Daily Kickoff

On campaign bus, Buttigieg weighs in on Bibi, Gantz and Joint List

Pete Buttigieg


South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg moderated by Chris Cuomo. CNN Democratic Presidential Town Hall: The Climate Crisis New York, NY 2019

Tell your friends to sign up for the Daily Kickoff here or for early 7AM access via Debut Inbox

ON THE TRAIL — Buttigieg: Trump is intervening in Israeli politics — by JI’s Ben Jacobs in Waterloo, Iowa: Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg speculated that President Donald Trump appeared to distance himself from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week because he “wants some level of credibility for whatever peace plan they are going to put out. I’m skeptical but we’ll see what they do or, as the president says, ‘we’ll see what happens.’”

Pushing unity: Speaking to reporters on his campaign bus, Buttigieg hailed the decision of the Joint List to back Blue and White leader Benny Gantz as Israel’s next prime minister. “It’s remarkable,” said the South Bend mayor. “I don’t know how that reverberates in terms of the domestic calculations that Gantz has to make, but there is some possibility of growth and unity in that somewhere. I’d like to find out what it actually leads to.” 

Picking favorites: The 2020 hopeful accused Trump of taking “U.S. foreign policy steps for the purpose of intervening in Israeli domestic politics” by floating a U.S.-Israel defense pact days before the Israeli election. It was a “conflation of domestic and international politics,” he said. 

Partisan issue: “There’s something deeply unhealthy in many different overlapping ways about [that] kind of conflation of U.S. policy and domestic politics on both sides,” he argued. Buttigieg pointed out that Trump has only contributed to the alliance between the United States and Israel “increasingly coming to be viewed as a partisan issue.” [JewishInsider]

TOP TALKER — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the House will begin a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, marking only the fourth time in history that such a process has been pursued. Pelosi charged that Trump has “seriously violated the Constitution” in his dealings with Ukraine. Trump is accused of pressuring the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.   

Key figure: A central player in the administration’s questionable dealings with Ukraine appears to be former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. During a fiery appearance on Fox News on Tuesday night, Giuliani said that he “never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to do it.” He later returned to the network and yelled at fellow guest Chris Hahn, who accused him of lying: “Shut up moron,” Giuliani shouted. “Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

HEARD YESTERDAY — Earlier in the day, a calmer Giuliani cautioned world leaders against meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. this week, in remarks at the International Convention for the Future of Iran in New York. 

Giuliani described Rouhani as a “mass murderer.” The former mayor, who is now an attorney to U.S. President Donald Trump, pointed to the regime’s sponsorship of terrorist groups and domestic executions. “I warn anyone shaking his hands that you are going to get blood on your hands if you shake his hands,” he said. 

Tough cop advice: Giuliani suggested that he would not allow Rouhani to step foot in New York City if he were mayor — similar to when he expelled former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat from a concert for world leaders in 1995. “I prosecuted murderers, I threw out one murderer out of the U.N. convention years ago — Arafat — and I’d have no hesitation [to] throw Rouhani out, simply because he murders innocent people and he’s made a career of it.” The former mayor added that Rouhani shouldn’t just be expelled, but also “prosecuted for crimes against humanity, and quickly.”

Giuliani stressed that this was his personal opinion and that he was not speaking on behalf of the Trump administration on the matter. “I am one of the president’s personal lawyers and I have been his friend for 30 years, but I am not speaking for the administration and I am not speaking for the president because I am not a member of the government,” he said. [JewishInsider]

Rouhani said in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News that there’s a low chance he would meet with Trump in New York this week. “Why would we bump into one another?” Rouhani asked. “If we seek to pursue higher goals to benefit both countries, both people, it must be planned, and talks must be based on those plans. But prior to that, we must create mutual trust, and trust is something that Mr. Trump took away from this framework. We had an agreement. Mr. Trump exited without a valid justification, and illegally, from an international agreement.” [Video]

One-man audience: Rouhani likely chose Fox News to speak directly to Trump “and this is the best way to do it,” opined Ilan Goldenberg of the Center for a New American Security. 

Rouhani also accused Israel of supporting ISIS when asked about Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism in the Middle East.

Wallace: We’re talking about Hamas, we’re talking about Hezbollah. We’re talking about firing missiles onto civilian areas. We’re talking about blowing up people in civilian areas of Israel. That’s not terrorism?

Rouhani: “You defend Israel, sir, the foundation of which is based upon attacking and usurping the rights of others and on a daily basis has targeted the people of Palestine, Lebanon and most recently even Iraq as well as Syria. There is no terrorism throughout the world that matches the activities of Israel, that has been seeking for the past 71 years, since its inception, since its founding. So those who fight for the freedom of their lands and their homes are not terrorists. Those are terrorists who render aid to Daesh, to ISIS. Israel is the country that takes care of the injured ISIS fighters and they make weapons available to them. So Daesh — ISIS — are the terrorists.”

Wallace: Israel supports ISIS?

Rouhani:“Certainly, undoubtedly. Do you have any doubts? Would you like to see the proof? You should visit Israeli hospitals and see the injured ISIS warfighters, how they’re being taken care of. You should see the weapons captured from ISIS fighters and see that they’re Israeli-made. The challenge is that sometimes American media outlets fail to reveal the truth to the American public and they only receive the news from one specific viewpoint or channel.” [Video]

HAPPENING TODAY — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address the United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) annual summit today at the Lotte New York Palace. Other speakers include Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, Saudi Minister of State for Arab Gulf Affairs Thamer Al-Sabhan and Bahraini Ambassador Abdullah bin Rashed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa. 

Word from Tehran: An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that the regime will “begin the process” of sanctioning UANI “due to its close ties and cooperation with terrorist groups.” 

HEARD AT UNGA — In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday morning, Trump slammed Iran and castigated its “repressive regime,” but made no reference to military action against the Islamic Republic. “The regime’s record of death and destruction is well known,” he said. “The regime is squandering the nation’s wealth and future on a fanatical quest for nuclear weapons… We must never allow this to happen.” He added that “As long as Iran’s menacing behavior continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened.” 

Notably absent: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who built his entire career as Israel’s indispensable diplomat, sat out this year’s GA amid the post-election turmoil. Last year, Netanyahu sat in for Trump’s UNGA address. Replacing him on the bench this year was Foreign Minister Israel Katz. [Pic]

Why it matters — Anshel Pfeffer writes in The Atlantic that Netanyahu’s pitch as an essential diplomatic asset for Israel “is wearing thin” following last week’s election. Regarding his relationship with Trump, Pfeffer notes, “when the story of his final days of leadership is written, it will be remembered that Netanyahu built his political strategy around whoever was in the Oval Office, and when Netanyahu needed the president’s support most, he was abandoned.” 

Worth noting: According to several Israeli government sources, Katz, who replaced Netanyahu as the foreign minister earlier this year, will likely not be meeting with Pompeo in New York, JI’s Jacob Kornbluh reports. A spokesperson for Katz confirmed to JI that a meeting has yet to be scheduled. This is the second time the foreign minister is visiting the U.S. without meeting his counterpart. In July, Pompeo reportedly turned down a meeting request as Katz visited D.C. to participate in a State Department conference on religious freedom.

Burgeoning ties: Katz, however, did meet with his counterpart from an unspecified Arab country that Israel has no diplomatic relations with. “On the sidelines of the General Assembly, a first and fascinating meeting yesterday with one of the Arab foreign ministers,” the Likud minister tweeted Tuesday morning. [JewishInsider]

United against Iran: Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz reacted to Trump’s speech at the U.N., both praising his strong stance against Tehran.

Turkish props: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a page out of Netanyahu’s book during his speech to the UNGA on Tuesday, bringing along several props, including maps of Israel. Much of Erdogan’s speech was devoted to lashing out at Israel, comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany and claiming that “Palestinian territory under Israeli occupation has become one of the most striking places of injustice.” [Video]

ROAD TO UNITY — Netanyahu and Gantz are slated to sit down for a second meeting in Jerusalem this evening. While negotiating teams for the two parties met Tuesday, little progress appeared to be made. Both leaders indicated they were not backing down from their key positions. Gantz has vowed that Blue and White won’t sit in a coalition with Netanyahu, who is facing an imminent indictment, and Netanyahu has promised he won’t enter a government without the rest of his right-wing bloc.

Let’s make a deal: Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, meanwhile, claims that Netanyahu and Gantz have already agreed to a rotation deal for prime minister, though it is unclear who will hold the position first. Despite campaigning against the dangers of a “secular, left-wing government,” Deri said Tuesday that Gantz is a “worthy” candidate for prime minister. 

President kingmaker: Channel 12 News reported Wednesday that President Reuven Rivlin is considering granting the first mandate to form a coalition to Netanyahu already this evening. Netanyahu has 55 recommendations compared to Gantz’s 54, though neither have the majority of 60 necessary.

Recalculation: The official election results were presented to Rivlin today, with a slight change in the final tally. Likud gained a seat after all election irregularities were addressed, at the expense of United Torah Judaism. That means the number of recommendations for Netanyahu vs. Gantz was unchanged. The final, certified results, give Blue and White 33 seats, Likud 32, the Joint List 13, Shas 9, Yisrael Beytenu 8, UTJ and Yamina 7, Labor-Gesher 6 and the Democratic Union 5. 

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Jordan’s King Abdullah II said in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell in New York that he hopes that once a new Israeli government is formed, the international community will once again focus on “what most of us believe is the only solution: the two-state solution.” Abdullah also warned that Netanyahu’s pre-election pledge to annex West Bank settlements is going to have a “major impact on the Israeli-Jordanian relationship.” [Video]

PROFILE — Are Arab Israelis having their political moment? — by Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash: “When [Ayman] Odeh was 14, his father, a builder, sent him to a Christian school, where he became a reciter of Bible verses… ‘I’ve also read the Torah several times,’ he said. ‘I’m still deeply rooted in my own religion, but everything that is beautiful in Jewish culture I’m willing to accept.’… Under one of the many scenarios under negotiation — a unity government combining Likud and Blue and White — Odeh’s Joint List would rank as the second-largest bloc in the Knesset. That would put Odeh in line to be the country’s first Arab opposition leader, a role that includes a security detail and intelligence briefings. He knows that would likely be a step too far for many, Jews and Arabs alike. ‘I would do it,’ he said. ‘But this, they might not let happen.’” [WashPost

2020 BRIEFS — Bernie Sanders proposes a new wealth tax that would cut in half the wealth of the typical billionaire after 15 years… Elizabeth Warren’s dilemma: Beat up Trump and boost Joe Biden?… Tulsi Gabbard secures a spot on the stage in the next Democratic debate… Joe Walsh and Bill Weld, two of Trump’s Republican challengers, debate without him, support impeachment effort.

** Good Wednesday 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: Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s bold plot to win the streaming video wars [Forbes• Bob Iger’s new book may hold clues to identity of Disney CEO’s successor [Bloomberg• SodaStream’s Daniel Birnbaum under investigation on suspicion of insider trading prior to PepsiCo purchase [Reuters] • Fundbox raises $176 million Series C to build ‘Visa’ for B2B payments [TechCrunch]  

MORE BRIEFS: Kik lays off all 70 Tel Aviv employees [Globes• Tamar partners in talks to amend Israel Electric gas deal [Reuters] • Cornerstone borrows $40 million in Israel at a record-low rate [CommercialObserver] • Israel reportedly outlaws flavored vaping pods as it weighs ban on e-cigarettes [CNBC• Israel feels pinch of Trump tech visa policy [Haaretz]

SPOTLIGHT — Adam Neumann, the Israeli-born founder and CEO of WeWork, said Tuesday he would be stepping down and ceding majority control over the company. In a memo sent to staff, Neumann said that “too much focus has been placed on me.” He said he will remain as chairman of the board and Sebastian Gunningham and Artie Minson will serve as co-CEOs. The scrutiny on Neumann intensified after the company announced an IPO last month, and then delayed it last week. Neumann’s wife, Rebekah, is also expected to step back from her role with the company.  

Open Philanthropy project’s Cari Tuna on funding global health — by Abby Schultz: “Cari Tuna, along with her husband Dustin Moskovitz, 35, a co-founder of Facebook and work-management firm Asana, launched the Open Philanthropy Project with charity evaluator GiveWell in 2014. Open Phil, now independent, uses grants and catalytic investments to take risky bets, such as the $17.5 million grant it made earlier this year to Sherlock Diagnostics, which is creating an inexpensive viral diagnostic tool that could reduce the threat of a pandemic.” [Barrons]

MEDIA WATCH — Jeff Zucker seen as top internal candidate for WarnerMedia CEO — by Dylan Byers: “Zucker, the president of CNN, is now the leading — if not the only — internal candidate being considered to become chief executive of WarnerMedia, the new conglomeration owned by AT&T that includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner Broadcasting… He is currently the head of news and sports for WarnerMedia.” [NBCNews]

NYC SCENE — Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz pushed back against his accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre after a court hearing on a defamation lawsuit filed against him. “I’ve never met Virginia Giuffre. I’ve never had sex with her. And the reason I’m saying it is because it’s true,” Dershowitz told reporters outside the Manhattan Federal Court on Tuesday. At some point during his gaggle, Dershowitz was heckled by a female bystander shouting “Liar! Liar! We don’t believe you!” [Pic]

CAMPUS BEAT — YU College Democrats denied club renewal — by Yitzchak Carroll and Avi Hirsch: “The Yeshiva University College Democrats will not be a university-sanctioned club this semester after their renewal application was rejected by the presidents of the Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) and the Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC)… The decision to reject the club this semester was made on the heels of last week’s LGBTQ march on the Wilf Campus, which was organized by the YU College Democrats in an unofficial capacity.” [YUCommentator]

UNC denies claims of bias in Middle East studies program — by Collin Binkley: “[UNC research chief Terry Magnuson] said a positive appreciation for Christianity, Judaism and other religions ‘suffuses’ all the programs in question, noting that the consortium has hosted events including a visit to a Jewish center to explore Jewish traditions, and presentations on Christianity in Lebanon.” [AP]

TOP-OP — American Jews and American Muslims have a common antagonist — by James Ron and Howard Lavine: “First, there is indeed a group in this country that is skeptical of Jewish rights, and it numbers in the tens of millions… these people are barely found among those who identify with the Democratic Party. They cluster most heavily among adherents of the Republican Party and the president himself. Second, despite understandable tensions between American Jews and American Muslims over Middle East policy, both communities face the same domestic detractors. American nativists dislike them both and believe that Jewish and Muslim rights are relatively unimportant.” [NYTimes]

LONG TIME COMING — Cousins reunite 75 years after being separated during the Holocaust — by Ashley Boucher: “For 75 years, Morris Sana lived with the belief that his cousin and best friend Simon Mairowitz was dead. But on Saturday, 87-year-old Sana and 85-year-old Mairowitz cried tears of joy when they reunited in Israel. The cousins were close pals before the Nazis invaded Romania in 1940, forcing both of their respective families to flee the country separately. After being torn apart, Sana and Mairowitz grew up believing that the other died in a concentration camp in Europe during World War II.” [People]

Unearthed Gandhi WWII letter wishes Jews ‘era of peace’ — by Aron Heller: “On the same day World War II broke out in Europe, Mahatma Gandhi wrote a short Jewish New Year greeting to a local Indian Jewish official, offering ominous good wishes to his ‘afflicted people.’ The National Library of Israel recently unearthed the 80-year-old handwritten letter during a massive review of millions of its archival documents. It was publishing it online Tuesday for the first time, offering a glimpse into the father of modern India’s complex relationship with the Holocaust.” [AP]

NEW BOOK — New York Times reporter Mary Pols reviews Alice Hoffman’s new novel, The World That We Knew, published on Tuesday: “It’s primarily the story of a 12-year-old Jewish girl, Lea Kohn, who manages to flee Berlin on a train bound for France in the spring of 1941. Lea’s father, a doctor, has been murdered, and Lea has narrowly escaped being raped. Her mother, Hanni, and grandmother, Bobeshi, know they will soon be taken by the Nazis, and their only hope is that Lea will survive… In the opening chapters, Hanni seeks out a rabbi to create a golem, that artificial creature from Jewish legend, in hopes it can serve as Lea’s bodyguard. Only Ettie, the rabbi’s daughter, is willing to take the risk of attempting this feat: She too has a young girl she wishes to get out of Berlin, her younger sister, Marta. Built of mud from the banks of the river Spree, Ava, the golem Ettie creates, is infused with Hanni’s tears and Marta’s menstrual blood and brought to life through a recitation of the secret names of God.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Pioneering female television anchor and host, Barbara Walters (family name Abrahams) turns 90… Former CEO and Board Chairman of Budget Rent A Car, he used to own the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, Morris Belzberg turns 90… Member of the UK’s House of Lords, Baroness Vivien Helen Stern turns 78… Former member of Knesset (1996-1999), he also served as Israel’s ambassador to France (1992-1995) and Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations (1999-2002), Yehuda Lancry turns 72… Israeli television anchor/host and singer, Yardena Arazi turns 68… Former member of Knesset for Yesh Atid (2013-2015), Ruth Calderon turns 58…

Founder, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, Marc Russell Benioff turns 55… Co-creator of the award-winning HBO series “Game of Thrones,” David Benioff (born David Friedman, Benioff is his mother’s maiden name) turns 49… The senior rabbi at the Beverly Hills Synagogue, Rabbi Pinchas Eliezer “Pini” Dunner turns 49… Bloomfield Hills, Michigan resident, Mary Elizabeth Aaron turns 49… Member of the California State Assembly since 2018, Jesse Gabriel turns 38… Milwaukee-born member of the Wisconsin State Assembly (first elected in 2014), Jonathan Brostoff turns 36… Yanky Rodman turns 28…

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered daily in a must-read newsletter.