DRIVING THE DAY — Jerusalemites are heading to the polls today to elect their mayor for the next five years. The two candidates in the runoff election, Ofer Berkovitch and Moshe Leon, are locked in a tight race to replace outgoing mayor Nir Barkat after the Agudath Israel faction decided not to endorse any candidate due to internal politics. Leon — initially regarded as the frontrunner — has the backing of much of the ultra-Orthodox (Shas and Degel HaTorah factions) and right-wing parties in the city. Berkovitch, 35, who represents the secularist flank of the city, hopes the divisions among the ultra-Orthodox vote will leave him with an open path to win.
This was not an issues-based campaign, rather a lot of political maneuvering and handshaking between the candidates, according to Amy Spiro, a writer for the Jerusalem Post. Leon, who is religious, emerged as the victor in the first round, beating the Haredi candidate Yossi Deitch. Leon, 57, is now viewed as the ‘Haredi’ candidate running against a secular opponent. Leon was also endorsed by Barkat, who won his reelection bid against Leon in 2013 due to a split within the ultra-Orthodox community.
WHY IT MATTERS — "The result is less important than the extraordinary dynamics in the Haredi community leading up to it," Anshel Pfeffer, a writer for Haaretz and a resident of Jerusalem, tells Jewish Insider. "For the last 25 years, the different factions in the ultra-Orthodox world, despite their disagreements, could usually be relied upon to get together at the crucial moment before elections. What we're seeing in the last few weeks is an unprecedented breakdown both in the Haredi leadership and the grassroots. It's not just the split between Hasidim and Lithuanians, it's a generational divide, between those who automatically carry out the instructions of the rabbis and a younger generation who are more prepared to vote on their own views and inclinations."
Pfeffer added, "On the streets of Jerusalem's Haredi neighborhoods, you can meet today young people who openly admit that they are voting what they want. That's new and it will have long-term implications for Israeli politics and for the Haredi-Likud alliance that existed for the last two decades."
According to Jeremy Saltan, a Bayit Yehudi insider, the fact that Leon has the overwhelming support from the coalition government — which enjoys a majority in the country nationally ― will give him the edge in this race. "Berkovitch is a welcome name in the opposition, but unwelcome in the majority of the coalition government,” Saltan told Jewish Insider.
Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, tells us: "What's at stake is the ability of people like my children to imagine a future for themselves in Jerusalem. This is one of those moments that requires an angry prophet to rise up in Jerusalem and point the finger at the political manipulators who are playing politics with the jewel in our crown, Jerusalem. I think this is a crucial election and the two candidates could not be more clear about the kind of Jerusalem that each represents, and I'm deeply worried for the future of my city if it falls into the wrong hands. Leon will be a tool for the far right and the ultra-Orthodox, who together will squeeze the vitality out of Jerusalem. Berkovitch represents those who want to see Jerusalem remain pluralistic, open to the world, the capital of all Israelis who live there."
ON THE GROUND — Cost of Botched Gaza Spy Mission? Israel’s Back on Brink of War — by David Halbfinger: "After a botched intelligence mission by undercover commandos left seven Palestinian fighters dead, the militant group Hamas and other armed factions mounted an intense and escalating rocket and mortar barrage across much of southern Israel that continued into Tuesday morning... More than 400 rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel, and the Israeli military said it had struck more than 100 military targets in Gaza... Each side repeatedly warned the other to back down, but refused to do so itself... Israel’s security cabinet was meeting on Tuesday, and officials said the government was spurning, for the moment, offers by Egypt and the United Nations to try to broker a cease-fire." [NYTimes; TheGuardian]
— "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to strike a careful balance between preventing what would be the fourth war with Gaza since 2007 while also facing increased pressure from others in his cabinet to deal a decisive blow to Gaza ruler Hamas." [WSJ]
LATEST UPDATE: The Israeli security cabinet concluded its meeting on the Gaza situation at the army’s headquarters in Tel Aviv after seven hours of marathon discussions. A senior Israeli diplomatic official appeared to confirm that a ceasefire agreement had been reached with terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
TALK OF THE REGION — Recording Is Seen to Link Saudi Crown Prince More Strongly to Khashoggi Killing — by Julian Barnes, Eric Schmitt and David Kirkpatrick: "Shortly after the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated last month, a member of the kill team instructed a superior over the phone to “tell your boss,” believed to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, that the operatives had carried out their mission, according to three people familiar with a recording of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing collected by Turkish intelligence. The recording, shared last month with the C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel, is seen by intelligence officials as some of the strongest evidence linking Prince Mohammed to the killing of Mr. Khashoggi."
"Investigators were unlikely to collect a piece of evidence that incontrovertibly links the crown prince to the killing, said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, who is set to lead the House Intelligence Committee next year. “You are not going to have any of the people who carried out the murder speak openly about who they got their orders from or who is in the loop on it,” Mr. Schiff said in an interview. “That is not realistic to expect.” [NYTimes]
— U.S. says audio recording of Khashoggi killing does not implicate Saudi crown prince — by Shibani Mahtani and Louisa Loveluck: "National security adviser John Bolton, speaking on the sidelines of a regional summit in Singapore, said that he had not listened to the tape himself, but that it was the assessment of “those who have listened to it” that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler is not implicated." [WashPost]
ON THE HILL — Bipartisan Sentencing Overhaul Moves Forward, but Rests on Trump — by Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman: "A bipartisan group of senators has reached a deal on the most substantial rewrite of the nation’s sentencing and prison laws in a generation, giving judges more latitude to sidestep mandatory minimum sentences and easing drug sentences... Lawmakers and outside advocates involved in the push expect Mr. Trump to render his judgment on the package as soon as this week. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and the leading voice within the White House for the changes, is likely to brief Mr. Trump on the bill during a broader discussion of legislative priorities with top policy officials on Tuesday." [NYTimes]
Two ex-CIA officers are coming to Congress. Here's how they want to improve security policy — by Cat Zakrzewski: “Former Central Intelligence Agency officers Abigail Spanberger and Elissa Slotkin won their House races last week and will be representing Virginia and Michigan respectively. They’re coming to Washington at a time when Congress is expected to address a wide range of cybersecurity issues… Very few lawmakers have experience in cybersecurity or even more broadly in the technology industry."
“Spanberger was an operations officer for the CIA for eight years with a focus on international counterterrorism. Before joining the CIA, Spanberger worked as a federal law enforcement officer, working on narcotics and money laundering cases with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The CIA recruited Slotkin after Sept. 11, 2001, to be a Middle East analyst. Slotkin, who is fluent in Arabic, did three tours in Iraq. She later became the director of Iraq policy at the National Security Council and then moved to the State Department and the Pentagon, rising to acting assistant secretary of defense for international security.” [WashPost]
DONOR CIRCUIT — Money troubles: The GOP’s problem with cash — by Alex Isenstadt: "Among the lessons Republicans say they learned this year is that the party can no longer just rely on a few billionaire megadonors like Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson... While the 85-year-old Adelson remains a crucial source of funding, Republicans concede their advantage in billionaire giving has narrowed considerably... Some Republicans, however, see reason for optimism. In July, the Republican Jewish Coalition, an organization partly funded by Adelson, launched an ActBlue-like portal inviting supporters to give small donations to a list of endorsed candidates. The effort generated about $400,000 in contributions, an indication to its proponents that conservative small donors could be drawn to such a platform." [Politico]
2020 WATCH — Sherrod Brown for president? He’s thinking about it — by Jessica Wehrman: "Sen. Sherrod Brown, who won a third term last week to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate, said Monday he is considering running for president in 2020. Brown... said he’s hearing “sort of a crescendo” of interest in him seeking the White House... “We’re hearing it increase, so we’re thinking about it as a result,” he said, adding, “we’re not close to saying yes.” David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron, said Brown considering a run “makes a whole lot of sense.” “If he were to secure the nomination, Ohio would absolutely be in play, which is pretty enormous considering the 18 electoral votes it brings along with it,” he said." [ColumbusDispatch]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, mysteriously arrives in Washington — by Shannon K. Crawford and Luke Barr: "Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney and close associate, arrived in Washington, D.C., Monday morning, accompanied by one of his own criminal defense lawyers. The purpose of Cohen’s travel is unclear." [ABCNews]
Harvey Weinstein’s Secret Weapon Is a ‘Bloodhound’ NYPD Detective Turned Private Eye — by Lachlan Cartwright and Pervaiz Shallwani: "Herman Weisberg is the man the rich and famous turn to when they need someone investigated, or to shut down blackmail plots and extortion threats. Current and former associates describe him as a “bloodhound” investigator with an expertise in finding and interrogating witnesses. That includes Weinstein’s defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman, who credits Weisberg for a recent string of successes against prosecutors. “Whatever success I may have in the Weinstein case, Herman has played a substantial part in those accomplishments,” Brafman told The Daily Beast." [DailyBeast]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Palantir Has a $20 Billion Valuation and a Bigger Problem: It Keeps Losing Money [WSJ] Barry Sternlicht's Starwood Capital proposes office complex – likely HQ – in Miami Beach [TheRealDeal] Bird e-scooters expands Israel operations to Ramat Gan [Globes]
STARTUP NATION — Competition to AmazonGo Is Coming From an Unlikely Source — by Yaacov Benmeleh: "Shufersal Ltd., Israel’s largest supermarket chain, is partnering with local startup Trigo Vision Ltd. to eliminate the need for cashiers in its 272 stores, the companies said in a statement Tuesday. Trigo’s platform uses a feed from ceiling cameras to identify items in a customer’s shopping cart, which are tallied to produce the bill. It’s surprising Israel would be among the first countries to say farewell to the supermarket checkout line, as its startups traditionally pay little attention to the domestic market." [Bloomberg]
The Tycoons Ruled Over Israel. Then Came Billionaire Paul Singer — by Yaacov Benmeleh: "Two weeks into the year, Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. disclosed a large stake in Israel’s biggest telecommunications company and demanded an overhaul of the board. Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp. had been effectively controlled for years by Shaul Elovitch through holdings that allowed him to translate a small upfront investment into a tight grip on the company. Then within a few months, Singer replaced the Elovitch loyalists with independents... It was a lesson in activism for the country’s investors. For years, they had watched how a few tycoons influenced boardrooms through layers of debt-laden companies that gave them a disproportionate voice in strategic decisions... After Elliott’s campaign, more shareholders started to follow suit, taking on Israel’s largest grocery chain and its second-biggest oil refinery." [Bloomberg]
MOVING ON — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Shops Around for a Cable News Gig — by Maxwell Tani: "Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may finally get paid for a job he’s been doing for free for years: offering opinions on national politics. Emanuel... has attended meetings in New York with top executives at MSNBC and CNN in recent weeks, and discussed a potential future as a cable news pundit... In recent months, the outgoing Democratic mayor has been represented by agents with William Morris Endeavor, the talent agency and entertainment behemoth where his brother Ari Emanuel is the co-CEO." [DailyBeast]
TRANSITION — Former L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa joins Washington lobbying firm — by Theodoric Meyer: "Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who made an unsuccessful run for California governor earlier this year, is joining a Washington consulting firm... [as] co-chairman of Mercury, which lobbies for clients from Hyundai to the governments of Qatar and Turkey... Villaraigosa is Mercury’s highest-profile hire since the firm was caught up last year in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election." [Politico]
REMEMBERING — Stan Lee, creator of superheroes, dies at 95 — by Alexander Remington and Michael Cavna: "Stan Lee, a writer and editor often credited with helping American comics grow up by redefining the notion of a superhero, including the self-doubting Spider-Man... died Nov. 12 at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 95. Mr. Lee’s name became synonymous with the company that would become Marvel Comics, which he joined as a teenage assistant and stayed with for much of his adult life... Stanley Martin Lieber was born in New York City on Dec. 28, 1922, the eldest son of Romanian Jewish immigrants. His father was a dress cutter who was frequently out of work. Mr. Lee came by his pen name as a teenager. He claimed he changed his name not because of anti-Semitism, like many comic book artists, but because he wanted to preserve his real name to write a real book." [WashPost]
RISING STAR — Broadway’s Next Evan Hansen? A 16-Year-Old High School Junior — by Gabe Cohn: "On Jan. 30, Andrew Barth Feldman will be taking over the role of Evan Hansen — a high school senior with social anxiety — in the Broadway musical, which won six Tony Awards in 2017, including the award for best musical and best performance by a leading actor in a musical for Ben Platt. The show currently stars Taylor Trensch. Mr. Feldman will be the first teenager to lead the Broadway cast. His audition for “Dear Evan Hansen” in July was his first for a Broadway show." [NYTimes]
NEW FORBES 30 UNDER 30 LIST — Forbes released its 2019 list of rising young entrepreneurs in North America this morning. Included on this year's list: Leah Cohen-Shohet, VP of Symphony, a 300-person, four-year-old startup offering secure messaging for Wall Street firms… Charlie Javice, founder of Frank, which aims to ease the application process for student loans… Aliza Rosen, Senior Product Manager at Twitter… Betches Media, women's lifestyle and entertainment site co-founded by CEO Aleen Kuperman, COO Samantha Fishbein and CCO Jordana Abraham… Newsletter The Morning Brew, launched by CEO Alex Lieberman and COO Austin Rief… Jerusalem-based reporter Trey Yingst, Foreign Correspondent, Fox News… Addie Lerner, Principal at VC firm General Catalyst… Arielle Zuckerberg, Partner at Coatue Management… Abe Sutton, Adviser to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar…
DESSERT — How Impossible Foods makes its plant-based "blood" — by Adele Peters: “Inside an office at Impossible Foods’ Silicon Valley R&D center, a researcher holds up what looks like a bowl of blood and a spoon. “This is heme,” she says. It was made with a protein found in the roots of soybean plants, but it has the same slightly metallic taste and the aroma of blood. And it’s the innovation that has given the Impossible Burger its meteoric rise... The goal is to convert meat lovers, not feed vegetarians, in order to help shrink beef’s outsize environmental footprint. Impossible wants to give customers the same experience as they would have with meat.” [FastCompany]
BIRTHDAYS: Harold Waldenberg turns 98... Israeli industrialist with holdings in energy, real estate and automobile distributorships, Gad Zeevi turns 79... Philosopher and professor at CUNY since 2002, Saul Kripke turns 78... Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Shmuel Riccardo Di Segni turns 69... Long-time NPR political editor focused on Congressional races, now publisher of the independent “Political Junkie” blog and podcast, Kenneth Rudin turns 68... Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit since 1997, he was nominated by President Obama to the Supreme Court in 2016 but was never granted a confirmation hearing by the Senate, Judge Merrick Garland turns 66... Once the controlling stockholder of a large Israeli conglomerate, Nochi Dankner turns 64... San Jose, California resident, Katherine (Katya) Palkin turns 50... Somali-born activist who has served in the Dutch parliament and as a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, Ayaan Hirsi Ali turns 49... Retired Israeli government minister for the Shas party, Ariel Atias turns 48...
Founder of Pailet Financial Services, a predecessor agency of what is now the Dallas office of the Marsh & McLennan, Kevin Pailet turns 47... Member of the Knesset since 2015 for the Kulanu party, Meirav Ben-Ari turns 43... Host of NBC’s “Rossen Reports,” investigative journalist and author of a book on avoiding consumer scams, dangers and catastrophes, Jeff Rossen turns 42... President of baseball operations for MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers, he previously served as the general manager for the Tampa Bay Rays, Andrew Friedman turns 42... Israeli rapper and record producer, generally known by his stage name "Subliminal," Yaakov (Kobi) Shimoni turns 39... Judoka who won three national titles (2000, 2002 and 2004), she competed for the US at the Athens Olympics in 2004, Charlee Minkin turns 37... PR and communications director in the office of Ronald S. Lauder, Mark Botnick turns 34... Relief pitcher in the Colorado Rockies organization, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Troy Neiman turns 28... Communications director at Christians United For Israel, Ari Morgenstern...
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