Daily Kickoff: Jewish Dems split on Ocasio-Cortez’s Israel views | Poland pivots | Ari Emanuel’s start at the top style | Daniel Gendelman’s Raya app


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Ed note: The Daily Kickoff newsletter will be on summer schedule until after the week of July 4th. News-cycle permitting, we’ll be publishing the Daily Kickoff intermittently during this time. Happy 4th and wishing all of you a wonderful summer! 

DRIVING THE CONVO — 2018 WATCH — Following the surprise win of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14 Congressional District on Tuesday, the Jewish Democratic Council of America announced that it is withholding its support of the Democratic nominee until she clarifies her views on Israel. “We disagree with her past statement regarding Israel, as well as her affiliation with the Democratic Socialists of America, which supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel,” the group said in a statement. “In the coming days and months, we hope to learn more about Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s views, but at the moment, her position on Israel is not in line with our values.”

J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami, however, argued that Ocasio-Cortez’s criticism of Israel’s response to the Gaza border protests “falls squarely within the bounds of the more open and frank political debate we’re seeing in this country about the policies of the Israeli government… We celebrate and continue to work to help create the political space for this change.”

What It Means For Israel If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Democrats’ Future — by Aiden Pink: “We’re seeing a pattern where the activist core of the Democratic Party is becoming highly critical of Israel almost as a default position,” Brooklyn College history professor KC Johnson, who has written about this shift, told the Forward… The victories of many progressives in non-incumbent races means that this year’s roster of Democratic candidates is likely to be more liberal than in the past, Johnson predicted. And that could have implications for the 2020 primaries… “It’s easy to establish a situation… where the younger candidate would seize on Israel as a way of highlighting his or her progressive credentials.” [Forward]

Ocasio-Cortez denounced Thomas Lopez-Pierre, known for his attacks on “greedy Jewish landlords,”  after a video surfaced showing him at her election night victory party and volunteering for her campaign: “No idea who this guy is, hundreds of folks walked into the hall open to the public last night. I absolutely denounce any such bigoted and reprehensible statements.”

BIG IN BLOOMFIELD — Epstein fundraiser canceled over her Trump support — by Jonathan Oosting, Melissa Nann Burke and Beth LeBlanc: “A campaign fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate [in Michigan’s 11th District] Lena Epstein scheduled for Wednesday was abruptly canceled by the board of the Franklin Hills Country Club over her political views, she alleged… The apparent cancellation of the Epstein fundraiser came a week after a Facebook post by Michael Simon, the son of a former president of the club, who expressed concerns about Epstein’s support for Trump’s border and immigration policies. “Franklin Hills was founded in 1927 because Jews were not permitted to be members elsewhere,” Simon wrote in the since-deleted post… Simon called on Franklin Hills members and the wider Jewish community to disassociate themselves from Epstein.” [DetroitNews]

INSIDE THE WH — Behind Ivanka’s Silence on the Border Crisis — by Emily Jane Fox: “People who know the First Daughter… were baffled as to how she botched her messaging in such a major way. “She had a free pass on this one in particular, for two reasons,” one adviser told me. “For one, her dad was obviously going to change the policy anyway, because it was so unsustainable… She could have easily said to her father, ‘Look, I’m going to just say what Melania said,’ or she could have said something without telling her dad, and if he got angry, she could have said, ‘I was just following Melania’s lead,’ and it would have been fine.” For people familiar with the father-daughter dynamic, the president’s decision to mention her concerns suggested they had coordinated their messaging… Trump was probably trying to protect her, this person added, but ended up undermining her.” [VanityFair]

TOP TALKER — Retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Jewish legacy — by Charles Dunst: “In the last few years, Justice Kennedy has loomed large at the Supreme Court because he so often cast a deciding swing vote, often in historic ways, as in [same-sex marriage] or Citizens United,” Marc Stern, general counsel at the American Jewish Committee, told JTA. “While he was not the liberal justice many Jews would no doubt have preferred, he served as a reminder that constitutional law and the Supreme Court can be something other than pure predictable partisan politics.” [JTA]

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER — Poland Backs Down on Holocaust Bill After International Criticism — by Matt Surman and Dov Lieber: “Poland unexpectedly backed down Wednesday on a controversial libel law… softening measures that threaten prison to those who say the nation was complicit in the Holocaust… In a joint statement, Israel and Poland agreed that the term is “blatantly erroneous and diminishes the responsibility of Germans for establishing those camps.” The statement also said the two countries “acknowledge and condemn every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during World War II.” [WSJReuters]

BEHIND THE SCENES — Secret backchannel talks ended Israel-Poland crisis over Holocaust law — by Barak Ravid: “Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to open backchannel talks with the Polish government and appointed two close confidants to lead them – Yossi Ciechanover, the former director general of the foreign ministry, and Jacob Nagel, his former national security adviser. Ciechanover and Nagel negotiated with two Polish members of parliament from the ruling party, who were appointed for the mission by Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki. The negotiation teams met secretly several times in the last few months, during which time Netanyahu and Morawiecki also spoke several times, and drafted an amended bill.” [Axios

HOW IT PLAYED — Holocaust Law in Poland Is Weakened After ‘Storm and Consternation’ — by Marc Santora: “Both houses of Parliament voted on Wednesday to remove the criminal penalties, after an emotional session that saw one nationalist lawmaker try to block access to the podium. President Andrzej Duda later signed the measure into law… Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, of the Modern party, wondered why it had taken so long to see how much harm the law had done. “Why so late?” she said during the debate on Wednesday. “Why did so much have to be broken?””[NYTimes] • Leonid Bershidsky: Poland Waters Down Its Holocaust Law to Placate Trump [Bloomberg]

Abe Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and former National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, tells us… “The amendment to the Polish Holocaust law removing the criminal penalties is welcome but far from resolving the issue. The law is still offensive. It is an effort to rewrite recent history and smacks of Holocaust revisionism. It tries to obliterate whitewash any collaboration that existed and draws a moral equivalence between Jews and Poles as victims. The action in the Polish parliament falls far short from repairing the damage the law created. Anti-Semitism is not equivalent to anti-Polish-ism. The law needs to be repealed not amended.”

COMING SOON — Hungarian PM Viktor Orban to Visit Israel Next Month — by Noa Landau: “Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is slated to visit Israel on July 19. The visit was coordinated at a meeting of national security advisers of the Visegrad group… [that] includes Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.” [Haaretz]

ON THE HILL — Congress seeks to hand off Israel boycott fight to Trump — by Bryant Harris: “The House Foreign Affairs Committee is set to advance the controversial Israel Anti-Boycott Act on Thursday… The latest version of the bill under consideration makes a major change by directing the Donald Trump administration to implement anti-boycott regulations… While [Rep. Peter] Roskam’s initial bill applied to “any United States person,” the latest version is more restrictive. Instead, the regulations to be reviewed would more narrowly apply to businesses and their employees.” [Al-Monitor]

Pompeo Outlines Plans for Global Challenges, Including Venezuela and Palestinian Refugees — by Gardiner Harris: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s remarks came during a hearing in the Senate that was intended to discuss his department’s budget… As schools in Jordan for Palestinian refugees come close to shuttering because of the Trump administration’s decision to suspend funding for the United Nations agency that operates them, Mr. Pompeo said that “I think we’re getting closer to a solution” that would allow the United States to fund the schools. Mr. Pompeo acknowledged that European allies remained unhappy about the Trump administration’s decision to exit the Iran nuclear accord; he described “difficult discussions” over the issue.” [WashPost]

— Pompeo on Syria: “The Assad regime has been enormously successful in what’s coming up to seven years of war, but from America’s perspective it seems to me that Iran is the greatest threat [in Syria] and we ought to focus on that.”[CSPAN]

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT): “Before the Iran nuclear agreement was signed Prime Minister Netanyahu and others said that Iran was only weeks or months away from building an atomic bomb… Was Mr. Netanyahu right that they are only weeks away from building a nuclear weapon?

Pompeo: “I don’t want to get into the details of intelligence, but I think we have publicly said before that they have a breakup capacity that is in a number of months — 12 months to be precise.” [CSPAN]

REPORT — Trump will demand of Putin a total Iranian exit from Syria — by Stuart Winer: “President Donald Trump intends to demand from his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a full Iranian pullout from Syria territory, making the subject a priority in talks between the two leaders planned for next month, the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper reported… The diplomat also said Washington had given Israel a “green light” to strike Iranian military assets in Syria.” [ToI]

HEARD AT THE ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL — Former Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell — on Trump’s Iran deal exit: “When the president was tweeting about me on the Iran deal I did not respond on that, and I would rather respond on the substance of the Iran deal which is one of the worst decisions ever made by a president and that will come home to roost.” (Kerry was almost assuredly referring to Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal but you can read that quote again and watch it here)

Kerry on Trump’s border separation policy: “Think of that. The United States of America, with those glorious words on the Statue of Liberty, we are separating children, and in some cases, mothers have been told we’re just taking your kid away for a bath and they take the kid away for a bath. When have people been told we’re just taking people away to do something else and what happened. We cannot enter that stage… We have to change it.”

Kerry on 2020: “It’s possible [that an independent could run]. It’s very, very difficult, but with enough time and energy – depending what happens – it might be possible. I think what we ought to do is stop focusing on 2020. I don’t think 2020 matters today. There’s one thing that matters today: winning control of the United States Congress in 2018, and that’s what everybody’s energy ought to be dedicated toward.” [Video

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Kushner peace push undermined by Trump’s policies — by Laura Rozen: “They raised expectations by going out there and doing that round of region trip,” Martin Indyk… told Al-Monitor… “I think that they are waiting for a ripening and it’s not coming,” Indyk, now with the Brookings Institution, said. “I don’t think [Israeli Prime Minister] Bibi [Netanyahu] particularly wants a plan. … But I am confident he has made sure whatever is in the plan, he can live with and won’t bring his government down. So he can say ‘yes, but I have reservations,’ and invite the Palestinians to say no.” [Al-Monitor

Sen. Dianne Feinstein writes… “Donald Trump policies are hurting Palestinians and Middle East peace prospects: President Trump’s heartless cuts to humanitarian assistance to Gaza sent a clear message that the lives of Palestinians don’t matter to his administration. And his rash decision to move the embassy forfeited our ability to appear as an independent arbitrator of this crisis…  If the president is serious about brokering the ultimate deal, he’ll begin to repair some of the damage created by his policies. He should start by demanding that Israel halt West Bank settlement expansion and… then restore humanitarian assistance and lead the world in rebuilding Gaza.” [USAToday]

Max Boot and Sue Mi Terry write… “Trump can’t make a ‘deal of the century’: We have not seen any evidence that Kim [Jong Un] will prove any bolder or more courageous than the Palestinian leaders in seeking peace. Unelected autocrats cannot easily afford to dissolve the ideological glue holding their ramshackle regimes together no matter how many riches we dangle before their eyes. When it comes to both the Palestinians and North Korea, the best we may realistically hope for is to manage the conflict — with Hamas, for example, perhaps agreeing not to rocket Israel and with Kim perhaps agreeing to scale back his nuclear arsenal.” [WashPost

HEARD YESTERDAY — Former Congresswoman Michele Bachmannat a dedication ceremony for the Zionist Organization of America’s new offices in Midtown: “In my opinion, this is the golden time, these are the greatest days that Israel has had in modern times. It is so great. I am so thrilled. Donald Trump took the biggest propaganda cudgel off the table by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It is game over for the enemies of Israel. They understand how powerful our president was by removing this cudgel. What else do they have? They have got absolutely nothing on the international stage because the greatest economic and military superpower on earth has said Israel belongs to the Jewish people and Jerusalem is its capital, and this has changed the whole dynamic internationally.” [Pic

Ran Baratz, a former spokesperson for Prime Minister Netanyahu whose appointment was strongly opposed by the Obama Administration: “I was there when Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump spoke for the first time on the phone. At the end of the conversation, Netanyahu said, ‘I never had anything like that. This is the first time.’ Because Netanyahu always has a Democratic president, and this is the first time with a Republican president. He said, ‘This is a different kind of conversation I’ve ever had. Where do we go from here? It’s a new situation.'” [Pic]

Baratz on Obama’s refusal to veto UNSC 2334: “Obama not only refused to veto, he let the resolution pass. I know what kind of communications were going back and forth, and it’s ridiculous to ask him to veto his own decision.”

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview with Jewish News: “There is no question Trump is a friend of Israel, but I am not alone in having some doubts about the practical outcome of some of his policies… I also have enormous respect for Obama… In his eight years as president, Obama only once abstained on a UN vote on Israel at the UN, and only then after endless provocative actions by the prime minister of Israel, coming to the US Congress in complete opposition to the policy of the President. So in terms of Obama and Israel, I have no complaints.” [JewishNews

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Amazon buys PillPack, an online pharmacy that was rumored to be talking to Walmart [TechCrunch] • Crown family, Tishman Speyer ink Origami Risk to office lease [TheRealDeal] • Kushner group sues Jersey City over stalled tower project, alleging anti-Trump bias [JerseyJournal] • eBay Israel Laying Off Dozens of Employees [Calcalist]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — Can Raya Install a Wondrous Utopia While Also Helping Celebrities Hook Up? — by Kevin Roose: “Daniel Gendelman, 34, is handsome and thinly bearded. He wore a white T-shirt and ordered plain oatmeal when I met him recently in a Venice Beach restaurant. In 2014, he was staying in Israel, recovering from the failure of his previous start-up, a social discovery app called Yello. And he was striking out on Tinder… Mr. Gendelman thought, what if there were an app that felt more like a dinner party — an intimate, thoroughly vetted collection of interesting people having candid conversations? He put together a small team and began to build. He called the app Raya, after the Hebrew word for friend, and seeded it with a group of his friends in Los Angeles. “I tried to solve a big problem for a small amount of people,” Mr. Gendelman said.” [NYTimes]

Revealed: Netanyahu’s secret Manhattan apartment — by Shlomit Tsur: “The apartment located on 5th Avenue… in Manhattan in which Israel Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon lives… is registered in the prime minister’s name… The Fifth Avenue home was bought for $99,000. The apartment is in a building managed as a tenant corporation, and “Globes” holds the share certificate confirming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the registered owner of the property. Two years after it was purchased, the property was valued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at $4 million… Research by “Globes” has put the value of the property today at about $15 million.”[Globes]

ROYAL VISIT — Britain’s Prince William visits Jerusalem holy sites, great-grandmother’s tomb — by Jeffrey Heller: “Accompanied by rabbis, William walked up to the Western Wall through a passage formed across the plaza by police barricades that held back a crowd of onlookers. Wearing a skullcap and following a Jewish tradition of offering a written prayer at the wall, he placed a note between its stones, rested the palm of one hand against them and leaned forward in silent reflection… Before visiting the site, William, second in line to the British throne, made a pilgrimage to the Jerusalem tomb of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice, who was honored by Israel for sheltering Jews in Nazi-occupied Greece during the Holocaust.” [Reuters]

— Dan Williams tweets“Seems the Israeli authorities took the note themselves as a precaution – presumably to re-inter it in the wall later, and anonymously.”

U.S.-Israeli teen convicted in Israel for bomb threats during Trump’s rise — by Dan Williams: “An Israeli-American teenager was found guilty in Israel on Thursday of making about 2,000 hoax bomb threats against Jewish and other institutions in the United States and elsewhere during Donald Trump’s rise to the U.S. presidency in 2016 and 2017… [Michael] Kadar was found guilty of counts including extortion, disseminating hoaxes in order to spread panic, money laundering and computer hacking over bomb and shooting threats… The counts each carry potential jail terms of several years. The court did not immediately set a date for Kadar’s sentencing.” [Reuters

Many Gazan Women Are No Longer Able to Enter Israel for Cancer Treatment — by Ruth Margalit: “It’s not because treating Palestinian patients places undue financial burden on Israel. More than ninety percent of Gazans’ medical bills are covered by the Palestinian Health Ministry, or by the patients themselves. And it’s not because of last month’s violent protests at the border fence: the decline in permit approvals preceded them. Instead, the reason appears to be growing pressure from the family of an Israeli soldier who was killed in Gaza in 2014. Hamas has refused to return his body and that of another slain soldier… One Gazan woman was recently turned down for treatment because her brother is a member of Hamas; another because her father had once resided in Israel illegally.” [NewYorker]

Shmuel Rosner writes… “Israel’s Conversion Dilemma: The Jewish state has already changed the course of Jewish culture and identity in myriad ways. It can change it once again by redefining conversion. To do this, it should secularize conversion. Cast aside the priorities of religious leaders in determining the boundaries of Jewishness and establish the authority of the state and its political leaders to make such determinations. This would be a regime change. Rabbis out, political leaders in. And it would most likely ruffle some feathers. But in the long run it would also solve a lot of problems. Political leaders can do what rabbis cannot do.” [NYT]

LONG-READ: Jimmy Carter for Higher Office — by Michael Paterniti: “The people of Plains were proud of the celebrity Mr. Jimmy had bestowed on their little town. And the occasional luminaries he brought, too: Menachem Begin had been here, and Anwar Sadat. When Yasser Arafat visited, the mayor gave him a key to the city, and Arafat kissed him on both cheeks. (“I don’t think our mayor has ever gotten over the kiss,” says Mr. Jimmy.)” [GQ]

— Happening on Saturday at Aspen Ideas: “Stuart Eizenstat gives a front row seat to the Carter White House, brought to life with personal profiles of the men and women who made history during the turbulence of the 1970s. David Rubenstein, President Carter’s deputy domestic policy adviser, guides this candid conversation about America’s political past.”

A Spymaster Steps Out of the Shadows — by Mattathias Schwartz: “The most famous case in which things went wrong was a 2015 drone strike in Pakistan. Along with the intended Qaeda targets, the strike killed two Western aid workers being held hostage: Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian, and Warren Weinstein, an American… In the White House, [John] Brennan took responsibility for Weinstein’s death, according to one person who was present. He personally apologized to Obama and briefed him on it, twice, in exhaustive detail. Over lunch, Brennan did not deny that this had happened but declined to share his side. “People will tell you whatever they want,” he said. “There are certain things I’m not going to get into.” [NYTimesMag]

HOLLYWOOD — Why a Hollywood hotshot emailed Pruitt’s top aide — by Scott Waldman: “When Ari Emanuel — the co-CEO of the William Morris Endeavor entertainment company… had a question about environmental rules, he got in touch with EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson… “Anything going on?” he wrote on June 7, followed by “Is there a good time to talk?” A source close to Emanuel told E&E News that it’s Emanuel’s style to talk directly with the head of an organization when he wants to get something done. For instance, when Emanuel has an issue about his local Starbucks, he just calls Howard Schultz, the company’s executive chairman, the source explained.”[E&Enews]

Comedy Central tells the ‘Drunk History’ story of Eichmann’s capture — by Amy Spiro: “The story of the Mossad capture of Adolf Eichmann is already being turned into a Hollywood drama. But before that film is released, the dramatic operation has been given the Drunk History treatment. One of the sketches in an episode of the popular Comedy Central show that aired Tuesday night featured actress Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) retelling the tale of Eichmann’s capture… Bloom begins with the establishment of the State of Israel, and the formation of the Mossad – with its director, Isser Harel, portrayed by Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Veep)… Eichmann is portrayed, jarringly, by Weird Al Yankovic.” [JPostVideo

BIRTHDAYS: Former member of Congress for 16 years and now CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Jane Harman turns 73… Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, Brian L. Roberts turns 59… Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award winning actor, movie director, composer and comedian, Mel Brooks (born Melvin James Kaminsky) turns 92… Former United States Senator from Michigan (1979-2015), including 8 years as Chairman of Armed Services, now on the faculty at Wayne State University Law School, Carl Levin turns 84…  Political consultant, community organizer and author, he is married to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Robert Creamer turns 71… Novelist, journalist, conservative commentator and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, Mark Helprin turns 71… Documentary producer and director and television editor for broadcast and cable production companies, James Ruxin turns 70…

Member of the California State Senate (2012-2016), following two terms in the State Assembly (2008-2012), Martin Jeffrey “Marty” Block turns 68… Attorney for President Donald Trump during portions of 2017, Marc Kasowitz turns 66… Israeli journalist and author, Amira Hass turns 62… Rabbi of the Har Bracha community in the Shomron and Rosh Yeshiva of the hesder yeshiva there, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed turns 57… Principal of GPS Investment Partners, chairman of Chiron Investment Management, former president of Apollo Global Management, Marc Spilker turns 54… Actress and singer, Jessica Hecht turns 53… Member of Knesset since 2013 as a member of the Labor Party / Zionist Union, Michal Biran turns 40… Toltzy Kornbluh turns 37… Paralegal in the white collar and corporate investigations group at Quinn Emanuel since 2017, Molly Rosen… Saralee Rosen… Mark Winkler Mark Ziven


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