Daily Kickoff

China still importing Iranian crude? | Fred Zeidman & Steve Israel urge bipartisanship on Israel | Inside DVF’s Statue of Liberty party

From left, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, and President Donald Trump sit together during a meeting with Caribbean leaders at Mar-A Lago, Friday, March 22, 2019, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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TRANSITION — Eric Fingerhut, currently president and CEO of Hillel International, has been appointed as the next president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

Fingerhut, a former one-term congressman representing Ohio’s 19th congressional district, will replace Jerry Silverman, who headed the organization for 10 years, in August. 

“For more than half a decade, the Jewish world has watched as Eric spearheaded transformational change at Hillel,” Mark Wilf, chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees, said in the statement. “With a clear vision for the future of Jewish life on college campuses and universities, he took a 90-year-old organization and made it new again. We believe he can bring the same energy and imagination to the Federation.”

IS CHINA TESTING TRUMP ON IRAN? — Responding to the prospect that China is breaking a U.S. ban on importing Iranian oil, a U.S.-China sanctions expert tells JI“Any import of Iranian oil is sanctionable, period. Not just purchases – any import whether in the form of barter, debt repayment or equity oil. This would be a financially painful decision by China to expose its banks and oil companies to U.S. sanctions while their economy is already fragile and the Saudis have promised to replace all their Iranian oil imports. One wonders whether this is real or propaganda.”

ON THE HILL — The Trump administration has agreed to send top national security officials to brief Congress on the escalating tensions with Iran as members are growing frustrated with the mixed messages coming from the president and his senior advisers. On Thursday, DNI director Dan Coats and NSA head Gen. Paul Nakasone met privately Thursday with the Gang of Eight, which includes the top Senate Republicans and Democrats.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), speaking on the Senate floor after a briefing, described the situation as a “serious and potentially imminent threat to U.S. forces” and defended the Trump administration’s moves to be in a “position to retaliate” should Iran target U.S. interests in the Middle East.

President Trump reportedly told Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that he does not want to go to war with Iran during a Wednesday morning meeting in the Situation Room. Asked if the U.S. is closer to war with Iran, Trump told reporters outside the White House, “I hope not.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that she was satisfied by what she heard from Trump about averting military conflict with Tehran. “I like what I hear from the president — that he has no appetite on this, even though some of his supporters are rattling sabers,” she said.

REPORT — Intelligence collected by the U.S. government shows Iran’s leaders believe the U.S. planned to attack them, prompting preparation by Tehran for possible counterstrikes, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. Some in the Trump administration, according to the report, maintain that the intelligence indicates Iran is, or was, planning to strike first.

DRIVING THE CONVO — Jake Sullivan and Bill Burns, the two former Obama administration officials who began the secret talks with the Iranians in Oman that led to the 2015 nuclear deal, write… We Led Successful Negotiations With Iran: Contacts with the Iranians are not a reward for bad behavior, and we should have no illusions that they will engage productively on all our concerns. But diplomacy is the best way to test intentions and define the realm of the possible… Coercive diplomacy—when both elements of the approach are carefully synchronized—can deliver. On the other hand, coercion without diplomacy can lead to huge blunders in the Middle East. We’ve seen that before.” [TheAtlantic]

FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer tells Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh: “The administration has been very clear about the behavior they want to see the Iranian regime change and it has been very consistent in that messaging. The events of the past week have been exaggerated… There are things that are happening here that certainly, I think, indicate tension, which I think has been consistent when one looks at the policies of this administration. But I just don’t see the precipice of war that has been described. I have not seen direct calls by administration hawks to engage in conflict with Iran. It’s just not been there. And then add to that the fact that this has been an administration that has been trying to get America out of Middle Eastern wars, not, start new ones or extend the old ones, for that matter.”

Josh Rogin writes… “The Trump administration isn’t aiming for war with Iran — but that doesn’t mean we should relax: There’s deep concern on Capitol Hill about how the administration is managing the risk of escalation spiraling out of control… These tense times call for more restraint, less speculation and less hyperbole. The Trump administration must be more transparent about its complicated, risky strategy. But understanding what it is actually doing — and dealing with that honestly — is the best way to prevent the disastrous war we are all trying to avoid.” [WashPost]

Eli Lake writes… “John Bolton Is Exactly What Trump’s Iran Policy Needs: 
Bolton is kind of a one-man psychological warfare operation. If Iran’s leaders believe Trump’s advisers are trying to constrain him, they may assess they can get away with a proxy attack on U.S. positions. If they think Trump is trying to constrain his national security adviser, they may decide not to.”[Bloomberg

Susan Glasser writes: 
“The sudden consensus about a march to war, at least initially, discounted one key factor: the President himself. If anything, it speaks to Trump’s frayed credibility and reputation for impulsivity that this debate even broke out. Everything we’ve learned about Trump until now suggests that if the President were serious about going to war with Iran, we would already know it.” [NewYorker]

PODCAST PLAYBACK —  Rob Malley
, former Middle East Director at the National Security Council under President Obama and currently president of the International Crisis Group, discussed the prospects of war between the U.S. and Iran on the Deconstructed podcast with Mehdi Hasan.

Hasan: So Trump has been tweeting for years. Did you know that in 2011, 2012, he was tweeting, ‘Obama will attack Iran in order to get reelected.’ And we know that everything Trump says, especially about Obama, is projection. So when he says Obama will attack Iran to get reelected, is he really saying that he would attack Iran to get reelected? The domestic political considerations are there as well between now and 2020. He saw what happened to his poll numbers when he launched the odd missiles at Syria.

Malley: “Yeah. Call me naive, I think on this one, he doesn’t really want to get entangled. It’s one thing to have a few missile strikes. So I think there are two dangers, not that he deliberately wants to create a massive war. I think he thinks something small can be contained, like what happened in Syria. In Iran, it probably can’t be contained. That’s one risk. And the other risk – I think right now most Americans would be extremely skeptical about another war with Iran, despite all the enmity towards Iran. If something happened, if tomorrow there were an attack against American troops in Iraq or in Syria, then the whole narrative will change.”

….

Hasan: If you are John Bolton, do you think you’re winning right now?

Malley: “Oh sure. Right now this is where he would like to be.”

Hasan: What are we going to see from the Democrats?

Malley: “Back during the Iraq war, Democrats thought their ticket to relevance and survival was to vote for the war. Today. I can’t imagine that any Democratic candidate or potential candidate would express anything but utter opposition to war with Iran. So I think that shows how — I mean it’s sort of the hangover of the war in Iraq. I think the politics have changed profoundly, and that’s something that I do think gives us some hope that there’ll be more resistance now than there was in 2003.” [Deconstructed]

HEARD ON THE TRAIL — South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg 
on the situation in the gulf during a speech before the City Club of Chicago on Thursday:”This is not a game. This is not a show. We’ve got to make sure that security decisions are not made based on politics but are the right decision… The relationship between what the president says and what the president does has always been suspect. This is something that should be taken extremely seriously, and it’s why I hope and pray there are enough people in Congress to recognize that if there was ever a moment to stop Congress’ abandonment of its own war powers and get on the record on this issue, it is now.” 

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Analysts and former Israeli military and intelligence officials say the Israeli government is not angling for a full-blown war between the U.S. and Iran. Such a war, Israeli officials fear, could plunge Israel into a mutually destructive conflagration with Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in Lebanon. “If they use Hezbollah, it’ll be devastating,” Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Netanyahu told the New York Times. “I don’t know how many buildings in Tel Aviv will be destroyed.”

TOP TALKER — Israel has received bids from three groups — Israel-based IDE Technology, Hutchison Water, and a partnership of Afcon, Acciona and Allied Investments — interested in building and operating a desalination plant that will supply more than a fifth of the country’s household water. The plant will be the biggest in the world to use reverse osmosis technology, Israel’s Finance Ministry announced on Thursday.

The European Investment Bank has already said it would provide up to 150 million euros to help finance the project. When the new facility is completed, it will provide some 200 million cubic meters of water per year.

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — On Thursday, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called the upcoming Trump peace plan “the consecration of Palestinians’ century-old ordeal.” Speaking at Chatham House think tank in London, al-Maliki said all the indications were that “this administration is preparing to give its stamp of approval to Israel’s colonial policies… When it comes to taking the lead on peace efforts, the world left the steering wheel in the hand of a reckless driver… with a view that we should wait till the reckless driver goes over a cliff or runs over the Palestinian people [before doing] something about it.”

White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt said on Wednesday that the U.S. welcomes Canadian Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s commitment to move Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem if elected later this year. Anyone that supports the Trump administration on that, I think is a good friend and understands the reality of what Jerusalem always was and is,” Greenblatt told reporters following a speech to the World Jewish Congress in Ottawa. 

INTERVIEW — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti discussed support for Israel in the Democratic Party during an interview with the Jerusalem Postwhile on a trip to Israel. “As a Democratic Jew, I think it is incumbent upon us to have a dialogue with a new generation of leaders who may not know history. But I wouldn’t overstate things and say that Democrats suddenly don’t support Israel… You might hate Bibi , but you can love Israel. Or you might hate Trump, but you can still see the importance of this [relationship].” 

Asked whether Netanyahu’s full embrace of Trump is something that could end up hurting Israel when the Democrats retake the White House, Garcetti said that “people’s memories are short, and in a year of two — when there are new regimes and new leaders — things can change. But I do think that [the Trump-Netanyahu relationship] has enabled this to be less about two nations, and more about two people.” [JPost]

Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based GOP donor, and former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) write… “Israel needs bipartisan support: 
While we may have disagreements with various facets of Israeli policy, now is not the time to allow this critical alliance to erode… Presidents and prime ministers come and go. Disagreements flare and subside. But today, global affairs spin with centrifugal force, uprooting long established norms and assumptions. Certain things must center us. The alliance between the United States and Israel is one.” [TheHill]

2020 WATCH   Bill de Blasio botched his presidential rollout… Trump mocked de Blasio’s presidential candidacy in a video while en route to New York… In New York City, Trump attended a fundraiser hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick… Washington Governor Jay Inslee unveils $9 trillion plan to fight climate change… Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign is being boosted by Russophiles… 2020 Democrats sound the alarm on U.S.-Iran risks… 

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Israel roiled over allegation Netanyahu wants a law to diminish Supreme Court’s power — by Noga Tarnopolsky: “With less than two weeks to form a government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is confronting an open rebellion from one of his party’s top vote-getters, former Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar. Saar accused the prime minister of damaging Israel and their Likud Party by pushing for laws that could weaken Israel’s judiciary as he faces criminal indictments. ‘Legislation like this has no benefit and does maximum harm,’ he said on Israeli television… Sa’ar asserted that ‘other Likud members are also disturbed by this sort of legislation.’” [LATimes]

MK Yair Lapid
, co-leader of the Blue and White (Kachol Lavan) Party, praised Sa’ar for having “political courage to go against Netanyahu.”

SPOTLIGHT — Inside New Jersey’s Investigation Into Trump’s Inaugural — by Erin Banco: “New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal last month received documents from the Presidential Inaugural Committee… Several individuals with direct knowledge of the committee’s activities in New Jersey told the Daily Beast that Lewis Eisenberg — a financier, major GOP donor, and chairman of the Port Authority during 9/11 — was one of the leaders of those efforts in the Garden State.” [DailyBeast]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Leslie Wexner promising turnaround at Victoria’s Secret [ColumbusDispatch] • Shari Redstone Was the Surprise Star of the CBS Party at the Plaza [NYTimes• Facebook bans 265 accounts linked to Israeli firm Archimedes Group [WSJ• Roman Abramovich’s appearance for friendly shows he has not completely given up on Chelsea Football Club[TheSun]

SCENE IN NYC — Statue of Liberty Museum opening draws star-studded billionaire crowd: “The opening of a new museum at the Statue of Liberty… on Wednesday night in New York harbor offered the ultra-wealthy elite a chance to rub shoulders at the foot of the 133-year-old statue. At one table, Hillary Clinton was spotted chatting with Oprah Winfrey. Before long, billionaire IAC chairman Barry Diller and his wife Diane von Furstenberg joined Clinton and Winfrey at the table… In addition to Clinton, Trump’s political nemeses on the guest list included New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Senator Chuck Schumer… Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg were also in attendance.” [DailyMail]

— 
“As the crowd dispersed for the ferry, von Furstenberg boarded with Diller and her daughter Tatiana… Hillary Clinton and Winfrey were both on board, as was Jeff Bezos… also with Wendi Deng Murdoch, artist Dustin Yellin and Candice Bergen, who chatted with Bloomberg. As the boat docked back on Manhattan, one of the ferry’s non-famous guests joked, ‘If this ferry goes down, I won’t be remembered.'” [WSJ]

HOLLYWOOD — How director Ed Zwick is trying to keep pace with a changing Hollywood, long after his ‘Glory’ days — by Ann Hornaday: “‘Trial by Fire’ stars Laura Dern and Jack O’Connell as Elizabeth Gilbert and Todd Willingham, who embarked on an unlikely friendship when Willingham was on death row, convicted of arson in the fire that killed his three young daughters. Zwick had wanted to do the movie for several years before the philanthropist Alex Soros, whose interests include criminal justice reform, stepped up to finance the budget… ‘Had I not had somebody of the will and the political commitment of Alex Soros to help finance it, I’m not sure I could have gotten it made,’ Zwick said of the film,… He even doubts he could get ‘Glory’ made now, at least at the size, scope and production value the story demanded.” [WashPost]

EUROVISION — Madonna Eurovision appearance is finally confirmed — by Neil Smith: 
“Madonna will perform during the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, it has finally been confirmed. The singer will perform two songs: her 1989 hit Like A Prayer and new single Future, featuring US rapper Quavo. An announcement was made ahead of the contest’s second semi-final on Thursday, ending days of speculation over whether she would indeed appear. Earlier this week organizers said a contract had yet to be signed and that she could not perform without one.” [BBC• Was Madonna barred entry into Israel venue over unsigned contract? [PageSix]

Israel brushes off Eurovision boycott calls with a big assist from Madonna — by Ruth Eglash: 
“The idea to include Madonna came from Sylvan Adams, an Israeli Canadian businessman who calls himself an ‘ambassador at large for Israel.’ He is paying the veteran star $1 million to appear, saying she would give both Eurovision and Israel more visibility, ‘as well as adding glitz, glamour, sizzle and sparkle. To host the biggest song competition in the world is a wonderful opportunity. These types of opportunities don’t come along for Israel too often’ he said.” [WashPost]

CAMPUS BEAT — 
Williams College administrators approve pro-Israel group after students denied recognition — by Jacob Kornbluh: Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI), a pro-Israel student group at Williams College in Massachusetts, received recognition as an official registered student organization after having been denied recognition by the Williams College Council in a 13 to 8 vote in late April.

On Wednesday, Williams Director of Media Relations Gregory Shook informed the pro-Israel group that it will be recognized as a registered student organization (RSO) after consideration by college administrators. “After the College Council’s vote, college administrators discussed the fact that the college’s Student Handbook described a parallel path to RSO status that had not been engaged in this case. This involved a committee made up of administrators and CC reps,” Shook wrote. “Under Massachusetts state law, a college’s student handbook is a binding contract between students and the institution. Therefore, we had a legal obligation to offer that process if WIFI requested it, which they did. We notified College Council of the process described in the Handbook, and asked them to designate a representative for the committee. On Tuesday, May 14, the committee considered WIFI’s request, as required by law, and voted to grant RSO status to WIFI. WIFI is now an RSO with the full rights, privileges and responsibilities that label entails.” [JewishInsider]

ACROSS THE POND — Hamas thanks Jeremy Corbyn for message at pro-Palestinian rally‬ — by Raf Sanchez: “‪Hamas has thanked Jeremy Corbyn for his message of solidarity to a pro-Palestinian rally [marking Nakba Day] in London. ‘We have received with great respect and appreciation the solidarity message sent by the British Labor Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to the participants in the mass rally that took place in central London,’ Hamas said in a statement. Mr. Corbyn did not speak at the event but sent a message to the marchers calling on the UK government to condemn the killing of protesters in Gaza and freeze arms sales to Israel.‬ ‪He also promised that if he becomes prime minister he would recognize Palestine as a state.” [Telegraph]‬

James Kirchick writes… “As a gay Jewish man I did not expect to be spat at in a west London street: Ambling along Edgware Road to a wedding at the West London Synagogue… my partner feels something land on his jacket. At first, he believes it is bird dropping. Closer examination reveals the white gob to be human spittle. Later, we tell a friend, Harry Cole of the Mail on Sunday, who tweets about it. The Sky News presenter Adam Boulton replies: ‘No excuse but it is a Middle Eastern quarter.’ He later apologizes.” [Spectator]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Former Uggs salesman found guilty of being Hezbollah ‘sleeper’ agent — by Andrew Denney: “A former Uggs salesman with a rocky marriage has been found guilty of working as a ‘sleeper’ agent for an arm of Hezbollah while living in the Bronx — helping the terror group prepare for attacks on New York City. After less than a day of deliberations, a Manhattan federal jury found Bronx resident Ali Kourani, 34, guilty on eight counts that included providing support to Hezbollah, which carries up to life in prison.” [NYPost]

FIRST LOOK — ON THE ATLANTIC’S JUNE COVER — Abolish the Priesthood — by James Carroll: 
“The recasting of the Church’s relationship with the Jewish people, as I see it, was the single largest revision of Christian theology ever accomplished. The habit of Catholic (or Christian) anti-Judaism is not fully broken, but its theological justification has been expunged. Under the assertive leadership of a pope, profound change can occur, and it can occur quickly. This is what must happen now.” [TheAtlantic]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Domaine Du Castel Grand Vin 2016 — by Yitz Applbaum: “I spent last Shabbat in Jerusalem with one of my sons and a group representing the new Museum of Tolerance. We shared a beautiful dinner at the King David Hotel. The hosts for the evening selected the wine, Petit Castel, a wonderful bottle of wine. I was, however, in the mood for something a bit more powerful, so we snuck a Domaine Du Castel Grand Vin 2016 into the room.  It was so moving that I started to see the room in all new colors.” 

“This wine is stunning. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Aged in Eli Ben Zaken’s famous French barrels, you can taste the blended flavors of toasted wood, peach pit and lavender. Drinking the Grand Vin 2016 now is a small crime, as there is so much fruit and tannin blending which must still happen. Drink it with lamb chops smothered in mint jam.” [Castel]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: President of the Philadelphia-based Honickman Foundation, Lynne Korman Honickman turns 83… Robert M. Pollock turns 74… Randolph Stuart Koch turns 72… News anchor for WPVI-TV (ABC Channel 6) in Philadelphia since 1977, Jim Gardner (born James Goldman) turns 71… Canadian philanthropist and the first woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia (2000-2006), Myra Freemanturns 70… Corporate and securities attorney at NYC’s Eilenberg & Krause, Sheldon Krause turns 64… Comedian, actor and television host, Bob Sagetturns 63… Founder and president of ENS Resources, a DC-based consulting and lobbying firm focused on natural resources and sustainable energy, Eric Sapirstein turns 63…

Host of Marketplace Morning Report on public radio and Now on PBS, a public television news magazine, David Brancaccio turns 59… Author of the 2005 book “Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish” and a 2017 book about Jewish holidays, she is president of NYC’s Central Synagogue, Abigail Pogrebin… and her identical twin sister, Robin Pogrebin, reporter on the culture desk for The New York Times where she covers the art world, architecture, cultural institutions and occasionally theater, both turn 54… General manager for corporate strategy at Microsoft, friend and classmate of President Obama at Harvard Law School, Kinney Zalesne turns 53… CPA and founder of the Baltimore Hunger Project, providing food packs for the weekend that are discretely slipped into over 450 poverty-stricken public-school children’s backpacks each Friday, Lynne Berkowitz Kahn turns 50…

Reporter for the New York Times since earlier this month covering national politics, he was previously at the WSJ, Reid J. Epstein turns 40… Labor Party member of Knesset, when elected in 2013 she became the youngest female Knesset member in Israel’s history, Stav Shaffir turns 34… Heather Renetzky turns 26… Campaign manager for Chris Murphy for Senate, she is the founder of Most Good and a digital strategy adviser to Democratic organizations and candidates, Jenna Ruth Lowenstein turns 32… Magazine writer for ELLE, Marie Claire, The Washington Post magazine and GQ, Rebecca Rose Nelson turns 28… Assistant area director in the Houston office of AIPAC, Katherine (Katie) Keenan turns 24…

SATURDAY: Founder in 1972 of Kroll, Inc., he is now chairman and co-founder of K2 Intelligence, Jules B. Kroll turns 78… Best-selling author of spy thriller novels including a prequel to the TV series “Homeland” and the “Scorpion” series, he has served in both the U.S. and the Israeli armies, Andrew Gary Kaplan turns 78… Former New York Times columnist, editorial writer, foreign correspondent and local reporter, Clyde Habermanturns 74… Los Angeles-based attorney, board member of American Friends of Nishmat, past president of Westwood Village Synagogue, Linda Goldenberg Mayman turns 71… Washington correspondent for Newsweek focused on national security, defense and foreign policy, Jonathan Broder turns 71…

Member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1983 and adjunct professor at both of Baltimore’s law schools, University of Maryland and University of Baltimore, Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg turns 69… Chairman of Protalix Biotherapeutics, and a senior advisor at Moelis & Company, he was previously a Major General in the IDF, then CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (2007-2012), Shlomo Yanai turns 67… Attorney and director of congregational engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism, Alan Kitey turns 56… Politico’s national security editor, Bryan Bender turns 47… Co-founder, editor and columnist for the news website Vox, Matthew Yglesias turns 38…

Staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (2017-2018) and then for the Senate Armed Services Committee, Eric Trager turns 36… National political reporter for NBC News since 2018, Joshua Lederman turns 34… National security adviser to the Attorney General and a former senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, Ezra Asa Cohen-Watnick turns 33… Co-Founder of Rebel recently acquired by Salesforce, Joe Teplow turns 28… J.D. candidate at American University Washington College of Law, Lauren DePinto turns 26… Founder, host and producer at SpeshFX Podcast, a long form podcast about the international beatboxing community, Netanel (Tani) Levitt turns 26…

SUNDAY: Senior Counsel in the DC office of Blank Rome LLP specializing in government contracts law, Harvey Sherzer turns 75…A New York State judge since 1995, later serving as Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals (2009-2015), now of counsel in the NYC office of Latham & Watkins, Jonathan Lippman turns 74… Clinical psychologist, author, teacher, public speaker and ordained rabbi, Dennis G. Shulman turns 69… A nurse by profession who served as member of the Wisconsin State Assembly (2009-2015), Sandy Pasch turns 65… Harvey D. Harman turns 63… Retired chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (2015-2019), he is now a non-resident military fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Gadi Eizenkot turns 59…

Chabad Chief Rabbi of Russia, friend of Vladimir Putin, Shlomo Dovber Pinchas Lazar (better known as Berel Lazar) turns 55… Journalist, teacher and playwright, now deputy managing editor for news and a columnist at the New York Daily News, Gersh Kuntzman turns 54… Author of 25 novels that have sold over 40 million copies in 34 languages, four of which have been adapted into Lifetime Original Movies, Jodi Picoult turns 53… Chief Executive Officer of Bend the Arc, a Jewish partnership for justice, Stosh Cotler turns 51… Professional baseball player (2010-2017), he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Zachary “Zack” James Thornton turns 31… Professional ice hockey forward for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, Brendan Leipsic turns 25…