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Jewish Insider | Daily Kickoff
September 15th, 2020
👋 Good Tuesday morning!

President Donald Trump will host leaders from Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for a peace signing ceremony on the White House South Lawn at noon. More below. 

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan writes that “the pace and scope of normalization won’t be disconnected from progress on Palestinian statehood and rights.”

Yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met with top Qatari officials in Washington to sign several framework agreements. Qatar’s Ambassador to the U.S., Meshal bin Hamad al-Thani, told reporters his country wants to see peace in the Middle East. “Whether normalization is going to lead to that is yet to be discovered,” he said.

But Qatari Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Alkhater told Bloomberg that normalization with Israel “can’t be the answer” without putting an end to Palestinians “living under occupation.”

The AIPAC National Council held a virtual meeting with 600 participants and has scheduled more than 400 lobbying meetings with members of Congress and staff on Zoom this week to garner bipartisan support for measures applauding the Israel-UAE-Bahrain agreements and for security assistance for Israel in the annual appropriations bills. 

Last night, the Biden presidential campaign brought in $4.5 million at a $500,000-per-ticket virtual fundraiser hosted by Haim and Cheryl Saban. 

The last state primary ahead of the November election is being held today in Delaware, where a longshot progressive challenger is attempting to unseat Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).

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driving the day

Trump to host Israel-UAE-Bahrain peace summit 

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Donald Trump will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani for a historic signing ceremony at the White House this afternoon. Trump will meet with Netanyahu in the Oval Office ahead of the event. 

Bipartisan guest list: The Trump administration has invited senior Democratic leaders to attend the event. A senior administration official told reporters yesterday that although some Democratic lawmakers have said they are unable to attend, the White House expects “a nice amount” of Democrats to show up. 

What Biden world is saying: Jake Sullivan, a foreign policy advisor to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, called the deal a “positive accomplishment” for Trump’s foreign policy. “It’s good for the region, it’s good for Israel, it’s good for peace.” 

What Pelosi is saying: On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) remarked on the peace deals, "Good for him for having a distraction on a day when the numbers of people who are affected and the numbers of people who are dying from this virus only increases."

COVID protocols: More than 700 attendees are expected to be on hand for the celebratory signing, despite the ongoing pandemic. In invitations to guests, the White House encouraged attendees to wear face coverings for the outdoor event, but a senior administration official said “ultimately it’s their choice.” The official added that everyone entering the White House itself will be tested for COVID-19. The Israeli delegation is under strict instructions to remain isolated from other guests in order to avoid self-quarantine upon return. Yesterday, a senior advisor to the prime minister, Reuven Azar, violated the Israeli regulations by taking a morning jog.

Man of the hour: White House senior advisor Jared Kushner described the agreements as “a huge accomplishment for the countries involved” leading to “a tremendous sense of hope and optimism in the region.” Kushner, who was tapped to draft the administration’s vision for peace in the Middle East, said in a statement that the process has moved forward — despite Palestinians’ refusal to return to direct negotiations — because “instead of focusing on past conflicts, people are now focused on creating a vibrant future filled with endless possibilities.”

More to come: The Trump administration is reportedly pushing Sudan to be next in line to normalize relations with Israel. In a tweet yesterday, Trump teased: “We’re not finished yet. All coming together like a highly complex, but beautiful, puzzle!” A senior administration official said the team headed by Kushner has “spent a lot of time working on” other countries to follow the UAE’s lead and “we are feeling good about some other conversations as well.” 

Weighing in: In Foreign Policy, Maysam Behravesh and Hamidreza Azizi note that these new deals are a “strategic nightmare” for Iran. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens called the accords a direct challenge to “a half-century’s worth of conventional wisdom.” In The Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead posited that the changes in the region “are evolutionary rather than revolutionary.” Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley write in Politico that the deals could “preserve at least a slim hope of an eventual two-state solution.”

Read more here.

Moving forward: Israel’s Bank Hapoalim and the Emirates NBD Bank signed a memorandum of understanding to further cooperation, while Bank Leumi held talks yesterday with one of the leading banks in Dubai. Bahraini Defense Minister Abdulla bin Hassan Al-Nuaimi and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz held their first official phone call yesterday. 

book shelf

The Mossad chief who oversaw peace with Jordan has some advice for the moment

Youtube/Screenshot
More than 25 years ago, then-Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit was heavily involved in the years of secret negotiations that led up to Israel signing a peace treaty with Jordan. Today, Shavit, 81, is watching with great interest — but little surprise — as Israel makes great strides toward peace with Gulf nations. Shavit spoke with Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about the recent normalization deals, the potential sale of F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates and the ever-present threat of a nuclear Iran. 

First step: Shavit — the author of the upcoming book Head of the Mossad: In Pursuit of a Safe and Secure Israel — has little praise for either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or President Donald Trump. But he does not downplay the significance of the accords Israel will sign today with the UAE and Bahrain. “I see this open relationship between Dubai and Abu Dhabi with Israel as only a first step,” he told JI. “I expect Trump and his people to catch this opportunity and to make use of it in order to convince other countries in the Gulf area, especially Saudi Arabia, to establish an open relationship with the State of Israel,” Shavit told JI in a conversation that took place before Bahrain announced its own normalization with Israel. “Because this is a one-time opportunity, a real one-time window.”  

No big deal: The potential U.S. sale of F-35 jets to the UAE has become a heavily debated issue in Israel following news of the accord. But Shavit isn’t surprised — or particularly concerned — at that element. “Since the ultimate broker in this deal is President Trump, and he is a guy who looks at the world only as how it's reflected in the bottom line... I don’t have any doubt that the financial benefits of selling arms to Dubai and Abu Dhabi and all others in the Gulf area is a very important interest and element in Trump’s thinking,” he said. “We have to accept the fact that this consideration was one of the factors, and we don’t have to do a big fuss around it.” 

Too late: Shavit — who lived in Iran for more than two years in the 1960s while serving in the Mossad — has publicly declared that he believes there is no stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. “I believe that it’s too late to do it,” he told JI. “I don’t see any global coalition or even regional coalition that would go for it.” He does not believe “sanctions alone” can have enough of an effect, and doesn’t think Trump would “decide to take military action in order to eliminate their capability.” And Israeli can’t carry out such a strike alone “because we cannot become the pariah state of the world.” 

Buying time: The 2015 Iran deal brokered by President Barack Obama, Shavit said, bought the world some time — but it wasn’t enough. “Obama’s deal gave the world another 10-15 years,” he said. “It was not the ideal kind of a deal, but it was better than nothing,” he added. Trump’s decision in 2018 to pull out of the deal, Shavit posited, made the situation worse. “It made it worse because it annoyed the Iranians,” he said. “I am sure that since Trump went out of the deal they started again — clandestinely of course — in small steps, they are working in building their nuclear capabilities. I don’t have any doubts.” And the Iranians, Shavit surmised, also believe that Trump will not take decisive military action against them. “Which allows them to take the risk of working on the capability even today.” 

Read the full interview here.

A satirist at large

How Andy Borowitz is preparing for November

Photo by James Patrick Cooper for The Washington Post
Andy Borowitz is tired of writing about the president. “Trump has gotten so boring,” the satirist groaned in a recent phone interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “Who wants to hear more of this guy? We’ve given this malignant narcissist his wish, which is to pay attention to him all the time.” Borowitz will find out whether he gets his wish come November, though he isn’t necessarily banking on an outcome in which Joe Biden — his preferred candidate — emerges victorious.

Fake news: The 62-year-old humorist’s output has increased since Trump took office nearly four years ago, though Borowitz, who writes satirical news dispatches for his eponymous newsletter, published by The New Yorker, said it has become more challenging, over the past four years, to write satire that won’t be mistaken for real news. Borowitz cites a recent headline — “Trump’s Agreeing to Talk to Woodward Shows Downside of Never Having Read a Book in Entire Life” — as evidence for his case. “It’s actually not a fanciful headline,” he said. “I'm actually saying something that's 100% true, which is, he’s not a reader. And then, in fact, at a press conference later in the day, he pretty much confirmed that my headline was true because he said he had never read any of Woodward's books.”

Honing headlines: Borowitz believes his headlines, which he writes himself, are the most important part of his job, and wonders if his fans even read past them. “That's actually the most important thing I do because the headline is 99% of the joke,” Borowitz said. “I don't really know what the statistics are for people who click through and actually slog through the remaining 200 words.”

New locale: He writes most of his articles on his iPhone and then cuts and pastes them into an email he sends to his editor — a practice that has served him particularly well during the coronavirus pandemic. “I have a very low overhead for my office here. I don't actually even need a desk. My process has not in any way been disrupted by COVID-19,” said Borowitz, a longtime New Yorker who now lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he moved in June with his family. “We're now going to actually be participating in the electoral college,” Borowitz quipped, “unlike all those years when we were in New York adding our meaningless vote to the tally.”

Biden or bust? Borowitz said he is crossing his fingers for a Biden presidency. “Biden is like a golden retriever puppy who's just sort of out of control and shits all over your rug, but you kind of like him anyway,” he said, chuckling at the mental image. “But we haven't seen that Biden this time around, partially because of the coronavirus, because he's been under wraps and also, I think, because he's got really smart people working with him, and it's like, if he can just not talk, we'll be golden. And by the way, I’m saying this as a Biden supporter. I think that he will be a good president. But I think that as a target for comedy, he'll be fantastic.”

Read the full interview with Borowitz here

Conflicted Conference

Where’s your umbrella when you need it? 

conference of presidents
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Chair Arthur Stark and CEO William Daroff informed members of the umbrella group about the decision made late last week to nullify a series of complaints filed by member organizations against other member organizations. In the statement distributed to members on Monday, Stark and Daroff wrote that the committee tasked with overseeing procedural matters voted unanimously to dismiss all of the pending complaints and to reform internal processes.

Infighting: In total, 18 member organizations have been involved in complaints filed by or against the Zionist Organization of America since April. last week’s decision was “a reflection that the Conference of Presidents itself and Jewish organizations don’t want to waste their time with cumbersome, process-driven, time-consuming complaints,” a Conference of Presidents insider involved in the committee process told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss. “Rather than spending dozens and dozens of hours on those complaints,” the insider said, the organization can “spend those hours convening the Jewish community, talking with diplomats and with governments, combating antisemitism.” The source added that there has been “a consensus building that the old rules and the old process wasn’t working, and it was being abused.”

The statement from the Conference included the following from their appointed mediator:

“The issues with which we are dealing – most notably, fairness, truth, and accuracy are largely in the eye of the beholder (particularly when each party believes the other party’s position will endanger Jewish lives or will betray fundamental Jewish ethical teachings). And it seems to me that the Conference, even if it were to have a permanent standing committee to adjudicate such conflicts, would only be able to reach conclusions that would lead to more, and possibly even more bitter, conflicts. People of good conscience looking at the same information can and do reach very different conclusions on issues they frequently regard as being central to the survival of the Jewish people or central to leading a morally worthy life. I therefore question if it is desirable or advisable for the Conference to expend its time and resources to judge disputes that are not intrinsically resolvable by the Conference.”

Read the full statement here.
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Webcast: Join the American Jewish Committee today at 3 p.m. ET for part two of "Around the World with AJC CEO David Harris"

TODAY 3pm ET: Jewish Dems host Amb. Dan Shapiro & Dana Stroul to discuss the UAE deal & Jewish vote.

Online Conference: The Israel Hedge Funds Association hosts its 8th annual conference today. Attend for free with code: IHFA20351.

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🕵️ Eye Spy: In The New Yorker, Laura Secor tells the story of Sirous Asgari, an Iranian scientist who was arrested by the FBI after a failed attempt to recruit him as a spy. “The way the agency conducted its investigation suggested a fishing expedition — and an attempt to push Asgari into becoming an informant.” [NewYorker]

🗳️ Swing Group: Politico’s Alex Thompson and Laura Barrón-López explore how Mormon voters abandoned the Republican Party over Trump in 2016 — and how today both campaigns are trying to win them over “to an extent neither party has done in a generation.” [Politico]

📱 Startup Nation: Forbes reporter David Jeans spotlights Doron Kempel, an ex-IDF commando who founded the tech startup Our Bond, which allows people to call private security instead of the police when they feel unsafe. “This is a new paradigm.” [Forbes]
Around the Web
Home Run: Hedge fund manager Steven Cohen clinched a $2.5 billion deal to buy the New York Mets, pending a vote of Major League Baseball owners.

☎️ Buyout: French billionaire Patrick Drahi has offered €2.5 billion to take full control of the Altice Europe telecoms company.

👷 Counter Offer: Disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is now the CEO of Brooklyn-based countertop company IceStone.

🎖️ Speaking Out: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the retired National Security Council aide fired for testifying in the House impeachment hearings, discussed his views on the current state of U.S.-Russia relations in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.

😊 Jewish Vote: A new online poll shows Trump gaining support among Jewish voters over his 2016 showing, receiving a slight boost from the Israel-UAE accord. The Republican Jewish Coalition took out a full-page ad in today’s New York Times praising Trump as a peacemaker.

📱 Viral Hate: A number of WhatsApp groups targeting Latino voters in Florida are spreading antisemitic statements about Biden and promoting QAnon conpiracy theories.

📰 Media Watch: The Miami Herald cut ties with a Spanish-language weekly ad supplement, LIBRE, after discovering “multiple instances of antisemitic and racist commentary.” 

🛫 Early Departure: U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad announced he is stepping down from his post after three years and will return to Iowa.

⛓️ Friendly Reminder: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador warned Israel not to protect former Mexican official Tomas Zeron, who is suspected of hiding out there to avoid arrest on charges of torture. 

🧑‍⚖️ Justice Served: An Israeli court sentenced Amiram Ben-Uliel to three life sentences for firebombing the Dawabsheh family home in the West Bank in 2015, killing three.

🚫 No Entry: Hundreds of Hasidic Jews blocked traffic and a border crossing between Belarus and Ukraine last night after being denied entry to Ukraine to visit Uman for Rosh Hashanah. 

🏋️ Sent Home: The JCC of Greater Rochester is laying off 296 of its staffers due to New York’s coronavirus-imposed restrictions on its fitness center. 

👎 Across the Pond: The Liberal Democrats suspended London mayoral candidate Geeta Sidhu-Robb after a 1997 clip of her antisemitic comments reemerged. 

🤴 VIP Club: Prince Charles has been named a patron of Jewish youth group the Jewish Lads' and Girls' Brigade (JLGB) as it celebrates its 125th anniversary.

🏳️‍🌈 Under Threat: Poland’s former presidential candidate compared his country’s treatment of the LGBTQ community to the way Jews were “dehumanized” before the Holocaust. 

🎙️ Record Deal: A 12-year-old viral rapper from Gaza landed an offer from record label EMPIRE. 

📺 Sneak Peek: Israel’s Yes Studios unveiled a preview yesterday of the third season of “Shtisel.” 

📽️ Silver Screen: An upcoming animated documentary, “The Klarsfelds,” tells the story of real-life Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld. 

🕯️ Remembering: Italian physician Amos Luzzatto, who also served as a leader of the Jewish community in Italy, died at 92. Oscar-winning songwriter Al Kasha died at 85. Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants died at age 66.
Israeli singer-songwriter Idan Amedi sings Adon Haselichot in Project Tzama 6, in a new video released this morning. 
Birthdays
Author and education correspondent at NPR, Anya Kamenetz turns 40...

Borscht Belt comedian known as "The Master of Malaprop," Norm Crosby turns 93... Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston, Diane Levin turns 73... NYC-based composer and multi-instrument musician, Ned Rothenberg turns 64... Film executive, she produced "The Hunger Games" film series, Nina Jacobson turns 55... Managing partner and chief technology officer at Differential Ventures in Philadelphia, and a kosher restaurateur, David Magerman turns 52... NPR's media correspondent and one of the hosts of NPR's "On Point," David Folkenflik turns 51... Actor, best known for his roles on "Sports Night" and "The Good Wife," Josh Charles turns 49... Comedian, writer and actress, Kira Soltanovich turns 47...

Vice president of leadership at the Anti-Defamation League, Deborah Leipzig turns 44... Chicago public school teacher, event organizer and fundraiser, Shayla Rosen turns 42... Data scientist, economist and author of the 2017 New York Times bestseller "Everybody Lies," Seth Stephens-Davidowitz turns 38... Model and Israeli beauty queen, Yael Markovich turns 36... Brand manager at GlaxoSmithKline, Jonah Raskas turns 35... Director of business operations at the Israel on Campus Coalition, Tomer Z. Elias turns 33... Chief strategy officer at PW Communications, Amanda Bresler turns 32... Reporter at The New York Times, Eliza Shapiro turns 30... Singer and actress, she was the 2009 winner of the Israeli version of A Star is Born, Roni Dalumi turns 29... Miss Israel 2012, Shani Hazan turns 28...
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