Good Wednesday morning!
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is meeting with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem today. More below.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is issuing a statement later this morning marking Jewish American Heritage Month, signed by its member organizations, pledging to focus “on the shared commitments that bind us together as one people.”
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ONE OF EIGHT
From Washington to Westchester: the Obama Justice Department official running for Lowey’s seat
When Mondaire Jones became the first Democratic primary challenger to go up against Rep. Nita Lowey in more than three decades, he had no idea that the long-serving New York congresswoman, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, would announce her retirement only a few months later. Now Jones believes his odds have increased considerably, he told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview about the race.
Crowded field: It will still be a challenging primary battle. Eight candidates will appear on the ballot on June 23, including former Defense Department official Evelyn Farkas, New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald, New York State Senator David Carlucci, former NARAL chairwoman Allison Fine and former federal prosecutor Adam Schleifer.
Fighting hate: The 17th district includes Monsey, the site of an antisemitic attack last December during Hanukkah. Jones published an essay in the local Journal News not long after the incident, expressing solidarity with the Jewish community. “I’m really proud to be running to represent the Jewish community in Congress,” he said. If elected, Jones said he would work to ensure that places of worship are adequately funded for proper security.
New leadership: Asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jones said that ousting President Donald Trump is the most important step. “We need a two-state solution in the region, and we can’t get that with Donald Trump as president,” Jones averred, telling JI that Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem was unnecessarily provocative. “I think that it would have been a completely different story if that had been one feature of an ultimate agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, but to do that preemptively, I think, put lives at risk in Israel.”
No conditions: The congressional aspirant, who rejects the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, supports giving security aid to Israel “no matter what.” His hope is that such aid will not be used in an effort to annex any part of the West Bank, which the Israeli government has indicated it plans to do as early as this summer. “But that is not a conditioning,” he hastened to add, lest his words be taken out of context. Jones also supports restoring humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.
RESULTS ARE IN
Republicans appear poised to win two special elections
All eyes were on two special elections yesterday to fill empty congressional seats in California and Wisconsin. As the coronavirus epidemic upended traditional campaigning, voters largely cast ballots in California via mail, while Wisconsin voters mostly turned out in person to vote. In Nebraska, which held all of its congressional primaries yesterday, voters shattered the state’s previous record for absentee voting.
Flipped? In California’s 25th congressional district, the seat formerly held by Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) appeared to flip to Republican control by press time. With 76% of the vote counted, Republican Mike Garcia held a solid lead over Democrat Christy Smith. The outcome of the special election will determine who will fill the seat for the rest of the year; both candidates will be running again in the general election this November. The final results from the mail-in ballots likely won’t be announced for several days.
Decisive win: In Wisconsin’s 7th congressional district, Republican State Senator Tom Tiffany comfortably beat Democrat Tricia Zunker, and will serve out the remainder of the term in the seat vacated last year by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI). Tiffany will face reelection in November.
Rematch: In Nebraska’s 2nd district, progressive Democrat Kara Eastman beat out her two primary rivals to win the party’s nomination. In November, Eastman will face off against incumbent Rep. Don Bacon; in 2018, she came within 5,000 votes of beating him, but experts predict she will face a tougher time flipping the seat this fall
Driving the Day
Pompeo meets with Netanyahu, Gantz in whirlwind visit
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Israel Wednesday morning — wearing a red-white-and-blue mask — for a six-hour visit, meeting separately with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and incoming Deputy PM Benny Gantz.
Drawing a contrast: In brief remarks before sitting down with Netanyahu for three hours, Pompeo expressed his condolences over the IDF soldier killed yesterday, referenced the ongoing fight against Iran, registered gratitude for Israel’s coronavirus-fighting efforts and offered a not-so-veiled jab at China: “You’re a great partner, you share information,” Pompeo said, “unlike some other countries that try to obfuscate and hide some information — and we’ll talk about that country too.”
Talking peace: The secretary of state only briefly addressed the Trump peace plan, noting that it had been “some months” since Netanyahu visited the White House for its unveiling in January. “We’ll get a chance to talk about the vision for peace,” he said. “There remains work yet to do and we need to make progress on that.” Netanyahu said the incoming unity government represents “an opportunity to promote peace and security” based on Trump’s plan.
Of note: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said he would not accompany Pompeo during his visit since he is experiencing respiratory symptoms. Friedman said he tested negative for COVID-19 but is operating out of an “abundance of caution.”
Pompeo also sat downfor a meeting with Gantz this afternoon, though the pair did not issue any public remarks before or after their discussion. He also met separately with incoming Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
Timeline: Israeli Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reported that the Trump administration does not view July 1 — the date, according to the unity government deal, that Netanyahu can first move forward with annexation legislation — as a “do or die” deadline for beginning the process. U.S. officials indicated that Pompeo is not expected to leave Israel with any commitments on this issue.
Testing the waters: Shalom Lipner, a 26-year veteran of the prime minister’s office, told JI that Pompeo is hoping “to take the pulse of Israel’s new leadership toward implementing the president’s vision.” Tal Shalev, the chief political correspondent for Walla! News, said that Gantz and Ashkenazi will be working “first and foremost,” to “gain some level of trust” with Pompeo.
Why now? Zev Chafets suggested in Bloomberg that one of Pompeo’s primary motivations is seeking to persuade the new Israeli government to change its attitude towards China; on Tuesday, Israel notified the Trump administration it will reconsider a water infrastructure bid with a Chinese-linked company. Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro tells JI that Pompeo has devoted time lately “mostly to bash China on coronavirus… to fire up Trump’s base before the election.”
Bonus: Outgoing Defense Minister Naftali Bennett writes in Newsweek that Trump’s peace plan is an “objectively wise and fair model,” but lays out “three absolute conditions” he believes the U.S. must meet first to win the support of the Israeli right.
🥐 Caring Neighbor:Montreal Gazette’s Susan Schwartz details how members of the Hasidic community in Montreal have impressed their non-Jewish neighbors by leaving gifts of food on their doorsteps as “a small token of appreciation” for their acceptance of the daily Jewish prayers being held on porches. [MontrealGazette]
⚕️ Echoes of History: The New York Times’s Isabel Kershner tells the story of a Jewish patient wounded years ago by a landmine, a Palestinian surgeon seeking to alleviate his chronic pain and the Nazi medical textbook that guided him. “It sounds like a good joke,” said patient Dvir Musai. “The Muslim surgeon with the Nazi atlas operating on a Jew.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
👮 Crack Down: Israeli police arrested more than 320 people who rioted while attempting to violate a coronavirus-related ban on entering the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron yesterday.
👷 Rebuild: In an interview with Time magazine on Tuesday, Jared Kushner said voters will have to choose in the fall which candidate they trust “to build the economy back.”
🛢️ Rusty Pipes: The coronavirus pandemic has sent gas prices plummeting and put a halt to many natural gas deals and explorations, including between Israel and Egypt.
✈️ PM Plea: El Al has turned to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an appeal to save the airline while rejecting proposed conditions on a government bailout.
🤝 On the Hill: Reps. David Kustoff (R-TN), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Lance Gooden (R-TX) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY) introduced legislation yesterday to expand medical partnerships with Israel to find a treatment or cure for COVID-19.
🗳️ Ballot Blunder: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) fell short of the required number of signatures — 15 — to appear on the Working Families Party line in the upcoming June primary and November general election after her opponent, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, challenged the incumbent congresswoman’s petitions.
⚰️ Tombstone Tiff: Swastikas engraved on the tombstones of German military personnel, who died in the U.S. in the 1940s, in military cemeteries in Texas and Utah have become a source of controversy in recent days.
💰 Lobby Lift: Federal bailout funds have given a boost to many D.C. lobbying firms pushing for funding for their clients, with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck coming out on top.
🇮🇷 Priorities: The Iranian parliament approved a bill that includes the establishment of an Iranian consulate in East Jerusalem and boycott measures against Israel.
📺 TV Tale: An Argentinian production company is developing a TV series about the efforts to relocate Nazis to South America after World War II.
📚 Book Shelf:The New York Timesreview of Noah Feldman’s The Arab Winter says the book is at times “fascinating and persuasive” but “too sanguine” about the prospects of democracy in the Arab world.
🕯️Remembering: Carolyn Reidy, the CEO of publishing house Simon & Schuster, has died at age 71. Raymond Brenner, a Chicago native who enlisted in the Navy at age 13, died at age 89 after contracting the coronavirus.
Pic of the Day
Initiated by outgoing Minister of Diaspora Affairs Tzipi Hotovely, the flags of the U.S., France, U.K. and Italy were projected onto the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem last night to honor the Jewish communities around the world impacted by the coronavirus.
Former U.K. Labour Party MP, in February 2019 she left the party in protest of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, she is now a VP of the UK’s Jewish Leadership Council, Luciana Berger turns 39…
Insurance executive and banker, Sir Sydney Lipworth QCturns 89… Film, television and stage actress, Zohra Lampert turns 83… Actor and producer, Harvey Keitel turns 81… Former FDA Commissioner (1990-1997), he then served as dean of the Yale School of Medicine (1997-2003), David A. Kessler turns 69… CEO of LRN, a legal research, ethics and compliance management firm, Dov Seidman turns 56… Former NFL defensive lineman who played from 1995 to 2002, Josh Heinrich Taves turns 48… Ice hockey player, she won a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics, Sara Ann DeCosta turns 43…
Software entrepreneur and co-founder in 2008 of Asana, Justin Rosenstein turns 37… Retired NFL offensive lineman, Brian de la Puente turns 35… Actress, writer, creator and star of the HBO series “Girls,” Lena Dunham turns 34… Associate area director in the Philadelphia office of AIPAC, Hannah Sirdofsky turns 33… Co-founder of Manna Tree Partners, a private equity firm focused on healthy food, Gabrielle “Ellie” Rubenstein turns 32… Project manager for politics and advocacy at Applecart, Jesse Martin Arm turns 24… Program manager at Jigsaw, a unit within Google, Raquel Saxe… Executive director of Entwine and an assistant executive vice president at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Sarah Eisenman… The Israel director for J Street since 2012, Yael Patir… Special assistant to the deputy administrator at USAID, Dore Feith…