Good Tuesday morning!
At the White House, President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold a joint press conference in the East Room to reveal the administration’s Mideast peace plan. More below.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is having a closed-door hearing on the administration’s Iran policy with Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook and other State Department officials.
In New York, Attorney General William Barr is meeting with Jewish leaders in Borough Park to discuss the rise in antisemitism.
Yesterday, the House passed the bipartisan Never Again Education Act by a vote of 393-5. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Facing an all-but-certain defeat, Netanyahu decided to withdraw his request for parliamentary immunity hours before the Knesset committee was slated to convene to rule on the issue. After the withdrawal, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit filed his indictment of the prime minister in court.
In Tel Aviv, the Institute for National Security Studies kicks off its three-day annual conference with a panel on “The Day after Soleimani — A New Middle East?” with Gen. (ret) John Allen, former CENTCOM chief Gen (ret.) Joseph Votel, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Barbara Leaf, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Richard Haass, and former Israeli Air Force chief Gen. Amos Yadlin, moderated by former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk.
The governor of Moscowsigned off on the pardon request of Israeli-American backpacker Na’ama Issachar, paving the way for Russian President Vladimir Putin to make the final decision. Netanyahu will meet with Putin in Moscow on his way back to Israel, prompting speculations that Issachar will be released.
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Driving the convo
Israeli leaders embrace peace plan as Democrats criticize lack of vision
President Donald Trump is expected to release the long-awaited White House Mideast peace plan during a joint appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House’s East Room at noon EST.
What we know: Sources familiar with the plan toldThe Wall Street Journal that it “heavily tilts toward the Israeli position on key issues.” That includes Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, with Palestinian control over some neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and land swaps that would likely leave Palestinians controlling 70% to 80% of the West Bank.
The visuals: Yesterday, the president met with Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for back-to-back meetings in the Oval Office. Netanyahu got the protocol treatment for a visiting head of state, including a photo spray with an additional brief Rose Garden appearance. The meeting with Gantz, who holds no official position in the Israeli government, was widely reported as an achievement for the de facto opposition leader, who even got a photo opportunity at the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk and a White House tweet.
The substance: During his remarks in the Oval Office, Trump did not reveal any details about the forthcoming plan or indicate he would support unilateral annexation of the West Bank. But he suggested that it’s “a plan that’s very important to peace in the Middle East.” Trump added, “We have the support of the prime minister. We have the support of the other parties. And we think we will ultimately have the support of the Palestinians.”
Gantz speaks: In a statement to the media before departing for Tel Aviv, Gantz said that he thanked the president for his support for Israel. Gantz called the plan “a significant and historic milestone” and added: “Immediately after the elections, I will work toward implementing it from within a stable functioning Israeli government, in tandem with the other countries in our region.”
Will Bibi show restraint? David Makovsky, the Ziegler distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that “Netanyahu will have to show some restraint” — despite his domestic political imperative — in not pushing for immediate annexation because “it will impact the success of the Palestinians to mobilize other Arab countries against the plan, and it could alienate the Trump administration who wants some space for this plan to play out.”
Spotted: While waiting for Gantz to brief the media about his White House meeting at the Jefferson Hotel, reporters spotted former British Prime Minister Tony Blair walking out of the hotel. Blair, who served as the Quartet Mideast envoy and offered advice early on in the Trump administration, declined to comment on the expected plan rollout.
On the Hill: As Netanyahu was meeting Trump at the White House, Democratic members of Congress issued statements reiterating their support for a two-state solution. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a joint statement that “unilateral actions do not contribute to a sustainable peace and would not serve U.S. interests.” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) expressed his frustration that he’s “been trying to get briefed on this plan for two years” to have input on preserving “the possibility of a two-state solution.”
Pushing back: Former Sen. Norm Coleman, national chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, tells JI that Democratic opposition — before even reading the plan — is pure politics. ”We’re just kind of mired in our own petty politics and it’s just tough for the Democrats to get to objective evaluations because they’re so caught up in whether they like or dislike the president,” Coleman alleged. “If Benny Gantz and Bibi Netanyahu can agree on it, you would think that there are some Democrats that would say this is a good thing.”
View from Ramallah: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly unleashed on Trump on Monday, calling him “a dog and the son of a dog.” In speech to the Fatah Central Committee, Abbas confirmed that he refused to take a call from the president and “will continue to say no.” Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh implored the international community to boycott the plan during a cabinet meeting. “This a plan to protect Trump from impeachment and protect Netanyahu from prison,” he said.
meet the candidate
The GOP Senate candidate whose primary opponent accused Republicans of dual loyalty towards Israel
Rob Barrett, a Republican candidate for Senate in Minnesota, discussed his candidacy in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Details: Barrett is one of five candidates running in the state’s GOP primary to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Tina Smith this November. The seat was previously held by comedian Al Franken, who resigned in 2018 amid allegations of sexual harassment. Smith defeated her Republican challenger, Karin Housley, with 53% of the vote in a 2018 special election, and the seat is ranked “likely D” by the Cook Political Report. The state GOP has thrown its weight behind former Rep. Jason Lewis, who also has the backing of President Donald Trump.
Bio: Barrett, 54, is a musician and professor at North Central University in Minneapolis. He has written and composed songs for Pepsi, Disney and Sesame Street, among others, and in his spare time he dabbles in copper sculpture, photography and poetry. “I’m more of an artist than a policy wonk,” Barrett tells JI. “But when you listen to music all day long, the last thing you want to do is listen to music in your car. So I would always listen to talk radio on a wide variety of sides. So I’ve always been very politically motivated from an intellectual standpoint and from a realistic standpoint.”
Controversial opponent: Lewis, one of Barrett’s Republican rivals, has come under fire for comments that members of the Republican Party had “dual loyalties” to Israel and that the party was being controlled by the “Jewish lobby.” In an interview with JI, Barrett called out his opponent for those remarks: “To denigrate in any way our friendship with Israel and the Jewish community is irresponsible and against the close bond we have shared as allies for many years. I will look to strengthen our ties and not spread false and disproved accusations about Israel and our Jewish friends.”
A different Republican: Barrett finds the president’s divisive politics distasteful — “I actually like most of what Trump has done — I don’t like the way he’s done it” — and he disagrees with the attacks against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), calling them “unfortunate.” Omar, he explains, was elected by a majority of the people in her district “and I respect the ability of people to elect the people they want to represent them. I don’t like people trying to score cheap political points against the other side.”
Uphill: Barrett admits that it’s been an uphill battle to push through the cracks in his own party. “All of the attacks I’ve gotten are from friendly fire. I’ve actually had some Democrats give me money,” he said. He also noted that he had to buy a ticket to attend Trump’s last campaign rally because he was not allowed into the VIP section. But he stressed that the only way a Republican could win a statewide race is by running as a centrist, pointing to former Sen. Norm Coleman and former Governor Tim Pawlenty, who were considered moderate Republicans.
PMO splits from Genesis Prize, association was ‘an albatross around the neck’
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office has pulled out of its partnership with The Genesis Prize seven years after the organization’s inception, according to a statement released Monday. A source connected to the award told Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen that the association with the prime minister was “an albatross around the neck” of the $1 million annual prize.
Pushed over the edge: The situation purportedly became untenable late last year when Netanyahu was indicted on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust, the source told JI. “The Genesis Prize said, ‘enough.’” The connection to the Prime Minister’s Office, according to the source, “was a problem before, but now people could say, ‘I don’t want to be getting a prize from a criminal.’”
No stranger to controversy: Natalie Portman, who won the prize in 2018, later refused to attend the award ceremony in Jerusalem. At the time, she said, “I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu.” In 2019, recipient Robert Kraft was caught up in a prostitution scandal in Florida shortly after being named that year’s winner — another embarrassment to the prize committee, said the source, who has signed a confidentiality agreement with the organization. The Genesis Prize Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.
Background: The organization was established in 2013 as a private-public partnership between The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF), the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and The Jewish Agency for Israel. The GPF finances the prize through a $100 million endowment.
Weighing in: Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a member of The Genesis Prize advisory committee, told Jewish Insider that the split is a good thing because “it would be unfortunate if the impression was that you have to be from a certain political party to get it.”
David Harris reflects on leading interfaith mission to Auschwitz
American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris shared his experience leading a historic interfaith mission with a high-level Muslim delegation to Auschwitz over the weekend during an interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Big deal: “This is the most senior Muslim delegation ever to visit Auschwitz or any Nazi death camp. That’s a big deal,” Harris tells JI. “They represent figures of authority within large segments of the Muslim world. That’s a big deal. And they have been speaking out clearly, mostly in Arabic, about what they saw and learned. That’s a big deal.”
Lessons learned: Harris said that outreach to younger generations is key. “With the steady disappearance of the survivors, liberators and eyewitnesses, we will soon be left with only commemorations, museums and preserved sites, education, archives and the testimony of the children and grandchildren,” he said. “Unless the world grasps what happened, and how too many either participated or looked the other way, we will fail to confront the slippery slope from dehumanizing a people to efforts to destroy it.”
Time to act: With a steady rise in global antisemitism, Harris said that world leaders have been too slow in responding to what he called the decades-long “growing menace” of antisemitism — “and it took way too long for many to wake up.” Now that global leaders acknowledge “the magnitude of the threat,” he said, “it’s late in the day and solutions entail far more than speeches and statements, welcome as they are. I don’t doubt the good will of many, but the response must go way beyond good will at this point.”
Harris called on Democratic members of Congress to condemn Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) for spreading “a modern-day blood libel” after she 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. “When the truth was exposed, she never attempted to apologize. Will fellow Democrats react?” he asked.
Paying back: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, attending the official commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on Monday, announced that his administration will host an international conference in May to help recover works of art and other property stolen by the Nazis during WWII. “Nothing will ever make up for the unimaginable suffering and loss endured by the Jewish people,” Cuomo said, “but my sincere hope is that this event will help Holocaust victims and their families get the justice they deserve.”
💎 In the Rough: Ed Caesar shines a spotlight in The New Yorker on Lucara, a relative newcomer in the global diamond market. The Canadian company has experimented with new technologies and unorthodox approaches, at times irking industry insiders. [NewYorker]
🔌 Pulling the Plug: In Vanity Fair, Richard Rushfield details Ari Emanuel’s meteoric journey to the edge of the “ultimate corporate bar mitzvah, an IPO” for his talent agency Endeavor, before ultimately deciding to hit the brakes a day before it was due to list on the New York Stock Exchange: “The unstoppable Ari Emanuel had met an immovable object.” [VanityFair]
✡️ Leaning In: The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere writes about how both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Michael Bloomberg — who previously rarely “spent much time publicly discussing, let alone celebrating, their Jewishness” — have more recently fully embraced religion on the campaign trail. [TheAtlantic]
🛑 Roadblock:The Wall Street Journaltakes an inside look at the Trump administration’s effort — led by special envoy Elliott Abrams — to oust Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro and how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assistance last year has so far saved the embattled leader. [WSJ]
Around the Web
⚖️ Legal Defense: The lawyer for Grafton Thomas, the man accused of stabbing five people during an antisemitic attack in Monsey on Hanukkah, told a federal judge that a psychiatrist has ruled the defendant incompetent to stand trial. The U.S. Attorney’s office has two weeks to respond.
📷 Behind the Lens:Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day by releasing two photos she took of Holocaust survivors and their grandchildren that will be part of a larger exhibition.
🏫 Never Forget: At a school in Berlin made up of 80% immigrant families, one teacher has been leading many of her Muslim students in learning about the Holocaust, including trips to Israel, Poland and France.
🖋️ Speaking out: In Tablet, Cathy Young interviews Russian Jewish journalist Yevgenia Albats, about Jewish life in the Soviet nation before and after the fall of communism.
🏈 Sidelined: A football coach at Grand Valley State University has been suspended after an interview with the school newspaper in which the coach praised Adolf Hitler as “a great leader,” describing his leadership style as “second-to-none.”
👊 2020 Watch: After trip to Israel, Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner blasts his primary rival Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS) for being soft on Israel because he voted in favor of the Democratic-led House resolution against annexation and in support of a two-state solution.
📰 Media Watch:The Atlantic columnist and author Peter Beinart is joining the leftist magazine Jewish Currents and leaving his post with The Forward. In his first article for the publication, Beinart blasted former Vice President Joe Biden’s “alarming record” on Israel.
📜 Ancient Libel: April Rosenblum writes in The Washington Post that Sen. Bernie Sanders will likely face antisemitic attacks based on the “belief that communism was a Jewish plot.”
🗳️ Bernie Under Fire: Some Democratic operatives are trying to “take down” Sanders, reports The Daily Beast, possibly including Democratic Majority for Israel, which “is buying tens of thousands of dollars in airtime in Iowa,” to make the argument over “electability.”
🚫 Passage Denied: A day after the Israeli government said it would allow limited travel for citizens to Saudi Arabia, the Saudi foreign minister said Israelis were not welcome.
🕍 Hate in New York: A woman was charged on Monday with harassment in the first degree as a hate crime for throwing pieces of pork at Congregation Anshe Emeth in Greenport on January 19th.
🚇 Driving Away Hate: The MTA unveiled yesterday a new initiative to fight hate crimes on New York City’s public transportation, including ads on 3,000 screens declaring “Hate has no place at the MTA.”
📵 Anything Goes: Executives at Facebook told journalists in Israel yesterday that the social media platform will not fact-check politicians or censor lies ahead of the March 2 election.
📺 Stepping Down: Deborah Barak, the head of business operations at CBS, will leave the network later this year after 30 years there.
Pic of the Day
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley visited the headquarters of Start-Up Nation Central in Tel Aviv over the weekend while on a trip to Israel to partner with the Israel Center on Addiction. Haley also met with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and discussed the Trump peace plan and her future in an interview with Channel 12 anchor Yonit Levi.
Executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy since 1993, Robert B. Satloff turns 58…
Longtime Baltimore area dentist now living in Jupiter, Florida, Joel I. Goldberg, DDS turns 75… Former chair of the political science department of Hebrew University, Avraham Diskin turns 73… 26th national president of Hadassah, she served from 2016 through 2019, Ellen Hershkin turns 73… Chairman and founder of London-based Stellar Group Limited, a few months ago Forbes named him as the most powerful sports agent in the world, Jonathan Ian Barnett turns 70… Actress and singer, a four-season regular on the comedy series “Hee Haw” and many other television programs, Barbi Benton (born Barbara Lynn Klein) turns 70… Freelance writer, she is a 2009 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Reba Carmel turns 67… NYC-based advisor and investor focusing on fintech, blockchain and emerging technologies, while still in her 30s she was elected chairman of the board of the Commodity Exchange (COMEX), Donna Redel turns 67…
Director at UCLA’s Center for Community Learning, Shalom David Staub turns 64… Angel investor and mentor for growing companies, Mark N. Schwartz turns 64… Member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 2006 until two weeks ago, Amy H. Handlin turns 64… Chairman of Genesis Philanthropy Group and a member of the Taglit-Birthright Israel Planning Committee, Gennady Gazin turns 55… Founder and CEO of Boca Raton-based Lyons Capital LLC, sponsor of the annual Wall Street Conference for small-cap and micro-cap stocks, Jason Lyons turns 51… CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Diego since 2018, Michael Jeser turns 44… Producer for CNN’s Jake Tapper, Ariel Bashi turns 38… Director at London-based Park Hill Group, he is also chair of the Tamid Group, Max Heller turns 29… Financial analyst for Goldman Sachs, Perry Bloch turns 25…