Daily Kickoff: First look at Rep. Tlaib’s Palestinian trip | Petraeus on what’s next with Iran | The role of El Al’s 747 | Reubens in London closes
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EXCLUSIVE — Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) is organizing a trip to the Palestinian Territories, slated for the August recess, competing with AIPAC/AIEF’s trip to Israel for freshmen members, traditionally chaperoned by House leadership.
Asked on Tuesday if she’ll be going on the AIEF trip to Israel this summer, Rep. Tlaib said, “No, I have my own trip” and handed Jewish Insider’s Laura Kelly a flier advertising the trip. Arranged by the “Humpty Dumpty Institute,” the leaflet bills the trip as a “congressional delegation to the Occupied Territories in Palestine,” taking place August 17-22, 2019. [JewishInsider] See Rep. Tlaib’s flier here [Pic]
DRIVING THE DAY — Iran announced that it will reduce its commitments to the JCPOA — the 2015 nuclear deal ― a year to the day after President Trump announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the international accord. “Iran exercised restraint over the past year, but the other parties to the deal failed to adhere to their commitments so that Iran had no other way but to reduce its commitments under the deal,” President Hassan Rouhani wrote in a letter sent to the European Union, and to the ambassadors of Russia, China, Britain and France, Iranian state television reported on Wednesday. Rouhani said in a speech that he informed the world powers that Iran will resume higher enrichment of uranium in 60 days unless a new agreement can be reached.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted that Tehran is not withdrawing from the nuclear deal but giving up on “voluntary commitments.” Zarif met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow on Wednesday. A Germany government spokesperson urged Tehran not to take any aggressive steps and maintained that Berlin would fully stick to its commitments as long as Iran does the same.
“This morning, on my way here, I heard that Iran intends to pursue its nuclear program,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speechmarking Israel’s Memorial Day. “We will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weaponry. We will continue to fight those who would kill us.”
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abruptly canceled a scheduled trip to Germany, where he was planning to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, “due to pressing issues.” Hours later, Pompeo landed in Baghdad to meet with the Iraqi prime minister and other senior officials to discuss U.S. concerns of increasing Iranian activity against U.S. interests in the region. The secretary later told reporters that his meetings were intended to demonstrate U.S. support for “a sovereign, independent” Iraq and to underscore their need to “adequately protect Americans in their country.”
BEHIND THE SCENES — Behind the decision to announce the deployment of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln to the Middle East region — by Time’s W.J. Hennigan and John Walcott: “Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, asked for the arrival of the warships to be expedited after seeing the [Israeli] intelligence assessments. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan signed off on the request on Sunday. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, requested the White House issue an announcement — a rare appeal. The White House decided the most suitable person to deliver the message was Bolton… ‘We wanted that message delivered in the loudest volume possible,’ a U.S. defense official told Time.” [Time]
— CNN reported that the intelligence suggested Iranian forces were moving short and medium-range ballistic missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf. However, multiple sources close to the situation told the Daily Beast that the administration blew the information out of proportion. “It’s not that the administration is mischaracterizing the intelligence, so much as overreacting to it,” one U.S. government official was quoted as saying.
EXPERTS ON WHAT’S NEXT — David Petraeus, former commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) and CIA Director, emails us:“I think that one of the big questions this year and next revolves around whether Iran decides – say, in 2019 – to pursue back-channel discussions with the U.S. or just tightens its belt a few more notches until the U.S. election in November 2020. I tend to think it unlikely that Iran would directly engage U.S. forces in the Gulf region given the considerable American capability to respond and uncertainty about what President Trump might be willing to do.”
“There is, to be sure, the possibility of so-called ‘asymmetric’; or indirect Iranian action; however, any attribution for such action to Iran would hold the possibility of a significant US response.”
FDD’s Mark Dubowitz: “By expanding their nuclear program, Iran is trying to freak out the Europeans and encourage them to confront the U.S. by activating their sanctions-busting pathways for European-Iranian trade. Washington should respond by sector-based sanctions against remaining areas of Iran’s economy like construction, engineering, and mining as well as by denying visas to any European officials enabling the use of any kind of workarounds.”
Hudson Institute’s Mike Doran tells Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh: “Maximum pressure to me would mean two things. It would mean attempting directly and clearly to take away from Iran everything it had gained by the JCPOA — but we’re not doing that. We’re still issuing waivers for their civil nuclear program. And secondly, it would mean bringing their oil trade to an absolute standstill — and we haven’t done that yet either. We’re getting closer. We keep ratcheting it up, but we are still issuing some waivers that are, in effect, allowing Iran to sell oil. We’re also not challenging Iran on the ground, directly. We’re only challenging them through proxies. So maximum pressure would be a full court press across the board. Maximum pressure-minus would be to try to totally reverse the JCPOA away.”
Doran added: “We are in a conflict with Iran and you can’t take this nuclear program away from them without conflict. We shouldn’t kid ourselves. The Iranians are threatening to withdraw from the JCPOA because they can see that maximum pressure is coming and that the administration is serious about reversing their gains. They’re going to fight to preserve the gains they got with the JCPOA. So yes, there’s a conflict coming, it’s already begun. Does the administration have the stomach for it? I think so. I hope so.”
JINSA’s Michael Makovsky: “President Trump was correct in withdrawing from the JCPOA. It was something I had called for, as long as the administration was prepared to address a possible Iranian escalation. Historically, U.S. (or Israeli) military threats have been the most successful tool in deterring in Iranian action — far more than sanctions have been — as the Iranians clearly do not want to confront a determined America with overwhelming military superiority. However, Iran might choose to gradually ramp up its nuclear program in contradiction to the JCPOA, with the expectation that the American response will be meager. Trump will then need to back his prior warning to Iran not to escalate its nuclear program. As long as Trump is viewed as credibly determined to confront Iran militarily, beyond economic pressure, I believe Iran will avoid a conflict, thereby reducing tension in the region.”
Jason Brodsky, a policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI): “I think the pressure really is going to be on Iran to come to the table. We’re already seeing Zarif making some public overtures, using the Kim Jong-un approach, trying to decouple the president from his advisors. That’s a hinted overture, testing the president’s receptiveness to talk. I think that Iran is not likely to undertake any action that significantly rocks the boat because it is playing the long game and it wants to wait out the Trump administration at least until 2021 to try to see if they can get a better deal out if a Democrat were to win.”
Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky write… “Wanted: A Trump Policy for Iran: The best advice we could give this administration would be not to provoke an escalation but to open a serious dialogue with Iran to avoid one; the best advice to the next one would be to keep that channel open and, before reaching any hard and fast conclusions, engage Iran on any number of issues, from the nuclear deal to regional security, to test the limits and parameters of the possible.” [CNN]
REACTIONS ON THE HILL — byJI’s Laura Kelly — Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tells JI: “Iran is a wrecking ball to the Mideast when it comes to stabilization… If they restart their nuclear program, they should do so at their own peril. And I hope that the world understands that President Trump was right to stop treating Iran as if it was a normal country. They took the money from the deal and they built up their military, not roads and bridges. So I appreciate what the president is doing by sending a carrier strike force to the region in case there is any effort by Iran to harm our soldiers in Syria, Iraq or anywhere else.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): “Obviously Iran is a big source of concern for many reasons and in terms of — what I have concerns about is the president’s approach to it all.”
Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH): “I think it’s deeply concerning the threat that Iran poses to the security of Israel, as well as U.S. geopolitical interests in the region. I was dismayed when the president pulled out of the deal with Iran. I thought that was the best effort we had, diplomatically, going, to be able to engage with them and to keep a lid on their ambitions. They are a state sponsor of terror, they are a violator of human rights. The U.S. should stand for democracy and human rights, always, in terms of our posture on the world stage and I think we need to stand up to Iran.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted: “Trump’s Iran strategy is blind escalation. There is no endgame. No overriding strategy. No way out. It’s just escalation for the sake of escalation. That’s wildly dangerous and inexcusably dumb, in that order.”
TALK OF THE REGION — The CIA has warned Norway that a prominent Arab activist, Iyad el-Baghdadi, a vocal critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) who is living in the country under asylum protection is facing a potential threat from Saudi Arabia, the Guardian reported on Tuesday. “The way I understood it was, the Saudis have a crosshairs on me, but there is no idea of what they are going to do,” el-Baghdadi told the publication in a phone interview.
HEARD THE OTHER DAY — Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley at the Wilson Center’s 2019 Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C.: “Regardless of how you feel about the Palestinian issue, the U.N.’s bias against Israel is a waste of everyone’s time. It actually sets back the cause for peace. It encourages the Palestinians to believe they can achieve their objectives through the U.N. and not through direct negotiations, and it makes Israel distrust anything that the U.N. says or does.” [Video]
WATCH — NBC’s Late Night host Seth Meyers grilled Meghan McCain for linking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to the Chabad of Poway shooting during an appearance on the show last night — Meyers: I do think it’s fairly dangerous, and you brought it up after Congresswoman Omar had also had some death threats against her. She’s obviously now stated she needs to be more careful with her language. Don’t you think people who talk about her need to be a little bit more thoughtful as well?
McCain: “I don’t think I tied her to it in particular. I think that I’m calling out what I see as antisemitic language.”
Meyers: But you called it out after she’d apologized for it. I do want to establish the timeline.
McCain: “I don’t… I think the Democrats are hedging on this, and I think it’s very dangerous, and I think Chuck Schumer and I are in alignment about Israel’s stance in geopolitical politics — I think it’s of the utmost importance —and I think she is bringing her party to the extreme… to the extremism on this.”[Video]
ACROSS THE SEA — Sergei Glazyev, an advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is facing criticism for antisemitic comments he made in an op-ed about Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky. “I don’t rule out, for example, the possibility of a mass movement into southeast Ukrainian land ‘cleansed’ of the Russian population by the inhabitants of the Promised Land tired of permanent war in the Middle East,” Glazyev wrote in a blog post about the incoming Jewish president. The Kremlin distanced itself from Glazyev’s comments, saying that represents Glazyev’s “personal opinion.”
Elan Carr, the State Department’s envoy to combat antisemitism, in remarks at the Kyiv Jewish Forum in Kyiv, Ukraine on Monday: “There’s something even more extraordinary about the election of a Jewish president. What is more extraordinary is that his Jewishness was entirely irrelevant [during the election]. It did not come up. I’ve been briefed regularly, including classified briefings that I’ve been having on this subject, tracking what’s going on here. And it is nothing short of stunning that in any country in the world, certainly in a country in Europe, given the history here, given the history of eastern Europe, that a candidate would never have his Jewishness raised as an issue in the campaign. By the way, I don’t even know if that would happen in the United States.”
2020 WATCH — How Pete Buttigieg became the new toast of Silicon Valley’s wealthiest donors… Sen. Elizabeth Warren ripped Joe Biden’s big Philly fundraiser. Last year she did an event with some of the same rich donors… Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s complicated relationship with her father has defined her as a person and a candidate… Ethics cloud hangs over Bill de Blasio as he weighs presidential run… Howard Schultz has largely stoppedhis 2020 presidential prep work while recovering from back surgery. He has not posted to Facebook or Instagram since April 30… Trump embraces the traditional fundraising he once shunned…
POLL: Joe Biden leads the Democratic pack with 47 percent among registered Jewish voters, in the latest Morning Consult poll. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, has the support of only 11 percent.
ISRAEL REMEMBERS — Israel marks somber Memorial Day with wailing siren: “Israelis came to a two-minute standstill on Wednesday to honor the memory of fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism on the country’s Memorial Day… The country honors 23,471 fallen soldiers, and the list of slain civilians, over 3,100 long, grew after four Israelis were killed by Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza over the weekend… At sundown the country will transition from sorrow to celebration and marks its 71st Independence Day.”[AP]
The Jewish Agency paid tribute to the 12 Jews killed in the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and in the San Diego-area city of Poway at its annual memorial service for Yom HaZikaron Wednesday morning. Guests included Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh President Jeff Finkelstein, and Marnie Fienberg, the daughter-in-law of Joyce Fienberg, who was murdered in the Tree of Life attack. [Pic]
SCENE IN JERUSALEM — President Reuven Rivlin was overheard on live TV telling U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the main ceremony at the Western Wall, “You know Hebrew better than me, why am I talking to you in English?” [Pic] h/t Lahav Harkov
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INTERVIEW ― Suri Kasirer, a veteran NYC lobbyist, discussed her work and upbringing in an interview with the Real Deal‘s Rich Bockmann: “‘My father was a Holocaust survivor, and I was very young when he would tell me these stories every night. As a child, I always worried a lot about how I would survive if there was another Holocaust, who I knew and how I could protect my family. That really led to my own interest in figuring out how to make a change and how to influence those in a position of authority.’ And you went to Yeshiva University? ‘Yeah, I studied history and sociology. When I graduated, I founded this organization called the Council for the Rescue of Syrian Jews. I did that for a period of time, and I also did some teaching.'”[RealDeal]
LONG READ — Bye Bye, Queen of the Sky: How El Al’s 747 Connected Israel and the Jewish World —by Anshel Pfeffer: “The last time you stepped off a Boeing 747 was likely the last time. Most of the airlines that operated it have already sent their remaining jumbos to their final resting places… El Al still has four 747s in operation, flying mainly between Tel Aviv and New York. But they will all be retired by the end of 2019… Throughout its service in El Al, the 747 was invariably, and infamously, packed… But even at full capacity, the 747 offered some unique advantages for the company’s clientele. No other aircraft had such wide spaces around the emergency exits — perfect for gathering a minyan at any time of day or night, or for Jewish Agency officials to go through immigration procedures with new olim… For Jews and Israelis of all colors, persuasions and walks of life, being stuck together in a metal tube for 11 hours between New York and Tel Aviv was often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet, talk and argue politics with those from outside their social bubble.”
“El Al’s 747s had another unique role in bringing Jews together. On May 24, 1991, a cargo aircraft that had been specially fitted in advance with 760 seats landed in Addis Ababa as part of the Operation Solomon airlift of 14,500 Ethiopian Jews to Israel… With 1,088 passengers (including two babies born during the flight) and crew, it remains the world record for the most people ever to fly on a single aircraft and is unlikely to be broken in our lifetimes.”[Haaretz]
CAMPUS BEAT — Cartoons spark controversy over ‘antisemitic’ depictions in flyering campaign — by Emma Smith: “Amid Palestine Awareness Week, the cartoons of incoming speaker and political artist Eli Valley — posted last week in dorms and common spaces — have elicited widespread debate about community standards and the presence of anti-Semitism on campus. The flyers were posted and later voluntarily removed by Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace at Stanford (JVP), co-sponsors of the Valley event. They included cartoons deemed antisemitic and offensive by various community members… SJP sent an email apologizing for the flyers on Sunday, noting Valley’s work could be considered controversial if taken out of context. JVP released a statement Monday in a Daily op-ed and on Facebook, in which it joined SJP in apologizing for posting the flyers without “due discussion and delicacy.'” [StanfordDaily]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Jewish schools seek piece of public grants for security — by Marc Levy: “Amid a rise of violent attacks against the Jewish community, students and staff members at Jewish day schools in the same neighborhood as the Pittsburgh synagogue that was the site of October’s mass shooting are asking state lawmakers for help paying for security measures. They went to Pennsylvania’s Capitol on Tuesday… to meet with lawmakers about including non-public schools in a year-old $60 million school security grant program.” [AP]
DESSERT — Kosher restaurant opens in Muslim-populated Azerbaijan: “The very first kosher restaurant in Azerbaijan opened in Baku on Tuesday… The dishes served, will combine touches from the Azari kitchen alongside Jewish and Israeli dishes. The opening ceremony began with the Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Mr. Dan Stav, cutting the ceremonial ribbon and the Rabbi to the Baku Jewish community, Rabbi Shneur Segal, attaching the Mezuzah to the doorpost.” [ColLive]
Reubens, the only kosher restaurant in London’s West End, suddenly closes after 46 years — by Daniel Sugarman: “Reubens, the famous kosher restaurant in central London, has suddenly announced its immediate closure after 46 years, ‘due to a family bereavement.’ The Baker Street establishment has served generations of Jewish Londoners, and for many years has been the only kosher restaurant in London’s West End.” [TheJC]
REMEMBERING — Nurit Karlin, Who Found Her Voice in Wordless Cartoons, Dies at 80 — by Richard Sandomir: “Nurit Karlin’s simply drawn cartoons, mainly for The New Yorker magazine, were subtle sight gags, rendered largely without captions… But in Ms. Karlin’s case it was coming from an unusual source: When she began contributing to the magazine in 1974, she was the only woman in the ranks of its cartoonists, long a largely male preserve… Ms. Karlin, who was born in Jerusalem, died at 80 on April 30 in a hospital in Tel Aviv, where she had been living since the mid-2000s.”[NYTimes]
Max Azria, Fashion Icon and Founder of BCBG, Dies at 70 — by Claudia Harmata: “Max Azria, founder of the iconic American fashion brand BCBGMAXAZRIA, died on Monday, May 6, in a Houston hospital… Azria, who moved to the United States in 1981 after designing women’s clothing in Paris for 11 years.” [People]
BIRTHDAYS: Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Danny Danon turns 48… Retired senior British judge, Baron Leonard Hubert “Lennie” Hoffmann turns 85… Former Attorney General of Canada and past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Irwin Cotlerturns 79… MIT biologist and Nobel Prize laureate H. Robert Horvitz turns 72… Former MLB pitcher (1969-1975) who played for the Angels, Rangers and White Sox, Lloyd Allen turns 69… Born in Amsterdam to a survivor of Auschwitz, now a leading rabbi in both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, dean of the Dutch Israelite Seminary, Rabbi Raphael Evers turns 65…
Director of the USDOJ’s Office of Special Investigations (1994-2010) focused on deporting Nazi war criminals, he is now the Director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy at USDOJ, Eli M. Rosenbaum turns 64… Chief Financial Officer for The Manischewitz Company, Thomas E. Keogh turns 64… Past president of Congregation B’nai Torah in Sandy Springs, Georgia (2005-2007), Janice Perlis Ellin turns 63… President at Central Illinois Home Furnishings, Barry Seidman turns 60… President of Clayton, Missouri-based JurisTemps, Andrew J. Koshner, J.D., Ph.D. turns 59… CEO and founder of NSG/SWAT, a high-profile boutique branding agency he launched in 2011, he is also an author, Richard Kirshenbaum turns 58…
Co-founder and CEO of the disability advocacy nonprofit, RespectAbility, based in Bethesda, Maryland, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi turns 55… Israeli journalist, anchorwoman and attorney, she is best known as host of the investigative program Uvda (“Fact”) on Israeli television, Ilana Dayan-Orbach turns 55… Canadian social activist and documentary filmmaker critical of corporate capitalism, she is now teaching feminist studies at Rutgers University, Naomi Klein turns 49… Stand-up comedian, writer, actress and author, known for appearing on the 9th season of America’s Got Talent, Jodi Miller turns 48… COO at West End Strategy Team’s DC Office, Ari Geller turns 46… Southwest regional director at J Street, based in Los Angeles, he is also a lecturer at USC Law School, Josh Lockman turns 37… Data scientist at QuantumBlack, a machine learning subsidiary of McKinsey, Daniel First turns 29…