Prominent Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri declines invite to Kushner’s Bahrain ‘workshop’

Bashar Masri, Palestinian billionaire and founder of the West Bank city Rawabi, tells Jewish Insider he was invited to the Bahrain summit hosted by the Trump administration on June 25th but won’t attend.

“I am not attending as I believe such a workshop without the full coordination and leadership of our political system is not going to lead to anything but damage to the Palestinian cause,” Masri told Jewish Insider. “We certainly have lots of internal issues to deal with but are capable of leading and improving our economy. Our main problem is with external obstacles and interference.”

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ULTIMATE DEAL ROLLOUT — The White House announced the first phase of the Mideast peace plan on Sunday, an economic blueprint which will be the subject of a summit in Manama, Bahrain on June 25 and 26.

Finance ministers and business leaders from the region will be invited to participate in the “economic workshop,” said administration officials, in an attempt to present the details and get feedback on the proposal before engaging on the political issues. “It’s tough to digest both the economic and political proposals at once, since they’re both very detailed proposals,” an administration official told CNN.

The White House said that the political part of the plan, which deals with the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will be presented to the two sides “at a later time.”

“The Palestinian people, along with all people in the Middle East, deserve a future with dignity and the opportunity to better their lives,” Jared Kushner said in a statement. 

Kushner added in a statement to CNN, “People are letting their grandfathers’ conflict destroy their children’s futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist.” [JewishInsider]

Who will attend? The U.S. delegation will be headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Kushner. According to Haaretz, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is expected to head the Israeli delegation to the summit. A spokesman for  Kahlon said, “We have not yet received an invitation.”

The Palestinian Authority is not expected to participate in the workshop. But a senior U.S. official said the White House invited a group of Palestinian businessmen and is expecting some of them to attend.

Bashar Masri, Palestinian billionaire and founder of the West Bank city Rawabi, tells Jewish Insider he was invited to the Bahrain summit but won’t attend. “I am not attending as I believe such a workshop without the full coordination and leadership of our political system is not going to lead to anything but damage to the Palestinian cause,” Masri said. “We certainly have lots of internal issues to deal with but are capable of leading and improving our economy. Our main problem is with external obstacles and interference.”

REACTION — Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, tells Jewish Insider, “Releasing an economic vision for government ‘investors’ without specifying the political structures that support it is like selling apartments in a skyscraper for which there are as yet no architectural plans.”

Washington Institute’s Dennis Ross emails us: “It looks to be their effort before presenting the plan to show that the economic side of it is serious, has real commitments, and can change life dramatically for the better. I would like to see some economic steps taken to stabilize the situation in Gaza and the West Bank before the larger plan is unveiled — getting something done practically on the ground before the plan is presented would not only create a better context for the plan but also show the administration is already delivering in more concrete terms. At this point, the administration faces a pretty steep climb to get the plan taken seriously — stabilization steps in advance of the plan could help in that regard.”

Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emails us: “Without knowing yet all the specifics, the Arab side has to know that the plan will first and foremost produce an entirely new economic situation in the Middle East. For example, the West Bank can emerge as a conduit for connecting the eastern Mediterranean to Jordan and then to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.”

“The old peace process is not enough. The Arab states need to see that they have a real stake in the new vision being proposed. Rather than fear the Trump plan, Arab states could become its greatest advocates. That is the only way to obtain a breakthrough which has defied most diplomats in the past.”

Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller tells JI, “I think Kushner surrendered, not increased his leverage by breaking this into two pieces, because if he purports to do a comprehensive solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, then you need to address the economic and political components as part of a package. That’s the only way this could work. And if you break it up and sequence it the way you’ve done, you really get the sense that this is designed to put the Palestinians again in a box at a time when they are desperate economically.”

“To me, this is a clever move, but it is not a wise move. I think they want to increase their leverage by making it unmistakably clear what this plan offers to Palestinians. But whether or not all of this leverage is going to be enough to substitute, compensate, induce the Palestinians to somehow be more flexible on the issues they care about, I doubt it. And it is not beyond the realm of the possible that the political aspects of this are delayed for quite a while.”

Khaled Elgindy, a nonresident fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings: “Previous administrations also tried to separate economic from political issues, presumably because the latter were just too difficult. But this approach has never worked. However, the problem with the Trump plan is far deeper, in that it takes all of the main issues that Palestinians care about — Jerusalem, refugees, and genuine sovereignty — off the table. In other words, the economic component of the Trump plan mostly likely far outweighs whatever political elements it may have. All of this makes the entire Trump plan a nonstarter, certainly from the Palestinian standpoint but also from the perspective of a credible two state solution.”

VIEW FROM THE REGION — Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday that Palestinian officials were not consulted about the administration’s economic conference in Bahrain. “We do not submit to blackmail and we don’t trade our political rights for money,” he added.

An Israeli official told Politico“I think the Palestinian leadership will say no to everything, because they’ve said no to generous offers that have been made to them in the past. The question is what will be the greater response of the Arab countries and the Palestinian street.”

REPORT — Jordan’s King Abdullah II seems worried that the plan would require Jordan to absorb millions of Palestinians who are already living in the kingdom, the Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday. Abdullah is also worried that the plan would end the Hashemites’ historic custodianship over the holy sites in Jerusalem in favor of other Arab and Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in a rare interview to a Kuwaiti newspaper, said that he is not optimistic about Trump’s peace plan and that any attempt to force unjust solutions could lead to violence and not peace.

Peter Baker and Mark Landler write in the New York Times“Mr. Netanyahu could use the conference as an incentive to get Moshe Kahlon, the finance minister who apparently wants to keep his job, to sign on, which could then lead to others joining the alliance.”

HEARD YESTERDAY — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) refused to give “a definite answer” on whether he would move back the U.S. Embassy to Tel Aviv if elected during an interview on NBC’s Meet The Press with Chuck Todd.

Todd: On the issue of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, would you move it back out of Jerusalem, if you thought it was a way to get a peace deal?

Sanders: “Yeah. I think it’s something that we should — I can’t give you a definitive answer, but yeah. The answer is, look, whether it is Iran and Saudi Arabia, whether it is Israel and the Palestinians, the United States needs to bring people together, needs an even handed policy.”
     
Todd: Would you move the embassy, now, out of Jerusalem? Or would you keep it there for the present?

Sanders: “We’ll take that one step at a time. It’s something — you know, bottom line is, we need to be a — we are the most-powerful country on earth. Let’s bring people together and try to bring peace.” [Video]

On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper highlighted the partnership he developed between the state of Colorado and Israel “that addresses terrorism, water conservation, cyber security” as part of his pitch for being commander-in-chief.

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) on This Week“I fought Iranians on the ground in Iraq in 2004. It was bloody. We won. And if necessary, I will fight Iran again. But right now, war is not necessary.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), appearing on the same program, said: “[Trump] says he doesn’t want it, but the actions of him and his administration, people like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, tell us a very different story. They are setting the stage for a war with Iran that would prove to be far more costly, far more devastating and dangerous than anything that we saw in the Iraq war.”

Trump tweeted on Sunday, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

Trump added in an interview with Fox News host Steve Hilton: “I don’t want to fight. But you do have situations like Iran, you can’t let them have nuclear weapons — you just can’t let that happen.” 

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva on Monday, “I would say to the Iranians: Do not underestimate the resolve on the U.S. side. They don’t want a war with Iran. But if American interests are attacked, they will retaliate.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman invited Gulf leaders and Arab states to two emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss recent “aggressions and their consequences” in the region. Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said Riyadh “does not want a war, is not looking for it and will do everything to prevent it.”

Meanwhile, Brian Hook, the State Department’s special envoy for Iran, told a small group of reporters that the administration will insist on “zero enrichment for Iran” in talks over a new nuclear deal. Such an agreement, according to Hook, would assure that it would take Iran a year or more to “break out” and make the fuel to build a bomb if they start violating the terms of the deal. “We are restoring deterrence while working toward a new and better deal,” Mr. Hook said. “We lost deterrence under the Iran deal.”

ON THE GROUND — Syrian state media accused Israel of launching strikes against targets outside Damascus on Friday and Saturday. According to pro-opposition reports, the strikes targeted the First Division HQ of the Syrian Army Forces near al-Kiswah, south of Damascus. The site is near Iranian and Hezbollah storage sites and air defense batteries. Other local reports said the strikes targeted Iranian arms depots.

Since President Trump introduced sweeping new restrictions on trade with Iran last year, Iran’s ability to finance Hezbollah has been curtailed, according to the Washington Post. Fighters are being furloughed or assigned to the reserves, where they receive lower salaries or no pay at all, a Hezbollah employee with one of the group’s administrative units, revealed.

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Legislation upholding a state’s right to refuse to do business with companies that boycott Israel will move through the House Foreign Affairs Committee “in the near term,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said on the floor Friday, responding to pressure from Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) to provide a timeline on bringing up the Senate-passed bipartisan legislation S.1.

“I share the gentleman’s view, as he knows, with reference to the BDS movement, which is contrary to the interests of our ally, Israel, and contrary to our own interests,” Hoyer told Scalise. “Having said that, I’ve indicated to the gentleman last week, I’ve been discussing this with Mr. Engel and he, as you know, shares the view that I’ve expressed and you’ve expressed and he’s – the committee will be addressing that. I expect in the near term. When they do, we will decide what actions to take at that point in time.”

The Republican Whip expressed bipartisan agreement in opposing BDS, and restated that the Senate’s anti-BDS legislation was “highly bipartisan,” with 77 votes in favor of it. “It would be a lot better if it was truly bipartisan from both leadership sides, saying we’re willing to stand up against this [BDS] movement, not just in words, but in deeds,” Scalise said. 

Democrats are unlikely to sign on to the Republican-led discharge petition, with some viewing the move as a political maneuver outside the normal procedures of the House.

“I believe in regular order and that bills should go through committees and have markups and come to the floor,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), chairman of the House Committee on Rules, said when asked about the petition. “I’m not a big fan of the discharge petition process.”

Likewise, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a senior member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tells Jewish Insider he views the petition as a “political stunt.”

The issue of violating the First Amendment is another argument Democrats have used, undermining Republican arguments that Democrats don’t stand with Israel and against antisemitism. “Democrats have already indicated they intend to bring [a bill opposing BDS] to the floor anyway,” Rep. Connolly said, referencing Rep. Brad Schneider’s (D-IL) resolution condemning and opposing BDS. “One that respects the First Amendment.” 

Hoyer also expressed concern of the Republican anti-BDS bill as having “issues with respect to its constitutionality.” Yet Republicans maintain that changes to the bill account for this – specifically use of the word “entity” to describe an organization or company that State governments can refuse to do business with if it boycotts Israel. “Clearly the Senate looked at that as well,” Scalise said on the floor. “…the discharge petition has a rule that would actually conform it to the Senate to address those issues.” [Video]

A bill to increase security assistance for synagogues was introduced in the Senate on Friday with bipartisan support, providing up to $75 million a year for nonprofit institutions to fortify themselves against violent threats and terrorist attacks.

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), who introduced the bill, both referenced recent deadly attacks on Jewish institutions as evidence of the need to increase funding. “Ensuring that synagogues, religious and cultural institutions, and nonprofit organizations have the resources and training they need to secure their facilities is one way Congress can help address this unnecessary violence that has tragically become more and more common,” Sen. Portman said in a statement. Sen. Peters added, “We must do more to address these insidious threats, and stand up to the hatred and bigotry that drives them.”

STATE-SIDE — Three arsons at two Jewish centers in one week rattles Boston suburbs — by Joey Garrison: “Three arson attacks in one week in suburbs outside of Boston – each extinguished before producing extensive damage – have put the Jewish community and others in the area on edge… Although no one was injured in these acts of arson, the events come on the heels of recent attacks on Jewish synagogues that were fueled by antisemitism.” [USATodayBuzzFeed]

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted
“These actions are meant to inspire fear in places of worship and joy. But we won’t let that happen. By coming together to stand against antisemitism and other forms of bigotry, our communities will only grow stronger.” 

Chicago police seek suspect in arson attempt at synagogue: “Chicago police are stepping up patrols at synagogues as well as Jewish schools and businesses after an attempted arson at a synagogue and vandalism near others.”[AP]

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said that attacks that Muslims face are “the same as the ones that Jews face every single day,” during an Iftar dinner in Austin, Texas on Saturday. “Antisemitism and Islamophobia are two sides of the same bigoted coin. Attacks on faiths are linked, and we must confront them together.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler attended the event despite calls to skip it because of Omar’s attendance. Outside the event, several protestors stood quietly in body armor, openly carrying rifles, while counter-protestors danced to drums holding a banner reading ‘Jews stand with Ilhan,’ according to the Houston Chronicle.

2020 WATCH  — Joe Biden delivered a call for national unity at a campaign rally in Philadelphia… Biden’s candidacy is challenging assumptions about what Democratic voters want in the era of President Trump… Bernie Sanders said on Meet the Press: ‘Beating Trump is not good enough’… Sanders discussed his long-held opposition to war and his support for socialist leaders in an interview with the New York Times…  ‘A guiding light and inspiration’ — Why 2020 Democratic candidates are flocking to Jimmy Carter…  

How Pete Buttigieg’s Harvard pals helped spur his rise in politics… As some 2020 rivals forgo corporate cash, Bill de Blasio imposes few limits… Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) unveiled his national service proposal on Sunday… Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is struggling. Will abortion rights be her rallying cry?… President Trump plans to formally launch his re-election campaign next month, likely with a burst of swing-state rallies.

Steve Wynn gave $248,500 to the Republican National Committee and $150,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in April, Politicoreported on Friday. Wynn, the former chairman of Wynn Resorts, resigned his post as RNC finance chairman in January of 2018 following accusationsthat he engaged in an extensive pattern of sexual misconduct. On Thursday, Wynn was spotted by television cameras arriving at a high-dollar Trump fundraiser hosted by Howard Lutnick. 

PROFILE — The Teen Who Thwarted Bill de Blasio’s Presidential Announcement — by Tyler Foggatt: “Since 2011, when he was nine, Gabe Fleisher has written a newsletter called Wake Up to Politics, which has around fifty thousand subscribers… Fleisher has covered Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Bernie Sanders, and both Clintons during their visits to St. Louis. In March, he interviewed Nancy Pelosi. ‘A lot of the time at these events, I’m one of the few reporters who’s there, and so I’ve been able to set the scene, and offer really rich reporting,’ he said. In 2016, when Jill Stein held a campaign event in St. Louis, Fleisher was one of two journalists who showed up. He published a long, exclusive interview with her. He was fourteen.” [NewYorker]

RISING STAR — An Orthodox Teenager Is Running The Most Unorthodox Presidential Campaign — by Aiden Pink: 
“[The] serious candidate is 89-year-old former senator Mike Gravel of Alaska, and his 18-year-old campaign manager is high school senior David Oks – though whether both are really ‘serious’ about their run depends on how you look at things. Powered largely by viral tweets (often mocking the other candidates) written by Oks and his friend and chief of staff, college freshman Henry Williams (who is not Jewish), Gravel is now close to qualifying for next month’s Democratic debates by hitting the party’s benchmarks – 65,000 individual donors by June 12, or hitting at least 1% in three major polls.” [Forward]

** Good Monday 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: Roman Abramovich’s $100 Million Film Fund Launches [Variety] • Sam Zell looking to go public with four equity firms overseas [RealDeal• Online Gig Marketplace Fiverr Heading for a New York IPO [Calcalist• Sapir Corp. takes $32M loan from Tamir Sapir’s estate[RealDeal• Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, is set to launch a new innovation center in Tel Aviv in June [Calcalist• Tel Aviv startup Siemplify raises $30 million to streamline security tool management[VentureBeat]

STARTUP NATION — Israel’s startup IPO drought is finally coming to an end — by Orr Hirschauge: “It’s not just mammoth US tech companies going public this year. A group of blockbuster Israeli start-ups is also getting in on the action… Information security company Tufin Software led the way last month, raising $108m, with a post-money valuation of $408m, on the New York Stock Exchange. Others, like Fiverr, are expected to follow, with higher valuations. Kiernan from Latham & Watkins says that in 2019 he expects to see three more IPOs by Israeli companies looking to raise $100-$200m with valuations of $500m to $1bn. He also sees ‘a very nice pipeline for next year.'”[Sifted]

SPOTLIGHT — Deutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner Accounts — by David Enrich: “Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions… set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity… But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice.” [NYTimes]

DRIVING THE WEEK — 
Tens of thousands of real estate brokers are heading to Las Vegas for the ICSC conference, which has 29,000 attendees signed up. [RealDeal]

Top ‘Live-Streamers’ Get $50,000 an Hour to Play New Videogames Online — by Sarah Needleman: “Take-Two plans to pay stream­ers to play ‘Bor­der­lands 3’ when the comedic shooter game launches Sept. 13. ‘Hav­ing celebrity stream­ers play games is an im­por­tant part of the busi­ness,’ Strauss Zel­nick, Take-Two’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, said in an in­ter­view. ‘It is rel­a­tively new, but it has to be or­ganic. The stream­ers have to be­lieve in it.'” [WSJ]

EUROVISION — Eurovision scolds Madonna for Palestinian flag display: “Eurovision Song Contest organizers say they were taken aback by the display of a Palestinian flag during Madonna’s guest appearance, which defied contest rules. While Madonna performed her new single, two of her dancers flashed Israeli and Palestinian flags pinned on their backs… EBU also said it is considering “consequences” for Iceland’s performers, who whipped out a Palestinian flag during the vote tally.” [APRollingStone]

ACROSS THE SEA — Germany designates BDS Israel boycott movement as antisemitic — by Joseph Nasr and Riham Alkousaa: “The German parliament voted on Friday to condemn as antisemitic a movement that calls for economic pressure on Israel… ‘The argumentation patterns and methods used by the BDS movement are antisemitic,’ read the motion submitted by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, their Social Democrat coalition partners as well as the Greens and Free Democrats… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the Bundestag decision in a statement on Twitter. ‘I hope that this decision will bring about concrete steps and I call upon other countries to adopt similar legislation,’ he said.” [ReutersWSJ]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Department of Education slacking on Jewish, Muslim dietary options at schools, Councilmen say — by Rich Calder: “A free-lunch pilot program for Jewish and Muslim city school kids with religious dietary restrictions has been plagued by delays, two politicians charge… Brooklyn Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who secured the $1 million pot of legislative funds for the program, said he inquired about the delays and that DOE attributed some of it to trying to first figure out ‘how best to avoid bullying’ of Muslim and Jewish students over their food choices. But he and Mark Treyger said DOE has repeatedly blown off their questions about how the money has been spent.” [NYPost

NUKE DINNER — Inside the Secret Dinners Where Congress Figures Out How to Stop a Nuclear Apocalypse — by Sam Brodey: 
“Washington is home to countless private soirees and high powered dinner clubs, but there’s only one gathering devoted to nukes. They take place once every couple of months at a restaurant or townhome on Capitol Hill and are organized by former Democratic congressman John Tierney, who heads a group that advocates nuclear nonproliferation. Attendance is usually strong — at least a couple of dozen lawmakers show up — and they’re joined by experts like former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.” [DailyBeast]

DC SIGHTINGS — Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer with his wife Rhoda on a Shabbat afternoon stroll along Wisconsin Ave.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 2 Amy’s Pizza on Saturday… sat upstairs and went in a side entrance. [Pic]

REMEMBERING — Herman Wouk, Pulitzer Prize-winning master of sweeping historical fiction, dies at 103 — by Becky Krystal: “Herman Wouk, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the Navy drama ‘The Caine Mutiny,’ whose sweeping novels about World War II, the Holocaust and the creation of Israel made him one of the most popular writers of his generation and helped revitalize the genre of historical fiction, died May 17 at his home in Palm Springs, California… Herman Wouk was born May 27, 1915, in the Bronx, which he once called ‘that romantic, and much overcriticized borough’ of New York. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia, and his father worked his way into the presidency of a laundry-chain business… He found comfort in books that his mother bought from a traveling salesman when he was 12… The arrival from Russia of his maternal grandfather, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, would have a decisive influence on Mr. Wouk’s beliefs and many of his later works of fiction and nonfiction.” [WashPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Professor at Tulane U, he retired as president of the Aspen Institute in 2017, former CEO of CNN and former Managing Editor of Time, Walter Isaacson turns 67… Born in upstate NY as Michael Scott Bornstein, former Israeli ambassador to the US (2009-2013), he was then a Deputy Minister and a member of Knesset for the centrist Kulanu party (2015-2019), Michael Oren turns 64… CEO at Kings’ Care A Safe Place, operator of multiple drug and alcohol rehabilitation and treatment centers, Ilene Leiterturns 76… Canadian businesswoman and elected official, she served in the Ontario Assembly (1985-1997) and in the Canadian House of Commons (1997-2004), Elinor Caplan turns 75… Democratic member of the New York State Assembly since 2007, representing the 97th Assembly District in Rockland County, Ellen Jaffee turns 75…

Former member of the US House of Representatives from Connecticut’s 2nd district (1981-2001), he was born in a DP camp in Germany after WW2, Sam Gejdenson turns 71… Chagrin Falls, Ohio attorney, Robert Charles Rosenfeld turns 70… Producer and writer who has worked on Saturday Night Live, PBS’ Great Performances, and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Alan Zweibel turns 69… Former director of international affairs, policy and planning at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (2016-2018), following 12 years at the ADL, Michael Alan Salberg turns 67… Chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News (and son of First Amendment scholar Floyd Abrams), he is the founder of Mediaite, Dan Abrams turns 53…

NYC location scout and unit production manager for feature films and television commercials, David Brotsky turns 53… EVP of Resolute Consulting, he is a former executive director of Business Forward (2014-2017) and deputy national finance director for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, Ami Copeland turns 47… Emmy Award-winning singer and songwriter, Rachel Platten turns 38… Director of regulatory affairs at the Electronic Transactions Association, Philip Justin (PJ) Hoffman turns 38 (h/t Playbook)… Program manager for cultural and civic vitality at the Michigan-based William Davidson Foundation, Vadim Avshalumov turns 34… Founder and CEO of Berkeley, California-based Caribou Biosciences, a genome engineering company, Rachel Haurwitz, Ph.D. turns 34…

Legislative director for Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) since April 2019, after 9 years on the staff of Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA 30), Lauren D. Wolman turns 33… Assistant director in the Washington Regional Office of AJC Global, Susan Sloan turns 33… VP of content production at Austin-based digital agency Harris Media, Josh Canter turns 27… American University student, he was previously an aide on the Mikie Sherrill for Congress campaign (NJ-11) and national chair of the High School Democrats of America, Aylon Berger turns 19… Political activist for school safety, he is a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and will be attending Harvard in the fall of 2020, Kyle Kashuv turns 18… Abraham Eckstein… Eric Gallagher... 

Kushner on peace plan rollout: “People are letting their grandfathers’ conflict destroy their children’s futures.”

The White House announced the first phase of the Mideast peace plan on Sunday, an economic blueprint which will be the subject of a summit in Manama, Bahrain on June 25 and 26.

Finance ministers and business leaders from the region will be invited to participate in the “economic workshop,” said administration officials, in an attempt to present the details and get feedback on the proposal before engaging on the political issues. “It’s tough to digest both the economic and political proposals at once, since they’re both very detailed proposals,” an administration official told CNN.

The White House said that the political part of the plan, which deals with the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will be presented to the two sides “very soon.”

“The Palestinian people, along with all people in the Middle East, deserve a future with dignity and the opportunity to better their lives,” Jared Kushner said in a statement.

Kushner added in a statement to CNN, “People are letting their grandfathers’ conflict destroy their children’s futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist.”

Who will attend? The U.S. delegation will be headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Kushner. According to Haaretz, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is expected to head the Israeli delegation to the summit. A spokesman for  Kahlon said, “We have not yet received an invitation.”

The Palestinian Authority is not expected to participate in the workshop. But a senior U.S. official said the White House invited a group of Palestinian businessmen and is expecting some of them to attend.

Bashar Masri, Palestinian billionaire and founder of the West Bank city Rawabi, tells Jewish Insider he was invited to the Bahrain summit but won’t attend. “I am not attending as I believe such a workshop without the full coordination and leadership of our political system is not going to lead to anything but damage to the Palestinian cause,” Masri said. “We certainly have lots of internal issues to deal with but are capable of leading and improving our economy. Our main problem is with external obstacles and interference.”

“Releasing an economic vision for government ‘investors’ without specifying the political structures that support it is like selling apartments in a skyscraper for which there are as yet no architectural plans,” Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brooking, tells Jewish Insider.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said on Sunday that the success of the upcoming summit will depend on several aspects that remain unanswered. “Are any invitees briefed on the political plan? Will those who are not briefed on the political plan show up? Will Israeli officials be welcome? Will Palestinians attend?” Shapiro asked on Twitter.

Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emails us: “Without knowing yet all the specifics, the Arab side has to know that the plan will first and foremost produce an entirely new economic situation in the Middle East. For example, the West Bank can emerge as a conduit for connecting the eastern Mediterranean to Jordan and then to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.”

“The old peace process is not enough. The Arab states need to see that they have a real stake in the new vision being proposed. Rather than fear the Trump plan, Arab states could become its greatest advocates. That is the only way to obtain a breakthrough which has defied most diplomats in the past.”

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

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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]

** Good Friday 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: 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…

Williams College administrators approve pro-Israel group after students denied recognition

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.

Earlier in May, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE, wrote to the college arguing that it needs “to do more to protect students’ free expression in light of the College Council’s April 23 vote to deny recognition to student group Williams Initiative for Israel because of its pro-Israel stance.”

Williams College president Maud Mandel condemned the Council’s vote, reasoning that the student group had met the affiliation requirements. In a statement, Mandel said that the “transcript of the debate and vote indicate that the decision” to deny WIFI admission “was made on political grounds.”

According to Williams’s campus newspaper, the Williams Record, students who opposed the group’s official recognition did so claiming that WIFI “supports the currently existing Israeli state. Given that the Israeli state is engaging in ongoing violent practices and is built on stolen Palestinian land, one cannot ‘support’ the existence of an Israeli state as an abstract concept without ignoring and indirectly endorsing the state’s violent practices.”

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.”

Williams Initiative for Israel will have access to funding and administrative support now that its affiliation with the college has formally been recognized.

Debating David Friedman’s ‘on the side of God’ remarks | Barney Frank on Beto vs Buttigieg | Sen Feinstein’s phone pal

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IRAN STRATEGY? — President Trump is struggling to present a unified message on his administration’s strategy in dealing with Iran. Senators from both sides of the aisle demanded answers on the decision to order the departure of embassy staff from Iraq and requested intelligence briefings on the situation.

Congressional leaders are expected to be briefed about the situation in the Gulf region by Trump administration officials today. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi already stated on Wednesday that the U.S. must avoid war with Iran, and declared that the administration has “no business” moving toward a confrontation with Iran without congressional approval.

The intelligence that caused the White House to escalate its warnings about a threat from Iran came from photographs of missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf that were put on board by Iranian paramilitary forces, three American officials told the New York Times. A U.S. official toldCNN that the reported meeting between members of Trump’s national security team to discuss military options “was driven by an interest in being ready for anything.”

Similarly, while remaining largely silent on the matter, Netanyahu convened a security meeting on the growing tension in the gulf and ordered Israel’s security and intelligence chiefs to boost monitoring of Iranian forces and pro-Iranian militias in the region, Ch. 13’s Barak Ravid reported. At the same time, Netanyahu is said to be making every effort not to get dragged into the U.S.-Iran escalation and would not interfere directly in the situation, according to Israeli officials.

REPORT — President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions, according to administration officials, and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders. Despite the recent action, the president is not inclined to respond forcefully unless there is a “big move” from the Iranians, a senior White House official told the newspaper.

Additionally, the administration is considering another sanctions package designed to destabilize the Iranian regime, undermine the ayatollah, and, potentially, serve as an alternative to military action.

Wendy Sherman, chief U.S. negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal, writes… “How to Stop the March to War With Iran: Although bipartisanship is scarce, caution in sending American troops abroad remains a common cause. Both houses of Congress should immediately hold hearings on the leaked war plans… Congress should agree to whoever the administration sends and include in the hearing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs or his designee. This hearing should be public, but Congress should also welcome a classified session to discuss leaked intelligence alleging plots by Iran.”[NYTimes]

WSJ Editorial Board writes… “Trump is trying to protect U.S. interests, not start a war: 
Who does Ms. Sherman want to stand in the way of Gen. Qassem Soleimani? …Even as the U.S. abided by the nuclear deal, Gen. Soleimani fed the war in Yemen against the Saudis, intervened to save Bashar Assad’s murderous regime in Syria, tried to establish a terror beachhead in southern Syria against Israel, expanded ballistic-missile production, and financed the terrorist militias of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Denying Iran the trade and money to finance this adventurism is a major reason Mr. Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal before Mr. Bolton was even in his current White House position.” [WSJ]

VIEW FROM TEHRAN — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarifinsisted on Wednesday that Iran is exercising “maximum restraint in spite of the fact the United States withdrew from [the] JCPOA last May.” He further called the reimposition of economic sanctions on Tehran “unacceptable.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was spotted on Wednesday walking around the Capitol with her iPhone screen facing outward in full view, and Zarif’s contact page on the screen, Politico Playbook reports.

Asked if the senator has been talking with the Iranian foreign minister, Tom Mentzer told Politico: “I can’t comment on who the senator does or doesn’t speak with.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Feinstein said in a statement“War isn’t necessary to solve a problem when both sides want a solution. I urge Secretary Pompeo to reach out to Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who I know doesn’t want to see a conflict with the United States.”

HEARD YESTERDAY — Former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot discussed the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, Israel’s challenges in the Middle East and the importance of maintaining security coordination with the Palestinian Authority during his inaugural presentation at the Washington Institute, where he serves as a visiting fellow, in Washington, D.C.

On the Iran deal: While the 2015 nuclear agreement was a “strategic turning point” in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, it allowed Israeli defense forces to shift resources to deal with the threats from Hezbollah in Lebanon and prevent the Iranians from establishing a permanent presence in Syria. “Maybe, the window has been closed right now” with the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, Eisenkot suggested. “Without sanctions and designations we will continue to see the Iranians try to achieve nuclear capabilities and regional hegemony,” Eizenkot said.

Stressing the importance of Israeli-Palestinian security coordination, the former IDF chief warned that there “will be a lot of friction” between the two sides if this were to end. “There will be clashes every day, in several places” across the West Bank. “I think it’s a common interest. Abu Mazen (Abbas) knows exactly what the situation will be without coordination and cooperation. First of all, it’s a Palestinian interest, but it’s also an Israeli interest.” [Video]

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — New York Times columnist Bret Stephens described himself as a “trans” when it comes to his view of President Trump’s conduct as president during a keynote address at the annual American Friends of Migdal Ohr (AFMO) gala held in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday night.

“Wherever you stand politically  — you like the president, you don’t like the president, or — in my case — you’re kind of trans, depending on the day of the week — no matter where you stand, this is a deeply troubled country,” Stephens said, comparing the state of the union with the current standing of Israel…“It has dawned on me that it’s not Israel that is in a position of crisis. It is the West that’s in crisis. The West is in crisis because it is following policies that are not in keeping with its values and deep traditions. So, I worry about what is happening in Europe and in the U.S. a great deal. I do not worry about Israel. When a country shows that it is willing to put a prime minister in prison — the last one, or a president in prison — the last one, or maybe a current prime minister, eventually, in prison, you know that that country is actually doing quite well. It puts its values first.” [JewishInsider]

TALK OF OUR NATION  — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman fired back at criticism for suggesting that ‘Israel is on the side of God’ in remarks he made on Tuesday. “The remark reflected a common belief among evangelical Christians, but was also the latest sign of an anything but evenhanded approach to the conflict by the Trump administration,” New York Times reporter David Halbfinger wrote in an article featuring Friedman’s comments. “As the supposed ambassador of the United States government and all its people, it is an extremely inappropriate comment,” Amb. Daniel Kurtzer told the Times.

Speaking to a group of evangelical faith leaders at the Aish Hatorah World Center in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Friedman said that, “apparently, there was nothing more offensive I could have said to the New York Times.”

“Most of the prophecies are about the return of the nation of Israel to their land. And it is happening in our lifetime,” Friedman explained. “So where am I off in saying that God is on the side of Israel? The fact that God has fulfilled his prophecies and delivered the people of Israel to their land is demonstrably true.” 

Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles tells us by email: “I understand what the ambassador is trying to say, but I would remind him of Joshua 5:13: ‘Once Joshua was near Jericho and saw a man standing before him, drawn sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and said ‘Are you on our side or our enemies?’ He replied: ‘No. I am a Captain of God’s host.’ God is the Creator of all. Bigger than sides.”

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: House Democrats promised on Wednesday to move forward a resolution opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. This comes as Republicans announced yesterday the ripening of an anti-BDS discharge petition.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said a resolution opposing BDS, introduced by Rep. Brad Schneider’s (D-IL), would make its way out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, The Hill reported, where it was referred in March.

“I have a BDS bill on the floor, we’ve got 260 sponsors, it’s bipartisan, that’s my focus,” Rep. Schneider tells Jewish Insider.

Yet the Schneider resolution is a separate effort from the legislation House Republicans are lobbying to bring to a vote. The GOP bill, “Combating BDS Act of 2019,” allows state governments to refuse business with individuals or companies participating in an economic boycott of Israel. 

On Wednesday, Republicans doubled down on accusations of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment in the Democratic party. “Members of the House Democratic caucus are attempting to erode our long-standing support by spreading anti-Israel and antisemitic beliefs,” said Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY).

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said, “Even here in the United States and in fact, unfortunately, even here in the United States Congress… you have members of Congress expressing antisemitic views on a regular basis now and also embracing and supporting this Boycott and Divestment movement.”

Republicans need to collect 218 signatures to bring their legislation to the floor for a vote, including around 20 Democrats. A similar bill introduced in the 115th Congress, the Combating BDS Act of 2017, had over 30 Democratic co-sponsors. Yet Democrats are unlikely to support the Republican bill, even if they oppose BDS. A spokesman for Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), a co-sponsor of the 2017 Act, said he won’t sign the Republican petition. 

The Moderate House Women Who Want Voters to Know They Exist Too — by Elaine Godfrey: “‘From my perspective, there has been an overwhelming focus on a small number of members in our caucus who did not flip seats, who did not help win the House,’ Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) said at a recent breakfast  announcing the effort in Washington, D.C. While she did not name names, Slotkin was likely referring to Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Omar—all of whom were elected in solidly blue districts last November. (Slotkin’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment seeking clarification as to whom she was speaking.) She told the room that her constituents ‘want more pragmatic voices sticking up for us. And we don’t see enough of that [in Congress].'” [TheAtlantic]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — The editor-in-chief of a Saudi newspaper is urging the Palestinians to keep an open mind toward Trump’s peace plan. Faisal Abbas wrote in the Arab News on Wednesday that while the cards have been stacked against the Palestinians, the plan just may reverse the situation and make peace more possible. “The Palestinians should negotiate hard, and then take what they can to secure a nation state for future generations.”

White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt addressed the plan at the World Jewish Congress’s annual governing board meeting in Ottawa, Canada on Wednesday. “Israelis should look at it from the position that they have a tremendous friend in the White House. This plan is coming from a close friend,” Greenblatt told the group. [Pic]

Greenblatt also posted a direct plea to Palestinian leadership on Twitter: “Reports claim PA PM Shtayyeh said the U.S. wants to defeat Palestinians, force them to surrender & accept a peace plan. False. Our goal is to enable the parties to achieve peace, not force it. Only they can achieve it. PM Shtayyeh-why are you against exploring a chance for peace?”

SCENE IN JERUSALEM — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti disclosed in a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin that his mother is the second cousin (twice removed) of former prime minister David Ben-Gurion. [PicGarcetti is leading a delegation of U.S. mayors on a weeklong trip to Israel with the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided conclusively to advance legislation that will ensure he cannot be prosecuted so long as he remains in office, Ch. 12 reported. Netanyahu was quoted as saying to Likud officials that an immunity law would permit him “to be a full-time prime minister and to serve the public without concern for the moment over [my] legal fate.” 

J STREET 2020 POLL — A plurality of Democratic primary voters — 41 percent — have a favorable view of Israel, according to a new poll commissioned by J Street published on Wednesday. Eighty-one percent of respondents said they believe one can be critical of the Israeli government’s policies and still be pro-Israel, and 75 percent are more likely to back a candidate who supports both Israel and the Palestinians. Joe Biden was also the clear favorite for president by 36 percent of primary voters. 

The poll also found that more than 7 out of 10 Democrats have either not heard enough about or have no opinion regarding the BDS movement against Israel. Among those who expressed an opinion, 13 percent oppose it and 12 percent support it. When it comes to anti-BDS legislation, a majority of Democrats — by a 54 to 22 percentage point margin — oppose laws “that penalize people who boycott Israel.” [JewishInsider]

2020 WATCH   NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday morning that he is launching a White House bid… De Blasio is heading to Iowa and South Carolina over the weekend… Joe Biden scheduled his first NYC fundraising swing for June 17-18… Biden chose Philadelphia for his campaign headquarters… On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Biden straddledbetween the past and the present… Sen. Kamala Harris said Wednesday she could envision joining forces with Biden in 2020 — with him as her vice presidential running mate… 

Steve Bullock is drawing Hollywood A-list support… Obama’s ad-maker signed on with Pete Buttigieg… Howard Schultz is delaying his decision on 2020, Biden the factor. 

How the Media Fell Out of Love with Beto — by Peter Hamby: “If O’Rourke’s favorable attention in the press drifted elsewhere, it’s toward Buttigieg, another candidate who embodies generational change. ‘I put O’Rourke and Pete in the new-and-young category,’ said Barney Frank, the former Massachusetts congressman. ‘They have much less experience, but both succeed in attracting a lot of favorable attention because of their novelty. But I do think O’Rourke made a decision early on that he was going to not be involved in the grubbier aspects of the campaign, part of which is talking to reporters. Buttigieg said the opposite. And on top of that, Buttigieg has advantage over O’Rourke because he is gay, and there is a strong sentiment among Democrats and some in the media to show a repudiation of anti-gay sentiment.’ Frank, who is gay, was giving a more diplomatic answer than the line he gave to the Boston Globe recently: ‘I think Beto O’Rourke may be regretting that he’s straight.'”

“Being a straight white man offers a leg up in American life in every conceivable way. Frank, though, was suggesting that with parts of the Democratic electorate, it might actually be a hurdle. It’s a weird claim to make with Biden, a 76-year-old white man, sitting on a 30-point lead in the campaign. But looked at through the lens of Buttigieg’s rise and O’Rourke’s slide, it makes sense. Reporters and pundits are swimming in the same powerful Twitter waters as progressive activists, whose demands are shaping the journalism being pumped into the world at any given minute, in conscious and unconscious ways. Accusations of privilege have forced O’Rourke into apologizing for a litany of perceived transgressions: his Vanity Fair interview, his whiteness, his cringey joke that he “sometimes” helps Amy raise their children.” [VanityFair]

MEDIA WATCH — A 17-year-old politics junkie scooped Bill de Blasio on news of his own presidential launch — by Isaac Stanley-Becker: “Gabe Fleisher, the 17-year-old whose ‘Wake Up To Politics’ newsletter reaches 50,000 people each weekday, was scrolling through a politics blog after school — ‘I did my homework, too,’ he maintained — when a small item caught his eye. He paused. It was an announcement from a local wing of the Democratic Party in Sioux City, Iowa, inviting members to see de Blasio on Friday at the mayor’s ‘first stop on his Presidential announcement tour.’ The finding threw an elaborately choreographed launch into disarray. The Democrat had been scheduled to lift the curtain on his candidacy on the morning talk show, fending off the press until then. Gabe posted an image of the notice on Twitter, and, with that, ‘the cat was out of the bag,’ he said in an interview Wednesday night.” [WashPost]

** Good Thursday 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: Condé Nast Sells Brides Magazine to Barry Diller’s Dotdash [NYTimes] • Jeffrey Katzenberg’s streaming service Quibi seeks up to $1 billion in new funding [TheInformation• WeWork Continues to Lose Money Ahead of Potential I.P.O. [DealbookFinancialTimes• Larry Silverstein might build 2 WTC on spec [RealDeal• David Tepper and Seth Klarman have increased their bets on bankrupt California utility giant PG&E Corp. [Bloomberg]

MORE BRIEFS: Joe Sitt’s Thor wants $370M for Madison Ave retail condo[RealDeal• Trump’s prized Doral resort is in steep decline, according to company documents, showing his business problems are mounting [WashPost• Metropolitan Museum of Art says it will no longer accept gifts from Sackler family [NBCNews• Accel closes $575M fund to double down on European and Israeli Series A deals [TechCrunch]

PROFILE — Facebook Is Producing A New Generation Of Alumni Investors. This Time, Women Are In Charge — by Alex Konrad: “When the #MeToo movement reached Silicon Valley in the summer of 2017, former Facebook executive Alison Rosenthal wanted to do something — maybe leave Silicon Valley to run for office or work in policy full-time. Then the onetime professional cyclist remembered a lesson from her former coach: ‘Race your strengths; train your weaknesses.’ Rosenthal was impressed by work groups like All Raise were doing to promote more female tech entrepreneurs and investors. But she felt that ‘nonobvious’ founders were still left out… The result is Leadout Capital, a new $27 million fund that focuses on investing in pre-seed and seed-stage startups whose founders come from, or cater to, underserved communities. With Rosenthal, age 42, as managing partner, and a group of early ex-Facebook employees as investors, Leadout Capital has already made five investments and counts Melinda Gates and TPG Capital co-CEO Jon Winkelried as investors.” [Forbes]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes spoke with historian Deborah Lipstadt about the centuries-old roots of antisemitism on his podcast Why Is This Happening?: 

Hayes: God. I think about these decisions that you make in your life. I mean, that’s the thing also to me, that the lesson of the endurance of antisemitism, but also antisemitism as a eliminationist, murderous, violent ideology, is just that the line between peaceful coexistence and pogrom is a thin one.

Lipstadt: “It’s a very thin one and it can be displaced, it can be erased. The line can be erased by circumstances, by economic pressure. I often compare antisemitism to a herpes virus. And I know herpes virus is a horrible thing to have. Thank God I don’t but I know people who do, but it’s a terrible thing and the truth of the matter is that, from what I understand medically, once you have it you’re never quite free of it. And under pressure, at difficult times, you know, the day before your wedding, you could suddenly have an outbreak, whenever it might be you’re under pressure. And I think that antisemitism is like that. It sits in the society and at pressured times it can be unleashed. But it’s not just pressured times. It’s also if there are people in authority, leaders, who enable it, who don’t condemn it, who themselves may not be antisemites.” 

“I have a chapter in my book. It’s written as letters, so I have one letter about Jeremy Corbyn who at that point I said I wasn’t sure if he was an antisemite. Now I’m a little less dubious about it. And Donald Trump is at the other end of the spectrum. I don’t think Donald Trump is an antisemite, not at all. But I do think he has shown, at times, a distinct failure to criticize the people on the far right who are engaging in these kind of actions, even if they’re just engaging in the rhetoric. Because we know the rhetoric leads to violence.” [NBCNews]

SCENE YESTERDAY — In the Kennedy Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, Democratic Senators and Representatives celebrated American Jewry on Wednesday in a ceremony marking Jewish American Heritage Month and honoring businessman and philanthropist Harley Lippman. [PicPic]

In attendance: 
UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba, Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); and from the House, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Brad Schneider (D-IL).Assistant Secretary of Treasury David Eisner spoke representing the Trump Administration.

ACROSS THE SEA — Countries banning kosher meat are forcing ‘expulsion’ of Jews, says U.S. anti-Semitism envoy: “The United States envoy against anti-Semitism has condemned the spread of legislation in Europe that limits the slaughter of animals according to Jewish religious tradition as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘intolerable,’ claiming such laws are forcing the expulsion of Jewish communities. Elan Carr, President Donald Trump’s anti-Semitism ambassador, made the comments while speaking at the Conference of European Rabbis in the Belgian city of Antwerp, Monday… ‘This is nothing but a forced expulsion of Jewish communities from the countries that adopt such legislation. A forced expulsion and it is intolerable,’ Carr said.” [Newsweek]

DESSERT — A Chic New Kosher Cafe Debuts This Month Near the Galleria in Dallas, Texas — by Rachel Pinn: “In the coming weeks, the Market Local Comfort Cafe will bring a bounty of Kosher dining options to a space in North Dallas. The restaurant is a project of chef Jordona Kohn and co-owner Stacy Clark, and will open its doors on May 24. The Market Local Comfort Cafe will focus on being inclusive, no matter their guests’ dietary preferences.” [EaterDallas]

BIRTHWEEK: Owner and President of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings since 2004, he is the Chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, Mark Wilfturned 57 on Wednesday.

BIRTHDAYS: Real estate developer and mechutan of Donald Trump, Charles Kushner turns 65… Real estate mogul, owner of The Jaffa hotel in Israel and collector of modern and contemporary art, Aby J. Rosen turns 59… Managing partner at Accretive LLC, a private equity firm, he was previously the CEO of Warner Music Group, Edgar Bronfman Jr. turns 64… Retired judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City (1986-2003), she has served as President and Chair of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Ellen Moses Heller turns 78… Special Assistant to VPOTUS Walter Mondale (1977-1981), later Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (1989-1993), Bernard W. Aronson turns 73…

Longest serving member of the New York State Assembly (since 1971), his district includes portions of Manhattan, he was a high school classmate of Representative Jerrold Nadler, Richard N. Gottfried turns 72… Chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, Andrew Lack turns 72… Member of the House of Representatives since 2013 (D-FL-21), she was previously the Mayor of West Palm Beach (2003-2011), Lois Frankel turns 71… Harvard history professor, a member of the Rothschild banking family of England, Emma Georgina Rothschild turns 71… Proto-punk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jonathan Richman turns 65… Film and stage actress, noted for “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) and “Terms of Endearment” (1983), Debra Winger turns 64…

President of Tribe Media, publisher and editor of the Jewish Journal, David Suissa turns 63… Executive assistant at Los Angeles-based FaceCake Marketing Technologies, Esther Bushey turns 58… Social entrepreneur, independent scholar and local civic leader, he earned a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from UCSB and is a co-founder of non-profit Jumpstart, Jonathan Shawn Landres turns 47… Actress, television personality and author, Victoria Davey (Tori) Spelling turns 46… Author, actor and host of Travel Channel’s Man v. Food, Adam Richman turns 45… Senior Counsel at CNN and Turner Broadcasting, Drew Shenkman turns 37… Communications director at America Rising PAC, Jeff Bechdel turns 33… Harriet L. Caplan

J Street’s 2020 Poll: Biden a favorite

A plurality of Democratic primary voters — 41 percent — have a favorable view of Israel, and an overwhelming majority — 74 percent — believe that the United States should act as a “fair and impartial broker in order to achieve a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians,” according to a new poll commissioned by J Street published on Wednesday.

“Democratic voters support Israel, and hold nuanced views toward Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” GBAO pollster Jim Gerstein explained.

Netanyahu is seen unfavorably by 39 percent of Democrats, while only 12 percent have a positive view of Israel’s leader.

As many as 81 percent of respondents said they believe one can be critical of the Israeli government’s policies and still be pro-Israel, and 75 percent are more likely to back a candidate who supports both Israel and the Palestinians. Only 18 percent are inclined to support a candidate who says he or she strongly supports Israel and Netanyahu’s policies, while 69 percent would be less likely to throw their support behind a candidate who thinks U.S. aid to Israel should continue “without any restrictions” even if Israel expands settlements or annexes the West Bank.

“The old playbook of unconditional support for the Israeli Prime Minister is clearly out of date, and presidential candidates should feel confident expressing both their support of Israel and their criticism of Netanyahu policies that violate long-held American positions,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement.

When asked who they were currently planning to vote for in the presidential primary, 36 percent chose Joe Biden, while Bernie Sanders got 13 percent of support. The remaining candidates clocked in at single digits— Elizabeth Warren 8%, Kamala Harris 6%, Pete Buttigieg 5%, Beto O’Rourke 4 %, Cory Booker 3%, Amy Klobuchar 1% and Julian Castro 1%.

On Iran, 72 percent support the U.S. re-entering the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran

The poll also found that more than 7 out of 10 Democrats have either not heard enough about or have no opinion regarding the BDS movement against Israel. Among those who expressed an opinion, 13 percent oppose it and 12 percent support it. When it comes to anti-BDS legislation, a majority of Democrats — by a 54 to 22 percentage point margin — oppose laws “that penalize people who boycott Israel because these laws infringe on the Constitutional right to free speech and peaceful protest.”

Bret Stephens to Migdal Ohr: “It’s not Israel that’s in a position of crisis. It is the West”

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens described himself as a “trans” when it comes to his view of President Trump’s conduct as president during a keynote address at the annual American Friends of Migdal Ohr (AFMO) gala held in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday night.

“Wherever you stand politically  — you like the president, you don’t like the president, or — in my case — you’re kind of trans, depending on the day of the week — no matter where you stand, this is a deeply troubled country,” Stephens said, comparing the state of the union with the current standing of Israel. “We don’t disagree — we hate each other. We don’t argue — we scream… We’re a country that thinks that one can simply call the other side politically and morally illegitimate, and imagine that those accusations aren’t going to come back and swiftly haunt your own side. We are a country in which antisemitism, which is always the harbinger of national decline, is rising. It’s not just happening at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh or at the shul outside of San Diego, it’s also happening in Congress. It’s happening when a member of Congress can explain the hold Israel has on the American imagination, as ‘about the benjamins,’ and still be held as anything other than the stain on the party she represents.”

Stephens added: “It has dawned on me that it’s not Israel that is in a position of crisis. It is the West that’s in crisis. The West is in crisis because it is following policies that are not in keeping with its values and deep traditions. So, I worry about what is happening in Europe and in the U.S. a great deal. I don’t worry about Israel.”

“When a country shows that it is willing to put a prime minister in prison — the last one, or a president in prison — the last one, or maybe a current prime minister, eventually, in prison, you know that that country is actually doing quite well. It puts its values first. When a country is able to show both the strength as well as the restraint as the IDF shows in the face of enemies who seek its destruction, I know the country is doing pretty well.”

“When you have a country that is passionately concerned with taking care of its weakest and most vulnerable and that they are nourished and cultivated, it is doing pretty well,” he concluded, referring to Migdal Ohr, which provides essential educational and life-changing programs and services to thousands of under-privileged and children at risk across Israel.

2020 Dems criticize Trump’s approach to Iran | Anti-BDS petition circulates in Congress | The secret food scene in Acre

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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. [PicPic]

“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

Republicans to launch anti-BDS effort on House floor

House Republicans will start collecting signatures Wednesday to bring legislation opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel to the floor for a vote.

Republicans employed the discharge petition to gather a majority of members’ signatures to bring a vote on the bill. A majority would require at least 20 Democrats to sign the petition, should all Republicans sign on.

The anti-BDS legislation is part of a larger package on security in the Middle East (H.R.336), which addresses military spending and activities with Israel and Jordan. Another provision, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, that places additional sanctions on people and businesses tied to the Syrian regime.

“The main thing is it’s a good bill,” said Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN), who, along with Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) originally filed the discharge petition. “I think that there should be broad support for it and hopefully we’ll find out over the next few days.”

House Democratic leadership strongly discourages caucus members from supporting Republican-led legislative efforts, such as the “motion to recommit,” a last minute amendment Republicans routinely employ to either advance their agenda or derail Democratic legislation.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) told Jewish Insider that she would have liked to see the Democratic leadership bring H.R.336 to the floor for a vote instead of the Republican petition.

“I would have liked to see leadership bring [H.R.336] to the floor and I would have liked to have an opportunity to vote on it. I’m not sure if I’ll use this [the petition] as the mechanism to put that out there. But I am in support of the bill and were it to come to the floor for a vote I would support it. I’ll look at it and see if I want to join on.”

The bill passed the Senate in February with bipartisan support, in a vote of 77 to 44, but has yet to appear on the Democratic agenda in the House. The BDS provision, “Combating BDS Act of 2019,” allows state or local governments to refuse contracts with companies or individuals that participate in a boycott of Israel.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), is charged with corralling the 218 signatures the petition needs to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote.

“The House must follow the Senate’s lead and take immediate action to support our allies and combat the BDS movement that aims to delegitimize and economically isolate Israel,” Whip Scalise said in a statement last month. “We have to protect states like Louisiana who are already divesting public funds from entities that boycott Israel.”

Republicans, and some Democrats, have taken issue with progressive Democratic members who have disputed the constitutionality of anti-Boycott legislation.

“We will not stand for radically anti-Israel progressives to hide behind Democrat leadership any longer,” Whip Scalise said. “It is our duty to bring H.R. 336 to the floor so every American can know whether or not their representative stands with our greatest ally Israel.”

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it’s unclear if any Democrats will sign the petition, but that he’ll urge them to do so.

“This is something that the far-left can’t water down, so it’s going to force them to take a stand and hopefully they’ll stand with Israel,” he said.

Asked if he believes all Republicans will sign on, Rep. Reschenthaler said, “Of course.” In the past, libertarian Republicans have opposed such legislation out of fiscal or constitutional concern.