👋 Good Wednesday morning!
We’re back to regular programming. Hope your holidays were enjoyable!
In SoCal, the WSJ’s Tech Live conference and Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit are underway. CBS-Viacom’s Shari Redstone and Disney’s Bob Iger headlined both gatherings.
On Capitol Hill, Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify at 10 a.m. before the House Financial Services Committee about Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of congressmen called on Twitter to remove Hezbollah and Hamas’s accounts before November 1st.
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FIRST LOOK — U.S. Jews deeply concerned over rising antisemitism
A new poll conducted by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) shows deep concern among American Jews about a dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents across the nation.
Details: According to the survey, published just days before the first anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre on October 27, about 31% of Jews have avoided publicly wearing or displaying items that might identify them as Jewish, and 25% have even avoided certain places and skipped events out of safety concerns.
Partisan divide: Seventy-three percent of respondents disapprove of President Donald Trump’s handling of antisemitism. The study showed 94% of Democrats disapprove of Trump’s approach to the issue, 84% of Republicans approve, and 76% of respondents overall view Trump’s general conduct as president as unfavorable.
View from Turtle Bay: The United Nations released an unprecedented report last Thursday highlighting a “disproportionate” 38% increase in antisemitism across the globe. The report identified certain actions by the BDS movement as “fundamentally antisemitic.” The report also recommended that member states adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a “non-legal educational tool.”
Interview: Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and author of the report, suggested in an interview with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that the report could help soothe concerns that the international body is biased against Jews.
“If the secretary-general appoints an envoy to a very senior level in his office to deal with the matter, I think Jews will start feeling that the U.N. also works for them,” Shaheed added. “I am hoping that one of the outcomes of this is that those within the U.N. system itself start taking more notice of the issues faced by Jewish communities across the world and that we build bridges in working together.”
Poignant return: The Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh is expected to return to its building soon for the first time since last year’s massacre. Although a date has not been set, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said in a press conference last week that the premises will also serve as “an incredible center for Jewish life in the United States.”
TALK OF THE REGION — Russia steps in to fill U.S. void in Syria
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to jointly deploy troops to remove Kurdish forces in Syria from a 19-mile buffer zone along the Turkish border. Putin — who relayed the terms of the deal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — is increasing his influence as the U.S. steps back in the region.
On the ground: Trump said Monday that Israel and Jordan had asked him to leave a limited number of troops in Syria. “We have a small group there, and we secured the oil,” he told reporters during a cabinet meeting. “Other than that, there’s no reason for it, in our opinion.” He also said the Kurds were “no angels.”
Mideast Shuttles: Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in Baghdad Wednesday morning after a visit to Saudi Arabia. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited Israel last week, told The Jerusalem Post that Israel has the right to act in Syria and that the U.S. is still closely watching Iranian influence in the country. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a congressional delegation on a visit to Jordan on Sunday to discuss Syria with Jordan’s King Abdullah. The group then traveled to Afghanistan, where Trump has quietly reduced the U.S. military presence.
Congressional critic: In an op-ed in The Washington Post over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called Trump’s decision to pull back in Syria “a grave strategic mistake.” Without mentioning the president by name, McConnell said the recent White House move “set back the United States’ campaign against the Islamic State and other terrorists” and will embolden Russia and Iran to expand their influence. “We should retain a limited military presence in Syria and maintain our presence in Iraq and elsewhere in the region,” he wrote. “We must also work closely with allies threatened by this chaos, such as Israel and Jordan.”
Warming ties: Dana Benvenisti, a senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, attended a maritime security conference in Bahrain on Monday, a rare visit that signaled an increasing willingness of Gulf Arab states to align with Israel against Iran.
COALITION CONUNDRUM — Netanyahu gives up on forming government
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially returned the mandate to form the next government to President Reuven Rivlin on Monday.
Blame game: In his statement Monday, Netanyahu said he “worked tirelessly” to form a national unity coalition and get Blue and White leader Benny Gantz “to the negotiating table… but sadly, time after time, he simply refused.” In response, a spokeswoman for Blue and White said that “the time for spin is over, now it is time for action.”
Next up: Rivlin will task Gantz on Wednesday evening with forming the next government. Gantz will then be granted 28 days to attempt to build a coalition. The former general, however, faces as great a challenge as Netanyahu did, with no clear path to attaining a 61-seat majority government.
Third election? If Gantz also fails to form a coalition, Rivlin is able to turn to the Knesset and give the body 21 days to come up with a candidate to lead the government. If that effort also fails, a third national election could be called, and would most likely be held in March.
Complicating matters, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to issue an indictment on corruption-related charges against the prime minister sometime next month. While cabinet ministers who are indicted must resign their positions, the prime minister is not legally required to do so, and Netanyahu has vowed he will not.
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Kushner heading to Israel next week as future of deal in peril
Jared Kushner is expected to touch down in Israel next week to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to discuss the rollout of the peace plan and get a firsthand update on the political situation.
Entourage: Kushner will be joined by advisor Avi Berkowitz and Iran envoy Brian Hook. Outgoing Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt will not be part of the delegation. Greenblatt said his last day working for the administration will be “around November 1.”
Why it matters: It’s unclear whether Israel will be able to form a government anytime soon, or if a third election will delay political stability well into the spring. The White House will therefore have to decide whether it will once again postpone the release of the plan.
Losing patience? An administration official tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that “no doubt there is frustration about the prolonged political crisis in Israel, but the decision to wait until it is resolved is correct and not under debate.”
Do Israelis still trust Trump? “The peace plan could have been the glue that helps form a unity government, but not after Syria,” Shimrit Meir, an Israeli analyst and commentator, explains. “The Israeli public is moving quickly from a ‘please continue to shower us with your gifts’ attitude to a ‘stay away from everything that has to do with us’ one.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro tells us: “The fiasco in Turkey — in which Vice President [Mike] Pence caved to all of Erdogan’s demands, the Syrian Kurds got screwed, and Trump claimed a great victory — tells us everything we need to know about Trump’s dealmaking. The substance is irrelevant. He’ll claim any deal, no matter how base the humiliation, is the ‘greatest deal ever.’ Given the chance, he would do the same on Iran. Why Israelis, Palestinians, or really anyone would feel confident about engaging in a negotiation under his sponsorship is beyond me.”
Predetermined outcomes: A U.S. official tells JI that the decision to withdraw from Syria or the impeachment inquiry “doesn’t really much affect how the plan will be received. It was always going to be rejected instantly by the Palestinians and applauded by the Israelis.” However, the official suggested, “The Trump administration’s clout is not what it was a couple of years ago.”
Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, opines: “I think that this trip is just an effort to demonstrate a sort of proof of life station-identification.”
2020 WATCH — Catching up on the campaign
Democratic demolition derby continues post-debate, JI’s Ben Jacobs reports: Democrats continued to spar with each other in the aftermath of last week’s debate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) bowed to criticism from rivals and announced she would unveil her plan to pay for Medicare-for-All in the coming weeks, while longshot Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) went on the offensive against the party’s 2016 Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, after the former secretary of state suggested the Russians are “grooming” an unnamed Democrat to mount a third-party run.
Aid to Israel: Spurred by questions over the weekend from activists with the anti-occupation group IfNotNow, Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg declined to rule out using U.S. aid as a form of pressure on Israel. “It is the official policy of the United States of America to support a two-state solution, and if Israel is moving in the opposite direction, then everything is on the table,” said Warren in Iowa. Speaking in Chicago on Friday, Buttigieg said foreign aid is “leverage to guide Israel in the right direction” but declined to go into further detail.
Klobuchar picking up steam: On the heels of a strong debate performance last week in Ohio, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar raised more than a million dollars in the 24 hours following the debate. She has since picked up two key endorsements in Iowa — State Senator Liz Mathis and State Representative Andy McKean — and undertaken a bus tour of the Hawkeye State.
Bonus: The Washington Postreports that Oprah Winfrey “has repeatedly begged Disney chief executive Bob Iger to jump into the race” as Democrats express their dissatisfaction with the performance of the present candidates. Hillary Clinton, according to the report, has also raised the possibility of a rematch with Trump. According to The New York Times, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Clinton “have both told people privately in recent weeks that if they thought they could win, they would consider entering the primary.”
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👊 On The Hill:The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins published a series of conversations he had with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who has become an outspoken Republican critic of Trump, over the past few months. Romney, whom many see as a key figure in a looming impeachment trial, says that he’s taking the prospect of a Senate trial seriously as something that should be viewed as “an inflection point in American history.”
⚾ Sports Blink: The Lerner family opened up about Ted Lerner’s personal life and stewardship of the Washington Nationals after its berth in the World Series last week. “He’s so pious that he won’t attend Friday night games because of the Jewish Sabbath,” The Washington Post notes. Last night, the Nationals won game one of their best-of-seven series against the Houston Astros.
💱 Big Buyout: SoftBank is taking control of WeWork after its IPO was nixed last month. The $10 billion deal, according to the Wall Street Journal, includes the purchase of $1 billion worth of stock from former CEO Adam Neumann, as well as $500 million in credit and a $185 million consulting fee to the company’s Israeli founder. Neumann is expected to step down from the board but keep two representatives in place. Another WSJ article on Neumann last week detailed his one-time close ties to the Kabbalah Centre, which included bringing teachers from the center to the office to hold weekly sessions for top executives. The Neumanns reportedly cut ties with the organization four years ago amid several controversies.
📵 Digital Sabbath: New York Times columnist David Leonhardt wrote that he recommends people take a “tech Shabbat” — powering down their phones for at least 24 hours each week: “My family and I turned off our cellphones and laptops on Friday night and didn’t turn them back on until Sunday morning.”
🇮🇱 Ready for Unity: Isabel Kershner profiles Rosh Haayin, a politically hung city east of Tel Aviv, as a perfect reflection of the political divide between the religious right and the secular left. The only difference: Rosh Haayin residents are willing to compromise.
AROUND THE WEB
🌱 Celebrating Life: Rabbi Jeremy Borovitz, an American who was inside the synagogue in Halle, Germany, when it was attacked by a neo-Nazi on Yom Kippur, told the Huffington Post that he is still hopeful about the resurgence of Jewish life in Germany.
🥋Fair Play: Iran has been banned from competing in world judo competitions until it agrees to face Israel in matches.
💵 Settlement: Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical offered to pay $20 million in cash and donate $25 million in addiction-treatment drugs to two counties in Ohio to settle lawsuits over the opioid crisis. According to reports, Teva has agreed to contribute $23 billion worth of drugs and pay $250 million in cash over 10 years to settle thousands of lawsuits across the country. Shares in Teva surged Monday after news of the settlement offer.
🏢 Succession: Carl Icahn, famous for sparking upheaval in corporate America, is making big changes of his own. The billionaire investor is planning to move his office from New York to Florida early next year, and tells The Wall Street Journal that he’s preparing to hand over the hedge fund to his son, Brett.
🎥 Media Watch: Former HBO CEO Richard Plepler has told industry associates that he is looking to start his own production studio, Eden Productions.
💪 On Duty: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told an audience at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law on Monday that she never stopped her famous workouts, even during her recent battle with cancer.
📚 Book Shelf: Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin details in his forthcoming book, It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Serve Your Country, the scene of his first job interview with Trump after serving in the Obama administration.
💰 On the Map: Israel ranks fifth in the world in the number of millionaires per capita, according to data released Monday by the Credit Suisse Research Institute.
🖼️ Lost Community: The BBC is offering a glimpse into the lost Jewish community of Sudan, with rare photos of the once-thriving society.
⛬ Historic Site: Archeologists believe they have uncovered a 2,000-year-old road in Jerusalem commissioned by Pontius Pilate that led to the foot of the Temple Mount.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Labour activists are lining up former councillor Jo Bird, who was suspended — and later reinstated — for joking about “Jew process” earlier this year, to replace MP Dame Louise Ellman, who quit the party last week over institutionalized antisemitism.
🎭 On the Stage: Steven Skybell, who plays Tevye in the current Yiddish production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” talks to Slate about inhabiting the role as antisemitism in the U.S. rises.
🍩 🥓 Dessert: The kosher Dunkin Donuts in Boca Raton has decided to become treyf as of November 3, in an attempt to boost profits.
🕯️Remembering: Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, a renowned arbiter of halacha, head of an independent rabbinical court in Bnei Brak and a member of Degel Hatorah’s Council of Torah Sages, died on Monday at age 93.
🕯️ Meir Shamgar, the former chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, died Friday at age 94. A refugee of Danzig, Shamgar played a key role in the development of Israel’s high court.
🕯️ Mark Hurd, who served as co-CEO of Oracle Corp., passed away at age 62 on Friday. “Oracle has lost a brilliant and beloved leader,” chairman Larry Ellison said.
🕯️ Morton Mandel, a respected businessman, prolific philanthropist and the founding chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, died on Thursday at age 98.
PIC OF THE DAY
A sukkah was placed outside the Treasury Department last week for the holiday of Sukkot.
Birthweek: Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu turned 70 on Monday… President Donald Trump sent Netanyahu a letter wishing him a happy birthday, calling him “one of my closest allies,” and adding in marker: “you are great!”
Today: Chairman emeritus of Simon Property Group and the principal owner of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, Herbert “Herb” Simon turns 85… Distinguished professor of American and Jewish Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz, Gerald Sorin turns 79… Attorney best known for his role as special master for the 9-11 Victim Compensation Fund and for similar roles in a number of mass torts, Kenneth Feinberg turns 74… Filmmaker, famous for creating the cult horror Evil Dead series, as well as directing the original Spider-Man trilogy, Sam Raimi turns 60…
Founder and CEO of global outsourcing company TeleTech with 50,000 employees in 24 countries, Kenneth D. Tuchman turns 60… Founder of the New Democrat Network and the New Policy Institute, Simon Rosenberg turns 56… Film director, producer and talent agent, Trevor Engelson turns 43… Director of rabbinic and community engagement at J Street, Shaina Wasserman turns 42… AIPAC’s associate director for Bergen County (NJ) and Rockland County (NY), Ayelet Kahane turns 31… Law clerk at Hogan Lovells, Annika Lichtenbaum turns 27… Digital strategist at FogLamp Content Studio, Rachel Shabad turns 27… Richard Rubenstein…