Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: August 23, 2018

A Palestinian candidate for Congress in California receives a boost as GOP opponent is indicted | Why Michael Cohen flipped

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Democratic congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar speaks during an interview in San Diego, California, August 22, 2018.
Democratic congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar speaks during an interview in San Diego, California, August 22, 2018.Credit: Gregory Bull/AP Photo

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MIDTERMS — Once considered a longshot candidate, Ammar Campa-Najjar, the Democratic candidate for California’s 50th Congressional District, has now emerged as a favorite to pull a possible upset. The incumbent Republican, Congressman Duncan Hunter was indicted this week for using campaign funds for personal expenses. For now, Duncan is still considered likely to win reelection in the conservative district but the race will now be competitive. 

According to California's election laws, a candidate's name cannot be taken off the ballot unless he seeks removal from a state judge, and there can be no write-in candidates for the general election. But following Duncan's indictment, Cook Political Report moved the district from 'definitively Republican' to 'likely Republican,' with the potential to move further.

BACKGROUND — "Campa-Najjar has an atypical background for a candidate for Congress, to say the least. The son of a Mexican-American mother and Palestinian-American father, he spent three years of his childhood living in the Gaza Strip... Campa-Najjar later went on to work in politics and government, with jobs with the 2012 Obama re-election campaign, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the White House, and the Department of Labor. His paternal grandfather, Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar, was one of the masterminds of the Munich terrorist attack, in which Israeli Olympic athletes were massacred." [TheIntercept]

SUPPORTERS — Campa-Najjar has been endorsed by former President Barack Obama, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent an email to her supporters Tuesday calling on them to give money to Campa-Najjar. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat Rep. Joe Crowley in New York's 14th Congressional District, is also raising funds for Campa-Najjar. The Democratic candidate is also backed by J Street's PAC and Bernie Sanders' Our Revolution movement. 

Center for American Progress' Neera Tanden, who hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a one-on-one discussion in 2015, tweeted: "Please support Ammar Campa Najjar who is running against Duncan Hunter, an incumbent Republican indicted today. Ammar has an inspiring life story. Let's win this seat." 

-- "Campa-Najjar has spoken before representatives of the Jewish community in his district and promised to try to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians if he makes it to Congress." [Haaretz

2020 WATCH — Biden, Sanders Have Nearly Identical Lead Over Trump in Hypothetical Matchup — by Eli Yokley: "Pluralities of voters said they would choose former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over President Donald Trump in a hypothetical presidential election. But the two men – both in their mid-70s and both with unsuccessful runs for the Democratic nomination for president behind them – are just about the only possible 2020 contenders polled for whom voters currently have strong views." [MorningConsult]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — White House sources: US to present limited Mideast plan — by Ariel Kahana: "Only the first phase of the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan will be presented at the United Nations General Assembly, a source close to the White House told Israel Hayom on Thursday... The source said the president would only present a partial outline of the overall peace initiative the White House has been drafting, describing it more as an "agenda for peace." The source said the reason... was that the president's peace team has encountered difficulties in recent months, but also noted Trump's current legal battles." [IsraelHayom

Yedioth Ahronoth reports: Trump's peace plan may not see the light of day, according to senior Israeli cabinet ministers who have spoken to the White House Mideast peace team. The Israeli officials are under the impression that the White House understands that the Palestinians will reject the plan based on the compromises they would be required to undertake in a possible peace settlement. 

Egypt, Saudi Arabia less optimistic of Trump’s ‘Deal of Century' to bring Middle East peace — by Jacob Wirtschafter and Mina Nader: "After a year of shuttle diplomacy and multiple meetings with leaders in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Amman and Cairo, American envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have failed to convince Egypt or other key Arab states that the U.S. can broker a fair solution. “Most of the Arab world – including Egypt and Saudi Arabia – have rejected the U.S.-proposed Deal of the Century,” said Saad El Gammal, head of the Egyptian parliament's Arab Affairs Committee." [USAToday]

Jason Greenblatt tweetsMet today with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Jordanian Ambassador to the US Dina Kawar. We discussed Jordan’s position on UNRWA and the U.S. Administration’s peace efforts. .. Delighted to welcome this dynamic group of Palestinian high school students to White House as they start their year-long #KLYES exchange in the USA. Good luck & have a great year! [Pic

LAST NIGHT IN NYC: Greenblatt met with AIPAC leaders to discuss "the US-Israel relationship, recent events in the Middle East, and the Administration’s peace efforts." 

-- According to a source, Greenblatt is spending today meeting with Jewish leaders in NYC. 

DRIVING THE CONVO — White House downplays Trump's "higher price" comment on Israel — by Barak Ravid: "Senior U.S. officials told me it was important to listen carefully to Trump's words because, unlike what some Israeli politicians said, the president didn't say Israel would have to pay a "high price" — a phrase they said has a very negative implication in the Middle East — but instead "a higher price." They added: "The president's words that Israel would pay 'a higher price' simply reflects a desire that our good faith initiatives would be reciprocated. And, just to be absolutely clear, the U.S. will not impose terms upon Israel that are unacceptable."

"Israeli officials told me they got clarifications from senior U.S. officials who explained what Trump meant." [Axios

HEARD YESTERDAY — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a press briefing: "We think that the President's decision was the right one to move the embassy — something that other Presidents had promised and failed to do. This is a President who's been delivering on the promises that he's made." Reporter: What price are we talking about? What price might Israel have to pay? Sanders: "I don’t have anything further for you." 

Chemi Shalev writes... "Trump’s “higher price” bombshell was a shot across the bow for Netanyahu and other right wingers who thought they could sleep soundly for the next four or even eight years. It indicates that Trump can flip on Israel without a moment’s notice or a second thought, just as he renounces anyone else who dares challenge him, from political allies to top security officials to his own personal lawyer." [Haaretz

US officials visit City of David in Jerusalem— by Yael Freidson: "The dinner... was attended by National Security Advisor John Bolton, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, the head of the Israeli National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israel's Ambassador to US Ron Dermer, and other Israeli officials. Although the City of David is defined as a national park, it is still considered to be a politically sensitive location since it is run by the right-wing organization Elad, which deals with Jewish settlement in eastern Jerusalem. Before the meal, the attendees toured the antiquities of the City of David." [Ynet

HEARD THIS MORNING — In a press gaggle on the tarmac before leaving for Lithuania, Netanyahu was asked: Has Israel given up on its expectation that the US will recognize the Golan Heights in light of Bolton's remarks? "I should give up on such a thing? That cannot be," Netanyahu responded.

‘Summer Of Disharmony’ by Gary Rosenblatt: "When three Jewish U.S. ambassadors step up their criticism of Jerusalem’s actions, diaspora-Israel relations are in real crisis — This “summer of disharmony,” as World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder describes the current state of Israel-diaspora relations, could well lead to a fall and winter of further disruption and disengagement... And though both Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat are steeped in the art of diplomatic parlance, each of them was quite clear in expressing to me this week their frustration with Netanyahu and his coalition members... Ross wrote in an e-mail that he and Eizenstat expressed their “disquiet” to the Israeli leadership, and he called on others to “explain to Israelis the cost and consequence in the diaspora” of Jerusalem’s actions." [JewishWeek

UN urges Israel not to hold Gaza aid ‘hostage’ to politics: "The U.N. political chief is calling on Israel to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian supplies for the Gaza Strip aren’t “held hostage to political and security developments.” Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council Wednesday... funding for U.N. emergency fuel to keep about 250 Gaza hospitals, water and sanitation facilities operating at a minimum level “has now run out.” [AP

Mark Dubowitz and Orde Kittrie write — "Get Serious About Human Shields: Our recent study of Hamas leaders involved in using human shields shows that several have not been named as terrorists by the U.S., let alone the European Union or the U.K. At least one has traveled to Europe on behalf of Hamas without facing consequences... Human-shield sanctions can be used to help turn the lawfare tables against the terrorists." [WSJ]

ON THE HILL — The Senate passed a bill yesterday to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the late President of Egypt Anwar Sadat recognizing his contributions to peace in the Middle East. The effort was spearheaded by Ezra Friedlander. [CSPAN]

TOP TALKER — Why Michael Cohen Agreed to Plead Guilty And Implicate the President — by Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Nicole Hong and Joe Palazzolo: "A personal turning point for Mr. Cohen was a conversation with his father, Maurice Cohen, a Holocaust survivor. Mr. Cohen’s father urged him not to protect the president, saying he didn’t survive the Holocaust to have his name sullied by Mr. Trump..." [WSJ

New York state subpoenas Cohen in Trump Foundation probe — by David Klepper: "Investigators in New York state issued a subpoena to Michael Cohen as part of their probe into the Trump Foundation... Cohen could potentially be a significant source of information for state investigators looking into whether Trump or his charity broke state law or lied about their tax liability." [AP

-- "Shortly after the subpoena went out, Cohen personally contacted the tax department to talk." [NYDailyNews]

New York City taxi regulator orders Michael Cohen to divest of his medallions — by Dana Rubinstein: "On Wednesday afternoon... a prosecuting attorney with New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission demanded Cohen relinquish his interest in 10 taxi medallions or risk their revocation." [Politico]

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — ‘How Did We End Up Here?’ Trump Wonders as the White House — by Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers: "Advisers noticed that the president... seemed subdued. He appeared to realize the serious nature of what had just taken place, and yet his relative calm — contrasted with his more typical lashing out when he is anxious — unnerved some of his aides... By Wednesday, Mr. Trump’s lawyers were arguing privately that Mr. Cohen’s admission and guilty plea to violating campaign finance laws was a punch but not a knockout blow, and were assessing what options they had for fighting back." [NYTimes

“The Worst Hour of His Entire Life” — Cohen, Manafort, and the Twin Courtroom Dramas That Changed Trump’s Presidency — by Susan Glasser: "Tuesday was a day for the optimists who think they can finally see the beginning of the end of that story, those like Norm Eisen, who are convinced that the institutions of American democracy are proving resilient in the face of Trump’s assault... “Democracy writ large has beaten illiberalism again and again, and that’s why I have optimism that today’s struggle will be no exception,” Eisen told me." [NewYorker

HEARD YESTERDAY — Novelist and law professor Thane Rosenbaum on WCBS 880: "President Trump, to my mind, still has much more of a political problem than a legal problem. If I was a Republican running in the midterm elections, I would be really unhappy right now... And until we see those items – criminal conspiracy and interfering in the presidential election of 2016 – and actual evidence of collusion and obstruction of justice – I think we’re talking about crimes that don’t rise to the level of impeachment yet.” [WCBS880]

Alan Dershowitz on UK's Channel 4 — Host Matt Frei: Where is the moral backbone of America these days? Dershowitz: "Well, where is the moral backbone of Great Britain to have as the head of the Labour Party a virulent anti-Semite, a virulent hater of Jews and the nation-state of the Jewish people? Don't lecture us about our political system as long as you have Jeremy Corbyn, who may potentially become the next Prime Minister of England. Shame on Great Britain for allowing that to come to pass." [Video]

HAPPENING TODAY — Trump to meet with Sessions, Kushner to discuss sentencing reform — by Stef Kight and Jonathan Swan: "President Trump plans to meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and Brooke Rollins on Thursday to discuss the prison and sentencing reform package being negotiated between the White House and members from both parties..." [Axios

Senate won't take up Kushner's signature prison reform bill before midterms — by Burgess Everett: “I don’t think before the election. I think the sentencing reforms are still controversial and divide Republicans. I just don’t see the wisdom of dividing Republicans on a contentious matter like that before the election,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas... On Tuesday, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced support for the package, raising hopes for a bipartisan agreement ahead of the election." [Politico

SIGHTING — Jared Kushner was spotted at Café Milano in DC last night having dinner with investment banker Aryeh Bourkoff, founder and CEO of LionTree [Pic] h/t Playbook

COMING SOON — Amid Iran deal tensions, Merkel to visit Israel in October: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel is slated to visit Israel in early October, her first visit in four years, amid growing US-Europe tension over Iran... Merkel’s visit comes as part of a broader government-to-government summit that will bring several German cabinet ministers to Israel for meetings with their counterparts... According to the Ynet news site, Merkel will receive an honorary doctorate from Haifa University during her visit." [ToI

-- Germany accused by Rabbi Abraham Cooper of betraying pledge to combat anti-Semitism by ignoring Iran sanctions. 

Washington Is Turning Into Moscow — by Ben Judah: "In 2014, I stopped going to Moscow. It felt like the right thing to do. Twice over the past two years, I had been taken in for questioning by the FSB... A few months later, I arrived in Birobidzhan. For years, I had dreamed of visiting the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, the name still attached to the mosquito-infested marshlands set aside by Stalin for Jewish settlement in Siberia as an alternative to Zionism. But before I could find any of the handful of Jews there was a knock on my hotel-room door. It was two agents from the FSB." [TheAtlantic]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Dan Rose, one of Facebook’s most important business executives, is leaving [Recode]  CBS Chief Leslie Moonves Hires Legal Superstar for Sexual Misconduct Probe [HollywoodReporter]  Moishe Mana expands Allapattah portfolio [TheRealDeal]  Endeavor’s Ari Emanuel to Receive Variety Vanguard Award at Mipcom [Variety]

STARTUP NATION — What Your Car Knows About You — by Christina Rogers: "Today, auto makers can pull hundreds of different data points from the car, including everything from the odometer reading and blinker status to the tire pressure level. “It’s really like your cellphone but it is bigger and on wheels,” said Lisa Joy Rosner, of Otonomo, an Israeli-based startup that works with auto makers to process and license vehicle data. Otonomo’s business model is built around it taking car maker-provided data, cleaning it up so it is easier to use and read, and then licensing it to third-parties, such as app developers, insurance companies and municipalities. All the data is stripped of any personal information. Auto makers then collect the licensing revenue with Otonomo getting a small cut." [WSJ

Nobody Trusts Facebook. Twitter Is a Hot Mess. What Is Snapchat Doing? — by Sarah Frier: "Asked why he was so reluctant to shine, Evan Spiegel pauses for a few beats. “I had a pretty serious Christian upbringing. I remember growing up I was taught to be small, be a turtle,” he says. “I remember thinking, Why would I go around the company and just chat with people? Like that would be so awkward. Now I go walk around the office and get a ton of emails like, ‘Oh, my God, that was awesome you came by.’” [Bloomberg]

HOLLYWOOD — Comedy legend Carl Reiner turns Emmy shot into punchline — by Lynn Elber: "Ask 12-time Emmy Award winner Carl Reiner how it feels to be nominated again, and he fires back a wisecrack. “I’m impressed with myself,” says the droll, 96-year-old creator (or “96 and a half,” per his exacting count) of the TV classic “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” ... Reiner is nominated as host-narrator of “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” a documentary about how perennial high achievers, including Mel Brooks and Tony Bennett, both 92, stay vibrant... Reiner, the oldest-ever Emmy nominee, is willing to look in the rearview mirror, but only to fuel new work..." [AP

PROFILE — This Millennial Filmmaker Is Riding the Digital Wave With His NBA Buddies — by Matt Foley: "[Michael] Ratner and his older brother, Scott, co-founded OBB, aka Original Big Bold, in 2014 to deliver millennial-driven original storytelling... In June, OBB took over a 10,000-square-foot building as it diversifies into comedy, music and horror. First up? Finding a network home for Smart Money, a series based on Michael Konik’s 2006 memoir about life inside one of the world’s biggest gambling rings. And in early August, Ratner announced a new division, OBB Music, with a feature documentary chronicling the rise of superstar rapper Young Jeezy in the works." [Ozy]

The Jewish Side of Cystic Fibrosis— by Shoshy Ciment: "For Emily Kramer-Golinkoff, starting her own nonprofit was more than an act of humanity. It was her only hope... “I never hid the fact that I had cystic fibrosis growing up,” said Kramer-Golinkoff, who was diagnosed with the hereditary disorder before she turned 1... “If we wanted breakthroughs in my lifetime, we were going to have to dive in head first and take matters into our own hands,” said Kramer-Golinkoff, who lives in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. So with the chutzpah of a woman with nothing to lose, she started Emily’s Entourage, a nonprofit devoted to spearheading research exclusively for nonsense mutations of CF." [Tablet]

A pocket watch turns back the clock on Jewish life aboard the Titanic — by Menachem Wecker: "Sinai Kantor, a Russian immigrant bound for New York with his wife, Miriam, took with him a Swiss-made pocket watch embossed on the back with a seated Moses holding the Hebrew-inscribed Ten Commandments... He was among 1,503 passengers who died on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. His watch remains a relic of the broader but little-known Jewish experiences on the Titanic... This Saturday (Aug. 25), Heritage Auctions will sell the watch to the highest bidder in its Americana and political auction." [ReligionNews]

Can Ultimate Frisbee Save the World? — by Jennifer Finney Boylan: "For the last couple of weeks this group of kids — some from Israel, some from Palestine — had been trying to learn something about conflict resolution, by playing Ultimate Frisbee. Some of them had become friends... “Well, we’re not trying to bring peace to the Middle East,” said David Barkan, who volunteers as the chief executive of Ultimate Peace, which sponsored the camp. “That’s not the goal. It’s about changing a mind-set through the values of the sport that we know leads to peace between people.”" [NYTimes

TRANSITION — Samantha Ravich, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been appointed as Vice Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. Ravich served as Deputy National Security Advisor for former Vice President Dick Cheney, focusing on Asian and Middle East Affairs as well as on counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation. 

BIRTHDAYS: Professor Emeritus at MIT and 1987 Nobel Prize laureate in Economics, Robert Solow turns 94... Billionaire owner of many car dealerships, art collector, top GOP donor and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, Norman Braman turns 86... Retired South African hotelier, he was a leading international developer and operator of destination resorts and luxury hotels, Sol Kerzner turns 83... Owner of Paper Capers, a stationery, custom invitation and gift store located in Livingston, New Jersey, Leslie Mayesh turns 71... Former MLB player (1969-1978), he was the first designated hitter in MLB history (on 4-6-1973) and was the manager of the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox in the Israel Baseball League (2007), Ron Blomberg turns 70... General Counsel of Eastern Savings Bank in Hunt Valley, Maryland, Richard Zeskind turns 61...

Member of Knesset since 1996, representing the Labor Party, Eitan Cabel turns 59... Cincinnati resident, Bracha (Benita Amedeo) Radin turns 56... South African-born entrepreneur, he is the founder and was the CEO and later Chairman of Wonga, a British financial technology company, Errol Damelin turns 49... ESPN's and ABC's sportswriter, reporter and author, he has won eight Emmy Awards, Jeremy Schaap turns 49... Founder and director of Jewish Family Enrichment Project as well as the director of "To Kindle a Soul" Parenting Seminars, Rabbi Josh Kohl turns 48... Israeli supermodel, born in Haifa, Mor Katzir turns 38... Senior manager in the hospital and healthcare practice of Accenture, Avigail Goldgraber turns 34... Senior policy advisor and speechwriter for President Donald Trump, Stephen Miller turns 33...