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DRIVING THE CONVO — Defying pleas from European allies, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and reinstate “the highest level of economic sanctions” on the Iranian regime. “The Iran deal is defective at its core,” Trump said, pointing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation of the Iranian files last week as “definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.” Israel hailed Trump’s “bold” decision, which was also welcomed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. The decision drew mixed reactions from Jewish groups.
Democrats, including those who opposed the deal in 2015, blasted Trump’s decision, while most Republicans applauded the move. However, Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio called the decision a “mistake.” Former President Barack Obama blasted Trump’s announcement as “so misguided” and “a serious mistake.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) pointed out… “Today is a reminder that if you live by the Presidency, you die by the Presidency. We ought to be clear about this: Donald Trump isn’t ripping up a treaty; he’s walking away from Barack Obama’s personal pledge. Two and a half years ago, President Obama made a bad deal with Iran without support from Congress, and today President Trump is pulling out of President Obama’s personal commitment, and he doesn’t need Congress’s support to do so. American foreign policy makes lasting progress when it is led by the President, approved by Congress, and presented honestly to the American people.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who voted against the nuclear deal in 2015, criticized Trump’s decision in a press briefing: “There are no reports that Iran has violated the agreement. To me, the greatest worries from Iran are not right now (on) the nuclear side, but rather what they’re doing in Syria. To me, the right thing today would have been to try to come up with our allies with an agreement on those issues and let the nuclear part of this continue because it’s not being violated in any way… This is a little like replace and repeal — they had these words, they used them in the campaign, and they don’t have a real plan here. I just don’t see a concrete plan emerging, and when I spoke to the Vice President, I asked him a whole lot of questions and didn’t get good answers.” [CSPAN]
Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh spent some time on Capitol Hill yesterday and received reactions from several Senators and members of the House.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH): “It’s a wrong decision. First of all, it can spark an arms race in the Middle East where Iran is going to move towards nuclear weapons. I don’t understand why our country would run counter to what our allies think about this, and how do you convince the North Koreans that Americans live by their words. Clearly, the deal has had a good impact in stopping them from getting nuclear weapons. That’s good for Israel and that’s good for the Middle East. Canceling that creates that kind of uncertainty that I cannot guess, but it is not good.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI): “It may feel satisfying to those who feel that America didn’t strike a tough enough deal. But the simple fact of the matter is, we are now giving Iran everything they wanted. They get their financial relief and their nuclear program soon. Israel is absolutely worse off and less safe as a result of us withdrawing from the deal.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH): “I am very disappointed. I think this makes the Middle East more dangerous, not less, and I think it makes Iran become more dangerous. It could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which doesn’t benefit Israel or America.”
Rep. John Faso (R-NY): “Obviously, Iran is not a willing partner or a good partner in this deal and some changes need to be made to the deal. The thing that concerns me is that I hate to see the U.S. act without having the agreement of our allies. I’m most concerned about the safety and security of the people in Israel and I want to make sure that everything we do is done in an effective way that enhances that security.”
Question: What’s the effect of having President Trump as the face of the opposition to the Iran deal? Does it matter?
Menashe Shapiro, founder of the Shapiro Consulting Group: “It’s certainly not going to help keep those on the left in the pro-Israel fold. The more Trump becomes the face of pro-Israel policies, the more the radical left can play the “Trump card” to silence the left of center pro-Israel Democrats Israel needs to maintain its ever-shrinking bipartisan support in the US. Even the proverbial good policies that enjoy wide-spread support – ie the majority of Americans were against the Iran deal, and moving the Embassy to Jerusalem that was a Democratic idea first proffered by a liberal George McGovern in 1972 – will come under assault because Trump has become the face of these actions. In the long run, it will exacerbate the left-right dichotomy when it comes to Israel support. That being said, it will have little effect on the midterms. The Iran deal will not determine control of the Senate. Not by a longshot.”
NYC-based communications guru Stu Loeser: “The overwhelming majority of people who oppose Trump from the left were probably for the deal or gave President Obama the benefit of the doubt. From a political perspective, this will certainly help him lock down right-of-center Jewish voters and more religiously traditional Jewish voters. These folks likely supported him in 2016, but by 2020 they might have grown wary or weary of Trump’s embrace of anti-Semitic tropes and worse. Taking care of a sizable and pretty easily identifiable base vote that’s growing in states like Florida, Michigan and Ohio two years from an election, most candidates only dream of doing that.”
Democratic campaign consultant Hank Sheinkopf: “Democrats who dislike the President are unlikely to change their opinions ever. Trump was simply keeping a campaign promise. The clear strategy is to prove he kept his word to those who voted for him. It’s the place where policy and politics meet. Scuttling the Iran deal is meant to show Trump as a person of honor who keeps his word and thus cannot be the villain some have painted him to be. However, foreign policy rarely moves public opinion strongly or decides elections.”
— “Trump’s decision on Iran deal has implications in Florida’s U.S. Senate race” by Alex Leary: “Sen. Nelson in 2015 provided crucial Democratic support for the deal, blocking attempts from opponents to rip it up… Gov. Scott, like many Republicans, opposes the deal. On Friday, he wrote a letter to Trump urging him to scrap the deal, noting that Florida is home to a large Jewish population… Now that Trump has followed through on his past threats to kill the deal, Scott could use it against Nelson.” [TampaBayTimes]
HOW IT PLAYED — “Behind Trump’s Termination of Iran Deal Is Risky Bet That U.S. Can ‘Break the Regime’” by David Sanger and David Kirkpatrick: “It was a classic Trumpian move, akin to the days when he would knock down New York buildings to make way for visions of grander, more glorious edifices. But in this case, it is about upsetting a global power balance and weakening a government that Mr. Trump has argued, since he began campaigning, must go.” [NYTimes]
“How Talks with North Korea Convinced Trump to Scrap the Iran Deal” by Brian Bennett: “It’s not clear that the Art of the Deal works,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies… “Obviously Trump has an appetite for risk that has led him to huge successes and four bankruptcies. This is clearly another example of a hugely risky negotiating strategy that could yield extremely positive results or be a potential disaster.” [Time]
Richard Goldberg: “Put aside the idea that Iran is going to race to the bomb now; that fear has existed for a very long time, and both Republican and Democratic administrations have agreed that they would use military action to prevent that scenario, and the Iranians know that and are therefore unlikely to provoke that response. Iran also doesn’t want to become politically isolated, and if they were to race to the bomb, they would lose the support they still have right now in Europe and elsewhere.” [Vox]
Bret Stephens writes… “A Courageous Trump Call on a Lousy Iran Deal: Build on political sand; get washed away by the next electoral wave. Such was the fate of the ill-judged and ill-founded J.C.P.O.A., which Donald Trump killed on Tuesday by refusing to again waive sanctions on the Islamic Republic. He was absolutely right to do so — assuming, that is, serious thought has been given to what comes next.” [NYTimes]
Eli Lake writes… “Trump Is Now Free to Fight for Iranian Freedom:“It’s ultimately up to the Iranian people to organize their next revolution, but Trump has a chance to pursue solidarity with their struggle instead of negotiating another deal with their oppressors.” [BloombergView]
VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — “For Netanyahu, Vindication and New Risk After Trump’s Iran Decision” by David Halbfinger: “For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, President Trump’s decision on Tuesdayto abandon the 2015 agreement was such a wholesale vindication that he abruptly cut short a trip to Cyprus to be in Israel when it was announced… Being seen as fiercely taking on Israel’s most fearsome adversary while standing shoulder to shoulder with its most critical ally can only help Mr. Netanyahu politically as he awaits a likely indictment in a sprawling corruption investigation… Yet… after more than a decade without a major war, the country now faces threats from almost every direction.” [NYTimes]
“Syria Hit by New Strikes As Trump Cancels Iran Deal and Israel Calls High Alert” by Tom O’Connor: “Suspected Iranian military positions were hit by new strikes Tuesday shortly after Israel ordered citizens to take shelter… The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported that Israeli jets struck Al-Kiswa, located near eight miles south of Damascus, claiming Syrian air defenses downed two incoming missiles.” [Newsweek; Reuters] • US officials growing increasingly concerned Iran could attack Israel [CNN]
“Former Israeli Prime Minister: Iran May Believe Trump Is Looking for War” by Lena Felton: “President Trump’s exit from the Iran deal… could send a signal to the Iranians that Trump is looking for a war. That was the assessment offered by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in a live interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, at Washington’s Sixth & I Historic Synagogue Tuesday evening… The decision, Barak argued, will communicate to Trump’s base that the president is willing to follow through on his promises… which is “extremely important.” Secondly, the former prime minister reasoned, Trump may have felt stymied by the lack of options, other than negotiation, to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat. Exiting the Iran deal, on the other hand, looks by comparison like a tangible action.”[TheAtlantic]
David Horovitz writes… “Trump’s Iran deal withdrawal: It should never have come to this: Iran is currently threatening that it may resumeuranium enrichment and boasting that it has improved its technology so that it can enrich to higher levels than ever before — all while complying with the deal. That tells you all you need to know about the agreement. It did not require Iran to trash all of its centrifuges, and it allowed Iran to continue research and development on enrichment. Good job, negotiators. Well done.” [ToI]
DRIVING THE DAY — Netanyahu meets Putin in Moscow amid new round of Syria strikes: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin to discuss military coordination… “The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so,” Netanyahu said ahead of his departure. “In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination” between the two militaries. Netanyahu made no mention of the overnight strikes. During the visit, Netanyahu and Putin attended a parade in Moscow commemorating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany 73 years ago.” [ToI; Video]
JERUSALEM EMBASSY WATCH — The White House will host a live viewing ceremony for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday morning, according to an invitation sent out by the White House Office of Public Liaison to Jewish leaders and supporters.
ALREADY IN JERUSALEM — Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Mideast peace envoy and a member of the presidential delegation to the opening ceremony of the embassy in Jerusalem, was spotted at the King David yesterday. [Pic]
Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro writes… “What everyone’s getting wrong about the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem: Advocates of a two-state solution see the embassy move as a blunder by the United States that signals the death knell of prospects for peace. But the sky is not falling. Moving the U.S. Embassy to a location in West Jerusalem is correct and reasonable… The U.S. Embassy in Israel belongs in Jerusalem, and I will join those celebrating this overdue step.” [WashPost]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “Michael Cohen Took Cash From Russian Oligarch After Election” by Noah Shachtman and Kate Briquelet: “Michael Cohen received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a company controlled by Putin-aligned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg… According to a dossier published by [Michael] Avenatti on Tuesday evening, “Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017.”” [DailyBeast; NYTimes]
Speculation — by Paul Campos: “Here’s a Theory About That $1.6 Million Payout From a GOP Official to a Playboy Model: Why do all the facts about Elliott Broidy’s (supposed) affair with Shera Bechard point to Donald Trump?” [NYMag]
MEDIA WATCH: “How Two Persian Gulf Nations Turned The US Media Into Their Battleground” by Kevin Collier: “The leaks often have set the news agenda in Washington, leading to dozens of news stories. But there’s been little attention paid to the regional rivalry behind them… Ironically, both the UAE and Qatar are US allies, with Qatar providing a base for US aircraft flying missions in the Middle East and the UAE contributing pilots and planes to the anti-ISIS coalition.”
“Noah Pollak, the director of the Committee for Israel, which lobbies on Middle East issues, said the allure of such a campaign is almost irresistible. “It’s so low-cost yet so effective at knocking someone out of the game and embarrassing one side in a political fight,” he told BuzzFeed News. “You could spend years campaigning traditionally against someone or you could hack an email account and leak salacious details to the media. If you have no scruples, and access to hackers, the choice is obvious.” [BuzzFeed]
** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Trump Exit From Iran Pact Halts $40 Billion Boeing, Airbus Deals [Bloomberg] • Real-estate investor Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. and its partner Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal reach deal for New York’s Plaza Hotel [WSJ] • Thor Equities, Meyer Bergman to Sell London Retail Asset for $407M [CPExecutive] • Billionaire Patrick Drahi Isn’t Willing to Sell Altice’s French Unit [Bloomberg] • Disney CEO Bob Iger: Confident deal with Fox will close [CNBC] • Glencore’s Congo subsidiary wins breathing space in dispute with state-owned miner [FinancialTImes] • Michael Wolff on the CBS-Viacom Tug-of-War and Why Ownership Matters [HollywoodReporter] • “Univision Is A F***ng Mess” write Gizmodo Media Group staff [SpecilaProjectDesk]
SCENE LAST NIGHT — in NYC: The Paul E. Singer Foundation hosted a book launch for Yossi Klein Halevi’s new book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, at Campbell Brown and Dan Senor’s TriBeCa apartment. Bari Weiss and Senor led a conversation with the author in front of 100 guests, during which Klein Halevi argued that although Israel enjoys a growing economy and unprecedented geopolitical opportunities, it risks losing support in the liberal west and, in particular, among segments of the Jewish diaspora if it doesn’t find a solution to the conflict. After the author noted that the book is available for free download in Arabic, one attendee joked how this might provide a strong incentive for some Jews to learn to read Arabic. Guests enjoyed Israeli cuisine courtesy of New York Shuk.
SPOTTED: Rabbi David Wolpe, Richard Cohen, Paul Singer, Terry Kassel, Campbell Brown, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, Boaz Weinstein, Jodi Rudoren, Gregory Zuckerman, Tal Keinan, Sender Cohen, Liel Leibowitz, Alex Pelosi, Gary Rosenblatt, Noah Pollak, Andy Silow-Carroll, Marc Tracy, Thea Wieseltier, Jason Willick, Jordan Hirsch, Joel Winton, Daniel Bonner, Tali Lefkowitz, Eli Diamond, Lewis Kassel, Dana Gibber, Sam Adelsberg, Lisa Belzberg, Alex Berger, Jacob Buchdahl, Stephanie Butnick, Armin Rosen, David Fine, Harry Cohen, Mark Horowitz, Rivka Kidron, Max Karpel, Yehuda Kurtzer, Ira and Susan Akselrad, Steve and Deb Shapiro.
TALK OF THE TOWN — “Eric Schneiderman Abuse Claims Hit Jewish Political Circles ‘Like A Bomb’” by Josh Nathan-Kazis: “I really feel a mix of rage and grief and disorientation,” said Brad Lander, a member of the New York City Council who has known Schneiderman since the 1990s and considered him a political mentor. “I’m just so angry and appalled.” One person who had spoken with members of the tight Upper West Side political clique where Schneiderman made his bones said that it was “like a bomb went off in that world.” [Forward]
“Man Apologizes For Viral Video Taunting Hasidic Child” by Haley Cohen: “The man who filmed himself taunting a young Hasidic boy over his haircut has issued a video apology. Quai James’ apology came a few days after the original video went viral, with the original clip viewed over 1 million times… “I recently posted a online a video of me coming at a little kid in regards to his haircut. I just want to sincerely apologize to that young boy and his family. I never meant for anybody to get hurt. It was just a joke. I’m truly sorry,” James stated in Tuesday’s Twitter video.” [Forward; Video]
CAMPUS BEAT — “Police Escort Required for Israeli Speakers After US College Protest” by Jeremy Sharon: “In a fresh incident of anti-Zionist activity at the University of California, Irvine, a US college notorious for its hostile atmosphere toward the Jewish state, Israeli speakers at an event were escorted off campus by police for their safety after anti-Israel protesters disrupted the proceedings. The event was a conversation being conducted by the Israeli organization Reservists on Duty who were invited by two UC Irvine student groups, Republicans on Campus and Students Supporting Israel to provide support and assistance for pro-Israel students during “Anti-Zionism Week” at the university.” [JPost]
DESSERT — San Francisco’s only kosher bakery is expanding — by Nathan Falstreau: “SoMa’s Frena Bakery and cafe is expanding to the Outer Richmond with its second location. The kosher bakery — which specializes in sweet and savory pastries, breads, cakes, salads and more — will take over the former Emma’s Coffee House, which closed in 2016. The new location is “still in its early stages,” said Al M.” [Hoodline; EaterSF]
REMEMBERING — “Goodbye, my friend: winemaker and entrepreneur Leslie Rudd” by Jeff Morgan: “Leslie grew up in a Jewish home in Wichita, Kansas, where he had a strong connection to his Jewish roots and identity. Today, his eponymous Rudd Vineyard and Winery in Napa Valley is among the great wine estates there… I had the good fortune of becoming his partner in this venture, which we called Covenant. Not surprisingly, Covenant’s top wine is called Solomon Lot 70, in honor of Rudd’s Hebrew name, Shlomo (or Solomon, in Hebrew). The grapes for this wine are sourced exclusively from Rudd Vineyards.” [JWeekly]
BIRTHDAYS: Owner of St. Louis-based Harbour Group Industries, investor in 200 companies in 40 industries, US Ambassador to Belgium (2007-2009), Sam Fox turns 89… Budapest-born philanthropist and social activist, she marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965, Eva Haller turns 88… Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter, James L. Brooks (family name was Bernstein) turns 78… Guitarist and record producer, best known as a member of the rock-pop-jazz group “Blood, Sweat & Tears,”Steve Katz turns 73… Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, professor of structural biology at Stanford University, lives in both Israel and California, Michael Levitt turns 71… Pianist, singer-songwriter, composer and one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, Billy Joel turns 69… Physician in Burlington, Vermont, she was the First Lady of Vermont from 1991 until 2003 when her husband (Howard Dean) was Governor, Judith Steinberg Deanturns 65… Media, entertainment and technology entrepreneur and inventor, Brian D. Litman turns 64… Film director, film producer, playwright, author, marketing executive and arts philanthropist, Barry Avrich turns 55… DC-based, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich turns 53… Business executive and philanthropist, co-managing partner of Bain Capital, owner of a minority interest in the Boston Celtics, Jonathan Lavine turns 52… EVP of Global Public Policy at Facebook, previously White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy (2006-2009), law clerk for Justice Scalia (1999-2000), Joel D. Kaplan turns 49… Associate in the political law practice at Perkins Coie LLP, where she functions as COS for partner Marc E. Elias, Danielle Elizabeth Friedman turns 35… Co-founder and editor-at-large at Vox, Ezra Klein turns 34… Harvard Business School student Nathaniel Rosen turns 28… Mikhael Smits turns 22…