DRIVING THE DAY — The Senate is scheduled to vote on a motion to proceed to open debate on the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 — legislation that would authorize U.S. military assistance to Israel and empower local governments to take up anti-BDS measures. However, a growing number of Democrats have announced their opposition to the legislation until the Republicans call a vote on the House-passed bills to reopen the government.
Following the lead of Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin from Maryland, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced yesterday that he will vote against the procedural vote in protest of the ongoing shutdown. McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said in response, “It would be a stunning reversal for Sen. Schumer to suddenly block security assistance to Israel simply because he can’t work out his differences with President Trump on an unrelated matter.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) claimed on Monday that Senate Democrats are using the shutdown as a cover for divisions within the Democratic caucus over the anti-BDS measure. “A huge argument broke out at [a] Senate Dem meeting last week over BDS,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. “A significant number of Senate Democrats now support BDS and Dem leaders want to avoid a floor vote that reveals that.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who serves with Rubio on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, disputed that characterization. “You know it isn’t true that ‘a significant number of Senate Dems support BDS’. [It’s] really dangerous to play politics with support for Israel,” Murphy tweeted.
A Senate Democratic source tells Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh: “Rubio’s tweet is inaccurate and doesn’t portray the meeting as it happened, which its focus was, amongst the caucus, to do everything possible to reopen the government, and not hold agencies that have nothing to do with paying for a wall hostage. If we’re going to be voting on stuff that has already passed the House, it should be the bill that reopens the government. This is more of a distraction attempt. Re-open the government and then consider all the bills that are brought to the floor.”
AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann emails us: “We strongly support this legislation which contains pro-Israel provisions that have previously gained wide bipartisan support – and we urge the Senate to move as quickly as possible to adopt it.”
Anti-BDS Bill Battles up Senate Hill — by Armin Rosen: “Hill sources have confirmed to Tablet that the meeting in the question occurred last Thursday and that the anti-BDS measure was discussed.” [Tablet]
DRIVING THE CONVO — A week into her first term in Congress, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) faces criticism from fellow Democrats for suggesting that members of Congress supporting pro-Israel legislation may not put their own country’s interests first, but instead are more loyal to Israel. “They forgot what country they represent,” Tlaib tweeted on January 6.
“Questioning the loyalty of Members of Congress or suggesting dual loyalty is unfair, and it is dangerous,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) told Jewish Insider. “We all swear an oath to the Constitution. And just as we fight for freedom and equality, we also have the right to defend one of our closest allies against efforts to isolate them and damage any prospects for peace through a two-state solution.”
In her tweet, Tlaib also charged that supporters of the pro-Israel package should take “a refresher on our U.S. Constitution” and “then get back to opening up our government instead of taking our rights away.” Tlaib echoes the concern of some detractors of the bill, in particular, that it infringes on First Amendment rights.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) replied to Tlaib’s implication of dual loyalty in an email to Jewish Insider, “That’s pretty rich that someone who literally wore a Palestinian flag at her victory party is lecturing about dual loyalty.” [JewishInsider]
The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) tweeted, “We oppose your charge of dual loyalty” to Tlaib on Monday. “It’s wrong, dangerous, and hurts the cause of peace. Whether one supports a particular bill or not, it’s offensive to insinuate that senators would be driven by anything other than the best interests of the U.S.”
Abe Foxman emails us: “Tlaib‘s anti-Semitic trope is sad but not surprising. This anti-Semitic canard has been part of the pro-Palestinian propaganda for years that enveloped the Congresswoman in the community she grew up in. That is the classic anti-Semitic charge of dual loyalty. It is crucial that there be a strong bi-partisan rejection of this outrageous expression.”
LONG READ — How the murders of two elderly Jewish women shook France — by James McAuley: “If the old anti-Semitism was associated with France’s Catholic far right, which has hardly disappeared, the “new anti-Semitism” is today used almost exclusively to describe Muslim hatred of Jews. In that sense, many on the left believe that “naming the problem” actually makes it worse, enshrining difference in a society that officially recognizes none, and repeating the kind of racial stereotypes that only exacerbate social divisions. But others, both on the right and in the Jewish community, ask whether Attal and the other French Jews who have been killed since 2003 are collateral damage in an egalitarian social project that was always doomed to fail. They often decry what they call “ostrich politics,” what they see as the willful blindness of the left with regard to Islam.” [TheGuardian]
AOC WATCH — Mark Cuban says he’s a ‘big fan’ of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and hopes she can ‘set a different tone’ in Washington — by John Haltiwanger: “Mark Cuban is a “big fan” of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and thinks it’s “great that she wants to be radical.” But he’s also calling on her to break from the “partisan approach” that [represents] U.S. politics today. “She has a real opportunity to be one of the game changers,” Cuban told Business Insider of Ocasio-Cortez on Monday. “I hope she takes on the challenge.” [BusinessInsider]
TOUR OF THE REGION — Pompeo, in Cairo speech, to rebuke Obama’s Mideast vision — by Nahal Toosi: “In his speech, to be given in Cairo, Pompeo plans to repudiate the Middle East vision of former President Barack Obama, who famously delivered an address to the broader Muslim world while in Egypt in 2009. Pompeo will slam Obama’s engagement with Iran, sources told POLITICO, while asserting that President Donald Trump has the region’s best interests at heart… Two people outside the administration who have been briefed on the speech… said the drafts so far had a distinctly anti-Obama flavor.”
“Pompeo is stopping in Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait. A visit to Iraq is also possible, as is a stop in Israel.” [Politico]
Iran Has Held U.S. Navy Veteran Since July, Family Says — by Rick Gladstone: “The imprisonment of the veteran, Michael R. White, 46, from Imperial Beach, Calif., could further complicate relations between the United States and Iran… At least three other American citizens, two of them of Iranian descent, have been incarcerated in Iran for years… In addition, the United States has repeatedly asked Iran for information concerning the whereabouts of Robert A. Levinson, a former F.B.I. agent who disappeared in the country in 2007. His family in the United States has held out hope that he is alive.”[NYTimes]
DAYLIGHT — Erdogan rebukes Bolton over Kurdish militia comments — by Steve Holland and Orhan Coskun:“President Tayyip Erdogan said John Bolton, who met Turkish officials in Ankara on Tuesday but left Turkey without holding expected talks with the president, had “made a serious mistake” in setting conditions for Turkey’s military role after the U.S. pull-out… A senior Turkish official said Bolton had asked to see Erdogan, and that his earlier remarks may have been a factor in the meeting not going ahead. Erdogan later told reporters there was no need for him to meet Bolton.” [Reuters; DailySabah]
— “We cannot accept Bolton’s messages given from Israel,” the Turkish president said.” [CNBC]
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — John Bolton Walked Back Syria Statement. His Disdain for Debate Helped Produce It — by Mark Landler and Helene Cooper: “Mr. Bolton, officials said, was surprised by the timing of Mr. Trump’s announcement, which contradicted his own pledge in September to keep American troops in Syria. Faced with the president’s abrupt declaration… Mr. Bolton felt compelled to talk his boss into slowing down the process… “Bolton is trying to salvage the situation, but he’s unable to do so, because everyone in the region will question whether he is speaking for himself or for the president,” said Martin Indyk… Mr. Bolton, officials said, has put his energy into keeping the ear of the president. His strategy has worked on some issues, like withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, but less so on others, like maintaining a presence in Syria to counter Iranian influence.” [NYTimes]
HAPPENING TONIGHT AT 9PM — The major television networks — CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS and Fox broadcast network— all said on Monday that they had agreed to the White House’s request to air President Donald Trump’s prime time address on border security. This is Trump’s first time using the setting for an address to the nation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement that they should be given an equal amount of time to respond.[CSPAN]
TRANSITIONS — Richard Goldberg, a GOP foreign policy expert, is joining the White House’s National Security Council as its new Director for Countering Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction. Goldberg was the lead Congressional staff negotiator for sanctions on Iran prior to the nuclear deal in 2015 in his capacity as deputy chief of staff and senior foreign policy adviser to former Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). [JewishInsider]
Former Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) have joined Akin Gump, an international law firm, as senior advisors in the firm’s public law and policy practice in Washington, DC.
SIGHTING — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Dina Powell and Eli Miller were spotted having dinner together at Cafe Milano last night. h/t Playbook
SCOTUS WATCH — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Misses Supreme Court Arguments — by Adam Liptak: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who underwent cancer surgery last month, was missing from the bench on Monday for the Supreme Court’s first arguments since the court returned from its four-week holiday break. Justice Ginsburg… has never before missed an argument in her 25 years on the court. Kathleen Arberg, a court spokeswoman, said Justice Ginsburg was working from home.” [NYTimes; WSJ]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Israel’s Netanyahu Demands to Confront His Accusers Publicly — by Ivan Levingston: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday demanded that he be allowed to confront former close aides who have turned state’s witness in several corruption cases against him, even inviting them to a public debate. The Israeli leader… said he’s “4000 percent sure” that he’s innocent of the allegations against him, playing on the name for one of the investigations against him, known as Case 4000… “What do they have to be afraid of, what do they have to hide?” Netanyahu asked in a prime-time announcement.” [Bloomberg]
HOW IT PLAYED — Netanyahu, Feeling Heat, Grabs Spotlight to Assail ‘Witch Hunt’ Investigation — by David Halbfinger: “The announcement set Israel abuzz with suspense late Monday afternoon: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a “dramatic statement” to deliver at 8 p.m., at the start of the most heavily watched news hour. Would it be about Iran? Hezbollah? Hamas? The Trump peace plan? The subject, it turned out, was an existential threat not to Israel, but to Mr. Netanyahu’s career.” [NYTimes] • Critics pan Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘dramatic address’ [LATimes]
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Newsweek’s Marc Schulman:“Now we have a person that both the police and the prosecutor’s office said should stand trial for three different cases… and in Israel we are going to ask if we want to elect him once again as Prime Minister? That’s crazy, that’s just crazy.” [Newsweek]
ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — The New Right party announced that deaf rights activist Shirley Pinto will be joining its list as the first-ever deaf Knesset candidate… Maj. Gen. (ret.) Uzi Dayan announced his candidacyfor the Likud’s primary elections, eying the defense ministry portfolio in the next government… Labor Party chair Avi Gabbay visited Abu Dhabi in early December and met with senior UAE officials to boost his foreign policy credentials, Barak Ravid reports…
2020 WATCH — Democrat Beto O’Rourke Plans Solo Road Trip to Meet Voters Outside Texas — by Reid Epstein and Ken Thomas: “Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke is asking aides to create an itinerary for him to take a solo road trip outside of Texas where he would “pop into places” such as community college campuses, as he considers whether to enter the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.” [WSJ]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: SoftBank to slash planned WeWork investment[FinancialTimes; WSJ] • Salesforce’s Marc Benioff unplugged for two weeks, and had a revelation that could change the tech industry[CNBC] • Elliott makes $2 billion bid for US oil producer QEP Resources [FinancialTimes; Reuters] • CBS News, in Need of Fixing, Turns to Susan Zirinsky [NYTimes] • Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. picked Sheepshead Bay shopping center from the LeFrak Organization for more than $38 million[TheRealDeal] • Hill-Rom, Wells Fargo’s VC invest in Israel’s EarlySense[Reuters] • After default in Tel Aviv, Boaz Gilad resigns from Brookland holding company [TheRealDeal]
STARTUP NATION — Israel’s ‘startup nation’ is under threat from the tech giants that nurtured it — by Matthew Kalman: “Michael Eisenberg, a partner at the venture capital firm Aleph, whose investments include Israeli-driven companies like WeWork and Wix… says a number of Israeli companies that have successfully grown big—including Check Point, Nice, and IronSource—give him confidence that Israel can mature into a “scale-up nation.” But he is concerned that the expanding presence of multinationals could slow that growth. There is certainly evidence to suggest that the influx of multinational interest and investment is taking the fizz out of Israel’s startup ecosystem. The number of startups founded each year is falling, while the number that close each year is rising.” [TechnologyReview] • Here’s why Amazon would buy an obscure Israeli company that specializes in disaster recovery [CNBC]
PROFILE — Planned Parenthood’s New President Wants To Focus On Non-Abortion Health Care — by Ema O’Connor: “Leana Wen, 35, is only about two months into her tenure as the new head of Planned Parenthood, but she hit the ground running with this new campaign that sent the clear message: Planned Parenthood is first and foremost a health care organization, not a political symbol… But some Democratic strategists are concerned that Wen’s shift to focusing on health care over politics is a sign Planned Parenthood is backing away from the fight. “It’s a symbol of fatigue, the battle has been a tough one and they’re tired,” Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic campaign consultant… told BuzzFeed News. “If you publicly project that you’re no longer an advocate but a provider of medical services, the presumption is the bad guys will no longer beat you up because you’re no longer poking a stick in their eyes all the time.” [BuzzFeed]
Therapist Sees Herself on TV’s ‘Billions,’ Except for One Thing — by Simone Foxman: “Like many on Wall Street, Denise Shull has been a regular viewer of Showtime’s “Billions.” … But there’s one similarity she says she can’t get over: Dr. Wendy Rhoades, the performance coach at fictional hedge fund Axe Capital who works with the firm’s traders… That character is an “unauthorized rip-off,” Shull, who’s also a performance coach for traders, claimed in a lawsuit filed last month… Shull, 59, doesn’t work at a hedge fund, but says a fictionalized version of herself did in her 2012 book, “Market Mind Games: A Radical Psychology of Investing, Trading and Risk.” She claims in her lawsuit that “Billions” creators, including Andrew Ross Sorkin, Brian Koppelman and David Levien, borrowed heavily from the book without compensating her.” [Bloomberg]
TOP QUOTE — Michael Douglas, who won the Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy award at the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards dedicated his award to his father: Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, who is 102 years old. “Altacockers rule,” the younger Douglas said in his acceptance speech, using the Yiddish term for old person. [NBCNews]
DESSERT — Why Andy Warhol’s Brillo pads — and a million other things — are kosher — by Menachem Wecker: “Warhol’s Brillo boxes with the OU symbol — currently on display in New York in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s retrospective “Andy Warhol — From A to B and Back Again” — reflects how ubiquitous kashrut… has become in the United States, according to Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher… Even if kosher certification isn’t needed, some companies still want it as a selling point for their products. “They’re looking to emphasize this standard of quality, which the OU symbol represents,” Genack said.” [ReligionNews]
The Art Museum Neighborhood in Philly Gains a Vegetarian Chinese Restaurant — by Rachel Vigoda: “The family behind Su Xing House, the long-running vegetarian Chinese restaurant on Sansom Street in Center City, just opened another meat-free Chinese eatery. Unit Su Vege is in its first week at 2000 Hamilton Street, right by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the city’s flagship Whole Foods. The new restaurant is also kosher, with several vegan and gluten-free options.” [EaterPhilly]
REMEMBERING — Norman Birnbaum, left-wing sociologist and journalist with the Nation, dies at 92 — by Harrison Smith: “Norman Birnbaum, a left-wing sociologist and journalist who championed progressive causes on both sides of the Atlantic, helping establish the New Left Review in Britain and serving as a veteran member of the editorial board at the Nation, died Jan. 4 at a Washington hospital… Norman Birnbaum was born in Manhattan on July 21, 1926, and raised in the Bronx. His mother was a homemaker, and his father — the son of a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe — was a high school teacher who subscribed to the Nation and the New Republic…In part as a result of graduate work in Germany and his years teaching in Britain, Dr. Birnbaum maintained a vast circle of friends and acquaintances that included German statesman Willy Brandt, “liberal lion” Edward M. Kennedy, philosophers Isaiah Berlin and Iris Murdoch, and fellow journalists Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz.” [WashPost]
BIRTHDAYS: Talmudic scholar living in Bnei Brak, Israel, widely acclaimed as the leader of the Haredi community, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky turns 91… Voice actor, television, film and stage actor and comedian, Larry Storch turns 96… Moscow-born classical pianist, living in the US since 1987, Vladimir Feltsman turns 67… Founder and chief investment officer of Pzena Investment Management, a NYC-based investment firm with $36 billion in assets under management, Richard “Rich” Pzena turns 60… Co-founder and co-owner of Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mark Gold turns 56… Founder and president of DC-based Professionals in the City, he is a leading DC party planner, Michael Karlan turns 51… Lobbyist, attorney, patron of contemporary art and philanthropist, she is the founder and CEO of lobbying firm, Invariant, Heather Miller Podesta turns 49… Former State Senator in Maine (2008-2016), Justin Loring Alfond turns 44… Director of public policy and strategic partnerships for CareDotCom, she was previously deputy director of the White House Council on Women and Girls for President Obama, Avra Siegel turns 37… Dayton, Ohio native, former deputy editor of Newsweek, he was previously at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Ross M. Schneiderman turns 37…