Daily Kickoff: Bret Stephens and Elisha Wiesel discuss Trump, Israel and anti-Semitism


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DRIVING THE DAY — The U.S. has officially imposed what President Trump described yesterday as the “toughest ever” sanctions against Iran designed to hit Iran’s key economic sectors — including oil and gas, shipping and banking. In addition, SWIFT, a financial messaging service at the heart of enabling Iranian business, “would be subject to U.S. sanctions if it provides financial messaging services to certain designated Iranian financial institutions,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Friday.

HOW IT’S BEING PLAYED — Reimposing Iran Sanctions, Trump Places 3 Bets (One a Long Shot) — by David Sanger: “President Trump… is gambling that even as the United States seeks to cut off much of Iran’s oil revenue, the country will not dare restart its program to enrich nuclear fuel — the pathway to a bomb. He is also betting that… European banks, manufacturers and oil companies will not violate the sanctions and risk being cut off from the far larger American market. And finally, he is wagering that the Iranian government will crack in some way — that it will renegotiate the nuclear deal more along Mr. Trump’s terms, or that it will collapse under economic pressures.” [NYTimes]

Trump Bank Sanctions Will Hit Iran Where It Hurts — by Eli Lake: “Administration and congressional sources tell me that the decision to announce the SWIFT decision was made on Thursday evening. Most Iran policy-watchers then were expecting the Trump administration to punt.”

“It would be better if all Iranian financial institutions were disconnected from SWIFT,” said Richard Goldberg… “But this is a whole lot better than letting all Iranian banks remain on SWIFT.” … Mark Dubowitz, chief executive officer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies… told me that he, too, was pleased with the announcement on SWIFT.” [BloombergView

VIEW FROM TEHRAN — On Eve of New U.S. Sanctions, Iranian Regime Whips Up Anti-American Anger — by Aresu Eqbali and Asa Fitch: “Regime supporters at the rally set fire to large American and Israeli flags, burning chunks of which fell dangerously near people on the packed street. Many held banners or signs denouncing the U.S.” [WSJ]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Netanyahu says Trump made courageous decision on U.S. sanctions on Iran: “This day is an historic day,” Netanyahu said in public remarks to legislators from his right-wing Likud party. “I would like to again thank U.S. President Donald Trump for the courageous, determined and important decision. I think this contributes to stability and security and peace.” [Reuters]

Israel’s Minister of Education Naftali Bennett at the start of his party’s Knesset faction meeting: “Thank you [Trump] for making the ayatollahs afraid again.”

Netanyahu Envoy Throws Midterm Lifeline to Republicans — by Colum Lynch: “Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer defended President Donald Trump on charges that his anti-immigrant rhetoric may have indirectly incited the perpetrator of the largest mass killing of Jews on U.S. soil last Saturday in Pittsburgh. “I see a lot of bad people on both sides who attack Jews,” Dermer said. The remarks, according to several Democratic congressional staffers and partisans, represented the latest evidence that Israel’s right-wing government was openly throwing its lot in with Republicans. And that could be somewhat risky for Israel’s interests if, as most polls indicate, Democrats retake the House of Representatives on Tuesday.”

“With Democrats facing the prospect of a return to power in the House, party leaders have been attempting to dispel any suggestion that they are seeking payback against an Israeli leader they believe has embraced the Republican Party at their expense… In recent weeks, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer—an outspoken supporter of Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem—and other party leaders have sought to counter reports that a new wave of progressive Democrats will turn the party away from Israel. “Senate Democrats are very strongly pro-Israel and will remain that way,” Schumer told Jewish Insider last month, adding that he intended to push for legislation opposing the movement to boycott companies that do business with Israel.” [ForeignPolicy]

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro writes… “If Democrats gain control of even one house of Congress… Trump and his national security team will be tested in a way they have not been yet: Building bipartisan support in Congress for controversial foreign policy initiatives. To succeed on rolling back Iran’s nuclear program further… to effectively pressure and incentivize the Palestinians to come back to the negotiation table, and to keep the newly troubled relationship with Saudi Arabia on track, Trump will need Congressional help. Democrats… may be slow to provide it.” [Haaretz]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — U.S. and Israel weigh whether Saudi crown prince can deliver on Mideast peace and Iran — by Anne Gearan and Souad Mekhennet: “U.S. and Israeli officials have expressed concern that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have less leeway to pursue the gradual warming of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors amid the political fallout from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi… The Trump peace package has undergone several revisions, including a step back from a plan to soften the ground for talks and increase pressure on the Palestinians to accept a deal, said a foreign diplomat.” [WashPost]

— Israel Stands by Saudi Prince Against Iran, Despite Khashoggi — by Jonathan Ferziger: “What happened at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month “was horrendous and should be duly dealt with,” Netanyahu told reporters Friday in Bulgaria… “At the same time, it is very important for the stability of the world, for the region and for the world, that Saudi Arabia remain stable.” [Bloomberg]

TIP’s Josh Block writes… “Israel Is Making Arab Friends” [WSJ]

Trump’s Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt is in Israel this week, after postponing his trip for a week to visit the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. Yesterday, Greenblatt met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “discuss important topics including the situation in Gaza and regional developments.”

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — A Familiar Force Nurtures Trump’s Instincts on Immigration: Stephen Miller — by Maggie Haberman: “In the last two weeks, Mr. Trump has followed an instinct, one nurtured by Mr. Miller, that a foreboding message on immigration can galvanize his supporters… Mr. Miller, 33, has become known in that orbit for amassing frightening news articles and isolated statistics about immigration that he is aware might fuel a presidential declaration on Twitter. He has helped install a group of like-minded aides across the government, including at the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Justice Department, who have helped him pursue his agenda.” [NYTimes

MIDTERMS — Michael Bloomberg to air $5 million in ads before midterm elections to tout Democrats — and himself — by Robert Costa: “Bloomberg’s two-minute television ad, which features him speaking directly to the camera and standing before an American flag. Bloomberg, 76, portrays himself in the spot as a steady and seasoned Washington outsider (hint: presidential) who is appalled by Trump’s conduct and agenda.” [WashPostVideo]

Ivanka Trump stumps for Dean Heller in Reno, days ahead of his clash with Jacky Rosen — Scott Sonner: “I don’t do a lot of campaigning,” Ivanka Trump told about 80 supporters at the GOP field office in Reno during an appearance with [Sen. Dean] Heller. “But I really wanted to do it for him. This is our first stop and our most important stop,” she said. “I know he’s going to win.”[RGJ]

GOP congressional candidate called Islam ‘dangerous’ and the work of Satan — by Andrew Kaczynski: “Mark Harris… is the GOP nominee in North Carolina’s 9th District… [Harris] claimed Islam was “dangerous” and the work of Satan. He also said peace between Israel and the Palestinians could not be achieved until Muslims and Jews accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.” [CNN

TALK OF OUR NATION — Pittsburgh Congregations Lead Nation in Coming Together After Tragedy — by Kris Maher: “Hundreds of people in prayer shawls and yarmulkes filled the spacious sanctuary of Congregation Beth Shalom flanked by tall stained-glass windows. The conservative synagogue, situated at the highest point in Squirrel Hill, welcomed the members of the Tree of Life, New Light and Dor Hadash congregations who can no longer enter their own shared synagogue because it remains a crime scene…”

“Rabbi Jeffrey Myers described welcoming President Trump to the Tree of Life earlier in the week and about the need to bring about an end to the hateful rhetoric in politics. He said he has received hate mail from people angry that he met with the president, but he said responding with welcome and respect is the only way to defeat hate. “You can’t fight any hate with more hate. It just does not work,” Rabbi Myers said.” [WSJCNN

— Prayer, Food and Defiance: How Pittsburgh’s Jewish Community Is Coping 1 Week After Anti-Semitic Attack [Time]

Small-Town Jews Are Used to Locked Synagogues — by Gabby Deutch: “The murder of 11 Jews at their place of worship came as a tragic surprise to everybody, in communities large and small. But many people I spoke with who live in areas with few other Jews told me that this shooting led them to reckon with anti-Semitism that they’d experienced—thankfully nothing as extreme, but still demoralizing and frightening.” [TheAtlantic]

PROFILE — Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto leads his city through its darkest days — by Gabriel Pogrund: “In a series of interviews during the past week as he tended to his grieving city, Peduto said he was trying his hardest to be the leader the Jewish community here needed… Those needs have weighed heavily on Peduto, an Italian Catholic mayor who prides himself as an “adopted” member of the Jewish community here. He was the first non-Jewish council member to represent the 8th District, which includes the synagogue’s neighborhood of Squirrel Hill…” [WashPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Reading Philip Roth After the Pittsburgh Massacre — by Paige Williams: “Jon Hamm, John Turturro, and a host of other actors read “The Plot Against America” at the 92nd Street Y.” [NewYorker]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Bret Stephens and Elisha Wiesel, the son of the late Elie Wiesel, discussed President Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail preceding the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. The conversation was hosted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at the World Values Network headquarters in NYC. [Pic]

Stephens: “There are expectations for standards of the sort of rhetoric we expect from the President. And the last few weeks of extraordinary dehumanization of immigrants I think had something to do with an atmosphere in which an event like Pittsburgh takes place.”

Boteach: We all hear the points about what’s being said about immigrants. But in terms of attacks on the Jews, the President said — the Ambassador of Israel, Ron Dermer said, he had never heard in his life, an American president making a statement like President Trump did in the aftermath of the massacre that, if you try to destroy the Jewish people we will destroy you first. He’s not an Israeli prime minister, he’s an American president. That’s quite an amazing thing to say. 

Stephens: “Well, I don’t for a second believe that Trump is an anti-Semite, let me make that clear. I think it’s preposterous to suggest that he’s an anti-Semite. But Trump is two things for sure. Number one, he’s prone to conspiracy thinking. And number two, he has an animus towards immigrants… And so, those two prejudices, while they’re not obviously connected to any kind of anti-Semitism, feed into the sort of bigotries in which the Pittsburgh shooter swam… The same bigotry that our ancestors met when our families came here, is now being doled out by a guy who otherwise has Jewish grandchildren, and who indeed, at least on the level of policy, is a friend of Israel. I just want to stress something: we want friends of Israel to be friends also at the level of values, not simply at the level of policies, and that’s important too.”

Wiesel: “I think the important thing to remember is the fact that Trump has Jewish grandchildren is somewhat of an accident. Ivanka Trump might easily have not married into the Jewish faith. And if that had been the case, would Trump still be as favorable to Israel? Or would the randomizing machine [have] ended up with some other set of policies? And I think when we look at Trump and that administration, I think we have to say to ourselves and look at the root. Is the connection with Israel 100 percent on shared values, or is it because of family? And is it right for us to simply stand back and take that advantage without being cognizant of the fact that there are many for whom the wiring is not set up so favorably?” [Video]

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tells Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh: “The fact is we’re not seeing a bipartisan response to this atmosphere of hate. It’s un-American to see this amount of hatred directed towards the Jewish community or any other community. This should be something where you see equal outrage from both parties and people across the ideological spectrum. We’re not seeing that, I believe, because unfortunately, the president has set the tone that others in his party feel unwilling to challenge…”

De Blasio on challenging anti-Semitism on the Left: “There’s anti-Semitism in this country, and I’m sure it is across the political spectrum. It’s unacceptable on the Left – it’s unacceptable on the Right. I think it is also right to say there are people who have differences on policy matters who are not anti-Semitic. They may disagree on a different policy matter – they may disagree with the government of Israel on something, that’s not anti-Semitism. But anyone who speaks against the Jewish people, anyone who does not believe in protecting the Jewish people as part of the democratic society, that’s when you cross over into anti-Semitism. It’s unacceptable wherever we find it on the ideological spectrum.”[Pic]

Tablet Magazine editorial“Anti-Semitism is a bright red line in our politics that no one in our public life can be permitted to cross and expect to receive the support of our community, whether we are proud Democrats or proud Republicans. Support for Israel is not an excuse for calling for the elimination of Jews or the Jewish religion… Being Jewish, or having a Jewish parent or grandparent, is not an excuse. There are no more excuses.”

Peter Beinart writes… “How Trumpian Nativism Leads to Anti-Semitism: These days, the Jew most frequently depicted as secretly engineering the immigrant takeover of America is George Soros. (Full disclosure: His son, Alex Soros, is a friend who has donated to think tanks to support my work)…  One reason hateful nativism so easily morphs into anti-Semitism in the Trump era is that today Jews really do disproportionately support immigration… That’s why, in the Trump era, rising nativism and rising anti-Semitism go hand in hand.” [TheAtlantic]

Alexis Grenell writes… “Farrakhan’s words matter, too: It’s about time the left universally denounced his anti-Semitism” [NYDailyNews]

DEEP DIVE — U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It — by Janet Reitman: “For two decades, domestic counterterrorism strategy has ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism. In the atmosphere of willful indifference, a virulent movement has grown and metastasized.”

“In the months following Donald Trump’s inauguration, security analysts noted with increasing alarm what seemed to be a systematic erosion of the Department of Homeland Security’s analytic and operational capabilities with regard to countering violent extremism. It began with the appointment of a new national-security team. Like their counterparts now running immigration policy, the team came from the fringe of conservative politics.” [NYTimesMag

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Two Capitals, One Russian Oligarch: How Oleg Deripaska Is Trying to Escape U.S. Sanctions [NYTimes] • Fewer stars to rise at Goldman Sachs as partnership class shrinks [WSJ] • Slack CEO Says There’s “No Specific Timeline for an IPO” [Fortune] • Scooter Braun didn’t learn everything from his dad–but what he did changed his life [Fortune]

RISING STAR — A fast-rising journalist hits a speed bump with his latest scoop about Trump —by Paul Farhi: “Among his greatest hits: Jonathan Swan was first to report that… Trump planned to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; that White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon would be fired… that Anthony Scaramucci would be named White House communications director; and that Trump had accepted Nikki Haley’s resignation as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations… The run of stories puts Swan “in the top tier” of reporters covering Trump, says Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post reporter and author of the recent bestseller, “Fear,” about the Trump White House… Woodward says Swan belongs with the best of a rising group of Washington reporters that includes Maggie Haberman of the New York Times.” [WashPost]

— “Friends say that Mr. Swan has ambitions to write long-form pieces. For now, though, he is happy at his station: He recently renewed his contract at Axios through mid-2021. He also has equity in the company, which has raised roughly $30 million from major investors like NBC, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Laurene Powell Jobs.” [NYTimes]

PROFILE — Among Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox, It’s (Sort of) the Year of the Woman — by David Halbfinger: “It was the mayoral upset in Beit Shemesh, in the Judean foothills west of Jerusalem, that had veteran political analysts reaching in vain for historical comparisons and calling it almost biblical… [Aliza] Bloch promised to bring fairness to the delivery of city services… But she also faced challenges unique to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox milieu. A self-described religious woman herself, if not Haredi, Ms. Bloch demonstrated great deference to Haredi sensibilities in her campaign, by keeping her own face off nearly all her campaign posters. “I was really challenged in a male-dominated area,” Ms. Bloch said in a phone interview… “I’m a religious woman who made herself aware to others through very hard work — even harder because I did not post photos of myself in synagogues, or reading the Torah.” [NYTimes]

SPOTLIGHT — The Irresistible Urge to Build Cities From Scratch — by Monte Reel: “Rawabi is the first master-planned city in the West Bank and a remarkable political statement in the context of Israel’s building spree in the occupied territories. The $1.4 billion project was conceived by Bashar Masri, a billionaire Palestinian-American developer, as a means for creating jobs for Palestinians and to relieve a pressing housing shortage… While Rawabi is going up on land governed by the Palestinian Authority, the access road into the city as well as other infrastructure traverses Israeli-administered territory. Negotiations over water have been particularly vexed: Under the current arrangement, supplies are only sufficient for about 5,000 people. This has effectively capped the city’s population, which now hovers below 4,000.” [Businessweek]

ON THE CIRCUIT — ‘Oscars Of Science’ Brings Together Big Names From Tech And Hollywood — by Betty Yu: “The 7th annual Breakthrough Prize Awards–also known as the “Oscars of Science”–were held Sunday evening at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View. The event honored the best in science, physics and mathematics on a night featuring Silicon Valley big shots and Hollywood A-listers. The Breakthrough Prize Awards are sponsored by Mark Zuckerberg and Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner.” [CBSDailyMail]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — Over 5,600 Chabad-Lubavitch shluchim (emissaries) and their family, friends, supporters from over 100 countries gathered in Suffern, New York for the 35th annual ‘Kinus Hashluchim’ banquet last night. [Pic]

The event highlighted the Chabad’s global footprint, but this year, given the tragedy in Pittsburgh, a special prayer was offered for the victims and their families. Earlier in the day, thousands of rabbis were led in prayer and song by Pittsburgh Chabad rabbis as they posed for the annual photo. [Pic]

The evening’s keynote speaker was Russian-Israeli entrepreneur and philanthropist Yitzhak Mirilashvili, founder of the Keren Meromim Foundation. Last night’s event also marked 10 years since the terror attack at the Chabad of Mumbai and special mention was made of Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg.

For those who miss the AIPAC Policy Conference roll call of years past, you can watch the 21-minute-long Chabad roll call from last night during which a new Chabad outpost in Ivory Coast was announced. [Video]

SPOTTED: Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Rabbi Berel Lazar, WeWork’s Adam Neumann, Michael Steinhardt, Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, Rabbi Efraim Mintz, Argentinian philanthropist Eduardo Elsztain, philanthropist George Rohr, Sam Adelsberg, Jewish Agency Chair Isaac Herzog, Hillel International’s Eric Fingerhut, author Joseph Telushkin, Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s director of Jewish affairs Michael Snow, Juan Luis Manzur, Governor of Tucuman province, Argentina, Chai Lifeline’s Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chaim ‘Poju’ Zabludowicz, Isaac ‘Yitz’ Applbaum, Rabbi Eitan Webb, Joshua Landes, Reut’s Gidi Grinstein, AIPAC’s Jason Koppel, Joe Teplow, Eric Reiner, Ron Rofé and Nachum Segal.

SIGHTING — WeWork founder Adam Neumann on stage with Rabbi Berel Lazar of Russia [Pic]

MAGA-Themed Zionist Organization of America Dinner Shows Split Between American Jews — by Lloyd Green: “Sunday night, Morton Klein, the head of the hard-right Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) speaking at the group’s annual dinner called it “political blasphemy” to place any onus for the 11 Jews murdered in a Pittsburgh synagogue on the president or his heated rhetoric… Not surprisingly, the dinner was big on Israel and Donald Trump and in that order.” [DailyBeast]

Alan Dershowitz, introducing ZOA’s Mort Klein: “The reason I agreed to introduce Mort Klein tonight was because by introducing him I am making an important point, not only to the Jewish community but for the U.S. during this time of partisan and ideological division. As many of you know, Mort and I do not agree about every aspect of Israeli policies. We have fundamental disagreements. We are both ardent Zionists, but I am — alright? I am expecting a few boos here — I am a liberal Democrat (loud boos) trying desperately to keep support for Israel bipartisan. Not an easy thing… Despite our fundamental disagreements, Mort and I continue to engage in civil dialogue, in constructive engagement, and mutual education.” [Video]

National Security Advisor John Bolton’s remarks at the ZOA dinner:“In August, two Iranian agents —residents of the U.S. —were arrested by the FBI and charged with surveilling American citizens, Israeli and Jewish facilities in the U.S., including a Jewish community center in Chicago. Why would Iranian agents surveil a Jewish community center if not for malicious purposes? Former U.S. officials should reflect deeply on this question before promoting their diplomatic projects with Iran on TV and radio networks across our country.”

SCENE THE OTHER NIGHT IN LA — FIDF Gala Raises Record $60 Million for Soldiers — by Margeaux Sippell: “Raising an all-time high of $60 million, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) topped last year’s record-breaking fundraiser by $6.2 million at the annual FIDF Western Region Gala, held at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday evening… “Tonight you have seen up close the unbreakable spirit and the unimaginable bravery of our IDF soldiers and their families,” said Haim Saban, who chaired the gala along with his wife, Cheryl, for their 12th consecutive year… The star-studded event included appearances from Gerard Butler, Ashton Kutcher, Katharine McPhee and fiance David Foster, Andy Garcia, Fran Drescher, and Israeli actors Ronalee Shimon and Yaakov Daniel from Netflix’s political thriller series “Fauda.”[Variety]

BIRTHDAYS: American-born Rosh Yeshiva of the Kamenitz Yeshiva of Jerusalem, Rabbi Yitzchok Scheiner turns 96… Former hedge fund manager and Olympic fencer (Munich, 1972), he described both activities as requiring “Defend, Adjust and Attack,” James Laurence Melcher turns 79… Singer, poet and actor, best known as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, Art Garfunkel turns 77… Television and film critic, Jeffrey Lyons turns 74… French public intellectual, media personality and author, Bernard-Henri Lévy turns 70… Economist and long-time director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University (2002-2016) where he remains a University Professor, Jeffrey Sachs turns 64… Psychologist, and wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu turns 60…

Chairman of Israel’s Yesh Atid Party with 11 seats in the Knesset, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid turns 55… Senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, he focuses on issues of national security and law, Benjamin Wittes turns 49… Host, anchor and correspondent for CBS News and CBS Sports, Dana Jacobson turns 47… Founder and CEO of a health organization working for early detection and prevention of cancer, Yael Cohen Braun turns 32… Business Insider’s Jacob Shamsian turns 25… Outreach associate at Jewish Free Loan Association of Los Angeles, she was previously a communications and project coordinator at the Creative Community for Peace, Tara Khoshbin


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