Good Monday morning!
World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder is pledging $25 million to launch a new organization devoted to rooting out antisemitism in American politics.
Tonight in New York, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will keynote the annual Jewish Labor Committee dinner.
At the New York Hilton, Andrew Ross Sorkin headlines the UJA’s annual Wall Street gala dinner, aka the most crowded smorgasbord.
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon is leading a delegation of ambassadors from Guatemala, Paraguay, Poland, Ethiopia, Romania, Ukraine, Estonia and the Czech Republic on a weeklong trip to Poland and Israel.
In Washington, the Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council meeting kicks off today. Speakers include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House advisor Jared Kushner, and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
In Atlanta, more than 1,000 campus professionals and lay leaders have gathered for the annual Hillel International General Assembly, which started yesterday.
Today and tomorrow, the lay leadership of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee will meet to vote on the organization’s next board president, the first time in the JDC’s 105-year history that multiple candidates are vying for the top board position.
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DRIVING THE CONVO — Trump makes waves with speech at IAC conference
President Donald Trump drew a mixed response from the Jewish community after his address to the Israeli-American Council’s annual conference on Saturday night, JI’s Jacob Kornbluh reports from Hollywood, Florida:
Best friend? The Israeli-American Council promoted the keynote as the president’s “first-ever address to the conference of a non-political Jewish organization.” But from the outset, Trump struck a partisan tone, greeted by several rounds of “four more years” chants. Touting his administration’s accomplishments on issues that matter to Israel, Trump bemoaned the American Jewish community’s continued support for the Democratic party despite what he described as the hostile treatment of the Obama administration.
Ultimate deal watch: Despite earlier rumors, Trump didn’t hint at U.S. support for Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley. The president reiterated comments he made on the eve of his inauguration, pointing to his son-in-law Jared Kushner in the audience: “I used to hear the toughest of all deals is peace with Israel and the Palestinians. They say that’s the toughest of all deals. But if Jared Kushner can’t do it, it can’t be done.”
Inaccuracies: After expounding on how he decided to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Trump noted that despite the warnings of violent protests, only “20 people were violent in the front row” along the border fence with Gaza. As many as 58 people were killed and more than 2,700 were injured in violent protests and demonstrations around the timing of the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018.
Controversial statements: “A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers. Not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me, you have no choice,” Trump said. “You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax… Even if you don’t like me, some of you don’t — some of you I don’t like at all, actually — and you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes, if they get it.”
Doubling down: “You have people that are Jewish people, that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough,” he said. Trump made similar comments earlier this year about Jewish Democrats being “disloyal” to Israel.
Reaction: The Brookings Institution’s Tamara Cofman Wittes pointed out that this speech “continues a pattern of Trump instrumentalizing Jews, and U.S.-Israel relations, on behalf of his own political interests.” The Jewish Democratic Council of America claimed the president was invoking antisemitic tropes. ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt noted that Trump’s comments “could empower those who traffic in bigotry.”
Norm Coleman, national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, pushed back against the criticism, calling it “partisan dribble.” In an email to JI, Coleman emphasized, “Concern for Israel’s security doesn’t reflect any dual loyalty. The president is on point when he says too many American Jews don’t value Israel’s security. J Street and others who supported the Iran nuclear deal are good examples of that. Donald Trump’s actions demonstrate that he is the most pro-Israel president ever. That’s a far cry from antisemitism.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center tells JI that he “wouldn’t have said” that Democrats are not supporters of Israel, since “a majority of Jews in the Democratic Party overwhelmingly support the state of Israel.” But Hier added that overall “it was a positive address. He showed the commitment of an American president to the state of Israel, unequivocally.”
The American Jewish Committeeimplored Trump to “stay off that mine-infested road” of “money references that feed age-old and ugly stereotypes.” One Jewish leader who attended the conference told JI: “If this is antisemitic, I hope every future president of the U.S. is as antisemitic as Trump is.” Several attendees defended the president by saying he was addressing the donors who sat in the front row, which included Sheldon and Miriam Adelson and Ike Perlmutter.
The talk and the walk: David Brog, executive director of the Maccabee Task Force, tells JI that the president’s speech should be looked at as “classic Trump” stump rhetoric. “I think those who love him loved the speech, and those who don’t like him or his style didn’t like the speech,” he said in an interview. “But I think it’s hard to discount his accomplishments vis-à-vis Israel, and that’s why I think that — although it was a bipartisan crowd — they largely applauded him in the speech.”
Of note: Trump did not mention Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name during his 45-minute address.
Selfie hotspot: Many attendees at the conference made it a priority to snap a photo of a Trump/Netanyahu-decorated Lamborghini, parked outside the Diplomat Beach Resort over the weekend. Owner Joe Zevuloni explained that his goal is to express support to Trump and Netanyahu.
Split crowd: Though there were some overtly partisan moments during the main plenary sessions — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) drew some boos when she defended her party’s record on Israel, while Trump was interrupted by campaign rally chants ― comments on a message board on the second floor of the convention center showed equal support and opposition to Trump’s re-election.
Unvaried lineup: The selection of speakers this year marked a sharp shift from last year’s gathering. While the 2018 conference featured both Vice President Mike Pence and the two top Democratic congressional leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the only Democrat on stage this weekend was Wasserman Schultz.
Across the aisle: Wasserman Schultz, who spoke at the closing plenary session on Sunday, called attempts to politicize the issue “harmful” for Israel. “It’s very concerning when Israel is being used as a political football,” she said. “Support for Israel in this country cannot become a contest.” The lawmaker maintained that there “has not been an erosion” of support for Israel in the Democratic party.
PENDING OPPORTUNITIES — Honduras pushing trilateral alliance with Israel and U.S.
Honduras is working to forge a strategic alliance with Israel, the U.S. and key Latin American allies, Honduran President Juan Jose Orlando Hernández said in an interview with Ian Deitch for Jewish Insider on Saturday.
Details: Hernández envisions a coalition in which like-minded Latin American countries — including Guatemala, which opened its embassy in Jerusalem in 2018 — enjoy strong relationships with Israel and the U.S., cooperating closely on economic, security and cultural issues. He believes Brazil, Colombia, Panama and others would also join the bloc.
Embassy relocation: Progress in deepening relations, which includes moving the Honduran embassy to Jerusalem, has stalled due to the political deadlock in Israel, where the prospect of a third election within a year looms on the horizon. Honduras opened its diplomatic mission in Jerusalem in September 2019. Hernández said that as part of the reciprocal process, Israel needs to open an office with similar status in Tegucigalpa before the embassies can be established.
Pushback: Hernández tells JI he is committed to having an embassy in Jerusalem despite domestic pressure against such a move. Honduras is home to 150,000-200,000 individuals of Arab descent, a majority of them Palestinian. In 2011, Honduras officially recognized the state of Palestine. He said some Palestinian officials visited the community and that following their mission, advertisements appeared in Honduras media against the embassy move. “We continue… because we believe it’s the best thing to do,” Hernández said.
Bonus — presidential shoutout: Hernández referenced the exclusive interview he gave to Jewish Insider during his speech at the IAC conference on Sunday. Watch the video here.
LOOKING FORWARD — CBS visits planned Palestinian city in the West Bank
On CBS’s “60 Minutes” program Sunday night, Bill Whitaker showcased his recent visit to Rawabi, the first planned Palestinian city, and spoke to Palestinian-American entrepreneur Bashar Masri, who began building Rawabi in 2010 and has overseen its growth and expansion.
In addition to Masri’s company’s investment of $150 million in the project, Rawabi received $1 billion from Qatar. The West Bank complex has a school, upscale stores, outdoor cafes, and even an extreme sports course. Masri is currently losing $35 million per year on Rawabi, but estimates he’ll break even in just a few years.
On making the investment: “Inhabiting this area is emphasizing that we’re here and we’re here to stay for the long term… We have a nation in the making,” Masri said. “And I saw Rawabi as a big step in building that nation. Palestinians have been yearning for their own country since the state of Israel was founded in 1948. The conflicting claims on this land have triggered a seemingly endless cycle of violence and recrimination… If we can build a city — a futuristic city, a secular city, a democratic city — then we can build a state.”
“60 Minutes” also spoke to Eyal Waldman, a former Israeli combat officer and CEO of tech company Mellanox, which employs nearly 100 Palestinians in the West Bank and has a branch office in Rawabi. Waldman told CBS about the skepticism he faced from both Israeli and Palestinian employees when opening Mellanox’s Rawabi office: “I think both sides were skeptical. Both sides have extreme people. They don’t like what we’re doing. But I think it’s time to do peace. It’s enough killing each other for 70 years.”
|💑 Love Wins:In The New York Times, Keren Blankfeld features the story of David Wisnia and Helen Spitzer, lovers who met in Auschwitz, were separated during the Holocaust and reunited 72 years later. In an interview with the Times, Wisnia expressed his concerns that as the last survivors are dying, the Holocaust is fading from public memory and antisemitism is on the rise. [NYTimes]|
💲 Money Buys Time: The Washington Post details how Mike Bloomberg is running his presidential campaign, pouring in unlimited funds to hire staff in all states and pre-book TV commercials with the goal of winning as many delegates as possible over two weeks starting on Super Tuesday. [WashPost]
🔍 Behind the Scenes: The New Yorker’s Robin Wright looks closely at Saturday’s prisoner swap deal with Iran, which led to the release of Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang. Trump took credit for the deal, but others claim that not only did the White House “usurp the narrative,” but it placed diplomatic roadblocks in its way. [NewYorker]
AROUND THE WEB
👨⚖️ Profile:Yahoo Newsprofiles Marc Mukasey, the low-key Trump lawyer who describes himself as an “emergency room doctor” for clients who find themselves on trial.
🎤 Live from D.C., it’s Saturday Night: Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in remarks at the Gridiron Club winter dinner in D.C. on Saturday, “I’m Jewish, so like Elizabeth Warren, I’m a member of the tribe.” He also took a swing at Mike Bloomberg, joking: “It’s insane, it’s crazy to think that America is looking for a short, Jewish president. Really? Because if they were, I’d be running.”
👎 On the Trail: Former Vice President Joe Biden called it “bizarre” for Sen. Bernie Sanders to propose leveraging U.S. military aid to Israel during a campaign stop in northeastern Iowa on Saturday. Biden also called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “counterproductive” and “extreme right” leader.
🗣️ Conflicting Accounts: In a rare dispute, Netanyahu insists that he discussed the issue of Jordan Valley annexation with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week, while the State Department denied it.
🇪🇺 Global Effects: Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn is reportedly pushing for all member states of the European Union to recognize Palestine in response to Pompeo’s recent reversal of the U.S. position on settlements.
⚠️ Iran Watch: France, Britain and Germany are warning Iran that they will trigger a dispute mechanism to snap back economic sanctions if Tehran continues to violate the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. On Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented to parliament his “budget of resistance” against crippling U.S. sanctions.
🎄 Holiday Greetings: Author Mark Oppenheimer wrote in The Wall Street Journal that, despite being Jewish, he hopes people continue to wish him a robust “Merry Christmas.”
📺 On-screen Romance:The Hollywood Reporterprofiles Jewish couple Tippi and Neal Dobrofsky, who together have written 30 Christmas movies for Netflix and Hallmark.
✍️ Parting Ways: The Bernie Sanders campaign has fired a newly hired staffer after the Washington Free Beacon revealed a series of past tweets that contained antisemitic and homophobic slurs.
🗳️ Across the Pond: The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which placed Jeremy Corbyn at the top of their annual list of antisemites, is warning that the Labour leader would turn Britain into a “pariah state” if he wins this week’s election.
🔊 Rally: A crowd of around 3,200 showed up for the “Together Against Antisemitism” rally in London’s Parliament Square on Sunday. Organized by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the solidarity march came days before the U.K. general election.
🎩 Hero’s Welcome: Abdallah Chatla, a Lebanese-born Swiss businessman, was welcomed in Israel by President Reuven Rivlin, who lauded him for his decision to purchase Hitler artifacts at a recent controversial auction and donate them to Yad Vashem.
🎣 Peckish Pelicans: Israeli fish farmers are thinking outside the box when it comes to detering migratory pelicans from raiding their pools: providing the hungry birds with a free lunch.
🏈 Sports Blink: New England Patriots’ Julian Edelman announced over the weekend that his “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign this year will “benefit the Israel Baseball Association. They do so much for the Israeli community, bringing together people of all ages through the love of the game.”
👩 Transition: Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Elan Carr announced on Friday that Ellie Cohanim, a former journalist and activist, has been tapped to serve as his deputy.
🕯️ Remembering: Piero Terracina, one of the last survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, passed away in Rome at the age of 91.
GIF OF THE DAY
Gal Gadot is back as Wonder Woman in the first trailer for “Wonder Woman 1984,” the follow-up to the 2017 blockbuster. The new film, which also stars Chris Pine, is set for release in June 2020.
Leading box office star of the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in over 90 movies during his 60-year acting career, Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch) turns 103…
Founder of CaregiversDirect and Beverly Hills Egg Donation, a past president of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, Lisa Greer turns 61… Former senior White House aide and deputy secretary of the U.S. Treasury in the Clinton and Obama administrations, now CEO of the Brunswick Group, Neal S. Wolin turns 58… Senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Labor, Daniel “Dan” Greenberg turns 54… Returning member of the Knesset in 2019 for Likud after a hiatus, he had served in the Knesset from 2003 to 2014, Gideon Sa’ar (born Gideon Zarechansky) turns 53… Junior United States Senator from New York since 2009, Kirsten Gillibrand turns 53…
Senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, previously the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, Tamara Cofman Wittes turns 50… Singer, songwriter and son of Bob Dylan, he rose to fame as the lead singer and primary songwriter for the rock band the Wallflowers, Jakob Dylan turns 50… Senior Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg turns 45… Actor, comedian and musician, best known for his role as Howard Wolowitz in the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” Simon Helberg turns 39… Staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s juvenile rights practice, Daniella Rohr Adelsberg turns 32… Manager of digital media for the R Street Institute and Executive Director for CityGOP, Shoshana Weissmann turns 27… Israeli fashion model Dorit Revelis turns 18…