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JI INTERVIEW — Meet the 2020 Democrat running on foreign policy: Last week, over split pea soup at a cafe in Southeast D.C., 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Congressman Seth Moulton detailed his views on foreign policy, his approach to Israel and the Middle East, and why he supports a bill against the “abuse” of Palestinian children.
Referring to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comments, Moulton told JI: “It’s very clear to me that the comments that she made were antisemitic and we should have been much stronger as a party in calling her out.”
Moulton on Israel: “Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and always has been and that’s not going to change.”
Moulton called ‘linkage’ naive, the concept that the source of conflict in the Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute: “I think that’s naive. But I will say that I was struck from the first time I was in Iraq by how much people in other countries do think about this and do sort of see it as this overarching issue. I mean, especially Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a very isolated country and didn’t have a lot to do with Israel and the Palestinians in particular.”
“I mean… there’s, there’s a little bit of an analogy, it’s not a great analogy, but the way Guantanamo just sort of hangs over the U.S. as like a moral cloud and then [Gen. David] Petraeus came out and said, yes, this is something we should get rid of. It’s just not worth it. There’s a certain sense in which it does hang over things more than a lot of people realize. But, I think it’s naive to think that you just solve that problem and all of a sudden the Iranians are just going to start getting along with everybody or, you know, the Saudis are going to start suddenly embracing human rights. I mean…I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think the Middle East is an incredibly complex place. There’s plenty of things that had happened to make it more difficult, but it’s always going to be a complex place.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
In a statement sent to Jewish Insider, Moulton explained his support for Rep. Betty McCollum’s 2017 bill, the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.” The bill faced opposition from groups such as AIPAC, who charged that it was based on a biased report. “While experiences vary, the Israeli military has been documented subjecting children to harsh and sometimes abusive interrogation methods, without an attorney present, that often include forced confessions signed in Hebrew. America should not support these undemocratic practices,” Moulton said in the statement. “That is why I support H.R. 4391, and I believe it will contribute towards a peaceful resolution to this complex conflict and a lasting two-state solution.”
McCollum introduced a new version of the 2017 bill on May 1 of this year. Moulton hasn’t taken a position on the new version yet. [JewishInsider]
LONG READ — Beto O’Rourke Stays on the Road — by William Finnegan: “O’Rourke also got a reputation for failing to cover his own behind. As a freshman, he was one of only four Democrats in Congress to vote against sending military aid to Israel during the 2014 Gaza war— ‘a war that has cost more than a thousand civilian lives already, too many of them children,’ he explained. He was hammered, publicly and privately, by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby.”
“Jim Moran, a veteran Virginia congressman, tried to explain O’Rourke’s reasoning to Connie Bruck, of this magazine. ‘I wanted him to switch his vote,’ Moran said. But he wasn’t able to find O’Rourke, which probably didn’t matter, ‘because — as shocking as it may be — he’s in Congress solely to do what he considers to be the right thing. I’m afraid he may have a tough race in November.’ O’Rourke boycotted a speech by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Washington the following year. He later went on a tour of Israel (with J Street, AIPAC’s liberal competitor), which did not seem to fundamentally change his view of the conflict. Somehow, he was re-elected.”[NewYorker] • O’Rourke: Sending more troops to Middle East risks ‘yet another war’ [Politico]
ON THE TRAIL — Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking to reporters in South Bend, Indiana on Monday: “I’m extremely concerned about what appears to be an escalation with respect to Iran, not only because it’s unclear what the administration’s policy is but also because I’m afraid this could actually get away from the president.” [Video]
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) addressed tensions with Iran during a campaign rally in Montpelier, Vermont on Saturday: “Right now, I am doing everything that I can to prevent Donald Trump and John Bolton from taking us into a war with Iran — a war which would be much worse than the war in Iraq and could lead, literally, to perpetual warfare in the region — a never ending war that U.S. troops would remain involved in. And I make no apologies for that either.”
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi met with Matt Duss, a foreign policy advisor for Sen. Sanders on Monday. According to the Palestinian WAFA news agency, Duss “conveyed Senator Sanders’ greetings and discussed with Ashrawi ways to maintain a constructive and informed dialogue with the Senator and other policy makers in Washington who are committed to international law and the Palestinian people’s right to freedom and peace.”
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — by JI‘s Jacob Kornbluh: Israel is possibly heading to another Knesset election less than two months after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated a 4th consecutive electoral victory. The dramatic development occurred because of Netanyahu’s struggle to form a coalition government ahead of the looming May 29 deadline. The potential 65-seat majority coalition has been thrown into crisis by former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman over a military conscription bill governing exemptions for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students. Netanyahu offered an unspecified compromise on the draft law, which was immediately accepted by the Haredi parties.
On Monday, a bill to dissolve the 21st Knesset was approved in the 1st reading. If the bill passes its two remaining readings by midnight Wednesday, Israelis would head to the polls on September 17, 2019 to elect a new Knesset.The Finance Ministry estimated the cost of another election to be NIS 475,000,000. Naturally, Israeli political correspondents, still fatigued by the bruising, three-month election campaign leading up to the April elections, reacted with dismay to the idea of another national ballot.
In a televised address on Monday evening, Netanyahu pleaded with Lieberman to reconsider his decision and resolve the deadlock in order to form a right-wing government and avoid sending the country once again to “expensive, wasteful” elections. On Tuesday, Lieberman insisted that he is “not looking to topple Netanyahu” nor seeking an alternative candidate for prime minister. In a Facebook post, he wrote that his party’s only concern is “the promises it made to the citizens of Israel.”
Meanwhile, Likud party members are set to convene to approve a merger with Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party.
DRIVING THE CONVO — President Trump issued a public statement in support of Netanyahu on Monday. “Hoping things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever,” he wrote on Twitter. “A lot more to do!” Netanyahu referenced the president’s tweet in his prime time address on Monday evening. “Trump is right – we still have a lot of work to do,” Netanyahu remarked.
Maariv reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu’s advisers are trying to get Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt to apply pressure on Lieberman to join the coalition.
A senior Kachol Lavan official told Ch. 13’s Barak Ravid that the opposition is “shocked by President Trump’s intervention in Israeli domestic politics.”
Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) called it an “unprecedented interference in Israel’s democracy, plain and simple. The U.S. President should respect Israel’s coalition negotiations, not meddle.”
RJC’s Matt Brooks pushed back against the criticism. “Let’s put the Trump criticism in context — Obama interfered in the elections using Federal money. This election is over and done. All Trump is doing is hoping for Bibi to form the gov’t as directed by Pres. Rivlin and fulfill the mandate of the people,” Brooks tweeted.
Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller emails us: “Even by Trump’s standards this intervention — seemingly sought out by Bibi — sets a new low in the administration’s efforts to ensure Bibi’s success. I’ve been a part of administrations playing Israeli favorite PMs but those looked like child’s play in comparison. Trump’s efforts are unprecedented, wrong-headed and just plain dumb. We have a stake in supporting the State of Israel, but no stake in tethering the U.S. to Bibi Netanyahu’s political future. And besides, almost always when we intervened we failed.”
Washington Institute’s David Makovsky tweeted: “It is extraordinary that Donald Trump gets involved in Israeli politics… Even Secretary of State James Baker, assailed by many Israelis, went mum for three months (!) in 1990 until [Yitzchak] Shamir created a government.”
WHY IT MATTERS — The Trump administration is expected to roll out the first phase of the Mideast peace plan in Bahrain next month. The rollout was initially delayed until June due to the Knesset elections and coalition talks. The political situation could force the administration to halt its planning of the economic workshop in Bahrain or put off the rollout of the political part of the plan until a new government is in place — sometime in late October or early November.
Rob Satloff, executive director of The Washington Institute, who argued in a recent op-ed that the Trump administration would be wise to shelve the peace plan, emails us: “There are many reasons why the White House may decide to postpone [the] release of its plan for Middle East peace, with the lack of an installed and confirmed government in Israel certainly among them. I also think the likely underwhelming Bahrain conference on regional economic development, growth and investment — an event focused to a significant degree on the economic future of Palestine but with virtually no Palestinians in attendance — will be a flashing red light for further initiatives in the near term. Together, the administration will have ample reason to reconsider its approach.”
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Qatar is planning to attend the ‘economic workshop’ on the Palestinian economy in Bahrain next month, Haaretz reported on Saturday. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, “Tackling these challenges requires sincerity of intent, concerted efforts from regional and international players and appropriate political conditions for economic prosperity.”
China and Russia, however, will not participate in the international conference, according to Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reacted to the peace plan rollout at an event in Ramallah on Monday: “The Palestinian Authority does not recognize this conference. Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ will go to hell, as will the economic workshop in Bahrain that the Americans intend to hold and present illusions. Whoever is interested in proposing a solution to the Palestinian issue should begin with a diplomatic solution.”
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told the LA Times that he believed Netanyahu and Trump were working together on a deal that Palestinians will be unable to accept. “The idea they have, that economic benefits can bring a people to political agreements, is refuted by all known history,” Barak said in an interview. “It just doesn’t work that way. National aspirations and the desire for economic well-being don’t operate on the same plane.”
ON THE HILL — House members react to Kushner’s Bahrain summit — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appeared frustrated over the lack of details and engagement from the Middle East Peace team in an interview with JI. “I don’t really know that much about it other than I’ve heard about it, I don’t know any of the details about it,” Engel said. “Mr. Kushner hasn’t called me, or anyone from the administration hasn’t called me about it. So, I hesitate to speak on something that I really don’t know what they’re doing specifically.”
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism, tells JI: “I’m actually trying to get some more information, what it is that they’re going to be doing there, how those conversations are going to take place before I offer much thought. But obviously, to the extent that there’s an opportunity in any sense to focus on improving lives in the region, that’s something we should always consider.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “I think it just exposes how feckless the Trump and Kushner approach to Middle East peace is… And frankly, if Kushner was sincere, Trump has pulled the rug out from underneath him. He has nothing, what leverage do we have left with the Palestinians?”
Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), also a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tells JIthat he doesn’t “have a strong opinion other than I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with dual tracks… if we could sometimes compromise in limited areas, it helps you in areas that are more difficult.”
Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX): “I don’t want to judge it before it’s happened. Just put me down as highly skeptical, you know, in terms of whether anything really good would come from it. I want to be fair about this and, again not prejudge things too much. But the situation with the Palestinian people has gone on for so long and it seems that Israel is the only one who has given up anything over the years and I just – I question whether the Palestinian people even want peace, because it’s there and its been there a long time.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), wrote in an email to JI: “Recent presidents approached the issue of peace in the Middle East the same way: attempting to solve issues like the status of ‘right of return,’ defining borders, and the status of Jerusalem. This has failed every time. The administration’s innovative, fresh approach could be a crucial first step towards a successful peace deal in the region.” [JewishInsider]
SCENE IN BEIRUT — Rep. Engel traveled to Lebanon over the holiday weekend to meet with Lebanese government officials. There, he discussed threats from Iran and Hezbollah and the ongoing war in Syria, according to a statement from his office. The New York representative also met with U.S. troops stationed in Lebanon, visited Lebanese military installations near the border with Syria, and met Syrian and Iraqi refugees displaced from the neighboring civil war and the fight against the Islamic State.
STATE VISIT — On Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis met with several Israeli companies and participated in Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signings at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. DeSantis is leading a 6-day mission to Israel.
On Monday, DeSantis attended a recognition ceremony at Ariel University where he was presented with the Honorary Fellowship Award for his dedication, leadership and commitment to the State of Israel. [Pic]
SPOTTED — Sheldon and Miriam Adelson attended the ceremony at the Ariel University. The couple was not listed as members of the official DeSantis delegation. [Pic; Pic]
TOP TALKER — The New York Times editorial on the old scourge of antisemitism in Europe: “For years, Europe maintained the comforting notion that it was earnestly confronting anti-Semitism after the horrors of the Holocaust. It now faces the alarming reality that anti-Semitism is sharply on the rise, often from the sadly familiar direction of the far right, but also from Islamists and the far left.”
The Times also addressed the rise of antisemitic rhetoric in the U.S.: “There has also been a marked rise in the political weaponization of antisemitism by both left and right, often played out in debates on criticizing or supporting Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not helped matters by finding common cause with nationalist leaders like the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban or President Trump so long as they do not support a Palestinian state.” [NYTimes]
Michael Oren criticized the newspaper in a tweet on Monday: “All the hypocrisy that fits. The NY Times editorial on rising anti-Semitism cites Netanyahu as a source but omits Omar, Tlaib, and, incredibly, The NY Times and its Nazi cartoon and endless articles vilifying the one Jewish state and its supporters. Laughable if not so tragic.”
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science — by Coral Davenport and Mark Landler: “‘The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,’ said William Happer, who serves on the National Security Council as the president’s deputy assistant for emerging technologies.” [NYTimes]
REPORT — Venezuelan Businessman Raul Gorrín Joined Plot to Oust Maduro—and Escape Sanctions — by Kejal Vyas, Juan Forero and José de Córdoba: “‘We have been messaging people in the regime publicly and repeatedly that we are absolutely willing to remove sanctions on any individual who assists in restoring democracy to Venezuela,’ said Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special envoy for Venezuela. Senior U.S. officials declined to comment on Mr. Gorrín’s role in trying to enlist regime officials in turning on Mr. Maduro.” [WSJ]
2020 WATCH — Bernie Sanders, no longer the front-runner, bringscampaign home to Vermont… Cory Booker says beating Trump should be ‘the floor, not the ceiling’… Joe Biden’s campaign of limited exposure: How long can he keep it up?…
With the 2020 Democratic Field Set, Candidates Begin the Races Within the Race: “‘My party doesn’t like front-runners,’ said Paul Begala, the former top adviser to former President Bill Clinton, noting that nearly every Democratic favorite in recent history either lost the nomination or suffered a scare along the way. ‘It’s going to tighten no matter what.'” [NYTimes]
This Jersey resident worked to put Trump in the White House. He’ll try again in 2020 — by Jonathan Salant: “Those massive campaign rallies featuring Donald Trump? Michael Glassner organized them… Glassner’s Jersey political connections primarily are limited to being the first spouse of the borough of Mendham. His wife, Christine Serrano Glassner, was elected mayor last year, becoming the first woman to hold the post… They met while working on Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign… The campaign also was where Glassner met Lewis Eisenberg, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Dole’s finance co-chair. Eisenberg hired Glassner as chief of staff. ‘He was my New Jersey rabbi,’ Glassner said of Eisenberg.” [NJAdvance]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: How Mark Zuckerberg’s Billionaires Club Can Atone for Facebook [VanityFair] • Israel-based Teva agreed to pay $85 million to settle claims by Oklahoma that the company’s marketing helped drive up opioid addiction [WSJ]• Police recommend indicting Israel’s wealthiest woman Shari Arison in Africa bribe case [Bloomberg] •Japan’s Mitsubishi to open innovation center in Israel [Reuters]
PROFILE — The Willy Wonka of Wall Street has a sweet side hustle in New Jersey —by Sonali Basak: “Gary Parr watches with boyish wonder as hundreds of chocolate drops roll off a massive piece of Italian machinery… Parr owns the equipment, hired the chocolate makers and approves the fillings for every ganache… His colleagues at Apollo Global Management reap the benefits. Since the soft launch of Parre Chocolat a few months ago, he’s had more requests for meetings at his conference table… I shouldn’t be an aficionado of chocolates, but I am, and Gary’s chocolate is fantastic,’ said Leon Black, Apollo’s chief executive officer.” [Bloomberg]
WEEKEND INTERVIEW — The Reopening of the Liberal Mind: Bard College President Leon Botstein explains how his school remains free of student outbursts — by Daniel Akst: “Botstein, in some ways a creature of the Old World, greets me in a gray Tyrolean jacket with contrasting collar and cuffs. Born in Switzerland to Polish Jewish physicians, he lost relatives in the Holocaust and studied with Arendt, another Central European immigrant, at the University of Chicago… Mr. Botstein isn’t dismissive of trigger warnings and safe spaces. Warnings are fine, he says, as long as students read the warned-of text; and Jews and Catholics, as earlier newcomers.” [WSJ]
SPORTS BLINK — Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert hospitalized with stroke-like symptoms — by Sarah Valenzuela: “Majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, was hospitalized on Sunday after suffering stroke-like symptoms, according to the Detroit News’ Nolan Finley and Kim Kozlowski.” [NYDailyNews]
TOP QUOTE IN THE TELEGRAPH — “Social climbers would not have allowed a stomach bug to prevent them attending an evening at the house of Robert Kraft, friend of [Roman] Abramovich and owner of New England Revolution.” [Telegraph]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Measles Can Be Contained. Antisemitism Cannot — by Emma Green: “The measles has spread among Orthodox Jews for complicated reasons, and the public-health conditions in those communities are nuanced. The thing about antisemitism, though, is that it’s not typically compatible with nuance. Vaccines are embraced by the vast majority of Jews and Jewish leaders; anti-vax conspiracy theories are a human phenomenon, not a Jewish one. And yet associations have staying power. With every new case of measles in Jewish Brooklyn, with every photograph of an Orthodox school paired with an article on the outbreak, the perceived connection between Jews and disease grows a little stronger. And no vaccine can eradicate that.”[TheAtlantic]
New York Police Record 83% Rise in Hate Crimes — by Ben Chapman: “New York politicians and community leaders are pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio for more funding to eradicate hate crimes, as police record a dramatic rise in bias complaints. The New York Police Department had 176 complaints of hate crimes from Jan. 1 to May 19… A spike in antisemitic hate crimes accounted for a majority of the increase, with those complaints rising from 50 to 103.” [WSJ]
SCENE LAST NIGHT — Israel’s SodaStream hosted nearly 3,000 Israelis and Palestinians for a Ramadan fast-ending meal at its factory in the southern Israeli town of Rahat. Bedouins and Jewish Israelis and some Palestinians attended the feast along with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. [Pic]
REMEMBERING — Robert L. Bernstein, Publisher and Champion of Dissent, Dies at 96 — by Robert McFadden: “Robert L. Bernstein, who built Random House into an international publishing giant and championed political dissent, freedom of expression and relief for oppressed peoples as the founder of Human Rights Watch, died on Monday in Manhattan… Robert Louis Bernstein was born in Manhattan on Jan. 5, 1923, one of two children of Alfred and Sylvia (Bloch) Bernstein. His father was in the textile business.” [NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Founding rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue in NYC and then later the City of Efrat in the Judean Hills, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin turns 79… UCSF’s neurologist and biochemist, director of UCSF’s Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Stanley Benjamin Prusiner M.D. turns 77… Former mayor of New York City (1994-2001), presently serving as a personal attorney to President Trump, Rudy Giuliani turns 75… Executive director of Baltimore’s Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Jerome H. Kadden turns 75… Mayor of Toronto, elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, his maternal grandmother is Jewish, John Howard Tory turns 65… Winnipeg-born attorney, previous campaign chair for Winnipeg’s Combined Jewish Appeal and governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Gail Sheryl Asper turns 59…
Member of the Knesset since 2009 on behalf of the Likud party, he serves as Minister of Science, Technology and Space, Ofir Akunis turns 46… Rabbi at Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville, Alabama, he was ordained at HUC-JIR-LA in 2008, Eric Berk turns 44… Manager of the Executive Office at The Pew Charitable Trusts, Lauren Mandelker turns 38… Singer-songwriter, artist and filmmaker, he is known for his involvement in the anti-folk music movement and as one half of the band The Moldy Peaches, Adam Green turns 38… Entrepreneur focused on real estate, technology, media, consumer products and manufacturing, he is a member of the Pritzker family of Hyatt Hotels, Matthew Pritzker turns 37… Former special assistant for community affairs (Jewish Liaison) for New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (2012-2018), he moved to leading NYC and NYS lobbying firm Kasirer LLC in 2018, David A. Lobl turns 35…
Founder of At The Well, a women’s wellness organization rooted in Jewish spirituality and women’s health, Sarah Michal Waxman turns 33… Documentary filmmaker, she was previously a politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News, Adelle Malka Nazarian turns 31… Freelance journalist writing about culture, she was previously an associate editor for the Forward, Thea Glassman turns 28… Harry Weinstein (son of Hudson Institute’s Ken Weinstein) turns 20… Named for his father who was the Wall Street Journal bureau chief that was kidnapped and murdered by Pakistani terrorists a few months before he was born, Adam Daniel Pearl turns 17… Irwin Weiss…