Daily Kickoff: Comparing Bergdahl to Shalit; Jewish U.S. Amb. LeVine’s Trend: Will.i.am in Israel; New Yorker – “What will be with Beny Steinmetz?”
By Jacob Kornbluh & JI Staff
TOP TALKER: Obama administration to work with new PA-Hamas unity government: In what some are calling a new low in the U.S. – Israeli relationship, the Obama administration said on Monday that it will maintain relations and financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, earning a rebuke from Israel. “Based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government, but will be watching closely to make sure it upholds the principles (honoring past agreements with Israel, renouncing violence and recognizing Israel) that President Abbas reiterated today,” DoS spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
—Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer: “Israel is deeply disappointed with the State Department’s comments today on the Palestinian unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization responsible for the murder of many hundreds of Israelis, which has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities, and which remains committed to Israel’s destruction. Had Hamas changed, it would be one thing. But Hamas hasn’t changed. It remains as committed to Israel’s destruction today as it was yesterday. This Palestinian unity government is a government of technocrats backed by terrorists, and should be treated as such. With suits in the front office and terrorists in the back office, it should not be business as usual.” [Facebook] — Related: Israel forfeited $1 billion in defense projects with Russia so as not to upset the U.S. [DefenseNews]
—Senators, Members of Congress on PA-Hamas Unity Deal: [Sen. Kirk & Sen. Rubio] [House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer] [House Majority Leader Eric Cantor] [Rep. Ted Deutch] [Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen] [Rep. Ed Royce]
—AIPAC Statement: “U.S. law is clear – no funds can be provided to a Palestinian government in which Hamas participates or has undue influence. We now urge Congress to conduct a thorough review of continued U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority to ensure that the law is completely followed and implemented.” [Aipac]
—J Street Statement: “J Street urges the US and Israeli governments to adopt a watchful, waiting position in response to the formation of a new Palestinian government. J Street condemns the recent statement by Hamas’s Prime Minister in Gaza Ismael Haniyeh that, “Palestinian reconciliation aims to unite the Palestinian people against the prime enemy, the Zionist enemy. It aims to pursue the choice of resistance and steadfastness.” Neither Israel nor the United States can do business with Hamas until it accepts Israel’s right to exist and renounces violence. “It would be a mistake for either the United States or Israel to take rash punitive actions against the Palestinians that will only hurt their own interests and set back hopes of resuming peace negotiations.” The last thing anyone needs to do is rush to cut off aid which could defund Palestinian security forces, destabilize the fragile Palestinian economy and lead to an increase in instability in the West Bank.” [J Street]
—Danny Danon OpEd in Foreign Policy: “The Three-State Solution” – “The peace process has failed again, and it’s time for Israel’s neighbors to shoulder the burden of dealing with the Palestinians.”[ForeignPolicy] — Top Op: “Will Iran Strike a Nuclear Deal By July? – Gary Samore in [PoliticoMagazine]
SCENE LAST NIGHT: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted a Jewish Heritage reception at Gracie Mansion: “This community has such a fantastic impact on this city. We would not be New York City, we wouldn’t have had the dynamism, we wouldn’t have the creativity, we wouldn’t have the entrepreneurship, we wouldn’t have the [C]hutzpah and we wouldn’t have had so much if not for the Jewish community,” Mayor de Blasio said. “What has truly enriched this city, for generations, is the values of the Jewish people.”
“The mayor then quoted the comedian Lenny Bruce, “even if you are Catholic, if you live in New York you’re Jewish.” De Blasio concluded his speech by reiterating his comments at AIPAC at the beginning of his term, that it is his “obligation as the mayor of the city with the largest Jewish population in the world to stand up and defend the state of Israel.” First lady Chirlane McCray and Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in NY, addressed the crowd as well. [JPupdates] Spotted:Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, a Knesset delegation led by Tzahi Hanegbi, Rep. Eliot Engel, NYC Council members Mark Levine, Corey Johnson and David Greenfield, N.Y. Assemblyman David Weprin, and many Daily Kickoff Insiders. Related: “De Blasio’s Jewish Problem” – by Ryan Karben in [City & State]
PRIMARIES: Eight states have primaries today: Jewish candidates we’re watching: Elan Carr in CA’s 33rd District; Igor Birman in CA’s 7th District; Linda Greenstein in NJ’s 12th; and Mark Dunec in NJ’s 11th.
Jewish U.S. Ambassador is First to Take Oath on an E-Reader: “New U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein Suzi LeVine was sworn in with an e-reader on Friday by Vice President Joe Biden at the White House, which was pre-loaded with a copy of the U.S. Constitution.”[Mashable] LeVine, a former Microsoft executive and fundraiser for the Obama team, has been very involved in the Jewish community. She had co-founded the Kavana Cooperative, a Jewish nonprofit organization, and served as Board Chair at the University of Washington’s Hillel.
Shmuel Rosner in Slate: What Israel’s Prisoner Exchanges Can Teach Us About Bowe Bergdahl: “Israel swaps thousands of Palestinian prisoners to get back captive soldiers. Here is the price it pays for those exchanges.” So the U.S. got a captured soldier back in exchange for five Afghan inmates. Big deal. Five-for-one is a deal Israel would take in a heartbeat. But there’s truth to the claim that such deals increase the appetite of a terrorist organization in two ways. First, they encourage terrorists to adopt a policy of an abduction of soldiers in the hope of getting more inmates out. Second, they allow terrorists to worry less about being captured by the U.S., since they can hope for a later release.
“Israel had been attempting for years to try to resist these exchanges…. If an Israeli bill passes, Israeli courts could sentence murderers for life in a way that would prevent their future release for whatever reason…. Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, defended the administration’s decision to make the swap by invoking a “sacred obligation” to leave no soldiers behind. Only time will tell if she is serious about meeting such obligation. But clearly, the release of one makes future deals more likely. It makes future choices less coherent: Why him and not the next one? Why release five Taliban and not six or seven? Where is the line beyond which a deal is unacceptable? What is the price unbearable enough to resist? The lesson from Israel for America is that given the opportunity the head always loses to the heart. Nothing compares to the smiles and the tears of a uniting family. But all decisions leave a bitter aftertaste.” [Slate]
—2016 WATCH: Hillary Clinton defends Bowe Bergdahl exchange by saying “Israel has made such deals.” [Politico]
—Cuba Agent: US-Taliban Prisoner Swap A Precedent To Free Alan Gross: “A former Cuban spy urged Washington Monday to swap three detained agents for the freedom of American Alan Gross, citing the deal that saw a US soldier released over the weekend.” [YahooNews]
**Good Morning! Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? 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 firstname.lastname@example.org**
START-UP NATION: Israeli Startup Turns Smartphone into Cervical Cancer Detector:“MobileOCT, an Israeli tech company, has unveiled the latest advance in mobile medicine. It’s a smartphone-fitted colposcope aimed at developing countries like Kenya, Rwanda and Haiti, desperate for cheap ways of detecting cervical cancer, a major killer in these places.” [WSJ] — Israeli, U.S. researchers prove that kidneys are capable of regeneration [Haaretz] — “Big Apple sips Israeli startup juice”: “Lior Vaknin, an Israeli entrepreneur living in New York City, recently founded Israeli Startups NYC to heat up the synergy between the Israeli and New York tech communities.”[Israel21c] — Israeli cyber security startup Fortscale raises $10M, plans move to Bay Area [SiliconValleyBizJournal]
Will.i.am in Israel: Will.i.am hobnobs with Israeli celebrities, tech scene: “American singer and producer Will.i.am was in Israel over the weekend for the wedding of Katia Gaydamak, daughter of Russian-born Israeli businessman Arcadi Gaydamak. On Saturday, the Black Eyed Peas frontman attended Israeli model Bar Refaeli‘s star-studded birthday bash at her parents’ home in Hod HaSharon.[JPost] — Will.i.am mulls investing in five Israeli start-ups: “Will.i.am met with interactive sheet music app developer Tonara, crowd-styling fashion platform WiShi, guster which is a night life market place, fashion series games developer Fashioholic, and Replay Technologies, which has developed FreeD replays from all angles.” [Globes] — Will.i.am pushes smartwatch in Israel: “The entrepreneurial musician told the small group of local investors and technology start-ups that he sees the smartwatch as a natural marriage of content providers and sophisticated hardware.” [ToI]
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Woolworth Building co-owner Rubin Schron inks $72.5 million deal to buy 10 Washington Heights apartment buildings from Yeshiva University: “Rubin Schron, founder of Cammeby’s International Group, bought the tenements, home to a mix of students and long-term tenants, from the floundering school on May 21, university spokesman Mike Scagnoli said. Cammeby’s International sent a message to assure students it wouldn’t hike their rent. It was unclear whether Schron’s deep-pocketed company, which was rebuffed in its $2 billion offer to buy the Empire State Building last June, issued the same promise to the mostly Latino residents who aren’t affiliated with Yeshiva.” [DailyNews] — Woolworth Condo Priced at Record $110M [Bloomberg] — Africa Israel appeals ban on condo sales [RealDeal] — Yisroel Gluck & Joe Chetrit’s Willis Tower Debt Put in Special Servicing, Fitch Says [Bloomberg] — Lev Leviev Group to Build $20M Namibia Marine Phosphate Plant [Businessweek]
FIRST LOOK: “Two Mining Behemoths Battle an Israeli Billionaire” – by Patrick Radden Keefe in the New Yorker: “One day in November, 2008, two rival groups of mining executives convened for a meeting in a black office tower on the southern tip of Manhattan. They represented two of the largest mining companies in the world: Brazil’s Vale, and its Anglo-Australian competitor, Rio Tinto. Vale was interested in acquiring a stake in one of Rio Tinto’s most prized projects: a mountain range in the tiny west African nation of Guinea, which contained the planet’s richest deposit of untapped iron ore and was known as Simandou.
“When they met that day, executives from Rio Tinto acknowledged that their legal claim to Simandou was under threat. In the summer of 2008, the government of Guinea had rescinded its right to develop the concession, and a new player had emerged on the scene: an Israeli billionaire namedBeny Steinmetz, who had made his name in the diamond trade and now had designs on Simandou. The negotiations between Vale and Rio Tinto eventually fell apart, but Rio Tinto’s concerns turned out to be well founded. Guinea granted Steinmetz’s company, B.S.G.R., exploration rights to half of the Simandou deposit…. As these two titans fight another round, what will become of Beny Steinmetz? He is reportedly under investigation in Guinea, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Guernsey and the United States.” [NewYorker]
TOP VIDEO: Pro Israeli Arab in London: “I went to trafalgar square with a couple of friends to see how big the anti assad protest would be. More importantly I wanted to see their reaction to my presence (with my sign and flag). A little flag can make so much noise! From being called a racist (typical) to a member of the saddam hussein school, of course the palestinian ‘refugee’ playing the victim card, blaming Israel for his supposed plight.. Everyone was so angry at what I had, which was a sign saying ‘A big thank you to Israel for helping injured civilians from Syria’.” [YouTube]
TOP TWEET: @JeffreyGoldberg: “Al Jazeera’s @marwanbishara tells me that I need a does of “Jewish humility.” This guy is pretty obvious [Twitter]”
BIRTHRIGHT: Israel travel program seeks to strengthen Jewish connection: “On a recent afternoon, Diana Blau, 22, was relaxing on the beach after bathing in the salty waters of the Dead Sea. Blau’s mother is Jewish and her father Greek Orthodox. She has never strongly identified with Jewish culture or religion, she said, in part because she doesn’t regularly attended synagogue and didn’t grow up with many Jewish friends. “There’s a disconnect,” said Blau, a graphic designer from Emerson, N.J. “I’m usually the only Jew in the room.” In many ways Blau is the target demographic for Taglit-Birthright, which provides free trips to the Holy Land for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26. In recent years, the program has been redoubling its efforts to help keep Jewish tradition afloat amid increasing anxiety that young members of the Jewish diaspora are losing their connection to their culture and to Israel.
“Created in 1999 by Seagram spirits heir Charles Bronfman and hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt, Birthright has recently expanded through donations of more than $200 million each from Las Vegas casino magnate and Republican fundraiser Sheldon Adelson and the Israeli government. Last year, the program sent 44,000 people to Israel, double the number four years ago. During that time, the program has also loosened its eligibility requirements, allowing some of those who have previously traveled in a group to Israel to participate. It has also sought to broaden its appeal by reaching out to niche groups. It now offers specialized trips for those who love the outdoors and culinary tours designed for foodies, including an evening in which participants cook a meal for Israel Defense Forces soldiers. Other targeted tours cater to animal lovers, lacrosse players, first responders, and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.” [LA Times] — Related: The Blue & White Internship is Back: Dozens of CEOs from leading companies in Israel will host 40 students as their business mentors during the Birthright Israel Excel Internship Program which launched last night.[eJPhil]
TALK OF THE TOWN: Can a new community center save the Jewish community of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania? [JTA] — Jewish leaders push for cap-and-trade plan in California [SacBee] — America-Jewish historian Jonathan Sarna Recovering After Collapse [Forward] — NYPost gives an inside look at the making of a Torah [NYPost] — How ‘Nice Jewish Boy’ Exterminator Rids a City of Pests [Forward] — Donald Sterling attends African American church in South L.A. [LA Times]
NYPost: Nazis, an unclaimed $40M estate and mysterious lost love: “When he died in 2012 at age 97, a Staten Island real-estate magnate already rich in secrets left behind a final, tantalizing mystery: who should inherit his $40 million fortune. Holocaust survivor Roman Blum left behind no family and no will — and the largest unclaimed estate in New York history. The Polish native’s wealth would eventually land in government coffers, unless someone stepped forward to claim it. That happened last week, when an elderly woman in Poland emerged with a fascinating story told to her by her friend — a tragic tale of star-crossed lovers separated during the fog of war but whose devotion to each other lingered until the end of their lives.” [NYPost]
That’s all folks, have a great Tuesday!
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