Daily Kickoff: Anti-BDS vote fails in Senate | Rod Rosenstein plans departure | The Pritzkers’ journey from Clinton, Iowa to Chicago
ON THE HILL — A motion to proceed with debate on the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 — legislation that incorporates four bipartisan bills, including the reauthorization of the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the U.S. and Israel in 2016, and a measure that would empower state and local governments to counter the BDS movement — was defeated in the Senate (56-44) after the Republicans failed to get the 60 votes needed.
Four Democratic Senators — Bob Menendez (NJ), Joe Manchin (WV), Doug Jones (AL) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) — voted in favor of the motion. Manchin’s spokesperson Jonathan Kott told Jewish Insider that the Senator voted in favor of the motion to proceed because “he supports the bill.”
HEARD ON THE SENATE FLOOR — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA): “I am the co-sponsor of one of the bills that are before us — a U.S.-Israel security assistance bill — and strongly, strongly supportive of Israel. But as passionate as I have been for the security of the nation of Israel, I’m every bit as passionate about the security of the United States, and I think the first business of this Senate should be to reopen the government.”
The 2020 foreign policy fight is on in Congress — by Josh Rogin: “The fight over Israel raging on Capitol Hill is… a fight Senate Republicans seem to have picked intentionally… “First and foremost, McConnell is pushing Democrats to take a position on BDS,” a senior Senate aide told me… A Senate Democratic aide told me that while it’s true Democrats debated the issue in a caucus meeting last week, Rubio was resorting to “Trumpesque tactics” by claiming a “significant number of Senate Democrats” now support the BDS movement.”
“One could argue that progressive Democrats scored a success in stopping pro-Israel legislation they opposed. But many observers think progressive Democrats stepped right into McConnell’s trap by turning the issue into an internal caucus fight… But the Democratic leadership is in a bind. They can use the shutdown to avoid voting directly on anti-BDS legislation for now. But when it eventually comes up, it will likely pass (in some form) with the support of Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi… And each of the dozen or more Democratic lawmakers potentially running for president will have to take a position, one that either hurts them with progressives in the primary or moderates in the general election… McConnell is attempting to show that, on Israel, Republicans are actually largely in agreement, whereas Democrats have a growing problem.”
NEXT UP — “Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the new ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will introduce a companion to the McConnell-Rubio package in the House this week. But the House leadership has no intention of taking it up… Rather, they will bring the Syria bill — known as the “Caesar Bill,” after the Syrian activist who risked his life to expose Bashar al-Assad’s atrocities — to the House floor by itself Thursday. The House Democrats’ idea is to… highlight the mess that Trump has made by announcing a hasty U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria.” [WashPost]
— Dan Shapiro tweets: “If you care about bipartisan support for Israel, you shouldn’t support tactics like this that transparently aim to make Israel a political football. Bills that have strong bipartisan support can easily be advanced when legislators deal with each other on the level.”
Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) was elected to replace former Sen. Bob Corker as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. Republicans Mitt Romney (UT), Ted Cruz (TX) and Lindsey Graham (SC) were also added as new members of the SFRC.
HAPPENING TODAY — The oldest synagogue building in DC — the original home of Congregation Adas Israel — will see its third move since it was first built in 1876, as special mover trucks will roll the building down at the site of the new Capital Jewish Museum at the corner of 3rd and F Streets NW. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and local lawmakers will deliver remarks as the building arrives at its new location.
SHUTDOWN WATCH — Trump’s National Address Escalates Border Wall Fight — by Peter Baker: “President Trump doubled down on one of the biggest gambles of his presidency on Tuesday night with a televised appeal to pressure Congress into paying for his long-promised border wall, even at the cost of leaving the government partly closed until lawmakers give in… In their own televised response on Tuesday night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, accused the president of stoking fear and mocked him for asking taxpayers to foot the bill for a wall he had long said Mexico would pay for.” [NYTimes]
Ann Coulter tweeted last night: “CNN’s John King wants to know why GOP governors aren’t rushing onto TV to support Trump. I want to know why Netanyahu isn’t.”
— RJC’s Matt Brooks replied: “What’s wrong with you?? Please get help!”
Worth noting: As Coulter’s influence in this WH dwindles— the President and his children have unfollowed her on Twitter in recent weeks— other media personalities more publicly supportive of his agenda have risen.
Jared Kushner is telling senators that public support will shift toward Trump after speech — by Manu Raju: “Among those making calls to senators is Trump administration official Jared Kushner, who has called at least one Democratic senator… Kushner’s message: Public support will grow for the border wall after Trump’s speech and his Thursday visit to the border.” [CNN]
PALACE INTRIGUE — Gabriel Sherman reports: “Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have been underwhelmed with [Mick] Mulvaney’s political skills, two people familiar with their thinking said. The sources said Jared and Ivanka have discussed recruiting Blackstone executive Wayne Berman to serve as White House strategist, but so far Berman hasn’t been interested a source familiar with his thinking said.” [VanityFair]
— Of Note: Berman is a Republican Jewish Coalition board member.
Rod Rosenstein expected to depart DOJ in coming weeks once new attorney general confirmed — by Pierre Thomas, Jonathan Karl, John Santucci and Mike Levine: “Rosenstein has communicated to President Donald Trump and White House officials his plan to depart the administration around the time William Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, would take office following a Senate confirmation… Rosenstein apparently had long been thinking he would serve about two years, and there was no indication that he was being forced out at this moment by the president.” [ABCNews]
PODCAST PLAYBACK — J.B. Pritzker, who is going to be sworn in as Governor of Illinois next week, discussed his family’s first experience with HIAS, a Jewish humanitarian organization founded in 1881, on The Axe Files podcast with David Axelrod: “My family arrived in this country in 1881 and interestingly, President Trump just was attacking an immigrant organization called Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society that’s still today operating and helping people, refugees [and] immigrants.”
Axelrod: Wasn’t that the group that infuriated that guy who attacked the synagogue in Pittsburgh?
Pritzker: “Yes. The fellow who was the cause of so many deaths at Squirrel Hill was railing against the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. That organization’s been around for more than a hundred years, and as it happens, in its earliest years, my family benefited from the amazing work that they do — arriving here with nothing, escaping from the pogroms in Ukraine. They originally were sponsored by a family in Clinton, Iowa.”
Axelrod: Were there Jews in Clinton, Iowa?
Pritzker: “As a matter of fact, there were. Apparently, they may have been the only Jews in Clinton, Iowa, and that may still be the only record of a Jew living in Clinton, Iowa. But they arrived and then found out there were no jobs available in Clinton, Iowa, and so they said, ‘Well, where’s the nearest big city so we can go find a job?’ And they pointed toward Chicago and so they got back on the train and came to Chicago.” [AxeFiles] • Pritzker seeks higher salaries to attract top Cabinet talent [WIFR]
STATE-SIDE — Florida’s ag commissioner sworn in on nation’s first Hebrew Bible — Yonat Shimron: “Nikki Fried, the lone Democrat to win statewide office in Florida, was sworn in as commissioner of agriculture using the first Hebrew Bible published in America. Fried, the first Jewish woman to serve in the post in the Sunshine State, called the University of Florida, her alma mater, to ask if there was a special Bible she could use for the occasion… The library owns a two-volume Hebrew Bible dating to 1814… “As the first Jewish woman elected statewide in Florida and an unapologetic Florida Gator I could not be more honored to be sworn in with the first Hebrew Bible printed in the United States from University of Florida’s Judaica Library,” said Fried in a statement.” [ReligionNews]
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel tells staff he’s being suspended over massacre response — by Julie Brown: “Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, the object of fierce criticism over BSO’s handling of the Parkland massacre, told his top commanders that he will be removed from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis… DeSantis, who was sworn in Tuesday morning, had not made a formal announcement of a possible suspension.” [MaimiHerald]
Tarrant County Republicans To Vote On Whether To Oust Muslim Vice Chair: “North Texas Republicans are set to decide if they should remove a Muslim vice party chairman following allegations that he prefers Islamic over U.S. law and opposes the GOP’s pro-Israel stance… Some party members have speculated that fundraising efforts will be drained altogether if [Shahid] Shafi is removed, jeopardizing the party’s 2020 campaign. The Tarrant County GOP executive committee will decide Thursday whether to remove Shafi from the post.” [CBSDallas]
TOP TALKER — Conference of Presidents ‘Warns’ ZOA Over Tactics — by Gary Rosenblatt: “In a confidential and first-ever such ruling, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has issued a “written warning” to a member group, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), for violating an internal ban against “insults, ad hominem attacks and name-calling … directed against the Conference of Presidents, its member organizations or their leaders.” … In its five-page report, which noted the difficulty of navigating the “tension between free speech and civil discourse,” the committee listed eight examples, among many others, of public comments made by ZOA since 2015 that it considered in violation of its Statement on Civil Discourse.”
“Mort Klein called on the Conference to rescind the warning and to investigate “the leak of the confidential committee decision to The Jewish Week” and sanction the party responsible for it. “We will consider all our options regarding this entire matter,” Klein said.” [JewishWeek]
Daniel Gordis responds to Jonathan Weisman and Peter Beinart… “The American ‘Zionist’ assault on Israel: To heal the rift… there is much that Israelis will have to change about themselves and the ways in which they view and assess Diaspora Jewish life. By the same token, though, if American Jewish progressives want Israelis to be in dialogue with them, it is time to end the assumption that the repository of morality, wisdom and decency resides exclusively on the Western edge of the Atlantic.” [ToI]
ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman warned on Monday that a foreign state “intends to intervene” through cyber attacks in the April 9 elections… Russia denied it’s behind any interference… Netanyahu will likely meet with President Trump while in DC for the AIPAC Policy Conference around March 24, according to a report on Israel Hayom’s front page… Netanyahu tried to sell his innocence with an Instagram meme blitz yesterday… Meanwhile, former IDF chief Benny Gantz is trailing Netanyahu by 3 points in suitability for prime minister (38-41) — the closest anyone has been to Netanyahu in 10 years — in a News 10 poll… Launching Yesh Atid election campaign, and trying to establish himself as the leading challenger to the Likud leader, Yair Lapid vowed to oust ‘dangerous’ Netanyahu…
Benny Avni writes… “Netanyahu is his own worst enemy: The contest in Israel’s general election in April will likely be between a successful statesman named Benjamin Netanyahu and a failing, small-ball tactician named Bibi.”[NYPost]
SIGHTING — GOP political fundraiser Lisa Spies hosted a Republican women’s lunch honoring Lara Trump at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC yesterday. h/t Playbook
2020 WATCH — Wall Street executives are hearing from Democrats as they gauge interest in possible 2020 presidential campaigns — by Brian Schwartz: “Wall Street executives have heard from several potential 2020 Democratic candidates for president, including Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, as recently as last month… Billionaire and Blackstone Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Gray, and CEO and founder of 32 Advisors Robert Wolf… are just a few of the Democratic financiers who have spoken with 2020 hopefuls about a wide range of topics, including the upcoming campaign… Wolf, a former advisor to former President Barack Obama… said he had been in touch with 2020 hopefuls – but declined to name the individual lawmakers.”[CNBC]
In Politico Playbook: “A number of the Democratic 2020 hopefuls are starting to court Democratic megadonor Haim Saban, according to a friend of his. A spokesman for Saban… declined to say who at this point had reached out to him.”
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork rebrands to We Company, reveals details of SoftBank deal [FastCompany] • Sumner Redstone Settles Legal Battle With Ex-Confidante [Bloomberg] • Billionaire Henry Kravis Asks $46 Million for Colorado Ranch [WSJ] • Facebook culture described as ‘cult-like’, review process blamed [CNBC] • Last-minute deal could save Sears after liquidation by a firm run by retail magnate Jay Schottenstein seemed imminent [Bizjournals; FinancialTimes] • Kosher high-tech office lures Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox [YahooNews] • Mobileye leads Israeli charge into China’s autonomous car market [BusinessInsider]
Palm Beach used to be a nice town for billionaires. Then Trump came along — by Roxanne Roberts: “Many of the [Mar-a-Lago] club’s original members, primarily Jewish Democrats, have left, replaced by an eclectic mash-up of business executives, socialites and groupies.” [WashPost]
SPORTS BLINK — Israel Cycling Academy confirms merger talks with WorldTour teams — by Andrew Hood: “There is speculation that Israel Cycling Academy might merge with the British superteam in 2020. Sylvan Adams, the flamboyant real estate billionaire who owns Israel Cycling Academy(ICA), is determined to bring his team to the Tour de France by 2020.”[VeloNews]
This Is The Sabra Sport GT – The First Israeli Sportscar: “The Sabra Sport GT built holds the unique distinction of being the only production Israeli sports car ever made, it was built by Autocars Co. Ltd – Israel’s first domestic car manufacturer. The company was founded in 1957 by Yitzhak Shubinsky to build light trucks and utilitarian cars in Israel, with an eye to exporting them to the lucrative U.S. market to bring much needed foreign currency into the country… Today the Sabra Sports is remembered as a bit of an historical oddity, it’s not known exactly how many survive but interestingly there are a number still on the road in Belgium.” [Silodrome]
Yankees’ Randy Levine is related to Marie Antoinette — by Cindy Adams: “For Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year’s Mindy did her husband Yankees president Randy Levine’s exhaustive historical genealogical ancestral sociological antediluvian DNA background… She discovered that on his mother’s side, Levine is related to Marie Antoinette!” [PageSix]
Itzhak Perlman talks to Marc Myers about how he became a star on TV at age 13: “In 1958, when I was 13, my mother and I traveled to New York so I could appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show” for the first time. I wasn’t nervous, just a little anxious. I played for only three minutes. I became known nationally overnight. I played fundraisers for many Jewish organizations. That’s how I made a living at first. My TV appearance led to an opportunity to audition at the Juilliard School of Music… After I was accepted at Juilliard, my mother and I lived in a hotel in downtown Manhattan for a couple of weeks… Neither of us spoke English. It was a very depressing time. My mother insisted we eat only kosher food. Fortunately, there was a kosher deli next to the hotel. For three weeks I lived on french fries, hot dogs and 7UP. I loved it.” [WSJ]
No more than 1 wife: Israel looks to tackle Bedouin polygamy — by Isabel Debre: “Israel is now trying to end the old custom, for the first time prosecuting suspected Bedouin polygamists. But many Bedouins, who complain of systematic neglect and discrimination by successive Israeli governments, see only a ploy to curb their population growth and criminalize their community members.” [ABCNews]
TALK OF THE NATION — Civil Rights Award Rescinded From Angela Davis After Jewish Community Objections — by Sherrel Wheeler Stewart: “The Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award is supposed to honor the civil rights leaders legacy and raise funds for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. But after some members in the city’s Jewish community objected to giving the award to human rights activist Angela Davis, this year’s award presentation is derailed and the community is divided. In October, the board announced it would honor Davis at a February event. Now, it says, the award presentation is cancelled because Davis’ statements and public record do not “meet all of the criteria on which the award is based.”[NPR]
Israel awards Patriots owner Kraft the ‘Jewish Nobel’ prize — by Aron Heller: “New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been awarded Israel’s 2019 Genesis Prize in recognition of his philanthropy and commitment to combatting anti-Semitism… Kraft, who grew up in an observant Jewish home, has been an outspoken supporter of Israel and has arranged trips for NFL Hall of Famers to the Holy Land. His prize money will be donated to initiatives combatting anti-Semitism, other forms of prejudices and what they said were attempts to delegitimize Israel… Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to present Kraft the award in Jerusalem in June.” [AP]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Painting looted by Nazis returned to Jewish heirs in Germany: “Officials have returned a painting looted by the Nazis to the heirs of a Jewish French politician and resistance figure who was executed during World War II. “Portrait of a Seated Young Woman” by Thomas Couture, which belonged to Georges Mandel, was discovered in late collector Cornelius Gurlitt’s art trove while German authorities were investigating a tax case in 2012… Culture Minister Monika Gruetters pledged at Tuesday’s handover to Mandel’s relatives to do everything possible to return stolen art to its rightful owners.” [AP]
TRANSITION — Rich Benenson was elected as Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s next managing partner effective July 1, 2019.
DESSERT — The Israeli Subscription Box Company Doing Its Apolitical Best — by Shira Feder: “For some 1,000 Diaspora Jews (and Matana subscribers), [Emily] Berg is now the face of Israel’s small businesses. “It’s a pretty cliche story,” says Berg, the founder of Matana, a subscription box dedicated to supplying Diaspora Jews with goods from Israeli small businesses for $40 a month… Berg’s Matana customers are 70% American, 25% Canadian and 5% European.” [Forward]
BIRTHDAYS: Novelist Judith Krantz turns 91… Law professor at Georgetown University, he was a high-ranking HHS official during the Clinton Administration, a founder of New Israel Fund and board member of Americans for Peace Now, Peter Edelman turns 81… Swiss politician, member of the Swiss Federal Council (1993-2002), President of the Swiss Confederation in 1999, the first woman to ever hold this position, Ruth Dreifuss turns 79… Rabbi Emeritus of Kehilath Israel Synagogue in Overland Park, Kansas, Herbert Jay Mandl turns 74… Vice Chairman of the private equity firm Gilbert Global Equity Partners, long-time executive at investment banks Schroder & Co. and its predecessor firm, Wertheim & Co., Steven Kotler turns 72… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times for 40 years, covering the US Supreme Court for most of that time (1978-2007), she is now a lecturer at Yale Law School, Linda Greenhouse turns 72… Presidential historian, spokesman for the 9/11 Commission, visiting fellow or lecturer at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, GW, Hopkins and Penn universities, Alvin S. Felzenberg turns 70…
Australian author of more than 40 books of children’s and young adult fiction, including a five book series about a 10-year-old Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied Poland, Morris Gleitzman turns 66… Former Governor of the Bank of Israel (2013-2018), she was the first woman to hold this post, Karnit Flug turns 64… London-born, now NYC-based investment banker, Joel Darren Plasco turns 48… Former Program Officer at Maimonides Fund and now at Manhattan Day School, Allison Liebman Rubin… Former contestant on the third season of NBC’s “The Voice,” now a contributing writer at The New Yorker, writer of many articles on Syria and Iraq, Ben Taub turns 28… Strategic growth manager at real estate firm Compass, she was an associate at DC-based Bluelight Strategies, Madeline Peterson turns 27… Television and film actress, she starred in 2014’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and is the daughter of businessman Nelson Peltz, Nicola Peltz turns 24…