Daily Kickoff: Inside IfNotNow | Sen Graham warns Israel about relying on Russia | Sacha Baron Cohen used a fake pro-Israel event to dupe Joe Walsh


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FIRST LOOK —  The Jewish Revolt: Can the young activists of IfNotNow change the conversation about Israel and the Palestinians, or will their contradictions hold them back? — by Abraham Riesman: “In just four years of existence, they’ve gone from a few dozen disgruntled activists in a borrowed apartment to a group that has trained an estimated 1,675 people, drawn countless more sympathizers and casual supporters, and become a formidable opponent to the right and center-left. In fact, especially in the wake of the Birthright walkout, IfNotNow has become perhaps the most-talked-about activist group in Jewish American politics.”

Allies — “Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the left-leaning Israel-lobbying group J Street, tells me he finds IfNotNow “really exciting”… and the prominent Israel critic Peter Beinart says IfNotNow is able to “say things and take moral stances that other people are too inhibited to take.” Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s general delegation to the U.S. has said, “Hope is the young American Jews like the brave souls in IfNotNow.”

Critics — “Far more interesting than the attacks from the rightists are those from fellow left-leaning Jews who oppose the occupation but can’t abide by the fact that IfNotNow won’t take a stand on BDS, statehood, or Zionism. The most formidable opponent in this camp is the Reform Judaism movement… Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the current URJ head, tells me of IfNotNow, “I can’t really explain what it is their strategy is about; I don’t fully understand it.” … IfNotNow members push back against those criticisms by saying the three big questions they decline to address are merely distractions from the issue that so many Jews can unite on, which is their collective opposition to the occupation.”

Will it matter? — “Yet one can’t avoid the fact that IfNotNow has the same problem that much of the American left has right now, which is that it hasn’t articulated and agreed upon what it’s for so much as what it’s against. Perhaps the group will reach a plateau of support at some point, when they can’t attract more young people without assuring them about those three key questions. Even if they accomplish their goal of altering the American Jewish consensus, it might not matter much: Netanyahu and his government have made it abundantly clear in recent months that they care far more about Donald Trump… and his base of Christian Evangelicals than they do about the average American Jew.” [NYMag

In Politico today, Daniel Lippman asks Alex Levy: What is a trend going on in the U.S. or abroad that doesn’t get enough attention? Levy: “One of the things I find unsettling is the eroding support for Israel among young progressives. Many American millennials associate Israel with the right-wing policies of the Netanyahu government; they don’t see Israel as the vibrant, pluralistic liberal democracy it is, the fulfillment of Theodor Herzl’s vision.”

Can Young Palestinians’ Rejection of the PA Lead to a Binational State With Israel? — by Miriam Berger: “Many of the young Palestinians interviewed by Newsweek—from the West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel and Gaza—reject their politicians’ self-serving priorities. They’re highly educated and heavily underemployed… This generation’s goals are equality, dignity and freedom: relief from joblessness, housing shortages and censorship, and an end to monitoring by Israeli police and soldiers. Though they are geographically fragmented, social media have enabled them to share information in ways they never could before… This has allowed them to unite in mapping a vision for the future…”

“Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki says that while there is still a desire for self-determination among young people, the belief is growing that a multinational state “will win out in the end.” If that’s true, it means Israeli, U.S. and PA officials are wildly disconnected from a generation of Palestinians.” [Newsweek

DRIVING THE DAY —  Trump’s claim that NATO will boost defense spending disputed — by Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin: “President Donald Trump closed out his chaotic two-day visit to NATO Thursday by declaring victory, claiming that member nations caved to his demands to significantly increase defense spending and reaffirming his commitment to the alliance. But there were no immediate specifics on what he had achieved, and French President Emmanuel Macron quickly disputed Trump’s claim that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending beyond 2 percent of gross domestic product. “The United States’ commitment to NATO remains very strong,” Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference following an emergency session of NATO members held to address his threats.” [AP]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer at a Washington Post Live panel on ‘The Future of Democracy’ — “I think the issue of burden-sharing is a real issue for my country, Israel. We spend 6 percent of our GDP on our defense… without U.S. assistance. Now, we also receive military assistance from the United States, which we are very grateful for – that helps us bear this enormous burden that we have on our economy, and that takes us over 8 percent.”

“So I think it is a real issue. I guess how this is going to work out in Europe remains to be seen. It seems to me that many countries are starting actually to address this to various degrees and in various speeds. But from the discussions I have had, most people think this is a real legitimate issue that the President has raised. So I expect that he will achieve something at the [NATO] summit. We will see how much and how fast… I think it’s hard to judge these things in the moment. You have to look a year, two years, three years, and see if Europe is on a trajectory of a greater share in their GDP being devoted to defense.” [Video]

— Dermer on the state of democracy in the Middle East: “Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, so we’d like to have neighbors who would be democratic because non-democratic states tend to fight others—external enemies—in order to justify their internal repression. But when it comes to Israel’s democracy I think it is a tremendous model for the world because democracies are tested under crisis. That’s actually when it counts—not when you’re at peace. And Israel is the most beleaguered democracy on earth. We’ve never known a day of full peace. Fortunately, we have peace with our Egyptian and Jordanian neighbors now, but in our 70-year history we’ve had to deal with security threats faced by no other democracy, and yet we’ve maintained our democratic institutions and democratic values.”

HEARD THIS MORNING — Trump on the Iran deal: Iran is “treating the U.S. with a lot more respect right now. They are feeling a lot of pain right now… At a certain point, they’re going to call me and say let’s make a deal, and we’ll make a deal.” [Video]

— French President Emmanuel Macron on CNN with Christiane Amanpour: Pulling out of the Iran deal “because President Obama negotiated it, I mean it’s not a good reason.” [Video]

Pompeo presses Europe to get tough on Iran — by Matt Lee: “U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday pressed European nations to get tough on Iran by cutting off all funding the country may use to foment instability in the Middle East and beyond. Pompeo was meeting with European officials in Brussels following a summit of NATO leaders.” [AP]

HOW ITS BEING PLAYED — Why Trump has few friends in Europe — by Tom McTague: “The problem was on display in Brussels as Trump made small talk with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán while going out of his way to attack Germany. After a brief chat with Turkey’s authoritarian president on the sidelines of the summit, Trump mouthed: “I like him, I like him.”” [Politico]

Eli Lake writes… “NATO’s Real Crisis Is Turkey, Not Trump: Yet while the rhetoric is dangerous, U.S. policy — so far — has not reflected Trump’s tantrums. U.S. forces remain in Poland (and Germany, for that matter). The sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, meddling in Eastern Ukraine and its interference in the 2016 U.S. election remain… The weak link in the alliance, in fact, is Turkey. Here is a country slipping into the sphere of influence of Russia — the very country that NATO was created to deter… Ideally, this week’s NATO summit would be an opportunity for the U.S. president to cajole European allies into presenting a unified opposition to Erdogan’s conduct… Trump has not availed himself of that opportunity.”[BloombergView]

TALK OF THE REGION — Russia Working to Remove Iran From Syria Border, Israeli Sources Say — by Noa Landau: “Russia has been working to push Iran away from Israel’s border with Syria, diplomatic sources told Haaretz Wednesday evening… The sources said that while Iranian forces have not completely been ousted from the border area, Moscow is currently acting to carry out the process… This attempt may collude with Israeli interests, but it just as well might work, they added… This report comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.” [Haaretz]

VIEW FROM MOSCOW — In a transcript released by the Kremlin, President Putin described Netanyahu’s trip to Moscow as a ‘private visit’ to watch the World Cup semi-final match between England and Croatia. “Mr. Prime Minister, colleagues, I am very happy to see you in Moscow, this time during your private visit to the FIFA World Cup. Nonetheless, this does not deny us the pleasure of meeting and discussing current issues,” Putin said, according to an English translation of his opening statement ahead of the meeting with the Israeli leader.

— Netanyahu on Sunday: “This week I will fly to Moscow for an important meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We meet from time-to-time in order to ensure security coordination and, of course, to discuss regional developments.”

FRIENDLY WARNING — Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweets“To our friends in Israel – be very careful making agreements with Russia re Syria that affect U.S. interests. I don’t trust Russia to police Iran or anyone else in Syria. U.S. must maintain presence in Syria to ensure ISIS doesn’t come back and to counter Russia/Iran influence.”

ON THE GROUND — Israel says hits Syrian army posts in response to drone incursion —  by Ellen Francis and Dan Williams: “Israeli forces attacked Syrian military positions near the Golan Heights frontier in the early hours of Thursday, causing limited damage, Syrian state media said. The Israeli military said in a statement that it hit three targets in retaliation for an incursion on Wednesday of a Syrian drone which was shot down over northern Israel.” [Reuters]

At Golan frontier, Syrian family fears more army advances — by Ellen Francis: “Abu Ahmad has sheltered at the frontier of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for days, fleeing an army offensive that has swept through southwestern Syria… Now, they have nowhere left to go… He said he would not mind escaping to Israel if that was possible.” [Reuters

As Israeli bulldozers circle, a tiny village takes center stage in Palestinian struggle — by Loveday Morris and Sufian Taha: “Growing up herding sheep and goats in the hills east of Jerusalem, Eid Jahalin never expected to find himself one day lobbying in the halls of the U.S. Congress. But that is how the 51-year-old spent last week, as the [Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar] comes under threat of demolition by Israeli bulldozers… Palestinian officials say the U.S. silence amounts to a green light. The Trump administration, they say, is allowing Israel to erode their rights without even limited censure. The former tractor driver met with staffers of nearly 30 U.S. lawmakers of both parties during his visit to Washington.”

“A White House National Security Council spokeswoman said it would be “premature to comment on an ongoing legal process” and referred questions to the Israeli government. “In general, we continue to encourage both sides to create an environment conducive to negotiations on a comprehensive and enduring peace,” the spokeswoman said.” [WashPost]

ON THE HILL — In a letter to President Trump, Democratic members on the House Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee requested “transparency regarding the timeline and metrics” being used by the Trump administration to assess U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, which has been frozen since January 2018. “There seems to be no information available to Members of Congress as to the nature, scope, or duration of this assistance review,” the letter — signed by Reps. Ted Deutch,  Lois Frankel, Eliot Engel, Gerry Connolly, Tulsi Gabbard, Ted Lieu, Brad Schneider, David Cicilline, and Tom Suozzi — reads.

INSIDE THE ADMIN — Marc Short, Trump’s legislative director, becomes latest senior White House aide to depart [WashPost]

Joey Allaham on Qatari donations to ZOA and Our Soldiers Speak: “I don’t know why everyone’s making such a big deal out of this. If I made the donations to a playmate, I wonder if it would get the same attention,” he told The National. “I made those donations on my behalf – nobody’s else’s behalf, without any expectations. I have supported ZOA, I still support ZOA and I will always support ZOA.” He said he was no longer working for the Qataris “because the job was done. We did what we had to do.” [TheNational

2018 WATCH — This Jewish Latina wants to bridge political divides at the border — by Rina Raphael: “Alma Hernandez doesn’t fit the description of a traditional politician. She’s Jewish, Latina, 25 years old, and she’s fundraising for migrant families at the border… Hernandez’s dual minority background makes her double the target–but it also enables her to bridge two communities that aren’t always aligned in mutual interests. A longtime activist and community organizer, Hernandez is using her unique positioning to get both Latinx and Jews in Tucson, Arizona’s second-largest city, to come together for progressive causes.” [FastCompany]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Comcast’s Brian Roberts is talking to Disney’s Bob Iger the only way he can — through opaque M&A strategy [CNBC] • Elliott Management to inject €50m of equity capital into AC Milan [FinanicalTimes• Sumner, Shari, and the Greek Tragedy Set in a Delaware Court [VanityFair] • Judge Dismisses Ex-Companion’s Suit Against Sumner Redstone’s Daughter, Grandson [WSJ] • Univision confirms auction plans for Gizmodo and The Onion [Bizjournals

Sheldon Adelson clarifies casino in Korea comments: “In an email, Las Vegas Sands Corp. spokesman Ron Reese wrote that Adelson was referring to opening a casino in South Korea. It’s unclear why the war would need to end for Sands to build in South Korea though. Addressing that question, Reese wrote, “I’m sure a lot of American companies would feel even better about doing business in South Korea if the situation with the North was resolved.” He added: “Bottom line, the company’s interest remains in South Korea.”[NYMag]

Kushner’s Firm Deepens Ties to Those With Business in Washington — by Jesse Drucker and Kate Kelly: “Kushner Companies has continued to do deals in 2018. In March, it bought a pair of apartment buildings in Hackensack, N.J., for about $102 million, with financial backing from a firm run by Andrew Farkas, according to a previously unreported securities filing. While Mr. Farkas hasn’t been vocal in seeking to influence federal policymaking, he has repeatedly worked with a prominent businessman from the United Arab Emirates, where Mr. Kushner is a point person for American foreign policy… Mr. Farkas attended Mr. Trump’s inaugural ball in January 2017 with his frequent business partner, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the chief executive of the emirates’ powerful ports operator, DP World.” [NYTimes]

DEEP DIVE — Tower of secrets: the Russian money behind a Donald Trump skyscraper — by Tom Burgis: “By 2010, the Trump Toronto was supposed to be finished 65 stories containing 261 luxury hotel rooms and condominiums, all encased in a shimmering glass façade. But construction dragged on and in October, Alex Shnaider, the billionaire backer who had broken ground with Trump three years earlier, put aside another $40m for the project. Millions from the project would subsequently flow out to Trump himself — and documents seen by the FT raise serious questions about how Shnaider’s company was making its money in the period leading up to the decision to invest this $40m in the Trump Toronto. A few months earlier, documents show Shnaider had approved a secret $100m “commission” payment to “introducers” representing the Kremlin’s interests.”

“With the $100m commission arranged, the sale went through, and the proceeds flowed into Shnaider’s company, which in turn earmarked funds for the Trump Toronto… Experts on illicit finance said that any legal vulnerability for Trump and his business would depend on what he and other executives knew — or should have known — about the source of his partner’s funds.” [FinancialTimes]

SUN VALLEY SCENE — by Chris Spargo: “Love was in the air on Wednesday as couples strolled the campus at annual Allen & Company conference in Sun Valley. Most of this year’s guests emerged from the Sun Valley Lodge around 9am and were seen walking hand-in-hand with their significant other to the first session of the day, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her billionaire beau Bobby Kotick of Activision Blizzard leading the pack. CBS president Les Moonves was seen soon after, leaning into his wife Julie Chen, who hosts The Talk and Big Brother for her husband’s network… Also spotted on Wednesday were Brian Grazer with his wife Veronica… Bryan Lourd, Michael Ovitz and Francois-Henri Pinault were in Sun Valley as well… Michael Lynton and wife Jamie and General Motors CEO Mary Barra with husband Anthony have been seen on campus as well this year.” [DailyMail

MEDIA WATCH: Once partners, ‘Game Change’ authors feuding over their shattered franchise — by Paul Farhi: “For months, [John] Heileman, 52, and [Mark] Halperin, 53, have engaged in negotiations over material that was to be part of a follow-up “Game Change” book and TV miniseries about the 2016 presidential campaign. Halperin appears to hold the key to the project: Notes and transcripts of interviews with Donald Trump and his campaign advisers and staff. But Heilemann has made clear that his collaboration with Halperin is over and that Halperin won’t share in any advances or royalties from anything Heilemann produces… Halperin has explored ways to regain his stature as a political commentator, all to no avail… According to people close to both men… a successful revival of the “Game Change” franchise could help Halperin with a comeback. But Halperin’s return seems likely to be complicated by the harassment allegations.” [WashPost

‘Borat’ comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s explosive new TV series has duped the likes of Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney — by John Lynch: “Sacha Baron Cohen will return to television on Sunday at 10 p.m. with the premiere of his new Showtime series, “Who Is America?” … Sarah Palin wrote a Facebook post saying that Cohen had “duped” her and her daughter into participating in an interview for the show, which looks like it will feature a number of other prominent guests, including Bernie Sanders… Former Congressman turned radio host Joe Walsh said in a series of tweets tagged “#BoycottShowtime,” that he had also been “duped” by Cohen. Walsh said Cohen’s team flew him to Washington D.C. for a fake pro-Israel event that honored him with an award for his “Significant Contributions to the State of Israel.” [BusinessInsider]

SPORTS BLINK — For a shot at world championship, area lacrosse players follow family history to nontraditional nations — by Edward Lee: “There’s no shortage of men’s lacrosse stars for powerhouses like the United States, Canada and the Iroquois Nationals to tap for the Federation of International Men’s World Lacrosse Championship, which opens Thursday in Netanya, Israel. But for nontraditional nations, the pool is not quite as deep… The path to Israel was no picnic. Players said they had to compete against as many as 50 other candidates over two or three days of tryouts, and sometimes more than once. And because many of the countries will be competing at the world championship for the first time, some players had to pay for airfare, lodging, food and equipment, which in some cases totaled as much as $5,000.” [BaltimoreSun] • Iroquois Nationals reject Palestinian request to boycott world lacrosse championship in Israel [NationalPost]

Grizzlies sign forward Omri Casspi to 1-year deal: “The Memphis Grizzlies have signed their second free agent in forward Omri Casspi. General manager Chris Wallace announced the deal Wednesday. Memphis did not announce terms, but the contract is for 1 year.” [ESPN

DESSERT: A look inside Ben & Jerry’s Israeli factory — by Eliana Schreiber and Daphna Krause: “Off of a seemingly deserted industrial road in the southern moshav of Be’er Tuviya lies a sweet and creamy oasis – Israel’s very own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, founded in Vermont in 1978, came to Israel 30 years ago. The man responsible for the move is Avi Zinger, an ice cream aficionado who first had the idea to bring Ben & Jerry’s to the Holy Land. His company, a licensee of Ben & Jerry’s, is one of only two factories outside the United States, exporting to countries all across Europe.” [JPost]

NEW IN LONDON — A New Contemporary Kosher Restaurant Will Open in Belsize Park This Month — by Adam Coghlan: “Tish — a contemporary kosher restaurant and bar offering an all-day menu of European cuisine, featuring Jewish heritage family favorites — will open in Belsize Park, north London on July 29. It fulfills owner David S Levin’s childhood dream; an operator who grew up cooking for family and friends, who has been “honing his restaurant vision for years.” A statement released says that Levin is “a perfectionist who has obsessed over every detail from the menu dishes to the acoustics, to the luxurious seating, Tish is his true love.” The dairy free menu will offer “modern classics and seasonal new dishes alongside Jewish heritage favorites.” [EaterLondon]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — in NYC: Approximately 400 people attended the Algemeiner’s seventh annual Summer Benefit at Showroom Seven in midtown Manhattan. Honorees included Siggy Flicker, formerly of Real Housewives of New Jersey and film producer Adam Margules. The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto was the evening’s keynote speaker.

Attendees included the New York Post’s Benny Avni and Doree Lewak, Ari and Lauren Ackerman, Algemeiner’s Dovid and Mushka Efune, Ben Cohen, Chana Yemini, Barney Breen-Portnoy, Shiri Moshe and Shiryn Solny, Meir Kay, TV host Michelle Divon, artist Ron Agam, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Sonia Talati of Barron’s, Kerry Drew of Fox 5, Consul for Media Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York Almog Elijis, filmmaker Matthew Taylor, journalist Jere Van Dyk and fashion influencer Elizabeth Savetsky.

BIRTHDAYS: Former US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council (1969-1972), senior partner for more than twenty years at the NYC law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Rita E. Hauser turns 84… Former congressman (R-Oklahoma-5) (1977-1993), he was a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation and national chairman of the American Conservative Union, Marvin Henry “Mickey” Edwards turns 81… Former executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, Dan Botnick turns 80… Canadian journalist, she is the author of three bestselling books, Michele Landsberg turns 79… Member of the Florida House of Representatives (2005-2013), Franklin Sands turns 78… Bestselling author, screenwriter, and playwright, sister of the late Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron turns 74…

Professor of religion at the University of Vermont, he was an advisor to Bernie Sanders on his 2016 presidential campaign, as an undergrad at Yale his roommate was Joe Lieberman, Richard Sugarman turns 74… Co-founder of Imagine Entertainment, his films and TV series have been nominated for 43 Academy Awards and 187 Emmys, Brian Grazer turns 67… Executive Director of Newton, Massachusetts-based Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, focused on children with special educational needs, Arlene Remz turns 63… Co-owner of the Midland Group with holdings in steel, shipping, real estate, agriculture and sports, Eduard Shifrin turns 58… Israeli journalist, television presenter and politician, mother of eight children, she served as a member of Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party (2009-2013), Anastassia Michaeli turns 43…

Chief news anchor of the Israeli Channel 2 prime time news program, Yonit Levi turns 41… Senior White House reporter for Politico, Edward-Isaac Dovere turns 38… Partner in the Des Moines-based public relations firm AdelmanDean Group, Liz Rodgers Adelman… Former Schumer aide and president of executive communications firm A.H. Levy & Co., Alex Halpern Levy… Rena Meira Rotter turns 29… SVP at DC-based government relations and public policy firm of CRD / Cavarocchi Ruscio Dennis, Jennifer Leib… Ben Birnbaum


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