Daily Kickoff: Menendez Pulls Pro-Israel Bill; Primaries Today; Supreme Court Corrects Kagan’s History of American Jews; Macklemore’s Costume
First Look – Robin Wright in New Yorker Magazine: Profile of ‘The Adversary’ – “Is Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Javad Zarif, for real?”: “On September 4th of last year, shortly after Javad Zarif was named Iran’s foreign minister, a new Twitter account with the handle @JZarif posted its first tweet: “Hope to be able to #interact & stay in touch.” Several hours later, a second tweet appeared: “Happy Rosh Hashanah.” The tweets drew widespread attention, and some skepticism. Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, had taken office a month earlier, but his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had challenged Israel’s right to exist, urged Jews to return to the countries they came from, and questioned the occurrence of the Holocaust. Moreover, most social media had long been cut off from in the Islamic Republic.
–Among the skeptical responses was one from @sfpelosi: “Thanks. The New Year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran’s Holocaust denial, sir.” @sfpelosi is Christine Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter and a former chief of staff for Representative John Tierney of Massachusetts. She is now a Democratic Party activist in San Francisco. She is Catholic, but her husband is Jewish and her daughter attends a Jewish preschool. “I came across his tweet and thought, Was it real?” she told me. “I thought Iran didn’t have social media. Then I thought, What the heck, it’s Twitter! Let’s see if this is real or a P.R. stunt by one of his consultants or friends outside Iran.” Within an hour, @JZarif responded: “@sfpelosi Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year.”
–The tweeter was indeed Zarif. (The Foreign Ministry is exempted from the country’s social-media censorship.) By e-mail, I ask Zarif if he knew that his interlocutor was the daughter of a prominent American politician. “Yes, ma’am,” he wrote back. the exchange foreshadowed the most ambitious diplomatic opening since Iran’s revolution. Three weeks later on September 26th, Zarif met with Secretary of State John Kerry at the United Nations to discuss resuming negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The next day, President Rouhani, who was in New York to attend the General Assembly, took a telephone call from President Obama. It lasted fifteen minutes, and was the first conversation between Iranian and American leaders since the Shah’s ouster, in 1979.”… Zarif and Kerry have now met four times, and call each other John and Javad. “That’s one of the first things you Americans do,” Zarif told me. “Had I not been in the U.S. for such a long time, I would have been astonished for the Secretary of State of the adversary to start calling me by my first name.” They have each other’s phone number and e-mail address and have used them. Their staffs are in touch more often. Yet, even at this stage, Pelosi’s question lingers over the process: Is it real? And can it prevent Iran from eventually getting a bomb?”Behind paywall [NewYorker]
TOP TALKER: “It wasn’t as though we went out to hurt her. We didn’t. . . . It was my hope for Jill that we could make this go away as peacefully as possible.” ~ NY times’ Arthur Sulzberger on Jill Abramson‘s departure. “We originally drafted the whole thing to be very amicable,” Sulzberger said, explaining how the statement came to be. But in the end, “Jill said no.” … Sulzberger was firm on the point: “There is no truth to the charge” that Abramson was paid less than her male counterparts... Sulzberger admitted that, under Abramson, the newspaper soared journalistically. But he said he began to hear more and more concerns. Some reporters noted that she was often out of the newsroom— [Vanity Fair].
Driving The Day: “Powerful Pro-Israel Lawmaker Suddenly Pulls Pro-Israel Bill,” by John Hudson in Foreign Policy: “Facing a difficult vote that would have forced Democrats to choose sides between the White House and members of the pro-Israel community, Senator Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, removed a key piece of pro-Israel legislation from the committee’s agenda, according to congressional aides familiar with the matter. The bill, the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, would expand cooperation between the two nations in a number of areas, including defense, intelligence, energy, and homeland security. The legislation enjoys broad bipartisan support and would have likely passed the foreign relations committee. But Menendez surprised Republicans by calling off a vote on the bill after it became clear that the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), planned to introduce an amendment related to the Obama administration’s nuclear talks with Iran that would have forced Democrats to make a politically difficult choice in the run up to this year’s midterm elections.
–Should President Obama reach a deal with Iran and five other world powers to restrain the country’s nuclear program, the Corker measure would have forced the president to submit the full plan to Congress within three days. The amendment would then give Congress the right to hold a “vote of disapproval” on the final deal and make way for hearings on the matter. Notably, the legislation would not give Congress the power to block the deal, only to express its will on the issue. Such a vote would have likely divided Democrats torn between standing behind the White House’s hard-fought diplomatic efforts and members of the pro-Israel community, many of whom are deeply skeptical of an Iran deal. In a statement Monday evening, AIPAC gave support to Corker’s amendment. One Senate aide, speaking against the new measure, said Corker’s amendment didn’t belong in a bill pertaining to the U.S.-Israel partnership. Many in the pro-Israel community have argued that the Iran nuclear issue is part and parcel of any pro-Israel legislation given the perception that the nuclear program is an existential threat to the Jewish state.” [ForeignPolicy]
MINI-SUPER TUESDAY: PRIMARIES 2014 — What We’re Watching: Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D. PA-13), Jewish, is running in the Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial primary. She’ll become the first female governor in she wins tonight and in November. Tom Wolf, businessman and former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, is the frontrunner. He’s active in the York Jewish community center… Majorie Margolies, Chelsea Clinton’s Jewish mother in law, is running to represent PA’s 13th congressional district…. Republican candidate for Georgia State School Superintendent, Ashley Bell, is also a member of AIPAC’s National Council.
Speaking of AIPAC’s National Council: Ambassador Dennis Ross and Congressman Hal Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, addressed the National Council yesterday in D.C.
Happening Today: The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Board of Directors celebrate their 100th year anniversary at the Knesset in Jerusalem. Speakers include Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro.
HOW IT PLAYED: MORE ON CHRISTIE’S 2016 SPEECH IN NY: “But the Republican governor of New Jersey never uttered the word Israel in his 18-minute address .. Instead, he turned inward, delivering a gloomy, sobering address on what he views as the disappointing state of the union… Christie also steered clear of specific prescriptions in this venue. While at several points he mentioned a set of common values shared by those in the room he spent little time detailing exactly what those were and how they would apply to his own foreign policy doctrine… In brief remarks, Perry gave the speech everyone expected Christie to give – a punchy, full-throated defense of Israel that hailed its strategic partnership with the United States… For whatever reason, Christie declined to take that approach. [David Catanese] It makes sense that Christie would opt for platitudes over specific action lines, because the governor’s Sunday appearance was really just about trying to clean up the mess he made in March. [Vanity Fair] — Israel Poses Challenge for Christie in Possible 2016 Presidential Bid [Wall Street Journal]
— TALKING ABOUT ABROAD, BEING CRITICIZED AT HOME: Gov. Christie’s well reported speech is facing some criticism at home — from a fellow Republican.State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren), who was a Ron Paul supporter in 2012. “During his speech yesterday, Governor Christie advocated for an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy,” Doherty wrote in an email to the Star-Ledger. “He sounds like a Woodrow Wilson progressive who is out of step with the views of the American people.” He asked, “Where is the money for Mr. Christie’s vision going to come from?” [NJ Star Ledger]
Boteach defends: “I have watched with increasing alarm as Jewish leaders have come out to criticize Governor Chris Christie about his speech last night at our International Champions of Jewish Values Gala Awards Dinner… For all those who wanted Governor Christie to connect his address specifically to Israel, I remind them that America should not be supporting Israel because the Jewish community appreciates it but because Israel’s cause is just. Developing a moral American foreign policy that supports nations that battle evil terrorists and does not force them to make peace with parties who seek the destruction of innocent life is the perfect way to support Israel… Our organization is the most proud supporter of Israel. It’s in our DNA. But we likewise believe that Jewish values are universal, applying to all peoples, all countries, all nations, and at all times. We are glad that Governor Christie called for a values-based American foreign policy that supports not only Israel in its fight against tyranny by all nations who wish to embrace the God-given right to be free.”
— Perry was rewarded with one of the biggest applause outbursts of the night: He peppered his lines with details meant to demonstrate geographic and historical heft on the topic. “I’ve borne witness to the present day threats facing the people of Israel,” Perry said, recounting his many visits there. “Hamas to the immediate east, Hezbollah to the north, Syria to the northwest and over the horizon, the greatest threat of all, Iran.” In making a direct appeal to his audience’s sweet spot, he was rewarded with one of the biggest applause outbursts of the night. “It’s time for this country to end the policy of calculated ambivalence and renew our commitment to a strong Israel. America must be clear. Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state,” Perry said to thunderous approval. [David Catanese] Perry more than made up for Christie’s reticence, gushingly lauding both Israel and Sheldon and Miri Adelson, to whom he presented the Jewish Values “Principal Benefactors Award” for being “the foremost supporters of Jewish wisdom” and for “ensuring that Israel is a light unto the nations.” [Chemi Shalev]
Maryland Reporter: Strong competition for Maryland’s Jewish vote in June primary: Next month’s primary has a noteworthy number of high profile Jewish candidates running for statewide offices. Some are competing against each other, which could set off a secondary battle for candidates vying for the Jewish vote… Rabbis from two of the state’s largest Jewish congregations in Baltimore and Montgomery counties have thrown their support behind attorney general candidate Del. Jon Cardin, the nephew of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin.“There is a natural interest for any and every synagogue when a ‘member of the tribe’ is running for election,” said Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of the Beth Tfiloh Congregation in Baltimore County. Gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Jewish, is running against Lt. Gov.Anthony Brown in the Democratic primary. Brown’s running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, is also Jewish. Three of the four attorney general candidates are Jewish. Cardin and Montgomery County Sen. Brian Frosh will face each other this June in the Democratic primary, along with Del. Aisha Braveboy of Prince George’s County. The winner will meet Republican Jeffrey Pritzker of Baltimore County in the November general election. Pritzker is a member of the Beth El synagogue board… Jewish voters make up 4% of the State’s population… There are approximately 241,000 Jewish residents in Maryland. The greater Baltimore area, comprised of Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Howard County, is home to 100,000 Jewish residents, according to the Baltimore Jewish Council – 93,400 in Baltimore County and Baltimore City (where where many Orthodox Jews live) and 17,000 in Howard County. [Maryland Reporter]
Boxer Yields on Israel Visa Waiver: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has dropped controversial visa waiver language from her US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, paving the way for easy passage in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week… Boxer is expected to offer an amendment during today’s mark-up meeting that would nix language requiring the Department of Homeland Security to offer Israel visa-free travel once it has “made every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the State of Israel, to ensure that reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all United States citizens.” Also removed: a mandate that the administration exempt Israel from the requirement that its visa refusal rate dip below 3% before it can be admitted (Israel’s current refusal rate is 9.7%). The new amendment includes a sense of Congress that Israel should be admitted into the program once it has complied with the program’s requirements. It also authorizes — but doesn’t require — that the country be admitted with a refusal rate as high as 10% as long as it has complied with all other provisions.” [Al Monitor]
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TWEET OF THE DAY: “Pizza Plus” in Lakewood rocks – the plus is its Kosher [Sen Cory Booker – NJ]
House Passes Bill to Honor President Peres With Gold Medal: The House passed yesterday a bill that will honor Israeli President Shimon Peres with the Congressional Gold Medal (H.R. 2939). The bill was introduced by Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA) in the House and by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) in the Senate. The Senate passed a companion version of the bill in March by unanimous consent…. This Congressional Gold Medal would be the first awarded to a sitting President of Israel… VIDEO of Rep. Kennedy introducing the bill on the floor [YouTube]
— Enhaced US-Israel Relationship: “On behalf of my colleagues Stanley Treitel, Lee Samson, Robert Rechnitz, Hassan Ali bin Ali, and Joe Stamm, I’d like to thank Congressman Kennedy and Congressman Franks for introducing this legislation and ensuring its passage. The U.S. Israeli relationship has been greatly enhanced by this leadership and we look forward to their continued leadership for decades to come,” said Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group… To read a copy of the legislation, please click here.
Obama administration: Yes to Hamas-Fatah gov’t! The administration is tending toward cooperating with the soon-to-be-formed Palestinian unity government, even if Hamas as an organization does not accept the conditions of the Mideast Quartet to recognize Israel, honor previous agreements and abandon violence, Barak Ravid writes. A senior White House official told Haaretz that as long as the platform of the future government meets the conditions of the Quartet – the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia – the U.S. will be satisfied. “We want a Palestinian government that upholds those principles,” said the White House official. “In terms of how they build this government, we are not able to orchestrate that for the Palestinians. We are not going to be able to engineer every member of this government.” [Haaretz] — Unity Deal with Hamas Imperils $2.2 Billion in U.S., EU Aid for the Palestinians [Businessweek]
UCLA chancellor Gene Block, UC president (former Secretary of Homeland Security) Janet Napolitano condemn anti-Israel pledge: “The heads of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of California (UC) statewide system issued dual statements condemning a recent pledge organized by several anti-Israel student groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, that had called on UCLA student council candidates to promise not to visit Israel on trips sponsored by Jewish organizations. [JNS]
Reuters: Spanish hamlet ‘Kill Jews Fort’ to vote on name change: “The village of Castrillo Matajudios in northern Spain will vote on Sunday on whether to change the name it has had for 400 years and purge a vestige of the religious persecution meted out by the Roman Catholic Inquisition.” [Reuters]
“Supreme Court Corrects Elena Kagan Dissent, Which Misidentified America’s First Jewish Community,” by Yair Rosenberg in Tablet: “Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the right of legislatures to open with sectarian religious prayer in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway. In the aftermath of that decision, much attention was given to Justice Elena Kagan’s spirited dissent, in which she invoked her Jewish heritage to argue against permitting the prayers, citing the famous story of George Washington’s visit to the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island. But as I noted at the time, Kagan made a small miscue in her Jewish history lesson: she labeled Newport as “the first community of American Jews,” when that honor in fact belongs to New Amsterdam (today’s New York), where Jews settled in 1654. The Supreme Court has published a corrected version, which now reads: “In 1790, George Washington traveled to Newport, Rhode Island, a longtime bastion of religious liberty and the home ofone of the first communities of American Jews.” [TabletMag]
—READS: Guidelines for Reforming the Presidents Conference (It Isn’t as Easy as You Might Think) [Rosner Domain] Bruce Stokes: “Americans Simply Don’t Care About Peace in the Middle East” [FP Blogs] New Web Portal Provides Access to Historic Materials on Jewish Life in Poland [NY Times] Report: International Intelligence Agencies Agree With Israel’s Mossad That Iran Nuclear Breakout is Near [Algemeiner]
SAC’s Steinberg Pins Hope For Leniency to Charity Claims: “Michael Steinberg, the longest-serving SAC Capital Advisors LP hedge fund manager to be convicted of insider trading, should be spared years in prison because of what his supporters call his good works. “Michael has made a difference in the lives of so many,” wrote Felicia Herman, head of Natan, the group Steinberg helped start, in a letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan, who will weigh such plaudits against the nature of his crimes. Herman, the head of Natan, told Sullivan that Steinberg’s role has been “critical” to the success of the group, which seeks to promote Jewish culture and Israel while sponsoring philanthropic initiatives worldwide.”[Bloomberg]
Did Macklemore dress up as an anti-Semitic stereotype? “Maybe Macklemore is not as progressive as everyone thought. The Grammy-winning rapper raised eyebrows when he showed up for a secret show with musical partner Ryan Lewis at Seattle’s EMP Museum dressed as what many felt was an offensive Jewish stereotype on Friday. [PageSix] — Jewish actor Seth Rogen took to Twitter to take on Macklemore for the costume & Seattle Weekly reported that the Grammy winner’s disguise was an attempt to avoid detection prior to his two-song performance, Macklemore’s look was roundly criticized for portraying negative Jewish stereotypes. [ShirynGhermezian]
DESSERT: MACCABI SELFIE — Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who lambasted selfie takers last month, took part yesterday in a selfie with team Mccabi-Electra Tel Aviv upon landing after winning Euroleague championship [YouTube]
That’s all folks, have a great Tuesday!
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