HEARD LAST NIGHT — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the keynote address at the celebration of Israel’s 71st Independence Day hosted by the Israeli Embassy at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.[Pic]
“The White House has a vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which we will unveil this summer,” Pompeo said in his remarks. “It offers an opportunity, although no guarantee, that we hope we can have a brighter future for the Palestinian people.”
Secretary Pompeo also reminisced about his last visit to Israel in March, where “I met some of the most amazing people, one of them being your current prime minister in Israel.”
Referencing recent criticism of the New York Times, Pompeo mentioned the newspaper’s coverage of President Harry Truman’s recognition of Israel’s independence 11 minutes after its founding. “The New York Times reported – yes, I’m going to quote the New York Times here tonight. The New York Timesreported the next morning America’s bold action prompted the Jewish people to breathe a collective ‘sigh of relief.’” [Video]
Introducing Pompeo and addressing the Trump Administration’s policy on Iran, Ambassador Ron Dermer thanked President Trump “for rejecting the path of appeasement, standing up to Iran’s aggression and terror, and confronting the most antisemitic regime on the planet.”
Dermer added: “Israel has been blessed with many friends in both Republican and Democratic administrations who served as secretaries of state and who made important contributions to our alliance. But after working with you for the past two and a half years and seeing the extent of your commitment to the security and well-being of Israel, I can honestly say that Israel has never had a better friend in Foggy Bottom than you.”
SPOTTED: Brian Hook, Elan Carr, Sec. Alexander Acosta, Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Steve Watkins (R-KS), Steve King (R-IA) [Pic], and Jim Jordan (R-OH); Greg Rosenbaum, Ron Prosor, Aaron David Miller, Ann Lewis, Ken Weinstein, Nathan Diament, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, David Milstein, Julie Strauss Levin, William Daroff, Johnny Fluger, Jonathan Baron, Yarden Golan, Nola Weinstein, Shelley Greenspan, Bobby Zarate, Rich Goldberg, Tevi Troy, Ezra Troy, Malcolm Hoenlein, Harold Rhode, Richard Kemp, Steve Rabinowitz, Aaron Keyak, Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, Sarah Abonyi, Shai Franklin, Matthew Foldi, and Bonnie Glick.
SCENE LAST NIGHT — Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley received the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 2019 Humanitarian Award at the center’s dinner in Chicago [Pic]
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ivanka Trump received awards at the Internet Association’s Sixth Annual Charity Gala for their advocacy efforts for STEM education and opportunities. [Pic; Pic]
CLARIFICATION DEPT — In an interview with CNN’s DJ Judd on Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti explained his comments on the Jerusalem embassy after facing some criticism: “What I tried to emphasize, which may not have been as clear, was a unilateral decision is unhelpful, a single party doing that and having that bipartisan support to what’s been American policy, that we do recognize this capital, but how you do it is as important to what you do. So, I was stating merely that I support that U.S. policy, I support [the embassy] being there. But I know that Jerusalem is important to Muslims, to Christians and to Jews. And any resolution of a two-state solution needs to have Jerusalem as something shared between two-states in the future.”
“I know, sometimes the headline pops out, and it’s good clickbait, but for me, it’s a fact of American policy. It’s something that I think can be helpful, actually taking certain things off the table to move forward. But I think we need to recognize still that there’s a lot of suffering Palestinian people in their human rights, but at the same time, that we support a very strong Israel. And to me, that’s the biggest problem these days — people are trying to carve out that you can’t be pro-Palestinian and pro-lsraeli, I believe you can be both.”
CNN: If a Democratic candidate were to win the election in 2020, and decided to move the embassy back to Tel Aviv, would you support that? Would you oppose that?
Garcetti: “I don’t know that you can go backwards. But I think what’s most important is to put actual material gain on the table. Right now, less important are the symbols, than what’s the development and the access for Palestinians to be able to develop their economy and have access to the territory that they live in, and vice versa for Israel to live securely, where you know, they face rocket barrages and threat of terrorism and attacks from multiple directions. To me, those are much more important than the symbols right now, sometimes when you take the symbols off the table, you can actually get to the substance.”
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — The Palestinian Authority has formally announced that it will boycott the upcoming ‘economic workshop’ in Bahrain. “We reiterate that we did not mandate anyone to negotiate on our behalf. Those concerned and want to serve the interest of the Palestinian people should respect this collective position,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat negotiator said in a statement on Wednesday. “Palestine’s full economic potential can only be achieved by ending the Israeli occupation, respecting international law and UN resolutions.”
Erekat further explained the PA’s decision in an op-ed in the New York Times: “The Trump team has a background in the real-estate business. But the issues at stake are about national liberation, justice and equality. No one can devalue the right of any nation to be free or eliminate its dignity… Unless the Trump administration’s plan addresses these issues head-on, it is a non-starter for the Palestinians. It should be for the rest of the world, as well.”
AT THE UN — White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblattmentioned the Bahrain summit in remarks at a UN Security Council briefing on the Middle East on Wednesday: “This is the first stage of a process that we want to begin to showcase what could be – how, if we can achieve a political solution to the conflict, we can also transform the lives of the Palestinians. It would be a mistake for the Palestinians not to join us. They have nothing to lose and much to gain if they do join us. But it is, of course, their choice.”
Greenblatt also explained the administration’s decision to cut off funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA): “UNRWA’s business model, which is inherently tied to an endlessly and exponentially expanding community of beneficiaries, is in permanent crisis mode. That is why the United States decided that it will no longer commit to funding this irredeemably flawed operation… UNRWA is a band-aid, and the Palestinians who use its services deserve better – much better. We do not have to wait until a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in place to address that fact.” [Video]
Responding to Greenblatt, the Palestinian envoy’s deputy, Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, said: “No one can deny that we are in need of new efforts and new energy to overcome the suffocating political deadlock, least of all us. But ‘new’ cannot mean trampling the law or mocking and discarding the longstanding international consensus” on a two state solution.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN, explained to Bloomberg why the PA turned down the U.S. offer to participate at next month’s confab: “The U.S. has adopted nearly every position espoused by this very right-wing Israeli government… There is a clear global consensus on how to achieve peace. So why turn everything upside down and try something that can never work?”
CAMPUS BEAT — Stephen William Thrasher, an NYU doctoral graduate and professor at Northwestern, and a contributing editor at BuzzFeed, endorsed BDS and lauded NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis’s decision to boycott Israel in remarks at NYU’s Doctoral Convocation Ceremony at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on Monday.
Thrasher: “I am so proud, so proud of NYU’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and of Jewish Voice for Peace, and of GSOC, and of the NYU student government, and of my colleagues in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis for supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the apartheid state government in Israel — because this is what we are called to do. This is our NYU legacy — that we are connected in radical love, and we have a duty and a privilege in this position to protect not the most popular amongst us, but the most vulnerable amongst us on every campus where we serve in every community where we live, in every place that we work.”
“This is our duty and we must stand together to vanquish racism and Islamophobia and antisemitism and injustice and attacks on women and attacks on abortion rights in Tel Aviv, in Shanghai, in Abu Dhabi, in New York City, in Atlanta, in Washington, in Los Angeles, in San Francisco and everywhere in the world.” [Video; JewishInsider]
OF NOTE — The University president, Andrew Hamilton, who has condemned the Department of Cultural and Social Analysis’s decision to boycott Israel, can be seen applauding Thrasher’s speech. [Video]
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, authored by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and also part of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East, the package of bills currently being advanced by House Republicans through a discharge petition.
Rep. Engel had earlier told JI that he’d rather see the Caesar bill passed on its own and not part of a package. The bill places sanctions on individuals connected to the Assad regime known to have committed human rights violations.
“The Caesar Bill passed the House last year and it was held up by one senator, Senator Rand Paul. It could have easily passed the Senate. It seems that every year there’s another monkey wrench thrown in somehow,” Rep. Engel told JI in March. “I’ll call on my colleagues to pass the Caesar bill alone, not as partisan package to play political games — so Democrats can’t vote for it, or that Republicans can’t vote for it. The bill should stand on its own to be passed in the House. I’m opposed to anything that attaches it to whatever — there’s a package, take it or leave it. We want to pass this bill because there’s been enough suffering for the Syrian people and it’s just a crime that we have to pass this bill.”
REPORT — Following up on a recent report that Sen. Dianne Feinstein was spotted walking around with the number of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s displayed on her phone, Politico Playbook reportsthis morning that Feinstein had dinner Zarif when he was in the United States a few weeks ago.
Feinstein’s office insisted that the dinner was “arranged in consultation with the State Department” and that they gave the State Department advance notice “of the meeting to let them know it was happening and to get an update on U.S.-Iran activity.”
INSIDE THE ADMIN — CNN reports that there is growing tension between National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo far beyond disagreements over the administration’s approach to foreign affairs. According to the critics, Bolton has been trying to keep opposing views from reaching Trump, is centralizing his role into a decision-making perch instead of a position meant to funnel information to the president, and is maintaining a more active presence on the Hill. “At times, that’s left other top-ranking officials, including Pompeo, feeling excluded and out of the loop,” the report says.
In an interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show on Tuesday, Pompeo downplayed the notion of a split between him and Bolton on Iran policy: “There’s no difference between and amongst us. Those make great stories. They’re wonderful for coffee klatches and social parties in Washington, D.C.”
Bret Stephens writes… “A Deal for Iran: Normalization for Normalization: Under the terms of a normalization-for-normalization deal, Iran could relieve itself of all U.S. pressure by permanently abandoning its nuclear ambitions, its human rights outrages and its reckless international behavior. That’s not a big ask. Or at least it shouldn’t be, which is why Trump ought to deliver it in a carefully written speech… An American bombing campaign in Iran could hurt the regime. Complete and genuine normalization would, over time, be fatal to it.” [NYTimes]
Peter Beinart writes… Even Democrats Keep Thinking Iran Is Worse Than Saudi Arabia: Security professionals generally describe Iran’s foreign policy as opportunistic but cautious… In 2012, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, called the Iranian regime a ‘rational actor,’ an assessment echoed by Benny Gantz, then head of the Israel Defense Forces, and the former Israeli spy chief Meir Dagan. The Democrats running for president need to say this too. They need to say it because only by challenging the Trump administration’s description of Iran as singularly irrational and menacing can Democrats justify the normalization of relations with Tehran.” [TheAtlantic]
2020 WATCH — Inside the 2020 Democrats’ survival strategies…More than a dozen high-dollar contributions funded Bernie Sanders’ policy institute the year before he launched his presidential bid… Mayor Pete Buttigieg pulleda bigger crowd in Queens, New York than Mayor de Blasio drew in Iowa… At a historic moment for an Asian-American candidate, Andrew Yang leans in…
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Les Wexner’s L Brands Buoyed by Bath & Body Works [WSJ] • Israeli court rules Bitcoin not a currency [Globes] • Thomas Barrack’s Colony Capital Aims to Invest $5 Billion in Latin America [WSJ]
SPOTLIGHT — This Software Giant Runs on One Man’s Gut — by Nico Grant: “Marc Benioff, the co-chief executive officer of Salesforce, which makes America’s dominant sales-tracking software, puts a lot of faith in his gut. Interviews with Benioff and 18 current and former Salesforce employees and other friends and associates of the CEO make clear he operates more on spur-of-the-moment instincts than on a grand strategy. On the whole, that’s worked out incredibly well… The secret is deals. Benioff has kept up the momentum by acquiring more than 60 companies in 20 years, including a string of fast-growing businesses in marketing, e-commerce, and data integration… And the CEO readily acknowledges that he can’t always explain how he arrived at those decisions. ‘It’s hard, because I’m somebody who can see things that other people can’t see,’ he says. ‘It’s frustrating when I can’t communicate what I’m feeling. This is one of my challenges.'” [Bloomberg]
MEDIA WATCH — Soros foundation seeks to fight conspiratorial chatter on Fox News. To little avail — by Erik Wemple: “Last month Glenn Beck joined Sean Hannity for a chat about migrants heading through Mexico toward the U.S. border. ‘The problem is actually coming from Chicago,’ Beck told Hannity during an April 10 broadcast. ‘There is a group, a family that has a United Methodist Church, they are preachers, they are the ones that started the sanctuary city. They are directly getting money from George Soros and others.’ … Was Soros really behind the migrant movement? ‘Absolutely not — not on any level whatsoever,’ Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations, Soros’ philanthropic agency, tells the Erik Wemple Blog in an interview. Over the past month, Gaspard has attempted to petition Fox News for a correction. ‘How many times do these false statements need to be aired before you take action?’ asked Gaspard in an April 11 letter.” [WashPost]
With NY Times Under Siege, Jewish Reporters Hit Back — by Gary Rosenblatt: “Joseph Berger, whose parents were Polish Jewish immigrants, is well-known for his extensive coverage in The Times of Jewish-themed issues — most notably his reporting on local chasidic communities. We met at a Midtown kosher restaurant, and over deli sandwiches, he made clear at the outset that he believes the charges of anti-Semitism against The Times are ‘absurd.’ ‘Abe Rosenthal, Max Frankel, Joe Lelyveld, Jill Abramson — that’s four Jewish executive editors’ [the top editorial post] in the three decades he was on staff, Berger said, listing the names rapidly and with emotion in his voice. ‘These were not self-hating Jews,’ he added… As for the cartoon that precipitated the most recent round of anti-Times fervor, Berger said it was the yarmulke on Trump’s head that ‘made it about Judaism and put it over the edge.’ But he acknowledged that had the same cartoon been published in Haaretz, the left-leaning Israeli daily, he and others might not have seen it in as harsh a light.” [JewishWeek]
LONG READ — The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East — by Emma Green: “Jews lived in Alqosh for centuries, and in Iraq for thousands of years, although the priest who showed me around, Father Araam, knew about them only from stories. The Babylonian Talmud, which is the major text of rabbinic Judaism, was written here. Then, over a few short years, the Jews disappeared. Almost all of Iraq’s remaining Jews were effectively expelled from the country in the late 1940s and early 1950s amid intense political pressure and mob violence. Priests in the Nineveh Plain see this history as a warning. Their communities, too, could one day be nothing more than overgrown tombs.” [TheAtlantic]
Israeli scientists brew beer with revived ancient yeasts — by Ilan Ben Zion: “Israeli researchers raised a glass Wednesday to celebrate a long-brewing project of making beer and mead using yeasts extracted from ancient clay vessels —some over 5,000 years old. Archaeologists and microbiologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority and four Israeli universities teamed up to study yeast colonies found in microscopic pores in pottery fragments. The shards were found at Egyptian, Philistine and Judean archaeological sites in Israel spanning from 3,000 BC to the 4th century BC.” [AP]
REMEMBERING — Judith Kerr Could Explain the Holocaust Even to Children — by Barbie Latza Nadeau: “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbitis the childhood tale by which Kerr should be remembered most. She wrote it in 1968, after her son Matthew, then 8 years old, saw The Sound of Music and marveled that life really hadn’t been so bad for Germany’s Jewish refugees. Wanting to set the record straight, Kerr wrote Pink Rabbit and followed it up with Bombs on Aunt Dainty and A Small Person Far Away. The trilogy is about the struggles of refugee children and the fears they both face and bury. It is haunting and seems somehow more relevant today than ever… Throughout her long career, Kerr published 35 books. In 2012, she was given the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her contributions to children’s literature and Holocaust education… Kerr died May 22 in her London home.” [DailyBeast]
BIRTHDAYS: Founding member and chairman of law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, leading DC super-lobbyist but based in Denver, long-time proponent of the US-Israel relationship and national board member of AIPAC, Norman Brownstein turns 76… Businessman, attorney and philanthropist, he acquired and rebuilt the iconic restaurant in Miami Beach, The Forge, Alvin Malnik turns 86… British fashion retailer and promoter of tennis in Israel, he is the founder, chairman and CEO of three international clothing lines including the French Connection, Great Plains and Toast brands, Stephen Marks turns 73… Special counsel in the NYC office of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan focused on election law, he was in the inaugural class of Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, Jerry H. Goldfeder turns 72… Sherman Oaks, California resident, Stephanie Liss turns 69… Israeli diplomat, he served as Israel’s ambassador to Nigeria (2013-2016) and as Consul General of Israel to Philadelphia (2004-08), Uriel Palti turns 65…
Editor-in-chief of a book on end of life stories, she has served on many local and national non-profit boards and as a special events advisor to The Israel Project, Catherine Zacks Gildenhorn turns 63… Israeli businessman with holdings in real estate, construction, energy, hotels and media, Ofer Nimrodi turns 62… President of Newton, MA-based Liberty Companies, a development firm with more than five million square feet of real estate nationwide, he is a long-time Boston Jewish community leader, Andrew M. Cable turns 62… Best-selling author and journalist, whose works include “Tuesdays with Morrie,” he has sold over 39 million books, Mitch Albom turns 61… Senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Reuel Marc Gerecht turns 60… Israeli-born entrepreneur, author and former academic, now serving as the chairman of the board of the Irvine, California-based Ayn Rand Institute, Yaron Brook turns 58…
Vancouver, British Columbia-native, former ski instructor, ordained by HUC-JIR in 1998, now rabbi of the Community Synagogue of Rye (NY), Daniel B. Gropper turns 51… Film and television director, Nanette Burstein turns 49… Prominent NYC matrimonial law attorney, she is the daughter of TV journalist Jeff Greenfield, Casey Greenfield turns 46… Israeli educator and politician, she is a member of the Knesset for the centrist Kulanu party since 2015, Yifat Shasha-Biton turns 46… News editor at Haaretz, born in New York and raised in Tel Aviv, Omer Benjakob turns 32… Professional golfer on the LPGA Tour, she turned pro at age 17 and is the youngest-ever winner of a modern LPGA major championship (the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship), Morgan Pressel turns 31… Professional boxer, winner of the California Golden Gloves Championship in 2010, known as “Kid Yamaka” (a phonetic spelling of “yarmulke”), Zachary Wohlman turns 31… Corporate communications specialist at United Airlines, Andrea M. Hiller turns 25…