Good Wednesday morning!
In Iowa, Democratic Majority For Israel’s PAC is slated to begin airing attack ads against Sen. Bernie Sanders today, targeting the candidate’s policies and health issues. The decision prompted political strategist Paul Begala to take a leave of absence from DMFI’s board until the end of the primary season.
Buzz around town:BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Ben Smith announced on Tuesday that he will be leaving the site to become the New York Times’ new media columnist.
Seth Lipsky, founding editor of The New York Sun and Smith’s first editor, told JI: “Ben Smith is a superb newspaperman. He worked on two newspapers I edited, and has one of the best noses for news I’ve ever encountered. He and the Times are lucky to have found one another.”
Les Wexner is reportedly in talks to step aside as CEO of L Brands and is exploring a sale of Victoria’s Secret.
In New York this morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio will host his annual interfaith breakfast at the New York Library.
On Capitol Hill, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on global antisemitism with Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, former U.S. Envoy on Antisemitism Ira Forman and the American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi Andrew Baker, among others.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is having a public hearing to discuss the “ongoing battle against hate” 75 years after the Holocaust, with testimonies from ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and Deborah Lauter, executive director of the NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes.
In Tel Aviv, speakers at the INSS conference this morning included New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, former U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, former Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, and Dr. Mike Doran.
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Driving the convo
Trump’s Mideast peace plan envisions two states, annexation and a somewhat-divided Jerusalem
President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan — unveiled in front of a jubilant and packed crowd in the White House’s East Room yesterday ― was embraced by Israel’s leaders, rejected by the Palestinians, welcomed by several mainstream American Jewish organizations, denounced by others, accepted with reservations by the Israeli right, largely criticized by Democrats, and lambasted by the left. Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh reports from D.C.:
Details: The plan envisions Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and Israeli recognition of an independent, demilitarized Palestinian state on 70% of the West Bank. Parts of East Jerusalem would serve as the capital of the Palestinian state and a U.S. embassy would be established in Palestine. Jerusalem would still remain as Israel’s “undivided capital,” and Israel would annex the vast majority of West Bank settlements.
Four year window: The plan dictates and Israel has agreed to a four-year freeze on new settlements — to give the Palestinians a time-frame to resume negotiations — but promises that no settler will be uprooted. It also envisions a tunnel connecting Gaza to Palestinian areas of the West Bank. Israel is “committed to negotiating a two-state solution for the next four years with the Palestinians, even if the Palestinians reject it in the short run,” Ambassador David Friedman told reporters on a press call.
Unexpected support: During his remarks, Trump acknowledged the presence of ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain, and “the incredible work they’ve done, helping us with so much.” He also said that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called to offer his support for the plan.
Spotted in the East Room: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz, Special Envoy on Iran Brian Hook, former peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Kraft, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Elan Carr, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Liz Cheney (R-WY); Florida Governor Ron Desantis, Jerusalem Embassy officials Aryeh Lightstone and David Milstein, and Paul Packer, chairman of the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad.
Non gov’t officials present included: Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, WJC’s Ron Lauder, Dore Gold, Conference of Presidents’ Arthur Stark, William Daroff, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, B’nai B’rith’s Daniel Mariaschin, former Sen. Joe Lieberman seated next to Ralph Reed, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Fred Zeidman, Alan Dershowitz, Mark Levin, ZOA’s Mort Klein, Yitz Tendler, Agudath Israel’s Abba Cohen, AJC’s Jason Isaacson, JFNA’s Eric Fingerhut, YU’s Ari Berman, Conference of Presidents’ Arthur Stark, Pastor John Hagee, Dr. Mike Evans, RJC’s Matt Brooks, Jewish Policy Center’s Shoshana Bryen and Hudson Institute’s Jon Lerner.
How it played: “Trump’s top 2020 supporters get front row seats to unveiling of Mideast peace plan.”
Moving ahead: Following his White House visit, Netanyahu announced that the cabinet will vote on Sunday to apply Israeli law over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area. But on Wednesday morning, Likud Minister Yariv Levin backpedaled, saying the issue would need more time — and the approval of the attorney general — before moving forward. Pompeo told Channel 13’s Barak Ravid that the U.S. will support Israeli annexation as long as it is consistent with the Trump map.
Lending support: Democratic mega-donor Haim Saban toldJewish Insider that he supports Trump’s plan. “This plan offers a blueprint to promote a continued push towards a two-state solution in which Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state living in peace, prosperity, and — most importantly — in security alongside its neighbors.”
On the Hill: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other Democratic members of Congress expressed vague support, emphasizing the need for a negotiated two-state solution, while a group of 12 senators ― including three 2020 candidates — called the plan “a recipe for renewed division and conflict in the region” in a letter to Trump.
Other 2020 candidates also chimed in: Former Vice President Joe Biden called the proposal a “political stunt,” and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg described it as “a political green light” for annexation.
Pushback: In an interview with CNN, Kushner pushed back against the criticism: “We are fighting against a lot of emotions, and the way we did that is by putting out an 80-page logical plan. We put out a map. We’ve got Israel to make historic concessions. We’ve unified Israel… I am sorry, but if you don’t accept this as a major opportunity for Palestinians, and a major step forward, then I just think you have unrealistic expectations.”
Kushner also dismissed criticism by former Labor Knesset member Yossi Beilin, one of the authors of the Oslo Accords, calling him an irrelevant person who failed to bring peace. “How did he do with his negotiations?” Kushner asked. “This thing is as screwed up as it has ever been.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Kushner explained that this is “the last chance for the Palestinians to have a state,” because “if we don’t do this today, at the rate at which Israel is growing, I think that it will never be able to be done.”
Echo chamber: Following the White House event, Ambassador Friedman met with a small group of Jewish and evangelical leaders for an off-the-record briefing on the plan’s details. Dr. Mike Evans and ZOA’s Mort Klein attended the briefing and shared their thoughts with JI.
View from the Judaean Hills: Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat and the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, tells JI that the plan “presents many achievements for the settlements, and challenges alongside them. We will have to sit and discuss how to leverage the plan for the State of Israel.”
Attorney General Barr to implement new measures to protect Jewish communitiesAttorney General Barr to implement new measures to protect Jewish communities
Attorney General William Barr, accompanied by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Richard Donoghue, met with a group of Brooklyn Jewish leaders at the Borough Park Community Council on Tuesday to discuss the recent rise in antisemitic violence.
New proposals: During the meeting, Barr said that he was issuing instructions to every U.S. attorney in the country to have protocols in place to establish local liaisons to Jewish communities who would report federal hate crimes and coordinate with local and state law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting them. Barr also pledged to lower the threshold for the federal prosecution of hate crime incidents.
Sending a message: Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, tells JI: “The fact that the attorney general of the U.S. came to Borough Park to tell the community how seriously the government took the issue of antisemitism, and to indicate that — at the highest levels of government — there was absolutely no tolerance for such conduct, that in and of itself, I thought, was an enormously important and impactful message.”
Long-term effect: “Action speaks louder than words,” Avi Greenstein, executive director of the Boro Park JCC, tells JI. “For the AG to make this a priority, and declare that he will be observing the zero tolerance policy with an open eye, is something that is unprecedented and cannot be overstated. This will have a lasting impact that will serve our community comfort that we have an ally, and hopefully serve as a deterrent to those committing these crimes — the feds are watching.”
Leading by example: Barr announced federal hate crime charges against Tiffany Harris, a woman who was repeatedly released after being arrested for slapping Jewish women in three separate incidents in Crown Heights during Hanukkah.
Trapped in Iran, a reporter finds a welcoming Jewish community
The Economist reporter Nicolas Pelham waited for three years to be granted a journalist visa to Iran. When it came in July 2019, he jumped at the opportunity. But when he tried to leave the country, he was detained and trapped in a seven-week nightmare, which he recounts for the first time in The Economist’s 1843 magazine.
Initial hesitation: Pelham was initially apprehensive of the out-of-the-blue invitation, unconnected to any event or group travel with other reporters. “I knew that the Iranian authorities were particularly suspicious of journalists who have been to Israel or are Jewish,” he wrote. “I ticked both boxes.” But he was assured by authorities he would be safe.
Indefinite detention: The day he was set to leave the country, Pelham was stopped at his hotel by seven men and driven blindfolded to an interrogation room. After 12 hours in solitary confinement and hours of intense questioning, Pelham was released to a small apartment under guard, and later a hotel, where he continued to be questioned daily, but was otherwise free to roam the city — just not leave the country. “My colleagues in London warned me — obliquely but clearly — not to explore Tehran’s Jewish community,” he wrote. “And still I was drawn to it.”
A chance discovery: About five weeks into his captivity, Pelham noticed with shock a group of kippa-clad Jews sitting across from a synagogue one Friday evening. One thing led to another, and he found himself welcomed “into the largest and most vibrant Jewish community in the Muslim world.” Tehran, he notes, has a dozen active synagogues and two kosher restaurants, while Iran has 22 mikvaot, ritual baths. Discovering the community, Pelham wrote, was both “surreal” and somehow “comforting” amid his ordeal.
Daily prayers: One member of the synagogue “often texted me first thing in the morning to find out whether I was coming for shacharit, the morning service, and later on to check if I was still on for maariv, the evening one,” he wrote. “He would invite me for dinner in a heaving, cavernous kosher restaurant in the basement of the synagogue where we had met. Farsi greetings were spliced with Hebrew and Yiddish: ‘Shalom bashid.’”
🗣️ Ugly Accusations: The Quincy Institute, born of the unlikely alliance between George Soros and Charles Koch, continues to be dogged by allegations of antisemitism, the Washington Free Beacon’s Eliana Johnson reports. The isolationist think tank has hired “a string of figures who have courted controversy due to their views of Israel and American Jews,” including Lawrence Wilkerson, Paul Pillar, Eli Clifton and Chas Freeman. [FreeBeacon]
📺 Screen Time:In The Los Angeles Times, Noga Tarnopolsky examines the backlash in Argentina to a new Netflix series titled “Nisman: The Prosecutor, the President and the Spy,” which delves into the mysterious 2015 death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who accused Argentina of covering up Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing.[LATimes]
👗 Fashion Plate: Donna Zakowska, the costume designer for the award-winning Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” talks to NPR about her research for the show’s period clothing and the hundreds of decisions that go into every scene. [NPR]
👨👦 All in the Family: Despite his father Mikhail’s $13.7 billion fortune, Alexander Fridman spends $500 on rent and uses public transportation. “I eat, live, sleep, dress in everything that I earned myself,” the younger Fridman told Bloomberg. [Bloomberg]
Around the Web
💸 Startup Nation: Siemens’ venture capital arm, Next47, has opened an office in Herzliya, its first in Israel.
🎧 Listen In: Meet Cute, a romcom-focused podcast company, has secured more than $3 million in funding, including from Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital.
🏗️ Elite Living: Extell Development is planning a super-exclusive “100th floor” private residential club in Central Park Tower, including a private ballroom, bar and cigar lounge.
💰 New Goal: Marc Lasry’s Avenue Capital Group is aiming to raise $600 million for an impact fund focusing on private debt.
🎓 Transition: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was announced as the incoming director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
💲Big bet: Regional gambling operator Penn National Gaming is set to buy digital sports publisher Barstool Sports from The Chernin Group, which holds a majority stake in the company, in a $450 million deal. Top employees of the company, including co-founder Dave Portnoy, are expected to stay on.
⌨️ Better Late? Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) finally acknowledged her retweet of a post accusing Israeli Jews of kidnapping and murdering an 8-year-old Palestinian who accidentally drowned: “I will also strive to hold myself to the highest standards for what I share,” she wrote. “Know that I always seek truth as we uplift the oppressed and fight for equality, justice, and freedom.”
⚠️ Caution: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned against using hatred to gain political power in remarks to students at the Moses Mendelssohn high school, a centuries-old Jewish school in Berlin.
📷 New Clues: Never-before-seen photos of the Sobibor death camp may show John Demjanjuk, a purported Nazi guard who was for decades embroiled in decades of court cases surrounding his involvement in Nazi war crimes.
📚 Book Shelf:The New York Times calls Rashid Khalidi’s new work, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine, thought-provoking but “fanciful” — and notes his “tendency to shave the rhetorical corner.”
🙇🏻 Expressing Regret:Fred Deutsch, a Republican South Dakota state legislator and son of a Holocaust survivor, apologized on Monday after comparing doctors treating transgender children to Nazis ahead of a scheduled vote on a bill that would outlaw treating transgender youths with medical practices: “I regret making the comparison.”
🏙️ Undefined: The Montreal Jewish community is outraged after the city council opted not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.
🎒 Talk of the Town: Several yeshivas in Brooklyn have failed to meet the January 15 deadline requiring them to file a plan detailing their proposal to boost secular education.
🥪 Disappearing Delis:Pix11takes an inside look at how Jewish delis in New York have been reduced to only around 20 today, compared to more than 1,500 a couple of decades ago.
🥙Eat a Pita: Naama Shefi, the founder of the Jewish Food Society, speaks to The Jewish Week about her Israeli roots, her love of food and her culinary mission.
Pic of the Day
AIPAC hosted a panel discussion last night titled “Israel: Am American value — celebrating the diversity of the pro-Israel movement” at Temple Emanu-El in New York City. Panelists included Elizebath Velez, president of the Velez Organization, and Dionne Smith, brand manager at Mondelez International.
Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., she was the foreign policy advisor for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, Laura Rosenberger turns 40…
Author and public speaker, Rabbi Paysach Krohn turns 75… President of Libitzky Property Companies, he is on the board of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Moses S. Libitzky turns 73… Singer and songwriter, he is a two-time gold medal winner in the Maccabiah Games (1985 and 1989) in fast pitch softball, Steve March-Tormé turns 67… Regional director in the Houston office of the American Jewish Committee, Randall Czarlinsky turns 66… Louisiana resident, Jerry Keller turns 61… Woodland Hills, California wealth manager, he was the executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (2012-2013), Larry Greenfield turns 58… Senior writer and editor at the Union for Reform Judaism, a.k.a. Jane the Writer, Jane E. Herman turns 57… Actress known for her role as Amy MacDougall-Barone on the TV sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Monica Horan turns 57…
Physician and an author of a New York Times best-selling book, he is a professor of medicine and engineering at USC, as well as a CBS News contributor, Dr. David Agus turns 55… Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (2015-2019), Paul Ryan turns 50… Chief customer officer at Mobilize.io, Sam Lawrence turns 50… Robyn Bash turns 48… Writer and occasional Bollywood film actor, he is known for his writing of the popular Jewish children’s comic book series “Mendy and the Golem,” Matt Brandstein turns 48… Founder and managing director of the NYC-based Tembo Group, Denielle Sachs turns 43… Israeli actress, model and television host, Yael Bar Zohar turns 40… Consultant at the World Bank Group since 2017, Yasha Moz turns 35… Swimmer for Israel at the 2016 Summer Olympics, she has won 17 medals at the Maccabiah Games, 12 of them gold, Andrea (Andi) Murez turns 28… Pursuing a Master’s in Computers & IT at the University of Pennsylvania, Martha Baumgarten…