First published at 7:10 AM on Jun 25th 2019
Updated at: 7:31 AM | 8:19 AM | 8:57 AM
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WELCOME TO THE TEAM — We’re thrilled to announce that Ben Jacobs is joining the growing Jewish Insider team as a senior political reporter. Ben will be focused on covering the 2020 campaign trail for JI. He previously covered the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterms for the Guardian. [JewishInsider; CNN]

JI INTERVIEW — John Hickenlooper: If I had said what Biden had said, I would apologize — by Ben Jacobs:
Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper offered guarded criticism of Joe Biden’s comments about segregationist senators in an interview with Jewish Insider. “If I had said what the vice president had said... I would apologize,” said Hickenlooper when asked about Biden’s remarks delivered at a New York fundraiser last Tuesday.

The former Colorado governor, who is vocally opposed to the leftward drift in his party, was booed at the California State Democratic Convention in June when he said “socialism is not the answer.” He couched his appeal in pragmatic terms, emphasizing the electoral liability of the label “socialist.”

“I don’t think large government expansions are solutions to our problems,” said Hickenlooper. “I especially feel that if we as Democrats aren’t very clear that if we are not socialists, Republicans are going to call us socialists all day long."

The Colorado Democrat sees this drift in foreign policy as well. “In various ways, you see it in a lot of places, certainly in terms of the Middle East,” says Hickenlooper. “We don’t always approve of the decisions of [the] Israeli government but most of us recognize Israel is an ally of long standing, one of our strongest allies and even when someone criticizes certain activities of [the] Israeli government, it doesn’t mean we are in anyway diminishing our presence and long term support of the country.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]

BAHRAIN SUMMIT — This evening, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner are expected to kick off the first round of discussions on the economic portion of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan at the “economic workshop” in Bahrain.

Before leaving on Monday, Mnuchin told reporters at the White House that the economic portion of the Trump peace plan has the potential of creating “great opportunities” for the “people in Palestine.” [JewishInsider; CSPAN]

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Kushner revealed for the first time that the political portion of the peace plan, due later this year, will be “somewhere between the Arab Peace Initiative and between the Israeli position.”

Meanwhile, Mohammed Massad, one of the two Palestinian businessmen who initially accepted the U.S. invitation to attend the summit, announced on Monday that he has decided to sit out. “When I learned of the names of the group of [Palestinian] businessmen attending the conference, I decided to withdraw my participation because it brings me no honor to stand alongside them,” Massad told Times of Israel.

Palestinian protesters burned portraits of President Trump in rallies against the summit across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

VIEWS FROM JERUSALEM — Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon writes in The New York Times… “What’s Wrong With Palestinian Surrender? [Saeb] Erekat misleadingly suggests that a 'surrender’ will lead to an end of the Palestinian people. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, surrendering will create the opportunity to transform Palestinian society, thereby leading to his people’s liberation.” [NYTimes]

In response to the Danon op-ed, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot tweeted: “Obviously the Trump [Mideast] team are acting on such supremacists ideas. Except we don’t have an army that can surrender. We only have the greatest most resilient nation on earth: the people of Palestine. Surrender is not part of our history, resurrection is!”

Ami Ayalon, Gilead Sher and Orni Petruschka, co-founders of the Israeli NGO Blue White Future, write… “Trump’s Peace Plan Is Immoral, Impractical — and Could Blow Up the Middle East: As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Yet it is not clear whether Trump’s intentions are good or merely seek to do Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a political favor. Presenting Abbas with an impossible choice will allow Netanyahu to win another round of the blame game and accuse the Palestinians of backing away from a good deal.” [Politico]

VIEW FROM AMMAN — Why Jordan’s identity can’t be bought — by Sean Yom and Katrina Sammour: “In public, Jordanian officials have justified attending the Bahrain talks pragmatically: better to be inside the room where decisions happen, where it can disrupt the process and advance Palestinian interests. Privately, they describe being subjected to glorified blackmail from key advocates of the peace deal, from President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” [WashPost]

TODAY IN JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chaired a trilateral meeting of the US, Russian and Israeli national security advisors at the Orient Hotel. [Pic]

Speaking Tuesday morning, National Security Advisor John Bolton said that Trump wants to hold talks with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. "The president has held the door open for real negotiations, to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” Bolton said alongside Netanyahu and his Russian and Israeli counterparts, Nikolai Patrushev and Meir Ben-Shabbat. “All Iran needs to do is walk through that open door.”

The U.S. and Israel are looking to get Russia on board to convince Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to limit the Iranian presence in Syria. On Monday, Moscow’s top security advisor Nikolai Patrushev met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

IRAN WATCH — On Monday, President Trump signed an executive order imposing new economic sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and others in the Iranian regime, as well as eight Iranian military commanders. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also told reporters at a White House briefing that the president has “instructed” to designate Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for sanctions “later this week.”

“We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “Never can Iran have a nuclear weapon.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani slammed the new sanctions on Tuesday morning, calling them “outrageous and idiotic,” and saying that the White House is “afflicted by mental retardation.”

On Monday, Trump insisted in an interview with Hill TV that he does not need congressional approval to strike Iran. "I do like keeping them abreast, but I don’t have to do it legally,” he said.

DEEP DIVE — Trump Keeps Talking About the Last Military Standoff With Iran — Here’s What Really Happened — by Megan Rose, Robert Faturechi, and T. Christian Miller: “Immediately after the release of the Farsi Island sailors in early 2016, Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan launched an investigation that would divide the highest levels of the Navy over the question of who was to blame for the embarrassing incident. The findings of that investigation, completed in February 2016, did not spare the commanders and crew of the two riverine combat boats, or RCBs. They had violated fundamental Navy doctrines regarding navigation and leadership, the report found. Senior 5th Fleet commanders were also faulted and two were relieved of their commands. Donegan’s investigators, though, dug deeper. They concluded that the riverine unit had not been properly manned or trained before being dispatched to the Persian Gulf.” [ProPublica]

ON THE HILL – By JI’s Laura Kelly: An open debate on President Trump’s power to launch a military strike on Iran is likely to stall in the Senate, with Republicans looking to scuttle a Democratic-led amendment to a defense spending bill that restricts the president’s authority on attacking the Islamic Republic. “I don’t think they’re going to get that vote,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told Politico on Monday. The amendment, led by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), prohibits the use of defense funds for military action against Iran.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) told reporters on Monday he believes it almost impossible to draw a connection between al-Qaeda and Iran and that the AUMF is already “stretched” to cover too many conflicts. “For the few of my colleagues who were actually here and voted for it in 2001, they've said both publicly and privately that they never could have imagined it would cover the dozen different places around the world where we're currently in conflict.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and author of the National Defense Authorization Act, said the president is likely able to launch military strikes without the 2001 AUMF but is opposed to getting rid of the law. “I wouldn’t support that,” he said of the amendment. “You have to keep in mind, Iran, they’re a bunch of terrorists and they hate us and we’re at war with them, this is serious stuff. I think the president could find himself in the position where he would have to do something and do something right away in the best interest and he has the power to do that."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told Jewish Insider on Monday that she has spoken to the Jewish community in her district to explain her comments last week comparing border detention facilities run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to “concentration camps.”

Ocasio-Cortez also defended her comparison, saying that her constituents agree with her assessment. “I think a lot of the folks back home are in agreement that this has been a striking point of solidarity,” she said. “And although it has certainly struck its own debate, I am confident that in the long run people will see the moral argument that we have made and how many of my constituents back home, who I am concerned with and whom my job is to represent, believe that what we did was the right thing.” [JewishInsider]

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum said in a statement that it “unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary.”

The Salt Lake Tribune editorial… “Yes, we do have concentration camps: Our government is not building massive gas chambers and industrial crematoria. It is not conducting sick medical experiments on members of an unfavored class. But that does not mean that the places into which we are herding tens of thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are not properly called concentration camps. Because that is precisely what they are.” [SaltLakeTribune]

DISPATCH FROM ASPEN — At the Aspen Ideas Festival on Monday, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he would have gone ahead with a strike on Iran, but praised President Donald Trump for showing “growth in office” with his decision. Speaking to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Christie also said Jarden Kushner shouldn’t have a White House job, and said Biden represents the Democrats’ best shot in 2020. [JewishInsider]

The Christie Goldberg Show:
The former New Jersey Governor and The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief kept the Aspen crowd entertained throughout the evening. Read a transcript of their exchange, including Christie recalling when ‘incredibly’ Jared Kushner called him to help intervene with Trump during the campaign.

STATE VISIT — Cuomo to travel to Israel for trade and solidarity mission on Wednesday — by Jacob Kornbluh: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to travel to Israel for a 24-hour solidarity and trade mission trip on Wednesday. “I hope there’s a message of solidarity and partnership in my trip to Israel and I hope that the Jewish community here is confident in this state's position vis-à-vis Israel,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo went on to decry those whose criticism of Israel veers into antisemitism. “I understand we have an overheated political environment in this country, but we also have a constitutional and legacy of accepting and living together and accepting diversity. And the Jewish community is an essential part of the state. So you want to have a political difference with Israel, be my guest. But you have no right to turn that into antisemitism.” [JewishInsider]

REPORT — The Trump administration considered hiring Joel Kaplan, Facebook's vice president of global public policy, to lead the Office of Management and Budget, The Daily Beast reported on Monday. Kaplan's vetting file is among the many Trump transition vetting documents published this week by Axios.

2020 BRIEFS — Stand-ins, push-ups and long drives: How the 2020 field is preparing for the debates... Joe Biden expects to see sharp knives on the crowded debate stage... Biden "has tremendous range,” according to Dan Senor, a former adviser to Paul Ryan who oversaw the debate prep in 2012...

Biden’s media strategy: Duck the press unless you’re under duress. "It’s not a tenable strategy," David Axelrod lamented... Axelrod on how Pete Buttigieg missed a chance to show black citizens 'I feel your pain'... 'Every one of the decisions is her decision:' Inside Elizabeth Warren's policy factory... Billionaires from George Soros to Pritzker heirs urge candidates to support a wealth tax...

GOP launches new fundraising site as Dems crush the online money game — by Alex Isenstadt: "WinRed is being billed as the GOP’s answer to the Democratic Party’s ActBlue, which has already amassed over $174 million this year... The launch caps months of behind-the-scenes discussions involving top Republicans. President Donald Trump and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner were involved, as were GOP congressional leaders and mega-donor Sheldon Adelson... The most unexpected stumbling block surrounded the initial decision to dub the new product 'Patriot Pass.' The name was abruptly dropped after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the president that the processor sounded too much like his football team." [Politico]

** Good Tuesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Ann Sarnoff, a Hollywood outsider, will lead Warner Bros. studio [NYTimes] BuzzFeed Chairman Kenny Lerer stepping down [Axios] Carl Icahn’s bet on Caesars Entertainment already looks to be paying off [WSJ] Two Israeli brothers arrested for phishing fraud, Bitfinex hack [CoinDesk] • Nintendo opens a retail store in Tel Aviv — the second in the world [NintendoLife] • Samsung closes Israeli accelerator after four years [Calcalist]

HEARD AT ASPEN — Walter Isaacson interviewed author George Packer about his recent book, Our Man: Richard Holbrooke’s and the End of the American Century, at the Aspen Ideas Festival:

Isaacson on Holbrooke: “He [downplayed] that he was from Jewish immigrant parents and that his name had been changed. You see that he could not cloake his ambitions with the velvet quality that a Tony Lake could do.”

Packer: “He felt like an outsider. He once said to a friend, in the presence of his then-girlfriend Diane Sawyer, ‘she gets everything she wants but I have to fight for everything because for some reason people don’t like me.’ And that for some reason gives you a little hint at the massive blind spot that kept him from seeing himself.”

Isaacson: “He was the least self-aware person we’ve ever met” (laughter). [Pic]


STATE-SIDE — Activist priest Michael Pfleger says Yo-Yo Ma bailed on concert over Farrakhan speech — by Michael Sneed: "Father Michael Pfleger tells Sneed there’s been new fallout stemming from Minister Louis Farrakhan’s incendiary speech last month at St. Sabina Church, which drew rabid criticism from members of the Jewish community for 'antisemitic' remarks. Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s third annual St. Sabina Concert for Peace sponsored by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and initially scheduled for Saturday night was canceled two weeks ago, according to Pfleger. 'This was an event that was supposed to draw people together,' said Pfleger. 'This had been a two-year-in-a-row concert, a celebration of love and unity and peace. I am very hurt and disturbed this happened.'" [ChicagoSunTimes]

The Holocaust Survivor Who Deciphered Nazi Doublespeak — by Gal Beckerman: "Along with an assortment of historians, ethnographers and linguists, [Nachman Blumental] established the Central Jewish Historical Commission. They transcribed 3,000 survivor testimonies between 1944 and 1947, scavenged for Nazi paperwork in abandoned Gestapo offices and meticulously preserved fragments of day-to-day ghetto life... The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which contains the largest Holocaust collection in North America, acquired Blumental’s personal papers in February, composed of over 200,000 documents."

"Its significance is its range, 30 boxes of material that had gathered dust and been chewed on by mice over the years since Blumental’s death in 1983. Unpacked now for the first time, they contain his postwar collections — Hitler stamps and pieces of antisemitic propaganda. One thick folder is filled with hundreds of previously unseen poems and songs Jews composed in the ghettos and camps, which he transcribed from survivors." [NYTimes]

TRANSITION — Aaron Weinberg started his new role as manager of government relations at the Israel Policy Forum on Monday. Weinberg served as assistant director of political outreach for the American Jewish Committee, and previously as a legislative aide to Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and the DNC director of Jewish engagement in 2016.

SPOTTED: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) at DCA yesterday evening. [Pic]

DESSERT — Jewish New York couple to help bake cookies in space — by Eytan Halon: "Recently-married Jewish couple Ian and Jordana Fichtenbaum’s combined passion for the space industry and for offering warm hospitality is set to launch into orbit, more than 400 kilometers above their Manhattan home. The husband-and-wife team are the entrepreneurs and co-chefs behind the Zero G Kitchen Space Oven, an insulated container designed to hold and bake food samples in the micro-gravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS)." [JPost]

REMEMBERING — George Rosenkranz, 102, a Developer of the Birth Control Pill, Is Dead — by Robert McFadden: "George Rosenkranz, a chemist who, with two colleagues, altered human reproductive history in a Mexico City lab in 1951 by synthesizing the key ingredient in what became the oral contraceptive known as 'the pill,' died on Sunday at his home in Atherton, California... He was born Gyorgy Rosenkranz in Budapest on Aug. 20, 1916, the only child of Bertalan and Etel (Weiner) Rosenkranz." [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: New Jersey-based criminal defense attorney, Miles Feinstein turns 78... Music publicist in the 1970s and 1980s for Prince, Billy Joel and Styx, later an author on human behavior, Howard Bloom turns 76... Founder and CEO of Bel Air Partners, a financial advisory firm for automotive retailers, Sheldon J. Sandler turns 75... Real estate developer and founder of The Continuum Company, Ian Bruce Eichner turns 74... Woodland Hills, California-based mentor, coach and consultant for business executives through Vistage International, Gary Brennglass turns 67...

Chairman and CEO of his family's Chicago-based investment firm, Henry Crown and Company, he is a director of JPMorgan Chase and General Dynamics and the managing partner of the Aspen Skiing Company, James Crown turns 66... Member of the Knesset since 2013, she is a leader of the Meretz party, Michal Rozin turns 50... Real estate agent and media personality, he appears together with his wife, Kyle Richards, on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Mauricio Umansky turns 49... CEO of the Boston-based Achievement Network, Mora Segal turns 46...

News Editor at The Forward since 2016, Helen Chernikoff turns 46... Born in Manchester, England, he is the founder and director of The Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, popularly known as the "Zoo Rabbi," Natan Slifkin turns 44... Fashion model and television presenter, Michele Merkin turns 44... Marketing communications coordinator for Leidos, Isaac Snyder turns 32... CNN producer and reporter since 2014, covering the first family, politics and pop culture, Betsy Klein...

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