Good Thursday morning!
Ed note: In honor of the July 4th weekend, the next Daily Kickoff will be on Tuesday. Happy 4th!
President Donald Trump has reportedly expressed regret at heeding the advice of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on prison reform, and wants to only follow his own instincts moving forward.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has topped Trump’s fundraising haul for June by $10 million.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to meet with the Anti-Defamation League and other civil rights groups who spearheaded an advertising boycott of the company over its handling of hate speech.
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MIDDLE OF THE TURNPIKE
New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill eschews labels, including ‘moderate’
Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) has been characterized as a moderate ever since she flipped a traditionally conservative enclave of northern New Jersey in 2018. But in a recent conversation with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, Sherrill bristled at that notion. “Somehow moderate sounds sort of tepid,” she lamented. “I don’t feel in any way moderate about the need to create a different future for this country.”
Critical of Trump: Sherrill, who represents New Jersey’s 11th district, appears to have become more comfortable expressing her disapproval of President Donald Trump’s policies as she wraps up her first term in Washington. “What I think this administration has done poorly is sort of politicize some of how we respond to this,” she said of the president’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The freshman congresswoman also took aim at Trump’s foreign policy approach. “Right now there’s just a lack of true strategy,” said Sherrill, calling the targeted assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani in January a strategic error.
Responsive: Rabbi David Levy, regional director of the American Jewish Committee in New Jersey, said Sherrill has been responsive when it comes to addressing the concerns of Jewish community members in the district. “When the shootings happened in Jersey City,” he said, “she was one of the people, in 24 hours, who was on the phone calling me directly, finding out how the Jewish community was doing.”
Israel trip: In November 2019, Sherrill visited Israel for the first time on a bipartisan women’s trip led by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). During the visit, she travelled to Erez, a kibbutz on the border with Gaza. She said the experience shifted her perception of the Jewish state. “The changing nature of the kibbutz in Israel is fascinating to me because as a young person growing up in America, you hear about the kibbutz experience, that’s sort of part of your image of Israel,” she said.
New guard: While she isn’t optimistic that the current Israeli and Palestinian leadership can bring about peace, she’s hopeful that a new, young guard can effect real change. “You speak to the younger generation and you get the sense that they can solve anything, that this innovative culture is so cutting-edge that there is no problem they can’t solve,” Sherrill said. “So I have to say my hope is with the young people.”
Touting record of service, Josh Gottheimer seeks to fend off progressive challenge
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) isn’t known as a go-along Democrat. Since being elected to Congress to represent New Jersey’s 5th congressional district in 2016 — flipping a red district blue — Gottheimer has broken ranks with his caucus on a handful of domestic and foreign policy matters. But the two-term congressman is a get-along Democrat. “I’ve worked around the clock to not just fight for issues on a national level that are good for our district, but fighting for people and doing what’s best by putting our district first,” Gottheimer, co-chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, said in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Facing a challenge: Gottheimer’s bipartisan voting record has become an issue in his second re-election bid as he seeks to fend off a first-time primary challenge on July 7. Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich, a neuroscientist who volunteered for Gottheimer’s re-election campaign in 2018, is backed by national progressive groups and has received the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).
Why now? Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division, who lives nearby in Englewood, New Jersey, suggested the progressive challenge being mounted against Gottheimer is “retribution” for the congressman speaking out against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) after her series of tweets accusing AIPAC of paying lawmakers to be pro-Israel. NORPAC President Dr. Ben Chouake, who has hosted several fundraisers for Gottheimer, told JI that “the opposition to members of Congress who support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is a very real threat.”
Judge by affiliation: “If you look at my positions, if you look at my voting record, I am clearly a Democrat,” Gottheimer stressed, pointing to his support of major pieces of legislation put forth by the Democratic leadership and the endorsements he received from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and local officials. “If you look at who’s stood by me, who’s endorsed me, and the results in every county that I represent, it’s clear that I have received overwhelming support of Democrats because of the values we share as Democrats.”
Contrast on the conflict: In the interview with JI, Gottheimer said he’s been fighting to maintain bipartisan support for Israel in Congress because the relationship benefits U.S. national security. That’s why he refused to sign onto a recent House letter cautioning Israel against annexing parts of the West Bank — because it lacked bipartisan support and failed to include an “iron-clad” commitment on military aid to Israel. Kreibich, meanwhile, told JI that she would have signed onto the letter were she in Congress. “I support a two-state solution with a capital in Jerusalem for both states, and I believe that the United States has a responsibility to help to facilitate this solution,” the candidate emphasized. Kreibich added that she’s committed to maintaining U.S military aid to Israel, “but we must also stand up to President Trump and resume humanitarian aid to Palestine, including through using U.N. agencies as an intermediary.”
In New Jersey’s 3rd district, Republicans duke it out in primary slugfest
With few exceptions, the Republican primary candidates in New Jersey’s 3rd congressional district are aligned on key issues. With little substance to disagree on, the race has devolved into personal attacks that threaten to derail the general election campaign of Tuesday’s primary winner in a fight against one of the most vulnerable House Democrats, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Race to watch: Either David Richter, the former CEO of construction firm Hill International, or Kate Gibbs, a union official and former Burlington County freeholder, will take on freshman Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) in November. Kim, who flipped the district in 2018, is one of the GOP’s top targets, and The Cook Political Report rates the race as a tossup. Running against Kim — who won by 1.3 percentage points in 2018 in a district Trump won by six points in 2016 — the GOP nominee may have a shot at flipping the 3rd district, Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker told JI.
Personal attacks: Richter has slammed Gibbs over old criminal charges for shoplifting, marijuana possession and public drinking, and lawsuits for failing to pay rent. “I did some foolish things as a lot of young people do,” Gibbs told JI. “I made mistakes, I’ve owned them. But there’s nothing more American, or more Republican for that matter, than pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, facing adversity and making better choices.” Gibbs has characterized Richter as an opportunist out of step with voters in the district. Richter had originally filed to run in the neighboring 2nd district, but swapped when Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) switched parties during the impeachment of President Donald Trump. “[Richter] doesn’t care whose congressperson he is, or who he represents. He just wants the title,” Gibbs said.
Eye on Israel: Neither candidate has much experience when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gibbs said she favors a two-state solution, but criticized Palestinian leadership as being an obstacle to this goal. “I think that America should be playing a role and supporting our important ally Israel, and moving towards that two-state solution, but the Palestinians have to act in good faith and move towards that as well.” Richter, who is Jewish, did not prescribe a specific approach to the conflict. “It’s not my land. It’s not my country,” he said. “I think we have to leave that up to the two sides to determine.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen suggests demarcating U.S. aid to Israel
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), one of three authors of a Senate letter cautioning Israeli leaders against annexing parts of the West Bank, said during a virtual panel discussion hosted by J Street on Wednesday that U.S. taxpayer money shouldn’t be going “to support in any way, encourage or ratify unilateral annexation by Israel.”
The argument: Van Hollen explained that while U.S. support for Israel’s security should remain “unbreakable,” if Israel moves ahead with annexation, Washington has a right to insist that security assistance not be used for the effort. “I do not think American dollars should be aiding and abetting the unilateral annexation of territory,” he stressed. “This is a very important distinction,” Van Hollen emphasized. “We can say that we think unilateral annexation would be very bad for Israel, be bad for the United States [and] be bad for the region. But then we just say, ‘OK, we’re going to provide assistance, even if some of those dollars can be used to advance the cause of unilateral annexation.’ I’m not suggesting in any way that we not provide robust security assistance. But I do think it’s important to draw the line with respect to those dollars being used to advance unilateral annexation.”
In agreement: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who is one of the four authors of the House letter cautioning Israeli leaders against annexation, concurred. “I agree with Chris [Van Hollen] 100%,” Schakowsky said. “I think that’s consistent with the position that we’re taking.” The Illinois congresswoman added that no current aid to Israel is expected to be used to support annexation. “But I agree with Chris [Van Hollen] that we could also make it clear that there are certain places we don’t want the money to go — and it doesn’t, in fact,” she said.
View from Jerusalem: Speaking after the U.S. lawmakers on the call, MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid), a member of the Israeli opposition, warned congressional Democrats against threatening to condition aid over annexation because such a move would be interpreted by Israelis as punishment. “I wouldn’t bring money into the picture,” he said, noting that the Israeli public is divided on the issue of annexation. “I think that will create a negative reaction in Israel.” However, Shelah suggested, “If this comes from Washington as a message of really caring about Israel, not threatening, I think that’ll be the most effective way in really stopping annexation and stopping Netanyahu from making that decision.”
Israel as an election issue: During a webcast hosted by Cornell University’s Institute of Politics and Global Affairs and Institute for National Security Studies on Wednesday, former Obama advisor David Axelrod suggested that Trump will give Israel the green light to annex territory if he feels it would boost his re-election chances. “You saw Prime Minister Netanyahu make an appeal to American evangelicals the other day, and I think that was a sign of how he reads American politics,” Axelrod said. “I think if [Trump] thinks it will benefit his re-elect he will do that. There are nine words that are not going to pass from Donald Trump’s mouth, which is — ‘we could do that but it would be wrong.’”
📰 Media Watch:Vice’s Laura Wagner takes a close look at the reign of Los Angeles Times executive editor Norman Pearlstine, who was brought in by a new owner in 2018 to revamp the paper. Critics say that while Pearlstine operates in good faith, he has “responded unpredictably to crises great and small” and has brushed off complaints about other staffers. [Vice]
💰 Soft Power: Economist Paul Krugman writes in The New York Times about how the wealthy in America have a huge disparity in political influence. “Our ideals say that all men are created equal, but in practice a small minority is far more equal than the rest of us.” [NYTimes]
📱Poking the Bear: In the Columbia Journalism Review, Jacob Silverman explores what it’s like to report on Facebook, where journalists have faced lies, secrecy and combative approaches from company executives. “Facebook is constantly playing a game of whack-a-mole, but at its own pace and with little regard for its users.” [CJR]
Around the Web
📢 Speaking Out: Former President Jimmy Carter has spoken out against Israeli annexation efforts, calling it a “massive, illegal expropriation of Palestinian territory.” Meanwhile, the Vatican has summoned both its U.S. and Israeli envoys to express concern “regarding possible unilateral actions that may further jeopardize the search for peace.”
📈 Big Open: The Israeli-founded insurance startup Lemonade has been valued at $1.6 billion ahead of its stock market debut today.
⛏️ On the Run: Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler has reportedly been evading sanctions by stashing millions in a small Congolese bank.
🎒 School’s Out: Rebekah Neumann, the wife of WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, has bought back the assets of WeGrow, the private elementary school she founded within the company.
💵 Closer to Home: Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson said he is quitting the business and converting his company into a private investment firm for just his family’s finances.
🏗️ Never Mind: A powerful construction labor union apologized and pulled an ad that featured California State Sen. Scott Wiener against the backdrop of a Monopoly board.
😷 Back to Lockdown: The Palestinian Authority is expected to lock down all West Bank areas for five days starting Friday amid a spike in coronavirus cases.
😟 Not on Our Minds:Israeli settlers living in Ariel told AFP that annexation is not a top priority as they grapple with the economic fallout caused by COVID-19.
🧯Miracle: Firefighters in Boca Raton, Florida, managed to save a 100-year-old Torah scroll unscathed from a devastating blaze at a family home.
🎖️ About Time: After more than 100 years, the Finland Air Force quietly dropped the swastika from its logo.
👩💼 Transition: Former Labour MP Luciana Berger has joined global communications firm Edelman UK as managing director of the advocacy and public affairs unit.
🎬 Hollywood: Russell Crowe said he asked Jared Kushner for advice on playing former Fox News head Roger Ailes on a new Showtime series.
Song of the Day
Israeli singers Eden Ben-Zaken and Omer Adam released a new duet today in English, Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and Italian titled “Kuku Riku.”
Israeli journalist, TV anchor and popular lecturer, Sivan Rahav-Meir turns 39…
Former president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Irving Abella turns 80… Director of Hebrew Studies (Emerita) at HUC-JIR, Rivka Dori turns 75… Nobel laureate in Medicine, Richard Axel turns 74… Co-creator of “Seinfeld” and creator of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Larry David turns 73… Swedish author and screenwriter, she wrote a novel about Jewish children who escaped the Holocaust, Annika Thor turns 70… Former CEO of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, she also served as a State Department Special Envoy on Anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal turns 69… Israeli Druze politician who served as a member of the Knesset, Akram Hasson turns 61…
Member of the Knesset for the United Torah Judaism alliance, Ya’akov Asher turns 55… Chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, Peter E. Baker turns 53… Teacher at North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park, Illinois, Stephanie Rubin turns 50… Co-founder and rosh yeshiva at Mechon Hadar in NYC, Shai Held, Ph.D. turns 49… Health editor for Reuters, Michele Gershberg turns 47… Motivational speaker, media personality and CEO at The Ayven Group, Charlie Harary turns 43… Author of fiction and non-fiction, Elisa Albert turns 42… Actress, singer and producer, Ashley Tisdale turns 35… Actress and internet personality, Barbara Dunkelman turns 31…