Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: September 5, 2019

Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: September 5, 2019

Former US negotiator Dennis Ross warns Israel approaching a tipping point; Erdogan says Turkey needs nuclear weapons; ‘Airbnb for pools’ caters to US Muslims and Jews

Veteran US diplomat Dennis Ross (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Veteran US diplomat Dennis Ross (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

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A CONVERSATION ABOUT COURAGE — Former U.S. negotiators and veteran diplomats David Makovsky and Dennis Ross have a new book out this week titled Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny. During an in-depth conversation with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh, the pair discussed their goals in writing the book and their views on current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In their latest work, Makovsky and Ross focus on four Israeli prime ministers — David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Rabin and Ariel Sharon — who, the book says, “met the bar of history” by making courageous decisions that shaped the present and future of Israel.

“We thought it’s important for the public to understand that there are people who rose to extraordinary challenges and were successful’’ because they chose to deal with the issue and not kick the can down the road, Makovsky said. “They were making a decision that was going to produce either high costs or a terrible political blowback and they were prepared to take that on anyway.” 

Ross warned that Israel is approaching a tipping point at which the option of a two-state solution will no longer be viable. “We make the case that there is no two-state outcome anytime soon. I mean, if you ask me, we are talking 10 to 20 years at a minimum,” he said. “But it’s that tipping point that you have passed where you lose the ability to separate Israelis from the Palestinians, then your only outcome is one state.”

Ross and Makovsky agree that — in contrast to Ben-Gurion, Begin, Rabin and Sharon — Netanyahu opts for political expediency over strategic policy when it comes to peacemaking. “These other four leaders found not just that they had to take a right course, but they had to explain it [to the public],” Makovsky said. “They did not sugarcoat the problem, because they were problem-solvers. I think that when Netanyahu’s intellectual conclusions clash with his political imperatives, he tends to go with the political imperative.” [JewishInsider]

ELECTION RHETORIC — Netanyahu said in remarks at the Tomb of the Patriarchs plaza in Hebron on Wednesday, commemorating 90 years since the 1929 massacre: “While we are not coming to banish anyone, neither will anyone banish us. To cite the late Menachem Begin and the late Yigal Allon: ‘Hebron will not be devoid of Jews.’ It will not be Judenrein. And I say on the 90th anniversary of the disturbances — we are not foreigners in Hebron, we will stay here forever.”

Why it matters: “The prime minister’s visit to the site… is the first trip to Hebron by an Israeli premier in more than two decades… Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party needs the support of the religious right if he hopes to build a coalition after the election on Sept. 17.” [WSJ]

SAFE TRAVELS — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting London today to meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. [PicThe Prime Minister’s Office said the meetings will deal with regional matters, including tensions with Iran. Netanyahu was joined on the trip by Israeli Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin and head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate Aharon Haliva, leading to speculation that the trip’s primary goal is meeting Esper. Later this month, Netanyahu is slated to travel to Sochi, Russia, to meet President Vladimir Putin.

Before departing for London Thursday morning, Netanyahu urged that “this is not the time to hold talks with Iran. This is the time to increase the pressure on Iran.”

HEARD YESTERDAY — Brian Hook, the State Department’s special envoy for Iran, on Israel’s reported airstrikes against Iranian targets in Iraq“The IRGC and Quds Force… is leveraging its foothold in Syria to threaten Israel and its neighbors, and so Israel has an inherent right of self-defense, to take action to prevent imminent attacks against their assets in the region and also to protect their own people. And so we very much support what Israel is doing… The United States had no role in the alleged attacks in Iraq, nor is it clear who carried out the strikes.”

IRAN WATCH — Hook announced on Wednesday that the administration is offering up to $15 million to anyone who will help to “disrupt” the “financial operations” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Quds Force. The offer was made through the State’s “Rewards for Justice” program. “Today’s announcement is historic — it’s the first time that the U.S. has offered a reward for information that disrupts a government entity’s financial operations.”

France’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that “there is still a lot to be done” regarding a proposed credit line for Iran after French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in D.C. on Tuesday. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech Wednesday that Iran’s next step involves “the development of centrifuges.”

President Donald Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that he might meet with Rouhani at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York. “Sure, anything’s possible. They would like to be able to solve their problem,” he said. “We could solve it in 24 hours.”

Foggy Bottom support: In a briefing at the State Department, Hook brushed off a claim made by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Tuesday that employees within the Treasury and State Departments are working against the administration to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. “The president enjoys the full support of the State Department and the work that Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo does on behalf of American citizens.”

Hook insisted that the Trump administration is committed to putting “maximum pressure” on Iran. “In light of our actions today, I think that speaks rather clearly,” Hook asserted. “We did sanctions yesterday, we did sanctions Friday, we did sanctions today. There will be more sanctions coming. We can’t make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure. We are not looking to grant any exceptions or waivers.” [JewishInsider]

U.S. offers cash to tanker captains in bid to seize Iranian ships — by Demetri Sevastopulo: “Four days before the U.S. imposed sanctions on an Iranian tanker suspected of shipping oil to Syria, the vessel’s Indian captain received an unusual email from the top Iran official at the Department of State. ‘This is Brian Hook… I work for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and serve as the U.S. Representative for Iran,’ Mr. Hook wrote to Akhilesh Kumar on August 26… ‘I am writing with good news.’ The ‘good news’ was that the Trump administration was offering Mr. Kumar several million dollars to pilot the ship — until recently known as the Grace 1 — to a country that would impound the vessel on behalf of the U.S.” [FinancialTimes]

Erdogan says it’s unacceptable that Turkey can’t have nuclear weapons — “‘Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But [they tell us] we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept,’ [Turkish President Recep Erdogan] told his ruling AK Party members in the eastern city of Sivas. ‘There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them,’ Erdogan said. In fact, many developed countries do not have nuclear weapons… ‘We have Israel nearby, as almost neighbors. They scare [other nations] by possessing these. No one can touch them.’” [Reuters]

ON THE GROUND — Hezbollah readies for next war against Israel — by Sulome Anderson: “Hilal, a missile operator, is one of several Hezbollah fighters in eastern Bekaa Valley who told Foreign Policy during a recent reporting trip that they are preparing for the possibility of the first major outbreak of war with Israel in 13 years…. Harsh sanctions against the Lebanese banking system imposed by the Trump administration have reportedly been hurting the group’s finances, possibly backing it into a corner from which it is more likely to escalate the conflict. According to Hilal… a line of thinking among Hezbollah rank-and-file is that if a war breaks out, its patron Iran — despite also facing extreme sanctions — will dig a little deeper into its pockets for the group.” [ForeignPolicy]

 “According to a senior U.S. official who spoke to Tablet, the designations [against Lebanese individuals and entities] reflect a series of staffing and regulatory decisions across the Trump administration that suggest cracks are forming in the longtime consensus that Lebanese state institutions are untouchable.” [Tablet]

PROFILE — Trump’s new U.N. envoy to deliver his message minus the bombast — by David Wainer: “Kelly Craft is expected to leave bombast to Donald Trump, swagger to Michael Pompeo and hard-line strategy to John Bolton when she takes her seat as U.S. ambassador at the UN next week… Craft’s new job may require her to deliver strongly worded statements defending Israel against criticism and condemning Iran’s leaders and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. But she’s unlikely to start from the combative stance of her politically seasoned — and politically ambitious — predecessor, [Nikki] Haley.” [Bloomberg]

COSTLY JEXIT — Fox News host Jeanine Pirro is expected to headline a “Jexit” fundraiser event on October 20 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The host of the event is a Florida-based non-profit that aims “to educate and encourage American Jews that are currently members of the Democratic Party to exit the Democratic Party and join President Trump who is the greatest friend to Israel and the Jewish people.” Pirro, Media Matters noted, will also stand to benefit from the event for her newly published book, Radicals, Resistance & Revenge: The Left’s Plot to Remake America.

2020 BRIEFS — Bill de Blasio said he would likely drop out of the race if he does not qualify for the debate in October… Life off the Democratic debate stage for low-polling candidates: Sparse crowds, daily indignities… Trump advisors are more worried about Elizabeth Warren than any other 2020 Democratic candidate… Marianne Williamson deletes tweet saying ‘power of the mind’ can turn away Hurricane Dorian… Democratic campaign arm accused of trying to hinder progressive candidates in key Senate primaries… Joe Biden may pull out of fundraiser hosted by fossil fuel exec… Colbert questions Biden over gaffes: ‘Are you going nuts?’

DONOR CIRCUIT — Joe Biden will return to Wall Street for fundraisers after climate town hall — by Brian Schwartz: “Biden will be hosted on Thursday by real estate executive Jack Rosen and his wife, Phyllis, for a cocktail party, with tickets at $2,800… Biden will also be heading to the home of investment banker David Solomon… Solomon is a partner at family run investment firm Hildred Capital Partners. Tickets for this event also go up to $2,800.” [CNBC]

Former HBO chief Richard Plepler and his wife Lisa hosted a dinner for Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) at their home on the Upper East Side earlier this week. h/t Dylan Byers

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: For billionaire Glenn Dubin, the Epstein saga isn’t over [VanityFair• Stephen Schwarzman’s Blackstone sells D.C. office with White House views for $231 million [CommercialObserver] • WeWork to add first woman board member, undo trademark deal [WSJ• Jared Kushner’s apartment company says it rejects deal with Maryland attorney general over rental practices [BaltimoreSun] • Jamie Reuben nabs troubled Bond Street condo for major discount [NYPost• Salesforce, Deutsche Telekom invest in Israel’s PerimeterX [Globes]

Goldman Sachs’s partnership is shrinking — by Liz Hoffman: “Elisha Wiesel, Goldman’s chief technology executive, and Steven Strongin, who runs the firm’s research operation, are among those who are discussing stepping down, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Wiesel joined Goldman straight out of college as a coder in its commodities-trading division and in 2017 was put in charge of the firm’s engineering force. He is the son of Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate who died in 2016. He is pursuing a philanthropic project that may be affiliated with Goldman, one of the people familiar with the matter said.” [WSJ]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — At last, an Airbnb for pools — by Bruce Handy: “[Asher] Weinberger and [Bunim] Laskin met last year, at a networking event that Weinberger, an entrepreneur and ‘chill’ Orthodox Jew, had set up for other religious Jews interested in startups. Laskin, an Israeli-American whose family moved to Lakewood, New Jersey, when he was fourteen, had launched Swimply as a lark the previous summer… He used his bar-mitzvah money to build ‘a really dumbed-down Web site’ and launched it under the name Pool For U… To their surprise, among the early adopters were observant Muslim and Jewish families, who are often reluctant to swim in public.” [NewYorker]

America’s Orthodox Jews are selling a ton of the products you buy on Amazon — by Leticia Miranda: “Yisroel — who asked to be identified by his Hebrew name for reasons of privacy — is a deeply observant Orthodox Jew, one of the many who have turned to third-party sales on Amazon… There’s an estimate passed around third-party Amazon consultants that claims 7% of all Amazon third-party sales originate from a single zip code in Brooklyn, and that Orthodox Jewish–owned businesses make up 15% of marketplace sellers… With the expansion of third-party marketplaces online, the bar to entry into the retail business is lower than ever — which means Orthodox Jews like Yisroel, many of whom lack formal degrees, have found careers that balance their religious lives with the modern marketplace, navigating the pull of inner spirituality while accepting the push into electronic commerce.”

“Some people in the Orthodox Jewish Amazon seller community joke about what the word ‘Amazon’ means in Hebrew — Am means nation and zon means feed. It loosely translates to ‘feed the nation,’ said Yisroel.” [BuzzFeed]

HOLLYWOOD — Apple scraps Richard Gere drama ‘Bastards’ — by Lesley Goldberg: “‘Bastards,’ the eight-episode project starring Richard Gere and based on the dark Israeli drama, will not move forward at the iPhone maker’s forthcoming streaming service… Multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Apple originally landed Bastards in a competitive situation with multiple other outlets bidding for the package… [writer Howard] Gordon… wanted to focus on the darker elements of the series… and Apple… wanted to ensure the series was focused on the heart and emotion of the central friendship. Apple and Gordon/Fox 21 could not come to a middle ground, and the tech company opted instead to release the project and pay a sizable financial penalty.” [HollywoodReporter]

Holocaust ‘masterpiece’ causes uproar at Venice film festival: “A searing adaptation of one of most controversial books about the Holocaust divided critics at the Venice film festival Wednesday, with some fighting each other in the dark to get out of its first screening. ‘The Painted Bird,’ based on Jerzy Kosinski’s highly contentious 1965 novel about a Jewish boy surviving the worst human nature can inflict on him in an unnamed Eastern European country, was hailed as a masterpiece by some and an unwatchable ordeal by others. But its staggering central performance from nine-year-old Czech Roma boy Petr Kotlar… has had co-stars Harvey Keitel and Stellan Skarsgard as well as the critics in raptures.” [Yahoo]

MEDIA WATCH — A top White House reporter is taking over the Washington Free Beacon — by Ben Smith: “A leading political reporter is leaving Politico to lead the neoconservative flagship Washington Free Beacon, the latest move in a conservative media world attempting to adjust to the age of Donald Trump. Eliana Johnson… will take over a staff of 24 from the Beacon’s founding editor, Matthew Continetti.” [BuzzFeed]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Schools go to FBI after hate site uses Jewish students pics — by Nick Martin: “The FBI has been contacted by officials at two universities after photos of hundreds of Jewish students and staff appeared on a website run by a white nationalist who openly advocates for ‘exterminating Jews and those who serve them.’ Journalists from student newspapers at Brandeis University near Boston and Yeshiva University in New York City sounded the alarm in recent days after discovering the cache of photos on the anti-Semitic and racist message board VNN Forum… A spokesperson for Yeshiva said the university was aware of the situation but had ‘found no direct threat’ to staff or students.” [DailyBeast]

STAFFING UP — Zioness has promoted board member Carly Pildis to the position of director of grassroots organizing.

DESSERT — A celebrated Argentinian Jewish restaurant is headed to NYC — by Serena Dai: “Starting Saturday, rotating pop-up restaurant Intersect by Lexus will be hosting Tomás Kalika — known for his modern Jewish restaurant in Buenos Aires, Mishiguene… In New York, the Meatpacking District restaurant will serve dishes such as red beet hummus with smoked vegetables and pickled quail eggs, pastramied short ribs with a honey-cognac demi-glace and truffled spaetzle, and baba ganoush.” [EaterNY]

BIRTHDAYS: Former member of Knesset, now a law professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Amnon Rubinstein turns 88… Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, she was appointed in 1979, took senior status in 2014 and inactive status in 2016, Judge Dolores Korman Sloviter turns 87… Author best known for his books promoting public education, Jonathan Kozol turns 83… Catherine Nelson turns 71… Rabbi of Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, New Jersey since 1979, Rabbi Yosef Adler turns 68… Judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, JoAnne Fishman Kloppenburg turns 66… Principal at Watershed Associates, Stuart Shlossman turns 64…

Heidi Beth Massey turns 64… New York-based real estate developer, Jacob Frydman turns 62… Radio host and editor in chief of the Moscow-based independent political weekly the New Times, she is active in the Russian Jewish Congress, Yevgenia Albats turns 61… Elected to the Knesset in April 2019 as a member of the Blue and White party, she is a retired Major General in the IDF and the first woman to be made Major General, Orna Barbivai turns 57… Chairman of the board of Investment Canada and chairman of Cirque du Soleil, Mitch Garber turns 55…

Nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and a senior editor at Reason magazine, Jacob Z. Sullum turns 54… Chairman of Mentored, an education technology platform, Eric Aroesty turns 49… DC-based freelance reporter, Holly Rosenkrantz turns 49… Born in the Soviet Union, made aliyah in 1998, she is a member of the Knesset since 2016 for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Yulia Malinovsky turns 44… Political analyst and writer, Jeremy C. Frankel turns 29… Director in the DC office of Baron Public Affairs LLC, Jeremy Furchtgott turns 28… Sales engineering director at biometric firm TypingDNA, Anthony (Tony) Klor turns 26… Shoshanna Liebman… Stu Shloss..

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