Daily Kickoff

Kushner shuttling back to Middle East | How Schumer forced Franken to resign | Remembering Robert Morgenthau

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PROFILE — Sigal Mandelker: The woman at the center of Trump’s Iran policy — by Kathy Gilsinan: “In the exchange of provocations and bellicose rhetoric between the United States and Iran, two hawkish top officials, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, may be the public faces of Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against the Islamic Republic. But it’s Mandelker, and the office she oversees as the undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, doing much of the actual execution… Because Trump is anxious to avoid war with Iran but also eager to push the Iranians, she is one of the most powerful officials designing the strategy Trump’s administration hopes will force Iranian capitulation — or, failing that, perhaps even the government’s collapse.” 

“She takes it personally as a child of Holocaust survivors, and has spoken publicly about the 1940s-era Treasury Department’s role in freezing Nazi assets around the same time her parents were hiding in Eastern Europe.” [TheAtlantic]

BEHIND THE SCENES — Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports on Trump’s relationship with National Security Advisor John Bolton: “Seven sources who have discussed Bolton with Trump told me the president says having Bolton on his team improves his bargaining position and gives him a psychological advantage over foes like Iran and North Korea.”

“‘Trump thinks that Bolton is a key part of his negotiating strategy,’ said [one] person who described Trump as ‘touchy’ about Bolton. ‘He thinks that Bolton’s bellicosity and eagerness to kill people is a bargaining chip when he’s sitting down with foreign leaders. Bolton can be the bad cop and Trump can be the good cop. Trump believes this to his core.’” [Axios]

IRAN WATCH — On Friday, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz after Tehran said it was “violating international maritime rules.” The ship, named the Stena Impero, was forced to sail to the port of Bandar Abbas, in southern Iran. Iran’s Press TV said the 23 crew members, who are Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino, have all been taken off the ship for “questioning.”

Prime Minister Theresa May is holding a meeting in Downing Street Monday morning to address the crisis. “The ship was seized under false and illegal pretenses and the Iranians should release it and its crew immediately,” May’s spokesman told reporters on Monday.

On Monday, Iran proclaimed that it had broken up a CIA spy ring and arrested 17 citizens accused of espionage. According to the country’s Intelligence Ministry, those detained mentioned “tempting promises of CIA officers including emigration to USA, a proper job in America, and money.” The ministry said that some of those arrested will be sentenced to death for their crimes.
 
The Pentagon announced on Saturday that the United States is deploying military personnel and equipment to Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2003. The king of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main rival in the region, approved “hosting U.S. Armed Forces in the Kingdom to increase joint cooperation in defense of regional security and stability and to preserve its peace.”

Trump told reporters on Friday, “We have the greatest people in the world, we have the greatest equipment in the world. We have the greatest ships — the most deadly ships, we don’t want to have to use them, but they’re the most deadly ships ever conceived. And we hope for their sake they don’t do anything foolish. If they do, they will pay a price like nobody’s ever paid a price.”

Israeli Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Sunday that “Israel is the only country in the world that has been killing Iranians for two years… We strike the Iranians hundreds of times in Syria. Sometimes we acknowledge it and sometimes foreign reports reveal it,” he said. He added that the Iranians “understand that Israel means business.”

On Friday, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Salman Raouf Salman, a senior member of Hezbollah, whose whereabouts are unknown. “This administration will continue to target Hezbollah terrorists who plot horrific murderous operations and indiscriminately kill innocent civilians on behalf of this violent group and its Iranian patrons,” Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department, said in a statement. 

The Daily Beast reported on Friday that Hezbollah’s forces “have begun redeploying toward the Israeli border, not only in Lebanon, but in Syria.”

HEARD YESTERDAY —Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview that aired Sunday that “the United States is intervening in order to make these waters [the Strait of Hormuz] insecure for Iran. You cannot make these waters insecure for one country and secure for others… in such a small body of water, if you have so many foreign vessels, accidents will happen.”

According to a report in Al-Monitor, Zarif met in New York on Thursday with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “to feel out prospects for possible discussions between Iran and the United States.” A U.S. administration official said that it was “aware of reports of a supposed meeting between a U.S. senator and Zarif.”

Democrats want to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. It’s not that simple — by Nahal Toosi: “By the time Inauguration Day rolls around in 2021, there might not even be a deal left — it has been hanging on by a thread since President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out last year. Even if it still exists, sections of the 2015 agreement are set to expire in the coming years, Trump’s punishing sanctions on Iran will be hard to fully unwind, Iran has elections that could put more anti-deal hard-liners in power and Tehran has already threatened to unwind itself from the deal in the months ahead.” [Politico]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — White House senior advisor Jared Kushner will travel to the Middle East next week to “finalize the economic portion” of the Trump peace plan, an administration official told Reuters on Sunday. Kushner is expected to visit Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Qatar, according to the report. He will be joined by Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, special envoy for Iran Brian Hook, and White House assistant Avi Berkowitz. 

The Jerusalem Post reported that Trump is likely to travel to Israel in January to attend the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz at Yad Vashem. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the next British prime minister have also been invited to attend the event, titled the World Holocaust Forum. 

SUMMER TRAVELS — Israel will allow Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) entry into the country, should they move forward with their planned travel in August. “Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said in a statement on Friday.

Tlaib is believed to be organizing a trip for members of Congress to the Palestinian territories. However, the organization listed as leading the trip, the Humpty Dumpty Institute, told JI it won’t be running any programming. Joe Merante, executive director for HDI, said that no trip is confirmed until it goes through the approval process of the House Ethics Committee.[JewishInsider]

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — Jonathan Schachter, former foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called the BDS movement “bizarro” during an event hosted by the Foundations for Defense of Democracies in Washington D.C. on Friday. 

“I see where the BDS movement is often discussed, sort of, in progressive terms, which is sort of a bizzarro moment for me because the BDS movement idea of boycotting Israel, is actually incredibly regressive,” Schachter told JI’s Laura Kelly. “It’s basically just taking the Arab League boycott of the ‘40s and making it current policy. Which is anything but progressive.” 

REPORT — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz in D.C. last week, citing a scheduling conflict, Israel’s Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reported on Saturday. “Typically, a first visit to Washington by an Israeli foreign minister includes a long meeting with the secretary of state as well as a formal reception, photo opportunity and sometimes a press conference or statement,” Ravid noted. 

Netanyahu denied a report on Sunday that Dermer’s six-year term as ambassador to the U.S. will come to an end in September. According to the report, Israel’s Civil Service Commissioner rejected the prime minister’s request to extend Dermer’s term for another year in the wake of the repeat elections. But in a live Facebook video, Netanyahu declared, “We will extend his tenure for at least another year. He is doing tremendous work for the State of Israel in the most important embassy in the world, and will continue to do so.”[Video]

SCENE IN JERUSALEM —Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited the Western Wall on Sunday on his first official visit to Israel. Perry was accompanied by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. [Pic

Perry is scheduled to visit Israel’s National Cyber Directorate facilities in Beersheba, tour the Noble Gas Ashdod onshore terminal and then travel to Cairo for the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum. 

President Trump resumed his attacks on the four progressive Democratic Congresswomen, known as “The Squad,” on Sunday. “I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country. They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said,” Trump tweeted while spending the weekend at his Bedminster golf club.
 
SHUL TALK — Trump’s attack on ‘The Squad’ finds nuanced support among some Jewish Americans  — by Charles Lane: “At the B’nai Israel Reform Temple on Long Island, where [Rep. Lee] Zeldin is a member, congregants Karen Connor and Jerry Kessler are in a debate about Trump’s rhetoric, often interrupting and finishing each other’s sentences. ‘He’s allowed to free speech,’ Connor said of the president. Kessler interjects to say that it’s not presidential. On the topic of Omar… the two are even more divided. ‘She’s so anti-Israel and anti-Jewish people,’ Connor said… In the end, Connor supports their congressman and fellow templegoer, while Kessler said Zeldin’s refusal to disavow Trump’s attacks against Omar could cost him the election.”[NPR]

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — Stephen Miller keeps his head down as Trump makes his nativist dreams come true — by Asawin Suebsaeng and Erin Banco: “As a member of President Trump’s inner circle, Miller’s hard-right influence, specifically on immigration policies, hasn’t abated. But his public and televised presence has stayed, for the most part, conspicuously muted. And that’s explicitly by design on Miller’s part… According to a senior White House colleague, Miller is very careful what he says on the phone, whether it’s to a fellow administration official or otherwise, in case the call is being recorded or could be used against him.” [DailyBeast]

Miller made a rare appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, defending Trump’s tweets against the Democratic congresswomen. The White House advisor also highlighted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “concentration camps” comments. “As an American Jew, I am profoundly outraged by the comments of Ocasio-Cortez,” Miller said. “It is a historical smear. It is a sinful comment… And those are the comments, Chris, that we need to be focusing on.”

LONG READ — The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer on how Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer forced former Senator Al Franken (D-MN) to step down following accusations of sexual impropriety: “Soon after [Sen. Kirsten] Gillibrand declared that Franken must resign, Senator [Patty] Murray, who is in the Democratic leadership, made the same call, sending a signal to colleagues that the push was coming from the top… Franken asked to meet with Schumer, who suggested talking at his apartment in downtown D.C., in order to avoid the press. ‘It was like a scene out of a movie,’ Franken recalled. Schumer sat on the edge of his bed while Franken and his wife, who had come to lend moral support, pleaded for more time. According to Franken, Schumer told him to quit by 5 p.m.; otherwise, he would instruct the entire Democratic caucus to demand Franken’s resignation… Schumer also said that if Franken stayed he could be censured and stripped of committee assignments. ‘I couldn’t believe it,’ Franken told me. ‘I asked him for due process and he said no.’” [NewYorker]

RACE TO THE KNESSET — Former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced her political return on Sunday, rejoining former Education Minister Naftali Bennett in the New Right Party, this time at the top of the ticket. The New Right is still hoping to unite with the Union of Right Wing Parties, led by Education Minister Rafi Peretz, ahead of the September 17 election. But Peretz is reportedly reluctant to allow a secular woman to head the national-religious electoral list. Shaked reportedly spoke with Peretz Monday morning, and said they will meet in the coming days. Bezalel Smotrich, number two on the URWP list, said in a radio interview on Monday that Peretz is not ruling out letting Shaked head the merged parties. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he “hasn’t decided yet” if he will intervene in the potential merger. Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, reportedly met with Peretz’s wife on Friday and urged her to tell her husband not to give the top spot to Shaked. Sara Netanyahu denied the report.

HEARD ON CABLE — Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) clarified on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that he would not meet with Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan after facing criticism for an exchange on the campaign trail about a potential meeting. 

CNN host Dana Bash: I want to ask about something that you were recently asked, and that is about whether or not you would meet with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. He’s unabashedly antisemitic… You said — quote — ‘I don’t feel like I need to do that, but I’m not one of those people who says that I wouldn’t sit down with anybody to hear what they have to say.’ Is that still where you are? 

Booker: “Well, first of all, that — that is completely taken out of context, that larger conversation.”

Bash: Okay, give me the context.

Booker: “I will not sit — I will not sit down with Louis Farrakhan, period. And I reject anybody who preaches that kind of bigotry and hate towards other Americans.” [CNN]

2020 BRIEFS — Elizabeth Warren has momentum. Can she build a movement?… Pete Buttigieg is still figuring this out… How the leading candidates are setting up their campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire… Campaigning from behind: Lower-tier 2020ers seek comeback… Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is reportedly still considering a 2020 presidential bid.

Sanders’ early life in Brooklyn taught lessons, some tough — by Adam Geller: “Unlike most of his classmates’ parents, [Bernie] Sanders’ father was not American-born. He came to the United States from Poland as a teenager with hardly any money or ability to speak English; many of his relatives were killed in the Holocaust. Sanders said there was little discussion of politics in his home, but his parents talked with their sons about family lost in Nazi death camps.” [AP]

Springfield man travels far to encounter candidates — by Bernard Schoenburg: “If you are a major presidential candidate — particularly a Democratic one these days — it’s very possible you have met Marc Daniels of Springfield… On July 4, in Marshalltown, Iowa, he gave Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden a blue ‘Joe Biden 2020’ yarmulke — and Biden put it on. Daniels also told Biden about his other creation — what he calls his ‘Trump impeachment smash prayer’ pouch — a linen bag designed to hold a wine glass to be stomped and broken, just as Jewish grooms stomp on a glass at the end of the wedding ceremony… Biden — whose brief conversation with Daniels was caught on C-SPAN — also noted he was familiar with the ritual.” [StateJournalRegister]

HAPPENING TODAY — Vice President Mike Pence will attend a high-dollar fundraiser at the Caribou Club in Aspen, Colorado.

** Good Monday 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: Carl Icahn takes steps to replace four Occidental Petroleum directors [WSJ] • Patrick Drahi’s Altice attracts Cinven, Permira for video ad unit sale [Bloomberg• Bank Hapoalim loses deputy CEO-COO Erez Yosef a week after Dov Kotler appointed new CEO [Calcalist] • Teva down another 14.5% last week [Globes• Israeli alternative energy company EWP raises $13.6 million on Nordic IPO [Calcalist] • Toyota, Volvo back Israeli startup UVeye [Calcalist]

STARTUP NATION —  Why this Israeli startup refused an offer from Google – but not $300 million from McDonald’s — by Ruti Levy: “[Liad] Agmon and [Omri] Mendellevich developed a system that helps news sites, and later e-commerce sites, adapt for the reader. Their customers today include Urban Outfitters, the Sephora cosmetics chain, Barnes and Noble and even the Liverpool soccer club. McDonald’s has kept Dynamic Yield as an independent firm. It plans to use the company’s technology at its drive-thru restaurants to adapt the menu screens based on customers’ preferences, and later also on the app and at the sit-down restaurants.” [Haaretz

HOLLYWOOD — Women are thrilled Natalie Portman will be female Thor in the new movie — by Tanya Chen: “The makers of Thor: Love and Thunder announced Natalie Portman will not only be back for the fourth Thor film, she’ll be taking on the mythical hammer and god-like powers herself. The news that Portman’s character Jane Foster would be back as a female Thor was announced at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday, and people — especially women — are simply overjoyed… On Sunday, Portman reacted to her new role on Instagram with a photo of her next to Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, who will also be back in the movie.” [BuzzFeed

ACROSS THE POND — Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn apologized on Sunday for the “hurt” caused to Jewish people as the Labour party launched an educational website about fighting antisemitism. “Driving antisemitism out of the party for good and working with the Jewish community to rebuild trust are vital priorities,” Corbyn said in an introductory video message on the page. “I’m sorry for the hurt that has been caused to many Jewish people. We have been too slow in processing disciplinary cases of mostly online antisemitic abuse by party members. We’re acting to speed this process up.” The Board of Deputies of British Jews tweeted that “Labour has a very long way to go if it is to persuade the Jewish community that today’s messaging is not just cosmetic.”

TALK OF THE TOWN — By the Jaffa Gate, final showdown looms in battle over Jerusalem’s historic hotel — by Sarah Helm: “Standing on a balcony at the New Imperial Hotel, overlooking Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, 75-year-old Walid Dajani last week declared a one-man war on Jewish settlers. Officials from Israel’s Supreme Court had served an eviction notice against Dajani following a ruling last month that the disputed 2005 sale of the historic 40-room hotel to a radical settler group was valid. The Jewish settlers’ organisation Ateret Cohanim immediately branded him ‘a squatter’ and threatened to seize the building… Archbishop Theodosius Attulah, spokesperson for the Greek Orthodox church, criticised the Supreme Court decision, saying the sale was fraudulent.” [TheGuardian]

Germany honors resisters who tried to assassinate Hitler — by Geir Moulson: “Germany is marking the 75th anniversary of the most famous plot to kill Adolf Hitler, honoring those who resisted the Nazis — who were stigmatized for decades as traitors — as pillars of the country’s modern democracy… Chancellor Angela Merkel… paid tribute ahead of the anniversary to executed plot leader Col. Claus von Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators and highlighted their importance to modern Germany. ‘Only if we understand our past can we build a good future,’ she said.” [AP]

Buried treasure poses Holocaust puzzle for Hungary museum — by Peter Murphy: “A vast and ‘unique’ trove of antique and Roman-era coins, unearthed in what was one of Hungary’s wartime Jewish ghettos, is proving a conundrum for historians… The current owners of the house in the town of Keszthely… stumbled across the coins in February during work on the cellar. They were likely hidden by a Jewish owner who was later deported to a Nazi German death camp in 1944, said Balint Havasi, director of Keszthely’s Balatoni Museum.” [AFP]

Wales’ Jewish history: Call to record it before it is too late — by Neil Prior: “A century ago, there were 6,000 Jewish people in Wales, with the figure now in the hundreds and many aged 80 or over. The Jewish History Association of South Wales (JHASW) has crowdfunded £3,000 towards an archive… A mobile exhibition of 72 oral histories and 6,000 images is currently touring Wales. But volunteers want to create a more lasting legacy, which could cost £60,000 to place online and at museums.” [BBC]

SPORTS BLINK — Two weeks, two championship victories for Israel Baseball: “The Senior National Team won its round of the European Championship B Pool in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria on July 6… This tournament was the first in the qualifying rounds for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics… Team Israel included 12 Jewish American baseball players who recently made Aliyah… Following close after this unprecedented victory, for the first time Israel Baseball sent an Under 18 National Team to the European Championships qualifiers in Stockholm, Sweden… Team Israel won the all-important championship game 8-5 after pulling ahead in the penultimate inning by three runs and allowing no more runs from the Belgians.” [Haaretz]

MEDIA WATCH — New York Times reporters Matthew Rosenberg and Glenn Thrush are joining the paper’s investigative team ahead of the 2020 elections, The Times announced on Friday. Rosenberg will cover “disinformation and other types of digital malfeasance,” while Thrush will produce investigative pieces on the candidates and the campaign.

MAZEL TOV — Dasha Zhukova, Roman Abramovich’s ex-wife, and Stavros Niarchos are engaged and “scheduled to get married later this year,” Page Sixquoted a source as saying. 

REMEMBERING — Robert Morgenthau, bane of rogue banks and scofflaws, dies at 99 — by Laurence I. Barrett: “Robert M. Morgenthau, the scion of a politically prominent family who became one of the country’s most powerful district attorneys and who revolutionized how the job is done while humbling rogue banks, crooked politicians, racketeers and rapacious corporate chiefs, died July 21 at a hospital in Manhattan… Born into a wealthy German-Jewish clan, Mr. Morgenthau was heir to a family that enjoyed influence in finance and Democratic politics for generations. His paternal grandfather, Henry, made a fortune in real estate and became President Woodrow Wilson’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. His son, Henry Jr., was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Treasury secretary for much of the Depression and World War II.” [WashPostNYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Israeli actress, prominent in both theatre and film, Gila Almagor turns 80… British Conservative Party member of Parliament for 36 years (1974-2010), a leading figure in the fight against human trafficking, Anthony Steen CBE turns 80… Historian, author and professor (now emerita) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 1975, Judith Walzer Leavitt turns 79… British biochemist and Professor at the University of Dundee in Scotland since 1971, Sir Philip Cohen turns 74… Actor, director and comedian, Albert Brooks (born Albert Lawrence Einstein) turns 72… Past president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Detroit, owner of Nodel Parks (operator of 40 manufactured home parks in nine states), Richard Martin Nodel turns 71…

Winner of eight Academy Awards, eleven Grammy awards, pianist and composer of many Disney movie musical scores, Alan Menken turns 70… Born in Norwalk, Connecticut and now based in Munich, Germany where he is the managing director of a public affairs firm, Terry Swartzberg turns 66… Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since 2011, Judge Amy Berman Jackson turns 65… Cindy Masters turns 61… Former secretary of Veterans Affairs (the only Trump Cabinet appointee confirmed by a 100-0 vote), he served as under secretary of the VA during the last two years of the Obama administration, David Shulkin turns 60… Founding partner of the DC-based intellectual property law firm, Greenberg & Lieberman, his focus is on Internet law and domain name litigation, Stevan Lieberman turns 54…

Television journalist and news anchor who has worked for Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and Al Jazeera America, he served as an anchor and editor for i24 News (2016-2019), David Shuster turns 52… Former Pentagon official, now a consultant on operations and political intelligence, in 2018 he earned a Ph.D. in international relations at the London School of Economics, Jonathan Freeman turns 44… Contemporary artist living in Brooklyn, he is best known for sculptural paintings that use multiple layers of glass to create three-dimensional collages, Dustin Yellin turns 44… Director of the field operations team at the Pew Charitable Trust, Elise Rachel Shutzer turns 39… Former White House assistant press secretary and writer for the documentary series VICE on HBO, Reid Cherlin turns 38… White House correspondent for Breakfast Media, his recent exchange with Kellyanne Conway about his own ethnicity was itself in the news, Andrew Grant Feinberg turns 37…

General Treasurer of the State of Rhode Island, he was elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, Seth Magaziner turns 36… Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation, Jason Guberman-Pfeffer turns 32… CEO and co-founder of n*gram health (working with family caregivers helping dementia patients), Maor Cohen turns 29… Talia Thurm turns 28… Serial entrepreneur, software consultant and product strategist in Palo Alto, California, Yoela Palkin turns 27… Actor and voice actor, his career started when he was 10-years old, he starred as Eric in Netflix’s “Santa Clarita Diet,” Skyler Gisondo turns 23… Senior editor at The Wall Street Journal, working on Review, the paper’s weekend ideas section, Warren Bass… Michael Suissa

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