Netanyahu calls on Gantz to join unity government, but pledges to keep right-wing bloc
TOP TALKER — Adam Neumann’s ambitious desire for the White House or Israeli premiership — by JI’s Sam Zieve Cohen: WeWork founder and Israeli-born billionaire Adam Neumann has reportedly expressed interest in an ambitious political career.
WeWorld: A Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday noted that the billionaire told at least one person that he’d like to be the prime minister of Israel. The WSJ also reported that Neumann told another individual the only thing he’d run for would be “president of the world.”
Yes, WeCan: New York Magazine referenced Neumann’s interest in a run for the U.S. presidency. Such a proposition would necessitate an amendment to the Constitution, which requires that the president be a natural-born citizen. [JewishInsider]
UNITY U-TURN — Less than two days after vowing to only form a right-wing government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday morning he would begin negotiating a unity coalition with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.
Concession: “Throughout the elections I called for a right-wing government, but unfortunately the results of the elections show that it’s impossible,” Netanyahu said in a video message. “The nation didn’t choose between the two blocs. Therefore, there is no choice but to establish a broad unity government… we cannot go to a third election. I’m against it.”
Reconciliation talks: Netanyahu has reached out to Gantz to set up a meeting that could take place by the end of the day. Despite the prime minister’s overture, the two parties will still have a lot to overcome before making any deal. Throughout the campaign, both swore that they would not sit with each other in any government. But like many campaign promises, this one — unsurprisingly — appears easily broken. Netanyahu also called for Gantz to join his right-wing bloc — with whom he signed a deal vowing to negotiate entry to the government together — something pretty much every party involved will balk at.
Rapprochement: At a memorial service for the late President Shimon Peres Thursday morning, Netanyahu and Gantz met and took part in a three-way handshake with President Reuven Rivlin. Netanyahu, hinting at a rotation agreement, said he and Gantz should work together like Peres and former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir did. [Pic]
Gantz speaks: In a speech Thursday afternoon, Gantz said it was clear that his Blue and White Party won the election, and that he will be the one to lead negotiations, and to head a unity coalition. “The country chose unity,” he said. “We have to put the good of the country above any considerations.” Gantz said there “will be no shortcuts” in building the government, and “we won’t give in to any dictate.”
Who will lead? Though Blue and White is projected to be the largest party in the Knesset, Netanyahu is highly unlikely to give up serving as prime minister in a unity deal. Netanyahu could work to garner a rotation deal, where he and Gantz swap out after a set number of years. But Gantz and his co-chair Yair Lapid have their own rotation deal within Blue and White, one that Lapid has vowed he will never relent on.
Legal troubles: Political observers have not forgotten that Netanyahu is still facing a pending indictment on multiple corruption charges. Israeli political and diplomatic report for Globes Tal Schneider told JI that Israel is in “a deep legal crisis.” She predicted that a unity government could only come to pass if Netanyahu “commits to resigning the moment an indictment is filed against him — which could be in two to three months. This is a problematic alternative.” Another option, she said, is a “rotation where Netanyahu takes office second, only after he is found innocent. This is also a complicated scenario.”
Deal or spin? Some Israeli political analysts believe Netanyahu isn’t serious in his call to form a unity coalition, and his sudden about-face is simply more political spin. Yediot Aharonot’s Moran Azoulay said that Netanyahu’s call for unity is a bluff, designed to make it appear that he’s attempting to avoid new elections: “Netanyahu doesn’t want unity, he doesn’t want a rotation, and he’s not afraid of a third election,” Azoulay wrote. “From his perspective, election outcomes are not about the will of the people, but a bug that needs to be fixed.”
Ultimate deal watch: Outgoing Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt is reportedly on his way to Israel today to meet separately with both Netanyahu and Gantz. The White House said on Wednesday that the plan “will be released when the timing is right.”
Counting completed: The tallying of all the “double envelope” votes — including soldiers, diplomats, prisoners and others — wrapped up Thursday morning. The updated results gave an extra boost to Blue and White, bumping it up to 33 seats, with Likud remaining at 31. The extra seat came at the expense of Yisrael Beytenu, which dropped to 8. The Central Elections Committee has yet to officially certify the results as final, and small changes could still occur.
DRIVING THE CONVO — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: President Donald Trump appeared to distance himself from Netanyahu on Wednesday after his failed attempt to win the second Israeli election in five months. Speaking to reporters after leaving Los Angeles, the president said that he has yet to speak to Netanyahu since the election. “Look, our relationship is with Israel,” Trump said. “We will see what happens.” [Video]
Earlier on Wednesday, Netanyahu cancelled an upcoming trip to New York for a speech at the U.N. General Assembly and a meeting with Trump “due to political circumstances.”
Bad bromance: Calling off a planned meeting with Trump has to do with the “fading” bromance between the two leaders, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro opined. “If Netanyahu thought it would help him persuade his own party, other political players and the public that he is indispensable, there is little doubt he would go.”
Not in the same league: Trump’s reaction to the election “should have been a blinking yellow light to Bibi,” Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explained. Netanyahu, the former Mideast negotiator stated, “banked heavily on his relationship with the president. And yet now in the hour of his greatest need, Trump seems unable or unwilling to help him.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer predicted that “Trump will dump Netanyahu in the blink of an eye if Netanyahu does go down.” But, he added, “not quite yet.” However, professor Eugene Kontorovich told JI, “The chatter about Trump turning on Bibi is mostly wish projection by the chattering classes.” [JewishInsider]
Shimrit Meir, an Israeli analyst and commentator, suggested that the administration could immediately release the plan “as a tool to unite both parties.” However, according to Shapiro, “there is no logic to presenting a U.S. peace plan during such a fraught Israeli government-formation period.”
Susie Gelman, chair of the Israel Policy Forum, told JI that one “can assume [the peace plan] won’t see the light of day at least until after the next government is formed, and that could take some time.” Miller asserted that while the administration might still put out the plan, “it’s hard to see how it would do anything other than complicate matters.”
According to Yochanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, the only way the plan could gain traction is if a unity government is formed. “If Netanyahu succeeds in forming a narrow right-wing government, he will be under immense pressure from his coalition partners to enact his campaign promises and extend Israeli sovereignty over large portions of the West Bank,” Plesner tells JI.
Mark Mellman, who served as a pollster on the Blue and White campaign in the April 9 elections, tells JI: “Negotiations to form the next government can be summed up using the same phrase people have employed for decades in describing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: Everyone knows what it should look like in the end, but nobody knows how to get there.”
Hot take: Shmuel Rosner explains in The New York Times why Netanyahu’s hold on power may come to an end. “The Blue and White party is vulnerable to anti-Arab campaigns because, as most Israelis understand and the polls confirm, it has no way of forming a coalition without Arab support, unless it forms a unity government with Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud,” he writes. “But the elections proved that Likud has its own Achilles’ heel: It is vulnerable to a never-Haredi campaign. Likud made a choice long ago to glue itself, politically speaking, to the ultra-Orthodox parties. It is now paying the price.”
What will Bibi’s exit look like? “Netanyahu will either be ousted quickly” by Likud rebels, Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi predicts, “or it will be a long, painful exit. And given his desperation and given the nature of Israeli politics, odds are that we could see a protracted fall.” He added, “Nobody should be gloating about the fall of Bibi. I hope he doesn’t go to jail. I hope there will be an arrangement that he can make where he resigns quietly. But I am worried about a desperate leader driving us down with him. That’s my great fear.”
NEW IRAN SANCTIONS — Trump announced on Wednesday “very significant sanctions against Iran.” The move comes after the administration had determined that Iran was behind the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities last week. Visiting Jeddah to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attack an “act of war” perpetrated by Iran.
View from Jerusalem: Netanyahu said in a statement that “Iran’s aggression has increased of late, including in the Gulf, and this is precisely the time to increase pressure and sanctions. I am pleased that President Trump has done exactly this.”
Visa trouble: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif may cancel their visit to the U.N. General Assembly if the U.S. doesn’t issue visas “in the next few hours,” state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Wednesday.
ON THE HILL — The tiff between Trump and his close ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), over the U.S. response to Iranian aggression went on for yet another day. Graham told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that the Israelis were “increasingly concerned” about the situation with Iran. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Trump maintained that his muted reaction to the incident is “a sign of strength.”
In a gaggle with reporters on Capitol Hill, Graham said: “I appreciate the effort of the president to be measured when it came to the drone attack, but the point that I am trying to make is not what I think — it’s what the Iranians think. Clearly, they have not gotten the message that this attack on the oil refinery, by any reasonable definition, is an act of war.” [Video]
Trump’s response to Graham: “Ask Lindsey how did going into the Middle East, how did that work out? And how did going into Iraq work out? So, we have a disagreement on that. And we have plenty of time to do some dastardly things.”
POMPEO TAKES CONTROL — Trump announced on Wednesday the appointment of Robert O’Brien as his new national security advisor, replacing John Bolton. O’Brien currently serves as special envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department. O’Brien, who had the backing of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said it was a privilege to be named to the post, adding: “We’ve got a number of challenges.” Foreign Policy posited that the appointment “appears to solidify Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s role as the most influential foreign-policy figure within the administration.”
HEARD IN NYC — Bolton reportedly unloaded on Trump, harshly criticizing the president’s foreign policy on Wednesday at a private lunch hosted by the Gatestone Institute at the Le Bernardin restaurant in Manhattan. According to Politico, Bolton said that Trump’s failure to respond to the Iranian attack on a U.S. drone earlier this summer “set the stage for the Islamic Republic’s aggression in recent months.”
Bolton also predicted that Israel would “sooner or later” see a new government, even though he said he personally liked Netanyahu. Attendees included professor Alan Dershowitz and his wife Carolyn, former attorney general Michael Mukasey, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, and lawyer Floyd Abrams.
HEARD YESTERDAY — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) refused to accept the State Department’s assessment that Iran was responsible for the attack on Saudi oil facilities. In an interview with The Hill, the Democratic presidential candidate said Pompeo’s declaration was “yet the latest move by this administration to push our country into war with Iran.”
She also attacked Trump for what she labeled as the president’s willingness to use the United States military as mercenaries for Saudi Arabia. “Trump is ready to offer up our military to use as the Saudi kingdom sees fit,” said Gabbard, who previously tweeted that Trump was prostituting the American military to Saudi Arabia. [JewishInsider]
MAN OF THE HOUR — Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is at the center of potential Democratic efforts to impeach Trump — and drawing the ire of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. According to Politico, Pelosi said Democrats simply don’t have the votes on the floor to impeach Trump, and are going too far with the initiative. Nadler, meanwhile, is one of the House’s chief proponents of impeachment.
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2020 BRIEFS — As Kamala Harris falters, campaign and allies mull next steps… Joe Biden believes in the good will of Republicans. Is that naïve?… Democratic senators quietly hope Biden wins over rivals…
A Trump friend, under scrutiny by prosecutors, appears at California fund-raisers — by Maggie Haberman: “When President Trump attended a fund-raiser at a private home in Beverly Hills on Tuesday night, there was a familiar face in the crowd: Thomas J. Barrack Jr., the billionaire investor and an old friend of the president’s who has come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors… Mr. Barrack spoke during the round-table portion of the event, and the president acknowledged him pleasantly… Mr. Barrack also attended a fund-raising breakfast for Mr. Trump on Wednesday morning in Los Angeles. And he has given $360,600, the maximum amount allowable, to the Trump Victory Committee… People close to both Mr. Trump and Mr. Barrack said that talk of a permanent strain in their decades-long relationship has been overstated. The two men still speak… Mr. Barrack visited the White House this May and met with Jared Kushner.” [NYTimes]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Endeavor IPO poised to hand Hollywood Executives Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell $1.5 billion [Bloomberg] • Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman proposes eliminating taxes on all teachers [Recode] • Purdue Pharma seeks to halt opioid suits against company, Sacklers [Reuters] • As he exits Apple’s board, Bob Iger remembers Steve Jobs [VanityFair] • Israeli company, NSLComm, plans second satellite launch for the internet of things [Forbes]
SPOTLIGHT — A billionaire Trump supporter and his environmentalist daughter are reshaping an American city — by Sophie Alexander and Noah Buhayar: “They’re the Seligs — Martin and Jordan — and on a rainy August morning, the two are sitting in purple velvet chairs around a black marble conference table in their downtown Seattle office, surrounded by glossy posters of the half-dozen developments they’re planning or already building. One has Jordan’s fingerprints all over it. It’s a giant glass box steps from Amazon.com Inc. headquarters that will be the greenest office building of its size in the world. The Seligs are breaking ground on the project this month.”
“The Seligs are banking on more than green cred to fill their new buildings. They also have a 36-story tower that’ll house WeWork and its co-living offshoot WeLive; a modern remake of a historic Federal Reserve building; an office-and-retail complex close to where the city’s National Hockey League expansion team will play; and a pair of developments on the city’s waterfront, which is getting a $724 million makeover. The older Selig is quick to wave off any suggestion that there’s much of a strategy behind the building binge other than his confidence in Seattle’s economy. But, if it works out, it stands to bolster his $1.1 billion fortune and further alter the skyline he’s spent the last six decades helping create.” [Bloomberg]
PROFILE — For Peter Brook, the experimental showman, ‘nothing is ever finished’ — by Ben Brantley: “Peter Brook keeps saying why… ‘Why?’ is the title of the new play written and directed by Mr. Brook and his longtime collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne, which begins performances Sept. 21 at Theater for a New Audience in Brooklyn… The London-born son of Russian-Jewish scientists from Latvia (his father patented a popular medicine called Brooklax), the young Peter dreamed of becoming foreign correspondent, ‘to have the joy of being sent all over the world, month after month, to dangerous struggle spots anywhere — just to say this world is not the little world of middle-class London.’” [NYTimes]
SPORTS BLINK — Amar’e Stoudemire is now an undergrad, goes to his campus Hillel and wants to boost black-Jewish relations — by Josefin Dolsten: “Despite his serious thoughts about an NBA comeback, Amar’e Stoudemire is taking a little break from basketball to go to school. The former six-time NBA All-Star… started this fall as a freshman at Florida International University in Miami. Though the semester just started, Stoudemire… has already become a big name at the campus Hillel. On Wednesday, he launched an initiative to strengthen ties between Jewish and African-American students at FIU.” [JTA]
ACROSS THE POND — Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is facing fresh internal criticism after a planned meeting to discuss long-standing allegations of antisemitism was scheduled to be held on Saturday. “We have learnt tonight from press reports that the Party wishes to make sweeping changes to the disciplinary rules on antisemitism, without consulting us, its only Jewish affiliate, or any communal organization,” the Jewish Labour Movement said in a statement. “To add insult to injury, they will debate these changes at conference on the Jewish Sabbath, when religiously observant Jewish Labor delegates will be silenced, unable to participate in the debate.”
Pushing back: One of Corbyn’s most trusted advisors, Andrew Murray, described the response to Labour’s antisemitism crisis as “hysteria.” In a new book, The Fall and Rise of The British Left, Murray also claims the furor “reflects the establishment’s alarm” at the party’s lurch to the left. He does however concede that there have been “clear instances” of antisemitic views in the Labour Party that the leadership has been “too slow in tackling them.”
Sign of the times: The European Jewish Association is demanding the removal of a “racist and humiliating” depiction of Jews as having large hooked noses from an online dictionary of Flemish sign language.
TALK OF THE TOWN — Antisemites are using a popular chat app to compile a list of Jewish people — by Ali Breland: “Antisemitic trolls are creating an online list of Jewish people who are critical of white nationalism. Since its creation almost a month ago, it has become the fastest-growing alt-right group on the popular Telegram chat service… The channel is a part of a broader trend of neo-nazis, white nationalists, and other alt-right groups flocking to Telegram as they get banned from other platforms.” [MotherJones]
David Rubenstein spent $10 million on the Washington Monument, which reopens Thursday. He can climb any ladder inside he wants — by Michael S. Rosenwald: “Rubenstein, who made his fortune in private equity at the Carlyle Group, initially donated $7.5 million to repair structural damage to the monument. After it reopened in 2014, the aging elevator repeatedly broke down, often stranding visitors. Following a second closure in 2016, Rubenstein kicked in an additional $3 million to modernize the elevator.” [WashPost]
Holiday prep: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill announced on Wednesday boosted security measures in Jewish communities ahead of the High Holy Days. O’Neill said some precinct personnel will be redeployed over the holiday period and other specialized units will be on patrol: “Some you’ll see, some you won’t.” At the NYPD press conference, de Blasio said, “It’s my obligation as mayor to make sure the Jewish population is protected not just at the High Holy Days but every day, and the sacred responsibility of the NYPD as well.”
Belated apology: The Trenton, New Jersey city council president apologized Tuesday for using the antisemitic trope “Jew down” while discussing actions taken by the city’s Jewish attorney. Trenton City Council President Kathy McBride said she “cannot be insensitive to any ethnic backgrounds, so I am apologizing to the community at large.”
DESSERT — Chicago’s first vegan Jewish deli Is coming to uptown with bagels and plant-based lox — by Naomi Waxman: “Many Chicagoans are bemoaning the recent downturn in the number of Jewish delis in the city, but a new one is coming to Uptown in December. Traditionalists be warned, the deli comes with a twist: Sam & Gertie’s from local restaurateurs Andy Kalish and his wife Gina will be entirely vegan… Named for Andy Kalish’s maternal grandparents Sam and Gertie Stuart, the deli will serve as a tribute to his childhood experiences in Jewish delis in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs.” [EaterChicago]
BIRTHDAYS: Industrial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Morton Mandel turns 98… Actor, writer and Dean Emeritus of the Drama School at Pace University, James Lipton turns 93… Professor of Jewish history and literature at Yeshiva University, Haym Soloveitchik turns 82… Member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives since 2016, Jeffrey Colman Salloway turns 78… Professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law and director of the Innocence Project, a member of O.J. Simpson’s defense team, Barry Scheck turns 70… Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute following a 28-year Pentagon career, Harold Rhode turns 70… Writing instructor at Montana State University Billings, former Washington correspondent for the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Bruce Alpert turns 69…
Stockton, California-based physician, Ronald Kass M.D. turns 67… Boston-based attorney focused upon Section 529 college savings plans, Mark A. Chapleau turns 59… Bow tie-clad field reporter for Fox Major League Baseball since 2005, Ken Rosenthal turns 57… Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington since 2001, Ronald Halber turns 51… Author of five popular business books, Mike Michalowicz turns 49… Founder and former CEO of MassChallenge, John Harthorne turns 46… VP at Edelman Public Relations, Neal Urwitz turns 36… Marine Corps veteran and former legislative director for Sen. Tom Cotton, who is celebrating his birthday by launching United Rescue in Englewood, New Jersey, Joe Kristol…