Good Wednesday morning!
President Donald Trump only briefly mentioned his new Mideast peace plan during the lengthy and contentious State of the Union address last night. During a lunch with TV anchors yesterday, Trump indicated that war with Iran was “closer than you thought.” Read our recap here.
With 71% of Iowa precincts reporting, following Monday’s caucuses, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg appeared to be in the lead with 26.8%, followed closely by Sen. Bernie Sanders. More below.
Michael Bloomberg has begun debate prep with longtime aide Howard Wolfson playing Bernie Sanders, Vanity Fairreports.
Yesterday in D.C., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi to discuss the Iranian nuclear threat.
In Maryland, former Congressman Kweisi Mfume won the special primary to fill the seat of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings — beating 23 other Democratic contenders and setting the stage for his all-but-certain victory in the April election. Read our profile of Mfume from last week.
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DISTRICT DEEP DIVE
How an Illinois congressional race has become a circular firing squad with Israel in the center
How did Israel and the Middle East become a hot-button campaign issue in the Democratic primary for Illinois’ 3rd congressional district, a grouping of predominantly Catholic neighborhoods in Chicago’s west and southwest suburbs? For Jewish Insider, Ian Deitch looks into the dynamics of the complicated race.
Background: Ahead of the March 17 Democratic primary, progressive challengers to incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski — including Marie Newman, who lost to Lipinski by a razor-thin margin in 2018 — have gone after the eight-term moderate Democrat for his support of the Jewish state. Lipinski told JI his support for Israel was never a point of contention until Newman turned it into one last election cycle — by reaching out to the large Arab community in the district and weaponizing the topic against him, a charge Newman denies.
He said: “Newman decided, because of my support for Israel, that reaching out to Palestinians was a good way to gain votes in the district, so in doing so she decided to make support for Israel an issue in the election,” Lipinski told JI.
She said: “The Arab community came to me and said, ‘Marie how do you feel about this?” Newman told JI. “The reality is that Dan will take any opportunity to accuse me of anything, so his words are pretty hollow right now,” she added. Newman has said she does not support the BDS movement, but opposed anti-BDS legislation. In a position paper on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Newman called for a right of return for Palestinians.
Another hat in the ring: Rush Darwish, whose past remarks during his time as a radio host have worried some in the Jewish community, hopes to become the first Palestinian-American from Illinois in Congress. In 2015, Darwish told a guest on his radio show that he sounded “like you are praising the Israeli people and the Jewish civilization as if they are great people.” Darwish told JI his comments were taken out of context and apologized for his choice of words, which he said should have been phrased differently and are not reflective of his views.
More infighting: Darwish’s camp sent a statement to JI accusing Newman campaign chairwoman Shadin Maali of “actively soliciting support from Abbas Hamideh, a known pro-Hezbollah activist” in Cleveland, “in order to consolidate Arab-American constituencies” in Newman’s favor. Newman’s team dismissed the charge, saying it said was designed “to distract from comments Darwish has made in the past about Jewish people.”
Buttigieg ahead in Iowa as vote count drags on
Reporting problems continued to plague the Iowa Democratic Party on Tuesday, with just 71% of the caucus votes counted as of midnight.
Latest: The latest figures updated shortly before midnight on Tuesday showed former Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the lead with 26.8%, closely trailed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) with 25.2%. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was holding in third place with 18.4%, and former Vice President Joe Biden remained in a shocking fourth place with just 15.5%. The Iowa Democratic Party did not indicate when it expected the remaining 29% of precincts to report. The Associated Press said the race is still too early to call.
Spin: The Sanders campaign celebrated his apparent lead in the popular vote count, touting the fact that “in the first and second round more people voted for Bernie than any other candidate in the field.” Joel Rubin, the Sanders campaign’s Jewish outreach director, pointed to the popular vote count as a milestone. “Another historic first! A Jewish American presidential candidate is winning Iowa!” he tweeted.
Rubin highlighted Sanders’ support from ethnic and religious minorities, telling Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss, “His ability to build a broad, diverse, intersectional coalition is what makes his candidacy so special right now for American Jews. At a moment when we’re facing rising antisemitism and increasing hate here at home, we need this kind of coalition to be able to fight back against the hate. Bernie is building the bridges that will benefit all of our communities — including the Jewish community — in this fight.”
Electability test: According to a Washington Postsurvey of Iowans who turned up to the caucuses, 61% of voters said they would prefer a candidate who could beat Trump over one who matches their views on the issues. Among those caucus-goers who opted for electability, Sanders came in just fifth place. He ranked first among those who said they were voting based on policies.
Mike’s plan: Michael Bloomberg’s campaign is seizing the moment by doubling its ad spending in the coming weeks, seeking to make the case that a messy outcome in the early primary states will open the way for the former mayor to clinch the Democratic nomination.
ISRAELI ELECTION WATCH
Netanyahu reassures frustrated base that annexation is on the way — later
With less than a month until the Israeli election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to reassure voters that he’s committed to his plan to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank despite temporary opposition from the Trump administration. Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh analyzes the latest developments:
On the trail: In two campaign events on Tuesday, Netanyahu pledged to apply Israeli sovereignty over all settlements after the election, and suggested that his rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, would be restricted from doing so since he would have to seek international approval and the support of the Arab Joint List.
Blame game: In comments to Israeli media and to The Washington Post, settler leaders and activists directed their anger at Jared Kushner, who has publicly defied Netanyahu’s requests to immediately move ahead with annexation following the release of the peace plan. David Elhayani, chairman of the Yesha Council — who attended the White House rollout event last week — told the Post, “Kushner took a knife and put it in Netanyahu’s back.” Elhayani added that this could cost Netanyahu the election.
Dealing with the base: Tal Shalev, the chief political correspondent for Walla! News, suggested that Netanyahu is grasping for a solution and seeking the White House’s backing for even a symbolic annexation to appease his frustrated base. “There is no doubt that in the short term, it hurts him. It’s a big disadvantage for him,” Shalev told JI. “But there are still 28 days to go.”
The silver lining: Ari Harow, a member of Likud and former chief of staff to Netanyahu, tells JI, “The issue of annexation and its timing was clearly mishandled, but other than domestic political haggling, it should not detract from the historic significance of the plan — the recognition of Israel’s critical security needs and Israel’s inalienable historic rights to Judea and Samaria.”
At the U.N.: A draft United Nations Security Council resolution, circulated by Tunisia and Indonesia on Tuesday, “stresses the illegality of the annexation of any part” of the West Bank and “condemns recent statements calling for annexation by Israel” of these areas. The U.S. is expected to veto the measure.
Alternative to rejection: In Foreign Affairs, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk suggests that instead of rejecting the plan and giving Netanyahu a reason to annex, the Palestinian Authority would be wise to “bypass the Trump plan and declare its willingness to enter direct negotiations with a new Israeli government after the March 2 elections.”
UC Berkeley student government meeting erupts into chaos over pro-Palestinian display
A meeting of a committee of the University of California, Berkeley student government erupted into chaos and was adjourned prematurely during public comment on a bill condemning a controversial display by Bears for Palestine (BFP), a campus Palestinian advocacy group. Shelby Weiss, the vice chair of the committee debating the bill, told Jewish Insider that some students and student government administrators raised concerns that the legislation would violate BFP’s free expression rights.
Core of the issue: In December, Bears for Palestine set up a display in an area of the student union featuring Palestinian terrorists Rasmieh Odeh, Fatima Bernawi and Leila Khaled. Odeh is a convicted terrorist who was involved in two terror attacks in Israel in 1969; Bernawi was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to bomb an Israeli movie theater in 1967; and Khaled hijacked TWA Flight 840 in 1969 and attempted to hijack El Al Flight 219 in 1970.
Alleging harassment: BFP and pro-Israel campus student group Tikvah both alleged that their members were harassed and threatened by students on the opposing side of the debate. Jewish students “were repeatedly harassed, heckled, and threatened with physical threats of violence” by BFP members, according to a Tikvah Facebook post, leading the Tikvah members to walk out of the meeting. BFP supporters were “heavily threatened, [were] photographed… were on the receiving end of slurs” and were “groped,” BFP claimed in a Facebook post.
A ‘sinister moment’: Weiss told JI that “Jewish students felt unheard and unprotected and ultimately unsafe” in the meeting because of the BFP supporters’ behavior. When the Jewish students left en masse, the other students began dancing, shouting, clapping and cheering, Weiss said, which she described as “one of the most sinister moments.”
Up next: The bill condemning the anti-Israel display will come up for a committee vote next week.
🇫🇷 Fight or Flight: Robert Zaretsky writes in Foreign Affairs that French Jews are living in daily fear, and many are fleeing the country amid growing antisemitism. “For generations, France without Jews seemed as inconceivable as Jews without France,” he writes. “Over the past five years, though, both one and the other have become conceivable.” [ForeignAffairs]
🕍 Talk of the Town: In The New York Times, Liam Stack details how New York synagogues are struggling to find money for security improvements following a rash of violent antisemitic attacks. Some congregations have tried to do so by raising annual dues, adding new security fees or organizing fundraising drives, according to the report, while others have tried to overcome the burdensome requirements to obtain city, state and federal grants. [NYTimes]
Around the Web
💣 Talk of the Region: Bryant Harris reports in Al-Monitor that Morocco started talking tough against Iran at the same time it began back-channel talks with the U.S. and Israel over normalizing ties in exchange for recognition of its occupation of Western Sahara.
🇦🇪 Report: Channel 13’s Barak Ravid revealed on Tuesday that top Israeli officials and United Arab Emirates Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba discussed possible coordination against Iran during a secret trilateral meeting with U.S. national security officials at the White House in December.
💸 Turnover: SoftBank vice chairman and head of investment Ron Fisher, who led the firm’s WeWork bet, is in discussions about his future at the company, according to the Financial Times, which cited three people briefed on the deliberations.
🌟 Star Power: Jerusalem Venture Partners launched its New York-based International Cyber Center earlier this week in cooperation with the NYC Mayor’s Office, with an on-stage appearance by Gwyneth Paltrow.
🏗️ Start-Up Nation: Intel is investing heavily in “smart buildings” in Israel in order to continue attracting the country’s top talent.
🎤 Star is Born: Eden Alene, 19, won the finale of Israel’s Rising Star last night and will become the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to represent Israel at the Eurovision later this year.
👩 Stepping Down: Juliette Kayyem, a former Obama administration official, is resigning from her position as a senior advisor at the Israeli spyware NSO Group after facing criticism from press freedom groups, prompting Harvard to cancel an online seminar she was due to host.
🤗 Freedom of Speech: A new survey conducted for the Ruderman Family Foundation by the Mellman Group shows that 80% of American Jews identify themselves as pro-Israel, including 57% who identify themselves as “pro-Israel but also critical of Israeli policy.”
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: British Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski came under fire from both the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Muslim Council of Britain after speaking at a far-right conference in Italy.
🚞 Never Forget:French Holocaust survivor Victor Perahia didn’t speak about his experiences for 40 years. But now he’s dedicated to educating French teens about the Holocaust and his story.
👨⚖️ Ruling: A German appeals court rejected a Jewish man’s bid to force the removal of a sculpture called “Judensau” (Jew pig) from an ancient church where Martin Luther once preached.
⚾ Strike Out:Billionaire Steve Cohen is reportedly about to walk away from a deal to purchase an 80% ownership stake in the New York Mets.
🥪 Cold Cuts: A kosher deli pop-up is coming to Vacaville in California’s Bay Area, for this weekend only.
☕Dessert: A branch of Chocolatte, a kosher coffee chain started by three Israeli brothers, has opened on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights.
Pic of the Day
President Reuven Rivlin hosted yesterday some 30 officers from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines who are visiting Israel with the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, as part of its U.S. military leaders program.
Israeli golfer who played in seven LPGA events during 2019, she is a resident of Caesarea and competed for Israel in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Laetitia Beck turns 28…
Native of Debrecen, Hungary, he survived Bergen Belsen as a child and was a guest at the 2019 State of the Union as a survivor of the Tree of Life shooting, Abraham Judah Samet turns 82… Director and screenwriter, Michael Kenneth Mann turns 77… Israeli engineer, he holds 567 patents and is a founding partner of Rainbow Medical, an operational investment company, Yossi Gross turns 73… Actor, best known as the voice of Jafar in Disney’s “Aladdin” franchise, Jonathan Freeman turns 70… Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, he wrote a 2015 essay entitled “The Making of a Libertarian, Contrarian, Nonobservant, but Self-Identified Jew,” Randy E. Barnett turns 68… Past chair of the board of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, she was also national campaign chair for JFNA, Linda A. Hurwitz… Ellen Braun turns 62… Movie producer and director, Jennifer Jason Leigh (family name was Morozoff) turns 58…
Founding rabbi of The New Shul in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and now the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom of Napa Valley, Niles Elliot Goldstein turns 54… Member of the New York State Assembly representing the east side of Manhattan, Harvey David Epstein turns 53… Canadian environmental activist, campaigner and writer, Tzeporah Berman turns 51… Associate director of the Jerusalem-based Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, Pesach Wolicki turns 50… Baltimore-area chiropractor, wine connoisseur, active in numerous community groups, Dr. Kenneth S. Friedman turns 47… President and COO of American Signature, the parent company of Value City Furniture, Jonathan Schottenstein turns 38… Global head of public affairs at Teach For All, Sarabeth Berman turns 36… Former senior advisor to Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, now a political and communications consultant, Joshua Hantman turns 35… Olympic sprinter, born in Los Angeles and now an Israeli citizen, specializing in the 400 meter dash, Donald Sanford turns 33… Candidate for a Master’s degree in public health at Columbia University, Nicole Levy turns 30…