SABAN SCENE: As guests of the 2015 Saban Forum waited patiently (by Israeli standards at least) for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to close out this year’s forum on Sunday, there was much Hebrew and English chitchat to be had in the wood-paneled and holiday decorated ballroom of the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. Participants were taking full advantage of the unique opportunity to be in a small room comprised almost entirely of elite Israeli and American politicians, thought leaders and journalists. We observed Yair Lapid and Rep. Eliot Engel chatting in one corner, while Ambassadors Ron Dermer and Dan Shapiro huddled a few rows back, in front of Dennis Ross and Dana Weiss of Channel 2. Jeffrey Goldberg and Barak Ravid, sitting next to one another, seemed to be assessing the situation — perhaps the room or the Middle East at large — although hard to tell exactly. Clinton campaign aides Jennifer Palmieri and Nick Merrill sat near the back with us and the Clinton press corps, while Huma Abedin, Jane Harman and Justice Stephen Breyer occupied the front row.
SPOTTED: Haim and Cheryl Saban, Isaac “Bougie” Herzog, Tzipi Livni, Avigdor Lieberman, Rep. Ted Deutch and Jill Weinstock, Rep. Nita Lowey, Gabi Ashkenazi, David Makovsky, Adam Milstein, Matt Nosanchuk, Amos Yadlin, Natan Sachs, Jordana Cutler, Yarden Golan, Martin Indyk, Norman Brownstein, Moshe Debby, Aaron Sagui, Dan Arbel, Ari Shavit, Mark Landler, Dylan Williams, Stav Shaffir, Chemi Shalev, Michael Wilner, Natan Guttman, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Yitzhak Benhorin.
Other Notable Saban Participants: Elliott Abrams, Bill Burns,Yechiel Eckstein, Norman Eisen, Marvin Feuer, Steny Hoyer, Howard Kohr, Joe Lieberman, Dan Senor, Andrew Tisch, Henry Waxman, Robert Wexler, Leon Wiesletier, Dov Zakheim, Naftali Bennett, Ofra Strauss, and Tzachi Hanegbi.
2016 WATCH — Hillary Clinton at Saban — On Terrorism: “Declaring war on Islam or demonizing the Muslim-American community is not only counter to our values, it plays right into the hands of terrorists… But at the same time, none of us can close our eyes to the fact that we do face enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. We have to stop them and we will…. And, yes, we stand with our ally and true friend Israel now and forever. And of course Israel is no stranger to terrorism… Israeli children have been killed as have Palestinian children. Just two weeks ago, terrorists murdered an American yeshiva student named Ezra Schwartz in a drive-by shooting.”
On Iran: “We all agree that Iran can never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. Now, as you know, I support the nuclear agreement negotiated by the world’s great powers. Is it perfect? No, no agreement like that ever is. But I believe that if it is aggressively implemented and enforced, this deal will help us prevent a nuclear-armed Iran… Our message to Iran must be unequivocal. There will be consequences for even small violations and we are ready to snap back sanctions into place. Our approach must be distrust and verify… And we will make sure the Iranians and the world understand that the United States will act decisively if necessary, including taking military action.”
US – Israel Relationship: “Let’s expand high-level U.S.-Israel strategic consultations. Bring our best minds together for deeper discussions about enforcing the nuclear deal, countering Iran’s regional ambitions, and developing new defense technologies for the future. If Israel and the United States stand shoulder-to-shoulder and present a united front to the region and the world, I am confident we can meet the threats and challenges we face today. I was born just a few months before the State of Israel and my generation came of age admiring the talent and tenacity of the Israeli people…”
Next Generation: “There is a new generation in both countries today that does not remember that shared past. Young Americans who didn’t see Israel in a fight for survival again and again. Young Israelis who didn’t see the United States broker peace at Camp David or kindle hope at Oslo or stand behind Israel when it was attacked. They are growing up in a different world. And the future of our relationship depends on building new ties for a new time. Ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” Well, tonight is the first night of Chanukah, when the Jewish people in Israel and all over the world praise the Almighty for the miracles for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts.” [YouTube]
Notable Exchange: Ari Shavit asked Hillary “did I hear you correctly if you will be president, and there’s a good chance you will — Haim Saban interjects “When, when” — and should Iran violate the deal in a clear way, would you consider using the military option in order to stop Iran from becoming nuclear?” Hillary: “What I said and what I mean is that there will have to be consequences for any violation by Iran and that the nuclear option should not at all be taken off the table, that has been my position consistently.” [Crowd noise] Hillary: “What?! Oh yeah the military option. Thank you Justice Breyer. He’s a careful listener that Justice Breyer, we like that about him. [Laughter]” [YouTube]
HOW IT PLAYED: “Clinton aims to take U.S. relationship with Israel ‘to the next level'” [Reuters] • “Hillary Clinton: The Alternative to Abbas Might Be ISIS” [Haaretz] • “Hillary Clinton Urges Silicon Valley to ‘Disrupt’ ISIS” [NYTimes] • “Hillary Clinton Seeks Help from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in Fight Against Islamic State” [Bloomberg]
PICS: Tzipi Livni talks with U.S. Amb. Dan Shapiro [JI] • Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer with Jane Harman of the Wilson Center [JI] • Hillary talks with Norman Brownstein about BDS on college campuses [YouTube] • Hillary takes pics with Saban participants [YouTube]
“Kerry’s remarks rebuked in Israel” by Dan Perry: “Secretary of State John Kerry set off an uproar in Israel on Sunday after warning that the country, through its continued West Bank occupation, will become a “binational state.”.. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Sunday that “Israel will not be a binational state” and blamed the Palestinians for the failure of peace efforts.” [AP]
“Saban Forum Highlights Anxiety and Anguish of U.S.-Israeli Rift” by Chemi Shalev: “The American audience’s collective angst, built up over years since Barack Obama came into office but exponentially enhanced in the Iran deal confrontation with Benjamin Netanyahu, seemed to find expression in the extraordinary speech given by Secretary of State John Kerry. His warnings about the dangerous one-state reality that awaits an Israel that rebuffs a two state solution struck a deep chord in the audience, both in tone and in content. It was a powerful speech that nonetheless radiated powerlessness, not only Kerry’s but his listeners’ as well.” [Haaretz]
Shmuel Rosner: “Brookings, Kerry, Clinton, Netanyahu, and the one state solution straw man” [JewishJournal]
HAPPY HANUKKAH — “Paris Jews Defy Terror with Lights, Music and Arnold Schwarzenegger” by Erin Zaleski: “Defying rumors that Paris’s public menorah lightings would fall victim to terrorism fears, thousands of the city’s Jews gathered before the Eiffel Tower on Sunday night for a Hanukkah celebration that involved live music, traditional treats, and an incongruous visit from Arnold Schwarzenegger.” [DailyBeast]
IN D.C. — “American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) held its annual event to light the National Hanukkah Menorah. The event included the lighting of the 30-foot menorah, as well as songs, men dressed as Maccabees standing as ceremonial guards and “Dreidleman” dancing to the Dreidle Song.”[WashExaminer; WTOP; YouTube]
–Spotted: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Howard Mortman, William Daroff, Matt Nosanchuk, Tom Kahn, Steve Rabinowitz, Aaron Keyak, Tevi Troy, Amb. Dan Shapiro, Mark Penn, Louis Mayberg, Lt. Col. Shmuel Felzenberg, Vice Admiral Herman A. Shelanski, Mia Appelbaum, Cynthia Bernstein, Hilary Brandenburg, Yossi Chazanow, Tim Cohen, Glenn Fine, Ralph Galyean, Emil Hirsch, Tom Kahn, Alexis Kashar, Fran Kritz, Jay Krupin, Aaron Lobel, Emily Loeb, Mike Makovsky, Brianne Mattila, Andrew McGavern, Sophia Mendoza, Jeanie Milbauer, Rosaly Millman, Yaakov Motzen, Jeff Nadel, Brianne Nadeu, Ben Pery, Howard Rosenblum, Max Sicherman, Alexandra Sopko, Linday Stein, Maxeme Tuchman, Paul Tucker, Moses Weisberg, Nachum Willner, and Abe Yazdian.
Sen. Rob Portman attended the menorah lighting at Congregation Beth Jacob in Columbus, Ohio, last night. Portman joked “the last time I wore this kippah, I was at the Kotel, the Western Wall.” Portman also told the crowd of 200 that “sometimes the weapons used against Israel are economic. BDS is about delegitimizing Israel.” SPOTTED: Mark Isakowitz, Bruce Soll, Brad Kastan, Judy Brachman, Rabbi Avi Goldstein, Rabbi Howard Zack, David Claman, Levi Andrusier, Gordon Hecker, Jackie Jacobs, Michal Adar, Holly Kastan, Joy Soll, Howie Beigelman, Michael Broidy, and Bob Lane.
Sheryl Sandberg writes… “My children and I just lit the candles that mark the beginning of Hanukkah, the festival of lights… After such a difficult year, including the violent events in California last week, it sometimes feels like we are surrounded by darkness. This Hanukkah, let us all try to remember the triumph of light, and that there can be unexpected miracles in the hardest times.” [Facebook]
President Obama: “During these eight days, let us be inspired by the light that can overcome darkness. As we recall the Maccabees’ struggle to free a people from oppression, let us rededicate ourselves to being the engine of the miracles we seek. May the lights of the menorah brighten your home and warm your heart, and from my family to yours, Chag Sameach.” [WhiteHouse]
David Bernstein: “The fascinating contrast between President Obama’s and Sen. Cruz’s Hanukkah (Chanukah) greetings” [WashPost]
Ruth Wisse: “Modern human accomplishments seldom outstrip miracles of the past, but those who light the candles for Hanukkah beginning Sunday night are involved in an even greater struggle for political and religious freedom than the Maccabees in their time.” [WSJ]
WH Hanukkah Prep — “A Sensitive Operation in Washington: Baking 25,000 Cookies” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis: “In the middle of the holiday party season, food production grinds to an abrupt halt and all the equipment is removed before the White House’s two Hanukkah receptions on Wednesday, when rabbis will arrive to make the kitchen kosher so that observant Jews who only consume food prepared in accordance with Jewish law may eat it. (The Bush White House began the practice in 2006, Ms. McBride said, after noticing that much of the food at its Hanukkah reception was going untouched.)” [NYTimes]
Heard Last Night: “Obama’s not-so-peppy pep talk” by Edward-Isaac Dovere: “Oval Office address fails to quell concerns about administration’s handling of terrorism.” [Politico]
Peter Beinart: “How Obama Thinks About Terrorism: The president and his Republican opponents view threats like ISIS in fundamentally different ways.” [TheAtlantic]
“Trump Adviser Doesn’t Get How Judaism Works” by Adam Serwer: “Trump adviser Daniel Scavino Jr. said it was “disrespectful” for the president to give a major speech when Jews are celebrating Hanukkah. Hanukkah is a holiday of minimal religious significance to Jews — its cultural importance in the United States is largely due to its proximity to Christmas. (It helps Jewish kids not feel left out when their Christian friends are getting a whole bunch of presents). On the other hand, Shabbat, which begins on Friday night and ends on Saturday night, is very important to Jews.” [BuzzFeed]
–BuzzFeed should read: “No, Hanukkah is not Jewish Christmas” by Melissa Binder [OregonLive]
“Trump picked stock fraud felon as senior adviser” by Jeff Horwitz: “Sater altered his name, to Satter, and became a top executive in Bayrock, a development firm that partnered with Trump on the Trump Soho high-rise hotel in Manhattan and other branded luxury real estate deals… Civil lawsuits.. have alleged that Bayrock engaged in a pattern of misconduct during Sater’s tenure, sometimes involving potential Trump projects. The AP obtained a copy of the sealed lawsuit, which was refiled last month, when the original complaint was included as part of a lawsuit Sater filed in an Israeli court.” [AP]
“Huckabee: Israelis Were ‘Marched at Gunpoint’ Out of Gaza” by Jacob Kornbluh: “Addressing some 35 members of the Jewish community at a fundraiser on Sunday, Huckabee said, “I’ve seen the film of Gush Katif. You see good Jewish families taken at gunpoint out of their own home and marched out of Gush Katif.” He said that he wept when he saw that since he didn’t think that “we are going to see Jews marching – by gunpoint – anymore from their own homes. Surely, what they experienced with the Nazis should’ve taught us that must never happen again, and this time that the guns were being held by Israelis.” [JewishInsider]
–Ruben and Cecilia Margules hosted Huckabee for a ‘meet and greet’ reception at their home in Manhattan Beach, NY. Walking with a cane, after undergoing knee surgery, Huckabee compared himself to Jacob, who was limping his entire life after wrestling with the angel. “My limp is temporary because my fight was not with God, it was just with Donald Trump,” he joked.
“Jewish Jeb Donors Keep Faith” by Jacob Kornbluh: “Sam Fox acknowledged that Jeb is in real trouble in the early primary states, and a win in NH is not a given. “I’m just telling you that in my opinion, out of all those who’re running, Jeb is the only one that would make an outstanding president.” But he maintained that “we shouldn’t get into who’s going to win.”.. “Anyone that says at this point that he’s going to win, let him go see a psychiatrist,” Fox added.” [JewishInsider]
LongRead: “The War Inside The Republican Party” by Ryan Lizza [NewYorker]
BUSINESS BRIEFS: “The Billionaire Battle in the Bahamas” [VanityFair] • “Israel Chemicals and Leviev Group plan large-scale maritime mining and phosphate downstream manufacturing” [Globes] • Gary Barnett Working on Building for Formerly Homeless People [DNAinfo] • “What Chinese investors should know before tackling Israel” [VentureBeat]
CAMPUS BEAT: @AviMayer tweets — “A disturbing episode of discrimination with distinct whiffs of anti-Semitism is currently unfolding at Vassar” [Facebook]
DESSERT: “The New Philadelphia Story: Eat, Pay, Give” by Howie Kahn: “A PASTOR, A RABBI’S SON and an Israeli-born chef walk into a doughnut shop: It sounds like a setup awaiting a punch line. But what Bill Golderer, Steven Cook and Mike Solomonov have in mind is no joke. Golderer, the 45-year-old founder and convening minister of Philadelphia’s Broad Street Ministry, helps to feed thousands of homeless and hungry locals every month at his church as part of a dining and social services initiative called the Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative.” [WSJMagazine]
“How Three Jews Are Changing American Whiskey Drinking” by Aaron Goldfarb: “The tasty and satisfying story of why distillers like Laphroaig and Glen Moray would want to sell off their quality stock to three American Jews.” [DailyBeast]
Matt Brooks texts… “Great week!! The RJC Forum and I just finished the Jingle All the Way 5k!! Woohoo :)” [Pic]
BIRTHDAYS: Philanthropist Michael Steinhardt turns 75… Chairman of Loews Hotels Jonathan Tisch turns 62… Noam Chomsky turns 87… Princeton Mathematics Professor Nicholas Michael Katz turns 72… Hannah Vilinsky… Toby Lerner… Shawn Lowe… Made in Jerusalem founder Hanan Brand…