel until end of Oct. as [the] U.S. 2020 cycle heats up.”
HOW IT PLAYED — Israel in Uncharted Territory as Netanyahu Fails to Form a Coalition [NYTimes] • Israel to Hold New Elections After Netanyahu Fails to Form Government [WSJ] • Political Chaos in Israel Disrupts Jared Kushner’s Peace Plan [TheGuardian] • Infuriating But Not Finishing Netanyahu, Lieberman Drags Israel Back to the Polls [ToI] • After the Netanyahu Fail, What Is Trump’s Israel-Palestine Solution? Let Others Pick Up the Pieces [DailyBeast] • The Five Factors That Could Change The Outcome of Israel’s New Elections [Tablet]
WATCH — MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) brought laughter to a tense evening in the Knesset on Wednesday evening as he poked fun of the last-minute promises Netanyahu made as he scrambled to form a coalition: “Seven minutes ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to me and he said he is willing to withdraw from the occupied territories and also to cancel the nation-state law, and that he supports not only civil equality but also national equality, and that he’s willing to recognize the Nakba and fix the historical wrong — in return for the immunity law.” [Video]
VIEW FROM RAMALLAH — Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Israel’s Reshet Bet radio program, “Now it is the deal of the next century.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah told Kushner on Wednesday that the peace plan must be based on a two-state solution that gives Palestinians a capital in East Jerusalem.
SCENE IN JERUSALEM — Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) met with Lieberman at the Knesset on Wednesday evening, Lahav Harkov, the Jerusalem Post’s Knesset reporter, shared on Twitter. Engel called Lieberman “the man of the hour.” He also told reporters that he thinks “Israelis understand that Ilhan Omar’s statements about American Jews, AIPAC and Israel don’t reflect the stances of the Democratic Party.” Engel also met with MK Yair Lapid (Kachol Lavan). [Pic]
In an interview with Times of Israel, Engel said that there is “nothing wrong” with Netanyahu’s close alignment with Trump: “I think that a lot of Democrats may not like Netanyahu’s policies, because there’s an association with the Republican Party. But I don’t think that’s something I worry about too much. Because I think that people like me, and others who are around, are committed to the relationship, and I think the relationship is strong and will endure.”
COMING SOON — Israel will host an unprecedented trilateral meeting of the top national security officials from Israel, Russia and the U.S. next month, the White House announced on Wednesday. “In June, United States National Security Adviser Ambassador John Bolton, Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Russian Secretary of the Security Council Nikolay Patrushev will meet in Jerusalem, Israel, to discuss regional security issues.”
DONOR PRIMARY — On Wednesday, Marc Stanley co-hosted a fundraiser for former Vice President Joe Biden at the home of Russell and Dorothy Budd in Dallas, Texas.
Stanley, a trial lawyer, is the former chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council and sits on the board of directors of the Israel Policy Forum.
Following the fundraiser, Stanley told Jewish Insider: “I believe the chaos created by our current President is dangerous and unsustainable. We Democrats won’t win in 2020 by talking only to ourselves. We will win by talking to Independents and persuadable Republicans in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. I think Joe Biden is our best candidate to unite our party, talk to these other voters and replace Trump. And importantly, I personally like Joe Biden and appreciate what he stands for.” [JewishInsider]
IRAN SANCTIONS — The Dollar Underpins American Power. Rivals Are Building Workarounds — by Justin Scheck and Bradley Hope: “The White House declined to comment about efforts by other countries to bypass dollar-denominated trading. A senior administration official said the U.S. is working to make sure oil is readily available in dollar-denominated markets from sources other than Iran, and to ‘bring Iran’s oil exports to zero.’ … Jacob J. Lew, Treasury secretary under President Obama, says the U.S. is at risk of losing some of the power it has long wielded. The world, he says, now has ‘pathways’ for those who ‘need to or want to avoid the U.S.’” [WSJ; WashPost]
** Good Thursday 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: Israel’s Delek buys Chevron’s U.K. oil fields for $2 billion [Bloomberg] • Adam Neumann’s We Company seeks $2.75B credit line ahead of IPO [RealDeal] • Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor’s IPO could add fuel to Hollywood’s merger mania [HollywoodReporter] • Disney CEO Bob Iger says it will be ‘difficult’ to film in Georgia if abortion law takes effect [Reuters]• Tinder’s Alexa Mateen expands accessories brand to include earrings [HollywoodReporter]
Israel Faces Brain Drain as More Educated Citizens Leave Country — by Ivan Levingston: “The most educated Israelis are leaving the country in increasing numbers, according to a new study from the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research. In 2017, 4.5 persons with an academic degree left Israel for each one who returned from abroad, with graduates from better institutions leaving at higher rates… The U.S. is a sought-after destination for Israel’s emigrants. Between the decades of 1995-2005, and 2006-2016, the number of Israelis getting U.S. citizenship or permanent residency outpaced population growth in Israel by one-third.” [Bloomberg]
PROFILE — Russell Galbut: Guiding Crescent Heights, chairing Norwegian Cruises — by Jesse Scheckner: “Russell Galbut was born at just the right time to become dazzled by Miami Beach. It was after World War II, during the economic boom of the ’50s and ’60s. Perhaps it was then, while watching the area transform into what he describes as ‘the world’s vacation land’ turned ‘retirement Mecca,’ that he first became interested in how neighborhoods can change – and how one could and should go about changing them… In 1989, he co-founded development firm Crescent Heights with Sonny Kahn and Bruce Menin. The company’s early focus was, naturally, on his home city… Now, three decades later, the firm — among the largest residential condominium companies in the nation, with over 50,000 residential units developed —has footprints in over 15 markets throughout the nation, England and the Middle East.” [MiamiTodayNews]
Music Industry Tests Mini-Grants to Help Artists Recover — by Dave Brooks: “There’s a recognition that a solution for mental illness in the creative space can’t be scaled, and that money is probably better spent on direct outcomes, says Phillip Schermer, founder/CEO of Project Healthy Minds, which focuses on closing treatment gaps for mental illness among artist and creator communities.” [Billboard]
Sun Valley Guest List Includes Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Bob Iger, Shari Redstone — by Brent Lang: “Tim Cook, Lachlan Murdoch, Shari Redstone, Brian Roberts, Mark Zuckerberg and Bob Iger are among the media and technology moguls who will be touching down in Sun Valley, Idaho, in July for Allen & Co.’s annual media conference. The invite-only confab is a chance for the one-percent of the one-percent to break out their windbreakers and jeans, and give the power suits a rest while biking and hiking in alpine splendor. It’s also historically been the locus of deal-making.”[Variety]
PODCAST PLAYBACK — Stacy Madison, co-founder of Stacy’s Pita Chips, recounts how she got funding to start her company in 1997, which was later acquired by PepsiCo/Frito Lay for $250 million, on the How I Built This podcast with Guy Raz. Madison and her then-boyfriend Mark Andrus founded the company after a period where they were selling pita sandwiches from a converted hot dog cart in Boston. The couple decided to bake the leftover pita into chips, adding spices for taste.
From the podcast: “I started working with the neighborhood development center and they helped me write a business plan. I really networked with everybody I could possibly draw information from. So there was the neighborhood center, there was, I think, Jewish Vocational Services in downtown Boston and there was this one girl that used to eat at the cart and she said to me, ‘How do you know if you have enough bread? And she’d ask all these weird questions, and one day I said, ‘Why are you asking me these weird questions?’ She said, ‘Well, I teach a business plan boot camp and I use your cart as an example all the time. And I said, ‘Really?’ I’m like, ‘Can I take that class?’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, you want to take, you come on over.’ And I went and I took an eight-week business plan boot camp.” [JewishInsider]
BOOK REVIEW — ‘Sara Berman’s Closet’ Traces 1 Woman’s Life, From Shtetl To Greenwich Village — by Terry Gross: “It’s a long way from a shtetl in Eastern Europe to an apartment in Greenwich Village in miles and in the shape of daily life. That’s the story told in the new book ‘Sara Berman’s Closet,’ a collaboration between children’s book author and illustrator Maira Kalman and her son Alex Kalman… Sara was Maira’s mother and Alex’s grandmother.”
“The book is also about how, after 38 years of marriage, Sara left her husband — they were living in Tel Aviv at the time — and also left behind all her possessions, with the exception of what she could fit in one suitcase. After starting her new life in Manhattan, she decided to wear only white. Her immaculate, ordered, all-white closet… was turned into a museum show. ‘Sara Berman’s Closet’ was on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is now at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.” [NPR]
LISTEN — The Man Who Sedated Eichmann: “The spy operation to capture Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann and put him on trial changed the perception of the Holocaust in Israel. It turned victims into prosecutors. And it also helped to establish the legend of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency that masterminded the mission. The Israelis on the mission were crowned national heroes. But a civilian at the center of the operation — the doctor who sedated Eichmann in Argentina and flew with him back to Israel — never wanted to speak about his role, no matter how much his children begged him. Today, the doctor’s children try to understand why their father wouldn’t talk.”[NPR]
DESSERT — What to Expect at New York’s Ambitious New Time Out Market — by Bridget Hallinan: “On May 31, New Yorkers will have an exciting new reason to visit Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood—you know, besides getting that coveted picture in front of the Manhattan Bridge. This Friday marks the long-awaited opening of New York’s Time Out Market, a massive (21,000-square-feet) food hall featuring 21 different restaurant concepts, three bars, and a rooftop space overlooking the East River. It’s one of many buzzy new Time Out Markets opening around the world… Visitors will find everything from a fully kosher restaurant called Center Cut (headed by Albert Allaham) to an outpost of DŌ, in case you’re craving a scoop of cookie dough.” [Yahoo; NYTimes]
— “New York is a city full of meat palaces, but for those who want to keep it kosher, Reserve Cut is the gold standard. Owner Albert Allaham, who comes from a long family lineage of master butchers, and who also owns a premium meat counter in Brooklyn, brings his expertise to the communal tables… For Time Out Market, Center Cut will slice the juiciest pastrami, shawarma and turkey sandwiches. But the secret star is the chicken soup, just like your mama wishes she could make.” [TimeOut]
BIRTHDAYS: Long-time former member of the New York State Assembly from Queens, (1983-2011), Nettie Mayersohn turns 93… Santa Monica-based historian of Sephardic and Crypto-Jewish studies, Dolores Sloan turns 89… Real estate developer, former chair of UJA-NY, Larry A. Silverstein turns 88… Partner in the NYC law firm of Mintz & Gold, he is also a leading supporter of Hebrew University, Ira Lee “Ike” Sorkin turns 76… Board member of the Colliers County chapter of the Florida ACLU and the Naples Florida Council on World Affairs, Maureen McCully “Mo” Winograd turns 73… Agent at Creative Artists Agency, an entertainment and sports agency based in Los Angeles, Alan Louis Berger turns 69… Cape Town native, she is the owner and chef at Los Angeles-based Catering by Brenda, Brenda Walt turns 68…
Former Chief Rabbi of France (2009-2013), Gilles Uriel Bernheim turns 67… Encino, California-based business attorney, Andrew W. Hyman turns 66… Author Daphne Miriam Merkin turns 65… Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives (2001-2017), since leaving Congress he has written two novels, Steve Israel turns 61… Science editor for BBC News and author of six books, David Shukman turns 61… Editorial writer at The New York Times, she was previously a writer or editor at The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Daily Beast and Newsweek, Michelle Cottle turns 49… Film, stage and television actress; singer and songwriter, she sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, Idina Menzel turns 48…
Member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party since 2015, Oded Forerturns 42… Director of marketing and communications at NYC’s Jewish Community Project Downtown, Scott Hertz turns 39… Former AIPAC communications coordinator in San Francisco, Alina T. Katz turns 36… Challah baker, manager of San Francisco’s Howard Properties, member of the Board of Trustees at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and all around great fellow, Jason Friend… Healthcare and pharmaceutical associate at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, Ashley Bender turns 29… Iowa communications director for Kamala Harris, Miryam Esther Lipper turns 28… Writer for CNN Digital, Eric Levenson turns 28..