Good Friday morning!
Five U.S. troops, plus one French and one Czech service member — who were part of an international peacekeeping force along the Israeli-Egyptian border — were killed yesterday when their helicopter crashed off the Egyptian coast.
Assistant Secretary of State R. Clarke Cooper will visit the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel on a 10-day trip to the Middle East beginning tomorrow.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to visit a winery in the Psagot settlement and the Golan Heights during his trip to the region next week.
Yesterday, Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) conceded his race to Republican Nicole Malliotakis in New York’s 11th district. Meanwhile, New Jersey State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. is closing in on Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), now trailing him by around 6,000 votes with at least 35,000 ballots left to be counted in the state’s 7th district.
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Obama: Netanyahu paints himself as ‘chief defender’ of Jews to justify political moves
In a new book looking back at his eight years in the White House, former President Barack Obama details his sometimes turbulent relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu going back to 2009, when both world leaders took office. A Promised Land, the first of two memoirs the former president is writing about his time in office, is set to be released on Tuesday.Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh reviewed an advance copy of the book.
The man I know: Netanyahu is a “smart, canny, tough and a gifted communicator” who could be “charming, or at least solicitous” when it benefited him, Obama writes in the book. He points to a conversation the pair had in a Chicago airport lounge in 2005, shortly after Obama was elected to the Senate, in which Netanyahu was “lavishing praise” on him for “an inconsequential pro-Israel bill” the newly elected senator had supported when he served in the Illinois state legislature. But when it came to policy disagreements, Obama observed, Netanyahu was able to use his familiarity with U.S. politics and media to push back against efforts by his administration.
Key assessment: Netanyahu’s “vision of himself as the chief defender of the Jewish people against calamity allowed him to justify almost anything that would keep him in power,” Obama wrote. Looking back, Obama recounted, he sometimes wondered whether “things might have played out differently” if there was a different president in the Oval Office, if someone other than Netanyahu represented Israel and if Abbas had been younger.
Airing grievances: In the book, the former president also grumbles about the treatment he received from leaders of AIPAC, who questioned his policies on Israel. Obama wrote that as Israeli politics moved to the right, AIPAC’s broad policy positions shifted accordingly, “even when Israel took actions that were contrary to U.S. policy” and that lawmakers and candidates who “criticized Israel policy too loudly risked being tagged as ‘anti-Israel’ (and possibly anti-Semitic) and [were] confronted with a well-funded opponent in the next election.” Obama writes that he was “on the receiving end” of a “whisper campaign” that portrayed him as being “insufficiently supportive — or even hostile toward — Israel” during his 2008 presidential run. “On Election Day, I’d end up getting more than 70 percent of the Jewish vote, but as far as many AIPAC board members were concerned, I remained suspect, a man of divided loyalties; someone whose support for Israel, as one of [David Axelrod’s] friends colorfully put it, wasn’t ‘felt in his kishkes’ — ‘guts,’ in Yiddish.”
Behind the scenes: The book provides an inside look into the political jockeying between the Israeli government and the administration over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obama maintains that he thought it was “reasonable” to ask for Israel, which he viewed as the “stronger party,” to take a “bigger first step” and freeze settlements in the West Bank. But “as expected,” Netanyahu’s response was “sharply negative.” That was followed by an aggressive pressure campaign by the prime minister’s allies in Washington. “The White House phones started ringing off the hook,” Obama recounts, as his national security team fielded calls from lawmakers, Jewish leaders and reporters “wondering why we were picking on Israel.” He wrote that deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes once arrived late for a staff meeting “looking particularly harried” after a lengthy phone call with a “highly agitated” liberal Democratic congressman who pushed back against the administration’s attempt to stop settlement activity.
Bonus: Former Mideast peace envoy Dennis Ross toldThe Financial Times that in the Obama administration, Biden “had the capacity to be very blunt with Bibi,” and was often called on to smooth things over with the Israeli leader after clashes with Obama.
Meet Fady Qaddoura, Indiana’s first Muslim state senator
Last week, Fady Qaddoura defied the odds when he became the only Democrat this cycle to flip a Republican-held state Senate seat in Indiana’s General Assembly. The 40-year-old Palestinian-American also set another more meaningful precedent: He became the first Muslim elected to Indiana’s state legislature. “I felt that our community needs representation that is truly reflective of who we are,” Qaddoura told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. “I’m given the humble responsibility to advance the voices of so many who feel marginalized and voiceless.”
Inclusive message: Indiana has positioned itself as exclusionary to marginalized groups over the past five years or so, according to Qaddoura, who cited an attempt by the state’s former governor, now-Vice President Mike Pence, to ban Syrian refugees from resettling in the Hoosier State. But the election, he said, was a sign of progress. “We sent the wrong message to the nation that Indiana is not loving, is not welcoming,” Qaddoura told JI. Rather than concealing his religion, Qaddoura sought to highlight it throughout his campaign: His wife and two daughters, who wear headscarves in accordance with their faith, were featured in his campaign mailers in red hijabs. “I was happy that our community gave me the opportunity as an immigrant,” he said, “as a Muslim, as a proud American citizen.”
Background: Qaddoura was born and raised in Ramallah and grew up in what he described as a poor but loving family that prized education. He went to a Christian school and lived near the Israeli settlement of Psagot. He moved to Louisiana at 19 to study computer science with the hope of becoming the next Jeff Bezos, he said, but when Hurricane Katrina hit, his plans were derailed. “We lost everything, A to Z — we lost the car, we lost the house, we lost our belongings, everything,” said Qaddoura, whose family was temporarily homeless in the wake of the storm. Still, the help he received from government agencies, nonprofit organizations and houses of worship was inspiring. “I wanted to be like them,” Qaddoura told JI.
Close ties: Qaddoura says he has built a strong relationship with the Jewish community in his district and stands in solidarity against instances of antisemitism. In the General Assembly, Qaddoura said he would make it a priority to “protect our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community and that we defend their rights to be sure that no Jewish child in my community grows up in any environment where antisemitism is tolerated.” Qaddoura said while he is discouraged by the lack of progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace, he is a firm supporter of a two-state solution and a strong opponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “I personally never was, never will be, a member of the BDS movement, never supported it personally,” he said. “I will not be supportive of any law that basically allows or attacks, in any shape, way or form, the State of Israel.”
Derek Thompson joins Dan Senor’s new podcast ‘Post Corona’
In his new podcast “Post Corona,”Start-Up Nation author Dan Senor seeks to explore the ways in which politics, the economy and culture are changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the debut episode, recorded in October, Senor interviews The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson about how he’s been personally affected, and what he sees as long-term effects of the pandemic on the American workforce. Thompson also previews the book he’s been writing while in quarantine about the frontiers of scientific and tech research and how new ideas triumph in a world seduced by sameness.
WebEx wedding: Thompson reflected on the ways in which the pandemic upended his own life. “I was supposed to get married in September. So that did not happen,” he said. “But as it turns out, in exactly 24 hours from now, I am going to be in a marriage ceremony over WebEx with a judge in Washington, D.C. And in 25 hours, I will be a married man. I guess I’m excited about it. But it’s also like, you know, my fiancée — almost wife — and I have talked about this so much. It’s so exciting, but also just so weirdly anticlimactic to get married on a computer screen, two weeks after you’re supposed to have a ceremony with 150 of your best friends and family.”
Future of bar mitzvahs: Senor noted that he is dealing with a similar situation, as his oldest son’s bar mitzvah is slated for January. “Our initial vision for it is probably not what it’s going to be, but a lot of people have pointed out that weddings, bar mitzvahs, all these other events, it’s stripped away a lot of the craziness around these big events that have kind of gotten out of control. People are doing smaller events, more intimate, the people who really matter… I’ve been struck by the number of people who’ve pointed out it’s kinda nicer.”
Impact on restaurants: Thompson discussed the evolution of the restaurant industry, which has largely pivoted to takeout as dine-in options have been limited. “This is one of the issues, with restaurants moving too quickly to a delivery future. The meals most likely to be delivered, the dishes most likely to be delivered are entrees. But entrees are often the least profitable dish — appetizers, desserts and booze are where restaurants really make their money, but those are the least likely to be delivered. This is why you see the delivery market, at least as of late 2019, early 2020, be completely dominated by basically two cuisines: pizza and Chinese food, [which] account for, I believe, two-thirds of the delivery market in terms of orders. That’s astonishing.”
Making the case: “You know, I love old-fashioned French food,” Thompson remarked, “and indeed tomorrow we’re going to an old-fashioned French restaurant to celebrate our e-wedding. I mean, do I want foie gras that is being delivered from 45 minutes away? No, you can definitely keep that chilly, room-temperature piece of liver. I don’t want to put it in the microwave, especially if I’m having to pay $42 for it. Some stuff just doesn’t travel particularly well. And that means that a future where the restaurant market is moving into delivery more than it is holding on to on-premise margins is also a future where food that travels has an advantage for food that doesn’t travel.”
Olmert: I hope Biden will return to the Iran deal
In a webcast hosted by Long Island University’s Global Service Institute yesterday, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed his hope that President-elect Joe Biden will have the “courage” to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and renegotiate “an even better agreement” that will “deter them from even trying to” advance their nuclear program.
A welcome friendship: Olmert, who preceded Netanyahu in office and negotiated a failed peace deal with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also remarked that — notwithstanding President Donald Trump’s friendly approach to Israel — he “prefers” Biden’s “attitude” toward solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “because it fits in with what I tried to do” when President George W. Bush was in office. “I think that Joe Biden’s attitude is the right attitude. It is based on friendship and commitment to the security of the State of Israel, I have no doubt about it,” said Olmert, adding, “I have no fears whatsoever about his presidency as far as Israel is concerned.”
Good for America: Pointing to Trump’s refusal to concede the election and his questioning of the integrity of the vote count, Olmert said that Israel shouldn’t judge the American president only by his gestures and treatment of the Jewish State. “Donald Trump was a friendly president to the State of Israel, there is no question about it. We are grateful for him. But… it would be somewhat presumptuous and arrogant to think… [only] who is good for Israel. No! We first and foremost have to think who is good for America. And if most of the people think Biden is good for America, then we think and hope that he will be good for the world… And if he will be good for America, if he will be good for the world, almost inevitably he will also be good for us.” In a weekly column for The Jerusalem Post, Olmert wrote that Biden “will be a friend of Israel and not of Israel’s right-wing bloc.”
Bonus: In The Washington Post, former Mideast negotiator Aaron David Miller writes that “Trump was great for Netanyahu. Biden will be better for Israel.” Susan Rice, in the running to be Biden’s Secretary of State, tweeted the headline of the story yesterday.
✍️ Looking Back: Bloomberg’s James Tarmy explores a new memoir by Leonard Lauder, the chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder, who has penned a book about his perspective on “one of the most dazzling corporate success stories in the history of the United States.” [Bloomberg]
✡️ Living Legacy: In The Wall Street Journal, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik writes about “what gentiles can learn” from the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. “Tributes to him have described his influence on the Jewish community… but he also was — for Europe in general and the U.K. in particular — the most gifted voice for biblical belief in his time.” [WSJ]
🎖️ Hitler Heist: Police in Denmark and the Netherlands are puzzled by a series of robberies of Nazi memorabilia, reports Alex Marshall in The New York Times. With no suspects, police are “uncertain whether the robberies were carried out by the same group, or were simply part of a worrying trend.” [NYTimes]
🤝 Greater Good: Newly reelected Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) tells Politico’s Tim Alberta that “it would be what we call in Yiddish, a shanda, a shame, a deep shame, if internal politics” and Democratic infighting “led to a strategic opening for these completely anti-democratic forces.” [Politico]
Around the Web
🤴👸 Palace Intrigue: Donald Trump’s sons, Eric and Don Jr., are reportedly pushing for him to aggressively contest the election results, while Ivanka would prefer he concede.
😷 COVID-19 Web: A handful of Trump loyalists, including advisor Corey Lewandowski and lobbyist Jeff Miller, tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the election night party at the White House.
💉 Coming Soon: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for 4 million citizens would begin arriving in the country in January.
🚨 Looking for Answers: The IDF is investigating the death of an Israeli soldier, who went missing earlier this week and was found yesterday near an East Jerusalem checkpoint.
💲 Bail Out: Ron Perelman’s Revlon reached a bondholder deal with creditors, including billionaire Carl Icahn, to save the company from bankruptcy.
🤝 Deal Making: Barry Sternlicht’s special purpose acquisition company Jaws Acquisition is in talks with Cano Health for a $4.4 billion merger deal.
🙇♂️ Poor Taste: Chef and TV host Alton Brown apologized for tweets he posted this week joking about the Holocaust.
📖 History Lesson:A new book, Nazi Wives: The Women at the Top of Hitler’s Germany, explores the ideologies of many of the wives of high-level Nazi officials.
📚 Book Shelf: The New York Timesreviews The Way Back, a young adult novel by Gavriel Savit featuring Jewish demons in a 19th-century shtetl.
🎥 Hollywood: HBO is working on an adaptation of “Oslo,” based on the play about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the early 1990s.
🥪 Fine Line: A new Chicago restaurant, Rye Deli & Drink, will feature a “lighter… chef-driven” take on Jewish deli classics.
💍 Mazel Tov: Former White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt yesterday announced the engagement of his daughter during a family trip to Dubai.
📝 Last Words: The Jewish Chroniclepublished an excerpt yesterday from the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in a new book, titled A Few Wise Words, set to be released on Monday.
🕯️ Remembering: Renowned Pittsburgh cantor Moshe Taube, who was saved as a child by Oskar Schindler during the Holocaust, died at age 93.
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews Hagafen 2016 Prix Reserve Merlot:
Picture a plush rose in full bloom. Now, imagine your nose buried deep inside the rose. That is closest approximation I can offer of the fully immersive experience that is the Hagafen 2016 Prix Reserve Merlot. I had a magical moment sitting at the Hagefen winery in Napa recently with dear friends from Houston while being hosted by Ernie, one of the Valley’s greatest and earliest Kosher wine makers. It has already been a week since the tasting and I still cannot get the aroma of the unleashed bouquet out of my olfactory nerves, and I am not sure that I want to.
The Hagafen 2016 Prix Reserve Merlot is one of the best Merlots in the Kosher world. The color is pinkish-purple and very pleasing on the eye. The tannins have matured and manage to increasingly draw you in with each sip. There’s raspberry on the front palate and a voluptuous red cherry on the finish. Enjoy this wine now without any food required.
Vice chairman of The Atlantic and managing director of media at Emerson Collective, Peter T. Lattman turns 50 on Saturday. Asked how he’s planning to celebrate his big birthday, Lattman told JI he’s planning to have dinner outside with his twin brother Brian and their wives.
FRIDAY: Israeli industrialist with holdings in energy, real estate and automobile distributorships, Gad Zeevi turns 81… Philosopher and professor at CUNY, Saul Kripke turns 80… Chief rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Shmuel Riccardo Di Segni turns 71… Long-time NPR political editor, now publisher of the independent “Political Junkie” blog and podcast, Kenneth Rudin turns 70… Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, nominated to the Supreme Court in 2016 but was never granted a confirmation hearing by the Senate, Judge Merrick Garland turns 68… Once the controlling stockholder of a large Israeli conglomerate, Nochi Dankner turns 66… Former editor-in-chief of British Vogue, she is a strategic advisor to fashion marketplace Atterley, Alexandra Shulman turns 63… San Jose, Calif., resident, Katherine (Katya) Palkin turns 52… Somali-born activist who has served in the Dutch parliament, she is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Ayaan Hirsi Ali turns 51… Former Israeli government minister for the Shas party, Ariel Atias turns 50… Founder of Pailet Financial Services, a predecessor agency of what is now the Dallas office of the Marsh & McLennan, Kevin Pailet turns 49… President and CEO at the Consumer Brands Association, Geoffrey Freeman turns 46… Former member of the Knesset (2015-2019) for the Kulanu party, Meirav Ben-Ari turns 45… Television journalist employed by Hearst Television, Jeff Rossen turns 44… President of baseball operations for MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, Andrew Friedman turns 44… Israeli rapper and record producer, generally known by his stage name “Subliminal,” Yaakov (Kobi) Shimoni turns 41… Judoka who won three national titles (2000, 2002 and 2004), she competed for the U.S. at the Athens Olympics in 2004, Charlee Minkin turns 39… Senior director of policy and communications at Christians United For Israel, Ari Morgenstern turns 38… Founder of Botnick Consulting Group, Mark Botnick turns 36… Judicial law clerk at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Jonathan Topaz turns 31… Former relief pitcher in the Colorado Rockies organization, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Troy Neiman turns 30…
SATURDAY: Former president of the University of Chicago, where he continues to teach economics, Hugo F. Sonnenschein, Ph.D. turns 80… Cellist and professor at Moscow Conservatoire, Natalia Gutman turns 78… Former professional bodybuilder who played for two seasons with the New York Jets, Mike Katz turns 76… Los Angeles community leader and activist, Stanley Treitel turns 76… Member of the UK’s House of Lords since 2010, he is a former chairman of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, Baron Jeremy Beecham turns 76… Former British Labour party member of Parliament who resigned last year in protest of Corbyn, Dame Louise Joyce Ellman turns 75… Editor-at-large for Bloomberg View, Jonathan I. Landman turns 68… Democratic member of the New York State Assembly since 2001 from Brooklyn, Steven H. Cymbrowitz turns 67… Former U.S. secretary of state, now on the faculty of Stanford University and the director of the Hoover Institution, Condoleezza Rice turns 66… Senior advisor to President Barack Obama throughout his eight years in the White House, Valerie Jarrett turns 64… Detroit-based communications consultant, Cynthia Shaw turns 62… President of Middlebury College in Vermont since 2015, Laurie L. Patton turns 59… Partner at the Santa Monica-based law firm of Murphy Rosen, Edward A. Klein turns 57… Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and professor of political science at The George Washington University, Sarah A. Binder turns 56… Member of the Colorado House of Representatives, Dafna Michaelson Jenet turns 48… Deputy national security advisor for President Barack Obama, Ben Rhodes turns 43… Head of public policy for the North America at Airbnb, Joshua Meltzer turns 41… Senior advisor to the chair at Albright Stonebridge Group, he was previously a speechwriter for multiple secretaries of defense, Jacob Freedman turns 38… Founder of White Light Strategies, Lana Talya Volftsun Fern turns 34…
SUNDAY: Actor best known for his role as Lou Grant in two TV series, former president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ed Asner (born Yitzhak Edward Asner) turns 91… Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and the leader of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, he was a long-time member of the Knesset (1977-2003), Rabbi Haim Drukman turns 88… Author of dozens of children’s books and young adult fiction, frequent NPR guest, Daniel Pinkwater turns 79… Pianist and conductor, formerly music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim turns 78… Stephen Wolff turns 75… Former chairman and CEO of Film and Music Entertainment, Larry Lotman turns 73… NYC-based consultant for non-profit organizations, Perry Davis turns 72… Immigration and nationality attorney in Southern California, Michael D. Ullman turns 71… Executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museums of Tolerance, Rabbi Meyer H. May turns 68… Executive producer and director of television programs, including “Friends,” Kevin S. Bright turns 66… Member of the Knesset since 2013 for the Yesh Atid party, and a former mayor of Dimona, Meir Cohen turns 65… Partner in Toronto-based Fuller Landau, Jeffrey M. Brown turns 65… Senior project manager at Boeing, Michael A. Lewine turns 57… Former member of Knesset (2015-2019) for the Likud party, Nava Boker turns 50… Founder and chairman of Perilune Capital and founder of Harspring Capital Management, Carey Robinson Wolchok turns 49… Mortgage executive, Joshua Shein turns 48… As a 12-year old baseball fan in Yankee Stadium, he interfered with a ball batted by Derek Jeter in the 1996 ALCS that was ruled to be a game-tying home run, Jeffrey Maier turns 37… White House reporter for The Associated Press, Zeke Miller turns 31… National director at Mission: Readiness and Champions for America’s Future, Ben Goodman turns 31… Client strategy associate at Targeted Victory, Alison Borowsky turns 26…