TOP TALKER — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) discussed her views on Israel and BDS during an interview with Zainab Salbi: “When I see Israel institute a law that recognizes it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it, and we still uphold it as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle, because I know that if we see that in any other society we would criticize it, we would call it out.”
Omar went on to say that an “equal approach” is the only way America will succeed in achieving a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. “Most of the things that have always been aggravating to me is that we have had a policy that makes one superior to the other — and we mask it with the conversation that’s about justice and a two-state solution when you have policies that clearly prioritize one over the other,” she said.
Salbi: Some of your supporters, not all, talk about your support of the BDS movement — Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions on Israel.
Dr. Einat Wilf tweeted in response to Rep. Omar: “This goes to the core refusal to recognize the Jews as a people. The insistence by many that Jewish is a religious adjective is designed to deny the Jewish people the universal right to self determination enjoyed by other peoples in their nation states.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY): “Those poor innocent ISIS fighters & Palestinian terrorists right? Give me a break! That’s a problem no matter your religion or gender Ilhan. Your anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate is strong and wrong and those terrorists have US blood on their hands as well.”
— Omar shot back at Zeldin, replying to a supporter: “Don’t mind him, he is just waking up to the reality of having Muslim women as colleagues who know how to stand up to bullies! It’s gonna be fun watching him lose his marbles.”
Top Democrat on foreign affairs shoots down pro-Palestinian trips — by Bryant Harris: “House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) told Al-Monitor this week that he would not approve Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s proposed West Bank delegation. “Instead of her talking about things, she’s new here, she ought to listen and learn and open her mind and then come to some conclusions,” Engel told Al-Monitor. “If you’re going to be close-minded and have your views, no one’s going to change her views. But I would hope that once you’re elected to Congress, you would at least care to see the other side of the coin.” [Al-Monitor]
— However, an aide to Engel told JI on Wednesday that Tlaib “doesn’t need the approval of the HFA committee” for a CODEL since she’s not a member of the panel.
Tlaib responded to Engel on Twitter: “Yo Rep. Eliot Engel, how are we ever going to obtain peace? I hope you’ll come with me on the trip to listen and learn. My sity (grandmother) will welcome you with an embrace and love. Please feel free to call me if you have anything to say. I am your colleague now.”
Washington Institute’s Dennis Ross emails: “There is nothing wrong with a trip to the West Bank, provided it is to Israel as well. The conflict is not a morality play where one side is all right and the other is all wrong. Seeing and hearing from both sides is legitimate. Otherwise, the purpose is about promoting one side’s narrative. If the aim is scoring debating points, you go to one-side. If the aim is problem-solving and promoting understanding, you go to both.”
John Podhoretz writes… “The Left would be wise to worry about its anti-Semitic wing: The ‘very small problem’ [Mark] Mellman has in mind is a trio of newly elected Democrats: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar. They seem to have very few foreign policy views aside from a caricature of Israel as an occupying colonial force that sits up at night thinking of new ways to torment Palestinians. Such ideas haven’t arisen from nowhere. They are the full flowering of decades of leftist propaganda and fashionable campus blatherskite. From such repellent acorns mighty trees grow, as we have seen in Europe. Britain’s Labour party did little to head off the virulent Israel hatred in its ranks, and it is now headed by an out-and-out anti-Semite.” [NYPost]
— Aaron David Miller emails: “That mainstream Democrats in Congress feel the need to counter emerging progressive voices on Israel in Congress and country at large speaks volumes on the fracturing of the consensus on U.S.-Israeli ties. There now seems to be three views of Israel – aRepublican view; a mainstream Democratic and a progressive view. It’s not yet time to say kaddish for the U.S.-Israeli relationship – not by a long shot.”
Bret Stephens writes… “The Persistence of Anti-Semitism: Anti-Semites tend to have the opposite set of views, for reasons that may be repugnant but are perfectly rational. The fundamental truth about anti-Semitism isn’t that it’s necessarily crazy. It’s that it’s inevitably brutish. The conclusion to be drawn is that the enemies of the Jews, whether in Tehran or Virginia, will always be the enemies of liberalism — which is why the fight against anti-Semitism must also be a fight for liberalism.” [NYTimes]
ON THE HILL — Bipartisan coalition holds the center on foreign policy — by Josh Rogin: “Internationalist Democrats and Republicans are increasingly finding common cause, not only in promoting robust U.S. foreign policy positions but also in asserting the legislative branch’s role in national security decision-making and oversight… It’s easy to get a headline by… using an anti-Semitic trope to criticize Israel legislation, but real action on foreign policy in Congress is not found on the far left or the far right — it’s in the center.” [WashPost]
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted on Wednesday: “The 1st Amendment arguments made by ACLU and some Senate Democrats to oppose my Anti-BDS bill are baseless. The 1A applies to speech, not conduct. My Bill clearly applies only to commercial ‘activity’ by a business entity. And it does not apply to speech or personal views of individuals.”
— ACLU responded: “With all due respect, Marco Rubio — it seems like you don’t understand your own bill, or the First Amendment. That’s troubling, but we’re here to help.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told JI: “I strongly oppose the BDS movement and I believe that states, like my home state of New York, should be able to pass legislation to combat it.”
Trump blasts U.S. intelligence officials, disputes assessments on Iran and other global threats — by John Wagner and Shane Harris: “President Trump lashed out at U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday, calling them ‘extremely passive and naive’ about the ‘dangers of Iran’ … during a congressional hearing… ‘They are testing rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge,’ Trump wrote on Twitter. ‘Their economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran.'”[WashPost] • Iran Faces Worst Economic Challenge in 40 Years, President Says [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE REGION — Vice President Mike Pence is expected to be the keynote speaker at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, co-hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Polish government in Warsaw, Poland on February 13-14. “The Vice President will address the United States’ commitment to work with partners to help build a strong, secure, and economically viable Middle East,” the White House said in a statement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed his attendance at the summit on Tuesday.
REPORT — The Venezuelan opposition is expected to appoint an Ambassador to Israel, possibly even ‘in the next coming days,’ after PM Netanyahu recognized Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela, Israel’s Kann News reported on Wednesday.
SANCTIONS REGIME — How Trump’s Venezuela Sanctions Could Undercut His Iran Policy — by Keith Johnson: “The new U.S. sanctions, which could take lots of Venezuelan oil off the market, will likely make it that much harder to put the screws to Iran with tougher restrictions on Tehran’s oil sales later this spring.” [ForeignPolicy]
FOGGY BOTTOM — Never Trumpers’ Can Get State Department Jobs With Pompeo There — by Nick Wadhams and Jennifer Jacobs: “Recent months have seen Secretary of State Pompeo hire at least three previously vocal Trump critics for senior advisory roles… That list includes Elliott Abrams, who Pompeo picked last week as his special envoy to deal with the political crisis in Venezuela. Abrams’s opposition to Trump when he was running for president led the administration to block his candidacy as then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s deputy two years ago. But bygones are bygones… Abrams, like Trump, appears to have moved on. ‘I can tell you that I was over at the White House yesterday,’ Abrams said Wednesday. ‘We are all on what we call Team Venezuela, which is an effort to help the Venezuelans liberate their country from this regime.’” [Bloomberg]
DEEP DIVE — Inside the UAE’s secret hacking team of US mercenaries — by Christopher Bing and Joel Schectman: “Two weeks after leaving her position as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. National Security Agency in 2014, Lori Stroud was in the Middle East working as a hacker for an Arab monarchy. She had joined Project Raven, a clandestine team that included more than a dozen former U.S. intelligence operatives recruited to help the United Arab Emirates engage in surveillance of other governments, militants and human rights activists critical of the monarchy… ‘I am working for a foreign intelligence agency who is targeting U.S. persons,’ she told Reuters. ‘I am officially the bad kind of spy.’” [Reuters]
ROAD TO THE KNESSET — Benny Gantz made strong gains in the first opinion polls released after his inaugural campaign speech… Surveys gave his new party between 19 and 24 seats – up from around 12 to 15 in previous polls… Gantz is now on par with Netanyahu, viewed as equally suitable to serve as prime minister… President Trump’s Jerusalem move appeared in a new campaign video published by Likud on Thursday, touting Netanyahu as a leader in “another league” for getting it done… David Gardner: Benjamin Netanyahu and the looking-glass world of Israeli politics…
2020 WATCH — Beto O’Rourke weighs presidential campaign from an unusual position: front runner… Universal’s Jeff Shell to host a fundraiserfor Kamala Harris’s 2020 campaign… Harris and Cory Booker jostle for backing of black lawmakers… Michael Bloomberg wants to crush Trump with big data… Pete Buttigieg, the youngest 2020 candidate pushes a platform of ‘inter-generational justice.’
** Good Thursday 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 [email protected] **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Elliott Looks Beyond Activism to Full-Blown Takeovers [WSJ] • Starwood Seeks Funding to Chase Tax Break Sternlicht Chided [Bloomberg] • Howard Schultz’s presidential bid brews trouble for Starbucks [WSJ] • David Rubenstein’s Declaration Capital, Donaldson Group and DRA buy Silver Spring apartments [Bizjournals] • Ari Emanuel Endeavors to Sell in Mandeville Canyon [Variety] • Roman Abramovich’s Controversial Upper East Side Brownstone Construction Project [TownAndCountry] • Israel’s Largest Credit-Card Business Is Headed for a $1 Billion IPO [Bloomberg] • Israeli cloud storage firm Pliops raises $30 million [Reuters]
** A message from The Maimonides Scholars Program: Do you know a student interested in Jewish Thought, Zionism, and Philosophy? The Maimonides Scholars Program is a two-week summer institute for high school students hosted at Yale University. Our faculty members include Rabbi David Wolpe, novelist Dara Horn, historian Daniel Gordis, and former MK Einat Wilf. Students with all levels of familiarity with Jewish text study are encouraged to apply—the only prerequisite is a hunger to learn. Application deadline is February 3rd. [Visit The Maimonides Scholars Program] **
Israeli scientists say cancer cure close; doctors here are skeptical — by Michael Perchick: “A Jerusalem Post report states that a group of Israeli scientists said it believes it is on the verge of finding a cure for cancer… Despite the report, doctors who spoke with ABC11 expressed skepticism about the claims.” [ABC11; Forbes]
ON THE CIRCUIT — Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is charging a whopping $200,000 per speaking gig — by Kayla Tausche: “Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is currently quoting $200,000 and the use of a private jet for domestic speaking engagements, according to seven people with knowledge of the arrangement… Engagements outside the United States could cost considerably more.”[CNBC]
Disgraced former NY AG Eric Schneiderman now a meditation teacher — by Dareh Gregorian: “Former New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in disgrace after being accused of physically abusing four women, has an apparent new vocation — meditation teacher. A smiling Schneiderman was included in a group picture of graduates of a meditation teaching program on the Facebook page of The Path, a meditation center in New York City.” [NBCNews]
Malpass Is a Trump Finalist for World Bank President, Sources Say — by Jennifer Jacobs, Saleha Mohsin and Andrew Mayeda: “A Donald Trump loyalist, Treasury Undersecretary David Malpass, is a finalist to be the president’s choice for the next World Bank president… Trump is still interviewing candidates for the job, but several other people the White House has considered are now seen as unlikely to win Trump’s recommendation unless he changes course… A Treasury spokesman said that the U.S. search committee for the bank job is led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, his chief of staff Eli Miller and Ivanka Trump and that Malpass isn’t involved.” [Bloomberg] • Trump Met Heidi Cruz for World Bank Job But Passed on Her[Bloomberg]
PROFILE — How Trump Jr.’s Fixer Arthur Schwartz Wages War Against the Media — by Maxwell Tani: “In the nearly two years since he arrived in Washington with a new wave of Trump appointees, mid-level players, and hangers-on, Arthur Schwartz has gained a reputation as a fixer, behind-the-scenes operative, and social-media agitator with a particular specialty: shopping information on enemies and doing battle with reporters. That’s helped him forge close relationships with numerous Trumpworld officials and family members like Donald Trump Jr. The two are now so close they spent last year’s Super Bowl together. Schwartz has served as a gatekeeper for many journalists looking to get in touch with the president’s son, and has occasionally served as his bulldog when negative stories are written about him.”[DailyBeast]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Police Say ‘Empire’ Actor Jussie Smollett Attacked In Possible Hate Crime — by Colin Dwyer and Laurel Wamsley: “Jussie Smollett, one of the stars of the TV show Empire, reportedly was brutally attacked early Tuesday in what Chicago police are investigating as a possible hate crime. The 36-year-old actor took himself to the hospital directly after what police called a “possible racially-charged assault and battery”; authorities say he is in good condition… Smollett’s mother is African-American and his father is Jewish. In a 2016 interview, he calls his family ‘blu-ish — black and Jewish.'” [NPR]
SPORTS BLINK — Despite Decades Of Winning, Robert Kraft Knows Patriots ‘Might Never Be Here Again’: “It might seem like the Patriots are in the Super Bowl every year. But Robert Kraft’s message to his organization heading into this year’s game is simple – that won’t always be the case. ‘You might never be here again,’ the Patriots owner said in an interview with CBS This Morning when asked about his message to players heading into Sunday.”[CBSBoston]
DESSERT — Talenti’s New Flavors For 2019 Are All Unexpected Twists On Your Favorite Flavors — by Sami McCowan: “The new flavors were debuted yesterday as part of an entirely new line: Talenti Organic… First off, there’s Organic Ginger Matcha Gelato, which is made with green tea and ginger blended into an in organic cream, and complete with a mixture of Japanese Matcha. Then, Talenti is taking a spin on a beloved flavor with the Organic Oak-Aged Vanilla Gelato, comprised of organic, slow-cooked Madagascan vanilla gelato… ‘We know more consumers are looking for organic options — especially in the ice cream and gelato category,’ Talenti founder Josh Hochschuler explained in a statement.” [Bustle]
The Lincoln Eatery Opens in Miami With Cake Thai, Gaijin Izakaya, and Kosher Pastrami — by Laine Doss: “The people behind the New York-style deli concept Marble & Rye made a strong case for their pastrami, which they make from cuts of beef leaner than traditional deli meats. Served on pumpernickel with a half sour pickle slice and a smear of mustard, the sandwich was the perfect bite while reminiscing about Brooklyn’s Grabstein’s Delicatessen with a friend. The food is certified glatt kosher.”[MiamiNewTimes]
REMEMBERING — Morton Sobell, Last Defendant in Rosenberg Spy Case, Is Dead at 101 — by Michael T. Kaufman and Sam Roberts: “Morton Sobell, who was convicted in the Cold War spy trial that delivered Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to their deaths and divided the nation for decades, died on Dec. 26 in Manhattan… Serving 18 years in prison until 1969, Mr. Sobell asserted his innocence until 2008, when, in an interview with The New York Times, he startled his defenders by reversing himself and admitting that he had indeed been a Soviet spy… Most of the protagonists in the case, Mr. Sobell included, were Jews who became Communists during the Depression, when capitalism seemed to be lacking and the Soviets said they had outlawed anti-Semitism. They stayed committed to the cause when they spied, largely during World War II, when the Soviets were American allies against the Nazis.” [NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Cardiologist and the co-inventor of the automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator, Morton M. Mower, M.D. turns 86… Scion of a leading rabbinic family in pre-WW2 Poland, former Assistant US Solicitor General, now a private attorney with an active Supreme Court practice focused on religious liberty issues, Nathan Lewin turns 83… Classical music composer as well as acclaimed movie score composer, Philip Glass turns 82… Associate professor emeritus of Talmud and rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary, chairman of the Joint Bet Din of the Conservative Movement, Mayer Elya Rabinowitz turns 80… Corporate strategist, she is the chairperson of global management consultancy Bain & Company, Orit Gadiesh turns 68… Founder of social change organizations in Israel to promote peace, he was Chief Rabbi of Norway while also serving as a member of Knesset (1999-2009), Michael Melchior turns 65… Founder and CEO of MWWPR, a PR firm headquartered in East Rutherford, NJ, he is a top “bundler” for the Democratic party, Michael W. Kempner turns 61… Co-founder, chairman and CEO of Meridian Capital Group, a Manhattan-based commercial mortgage brokerage, Ralph Herzka turns 57… Fourth-generation real estate developer who builds upscale condominiums, typically in large east-coast US cities, he is a founding partner of Redbrick LMD, Louis Myerberg Dubin turns 56…
Classical cellist, born in Hadera, Israel, she moved to Toronto at 6 years old, her debut in Carnegie Hall was in 1982, Ofra Harnoy turns 54… Host of NPR’s news quiz “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!,” playwright, screenwriter, actor and marathon runner, Peter Sagal turns 54… Canadian-born businessman, best known for founding American Apparel, where he served as the CEO from 1989 until 2014, Dov Charney turns 50… Mayor of Efrat and chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council (the umbrella organization of mayors throughout Judea and Samaria), Oded Revivi turns 50… CEO of Atlas Obscura, an online magazine devoted to discovery and exploration, he was previously editor of online magazine Slate (2008-2014), David Plotz turns 49… Security technology executive at NYC-based DGA Security Systems, Daniel J. Oppenheim turns 43… Managing director of BerlinRosen’s New York office, Michael Rabinowitz-Gold turns 41… Vice President of insights and media strategy at Whistle Sports, Matthew Gottlieb turns 36… Film producer and founder of Annapurna Pictures, four of her movies have been nominated for Academy Awards as Best Picture, she is the daughter of billionaire Larry Ellison, Megan Ellison turns 33… Singer, who won Israel’s Kokhav Nolad (A Star is Born) song contest in 2008, Israel Bar-On turns 30… Speechwriter at the US Department of the Interior since 2017, he was previously an advance press lead for then-Candidate Trump’s 2016 campaign, Eli Nachmany turns 23 (h/t Politico)… MassChallenge Israel Program Manager and director of CEO Affairs, she was formerly social secretary for Israeli Ambassadors Oren and Dermer (2013-2016), Clara Scheinmann… MBA candidate at Yale University’s School of Management, Grant Silow...