Daily Kickoff

Booker’s Rosh Hashanah outreach in Iowa | Jewish leaders sit down with Erdogan | Meet the Israeli regulator cutting red tape

Cory Booker

Mark C. Olsen

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker addresses family, friends, elected officials, and New Jersey National Guard leadership during the farewell ceremony for more than 180 New Jersey Army National Guard Soldiers from Alpha and Charlie Companies, 2nd Battalion, 113th Infantry Regiment, at the Prudential Center, Newark, N.J., Feb. 4, 2019.

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GREETINGS — Cory Booker sends Rosh Hashanah greetings to Iowa voters ahead of Jewish New Year — by JI’s Ben Jacobs: Cory Booker’s presidential campaign sent out Rosh Hashanah cards to more than 30 Iowans and a broader group of supporters and friends across the country, wishing them “Shana Tova” in advance of the Jewish New Year. [Pic

Nice gesture: David Adelman, a prominent Iowa lawyer and Democratic activist, received one of the cards himself. Adelman, who has not decided who he’ll be voting for in February, told Jewish Insider that it was “a nice touch and a nice gesture.”

Just in time: The cards were delivered as Booker’s campaign continues to struggle in the polls. The New Jersey senator announced on Saturday that if his campaign didn’t raise $1.7 million by the end of September, he would have to consider dropping out of the race.

In a statement, Booker’s Iowa state director Mike Frosolone told JI: “It’s very important to us that every faith and community in Iowa knows that they have an ally in the Cory 2020 campaign. Rosh Hashanah brings an excellent opportunity for us all to celebrate and be thankful for the blessings of the last year, and we wanted our friends in the Jewish community to know we are thankful for them.” [JewishInsider]

ROSH HASHANAH CALLS — Where’s Joe? The Joe Biden campaign hosted a pre-Rosh Hashanah conference call with some 30 Jewish leaders on Wednesday. But the candidate himself didn’t join the call, one of the participants told JI. Instead, Tony Blinken, a former Obama administration national security official and a senior advisor to the Biden campaign, touted the Obama/Biden administration’s support for Israel. 

White House chat: President Donald Trump is scheduled to host a pre-High Holidays conference call with rabbis and Jewish community leaders on Friday.

NYC SCENE — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with a group of Jewish American leaders on Tuesday in New York. The meeting took place on the same day the Turkish president lashed out at Israel and compared the Jewish state’s Gaza policies to the Nazi treatment of the Jews. Attendees included AIPAC President Betsy Berns Korn, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, Malcolm Hoenlein and Arthur Stark of the Conference of Presidents, and B’nai B’rith CEO Dan Mariaschin. [Pic]

BIBI 5.0 OR ELECTIONS 3.0? — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh and Amy Spiro: President Reuven Rivlin granted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a mandate to form the next government on Wednesday evening, despite his unlikely chances. Netanyahu, accepting the mandate, was not optimistic, saying “my inability to form a government is slightly less than that of Gantz.”

Why Bibi: Jason Pearlman, a one-time media advisor to Rivlin, explained that since Netanyahu got one more recommendation than Gantz, “it would be logical for him to take [the] first bite of the cheese.” Noga Tarnopolsky, a Jerusalem-based freelance reporter for the Los Angeles Times, said it appeared Rivlin “lost patience with two stalemated leaders, who made no progress over the past 48 hours.” 

Rivlin’s offer: In his remarks at the president’s residence, Rivlin said he proposed that while one leader serves as prime minister, his coalition partner would serve as vice prime minister and automatically become acting prime minister if the premier would have to temporarily leave his post. Netanyahu nodded his head in agreement, indicating that he was in favor. Haaretz reported on Wednesday that Gantz rejected the offer. 

Netanyahu’s plea for unity: The Likud leader knows his chances of forming a government are slim, and made another appeal for unity while accepting the mandate: “Neither of us can form a government other than with each other,” he said. We must “achieve national reconciliation.”

Timetable: Rivlin has granted Netanyahu 28 days to attempt to form a coalition. In April, Netanyahu asked for and was given an extension, but this time around he may throw in the towel long before the four weeks are up. “The Likud is openly contemplating the option of Bibi returning the mandate to the president as early as next week,” said Tal Shalev, the chief political correspondent for Walla! News. This, she said, could be a move “to speed things up towards an allegedly inevitable outcome of a third election.” 

Why it matters: Having the spotlight on him for four weeks is a chance for Netanyahu to “frame the public narrative” that he is a legitimate candidate for prime minister if there is a unity government, the Washington Institute’s David Makovsky explained in an interview with JI. This is certainly “a victory for Netanyahu.” Makovsky added, “Being the person with the mandate in your hands for four weeks is an eternity in Israeli politics.” 

But Mark Mellman said this should not actually be seen as a boost for Netanyahu. Mellman, who served as pollster for Blue and White in the April 9th election, predicted to JI that “Netanyahu is unlikely to succeed” to form a coalition “and he’ll therefore be a two-time loser, further eroding his reputation with the voters and, more important, with his own party.” 

End game: Is a third election just a matter of time? Tarnopolsky told JI that the prospect of yet another vote now “looks considerably more likely than it has at any other point.” She said she sees “no visible path to a Netanyahu coalition. A major betrayal would have to occur for any of the opposition parties to join him.” Shalev opined that Netanyahu is backed into a corner on many fronts, especially considering his pending pre-indictment hearing next week. 

Deposing the king: “It’s going to be very difficult for [Netanyahu] to convince any of the other partners to join him, so if he sees he’s blocked by everyone he will probably take that path and try to speed things up towards elections,” Shalev told JI. “Supposedly, Bibi always gets what he wants, but he is at his weakest point ever.” 

Blame game: Shalom Lipner, a 26-year veteran of the prime minister’s office, opined that Netanyahu “left the impression of being focused mainly on the proverbial blame game.” Lipner maintained that the Likud leader “set the stage for an eventual impasse in the process being pinned on an intransigent Gantz — and for that narrative to feature prominently” in the wake of a third ballot. The public will punish the one who will be seen as responsible for dragging Israel through another election cycle, added Makovsky.

Bye-bye Bibi: Mellman maintained that either Likud will get rid of Netanyahu after failing for the second time to form a government or that Netanyahu will pay a heavy price at the ballot box “for triggering the unthinkable third election.” [JewishInsider]

Playing games: Joint List leader Ayman Odeh claimed Wednesday night that Blue and White asked him not to give all 13 party recommendations to Gantz, so that Netanyahu be tasked first with the mandate to form a coalition. Odeh added that, regardless, Balad had already indicated that it did not want to be included in the party’s recommendation of Gantz. 

‘Our relations are with Israel’ [Katz]: Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz got his coveted photo opportunity with Trump during an event held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday in New York. According to a readout provided by Katz’s office, Trump inquired about Israel’s political situation and sent regards to Netanyahu. [Pic]

HEARD YESTERDAY — In a conversation with Ambassador Dennis Ross at the United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) annual summit in New York, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer stressed that while some former high-level government and security officials expressed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as better than the alternative, “today you cannot find security and intelligence officials in Israel — I’m not aware of any of them — that would go back to the exact same deal.” 

Clear path: “The United States has got enormous leverage, and I think the idea of going back into the same deal with Iran, it gives them a clear path to nuclear weapons,” Dermer explained.

Same, same: Asked if Israel’s position on Iran would change if a national unity government is formed following last week’s redo election, Dermer said that “any new government” would continue to support Israel’s longstanding opposition to the JCPOA and be in favor of economic pressure on Iran “to ensure that: A, Iran never gets nuclear weapons, and B, that everything is done to roll back Iran’s aggression.” Dermer also noted that Gantz said earlier this year at the Munich security conference that there was no difference between him and Netanyahu on the topic of Iran. [JewishInsider]

Peacemaker? U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the UANI conference that the United States wants “a peaceful resolution with the Islamic Republic of Iran. We’re hoping we can get that way. In the end, it will be up to the Iranians to make that decision.” Pompeo accused Iran of having “a long history of unprovoked aggression, 40 years now, against its own people, against its neighbors, and indeed against civilization itself.” 

New sanctions: The secretary of state also announced new U.S. sanctions on six Chinese companies who are transporting Iranian crude oil. “We’re telling China and all nations: Know that we will sanction every violation of sanctionable activity,” he said. 

HEARD AT UNGA — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told world leaders on Wednesday that the Persian Gulf “is on the edge of collapse, as a single blunder can fuel a big fire.” Rouhani accused the U.S. of engaging in “international piracy,” and called on Trump to “stop the sanctions so as to open the way for the start of negotiations.” 

LAST NIGHT — Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) raised a record $37 million at the annual gala at the New York Hilton Midtown.Speakers included Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon and MK Gila Gamliel, Israel’s minister for social equality. [Pic]

JI EXCLUSIVE — Congressmen press Trump on Israeli steel tariff waiver — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and David Schweikert (R-AZ) have asked the Trump administration to explain why Israel has not been granted a waiver on new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The letter, sent to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday, asks why Israel hasn’t been granted the same exemption given to allies South Korea, Australia, Argentina and others. “We do not believe imports of steel and aluminum from Israel are a threat to U.S. national security,” they wrote, “and are asking you to explain why Israel has not been granted an exemption.” [JewishInsider]

TOP TALKER — The White House released a summary on Wednesday of the call between Trump and the president of Ukraine that was the key factor in the impeachment proceedings that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday. In the call, Trump asks President Volodymyr Zelensky to “do us a favor” and investigate his electoral rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. The call came days after Trump blocked $391 million in aid to Ukraine. Trump called the scandal “a total hoax” and a “joke” on Wednesday.   

MOVING ON — Former Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is set to launch a new Saturday morning radio show on SiriusXM almost two years after he resigned his seat over allegations of sexual misconduct. The one-hour program will feature interviews with political and entertainment figures. “I miss the Senate a lot but I’m not there so I want to be a voice,” Franken told The Associated Press

Missing voice: SiriusXM said in a statement, “Al Franken is an important and influential progressive voice, whom many have missed. SiriusXM is the perfect platform for him to re-enter the public conversation.” The company added that in addition to his show, Franken will participate in elections coverage, including on the nights of debates, primaries and the election.

2020 BRIEFS — For Joe Biden, Trump impeachment inquiry brings a long-expected test… How Trump and his 2020 rivals are using the impeachment battle to rake in cash… Bernie Sanders is trying to make his electability case.

DONOR CIRCUIT — Trump was expected to have raised $5 million on Wednesday evening during a fundraiser at the Manhattan home of hedge fund manager John Paulson… Investor and Democratic megadonor Alan Patricof is backing Biden for president…

** 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: Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor facing weak IPO demand: sources [NYPost• SoftBank in talks to boost $1.5bn WeWork pledge [FinancialTimes] • Billionaire Len Blavatnik lets money talk at young scientists awards [Bloomberg] • WeWork puts three businesses up for sale [TheInformation] • Longtime insider Artie Minson and tech veteran Sebastian Gunningham to succeed WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann [WSJ

MORE BRIEFS: David Zaslav’s Discovery and Amazon serve up new cooking app [WSJ• Israeli AI firm Okapi raises $5.5 million for U.S. expansion [CommercialObserver] • Israel’s PICO Ventures closes $80 million fund [Reuters] • Virgin Atlantic begins Tel Aviv-London flights [Globes] • Israel Aerospace eyes U.S. government contracts, acquisitions [Reuters]

PROFILE — The woman trying to shake up Israel’s financial system — by Ivan Levingston: “Israel is known for tech innovation, but its banks have a lot of catching up to do. So Hedva Ber, the supervisor of banks within Israel’s central bank, is cutting red tape and spurring competition… With a Ph.D. in economics from Hebrew University, she has spent more than two decades learning about the financial sector from positions within the Bank of Israel and Bank Leumi, the country’s biggest lender by assets.” [Bloomberg]

CAMPUS BEAT — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad doubled down on past antisemitic comments during an address at Columbia University on Wednesday. Mohamad said it was his right to free speech to “say something against the Jews.” He also said that he doesn’t believe the accepted figures on the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. 

NEW BOOK — Israel’s first prime minister was complicated. So is this book about his life — by Francine Klagsbrun: “On the eve of the establishment of the state of Israel, David Ben-Gurion… suddenly sought to postpone independence. He knew neighboring Arab countries were poised to invade and he feared his underground army wasn’t prepared to fight; so, at a nighttime meeting with Lord Chancellor Sir William Jowitt, Ben-Gurion proposed that the British remain in charge of Palestine for another five to 10 years while working to increase Jewish immigration… Ben-Gurion’s 11th-hour meeting is one of the little-known facts revealed by the Israeli historian Tom Segev in his deeply researched, engrossing and, in some respects, controversial biography, A State at Any Cost.” [NYTimes]

TALK OF THE TOWN — A homeless man pleaded guilty on negligent fire charges for starting a fire that destroyed the 117-year-old Adas Israel Synagogue in Duluth, Minnesota, on September 9th. According to authorities, Matthew Amiot used a lighter to ignite a pile of combustible materials outside the building and tried to spit on it to put it out, but walked away when that didn’t work. The Star Tribune reported that prosecutors are recommending probation. 

SCENE IN BROOKLYN: A crowd gathered at Lincoln Terrace Park in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn Wednesday evening in a show of solidarity with New York City’s Jewish community. Crown Heights resident Rabbi Abraham Gopin, who was attacked while walking in the park last month, sounded the shofar at the event. Rallies were also held in Pittsburgh and Poway and organized in part by Tablet magazine.  

DESSERT — 500 women gather in Rockland County before Jewish New Year to make bread — by Rochel Leah Goldblatt: “Five hundred voices murmured as one to bless the dough the women had just lovingly labored over. The women attending the fourth annual Rockland Mega Challah Bake on Monday evening at the Crowne Plaza in Suffern arrived from all over the Hudson Valley… The Mega Challah Bake is an annual tradition that has grown each year. This year, seats sold out within the first 27 hours, [event organizer Devorah] Gancz said.” [Lohud]

A woman mistook wasabi for avocado. The shock led to ‘broken heart syndrome’ — by Lateshia Beachum: “A 60-year-old Israeli woman went to an emergency room complaining of chest pain… Doctors at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba say the woman had mistakenly consumed about a teaspoon of wasabi at a wedding, thinking it was avocado. That accidental consumption was followed by unexpected chest pressure that spread to her arms for several hours, though it still wasn’t enough to make her leave the wedding. The pain later subsided, according to a case study published in BMJ Case Reports.” [WashPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Vice chairman and a director of Capital International, Inc. and long-time board chair of the Hudson Institute, Walter Phillips Stern turns 91… Actor, best known as “The Most Interesting Man in the World” appearing in Dos Equis beer commercials, Jonathan Goldsmith turns 81… Edward Karesky turns 72… CEO of Israel Longhorn Project, dedicated to bringing Texas longhorn cattle to Israel, Robin Rosenblatt turns 71… Five Towns (NY) resident, Barry Mandel turns 71… Former chairman and CEO of the French engineering conglomerate Alstom, Patrick Kron turns 66… Former political adviser to President Bill Clinton during his second term, Doug Sosnik turns 63…

Teaneck resident with a Jersey City dental practice, Paul Lustiger, DDS turns 63… Historian, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Robert Kagan turns 61… Chief of staff to Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Isakowitz turns 53… Head coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets men’s basketball team, Josh Pastner turns 42… Communications pro Risa Beth Heller turns 40… NYC-based senior editor of global digital video programming at Bloomberg LPHenry Seltzer turns 34… Assistant director of policy and government affairs at AIPAC, Joshua Nason turns 34…

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