Daily Kickoff

As impeachment hearings commence, Trump jokes to Jewish donors he may run for Israeli PM “if anything happens here”

White House

Good Wednesday morning!

On Capitol Hill, public impeachment hearings begin at 10 a.m. George Kent and Bill Taylor, respectively the deputy assistant Secretary of State and the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, will testify together in front of the Ways and Means Committee.

Israelis woke up after a quiet night to renewed rocket fire Wednesday morning, with dozens of air raid sirens, including in Ashkelon and Mevo Horon, east of Modiin. More than 250 rockets have been fired at Israel since Monday morning, and both Vice President Mike Pence and former VP Joe Biden — as well as a slate of U.S. lawmakers — expressed their support for the Jewish state.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tells JI, “Israel has a right to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks. The hundreds of rockets fired by terrorist organizations at Israeli civilians are a stark reminder of the importance of bipartisan support for the life-saving Iron Dome system.”

Today, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) will introduce bipartisan legislation to expand U.S.-Israel cooperation on unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS) programs.

Tonight in New York, MK Yair Golan will deliver the keynote address at the annual Israel Policy Forum dinner at The Times Center. Col. Richard Kemp is speaking at the StandWithUs gala at the InterContinental New York Barclay, and The Washington Institute’s David Makovsky is headlining the Friends of Magen David Adom’s “Making Miracles” gala at The Pierre. 

State visit: Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military affairs R. Clarke Cooper is in Israel this week to hold meetings with senior officials about regional strategic priorities, defense trade, and military cooperation. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker is also in Israel, meeting with government officials to discuss Iran and “recent developments in the region.”

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DRIVING THE DAY — Erdogan to meet Trump at White House

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Washington today, where he will meet with President Donald Trump at the White House. The visit comes amid new strains in U.S.-Turkey relations after the Turkish military invaded northern Syria last month, battling with Kurdish forces. This will be Erdogan’s second visit to D.C. during Trump’s presidency.

Cautious tone: Speaking to reporters on a conference call Tuesday evening, senior administration officials expressed caution about the visit. “There are enormous potential deliverables for this meeting that we want to see realized,” said one official. “And that, however, is not solely up to us.” The official also stressed the “nearly… 70-year alliance” between the United States and Turkey has “helped both of our countries through very, very dark times,” adding that “we are not going to throw it away lightly if there is a way forward.” In light of the conflict in Syria, the recent congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide and Turkey’s purchase of a missile defense system from Russia, it was acknowledged “that there are irritants on both sides.”

Bolton lobs A bomb:NBC Newsreported Tuesday that former National Security Advisor John Bolton said that Trump’s policy towards Turkey is dictated by “a personal or business relationship.” Speaking at an event sponsored by Morgan Stanley in Miami, Bolton warned that Trump’s dovishness over Turkey was the result of ulterior motives. The Trump organization has licensed its name for a skyscraper in Istanbul.

Turks go to Jared:The New York Timesreported that Trump has a backchannel with the Turkish government conducted by Jared Kushner. Kushner communicates with Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law, as well as Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, a Turkish businessman who has long been a major business contact of the Trump Organization in Turkey. According to the report, “the three men have developed an informal, next-generation line of communication.” 

On the table: Erdogan said yesterday before departing for the U.S. that he wants to “start a new era over common security issues.” Turkey’s recent purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia — and the subsequent threatened U.S. sanctions — are expected to be at the top of the agenda for the talks.

Deal or no deal: According to The Washington Post, Trump has floated a package offer to Erdogan including a trade deal and a sanctions workaround in exchange for Turkey sticking to a cease-fire deal in Syria. The offer is said to be “virtually identical” to the one made last month in a failed attempt to prevent Turkey’s Syria offensive.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Trump mocks Israel’s political stalemate in speech to Orthodox Jews

President Donald Trump received an enthusiastic welcome from several hundred members of the Orthodox Jewish community at a re-election fundraiser at the InterContinental New York Barclay on Tuesday. Video recordings circulating on social media show the president greeted by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson, who recited the Hebrew blessing traditionally said upon seeing a king or head of state.

I know what ya like: After being greeted with chants of “four more years,” Trump said he will focus his remarks on Israel because “this is a group, I think, if I didn’t talk about Israel, they’d say, ‘What a rotten speech that was.’” Trump told the New York crowd: “I gave you, in Jerusalem, the embassy. That was a big deal.”

Trump on Israel’s coalition conundrum: “What kind of a system is it over there? They are all fighting and fighting,” he said. “We have different kinds of fights. At least we know who the boss is. They keep having elections and nobody is elected.” 

Next career move? The president boasted that he has “an approval rating of 98%” in Israel, and quipped that “if anything happens here” with his impeachment, “I will take a trip over to Israel to run for prime minister there.” 

Trump on the flare-up in Gaza: “We’re watching Israel very closely… There are missiles going in and going out. A very bad day… very scary… I wake up and they showed missiles being shot in Israel, and likewise going in the other direction. We have to take care of Israel… We are watching and we are looking out for, really, a great country with great people. Great people. It’s been misunderstood for a long time. It’s a tiny speck… they are a great people and they are a very advanced people, and they have a great protector in Donald Trump.”

Read more and watch the video here.

BOOK SHELF — Haley reflects on her time defending Israel in new book

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley’s much-anticipated book, With All Due Respect, hit bookshelves yesterday. The former diplomat recalls her time serving as America’s envoy in Turtle Bay and the challenges — both foreign and domestic — she faced on the job.

Clean slate: “I was a foreign policy novice who faced a learning curve when I became ambassador,” she wrote. “I studied a lot before coming to New York. But I purposely didn’t study the United Nations itself, and here’s why: I wanted to preserve my ability to see the U.N. through new eyes, with fresh perspective.”

Haley briefly discussed the warm working relationship she had with her predecessor, Samantha Power. But ahead of the U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution that declared east Jerusalem and the West Bank to be illegally occupied by Israel, the then-ambassador ghosted Haley: “Now, Ambassador Power wouldn’t return my calls or emails. Her sudden silence was mystifying and worrying. It made me think she didn’t support what was about to happen. If she had a good explanation for the U.S. abstention on Resolution 2334, I thought, she would call and tell me.”

Shifting views: “Before I came to the United Nations, I didn’t have any particular connection to Israel or the Israeli people. I had never been to Israel or met with any of its leaders. The passage of Resolution 2334 changed that,” Haley recalled. “We had betrayed one of our best friends and closest allies, the only democracy in the Middle East. And we had done so at the United Nations, the place where Israel is continuously scapegoated.”

Pushback: The former ambassador recounted the internal opposition to moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: “Jerusalem has been the political, cultural, and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people for thousands of years. They have had no other capital city… But others in the cabinet and the White House… argued that moving the embassy would set off violence that would damage the peace process, such as it was. But a peace process that is damaged by the simple recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is not a peace process at all.”

On the 2015 Iran deal: “The United States had made the case that Iran was a security threat to Europe every bit as much, or more, than it was to the United States,” Haley wrote. “Between the president decertifying the deal and our withdrawal, we went to the Europeans again and again, saying we would stay in the deal if they would work with us to address its flaws. We could justify staying in the agreement if they agreed to join us in addressing Iran’s missile launches and foreign interference. Our offers were never accepted.”

2020 WATCH‘ — Never Trump’ Republicans fail to qualify in Super Tuesday states

Republican primary voters in Alabama and Arkansas will be left with a choice between incumbent President Donald Trump and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld on Super Tuesday, after former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) did not file in those two states, and former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford dropped out of the race. 

Uphill battle: Walsh tells JI’s Ben Jacobs that “the Republican Party in those two states made it ridiculously cost-prohibitive to get in [and] Trump only has to get 50% to get all the [state’s] delegates. We just figured we’re going to concentrate on all the other Super Tuesday states and get on the ballot in every other state that allows a primary.”

Challenging Trump: Walsh told Jewish Insider that he plans to be in Concord, New Hampshire, on Thursday to file in-person for that state’s presidential primary. The former Illinois congressman also expressed his well wishes toward Sanford after the ex-governor dropped his presidential bid. “This thing is about Trump, [and] Trump’s not fit,” Walsh added. “You only challenge Trump because Trump. Period.”

Elsewhere in 2020 news: A group of 133 foreign policy experts and former Obama administration officials have signed a letter in support of former Vice President Joe Biden’s candidacy on Tuesday. 

With allies like these: An ultra-right radio program, promoted by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, has rebranded itself using the Hawaiian term “Aloha Spirit,” after claiming it had drawn inspiration from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who is running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

TALK OF THE NATION — ADL chief: Antisemitic attacks against N.Y. Jews should be ‘national news’

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt on Tuesday bemoaned what he described as a lack of national media attention to the dramatic rise in antisemitic attacks across New York City, JI’s Jacob Kornbluh reports

Where’s the media? “The idea that you have 200 incidents [of antisemitism] here in New York City — [that] should be a national news story. It doesn’t belong in the metro section of The New York Times. It belongs on the front page,” Greenblatt told Jewish Insider during a press conference in Brooklyn. “But here’s the thing: In a world which is so polarized, so charged, and so political, everything needs to fit to a narrative. You know what? I don’t care how you vote!” 

Go national: Greenblatt stressed that a national response, irrespective of political affiliation, is required regardless of the target. “Whether you are a borough president, whether you are a school board president, or the president of the United States, all of us have a responsibility to step up and speak out when hate happens on our watch, whether or not it affects us,” he said. 

Teach the young: The ADL also announced an initiative in partnership with the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office that will double the number of schools participating in its “No Place for Hate” program, with a goal of reaching as many as 40 schools in neighborhoods with significant Jewish populations. The move comes in response to a dramatic increase in violent antisemitic incidents across Brooklyn.

Stats: On Tuesday, the FBI released its annual report on hate crime statistics, which noted that anti-Jewish bias was the source of 57% of religion-based hate crimes reported in 2018.

Read more here


⚔️ Armageddon Awaits: How will the United States come to an end? Yoni Appelbaum ponders that question in The Atlantic, as he worries about the apocalyptic rhetoric dominating politics and the fractious divide of a nation undergoing a demographic realignment. [Atlantic]

💸 Thanks, but No Thanks: Ari Emanuel’s SuperPAC, Endeavor Action, has “gone dormant” in this presidential election cycle after most of the candidates have pledged not to accept contributions from corporate PACs. Some have even returned Endeavor’s contributions even though it’s not technically a corporate action committee, Variety notes. [Variety]

🦆 What the Duck: The recent controversy over a rubber duck Instagram post from Auschwitz has sparked “a conversation about photo ethics — again,” writesThe Washington Post. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum used the moment to start a conversation online about “how visitors should engage with somber historic sites in the digital age.” [WashPost]


📺 TV Ties: Former HBO chairman Richard Plepler is in talks to sign a deal to produce original content for Apple TV+.    

🏡 New Home: Expectant parents Quentin Tarantino and Daniella Pick have reportedly rented a luxury home in north Tel Aviv ahead of the birth of their first child. 

🏀 Sports Blink: David Levy is stepping down as CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center after less than two months on the job. Oliver Weisberg, head of J Tsai Sports, will take over as interim Nets chief. 

📧 Deep Dive: The Southern Poverty Law Center has released a trove of emails from White House advisor Stephen Miller to a former Breitbart reporter, pushing stories promoting white nationalism and drawing from neo-Nazi websites.    

🤝 Connecting the Dots: Despite Trump’s claim that he doesn’t know Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, new reports in CNN and The Washington Post detail at least 10 interactions between the men, including a 2018 meeting, in which Parnas and Fruman told Trump the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was unfriendly to the president’s interests.  

✈️ Transfer Completed: Aleksei Burkov, a Russian hacker, was finally extradited from Israel to the U.S. Monday night, four years after his arrest. 

🗣️ Enemy Lines: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is being challenged for his Islington North seat by an Orthodox Jewish Brexit Party candidate, who is running to send a message “of pluralism and against antisemitism.” 

📽️ Film, Interrupted: Dozens of protesters blocked a screening in Paris of Roman Polanski’s new film “J’accuse” — about the Dreyfus Affair — over a new rape accusation against the convincted sex offender.  

🍞 Dessert: A new bakery named Motzi Bread — named for the Hebrew blessing — is slated to open its doors in Baltimore next month. 


CNN lead political anchor Wolf Blitzer interviewed Dr. Ruth Westheimer about her recent documentary, “Ask Dr. Ruth,” at the annual “Generation to Generation” event on Tuesday evening at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in N.Y.


Somali-born activist who has served in the Dutch parliament, she is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Ayaan Hirsi Ali turns 50… 

Harold Waldenberg turns 99… Israeli industrialist Gad Zeevi turns 80… Philosopher and professor at CUNY, Saul Kripke turns 79… Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Shmuel Riccardo Di Segni turns 70… Longtime NPR political editor focused on congressional races, now publisher of the independent “Political Junkie” blog and podcast, Kenneth Rudin turns 69… Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit since 1997, Judge Merrick Garland turns 67… Once the controlling stockholder of a large Israeli conglomerate, Nochi Dankner turns 65… Former editor-in-chief of British Vogue (1992-2017), Alexandra Shulman turns 62…

San Jose, California resident, Katherine (Katya) Palkin turns 51… Former Israeli government minister for the Shas party, Ariel Atias turns 49… Founder of Pailet Financial Services, a predecessor agency of what is now the Dallas office of the Marsh & McLennan, Kevin Pailet turns 48… President and CEO at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Geoffrey Freeman turns 45 (h/t Playbook)… Former member of the Knesset (2015-2019) for the Kulanu party, Meirav Ben-Ari turns 44… Investigative journalist Jeff Rossen turns 43… President of baseball operations for MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, Andrew Friedman turns 43…

Israeli rapper and record producer, generally known by his stage name “Subliminal,” Yaakov (Kobi) Shimoni turns 40…  Judoka who won three national titles and competed for the U.S. at the Athens Olympics in 2004, Charlee Minkin turns 38… PR and communications director in the office of Ronald S. Lauder, Mark Botnick turns 35… Staff attorney at the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, Jonathan Topaz turns 30 (h/t Playbook)… Former relief pitcher in the Colorado Rockies organization, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Troy Neiman turns 29… Senior director of policy and communications at Christians United For Israel, AriMorgenstern

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