Daily Kickoff

Biden blasts rivals for wanting to condition aid to Israel | Leon Cooperman’s letter to Elizabeth Warren | Mnuchin visits City of David

PM Netanyahu meets with US Vice President Joe Biden

Good Friday morning and happy November!

Today in D.C., The WSJ’s Vivian Salama reports that Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, the identical twin brother of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, may be called to testify before the House. According to testimony by Alexander, Yevgeny, an NSC lawyer, witnessed the handling of President Trump’s Ukraine call transcript.

David Brooks writes about the impeachment gap inside the Beltway vs. out in a piece titled, “Impeach Trump. Then Move On. Stop distracting from the core issue, elite negligence and national decline.”

POLICY DIVIDE — Biden: Absolutely outrageous’ to condition U.S. aid to Israel

Former Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday it would be “absolutely outrageous” for the United States to place conditions on aid to Israel. 

Talking Israel in Iowa: After a Fort Dodge, Iowa, event on Thursday, the 2020 hopeful told the Wall Street Journal’s Sabrina Siddiqui that the proposal, suggested by several Democratic presidential candidates, was “a gigantic mistake.” Biden told Siddiqui that he hoped rival candidates who expressed support for leveraging aid to Israel “had misspoke or had been taken out of context.”

Looking back: In 2008, Biden told the National Jewish Democratic Council, “My support for Israel begins in my stomach, goes to my heart and ends up in my head.” He has also been a longtime critic of Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank, telling AIPAC in 2016 that “Israel’s government’s steady and systematic process of expanding settlements, legalizing outposts, seizing land, is eroding in my view the prospect of a two-state solution.”

‘Corbynization’ of the Democratic Party: Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, the senior rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, blasted the 2020 candidates on Wednesday for adopting anti-Israel sentiments and being “tolerant of voices that are opposed to Israel’s existence.” In a statement, Hirsch warned that the Democratic Party is going in the direction of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. 

Hot take: Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro pointed out Thursday that U.S. military aid to Israel “is part of a broader security partnership in which the US has access to Israeli intel, joint training, and technology. Benefits flow both ways.” 

PEN PALS — Leon Cooperman’s blistering letter to Elizabeth Warren

Hedge fund billionaire Leon Cooperman sent a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) this week excoriating her tax proposals and economic policies. 

Snail mail: According to CNBC, which reviewed a copy of the letter, Cooperman wrote that Warren spoke to him “as if a parent chiding an ungrateful child,” and that she “demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of who I am, what I stand for, and why I believe so many of your economic policy initiatives are misguided.” The Omega Advisors CEO also criticized the senator’s “soak-the-rich positions on taxes.”

Tweet tiff: Cooperman — ignoring the advice of his allies who suggested the move could boost Warren’s popularity — sent the five-page letter to Warren after a tweet last week in which the 2020 presidential hopeful called on the billionaire to “pitch in a bit more so everyone else has a chance at the American dream, too.”

Warren’s tweet came after Cooperman told Politico last week: “What is wrong with billionaires? You can become a billionaire by developing products and services that people will pay for. I believe in a progressive income tax and the rich paying more. But this is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” Cooperman also predicted a 25 percent market drop if Warren becomes president.

Market watch: Jon Jacobson, the founder of Highfields Capital Management and a prominent Boston-based philanthropist, was asked about Warren and the 2020 Democratic field at a conference in Baltimore two weeks ago: “I do think that whoever the Democratic nominee will be is going to get elected, and so if it’s [Warren] — I just can’t imagine that that’s going to be good for the markets.”

DAYLIGHT — Netanyahu bemoans lack of response to Iranian aggression

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to break with President Donald Trump on Iran on Thursday. 

Details: In a speech at a graduation ceremony for IDF officers, the Israeli leader suggested that “Iran’s threshold of daring in the region is rising and it grows even more in the absence of a response.” Netanyahu vowed that Israel is “prepared for the threats and will not hesitate to strike harshly at anyone who tries to attack us.”

The big picture: Though Netanyahu did not mention Trump by name, his remarks were seen as the first public rebuke of the administration’s reluctance to respond to Iranian aggression. 

Former Ambassador Dennis Ross tells Jewish Insider that Netanyahu is “trying to deter Iran, understanding that there is no U.S. umbrella now.” The Los Angeles Times posited Thursday that “The Trump-Netanyahu bromance appears over.”

2020 echo: Biden also lashed out at Trump over Iran on Thursday, saying that the president “pulled us out of the successful Iran nuclear deal, promising he’d get a better one. He hasn’t. And now, Iran has taken its nuclear program out of the deep-freeze and ramped up its aggressive acts across the region — and Trump has no strategy to deal with these predictable responses.” 

Report: Israeli Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reported on Thursday that Netanyahu recently told cabinet ministers that he believes Trump won’t take any military action against Iranian targets in the coming year before the U.S. presidential election. 

Losing trust: Danielle Pletka, senior vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), tells JI that Netanyahu is “right to recognize that Israel’s defense is up to Israel alone.” She added that every “single nation or group in the Middle East” is reeling from Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds. “Donald Trump has proven repeatedly that he is unwilling to act.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer acknowledged that the uncertainty over Trump’s Middle East policy worries Israel and emboldens Iran, but argued that there’s nothing new in Netanyahu’s “latest war of words.” The “rhetorical threats and counter-threats have been part of Netanyahu’s playbook for more than a decade,” Kurtzer said. 

New sanctions, old waivers: Secretary Pompeo announced on Thursday the imposition of new sanctions on Iran’s construction sector, while extending waivers on foreign companies working with Iran’s civilian nuclear program. “This decision will help preserve oversight of Iran’s civil nuclear program, reduce proliferation risks, constrain Iran’s ability to shorten its ‘breakout time’ to a nuclear weapon, and prevent the regime from reconstituting sites for proliferation-sensitive purposes,” Morgan Ortagus, the State Department’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. 

Aid freeze: The Trump administration is withholding $105 million in security aid for Lebanon, a U.S. official told Reuters. Israel had reportedly asked the U.S. to condition aid to Lebanon on action against Hezbollah’s precision missiles.

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Michael Oren discusses Wilson, Brandeis and the origins of the Balfour Declaration

Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren discussed the lesser-known story of the U.S. role in the Balfour Declaration in a new podcast from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s David Makovsky.

Key relationship: The relationship between President Woodrow Wilson and Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis was key in persuading the U.S. to throw its support behind Lord Arthur Balfour’s declaration when he visited the U.S. in 1917, explains Oren, a historian, author and former Knesset member.

Leverage: “Balfour was convinced that if he can get Wilson to sign on to this idea it will persuade the British government, because they so need America in the [First World] War and he’s not getting anywhere with Wilson’s advisors,” Oren said. “He needs to actually get into the Oval Office, he’s not getting there. He turns to Brandeis… Brandeis says to Balfour, ‘Don’t worry, I got it.’ He goes into the Oval Office, has maybe a half-an-hour meeting and walks out with Wilson’s approval of what would later become the Balfour Declaration. A pivotal moment in Middle Eastern history, Jewish history, and Israel history certainly, that short meeting between Brandeis and Wilson.”

Read more here


🔍 Deep Dive: Tablet’s Liel Leibovitz offers up a profile of political veteran Michael Doran, noting his often unpopular but prescient foreign policy positions and the four years the Catholic pundit spent living in Israel in his youth. “If Doran were a Wall Street stock picker, he’d be a billionaire,” reads the headline. [Tablet]

🛫 Fake Aliyah: The Israeli government has been selling aliyah to prospective Israelis with glossy photos and quotes from new immigrants who, as it turns out, don’t exist. The Times of Israel’s Judah Ari Gross found that the Ministry of Absorption and Immigration had been using stock photos, fake names and fabricated quotes promoting aliyah — which it removed from social media once exposed. [ToI]

⚰️ Graveyard Hunt: A new Israeli app is using drones and image processing to help people locate the graves of their loved ones in large cemeteries. The app, called Gravez, is currently only available in Israel, but its developers have plans to expand globally, Reuters reports. The technology also allows users to view an image of a gravestone of a loved one who they are unable to visit. [Reuters] 


🚬 High in the Sky: Former WeWork CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann has been accused of pregnancy discrimination by his former chief of staff. Medina Bardhi said she was demoted twice after she said she could not travel while pregnant on charter flights with Neumann while he smoked marijuana on board. 

🇮🇹 Hate Debate: Rome’s Jewish community and the Vatican both criticized right-wing parties in Italy for refusing to back the creation of a committee to investigate racism and antisemitism.

🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Rabbi Jonathan Romain, the former chair of the Movement for Reform Judaism, took the extraordinary step of urging his congregation to vote against the UK’s Labour Party in the upcoming election. 

🏀 Sports Blink: Larry Tanenbaum, co-owner of the Toronto Raptors, says the claim that BDS has stopped him bringing his team to Israel after winning the NBA championship is false. 

💊 Drug Dispute: The state of Virginia filed a lawsuit Thursday against Teva for its role in the opioid crisis, despite nationwide efforts to settle such cases. 

✡️ Wires Crossed: A proposal for a New Jersey town to build the biggest eruv in North America is unpopular with everyone — including the local Orthodox Jewish population. 

🏫 Florida Firing: The Palm Beach County School Board voted on Wednesday to fire the former principal of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton over controversial comments about the Holocaust.

📅 Court Calendar: The judge in the trial of Tree of Life synagogue shooter Robert Bowers has yet to set a trial date, but has assured the local Dor Hadash congregation that it will not conflict with the Jewish High Holidays.  

📈 Defying Convention? According to market analysts, the Bank of Israel is the likeliest contender to next wade into unconventional monetary policy, Bloomberg reports. 

📚 Parting Gift: Philip Roth quietly left $2 million from his estate to the public library in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey. 

✉️ Auction Block: A letter from Sigmund Freud in 1938, written weeks after he fled Nazi rule, is up for auction in Jerusalem next month.  

🏨 Room With a View: The Fattal hotel chain has unveiled plans for a new hotel in Jerusalem near the Great Synagogue, its sixth in the city. 

🍞 Take a Bite: Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, owners of Honey & Co., an Israeli eatery in London, shared a recipe with Financial Times readers for a signature bread from the recently shut legendary Orna & Ella in Tel Aviv.


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited the City of David during his trip to Israel earlier this week.


Refugee from Iran in 1979, now the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust at the U.S. Department of Justice, Makan Delrahim turns 50 on Saturday…

FRIDAY: Rabbi of Baltimore’s 1,300-member Beth Tfiloh Congregation, Mitchell Wohlberg turns 75… Country singer, his failed bid for governor of Texas in 2006 won him 13% of the votes in a six-way race, Richard Samet “Kinky” Friedman turns 75… Founder of Lotus and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mitch Kapor turns 69… Senior Rabbi at Beit T’Shuvah, Mark Borovitz turns 68… Management analyst at the U.S. Department of Energy, Les Novitsky turns 62… CEO of Safariland, a manufacturer of body armor and related equipment, Warren B. Kanders turns 62… Managing Director of AIPAC, Elliot Brandt turns 51… Actress, born in Odessa, she is best known for her roles on All My Children, Days of Our Lives and General Hospital, Alla Korot turns 49…

Principal at Calabasas, California-based CRC-Commercial Realty Consultants, Brian Weisberg turns 47… Associate in the DC office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Clare F. Steinberg turns 31… AIPAC’s Director of Westchester County (NY), Annie Peck Watman turns 30… Reporter and producer for CNN’s political unit, Marshall Cohen turns 28… Law student at Chicago-Kent College of Law, Mitchell Caminer turns 26… Former pitcher in the KC Royals organization, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and became an Israeli citizen in 2018 so that he can play for Israel in the 2020 Olympics, Gabe Cramer turns 25…

SATURDAY: Former NASA astronaut, currently a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, Jeffrey A. Hoffman turns 75… Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Laurence Douglas “Larry” Fink turns 67… Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in the 2018 Maryland gubernatorial election and Jewish communal leader, Susan Wolf Turnbull turns 67… Director of Internet and media at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Alan D. Abbey turns 65… Head of School at Weizmann Day School in Los Angeles, Lisa Feldman turns 61… Financial planner at Grant Arthur & Associates Wealth Services, Grant Arthur Gochin turns 56… Marc Solomon turns 55… Managing director of government affairs at Microsoft Azure, John Sampson turns 53…

Actor, best known for playing Ross Geller in the sitcom “Friends” (1994-2004), David Schwimmer turns 53… Professor of economics at MIT, she won a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship in 2018, Amy Finkelstein turns 46… Founder and CEO of Spring Hills Senior Communities, Alexander C. Markowits turns 46… Speechwriter for the Bernie Sanders campaign, David Sirota turns 44… Washington Post Outlook editor, Adam B. Kushner turns 39… Marc Rosen turns 38… Government relations manager at the Israel Policy Forum, Aaron Weinberg turns 29… Two-time Emmy award-winning video producer, now working as a home page editor for HuffPost, Celeste B. Lavin turns 29…

SUNDAY: Chancellor emeritus of The Jewish Theological Seminary, Ismar Schorsch, Ph.D. turns 84… Major League Baseball pitcher (1965-1979) with more career victories (174) than any other Jewish pitcher (Koufax included), Ken Holtzman turns 74… Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine, professor at Yale University, James Rothman turns 69… Rabbi emeritus at Temple Anshe Sholom in Olympia Fields, Illinois, Paul Caplan turns 67… Actress, best known for the long-running television sitcom Roseanne (1988-1997), Roseanne Barr turns 67… Comedian, talk show host, Dennis Miller turns 66… Non-fiction manuscript editor and lecturer, Elliot Jager, Ph.D. turns 65…

Regional Director of Development in West Palm Beach for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jeanne Epstein turns 55… Consultant for startups, he was previously SVP and counsel at Zurich Financial Services and co-chair of the board of the Yeshiva University Museum, Edward Stelzer turns 51… VP for federal affairs at CVS Health, she was the White House Director of Legislative Affairs in the last year of the Obama administration, Amy Rosenbaum turns 48… Founder of AKM Consulting, Amie Kershner turns 41… Agent at Creative Artists Agency, Rachel Elizabeth Adler turns 36… Senior applied data scientist at Civis Analytics, Ben Kirshner turns 27… Stu Rosenberg

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