SPOTTED LAST NIGHT — at The Line Hotel in DC: Steven Spielberg enjoying dinner with former President Barack and Michelle Obama.
DRIVING THE CONVO — Netanyahu is officially Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. Now what? — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: Months after winning a mandate but failing to form a government, Netanyahu is seeking the trust of Israeli citizens to serve as their leader for a fifth term. Notwithstanding the results of the upcoming September 17 election and a ruling on his corruption cases, Netanyahu is set to mark a career and historical milestone — becoming the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history. On Saturday he will surpass David Ben-Gurion, hitting 4,876 days in office, which he first assumed on June 18, 1996, and returned to in 2009.
Jewish Insider spoke with several former aides, people who have served under him, and diplomats who have worked with him to discuss Netanyahu’s legacy as Israel’s number one political survivor. The following are highlights of their comments. Read in full here [JewishInsider]
Shalom Lipner, a 26-year veteran of the prime minister’s office who worked under Netanyahu until 2016, tells JI,“By all relevant parameters — ambition to cement the gains of his tenure, disdain for his rivals (whom he believes are all unqualified to replace him), and desire to fight the legal allegations against him from the bully pulpit of a sitting prime minister — Netanyahu knows that he’s best served by extending his term ad infinitum.”
Israel Policy Forum’s Susie Gelman: “I think that only Netanyahu knows what his next goals will be, but I assume that his primary goal is to stay in power and out of jail.”
But according to the Washington Institute’s David Makovsky and former Ambassador Dennis Ross, Netanyahu’s desire to remain on the political scene is also due to unfinished business on issues that, according to recent polling, the Israeli public still believes he is best suited to tackle.
Having managed to establish a strong relationship with President Donald Trump, Netanyahu sees the Trump years as “an opportunity to undo a lot of the conventional wisdom around Israel’s diplomatic situation,” says Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at George Mason’s Antonin Scalia School of Law and an expert on Israeli-Arab issues.
Netanyahu believes the United States and other allies can “deal a decisive blow to Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” law professor Thane Rosenbaum tells JI, “and Bibi would be able to take credit for never kicking the Iranian can down the road — he remained fixated on the existential threat and was committed to leaving office having rid Israel of the Iranian menace.”
Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, tells JI that while Netanyahu “rightly sees himself as the standard-bearer of the struggle against Iran, he has compromised himself in so many ways, especially in his recent assault on democratic institutions, that whatever gain we have from Netanyahu the anti-Iran prime minister is undermined by Netanyahu the anti-democratic prime minister.”
NETANYAHU’S LEGACY — “The picture will be mixed,” Ross suggested. While Netanyahu will “deservedly” get credit for “enhancing Israel’s economic and military power” and for strengthening relations with Russia, India and Egypt, “he will bear much responsibility if Israel loses its bipartisan relationship with the United States.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro: Netanyahu should also be judged by “his reticence to reinforce the viability of an eventual two-state solution for when better Palestinian leaders emerge” along with “the expansion of settlements and increasingly normalized talk of annexation,” which will “imperil Israel’s Jewish and democratic future, and its long-term, bipartisan, values-based relationship with the United States.”
Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York: “Other than longevity in office, Netanyahu has very little to show for in terms of achievements and enduring impact on Israel. What began as a great promise, a highly educated, articulate and urbane PM, degenerated into a bitter, resentful, paranoid authoritarian.”
Dr. Einat Wilf emails us: “One of Netanyahu’s greatest achievements, certainly from his political perspective, is that he proved that Israel could enjoy a decade of relative calm, prosperity and ever-growing and stronger diplomatic relationships with countries around the world, without making peace with the Palestinians, and without even negotiating with them… Should these developments lead in the next decade to a comprehensive peace agreement and normalization between Israel and much of the Arab world, Netanyahu will rightfully be considered on par with David Ben-Gurion, as one established the state and secured its existence by military force, and the other would have ended the conflict with the Arab world, and secured Israel’s existence with peace.”
Lipner highlighted that Netanyahu’s rivals “have attacked him almost exclusively on matters of character and impropriety — with limited focus on policy,” because of his economic and diplomatic achievements. Nonetheless, his legacy is also one of “hyper-polarization” and “divisiveness within Israeli society” and therefore, Netanyahu “will be remembered as a prominent factor in the erosion of national solidarity during his years in office.” [JewishInsider]
HOW IT’S PLAYING — Bruised but driven, Netanyahu becomes Israel’s longest-serving PM [Reuters] • Netanyahu to pass Ben-Gurion in time served, but not in stature [Al-Monitor] • Netanyahu makes history as Israel’s longest-serving leader [AP]
Tom Segev writes… “The pessimism shared by David Ben-Gurion and Benjamin Netanyahu: All of Israel’s leaders have shared a common national dream and disagreed only on the best way to realize it — and most of them have also shared Ben-Gurion’s pessimism about the possibility of peace in Palestine… Yet also like Ben-Gurion, Mr. Netanyahu has displayed a considerable amount of pragmatic realism.” [WSJ]
Aaron David Miller writes… “Netanyahu Keeps Winning Because He’s an Effective Leader: In a democracy with real elections that aren’t rigged, governing for a decade is no simple matter. It requires more than just good luck and smart politics; it takes competence and skill. And, love him or hate him, Netanyahu has brought both to bear.” [ForeignPolicy]
IRAN WATCH — The United States said Thursday that a U.S. Navy ship downed an Iranian drone that was flying too close to it in the Strait of Hormuz. President Donald Trump, speaking at the White House, said the USS Boxer took action against the drone for “threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew.”
“The drone was immediately destroyed,” he said. “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters. The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities, and interests.”
On Friday morning, Iran’s deputy foreign minister said that Tehran had not lost any drones. Abbas Araqchi tweeted that: “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [Unmanned Aerial System] by mistake!” Iran’s top military spokesman later said that all the country’s drones had returned safely to their bases.
Speaking to reporters in New York on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said if Congress lifts sanctions against it, Iran will allow international inspections of its nuclear program. “If [Trump] wants more for more, we can ratify the Additional Protocol and he can lift sanctions,” Zarif said. “He has said that he will take any measure to Congress. Fine. Lift the sanctions and you have the Additional Protocol.”
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) are pushing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to more forcefully demand the arrest of alleged Iranian perpetrators of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At least five men have outstanding warrants from the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), called red notices, and two others are wanted by Argentine authorities.
In a letter to the DOJ, Rubio and Cardin charge that the international community has not done enough to apprehend these men, who are documented to have traveled to at least 20 INTERPOL member states. “Argentina has stood virtually alone in seeking action on both the INTERPOL red notices and the Argentine arrest warrants associated with the Iranian officials accused of planning the AMIA bombing when they travel outside Iran,” the senators wrote in the letter.
Also on Thursday, Rubio and Cardin introduced — along with Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Todd Young (R-IN) — a resolution remembering the 25th anniversary of the bombing and calling on the Trump administration to monitor Iran’s activities in the Western Hemisphere. The resolution also demands more support for the Argentinian government in the ongoing investigation into the alleged assassination of Alberto Nisman, the lead prosecutor investigating the Argentine government’s alleged coverup of Hezbollah and Iranian links to the AMIA bombing.
Toby Dershowitz, a senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says that despite the quarter-century anniversary, there is still a clear path to justice.
“Many have thrown up their hands and said nothing can be done 25 years after the attack,” she wrote in an email to JI. “But today, Argentina designated Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. And this may be the year that serves as a wake-up call for others in the region impacted adversely by Hezbollah’s malign activities – including but not limited to money laundering, narco-terrorism and trafficking. The region has a choice to make: whether it sees its future handcuffed by Hezbollah and Iran or if it seeks a different path forward.”
On Thursday, Argentina officially branded Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, freezing its assets in the country. The country — the first in Latin America to do so — said that Hezbollah “continues to represent a current threat to security and the integrity of the economic and financial order of the Argentine Republic.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the decision: “It is time the entire enlightened world understand the grave danger Iran and Hezbollah pose,” he said. “It is time the entire world stand up against it.”
Rabbi Avi Weiss writes… “85 were murdered in an attack on Jews. They deserve justice: In the quarter-century since the attack, Argentine leader after leader has tried to cover up the truth of who exactly was responsible for this act of terrorism and who in the government abetted it.” [NYTimes]
TOP TALKER — President Trump faced criticism from his own party for presiding over a bigoted “send her back” chant about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) by his supporters at Wednesday’s campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina.
The president disavowed the term used, insisting that he tried to drown the chants out and “started speaking very quickly.” But in a video aired on CNN, Trump is seen pausing for at least 13 seconds before continuing his remarks.
REPORT — Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior advisor, reportedly “talked to the president about it on Thursday morning” and urged him to publicly rebuke the chants.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) dined with Omar on Wednesday, while Trump was holding the rally. “To my surprise, Ilhan was pretty unfazed,” Sanders wrote in a fundraising email to his supporters. “Sadly, as she told me, she has been dealing with this kind of hatred and racism for a long time.” [Pic]
Arab-Israeli Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman sent letters of solidarity to Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), “to express my appreciation for your tireless work on behalf of the Palestinian people“ and “in light of President Trump’s recent attacks.”
SCENE IN D.C. — Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz publicly met with the Bahraini foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, while attending the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. According to the Israeli Embassy in D.C., the two “discussed Iran and the other regional threats. They also spoke about the cooperation between Israel and Bahrain, and agreed to stay in contact.” [Pic]
Katz also met with Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill. [Pic]
UPCOMING TRAVELS — President Donald Trump is expected to attendevents in Warsaw marking the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1st, the Polish government announced on Thursday. The White House said the trip was not yet confirmed.
2020 BRIEFS — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will face off again in CNN’s Democratic primary debate on July 31st… Retired four-star general Stanley McChrystal endorsed Rep. Seth Moulton for president on Thursday… Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign raised a third of its money from donors with city business. Regent Hotel and its principal Sam Domb each gave the max $2,800… Labor fight roils Bernie Sanders’s campaign, as workers demand the $15 hourly pay the candidate has proposed for employees nationwide
Scooter Braun hosting fundraiser for Harris dubbed ‘Fireside Chat with Kamala’ — by John Bowden: “Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) will attend a fundraiser hosted by music manager Scooter Braun on Saturday at Braun’s house in Los Angeles… The invitation, first reported by Jennifer Epstein at Bloomberg News, bills the event as a “fireside chat” with the California Democrat.” [TheHill]
RACE TO THE KNESSET — Newly elected Labor head Amir Peretz announced on Thursday a merger with former MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, whose Gesher party failed to enter the Knesset in the April 9 elections. The move is seen as an attempt to bring more centrist/right-wing voters into the centrist-left bloc. But the announcement also put to rest the possibility for a united left-wing list with Meretz and former PM Ehud Barak’s Democratic Israel party, which could result in at least one party not reaching the threshold and wasting a chunk of votes for the anti-Bibi bloc.
Barak criticized Peretz for the decision on Friday, saying that “the union could be the death knell of the Labor party. He said the move “is essentially giving up on replacing the government and is opening the door for joining up with Netanyahu.”
Meanwhile, Channel 12 News reported on Thursday that scandal-plagued Education Minister Rafi Peretz, the head of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, is being pressured to step aside from leading the electoral bloc and allow former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to take over.
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann has cashed out at least $700 million via sales, loans[WSJ] • According to brokers, Stephen Ross’s Time Warner Center penthouse is overpriced at $75 million [NYPost; WSJ] • Israeli NSO spyware ‘targets Big Tech cloud services’ [FinancialTimes] • Azrieli invests $135m in North American data centers [Globes]
BEHIND BARS — Financier Jeffrey Epstein was denied his request to be released on house arrest. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said that the accused sex trafficker and convicted sex offender is “a danger to others and the community.” The next hearing in the case is scheduled for July 31.
TALK OF THE TOWN — Court rejects bid to suspend part of Canadian province’s religious symbols ban — by Moira Warburton: “A court in the Canadian province of Quebec on Thursday rejected a bid to suspend parts of a new provincial law that bans public sector employees from wearing religious symbols to work… The law prohibits all public employees in positions of authority — including public school teachers, prison guards, judges and police officers — from wearing religious symbols to work, such as kippahs, hijabs and crosses.” [Reuters]
Discovery sheds light on Jewish life in Lithuania before Holocaust:“Jewish community leaders in Lithuania on Thursday announced the discovery of an 18th-century memorial plaque bearing Hebrew inscriptions that detail trips made by Jewish residents of Vilnius to the Holy Land at the time. The stone plaque was discovered in a cellar below the most revered part of the Great Synagogue of Vilnius.” [AFP]
HAPPENING TODAY — Top-level government officials have convened at the Aspen Security Forum to discuss global security concerns including Iran and the Middle East. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) is slated to speak about “U.S. Strategy in an unstable Middle East.” Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, will join Wendy Sherman, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, in a conversation on “Containing Iran.”
ACROSS THE SEA — Edinburgh prison bosses launch crackdown on inmates pretending to be Jewish to get better food — by Stuart MacDonald: “Prison bosses launched a crackdown on a scam by cons pretending to be Jewish to get better food… More than 100 [inmates] at HMP Edinburgh claimed to have converted to [score] specially prepared kosher meals in 2017. But the Scottish Prison Service tightened its application process and the number fell to 23, cutting the catering bill by £80,000 last year. The SPS said the scam spread to other jails.” [TheScottishSun]
Germany probes anti-Israel ‘likes’ by official account: “Germany’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday it has opened an investigation after learning that the official Twitter account of the country’s mission to the Palestinian territories had ‘liked’ anti-Israel tweets. The comments came after top-selling Bild newspaper reported that the ‘likes’ came from the verified Twitter account of German diplomat Christian Clages, @GerRepRamallah.” [AP]
UNCOVERED — Israel mosque find: Archaeologists unearth 1,200-year-old ruins in desert — “One of the world’s earliest known mosques, built around 1,200 years ago, has been discovered by archaeologists in Israel’s Negev Desert. The remains, dating from the 7th or 8th century, were found in the Bedouin town of Rahat.” [BBC]
TOP HONOR — Michael Tilson Thomas, the longtime music director of the San Francisco Symphony and a member of the Yiddish Theater, will receivethe prestigious Kennedy Center Honor award on December 15.
WINE OF THE WEEK — 2016 Yarden Chardonnay Odem — by Yitz Applbaum: “On Fridays, I often find myself preparing a line-up of the wines I hope will last through the Shabbat dinner. This past Friday night I ended up digging a bit too deep into the wine tasting and found that 2016 Yarden Chardonnay Odem made it to the table with almost a third of the bottle gone.”
“The nose on this Chardonnay was of rain fresh off hay in a field. The wine is fermented in its barrel with what I suspect is a very small amount of Sauvignon Blanc. The wine tastes of an oaky Belgian butter which is remarkably replaced at the last moment by a slight green apple-dryness. This wine will age well and can be sipped for at least five more years. I recommend enjoying it alongside sea bass and serving the wine closer to room temperature than to cold, as it will allow for the more earthy notes to come forth.” [GolanWines]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Born in a public housing project in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, now Chairman emeritus of Starbucks, Howard Schultz turns 66… Johannesburg resident, Monty Lasovsky turns 84… Interactive designer, author and artist, son-in-law of the late JFK, Edwin Arthur “Ed” Schlossberg turns 74… Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Leiden University, he served in the Dutch Senate (1999-2010) and then as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (2010-2012), Uriel “Uri” Rosenthal turns 74… Entrepreneur, hotelier and real estate developer, often referred to as the creator of the boutique hotel concept, he gained fame in 1977 as co-founder of NYC’s Studio 54, Ian Schrager turns 73… Co-founder of Limmud FSU and a past president of the Queens College Hillel, Sandra F. Cahn turns 71…
Past president of the UJA/Federation of Westport, Weston, Wilton, Norwalk, CT and VP and executive board member of the Bi-Cultural Day School in Stamford, Connecticut, Linda Meyer Russ turns 69… Sportswriter for The Athletic, he is the author of three books on baseball, long-time sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and ESPN writer and co-host, Jayson Stark turns 68… Retired judicial assistant at the Montgomery County (PA) Court of Common Pleas, Deenie Silow turns 66… Rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University and spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield, New Jersey, Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger turns 64… Talmudic scholar and Head of the Kollel at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Rabbi Ezra Neuberger turns 62… Former chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings (owner of retailers Sears and Kmart), Edward Scott “Eddie” Lampert turns 57…
Pulitzer Prize winning NYTimes reporter and author of “The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men,” Eric Lichtblau turns 54… Israeli actress, model and film producer, Yael Abecassis turns 52… Spokesperson to the Arab media in the Israel Prime Minister’s Office, Ofir Gendelman turns 48… Co-Chairman and CEO of CheckAlt, an independent provider of treasury and lockbox solutions, Shai Stern turns 45… Women’s rights activist, entrepreneur, two-time author and strategic marketing consultant, Alexis Blair Wolfer turns 35… Ezra David Beren turns 34… ProPublica reporter covering politics, influence and the Trump administration, Isaac Arnsdorf turns 30… Former EVP and CEO of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation (2000-2010), where he continues to serve on the board of directors, Dr. George Ban… Henry Emmanuel Hublet… Zach Houghton…
SATURDAY: NYC real estate developer Sheldon Solow turns 91… Retired after 30 years in the U.S. Senate (D-Maryland), following 10 years in the House of Representatives, Barbara Mikulski turns 83… President of the National Endowment for Democracy since its 1984 founding, Carl Gershman turns 76… Long-time member of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he served as a consul to Hong Kong and ambassador to Germany (2007-2012), he serves on the board of Elbit Systems, Yoram Ben-Zeev turns 75… Former commissioner on the Civil Rights Commission (2011-2016), Assistant Secretary of HUD in the Clinton administration, presently Vice Chair of the Board of Bank of San Francisco, Roberta Achtenberg turns 69… NYTimes columnist, author and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Friedman turns 66…
Molecular geneticist at NYC-based Rockefeller University and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Jeffrey M. Friedman turns 65… Broadcast and digital media executive, based in Baku, Azerbaijan, Farrell Meisel turns 64… Professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Barbara Risman turns 63… Past president of the Women’s Department at the Jewish Federation of Detroit, Marcie Hermelin Orley turns 60… Los Angeles-based wardrobe consultant, Linleigh Ayn Richker turns 58… Attorney, Jack Achiezer Guggenheim turns 47… Political director of CNN, where he oversees the political coverage across all of CNN’s platforms, David Marc Chalian turns 46… Co-author of “Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame,” he is a staff writer at The Atlantic and a fellow at the New America Foundation, former editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer turns 45…
Midwest Regional Director at AIPAC, David Fox turns 43… Singer who burst on the scene as a finalist on the fifth season of American Idol, Efraym Elliott Yamin turns 41… Senior Vice President at Capalino+Company, Fred Kreizman turns 41… Managing partner of the communications and branding firm of Main & Rose, writer, speaker and advocate, she has also authored a children’s book, Beth Doane turns 36… Minor league player for MLB’s Los Angeles Angels, he started at third base for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Ty Kelly turns 31… Software engineer at Home Chef, she was previously at Relativity, Ashley Abramowicz Gibbs turns 30… Resident physician in anesthesiology at UCLA, Sheila Ganjian Navi turns 29… Graduate of Rockville, MD’s Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy and University of Pennsylvania, now an engagement manager at McKinsey & Company, Etan Raskas turns 27… Institutional sales associate at BlackRock in San Francisco, Jonathan Tamir Alden turns 27… Goldie Fields…
SUNDAY: Chilean-born classical music composer whose themes include many Jewish topics, Professor Emeritus at Tel Aviv University, Leon Schidlowskyturns 88… Escondido, California resident, Leonard Simon Zoll turns 83… Retired in March as the CEO of Sony/ATV, a large music publishing firm, Martin Bandier turns 78… Jerusalem-born, professor emeritus in the Department of Physics at Bar-Ilan University, he has published more than 600 articles and 11 books and serves on the editorial board of four scientific journals, Shlomo Havlin turns 77…
Criminal defense attorney, known for representing many politicians, celebrities and organized crime defendants, Benjamin Brafman turns 71… Credit manager at NYC’s Louis Glick & Co., Irene Ostrovsky turns 63… Comedian and actor, best known for his five seasons on Saturday Night Live (1985-1990), Jon Lovitz turns 62… Chief Rabbi of Russia since 1993 and president of the Conference of European Rabbis (an organization with 700 members), Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt turns 56… Founder, president and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) and the Electrification Coalition, both promoting policies and actions to reduce U.S. dependence on oil, Raphael “Robbie” Diamond turns 45…
Founder of The Theory of Enchantment, Chloé Simone Valdary turns 26… Program coordinator for congressional and government affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Zachary A. Marshall turns 26… Boston native, she was the community coordinator at GatherDC (2017-2019) until moving back to Massachusetts to work at Drizly, Rachel Elizabeth Nievesturns 25… Attorney in Madrid and Secretary General of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain since 2017, Elias Cohen…