Daily Kickoff: Rocket fire over central Israel, Bibi heading home | Hoyer: There are 62 freshman Democrats, not 3 | Aaron David Miller turns 70
Ed note: It’s only Monday morning but for us and many in DC around AIPAC it already feels like a Wednesday or Thursday.
OVERNIGHT CHANGE — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will no longer appear at AIPAC in-person on Tuesday morning after a rocket fired from Gaza hit a private home in Moshav Mishmeret in the Kfar Saba region, injuring six people early Monday morning. Netanyahu will be heading back to Israel after meeting with President Trump later today, foregoing his planned dinner with the president tomorrow, and will instead address the AIPAC gathering from Jerusalem via video.
HEARD YESTERDAY — Meghan McCain, appearing alongside former Senator Joe Lieberman in a tribute for the late John McCain at AIPAC’s Sunday evening session: “Many of you know, there are people out there today, including in the halls of Congress, who believe that America supports Israel only because it’s powerful. That line, recalling so many pernicious stereotypes, is a profound misunderstanding of how American democracy works. Americans don’t support Israel because AIPAC is influential. AIPAC is influential because Americans support Israel.” [Video]
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) declared to AIPAC, “I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically. So, when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: accuse me. I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel. I tell Israel’s detractors: accuse us.”
Hoyerannounced that he will lead the “largest delegation ever – probably more than thirty Democratic Members of Congress, including many freshmen” on an annual trip to Israel in August. “By the way, there are 62 freshman Democrats — you hear me? Sixty-two, not three,” Hoyer pointed out. “We stand with Israel because we are loyal Americans, patriots who believe it is in America’s interest that Israel remains strong and free and supported as a place of refuge from the haters of the world. We proudly stand with Israel. Accuse us,” he concluded to thunderous applause. [Video]
HOW IT PLAYED — Hoyer delivers strong defense of U.S.-Israel alliance in veiled rebuke of Rep. Omar [WashPost] • At AIPAC, Democratic majority leader aims fire at Ilhan Omar [JTA] • AIPAC speakers make thinly veiled jabs at Ilhan Omar in wake of comments deemed anti-Semitic [FoxNews]
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, during a Q&A session on Sunday afternoon: “You don’t have to agree with every single thing that AIPAC has supported or everyone who goes to an AIPAC conference. By the way, I think people who go to the AIPAC conference don’t all agree with each other. But you do have to agree that Israel matters in the world and that we have to have to defend Israel… The vast majority of Democrats support the state of Israel. The vast majority of progressives support the state of Israel. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.” [Pic]
RECAP OF AIPAC DAY 1 — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Speakers on the main stage during Sunday evening’s plenary session called out Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and her statements – charging supporters of Israel as pushing for “allegiance to a foreign country” – but without explicitly mentioning her.
“The fundamental reasons we support a strong U.S-Israel relationship have been attacked and worse, our loyalty to the United States has been questioned and people are watching to see what happens next,” AIPAC President Mort Fridman said. “I’m the child of a Holocaust survivor, I’m the president of AIPAC, we all have stories that brought us here and, though all of us are different in so many ways, we are similar too. In one very specific way — none of us are willing to be silenced or intimidated.”
British Member of Parliament Joan Ryan addressed the controversy surrounding endemic antisemitism in the Labour Party. She explained the decision that she and seven other MPs made to quit the Labour Party.“I would never have believed just three years, that the party which backed a Jewish homeland, even before the Balfour Declaration, would have sunk so low, so fast,” she told the audience of 18,000. “Why did I, a non-Jewish friend of Israel, travel to your conference, to tell you this? To remind you that things can change quickly. To remind you that we must stay on our guard and to remind you that we must stand our ground. We must condemn antisemitism and anti-Zionism unequivocally wherever we find it, whenever we find it.”
FIGHT AGAINST BDS — In his remarks, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also expressed his support for a bipartisan resolution that opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, calling it a “front to delegitimize the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.” The resolution, introduced last week by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), “puts Congress on record that BDS must be opposed and at its root — at its root — is an effort to eliminate the Middle East’s only pluralistic democracy,” Leader Hoyer said.
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said it would be a worse problem if Israel would keep their inventions and technologies out of the hands of supporters of the movement. “Those countries and those organizations should be worried about Israel boycotting them,” he said during a Q&A session on the main stage. “I’m serious. If Israel starts boycotting people, there will be no cell phones, there’s not going to be any of these autonomous victories, go to that medicine cabinet, take out half the drugs that are in there. The BDS movement is not a threat to Israel’s economy, it is a moral attack against Israel, it’s an antisemitic attack against Israel, we have to fight back.”
NEXT UP — AIPAC President Mort Fridman announced on Sunday that the board has selection Betsy Berns Korn as its next president, starting next year. According to JTA’s Ron Kampeas, Berns formed a company, BVision Sportsmedia, in 1996 and authored, ‘The Female Fan Guide to Pro Football,’ a book, which, according to its Amazon blurb, uses ‘simple and easy to understand language’ so that ‘Husbands AND wives, boyfriends AND girlfriends can now enjoy their Sunday afternoons together.’
HAPPENING TODAY — Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Kachol Lavan head Benny Gantz and AEI’s Arthur Brooks are speaking at the policy conference morning plenary session.
Pence is expected to hit the 2020 Democratic candidates for boycotting AIPAC, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports.
PREVIEW — In a phone conversation with Jewish Insider yesterday, Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), previewed the message of his speech to AIPAC ahead of this morning’s plenary session.
Brooks explains why many Americans support Israel: “Americans believe that pluralistic democratic capitalism is good for everybody in the world, and we look for outposts around the world that share that, particularly in these extremely adversarial conditions. And there’s no better example of that than Israel. And so the reason that we stand with Israel, the reason that we all should and many of us do, and the reason that people came all across the country is because we want the best for everybody.”
Brooks calls the current political climate an “incredible opportunity” for AIPAC: “You know, AIPAC got weirdly controversial for all kinds of reasons that had nothing to do with AIPAC per se and everything to do with the current political environment. AIPAC became an Avatar for other political issues. And, you know, some people will kind of regret that, but they shouldn’t. That’s an incredible opportunity that just doesn’t come along very much. And the opportunity is to treat the contempt toward AIPAC or the contempt for any of us as an opportunity to answer with respect and kindness and actual love because it’s an opening to be persuasive, particularly for people who witness the dialogue, and it’s an opportunity to actually create more happiness in our world, for us and maybe even for the people that we’re dealing with.”
“Every Israeli knows that you can have contempt that’s actually a physical threat. At which point you’d have to get out the power tools… I’m talking about in the United States where people are attacking AIPAC on social media and in ordinary media and in politics. That is a true opportunity to show what we’re made of as people radically dedicated to the equality of human dignity. And so people will listen to us and say, ‘My God, those guys do really practice what they preach. They really do believe those things.’ And if it were not for the contempt of the current environment, we wouldn’t have that opportunity and we wouldn’t be able to take the cause forward as rapidly as we will be able to in the coming six months. I’m going to talk about how to do it and what the consequences are if we blow it by answering the contempt of the political situation with contempt of our own.”
Brooks on where AIPAC might be in 5-10 years: “Whether AIPAC has its current level of support or changes, depends very centrally on whether or not AIPAC represents what the country wants to be, not just what AIPAC wants to be. [As a country] we’re starting to rebel against the outrage industrial complex… 93 percent of Americans hate how divided we’ve become… All organizations are aligned with one particular specific cause, but to the extent that they represent the general cultural movement of where we want to be, that will be the biggest driver in their ultimate success.”
“So I would strongly recommend the leaders of AIPAC to say, how can we represent what all Americans most want for their country? Martin Luther King said the cause of civil rights should be the cause of American greatness, and that’s the way it should be. If it becomes more narrow in its cause, I understand that, but I think that would be a missed opportunity for AIPAC to represent the broader sentiments of those of us who love each other and love our country, and, by the way, who even love our neighbors when they disagree with us.” [JewishInsider] • Brooks’ recent book on this topic: Love Your Enemies
KAFE KNESSET — Rocket attack on central Israel — by Neri Zilber: Early this morning a long-range rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a house in Mishmeret, a moshav in the Sharon region north of Tel Aviv. Seven Israeli civilians in the severely damaged home were wounded (including infants), one moderately. At present no Palestinian faction has taken responsibility for this morning’s attack, although the IDF told Kafe Knesset that it was a “Hamas rocket fired from a Hamas position and we hold Hamas responsible.” The Iron Dome rocket defense system wasn’t activated, with the IDF saying the system only protects those areas where it’s deployed. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here[KafeKnesset]
DRIVING THE DAY — President Trump will meet with PM Netanyahu in the Oval Office at 11:45 AM EST.
Going into the meeting, President Trump received the news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller cleared the Trump campaign from suspicions that it colluded with the Russians in the 2016 elections. That was welcome news for Israeli officials, who told McClatchy’s Michael Wilner and Franco Ordonez that the report clears the air for the president’s meetings with Netanyahu.
TWO STATE SOLUTION ON LIFE SUPPORT — A new poll conducted for Haaretz shows only 34 percent of Israelis support the two state solution, while 42 percent back some form of annexation of the West Bank. The poll also indicates that only a majority of voters on the center-left — Kachol Lavan, Labor and Meretz — support a two state solution.
Tom Friedman writes… “Trump and Congress: Loving Israel to Death: Amos Yadlin, the former head of military intelligence in Israel, likes to say that Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy faces two existential threats — a nuclear-armed Iran and turning itself into a bi-national state by permanently occupying the West Bank with its 2.5 million Palestinians. And while Israel has a strategy for addressing the first threat, it has no strategy for addressing the second. One reason it doesn’t is because of a third existential threat to Israel. And that threat is from America — particularly from President Trump, but also from pro-Israel lawmakers in Congress and from AIPAC, the main Israel lobbying organization. It’s the threat that America will love Israel to death.” [NYTimes]
ON THE HILL — The Senate is expected to consider a resolution condemning Rep. Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic comments and declaring that “anti-Semitism has for hundreds of years included attacks on the loyalty of Jews” later this week, the NYTimes’ Glenn Thrush reports. The “sense of the Senate” measure, sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is likely to be passed unanimously or with only minimal opposition.
IRAN SANCTIONS — As the Trump Administration continues to consider the extension of waivers for oil exports out of Iran, Swiss officials have proposed that Swiss banks handle transactions between European firms selling medicine, food and other humanitarian-related goods to Iranian companies, a model used by the Obama administration before the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a report by NBC News. Swiss officials are looking for an additional level of assurance from the Treasury Department, removing any concerns for the Swiss banks handling payments for European firms exporting humanitarian goods to Iran.
The Swiss humanitarian payment arrangement could “counter the propaganda from the regime that America is to blame for difficulties in buying humanitarian goods inside Iran,” FDD’s Mark Dubowitz told the news publication.
On Friday, the Trump administration unveiled new sanctions targeting 31 Iranian nationals and organizations that allegedly supported or were associated with Iran’s past efforts at building nuclear weapons. By threatening to penalize any individuals or companies around the world that deal with the blacklisted entities, the Trump administration is trying to cut off access to the tools and the expertise Iran needs for a nuclear-weapons program.
Meanwhile, the U.S clinched a strategic port deal with Oman on Sunday which will allow the U.S. military better access in the Gulf region and reduce the need to send ships through the Strait of Hormuz, a maritime choke point off Iran.
Watch — Tipster sends us a video of Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) watching videos at Shun Lee West in NY last night [Video]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Josh Kushner acquires piece of Memphis Grizzlies [CommercialAppeal] •Developer Sam Boymelgreen Plans Office Complex For Former Gowanus Printing Plant [Bklyner]• Ben Lerer eyes a merger with Refinery29 [BusinessInsider] • Yitzhak Tshuva´s Delek Drilling LP is considering buying a stake in an Egyptian liquefied natural gas plant to broaden its export footprint [Bloomberg]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Robert Kraft speaks out for first time since prostitution bust — by Emily Smith: “New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued an extensive public apology on Saturday in which he told backers he hoped to ‘regain your confidence and respect.’ ‘I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard,’ the 77-year-old billionaire said in a statement. ‘Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing. The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being.'” [NYPost; BleacherReport]
— “Those close to him say, Kraft is deeply embarrassed that he has scarred his father’s cherished legacy and cast shadows on the many institutions he has financially nurtured in his family’s name, particularly those honoring his Jewish heritage… His friends say he recognizes the damage the episode has done, regardless of how his case is resolved in court… Steve Comen, an attorney who has been Kraft’s friend since they entered kindergarten together and has spoken with him since the charges were filed, said Kraft is ‘heartsick’ over the scandal.” [BostonGlobe]
REMEMBERING — Rafi Eitan, Israeli Spymaster Who Caught Eichmann, Is Dead at 92 — by Joseph Berger: “Rafi Eitan, the canny Israeli spymaster who commanded the Nazi-hunting team that captured Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and many years later was unmasked as the handler of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the American Navy intelligence analyst who pleaded guilty to passing on more than 1,000 secret documents to the Israelis, died on Saturday in Tel Aviv… In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Mr. Eitan ‘among the heroes of the intelligence services of the State of Israel.'” [NYTimes]
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY — Vice President and Middle East Program Director at the Wilson Center since 2006, after 24 years at the US Department of State (1978-2003), Aaron David Miller turns 70. Miller told Jewish Insider via email: “Last night I was stunned to see the number 70 on the cake. Still, 70 is the new 50. On balance, I’m taking the sage advice of former Secretary of State James Baker whose view of getting older makes the most sense — it beats the alternative.”
BIRTHDAYS: Chairman of Eastern Savings Bank and chair of philanthropic planning and services at the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Beth H. Goldsmith… Film and book critic, with regular appearances on NBC’s “The Today Show” from 1973 until 2010, Gene Shalitturns 93… Pulpit rabbi and historian, he served as rabbinic administrator of the Orthodox Union’s kashrut division, Rabbi Berel Wein turns 85… Feminist, journalist and social activist, Gloria Steinem turns 85… Actor and director, best known for his role as Detective David Starsky on the 1970s television series “Starsky & Hutch,” Paul Michael Glaser turns 76… Mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada since 2011, her husband had been Mayor from 1999 until 2011, Carolyn Goodman turns 80… Norman N. Goldberg turns 75… Glynis Gerber turns 66… Strategic adviser for science and environmental journalism since 2018 at the National Geographic Society, he was previously a reporter at the New York Times (1995-2009), Andrew C. Revkin turns 63…
Columbus, Ohio-based business consultant focused on dental practice management and marketing, Cynthia S. Levy turns 62… Executive director at Plum Community Center in Pittsburgh, she was previously executive director of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee (an independent affiliate of AJC), Karen Hochberg turns 62… Author, freelance journalist and the eHealth editor for Politico Pro, Arthur Allen turns 60… Retired IDF Major General, from 2014 to 2018 he served as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Yoav (Poli) Mordechai turns 55… Emmy Award-winning actress, Sarah Jessica Parker turns 54… Israeli special forces soldier turned software entrepreneur turned political leader, he led the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party until 2018 when he formed the New Right party, Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett turns 47…
Attorney and President of Mizel Financial Holdings, Cheston David Mizelturns 44… Principal at DC-based Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, Lauren Aronson turns 40… Boston-based director of media and public relations at Oxfam America, Alissa C. Rooney turns 39… Political editor at The Associated Press, Steven Sloan turns 36… Op-Ed staff editor and writer for The New York Times, Bari Weiss turns 35… Director of media at Chicago-based Golin, following stints at Resolute Consulting and the Cook County government, she was previously DC-based at Politico, Roll Call and Yahoo News, Meredith Shiner turns 32… Legislative director for US Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), Grant C. Dubler turns 30… Jordan Rossman turns 29… Regional Director for New Jersey and Rockland County in the Orthodox Union’s Department of Community Engagement, Rabbi Avi Heller… Pamela Snyder…