Daily Kickoff: Senior Israeli diplomat says the midterm elections ‘are critical for Israel’


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BREAKING THIS AM: The U.S. Secret Service announced Wednesday that it has intercepted two explosive devices sent to the homes of Hillary and Bill Clinton and Barack and Michelle Obama. The revelation comes two days after a similar explosive device was found in the mailbox of liberal philanthropist George Soros. CNN’s New York headquarters were also evacuated Wednesday after receiving a suspicious package. The Secret Service has not revealed whether the incidents are related or whether they came from the same source. [AxiosCNN]

There’s Been a George Soros for Every Era of Anti-Semitic Panic — by Spencer Ackerman: “For the far right, from Russia to central Europe and increasingly, America, Soros is the latest Jewish manipulator whose extreme wealth finances puppet groups and publications to drain the prosperity of the Herrenvolk… We may one day look back on this era as the Soros Age of anti-Semitism.” [DailyBeast]

TALK OF THE REGION — Saudi Arabia’s ‘Davos in the Desert’ conference opens under cloud — by Simeon Kerr and Anjli Raval: “The Riyadh investment forum dubbed “Davos in the desert” began under a cloud on Tuesday as Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the kingdom was living through “difficult days” following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi… Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman… was greeted with applause when he briefly entered the conference center in the afternoon. But unlike at last year’s event, when he was the unrivaled star of the gathering, Prince Mohammed did not speak and left after about 20 minutes.” [FinancialTimesCNN

— Spotted at the forum: “I’m not doing any media,” said Ken Moelis, the founder and chief executive of Moelis & Company, an investment bank. “It’ll have to be ‘no comment.'” [NYTimes]

Having escaped scrutiny in wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, it’s business as usual for the UAE — by Ryan Grim: “Life goes on as normal for United Arab Emirates Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, the diplomat who lobbied Washington heavily to support the crown prince’s internal efforts to disrupt the line of ascension and put himself next in line for the throne… Otaiba, according to an invitation obtained by The Intercept, [hosted] a dinner party Tuesday night for former Obama administration Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker at his Virginia mansion. The invite identifies Pritzker by her current role as chair of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.” [TheIntercept]

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — With MBS and the Khashoggi Murder, Trump Is in a Trap Kushner Helped Build — by Gabriel Sherman: “According to five Republicans briefed on internal White House discussions, Trump is torn between his instincts to fight and punish and the advice he’s receiving from advisers to stick by Saudi Arabia’s 33-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.”

“From the beginning of Trump’s presidency… it was Kushner’s belief—one shared by his father-in-law—that the conflict between Arabs and Israelis was essentially a real-estate problem, a deal to be worked out. “This was Jared’s vision,” one former West Wing official told me. Key to this dealmaking would be the creation of a new strategic alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates to counter Iran… Such was Kushner’s confidence that there was West Wing talk about a Nobel Peace Prize for Trump’s work in the region, a former White House official said.” [VanityFair]

Emily Jane Fox reports: “Kushner has communicated with M.B.S. several times over the last week… At the end of [the Citizen by CNN interview], those around Kushner felt like it was a success. He had managed to tout some of his accomplishments while towing the administration’s line on Khashoggi. Afterward, Kushner left the Time Warner Center and headed to more comfortable ground outside the glare of news camera. He sat down with News Corp executive chairman and longtime friend Rupert Murdoch… before taking a flight back to Washington.” [VanityFair]

U.S. Takes Diplomatic Action Against Saudis Believed Tied to Journalist’s Killing — by Peter Nicholas, Courtney McBride and Margherita Stancati: “In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump gave a harsh assessment of Saudi Arabia in light of Mr. Khashoggi’s death, saying he said he was convinced King Salman didn’t know about the killing in advance. Asked about Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s possible involvement, Mr. Trump said: “Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him.” [WSJ]

HEARD YESTERDAY — President Trump during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office: The Saudis “have been a very good ally of ours. They’ve been helping us a lot with respect to Israel. They’ve been funding a lot of things.”

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Israel expects Macron peace plan if Trump doesn’t release his soon — by Barak Ravid: “Israeli government officials believe French president Emmanuel Macron will propose his own Middle East peace initiative if President Trump doesn’t release his plan in the first few weeks after the November midterm election. Israeli foreign ministry political director Alon Ushpiz made that prediction during a closed-door, classified hearing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee… Israeli officials and French diplomats told me that in late August, Macron instructed the foreign ministry in Paris to start thinking about ideas for a new diplomatic initiative on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.” [AxiosTV10

“According to Tuesday evening’s TV reports, Ushpiz also told MKs on Monday that Israel expects the Democrats to make gains in next month’s midterm elections, and that this would have mplications for Israel. He reportedly called the midterms “critical” for Israel, and said Israel anticipates the Democrats will make gains in Congress and “things won’t be the same.” [ToI

REPORT — Abbas threatens to end security coordination with Israel: “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman that if Israel cuts money from the funds the PA pays to terrorists, the Palestinians will end security coordination with Israel… Argaman met Abbas last week in Ramallah… Argaman attempted to walk Abbas back from his positions against Israel.” [JPost]

Palestinian Leaders Are Accused of Using Torture and Arbitrary Arrests to Crush Dissent — by Isabel Kershner: “Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy organization, accused both the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and its rival, Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, of routinely using arbitrary arrest and torture as tools to crush dissent. The systematic practice of torture by the two authorities might amount to a crime against humanity and could be prosecutable at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the report said.” [NYTimes

HEARD THIS MORNING — 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a conversation with Richard Sandler at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Tel Aviv: “What I am concerned with when it comes to the Jewish people is one thing, and that is the loss of identity… Jewish survival is guaranteed in the Jewish state if we defend our state. But we have to also work at the continuity of Jewish communities in the world by developing Jewish education, the study of Hebrew, having young Jews come to Israel.” [Video]

Netanyahu on the two-state solution: “I said to [former Vice President] Joe Biden and I say this everywhere and I say it publically… Israel and Israel alone will have the security responsibility in the area west of the Jordan Valley. And Joe [Biden] said, ‘But that’s not perfect. That’s not a fully independent state.’ And I said, ‘Okay, it is what it is. You can give it any name you want: state minus; autonomy plus; autonomy plus, plus.’ Sounds like a rating agency or something. But that’s the truth. And this truth is shared much more widely across the political spectrum in Israel than people understand because we’re not going to imperil the life of the state for a label or for a good op-ed for six hours not even in the New York Times.”

Netanyahu on seeing ‘Hamilton’ in New York: “How did I get tickets? Because my cousin’s wife works in the production — that’s how.” [Twitter]

HOW IT PLAYED — “Blaming ‘ultra-Orthodox street,’ Netanyahu defends freezing Western Wall deal” [ToI]

 “U.S. Ambassador David Friedman addressed the GA ahead of the premier’s speech. Saying that while the theme of the assembly was “let’s talk,” Friedman added that it was now his time to talk. Of the rift between U.S. Jewry and Israel, Friedman said, “We in the Diaspora need to give Israel a break.” He also dubbed himself an “unapologetic right-wing defender of Israel. I’m a security hawk.” “Israel is no longer the little brother, Israel is the big brother now. It has the biggest Jewish community,” Friedman said.” [Haaretz]

Alan Abbey, Media Director of the Shalom Hartman Institute, shares his thoughts on attending this year’s GA: “I have been to the last six GA’s, beginning with the previous Israel visit to Jerusalem in 2013. After years of declining enthusiasm, if not numbers, and two years of shock and awe (shock in DC in 2016 in the wake of the Presidential election results, awe in LA in 2017 at how badly things seemed to be going in America), this year’s GA was perkier and zippier than in the past. The North Americans seemed delighted to be in Tel Aviv. Why not? The food was the best it has been in years; an evening with Israeli group-singing phenomenon Koolulam was a blast, and most US political issues were off the table.”

“GA attendees were primed and willing to crack open the difficult nut of Israel-Diaspora Jewry relations. One speaker I heard said that more than sibling rivalry or parent-child disputes, the sessions were most like couples therapy. Much of the talk from the podium – between feel-good videos and music – was at the meta level: lots of talk about talking. But in the hallways and in smaller sessions, real talking, real relationship building, and real emotions occurred. All in all, then, not a bad way to spend a few days.”

Shmuel Rosner writes… “Can a “Talk” Save American Jews? The American leadership… came here feeling that the crisis is because of Israel and its bad behavior. It came here to be reinforced by Israelis who think the same. Most of these Israelis simply dislike the Israeli government and therefore are willing to accept any claim of guilt against it on any matter. The truth of the matter is that this crisis is nothing more than a smokescreen… American Jews struggle with profound challenges. On the way to disengagement, some of them also beat up on Israel. It’s a convenient way to clean the conscience – our challenges are not because of us, they are because of you. Because of Israel. I am sorry to report that Israelis are generally indifferent to these claims, because they don’t face similar challenges. Their identity is stable. Their Judaism is anchored in everyday life.” [JewishJournal

HAPPENING TODAY — Prime Minister Netanyahu — in cooperation with the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation — is hosting the first-ever Prime Minister’s Israeli Innovation Summit at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem. Prominent speakers include Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, Jack Ma, Eric Schmidt, and a number of executives from Google, Facebook and eBay.

On Thursday, Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and the foreign dignitaries will attend the dedication ceremony of the new Peres Center’s Israeli Innovation Center in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

JI INTERVIEW — Chemi Peres, head of the Peres Center of Peace and Innovation, discussed the Center’s work, the legacy of his late father Shimon Peres, and the future of peace in the Middle East in an interview with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh. “The Center is a non-political center. We’re not advocating a two-state solution, or anything else,” Peres said during an interview at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel while on a visit to the U.S. last month. “We want people to come together, to get to know each other, and understand that we can share a better future for all of us. That is the first thing that we do, and continue to do, the work that my father started.”

“In the last three years, we decided to introduce the concept of innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership, in order to attract more people to initiate new projects around science, technology and innovation,” he continued. “We believe it could be a platform to further strengthen the relationship between us and our neighbors, and of course, among ourselves. What we are going to show in the visitor’s center is the story of Israel, the life of my father, the story of the Zionist movement, the story of the Jewish people and the story of peace in the world. How, with science and technology and innovation, one can share a better world.”

Peres on the 25th Anniversary of the Oslo Accords: “There were two great achievements in the Oslo Accords. The number one achievement is that the idea that the Palestinians and the Israelis recognize the existence of each other. The second thing is that they gave up on a significant part of the dream of their nation — 22 percent — to have the 67 borders as a beginning of the discussion. Even if you do not recognize their right to become a nation or a people, they are there. They’re a fact on the ground, and this is something that no one can deny. And some people believe that the right solution is to reach some kind of agreement with the Palestinians, so we can continue to be a Jewish and democratic state.”

“I know that my father and Yitzchak Rabin, and the other people that were active in this, were doing it out of their loyalty to their people. This is why I believe that if there are criminals in this process, it’s those who have murdered a Jewish Prime Minister, who was a great Zionist, a great warrior for the state of Israel, and a great believer in the need to bring Israel to a safe harbor. The rest will be judged by history.”

MIDTERMS — Arizona’s Democratic Candidate in Senate Race Takes Heat for Radical Past, but Is Bulletproof on Israel — by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “The neck-and-neck race in Arizona between Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally is among the most closely watched Senate midterm contests… The GOP’s McSally has been working hard to remind voters of Sinema’s past… [but has] generally refrained from criticizing her positions on Israel. That is because “her record has been pretty bulletproof on Israel,” said Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ron Klein… The Republican Jewish Council’s Matt Brooks, however, begs to differ. “Sinema has a long history of holding anti-Israel views,” he charged. “She has been involved in organizations … that have been highly critical of Israel and opposed military aid.”

“Since entering Congress six years ago, Sinema’s voting record has been viewed as one of the most conservative among House Democrats… For Israel watchers, the most significant of those choices were her decision to be among the minority of Democratic senators to oppose the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal in 2015; her co-sponsorship of  the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act in 2014.” [Haaretz]

New York Senate — Agudath Israel of America and the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition will host Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for a “full and complete dialogue on issues of importance, both foreign and domestic” on Sunday in Brooklyn, according to an email invitation shared with Jewish Insider.

Republican super PAC delves into Virginia House race once seen as GOP lock — by Mike DeBonis: “The Congressional Leadership Fund will air ads targeting voters in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, which is held by retiring Republican Thomas Garrett. The race pits distillery owner Denver Riggleman against journalist Leslie Cockburn… Both candidates have support from outside groups as well: Cockburn has the backing of Women Vote, a super PAC affiliated with Emily’s List, while the Republican Jewish Coalition Victory Fund has aired ads attacking her.” [WashPost

INBOX — The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) has launched an effort to mobilize Jewish voters in the midterm elections. The digital adfeatures Trump’s Charlottesville comments and blames Trump for the spike in anti-Semitic attacks across the nation. The JDCA is also running newspaper ads for Senators Bill Nelson and Bob Menendez in the local Florida and New Jersey papers, and online ads in Nevada.

FL Gov — Ron DeSantis Tells Jewish Voters Andrew Gillum Would Hurt Israel As Florida Governor: “Ron DeSantis took his campaign for Florida governor to a Miami-area bagel shop on Tuesday to warn Jewish voters that his opponent, Andrew Gillum, would not be a friend to Israel if elected. DeSantis, the GOP nominee, said Democrat Gillium has supported the “boycott, divest and sanction” movement to punish Israel, supported the Iran nuclear deal and opposed President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “Where does he want the embassy? Ramallah?” DeSantis asked facetiously… “Give me a break,” he added.” [HuffPost] • DeSantis called the Democrat’s positions “warmed over anti-Semitism.” [WLRN]

DeSantis Jewish Outreach Head Attended Anti-Pelosi Protest With Proud Boys — by Ben Fractenberg: “Miami-Dade Jewish outreach chair Corey Breier, who also donated $2,000 to the [DeSantis] campaign, is pictured in multiple Facebook posts and an AP shot holding a DeSantis placard at the Oct. 17 demonstration [with the white nationalist group the Proud Boys] outside a Coral Gables event for Donna Shalala’s House campaign.”[Forward]

White supremacist group targets Florida’s Andrew Gillum in new racist robocall — by Felicia Sonmez and Tim Craig: “Two county Democratic Party chairs told The Washington Post that they received the new robocall Tuesday morning. It features a man impersonating Gillum in a minstrel dialect, while jungle sounds and chimpanzee noises can be heard in the background… The ad then takes an anti-Semitic turn, with the speaker claiming that “it was the Jews who owned the slave trade” and that Jews will be “puttin’ Negros in charge over the white folks.” “All the Jews gon’ vote me, Andrew Gillum, governor of this here state of Florida,” the ad concludes.”

“In an appearance Tuesday evening on MSNBC, Gillum seized on DeSantis’s previous warning to voters not to “monkey this up” by electing him… “It’s not hard to understand why neo-Nazis would take an extension of that and then take it to the next level of extremity,” he said.” [WashPost

2020 WATCH — Top Obama Allies Are Ready To Support A Deval Patrick Presidential Campaign — by Darren Sands: “The brain trust that created the roadmap for Obama’s election has long seen Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts and longtime friend of the former president, as a transcendent political talent. Several former senior Obama administration and campaign officials would be ready to support a Patrick presidential campaign on Day 1… David Axelrod, architect of Patrick’s 2006 governor’s race and Obama’s 2008 campaign, is intrigued by a potential Patrick 2020 campaign, said two former Obama administration sources. So is David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation and former aide to both Obama and Patrick.” [BuzzFeed

** 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: Yael Cohen Braun, The Founder Of FCancer And Motherlucker, Joins Bumble As A Senior Advisor [Forbes] • Swiss Court Lifts Lid on Abramovich’s Aborted Residency Bid [Bloomberg] • Penn Produced the Most Billionaires on Forbes 400 Richest List [Forbes] • Arconic Is Weighing $11 Billion Offer From Apollo Global Management [Bloomberg] • Why Walmart Is Investing In A Startup Founded By Former Leaders Of Israel’s Top Intelligence Unit [Forbes]

STARTUP NATION — Israeli-American start-up hoping to revolutionize recruitment raises $3.5m — by Eytan Halon: “Founded in 2016 by Roi Chobadi and Andy Katz, Stellares’s artificial intelligence-based algorithm provides a platform to accurately identify matches between the personal and professional goals of employees and possible employers. Currently focused on the engineering market in the United States, worth $2 billion in recruitment fees, Stellares intends to expand its platform to the entire US technology sector in the next two to three years – worth approximately $10b.”[JPost]

TOP TALKER — The Real Scandal in Al Jazeera’s Israel Lobby Investigation — by Anshel Pfeffer: “Haaretz recently obtained the entire four episodes of “The Lobby” and, having finally watched them, I can honestly say there was no reason to suppress it…Al Jazeera’s “investigators” don’t think to ask the obvious question. Why is the State of Israel, with its fabled intelligence services, begging a bunch of amateurs for intel? And why, if the threat of BDS is so terrible, does the Israeli Embassy in Washington rely on one young American woman, barely out of college, to collect information on it? The real answer is that the Strategic Affairs Ministry exists only to placate jobless Israeli ministers and it deals with BDS because no serious government department, like the Foreign Ministry, or the Mossad, believes it’s worth wasting resources on a nonexistent problem.” [Haaretz]

Christ at the Checkpoint USA touts peace for Palestinian Christians. Critics call it anti-Semitic — by Tamie Ross: “A gathering to promote peace for Palestinian Christians? Or a forum for bigots and anti-Semites? Those sharply contrasting narratives emerged as a four-day conference called Christ at the Checkpoint USA drew roughly 150 evangelical Christians to this Oklahoma City suburb last week…” [RNS

European parties urged to agree Israel boycott tactics are antisemitic — by Arthur Neslen: “A conference in Brussels backed by the Israeli government is to push for all European political parties to sign up to “red lines” that declare boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) tactics to be “fundamentally antisemitic.” The two-day convention, attended by Israel’s minister of Jerusalem affairs, Ze’ev Elkin, will propose a text for prospective MEPs and political parties to sign up to before European elections in May next year.” [TheGuardian]

BIRTHDAYS: Writer and adjunct instructor at Queensborough Community College, Ira Greenfest turns 75… Stock market analyst who has published books and appears regularly on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, Charles Bidermanturns 72… Retired chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Judy Kopff turns 72… Financial planner and president of Laredo, Texas-based International Asset Management, Inc., Joseph Rothstein turns 66… Democratic member of the US House of Representatives from Southern California since 1997, Brad Sherman turns 64… Executive editor of The Washington Post since 2013, Martin “Marty” Baron turns 64… Chattanooga-based billionaire and CEO of Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring company, Jeffrey S. Lorberbaum turns 64… Program director at the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, Alan Divack turns 62…

Co-founder and CEO (1990-2001) of Sirius Satellite Radio (now Sirius XM Radio), he made aliyah in 2002, David Margolese turns 61… Producer of CBS’ 60 Minutes since 2007 after 25 years at CNN, Henry Schuster turns 61… Born in Kiev, billionaire oligarch, he is a supporter of Jewish initiatives in Russia and elsewhere in Europe, an active member of the Russian Jewish Congress and a co-founder of the Genesis Prize, German Khan turns 57… Born in Petah Tikva, earned a Ph.D. from Oxford in 1991, he is a professor of politics at the University of Hull in the UK, Raphael Cohen-Almagor turns 57… Deputy Washington editor of The New York Times and author of “(((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump,” Jonathan Weisman turns 53… Russian born billionaire, philanthropist and owner of the Premier League’s Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich turns 52…

Political communications consultant, she was formerly communications director and deputy chief of staff for Senator Patty Murray, Tovah Ravitz Meehan turns 49… Rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor, born to a Jewish mother in Toronto, he celebrated his bar-mitzvah, Aubrey Drake Graham now known as Drake turns 32… Executive director at Flatbush Community Fund, he was previously assistant executive director at the Jewish Community Council of Marine Park, Yitzy Weinberg turns 32… The Orthodox Union’s associate director of synagogue services and regional director for synagogues (Long Island and Queens), Yehuda Joel Friedman… Founding partner of PR firm Be Clear, he is a former White House spokesman and communications director at the US Department of Education, Matt Lehrich


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