Episode 67 – Middle East Break Down


The Middle East isn’t the friendliest neighborhood to grow up in,  especially for Israel. With the cold peace it shares with both Egypt and Jordan to the persistent “state of war” it holds with Iraq and Iran, Israel is hard pressed to find a friend in its corner of the world. The USA is often seen as Israel’s big brother, its protector, its ever-loyal ally, but the United States lies thousands upon thousands of miles away geographically and light years culturally. So how does a country like Israel fit in in its home town? What’s its role here in the Middle East? How does a young nation forge relationships in such a harsh climate?

Here to help us understand the intricacies and intrigues of the Middle East is Barak Ravid. Barak is the chief diplomatic correspondent for Channel 10 News in Israel. Before that he served as the diplomatic correspondent at Haaretz for a decade, covering the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense, dealing with issues such as U.S.-Israeli relations, EU-Israeli relations and the peace process.

Barak Ravid joins us today to talk about Israel’s place in the Middle East.

Barak Ravid on Facebook and Twitter

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool

Netanyahu BLASTS Iran Over Forcing Wrestler to Forfeit: ‘Hating Others Will Never Make You a Champion’


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on Monday blasting the Iranian regime for forcing one of their wrestlers to forfeit a match so he wouldn’t have to face an Israeli.

Netanyahu began the video by recounting the story of Alireza Karimi-Machiani, who was on the path toward easily defeating Russian wrestler Alikhan Zhabrailov until his coach ordered him to quit the match, as Iran prohibits its athletes from facing any Israelis in a sporting match.

“Close your eyes and think about Alireza for a moment,” said Netanyahu. “He trained countless hours. He dreamed of becoming a world champion. But the Iranian regime would rather see its athletes lose than compete against Israelis.”

Netanyahu then put forth a suggestion to help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

“I want you to film yourself playing a sport against someone of a different nationality, a different faith, a different color,” said Netanyahu. “I want you to compete like hell – we’re all for competition. Then I want you to shake hands, go out for a drink together and then upload this to social media.

Netayanhu continued, “I want you to show Iran’s regime that hating others will never make you a champion. It only makes you a pathetic and insecure loser.”

The Israeli prime minister provided some uplifting words for Karimi-Machiani.

“The tyrants who made you take a fall will fall themselves,” declared Netanyahu. “A regime that crushes the creative and competitive spirits of its people – that regime is doomed.”

The full video can be seen below:

When Karimi-Machiani was forced to forfeit the match, he lamented that he had trained for “months” and that “achieving a world medal is the only happiness for any of us.”

“Would it not be oppression if our authorities undermine my hard work again?” the Iranian wrestler told the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA).

Screenshot from Twitter.

Iranian Wrestler Forced to Forfeit Fight So He Wouldn’t Have to Fight An Israeli


An Iranian wrestler competing at the U23 World Senior Wrestling Championship in Poland was forced to forfeit the fight so he wouldn’t have to face an Israeli wrestler in the following round.

The wrestler, Alireza Karimi-Machiani, was on his way toward trouncing his opponent, Russian wrestler Alikhan Zhabrailov, on Saturday when Karimi-Machiani’s coach ordered him to lose. Karimi-Machiani initially resisted the order, but eventually acquiesced.

Karimi-Machiani was not happy about it.

“I tried hard for months to get the world gold medal,” the wrestler told the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA). “Achieving a world medal is the only happiness for any of us.”

Karimi-Machiani added, “I do accept that Israel is an oppressor and commits crimes. But would it not be oppression if our authorities undermine my hard work again?”

The “again” is a reference to 2013, when Karimi-Machiani forfeited a wrestling match to avoid facing an Israeli wrestler.

Iran’s Wrestling Foundation hailed Karimi-Machiani as a “hero” for forfeiting the fight. Iranian Cleric Javad Jalal tweeted, “We will not step onto the mat against Israel until the army of Islam triumphantly steps onto the Holy Land of Palestine.”

Iran does not allow its athletes to face Israelis in sporting matches. In August 2016, two Iranians were suspended for facing an Israeli soccer team. One of the players was expelled from the team while the other rejoined after issuing a public apology. Iran and Israel have not faced in each other in sporting competitions since 1983.

Israeli athletes have constantly faced similar instances of prejudice from athletes of Arab countries. For instance, an Egyptian Judoka refused to shake the hand of an Israeli Judoka in the 2016 Olympics and Tunisia’s tennis federation forbade its tennis star from facing an Israeli in a match.

Back in October, an Israeli who won the Judo gold medal sang the Israeli national anthem to himself since the United Arab Emirates wouldn’t play it.

A man walks past a damaged building following an earthquake in Darbandikhan in Sulaimaniya Governorate, Iraq, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Israel Offers Aid to Iran-Iraq Earthquake Victims, Iran Rejects It


Israel offered to provide aid to the victims of Sunday’s earthquake at the Iran-Iraq border, but Iran rejected Israel’s offer for help.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on Wednesday explaining that “as a father, as an Israeli, as a Jew, I wanted to help.”

“Israel has no quarrel with the people of Iran,” said Netanyahu. “We never have. Our only quarrel is with the cruel Iranian regime, a regime that holds its people hostage, a regime that threatens our people with annihilation.”

Netanyahu added that Israel has a history of providing humanitarian aid worldwide, including “Haiti, Phillippines, Mexico” and those who have been afflicted by the Syrian civil war.

“We do all this for one reason: we do it because it’s the right thing to do,” said Netanyahu. “Too many times in my people’s history, the world failed to act when it could, the world failed to do the right thing. So we have a special sensitivity to help those in need.”

Netanyahu concluded the video by noting that Israel’s constant humanitarian aid shows the true nature of Israel.

“This is Israel,” said Netanyahu. “Compassionate. Caring. Kind.”

An anonymous official from Netanyahu’s office told the Times of Israel that Iran shot down Israel’s offer for aid.

“This shows the true face of the Iranian regime,” said the official.

Iran also rejected Israel’s offer for aid in 2003 after an earthquake killed over 26,000 people.

Sunday’s earthquake registered at a 7.3 magnitude, killing 500 people and wounding almost 8,000.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

President Rivlin found a Fifth Tribe: Diaspora Jews


1.

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin is this year’s senior Israeli speaker at the GA, the annual gathering of the North American Jewish federations. And this is not an easy job: Los Angeles is sunny, and visiting the city is surely enjoyable, but Rivlin came here as the representative of an establishment that is not highly popular with the leadership of US Jewry. Some call it a “crisis” in Israel-Diaspora relations, some deliberately want to avoid the C word. Terminology aside, the Jews of America – well, many of them – are angry with Israel’s government, and feel betrayed, neglected, disrespected. They want to see change.

President Rivlin cannot give them what they want. Moreover, his speech in Los Angeles today reminded North America Jews that “we must all respect Israel’s democratic process. The decision-making process”. American Jews must respect it, and hence accept that their ability to pressure Israel into doing something that its leadership is reluctant to do it limited. President Rivlin himself respect it, and hence is reluctant to express his support for a specific position in the great debate about – well, what is it about?

2.

In a nutshell, Rivlin’s speech included 5 main messages:

  1. Israel is wonderful, and don’t you forget that.
  2. We Jews are partners in good times and bad times.
  3. Religion and State issues are highly politicized in Israel – and this ought to be taken into account.
  4. The Jewish world and Israel are changing, and we must understand and adapt to change.
  5. While we deal with secondary issues, let us not forget the important ones: Iran, anti-Semitism and other serious threats to Jewish existence.

3.

Refereeing to the “crisis” Rivlin used his vast experience as an Israeli politician – one of the most experienced and most successful politicians we have. He used it to remind his North American listeners that “Whether we like it or not, in the only Jewish-democratic state, Religion and State is a political issue”. Obviously, most Jews in the hall do not like it, but Rivlin insisted on reminding them what this reality means: “Around five Israeli governments have fallen on questions like: ‘Can combat aircraft (not on mission) land in Israel on Shabbat?’ Or on the question of ‘Who is a Jew?’ that is Democracy”.

Was he defending the decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu to renegade on the Kotel compromise? I would not go that far. Still, he was clearly at least somewhat sympathetic to Netanyahu’s political calculations. This isn’t some joke, he reminded the room, this is serious business of having to run a complicated coalition by delicately balancing conflicting outlooks and interests.

And as for the Kotel: “I hope that in the future we can return to the table together, and reach an understanding on this important issue”. Note what Rivlin did not say: he did not say that there is need to go back to the deal that the government decided to scrap.

4.

The most interesting part of Rivlin’s speech was dedicated to his theme of “tribes” – a theme that Israelis are already familiar with. Israel is no longer a coherent society. It evolved and now has four main tribes battling for space, influence, resources, ideas – while also having to maintain a certain sense of partnership, because they are all partners who have a stake in the success of Israel. “from a society made up of a clear Zionist majority, to a society made up of four clear sectors or ‘tribes’, which are getting closer in size: The secular Jews, the National Religious Jews, the Haredim and the Arabs”.

Not everybody is happy with Rivlin’s formulation, and with the action he advocates based on it. But that’s not the issue for today. What was noteworthy about his speech today was Rivlin’s attempt at counting non-Israeli Jews as a fifth tribe. “we need the partnership with you, the fifth tribe, (and very important one), the Jews of the Diaspora”.

5.

To be a fifth tribe is an honor – you are one of us – and a burden – you are one of us. It means that Rivlin just complicated the choreography of the already complicated dance of having to make four tribes get along with one another. In his speech, he did not much elaborate on this idea, but make no mistake, he probably thought about it, and already has some ideas as to how such formulation can serve us in the field of Israel-Diaspora action.

Is the Jewish Diaspora a fifth tribe? Does it want to be a fifth tribe? This can be an interesting discussion – but a fifth tribe is surely better than a second people.

Still, there are complications. World Jews are no more a coherent group that Israeli Jews are – so maybe they should not be counted as a fifth tribe but rather be added to the four other tribes (three really: secular, Zionist religious and Haredi). Or maybe to include world Jews in this formulation of tribes there is a need to add more than a fifth tribe – maybe a fifth and a sixth and a seventh.

Also: to have world Jews counted as a tribe we must assume a partnership in something. This might be easier for the Jews, but can we add them to a partnership that includes Israeli Arabs? (it is of course possible: because world Jews and Arab Israelis share an interest in the success of Israel).

And there is the numerical issue to consider. There are eight million Israelis and about the same number of Jews in the rest of the world. Is it fair to count Israelis as four tribes – about two million strong each – and then count all other Jews as just one tribe – eight million strong?

One way or the other, a fifth tribe concept is something fresh to ponder, maybe as a little respite from endlessly talking about the unresolved issue of the Kotel.

6.

As for Iran, note that Rivlin agrees with Netanyahu – and he agrees with President Trump.

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza. Suhaib Salem/ Reuters

IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel


The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed a Hamas tunnel on Monday that was still in the process of being built.

The tunnel spanned from Khan Younis in Gaza toward Kibbutz Kissufim in Israel. The IDF was able to detect it through an unspecified technological advancement and then destroyed the tunnel through a controlled explosion.

The explosion resulted in nine dead Palestinian terrorists, one of which was the senior commander of Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the tunnel’s demolition as how Israel is “developing breakthrough technology to deal with the tunnel threat.”

“Today, we located a tunnel and we destroyed it, and we will continue doing so,” Netanyahu declared. “We will continue to protect Israel’s borders.”

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stressed that the explosion took place on the Israeli border and that the Jewish state isn’t interested in another armed conflict with Gaza. However, Lieberman noted that “despite Palestinian unity, the Gaza Strip remains a terrorist kingdom.”

“There is no doubt Hamas, which controls Gaza, is responsible,” said Lieberman.

Hamas called the tunnel’s explosion a “Zionist crime” that “is a dangerous escalation against our people” to halt “efforts to restore Palestinian unity” in a statement.

“We affirm that resisting the occupation in all its forms and by possessing its various forms is a natural and guaranteed right of our people,” the statement read.

Iran, which funds Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, also denounced the tunnel’s destruction by referring to Israel as the “blood-sucking Zionist regime” that “wants to weaken the resolve of the oppressed Palestinian nation through the massacre of Palestinian youth.”

This is the third Hamas tunnel that has been destroyed by Israel since Hamas first started using the tunnels in the 2014 conflict. In 2016, Israel warned that Hamas digs over six miles of tunnel a month toward Israel and that they can travel through the entirety of the Gaza Strip underground through their network of tunnels. There have been some instances in which the tunnels have collapsed on Hamas members.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer. Photo by Reuters

Ambassador Dermer Talks About Israel’s Perils, Success


Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, made his Los Angeles speaking debut on Oct. 23 and conducted an oratorical master class for some 450 invited guests at Stephen Wise Temple.

Talking for well over an hour without referring to a single note, the 46-year-old native of Florida’s Miami Beach neatly divided his speech into two parts.

In the first segment, Dermer painted a grim picture of the dangers facing Israel in a hostile world, pointing to a rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, with Jews bearing the brunt of religion-motivated hate crimes.

But the greatest danger, he said, comes from Iran, which makes no secret of its intent to destroy the Jewish state. The ambassador lauded President Donald Trump for urging a rewrite or complete scuttling of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, signed by Iran, the United States and five other nations.

If Dermer — who was in town for three days — frequently sounded like a rebroadcast of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress two years ago, it was no coincidence. The diplomat served for four years as Netanyahu’s top foreign policy adviser and wrote many of his speeches. Actually, the ambassador’s role in persuading Republican leaders to invite the prime minister to address Congress — without notifying the White House — earned him a sharp rebuke from President Barack Obama’s administration.

The greatest danger, he said, comes from Iran, which makes no secret of its intent to destroy the Jewish state.

But Dermer remains unshaken in his belief that Iran “got the deal of the century” in negotiating the pact. He believes that Trump must fix it or walk away from it, sounding a line advocated by most Republican lawmakers.

Just as Dermer had his audience fretting about the existential threat to Israel’s survival, he shifted gears and spent the rest of his time talking about the nation’s impressive achievements.

Looking at Israel’s accomplishments — past, present and future — Dermer saw the Jewish state’s glass not only half full, but actually overflowing.

To back his case, Dermer noted that U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Israel as the world’s eighth-most powerful nation, with the top intelligence service on the planet and a three-tier defense system.

In a bow to Obama, Dermer thanked the former president for signing a 10-year military assistance treaty with Israel.

On the economic side, Dermer put Israel’s gross domestic product per capita into the same league as Japan and the nations of the European Union. He mentioned that Israel is leading the world in water conservation, with the country recycling 90 percent of its waste water, compared to 1 percent for the United States.

And he reminded audience members that not only has Israel prevented two dozen major terrorist attacks around the world, but the U.S. and most European countries look to Israel for advice on foiling terrorist attacks and in developing self-driving vehicles.

On the political scene, the optimistic ambassador predicted that “in a few years, Israel will overcome the international pressure exerted against the Jewish state.”

Looking at the past, Dermer argued that in previous centuries, Jews had to plead with others to protect them against hostile forces, but now Jews “are blessed to live in a sovereign state which can defend the Jewish people.”

In an odd way, Israel can thank the Arab states for boycotting Israeli exports, Dermer noted. Without the boycott, Israel would have focused on exporting low-tech goods to its neighbors, but, by necessity, the country developed a high-tech economy.

The generally favorable outlook for Israel’s future has allowed its famously tense and argumentative citizens to become more relaxed, he concluded.

“We used to say that Israelis go to New York to relax, but now Manhattanites unwind by visiting Tel Aviv.”

A ballistic missile seen at a military parade in Tehran on Sept. 22. Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iran to continue missile program, calls Trump ‘featherbrained’


Iran has vowed to continue its missile program and called President Trump “featherbrained” in light of his recent actions toward Iran.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) issued a statement that read, “Iran’s ballistic missile program will expand and it will continue with more speed in reaction to Trump’s hostile approach towards this revolutionary organization.”

On October 13, Trump announced that he was going to decertify the Iran nuclear deal and that his Treasury Department would slap the IRGC with sanctions for involvement in terror activity, although he did not explicitly designate them as a terror organization.

The IRGC denounced the sanctions in the statement.

“Imposing cruel sanctions against the Guards and hostile approach of the rogue and brute president [Trump] shows the failure of America and the Zionist regime’s wicked policies in the region,” the statement read.

The IRGC also called Trump “featherbrained.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif recently tweeted, “Iranians–boys, girls, men, women–are ALL IRGC; standing firm with those who defend us & the region against aggression & terror.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chastised Zarif in a video, telling the Iranian foreign minister to “delete your account.”

“I’m sure that ordinary Iranian mothers and fathers wouldn’t have blown up a Jewish community center in Argentina filled with little children, because that’s what the Revolutionary Guard did,” said Netanyahu. “I’m sure that ordinary Iranians want to live in peace and don’t want their government to shoot students in the streets, hang gays in cranes, torture journalists in prison.”

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, recently warned of Iran’s “repeated ballistic missile launches.”

“When a rogue regime starts down the path of ballistic missiles, it tells us that we will soon have another North Korea on our hands,” said Haley.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on July 30. Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

Netanyahu to Iran’s foreign minister: ‘Delete your account’


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a simple message for Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday: “Delete your account.”

Netanyahu was responding to a tweet from Zarif stating that “Iranians–boys, girls, men, women–are ALL IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]; standing firm with those who defend us & the region against aggression & terror.” The Israeli prime minister pointed out the tweet’s irony given that “the regime bans them from using Twitter.”

“Apparently, I have a higher opinion of the Iranian people than their leaders,” said Netanyahu in a video.

Netanyahu proceeded to highlight some of the heinous actions committed by the IRGC and Iranian regime.

“I’m sure that ordinary Iranian mothers and fathers wouldn’t have blown up a Jewish community center in Argentina filled with little children, because that’s what the Revolutionary Guard did,” said Netanyahu, referencing the 1994 bombing of Buenos Aires’ AIMA Jewish community center. “I’m sure that ordinary Iranians want to live in peace and don’t want their government to shoot students in the streets, hang gays in cranes, torture journalists in prison.”

Netanyahu then declared that “one day the Iranian people will be free” and concluded the video by telling Zarif: “Delete your account.”

The full video can be seen below, via the Times of Israel:

On Friday, President Trump slapped the IRGC with sanctions for being complicit in terrorism, although he didn’t’ specifically label them as a terrorist organization.

President Donald Trump in Indianapolis on Sept. 27. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump facing increased pressure from lawmakers to abide by Iran nuclear deal


Ben Cardin, one of a handful of Senate Democrats who opposed the Iran nuclear deal, urged the Trump administration not to pull out of it — the latest indication of congressional resistance to killing the agreement.

“If we violate a U.N. resolution, in the eyes of the international community, do we have any credibility?” Cardin asked Wednesday at a monthly meeting he holds with foreign policy reporters, referring to the Security Council resolution that undergirds the deal. “I don’t understand the strategy to set up the potential of the United States walking away from a nuclear agreement.”

Cardin, who is Jewish and the top Democrat on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, was one of four Senate Democrats who opposed the 2015 deal, which trades sanctions relief for Iran’s rollback of its nuclear program.

He warned the administration to stick to the deal as long as Iran is abiding by it. President Donald Trump has called the agreement one of the worst he ever encountered and intimated he might kill it or at least open it up to renegotiation.

Cardin said he was speaking for many opponents of the deal.

“We thought it was the wrong decision,” he said, “but we want to see it implemented.”

Trump has said his decision on what to do with the deal will be known by next month. The president can declare Iran is not complying with the agreement under a law that Cardin co-authored that requires the president to periodically certify Iran is abiding by the pact. That would give Congress 60 days to reimpose sanctions — effectively leaving it up to lawmakers whether to withdraw from the deal. The certification is due by Oct. 15.

Cardin said kicking the ball to Congress would be an abdication of executive responsibility.

“This is not a congressional agreement, this is an agreement entered into by the president,” he said.

Trump may also unilaterally stop the deal simply by refusing to waive sanctions.

Cardin echoed warnings issued earlier this week by European ambassadors that there is little appetite among U.S. allies to end the deal.

“It’s pretty universal that our friends don’t want us to walk away from the agreement,” he said.

Cardin last week joined six other Senate Democrats in top security positions in a letter to administration officials demanding evidence that Iran is not in compliance. U.N. nuclear inspectors have repeatedly certified Iranian compliance.

The resistance to ending the deal is not confined to Democrats. The top foreign policy Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said earlier this month that he would prefer to keep the deal in place. He added that Trump should “enforce the hell out of it.”

And on Wednesday in the House, a Republican, Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida, and a Democrat, Gerald Connolly of Virginia, introduced a bill that would devolve oversight of the agreement on a bipartisan commission to include 16 lawmakers — equally split between Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate — and four executive branch officials.

Connolly in a joint news release with Rooney indicated that the aim of the commission would be to protect the deal from the whims of the president.

“Congress has a role to play in effective oversight of this agreement, and we must assert that role regardless of whether the President certifies Iran’s compliance,” he said.

Trump derided the deal last week during the U.N. General Assembly as one of the worst he had ever encountered, and he was joined in that assessment by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump is also under pressure from some conservatives to kill the deal.

This week, a letter from 45 national security experts urged Trump to quash the deal, hewing to a plan drafted by John Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations. Among the signers was Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America.

Like the European ambassadors who warned against pulling out of the deal, Cardin urged Trump to use the available tools to pressure Iran to modify its behavior, outside the parameter of the nuclear agreement, including a range of sanctions targeting Iran’s missile testing and its military adventurism.

“Seeking the support of our allies to isolate Iran for its non-nuclear activity,” he said. “That should be our strategy.”

A ballistic missile seen at a military parade in Tehran on Sept. 22. Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iran claims successful test of missile capable of reaching Israel


Iran announced that it successfully tested a new medium-range missile capable of reaching Israel and U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf.

The announcement was made Saturday by Iran’s defense minister, Amir Hatami.

“As long as some speak in the language of threats, the strengthening of the country’s defense capabilities will continue and Iran will not seek permission from any country for producing various kinds of missile,” he said in a statement Saturday.

The missile, dubbed Khoramshahr, reportedly has a range of 1,250 miles and can carry multiple warheads.

Footage of the missile test, including from a camera mounted on the missile, was shown on Iranian state television, though it did not say when the test took place.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called the missile test “a provocation to the United States and its allies, including Israel,” as well as “further proof of Iran’s ambition to become a global power that threatens not only the Middle East, but all the countries of the free world.”

“Imagine what would happen if Iran would obtain nuclear weapons, which is where she is headed. We cannot let this happen,” Liberman said in the statement, which he posted on his Facebook page.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to renegotiate or to dump the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement between world powers and the Islamic Republic, which trades sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. Following Iran’s announcement of the missile test, Trump on Saturday tweeted disparagingly of the deal.

“Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!” he wrote.

Oct. 15 is the next deadline for Trump to certify that Iran is abiding by the deal, which the president must do every six months under U.S. law.

During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the altering or scrapping of the deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the United Nations on Sept. 20. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Iran’s president says security for Israel is ‘not possible,’ pleads for nuclear deal


President Hassan Rouhani of Iran delivered to the United Nations an extended plea to preserve the Iran nuclear deal while saying it was “not possible” to guarantee Israel security as long as it “usurped” Palestinian lands.

Rouhani, speaking Wednesday, derided the tough talk about his country delivered a day earlier by President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the launch of this year’s General Assembly in New York. His Twitter feed posted the lines as he spoke.

“Ugly, ignorant words were spoken by the U.S. president against the Iranian nation,” he said. “It’s disgraceful that the Zionist regime not committed to any international instrument or safeguard has the audacity to preach to peaceful nations.”

Trump and Netanyahu in their speeches both cast Iran as a rogue nation and said the 2015 nuclear deal trading sanctions relief for a rollback in Iran’s nuclear program was an “embarrassment.” Trump hinted there would a change in U.S. posture toward the deal, and Netanyahu said it should either be amended or canceled outright.

Rouhani, whose government still fends off criticism from Iranian hardliners opposed to the plan, cast it as a template for international peace deals.

“It belongs to the international community in its entirety and not only one or two countries,” he said of the deal otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “The JCPOA can be a new model for global interactions.” Iran, he said, would “not be the first” to violate the deal.

Rouhani insisted that missile testing was “only for deterrence.” Trump and Netanyahu have said that Iran’s missile advances and its military adventurism are also reasons to re-examine the Iran deal.

The Iranian leader called for peaceful coexistence, but appeared to extend his invitation to everyone but Israel.

“It is not possible for a rogue and racist regime to trample upon the most basic rights of the Palestinians, and be usurpers of this land and enjoy security,” he said.

Rouhani’s predecessors and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have said they regard the entirety of Israel as illegitimate. Rouhani has not made his views clear.

He twice mentioned ancient Iranian gestures of friendship toward the Jews as exemplars of the current regime’s alleged commitment to diversity.

“We are the same people who rescued the Jews from Babylonian servility,” he said, referring to the Jewish communities established in Persia after they wer expelled by the Babylonians from Judea in the sixth century BCE. “Historically backing the oppressed, Iran upholds the right of the Palestinian people as it did those of the Jewish people centuries ago.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations on Sept. 19. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Why Trump’s U.N. speech thrilled Netanyahu — for the moment, anyway


The number of times President Donald Trump mentioned Iran or its derivatives in his U.N. speech?

Twelve, and each time to emphasize its threat.

The number of times he mentioned the Palestinians or derivatives? That would be zero.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, paying Trump the rare leader-to-leader gesture of attending his speech and applauding throughout, was clearly pleased.

“In over 30 years in my experience with the U.N., I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” Netanyahu tweeted immediately after the 40-minute address on Tuesday. “President Trump spoke the truth about the great dangers facing our world and issued a powerful call to confront them in order to ensure the future of humanity.”

Short term, Trump delivered big time on the Netanyahu wish list: He came closer to pledging to kill the Iran nuclear deal reviled by the Israeli leader and did not even mention peace with the Palestinians, which Netanyahu does not believe has traction at this point.

But wait, there’s more. Trump mentioned the word “sovereign” and its derivatives 21 times on Tuesday, the first day of this year’s General Assembly in New York.

Long term, Netanyahu and Israel may not be as enthused by Trump’s dream of a world in which nations make a priority of “sovereign” interests — or as the president put it, repeating a campaign phrase that unsettled many U.S. Jews, “America First.”

Trump’s overarching theme was a retreat from the robust interventionist role that to varying degrees has characterized U.S. foreign policy since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. Indeed, that undergirded the U.S.-led effort following World War II and its devastation to establish the United Nations.

“Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity and peace for themselves and for the world,” Trump said. “We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government.”

What that means practically is not clear, much like the rest of Trump’s foreign policy nine months into his presidency. But Israel’s security establishment has been wary of an American retreat from world affairs, especially when it comes to its war-torn neighbor Syria and the alliance between Syria’s Assad regime and Iran.

Trump’s emphasis on Syria — the thrust of much of his speech — was the routing of the Islamist terrorist threat embodied there by the Islamic State. Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah share that goal.

Secondarily, Trump said he would intervene when what he called the “criminal” Assad regime uses chemical weapons.

What Trump did not say — and what the Netanyahu government had demanded — was whether he would seek the removal from Syria of Iran and Hezbollah, which launched a war against Israel in 2006 and appears to be building a missile arsenal ahead of another war. (Trump did twice attack Hezbollah as a terrorist organization that threatens Israel.)

More broadly, Israeli Cabinet ministers — especially the defense minister, Avigdor Liberman — repeatedly expressed the concern that the Obama administration diminished the U.S. profile in the Middle East. Israel has long considered a robust U.S. profile in the region as key to its security.

On the Iran deal, Netanyahu could only be pleased at what he heard.

“We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for an eventual nuclear program,” Trump said of the 2015 agreement, which trades sanctions relief for rollbacks in Iran’s nuclear program. Again calling the deal “one of the worst” he had ever encountered, the president said it was “an embarrassment to the United States and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Netanyahu said from the same podium several hours later.

He lavished plenty of praise on Trump in his speech. Referring to Trump’s visit earlier this year to the Western Wall, Neyanyahu said, “When the president touched those ancient stones, he touched our hearts forever.”

Netanyahu also said “we will act to prevent Iran” from establishing a permanent base in Syria, developing weapons to be used against Israel from Lebanon and Syria, and establishing a terrorist front against Israel on the Lebanon border.

The Israeli, who had a long meeting with Trump in the days before the General Assembly launched, suggested that his message was congruent with Trump’s.

“Today I will say things that the rulers of Iran and the people of Iran will remember always,” he said in Hebrew in a social media post two hours ahead of his speech. “I think they will also remember what President Trump says.”

President Donald Trump addresses the United Nations in New York on Sept. 19. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Trump ignores Israeli-Palestinian peace in UN speech, says US cannot ‘abide’ Iran nuclear deal


President Donald Trump told the U.N. General Assembly that the United States cannot “abide” the Iran nuclear deal as it stands but notably omitted mention of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for an eventual nuclear program,” Trump said Tuesday on the first day of this year’s General Assembly in New York. Again calling the deal “one of the worst” he had ever encountered, the president said it was “an embarrassment to the United States and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”

Trump has said there will be a “dramatic” adjustment to how the United States treats the deal by next month, when according to U.S. law, the United States just recertify Iranian adherence to the deal.

The 2015 deal, negotiated by the Obama administration, trades sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. Critics of the deal, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who, unusually for a leader, was in attendance during Trump’s speech — say the lifting of some restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program starting within a decade pave its path to a nuclear weapon. Defenders of the agreement say that other provisions written into the deal are sufficient to prevent Iran from getting a weapon.

Trump coupled Iran and North Korea as rogue regimes threatening stability worldwide. Several times he singled out Iran for its backing of the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon and the threat posed by the group to Israel.

Netanyahu responded effusively to the 40-minute address.

“In over 30 years in my experience with the U.N., I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” the Israeli leader said. “President Trump spoke the truth about the great dangers facing our world and issued a powerful call to confront them in order to ensure the future of humanity.”

In not mentioning his administration’s efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, Trump departed from his predecessors. Saying an Israeli-Palestinian deal is critical to world peace is almost de rigeuer during the General Assembly, even for tiny far-flung nations that have no influence on the outcome.

Seated with U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster (R), U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with service members at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

You want McMaster out over Iran? That’s fine. Over Israel? Senseless


Is US National Security Advisor H.R McMaster anti Israel? Senior Israeli officials say there is no sign that he is. McMaster, one of them told me, is a general. A military man. His views on the Middle East are not always compatible with Israeli thinking – because he has other priorities, and is in charge of another country’s policy. But accusing him of being anti-Israel is not helpful, nor reasonable. He is a professional, discussions with him are cordial, disagreements with him are always businesslike – and he never gives the impression that ego or grudge are involved.

Nevertheless, McMaster is accused, among other things, of being anti-Israel. “In a volley of attacks from right-wing media, McMaster has been accused of being anti-Israel, having a short temper and collaborating with Obama-era officials”. So much so, that the president felt a need to defend his advisor: “General McMaster and I are working very well together”, Trump wrote. “He is a good man and very pro-Israel. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country”.

That he is short-tempered is a shortcoming but is hardly unique to McMaster. If Trump does not want short-tempered people around him, he is entitled to make such a decision, but clearly that’s not why McMaster is suddenly facing problems. That he collaborates with Obama-era officials is both a plus and a minus. Even in the Obama era some officials were good at their jobs, and might still have something to contribute. That the advisor is not blind to this fact is good – and of course, carries the risk (for those who consider  it a risk) that the views of these wise officials might influence the thinking of the advisor.

So is Israel the problem? It is and it isn’t. Because in fact, there are two types of proofs by which one can  argue that McMaster is not Israel’s best buddy. The first proof concerns Israel: McMaster used the word “occupation” to describe Israel’s presence in the West Bank, he did not want Prime Minister Netanyahu to accompany Trump when the President visited the Western Wall, he would not even say that the Western Wall is in Israel (following him, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer stated that the Western Wall is “clearly in Jerusalem”, but refused to answer the question whether it was a part of Israel).

Taken together, all these pronouncements do not amount to much. Mc Master is solidly in the camp of those still in line with the traditional US policy of not declaring any change to the status quo in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. You could safely assume that he did not want the US embassy to move to Jerusalem – because it is a change that could ignite trouble. You can see that he opposes other implied changes to US policy – mainly because he sees no benefit to the US from making such change. The Arab world will react with fury, the US will gain little.

Is it the ideal position of an American official from Israel’s viewpoint? It is not. Is this anti-Israel? It is not. McMaster might be guilty of conventional thinking about Israel and Palestine. He is not guilty of hostility towards Israel. Not without more proof.

The other issue that is highlighted in attacks against the advisor is more serious. McMaster seems to be cautious on the issue of Iran. He does not support the idea of ditching the Iran nuclear deal. He fired from his staff some of the analysts that were more hawkish on Iran and preferred a more none-confrontational approach to contain its aggressive advance in the Middle East.

Is it the ideal position of an American official from Israel’s viewpoint? It is not. Is this anti-Israel? It is not. McMaster, for whatever reason (there are good arguments in support of keeping the deal – it is not a preposterous position) believes that the deal should be kept. For a horde of reasons, all related to his understanding of the American interest, he seems reluctant to clash with the Iranians. This is not something he does to spite Israel, or annoy it, or put it in danger. He is not anti-Israel – he disagrees with Israel on some issues.

So why is McMaster under attack? That’s a good question, with two possible answers. One – because of personal infighting within the White House. He fired people close to advisor Steven Bannon, the Bannonites are going after him. Two – because of policy differences. McMaster takes a traditional approach to foreign policy and thus takes the bite out of Trump’s foreign policy.  And of course, these two reasons are not mutually exclusive. Often personal grudges and turf battles are fought because of policy disagreements. If a group of advisors and analysts wants Trump to take a more confrontational approach to Iran – and another group want him to remain cautious and prudent – these two groups are likely to have a disagreement that will soon become personal as well as content based.

Israel rarely benefits from such disagreements. It rarely benefits from being identified with the most radical policy ideas. Men and women such as McMaster, the backbone of the military and of the foreign policy establishment, are not always easy to deal with. They can be brash. They can be conventional in their thinking. They often prioritize their reluctance to militarily commit the US to a cause, over the necessities of world leadership.

Still, they should not be made to believe that Israel is an obstacle to everything they stand for. They should not be accused of being anti-Israel only because they refuse to adopt its viewpoint. If anyone want McMaster ousted because of his conventional thinking about policy – that’s find. If anyone thinks he ought to be ousted for harboring negative feelings towards Israel – that’s senseless.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a news conference with the Visegrad Group Prime Ministers in Budapest, Hungary on July 19. Photo by Bernadett Szabo

Daily Kickoff: Bibi’s hot mic – ‘we’re not OK on Iran’ | Wayne Berman for WH Chief of Staff? | Prince William and Kate pay respects at Stutthof camp


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KAFE KNESSET — BIBI’S HOT MIC — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Some journalists wait a lifetime for a “fly on the wall” moment, and reporters accompanying Bibi on his European trip got one today. Arriving at the V4 Visegrad conference venue — bringing together leaders from Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland — Israeli journalists were awaiting an official press conference. Coincidentally, we all opened the headphones that were given out for simultaneous translation only to hear Bibi and his counterparts in their closed door meeting. For about 15 minutes the reporters eavesdropped on the conversation, providing a glimpse into Bibi’s real thinking.

“I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear. I am not very politically correct. I know that’s a shock to some of you. It’s a joke. But the truth is the truth. Both about Europe’s security and Europe’s economic future. Both of these concerns mandate a different policy toward Israel,” Netanyahu said. Bibi urged the countries to change the trend. “The EU is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, that produces technology and every area, on political conditions. The only ones! Nobody does it. It’s crazy. It’s actually crazy. There is no logic here. The EU is undermining its security by undermining Israel. Europe is undermining its progress by undermining its connection with Israeli innovation by a crazy attempt to create political conditions,” he said.

Europe wasn’t the only hot topic. Netanyahu also said Israel “had a big problem,” with the Obama administration and its policies on Iran and Syria. “I think its different now. Vis-a-vis Iran, there is a stronger position. The US is more engaged in the region and conducting more bombing attacks [in Syria], which is a positive thing. I think we are OK on ISIS. We’re not OK on Iran,” he said.

After about 15 minutes, the PM’s press team realized what was happening and the broadcast was stopped, but not before the recording was distributed and all media outlets broke out with push notifications about the incident. When the official presser started, Netanyahu addressed the matter, and said in Hebrew that he “will be brief because I understand the Israeli press is already well briefed.” However, despite the obvious embarrassment, the incident is not necessarily bad for Bibi, as it proves he actually delivers the same messages both inside closed doors and outside as well.  His staunch defense of Israel will definitely earn him some points with his base, and prompted some speculation and theories that perhaps the hot mic wasn’t unintended. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset today [JewishInsider]  

HEARD YESTERDAY —  State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on reports of Netanyahu expressing skepticism about Trump’s peace efforts: “I know that we have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and this administration has talked a lot about the importance of promoting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

ON THE HILL — Jason Greenblatt: “An honor to meet with Sen. Bob Corker today to discuss Israeli/Palestinian peace. Our conversation covered many topics including Taylor Force.” [Twitter]

A WH official tells us… “Jason went to hear about the Taylor Force Act not to share the WH opinion about it.”

TOP TALKER: “Saudi King’s Son Plotted Effort to Oust His Rival” by Ben Hubbard, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt: “Before midnight, Mohammed bin Nayef was told he was going to meet the king and was led into another room, where royal court officials took away his phones and pressured him to give up his posts as crown prince and interior minister… At first, he refused. But as the night wore on, the prince, a diabetic who suffers from the effects of a 2009 assassination attempt by a suicide bomber, grew tired… One American official and one adviser to a Saudi royal said Mohammed bin Nayef opposed the embargo on Qatar, a stand that probably accelerated his ouster. Sometime before dawn, Mohammed bin Nayef agreed to resign…” [NYTimes]

“Qatar’s Critics Scale Back Demands in Diplomatic Bid” by Farnaz Fassihi: “Diplomats from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt told reporters that they had altered their demands from 13 detailed requests to six generalized ones focused on “principles.” … Qatar’s ambassador to the U.N. dismissed the new demands as a move to save face amid international pressure on the group to end the standoff.” [WSJ]

IRAN DEAL: “Iran FM accuses Trump of trying to undermine nuclear deal” by Laura Rozen: “We still do not know what they want to do,” [Mohammad Javad] Zarif said today. “They have been talking about scrapping the deal… But they seem to have come to the realization that scrapping the deal is not something that would be globally welcome. [So] they now try to make it impossible for Iran to get the benefits from the deal.” Zarif spoke to a small group of American journalists at the Central Park residence of Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations… The “JCPOA is not a deal that anyone loves,” Zarif said. “It was the only deal possible… We could not get a better deal… I assure [you], the US could not get a better deal.” … The JCPOA “was negotiated and drafted based on mutual distrust,” Zarif said. “It is not an agreement based on trust… [You] will see mistrust in every sentence and paragraph of deal. And it is mutual.” [Al-Monitor]

Zarif on new sanctions: “It violates the spirit of the deal. We will look at it and see whether it violates the letter of the deal. And we will act accordingly.”[CBSNews]

Deputy Minister Michael Oren: Trump was “clearly not ripping up the deal any time soon.” [JPost]

“4 good reasons Trump shouldn’t scrap the Iran nuclear deal or goad Iran to pull out” by Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky: “Playing around with a nuclear agreement — however imperfect — that is keeping Iran’s finger off the nuclear trigger, is both irresponsible and dangerous. If this is the course the Trump administration follows, it’s likely to find itself with the worst of both worlds: an Iran with nuclear weapons expanding its influence in the region. Perhaps in some parallel universe this could be claimed as a beautiful victory that will make America great again, but on planet Earth that just isn’t going fly.” [USAToday

“Source: Some White House staff worry Kushner security clearance in jeopardy” by Sara Murray and Jeremy Diamond: “White House officials are concerned that Kushner may not be granted a final security clearance, an administration official told CNN on Monday… As a top White House official, Kushner was granted an interim security clearance. Kushner met with the FBI on June 23 to be interviewed for his permanent security clearance… A source close to Kushner said his legal team sees no basis under which Kushner’s security clearance would be denied… Sanders, the No. 2 White House spokeswoman, affirmed Tuesday that Trump has faith in Kushner. “The President has confidence in Jared,” she said.” [CNN] • Why Jared Kushner Will Be Able to Keep His Security Clearance [NewYorker]

“Democrats target Ivanka Trump security clearance amid Kushner scrutiny” by Heidi M Przybyla: “A group of 20 House Democrats is calling on the FBI to review Ivanka Trump’s security clearance… “We are concerned that Ivanka Trump may have engaged in similar deception,” the House Democrats wrote in a letter.” [USAToday]

DRIVING THE WEEK: “Trump aides move on after health care loss” by Annie Karni and Eliana Johnson: “Ivanka Trump made an appearance at a global robotics competition celebrating girls from Afghanistan pursuing careers in STEM. Meanwhile, her husband, White House adviser Jared Kushner — who has taken little interest in the health care bill since its early, troubled days in the House, when he went skiing in Aspen with his family — was busy leading a meeting with his Office of American Innovation. In the West Wing, chief strategist Steve Bannon took a meeting with Wayne Berman, a Republican operative and board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition whose name has surfaced as a potential future chief of staff.” [Politico

“Here are the ‘three easy things’ that Chuck Schumer thinks can shore up Obamacare” by Ed O’Keefe and Sean Sullivan: “On Tuesday, Schumer said he told his Democratic colleagues during their weekly luncheon, “Sit down with Republicans. I welcome it.” But he insisted that any bipartisan deal cannot include tax cuts for wealthier Americans or cuts to the Medicaid program… And then there’s this: Schumer said he hasn’t spoke directly to Trump in months and to Vice President Pence in several weeks… “He’s tweeted at me much more than he’s talked to me lately,” Schumer said of the president.” [WashPost]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — “Meet Donald Trump’s Lawyer: A Messianic Jew Who Loves Jesus and Hates BDS” by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “[Jay Sekulow] is representing the Gush Etzion Foundation, one of over a dozen defendants, in al-Tamimi vs. Adelson – a 2016 lawsuit brought by Palestinian activist Bassem al-Tamimi and others. The latter contend that the defendants, a group of U.S. nonprofits, philanthropists and corporations led by American casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, are guilty of war crimes against Palestinians, among other accusations. Sekulow’s co-counsel in the case is Marc Zell, co-chair of Republicans Abroad Israel… He said he had been brought into the Tamimi case by Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon because “the folks in Gush Etzion” needed a “tough” lawyer. “I like being a tough lawyer,” he declared. “And when you know the story of Gush Etzion, it brings out the toughest part of who you are.”” [Haaretz]  

2018 WATCH: “Illinois’ 2018 gubernatorial race is already nearing the $100 million mark with 16 months to go” by Stephen Wolf: “Wealthy investor J.B. Pritzker dominated the money race by self-funding $14 million even as he accepted no donations… While the Democrats have to first get past a crowded primary, [Gov. Bruce] Rauner will have built up a fully operational Death Star by the time the general election arrives. He raked in $20.6 million during the second quarter and finished June with $67.6 million cash-on-hand…  A whopping $20 million of Rauner’s haul, or all but $600,000, came from just a single source: hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin… Pritzker already spent a staggering $9.3 million in the second quarter.” [DailyKos

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? 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: David Zaslav’s Discovery Communications and Scripps Networks in Talks to Combine [WSJ] • Struggles at Procter & Gamble Draw Scrutiny of Nelson Peltz [DealBook] • How Paul Singer plans to transform the biggest American power producer without getting burned [CNBC] • Jacob M. Safra Buys Jackie Kennedy’s Childhood Home [MansionGlobal] • Uber-style app ‘Careem’ goes off beaten track in Palestinian West Bank [Reuters] • Jonathon Triest’s Ludlow Ventures has closed its second fund with $45 million [TechCrunch] • Israel-based Cyberbit makes another move in Maryland [Technical.ly]

STARTUP NATION: “Mangrove raises $170M for its new fund to invest in Europe and Israeli startups” by Mike Butcher: “Luxembourg-based Mangrove Capital Partners, one of Europe’s leading early stage venture capital firms, has raised $170 million for its latest fund. Mangrove V will be used to invest across Europe and Israel. Mangrove put $8 million into Wix.com, and that resulted in a $550 million exit when it became the largest tech IPO to come out of Israel. Mangrove now has over $1bn under management and a team of twelve, which includes partners in Berlin and Tel Aviv.” [TechCrunch] • Israel tech firms raise $1.26 billion in 2Q 2017 [ToI]

“Prince William and Kate ‘intensely moved’ by visit to Holocaust camp” by Aubrey Allegretti: “Prince William and Kate spent more than an hour at the Stutthoff camp, just outside of Gdansk, where 65,000 people were killed by the Nazis. They toured the site, which is now a museum, meeting senior staff and signing a visitors book before being taken to a barracks and shown shoes left by Holocaust victims… Afterwards, the Royal couple met survivors of the camp, including two Britons who were returning for the first time. They listened while Zigi Shipper and Manfred Goldberg, both 87, led a prayer.” [SkyNews]

BOOK REVIEW: “The Red Cross and the Holocaust” by Samuel Moyn: “What began as an organization meant to curb the barbarity of warfare has found it difficult to live down its most grievous mistake: cozying up to the Third Reich, remaining silent about the Holocaust and later helping Nazis escape justice. In his last book, “Nazis on the Run: How Hitler’s Henchmen Fled Justice” (2011), historian Gerald Steinacher chronicled one aspect of this shameful era. His newest effort, “Humanitarians at War: The Red Cross in the Shadow of the Holocaust,” synthesizes what he and other historians have learned about the ICRC’s conduct during this troublesome period before adding new material on what the organization did next. This more comprehensive account of the ICRC’s actions equips the reader to decide whether the organization truly recovered from its wartime and postwar errors.” [WSJ

“Terror at the Temple Mount Puts the Lie to Palestinian Rage” by Eli Lake: “As Martin Kramer, a historian at Shalem College in Jerusalem, told me this week, the attack at the Temple Mount broke a taboo. “The usual Islamist claim is the danger to the mosque and the shrine is from Jews,” he said. “Here there was an actual conspiracy to smuggle weapons into this holy place and Hamas does not condemn it, they praise it. Who poses the greater danger to Al Aqsa?” It’s an excellent question. The answer is that the greater danger to one of Islam’s holiest place these days comes from the Palestinian fanatics who claim to be fighting for its reclamation.” [BloombergView

“Radiohead in Israel: As Opposition Intensifies, Opening Acts Preach Understanding” by Lior Phillips: “Radiohead not only reaffirmed their plans, but in choosing opening acts Dudu Tassa and Shye Ben Tzur for the July 19 show at Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park, are emphasizing, through art, the cross-cultural understanding and dialog so desperately needed in the area…. Tassa, who had once focused solely on Hebrew rock, now showcases the deeply rooted, potent depth of music written decades ago by Iraqi Jews, and featuring traditional Arabic instruments…” [Variety]

“Don’t tell Radiohead it can’t tour in Israel” by Jeff Blehar: “It’s depressing that Radiohead’s desire to return to a country that has a large, longstanding and vociferously supportive fan base should even be a political issue at all. But it is indicative of the trend in the modern era to politicize everything, and of people’s desire to use culture as a blunt, bludgeoning weapon against their enemies. Ultimately, what is most admirable about Radiohead refusing to buckle to the BDS pressure and media hassle is the fact that it is seeking to float above the politics of the issue entirely.” [NYPost

MEDIA WATCH: Has Trump Turned CNN into a House of Existential Dread?” by Sarah Ellison: ““We may look back in five years and find that CNN was fundamentally changed because of Trump,” one CNN employee told me. “Maybe it will turn out that Trump changed the brand” through his battle with the network… [Jeff] Zucker has made efforts to reassure journalists and on-air talent that the mission of CNN, to conduct journalism and hold the administration accountable, has never been more clear. He took a recent trip to the D.C. bureau to reiterate to staffers that there should be no chilling effect on their reporting as a result of the attacks from the administration, according to one person who was present.” [VanityFair

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Brooklyn’s OY/YO Sculpture Gets a New Home at the Williamsburg Waterfront” by Stephanie Geier: “On July 13th, it was unveiled by NYC Parks and Douglaston Development LLC at the esplanade of the North 5th Street Pier and Park. Many were eager to celebrate its return, with [Deborah] Kass herself attending the ceremony. The sculpture will be open to the public in its new home until July 2018… When facing Brooklyn, it reads “YO,” reflecting urban, Brooklyn slang and the Spanish word for “I am.” When facing Manhattan, it shows just the opposite word, “OY,” the famous Yiddish expression.” [UntappedCities

DESSERT: “Why the Young Heir of Katz’s Deli Decided to Expand for the First Time in 129 Years” by Sierra Tishgart: “That changed last month, when the newish owner, 29-year-old Jake Dell… expanded the business by opening a takeout-only stand in Brooklyn’s DeKalb Market Hall… In a back table at Katz’s, in between greeting elderly regulars and spot-checking the pastrami, Dell explained what motivated this decision… “One of the most important things for me is maintaining tradition and preserving the classics. That’s what people expect from me and from Katz’s… It’s about me preserving this tradition. You can’t re-create everything. You can’t re-create nostalgia. You can’t re-create the smut on the walls or the smell of an old neon sign, but you can bring the food closer to people. I don’t think you can replicate this place.”[GrubStreet]

“Is It O.K. to Fire a Muslim Driver for Refusing to Carry Wine?” by Kwame Anthony Appiah: “The real question is whether em­ployees can be exempted from such disputed activities without causing a business hardship. A supermarket can’t be obliged to retain a butcher whose religion forbids him to handle pork. But neither should it require the vegetable guy with the kipa to fill in at the sausage station. Where to draw the line between accommodations that are reasonable and those that are too demanding? That isn’t a question to be resolved once and for all, ethically or legally.” [NYTimes

MAZEL TOV: Aaron Keyak, co-founder of Bluelight Strategies, emails yesterday… “Late this morning, we had a baby girl! Today’s expansion of the Keyak/Goldgraber clan weighed in at a formitable 8 pounds, 3 ounces and is quite adorable. Mom and the baby are doing great. We’re feeling very excited and blessed!” [Pic]

BIRTHDAYS: Violinist, composer, conductor, and co-founder of the Juilliard String Quartet, Robert Mann turns 97… Survivor of the Holocaust by hiding in a Catholic school, earned a Ph.D. at the University of Hawaii, founder of the Newport News-based Holocaust Education Foundation, Peter Fischl turns 87… Johannesburg resident Monty Lasovsky turns 82… Interactive designer, author and artist, in 1986 he married Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late JFK, Edwin Arthur “Ed” Schlossberg turns 72… Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Leiden University, he seved in the Dutch Senate (1999-2010) and then as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (2010-2012), Uriel “Uri” Rosenthal turns 72… Entrepreneur, hotelier and real estate developer, often referred to as the creator of the boutique hotel concept, he gained fame in 1977 as co-founder of NYC’s Studio 54, Ian Schrager turns 71… Author of three books on baseball, long-time sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and ESPN writer and co-host, Jayson Starkturns 66… Born in a public housing project in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, now Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz turns 64… Ner Israel Rabbinical College’s Rabbi Ezra Neuberger turns 60… Billionaire chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings (owner of retailers Sears and Kmart), Edward Scott “Eddie” Lampert turns 55…

Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times reporter and author of “The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men,” Eric Lichtblau turns 52… Israeli actress, model and film producer, Yael Abecassis turns 50… Spokesperson to the Arab media in the Israel Prime Minister’s Office, Ofir Gendelman turns 46… Co-Chairman and CEO of of CheckAlt, an independent provider of treasury and lockbox solutions, previously CEO of Vintage Filings, a NYC-based EDGAR filing firm that he sold to PR Newswire, Shai Stern turns 43… Entrepreneur, two-time author and strategic marketing consultant, Alexis Blair Wolfer turns 33… Founder, CEO and Director at TradeRoom International, Ezra David Beren turns 32… ProPublica reporter covering the Trump administration since 2017, previously at Politico and Bloomberg, Isaac Arnsdorf turns 28… Warren Rapf Henry Emmanuel Hublet

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on March 28. Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Daily Kickoff: Trump admin says Iran complying with deal | Israeli Houzz eyeing $5B+ valuation | Netflix says it’s found next ‘Homeland’


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WHILE WE WERE ON PASSOVER BREAK — Betsy Rothstein of The Daily Caller wrote… “If any outlet is going to know how Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are spending Passover, it’s a safe bet that Jewish Insider has located the White House afikomen.” [TheDC]

CNN’s Betsy Klein: “As President Donald Trump grappled with the realities of governing, leaks about infighting within his administration, and multiple international conflicts, two of his top aides, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, were far from the White House. The couple celebrated Passover at the Four Seasons Whistler in Canada, according to an article and exclusive photo in Jewish Insider.” [CNN]

“White House aides grapple with newfound celebrity” by Annie Karni and Tara Palmeri: “The Daily Mail pays photographers a daily rate to sit outside the Kalorama home of Trump’s older daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, tracking them as they come and go, sometimes in their gym clothes, two industry sources said. The fashionable First Daughter, who now is an official White House staffer, is part of the gray area of formerly famous people who are now aides, as opposed to aides who are newly famous.” [Politico]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Trump administration says Iran complying with nuclear deal” by Matthew Lee: “The Trump administration has notified Congress that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama, and says the U.S. has extended the sanctions relief… The certification of Iran’s compliance, which must be sent to Congress every 90 days, is the first issued by the Trump administration. The deadline for this certification was midnight.” [AP

But… “Trump orders review of lifting sanctions against Iran: Tillerson” by Lesley Wroughton: “President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States,” Tillerson said in the statement. “It remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods.” [Reuters]

FDD’s Mark Dubowitz tells us: “It underscores the commitment of the Trump administration to ramp up pressure on Iran, including through the use of increased sanctions tied to terrorism and other malign activities.”

Israeli Consul General in NY Dani Dayan: “As PM Netanyahu said in Congress: ‘[the sunset clause] creates an even greater danger that Iran could get to the bomb by KEEPING the deal’” [Twitter

Ben Rhodes‏: “Every day, the situation in North Korea makes clear just how preferable it is to have the Iran Deal in place.” [Twitter

“Mattis in Riyadh to boost US-Saudi alliance” by AFP: “Mattis arrived in Riyadh Tuesday afternoon, wishing to “reinvigorate” ties by listening to Saudi leaders and learning “what are their priorities”, the official said.” [DailyMail]

“US Defense Secretary to Arrive in Israel Thursday” by Tzippe Barrow: “Mattis begins his meetings in Israel with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who traveled to Washington in early March to reaffirm the strong military ties between the two allies. Mattis will also meet with President Reuven Rivlin and visit Jerusalem’s Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial. On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Mattis.” [CBNNews]

ON THE HILL — JI INTERVIEW: Congressman Anthony Brown (D-MD) discusses his political career, including the lessons he’s learn from his unsuccessful campaign for Maryland Governor, and from his military service in an interview with JI’s Aaron Magid. “My takeaway is never stop introducing yourself to the voters, but the other lesson was the same lesson my father taught me as a kid growing up is sometimes in life you are going to get knocked down and you won’t be successful in what you sought out to do,” said Brown. “But, if you believe in what you are doing: that is true whether you are running for office to serve, whether you are a doctor, lawyer, teacher or anything else. You have got to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and stay in the game. Teams that lost the Super Bowl don’t drop out of the NFL. They come back: season after season because that is the nature of life.”

Brown on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: “My basic framework is that you can’t impose a solution. I do think that there has to be a bilateral agreement reached by the Israelis and Palestinians. Our role should be to encourage, cajole, prompt and incentivize that commitment. But, this is an agreement that has to be struck between the two parties. It cannot be imposed because then it won’t be lasting.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE DAY: “Republicans avoid big loss by forcing runoff in Ga. House race” by Robert Costa: “[Jon] Ossoff could find it difficult to sustain the momentum he witnessed this past week in a traditionally Republican district that has been in GOP hands since 1979….[Republican Karen] Handel’s showing was due to more than name recognition from her long tenure in state politics. She also benefited from $1.3 million in support from Ending Spending, a conservative advocacy group aligned with the billionaire Ricketts family.” [WashPost

“Ossoff Just Misses Flipping the 6th” by David R. Cohen, Michael Jacobs, Patrice Worthy and Sarah Moosazadeh: “The outcome keeps alive the possibility of Georgia’s first Jewish congressman since Democrat Elliott Levitas lost a bid for a sixth term in 1984… Although little was made of it, the election took place on a Jewish holiday, the eighth day of Passover, forcing observant Jews to vote early or not at all. Secretary of State Brian Kemp reported that 55,000 ballots were cast early in the congressional election; about 5,000 of those were mailed-in absentee votes.” [ATLJewishTimes]

2ND BAR MITZVAH? Alexis Levinson: “They’ve apparently hired a bar mitzvah DJ to emcee the Jon Ossoff election night party, where they are now playing ‘Celebration’ … Ossoff’s election night party is legit a bar mitzvah with a cash bar. Ppl are dancing, smiling, hugging. #GA06.” [Twitter

Ben Jacobs: “Pretty sure Jon Ossoff is using the playlist from his bar mitzvah for his election night party.” [Twitter]

“Billionaires, companies power Trump’s record inaugural haul“ by Nancy Benac and Julie Bykowicz: “After giving $5 million, Las Vegas gaming billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife had prime seats for Trump’s swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20 and gained access to a private lunch with the new president and lawmakers at the Capitol… Steve Wynn, now chief fundraiser for the Republican Party, gave $729,000 through his Wynn Resorts… Billionaire investor Paul Singer, for example, gave $1 million after long expressing skepticism about Trump. He’s since visited the president at the White House.” [AP]

Jake Sherman: “THE KRAFT GROUP — Robert Kraft’s company — gave $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. he’s at the WH today with his Super Bowl champ patriots.” [Twitter

“Trump’s reliance on billionaire adviser blurs ethics lines” by Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey: “Billionaire investor Steve Schwarzman’s newfound status as a trusted outside adviser for President Donald Trump has created blurred lines in which the Blackstone CEO is offering guidance on policies that could boost the fortunes of his company and his personal wealth. The starkest example was Trump’s reversal last week on labeling China a currency manipulator… While many factors likely played into Trump’s decision, including the president’s desire to encourage China to get tough on North Korea, it also followed extensive advice Schwarzman had given the president on the topic, warning Trump against such a move. Even if Schwarzman was acting in the capacity of an economic expert, those policy changes directly help Schwarzman’s bottom line as CEO of Blackstone, the private equity giant. And Blackstone has gone so far as to warn its investors about the stakes of Trump’s China policy.” [Politico

“Ivanka’s brand prospers as politics mixes with business” by Erika Kinetz and Anne D’Innocenzio: “Ivanka has so many China ties and conflicts, yet she and Jared appear deeply involved in China contacts and policy. I would never have allowed it,” said Norman Eisen, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under President Barack Obama. “For their own sake, and the country’s, Ivanka and Jared should consider stepping away from China matters.” [AP

PROFILE: “Meet The New York City Democrat Flacking For Ivanka Trump” by Steven Perlberg: “New York City political observers say that one of [Risa] Heller’s most striking traits is her fierce loyalty, clearly evidenced by her steadfast aid to Anthony Weiner… “If I had taken her advice at critical junctures even 5% of the time, I would have been infinitely better off. It doesn’t surprise me that people like the Kushners would gravitate toward her,” Weiner told BuzzFeed News… Heller became a rising star in New York political circles in the mid 2000s, when she arrived in Schumer’s office after communications guru Stu Loeser left for Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral reelection campaign. She stood out both for her aggressiveness even by Schumer’s intense standards; as a rare woman in a long line of aggressive young men who came up under the senator; and a fashionable figure in a schlumpy world.” [BuzzFeed

“With the ‘Democratic Invasion of the White House,’ Cuban Starting to Warm Up to Trump Presidency” by Brian Schwartz and Charlie Gasparino: “[Mark] Cuban gives Trump high marks for bringing into his inner circle what he considers moderate Democrats like [Gary] Cohn, Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump. “By my guess, 50 percent or more of non-military leadership in the White House are, or were recently, Democrats,” Cuban told Fox Business. “It’s a good balance.”” [FoxBusiness

NEXT MODERATE MOVE? “Top Trump confidant: Trump should make a deal with Ruth Bader Ginsburg” by Allan Smith: “Chris Ruddy, a confidant of President Donald Trump, told Business Insider in a Monday interview that Trump should cut a deal with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. His proposition: Replace her on the bench with Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacated seat in 2016… “They would remove a very liberal Democrat with a moderate, consensus Democrat, who I think Garland is,” Ruddy added. “And I think it would be a huge move and a sign for Trump that he’s willing to break through the political ice.”” [BusinessInsider

OVER THE WEEKEND — “Rex Tillerson and family tour the Holocaust Museum” by Emily Heil: “The nation’s top diplomat, dressed in the weekend business uniform of khakis and a navy blazer, spent a couple of hours touring the permanent exhibit, a spy tells us, accompanied by his wife… Tillerson’s visit came during the holy week of Passover — and just days after White House press secretary Sean Spicer apologized for remarks in which he seemed to forget about the Holocaust.” [WashPost

TRUMP TEAM: “Tillerson’s stock rises in the White House” by Annie Karni: “[Elliott] Abrams argued that while Trump’s veto of his job at State was “taken to be a slap at Tillerson – I think that was a mistake. I don’t think my situation had anything to do with the president’s view of Tillerson. They spend an awful lot of time together.”” [Politico

“Trump learning to love Bush aides” by Tara Palmeri: “Eliot A. Cohen… predicted that more Bush alumni will feel comfortable coming into the administration if it continues to shift to the conservative mainstream… “As the administration is looking a bit more normalish, there will be more people who will be willing to go in,” he said. “What would be transformative would be if Bannon quits or is fired. I think that would be an indication that it will be somewhere closer to a Republican establishment administration. That will change a lot of people’s attitudes,” Cohen added.” [Politico

COMING SOON: “Abbas ready for visit to Washington” by Daoud Kuttab: “Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said April 14 that a Palestinian delegation will visit Washington in the second half of April to plan for the visit, which he said will take place early in May. The London-based al-Hayat said April 14 that the delegation preparing for Abbas’ visit will include senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and intelligence chief Majed Faraj. The lack of a firm date has led some Palestinian media to report that the visit has been postponed, but a US White House source quickly shot down this rumor, insisting that the visit is still on.” [Al-Monitor]

— “Al-Quds said Trump’s team has prepared a draft plan demanding that the Palestinians return to negotiations with Israel without setting any conditions and halt transfer of funds to the besieged Gaza Strip.” [Wafa

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The hottest show in town today was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responding to the State Comptroller’s Report on Protective Edge in the Knesset. Several bereaved parents questioned Netanyahu and said they didn’t get the satisfaction of at least knowing that the mistakes leading to their sons’ deaths won’t be repeated. One bereaved father, Ilan Sagie, said Netanyahu “stabbed me in the heart and twisted the knife,” and pleaded “Why won’t you say you will fix the failures of Protective Edge?” Leah Goldin, mother of Hadar Goldin, a soldier presumed to be dead whose body is held by Hamas, broke down in tears while speaking to Netanyahu. The premier came off as patient, but at some times stern, explaining to Goldin, for example, that he is willing to make sacrifices to bring back her son’s body – but there is a limit. Bibi clearly knew there was no way for him to come out of such an emotional situation unscathed, and looked like he was having a difficult time.

Anyone reading haredi magazine Mishpacha over the last day of Passover in Israel, got to read about how much Netanyahu enjoyed seeing Hamilton on his last trip to NYC. Not only that, but Netanyahu said he made a suggestion to Lin-Manuel Miranda on how to improve the play. As Spamalot taught us, you won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews, so Netanyahu touted Hamilton’s Jewish connection. Bibi says he read that when Alexander Hamilton was a child in the Caribbean, his tutor was a Jewish woman, who taught him to recite the Ten Commandments in Hebrew. Later in life, Hamilton expressed admiration for the Jewish people, saying they have a “unique destiny” that is “part of God’s greater plan.” That, Netanyahu said, should go into the play. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? 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: Billionaire vs. billionaire: Israel’s Steinmetz sues Soros [ToI; Reuters] • Michael Bloomberg to fill event void left by Clinton Global Initiative [Axios] • Jared Kushner in Talks to Sell Stake in Real Estate Technology Company [WSJ] • The PPA Group teams with Israeli investor on Houston apartment complex [Chron• SeatGeek Raises $57M to Buy Israeli Firm TopTix [Billboard] • Bustle acquires Elite Daily from Daily Mail, rebrands as Bustle Digital Group [BI]

SPOTLIGHT: “Houzz Raising Funding at Valuation Above $5 Billion” by Erin Griffith, Leena Rao: “Houzz, an online platform for home remodeling and design services, is in the market raising a large new round of venture funding that could value the company at more than $5 billion, according to several sources familiar with the situation. The talks are early, but sources say the company could raise as much as $500 million. Asked to comment, a Houzz representative wrote, “It’s not true.” Founded in 2009 by Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen, Houzz has raised $213 million in funding to date. The Palo Alto-based company’s latest round, a $165 million Series D in late 2014 led by Sequoia Capital, valued it at $2.3 billion.” [Fortune]

“Sheryl Sandberg: Option B and Life After Grief” by Belinda Luscombe: “The woman who urged the world to lean in is now under­taking a campaign to help people push on, to bounce back from horrible misfortune. Her newest book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, is a primer for those who are bereaved, to help them recover and find happiness. But it’s also a guide for the unscathed on how to help people “lean in to the suck,” as Sandberg’s rabbi puts it.” [TimeMag]

“Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s controversial decision to turn down Yahoo’s $1 billion early offer to buy Facebook” by Mike Hoefflinger: “Curious, [Andy] Grove followed up: “Where does that willpower come from?” Zuckerberg considered the question—possibly for the first time—and concluded simply, “Jewish mother.”” [BI

“Selling Mark Zuckerberg” by Nitasha Tiku: “The Facebook CEO’s likability blitz isn’t a presidential campaign, it’s a focus group for his 1.8 billion constituents — and part of a high stakes campaign to win your likes” [BuzzFeed]

“Here’s Why A Nonprofit Named For Anne Frank Keeps Attacking Trump” by Jessica Schulberg: “Keeping a low profile is not [Steve] Goldstein’s style. When he was 6 years old, he skipped school to stuff envelopes at the local Democratic headquarters for then-presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey, according to a bio he provided. He has worked on Capitol Hill for Democratic lawmakers Frank Lautenberg and Chuck Schumer… Despite his past work on Capitol Hill, Goldstein says “nothing could be farther from the truth” in response to accusations that he’s taken the Anne Frank Center in a partisan direction. The center goes out of its way to point out that it was Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt who denied Anne Frank entry to the U.S., and has defended members of the Trump family when they were unfairly attacked, Goldstein noted.” [HuffPost]

Michael Steinhardt, Birthright Founder and ‘Wall Street’s Greatest Trader’, to Light Torch on Israel’s Independence Day: “Michael Steinhardt, one of the founders of Taglit-Birthright and a man once dubbed “Wall Street’s greatest trader”, has been selected to light an official torch on Israel’s Independence Day, Israel announced on Wednesday. He will join Rabbi Marvin Hier, who took part in U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration, in lighting the torch for the Jewish diaspora.” [Haaretz

Netflix says it’s found the next ‘Homeland’ — “Netflix thinks its new series, Fauda, could rival the success of Homeland across the globe. Lior Raz — lead actor and series co-creator — speaks with CNN’s Samuel Burke in Israel about his own time in the security forces, a tragic terrorist attack that killed his girlfriend, and how Netflix has garnered a once small Israeli series global praise.” [CNN]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Lawsuit targets neo-Nazi ‘troll storm’ against Jewish family” by Phil Drake and Seaborn Larson: “The lawsuit claims Andrew Anglin, publisher of the Daily Stormer neo-Nazi website with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month, provoked legions of his followers to send a “tsunami of threats” to Tanya Gersh and her relatives. Gersh is a Montana real-estate agent who fell out of favor with the mother of Richard B. Spencer, considered by many to be the founder of the alt-right movement… A monetary figure has not been attached to the suit although Gersh hopes to win at least $225,000 for three of the four counts asserted in the complaint.” [USAToday

MEDIA WATCH — “Bari Weiss Joins ‘New York Times’ Opinion Section” by Tablet Magazine: “Bari, who edited [Tablet] news and politics section from 2011 to 2013, moves to the Times from the Wall Street Journal, where she worked as associate book review editor and also wrote frequently about topics like political correctness and campus culture.” [Tablet• Hiring Anti-Trump Conservative Is Part Of New York Times’ Effort To Expand Opinion [HuffPost

“An Op-Ed Author Omits His Crimes, and The Times Does Too” by Liz Spayd: “Marwan Barghouti… was given five consecutive life terms after being convicted in an Israeli criminal court of premeditated murder for his role in terrorist attacks that killed five people… On Sunday, he wrote a piece for the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times to draw attention to a mass hunger strike for what he calls Israel’s arbitrary arrests and poor treatment of Palestinian prisoners…  A biographical sentence at the end of the Op-Ed simply says, “Marwan Barghouti is a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” I asked Jim Dao, editor of the Op-Ed pages, about the decision not to include Barghouti’s crimes…  I see no reason to skimp on this, while failing to do so risks the credibility of the author and the Op-Ed pages. In this case, I’m pleased to see the editors responding to the complaints, and moving to correct the issue rather than resist it.” [NYTimes• Netanyahu slams New York Times over Barghouti op-ed byline [i24News]

SPOTLIGHT: “CNN’s Jake Tapper Is the Realest Man in “Fake News”” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner: “Tapper is on a diet… His diet consists, as basically all diets do, of pretty much just protein: protein shakes, protein snacks, protein protein. His friend Paul Rudd, who, Tapper says, got “really shredded” for Ant-Man, gave him the diet. Tapper follows it mostly, also doing cardio at the gym five times a week. “The modified Ant-Man” is what he calls it. I wonder what it says about us when Ant-Man is our superhero aspiration, but Tapper is realistic: “Paul’s a fellow 48-year-old Jew. This is achievable.” Fair.” [GQ]

BOOK REVIEW: “The Inside Story of the Clinton Campaign Disaster” by Bess Levin: “As Hillary thumbed through the pages, the [concession] speech struck her as tone-deaf. It’s too charged, she thought, too political… Jake Sullivan, her chief strategist took the lead in defending the tone. ‘Everything you said, we’re going to do in this speech. . . . But you have been saying for many months that he is temperamentally unfit and that he would be dangerous, and, if you meant it, you should say it. And you made a case that all these people’s rights and safety are in danger—if you meant that, you should say it.’ ‘It’s not my job anymore to do this,’ she said, her voice growing more forceful.” [VanityFair; Axios]  

TRANSITIONS — Fred Brown, Communications Director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, was hired by Dezenhall Resources, a crisis management and communications firm, to serve as a senior counselor. h/t Playbook

Sinclair Announces the Addition of Boris Epshteyn: Boris Epshteyn, a former White House aide and Trump campaign chief surrogate, has joined Sinclair Broadcast Group as chief political analyst and will provide analysis and insight on major political stories. [SBGI• Flashback: Kushner: We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage [Politico

BIRTHDAYS: US diplomat from 1962 forward, then President of the Council on Foreign Relations (1986-1993) ultimately becoming the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (1993-1997), Peter Tarnoff turns 80… Literary theorist, legal scholar, author and public intellectual, has taught at Cardozo School of Law, Florida International University and University of Illinois at Chicago, Stanley Fish turns 79… Prominent Israeli criminal defense attorney who also served as the Attorney General of Israel (2010-2016), Yehuda Weinstein turns 73… Comedienne, actress and mental health campaigner in the UK, Ruby Wax (born Ruby Wachs in Chicago)… Overland Park, Kansas resident, Gloria Elyachar turns 57… Angel investment fund manager, who during his 12-year NFL career (1987-1998) won three Super Bowls, Harris Barton turns 53… Jerusalem-born historian, author, screenwriter, political commentator and senior lecturer at the Hebrew University, Gadi Taub turns 52… Israeli entrepreneur best known as the founder and former CEO of Better Place, an electric car company that raised $850 million yet was liquidated in a 2013 bankruptcy, Shai Agassi turns 49… French stand-up comedian and actor, Gad Elmaleh turns 46… Award-winning, film, televison and theatre actor, his official bar mitzvah was in 2015 at age 37, James Franco turns 39… Tel Aviv-born, now living in Toronto, entrepreneur, philanthropist, CEO and co-founder of Klick Health (a digital marketing firm in the medical field), Leerom Segal turns 38… Assistant Director of Campus Affairs at AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy, Seffi Kogen… Arthur Cohn… Jake Gerber

BIRTHWEEK: Editor of Commentary magazine, columnist for the New York Post, John Mordechai Podhoretz turns 56… NYTimes White House reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis… Chabad Rabbi, founder and executive director of the Aspen Chabad Jewish Community Center, Mendel Mintz turns 42… Political director for AIPAC’s Florida region, Evan Philipson turns 28… RNC’s Jonathan R. Brodo… VP and Deputy General Counsel at Scholastic Inc, Mark Seidenfeld

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

President Donald Trump addressing a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives chamber, Feb. 28. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

4 Jewish takeaways from Trump’s big speech to Congress


President Donald Trump’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress is getting rave reviews for the subdued, “presidential” style of his delivery, and positive feedback from the Jewish community for opening remarks denouncing anti-Semitic acts as examples of “hate and evil.”

But there ensues the inevitable Trumpian conundrum: What did he actually mean?

Here are four takeaways from the speech and what it says about bias and the Jews:

1. What did he condemn exactly?

From the very first paragraph:

“Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

That second sentence – the one that’s been getting the plaudits – gets thorny once it’s held up to the light. According to the logic of the sentence, it is the “recent acts” that “remind us that … we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

But what actually reminds us that we are united are the responses to such acts, like the thousands of dollars raised by Muslim activists to rebuild a vandalized Jewish cemetery, a labor union’s pledge to pitch in to fix damaged gravesites, a strongly worded statement from the White House.

It was the lack of the last item that had riled Jewish groups in the weeks after the first spate of JCC bomb threats and the first cemetery attack. In both instances, combined with Trump’s failure to comment for six days on what appears to be the bias killing last week of an Indian worker in Kansas, it was Trump’s failure to respond at first – indeed, his hostility to reporters who asked him to respond to the spike in anti-Semitic incidents – that raised hackles.

2. What’s not in the passage

A mosque near Tampa, Florida, was set ablaze last week. Another in Texas was burned down in January and one in Florida, where the killer in the Orlando massacre had occasionally worshipped, suffered a similar fate in September.

Why not include a reference to bias crimes against Muslims? It would be especially apropos given Trump’s overarching theme of unity because Muslims have indeed raised funds to refurbish vandalized Jewish cemeteries and Jews are contributing to the rebuilding of the Tampa mosque.

(Speaking of the Orlando massacre, why not a reference to the LGBTQ community? Trump at the time held up the massacre as emblematic of the protections that gay Americans needed and he would bring as president.)

A reference to the mosques may have allayed concerns that his travel ban is aimed at Muslims, although it targets seven (or, as of this week, six) Muslim-majority countries, as well as refugees.

Further along in the speech, Trump mentions Muslims in a positive way, as allies against radical Islamic terrorism. But he was talking about moderate Muslims in the Middle East — an alliance that is far afield from the highways and byways traversed by American Muslims.

3. What’s the plan?

Jewish community statements praising the president for his remarks condemning anti-Semitism were almost uniform in asking for a specific government and law enforcement response to anti-Semitic and other hate incidents.

“I was very pleased, that was an important message,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said at a meeting Wednesday morning of the Helsinki Commission, the body that monitors human rights overseas and in the United States. “But we need to do more.”

“Powerful for @POTUS to note anti-Semitism at top of speech,” tweeted Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “Key now is to investigate and end terror campaign.”

Calls for a plan came as Bloomberg News reported that the Trump State Department was considering doing away with the post of anti-Semitism monitor. Granted, the position studies developments overseas, but Jewish groups worry that its elimination would suggest that the administration is not taking the issue seriously. The American Jewish Committee on Monday asked its activists to write the president and urge him to preserve the office.

Cardin told JTA, walking out of the commission meeting, that if anything the office of the anti-Semitism monitor needed bolstering.

“Strengthen it, elevate it, give it more resources,” he said.

4. The other stuff

* Trump mentioned Iran and Israel: “I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.” He did not mention the Iran nuclear deal he once reviled, nor did he speak of the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal he has said he would like to achieve.

* He did go into some detail on his plans to expand school choice: ”I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.”

That’s a proposal he campaigned on, and it has raised concerns among Jewish precincts that favor church-state separations, but also has garnered praise among Orthodox groups and other supporters of Jewish day school education.

On Wednesday, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America welcomed Trump’s call for federal policy to support school choice.

“We believe there are several ways in which parental empowerment should be pursued to achieve educational opportunity, in the tax code and elsewhere, and we look forward to working with the administration on this priority issue for our community and American society at large,” the O.U.’s Washington director, Nathan Diament, said in a statement.

An undated handout picture shows the Iranian supersonic ballistic missile launching during a war-game in an unknown location in Iran. Photo by Fars News/Reuters

Iran says missile can reach Tel Aviv in 7 minutes


A senior Iranian official threatened immediate retaliation against Israel if it is attacked, warning that Iranian missiles can reach Tel Aviv in seven minutes.

Mojtaba Zonour, a senior member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission and a former Revolutionary Guards official, made the remarks over the weekend to Iran’s Fars news agency. Zonour also threatened to destroy the American military base in nearby Bahrain if Iran is attacked.

“The U.S. Army’s 5th Fleet has occupied a part of Bahrain, and the enemy’s farthest military base is in the Indian Ocean, but these points are all within the range of Iran’s missile systems and they will be razed to the ground if the enemy makes a mistake,” Zonour said Saturday. He added: “And only seven minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.”

The comments came in the wake of Iran’s testing last week of a ballistic missile, a move that prompted President Donald Trump to impose a new round of sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The test also set off a flurry of tweets from Trump, included one on Feb. 2 saying that “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.” The following day, Trump tweeted that Iran is “playing with fire.”

On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new round of sanctions targeting individuals or entities it said had assisted Iran’s missile program.

Thank you, Obama


Thank you, President Barack Obama, for serving the country for the past eight years.

Thank you, Obama, for not moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. You were wise enough to follow the lead of your Democratic and Republican predecessors and realize the chaos such a move could cause would not be worth the cost. There is no doubt the embassy should be in Jerusalem. There is no question that Jerusalem is the eternal and contemporary capital of Israel. But thank you for knowing that not every right must be claimed at any cost.

Thank you for protecting Israel when and where it mattered most: with off-budget millions for Iron Dome, for standing up for Israel’s right to defend itself in the Gaza war, for a record-setting $38 billion in aid. 

Thank you for declaring as eloquently as any president ever has, and in as many international forums as possible, the value and justice of a Jewish state. Thank you for trying to protect that state from pursuing policies that will endanger its own existence.

Thank you for the Iran deal. Before the deal, Iran was weeks from attaining nuclear bomb capability. Now the world has a decade before the mullahs have the capability of developing a bomb. You tackled a problem that only had gotten worse under previous American and Israeli leaders. Despite fierce opposition, you found a solution that even those Israelis who hated it have grown to see as beneficial. 

Thank you for killing Osama bin Laden. And for taking out al-Qaida’s senior leadership. And for stopping and reversing gains by ISIS. You know who’s really happy to see you go? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 

Thank you for standing up to Vladimir Putin. You saw the expansionist, anti-democratic nature of Putin’s actions in Ukraine and quickly confronted him. Perhaps that opposition slowed what may have been an inevitable march through the Baltics. There is nothing wrong with having positive relations with Russia, but “positive” cannot mean giving the Putin regime a pass. 

Thank you for recognizing our Cuba embargo was a failed policy and that the time for change had come. 

Thank you for steering the country through the recession. Thank you for cutting unemployment in half. And for doing so in the face of Republican obstructionism on the kind of infrastructure bill that your successor now likely will get through. 

Thank you for doubling clean energy production. For recognizing that our dependence on fossil fuels can’t help but degrade our environment and hold us back from being competitive in the green energy future, and embolden corrupt and backward regimes from Venezuela to the Middle East to Russia. 

Thank you for saving the American auto industry. You revived General Motors with $50 billion in loans, saving 1.2 million jobs and creating $35 billion in tax revenue so far. Have you checked out GM’s Chevy Bolt? All electric, 240 miles per charge, drives like a rocket and made in Detroit. They should call it the “Obamacar.”

Thank you for the Paris Agreement to address climate change. Thank you for throwing America’s lot in with the rest of the planet.

Thank you for the Affordable Care Act. It has brought the security of health care to millions. It has saved lives. It has kept the rate of cost increases in premiums lower in the past eight years than they were in the previous eight years. It needs to be fixed — what doesn’t? — but only with better ideas, not worse ones.

Thank you for Merrick Garland. It was a great idea while it lasted.

Thank you for trying to get immigration reform through Congress, and for pursuing the policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which let 5 million people already living and working here come out of the shadows. 

Thanks for Michelle. Not just her brains and biceps, but her choice of causes. Your wife saw all the good the food movement had accomplished from the grass roots up and planted it squarely in the front yard of the White House, where it would grow even more from the top down.

Thank you for trying. You grappled with one great chaos after another, and sometimes you fell short. In Syria, you needed a smarter course of action. In Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, you underestimated the need, early on, to deal with Israeli fears and Palestinian obstructionism. As for ending the Sudan embargo, the jury is out. Stateside, your administration should have put some of the bad guys of the recession behind bars and found fixes that better addressed the wealth gap. 

Time will reveal more blemishes — and heal some of the scars. But in the meantime:

Thank you. Thank you for not embarrassing us, your family or yourself. Though your opponents and their friends at “Fox and Friends” tried to pin scandals to you, none could stick. In my lifetime, there has never been an administration so free from personal and professional moral stain. 

Thank you for the seriousness, dignity, grace, humor and cool you brought to the Oval Office. Thank you for being my president.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Poll: Israeli Jews favor Hillary, but say Trump is better for Israel ‘policy’


Most Israeli Jews would prefer Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump as the next president of the United States — even though more of them think Trump would be better for the “Israeli government’s policy.”

According to a poll released Wednesday, 43 percent of Israeli Jews prefer Clinton as president, compared to 34 percent who want Trump, when asked to choose between the two candidates. But 38 percent say Trump would be better for Israel, compared to 33 percent who say Clinton would be.

On both questions, a large number of people don’t pick a candidate.

The Israel Democracy Institute think tank and Tel Aviv University released its latest Peace Index monthly survey after polling 600 Israelis at the end of August. The margin of error is 4.1 percent.

Some respondents support Clinton, the former first lady and secretary of state, even though they don’t think the Democratic candidate “will be better from the standpoint of the Israeli government’s policy,” as the survey puts it. Thirteen percent of the Jews who say Trump, the Republican nominee, would be better for Israel want Clinton to be president. Only 2 percent of Jews who said Clinton would be better for Israel want Trump to be president.

“There seem to be people who support Clinton even though they think she will put more pressure on Israel or be less easy for Israel to deal with in terms of all the support we need from the United States,” Chanan Cohen, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute who helped lead the survey, told JTA.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein were not included in the survey .

In April, Jewish opinion on the subject was nearly reversed. The Peace Index that month found 40 percent thought Clinton would be better for Israel’s interest and 31 percent thought Trump would be.

Since the primary season, when Trump pledged to be a “neutral” broker of Israeli-Palestinian peace, he and the Republican Party have tried to boost their pro-Israel bona fides. On Monday, Republican Trump supporters opened their fifth campaign office in Israel, the first in the West Bank. They predict 85 percent of Americans living in Israel, who they say number 300,000, will vote for the developer and reality TV star.

Still, Trump does not have a plurality of Israeli Jewish support. Even on the political right, only 49 percent support him, with 23 percent preferring Clinton, according to the survey. The left (86 percent) and center (57 percent) have an “overwhelming preference” for Clinton, according to the Israel Democracy Institute.

“I expected the right-wing voters to support Trump in bigger numbers, but we can see less than half did,” said Cohen. “I know that in the United States, the right has concerns about Trump’s personality, and we can see this also on the Israel right.”

Among Israeli Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population, 58 percent prefer the Democratic nominee and 11 percent the Republican.

Donald Trump speaking at the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The poll also probed other issues. Asked about Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who is standing trial in a military court for shooting dead a downed Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, most Jewish Israelis “justify” what he did (42 percent strongly and 23 percent moderately). Just a quarter of Israelis “do not justify” the shooting (14 percent strongly and 11 percent moderately).

Jewish Israelis are almost evenly divided on executing captured Palestinian terrorists. Forty-seven percent lean toward killing such a terrorist on the spot, “even if he has been captured and clearly does not pose a threat.” Forty-five percent say he should be handed over to legal authorities.

Support for killing terrorists is highest among right-wingers (62 percent), young people (69 percent ages 18-24) and observant Jews (63 percent of haredi Orthodox and 72 percent of religious or traditional Jews). In April, the Peace Index found that 67 percent of Israelis agreed with the Sephardi chief rabbi’s assertion weeks earlier, which he later took back, that it is a religious imperative to kill Palestinian terrorists.

“We phrased the question differently this time, so you can’t say support has gone down,” Cohen said. “It’s more or less the same I think. It is a really high amount actually to be supporting an illegal action that every soldier is taught is against the army’s rules.”

Though many Israelis disagree with the army’s prosecution of Azaria, the Israel Defense Forces remains by far the most trusted official body in the country. Eighty-seven percent of Israeli Jews put “a lot” or “quite a lot” of trust in the army. Forty-seven percent of Israeli Arabs feel the same way. But Arabs put the most trust in the Supreme Court (64 percent “a lot” or “quite a lot”) — even more than Jews (54 percent).

Amid the controversy over dozens of French towns banning Muslim women from wearing the burkini, a full-body swimsuit, 62 percent of Israelis are against regulating what people wear in public, “including in the case of traditional and conservative clothing,” the survey found. Just 26 percent support the French bans.

Support for freedom of attire is consistent across the Jewish political spectrum — left (73 percent), right (59 percent) and center (61 percent) — and among Arabs (71 percent).

In honor of the start of the school year on Sept. 1, the survey asked Israelis to grade the education system, and both Jews and Arabs gave it a failing grade. Jews gave the system a 5.5 and Arabs a 5.9 out of 10.

In another poll released Wednesday, a CNN/ORC survey of likely American voters showed Trump with a 45-43 percent advantage over Clinton.

Iranian commander: Missiles ready for the ‘annihilation’ of Israel


The deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said the country has over 100,000 missiles in Lebanon alone readied for the “annihilation” of Israel.

Speaking before Friday prayers on Iran’s state-run IRIB TV, Hossein Salami also said that Iran has “tens of thousands” of additional missiles that are ready to wipe the “accursed black dot” of Israel off the map, according to a translation from the Farsi by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Salami is deputy head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is under the command of the country’s Supreme Leader.

“Today, more than ever, there is fertile ground — with the grace of God — for the annihilation, the wiping out and the collapse of the Zionist regime,” Salami said, according to the MEMRI translation. “In Lebanon alone, over 100,000 missiles are ready to be launched. If there is a will, if it serves [our] interests, and if the Zionist regime repeats its past mistakes due to its miscalculations, these missiles will pierce through space, and will strike at the heart of the Zionist regime. They will prepare the ground for its great collapse in the new era.”

He also boasted that “tens of thousands of other high-precision, long-range missiles, with the necessary destructive capabilities, have been placed in various places throughout the Islamic world. “

“They are just waiting for the command, so that when the trigger is pulled, the accursed black dot will be wiped off the geopolitical map of the world, once and for all,” he said, referring to Israel.

Salami’s remarks came as Germany’s foreign ministry said it is closely watching Iran’s attempts to procure nuclear and missile technology, the Associated Press reported.

German intelligence agencies reported dozens of such attempts last year, according to the A.P. A separate report by a German domestic intelligence agency said that counter-espionage officials had spotted 141 procurements attempts in one German state in the last year.

Martin Schaefer, a spokesman for Germany’s Foreign Ministry, said that Germany and its partners would work to enforce the agreement signed in Vienna last July meant to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

“We are already talking to our partners in New York and elsewhere, and we won’t hesitate to discuss this with Tehran,” he said.

Jewish dems pleased with Israel language on dem platform


The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Friday released a draft of the party’s 2016 platform as “> promised by the Clinton campaign – reflects the Democratic Party’s longstanding support of Israel and Hillary Clinton’s vision for peace and security in the Middle East.

“We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity,” the draft reads. “While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

“Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

The language is reflective of Clinton’s stance as expressed in a speech she “>praised the Democratic Party for affirming America’s “longstanding commitment to Israel’s security” and the pursuit of the two-state solution, and urged the Republican Party to approve “similarly strong and unifying language” in its platform “so that both platforms reflect America’s strong bipartisan support for Israel.”

Below is the language in the platform draft re: Israel and the Iran deal: 

Iran: “We support the nuclear agreement with Iran because, if vigorously enforced and implemented, it verifiably cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb without resorting to war. We reject Donald Trump’s view that we should have walked away from a deal that peacefully dismantles Iran’s nuclear program. We will continue the work of this administration to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon and will not hesitate to take military action if Iran violates the agreement.

“Democrats will also address the detrimental role Iran plays in the region and will robustly enforce and, if necessary, strengthen non-nuclear sanctions. Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. It violates the human rights of its population, denies the Holocaust, vows to eliminate Israel, and has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East. Democrats will push back against Iran’s destabilizing activities including its support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, counter Iran’s ballistic missile program, bolster the capabilities of our Gulf partners, and ensure that Israel always has the ability to defend itself.”

Israel: “We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity. While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

Iran touts successful test-fire of missile that can reach Israel


Iran said it successfully test-fired a high-precision ballistic missile that can reach Israel.

The missile has a range of 2,000 kilometers, or more than 1,200 miles, and a high degree of accuracy, the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s military said Monday in announcing the launch, according to the state-run Tasnim News Agency reported.

The test took place two weeks ago, Brig. Gen. Ali Abdollahi announced Monday at a scientific conference in Tehran, Tasnim reported. Abdollahi reportedly gave no further details, nor did he provide the name of the rocket.

Abdollahi also reportedly said the headquarters of the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces has allocated 10 percent of the defense budget to research projects aimed at strengthening defense power.

Iranian officials have repeatedly underscored that the country will continue to strengthen its military capabilities such as missiles, and that Iran’s defense capabilities will be never subject to negotiations, according to Tasnim.

In March, the Revolutionary Guard in Iran conducted tests of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, which it said were not capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

In October, Iran tested a new guided long-range ballistic missile, which may have violated the nuclear deal agreed upon in July with the world powers, as well as a United Nations Security Council resolution that bars Iran from developing missiles “designed to carry nuclear warheads.”

Istanbul bomber targeted Israeli tour group, Turkish media report


The suspected suicide bomber who killed three Israelis and one Iranian in Istanbul followed an Israeli tour group to a restaurant and detonated himself there, according to Turkish media reports.

The reports published Monday run counter to those of intelligence assessments that said the Israelis were not deliberately targeted.

On Monday, journalist Abdullah Bozkury of Today’s Zaman posted on Twitter that the bomber followed the Israeli tourists from their hotel and lurked outside a restaurant until they finished their breakfast and began to exit, then he detonated the bomb.

He identified the bomber as being affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group.

The Turkish reports,which also include Hurriyet and T24, do not name sources.

On Sunday, the suicide bomber was identified as a Turkish citizen, Mehmet Ozturk, by Turkey’s interior minister.

“The findings obtained show that the terrorist is linked to the Daesh terror organization,” said the minister, Efkan Ala, according to The Associated Press. Daesh is an acronym for the Islamic State.

He reportedly spent two years in Syria before returning to Turkey illegally.

In televised comments Saturday following the blast and an emergency meeting of Israel’s Security Cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said officials were investigating whether Israelis had been targeted in the bombing and said intelligence pointed to it being an Islamic State attack.

The three Israeli victims killed in the bombing are Avraham Goldman, 69, of Herzliya; Yonatan Suher, 40, of Tel Aviv, and Simcha Damri, 60, of Dimona. Suher and Goldman also were U.S. citizens.

Eleven Israelis were wounded in the blast, including Damri’s husband, Avi.

The fourth victim of the attack was an Iranian national identified as Ali Reza Razmhah.

Also Sunday, Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a travel warning calling on Israelis not to travel to Turkey. The warning cites the significant rise over the past two months in terror threats in Turkey, especially suicide bombings and particularly in Istanbul and Ankara, the capital.

 

The warning was raised to Level 2, defined as a basic concrete threat, from Level 4, meaning an ongoing potential threat.

Hillary vows to stand with Israel against Iran


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pledged to confront Iran and defend Israel from threats leveled against her, following new reports of Iranian missile tests.

“I am deeply concerned by reports that Iran has tested multiple missiles, which it claimed were stamped with words declaring that “Israel should be wiped from the pages of history.” This rhetoric is repulsive and has no place in the community of nations,” Hillary said in a statement released by her campaign. “As president, I will continue to stand with Israel against such threats.”

According to reports, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) test-fired two ballistic missiles on Wednesday that it said were designed to be able to hit Israel. “The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2,000 km is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the ISNA agency.

In her statement, the former Secretary of State said the missiles test “demonstrates once again why we need to address Iran’s destabilizing activities across the region, while vigorously enforcing the nuclear deal. These missile launches constitute a blatant violation of Iran’s UN Security Council obligations, and such violations must have consequences. Iran should face sanctions for these activities, and the international community must demonstrate that Iran’s threats toward Israel will not be tolerated.”

Kerry: Iran getting less than $50 billion in cash after nuclear deal


Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that the amount of cash Iran will receive due to the implementation of the nuclear agreement is below the $50 billion level.

“It's below the $50 billion (level),” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when he was asked about varying reports about how much money Iran would receive.

Iran gained access to about $100 billion in frozen assets when an international nuclear agreement was implemented last month, but much of it already was tied up because of debts and other commitments. Earlier reports had said Tehran would receive as much as $150 billion.

Revolution – Implications for Israel, for the Arab World, and the West


Since Iran became a radical Islamic Shiite state some 46 years ago, it has been recognized as a perpetrator of both regional and global terrorism. The proxy organizations that it has established have turned into terrorist armies. Hezbollah in Lebanon has, for all intents and purposes, taken control of the state.  Hamas in Gaza has been in control there for nearly nine years. The third proxy, the Houthis in Yemen, took control over all of Yemen, but last year lost half of the area under their control to the Saudis and other Arab countries. Up until a year ago, Iran was classified as the country that posed the biggest threat to the Arab world and the West alike, and, of course, to Israel.

The year 2015 will go down in history as the year when Iran's leadership managed to instigate a revolution. No, not in Iran, but in the world in general, and, in particular, among the major global powers.

The US and the EU countries, which had regarded Iran as a problem, began to regard it as a solution.

Iran is now seen as the country that will bring stability to Syria and Iraq and enable the U.S administration to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, and stabilize Yemen.

Russia and China also became swept up in this political excitement, together with the aforementioned countries, as well as with others who see Iran as a land of business opportunities for many years to come. China's president, who recently visited Iran, signed contracts to the tune of $600 billion over 10 years (2.5 trillion NIS). The European company Airbus receivied an order for 150 passenger jets for starters, out of 600 aircraft which will be ordered in the coming years. Russia has begun selling advanced model Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft to Iran along with advanced weaponry and equipment, as have other European countries.

The Iranian arms and missile industry, which is already fairly well developed, will become a source of weapon sales to other countries in the coming years, competing with Israeli industry.

There is no sight of any sort of deal which would cause Iran to stop, or at least limit its support of the terrorist organizations it has established. Iran will continue to engage Israel with threats and terror attacks carried out by Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as the Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia. All this is happening without any sign of intervention from the United States, England, France or Germany, because in their eyes, Iran is the solution to their problems in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

For those who believe this is a good opportunity for Israel to strengthen its ties with those Arab states which are also under threat from Iran, especially Saudi Arabia and Egypt, it is important to clarify that the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, does not fly in Arabic. They have a phrase of their own: “My brother and I against my cousin, and my cousin and I against foreigners.”

Israel and Western countries will always be seen as foreign to them.

The relationship between Israel and the United States now has more importance than ever. The Iranians will now seek to exploit the situation. They have already increased their influence over countries adjacent to Israel, starting with the Palestinian Authority and then Jordan and even Egypt. Syria and Lebanon are already in very deep. Khomeini’s Islamic revolution was only Phase One of the Iranian missile. The second stage is penetration into Sunni Arab Muslim nations. And they will seek to direct the nuclear warhead which will be produced at some point, at Israel. They will want to use the Shiite warhead under construction since 1979 to strike a few countries. thus completing the revolution which Khomeini launched.

Israel's various new defense systems– the barrier wall and its components, the Arrow missiles, David's Sling and Iron Dome– are just part of the response Israel is preparing to deal with the “solution” that Iran has suddenly become.  The professional intelligence gathering performed by Israel and other countries will reveal the true face of Iran.

Hamas, which continues to build tunnels in Gaza, will eventually realize that it is digging the world’s largest terrorist  cemetery– for themselves. The Shiite Hezbollah will learn firsthand that Syria, which is predominantly populated by Sunnis, will not tolerate Assad, an Alawite, even if that will take many years. It will become clear that during a raging storm, the best place to be is in the eye of the storm. Israel will remain there safely until the countries surrounding us calm down.

Member of Knesset Avi Dichter is an Israel politican from the Likud Party. He is the former head of Shin Bet, Minister of Internal Security and Minister of Home Front Defense.

Iran successfully hacked former IDF chief’s files


The computer database of a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff reportedly was compromised in an Iranian cyber attack late last year.

Yaser Balaghi, a hacker working for Iran, gained access to the full contents of the unidentified army leader’s computer, the Times of Israel reported Tuesday, citing Israel’s Channel 10.

The operation was halted midstream when the hacker’s identity was compromised. It targeted nearly 2,000 people all over the world, including scientists, Israeli army generals and Persian Gulf-area human rights activists.

The victims were hacked when they opened an email message that downloaded spyware onto their computer.

It is not clear exactly what or how much information Iran obtained from the operation.

Sanders, Clinton in sharp exchange over his Iran policy


Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders snapped at one another over Sanders’ Iran policy in their final debate before the New Hampshire primary contest, with Clinton twice suggesting it would endanger Israel.

The NBC moderators of the debate in Durham, New Hampshire on Thursday night pressed Sanders on what they said were gaps in his foreign policy; Sanders has not named a foreign policy team of advisers and generally focuses on the economy in his campaigning.

Clinton stepped in with her own broadside, naming Israel as facing increased dangers under Sander’s policies.

“A group of national security experts, military intelligence experts, issued a very concerning statement about Sen. Sanders’s views on foreign policy and national security, pointing out some of the comments he has made on these issues, such as inviting Iranian troops into Syria to try to resolve the conflict there; putting them right at the doorstep of Israel,” she said.

Sanders has not quite advocated inviting Iran to add troops to its contingent already in Syria, where it is allied with the Assad regime and is combating rebel forces, including the Islamic State terrorist group. Instead, in a November debate, he lumped Iran in with other Muslim states he said would be more appropriate than the United States to directly battle the Islamic State.

“The Muslim nations in the region — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, all of these nations — they’re going to just have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground,” he said in the November debate.

Sanders, an independent senator from neighboring Vermont, is leading Clinton substantially in New Hampshire, the first primary state, which votes on Tuesday. He tied with Clinton in Iowa, the first caucus state, on Monday, and a win in new Hampshire could lend him momentum as he challenges Clinton nationally, where she is ahead in polling.

He has pushed back against Clinton’s resume, which includes a stint as President Barack Obama’s first secretary of state, by noting that he opposed the Iraq War in 2002, while Clinton, then a senator from New York, supported it. She now says she regrets voting for the war.

He returned to that theme on Thursday night. “Once again, back in 2002, when we both looked at the same evidence about the wisdom of the war in Iraq, one of us voted the right way and one of us didn’t,” he said.

Sanders and Clinton also tussled over whether he said he would “normalize” ties with Iran in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal with the country, which both candidates support. In a debate last month, Sanders said, “What we’ve got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran,” although he quickly added that he was not advocating for full ties, and noted Iran’s backing for terrorism.

“They are destabilizing governments in the region, they continue to support Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon against Israel,” Clinton said at Thursday’s debate. “If we were to normalize relations right now, we would remove one of the biggest pieces of leverage we have to try to influence and change Iranian behavior.”

Sanders said he never advocated immediately normalizing relations. “Who said that I think we should normalize relations with Iran tomorrow?” he said. “I never said that. I think we should move forward as quickly as we can.”

Unusually for Sanders, who has been reticent about his Jewish upbringing, he closed Thursday’s debate by relating a memory of his father.

“My dad came to this country at the age of 17 from Poland,” he said.

“Didn’t have any money, couldn’t speak English, he died pretty young, and I think it would have been beyond his wildest dreams to see his son up here on this stage today running for president,” Sanders said. “I love this country, and my dad loved this country, and he was the most proud American because of what it gave him in terms of raising his family, even though we never had much money.”

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