Daily Kickoff: Will Bibi publicly pressure Pompeo and Trump on Iran waivers? | Cuomo criticizes Dems on Omar | Circumcision enters 2020 convo
HOT TOPIC — IRAN WAIVERS: President Trump has six weeks to decide whether to renew waivers to countries seeking to purchase oil from Iran. After an article over the weekend in The Atlantic detailed how Trump could actually end up preserving the Iran deal, Republican allies on Capitol Hill have begun to pressure the President.
Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted on Monday: “The Iranian regime uses its petrodollars to fund terrorism and sow chaos throughout the region. Going forward, the proper amount of oil exports from Iran is zero.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY): “[The] U.S. should not grant any more waivers for Iran to sell oil. Iran uses sales to fund terrorism, missiles and nukes.”
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH): “We know that Iran uses money from oil sales to fund terrorism. The U.S. should not grant any waivers for Iranian oil exports.”
WHERE’S BIBI? — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no qualms with publicly challenging the Obama administration on the Iran deal. With Netanyahu in D.C. next week for AIPAC, experts are wondering whether the Prime Minister will join Republican lawmakers in publicly pressuring President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to restrict the Iranian oil trade by refraining from renewing waivers.
KEY FACTORS — While experts against the deal argue the waivers allow the Iranians to more easily ‘wait out’ the Trump administration, Trump and Pompeo’s hesitation to end the waivers appears to stem from a fear of causing oil prices to rise. However, according to four U.S. officials cited by Bloomberg, cutting off Iranian oil completely could be offset by American and Saudi production. Further complicating Trump’s decision on waivers is his desire to obtain a ‘win’ with the Chinese on trade. China tops the list of the eight countries granted Iranian oil waivers.
Iranians Line Up at Dawn for a Sanctions Meal They Can Afford — by Golnar Motevalli: “With U.S. officials pledging to tighten curbs on Iran’s oil sales, and import waivers for several of the nation’s oil buyers set to expire in May, life is only getting harder. It’s a grim backdrop as Iran this week celebrates Persian new year, or Nowruz, a festival normally characterized by feasts, sweets and gifts. Central bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati said last month families should adjust spending habits and prepare to see fewer foreign brands on the shelves.” [Bloomberg]
DRIVING THE DAY — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is kicking off his Middle East tour on Tuesday with a stop in Kuwait before heading to Israel to meet with Israeli PM Netanyahu.
During a conference call with faith-based reporters only on Monday, Pompeo wouldn’t say whether or not he would meet with Netanyahu’s main challenger Benny Gantz while in Jerusalem, according to JTA’s Ron Kampeas. Asked whether he believes his visit boosts Netanyahu ahead of the April 9th election, Pompeo maintained that the trip was “long planned” and that the aim is to discuss “the threat from Iran.” Speaking to reporters en route to the region, Pompeo added: “There’s always an election. We’ve got an election a year away, and they’ve got one that’s less than a month away. I’m going to Israel because of the important relationship we have.”
INSIDE THE ADMIN — U.S. Pressures Iraq Over Embrace of Militias Linked to Iran — by Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt: “The United States’ attempts to isolate Iran, including by punishing Iraqi militias and politicians who are supported by Iranian officials, has deepened tensions… within the Trump administration… Under plans recommended by Mr. Pompeo and some White House officials, the State Department would designate Iran’s military Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. It would be a first instance of the United States designating a unit of another government’s military as a terrorist group… Officials at the Pentagon and the C.I.A. oppose designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or the Iraqi militias as terrorist groups, fearing a backlash that could constrain American troops.” [NYTimes]
Trump Administration Officials Clash Over Relief for Venezuelan Immigrants — by Jessica Donati and Dion Nissenbaum: “Special envoy Elliott Abrams, the State Department official who is leading U.S. diplomatic efforts in Venezuela, advocates granting special immigration status for Venezuelans residing illegally in the U.S. as a way to support the Venezuelan people and pressure Mr. Maduro. But key officials of the White House National Security Council opposes such action, saying it would be inconsistent with President Trump’s crackdown on immigration, asylum seekers and refugees… Mr. Abrams has argued that Venezuela’s dire economic and political conditions would justify the move. ‘We have absolutely got to avoid any noncriminal deportations while we sort it out. To send some family back to [Venezuela] now would make us all laughingstocks,’ Mr. Abrams wrote in a sharply worded email sent Feb. 24 to the National Security Council.” [WSJ]
PAGE 1 — Trump response to New Zealand massacre highlights his combative history with Muslims — by Ashley Parker: “In a broader planning meeting, administration officials briefly considered holding a roundtable featuring persecuted religious minorities — Muslims, as well as Christians and Jews — but the idea was scuttled when the group decided they couldn’t pull off such an event on short notice, a White House official said.”[WashPost]
HEARD YESTERDAY — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo criticized ‘politically reluctant’ Democrats on Monday for their muted response to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic comments earlier this month. “I think some people were reluctant to vociferously stand up and condemn it because the whole political environment is so charged. Whatever you say, you’re going to get criticized by the other side,” Cuomo said during an interview on WAMC’s The Roundtable with host Alan Chartock. “Say what’s right, say what’s your belief, and say the truth and damn the rest.”
In his criticism, Cuomo did not single out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as being responsible for watering down the House resolution on antisemitic rhetoric. “I think there are a lot of Democrats, and a lot of Republicans by the way, who are just politically reluctant to say anything because they have a fear of retaliation. You can’t ask a speaker to stand up and articulate a position that her conference is not going to support… It shouldn’t have been just Speaker Pelosi and the Congress. It should have been every Democrat, you know. Everyone should have stood up, every New Yorker — for crying out loud, you want to tolerate antisemitism in New York?” [JewishInsider]
Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) at the start of his first district town hall meeting held at St. Philips Baptist Church in Port Richmond, New York, said:“I have to make a confession: I’m not a socialist. I’m not an anti-Semite… I was the first member of the Democratic Party to come out and criticize what I saw as an anti-Semitic remark.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) shared on an Instagram story a recent quotefrom Sen. Bernie Sanders in her defense, saying she was being targeted “as a way of stifling the debate” on Israel. Omar added an oncoming fist emoji to the quote. [Pic]
Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) writes… “The Jew Who Died for Ilhan Omar: In 1992 the U.S. sent Lawrence Freedman as part of an advance team to prepare the way for American troops in Somalia. On Dec. 23, two weeks after the troops had arrived, Freedman became the first American killed as part of the relief effort in Somalia… Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Freedman is buried in Arlington Cemetery beneath a black marker etched with a green beret and a Star of David. His epitaph reads: ‘The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.’ Americans— including Ms. Omar — should remember him and those who died with him to give Somalis a chance to live in freedom.” [WSJ]
JERUSALEM SCENE — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Monday.[Pic]
HEARD LAST NIGHT — Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon was honored with the Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) Award at the Chabad House at Rutgers 40th anniversary dinner in New Brunswick, NJ. In his remarks, Danon said, “We see antisemitism on the rise in Europe and also here in the U.S. And when we see leaders in the UK or here supporting antisemitism, we have to denounce them, we have to isolate them, and we have to remove them from any position of leadership. We should not allow them to stay where they are.” [Pic; Video]
ACROSS THE SEA — Putin jokes about Jews and money during visit to Crimea: “During a meeting with residents that involved religious leaders, Putin responded to a comment by a local Jewish community member about financial difficulties. ‘So the Jews have problems with finances!’ he answered, to laughter. ‘Such a thing could only happen in Crimea.’ He then spoke in Hebrew, saying ‘thank you very much.'” [ToI]
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Reps. Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Randy Weber (R-TX) introduced legislation on Monday that would strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel on environmental projects in developing countries.
The bill calls for $2 million to be provided each year, for four years, to support collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its counterpart in Israel called MASHAV, on projects related to water resources, agriculture and energy storage. “This legislation would expand the reach of our important partnership and improve lives around the world,” Rep. Frankel said in a statement.
The House and Senate are out this week as members work from their home districts. [JewishInsider]
House Judiciary Committee Planning Hearing on the Rise of White Nationalism — by Erin Banco and Sam Stein: “The House Judiciary Committee is planning on hosting a hearing in the coming weeks addressing the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. and the hate crime and hate speech surrounding the movement.” [DailyBeast]
AT THE UN — U.N. Panel Urges Investigation Into Israeli Shootings at Gaza Border a Year Ago — by Nick Cumming-Bruce: “The three-person commission of inquiry made its recommendation on Monday in presenting the United Nations Human Rights Council with its full 252-page report on a deeply divisive issue… The commission chairman, Santiago Canton, told journalists in Geneva on Monday: ‘I hope Israel expands the investigation to all the killings and all the injured. That’s what we expect or hope Israel will do.’ Israel, however, said the report was legally and factually flawed. Senior Israeli officials in Geneva said it ignored the active role of Hamas’s military wing in organizing and manipulating the protests, as well as the extensive use of military-grade explosives supplied by Hamas.” [NYTimes]
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on a conference call hosted by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA): “This UN report is on its face absurd. And we know that because they had been doing it for a long time, that both Hamas and Hezbollah use human shields as a deliberate tactic. They use innocent Palestinian civilians, put them in harms way because they intend to exploit those human shields for when they are injured or killed, and when Israel defends itself, to number one, get the media to echo back on Israel, and number two, to get useful idiots in places like the United Nations to echo those facts as well. It is a repeated deliberate strategy of Hamas to use human shields. This UN report ignores that reality. The United Nations has long been a reservoir of deep anti-Israel animus and the report is yet another example of that.”
2020 WATCH — A group of former lawmakers and activists have launched a new organization focused on supporting pro-Israel members of Congress in the forthcoming election cycles. Pro-Israel America — a small dollargrassroots effort led by Jeff Mendelsohn, a former AIPAC national director of outreach, and Jonathan Missner who served as AIPAC’s managing director for national affairs — is supported by former Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and former Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA). The group released on Tuesday a list of 27 incumbents from both parties they are endorsing in 2020.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) during an MSNBC town hall in Auburn Hills, Michigan: Trump “did not create hate and racism and antisemitism, but what he has done is pour fuel on a fire that is raging more than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”
Cory Booker finds his moment — by David Brooks: “Some people believe that fire can be fought only with fire… Other people are in the as-they-go-low-we-go-high camp… People in this camp believe that we can change our laws only after we’ve changed our politics… So far, Cory Booker is the candidate who has placed the biggest bet on this latter argument. He agrees with many of his rivals on policy, but he argues that how you behave is just as important as what you propose… Booker uses religious categories more naturally than any other candidate: grace, faith, sacrificial love, the command to love your neighbor as yourself, the awareness that love has a redemptive power to cast out fear. The gospels are pretty clear that the correct response to hate is love.”[NYTimes]
Joe Biden readies major endorsements and message of strength ahead of likely 2020 run… Team Biden braces to be clobbered from both sides… As Beto O’Rourke soaks up attention, rival Democrats appeal for funds… Campus collision course: 2020 Democrats battle for the youth vote… Ahead of 2020, white evangelicals are sticking with Trump…
Andrew Yang, Upstart Democratic Presidential Candidate, Comes Out Against Circumcision — by Will Sommer: “Outsider presidential hopeful Andrew Yang’s latest idea is both literally and figuratively his most unorthodox yet: He’s taking a strong public stance against circumcision… In an interview with The Daily Beast, he said that if he were elected he would incorporate that view into public policy, mainly by pushing initiatives meant to inform parents that they don’t need to have their infants circumcised for health reasons. ‘It’s sort of pushed on parents in many situations,’ Yang said, describing pressure to circumcise a child as a ‘cultural onus’ imposed on families.” [DailyBeast]
KAFE KNESSET — Gantz Shifting Gears and ‘Takes Gloves Off’ — by Neri Zilber: After last week’s Iranian phone hacking report and with his poll numbers coming back to earth, Benny Gantz’s campaign for prime minister has shifted gears in recent days, highlighting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged involvement in a complex corruption scandal involving a multi-billion dollar IDF submarine deal with a German shipmaker invloving several close Netanyahu associates. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Gantz said that the “submarine affair” had recently thrown up new details of alleged Netanyahu financial gains stemming from approval of the deal (via the sale of stocks in a company with business ties to the German shipbuilder). “It is the most serious national security corruption scandal in the history of the country,” Gantz said, and vowed to set up a national committee of inquiry if he wins the election.
Gantz Doesn’t Rule Out Sitting With Bibi: Channel 13 aired leaked tapes of a private conversation wherein Gantz doesn’t rule out sitting in government with Netanyahu. “I closed the door [to such an arrangement], I didn’t lock it,” Gantz is heard telling unnamed interlocutors. “As we’ve seen, life is dynamic, the situation can change. Trump will unveil his [peace] plan, I will win, Trump will unveil his plan. Good, so now what?” Gantz goes on to say. Gantz this morning said, as he put it, “not in an anonymous recording but publicly and in my own voice: I won’t sit in government with Netanyahu.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]
Are Israeli Politics Dooming Kushner’s Peace Push? — by David Makovsky: “There is speculation that Netanyahu would use the presentation of the Trump plan after the elections to widen political space in the center—making Gantz defense minister and the other leading Blue-White centrist, Yair Lapid, foreign minister… Gantz, however, has said that he would not sit in the same coalition as Netanyahu. If he stands by that pledge, what was once deemed the most likely scenario has evaporated—at least for now… [If Gantz wins,] Gantz is unlikely to get behind a peace plan he has not had a chance to shape, as Netanyahu had for the last two-plus years. The U.S. will need to consult Gantz, who might not take office until late spring.” [PoliticoMag]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Gett looks to join taxi-hailing rush to IPO[FinancialTimes] • Israel’s chip sales to China jump as Intel expands[Reuters] • Bucks Co-Owner Marc Lasry Isn’t Looking to Buy a Team Outside of NBA [Bloomberg] • Ziel Feldman set tongues wagging when he borrowed $1 billion for a site near the High Line, and with the project now topping out, the market is not cooperating [RealDeal]
ON SHELVES TODAY — Who Do Jared and Ivanka Think They Are? — by Michelle Goldberg: “According to ‘Kushner, Inc.,’ Gary Cohn, former director of the National Economic Council, has told people that Ivanka Trump thinks she could someday be president. ‘Her father’s reign in Washington, D.C., is, she believes, the beginning of a great American dynasty,’ writes Vicky Ward… Among the most interesting parts of ‘Kushner, Inc.,’ are the chapters about the business history of Charles Kushner, Jared’s felonious father, and his plan to restore his reputation, with Jared’s help, after getting out of prison in 2006… Ward’s book suggests that the search for someone who would bail out 666 Fifth Avenue has played a significant role in American foreign policy during the Trump administration.” [NYTimes]
Vicky Ward on Why She Wrote About Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s Unprecedented White House Role: “I felt that it was my civic duty, the most important and urgent thing I could do for a country I’ve grown to love deeply and to which I owe so very much. I must play my part to rescue it from two entitled New York silver-spooners.” [TownAndCountry]
ENTERTAINMENT — ‘Fauda’ to tackle Hamas tunnels in Season 3 — by Amy Spiro: “The much-anticipated third season of Fauda will head into Gaza and explore the tunnels used by Hamas for both smuggling and attacking Israel. In a sneak peek of the upcoming season – which began filming earlier this month – Yes revealed new details to reporters at a media event unveiling its 2019 programming… Yes did not provide a premiere date for the third season, though it is slated to air sometime later this year and contain 12 episodes. The show will premiere on Yes in Israel before it lands on Netflix.” [JPost]
LONG READ — The Chaotic Triumph of Arron Banks, the ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ — by Ed Caesar: “Two recent posts by LeaveEU had featured images of the financier George Soros, a target of anti-Semitic hatred and a focus of right-wing conspiracy theories. In one post, Soros was pictured as a puppet master controlling Tony Blair; the image echoed a Nazi propaganda poster of the nineteen-forties, in which a Jewish man controls Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin with strings.”
“During our meeting, Arron Banks spoke scathingly of the Web site Open Democracy, which has published detailed articles on Banks’s business dealings and political activities. The site is partly funded by Soros. In October, three days after a pipe bomb was discovered at Soros’s house in Connecticut, Banks tweeted, ‘I suppose there are good Jews and bad Jews, then George Soros.'”[NewYorker]
SPOTTED LAST NIGHT — Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve Chair, at Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, D.C.
DESSERT — Savory, Sweet and Everything In-Between — by Florence Fabricant: “A new book gives an alphabetical rundown, with recipes, of the foods most beloved by Jewish-Americans… Most entries come with recipes, and some with dissenting opinions. There’s Eric Ripert on gefilte fish, Gail Simmons on pickles, Ruth Westheimer on pomegranates (and a tip on removing the seeds) and the spice expert Lior Lev Sercarz on kosher salt. The book is the work of Alana Newhouse, the founder of Tablet, an online magazine of Jewish news and culture. She said the selections reflect the foods that relate most closely to the American Jewish experience.” [NYTimes]
REMEMBERING — Alan B. Krueger, Economic Aide to Clinton and Obama, Dies at 58 — by Ben Casselman: “Alan B. Krueger, a Princeton University economist who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, died over the weekend… Mr. Krueger was an assistant secretary of the Treasury from 2009 to 2010, as President Barack Obama’s administration tried to lead the United States out of its worst recession since the Great Depression. Later, he was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the early days of the economic recovery, from 2011 to 2013. From 1994 to 1995, he was the Labor Department’s chief economist under President Bill Clinton.” [NYTimes]
Bernard Krisher, Journalist and Philanthropist, Dies at 87: “Bernard Krisher, chairman of World Assistance for Cambodia, publisher of The Cambodia Daily and former Newsweek Tokyo bureau chief, died on March 5 at a hospital in Tokyo. He was 87. His death from heart failure was disclosed by his family following a private burial in New York… Krisher was born on August 9, 1931, in Frankfurt, Germany, where his mother had gone to give birth close to her parents. The family lived in Leipzig, where his father, a Jew from Poland, owned a fur shop. Krisher and his family fled Germany in 1937 for the Netherlands and France to escape Nazi persecution.” [CambodiaDaily]
BIRTHDAYS: Philanthropist, art collector and chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder turns 86… Rabbi of Temple Hatikvah in Flanders, New Jersey, Dr. Daniel M. Zucker turns 70… Israeli politician, the daughter of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, she served as a member of the Knesset for three different parties, Dalia Rabin turns 69… Senior lecturer on journalism at the Harvard English Department and author, she was the first woman to be executive editor of The New York Times (2011-2014), Jill Abramson turns 65… NYC-based real estate investor and chairman of Turtle Pond Publications which invests in new media, a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, Craig Hatkoff turns 65…
EVP of merchandising at American Signature Furniture, Steve Rabe turns 59… Writer, critic, author, teacher, musician and radio commentator, he writes often about klezmer, Jewish music and Bob Dylan, Seth Rogovoy turns 59… Neurologist in Naples, Florida, Brian D. Wolff, MD turns 57… Online producer, writer and director, who together with his brother Rafi, are best known for their React video series which have billions of YouTube views, Benny Fine turns 38… Director of North American staff at Taglit-Birthright Israel, Aaron Bock turns 35… Founder of two lines of jewelry, the Brave Collection in 2012, and Zahava (Golden, in Hebrew) in 2018, Jessica Hendricks Yee turns 31…