Rouhani snubbed Trump call | Pre-indictment hearings for Bibi | Rosh Hashanah greetings from the Saudis
Kobi Gideon (GPO)
IRAN TALKS — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani confirmed a report on Wednesday that President Donald Trump and Rouhani initially agreed on a four-point document prepared by French President Emmanuel Macron for a meeting in New York last week.
According to Politico EU, the Iranians agreed to promise that they would “never acquire a nuclear weapon” and “refrain from any aggression” in the region, while the U.S. would agree to “lift all the sanctions reimposed since 2017.” But the effort fell through after the Iranian leader insisted that Trump first declare the lifting of U.S. sanctions.
“We were supportive,” Rouhani said at a weekly cabinet meeting in Tehran. “The one who prevented us from achieving a result was the White House.”
REPORT — Trump waited on a secure line set up by Macron for the Iranian president last Tuesday, but Rouhani refused to join the call, The New York Times reported on Monday. Macron’s mission, according to The New Yorker, was to get Rouhani to come out of his suite at the Millenium Hilton Hotel and enter a secure room where Trump would join the conversation via speaker phone.
HEARD THE OTHER DAY —During an annual conference call with rabbis and Jewish community leaders ahead of the High Holidays on Friday, Trump said that his actions against Iran were — according to “a friend of mine” — the most significant measures affecting the Jewish state that his administration has taken since coming into office.
Addressing the situation with Iran, Trump said, “It will work out. I can’t tell you exactly how and why, but it will work out because it always does. I have a tendency to make things work out, one way or the other. Sometimes it’s not pretty but it happens.” [JewishInsider]
Narrow escape: Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said on Tuesday that Israel came very close to killing him and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during the Second Lebanon War in 2007.
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Marking a first in Israeli history, criminal proceedings began against a sitting prime minister on Wednesday morning. The first of four days of pre-indictment hearings against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off — without Netanyahu present. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and lawyers for the prime minister sat down together at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem.
Coalition stalemate: A meeting between delegations from Likud and Blue and White that was scheduled for today was canceled after Benny Gantz said there was no path forward for negotiations. Likud blamed Yair Lapid for not backing down from his rotation agreement with Gantz, while Blue and White blamed Netanyahu for refusing to compromise.
Friendly meet: Instead of attending the pre-indictment hearing, Netanyahu met with leaders of the right-wing bloc in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning and pledged to continue to work together. Analysts are speculating that Netanyahu will return the mandate to form the government to President Reuven Rivlin this week.
Festive day: All 120 members of the 22nd Knesset are slated to be sworn in tomorrow during what is normally a celebratory event. But a pall is expected to hang over the proceedings, with a government looking unlikely and the prospect of a third election looming on the horizon.
Ultimate deal watch: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that the Trump administration will only release the peace plan once a new government is formed. “We want to roll it out in an environment where there is a government that can respond to it,” Friedman explained. “We would like to deal with a formed government, so they are in a position to react and respond and talk to us about it.”
Jake Walles, who served as U.S. consul general in Jerusalem from 2005 to 2009, tells CNBC that the impact of the Israeli political situation on the Trump peace plan “is unclear” at this point. “Certainly, the administration can’t move forward until there is a new Israeli government in place. Then it will have to brief the new PM (presumably Gantz) about what’s in the plan and get his approval to publish it,” Walles, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explained. “At that point, it will be close to the end of the year; will Trump still want to proceed? Who knows.”
Fresh take: Author Micah Goodman suggests that if a national unity government is formed it will give Israel a golden opportunity to take a centrist approach to “shrink” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That would include a plan to broaden the Palestinians’ freedom of movement within the West Bank and give the Palestinian Authority more land for development around the major towns. “A national unity government could liberate Israel and the Palestinians from the rigid ideologies that have perpetuated the unsustainable status quo,” Goodman writes.
TALK OF THE REGION — In recent months, Israel has quietly allowed thousands of Palestinians to enter Israel and the West Bank from the Gaza Strip to conduct business and work menial jobs, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday. The move is said to be the result of an unofficial Egyptian-brokered truce between Hamas and Israel in exchange for reduced rocket fire and the scaling back of weekly protests on the border.
Palestinians protested in Jerusalem and Ramallah after a detainee, Samer al-Arbid — suspected of killing 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb in a terror attack in August — was hospitalized during interrogation by Israeli forces. Arbid’s lawyer, Mahmoud Hassan, told Reuters that the suspect was in critical condition “as a result of the severe torture he endured during a lengthy interrogation.”
FRIENDLY GREETINGS — In a first, the Saudi Embassy in Washington reportedly sent a Rosh Hashanah greeting to American Jews, reading “Her Highness The Ambassador Reema Bandar Al Saud sends her wishes for a happy and sweet new year.” The card was adorned with images of a pomegranate, apples and honey.
CONFERENCE CIRCUIT — Michael Bloomberg’s answer to the U.N. General Assembly — by Evan Osnos: “Between handshakes, a billionaire investor said, ‘The world is becoming a world of conferences. I go to about fifty each year, and I kind of wonder, How many of these can we go to? You always see the same people, and you always say, ‘Let’s have lunch, let’s have dinner.’ And, of course, you never have lunch, never have dinner.’ Today’s masters of the universe jet around the globe on the conference circuit, like Presidential candidates touching down at state fairs.” [NewYorker]
HAPPENING TODAY — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will meet with Palestinian-American leaders, City Hall said in an advisory. The meeting is closed to press. The mayor’s office didn’t respond to JI’s inquiry about the nature of the meeting by Wednesday morning.
NEW BOOK — In new book, Seth Siegel takes a look at how America treats its water — by JI’s Melissa Weiss: If you know anything about Israeli water technology, then you’ve almost certainly heard the name Seth Siegel. If you’ve heard of Siegel, there’s a very good chance you’ve read his 2015 bestseller, Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World. In his first book, Siegel talks about how Israeli technologies and government actions have propelled the Jewish state to the forefront of fighting the looming water crisis. In his second book, Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink,released on Tuesday, Siegel flips the lens: Instead of looking at how Israeli water innovation could help to solve crises around the world, Siegel focuses on how people and communities in the United States are affected by the water they consume and what can be done to alleviate the growing public health challenges associated with contaminated water.
In Troubled Water, Siegel focuses on the myriad issues that contribute to water contamination issues across the country — from local leaders to the Environmental Protection Agency to bottled water companies — and suggests the reforms necessary to shift the tide and provide quality drinking water to American homes and businesses. The issues, he says, are wide-ranging: from confusing regulations surrounding state and federal oversight (for example, according to the most recent Government Accountability Office report, more than two-thirds of the bottled water sold in the U.S. is not subject to Food and Drug Administration regulation) to geographic and population issues — particularly in areas like the American southwest and other desert climates, where population growth has exceeded the water supply and communities are having to reuse and recycle water. [JewishInsider]
ON THE TRAIL — Ahead of Warren-Zuckerberg spat, Buttigieg criticized Massachusetts senator on big tech — by JI’s Ben Jacobs: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg offered veiled criticism of presidential rival Elizabeth Warren’s views on regulating big tech companies while speaking to reporters in Iowa last week, days before the Massachusetts senator engaged in a back-and-forth exchange with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over regulating the social media giant. Zuckerberg was recorded on audio leaked Tuesday suggesting a legal battle with the federal government if Warren is elected.
In Iowa, Buttigieg told reporters, “There’s an interesting conversation to be had about the kind of the neo-Brandeisian way of dealing with tech regulation, which I think is fairly convincing.” The Indiana Democrat then took a veiled shot at Warren: “That’s one of the reasons I choke a little bit on the idea that’s coming from at least one candidate [that] if a company reaches a certain scale, just break them up.” In his view, “I think a lot of it has to do with what is actually happening and how it affects markets — especially when there are a lot of natural monopolies in tech.” As an example, Buttigieg suggested that if “you take Twitter, and cut it in half, you’ll just get two Twitters — one will be good and the other will go away.” [JewishInsider]
DEM IN DISARRAY — Two top staffers on John Delaney’s presidential campaign have officially cut ties with the former Maryland congressman, JI’s Ben Jacobs reports. The two departures — of campaign manager John Davis and communications director Will McDonald — come only days after Monica Biddix, Delaney’s Iowa state director, left the campaign.
No payoff: Though he launched his campaign more than two years ago, Delaney has been unable to gain momentum, despite extensive barnstorming in both Iowa and New Hampshire. The former three-term Maryland congressman, who has run as the most moderate Democrat in the field, has yet to see a payoff from his years of campaigning. He did not qualify for the September presidential debate and will not appear in October’s debate. [JewishInsider]
2020 BRIEFS — Cory Booker raised over $6 million in third quarter thanks to late surge… Pete Buttigieg brought in $19.1 million… Bernie Sanders raised $25.3 million… Sanders aims to fix one of his campaign’s biggest problems: winning older voters… Joe Biden’s campaign demands TV news execs to stop booking Rudy Giuliani… Trump’s reelection campaign cashes in on impeachment woes…
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork still needs cash after pulling IPO and ouster of co-founder Adam Neumann [WSJ] • WeWork downgraded by Fitch after IPO troubles [FinancialTimes] • Sheldon Adelson can’t dismiss National Jewish Democratic Council’s suit for damages stemming from defamation suit [Law] • Stephen Schwarzman’s Blackstone to buy U.S. warehouses from Colony Capital in $5.9 billion deal [Reuters] • Israeli startups raised over $1b in Sept [Globes]
MORE BRIEFS: Joseph Sitt’s Thor Equities unloads BJ’s store in Brooklyn for $73 million [CommercialObserver] • Hakimian Org plans 346-unit mixed-use project in Queens, N.Y. [RealDeal] • Brian Friedman’s D.C.-based investment firm Friedman Capital has purchased the infamous Watergate office building for 102 million [CommercialObserver] • Jacob Chetrit acquiring SL Green’s news building for $815M [CommerialObserver]
SPOTLIGHT — Purdue Pharma family profits from sale of ski resorts in regions plagued by opioid addiction — by Christopher Rowland: “Some members of the billionaire Sackler family — the owners of Purdue Pharma, the company widely blamed for fueling America’s opioid crisis — will reap about $60 million in financial gains from the sale of 17 ski resorts in the Northeast and Midwest… Many of the ski areas in the transaction sit in places that have been hit hard by prescription narcotic abuse over the past 20 years, including those in New Hampshire, as well as hills in Vermont, the Catskills in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania… The sale of the ski resorts was finalized last week even as the family’s role in the opioid crisis is being hotly contested in courts.” [WashPost]
Israel plans to boost supply in landmark gas deal with Egypt — by Mirette Magdy and Yaacov Benmeleh: “Partners in the Leviathan and Tamar offshore reservoirs, led by Israel’s Delek Group Ltd. and the Texas-based Noble Energy Inc., will send 85.3 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Egypt’s Dolphinus Holdings Ltd. over 15 years, according to a Tel Aviv Stock Exchange filing on Wednesday. That’s nearly 35% more than what was agreed on in 2018, when both sides signed a 10-year deal valued at $15 billion. The Israeli gas will start flowing to Egypt at the beginning of next year, with the aim to gradually reach an annual capacity of almost 7 billion cubic meters from both pools by the summer of 2022.” [Bloomberg]
LONG READ — Bruce Springsteen is Jew-ish — by Eric Alterman: “Jews are an essential part of Springsteen’s entourage. His drummer, ‘Mighty’ Max Weinberg, is so Jewish, his parents ran a Jewish summer camp in the Poconos. Bruce’s first sound engineer, Louis Lahav, was an Israeli. Bruce’s two managers, Mike Appel and Jon Landau, hail from the Hebraic faith. So does the record-company exec who originally signed him, Clive Davis… Springsteen is not at all Jewish… And the ‘Jew or Not Jew’ website somehow gives Springsteen a 6 out of 10 on its Jewish scale, even with its inevitable ‘verdict: Not a Jew.’ Springsteen himself has dropped hints of his affinity for the Chosen People. At the wedding of his former sound man Marc Brickman, in 1979, he led the band in an abbreviated ‘Hava Nagila.’ He credited a sermon on the importance of shared love, given by Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom, with inspiring ‘a lot of songs’ on The River.” [TheAtlantic]
A war over the future of Judaism rages in this small Long Island community — by Danielle Ziri: “Although locals describe West Hempstead’s Jewish community as ‘live and let live,’ some residents told Haaretz that they feel the local rabbinical leadership is pushing a hard-line that does not reflect how open the Orthodox community is and actually runs counter to it. The rabbis ‘have such a hold over the businesses,’ says B., a longtime West Hempstead resident who spoke on condition of anonymity, explaining that the local religious leaders are in control of some restaurants’ kosher certifications.” [Haaretz]
TALK OF THE NATION — Rosh Hashanah descended on the United States on Sunday evening for the first time since the deadliest attack on Jews ever on American soil. Eleven months after a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the congregation gathered off-site — they haven’t held services at the site of the massacre since it happened — to mark the High Holidays. The man who blew the shofar last year at the New Light congregation which met at Tree of Life was Richard Gottfried, a dentist who was killed in the shooting, reported the Associated Press. Instead, AP said, the congregation’s rabbi, Jonathan Perlman, blew the shofar this year. The three congregations housed in the Tree of Life building are planning a series of commemorations for the one-year anniversary of the attack on October 27.
The Atlantic reported that members of the three congregations have disagreed in their reactions and approaches to the aftermath of the massacre. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dor Hadash, one of the three congregations, declined to take part in Trump’s pre-Rosh Hashanah call with Jewish community leaders. Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myer’s decision to meet with Trump and welcome the president’s visit was deeply upsetting to many in New Light and Dor Hadash, The Atlantic said. Members of the three congregations have turned to different forms of activism, including one group pursuing gun control efforts.
TALK OF THE TOWN — Benjamin Schaeffer, a New York MTA transit worker, was initially denied permission to take off for Rosh Hashanah, according to Transport Workers Union Local 100. A supervisor then granted Schaeffer the holiday, but told TWU Local 100 veep Eric Loegel that he would need to submit documentation within 5 days to prove he’d actually observed the holiday or else he’d be marked as “AWOL.”
Latkes first: On Friday, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos “respectfully demanded” that Governor Tony Evers reschedule a congressional special election “because the primary would fall during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.” The primary election to replace the vacant seat of former Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI-07) is on December 30th, which is the final day of Hanukkah. It’s worth noting that there are no work restrictions for religious Jews on Hanukkah.
Right of return: Spain’s Justice Ministry said on Tuesday that the four-year period for the descendants of Sephardic Jews to apply for Spanish citizenship has closed. As many as 132,226 people took the opportunity to request Spanish citizenship since the law — seeking to repair the “historical mistake” Spain made when it forced Jews to convert or go into exile in 1492 — passed in 2015.
Jewish history: Albania’s sole Jewish history museum, the Solomon Museum, reopened in southern Berat on Sunday thanks to French-Albanian businessman Gazmend Toska, who rescued it from the brink of closure. The country’s Jewish population is fewer than 100, according to AFP.
TRANSITIONS — Seth Pinsky, former head of the New York City Economic Development Corp. under Michael Bloomberg, was appointed on Friday as CEO of the 92nd Street Y.
Mark Isakowitz, who served as chief of staff for Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), was hired by Google to run its Washington, D.C. public policy office.
SPORTS BLINK — How to succeed in baseball without spending money — by Jared Diamond: Chaim Bloom, senior vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Rays, explains how his team opened the baseball season with the lowest budget in the major leagues and still made the playoffs. Money still doesn’t ensure success in baseball. The Red Sox and Cubs both missed the playoffs, while the Rays, the team with the lowest payroll in the majors, earned a spot. [WSJ]
REMEMBERING — John Rothman, who made The New York Times’s archives accessible, dies at 95 — by Richard Sandomir: “John Rothman, who in an era before Google conceived and helped develop The New York Times Information Bank… died on Thursday in Manhattan… Hans Rothmann was born on April 21, 1924, in Berlin. He and his parents — who were Jewish and designated by the Nazis as resident aliens because his grandfather was a Polish immigrant — had their property and possessions seized and were expelled in 1939. They fled to Brooklyn.” [NYTimes]
Austrian-born Hollywood producer Eric Pleskow dies at 95: “Austrian-born film producer Eric Pleskow, who was involved in the making of Hollywood hits including ‘Platoon,’ ‘Rocky’ and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ has died at the age of 95… Born Erich Pleskoff to a Jewish merchant in Vienna, Pleskow and his family fled Nazi persecution shortly before the outbreak of World War II.” [AP]
Bella Tovey, who bore witness to Holocaust, dies at 92 — by Bart Barnes: “Bella Tovey, who survived Nazi labor and concentration camps as a Jewish teenager in Poland and lived to tell her story to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, public schools, and Jewish congregations in Washington and elsewhere, died July 14 at a hospital in Atlanta.” [WashPost]
BIRTHDAYS: Portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz turns 70… Managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale-based Weinstein Law Firm, a Democratic Party bundler, Andrew Weinstein turns 50… Commercial real estate broker, Richard Manekin turns 74… Potomac, Maryland resident, Diana Epstein turns 74… Bethesda, Maryland resident, Samuel Kaplan turns 73… Fashion designer and creator of DKNY, Donna Karan (born Donna Ivy Faske) turns 71… Member of the Knesset for the Shas party since 1996, Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen turns 68… Member of Knesset for the Labor-Gesher party, Omer Bar-Lev turns 66… Former member of the Texas House of Representatives, Scott Hochberg turns 66…
Israeli businessman Idan Ofer turns 64… Founder of Los Angeles-based real estate development firm, Bomel Companies, Robert Rechnitz turns 64… Venture capitalist and former chairman of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, long-time member of the boards of JFNA and Hillel International, Bruce Sholk turns 62… Chief program officer of the Union for Reform Judaism, Mark J. Pelavin turns 58… Former MLB left-handed pitcher (1999-2010) with more MLB appearances than any other Jewish pitcher, Scott David Schoeneweis turns 46… President and CEO of King Consults, Michelle Sara King turns 43… Associate attorney in the capital markets department at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Alexander B. Fullman turns 29…