Daily Kickoff: An interview with Howard Schultz at AIPAC | How Benny Gantz did in his U.S. debut | McDonalds buys Israeli startup for $300M
THE 2020 GRIND at AIPAC — On Monday afternoon, Howard Schultz, who’s mulling a run for president, attended AIPAC’s Policy Conference and later stopped by the organization’s leadership reception. Schultz had responded to MoveOn’s call for 2020 candidates to skip AIPAC by tweeting: “The unwillingness of the far left to even speak with people they may disagree with is one of the worst symbols of the dysfunction in Washington today. We should actively engage with those who support our longstanding alliance.”
At the conference yesterday, Schultz asked us to share a message with JI readers: “Keep embracing Yiddishkeit, it will serve you well.” He later spoke with us about his Jewish identity and views towards Israel. The following interview has been edited for clarity:
You said if you’re going to run for president, you wouldn’t run “as a Jew.” Can you explain?
Howard Schultz: “Well, you’ve got to put that in context. I was asked on 60 Minutes, “is the country ready for a Jewish president?” And I said, yes, the country is ready for Jewish president. And the reason I believe that is the goodness and kindness in the American people. And then I said, however, I am Jewish and proud of that, but…If I run for president, I’m running as an American who happens to be Jewish. I also spoke about the fact that in 1960, when John F. Kennedy was running for president, there was an outcry that he was not suitable to be president because he was Catholic. And he demonstrated while he was campaigning, along the same lines. And so I feel very strongly about my pride and my Jewish heritage, but my love of America.”
So you’re at AIPAC — Israel, what are your views on it?
Howard Schultz: “I’m at AIPAC because I think this a very fragile time with regard to what’s going on politically in the country and obviously within the Middle East. The president’s decision to pull out of Syria, which I didn’t agree with, but I wanted to be here to demonstrate my loyalty and my support of Israel and of AIPAC. With regard to the future of Israel, I’ve been on the record for a long time in my belief in a two state solution, and although we’re a long way from that today, unfortunately, I hope over time that the Palestinians and the Jews can live in harmony. I think it’d be great for the Middle East [and] great for the world.” [JewishInsider]
HEARD YESTERDAY — Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke of his personal connection to Israel through his family history and hopes for his grandchildren, born at a time “when Israel is stronger than ever,” and growing up in a world that is getting farther away from remembering the horrors of the Holocaust and Israel’s fight for survival in the early wars. “Anyone, young or old, who thinks these threats to Israel aren’t real should just read today’s newspaper,” the senator said, referencing the rocket attack early Monday morning that struck a family home north of Tel Aviv.
Getting personal — With tears in his eyes, Schumer described the weight on his shoulders, being the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and the son of a blue-collar worker. “Because of the tolerance and openness and opportunity that courses through all American life, their grandson can stand before you as the highest elected Jewish official ever in America,” Schumer stated.
Condemning antisemitism on both sides — Schumer thundered: “When we see or hear antisemitism we have a solemn obligation not to hold our tongues or parse our language, but call it out, with clarity — when someone names only prominent Jews as trying to buy or steal our elections, we must call it out. When someone says that being Jewish and supporting Israel means you are not loyal to America, we must call it out. When someone looks at a neo-Nazi rally and sees some very fine people among its company, we must call it out. You can be… completely Jewish, completely pro-Israel and completely American and we are!”
Addressing Trump’s remarks that the Democratic Party is ‘anti-Jewish,’ Schumer said: “It will always be wrong to use antisemitism as a political weapon, always. And let me tell you, if you only care about antisemitism coming from your political opponents you are not fully committed to combatting antisemitism.”
During his plenary speech, Vice President Mike Pence called out Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), saying that a “freshman Democrat in Congress trafficked in repeated anti-Semitic tropes” should be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “And at a minimum, anyone who slanders those who support this historic alliance between the United States and Israel should never have a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) highlighted his relationship with Steny Hoyer in achieving bipartisanship on Israel, but was disappointed in the larger class of Democrats. “I’d be lying to you if I said that it’s bipartisan in this Congress. I was embarrassed, I was embarrassed the last resolution had to be watered down.”
McCarthy, building on VP Mike Pence’s speech earlier in the day, said, “AIPAC should never be boycotted, AIPAC should always be celebrated.”
CLARIFICATION DEPT — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) issued a statement on Monday walking back remarks he made a night earlier at AIPAC’s conference, pointing out that Rep. Omar and her colleagues caught up with anti-Israel and antisemitic comments are only three out of 62 freshman Democrats. “Our caucus has a dynamic freshman class of sixty-three new Members, all of whom are doing a great job and bringing unique perspectives and backgrounds to their work in the House,” Hoyer stated. “In pointing out that much of the press attention has been on a few new members in particular, I was lamenting that the media does not appear to be paying enough attention to other excellent new members who are also bringing important new energy and diverse perspectives to our caucus and to the Congress.”
RECAP OF AIPAC DAY 2 — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh and Laura Kelly: Speakers taking the main stage Monday reacted first to the early morning rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on Israeli civilians, pointing out the very real threats Israel faces and America’s commitment to protecting its security. The top speakers, including Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio touched on the existential threats of antisemitism, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the importance of bipartisan support.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out members of the Democratic party supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as supporting a new form of antisemitism. “I suspect none of them are here tonight,” he said. “Friends, let me go on record, anti-Zionism is antisemitism. The Trump Administration opposes it unequivocally, we will fight against it relentlessly.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on a panel during AIPAC that partisan politics “should stop at the water’s edge” when it comes to the committee’s work on foreign policy and foreign affairs. “So what party you belong to isn’t really relevant, what’s relevant is support for Israel.”
IRAN SANCTIONS — Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said on the main stage: “We have to isolate Iran like we isolated North Korea, because they’re one in the same… I think we need to stop with the waivers. If you are doing business with Iran, you want to talk about BDS, if you were doing business with Iran, that’s what we should be talking about.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) echoed this call on an AIPAC panel: “One of the things I think we need to do is end the oil waivers, end them now, no more oil waivers.”
Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN) reacted to Vice President Pence saying that some 2020 Democratic candidates were boycotting Israel. “My sense is that everybody who is running for office would want to be here at the AIPAC conference. His opinion is his opinion, he may be right for all I know. But I would think that as influential… frankly the tremendous line up of speakers that the AIPAC conference has, that they would want to be part of the conference and speak.”
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters after his speech that it was a “mistake” for the Democratic presidential candidates to skip the gathering. “Every leader has to make their own choice, but I think it was important for progressives to be here. I think it was important to say that we stand by Israel. I also think it
We’re told that a bus was arranged to shepherd freshmen Democrats leaving President Obama’s reception to AIPAC’s leadership reception, following JI‘s report of the scheduling conflict.
SPOTTED LAST NIGHT — at the AIPAC leadership reception: Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, Romanian Prime Minter Viorica Dăncilă, Gov. Larry Hogan, Amb. David Friedman, Tim Kaine, Ed Markey, Chuck Grassley, Mark Warner, John Cornyn, Ben Cardin, Bob Menendez, John James, Michael Bennett, Bob Gibbs, Cory Gardner, Ted Cruz, Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Doug Jones, Max Rose, Grace Meng, Josh Gottheimer, Adam Schiff, Jamie Raskin, Jerry Nadler, Eliot Engel, Mikie Sherill, Dean Phillips, Chris Pappas, Andy Levin, Angie Craig, Norma Torres, Hakeem Jeffries, Steve Stivers, Rick Scott, Steve Daines, Glenn Grothman and Warren Davidson.
Also last night — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel addressed a reception hosted by Democratic Majority for Israel. Representatives Brad Sherman, Pete Aguilar, Susan Wild, Tom Suozzi and Brendan Boyle were in attendance. Board co-chairs Ann Lewis and Todd Richman spoke alongside the group’s board members Anton Gunn, Meagan Stabler, Sam Lauter, Elissa Swidler, Archie Gottesman, Mark Gerstein, Barry Porter, Peter Villegas.
At the Young Jewish Conservatives mixer: Rep. Dan Crenshaw, MK Amir Ohana, Yitz Tendler, Joel Griffith, Sophia Witt, Katie Pavlich, Samantha Greenberg and David Milstein. [Pic]
KAFE KNESSET — Gaza Overshadows DC — by Neri Zilber: Unsurprisingly the Gaza escalation overshadowed yesterday’s big news out of Washington, D.C. Benny Gantz’s well-received speech at AIPAC was a mere footnote (if at all) in the news coverage — and, as mentioned, later undone by his Channel 12 interview which dominated the discussion about him. Netanyahu’s “historic” (as he termed it) meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House — where he gained official U.S recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights — was carried on a slight delay by the major networks and received more coverage. Yet in Israel, too, the event’s impact was undone by a split screen showing IDF strikes in Gaza.
Netanyahu later excoriated his traveling press corps for not covering the White House meeting at greater length. Yet it was his sole decision to start the bombing campaign just as he was meeting with Trump. For the Israeli citizens hunkering in bomb shelters at that moment, the rockets flying in from Gaza were a more pressing concern than a Washington photo-op. During a proclamation signing recognizing Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, Netanyahu compared President Trump to Cyrus the Great, Lord Balfour and Harry S. Truman — historic giants who helped secure the future of the Israeli people. Trump, in return, called Netanyahu a ’very special man,’
Gantz Weighs In Unconvincingly: Gantz criticized the government for the loss of deterrence vis-a-vis Hamas and squandering over three years of quiet after the 2014 Gaza war, but made a show of supporting the PM (and of course the IDF and southern residents) during a security crisis. “We won’t attack [the government] at this moment,” Gantz told Channel 12’s Yonit Levy. Yet when pressed by Levy, Gantz found it difficult to expand on how his strategy would be all that different than Netanyahu’s. Speaking from Washington, the primetime interview was dogged by satellite delays and Levy’s focus on Gaza policy, to the exclusion of all other issues including Gantz’s (successful) speech earlier in the day at AIPAC. Gantz looked tired and was perhaps under the weather, leading some mainstream news outlets to describe the appearance as “embarrassing.” While Blue and White was holding its fire, the Likud immediately seized on Gantz’s interview for election purposes. “Gantz doesn’t look sane,” Netanyahu’s spokesman tweeted. “Nothing less than a danger to the state. Let him be well.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]
HOW IT PLAYED — With Confident AIPAC Performance, Gantz Shows U.S. There Is an Alternative to Bibi — by Amir Tibon: “Gantz’s speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington was a hit, winning the appreciation of the U.S. crowd at the pro-Israel lobby’s annual gathering. It’s not clear, though, whether his appearance will help him win any votes in Israel… His speech was a perfect fit for the AIPAC crowd — which tilts more to the right and includes many Trump and Netanyahu fans, but is also nostalgic for a ‘beautiful and righteous Israel’ and is concerned about Israel’s standing in the U.S. public arena.” [Haaretz]
Elliott Abrams emails: “I thought it was a very good speech. No doubt many in the audience will have noted that on key issues like Iran and the Palestinians there did not seem to be much difference between his views in those of Likud. And simply as a speech, I thought it was very well written. Obviously, he does not have the delivery in English, and the polish that Bibi has. No Israeli prime minister has ever mastered English the way Netanyahu has, and I doubt any ever will match him. But the people in the audience at AIPAC don’t vote, and the ones that do are listening to Gantz in Hebrew.”
IPF’s Michael Koplow: “Gantz did as well as he could have done. He was on message, played up his bio and his security credentials (which are his strongest suit), talked hawkish and tough and played upon American Jewish fears of Israel always being in danger while still managing to appeal to optimism, and appealed to the notion of Jewish unity that crosses the U.S.-Israel divide. Graded on his own, he did very well. But ultimately Gantz looked like a standard Israeli prime minister talking to American Jews in very Israeli English, while Netanyahu — for all the ways in which he was and is enormously divisive among American Jews — is able to take control of an American audience in English in a unique way. The question is whether Israelis watching will grade Gantz on his own, or whether they will inevitably compare him to the current competition.”
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi tells Yardena Schwartz that for many American Jews, Netanyahu’s recent alliance with the extremist Jewish Power party is a final breaking point in the crisis between Israel and American Jewry. “Yes, he’s kept Israel safe and prosperous through the most turbulent period in the modern Middle East. With countries all around us disintegrating, terror enclaves on our borders, Iran devouring one Arab country after another, Israel has thrived. But what he’s doing now is undermining those contributions and weakening the most basic fabric of Israeli society,” Halevi explained. “Netanyahu is on an anti-democratic rampage, and legitimating Kahanism is part of his anti-democratic campaign.”
ON THE HILL — Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) spoke to JI’s Laura Kellyabout new bipartisan legislation he introduced last week with Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), which would hold the Palestinian Authority accountable in terrorism lawsuits as a provision to the U.S.-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act. “We were trying to find the best way to address the situation after the last legislation and we think this is it,” Deutch said.
“Our ally Israel has and will continue to receive unwavering bipartisan support in Congress, and we are committed to expanding and strengthening this strategic relationship. This bill highlights the deep, collaborative, and mutually-beneficial relationship between our countries through scientific research and development partnerships and joint economic and innovation endeavors. It also expands Congress’ steadfast commitment to guaranteeing Israel’s security and ensuring it is always prepared to defend itself from the many security threats on its borders.”
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Jonathan Triest’s Ludlow Ventures raises $45M for third fund [TechCrunch] • Former Goldman exec Harvey Schwartz has not interviewed for Wells Fargo CEO job [CNBC] • WeWork’s Losses Swell to Nearly $2 Billion as It Seeks Global Expansion [NYTimes] • Uber to Acquire Careem, Its Top Mideast Rival [NYTimes] • Alibaba acquires Israeli startup Infinity Augmented Reality [TechCrunch] • Israeli Hacking Company NSO Group Is Trying to Clean Up Its Image [Vice]
SPOTLIGHT — McDonald’s buys Israeli digital startup Dynamic Yield — by Heather Haddon and Dana Mattioli: “McDonald’s Corp. is buying Israeli digital startup Dynamic Yield Ltd., in a bid to improve in-store ordering and online marketing at the burger giant. As part of the deal announced Monday, McDonald’s will pay more than $300 million for closely held Dynamic Yield, people familiar with the matter said. The deal is the fast-food giant’s first acquisition in years and its biggest in two decades. McDonald’s will use Dynamic Yield’s technology at its drive-through windows, where digital displays will change in real-time based on factors such as weather and what the customer is ordering. During heat waves, for instance, a drive-through display could promote a McDonald’s ice-cream cone.” [WSJ; Wired]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Gaza Zoo to Close After Four Lion Cubs Freeze to Death — by Brendan Cole: “The animal charity Four Paws had been campaigning for the closure of Rafah Zoo after four lion cubs froze to death and several other animals were killed in air raids, The Times of Israel reported. The zoo, which was set up in 1999, has struggled financially since the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007… According to its website, the welfare group has been working in Gaza since 2014 and has already evacuated and closed down two other zoos in the region — Al-Bisan zoo and Khan Younis zoo.”[Newsweek]
CAMP DAVID AT 40 — Dozens of historic photographs documenting the relationship between then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat as the two leaders negotiated the Israel-Egypt landmark peace agreement in 1979 have been released by the National Library of Israel on its 40th anniversary.
BIRTHDAYS — CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, co-founder of Google along with Sergey Brin, Larry Page turns 46… President of the Palestinian Authority since 2005, Mahmoud Abbas (commonly known as Abu Mazen) turns 84… Argentine-born, Israeli clarinetist who specializes in klezmer music, Giora Feidman turns 83… Actor who has appeared in more than 60 films since 1964, including as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather” (1972), James Caan turns 79… Award-winning novelist and poet, whose debut novel in 1973 “Fear of Flying,” has sold over 20 million copies, Erica Jongturns 77… Marty Rosmarin turns 68… Physician, author of five books and former medical correspondent at ABC News (1984-1999), then as chief medical editor for NBC News (2006-2015), Nancy Lynn Snyderman, MD turns 67… President and CEO of the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum, he was previously Bloomberg’s editor-at-large for Canada (2014-2018) and editor-in-chief of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, Edward Greenspon turns 62…
Actress who has appeared in many movies over a 30-year career, in 2010 she was the winner of Season 11 of Dancing with the Stars, Jennifer Grey turns 59… Patent attorney from Detroit, she was elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives in 2008, 2010 and 2012, Ellen Cogen Lipton turns 52… Founder, president and CEO of Waxman Strategies, a DC-based communications firm that now includes his father, former Congressman Henry Waxman, Michael Waxman turns 45… Born in Phoenix, now living in Israel, talk show host who founded Israel Sports Radio in 2010 and Israel Sports and News Radio in 2015, sports and politics blogger for the Times of Israel, Ari Louis turns 36… Actress best known for her roles in ABC’s sitcom “Suburgatory” and the USA Network’s drama “Mr. Robot,” Carly Chaikinturns 29… Philipp Tolentino…