Major buzz and much uncertainty ahead of Omar and Tlaib’s trip | Max Rose reflects on his Israel visit | The Wertheimer empire
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
TLAIB TRIP TURMOIL — The Israeli government is reportedly considering reversing course and banning Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) from entering the country this weekend. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the two freshman Democrats are slated to begin their trip to Israel and the West Bank on Sunday. But Channel 12 News claimed Thursday morning that Netanyahu is weighing backtracking on his earlier decision and blocking the freshman lawmakers from entering the country over their support for the BDS movement. The Wall Street Journal indicated that Tlaib could be allowed to visit her family on humanitarian grounds, while Omar would be excluded.
The Post reported that Netanyahu told congressional leaders on Wednesday he would deny entry to the two lawmakers. But the prime minister reportedly then reversed that decision after backlash from some Democrats and pro-Israel groups. An announcement on the final ruling is expected sometime on Thursday. An Israeli official told Reuters that “the possibility exists that Israel will not allow the visit in its current form. Professional and legal teams in the government ministries are continuing to examine the material.”
Reuters noted that “approval of the trip is still pending in the House of Representatives Ethics Committee, which would examine its itinerary, according to sources involved in planning the visit.” Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reported last week that Trump was in favor of Netanyahu banning the two congresswomen from visiting.
While the trip remains in limbo, Israel’s security establishment is preparing for every scenario — including the possibility that Omar and Tlaib will tour the Temple Mount, Ravid reported. According to the report, Israel’s deputy national security advisor Reuven Azar instructed the Israeli police to ensure that no Palestinian officials joined the lawmakers at the contentious holy site. Israel is also considering barring entry to Omar and Tlaib’s staffers or other delegation members, and Azar reportedly said that “the preferred goal is that the congresswomen won’t come to Israel at all.”
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh in a phone interview that the visiting congresswomen and their delegation are not planning to meet with any Israeli or Palestinian leaders during their trip. “It is going to meet with people in the refugee camps, it’s going to meet with kids, it’s going to meet with people at checkpoints, it’s going to see what the situation at the wall is like, it’s going to meet with people who lost their lands and had their homes demolished, it’s going to speak with Israeli peace activists and human rights activists,” Zogby said. “It’s going to get a read of the ground.”
Zogby said that Israel would be “stupid” if it impeded the visit in any way. “I would prefer that — having gone through the effort of making the plans for this trip — that they be allowed to make this trip in peace. But if Israel is stupid and decides to play by a different set of rules, the price will be made by them — in the long term, in America, and in the short term, everywhere else in the world. It would be a really stupid thing for them to do.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appeared on Fox News from Israel yesterday: Asked about Omar and Tlaib’s trip, McCarthy said they should have visited with their colleagues last week. “They should’ve come together where they can have a meeting with Israel, with the Palestinian Authority, with those running against Bibi at the same time. As long as you come here with an open mind, open eyes and open ears, I think you have a responsibility to come here to have an understanding.”
McCarthy also called out Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) amid his charge that Democrats have moved away from Israel: “Kamala Harris wouldn’t even go to the AIPAC meeting this year inside Washington. There’s a number of Democrats that still stand with Israel but this new socialist Democrat group has a much different belief.” [Video]
Worth noting: Kamala Harris did meet with AIPAC leadership on Capitol Hill during the group’s conference earlier this year and tweeted out a photo of the meeting.
TOP TALKER — Congress defends two-state resolution after Knesset critique — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh and Amy Spiro: Democratic and Republican House members are pushing back against Israeli criticism of a recent bipartisan resolution that included support for a two-state solution. Twenty-one members of Knesset wrote a letter earlier this week criticizing the language in the anti-BDS resolution, and claiming that the creation of a Palestinian state would be “far more dangerous for Israel” than the BDS movement.
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), one of the authors of the anti-BDS resolution, told Jewish Insider on Wednesday that: “For the last 20 years, every prime minister, including Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, has supported the two states. From my perspective, the only way that we can guarantee Israel’s security and ensure its identity as a Jewish and democratic state — while at the same time providing self determination to both the Jews and the Palestinians — is ultimately a negotiated two-state solution.”
Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), who just returned from Israel, told JI that “over 97 percent of Congress voted for that resolution. And that resolution was a proclamation of the fact that one need not choose between opposing BDS — which I do… one need not choose that over peace. That is representative of a false choice, because there’s every potential for a two-state resolution.”
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), who is visiting Israel this week, said “no bill is perfect. No resolution is perfect.” But the Ohio lawmaker stressed to JI that: “For me, I thought it was important to send a signal that the United States does not stand for the BDS movement in any way. Was it a perfect bill? No. But, no bill is. For the sake of the partnership and the alliance that we have between our countries, I thought that was important.” [JewishInsider]
DRIVING THE CONVO — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas faced criticism on Wednesday for snubbing a delegation of Republican House members after meeting with a similar group of Democratic lawmakers last week.
Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasma insisted that the Republican group “was informed five days ago that the president would not be able to meet due to personal and family matters related to the Eid al-Adha holiday.” Qawasma told The Times of Israel, “President Abbas will meet the Republicans next time and he is just as interested in meeting with them as he is meeting with the Democrats.” Qawasma maintained that although Abbas did meet with left-wing Israeli lawmakers on the same day he skipped meeting the Republicans, “the two are not connected… He would have met them, if his schedule permitted him to do so.”
Rep. Brad Schneider tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: “I know that on my previous two trips with the AIEF he’s refused to meet with the Democrats as well. I think he missed an opportunity to meet with the Republicans and share his perspective. So yeah, I was disappointed that he did not meet with them as he did with the Democrats.”
Israel Policy Forum’s Michael Koplow emails JI: “It’s an enormous mistake for Abbas not to have met with the Republican Congressional delegation. The Palestinians need any support they can get, and snubbing Republicans in Congress due to anger at President Trump is strategically unwise and an unnecessary own goal. There are Republicans in Congress who are uneasy about the Trump approach to the Palestinians, and all Abbas has done in making excuses for not meeting with them is to convince them that there is no reason to push the Trump administration on reversing things like aid cuts. Abbas should be open to meeting with anyone who is interested in hearing his view of things, and he just wasted an excellent opportunity.”
James Zogby tells JI that regardless of what the Palestinian leader’s reasoning was “it is a no harm, no foul.” According to Zogby, no meeting with Abbas would change their minds on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The Republican position on this is very clear, and we have a situation where Congress is the major obstacle to any peace settlement, more so than even what Netanyahu is doing,” he said. “So if it were a situation where compelling arguments would change positions, I would say, ‘Oh, he should have met.’ But knowing them, rational discourse and compelling arguments weren’t going to change anything. So what would be the point?”
Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), who took part in the Democratic congressional trip last week, told JNS that the Democratic House members “walked away with a sense that [Abbas] wasn’t really interested in working with the Trump administration.”
POSTCARD FROM JERUSALEM — Rep. Max Rose, who was part of the 41-member Democratic congressional trip to Israel last week, tells JI’s Amy Spiro that he returned home with a renewed commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship, and belief in the possibility of peace.
Rose said that he “will never lose hope on the potential for a peace resolution in the region, whether that is [with] Mahmoud Abbas or down the road, whoever replaces him.” In a phone interview with Jewish Insider, the freshman lawmaker also said that: “Irrespective of who leads Israel, whether it is Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, whether it is Mr. [Benny] Gantz, or whether it is someone else down the road… I am especially hopeful after this trip that America’s firm alliance, strategic support for Israel as a Jewish, democratic nation will continue. This has got to be something that rises above politics. And that’s also the case for [whomever] is in political power in Washington D.C.”
The New York Democrat also pushed back against the media firestorm surrounding Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who are scheduled to visit Israel later this month. “This is representative of a trend in media generally, because media enjoys this type of story,” he said. “The narrative that I was focused on throughout my time there, was the fact that this was the largest congressional delegation to Israel in history. That is monumental… Those who did not make this trip, they need to make some type of trip to Israel, and there are plenty of opportunities for them to do this.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
IRAN WATCH — The U.S. is set to seize an Iranian supertanker, Grace 1, detained in Gibraltar for breaching international sanctions on oil shipments, the Gibraltar government said on Thursday. The Department of Justice requested to take over control of the ship before Gibraltar was expected to rule whether or not to release the vessel seized by Royal Marines on July 4th.
REPORT — According to a Wall Street Journal report this morning, the State Department’s Brian Hook has convened a series of secret meetings between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in recent months to share information and coordinate their efforts in countering Iran.
ON THE HILL — Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) is drafting legislation that would make domestic terrorism a distinct federal crime. The bill — aimed at closing a loophole in the law that prevents federal authorities from specifically punishing domestic terrorism — is “likely to garner significant co-sponsors in the coming days,” Politico reported on Wednesday. “The bill I am introducing will give federal law enforcement the tools they have asked for so that they can punish criminals to the fullest extent of the law,” McSally said in a statement.
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, sent letters to Mylan NV, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Heritage Pharmaceuticals asking them to turn over documents as part of an ongoing review over alleged drug price fixing. The lawmakers accused the companies of “apparent efforts to stonewall” the congressional probe.
PROTEST PANDEMONIUM — A man drove a pickup truck into a crowd of Jewish protesters outside an ICE detention center in Rhode Island Wednesday night, The Washington Post reported. A protest organizer said the man was a corrections officer at the detention facility. JTA reported that nobody was seriously injured in the incident, but the protesters were then pepper sprayed by guards. [Video]
2020 BRIEFS — John Hickenlooper expected to drop out of presidential race… Beto O’Rourke will resume his presidential bid today with a ‘major address to the nation’ from his hometown of El Paso… Stacey Abrams said in an interview she would be ‘honored to be considered’ for vice president…
RACE TO THE KNESSET — The Central Election Committee voted down a petition to bar the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party from running in the September 17 elections. Members also voted to allow far-right activists Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein to retain their positions on the slate.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Wednesday that he declined Netanyahu’s offer to serve as Israel’s Ambassador to the UN “in order to do everything in my power to ensure the victory of Likud, led by Netanyahu.”
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said during an event held at Facebook’s Tel Aviv offices on Wednesday that the company has to take action to win the Israeli public’s trust ahead of the upcoming elections.
** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Bill Ackman buys stake in Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway [FinancialTimes] • Warren Buffett’s huge losses on Teva mount [Globes] • Lawyer for Israeli diamond magnate, Beny Steinmetz, denies corruption claims [AP] • WeWork IPO filing reveals huge revenue and losses [WSJ] • Chase Koch turns family’s industrial giant to tech VC future [Bloomberg] • NICE wins $137 million in U.S. air traffic control deal [Globes] • After Epstein’s death, a rush to tap into his $559 million estate [WashPost]
SPOTLIGHT — WeWork’s IPO filing on Wednesday has thrown the company and its founder and CEO, the Israeli-born Adam Neumann, back into the spotlight. Axios reported that Neumann has pledged “(along with wife Rebekah) to donate at least $1 billion to charitable causes by the IPO’s 10-year anniversary. If it doesn’t happen, his voting rights get slashed.” And according to a Reuters report, Neumann’s close grip on the company is a stumbling block for investors. Experts told Reuters that investors “are being asked to lower their standards for corporate governance beyond what other technology startups have demanded.”
Secretive brother runs side bets for $58 billion Chanel empire — by Sophie Alexander and Tom Maloney: “[Gerard Wertheimer] and his brother Alain own Chanel, the luxury empire built on No. 5 perfume, the little black dress and the genius of Karl Lagerfeld. Then there’s the pair’s younger half-brother Charles Heilbronn, a Chanel executive vice president with an even lower profile but equally important role: safeguarding the clan’s fortune at the family office, Mousse Partners… They’re guiding one of the world’s most valuable private companies — with about $3 billion of annual profit. Together the family is worth almost $58 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a 26% increase from a year ago, making it the world’s fifth-richest.” [Bloomberg]
LEGAL REVERSAL — A controversial event slated for November at Temple Emanu-El in New York City has been canceled. The scheduled “mock trial” show was slated to feature attorney Alan Dershowitz — who has been caught up in the Jeffrey Epstein fallout — defending biblical characters on charges of child trafficking. The synagogue did not provide a reason for the cancellation.
MEDIA WATCH — When their book deal blew up after sexual misconduct allegations, Glenn Thrush kept his advance. Maggie Haberman had to pay hers back — by Rosie Gray: “The first two years of the Trump presidency were a boom time for political books, and one of the boomiest was the deal announced in September 2017, in which the New York Times’ star White House reporters, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, would write an insider’s account of the Trump presidency for Random House… Thrush was kicked off the project by the publisher after being accused of sexual misconduct… [and] he got to keep the portion of the book advance he had received… Haberman, however, paid a price. According to two sources familiar with the situation, after a period of limbo and attempts to salvage the project, Haberman decided not to do the book after losing her writing partner — and then had to give her share of the advance back to the publisher.” [BuzzFeed]
PROMOTIONS — James McAuley, the Paris correspondent for The Washington Post, will be filling in as the paper’s temporary Jerusalem correspondent — joining reporter Ruth Eglash on the ground — to cover the September 17th elections.
The Atlantic has tasked Yoni Appelbaum to lead a major expansion of the magazine’s Ideas section that he helped launch last year, editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg announced on Wednesday.
TOP TALKER — ‘Keep the Hasidic out’: A small-town housing showdown — by Sharon Otterman: “In a peaceful corner of the Hudson Valley, a broad expanse of land sits at the ready for hundreds of homes ranging between 2,500 and 3,400 square feet, with views of the surrounding hills… But if it were up to town officials, the houses would never be built. They openly fret about the size and density of the 431-unit development, the Greens at Chester, and even confess wariness about the likely intended home buyers: Hasidic Jews… Town officials have repeatedly placed obstacles in the developers’ path since they bought the land in 2017… The developers, Greens at Chester, L.L.C., cite these statements and others in a federal lawsuit that accuses the town, Orange County and individual local officials of discrimination, contending that they assume that the home buyers will be Hasidic because some of the developers are.” [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE TOWN — A proposed ethnic studies curriculum in California is facing considerable backlash and significant challenges from Jewish groups and state officials, who have promised to revisit the plan. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that “California’s effort to write the nation’s first ethnic studies curriculum for public schools has united liberals and conservatives: They think it’s terrible. Jewish lawmakers complained that the proposed lessons are antisemitic, while a conservative critic says capitalism is presented as a ‘form of power and oppression.’” The Sacramento Bee citedportions of the curriculum that alarmed Jewish groups, including excluding Jewish refugees from a discussion of immigration, asking students to research the BDS movement and song lyrics that purport “For every free political prisoner, an Israeli colony is expanded.”
Las Vegas rabbi talks about isolation after plot against synagogue — by Rachel Crosby: “Early Saturday, Rabbi Jered Hundley stood before his crowded Las Vegas congregation hoping to share with them, not scare them. In the audience were about 110 familiar faces, mostly adults but also young children. They sat quietly, listening… With a deep breath, he explained that the unidentified synagogue described Friday in national headlines — the synagogue that a Las Vegas man had just been accused of plotting an attack against — was theirs… Conor Climo, 23, was charged Friday in connection with bomb-making materials found in his home, about 7 miles from Lev HaShem Messianic Synagogue.” [LVReviewJournal; LasVegasSun]
Neo-Nazi group puts racist ‘Send Them Back’ posters on Seattle synagogues — by Hope Schreiber: “Police are investigating after racist, anti-immigrant fliers were found at two South Seattle synagogues on Sunday. The posters depict a cartoon of an outstretched arm representing ‘America’ and U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley ‘biting the hand that feeds them.’… The fliers are signed by the Daily Stormer Book Club, a neo-Nazi, white supremacist, and Holocaust denial group.” [YahooNews]
ACROSS THE POND — MP Chris Williamson sues Labour for suspension over antisemitism: “An MP is taking the Labour Party to court over its decision to reinstate his suspension for his remarks about the party’s handling of antisemitism… His original suspension was lifted in June following a formal warning, but it was reimposed two days later after a backlash from Jewish groups. Mr. Williamson said he hoped to overturn the ‘unconstitutional’ decision to ‘re-suspend me from the party I love.’” [BBC]
DESSERT — Barstool Sports Founder Visits Kosher Pizza Shop in Queens: For his latest segment of One Bite Pizza Reviews, Barstool’s Dave Portnoy tries Kosher pizza at Mezze in Forest Hills and gets into a debate with the non-Jewish pizza maker about the cheese on the pizza. [YouTube]
BIRTHDAYS: Founder of Slim-Fast, major Democratic party donor, S. Daniel Abraham turns 95… Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Stephen Breyer turns 81… Irvin Farber turns 89… CFO of The Trump Organization, he and Donald Trump Jr. are the trustees operating the company during the Trump presidency, Allen Weisselbergturns 72… Founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler turns 70… Economist, CPA, and founding member of wealth advisor RVW Investing LLC, Selwyn Gerber turns 69… Colorado resident, an artist and avid mountain biker, William Crary (“Bill”) Weidman turns 69…
Co-founder and co-rabbi of Congregation Or Hadash in Sandy Springs, Georgia, he has served three congregations in Argentina and served as Rabbi-in-Residence for the Jewish community of Cuba, Rabbi Mario Karpuj turns 53… Emmy Award-winning actress, she played Grace Adler on the NBC sitcom “Will & Grace” (1998–2006), Debra Messing turns 51… Principal of Atlas Philanthropy, Margot Atlas turns 50… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-VA-2), she graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a Navy officer for 20 years prior to entering politics, Elaine Goodman Luria turns 44…
Israeli attorney, he’s appeared in the Israeli versions of “The Amazing Race” and “Dancing with the Stars,” Raz Meirman turns 42… Program director of business ventures at Boston University, Rachel Spekman turns 36… Executive director of New York’s Transit Innovation Partnership, Rachel Sterne Haot turns 36… Director of communications, marketing strategy and content for insurance company Lemonade, Yael Wissner-Levy turns 35… Elliott Management’s Adam Jason Katz turns 34… Product designer at Oscar Health, Talia Siegel turns 28… Director of product, previously at Heed and Uber, Ezra Mosseri turns 26… Real estate and business law attorney in the law firm of Abramoff Neuberger, Meir Neuberger… Joe Farry… David Summer…