Daily Kickoff

2020 Dems debate getting a ‘better’ Iran deal | Jason Greenblatt explains why he doesn’t criticize Israel | NY & Israel’s $18B relationship

Wilfredo Lee

Democratic presidential candidates listen to a question during the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Miami.

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DEM DEBATE — Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) explained why he would not commit to unilaterally rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran during the first night of the Democratic 2020 debates in Miami, Florida, aired on NBC. “First and foremost, it was a mistake to pull out of that deal,” he said. “And one of the reasons why we are seeing this hostility now is because Donald Trump is marching us toward a far more dangerous situation. Literally, he took us out of a deal that gave us transparency into their nuclear program and pushed back a nuclear breakout 10-20 years, and now we see Iran threatening to go further and we are being pulled further and further into this crisis.”

“We need to negotiate and get back into a deal, but I am not going to have a primary platform to say, unilaterally, I am going to rejoin that deal, because when I am president of the U.S., I am going to do the best I can to secure this country and that region, and make sure that if I have the opportunity to leverage a better deal, I am going to do it.” [Video

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said the deal was “imperfect, but it was a good deal for that moment. I would have worked to get longer sunset periods, and that’s something we could negotiate, to get back in the deal. But the point is, Donald Trump told us when he got out of it that he was going to give us a better deal.” 

Klobuchar said that Trump promised a better deal, and did not deliver. “He has made us less safe than we were when he became president,” she said. “So what I would do is negotiate us back into that agreement, is stand with our allies, and not give unlimited leverage to China and Russia, which is what he has done.”

Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) said that the U.S. “needs to get back into the Iran nuclear agreement, and we need to negotiate how we can improve it. It was an imperfect deal. There are issues, like their missile development, that need to be addressed. We can do both simultaneously to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and preventing us from going to war.”

SNAP ANALYSIS — No decisive winners in first Democratic debate — by Ben Jacobs: “No single candidate will catch fire after the first Democratic debate. On a stage with ten people, it is difficult for any individual to stand out… But, even without the type of defining viral moment that campaigns often dream of but rarely see to fruition, the night may prove pivotal. For some of the candidates, it provided real opportunity to talk to an audience bigger than cable news loyalists and political junkies. Of those on stage, only Elizabeth Warren was in the top five in polling and few others had much of a national profile.” [JewishInsider]

TONIGHT AT 9 PM ET — The remaining ten qualifying candidates — Joe Biden, Michael Bennet, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang — will participate in the second night of debates live on NBC from Miami.

Moulton hires Jesse Colvin as deputy national finance director — by Ben Jacobs: Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) has hired Jesse Colvin, a 2018 congressional candidate, to serve as deputy national finance director for his presidential campaign. Colvin, whose campaign was backed by Moulton, raised more than $1.8 million during his underdog campaign against incumbent Republican Andy Harris. Moulton, who did not qualify for this week’s debates, has been on a media blitz in an attempt to solidify his status ahead of July’s debate. [JewishInsider]

PIC OF THE DAY — Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley visited the Western Wall on Wednesday. “Giving thanks for the many blessings in my life,” Haley tweeted. She is slated to address the first Israel Hayom conference in Jerusalem on Thursday evening. [Pic

STATE VISIT — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is hosting an economic development roundtable with Israeli businesses and New York state officials at the start of a 24-hour trade and solidarity mission to Israel, held at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Cuomo will then visit the Western Wall in the Old City. Upon his arrival, Cuomo met with President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem. [Pic]

The Democratic governor insisted that the trip to Israel — his third such visit as governor — is “personal,” not political in any way. “This is not a political trip,” Cuomo told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh on Wednesday. “It is an official trip for economic development… I am not going there to get involved in anyone’s politics.”

Asked what advice he would give his colleagues and 2020 Democratic candidates for president when it comes to criticism of Israel, Cuomo told JI, “I can only speak for myself, and what the Democratic Party in this state [New York] believes — which [is that] we are strong supporters of Israel, always have been, always will be.” [JewishInsider]

BAHRAIN SUMMIT — The “economic workshop” for Middle East peace came to a close Wednesday evening in Manama, Bahrain, after two days of speeches, roundtables and panel discussions. “Gaza right now is feeling a lot of pain because of bad leadership and the sanctions that have been imposed on them because of it,” Jared Kushner said Wednesday. “So the question that [Hamas] leadership has to ask themselves is… do they hate their neighbor in Israel more than they love their citizens and their people?”

HEARD ON CABLE — Kushner, during an interview on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, would not say if the U.S. was committed to a two-state solution.

Blitzer: Does the United States still support what’s called a two-state solution, Israel living alongside a new state of Palestine? 

Kushner: “Let me tell you what we want to see. We want to see very good security for the Israelis, we want to see very good security for Palestinians. We want an environment where people feel like they can live and have opportunity. We want an environment where capital can come in and invest, where jobs can be created. We want to see an area where people can respect each other’s religions and worship freely, and we want a place where people can live with dignity and have all the opportunities that people deserve to have… we’re trying to figure out what can be a sustainable situation where people can live together and have an opportunity to go forward. That’s why we led with the economic plan.” [Video

White House Mideast Peace Envoy Jason Greenblatt said in an interview with CNN’s Jeremy Diamond on Wednesday, that he hasn’t “found anything to criticize” Israel “that goes over the line.” Asked if the administration would criticize Israel if the government moved ahead with annexation of the West Bank, Greenblatt said, “We have not made a determination on that. We are not up to things that might happen down the road. I think it’s a theoretical conversation at this point.” 

CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble writes on Instagram: “Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman tells me he was having breakfast when he heard me call him out for comparing the Palestinian territories to Singapore. Now, he ain’t wrong in theory — both places low on natural resources and high on human capital — and yes, great things can always be achieved if you have leadership.But whereas, Singapore had Lee Kuan Yew, the Palestinians have Hamas, the PA, not to mention Netanyahu and dare I say it — now President Trump, too. But the most important takeaway here — and one for which no one is giving this kid credit — without Jared Kushner, I guarantee you none of these guys would have even considered coming out to Bahrain in the middle of the summer to consider Mideast peace.” [Pic]

NEW ERA? — Arab Officials Mute Criticism of Israel at Trump Administration’s Middle-East Peace Conference — by Felicia Schwartz: “The most striking feature of the Trump administration’s conference showcasing the economic side of its Middle East peace plan was what was largely absent: Criticism of Israeli policy toward the Palestinian territories. Arab officials steered clear of speaking about Palestinian statehood or Israeli policies at the two-day gathering.” [WSJ]

— “The event will do nothing to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it is another sign that the Gulf states are looking to move past that conflict. Though they are not quite ready to recognise Israel, they see it as an important regional power, an ally against a shared threat from Iran. The Palestinians have far less to offer.” [Economist]

The New York Times’s David Halbfinger writes: “Much of the conference seemed only loosely connected to the region, or to anything at all. Financial titans familiar from the pages of Forbes swapped war stories as if they were stuck waiting for their private jets to be refueled. Buzzwords like ‘virtuous cycle’ peppered the conversations.” [NYTimes]

Is Bahrain ready to establish ties with Israel? In an interview with Times of Israel, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that his country already recognizes that Israel is here to stay, and it is ready to normalize relations. “We do believe that Israel is a country to stay, and we want better relations with it, and we want peace with it,” he said.

Khalifa also expressed his optimism on the political component of President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, expected to be released later this year. “We have to wait. I cannot talk about something that I don’t know. But we hope that this political plan will also be attractive to everybody,” he said. [JewishInsider]

Khalifa told Israeli Channel 13’s Barak Ravid: “Israel is a country in the Middle East. Israel is part of the heritage of this region, historically. The Jewish people have a place amongst us.” [Video]

IRAN WATCH — French President Emmanuel Macron told Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani that leaving the 2015 nuclear deal would be a mistake. “I had a conversation with President Rouhani a couple of days ago and I indicated that any exit from the accord would be an error and any signals in that direction would be an error,” Macron told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday. 

Macron also said that he will try to convince President Trump to drop some sanctions on Iran “to give negotiations a chance.”

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump reiterated that he is willing to go to war with Iran, and that such a war “would not last long” or involve ground troops. But a Hezbollah official said Thursday that he thinks a U.S.-Iran war is unlikely. Sheikh Naim Qassem told a Lebanese newspaper that Trump “does not benefit from a war that he can start but whose results he cannot control and which might begin with Iran but may be accompanied by the region being set on fire.”

World leaders including Trump are beginning to depart for the G-20 summit, which is set to begin in Osaka, Japan on Friday, and tensions with Iran are high on the agenda.  

Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Thursday that Iran did not follow through with its threat to increase the amount of enriched uranium set by the 2015 nuclear deal, “but it is on course to reach that limit at the weekend.”

Politico’s Eliana Johnson reports that VP Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton have read Mike Doran’s latest essay on Iran in Mosaic.

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: 37 House Democrats broke rank on Wednesday, voting in favor of a Republican motion to recommit that adds millions of dollars in funding to government agencies enforcing sanctions on Iran. The large number of Democrats crossing the aisle is another example of how Congress is looking to punish the Islamic Republic outside of direct military confrontation. [JewishInsider]

Also on Wednesday, leading Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ted Deutch (D-FL), gave the State Department’s Acting Legal Adviser Marik String three days to present members of Congress with the administration’s view on the 2001 and 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force, two laws President Trump could use to establish the authority to attack Iran. [JewishInsider]

Orthodox Union leaders met with key legislators on Wednesday to discuss funding for Department of Homeland Security grants to protect synagogues and other houses of worship, and other priority issues. The OU leaders met with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). The delegation also presented an award of appreciation to Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) for his efforts in passing legislation to ensure disaster-damaged houses of worship are eligible to receive federal aid from FEMA. [Pic]

WATCH — During a hearing of the House Homeland Security committee, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) grilled Google executives over leaked emails that had labeled conservatives Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and Dennis Prager as “Nazis.”

“Two of three of these people are Jewish, very religious Jews,” Crenshaw said. “And yet you think they are Nazis. It begs the question, what kind of education do people at Google have?” [Video]

36 Hours With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: America’s freshman class president — by Bridget Read: 
“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, with Liz Cheney standing behind him, has called a press conference to demand that Ocasio-Cortez apologize for her remarks on concentration camps. Her interns continue to receive angry, abusive phone calls, which they report when a message becomes a death threat. Staffers from the office of Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who have been accidentally receiving some of them, bring over cookies in support.” [Vogue]

Ocasio-Cortez boarding a flight from DCA, bound for NY. [Pic]

Jewish history abroad — The House Foreign Affairs Committee agreed Wednesday to expand the mandate of a U.S. commission to access cemeteries, monuments and historic buildings important to Jewish heritage in the Middle East and North Africa. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), mirrors his April bill, which expands the power of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage. [JewishInsider]

ROAD TO THE KNESSET — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced the launch of a new yet-to-be-named political party on Wednesday evening. Barak, who retired from politics in 2012, was joined by retired IDF Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, professor Yifat Bitan and businessman Kobi Richter. “These are dark days the likes of which we have not known before,” Barak said at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “The Netanyahu regime must be toppled.” Netanyahu’s Likud dismissed Barak’s announcement, saying his entry into the race would only splinter the Left.

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Carl Icahn steps up fight with Occidental over deal, wants board seats [ReutersWSJ] • Yaniv Bar-Dayan’s Vulcan Cyber announces $10m. Series A funding to automate security patching [TechCrunch] • Tesco teams up with Israeli startup Trigo Vision on cashierless stores as competition with Amazon heats up [Bloomberg] • Huawei enters Israeli solar energy market [JPost] • Israeli AI chip developer NeuroBlade raises $23 million [Globes]

REPORT — New York-Israeli business development produced $18b. in revenue: Israeli companies in New York generated more than $18 billion in revenue last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the New York-Israel Business Alliance. The figure represents more than 2% of the total state GDP from a combined 506 Israeli-founded companies based in the Empire State. “The Economic Impact Report revealed some incredible data that has never been measured before and also identifies areas of tremendous growth potential: AI, cyber, agriculture, life sciences, and drones,” Alliance founder and president Aaron Kaplowitz told JI. [JewishInsider]

PAYING DUES — Dutch railway to pay out €50m over role in Holocaust — by Daniel Boffey: “The Dutch railway has accepted a recommendation that it pay up to €50m to relatives of thousands of people it transported to Nazi death camps during the second world war. Roger van Boxtel, the chief executive of the state-owned Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), said it was time for the company to make a gesture to those ‘directly involved’ as he reiterated an apology first made in 2005. A commissioned report recommended that the railway make an offer to about 500 survivors of the camps and 5,500 next of kin.” [TheGuardian]

DEEP DIVE — Debt, Conflict and Vacancy Imperil Kushners’ Times Square Dream — by Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski: “The Kushners’ new tenants [at the former New York Times building on West 43rd Street] have a few things in common, including ticket prices exceeding $30, underwhelming crowds and financial trouble. The National Geographic exhibit has paid only partial rent since August, and the Kushners are looking for a new tenant. Gulliver’s Gate paid irregularly, prompting a legal battle that resulted in its rent being cut by almost half this year. Take a walk around the back of the building, and there’s a dusty unfinished space meant for a champagne bar. It never opened. Kushner Cos. has traded lawsuits with the proprietor, an operator of airport restaurants that is alleging fraud, claims the Kushners have denied.” [Bloomberg]

GREETINGS FROM THE CHIEF RABBI — At the opening session of the 2019 Aspen Ideas Festival earlier this week, David Brooks introduced himself, as he often does, by joking that: “I’m the conservative columnist at The New York Times, which is a job I liken to being the chief rabbi in Mecca. Not a lot of company there.” 

While the crowd laughed, we later pointed out to Brooks that just last month it was announced that Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the executive director of the Bronfman Center at NYU, will serve as the inaugural chief rabbi of the United Arab Emirates. 

Recognizing the emergence of a “colleague” in the region, Brooks was kind enough to record a video message for Rabbi Sarna: “From the chief rabbi of Mecca to the chief rabbi of the UAE, shalom and congratulations.” [Video]

AN ASPEN MOMENT — Zuckerberg Defends Free Speech, Even When the Speech is False — by Nicholas Thompson: “It wasn’t long after Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival Wednesday that he was heckled by the audience. Facebook’s CEO was talking to Cass Sunstein, the Harvard Law School professor who has also served as a Facebook adviser, and discussing the complexities of combatting election interference… The moment was symbolic for Zuckerberg and the trust he and his company have lost in recent years. The Aspen Ideas Festival is a quiet, thoughtful place. Heckling is rare. But Facebook has drawn anger and derision everywhere this year, even at thought-leader conferences in the mountains.”[Wired]

SPOTLIGHT — A-Rod takes bigger swing at residential real estate in NYC — by Lois Weiss: “A-Rod Corp. has teamed up with real estate investor and operator Ofer Yardeni of Stonehenge NYC and brokerage guru Adam Modlin of the Modlin Group in what they say is an exclusive as-yet-to-be-named venture to root out and purchase all sizes of apartment buildings and bulk condominium units in the Big Apple… The trio met up in Florida last fall… The whole group spent the holidays with Rodriguez and Lopez in Bel Air, Calif… ‘It was almost like a military operation,’ said Yardeni, a former Israel Defense Forces soldier.” [NYPost]

PROFILE  — Yaacov Cohen Is The Spiritual Risktaker — by Deborah Danan: “Spirituality in entrepreneurship is one of the core tenets of Yaacov Cohen’s business model. As the CEO of harmon[.]ie, Cohen said, ‘There is no economic success without a deeper, soul-to-soul connection.’ One reason for this, the 53-year-old explained, is because you have to connect with diverse groups of people, including ‘geeks’ such as engineers and developers who tend to be introverts; marketing people and VC managers who are more outgoing; finance people with rigid ways; and the customers themselves… An observant Jew, religion has always played a huge role in Cohen’s life, although he’s loath to use the term ‘practice.’” [JewishJournal]

He’s Making the Spice Trade Less Shady — by Ximena N. Larkin: 
“One of the oldest forms of commerce and one often cloaked in secrecy, the spice trade dates back 4,000 years, and not much has changed in that time. Spice growers still get far less than the middlemen, but instead of losing out to medieval merchants, farmers today provide ingredients for fancy Michelin-starred restaurants stars only to be paid a fraction of what distributors make… Ethan Frisch, 32, co-founder of single-origin spice company Burlap & Barrel, is working to change that. ‘We’re setting farmers up to export their own crops for the first time in the history of the spice trade,’ says Frisch.” [Ozy]

Jewish district inspires Tom Stoppard in ‘personal’ new play — by Mark Brown: “Tom Stoppard, whose four Jewish grandparents and much of his family from his parents’ generation died in Nazi concentration camps, is returning to the West End with what is likely to be his most personal play. The 81-year-old playwright has spent the last year writing Leopoldstadt, his first play since The Hard Problem at the National Theatre in early 2015… Leopoldstadt, which begins previews at Wyndham’s theatre in January, takes its name from the old Jewish quarter of Vienna… [where] hundreds of thousands of Jews sought sanctuary from pogroms in Leopoldstadt’s crowded tenements.” [TheGuardian]

ACROSS THE POND — Chris Williamson is allowed back into Labour party after suspension over antisemitism rows — by Kevin Schofield: “The controversial Derby North MP was suspended in February over a ‘pattern of behaviour’ going back months. But that was lifted on Wednesday by a three-person NEC panel on antisemitism, despite a recommendation from party staff that he be referred to the next stage of Labour’s disciplinary process. He was instead issued with a formal warning after being found to have breached the party’s rules.” [PoliticsHome]

Holocaust tales used to counter Labour antisemitism claims — by Mark Bridge: “Activists defending Jeremy Corbyn from allegations of antisemitism have shared cut and pasted backstories claiming that they are the children of Holocaust survivors. Several Twitter accounts sticking up for the Labour leader have posted comments describing histories including being the son of a survivor ‘who lost 39 members of her family in the camps.’ The owners of the accounts argue that this background allows them to reject allegations of antisemitism against Mr Corbyn, or to be offended by them.” [TheTimes]

DESSERT — A Tel Aviv Restaurant Brings Bacchanalia and Technique to Hell’s Kitchen — by Shauna Lyon: “Depending on which employee you talk to at HaSalon — a new Manhattan outpost of a popular restaurant in a warehouse district of Tel Aviv — the Israeli chef Eyal Shani might be described as an artist with a masterful lens on leeks, a poet of tomatoes, or ‘on another planet, in the most endearing way.’ …HaSalon, on a desolate corner in Hell’s Kitchen, retains that devotion to technique but has an entirely different concept: reservations only; high-minded, high-priced food served in a kind of mismatched living room, which, after ten o’clock, turns bacchanalian, complete with dancing on tables.” [NewYorker]

Chief of staff at the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU and associate producer of Tablet Mag’s Unorthodox podcast, Sara Fredman Aeder turned 30 on Wednesday…

BIRTHDAYS: Co-founder of Taglit Birthright, the first Chairman of the United Jewish Communities (1999-2001), owner of MLB’s Montreal Expos (1968-1990), Charles Bronfman turns 88… Brooklyn resident, Meyer Rothturns 78… Former member of the Pennsylvania legislature: lower house (1997-2001) and Senate (2001-2009), her father is Leon Hess, founder of Hess Corporation and former owner of the New York Jets, Constance H. “Connie” Williams turns 75… Director at the Israel Democracy Institute, previously the commander of the Israeli Navy (1992-1996), head of the Shin Bet (1995-2000) and member of Knesset (2006-2009), Amihai “Ami” Ayalon turns 74… New Jersey resident, Kenneth R. Blankfein turns 63… Democratic member of the Florida legislature: House of Representatives (2010-2018) and Senate (since 2018), Lori Berman turns 61…

Managing director at Osprey Foundation, Louis Boorstin… and his twin brother, SVP at Albright Stonebridge Group, Robert Boorstin both turn 60… British historian, television presenter and award-winning author of popular history books and novels, he is a great-great-nephew of Sir Moses Montefiore, Simon Sebag Montefiore turns 54… Susan M. Feldman turns 54… Creator of multiple TV series including “Felicity,” “Alias,” “Lost” and “Fringe,” and director and producer of many films, Jeffrey Jacob (J.J.) Abrams turns 53… Gordon Gerstein turns 47… Reporter for The New York Times on the climate desk, focusing on climate and environmental policy in Washington, she and her husband own a pizzeria and bakery in DC, Lisa Friedman turns 47…

Member of the Knesset for the United Torah Judaism alliance since the 2019 elections, Yoel Yaakov Tessler turns 46… Director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute, he was the editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review (2008-2018), Ilya Shapiro turns 42… Communications director for Michelle Obama, a position she held at the White House and to the present, Caroline Elisabeth Adler Morales turns 37… Talent Partner at the Menlo Park office of New Enterprise Associates, after holding similar positions at Khosla Ventures and Bain & Company, Holly Rose Faith turns 34… Freelance journalist, Charles Dunst turns 23… Senior startup advisor at Chirpp Corp, after spending 9 years at a series of positions in the Israeli Embassy in DC, Deydra Cavazos

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