Good Wednesday morning!
Israel Hayom published a front-page report today claiming that several Arab states, including Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have given a “green light” behind the scenes to Israeli annexation plans.
The paper quotes an unnamed Saudi official saying, “With all due respect to the tens of thousands of Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley, Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Jordan will not jeopardize their relationship with the Trump administration for them.”
Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who calls Israel Hayom ‘Netanyahu’s newspaper,’ commented that “Bibi is resurrecting the old line about Arab leaders speaking out of both sides of their mouths, saying one thing to their publics and whispering another to the United States (and Israel). Most Israelis will buy it, especially after the weak reaction to the embassy move.”
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On the cuff
Meet the man whose dress shirts are all the rage among Orthodox Jews
Nicholas Wheeler, the English founder of men’s clothing brand Charles Tyrwhitt, was in a relatively cheerful mood during a recent Zoom call with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. While the retail industry has been ravaged by the novel coronavirus, Charles Tyrwhitt has managed to weather the crisis. It can also keep counting on a reliable clientele: Charles Tyrwhitt is the shirt of choice among Orthodox Jews. “I am aware of that,” Wheeler said, clearly amused. “We do have a big choice of white shirts, and I suppose I would say this, but it’s a damn good shirt for a very good price.”
Brand of choice: Wheeler, who isn’t Jewish, is appreciative that his shirts are so deeply loved by the Orthodox community — a phenomenon he became aware of at least five years ago, he estimated. Wheeler said that Lakewood, N.J. — home to a sizable Orthodox Jewish population — has particularly robust sales. Periodically, he said, his company will receive a bulk order of 500 to 1,000 shirts in the U.S.
White collar: “I think, in some of the very, very Orthodox communities, which are quite closed, we have people who literally act — they almost have a shop, I think, within the community, and so they’ll buy the shirts from us, and then I think they sell them on.” Incidentally, Wheeler has the same fashion sense as some of his most loyal clients. “It’s quite hard to beat a white shirt,” he said. “A crisp white shirt just looks damn good on pretty much everybody.”
Trendsetters: Dovid Bashevkin, director of education at NCSY, the Orthodox Union’s youth group, agreed. “I’m wearing a Charles Tyrwhitt shirt as we speak,” he told JI in a phone interview. “There’s always something very humorous about the Orthodox buying patterns, which is there is a herd mentality about the types of products that Jews like,” Bashevkin said. He also pointed out that Charles Tyrwhitt shirts have “a kind of WASPy dignity that, I think, Orthodox Jews sometimes, however unconsciously, however subtly, appreciate. It has a quality to it that gives you that air of highbrow culture that, I think, very often attracts the trendsetters in the Jewish community.”
Home office casual: Even Wheeler himself is going a bit more casual these days, quarantining at home outside London, though he said the idea of daytime pajamas is “a slippery slope” he cannot condone. But he’s finding a happy medium in chinos and a striped lilac shirt. “At home,” he said, “if nobody else is around — it’s just the kids and my wife — they’re going to think I’m a bit crazy if I’m wearing a suit and tie.”
in the race
Leger Fernandez takes strong lead against Plame ahead of New Mexico primary contest
Teresa Leger Fernandez has taken a strong lead over Valerie Plame in the race to succeed Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) in New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district, according to a new poll conducted by Clarity Campaign Labs.
Details: The poll✎ EditSign, which has a margin of error of 3.8%, gives Leger Fernandez a comfortable lead over Plame ahead of the June 2 Democratic primary, with Leger Fernandez polling at 33% to Plame’s 24% among likely voters. The poll was commissioned by Emily’s List, which has endorsed Leger Fernandez, the progressive attorney who is also backed by Latino Victory Fund, Working Families Party and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) Courage to Change political action committee.
Outside spending: Various entities are throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars into largely positive ads boosting Leger Fernandez, including two groups backed by David Krone, former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid’s chief of staff, along with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Bold PAC.
Targeting Plame:According to a new FEC filing this week, Democratic Majority for Israel is now spending $96,819 opposing Plame. Another group, the Alliance to Combat Extremism Fund (ACE) run by a D.C. operative named Ian Sugar, posted an incendiary attack ad last week that described Plame as a “disgraced racist millionaire” and placed swastikas in her eyes. Leger Fernandez has sought to distance herself from the ad and has called for the group to take it down. It’s not clear if ACE is planning to buy any air time for the ad beyond posting it to YouTube. Neither Sugar nor former New Republic owner Marty Peretz, who is backing ACE, returned requests for comment for this article.
Different tone: “We thought the ACE ad was horrific and has no place in our politics,” said Mark Mellman, president and CEO of DMFI. “Our ad is quite different in every respect — the imagery and content is not the same and perhaps most important, our ad is 100% accurate… We are not suggesting Plame is a white nationalist, we are saying that someone who tweets their material for years does not belong in Congress. In the end that’s up to the people of New Mexico’s 3rd district to decide and we respect their judgment.”
A LOT OF ZOOM
Annexation is the ‘smoking gun’ in peace process collapse, says top Palestinian diplomat
Israeli efforts to annex parts of the West Bank would mark a turning point in Israeli-Palestinian relations, Palestinian Ambassador to the U.K. Husam Zomlot warned on Tuesday. “For those who believe in the… two-state solution,” Zomlot said during a webcast hosted by the Israel Policy Forum, “I think for us annexation would mark the smoking gun and the end of that paradigm.”
Why now? Last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the PA planned to cease security coordination and annul all agreements with the U.S. and Israel. “The train has left the station,” Zomlot said, explaining that the PA had waited to see if there would be a change in the Israeli leadership following the election in March, describing the strategy as “buying constructive time” before reassessing. “But with this [new] coalition that even includes Labor, I don’t think there is a lot to contemplate on. There is nothing left for second guessing,” he said.
Call for action: On the call, Zomlot laid out the PA’s expectations of American officials who oppose annexation. Zomlot said he was not impressed by recent statements made by former Vice President Joe Biden, noting that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee did not include a course of action against Israel to “dissuade” it from moving forward. “If Netanyahu doesn’t hear or feel the words ‘sanctions, consequences,’ his calculus will continue and he will do the annexation,” Zomlot said.
Don’t bother calling: Zomlot told participants that “no Palestinian leader will agree” to resume peace talks with Israel under a hypothetical Biden administration if Israel moves forward with annexation. “I think the headache that Mr. Biden will inherit once he is elected — if he is elected — will be immense, and I don’t believe he can actually bring about an end to this conflict by another process. It would have been over,” he said.
Reserving judgment: Zomlot told Jewish Insider “it’s too early” to take Biden’s commitments to reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem and the Palestine Liberation Organization mission in Washington at face value.
Read more here.
Global effort: French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have reportedly sent personal letters to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioning him against annexation.
On the ground: IDF Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, has warned that unilateral annexation could lead to a “wave of terror attacks.”
⚔️ Divided Together: Jonathan Haidt talks to The Atlantic’s Peter Wehner about polarization amid the pandemic. “Most Americans seem to be having a surge of common sentiment, of prosocial feeling,” Haidt said. However, he added: “I don’t see much of a chance of us really coming together and overcoming our differences before the election. Or, basically, as long as Trump is in office.” [TheAtlantic]
📅 Calendar Conflict: In Tablet, Ari Lamm revisits the dilemma American Jews faced in 1865, when a day of mourning for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln coincided with the holiday of Shavuot: Many “faced what seemed like a stark choice between duty to country and duty to God — between patriotism and piety.” [Tablet]
👂 Seeking Help: Adam Gopnik writes in TheNew Yorker about the changing realm of therapy amid the pandemic, including among the city’s ultra-Orthodox. “Everyone in that community knows someone who has died, and usually someone important to them,” said psychologist Monica Carsky. “It’s especially hard for those cut off from their normal sources of comfort, like shul.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
⚠️ Friendly Warning: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman warned new Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel against allowing China to invest in the country’s 5G infrastructure.
🚫 Boycott Ban: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an anti-BDS bill into law last week.
⚖️Facing Justice: An Israeli court ruled yesterday that Malka Leifer, who has been accused of sexually assaulting her students while principal of an Orthodox Jewish school, is fit to be extradited to Australia to stand trial.
💪 Getting to Work:New Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch pledged the government’s “unconditional commitment” to Diaspora Jews, and offered her support to communities affected by COVID-19.
✍️ Hot Takes:In Foreign Affairs, former Ambassador Martin Indyk writes that Israel’s “bloated government” will have to overcome internal conflicts to tackle upcoming issues. In Bloomberg, Zev Chafets compares Netanyahu to Michael Jordan, “a relentless competitor who loves to play on the brightest stages for the highest stakes.”
🤝 Quiet Peace: Aaron David Miller opines in Politico that Israel and the Gulf states are experiencing “a Great Thaw in an otherwise frozen political landscape.”
💰 Safety Net: The Israeli government has approved a plan to provide a safety net for investors in the country’s hi-tech industry, seeking to help businesses recover from the coronavirus crisis.
🤖 Robot Health: Bloombergspotlights “the hospital room of the future,” where Israeli doctors are testing out new technologies.
🛍️ Shifting Gears: New Rochelle — the first coronavirus epicenter in New York — has begun to slowly reopen, including allowing in-store pickup at retail locations.
📱 Friends and Enemies: The Wall Street Journal reveals that Facebook executives were told its algorithms were driving extremism and polarization, but chose not to act or intervene.
🤳 Recalculating: As streaming platform Quibi fails to meet expectations, advertisers are seeking to revise the terms of their deals.
👩⚖️ Ruling: A federal judge has ruled in favor of the NAACP in East Ramapo, agreeing that the school board is unfairly elected and must change the system that has led to a board majority of Orthodox Jewish men.
📽️ Tune In: The Jerusalem Film Festival, originally slated for July, has been rescheduled for August, and could become one of the first international film festivals to take place in the coronavirus era.
Pic of the Day
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited Yeshivat Kfar Haroeh today for a joint study session ahead of Shavuot. (MARK NEYMAN/GPO)
Emmy award-winning actor, best known for playing Toby Ziegler on “The West Wing,” Richard Schiff turns 65
Media mogul Sumner Redstone turns 97… Diplomat Henry Kissinger turns 97… Professor Philip Kotler turns 89… U.K. developer Gerald Ronson turns 81… Actor Zack Norman turns 80… Teacher Ellen Weinstein Pildis turns 70… MLB pitcher Ross Baumgarten turns 65… MLB pitcher Mark Clear turns 64… Marriage counselor Sherry Amatenstein turns 63… Trial lawyer Marc R. Stanley turns 63…
Immigration attorney Neil J. Sheff turns 59… Political strategist David Plouffe turns 53… Phibro Israel’s Jonathan Bendheim turns 44… NYT reporter Noam Scheiber turns 44… Fundraiser Grant Silverstein turns 38… WSJ reporter Benjamin Zachary Cohen turns 32… Congressional aide Katherina (Katya) Dimenstein turns 32… Attorney Joshua Fitterman turns 27… Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Andrew Seidman…