SCENE LAST NIGHT: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy held their annual Scholar-Statesman Award Dinner on the 36th floor of the Mandarin Oriental with approximately 500 guests in attendance. Featured honorees included former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, although Panetta couldn’t attend in-person due to a family emergency. Rob Satloff, director of the Washington Institute, interviewed Barak on stage for close to 40 minutes. Some highlights from their exchange…
Barak said he has “mixed feelings” on the Iran nuclear deal. “What is mixed feelings? It is when your mother-in-law drives your brand new BMW off a cliff,” he quipped as trying to explain the delicate situation. The line drew loud laughter from the audience. “It is a bad deal. But it’s a done deal,” he told Robert Satloff, the think tank’s Executive Director, who served as moderator. Adding, that while nobody expects Iran to breach the deal over the next 4-5 years – as they harvest the benefits of the accord – it is more realistic that they will try to cheat later on. “It’s like a second marriage – the triumph of hope over experience,” Barak said, drawing another round of laughter.
The former Defense Minister drew a parallel between the current deal with Iran and the nuclear deal negotiated with North Korea under President Bill Clinton. “It was the same, exactly the same,” he said. “And if some of you look at YouTube, you see President Clinton using the same words that were used by President Obama” in their respective addresses to the nation. “And we know what happened there.”
Going forward, Barak said Israel and the U.S. must sit down behind closed doors – to restore the level of trust – and discuss what can be done to make sure that if Iran breaks outs, “even years down the street,” and what amounts to a significant violation. He added that, in his view, in the moment of grace that was created immediately after the deal was signed, Israel could’ve explicitly turned to the administration and asked them to provide Israel “with the tools that will enable her to carry out independently an operation against the nuclear program” in the event both governments agree that the Iranians are attempting to develop nuclear weapon capabilities.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Barak echoed Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Arab-spring-turned-Islamic-winter proved the world that the conflict is not the core problem in the Middle East. “Even if I had succeeded in signing a peace deal [in Camp David], or [PM Yitzhak] Rabin would’ve succeeded earlier, I had no illusion that the Muslim Brotherhood would probably take over from Mubarak; that the ayatollahs would try to turn into a nuclear power; and the Syrians would be pulled into a civil war,” he stressed. But having said that, he argued that by not acting on the issue, Israel will turn into a binational state with an Arab majority. “We are not Russia and not China, and we don’t have the privilege to reign over another nation,” he said. “I think that the highest risk is not to take risks at all.”
To close the evening, Satloff asked Barak if he intends to run for Prime Minister again, given he’s the same age Rabin was when he served a second term. “What’s the hurry,” Barak responded sarcastically. Adding, he recently told Labor activists who asked him to run, “Why me? Go to Shimon Peres and ask him. If he’s ready to retire, I will contemplate.” [JewishInsider]
SPOTTED: Dennis Ross, AIPAC’s Bob Cohen, Michael Kassen, David Eisner, Stacy Popovsky, Martin Gross, David and Sarah Steinhardt, Arielle Saperstein, Michael and Susie Gelman, Ken Bialkin, Diane Troderman, Andrew Klaber, Michael Reidler, Roger Hertog, David Keyes, Daniel Bonner, Misha Galperin, Howard Berkowitz, Jake Wilner, Josh Shapiro, Phil Darivoff, Chaya Glasner, David Makovsky, Robert Satloff, Michael Eisenstadt, and David Schenker.
IRAN DEAL: “Small German Firms Hold Edge in Iran” by Christopher Alessi: “Despite the international sanctions that have choked off much of Iran’s foreign trade, many German companies have continued to do business here—legally—in recent years. Now those companies are likely to be among the first to benefit from the country’s expected reopening, after a U.S.-led deal in July to ease the sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.” [WSJ]
“Members Of Congress Signal Support For States’ Rights To Sanction Iran” by Rosie Gray: “A new resolution being introduced in the House and Senate on Tuesday seeks to support individual states’ ability to maintain their own sanctions against Iran, despite Iran getting sanctions relief as part of the nuclear deal. The resolution is being introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Peter Roskam alongside Reps. Brad Sherman, Mike Pompeo, Ted Deutch, Lee Zeldin and Dan Lipinski… A Senate version is being introduced by Sens. Mark Kirk, Joe Manchin, and presidential candidate Marco Rubio.” [BuzzFeed]
2016 WATCH: “Wary of Donald Trump, G.O.P. Leaders Are Caught in a Standoff” by Jonathan Martin: “For months, much of the Republican Party’s establishment has been uneasy about the rise of Donald J. Trump, concerned that he was overwhelming the presidential primary contest and encouraging other candidates to mimic his incendiary speech. Now, though, irritation is giving way to panic as it becomes increasingly plausible that Mr. Trump could be the party’s standard-bearer and imperil the careers of other Republicans.” [NYTimes]
“New Jersey Muslims Feel Sense of Betrayal by Christie” by Alexander Burns: “Mr. Christie’s ties to Muslim leaders in New Jersey have grown deeply strained. The governor has recast himself as a relentless warrior against terrorism, with little patience for what he calls “politically correct” national security policy.” [NYTimes]
“Zuckerberg immigration group launches 2016 reform blitz” by Anna Palmer: “The Mark Zuckerberg-backed group that spent tens of millions on a failed bid for immigration reform is reigniting its efforts for the 2016 election. Fwd.us is looking to counter the anti-immigration reform rhetoric in the GOP primary and lay the groundwork for an overhaul of the country’s immigration laws in early 2017 once the next president takes office.” [Politico]
TOP TALKER: “Zuckerberg Baby’s Birth Comes With A $45 Billion Surprise” by Issie Lapowsky: “Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have given birth to a baby girl named Max. Zuckerberg announced the new arrival in, of course, a Facebook post, accompanied by a Facebook Notes letter to the new little lady in his life. In it, Zuckerberg writes that he and Chan will donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares — currently about $45 billion — over the course of their lives “to join many others in improving this world for the next generation.” [WiredMag] • See Zuckerberg’s letter [Facebook]
BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Jewish billionaire, Elie Horn, first Brazilian to join Gates and Buffet’s Giving Pledge” [JTA] • “Sumner Redstone Health Lawsuit Puts Viacom, CBS in Awkward Position” [Variety] • “James Tisch: Fed Should Have Raised Rates Years Ago” [Bloomberg] • “Ghermezian’s American Dream Miami mega mall: Just how big would it be?” [BizJournals] • “How Miami is Continuing to Cater to the Rich & Famous” [OceanDrive] • “Have a Look at the Over-the-Top Amenities at Gary Barnett’s “One Manhattan Square”” [TheLoDown] • “Forest City warns of mass layoffs in modular division” [RealDeal]
SPOTLIGHT: “The CEO Paying Everyone $70,000 Salaries Has Something to Hide” by Karen Weise:“It seemed too good to be true. On April 13, with reporters from the New York Times and NBC News hovering nearby, Dan Price, the young chief executive officer of Gravity Payments, a Seattle-based credit card processing company, told his staff he was raising their minimum salary to $70,000 a year… Price says he thought back to a 2010 paper by Nobel prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, who found that people’s emotional well-being improves as their earnings rise, until their pay reaches about $75,000 a year.” [Businessweek]
STARTUP NATION: “Why Israel Will Probably Never Have A Tech Giant And Why That’s Not Something To Regret” by Gal Nachum: “Israel is notorious for innovating and dominating a domain that holds a big opportunity. Instead of generating a single world leader, Israel often ends up being comprised of multiple smaller ventures, cannibalizing each other and failing to reach a critical mass. These competing companies are many times founded by former employees of the original innovator or by envious colleagues from the local tech scene.” [TechCrunch]
TALK OF OUR NATION: “Late WWII US veteran is 1st soldier honored for saving Jews” by Aron Heller: “The Nazi soldiers made their orders very clear: Jewish American prisoners of war were to be separated from their fellow brothers in arms and sent to an uncertain fate.But Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds would have none of that. As the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer held in the German POW camp, he ordered more than 1,000 Americans captives to step forward with him and brazenly pronounced: “We are all Jews here.” He would not waver, even with a pistol to his head, and his captors eventually backed down.” [AP]
“Sandy Berger, former national security adviser, dies” by Nick Gass: “Former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, who served under President Bill Clinton, has died at the age of 70. “V sad start to day; just learned Sandy Berger passed away during the night,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted Wednesday morning. “Good man & friend who served nation well as bill clinton’s NSA.” [Politico]
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer hosted his annual Jewish Heritage and Culture event at the Surrogate’s Courthouse in NYC. Among the honorees were Rabbi Andy Bachman, Director of Jewish Content and Rituals at 92nd Street Y, and Chevra Hatzalah. “As Ezra Friedlander reminds me, there are a lot of people in our community who sacrifice for the entire city. Hatzolah is there for everyone and anytime. And it’s needless to say how much the city saves by relying on these heroic volunteers,” said Stringer. He also declared, “The security of the Jewish community in Israel, in New York and around the world is non-negotiable.”
–Spotted: Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Council Members David Greenfield and Chaim Deutsch; Assemblyman David Weprin, Michael Miller, Joseph Stamm, Ezra Friedlander, Alexander Rappaport, Yeruchim Silber.
MAZEL TOV: “Engaged — Booker CoS Matt Klapper, to girlfriend Victoria Edelman of UBS, with help of his “brothers at the Summit, N.J., fire department.” Booker makes an appearance in the video featuring family and friends” [Vimeo] h/t Politico Playbook
DESSERT: “A Twist on the Traditional Challah” [NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid turns 76… UC Berkeley History Professor Leon Litwack turns 86… Actress Daniela Ruah turns 32…