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DRIVING THE DAY — Voters in Missouri, Kansas, Michigan and Washington head to the polls today for Republican and Democratic primaries. There’s also a special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District.[FiveThirtyEight]
RACES TO WATCH — In Michigan: Elissa Slotkin, who served as Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs during the end of the Obama administration, is one of two Democratic contenders seeking to challenge Rep. Mike Bishop (R) in the 8th Congressional District. The Cook Political Report rates the district a “toss up” in the fall. In the 13th Congressional District, former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib is seeking to become the first Muslim woman in Congress. Her mother is from Beit Ur al-Fauqa, outside Ramallah, and her father from Beit Hanina, an East Jerusalem neighborhood, according to Haaretz. Tlaib has the backing of J Street’s PAC.
— There are also seven candidates running to be Michigan’s next governor. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is backing gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed, who is running 3rd in the polls behind former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and Shri Thanedar.
In Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District: Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are backing former labor lawyer Brent Welder against activist Sharice Davids, who’s backed by Emily’s List.
Can this California Democrat crack the Trump-era election code? — by Andrew Romano: “Halfway through his Q&A session at University Synagogue (in California’s 48th Congressional District), Harley Rouda declared that the “biggest issue” of 2018 is the fact that “institutions of our government and culture — the foundations of democracy — are now under attack.” Then he paused to recount a recent visit to Berlin’s German Historical Museum, where he was reminded that “the rise of Hitler was all based on nationalism.” … The implicit comparison was lost on no one… Here was an Orange County Democrat openly comparing the president of the United States to Adolf Hitler — and warning that America could go the way of Nazi Germany if his power is left unchecked.” [YahooNews]
Idaho residents receive phone messages from neo-Nazi: “A California man who has called the Holocaust “a lie” and mounted a failed campaign against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein says he plans to establish a “regional capital” in northern Idaho… Sandpoint, Idaho, residents have received automated phone messages from Patrick Little, a neo-Nazi who has called for the U.S. to be “free from Jews.”” [AP] • Patrick Little’s “Name the Jew” Tour Spreads Anti-Semitic Hate Nationwide [ADL]
DRIVING THE CONVO — At midnight, the U.S. reimposed sanctions on Iran, targeting access to U.S. banknotes and key industries including cars and carpets. Yesterday, Trump signed an executive order restoring the sanctions that were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal and threatened even-tougher measures later this year until the Iranian government changes course. “Our policy is not regime change, but we want to put unprecedented pressure on the government of Iran to change its behavior,” National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Fox News.
Trump tweeted this morning: “The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters yesterday that he was in the room when President Trump signed the executive order on the reimposition of Iran sanctions after spending Sunday with Trump at his Bedminster golf course. “The sanctions today… against Iran are crippling, and I think our goal should be as a nation to drive this regime into the ground without firing a shot and stand behind the Iranian people,” Graham said. [Video]
— Graham in an interview with Josh Kimbrell on Christian Talk Radio: “Here’s what I think President’s Trump’s views on Iran are: That they’re the cancer of the Mideast and he’s going to take a different path than Obama.” [CNN]
Europe vows to fight for Iran deal as US renews sanctions — by David Herszenhorn: “The EU is taking legislative action, activating a so-called “blocking statute,” in a bid to protect EU businesses from the renewed U.S. sanctions. But it is unclear how effective it will be in calming the fears of companies, many of which have far greater commercial ties to the U.S. than Iran.” [PoliticoEU]
FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer tells us… “The goal, now that the U.S. has undertaken the decision to exit the JCPOA, is to wield the strength of the dollar and U.S. influence over the global banking community. As it did during the last round of sanctions, the Treasury must put banks and companies to a fundamental choice: they can either do business with America or Iran. But they cannot do both, or they will come under punishing sanctions. This will help to quickly clarify certain business decisions for European firms that may still be on the fence.”
“What’s interesting to watch right now is how effective these sanctions can be when imposed unilaterally. Officials from the Obama administration insisted that the US could not do this alone. So far, the Trump administration appears to be proving them wrong. But it’s still early days.”
Trump drops the sanctions hammer on Iran — but Putin could come to Tehran’s rescue — by Alex Lockie: “I have a suspicion that even if it doesn’t come directly, I can easily see in six months the Iranians turning to the Russians and letting the Russians be their channel,” to negotiate with Trump, Dennis Ross said. “Given the Trump-Putin relationship, we can see Russia coming and offering something, opening up a negotiation.”[BusinessInsider]
Eli Lake writes… “Trump’s Sanctions Miss a Chance to Help Iran’s Protesters: These sanctions will no doubt further destabilize Iran’s already wobbling economy. They will accomplish an important objective in depriving Iran’s treasury the funds it uses to finance its proxy forces in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. But in the process, average Iranians will suffer, too. This is why many dissidents, such as the Nobel laureate Shirin Abadi, have opposed these kinds of sanctions before… One that almost all Iranian democracy advocates support is re-imposing penalties on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.” [BloombergView]
VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: Jerusalem extols Trump for putting sanctions back on Iran — by Raphael Ahren: “Senior Israeli officials on Monday lauded the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran as a historic turning point that could ultimately lead to the Islamic Republic’s downfall… “This is an important moment for Israel, for the United States, for the region, and for the entire world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video… Deputy Minister Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US, called the return of the sanctions a “return to sanity.” [ToI]
OUT ON SHELVES TODAY — Former New York Times Cairo bureau chief David Kirkpatrick’s new book titled Into the Hands of the Soldiers — recounting the Obama Administration’s handling of the 2011 Arab Spring that led to Hosni Mubarak’s downfall and later the rise of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. A few notable highlights below…
“Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, introduced a bill to end Egypt’s military aid because of the the [military coup that removed Morsi from office on July 3, 2013.] The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC, wrote to every senator arguing that any cuts “could increase instability in Egypt and undermine important U.S. interests and negatively impact our Israeli ally.” The Senate vote 86-13 to protect the aid.” [page 266]
On the 2011 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Egypt: “Obama spoke with Benjamin Netanyahu. Marine Corps General James Mattis, chief of Central Command, talked to General Sisi, head of Egyptian military intelligence. Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, placed a panicked call to Leon Panetta, who was now defense secretary. Would Panetta please get the Egyptian army to stop this? But by 7:30 pm in Washington — 2:30 am the next morning in Cairo — Field Marshal Tantawi still had not picked up the phone to respond to Panetta. “I am sure he was trying to figure out what was going on,” Panetta later told me, charitably.”
“Panetta left the Pentagon to introduce a performance of Brahms’s German Requiem at the Kennedy Center to commemorate the September 11 terrorist attacks. Aides pulled him from the audience to an adjoining room set up for a secure phone call when Tantawi finally called back. Tantawi made the usual courtly small talk, “so i tried to cut through that s***t,” Panetta told me. “You have a serious situation there with the Israeli embassy,” Panetta told Tantawi. “If this is allowed to happen, not only could it jeopardize lives, but it is going to make Egypt look totally incompetent at providing security.” Tantawi promised to do “whatever” is necessary,” and shortly before 5 am in Cairo, Egyptian commandos finally rescued the six employees trapped in the embassy.” [page 62]
TALK OF THE REGION: A Top Syrian Rocket Scientist Is Blown Up, and Fingers Point at Mossad — by David Halbfinger and Ronen Bergman: “Aziz Asbar was one of Syria’s most important rocket scientists… On Saturday, he was killed by a car bomb — apparently planted by Mossad… It was at least the fourth time in three years that Israel has assassinated an enemy weapons engineer on foreign soil, a senior official from a Middle Eastern intelligence agency confirmed on Monday… The Mossad had been tracking Mr. Asbar for a long time, according to the Middle Eastern intelligence official. The Israelis believed that Mr. Asbar led the secret unit known as Sector 4 at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center.” [NYTimes]
— Israel minister welcomes Syria scientist killing: “We don’t of course comment on reports of this kind and I’m not going to comment now,” [Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael] Katz told Israeli army radio. “I can say that assuming the details of this man’s activities are correct and he was engaged in developing chemical weapons and longer-range missiles capable of hitting Israel, I certainly welcome his demise.” [YahooNews]
David Makovsky and Ghaith al-Omari write… “Arab Leaders Need to Step Up to Avert War in Gaza: Arab states should remind Mr. Abbas that he does not have the luxury of staying out of Gaza, since Hamas cannot effectively be delegitimized unless the PA returns. Accordingly, they should signal their willingness to bypass him and Hamas altogether by helping international bodies provide direct aid to Gaza. This is not the ideal path, but the message needs to be clear: Arab leaders will keep pressuring Hamas indefinitely to disarm, but only if Mr. Abbas returns.” [WSJ]
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH: Trump’s hopes for Middle East peace deal falter — by Mehul Srivastava, Andrew England and Katrina Manson: “The US focus has shifted from the White House’s plan to create a “broad-based set of working principles” for re-establishing talks between Israel and the Palestinians, to a narrower mission of creating an environment where any proposals would at least be entertained by Palestinian and Arab leaders, a US diplomat said. An Arab diplomat said: “The Americans now seem to be prepared to withhold whatever they were planning.”
“Trump administration officials deny that the leaked details reflect their plans and insist they are on track, though it is unclear when the plan will be presented. “We’re certainly not foundering; if anything we’re actually staffing up for an eventual launch. We are strategizing on the rollout of the plan to give it the best chance of success,” a senior Trump administration official said. “We are close to finishing the political part of the plan; we’re still heavily working on the economic part.” [FinancialTimes]
US seeking fundamental changes at UN agency supporting Palestinians — by Jeremy Diamond: “President Donald Trump’s administration believes the United Nations agency tasked with supporting Palestinian refugees “has perpetuated and exacerbated the refugee crisis,” a senior Trump administration official said Monday…” [CNN]
— King Abdullah affirms Jordan’s support for Palestinian cause — by Taylor Luck: “During the address, a recording of which was published by the royal court on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, the monarch stressed that Jordan had not changed its long-held position on the two-state solution. “I spoke with the president, the US administration and congress on regional challenges, and most importantly our position on Palestine,” King Abdullah said. “Our position is steadfast, it will never change,” he said.” [TheNational]
NATION-STATE LAW: Sara Greenberg, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s advisor for world communities, writes… “Nation-State law critics are misinformed: While the open, free and democratic nature of Israel was enshrined into law, there was no legal basis to ensure that Israel would also continue to be a Jewish state. During the seven-year debate surrounding the contents of the Nation-State law, there was a broad consensus that a basic law was needed to define the identity of the country and to ensure that the judiciary could not overturn fundamental principles such as the Law of Return (which grants immigration rights to Jews)… The new basic law does not, however, contradict or supersede the basic laws that protect and guarantee individual rights of all citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender.” [JPost]
Why a former Israeli military intelligence chief stands with the Druze — by Amos Yadlin: “Although the measure tilts the balance toward the Jewish identification of the state, it does not override the many checks and balances that infuse Israel’s democracy, including the sacred principle of equality.” [JTA]
REPORT: Fake Russian social media accounts sought to influence US-Israel ties: “Researchers from Clemson University found that of nearly three million posts flagged as being from fake accounts out of so-called Russian troll farms, tens of thousands of them had to do with Israel and the broader region. Sixty percent of the posts on Israel worked to bolster the relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, oftentimes while criticizing former American president Barack Obama.” [ToI; News10] • Israeli Right-wing Bot Network Exposed – and It May Be the Tip of the Iceberg [Haaretz]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s ‘NewTV’ Startup Closes $1 Billion, All Major Studios Among Investors [Variety; WSJ] • Activist investor Carl Icahn sent an open letter urging Cigna shareholders to vote against the Express Scripts deal, calling it a “$60 billion folly” [WSJ] • Are New York’s real estate families, like Ratner, Kushner and Kingston, losing their grip? [TheRealDeal] • Britain’s Centrica invests in Israeli electric vehicle start-up Driivz [Reuters] • Developer Stephen Ross scores big win against union over Hudson Yards project [NYPost] • Why The Old Way Of Doing Retail Is Collapsing, according To Adam Pritzker [Forbes]
SPOTLIGHT — Real-Estate Moguls Betting on a Hybrid of Canyon Ranch and Soho Club — by Keiko Morris:”The business, known as the Well, will combine services of medical doctors, health coaches and acupuncturists with yoga, meditation and spa services, according to its founders. The company plans to open its first location in downtown Manhattan next year, then roll it out in places like Los Angeles, London and Hong Kong. Starwood Capital Group Chief Executive Barry Sternlicht, developer Richard LeFrak, and Mitchell Moinian, a principal at Moinian Group, are among the early investors.” [WSJ]
The venture capital gold rush in real estate — by Konrad Putzier and E.B. Solomont: “After dabbling in insurance tech and investing in other real estate tech funds, the Lightstone Group launched its own fund, dubbed Torch Venture Capital, in February… Shragie Lichtenstein — whose father, David, is Lightstone’s chairman —said when he pitched the concept of launching a third-party fund to the company, he drew a graph of the public firms and REITs he believed were ignoring the tech scene. “It was obvious to everyone in the room that none of these guys were going to make a focus on tech investment,” he said.”
“Lichtenstein, who is 25 and previously worked at the hedge fund Point72 Asset Management, said the goal is not to just be “waving a checkbook.” “It’s about real, strategic value-add,” he said. “If you come to us, we’ll integrate you across our national property management platform.” While Lichtenstein declined to say how much Torch was looking to deploy, he said it will focus on startups in the late seed or Series B stage.” [TheRealDeal]
PROFILE: Mnuchin’s Right-Hand-Man Miller Is Unknown Trade War Soldier — by Saleha Mohsin: “As chief of staff and right-hand man to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, [Eli] Miller’s helping to work back-channels with Beijing in an effort to restart trade talks… The China talks are a test for Miller… His performance will contribute to the outcome of a confrontation that may shape the future of many of America’s key industries, not to mention his own career; one predecessor, Sheryl Sandberg, is now chief operating officer at Facebook Inc…” [Bloomberg]
MOVING ON — Gary Cohn Is Happy in the Hamptons, Golfing and Crypto Investing — by Amanda Gordon: “On Saturday night, the former Goldman Sachs president who served about a year as Donald Trump’s economic adviser joined his wife on stage at the Paddle & Party for Pink, a benefit for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor… “So I’ve been spending two thirds of my time out here, playing golf,” he said. “I’ve been working, been on the phone a bunch, looking for opportunities. I’m not on any boards officially as of this moment.”
“At this point, Rebecca Kobrin, a history professor at Columbia University working on a book on Jewish immigrant bankers titled “Credit to the Nation,” joined the conversation, telling Cohn he needs to write a book about his time in the Trump administration. “I’m writing about my time in Washington already,” Cohn said… “I’ve been talking into my tape recorder lots and lots and lots and lots of hours. I’m afraid when I listen to it it might be the same thing 35 times. But I’m going to give someone literally thousands of hours of tape.” [Bloomberg]
Hope Hicks Plots Her Next Act — by Emily Jane Fox: “As the Hicks job search continues, one suggestion that keeps coming up, according to these people, is that she set up shop with fellow former White House flack Josh Raffel. The two had worked together years ago at Hiltzik Strategies before joining forces again on Pennsylvania Avenue. Many assumed that this would be their plan… since the two are close friends and both resigned from their West Wing roles around the same time. Neither of them is opposed to the idea.” [VanityFair]
FROM READERS — Following our coverage yesterday of Senator Cory Booker’s controversial photo with BDS activists that the Senator’s office says he was tricked into taking, a few JI readers submitted their own opinions:
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: “The issue is not the picture. It is rather Cory’s failure to condemn the BDS movement. He’s admitting that he was set up, yet there’s anti-BDS legislation that AIPAC has been pushing to which Cory is not signed up to. Cory became the single largest recipient of pro-Israel financial support because of his repeated pledges, in many speeches where I personally introduced him, to protect and defend Israel always. How then have we witnessed a pattern that is deeply troubling and alarming? It began with his support of the Iran deal, continued with his opposition to the Taylor Force Act in the committee, to his condemnation of Trump’s move of the Jerusalem embassy. There can be no question that Cory has strongly shifted his positions away from the pro-Israel support to which he had committed himself. If he is to have national aspirations and wants the support of the Jewish community, then he must stop catering to extremist elements of the Democratic Party, regardless of political advantage. Cory should be looking to build bipartisan support for Israel across the aisle. It should begin by him issuing, in wake of this photograph, a full-throated condemnation of BDS.”
NORPAC President Ben Chouake tells us he accepted Booker’s explanation but thought “it was very careless” for a thoughtful and careful politician like Booker. “The picture was terrible.” Chouake said he expects the New Jersey Senator to hold a press conference to express his views on Israel and his opposition to the BDS movement to reassure the Jewish community about his commitment to Israel. “Keep in mind, the support he got in the community in 2013 was extremely enthusiastic and people were looking to him to be a champion on these issues, and I think he’s being very cautious,” the NORPAC president said, pointing to Booker’s reluctance to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act.
Chouake added: “I think Booker is going to have to work on inspiring people to want to do for him what they have done in the past. I mean, he’s fine. He is a solid vote on our issues. He’s very thoughtful and responsive when we call him. But, you know, he’s not reached yet the level of being a champion that we had hoped for. I would like to see him assume the championship, the status he’s both capable of and that we had hoped for.”
MEDIA WATCH: Jared Kushner Used To Personally Order The Deletion Of Stories At His Newspaper — by Steven Perlberg: “Jared Kushner personally ordered a software developer at his newspaper to remove stories that were critical of his friends and real estate peers… Kushner in 2012 went around the editorial leaders at the New York Observer — the newspaper he owned and operated — to mandate the removal of a handful of articles from the website, according to emails obtained by BuzzFeed News.” [BuzzFeed]
DESSERT: Old stone buildings and trendy cafes: The port city of Jaffa — by Tali Arbel: “In and around Jaffa’s famous flea market, Shuk Hapishpeshim, are streets dotted with cafes… Cafe Puaa has comfy, chic but mismatched furniture, and will sell you the plates you eat off (nearly everything is for sale). Its menu is packed with the vegetable dishes that Israeli cuisine is known for…” [AP]
BIRTHDAYS: Axios National Political Reporter, Jonathan Swan… Former US intelligence analyst, pled guilty to espionage in 1987, released from prison in 2015, Jonathan Pollard turns 64… Rabbi of a congregation in Monsey, NY, he is both a senior Rosh Yeshiva and professor of biology at Yeshiva University, expert in medical ethics, Rabbi Moshe David Tendler turns 92… Brooklyn resident, Esther Holler turns 81… Partner in the Los Angeles office of Mayer Brown, previously the US Trade Representative (1993-1996) and then US Secretary of Commerce (1996-1997), Michael (“Mickey”) Kantor turns 79… Actress who appeared in 30 films and TV shows and co-starred with Clint Eastwood in “High Plains Drifter,” Verna Bloom turns 79… Co-founder of the world-wide chain of Hard Rock Café, board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Peter Morton turns 71…
Retired Lieutenant General in the Israeli Air Force, he also served as Chief of Staff of the IDF, Dan Halutz turns 70… Former PR Director for the New York Yankees, Marty Appel turns 70… President of merchant bank Palisades Associates, Chair of the NJDC, and former CEO of Empire Kosher Poultry, Greg Rosenbaum turns 66… Spiritual leader of Agudas Israel of St. Louis since 1986, Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt turns 63… Founder and CEO of the Zimmer Children’s Museum located in the offices of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, Esther Netter turns 60… Chief development officer at Capital Camps & Retreat Center, she was previously Deputy Director of AIPAC’s Leadership Institute, Havi Arbeter Goldscher turns 39… MLB catcher since 2011, he played for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and was named Pool A MVP, Ryan Lavarnway turns 31… Social activist, writer, public speaker and the founder of a global nonprofit organization (Love for the Elderly), he has given 2 TEDx talks, Jacob Cramer turns 18… Scott Harrison…