Daily Kickoff: Congress reacts to Bibi’s plea to remove sunset clause from JCPOA | Sen. Graham’s MOU amendment | Remembering Newark’s Jerry Gottesman
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HAPPENING TODAY: “High Tech and High Design, Cornell’s Roosevelt Island Campus Opens” by Elizabeth Harris: “The campus was born of a 2010 competition started by the Mike Bloomberg administration… Cornell University and its partner, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, were declared the winners and awarded $100 million along with a stretch of city-owned land on Roosevelt Island. “High-tech companies and new, small companies that will be the next big companies, they tend to be created where the founders go to school,” the former mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in an interview. “You see that in Silicon Valley. Here was a chance to get a bunch of people educated and create the economy of the future for New York City.”” [NYTimes]
SCENE LAST NIGHT: Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and Mrs. Rhoda Dermer hosted their annual Rosh Hashanah reception in a tent on the front lawn of their Maryland residence.
Highlights from Dermer’s remarks: “Like category 4 hurricanes, Israel should be an issue that brings people together, and tonight is a time to be grateful that Israel is an issue that brings people together… Rosh Hashanah is also a time to think about the year that was and the year to be. As for the year that was — this is hard for me to admit but for the first time in 69 years, Israel was actually more boring than America. For years I’ve been telling people that Israel is such an exciting place that Israelis actually go to Manhattan to unwind (laughter)… But today, Israel’s political system and hectic media environment have nothing on DC. So congratulations Washingtonians, and let me take this opportunity to recommend that all of you come to Israel for a little R&R over the Jewish holiday… It’s true that Israel is disappointed to have lost our title as the most exciting place on the planet but… Israel is looking forward to the year ahead.”
Dermer on the Iran deal: “Israel hopes that the coming weeks will bring about a dramatic change in the trajectory of that deal that will ultimately either fix it or cancel it. Israel looks forward to working with the U.S. and its other allies to implement a tougher policy towards Iran in the months and years ahead.”
On Taylor Force Act: “Israel hopes that the passage of the Taylor Force Act will finally send a message to the Palestinian Authority that the days when it is internationally acceptable to pay people to kill Jews are over.”
SPOTTED in the big tent: Wolf Blitzer, Sam Feist, Danielle Heyman Feist, Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Merle Bari, Jason Greenblatt, Josh Raffel, Abe Foxman, Ann Lewis, Loribeth Weinstein, Bob Cohen, Howard Friedman, Howard Kohr, Norm Eisen, Lindsay Kaplan, Sander Gerber, Nathan Diament, Boris Epshteyn, Lauren Tanick, Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Lee Zeldin, Mort Klein, Tom Rose, Ken Weinstein, David Milstein, Matt Nosanchuk, Shmuley Boteach, Aaron Keyak, Avi Goldgraber, Roger Hertog, Danny Ayalon, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Henry Waxman, Janet Kessler, Yarden Golan, Cliff May, Evan May, Jason Isaacson, Eli Lake, Aaron David Miller, Max Weinberg, Ali Rogin, Josh Rogin, Noah Pollak, Daniel S. Mariaschin, Joel Mowbray, Stacy Burdett, Ron Kampeas, Nathan Guttman, Michael Wilner, Josh Lederman, Ron Prosor, Sarah Abonyi, Miriam Smallman.
DRIVING THE CONVO — Should the US listen to Netanyahu on the sunset clause? — by Aaron Magid: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Congressional delegation last month that the United States should remove the sunset clause from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran.
“At a minimum, we should remove the sunset clause. The [nuclear] deal itself has been devastating,” Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) told Jewish Insider. “The sunset clause lifts the restrictions and allows Iran to make very steady progress or to actually turn the corner. I would not be happy with only doing that. I think we should walk away from the deal.”
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) agreed with Cheney. “Ten years for them in the grand scheme of things is a blink of the eye and then gives them the ability if they want to say: We lived up to our end of the bargain and now you have to live up to your end and let us produce this weapon. That would be a complete departure from anything we’ve done,” he explained.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) argued that ending the sunset provision would “nullify” the JCPOA “since you are opening up the deal.” The Arizona lawmaker added, “You have all of these international partners that agreed to certain embargoes. I don’t think we have the full support of all these other nations to pull out of the deal unilaterally and they would follow and join with us to impose (new) restrictions.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) also emphasized the importance of respecting the multilateral nature of the JCPOA. “I don’t think the US should unilaterally try to change any part of the Iran nuclear deal,” he said.
While some analysts refer to the JCPOA as the “Iran deal,” the State Department has emphasized that such a label is inaccurate. In a letter to then-Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS), the State Department under the Obama administration noted, “The JCPOA is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document. The JCPOA reflects political commitments between Iran, the P5+1.”
Even though the JCPOA was not a signed agreement, analysts are reluctant to discard the importance of adhering to its clauses. Michael Makovsky, President of JINSA told Jewish Insider that the JCPOA is “incorporated in a UNSC resolution 2231 that we (U.S.) did vote for and does have legal validity.” Makovsky added that “there could be renegotiations if the Iranians agreed with it,” but he was highly skeptical that Tehran would voluntarily reimpose restrictions. “We can’t dictate to them (Iran). For them to agree, they would really have to capitulate. It’s really inconceivable. Why would they ever give something like that up?” he concluded. [JewishInsider]
“The U.S. Is Testing Support for Extending Iran Nuclear Limits” by Nick Wadhams: “U.S. diplomats have approached European officials to see if they would join in demanding an extension to limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment that are set to expire in 2025 and 2030 under the nuclear accord reached in 2015… State Department and Pentagon officials have approached counterparts from France, Germany and the U.K… The administration is also weighing whether to pressure the International Atomic Energy Agency to more rigorously enforce the current terms of the deal by gaining access to military sites… People familiar with internal discussions said [Nikki] Haley’s team didn’t work out her speech with Tillerson and his team in advance.” [Bloomberg]
KAFE KNESSET — Deal or no deal — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Journalists following Netanyahu to Buenos Aires got a preview of what he’ll likely tell President Trump next week: When it comes to Iran, no deal is better than a bad deal. “Let me take this opportunity to clarify. I’ll be straightforward. This is a bad deal. Either fix it or cancel it. This is Israel’s position.” The JCPOA “paves the way of Iran to a nuclear arsenal,” he said. “It is a bad agreement that needs to be changed.” Netanyahu said he was responding to “stories about Israel’s purported position,” like one in Reuters quoting US officials who said Trump’s top national security advisers want to keep the deal intact, “as do US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, despite their reservations about Iran’s adherence to the agreement.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
“The trickiest feature of having a more aggressive U.S. strategy on Iran” by Shmuel Rosner: “The real dilemma for the Trump administration… is whether to counter Iran even though it is holding to a problematic deal. Putting it more bluntly: It is the U.S.’s choice whether it wants to breach the deal to make room for a better policy… If the U.S. scraps the Iran deal and raises the level of pressure on the country and its forces and proxy allies, it could achieve the second objective only to find out that Iran rushed back to expedite its nuclear program.” [JewishJournal]
NORTH KOREA: “Time for America to Act on North Korea, Alone If Necessary” by Dov Zakheim: “The UN Security Council has approved the “strongest sanctions ever” against North Korea… They are not, however, the “strongest sanctions ever” passed by the Security Council. The sanctions on Iran prior to the 2015 nuclear agreement… were considerably tougher… President Trump has recently demonstrated that he can indeed work with a bipartisan majority in the Congress; he should join hands with that majority to impose the very sanctions his administration proposed, and failed to obtain, at the United Nations.” [NationalInterest]
Netanyahu says Israel endorses independence for Kurds: “In an announcement early Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says Israel rejects the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and considers it a terrorist organization. However, the statement says Israel “supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.”” [AP] • Eli Lake: Iraq’s Kurds Have Earned Their Right to Independence[BloombergView]
“The Trump administration is trashing Middle East peace negotiations: Three recent statements reveal deep bias in their approach” by former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer: “The fact that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians continue to support the two-state outcome is apparently of little interest to this administration. Under these circumstances, Israelis and Palestinians would be much better off if Trump, his ambassador and his spokespeople took their self-described deal-making elsewhere, lest they continue to cause damage to the already-slim prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” [NYDailyNews]
ON THE HILL — “Senate could reverse billions of dollars of cuts to Israeli defense sector” by Bryant Harris: “Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has filed an amendment to the annual defense bill that would allow Israel to continue to spend more than a quarter of US military assistance to buy equipment from domestic, rather than US, firms. The amendment would represent a payday of more than $8.5 billion for the Israeli defense sector, but some critics say it would put the entire 10-year, $38 billion agreement in jeopardy… “If Congress chooses to rewrite portions of the MOU [memo of understanding], any provision of the MOU could be called into question,” said [Daniel] Shapiro. “That undercuts the stability of US defense assistance to Israel that the MOU was meant to provide.”” [Al-Monitor]
HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on $75M add. Funds to Israel: “Israel is an important, trusted ally of the United States. That hasn’t changed and that won’t change… I know that Israel is in the position to be able to get that funding and that is something that we support… They’re going to get the money.”
REPORT: “McMaster Sparked a Row With the Israeli Delegation at a White House Meeting on Hezbollah” by David Steinberg: “National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster reportedly brought NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism Mustafa Javed Ali to the White House meeting with Israel. Ali, a McMaster appointee, is described by a senior administration source as being “opposed to Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist organization.” … The Israeli delegation demanded that Mustafa Javed Ali leave the room… Sources reported that McMaster went on to explicitly dismiss the Israelis’ specific concerns about Hezbollah. McMaster was said to “blow off” this major Israeli concern, and to be “yelling at the Israelis” during the meeting.” [PJMedia; Nana10]
AJC POLL (of 1,000 Jews over age 18): Just 21 percent of American Jews have a favorable opinion of the job President Trump has been doing, while 77% has an unfavorable view, according to the AJC’s Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion. However, among Orthodox Jews, 71% view Trump’s performance favorably, while 27% view his performance unfavorably. Overall, among U.S. Jews, 26% approve Trump’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue and 67% disapprove. Trump does best on U.S.-Israel relations. 54% approve while to 41% disapprove. In 2015, when the survey asked the same question about President Obama, responses were evenly divided, 49%-49%. [AJC]
TOP TALKER: “Steve Bannon’s Nazi Problem” by Tina Nguyan: “In August 2016, Bannon called Breitbart “the platform of the alt-right,” yoking his site to an ugly strain of American politics at the expense of his own allies. “I’ve talked to people who work with him, and they said, ‘They don’t know why he said that,’” said Morton Klein, echoing several other Bannon associates I’ve spoken to over the past several months… Complicating the issue are the rank-and-file Web-based Breitbart constituency that Bannon calls the “Pepes,” after the cartoon frog often used in memes promoting far-right ideology… “Bannon sees the Pepes as kind of like trolls, and not like the Nazis like Richard Spencer and David Duke,” explained the person who spoke to Bannon. “Everybody’s kind of struggling with it… But that’s different, categorically, than neo-Nazis at rallies throwing Nazi salutes and throwing up Nazi flags.”” [VanityFair]
ANTI-BOYCOTT ACT: “It’s time to update America’s important anti-boycott law for Israel” by Jonathan A. Greenblatt and Stuart Eizenstat: “The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, like its 1977 predecessor, is designed to protect U.S. businesses and individuals from being pressured into a discriminatory economic boycott of Israel or other friendly nations by international governmental organizations. While Congress has a heavy agenda, this bill should be passed promptly, before another “blacklist” of U.S. companies becomes a reality.” [WashPost]
STATE-SIDE: “Gov. Reynolds: Iowans see opportunities in Israel” by Rod Boshart: “Gov. Kim Reynolds… who returned to Israel as leader of a delegation that signed agreements with universities — including Tel Aviv University and the Volcanic Institute — invited Netanyahu to visit Iowa, telling him “the World Food Prize would be a phenomenal event” for him to participate in.” [TheGazette]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Ben Smith on the bad new politics of big tech [BuzzFeed] • 23andMe confirms $250 million round led by Sequoia [TC] • The rise and fall of New York City’s ‘Taxi King’ [BusinessInsider] • Ray Dalio Says ‘It Would Be Terrible’ If Gary Cohn Left the Administration [Bloomberg] • The easy money has already been made off the retail meltdown, Marc Lasry says [CNBC]
“Ousted NSC Official Takes Job at Oracle” by Kate Brannen: “Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was fired from the National Security Council in August, has landed a new job at the Washington, D.C. office of Oracle, the Silicon Valley software giant… The Trump administration already has ties to the company. Safra Catz, CEO of the company along with Mark Hurd, was on the executive committee of the Trump transition team, making her unique among Silicon Valley executives.” [JustSecurity]
“US Ambassador Friedman welcomes tech giant Oracle’s expansion in Israel” by Max Schindler: “Here’s special recognition to Oracle for having 20 years in the State of Israel,” Ambassador David Friedman said as he began his speech in heavily American-accented Hebrew before making a shout-out to the company’s CEO. “Please extend my best wishes to Larry Ellison, who’s a great friend to Israel.” … The ambassador then toasted the company as a rabbi blew into the shofar.” [JPost]
“Israel’s first-ever Africa summit has been canceled setting back its quest to find global alliances” by Khanya Mtshali: “President Faure Gnassingbé, who is facing calls to step down after 15 years of ruling the west African nation, informed Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the event would no longer take place… The cancelation of the Africa-Israel summit, slated to take place between Oct. 23 and 27, will upend Israel’s efforts to build trade partnerships in Africa, and secure global allies in its attempts to gain a seat on the United Nations (UN) security council next year.” [QZ]
“Barbra Streisand Praises Former Israeli Leader Shimon Peres in Upcoming Documentary” by Lauren Huff: “”He was gifted with the ability to listen to others who did not share his views, and still remain determined to find a path forward,” Streisand says in a new clip from the film, titled Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres. “President Peres was all about love and compassion. He was a giver, not a taker,” she added. Joining Streisand in the film are Barack Obama, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Bill Clinton.” [THR]
“How Shimon Peres Helped Grow Israel Into a Startup Nation” by Chemi Peres: “In No Room for Small Dreams, my father relates that he was once asked by the young founder of a startup what the most important lesson about innovation he’d learned over the years was… My father responded that he’d learned a crucial lesson early in life. As a young man who’d been born in a small town in Poland and had come to work the land in what later became the State of Israel, he saw that the state was built not with natural resources, but rather by innovators and entrepreneurs… “We learned that the treasures hidden in ourselves are far greater than anything that can be found in the ground,” he told the young entrepreneur.” [Fortune]
MEDIA WATCH: “Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush Take the Next Step with Trump” by Joe Pompeo: “The duo’s ambition for the as-yet-untitled book… is to do something that goes beyond the palace intrigue (though there’ll be plenty of that as well) to tell a larger story about who Trump is, why the country chose him, and what it all says about America and where we’re headed. They’ve told people that they want the book to be “durable,” and that, “We want this to mean something.”” [VanityFair]
REMEMBERING: “From a single parking lot in Newark to a $4B empire: Hundreds gather to remember Jerry Gottesman” by Rich Bockmann: “Jerry Gottesman oversaw a real estate empire worth a reported $4 billion, but he didn’t own a tie that cost more than $24 unless someone bought it for him. “We were not interested in being real estate big shots,” Gottesman said of his early days buying property in the 1960s in a pre-recorded video tribute that was shown during his memorial service Tuesday. But from a single parking lot that he and his brother Harold bought on Edison Place in Newark, New Jersey in 1956, Gottesman built a real estate empire on both sides of the Hudson River and in Baltimore that’s now reportedly valued at $4 billion. Gottesman died of pneumonia while on a trip to Israel Sunday at the age of 87… Gottesman didn’t spend on lavish displays of wealth. He left the majority of his fortune to Jewish educational causes, representatives said.” [RealDeal]
BIRTHDAYS: Television executive who held high level programming positions at CBS (1970-75), then ABC (1975-78), and then NBC (1978-81), Fred Silverman turns 80… Chairman of global brokerage at CBRE, a worldwide commercial real estate services company, Stephen Siegel turns 73… Senior investigative reporter at The Daily Caller, previously at the Washington Examiner and ABC News, Richard Pollock turns 66… CEO of The Mellman Group, a polling and consulting firm whose clients include leading political figures and Fortune 500 companies, Mark S. Mellman turns 62 (h/ts Playbook)… Ice dancer, who, with her partner Michael Seibert, won the 1981 and 1985 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Judy Blumberg turns 60… Media consultant, formerly CEO of NPR and head of news partnerships at Twitter, Vivian Schiller turns 56…
Comedian who earned the title “Roastmaster General.” for his Comedy Central celebrity roasts, Jeff Ross (born Jeffrey Ross Lifschultz) turns 52… Attorney General of North Carolina since January 2017, he was previously a member of the North Carolina Senate (2009-2016), Joshua “Josh” Stein turns 51… Member of the Los Angeles City Council since 2013, he was previously a member of the California State Assembly (2008-2013), Robert J. Blumenfield turns 50… Founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, a non-profit, fully volunteer emergency medical services organization, Eli Beer turns 44… Attorney, triathlete and director of Maryland government and community relations at the the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Meredith Mirman Weisel turns 42… Member of the Colorado House of Representatives since 2012, Jonathan Singer turns 38… Senior analyst at progressive polling and strategic firm Lake Research Partners, Gary Ritterstein turns 34… Analyst at NYC’s Mission Capital Advisors, David Behmoaras turns 26… Founder and president of Reshet Capital, a boutique investment firm helping Israeli companies access global markets, Betty Grinstein… Encino, California resident, Orrie Wilner…
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