Good Monday morning!
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met this morning in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates. More below.
In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria yesterday, Jared Kushner confirmed the Trump administration is “reviewing” the sale of F-35 jets to the UAE and that the new accord “should increase the probability of them getting it.” Netanyahu and Pompeo both addressed the issue in their remarks today.
Netanyahu announced last night that he was accepting a proposal to extend the budget deadline by 100 days, averting a coalition crisis that would lead to elections — for now. “Now is the time for unity. Not for elections,” he declared, though he repeatedly criticized his coalition partners during the press conference.
The Republican National Convention kicks off today in Charlotte, N.C. Speakers tonight include former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Donald Trump, Jr. and Andrew Pollack, the father of Parkland shooting victim Meadow Pollack. Later today, President Donald Trump will visit Asheville, N.C., with his daughter Ivanka.
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The man making waves at America’s broadcasting agency
Since assuming his post in June, Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, has faced a litany of criticism for his handling of the agency, which oversees a group of U.S. government-funded news organizations — including Voice of America. In a rare interview, Pack sat down with Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod to discuss his goals for the agency and to push back against some of the critiques.
Core mission: “My goal is simply to bring the agency back more closely into correspondence with its mission and to make sure it fulfills its core mission,” Pack told JI, explaining that he believes the agency has fallen short in fulfilling all areas of its core duties. “They do present a lot of news, but they need to work on the balanced and objective part,” Pack said. “They’re required to present American ideas and institutions, essentially tell America’s story to the world. I think we need to do a much more forceful job of that.”
Staying objective:Before joining USAGM, Pack served as CEO of the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank. Skeptics on both sides of the aisle raised concerns — throughout Pack’s dragged-out two-year confirmation process — that he would seek to politicize its editorially independent news organizations, an accusation Pack categorically denies. “I say this all the time, the credibility of the agency depends on believing that the journalists are objective, and I would not interfere with what journalists on the ground want to say about the countries they’re reporting about and to,” he said. “I don’t want to destroy this agency. Why would I want to do that? I worked here before, I believe in the mission.”
Background: Pack’s trajectory to becoming a Trump administration official is perhaps unlikely given his upbringing. But he grew up fascinated by an evolving media landscape and honed his film skills before entering government service under President George W. Bush. He was born into, as he describes it, a family of “liberal, Upper West Side Jewish New Yorkers for a couple of generations… I grew up in that political milieu,” he said. “It affected my interest in film, interest in media, interest in ideas. It’s hard to really pin down exactly what part of that is Jewish and what isn’t. But it’s part of I think, this sort of Jewish, New York intellectual environment.” Pack attended Yale College, the University of California, Berkeley, and New York University, and went on to found Manifold Productions, a documentary film production company through which he has written, directed and produced around a dozen films.
Alarm bells:Upon taking office, Pack set off alarm bells on both sides of the aisle in Congress by dismissing the heads of most of the news agencies under the USAGM. The firings prompted a bipartisan group of senators — including frequent Trump allies Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) — to condemn Pack. But he insists his actions are routine, and denies there is any cause for concern. “It wasn’t based on performance. It was based on the idea that we should have a fresh start,” he said. “And I assigned in almost all cases a very senior person who was [a] career [official] to be acting. So it’s sometimes portrayed in the media that somehow we eliminated these career people and brought in Trump politicals — but that really isn’t the truth.”
TAKING A STANCE
David Perdue and Jon Ossoff address antisemitism ahead of close election
In the heated race for Senate in Georgia, charges of antisemitism have already reared their head in the campaign between Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and his Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff. Both candidates addressed antisemitism in questionnaires solicited byJewish Insider, though they steered clear of directly addressing the recent controversy.
Background: In late July, Perdue published a Facebook ad that enlarged Ossoff’s nose — a classic antisemitic stereotype. A spokesman for Perdue told The Forward, which first reported on the image, that the edit was “accidental” and the ad would be removed. But Ossoff wasn’t buying it. “This is the oldest, most obvious, least original antisemitic trope in history,” the 33-year-old Democratic candidate wrote in a Twitter statement when the ad was publicized by national media outlets. “Senator, literally no one believes your excuses.”
Elephant in the room: “Antisemitism has no place in society, period,” Perdue told Jewish Insider in the candidate questionnaire. “It’s horrifying any time you see hate perpetrated against Jewish people in the United States or anywhere around the world.” Perdue made no mention of the ad in his responses to the JI questionnaire, which includes a question asking candidates whether they believe there is a concerning rise of antisemitism, including in their own party. “I’ve been a friend of Israel and the Jewish community since I was very young,” the senator averred. “Since I got to the U.S. Senate, I’ve made fighting antisemitism and all forms of bigotry a top priority.”
Skirting the scandal: For his part, Ossoff also chose to not directly address Perdue’s controversial ad in responding to JI’s questionnaire. “Sectarianism and racism often increase at moments of great social, economic, and political stress — especially when dangerous political demagogues like Donald Trump deliberately inflame mistrust, resentment, and hatred to gain power,” Ossoff told JI. “Racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia have increased in America as President Trump has deliberately pitted Americans against Americans, stirring up conflict within our society rather than uniting us to move forward together as one people.”
Invoking a civil rights icon: But Ossoff’s answer could also have been regarded as an implicit critique of Perdue’s reelection tactics. “I learned about public and political leadership from my mentor, Congressman John Lewis, who taught me to focus on our shared humanity above our racial, religious and cultural differences,” Ossoff continued. “My state, our country and all humanity will only achieve our full potential and build the Beloved Community [a term coined by Lewis] by recognizing that we are all in this together, that our interests are aligned and that hatred, prejudice and discrimination only hold us back.”
DRIVING THE DAY
Pompeo and Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Israel this morning on the first stop of his Mideast tour.
Friendly visit: Pompeo’s first meeting of the day was with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates as well as concerns relating to Iran and China. Both officials touched on the controversy over the potential sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE. Netanyahu said his opposition to such a deal has not changed, but added that Pompeo assured him today of “a very, very strong commitment that under all circumstances the United States will assure Israel’s qualitative military edge.” Pompeo reiterated that the U.S. has a “legal requirement with respect to [Israel’s] qualitative military edge — we will continue to honor that.” But Pompeo added that the U.S. has a “20-year security relationship” with the UAE and is committed to maintaining that, and to assuring the security of both the UAE and Israel.
Tough on Iran: Netanyahu thanked Pompeo and the Trump administration for triggering snapback sanctions on Iran at the U.N. Security Council last week. “I want to thank the president for all you have done for Israel’s security and everything we are doing to solidify this friendship,” Netanyahu said. “The Iran deal failed just as we predicted — not only did it not nullify Iran’s aggression, it fueled it.” Netanyahu said the decision by other Security Council members to reject such sanctions was “outrageous.” Pompeo vowed that the U.S. is determined to “use every tool that we have to ensure that [Iran] can’t get access to high-end weapons systems.” Pompeo is also slated to meet with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi during his brief visit to Israel.
On the road: In their remarks, Netanyahu and Pompeo hinted, without naming names, that peace accords with other Arab nations are in the works. Upon his departure from Israel, Pompeo is scheduled to visit Sudan, Bahrain — rumored to be next in line to establish ties with Israel — and the UAE. Senior advisor Jared Kushner, Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and outgoing envoy on Iran Brian Hook are also expected to visit Israel and other Gulf states next week.
Appealing Backdrop: Pompeo is expected to address the Republican National Convention — which kicks off today in Charlotte, N.C., and in Washington, D.C., later this week — from “an undisclosed location” in Jerusalem, Axios reported yesterday. The New York Times reported on Saturday that Trump is looking to hit the restart button by producing a more engaging convention to upstage the Democratic Party’s virtual convention last week and to excite his base.
Next in line: U.K. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab is also slated to pay a visit to Israel this week, and meet with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Raab welcomed news of the UAE-Israel deal, praising “Israel’s suspension of annexation” and expressing hope that “the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority can negotiate the two-state solution required to secure lasting peace.”
HEARD LAST NIGHT
Cruz: Biden will be influenced by Sanders on foreign policy
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) suggested in a Zoom call hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition on Sunday that a Biden administration would be “much worse” than the Obama administration when it comes to its policy on Israel.
The argument: “This is not your father’s Democratic Party. This Democratic Party is radicalized. It’s radicalized on every axis,” Cruz explained, citing Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). “If you look at the voices that are on the ascent in the Democratic Party, it is Bernie Sanders, it is AOC, it is Ilhan Omar, it is Elizabeth Warren — it is the angriest and most radical far-left views… I believe foreign policy under the Biden administration will be driven by Bernie, who wants to slash our military spending and gut the Defense Department. It will be driven by [Ocasio-Cortez] and Omar, who we see now with repeatedly antisemitic, anti-Israel comments. It is the Israel-hating far left that is dominant in the Democratic Party right now.”
The linkage: Cruz stressed that Trump’s decisions to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to pull out of the Iran deal brought about the recent landmark agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. The Republican senator said his view was — contrary to the position of the State Department and the Pentagon — that “not only will this not hurt peace to the Middle East, but it will be seen as a clarion call throughout the Middle East and the world that America stands unequivocally with our friends and then we’re not afraid of the condemnation of The New York Times and CNN. And that clarity, I argued to the president, I argued to the White House, would be beneficial for both our friends and our enemies,” he said, adding: “I think the UAE recognition is a direct result of that clarity.”
Clarification dept: In a Zoom call with Muslim activists on Sunday, the Biden campaign reportedly apologized for disavowing Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour after her appearance at the Democratic National Convention last week. “That’s not how we do business,” Symone Sanders, a senior advisor, told participants. “We are not in the business of condemning people and large swaths of the community, absolutely not.” Biden’s top foreign policy advisor Tony Blinken added: “My apologies for what we did and what happened.” But in a statement to CNN’s Jake Tapper, Sanders clarified, “We met to affirm Vice President Biden’s unshakeable commitment to working with Arab, Palestinian and Muslim Americans… and to make clear that we regretted any hurt that was caused to these communities. We continue to reject the views that Linda Sarsour has expressed.”
👴 Changin’ Chuck: In Politico, John Bresnahan and Marianne Levine look at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s evolution from self-described “angry centrist” to a history-maker — if the Democrats take the Senate, Schumer would be the first Jewish Senate majority leader as well as the first from New York — now pushing a largely progressive agenda. [Politico]
👬 Uncertain Allies:The Daily Beast’s Erin Banco reports on the “clandestine relationship” between Jared Kushner and Kirill Dmitriev, a confidant of President Vladimir Putin. Over several years, the pair have communicated “on everything from creating a joint business council to increase investment, to working on a Middle East peace deal.” [DailyBeast]
👨💼 Deep Dive: The New York Times’s Jeremy Peters examines the fallout resulting from largely disproven allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against Alex Morse, a progressive candidate challenging Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA). “This is the concern around a trigger-happy cancel culture, as it gives undue credence to the initial allegation without due diligence,” said Massachusetts State Senator Julian Cyr. [NYTimes]
Around the Web
📆 Ahead of Time: In Politico Magazine, David Siders explores the early formation of Joe Biden’s potential cabinet, citing Susan Rice, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Tony Blinken and Eric Garcetti as likely appointments in a future Democratic administration.
🧑💻 Balancing Act: Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg tells the Wall Street Journal that the company’s monitoring standards will never be tough enough for some due to First Amendment rights.
🧑⚖️ Civil Subpoenas: The U.S. Virgin Islands plans to subpoena Apollo Global Management’s Leon Black over the billionaire businessman’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein.
🙅♂️ Not Friends: Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Dine El Otmani said he rejects “any [normalization] with the Zionist entity because this emboldens it to go further in breaching the rights of the Palestinian people.”
📲 Green Light: Israeli surveillance company NSO Group reportedly sold its Pegasus spyware to the UAE and other Gulf states with the encouragement of the Israeli government.
☀️ Shining Bright: Israel is reportedly considering a plan to purchase solar energy from Jordan.
🔥 No Accident:An Iranian official admitted that a fire at its Natanz nuclear facility last month was due to sabotage.
⛏️ Big Find: A trove of 425 early Islamic gold coins was discovered recently by Israel Antiquities Authorities archaeologists near Yavne.
🖌️ Shut Eye: Tel Aviv’s ‘Peeping Toms’ beach mural has been painted over following an outcry in the country over the recent gang rape of a teenager in Eilat.
👦 In Trouble: Abdel Rahman al-Shantti, a Gazan preteen who went viral for his rap videos, is under fire for suggesting in an interview that he hopes for “love between us and Israel.”
📵 Going Dark:Some Israelis are using airplane mode and prepaid SIM cards in an effort to dodge coronavirus contact-tracing efforts that could send them to mandatory quarantine.
🧫 Rapid Results:Israeli health officials toldThe New York Times they plan to roll out rapid pool testing across the country by October.
⛔ No Entry: Israel’s coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to ban entry to Israelis heading to Uman for Rosh Hashanah.
✊ Not Our Problem: The Movement for Black Lives and the Arab American Institute are among eight racial justice groups who have joined a coalition called “United Against Hate” to push back “against right-wing attempts to co-opt discussions around antisemitism.”
👩⚕️ Called Off: The State Medical Board of Ohio has revoked the medical training certificate of Lara Kollab, a former Cleveland Clinic resident, over past antisemitic posts.
👎 Never Again: The wall at the entrance to the Centre de la Mémoire (Centre for Remembrance) in Oradour-sur-Glane, France was defaced with Holocaust denial graffiti.
🖼️ Story to Tell: A new exhibition going on display this week at the reopened Jewish Museum Berlin tells the story of German Jewry through the work of contemporary artists.
👩 Hollywood: A new trailer for the long-delayed “Wonder Woman 1984,” starring Gal Gadot, was released over the weekend ahead of its slated October 2 premiere.
👨👩👧 Departing: White House counselor Kellyanne Conway is leaving the administration to focus on her family, and her husband, George Conway, is stepping back from his role with the anti-Trump Lincoln Project for the same reason.
🥁 Transition: Max Weinberg, Bruce Springsteen’s long-time drummer and the bandleader for Conan O’Brien’s “Late Night” and “The Tonight Show,” has been appointed to the Delray Beach, Florida, planning and zoning board.
🕯️Remembering: Rabbi Leo Wolkow, who helped lead the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute’s overnight summer camp, died at age 87. Marcel Adams, a Holocaust survivor who became a prominent real estate developer in Canada, died days after his 100th birthday.
Gif of the Day
Israelis can watch a movie while floating on a boat in a “sail-in” theater on a lake in Tel Aviv in accordance with the social distancing requirements.
Director of strategic communications at The Glover Park Group, former traveling press secretary for Mike Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign, Galia Slayen turns 30…
1990 Nobel Prize laureate in Economics, Harry Max Markowitz turns 93… Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jehuda (The Yorkville Synagogue) in NYC, Rabbi J. David Bleich turns 84… Geriatric care manager and on-line counsellor for seniors in Scottsdale, Arizona, Lois G. Tager turns 79… Co-founder and former president of Infinity Broadcasting, Mel Karmazin turns 77… Celebrity furniture designer, Dakota Jackson turns 71… President of Harvard University, Lawrence Seldon Bacow turns 69… Rabbi of the Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire, England, Dr. Jonathan Romain turns 66… Senior principal at TSD Communications, Ricki Seidman turns 65… Co-chair of the real estate practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, he is the vice-chair of Birthright, J. Philip Rosen turns 64… Essayist and long-time staff writer for The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik turns 64… Actor, producer and director, Steve Guttenberg turns 62… President of Pace University, Marvin Krislov turns 60… President of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Marc Terrill turns 59… Professional organizer, Donna Barwald turns 58… 1986 winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in “Children of a Lesser God,” she is the only deaf performer to have won the award, Marlee Matlin turns 55…
Founder and former CEO of Gawker Media until it was bankrupted by Hulk Hogan, Nick Denton turns 54… Former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives and candidate for U.S. Senate, Andrew Romanoff turns 54… President of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Lonnie Nasatir turns 51… CNN political analyst, David Gregory turns 50… Israeli cinematographer and film and television director, Avigail Sperber turns 47… Director of content at the UK-based Brainstorm Digital, Miriam Shaviv turns 44… President of baseball operations and GM of MLB’s Texas Rangers, Jon Daniels turns 43… Founder and executive director of the bipartisan group New Politics, Emily Cherniack turns 43… Tel Aviv attorney representing high-tech clients in cross-border intellectual property disputes, Michael M. Rosen turns 43… Israeli actress and musician, Meital Dohan turns 41… Associate head coach of the Duke basketball team, he is also the head coach for the U.S. men’s basketball team that will compete in the Maccabiah games to be held in Israel in July 2022, Jon Scheyer turns 33… CEO of the JCommerce Group, David M. Perelman turns 31… Director of operations at plus-size fashion brand Maree Pour Toi, Samantha Rose “Sammy” Feinstein turns 30… Communications director for SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, Natalie Strom…