Good Monday morning!
Fresh off a big win in Nevada, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced on Sunday that he will not attend AIPAC’s policy conference next week. More below.
Tonight on CNN, Sanders, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and businessman Tom Steyer will participate in a live town hall in South Carolina. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delayed tonight’s scheduled town hall appearance until Wednesday so that he can spend more time preparing for Tuesday night’s “crucial” debate.
This morning, the joint U.S.-Israel committee for annexation, headed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, toured the hilltops of Ariel in the West Bank.
On his trip to Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo details the administration’s Iran policy in a wide-ranging interview with the Washington Free Beacon.
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Sanders surge has Democratic establishment scared
Following a resounding caucus victory in Nevada, Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders announced he will be skipping AIPAC’s upcoming conference and defended Fidel Castro on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” saying that “it’s simply unfair to say everything is bad” regarding Castro’s Cuban revolution.
On the attack: This year’s AIPAC conference — scheduled to take place March 1-3 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center — overlaps with Super Tuesday, making it difficult for the candidates to attend. But Sanders announced he’s skipping the annual gathering because AIPAC provides a platform “for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) praised Sanders for his decision and urged the other 2020 candidates to follow suit.
Earlier this month, asked about it during a town hall in New Hampshire, Sanders said that he had no objections to attending the policy conference, but it wasn’t on his schedule.
In an unprecedented statement, AIPAC pushed back against Sanders’ claim, calling it “outrageous” and “truly shameful.” The pro-Israel group noted that Sanders never attended the annual gathering. AIPAC also launched a hashtag campaign #AIPACProud, retweeting Jewish leaders and activists explaining why they are attending the conference.
Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America tells JI: “We are participating in [the] AIPAC Policy Conference, along with many other Democrats, including members of Congress. We welcome the opportunity to come together with others with a wide range of views to express the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which has been — and must remain — a bipartisan issue.”
Democratic strategist Kenneth Baer previews the week: “When you go out of your way to praise Castro for his literacy programs and go out of your way to single out Israel for ‘bigotry,’ it says a lot about how you view foreign policy. Over the next week, the Dem. Party will have to decide where it wants to go.”
Democratic establishment in panic mode: Sanders’ strong showings in the early primary states have raised concerns among Democratic leaders that Sanders becoming the nominee could not only boost President Donald Trump’s chances of winning re-election, but could also impact down-ballot races and cost Democrats the House majority.
Lessons from 2016: Tim Miller, a former senior advisor to the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, draws similarities to the last time a party’s establishment lost control: Party leaders stay on the sidelines, candidates attack one another instead of the frontrunner and the race is over before they realize it.
Are they going to do anything? More than a dozen “helpless” Democratic donors have toldPolitico that investing in a Never Sanders push could only motivate his base.
Talk of Wall Street: Featured in the Financial Times’ “Lunch with the FT,” former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein — who was featured on Sanders’s list of anti-endorsements last year — told the paper: “I think I might find it harder to vote for Bernie than for Trump… At least Trump cares about the economy.”
View from Jerusalem: Knesset Member Yair Lapid, co-leader of the Blue and White Party, said in an interview with i24News on Sunday that he is “very worried” about the rise of Sanders, but emphasized that he will not interfere in the U.S. election process.
Bloomberg campaign heads to Israel to drum up primary support
Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign is expanding its bid to accumulate enough delegates to compete at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in July by reaching out to registered voters in Israel ahead of next month’s Democrats Abroad primary.
Details: The Democrats Abroad primary — which awards 21 delegates, including 13 pledged delegates to the convention — will take place around the world March 3 through March 10. In Israel, in-person voting locations include Tel Aviv on March 3rd — Super Tuesday — and Jerusalem on Friday, March 6th. Results will be announced on March 23.
Outreach: The Bloomberg campaign is holding a “United for Mike” outreach event at a Tel Aviv hotel on Wednesday evening with the campaign’s Jewish outreach director, Abigail Pogrebin, and Yonit Serkin, Bloomberg’s former deputy chief of staff for economic development.
Bernie country: In the 2016 primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) won Israel with 60% of the vote compared to Hillary Clinton’s 39%.
in the run
Sessions faces tight primary race in bid to reclaim his seat in Alabama
Former Senator Jeff Sessions is facing a tough primary challenge in his bid to reclaim the Alabama seat he gave up in 2017 to serve as attorney general in the Trump administration.
Details: Sessions will have to beat former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, Rep. Bradley Byrne, failed 2017 Senate special election candidate Roy Moore and three others to win the Alabama Republican primary on March 3. Come November, the winner of the primary will take on Sen. Doug Jones, a moderate Democrat who narrowly defeated Moore in the 2017 special election.
The frontrunners: A poll released last week found Tuberville and Sessions in a statistical tie with 32% and 29% support, respectively. Byrne, who has raised more than $3.3 million, is in third place with 17%. Angi Stalnaker, an Alabama-based Republican political consultant, expects the race to result in a runoff, likely between Sessions and either Tuberville or Byrne, she told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Why now? Sessions held the Senate seat for 20 years before he left to head up the Department of Justice. Sessions resigned from the White House at the president’s request the day after the 2018 midterms. “I think Sessions probably just wants to end his career on a good note,” University of Alabama politics professor Stephen Borrelli told JI. The former attorney general has been working to get back into Trump’s good graces, but the president still seems bitter.
Twitter breaks the tie: The race could come down to 280 characters. Trump, who enjoys high approval ratings in the state, has yet to endorse a primary candidate, but a nod of approval from POTUS could propel Sessions or Tuberville to victory. “The thing that would turn this race on its head is a tweet from Trump, and nobody knows if that is going to happen,” Cook Political Report editor Jessica Taylor told the Washington Examiner. Borrelli disagreed, noting that Sessions’s support in Alabama has held up through Trump’s previous public criticism.
At the World Zionist Congress, election is a family affair
Running to become delegates to the World Zionist Congress is a family affair for a handful of American Jewish activists and leaders, with several family members and spouses running on opposing slates. At least three are from the Ellenson family, and two are a married couple: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Manhattan’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, who spoke to Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen.
What are the odds? Kleinbaum is listed as 11th on the Vote Reform list, so she is likely to become a voting delegate at the 38th World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem in October. Weingarten is 17th on the Hatikvah slate. The number of delegates sent to the Congress is proportional to the percentage of votes the slate gets in the election.
Choosing sides: Kleinbaum said she chose to run on the Reform slate because she supports the work being done by the Reform movement in Israel. Weingarten told JI she’s running with Hatikvah, “Because that platform is about building the Israel we want to see. We are fighting for how Zionism gets defined, and to be a state that’s more inclusive and diverse and believes in freedom and democracy for all, not just for Jews.”
Any friendly competition? Weingarten described them both as “progressive Zionists.” Their views and values very closely align, Kleinbaum said, adding: “I’m really thrilled to see Randi taking a leadership role on Israel stuff. It’s important to show labor leaders and others that it’s a priority, and not just for Jewish professionals.”
Any bickering over election competition? Kleinbaum, laughing, said, “No. We’re not Kellyanne and George Conway.”
👨💼 Top Alliance: In the New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer details how White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller took over control of the administration’s immigration policy, deriding officials and experts but working closely with Jared Kushner on the issue. [NewYorker]
🕍 Talk of the Region: In The New York Times, Declan Walsh and Ronen Bergman take an inside look into Egypt’s attempt to rescue the country’s crumbling Jewish heritage and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s outreach to the Jewish community. [NYTimes]
🏘️ Go for Broke:The National Review’s Kevin Williamson looks at the housing market in Aspen, “a town of billionaires and baristas,” which has become so expensive that even millionaires are priced out. [NationalReview]
Around the Web
🗣️ Watch Your Tongue: The Real Deal has compiled a list of the most outrageous comments by real estate executives — from Donald Trump to Charles Kushner and Sam Zell.
👩 Media Watch: The New York Times Company is leaning toward naming Meredith Kopit Levien as its next CEO. Levien, who joined the Times in 2013 as head of advertising, was tapped as COO in 2017.
📿 Papal Pushback: Pope Francis warned yesterday against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in what has been interpreted as a criticism of the Trump peace plan.
🧪 Coronavirus Alert: Just a week before the Israeli election, dozens of school students and hotel housekeepers were directed to stay in home-based quarantine after a group of South Korean tourists tested positive for coronavirus. The increased risk of an outbreak raised concerns that voters would be scared away from voting in crowded polling places.
🎤 Echo Chamber: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with conservative radio and TV host Mark Levin — for the “Life, Liberty & Levin” program on Fox News — that his rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, would not adopt and implement the Trump peace plan if elected.
📜 Farewell Tour:In Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer described Netanyahu’s stump speech on the campaign trail as a “legacy tour” – a quest to preempt others defining his place in history as he enters the most crucial time of his political life and is forced to defend himself in court.
🔑 Key Master: Avigdor Lieberman, who moved to the unaffiliated camp after the April 2019 election, insists that he still holds the keys to the formation of the next government and the formula for a breakthrough, but remains uncommitted to either side.
🚴 Historic Ride: In a first, an Israeli cycling team took part in the United Arab Emirates Tour in Dubai on Sunday.
👎 Ideology Trumps Award: Josef Gluck, the hero who confronted and fought the attacker during the Hanukkah stabbing attack in the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, has reportedly declined to accept a $20,000 reward from the Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County and the Anti-Defamation League because of his anti-Zionist views.
💣 On Alert: The Albany Jewish Community Center was evacuated on Sunday after it received an emailed bomb threat. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, at least 18 JCCs across the state received the same email.
🏫 Talk of the Town:Republican lawmakers in Maryland are criticizing a history lesson at a Loch Raven High School in Towson that shows a picture of Trump above pictures of a Nazi swastika and a flag of the Soviet Union.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: An investigation by the NGO Hope not Hate found that former British Labour members regularly met with far-right antisemites and Holocaust deniers.
🎒 Coexistence: The Guardian spotlights an Orthodox Jewish primary school in London whose student body includes Christians, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and those with no religion.
😠 In Broad Daylight: Despite international pressure — and condemnation from the Belgian prime minister — the parade in Aalst, Belgium kicked off over the weekend with antisemitic floats, including people in insect costumes dressed up like Orthodox Jews.
📚 Book Shelf: The New York Times review of Colum McCann’s new novel Apeirogon — about bereaved Israeli and Palestinian fathers — called the book “a self-inflicted intellectual glitter-bombing.”
🥪 Changing Hands: Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen in North Berkeley, California announced last week that they are selling the beloved Jewish deli to owners who promised to keep the menu in place.
👶Royal Birth: Director Quentin Tarantino and his Israeli wife, Daniella Pick, welcomed a baby boy over the weekend in Tel Aviv.
Pic of the day
Sunday’s Boston Red Sox line-up, drafted up by just-hired bench coach Jerry Narron (who previously coached Team Israel), has Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom’s name written in Hebrew at the top.
Former U.S. Senator and Democratic nominee for vice president in the 2000 presidential election, Joe Lieberman turns 78…
Founder of WhatsApp, Jan Koum turns 44… Chairman of Safir Intelligence and Security, previously NYC’s fire commissioner and then NYPD police commissioner, Howard Safir turns 78… Former chairman and CEO of Warner Bros then chairman and CEO of Yahoo, Terence Steven “Terry” Semel turns 77… Moscow-born professor of mathematics at Yale University, Grigory Margulis turns 74… Faye Waldman turns 72… Rabbi and author of a book about chocolate and Judaism, Deborah R. Prinz turns 69… President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Clifford D. May turns 69… Member of the New Jersey General Assembly, he has served as Minority Leader since 2012, Jon M. Bramnick turns 67…
Head coach of Maccabi Ashdod in the Israeli Premier League, Brad Greenberg turns 66… Public relations executive Howard Bragman turns 64… Former member of the Knesset (2015-2019) for the Likud party, Nurit Koren turns 60… Member of the Knesset and chairman of the Meretz party, Nitzan Horowitz turns 55… Survival expert, anthropologist and TV host, Josh Bernstein turns 49… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party and minister for social equality, Gila Gamliel turns 46… Bestselling author and professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yuval Noah Harari turns 44… NYC-based independent filmmaker, who, together with his older brother Joshua, directed and wrote the 2019 film Uncut Gems, Benjamin Safdie turns 34… Principal and director of investments at MizMaa Ventures Limited, Aaron Applbaum turns 29… Israeli actress and model, Dar Zuzovsky turns 29…