Daily Kickoff: Key Races to Watch Today

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ELECTION DAY — Voters across the nation are heading to the polls today to elect their representatives for federal and statewide offices. At stake are control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats, hoping to flip control of Congress, are relying on a series of close-fought races that would indicate the start of a ‘blue wave.’

RACES WE ARE WATCHING — NEW YORK: Rep. Lee Zeldin (R), one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, is being challenged by Perry Gershon (D) in the 1st Congressional District. Zeldin suggested over the weekend that his rival had defaced his own campaign signs with swastikas to garner sympathy for his campaign.

Max Rose (D) is hoping to deliver on his party’s desire to flip control of the House by beating Rep. Dan Donovan (R), the only NYC Republican. In the 19th District, Rep. John Faso (R) is being challenged by Antonio Delgado, who recently suggested that Israel was not ‘a Jewish democracy’ unless it reaches a peace settlement with the Palestinians. Delgado’s wife Lacy Schwartz released a documentary four years ago that described her Jewish upbringing.

—NY GOV: Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) is running for a third term against Republican Marc Molinaro.

NEW JERSEY: Senator Bob Menendez (D), popular in the pro-Israel community, is trying to overcome a challenge by a self-funded Republican, Bob Hugin. In the 7th Congressional District, Rep. Leonard Lance, a 4-term Republican, is being challenged by former Obama administration official Tom Malinowski, with Israel emerging as a key issue during the campaign. In the 5th District — a district which was won by Trump in 2016 — Rep. Josh Gotthemier, a first-term Democrat, is being challenged by John McCann.

VIRGINIA: Senator Tim Kaine (D) is facing Corey Stewart, a fringe alt-right candidate with anti-Semitic ties. In the 5th Congressional District, Leslie Cockburn (D) and Denver Riggleman (R) are locked into a tight race for the open seat vacated by Rep. Tom Garrett. The Republican Jewish Coalition ran a TV and digital ad campaign against Cockburn, highlighting her recollection of having dinner with Saddam Hussein’s sons and midnight tea with Muammar Gaddafi while she was a journalist for Vanity Fair in her 1998 memoir. Her 1991 book, Dangerous Liaison, has also came under scrutiny for its conspiracy theories regarding Israel.

PENNSYLVANIA: In the 1st Congressional District, Scott Wallace (D), a multi-millionaire philanthropist, is challenging Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R). Wallace came under fire for his support of the BDS movement as head of the Wallace Global Fund.

MICHIGAN: In the 8th Congressional District, Rep. Mike Bishop (R) is being challenged by former Obama administration official Elissa Slotkin. In the 9th District, Andy Levin is running to replace his father Sander Levin, who retired after 18 terms in the House. In the 11th District, Lena Epstein and Haley Stevens are facing off for the open seat of retiring Rep. David Trott (R). If elected, Epstein would be the only Jewish Republican woman in Congress.

CALIFORNIA: In the 48th District, Harley Rouda is running against incumbent Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Democrats see an opportunity to defeat Rohrabacher, a Kremlin favorite who has been implicated in the Mueller probe and who recently came under fire for attending a fundraiser with an alleged Holocaust denier and endorsing an alt-right activist criticized for anti-Semitism. 

In the 50th Congressional District, Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican incumbent under indictment, is being challenged by Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Christian with Palestinian ancestry. Earlier in the year, Campa-Najjar denounced his grandfather Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar, a mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympics terror attack which left 11 Israeli athletes dead. In the 52nd District, Omar Qudrat is challenging Rep. Scott Peters, looking to becomethe GOP’s first Muslim-American member of Congress.

TEXAS: Senator Ted Cruz (R) is facing a close reelection fight against Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Cruz slammed his rival for accepting campaign contributions from J Street, and called O’Rourke “anti-Israel” for his 2014 vote against funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. In turn, the O’Rourke campaign accused Cruz of voting against more than $22 billion in support to Israel and “regularly [voting]” against Iron Dome funding.

NEVADA: Sen. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Jacky Rosen, a former synagogue president, are locked in a tough race that could decide control of the Senate.

ARIZONA: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) is facing off against Rep. Martha McSally (R) for Senator Jeff Flake’s seat. Sinema voted against the Iran deal in 2015, but has come under scrutiny over her past record on Israel.

IOWA: In the 4th Congressional District, Rep. Steve King (R) is facing an unexpected reelection battle over racist remarks and revelations about his association with neo-Nazis. King has been rebuked by his own party, and has come under more scrutiny following the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.

FLORIDA: Governor Rick Scott (R) is hoping to unseat Senator Bill Nelson (D) in a bid to maintain or even expand GOP control of the Senate. Jewish voters could play a determining factor as polls suggest a dead heat.

—FL GOV: In a heated race for the open seat for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) is running against Rep. Ron DeSantis (R). The two candidates put a heavy focus on South Florida Jewish voters in the final weeks of the campaign, trading barbs over Israel and anti-Semitism. The latest poll shows Gillum with a slight lead over DeSantis.

COLORADO GOV: Jared Polis (D) is looking to make history by becoming both the first Jewish governor in Colorado and its first openly gay person to serve in the post.

OTHER RACES TO KEEP AN EYE ON — West Virginia Senate: Sen. Joe Manchin vs. Patrick Morrisey (R); Indiana Senate: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) vs. Mike Braun (R); North Carolina’s 13th District: Kathy Manning (D) vs Rep. Ted Budd (R); Washington’s 8th District: Kim Schrier (D) and Dino Rossi (R); and on the municipal level, San Francisco District 2 Supervisor: Nick Josefowitz (D) vs. John Dennis (R).

— Ron Kampeas’ guide to Jewish House candidates: Democrats and Republicans.

HEARD THIS MORNING — Republican strategist Dan Senor on CBS’s “This Morning” program: “The question is, will the Democrats win big and will it really be a wave? If one party wins more seats, that’s not a wave. A wave is when every close race breaks in one direction. Right now, the way House Republican leaders see it is just basically three categories of House races. There are the seats that Obama won and Hillary [Clinton] won. Take Carlos Curbelo, [Florida’s 26th District] in Southern Florida. Hillary and Obama and Clinton won them by big numbers. If the Republican wins that seat, that’s an early sign of a wave.”

“Kentucky, on the other end, which Trump won and Romney won, in 2012 and 2016. Andy Barr in that district (KY-06). If the Democrats win that seat, that’s an early sign of a wave. And then in the middle is a seat like New York 19… Obama won it once and then Trump won it, both by about six percent each. Those are three categories of races. An Obama-Clinton seat that a Republican seat is holding, an Obama-Trump seat that a Republican is holding, and then a Romney-Trump seat that a Republican is holding. If they all go, we got a wave.”

Senor, who is celebrating his 47th birthday today, added: “In 2012, it was election day on my birthday. On that election, I had to tell Paul Ryan that he wasn’t going to win the vice presidency. That was my birthday gift. I’m hoping for a better night tonight. Not terribly optimistic.”

INSIDE CNN — News outlets prepare for midterm surprises — by Michael Calderone and Jason Schwartz: “CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist‘s… team at CNN… has rehearsed 16 scenarios of what might happen in Tuesday’s midterms. A red wave, a blue wave, a purple ripple — all have been covered in the run-throughs… The only thing that’s the same in each one is that the first polls close at 6 p.m. in eastern Kentucky, prompting discussion of that particular swing race. From there, Feist said, “I have no idea what’s going to happen.” “We’re ready for every outcome,” he said.” [Politico]

Republicans attack Jewish candidates across the U.S. with an age-old caricature: Fistfuls of cash — by Eli Rosenberg: “The ads come as political rhetoric has been examined for what some see as overt signs of classic anti-Semitism, with conspiracy theories about Jewish financier George Soros directing an “invasion” at the southern border becoming a prominent theme in conservative politics in recent weeks.” [WashPost]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Rep. Eliot Engel Pledges Israel Support if Dems Win Midterms — by Jacob Kornbluh: Engel, currently serving as the ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is in line to become chair of the prestigious committee if Democrats regain control over the House of Representatives. “I will do what I have done in Congress for the past 30 years. I will stand squarely with Israel, I will stand squarely with the Jewish people,” Engel said during a Luncheon Symposium on Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism, co-hosted by the American Zionist Movement (AZM) and the World Zionist Organization (WZO) in midtown Manhattan on Monday.

“I have spent 30 years in Congress, and I believe that there’s no one in the entire Congress who supports Israel more than I do,” proclaimed Engel, who would serve as a leading Israel and foreign policy voice if he becomes committee chair. “I want to make sure that the alliance between Israel and the United States is so strong that it doesn’t matter who is president or who is prime minister. What matters is the bond between the U.S. and Israel should be strengthened regardless of who gets elected in any particular election.” [JewishInsider]

Can play-by-the-rules Chuck Schumer win on Trump’s turf? — by Ben Terris: “Schumer, like his opponent in the White House, is an outer-borough boy who knows how to make use of the wild New York media market and often seems to care more about his team winning than about ideological purity. But where Trump breaks all the rules of politics, Schumer seems to be guided by them. His mind is filled with poll numbers and focus group responses, more consultant than combatant. Schumer’s supporters say this is what makes him the right man for the job: It will take a strategist to keep the Senate from slipping further from Democratic control.”

“Schumer [has] been spending much of the week surrounded by polling data, powwowing with political staffers and kibitzing with pollsters in preparation for the next most important election of his lifetime. At stake on Tuesday, he said, is nothing less than “the wellspring of democracy and everything that comes with it.” … “It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, fighting Trump without all the cards,” Schumer said. “Maybe we’ll have more cards in November — God willing.” [WashPost]

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — West Wing Insiders Brace for the Mueller Storm — by Gabriel Sherman: “On Friday night, current and former staffers of Donald Trump’s West Wing gathered at Dina Powell’s Manhattan apartment to celebrate Hope Hicks’s 30th birthday… Over cupcakes and wine, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Anthony Scaramucci reminisced about old times with Hicks’s mom, Caye, and her older sister… The party provided a brief respite from the news cycle on the eve of the midterms… “Everyone is resigned to the outcome,” a former West Wing official said.” [VanityFair]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Singer Foundation will give $1M to secure NYC Jewish sites — by Aaron Feis: “The Paul E. Singer Foundation, which regularly supports Jewish causes, is set to provide at least $1 million toward safety reviews and enhanced precautions at synagogues, day schools, and community centers throughout the city, the organization said Monday. “The tragedy in Pittsburgh was a painful reminder of the need to revisit our community’s security needs,” said the organization’s billionaire benefactor, hedge fund manager Paul Singer.

The seven-figure sum to seed the program will be gifted to the United Jewish Appeal – Federation of New York, which will in turn disburse funds as needed to individual institutions seeking to enhance their security measures. UJA Federation of New York CEO Eric Goldstein thanked the foundation “for their commitment to local Jewish institutions on this critical issue.” [NYPost]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan at the AZM event in Manhattan: “If Never Again is not a shallow cliche, Again is now, and Never should be remembered right now. I am not suggesting we are in Germany of the 1930’s… But there is one difference between us and our brethren then, and the difference is that now we are experienced… Therefore we should demand from leaders, if you say Never Again, act and act now.”

Some Hispanics With Jewish Roots Pursue an Exit Strategy: Emigrate to Spain — by Simon Romero: “The Spanish law allows applicants to pursue citizenship by proving that they have at least one Sephardic ancestor who fled Spain some 500 years ago. New Mexico, with its wealth of colonial-era archives and United States census data after the American conquest in 1848, stands out for its relative ease of delving into records compared with other places where so-called crypto-Jews settled.” [NYTimes]

DRIVING THE CONVO — Behnam Ben Taleblu writes… “With U.S. sanctions back in effect, Iran likely to bide its time: There is a growing consensus among analysts that Tehran will likely attempt to wait out the Trump administration and refrain from breaching the nuclear deal. Should Tehran hunker down and play for time, the Trump administration will need to find creative ways to tighten the sanctions belt such that time will cost the regime money, and lots of it.” [Axios]

Eytan Gilboa“The Iranian leadership believes that if the Democrats win the midterm elections, they would limit new possible initiatives Trump might wish to take against the Islamic Republic, and so Tehran would only have to hold on for two years against the sanctions. After that, a Democrat might get elected to the White House and completely change the American attitude towards Iran… If the Republicans win and maintain control over both houses of Congress—consequently bolstering Trump ahead of the 2020 presidential elections—Iran would have to turn to other options.”

PIC OF THE DAY — Israel’s Minister of Energy Yuval Shteinitz talking with Reuters reporter Dan Williams while they dip their feet in the Sea of Galilee. H/T Tal Shalev

TALK OF THE REGION — Israel-Arab ties warm up after long deep freeze — by Yolande Knell: “Late last month, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife met the Sultan of Oman on a surprise, eight-hour visit – the first of its kind in over two decades. There was a lavish dinner, traditional Omani music and what Mr. Netanyahu told his Cabinet were “very important talks,” promising more trips would follow… Now, the transportation minister is in the Omani capital, Muscat, proposing a railway between Israel and Arab countries. All this despite the fact that Israel has no official diplomatic relations with Oman or the UAE.” [BBC]

Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted yesterday: “Today Transportation & Intelligence Minister Israel Katz is in Oman at an international transportation event. He will present a plan for the construction of a railway between Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia & the Gulf. Let’s keep the dialogue going. These efforts support our efforts.”

** 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: Asia ‘woke up’ and Israeli tech companies see opportunities [CNBC] • Israeli automotive chip developer Valens raises $63 million [Reuters] • Henry Kissinger ‘Fairly Optimistic’ China, U.S. Can Avoid Catastrophe [Bloomberg] • Craig Newmark on founding & scaling profitable legend Craigslist with dogged dedication to customer service & no VC [ThisWeekInStartups] • Two Royal Millennials Have Been Given the Keys to a $320 Billion Fund [Bloomberg

STARTUP NATION — Inside the Israeli Blockchain Company That Wants to (Sort of) Reinvent the Marketplace — by Jeff Wilser: “In 2017, or a decade ago in crypto-years, Bancor raised a then-record $153 million through an ICO, with a promise of doing something new and different. They would be a crypto exchange. Yet the world has plenty of exchanges—theirs would be decentralized, one which never holds the assets of buyers and sellers, and thus immune to the kind of hacks that befall traditional marketplaces. Yet Bancor planned to be more than that, even—they would be a marketplace that is not really a marketplace: one that doesn’t need to connect buyers and sellers at the same time, but instead, through the magic of their algorithm, creates a kind of Crypto Vending Machine that converts your Coin A into Coin B… even if it’s 4 a.m.”[BreakerMag]

MEDIA WATCH — Edward Felsenthal Named Chief Executive of Time Magazine: “Four days after Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne Benioff closed on their purchase of Time magazine from Meredith Corp., the new owners named Edward Felsenthal chief executive of the publication and said he would continue as editor in chief. Mr. Felsenthal, 52 years old, will oversee all of Time’s editorial and business efforts, including advertising…” [WSJ]

Debra Birnbaum Departing Variety for Amazon: “Variety Executive Editor Debra Birnbaum will be leaving her post of four and a half years to join Amazon as director of awards… Birnbaum has led Variety’s TV team and coverage since joining the news organization in 2014… Birnbaum will begin her tenure at Amazon on Dec. 3.” [Variety]

Tunisia’s PM reshuffles cabinet to tackle economic crisis — by Tarek Amara: “Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed named 10 new ministers on Monday in a cabinet reshuffle… Chahed named Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi as minister of tourism in the Muslim Arab country, only the third member of the small minority of 2,000 Jews to enter a cabinet since Tunisia’s independence in 1956.” [Reuters]

Michael Cohen rescues elderly man in Upper East Side restaurant — by Emily Smith: “Diners at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s swanky Upper East Side restaurant JoJo were amazed to see Cohen — Trump’s former personal attorney — jump up to catch an elderly man as he fell while passing his table. A witness told us that as Cohen was dining with his own personal lawyer, David Schwartz, “a man with a cane was passing their table and lost his balance. The man was about to hit his head on the table when Michael caught him, and may have saved his life, hugged him and put him back on his feet.” [PageSix]

BIRTHDAYS: Businessman, political advisor and author of Start-Up Nation, Dan Senor turns 47… Belgian theoretical physicist, a Holocaust survivor and 2013 Nobel prize laureate, François Englert turns 86… Former president and CEO of American Jewish World Service (1998-2016), prior to that she served as the Manhattan borough president, Ruth Messinger turns 78… Former chairman of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (2002-2011) and Vice Chair of NYC’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2006-2012), Andrew Saul turns 72… Former aide to President Bill Clinton and a long-time advisor to Hillary Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal turns 70… Research scientist at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, Barbara Volsky turns 68…

Actress best known for her lead role in the 1984 film “Footloose” and the television series “Fame,” Lori Singer turns 61… COO/Managing Director of the NFL Players Association, Ira Fishman turns 61… Founder of Nourish Snack, she is the health and nutrition expert on The Today Show and author of 13 New York Times best sellers, Joy Bauer turns 55… COO at Santander Bank since 2015, following 20 years at various affiliates of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Andrew S. Weinberg turns 55… Former Vice Chairman and CEO of Genie Oil E&P and CEO of Genie Israel Holdings Ltd., he was previously Chairman and CEO of IDT Energy, Geoffrey Rochwarger turns 48… South Florida entrepreneur, Earl J. Campos-Devine




Daily Kickoff: Bret Stephens and Elisha Wiesel discuss Trump, Israel and anti-Semitism

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DRIVING THE DAY — The U.S. has officially imposed what President Trump described yesterday as the “toughest ever” sanctions against Iran designed to hit Iran’s key economic sectors — including oil and gas, shipping and banking. In addition, SWIFT, a financial messaging service at the heart of enabling Iranian business, “would be subject to U.S. sanctions if it provides financial messaging services to certain designated Iranian financial institutions,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Friday.

HOW IT’S BEING PLAYED — Reimposing Iran Sanctions, Trump Places 3 Bets (One a Long Shot) — by David Sanger: “President Trump… is gambling that even as the United States seeks to cut off much of Iran’s oil revenue, the country will not dare restart its program to enrich nuclear fuel — the pathway to a bomb. He is also betting that… European banks, manufacturers and oil companies will not violate the sanctions and risk being cut off from the far larger American market. And finally, he is wagering that the Iranian government will crack in some way — that it will renegotiate the nuclear deal more along Mr. Trump’s terms, or that it will collapse under economic pressures.” [NYTimes]

Trump Bank Sanctions Will Hit Iran Where It Hurts — by Eli Lake: “Administration and congressional sources tell me that the decision to announce the SWIFT decision was made on Thursday evening. Most Iran policy-watchers then were expecting the Trump administration to punt.”

“It would be better if all Iranian financial institutions were disconnected from SWIFT,” said Richard Goldberg… “But this is a whole lot better than letting all Iranian banks remain on SWIFT.” … Mark Dubowitz, chief executive officer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies… told me that he, too, was pleased with the announcement on SWIFT.” [BloombergView

VIEW FROM TEHRAN — On Eve of New U.S. Sanctions, Iranian Regime Whips Up Anti-American Anger — by Aresu Eqbali and Asa Fitch: “Regime supporters at the rally set fire to large American and Israeli flags, burning chunks of which fell dangerously near people on the packed street. Many held banners or signs denouncing the U.S.” [WSJ]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Netanyahu says Trump made courageous decision on U.S. sanctions on Iran: “This day is an historic day,” Netanyahu said in public remarks to legislators from his right-wing Likud party. “I would like to again thank U.S. President Donald Trump for the courageous, determined and important decision. I think this contributes to stability and security and peace.” [Reuters]

Israel’s Minister of Education Naftali Bennett at the start of his party’s Knesset faction meeting: “Thank you [Trump] for making the ayatollahs afraid again.”

Netanyahu Envoy Throws Midterm Lifeline to Republicans — by Colum Lynch: “Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer defended President Donald Trump on charges that his anti-immigrant rhetoric may have indirectly incited the perpetrator of the largest mass killing of Jews on U.S. soil last Saturday in Pittsburgh. “I see a lot of bad people on both sides who attack Jews,” Dermer said. The remarks, according to several Democratic congressional staffers and partisans, represented the latest evidence that Israel’s right-wing government was openly throwing its lot in with Republicans. And that could be somewhat risky for Israel’s interests if, as most polls indicate, Democrats retake the House of Representatives on Tuesday.”

“With Democrats facing the prospect of a return to power in the House, party leaders have been attempting to dispel any suggestion that they are seeking payback against an Israeli leader they believe has embraced the Republican Party at their expense… In recent weeks, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer—an outspoken supporter of Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem—and other party leaders have sought to counter reports that a new wave of progressive Democrats will turn the party away from Israel. “Senate Democrats are very strongly pro-Israel and will remain that way,” Schumer told Jewish Insider last month, adding that he intended to push for legislation opposing the movement to boycott companies that do business with Israel.” [ForeignPolicy]

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro writes… “If Democrats gain control of even one house of Congress… Trump and his national security team will be tested in a way they have not been yet: Building bipartisan support in Congress for controversial foreign policy initiatives. To succeed on rolling back Iran’s nuclear program further… to effectively pressure and incentivize the Palestinians to come back to the negotiation table, and to keep the newly troubled relationship with Saudi Arabia on track, Trump will need Congressional help. Democrats… may be slow to provide it.” [Haaretz]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — U.S. and Israel weigh whether Saudi crown prince can deliver on Mideast peace and Iran — by Anne Gearan and Souad Mekhennet: “U.S. and Israeli officials have expressed concern that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have less leeway to pursue the gradual warming of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors amid the political fallout from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi… The Trump peace package has undergone several revisions, including a step back from a plan to soften the ground for talks and increase pressure on the Palestinians to accept a deal, said a foreign diplomat.” [WashPost]

— Israel Stands by Saudi Prince Against Iran, Despite Khashoggi — by Jonathan Ferziger: “What happened at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month “was horrendous and should be duly dealt with,” Netanyahu told reporters Friday in Bulgaria… “At the same time, it is very important for the stability of the world, for the region and for the world, that Saudi Arabia remain stable.” [Bloomberg]

TIP’s Josh Block writes… “Israel Is Making Arab Friends” [WSJ]

Trump’s Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt is in Israel this week, after postponing his trip for a week to visit the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. Yesterday, Greenblatt met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “discuss important topics including the situation in Gaza and regional developments.”

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — A Familiar Force Nurtures Trump’s Instincts on Immigration: Stephen Miller — by Maggie Haberman: “In the last two weeks, Mr. Trump has followed an instinct, one nurtured by Mr. Miller, that a foreboding message on immigration can galvanize his supporters… Mr. Miller, 33, has become known in that orbit for amassing frightening news articles and isolated statistics about immigration that he is aware might fuel a presidential declaration on Twitter. He has helped install a group of like-minded aides across the government, including at the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Justice Department, who have helped him pursue his agenda.” [NYTimes

MIDTERMS — Michael Bloomberg to air $5 million in ads before midterm elections to tout Democrats — and himself — by Robert Costa: “Bloomberg’s two-minute television ad, which features him speaking directly to the camera and standing before an American flag. Bloomberg, 76, portrays himself in the spot as a steady and seasoned Washington outsider (hint: presidential) who is appalled by Trump’s conduct and agenda.” [WashPostVideo]

Ivanka Trump stumps for Dean Heller in Reno, days ahead of his clash with Jacky Rosen — Scott Sonner: “I don’t do a lot of campaigning,” Ivanka Trump told about 80 supporters at the GOP field office in Reno during an appearance with [Sen. Dean] Heller. “But I really wanted to do it for him. This is our first stop and our most important stop,” she said. “I know he’s going to win.”[RGJ]

GOP congressional candidate called Islam ‘dangerous’ and the work of Satan — by Andrew Kaczynski: “Mark Harris… is the GOP nominee in North Carolina’s 9th District… [Harris] claimed Islam was “dangerous” and the work of Satan. He also said peace between Israel and the Palestinians could not be achieved until Muslims and Jews accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.” [CNN

TALK OF OUR NATION — Pittsburgh Congregations Lead Nation in Coming Together After Tragedy — by Kris Maher: “Hundreds of people in prayer shawls and yarmulkes filled the spacious sanctuary of Congregation Beth Shalom flanked by tall stained-glass windows. The conservative synagogue, situated at the highest point in Squirrel Hill, welcomed the members of the Tree of Life, New Light and Dor Hadash congregations who can no longer enter their own shared synagogue because it remains a crime scene…”

“Rabbi Jeffrey Myers described welcoming President Trump to the Tree of Life earlier in the week and about the need to bring about an end to the hateful rhetoric in politics. He said he has received hate mail from people angry that he met with the president, but he said responding with welcome and respect is the only way to defeat hate. “You can’t fight any hate with more hate. It just does not work,” Rabbi Myers said.” [WSJCNN

— Prayer, Food and Defiance: How Pittsburgh’s Jewish Community Is Coping 1 Week After Anti-Semitic Attack [Time]

Small-Town Jews Are Used to Locked Synagogues — by Gabby Deutch: “The murder of 11 Jews at their place of worship came as a tragic surprise to everybody, in communities large and small. But many people I spoke with who live in areas with few other Jews told me that this shooting led them to reckon with anti-Semitism that they’d experienced—thankfully nothing as extreme, but still demoralizing and frightening.” [TheAtlantic]

PROFILE — Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto leads his city through its darkest days — by Gabriel Pogrund: “In a series of interviews during the past week as he tended to his grieving city, Peduto said he was trying his hardest to be the leader the Jewish community here needed… Those needs have weighed heavily on Peduto, an Italian Catholic mayor who prides himself as an “adopted” member of the Jewish community here. He was the first non-Jewish council member to represent the 8th District, which includes the synagogue’s neighborhood of Squirrel Hill…” [WashPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Reading Philip Roth After the Pittsburgh Massacre — by Paige Williams: “Jon Hamm, John Turturro, and a host of other actors read “The Plot Against America” at the 92nd Street Y.” [NewYorker]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Bret Stephens and Elisha Wiesel, the son of the late Elie Wiesel, discussed President Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail preceding the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. The conversation was hosted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at the World Values Network headquarters in NYC. [Pic]

Stephens: “There are expectations for standards of the sort of rhetoric we expect from the President. And the last few weeks of extraordinary dehumanization of immigrants I think had something to do with an atmosphere in which an event like Pittsburgh takes place.”

Boteach: We all hear the points about what’s being said about immigrants. But in terms of attacks on the Jews, the President said — the Ambassador of Israel, Ron Dermer said, he had never heard in his life, an American president making a statement like President Trump did in the aftermath of the massacre that, if you try to destroy the Jewish people we will destroy you first. He’s not an Israeli prime minister, he’s an American president. That’s quite an amazing thing to say. 

Stephens: “Well, I don’t for a second believe that Trump is an anti-Semite, let me make that clear. I think it’s preposterous to suggest that he’s an anti-Semite. But Trump is two things for sure. Number one, he’s prone to conspiracy thinking. And number two, he has an animus towards immigrants… And so, those two prejudices, while they’re not obviously connected to any kind of anti-Semitism, feed into the sort of bigotries in which the Pittsburgh shooter swam… The same bigotry that our ancestors met when our families came here, is now being doled out by a guy who otherwise has Jewish grandchildren, and who indeed, at least on the level of policy, is a friend of Israel. I just want to stress something: we want friends of Israel to be friends also at the level of values, not simply at the level of policies, and that’s important too.”

Wiesel: “I think the important thing to remember is the fact that Trump has Jewish grandchildren is somewhat of an accident. Ivanka Trump might easily have not married into the Jewish faith. And if that had been the case, would Trump still be as favorable to Israel? Or would the randomizing machine [have] ended up with some other set of policies? And I think when we look at Trump and that administration, I think we have to say to ourselves and look at the root. Is the connection with Israel 100 percent on shared values, or is it because of family? And is it right for us to simply stand back and take that advantage without being cognizant of the fact that there are many for whom the wiring is not set up so favorably?” [Video]

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tells Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh: “The fact is we’re not seeing a bipartisan response to this atmosphere of hate. It’s un-American to see this amount of hatred directed towards the Jewish community or any other community. This should be something where you see equal outrage from both parties and people across the ideological spectrum. We’re not seeing that, I believe, because unfortunately, the president has set the tone that others in his party feel unwilling to challenge…”

De Blasio on challenging anti-Semitism on the Left: “There’s anti-Semitism in this country, and I’m sure it is across the political spectrum. It’s unacceptable on the Left – it’s unacceptable on the Right. I think it is also right to say there are people who have differences on policy matters who are not anti-Semitic. They may disagree on a different policy matter – they may disagree with the government of Israel on something, that’s not anti-Semitism. But anyone who speaks against the Jewish people, anyone who does not believe in protecting the Jewish people as part of the democratic society, that’s when you cross over into anti-Semitism. It’s unacceptable wherever we find it on the ideological spectrum.”[Pic]

Tablet Magazine editorial“Anti-Semitism is a bright red line in our politics that no one in our public life can be permitted to cross and expect to receive the support of our community, whether we are proud Democrats or proud Republicans. Support for Israel is not an excuse for calling for the elimination of Jews or the Jewish religion… Being Jewish, or having a Jewish parent or grandparent, is not an excuse. There are no more excuses.”

Peter Beinart writes… “How Trumpian Nativism Leads to Anti-Semitism: These days, the Jew most frequently depicted as secretly engineering the immigrant takeover of America is George Soros. (Full disclosure: His son, Alex Soros, is a friend who has donated to think tanks to support my work)…  One reason hateful nativism so easily morphs into anti-Semitism in the Trump era is that today Jews really do disproportionately support immigration… That’s why, in the Trump era, rising nativism and rising anti-Semitism go hand in hand.” [TheAtlantic]

Alexis Grenell writes… “Farrakhan’s words matter, too: It’s about time the left universally denounced his anti-Semitism” [NYDailyNews]

DEEP DIVE — U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It — by Janet Reitman: “For two decades, domestic counterterrorism strategy has ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism. In the atmosphere of willful indifference, a virulent movement has grown and metastasized.”

“In the months following Donald Trump’s inauguration, security analysts noted with increasing alarm what seemed to be a systematic erosion of the Department of Homeland Security’s analytic and operational capabilities with regard to countering violent extremism. It began with the appointment of a new national-security team. Like their counterparts now running immigration policy, the team came from the fringe of conservative politics.” [NYTimesMag

** 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: Two Capitals, One Russian Oligarch: How Oleg Deripaska Is Trying to Escape U.S. Sanctions [NYTimes] • Fewer stars to rise at Goldman Sachs as partnership class shrinks [WSJ] • Slack CEO Says There’s “No Specific Timeline for an IPO” [Fortune] • Scooter Braun didn’t learn everything from his dad–but what he did changed his life [Fortune]

RISING STAR — A fast-rising journalist hits a speed bump with his latest scoop about Trump —by Paul Farhi: “Among his greatest hits: Jonathan Swan was first to report that… Trump planned to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; that White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon would be fired… that Anthony Scaramucci would be named White House communications director; and that Trump had accepted Nikki Haley’s resignation as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations… The run of stories puts Swan “in the top tier” of reporters covering Trump, says Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post reporter and author of the recent bestseller, “Fear,” about the Trump White House… Woodward says Swan belongs with the best of a rising group of Washington reporters that includes Maggie Haberman of the New York Times.” [WashPost]

— “Friends say that Mr. Swan has ambitions to write long-form pieces. For now, though, he is happy at his station: He recently renewed his contract at Axios through mid-2021. He also has equity in the company, which has raised roughly $30 million from major investors like NBC, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Laurene Powell Jobs.” [NYTimes]

PROFILE — Among Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox, It’s (Sort of) the Year of the Woman — by David Halbfinger: “It was the mayoral upset in Beit Shemesh, in the Judean foothills west of Jerusalem, that had veteran political analysts reaching in vain for historical comparisons and calling it almost biblical… [Aliza] Bloch promised to bring fairness to the delivery of city services… But she also faced challenges unique to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox milieu. A self-described religious woman herself, if not Haredi, Ms. Bloch demonstrated great deference to Haredi sensibilities in her campaign, by keeping her own face off nearly all her campaign posters. “I was really challenged in a male-dominated area,” Ms. Bloch said in a phone interview… “I’m a religious woman who made herself aware to others through very hard work — even harder because I did not post photos of myself in synagogues, or reading the Torah.” [NYTimes]

SPOTLIGHT — The Irresistible Urge to Build Cities From Scratch — by Monte Reel: “Rawabi is the first master-planned city in the West Bank and a remarkable political statement in the context of Israel’s building spree in the occupied territories. The $1.4 billion project was conceived by Bashar Masri, a billionaire Palestinian-American developer, as a means for creating jobs for Palestinians and to relieve a pressing housing shortage… While Rawabi is going up on land governed by the Palestinian Authority, the access road into the city as well as other infrastructure traverses Israeli-administered territory. Negotiations over water have been particularly vexed: Under the current arrangement, supplies are only sufficient for about 5,000 people. This has effectively capped the city’s population, which now hovers below 4,000.” [Businessweek]

ON THE CIRCUIT — ‘Oscars Of Science’ Brings Together Big Names From Tech And Hollywood — by Betty Yu: “The 7th annual Breakthrough Prize Awards–also known as the “Oscars of Science”–were held Sunday evening at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View. The event honored the best in science, physics and mathematics on a night featuring Silicon Valley big shots and Hollywood A-listers. The Breakthrough Prize Awards are sponsored by Mark Zuckerberg and Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner.” [CBSDailyMail]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — Over 5,600 Chabad-Lubavitch shluchim (emissaries) and their family, friends, supporters from over 100 countries gathered in Suffern, New York for the 35th annual ‘Kinus Hashluchim’ banquet last night. [Pic]

The event highlighted the Chabad’s global footprint, but this year, given the tragedy in Pittsburgh, a special prayer was offered for the victims and their families. Earlier in the day, thousands of rabbis were led in prayer and song by Pittsburgh Chabad rabbis as they posed for the annual photo. [Pic]

The evening’s keynote speaker was Russian-Israeli entrepreneur and philanthropist Yitzhak Mirilashvili, founder of the Keren Meromim Foundation. Last night’s event also marked 10 years since the terror attack at the Chabad of Mumbai and special mention was made of Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg.

For those who miss the AIPAC Policy Conference roll call of years past, you can watch the 21-minute-long Chabad roll call from last night during which a new Chabad outpost in Ivory Coast was announced. [Video]

SPOTTED: Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Rabbi Berel Lazar, WeWork’s Adam Neumann, Michael Steinhardt, Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, Rabbi Efraim Mintz, Argentinian philanthropist Eduardo Elsztain, philanthropist George Rohr, Sam Adelsberg, Jewish Agency Chair Isaac Herzog, Hillel International’s Eric Fingerhut, author Joseph Telushkin, Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s director of Jewish affairs Michael Snow, Juan Luis Manzur, Governor of Tucuman province, Argentina, Chai Lifeline’s Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chaim ‘Poju’ Zabludowicz, Isaac ‘Yitz’ Applbaum, Rabbi Eitan Webb, Joshua Landes, Reut’s Gidi Grinstein, AIPAC’s Jason Koppel, Joe Teplow, Eric Reiner, Ron Rofé and Nachum Segal.

SIGHTING — WeWork founder Adam Neumann on stage with Rabbi Berel Lazar of Russia [Pic]

MAGA-Themed Zionist Organization of America Dinner Shows Split Between American Jews — by Lloyd Green: “Sunday night, Morton Klein, the head of the hard-right Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) speaking at the group’s annual dinner called it “political blasphemy” to place any onus for the 11 Jews murdered in a Pittsburgh synagogue on the president or his heated rhetoric… Not surprisingly, the dinner was big on Israel and Donald Trump and in that order.” [DailyBeast]

Alan Dershowitz, introducing ZOA’s Mort Klein: “The reason I agreed to introduce Mort Klein tonight was because by introducing him I am making an important point, not only to the Jewish community but for the U.S. during this time of partisan and ideological division. As many of you know, Mort and I do not agree about every aspect of Israeli policies. We have fundamental disagreements. We are both ardent Zionists, but I am — alright? I am expecting a few boos here — I am a liberal Democrat (loud boos) trying desperately to keep support for Israel bipartisan. Not an easy thing… Despite our fundamental disagreements, Mort and I continue to engage in civil dialogue, in constructive engagement, and mutual education.” [Video]

National Security Advisor John Bolton’s remarks at the ZOA dinner:“In August, two Iranian agents —residents of the U.S. —were arrested by the FBI and charged with surveilling American citizens, Israeli and Jewish facilities in the U.S., including a Jewish community center in Chicago. Why would Iranian agents surveil a Jewish community center if not for malicious purposes? Former U.S. officials should reflect deeply on this question before promoting their diplomatic projects with Iran on TV and radio networks across our country.”

SCENE THE OTHER NIGHT IN LA — FIDF Gala Raises Record $60 Million for Soldiers — by Margeaux Sippell: “Raising an all-time high of $60 million, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) topped last year’s record-breaking fundraiser by $6.2 million at the annual FIDF Western Region Gala, held at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday evening… “Tonight you have seen up close the unbreakable spirit and the unimaginable bravery of our IDF soldiers and their families,” said Haim Saban, who chaired the gala along with his wife, Cheryl, for their 12th consecutive year… The star-studded event included appearances from Gerard Butler, Ashton Kutcher, Katharine McPhee and fiance David Foster, Andy Garcia, Fran Drescher, and Israeli actors Ronalee Shimon and Yaakov Daniel from Netflix’s political thriller series “Fauda.”[Variety]

BIRTHDAYS: American-born Rosh Yeshiva of the Kamenitz Yeshiva of Jerusalem, Rabbi Yitzchok Scheiner turns 96… Former hedge fund manager and Olympic fencer (Munich, 1972), he described both activities as requiring “Defend, Adjust and Attack,” James Laurence Melcher turns 79… Singer, poet and actor, best known as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, Art Garfunkel turns 77… Television and film critic, Jeffrey Lyons turns 74… French public intellectual, media personality and author, Bernard-Henri Lévy turns 70… Economist and long-time director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University (2002-2016) where he remains a University Professor, Jeffrey Sachs turns 64… Psychologist, and wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu turns 60…

Chairman of Israel’s Yesh Atid Party with 11 seats in the Knesset, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid turns 55… Senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, he focuses on issues of national security and law, Benjamin Wittes turns 49… Host, anchor and correspondent for CBS News and CBS Sports, Dana Jacobson turns 47… Founder and CEO of a health organization working for early detection and prevention of cancer, Yael Cohen Braun turns 32… Business Insider’s Jacob Shamsian turns 25… Outreach associate at Jewish Free Loan Association of Los Angeles, she was previously a communications and project coordinator at the Creative Community for Peace, Tara Khoshbin




Daily Kickoff: Cory Booker tells us he’ll support anti-BDS bill | GOP hawks accuse Trump of going soft on Iran | Ehud Barak’s cannabis

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JI EXCLUSIVE — Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) tells Jewish Insiderthat he now supports The Israel Anti-Boycott Act: “We’ve seen the alarming rise in anti-Semitism in the United States and across the world in recent years manifest itself in many deeply concerning ways, including in the actions of foreign governments targeting Israel and the Israeli people.”

“I have long and staunchly opposed the BDS movement, and support this bill which will prevent international entities from imposing their will on US businesses with regards to their decisions, consistent with US law, to conduct commerce with our close ally Israel and its citizens. Initial concerns that this bill unintentionally infringed on individuals’ First Amendment rights have now been addressed by changes agreed upon earlier this year, and I feel confident that those modifications safeguard Americans’ constitutional right to free speech. I’ll be adding myself as a cosponsor, and will be urging my colleagues to support this important legislation in its modified form.”

BACKGROUND: The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, first proposed in the Senate in March of 2017, was originally a response to a UN Human Rights Council resolution urging boycotts of companies doing business in Israeli settlements. Its goal is two-fold: to protect American companies and institutions from being forced to participate in international anti-Israel boycotts, and to prohibit U.S. businesses from engaging in boycotts. If passed, the bill would echo on the federal level anti-BDS legislation already passed by a number of individual states.

The first draft of the Act was met with opposition from some over concerns that the bill infringed on First Amendment rights. The ACLU condemned it as unconstitutional, arguing that the bill would punish individuals for their political beliefs by making them subject to serious financial penalties or jail time.

WHAT’S CHANGED: Co-sponsors Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) worked with legal experts and lawmakers to amend the bill, introducing an updated version this past March. The revised Act acknowledges the rights of individuals to engage in personal boycotts, makes clear that Americans cannot be imprisoned for boycotting Israel, and states that speech critical of Israel cannot be used as evidence proving a legal violation. The ACLU, however, still opposes the updated text.

WHY IT MATTERS: At present, while 44 Senate Republicans support the measure, a mere 14 Democrats have backed the bill. Among those Democratic Senators rumored to be considering a 2020 presidential run — including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris — Booker is so far the only one to support the updated Act. [JewishInsider]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Rudy Giuliani, after visiting the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Queens, tells Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh: “To try to blame an act of anti-Semitism on [Trump] is insane. The man has been the best friend of Israel we’ve ever had in the White House. The man who did the shootings has on his website that he hates Donald Trump because Donald Trump has too many Jewish friends. You can’t win with these people who want to create political problems out of everything and the President has every right to defend himself and to point out this hatred. If you’re not honest about it you’ll never end it.”

“Hatred is not coming from the President. Hatred is coming from the people that are trying to victimize him. I mean, we had attacks in the United States under other presidents and we didn’t blame them. We had a shooting of an American Congressman and an attempt to kill numerous Republican Congressmen with a man who had a similar fanatical attraction to Bernie Sanders. Nobody asked Bernie Sanders, ‘Were you responsible?’ I certainly didn’t.”

Giuliani on Trump’s use of terms like ‘nationalist’ and ‘America First’: “I mean, anything can be interpreted horribly or wonderfully. People say they’re Muslims and they’re mostly very good people and there are some Muslims who are insane terrorists. So nationalism is a wonderful thing as long as it doesn’t become xenophobia, as long as it doesn’t become violent. To love your country … I love America. I consider myself, in that sense, a very patriotic American. I’d like everybody to share in it in the right way. Not come crashing in here and try to take things away from other people.” [Pic]

Giuliani during an event hosted by the National Council of Young Israel at the home of Dr. Joe Frager in Queens: “There is nothing about Donald Trump that suggests he’s anti-Semitic. He has Jewish friends. I mean, he’s best friends with Richard LeFrak… He’s as strong of a supporter of Israel you can get in the White House.”

“From the time he ran for president, Trump has been very well educated on the Jewish community. Notice that the people who opposed his coming to Pittsburgh also opposed Netanyahu’s representative coming. I bet every single one of those people that opposes him opposes Netanyahu. In fact, they may actually oppose Netanyahu more. So I have explained to him the Jewish community. He knows this, and he’s very comfortable with it. He knows that there’s deep divisions inside the Jewish community, including about how Israel conducts itself.” [Pic]

DRIVING THE CONVO — Trump Finds Support After the Pittsburgh Massacre, From the Israeli Government — by Mark Landler: “Israel’s right-wing government has become Mr. Trump’s prime validator in the anguished days since the massacre in Pittsburgh — reflecting its loyalty to a president who has backed its interests but also deepening a rift with American Jews, many of whom hold Mr. Trump at least partly responsible for the rise in anti-Jewish vitriol over the last two years.”

“[Ambassador Ron] Dermer, a one-time aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, played such a visible role in Pittsburgh largely because state and local officials shunned Mr. Trump. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser who is close to Mr. Dermer, had invited him to attend… The optics were awkward for the White House, but Mr. Trump was clearly grateful for Mr. Dermer’s support. He flew back to Washington on Air Force One.” [NYTimes]

Former advisor to seven consecutive Israeli Prime Ministers, Shalom Lipner emails us… “When Israeli officials enlisted to defend Trump against charges of culpability for last weekend’s tragedy in Pittsburgh, they affirmed what’s already become common knowledge: Donald Trump is the Israeli government’s etrog. (Israelis have co-opted this Sukkot icon to describe politicians who are “wrapped in cotton” and whose misdeeds are overlooked in the name of some redeeming quality.) In their eyes, Trump’s approach to issues such as Iran and the Palestinians has made him an indispensable asset.”

“That explains why Naftali Bennett and Ron Dermer would be willing to hail Trump as a great friend of Israel and the Jewish People just days before the US midterm elections — even at the cost of accusations that they are interfering in US politics. But this is high stakes poker. When Israeli leaders advocate on behalf of Trump, they risk antagonizing his opponents and accelerating the process of turning Israel into a political wedge. They also alienate many of the same American Jews who they wish to console, and who mostly detest Trump.”

Chemi Shalev writes… “The rationale for Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield (of POTUS) is clear. It’s a matter of simple realpolitik. Between a controversial U.S. President, who is the Israeli right’s dream come true, and liberal American Jews who have joined the ranks of “sourpusses,” as Netanyahu describes his leftist critics, the choice is clear. Netanyahu and his cohorts know which side of their bread is buttered, and they intend to keep it that way for as long as they can.” [Haaretz]

MIDTERMS — Steve King erupts at comparison to Pittsburgh suspect: ‘Do not associate me with that shooter’ —  by Caroline Kelly: “Rep. Steve King erupted in anger Thursday when a man compared the Iowa Republican’s anti-immigrant views to the views espoused by Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect… “No, you’re done, you crossed the line,” King said. “It’s not tolerable to accuse me to be associated with a guy that shot 11 people in Pittsburgh.” King then referenced his support of Israel. “I am a person who has stood with Israel from the beginning, and the length of that nation is the length of my life,” the Iowa Republican said, pointing his finger at the man. “And I’ve been with them all along, and I will not answer your question and I’ll not listen to another word from you.” [CNN]

Jewish congressional candidates put a focus on anti-Semitism in the final days before the midterms — by Eugene Scott: “The Jewish vote could be crucial in some races in the midterm elections. According to the Jewish Electorate Institute, nearly 3 in 4 Jewish Americans plan to vote for Democrats next week. The impact this will ultimately have on the midterms, and perhaps more importantly, the new Congress’s approach to anti-Semitism and the hate crimes that accompany it, could be important.”

“Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) told The Fix that we could see some Americans frustrated with Trump’s response vote for Democrats this fall as a protest against Trump.” [WashPost]

HEADLINE — Can Jewish Grandparents in Florida, Nevada and Arizona Help Flip the Senate? [Haaretz]

memo from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: “Just one Democrat is considered at risk: Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), whose race is rated “Likely Democratic.”

Georgia Governor’s Race Close Call in Home Stretch — by Dave Schechter: “Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, believes that his Democratic opponent is vulnerable on issues of interest to the Jewish community. Speaking to the local chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition, he said of Stacey Abrams, “It’s important, particularly for people in the Jewish community that traditionally are Democratic voters, to know that this is not your traditional Democratic candidate for governor. This is someone that’s hanging out with Linda Sarsour and is being funded by people like George Soros.” …. [Stacey’s] Jewish backers note that she is an alum of the American Jewish Committee’s Project Understanding program and has visited Israel.” [ATLJewishTimes]

DONOR CIRCUIT — How one mega-donor can affect the midterms — by Zach Williams: “This story begins on Sept. 27, 2018, when Ron Lauder donated $1.5 million to an organization called National Horizon… That gift made all the difference for the conservative super PAC, which raised just over $2.14 million for the 2018 election cycle… By Oct. 17, all but $261,838 has been spent to oppose Democratic candidates in U.S. Senate and House races… Nearly all its money this year has gone to professional communications firms like Harris Media… Harris Media has produced hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work in opposition to congressional candidates… The effect of National Horizon on the midterms is to allow super donors like Lauder to spread their money around with minimal effort and maximum effect.”

“Lauder has been a big player in Republican politics for decades, supporting candidates from Donald Trump to George H.W. Bush. Sometimes, the money has gone to Democratic candidates like U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, but records show that National Horizon has been Lauder’s biggest political expenditure, with more than $3 million going to the super PAC from Lauder since 2012. Lauder has also given thousands of dollars directly to Republican candidates this year.” [CityandStateNY]

Bloomberg Super PAC plows $29.5 million to support Democrats in House races — by Bill Theobald: “Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political action committee has made a last minute injection of $29.5 million in campaign advertising trying to help Democrats in key House races.” [USAToday]

Inside a secretive billionaire club’s plan to help Democrats take Congress — by Maggie Severns: “The donor clique, which counts George Soros and Tom Steyer among its members, is quietly giving funds to a handful of local grassroots groups like [Kevin] Rodriguez’s employer, Living United for Change in Arizona…” [Politico]

David Brooks writes… “The Retrenchment Election: The results Tuesday will not be shaped by some crest of momentum behind the Democrats. They are going to be shaped by the fact that people are hardening into their categories, and those categories tend to produce a Democratic House and a Republican Senate… Politics is no longer mainly about disagreeing on issues. It’s about being in entirely separate conversations.” [NYTimes]

DRIVING THE DAY — U.S. to Give Eight Nations Oil Waivers Under Iran Sanctions — by Nick Wadhams: “The U.S. has agreed to let eight countries — including Japan, India and South Korea — keep buying Iranian oil after it reimposes sanctions on the OPEC producer on Nov. 5, a senior administration official said… The waivers are only temporary… The identity of the countries getting waivers is expected to be released officially on Monday, when U.S. restrictions against oil dealings with Iran go back into effect.”[Bloomberg]

GOP hawks to Trump: You’re going soft on Iran — by Eliana Johnson: “Led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Tex), [GOP] lawmakers — who typically cheer Trump’s foreign policy moves — expect that Trump will disappoint them when he rolls out new Iran sanctions Friday. The State Department has scheduled a Friday morning call on the subject. Refusing to be associated with a policy he opposes, [John] Bolton dropped off the call, during which Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will brief reporters.”

“The legislation, which Cruz is expected to introduce in the weeks following the midterm election, and which is likely to be cosponsored by two other leading GOP foreign policy hawks — Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) —will press Trump to cut off several Iranian banks from the global banking network known as SWIFT… “I think the objective of the legislation is partly to attract his attention when his strongest supporters in the House and in the Senate are saying ‘Mr. President, you’re not being tough enough on Iranian banks,’ that will attract his attention,” said Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.” 

“Its prospects to become law are less clear if the Democrats take the House on Tuesday. Its proponents are hopeful that AIPAC, the influential pro-Israel lobbying group, will support it — and pressure pro-Israel Democrats into doing so as well. “If SWIFT provides services to sanctioned Iranian banks we believe appropriate action should be taken,” an AIPAC official told POLITICO on Thursday.” [Politico]

DEEP DIVE — The CIA’s communications suffered a catastrophic compromise. It started in Iran — by Zach Dorfman and Jenna McLaughlin: “From around 2009 to 2013, the U.S. intelligence community experienced crippling intelligence failures related to the secret internet-based communications system… Though the Iranians didn’t say precisely how they infiltrated the network, two former U.S. intelligence officials said that the Iranians cultivated a double agent who led them to the secret CIA communications system. This online system allowed CIA officers and their sources to communicate remotely in difficult operational environments like China and Iran, where in-person meetings are often dangerous… After this betrayal, Israeli intelligence tipped off the CIA that Iran had likely identified some of its assets, said the same former official.” [YahooNews]

REPORT — Saudi crown prince described journalist as a dangerous Islamist in call with White House, officials say — by John Hudson, Souad Mekhennet and Carol D. Leonnig: “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi as a dangerous Islamist days after his disappearance in a phone call with President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and national security adviser John Bolton… Bolton did not signal that he endorsed the crown prince’s characterization of Khashoggi during the call.”

“Other Middle East leaders have come to the crown prince’s defense. In recent days, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have reached out to the Trump administration to express support for the crown prince, arguing that he is an important strategic partner in the region.” [WashPost]

AT THE UN ― UN votes overwhelmingly to condemn US embargo of Cuba — by Edith Lederer: “The vote on the Cuban-sponsored resolution in the 193-member world body was 189-2 with no abstentions. The U.S. and Israel voted “no” … In separate votes on the proposed U.S. amendments, Ukraine and Israel were the only countries to join the U.S. in voting “yes” on all eight measures.” [AP]

— State Department Spokeswoman Expected to Be Nominated U.N. Ambassador — by Michael C. Bender and Courtney McBride: “President Trump is expected to nominate Heather Nauert as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a senior administration official said.”[WSJ]

TOP TALKER — Brazil’s Bolsonaro tells Israeli newspaper he plans to move embassy to Jerusalem — by Adam Taylor: “Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro… has told an Israeli newspaper that he hopes to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after taking office… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that he had congratulated Bolsonaro on his election victory. The Israeli leader is widely expected to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration next year. Bolsonaro is also expected to make Israel his first foreign trip.” [WashPost

 — Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bismuth: “Bolsonaro chose Israel Hayom for what appears to be his first interview with the foreign media, and made it clear that his support for Israel and promises about Jerusalem were not just an election gimmick.” [IsraelHayom]

** Good Friday 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: Ousted WPP Boss Sorrell Is Out for ‘Revenge’ With New Venture [Bloomberg] • WeWork started limiting its beer to four 12-ounce glasses per person a day [WSJ] • Elon Musk says he ‘probably’ wouldn’t take money from the Saudis now [Recode]

Fink Calls Khashoggi Murder a Mystery, Will Keep Saudi Ties — by Annie Massa: “BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink struck a supportive tone on crisis-torn Saudi Arabia Thursday, saying that he expects to continue to invest in the country and that it’s unclear who killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “We don’t know who is responsible for the murder,” Fink said at the New York Times DealBook conference. “Everybody has their own theories.” …. Fink, who runs the world’s largest asset manager, said at the conference that doing business in Saudi Arabia is “not something I’m ashamed of.” [Bloomberg]

SPOTLIGHT — Israel’s Ehud Barak, Out of Politics, Turns to Medical Marijuana — by Michael Arnold: “I have no familiarity with cannabis: I never took a puff in my life, never took a bite of anything, never put any drops under my tongue,” Barak told a crowd Wednesday at the exchange. “But I studied the issue, read material and understood that cannabis for medical use is something real, with real potential impact.” InterCure shares were up 30 percent to 4.22 shekels as of 2:02 p.m. Wednesday in Tel Aviv, their largest gain since June. The company announced on Wednesday it had raised $12 million in a private placement to investors.” [Bloomberg]

MEDIA WATCH —  Inside the Trump Gold Rush at CNN — by Joe Pompeo: “[Jeff] Zucker… had arguably schooled Trump in the art of reality television. Halfway through Trump’s first term, his instincts remain just as acute. If Fox News represents Trump’s base and MSNBC has become a friendly platform for the resistance, CNN is the arena where both sides show up for cantankerous battle. “On Fox, you rarely hear from people who don’t support Trump,” Zucker told me. “On MSNBC, you rarely hear from people who do support Trump. We want to be home to both those points of view.” … But will it all evaporate when Trump goes away and things go back to normal? “It’s a question we think about a lot,” said Zucker. “Just looking at the past 25 years, these last 3 are among the most successful in CNN history.” I asked [Jake] Tapper the same question. “I don’t take any joy in saying this,” he told me, “but I would like to disabuse you of the notion that things are ever going back to normal.” [VanityFair]

Tablet Magazine’s Jewish Focus Pulls Staff to Pittsburgh on a Mission — by Kim Lyons: “The Pittsburgh project was the first time the Tablet had dispatched a team for a breaking news event… [Alana] Newhouse said the site augmented its servers to handle any additional traffic. It also was the editorial team’s first time staying together in one house. “We’ve gotten to know each other really, really well,” [Stephanie] Butnick said dryly… During a brief lull on Tuesday, Ms. Newhouse gathered with the Tablet staff members Yair Rosenberg, Jacob Siegel, Armin Rosen and Ms. Butnick at the kosher vegetarian Milky Way restaurant in Squirrel Hill. It would be one of their last meetings before many in the group returned to New York, and it was a time to reflect on what the experience of covering the shooting and its aftermath had been like.” [NYTimes]

HAPPENING TONIGHT — At 7PM, the ADL, Friendship Circle, One Table, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Shalom Pittsburgh, Repair The World, and Moishe House are hosting a 300-person Shabbat dinner at the Friendship Circle in Squirrel Hill. Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog is expected to attend.

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: NASA’s first Jewish astronaut, Jeffrey A. Hoffman turns 74… Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Laurence Douglas “Larry” Fink turns 66… Director of Internet and media at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Alan D. Abbey turns 64… Head of School at Weizmann Day School in Los Angeles, Lisa Feldman turns 60… Financial planner at Grant Arthur & Associates Wealth Services, he is the author of a book on the complicity of Lithuania in the Holocaust, Grant Arthur Gochin turns 55… Marc Solomon turns 54… Director of Federal Government Affairs at Microsoft Azure, John Sampson turns 52… Actor, director, and producer, best known for playing Ross Geller in the sitcom “Friends” (1994-2004), David Schwimmer turns 52…

Refugee from Iran in 1979, now the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust at the US Department of Justice, Makan Delrahim turns 49… Professor of economics at MIT, her primary expertise is in public finance and health economics, she won a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship in 2018, Amy Finkelstein turns 45… Founder and CEO of Spring Hills Senior Communities, Alexander Markowits turns 45… Denver-based radio host and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, David Sirota turns 43… Washington Post Outlook editor, Adam B. Kushner turns 38… Marc Rosen turns 37… Legislative assistant for foreign policy in the office of Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), he was previously the DNC’s Director of Jewish Engagement, Aaron Weinberg turns 28… Two-time Emmy award-winning video producer, now working for Getty Images, Celeste B. Lavin turns 28 (h/t Playbook)…

SATURDAY: Former Chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary, Ismar Schorsch, Ph.D. turns 83… Former Major League Baseball pitcher with more career victories (174) than any other Jewish pitcher (Koufax included), Ken Holtzman turns 73… Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine, professor at Yale University, James Rothman turns 68… Rabbi at Temple Anshe Sholom in Olympia Fields, Illinois since 2000, now emeritus, he previously held pulpits in Baltimore and Baton Rouge, Paul Caplan turns 66… Actress, comedian, writer, and television producer, best known for the long-running and award winning television sitcom Roseanne (1988-1997), Roseanne Barr turns 66… Talk show host Dennis Miller turns 65… Non-fiction manuscript editor and lecturer, he was a senior contributing editor at The Jerusalem Report and is an author of books on the stigma of childlessness and on the Balfour Declaration, Elliot Jager, Ph.D. turns 64…

Regional Director of Development in West Palm Beach for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jeanne Epstein turns 54… Consultant for startups, he was previously SVP and counsel at Zurich Financial Services and co-chair of the board of the Yeshiva University Museum, Edward Stelzerturns 50… Founder of AKM Consulting, during the 2016 election cycle she served as Finance Director for Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton, Amie Kershner turns 40… Agent at Creative Artists Agency, Rachel Elizabeth Adler turns 35 (h/t Playbook)… Amy Rosenbaum… Ben Kirshner… Stu Rosenberg

SUNDAY: Political scientist who has published works on grand strategy, military history and international relations, he is a consultant to the US government and others, Edward Luttwak turns 76… U.S. Representative for Kentucky’s 3rd congressional district, formerly a Republican but now a Democrat, John Yarmuth turns 71… Former IDF paratrooper, he served as the IDF’s Chief of the General Staff (1998-2002), Minister of Defense (2002-2006) and member of Knesset for Kadima (2006-2015), Lieutenant General Shaul Mofaz turns 70… Professor of medicine at England’s University of Birmingham and a leading British authority on organ donation and transplantation, Dr. James Max Neuberger turns 69… Co-Chair of Jewish Funders Network, board chair of the Israel on Campus Coalition and a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, Dorothy Tananbaum… Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 2013, Kenneth I. Gordon turns 59… President and CEO of the Hudson Institute, Kenneth R. “Ken” Weinstein turns 57… Professor of philosophy at Texas A&M University, Claire Elise Katz turns 54… BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, Benjamin Eli “Ben” Smith turns 42… Bob Rubin

Kafe Knesset for September 1

Friday, September 1, 2017

The BB-Sheldon Hotline: So just how close are Bibi and Sheldon and what is the extent of the PM’s involvement in Adelson’s freebie, Israel Hayom? That was the…

Kafe Knesset for August 31

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bibi against Meni Naftali: PM Netanyahu’s Rosh Hashana toast was, as promised, quite a show. Two thousand Likud activists gathered at the Avenue Conference Center near the Ben…

Kafe Knesset for August 30

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bibi launches Rosh Hashana toast season: It is that time of the year again, as the Jewish New Year approaches. Politicians are starting to make the rounds with…

Kafe Knesset for August 29

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Greenblatt’s tour: The President’s special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, stayed on after the senior White House delegation visited the region last week. According to senior Israeli sources, Greenblatt is…

Kafe Knesset for August 28

Monday, August 28, 2017

Guterres in Jerusalem: The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrived in Israel yesterday for his first visit to the region. His first meeting was last night, as he…

Kafe Knesset for August 25

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trump-Netanyahu Instagram diplomacy: The Kushner-Greenblatt-Powell short visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah hardly made headlines this morning. The niceties of the Kushner-Netanyahu meeting, and the smiles in the Ramallah…