Daily Kickoff: Cory Booker tells us he’ll support anti-BDS bill | GOP hawks accuse Trump of going soft on Iran | Ehud Barak’s cannabis


Tell your friends to sign up for the Daily Kickoff here or for early access via Debut Inbox

JI EXCLUSIVE — Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) tells Jewish Insiderthat he now supports The Israel Anti-Boycott Act: “We’ve seen the alarming rise in anti-Semitism in the United States and across the world in recent years manifest itself in many deeply concerning ways, including in the actions of foreign governments targeting Israel and the Israeli people.”

“I have long and staunchly opposed the BDS movement, and support this bill which will prevent international entities from imposing their will on US businesses with regards to their decisions, consistent with US law, to conduct commerce with our close ally Israel and its citizens. Initial concerns that this bill unintentionally infringed on individuals’ First Amendment rights have now been addressed by changes agreed upon earlier this year, and I feel confident that those modifications safeguard Americans’ constitutional right to free speech. I’ll be adding myself as a cosponsor, and will be urging my colleagues to support this important legislation in its modified form.”

BACKGROUND: The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, first proposed in the Senate in March of 2017, was originally a response to a UN Human Rights Council resolution urging boycotts of companies doing business in Israeli settlements. Its goal is two-fold: to protect American companies and institutions from being forced to participate in international anti-Israel boycotts, and to prohibit U.S. businesses from engaging in boycotts. If passed, the bill would echo on the federal level anti-BDS legislation already passed by a number of individual states.

The first draft of the Act was met with opposition from some over concerns that the bill infringed on First Amendment rights. The ACLU condemned it as unconstitutional, arguing that the bill would punish individuals for their political beliefs by making them subject to serious financial penalties or jail time.

WHAT’S CHANGED: Co-sponsors Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) worked with legal experts and lawmakers to amend the bill, introducing an updated version this past March. The revised Act acknowledges the rights of individuals to engage in personal boycotts, makes clear that Americans cannot be imprisoned for boycotting Israel, and states that speech critical of Israel cannot be used as evidence proving a legal violation. The ACLU, however, still opposes the updated text.

WHY IT MATTERS: At present, while 44 Senate Republicans support the measure, a mere 14 Democrats have backed the bill. Among those Democratic Senators rumored to be considering a 2020 presidential run — including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris — Booker is so far the only one to support the updated Act. [JewishInsider]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Rudy Giuliani, after visiting the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Queens, tells Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh: “To try to blame an act of anti-Semitism on [Trump] is insane. The man has been the best friend of Israel we’ve ever had in the White House. The man who did the shootings has on his website that he hates Donald Trump because Donald Trump has too many Jewish friends. You can’t win with these people who want to create political problems out of everything and the President has every right to defend himself and to point out this hatred. If you’re not honest about it you’ll never end it.”

“Hatred is not coming from the President. Hatred is coming from the people that are trying to victimize him. I mean, we had attacks in the United States under other presidents and we didn’t blame them. We had a shooting of an American Congressman and an attempt to kill numerous Republican Congressmen with a man who had a similar fanatical attraction to Bernie Sanders. Nobody asked Bernie Sanders, ‘Were you responsible?’ I certainly didn’t.”

Giuliani on Trump’s use of terms like ‘nationalist’ and ‘America First’: “I mean, anything can be interpreted horribly or wonderfully. People say they’re Muslims and they’re mostly very good people and there are some Muslims who are insane terrorists. So nationalism is a wonderful thing as long as it doesn’t become xenophobia, as long as it doesn’t become violent. To love your country … I love America. I consider myself, in that sense, a very patriotic American. I’d like everybody to share in it in the right way. Not come crashing in here and try to take things away from other people.” [Pic]

Giuliani during an event hosted by the National Council of Young Israel at the home of Dr. Joe Frager in Queens: “There is nothing about Donald Trump that suggests he’s anti-Semitic. He has Jewish friends. I mean, he’s best friends with Richard LeFrak… He’s as strong of a supporter of Israel you can get in the White House.”

“From the time he ran for president, Trump has been very well educated on the Jewish community. Notice that the people who opposed his coming to Pittsburgh also opposed Netanyahu’s representative coming. I bet every single one of those people that opposes him opposes Netanyahu. In fact, they may actually oppose Netanyahu more. So I have explained to him the Jewish community. He knows this, and he’s very comfortable with it. He knows that there’s deep divisions inside the Jewish community, including about how Israel conducts itself.” [Pic]

DRIVING THE CONVO — Trump Finds Support After the Pittsburgh Massacre, From the Israeli Government — by Mark Landler: “Israel’s right-wing government has become Mr. Trump’s prime validator in the anguished days since the massacre in Pittsburgh — reflecting its loyalty to a president who has backed its interests but also deepening a rift with American Jews, many of whom hold Mr. Trump at least partly responsible for the rise in anti-Jewish vitriol over the last two years.”

“[Ambassador Ron] Dermer, a one-time aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, played such a visible role in Pittsburgh largely because state and local officials shunned Mr. Trump. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser who is close to Mr. Dermer, had invited him to attend… The optics were awkward for the White House, but Mr. Trump was clearly grateful for Mr. Dermer’s support. He flew back to Washington on Air Force One.” [NYTimes]

Former advisor to seven consecutive Israeli Prime Ministers, Shalom Lipner emails us… “When Israeli officials enlisted to defend Trump against charges of culpability for last weekend’s tragedy in Pittsburgh, they affirmed what’s already become common knowledge: Donald Trump is the Israeli government’s etrog. (Israelis have co-opted this Sukkot icon to describe politicians who are “wrapped in cotton” and whose misdeeds are overlooked in the name of some redeeming quality.) In their eyes, Trump’s approach to issues such as Iran and the Palestinians has made him an indispensable asset.”

“That explains why Naftali Bennett and Ron Dermer would be willing to hail Trump as a great friend of Israel and the Jewish People just days before the US midterm elections — even at the cost of accusations that they are interfering in US politics. But this is high stakes poker. When Israeli leaders advocate on behalf of Trump, they risk antagonizing his opponents and accelerating the process of turning Israel into a political wedge. They also alienate many of the same American Jews who they wish to console, and who mostly detest Trump.”

Chemi Shalev writes… “The rationale for Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield (of POTUS) is clear. It’s a matter of simple realpolitik. Between a controversial U.S. President, who is the Israeli right’s dream come true, and liberal American Jews who have joined the ranks of “sourpusses,” as Netanyahu describes his leftist critics, the choice is clear. Netanyahu and his cohorts know which side of their bread is buttered, and they intend to keep it that way for as long as they can.” [Haaretz]

MIDTERMS — Steve King erupts at comparison to Pittsburgh suspect: ‘Do not associate me with that shooter’ —  by Caroline Kelly: “Rep. Steve King erupted in anger Thursday when a man compared the Iowa Republican’s anti-immigrant views to the views espoused by Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect… “No, you’re done, you crossed the line,” King said. “It’s not tolerable to accuse me to be associated with a guy that shot 11 people in Pittsburgh.” King then referenced his support of Israel. “I am a person who has stood with Israel from the beginning, and the length of that nation is the length of my life,” the Iowa Republican said, pointing his finger at the man. “And I’ve been with them all along, and I will not answer your question and I’ll not listen to another word from you.” [CNN]

Jewish congressional candidates put a focus on anti-Semitism in the final days before the midterms — by Eugene Scott: “The Jewish vote could be crucial in some races in the midterm elections. According to the Jewish Electorate Institute, nearly 3 in 4 Jewish Americans plan to vote for Democrats next week. The impact this will ultimately have on the midterms, and perhaps more importantly, the new Congress’s approach to anti-Semitism and the hate crimes that accompany it, could be important.”

“Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) told The Fix that we could see some Americans frustrated with Trump’s response vote for Democrats this fall as a protest against Trump.” [WashPost]

HEADLINE — Can Jewish Grandparents in Florida, Nevada and Arizona Help Flip the Senate? [Haaretz]

memo from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: “Just one Democrat is considered at risk: Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), whose race is rated “Likely Democratic.”

Georgia Governor’s Race Close Call in Home Stretch — by Dave Schechter: “Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, believes that his Democratic opponent is vulnerable on issues of interest to the Jewish community. Speaking to the local chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition, he said of Stacey Abrams, “It’s important, particularly for people in the Jewish community that traditionally are Democratic voters, to know that this is not your traditional Democratic candidate for governor. This is someone that’s hanging out with Linda Sarsour and is being funded by people like George Soros.” …. [Stacey’s] Jewish backers note that she is an alum of the American Jewish Committee’s Project Understanding program and has visited Israel.” [ATLJewishTimes]

DONOR CIRCUIT — How one mega-donor can affect the midterms — by Zach Williams: “This story begins on Sept. 27, 2018, when Ron Lauder donated $1.5 million to an organization called National Horizon… That gift made all the difference for the conservative super PAC, which raised just over $2.14 million for the 2018 election cycle… By Oct. 17, all but $261,838 has been spent to oppose Democratic candidates in U.S. Senate and House races… Nearly all its money this year has gone to professional communications firms like Harris Media… Harris Media has produced hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work in opposition to congressional candidates… The effect of National Horizon on the midterms is to allow super donors like Lauder to spread their money around with minimal effort and maximum effect.”

“Lauder has been a big player in Republican politics for decades, supporting candidates from Donald Trump to George H.W. Bush. Sometimes, the money has gone to Democratic candidates like U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, but records show that National Horizon has been Lauder’s biggest political expenditure, with more than $3 million going to the super PAC from Lauder since 2012. Lauder has also given thousands of dollars directly to Republican candidates this year.” [CityandStateNY]

Bloomberg Super PAC plows $29.5 million to support Democrats in House races — by Bill Theobald: “Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political action committee has made a last minute injection of $29.5 million in campaign advertising trying to help Democrats in key House races.” [USAToday]

Inside a secretive billionaire club’s plan to help Democrats take Congress — by Maggie Severns: “The donor clique, which counts George Soros and Tom Steyer among its members, is quietly giving funds to a handful of local grassroots groups like [Kevin] Rodriguez’s employer, Living United for Change in Arizona…” [Politico]

David Brooks writes… “The Retrenchment Election: The results Tuesday will not be shaped by some crest of momentum behind the Democrats. They are going to be shaped by the fact that people are hardening into their categories, and those categories tend to produce a Democratic House and a Republican Senate… Politics is no longer mainly about disagreeing on issues. It’s about being in entirely separate conversations.” [NYTimes]

DRIVING THE DAY — U.S. to Give Eight Nations Oil Waivers Under Iran Sanctions — by Nick Wadhams: “The U.S. has agreed to let eight countries — including Japan, India and South Korea — keep buying Iranian oil after it reimposes sanctions on the OPEC producer on Nov. 5, a senior administration official said… The waivers are only temporary… The identity of the countries getting waivers is expected to be released officially on Monday, when U.S. restrictions against oil dealings with Iran go back into effect.”[Bloomberg]

GOP hawks to Trump: You’re going soft on Iran — by Eliana Johnson: “Led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Tex), [GOP] lawmakers — who typically cheer Trump’s foreign policy moves — expect that Trump will disappoint them when he rolls out new Iran sanctions Friday. The State Department has scheduled a Friday morning call on the subject. Refusing to be associated with a policy he opposes, [John] Bolton dropped off the call, during which Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will brief reporters.”

“The legislation, which Cruz is expected to introduce in the weeks following the midterm election, and which is likely to be cosponsored by two other leading GOP foreign policy hawks — Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) —will press Trump to cut off several Iranian banks from the global banking network known as SWIFT… “I think the objective of the legislation is partly to attract his attention when his strongest supporters in the House and in the Senate are saying ‘Mr. President, you’re not being tough enough on Iranian banks,’ that will attract his attention,” said Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.” 

“Its prospects to become law are less clear if the Democrats take the House on Tuesday. Its proponents are hopeful that AIPAC, the influential pro-Israel lobbying group, will support it — and pressure pro-Israel Democrats into doing so as well. “If SWIFT provides services to sanctioned Iranian banks we believe appropriate action should be taken,” an AIPAC official told POLITICO on Thursday.” [Politico]

DEEP DIVE — The CIA’s communications suffered a catastrophic compromise. It started in Iran — by Zach Dorfman and Jenna McLaughlin: “From around 2009 to 2013, the U.S. intelligence community experienced crippling intelligence failures related to the secret internet-based communications system… Though the Iranians didn’t say precisely how they infiltrated the network, two former U.S. intelligence officials said that the Iranians cultivated a double agent who led them to the secret CIA communications system. This online system allowed CIA officers and their sources to communicate remotely in difficult operational environments like China and Iran, where in-person meetings are often dangerous… After this betrayal, Israeli intelligence tipped off the CIA that Iran had likely identified some of its assets, said the same former official.” [YahooNews]

REPORT — Saudi crown prince described journalist as a dangerous Islamist in call with White House, officials say — by John Hudson, Souad Mekhennet and Carol D. Leonnig: “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi as a dangerous Islamist days after his disappearance in a phone call with President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and national security adviser John Bolton… Bolton did not signal that he endorsed the crown prince’s characterization of Khashoggi during the call.”

“Other Middle East leaders have come to the crown prince’s defense. In recent days, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have reached out to the Trump administration to express support for the crown prince, arguing that he is an important strategic partner in the region.” [WashPost]

AT THE UN ― UN votes overwhelmingly to condemn US embargo of Cuba — by Edith Lederer: “The vote on the Cuban-sponsored resolution in the 193-member world body was 189-2 with no abstentions. The U.S. and Israel voted “no” … In separate votes on the proposed U.S. amendments, Ukraine and Israel were the only countries to join the U.S. in voting “yes” on all eight measures.” [AP]

— State Department Spokeswoman Expected to Be Nominated U.N. Ambassador — by Michael C. Bender and Courtney McBride: “President Trump is expected to nominate Heather Nauert as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a senior administration official said.”[WSJ]

TOP TALKER — Brazil’s Bolsonaro tells Israeli newspaper he plans to move embassy to Jerusalem — by Adam Taylor: “Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro… has told an Israeli newspaper that he hopes to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after taking office… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that he had congratulated Bolsonaro on his election victory. The Israeli leader is widely expected to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration next year. Bolsonaro is also expected to make Israel his first foreign trip.” [WashPost

 — Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bismuth: “Bolsonaro chose Israel Hayom for what appears to be his first interview with the foreign media, and made it clear that his support for Israel and promises about Jerusalem were not just an election gimmick.” [IsraelHayom]

** Good Friday 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: Ousted WPP Boss Sorrell Is Out for ‘Revenge’ With New Venture [Bloomberg] • WeWork started limiting its beer to four 12-ounce glasses per person a day [WSJ] • Elon Musk says he ‘probably’ wouldn’t take money from the Saudis now [Recode]

Fink Calls Khashoggi Murder a Mystery, Will Keep Saudi Ties — by Annie Massa: “BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink struck a supportive tone on crisis-torn Saudi Arabia Thursday, saying that he expects to continue to invest in the country and that it’s unclear who killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “We don’t know who is responsible for the murder,” Fink said at the New York Times DealBook conference. “Everybody has their own theories.” …. Fink, who runs the world’s largest asset manager, said at the conference that doing business in Saudi Arabia is “not something I’m ashamed of.” [Bloomberg]

SPOTLIGHT — Israel’s Ehud Barak, Out of Politics, Turns to Medical Marijuana — by Michael Arnold: “I have no familiarity with cannabis: I never took a puff in my life, never took a bite of anything, never put any drops under my tongue,” Barak told a crowd Wednesday at the exchange. “But I studied the issue, read material and understood that cannabis for medical use is something real, with real potential impact.” InterCure shares were up 30 percent to 4.22 shekels as of 2:02 p.m. Wednesday in Tel Aviv, their largest gain since June. The company announced on Wednesday it had raised $12 million in a private placement to investors.” [Bloomberg]

MEDIA WATCH —  Inside the Trump Gold Rush at CNN — by Joe Pompeo: “[Jeff] Zucker… had arguably schooled Trump in the art of reality television. Halfway through Trump’s first term, his instincts remain just as acute. If Fox News represents Trump’s base and MSNBC has become a friendly platform for the resistance, CNN is the arena where both sides show up for cantankerous battle. “On Fox, you rarely hear from people who don’t support Trump,” Zucker told me. “On MSNBC, you rarely hear from people who do support Trump. We want to be home to both those points of view.” … But will it all evaporate when Trump goes away and things go back to normal? “It’s a question we think about a lot,” said Zucker. “Just looking at the past 25 years, these last 3 are among the most successful in CNN history.” I asked [Jake] Tapper the same question. “I don’t take any joy in saying this,” he told me, “but I would like to disabuse you of the notion that things are ever going back to normal.” [VanityFair]

Tablet Magazine’s Jewish Focus Pulls Staff to Pittsburgh on a Mission — by Kim Lyons: “The Pittsburgh project was the first time the Tablet had dispatched a team for a breaking news event… [Alana] Newhouse said the site augmented its servers to handle any additional traffic. It also was the editorial team’s first time staying together in one house. “We’ve gotten to know each other really, really well,” [Stephanie] Butnick said dryly… During a brief lull on Tuesday, Ms. Newhouse gathered with the Tablet staff members Yair Rosenberg, Jacob Siegel, Armin Rosen and Ms. Butnick at the kosher vegetarian Milky Way restaurant in Squirrel Hill. It would be one of their last meetings before many in the group returned to New York, and it was a time to reflect on what the experience of covering the shooting and its aftermath had been like.” [NYTimes]

HAPPENING TONIGHT — At 7PM, the ADL, Friendship Circle, One Table, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Shalom Pittsburgh, Repair The World, and Moishe House are hosting a 300-person Shabbat dinner at the Friendship Circle in Squirrel Hill. Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog is expected to attend.

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: NASA’s first Jewish astronaut, Jeffrey A. Hoffman turns 74… Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Laurence Douglas “Larry” Fink turns 66… Director of Internet and media at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Alan D. Abbey turns 64… Head of School at Weizmann Day School in Los Angeles, Lisa Feldman turns 60… Financial planner at Grant Arthur & Associates Wealth Services, he is the author of a book on the complicity of Lithuania in the Holocaust, Grant Arthur Gochin turns 55… Marc Solomon turns 54… Director of Federal Government Affairs at Microsoft Azure, John Sampson turns 52… Actor, director, and producer, best known for playing Ross Geller in the sitcom “Friends” (1994-2004), David Schwimmer turns 52…

Refugee from Iran in 1979, now the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust at the US Department of Justice, Makan Delrahim turns 49… Professor of economics at MIT, her primary expertise is in public finance and health economics, she won a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship in 2018, Amy Finkelstein turns 45… Founder and CEO of Spring Hills Senior Communities, Alexander Markowits turns 45… Denver-based radio host and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, David Sirota turns 43… Washington Post Outlook editor, Adam B. Kushner turns 38… Marc Rosen turns 37… Legislative assistant for foreign policy in the office of Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), he was previously the DNC’s Director of Jewish Engagement, Aaron Weinberg turns 28… Two-time Emmy award-winning video producer, now working for Getty Images, Celeste B. Lavin turns 28 (h/t Playbook)…

SATURDAY: Former Chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary, Ismar Schorsch, Ph.D. turns 83… Former Major League Baseball pitcher with more career victories (174) than any other Jewish pitcher (Koufax included), Ken Holtzman turns 73… Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine, professor at Yale University, James Rothman turns 68… Rabbi at Temple Anshe Sholom in Olympia Fields, Illinois since 2000, now emeritus, he previously held pulpits in Baltimore and Baton Rouge, Paul Caplan turns 66… Actress, comedian, writer, and television producer, best known for the long-running and award winning television sitcom Roseanne (1988-1997), Roseanne Barr turns 66… Talk show host Dennis Miller turns 65… Non-fiction manuscript editor and lecturer, he was a senior contributing editor at The Jerusalem Report and is an author of books on the stigma of childlessness and on the Balfour Declaration, Elliot Jager, Ph.D. turns 64…

Regional Director of Development in West Palm Beach for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jeanne Epstein turns 54… Consultant for startups, he was previously SVP and counsel at Zurich Financial Services and co-chair of the board of the Yeshiva University Museum, Edward Stelzerturns 50… Founder of AKM Consulting, during the 2016 election cycle she served as Finance Director for Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton, Amie Kershner turns 40… Agent at Creative Artists Agency, Rachel Elizabeth Adler turns 35 (h/t Playbook)… Amy Rosenbaum… Ben Kirshner… Stu Rosenberg

SUNDAY: Political scientist who has published works on grand strategy, military history and international relations, he is a consultant to the US government and others, Edward Luttwak turns 76… U.S. Representative for Kentucky’s 3rd congressional district, formerly a Republican but now a Democrat, John Yarmuth turns 71… Former IDF paratrooper, he served as the IDF’s Chief of the General Staff (1998-2002), Minister of Defense (2002-2006) and member of Knesset for Kadima (2006-2015), Lieutenant General Shaul Mofaz turns 70… Professor of medicine at England’s University of Birmingham and a leading British authority on organ donation and transplantation, Dr. James Max Neuberger turns 69… Co-Chair of Jewish Funders Network, board chair of the Israel on Campus Coalition and a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, Dorothy Tananbaum… Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 2013, Kenneth I. Gordon turns 59… President and CEO of the Hudson Institute, Kenneth R. “Ken” Weinstein turns 57… Professor of philosophy at Texas A&M University, Claire Elise Katz turns 54… BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, Benjamin Eli “Ben” Smith turns 42… Bob Rubin


Comments are closed.