2020 EXIT — Former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz announced on Friday that he will not run for president. In a letter to his supporters, Schultz said that moderate voters have “largely tuned out of political life,” and that he worries a third-party run could only aid President Donald Trump’s reelection.
Schultz wrote: “If I went forward, there is a risk that my name would appear on ballots even if a moderate Democrat wins the nomination, and that is not a risk I am willing to take… The money that I was prepared to commit to a presidential campaign will instead be used to invest in people, organizations and ideas that promote honesty, civility and results in our politics, and that move the country beyond two-party gridlock.”
JI INTERVIEW — Jack Rosen told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh this week that he is backing former Vice President Joe Biden for president because “now is not the time to experiment.” Rosen, a longtime Democratic donor and current president of the American Jewish Congress, said Biden is “someone experienced who understands the situation and knows Israel quite well.”
Rosen said he’s met with a number of presidential candidates in the past several months, and while he considers some of them personal friends and supporters of Israel, “this isn’t a time to take a risk.”
Rosen held a fundraiser for Biden at his Upper East Side home in Manhattan on Thursday, where the former vice president promised to “pull back together the international community” in rebuilding key tenets of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Rosen told Jewish Insider that he doesn’t believe candidates who pledge to return to the deal can be taken seriously.
It’s not “a serious position to say we will automatically trigger going back to the nuclear deal,” Rosen said. “It’s not realistic.” The AJCongress president said he told Biden that President Donald Trump’s Iran policies — which have included increased sanctions on Tehran and attempts to seize Iranian tankers believed to be in violation of European Union sanctions — “might provide an opportunity to improve the deal” in 2021.
Rosen also said that Biden is not necessarily fully aligned with former President Barack Obama when it comes to his views on Israel. “He has his own point of view,” he said. “He’s never said to me that he would use the U.N. as a tool to force Israel into a position, which President Obama did. I haven’t heard those things from Joe Biden.” [JewishInsider]
ON THE TRAIL — Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) told Haaretz during a visit to Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday: “I would do everything I could to work with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu if he is in power and if I am lucky enough to serve as president, and to support the U.S.-Israel relationship. But that is not mutually exclusive to ensuring that the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people is not compromised or undermined or ended all together, functionally and for all practical purposes, as an annexation would do.” [Haaretz]
DRIVING THE CONVO — Jason Greenblatt, the White House Middle East peace envoy, announced his departure on Thursday, possibly delaying the rollout of the Trump peace plan once again. Avi Berkowitz, an assistant to Jared Kushner, will replace Greenblatt, and Brian Hook, the State Department’s special envoy for Iran, will take on a larger role in the process, the White House said.
The president, administration officials and former colleagues posted their appreciation and praise of Greenblatt in the wake of the announcement, while Mideast experts and think tank professionals opined about the timing of his departure. Some predicted that the peace plan will “not see the light of day.” Jewish American and pro-Israel groups also issued statements.
Netanyahu thanked Greenblatt “for not hesitating for a moment to speak out and tell the truth” about Israel. In Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said the Palestinians will “shed no tears” over Greenblatt’s departure.
Greenblatt was first revealed as Trump’s advisor on Israel during a roundtable with Jewish media representatives in April 2016.
Flashback — How Avrahm Berkowitz landed in the West Wing: “From a simple game of pickup basketball to a top West Wing position in the Trump White House: For Avrahm (Avi) Berkowitz, an encounter on the court with Jared Kushner at a Passover hotel program in Arizona several years ago has led to a number of unique opportunities.” [JewishInsider]
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk called Greenblatt’s replacement “a considerable downgrade” in the position. According to Indyk, Berkowitz “does not have the weight or experience of Trump’s former real estate lawyer.”
Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: “I have been saying since January that the longer they waited to put out this peace ‘vision,’ the less likely they would do it at all. We are into re-election season now, and the president is likely asking why he’d put out a plan that has already caused anxiety amongst evangelical voters when no one seriously expects it to yield results.”
According to Wittes, President Donald Trump’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has made it clear for some time that the administration was “not seriously invested in advancing negotiations to achieve a conflict-ending agreement.” Now with Greenblatt’s departure, she said, perhaps the parties “can focus on the urgent tasks of stabilizing a deteriorating humanitarian and security situation, and laying the groundwork for what might one day be a resumption of serious conflict-resolution efforts.”
Khaled Elgindy, a nonresident fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, emails JI: “Greenblatt’s resignation is unlikely to have any meaningful impact one way or another since the plan — such as it is — he and the administration were working on was already going nowhere… If anything, Greenblatt’s departure removes what little pretense still remained surrounding the administration’s intentions since it is now clear that [U.S.] Amb. David Friedman, himself a champion of the settlements and of ‘Greater Israel,’ is now running the show.”
Aaron David Miller, a former State Department Middle East analyst and negotiator, also suggested that the announcement was an indication that there is no real plan. “You can’t have an architect of a peace plan absent during the post roll-out period, where presumably implementation and diplomacy would go into overdrive, if you’re serious,” Miller told JI, questioning whether this is just an effort to “create a Potemkin-village peace process.”
TRANSITION — Miller told JI he is moving on after 12 years at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to serve as a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
IRAN WATCH — As negotiations between Iran and France appeared to stall on Thursday, the Islamic Republic seems poised to begin working on more advanced centrifuges, a further and more dramatic breach of the 2015 nuclear deal. In a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran had ceased all its commitments “in the field of nuclear research and development as of today.” Germany on Friday attempted to stave off any Iranian moves: “We urge Iran not to aggravate the situation further,” a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “It is not too late for Iran to leave the wrong path it has gone down.”
Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, and told him that the U.S. will not be dropping sanctions against Iran at this time. Netanyahu, speaking during a visit to London Thursday, said that if the U.S. president were to meet with Rouhani, “I’m sure Trump will take a much tougher position.”
Dennis Ross writes… “On Iran, Trump and Netanyahu finally disagree: What is particularly noteworthy here is that Netanyahu called on the ‘international community’ to act in Israel’s defense… Israeli prime ministers, when seeking to deter broader threats, always have come to the U.S. first… Netanyahu realizes that the U.S. does not play that role any longer, and so he directly seeks the help of the rest of the world… Implicitly, at least, Netanyahu seems to recognize that the Trump administration has little ‘soft power.’” [Bloomberg]
ACROSS THE POND — Andrew Murrison, the UK’s Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, stated Thursday that the United Kingdom has no plans to move the British Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In response to a question on the topic from a Labour MP, Murrison said “The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it. Our position on the status of Jerusalem is clear and long-standing: it should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states.”
MP Luciana Berger, who quit the Labour Party along with six colleagues in protest over its handling of antisemitism allegations, has joined the Liberal Democrats, saying the party’s newly elected leader, MP Jo Swinson, had offered “a vital, positive alternative” to both Labour and the Conservatives. “The two-party system is over,” she told the BBC.
REPORT — Dr. Miriam Adelson, the wife of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and publisher of Israel Hayom, told Israeli police investigators that Sara Netanyahu told her it would be her fault if Iran obtained nuclear weapons and used them against Israel due to the lack of positive coverage in the free daily tabloid, according to leaked transcripts published by Channel 12 News on Thursday. The Prime Minister’s Office called the report “more skewed, gossipy, tabloid leaks, published on the eve of elections in order to harm Prime Minister Netanyahu and Likud.”
RACE TO THE KNESSET — Voting in the Israeli repeat election kicked off on Thursday as Israeli envoys, emissaries, embassy employees — and their spouses — stationed around the world cast their ballots. Israeli Consul General to New York Dani Dayan was among some 800 eligible voters at the New York Consulate in Manhattan.
Dayan told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that despite the fact that this is the second time he’s voting for Knesset elections in six months, he “was excited in exactly the same way” as in April. “First of all, to vote for the Knesset is always exciting, “ Dayan explained. “But no less than that, it is a moment that takes you back to Israel for a few minutes — the blue ballot with the emblem of the State of Israel and the picture of the Knesset ― and that is always exciting.”
Despite the outburst of joy, Dayan said he doesn’t expect to vote in another election at least until he leaves New York in July 2020. “I hope this was my last vote outside of Israel,” he said. [Pic; Pic] (Credit: Consulate General of Israel in NY)
With 10 days until the election, polls show Likud and Blue and White in a statistical dead heat to become the largest party in the Knesset, though both would have a difficult path to forming a government coalition. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who caused the redo election and is predicted to once again serve as kingmaker, has vowed to force Likud and Blue and White to form a unity government, an idea both parties have rejected.
Nothing splits Israel like Netanyahu — by Ivan Levingston: “Minimizing the risk of punishment in any eventual corruption case will likely be a priority if he wins the election — and that could once again scuttle his chances of success. Beneath any discussion of issues lies Netanyahu’s quest to evade prosecution, says Dan Meridor, a former minister and elder in Likud. ‘Land, peace, the Palestinians, and Iran,’ he says, ‘as important as that is, it’s not the real thing for him.’” [Bloomberg]
Israel’s Arab citizens could hold the key to political change: “In a poll in March, 87% of Israeli Arabs said they would like to see an Arab party join the ruling coalition. The same poll found that those who considered themselves ‘Arab-Israeli’ outnumbered those who preferred to identify themselves as ‘Palestinian’ or ‘Palestinian-Israeli.’ Though the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far from being solved, Israel’s Palestinian citizens… have more to gain from integration.” [Economist]
MEDIA WATCH —Bloomberg revises story on Trump Labor pick who was reinstated — by Zack Budryk: “Bloomberg Law has revised a story that prompted a Labor Department official to temporarily resign after the outlet characterized Facebook posts as ‘antisemitic’ that the official has said were written sarcastically… ‘In light of the subsequent events, we removed ‘antisemitic’ from the headline and clarified Olson’s reference to those tropes,’ reads an addendum to the story about Labor Department official Leif Olson.” [TheHill]
** Good Friday 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’s $500 million bet on himself pays off after losing streak [Bloomberg] • WeWork CEO Adam Neumann points to Uber’s losses as example of ‘growth issues’ [Bloomberg] • Janice Min departs Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi ahead of launch [HollywoodReporter] • Met Council inked a deal with the William Kaufman Organization to relocate and double its offices at 77 Water Street [CommericalObserver] • GAC Motor automaker to sell first Chinese electric cars in Israel [XinhuaNet]
PROFILE — The life of a rabbi with ALS — by Allan Ripp: “Rabbi Isaac Hurwitz is as much a rock star as a Hasidic Jew can be. He writes regular Torah commentary for L’Chaim, a weekly newsletter distributed to schools and shuls run by the Orthodox Jewish movement Chabad…[he] runs a marriage blog that advises men how to be better listeners and partners. He welcomes countless scholars, students and friends to his home in West Hollywood, Calif., to chat, study, pray or play guitar. This might not seem remarkable, but for the past six years Rabbi Yitzi, 47, has been weakened by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis… Yet with a robust support system and technological assistance — and with his hearing and vision still intact—this remarkable rabbi has stayed productive and present for his wife, Dina, and their seven children.” [WSJ]
CAMPUS SCENE — Penn renames New College House after Lauder family — by Daniel Wang: “New College House will be renamed as Lauder College House after a major donation from the Lauder family. Penn President Amy Gutmann revealed the name today at an event celebrating the first cohort of fourth-year residents in NCH’s Heyman Courtyard… Two generations of the Lauder family stood beside Gutmann on the temporary stage, where together they pulled down the drapes to a plaque displaying the dorm’s new name.” [DailyPennsylvanian]
HOLLYWOOD — Nathan Hersh writes… “Netanyahu’s call to boycott HBO’s ‘Our Boys’ is an attempt to silence self-reflection: Today, the politicians in power take offense at any cultural criticism as if their actions are preordained and as if those actions are inherently Jewish. They see the hostilities with the Palestinians not as a conflict, but as a fight to liberate Jewish land. The wars in Gaza are not strategic choices to engage hostile militants, but are inevitable because peace is impossible. Any criticism of these politicians’ behavior is not a personal attack, but an offense to Jews at large.” [NYTimes]
SPORTS BLINK — Can Jonathan Kraft keep the Patriots’ reign alive? — by Michael Damiano: “The question bubbling up in Boston was whether the [massage parlor] scandal might mean the premature end of Robert’s run as king and the subsequent ascension of Jonathan to his father’s throne… In reality, family insiders say, the transfer of power has actually been long under way… ‘Jonathan’s responsibilities have increased very significantly,’ says Marc Ganis, an NFL business consultant who knows the Krafts well. ‘There have been some changes because Jonathan is now as much of a visionary as Robert is.’” [BostonMag]
‘Heading home: The tale of team Israel’ review: When baseball is a religion — by Ben Kenigsberg: “On paper, ‘Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel’ does not sound like a world-historic saga of baseball. This documentary — directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger — hangs out with members of Israel’s national team before and during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Major League Baseball’s main international competition. Israel is looking to shed its underdog status. The problem? According to the movie, there may be only one genuine baseball field in Israel. So ‘Heading Home’ becomes the story of a group of Americans with Jewish ancestry who join the team.” [NYTimes]
BOOK SHELF — ‘Tough Luck’ Review: Keeping Mum about Dad — by Richard Babcock: “By the time Sid [Luckman] led Columbia to its improbable victory over Army and made the cover of the Oct. 24, 1938, issue of Life magazine, the elder Luckman was already up the Hudson River at Sing Sing prison… The family, originally Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, had settled in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. The book glancingly refers to the antisemitism that Sid Luckman faced in his athletic career — he was one of the few Jewish players in the NFL — but in general the role of religion in his life rarely comes up.” [WSJ]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Rockland County GOP leader vows to re-air ‘antisemitic’ attack ad — by Carl Campanile and Bernadette Hogan: “The head of the Rockland County Republican Party intends to re-show the inflammatory ‘Storm is Coming’ video that was taken down last week after critics called it antisemitic for warning of a ‘takeover’ by the Orthodox Jewish community. ‘The Video came down for 2 reasons: first accomplished its goal of highlighting the issues that face our county. And second, took it down because the controversy stopped adding to number one above,’ Rockland GOP chairman Lawrence Garvey said in a Facebook post on the Village of South Nyack site. ‘However,’ Garvey added, ‘the video will be back, because this conversation is important to Rockland.’” [NYPost]
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette donates Pulitzer money to synagogue: “The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has donated the monetary award for its Pulitzer Prize to help repair the… Tree of Life synagogue… The newspaper’s executive editor… presented the check to Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and president of the congregation, Samuel Schachner, on Aug. 29. The synagogue thanked the newspaper in a Facebook post, saying ‘Pittsburgh is truly home to some amazing neighbors!’” [AP]
DESSERT — NYC loses another Jewish Deli — by Carla Vianna: “Old-school Murray Hill diner Bloom’s Deli has closed due to issues with its landlord.” [EaterNY]
REMEMBERING — Diet Eman, Dutch resistance hero who saved Jews during World War II, dies at 99 — by Harrison Smith: “Within two weeks, Ms. Eman and her boyfriend, Hein Sietsma, were orchestrating shelter for a total of 60 Jews, helping them avoid near-certain death in ‘the east,’ where more than 100,000 Dutch Jews were systematically murdered, primarily at the Auschwitz and Sobibor camps in German-occupied Poland… Ms. Eman continued sheltering and supporting Jews in secret while running from the Gestapo, burying weapons under her parents’ rose bushes and eventually suffering through three months in a concentration camp.” [WashPost]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Former Congressman representing Michigan’s 9th from 1983 until 2019, Sander Levin turns 88… Co-founder and chairman of Murray Hill Properties, Norman Sturner turns 79… Beverly Hills-based public relations consultant, Mara Kochba turns 77… Retired director of the Robotics Laboratory at the Technion, Jacob Rubinovitz turns 72… Democratic member of the New York State Assembly, Helene Weinstein turns 67…
Oncologist and bioethicist, he is the older brother of Rahm and Ari, Ezekiel Jonathan “Zeke” Emanuel turns 62… Co-founder in 2008 of Kol HaNeshamah: The Center for Jewish Life and Enrichment, Dr. Adena Karen Berkowitz turns 60… Founding managing director at Olympus Capital, Daniel R. Mintz turns 58… Former New Jersey Governor (2010-2018), Chris Christie turns 57… Native of NYC’s Lower East Side and Brooklyn, Treasurer of Southfield, Michigan, Irv “Moishe” Lowenberg turns 51…
Director in the NYC office of AIPAC, he is a co-founder and chairman emeritus of Fuel For Truth, Joe Richards turns 47… Chief communications officer at Bloomberg LP since 2012, Jason Schechter turns 45… Rabbi at Beth El Synagogue in Minneapolis since 2008, Avi S. Olitzky turns 38… Special advisor for communications at the Commerce Department, Ari Schaffer turns 28… Co-founder of the technology and social media company Monkey Inc., Ben Pasternak turns 20… Senior advisor at Israel’s United Nations delegation, Daniel Flesch… Toronto-based publisher and philanthropist, Elisa Morton Palter…
SATURDAY: Palm Beach, Florida resident and former national board member of AIPAC, the school at the Westchester (NY) Jewish Center bears her name, Beverly Cannold turns 94… Member of the UK’s House of Lords, he was a managing director of Marks and Spencer, Baron Andrew Zelig Stone turns 77… Political columnist for Time Magazine and author of the novel “Primary Colors,” Joe Klein turns 73… Color commentator for New York Yankees radio broadcasts, Suzyn Waldman turns 73… Owner of Gristedes Foods, John Catsimatidis turns 71… Pulitzer Prize-winning former national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, now Director of Literary Journalism at UC-Irvine, Barry Siegel turns 70…
Minneapolis area school counselor and language arts teacher, Sandra Sevig turns 70… Chairman of the mathematics department at UCSD, Efim Zelmanov turns 64… Global co-chair of the Israel practice in the Washington, D.C. office of Latham & Watkins where he is primarily a healthcare and life sciences partner, Stuart Kurlander turns 57… Bahraini Ambassador to the U.S. (2008-2013) after four years in the Bahraini Parliament (2005-2008), both firsts for a Jewish woman, Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo turns 55… Associate professor at The George Washington University and renowned scholar, Dr. Erica Brown turns 53…
Award-winning special writer at The Wall Street Journal and author of five best-selling books, Gregory Zuckerman turns 53… Screenwriter and producer, Alex Kurtzman turns 46… Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon turns 46… Rabbi of Baltimore’s Congregation Shomrei Emunah since 2010, Rabbi Binyamin Marwick turns 42… Legislative director for Congressman Jared Golden (D-Maine-2), Eric B. Kanter turns 29… Contributing editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, Maralee Schwartz… Executive assistant at Humana, Karen McCormick…
SUNDAY: Owner of L Brands, Leslie H. “Les” Wexner turns 82… United States Senator from Vermont and a 2020 presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders turns 78… Born in Egypt to Jewish refugee parents from Europe, a Labour party member of the UK House of Commons since 1994, Dame Margaret Eve Hodge (née Oppenheimer) turns 75… Pharma executive Samuel D. Waksal turns 72… Chairman of Douglas Elliman and its parent company, NYSE-listed Vector Group, also chairman of Nathan’s Famous, Howard Mark Lorber turns 71… Owner of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie turns 68…
Born in Casablanca, made aliyah in 1962, he was co-chair of the Jewish National Fund (2012-2017) and was previously a member of Knesset, Eli Aflalo turns 67… CEO of Weight Watchers, Mindy Grossman turns 62… Professor of neuroscience at Columbia University, Daniel Wolpert turns 56… Real estate developer, born in Azerbaijan (then part of the Soviet Union), Zarakh Iliev turns 53… Australian businessman, James Douglas Packer turns 52… Rabbi of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park, PA, Rabbi Andrea Merow turns 50…
Aspen, Colorado resident, Adam Goldsmith turns 50… Founder in 2010 of Atlanta-based JewishGPS, LLC, Robyn Faintich turns 46… Principal and co-founder of BerlinRosen, Jonathan Rosen turns 41… D.C. journalist Gabby Deutch… and her twin sister, a business associate at Launch Pad and 2018 Venture for America Fellow, Serena Deutch, daughters of Congressman Ted Deutch, both turn 23… The Jewish Agency’s Gilad Peled… Jay Abarbanel… Philip Ehrensaft…