HEARD LAST NIGHT — NYTimes opinion editor Bari Weiss joined Tablet Magazine's Yair Rosenberg and the Forward's Batya Ungar-Sargon for a panel discussion on the generational divide regarding Israel. The event — co-hosted by the ADL and the Israel Policy Forum — was held at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center in NYC.
Weiss: “I think what’s unique about this current moment is less [a] generational [divide on Israel], and more the fact that American Jews and Israeli Jews, it seems to me, are in a kind of collision course where we are threatening each others’ most basic values. For American Jews, the fact that this government has aligned itself so strongly with the Trump administration presents a huge problem, because most American Jews — for whatever they might like about Nikki Haley at the UN, or scuttling the Iran deal, or moving the embassy to Jerusalem — American Jews are overwhelmingly opposed to Trump. So what does it mean when the nation-state of the Jews is aligned with him? From the Israeli perspective, you have an American Jewish community that, for example, overwhelmingly supported the Iran deal, something they see as an existential threat.”
Unger-Sargon on Trump citing support for Israel in response to questions about anti-Semitism: “In a way, where did he get that from? He got that from us. For 50 years, the Jewish American community has outsourced its identity to Israel. It has not focused on what it means to be a Jew… It has focused on Israel. What does it mean to be a Jew? It means to be uncritical of Israel and to give unconditional support to Israel. So, in a way, I don’t really blame Trump. He was saying the messaging that we have been telegraphing for 50 years.”
Rosenberg: “Very few Jews, historically, have thought that supporting Israel meant doing it unconditionally. It’s mostly people who criticize Israel who accuse Jews of doing that. Even the right-wing Jews — remember when we had the disengagement from Gaza and tons of American Jews on the right came out and said this was a terrible idea… The right-wing and the left-wing of the Jewish community in America — and also people in the middle — have been critical of Israel for quite some time.” You can watch the full discussion here [Video]
DRIVING THE DAY — U.S. Plans to Change Vote to ‘No’ on UN’s Golan Heights Measure — by David Wainer: "The U.S. plans for the first time to vote against a United Nations resolution that calls on Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights... Though the [annual] resolution is non-binding and will likely pass, the U.S. has previously abstained from voting against it. In a statement Thursday, Ambassador Nikki Haley cited the resolution’s “anti-Israel bias” -- a key focus of her tenure at the UN -- as one reason to oppose it. Another, she said, was the ongoing conflict in Syria." [Bloomberg]
Deputy Minister Michael Oren tweets: "For the first time, U.S. to oppose UN resolution condemning Israeli “occupation” of the Golan Heights. Even now, near the end of her term, Ambassador Nikki Haley continues to show the world the meaning of courage and moral clarity. And the people of Israel will always be grateful."
HAPPENING TODAY AT 1PM — President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Freedom to Dr. Miriam Adelson, among others, in the East Room of the White House. [CSPAN]
Miriam Adelson said she is “deeply humbled and moved by this exceptional honor," in a statement released by the Las Vegas Sands Corp. yesterday. “Liberty is at the heart of my decades of work against substance abuse. Drug dependency is enslavement, for the user and his or her family and society, and treatment an emancipation. Together, my husband Sheldon and I have dedicated our lives to freedom: to a free market that benefits the greater good and to philanthropic endeavors that succor those suffering from poverty and disease.”
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Trump Peace Plan on Course Despite Israeli Election Talk, Official Says — by Amir Tibon: "President Trump said in New York in September that we would be releasing the plan in two to four months. That remains our timeframe,” [a White House] official stated. The same official added that they would avoid any “speculation” about how a possible election in Israel could impact the plan’s rollout efforts. In recent weeks, the team inside the White House working on the plan... has hired more staff members in anticipation of the plan’s release." [Haaretz]
Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt published another series of op-eds in English, Hebrew and Arabic yesterday — "Now is the time to work on peace and prosperity in the Middle East: Following the old rules — the Khartoum “Three No’s” and the Palestinian Authority’s and PLO’s anti-normalization policies — hurts everyone. Such old-fashioned policies are now proven to not be helpful, are almost certainly harmful to all and drive peace between Israelis and Palestinians further away. It is time for a change, and it is heartening to see some Arab leaders exercising the boldness needed to achieve it." [TheHill]
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) in an interview with Arutz 7: "In order to make peace, we need two sides, and it is clear to all of us that the Palestinian side is not interested in peace and does not want peace. The American plan has not yet been laid on the table, and Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has already said openly and publicly that he intends to reject any American plan that will be presented. So it is quite clear that an American plan, if presented at this time, will end up in the drawer."
TALK OF THE REGION — With Small Steps, Palestinians and Israelis Try to Tackle Gaza’s Ills — by David Halbfinger: “Deep in the Negev Desert, a group of Israeli and Palestinian civilians… [are hammering] out creative ways to bring solar power, sewage treatment and clean water to the impoverished Gaza Strip. Dennis Ross, the veteran United States negotiator who is advising the Arava partners, said they were benefiting from his own self-critique after repeated failures at peacemaking. His strategy had always been to try to reach a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian agreement on all issues, he said. But energy and water problems, which cross borders, need to be solved more immediately. “One of the lessons I learned was that we never focused enough on the ground up,” Mr. Ross said. “Any approach to peace that’s trying to create a horizon has no credibility if the day-to-day realities continue to deteriorate.” [NYTimes]
The Ceasefire in Gaza: A Turning Point for Hamas and Netanyahu — by Bernard Avishai: "Netanyahu seems to be pivoting toward the army strategists who believe that the status quo in Gaza entails too high a price... Ordinarily, associating oneself with the Army’s position would do no harm to any Israeli politician. But Netanyahu has, in a way, made himself hostage to “strategic events” partly under Hamas’s control. And he’ll have difficulty, in any case, re-ingratiating himself with the defense establishment... In a way, Sinwar, the Hamas leader, is in a corresponding dilemma, raising expectations that improvement is at hand, making himself a hostage to a process that requires reciprocity from the other side while refusing to concede its moral legitimacy." [NewYorker] Netanyahu Is No Longer Hawkish Enough for His Own Government [NYMag]
UN Palestinian refugee agency says it’s overcoming Trump funding cuts: "UNRWA had... faced a gap of $446 million when the Trump administration announced it was cutting support. UNRWA responded to its “unprecedented” financial pressures by seeking support across UN member-states and raised an additional $382 million, bringing the shortfall for the year down to just $64 million, [agency chief Pierre] Kraehenbuehl told reporters in Geneva." [ToI]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Israel Headed to Elections After Failed Netanyahu-Bennett Meeting — by Jonathan Lis: "At the end of a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett it was decided to hold elections as soon as possible, sources close to Bennett said. The coalition heads will agree on a date to hold elections coming Sunday." [Haaretz; TheGuardian]
JI INTERVIEW — Israel's Opposition Leader will not challenge Netanyahu in the upcoming elections — by Jacob Kornbluh: In an interview with Jewish Insider while in New York for a keynote speech at the Israel Policy Forum's annual event last month, Knesset Member Tzipi Livni expressed her hope that Israel will be ready for change if it is presented with a clear alternative to Netanyahu in the upcoming elections. “We will win by putting our vision on the table, by explaining to Israelis that the current government will take us to the moment of no return,” she asserted. “I read polls. I know the situation is not easy, but I'm in politics for a reason. I believe in a vision. It's 50/50. We need to work hard, but in the end I think that even now Netanyahu understands that he might lose the next election if some of the small parties on the right don’t cross the threshold.”
“I see myself as helping change the path that Israel has taken in the past years,” Livni said, when asked if she still has aspirations of one day becoming Israel’s leader. “The goal is to have a better prime minister and help him take Israel in the right direction. It’s not personal. And me being in any position that I could do so, this is what I will do.”
In the interview, Livni — who served under Netanyahu as Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians in 2013-2015 — said she’s worried that Trump's anticipated Middle East peace plan would deal a final blow to the future of peace if it’s rejected by the Palestinians. “I'm not sure that we cannot afford another failure,” she said, pointing to previous unsuccessful attempts at Camp David and Annapolis to craft a peace treaty. “I am worried that this would lead us to more frustration, violence, and complete lack of hope.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
TRANSITIONS — Jewish state appoints Christian envoy to Muslim country — by Herb Keinon: "The Foreign Ministry announced the appointment of George Deek as Israel’s next Ambassador to Azerbaijan on Thursday, making him Israel’s first ever Christian Arab ambassador." [JPost]
Mary Kissel, a former Wall Street Journal editorial board member, has joined the State Department as a senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for policy and strategic messaging, State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced yesterday.
TRUMP DIPLOMACY — To ease Turkish pressure on Saudis over killing, White House weighs expelling Erdogan foe — By Carol Lee, Julia Ainsley and Courtney Kube: “The secret effort to resolve one of the leading tensions in U.S.-Turkey relations — [Fethullah] Gulen's residency in the U.S. — provides a window into how President Donald Trump is trying to navigate hostility between two key allies after Saudi officials murdered [Jamal] Khashoggi on Oct. 2 at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. It suggests the White House could be looking for ways to contain Erdogan's ire over the murder while preserving Trump's close alliance with Saudi Arabia's controversial de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman… Erdogan has for years demanded the U.S. send Gulen back to Turkey.” [NBCNews]
Daniel Dale fact checks President Trump's recent comments on the trail on the cost of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal: At a campaign rally in Ohio on November 5th, Trump claimed to have saved over $1 billion in building the Jerusalem embassy. According to ABC News, however, “The renovations required by the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem will cost far more than $500,000… Documents filed with the official database of federal spending show that the State Department awarded the Maryland-based company Desbuild Limak D&K a contract for $21.2 million to design and build an 'addition and compound security upgrades' at the embassy.”
Trump also took credit for deflating Iran’s regional ambitions with his administration’s tough policies. “It's a big difference since I've been in office. When I came to office, if you go a day before, it looked like Iran was going to take over the Middle East,” he said on November 4th. But according to Hussein Banai, a professor who studies Iran at the international studies school at Indiana University, "The claim that Iran was on the verge of taking over the Middle East prior to Trump taking office is utterly false. In fact, quite the opposite was the case, as the Sunni-majority Arab states in the region... had already begun to curb Iran's influence in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.” [TorontoStar]
HEARD ON CABLE — Harry Enten, CNN senior political writer and analyst, on the delayed Democratic ‘blue wave’: "Right now, we're already up to a net gain of 33 seats for the Democrats in the House. That's the largest net gain for them since the Watergate... And the other thing we should point out is, the seats keep on coming... It feels more like Hanukkah than Christmas. It's spread out over time."
STATE-SIDE — Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signs order to support Israel against BDS movement: "Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has signed an executive order to ban the award of state contracts to companies that participate in boycott, divestment and sanction practices against Israel. Bevin signed the order during a ceremony at the Kentucky Capitol with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and Consul General of Israel to the Southeast United States Judith Varnai Shorer... Bevin called the movement anti-Semitic and “repugnant.” He referenced passages from the book of Ezekiel in the Bible about being a watchman, saying Kentucky was watching and sounding the alarm." [AP]
** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Goldman’s CEO David Solomon Says He’s ‘Personally Outraged’ by 1MDB Scandal [Bloomberg] Brookfield turns to Apollo Global for financing on 666 Fifth Avenue [TheRealDeal] Russia's Yandex to launch ride-hailing service in Israel [Reuters] Russell Galbut may finally get his South Beach tower [TheRealDeal] Dalian Wanda agrees to sell glitzy development site next to Beverly Hilton for more than $420 million [WSJ]
TOP TALKER — The millionaire funding the campaign to break up Facebook — by David McCabe: “A Pennsylvania philanthropist and former hedge fund executive named David Magerman was the initial donor behind a high-profile campaign urging regulators to break up Facebook, he confirmed to Axios for the first time on Thursday. Magerman has given more than $400,000 to the campaign — "Freedom from Facebook" — because he believes Facebook has too much power over how the world communicates… A Republican consulting firm — Definers Public Affairs — working for Facebook tried to link the Freedom from Facebook campaign with George Soros, whose Open Society Foundations help fund the Open Markets Institute, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.” [Axios]
— Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg are facing intense scrutiny following the New York Times exposé. Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would cut ties with Definers, claiming he and Sandberg hadn’t known about Facebook’s relationship with the firm. A senior Soros aide has called for an investigation into Facebook’s lobbying and PR work. Michael Vachon, an adviser to the chair at Soros Fund Management, wrote in a letter to friends and colleagues that it was “alarming that Facebook would engage in these unsavory tactics, apparently in response to George’s public criticism in Davos earlier this year of the company’s handling of hate speech and propaganda on its platform.”
Sandberg writes in a Facebook post: "I did not know we hired them or about the work they were doing, but I should have. I have great respect for George Soros — and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against him are abhorrent."
PROFILE — Nas Daily’s Next Adventure — Building a Viral Video Empire: "Three years ago, Nuseir Yassin decided to quit his high-paying tech job at PayPal to travel the world and create one-minute videos for 1,000 days. Nearing the end of the self-set challenge, the Israeli-born Arab Harvard graduate is now known as Nas Daily, his popular video persona. He sports over 10 million followers and his videos have garnered around 2.5 billion views. On day 1,001 he plans to start working on Nas Daily Co., a new video content agency to be based out of San Francisco. Yassin’s videos put a spotlight on local trends and persons of interest, documenting stories from around 70 countries... Some of the videos deal with his views on identity politics. He identifies with neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian flag. In and out of the videos, he wears a T-shirt showing a battery bar representing a rough estimate of his expected lifespan vs. years lived." [Calcalist]
When Lucy Met Tzachi — by Allison Kaplan Sommer: "The Israeli celebrities Lucy Aharish and Tzachi Halevy kept their wedding a secret... But it wasn’t just a matter of keeping the paparazzi away. Aharish, a popular television anchor, is Muslim. Halevy, an actor on the mega-hit Netflix series Fauda, is Jewish... Their [wedding] last month came at a particularly fraught moment for co-existence between the two sides, just months after Israel enacted a controversial law which seemed to enshrine the idea that Arab citizens could not be equal to Jews... Such romances, particularly between high-profile couples like Halevy and Aharish, take on a Romeo and Juliet quality because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." [ForeignPolicy]
ACROSS THE OCEAN — Australia's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg attacks Malaysian PM Mahathir for 'anti-Semitic' comments — Paul Karp: "Australia’s treasurer has hit back at Mahathir Mohamad’s warning that Australia moving its embassy in Israel could encourage terrorism by citing a history of anti-Semitic remarks by the Malaysian prime minister. The deputy Liberal leader, Josh Frydenberg, accused Mahatir of making “derogatory comments” about Jews in the past, including calling them “hook-nosed,” questioning the number of people killed in the Holocaust and banning the classic Holocaust film Schindler’s List. Frydenberg made the comments at a press conference... as he maintained the pressure on the prime minister, Scott Morrison, to make a decision on the embassy." [TheGuardian]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Man shouts 'Heil Hitler, Heil Trump,' does Nazi salute during Baltimore performance of 'Fiddler on the Roof' — by Christina Tkacik, Sarah Meehan and Lillian Reed: “Audience member Rich Scherr said the outburst, during intermission at the Hippodrome Theatre on Wednesday, prompted fears that it was the beginning of a shooting. The man, who had been seated in the balcony, began shouting “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump.” Immediately after that, “People started running,” Scherr said. “I’ll be honest, I was waiting to hear a gunshot. I thought, ‘Here we go.’” … The outburst occurred immediately following a scene that depicts a wedding interrupted by a pogrom — an attack on Jewish people which can range from destruction of homes or property to outright massacre… “As reprehensible as those words are, they are considered protected free speech because nobody was directly threatened,” police spokesman Matt Jablow said in an email.” [BaltimoreSun]
Neo-Nazis Have No First Amendment Right to Harassment, Judge Rules — by Karen Zraick: "A lawsuit accusing the publisher of the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer of coordinating a “terror campaign” of online harassment against a Jewish real estate agent cannot be dismissed on First Amendment grounds, a federal judge in Montana ruled this week. In his ruling denying a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Dana L. Christensen... wrote that the real estate agent, Tanya Gersh, was a private citizen, not a public figure, and that the publisher, Andrew Anglin, incited his followers to harass her as part of a personal campaign." [NYTimes]
REMEMBERING — H. Peter Stern, 90, Co-Founder of Storm King Art Center, Dies — by Richard Sandomir: “H. Peter Stern, who co-founded the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, N.Y., and developed it into a prestigious outdoor sculpture museum with modern and contemporary works arrayed over a vast pastoral landscape, died on Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 90… Harold Peter Stern was born on June 12, 1928, in Hamburg, Germany, and moved with his family to Bucharest, Romania, when he was an infant... In 1939, Otto Stern was warned by a German officer of the perils his family would face — the Sterns were Jewish — if they stayed in Romania, which was turning increasingly anti-Semitic and leaning politically toward Hitler. Peter, his mother and his sister, Ellen, fled to Geneva, where they stayed for about a year, before boarding a ship in Genoa, Italy, for the United States.” [NYTimes]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Retired Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada (2003-2013), Morris Fish turns 80... Roxanne White turns 70... Milwaukee-based founder and CEO of direct marketer, A.B. Data, Ltd., he is chair of the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, Bruce A. Arbit turns 64... Professional golfer who has played on the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour starting in 1982, he won two gold medals at the 1981 Maccabiah Games, Corey Pavin turns 59... Susan Brooks turns 55... Television and film writer and producer, he was an executive producer of Fox's "Fringe" (100 episodes 2008-2013) and co-writer of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (2014), Jeff Pinkner turns 54...
Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition since 1990, Matt Brooks turns 53... Ordained at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, now Dean of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, Rabbi Justus Baird turns 46... Stage, film and television actress, she is the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Margalit Ruth "Maggie" Gyllenhaal turns 41... After 15 seasons in the NBA, he became an owner and player for Hapoel Jerusalem and led the team to the Israeli League championship in 2017, Amar'e Stoudemire turns 36... Managing director of strategic initiatives at TIAA, he was previously a special assistant to President Obama for energy and economic policy, Michael A. Levi...
SATURDAY: Biochemist who was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Stanley Cohen turns 96... Rabbi of Agudath Israel of Baltimore since 1981, he is also the Rabbinic Administrator of the Star K Kosher Supervision service, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann turns 81... Original creator and producer of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels (born Lorne Lipowitz) turns 74... Detroit philanthropist and director of the William Davidson Foundation, Karen Davidson... Global editorial director of the Huffington Post Media Group, his bar mitzvah was at Tree of Life – Or L'Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh, Howard Fineman turns 70... Retired CEO of Feeding America (2015- 2018), a nationwide network of 200 food banks, South African born Diana Aviv turns 67... Daniel Gastaldi turns 61... Nonfiction author, lecturer and journalist, Gary M. Pomerantz turns 58...
Attorney and business executive who once played on the South African national teams in both cricket and field hockey, Mandy Yachad turns 58... National Security Advisor to President Obama (2013-2017) after an earlier posting as President Obama's Ambassador to the UN (2009-2013), Susan Rice turns 54... "The Travelling Rabbi" of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies who serves 13 sub-Saharan countries, Moshe Silberhaft turns 51... Former Microsoft executive, a leading "bundler" for both of Barack Obama's presidential campaigns, she served as US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein (2014-2017), Suzan Gail Davidson (Suzi) LeVine turns 49... Managing editor and Washington bureau chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites, David Kurtz turns 49...
Editorial producer and guest booker for CNN's Van Jones Show and the Axe Files, Michele Tasoff turns 49... EVP at JDA Frontline, a DC-based public affairs firm (soon to be acquired / merged into Blue Engine Message & Media), Ralph Posner turns 48... President of NBC News, Noah Oppenheim turns 40... Executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, she has been an advisor to Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ted Kaufman (D-DE) and Chris Coons (D-DE), Halie Soifer turns 40... Partner at AKPD Message and Media, he was the was the deputy director of paid media and message on President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, Isaac Baker turns 39... Tel Aviv-based reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Felicia Schwartz turns 27... Zack Teichman...
SUNDAY: Israeli theoretical physicist, who at age 27 became a professor and then later President of the Weizmann Institute, Haim Harari turns 78... Richard Gorman turns 78... Lecturer at Boston University School of Law, formerly SVP and General Counsel of Fidelity Management & Research Company, Eric D. Roiter turns 70... Israeli cantor and actor, known for his Broadway performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, David "Dudu" Fisher turns 67... Author and singer-songwriter who writes children's music, books, poems and stories, he is also the author of a popular Passover Haggadah, Barry Louis Polisar turns 64... Former mayor of Dallas, Texas (2002-2007), Laura Miller turns 60...
Moroccan-born, member of the Knesset since 2003 for the Shas party. he served as the Minister of Religious Services (2009-2013), Yaakov Margi turns 58... NYC-based writer, activist and performer, Shira Dicker turns 58... Congressional correspondent for The New York Times, in her two decades plus at the NYT she has covered the White House, science and politics, Sheryl Gay Stolberg turns 57... Retired Baltimore attorney who devotes her time to philanthropic and pro-Israel activities, Laurie Luskin turns 55... Associate development director for the Orthodox Union and the Teach Advocacy Network, Talia Fadis turns 31... Roberta Goldstein...
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