DRIVING THE CONVO — On Tuesday, President Trump rejected a New York Times report that he is considering sending 120,000 troops as part of a military campaign against Iran as “fake news,” but didn’t rule out deploying “a hell of a lot more” soldiers in the future. “Would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that,” Trump told reporters. “Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that. If we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”
Nonetheless, the administration is discussing a range of options for using military force against Iran. Military officials, who have privately voiced a strong desire to avoid conflict with Iran, have described the recent intelligence as sobering and say they believe that Iran is actively planning attacks on U.S. forces. At the same time, the State Department ordered all “non-emergency” U.S. government employees at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Erbil to leave Iraq immediately due to high risks of terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict.
The Kremlin’s spokesman said on Wednesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn’t offer President Vladimir Putin — during a meeting in Sochi on Tuesday — any reassurances or ease Moscow’s concerns over the ongoing crisis between the U.S. and Iran.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said in an interview with PBS’s Firing Line that he is confident the U.S. would win swiftly in a war with Iran. “Two strikes, the first strike and the last strike.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, meanwhile, refuted U.S. claimsthat Iran was behind attacks on ships in the UAE. “Some radical individuals inside the U.S. administration and the region” were pursuing “dangerous policies” in an attempt to pull the U.S. into a military conflict with Iran, Zarif charged. Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, called the U.S. decision to deploy forces to the Persian Gulf a “serious miscalculation.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech that Tehran does not seek war with the U.S. “This is not a military confrontation because no war is to happen,” he said. “We don’t seek a war nor do they. They know a war wouldn’t be beneficial for them.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in remarks at an event marking the one-year anniversary of the Jerusalem embassy move: “We are united in our desire to stop Iranian aggression. I believe that Israel and all the countries of the region, and all the countries that seek peace in the world, should stand together with the U.S. against Iranian aggression.”
WATCH — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) suggested that Trump is being persuaded by John Bolton and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to go to war with Iran in a campaign video she posted on Tuesday. “Trump says he doesn’t want war with Iran, but that’s exactly what he wants, because that’s exactly what Saudi Arabia, Netanyahu, al-Qaeda, Bolton, Haley, and other neocons and neolibs want,” the 2020 presidential candidate says in the video. “That’s what he put first — not America.” [Video]
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) warned in a live video broadcast on Periscope that war with Iran would be “many times worse than the Iraq War.” He called out Bolton as one of the “leading advocates” of a conflict with Tehran. “I am working hard to see if we can get 51 members of the U.S. Senate, as well as a majority in the House of Representatives to make clear that before the President takes any military action in Iran or anyplace else, he must seek authorization from the Congress,” Sanders added. “Taking us into a war without congressional authorization would be unconstitutional and illegal.”
HEARD ON THE TRAIL — Speaking with reporters during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Joe Biden criticized Trump’s policy on Iran. “Now we’re going to decide we’re going to threaten a war with Iran. I mean, the man has no foreign policy…. What has he [Trump] done to slow up Iran at all? The way to keep Iran from being a nuclear power is to stay in the agreement. That’s what was negotiated.”
Chris Harris, a spokesman for Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), emailed JI: “Senator Harris has said keeping the American people safe is her top priority and that Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. The president’s actions increase the likelihood of a military confrontation, and do not make us safer. She believes that firm diplomacy is the best path to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and avoid war. The Iran Deal was not perfect, but the president’s decision to unilaterally abandon it was driven by political motives and it hurts our ability to hold Iran accountable. She believes the U.S. should work with the international community to ensure Iran complies with the terms of the deal and place new limits on their missile program.”
REPORT — A pro-Iran group, dubbed Endless Mayfly, is behind a years-old campaign aimed at seeding anti-Saudi, anti-Israel and anti-American stories across the internet, according to a new report released by Citizen Lab on Tuesday. Since early 2016, the operation published 135 fabricated articles on websites designed to mimic outlets such as the Guardian, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, the Independent, the Atlantic, and Politico.
Citizen Lab said it cannot say for certain that the operation was sponsored by the Iranian government, but it noted that Facebook and Twitter removed hundreds of accounts last August linked to the same operation which had ties to Iranian state media.
Why the WhatsApp spies may have eyes on Iran — by Paul Danahar: “There’s much speculation that the Israeli government would, to build relations with their new friends in the Gulf, have allowed the NSO Group to sell their software to Gulf states. What suggests that? Well, it’s perhaps not a coincidence that among those reportedly targeted by the WhatsApp hacking software were lawyers investigating human rights abuses in Gulf states, a Saudi dissident and a Qatari citizen.” [BBC]
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: House Republicans will formally launch an effort to bring anti-BDS legislation to the floor today. A discharge petition will start the process of collecting the 218 signatures needed to move forward. [JewishInsider]
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) write in The Washington Post: “In February, the Senate made bipartisan legislation on Middle East-focused defense and security matters a top priority of the new Congress. The legislation included this kind of counter-BDS provision… The package passed the Senate with 77 votes…. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has let the legislation languish on her desk. House Republicans are employing a rare procedural tool to attempt to force an up-or-down vote on the measure. If 21 Democrats sign on… it will get the vote it deserves… The Senate stands against the toxic BDS movement. The House must do the same.” [WashPost]
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) doubled down Tuesday on accusations of antisemitism in the Democratic party,saying Majority leadership is providing cover for members who traffic in antisemitism, and responded to charges she lied about Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) remarks about the Holocaust, in a conversation with Walter Russell Mead at the Hudson Institute.
Walter Russell Mead: Democrats have accused you of lying about Rep. Tlaib’s remarks on Israel, what’s your response to that charge?
Cheney: “Well, go read the remarks, or go listen to the tape. If you look at the remarks in their entirety and first of all, there’s no context in which it’s ok to say, ‘When I think of the Holocaust it gives me a calming feeling,’ there’s no context in which that’s ok. Second of all, if you look at the context of her remarks, she went on to tell lies about what the Palestinian’s did with respect to providing safe haven, in her telling, to the Jewish people, during and after the war… I would just urge people, look at what she said, and what she and others have said in the past and look to the extent at which their leadership is now actually defending those remarks.”
Rep. Cheney, who serves as the vice-chair of the Republican caucus, said criticism in the Democratic party over the U.S.-Israel relationship is “sickening” and “vitriolic antisemitism.” On foreign policy, the congresswoman said Democratic moderates are being drowned out, and at times silenced, by freshman firebrands.
WRM: As you look at your Democratic colleagues in the House, would you say that they are getting closer to a consensus on some of these — what is the Democratic party thinking about foreign policy?
Cheney: “Look, I think you have several different phenomena underway. I think, there are no doubt, moderate Democrats and — who want to do what’s right for the security of the nation. Who understand and believe in America’s leadership in the world. Unfortunately, they are not the loudest voices in their party right now. And, you have a group of very radical Democrats. Speaker Pelosi said a couple of weeks ago that there are only five people in this group. I would tell you there are at least 30 members in the Democratic caucus who vote with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 95 percent or more of the time. This is a group of members, who will tell you, most of them, that they believe in socialism, and who seem to think we don’t have any adversaries anywhere in the world. So, the question on our national security set of issues, and I would say on pretty much every set of issues, is whether Speaker Pelosi will continue to be captive to those voices. There’s a situation today where moderate Democrats will say, they will tell you privately, we’re afraid to speak up in our caucus meetings because we’ll be shouted down, or we’ll be primaried.”
“You can see, if you look at what the Democratic presidential candidates are doing, they are rushing to see how far left the can become, how far left they can move and it’s a very dangerous thing for the country.” [CSPAN]
HEARD THE OTHER DAY — Outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel discussed antisemitsm in an interview on the Chicago Tonight program on WTTW with Paris Schutz.
Schutz: I’m curious about your tenure as mayor. Do you feel there’s been any antisemitism in the opposition against you?
Emanuel: “It’s an interesting question. So let me tell you how I view it. A trope of antisemitism – the threat of antisemitism for thousands of years is that the Jew is ‘other.’ …When I ran for Congress I had to prove I was born here in America… When I ran for mayor even though I was a congressman representing [Illinois’s 5th district] – the only reason I left was I had to serve for the country at the request of the president of the United States – I had to prove my residency. Now, you could say, ‘Oh that’s not explicit antisemitism,’ and that is true. But if a Jewish mayor, the first Jewish mayor, or the Jewish member of Congress representing a historically Catholic district, has to prove that they are a member of the community rather than somebody else, it has a thread that has historically been.”
“Now the good news is, I’ve met people all over the city of Chicago… I know the people of the city of Chicago. They have good values. They did not see me as a Jewish mayor. They saw me as a mayor who is Jewish. And they embraced the same ideas and ideals that I had.” [Video]
Elan Carr, the State Department’s envoy against antisemitism,said in a speech at the General Convention of the Conference of European Rabbis in Antwerp: “To win this war [against antisemitism], not even the U.S. alone can do it — to win this war we need perhaps the most elusive asset of all, and that is Jewish unity.”
SCENE IN JERUSALEM — PM Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attended the Friends of Zion Museum’s annual gala — headed by Dr. Mike Evans — marking the one-year anniversary of the Jerusalem embassy opening held at the David Citadel hotel in Jerusalem. [Pic; Pic]
“Israel has one secret weapon that not too many countries have: Israel is on the side of God. And we don’t underestimate that,” Friedman said. “We have done something that has not been in quite some time: We have created a new shrine in the ancient city of Jerusalem, and we’re extremely proud of it.”
Netanyahu, turning to Amb. Friedman at the conclusion of his remarks, implored the Trump administration to further implement irreversible facts on the ground ahead of the 2020 presidential election: “I suggest that in the coming year, you and I will continue the talks we have had, and talks I have had in Washington, how to make sure that what we see today is not on a sliding ramp; that we move forward and get to the altar. Let us move forward and cement the Israel-American alliance as never — so it stands for all time.” [Video]
Secretary Mike Pompeo and Ambassador David Friedman write… “International Law Backs The Trump Golan Policy: In word and deed, Damascus has for 52 years rejected the negotiating framework of Resolution 242. It has maintained a state of war with Israel since Israel became independent in 1948. It is a client of Iran and one of the most brutal regimes on earth. By affirming Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the president has afforded Israel the only secure and recognized boundary that can exist under the circumstances — the objective of Resolution 242.” [WSJ]
Haaretz’s Amir Tibon spoke to Evangelical and Christian Zionist leaders on what’s next on the agenda for them: “‘Trump understands his evangelical base of supporters very well,’ says Philos Project President Robert Nicholson… Asked what further policy steps Trump could take during the election year to remind evangelicals of his support for Israel, Nicholson says: ‘I’m not sure, honestly, because what’s left to ask? He moved the embassy to Jerusalem, pulled out of the Iran deal and recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel — those are three very big decisions.’” [Haaretz]
Polish ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowski was spat at while sitting in his car in Tel Aviv amid rising tensions between the two countries, Israeli police said on Wednesday. A 65-year-old Israeli man was arrested over the incident. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki condemned the incident on Twitter and the Polish Foreign Ministry summoned Israel’s ambassador to Warsaw, Anna Azari, over the matter.
ACROSS THE SEA — The number of antisemitic incidents in Germany roseby 19.6 percent last year, despite an overall drop in politically motivated crimes, according to statistics released German’s Interior Ministry on Tuesday.
TALE OF THE TIMES — A Friend to Israel, and to Bigots: Viktor Orban’s ‘Double Game’ on antisemitism — by Patrick Kingsley: “In late November, the office of Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orban, announced it would donate $3.4 million to causes fighting antisemitism in Europe. The next day, a magazine controlled by Mr. Orban’s lawyer devoted its cover to an image depicting Andras Heisler, the leader of Hungary’s largest Jewish organization, showered with bank notes… Mr. Orban refused to criticize the magazine. ‘There is this double game,’ Mr. Heisler said in an interview… ‘I’m convinced that the prime minister himself is not an antisemite,’ said Rabbi Robert Frolich of Budapest’s Great Synagogue… ‘But our government uses the code language of antisemitism and racism to maximize their voter numbers,’ Rabbi Frolich added.” [NYTimes]
2020 WATCH — Trump can’t stop attacking Joe Biden. GOP strategists wish he would… Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) spar over climate policy in intraparty spat… Mark Cuban told CNBC he hasn’t ruled out running for president as an independent… Presidential campaigns snapping up TV news personalities for key roles.
** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Nelson Peltz’s Trian is considering an activist campaign at the asset manager Legg Mason [WSJ] • Stanley Fischer’s Remedy Lives On in Chase After Weaker Shekel [Bloomberg] • Slack’s Stewart Butterfield jokingly proposed to Away’s Jen Rubio [BusinessInsider]• Kushner Companies’s $16M Lower East Side hotel deal hits snag [RealDeal] • Barry Sternlicht’s Starwood Lawsuit Highlights Gap Between U.S. and Israeli Markets [CommercialObserver] • According to Globes, Matthew Bronfman, the IKEA Israel controlling shareholder, is selling his Manhattan home and is expected to move to Israel [Globes] • Cargill invests in Israeli cell-based meat start-up [FinancialTimes]
SPOTLIGHT — WeWork Wants to Be Its Own Landlord (It Also Wants $2.8 Billion) — by Ellen Huet: “Adam Neumann is the kind of chief executive who sees pies in every sky, so it’s not surprising that even after a $14 billion step back, he calls the relationship with SoftBank ‘very, very, very, very positive.’ While he’s known as a fierce and unpredictable negotiator whose bargaining tactics include tequila shots, he’s also always ready with a pep talk about finding your purpose, doing what you love, and making people feel less alone.” [Bloomberg]
PROFILE — Multi-Millionaire and Argentinean Hotelier Alan Faena Opens Up About His Rabbinic Heritage — by Michael Kaminer: “Alan Faena, whose pioneering hotel projects in Buenos Aires and Miami Beach reinvented hospitality in those cities, makes a very unconventional developer. And in a lavishly illustrated new memoir, the Argentine iconoclast offers a rare look behind the curtain of a blazingly glamorous life — including a deeply Jewish family history. As he writes in Alan Faena: Alchemy & Creative Collaboration: Architecture, Design, Art, Faena comes from a long line of ‘deeply devout rabbis’ on his Moroccan-born mother’s side; her father was a kosher butcher, and a grandfather advised the king of Morocco… The Forwardcaught up with the peripatetic Faena by e-mail… Has anyone ever made your Jewishness an issue in your business dealings? ‘No, the relationship with my collaborators in business has always been one of friendship first and foremost.'”[Forward]
Jewish American Heritage Month — There’s No One Way To Look Jewish — by Lauren Le Vine: “There is no template for a Jewish woman… We are not all white. Our ancestors did not all speak Yiddish. Some Jews keep kosher; some do not… Jewish women in America have forged their own way and crafted their own destinies… but they all share a fierce sense of independence, love for Jewish culture and their specific ancestry, and desire to share their world with others.” [Refinery29]
SPORTS BLINK — Chelsea, NE Revolution, to play out friendly match against antisemitism — by Alex Winston: “Chelsea FC and the New England Revolution soccer club will take part in a friendly match at Gillette Stadium tonight, termed the ‘Final Whistle on Hate.’ The match will take place in order to highlight the ongoing rise of hate crimes around the world, using sports to bring attention to these issues and try bringing people together in tackling prejudice. Club owners Roman Abramovich and Robert Kraft… are credited with the idea for the match in response to a global rise in antisemitic activity.” [JPost]
EUROVISION — Eurovision Presents a Test for Israel’s Sunny Tourist Vision — by Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber: “Billboards welcoming Eurovision tourists dot Tel Aviv, while thousands of Israelis and foreign visitors flock to a beachside, 15-acre Eurovision Village with an 85-stall food festival and jumbo screens. The city is running special shuttles from Friday evening and Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath when Israeli public transportation doesn’t run. ‘It’s a big opportunity, and I hope that it will support our efforts,’ Amir Halevi, director general of Israel’s Tourism Ministry, said of Eurovision and its role in a $160 million-a-year marketing campaign to attract European and American travelers seeking sun, sand, history and culture… Still, hosting this year’s Eurovision has illustrated the difficulty that Israel faces in drawing nonreligious tourists and has highlighted its lack of infrastructure for big events.” [WSJ]
LONG READ — Marvel and the Jews: Moviegoing past, present, and future — by John Podhoretz: “The creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were kids from Cleveland who sold their intellectual property for $130 to a company called DC run by two immigrants named Jack Liebowitz and Harry Donenfeld. DC’s chief rival was a company that would eventually be called Marvel; it was the property of one Martin (né Moe) Goodman, who brought his nephew Stanley Lieber on board to help out. Lieber eventually changed his name to Stan Lee and became the public face of the business — and, in his own prose contributions to the comic books he wrote and edited, introduced the self-mocking jokey tone of the Borscht Belt to boys across America and helped form their understanding of what humor was.”
“Just as Izzy Baline wrote ‘White Christmas’ after changing his name to Irving Berlin and foreign-born Hollywood chieftains like Szmul Gelbfisz (later Sam Goldwyn) and Carl Laemmle helped create the ideal of America for Americans, the all-but-unknown and mostly Jewish writers and editors of comics gave metaphorical power to American adolescent anxieties about strength and weakness and public exposure. It turned out those anxieties had a great deal in common with the existential terrors that erupted across the world after 9/11. It was at that point, in 2002 and with the release of the first Spider-Man movie, that the intellectual property created by Marvel’s Jews became the source material for the 21st century’s most popular entertainments.”[CommentaryMag]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Despite Measles Warnings, Anti-Vaccine Rally Draws Hundreds of Ultra-Orthodox Jews — by Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura: “[A] rally on Monday in Monsey, NY… vividly illustrated how the anti-vaccine fervor is not only enduring, but may be growing: Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews packed a ballroom for a ‘vaccine symposium’ with leaders of the anti-vaccination movement… The gathering was denounced by local elected officials, health authorities and some ultra-Orthodox rabbis, who said the speakers were spreading propaganda that could cause the outbreak to deepen, risking the health of countless people.” [NYTimes]
SPOTTED LAST NIGHT IN DC — at an interfaith Iftar dinner at the UAE Embassy hosted by UAE Ambassador Yousef Al-Otaiba: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Abby Blunt, Sam Brownback, Yochi Dreazen, Timothy Shriver, Jason Greenblatt, Tim Lenderking, Iraqi Ambassador Fareed Yasseen, John Hudson, Kylie Atwood, Michael Mulroy and Brittany Parker.h/t Playbook
DESSERT — Israel’s Best-Kept Secret: This Food City on the Mediterranean — by Debra Kamin: “Some of the best seafood in the Holy Land hides inside this creaking ancient town of Acre, where frothy, fish-packed waves beat against original Crusader-built sea walls and a Technicolormarket teems with produce and spices. There’s Uri Buri, the now world-famous seafood restaurant beloved by Phil Rosenthal from the Netflix food series ‘Somebody Feed Phil’; there’s El Marsa, where homegrown chef Alaa Musa combines his Palestinian recipes with techniques he picked up in Sweden’s Michelin-starred kitchens; and there are endless hummus stands, fresh grills and salad bars.”[WSJ]
Tel Aviv’s Restaurant Scene Goes Kosher — by Flora Tsapovsky: “This past December, four years after a dramatic fire at the Mul-Yam restaurant led to its permanent closure, and following a short stint with an Italian restaurant in 2017, Yoram Nitzan can be found watching the waves again, as the head chef of Nomi, a new kosher restaurant at the David Intercontinental Hotel on the Tel Aviv beachfront. ‘After all my culinary life I’ve been cooking decidedly nonkosher,’ he said. ‘I was looking for a challenge, a new audience, something I haven’t done before.'” [Tablet]
Europe Sticks a Knife Into Vegan Meat — by Carol Ryan: “The European Union is trying to put vegetables back in their box. The trading bloc’s agriculture committee wants to ban vegan food products from using terms such as burger and sausage on their labels. The logic is that consumers expect their burgers to be made of pork or beef and will be duped by plant-based pretenders.” [WSJ]
REMEMBERING — Alice Rivlin, budget maestro who ‘helped save Washington’ in fiscal crisis, passes away at 88 — by Elaine Povich: “Alice M. Rivlin, a master of budgetary policy who held senior positions in the executive and legislative branches of government — notably as founding director of the Congressional Budget Office — and whose stewardship of the D.C. Financial Control Board guided the once-insolvent city to solid financial footing, died May 14 at her home in Washington… Dr. Rivlin, a centrist Democratic economist known for evenhanded analysis and an unflappable demeanor, weaved in and out of government service over a career spanning more than five decades. During her long affiliation with the Brookings Institution in Washington, she did not push a particular school of economic thought but served as a moderating influence on politically driven ideologies.”[WashPost]
BIRTHDAYS: Canadian molecular biologist and pioneer in human genetics, Louis Siminovitch turns 99… Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, she was the first woman to serve as US Secretary of State (1997-2001), Madeleine Albright turns 82… Principal of Queens-based Muss Development, a real estate development company founded by his grandfather Isaac in 1906, Joshua Lawrence Muss turns 78… Chairman emeritus of The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States, a human rights organization in NYC, Rachel Oestreicher Bernheim turns 76… Retired major general in the IDF, he served as Israel’s National Security Advisor and is now a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, Yaakov Amidror turns 71… CEO of Emigrant Bank, real estate developer, he has co-chaired the annual campaign for the UJA/Federation of New York, Howard Philip Milsteinturns 68… Stuart Wax turns 62…
Deputy editorial page editor at the Washington Post overseeing signed opinion content and writer of a weekly column on domestic politics and policy, Ruth Allyn Marcus turns 61… President of the Orthodox Union since January 2017, senior partner and chairman of the bankruptcy department at Ropes & Gray, co-founding editor of Klal Perspectives, Mark Irwin (Moishe) Bane turns 60… Five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist, producer, film maker and Latin media marketing entrepreneur, Giselle Fernandez turns 58… Actor David Krumholtz turns 41… Noam Finger turns 41… Actress best known for her role as Tony Soprano’s daughter, Meadow, Jamie-Lynn Sigler turns 38… Rochelle Wilner… Ofir Richman…