Daily Kickoff: 2020 Dems and AIPAC continue to chat | Reactions to Bibi’s video speech | UAE Amb. Al Otaiba meets LA Jewish leaders

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DRIVING THE CONVO — The boycott that wasn’t: 2020 Democrats and AIPAC: Activists lobbying with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) met with a number of Democratic 2020 candidates during the three-day conference.

What’s going on — Last week, MoveOn asked on Twitter that 2020 presidential hopefuls not attend the AIPAC conference and commended absent candidates. However, no presidential hopefuls, as is AIPAC’s stated practice, were invited by AIPAC to speak on their candidacy, on stage, at the event, and at least four elected officials scheduled time with activists on the sidelines of the conference. What MoveOn had staged or goaded, simply, turned out not to be so.

2020 hopefuls who spoke to AIPAC gatherings include Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Both Booker and Gillibrand delivered remarks to activists from their respective states at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Tuesday morning. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) did not meet with AIPAC activists. However, on Tuesday, her policy staff met with a delegation of AIPAC activists from Massachusetts. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who’s reportedly mulling a run for president next year, spoke at AIPAC’s Monday morning’s plenary session.

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, while not having officially declared his candidacy, made a point to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with people at the conference, Jewish Insider reported on Tuesday.

What they said — In her remarks to several hundred activists from New York, Sen. Gillibrand said, “You’re supposed to be allowed to support the state of Israel without facing antisemitism, but the truth is antisemitism is real and it is dangerous and we must not allow it to become routine or normalized.” 

“Policy debates are a healthy bedrock of the American society,” Sen. Gillibrand continued. “To paraphrase Deborah Lipstadt, if you want to find criticism of Israel, just look at Haaretz. But those who want to criticize Israel’s government or raised issues with its policies should not be expressing their views by using antisemitic language. And that’s why I will always, and always have spoke out loudly and clearly whenever I heard such hurtful, bigoted tropes, whether they come from my own party or whether they come from across the aisle. Because the truth is enough was enough, and we can never allow antisemitism to become normalized.” [Pic]

Klobuchar tweeted
“Met today with Minnesota AIPAC to discuss policies that ensure a strong and secure Israel. We also talked about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Thanks to all who attended our meeting! – AK.” 

Insider view — Halie Soifer, Executive Director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), told Jewish Insider: “The idea that the candidates boycotted the conference is absolutely false. Similar to what the president tweets about Jewish voters, it is an assault on decency and truth. We know that AIPAC will invite the nominees from each party in the election, just as they did in 2016, just as they did in 2008. It’s difficult, as you can imagine, for AIPAC to accommodate at this point the nearly 20 rumored and official Democratic contenders for 2020.”

“And so for those who are members of Congress, they’re engaging with their constituents, they’re involved in this conference behind the scenes. But they’re not addressing the whole forum from the floor and that is okay, it’s not a boycott. I worked for Senator Kamala Harris, for the past two years, she addressed AIPAC in 2017, she addressed AIPAC in 2018. She’s engaged this year. She happens to be running for president. if she happens to be the nominee, she’d likely be here next year just as any other Democrat who would be the nominee would be here next year.” 

Amb. Daniel Shapiro: “There was no boycott. It was fiction. Notwithstanding MoveOn’s efforts to create such an impression. Notwithstanding Vice President Pence repeating falsehoods in a partisan speech. The candidates’ positions on Israel are well within the mainstream of support for Israel, its security and legitimacy, the US-Israel relationship, and efforts to achieve a two-state solution. Those who are trying to turn Israel into a partisan wedge issue risk doing serious damage to the historic bipartisan consensus that has been the foundation of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”[JewishInsider]

Ties Between Jews, Democratic Party Face New Pressures — by Ian Lovett and Emily Glazer: “Regina Perlmutter… planned to support Bernie Sanders for president. But she recently wrote to the Vermont senator to tell him she was withdrawing her support because he’s not doing enough to oppose anti-Semitism. ‘I’m not left wing anymore,’ Ms. Perlmutter said after a recent Shabbat service in Los Angeles, ‘because the left wing has turned against Israel.’ … ‘The Democratic Party is still my home, but for the first time in my life, I think it’s possible that it will not be my home at some point in the future,’ said Amanda Berman, a 33-year-old lawyer.” [WSJ]

RECAP OF AIPAC DAY 3 — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Condemning antisemitic remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) continued to take center stage, on the main stage, during the final day of the AIPAC policy conference.

“Take it from this Benjamin, it’s not about the Benjamins,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, to raucous applause from the audience. 

Speaking via live-video feed from Israel, that frequently went on and off, the Israeli premier further addressed Omar’s remarks, saying, “Those who seek to defame this great organization AIPAC, those who seek to undermine American support for Israel, they must be confronted. Despite what they claim, they do not merely criticize the policies of Israel’s government. G-d I’m used to that. That happens every five minutes. They do something else. They spew venom that has long been directed at the Jewish people. Again, the Jews are cast as a force for evil. Again, the Jews are charged with disloyalty. Again, the Jews are said to have too much influence, too much power, too much money. The best way to respond to those who hate the Jews is not to bow down to them. It’s to stand up to them.” [Video]

HOW IT PLAYED — Dana ⁦Milbank on Netanyahu’s speech: “Whoever or whatever disrupted the feed performed a mitzvah. Netanyahu’s speech was another knife into the heart of the bipartisan U.S.-Israel alliance… On Monday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) literally read from Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ on the House floor and borrowed Hitler’s ‘big lie’ allegation against Jews to use on Democrats… But Republicans, and Netanyahu, said nothing.” [WashPost]

Emma Green writes: “Even as American political leaders forcefully maintained that U.S. support for Israel hasn’t changed, they avoided addressing the incredible discomfort that many American Jews, almost all Democrats, and a wide range of self-described Israel supporters feel about Trump and Netanyahu.” [TheAtlantic]

— Rep. Ilhan Omar responded to Netanyahu in a series of tweets on Tuesday: “White supremacist violence is on the rise globally. Right-wing extremists killed more people in the US in 2018 than any year since 1995. Anti-Semitic violence accounted for 58% of religious hate crimes. Yet the topic Netanyahu chose to focus on was…me.”

Earlier, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also jumped on Omar’s “Benjamin” comment, saying money doesn’t buy America’s support for Israel. “Just to be clear, we will not do this for the Benjamins. No. We will not do this for the Benjamins.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) built on the theme of antisemitism within the Democratic party and the perception they are boycotting AIPAC. “So I am troubled that leading Democrats seem reluctant to plainly call out problems within their own ranks,” the Leader said during his speech on the main stage Tuesday. “And I am troubled that many of the declared Democrat presidential candidates seem to be avoiding this gathering, apparently because political partisans who have levied scurrilous charges at this organization have warned they will be keeping watch and taking names.” 

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) answered back in his speech, closing out AIPAC’s third day, equating Rep. Omar’s statements about those by President Trump as “fanning the flames” of antisemitism. “So yes, when you imply that money is the only driving factor of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. You are fanning those flames. And just the same, when you accuse Jews of funding caravans of asylum-seekers at our southern border, or fail to call out and condemn the rise of white supremacy at home and abroad. You are fanning those flames.” [JewishInsider]

FIGHT AGAINST BDS — Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on the pushto pass the anti-BDS bill: “Nothing — nothing — will motivate Americans to exercise their rights more than efforts to suppress them. Trying to suppress free speech, even unpopular speech … will only add momentum.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said during a speech to AIPAC members from New York: “It is very clear to me at BDS is all too often used as the vehicle for antisemitism, which is why I strongly oppose the BDS movement. I also will say — because it’s important to be forthright with you as my friends — I’ve also made it clear that I cannot and will not support laws that weaken our First Amendment rights. The best way to stop the BDS movement is to win the war of ideas because I promise you, I want to stop it as much as you do, but none of this is going to stop on its own. Only our words and our actions can actually do that. We need to show the world that we are more united than ever on our fights against antisemitism and all forms of bigotry.” 

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), speaking at a Q&A session, said he “strongly supports” Rep. Jerry Nadler’s House resolution to condemn the BDS movement, “and I think the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic caucus will strongly support that bill.”

JI INTERVIEW — Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, shared his thoughts about Benny Gantz’s speech at AIPAC, the Israeli election, and Israel-Diaspora relations in an interview with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh while attending the AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C.

“I think people were very encouraged that the main competitor to the current prime minister is a person of depth, intellect, courage, commitment to Klal Yisrael, to the sense of real Jewish unity and that pluralism,” Jacobs said about Gantz’s speech on Monday. “Every candidate for prime minister has to speak about Jewish unity. I think he did so with nuance and depth today, and I think it was quite welcomed and quite compelling. The question of how the Israeli electorate will vote is anyone’s guess.” Read the full interview here[JewishInsider]

GOP congressman quotes Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ to slam Trump’s adversaries as liars — by Isaac Stanley-Becker: “Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) took to the House floor on Monday to portray President Trump’s detractors as Nazis but ended up slurring them using an antisemitic conspiracy theory drawn verbatim from Adolf Hitler’s writings. Brooks, a five-term Republican, accused Democrats and members of the media of propagating a ‘big lie’ about collusion. The expression was coined by Hitler to describe how Jews used their ‘unqualified capacity for falsehood’ to blame a top German military commander for the country’s losses in World War I… The Anti-Defamation League called on Brooks to apologize for comparing Democrats to Nazis but made no mention of his decision to deploy rhetoric from ‘Mein Kampf.'” [WashPost]

ON THE GROUND — Iran is moving to cement its long-term influence in Syria by offering cash, food, Iranian ID cards, public services and free education to those who survived the longtime civil war. Iran’s hearts-and-minds campaign undermines efforts by the U.S., Israel and Arab states to roll back Tehran’s influence and force it out of Syria. U.S. officials said they aren’t abandoning efforts to check Iran’s activities in Syria.

Modi’s Middle East Deals Snub Iran — by Harsh Pant and Hasan Alhasan: “Modi has replaced India’s cautious ‘balancing’ approach to the region with an aggressive strategy geared toward attracting investments from the Gulf and deepening India’s security partnership with Israel, ignoring Iran in the process. Even a new government in New Delhi if Modi falls in the upcoming elections will find it difficult to change this trajectory, as the premier’s imprint is likely to be longer-lasting than many expected when he came to office.” [ForeignPolicy]

UAE Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba met with Jewish leaders at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, CA. Among those who attended the meeting were Rabbi Meyer May, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Haim Saban and Burt Sugarman. [Pic]

GULF REACTION TO GOLAN — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait criticized Monday’s move to recognize Israel’s 1981 annexation, saying it was an impediment to peace. “Attempts to impose fait accompli do not change the facts,” a statement released by the Saudi Press Agency read. “It will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region.” 

Netanyahu Says Golan Heights Move ‘Proves You Can’ Keep Occupied Territory — by David Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner: “‘There is a very important principle in international life,’ Mr. Netanyahu said late Monday after attending the Golan signing ceremony at the White House. “When you start wars of aggression, you lose territory, do not come and claim it afterwards. It belongs to us.’ … The prime minister’s remarks were certain to cheer right-wing voters who believe that international acceptance of Israeli control of the Golan, a strategic plateau captured in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, could pave the way for annexation of at least part of the occupied West Bank.

“Even the Trump administration hastened to portray the Golan proclamation as a one-off that should not be seen as precedent in other territorial disputes. ‘This is an incredible, unique situation,’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday morning. ‘Israel was fighting a defensive battle to save its nation, and it cannot be the case that a U.N. resolution is a suicide pact. It simply can’t be, and that’s the reality that President Trump recognized in his executive order yesterday.'” [NYTimes]

Skiers at Golan Heights resort praise Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty — by Rami Ayyub: 
“At a ski resort on Mount Hermon… Israelis were thankful for Trump’s move. ‘For the security reasons – everybody knows what’s going on in Syria – Israel should be the owner of this land,’ said Amichai Lorenzi… For Moriel Segal, 29, Trump’s decree felt personal. Her father had fought on the Golan as an officer in the Israeli military, she said. ‘He didn’t fight for nothing so, that’s nice to know.'” [Reuters]

KAFE KNESSET — Bibi Uses White House Video In Campaign Ad — by Neri Zilber: After cutting his Washington trip short due to the Gaza crisis, Netanyahu kept his Monday meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in the public consciousness via social media. Taking the official video of the meeting — spotlighting the president’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights — Bibi added in a voiceover of his own statement and campaign slogan (“Netanyahu. Strong Right”) while removing the White House logo. The campaign ad only reinforced the notion that Trump’s Golan move was a “gift” to Netanyahu’s re-election bid, while many observers questioned whether such a video was legal per Israeli election rules. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

PM Netanyahu’s son Yair had dinner with former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka on Sunday. “Honored to break bread tonight with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s son, Yair Netanyahu, tonight. After 8 years of being abused by Barack Obama and his lackeys, the U.S-Israel relationship is restored,” Gorka tweeted. [Pic]

David Halbfinger, the NYTimes Jerusalem bureau chief, discussed Netanyahu’s 4th reelection bid on The Daily podcast with Michael Barbaro. [NYTimes]

2020 WATCH —  Inside Sen. Kamala Harris’s small-dollar fundraising operation… The Trump campaign is following the Dem candidates closely, sending trackers and gathering their liberal base-pleasing proposals that they can use to make the eventual nominee look extreme… Gov. Larry Hogan says the Mueller report makes no difference to his potential 2020 challenge to Trump.

Watch — Sen. Elizabeth Warren was spotted running through NYC’s Penn Station on her way to catch a train. She didn’t seem to notice former Senator Joe Lieberman and his wife Hadassah, who make a cameo at the 2-minute mark. [Video]

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email **

BIG DEAL — Gerry Schwartz, Heather Reisman donate $100M to AI research at University of Toronto — by April Fong: “Canadian billionaires and philanthropists Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman are donating $100 million to the University of Toronto – the largest gift in the school’s history – toward research in innovation and artificial intelligence. The donation from Schwartz, CEO of Toronto-based private equity firm Onex Corp., and his wife Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books and Music Inc., will help create the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre, a 750,000-square-foot complex that will be home to AI scientists, biomedical experts, entrepreneurs and startups.” [Bloomberg]

How to Leave the Trump White House With a Million Dollar Parachute — by Jason Zengerle: 
“For years, [Bob] Barnett has looked down his nose at Latimer and Urbahn, claiming that their clients were often people he had already rejected. But Comey’s decision to sign with Javelin suggested that Trump’s election disrupted the Washington literary scene along with everything else… Barnett isn’t exactly hurting for business — last year, he had the No.1 (Michelle Obama) and No.5 (Bob Woodward) nonfiction best sellers, and he is representing the former Trump administration officials Gary Cohn and Nikki Haley on their forthcoming books. But the Trump era has spelled an end to his near-monopoly on brokering political blockbusters.”[NYTimes]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Finally, ‘fake sheikh’ follows the script and pleads guilty in Miami to con jobs — by Jay Weaver: “Á stoic Anthony Gignac pleaded guilty Tuesday to impersonating a Saudi prince in a scheme… Ïn March 2017, Gignac targeted new prey in Miami. He again pretended to be a Saudi prince with $600 million in a bank account as he went shopping for an upscale hotel. He set his sights on super-rich real estate developer Jeffrey Soffer, who owns the landmark Fontainebleau resort hotel on Miami Beach. At first, Soffer fell for the con man’s pitch to buy an interest, even lavishing $50,000 in luxury gifts on the ‘sultan,’ according to sources familiar with the investigation. ‘Believing that Gignac was royalty and a Saudi Arabian diplomat, with the means to purchase the hotel, the [developer] expressed interest in the deal,’ according to a criminal complaint, which did not mention the hotel or Soffer by name.” [MiamiHerald

Robert Kraft Requests Jury Trial, Pleads Not Guilty in Prostitution Sting: 
“Lawyers for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have requested a jury trial and pleaded not guilty to all charges on his behalf in the major sex trafficking and prostitution sting that broke last month, according to records filed Tuesday.” [DailyBeast

PROFILE — How Frank Luntz went from Trump enemy to White House insider — by Nancy Cook: 
“When Mick Mulvaney joined the Trump administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget in early 2017, Luntz visited the office three times over a nine-month period — including for a one-on-one lunch, according to agency visitor logs. The two men also spoke regularly by phone, with Luntz offering Mulvaney messaging advice on the president’s annual budget proposals to Congress… Mulvaney allies stress that Luntz plays no formal or advisory role in the Trump administration, and over the past year, Luntz has also met with Jared Kushner and talked with Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, meetings that pre-dated Mulvaney’s arrival in the West Wing.” [Politico]

EARLIER IN THE WEEK — Women’s March leader shares post linking ‘American Jewish Establishment’ to New Zealand mosque attacks: 
“Bob Bland on March 17 shared a post from Jesse Rabinowitz, a social justice advocate, who wrote: ‘The same language and hate that folks spew against Sisters Linda Sarsour and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) killed 54 Muslims in New Zealand… American Jewish Establishment, I’m looking at you.’ … Bland apologized saying that ‘it has come to my attention that some people are upset that I shared Jesse’s post. I was juggling 2 kids on a Sunday + not being mindful. I’m sorry.'” [JTA]

REMEMBERING — Fred Malek, GOP fundraiser, presidential adviser and former Marriott chief, dies at 82 — by Harrison Smith: “Fred Malek, a Washington-area business executive who led Marriott Hotels and Northwest Airlines, raised millions for the Republican Party and advised four presidents during a career that was shadowed by his role in President Richard M. Nixon’s crusade against a “Jewish cabal” in the government, died March 24. His death was announced by the American Action Network, a conservative advocacy group he formed with former Republican senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota… Malek cultivated a reputation as a management expert and leveraged his business success into a four-decade stint as a GOP power broker and a cable talk-show regular. But he was hounded by his involvement in Nixon’s effort to reassign Jewish officials at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for which he long apologized, insisting he was not anti-Semitic.” [WashPost

Norm Coleman emails us: 
“I worked closely with Fred Malek throughout the last decade. He was an American patriot, who I knew to be steadfast in his support of Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition. Fred was an entrepreneur, political activist, philanthropist, husband, father and grandfather —and for me, a mentor, advocate, partner and above all, my friend. I will miss him.” 

French pilot who stayed with hijacked Israelis, Jews at Entebbe dies aged 95: “Israeli and French officials Wednesday mourned the death of Michel Bacos, the Air France pilot who along with his crew insisted on remaining with Israeli and Jewish hostages after pro-Palestinian terrorists hijacked his flight and diverted the plane to Entebbe Airport in 1976… Bacos was eulogized by Netanyahu, who called him the ‘hero captain.'” [ToI]

BIRTHDAYS — Canadian psychologist and educator, she was the first female Chancellor of the University of Western Ontario (1992-1996), Reva Appleby Gerstein turns 102… Sports cartoonist and writer whose art has been used by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and hung above each Hall of Fame bust, Murray Olderman turns 97… Chairman emeritus of Warner Brothers Records, he is a 2003 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, music executive Mo Ostinturns 92… Founder in 1961 of Business Wire, a news release service which he has since sold to Berkshire Hathaway, he has donated almost $800 million to charities, Lorry I. Lokey turns 92… Composer, violinist and improviser who has been active in the presentation of new music and dance since the early 1960s, Malcolm Goldstein turns 83… Founder of one of the oldest and largest private equity firms globally, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Thomas H. Lee(family name was Leibowitz) turns 75…

Principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal (1991-2013), then the executive editor of The Verge and editor-at-large of Recode, he is now retired, Walter S. Mossberg turns 72… Executive Director at Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue Club (a mental health center), holder of a Ph.D. in sociology from Boston University, Rachel Forman turns 72… Sports agent who has represented the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft eight times, he is widely reputed to be the real-life inspiration of the sports agent in the film “Jerry Maguire” in 1996, Leigh Steinberg turns 70… Host of the “Matty in the Morning Show” in Massachusetts on KISS 108, has been on the air since 1981, Matt Siegel turns 69… Director of development at American Technion Society, Linda Altshuler… Member of the Knesset representing the United Torah Judaism party, Yisrael Eichler turns 64… Director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany, she earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard, taught at Yale and Tel Aviv U, she is a moral philosopher, cultural commentator and essayist, Susan Neiman turns 64…

Economist and banker, Valerijs Kargins turns 58… Smooth jazz saxophonist, he has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dave Kozturns 56… COO of the Maimonides Fund, Daniel Gamulka turns 52… CEO since 2004 of BBYO (an organization for Jewish teens launched almost 100 years ago), Matthew Grossman turns 48… Founder and CEO of the Movement Vision Lab, a grassroots think tank, she is a political commentator and community organizer, Sally Kohn turns 42… Associate professor and director of undergraduate studies at Columbia University School of the Arts, she is the author of five full-length collections of poetry, Dorothea Laskyturns 41… MSNBC correspondent who debuted on the network in September 2015, Jacob Hirsch Soboroff turns 36… Professional baseball outfielder, he was signed to minor league contracts by a number of MLB teams, he starred for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Blake Shane Gailen turns 34… Son of Jared and Ivanka, Theodore James Kushner turns 3… Account executive at Yext, he was previously AIPAC’s Associate Director for Westchester County (NY) and Riverdale (2014-2017), Adam B. Engel… David Greenbaum… Columnist at Spectator USA, Daniella Greenbaum Davis




Daily Kickoff: An interview with Howard Schultz at AIPAC | How Benny Gantz did in his U.S. debut | McDonalds buys Israeli startup for $300M

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THE 2020 GRIND at AIPAC — On Monday afternoon, Howard Schultz, who’s mulling a run for president, attended AIPAC’s Policy Conference and later stopped by the organization’s leadership reception. Schultz had responded to MoveOn’s call for 2020 candidates to skip AIPAC by tweeting: “The unwillingness of the far left to even speak with people they may disagree with is one of the worst symbols of the dysfunction in Washington today. We should actively engage with those who support our longstanding alliance.”

At the conference yesterday, Schultz asked us to share a message with JI readers: “Keep embracing Yiddishkeit, it will serve you well.” He later spoke with us about his Jewish identity and views towards Israel. The following interview has been edited for clarity:

You said if you’re going to run for president, you wouldn’t run “as a Jew.” Can you explain? 

Howard Schultz: “Well, you’ve got to put that in context. I was asked on 60 Minutes, “is the country ready for a Jewish president?” And I said, yes, the country is ready for Jewish president. And the reason I believe that is the goodness and kindness in the American people. And then I said, however, I am Jewish and proud of that, but…If I run for president, I’m running as an American who happens to be Jewish. I also spoke about the fact that in 1960, when John F. Kennedy was running for president, there was an outcry that he was not suitable to be president because he was Catholic. And he demonstrated while he was campaigning, along the same lines. And so I feel very strongly about my pride and my Jewish heritage, but my love of America.”

So you’re at AIPAC — Israel, what are your views on it?

Howard Schultz: “I’m at AIPAC because I think this a very fragile time with regard to what’s going on politically in the country and obviously within the Middle East. The president’s decision to pull out of Syria, which I didn’t agree with, but I wanted to be here to demonstrate my loyalty and my support of Israel and of AIPAC. With regard to the future of Israel, I’ve been on the record for a long time in my belief in a two state solution, and although we’re a long way from that today, unfortunately, I hope over time that the Palestinians and the Jews can live in harmony. I think it’d be great for the Middle East [and] great for the world.” [JewishInsider]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke of his personal connection to Israel through his family history and hopes for his grandchildren, born at a time “when Israel is stronger than ever,” and growing up in a world that is getting farther away from remembering the horrors of the Holocaust and Israel’s fight for survival in the early wars. “Anyone, young or old, who thinks these threats to Israel aren’t real should just read today’s newspaper,” the senator said, referencing the rocket attack early Monday morning that struck a family home north of Tel Aviv.

Getting personal — With tears in his eyes, Schumer described the weight on his shoulders, being the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and the son of a blue-collar worker. “Because of the tolerance and openness and opportunity that courses through all American life, their grandson can stand before you as the highest elected Jewish official ever in America,” Schumer stated. 

Condemning antisemitism on both sides — Schumer thundered: “When we see or hear antisemitism we have a solemn obligation not to hold our tongues or parse our language, but call it out, with clarity — when someone names only prominent Jews as trying to buy or steal our elections, we must call it out. When someone says that being Jewish and supporting Israel means you are not loyal to America, we must call it out. When someone looks at a neo-Nazi rally and sees some very fine people among its company, we must call it out. You can be… completely Jewish, completely pro-Israel and completely American and we are!”

Addressing Trump’s remarks that the Democratic Party is ‘anti-Jewish,’ Schumer said: “It will always be wrong to use antisemitism as a political weapon, always. And let me tell you, if you only care about antisemitism coming from your political opponents you are not fully committed to combatting antisemitism.”

During his plenary speech, Vice President Mike Pence called out Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), saying that a “freshman Democrat in Congress trafficked in repeated anti-Semitic tropes” should be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “And at a minimum, anyone who slanders those who support this historic alliance between the United States and Israel should never have a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) highlighted his relationship with Steny Hoyer in achieving bipartisanship on Israel, but was disappointed in the larger class of Democrats. “I’d be lying to you if I said that it’s bipartisan in this Congress. I was embarrassed, I was embarrassed the last resolution had to be watered down.”

McCarthy, building on VP Mike Pence’s speech earlier in the day, said, “AIPAC should never be boycotted, AIPAC should always be celebrated.”

CLARIFICATION DEPT — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) issued a statement on Monday walking back remarks he made a night earlier at AIPAC’s conference, pointing out that Rep. Omar and her colleagues caught up with anti-Israel and antisemitic comments are only three out of 62 freshman Democrats. “Our caucus has a dynamic freshman class of sixty-three new Members, all of whom are doing a great job and bringing unique perspectives and backgrounds to their work in the House,” Hoyer stated. “In pointing out that much of the press attention has been on a few new members in particular, I was lamenting that the media does not appear to be paying enough attention to other excellent new members who are also bringing important new energy and diverse perspectives to our caucus and to the Congress.”

RECAP OF AIPAC DAY 2 — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh and Laura Kelly: Speakers taking the main stage Monday reacted first to the early morning rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on Israeli civilians, pointing out the very real threats Israel faces and America’s commitment to protecting its security. The top speakers, including Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio touched on the existential threats of antisemitism, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the importance of bipartisan support.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out members of the Democratic party supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as supporting a new form of antisemitism. “I suspect none of them are here tonight,” he said. “Friends, let me go on record, anti-Zionism is antisemitism. The Trump Administration opposes it unequivocally, we will fight against it relentlessly.”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on a panel during AIPAC that partisan politics “should stop at the water’s edge” when it comes to the committee’s work on foreign policy and foreign affairs. “So what party you belong to isn’t really relevant, what’s relevant is support for Israel.”

IRAN SANCTIONS — Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said on the main stage: “We have to isolate Iran like we isolated North Korea, because they’re one in the same… I think we need to stop with the waivers. If you are doing business with Iran, you want to talk about BDS, if you were doing business with Iran, that’s what we should be talking about.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) echoed this call on an AIPAC panel: “One of the things I think we need to do is end the oil waivers, end them now, no more oil waivers.”

Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN) reacted to Vice President Pence saying that some 2020 Democratic candidates were boycotting Israel. “My sense is that everybody who is running for office would want to be here at the AIPAC conference. His opinion is his opinion, he may be right for all I know. But I would think that as influential… frankly the tremendous line up of speakers that the AIPAC conference has, that they would want to be part of the conference and speak.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters after his speech that it was a “mistake” for the Democratic presidential candidates to skip the gathering. “Every leader has to make their own choice, but I think it was important for progressives to be here. I think it was important to say that we stand by Israel. I also think it 

We’re told that a bus was arranged to shepherd freshmen Democrats leaving President Obama’s reception to AIPAC’s leadership reception, following JI‘s report of the scheduling conflict. 

SPOTTED LAST NIGHT — at the AIPAC leadership reception: Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, Romanian Prime Minter Viorica Dăncilă, Gov. Larry Hogan, Amb. David Friedman, Tim Kaine, Ed Markey, Chuck Grassley, Mark Warner, John Cornyn, Ben Cardin, Bob Menendez, John James, Michael Bennett, Bob Gibbs, Cory Gardner, Ted Cruz, Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Doug Jones, Max Rose, Grace Meng, Josh Gottheimer, Adam Schiff, Jamie Raskin, Jerry Nadler, Eliot Engel, Mikie Sherill, Dean Phillips, Chris Pappas, Andy Levin, Angie Craig, Norma Torres, Hakeem Jeffries, Steve Stivers, Rick Scott, Steve Daines, Glenn Grothman and Warren Davidson.

Also last night — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel addressed a reception hosted by Democratic Majority for Israel. Representatives Brad Sherman, Pete Aguilar, Susan Wild, Tom Suozzi and Brendan Boyle were in attendance. Board co-chairs Ann Lewis and Todd Richman spoke alongside the group’s board members Anton Gunn, Meagan Stabler, Sam Lauter, Elissa Swidler, Archie Gottesman, Mark Gerstein, Barry Porter, Peter Villegas.

At the Young Jewish Conservatives mixer: Rep. Dan Crenshaw, MK Amir Ohana, Yitz Tendler, Joel Griffith, Sophia Witt, Katie Pavlich, Samantha Greenberg and David Milstein. [Pic

KAFE KNESSET — Gaza Overshadows DC — by Neri Zilber: Unsurprisingly the Gaza escalation overshadowed yesterday’s big news out of Washington, D.C. Benny Gantz’s well-received speech at AIPAC was a mere footnote (if at all) in the news coverage — and, as mentioned, later undone by his Channel 12 interview which dominated the discussion about him. Netanyahu’s “historic” (as he termed it) meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House — where he gained official U.S recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights — was carried on a slight delay by the major networks and received more coverage. Yet in Israel, too, the event’s impact was undone by a split screen showing IDF strikes in Gaza.

Netanyahu later excoriated his traveling press corps for not covering the White House meeting at greater length. Yet it was his sole decision to start the bombing campaign just as he was meeting with Trump. For the Israeli citizens hunkering in bomb shelters at that moment, the rockets flying in from Gaza were a more pressing concern than a Washington photo-op. During a proclamation signing recognizing Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, Netanyahu compared President Trump to Cyrus the Great, Lord Balfour and Harry S. Truman — historic giants who helped secure the future of the Israeli people. Trump, in return, called Netanyahu a ’very special man,’ 

Gantz Weighs In Unconvincingly: Gantz criticized the government for the loss of deterrence vis-a-vis Hamas and squandering over three years of quiet after the 2014 Gaza war, but made a show of supporting the PM (and of course the IDF and southern residents) during a security crisis. “We won’t attack [the government] at this moment,” Gantz told Channel 12’s Yonit Levy. Yet when pressed by Levy, Gantz found it difficult to expand on how his strategy would be all that different than Netanyahu’s. Speaking from Washington, the primetime interview was dogged by satellite delays and Levy’s focus on Gaza policy, to the exclusion of all other issues including Gantz’s (successful) speech earlier in the day at AIPAC. Gantz looked tired and was perhaps under the weather, leading some mainstream news outlets to describe the appearance as “embarrassing.” While Blue and White was holding its fire, the Likud immediately seized on Gantz’s interview for election purposes. “Gantz doesn’t look sane,” Netanyahu’s spokesman tweeted. “Nothing less than a danger to the state. Let him be well.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

HOW IT PLAYED — With Confident AIPAC Performance, Gantz Shows U.S. There Is an Alternative to Bibi — by Amir Tibon: 
“Gantz’s speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington was a hit, winning the appreciation of the U.S. crowd at the pro-Israel lobby’s annual gathering. It’s not clear, though, whether his appearance will help him win any votes in Israel… His speech was a perfect fit for the AIPAC crowd — which tilts more to the right and includes many Trump and Netanyahu fans, but is also nostalgic for a ‘beautiful and righteous Israel’ and is concerned about Israel’s standing in the U.S. public arena.” [Haaretz

Elliott Abrams emails: “I thought it was a very good speech. No doubt many in the audience will have noted that on key issues like Iran and the Palestinians there did not seem to be much difference between his views in those of Likud. And simply as a speech, I thought it was very well written. Obviously, he does not have the delivery in English, and the polish that Bibi has. No Israeli prime minister has ever mastered English the way Netanyahu has, and I doubt any ever will match him. But the people in the audience at AIPAC don’t vote, and the ones that do are listening to Gantz in Hebrew.” 

IPF’s Michael Koplow: “Gantz did as well as he could have done. He was on message, played up his bio and his security credentials (which are his strongest suit), talked hawkish and tough and played upon American Jewish fears of Israel always being in danger while still managing to appeal to optimism, and appealed to the notion of Jewish unity that crosses the U.S.-Israel divide. Graded on his own, he did very well. But ultimately Gantz looked like a standard Israeli prime minister talking to American Jews in very Israeli English, while Netanyahu — for all the ways in which he was and is enormously divisive among American Jews — is able to take control of an American audience in English in a unique way. The question is whether Israelis watching will grade Gantz on his own, or whether they will inevitably compare him to the current competition.”

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi tells Yardena Schwartz that for many American Jews, Netanyahu’s recent alliance with the extremist Jewish Power party is a final breaking point in the crisis between Israel and American Jewry. “Yes, he’s kept Israel safe and prosperous through the most turbulent period in the modern Middle East. With countries all around us disintegrating, terror enclaves on our borders, Iran devouring one Arab country after another, Israel has thrived. But what he’s doing now is undermining those contributions and weakening the most basic fabric of Israeli society,” Halevi explained. “Netanyahu is on an anti-democratic rampage, and legitimating Kahanism is part of his anti-democratic campaign.”

ON THE HILL — Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) spoke to JI’s Laura Kellyabout new bipartisan legislation he introduced last week with Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), which would hold the Palestinian Authority accountable in terrorism lawsuits as a provision to the U.S.-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act. “We were trying to find the best way to address the situation after the last legislation and we think this is it,” Deutch said.

“Our ally Israel has and will continue to receive unwavering bipartisan support in Congress, and we are committed to expanding and strengthening this strategic relationship. This bill highlights the deep, collaborative, and mutually-beneficial relationship between our countries through scientific research and development partnerships and joint economic and innovation endeavors. It also expands Congress’ steadfast commitment to guaranteeing Israel’s security and ensuring it is always prepared to defend itself from the many security threats on its borders.”

** Good Tuesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Jonathan Triest’s Ludlow Ventures raises $45M for third fund [TechCrunch• Former Goldman exec Harvey Schwartz has not interviewed for Wells Fargo CEO job [CNBC] • WeWork’s Losses Swell to Nearly $2 Billion as It Seeks Global Expansion [NYTimes] • Uber to Acquire Careem, Its Top Mideast Rival [NYTimes• Alibaba acquires Israeli startup Infinity Augmented Reality [TechCrunch• Israeli Hacking Company NSO Group Is Trying to Clean Up Its Image [Vice]

SPOTLIGHT — McDonald’s buys Israeli digital startup Dynamic Yield — by Heather Haddon and Dana Mattioli: “McDonald’s Corp. is buying Israeli digital startup Dynamic Yield Ltd., in a bid to improve in-store ordering and online marketing at the burger giant. As part of the deal announced Monday, McDonald’s will pay more than $300 million for closely held Dynamic Yield, people familiar with the matter said. The deal is the fast-food giant’s first acquisition in years and its biggest in two decades. McDonald’s will use Dynamic Yield’s technology at its drive-through windows, where digital displays will change in real-time based on factors such as weather and what the customer is ordering. During heat waves, for instance, a drive-through display could promote a McDonald’s ice-cream cone.” [WSJWired

TALK OF THE TOWN — Gaza Zoo to Close After Four Lion Cubs Freeze to Death — by Brendan Cole: “The animal charity Four Paws had been campaigning for the closure of Rafah Zoo after four lion cubs froze to death and several other animals were killed in air raids, The Times of Israel reported. The zoo, which was set up in 1999, has struggled financially since the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007… According to its website, the welfare group has been working in Gaza since 2014 and has already evacuated and closed down two other zoos in the region — Al-Bisan zoo and Khan Younis zoo.”[Newsweek]

Dozens of historic photographs documenting the relationship between then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat as the two leaders negotiated the Israel-Egypt landmark peace agreement in 1979 have been released by the National Library of Israel on its 40th anniversary.

BIRTHDAYS — CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, co-founder of Google along with Sergey Brin, Larry Page turns 46… President of the Palestinian Authority since 2005, Mahmoud Abbas (commonly known as Abu Mazen) turns 84… Argentine-born, Israeli clarinetist who specializes in klezmer music, Giora Feidman turns 83… Actor who has appeared in more than 60 films since 1964, including as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather” (1972), James Caan turns 79… Award-winning novelist and poet, whose debut novel in 1973 “Fear of Flying,” has sold over 20 million copies, Erica Jongturns 77… Marty Rosmarin turns 68… Physician, author of five books and former medical correspondent at ABC News (1984-1999), then as chief medical editor for NBC News (2006-2015), Nancy Lynn Snyderman, MD turns 67… President and CEO of the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum, he was previously Bloomberg’s editor-at-large for Canada (2014-2018) and editor-in-chief of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, Edward Greenspon turns 62…

Actress who has appeared in many movies over a 30-year career, in 2010 she was the winner of Season 11 of Dancing with the Stars, Jennifer Grey turns 59… Patent attorney from Detroit, she was elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives in 2008, 2010 and 2012, Ellen Cogen Lipton turns 52… Founder, president and CEO of Waxman Strategies, a DC-based communications firm that now includes his father, former Congressman Henry Waxman, Michael Waxman turns 45… Born in Phoenix, now living in Israel, talk show host who founded Israel Sports Radio in 2010 and Israel Sports and News Radio in 2015, sports and politics blogger for the Times of Israel, Ari Louis turns 36… Actress best known for her roles in ABC’s sitcom “Suburgatory” and the USA Network’s drama “Mr. Robot,” Carly Chaikinturns 29… Philipp Tolentino




Daily Kickoff: Rocket fire over central Israel, Bibi heading home | Hoyer: There are 62 freshman Democrats, not 3 | Aaron David Miller turns 70

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Ed note: It’s only Monday morning but for us and many in DC around AIPAC it already feels like a Wednesday or Thursday.

OVERNIGHT CHANGE — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will no longer appear at AIPAC in-person on Tuesday morning after a rocket fired from Gaza hit a private home in Moshav Mishmeret in the Kfar Saba region, injuring six people early Monday morning. Netanyahu will be heading back to Israel after meeting with President Trump later today, foregoing his planned dinner with the president tomorrow, and will instead address the AIPAC gathering from Jerusalem via video. 

HEARD YESTERDAY — Meghan McCain, appearing alongside former Senator Joe Lieberman in a tribute for the late John McCain at AIPAC’s Sunday evening session: “Many of you know, there are people out there today, including in the halls of Congress, who believe that America supports Israel only because it’s powerful. That line, recalling so many pernicious stereotypes, is a profound misunderstanding of how American democracy works. Americans don’t support Israel because AIPAC is influential. AIPAC is influential because Americans support Israel.” [Video]

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) declared to AIPAC, “I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically. So, when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: accuse me. I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel. I tell Israel’s detractors: accuse us.”

Hoyerannounced that he will lead the “largest delegation ever – probably more than thirty Democratic Members of Congress, including many freshmen” on an annual trip to Israel in August. “By the way, there are 62 freshman Democrats — you hear me? Sixty-two, not three,” Hoyer pointed out. “We stand with Israel because we are loyal Americans, patriots who believe it is in America’s interest that Israel remains strong and free and supported as a place of refuge from the haters of the world. We proudly stand with Israel. Accuse us,” he concluded to thunderous applause. [Video

HOW IT PLAYED — Hoyer delivers strong defense of U.S.-Israel alliance in veiled rebuke of Rep. Omar [WashPost• At AIPAC, Democratic majority leader aims fire at Ilhan Omar [JTA] • AIPAC speakers make thinly veiled jabs at Ilhan Omar in wake of comments deemed anti-Semitic [FoxNews]

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, during a Q&A session on Sunday afternoon: 
“You don’t have to agree with every single thing that AIPAC has supported or everyone who goes to an AIPAC conference. By the way, I think people who go to the AIPAC conference don’t all agree with each other. But you do have to agree that Israel matters in the world and that we have to have to defend Israel… The vast majority of Democrats support the state of Israel. The vast majority of progressives support the state of Israel. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.” [Pic]

RECAP OF AIPAC DAY 1 — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Speakers on the main stage during Sunday evening’s plenary session called out Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and her statements – charging supporters of Israel as pushing for “allegiance to a foreign country” – but without explicitly mentioning her.

“The fundamental reasons we support a strong U.S-Israel relationship have been attacked and worse, our loyalty to the United States has been questioned and people are watching to see what happens next,” AIPAC President Mort Fridman said. “I’m the child of a Holocaust survivor, I’m the president of AIPAC, we all have stories that brought us here and, though all of us are different in so many ways, we are similar too. In one very specific way — none of us are willing to be silenced or intimidated.” 

British Member of Parliament Joan Ryan addressed the controversy surrounding endemic antisemitism in the Labour Party. She explained the decision that she and seven other MPs made to quit the Labour Party.“I would never have believed just three years, that the party which backed a Jewish homeland, even before the Balfour Declaration, would have sunk so low, so fast,” she told the audience of 18,000. “Why did I, a non-Jewish friend of Israel, travel to your conference, to tell you this? To remind you that things can change quickly. To remind you that we must stay on our guard and to remind you that we must stand our ground. We must condemn antisemitism and anti-Zionism unequivocally wherever we find it, whenever we find it.”

FIGHT AGAINST BDS — In his remarks, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also expressed his support for a bipartisan resolution that opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, calling it a “front to delegitimize the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.” The resolution, introduced last week by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), “puts Congress on record that BDS must be opposed and at its root — at its root — is an effort to eliminate the Middle East’s only pluralistic democracy,” Leader Hoyer said.

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said it would be a worse problem if Israel would keep their inventions and technologies out of the hands of supporters of the movement. “Those countries and those organizations should be worried about Israel boycotting them,” he said during a Q&A session on the main stage. “I’m serious. If Israel starts boycotting people, there will be no cell phones, there’s not going to be any of these autonomous victories, go to that medicine cabinet, take out half the drugs that are in there. The BDS movement is not a threat to Israel’s economy, it is a moral attack against Israel, it’s an antisemitic attack against Israel, we have to fight back.”

NEXT UP — AIPAC President Mort Fridman announced on Sunday that the board has selection Betsy Berns Korn as its next president, starting next year. According to JTA’s Ron Kampeas, Berns formed a company, BVision Sportsmedia, in 1996 and authored, ‘The Female Fan Guide to Pro Football,’ a book, which, according to its Amazon blurb, uses ‘simple and easy to understand language’ so that ‘Husbands AND wives, boyfriends AND girlfriends can now enjoy their Sunday afternoons together.’

HAPPENING TODAY — Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Kachol Lavan head Benny Gantz and AEI’s Arthur Brooks are speaking at the policy conference morning plenary session. 

Pence is expected to hit the 2020 Democratic candidates for boycotting AIPAC, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports

PREVIEW — In a phone conversation with Jewish Insider yesterday, Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), previewed the message of his speech to AIPAC ahead of this morning’s plenary session.

Brooks explains why many Americans support Israel: “Americans believe that pluralistic democratic capitalism is good for everybody in the world, and we look for outposts around the world that share that, particularly in these extremely adversarial conditions. And there’s no better example of that than Israel. And so the reason that we stand with Israel, the reason that we all should and many of us do, and the reason that people came all across the country is because we want the best for everybody.”

Brooks calls the current political climate an “incredible opportunity” for AIPAC: “You know, AIPAC got weirdly controversial for all kinds of reasons that had nothing to do with AIPAC per se and everything to do with the current political environment. AIPAC became an Avatar for other political issues. And, you know, some people will kind of regret that, but they shouldn’t. That’s an incredible opportunity that just doesn’t come along very much. And the opportunity is to treat the contempt toward AIPAC or the contempt for any of us as an opportunity to answer with respect and kindness and actual love because it’s an opening to be persuasive, particularly for people who witness the dialogue, and it’s an opportunity to actually create more happiness in our world, for us and maybe even for the people that we’re dealing with.”

“Every Israeli knows that you can have contempt that’s actually a physical threat. At which point you’d have to get out the power tools… I’m talking about in the United States where people are attacking AIPAC on social media and in ordinary media and in politics. That is a true opportunity to show what we’re made of as people radically dedicated to the equality of human dignity. And so people will listen to us and say, ‘My God, those guys do really practice what they preach. They really do believe those things.’ And if it were not for the contempt of the current environment, we wouldn’t have that opportunity and we wouldn’t be able to take the cause forward as rapidly as we will be able to in the coming six months. I’m going to talk about how to do it and what the consequences are if we blow it by answering the contempt of the political situation with contempt of our own.”

Brooks on where AIPAC might be in 5-10 years: “Whether AIPAC has its current level of support or changes, depends very centrally on whether or not AIPAC represents what the country wants to be, not just what AIPAC wants to be. [As a country] we’re starting to rebel against the outrage industrial complex… 93 percent of Americans hate how divided we’ve become… All organizations are aligned with one particular specific cause, but to the extent that they represent the general cultural movement of where we want to be, that will be the biggest driver in their ultimate success.”

“So I would strongly recommend the leaders of AIPAC to say, how can we represent what all Americans most want for their country? Martin Luther King said the cause of civil rights should be the cause of American greatness, and that’s the way it should be. If it becomes more narrow in its cause, I understand that, but I think that would be a missed opportunity for AIPAC to represent the broader sentiments of those of us who love each other and love our country, and, by the way, who even love our neighbors when they disagree with us.” [JewishInsider] • Brooks’ recent book on this topic: Love Your Enemies

KAFE KNESSET — Rocket attack on central Israel — by Neri Zilber: Early this morning a long-range rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a house in Mishmeret, a moshav in the Sharon region north of Tel Aviv. Seven Israeli civilians in the severely damaged home were wounded (including infants), one moderately. At present no Palestinian faction has taken responsibility for this morning’s attack, although the IDF told Kafe Knesset that it was a “Hamas rocket fired from a Hamas position and we hold Hamas responsible.” The Iron Dome rocket defense system wasn’t activated, with the IDF saying the system only protects those areas where it’s deployed. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here[KafeKnesset]

DRIVING THE DAY — President Trump will meet with PM Netanyahu in the Oval Office at 11:45 AM EST.

Going into the meeting, President Trump received the news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller cleared the Trump campaign from suspicions that it colluded with the Russians in the 2016 elections. That was welcome news for Israeli officials, who told McClatchy’s Michael Wilner and Franco Ordonez that the report clears the air for the president’s meetings with Netanyahu.

TWO STATE SOLUTION ON LIFE SUPPORT — new poll conducted for Haaretz shows only 34 percent of Israelis support the two state solution, while 42 percent back some form of annexation of the West Bank. The poll also indicates that only a majority of voters on the center-left — Kachol Lavan, Labor and Meretz — support a two state solution.

Tom Friedman writes… “Trump and Congress: Loving Israel to Death: Amos Yadlin, the former head of military intelligence in Israel, likes to say that Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy faces two existential threats — a nuclear-armed Iran and turning itself into a bi-national state by permanently occupying the West Bank with its 2.5 million Palestinians. And while Israel has a strategy for addressing the first threat, it has no strategy for addressing the second. One reason it doesn’t is because of a third existential threat to Israel. And that threat is from America — particularly from President Trump, but also from pro-Israel lawmakers in Congress and from AIPAC, the main Israel lobbying organization. It’s the threat that America will love Israel to death.” [NYTimes

ON THE HILL — The Senate is expected to consider a resolution condemning Rep. Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic comments and declaring that “anti-Semitism has for hundreds of years included attacks on the loyalty of Jews” later this week, the NYTimes’ Glenn Thrush reports. The “sense of the Senate” measure, sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is likely to be passed unanimously or with only minimal opposition.

IRAN SANCTIONS — As the Trump Administration continues to consider the extension of waivers for oil exports out of Iran, Swiss officials have proposed that Swiss banks handle transactions between European firms selling medicine, food and other humanitarian-related goods to Iranian companies, a model used by the Obama administration before the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a report by NBC News. Swiss officials are looking for an additional level of assurance from the Treasury Department, removing any concerns for the Swiss banks handling payments for European firms exporting humanitarian goods to Iran.

The Swiss humanitarian payment arrangement could “counter the propaganda from the regime that America is to blame for difficulties in buying humanitarian goods inside Iran,” FDD’s Mark Dubowitz told the news publication.

On Friday, the Trump administration unveiled new sanctions targeting 31 Iranian nationals and organizations that allegedly supported or were associated with Iran’s past efforts at building nuclear weapons. By threatening to penalize any individuals or companies around the world that deal with the blacklisted entities, the Trump administration is trying to cut off access to the tools and the expertise Iran needs for a nuclear-weapons program.

Meanwhile, the U.S clinched a strategic port deal with Oman on Sunday which will allow the U.S. military better access in the Gulf region and reduce the need to send ships through the Strait of Hormuz, a maritime choke point off Iran.

Watch — Tipster sends us a video of Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) watching videos at Shun Lee West in NY last night [Video]

** Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Josh Kushner acquires piece of Memphis Grizzlies [CommercialAppeal•Developer Sam Boymelgreen Plans Office Complex For Former Gowanus Printing Plant [Bklyner]• Ben Lerer eyes a merger with Refinery29 [BusinessInsider• Yitzhak Tshuva´s Delek Drilling LP is considering buying a stake in an Egyptian liquefied natural gas plant to broaden its export footprint [Bloomberg

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Robert Kraft speaks out for first time since prostitution bust — by Emily Smith: “New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued an extensive public apology on Saturday in which he told backers he hoped to ‘regain your confidence and respect.’ ‘I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard,’ the 77-year-old billionaire said in a statement. ‘Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing. The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being.'” [NYPostBleacherReport]

“Those close to him say, Kraft is deeply embarrassed that he has scarred his father’s cherished legacy and cast shadows on the many institutions he has financially nurtured in his family’s name, particularly those honoring his Jewish heritage… His friends say he recognizes the damage the episode has done, regardless of how his case is resolved in court… Steve Comen, an attorney who has been Kraft’s friend since they entered kindergarten together and has spoken with him since the charges were filed, said Kraft is ‘heartsick’ over the scandal.” [BostonGlobe]

REMEMBERING — Rafi Eitan, Israeli Spymaster Who Caught Eichmann, Is Dead at 92 — by Joseph Berger: “Rafi Eitan, the canny Israeli spymaster who commanded the Nazi-hunting team that captured Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and many years later was unmasked as the handler of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the American Navy intelligence analyst who pleaded guilty to passing on more than 1,000 secret documents to the Israelis, died on Saturday in Tel Aviv… In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Mr. Eitan ‘among the heroes of the intelligence services of the State of Israel.'” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY — Vice President and Middle East Program Director at the Wilson Center since 2006, after 24 years at the US Department of State (1978-2003), Aaron David Miller turns 70. Miller told Jewish Insider via email: “Last night I was stunned to see the number 70 on the cake. Still, 70 is the new 50. On balance, I’m taking the sage advice of former Secretary of State James Baker whose view of getting older makes the most sense — it beats the alternative.”

BIRTHDAYS: Chairman of Eastern Savings Bank and chair of philanthropic planning and services at the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Beth H. Goldsmith… Film and book critic, with regular appearances on NBC’s “The Today Show” from 1973 until 2010, Gene Shalitturns 93… Pulpit rabbi and historian, he served as rabbinic administrator of the Orthodox Union’s kashrut division, Rabbi Berel Wein turns 85… Feminist, journalist and social activist, Gloria Steinem turns 85… Actor and director, best known for his role as Detective David Starsky on the 1970s television series “Starsky & Hutch,” Paul Michael Glaser turns 76… Mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada since 2011, her husband had been Mayor from 1999 until 2011, Carolyn Goodman turns 80… Norman N. Goldberg turns 75… Glynis Gerber turns 66… Strategic adviser for science and environmental journalism since 2018 at the National Geographic Society, he was previously a reporter at the New York Times (1995-2009), Andrew C. Revkin turns 63…

Columbus, Ohio-based business consultant focused on dental practice management and marketing, Cynthia S. Levy turns 62… Executive director at Plum Community Center in Pittsburgh, she was previously executive director of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee (an independent affiliate of AJC), Karen Hochberg turns 62… Author, freelance journalist and the eHealth editor for Politico Pro, Arthur Allen turns 60… Retired IDF Major General, from 2014 to 2018 he served as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Yoav (Poli) Mordechai turns 55… Emmy Award-winning actress, Sarah Jessica Parker turns 54… Israeli special forces soldier turned software entrepreneur turned political leader, he led the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party until 2018 when he formed the New Right party, Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett turns 47…

Attorney and President of Mizel Financial Holdings, Cheston David Mizelturns 44… Principal at DC-based Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, Lauren Aronson turns 40… Boston-based director of media and public relations at Oxfam America, Alissa C. Rooney turns 39… Political editor at The Associated Press, Steven Sloan turns 36… Op-Ed staff editor and writer for The New York Times, Bari Weiss turns 35… Director of media at Chicago-based Golin, following stints at Resolute Consulting and the Cook County government, she was previously DC-based at Politico, Roll Call and Yahoo News, Meredith Shiner turns 32… Legislative director for US Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), Grant C. Dubler turns 30… Jordan Rossman turns 29… Regional Director for New Jersey and Rockland County in the Orthodox Union’s Department of Community Engagement, Rabbi Avi Heller… Pamela Snyder

Kafe Knesset for October 3

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Palestinian party pooper: As the Palestinian government convened in Gaza for the first time since 2014, the Israeli PM poured cold water over the latest reconciliation attempts in…

Kafe Knesset for September 29

Friday, September 29, 2017

Rawabi – the background story: Israel rejected an American request to transfer planning authorities to the Palestinians in order to complete the construction of the main access road…

Kafe Knesset for September 28

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Settlements staying put: Netanyahu relayed a very clear message in his speech at the national ceremony honoring the 50tth anniversary of the return to Judea, Samaria, Jordan Valley…

Kafe Knesset for September 27

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Israel versus Palestinians 0-1: The Israeli diplomatic efforts against the PA’s attempts to gain international recognition suffered a severe blow this morning in Beijing. Interpol’s General Assembly, meeting…

Kafe Knesset for September 26

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The tragic news of the Har Adar terror attack took over the agenda of the weekly cabinet meeting, which was postponed from Sunday and convened this morning. The…

Kafe Knesset for September 25

Monday, September 25, 2017

Trump’s mystery peace plan: Jason Greenblatt is on his way back to Israel for another round of peace talks followed by a family Sukkot holiday, and the Israeli…