JI INTERVIEW — In an interview with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh on Tuesday, Efraim Sneh, former deputy defense minister under Ehud Olmert, expressed concern that President Donald Trump could endorse Israeli annexation in exchange for muted criticism of a new potential Iran deal.
“There is a danger” that the Trump administration may announce its support for Israel annexing parts of the West Bank “to compensate” for a possible “rapprochement with Iran,” Sneh said in a phone interview. Sneh noted that he had advocated for flexibility on the Israeli-Palestinian front to help the Obama administration put together a coalition to counter Iran. Today, he said, a “boding rapprochement with Iran — which was now only delicately hinted — can be an incentive to that kind of measure,” he said. “Very dangerous steps by the Israeli government could be endorsed just for this purpose.”
Sneh is one of 25 Israeli former defense officials who sent a letter to members of Congress on Tuesday expressing their appreciation for the passage of H. Res. 246, which affirmed “strong support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states.” [JewishInsider]
On the U.S.-Israel relationship: “This administration will do everything needed to help Netanyahu win. There’s a very strong alliance between the close circle of Trump and the close circle of Netanyahu. It’s a political alliance, not a strategic alliance between the two countries. Unfortunately, there is no more bipartisanship support for Israel. It was destroyed. It will be restored only when a different government is formed in Israel.”
On the possibility of war between Israel and Hezbollah: “I think we are in a very combustible situation. But no responsible Israeli government can accept the Iranian entrenchment in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.” Sneh also observed that while it is “critically necessary” for Israel to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from developing targeted missiles, it’s a mistake for Netanyahu to break with Israel’s ambiguity over its strikes against Iranian targets.
Sneh predicts that a war between Israel and Iranian proxies is just a matter of time. “If this entrancement will continue, war is unavoidable.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — National Security Advisor John Bolton said in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Trump’s willingness to meet with his Iranian counterpart doesn’t suggest he’s softened his stance on Iran. “He’ll meet with anybody to talk. He is a negotiator. He is a dealmaker,” Bolton said. “But talking with them does not imply… changing your position. I think if you look at what President Trump has said about the Iran nuclear deal, which he called the worst deal in U.S. diplomatic history — a view I think is amply justified by the facts — he is not going to make the same mistakes that President Obama made.”
Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian writes: “Like it or not, talks with Iran are coming soon: No matter how hard Trump’s Iran advisers try to demonize the Islamic republic, the regime is still being taken seriously by all the other major world powers… Tehran’s ability to exploit the divide between the United States and the rest of the world should be of grave concern. That growing rift serves to normalize the Iranian regime’s worst behaviors.” [WashPost]
ON THE GROUND — Tensions between Israel and its neighboring enemies remained high on Wednesday, after Hezbollah vowed a “surprise” and “calculated” retribution against Israel. The purported strike “is being arranged in a way which wouldn’t lead to a war,” a Hezbollah source told Reuters. “The direction now is for a calculated strike, but how matters develop, that’s another thing.”
An Associated Press headline on Tuesday declared that “Israel’s shadow war with Iran bursts into the open.” AP’s Aron Heller wrote that the events of the past few days “have raised tensions at a particularly fraught time. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking to project strength three weeks before national elections, while Iran has taken a series of provocative actions in recent months aimed at pressuring European nations to provide relief from crippling U.S. sanctions.”
Meanwhile, three Hamas police officers were killed in explosions in Gaza late Tuesday. Israel said it was not involved in the suspected suicide bombings, which are believed to have been carried out by Salafi militants challenging Hamas’s rule.
Robert Malley and Naysan Rafati of the International Crisis Group write… “Israel-Iran tensions could threaten prospects for Trump-Rouhani meeting: In the midst of French efforts to de-escalate tensions between Tehran and Washington… the conflict between Israel and Iran may have entered a dangerous new stage… Previous escalations between Iran and Israel in Syria have been contained… The current escalation is drawing in a far wider range of actors and is hitting closer to Iran’s core interests, making it that much more difficult to prevent, contain or control.” [Axios]
Seth Frantzman writes… “Israel’s strategy against Tehran: Revealing the Iranian threat: Air strikes on Iran’s network of proxies force the network out of the shadows. It can’t hide in villas in southern Syria, or launch drones at night, or stockpile ballistic missiles in Iraq if it is looking over its shoulder and increasingly making mistakes through its aggressive and open threats. Iran is used to playing a double game of moderates and hard-liners, sending its smiling foreign minister to the recent G7 while boasting of its allies’ drone technology striking Saudi Arabia.” [NationalReview]
Jonathan Spyer writes: “The Iran-Israel war is here: This war is a very 21st-century affair. For now it involves only small circles among the Israeli and Iranian populations… But it won’t necessarily stay that way. A single kinetic and successful Iranian response to Israel’s airstrikes could rapidly precipitate an escalation to a much broader contest. State-to-state conflict has returned to the Middle East.” [WSJ]
TALK OF THE CITY — A 64-year-old hassidic Jewish man was brutally attacked with a rock at a park in Crown Heights yesterday. Rabbi Avraham Gopin was walking through Brooklyn’s Lincoln Terrace Park when a man threw a rock at him. Gopin approached the man, who punched him in the face and then hit him with another rock, knocking out several of his front teeth. The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the attack, and released videofootage of the alleged attacker.
New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn) told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh on Tuesday that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is spending too much time on the campaign trail and not devoting enough attention and resources to the surge of violent antisemitic attacks in Brooklyn.
“Whether he is here or not, de Blasio should make sure that his administration is on top of things, especially when he had made that commitment to open [a mayoral hate crimes] office in June,” Deutsch said. “We are in a moment where we need to tackle these issues head on. We can’t just ignore them thinking it’s going to go away. The mayor needs to realize that if he makes a commitment, he needs to make good on it.”
In June, de Blasio declared the immediate opening of a mayoral office to combat the rise in antisemitism, which “will work to root out hate and make our streets safer.” But little action appears to have been taken since then.
“We are already in August, and I still haven’t heard anything about it being active or anyone being hired,” Deutsch said. “The commitment was made by the mayor that he’s going to have this open by June. We are waiting for this [to be] implemented.” [JewishInsider]
On Tuesday, de Blasio tweeted that “the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating this despicable act of violence, and we will find the attacker. This city will stop at nothing to protect our communities from hate and violence.”
TALK OF THE NATION — Incoming Harvard freshman deported after visa revoked — by Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Delano R. Franklin:“U.S. officials deported [Ismail B.] Ajjawi, a 17-year-old Palestinian resident of Tyre, Lebanon, Friday night shortly after he arrived at Boston Logan International Airport. Before canceling Ajjawi’s visa, immigration officers subjected him to hours of questioning — at one point leaving to search his phone and computer — according to a written statement by Ajjawi. University officials are currently working to resolve the matter before classes begin on Sept. 3, University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in an email.” [TheCrimson; WashPost]
TOP TALKER — New York Times columnist Bret Stephens deactivated his Twitter account on Tuesday after inviting David Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at The George Washington University — who called him a ‘bedbug’ — to his home to meet his wife and kids and insult him to his face. “Time to do what I long ago promised to do,” he wrote. “Twitter is a sewer. It brings out the worst in humanity. I sincerely apologize for any part I’ve played in making it worse, and to anyone I’ve ever hurt.”
Stephens defended his action in an interview on MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle: “Analogizing people to insects is always wrong. We can be better… There’s a bad history of being analogized to insects that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes in the past.”
Karpf responded to Stephens in Esquire: “No one has freer speech than a public intellectual with a regular column in the paper of record. Stephens is free to say whatever he wants. With that freedom comes the discomfort that people will disagree with you. If Stephens is going to have this social power, he is going to have to learn to wield it more responsibly.” [Esquire]
George Washington University’s provost, Forrest Maltzman, invitedthe Times columnist for a campus discussion on civil discourse. Stephens toldThe Washington Post that he accepted the invitation “and we will find a date in the fall.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) mocked Stephens in a tweet: “Imagine being on Twitter and having the worst thing you’re called in a given day is ‘bedbug.’ My own friends roast me harder than that 😂”
Sohrab Ahmari, the New York Post’s op-ed editor, writes… “In defense of Bret Stephens: Here is another thing I know about Stephens: The Nazi Holocaust deeply scarred his Jewish forebears in Europe; it shattered them. I remember him telling me once about how in a single day, the Nazis, in cahoots with Lithuanian locals, massacred 10,000 Jewish men, women and children in his mother’s ancestral town. So I can see why the prof’s likely innocent analogization to bedbugs got under Stephens’ skin in a way that others may not understand.” [NYPost]
CONGRESS ON RECESS — Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) recently returned from a Republican trip to Israel sponsored by the U.S. Israel Education Association, which focused on Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Byrne — who said the group met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman and other officials — penned an op-ed in Alabama Today about his visit and pledged to stand with Israel. “With all Israel faces, I respect Israel’s decision to block Tlaib, Omar, and their anti-Israel activism out of the country,” he wrote. Byrne, however, later claimed “I wish all my colleagues would visit Israel and talk directly with Israelis about the challenges they face.”
STATE-SIDE — Rep. Steve King (R-IA) ignited yet another firestormon Tuesday, joking about China allegedly sterilizing Muslim women and making them eat pork. “That’s the only part of that I agree with,” King saidduring a town hall meeting in Iowa’s 4th congressional district. “Everyone should eat pork. If you have a shortage of bacon, you can’t be happy.” Last year, King said that he doesn’t want Somali Muslims working at meat-packing plants in his district because they want consumers of pork to be sent to hell.
“This guy is a total yutz, with a capital P,” tweeted Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) responded on Tuesday to a resolution passedby the Alabama State GOP calling for her to be expelled from Congress. “This is a representative democracy. I was elected with 78% of the vote by the people of Minnesota’s 5th District, not the Alabama Republican Party,” Omar tweeted.
My husband dumped me for Ilhan Omar, DC mom says in divorce filing — by Julia Marsh: “A Washington, DC, mom says her political-consultant husband left her for Rep. Ilhan Omar… Dr. Beth Jordan Mynett says her cheating spouse, Tim Mynett, told her in April that he was having an affair with the Somali-born US representative and that he even made a ‘shocking declaration of love’ for the Minnesota congresswoman before he ditched his wife, alleges the filing, submitted in DC Superior Court on Tuesday.” [NYPost]
FOGGY BOTTOM — The State Department announced earlier this week that Peter Berkowitz, a former professor and author, will serve as its head of policy planning.
SCENE IN JERUSALEM — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman met with a group of Israeli peace activists on Tuesday. Peace Now executive director Shaqued Morag said in a statement that Friedman “did not provide satisfying answers” addressing concerns over recent “unilateral moves” made by the Trump administration.
U.N. Palestinian refugee agency seeks donations as funding slips — by Nidal al-Mughrabi: “The head of a U.N. agency supporting Palestinian refugees, which is under an investigation over suspected internal misconduct, said on Tuesday it still needed $150 million in donations to keep it operating until the end of this year. Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium had suspended their contributions to the organization while the U.N. inquiry was under way.” [Reuters]
Raja Shehadeh, a Palestinian lawyer and co-founder of the human-rights organization Al-Haq in an interview with The New Yorker‘s Isaac Chotiner: “I can say that Israel is a very strong economy, a very strong country, and it would take a very long time for the boycott to really hit and make a difference. However, Israel is a country of human beings, ordinary people, who want to believe that they are doing right and that they are part of Europe and part of the West. So, some indication that the world is not happy with what they’re doing, through a boycott or whatever other means, is bound to make a difference. That’s as much as I can say.” [NewYorker]
2020 BRIEFS — ‘Pocahontas’ could still be Elizabeth Warren’s biggest vulnerability… Pro-BDS union, United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE), endorsed Bernie Sanders for president… Sanders, Warren fans eye each other with respect and suspicion… Joe Biden says racism in U.S. is institutional,‘white man’s problem’… Four years after Beau Biden’s death, his father bonds with voters in pain.
Mayor de Blasio’s team was reportedly trying to convince him to drop out of the race before he got an invitation from CNN for a town hall… A Tom Steyer debate spot is in limbo. His money is poised to upend 2020 anyway… Democrats spend big to draw small-dollar donors.
Eve Peyser writes… “Grumpy Jewish grandpa 2020: It’s too early to predict how the Democratic primary will shake out. But in the atmosphere of hatred and bigotry that Donald Trump has sown, with antisemitism on the rise globally, it’s refreshing to see an unmistakably Jewish politician leading a leftist movement, garnering support from all corners of our largely gentile nation. Meanwhile, I’ll daydream of a Jewish president, a grumpy Brooklyn grandpa to offer my generation the opportunities his predecessors took from us.” [MomentMag]
** 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 [email protected] **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Purdue Pharma, Sackler family offer $10B-$12B to settle opioid lawsuits [FoxBusiness] • Purdue settlement report sparks Teva tailspin [Globes] • Camber Creek re-ups bet on proptech with $120M fund [RealDeal] • WeWork picks up rival coworking company Spacious[CommercialObserver] • Israel’s Bank Leumi names Hanan Friedman as CEO [Reuters] • Cornerstone laid at Mobileye’s Jerusalem global development center [JPost]
MORE BRIEFS: Cat-and-mouse shekel game awaits rate stance [Bloomberg] • El Al launches new routes to Dublin, Dusseldorf [Calcalist] • Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse could be a tough sell [NYPost] • Stephen Schwarzman’s Blackstone ‘warehousing’ rent-stabilized apartments at Stuy Town [RealDeal]
STARTUP NATION — Israel’s F2 Capital is raising $75M to invest in homegrown startups — by Natasha Mascarenhas: “Israel’s first pre-seed technology accelerator, F2 Capital, is raising a $75 million fund to invest in Israel-based startups, according to an SEC filing. So far the accelerator has raised around $55 million for the fund, the filing said… F2 Capital was spun out of Genesis Partners, another Israeli venture firm, in 2016, with Jonathan Saacks and Barak Rabinowitz as the two managing partners.” [Crunchbase]
Jonathan Schanzer and Owen Helman write… “Israel is America’s unlikely ally in the trade war with China: Until recently, Israel lacked the bureaucracy to mitigate the risks associated with Chinese investment. Indeed, Israel does not have an analog to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The Israelis are now setting up their own investment oversight committee to weigh the benefits of foreign investment while mitigating possible national-security risks. There will undoubtedly be some challenges ahead, as Israel looks to disentangle from some of its Chinese business initiatives, while maintaining course with others. Fortunately, the United States and Israel have a good relationship.” [NationalInterest]
DEEP DIVE — The biggest loser: Why Donald Trump couldn’t hack it in Hollywood — by Allen Salkin: “Before ‘The Apprentice’ took off, Trump had been making cameos on sitcoms for years… But when Trump tried his luck in L.A. in a bigger way, he became at best a bit player… Jeff Klein, owner of Tower Bar, the go-to industry dining room at the Sunset Tower Hotel, quickly recognized where Trump belonged in the Hollywood pecking order… ‘When you think about Hollywood moguls, a lot of them are killers like David Geffen, [Jeffrey] Katzenberg, [Barry] Diller,’ Klein said. ‘I don’t think [Trump] could have been a mogul. Hollywood is like high school — they would have made fun of him.’… It’s a fitting metaphor for Trump’s Hollywood ambitions that his star on Hollywood Boulevard was repeatedly attacked by vandals after he took office as president.” [LAMag]
PROFILE — If Kafka was Israeli and wrote about talking goldfish — by Gal Beckerman: “[Etgar] Keret might be classified more as a Jewish than an Israeli writer, more versed and interested in the varieties of alienation, working in the tradition, he said, of Franz Kafka, Sholem Aleichem or Isaac Bashevis Singer — who are, incidentally, remembered for their short stories. It was during his compulsory military service that Keret discovered Kafka and became enthralled by a writer whose stories seem to emerge from a need to answer desperate, existential questions. Kafka’s tales pointed the way to a fiction where it was possible to admit vulnerability and express the most embarrassing doubts and feelings… Keret’s parents were both Holocaust survivors… Keret said his father fought to humanize and historicize the Holocaust, to see it as more than a story of unmitigated oppression.” [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Corrupt ex-pol Sheldon Silver still freely roams NYC after conviction — by Kevin Fasick, Bernadette Hogan and Aaron Feis: “There’s still no cell for Shel. Some 474 days after former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted — for the second time — of peddling his office’s influence in exchange for millions in kickbacks, he remains a free man. Silver, 75, still hasn’t spent a single night behind bars, as his case is again before a panel of federal appeals court judges and continues to live on public funds — his nearly $7,000 monthly state pension.” [NYPost]
Judges rule in favor of New Jersey’s right-to-die law — by Joseph De Avila: “New Jersey’s new law allowing terminally ill patients to end their own lives can move forward, a state appellate court ruled. The law went into effect on Aug. 1 but was suspended after a lower court issued a temporary restraining order following a lawsuit filed by an Orthodox Jewish physician who said it violated his religious beliefs… ‘We are of course disappointed with that ruling but nevertheless respect it,’ said Richard Grohmann, an attorney for the physician Joseph Glassman.” [WSJ]
SCREEN TIME — ‘There Was No Silence’: New film details widows’ battle against Olympic giant — by Rochel Leah Goldblatt: “They wanted a moment of silence. So they made an uproar. ‘There Was No Silence’ is a film about how… the JCC Rockland helped two widows in their ongoing fight to have the International Olympic Committee add a minute of silence to the Olympic opening ceremonies. Local filmmaker Joe Allen — who wrote, directed and produced the documentary — remembers the day 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist group who charged the Olympic Village at the 1972 Munich Olympics… Now his film, which premieres Sept. 5 on the 47th anniversary of the Munich Massacre, will teach the world about the perseverance of two women who lost their husbands that day.” [LoHud]
ACROSS THE SEA — Jewish teacher in Scotland fired for screening animated war film in class — by Roi Rubinstein: “Jonathan Guetta, a Hebrew teacher at Mearns Castle High School in Glasgow, was sacked in May 2018 for screening a war-movie, directed by Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman, which contains extremely violent and pornographic content, including bodies of dead children and the graphic details of the night of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. According to the Glasgow daily newspaper Evening Times, Guetta appealed to Scotland’s Labor Court after being dismissed and claimed he was fired due to antisemitic reasons. The court dismissed his claims on Monday.” [Ynet; HeraldScotland]
Russian city returns synagogue closed by communists to local Jewish community: “Municipal authorities in the Russian city of Syzran returned to the local Jewish community a synagogue that communists shut down almost 90 years ago. The synagogue of Syzran… was returned last week to the small Jewish community of that city, located in the Volga region at the foot of the Ural Mountains.” [JTA]
LETTERS FROM THE PAST — My Jewish grandfather’s correspondence with Henry Ford — by Matthew Cooper: “When World War I began, [my grandfather’s wife Elizabeth] was stuck behind German lines as the Kaiser’s army advanced eastward. My grandfather, Israel Cooper, then 31, couldn’t reach her. A modest jobber in the Bronx — he was born in 1884 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1905 — he… contacted then secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan… Israel also reached out to Ford who was, of course, a notorious antisemite who would later author the famous four-volume screed The International Jew, which the Nazi Party used as a major source of propaganda. Israel had an extensive correspondence with Ford’s personal secretary, who offered to help in the search for his wife.” [WashingtonMonthly]
SPOTTED LAST NIGHT — Israeli Consul General in New York Dani Dayan attended a birthday party in honor of Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, chaplain of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, at David’s restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. [Pic]
BIRTHDAYS: COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg turns 50… Independent international trade and development professional, Bernard Kupferschmidturns 88… Professor emeritus of quantum physics at Tel Aviv University, Yakir Aharonov turns 87… Retired general counsel of Queens College of the City University of New York, Jane Denkensohn turns 71… Founder and CEO of Canadian retail chain Indigo Books & Music and co-founder and past Chair of Kobo, Heather Reisman turns 71… CEO of the Consumer Technology Association and author of the New York Times best-seller “Ninja Innovation,” Gary J. Shapiro turns 63…
Television writer and producer, he is best known as the original showrunner and executive producer of the animated comedy series “Family Guy,” David J. Zuckerman turns 57… Founder and CEO of Health Innovation Strategies, she was previously the VP of Innovation at Biogen and Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, Naomi Fried, Ph.D. turns 53… Of counsel at the NYC firm of Miller Korzenik Sommers Rayman and a lecturer at Columbia Law School, she was previously first deputy commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Kai Falkenberg turns 46… Israeli soldier held captive for over 5 years (2006-2011) by Hamas, Gilad Shalit turns 33…2019 Valedictorian at YULA high school, Ari Willner…