Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: 2020 Dems and AIPAC continue to chat | Reactions to Bibi’s video speech | UAE Amb. Al Otaiba meets LA Jewish leaders

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DRIVING THE CONVO — The boycott that wasn’t: 2020 Democrats and AIPAC: Activists lobbying with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) met with a number of Democratic 2020 candidates during the three-day conference.

What’s going on — Last week, MoveOn asked on Twitter that 2020 presidential hopefuls not attend the AIPAC conference and commended absent candidates. However, no presidential hopefuls, as is AIPAC’s stated practice, were invited by AIPAC to speak on their candidacy, on stage, at the event, and at least four elected officials scheduled time with activists on the sidelines of the conference. What MoveOn had staged or goaded, simply, turned out not to be so.

2020 hopefuls who spoke to AIPAC gatherings include Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Both Booker and Gillibrand delivered remarks to activists from their respective states at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Tuesday morning. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) did not meet with AIPAC activists. However, on Tuesday, her policy staff met with a delegation of AIPAC activists from Massachusetts. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who’s reportedly mulling a run for president next year, spoke at AIPAC’s Monday morning’s plenary session.

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, while not having officially declared his candidacy, made a point to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with people at the conference, Jewish Insider reported on Tuesday.

What they said — In her remarks to several hundred activists from New York, Sen. Gillibrand said, “You’re supposed to be allowed to support the state of Israel without facing antisemitism, but the truth is antisemitism is real and it is dangerous and we must not allow it to become routine or normalized.” 

“Policy debates are a healthy bedrock of the American society,” Sen. Gillibrand continued. “To paraphrase Deborah Lipstadt, if you want to find criticism of Israel, just look at Haaretz. But those who want to criticize Israel’s government or raised issues with its policies should not be expressing their views by using antisemitic language. And that’s why I will always, and always have spoke out loudly and clearly whenever I heard such hurtful, bigoted tropes, whether they come from my own party or whether they come from across the aisle. Because the truth is enough was enough, and we can never allow antisemitism to become normalized.” [Pic]

Klobuchar tweeted
“Met today with Minnesota AIPAC to discuss policies that ensure a strong and secure Israel. We also talked about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Thanks to all who attended our meeting! – AK.” 

Insider view — Halie Soifer, Executive Director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), told Jewish Insider: “The idea that the candidates boycotted the conference is absolutely false. Similar to what the president tweets about Jewish voters, it is an assault on decency and truth. We know that AIPAC will invite the nominees from each party in the election, just as they did in 2016, just as they did in 2008. It’s difficult, as you can imagine, for AIPAC to accommodate at this point the nearly 20 rumored and official Democratic contenders for 2020.”

“And so for those who are members of Congress, they’re engaging with their constituents, they’re involved in this conference behind the scenes. But they’re not addressing the whole forum from the floor and that is okay, it’s not a boycott. I worked for Senator Kamala Harris, for the past two years, she addressed AIPAC in 2017, she addressed AIPAC in 2018. She’s engaged this year. She happens to be running for president. if she happens to be the nominee, she’d likely be here next year just as any other Democrat who would be the nominee would be here next year.” 

Amb. Daniel Shapiro: “There was no boycott. It was fiction. Notwithstanding MoveOn’s efforts to create such an impression. Notwithstanding Vice President Pence repeating falsehoods in a partisan speech. The candidates’ positions on Israel are well within the mainstream of support for Israel, its security and legitimacy, the US-Israel relationship, and efforts to achieve a two-state solution. Those who are trying to turn Israel into a partisan wedge issue risk doing serious damage to the historic bipartisan consensus that has been the foundation of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”[JewishInsider]

Ties Between Jews, Democratic Party Face New Pressures — by Ian Lovett and Emily Glazer: “Regina Perlmutter… planned to support Bernie Sanders for president. But she recently wrote to the Vermont senator to tell him she was withdrawing her support because he’s not doing enough to oppose anti-Semitism. ‘I’m not left wing anymore,’ Ms. Perlmutter said after a recent Shabbat service in Los Angeles, ‘because the left wing has turned against Israel.’ … ‘The Democratic Party is still my home, but for the first time in my life, I think it’s possible that it will not be my home at some point in the future,’ said Amanda Berman, a 33-year-old lawyer.” [WSJ]

RECAP OF AIPAC DAY 3 — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Condemning antisemitic remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) continued to take center stage, on the main stage, during the final day of the AIPAC policy conference.

“Take it from this Benjamin, it’s not about the Benjamins,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, to raucous applause from the audience. 

Speaking via live-video feed from Israel, that frequently went on and off, the Israeli premier further addressed Omar’s remarks, saying, “Those who seek to defame this great organization AIPAC, those who seek to undermine American support for Israel, they must be confronted. Despite what they claim, they do not merely criticize the policies of Israel’s government. G-d I’m used to that. That happens every five minutes. They do something else. They spew venom that has long been directed at the Jewish people. Again, the Jews are cast as a force for evil. Again, the Jews are charged with disloyalty. Again, the Jews are said to have too much influence, too much power, too much money. The best way to respond to those who hate the Jews is not to bow down to them. It’s to stand up to them.” [Video]

HOW IT PLAYED — Dana ⁦Milbank on Netanyahu’s speech: “Whoever or whatever disrupted the feed performed a mitzvah. Netanyahu’s speech was another knife into the heart of the bipartisan U.S.-Israel alliance… On Monday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) literally read from Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ on the House floor and borrowed Hitler’s ‘big lie’ allegation against Jews to use on Democrats… But Republicans, and Netanyahu, said nothing.” [WashPost]

Emma Green writes: “Even as American political leaders forcefully maintained that U.S. support for Israel hasn’t changed, they avoided addressing the incredible discomfort that many American Jews, almost all Democrats, and a wide range of self-described Israel supporters feel about Trump and Netanyahu.” [TheAtlantic]

— Rep. Ilhan Omar responded to Netanyahu in a series of tweets on Tuesday: “White supremacist violence is on the rise globally. Right-wing extremists killed more people in the US in 2018 than any year since 1995. Anti-Semitic violence accounted for 58% of religious hate crimes. Yet the topic Netanyahu chose to focus on was…me.”

Earlier, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also jumped on Omar’s “Benjamin” comment, saying money doesn’t buy America’s support for Israel. “Just to be clear, we will not do this for the Benjamins. No. We will not do this for the Benjamins.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) built on the theme of antisemitism within the Democratic party and the perception they are boycotting AIPAC. “So I am troubled that leading Democrats seem reluctant to plainly call out problems within their own ranks,” the Leader said during his speech on the main stage Tuesday. “And I am troubled that many of the declared Democrat presidential candidates seem to be avoiding this gathering, apparently because political partisans who have levied scurrilous charges at this organization have warned they will be keeping watch and taking names.” 

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) answered back in his speech, closing out AIPAC’s third day, equating Rep. Omar’s statements about those by President Trump as “fanning the flames” of antisemitism. “So yes, when you imply that money is the only driving factor of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. You are fanning those flames. And just the same, when you accuse Jews of funding caravans of asylum-seekers at our southern border, or fail to call out and condemn the rise of white supremacy at home and abroad. You are fanning those flames.” [JewishInsider]

FIGHT AGAINST BDS — Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on the pushto pass the anti-BDS bill: “Nothing — nothing — will motivate Americans to exercise their rights more than efforts to suppress them. Trying to suppress free speech, even unpopular speech … will only add momentum.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said during a speech to AIPAC members from New York: “It is very clear to me at BDS is all too often used as the vehicle for antisemitism, which is why I strongly oppose the BDS movement. I also will say — because it’s important to be forthright with you as my friends — I’ve also made it clear that I cannot and will not support laws that weaken our First Amendment rights. The best way to stop the BDS movement is to win the war of ideas because I promise you, I want to stop it as much as you do, but none of this is going to stop on its own. Only our words and our actions can actually do that. We need to show the world that we are more united than ever on our fights against antisemitism and all forms of bigotry.” 

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), speaking at a Q&A session, said he “strongly supports” Rep. Jerry Nadler’s House resolution to condemn the BDS movement, “and I think the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic caucus will strongly support that bill.”

JI INTERVIEW — Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, shared his thoughts about Benny Gantz’s speech at AIPAC, the Israeli election, and Israel-Diaspora relations in an interview with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh while attending the AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C.

“I think people were very encouraged that the main competitor to the current prime minister is a person of depth, intellect, courage, commitment to Klal Yisrael, to the sense of real Jewish unity and that pluralism,” Jacobs said about Gantz’s speech on Monday. “Every candidate for prime minister has to speak about Jewish unity. I think he did so with nuance and depth today, and I think it was quite welcomed and quite compelling. The question of how the Israeli electorate will vote is anyone’s guess.” Read the full interview here[JewishInsider]

GOP congressman quotes Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ to slam Trump’s adversaries as liars — by Isaac Stanley-Becker: “Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) took to the House floor on Monday to portray President Trump’s detractors as Nazis but ended up slurring them using an antisemitic conspiracy theory drawn verbatim from Adolf Hitler’s writings. Brooks, a five-term Republican, accused Democrats and members of the media of propagating a ‘big lie’ about collusion. The expression was coined by Hitler to describe how Jews used their ‘unqualified capacity for falsehood’ to blame a top German military commander for the country’s losses in World War I… The Anti-Defamation League called on Brooks to apologize for comparing Democrats to Nazis but made no mention of his decision to deploy rhetoric from ‘Mein Kampf.'” [WashPost]

ON THE GROUND — Iran is moving to cement its long-term influence in Syria by offering cash, food, Iranian ID cards, public services and free education to those who survived the longtime civil war. Iran’s hearts-and-minds campaign undermines efforts by the U.S., Israel and Arab states to roll back Tehran’s influence and force it out of Syria. U.S. officials said they aren’t abandoning efforts to check Iran’s activities in Syria.

Modi’s Middle East Deals Snub Iran — by Harsh Pant and Hasan Alhasan: “Modi has replaced India’s cautious ‘balancing’ approach to the region with an aggressive strategy geared toward attracting investments from the Gulf and deepening India’s security partnership with Israel, ignoring Iran in the process. Even a new government in New Delhi if Modi falls in the upcoming elections will find it difficult to change this trajectory, as the premier’s imprint is likely to be longer-lasting than many expected when he came to office.” [ForeignPolicy]

UAE Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba met with Jewish leaders at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, CA. Among those who attended the meeting were Rabbi Meyer May, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Haim Saban and Burt Sugarman. [Pic]

GULF REACTION TO GOLAN — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait criticized Monday’s move to recognize Israel’s 1981 annexation, saying it was an impediment to peace. “Attempts to impose fait accompli do not change the facts,” a statement released by the Saudi Press Agency read. “It will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region.” 

Netanyahu Says Golan Heights Move ‘Proves You Can’ Keep Occupied Territory — by David Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner: “‘There is a very important principle in international life,’ Mr. Netanyahu said late Monday after attending the Golan signing ceremony at the White House. “When you start wars of aggression, you lose territory, do not come and claim it afterwards. It belongs to us.’ … The prime minister’s remarks were certain to cheer right-wing voters who believe that international acceptance of Israeli control of the Golan, a strategic plateau captured in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, could pave the way for annexation of at least part of the occupied West Bank.

“Even the Trump administration hastened to portray the Golan proclamation as a one-off that should not be seen as precedent in other territorial disputes. ‘This is an incredible, unique situation,’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday morning. ‘Israel was fighting a defensive battle to save its nation, and it cannot be the case that a U.N. resolution is a suicide pact. It simply can’t be, and that’s the reality that President Trump recognized in his executive order yesterday.'” [NYTimes]

Skiers at Golan Heights resort praise Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty — by Rami Ayyub: 
“At a ski resort on Mount Hermon… Israelis were thankful for Trump’s move. ‘For the security reasons – everybody knows what’s going on in Syria – Israel should be the owner of this land,’ said Amichai Lorenzi… For Moriel Segal, 29, Trump’s decree felt personal. Her father had fought on the Golan as an officer in the Israeli military, she said. ‘He didn’t fight for nothing so, that’s nice to know.'” [Reuters]

KAFE KNESSET — Bibi Uses White House Video In Campaign Ad — by Neri Zilber: After cutting his Washington trip short due to the Gaza crisis, Netanyahu kept his Monday meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in the public consciousness via social media. Taking the official video of the meeting — spotlighting the president’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights — Bibi added in a voiceover of his own statement and campaign slogan (“Netanyahu. Strong Right”) while removing the White House logo. The campaign ad only reinforced the notion that Trump’s Golan move was a “gift” to Netanyahu’s re-election bid, while many observers questioned whether such a video was legal per Israeli election rules. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

PM Netanyahu’s son Yair had dinner with former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka on Sunday. “Honored to break bread tonight with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s son, Yair Netanyahu, tonight. After 8 years of being abused by Barack Obama and his lackeys, the U.S-Israel relationship is restored,” Gorka tweeted. [Pic]

David Halbfinger, the NYTimes Jerusalem bureau chief, discussed Netanyahu’s 4th reelection bid on The Daily podcast with Michael Barbaro. [NYTimes]

2020 WATCH —  Inside Sen. Kamala Harris’s small-dollar fundraising operation… The Trump campaign is following the Dem candidates closely, sending trackers and gathering their liberal base-pleasing proposals that they can use to make the eventual nominee look extreme… Gov. Larry Hogan says the Mueller report makes no difference to his potential 2020 challenge to Trump.

Watch — Sen. Elizabeth Warren was spotted running through NYC’s Penn Station on her way to catch a train. She didn’t seem to notice former Senator Joe Lieberman and his wife Hadassah, who make a cameo at the 2-minute mark. [Video]

** Good Wednesday 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BIG DEAL — Gerry Schwartz, Heather Reisman donate $100M to AI research at University of Toronto — by April Fong: “Canadian billionaires and philanthropists Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman are donating $100 million to the University of Toronto – the largest gift in the school’s history – toward research in innovation and artificial intelligence. The donation from Schwartz, CEO of Toronto-based private equity firm Onex Corp., and his wife Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books and Music Inc., will help create the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre, a 750,000-square-foot complex that will be home to AI scientists, biomedical experts, entrepreneurs and startups.” [Bloomberg]

How to Leave the Trump White House With a Million Dollar Parachute — by Jason Zengerle: 
“For years, [Bob] Barnett has looked down his nose at Latimer and Urbahn, claiming that their clients were often people he had already rejected. But Comey’s decision to sign with Javelin suggested that Trump’s election disrupted the Washington literary scene along with everything else… Barnett isn’t exactly hurting for business — last year, he had the No.1 (Michelle Obama) and No.5 (Bob Woodward) nonfiction best sellers, and he is representing the former Trump administration officials Gary Cohn and Nikki Haley on their forthcoming books. But the Trump era has spelled an end to his near-monopoly on brokering political blockbusters.”[NYTimes]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Finally, ‘fake sheikh’ follows the script and pleads guilty in Miami to con jobs — by Jay Weaver: “Á stoic Anthony Gignac pleaded guilty Tuesday to impersonating a Saudi prince in a scheme… Ïn March 2017, Gignac targeted new prey in Miami. He again pretended to be a Saudi prince with $600 million in a bank account as he went shopping for an upscale hotel. He set his sights on super-rich real estate developer Jeffrey Soffer, who owns the landmark Fontainebleau resort hotel on Miami Beach. At first, Soffer fell for the con man’s pitch to buy an interest, even lavishing $50,000 in luxury gifts on the ‘sultan,’ according to sources familiar with the investigation. ‘Believing that Gignac was royalty and a Saudi Arabian diplomat, with the means to purchase the hotel, the [developer] expressed interest in the deal,’ according to a criminal complaint, which did not mention the hotel or Soffer by name.” [MiamiHerald

Robert Kraft Requests Jury Trial, Pleads Not Guilty in Prostitution Sting: 
“Lawyers for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have requested a jury trial and pleaded not guilty to all charges on his behalf in the major sex trafficking and prostitution sting that broke last month, according to records filed Tuesday.” [DailyBeast

PROFILE — How Frank Luntz went from Trump enemy to White House insider — by Nancy Cook: 
“When Mick Mulvaney joined the Trump administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget in early 2017, Luntz visited the office three times over a nine-month period — including for a one-on-one lunch, according to agency visitor logs. The two men also spoke regularly by phone, with Luntz offering Mulvaney messaging advice on the president’s annual budget proposals to Congress… Mulvaney allies stress that Luntz plays no formal or advisory role in the Trump administration, and over the past year, Luntz has also met with Jared Kushner and talked with Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, meetings that pre-dated Mulvaney’s arrival in the West Wing.” [Politico]

EARLIER IN THE WEEK — Women’s March leader shares post linking ‘American Jewish Establishment’ to New Zealand mosque attacks: 
“Bob Bland on March 17 shared a post from Jesse Rabinowitz, a social justice advocate, who wrote: ‘The same language and hate that folks spew against Sisters Linda Sarsour and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) killed 54 Muslims in New Zealand… American Jewish Establishment, I’m looking at you.’ … Bland apologized saying that ‘it has come to my attention that some people are upset that I shared Jesse’s post. I was juggling 2 kids on a Sunday + not being mindful. I’m sorry.'” [JTA]

REMEMBERING — Fred Malek, GOP fundraiser, presidential adviser and former Marriott chief, dies at 82 — by Harrison Smith: “Fred Malek, a Washington-area business executive who led Marriott Hotels and Northwest Airlines, raised millions for the Republican Party and advised four presidents during a career that was shadowed by his role in President Richard M. Nixon’s crusade against a “Jewish cabal” in the government, died March 24. His death was announced by the American Action Network, a conservative advocacy group he formed with former Republican senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota… Malek cultivated a reputation as a management expert and leveraged his business success into a four-decade stint as a GOP power broker and a cable talk-show regular. But he was hounded by his involvement in Nixon’s effort to reassign Jewish officials at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for which he long apologized, insisting he was not anti-Semitic.” [WashPost

Norm Coleman emails us: 
“I worked closely with Fred Malek throughout the last decade. He was an American patriot, who I knew to be steadfast in his support of Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition. Fred was an entrepreneur, political activist, philanthropist, husband, father and grandfather —and for me, a mentor, advocate, partner and above all, my friend. I will miss him.” 

French pilot who stayed with hijacked Israelis, Jews at Entebbe dies aged 95: “Israeli and French officials Wednesday mourned the death of Michel Bacos, the Air France pilot who along with his crew insisted on remaining with Israeli and Jewish hostages after pro-Palestinian terrorists hijacked his flight and diverted the plane to Entebbe Airport in 1976… Bacos was eulogized by Netanyahu, who called him the ‘hero captain.'” [ToI]

BIRTHDAYS — Canadian psychologist and educator, she was the first female Chancellor of the University of Western Ontario (1992-1996), Reva Appleby Gerstein turns 102… Sports cartoonist and writer whose art has been used by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and hung above each Hall of Fame bust, Murray Olderman turns 97… Chairman emeritus of Warner Brothers Records, he is a 2003 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, music executive Mo Ostinturns 92… Founder in 1961 of Business Wire, a news release service which he has since sold to Berkshire Hathaway, he has donated almost $800 million to charities, Lorry I. Lokey turns 92… Composer, violinist and improviser who has been active in the presentation of new music and dance since the early 1960s, Malcolm Goldstein turns 83… Founder of one of the oldest and largest private equity firms globally, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Thomas H. Lee(family name was Leibowitz) turns 75…

Principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal (1991-2013), then the executive editor of The Verge and editor-at-large of Recode, he is now retired, Walter S. Mossberg turns 72… Executive Director at Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue Club (a mental health center), holder of a Ph.D. in sociology from Boston University, Rachel Forman turns 72… Sports agent who has represented the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft eight times, he is widely reputed to be the real-life inspiration of the sports agent in the film “Jerry Maguire” in 1996, Leigh Steinberg turns 70… Host of the “Matty in the Morning Show” in Massachusetts on KISS 108, has been on the air since 1981, Matt Siegel turns 69… Director of development at American Technion Society, Linda Altshuler… Member of the Knesset representing the United Torah Judaism party, Yisrael Eichler turns 64… Director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany, she earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard, taught at Yale and Tel Aviv U, she is a moral philosopher, cultural commentator and essayist, Susan Neiman turns 64…

Economist and banker, Valerijs Kargins turns 58… Smooth jazz saxophonist, he has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dave Kozturns 56… COO of the Maimonides Fund, Daniel Gamulka turns 52… CEO since 2004 of BBYO (an organization for Jewish teens launched almost 100 years ago), Matthew Grossman turns 48… Founder and CEO of the Movement Vision Lab, a grassroots think tank, she is a political commentator and community organizer, Sally Kohn turns 42… Associate professor and director of undergraduate studies at Columbia University School of the Arts, she is the author of five full-length collections of poetry, Dorothea Laskyturns 41… MSNBC correspondent who debuted on the network in September 2015, Jacob Hirsch Soboroff turns 36… Professional baseball outfielder, he was signed to minor league contracts by a number of MLB teams, he starred for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Blake Shane Gailen turns 34… Son of Jared and Ivanka, Theodore James Kushner turns 3… Account executive at Yext, he was previously AIPAC’s Associate Director for Westchester County (NY) and Riverdale (2014-2017), Adam B. Engel… David Greenbaum… Columnist at Spectator USA, Daniella Greenbaum Davis

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