Daily Kickoff: Inside the White House’s approach towards the Taylor Force Act | Why was the ‘Jewish Nobel’ snatched from Ruth Bader Ginsburg?


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Ed note: Over the past few weeks, as Congress has worked on the Taylor Force Act legislation, there have been a series of conversations between the White House and Congress. We were not present for those discussions but this week a number of participants who were privy to the conversations have expressed differing views on what exemptions to the legislation were proposed, by whom and with what motives. Below are the various viewpoints of those who spoke with us.

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE IS SAYING — After Jewish Insider’s Aaron Magid reported on Monday, citing several Congressional sources, that White House advisor Jason Greenblatt urged Congress to include wastewater exemptions in the Taylor Force Act, senior White House official Victoria Coates pushed back and attempted to clarify the administration’s stance towards the legislation. Coates told the Free Beacon on Wednesday, “The Trump administration strongly supports the Taylor Force Act, and the White House has communicated that support to Congress and in public statements.” The former staffer for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) added, “Reports to the contrary, including that anyone at the White House tried to water this legislation down, are false.”

WHAT CAPITOL HILL SOURCES ARE SAYING — “If this administration really wanted this bill to be signed into law quickly, they would be using their muscle to tell the House to markup either the SFRC version or Senate Ops bill so we could clear it on hotline and the House could pass their bill and it could be at the President’s desk in a few weeks,” one well-informed Congressional aide told us earlier in the week.

On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed an updated version of the Taylor Force Act. The revised bill includes exemptions for specific US programs to the Palestinians including the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, childhood vaccines and wastewater projects. These carve outs would be targeted and limited to tangible initiatives. However, aides in two Congressional offices tell Jewish Insider that earlier this month senior White House official Victoria Coates recommended an additional exemption for programs that would promote regional cooperation.

“Victoria Coates asked for this regional cooperation language, which is ridiculous. That is the most undefined, wide expansive waiver exemption that you could possibly give the administration. It’s not even a national security exemption. Literally, it could be anything,” one of the staffers stressed. In the end, the House Foreign Affairs Committee did not include the regional cooperation exemption on Wednesday.

“The fact that the administration is weighing in to make changes, at this point after we have done all of the work on the Senate side, I just get the feeling that they (the White House) are just dragging their feet,” the Congressional source charged.

When asked for comment yesterday, White House spokesman Josh Raffel replied: “The White House strongly supports the Taylor Force Act, we have not lobbied to water it down and never asked for an exemption contingent on regional cooperation. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress on this issue. It is disappointing to continue to see such false and misleading information about our involvement with and support of the Taylor Force Act.”

Noah Pollak, a strong supporter of the Taylor Force Act, tells us: “The administration doesn’t oppose TFA in principle, but it does view its timing as inconvenient to the effort to restart negotiations. This White House, like past White Houses, wishes to pursue its foreign policy goals without interference from Congress. But every exemption that is added to the bill frees up money for the PA to spend on terrorism, and communicates to the Palestinians that the US doesn’t really mean it when we say terrorism is unacceptable. I believe the only morally and politically defensible position is zero exemptions.”

Last night, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce emailed us the following statement: “The administration shares our goal of stopping the Palestinian Authority’s abhorrent ‘pay to slay’ scheme that incentivizes terrorism. This bill, as approved by the committee, is a strong, effective measure that is capable of clearing the Senate and moving to the president’s desk. We appreciate the productive role the White House has played in this process, and look forward to seeing the Taylor Force bill on the House floor.”

DRIVING THE CONVO: “Israel is nervous about the Syria ceasefire deal” by Barak Ravid: “Israeli leaders are worried about the ceasefire deal in southern Syria signed last weekend between the U.S., Russia and Jordan. That’s because the deal will allow Iranian-backed forces to position themselves as close as 3.5 miles from the Israeli border in the Golan Heights. But they also think it sends an alarming signal about the Trump administration’s policies. Israeli officials see the deal as a sign that the Trump administration is too eager to pull out of the Middle East, and not willing to back up its rhetoric about confronting Iran’s negative regional behavior with action.”

“Less publicly, Israeli officials admit they failed to convince Russia and the U.S. to draft a deal that will address Israeli concerns more seriously. While they are not surprised with the Russians, they are disappointed with the way the Trump administration handled the Syria deal. As one Israeli official told me: “America has turned into a rumor in the Middle East. It’s gone. There is nothing.” The only comfort Israeli officials have is that, while it doesn’t want to take action itself, the Trump administration is giving Israel a “green light” to continue its military strikes against Hezbollah and Iran in Syria. “We will just have to take care of it on our own”, an Israeli official told me.” [Axios]

DEADLINE APPROACHING — On December 1st, President Trump is expected to renew on a presidential waiver suspending the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv for another six months. “The president has always made it very clear that it is a matter of when, not if. We have no news to share at this time,” a White House official said last week. In an interview set to be broadcast on the JBS television network, Ambassador David Friedman says that he is “pretty confident” that the embassy will be moved to Jerusalem during Trump’s first term. [Video

ON NAZIS, ISRAEL DOESN’T SIDE WITH U.S. AT UN: “The United States has voted against a yearly resolution that condemns the glorification of Nazism, though it doesn’t like Nazis… The Russian-drafted resolution was approved Thursday by the [United Nations] General Assembly’s human rights committee on a vote of 125-2, with 51 abstentions… Despite U.S. pressure to vote “no,” Israel supported the resolution.” [AP]

Family of captive Israeli arrives in DC to raise awareness — by Aaron Magid: The family of Avera Mengistu, an Israeli who has been detained in Gaza since September 2014, arrived in Washington this week to highlight his plight. Avera’s brother, Ilan and his mother Agurnesh met with the Trump administration’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt at the White House on Wednesday… For the first eight months after his detainment, the Israeli military issued an order preventing any media outlet from reporting on the situation. However, when the family did not receive any proof of life from Avera, they decided to publicize his detainment in an effort to try and bring him home from Hamas custody. [JewishInsider]

REPORT: Saudi Arabia king to step down and hand over the crown to his 32-year-old son — by Ryan Parry and Josh Boswell: “The move is seen as the final step in 32-year-old Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s power grab, which began earlier this month with the arrests of more than 40 princes and government ministers in a corruption probe… ‘Unless something dramatic happens, King Salman will announce the appointment of MBS as King of Saudi Arabia next week,’ said the source. ‘King Salman will play the role of the queen of England. He will only keep the title “Custodian of the Holy Shrines.”

“The high level source said once crowned king, the prince will shift his focus to Iran… with fears military action is possible. He will also enlist the help of the Israeli military to crush Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia supported by Iran, according to the source… ‘MBS can not confront Hezbollah in Lebanon without Israel. Plan B is to fight Hezbollah in Syria,’ said the source.” [DailyMail]

–Martin Indyk tweets about the Daily Mail story: “Not a well-sourced piece but it’s going to happen sooner than later: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman set to hand over the crown to his son.”

“Details of Abbas’ mysterious Saudi trip still scarce” by Adnan Abu Amer: “A Palestinian official told Donia al-Watan… that the Saudi visit seems to have troubled Abbas, who feels that some Arab parties are trying to unseat him or push him to resign… Ibrahim Habib, dean of scientific research at the Ribat University College affiliated with Gaza’s Interior Ministry, told Al-Monitor, “Abbas is under Arab and international pressure to settle the Palestinian cause. But he is smart, stubborn and elusive. He will not raise the white flag, even if he fails to face Saudi pressure… He would rather weaken Israel’s position globally without resigning to prevent any party from taking steps to strip him of his legitimacy.”” [Al-Monitor

REX UPDATE: “Tillerson Got a Lot of Face Time With Trump on the Asia Trip” by Nick Wadhams: “[Rex] Tillerson frequently briefed the president alone at the start of the day… He sat at the president’s side at most of his bilateral meetings with other world leaders and rode with Trump in his armored limousine as they crisscrossed Beijing… Tillerson’s trip with Trump is unlikely to erase the rumors that United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley wants his job or that CIA Director Mike Pompeo might get it. But the secretary of state has burnished his credentials as a defender of Trump’s unconventional approach to world affairs.” [Bloomberg]

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “Senate Panel Says Kushner Failed to Provide Russia Documents” by Michael Schmidt: “The Senate Judiciary Committee has uncovered evidence that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was forwarded a document about a “Russian backdoor overture” that Mr. Kushner failed to hand over to the panel’s investigators… The Senate letter did not say what type of back channel communication the Russians were trying to set up. But it noted that “other parties have produced documents concerning the matter.” Mr. Kushner also failed to provide investigators with a September 2016 email he was sent about WikiLeaks… In a statement on Thursday, [Abbe] Lowell said that Mr. Kushner had responded to all of the committee’s requests.” [NYTimes• Kushner still waiting on permanent security clearance [Politico]

“Regrets? Chris Christie Has a Few” by Josh Dawsey: “Two days after Trump’s surprise win, Steve Bannon and Christie were seen arguing for several hours in a glass office in the transition headquarters in New York. Bannon was firing him as chair of the transition… He wanted to know who was behind it, and he suspected Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner… “Oh, I asked,” Christie said, referring to Bannon. “He didn’t answer. But [based on] subsequent conversations I’ve had with the president, I just don’t believe this was the president’s decision.” … He declined to take a shot at Kushner when asked about the Trump son-in-law’s diminished White House role. “I would never underestimate Jared’s ability to be involved in whatever he wants to do be involved in,” Christie said.” [Politico]

“Al Franken Issues Apology After Accusation of Forcible Kissing and Groping” by Nicholas Fandos: “[Sen] Franken almost immediately released an apology to the newscaster, Leeann Tweeden, who said that Mr. Franken forcibly kissed her during a rehearsal and groped her for a photo as she slept… Response from Republicans and Democrats alike was swift and unsparing. Mitch McConnell… and Chuck Schumer… the Senate leaders, wasted no time before forwarding the matter to the Senate Ethics Committee — a move supported by Democrats, including Mr. Franken… While his fellow senators rushed to rebuke him, Mr. Franken hunkered down out of sight, skipping four votes in the Senate and the Democrats’ regularly scheduled luncheon.” [NYTimes]

“Trump chimes in on Franken sexual harassment, dubs him ‘Al Frankenstein’” by Kristen East: “President Donald Trump has a new nickname for Al Franken, hours after the Minnesota senator was accused of sexual misconduct: Al Frankenstein. “The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? …..” Trump tweeted.” [Politico]

“Democrats Missed A Chance To Draw A Line In The Sand On Sexual Misconduct” by Nate Silver: “If Franken were to resign, it probably wouldn’t cost Democrats a Senate seat. Instead, an interim replacement would be named by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton — a Democrat who would almost certainly appoint another Democrat… In other words, I thought the Democrats had an opportunity to maintain the moral high ground without having to pay a political price for it.” [FiveThirtyEight

WHITE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE DEPT. — White House sent around Bernie Marcus’ op-ed in favor of the tax bill… “Tax bills give small businesses plenty to be thankful for: Small businesses and legislators should not let their pursuit of better tax legislation mar this good one. These bills give small-business owners, and all Americans, much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Anything else would be gravy.” [TheHill]

2018 WATCH: “Stacey Abrams’ stance on Israel under scrutiny in race for [Georgia] governor” by Greg Bluestein: “Steve Berman, founder of OA Development, wrote in the Atlanta Jewish Times that he was disappointed that Abrams was one of only a handful of legislators to speak against the [anti-BDS] bill on the Georgia House floor… Abrams published a lengthy response to the op-ed on Medium… calling herself an “unwavering ally” to the Jewish community… Abrams’ campaign pointed to Lois Frank, a well-known activist in the Jewish community who vouched for the candidate’s “longstanding ties to our community.” [AJCPolitics]

ALABAMA SPECIAL ELECTION: “All hail Roy Moore at ‘pro-family’ rally, while accusations pile up” by Christopher Wilson: “Rabbi Noson Leiter said during Thursday’s event that Moore would stand up against “gay terrorists” and the “LGBT rights mafia.” Leiter had previously blamed Hurricane Sandy on the legalization of gay marriage in New York state.” [YahooNews]

“Jon Stewart Returns to ‘Daily Show’ to Mock Anti-Semitic Roy Moore Robocalls” by Matt Wilstein: “I’m going to go out of a limb and say that this ‘Bernie Bernstein’ is not a real Washington Post reporter,” host Trevor Noah said after playing the call… “I don’t even know what that accent was,” he added. “It sounded like a guy trying to do a New York Jewish voice based on hearing a friend describe a Woody Allen movie.” Just then, Noah received a call from “Bernstein,” a “real person,” who happened to be calling from backstage. After revealing the caller to be his predecessor, Noah discovered that Stewart was just finding another elaborate way to promote this Saturday’s Night of Too Many Stars benefit. “You don’t need anti-Semitism to come on the show, you could have just asked me,” Noah said. “I don’t need it, I just like it that way,” Stewart replied.” [DailyBeastMediaite]

** Good Friday 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Nvidia Hires Uber Executive, Targets Mobileye[TheInformation] • Stephen Ross on Amazon HQ2: “I don’t think New York has a chance” [RealDeal] • Stephen Feinberg, The Reclusive Financier Moving From Weapons to German Banking [Bloomberg] • Jeff Zucker’s CNN vs. Ben Smith’s BuzzFeed: A media spat for the digital age [CJR] • PDVSA Looks Like a ‘Zero’ to Man Who Ran Elliott’s Argentina Bet [Bloomberg

TRANSITION — President Donald Trump has appointed Paul Packer, a veteran hedge fund manager from New York, as the new chairman of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, replacing Leslie Weiss. The commission was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 to encourage, sponsor and facilitate the preservation and restoration of monuments, cemeteries, historic buildings and other sites that are important and associated with the heritage of US citizens. [JPost

TOP TALKER: “Why Was the ‘Jewish Nobel’ Snatched From Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Given to Natalie Portman?” by Yossi Verter: “The central [Genesis] prize was supposed to go to Justice Ginsburg. She was informed of the decision a few weeks ago by the prize committee. She was delighted… But a public announcement did not follow… According to a source close to the committee, someone remembered that in 2016, the justice had lashed out sharply against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump… The incriminating information was made known to the Prime Minister’s Bureau. Major panic. How would Trump react when he saw a photo of his good pal Bibi presenting the most important prize in the Jewish world to the justice he abhors, a liberal icon and a declared supporter of Hillary Clinton? Heaven help us. Several days of frantic running around between offices and officials ensued, until the prize was taken from Ginsburg and transferred to Portman.”

“Another committee source maintains that this is not the reason that Ginsburg was denied the award. This source says that the committee’s legal adviser discovered that U.S. judges are barred from receiving monetary prizes from a foreign country, even if they re-distribute the sum to others. Accordingly, with great regret and despite the unpleasantness, the original decision was overturned. But why wasn’t such a basic point as that checked at an earlier stage, and why would the justice herself not have pointed it out to the committee?” [Haaretz]

TALK OF THE TOWN:“Rabbis’ Dinner Has Outgrown New York City Venues” by Charles Passy: “The Chabad-Lubavitch… conference’s Sundaynight dinner, attended by roughly 5,000 rabbis plus guests, has turned into such an oversize affair that Chabad says it could no longer find a suitable venue to stage it within New York City. The solution: Head to Bayonne, N.J. Lighting for the event is also an issue. The rabbis wear wide-brimmed hats, which can result in a shadow being cast on the faces of any speakers at the event’s stage. Chabad plans to prevent that by lighting the stage from below. The move to New Jersey has created a transportation dilemma. Rabbis will have to make it by bus from Chabad’s Brooklyn headquarters starting in the afternoon. Should they hit a major traffic snag, they may not be able to recite the middle-of-the-day (or “mincha”) prayers in a proper space. Chabad has arranged for a “mincha stop” along the bus route just in case.” [WSJ

“Refugee who fled Iraq buys a home… in Baghdad” by Rosa Doherty: “A Jewish refugee from Iraq has done the unthinkable — gone back to Baghdad and bought a house there. Edwin Shuker, a 72 year-old north Londoner, is one of five families who tell their story as part of a new film called Remember Baghdad… The house he has bought in Bagdad is more “symbolic than anything else,” as he lives most of the time in Finchley, north London. But he says: “I try to visit when the security situation allows.”” [TheJC]

REMEMBERING: “Democratic megadonor, Houston trial lawyer Steve Mostyn has died” by Morgon Smith and Jay Root: “Steve Mostyn, a top Democratic donor and prominent Houston trial lawyer, has died. He was 46. According to a statement released by his wife, Amber, Mostyn died Wednesday after “a sudden onset and battle with a mental health issue.” She did not disclose the cause of death.” [TexasTribune] • Flashback to 2014: Mega-donor Steve Mostyn sponsors kosher chili cookoff at Houston Rodeo [WashExaminer

PROFILE: “The Biggest Mouth in Wrestling” by Thomas Golianopoulos: “As Brock Lesnar’s spokesperson, Paul Heyman is one of WWE’s most essential figures and one of wrestling history’s greatest mavericks. But how much longer can the Beast and his boisterous advocate dominate WWE? … Just as he smoothed things over with [Ric] Flair, Heyman made new enemies. Executives called him the “New York Jew” behind his back. But by the end of 1991, after returning from another suspension, the Jewish guy from New York was leading the top heel faction in the industry, the Dangerous Alliance. New management then demanded he take a pay cut. He declined, was written off television, and then, once again, he sued Turner… Heyman claimed victory once the parties settled.” [TheRinger]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: “Hims Is Basically Glossier for Dudes” by Cheryl Wischhover: “Hims just closed on $7 million in Series A funding, according to TechCrunch. Among several others, it also counts as investors Josh Kushner’s (brother of Jared) Thrive Capital and Kirsten Green’s Forerunner Ventures. Dudum says of Kushner and Green, “From day zero, those two individuals are unfortunately receiving text messages from me, probably on a daily basis, of screenshots of copy or ideas, and we’re constantly going back and forth with new products we should be rolling out, how we should be communicating, other markets we should be playing in, and how to approach it.”” [Racked]

>WINE OF THE WEEK — Recanati 2014 Special Reserve Red — by Yitz Applbaum: I try to bring Israeli wine with me when I travel because I believe that Israeli wines infuse spirituality into any meal, especially when the wines become a topic of conversation. On a recent fishing trip to the Rogue River in Oregon, I tested this hypothesis. It is a challenge to describe the immense beauty of the place, and it is even more impossible to describe my state of mind after four days without email. A once in a lifetime experience on many levels.

I was with a group who were new to Israeli wines, and I decided to bring along the Recanati 2014 Special Reserve Red. An amazing wine. It is aged for 24 months in new French oak. The wine is toasty, deep, and envelops one’s palate. There are intense cherry flavors on the mid palate and deep plum on the finish. This wine is ready to drink tonight and will continue to drink well again in 10 years. Drink this wine with large quantities of freshly caught steelhead trout that are barbecued. [Recanati]

DESSERT — San Francisco’s Longest Running Comedy Show Celebrates 25 Years: “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy returns to the stage this Christmas season. Expect the comic styles of Cathy Ladman, Gary Gulman, and Wendy Liebman, and Kung Pao Kosher’s very own, Lisa Geduldig will be hosting the entire evening. This unique event will be seating in “family-style” tables of 10 only… The comedy is kosher, but the food is not.” [NBCBayArea]

MAZEL TOV to JI-ers Caroline Klatt (Retail & E-commerce) and Andrew Schoen (Venture Capital) on being named to Forbes 2018 30 Under 30 Lists

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAYPhilanthropist and director of the William Davidson Foundation, Karen Davidson… Biochemist who was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Stanley Cohen turns 95… Rabbi of Agudath Israel of Baltimore since 1981, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann turns 80… Original creator and producer of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels(born Lorne Lipowitz) turns 73…  Global editorial director of the Huffington Post Media Group and NBC News analyst, Howard Fineman turns 69… CEO of Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks, previously CEO of Independent Sector, a leadership network for nonprofits, South African born Diana Aviv turns 66… Daniel Gastaldi turns 60… Author, journalist, he lectures in the graduate journalism program at Stanford University, Gary M. Pomerantz turns 57… Attorney and business executive who once played on the South African national teams in both cricket and field hockey, Mandy Yachad turns 57… National Security Advisor to President Obama (2013-2017) after an earlier posting as President Obama’s Ambassador to the UN (2009-2013), Susan Rice turns 53… “The Travelling Rabbi” of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies who serves 13 sub-Saharan countries, Moshe Silberhaft turns 50… Former Microsoft executive, a leading “bundler” for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, she served as US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein (2014-2017), Suzan G. LeVine turns 48… Managing editor and Washington bureau chief of Talking Points Memo, David Kurtz turns 48… Supervising talent producer for the Chelsea Handler Show on Netflix, Michele Tasoff turns 48… EVP at JDA Frontline, a DC-based public affairs firm, Ralph Posner turns 47… Legislative Assistant to US Senator Kamala Harris, Halie Soifer turns 39… Partner at AKPD Message and Media, Isaac Baker turns 38… National security reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Felicia Schwartz turns 26 (h/ts to Playbook)… Zack Teichman 

SATURDAYIsraeli theoretical physicist, who at age 27 became a professor and then later President of the Weizmann Institute, Haim Harari turns 77… Richard Gorman turns 77… Lecturer at Boston University School of Law, formerly SVP and General Counsel of Fidelity Management & Research Company, Eric D. Roiter turns 69… Israeli cantor and actor, known for serving as the cantor of the Hampton Synagogue and his Broadway performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, David “Dudu” Fisher turns 66… Author and singer-songwriter, Barry Louis Polisar turns 63… Former mayor of Dallas, Texas (2002-2007), Laura Miller turns 59… Moroccan-born, member of the Knesset since 2003 for the Shas party, Yaakov Margi turns 57… NYC-based writer, activist and performer, Shira Dicker turns 57… Domestic affairs correspondent for The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg turns 56… Retired Baltimore attorney who devotes her time to philanthropy and pro-Israel activism, Laurie Luskin turns 54… Development and communications coordinator for the Orthodox Union and the Teach Advocacy Network, Talia Fadis turns 30… Roberta Goldstein

SUNDAYAward winning television and radio host including the eponymous “Larry King Live” nightly show on CNN from 1985 to 2010, Larry King (born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger) turns 84… Retired New York State Supreme Court judge, whose tenure on the television program “The People’s Court” was far shorter than that of his wife “Judge Judy,” Jerry Sheindlin turns 84… Attorney, investment banker and major fundraiser for the Democratic party, he served as US Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2009-2013), Louis B. Susman turns 80… Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, Richard Zare turns 78… Fifteen term member as a Democrat in the US House of Representatives from New York (1983-2013), Gary Ackerman turns 75… Fashion designer Calvin Klein turns 75… Following a 27-year career as a Professor at Princeton, she became President of the University of Pennsylvania, Amy Gutmann turns 68… Los Angeles based real estate investor, Sydney Cetner turns 68… Patricia Fiden turns 64… Member of the California State Senate since 2014, Robert Myles “Bob” Hertzberg turns 63… University professor of Jewish history, literature and law at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel turns 62… Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director, and lyricist, best known as the writer of “Being John Malkovich,” Charlie Kaufman turns 59… Angel investor, investment banker and President of Sunrise Financial Group, Nathan Low turns 57… Member of the Knesset (2003-2016) originally for the Likud party and then as head of the Kulanu party, he has served as Israel’s Minister of Finance since 2015, Moshe Kahlon turns 57… Vice President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and director of its Washington, DC office, Lisa Eisen turns 54… Author of over 30 books, television host and Chabad Rabbi in Oxford, England (1988-99), Rabbi Shmuley Boteach turns 51… Senior Director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Seth Cohen turns 44… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2005, Andrew D. Hevesiturns 44… Digital director and executive editor of Time Magazine, Samuel Jacobs turns 32…

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Daily Kickoff: How Israel is prepping for Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’ | Jake Tapper on his start in journalism at Akiba Hebrew Academy | Google, Shmoogle


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KAFE KNESSET — Israeli View of Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The top-secret White House Middle East peace effort to design the “ultimate deal” and solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a major discussion topic in the Knesset’s corridors. The deadline for the grand plan’s announcement continues to be extended. What used to be the end of the year has now turned into early next year, with some reports listed March 2018. Netanyahu himself has said on several occasions in recent weeks that he is preparing for an American document or plan, but he told Likud ministers and MKs that he knows nothing about the details. Likud MKs assume that “it will be the friendliest plan Israel has ever had” as a senior Likud minister told Kafe Knesset this week, predicting that the US administration “will accept some of our positions and red lines” on issues such as security, the Jordan Valley and settlements.

Even if this is the friendliest deal ever, another source added, Netanyahu understands that he will have to concede on some “deal breakers” of his own, and make concessions which will not necessarily be accepted by his coalition partners, most notably Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett. Some in the Likud, like Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, are more worried about American pressure. Akunis, who attended the JFNA’s General Assembly in Los Angeles this week, said in an interview with JPost that he will vote against any plan demanding a two-state solution, and that he is confident that others in the cabinet will vote against, as well.

A senior Israeli official said: “The American proposal will shake things up, and many people, including the Prime Minister and his partners, will have to make a decision. To say “no” is also a decision, and a decision not to respond as well. But decisions will have to be made.” A senior member of the coalition told Kafe Knesset: “The Americans are spoiling us now, but there are no free gifts, they will submit the bill, and Netanyahu will have to decide whether to lose Bennett or lose Trump, and to avoid that choice – he could call for new elections.”

The flexible deadline of Trump’s peace efforts coincides with another clock ticking these days, in the Israeli police interrogation rooms. There is growing talk of a peace plan that is set to accompany the upcoming publication of Police recommendations in Netanyahu’s criminal affairs. In any case, from Bibi’s point of view, talk about peace is a welcome break from cigar and champagne scandals. If the PM needs a plan to dodge both the criminal investigations and the Trump peace plan, new Knesset elections could turn out to be the perfect solution. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

TOP TALKER: “Israeli Military Chief Gives Unprecedented Interview to Saudi Media: ‘Ready to Share Intel on Iran'” by Amos Harel: “A Saudi newspaper published an unprecedented interview on Thursday with the Israeli military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. It marks the first time any senior Israel Defense Forces officer, let alone the chief of staff, has been interviewed by a media organization in Saudi Arabia, which does not have diplomatic ties with Israel. In the interview to the Saudi online newspaper Elaph, Eisenkot called Iran the “real and largest threat to the region.” He said Israel and Saudi Arabia are in complete agreement about Iran’s intentions.” [Haaretz]

TODAY AT TURTLE BAY: “US opposes Nazi speech, but will vote no at UN to banning it” by Josh Lederman: “Introduced by Russia, the resolution calls on all U.N. nations to ban pro-Nazi speech and organizations… The United States votes against the resolution every year, along with just a handful of others… But this year, the “no” vote from the U.S. is likely to create more of a stir, given it’s the first rendition of the vote since President Donald Trump entered office. [Trump’s] blame-on-both-sides response to violence in August at a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, gave fodder to Trump critics who say he’s insufficiently critical of neo-Nazis. So U.S. officials are working overtime this year to try to explain that no, America doesn’t support pro-Nazi speech — but can’t vote for a resolution that calls for outlawing it, either. The vote is scheduled for Thursday in the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee…”

“Will Israel, the close U.S. ally whose history is intertwined with the Holocaust, vote with the U.S.? In the past, Israel has voted for the resolution. But Washington has been pushing the Jewish state to vote “no” this year, or at a minimum to abstain. It’s unclear how Israel will vote.” [AP]

ON THE HILL — Democratic Congressman co-chairs caucus to defeat Palestinian ‘enemy’ — by Aaron Magid: The Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVS) convened yesterday to sign a joint declaration of support and cooperation towards an Israeli victory with members of the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus (KIVC), MKs Oded Forer (Yisrael Beitenu) and Avraham Neguise (Likud). Explaining the caucus’ ideology, Daniel Pipes, who initiated the group noted, “Victory means imposing your will on your enemy and the Palestinians give up.” Dmitry Shiglik, president of the American Forum for Russian-Speaking Jewry, emphasized, “Historically — always — (the) winner dictates what to do to (the) loser.” Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA), one of only six House Democrats who declined to sign a letter in March endorsing the two-state solution, joined as a co-chair of the organization. The California lawmaker also introduced the anti-Israel Boycott Act along with Rep. Peter Roskam (D-IL). [JewishInsider]

“Steve Bannon Is Bad for the Jews” by Bret Stephens: “If Israel is going to retain mainstream political support, it cannot allow itself to become the pet cause of right-wing bigots and conspiracy theorists. That requires putting serious distance between Bannon and every pro-Israel organization, to say nothing of the Israeli government itself, by refusing to provide a platform for him and his ilk… That thought may have dawned on Sheldon Adelson, who skipped Sunday’s [ZOA] dinner.” [NYTimes]

CAMPUS BEAT: “University of Maryland SGA bill supporting BDS dies before reaching the floor for legislative debate” by Carly Taylor: “After about two hours of student debate, the SGA Student Affairs Committee presented an unfavorable report of the bill in a 1-21 vote with three abstentions… Groups outside of this university weighed in on the debate before it took place Wednesday night. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and six of Maryland’s Democratic U.S. Congressmen signed a letter to SGA President A.J. Pruitt in opposition to the BDS movement “that would only undermine efforts to achieving Middle East peace through a two-state solution.”” [DBKNews]

“University of Michigan unlikely to divest from companies tied to Israel” by Martin Slagter: “After eight hours of intense debate, the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government voted in favor of calling on university leaders to investigate divestment from companies that do business with Israel. The university, however, isn’t likely to take up the matter. UM Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the university appreciates hearing from its students. However, the primary purpose of investments through its endowment – which is approaching $11 billion – is to generate the greatest possible income, subject to the appropriate amount of risk, in support of the university’s mission of teaching, research, patient care and service.” [MLive]

HAPPENING TODAY: “Washington’s huge new Bible museum says it wants to stay out of politics. But its opening gala is at the Trump Hotel” by Michelle Boorstein: “Officials at the non-profit museum say the decision was for pragmatic, scheduling reasons but some museum employees and academic consultants refused to enter the hotel affiliated with the controversial president. Museum officials said by the time they started looking for space, about a year ago, the Trump hotel was the only ballroom available in Washington that could accommodate such a big group. The Thursday dinner gala will have about 750 people in attendance… [Vice President Mike] Pence had been invited to do the official ribbon-cutting “because he is a personal friend of a number of board members,” but wasn’t able, said Susan Davis, head of the communications firm handling the opening.” [WashPost

PODCAST PLAYBACK — CNN anchor Jake Tapper talks to the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg about his start in journalism: “I was a high-school journalist.. Jews for Jesus were really big in the ‘80s, and an alumnus started a thing called the Anti-Missionary Coalition. He was protesting Jews for Jesus, and there was a whole dispute how much Akiba [Hebrew Academy] should be associated with that, and I wrote a story about that…”

Goldberg: It got some attention? Tapper: “It was a school with 300 people… I mean, yes, a lot of 9th graders read it. It was very exciting (chuckle)… Then I went to Dartmouth, and I wanted to be a cartoonist and then I wanted to go into film, not as an actor but as a writer director, and then I found myself during film school at USC listening to the Clarence Thomas hearings in class on my walkman and I realized LA was not really for me. But one time I was on a ski trip and there was a guy there who has just written a freelance article with his brother for the New Republic. I read the New Republic religiously during that time and I said, ‘Oh, like real people could just right freelance stories.’ And then I just started submitting any freelance story anywhere I could and building up clips.”  [TheAtlantic]

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer poised to buy 15 per cent Atletico Madrid stake [DailyMail] • David Rubenstein: Private equity model ‘starting to look like spent force’ [FinancialTimes• Avenue’s Marc Lasry raising $1 billion for distressed power bets [Reuters• Nelson Peltz Declares Victory in Procter & Gamble Proxy Fight [NYTimesWSJ] • Greenlight’s Einhorn Says Issues That Caused the Crisis Are Not Solved [Bloomberg]

SPOTLIGHT: “WeWork Takes a Dip in the Wave-Pool Business” by Eliot Brown: “WeWork Cos. has attained a $20 billion valuation as an office-leasing company. But its ambitions are extending well beyond the workplace—and into the water. The seven-year-old New York company has purchased a large stake in Wavegarden, a maker of wave pools, according to people informed by WeWork Chief Executive Adam Neumann in recent months. A WeWork spokeswoman said the investment occurred in mid-2016. It isn’t clear how Wavegarden—whose technology creates artificial waves up to 8 feet high for surfing at giant water facilities—would fit with WeWork.” [VanityFairWSJ]

“Ashton Kutcher-Backed Medical Startup Brings A.I.-Assisted Body Scans to L.A. Mall” by Kathryn Romeyn: “[Guy] Oseary says he and Kutcher “were swept up in excitement from the second we walked into Forward — when has that ever happened at a doctor’s office?” [THR]

MEDIA WATCH: “Jon Lovett on Bringing Late-Night Flavor to Political Podcasts” by Matt Wilstein: “It’s been about 10 months since Lovett, along with former Obama administration colleagues Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor, decided to end their Keepin’ It 1600 podcast and start Crooked Media, home to Pod Save America and a slew of other political offerings including Lovett’s comedy-driven show. “When we decided to do this, we didn’t have a plan. We just had this feeling like we wanted to launch a company that answered some of our frustrations and spoke to why we were worried, why we were angry, like a lot of other people,” Lovett says.” [DailyBeast]

“Steven Mnuchin Gets His Name on the Dollar” by Saleha Mohsin: “In just a few years, Steven Mnuchin has gone from Hollywood movie financier and regional banker to the signatory of the almighty buck. The U.S. Treasury secretary on Wednesday took a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to see production of the new $1 bills with his signature. His wife, Louise Linton, joined the visit, along with Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and several Treasury officials. The new bills are scheduled to go into circulation next month.” [Bloomberg]

“Ivanka Trump says child tax credit ‘not a pet project’” by Catherine Lucy: “I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt since I’ve been here,” Trump said this week, as she hit the road to promote the tax overhaul effort that has drawn Democratic criticism and spurred internal GOP conflict…Trump says she and husband Jared Kushner, a fellow White House adviser, have no plans to return to their old New York City life any time soon. “It’s definitely not short-term,” Trump said.” [AP]

HEADLINE DEPT: “Google, Shmoogle. Reference Librarians Are Busier Than Ever”  [WSJ]

“University of Texas President Shares Harrowing Story of His Father’s Holocaust Escape” by Shelby Hodge: “Tears fell across the ballroom as Gregory Fenves told of his father’s imprisonment at age 13 at Auschwitz, resulting in the loss of the young teen’s mother and grandmother, and how his trilingual skills as an interpreter enabled him to stay alive and to assist his sister who was kept in a neighboring compound. He was liberated by the Americans and in 1950 immigrated to the United States where he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War.” [PaperCIty]

“How a Shirt Covered in Swastikas Ends Up in a Department Store” by Kim Bhasin and Polly Mosendz: “How exactly a shirt covered in swastikas made it through the design process, much less crammed into a rack in a Ross Dress for Less store in Florida where Bloomberg found it this week, can probably be chalked up to retailers’ vast and complex retail supply chains, where errors can often go overlooked. Michael Haddad said the end product looked different from the design his company had sent to the factory in India. “It was [the factory owner’s] mistake, and it became confusingly similar to a swastika,” he said. “There was nothing malicious intended here,” said Haddad. “I’m an Orthodox Jew. The problem was contained. It was remedied.” [Bloomberg]

HOLLYWOOD: Gal Gadot confirms Brett Ratner off Wonder Woman 2: “Gal Gadot said in an interview on Wednesday’s episode of NBC’s TODAY show that Wonder Woman producer Brett Ratner is off the sequel in the wake of several sexual misconduct allegations against the mogul. Gadot was asked about a report that claimed she refused to return for the highly anticipated 2019 sequel if Ratner was still on the project. Gadot replied, “The truth is, there’s so many people involved in making this movie, it’s not just me, and they all echoed the same sentiments.”” [EW

“Former Israeli Actress Alleged to Be Operative for Corporate-Investigation Firm” by Mark Maremont, Jacquie McNish and Rob Copeland: “[Stella Penn] Pechanac has been named in a court filing by Canadian financial firm West Face Capital Inc. alleging she is one of several Black Cube operatives who used false names, businesses and websites in recent months to obtain sensitive information from its current and former employees… Several West Face employees immediately recognized photos of the woman as “Maja Lazarov,” who claimed to be a London-based recruiter who had contacted the employees with potentially lucrative job offers.” [WSJ]

“Did Harvey Weinstein’s Israeli Spies Break the Law?” by Ashley Cullins: “The private investigators are accused of recording conversations without permission. Whether this is illegal depends on the physical location of the speakers. California is a two-party consent state, meaning if either of the parties is physically in the state during the conversation, both would have to agree to the recording. But New York is a one-party consent state… [Rose] McGowan is regularly spotted in both New York and California, and [Ben] Wallace is based in New York, meaning their surreptitious recording might have been legal… The scandal has moved Israeli parliamentarian Tamar Zandberg to call for an examination of Black Cube’s practices. “Instead of being used for Israel’s security … this knowledge is being used for harassing and lying and spying on women who are victims,” Zandberg tells THR.” [THR] • Deception and Ruses Fill the Toolkit of Investigators Used by Weinstein [NYTimes]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — in DC: The American Zionist movement (AZM) held an event at the Israeli Embassy, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration. With family of Abera Mengiustu in attendance, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer called for international action to free the captive Israeli who is currently being detained in Gaza.

SPOTTED: Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Baroness Ruth Deech, Col. Richard Kemp, Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), Israeli cabinet ministers Yariv Levin and Eli Cohen, MKs Oded Feurer and Abraham Neguise, AZM President Richard Heideman, Herbert Block, Rabbi Josh Weinberg, Ann Lewis, Ezra Friedlander, Aaron Weinberg, Fred Lawrence, Ellen Hershkin, Shai Franklin, Gusti Yehoshua Braverman, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, and Daniel Flesch.

DESSERT: “A Deli Where Rye Comes in Slices and in a Glass” by Robert Simonson: “At the Upper East Side branch of the Second Avenue Deli, they have matzo ball soup for what ails you… On Nov. 27, the brothers Jeremy and Josh Lebewohl, who own the storied Jewish deli on First Avenue, plan to open 2nd Floor, a cocktail lounge just above the restaurant, with a separate entrance on East 75th Street… Some ingredients are not ones you’re likely to find at any other cocktail bar in town. Man-O-Manischewitz, a riff on the gin cocktail called the Bramble, uses a syrup made from Manischewitz wine rather than the traditional crème de mûre. The Upper Eastsider, a long drink that can be made with gin or vodka, has Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda as a component. A drink called the Shofar, similar to a Jack Rose, is made up of ingredients whose flavors are associated with Rosh Hashana, including apple brandy, pomegranate… and honey.” [NYTimes

BIRTHDAYS: Retired Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada (2003-2013), Morris Fish turns 79… Roxanne White turns 69… Milwaukee-based founder and CEO of direct marketer, A.B. Data, Ltd., he is chair of the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, Bruce A. Arbit turns 63… Professional golfer who has played on the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour starting in 1982, he won two gold medals at the 1981 Maccabiah Games, Corey Pavin turns 58… Susan Brooks turns 54… Television and film writer and producer, he was an executive producer of Fox’s “Fringe” (100 episodes 2008-2013) and co-writer of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014), Jeff Pinkner turns 53… Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition since 1990, Matt Brooks turns 52. Read his Playbook Q&A here… Ordained at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, now Dean of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, Rabbi Justus Baird turns 45… Stage, film and television actress, she is the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaalturns 40… After 15 seasons in the NBA, he became an owner and player for Hapoel Jerusalem and led the team to the Israeli League championship in 2017, Amar’e Stoudemire turns 35… Senior Fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, Michael A. Levi

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Daily Kickoff: Has Bernie Bernstein called you? | Taylor Force Act passes House Foreign Affairs | Apple eyes Israeli Startups | Marijuana Matzo Balls


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SPECIAL ELECTION WATCH: “An Alabama Senate Candidate Keeps Democratic Leaders Away — but Not Their Money” by Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin: “As Republicans in Washington pressure [Roy] Moore to leave the race… Democratic leaders convey a stark public message to Mr. Jones: You’re on your own. “It’s an Alabama race,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said at a news conference on Monday, repeating the phrase three times for emphasis… For all his public caution, Mr. Schumer has been effusive about the Alabama campaign in private… Mr. Schumer has told allies he believes the race is now clearly winnable for Mr. Jones, but that Democrats must take pains not to nationalize the contest in a way that might offend voters in a deeply conservative state.”[NYTimes

“Asked by whether he would support Sen. Chuck Schumer as his party’s Senate leader, Jones declined to commit.” [NationalJournal

TOP-OP: “Roy Moore Reminds Me of My Rabbi” by Bethany Mandel: “If he wins, the Republicans may have a reliably conservative vote in the Senate, but one thing is guaranteed: Religious leaders who defend him risk their flock being infected with the same disenchantment I was after the arrest of my rabbi. Religious leaders often fret that such creeping faithlessness puts society at risk more than any political ideology. As a prominent evangelical put it in a 2006 Washington Times column: “Our peace and happiness as well as our prosperity depend not on any political party or any great leader, but rather upon our return as a nation to faith in Almighty God.” It’s a lovely message, but one that’s too often discredited by its messengers. The man who wrote that column? Roy Moore.” [NYTimes]

VIRAL: “Fake Reporter Bernie Bernstein’s Robocalls Add Bizarre Twist to Roy Moore’s Senate Bid” by Itay Hod: “According to WKRG, a local TV station in Mobile, Alabama, at least one person in the station’s coverage area has received a robocall from someone claiming to be “Bernie Bernstein,” offering cash to women willing to make “damaging remarks” about Republican candidate Roy Moore… Only one problem… the call is bogus, according to Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron… The report by WKRG was enough to make Bernie Bernstein a trending topic on Twitter Tuesday.” [TheWrapWKRG]

“An Alabama Robocall Invokes Ugly Tropes” by Matt Ford: “The Alabama robocall also seems to draw upon the dark motifs of antisemitism to accomplish its goal. The fake Bernstein’s nasally, high-pitched voice and forced New York accent evoke anti-Semitic caricatures and stereotypes.”[TheAtlantic]

TOP TWEETS —  John Podhoretz‏: Bernie Bernstein just won the coveted Jewlitzer Prize… Jeffrey Goldberg‏: I tried to hire Bernie Bernstein once. Couldn’t afford him… Rick Hasen‏: Bernie Bernstein is now trending, making his fictitious mother kvell… Daniel Dale: “Hello. It is The Jews. We have money. We would like to eat your Christian candidate with our Passover matzo. Please telephone us.”

INSIDE THE ADMIN: “How Mike Pompeo became the favorite to succeed Rex” by Eliana Johnson and Annie Karni: “Whereas Tillerson has consistently worked to counter the president’s hawkish instincts, pushing to open talks with North Korea and opposing the decertification of the Iran nuclear deal, for example, Pompeo’s views are more in tune with the president’s views on foreign policy… As Pompeo’s relationship with the president has deepened, people close to Trump say he has cooled on the idea of nominating U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to succeed Tillerson… The president has been turned off in part by speculation that Haley has her eyes on a presidential bid, two people close to the president said.” [Politico]

DRIVING THE DAY — House committee advances Taylor Force Act — by Aaron Magid: The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed the Taylor Force Act on Wednesday. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in February, would cut off U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until they cease payments to families of terrorists. The next step for the legislation is a floor wide vote at an undetermined time.

The House bill included three exemptions. The first is for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which was originally inserted in the Senate version. In addition, following an effort by the White House’s Jason Greenblatt, the updated legislation now allows for US assistance to Palestinian wastewater programs, even if they ‘directly benefit’ the P.A. Finally, a third exemption permits childhood vaccination programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) opposed the exemptions, “I believe that we should not allow for exceptions or carve outs in this legislation because that flexibility will be used to once again circumvent the spirit of the law and Congressional intent,” she cautioned. [JewishInsider]

INBOX — ZOA ‘reluctantly’ supports weakened Taylor Force Act: “The ZOA’s support for this latest House version of the Taylor Force Act comes with disappointment that the bill is not nearly as strong as it should be, or even as it was when originally introduced,” ZOA’s Mort Klein said in a statement. “ZOA feels strongly that the House Foreign Affairs Committee, during the course of the markup, should keep in mind the reason for the appropriateness of the much larger reductions in US aid in the original Taylor Force Act.”

JINSA’s Mike Makovsky: “The purpose of the Taylor Force Act is to put pressure on the PA to stop supporting terror, and to ensure that American taxpayer dollars do not in effect support that either. Every exemption granted undermines the purpose and effectiveness of the legislation. Ultimately, the Palestinian people will benefit more when he PA directs all their funding toward basic services and not toward terror.”

“In White House, Israeli widow laments payout to family of her husband’s killer” by Eric Cortellessa: “In a meeting with Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, [Michal] Salomon “expressed dismay that the [family of the] terrorist would be receiving compensation from the Palestinian Authority for his action,” a senior White House official [said].” [ToI] • Israel demolishes home of Palestinian who killed 3 Israelis [WashPost]

REPORT: “Saudi document lays out plans for peace with Israel” by Yasser Okbi: “Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement with Israel involves a risk to the Muslim peoples of the Kingdom, because the Palestinian cause represents a spiritual and historical and religious heritage,” reads the report claiming to quote the document. “The Kingdom will not take this risk unless it feels the United States’ sincere approach to Iran…” A key demand of the Saudis… is the dismantling of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons capabilities… Among the guidelines Riyadh is reportedly proposing are: the subordination of the city of Jerusalem to international sovereignty, the permanent settlement of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank or their naturalization by other Muslim states and the holding of a major summit to launch a final peace agreement.” [JPost

JARED INSIDER: “The Upstart Saudi Prince Who’s Throwing Caution to the Winds” by Ben Hubbard and David Kirkpatrick: “Jared is a bit of a black hole,” said one State Department official… “There is no sense of the positions he has advocated. We can only guess, based on what he has done and where he has been.” The official added: “The Emirates and the Saudis have been very careful to cultivate him and bring him along” toward their “confrontational posture in the region.” A White House official… disputed the characterization of Mr. Kushner, saying he regularly briefed the State Department and National Security Council on his trips and conversations.”

“Mr. Kushner made his third visit to the kingdom this year — this time unannounced until his return to Washington — in late October, when American officials say he stayed up late talking with Prince Mohammed at his ranch. The sweep of arrests unfolded days later, and Mr. Trump was quick to applaud, although several White House officials said the Saudis gave Mr. Kushner no heads up on what was about to take place.” [NYTimes]

ON THE HILL —Congress moves bill imposing certification requirements on sale of commercial aircraft to Iran — by Bryant Harris: “The Strengthening Oversight of Iran’s Access to Finance Act would make it much more difficult for Iran to purchase commercial aircraft from firms that do business in the United States… The House Financial Services Committee voted to advance the bill 38-21 [yesterday], paving the way for the full House to vote. All of the Republicans on the commitee voted yes, joined by only five Democrats… The bill, introduced by Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas… imposes reporting and certification requirements that could well prompt the Treasury Department to cease issuing licenses allowing for such sales… Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., likened the bill to current law requiring the president to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal every 90 days, thereby giving Trump another avenue to unravel the deal.” [Al-Monitor]

“Israel PM offers quake aid to arch foe Iran” by AFP: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered aid to the victims of the weekend’s deadly earthquake in Iran… The offer, made in a video conference with the Jewish Federations of North America, was largely rhetorical. Iran does not recognise the Jewish state and Israeli media reported that the offer was swiftly turned down through the International Committee of the Red Cross.” [Yahoo]

Miss Israel, Miss Iraq find ‘peace and love’ amid Mideast tensions: “[Adar] Gandelsman on Tuesday posted a picture with [Sarah] Idan on Instagram, saying, “Get to know, this is Miss Iraq and she’s amazing,” followed by a heart emoji.  On her Instagram page, Idan also posted the picture, along with the caption “peace and love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel.”” [JNS]

Tom Friedman writes… China Could Sell Trump the Brooklyn Bridge: “China, with its ability to focus, is getting 90 percent out of its inferior system, and it has brought China a long way fast. And we, with too little focus, are getting 50 percent out of our superior system. If that persists, it will impact the balance of power. Now you know why the Chinese were so happy to throw a bash for Trump in Beijing.” [NYTimes]

DEEP DIVE: “Rural Wisconsin voters swung for Trump, change; found frustration” by Craig Gilbert: “This past summer, a New York-based group called Resetting the Table, which specializes in conflict resolution over Israel among American Jews, sat down with hundreds of voters in the Driftless Area to promote dialog across political lines. One thing it found was “just this sense of frustration to the point of repugnance with the … political class, shared on the left, shared on the center, shared on the right,” said Eyal Rabinovitch, the group’s co-founder.” [USAToday

Democratic Party leaders must take on Bernie Sanders on Israel — by American Jewish Congress’ Jack Rosen: “I have spoken to decision makers and privately, they are very critical of Sanders. But talking privately is no longer enough. If you are pro-Israel then you need to defend her publically… Changes are afoot within the Democratic Party, with new governors coming into power in New Jersey and Virginia, and a string of state legislative election victories last week…  There are prominent voices that could turn the tide, but they need to mobilize before more damage is done.” [NYDailyNews

TALK OF THE TOWN: “‘It’s a Disgrace’: New York G.O.P. Fund-Raiser Quits Over Tax Bill” by Shane Goldmacher: “Steve Louro, a Republican donor who hosted an event for Donald J. Trump at his Long Island home last year, abruptly quit his post as regional finance chairman for the state’s Republican Party on Tuesday over objections to the Republican-led tax bill advancing through Congress. “The bill that’s going to get passed is not going to take care of the American people. It’s a disgrace,” Mr. Louro said in a phone interview… Mr. Louro has been an outspoken supporter of Representative Lee Zeldin, whom he called “the best congressman” and who has opposed the elimination of state and local tax deductions. “The bottom line is I told Lee I’m done,” Mr. Louro said. “I’m totally done.” As recently as last week, Mr. Louro had been trying to drum up support for a fund-raising visit to New York by Mr. Trump in early December. Mr. Louro said he still supports the president.” [NYTimes

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Altice USA shares drop after filing shows Jana exited stake [FinancialTimes Housing rights group sues Jared Kushner’s ‘predatory’ real estate company for ignoring NYC rent stabilization laws[NYDailyNews] • The Plaza Hotel’s Secret Investor: Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, one of the most influential figures in Qatar[Bloomberg]

STARTUP NATION: “Apple’s roaring chip business has a new M&A target, executive says: Israeli start-ups” by Jason Gewirtz and Anita Balakrishnan: “Israel could be a target for an Apple acquisition “because we have to have the best technology to differentiate ourselves,” Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, told Hebrew daily business paper Calcalist… Srouji said that it doesn’t necessarily matter if Apple acquires start-ups in Israel or elsewhere, as long as the technology is innovative. But he said Apple’s Israeli team is already involved “in all areas and new devices including the development of a new chip.”” [CNBCCTECH]

“Kim Kardashian Backs New Fashion App Created by Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and Jerusalem” by Liel Leibovitz: “Screenshop is a new application that’s being hailed as Shazam for fashion, allowing users to create an online shopping list just by capturing a screenshot of an outfit they like. It was co-founded by Mark Fishman and Molly Hurwitz, two Brooklyn-based Orthodox entrepreneurs. It’s CTO is Jonathan Caras, a Jerusalem-based computer scientist. And its investor, ambassador, and spirit animal is Kim Kardashian. “The fact that we brought on a team from Israel that has some of the best technology to figure out how to come up with something that no one has done before is so groundbreaking to me,” Kardashian told Mashable… After Kardashian started promoting the app in interviews and via her social media feeds, more than a million users flocked to Screenshop… But the reality TV star, said Caras, was more than just a promoter, and is intimately involved with the product. “She is a real part of the company,” he said in an interview with the Israeli press.” [Tablet]

“Joan Tisch’s kids ask judge for control of her $4 billion fortune” by Julia Marsh: “Steven, Laurie and Jonathan Tisch are asking a Surrogate’s Court judge to give them control over their mother’s finances “to preserve her estate in the face of an unpredictable securities market.” Tisch, who died at 90 earlier this month, inherited her vast wealth from her late husband Bob Tisch… Joan Tisch’s heirs will continue to run and own the struggling New York Giants, whose helmets now bear their late owner’s initials, JHT, as a tribute.”[NYPost]

COMING SOON TO DC: “New-look Labor leader vows to unseat Netanyahu in Israel” by Aron Heller: “Little known outside of Israel, Gabbay will soon make his debut on the international stage when he travels to Washington this month for the Saban Forum, an influential gathering of policy makers, and holds a series of meetings with American officials. Gabbay says he can topple Netanyahu — who has been prime minister since 2009 — by re-energizing the long listless Labor party. His strategy is to poach Netanyahu’s own supporters by adopting some positions of the conservative Likud Party. “I come from the people and I’m here to work for the people,” he said.” [AP]

“US State Dep’t: Israel won’t get visa waiver so fast” by Ran Dagoni: “A State Department spokesperson said, “We understand the interest shown by the Israeli government in the visa exemption program… Israel does not meet all the requirements at this stage, but we are working with the Israeli government on measures that Israel can take with the potential for enabling Israel to join the program.” … [Justice Minister Ayelet] Shaked is planning to visit Washington in two weeks, at which time she hopes to sign an “agreement in principle” for Israel’s accession to the visa waiver program. It is not clear, however, when the agreement, assuming that it is signed, will be implemented. The State Department did not mention Shaked’s planned visit or the possibility of any agreement whatsoever being signed.”” [Globes]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — StandWithUs Northeast held their 3rd Annual Leaders of Tomorrow Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York. Honorees included Shir Levy of Francis Lewis High School, Eden Gorodischer from Hunter College, and Andrew Kligerman. The event also featured remarks from Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan, comedy from Elon Gold, and a keynote address by former Ambassador Dore Gold.

SPOTTED: Francine Raubvogel, Galit Peleg, Sam Schear, Avi Posnick, Shahar Azani, Lior Suchard, Idan Raichel, Udi Urman, Regev Gur, Herb London, Marcella Rosen, Bill Behrer, Nira and Ken Abramowitz, and Rabbi Mark Golub.

DESSERT: “Jewish foodies lose their minds over marijuana matzo balls” by Doree Lewak: “The Eastern European food staple, often served during Sabbath dinner, is traditionally made with matzo meal, egg, oil, salt, pepper and schmaltz… [Joan] Nathan’s controversial recipe adds hemp — specifically, cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive marijuana derivative… Some Jewish foodies think her marijuana matzo balls are blasphemous. “It is a bit sacrilegious,” says New Jersey-based professional chef Sarah Lasry. “Sabbath is such a high to begin with… There’s no need to infuse anything with weed.”” [NYPost]

“This ‘accidental’ vintner is crushing it with his homemade wines” by Alix Wall: “[Michael] Kaye, who lives in Berkeley, is a mashgiach (kosher certifier) for Gallo Wine in Fresno. He is somewhat of an accidental winemaker, and says it was either the hand of God or George Bush who put him on this path. In 2008, he was working as a book editor but had become a kosher certifier to earn extra money on the side. Rabbi Ben-Tzion Welton of the Vaad of Northern California started referring him to gigs, and then a winery called requesting that “Michael” be sent to help with sparkling wine production in Hopland… When he arrived, he was greeted with “Who are you?” As it turns out, the Michael the winery had requested no longer lived in the area. “But they needed someone, so they said ‘Well, you’ll do, we’ll have to show you what to do.’” [JWeekly]

BIRTHDAYS: Biochemist and winner of the Israel Prize in 1957, professor of microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (1966-1993), David Sidney Feingold turns 95… Actor best known for his role as Lou Grant in two TV series, former president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ed Asner (born Yitzhak Edward Asner) turns 88… Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and the leader of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, he was a long-time member of the Knesset (1977-2003), Rabbi Haim Drukman turns 85… Little Rock, Arkansas native, founder of Guardsmark, a privately owned security company with 17,000 employees which he sold in 2015, noted art collector, Ira A. Lipmanturns 77… Author of dozens of children’s books and young adult fiction, frequent NPR guest, Daniel Pinkwater turns 76… Pianist and conductor, formerly Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim turns 75… Stephen Wolff turns 72… Former Chairman and CEO of Film and Music Entertainment, now a consultant and movie producer, Lawrence (Larry) Lotman turns 70…

NYC-based consultant for non-profit organizations, previously held senior positions in the NYC government and Board of Education, Perry Davis turns 69… Immigration and nationality attorney in Southern California, Michael D. Ullman turns 68… Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museums of Tolerance, Rabbi Meyer H. May turns 65… Executive producer and director of television programs, including Friends (1994-2004), one of the most popular TV programs of all time, Kevin S. Bright turns 63… Member of the Knesset since 2013 for the Yesh Atid party, he was previously the Minister of Welfare and Social Services (2013-2014) and mayor of Dimona (2003-2013), Meir Cohen turns 62… Senior IT project manager at Harbinger Partners, Michael A. Lewine turns 54… Member of Knesset since 2015 for the Likud party, she was previously a journalist at both Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma’ariv,Nava Boker turns 47… Reverse mortgage executive, Joshua Shein turns 45… As a 12-year old baseball fan in Yankee Stadium, he interfered with a ball batted by Derek Jeter in the 1996 ALCS that was ruled to be a game-tying home run, Jeffrey Maier turns 34… Political Reporter at Time Magazine, Zeke Miller turns 28… Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives at Council for a Strong America, Ben Goodman turns 28… Alison Borowsky turns 23…

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Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

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