INBOX — Following our report on Monday about Benny Gantz’s time in D.C., Elliott Abrams shared his own recollection: “Benny Gantz was a successful and widely respected defense attaché. I will just tell one story, which is about U.S. aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Benny came in to see me at the White House, to argue against any sophisticated U.S. assistance to the LAF. I answered, ‘Come on Benny, how long would it take you to roll over the Lebanese army? 15 minutes?’ He gave me a terrific reply, that I remember well: ‘Yes, it won’t take long, maybe 15 minutes and maybe a few hours. But in those hours some of my boys will die. Some young Israeli soldiers will be killed. And that’s what I’m trying to stop, and that’s why I am here — to save every one of those lives, no matter how many or how few they are.’ It was the most effective argument he could possibly have made, and as you see it stuck with me to this day.”
KAFE KNESSET —Gantz Briefs European Ambassadors — by Neri Zilber: Netanyahu’s challenger Benny Gantz took another step in his efforts to look prime ministerial, holding a briefing with 26 European ambassadors in Tel Aviv yesterday and laying forth his own security vision for the country. The leaked portions from the gathering were, as expected, hawkish, with Gantz threatening Iran and not explicitly endorsing a two-state solution. Gantz also described Hamas in Gaza as “a gang of criminals that holds two million people hostage,” saying he rejected the idea of building a sea port in the territory. “All they’ll want to import is orange juice? Really?” he was quoted as saying. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]
LATimes editorial… “Benjamin Netanyahu veers Israel away from democracy: For years, he has manipulated fear and anger to dominate the Israeli political stage. He has been divisive and demagogic. He has been, on balance, an enemy of the two-state solution that has been the only realistic path to peace between Palestinians and Israelis… Now, in the face of the corruption indictment and the strong electoral challenge, he seems to be growing desperate. Perhaps he will go too far and be driven from office.” [LATimes]
TALK OF THE REGION — Top UAE diplomat slams Netanyahu’s comments on Arab minority: “Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said Tuesday on Twitter that Netanyahu’s comment that “Israel is not a state for all its citizens,” and is the homeland of Jews alone, provided “vindication sought by extremists” and undermined peace efforts.” … At a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem, Netanyahu touted growing behind-the-scenes alliances with the Arab world.” [AP]
Erdogan calls Netanyahu ‘thief’ and ‘tyrant’ in latest spat: “Turkish President Recep Tayyip has called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a ‘thief’ and a ‘tyrant’ in the latest spat between the two leaders. The dispute comes after Erdogan’s spokesman denounced Netanyahu as a racist for saying that Israel was the nation-state of the Jewish people only. Netanyahu then struck back calling Erdogan a dictator and criticizing the country for imprisoning journalists.” [Yahoo]
ON THE GROUND — Hezbollah commander captured by UK special forces resurfaces in southern Syria, Israeli military says — by Raf Sanchez: “A senior Hezbollah commander captured by British special forces in Iraq has resurfaced in southern Syria where he is setting up a network to launch attacks against Israel, according to the Israeli military… Ali Musa Daqduq has re-emerged in the Syrian Golan Heights where he is the leader of a unit known as the Golan File… Israeli officials said they were exposing the network in the hope that Hezbollah would withdraw its operatives rather than risk Israeli strikes, which could escalate the already tense situation in the Golan.”[Telegraph; WSJ]
DRIVING THE CONVO — Trump sees advantage in debate over Israel, anti-Semitism — by Zeke Miller: “As Democratic lawmakers try to turn the page after the liberal legislator’s use of anti-Semitic tropes ignited an embarrassing, intra-party fight, the Republican president is trying to prolong and weaponize the issue for his 2020 campaign… Trump on Tuesday promoted comments by former model and 2016 campaign staffer Elizabeth Pipko, who said on Fox & Friends that “Jewish people are leaving the Democratic Party.” Pipko, who serves as a spokesperson for the group ‘Jexodus,’ saw her comments amplified by Trump on Twitter.”
“‘We’re slicing the salami very thin, and an incremental shift in traditional Democratic blocs to the other side can have a profound impact,'” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. He said his group plans to make ‘the largest investment that we’ve ever had in the 2020 race in terms of outreach, advocacy and independent expenditures on behalf of the president.’ Hallie Soifer, the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said her group welcomes Trump’s focus on the issue of anti-Semitism. ‘He himself has emboldened anti-Semites in our country by both repeating anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories,’ she said. ‘He has no credibility with Jewish voters.'” [AP]
— “’This is something people have talked about for decades,’ Matt Boxer, a professor at Brandeis University who has studied Jewish political involvement, said of the push for Jews to leave the Democratic Party. ‘But there’s no evidence when you look at survey data.'” [WashPost]
ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt tweets: “When antisemitism is repeatedly politicized, it not only hurts the Jewish community, it fosters division. At a time when antisemitism is rising, we need leaders to lead and fight hate rather than point fingers and cast blame. Enough.”
Daniel Shapiro: “Memo to my Republican friends: If you wanted to make a serious play to convince Jewish voters to leave the Democratic Party, you could not have a more laughable, pathetic, ridiculous (and offensive) leader of the campaign than the guy tweeting at us from the White House ;).”
Yair Rosenberg: “There is only one Jexodus, and it takes place during the rabbi’s sermon and ends at the Kiddush club.”
Sanders aide apologizes for questioning American Jews’ ‘dual allegiance’ to Israel — by Marc Caputo and Holly Otterbein: “A spokeswoman for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign apologized Tuesday after questioning whether the ‘American-Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel’… ‘In a conversation on Facebook, I used some language that I see now was insensitive. Issues of allegiance and loyalty to one’s country come with painful history,’ Belén Sisa, Sanders’ national deputy press secretary, told Politico… Sisa posed the question Sunday during a discussion in a Facebook thread in which she said that, like Sanders, she stood with Rep. Ilhan Omar. She deleted the post after Politico began asking about it.”[Politico]
SCENE LAST NIGHT — Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley participated in a Q&A session hosted by the UJA-Federation of New York at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center. According to a JI reader in attendance, Haley declared that the resolution on hate passed in Congress last week was “not good enough.” [Pic]
STATE-SIDE — Florida bill defines anti-Semitism, prohibits discrimination: “The Floridian House Criminal Justice Subcommittee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would prohibit speech that makes dehumanizing or stereotypical allegations about the Jewish community, or that compares contemporary Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany. The anti-Semitism definition also would prohibit expressing a hatred for Jews, calling for the killing or harming of a Jewish person, criticizing the collective power of the Jewish community, or accusing Jewish people or Israel of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.” [AP]
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will host Jordan’s King Abdullah II in a closed-door hearing on Wednesday afternoon, following two days of meetings the Hashemite leader had with senior administration officials, including the Middle East peace team of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt on Monday.
Chairwoman of the House Committee on Appropriations Nita Lowey(D-NY) said that support for Israel must remain bipartisan, during a marathon testimonial Tuesday by over 30 advocates and activists calling for U.S. aid. “I think it’s absolutely essential that we keep this a bipartisan issue,” Lowey said.
Testifying witnesses also brought up the unintended consequences of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), a law passed last year that leaves the Palestinian Authority open to being sued in U.S. courts for supporting terrorism if they accept American aid. J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami and William O’Keefe of Catholic Relief Services said a solution must be found to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered without fear of retribution under the law.
“I just want to say, Jeremy, I remember being on the White House lawn when Yasser Arafat was shaking the hand with Mr. [Rabin],” Rep. Lowey said to the J Street head. “It’s been a long time I’ve been in this Congress working for two states for two people and we have no choice but to continue our advocacy, and hopefully we’ll see that day.”
Following the 12th anniversary of the disappearance of Robert Levinson in Iran, a bipartisan group of representatives introduced a bill Tuesday calling on the Iranian regime to cooperate in freeing the former FBI and DEA agent, who is the longest-held American hostage. Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Michael Waltz (R-FL) introduced the bill, with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) proposing an identical version in the Senate. “We are directly calling on the Iranian government to fulfill its commitments to help in Bob’s case, and we are also asking other foreign leaders to push Iran to do more,” Deutch said in a statement.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) posted on Instagram a picture frame of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in her Capitol Hill office with the caption, ‘New addition to my office.’ [Pic]
— Tlaib expressed her support of a Pitzer College Council proposal to suspend the college’s study abroad program with the University of Haifa, posing with the hashtag #SuspendPitzerHaifa,ahead of a March 14 vote. [Pic]
Trump Jr. fires back at Dick Cheney over foreign policy — by Katie Galioto: “Donald Trump Jr. lashed out at Dick Cheney on Tuesday, attacking the former vice president for criticizing the Trump administration’s foreign policy. ‘Isn’t it fitting that Cheney is the one mad that Trump is ending his reckless and endless wars?’ Trump Jr. tweeted. ‘I never knew peace would be so unpopular!’” [Politico]
Saudis return to Washington scene after Khashoggi fallout — by Jenna McLaughlin: “Perhaps one of the surest signs Riyadh is rebuilding bridges in Washington is the willingness of former officials and think tank representatives to attend events linked to the Saudis. Dennis Ross, a retired ambassador who was involved in Middle East peace negotiations over the years, told Yahoo News he chose to participate in [a] panel [hosted by Arabia Foundation] because he knew the debate would be robust… Ross joined Karen House, a former senior vice president of Dow Jones, and Aaron Miller, a vice president at the Wilson Center and former diplomat.” [YahooNews]
2020 WATCH — Joe Biden signals he is close to 2020 run for president…Beto O’Rourke and Biden, signaling presidential bids, would infuse centrism into a left-leaning Democratic field…Hillary Clinton to headline DNC fundraiser in Washington later this month… Howard Schultz will announce on Wednesday specific promises and priorities that he intends to uphold if elected president of the United States… Schultz said on Monday that third-party musings have prompted ‘character assassination.’
INTERVIEW — Howard Schultz discussed his Jewish faith and positions on Israel in an interview with Texas Monthy — TM: As someone of Jewish faith, have you encountered any anti-Semitism to your candidacy, and is the nation ready for a Jewish president?
Schultz: “I have not felt any degree of anti-Semitism pointed at me. The numbers that I’ve heard, it is about a 61 percent rise in anti-Semitism in America over the last twelve months. It’s even worse in Europe. I was asked on 60 Minutes if I think that the country is ready for a Jewish president. I answered yes. I’ve got great faith in the goodness of the American people, and if I run for president I’m not running as a Jew; I’m running as an American. I remember vividly John Kennedy in 1960 came under such assault because he was Catholic, and he did a masterful job in 1960 of talking about the differences between church and state.”
Schultz on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Many Jewish people might not even agree with my position currently with regard to the settlements and the fact that I always believed that we need a two-state solution for the state of Israel and for the entire Middle East.”
** 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 **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Roman Abramovich Is Raising $550 Million in a Russian Stock Sale [Bloomberg] • Bob Iger’s Disney says Fox purchase to be final by March 20 [LATimes] • David Nevins has taken full ownership of the Pop TV cable channel after buying out the 50% stake held by Lionsgate [Variety] • The boundless views from Brooklyn Point, the borough’s tallest building [BrooklynEagle]
SPOTLIGHT — Google’s Larry Page Leveled ‘Veiled Threat’ Over Control of Company — by Mark Bergen, Gerrit De Vynck and Jef Feeley: “Google co-founder Larry Page worried he would lose control of the company in 2011 and delivered what appeared to be a ‘veiled threat’ to quit over the issue, according to confidential emails and other documents recently unsealed in a court case. Page was particularly concerned that co-founder Sergey Brin and top executive Eric Schmidt would sell special voting stock, diluting their lock on decisions at the online search giant.” [Bloomberg]
How the Superrich Leave Their Mark on New York — by Azi Paybarah: “The real estate mogul Harry Macklowe erected 42-foot-tall photographs of himself and his new wife on a Park Avenue building last week for the whole world — including his ex-wife, who lives nearby — to see. It was the latest example of how New York has been uniquely shaped by the idiosyncrasies of the superrich.” [NYTimes]
How a Fledgling Millennial Hit the Big Time by Hugging Trump — by Ben Schreckinger: “After a contentious November meeting with black pastors at Trump Tower, Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, who is Jewish, and one of the pastors, Darrell Scott, set about forming a National Diversity Coalition to counter the widespread view that Trump was running a racist campaign. The coalition organized meetings, promoted Trump on social media and found surrogates to defend him publicly… Few establishment figures were willing to publicly embrace Trump at the time, so the coalition turned to outsiders and ambitious up-and-comers. People like Christos Marafatsos.” [PoliticoMag]
Protesting Award to Robert Kraft Amid Prostitution Scandal, Genesis Prize Board Member Quits — by Judy Maltz: “A member of the Genesis Prize advisory board has resigned in protest at its decision to move ahead with honoring Jewish-American billionaire Robert Kraft, after he was charged last month with soliciting prostitution. Prof. Rivka Carmi, former president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, tendered her resignation earlier this week… Haaretz spoke with several individuals involved in the Genesis Prize selection process, who expressed concerns about the decision to move ahead with honoring Kraft after he was charged… Kraft had been a candidate in previous years as well, Haaretz has learned, but did not make the final cut. Sources close to the selection process speculated that the decision to award him the prize this year might have been prompted by a desire to make amends with Netanyahu, after the embarrassment he suffered last year.”[Haaretz]
PROFILE — Meet the Orthodox millennial who convenes Jewish artists, protests Trump and talks with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — by Ben Sales: “Elad Nehorai is the communications director of Torah Trumps Hate, an Orthodox progressive group, and a prolific tweeter as @PopChassid. He’s also the founder of Hevria, a community of Jewish artists whose events — including a recent one featuring a sword swallower — are mostly by invitation only. ‘I’m trying to create communities for people who don’t have them,’ he said… Nehorai himself doesn’t hold back from criticizing the president on Twitter, where he has nearly 13,000 followers. Amid the latest debate over Rep. Ilhan Omar and anti-Semitism, Nehorai lambasted Trump’s criticism of the Democratic response to the controversy.” [JTA]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Disabled animals given new lease of life at Israeli sanctuary — by Elana Ringler: “Founded by animal rights activists Adit Romano, a 52-year-old former business executive, and Meital Ben Ari, 38, who used to work in tech, Freedom Farm serves as a refuge for mostly disabled animals and as an educational center for visitors… Most of the nearly 240 animals at the facility were raised for slaughter. Some were donated by farmers who chose to save them.” [Reuters]
DESSERT — ‘Hamantaschen’ for the Doughnut Lover — by Florence Fabricant: “Fany Gerson, the Mexican confectioner best known for her paletas (frozen fruit pops) at At Dough in Brooklyn, is having a Cronut moment. She is frying and filling hamantaschen-shaped doughnuts for Purim, which starts the evening of March 20. The feather-light yeast-raised doughnuts are triangular and come filled with strawberry or blueberry jams, lemon curd with poppy seeds or a thick honey-nut mixture. ‘The fillings are not traditional, though I did use poppy seeds,’ Ms. Gerson said.” [NYTimes]
REMEMBERING — Hal Blaine, celebrated as ‘the most recorded drummer in history,’ dies at 90 — by Harrison Smith: “Hal Blaine, a drummer who provided the seismic backbeat and cannon-shot snare on thousands of rock songs and scores of midcentury hits — so many that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dubbed him “the most recorded drummer in history” — died on March 11… Harold Simon Belsky was born in Holyoke, Mass., on Feb. 5, 1929. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia, and the family moved to Hartford, Conn., when Mr. Blaine was 7.” [WashPost]
BIRTHDAYS: Pop singer, pianist, composer of over 500 songs and record producer, whose family name derives from the Hebrew word for charity, Neil Sedaka turns 80… Israeli singer who won the 1978 Eurovision Song Contest, Izhar Cohen turns 68… Robert Smith turns 67… Founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, a NYC-based organization working to end the War on Drugs, he lobbies for the legalization of marijuana, Ethan Nadelmann turns 62… Former Florida congressman (2009-2011 and again 2013-2017), 1983 graduate from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, Alan Grayson turns 61… Former US Ambassador to the UN and deputy national security advisor to President Bill Clinton, she is currently the director of a leadership program at the University of North Florida, Nancy Soderberg turns 61… Ordained by Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1986, he now serves as a rabbi and as a faculty member at HUC-JIR Los Angeles, Rabbi Neal S. Scheindlin turns 59…
Founder and CEO of MediaBistro which she sold in 2007, now managing partner of Supernode Ventures (formerly Flatiron Investors), a NYC-based investors syndicate, Laurel Touby turns 56… Heavy metal songwriter, vocalist for the band Disturbed as well as for the band Device, he is a former yeshiva student, David Draiman turns 46… Member of the California State Senate since 2014, Benjamin Allen turns 41… Former member of Knesset for the Jewish Home party (2013-2015), he is a decorated IDF officer (now a reservist), Yonatan “Yoni” Chetboun turns 40… Deputy chief of staff for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, he is the former host of daily Sirius XM program “The Agenda,” Ari Rabin-Havt turns 40… Television and film actor, Emile Hirsch turns 34… EVP of Nefco, a distributor of construction and industrial supplies, Matthew Gelles turns 31… Television and film actor, Emory Isaac Cohenturns 29… Social media manager at NBC Universal since 2015, Jessie Rubinturns 28… Gabriel Romano…