Good Monday morning!
We have a new Massachusetts poll. Following last week’s polling of voters in Massachusetts’s 1st congressional district, we’ve rolled out another Jewish Insider poll focused on the 4th district ahead of Tuesday’s primary. More below on who is in the lead to replace Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) in Congress.
The first-ever El Al flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates took off this morning and will pass through Saudi airspace on its way to Abu Dhabi, with top Israeli and American officials on board. More below.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) announced on Friday that the House Foreign Affairs Committee will introduce a resolution holding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in contempt over his Republican National Convention speech from Jerusalem and his ongoing refusal to provide records of his political use of State Department resources.
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Auchincloss and Mermell neck and neck in new Massachusetts 4th poll
Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss and former Brookline select board member Jesse Mermell are statistical dead heat in the Democratic primary race to succeed Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) in Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district, according to a new Jewish Insider poll.
Data: The JI poll, based on 497 voter surveys conducted by RABA Research on August 27 and 28, puts Auchincloss at 23% and Mermell at 22%, trailed by Newton City Councilor Becky Grossman with 15%. Former bank regulator Ihssane Leckey, who initially entered the race to challenge Kennedy before he launched his Senate bid last September, received 11%, followed by City Year co-founder Alan Khazei with 8%, epidemiologist Dr. Natalia Linos with 7% and attorney Ben Sigel with 1%. Ten percent of likely voters are still undecided. The poll had a margin of error of +/-4.39%.
GOTV matters: “Ultimately what this race is going to come down to is who has a better field operation in terms of talking to voters that have requested ballots already, and that haven’t actually voted on Election Day,” Democratic strategist Wilnelia Rivera told JI. “But in a race like this, where the way in which people normally spend money is a little bit more limited because of the lack of in-person engagement, I really give the edge to the operation that has a better field to talk to those voters, because it’s not about pushing everybody. It’s about pushing those that are able to — in a pandemic — make it out of their way [to vote].”
Brookline battle: With two days until the Massachusetts Senate primary, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) is trailing incumbent Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) among voters in the congressman’s home district, according to a new Jewish Insider poll of Massachusetts’s 4th. The poll shows Markey picking up support from 48% of respondents in the district, while Kennedy is backed by 44%.
Flashback: In interviews and comments over the past decade, both Markey and Kennedy have a history of shifting blame for the stalled Middle East peace process to the Palestinians. In a 2013 interview with The Boston Globe, Markey paraphrased Israeli politician Abba Eban, saying “The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” And in a 2015 forum with the Globe, Kennedy highlighted Palestinian violence in response to a question on Israeli responsibility. “The violent attacks orchestrated in Jerusalem are going to be a barrier to the peace process too,” he said. “I don’t think pointing fingers in one direction or another is actually helpful to getting us there.” Read more here.
ANALYZING THE DATA
Massachusetts Dems say Israel a factor in their voting
A majority of Democratic voters in Massachusetts’s 1st and 4th districts say a candidate’s support for Israel is a factor in their voting decision, according to the JI/RABA polls, which surveyed a combined 1,015 likely primary voters.
Details: Of those polled, 56% of voters in the 1st district and 55% of voters in the 4th district said a candidate’s support for Israel greatly or somewhat impacts their vote. In the 1st district, 44% said support for Israel matters a little or not at all, while in the 4th that figure is 45%. Among “somewhat liberal” and “very liberal” voters, more than 50% see Israel as important/somewhat of an issue.
Why it matters: “This is significant, since poll respondents often resist admitting that their vote can be swayed by a single issue, particularly in the realm of foreign policy,” said RABA’s John Del Cecato. Brandeis University professor Jonathan Sarna, who lives in the 4th district, said he was “pleased to see” that a majority of voters consider Israel important. “We have been hearing from a lot of sociologists and others that Israel doesn’t matter to young Jews, that it’s not nearly as important,” Sarna told JI. “This poll serves as a reminder that Israel is important to a wide range of voters.”
Aid to Israel: In the 1st district, a plurality of voters — 48% — think aid to Israel should be conditioned upon Israel changing its policies towards Palestinians, while 34% want military assistance to continue without conditions. In the 4th district, 53% of those surveyed favor conditioning aid to Israel, while 32% are opposed and 15% are unsure. Sarna noted that he’s “hesitant to read too much” into the findings because most people are not familiar with the nuances of aid to Israel.
Michael Oren finds freedom in fiction
An alien looking down upon earth. A 12-year-old boy hunting for the afikomen. An 1841 army captain. All these characters and more come to life on the pages of a new volume of short stories by Michael Oren. Yes, that Michael Oren. “People don’t know that I’ve always been a fiction writer, ever since I was 12 years old,” the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro in a recent interview.
Ultimate freedom:Throughout his long career in public service, writing has been a creative outlet and form of stress relief for Oren. “That and screaming,” he joked. Now, Oren has penned a collection of 50 fictional tales, The Night Archer, which hits shelves tomorrow. “Short stories are the haiku of fiction,” he said. “What a novel gets to do in 300 pages, a short story writer has to do in three pages.” He must incorporate “fully realized characters, a plot, dialogue, dramatic tension and resolution in almost no space at all,” he said. “It’s the ultimate discipline. But on the other hand — it’s the ultimate freedom.”
The mighty pen:Freedom is a particular driving force for Oren, who rejoined life as a civilian last year after close to a decade in public service as an ambassador, Knesset member and deputy minister. During that period, he writes in the book’s introduction, “I forfeited not only my independence but the right to speak my mind entirely.” Nevertheless, he added, he continued to write daily while in office, “as a personal assertion of freedom.” Oren believes there are strong parallels between the freedom inherent in writing short stories and the freedom exemplified in Judaism — both bound by restraints and limited by laws.
Still about service:Oren left political life just over a year and a half ago, opting not to run in what became the first of three consecutive elections and a chaotic political landscape. In hindsight, it seems like he got out just in time. “There’s a sense of relief on one hand, that I’m not party to this very painful and disappointing passage in our political life,” he told JI. “On the other hand, I’m still about service, I’m always about service.”
One day: It is disappointing, he said, to watch the infighting in the so-called “unity government,” which seems to consistently be on shaky existential ground. Israel is “facing a profound crisis of credibility in our elected leaders,” he said. And Oren — who has been working in the business world since departing the Knesset — is not ruling out a return to politics and public service in the future, “under the right circumstances and conditions.”
Driving the day
Kushner heads U.S.-Israel delegation to the UAE
A historic El Al flight carrying a high-level delegation of Israeli and American officials departed from Tel Aviv this morning, crossing through Saudi airspace on its way to Abu Dhabi.
VIP list: The U.S. delegation includes National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz and outgoing special envoy on Iran Brian Hook. The Israeli delegation is headed by National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, and includes the prime minister’s office’s acting director general, Ronen Peretz, and Foreign Ministry director general Alon Ushpiz.
Paving the way: “While this is a historic flight, we hope that this will start an even more historic journey for the Middle East and beyond,” Kushner told reporters before boarding the plane. Ben-Shabbat said he is “excited and proud to head the Israeli delegation” and hopes to “achieve a joint working plan to advance relations in a very broad range of areas.” Over the weekend the UAE formally ended its long-standing boycott of Israel, opening up commerce between the nations, in what Israel hopes could reach $6.5 billion in trade.
Yesterday in Jerusalem: Kushner and O’Brien held a press conference in Jerusalem yesterday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where the three officials lauded the peace accord and promised that further regional deals are on the way. Netanyahu said the UAE deal proved the Palestinians no longer have a “veto” over regional peace. “If we have to wait for the Palestinians, we will have to wait forever,” Netanyahu said. “Well, no longer.”
Personal achievement: Kushner, who was appointed as his father-in-law’s point person on Mideast peace during the transition and presented the Trump peace plan earlier this year, said that “as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors, [the UAE accord] means more to me and my family that I can ever express.” Kushner visited the Western Wall on Sunday night.
Next up: A delegation of senior Israeli security and intelligence officials will travel to the UAE next month to discuss the security aspects of the deal. Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis said yesterday that the Trump administration is working on holding a White House signing ceremony by mid-September.
PALMETO TO POMPEO
South Carolina congressman pens letter to Pompeo to pressure Ukraine to let Jews visit Uman
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) has begun to circulate a letter among his House colleagues calling for the Trump administration to pressure the Ukrainian government into allowing religious exemptions for Jews looking to make their annual pilgrimage to Uman, Ukraine, for Rosh Hashanah, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
No entry: In recent years, as many as 30,000 Orthodox Jews have made the annual trek to Uman to visit the gravesite of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov during the High Holy Days. This year, Ukraine has implemented a strict border closure, through Yom Kippur on September 28, in an attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Pilgrim pity: The House letter is addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and asks him to “consider advocating on behalf [of] a group of American citizens whom find this annual pilgrimage extremely important,” while arguing that Ukraine “could add a limited religious exception allowing for a small fraction of the regular attendees (not to exceed 2,000 people) to enter the country for a total of five days.”
Bonus: Israel’s coronavirus commissioner, Ronni Gamzu, has been vocally opposed to this year’s pilgrimage, predicting that it could prompt a major spike in coronavirus infections. Gamzu asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week to ban Israeli pilgrims from entering the Eastern European nation, prompting public clashes and protests over the issue in Israel.
💼 Money Man: In The New York Times, James B. Stewart and Alan Rappeport spotlight Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, “the rare cabinet secretary who does not seem to have strong political beliefs.” Mnuchin’s tenure in the Trump administration has earned him vitriol from the right, the left — and his own family. [NYTimes]
🇫🇷🇱🇧 On a Mission:A month after a devastating explosion ripped through Beirut, French President Emmanuel Macron is returning to the city today to attempt to shore up a “credible” government, reportsPolitico’s Rym Momtaz. “Essentially, what Macron is asking of Lebanon’s political leaders is nothing short of suicide: for them to change their very DNA, the way politics and government have been run in the country for three decades.” [Politico]
👨💼 Second Act: Forbes’s Alex Konrad speaks with billionaire Dustin Moskovitz, the unassuming, publicity-shy 36-year-old Facebook co-founder who is now the CEO of workplace management platform Asana. “Our mission is really well-suited for this moment,” he said, “and we’re energized by the opportunity.” [Forbes]
Around the Web
🚪 Calling It Quits: The head of Israel’s budget office, Shaul Meridor, resigned yesterday, accusing Finance Minister Israel Katz of making it impossible for him to do his job.
🏦 Eye on the Money: Former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer has expressed interest in succeeding the late Oded Eran as chairman of Bank Hapoalim.
🎖️ Big Deal: Israeli defense company Elbit won a $79 million contract to produce gunner hand stations and circuit cards for the U.S. Army.
⚠️ On Alert: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel that it will soon take revenge for the killing of one of its fighters in Syria in July.
📝 New Revelations: Former White House counsel Don McGahn raised concerns about Jared Kushner’s security clearance in a 2018 memo to then-White House chief of staff John Kelly, Michael Schmidt reveals in his forthcoming book, Donald Trump v. The United States.
🔇 Busy Signal:Billionaire Ronald Lauder, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump, has yet to indicate if he will donate to Trump’s reelection campaign this year.
👮 Micro Targeting: New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger blasted the NYPD’s “militia forces” who are breaking up large Jewish gatherings in Brooklyn while crime is skyrocketing across the city.
⚖️ In Court: The trial of Stephan Balliet, the man who failed to shoot his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur last year, is highlighting a spike in far-right violence in the country.
🛂 Right of Return: The Austrian government has offered some 200,000 descendants of Jews who fled the Nazis the ability to apply for citizenship.
🕍 Shalom Y’all: The Chabad Lubavitch of El Paso, Texas, celebrated the opening yesterday of its new $2.5 million facility — a replica of Chabad’s 770 Brooklyn headquarters.
Pic of the Day
World renowned violinist and conductor, Itzhak Perlman turns 75…
Actor, director and producer, Larry Hankin turns 80… Howard Crim turns 78… Screenwriter Lowell Ganz turns 72… Member of the Los Angeles Police Commission, Steve Soboroff turns 72… Academic physician and health care policy expert, his brother is Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), David Blumenthal, MD turns 72… 2004 Nobel laureate in Physics and professor at California Institute of Technology, Hugh David Politzer turns 71… Professor of journalism and women’s studies at American University, Iris Krasnow turns 66… Former rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center, Rabbi Jonathan I. Rosenblatt turns 64… Owner of thoroughbred racehorses including the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Ahmed Zayat (a/k/a Ephraim David Zayat) turns 58… Television host, Mark L. Walberg turns 58… Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) turns 58…
Gold medalist in volleyball at the Maccabiah Games in 1997, she is currently the athletic director at Seattle University, Shaney Fink turns 48… Physician assistant, Lyudmila Milman turns 45… Israeli poet, translator, and literary editor, Sivan Beskin turns 44… Member of the Knesset for the Blue and White alliance, he serves as minister of tourism, Asaf Zamir turns 40… Deputy communications director at United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Jessica Levin Raimundo turns 36… Senior director at Waxman Strategies, Nick Horowitz turns 35… Crown prince of Saudi Arabia, colloquially known as MBS, Mohammed bin Salman turns 35… Deputy counsel and director of government relations at Cardinal Infrastructure, Bennett E. Resnik turns 32… New York Times political reporter in the Washington bureau, Thomas Kaplan turns 32… Deputy political director in the Southeast regional office of AIPAC in Atlanta, Deryn Sousa turns 26… Opinion editor at the JTA, Laura E. Adkins…