Daily Kickoff

Rockets from Gaza following Israel’s assassination of Islamic Jihad leader


Good Tuesday morning!

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s new bookWith All Due Respect is out today, more on that below…

In Hollywood, it’s a big day for Bob Iger as he launches Disney+, which CNN calls “the biggest risk of his career.” 

In New York City, President Donald Trump is headlining a fundraiser for the America First Action SuperPAC at the InterContinental New York Barclay. The event is expected to attract a number of Jewish supporters. 

This morning in Teaneck, N.J., NORPAC hosts a breakfast fundraiser for Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). Back in D.C., Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) will discuss Syria, Yemen and broader U.S. Mideast policy at the Hudson Institute.

Tonight in New York, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer will interview Dr. Ruth Westheimer at the annual “Generation to Generation” event at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

And in Amherst, Massachusetts, pro-Israel and anti-Israel activists will converge on the University of Massachusetts’ flagship campus for an event about the BDS movement featuring a number of controversial speakers, including Linda Sarsour, Cornel West, and — via Skype — Omar Barghouti. A peace walk, organized by Jewish students and community members, will be held concurrent to the event.

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FLARE UP — Israel besieged by rockets after IDF’s targeted killing of PIJ leader

Israel assassinated a top Islamic Jihad official, Baha Abu Al-Atta, in the Gaza Strip overnight, setting off extensive retaliatory rocket fire into Israel from the strip, including missiles aimed at Tel Aviv and Modiin. 

Critical mission: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he authorized the operation in response to recent rocket, drone and sniper attacks against Israel planned by Al-Atta, as well as attempted infiltrations. Al-Atta’s wife was also killed in the targeted strike.

Rocket fire: Within hours, the targeted killing was followed by dozens of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, with air raid sirens sounding as far north as Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion and as far east as Modiin. A rocket hit a highway outside Gan Yavne, as well as a home in Netivot. The IDF said Tuesday that it expects “several days of battle,” and it is prepared for attacks targeting the south and center of the country. The IDF struck targets in Gaza Tuesday morning after the rocket fire began.

War prep: The security cabinet convened on Tuesday morning — the first day on the job for incoming Defense Minister Naftali Bennett — to discuss the escalation and prepare for the coming days. School was canceled from Tel Aviv southward and workplaces were closed in preparation for the expected intense rocket fire, which also disrupted many train lines. “Israel is not interested in escalation, but we will do everything required to protect ourselves,” Netanyahu said in an address to the nation. “This could take time. What is needed is stamina and cool-headedness.”

Second front: A mysterious explosion was reported near the Lebanese embassy in Damascus overnight, killing two and wounding six others. Islamic Jihad sources said the explosion also targeted a top official in the terror organization and killed his son.

Word from Ramallah: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas boasted in a speech marking the 15th anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death that he “slapped” the Trump administration “in the face” by outright rejecting the planned peace plan. “We will not go back on our rights,” Abbas vowed. “It is not a matter of stubbornness or rejection for the sake of rejection.” 

Coalition conundrum continues: Israel’s Channel 12 reported on Monday that Blue and White and Likud are close to clinching a rotation deal in a unity government headed by Netanyahu for the first and final year of its term, while Gantz would serve as acting prime minister in the wake of a trial — and an additional two years as head of the government. 

TOP TALKER — Bernie Sanders pens op-ed on Israel

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) defended his criticism of Israel and alliance with progressive members of Congress in an op-ed published in Jewish Currents yesterday. 

“My pride and admiration for Israel lives alongside my support for Palestinian freedom and independence. I reject the notion that there is any contradiction there,” the 2020 hopeful wrote. “It is true that some criticism of Israel can cross the line into antisemitism, especially when it denies the right of self-determination to Jews, or when it plays into conspiracy theories about outsized Jewish power.”

Bernie’s linkage: In the lengthy piece, Sanders suggests that “the struggle against antisemitism is also the struggle for Palestinian freedom,” and pledged to immediately appoint a special envoy on antisemitism to prioritize the fight against hate and white nationalism. 

Reaction: The American Jewish Committee thanked Sanders “for making it clear that anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism.”

Abe Foxman, director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, criticized Sanders for comparing the threat of antisemitism to the Palestinian struggle for freedom. The Jewish people “deal with a struggle against a hate virus which has for centuries plagued, discriminated and caused the death of millions of the Jewish people, while the struggle for Palestinian freedom is akin to the struggle of the Jewish people attaining a homeland for the Jewish people,” Foxman noted. 

Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, tells JI that Sanders is just seeking to satisfy his base. “I do not know many American Jews who are supporting Bernie Sanders,” Halber said, and he doesn’t know any who agree with the senator on conditioning U.S. aid to Israel on its Gaza policy. 

Batya Ungar-Sargon, the opinion editor at the Forward, who has been critical of Democratic candidates refusing to call out antisemitism on the left, tweeted that it was “great to see” Sanders “laying out an approach” to fighting antisemitism. But she also noted that the Vermont senator focused more on justifying criticism of Israel than drawing up a plan to combat antisemitism. “This essay won’t do much to allay Jewish fears about Senator Sanders.”

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Biden offers strident criticism of the Saudi regime

Former Vice President Joe Biden said during a live CNN town hall in Iowa last night that “there is very little social redeeming value” in the current Saudi government.

Repercussions: Biden chastised the Saudis for violating international law and the human rights of their citizens, and said there should be consequences to the U.S.-Saudi relationship after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

International isolation: The 2020 frontrunner also said that Trump’s decision to leave the 2015 Iran deal has left the United States — not Iran — as “the isolated country.” He argued that the decision made it more difficult for the U.S. to rally allies against Iran in the wake of provocations like the September drone attack against Saudi oil fields.

Read more here.

Welcoming Bloomberg: Jack Rosen, a longtime donor to Democratic candidates and a Biden supporter, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that Michael Bloomberg’s possible entry into the race “adds a voice to the centrists” in the Democratic Party. “The voice of the left has gotten most of the media attention and it has drowned out the voice of the center, and it scared some of those in the center.” Rosen predicts that “Biden would be helped” by Bloomberg’s candidacy “because if the message of capitalism vs. socialism, centrist vs. the far left gets defined well, I think Biden wins much easier.”

Open door: Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is considering a late entry into the presidential race, The New York Timesreported on Monday. According to the report, after seeing the current candidates fail to gain momentum, Patrick has sensed an opening for a candidate who can unite both liberal and moderate Democrats. 

Running for the right: Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) suggested in an interview with JNS that he would be more pro-Israel than Trump by pushing for “a one-state solution from Jordan to the Mediterranean.” 


🎖️ Power Games: Foreign Policy’s Mark Perry posits that Defense Secretary Mark Esper might be edging out Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the most influential figure inside the Trump administration — though Esper remains unerringly deferential to Pompeo. [ForeignPolicy

🚍 LD on the Trail: Writing in The New Yorker, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” creator Larry David ridicules people who devote their worries to first-world problems, with a satirical fictional campaign trail diary. [NewYorker]

👠 Book Shelf: Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N, Nikki Haley details her battles with former Trump officials over the Jerusalem embassy move and the Iran deal withdrawal in her new book out today, titled With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace. In an interview with McClatchy, Haley noted that many in the Jewish community “go out of their way” to thank her for her defense of Israel at Turtle Bay, but “I feel bad for that, because all I did was tell the truth.” [NPRMcClatchy]

✍️ Mourning Show: Author Michael Chabon reflects on losing his father, and their shared love for “Star Trek,” as he now serves as the showrunner for the upcoming CBS webseries “Star Trek: Picard.” Chabon writes that “in the days and months that followed [his death], I tried to find ways to mourn my father. I said Kaddish. I talked about him to my own children. I posted boyhood photos of him to Instagram. But mostly I wrote episodes of ‘Star Trek: Picard.’” [NewYorker]


🇮🇱 💵 Bundler for Israel: Billionaire Haim Saban helped raise $29 million for the IDF during the annual FIDF dinner last week in Los Angeles — his first time not chairing the event. “I thought it’s time to pass the baton, so we’re passing the baton,” Saban told Bloomberg. “Nobody asked me to. Nobody pushed me to.”  

🛒 Shalom Dot Com: Amazon launched its Hebrew-language website on Monday, including free international shipping to Israel for eligible orders over $49. 

📞 Calling for a CEO: WeWork has begun its search for a new CEO to replace co-founder Adam Neumann, and is reportedly looking at unconventional T-Mobile chief executive John Legere. 

🏗️ Bankrolling Brooklyn: Bank Leumi has provided $72 million in capital for a new condo and retail property in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 

🚘 Driving Business: Elon Musk’s Tesla appears to have its eye on the Israeli market, and is seeking to hire a country manager based in Tel Aviv.    

💰 Masking Money: The Financial Times has revealed that Syria’s Bashar Assad and his family are funneling money out of Syria and into real estate in Moscow, shielding it from Western sanctions. 

🚫 On The Hill: Members of Congress — led by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) — are urging President Donald Trump to rescind the White House invitation for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of Wednesday’s planned meeting. 

📺 Seen on TV: Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) has released a new video explaining why she supports impeaching the president — featuring a Hebrew Bible inscribed with her name.

🥚 Under Attack: The NYPD is investigating a series of egg-throwing attacks on Jewish targets in Borough Park as potential hate crimes. Police are also investigating a swastika and antisemitic graffiti found in a subway station on the Upper West Side. Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the state police hate crimes unit to assist the NYPD in the investigation. 

👨‍💼Risk Taker: The New York Post’s Sohrab Ahmari offers a closer look at the life of pundit Norman Podhoretz, who, according to his son John, “wasn’t built for happiness.”

⚽ Shining Light: The Chelsea Football Club and the Royal Air Force announced a new joint project, Hidden Heroes, to publicize untold stories of Jewish veterans who served as pilots during WWII. The project is backed financially by Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea Foundation. 

🖥️ Screen Squabble: The Polish government has rebuked Netflix following the release of its new miniseries on alleged Nazi guard John Demjanjuk. Polish officials raised concerns over a map in the show showing death camps within the borders of modern Poland. 

Quote of the day — “One of the 200 Jewish-American soldiers who was saved that fateful day is Staff Sergeant Lester Tanner. Lester is now 96 years old and he joins us here. Boy, you guys are looking very good. Ninety-six. Lester — you’re really 96, Lester? I don’t believe it. You’re looking good.” — President Donald Trump acknowledging Staff Sergeant Lester Tanner, one of the Jewish POWs saved by Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds during WWII, during a wreath-laying ceremony ahead of New York’s Veterans Day Parade.


Sandy Cardin, CEO of Our Common Destiny, delivers a presentation about the new crowdsourcing-based initiative at the FedLab gathering in D.C.


Sportscaster for NBC, Al Michaels turns 75…

Professor of history at Columbia University, Carol Gluck turns 78… Author and senior fellow at USC’s Annenberg School, Morley Winograd turns 77… Board member of the New York State Thruway Authority and former state senator, he is a descendant of the late Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shmuel Salant, Stephen M. Saland turns 76… Attorney in NYC, Bernard Wachsman turns 66… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2006, Linda Rosenthal turns 62…

Author of young-adult fiction and winner of the National Book Award for “Challenger Deep,” Neal Shusterman turns 57… Author, journalist and former political advisor to Al Gore and Bill Clinton, Naomi Wolf turns 57… Harvard professor, he won the Nobel Prize in Economics last month, Michael Kremer turns 55… Mayor of Oakland, California, Elizabeth Beckman “Libby” Schaaf turns 54… President of private equity firm The Cranemere Group, he was previously director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, Jeffrey Zients turns 53…

British journalist and political correspondent for BBC News, Joanne “Jo” Coburn turns 52… SVP and general manager of MLB’s Minnesota Twins, Thad Levine turns 48… Former member of the Knesset (2006-2019) for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Robert Ilatov turns 48… Israeli fashion model and actress, Nina Brosh turns 44… Actress Jordana Ariel Spiro turns 42… Political scientist Matthew D. Berkman, Ph.D. turns 35… New Jersey-based primary care physician and internet celebrity known as Doctor Mike, Mikhail Varshavski, DO turns 30… VP of partnerships at energy and financial technology firm Sealed, Dave Weinberg

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