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KAFE KNESSET — On The Campaign Trail With Nir Barkat — by Neri Zilber: Former Jerusalem mayor and now number nine on the Likud list Nir Barkat is, like all the other Knesset candidates, very busy these days: media interviews interspersed with town halls and official party events. Yet away from the public eye, countless small “living room” salons take place daily across the country, where the candidate can make his or her pitch directly to the voters. Barkat himself has a strong message, which last Thursday evening he conveyed to around 60 people in a Ramat Aviv penthouse apartment just north of Tel Aviv.
Over wine and appetizers, Barkat told the English-speaking and affluent crowd about his personal journey from the paratroopers, to a hi-tech millionaire, to his two-term mayorship. He has now entered national politics, to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told him “my blessings and my condolences.” Barkat often comes across as a Bibi clone — private sector experience overseas, strong English, and ideologically hawkish on security but economically and socially liberal.
Like the rest of the Likud, Barkat was adamantly opposed to the idea of “land for peace” and dividing Jerusalem. As a former mayor of the holy city, he rejected various proposals — some put forward by other Likud ministers —- of handing over even outlying Arab villages and refugee camps. “The city as the city has to stay whole. You can’t give one village, and then another, and then another… Let’s agree that that’s the city and manage.” Read the full report here [JewishInsider]
The Great ‘Bot Scandal’ of 2019: Much of the political conversation yesterday was dominated by the fallout from Ronen Bergman’s report in both the New York Times and Yediot Aharonot, alleging that a network of hundreds of social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook were used to amplify smears against Netanyahu’s rivals. Turning the tables on the (potentially) damaging report, Bibi later convened his own press conference where he accused the media and Blue and White of dismissing “real people” — Likud voters — as “bots.” Netanyahu even brought one such Twitter user up on stage with him. “Are you a bot? Are you real?” the PM asked the man sarcastically. While the man was later identified as a far-right Kahanist and homophobe, the Likud deflection seemed to work. Right-wing outlets and pundits kept emphasizing the “bot” angle, with the front page of this morning’s pro-Bibi Israel Hayom daily declaring “Blessed is the resurrector of bots.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Bibi forever? Supporters in Netanyahu’s heartland think so — by Melissa Bell: “On our tour of the local market, both sellers and shoppers alike stopped us to tell us ‘Bibi forever’ and ‘only Bibi.’ … Some even couch things in biblical terms. Ahead of [a] rally, Beer Sheva’s deputy mayor likened Netanyahu to Moses.” [CNN] • In Israel Campaign, All Sides Claim Fabled Voice From the Grave: Menachem Begin [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE REGION — Four Israeli entrepreneurs are scheduled to speak at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress held in Bahrain in mid-April, a reflection of improving relations between Israel and Gulf Arab governments. The move triggered a backlash among some members of Bahrain’s parliament. The Council of Representatives responded on Facebook that the event’s organizers “have the right to extend direct invitations to any country and we can’t interfere.”
The U.S. suspended the delivery of support equipment and supplies to Turkey for F-35 jet fighters because Ankara continues to pursue Russian anti-aircraft systems over repeated U.S. objections. The Pentagon’s announcement came on the same day the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw his power shrink after a stinging electoral defeat in Istanbul, the city whose politics he dominated for a quarter of a century. The local elections across Turkey on Sunday were widely seen as a referendum on Erdogan’s policies and produced mixed results.
REPORT — After his Israel visit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the Lebanese government in Beirut that Hezbollah and Iran have set up a new covert factory for precision missiles on Lebanese soil. According to Ch. 13’s Barak Ravid, Pompeo told his Lebanese counterparts that Hezbollah’s covert operations in Lebanon raise the risk of a real escalation with Israel.
PM Netanyahu will travel to Russia on Thursday for talks with President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders last met in Moscow on February 27.
ON THE GROUND — In raids throughout the West Bank overnight Monday, the IDF arrested 12 Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorist activities, popular terrorism and violent disturbances against civilians and soldiers. One of the suspects arrested was senior Hamas figure Sheikh Hassan Youssef. “His detentions are routine and take place from time to time in the context of Hamas activity,” the Shin Bet told JPost.
CITY-SIDE — The NYC Council leadership decided to remove Councilman Kalman Yeger (D-Brooklyn) from his membership on the Immigration Committee on Monday days after he posted on Twitter that “Palestine does not exist.”
Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement, “I do not believe that someone who engages in the type of rhetoric we heard from Council Member Yeger belongs on the immigration committee, which is supposed to welcome and support immigrants in our city.” Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged the Brooklyn lawmaker to apologize for his remark.
Yeger responded on Twitter: “I respect the Speaker’s right to run the Council as he sees fit. It’s unfortunate that political correctness takes precedence over objective fact. Of course, there are Palestinians. However, the fact remains there is no Palestinian state.”
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs committee said that the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi “changed” the course of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and to an extent, Israel, during a policy discussion at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C. yesterday.
“I met with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, he is starting to call Saudi his ally, because the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and that being Iran,” he said. “We’re starting to see this alliance between Israel and Saudi against Iran and then there’s even some speculation they can help in the peace process with the Palestinians. Unfortunately, Khashoggi changed all that.” The ranking Republican further called for investigating the murder as a step towards repairing U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia. “This internal investigation has to be done and we don’t know if it will lead all the way up to the top [to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman]. I know there’s a lot of speculation.”
Rep. McCaul also called the Golan Heights “a strategic piece of real estate” and that he believes threats to Israel are “increasing, not decreasing.” He added: “It’s important that the United States recognize it as part of Israel. Now does the rest of the world? I’m for a strong Israel. I think they’re a very strategic ally in the region surrounded in a pretty bad neighborhood.
AT THE UN — Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) was appointedby House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to serve as the Republican representative for Congress at the United Nations on Monday. In an interview, McMorris Rodgers said that she considered the defense of Israel to be an extension of the United Nations’ founding mission. “Israel was recognized as a separate state just over 70 years ago, and it was the U.N. that was instrumental in making that happen,” she said.
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — John Bolton Tests His Boundaries and Trump’s Patience in Growing Role — by Margaret Talev and Jennifer Jacobs: “Trump is aware that Bolton’s relationships with powerful Republican figures who influence the president, particularly billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, give him an added degree of political cover… Trump and Bolton, whom the president sometimes calls “the Mustache” because of his trademark facial hair, are often on the same page on policy. There’s little daylight between their positions on issues such as Iran, Venezuela and the ICC, for example, and Bolton helped push Trump to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”
“But Bolton also can bait Trump’s break-glass instincts, as is the case in a debate over issuing waivers from U.S. sanctions for some countries to continue importing Iranian oil. Bolton opposes any waivers in order to crush the Iranian economy.” [Bloomberg]
Trump Heads to Vegas for Adelson’s Jewish Republicans Gathering. Will Adelson Attend? — by Amir Tibon: “President Donald Trump will visit Las Vegas this weekend to speak before the Republican Jewish Coalition, the leading Jewish group affiliated with the Republican Party. The event will take place at the Venetian Hotel, owned by the group’s most prominent donor, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, but it remains to be seen if the billionaire, who has cancer, will attend.” [Haaretz]
RISING STAR — Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum is a member of the Yerushalmim party, which positions itself as pluralist, a mix of religious and secular. Among her many other roles, her portfolio includes the Deputy Mayor for Foreign Relations, a title that the mayor once held for himself but a position for which Hassan-Nahoum feels uniquely situated. A trained lawyer and former non-profit and public relations specialist, Hassan-Nahoum speaks English, Hebrew and Spanish fluently.
She spoke with Jewish Insider‘s Laura Kelly at the end of the AIPAC conference last week, where the Romanian Prime Minister announced the country would move its embassy to Jerusalem. It falls under Hassan-Nahoum’s responsibilities to accommodate the new embassies, working with the U.S. State Department on its embassy in Jerusalem and the planning of an entire embassy district in the southeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona. “I’m looking at it as an economic opportunity for the city as well, as a political opportunity for the city, and intend to plan an Embassy District using the American embassy as an anchor,” she said. “It’s not only good for the cosmopolitan character of the city, but also for providing jobs for local people.”
U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital also had the added benefit of legitimizing what Israelis already believed to be so, Hassan-Nahoum said. “It’s given people a lot to be happy about, confidence, people feel heard. We have a right to decide where our own capital is. We always knew that Jerusalem was our capital, it’s the seat of government for everything. But now we have international recognition and that international recognition could not have happened without the Americans. So we’re extremely grateful.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
2020 WATCH — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) raised $12 million during the first fundraising quarter of the 2020 campaign season… Harris’ call for reform collide with her prosecutor past… Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) released 12 years of tax returns… Crisis hits Joe Biden as new allegation emerges… ‘Friendly grandpa’ or creepy uncle? Generations split over Biden behavior.
OPEN WINDOW — Michael Bloomberg might still run for president in 2020, especially if Joe Biden winds up not getting in, Mike Allen reports. According to people who have discussed the matter with the former New York mayor, Bloomberg might reconsider his decision to pass on a White House bid if a centrist lane were to open up.
David Brooks on the rise of Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “The Trump era has been all about dissolving moral norms and waging vicious attacks. This has been an era of culture war, class warfare and identity politics… The Buttigieg surge suggests that there are a lot of Democrats who want to say goodbye to all that. They don’t want to fight fire and divisiveness with more fire and divisiveness.” [NYTimes]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Warburg Pincus to invest $221 million in Israel credit card firm [Reuters] •David Zaslav’s Discovery Aims to Be the Netflix of Nonfiction Streaming, From Food to Natural History [WSJ] • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg trying to outsmart Elizabeth Warren by offering to help write the rules constraining Silicon Valley [VanityFair] • Andreessen Horowitz rides the wave of Silicon Valley IPOs [FinancialTimes] • Paul Jacobs Retreats From Qualcomm Takeover Quest [WSJ]
NEXT GEN — Stefan Soloviev is taking over the family company from his 90-year-old father, Sheldon Solow, beginning with 685 First Ave., a 42-story luxury tower. Soloviev, who uses an older version of the family name, started out parking cars for the company and later managed the family’s farms in New Mexico and Colorado. In February, the father and son filed permits to raze several buildings on Billionaire’s Row, and a 52-story hotel is in the works.[CityandStateNY]
INTERVIEW — Robert A. Caro on the means and ends of power — by David Marchese: “As far as titles go, Robert A. Caro’s ‘Working’ is both humbly straightforward and almost comically understated. Yes, the 83-year-old’s book is a precise and detailed set of recollections about his painstaking, near-mythically thorough job of researching, interviewing, and writing about political figures. But the fruits of that labor aren’t exactly ho-hum. Caro, of course, is responsible for two totems of American political biography: ‘The Power Broker,’ about the New York public servant Robert Moses, responsible for nearly 50 years of sweeping development projects, and ‘The Years of Lyndon Johnson,’ a multivolume account of the life of the 36th president.
You famously have to cut huge chunks of material out of your books before they’re ready to be published. What’s the stuff you most wished you could’ve left in? I don’t know if you’re familiar with ‘Fiddler on the Roof?’
Caro: “Only slightly. It’s about a poor Jewish village called Anatevka… When I was working on ‘The Power Broker,’ I’d be interviewing people from that neighborhood who were forced to move away, and the word ‘lonely’ kept reappearing in my notes. And at some point when I was working on that section, I saw ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ There’s a song called ‘Anatevka,’ and the line in the center is ‘Anatevka,/Where I know everyone I meet./Soon I’ll be a stranger in a strange new place,/Searching for a old familiar face.’ So I wrote a chapter in ‘The Power Broker’ called ‘One Mile (Afterward),’ and in it I wrote about what it’s like to be lonely, to have a neighborhood all your life, and then you’re suddenly dispersed. None of that is left in the published book.” [NYTimes]
MEDIA WATCH — Jeff Zucker reportedly wants to run for New York City mayor — by Emily Smith: “A wild rumor flying around the TV industry is that CNN chief Jeff Zucker is eyeing a run for mayor of New York City. Industry sources said they’d heard that Zucker, who has long held political aspirations, is exploring a run for NYC mayor in 2021. This is the latest potential job linked to Zucker, who was said to be positioning himself for ESPN, but is now poised to gain oversight of Turner Sports.” [PageSix]
Bianna Golodryga Out At ‘CBS This Morning’ And Leaving Network, Sources Say — by Yashar Ali: “Bianna Golodryga, who joined ‘CBS This Morning’ as a co-anchor less than six months ago, is leaving the morning program… Golodryga has been moved off the program by the new president of CBS News, Susan Zirinsky. Zirinsky felt that the show had too many anchors.”[HuffPost]
Comscore Leaders to Depart After Less Than a Year — by Alexandra Bruell: “President Sarah Hofstetter, who joined six months ago, will leave the company as part of a leadership shake-up.” [WSJ]
ACROSS THE SEA — Former PM Gordon Brown says Labour has ‘let down’ British Jews over antisemitism in impassioned video — by Rosa Doherty: “Labour has allowed legitimate criticism of Israel to ‘act as a cover for the demonization of the entire Jewish people’ ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said. He made the comments as he announced that he has joined the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) as an affiliated member and condemned how the party had ‘let the Jewish community and itself down’ in its handling of antisemitism.” [TheJC]
CAMPUS BEAT — Harvard Undergraduate Council Votes to Fund Israeli Apartheid Week — by Kevin Chen and Laura Espinoza: “The Undergraduate Council voted to allocate the Palestine Solidarity Committee $2,050 to host Israeli Apartheid Week at Sunday’s general meeting… The PSC planned much of the programming of Harvard’s event, which began on March 30 and runs until April 4. The week includes Palestinian speakers, a student panel, an unveiling of a physical Wall of Resistance, and a movie screening. The bill to fund IAW passed 21-13-4 and drew money from the UC’s Grant for an Open Harvard College, which subsidizes student initiatives that address one of the UC’s indicated ‘compelling interests.'” [TheCrimson]
TALK OF THE TOWN — American arrested for trying to steal part of train tracks at Auschwitz — by Dragana Jovanovic: “A 37-year-old American man has been arrested for attempted theft in Poland after trying to steal part of the train tracks at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, according to Polish officials… The man, who is from Texas… has been released from police custody and is allowed to leave the country… The American tourist was part of a larger guided tour group visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau, when he was spotted by a woman from another visiting group trying to steal a metal piece of train tracks that Nazi Germans used to unload the prisoners. The woman alerted museum security, who then called the police.”[ABCNews]
The Holocaust memorial of 70,000 stones: “For the last 14 years, Friedrichs-Friedländer has hand-engraved individual Holocaust fates onto small commemorative plaques called Stolpersteine, or ‘stumbling stones’. Each plaque is a 10cm brass square affixed on top of a cuboid concrete block that’s installed into the pavement directly before a Holocaust victim’s last known, voluntary residence. There are now more than 70,000 of these stones around the world, spanning 20 different languages. They can be found in 2,000-plus towns and cities across 24 countries, including Argentina, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Russia, Slovenia and Ukraine. Together, they constitute the world’s largest decentralized memorial.” [BBC]
Israel Saw 4,000 Measles Cases in 2018—and Only 30 the Year Before — by Noga Tarnopolsky: “For at least a year now, Israeli health officials have been playing a game of immunological cat and mouse, seeing out Measles cases in cities with large ultra-Orthodox communities. In Jerusalem alone there have been 2,138 diagnosed cases, including the two fatalities… But despite the insular lives led by ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, the principal reasons behind rampant propagation in Israel, according to Rotem Elizera, the health correspondent for the daily Yediot Ahronot who has spearheaded coverage of the outbreak, are non-ideological. ‘The small but loud crowd of well-educated, prosperous people who question the entire medical establishment and are skeptical of conventional world views, and the larger crowd that doesn’t vaccinate its kids, who are mostly ultra-Orthodox. They simply have very low rates of compliance in general.'” [DailyBeast]
DESSERT — How kosher cuisine in Dallas is getting more chef-driven and ‘better than good’: “When chef Jeramie Robison was approached to create a unique, all-kosher menu for Congregation Anshai Torah in Plano, he looked no further for inspiration than some of the dishes he’d already developed for City Hall Bistro, the Adolphus Hotel’s casual restaurant, where he’s executive chef. ‘I tweaked some of those dishes to be 100 percent kosher,’ he says, ‘For example, I used avocado instead of labneh in the zhug recipe [a spicy herb purée].” [DallasNews]
BIRTHDAYS: Olympian, holder of the world record in the 50-mile walk for over 30 years, he is a concentration camp survivor via the Kastner train and a professor at Ben Gurion University, Shaul Paul Ladany turns 83… National Security Advisor under President Clinton (1993-1997), executive director of UNICEF (2010-2017), he converted to Judaism in 2005, William Anthony Kirsopp Lake, best known as Tony Lake turns 80… Deputy Secretary of Transportation, he is pending Senate confirmation to become Deputy Attorney General, Jeffrey A. Rosen turns 61… Academy Award-winning film director, screenwriter and producer. he is the son of long-time NYTimes reporter and executive editor, Max Frankel, David Frankel turns 60… Elected as a civil court judge in Brooklyn in 2016, now serving as a criminal court judge, she is the founder of Ezras Nashim, the first all-female volunteer ambulance corps in NYC, Rachel “Ruchie” Freier turns 54… Los Angeles-based, raised in Israel, singer, songwriter, guitarist and composer, he is a founding member of the Jewish rock band Moshav, Duvid Swirsky turns 43…
Producer and screenwriter for the stage, television and film, best known as the creator and showrunner of the television series “Breaking In” and “The Goldbergs,” Adam F. Goldberg turns 43… Academy Award-winning actress and singer who starred on General Hospital, Veronica Mars and Eastwick, Jaime Ray Newman turns 41… Associate general counsel at the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Brian Janovitz turns 38… Ph.D. candidate at NYU, he was a law clerk on the Israeli Supreme Court and a corporate attorney at the NYC office of Dechert LLP, Isaac Roszler turns 28… Associate director for college engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism, Evan Lerner Traylor turns 25… Officer of both the annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival and the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival, Magda Strehlau… Attorney and senior legal manager at Medtronic, Rhona Shwaid… Miriam Rosen… Judith Berman…