Daily Kickoff: Most of Congress condemns Hamas | Bolton warns Iran | NBA and Ramadan | Harrison Forman’s startup livestreams first dates
ISRAEL UNDER FIRE — Israel and Hamas are upholding a ceasefire reached in the early morning hours after a deadly round of violence over the weekend. “The campaign is not over and it demands patience and sagacity. We are prepared to continue,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The 690 rockets fired into Israel in the past 48 hours resulted in the death of four Israelis, including Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, an Israeli-American citizen. At least 25 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 injured from Israel’s air and naval strikes on 320 targets.
The decision to halt fire was criticized by Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, who wroteon Twitter that the ceasefire was not an achievement for Israel, and by incoming opposition leader Benny Gantz, who claimed that ending the current round amounted to “another surrender to the extortion of Hamas and the terror organizations.”
President Trump tweeted Sunday evening, “Once again, Israel faces a barrage of deadly rocket attacks by terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. We support Israel 100% in its defense of its citizens. To the Gazan people — these terrorist acts against Israel will bring you nothing but more misery. END the violence and work towards peace ― it can happen!
Vice President Mike Pence echoed the president, “We strongly condemn the attacks in Gaza by Hamas terrorists. Israel has the absolute right to defend itself & the U.S. stands by our great ally Israel.”
“The Israelis have every right to defend themselves,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Fox News Sunday. “I hope that we can return to the ceasefire that had been in place for weeks and had been holding significantly before this.”
White House Mideast peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, highlighted the rockets attacks to explain why the administration is “focused on Israel’s security” in the peace plan. “This is one very important reason,” he said on Twitter, “Peace can only be built on truth and reality. Many try to pretend this away; we won’t.”
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS REACT — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement to Jewish Insider, “Israel has every right to defend herself from indiscriminate rockets attacks, the same right as any other nation. The United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Israel.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated that, “The United States Congress, in a bipartisan fashion, stands strongly in support of our ally Israel and its right to protect its citizens from terror.”
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) emphasized that, “The United States will continue to stand with our ally Israel and the Jewish people.”
In a joint statement, Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) condemned the “outrageous, indiscriminate rocket attacks” and proclaimed that “Israel has a right and responsibility to defend itself and its citizens militarily from further violence.”
Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) tweeted: “Hamas firing hundreds of rockets into Israel killing innocent people is a horrifying act of terror. Thousands of families in Israel and Gaza are being held hostage by terrorists more committed to destroying Israel than working towards peace.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) wrote, “Israel is under attack as Hamas has launched over 600 rockets into Israel, indiscriminately over civilian neighborhoods. No other country has to deal with such a clear and present danger. This is why America stands by Israel and the ability to defend itself.”
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) called on Congress to “pass security assistance for our ally Israel.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) reiterated her stance that “real peace can only come with a two-state solution” while stating “Israel has a right to defend herself.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) criticized Israel’s response to the rocket fire, blaming the escalation on the situation in Gaza. “How many more protesters must be shot, rockets must be fired, and little kids must be killed until the endless cycle of violence ends?” she asked on Twitter on Sunday evening. “The status quo of occupation and humanitarian crisis in Gaza is unsustainable. Only real justice can bring about security and lasting peace.”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) slammed a New York Times headline that framed the flare-up as initiated by Hamas. “When will the world stop dehumanizing our Palestinian people who just want to be free?” Tlaib tweeted. “Headlines like this & framing it in this way just feeds into the continued lack of responsibility on Israel who unjustly oppress & target Palestinian children and families.”
AJC’s David Harris replied to the Michigan representative on Twitter, “Dear Congresswoman Tlaib: Do you endorse attacks of Hamas & Islamic Jihad? Is 2-state deal w/ Israel their goal? Is firing 100s of rockets at Israel justifiable? Does Israel have a right to defend itself? Btw, didn’t Israel leave Gaza in 2005, only asking for quiet border in return?”
Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted: “Imagine if 600 rockets had been fired into the US or any other country besides Israel. What country would not defend itself? Every Presidential candidate needs to weigh in on their thoughts on this attack. Go ahead….we’ll wait.”
HEARD ON THE TRAIL — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during a town hall meeting in Perry, Iowa on Saturday: “You have got a situation in Gaza right now where the unemployment rate for young people is 60 or 70 percent. People cannot leave the area. Does anyone think that is going to result in long term peace? It is not. So the function of the United States is to play an even-handed role in bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians together. It is difficult, it is complicated. I am no fan of Netanyahu, who is a right-wing leader, and the Palestinians have their problem with leadership, but our job is to do everything we can to try to bring a lasting peace to that very, very troubled region. And as president that’s exactly what I will try to do.” [Video]
DRIVING THE DAY — The U.S. is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) region in response to “troubling” warnings from Iran, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced in a statement. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton added. The Lincoln is already in the Mediterranean, according to Politico.
FDD’s Mark Dubowitz emails us: “There is real concern in the administration and among allies including Israel that the regime in Iran is preparing to strike U.S. interests or U.S. allies. The movement of a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East is a message that such a strike will be met with ‘unrelenting force,’ as Bolton made clear.”
Dubowitz added that the recent rocket attacks the by Iranian-controlled Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza “are part of Iranian plans to escalate against U.S. allies and potentially U.S. assets in the region. This is a clear message that the regime in Iran better be careful or face overwhelming American force.”
CNAS’s Ilan Goldenberg posted on Twitter, “A carrier into CENTCOM is not unusual and was likely routine and long planned. The inflammatory language from Bolton is unusual/provocative but my guess is just an opportunity to try to intimidate the Iranians. Nothing more.”
IRAN SANCTIONS — On Friday, a day after it revoked waivers on Iranian oil exports, the Trump administration renewed five of seven sanctions waivers that allow Russia and European nations to conduct civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran for 90 days, shorter than the 180 days that had been granted in the past.
The other two waivers — one that allowed Iran to store excess heavy water produced in the uranium enrichment process in Oman, and one that allowed Iran to swap enriched uranium for raw yellowcake with Russia — were not renewed.
The Trump administration also plans to target a new sector of the Iranian economy with significant new sanctions on Wednesday — marking the one year anniversary of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported on Sunday, citing two senior administration officials.
Elizabeth Rosenberg, who worked on sanctions in the Obama administration, told the LA Times that the imposition of tougher sanctions on Iran could result in “tremendous diplomatic blowback.” Countries hit by the sanctions, could band together into “coalitions of the sanctioned” against the United States, Rosenberg suggested.
Eli Lake writes… “Trump’s Latest Tweak Could Kill Obama’s Iran Deal: One of Iran’s greatest diplomatic achievements in recent years was getting the world to recognize its right to enrich uranium suitable for nuclear fuel. The Trump administration has now undermined it… The so-called ‘right to enrich’ was the first concession the U.S. and five other powers made to Iran ahead of formal nuclear negotiations in 2015.” [Bloomberg]
STATE VISIT — Elan Carr, the State Department’s special envoy to combat antisemitism, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Sunday along with U.S. Ambassadors David Friedman (Israel), Gordon Sondland (EU), Edward McMullen (Switzerland), Jamie McCourt (France), George Glass (Portugal) and Richard Grenell (Germany). [Pic]
The delegation traveled to Israel after attending the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps on Thursday.
The PM briefed the delegation on Israel’s response to the rocket attacks from Gaza, and the ambassadors released a statement following the meeting, saying, “Enough is enough!… Can one imagine rockets falling on Washington, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Bern or Lisbon today without an appropriately strong reaction?”
In an interview with Reuters while in Israel, Carr said, “The United States is willing to review its relationship with any country, and certainly antisemitism on the part of a country with whom we have relations is a deep concern. I will be raising that issue in bilateral meetings that I am undertaking all over the world. That is something we are going to have frank and candid conversations about – behind closed doors.”
Carr will address the Kyiv Jewish Forum and meet with Ukrainian government officials and Jewish community representatives on Monday. He will then travel to Poland, Hungary and Brussels to meet with government officials, NGOs and Jewish community leaders. Carr will conclude his overseas trip with an address at the Conference of European Rabbis in Antwerp on May 14.
CHECKING IN — Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, is due to report to the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York, on Monday. Reuters described the prison as a facility “with a menu that includes matzo ball soup and gefilte fish, as well as a full-time rabbi.” Larry Levine, founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, referred to Otisville as “Jewish heaven.” Federal prosecutors in New York have reportedly refused to meet with Cohen, despite his repeated offers to provide more information on alleged wrongdoing by Trump. “Why not see him?” his lawyer, Lanny Davis, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “What’s the downside? He’s about to go to prison.”
THE CROWN ‘PRINCE’ — How Erik Prince Used the Rise of Trump to Make an Improbable Comeback — by Matthew Cole: “Prince’s relationship with [Steve] Bannon has gone from fellow ideological traveler to business partner. According to a former Trump White House official and the former U.S. official close to the UAE royal family, Prince has teamed up with Bannon to offer a newer version of the armed crop duster to the Emirati air force. The pitch includes Israeli-made avionics and surveillance software for geolocating targets on the ground. Prince and Bannon are also offering a different package to the Emirate’s despised rival, Qatar. According to a former senior U.S. official who reviewed the proposal, Prince is currently hawking proposals for preventing social and political unrest from Qatar’s foreign laborers before and during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.” [TheIntercept]
How did this Palm Beach Gardens man end up in the Mueller report? — by George Bennett: “Jason Fishbein, a 39-year-old BallenIsles resident, did unpaid legal work for WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign and is mentioned briefly, with no accusation of wrongdoing, in the Mueller report for giving a password to WikiLeaks that WikiLeaks then shared with Donald Trump Jr… Investigators asked about his foreign travels, a year he lived in Israel to work on a nonprofit venture, a poker friend with a Russian-sounding name and his work for a West Palm Beach-based intelligence consulting firm, Fishbein said.” [PalmBeachPost]
2020 WATCH — Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen joined Sanders on the train in Ames, Iowa on Saturday, joking that Sanders would be a president who stood for justice “in all its flavors.”… Sanders pushed back against Biden’s ‘most progressive’ claim… Biden thinks Trump is the problem, not all Republicans. Other Democrats disagree… Big-name 2020 Democrats struggleto stand out in the Biden era… Pete Buttigieg joined former President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school class in rural South Georgia… NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio expected to announce 2020 presidential run…
Democrats challenging Trump scramble to hire foreign policy aides — by Nahal Toosi: “Several foreign policy thinkers told Politico they had already been approached by three or more campaigns, or people affiliated with campaigns, to gauge their interest… National Security Action, for instance, offers foreign policy strategy and advice to all of the campaigns. The goal is to help Democrats avoid damaging internecine warfare on the left’s more divisive foreign policy topics, such as the U.S.-Israel relationship.” [Politico]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Larry Fink, Barclays and the deal of the decade[FinancialTimes]• Hedge related to a trade between investing legends George Soros and Carl Icahn that was seen as weighing on Lyft shares[WSJ] • Carl Icahn wrongfooted by first-quarter stock market rally[FinancialTimes]• Vice Media Raises $250 Million in Debt From Group of Investors Including George Soros [WSJ] • Shake-Up Looms at CBS News, as a Celebrated New Boss, Susan Zirinsky, Makes Her Mark [NYTimes] •Lender files foreclosure suit to seize unsold units at new condo-hotel in Hollywood[RealDeal]
The Hotel Where You Can Ax-Throw to Blow Off Steam — by Howie Kahn: “‘Benjamin saw the tidal wave coming,” says Max Goldberg of his older brother and business partner of 12 years. Together, the Goldbergs, 39 and 35, own Nashville’s Strategic Hospitality. With eight restaurants and bars in their group and upcoming projects at the Nashville airport and now on Lower Broadway — the city’s most famous strip — the Goldbergs continue to play an oversize role in shaping their city’s dining scene.” [WSJ]
The Anxiety of the $2,300-a-Night Hotel Room ― by Adam Nagourney: “In 2017, the Nobu Ryokan Malibu, a homage to the serenity of a Japanese inn, opened on Carbon Beach, offering 16 rooms discreetly set in a maze of teak and glass, with two private walkways leading to the sand. Larry Ellison, the billionaire co-founder of Oracle, whose home is just up the beach, is the principal owner of this West Coast Nobu venture.” [NYTimes]
Aby Rosen’s Next Double Act — by Howie Kahn: “When developer Aby Rosen started planning the amenities for 100 East 53rd Street, his Norman Foster–designed Manhattan condo building, he called the renowned French chef Joël Robuchon. The goal was to come up with two distinct dining concepts that would span two levels, starting on the ground floor. Rosen had had a double hit with The Pool and The Grill, the restaurants he opened in 2017 in the Seagram Building; he was set on launching another pair of buzzy spots under the same roof. ‘You want a variety pack,’ Rosen says. ‘You don’t want to constantly pump the same kind of menu.'” [WSJ]
STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — This former Facebook employee is putting couples on first dates in front of an audience, and livestreaming it all on Instagram — by Salvador Rodriguez: “UpDating puts strangers on blind dates in front of live and online audiences, who can weigh in through Instagram polls, comments and direct messages… The start-up has hosted 20 shows around New York since its launch in October… The idea was hatched by Harrison Forman, a former Facebook employee, and Brandon Berman, a standup comedian… Forman got the idea around 2017, when he was working for Facebook in San Francisco. He was with the company’s media operations team, teaching media outlets like Vice and BuzzFeed to use Facebook features for storytelling. When he wasn’t working, Forman would use those same tools to entertain his own friends and family. He would live stream himself before dates, give halftime reports during dates and then check in with his followers once again after the dates.” [CNBC]
PROFILE ― Dr. Ruth Says ‘Make Time’ for Sex. Millennials, She’s Looking at You ― by Jessica Bennett: “Now almost 91, Dr. Ruth Westheimer is the subject of a new documentary, ‘Ask Dr. Ruth,’ chronicling her journey from German-Jewish refugee of the Holocaust — who taught herself English by reading romance novels — to the celebrity sex therapist we know today… Part of what makes your advice so palatable is that it’s delivered with humor. ‘In the Jewish tradition, in the Talmud, it says, “A lesson taught with humor is a lesson retained.” I could not tell you a joke, but I can use humor where it’s appropriate.'” [NYTimes; TheAtlantic]
HAPPENING THIS WEEK ― United Israel Appeal’s annual world conference is being held at the Tel Aviv Hilton on May 9. “The organization will also celebrate a changing of the guard. Canada’s David Koschitzky has completed a five-year term, and his successor is Steven Lowy, the son of Sir Frank Lowy, a Holocaust survivor who became one of the wealthiest people in Australia. The senior Lowy, who for years has been an extraordinarily generous contributor to UIA and other projects, made aliyah at the end of 2018.”[JPost]
HEARD ON SNL — Adam Sandler’s Saturday Night Live (SNL) monologue on Saturday night was a song all about being fired from SNL after appearing on the show in the ’90s: “I guess NBC had enough of crazy spoonhead. And the songs I sang on the news. Maybe they were sick of Canteen Boy, but I think they just hate the Jews.” [Video; WashPost]
SPORTS BLINK — While Enes Kanter is Observing Ramadan, the World Will Be Watching Him — by Spenser Mestel: “For Kanter, a Swiss-born Turk who has fasted for Ramadan while playing competitive basketball for the past decade, the routine is nothing new. But this time, the circumstances may be: Never before has he fasted while playing in the N.B.A.’s postseason. This year, with Ramadan beginning on Sunday, his fast will come during Portland’s second-round series against the Denver Nuggets.” [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE TOWN — What Can Stop the Measles Outbreak? Officials Lean on an Unlikely Band of Locals — by Betsy McKay and Melanie Grayce West: “Blima Marcus, a 34-year-old oncology nurse practitioner, is working to counter antivaccination messages that have taken root in New York City’s insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities where measles has spread. Dr. Marcus, herself a member of an ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn, has gathered mothers in living rooms and written and printed booklets that challenge antivaccination assertions line by line. She wants to set up a hotline to explain the science behind vaccines and take questions… Dr. Marcus and the group of nurses working with her have spent just under $12,000 of their own money covering costs so far. The organization she formed, called the EMES Initiative (‘Engaging in Medical Education with Sensitivity’), has now secured funding from private donors to cover their costs, she said.” [WSJ]
DESSERT — Search for Israeli soul: How a tasting marathon inspired new Philly restaurants and forged deeper understanding —by Craig LaBan: “It was stop No. 33 in a three-day tasting marathon across Israel on which the CookNSolo restaurant group had embarked with a small team. A research mission to prepare to open several new restaurants in Philadelphia, it was equal parts thrilling, grueling, and inspirational as they dived pita-first into the hummusiyas and grill houses of Tel Aviv, sought the ‘Holy Grail of Rugelach’ in Jerusalem, and feasted at Palestinian kitchens in the Galilee. And food feelings were running high.” [TheInquirer]
BIRTHDAYS: Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford U, Abraham David Sofaer turns 81… Media executive and philanthropist, he was a long-time executive of Time Inc. (later Time Warner) who negotiated the merger between AOL and Time Warner in 2000, Gerald M. “Jerry” Levinturns 80… Born in Buenos Aires, later emigrated to Chile and then the US, professor of Latin American studies at Duke University, Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman turns 77… Professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, Martha Nussbaum turns 72… Israeli theoretical physicist and astrophysicist, he is best known for his work on gamma-ray bursts and on numerical relativity, Tsvi Piran turns 70… Partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, she is a former Deputy Attorney General of the US (1994-1997), Jamie S. Gorelick turns 69… Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1997-2007), he then served as the Special Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East (2007-2015), Tony Blair turns 66… French-born president emeritus of the Jerusalem College of Technology / Lev Academic Center, Noah Dana-Picard turns 65…
Ruderman Professor and director of Jewish studies program and professor of English, all at Northeastern University, Lori Hope Lefkovitz turns 63… Vice chairman and co-founder of Boston-based HighVista Strategies following 23 years at Goldman Sachs, he is the board chair of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Daniel Jick turns 62… President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life (since 2013), he was previously Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents (2007-2011) and a US Congressman (1993-1995), Eric David Fingerhut turns 60… CRC Chair of Greater MetroWest and Chair of Livingston Celebrates Israel, Sheri Goldberg turns 56… Attorney and partner in LA-based real estate development firm, Regent Properties, Daniel Todd Gryczman turns 44… Los Angeles-based television personality, Shira Lazarturns 36… Conductor, pianist, clarinetist, and composer, he is currently music director of The Louisville Orchestra and Britt Festival Orchestra, Edward “Teddy” Paul Maxwell Abrams turns 32…