Good Monday morning!
At the White House today, President Donald Trump will meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to discuss the White House Mideast peace plan. More below.
Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker is traveling to Israel to discuss bilateral and regional issues and to address the Institute for National Security Studies’ annual conference in Tel Aviv.
In Poland, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is joining Polish President Andrzej Duda, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder and Holocaust survivors at the official ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. More below.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate will resume the impeachment trial of President Trump. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), one of the House managers, said that he will be missing part of the session today to accompany his wife, who is battling cancer, to the doctor. The New York Times reported on Sunday evening that former National Security Advisor John Bolton confirms in his forthcoming book that Trump tied U.S. aid to Ukraine to the Biden investigation, which prompted some Democrats to call for Bolton to testify.
Sports fans around the world mourned the loss of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41, who was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others. Trump and Netanyahu both paid tribute to Bryant; Amar’e Stoudemire, playing with his new team in Tel Aviv yesterday, was in tears at the news: “It’s like a dagger to my heart right now.”
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Driving the day
Netanyahu, Gantz to talk peace with Trump
Israel’s major party leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, will meet separately with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office to discuss the administration’s proposed Mideast peace plan. Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh reports:
Details: Trump will meet with Netanyahu at 11 a.m. today, and with Gantz at 12:30 p.m. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are expected to join both meetings. Netanyahu will have a second meeting with the president on Tuesday, followed by a press conference in the East Room at noon.
A U.S. official told Reuters that Trump’s message to the Israeli leaders will be, “You have six weeks to get this going, if you want it.”
Why it matters: The meeting with Gantz was scheduled after the de facto opposition leader told U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman that his party was likely to support the plan, but refused to be sidelined during the Washington visit. “Granting Gantz a separate meeting partially mitigates Trump’s intervention in the Israeli election,” former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told JI, though the timing of the announcement is “transparent.” In Haaretz, Chemi Shalev pointed out that “Trump’s willingness to cater to Gantz’s needs dealt an unanticipated blow to Netanyahu’s hitherto successful efforts to deploy the U.S. president as a strategic asset in his reelection campaign.”
Frequent flyer: Speaking to reporters prior to his departure, Netanyahu drew a distinction between the trip he took in March 2015 to warn the administration about the Iran deal — a plan he said “would endanger the vital interests of the State of Israel and its very existence” — to this week’s trip, during which he said he will “stand alongside an American president, who is offering a plan which I believe will advance our vital interests.”
Friendly gesture: In a speech on Saturday, Gantz said that Trump’s plan “will go down in history as a meaningful landmark, mapping the way for different players in the Middle East to finally move ahead towards a historic regional agreement.” He added: “As the president’s full and committed partner, I wish to say to him from this stage: Israel is forever thankful for the United States’ friendship, and the United States can always count on Israel’s partnership.”
Window of opportunity: Former Labor Knesset member Dr. Einat Wilf suggested that the basic details of the plan put Gantz in a better situation to fully accept it as it “represents a broad Israeli consensus.” In that sense, Wilf explained to JI, “Gantz is in an easier place politically — he can say yes to the plan. Netanyahu will find it harder politically to say a clear and simple yes to a plan that envisions a Palestinian state on 80% of the West Bank’s territory and one that requires the removal of settlements and limitations on settlement growth.”
Believing in peace: The U.K.’s Prince Charles, who visited Israel last week, told The Sunday Times in an interview that he considers himself a peacemaker and would like to see Israelis and Palestinians sign a just and lasting peace accord, adding the Arabic word “inshallah” (God willing).
on the trail
Mike Bloomberg: Jewish voters don’t have to compromise values for Trump’s Israel record
Former New York City Mayor and 2020 Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg made his pitch to Jewish voters at the “United for Mike” kickoff event at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in South Florida.
Two for the price of one: Bloomberg told the crowd, “There are those who will cite the embassy move [to Jerusalem] as a reason to support the president. And to that I say very clearly: If I am elected you will never have to choose between supporting Israel and supporting our values here at home,” he stated. “I will defend both — because unlike this president, you and I know they are inextricably linked… When Moses descended from Mount Sinai, he smashed the golden calf and raised high a tablet of laws — of rules and of norms — instead. And when they fail, tragedy occurs. We know that because we’ve seen it far too many times.”
Jewish values: Bloomberg also drew a sharp contrast with one Democratic primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), over their Jewish values and support for Israel. “I know I’m not the only Jewish candidate running for president. But I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz,” he said in a swipe at Sanders, who has pointed to his stint on an Israeli kibbutz in the 1960s as an experience that influenced his socialist views. “I’ve spent a lot of time in synagogues in my life, but my parents taught me that Judaism is about more than going to shul.”
Ironclad commitment: Bloomberg highlighted another point of difference between him and several other Democratic presidential candidates who have expressed support for conditioning U.S. aid to Israel if it annexes any part of the West Bank. “As president, I will always have Israel’s back. I will never impose conditions on our military aid, including missile defense — no matter who is prime minister,” Bloomberg pledged. “And I will never walk away from our commitment to guarantee Israel’s security.”
Peace now: Bloomberg also took a shot at Trump, who is expected to release his Mideast peace plan tomorrow. “I will not wait three years to release an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan,” said Bloomberg.
Bonus: Bloomberg didn’t address his vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace in his remarks, but in a position paper the campaign submitted to the Council on Foreign Relations last week, the candidate emphasized that “any enduring peace must have as its foundation two states for two peoples — one Jewish and one Palestinian.” He added that until an agreement is achieved, “both sides should avoid unilateral preemptive actions that make peace less likely.”
Members of the United for Mike Leadership Council include Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Jack Bendheim, president and CEO of PHIBRO Animal Health Corporation; Matthew Bronfman, CEO of BHB Holdings; Mark Charendoff, immediate past president of the Jewish Funders Network; Daniel Lubetzky, founder of Kind, LLC; former New York State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder; Jonathan Greenspun; Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, executive director of NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life; Cindy Shapira, past chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh; Dorothy Tanenbaum, co-chair of the Jewish Funders Network; Harold Grinspoon, founder of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation; John Shapiro, immediate past president of the American Jewish Committee; film producer Nancy Spielberg and Jim Tisch, president and CEO Loews Corp. Co-chairs are Alisa Doctoroff, past president of the UJA-Federation of NY; Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, former head of the Rabbinical Assembly; Ari Ackerman, incoming co-chair of young leadership at the UJA-Federation of NY; and Marc Shapiro. See the full list here.
Bernie’s Jewish pitch: The Sanders campaign released a four-minute video on Thursday highlighting the candidate’s Jewish identity. “We need to have someone in office who gets it — gets it in his kishkes — understands what it really means to ensure that we are healing our world,” Joel Rubin, the campaign’s Jewish outreach director, says in the clip.
on the hill
House considering bill to boost Holocaust education
The House of Representatives will consider the Never Again Education Act (H.R. 943) today as the world marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Details: The bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and co-sponsored by 298 members of Congress, will create a grant program to give teachers across the United States the resources and training necessary to teach children the lessons of the Holocaust and the consequences of hate and intolerance.
Standing together: Maloney will be joined by Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) and other members of Congress, Holocaust survivors, and leaders of several Jewish organizations to discuss the bill later this afternoon.
Events in Auschwitz: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will join Polish President Andrzej Duda, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other world leaders at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp today for a memorial organized by the Auschwitz museum and the World Jewish Congress.
Do more: WJC President Ron Lauder urged European leaders to take action to counter rising antisemitism. “What I’ve seen more and more is governments talking about it, but there seems to be a lack of action,” he said. “What we’re seeing is the same drip, drip method used in the 1930s and 40s to whip up hatred… we must do something now to stop that.”
State visit: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo departed yesterday as the only elected U.S. official to attend the commemoration event. “This trip will not only show our Jewish brothers and sisters that the family of New York stands with them, I hope it will also raise cultural awareness about the horrors that the Jewish community went through and how America responded,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Flanked by Holocaust survivors and community leaders at the John F. Kennedy International Airport before his departure, Cuomo said, “The antisemitism we’ve seen across the state must never happen again… Government can protect, but government can’t resolve this issue. People are going to have to resolve this issue. They’re going to have to open their minds and open their hearts. They’re going to have to understand each other — understand the Jewish community, understand the Holocaust and understand what happened.”
Civil demand: A group of U.S. rabbis led by the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale’s Rabbi Avi Weiss held a protest outside Auschwitz yesterday urging for the removal of a church positioned next to the former death camp.
fall from grace
How Hollywood booted a publicist with ties to Epstein
Peggy Siegal, a longtime Hollywood A-list publicist and fixture of the New York social scene, described herself as a victim in a lengthy eyebrow-raising feature interview in the most recent issue of Vanity Fair. This comes after a number of studios reportedly distanced themselves from Siegel, including Netflix, FX and Annapurna Pictures, over her ties to the disgraced Jeffrey Epstein.
Unwise defense: Siegal’s most outrageous comment to Vanity Fair generated a slew of headlines, when she compared her press treatment and subsequent shunning to being “a casualty of war. I mean, if I had been in Nazi Germany, it could not have been worse,” she said, adding: “I’m on the train station. I’m getting on that train and I’m going to the camps… I’ve finally been attacked for nothing more than being Jewish, or being a woman, or being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Long time coming: Some associates and observers believe that Siegal’s brusque nature, her ruthless ambition and her endless trading of favors made many celebrate and even encourage her fall from grace. One ex-employee said Siegal is one of the reasons the Academy Awards lacks so much diversity; her “power base, as she readily admits, is old white Jewish men — their votes still matter, but less than before.”
🖋️ All Voices: In The Atlantic, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren writes that the differing tones of memoirs from Holocaust survivors are equally valuable, from Primo Levi’s humanism and exoneration to Elie Wiesel’s fury and rawness that was tamed for readers and sanitized for Americans. Within Israel, Oren notes, an entirely different type of narrative emerged. [TheAtlantic]
👨👦 Tree of Life: In an interview with the New York Post, Elie Wiesel’s son, Elisha, opens up about growing up with the world’s most famous Holocaust survivor. Wiesel, who now works for the Michael Bloomberg presidential campaign, expressed hope that he would find ways to “emulate” his father “by having an impact on the world.” [NYPost]
🗣️ Rewriting History: Writing in The New Yorker, Bernard Avishai casts a critical eye on last week’s World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, saying it allowed world leaders to “appropriate moral prestige.” Netanyahu, he said, “flattened” history, while Macron defended “liberal imagination” and Putin worked to ”deflect anger.” [NewYorker]
😠 Palace Intrigue: In Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman details Trump’s behind-the-scenes rants against the impeachment process. According to Sherman, there’s speculation in the West Wing that Trump may hire Chris Christie to replace acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney after his anger at Jared Kushner’s Time magazine cover. [VanityFair]
👍 Strategic Vision: Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who most recently served on Trump’s National Security Council, explains in The New York Times why Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” could bring Iran to the negotiating table. [NYTimes]
Around the Web
✈️ Deep Dive:The New York Timesexamines how Iran tried for three days to cover up its role in shooting down a Ukrainian airliner — before finally admitting the truth.
💣 War on Terror: Three rockets struck the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad yesterday, and one person was reportedly lightly wounded. The Pentagon revealed over the weekend that 34 U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injuries after Iranian airstrikes on an air base in Iraq earlier this month, countering earlier claims by the president.
🎤 Payback: In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief, at the Sundance Film Festival, former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton suggested that Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to tackle the spread of disinformation and propaganda on Facebook is “Trumpian” and “authoritarian.”
📈 Rebound: WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey has spent the past few months devising a plan to save the company by slowing down and scaling back — the opposite of his co-founder Adam Neumann’s onetime approach.
🎥 Living History: CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer interviewed film director Steven Spielberg for his CNN documentary “Voices of Auschwitz.”
🇳🇱 About Time: The Dutch prime minister issued the country’s first-ever apology for its persecution of Jews during World War II, including collaborating with the Nazis.
🛍️ Talk of the Town: A store in New Orleans’s French Quarter, Rare Finds, will remove Jim Crow-era antique pieces and Nazi-related items after complaints from the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s local chapter.
👩⚖️ Lawsuit:A member of the Rothschild family, Geoffrey Hoguet, is suing the city of Vienna for “perpetuating” Nazi laws by plundering the family’s foundation.
⚰️ Problematic Pilgrimage:The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at the debate raging in the small Hungarian village of Bodrogkeresztúr, which has become a hotspot for pilgrims visiting a Hasidic rabbi’s grave.
📺 Seen on SNL: Alan Dershowitz, played by Jon Lovitz, showed up in a “Saturday Night Live” skit while visiting Jeffrey Epstein in hell. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Dershowitz said that he brought up his past ties to Epstein with Trump before he was hired.
🍽️ Compare and Contrast: In an hour-long recording of a private dinner with Trump in 2018, former Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman appear to compare Trump to the messiah while presenting him with a gift from Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Moshe Azman. “It’s like messiah is the person that’s come to save the whole world. So it’s like you’re the savior of the Ukraine.” Parnas could be heard telling Trump to show the gift to Jared Kushner to explain its meaning.
🍾 House Party: Jeff Bezos hosted an Alfalfa afterparty at his mansion in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Attendees included Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Microsoft founder Bill Gates, actor Ben Stiller, David Rubenstein, David Solomon, and Dina Powell.
🛫 Open Skies: Israeli Interior Ministry Arye Deri announced on Sunday that for the first time in the country’s history, Israelis will be permitted to visit Saudi Arabia for religious purposes or for business trips limited to nine days.
⚖️ Awaiting Mercy: Na’ama Issachar, the young Israeli-American woman imprisoned in Russia, has reportedly officially requested a pardon.
🤦 Rushing to Judgement: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) retweeted — and later removed — a tweet that claimed that a Palestinian boy who drowned in a flooded ditch in East Jerusalem was kidnapped by “Israeli settlers, assaulted and thrown in a water well.”
Pic of the Day
President Donald Trump signed into law the Securing American Nonprofit Organizations Against Terrorism Act on Friday afternoon.
In attendance were Howard Friedman, chairman of the board of the Orthodox Union; Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America Eric Fingerhut.
Communications director at C-SPAN, Howard Mortman turns 53…
Senior counsel in the NYC office of Fried Frank LLP, Arthur Fleischer turns 87… Winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, Barry Clark Barish turns 84… Priscilla Alexander turns 81… Casino developer Steve Wynn (born Stephen Alan Weinberg) turns 78… Corporate venture capitalist, he served as VP at Intel Corporation (1984-1999) where he co-founded Intel Capital, Avram Miller turns 75… Topanga, California resident, Joseph Helfer turns 73… Columbia, S.C. resident, Charles Geffen turns 72… Accountant at North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction, Gene Bruton turns 71…
Professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Reuven Firestone turns 68… Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts turns 65… Television writer and producer best known as the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” he stars in the Netflix series “Somebody Feed Phil,” Philip Rosenthal turns 60… CEO of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, Daniel Och turns 59… Founder and managing member of Liberty Peak Capital and co-founder and lead investor of Multiplier Capital, Ezra M. Friedberg turns 50… English fashion model, Daisy Rebecca Lowe turns 31… Co-founder of Israel-based Tech-Bridge, Lia Michal Weiner… Associate at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Joshua Henderson…