Daily Kickoff

Sen. Graham’s GOP friends defend his two states push | Klobuchar signals preconditions for reentering JCPOA | Qatar’s ⚽ diplomacy

Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina) and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman traveled to the Golan Heights today (March 11, 2019) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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THE RUNDOWN: Yesterday, Pete Buttigieg vowed that if elected he’d reenter the Iran deal. Buttigieg also warned Netanyahu against annexing parts of the West Bank, saying “American taxpayers won’t help foot the bill.” Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco announced that they’ll attend the Kushner-led summit in Bahrain later this month. More below:

SCENE LAST NIGHT — Amy Rotenberg, a crisis communications consultant, and Mark Rotenberg hosted a fundraiser for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) at their residence in the Kalorama neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Klobuchar discussed climate change, health care, and the need to embrace our allies and not coddle to international dictators, according to an attendee. With regard to the Iran nuclear deal, the 2020 presidential candidates said her view is that the U.S. should negotiate its way back into the JCPOA. Klobuchar also warned about waning support for Israel and stressed the need to mend some broken fences between Israel and the American people. [PicPic]

SPOTTED: Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), Randy Levitt, Jeff and Lynn Shapiro Snyder, Meg and John Symington, Annalise Glick, Jay Krupin, Nick and Marla Allard, Steve Rabinowitz, Linda Lourie, Hillary Smith Kapner, Adam Rosenberg.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Pete Buttigieg: Iran deal was close to a true ‘Art of the Deal’ — by Jacob Kornbluh: “Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons should remain a core tenet of our global leadership. For this reason, I will rejoin our international partners and recommit the U.S. to the Iran nuclear deal,” South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced in a foreign policy speech at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Buttigieg did not specify whether he has any preconditions towards re-entering the deal.

“Whatever its imperfections, this was perhaps as close to a true ‘art of the deal’ as it gets,” the 2020 presidential candidate explained in a swipe at President Trump, who authored the Art of the Deal and who withdrew from the JCPOA last year. “As even this administration repeatedly certified it was preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It has helped constrain the military threat that Iran poses to Israel and Europe without leading up down a path to another Middle Eastern war. This agreement was concluded not to do Iran a favor, but because it is in our national security interest, just as a parallel policy of confronting Iran’s support for terrorism and abysmal human rights record reflects our values and security interests.” [Video]

Buttigieg on annexation: “If Prime Minister Netanyahu makes good on his threat to annex West Bank settlements, he should know that a President Buttigieg would take steps to ensure that American taxpayers won’t help foot the bill,” he declared. “The closer an ally, the more important it is that we speak truth to them,” Buttigieg stressed about U.S.-Israel relations. “The security and survival of the democratic state of Israel has been and continues to be an essential tenet of U.S. foreign policy and is very much in our national interest, which is why neither American nor Israeli leaders should play personal politics with the security of Israel and its neighbors.”

Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Buttigieg said, “A two-state solution that achieves legitimate Palestinian aspirations and meets Israel’s security needs remains the only viable way forward.” [JewishInsider]

HOW IT PLAYED — Pete Buttigieg would cut some U.S. aid if Israel annexes West Bank [NYPost] • Pete Buttigieg says U.S. won’t ‘help foot the bill’ if Israel’s Netanyahu annexes West Bank settlements, setting himself apart from 2020 Democrats [BusinessInsider] • “Mr. Buttigieg also criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel for ‘turning away from peace.’ He warned Mr. Netanyahu not to annex West Bank settlements.” [NYTimes• Buttigieg looks to Truman, not Obama, on foreign policy — by George Packer[TheAtlantic]

J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami tweeted“Really important comments from Pete Buttigieg. Annexation would be a game-changer – and the U.S. has every right to exert control over how its money is spent. #NoMoreBlankCheck.”

RJC’s Matt Brooks tweeted“Can someone please explain to ‘The Mayor,’ how Washington works. Congress holds the power of the purse, NOT the President.” 

Matt Duss, a foreign policy advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), tweeted“Conditioning U.S. aid to Israel to stop settlements and end occupation quickly becoming the mainstream Democratic position. This is good.”

Batya Ungar-Sargon tweeted“Looks like Pete Buttigieg is now to the left of Bernie Sanders on Israel! Bernie told [the] New Yorker last month that withdrawing aid was not on the table (reversing course from 2017). Interesting that moderate Mayor Pete has chosen Israel as the place to stake a lefty claim.”

Washington Institute’s David Makovsky questioned whether Netanyahu is even committed to making good on his election promise. “Until now, Netanyahu has used the idea of annexation as a rhetorical device to pull the rug out from under the opponents to his right,” Makovsky explained in an email to Jewish Insider. “Is it a coincidence that he never mentioned annexation as a policy option during 13 years as prime minister until two nights before his hard-fought election victory on April 9th? The device worked as two parties to his right — the parties led by Naftali Bennett and Moshe Feiglin — failed to cross the threshold.”

“After the election, he dropped the matter. However, now that another election looms, will he take this idea out of his bag of tricks again? I think there is no way that Netanyahu goes forward with even limited annexation until he waits to see whether the Trump peace plan is put forward and then torpedoed by Abbas. In short, I don’t see Netanyahu annexing any piece of land at this moment and if it does so, it will only be if he gets at least a yellow if not green light from Trump. I see the final decision in Trump’s hands rather than Netanyahu’s.” 

On Monday, the State Department pushed back on Ambassador David Friedman’s annexation remarkstelling reporters that “the administration’s position on the settlements has not changed.”

A State Department official added in comments to CNN, “As the President has said, while the existence of settlements is not in itself an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity doesn’t help advance peace.”

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH ― On Tuesday, White House officials confirmed that Egypt, Jordan and Morocco have accepted an invitation to attend the ‘economic workshop’ in Bahrain later this month. In a statementquoted in the Jordanian media, King Abdullah II said that “Jordan has to attend international summits that deal with the Palestinian issue” to avoid “being left out.”

Palestinian Authority spokesman Ibrahim Melhim said the PA “deeply regrets the declaration of Cairo and Amman about its participating in the workshop and call on them and all brotherly and friendly countries to withdraw from participating in the workshop.”

In an interview with Times of Israel, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat predicted that Jared Kushner “will not be pleased” with the public statements Arab participants will make at the summit. “This conference in Manama will be the biggest setback and embarrassment for Kushner because I know that no Arab will [attend] without saying: ‘Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital living side by side with Israel on the 1967 borders,’” he said.

DRIVING THE CONVO — Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) insisted on Tuesday that he’s moving forward with a bipartisan resolution affirming U.S. support for the two-state solution despite Israel’s alleged opposition. “I don’t want to get in the way of Jared [Kushner],” Graham told McClatchy DC, “but I can’t envision a one-state solution. It won’t work. I mean, you’d have to disenfranchise the Palestinians, that won’t work. So if you want to have a Democratic, secure Jewish state, I think you have to have two states to make that work.”

Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based GOP donor and personal friend of the Republican senator, tells Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh: “I have been close to Senator Graham for many years, and I’ve always had full confidence in him. I’ve never had any reason to doubt his passion or his integrity. I also believe that we’ve never had a stronger supporter of Israel in the United States Senate. We’ve obviously had plenty of support – and I don’t want to in any way denigrate any other United States senator – but Senator Graham has been as strong on this as anybody has ever been. He votes his passion, he votes what he believes will work and what is needed, and I think that’s the main reason that he has continued to support a two-state solution. Whether or not there’s any other agenda politically with regard to the administration, I wouldn’t have any idea, but I’ve never known him to compromise his own integrity just for political gain.”

Sander Gerber, another close friend of Sen. Graham, emails us: “Senator Graham is such a great supporter of Israel, that to criticize him for following the policy of the Israeli government is unfair. Of course, he knows that the PA is a terror-sponsoring entity and incapable of forging a peace of two states unless it revokes the laws and budgets behind Pay for Slay, and actually recognizes the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State (and this ignores Hamas!). The fact is that there are alternatives to a two-state solution, but the state of Israel should put those forth, not Senator Graham. Still, Congress furthering the failed policies of the past does not bring peace.”[JewishInsider]

ON THE HILL – By JI’s Laura Kelly: Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) is pushing to put Congress on record supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Lowenthal tells JI: “I’ve recently visited Israel, in the latest trip that I took, which was in February of this year, and I felt like tensions were greater than ever before. It felt like — we visited, met with people in the Israeli government, spent time on the West Bank, visited Palestinian villages, listened to talks of annexation. And it just struck me as I came back, that it’s critical that time is not our friend. The administration is putting out a proposal which we do not believe will be promoting a two-state solution. Based upon the core principles, where both parties themselves have to be the negotiators.”

Republicans have yet to sign on to the resolution, with Lowenthal charging that they are being held hostage by the Trump administration’s refusal to endorse a two-state solution.

“This is not something that would be opposed by many, many Republican members and it would be supported by many,” Lowenthal tells JI. “But the administration is not sending signals in any way, the administration has not embraced…will not talk now, about a two-state solution and so I think it leaves Republican members in a difficult position.”[JewishInsider]

The House Appropriations Committee advanced the FY 2020 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which included $90 million to strengthen security and preparedness at non-profit and religious institutions, including Jewish institutions.

“I am proud to have drafted this smart, effective, and humane Homeland Security funding bill,” House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said in her opening statement. 

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), in her opening statement, said that the bill provides strong investment in “anti-terrorism grant programs.”

William Daroff, director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, praised the increase in funding.

“We applaud the House Appropriations Committee for favorably reporting the FY 2020 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill… including $90 million to strengthen security and preparedness at faith-based and other at-risk nonprofit institutions,” Daroff said in a statement. “Since September 11th, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks.” 

House Republicans are calling for Twitter to ban Hamas from its platform, arguing that the Palestinian terrorist organization in control of the Gaza Strip uses the social medium to recruit members, instigate violence against Israel and spread hatred of Israelis and Americans.

What’s going on: At least 16 House Republicans, including co-chairs of the House Republican Israel Caucus Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Doug Lamborn(R-CO), Joe Wilson (R-SC), sent a letter

 to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey calling for the platform to take action against accounts linked to Hamas.

Why it matters: The Republican representatives point out that it is against federal law to provide “material support, resources, and intangible assistance” to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The members also point out how Twitter has taken steps to remove Hezbollah and Islamic State propaganda.

“Twitter has a responsibility to stop the spread of terrorism on its site,” the members wrote in the letter. “We hope Twitter will take action without the need for additional Congressional oversight and legislative action.”

What’s next: The social media platform publishes a quarterly “transparency report” and says in the third quarter of 2018 it received over 11,000 removal requests, a decline of over 1,000 requests from the previous quarter. Katie Vincentz, a spokeswoman for Rep. Zeldin, said they have not yet received a response from Twitter.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA),who was stripped of his committee assignments earlier this year, was not allowed to join his Republican colleagues accompanying President Trump on Air Force One to Iowa on Tuesday, CNN reported this morning. King declined to comment about the White House snub. 

REPORT — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reportedly snubbed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg after a doctored clip of Pelosi speaking went viral. According to the Washington Post, Zuckerberg contacted Pelosi in recent weeks to explain how Facebook handles viral misinformation, but she has not called him back yet. Her staff, however, has been in touch with Zuckerberg, according to the report.

TRUMP DIPLOMACY — Mexican Officials Have a Trick for Navigating Trump: Ignore the Tweets and Go to Jared — by Erin Banco and Asawin Suebsaeng: “According to individuals working with the Mexican government, Kushner served as both a source of comfort and a backchannel during a months-long process that was filled with threats of devastating tariffs and accusations… Tapping on Kushner for clarity has become a semi-official policy in the top ranks of the offices of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.” [DailyBeast]

PALACE INTRIGUE — Treasury’s top brass is white, male and wealthy — by Nancy Cook: “Treasury has fewer policy disagreements these days, said one former official, because the top decision-makers are overwhelmingly white, male and wealthy. One Treasury official pointed to U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza — selected in April to run the Small Business Administration — and Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker as top female officials who have Mnuchin’s trust.”

“In an interview, Mandelker praised Mnuchin’s leadership. ‘As a woman leader working for Secretary Mnuchin, I feel empowered and trusted. He has been a tremendous boss for me,’ she said. ‘I have five primary leaders on my team and three out of the five of us are women. That is the first time we’ve had more than one woman on the team, and they are extraordinary leaders. Particularly in the national security space, it is great to have these women leaders as role models.’”[Politico]

2020 BRIEFS — President Trump and Joe Biden traded barbs as they crisscross Iowa… Bernie Sanders previews his speech on democratic socialism with Politico… As 2020 candidates struggle to be heard, their grumbling gets louder… Priorities USA, the Democratic Party’s most influential super PAC, has a plan to beat Trump with less cash… Twitter is wondering what happened to Howard Schultz’s presidential campaign. 

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Bill Ackman opposes United Technologies-Raytheon deal [WSJ• Is Heather Reisman’s Indigo Books & Music another candidate to go private? [GlobeAndMail• Henry Kravis’ KKR wants a slice of Germany’s most influential publishing house [Bloomberg• Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff swears he is ‘not an activist’ [Fortune]

MORE BRIEFS: Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon says the real test for Uber is how it does over time [Recode• Ford opens new research center in Tel Aviv [Reuters] • Intel CEO Robert Swan to arrive in Israel next week [Calcalist• Israel’s Aidoc gets third FDA nod for AI tools for radiologists [Reuters• Israeli auto lidar maker Innoviz raises another $170 million[Reuters

DEEP DIVE ― Birthright Trips, a Rite of Passage for Many Jews, Are Now a Target of Protests — by Farah Stockman: “One of IfNotNow’s founders, Yonah Lieberman, had helped lead a Birthright trip as an outside volunteer in 2013 and said he ‘saw a lot of lies’ about Israel. Activists cite the fact that one of President Trump’s biggest donors, Sheldon Adelson, has also given generously to Birthright, as a reason to be skeptical of the program. Others question whether a program aimed at bringing Jews from the diaspora to one of the most contested regions in the world could ever be apolitical. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who counts settlers among his political base, routinely addresses Birthright events and urges participants to support Israel when they return to their home countries… Birthright does not bring participants to meet with settlers or Palestinian political activists in the West Bank, citing security concerns and a desire for unbiased speakers.” [NYTimes]

Mossad Involved in Anti-boycott Activity, Israeli Minister’s Datebooks Reveal — by Noa Landau: “The datebooks of Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan for 2018 reveal that he cooperated with the Mossad in the fight against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement… Officials in the Strategic Affairs Ministry are proud of their work with the state’s security agencies, but hide the content and full scope of these activities on grounds that if these would be revealed, it would undermine the covert efforts being made against BDS and its leaders.” [Haaretz

SPORTS BLINK — Soccer Diplomacy: Qatar’s Big Weapon Against Arab Rivals — by Mat Nashed: “As 2022 approaches, Saudi Arabia and its allies face a particularly tricky debate: whether or not to attend the World Cup in Qatar. [Terki] Awad says that if Saudi Arabia qualifies, then the national team will play in Doha. [Wael] Jabir expects the UAE to do the same, arguing that neither their population nor FIFA would be pleased with a boycott. But [Keir] Radnedge stresses that the presence of Saudi and Emirati fans at the World Cup would grant Qatar the legitimacy it has long coveted through soccer… If their teams participate, it would serve as an even stronger diplomatic victory for Qatar, by effectively undermining the economic blockade against Doha.” [Ozy]

TALK OF THE TOWN — American Hebrew Academy, Prestigious Jewish Boarding School, Closes Abruptly — by Aiden Pink and Ari Feldman: “The American Hebrew Academy, a prestigious Jewish boarding school in North Carolina, announced its closure abruptly on Tuesday… An email to faculty and staff from Glenn A. Drew, the school’s CEO, and Leeor Sabbah, chair of the school’s board, announced the closing Tuesday morning. ‘The American Hebrew Academy began as a dream, it was a dream fulfilled for 18 years, and it is a dream that must, unfortunately, come to an end,’ the email stated. The email said the closing was due to ‘insufficient growth in enrollment and our inability to secure adequate funding to cover future school expenses.'”[Forward]

REMEMBERING — Economist Martin Feldstein Has Died at Age 79 — by Harriet Torry: 
“Martin Feldstein, a top adviser to presidents and one of the most influential academic economists of his generation, died Tuesday at the age of 79… Mr. Feldstein was an economist with one foot in the policy world and one in the academic world. A professor of economics at Harvard since 1969, he taught and mentored generations of influential economists. He served as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984 under Republican President Reagan. Mr. Feldstein later served in advisory positions to GOP President George W. Bush and Democratic President Obama.” [WSJ]

BIRTHDAYS: Sportscaster for NBA games on TNT, has also been the play-by-play announcer of multiple Super Bowls, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and the World Series, Marv Albert (born Marvin Philip Aufrichtig) turns 78… Israeli statesman and scholar who has served in multiple ministerial and leadership positions in the Israeli government including 20 years as a member of the Knesset (1988-2008), Yosef “Yossi” Beilin turns 71… Rabbi at Temple Beth El in Santa Cruz County, California (1976-2016), now emeritus, Richard Litvak, a/k/a Rabbi Rick, turns 69… British Conservative Party member of Parliament since 1992, Michael Fabricant turns 69… Dental consultant and recruiter, he is also the national director of institutional sales at Single Use Dental, Kenneth Nussen turns 64…

Board member of the Central Reserve Bank of Peru, he was previously Peru’s Agriculture Minister, José Chlimper Ackerman turns 64… Television producer and executive, he is President and CEO of Showtime and chief creative officer of CBS, David Nevins turns 53… EVP of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) in Washington, Rabbi Levi Shemtov turns 51… Rosslyn, Virginia-based editor of Politico, she is also an expert-in-residence in political analysis at USC’s Annenberg School, Carrie Budoff Brown turns 43… Managing principal at DC’s Precision Strategies, he was previously the communications director for U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) (2014-2019), Eliezer O. (“Eli”) Zupnick turns 36… Founder and managing partner of the investment firm Thrive Capital, he is the co-founder of Oscar Health and the brother of Jared Kushner, Joshua Kushner turns 34…

Deputy director of the Truman National Security Project’s Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to passing immigration reform, Hanna Siegel turns 34… Software engineer and co-creator of the Mozilla Firefox internet browser, he was the director of product at Facebook (2007-2013) and then worked at Uber, Blake Aaron Ross turns 34… Canadian tech entrepreneur, television personality and venture capitalist, Michele Romanow turns 34… Oversight counsel at the House Ways and Means Committee since February, he was an associate in the DC office of Boies Schiller Flexner, Zachary Louis Baron turns 33… DC-based reporter with BuzzFeed News until May 2019, she will be returning to school in the Fall for an MBA, Alexis Rose Levinson turns 31… Multimodal transportation coordinator at Montgomery County, Maryland’s Planning Department, Eli Glazier turns 29… Tessa Nesis turns 26…