Daily Kickoff: Congress urged to act on anti-Semitism, Israel | Schumer’s new title | Itzhak Perlman performs in Pittsburgh
SCHUMER’S NEW TITLE — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrated the birth of his first grandchild, Noah Melvin Schumer-Shapiro, born to his daughter Jessica and son-in-law Michael Shapiro on Wednesday. The baby’s middle name, Melvin, is in honor of his great-grandfather Melvin Weinshall, who was a cab driver in New York City.
Schumer tells Jewish Insider: “In the Old Country, they would have called me ‘zayde,’ but here I want to be called ‘grandpa.'”
DRIVING THE DAY — President Trump departs this morning for the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he will engage in a handful of high-level meetings with foreign leaders. Trump is not expected to sit down with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, although the White Househas not ruled out “any interaction” with MBS at the summit.
ON THE HILL — Senators, Furious Over Khashoggi Killing, Spurn President on War in Yemen — by Gardiner Harris, Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper and Nicholas Fandos: “The Senate voted 63 to 37 to bring to the floor a measure to limit presidential war powers in Yemen. It was the strongest signal yet that Republican and Democratic senators alike remain vehemently skeptical of the administration’s insistence that the Saudi crown prince cannot, with certainty, be blamed for the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi… It took place hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed senators about the Yemen conflict in a classified discussion.”
“The final vote in the Senate is likely to be scheduled for next week — giving the Trump administration time to win back Republicans and hold on to a Middle East strategy that has been largely built around a blossoming partnership with Prince Mohammed… Mr. Mattis and Mr. Pompeo had urged senators against withdrawing military support and warned that doing so could embolden Iran and endanger the United States.” [NYTimes]
Jewish groups urge Congressional action on bills related to Israel and anti-Semitism before end of session: The ADL and coalition partners sent a letter to Congressional leaders earlier this week urging the quick passage of two bipartisan bills aimed at targeting anti-Semitism abroad. “We believe action on these bills before Congress ends its session would send an important message that America will not remain silent as international Jewish communities are threatened,” wrote the 72 signatories.
The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act would see a new envoy appointed to the position, left empty since January 2017, while the Combating European Anti-Semitism Act “declares that it is in the U.S. interest to combat anti-Semitism at home and abroad.” The letter was sent to Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
At the same time, lawmakers are hoping to push through votes on several Israel-related bills in the current Congress. Four bills await action: legislation pressuring Hamas to halt the use of human shields against Israel; an act formalizing the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel, which Senator Rand Paul is currently blocking; an anti-BDS bill; and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which has yet to gain the backing of likely 2020 contenders in the Senate — save for Cory Booker, who recently announced in Jewish Insider that he will back it.
Halie Soifer, Executive Director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), tells us… “In blocking legislation that would formalize the historic MOU agreement Senator Paul is standing in the way of something that is in not only Israel’s security interests but also that of the United States because we have shared security interests, and our relationship and the Memorandum of Understanding is mutually beneficial. This is a long-standing effort by Senator Paul to oppose foreign aid against many countries. But this instance is particularly egregious because what he’s doing is not just blocking the vote. He’s blocking something that would otherwise pass by unanimous consent. This is a very strong obstructionist move that could potentially be very damaging to our national security interests.”
Soifer on concerns about Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “The three Democrats, we haven’t actually seen what that will look like in terms of whether it will translate into any sort of legislative reality or have any real implications. We don’t know. And you know, these three women have views on Israel that the Jewish Democratic Council of America has publicly come out against. But we are hopeful that once they arrive in Washington in January and become fully versed in not only U.S. foreign policy but U.S. national security interests, and the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, especially the military relationship with Israel, that their views may change and they may not translate into any sort of specific legislative action.”
RJC’s Norm Coleman emails: “One Republican Senator who opposes foreign aid is impacting aid for Israel. The Democrat Party leadership, however, supported giving over $150 billion to Iran to support its terrorism in the Mideast. The Democrat Party leadership supported an Iranian nuclear deal that represented an existential threat to Israel.”
“In January, a Pew poll found the widest partisan gap ever between how Republicans and Democrats view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Self-described liberal Democrats’ sympathies for Israel have plummeted from 48 percent at the beginning of the century to just 19 percent today. (Coleman quoted a Roll Call report). The lack of support for Israel is not limited to a few Democrat backbenchers. By every measure, the Democrat base is markedly less supportive of Israel today. I lament that reality. Unfortunately, support for Israel is not an applause line at a Democrat party function today.”
RAND’S ITINERARY — On Friday, Sen. Rand Paul will be speaking at an event hosted by right-wing think tank Frontiers of Freedom. The Koch-backed group’s Washington event, entitled “Saudi Arabia and UAE: Regional Adventures and US Interests,” will focus on wars in Yemen and Syria, terrorism funding, and human rights violations. It will also feature remarks from Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, formerly Chief of Staff to Colin Powell and a recent Bernie Sanders foreign policy adviser. Wilkerson is known for making controversial statements about Israel and has frequently argued that Jewish groups have too much influence in Washington. Last March, Wilkerson suggested that Israel was trying to “suck America into” a war with Iran. He has also said that Israel would be eliminated by its enemies and claimed in a 2007 documentary that American foreign policy is dominated by “Jewish lobby” AIPAC.
Republicans vying for key spot on House Foreign Affairs committee — by Guy Taylor: “House leaders are expected Thursday to resolve an internal GOP battle over who gets tapped as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee… “I see the Committee as having a role in promoting the most effective form of foreign policy that can be achieved,” said Rep. Joe Wilson, whom Capitol Hill sources say is the likely front-runner in a close race with Reps. Michael McCaul of Texas and Ted Yoho of Florida. All three are jockeying with the House Republican Steering Committee in hopes they’ll be picked to replace retiring Rep. Ed Royce of California, who had been the Foreign Affairs Committee’s chairman.” [WashTimes]
WHO’S AFTER HALEY? — UN ambassador hunt drags on as top candidate fades — by Gabby Orr and Eliana Johnson: “The hunt for a new United Nations ambassador… has faced repeated delays and is running up against Nikki Haley’s end-of-year departure date… The White House Counsel’s office has not yet been asked to vet anyone for the role… “It seems like this has been the position they could never quite find someone to fill,” said a Republican close to the White House… Trump is now looking at John James, the Michigan Republican who lost his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, for the position… If James fades, Trump could return to Ric Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany… But two sources inside the administration characterized Grenell as a default candidate who would only land the job if the president finds himself in “crisis mode.” [PoliticoEU]
JERUSALEM EMBASSY — Son of Brazil’s president-elect confirms to Kushner to move embassy — by Herb Keinon: “The question is not whether Brazil will move its embassy to Jerusalem, but when, Eduardo Bolsonaro – the son of Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro – said… during a meeting in the White House with… Jared Kushner… “We don’t know the date for the relocation or when it will happen, but we have an intention to [set one],” he told Brazilian media when leaving the meeting, wearing a hat bearing the message “Trump 2020.” [JPost]
National security adviser John Bolton met with Brazil’s far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro at his beachside gated community on the south side of Rio de Janeiro on Thursday. Bolsonaro said after the meeting that he spoke with Bolton about Israel, Cuba and custom duties.
TOP TALKER — Jewish Americans sue Airbnb over West Bank listing ban — by Jonathan Stempel: “A group of Jewish Americans sued Airbnb Inc on Wednesday in U.S. federal court, accusing the home rental company of religious discrimination over its decision last week to remove listings for about 200 homes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The 18 plaintiffs, including Israeli-American families and individuals who said they own or wish to rent affected homes, accused Airbnb of “redlining” Jewish-owned properties while letting Muslims and Christians rent their homes… The complaint was filed in federal court in Delaware, where Airbnb is incorporated.” [Reuters]
Israeli Minister Calls on U.S. Governors to Act Against Airbnb Over Settlement Ban — by Noa Landau and Amir Tibon: “Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan approached five U.S. governors and requested that they “consider speaking out against the company’s decision, and taking any other relevant steps, including in relation to commercial dealings.” … Erdan sent the letters to governors with whom he had previously met: New York governor Andrew Cuomo, California governor Jerry Brown, outgoing Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, Missouri governor Mike Parson and newly elected Florida governor Ron DeSantis.” [Haaretz]
“Airbnb’s actions, sadly, have contributed to the rising tide of anti-Semitism that we’ve seen happening all over the world,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)… told the Free Beacon. “They caved to pressure from the anti-Israel boycott movement, which promotes falsehoods in its campaigns against the world’s only Jewish state. This kind of persecution has no place in any society and must end,” Cruz said… Newly elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a former member of Congress, told the Free Beacon he is reviewing a range of options to penalize Airbnb.” [FreeBeacon] • Florida leaders blast Airbnb over West Bank rental ban [OrlandoSentinel]
— During an unrelated press briefing in New York yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declined to comment after asked by Jewish Insider if he would follow through with action against Airbnb at the urging of the Israeli government. “I did not see the letter. I will review it, and after I review it, I am going to have a response,” Cuomo said.
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — In rare Knesset Q&A, Netanyahu is served soft pitches with a side of admiration — by Amanda Borschel-dan: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played a game of softball on Wednesday at the Knesset as a group of international Jewish journalists and bloggers were given the rare opportunity to ask the Israeli leader “anything.” The group of 150 writers from 30 countries participated in the third Jewish Media Summit… Asked about the state of the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora, the prime minister turned to another favored topic: the Holocaust and demography. Assimilation, he said, is “chipping away at our numbers” in the Diaspora… However, he forecasts that very soon, the majority of the Jewish people will live in Israel “for the first time since the Second Temple.” … Lauding the country’s “robust demographic base,” he continued, “the bad part is the shrinking of the Diaspora… The disappearance of Jewish identity is what concerns me.” [ToI]
Civil Service Commission drops probe of Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes — by Raphael Ahren: “Israel’s Civil Service Commission this week formally closed its probes into alleged misbehavior by David Keyes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s international media spokesman… According to [a TV] report, Keyes would formally quit his position as Netanyahu’s spokesperson in exchange for the case being closed. The PMO on Thursday did not reply to a Times of Israel query as to whether Keyes was still working for Netanyahu.” [ToI]
MUELLER WATCH — Michael Cohen to Plead Guilty to Charge in Mueller Investigation — by Benjamin Weiser, Ben Protess, Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt: “Michael D. Cohen… made a surprise appearance in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday morning to plead guilty to a new criminal charge… The expected new guilty plea in Federal District Court marks the first time the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has charged Mr. Cohen.” [NYTimes]
Team Trump Had Many Ties to Israeli Intel Firm in Mueller’s Crosshairs — by Erin Banco: “The New York Times reported in October that a senior Trump campaign official, Rick Gates, sought plans from Psy Group, a firm connected to Israeli intelligence… But The Daily Beast has learned that the overtures from Trump world to Psy Group in 2016 were more extensive than previously reported. Former employees said there were at least two other individuals who reached out to the firm during the campaign… Former employees were reluctant to tell The Daily Beast their names in fear they would face retribution from their colleagues and additional scrutiny from the special counsel’s office.” [DailyBeast]
STARTUP NATION — A Plan to Turn New York Into a Capital of Cybersecurity — by Bruce Horovitz: “Cyber NYC will initially be funded by about $70 million in private investments, including from the two Israeli firms: Jerusalem Venture Partners, a venture capital fund; and SOSA, a corporate innovation specialist… Jerusalem Venture Partners has raised over $1.3 billion to create and finance more than 130 companies — more than one-third of them in cybersecurity, including CyberArk, which is one of Israel’s largest cybersecurity companies (Israel is second to the U.S. in terms of overall investment in cybersecurity firms)… Erel Margalit, founder and chairman of Jerusalem Venture Partners… says that his company will oversee much of the business end of the venture. “Most innovation occurs when the two disciplines meet: investors and cybersecurity experts,” he said.” [NYTimes]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Mic is in talks to sell to Bustle [Recode] • Facebook Considered Charging for Access to User Data [WSJ] • WeWork’s Adam Neumann invests in cannabis co InterCure [Globes] • Apollo Global Management finds TV station partner for Tribune Media bid: sources[Reuters] • State-owned Israel Aerospace to partner with Boeing on potential aviation contracts [Reuters] • Israel’s Bank Hapoalim to raise more than $500 mln in bond sale [CNBC]
SPOTLIGHT — How Les Moonves Tried to Silence an Accuser — by James B. Stewart, Rachel Abrams and Ellen Gabler: “Saturday, April 28, 2018, was Marv Dauer’s 75th birthday… More than 100 friends, sports figures, casting directors, actors, golf and bridge partners… had gathered to celebrate at a friend’s Los Angeles home. At a V.I.P. table were the biggest names Mr. Dauer could muster: the actor-turned-polemicist James Woods; former Senator Norman Coleman; and Bruce McNall… Then, at about 8 p.m., a star arrived: Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS and one of Hollywood’s most powerful people… Mr. Moonves had never attended Mr. Dauer’s previous parties. So what was he doing there? Four months later, Mr. Moonves was pushed out by CBS’s board after 12 women told The New Yorker that he had sexually harassed or assaulted them… Mr. Dauer says the mogul told him before and after the birthday party, only one woman could bring him down: “If Bobbie [Phiilips] talks, I’m finished.”
“Mr. Moonves… had crossed paths with Mr. Dauer on golf courses and tennis courts. After a mutual friend introduced them, they had lunch, and Mr. Dauer arranged for Ms. Phillips to meet Mr. Moonves… On Dec. 4, six days after The Times contacted him, Mr. Dauer emailed Mr. Moonves: “Leslie — it’s very important you call me.” Moments later, Mr. Moonves was on the phone. It was the first time in years that the two men had spoken… They discussed the possibility of getting Ms. Phillips an acting gig to keep her happy… On May 14, CBS sued its largest shareholder, Shari Redstone, trying to weaken her control of the company. It was a declaration of civil war that meant Mr. Moonves’s conduct would face intense scrutiny from Ms. Redstone’s camp. That made it even more important to keep Ms. Phillips quiet.” [NYTimes]
DEEP DIVE — Prosecutors worked to cut Jeffrey Epstein a break — by Julie Brown: “Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life. But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved… Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.”[MiamiHerald]
MEDIA WATCH — CNN Commentator Defends Comments on Palestine After United Nations Speech — by Donica Phifer: “CNN’s Marc Lamont Hill made comments some have deemed anti-Semitic following a speech at the United Nations on Wednesday. The Washington Examiner writes that Hill gave the speech at an event held in conjunction with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People… “We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grassroots action, local action, and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” Hill said… When challenged about the comment on Twitter, Hill responded to say that he believes in a “single secular democratic state for everyone.”[Newsweek; WashExaminer]
CAMPUS BEAT — Columbia Teachers College professor’s office vandalized with swastikas, anti-Semitic slurs — by Karen Xia: “The office of Jewish professor Elizabeth Midlarsky, who teaches and researches the Holocaust at Columbia Teachers College, was vandalized with swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs on Wednesday. The incident is under active investigation by the NYPD… Midlarsky… found the graffiti—two swastikas alongside the derogatory term “Yid”—when she came to her office around 1 p.m. [yesterday], at which point she notified security… All Teachers College academic buildings require ID for entry, either from Teachers College, Columbia, Barnard, or other affiliated schools.” [ColumbiaSpectator]
SPORTS BLINK ― Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce selected the Israel Collective, a Christians United for Israel (CUFI) initiative, as his cause for the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign. “The message for me is just the oneness and connectedness I feel with that land,” Pierce said in a video message. “To go over there and see the difference and to see just exactly how the culture is, I went to Shabbat dinner, I just enjoyed their company and learned so many different customs.” Pierce will wear his Israel Collective-inspired cleats on December 16, 2018, during the Baltimore Ravens’ home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
SCENE LAST NIGHT — Renowned Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at a concert, titled “A Concert for Peace and Unity,” in honor in honor of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting victims. [Pic; Video]
REMEMBERING — Randolph Braham, Holocaust Scholar Who Saw a Whitewash, Dies at 95 — by Sam Roberts: “Randolph L. Braham, who as the foremost American scholar of the Holocaust in Hungary, his homeland, rejected that country’s highest award to protest what he denounced as a whitewash of its collusion in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews during World War II, died on Sunday at his home in Forest Hills, Queens… From 1943 to 1945 he was forced to serve in a Hungarian army slave labor battalion in Ukraine. Captured by the Soviets, he escaped and was sheltered by a Hungarian Christian farmer, Istvan Novak, who was later honored by Israel as a Righteous Among the Nations, an award given to non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews during World War II.” [NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Mayor of Chicago since 2011, he was previously a member of Congress (2003-2009) then the White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010), Rahm Emanuel turns 59… Consul General of Israel in New York since August 2016, following seven years as Chairman of the Yesha Council, Dani Dayan turns 63… Heiress of the UK’s Tesco supermarket empire started by her father (Sir Jack Cohen), philanthropist (especially in Israel) and former Lord Mayor of Westminster, Dame Shirley Porter turns 88… President of Baltimore’s Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Rabbi Sheftel M. Neuberger turns 75… Lou Loomis turns 72… Co-founder of Knowledge Universe and founder of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, he is the younger brother of Michael Milken, Lowell Milken turns 70… One-half the renowned film-making team of the Coen Brothers, Joel David Coen turns 64…
Comedian, actor, television host and, since 2010, a judge on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, Howie Mandel turns 63… Rabbi and author, currently serving as the president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), Rabbi Irwin Kula turns 61… CEO of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, a graduate of MIT with a Masters degree in city planning, Joseph Sternlieb turns 58… Andrea Glick turns 58… Foreign policy and public diplomacy advisor to seven consecutive Israeli Prime Ministers (1990-2016), now a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings Institution, Shalom Lipner turns 53… Louise Rothschild turns 39… Research scientist, focusing on economic field experiments and Silicon Valley policy, Gregory Ferenstein turns 36… Chanoch Ben Yaacov… Abigail Langer…