DRIVING THE DAY — Tensions between Iran and the United States and Israel ratcheted up to new highs over the weekend, after the IDF struck Iranian-linked sites in Syria; the Iranian-backed Hezbollah accused Israel of targeting Beirut; and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise appearance at the G-7 meeting in France.
The rift between President Donald Trump and European leaders over the Iran nuclear deal spilled out into public view during the annual G-7 meeting in Biarritz, France. French President Emmanuel Macron surprised Trump on Sunday when he invited Zarif to attend meetings on the sidelines of the summit. A U.S. administration official called Zarif’s appearance a “curveball.”
French officials insisted that the U.S. was given advance notice of Zarif’s visit. The Iranian diplomat’s arrival raised questions about whether he would meet with Trump or members of his administration. On Monday, Trump toldreporters that he knew Zarif had been invited by Macron. “He asked me,” Trump said. “I don’t consider that disrespectful at all.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters Sunday that, “The president has said before that to the extent Iran wants to sit down and negotiate, he would not set preconditions to those negotiations. I’m not going to make any more comments about who’s here and who’s not here and what conversations may or may not be going on.”
Trump and Macron are scheduled to hold a joint press conference at 9:30 am EST. [CSPAN]
HOW IT PLAYED — Iran’s Zarif makes surprise trip to G-7, catching Trump off-guard [WashPost] • White House blindsided by Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif’s G-7 appearance [NBCNews] • Macron sparks confusion after inviting Iran’s foreign minister to G7 summit [CNN] • Zarif’s presence was an unexpected twist in a conflict that has escalated in recent months [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE REGION — Israeli air strikes targeted a Palestinian-linked group in Lebanon early Monday morning, after a weekend of attacks and threats that roiled the Mideast. Late Saturday, Israel announced it had foiled an imminent Iranian drone attack. In an unusual move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly took credit for the air strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, saying that Iranian forces were plotting a large-scale drone attack on Israel.
The strikes and the announcement drove an uptick in threats, tensions and attacks on Israel throughout the weekend. On Sunday, two drones crashed in the suburbs of Beirut, and Hezbollah claimed they originated in Israel. The IDF refused to comment on the incident, and several military analysts have speculated that the drones are actually of Iranian origin. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel with reprisal on Sunday, saying that its standoff with Israel has “reached a new stage” and “we will not allow Lebanon to be violated… this for us is a red line.”
Many in Israel believe that the thwarted Iranian drone attack was intended as revenge over Israel’s strike on Iranian-linked sites in Iraq last month. IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said the plot was personally overseen by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
On Sunday evening, three rockets were launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip, terrifying thousands of people who were attending a concert outdoors in Sderot. In response, the Israel Air Force struck targets in northern Gaza Sunday night, while on Monday, Netanyahu ordered fuel deliveries to Gaza cut in half. Meanwhile, the manhunt for the murderers of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb continued over the weekend; on Monday two senior Israeli politicians claimed the terrorists had been arrested, though the Shin Bet denied the reports.
SUPPORT FROM WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself from the Iranian threat in a phone call with Netanyahu on Sunday. “The secretary and the prime minister discussed how Iran is leveraging its foothold in Syria to threaten Israel and its neighbors,” the State Department said in a statement.
TOP TALKER — The State Department and leading experts and former diplomats condemned the regime in Tehran on Sunday after the Iranian foreign ministry announced late Saturday that it had added “the so-called Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and its director” Mark Dubowitz to its sanctions list. Iran accused the group of being involved in “designing, imposing and intensifying the impacts of economic terrorism against Iran.”
Dubowitz tells JI: “We are grateful for the outpouring of support from across the political and policy spectrum. Regardless of differences on the Iran issue, many Obama, Bush and Trump administration officials, members of Congress, and think tank experts have voiced their outrage at the regime’s threats against FDD. We hope that our think tank colleagues will boycott all meetings with the Iranian foreign minister, whose ministry issued the threats against us, when he comes to New York for the United Nations General Assembly meetings in September.”
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Trump said Monday morning at the G7 that the White House may unveil its Mideast peace plan before the upcoming Israel election, contradicting past statements. The president said he believes Israel wants to make a deal and the Palestinians “want to get U.S. funding back.”
DRIVING THE CONVO — The Atlantic’s Emma Green sums up the conversation around Trump’s use of Israel to attack the Democratic Party in the past two weeks: “When Trump says these women hate Israel, hate Jews, and are antisemites, that gives permission to ‘the president’s people to say, “We don’t care about traditional ways of approaching the U.S.-Israel relationship,”’ [Alan] Solow said. ‘It also frees up all the president’s opponents in the Jewish community to say, “You know what? All the rules have changed.”’ As a result, politically conservative and progressive Jews, who might have once found common ground on the Israel issue, are constantly at one another’s throats.”
“When it comes down to it, Trump may not care so much about making Jewish pro-Israel organizations happy. ‘A lot of this has nothing to do with the Jews,’ Yehuda Kurtzer, the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, told me.” [TheAtlantic]
Michelle Goldberg writes… “Mazel tov, Trump. You’ve revived the Jewish left: Obviously, American Jews have long leaned liberal, and have always been overrepresented in progressive movements. But there’s a difference between leftists who happen to be Jewish and explicitly Jewish left-wing activism. ‘People who may not have been that close to Jewishness, they feel suddenly like it’s very important to express who they are as Jews in the context of their activism and in the context of their collective memory,’ said Arielle Angel, the editor of Jewish Currents.” [NYTimes]
Author Tal Keinan said on Fox News’ “America’s News Headquarters” program: “[Trump] was not raising the old canard. This is neither an attack, nor defense of Donald Trump’s statements, but we should be honest in how we’re looking at this. That disloyalty canard, I understand why it evokes that sort of reaction among Jews. It’s been raised from the times of the pharaohs in Egypt until present day Europe as a way to stoke hatred against Jews. I just don’t think that’s what’s happening here.”
Author Daniel Gordis said in an interview with Time’s Joseph Hincks: “Trump making Israel one of his pet issues is going to make American Jews’ relationship with Israel more fraught and more complicated and in the end, that’s just not good for the Jewish people. Jewish people have always stuck together through thick and thin, no matter what they disagreed about politically or theologically.” [Time]
STATE-SIDE — The Alabama State GOP passed a resolution at its annual summer meeting on Saturday calling for Alabama’s congressional delegation to seek the expulsion of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). State Rep. Tommy Hanes, who introduced the resolution, stated, “Let Alabama be first and let’s see how many other states follow.”
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is starting to feel the abandonment of the Republican Party in his 2020 re-election bid. King, who was denounced by his colleagues and stripped of his committee assignments for his controversial statements on white supremacy and abortion, has only $18,365 cash on hand, The Daily Beast reported on Sunday. J.D. Scholten is one of the candidates seeking to unseat the vulnerable incumbent next November. “King has not received a single contribution this year from a political action committee associated with a sitting member of Congress. Corporate PACs and interest groups have also completely shunned him,” the report said.
SCENE IN JERUSALEM — Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) shared a picture on Sunday of his meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem while on a visit to Israel with Sen. Mike Brown (R-IN). “I am thankful for [Netanyahu’s] friendship and strong friendship with Florida and the U.S.,” Scott tweeted. “Together we will continue strengthening our partnership for generations to come.” [Pic]
2020 BRIEFS — The Democratic National Committee raised substantial cybersecurity concerns over virtual caucusing after hacked conference call… Democrats cleared up some internal disputes and extended others at the DNC meeting over the weekend… Seth Moulton drops out, calls on other Democrats to follow… Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) to take on Trump in 2020 Republican primary… Nikki Haley-Mike Pence rivalry heats up as GOP weighs post-Trump future… How Bernie and Cardi B became 2020’s oddest alliance… Elizabeth Warren manages to woo the Democratic establishment…
Marianne Williamson’s esprit de orb corps — by Antonia Hitchens: “A couple of Thursdays ago… in San Francisco, three hundred and fifty people waited at Manny’s restaurant, in the Mission District, to see Marianne Williamson… A supporter draped her in a purple crystal necklace. ‘This whole crystal thing is ridiculous,’ Williamson said. ‘I have no crystals in my home. I have never used crystals in my work. That’s just part of this caricature that’s been created.’ She went on, ‘I’m a Jewish woman. I practice Transcendental Meditation. I do yoga.'” [NewYorker]
HAMPTONS SCENE — Bonnie Lautenberg, the wife of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), hosted a fundraiser in support of former Vice President Joe Biden at her home in Water Mill, N.Y. on Saturday. Attendees included former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, former Ambassador to Hungary Donald Blinken, and his wife, Vera, former Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY), former Obama deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, and two New York congressional candidates, Perry Gershon and Jackie Gordon. [Pic]
REPORT — Jared Kushner told Republican donors at a retreat in Wyoming last week that felons are coming out of jail and registering as Republicans, Jonathan Swan reported in Axios. Kushner also told attendees, according to the report, that if one of his predecessors had cared as much as he does about prison reform then “it would have changed my family,” referring to his ex-con father, Charles Kushner.
RACE TO THE KNESSET — Former Defense Minister and veteran MK Amir Peretz jolted the sleepy Knesset race on Sunday night by showing up on live television without his iconic mustache. Peretz, head of the Labor Party, saidhe shaved his memorable facial hair after 47 years to send a message to the Israeli people: “Read my lips: I won’t sit [in a coalition] with Bibi.”
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled Sunday evening that two members of the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party are barred from running in the September election. Baruch Marzel and Benzi Gopstein were ruled ineligible to run over their history of racist statements and incitement, the court stated. The justices dismissed similar petitions about Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir as well as the Joint List merger of Arab parties.
With the redo election just three weeks away, the Wall Street Journal drewattention to Netanyahu’s outreach to Russian-Israeli voters, while The New York Times wondered: “Half of Israelis want Netanyahu out. But do they want Benny Gantz in?”
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Larry Fink’s BlackRock Mideast foray may grow with Israel infrastructure push [Bloomberg] • Israel’s Bezeq may write down up to $599 million in the second quarter [Reuters] • BlackBerry to close Israel development center [Globes] • Amazon UK removes from sale items of clothing featuring infamous Holocaust picture [TheJC] • U.S.-Israeli fintech firm Pagaya issuing $115 million asset-backed security [Reuters]
‘Safe haven’ Israel became hot money bait for Central Bank chief — by Ivan Levingston: “Israel’s economic transformation has turned it into an ‘emerging markets safe haven’ that continued to absorb money from abroad despite maintaining near-zero interest rates, according to central bank Governor Amir Yaron. The inflows in recent years were a reflection of ‘the structural change in the fundamentals of the Israeli economy,’ including the county’s declining debt burden and current-account surpluses, Yaron said in a speech at the annual retreat for central bankers from around the world in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.” [Bloomberg]
SPOTLIGHT — PTSD made him walk away from public life. Now he’s heading back — by Dave Philipps: “Jason Kander was a rising political star, in the homestretch of a race for mayor of Kansas City that he was widely expected to win… In a strikingly candid public letter, Mr. Kander announced that day last October that he was dropping out of the race because of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder from his military service… When Mr. Kander dropped out of the mayoral race, he also tried to drop out of sight. He deleted his Twitter account, gave his phone to [his campaign manager Abe] Rakov and changed his appearance, growing a beard and wearing a hat to be harder to recognize. He wanted to focus on healing, he said, and not the public reaction to his announcement… Mr. Kander said he started exercising and meditating, and feels more at peace now than he had for a decade. ‘I’m not cured, but I’m so much better,’ he said.” [NYTimes]
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg treated again for cancer — by Shuran Huang: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has just completed three weeks of radiation treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the U.S. Supreme Court disclosed Friday. The radiation therapy, conducted on an outpatient basis, began Aug. 5, shortly after a localized cancerous tumor was discovered on Ginsburg’s pancreas… Doctors at Sloan Kettering said further tests showed no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body. The treatment comes just months after Ginsburg was operated on for lung cancer last December.” [NPR]
MEDIA WATCH — Trump allies target journalists over coverage deemed hostile to White House — by Kenneth P. Vogel and Jeremy W. Peters: “A loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House is pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists… The group has already released information about journalists at CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times… It is clear from the cases to date that among the central players in the operation is Arthur Schwartz, a combative 47-year-old conservative consultant who is a friend and informal adviser to Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son.” [NYTimes]
The Wall Street Journal editorial… “Smearing Steven Menashi: Some on the left argue that Israel’s ‘right of return’ immigration law for Jews is illegitimate because it excludes other groups. Mr. Menashi disputed this by describing comparable laws in Germany, Greece and Finland, which have welcomed back displaced nationals… Nation states often have an ethnic, linguistic and cultural basis. But [Rachel] Maddow said Mr. Menashi is on the ‘fringe of racial thinking.’ If senators take her seriously, they will confirm how far they have drifted to the anti-Israel fringe.” [WSJ]
PROFILE — The Twitter rabbi — by Aimee Levitt: “Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg… never had a pulpit, nor has it ever felt like the right thing for her (though, as she notes, life is long). Instead she has Twitter, and she uses it to speak to her 83,000 followers about how Jewish tradition can be used to create a better, more compassionate world, accessible not just to Jews, but to everyone… Ruttenberg attends Saturday-morning services at Minyan Shirat ha-Agam and Lomdim Chavurah, two small lay-led congregations in Evanston [Illinois]. She’s part of the rotation of congregants who take turns performing the ‘rabbinical’ tasks… Ruttenberg’s d’var Torahs are a live version of a Twitter thread: she introduces the text, shares some of the rabbinical and Talmudic commentary, solicits contributions from her audience, and finally draws it all into a synthesis.” [ChicagoReader]
TALK OF OUR NATION — The message of measles — by Nick Paumgarten: “Early in the summer, [Howard] Zucker and some of the medical staff of the state and county health departments spent a day checking in on a few summer camps in Sullivan County, a rural area on the southwest flank of the Catskills — the old Borscht Belt. We caravanned over to Camp Bnos, in the nearby town of Liberty. Almost a thousand girls were scheduled to arrive the next day; they’d all be checked for measles… We were met by the heads of the camp — men in either dark suits or rekel and a black hat; women in mostly black, with long sleeves and skirts — who led us into a dining hall, where a table, set for sixteen, offered a layout of kosher sushi, sculpted fruit, rugelach, Ritz crackers, and orange juice.”
“An administrator said that, of hundreds of families, only two were part of the anti-vax movement; their children weren’t coming to the camp this year. ‘Once all the schools are compliant, it will make our lives easier,’ Shimon Newmark, a camp director, said. ‘No more religious exemption should help, too. Our staff has basically turned into a medical office. It’s a lot of work.’ A month before, the staff had started cancelling registrations of noncompliant families. ‘One person tried to claim a religious exemption, then, when that was no longer accepted, they tried an allergic exemption,’ Newmark said. ‘Our M.D. found that allergies have no relation to vaccines. Eventually, that family cancelled and got a refund.’” [NewYorker]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Newtown synagogue defaced with antisemitic graffiti: “Police discovered antisemitic graffiti painted on the front and side walls of the Adath Israel Synagogue in Newtown, Connecticut [on Saturday morning]… Chief of Police James Viadero has been in contact with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and they have offered a reward of up to $2500.00 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect or suspects responsible.” [Fox61]
Arkansas, home to supremacist groups, weighs hate crimes law — by Andrew DeMillo: “Arkansas is one of only four states without a specific hate crimes law… Now that reticence is giving way, one of the political tremors being felt across the nation after recent attacks. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson… has called on lawmakers to approve harsher penalties for crimes targeting people because of their race, ethnicity or religion… Pressure for new legislation is also mounting in Georgia and South Carolina, two other states without hate crimes laws. Wyoming is the other holdout, while a measure enacted in Indiana in April falls short of the standard recognized by the Anti-Defamation League.” [AP]
Israeli escaped prisoner said arrested in Morocco synagogue: “An Israeli prisoner accused in the murder of three people who had escaped house arrest in the Jewish state last year was captured on Saturday in Morocco by the country’s secret police… Golan Avitan was arrested in a Casablanca synagogue while being visited by his children who arrived from Israel to meet with him. Avitan was taken to a holding facility in the capital and appointed a lawyer… He escaped Israeli authorities in October of 2018 after managing to remove an electronic handcuff while under house arrest.” [ToI]
DESSERT — Appealing to Orthodox Jews, Trump Hotel in DC offers kosher cuisine — by Omri Nahmias: “In an attempt to appeal to Orthodox customers, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC recently launched a glatt kosher menu that includes Israeli snacks like bamba and bisli, along with prepared meals of fish, chicken, and beef. The meals come in sealed containers from a catering company in Potomac, Maryland and are heated to order. The hotel managers also added about a dozen kosher wines from Israel and the U.S.” [JPost]
A top-ranked NYC falafel shop is about to open its first D.C. store — by Gabe Hiatt: “A fast-growing falafel shop that has won over the hearts and stomachs of New York City critics will begin its attempted conquest of the D.C. market this month with a new shop in Georgetown. Israeli-born chef Einat Admony and Stéfan Nafziger, her partner and husband, are a couple inspections away from opening a Taïm, which means ‘tasty’ in Hebrew, at 1065 Wisconsin Avenue NW.” [EaterDC]
REMEMBERING — Kenneth Bialkin, longtime Jewish leader and philanthropist, dies at 89 — by Ron Kampeas: “Kenneth Bialkin, a philanthropist and a longtime leader of a plethora of major Jewish organizations, has died at 89… Bialkin was the [Anti-Defamation League’s] national chairman in the early 1980s… [He] also was chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in the mid-1980s, when it took a lead in brokering freedoms for Soviet Jews in the final years of the USSR… Bialkin was additionally a longtime board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a donor to GOP candidates.” [JTA]
Sidney Rittenberg, idealistic American aide to Mao who evolved to counsel capitalists, dies at 98 — by Robert D. McFadden: “Sidney Rittenberg, an American soldier-linguist who stayed in China for 35 years after World War II as an adviser and political prisoner of the Communist Revolution, and later made millions as a counselor of Western capitalists exploiting booming Chinese markets, died on Saturday in Scottsdale, Ariz.” [NYTimes]
Danny Cohen, who helped set the stage for a digital era, dies at 81 — by Katie Hafner: “Danny Cohen, a computer scientist whose work in the 1960s and ’70s on computer graphics and networks led to innovations in flight simulation, internet telephony, cloud computing and one of the first online dates — with him — died on Aug. 12 at his home in Palo Alto, Calif… Dr. Cohen, an Israeli immigrant who started out as a mathematician, is credited with designing the first real-time computerized flight simulation system, providing the experience of piloting a plane without having to leave the ground.”[NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Rabbi (now emeritus) of Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta since 1952, Rabbi Emanuel Feldman turns 92… Iraqi-born novelist, author of more than 40 books on Jewish themes, Naïm Kattan turns 91… Financial advisor at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, George Strum turns 81… CEO of Siegelvision, Alan Siegel turns 81… Mayor of Tel Aviv since 1998, Ron Huldai turns 75… Partner at the DC law firm of Williams & Connolly, Robert Barnett turns 73… Former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives, Irving Slosberg turns 72… Jay Caplan turns 71… Co-owner of Rochester, New York-based August Moon Imports and World Tae Kwon Do Center, Jane August turns 68… Board chair of Gap, Inc., a retail chain founded by his parents, Robert J. Fisher turns 65…
Journalist and co-author of the Freakonomics series, Stephen J. Dubner turns 56… Progressive political activist, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Ilyse Hogue turns 50… Canadian technology and media entrepreneur, Lorne Abony turns 50… Partner at Silly Zak’s Gluten Free Baker in Medford, Oregon, Robert Sacks turns 49… Senior associate dean of undergraduate and graduate programs at the Olin Business School of Washington University in St. Louis, Steven Malter turns 46… Deputy General Counsel at ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), Samantha Eisner turns 44… Founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based consulting and PR firm Inside Revolution, Ariel Maurice (“Ari”) Ratnerturns 39… John Train… Carrie Shapiro…