• New book details First Family dynamic

    Tuesday, June 19, 2018

    ON SHELVES TODAY — Vanity Fair journalist Emily Jane Fox’s new book titled Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family. A few notable highlights below… HISTORIC CANDLE LIGHTING AT THE WHITE HOUSE — On…

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  • Mayor Eric Garcetti talks multicultural backgrou...

    Friday, June 1, 2018

    PODCAST PLAYBACK — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti discussed his multicultural background and Jewish upbringing on the Jay’s 4 Questions podcast with Jay Sanderson, CEO of The Jewish…

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  • Dems accuse Trump admin of ‘effort to poli...

    Monday, May 28, 2018

    In a letter sent to U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Monday, and obtained by Jewish Insider, Democratic members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee criticized the…

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  • Interview with Sen. Dean Heller

    Wednesday, May 16, 2018

    Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) discussed the future of the Iran nuclear deal following U.S. withdrawal from the pact in an interview with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh while visiting Israel…

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  • After delay, State Dept. begins implementing Tay...

    Monday, May 7, 2018

    The State Department submitted its first report to Congress regarding the criteria Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will use to determine what U.S. assistance directly benefits the Palestinian…

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  • Yossi Klein Halevi on tragedy of Left-Right Jewi...

    Wednesday, May 2, 2018

    PODCAST PLAYBACK — In a conversation released this morning, Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his new book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor on The Atlantic Interview podcast…

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  • Charles Bronfman Prize to honor David Lubell, fo...

    Monday, April 30, 2018

    The Charles Bronfman Prize is expected to hold its annual award ceremony in New York on Monday, honoring David Lubell, founder of Welcoming America, for helping immigrants coming…

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  • Anti-Semitism in Trump’s America – &...

    Thursday, April 12, 2018

    New York Times journalist Jonathan Weisman recently ignited a firestorm of controversy for writing that the American-Jewish establishment is too preoccupied with Israel and ignores anti-Semitism at home….

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  • CoJo Travels to Israel

    Wednesday, April 11, 2018

    NEW YORK — NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, also known as CoJo, is heading a week-long mission to Israel next week to participate in Israel’s 70th-anniversary celebration. Other members…

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  • Sen Graham: Taylor Force Act now added to omnibu...

    Wednesday, March 21, 2018

     The Senate is expected to pass the Taylor Force Act as part of the $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill this week, according to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who introduced the legislation last year….

    Read More




Daily Kickoff: Is Bloomberg running? | New Jewish Agency Chairman: Isaac Herzog | Sara Netanyahu charged with fraud | Brian Roberts vs. Bob Iger

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2018 WATCH — Michael Bloomberg Will Spend $80 Million on the Midterms. His Goal: Flip the House — by Alex Burns: “Mr. Bloomberg… has approved a plan to pour at least $80 million into the 2018 election, with the bulk of that money going to support Democratic congressional candidates, advisers to Mr. Bloomberg said… After moving freely between elite circles in both parties for years, Mr. Bloomberg is now poised to become one of the Democrats’ most important benefactors.”

“His spending on House campaigns appears likely to exceed the involvement of donors like Sheldon Adelson, the Republican casino billionaire who recently donated $30 million to a “super PAC” aligned with Speaker Paul D. Ryan… Bloomberg’s 2018 effort is to be overseen by Howard Wolfson, a close adviser who is a former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.”

“Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, a centrist Democrat who recently hosted Mr. Bloomberg at an event on Capitol Hill, said the former mayor could be most helpful in the “purple-ish” areas where Democrats hope to gain the most ground… “From my perspective, I want more pro-business, moderate Democrats in Congress next year.”

FIRST JEWISH POTUS? “In a sign of Mr. Bloomberg’s deep alienation from the Republican Party, he has recently told associates that if he were to run for president in 2020, he would likely do so as a Democrat… It is unclear whether Mr. Bloomberg, who would be 78 on Election Day in 2020, is actively contemplating another presidential campaign or simply leaving the door open to the possibility.” [NYTimes]

— Is Bloomberg making a big step to run for president as a Democrat? — by James Pindell: “I have no doubt that the mayor wants to see a check on the excesses of Trump,” said David Axelrod, former chief strategist to President Obama. “But if Bloomberg, who was a Democrat once, were to announce his full reentry into the party prior to a run, this would be one good way to do it.” [BostonGlobe]

Michael Cohen resigns from RNC committee post, sources say — by Eliana Larramendia and Zunaira Zaki: “In his resignation letter to Ronna McDaniel, the RNC chair, Cohen cited the ongoing special counsel investigation as one reason for his departure…Cohen also criticized the administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the southern border, the first time he’s distanced himself from the president. “As the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy is heart wrenching,” Cohen wrote.” [ABCNews

RJC AD BUY — The Republican Jewish Coalition announced yesterday its first independent expenditure of the 2018 election cycle — a $530,000 ad buy to defend Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s seat in Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District. The 30-second ad highlights the first-term incumbent’s Democratic challenger Scott Wallace’s support of the BDS movement as head of the Wallace Global Fund.

GOP Senate nominee Corey Stewart endorsed Paul Nehlen months after he shared white nationalist content — by Andrew Kaczynski: “In a video obtained by CNN’s KFile, Nehlen and Stewart can be seen together at an event at the Trump Hotel in Washington, DC… on November 2, 2017… “He’s going to do great work for us in the Senate,” Nehlen says of Stewart in the video. “He’s going to do great work for us in the Senate. I’m thrilled about Corey. Yeah. Thrilled about Corey running.” Stewart, responding to Ruby, says he hopes Nehlen is elected and praises him as a “real conservative.” … The timing of the endorsement undercuts his current explanation that he had only praised Nehlen prior to him making “bigoted” statements.” [CNN]

Memoir by father of Florida state attorney candidate raised as campaign issue — by Michael Braun: “Standing on the steps of the old Lee County Courthouse (in Florida) on Wednesday, attorney Chris Crowley pitched a challenge to Chief Assistant State Attorney Amira Fox about a 10-year-old book written by her father recounting his life growing up in Palestinian territories. “I’m very concerned about my opponent,” Crowley said, “having a radical anti-Semitic, anti-Israel book dedicated to her.”” [NewsPress]

AT THE UN — Allies Disappointed by ‘Big Bang’ of US Walkout From UN Body — by Jamey Keaten: “The U.N.’s Human Rights Council resumed work Wednesday after a U.S. pullout that one Western diplomat called a “Big Bang” for the Geneva body, as Russia blasted the move by the Trump administration and key allies expressed disappointment… Defending the move, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday “we don’t need advice by the U.N. or other international bodies on how to govern ourselves.” Bolton told Fox News the decision was made by President Donald Trump weeks ago.” [AP

Haley Blames Watchdog Groups for U.S. Withdrawal From U.N. Rights Council — by Gardiner Harris: “In a scathing letter, Nikki R. Haley… criticized [human rights watchdog] organizations for opposing her failed push last month for a General Assembly vote on changes to the council.” [NYTimes]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Israeli officials concerned by U.S. pullout from human rights council — by Barak Ravid: “Senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials tell me the timing of the U.S. withdrawal is problematic because it comes a few months before current UN human rights commissioner Prince Zaid Bin Raad ends his term. They hoped the U.S. would at least stay… to ensure the person appointed for the job is more balanced. The Israeli officials say there are at least two big anti-Israeli initiatives which will be much harder to block or deal with now that the U.S. has left the council: The publication of the database or “Black list” of Israeli and international companies which operate in the Jewish settlements… and the Golan Heights… [and] the formation of a commission of inquiry on the violent clashes on the border between Israel and Gaza.” [Axios]

Former UN Ambassador Susan Rice tweeted the Axios story, adding: “No sh*t, guys.”

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — U.S. close to releasing Mideast peace proposal that Palestinian leadership may immediately reject — by Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and Loveday Morris: “The proposal is likely to be released within weeks, with the aim of beginning negotiations between the parties, perhaps as early as this summer, diplomats and other officials said… “If [Mahmoud Abbas] doesn’t give it a read… well shame on him,” a senior Trump administration official said. “How does that help the Palestinian people?” The exact timing of a release is not set… “We have one shot, right? We want to get it right.” [WashPost

Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt met with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh yesterday to discuss humanitarian aid to Gaza, and “the Trump Administration’s efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” according to the White House. The visit came a day after Kushner and Greenblatt met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman. The U.S. negotiation team will met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and visit Qatar today before heading to Israel for the weekend.

Ghaith al-Omari, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute, discussed the importance of Kushner’s visit to Jordan in an interview with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh: “King Abdullah is probably the only leader who has good relations with all three main actors: Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S., and as such is seen by the U.S. Administration as a key player. Yet, in recent months there has been some worry in Jordan that it is being crowded out of its traditional role in the peace process. The visit by Kushner serves the dual purpose of consulting with King Abdullah and assuring him of the centrality of Jordan’s role. Nonetheless, the Kushner-Greenblatt trip is said to be focused more on Gaza stabilization than a peace deal, and Jordan’s main role is to bring Abbas to the table. Jordan is the only country that can do that. But given Jordan’s other preoccupationsthese days, I doubt they are overly eager to expend political capital on applying pressure on Abbas.”

Al-Omari on the Abdullah-Bibi meeting in Amman on Monday: “The Abdullah-Bibi relationship got tense after the Embassy and Al-Aqsa incidentslast year. The visit by Bibi was important to clear the air. But I think it is a step too far to say they are coordinating on a peace plan, simply because as of yet this plan has not been revealed, and the two countries have opposing views on some key issues (and similar views and interests on others). Instead, Bibi’s visit focused on other issues, many of which aimed at improving Jordan stability (red-dead canal, West Bank trade).”

Kushner’s ties to Israeli firms at issue as he visits region on peace mission — by Michael Kranish: “The diplomatic stakes for Kushner are extraordinarily high as he prepares to arrive in Israel on Friday, seeking to fulfill a challenge made by his father-in-law, President Trump, who said last year that if Kushner “can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.” For Kushner, the trip could be a reputation maker or breaker… Aaron David Miller… said Kushner’s Israeli ties make his peace mission even more challenging because of perceptions of bias. In the past, he said, he and some others on the U.S. negotiating team were accused of favoring Israel’s position because they were Jewish, but that “doesn’t even begin to match the pro-Israeli bias” of Kushner.” [WashPost]

ON THE GROUND — ‘Israel Might Have No Choice but to Launch a Large-scale Military Operation in Gaza,’ Minister Says — by Yaniv Kubovich: “Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Thursday that Israel might be forced to launch a “large-scale military operation” in the Gaza Strip.”[Haaretz]

Will Gaza kites lead to war with Israel? — Shlomi Eldar: “A Hamas source… told Al-Monitor that the leadership was surprised by the kites’ effectiveness… People are getting tired of the demonstrations, sensing that they have served their purpose and that now it is the turn of the kites. That is why for now, Hamas will only turn out limited numbers of protesters, while letting the young people “drive the Israelis crazy with fire,” said the source.” [Al-Monitor] • Why Palestinians risk their lives to protest near Gaza-Israel fence[NBCNews]

Jason Greenblatt tweets“Hamas continues to fail the Palestinians of Gaza – arson kites & balloons & many mortar & rocket attacks directed against Israelis. How can the international community help when murderous Hamas leaders continue to squander the resources of Gaza? The people deserve better. And now, Hamas & the PA, who have been fighting one another for over a decade, are each cynically claiming that the US is trying to divide Gaza and the West Bank, instead of acknowledging that we are trying to help the Palestinians in Gaza. What hypocrisy.”

REPORT — Netanyahu to extend Ambassador Ron Dermer’s term in D.C. — by Barak Ravid: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided, in an unorthodox move, to extend the term of Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer by another year… In March last year, Netanyahu passed a decision in the cabinet to extend Dermer’s term from four to five years… On Sunday, Netanyahu will pass another decision in the cabinet. The draft decision copy… says that “Special circumstances on the world stage in general and especially in the U.S.-Israeli relationship” call for extending Dermer’s term.” [AxiosNews10]

Isaac Herzog to head Jewish Agency despite Netanyahu’s objection — by Amir Alon and Itamar Eichner: “Opposition leader Isaac Herzog was selected Thursday as the next chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The Jewish Agency’s search committee will present its decision on Sunday to the organization’s board of governors and recommend that Herzog serve in the position for four years… Following the committee’s decision, Netanyahu decided to cancel a meeting of the coordination committee between the government, the Jewish Agency and the WZO, which was scheduled for Monday.” [Ynet]

— Herzog will assume his new position on August 1st, He is expected to quit the Knesset and step down as Opposition Leader by the end of July. Labor Leader Avi Gabbay, who is not a Knesset Member, will select a new leader of the opposition.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Sara Netanyahu Charged With Fraud for Ordering $100k Worth of Meals From Gourmet Chefs — by Revital Hovel: “Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was indicted on Thursday for alleged systematic fraud involving hundreds of thousands of shekels in connection with meal expenses incurred at the Prime Minister’s Residence.” [Haaretz]

Although the prime minister is not implicated in this case, the charges against his wife could have far-reaching consequences for [Netanyahu’s] political standing and appear likely to damage his public image.” [WashPost]

DRIVING THE CONVO — Ivanka Trump stayed silent for days as border crisis mounted — by Catherine Lucey and Jonathan Lemire: “President Donald Trump confided that his daughter urged him to find a solution. But despite days of heart-wrenching images of children being pulled from their immigrant parents, [Ivanka] stayed publicly quiet until Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order designed to keep families together… It wasn’t the first time that Ivanka Trump, as well as her husband… Jared Kushner, had tried to fly under the radar during crisis and tumult in her father’s administration. Kushner has been in the Middle East working on the administration’s peace plan… And Ivanka Trump was in California this week.” [AP]

Here’s What Ivanka Trump’s Rabbi Thinks About Families Being Separated at the Border — by Nicole Goodkind: “[Rabbi Levi] Shemtov, who serves as the spiritual leader of TheSHUL, where Ivanka Trump regularly attends services with her husband and children, says that a solution to the problem will require compromise. “One thing we’ve seen is that everybody yelling at each other is not the solution,” he said. “Perhaps if each of the sides could bring a few people together and find a resolution it would be good not only for the people directly affected but for the nation generally.” … Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, who oversaw Ivanka Trump’s conversion, declined to comment on the situation.”[Newsweek

Trump aide Stephen Miller, meet your great-grandfather, who flunked his naturalization test — by Lisa Belkin: “A photo of Nison (aka Max) Miller stares out from the screen, sullen and stern, in faded black and white. “Order of Court Denying Petition” is the title of the government form dated “14th November 1932,” to which it is attached, the one in which Miller is applying for naturalization as an American citizen. And beneath the photo, the reason given for his denial: Ignorance. Nison Miller is the great-grandfather of White House adviser Stephen Miller… “The point isn’t to play ‘gotcha,’” says Renee Stern Steinig, a former president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island, who first found the Miller naturalization application last summer…” [YahooNews]

** Good Thursday 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: CBS Battle With Shari Redstone Moves Forward; Judge Combos Suits, Declines Stay [Deadline] • Tech Entrepreneur Makes Israel’s First Real Estate Purchase With Bitcoin [Haaretz] • Ira Rennert, Arnold & Porter Head Toward Settlement in $214M Malpractice Case[AmericanLawyer] • Israeli Consulting Firm Sues Hadassah For $20M Over Missing Compensation [Forward• Ashkenazy buys AMC theater for $53M[TheRealDeal• Starwood sells apartment complex in Pompano to Harbor Group International for $55M [TheRealDeal]

SPOTLIGHT — Brian Roberts and Bob Iger Go Head-to-Head in the Battle for Fox — by Cynthia Littleton: “Bob Iger and Brian Roberts are two very different people and leaders, with a history of prickly relations, who want the same thing: spoils of Rupert Murdoch’s empire… The battle between Disney and Comcast has captivated the industry because it’s a rare public brawl over a marquee name — the most high-profile Hollywood M&A tussle since Sumner Redstone and Barry Diller went at it over Paramount Pictures in 1993.”

“Those who know Iger say that the motivating reason behind his agreement to extend his contract through the end of 2021 was that he was determined to oversee the Fox acquisition and position Disney for the next century. He knows the Fox deal would be part of his legacy as his retirement looms… Although he’s out on a limb after selling shareholders and investors on the merits of the 21st Century Fox assets, sources who know Iger say he’s not likely to wage a long public fight… Roberts, on the other hand, has more room to maneuver in the bidding so long as Wall Street more or less agrees.” [Variety] • Bob Iger: Disney Has ‘Much Better’ Chance of Closing Fox Deal Than Comcast [Variety]

MOT STEREOTYPE? The Variety cover is an illustration of Iger and Roberts facing off with aquiline noses created by Tim O’Brien  

PAST HISTORY — by Edmund Lee: “The bad blood between Disney and Comcast goes back to at least 2004, when Comcast tried to swallow Disney whole. The Disney board fought off that attempt, but Mr. Iger and his top lieutenants have not forgotten it. And Comcast apparently does not have the fondest feelings for Disney: The Jurassic Park rides at the company’s Universal theme parks include Disney’s famous mouse-ears hat floating in the water next to a raft that a dinosaur has destroyed.” [DealBook]

Gary Cohn Is Searching for His Third Act — by William Cohan: “After departing the administration in March, Cohn has split time between his apartment on the Upper East Side and his house in the Hamptons, perhaps quietly pondering his options among his pals and advisers. In April, someone familiar with his thinking suggested that Cohn might entertain becoming the C.E.O. of a media or technology company, or start his own private-equity or money-management firm… Cohn appeared to be pondering less traditional opportunities, too. Anthony Scaramucci, his former White House colleague, told me that Cohn had recently said he was even thinking about doing something in “crypto.”” [VanityFair]

Paul Simon will hold his farewell concert in Queens — by Rachel DeSantis: “Paul Simon’s final performance on his Farewell Tour will be a homecoming in Queens. The singer will be homeward bound Sept. 22 to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, it was announced Wednesday, wrapping up an international tour that kicked off in May. The concert’s setlist will cover the entirety of his legendary career… All of Simon’s personal net proceeds will be donated to a previously selected cause to be announced at a later date.”[NYDailyNews]

SPORTS BLINK — Abramovich helps sick Israeli children attend World Cup: “Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich has donated a six-figure sum to the Israeli charity “Fulfilling Dreams,” which together with other donations, has allowed 30 seriously ill Israeli children to attend the World Cup in Russia, CNN reports… Abramovich was made aware of the charity by his close friend, the former Chelsea manager Avram Grant.” [GlobesCNN]

England fans filmed performing Nazi salutes and singing anti-Semitic songs in World Cup 2018 bar in Russia — by Aaron Flanagan: “A group of England fans have been filmed performing Nazi salutes and singing anti-Semitic songs in a bar in Russia. The video features a group of men in Volgograd, the city where England played Tunisia in the World Cup on Monday night, raising their arms and shouting ‘sieg-heil’… “We strongly condemn the actions of the people in this video,” the FA said in a statement.”[Mirror]

BIRTHDAYS: Former member of the US House of Representatives (1993-1995), mother-in-law of Chelsea Clinton, Marjorie Margolies (formerly known as Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky) turns 76… Institutional investment banker in NYC and Greenwich, Connecticut, he is a former US Ambassador to El Salvador (2007-2009), Charles L. Glazer turns 75… British businessman, co-founder with his brother Charles of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi which became the largest in the world, appointed to the House of Lords in 1996, Baron Maurice Saatchi turns 72… UK cabinet minister in both the Thatcher and Major governments, Sir Malcolm Leslie Rifkind turns 72… Creditors rights’ attorney at Chicago-area Blitt & Gaines, David Stephen Miller turns 68… Senior counselor at The Reis Group, Peter Perl turns 68… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party since 2013, he was the head of Jerusalem branch of the Israel Police (2000-2003) and then an attache at the Israeli embassy in Washington, Mickey Levy turns 67… CEO of Amir Development in Beverly Hills, Keenan Wolens turns 60 (h/t Orna Wolens)…

Washington Institute fellow and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, David Makovsky turns 58… Former general manager of Bloomberg Politics, Tanya Rebecca Singer turns 45… Former Trump aide, hired and fired three times, Sam Nunberg turns 37… Born in Melbourne, Australia, now living in San Francisco, co-founder and CEO of Kaggle, a data science platform acquired by Google in March 2017, Anthony Goldbloom tuns 35… Manager of Originals Documentary Publicity at Netflix, she was previously a communications officer at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jacqueline (Jackie) Berkowitz turns 34… Digital editor at the Washington Examiner, she was previously the Washington bureau chief at The Blaze and was a reporter for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Madeleine Morgenstern (h/ts Playbook)… Director of communications and marketing at the New York Community Trust, he is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, David L. Marcus… Susan Gutman… Daniel Padilla




Daily Kickoff: Mort Klein defends Qatar trip after report of payments | Saban’s email to Senators who signed Bernie’s letter | Israeli Couscous in NYC

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REPORT: Mike Huckabee Praised Qatar Without Revealing He Was Paid $50,000 by Qatar — by Dan Friedman: On Friday, Joseph Allaham, a former owner of kosher steakhouses in New York, retroactively registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for Qatar. In the paperwork… Allaham noted that he had paid $50,000 on November 23, 2017, to Blue Diamond Horizons, a Florida corporation run by [Mike] Huckabee… Huckabee was an expensive get for Qatar. His trip cost more than the $50,000 payment he received from Allaham.”

“Dr. Joseph Frager, a gastroenterologist and pro-Israel activist who supported Huckabee’s 2016 presidential bid, last month also registered as a foreign agent for Qatar, and he reported that he was paid $50,000 by Muzin’s firm for Qatar-related work. Frager told Mother Jones that the fee was in part for helping facilitate Huckabee’s January visit… And for its $50,000, the Qatari government got a positive tweet out of him.”

“Allaham reported that his work for Qatar including making a $100,000 donation in October to Our Soldiers Speak, a New York-based charity that organizes trips by officers in the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli National Police to speak on college campuses in other countries… The contribution came on October 30, a few days before the group’s annual gala, where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, at the time the CIA director, was the keynote speaker.”

“Allaham also made two $50,000 contributions to [Mort] Klein’s group, the Zionist Organization of America. The first was on November 2, shortly before the group’s annual dinner. The second came on January 23, a few weeks after Klein visited Doha.” [MotherJones]

— Flashback to Feb 26, 2018: “ZOA and Morton Klein have no potential financial motive or ulterior purpose here. ZOA and Mr. Klein’s preparation time and effort, and the time Mr. Klein spent on his exhausting 13 hour trip each way to and from Qatar, cost us staff money.” [Haaretz

Mort Klein told us by phone this morning… “We are now looking into it thoroughly. In the next 24 to 48 hours, if we determine that this money clearly came from Qatar, we will return the money immediately. Any money that the ZOA has received for the past 25 years has come from private individuals, never from any country. To this minute, my complete understanding was that it came from a private individual. If I thought that any money came from Qatar, I would never have accepted it.”

“I assumed this was a wealthy businessman (Joseph Allaham) who was giving ZOA a check. I’ve had many wealthy business people who have given me 100k and plus. That happens all the time. And I knew that Allaham brought Malcolm Hoenlein, Alan Dershowitz and Mike Huckabee to Qatar. In my eyes this made him look like a legitimate individual. To me, them going, koshered the trip. I never did a thing for Qatar. Whatever money I got — whether it is from Qatar or not — I never did anything for them. I never wrote an article praising them, I never lobbied for them.”

“My whole trip was wall-to-wall meetings with officials from Qatar. Al Jazeera was going to release a four part series called The Israel Lobby, which would have increased anti-Semitism in America and hatred towards Israel. That was a horrible documentary, and I urged them to kill this. And because of my work it never aired. This was a big achievement of my going to Qatar. It’s not like I went there and went to the beach… Qatar asked me a month ago to come back. They wanted to set up meetings with top officials at Al Jazeera, but I rejected this because too many people thought that I shouldn’t have gone to Qatar in the first place.”

HEADLINE DEPT: “Saudi Moves Forward With Plan to Turn Qatar Into Island” [Bloomberg]

DRIVING THE CONVO — As was previously anticipated, the U.S. announced its withdrawal yesterday from the U.N. Human Rights Council. “For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias,” Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said in a joint appearance with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department on Tuesday. “The council’s continued and well-documented bias against Israel is unconscionable. Since its creation, the council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than against the rest of the world combined,” Pompeo added.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the U.S. move as a “courageous decision against the hypocrisy and the lies” of “a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organization that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights.”

REACTION — Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized the move in a statement: “By withdrawing from the council, we lose our leverage and allow the council’s bad actors to follow their worst impulses unchecked — including running roughshod over Israel.”

Elliott Abrams, a former Republican diplomat and now a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the Human Rights Council’s bias against Israel was too much to ignore. “There is always an argument for staying, which is that the United States will be in a better position to help defend Israel,” Mr. Abrams said. “But this council is hopelessly compromised, so leaving is the right choice.” [NYTimes]

Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, emails us… “The UN Human Rights Council was founded on the basis of noble ideals but in recent decades it evolved into a body that violated the most important legal principle for any legal body: equality before the law. It discriminated against the State of Israel and avoided criticism of states engaging in crimes against humanity. America had no veto power there to halt this deterioration. I will never forget its sponsorship of the Goldstone Report alleging that the IDF deliberately killed Palestinian civilians. Goldstone, whom I debated, later renounced this modern blood libel, but it undoubtedly contributed to new anti-Semitic outbursts in the world community.”

HOW IT PLAYED: “The announcement comes just a day after the U.N.’s top human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, criticized the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that has resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their parents at the border.” [NBCBloomberg]

WHAT’S NEXT? “The council is scheduled to discuss Israel and the Palestinian territories on July 2, according to its agenda.” [Bloomberg]

MEANWHILE — Dozens of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, which quickly retaliates — by Noga Tarnopolsky: “Sirens rang out throughout the night in southern Israel early Wednesday as 45 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, Israeli authorities said. In response, the Israeli military struck the strip, aiming at 25 targets it said were associated with Hamas, the militia that governs the Palestinian territory.” [LATimes]

“Democratic Megadonor Haim Saban Attacks Senators for Urging Humanitarian Aid to Gaza Strip” — by Alex Emmons: “Saban emailedthe senators, some at their personal addresses, to directly express his displeasure with a letter organized last month by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt… calling for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “act urgently in order to help relieve the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.”… “Senators, for you to listen to Senator Sanders and accuse Israel of being the main culprit is outrageous, misinformed, offensive and shows a lack of understanding of the region’s basic fundamentals,” Saban wrote. “Do your homework, unless you have chosen to blindly follow Senator Sanders’ ill advised, misinformed, simplistic, and ignorant lead.” [TheIntercept]

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST — Jordan’s king tells Kushner: Mideast peace requires two state solution — by Barak Ravid: “According to a statement from the Jordanian royal court, King Abdullah told [Jared] Kushner and [Jason] Greenblatt… the peace talks must be re-launched between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of the 2 state solution and the Arab peace initiative.” [Axios]

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro tells us… “Kushner and Greenblatt’s visits to the Arab states could be largely about drumming up support for a major initiative to address the humanitarian disaster in Gaza while maintaining pressure on Hamas. That would make sense. But if they were to lay the groundwork for the release of a peace plan intended to bring the parties to the table, that faces much steeper odds.”

“With the United States unable to engage directly with the Palestinians after the Jerusalem decision, and with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders facing domestic political constraints that rule out compromise, any U.S. plan is likely to be dead on arrival with one or both sides. The idea that the Arab states could rescue a plan presented in such unfavorable circumstances, or would stick their necks out to try if it looks unacceptable to the Palestinians, seems far-fetched.”

PLO Executive Committee member Jibril Rajoub to i24News: “[Kushner] can come and leave, but believe me nothing will change on the ground. Kushner, Mushner has to recharge the batteries and recognize the reality that we are under occupation.” [Video]

THE TRUMP EFFECT — Settler housing construction drops to six-year low under Trump — by Tovah Lazaroff: “From January to March of this year, ground was broken on only 250 settler housing starts, according to data released Tuesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics. It’s the lowest recorded number in any single quarter since 2012…” [JPost

Religious Leaders Condemn Family Separations—but Not Necessarily Trump — by Emma Green: “Many of the groups that have been most vocal against the border policy are already outspoken Trump skeptics. Among the ranks of Trump’s closest allies… the condemnation has been more tempered… For some groups, the choice to speak out is a major shift: The Orthodox Union, which represents many Modern Orthodox Jewish congregations in the U.S., honored Sessions as the keynote speaker at its annual conference last week. Shortly after, the president of the group, Moishe Bane, released a statement opposing the “zero-tolerance policy,” … On the whole, though, the news… has only served to underscore the existing postures of conservative religious groups. Those who tend to prefer condemning Trump publicly have done so. Those who prefer working directly with the administration have either kept their silence or spoken with caution.” [TheAtlantic]

Ivanka encouraged Trump to act to stop separations, made calls to lawmakers — by Betsy Klein, Sunlen Serfaty and Tal Kopan: “Ivanka Trump met with her father, President Donald Trump, on Tuesday to discuss the images of immigrant families being separated at the US-Mexico border, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told CNN. “She offered the President her support and she said she would talk to any member of Congress to help find a legislative solution to the issue,” Gidley said.” [CNN]

— Trump holds forth during private dinner with supporters — by Jonathan Swan: “Trump, letting loose, discussing his decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem: “They told me it’d cost $1 billion” to build an embassy in Jerusalem. “I’m about to sign it — Donald J. — then said: ‘This is way too expensive; not a Trump deal.’ I call David Friedman [his ambassador to Israel]. He says, … ‘I can do it for $180,000.’ I said, ‘David’ — I’ve never said this — ‘you’re making me look cheap. Get the good marble! Spend $400,000.'”[Axios

Michael Cohen Wants Trump to Pay His Legal Fees — by Rebecca Ballhaus and Rebecca Davis O’Brien: “Cohen has frequently told associates in recent months he is frustrated that the president hasn’t offered to pay his legal fees, which he has said are ‘bankrupting’ him… He has said he feels that Mr. Trump owes him after his years of loyalty to the former real-estate developer.” [WSJ]

SPOTTED: Eric Trump at the UJA Real Estate Division’s annual luncheon at Cipriani on 42nd. The event honored Vornado’s David Greenbaum who was introduced by Steven Roth.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Police suspect Hollywood mogul was go-between for PM, newspaper chief — report: “Police investigators reportedly have evidence that Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan… also acted as a middleman in a suspected illegal deal discussed by the prime minister and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes… that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in exchange for more favorable coverage from Yedioth… Police are trying to convince Milchan to come to Israel, either to be interrogated or to testify about the case.” [ToI]

** 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: Florida Officials Approve Plan to Build Largest U.S. Mall — American Dream Miami by the Ghermezian family [WSJ] • Marsha Soffer sues Ritz-Carlton, Miami Beach developer over delays [RealDeal]• Icahn Wins Majority on SandRidge Board [WSJ] • AT&T is getting ready to acquire all of Otter Media, the streaming video company it co-owns with Peter Chernin [Recode] • Is the Era of the Superstar Media Executive Over? [Variety• Alex Fenkell and Jordan Katzman’s SmileDirectClub has been growing like crazy [BusinessInsider]

STARTUP NATION — Israel now boasts 166 cybersecurity startups, including 16 that raised more than $50 million — by Chris O’Brien: “YL Ventures, an Israeli seed-focused venture fund, today released its first CyberMap… A quick scan of the dataset, which lists 166 startups, shows that 16 of those have each raised more than $50 million in venture capital and another 18 have raised more than $30 million.” [VentureBeat] • Netanyahu warns of cyber risks that can down fighter jets [Reuters]

How an Art Dealer Became an Up-and-Coming Painter — by Boris Kachka: “[Jon] Mesler’s “real office” is upstairs, a cluttered nook presided over by paintings of rabbis… Mesler was a landlord before he was an art dealer. While earning his M.F.A. at the San Francisco Art Institute, he put his subsidized loan into high-yield accounts, paid the principal back right after graduation and pocketed the interest. After striking out as a painter, he borrowed $30,000 from his mother and bought a building in Los Angeles’s Chinatown… One of his renters was David Kordansky, a serious-minded dealer whose gallery soon took off… I wonder to myself whether his midlife turnaround, so new and fragile, will really last. What happens when real critics chime in on his work, when the novelty of his art and his gallery wear off, when the busy season ends on Newtown Lane for the fifth or 10th time and winter sets in again? I ask Kordansky this a week later. “It’s the Jewish thing to worry about where he’ll be in 10 years,” he says.” [NYTimes

TRANSITION — The Institute of Politics and Public Service at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy has hired Martin Sweet as Director of its newly launched GU Politics Forum. Sweet served as Marco Rubio’s director of Jewish outreach in the 2016 presidential campaign and as a senior advisor in his Senate reelection campaign. [GeorgetownUniversity

Julia Ioffe, who has previously written for POLITICO magazine, HuffPost’s Highline, the New Yorker and New Republic and most recently worked at the Atlantic, is joining GQ as a correspondent. h/t Playbook

DESSERT — Lodge Bread Co. Expands With Kosher Hummus Spot Along Pico Boulevard — by Farley Elliott: “The group behind Culver City hit Lodge Bread Company is moving into Pico-Robertson next, offering up a Kosher hummus-focused restaurant called Hasiba… The 1,000 square foot space will seat a few dozen people across communal seats only, with room for a tiny patio up front and a hearth to bake off pita to order… Their Instagram feed is already clogged with blistery shots of puffy pita bread and creamy-looking, hummus.” [EaterLA

Couscous Bar Kish-Kash Opens Today in the West Village — by Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld: “Couscous is many things… and, at least according to chef and restaurateur Einat Admony, who opens today what she calls New York’s first couscous bar, a 21st-century business plan. The chef, who has made her name at restaurants like Balaboosta, Bar Bolonat, and Taïm by mining her multicultural Israeli heritage, is determined to indoctrinate New Yorkers weaned on Near East and other boxed brands into the airy, fluffy, altogether novel pleasures of hand-rolled couscous… At her new West Village restaurant Kish-Kash, named for the sieve used in its production, she takes a quick-serve approach to a notoriously time-consuming recipe.” [GrubStreet]

Natalie Portman hosts vegan after-party following factory farming exposé — by Ian Mohr: “Appropriately the after-party for Natalie Portman’s exposé on factory farming, “Eating Animals,” was a vegan affair. The Sundance Selects doc, narrated and produced by Portman and based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer, has been called by critics “a lesson in vegetarian fortitude,” “an effective piece of agitprop suffused with sadness” and “a philosophical examination of the potential for human kindness to trump our love of bacon.” [NYPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Weston, Florida resident Harold Kurte turns 89… Author of over 70 books including four series of children’s books, Dan Greenburg turns 82… Born in Baghdad, made aliyah in 1950, served as a member of Knesset for the Ratz party and then the Meretz party (1984-2009), he served as Minister of Industry and Trade (1999-2000), Ran Cohen turns 81… Detroit-based pawnbroker, reality TV star, author and speaker, Leslie “Les” Gold turns 68… Senior political editor at NBC News and adjunct professor at CUNY’s Baruch College, Gregg Birnbaum turns 58… Rabbi of Baltimore’s Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion, founding editor of Klal Perspectives and popular lecturer on Jewish law, thought and philosophy, Rabbi Moshe Hauer turns 53… Politico’s White House and Justice Department reporter, Josh Gerstein 48… Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro turns 45… Journalist and EMT in NYC, formerly media editor for Gawker and director of public relations for the Village Voice, Maggie Shnayerson turns 37… Jennifer Bernstein turns 33… Associate Executive Director at Hillel Montreal, Beverley Shimansky… Alan Schulman




Daily Kickoff: How U.S. Presidents pledge to protect Israel’s nuclear secret | Highlights from new book — Born Trump | Norman Pearlstine to LA Times

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ON SHELVES TODAY — Vanity Fair journalist Emily Jane Fox’s new book titled Born Trump: Inside America’s First FamilyA few notable highlights below…

HISTORIC CANDLE LIGHTING AT THE WHITE HOUSE — On Inauguration weekend, Ivanka Trump arranged with White House staff to have candlesticks waiting for her in the Lincoln bedroom. “Usually she would have brought her own, as she typically did for a weekend away, but she figured the White House must have suitable candelabras lying around. She was correct. The immediate family of five formed a semicircle around the White House’s candlesticks, and Ivanka struck a match to light the wicks… Ivanka covered her eyes and recited the blessing over the candles… It was the first time Shabbat has been welcomed this way in the history of the residence.” [Page 2]

FRIDAY NIGHT BALLS — “That evening, since it was Shabbat, the Secret Service had to work with the couple to develop a special security plan. Traditionally, those observing the Sabbath do not travel in cars… but that would have meant they would not be able to attend any of Friday’s balls or the events on the following day — which for a couple who wanted to be part of everything, was not an option. Walking was out of the question; their detail told them it was not safe, given the vitriol and the protests. So they asked special permission from their rabbi to break the rules of Shabbat, since it was a matter of safety, and what they argued was a once-in-a-lifetime familial opportunity.” [Page 16]

THE KUSHNER AND CHRISTIE FEUD — “The first conversation between Jared and [Chris] Christie about the transition role was not a walk in the park… Christie was skeptical. Just how past it could a guy who carried the wallet his dad made him while he was in prison really be? Christie himself had not totally put it behind him, particularly months later, long after Jared had a hand in firing him from his role, and reports of Jared’s meetings with Russian officials and involvement in the firing of FBI Director James Comey caught the attention of investigations in the Robert Mueller probe. Good thing I saved his father’s prison number, Christie would joke with friends.”

CHAPTER 7 IS TITLED ‘BASHERT’ — “It’s Bashert.” “They’re bashert.” “Bashert.” Their friends and colleagues and associates separately repeated the same Hebrew word when asked why Ivanka and Jared Kushner settle into one another. The world roughly translated into something being preordained, fated, inevitable, and in the case of a romantic match, a soul mate… They are blindly loyal to their families and hell-bent on expanding their empires.”

THE CONVERSION — “Ivanka agreed to convert, though she claimed that she didn’t have that far to go: “I’m a New Yorker. I’m in real estate. I’m as close to Jewish with an ‘i-s-h’ naturally as anyone can start off.” [Page 223]

VIEW FROM THE YESHIVA LEAGUE — “Some people in the Trump-Kushners’ community — KJ members, Ramaz parents, people who went to the modern Orthodox yeshiva school that Jared attended in Paramus, New Jersey – thought it was a BFD to have one of their own become a BFD. On Saturday mornings throughout the campaign, as the rabbis spoke or cantors chanted, congregants would whisper that it was somewhat of a comfort to have him in the candidate’s ear… Many agreed, however, that if they had their druthers, and it was up to them to choose a guy in their community who would be the one so close to and advising a U.S. presidential candidate, Jared would not have ranked high on their list.”

“In terms of his relationship with Jewish community leaders beyond his own New York, New Jersey bubble, many influential members corresponded with Kushner often, voicing their concerns and urging him to push certain policy positions… Jewish organizations could tell that Kushner was overwhelmed and overworked… so Jared frequently relied on feedback and input from these organizations, though it was clear he barely had time to do so. “He’d reply to emails with letters instead of words, always very short, almost like he was running around on a Blackberry with one hand tied,” one Zionist organization leader recalled.” [Page 53]

ADAM ENTOUS’ LATEST — How Trump and Three Other U.S. Presidents Protected Israel’s Worst-Kept Secret: Its Nuclear Arsenal: “When a delegation of senior Israeli officials visited the Trump White House on February 13, 2017, they wanted to discuss… a secret letter concerning a subject the Israelis had promised the Americans never to discuss publicly—Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal… Only a select group of senior American officials, in three previous Administrations, knew of the letters and how Israeli leaders interpreted them as effectively an American pledge not to press the Jewish state to give up its nuclear weapons so long as it continued to face existential threats in the region. (American officials say the letters weren’t that explicit and fell short of constituting a binding commitment.)”

“When Trump’s aides moved into the White House, they didn’t find any copies of the previous letters left behind by their predecessors. The documents had been sent to the archives. The Israelis, however, had copies… So when Ambassador [Ron] Dermer came to the White House to talk to Michael Flynn about arranging for Trump to sign the letter, Trump’s aides were confused and, initially, said that they needed more time. U.S. officials said that the Israelis wanted to limit who could take part in discussions of the letter, citing the need for secrecy. The Americans pushed back. Afterward, senior White House officials huddled together and complained to each other that Dermer had acted as though he owned the White House…” [NewYorker]

DRIVING THE CONVO — Attorney General Jeff Sessions responds to Nazi comparisons: “Sessions on Monday defended the Trump administration’s practice of separating parents and children who cross the border illegally from comparisons to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany… “Well, it’s a real exaggeration. Of course in Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country,” Sessions said.” [TheHillHuffPost

HEARD YESTERDAY — CNN host Wolf Blitzer challenged former CIA Director Michael Hayden for comparing the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their families at the border to the Holocaust on CNN’s Situation Room: “You understand the controversy that any comparison to the Holocaust, yes, the kids were brought on the trains, to Birkenau which was at Auschwitz. I speak with some authority on this. My grandparents were murdered at Auschwitz. My dad survived, but two of his brothers and two of his sisters were killed. They were separated. They weren’t separated to go to some other facility. They were separated to die. They were killed. When you make the comparison to Auschwitz, that’s a powerful image.”

Hayden: “I fully understand, and if I offended anyone they have my deepest and most sincere apologies. But what I was trying to describe was that these things that we take for granted shouldn’t be taken for granted… I knew it would be controversial, but I felt a warning flare was necessary.” [Video

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz writes… “The image of a child being taken out of the arms of its mother cannot help but generate an emotional reaction… Some opponents of the policy compare it to the Holocaust, equating detention centers with concentration and death camps. Though well-intentioned, this comparison is a form of Holocaust denial, because it makes it seem that the Jews suffered no fate worse than those currently suffered by the children being temporarily removed from their parents.” [FoxNews

Dershowitz made a direct appeal to Trump on Fox & Friends: ‘I Implore You to Stop’ Migrant Policy Now [Mediaite]

John Podhoretz‏ tweets“Stop already with the Nazi and Hitler analogies. Really. Stop. What’s happening is its own kind of bad and you court discrediting the seriousness of your complaints about it by overstating things so tastelessly and wrongly.”

INBOX — Agudath Israel of America yesterday joined the over two dozen Jewish groups opposing the administration’s deportation policy: “Agudath Israel of America expresses its very deep concern and disappointment over the recently adopted policy of separating the members of families who have entered the United States illegally… As Jews, we find this practice particularly loathsome. It is a punishment that neither parents nor children should ever have to endure.”

The Outrage Over Family Separation Is Exactly What Stephen Miller Wants — by McKay Coppins: “A seasoned conservative troll, Miller told me during our interview that he has often found value in generating what he calls “constructive controversy—with the purpose of enlightenment.” This belief traces back to the snowflake-melting and lib-triggering of his youth. As a conservative teen growing up in Santa Monica, he wrote op-eds comparing his liberal classmates to terrorists and musing that Osama bin Laden would fit in at his high school. In college, he coordinated an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.” These efforts were not calibrated for persuasion; they were designed to agitate. And now that he’s in the White House, he is deploying similar tactics.”[TheAtlantic]

TODAY ON THE HILL — House Democrats Are Unveiling a Bill to Keep Immigrant Families Together — by Alana Abramson: “Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is introducing the Keep Families Together Act on Tuesday, the lower chamber’s companion to a bill Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced in the Senate… Like the version in the Senate, the bill calls for prohibiting Department of Homeland Security Officials from separating children from their parents… But it goes further than the Senate bill by explicitly calling for a delay in prosecution for immigrants seeking asylum.” [Time

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST — Netanyahu and King Abdullah II meet to discuss regional peace — by Ari Rabinovitch: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman on Monday to discuss ways to advance regional peace, Netanyahu’s office said in a statement. The two leaders “discussed regional developments and advancing the peace process and bilateral relations,” the statement said.” [Reuters] • “The last public meeting between the two heads of state took place in November 2014.” [Haaretz]

Jason Greenblatt‏ tweets“Happy to see King Abdullah and Prime Minister Netanyahu resuming meetings with regard to key issues. Very important to both countries and to the entire region.”

Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt began their five-stop Middle East tour with a direct DC to Amman flight on a Boeing C-40C Clipper — via Avi Scharf‏.

White House readout of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt’s meeting with the King of Jordan: “Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt returned to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and met today with King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein. Building on previous conversations, they discussed increasing cooperation between the United States and Jordan, regional issues, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and the Trump Administration’s efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Abbas Rejects Trump’s Plan for Gaza: An Attempt to Divide Palestinians — by Jack Khoury and Amir Tibon: “The statement issued by Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, accused the U.S. administration of working with Israel to separate Gaza from the West Bank under the guise of “humanitarian aid or rehabilitation,” with the goal of destroying the Palestinian battle to… establish a Palestinian state.” [Haaretz

ON THE GROUND — Gazans challenge Israel’s high-tech defenses with flaming kites — by Ruth Eglash: “Murad, a 27-year-old Gazan, said the idea of using kites came “after seeing children playing with them… Young people cannot find work here, and now their work is making kites to burn land inside Israel.” [WashPost

— “The fires have done an estimated $2 million in damage… On Monday, CNN witnessed charred fields, blackened trees and remnants of kites in Kissufim, on the Israeli side of the fence with Gaza. Firefighters there said they are battling between 20 to 30 blazes a day.” [CNN

Israel behind airstrike in Syria, US official says — by Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Oren Liebermann: “An airstrike close to the Iraq-Syria border Sunday was carried out by Israel, and not by the US or the coalition fighting ISIS, a US official tells CNN… The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the strike, per its normal policy… Sunday’s strike was very different from those normally attributed to Israel. Generally, strikes by Israel occur in the western region of Syria… and the target — pro-regime forces — differs from what would be Israel’s usual mark, namely Iranian military positions.” [CNN] • Syria strike blamed on Israel kills 22 Iraqi fighters[YahooNews

Israel’s three-way deal on Iran in Syria and Russia in the G-7 — by Ben Caspit: “Israel continues to tighten the rope on Syria, and at this stage, it looks like Israel won’t let go. It is taking advantage of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s head being wrapped up in the FIFA World Cup, with Russia playing host, and therefore wanting peace and quiet, which is what Israel and Trump’s administration are closely coordinating… In the background are persistent reports about a scheme involving Washington, Moscow and Israel. Accordingly, Trump demanded that the Europeans readmit Russia to the G-7 forum of highly industrialized nations, because the Russians had agreed in general to Israel’s request to distance Iran from its borders.” [Al-Monitor]

Jacob Nagel, a former National Security Advisor for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, writes… “Iran, Syria, and Israel’s Red Line: It is highly unlikely that the rumors are true that Israel and Russia (with Syria and even maybe U.S. assistance) agreed on a deal to move Iranian forces farther from Israel’s northern border in return for Israeli acceptance of Assad’s Syrian forces returning to the border. Israel’s firm and non-negotiable request is that Iranian forces will be entirely out of Syria, and for good.”[RealClearDefense

Dov Zakheim writes… “Trump’s Perilous Path: Trump’s unstinting support for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and policies… represents another potential flashpoint for more trouble in the Middle East. The president’s clear signal that his administration is not interested in entertaining Palestinian grievances may have few consequences in the short term, despite the ongoing weekly Gaza protests. Over time, however, it could prompt another far bloodier uprising by increasingly frustrated and desperate Palestinians that could force the Gulf Arabs to back away from their covert cooperation with Israel against a common Iranian threat.” [NationalInterest

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Qatar pushes back against Trump fundraiser’s hacking allegations — by Jenna McLaughlin: “In two new court filings in the Central District of California, attorneys for Qatar and its lobbyist Nicolas Muzin argue that [Eliot] Broidy is on a “fishing expedition” for information about sensitive government business to embarrass Qatar. The attorneys argue that Broidy hasn’t demonstrated sufficient evidence that Qatar orchestrated the hack and say that Qatar and its registered agents may not be subject to the California court’s jurisdiction… Attorneys for Muzin and his company Stonington Strategies… said on Monday in a second filing that Broidy is engaging in a “public relations stunt” with the aim of damaging Muzin’s reputation. Muzin’s attorneys also expressed frustration that his private phone records were leaked to the media.” [CNN]  

2018 WATCH — Jeffrey and Marlyn Katzenberg hosted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last night at the Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills. More than $4.5 million was raised for House Majority PAC, according to Politico Playbook. • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled in $3.1 million at a pair of fundraising events with Ivanka Trump. [Playbook

“Speaker Paul Ryan endorses Bryan Steil in race for his seat” by Mary Spicuzza: “House Speaker Paul Ryan has endorsed his former staffer, Bryan Steil, in the race for his congressional seat. Steil faces a Republican primary that includes controversial candidate Paul Nehlen and Nick Polce, an Army veteran from Lake Geneva. In February, Nehlen was booted from Twitter after he tweeted an image that replaced the image of Meghan Markle, then the biracial fiancée of Prince Harry, with a dark-skinned prehistoric Briton known as “Cheddar Man.” That was a month after he drew heavy criticism for posting phone numbers, email addresses and names of his critics, claiming most of them were Jewish.” [JournalSentinel]

** Good Tuesday 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: Veteran journalist Norman Pearlstine named executive editor of the Los Angeles Times [LATimes] • Kushners May Have to Give Up Ownership of Indebted NYC Office Tower [Bloomberg]  Ari Emanuel to Keynote VenuesNow Conference [HollywoodReporter]

Intel has paths around Trump’s China tariffs, analysts say — by Stephen Nellis: “Intel Corp, the world’s biggest chipmaker by revenue and a prominent U.S. manufacturer, could avoid the most severe effects of a new list of Chinese tariffs proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump by shifting its production among its facilities, analysts said Monday… Intel produces raw chips at six so-called wafer fabs, with three in the United States, one in Ireland, one in Israel and one in China.” [Reuters]

China Smells Opportunity in the Middle East’s Crisis — by Daniel Kliman and Abigail Grace: “In Israel, China has invested in ports and railways, and it has become a growing player in the Israeli high-tech sector. At a time when the United States and its allies in Europe, Australia, and Japan increasingly regard Chinese investment as a threat to their long-term innovation edge, Israel, without taking appropriate precautions, could become a backdoor for China to obtain the technology it needs to realize its ambitions to dominate the critical industries of the 21st century.” [ForeignPolicy]

George and Alex Soros write… “In the Balkans, a Chance to Stabilize Europe: The vast majority of the Balkan region’s population wants close links with the West, particularly European Union membership. That is true even in relatively pro-Russia Belgrade… A bold regional initiative to create a Balkan economic union modeled on the laws of the European Union could take advantage of the people’s pro-Western ambitions… Even an informal union would deliver tangible benefits to the estimated 18 million inhabitants of the region as well as Europe and the United States, and would ease the member states’ integration into the European Union.” [NYTimes]

Cyclists retrace Jewish child refugees’ journey to Britain — by Miriam Karout: “Almost 80 years after the first “Kindertransport” evacuations of Jewish children to safety in Britain, 42 people set off Sunday on a memorial bike ride that will retrace their journey from Berlin to London… Organized by the British-based World Jewish Relief group, the ride retraces the route of the trains. It’s expected to take the riders six days to get to London’s Liverpool Street station. Among the saved children was Paul Alexander. The only participant in the ride who was on a Kindertransport — “children’s transport” — he was joined by his 34-year-old son, Nadav, and 14-year-old grandson, Daniel. “This ride is for me a victory ride. It’s one of celebrating a good life,” he said.” [AP]

BIRTHDAYS: Former US Ambassador to the Netherlands (1978-1981) in the Carter administration, Geri M. Joseph turns 95… Binnie Stein turns 79… Attorney, deputy mayor of NYC (1982-1985), EVP of Cushman & Wakefield (2004-2010), commissioner of NY / NJ Port Authority since 2013, Kenneth Lipper turns 77… DC-based attorney and author, Allan Gersonturns 73… Senior Rabbi of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rabbi Bennett F. Miller turns 70… Medical and community liaison for Solevo Wellness in Western Pennsylvania, Harry E. Wenkertturns 62… President and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jay Sanderson turns 61… Inna N. Zalevsky turns 61… Overland Park, KS resident Kathi Shaivitz Rosenberg turns 59…

Director of communications for New York State Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz since 2012, Adrienne M. Knoll turns 58… Member of the executive committee of the World Jewish Congress (1991-1996) and EVP of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (2001-2008), Valery Engel, Ph.D. turns 57… Co–founder of Centerview Partners, Blair Wayne Effronturns 56… Singer-songwriter Paula Abdul turns 56… Member of Knesset for the Zionist Union party since 2015, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin turns 48… Executive director of Hillels in Philadelphia (including Haverford, Bryn Mawr and Arcadia), Tslil Shtulsaft turns 35… Founder of JSwipe, a Jewish dating app created in 2014, David Austin Yarus turns 32… Founder and executive director of Kahal: Your Jewish Home Abroad, which helps Jewish students studying abroad, Alex Jakubowski turns 26… Jessica Brown

Rand Paul aide reads Trump letter at Jewish wedding

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

President Donald Trump sent a personal letter congratulating a Jewish bride and groom on Tuesday. Shlomo Segal and Devorah Ganz were married last night at Ateres Chynka hall…

Kafe Knesset for December 18

Monday, December 18, 2017

Hate to say I told you so: Right-wing Twitter broke out in calls of “I told you so” this morning following the Politico story on Obama, Hezbollah and…

House committee advances Jordan MOU amidst rare Congressional critique of Amman

Friday, December 15, 2017

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed legislation that would re-authorize a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to strengthen U.S. defense ties with Jordan….

Lawmakers on Abbas’ cancellation of Pence meeting

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

WASHINGTON – After President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas informed the White House on Sunday that it would be canceling…

Kafe Knesset for December 6

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Jerusalem is holding its breath: Excitement is building ahead of the Presidential address on Jerusalem this evening, but the Israeli PM is waiting to see what exactly will…

Kafe Knesset for December 4

Monday, December 4, 2017

Embassy watch: While the PMO is still keeping its distance from the explosive Jerusalem Embassy move or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, some of Bibi’s senior ministers…