Ed note: There will be no Daily Kickoff on Monday in honor of Presidents Day. Have a wonderful weekend.
TO CLOSE THE WEEK — Fareed Zakaria writes… “Anti-Semitism has spread through the Islamic world like a cancer: I don’t know what is in the hearts of [Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib]. But I believe that Muslims should be particularly thoughtful when speaking about these issues because anti-Semitism has spread through the Islamic world like a cancer.”
“It should be possible to criticize Israel… It should be possible to talk about the enormous political influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. I recall senators privately worrying that if they supported the Iran nuclear deal, AIPAC would target them. (Of course, this is true of other lobbies and is not the only reason senators voted against the deal.) These are legitimate issues to vigorously debate and discuss in the United States, just as in Israel. Unfortunately, by phrasing the issue as the two new representatives sometimes have, they have squandered an opportunity to further that important debate.”[WashPost]
SPOTLIGHT — Pro-Israel Group Lobbies for U.S. Aid, Funds Congressional Trips — by Julie Bykowicz and Natalie Andrews: “AIPAC arranges its trips to Israel through the American Israel Education Foundation, which has spent $16 million on visits by more than 1,400 lawmakers and their staff since 2000… Marshall Wittmann, a spokesman for AIPAC, said the ‘trips strictly adhere to the spirit and the letter of all rules regarding congressional trips.’ Some lawmakers said they appreciate AIPAC’s efforts to inform them about legislation and are in frequent contact with its 10 registered lobbyists, as well as its members who write, call and visit their offices.” [WSJ]
STATE-SIDE — Bill de Blasio doesn’t mention Rep. Omar in speech against anti-Semitism — by Rich Calder: “Mayor Bill de Blasio told an audience at the Kingsway Jewish Center that anti-Semitism is ‘alive and well in the world’ — even in New York City… He never brought up Sunday’s tweet by Ilhan Omar… The closest de Blasio came was when he said, ‘Democrats and Republicans with equal fervor need to say Israel must exist so Jewish people know they are always protected. I am progressive and I say this proudly: you can disagree with the government of Israel on any particular matter, but don’t do anything to attack the fundamental right for Israel to exist.’ The remarks appeared to satisfy the dozens of Jewish leaders who attended the event.”[NYPost]
DRIVING THE DAY — The Munich Security Conference kicks off today in Munich, Germany with the participation of Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and a Congressional delegation — called “CODEL McCain” ― led by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), alongside other world leaders. [Livestream]
SIGHTING — Ivanka Trump at the Munich airport with U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell. [Pic]
Vice President Pence makes his 1st visit to Auschwitz: “Vice President Mike Pence visited the memorial site of Auschwitz… Pence and his wife were joined by Polish President Andrzej Duda and the Polish first lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda. They began their visit Friday by walking under the notorious gate with the German words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei.'” [AP; Pic]
WARSAW SUMMIT — Vice President Pence and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to the start of a “new era” in relations between Israel and Arab countries in the Middle East during the 2-day Mideast peace and security summit in Warsaw, Poland. In a media briefing on Thursday, Netanyahu hailed as the “breaking of a taboo” 10 Arab foreign ministers agreeing to share a conference stage with an Israeli leader.
COUNTERVIEW — At Trump Forum, Countries Share a Foe (Iran) and Awkwardness (a Lot of It) ― by Katie Rogers: “Such camaraderie… did not always show itself in public. This was clear from a string of pained interactions — or lack of interaction — that began when a Saudi diplomat positioned himself about as far from Mr. Netanyahu as possible during a photograph session of the participants… And that was just what played out in public. At a private meeting on Thursday, Jared Kushner… sat at a table with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Pompeo… At the other end of the room sat a cluster of officials from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates… A Qatari official was also seated at their table. Facing Mr. Netanyahu during that meeting, those officials tried to contain themselves to cursory nods when they happened to agree with something.” [NYTimes] • Saudi Prince Says Netanyahu Deceiving Public on Peace Prospects [Bloomberg]
PR LEAK? — Netanyahu Leaks Video of Arab Leaders Blasting ‘Toxic’ Iran in Discreet Discussion — by Noa Landau: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau uploaded to the premier’s official YouTube page a video in which Arab leaders can be heard endorsing Netanyahu’s message that Iran poses the biggest threat to the region during a discussion at the Warsaw Middle East summit that was held behind closed doors. Moments after Haaretz reported on the video, it was taken down from YouTube… In the video, the Arab leaders can be heard speaking about the threat posed by Tehran is more ‘toxic’ than the Arab-Israeli conflict, and also prevents the two sides for resolving it.”[Haaretz] • Watch the entire panel, moderated by Dennis Ross, here[Video]
Dennis Ross tweeted: “At the Warsaw Conference, I conducted back to back discussions first with three Arab ministers and then with Israeli PM Netanyahu. Same room, same views of Iran’s aggressive, threatening posture in the Middle East, and unmistakable convergence of what should be done to counter it.”
Eli Lake writes… “Netanyahu Accidentally Tells the Truth: Netanyahu was right the first time. Israel and America’s Arab allies are indeed at war with Iran. And despite efforts this week to entice war-weary European allies to join the effort, for Arab and Israeli delegations the conference was a chance to further coordinate their campaign against Iran… So it’s worth asking which is worse: Netanyahu accidentally acknowledging the Arab-Israeli war against Iran, or European diplomats pretending Iran is not really at war with them?”[Bloomberg] • Pence accuses Iran of pursuing ‘another Holocaust,’ lashes out at allies [NBCNews; CSPAN]
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — In a closed session at the Warsaw summit, Jared Kushner briefed top diplomats about the much-anticipated Trump peace plan. While Kushner didn’t provide any details of the peace plan, he reportedly said that the Trump administration wouldn’t use “labels” that are “divisive” in response to a question whether the plan will include two states for two people. Netanyahu, who was present during the presentation, congratulated Kushner for being “crazy enough” to “come up with ideas.”
Netanyahu told reporters that Kushner rejected the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as a blueprint for a peace deal: “He said the Arab Peace Initiative was important at the time, but is no longer appropriate for today [because] reality has changed.”
— “An administration official said that Mr. Netanyahu had promised not to prejudge the plan before its release, and added that there was a hope the Palestinians… would do the same.” [NYTimes; LATimes]
Pence said, in a gaggle with reporters: “We’ve made it clear to all we’re determined to pursue in good faith peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It has eluded the region and the world for generations, but what people can be clear is that while there will be compromises, the United States will never compromise the safety and security of the state of Israel.”
Netanyahu leaves Poland after plane mishap delayed departure — by Aron Heller: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to spend an extra night in Warsaw after his plane was damaged following an airport mishap shortly before departure. He departed around noon Friday, marking an inauspicious ending to a turbulent visit.” [AP]
Here’s why Hindu nationalists aspire to Israel’s ‘ethnic democracy’ — by Sumantra Bose: “Netanyahu and Narendra Modi, both battling for re-election in spring 2019, share a warm rapport, and regularly refer to each other on Twitter as ‘my friend Narendra’ and ‘my friend Bibi.’ The Modi-Bibi bonhomie rests on much more than personal chemistry, or even the Israeli military-industrial complex’s significant role in servicing Indian needs. It is rooted in the profound admiration of generations of Hindu nationalists for Zionism and its product, Israel, whose model of nation-state they seek to emulate in India.” [Quartz]
ON THE HILL — House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) announced the reintroduction of the Stop the Tax Hike on Charities and Places of Worship Act, which would repeal a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 imposing a 21 percent tax on nonprofits, synagogues, religious institutions, and universities providing benefits for their employees, such as parking, transportation and meals, during a press conference on Capitol Hill. The imposition of this tax could cost the charitable sector $1.7 billion over the next decade. Nathan Diament, Executive Director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, implored Congress to “act immediately” for the repeal of “this absurd and unprecedented tax on America’s churches and charities” ahead of a tax filing deadline at the end of March.
SPOTTED LAST NIGHT — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in economy on American’s 7:05 PM flight, DCA to MIA.
IN DENVER — BBYO is holding its annual International Convention in Denver, Colorado this weekend with over 5,500 in attendance. Last night during its plenary, the group announced a $25M pledge to BBYO from Chicago industrialist Ted Perlman and his wife Harriette.
HAPPENING ON SUNDAY — Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the annual Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (COP) leadership conference at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. This year’s program will include interviews with the major candidates running for office in the April 9th election and panels about the regional challenges and Israel’s future. Benny Gantz, who is challenging Netanyahu for PM, is the only other party leader who will be delivering a speech at the conference, which runs through Thursday.
JI INTERVIEW — Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents, previewed the group’s annual gathering in Jerusalem in a wide-ranging interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
“We are going to listen to the different parties as a chance to introduce people they don’t know to them,” Hoenlein said about this year’s conference, held during election season. “You get a pretty good sense of a person in a half hour speech or in a question and answer discussion where they can’t avoid the answers so much. It’s something they value. They want to build bridges with American Jewry, they want us to know who they are and why they think that they can help address some of the very concerns of our community. So they will all talk about the stresses and strains and some of the issues that have come up.”
Hoenlein on dealing with the new Congress when it comes to Israel: “Israel cannot be seen as a left or right issue. We don’t write off anybody, any sector. There are individuals I think we can write off. I think we have to be smart and strategic in how we deal with those who are really hostile; not lump everybody together that aren’t and paint them with one broad brush. It’s not true. There are nuances and differences. Many of them operate out of ignorance. Many of them are just caught in clichés, and some of them are really hostile, and we have to identify and isolate and oppose them. I think we should try to educate and encourage the ones that may be educable and open to it.”
“But this is something we can’t afford to be partisan because the pendulum will swing back at one point and you’ll have the Democrats in the White House, and the House and Senate can move one way or another. I welcome the creation of this new Democratic group that will be pro-Israel, not Jewish, and do what many in the Republican party, evangelicals and other Christians do in standing with Israel. We can’t win if it’s just the Jewish community, and we can’t win if we apply litmus tests. What we have to do is to find the fundamentals on which we can agree on — Israel’s right to exist, Israel’s security, and fighting BDS. People can be critical of Israel and not be an anti-Semite, or else every Israeli would be an anti-Semite because there isn’t any of them that don’t criticize Israel.”
Hoenlein on 2020: “When you have 25-30 candidates, you’re obviously not going to have all of them be friendly, and I hope that the ones who are aren’t are going to be defeated.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
TOP TALKER — Trump Plans National Emergency to Build Border Wall as Congress Passes Spending Bill — by Peter Baker, Emily Cochrane and Maggie Haberman: “President Trump will declare a national emergency as early as Friday to bypass Congress and build his long-promised wall along the nation’s southwestern border… The announcement came just minutes before voting began on the spending measure, which then cleared both houses, ending a two-month war of attrition that closed much of the federal government for 35 days and threatened a second shutdown on Friday. The Senate passed it 83 to 16, and the House followed later in the evening, 300 to 128.” [NYTimes]
— The omnibus bill increases security assistance to Israel by $200 million to fully fund the first year of the new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), according to an AIPAC news release, as well as provisions to help Israel should it confront a security emergency. Other key provisions extend for two years the U.S. Defense Department’s authority to stockpile weapons in Israel, extends U.S. loan guarantees for five years should Israel face an economic emergency, and funds and expands the scope of a U.S.-Israel Homeland Security cooperation program authorized by the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act.
2020 WATCH — Joe Biden almost certain to enter 2020 race — by Amie Parnes: “In phone conversations, Biden has been making the case for why he’d be the best candidate in what is already a crowded field. ‘Here are the facts: He’s coming off a great midterm,’ said Robert Wolf, the Democratic mega-donor who confirmed he spoke to Biden on a 25-minute call on Wednesday. ‘He has been the most popular surrogate during the midterms… and that has given him a lot of confidence that he can do well in a national election.’ … Wolf said he came away from his phone call with Biden with the feeling that the former vice president is “90 percent” running.” [TheHill]
Michael Bloomberg won’t decide on 2020 until March at the earliest… Beto O’Rourke heading to Wisconsin and Illinois as 2020 decision nears… Howard Schultz’ challenge to Democrats: Nominate a centrist for president and I’ll abandon my independent campaign… Sen. Cory Booker’s presidential run leaves New Jersey lukewarm. But the Democratic candidate’s popularity beats that of former Gov. Christie during failed 2016 campaign.
The Ocasio-Cortez Effect: Wave of Challenges Hits Entrenched NY Democrats — by Shane Goldmacher: “In Manhattan, Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, could be challenged, just as a California billionaire pressures him to move to impeach President Trump… And in the Bronx and Westchester, some progressives are pushing to unseat Eliot L. Engel, a white congressman who represents a diversifying district where white residents are now in the minority — just like where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won.” [NYTimes]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Carl Icahn to push casino operator Caesars to consider selling itself [WSJ] • Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square is up 24.7 percent in 2019 [CNBC; FinancialTimes] • New York’s Moxy Chelsea, developed by Lightstone, opens as the flower district’s new secret garden [PRNewswire] • As Jeans Giant Levi Strauss Prepares To Go Public, New Billionaire Emerges [Forbes; CNBC] • How Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg helps people find their person [FastCompany] • Israel’s Fiverr Hires Citigroup, JPMorgan for U.S. IPO [Bloomberg] • Francisco Partners Offloads Israeli Surveillance Company NSO [Calcalist]
SPORTS BLINK — Adam Silver hasn’t ‘given any thought’ to inquiries by NFL owners play — by Ramona Shelburne: “NBA commissioner Adam Silver says he hasn’t “given any thought” to inquiries by NFL owners about his willingness to switch leagues and become commissioner of the NFL. While Silver did not explicitly confirm that he had been approached by NFL owners, sources close to the situation told ESPN that several NFL owners have tried to persuade Silver to run their league over the course of his five years as the NBA’s commissioner. Silver has also been approached by a number of Fortune 500 companies.” [ESPN]
PROFILE — Kosher Boots on the Ground: The Rabbi Deploying to Afghanistan With His Elite U.S. Army Unit — by Yair Ettinger: “Recently, the army announced that it would allow men to keep their beards for religious reasons… One of the first beneficiaries of the new policy is Rabbi Michael (Michoel) Harari, 37, who has served for about two years as chaplain of an elite army combat battalion. At present he lives with his wife and their six children at the Joint Base Lewis-McCord, outside Tacoma, Washington. In a conversation with Haaretz, Harari, who is also affiliated with Chabad, offers a glimpse into Jewish life today on a U.S. military base. He himself, an athletic combat-rabbi, can also be said to defy an Israeli’s stereotype of the American Jewish male… ‘My main job is as a battalion chaplain, and the second hat I wear is that of ‘post’ rabbi – for all the Jews on the base, including those in the air force. I run all the Jewish happenings on the base, which has 40,000 people. I lead minyanim on Shabbat and holidays, and classes, and things like that.'” [Haaretz]
ACROSS THE SEA — Anti-Semitism rising sharply across Europe, latest figures show — by Jon Henley: “Anti-Semitism is rising sharply across Europe, experts have said, as France reported a 74% increase in the number of offenses against Jews last year and Germany said the number of violent antisemitic attacks had surged by more than 60%. France’s interior ministry said this week that recorded incidents of antisemitism rose to 541 last year from 311 in 2017, while the German government said offenses motivated by hatred of Jews hit a 10-year high of 1,646 in 2018.” [TheGuardian]
DESSERT — Burgers at these San Fernando Valley mini-mall eateries have maximum taste — by Merrill Shindler: “Though, admittedly, a kosher burger may not be wholly over-the-top, the experience of a meal at Psy Kosher Street Kitchen sure is. I mean…wherever can you accompany your falafel burger with an appetizer called Eggplant Mess? Psy Kosher Street Kitchen sits in a Ventura Boulevard mini-mall, that also includes a sushi place… a Starbucks and much more — a very busy mini… For those in need, there’s kosher bacon’ and vegan cheese.” [LADailyNews]
WINE OF THE WEEK — Psagot Peak 2014 — by Yitz Applbaum: “Each bottle of wine has a story, a broader context. In addition to the contents of each bottle, it matters with whom you drink the wine, how you drink it and from where it came. The Psagot Winery’s founder, Yaakov, is legendary in Israel for his innovative techniques, connectedness to the land, quality of his wines and his passion for the Israeli wine industry.”
“The 2014 Psagot Peak is a wonderful wine which, has the power to transport the drinker to the vineyards of the beautiful Psagot winery. The grapes are a blend of Syrah, Petite Syrah, and Mourvèdre; the latter grape provides a wild game-like flavor and subtle spice to the wine. The nose is somewhat mysterious, which allows the drinker to create her own ideas without subscribing to any norms of this blend. This wine needs to breathe for at least an hour as it is young and vigorous and should be accompanied with a large steak.”[PsagotWines]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Burson-Marsteller’s founding Chairman, Harold Burson turns 98… Professor emeritus of American Jewish history at Columbia University, Arthur A. Goren (born Aryeh Gorenstein) turns 93… British actress, Claire Bloom, whose paternal grandfather shortened his name from Blumenthal, turns 88… Professor emeritus of Jewish Studies at Arizona State University, a scholar of Jewish philosophy, Norbert M. Samuelson turns 83… Professor of cognitive science at both the University of Michigan and Indiana University, Pulitzer Prize winner, Douglas Hofstadter turns 74… Former Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives (1991-2017), Elliott Naishtat turns 74… Cartoonist, editor, teacher at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and long-time contributing artist for The New Yorker, Art Spiegelman (born Itzhak Avraham ben Zeev) turns 71… Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, television, film and stage actress, Melissa Manchester turns 68… Host of the radio program “Jewish Moments in the Morning” since 1983, president of the Nachum Segal Radio Network, Nachum Segal turns 56…
Principal at Catalyzing Philanthropy, a boutique consulting firm, she was previously the executive director at Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation and the Washington director for the New Israel Fund, Karen Paul turns 56… Managing director of external affairs and development based in the DC office of CARE, the global poverty fighting organization, Elizabeth Ives (“Beth”) Solomon turns 53… Founder of popular liberal / progressive blog, “Talking Points Memo,” he earned a Ph.D. in American history from Brown University, Josh Marshall turns 50… Actress, writer, producer, and comedian, she won a 2018 Primetime Emmy Award for playing Susie Myerson in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Alexandrea Borstein turns 46… Director of business development at Treetop Development, Eric Distenfeld turns 39… Deputy executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Alex Siegel turns 33… Beauty pageant titleholder who represented Israel at the Miss Universe pageant in 2016, Yam Kaspers Anshel turns 21… Yogi Sanders…
SATURDAY: Business magnate and activist shareholder, Carl Icahn turns 83… Founding national director of American Friends of Lubavitch and the director of Chabad activities in Greater Philadelphia, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov turns 82… Educator, theorist, writer and professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Michael Joseph Shapiro turns 79… Ecuador-born, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County (MD), veteran of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum as counsel and director of external affairs (1988-1999), Ralph Grunewald turns 63… Secretary-General of the World Council of Religious Leaders, Bawa Jain turns 62… Editor of the Talent Network (for freelance journalists) at The Washington Post,Susan K. Levine turns 61… Marrakech, Morocco-born as Sonia Esther Lasry, co-founder, president and managing partner of Avenue Capital Group, Sonia Gardner turns 57… Co-director of “Women for Israel’s Tomorrow” (better known as Women in Green), a grassroots Israeli movement supporting settlements and annexation, Nadia Matar turns 53… Head of communications for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Media Group, Ty Trippet turns 48… Regional Director of the Northeast Region of Birthright Israel Foundation, she was previously at NYC’s Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation, Marissa Schaevitz Levey turns 35… CEO of FinePoint, a PR, communications and professional development company, Meredith Fineman turns 32… Singer-songwriter and guitarist, Danielle Haim turns 30… Amy Kurtz… Rachel Rubenstein… Eric McDonald…
SUNDAY: Former Treasurer of Massachusetts, he was President of AIPAC (1992-1996), Steven Grossman turns 73… Executive Director of HUC-JIR’s American Jewish Archives and professor of Reform Jewish History at HUC-JIR, Gary Phillip Zola turns 67… One of the most popular Israeli basketball players of all time, Miki Berkovich turns 65… Israel’s Minister of the Interior and leader of the Shas party, Aryeh Deri turns 60… Partner in the DC office of Skadden, Arps, Ivan A. Schlager turns 58… Filmmaker known for directing and producing big-budget action films including the many Transformers films, Michael Benjamin Bay turns 54… Executive director of American University’s Women and Politics Institute, she is a former executive producer of Meet the Press (2002-2013), Betsy Fischer Martin turns 49… Regional Editor of McClatchy’s East Region (overseeing nine newsrooms), Kristin Roberts turns 44… Executive Director of the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life (the Columbia / Barnard Hillel), Brian Cohen turns 41… Israeli actress, model and beauty queen who won the Miss World beauty pageant in 1998, she then proceeded to law school, Linor Abargil turns 39… Actor and filmmaker, Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns 38… Co-founder and managing director at Global Opportunity Advisor, she is a national security analyst at CNN and a senior advisor at the Biden Institute, Samantha Vinograd turns 36… Senior multi-platform editor for CNN Politics, Dianna Heitz turns 35… Miriam Schulman…
MONDAY: Democratic US Representative from New York since 1989, recently designated as Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Eliot Engel turns 72… Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Hershel Reichman turns 75… Portfolio manager at Capital Group, Hilda Lea Applbaum… Executive vice president of donor experience at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Lori Tessel turns 56… Israel’s ambassador to Romania, David Saranga turns 55… CEO of an eponymous Baltimore-based branding, marketing, PR, advertising and design firm, David F. Warschawski turns 48… Actor, screenwriter and comedian, best known for his acting roles in Neighbors (2014) and its sequel (2016), Isaac “Ike” Barinholtz turns 42… Singer-songwriter and pianist, Regina Spektor turns 39… National director of development for J Street, Adee Telem turns 38… Instagram celebrity known commonly as The Fat Jew, he is a writer, actor, model, vintner and entrepreneur, Josh Ostrovsky turns 37… National political correspondent for The Washington Post and author of The Daily 202, The Post’s flagship political newsletter, James P. Hohmann turns 32… City Planner at NYC Department of City Planning, Dylan Sandler turns 31… Capitol Hill producer at CBS News, former reporter at CBS Politics and National Journal, Rebecca Kaplan turns 31… Partner at Globatec Digital Integration, he was the Supreme Master of the Board of Governors of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the global Jewish college fraternity (2014-2016), Larry C. Leider… Scott Liebman…