Daily Kickoff: Bibi boasts how he convinced Trump on Iran | Sharansky on Israel’s ties with anti-Jewish leaders | Ocasio-Cortez rethinks two states


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TOP TALKER — How Sacha Baron Cohen fooled the nation’s leaders — by Ben Schreckinger and Didi Martinez: “Last October, a woman calling herself Ashley Winthrop emailed [former Congressman Joe] Walsh on behalf of the made-up production company First Liberty Pictures and invited him to be interviewed for a ‘docu-style series’ about terrorism to be broadcast on Israeli television. “For the on-camera appearance,” Winthrop proposed, Walsh “would meet with a gentleman from Israel who … has developed unique anti-extremist techniques that very few in the world are privy to.”

“In February, Walsh received an inquiry from “Alexis Rothe” from the fictitious Yerushalayim Television. In an email, “Rothe” informed Walsh he had been named to Israel’s “70 at 70” list in honor of the 70th anniversary of the nation’s founding. “The people of Israel understand that they owe their very existence to the unwavering support of powerful figures like Congressman Joe Walsh,” she wrote. “We have already sat with Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch, Larry Ellison, Bono, and Steven Spielberg.”

“Walsh’s wife checked out the website domain from which Alexis emailed him, yerushalayimtv[dot]com, which is now defunct but at the time was live and appeared to list television content in Hebrew… A couple of days later, the Walshes returned to Chicago and asked the Israeli consulate to take a look at Yerushalayim’s website. The consulate told them the website was fake… The couple considered hiring a private investigator but decided it was too expensive and instead resigned themselves to waiting for the video’s release.” [Politico]

One of Who Is America?’s Suckers Claims He Knew He Was Being Conned — by Laura Bradley: “Philip Van Cleave, president of the gun-rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League, recapped his entire experience with the Showtime series back in February, in a Facebook post on the group’s page, warning members that somebody was trying to trick right-wing gun advocates… When Van Cleave initially balked at the idea of arming young children, he said that “Morad” showed him what appeared to be a newscast from Israel, with text in Hebrew, about a 4-year-old stopping a terrorist attack using his father’s gun. Still, Van Cleave said he remained unconvinced, and suspected he was being set up.” [VanityFair]

CNN’s Brian Stelter in Reliable Sources — Underwhelming start for Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show?: “Episode one premiered on Sunday. Although Showtime was eager to promote other metrics for the show — including sign-ups for its streaming service and on-demand viewing — the linear rating for the premiere was tepid at best: 327,000 viewers, per Nielsen. So the show’s biggest dividend could be in media coverage, which is no small detail for a pay channel that relies on subscribers.”

IRAN DEAL WATCH — Iran files suit in international court against U.S. over sanctions— by Toby Sterling: “Iran has filed a lawsuit against the United States alleging that Washington’s decision in May to impose sanctions after pulling out of a nuclear deal violates a 1955 treaty between the two countries, the International Court of Justice said on Tuesday… A State Department official said the application was without merit and the United States would fight it in the court.” [Reuters]

Iran builds new centrifuge rotor factory: nuclear chief — Babak Dehghanpisheh: “Iran has built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 centrifuges a day, the head of its atomic agency said on Wednesday… Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the new factory did not in itself break the terms of the agreement.” [Reuters]

In recording, Netanyahu boasts Israel convinced Trump to quit Iran nuclear deal: “In the video, which the Kan public broadcaster said was filmed two weeks ago, Netanyahu can be seen speaking to activists and senior members from his Likud party. “We convinced the US president [to exit the deal] and I had to stand up against the whole world and come out against this agreement,” Netanyahu says in the video. “And we didn’t give up.”” [ToIVideo

Walter Russell Mead writes… “Is Helsinki Trump’s Iran Deal? While the press celebrated rather than pilloried him for it, Mr. Obama also made overtures to a U.S. adversary (Iran) over the heads of longtime allies (Israel and the Gulf states). Mr. Trump’s Russia overtures over Germany’s head are just as ill-considered… A fresh start with Russia appears to be as much of an idée fixe for Mr. Trump as outreach to Iran was for his predecessor.” [WSJ]

HEARD YESTERDAY — President Trump in remarks to the press at the beginning of a meeting with members of Congress at the White House: “We discussed Israel and the security of Israel [at the meeting in Helsinki] and President Putin is very much involved now with us in a discussion with Bibi Netanyahu on working something out with surrounding Syria, and specifically with regards to the security and long-term security of Israel.”

Why Netanyahu liked what he saw from Trump in Helsinki — by Ian Lee: “Donald Trump went into his meeting Monday with Vladimir Putin in Finland deeply concerned about national security. It wasn’t the security of American citizens, however, but rather those of Israel that the US President appeared to have on his mind… It’s worth dwelling a moment on this. While most if not all of the US national security establishment views Russia as a major threat, Israel sees things very differently. It is very happy with what it sees as a successful strategic relationship between Putin and Netanyahu… It seems that Trump delivered for Israel, if not the US.” [CNN]

— “Analysts said that the summit’s most productive talks were on Syria, where the two leaders agreed to work together and guarantee Israel’s security.”[WSJ]

INTERVIEW — Outgoing Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky talks with LA Times reporter Noga Tarnopolsky: 

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose coalition party was established by Nazis, recently visited Israel and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will be welcomed in Jerusalem next week despite running an openly anti-Semitic campaign. Has Israel abandoned its role as a defender of Jews? 

Sharansky: “Israel has the right to pursue state interests but it cannot be blind regarding anti-Jewish leaders. We can’t change electoral results. But it’s crucial the Israeli government remain in constant dialogue with Jewish communities everywhere. In every case, there must always be a visible correlation between a nation’s attitude to Jews and to Israel. Israel has to stand against anti-Semitism on the left and on the right. Both those who like Israel and hate Jews and those who like Jews and hate Israel are not our allies.”

President Trump defended neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Va.

Sharansky: “Israel should have been more forceful about those remarks.”

What do you say to liberal American Jews who feel bereft with the Trump and Netanyahu governments in power?

Sharansky: “I welcome liberal anger today, but I ask myself where is the anger of respectable Jewish organizations when Black Lives Matter or feminist marches adopt anti-Israel positions that are inseparable from the anti-Semitism? If I were an American liberal I would ask myself day and night why 41% of women voted for Trump, and I’d worry less about Israel.” [LATimes]

Stepping down, Sharansky pleads for ‘advisory Knesset’ to heal Diaspora ties — by David Horovitz: “Sharansky, 70, proposed setting up a forum where Israeli and Diaspora leaders “can meet and discuss their disagreements publicly.” He stressed that it could only have an advisory role, and thus could not be described as a senate or a parliament. But simply by meeting on a regular basis, and having public discussion, he said, it could reduce tensions.” [ToI]

AT THE KNESSET — Knesset members to vote on contentious Nation State bill: “A parliamentary committee has approved a final draft of the Nation State bill, paving the way for the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to vote on its passage into law Wednesday… One clause of the bill downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing. Lawmakers removed a clause allowing the establishment of “separate communities” that was criticized as racist, replacing it with a clause encouraging “Jewish settlement.” [ABCNewsToI]

Prominent Jewish Donor to Israel Questioned by Airport Security Over ‘Palestine’ Pamphlet — by Amir Tibon: “The incident involving attorney Meyer Koplow took place on Sunday and has drawn strong criticism from the American-Jewish community in recent days. A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that the questioning took place because of the discrepancy between Koplow’s “Zionist activities” and the English-language, pro-Palestine pamphlet found in his baggage… During a visit to Bethlehem with Encounter, Koplow said he was handed a Palestinian propaganda pamphlet in English… Koplow said he had forgotten about the pamphlet until his questioning at Ben-Gurion Airport.” [Haaretz
 
REPORT: Israel worked to build Hungary’s Orban a bridge to Trump White House — by Barak Ravid: “An Israeli official tells me Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, and other Israeli foreign ministry officials approached members of the Trump administration and asked them several times to open a new page with [Prime Minister Viktor] Orban… The Israeli lobbying efforts seem to have borne fruit in recent months. In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met his Hungarian counterpart in Washington — the first such meeting in years… Israel told the Hungarians it lobbied in their favor, the officials say, and the Hungarians even thanked Israel for those efforts.” [Axios]

— Orban is set to arrive in Israel today. Orban will meet on Thursday with President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, including a follow-up dinner at the Prime Minister’s residence, tour Yad Vashem and visit the Western Wall.

TALK OF THE REGION — Israeli general clashes with cabinet hardliners over response to balloon threat — by Mehul Srivastava: “Naftali Bennett, the rightwing education minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, was involved in a heated dispute with a military chief at a cabinet meeting on Sunday after the veteran commander rebuffed his demand that the armed forces shoot and kill anyone releasing the devices. Chief of the general staff Gadi Eisenkot declined to target the arsonists, many of whom are children… The Israeli army has held back on doing so, primarily because they do not think it would be an effective response, said a military official… “There is a very real dilemma,” a second Israeli military official said. “You can’t start a war over some balloons, but you can’t do nothing either.” [FinancialTimes]

Hamas instructs members to stop balloon terrorism — by Elior Levy and Matan Tzuri: “Egypt has decided to give Hamas a few days to put a stop to or at least significantly reduce the incendiary balloons in the wake of Hamas’s insistence that it cannot stop the incendiary balloons all at once.”[Ynet]

In West Bank, 99.7% of Public Land Grants by Israel Go to Settlers — by Isabel Kershner: “Over five decades in control of the West Bank, Israel has marked out hundreds of thousands of acres as public land… But only 400 of those acres — 0.24 percent of the total allocated so far — have been earmarked for the use of Palestinians, according to official data obtained recently by an anti-settlement group after a freedom of information request.”

— “According to the Hague regulations, as long as the land is not privately owned, then the occupying power has got the right to enjoy it,” said Alan Baker, a retired Israeli diplomat and former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Citing the rule of usufruct, he said, “You can enjoy the apples but can’t cut down the tree.” It is on this basis that Israel approves settlement building. Mr. Baker, who lives in Har Adar in the West Bank, noted that his home, like all those in the settlements, is built on land lent from the Israel Lands Authority. “If any political arrangement requires us to leave, we are committed to returning the land,” he said.” [NYTimes]

HAPPENING TODAY — U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley will address the U.S. withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council in a speech at the Heritage Foundation at 4:00 PM EDT. [Livestream]

HEARD YESTERDAY ON THE HILL — Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) during a hearing on Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights at the House Subcommittee on National Security: “We can only imagine how much worse the threats to Israel’s north would be — and threats to the security of the broader region would be — if the Golan was in the hands of what remains of the Syrian regime, or Iran, or Hezbollah, or ISIS. By recognizing the Golan as part of Israel, the U.S. would send a clear that Syrian belligerence will not be rewarded, that Israel’s victory over its aggressor has consequences.”

Former Ambassador Dore Gold: “U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty would set an important example for others. Three U.S. administrations consistently confirmed that they envisaged that at the end of the day, Israel must remain on the Golan Heights. That core bipartisan principle of past U.S. policy cannot be realized in the long term without Israeli sovereignty over the Golan confirmed.” [Video]

— “When asked if Trump is open to recognizing the occupied territory as part of Israel proper, a White House spokesperson simply said, “There has been no change in our position on the Golan Heights.” [Al-Monitor]

ZOA’s Mort Klein, who also testified at the hearing, tells us… “What is important is America making it clear that it will never have to give up the Golan Heights for security reasons… And maybe when Syria and the Palestinian Authority will see that America is no longer supporting its absurd demands, and hopefully other countries following America’s lead, only then will the Arabs see it’s hopeless to be getting any more with pressure of the world on Israel and begin to think about real peace. So this is only a positive step towards peace.”

PROFILE: Turkey’s Jared Kushner — with even more power — by Laura Pitel: “From the moment he entered politics just three years ago, it was clear that Berat Albayrak would not be constrained by the limits of his official energy brief. As the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former business executive soon found himself setting out the Turkish government’s position on military operations, joining high-level overseas visits and accompanying his wife’s father on the campaign trail. Few expected, however, that Erdogan would be bold enough to put his 40-year-old protégé in sole charge of the economy at a time of mounting concerns about its health… Foreign investors… remain nervous about how the economy will fare in the hands of a member of the Erdogan family who is a largely unknown entity.”[Ozy

2018 WATCH — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez backtracks on her support of the two-state solution? During a panel hosted by Democracy Now! at NYU on Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez was asked if she is “still for a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine?” as expressed in a previous interview to PBS. “Well, you know I think this is a conversation that I am engaging in with activists right now because this is huge, especially over this weekend, and this is a conversation that I’m sitting down with lots of activists in this movement on and I’m looking forward to engaging this conversation,” she responded. 51:03 minute [Video]

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, former Senator Joe Lieberman implores voters in New York’s 14th Congressional District not to support the Democratic nominee and instead vote for the defeated incumbent Congressman, Joe Crowley, on a third-party line: “Ms. Ocasio-Cortez didn’t speak much about foreign policy during the primary, but when she did, it was from the DSA policy book—meaning support for socialist governments, even if they are dictatorial and corrupt (Venezuela), opposition to American leadership in the world, even to alleviate humanitarian disasters (Syria), and reflexive criticism of one of America’s great democratic allies (Israel)… Mr. Crowley faces a difficult choice. I know because I faced the same one in 2006 after losing a Democratic primary. I ran as an independent because I wanted all the voters to decide whether I deserved to continue to serve them in the Senate.” [WSJ]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has A Big Israel Problem – On The Left And The Right — by Batya Ungar-Sargon: “Israel has long been the third rail of American politics. The right will oppose anyone who dares speak up against the occupation, even if they do so from a place where they acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. And the far left will oppose anyone who dares acknowledge Israel has a right to exist, even if they are committed to solving Israel’s civil rights abuses against the Palestinians. Usually in opposition to one another, the bigotries of both the far left and the right have converged on the young socialist candidate.” [Forward]

— Ocasio-Cortez will appear for the first time with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the campaign trail, stumping for Democratic House candidates in Wichita and Kansas City on Saturday.

MUELLER WATCH — Trump Decided Russia Indictments Should Come Pre-Summit, Sources Say — by Chris Strohm and Jennifer Jacobs: “President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead to announce new Russian election-hacking indictments before his meeting with Vladimir Putin rather than after — in the hopes it would strengthen his hand in the talks, according to accounts from people familiar with the decision. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went to Trump last week and offered him the choice: before or after the Putin summit on Monday in Helsinki? Trump chose before.” [Bloomberg

** Good Wednesday 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: Steve Ballmer discusses Microsoft and philanthropy on “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations”[Bloomberg] • UFC Martial Arts, run by Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor gets Russian backing to expand in the country [Bloomberg] • Ron Burkle sues for cut of Weinstein Company sale [NYPost]

MEDIA WATCH: Univision and Televisa’s chief of content, Isaac Lee, steps down — by David Ng: “Isaac Lee, the chief content officer of Univision Communications who led the company’s combined programming unit with Mexico’s Televisa and who oversaw such diverse content as Gizmodo and the satirical news site the Onion, is stepping down from his post after more than seven years with the Spanish-language broadcaster… The company said Lee will start his own production company developing the same type of diverse, independent content designed for a global audience.” [LATimesVariety]

How Benny Blanco Became the Most Popular Oddball in Pop Music — By Joe Coscarelli: “Born Benjamin Levin to nonmusical but ever supportive (if skeptical) parents — a father in the “intimate apparel business” and a mother who worked in assisted living — Mr. Blanco was an aspiring rapper until he realized “no one cares what a chubby Jewish kid from Virginia thinks,” and began making beats instead. He recalled spamming artists on Myspace from his school library, and weekend trips to New York, where he slept in a Times Square McDonald’s and tried to land meetings.” [NYTimes]

‘Fiddler on The Roof’ Review: A Richer, Deeper Interpretation — by Edward Rothstein: “Fidler afn Dakh.” Sounds crazy, no? But at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, that is what is presented: “Fiddler on the Roof,” a classic American musical, entirely performed in a language now rarely heard (Yiddish), neither spoken by its director (the Broadway veteran Joel Grey) nor by most of the cast (which includes some players from the most recent Broadway production). Yet the result is thrilling: It is almost as if “Fiddler on the Roof” (1964) were being restored to some primal form. And though Russian and English translations are projected on sides of the stage, they are often unnecessary. When Tevye—the dairyman who regularly argues with God and quotes Scripture—dreams of being a wealthy man and sings “Ven ikh bin a Rotshild,” can anyone doubt the meaning?” [WSJNYT]

TALK OF OUR NATION — Judge: Jewish heritage can be basis for race discrimination— by Michael Kunzelman: “The nation’s highest court hasn’t defined what “race” means under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, U.S. Magistrate Mark Hornsby said in a court filing Friday. But he concluded that Jewish citizens have been treated as a racial or ethnic group entitled to the law’s protection against employment discrimination… The magistrate issued his findings in a civil case football coach Joshua Bonadona filed against Louisiana College in February. Bonadona claims the college’s president, Rick Brewer, refused to approve his hiring because of what he allegedly called the applicant’s “Jewish blood.”” [AP]

ACROSS THE POND — Labour MP labels Corbyn an ‘antisemite’ over party’s refusal to drop code — by Heather Stewart and Jessica Elgot: “Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of being an antisemite by a senior Labour MP during an angry public confrontation in parliament on Tuesday, after the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) refused to ditch a controversial new code of conduct on antisemitism… Margaret Hodge, the former chair of the public accounts committee, approached Corbyn behind the Speaker’s chair [and] called him “an anti-Semitic racist.” … When Corbyn protested, she replied: “It is not what you say but what you do, and by your actions you have shown you are an anti-Semitic racist.”” [TheGuardian]

HEARD THIS MORNING — British Prime Minister Theresa May at the Prime Minister’s Questions: “The Labour Party is trying to redefine anti-Semitism to allow people to say that ‘Israel is a racist endeavor.’ The Chief Rabbi says that what the Labour Party is doing is sending an ‘unprecedented message of contempt’ for British Jews. Even some of [Jeremy Corbyn’s] own MPs are saying it is anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is racism. The Labour Party should accept that. The Right Honorable Gentleman (Corbyn] should accept that, and we should all sign up, as the Conservative Party has done, to the definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and all its annexes.” [Video]

TRANSITION: Jessica Chait, formerly Chief of Staff to UJA-Federation of New York’s CEO Eric Goldstein has been appointed as the Met Council’s Food Czar, a newly-announced position created by CEO David Greenfield.

DESSERT — Anti-Gentrification Group Protests New Kosher Cafe in Boyle Heights — by Mona Holmes: “An anti-gentrification group called Defend Boyle Heights led a protest at the kosher Asher Caffe & Lounge last Thursday, which coincided with the East LA cafe’s grand opening date. According to Boyle Heights Beat, the group demanded a neighborhood boycott and claims owner Asher Shalom is a Trump supporter with anti-immigrant views.” [EaterLA]

BIRTHDAYS: Cognitive therapy psychiatrist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, Aaron Temkin Beck turns 97… Hidden with his mother in a school attic in Poland during WW2, theoretical chemist who won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, he has also published plays and poetry, Roald Hoffmann (born Roald Safran) turns 81… Leader of the Alberta party since 2018, he was previously the mayor of Edmonton, Alberta (2004-2013) and Minister of Health in the Alberta provincial government (2014-2015), Stephen Mandel turns 73… Politician, legislator and former Prime Minister of Peru (2008-2009), Yehude Simon Munaro turns 71… Executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (1985-2009) including during the 1994-95 MLB strike, now executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association, Donald Fehr turns 70… Finance and nursing home executive, attorney, founder of two banks and chairman of the Israel Discount Bank of New York (2006-2007), Leonard Grunstein turns 66…

Former Israeli Police spokesman, he is now a senior national radio broadcaster in Israel, Elihu Ben-Onn turns 64…… Elliott Broidy turns 61… Yitz Woolf turns 43… Assistant Professor in the Cyber Science Department at the US Naval Academy and formerly an attorney at Covington & Burling, Jeffrey Michael Kosseff turns 40… Kiev-born, Australian writer, advocate, commentator and lawyer, he is the director of public affairs at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Alexander Ryvchin turns 35… Visual designer at Lockwood Strategy Lab, she was previously a digital media associate at NYC-based The Workmen’s Circle, Lauren Friedlander turns 29… VP of development and strategy at 70 Faces Media (parent company of JTA), Shuli Karkowsky… Chairperson of the Jerusalem-based World Union of Jewish Students, Yosef Tarshish… Izi Doenyas… Rhoda Rosen… Jan Allen… Regina Brenner… Ted Rosenberg


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