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HELSINKI HEADLINES -- President Donald Trump's performance at the much-anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland drew widespread outrage from both Democrats and many in the Republican party. Scathing headlines from the summit included "Treasonous Trump" and "Putin’s poodle." Here's a recap of several notable moments from the Trump-Putin press conference:
1. Trump questions U.S. intelligence assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election: "In a remarkable news conference, Mr. Trump did not name a single action for which Mr. Putin should be held accountable. Instead, he saved his sharpest criticism for the United States and the special counsel investigation into the election interference, calling it a “ridiculous” probe and a “witch hunt” that has kept the two countries apart... The 45-minute news conference offered the spectacle of the American and Russian presidents both pushing back on the notion of Moscow’s election interference." [NYT]
-- "Putin was subtly smirking throughout the conference and pumped his chest as he forcefully smacked down U.S. reporters with his lies." [Axios]
HOW IT PLAYED -- Trump Sheds All Notions of How a President Should Conduct Himself Abroad -- by Mark Landler: "The president’s remarks in Helsinki on Monday marked an entirely new milestone, the foreign policy equivalent of Charlottesville. Just as Mr. Trump flouted the most deeply held traditions of the American presidency in equating the torch-wielding marchers and the leftist activists who fought them in Virginia last summer, he shredded all conventional notions of how a president should conduct himself abroad." [NYTimes]
Eli Lake writes... "Nearly a year after Donald Trump crippled his presidency by saying there was “blame on both sides” after a scrum between white nationalists and anti-racist protesters in Virginia, he has created another Charlottesville moment. This time it was on the world stage." [BloombergView]
Abe Foxman tells us... "It's a sad day for America, for the free world, for democracy, for Israel, and the Jewish people. We all depend on America, its strength and respect. And America, because of its president, is now unpredictable, unstable, disloyal, disrespectful towards friends and allies. It's a very, very dark day because who can you depend on? Who can you trust to be there for you? It's very scary.
Dov Zakheim: "It may be premature to assert that Donald Trump, America’s wrecker in chief, is determined to undermine the Western alliance. Yet his behavior throughout his European visit points in that direction. Should he succeed, he will have accomplished what Putin and his Soviet predecessors could only have hoped for in the wildest of their dreams." [TheHill]
Norm Eisen emails us... "Trump’s behavior was the most disgraceful by a president in my lifetime. To fail to raise the Russian attack on our democracy, as he did in his remarks before the meeting, was bad enough. But in the post-summit press conference to put Putin’s unsubstantiated denials on a par with, and indeed above, the evidence-based conclusions of our own American intelligence and law enforcement officials is unforgivable. And the American people won’t, I predict, forgive him —starting with speaking loudly at the polls in 2018."
Tom Friedman writes... "Trump and Putin vs. America: Trump is simply insanely obsessed with what happened in the last election. But now he is president, and the fact that he may not have colluded with the Russians doesn’t mean he does not, as president, have a responsibility to ensure that the Russians be punished for interfering in our last election on their own and be effectively deterred from doing so in the future. That is in his job description. Listening to Trump, it was as if Franklin Roosevelt had announced after Pearl Harbor: “Hey, both sides are to blame. Our battleships in Hawaii were a little provocative to Japan — and, by the way, I had nothing to do with the causes for their attack. So cool it.”" [NYT]
David Frum: "Robert Mueller is leading a legal process. The United States faces a national-security emergency." [TheAtlantic]
Breitbart's Joel Pollak defended Trump: "The meeting was also noteworthy for what was not said. Putin complained about the U.S. pulling out of the Iran deal, but he was quiet about reports that the U.S. had killed hundreds of Russian military contractors in Syria (without losing a single American). Putin also said nothing about U.S. airstrikes against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. He dared not complain. That is because, far from being weak, Trump has been tougher than his predecessors toward Russia, letting his actions speak louder than his words."
2. Addressing Israeli concerns about Iranian presence in Syria: President Putin says he has agreed with the U.S. to secure Israel’s Golan Heights frontier with Syria, a line set in 1974 at the end of their last war. “This will allow us to return calm to the Golan, restore the cease-fire between Syria and Israel and fully guarantee the security of the State of Israel,” Putin said. “Mr. President devoted a lot of attention to this. Russia wants this to happen.”
WHY IT MATTERS: "For Israel, the key demand is that Syrian regime forces stay away from the demilitarized buffer zone along the 1974 cease-fire line between Syria and the Israeli-held Golan Heights... Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after talks with Mr. Putin in Moscow last week that Israel had no problem with Mr. Assad as long as his forces didn’t attempt to penetrate that demilitarized zone. Mr. Putin on Monday endorsed that request." [WSJ]
Trump: "We’ve worked with Israel long and hard for many years, many decades. I think never has anyone, any country been closer than we are. President Putin also is helping Israel. And we both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu, and they would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel. So in that respect, we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel. And Israel would be working with us. So both countries would work jointly... I think that working with Israel is a great thing. And creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much."
Trump on Fox News with Sean Hannity: "At the end of this meeting, I think we really came to a lot of good conclusions, a really good conclusion for Israel - something very strong. [Putin] is a believer in Israel. He is a fan of Bibi, and is really helping him a lot and will help him a lot, which is good for all of us." [Video]
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweets: "It is beyond absurd to believe that Russia will ‘police Iran’ or drive them out of Syria. Iran is Assad’s biggest ally – even more so than Russia. Russia policing Iran makes about as much sense as trusting Russia to police the removal/destruction of chemical weapons in Syria... It is imperative that Congress hold hearings on the extent and scope of any cooperation with Russia in Syria regarding Iran’s presence."
"Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank hawkish on Iran, added that Mr. Trump’s apparent belief that Iran’s power in Syria could be curtailed through a deal with Mr. Putin is a “delusion.”" [WSJ]
HEADLINE: "There might be one clear winner of the Trump-Putin summit — Israel." [NYPost]
VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video message commending "the abiding commitment of the US and President Donald Trump to the security of Israel, as expressed at the meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The friendship between Israel and the US has never been stronger." [Video]
Former advisor to seven consecutive Israeli Prime Ministers, Shalom Lipner tells us... “The outcome of the summit puts Israel in a difficult situation. Israelis were understandably gratified when Trump testified that he and Putin "would like to work to help Israel." But Trump's performance has been widely criticized -- by Republicans and Democrats alike -- as a capitulation to Russia. This casts Israel in an unenviable position as the benefactor of an event which some Americans are even calling treasonous. A hobbling Trump, disavowed increasingly by U.S. public opinion, and an ascendant Russia are, to say the least, problematic guarantors of Israel's security. And if the administration continues on its present course -- subcontracting the Middle East to its natives, and diverting U.S. attention to trade wars with its allies -- Israel could soon find itself uncomfortably dependent on Putin's good graces.”
Abe Foxman: Israel's reaction "troubles me because you can't isolate this one thing from the whole picture. First of all, we don't know what [this deal] means. We have no idea what was discussed, we may never know the truth, and we don't know whether we are being sold out. Hearing that section did not give me any comfort, it just gave me more anxiety because, in this type of relationship, this type of unpredictability, I don't want to be part of it at this moment. And we are being thrown around by both sides as 'look at this accomplishment.'"
"Israel has to first and foremost work to protect its national security interests, and therefore Putin is a very significant player. I understand the need for Netanyahu and Putin to work as closely as possible. I am just not comfortable if that becomes part of a deal between the U.S. and Russia. But I am certainly understanding and in support of Israel trying to strengthen its relationship with Russia. Its national security is now closely impacted by Russia's role in Syria."
Former U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro writes... "Trump's Appalling Display in Helsinki Shows Netanyahu Was Right All Along to Invest in Putin" [Haaretz]
3. Putin mentions George Soros: Brushing off allegations that the Russian government was involved in the 2016 election meddling, Putin singled out billionaire George Soros. "Well, you have a lot of individuals in the United States -- take George Soros, for instance -- with multibillion capitals, but it doesn’t make him -- his position, his posture -- the posture of the United States? No, it does not," Putin said. "Well, it’s the same case. There is the issue of trying a case in the court, and the final say is for the court to deliver."
Putin’s reference to George Soros was a dog whistle to far-right anti-Semites — by Jane Coaston: "Putin could have named a big American company as an example. He could have named any wealthy American, like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. But he didn’t. Instead, he mentioned a man who’s been smeared by the far right as a liberal puppet master and, worse, a Nazi collaborator... That Putin would name-check Soros in his press conference with Trump is no accident. Putin has sounded the dog whistle on anti-Semitism before, when on the spot about hacking." [Vox]
ZOA's Mort Klein, who earlier this year condemned Putin for suggesting Jews are behind the Russian hacking, tells us... "George Soros is as minimum a Jew as you will find... I consider George Soros an evil and vicious man. I don't look at him as a Jew in any way, shape or form. He has funded billions of dollars to the most vicious anti-Jewish states and anti-Israel groups in the United States. So if Putin has enormous hostility to Soros, that's the one area Putin and Mort Klein agree on."
LONG-READ: George Soros Bet Big on Liberal Democracy. Now He Fears He Is Losing — by Michael Steinberger: "He had always “identified firstly as a Jew,” and his philanthropy was ultimately an expression of his Jewish identity... But Soros’s Jewish identity, coupled with his status as a Wall Street billionaire, gave those disinclined to support his agenda an easy means to foment suspicion and resentment, and from the moment that he became involved in Eastern Europe, he was confronted with anti-Semitism... Anti-Soros sentiment is a more recent phenomenon in the United States... Much of what is said about Soros on Facebook, Twitter and in right-wing media outlets is not overtly anti-Semitic, and it is possible that some of the people pushing these views are not even aware that he is Jewish. But the echoes are there..."
"As my conversation with Soros in Southampton drew to a close, I thought I picked up a little vulnerability. He was talking about his wealth and the opportunities it had given him. “For me, money represents freedom and not power,” he said. For a long time, money had given him the freedom to do and say what he pleased, and also the freedom not to care what other people said and thought about him. But he conceded that he had started to care. “I have become a bit more concerned about my image, because it is disturbing to have those lies out there,” he said, citing Roseanne Barr’s tweet as an example. He also admitted that being the anointed villain for so many people around the world was unpleasant. “I’m not happy to have that many enemies,” he said. “I wish I had more friends.”" [NYTMagazine]
4. Putin mentioned another MOT, Bill Browder: Putin also brought up the name of financier Bill Browder as he spoke about the 12 intelligence officers indicted by a grand jury last week for their involvement in hacking the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Hillary Clinton. "Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They never paid any taxes, neither in Russia nor in the United States, and yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent a huge amount of money -- $400 million -- as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton," Putin said. Putin offered to invite Mueller’s investigators to interview the 12 officers in Russia in exchange for the U.S. to cooperate in a Russian probe against Browder.
Browder responds... "I'm Bill Browder. Here's the Biggest Mistake Putin Made When Trying to Get Access to Me Through Trump: Putin’s latest allegation that I donated $400 million to Hillary Clinton is so ludicrous and untrue that it falls into delusion. I’ve never made a political donation to Hillary Clinton or any other political candidate... The biggest mistake that Putin made in his offer today to effectively swap me for the 12 Russian agents is that he went to the wrong head of state. Although I was born in America, I emigrated to the United Kingdom 29 years ago and am a British citizen. If he really wants me, he better go talk to Theresa May." [TimeMag]
HAPPENING TODAY ON THE HILL — The House’s National Security Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) will hold a hearing to discuss U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, former Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, Mike Doran, ZOA's Mort Klein, and Eugene Kontorovich will testify. Watch the hearing here starting at 10:00 AM EDT
ON THE GROUND— Syrian army says it captures strategic hill overlooking Israeli border — by Suleiman Al-Khalidi: "The Syrian army and its allies have taken control of a strategic hill overlooking the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as it pushes forward with an offensive to seize the remaining parts of the southwest from rebels, state TV and rebels said on Monday." [Reuters]
A D.C. Reporter's Weekend Under Hamas Rocket Fire From Gaza — by Amir Tibon: "Saturday was the tensest day Nahal Oz had experienced since the end of Operation Protective Edge. Everyone we spoke to agreed that there had been some stressful days in the four years that passed – but “not like this one.” The ironic joke we kept hearing for the rest of our stay was that we had “brought good luck from America” when we arrived there... The Trump administration’s peace team, led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, has announced that it will focus on improving the situation in the Gaza Strip before unveiling its broader peace plan. If they do manage to make progress on rehabilitating Gaza, I know at least one group of people in Israel who will be overwhelmingly supportive of their efforts: my friends and neighbors in Nahal Oz." [Haaretz]
-- Jason Greenblatt tweets: "Thank you Amir Tibon for this important piece. I’ll never forget my visit to Kibbutz Nahal Oz last year - the spirit of the people was so inspirational & they expressed how they wanted good relationships with their neighbors from Gaza. The Palestinians from Gaza who I met later that day also spoke of their longing for the same thing - a normal life - at peace with their neighbor - Israel."
Qatari envoy sheds light on US plans for Gaza: "Mohammed al-Emadi is the director of a Gaza reconstruction committee set up by Qatar's ministry of foreign affairs to administer a $407m grant... He said Hamas and Israel were engaged in indirect talks over multiple issues... and reached a tacit understating to keep their military confrontation at low-intensity and avoid a full-scale war. He also said he met senior White House officials Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt in Doha last month who proposed several infrastructure projects to ease Gaza's worsening economic crisis." [AlJazeera]
TALK OF THE NATION — Controversial Bill on Israel's Jewish Character Heads to Finale — by David Wainer: "A bill enshrining Israel’s Jewish character in law is heading into its final stretch after years of debate, over the objections of civil-rights organizations and opposition leaders who say it discriminates against the country’s Arab minority... Detractors say the bill’s definition of the country as the Jewish national home is unfair to Arab citizens, who make up about 20 percent of the population." [Bloomberg]
Diaspora clause in nation-state bill called 'patronizing' — by Jeremy Sharon and Gil Hoffman: "Jerry Silverman, the president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, has described the Diaspora clause in the Jewish nation-state bill as being “definitively patronizing” to world Jewry... The clause currently says that: “The state will act in the Diaspora to maintain the connection between the state and the Jewish people." ... Silverman himself met with officials in the Prime Minister’s Office to try and convince them to change the clause, but was ultimately unsuccessful. “The clause in its current language definitively comes across as patronizing,” Silverman told the Post." [JPost]
REPORT — Israel's Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay hired two leading Democratic campaign consultants in his bid for prime minister, according to a report by Walla News reporter Tal Shalev. Gabbay who is lagging in the polls behind Yair Lapid as an alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, met with pollster Jim Gerstein. a founding partner of GBA Strategies, and David Eichenbaum, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, while in DC for AIPAC's Policy Conference in March, and most recently last week in Israel. Gerstein worked on Ehud Barak’s campaign in 1999 as part of a consulting team led by James Carville, and Eichenbaum worked with the former Kadima Party led by Shaul Mofaz in 2013.
2020 WATCH — Schultz’s 2020 ambitions give Starbucks the jitters -- by Ben Schreckinger: "Starbucks founder Howard Schultz’s presidential hopes are already running into resistance from his old coffee cohort. Wall Street analysts are wary, and company leadership is nervous, about the effect a Democratic bid by its chairman emeritus could have on Starbucks’ business, given its bipartisan customer base..." [Politico]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Can David Solomon, Woke D.J. and Blankfein’s Heir, Remake Goldman for the Age of Trump? [VanityFair] Kushners Used ‘Toxic’ Construction to Drive Out Tenants, Suit Says [NYTimes] How Mining Tycoons Are Trying to Foil a Big U.K. Bribery Probe [Bloomberg] How One Palestinian Territory Outpaces Another — With a Booming Economy [Ozy] Salesforce continues to invest in AI by acquiring Israeli startup Datorama for a reported $800 million [BusinessInsider; CTech]
STARTUP NATION: Alexa, Are You A Spy? An Israeli Startup Raises $12.5 Million To Help Governments Hack IoT — by Thomas Fox-Brewster: "A group of ex-Israeli military experts have set up a one-stop hacking shop for governments that require extra capability to fight terrorists and other threats to national security in the digital domain... With an impressive seed raise of $12.5 million and ex-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as co-founder... Toka is hoping to exploit the market opportunity IoT brings, even for intelligence agencies and military units. The number of IoT devices on the planet will number an estimated 35 billion by the end of this year." [Forbes]
PROFILE: Can He Crowdfund Solutions for Palestine Where Foreign Aid Has Failed? — by Danielle Issa: "By linking 12 million Palestinians across the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora, 28-year-old Derrar Ghanem is connecting social entrepreneurs with the tools they need, while shifting perceptions of the Palestinian Territories... BuildPalestine’s board members — spread across oceans and in fields from film to business to human rights — emphasize transparency and impact for their global donors... What sets the BuildPalestine platform apart, its founders say, is its support for people, not ideas. And these local solutions cost as little as $5,000... So far, BuildPalestine has raised $126,000 for 17 projects." [Ozy]
MEDIA WATCH: Publishing Executives Argue Facebook Is Overly Deferential to Conservatives — Benjamin Mullin and Deepa Seetharaman: "At the off-the-record meeting between Facebook officials and publishing executives in New York on Thursday, BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith said that, by his count, there were about six conservative-leaning publications among the dozen or so outlets represented at the gathering. Mr. Smith said that the number of conservative publications in attendance indicated that Facebook had bought into the idea, promoted primarily by conservatives, that mainstream outlets such as the New York Times are liberal and should be counterbalanced by right-leaning opinion outlets, said people familiar with his remarks." [WSJ]
ACROSS THE POND: 68 rabbis say Labour chooses to ignore UK Jewish community — by Jessica Elgot: "Some of the UK’s most senior rabbis, in a letter to the Guardian, said Labour was acting in an “insulting and arrogant way” by choosing – in its new code – to amend an international definition of antisemitism... “Antisemitism within sections of the Labour party has become so severe and widespread that we must speak out with one Jewish voice,” the letter said..." [TheGuardian]
SPORTS BLINK: ‘You’re Given a Stick at Birth. You’re Buried With Your Stick' The Iroquois Nationals fight their way through the World Lacrosse Championship in Israel -- by Armin Rosen: "The Iroquois have several of the best players in the world, but they are are still essentially a pickup team drawing from and representing a dispersed community of tens of thousands of people, rather than a wealthy or powerful fixed geographic entity of tens of millions of people." [Tablet]
DESSERT — Discover Japan’s Kosher Sake — by Shana Clarke: "In the mid-2000s, as the word “organic” was on everyone’s lips, a couple of breweries expanded upon the trend and adopted kosher standards to appeal to consumers who were looking for an added level of care or oversight in production. A few years later, kosher sakes from breweries like Kikusui debuted in places with large Jewish populations like Los Angeles... Most sakes are pasteurized, a process used to make some kosher wines... Monica Samuels, national sake sales manager for importer Vine Connections, thinks the kosher trend will continue. She says that it reinforces the message of quality. Kikusui has seven kosher sakes in its lineup, while Ama No To received certification a little over a year ago." [WineMag]
New Kosher Fine Dining Restaurant Opens in NYC: Barnea Bistro — by Dani Klein: "With aspirations of becoming the first Michelin starred kosher restaurant in the U.S., Barnea Bistro opened its doors yesterday to the public for the first time. This fine dining restaurant in Manhattan’s Midtown East, uses finely composed plates to elevate the experience of diners in their progressive, French bistro style restaurant." [YeahThatsKosher]
Baltimore-based kosher certification company reduces number of acceptable Starbucks drinks — by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs: "A Baltimore-based leader in kosher certification has said it can no longer vouch for Starbucks drinks with “syrups, sauces, toppings, powders, soy or almond milk.” ... An online petition urging Starbucks to resume its expanded certification program with Star-K has nearly 9,000 signatures as of Monday evening..." [BaltimoreSun]
BIRTHDAYS: Chair of Samson Energy Company, Co-founder of Granite Properties and co-chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Stacy Helen Schusterman... Member of the Texas House of Representatives (1955-1959) and Texas Senate (1960-1981), representing Galveston, A. R. "Babe" Schwartz turns 92... Travel writer, publisher, consumer advocate and the founder of the Frommer's series of travel guides, Arthur Frommer turns 89... Israeli politician and historian, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv U., he served as a member of Knesset (1996-2002), Minister of Foreign Affairs (2000-2001) and as ambassador to Spain (1987-1991), Shlomo Ben-Ami turns 75... Emmy Award-winning play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Charley Steiner turns 69...
Retired VP and assistant general counsel of The Hartford and chairman emeritus of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, Robert K. Yass turns 67... Rabbi at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, PA, author, historian and college professor, Lance Jonathan Sussman, Ph.D. turns 64... Minister for the Environment and Energy in Australia, Joshua Anthony "Josh" Frydenberg turns 47... Founder and CEO of Zeta Global, David A. Steinberg turns 48... Stand-up comedian, he was a finalist on the NBC reality-talent show "Last Comic Standing" in two seasons, Gary Gulman turns 48... VP of communications at Hillel International, Matthew E. Berger turns 40... Financial sector analyst at Institutional Shareholder Services since June 2017, previously at The Israel Project, Jared Sorhaindo turns 32... Senior strategy associate at JPMorgan Chase, a Young Leadership Division board member at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, Melanie Beatus turns 28... Arabella Rose Kushner turns 7... Steve Lebowitz...