Democrats expressing support for leveraging aid to Israel are “wrong,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) told Jewish Insider on Monday.
“We have a $38 billion committment over 10 years for military aid to Israel. The Israelis need it for defense,” Nadler stressed.
At the annual J Street conference in Washington, D.C. last week, several Democratic presidential hopefuls said they would condition U.S. aid to Israel on the Jewish state not annexing any part of the West Bank. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT0 further suggested that Israel will have to “fundamentally change” its policy on Gaza if it wants continued military aid. Former Vice President Joe Biden called the proposal “absolutely outrageous.”
Asked by JI if he agreed with Biden’s critique of his fellow Democrats, Nadler replied, “I think it’s wrong” to condition aid to Israel.
“Whether we approve or disapprove of specific policies, we shouldn’t use military aid as a pressure point on specific policies — because Israel’s security is paramount,” the senior Democrat explained.
Boy genius: Zuckerman tells the life story of billionaire hedge fund manager Jim Simons, one of the most successful investors in modern financial history, who founded Renaissance Technologies in 1982. In the first chapter, Zuckerman details how Simons grew up fascinated by mathematics. At age eight, when his family’s doctor suggested a career in medicine as an ideal profession for a “bright Jewish boy,” Jim replied, “I was to be a mathematician or a scientist.”
Rocky road: The author highlights the setbacks Simons experienced during the stock market crash in 2007, as the Renaissance Institutional Equities Fund (RIEF) and Medallion Fund suffered deep losses. “He didn’t know if his firm could survive much more pain,” writes Zuckerman of an August 6 meeting with investors. “He was scared.” Simons decided to sell more of the company’s equity positions until the market stabilized, a decision met with skepticism. When RIEF and Medallion once again turned a profit, some “complained that the gains would have been larger had Simons not overridden their trading system.” But Simons responded, “I’d make the same decision again.”
High risk: In 2008, Simons and one of his partners, Peter Brown, visited Qatar on business, and decided to try dune bashing in the desert. At some point, when they were riding the dunes at high speed, their vehicle almost turned over. “What if this tips over?” Simons told Stephen Robert, who accompanied him on the ride. “People think I am pretty smart — I am going to die in the dumbest way possible.” But after a few minutes, Simons suddenly realized he was going to be okay. “There’s a principle in physics: We can’t tip over unless the tires have traction! We are in sand, so the tires have nothing to grab on to,” he explained as he “flashed a smile” for figuring out their scientific problem.
Free advice: Earlier this year, during a lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his alma mater, Simons was asked which professional investors students should turn to for guidance. George Soros, he replied, according to Zuckerman. “I suppose he’s worth listening to,” Simons said about his Manhattan neighbor, “though he sure talks a lot.” Simons also shared with the audience a few life lessons: “Work with the smartest people you can, hopefully smarter than you… Be persistent, don’t give up easily.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised President Donald Trump’s Mideast policies on Sunday, just days after issuing a veiled critique of the president’s reluctance to respond to recent Iranian aggression.
Maximum pressure: In remarks at the Christian Media Summit held at the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem — attended by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman — Netanyahu said that Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran “is the right one,” and “it’s having a telling effect on Iran’s ability to fund its aggression.” Netanyahu also acknowledged Trump’s moves to recognize Jerusalem and the Golan Heights under Israeli control.
No daylight: Netanyahu vowed to “take the necessary action to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in our borders” and to make sure Iran never develops a nuclear bomb. “We are cooperating with the United States in many, many ways, more ways than I can describe here, to achieve those two aims.”
Losing trust in Trump: According to the latest Israel Democracy Institute monthly survey, published on Sunday, only 36% of Israelis believe that Israel’s security is a central consideration in Trump’s foreign policy decisions, following the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria. This is down from 54% when Trump visited Israel in May 2017.
Reassuring alliances: Blue and White leader Benny Gantz met AIPAC President Mort Fridman and AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr on Sunday. Gantz posted on Twitter that he told the two men he is determined to continue to strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance and “thanked them for the active and important role that AIPAC plays with the American government.”
Kamala Harris has laid off a number of field staffers in New Hampshire as the California senator refocuses her presidential campaign on Iowa, Jewish Insider learned Friday. The layoffs leave the campaign with only a handful of staffers in the state.
In a memo released earlier this week, campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said some staff from the campaign’s headquarters in Baltimore and offices in New Hampshire, Nevada and California would be redeployed to Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest of the presidential primary. However, in addition to doing so, most of her staffers in New Hampshire have lost their jobs with the campaign.
The campaign is also closing all three of its field offices in the state, as first reported by WMUR. Its state headquarters in Manchester will remain open.
Rodriguez’s memo said the campaign would reduce the size of its headquarters staff in addition to redeploying organizers from other early states to Iowa. It did not mention layoffs in those states.
The move emphasizes the all-or-nothing gamble that the campaign is taking in Iowa, which holds its caucuses on February 3. It leaves her with a far less robust operation in New Hampshire, which holds its first-in-the-nation primary one week later on February 11.
Following a brief surge in the polls after trading barbs in the first presidential debate over the issue of busing with former Vice President Joe Biden, Harris’s poll numbers have collapsed, with the California senator polling under 5% both nationally and in early states. According to a poll released Friday by The New York Times, Harris is in 6th place in Iowa, polling at 3%.
The layoffs come as the campaign has struggled to raise money. Although the California senator brought in $11.6 million in the most recent fundraising period, she lagged behind a number of rivals, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Further, the Harris campaign spent more than it took in during the last quarter.
In a statement, Nate Evans, a spokesman for the campaign said “Senator Harris and this team set out with one goal – to win the nomination and defeat Donald Trump in 2020. To do so, the campaign has made a strategic decision to realign resources to go all-in on Iowa, resulting in office closures and staff realignments and reductions in New Hampshire. The campaign will continue to have a staff presence in New Hampshire but the focus is and will continue to be on Iowa. Senator Harris will not visit New Hampshire on November 6 and 7, but her name will still be placed on the primary ballot.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to break with President Donald Trump on Iran on Thursday.
Details: In a speech at a graduation ceremony for IDF officers, the Israeli leader suggested that “Iran’s threshold of daring in the region is rising and it grows even more in the absence of a response.” Netanyahu vowed that Israel is “prepared for the threats and will not hesitate to strike harshly at anyone who tries to attack us.”
The big picture: ThoughNetanyahu did not mention Trump by name, his remarks were seen as the first public rebuke of the administration’s reluctance to respond to Iranian aggression.
Former Ambassador Dennis Ross tells Jewish Insider that Netanyahu is “trying to deter Iran, understanding that there is no U.S. umbrella now.” The Los Angeles Timesposited Thursday that “The Trump-Netanyahu bromance appears over.”
2020 echo: Biden also lashed out at Trump over Iran on Thursday, saying that the president “pulled us out of the successful Iran nuclear deal, promising he’d get a better one. He hasn’t. And now, Iran has taken its nuclear program out of the deep-freeze and ramped up its aggressive acts across the region — and Trump has no strategy to deal with these predictable responses.”
Report: Israeli Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reported on Thursday that Netanyahu recently told cabinet ministers that he believes Trump won’t take any military action against Iranian targets in the coming year before the U.S. presidential election.
Losing trust: Danielle Pletka, senior vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), tells JI that Netanyahu is “right to recognize that Israel’s defense is up to Israel alone.” She added that every “single nation or group in the Middle East” is reeling from Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds. “Donald Trump has proven repeatedly that he is unwilling to act.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer acknowledged that the uncertainty over Trump’s Middle East policy worries Israel and emboldens Iran, but argued that there’s nothing new in Netanyahu’s “latest war of words.” The “rhetorical threats and counter-threats have been part of Netanyahu’s playbook for more than a decade,” Kurtzer said.
New sanctions, old waivers: Secretary Pompeo announced on Thursday the imposition of new sanctions on Iran’s construction sector, while extending waivers on foreign companies working with Iran’s civilian nuclear program. “This decision will help preserve oversight of Iran’s civil nuclear program, reduce proliferation risks, constrain Iran’s ability to shorten its ‘breakout time’ to a nuclear weapon, and prevent the regime from reconstituting sites for proliferation-sensitive purposes,” Morgan Ortagus, the State Department’s spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday it would be “absolutely outrageous” for the United States to condition aid to Israel. He described the proposal, suggested by several Democratic presidential candidates, as “a gigantic mistake” after a campaign event in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
In a video submitted to the J Street conference, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said, “aid should not be used to support annexation,” a sentiment echoed by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who said in an interview at the event that the United States should “have mechanisms to do this to make sure U.S. taxpayer support for Israel doesn’t turn into U.S. taxpayer support for a move like annexation.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) went further, saying that Israel needed to “fundamentally change” its relationship with Gaza, which is currently controlled by Hamas, in order to receive aid.
Biden had told the Wall Street Journalthat he hoped rival candidates who supported leveraging aid to Israel “had misspoke or had been taken out of context.” The former vice president had submitted a video to J Street in which he criticized settlement activity, which he said “takes us further from peace.”
The former vice president is a longtime supporter of the U.S. alliance with Israel. In 2008, he told the National Jewish Democratic Council, “My support for Israel begins in my stomach, goes to my heart and ends up in my head.” He has also been a longtime critic of Israel’s expansion of settlement activity in the West Bank. In a speech at AIPAC Policy Conference in 2016, he said, “Israel’s government’s steady and systematic process of expanding settlements, legalizing outposts, seizing land, is eroding in my view the prospect of a two-state solution.”
Under the ten-year memorandum of understanding signed in 2016, the United States provides $3.8 billion a year in military aid, most of which is spent on military equipment manufactured in the United States.
Historian Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and Knesset Member in the 20th Knesset, discussed the lesser-known story of the U.S. the Balfour Declaration in a new podcast from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Hosted by David Makovsky, the think tank’s Ziegler distinguished fellow and director of the project on Arab-Israel relations, “Decision Points,” a series of ten episodes, is the first podcast focused on the history of the U.S.-Israel relationship since the creation of the Jewish State. It features 30-minute conversations with key scholars and book authors.
Oren: “[Former President] Woodrow Wilson was — if you read his memoirs, his remarks, those of his wife Edith in particular — sort of what you call a garden-variety antisemite. And yet… he went against the advice of all of his senior counselors, including his Secretary of State Robert Lansing, his personal political adviser Col. Edward House, who were adamantly opposed to Zionism… But it was Wilson’s restorationist worldview, which at this precise moment in history… met up with a peculiar geostrategic situation that [was] obtained in 1917,” pointing to the Communist revolution in Russia and the fear that the Germans would issue a similar declaration.
Key relationship: The relationship between President Wilson and Louis Dembitz Brandeis, whom he respected when Wilson was governor of New Jersey, was key in persuading the U.S. to throw its support behind Arthur Balfour’s declaration when he visited the U.S. in 1917, Oren explains in detail. “Balfour was convinced that if he can get Wilson to sign on to this idea it will persuade the British government because they so need America in the [first World] War and he’s not getting anywhere with Wilson’s advisors. He needs to actually get into the Oval Office, he’s not getting there. He turns to Brandeis… Brandeis says to Balfour, ‘Don’t worry, I got it.’ He goes into the Oval Office, has maybe a half-an-hour meeting and walks out with Wilson’s approval of what would later become the Balfour Declaration. A pivotal moment in Middle Eastern history, Jewish history, and Israel history certainly, that short meeting between Brandeis and Wilson.”
The audience: Makovsky tells Jewish Insider that people are now consuming information differently than in the past — the number of podcast listeners has increased sharply in 2019, according to a recent survey — “and I think it’s very important for those of us who care about U.S.-Israel relations to basically meet people where they are through new media. The idea of interviewing authors who have written about different periods of the U.S.-Israel relationship is that by the end of ten episodes, people will feel they have a better grasp of the trajectory, the arc of history when it comes to this relationship.”
Essential alliance: Talking about the Balfour Declaration, Makovsky said those events are a reminder of the idea of alliances: “We are at a time where people are saying that we could withdraw from the Middle East. We don’t really need allies. But you know, we saw this with al-Baghdadi too, that it ultimately takes a village, so to speak, of allies that made the capture possible. Zionism always believed in two ideas and did not see it as a contradiction. It believed in the idea of self-reliance, but also making sure that you have very good ties with the leading countries of the time, which [in 1917] are Britain and the United States. I think that was the key to Zionism’s success. And I think that is also good advice for the United States today that we need allies. We need the multipliers and having allies are critical or American influence in the Middle East and beyond.”
House Democrats are disputing a senior Republican’s claim that they are stalling legislation to combat antisemitism.
Details: In an op-ed published in the Atlanta Jewish Times last week, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) accused the Democratic House majority of refusing to bring his bill, the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2019, up for a vote because they “can’t seem to agree on condemning the rank antisemitism within their own party.”
According to the Republican ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, the legislation “has bipartisan support in the Senate thanks to Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Bob Casey (D-P.A.), and many of my House colleagues — Democrat and Republican — supported the Antisemitism Awareness Act last Congress.”
Push back: Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) tells JI that the claim that Democrats are neglecting the issue “is out of step with reality.” Luria, a member of the House Bipartisan Task Force For Combating Antisemitism, maintained that “House Democrats have strongly condemned antisemitism, and we will continue to do so.”
Work to do: Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) stressed that there are “several efforts in the House” to combat the rising tide of antisemitism. Nonetheless, the New Jersey lawmaker acknowledged that “we have much more work to do in this fight and against all forms of hatred.”
In the Senate: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) launched this week the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism. The launch date coincided with the one-year anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre. The two senators explained the move in a joint op-ed published Monday.
A spokesperson for Rosen tells JI that the Nevada Democrat “believes that combating antisemitism must be a non-partisan issue.”