Daily Kickoff: Trump’s tweet part of a larger Iran strategy? | NYTimes on Signature Bank | Cory Booker’s Hamptons funders | ‘Shtetl Skills’
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BREAKING — Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet that entered Israeli airspace earlier today. The Russian-made Sukhoi jet crossed two kilometers (1.2 miles) into Israeli airspace before a pair of Patriot missiles shot it down. IDF spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus confirmed that the plane was Syrian and that Israel communicated with Russia prior to the strike to ensure the jet was Syrian and not a Russian aircraft. “The only thing we know about the aircraft is that it crashed, most likely in the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights,” he added.
TALK OF THE REGION: Russia wants to push Iran 65 miles from Israel’s border in Syria — by Barak Ravid: “Russia wants to push Iranian forces, Hezbollah and Pro-Iranian Shiite militias 65 miles from the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights, a senior Israeli official said after a meeting in Jerusalem between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov… “This is fine, but eventually, we need to get the Iranians from Syria completely,” Netanyahu told Lavrov.” [Axios; Haaretz]
TEHRAN WATCH — U.S. Toughens Rhetoric on Iran Following Trump’s Tweet — by Jessica Donati and Nancy Youssef: “On Monday morning, the rhetoric hadn’t prompted the Pentagon to move any U.S. military assets, nor generated a sense of urgency to shift the U.S. military posture near Iran, Pentagon officials said. While the U.S. once maintained a carrier strike group in the Middle East, there is none there now. The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier left the region last week and the Navy has no immediate plans to replace it, two defense officials said.” [WSJ]
— “According to multiple administration sources and briefings over several weeks with senior officials, the crackdown on Iran was long planned, and is entirely consistent with Trump’s long-stated objectives… The pre-planned strategy was timed to set the stage for the re-imposition of U.S. economic sanctions on Iran three weeks from now.” [NBCNews]
DRIVING THE CONVO — Will Trump pull a North Korea on Iran? — by Nahal Toosi: “Analysts say there are signs that Trump’s approach to Iran could echo his approach to North Korea. After all, Trump has already sought to meet with Iranian officials, and his advisers won’t rule out future engagement. He’s eager to strike deals on the world stage. And Iran holds important leverage in places where Trump would like to withdraw U.S. troops, such as Syria… If Iran were to offer Trump some sort of a deal involving its own drawback from a part of Syria, Trump may leap at it, details and allies be damned.” [Politico]
Mark Dubowitz emails us… “Trump’s tweet is an important statement of deterrence and resolve. The president has once again put the Islamic Republic of Iran on notice that any interference with international shipping or any other actions will be met with U.S. force. Since the administration began its tough rhetorical campaign in February 2017, Iranian harassment of shipping and missile tests dropped precipitously. One shouldn’t underestimate the extent to which these tough statements deter a regime that only understands power.”
Aaron David Miller tweets: The disconnect in Trump’s Iran policy is stunningly obvious — he won’t talk to Iran; can’t contain and won’t confront it. And so we drift with an other-worldly undeclared regime change policy at best doomed to fail, and at worst triggering conflict that leads nowhere.”
CNN’s Chris Cuomo: “Russia might be the answer to keep an eye on this situation because Trump wins both ways with what he did with this tweet. He wins because he gets a distraction. People are talking about it. I’m talking about it… And if it does get sideways because of his provocation, he can turn to Russia and say, I need Russia to cool it down. They can help us. Iran respects them and trusts them. And in that, he would not only justify his suppleness with Putin in the interest of working together, but he would have created his own proof that he did the right thing with Putin in the first place.” [Video]
Former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro: “IMPULSIVE ALLCAPS TWEETING IS NOT A CREDIBLE MILITARY THREAT.”
HEARD LAST NIGHT — Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer at CUFI’s Night to Honor Israel in DC: “Anyone see President Trump’s tweet yesterday? I think it’s safe to say that there’s a new sheriff in town – a sheriff who is making clear that the days when the most powerful nation on earth will accept threats from Iran are over… Iran now faces a strong headwind from a Trump administration determined to ratchet up the pressure. That policy is working… Truth is before President Trump came into office, Iran’s regime was riding high. Today, it’s on the ropes.”
“Over the decades, Israel has been blessed with strong supporters in Congress on both sides of the aisle. We have been blessed with Presidents, Democrat and Republican alike, who were steadfast friends of Israel… But there has never been a US administration more supportive of Israel than the Trump administration – frankly, it is not even close. From President Trump to Vice President Pence to Secretary Pompeo, from Ambassador Bolton to Ambassador Haley to Ambassador Friedman, from Jared Kushner to Jason Greenblatt to Sarah Sanders, this is an administration that sees Israel as an ally and that treats Israel as an ally. Today the alliance between Israel and America has never been stronger.” [CSPAN; Transcript]
— In this week’s New Yorker: Is Poland Retreating from Democracy? — by Elisabeth Zerofsky: “In late June, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, of Law and Justice, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, issued a joint statement that their dispute had been resolved. Morawiecki said that the offenses described in the Polish Death Camps amendment had been modified from criminal to civil. “Those who say that Poland may be responsible for the crimes of World War Two deserve jail terms,” Morawiecki had said earlier. “But we operate in an international context and we take that into account.” (A former Polish diplomat said that the U.S. had used “brutal political blackmail” to get the Poles to do what the Israelis wanted.)” [NewYorker]
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at CUFI: “Just about one month before I arrived [at the UN], the previous American administration allowed a terrible resolution to pass. That resolution condemned Israel in the most outrageous way. It was a shameful day for America. So when I arrived, I assured the Israeli Ambassador that on my watch that would never happen again, and I’m proud to say the opposite has happened.”
“In all that we’re doing – whether it’s the embassy decision, or UNESCO, or the Human Rights Council, or pushing for votes against Hamas, our approach on Israel is tied together by one major idea. The idea that runs through all of it is the simple concept that Israel must be treated like any other normal country. We demand that Israel not be treated like some sort of temporary provisional entity or pariah.” [CSPAN]
Spotted by a JI reader on Sunday night: Ambassador Haley on an 8:01PM Amtrak Northeast Regional from NYC to DC. According to our tipster, Haley’s entourage included close to 10 aides and security personnel.
U.S. Freeze on Palestinian Aid Threatening Coexistence and Humanitarian Groups, Warn Officials — by Amir Tibon and Jack Khoury: “The funding freeze has also hurt local companies that USAID uses as contractors for economic projects, as well as Jewish-Arab coexistence groups that rely on American financial support for their activities… The Taylor Force Act doesn’t restrict the $35 million intended for the PA security forces, while the rest of the money approved by Congress… is intended for hospitals in East Jerusalem and USAID contractors.”
“If they are trying to pressure Abu Mazen [Abbas], then this is not the way to do it,” said Dan Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel… “Abu Mazen can live with this freeze. Most of the money isn’t going to the PA anyway.” … Shapiro told Haaretz that during his time as ambassador, “There was one group of people that constantly encouraged us to support humanitarian and economic projects through USAID: Israeli security officials.” [Haaretz] • Abbas vows to continue stipends to terrorists even with PA’s ‘last penny’ [ToI]
Sen Lindsey Graham announced at the CUFI summit this morningthat he’s going to introduce a new clause to the Taylor Force Act to punish Palestinian ministers who carry out the ‘pay for slay’ program. “We are going to consider them agents of terrorism. We are going to name names.”
Israel, Hamas trapped over prisoner exchange — by Ben Caspit: “Hamas holds the bodies of two Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul… Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar cannot allow himself to return the bodies without receiving a hefty payment in Palestinian prisoners. Israel can’t allow itself to release Palestinian terrorists in exchange for the corpses of its soldiers, but it also can’t reach any agreement with Hamas before the bodies of these soldiers are returned to Israel for burial. Neither party can break through this barrier, so they are trapped in the same blood-soaked alleyway in a situation that repeats itself regularly with the precision of a Swiss watch. At this point, it is every weekend.” [Al-Monitor] • Israel Eases Restrictions on Gaza’s Only Commercial Crossing [WSJ]
UN rights chief sharply criticizes Israel over Gaza killings — by Edith Lederer: “Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a video address to the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People that… there are “serious concerns” that Israeli accountability mechanisms don’t comply with international standards of “independence, impartiality, and effectiveness.” [AP]
ON THE HILL — Cruz Bill Would Sanction Terrorists for Using Human Shields — by Jenna Lifhits: “The bill, led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, enables the Trump administration to sanction members of foreign terrorist organizations that use civilians to shield themselves from attack. Hezbollah, Hamas, the Islamic State, and Boko Haram are among the designated terror groups that could be targeted under the newly introduced measure… Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal are among the Democrats who back the bill.” [TheWeeklyStandard]
COURTS & CRITICS — Liel Leibovitz writes… “Is Brett Kavanaugh Bad for the Jews? It was so dismaying to see the ADL release a statementdenouncing Judge Brett Kavanaugh minutes after President Trump announced his nomination to the Supreme Court… Why would a group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism engage in this sort of partisan warfare? The answer lies with the group’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt… A former junior aide in the Clinton White House and special assistant to President Obama, Mr. Greenblatt has frequently steered the ADL into the murky waters of party politics… By focusing increasingly on the battles of the Democratic Party, and by weighing in on matters far removed from its traditional mandate, the ADL is leaving American Jews behind.” [WSJ]
An ADL spokesperson responds: “For more than a century, ADL has fought anti-Semitism — no matter the source. At times, we anger people from one political persuasion; at times, others. But this has not — and will not — change our commitment or our course.”
— The ADL official noted that the group has always called for strong questioning of a Supreme Court nominee, but in the case of Kavanaugh, the ADL believes he deserves special scrutiny because some of his views conflict with ADL policies formulated before Greenblatt became head of the group.
2018 WATCH — The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) launched an online candidate contribution portal yesterday, including its first wave of midterm endorsements. The group is backing 6 GOP House candidates — Reps. Barbara Comstock (VA), Peter Roskam (IL), Carlos Curbelo (FL), Leonard Lance (NJ), Keith Rothfus (PA), and Young Kim, running to replace retiring Congressman Ed Royce (CA) — along with 3 Senate hopefuls — Mike Braun (IN), Rep. Kevin Cramer (ND), and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. These races, according to RJC’s Executive Director Matt Brooks, are critical to the Republicans maintaining control of the House and the Senate.
— Brooks tells us: “We are pleased to endorse and support these terrific pro-Israel candidates.” Brooks pointed to the RJC’s first $530K ad buy in Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District against Democrat Scott Wallace highlighting his record of supporting pro-BDS groups. The race was then upgraded from “toss up” to “Lean R” by the Cook Report. “We look forward to doing the same elsewhere,” he said.
GOP Congressman Calls Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ‘This Girl … Or Whatever She Is’ — by Jennifer Bendery: “Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) on Saturday referred to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democratic congressional nominee who is seen as a rising star in her party, as “this girl Ocasio-Cortez or whatever she is.” … The 39-year-old DeSantis goes on to insult Ocasio-Cortez… for criticizing the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians… “There’s never been a Palestinian state. You’re just repeating these canned, left-wing talking points, and you’re somehow the savior of the Democratic Party? Good Lord,” DeSantis said of that interview. “She has no clue what she’s talking about.”” [HuffPost]
2020 WATCH — via Shane Goldmacher: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is heading to the Hamptons this weekend for several fundraisers… Saturday evening at the home of Lisa and Steve Eisenstein in Southampton… Saturday afternoon: Tracy Maitland hosts him in Bridgehampton for “Cocktails & Conversation. Late Saturday, Carolyn Tisch Blodgett and Will Blodgett host him for the same in Water Mill. Sunday brunch/breakfast at the home of Yael and Ben Ringel in Sagaponack.”
A Republican group is digging up dirt on business leaders who could take on Trump in 2020 White House race — by Brian Schwartz: “Super PAC America Rising is gearing up for battle against potential candidates such as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz, according to people familiar with the plan. Apple CEO Tim Cook, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Disney CEO Bob Iger and… Tom Steyer are also in its sights.” [CNBC]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT… The Cohen vs. Trump Battle Ratchets Up — by Emily Jane Fox: “For months, friends and advisers have been telling Cohen that Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Rudy Giuliani, among other people in Trump’s inner circle, have been eroding his relationship with the president. People close to [Michael] Cohen speculated over the weekend whether the release of the recording was part of such a strategy… “If they think for a second that the efforts to discredit me aren’t known to me, they are sadly mistaken,” he has told friends. “Did they think I was just going to roll over and die?” [VanityFair] • Feds have 12 Michael Cohen audio recordings [CNN]
“How a Small Bank Became a Go-To Lender to the Trump Family” by Emily Flitter and Jesse Drucker: “When Michael D. Cohen needed $17 million to buy a Manhattan apartment building in 2015, he went to Signature Bank. Years earlier, he had helped initiate a relationship between Signature and Mr. Trump, and the bank became an unlikely go-to lender for the future president and his extended family. Signature provides a window into the intersecting financial interests of Mr. Cohen and the Trump and Kushner families. Signature’s interactions with some of its most famous clients are attracting attention from regulators.”
“We recognize we are not perfect,” Signature’s chairman, Scott A. Shay, said in a statement. “However, any allegation that we knowingly or somehow actively abet tenant harassment is frankly a slander against Signature Bank and an unfair impugning of the reputations of many hardworking colleagues who strive to be a positive force for not only our shareholders and depositors but our community as well.” [NYTimes]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Dan Loeb’s Third Point Takes PayPal Stake, Sees Shares Hitting $125 [Bloomberg] • Leon Cooperman, the Hedge Fund Billionaire, Says It’s Time to ‘Fold ’Em’ [NYTimes] • Would Mark Zuckerberg Have Been Fired at Another Company? [VanityFair] • Tel Aviv And Dubai Are Climbing The List Of Priciest Airbnb Cities [Bloomberg]
Billy Joel Explains Why He Wore a Star of David to a Concert Last Year — by Chavie Lieber: “Last summer, Billy Joel appeared onstage at Madison Square Garden wearing a yellow Star of David… In an interview with CBS News that aired Sunday night, Joel said President Donald Trump’s remarks on how there were good people “on both sides” of the incidents in Charlottesville ignited his choice. “I had to do something that night,” he said… ”My family suffered,” he added. “And I think I actually have a right to do that.” Joel elaborated on his decision to wear the yellow star in an interview with Vulture. “To me, what happened in Charlottesville was like war,” he said… “When those guys see punks walking around with swastikas… I was personally offended. That’s why I wore that yellow star. I had to do something, and I didn’t think speaking about it was going to be as impactful.” [Racked; Vulture]
LongRead: The Untold Story of Otto Warmbier, American Hostage — by Doug Bock Clark: “When Trump won, [Mickey] Bergman and [Bill] Richardson recognized a golden opportunity to free Otto à la the release of American hostages in Iran at the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural presidential term. The two fringe diplomats put together a photo-op-worthy proposal for the Trump plane to pick Otto up in advance of the inauguration, before bureaucracy hemmed in the new president. They didn’t receive a no from North Korea, which they knew from past diplomacy with them was often a signal of positive interest.”
“The challenge that we had was that we could not get Donald Trump,” Bergman said. “We tried to go through Giuliani, Pence, Ivanka. Nothing during the transition. I’m assuming they were in chaos over there. I don’t think it ever crossed his desk, because I think he would have actually liked it.” … When Trump learned of Otto’s condition, he doubled down on the order for [Joseph] Yun to rush to Pyongyang and bring Otto home…” [GQ]
KAFE KNESSET — Tzipi Livni Named Opposition Leader After Herzog’s Departure — by Chaim Levinson and Jonathan Lis: “Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay and Tzipi Livni announced Monday they have agreed for her to be appointed head of the opposition. Livni will take the seat in the stead of Isaac Herzog, who has been named Jewish Agency chief… As part of the deal, Livni promised to run jointly with Gabay in the next elections, though the terms of their alliance remain in murk. Gabbay cannot serve as opposition leader since he is not a lawmaker.” [Haaretz]
— JPost’s Lahav Harkov emails us: “Livni isn’t the head of Zionist Union, so all the opposition leader position means is that she gets to give a rebuttal whenever Netanyahu speaks in the Knesset, and to meet with most visiting foreign leaders. I don’t see a significant difference between how she would do that and what Herzog did. Her speeches may be a bit more fiery, but that’s about it.”
HEADLINE FROM CAPRI: “Karlie Kloss Surprises Joshua Kushner and Flips Off the Paparazzi” [VanityFair]
TALK OF OUR NATION — by Ruth La Ferla in the NYTimes: “Five years ago, Lauren Shields… wrote an article for Salon called “My Year of Modesty.” It chronicled the nine months Ms. Shields spent literally under wraps, having shed the makeup, short skirts, spindly heels and other trappings of conventional Western femininity for loosefitting, trailing skirts or jeans and a head wrap… “At the time I lived in Brooklyn and noticed that Orthodox Jewish women there dressed modestly in a way that didn’t look like a costume. So I basically began dressing like an Orthodox Jewish woman. The big difference is that instead of a long skirt, I was usually in jeans.”” [NYT]
From identifying plants to making cheese, ‘shtetl skills’ are reviving a more traditional way of life — by Anya van Wagtendonk: “Shtetl Skills” began five years ago, the brainchild of Nati Passow, the Jewish Farm School’s co-founder and executive director. A descendant of Holocaust survivors, Passow wanted to connect his organization’s commitment to urban sustainability and food justice with the practical skills that “you might need to survive should there be a massive disruption in the world order, or even just in your life,” he said. “Judaism, at its foundation, has a lot of connections to food and farming,” Passow said…” [TheInquirer]
BIRTHDAYS: Vice Chairman of Promontory Interfinancial Network, he was a partner at Covington & Burling, US Ambassador to Romania (1994-1997) and President of the American Jewish Committee, Alfred H. Moses turns 89… Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who worked for ABC News (1978-1983) and CBS’s 60 Minutes (1983-1997), Lowell Bergman turns 73… Israeli physician, author and playwright, he is the younger brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, Iddo Netanyahu turns 66… Political pollster and consultant, he was the strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns and for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, Joel Benenson turns 66… Los Angeles attorney, he has served as a board member of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the United Jewish Federation and Sinai Temple, Michael Jeffrey Bordy turns 66…
Retired offensive lineman in the NFL, he played for the Green Bay Packers (1986-1990) and the Dallas Cowboys (1991-1992) where he won in Super Bowl XXVII, now a motivational speaker, Alan (Shlomo) Veingrad turns 55… Secretary for the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet since 2007, previously Kentucky State Treasurer (1999-2007), author of “The Liberal Case for Israel,” Jonathan Miller turns 51… President of Access Computer Technology in West Bloomfield, Michigan, he is a rabbi, entrepreneur and social media expert, Jason Miller turns 42… Co-founder and partner at Orfin Ventures, an incubator and deep-tech venture fund, Adam Finkel turns 32… Sarah Citrenbaum… Rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom, the largest Jewish congregation in the San Fernando Valley, a 2008 graduate of JTS, previously a rabbi in Biloxi, Mississippi, Noah Zvi Farkas turns 39… Yale Law School student Shlomo Klapper…