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DRIVING THE WEEK -- Trump heads to Europe amid frayed alliances, and worries about his tilt to Putin -- by Noah Bierman: "Administration officials who previewed the trip for reporters in recent days insist all is normal in the transatlantic relationship: Trump will work with NATO countries to present a united front beginning Tuesday night in Brussels, stop in Britain to see Queen Elizabeth, then proceed to Helsinki, Finland, next week to confront Putin "with our eyes wide open."" [LATimes]
Trump’s neglect of Europe goes beyond angry tweets -- by David Hernszenhorn: "European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who will visit Trump at the White House later this month... warned that the consequences of Trump's policies, like withdrawing from the Iran deal, were already shifting the global geopolitical landscape... "We have to draw some conclusions from Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran," Juncker said. "That does not mean that we are swapping partners. But it does mean that other partners are becoming more important than they were before."" [Politico]
Russia stays in the driver’s seat in Syria -- by Ishaan Tharoor: "The question of what happens next in Syria will loom over Putin’s planned meeting with Trump next week in Helsinki. Trump administration officials have long sought to drive a wedge between Assad’s two main backers, Russia and Iran. The latter’s entrenched position in Syria is reviled by both Washington and Israel. But while there’s plenty that separates Moscow and Tehran, a split between the two is not in the cards. “The Russians can’t guarantee an absence of Iran in Syria,” explained Maxim Suchkov, a Moscow-based expert on Russian foreign policy in the Middle East."
"And ultimately, argued Suchkov, Putin values his ability to “create the image” of a successful actor in the Middle East, especially in contrast to the United States. “For the United States, Syria is more about Iran,” he said. “For Russia, Syria is about the United States.”" [WashPost]
Can Russia deliver on Trump’s hope of ousting Iran from Syria? -- by Kirill Semenov: "One reason why Damascus might be open to turning away from the pro-Iran vector is the return of US sanctions on Iran. There’s a view in Moscow that Syrian leaders are sensibly worried that excessive dependency on Tehran is likely to drag Syria down as well." [Al-Monitor]
Michael Sharnoff writes “Russia and the U.S. have common interests in Syria. But it may not matter: Russia and the United States want to prevent another Israeli-Hezbollah war, which could cause greater regional instability. Securing a buffer zone with clear and narrowly defined objectives that prevent the Iranians from establishing a base in southern Syria satisfies U.S. and Russian interests.” [WashPost]
HEARD THIS MORNING -- Trump in a gaggle with reporters outside the White House: "So I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? ... I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing. I've said that many times for many years. So we'll see." [Video]
HAPPENING TOMORROW: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders are expected to discuss "pressing cooperation issues and problems on the global agenda, including ways to resolve the Israel-Palestine issue and the Syrian conflict," according to the Kremlin.
REPORT -- Israeli, Saudi, and Emirati Officials Privately Pushed for Trump to Strike a “Grand Bargain” with Putin -- by Adam Entous: “Israeli officials lobbied for rapprochement between Washington and Moscow soon after Trump’s election victory. In a private meeting during the transition, an attendee told me, Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States and one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest confidants, said that the Israeli government was encouraging the incoming Trump Administration to coöperate more closely with Putin, starting in Syria, with the hope of convincing Moscow to push the Iranians to leave the country, the attendee said. Like M.B.Z., Netanyahu made courting Putin a priority, particularly after Russia’s military intervention in Syria in 2015.”
“Separately, a former U.S. official recalled having a conversation after Trump’s Inauguration with an Israeli Cabinet minister with close ties to Netanyahu in which the minister pitched the American on the idea of “trading Ukraine for Syria.” The former official told me, “You can understand why Russia’s help with Syria is a far higher priority for Israel than pushing back on Russian aggression in Ukraine. But I considered it a major stretch for Israel to try to convince the United States that U.S. interests are well served by looking the other way at Russian aggression in Ukraine. Of course, Trump may disagree for his own reasons.”” [NewYorker]
Tal Shalev tweets: "Funfact: BB's support tweet for Donald Trump's border wall was his most retweeted tweet ever, according to the annual @Twiplomacy report."
Israel 'not ruling out' eventual ties with Syria's Assad -- by Dan Williams: "Touring the Israeli-occupied Golan, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ramped up threats to use armed force should Damascus encroach militarily. “Any Syrian soldier who will be in the buffer zone risks his life,” Lieberman told reporters... Asked by a reporter... whether the two old enemies could establish “some kind of relationship”, Lieberman said: “I reckon we are a long way from that, but we are not ruling out anything.”" [Reuters]
TALK OF THE REGION -- Unable to Stop Flaming Kites, Israel Moves to Choke Off Gaza Commerce -- by David Halbfinger: "The new restrictions at Gaza’s main cargo crossing ban the import of all goods except food, medicine and “humanitarian equipment,” as well as all exports... Short of military action, analysts said, Israel has few options, since its blockade already severely restricts the movement of people in and out of Gaza. “The only measure that Israel has in its tool kit is to close the border,” said Celine Touboul, deputy director general of Israel’s Economic Cooperation Foundation."
"The new restrictions at Kerem Shalom could quickly be subsumed into a larger diplomatic struggle involving Israel, Egypt, the United States and the Palestinian Authority over how to ease suffering in Gaza, and who should bear responsibility for it." [NYTimes]
Israel says that monitoring social media has cut ‘lone wolf’ attacks. Palestinians are crying foul -- by Ruth Eglash: "Amid a wave of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks that began nearly three years ago, Israel has stepped up its monitoring of social media... Security forces and intelligence agencies are also using computer algorithms to predict the likelihood that a given person will carry out a lone-wolf attack and to intervene before it happens. Israel says its methods are working, pointing to a sharp drop in attacks carried out largely by young, disaffected Palestinians. But those methods have generated serious questions about an erosion of privacy, freedom of speech and human rights... For many Palestinians, the knowledge that Israeli authorities are tracking their social-media activities is seen as just another level of oppression and restriction in an intractable, decades-old conflict." [WashPost]
TALK AT TURTLE BAY -- UN agency for Palestinians warns of deep cuts if funding shortfall not fixed: "The UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants has warned that cuts to key programs in the Gaza Strip and West Bank are planned over the coming weeks, if a US funding freeze cannot be overcome. Figures were not yet available on the cuts being planned if the major gap in financing is not resolved, but a letter sent to agency staff over the weekend, and seen by AFP on Monday, highlights the targeted areas... Most of the cuts were expected in the West Bank. Some programs were due to run out of funds by the end of July, according to the source." [ToI]
ACROSS THE POND -- What does Boris Johnson's resignation mean for UK-Israel relations? -- by Eytan Halon: "Former British foreign minister Boris Johnson's resignation on Monday plunged Prime Minister Theresa May's turbulent Brexit Britain government into even more trouble... Under Johnson's ministerial tenure, UK-Israel ties have prospered with bilateral trade between the countries reaching £6.9bn ($9.1bn) in 2017... Johnson did not shy away from making clear his strong support for Israel while foreign minister... expressing his pride in "Britain's part in creating Israel" in a Daily Telegraph op-ed... The former London mayor was also a passionate believer in the urgency of reaching a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, telling The Jerusalem Post in March 2017 that "you have to have a two-state solution or else you have a kind of apartheid system."
"Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev soon welcomed Johnson's foreign secretary replacement, expressing hope that relations between the two countries will continue to go from strength to strength. "Mazal tov to Jeremy Hunt on his appointment as Foreign Secretary. Looking forward to further strengthening the Israel-UK partnership," wrote the Israeli envoy on Twitter... Although public statements made by Hunt to date regarding Israel are scarce, he dedicates much of his website's foreign policy section to the Middle East where his opinions regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict mirror those of the Conservative Party in general." [JPost]
SUPREME COURT WATCH -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tells CBS This Morning that he will work to oppose Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court with "everything I've got." Adding, “At a time when we have the Mueller investigation, Judge Kavanaugh is way at the extremes. He believes a president shouldn’t even be investigated. He has gone so far as to say a president who believes the law’s unconstitutional, doesn’t have to follow it." [Video]
Former Senator Norm Coleman tweets: "I had the honor as a U.S.Senator to meet with, review their records&vote to confirm the nominations of Justices Roberts & Alito to the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh possesses the requisite intellect & integrity that should easily ensure his confirmation. Time to put politics aside."
The Anti-Defamation League in a statement: "We are concerned that Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record does not reflect the demonstrated independence and commitment to fair treatment for all that is necessary to merit a seat on our nation’s highest court. Because he has written and spoken prolifically on many issues of deep concern, we believe his positions merit close scrutiny. These include his demonstrated hostility to reproductive freedom and his past support for greatly expanded and unchecked executive power."
Norm Eisen emails us “Kavanaugh’s views are troubling on a woman’s right to choose, on all our rights to healthcare and on government protection of consumers. But he has a conflict that no prior Supreme Court nominee has faced: nomination by a president who has been identified as a subject in a criminal investigation that is advanced and has brought down or focused on top aides. At a minimum, the nominee must answer questions about that, including about his own extreme views that a president should not even be questioned while in office. If he refuses to answer the questions he should recuse — and if he refuses to do that, his nomination should be delayed until the criminal investigations have concluded. If not, a cloud will hang over his appointment.”
-- American Constitution Society’s Caroline Fredrickson and Norm Eisen write “Will Kavanaugh Provide Cover for Trump? This issue is particularly important given repeated claims by the president’s attorneys that Mr. Trump is essentially above the law — that he can even refuse a subpoena to testify. Given the looming Mueller investigation, these weighty, knotty constitutional questions may soon come before the court.” [NYTimes]
Fun fact via C-SPAN's Howard Mortman: At Kavanaugh's hearing for Circuit Court on May 9, 2006, he was introduced to the Senate Judiciary Committee by Alex Kozinski, a son of Holocaust survivors. [Video]
TALK OF THE TOWN -- Stephen Miller trashed pricey sushi after bartender gave him the finger -- by Tamar Lapin: "White House senior adviser Stephen Miller was so outraged when a bartender gave him both middle fingers that he dumped $80 worth of sushi in the trash... Miller, 32, was picking up a takeout order from a restaurant near his City Center apartment in Washington, DC, when the barman followed him out into the street and shouted, “Stephen!” before making the rude gesture and cursing him out... In another encounter, a stranger shouted “Better be better!” at Miller as he walked through Dupont Circle a few months ago." [NYPost]
Former Trump administration official Boris Epshteyn on his job as chief political analyst for Sinclair Broadcast Group in an interview with Hamodia: "The American people are absolutely tired of Trump-bashing. My segment goes out to millions of people around the country. I get a lot of the emails from folks all over the country (maybe not in the D.C. bubble or New York) who are saying that Trump is doing great... But if you read some newspapers here in New York, they’ll go on for 15 paragraphs about some in-house drama that may or may not actually be happening in the White House."
Epshteyn on Trump’s 2017 Holocaust Remembrance Day statement: "I had a role in writing the statement. Obviously, I am 100 percent Jewish and had family that perished in the Holocaust. As I helped draft the statement I looked at prior statements. There was one in 2008, when President Bush did not mention the Jewish people. The meaning of the statement was to include all of those who perished in the Holocaust. Of course, that includes the Jewish people. Since it was only a couple days into the presidency, I think that attack was a preview of the absolute hatred for the president and anyone who worked for him. It was completely unfair. Would I have included the term “Jewish people” if I knew that anyone would have been offended? Of course." [Hamodia]
2018 WATCH -- NRCC Pulls Support For House Candidate With Racist History -- by Haley Byrd: “The National Republican Campaign Committee has pulled its support from Seth Grossman, the GOP nominee in New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District, after MediaMatters.org revealed social media posts by Grossman containing white supremacist content. “Bigotry has no place in society—let alone the U.S. House of Representatives. The NRCC withdraws our support of Seth Grossman and calls on him to reconsider his candidacy," NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers said in a statementGrossman, a right-wing radio host and pundit, used his Facebook page to publicize articles from racist websites, such as a post from the white supremacist website American Renaissance.” [WeeklyStandard]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Martin Sorrell Outbids WPP to Win MediaMonks [WSJ] James Packer resigns from Consolidated Press Holdings board [ABC] Sumner Redstone Nearing Trial Over His Massive Fortune [HollywoodReporter] No Steel and Aluminum Tariff Exemptions for Israel Under Trump Administration [Calcalist]
A legendary Israeli venture capitalist explains why anyone against cooperation with China is 'crazy' -- by Harrison Jacobs: "The [U.S--China dispute over new tarrifs] has left some Israeli businessmen, like legendary venture capitalist Erel Margalit, feeling caught in the middle. "The Chinese and the Americans need to find a better way to coexist from an economic standpoint. It's extremely important for the world's development," Margalit told Business Insider. "China is developing new business models today that are ahead of anyone else." ... As Margalit looks at the global economy, he said it's important to continue building "new dimensions of cooperation" between China, the US, and other global economies. But, he said, it needs to be done in a way that respects intellectual property and is non-threatening. Anyone against that, he said, is "crazy." [BusinessInsider]
COMING SOON: The second Bloomberg Global Business Forum will be held on September 26th at the Plaza Hotel during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday. Heads of state from five continents have already confirmed their attendance, as well as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, among others. In addition, French President Emmanuel Macron, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim and Bloomberg will host the second One Planet Summit on the afternoon of the Forum.
SPOTLIGHT -- The Real-Life Shareholder Revolt That Inspired Succession’s No-Confidence Vote -- by Julie Miller: "During a phone call last week, [Jesse] Armstrong revealed that while Rupert Murdoch, Sumner Redstone, and other media moguls have inspired other elements of the HBO drama, Sunday’s vote of no confidence was partly inspired by Disney’s unprecedented shareholder revolt in 2004, which stripped Michael Eisner of the chairman title he had held for nearly 20 years... “What happened with Disney was very pertinent to that [scene],” explained Armstrong, even though there are key differences between that shakeup and the one on Succession." [VanityFair]
New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet: Yes, We Did Too Many Alan Dershowitz Stories -- by Lloyd Grove: "Even publicity-savvy Alan Dershowitz is astonished at the flood-the-zone coverage that The New York Times has been devoting to his social sufferings on Martha’s Vineyard. “Four stories!” the retired Harvard Law professor... crowed Monday in a phone interview... On Monday, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet acknowledged the weirdness of the situation... “We are trying to increase our coverage of cranky white guys,” he joked. “Seriously, it's a big place and different desks made their own plans. We should have coordinated better and done fewer.” ... Former Times executive editor Jill Abramson... sounded more amused than alarmed by the profileration of Dershowitz headlines. “Six reporters!” she said, laughing. “That’s the only comment this needs.”" [DailyBeast]
A Pakistani Jew Wants To Travel To Israel -- NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with a Pakistani Jew, Fishel Benkhald, about his recent op-ed. It's his plea to travel to Israel for Passover, which is not permitted by the Pakistani government: 'The Pakistani Constitution states that every citizen has the equal right to profess religion... So it is a right of Jewish Pakistanis to have the freedom to make a religious pilgrimage to their most holy site, which is Jerusalem in Israel... In order to protest against it - I call myself a guerrillativist. It's a person who puts himself in the situation to protest. People say that there are other ways around, but why should I? Why should I hide and do it under the darkness of the night? It's my right as per the constitution, so I will do it publicly, and I will do it loudly.'" [NPR]
How Warner Brothers Resisted a Hollywood Ban on Anti-Nazi Films in the 1930s and Warned Americans of the Dangers of Fascism: "In 1932, Joseph Breen, soon to become head of the Production Code Administration (PCA), censorship arm of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, wrote a letter to a Jesuit priest in which he called Jews “the scum of the scum of the earth and “dirty lice.” Breen would soon be charged by his boss Will Hays with enforcing a ban on anti-Nazi films in Hollywood between 1934 and 1941... While most of the studio heads complied with the ban... the Warner brothers did their best to fight back... The Warners would not be deterred even after the PCA cracked down; they were the only studio heads to support the 1936-created Hollywood Anti-Nazi-League. “Two further films, Black Legion and Confessions of a Nazi Spy” followed Bosko’s Picture Show, the first a 1937 “documentary style” production that “shed light on a fascist movement within the U.S.” [OpenCulture]
DESSERT -- NoHo Gets New Kosher, Vegetarian Hummus Place -- by Shira Feder: "Middle Eastern cuisine continues carving a swath through modern food trends with the arrival of Vish in NoHo, Manhattan. It’s a new vegetarian, Middle Eastern, kosher place that specializes in hummus topped with “sautéed mushrooms, fava beans, eggplant, vegan shwarma, hard boiled egg, falafel, and even shakshuka,” as site YeahThat’sKosher wrote... Eliyahoo, the man behind Vish, an alternative medicine therapist, started making hummus in 2008. Instead of mixing natural extracts, he began measuring precise quantities of sesame seeds and chickpeas." [Forward]
BIRTHDAYS: Broadway composer, whose scores include Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles, Jerry Herman turns 87...Stan Udaskin turns 72... NYC-born author, now living in Jerusalem, Naomi Ragen turns 69... Managing editor of the Cleveland Jewish News, Bob Jacob turns 62...President of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey (2014-2017), now chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Network Advisory Committee, Leslie Dannin Rosenthal turns 61... Member of Holland & Knight's public policy group, previously a member of the US House of Representatives from Florida (2007-2011), Chair of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Ronald "Ron" Klein turns 61... Member of the New York State legislature: Assembly (1995-2004) and Senate (since 2005), representing parts of Bronx and Westchester Counties, Jeffrey D. Klein turns 58...
One of the chief film critics for The New York Times, Anthony Oliver (A.O.) Scott turns 52...NYC-based PR consultant, formerly on Bill Clinton's post WH staff, M Public Affairs and Glover Park Group, Elie Jacobs turns 40... Head of politics and public affairs at Altice and a4 Media, Rena Shapiro turns 38... H. Alan Scott turns 36... Founder, creative director and designer for a fashion line bearing her name, she is the daughter of CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz, Kimberly Ovitz turns 35... World history teacher at Margaret Long Wisdom High School in Missouri City, Texas, Kayla Sokoloff turns 25... Long-time HuffPost reporter, who made history in 2009 when he was the first reporter from an online media outlet to ask a question of the president at a press conference, now at The Daily Beast, Sam Stein... Michael F. Lewis...
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