Good Monday morning!
Leading off: A joint report from The New York Times and the Intercept reveals hundreds of leaked cables detailing Iran’s power games in Iraq.
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CATCHING UP — From Congress to campus with Professor Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was known as a force to be reckoned with during her three decades on Capitol Hill. Ten months after leaving Congress, Ros-Lehtinen has gone back to her roots as a teacher and is now a professor at the University of Miami. The former congresswoman, who was the first Hispanic woman in Congress and the first woman to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appropriately teaches a course titled “Congress and Foreign Policy” alongside her husband, former U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen.
Jewish Insider dispatched Ian Deitch to attend the former congresswoman’s class and catch up with Ros-Lehtinen as she looks back on her political career, her Jewish roots and what’s she working on next.
Talking over a lunch of classic Cuban cuisine, Ros-Lehtinen said comments by several vocal Democrats about Israel are overblown and not a cause for concern. “I think certain individuals have gotten a lot of attention, so it gives the false impression that support for Israel is no longer bipartisan or no longer existent and that is just so totally wrong,” she said.
On Israeli political gridlock: “What a vibrant democracy they have, my gosh! They take their election seriously,” Ros-Lehtinen said of Israel.
Why teach: Ros-Lehtinen is clearly in her element on campus. “I used to be a teacher, and that is what I always enjoyed doing,” she said. But students expecting to sit back and just listen to war stories from Capitol Hill will be disappointed. “This is not an easy class. This is a real class. It’s so easy to lapse into legislative stories and I want the students to know all about Constitutional powers and what Congress can do and can’t do,” she said.
What’s next? In addition to teaching alongside her husband, the former congresswoman plans to work on a number of projects, including establishing a Latino museum and gaining restitution for Holocaust survivors from insurance companies refusing to honor their policies.
Roots: Ros-Lehtinen, who says her ancestors were “refugees twice,” traces her lineage back to Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. Her mother, a first-generation Cuban born to Jews from Turkey, converted to Catholicism to marry her father. Ros-Lehtinen moved to the U.S. when she was a child after the Cuban revolution. Her grandfather, who helped found a synagogue on the island, stayed behind to care for her grandmother and is featured in a book about the community there. Though raised Roman Catholic and now an Episcopalian, Ros-Lehtinen says she was always “very conscious” and “very proud” of her Jewish roots.
Raising awareness: “We need to do better in Latin American countries with their perception of Israel and Jews in general,” she said. More than half a billion people around the world consume news in Spanish today. Many get their information from HispanTV, Iran’s Spanish-language mouthpiece that reaches millions of Latinos around the clock. “It looks like any other channel and it’s shocking. [Viewers] don’t even know they are watching propaganda,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
Bonus: The Financial Times’ “Lunch with the FT” column features Rahm Emanuel at Manny’s, his favorite Jewish cafeteria on the west side of Chicago, where it’s noted “it’s a long path to the matzo ball soup when you’re lunching with Rahm.”
HEARD LAST NIGHT —Israel’s U.N. envoy blasts Bernie Sanders for comments on aid
In remarks at the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) gala in New York City last night, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon blasted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for his recent comments suggesting that the U.S. should leverage aid to Israel.
Berating Bernie: “Mr. Sanders, a few months on a kibbutz in 1963 can only teach you so much,” Danon said, referring to the 2020 candidate’s repeated mentions of his brief stint in Israel. “Perhaps Mr. Sanders didn’t hear about Israel leaving Gaza in 2005. Maybe he hasn’t had the chance to visit the Kerem Shalom crossing, where hundreds of trucks pass [through] daily to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. Maybe he doesn’t know about the terror tunnels.”
Less for Israel is more for Hamas: “[Sanders] is suggesting to give less military assistance to the United States’ most important ally in the Middle East in order to give it to Hamas, a terrorist organization that celebrated the tragedy of 9/11,” Danon remarked. “Let me assure you my friends, we will never let that happen,” he concluded. “We will fight against these radical voices.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who received the Dr. Bob Shillman award for outstanding leadership, told the crowd: “I prayed at the Western Wall this May, the hurricane turned north. So I guess I am going to have to go back next May, pray again, and keep the hurricane away.”
Spotted at ZOA: National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Judge Jeanine Pirro (who was introduced by President Donald Trump via video), Mort and Rita Klein, Mark Levenson, Paul Packer, Sean Spicer, NYC Councilman Fernando Cabrera, Yaakov Hagoel, Shira Lewis, Eli Chanoch Berman, Ira Rennert, Nick Muzin, Ifat Ovadia, Siggy Flicker, Liz Lang, Justin Hayet, Laura Atkins, Ira Greenstein, Ofir Dayan, Dr. Joe Frager, Duvi Honig, Eve Stieglitz, Eytan Laor, Eitan Behar, Yoel Lefkowitz and Ezra Friedlander.
INTERVIEW — Yair Golan: Trump’s actions are emboldening Iran
Member of Knesset Yair Golan, representing the Democratic Union, discussed the latest political developments in Israel and his vision for peace in the Middle East in an interview with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh during a recent visit to New York.
Gridlock: According to Golan, the refusal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step aside, due to his legal situation, makes it impossible to solve the political instability. The former IDF deputy chief of staff predicted that it is unlikely that Blue and White’s Benny Gantz and Avigdor Lieberman will form a minority government.
On the U.S. withdrawal from Syria: Golan stressed that the U.S. disengaging from the region raises the prospects of conflict between Israel and Iran. “It sends a message to the rest of the region that they have much more freedom of action,” he stated.
On Trump’s peace plan: “I assume that Trump wants to move from the bilateral concept that led to the Oslo agreement to a multilateral regional arrangement,” Golan said. “I think it’s a valid idea, but it doesn’t replace bilateral negotiations. So the challenge for Israel is not to take the Trump plan as the only thing to play with, Israel should look realistically [at] the situation with the Palestinians and we should ask ourselves how to move forward in order to separate ourselves from the Palestinians by unilateral manners.”
On conditioning aid to Israel: Asked about recent comments by Democratic 2020 candidates about leveraging aid to Israel, the left-leaning MK said: “The conflict with the Palestinians is an internal Israeli problem. I don’t see any reason why America would coerce Israel to do something which the Israeli public is unwilling to accept right now. I don’t think that America should determine the pace of progress.”
What’s next: Netanyahu rallied his supporters on Sunday, warning that Gantz is expected to form a minority government supported by the Joint (Arab) List later this week. Gantz has until midnight on Wednesday to announce that he has managed to form a government or else the mandate returns to President Reuven Rivlin.
Chance for unity? Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman held a “good and matter-of-fact conversation” about the formation of a unity government on Sunday, according to a joint statement by Likud and Yisrael Beitenu. Rivlin urged the two major parties “to get a grip” and solve their “personal problems” to avoid a third election. Lieberman will meet with both leaders on Monday before announcing his final intentions.
Report: The Trump administration is “frustrated” with the ongoing political stalemate and “disappointed” with Netanyahu, Ynetreported on Sunday, based on conversations senior White House officials held with their Israeli counterparts. According to the report, Trump has decided to distance himself from Netanyahu because “the president doesn’t like losers.”
ON THE HILL — The latest on impeachment inquiry
The shanda may last for more than eight nights: Indicted Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman reportedly plotted with Giuliani and President Donald Trump at the 2018 White House Hanukkah Party to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. CNN reports that two were given what Parnas told friends was “a James Bond mission” to get Ukraine to target the Bidens. Trump denied knowing the two men after Parnas and Fruman were arrested in October.
New deposition: Speaking behind closed doors Friday night, David Holmes, a career State Department official, testified about a phone call he overheard between the president and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. While sitting at lunch in a Ukrainian restaurant with Sondland, the political appointee conducted a phone conversation where Trump was told “[Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelinsky loves your ass” and then asked if the Ukrainian government would “do the investigation.” Sondland then replied that Zelinsky “will do anything you tell him to.” Afterwards, Sondland told Holmes that Trump “did not give a shit about the Ukraine.”
Trump tweet disrupts testimony: Less than an hour into former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s Friday appearance before the House Intelligence Committee, Trump attacked her on Twitter. Yovanovitch was testifying about what she described as a “smear campaign” conducted against her by Giuliani on behalf of corrupt Ukrainian officials.
Rep. Dean Philips (D-MN) tells JI’s Ben Jacobs: “This might be the first time in history in which we have to consider the digital nature of intimidation, and that’s new for all of us. The 1970 book by Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, predicted our inability to keep pace with changing technology. That’s what happening right now, digital intimidation,” he said. “I think the ambassador’s response was what most of us would say in the same position. It is intimidating, especially to people who dedicated their lives to service and now have to compensate attorneys out of their pocket for having done nothing wrong whatsoever other than serve our country.”
🇮🇷 Iran Cables: Hundreds of leaked intelligence reports published in The New York Times and The Intercept paint a picture of how aggressively Iran has worked to exert its influence across Iraq, infiltrating “every aspect of Iraq’s political, economic and religious life.” [NYTimes]
🛒 Shopping Cart: Brooklyn’s Park Slope Co-op is the largest food cooperative in the country, with over 17,000 members, nearly $60 million in sales last year and even its own newspaper. How did it go from a small, 1,700-member project in the 1970s to a bustling hub for community and food today? The New Yorker’s Alexandra Schwartz takes us inside. [NewYorker]
🏝️ Jewish History: 96-year-old Stella Levi recounts her childhood years on the island of Rhodes — before being deported with the remaining Jewish community to Auschwitz in 1944 — in an interview with The New York Times. Levi’s story is now part of the “Los Corassones Avlan” exhibition in the Greenwich Village neighborhood in New York City. [NYTimes]
AROUND THE WEB
🤔 On Second Thought: Speaking at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized for his administration’s stop-and-frisk policies. “I was wrong,” Bloomberg said, “And I am sorry.”
🔗 Talk of the Town:An 18-year-old from New Jersey directed a network of neo-Nazis in Michigan and Wisconsin to lead a string of attacks on synagogues, the FBI alleged last week.
📧 Email Effect: White House press secretary Hogan Gidley defended advisor Stephen Miller amid the fallout from the publication of hundreds of his emails, stating: “It deeply concerns me as to why so many on the left consistently attack Jewish members of this Administration.”
🎙Mute Button: Denver radio host and former deputy district attorney Craig Silverman claimed he was abruptly fired mid-show for criticizing President Trump. The station, KNUS, disputes this, saying Silverman is welcome back.
✂️ Cutting Ties: The conservative group Young America’s Foundation has cut ties with frequent Fox News guest Michelle Malkin over her support for Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes.
👷 Laying the Foundation: Developer Richard LeFrak suggested in a recent speech that the land availability and ongoing population growth makes Miami an attractive place for real estate investors and developers.
🏨 Beckham and Adelson: David Beckham is taking a leading role in designing and promoting The Londoner Macao hotel, the latest in Sheldon Adelson’s Sands China Ltd. empire.
🗣️ Ongoing Feud:In a letter to The New York Times, billionaire Leon Cooperman hit back against a recent editorial from the newspaper, writing that “an explicit wealth tax is a proven dead end, and there’s nothing innovative about that.”
📉 WeWorries: WeWork is reportedly preparing to lay off thousands of employees, days after reports surfaced that the company has attracted scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission after its failed IPO.
🍋 Sour Taste: The Israeli-led insurance startup Lemonade has postponed its initial public offering.
🕵️ Principle Check: Microsoft has hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether AnyVision, an Israeli startup it funded, violates its ethics principles with its facial recognition technology.
🌐 Going Global: The Arthur Blank Family Foundation is teaming up with the international humanitarian aid agency CARE to foster international economic development and fund global savings programs.
🎵 Bad Blood: Music exec Scooter Braun’s office in Nashville was shut over the weekend after threats stemming from his ongoing feud with Taylor Swift.
💲 Redoubling: Billionaire George Soros announced on Friday that his Open Society Foundation had committed $825 million to an effort to build a global network for colleges and universities to work together — after the Central European University he founded was forced out of Hungary and relocated to Vienna.
🎓 Campus Beat:The graduate student union at the University of Toronto refused to support a drive to bring kosher food to campus for Jewish students, claiming it would violate “the will of the membership” supporting BDS.
🚫 Frat Fault: Syracuse University has suspended fraternity life following a rash of racist and antisemitic episodes.
🕍 New Digs: The Beth Am synagogue in Baltimore just celebrated a $5.5 million renovation to its 97-year-old building.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond:A slate of musicians and cultural figures, including notorious antisemite Roger Waters, philosopher Noam Chomsky and actors Rob Delaney and Mark Ruffalo have signed a letter in support of Jeremy Corbyn. Meanwhile, Tory candidate for Leeds North East Amjad Bashir claimed British Jews returned from Israel “brainwashed.” In a statement to the JC, Bashir said “I deeply regret the comments,” but added “this was borne from a personal experience but it was completely wrong.”
⚖️ Justice:Bruno Dey, a former Nazi guard at the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland, faces 5,230 counts of accessory to murder in a Hamburg trial that kicked off last week.
PIC OF THE DAY
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman and State Senator Scott Wiener, joined by activists from the Democratic Majority for Israel, speak out against the anti-Israel amendments at the California Democratic Party convention in Long Beach this weekend. The amendments were voted down.
Israeli cantor and actor, known for his Broadway performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, David “Dudu” Fisher turns 68…
Israeli theoretical physicist, who at age 27 became a professor and then later president of the Weizmann Institute, Haim Harari turns 79… Potomac, Maryland resident, Richard Gorman turns 79… Regional director of the western region of the American Committee for the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Paul Jeser turns 74… Lecturer at Boston University School of Law, Eric D. Roiter turns 71…
United States Ambassador to South Africa since six weeks ago, she is a luxury handbag designer and a member of the President’s Mar-a-Lago club, Lana J. Marks turns 66… Author and singer-songwriter who writes children’s music and books, Barry Louis Polisar turns 65… Former mayor of Dallas, Texas (2002-2007), Laura Miller turns 61… SVP and general counsel of HSP Group and ARF Financial, Robert Bruce Lapidus turns 61…
Moroccan-born, member of the Knesset since 2003 for the Shas party, Yaakov Margi turns 59… NYC-based writer, activist and performer, Shira Dicker turns 59… Congressional correspondent for The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg turns 58… Baltimore attorney who devotes her time to philanthropic and pro-Israel activities, Laurie Luskin turns 56… Real estate agent at Elliott & Pomeroy in the Catskills, Talia Fadis turns 32… Roberta Goldstein…