Ed note: Welcome to a special Sunday edition of the Daily Kickoff — a guide to the conversations in and around AIPAC’s annual conference, what folks are talking about — from policy to parties, and everything in between:
HAPPENING TONIGHT — We’re told that former Senator Joe Lieberman and Meghan McCain are expected to honor the legacy of the late Senator John McCain at AIPAC’s Sunday evening plenary.
AIPAC CEO ADDRESSES CRITICS: “THIS IS DEFAMATION” — At this morning’s plenary, AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr kicked off the conference by acknowledging the attacks on the organization: “For 22 years, I have had the honor as the leader of AIPAC’s professional staff to take this moment to focus on the agenda for the year ahead … but today, I want to talk to you about our mission and our rights as pro-Israel activists and as proud American citizens because today things are different.”
“We are being challenged in a way that is new and far more aggressive. We have always had critics and detractors, and some have been particularly harsh. But today they are emboldened and energized, and their false claims are taken at face value by new and larger audiences. Those claims are not meant to inform or engage in legitimate debate. They are meant to isolate us and demonize us so they can undermine America’s historic support for Israel. Look at what they say. They say you can’t be a good campus leader and a supporter of Israel. They say you can’t be a good progressive and be a supporter of Israel. And now they are even saying you can’t even be a good American and be a supporter of Israel.”
“This isn’t about having normal policy discussions and debates. This is defamation… and they are trying to silence each of us. The scurrilous charge of dual loyalty is a signal, and that signal — amplified by today’s social media — is now empowering people who have long opposed our cause, our movement, and, frankly, everything we have built… These attacks on all of us are painful; painful precisely because the other side is trying to isolate us from our friends, our neighbors and the other causes and coalitions we care so deeply about. Say this much, they have our attention. But know this much: we will respond!”
2020 DEMS — No presidential candidates were invited to speak this year but that hasn’t stopped MoveOn, a progressive advocacy organization, from pressuring 2020 Democrats to “skip AIPAC.” 2020 Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris and Julian Castro are reportedly “skipping the conference” this year. However, as reported in Jewish Insider on Friday, candidates Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand will meet with their constituents in town for AIPAC. Look out for a few additional 2020 candidates to interact with AIPAC this week.
In South Carolina yesterday, Pete Buttigieg was asked by reporters why he’s not going to AIPAC this year: “I wasn’t invited!” he replied. Buttigieg, however, didn’t rule out going in the future.
ANOTHER AIPAC WITHOUT TRUMP — Ever since AIPAC’s unprecedented apology the morning after then-candidate Trump’s remarks at its 2016 conference, both the group and the president have avoided a repeat appearance. Vice President Mike Pence has instead been dispatched to the conference each year since. Notably, on Friday afternoon, it was announced that Trump will address a Jewish conference in a few weeks, the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring meeting in Las Vegas. Perhaps quieting the rumors that the announcement right before AIPAC wasn’t coincidental, the RJC’s Matt Brooks tweeted last night: “I’m proud and honored to stand with the Jewish community and speak at #AIPAC2019.” Others are also wondering about the timing of Trump’s announcement on the Golan last Thursday by tweet instead of waiting a few days to announce it during AIPAC week…
WILL BIBI RAISE THE TOPIC OF IRAN WAIVERS? — Republican senators last week called out “elements” in the Trump administration who are pushing to renew sanctions waivers relating to Iranian oil exports and nuclear energy work, a move that critics of the JCPOA argue is allowing Iran to remain in the deal and wait out the Trump White House. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no qualms with publicly challenging the Obama administration on the Iran deal, the question is whether he will weigh in on this debate in the Trump administration during his speech to AIPAC.
PREVIEWING BENNY GANTZ’S SPEECH — via Kafe Knesset’s Neri Zilber: According to two sources in Blue and White who spoke to Kafe Knesset, Gantz’s speech will give conference attendees (and everyone else watching closely) an introduction to Benny Gantz as both a person and leader. “He will surprise people,” one of the sources said. “People will see something new — a former IDF chief of staff, with the aura of a former soldier, emphasizing values that Americans take seriously. He’s that kind of figure.”
In terms of substance, the speech will highlight three main themes. First, Israel and the Diaspora, in particular rebuilding relations between Israel and the Democratic Party and American Jewry writ large, upholding the importance of Israel as a bipartisan consensus issue. Second, the state of the Jewish world today, in particular the fight against antisemitism. And third, a security vision for Israel under a PM Gantz, with emphasis on maintaining Israel’s primacy as a regional power.
Despite the implicit criticism of Netanyahu’s handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship (and thus the need to “rebuild relations”), those expecting a full-frontal attack on the incumbent will be sorely disappointed. It’s not Gantz’s style, the sources emphasize — not in Israel (at least not usually) and certainly not overseas in English during a speech viewed as an address to the Jewish people. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter here[KafeKnesset]
HILL EFFORTS — AIPAC activists are planning to ask members of Congress to cosponsor the U.S.-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act (H.R. 1837)—authored by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Joe Wilson (R-SC).” They are also lining up senators and representatives to sign a letter to President Trump highlighting the mounting threats on Israel’s northern border and supporting U.S. action to stand by Israel. The bipartisan letter is authored by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
COVERAGE OF AIPAC 2019 — Bernard Avishai writes in the New Yorker: “If past is prologue, the delegates will applaud both sides from both countries—proving, as the AIPAC website puts it, “bipartisan” support for a “sister” democracy—but the tensions at this year’s conference are unprecedented. Netanyahu has crossed what, for most American Jews, more than seventy-five per cent of whom voted Democratic in 2018, should be lines of principle, and often in ways that mirror Donald Trump.” [NewYorker]
Mark Horowitz in the New York Times: “Aipac’s success isn’t ‘about the Benjamins.’ It flows from the fact that a majority of Americans, not just Jews, are predisposed to support Israel. Polls and surveys consistently confirm this… Why is it so surprising, then, that a lobbying organization exists to channel this support into political and legislative action? Labor unions do it, chambers of commerce do it, abortion rights groups do it and Arab-Americans do it. It would be weird if there wasn’t a pro-Israel lobby. ‘There’s nothing new about lobbying on behalf of causes in foreign places,’ Hubert Humphrey said in 1976. ‘It’s as American as a hot dog or apple pie.’” [NYT]
RECEPTIONS — J Street is hosting a happy hour on Sunday evening across the street from the DC convention center at Lost and Found Alley Bar. According to the invite, the event is “for Israeli and Palestinian civil society partners, MKs, journalists, and Members of Congress and their staff who are planning to be at the convention center anyway.”
The Yesha Council is hosting an event at the Museum of the Bible in D.C. at 8PM tonight. Expected guests include the Likud’s Gideon Saar, Tzachi Hanegbi, Amir Ohana, and Mayor of Efrat Oded Ravivi.
SPOTTED — at the Schusterman Foundation’s networking reception last night at the Long View Gallery, across the street from the D.C. convention center: Lisa Eisen, Tina Price, Steven Price, Kyle Price, Susie Gelman, Michael Gelman, Amb. Itamar Rabinovich, Moses Libitzky, David Becker, Eric Fingerhut, Gidi Grinstein, Moshe Friedman, Yotam Politzer, Mohamed Abubakr, Justin Hefter, Daniel Bonner, Daniel Sperling, Tamar Remz, Richard Fowler, Stuart Kurlander, Gil Galanos, Marilyn Goldman, Tye Gregory, Miranda May, Jordan Heller, Lia Weiner, Carrie Keller-Lynn, Ilan Regenbaum.
TALK OF THE MARQUIS LOBBY — As we reported in Friday’s Daily Kickoff, former President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are hosting a reception for freshman House Democrats on Monday evening at the home of Ambassador Esther Coopersmith in Washington, D.C. Their reception is at the same time as AIPAC’s annual leadership reception, typically attended by most members of Congress. [JewishInsider]
ELSEWHERE — Yair Netanyahu wasspotted taking a photo outside the White House this morning. [Video]
On Friday night at Mar-A-Lago, with President Trump in the audience at the Palm Beach GOP Lincoln Day Dinner, Sen. Lindsey Graham declared: “We’ve got a guy over here who believes Israel is our friend… I could never convince Obama ‘Israel, good. Iran, bad.’ … Name one president in the history of the United States who stood stronger with Israel than President Donald Trump… Remember moving our embassy to Jerusalem and saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel? If you’ve got a problem with [Jerusalem as the capital of Israel], take it up with God, he’s the one who did it.”
“Two days ago… [Trump called for recognizing] the Golan Heights, there will be a Trump hotel there in ten years, I tell you… If you’ve ever been to the Golan you know why Israel can’t give it back. It would be suicide… Syria has been dismembered, who would you give the Golan back to? The best choice would be the Russians and that’s not a good choice… Here’s what I’ll say, Donald Trump is going to set the Mideast right. You know how you do that? You let your enemies know that you’re going to stand by your friends. So when Donald Trump said Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and when he said Israel will have the Golan, now and forever, not only is that a good signal to send to Israel but it’s a great signal to send to the bad guys because you don’t want to screw with this guy!” [Pic]
Trump, who later spoke on stage, said: “Lindsey, just so you understand. I heard Lindsey was speaking, so I said if Lindsey’s speaking, I want to come down and hear him speak. For two reasons. Number one, he’s a great speaker. And number two, I know if I’m here he’s not going to say anything bad about me…” [Pic]
Also spotted at the dinner: Brian Mast (R-FL), Former Rep. Trey Gowdy, Former Florida AG Pam Bondi, Donald Trump Jr.
AIPAC’S COMPETITION — Former President Barack Obama will host a reception for freshman House Democrats on Monday evening at the home of Ambassador Esther Coopersmith in Washington, D.C., Jewish Insiderreported yesterday. Politico later added that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is co-hosting the reception with Obama.
On Monday night, AIPAC will also hold its leadership reception, perhaps AIPAC’s most-significant annual gathering, which typically puts the vast majority of members of Congress, AIPAC’s leadership, board and national council all in one room, during the same block of time.
On any given night in D.C. while Congress is in session, members typically attend several receptions, but this conspicuous scheduling conflict has caught the attention of D.C. insiders. Obama’s reception is called for 7:15PM, while the AIPAC gathering is from 6:45PM until 10PM. [JewishInsider]
PROGRESSIVE PRIMARY COMES TO AIPAC, OR NOT — Several progressive 2020 presidential hopefuls announced that they are skipping AIPAC’s Policy Conference, kicking off at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Sunday, with some citing scheduling conflicts. Those not attending the conference include: Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Beto O’Rourke, Jay Inslee, Julián Castro, Pete Buttigieg and John Delaney. A representative for the campaign of Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) didn’t respond to media inquiries.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is considering an independent run for president, will also skip the conference. There is no precedent for candidates speaking at the conference in a non-election year. An AIPAC official informs Jewish Insider that the same policy stands for ‘declared’ candidates.
We are told that Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) will attend the conference to meet with the New Jersey delegation. [JewishInsider]
Glen Caplin, a spokesperson for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told Jewish Insider: “Senator Gillibrand was not planning to speak at the policy conference and will not be attending. As she does every year, she will meet separately with her New York constituents.”
New York City Mayor De Blasio, who has been flirting with a 2020 run, will deliver remarks during the Monday morning plenary session which is expected to focus on the progressive pro-Israel movement in the U.S.
PRESIDENT’S GOLAN PURIM GIFT — President Trump announced on Thursday via Twitter that “it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights.” The declaration reportedlysurprised members of his own Middle East peace team, the State Department, and Israeli officials. However, Trump insisted in an interview with Fox Business Network that “I’ve been thinking about doing that for a long time. Every president has said ‘do that.’ I’m the one that gets it done.”
Why it matters: The declaration is one step closer to a permanent U.S. policy shift that takes the Golan Heights off the table of any future peace negotiations with Syria. In February, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) introduced bills calling for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and measures to jumpstart investment in joining U.S.-Israel projects in the region.
TIMING — PM Netanyahu welcomed the news as a “Purim miracle” in a hastily arranged press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The two leaders also spoke by phone, with the PMO sending the press a photo of a jubilant Netanyahu. The timing “enables Netanyahu to emphasize his experience and political connections as areas where he has a significant upper hand over his political opponents,” Amos Harel writes.
“Trump’s latest gift to Bibi Netanyahu’s re-election campaign is a careless, needless undermining of U.S. national interests, in Arab-Israeli peacemaking and also well beyond the Middle East. It also signs the death warrant for Jared’s long-awaited peace plan,” Brookings Institution’s Tamara Cofman Wittesposted.
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich tells us: “I think it’s quite clear it’s not about the Israeli elections. And one reason it’s not about the Israeli elections is because support for Israeli sovereignty over the Golan is across the board. Bibi gets a lot of credit for this result, but so does Yair Lapid and people from Gantz’s party have worked hard for this result. This is truly a national project in Israel. And it’s good for everyone in Israel, it’s not a partisan issue in Israel.”
“Trump could have waited just a few days and announced this during the AIPAC conference, which would be a feather in AIPAC’s hat. But there’s a reason he didn’t, and I think the reason is that AIPAC was actually not pushing for a recognition of sovereignty. AIPAC was pushing — and you can see from their statement about this — for something that every last Democrat would approve of, a statement that Israel should retain control of the Golan Heights, which is a big difference. And what I think Trump is showing is that he is adopting a position that is more favorable to Israel than what AIPAC encouraged, and he is stealing AIPAC’s thunder by doing this before their conference.”
REACTION — The announcement stirred up passionate reactions, with Republican members supporting the move and more mixed reactions among left-leaning groups focused on Israel policy. Read their statements here [JewishInsider]
MK Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid Chair and co-leader of the Kachol Lavan Party, said in a statement: “We started a campaign on this issue over a year ago and the entire leadership of Blue and White stood on the Golan Heights just a few weeks ago and called for international recognition. President Trump has proven once again that he’s a true friend of Israel. It’s time for the rest of the world to follow the lead of the United States and recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) told Jewish Insider he supports Israeli control of the Golan Heights, but the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee stopped short of fully backing President Trump’s declaration. [Jewish Insider]
CFR’s Richard Haass told the Wall Street Journal that the timing of Trump’s declaration would jeopardize peace efforts and violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, “which rules out acquiring territory by war.”
“Politically, it helps Bibi, but comes at the cost to the administration’s own peace plan,” Washington Institute’s Dennis Ross told Al-Monitor. “It will make it harder for Arab leaders to respond favorably to it. They will not want to look like they are acquiescing in the surrender of what they see as Arab land.”
VIEW FROM MOSCOW — Russian Member of Parliament Oleg Morozov declared on Thursday that “Russia will never agree to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan.”
A European Union (EU) spokesperson told Haaretz: “The position of the EU has not changed. The European Union, in line with international law, does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, including the Golan Heights, and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory.”
HEARD ON TV — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave separate interviews to the major Israeli TV networks on Thursday, and discussed Trump’s peace plan, Iran, and the Trump Administration’s relationship with Netanyahu.
HIGHLIGHTS — “My trip and, frankly, the prime minister’s visit to Washington next week, are about real pressing issues, things that matter to the world,” Pompeo told Ch. 12’s Yonit Levi: “These are issues that can’t wait, and they don’t work on election clocks.”
On Trump’s peace plan, Pompeo said: “I’ve seen the plan. I have a pretty good understanding of its details, although there are a handful still to be worked out. I’m very hopeful that all nations – the Israelis, the Palestinian people, the Arab states, European countries, people from all around the world – will stare at this plan and say this has got merit, this has legs, this is a reason that we can begin to build and move forward.”
Levi: Can you ensure the Israeli public that the warm relationship between the American leadership and the Israeli leadership will continue even if Netanyahu loses on April 9th?
Pompeo: “Oh, I fully expect that’s the case. The history of the relationship between our two countries is deep. It is strong. It survives presidents and prime ministers.”
In his interview with Ch. 13, Pompeo also warned that the U.S. could reduce intelligence sharing with Israel due to China ties. Pompeo said he raised the issue in his meetings with Netanyahu and added he wanted to make sure Israel is wide-eyed about the threat from China. He stressed to Netanyahu: “If certain systems go in certain places, then America’s efforts to work alongside you will be more difficult and in some cases we won’t be able to do so.”
Asked if the Trump’s peace plan will include the term a ‘two-state solution,’ Pompeo said: “Yeah, just stay tuned.”
Pompeo also commented on Rep. Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic remarks in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network: “To see this from a member of Congress like Congresswoman Omar is… of great concern. It’s a great concern to me. This administration speaks the truth, and anti-Semitism is unacceptable in any form from anyone, but to see it come from one of America’s leaders is just abhorrent.”
GANTZ GOES TO AIPAC — Benny Gantz, PM Netanyahu’s chief rival in the April 9 election, is scheduled to speak at AIPAC’s Monday morning plenary, ahead of Netanyahu’s appearance on Tuesday. Gantz will share the stage with Vice President Mike Pence, former Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Some pundits have suggested that Gantz is wasting his time appearing before a crowd that has been Netanyahu’s home turf for the past three election cycles. “Gantz is going to look overmatched, no matter how well he performs,” writesIPF’s Michael Koplow. “What Israeli voters are going to see when they compare Netanyahu and Gantz side by side will be an experienced prime minister and a would-be prime minister struggling to catch up. Gantz will receive enthusiastic applause from AIPAC attendees, yet it will pale in comparison to the thunderous welcome given to Netanyahu… Gantz will organize some meetings around town, while Netanyahu will show up at the White House as the images of him and Trump will be beamed straight back to Israeli television sets. Gantz can give the performance of his life, and it simply will not matter.”
Koplow added in an email to Jewish Insider: “For Gantz’s speech to be successful, he has to worry about the optics more than the content. The point of him coming to AIPAC is to present himself as believable alternative to Netanyahu, and that means being composed, not stumbling on the English, and exuding a commanding presence. He will also want to throw in some obvious applause lines that will appeal to the American Jewish audience, and that means a mixture of hawkish talk on Israel’s security and talking about the importance of American Jews to Israel and Israelis. He is not going to be able to compete with Netanyahu on presentation or on the optics of Netanyahu spending two days at the White House with Trump, but he needs to come across as a plausible prime minister at a minimum.”
Washington Institute’s David Makovsky: “If Gantz didn’t come, the pundits would say he’s leaving the field open, he’s giving Netanyahu a monopoly over a key forum in U.S.-Israel relations. And he could certainly make the case how he wants to improve an area where Netanyahu is viewed by many as deficient. So it’s not an irrational decision by him to come. I think there’ll be a lot of people wanting to know how well Gantz was received, if it was merely polite applause or it was something beyond that.”
“Let’s put it this way, if politics is about expectations, it actually cuts for him because people will assume that the policy conference is Netanyahu’s home turf, and therefore no one is expecting him to out-Bibi Bibi at the policy conference. And therefore, he can only go up from there, I think. He’s not going to have the idiomatic English that Netanyahu does, but I think his message is going be a message that people do want to hear. Netanyahu is the prime minister of course, but that there’s other views in Israel too, and it’s very upsetting for people who care deeply about U.S.-Israel relations that Israel just equals Netanyahu. And they should know that there are multiple voices.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — Israeli Consul General of New York Dani Dayan during a media briefing on the Israeli election at the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan: “I want to say a word about the last Supreme Court decision to bar former Knesset member Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (Jewish Power) from running. I was somewhat puzzled when I saw Jewish American progressive leaders celebrating a decision that in this country would have been considered horrendously anti-democratic. Is our system in which the Supreme Court can bar candidates for running for being arrested is better that the American system in which a Nazi runs for Congress in Illinois? I don’t know. It’s a moral question, it’s a question of values, it’s a question of First Amendment values and the right to be elected against the necessary fight against bigotry.”
“I must admit that it annoyed me that people in this country were celebrating the decision, but would never, never propose a constitutional amendment in this country that would allow for the same thing to happen.” [Pic]
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced a bipartisan resolution on Thursday rejecting the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The resolution — co-sponsored by Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Ann Wagner (R-MO) — also encourages efforts to achieve a two-state solution. The resolution is separate from Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S.1), which passed the Senate 77 to 23 and empowers states to prohibit the government contracting with businesses that support the BDS movement.
Another bipartisan group introduced a bill that puts in place measures to sanction Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and its affiliates in Gaza in response to an uptick in violent activity and recent rockets fired at Tel Aviv. “The terrorist group Hamas is well known for firing rockets and digging terror tunnels into Israel and using Gazans, including women and children, as human shields,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “It is critical that the United States and our allies continue to isolate Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad by cutting them off at the source.”
The bill has the support of Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and ranking member Michael McCaul (R-TX) along with Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL).
Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, says in a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone that Jared Kusher’s lawyer Abbe Lowell confirmed to him and Trey Gowdy (R-SC) that Kushner “continues to use” WhatsApp to conduct White House business. Cummings also indicated that Lowell told them he was unsure whether Kushner had ever used WhatsApp to transmit classified information.
The Kingdom and the Kushners: Jared Went to Riyadh. So Did His Brother — by David D. Kirkpatrick: “In late October 2017, Jared Kushner dropped into Saudi Arabia for an unannounced visit to the desert retreat of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was in the process of consolidating his power… Just a day earlier, Mr. Kushner’s younger brother, Josh, then 32, was flying out of the kingdom… The founder of an eight-year-old venture capital firm, Josh Kushner had spent the three days before his brother’s arrival at an investor conference, where Prince Mohammed had promised to spend billions of dollars on a high-tech future for Saudi Arabia. As others sat through speeches in a gilded conference hall, the younger Mr. Kushner frequently ducked out for more exclusive conversations with Saudi officials.” [NYTimes]
INTERVIEW — In an interview with Jewish Journal’s Ryan Torok, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said he draws on his Jewish values in his work in Congress. “My religious and cultural upbringing has instilled in me a respect for our institutions, a respect for fundamental decency and integrity, and appreciation of how much character matters,” he said. “And this is why I am so aghast at not only the occupant of the Oval Office, but how his fundamental lack of decency and morality has affected the whole of government.”
JOE LIEBERMAN RESPONDS TO TRUMP — In an op-ed in the Washington Post, former Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) responds to President Trump’s recent attacks on the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ): “The person who suffers most from the strange, posthumous attacks by the president is the president himself. Respectfully, the president should let McCain rest in peace and give his family the peace they deserve during this difficult time after his death.”
NEW HILLARY EMAILS — A newly unearthed batch of heavily redacted, classified emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal email server — that the FBI recovered and turned over to the State Department in 2017 — revealed that Clinton establishing a “private, 100% off-the-record” back channel to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
PROFILE — Meet The Strategist Working Both Israeli and U.S. Elections — by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “Mark Mellman finds himself in the eye of two storms. The veteran D.C. pollster currently serves in dual roles that no single figure has occupied at the same time before. He is both a key campaign strategist for a major Israeli political party — Kahol Lavan — and at the helm of a new American pro-Israel organization: the Democratic Majority for Israel. Ask Mellman whether working for a party trying to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem while defending Israel against Netanyahu’s critics in Washington might not be a recipe for a conflict of interest and he’ll give you a firm ‘no.’ … When Mellman took the job of front man for DMFI, he made it clear to the group’s board members that he had an ongoing commitment to Yair Lapid that he would not abandon.” [Haaretz]
2020 WATCH — Joe Biden advisers debate Stacey Abrams as out-of-the-gate V.P. choice for 2020 run… ‘Beto is in his own lane’: Wall Street likes what O’Rourke is selling… Watch — Mike Bloomberg at the Bermuda Executive Forum in New York: “Beto, whatever his name is, he’s apologized for being born.”
BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith previews George Packer’s Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century (Knopf, May 7): “If you’re thinking about what American foreign policy will look like with a Democratic president, Our Man offers a glimpse at an old way that nobody in particular wants to go back to. Seth Moulton, the congressman and former Marine who is considering a White House campaign and is the toast of the Democratic foreign policy establishment, recalled this year that he had once sought “to rebuild the foreign policy that we had before this administration. But now I realize that that’s not possible. And inherent in this disaster is an opportunity. When your old house gets damaged by a bad renter, or in this case, a terrible president, you don’t just restore it to look like it was built in 1950, you take the opportunity to renovate it. You don’t just rebuild, you build something new, something more relevant, something better.”
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Wells Fargo in talks to hire Harvey Schwartz as its next CEO [NYPost] • Sam Nazarian’s SLS Dubai Hotel & Residences is one of the tallest in the city [TimeOutDubai] • Kushner Companies relists Puck Penthouse for 36% less [WSJ] • Guesty, an Israeli tech platform for property managers on Airbnb and other rental sites, raises $35M [TechCrunch] • With performance bad and investors fleeing, William Ackman ‘went activist’ at his own hedge-fund firm, Pershing Square [WSJ]
SPOTLIGHT — Social Ties Bind CEO Leslie Wexner, Directors at Victoria’s Secret Parent — by Khadeeja Safdar: “For decades, Leslie Wexner has run the parent of Victoria’s Secret with a close-knit group of directors. But amid scrutiny of the board’s ties to the 81-year-old chief executive, the company is preparing to bring in some fresh blood. L Brands Inc. has retained a search firm to find three new board candidates… The company intends to replace some directors at its May annual meeting with an eye to increasing board diversity. The change would come after an activist hedge fund, Barington Capital Group LP, said this month that L Brands’ board members lack the independence or skills needed to navigate drastic changes in the lingerie market.” [WSJ]
DEEP DIVE — NYTimes reporters Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman, Ronen Bergman and Nicole Perlroth with new details on the Israeli hacking firm NSO Group: “In late 2017, NSO executives grew concerned about a spate of resignations. Private detectives hired to investigate soon found themselves on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, tailing a group of former NSO employees — all veterans of Israel’s Intelligence Unit 8200 — going back and forth to work at a research facility. The building was owned by a company affiliated with DarkMatter, an Emirati firm that had quietly hired the Israelis to develop technologies for the U.A.E. to conduct cyberoperations against perceived enemies at home and abroad… In repeated instances, DarkMatter collected information about Americans, a second former employee said. Most of those cases involved Americans who worked for foreign organizations that DarkMatter targeted because they had been critical of the Emirati government.” [NYTimes]
WINE OF THE WEEK — 2014 Teperberg Cabernet Franc — by Yitz Applbaum: “Sometimes the occasion makes the wine and at other times the wine makes the occasion. Last Friday night it was the wine that carried us triumphantly into Shabbat. It was an otherwise quiet Friday night when I found a bottle of 2014 Teperberg Cabernet Franc buried deep in my cellar. The closest analogy I can think of to accurately describe this wine as I opened it is a mariachi band jumping out of a box of Rice Krispies.”
“This wine is one hundred percent Cabernet Franc. It is aged in new French oak for 18 months and it must have been heavily toasted oak as the smoky flavor hits you right at the front of your palate. The mid-palate is very fruity, a little like a cherry gusher and the finish is coarse like sandpaper with mocha overtones. This wine is drinkable now and, despite being well developed, salmon is still your best choice.” [TeperbergWinery]
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY — Stephen Sondheim’s birthday as submitted by his number 1 fan, JI reader Michael Granoff: “Widely acknowledged as the greatest living theater composer-lyricist, nickname in the theater community – God – on Broadway since writing the lyrics to West Side Story in 1956, winner of 8 Tonys (most for any composer), 8 Grammys, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award, and a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom, composer Stephen Sondheim turns 89.”
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Journalist, television news host and lead political anchor for CNN, Wolf Blitzer turns 71… Founder and chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation, E.D. Hirsch turns 91… Mad Magazine’s caricaturist for over 50 years, Mort Drucker turns 90… Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, William Shatner turns 88… Born in Iran, came to the US as a teen, elected to the Beverly Hills City Council in 2003, elected Mayor of Beverly Hills in 2007 and 2010 (each time for a one-year term), Jamshid “Jimmy” Delshad turns 79… Dentist, born in Tel Aviv, raised in NYC and practicing in Norwalk, CT, Murray Bruckel, DDS turns 74… Academy Award-winning screenwriter, his work includes “Forrest Gump” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Eric Roth turns 74… Israeli viola player and teacher, she has performed as soloist with many orchestras world-wide, Rivka Golaniturns 73… Mike Orkin turns 70… Former manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund (1992-1996), he then started his own hedge fund, he is the current owner of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeffrey N. Vinik turns 60… Popular Jewish musical entertainer, Avraham Shabsi Friedman, better known by his stage name, Avraham Fried turns 60… Former corporate secretary, EVP and general counsel at Hertz Corporation until 12-2014, J. Jeffrey Zimmermanturns 60… NYC correspondent for Haaretz, Debra Nussbaum Cohen turns 55…
Managing director of Mercury Public Affairs focused on government relations, public affairs and politics in NYC, Jonathan Greenspun turns 48… Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, she is married to Alan Lefkowitz, Judge Neomi Rao turns 46… Brooklyn, NY resident who is visual editor, shooter and photo trainer at The City, Ben Fractenberg turns 40… VP for corporate and executive communications at PepsiCo, former Obama speechwriter (2009-2011), a Fulbright scholar who earned an M.A. at the London School of Economics, Adam Perecman Frankel turns 38… Founder and CEO of beauty and cosmetic firms Into The Gloss and Glossier, Emily Weiss turns 34… Creator and director of the Yehi Ohr program at Jewish Community Services of South Florida, Zisa Levinturns 33… Retired MLB first baseman, he played for the Mets, Pirates, Athletics and Yankees and starred for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Isaac Benjamin “Ike” Davis turns 32… Press secretary for U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana), Sarah Alice Frank Feldman turns 31… Energy and environment reporter at the Washington Examiner, Joshua Adam Siegelturns 29… Editor of the English language edition of Haaretz, Charlotte Hallé… CEO of BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre), previously spokesman for the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, James Sorene… EVP of public affairs at the Federation of American Hospitals, representing the investor-owned hospital industry, Jeff E. Cohen… Beatrice Stein…
SATURDAY: Actor, film director, television director and producer, Mark Rydell turns 90… Former National Football League referee for 23 seasons, the only NFL head referee to officiate four Super Bowl games (1983, 1987, 1992 and 1995), Jerry Markbreit turns 84… Of counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, he served as White House counsel for President Clinton (1993-1994), Bernard W. Nussbaum turns 82… Together with her husband, Theodore, she pledged $25 million to BBYO last month, Harriette Perlman turns 79… Mandolinist and composer of acoustic, instrumental, bluegrass and newgrass music, David Grisman turns 74… Writer and producer of television series, creator of “Deadwood” and co-creator of “NYPD Blue,” David Milch turns 74… Los Angeles-based psychologist and author, her first book is “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children,” Wendy Mogel turns 68… Designer of men’s and women’s footwear, Kenneth D. Coleturns 65…
Mayor of Austin, Texas since January 6, 2015, he was previously a board member or board chair of multiple Austin-based nonprofits and civic organizations including the ADL, Stephen Ira Adler turns 63… Director of business development at Fannie Mae, she is also the president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County (Maryland), Beth Millstein turns 58… Investor, author, financial commentator and radio personality, Peter Schiff turns 56… French actress who has appeared in more than 30 films, her Holocaust survivor grandparents changed their name from Goldreich, Judith Godrèche turns 47… Member of the Maryland General Assembly since 2011, initially as a delegate and since 2016 as a state senator, Craig Zucker turns 44… Israeli stage and screen actor, Itay Tiran turns 39… Member of the rabbinics faculty at the Academy for Jewish Religion California, Yehuda Hausman turns 37… Israeli singer-songwriter, actress and musician, Riff Cohen turns 35…
SUNDAY: Award-winning classical pianist with a special affinity for Chopin, Byron Janis (family name Yankilevich) turns 91… Beverly Hills-based estate planning attorney, self-described as a former young leader, Ronald M. Kabrins turns 81… Member of the House of Lords and star of the UK’s version of The Apprentice, he was the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur (1991-2001), Baron Alan Sugar turns 72… Former CEO of Microsoft, he is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA, Steve Ballmer turns 63… Retired NASA astronaut and a veteran of four space shuttle missions, Scott Jay “Doc” Horowitz turns 62… Poet and professor of fine arts, design and art history at Hofstra University, she earned a Ph.D. in 1990 in art history from the University of California at Berkeley, Martha Hollander turns 60… Professional wrestler under a series of ring names including “The Star of David,” his wrestling career spanned from 1979 until 2000, Barry Horowitzturns 59… President of American Jewish University since 2018, he was previously president of both the Newseum (2015-2017) and of Colgate University (2010-2015), Jeffrey Herbst turns 58… Actor who is best known for his portrayal of Dr. Chris Taub on the Fox medical drama series “House,” he then starred on the USA Network science fiction drama “Colony,” Peter Jacobson turns 54…
Director of business development at HackerU, Fred Menachem turns 47… Senior tax counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee, Aharon Friedman turns 43… Director of marketing at Window Nation, Eric Goldscher turns 40… Digital news editor at Bloomberg, formerly a writer for the WSJ’s Metropolis blog, Aaron Rutkoff turns 39… Famed NYC photographer, known for wearing vintage suits and hats daily, worked for the NY Daily News and now MTA New York City Transit, Marc A. Hermannturns 37… Retired MLB pitcher, he is now a pitching analyst for the Chicago Cubs, he was a major contributor to Team Israel’s surprising run in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Josh Zeid turns 32… Venezuelan-born featured celebrity chef on NBC’s “Food Fighters,” she is a consultant for cooking TV shows, a caterer and a private chef in Los Angeles, Deborah Benaim turns 31… Founding director of the Orthodox Union’s Impact Accelerator, a provider of mentorship-based growth and early-stage funding for Jewish nonprofit entrepreneurs, Jenna Nelson Beltser turns 28… Competitive pair skater who with a partner were the first pair representing Israel to qualify for the Olympics, Andrea “Anya” Davidovich turns 22… Josh Cohen… Tami Wolf… Deborah Rudy…
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will address AIPAC’s Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, a City Hall official tells Jewish Insider.
De Blasio will deliver remarks during the Monday morning plenary session which is expected to focus on the progressive pro-Israel movement in the U.S. On Sunday, de Blasio will discuss the progressive pro-Israel movement and the importance of political activism during a breakout session in a Q&A with Marilyn Rosenthal, AIPAC’s National Director for Progressive Engagement, according to a postedschedule.
The New York mayor has been flirting with running for president in 2020 with visits to Iowa and New Hampshire in the last few weeks. In the past, presidential candidates have addressed the annual gathering during a presidential year, but there is no precedent for candidates speaking at the conference in a non-election year. An AIPAC official informs Jewish Insider that the same policy stands for ‘declared’ candidates.
On Wednesday, the liberal group MoveOn called on Democratic presidential candidates to skip this year’s conference, citing AIPAC’s links to the Netanyahu government and charging that AIPAC has flirted with Islamophobia.
Last week, the mayor came under fire for his appearance at a regional AIPAC event for women. The New York Post, a conservative tabloid, ran the headline: ‘De Blasio rushes to defend controversial AIPAC group.’
Defending his appearance, de Blasio told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer that AIPAC represents “a broad range of views.”
By Jacob Kornbluh in New York
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