Good Thursday morning!
As the Trump administration continues internal discussions over Israel’s annexation plans, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested yesterday that this is a decision “for the Israelis to make, and we are talking to all of the countries in the region about how it is we can manage this process.” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters that Trump will deliver a “big announcement” on the matter.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), along with six other Republican senators, sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to give Israel the green light on annexation. The Jewish Institute for National Security of America is expected to publish a report✎ EditSign in favor of annexation in the next few days.
As of today, 189 Democratic members of Congress have added their names to the House letter, released last week, opposing annexation.
More than 1,000 European lawmakers have signed a letter saying that annexation could be “fatal” to the prospect of peace and calling for “commensurate consequences” for such an action. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said yesterday that annexation would violate international law, while the Arab League warned it could “ignite a religious war.”
Democratic Majority for Israel defended its $2 million spend to boost Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) in New York’s 16th district. DMFI also congratulated Engel’s opponent, Jamaal Bowman, after he declared victory yesterday based on the results thus far. Cook Political Report and Decision Desk HQ called the race for Bowman, while AP is waiting for mail-in ballots to be counted.
The Israeli Embassy in Washington is hosting a virtual event later today in honor of LGBT Pride Month, featuring Ambassador Ron Dermer and New York City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, who is in the lead to win the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 15th district.
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Yair Lapid is betting he’ll be Israel’s prime minister before Benny Gantz
Yair Lapid might not want to admit it, but since his political split from Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the formation of a new unity government, Israel’s opposition leader seems to be having fun throwing jabs at his former partner. But Lapid, 56, claims his motivations are pure. “I am, too, upset about the things that are going on in the country and the way things turned out politically,” Lapid told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh in an interview from the Knesset on Wednesday.
From merger to split: In the three national Israeli elections since last spring, Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party since its founding in 2012, ran with Gantz’s newly launched Israel Resilience party. The merger — which ran under the name Blue and White — shook up Israel’s political landscape and, for the first time since 2009, created an opening for Netanyahu’s ouster. The pair parted ways in March after Gantz decided to join a government with Likud and serve under Netanyahu for the first half of the term in a rotational government.
Alternative PM: Lapid didn’t dispute the suggestion that he’s comfortable in his current role as opposition leader. “I never refuse a good fight and it is a good fight,” he explained. “I feel that I’m on the right side of history. There is some sort of energy in me that maybe wasn’t there before.” And Lapid predicts a new election in Israel is fast approaching. While Netanyahu has set November 17, 2021, as the date he will step down and hand power over to Gantz, Lapid doesn’t believe Gantz will make it to the prime minister’s residence. Citing recent polls that show support for Gantz’s party slipping to single digits, Lapid suggested that Netanyahu will find a way to prevent Gantz from taking over next year, causing the government to fall apart by itself.
Yes to Trump, no to Bibi: In principle, Lapid says he supports applying Israeli law to the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank, but only as part of an agreement with the Palestinians or with the backing of Arab countries. Lapid pointed out that annexation is just one part of President Donald Trump’s peace plan. He told JI that Netanyahu’s annexation push “tore out two pages from the bigger plan because it serves him politically” amid his ongoing legal situation.
Undiplomatic: Lapid is concerned that pushing for annexation in the middle of a U.S. presidential election year without considering the views of the Democratic Party is “‘irresponsible” and could undermine long-term support for Israel in the U.S. Lapid blames Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer for Israel’s fractured relationship with the Democratic Party: “Dermer is serving more as a special envoy for two political parties — the Likud and the Republican Party — than he is as ambassador for the State of Israel.”
Read the full interview with Lapid here.
Bonus: Yorai Lahav Hertzanu, the newly sworn-in member of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and the country’s sixth openly gay member of Knesset, told Reuters he would fight for same-sex marriage and LGBTQ surrogacy rights.
John Hickenlooper’s late-stage missteps imperil his Senate prospects
Until recently, it looked as if John Hickenlooper’s bid to unseat Colorado’s first-term Republican senator, Cory Gardner, was all but assured. But a series of late-stage missteps — including two racially insensitive gaffes and a couple of ethics violations — have imperiled Hickenlooper’s prospects heading into Tuesday’s primary against progressive challenger Andrew Romanoff, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Come from behind: Hickenlooper now finds himself on the defensive as he goes up against Romanoff, a 53-year-old veteran state politician with a history of running longshot campaigns for federal office. Romanoff has long been regarded as a “thorn in the side of the Democratic establishment,” according to Tyler Sandberg, a GOP consultant. Last week, Romanoff, who has raised close to $3 million relative to Hickenlooper’s $12.6 million, released a scathing attack ad taking Hickenlooper to task for recent comments. “We can’t take this kind of risk if we’re going to beat Cory Gardner,” a voice-over says. “So vote Andrew Romanoff for a fresh, progressive voice in the Senate.”
Clean air: Romanoff, who is Jewish, said his religion influences his approach to life and politics. “I think a lot about the teachings of our faith,” he told JI. He has been to Israel three times, the first with his grandfather to attend the Maccabiah Games. The other two, he said, were through fellowships sponsored, respectively, by the Aspen Institute and the Wexner Foundation. On his visits, Romanoff was struck by the “vibrancy” of Israel’s economy as well as its “ability to make the desert bloom,” something he found inspiring. “I’d like to take a page from Israel and other countries that have accelerated their use of clean energy,” Romanoff said. “I’d like to shift from oil and gas to solar and wind and other renewables.”
Middle ground: As a progressive candidate, Romanoff is aware that anti-Israel sentiment emanates from his party’s left flank, but he seeks to set himself apart. “I don’t take the view that Israel can do no wrong or that it should be immune from criticism from its friends,” he said. “I think most people in both the Democratic and Republican Party share an understanding that Israel has a right to exist and to defend itself and, I think, also a desire to see a homeland for the Palestinian people.” In a position paper✎ EditSign he provided to JI, Romanoff said he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, opposes annexation of parts of the West Bank and advocates for renewing aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Other side: Speaking to JI, Gardner touted his pro-Israel bonafides, saying that he had visited the Jewish state a number of times. “I’ve built a good relationship with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and actually have had the chance to work with [Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister] Benny Gantz as well,” he said. Gardner endorses Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal while tentatively praising the president’s Middle East peace plan. “Look, we’ve got a long ways to go,” he said. “I certainly welcome the ideas that more people have to try to find a solution.” Experts say Gardner may face a disadvantage in a state that has been trending blue and in a moment when a progressive wave is sweeping the country. Gardner acknowledges he faces a challenging contest in November. “Colorado was always tough, there’s no doubt about that.” he said. “But I feel very good about what we have done for the people of Colorado.”
The day after
Mondaire Jones has big plans and big shoes to fill in Congress
Last summer, Mondaire Jones became the first person to challenge Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the long-serving congresswoman who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, in three decades. Two months later, Lowey announced she would not seek re-election. After Tuesday’s primary for the 17th district, Jones has all but declared victory, holding a solid lead over his six competitors, though mail-in ballots remain uncounted. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Wednesday, Jones appeared to be emboldened by his remarkably strong showing.
Big shoes: Asked how he feels about filling his predecessor’s big shoes, Jones sought to differentiate himself while adopting a deferential tone. “I wear a size 14, so I’m not sure whether our shoe size is compatible,” Jones joked. “But I’m very much looking forward to relying on Congresswoman Lowey for insights. She has been an extraordinary member of the House of Representatives and a leader for this district, and I’m very grateful to her for her decades of service.”
Consider me a friend: The presumptive victor assured those concerned that they can count on him being a strong supporter of Israel in Congress. “I have noticed that some people are speculating that I’m not going to be a friend to Israel because of certain endorsements that I’ve received by leaders in the progressive movement, and that is simply not true,” Jones said emphatically. “So I would like to clarify that egregious misconception that some of my opponents, it would appear, have been trying to propagate. I have been very public, in fact, of my support of a two-state solution✎ EditSign and support of continued security assistance to Israel, and my desire for lasting peace and security in the region.” He also added that he has been an “ardent opponent” of the BDS movement since his sophomore year of college.
Reaching out: Jones also pledged to work together with the sizable Hasidic bloc in his native Rockland County, home to the largest Jewish population per capita of any county in the U.S., according to state data. “I am running to represent everyone in my district,” he told JI. “You cannot exclude large swaths of your constituency. So I will meet with anyone and everyone, and, frankly, given my progressive domestic policy agenda, I would hope to get support from multiple constituencies in this district who desperately need government to work for them as well.”
🏗️ Growing Pains: Josie Glausiusz spotlights in the Nature journal how Israel’s building boom is imperiling its thousands of archeological sites — but the country’s Antiquities Authority is largely funded by the construction industry. “I would like the whole country to be covered in archaeology, but my children need a place to live.” [Nature]
🧸 Twisted Toys:The Atlantic’s Kaitlyn Tiffany delves into the “Nazi problem” among some adult fans of the toy “My Little Pony,” where a significant portion of fan art on its popular message boards contains racist and white supremacist themes. [TheAtlantic]
Around the Web
🛩️ Grab a Deal:WeWork is advertising a reduced price of $49.9 million for its luxurious private jet, after nine months on the market following the company’s failed IPO bid.
📱 Guarding Privacy: Israel’s Shin Bet is objecting to the Israeli government’s push to resume a controversial cellphone-tracing program to stop the spread of coronavirus.
📹 Roll the Tape:Israeli Police released footage of a suspected car-ramming terror attack this week where the suspect was shot dead, to dispute claims he was mistakenly killed.
🏳️🌈 Intolerance: A banner honoring LGBTQ pride was removed — and later restored — from the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem after the city’s deputy mayor complained it was offensive.
💵 Stimulus Package: The Knesset Finance Committee approved a request by Netanyahu yesterday to retroactively grant him tax exemptions for his state-covered expenses since 2009, a controversial financial bonus that could exceed $150,000.
👨💻 Investing Matters:Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich is buying a stake in Russia’s largest internet company, Yandex NV, to push online retail.
🏟️ Sports Blink: Billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben are exploring a bid to buy the New York Mets, in part for future developments surrounding the team’s home stadium, Citi Field in Queens, New York.
👎 Thumbs Down: The University of Cincinnati is removing former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott’s name from its baseball stadium over her record of racism and antisemitism.
💌 Exit Door: Max Temkin, co-founder of Cards Against Humanity, stepped down from an active role at the company following allegations of fostering a racist and sexist office culture.
🤳 Not Playing: Isaac Larian, the Jewish-Iranian billionaire behind the LOL Surprise! and Bratz dolls, deleted his Twitter account after posting a claim that the Black Lives Matter organization is antisemitic.
👴 Paying Tribute:Actor Michael Douglas has been selected to introduce the new core exhibition at the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv in honor of his late father, Kirk Douglas.
🖼️ Fresh Start: After close to two years of renovations, the Jewish Museum Berlin is set to finally reopen in August.
🦸♀️ No Wonder:Actress Gal Gadot was reportedly caught violating Israel’s mandatory quarantine guidelines after entering the country in early June.
🎙️ Speaking Up:Jewish actress Jenny Slate said she will no longer voice her half-Jewish half-Black animated character on “Big Mouth” because it should be played by a Black woman.
🕯️ Remembering:Associated Press reporter Gregory Katz, who led AP’s coverage of Brexit and the election of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, died at age 67 from coronavirus-related illness.
Song of the Day
Israeli pop stars Static and Ben-El and Israeli-Arab singer Nasrin Kadri (pictured) released a new song this week, “Habibi Albi,” to serve as Tel Aviv’s official song to mark Gay Pride Week in the city this year.
Center fielder in the San Francisco Giants organization, he was the 10th overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, Hunter David Bishop turns 22…
New Jersey-based criminal defense attorney, Miles Feinstein turns 79… Music publicist and author, Howard Bloom turns 77… Founder and CEO of Bel Air Partners, Sheldon J. Sandler turns 76… Founder of The Continuum Company, Ian Bruce Eichner turns 75… Lake Worth, Florida resident, Joseph C. Goldberg turns 75… Woodland Hills, California-based coach and consultant, Gary Brennglass turns 68… CEO of Henry Crown and Company, he is a director of JPMorgan Chase and General Dynamics, James Crown turns 67… Former member of the Knesset, Michal Rozin turns 51…
High-end real estate agent and media personality, Mauricio Umansky turns 50… CEO of the Boston-based Achievement Network, Mora Segal turns 47… News Editor at The Forward, Helen Chernikoff turns 47… Director of The Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, Natan Slifkin turns 45… Fashion model and television presenter, Michele Merkin turns 45… Congressional engagement and legislative strategist for the U.S. Air Force, Zachary Silberman turns 35… Branding representative for Leidos, Isaac Snyder turns 33… Producer and reporter covering the White House for CNN, Betsy Klein…