HEARD YESTERDAY — Former Vice President Joe Biden pledged to re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran “if Tehran returns to compliance with the deal” in a foreign policy speech in New York City.
“The historic Iran nuclear deal we negotiated blocked Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, with inspectors on the ground — international inspectors confirming that the agreement was being kept,” he said. “Yet Trump cast it aside, prompting Iran to restart its nuclear program, become more provocative, and raising the risk of another disastrous war in the region.”
Biden also stressed the need to sustain America’s “ironclad commitment to Israel’s security,” despite disagreements with the present Israeli government. “It is essential,” he said. [JewishInsider; Video]
Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh caught up with Washington Governor Jay Inslee while he was visiting a labor union in New York City on Thursday. The 2020 presidential hopeful told JI that his only pre-condition to re-entering the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran is to “remove Donald Trump” from office.
“It is clear who breached the agreement — it was Donald Trump. Donald Trump tore up the agreement, not Iran,” Inslee explained. “I see no reason why that cannot be reinstituted. Iran has not indicated in any way that they want to breach the agreement; it is Donald Trump who has created this crisis, it was Donald Trump who made a giant misjudgment, and it’s Donald Trump who’s hired the same people in his administration that led to [the Iraq] War.”
Inslee refused to say whether he’d reverse or accept Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but stressed that he’s committed to “do everything possible to create a two-state solution in a peaceful region.”[JewishInsider]
REPORT — U.N. inspectors have found evidence of illicit nuclear activity in an Iranian warehouse, Ch. 13’s Barak Ravid reported on Thursday. The site was first revealed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his address at the U.N. General Assembly last September. The Iranians denied Netanyahu’s claims that the site was used to secretly store nuclear material, claiming it was a carpet factory.
At the time, Israel passed the information about the warehouse to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and U.N. inspectors reportedlyvisited the site several months ago. The samples tested for evidence of radioactivity came back positive, “and in the last few weeks it became clear that the remains of radioactive material were found at the site.”
IRAN WATCH — Despite President Donald Trump’s rhetoric over Iran sanctions, Reuters reported on Thursday that the U.S. has “decided not to impose sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for now… in a sign Washington may be holding a door open for diplomacy.” Though Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said last month that Zarif would be sanctioned, according to Reuters, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “opposed designating Zarif ‘for the time being.’”
On Friday, Iran called on Britain to immediately release an oil tanker that the British Royal Marines seized last week on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the situation with Iran in a phone call on Wednesday. Netanyahu “expressed his appreciation for President Trump’s intention to increase the sanctions on Iran,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
TALK OF THE REGION — The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have startedto withdraw their forces from Yemen after being part of the Saudi-led war to drive out Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Diplomats told The New York Times that the Saudis “were deeply disappointed by the Emirati decision. Top officials with the royal court personally intervened with the Emirati leaders to try to dissuade them from the drawdown.”
Turkey has begun receiving Russia’s S-400 air-defense system, with the first parts for the system arriving at an air base in Ankara on Friday. The move could likely trigger U.S. sanctions.
DIPLOMACY BY TWEET — President Trump explained why he announced his decision to recognize Israeli control over the Golan Heights by tweet during remarks at the White House social media summit: “For 52 years they’ve been trying to get it. They couldn’t get it… I said ‘watch, I’m going to do this.’ …I go ‘watch this,’ boom, I press it.” [Video]
ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Several House Democrats, led by leading progressive members, are charging that a congressional resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a violation of First Amendment rights.
“The core of the bill… is suppressing people that criticize the country,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) told Jewish Insider on Thursday.
The bipartisan bill opposing the movement is expected to advance through committee next week, paving the way for a vote on the House floor and dividing Democrats. About 69 Democrats have yet to sign on the bill, which will be marked up in the House Foreign Affairs Committee next week.
Among those holding off on signing are Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “I think there are a lot of people, and it’s not just progressives, who feel that this issue is being used by Republicans to try and divide Democrats,” Jayapal told JI. “And that comes from people who oppose BDS. I’m not sure this is the right time to be bringing that resolution forward.”
But Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) told JI that “it’s very hard to have an unconstitutional resolution. Freedom of speech starts with the representatives of the American people. We have a constitutional right to express our views. So, it’s very hard to see how a resolution could violate the constitution,” he said. “It’s very hard to find a constitutional scholar that thinks that [that a congressional resolution authored by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) condemning BDS] raises any issues. So I don’t know what she’s concerned about.” [JewishInsider]
WHAT’S NEXT ― Infighting among Democrats ― over immigration, the defense spending bill and particularly accusations that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is singling out freshman progressive Reps. Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — could spill over into the anti-BDS debate.
LAST NIGHT — Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) spoke at the New Story Leadership annual congressional forum on Capitol Hill: “It’s going to be really hard — I mean, next week, I have to vote against something I know is going to be about suppressing my voice, and saying… I am an American that deserves to say things like my [Palestinian] grandmother deserves human dignity and deserves equality and justice.”
Tlaib also told the crowd that she expects to visit the West Bank next month: “My city [of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, near Ramallah] is so excited that I am possibly going to come to see her next month. She is so happy. And I am going to take my two wonderful boys… and they are going to meet their great grandmother. So I am really, really excited about that.” [Pic]
JI INTERVIEW — House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) spoke with Jewish Insider’s Laura Kelly on Thursday about the stalled efforts in Congress to combat the BDS movement against Israel.
“We hear from Democrats who want to see [S.1] come to the floor,” Scalise said. “They’d like to see it come to the floor in the traditional sense, so that they don’t get in the middle of a fight with the Speaker. But, at the same time, they would like to see the Speaker bring it to the floor, they’re frustrated that she won’t — but not everybody’s willing to stand up to the Speaker. But at the end of the day, if that bill was on the floor, it would be a strong bipartisan vote — which tells you there is still a lot of support for Israel on both sides of the aisle.”
JI: What kind of feedback have you been hearing from pro-Israel groups like AIPAC about the discharge petition?
Scalise: “They typically don’t get involved in internal House conflicts, where you have a Speaker of the House who’s not willing to bring a bill forward. I think they’d like to see a bipartisan movement behind this and there are a growing number of Democrats who are speaking out, some of them get threatened within their own party when they speak out and that’s a shame, but at the same time they realize now’s a very important time to stand with Israel.”
JI: There was the Israeli Anti-Boycott Act in the 115th Congress, that cleared the House Foreign Affairs Committee and had strong bipartisan support, why didn’t it come to the floor for a vote?
Scalise: “I don’t know why it didn’t come to the floor last year. I’m not sure if they were waiting to work with the administration on some different approaches but, I’m not aware – obviously now you’ve seen it escalate where you actually have members of Congress joining in to the BDS movement and that’s a real concern. So we want to be more vocal and not only stand up against the BDS movement but also to stand up against some of the members of Congress who support the BDS movement, which is very alarming.”
SCENE LAST NIGHT — Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced stop at the Chabad of Poway while visiting San Diego, California, on Thursday evening. Pence “was greeted with a bear hug by Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein… The vice president wore a yarmulke,” according to the vice president’s pool reporter Josh Dawsey. “We had to come,” Pence told the rabbi. [Pic]
Later in the evening, Pence and his wife, Karen, headlined a fundraiser at the home of Dr. Bob & June Shillman in Rancho Santa Fe, California. The event raised more than $500,000, according to a White House official.
2020 BRIEFS — Pete Buttigieg details ‘Frederick Douglass Plan’ for black Americans… Elizabeth Warren takes on Trump with immigration overhaul… Kamala Harris wants to spend $1 billion clearing America’s 225,000 untested rape kits… Andrew Yang raises $2.8 million in second quarter… Moulton: Trump voters ‘know that he’s an asshole’… Sanders says he backs abolishingElectoral College… Is Justin Amash running for president?
DONOR CIRCUIT — How Wall Street Democrats see the race — by Ben White and Aubree Eliza Weaver: “‘I don’t think Wall Street is for Biden and it never really was,’ said one banker who has raised money for multiple candidates. ‘Biden has some support but he was never really a financial services guy. Kamala [Harris] has Marc Lasry and Blair Effron, Mayor Pete [Buttigieg] has Orin [Kramer], it’s all very spread around.'” [Politico]
How Joe Biden avoided Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street problem — by Rick Newman: “Here’s one thing that doesn’t appear on Biden’s financial disclosure forms: The name ‘Goldman Sachs.’ Or the name of any Wall Street Bank. That’s because Biden gave speeches, in conjunction with his 2017 book ‘Promise Me, Dad,’ mostly to university groups and civic organizations such as Vanderbilt University and the San Francisco Jewish Community Center.”[YahooFinance]
RACE TO THE KNESSET — The recent arrest of financier Jeffrey Epstein has become an Israeli election campaign issue, with the New York millionaire’s ties to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak coming under heavy scrutiny. Haaretz reported on Thursday that Epstein, who is charged with sex trafficking, partnered with Barak to invest in Reporty Homeland Security, now known as Carbyne, the former prime minister’s startup. Barak told the newspaper that “a small number of people I know invest in it. Since these are private investments, it wouldn’t be proper or right for me to expose the investors’ details.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared the report on his Facebook pageon Thursday writing: “Immediately investigate Ehud Barak.”
Barak is also connected to Epstein through the Wexner Foundation, a Jewish leadership nonprofit founded by Epstein’s former close associate and Victoria’s Secret owner Les Wexner. CNBC reported Thursday that Epstein donated $46 million to a separate Wexner nonprofit in 2008; he also served as a trustee and member of the board of the Wexner Foundation for decades. Barak reportedly received more than $2 million from the fund for unspecified research in 2004. On Wednesday, the Likud party submitted a request to Israel’s attorney general to investigate Barak over the ties. In an Israeli radio interview on Thursday, Barak said he met Epstein several times but that he “didn’t support me or pay me.”
Separately, the Likud attacked Kachol Lavan on Friday over its recent hire of American pollster and strategist Joel Benenson. In a campaign ad, Likud said when Benenson worked for Hillary Clinton he urged her not to mention Israel, and that he led a campaign under U.S. President Barack Obama in favor of passing the Iran deal. The ad called Benenson “one of the most extreme left-wing people in the United States.”
** Good Friday 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 [email protected] **
BUSINESS BRIEFS:Paul Singer’s Elliott scores big win in PG&E clash [WSJ] • Netflix has already won the streaming wars, says Barry Diller [CNBC]• PepsiCo CEO: Daniel Birnbaum’s Sodastream growth exceeding our expectations [JPost] • Israeli cybersecurity company enSilo raises $23 million [Globes]
STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — Alma, the WeWork for therapists, gets $8 million to draw ‘soulfulness into the world’ — by Sara Ashley O’Brien: “Some investors are betting on a new mental health startup called Alma, a membership-based group for mental health professionals… Founder and CEO Harry Ritter told CNN Business that Alma has raised $8 million in new funding towards its expansion. The round was led by venture capital firm Tusk Venture Partners, bringing Alma’s total funding to $12.5 million to date… “‘Alma’ in Aramaic and Latin means ‘world’ and ‘soul,’ according to Ritter, who said the company aims to draw ‘soulfulness down into the world.’”[CNNBusiness]
Forget about Silicon Valley. This VC wants Israeli founders to set up shop in L.A. — by Eyal Bino: “Bahram Nour-Omid, Eran Gilad and Robert Mai… in 2018 teamed up to launch Scopus Ventures, the first venture fund committed to growing Israeli startups into global companies from Los Angeles. The fund has a major focus on B2B software and enterprise tech and $25 million in capital to invest in early-stage startups from Israel and the U.S. …So far, Scopus has made four investments in Israeli startups and is looking to grow its portfolio over the next few years.” [Forbes]
TALK OF OUR NATION — Now U.S. couples are more willing to disagree on faith than politics — by Sean Braswell: “Seth and Tracy Preminger of Chicago, Illinois, make for a rather unorthodox couple. Seth, 34, is Jewish; Tracy, 33, is Roman Catholic. Despite their different faiths, however, the couple shares a core set of principles. ‘We joked at the time when we were dating that we have the same beliefs and values, just a different God to get there,’ remembers Seth. What might have been a more challenging divide for the interfaith Democrat couple to bridge? Politics. ‘Before I met Tracy,’ says Seth, ‘I was talking to a Jewish Republican, and I was like: ‘I can’t deal with you.’ …For decades, religion was considered a divisive issue for prospective couples, but now religious belief is taking a back seat to politics.” [Ozy]
Ambassador Dennis Ross, who recently presented the Jewish People Policy Institute’s 2019 annual report about Jews and Israel to the Israeli cabinet, reacted to comments made by Israel’s education minister, Rafi Peretz, about the rate of intermarriage and assimilation among U.S. Jews, reportedly describing it “like a second Holocaust.”
“Peretz’s comment was not only completely misguided and inappropriate but also reveals how little he understands Jews in the Diaspora,” Ross explained to Jewish Insider. “Not surprisingly, it was also disconnected from the presentation of the JPPI’s annual assessment to the Cabinet, which emphasized three main issues: 1) The geopolitical developments of the last year and the need actively to cultivate bipartisan support in the U.S. even while preserving favorable ties with a friendly administration. 2) The presentation of JPPI’s Antisemitism Index, which reflects the rise of antisemitism in the West, and the recommendation to establish a centralized body in the Israeli government to develop responses to the growing threat. 3) Demographic trends and the growth of the Orthodox community generally.”
“The issue of intermarriage was not part of the briefing this year but was raised by Cabinet members — who generally dismissed Peretz’s comments while saying they believed Israel should invest more in Jewish identity in the Diaspora.”
ACROSS THE POND — UK Labour Party in turmoil over new antisemitism claims: “Britain’s main opposition Labour Party was in turmoil Thursday after a [BBC] television documentary renewed allegations that antisemitism is rife within its ranks… The party condemned the BBC documentary, broadcast Wednesday night, saying it contained ‘deliberate and malicious representations.’ It alleged the former staffers who took part had ‘personal and political axes to grind.’ …But many Labour lawmakers expressed dismay at the allegations… Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said antisemitism was ‘a sickness in our party’ that had to be dealt with.” [AP]
LONG READ — Celebrating Sabbath in Iran: “Prior to 1979 there were ten times more Jews living in Iran than there are now. Despite the troubled relationship with Israel however, Iranian politicians and clergy are always at pains to stress that they have no quarrel with the Jews, only with the state of Israel… In contrast to the situation in German-speaking countries, Jewish institutions in Iran do not require any security arrangements. Iran has not seen a single attack on a Jewish building… Every Friday, always at sunset, parishioners stream into the synagogue [in Tehran].” [Qantara]
REMEMBERING — Award-winning memoirist Lucette Lagnado dies at 63 — by PJ Grisar: “Lucette Lagnado, the award-winning author who documented her family’s exodus from Egypt to America, has died at 63… Lagnado was born to a Jewish family in Cairo in 1956. In 1963, during a wave of mass exodus by Jews and other oppressed Egyptian minorities, the family left as refugees, landing in New York… In 1996, she joined the staff of The Wall Street Journal as a cultural and investigative reporter. In 2007, she published ‘The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit,’ a memoir of her family’s journey to America.” [Forward; WSJ]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council (1969-1972), senior partner for more than twenty years at the NYC law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Rita E. Hauser turns 85… Former congressman (R-Oklahoma-5) (1977-1993), he was a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation and national chairman of the American Conservative Union, Marvin Henry “Mickey” Edwards turns 82… Former executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, Dan Botnick turns 81… Canadian journalist, public speaker, feminist and social activist, she is the author of three bestselling books, Michele Landsbergturns 80… Member of the Florida House of Representatives (2005-2013), Franklin Sands turns 79…
Bestselling author, screenwriter, and playwright, sister of the late Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron turns 75… Professor of religion at the University of Vermont, he was an advisor to Bernie Sanders on his 2016 presidential campaign, as an undergrad at Yale his roommate was Joe Lieberman, Richard Sugarmanturns 75… Co-founder of Imagine Entertainment, his films and TV series have been nominated for 43 Academy Awards and 187 Emmys, Brian Grazer turns 68… Executive Director of Newton, Massachusetts-based Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, focused on children with special educational needs, Arlene Remz turns 64… Co-owner of the Midland Group with holdings in steel, shipping, real estate, agriculture and sports, Eduard Shifrin turns 59… Nancy Billin turns 56…
Israeli journalist, television presenter and politician, mother of eight children, she served as a member of Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party (2009-2013), Anastassia Michaeli turns 44… Founder of Innovation Policy Solutions, a DC-based health care consulting and advocacy firm, Jennifer Leib turns 44… Chief news anchor of the Israeli commercial television channels Keshet 12 and Reshet 13, Yonit Levi turns 42… Staff writer at The Atlantic, Edward-Isaac Dovere turns 39… Partner in the Des Moines-based public relations firm AdelmanDean Group, Liz Rodgers Adelman turns 38… President of executive communications firm A.H. Levy & Co based in NYC, he was previously chief speechwriter and deputy communications director for U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Alex Halpern Levy turns 33… Registered nurse now living in Jerusalem, Rena Meira Rotter turns 30… Benjamin Birnbaum turns 30…
SATURDAY: Teacher for 27 years in the Los Angeles United School District (1964-1991), president of the San Fernando Valley Council of NA’AMAT USA, Zita Gluskin turns 93… Scottsdale, Arizona resident, retired teacher, Howie K. Kipnes turns 80… One of the highest box office grossing actors ever, his maternal grandmother was Anna Lifschutz, a Jewish immigrant from Minsk, he is best known as the title character in the Indiana Jones film series, Harrison Ford turns 77… Louis Panzer turns 73… Radio and television talk show host, co-host of “Pardon the Interruption” on ESPN and columnist for The Washington Post, Anthony Irwin “Tony” Kornheiser turns 71… Director of governmental and regulatory affairs for Calpine Corporation (Calpine is an operator of 80 electric power plants), Stuart Widom turns 62…
Television executive and producer, she was the president of HBO’s network’s entertainment division until 2008 and was responsible for commissioning The Sopranos, The Wire and other hit shows, Carolyn Strauss turns 56… Manager of institutional affairs at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, Jennifer Rebecca Goodman Lilintahlturns 39… Founder of Omanut Consulting, she was previously the co-founder and COO of Bubby, a tech enabled matchmaking app, Sarah Persitz turns 34… Creator, writer and producer of the TV show “Casual,” Alexander “Zander” Sutton Lehmann turns 32… Co-founder of Time Flash, Jared Kash turns 26… Founding partner and CEO of Trinnacle Capital Management, Eric Kohlmann Kupper… Senior development officer at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County (FL), Yishai Mizrahi…
SUNDAY: Architect, urban designer, educator, theorist and author, Moshe Safdie turns 81… MLB pitcher (1971-1981), he won the Cy Young Award and was an MLB All Star in 1980, Steve Stone turns 72… Los Angeles resident, Susan Farrell turns 72… Film producer, best known for the Lethal Weapon series, the first two Die Hard movies and the Matrix trilogy, Joel Silver turns 67… Film producer and a theatrical producer, in 2012 he became the first producer to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award, Scott Rudin turns 61…
SVP and wealth management advisor at the Los Angeles office of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Scott Shagrin turns 58… Reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Phil Rosenthal turns 56… Veteran PR, political communications and media strategist, he is a principal at Oakland-based Full Court Press Communications and a past president of the Oakland Hebrew Day School, Daniel Eli Cohen turns 50… Rapper and record producer from Brooklyn, he is the producer, founder and CEO of Uncle Howie Records, William “Bill” Braunstein, better known as “Ill Bill,” turns 47…
Politico’s White House correspondent and CNN contributor, Eliana Yael Johnson… Program analyst at Crown Family Philanthropies in Chicago, she is an MBA candidate at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Rachel Giattino turns 29… CEO and co-founder at Beautylink, she also operates the Instagram feed ‘Second Date Shadchan,’ Elizabeth Morgan (Lizzy) Brenner turns 25… Director of brand development at Omaze, Daniel Jeydel turns 30… Rabbi Menachem Shemtov…