Good Monday morning!
(or for those attending or covering AIPAC, it feels like happy Thursday morning! h/t Archie)
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination last night, less than 48 hours before Super Tuesday. “The path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy, if not for our cause,” he told supporters in South Bend last night.
Tonight in St. Paul, Minnesota, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will be joined by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at an election eve rally ahead of tomorrow’s primaries across the country.
Vice President Mike Pence will take a short break from overseeing the U.S. response to the coronavirus to address AIPAC later this morning. At 12:45, Pence is scheduled to have lunch with President Donald Trump where he may share his highlights from the convention center.
Additional speakers at AIPAC today include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY).
Israelis have begun voting today in the third national election in less than a year. In a much buzzed about article, The New York Times examines the country’s neglected transportation, education and healthcare infrastructures, while The Wall Street Journal spotlights the companies trying to cash in on voter frustration. More below.
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meet the candidate
Pierce Bush walks a delicate political line in Houston Republican primary
On a trip to Israel in October 2012, Pierce Bush visited Masada, the ancient desert fortress where, according to ancient scholars, a band of beseiged Jewish rebel soldiers chose to commit suicide rather than surrender to Roman troops. The story reminded him of a similar tale back home — that of the Alamo, the famous site of a protracted battle in which a group of Texian revolutionaries died defending the stronghold from Mexican soldiers. “From a cultural standpoint,” Bush told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, “it spoke to me.”
He’s running: There may be another reason why the legend of Masada resonates with Bush, the 33-year-old political scion — grandson of the late George H. W. Bush and nephew to George W. Bush, respectively the 41st and 43rd U.S. presidents — who is now running for office in Texas’s 22nd congressional district, a suburban swath of southwest Houston. Ahead of the primary on March 3, more than a dozen candidates are vying to succeed Republican Rep. Pete Olson, who announced last summer that he would not seek re-election.
Bush & Trump: In recent years, the Bush name has come under siege in the Republican Party, representative of a kind of genteel conservatism that seems to have been negated in the age of Donald Trump. The Bush family has a strained relationship with the president, who notoriously mocked Jeb Bush as “low-energy” during the 2016 election cycle, in which H.W. — snubbing the GOP — cast his vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Trump. Rather than surrendering completely to the Trumpian impulses of the modern Republican party, experts say Bush is straddling a delicate line.
Toeing the line: Bush has raised more than $1 million, according to the Federal Election Commission, and notched endorsements from Olson as well as the Houston Chronicle. In his December announcement video, Bush cast himself as a kindhearted, benevolent leader, touting his role as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star, a Texas affiliate of the nonprofit youth mentorship organization, while warning of the evils of socialism. At the same time, he has put forth some views that echo the president’s, vowing in one ad to “stop the cartels” and “deport criminal illegals” — policy points that have created some tension in his messaging.
Looking abroad: “We need to be a shining light for the rest of the world in terms of foreign policy and stand for freedom,” Bush told JI. “President Trump is doing a good job on foreign policy — I’d like to be on the record as saying that… I think it’s his responsibility to make tough calls.” Bush also praised Trump’s Middle East peace plan, overseen by Jared Kushner. “I think Jared’s a really smart guy,” he said. “And I’m sure whatever plan he presents is a good one, because I know he cares deeply about finding a peaceful solution and about our partnership [with Israel].”
Rich Goldberg: Trump should ramp up Iran sanctions
Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former Trump administration official, discussed the need for bipartisan action on Iran in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh on the sidelines of AIPAC’s policy conference in Washington, D.C.
Congress on one side: Goldberg noted that until the 2015 nuclear deal was signed, Democrats and Republicans addressed the Iranian nuclear threat in a bipartisan manner, and even then several Democrats chose to vote against the deal. “You’re talking about less than five years ago, a solid majority of Congress in a bipartisan fashion was against the deal,” he explained. “Those people are still in Congress,” he added, and while “it may be politically impossible for some people to say we oppose the deal now, there are things that can and should win a bipartisan majority.” Goldberg cited the arms embargo on Iran and missile and nuclear restrictions as matters that both sides agree on when it comes to legislation.
His time in the Trump administration: Goldberg joined the White House’s National Security Council as its director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction in 2019. He departed a year later after the birth of his baby. “It was an incredible opportunity, I am honored beyond belief to have had the opportunity to serve the national security advisor and the president in that capacity,” he said. “From my perspective, the strategy that President Trump was pursuing on Iran is exactly the right one.”
Trump can do more: According to Goldberg, while the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign is working, “I believe that there are additional sanctions measures that we can take to add additional pressure to the regime, and we should do that. An example is designating the financial sector of Iran in its entirety, for secondary sanctions, disconnect all remaining banks from the SWIFT international system, [cutting] off their access to investment capital and resources around the world. That would be a big statement to make, and the administration has the authority to do that on its own. They don’t need Congress for that.”
The reason the administration is not doing so, Goldberg suggested, is because they are hoping to avoid a diplomatic fight at the United Nations Security Council, with respect to the “snapback” sanctions, waiting for European countries to take action.
No more ‘friends and potential friends’ — AIPAC CEO calls out ‘false friends’
The first day of the AIPAC policy conference in D.C. on Sunday kicked off in the shadow of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s boycott.
Sea change: For a long time, AIPAC lived by the motto, “we only have friends and potential friends,” with the latter referring to the few members of Congress critical of the organization’s mission. Opening the gathering yesterday, AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr declared that there are now political leaders who “are not our friends” and are becoming a “vocal and energizing part of the electorate.”
Actions matter: Without mentioning Sanders by name, Kohr highlighted the Vermont senator’s recent criticism of Israel and described his selection of anti-Israel campaign surrogates “as a casual disregard for the vital role Israel has played and continues to play in supporting” U.S. interests. “Israel cannot afford false friends,” Kohr declared, subtly suggesting that the Vermont senator is “not a friend” of Israel. “Any leader who energizes their political movement by demonizing Israel is not a friend… These political leaders don’t just want to win a single election. They want to unravel the bipartisan consensus of our movement.” Watch Kohr’s full speech here.
Pushback: In an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, Sanders defended his boycott of AIPAC — describing it as an organization that has “a lot of money” and “a lot of power” — and reiterated his stance of an even-handed policy “that not only protects Israel, but deals with the suffering of the Palestinian people as well.” He added, “I am pro-Israel. I am pro-Palestinian. I want to bring people together to finally achieve peace in that region.”
Action alert: AIPAC President Betsy Berns Korn implored attendees to increase their financial support for pro-Israel politics, contributing “to those who stand with us. Our friends in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, must know that members of the pro-Israel community will help them. And those who stand against the U.S.-Israel relationship must know the pro-Israel community will work to defeat them.” Korn also asked AIPAC activists to demand that candidates running for federal office this year promise they will stand with Israel in exchange for their support.
Drawing a contrast: In a video message to AIPAC, former Vice President Joe Biden said: “I will never boycott you. American Jews will always have a seat at my table.” Biden added, “I will always call out antisemitism, whether it comes from the left, the right or the center.”
Biden also shared his vision to preserve the reality of a two-state solution: “Palestinians need to eradicate incitement on the West Bank. Eradicate it. They need to end the rocket attacks from Gaza. Stop it,” Biden said. “And Israel, I think, has to stop the threats of annexation and settlement activity, like the recent announcement to build thousands of settlements in E1.”
Bonus: Biden picked up an endorsement yesterday from Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also slated to address the AIPAC’s policy conference this week. Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL) has been making the case for Biden to AIPAC attendees throughout the conference.
driving the day
Israelis head to the polls again
Israelis began voting today in the country’s third national election in less than a year. The latest polls projected that neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud nor his challenger Benny Gantz’s Blue and White will be able form a 61-seat governing coalition. Both candidates have ruled out a unity government, but they could shift their stance based on the results.
Casting and counting ballots: Polling stations close at 10 p.m. local time tonight (3 p.m. EST), and will be immediately followed by exit polls from the three main TV stations: KAN 11, News 12 and Reshet 13. Official results should begin to trickle in around midnight. Experts predict the outcome could all hinge on turnout — which, unlike the second election in September, could drop significantly amid voter apathy and fears of the coronavirus (a 10th case was confirmed in Israel yesterday).
When they go low: The two rivals for prime minister traded barbs in the last day of campaigning, with Gantz suggesting that a Netanyahu victory will turn Israel into an authoritarian state like Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while Netanyahu pounced on a leaked recording of Gantz’s top strategist privately denigrating his candidate for lacking courage. Israeli Channel 12 revealed Monday evening a recording of Netanyahu himself directing the dissemination of the embarrassing recording, made during the strategist’s meeting with a rabbi.
High hopes: Netanyahu claimed on Sunday that his party’s internal polling showed the right-wing bloc just two seats short of the necessary 61 majority. “We are very close to victory,” Netanyahu told supporters at a campaign rally in Tel Aviv. But the hopes of getting to a majority were possibly set back after Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, declared he will not drop out, potentially costing Likud 1-2 seats.
What to expect: If the right-wing bloc even comes close to the magic number of 61, Netanyahu would likely declare victory because it would prevent Blue and White from forming a minority government without the active support of the Arab Joint List. Barring a significant change, the deadlock is likely to continue, possibly leading to a fourth election later this year. But if the right-wing bloc earns less than 55 seats, Blue and White could be able to form a minority government with the abstention of the Arab parties.
Reaching out to U.S. Jewry: Both Netanyahu and Gantz addressed the AIPAC conference via satellite on Sunday. In his remarks, Gantz pledged that under his leadership, “Israel will never become a partisan issue.” He also promised, “When I am prime minister, every Jew will have a place in the Western Wall.” Netanyahu called charges of bigotry against AIPAC “libelous” and “outrageous.”
Bonus: In his video address to AIPAC conference attendees, Netanyahu compared the country’s third election in a year with a much-loved cult favorite film. “We don’t have a Groundhog Day in Israel. I’m beginning to feel a little like Bill Murray in that movie.”
New Era: More women are becoming mohels and performing ritual circumcisions, The New York Times’s Alyson Krueger reports, part of a growing acceptance in some Jewish communities of expanding the role to trained doctors and medical professionals. [NYTimes]
If He Was A Rich Man: Financial Times reporters Joshua Chaffin and Roman Olearchyk spoke to Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, head of the Anatevka Jewish Refugee Community — who was connected to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and his indicted associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in the Ukraine scandal — about his fundraising efforts for the village. Ukrainian Jewish leaders described Azman as “big-hearted and charismatic but also a bit naive.” [FinancialTimes]
Final Frontier: In the Los Angeles Times, Ralph Vartabedian explores the unlikely collaboration between former Nazi officials and Jewish scientists in America that fueled NASA’s space exploration just a decade after the end of the Holocaust. [LATimes]
Glass Ceiling: Florida’s WUFT Newsprofiles Nikki Fried, the first woman elected as Florida’s commissioner of agriculture and the only Democratic statewide elected official, who “owns her Jewish heritage and South Florida roots without apology.” [WUFT]
Around the Web
Stepping Back: Jared Kushner divested his stake in Cadre, the real estate start-up he co-founded with his brother Josh.
Unfollow: Paul Singer’s activist hedge fund Elliott Management has purchased a large stake in Twitter, and is reportedly working to oust Jack Dorsey as CEO.
Tech Woes: The office of Attorney General William Barr is increasingly centralizing oversight of antitrust issues, sidelining the current leadership, headed by Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, of the office’s antitrust division and causing concern among Silicon Valley stakeholders.
Chai Life: The Aspen Times explores the evolution of Jewish life in the city, which has three Jewish congregations in a town of roughly 7,000 people.
Media Watch: After BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith departed for The New York Times, the search for his successor is only just getting started, but already includes some high-profile names.
Debut: In his first New York Times column, Ben Smith argues that the Gray Lady is on its way to becoming a monopoly, and worries that its success “is crowding out the competition.”
Wedding Prep: The New York Post highlights young modern Orthodox couples who are signing halachic prenups before marriage.
In Tune: A rare piano — known as “the immortal piano” — that dates back to 1799, which later fell into the hands of Nazis and ended up being refurbished by an Israeli, could fetch up to $1 million at auction in Israel next week.
Sports Blink: The Yeshiva University Maccabees basketball team won the Skyline Conference on Sunday and will advance to the NCAA Division III tournament. The Associated Press explores the team’s “improbable rise.”
Out of Jail: A judge has released Tiffany Harris, the New York woman arrested after repeated attacks against Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, over the objections of prosecutors who wanted her held until trial.
Off the Bench: Judy Sheindlin is ending her show “Judge Judy” after 25 years, and preparing to launch a new series titled “Judy Justice.”
Transition: The Democratic National Committee has tapped Matt Nosanchuk, a former Obama White House Jewish liaison, as the party’s point person for outreach to the Jewish community.
Pic of the day
Scene last night: Scores of AIPAC conference-goers and Bloomberg supporters packed the Penn Quarter Room at Renaissance Hotel for a “United for Mike” reception in Washington last night. Bloomberg campaign officials on hand included Abigail Pogrebin, Jarrod Bernstein, Ari Ackerman and Mark Botnick.
Former U.S. senator from Wisconsin (1993-2011), his sister, Dena, is the rabbi of Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Russ Feingold turns 67…
Restaurateur, lawyer, and former owner of Braniff International Airlines, Jeffrey Chodorow turns 70… Comedian and actress, she was part of the original cast of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” (1975-1980), Laraine Newman turns 68… Anesthesiologist in Skokie, Illinois who graduated from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine, Samuel M. Parnass, M.D. turns 63… First Soviet-born Russian speaker to become a member of the New York State Assembly, where he served from 2006-2015, Alec Brook-Krasny turns 62…
Global government relations manager for Ford Motor Company, Mitch Bainwol turns 61… Author and reporter for The New York Times where she covers media, social media and celebrity, Katherine Rosman turns 48… Executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, she is a board member of the Washington JCRC, Daphne Lazar-Price turns 47… Editor and director of communications at Twin Cities, Minnesota’s TC Jewfolk (a Jewish news, events and culture online media hub), Lonny Goldsmith turns 45… Culture reporter for The New York Times who writes frequently about film, television and comedy, David L. Itzkoff turns 44…
Director of marketing at Window Nation, Eric Goldscher turns 41… Deputy chief of staff for Representative Mark Takano (D-California-41), Yuri Beckelman turns 38… Israeli television and radio newscaster, she completed medical school in 2017 and practices geriatric medicine, Hila Chaya Korach turns 36… Non-fiction production executive at Endeavor Content, Sally Rosen turns 34… Executive operations at Bonobos, she was previously deputy director of scheduling for Senator Chuck Schumer, Kaylee Berger turns 28… Baltimore-native Donni Lurman…