Good Tuesday morning!
Today, voters in Maryland, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Iowa, South Dakota, Indiana, New Mexico and D.C. head to the polls for Republican and Democratic primaries. Check out our election map for details.
Last night, President Donald Trump threatened to dispatch the U.S. military to major cities if widespread riots are not halted. The president then walked over to the St. John’s Episcopal Church — after police cleared a path by dispersing a protest outside the White House with tear gas — with his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday that the U.S. will “push back” against the International Criminal Court’s inquiries into Israel “in the coming days.”
An Iranian professor imprisoned in the U.S. is reportedly on his way back to Iran, potentially signaling the start of a long-rumored prisoner swap deal between Tehran and Washington.
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talk of the town
Is Eliot Engel in trouble?
Rep. Eliot Engel is one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress. But he’s facing a formidable primary challenger this election cycle in Jamaal Bowman, a 44-year-old Bronx middle-school principal backed by Justice Democrats, the progressive political action committee that helped Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) unseat another powerful New York Democrat two years ago. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel takes a look at the race ahead of the June 23 primary.
On the ground: Bowman alleged that Engel has been absent from the district. “It’s hard to understand the magnitude and the gravity of this pandemic if you’re not here, particularly considering that this district was hit first,” Bowman said. But Engel takes issue with that characterization. “First of all, how would he know?” the 16-term congressman said in a recent conversation with JI. “I don’t recall him ever doing one thing in the district in terms of working with communities. He’s done his education stuff, that’s for sure.”
Building support: Bowman has raised more than $500,000 in his effort to unseat Engel, according to Federal Election Commission filings. His odds received a boost on Monday when another of Engel’s far-left challengers, Andom Ghebreghiorgis, dropped out of the race and endorsed Bowman.
Conditioning aid: Some of Bowman’s criticisms of Engel have centered on the congressman’s foreign policy. Bowman supports rejoining the Iran deal and advocates for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while arguing that the U.S. should condition aid to Israel. “This is not about singling out Israel and targeting Israel,” said Bowman, who noted he does not support BDS. “This is about any country that we provide aid to that’s committing human rights violations — we need to have a conversation about conditioning some aid if those violations continue.” Bowman believes that his views on Israel do not differ all that drastically from his opponent’s.
I think not: Engel vehemently disagreed that Bowman’s approach to Israel was anything like his own. “I would certainly regard him as anti-Israel,” Engel told JI. “Conditioning aid for Israel is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Foreign aid doesn’t only benefit the countries that we are giving it to — it benefits the United States.” Engel, who considers himself to be the strongest supporter of Israel in Congress, suggested that Bowman was ill-informed when it came to the Middle East and Israel — and that he was regurgitating talking points he had learned in order to campaign. “I’d be happy to teach him if he’d like to learn,” Engel told JI.
Establishment support: Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said she believes Bowman’s views should concern those who support Israel. “It seems that the very far left, in this case, is attempting to exploit the issue of Israel to create a wedge,” she told JI. “What’s notable about this race versus many of the others we’re watching is that Israel does appear to be a distinction between these two Democratic candidates,” said Soifer, whose organization endorsed Engel. “You don’t see that in a lot of races. And it’s clear that Bowman has a very different view, which is why we thought it was so important to come out publicly in support of Chairman Engel.”
On the attack
Crowded GOP primary in Pennsylvania turns testy
A Republican primary in northeastern Pennsylvania taking place today has turned into a three-way firing squad, as the race’s top candidates attack each other over their level of support for the president, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Crowded field: Four of the six Republicans running in the state’s 8th district have raised more than $150,000 — Mike Marsicano, a former mayor who ran for Congress in 2016 as a Democrat; political operative and Trump administration Export-Import Bank official Jim Bognet; veteran and Purple Heart recipient Teddy Daniels; and Earl Granville, a combat veteran who lost a leg in Afghanistan and received an early endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
Long shot: The GOP hopes to flip the district, which the Cook Political Report rates as a blue-leaning toss-up. The half-dozen candidates looking to unseat Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), who has represented the Scranton area since 2013 and won his last race by nine points, hail from very different backgrounds. But it’s unclear if any have a strong shot at victory come November. “I’m at a loss as to why folks think it’s a competitive district,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College and a prominent Pennsylvania pollster.
Trading barbs: The candidates have been jostling to prove their support for President Donald Trump. In a memo circulated in April, Bognet attacked Granville for a social media post criticizing Trump and blasted Marsicano for his previous Democratic party affiliation, claiming he voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. In response, Marsicano denied the accusations and struck back at Bognet, alleging that the former administration official had himself been a Clinton supporter and had not voted for Trump in 2016. Marsicano and Granville both slammed Bognet for having worked on Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-UT) 2012 presidential campaign, and for living outside the district for an extended period.
‘Territorial integrity’: Both Bognet and Daniels said they strongly support Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance. When pressed on Middle East peace issues, Bognet praised Trump’s efforts in the region, though he seemed to express some skepticism about the possibility of a two-state solution. “I’m in favor of an Israel that is allowed to survive where you don’t have the Palestinians committed to pushing Israel into the sea,” Bognet said. “I am very uncomfortable with anything that threatens the territorial integrity of Israel.”
New Mexico’s Yvette Herrell fights for a second chance to defeat Rep. Xochitil Torres Small
After narrowly losing to Democrat Xochitil Torres Small in 2018, former state representative Yvette Herrell is back for a rematch to represent New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district. But she’ll first have to win a vicious Republican primary today against lobbyist and businesswoman Claire Chase, in a battle that has left both candidates bruised and drained of resources, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Fighting words: The Republican primary has been marked by accusations of infidelity and sexism in addition to other mudslinging. In December, Chase claimed that Herrell — by losing the 2018 election — was partly responsible for the president’s impeachment. Both candidates have damaged their standing and image in a primary that’s become “bitterly divisive,” University of New Mexico political science professor Lonna Atkeson told JI. “Whoever wins is going into the general in a negative position.”
Plot twist: National Democratic groups have aired ads and sent out mailers appearing to attack Chase and praise Herrell, whom they seem to view as the weaker general election candidate. “All of these things add up together,” Atkeson said. “People don’t notice who’s doing it or why. It all goes into the milieu of people’s opinions. All information has some sort of influence.”
Friendly face: Herrell has earned supporters in the local Jewish community. Halley Faust, chairman of local pro-Israel group Santa Fe Middle East Watch, said the former state representative was an “instrumental” backer of statewide anti-BDS legislation, which ultimately failed to pass. Herrell told JI she supports Israel because of her “personal conviction… as a Christian” and because “I know how important Israel is to not only New Mexico, but the nation, in terms of being an ally for us.”
Read more about the race here.
Also today: Former CIA spy Valerie Plame is up against Teresa Leger Fernandez in New Mexico’s neighboring 3rd district. Journalist Nina Burleigh describes a conversation with Plame about the U.S.-Israel relationship and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a Medium post published last week: “I believe that American foreign policy, the foreign policy between Israel and the United States is distorted,” Plame said. “Israel is our democratic ally, the only one in that region, and it’s really important that we continue to support them. But the Netanyahu government — it’s a distorted relationship, is I think the best way to describe it. I’ll let someone else talk about the neocons and the lines to those that would take us to war and so forth, I’ll leave that for other people to write about.”
Trump team reaches out to Netanyahu, Gantz as annexation date looms
A month before the July 1st annexation target date, top Trump administration officials contacted Israeli leaders to discuss their government’s plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, an administration official confirmed to Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Details: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz, while Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in Jerusalem. Quoting a senior Israeli official, Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reported that the administration is seeking to slow down the annexation process. But an administration official told JI it is too early “to get into” the conversation, describing the report as pure speculation.
On the ground: Meanwhile, Gantz ordered IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi to “step up preparations for the Israel Defense Forces,” ahead of a draft proposal that could include the annexation of the Jordan Valley and settlement blocs in the West Bank.
Right-wing pushback: In recent days, several influential right-wing activists and settler leaders have expressed their opposition to the Israeli government’s plan on two fronts. Firstly, because it would require adopting the Trump peace plan, which includes recognition of a Palestinian state, and secondly, they say the map leaves many settlements as disconnected enclaves that would be unable to expand.
Bonus: An employee in the prime minister’s office has tested positive for coronavirus, prompting an epidemiological investigation that will determine whether Netanyahu will be required to enter self-isolation for the third time since the outbreak.
📜 Learning from History: In The Atlantic’s cover story, Anne Applebaum explores why Republican leaders have “abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president” by examining a history of “enthusiastic collaborators.” Harvard scholar Stanley Hoffmann, who himself fled the Nazis, helped classify the types and motivations of such individuals. [TheAtlantic]
🕍 Living History: In Smithsonian Magazine, novelist Dara Horn spotlights the virtual platform Diarna, which digitally recreates Jewish heritage sites around the globe in breathtaking 3D. “Diarna is simply a higher-tech version of what everyone’s ancestors once did — pass along memories around a fire — but with new technologies expanding that warm, bright circle.” [Smithsonian]
🏺 Changing Minds: Menachem Wecker writes in The Washington Post that the much-embattled Museum of the Bible is winning back some former Jewish critics of its approach. Several “prominent Jewish scholars say the institution’s reputation is changing with new staff, stricter acquisitions policies and some prized additions.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
👊 Trading Barbs: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told President Donald Trump in a tense exchange Monday during a White House call with governors that the president’s “rhetoric” in the wake of nationwide protests has been “inflammatory.” Trump responded: “I don’t like your rhetoric much either.”
🥂 Behind the Scenes: Politico reporters Nancy Cook, Daniel Lippman and Gabby Orr examine how Trump’s “scattered team” struggled to respond to the protests, as many gathered at a party in Arthur Schwartz’s suburban D.C. home on Sunday, including State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, White House national security advisor Robert O’Brien and outgoing Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell.
🚶♂️Virtual Protest: Facebook employees conducted a virtual walkout on Monday in solidarity with protesters and against the decision of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to not take action against Trump’s posts that glorified violence.
💻Unfriended: Oren Frank’s online therapy company Talkspace is pulling out of its partnership with Facebook over the social media platform’s decision not to regulate Trump’s posts. Frank tweeted, “We will not support a platform that incites violence, racism and lies.”
🕍 Regrouping: Neo-Nazi accelerationists and far-right extremists are strategizing online about how to attack synagogues as police forces are tied up with protests.
💡Shining a Light:Israel’s Aquarius Engines has signed a partnership deal with Nokia to supply generators to millions of people in southeast Asia without electricity.
💉 Widespread: The initial results of an antibodies study in Israel indicate that 2.5% of the population — more than 250,000 people — contracted COVID-19.
🏠 Mega Deal: Billionaire Roman Abramovich has bought a new home in Herzliya for NIS 226 million, believed to be Israel’s most expensive residential real estate sale ever.
💵 Give ‘Em Back: The Supreme Court has declined to protect foreign entities from restitution claims filed by victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
✍️ Rewriting History: A historian has asserted that German business guru Roland Berger’s father was an early member of the Nazi party who later fell out of favor, and not a resistance fighter as Berger had claimed.
⚰️ God Plans: In an interview with the Times of Israel, the manager of Gutterman’s Funeral Homes in Woodbury, New York, discussed the regrettable business boom that came with the coronavirus outbreak.
👩 👨 Looking Ahead: A new report✎ EditSign, commissioned by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Genesis Philanthropy Group, Jim Joseph Foundation and Maimonides Fund and released today, looks at young adult attitudes and engagement in Jewish life.
🚫 Ban on Stars: The city of Munich has banned the use of Nazi-era yellow stars at anti-lockdown protests.
🏀 Sports Blink: NBA commissioner Adam Silver is facing a series of hurdles to restart the basketball season and keep both players and team owners happy.
👎 Hired, Fired: Keren Hayesod, Israel’s official fundraising organization outside of the U.S., fired new CEO Polly Bronstein on her first day, citing new cost-cutting measures.
👩 Transitions: Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz was selected as the new chancellor and first female leader of the Jewish Theological Seminary, replacing Arnold Eisen. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation elected former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Fay Hartog-Levin as the next chair of its board.
Gif of the Day
Rabbi Michael Beals of Congregation Beth Shalom in Wilmington, Delaware, who is known as Joe Biden’s rabbi, expressed the Jewish community’s solidarity with the African-American community in the wake of the killing of George Floyd during a meeting with faith leaders hosted by the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington yesterday.
Equestrian show jumper who qualified to represent Israel at the now-postponed 2020 Olympics, Danielle “Dani” Goldstein Waldman turns 35…
Former member of the British and European Parliaments David Anthony Gerald Sumberg turns 79… Social entrepreneur Anita Altman turns 75… Israeli entrepreneur Benny Landa turns 74… Johns Hopkins University professor Dr. Bert Vogelstein turns 71… Writer and executive producer Frank Rich turns 71… USHMM’s Jordan E. Tannenbaum turns 70… NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman turns 68… Carla Beth Sanchez turns 68… Founder of IDT Corp Howard S. Jonas turns 64… NASA astronaut Mark L. Polansky turns 64…
Dinorah Cecilia Baroody turns 62… Harmonie Club’s GM Davina Weinstein turns 54… Talk show host Andrew Joseph (Andy) Cohen turns 52… Land use attorney Jessica Ashenberg Loeser turns 43… Obama Foundation’s Jordan David Kaplan turns 42… Action Network’s Jason S. Rosenbaum turns 36… Grandmaster chess player Bella Igla Gesser turns 35… CEO of The Wing Audrey H. Gelman turns 33… Neura, Inc.’s Jared R. Fleitman turns 28… Cuomo staffer Benjamin Sheridan turns 28…