Daily Kickoff: Oren pushing Bibi to ask Trump to recognize Israel’s control of Golan | Dermer urges Embassy move | Kafe Knesset interviews Yair Lapid
TOP TALKER: “Israel just announced it will take in wounded civilians from Aleppo” by Jennifer Williams: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he has ordered his government to “find ways” to bring injured civilians from Aleppo, Syria, to Israeli hospitals. That could clear the way for hundreds of Syrians, a country still technically at war with Israel, to cross into the country at the express invitation of a prime minister normally known for his hard-line positions on Iran, the Palestinians, and other issues… “We see the tragedy of terrible suffering of civilians and I’ve asked the Foreign Ministry to seek ways to expand our medical assistance to the civilian casualties of the Syrian tragedy, specifically in Aleppo,” Netanyahu said during a reception for foreign correspondents based in Israel… Netanyahu’s announcement, unexpected as it may have been, could help wounded Syrians fleeing the violence in their own countries survive and find new homes.” [Vox; Haaretz]
“Hezbollah Fighting in Syria With U.S. Weapons Supplied to Lebanese Army, IDF Says” by Anshel Pfeffer: “According to the officer, Israel has supplied the U.S. administration with evidence, including photographs, of American-supplied armored personnel carriers being used by Hezbollah in Syria… The evidence was passed on to the U.S. through the standard intelligence cooperation channels and it is not clear yet whether the administration has acted upon it with the Lebanese government.” [Haaretz]
“Israel Weighs Asking Trump to Recognize Its Control of Golan” by David Wainer: “A senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging him to take advantage of an upcoming meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to seek formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights. “It’s very important for the U.S. to back a formal recognition of Israel’s control of the Golan,” Michael Oren, a deputy minister for diplomacy at the prime minister’s office, said in an interview in Jerusalem. “If it weren’t for Israel’s presence, the Syria war would be spilling over to Jordan. So Israel’s presence in the Golan is indispensable for Mideast stability.”” [Bloomberg]
SCENE LAST NIGHT — in DC: The topic dominating conversations at the Israeli Embassy’s annual Hanukkah party last evening resembled those at other Jewish gatherings around town these days. Namely, speculation as to which synagogue the future first family — Ivanka and Jared — will join in January. One reliable source at the event told us, “I can’t tell you which synagogue they’ll join but they themselves don’t know yet and it could change a few times.” Frankly, all this shul talk was aesthetically fitting as the well-aged Embassy room resembled a Synagogue social hall hosting kiddush, albeit with potato latkes and jelly doughnuts.
SPOTTED: Rabbi Levi & Nechama Shemtov, Chanan Weissman, Rhoda Dermer, Yarden Golan, Jake Sherman, Irene J. Sherman, Hadas Gold, David Feinman, Susan Sandler, Steve Rakitt, Steve Rabinowitz, Aaron Keyak, Molly Rosen, Hilary Krieger, Michael Wilner, Josh Lederman, Lisa Eisen, Lori Weinstein, Susan W. Turnbull, Noah Pollak, Sarah Abonyi, Doron Gorshein, Ron Kampeas, Galit Tassi, Matt Nosanchuk, and the Receptionist of the United States Leah Katz-Hernandez.
“Israeli ambassador urges move of U.S. embassy” by Jake Sherman: “Israel’s ambassador to the United States on Tuesday evening forcefully endorsed moving America’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying the controversial diplomatic move would boost the chances of peace in the region. Dermer told the crowd gathered in Israel’s embassy in upper Northwest Washington that Israel puts its embassies in countries’ capitals and joked that he has said he would move Israel’s embassy to New York if the U.S. didn’t move its diplomatic headquarters to Jerusalem.” [Politico; Reuters]
Reaction in the room — by Michael Wilner: “Democrats in the room, several of whom still serve in the Obama administration, were furious, questioning why Dermer was acting while the “body was still warm” of the current leadership.” [JPost]
WSJ Editorial: “If the location of an embassy is enough to block peace talks, then there must not be much of an underlying basis for peace.” [WSJ]
Eli Lake: “Israel Needs Its Arab Friends More Than U.S. Embassy Move: With all due respect to Ambassador Dermer, this is risky business… For supporters of the Oslo peace process, now in its 23rd year, moving the embassy would bring catastrophe…Arab diplomats in recent days have told me that they worry an embassy move would stoke violent protests in their own countries… Today, Israel has tangible diplomatic opportunities in the region its founders could have never imagined… If Trump wants to be a good friend to Israel, he will focus on how to bring these relationships out into the open. That will be harder to do if one of his first acts as president is to move the embassy to Jerusalem.” [Bloomberg]
SCENE LAST NIGHT — in NYC: Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan hosted his first pre-Hanukkah reception at the Jewish National Fund (JNF) building in Midtown. “Israel was and is committed to being a bipartisan issue, an issue that unites the American society,” Dayan told the crowd, in light of recent political events. “As long as it depends on us, we will never be a wedge issue. We seek the friendship, love, and support of all sectors of the America society.”
— The Consul General, a former settler leader, also addressed the recent appointments of the incoming Trump administration. “Israel is committed to working closely with the administration of President-elect Donald Trump,” he said. “Israel will embrace and warmly receive any envoy that the U.S. nominates to the embassy in the State of Israel, and my friend David Friedman is no exception.”
SPOTTED: Ambassador Danny Danon, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilman Joe Borelli, Rabbi Joe Potasnik, Rabbis Arthur and Marc Schneier, JFNA’s William Daroff, JCRC’s Michael Miller, David Pollock, JCPA’s David Bernstein, Melanie Roth Gorelick, and Cheryl Fishbein; Israel Bonds’ Israel Maimon, UJA-NY’s Hindy Poupko and Mark Medin, Phil Schatten, WJC’s Betty Ehrenberg, AIPAC’s Bob Cohen, Jason Koppel, Reut’s Gidi Grinstein, JLC’s Stuart Appelbaum, Jeffrey Laufer, Rabbi Bob Kaplan, JDC’s Amir Shaviv, Pinny Ringel, Alicia Post, Andrew Gross, Sivan Aloni, Melissa Jane Kronfeld, Mark Levinson, Rabbis Yosef and Mendy Carlebach, and Steven Schoenfeld.
DISPATCH FROM JERUSALEM — “Ron Johnson meets with Netanyahu” by Bill Glauber: “Johnson said Tuesday that during his meeting with Netanyahu they talked about the possibility of the United States moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem… “That’s going to be a decision for the incoming administration,” Johnson said. “And I’ll let the president-elect and his nominee speak to that. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that. I saw the consulate there. It’s certainly large enough. All you have to do is change the sign.” Johnson said he thought that Netanyahu was “very supportive” of Friedman’s nomination.” [JSOnline]
“Donald Trump’s Pick for Israel Envoy Helped Fund Settlers” by Rody Jones and Carol Lee: “Dennis Ross… said Mr. Trump’s selection of Mr. Friedman “suggests a big change in policy,” given his stated skepticism about a two-state solution and support for settlement construction. “If those are the actual policies, then it would be hard to see how Trump as president could actually pursue his preference for peace,” Mr. Ross said.” [WSJ]
“Foxman: Friedman’s Comments on ADL, J Street Are ‘Unacceptable’” by Jacob Kornbluh: “Jewish community leaders and organizations deserve greater respect from those who, like Mr. Friedman, aspire to leadership and speak on behalf of the Jewish people,” Abe Foxman, former ADL national director, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Ambassador-designate Friedman’s ugly language in describing ADL, its current CEO, and J-Street is unacceptable and it undermines the need for unity in our community to face the challenges we know are ahead of us, whether it is rising anti-Semitism or the threat of radical Islam… It is my hope that as ambassador, Mr. Friedman will exercise greater restraint in his public remarks, recognizing that it is far better to disagree civilly than to attack indiscriminately,” said Foxman. “This is for the greater good of civil discourse, for unity in the Jewish community and for ensuring the continued strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.” [JewishInsider]
— “The Union for Reform Judaism, citing the Jewish Insider interview, wrote Trump asking him to clarify his policies in light of Friedman’s statements and his suggestion that ADL and other groups that Trump does not admire would not be welcome at the White House. “Mr. President-Elect, is it your intention that those who take issue with you will not be welcome at the White House?” said the letter signed by URJ’s president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs. “Will your doors only be open to those who agree with you? How do you square Mr. Friedman’s approach with your pledge to every citizen of our land that [you] will be ‘president for all Americans?’”” [JTA] • Read the full text of the letter [URJ]
HEARD LAST NIGHT ON “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” on MSNBC — Jonathan Greenblatt on Friedman: “I don’t know David Friedman. I’ve never met him before, but the President has the right to choose his own diplomats. What I do know is that it appears David Friedman is both, a, very committed to Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people and, b, very close to the President-elect, so I think those are some positive signs. But make no mistake, this isn’t some sleepy diplomatic outpost. This is one of our most important embassies in the world, in the most volatile region in the world. So I look forward to, and I think all Americans would look forward to, the hearing that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will conduct where we will be able to probe and judge him not on a few stray comments, but on his qualifications and beliefs that he would bring to this important job.”
Lawrence: “By the way, about your organization, the Anti-Defamation League, David Friedman has said, “I don’t see how anybody can take the Anti-Defamation League seriously.” What’s your reaction to that?
Greenblatt: “Look, Mr. Friedman apparently said these things before he was a diplomat, and I think calling the Anti-Defamation League or deriding us or attacking other Jews as Nazi collaborators, these are hardly diplomatic things to say. With that said, we’re not going to engage in partisan politics. I’ve got one job, which is fighting hate and extremism. We’ve seen a surge of hate crimes over the last six weeks that have been incredibly troubling both from the extreme right and we’ve seen issues on the radical left. Let me be clear, we are going to stick to our job, which is defending the Jewish people and other minorities from prejudice and hate, no matter what names anybody chooses to call us.”
Lawrence: “It sounds like he’s headed for some opposition in the Senate.”
Greenblatt: “It would seem that way… But again, because this job is so crucial, like other ambassadorial posts, the Senate will have the opportunity, the American people will hear exactly where he stands and what he believes. We should just mention for a moment, you don’t get to pick and choose an Ambassador who you represent based on their political persuasion. He will have to represent all Americans – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and in that role, I hope he is ready to have an inclusive approach to the interests of all of the American people.” [JewishInsider]
KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: The Knesset is slated to pass the double year budget this evening. If it is passed, most assume that Netanyahu has secured two years of stability for his coalition. During the hectic votes and deliberations, Kafe Knesset had a chance to chat with Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, currently projected by the polls to pose the biggest threat to Netanyahu in the upcoming elections, about his approach to the incoming Trump administration.
Kafe Knesset: David Friedman’s appointment was hailed by the Israeli right and slammed by the left. Do you think it’s an appropriate appointment?
Yair Lapid: I welcome the appointment of Friedman, exactly as I would welcome the appointment of an ambassador with contrasting views. Why is it that when someone comes from the left, no one questions their ability to do the job honestly and professionally, but if someone comes from the right, there’s a problem? Friedman is a friend of Israel, he speaks Hebrew, he knows the Middle East and so there is no reason he won’t be an excellent ambassador.
Kafe Knesset: And what about US Jewry? J Street and the ADL have slammed past comments by Friedman. Should he disavow those comments?
Lapid: I always believe that political and ideological disputes should be conducted respectfully between people without insults, but I don’t purport to educate the new Ambassador. It’s his decision to make.
Kafe Knesset: J Street is pushing senators to vote against the Friedman appointment. What do you think about that?
Lapid: It’s an internal American issue and I won’t get involved in it.
Kafe Knesset: Netanyahu was quoted in Haaretz yesterday stating Trump’s election presents a “historic opportunity” for Israel. Do you agree?
Lapid: That depends on us. Trump’s election means that Abbas’ strategy has collapsed. The Palestinian approach of doing nothing and waiting for the world to pressure Israel until we break, has been exposed as utterly mistaken. Now we have two opportunities. We can sit and do nothing and then in four or eight years the situation could reverse, or we can take advantage of the new situation to go to an international conference from a newfound position of strength we haven’t held in years. I obviously support the second option.
Kafe Knesset: What should be the main topic for Netanyahu’s first meeting with the new president?
Lapid: Definitely Iran – the strengthening of the American oversight of the Iran deal, especially pressuring Iran to end its role as the number one exporter of terror in the world. We have to remember that Iran stands behind Hezbollah, supports Hamas and is a source of regional instability. The deal with Iran created new sources of pressure on Iran and we need to push for that pressure to be exerted. The second issue is the prevention of advanced weapons being introduced into the region. In the past we knew how to prevent that, but recently the dam has been breached.
TRANSITION TOWER — “Wildcards add drama to Trump’s West Wing picks” by Ken Vogel, Tara Palmeri, Alex Isenstadt and Shane Goldmacher: “Kushner on Monday met with Lewandowski in New York to discuss possible posts, according to two sources familiar with the meeting… It would be seen as another swipe at Christie if his former aide [Bill] Stepien is tapped as White House political director. Stepien once was one of Christie’s closest advisers, but Christie fired him after the Bridgegate scandal, saying he had lost “confidence” in his judgment. Stepien is seen as close to Kushner.” [Politico]
“Oracle senior staffer resigns after CEO joins Trump transition team” by Lora Kolodny:“A senior staff member of Oracle Corp., George A. Polisner, has resigned after the enterprise tech titan’s co-CEO, Safra Catz, joined the Trump transition team and stated her enthusiasm for the president-elect… He made his resignation known yesterday to the company and the public by publishing his letter on LinkedIn… “I am not with President-elect Trump and I am not here to help him in any way. In fact –when his policies border on the unconstitutional, the criminal and the morally unjust –I am here to oppose him in every possible and legal way. Therefore I must resign from this once great company.” Polisner has also created a petition on NotWhoWeAre.us for other Oracle employees who many want to publicly protest Trump and Catz’s involvement in his transition team.” [TechCrunch]
“President Trump May Well Leave Details To Others” by Gary Rosenblatt: “Brace yourself for a new style of American presidency, Dan Senor told more than 350 attendees at a Jewish Week forum on “U.S.-Israel Relations in the Trump Era” last Wednesday evening at Central Synagogue in Midtown. Donald Trump may well perform in “more of a ceremonial role, traveling around the country” speaking to supporters, and “letting others run the country,” he said… “This is like therapy for me,” he confessed, in trying to readjust to the way Washington may function under Trump. “It’s easy to be skeptical, but maybe it’ll work,” he told moderator Abigail Pogrebin.” [NYJewishWeek]
VIDEO — “Schumer Promises to Protect Jewish Way of Life” by Jacob Kornbluh: “I know Hashem (God) gave me that name for a reason to be a ‘Shomer’ for this great Chasidishe (Hasidic) community here and for Yiddishkeit (the Jewish way of life) throughout the world. I promise you I always will try to live up to my name – to be a Shomer Yisrael.’’ [JewishInsider]
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Jared Kushner closes on another Dumbo Heights property [NYPost] • Liad Agmon’s Dynamic Yield raises $22M and adds Baidu as an investor [TC] • Moxy hotel project on Washington Avenue gets nod from preservation board [TRD] • One57’s Last Full-Floor Residence Sells at $13M Discount [MG]
TALK OF THE NATION: “After Neo-Nazi Posting, Police in Whitefish, Mont., Step Up Patrols” by Christine Hauser: “Lt. Bridger Kelch of the Police Department in the town in northwestern Montana said that the force was taking the measures after the website, The Daily Stormer, on Friday published phone numbers, work locations, email addresses, and photographs of six Flathead County residents… The matter has been the topic of national news media articles after a local report in The Missoulian drew widespread attention on social media.” [NYTimes]
“Marion Pritchard, Dutch rescuer of Jewish children during the Holocaust, dies at 96” by Emily Langer: “Marion Pritchard, a Dutch social work student who was credited with saving dozens of Jews during the Holocaust, spiriting some to safe houses, hiding others under floorboards, and, in one case, executing a Nazi before he could arrest a family of four, died Dec. 11 in Washington. She was 96.” [WashPost]
SPOTLIGHT: “Suit brought by Holocaust claims lawyer unearths Clinton emails warrant” by Eitan Arom: “A federal judge in New York unsealed a search warrant on Dec. 20 that the FBI used to re-open the Hillary Clinton emails case just days before the election. [E. Randol Schoenberg, a prominent Holocaust claims lawyer in Los Angeles] decided to seek the search warrant after reading about it in an Oct. 30 New York Times article. Beyond the Times story, he’d seen nothing reported about the FBI’s justification for the warrant. So he decided to take matters into his own hands, and hired David B. Rankin, a government transparency lawyer in New York, to pursue the case. “I just decided I was interested in this and nobody else was doing it and I have the ability to do it,” he told the Journal in a Dec. 14 interview…” [JewishJournal; AP]
PROFILE: “One-on-one with Trump’s doctor: Hecklers, house calls, and why Obamacare must be shut down” by Ike Swetlitz: “Bornstein was following in the footsteps of his father, Jacob, a doctor who practiced in the same Manhattan office and came from humble beginnings. Jacob grew up in a Yiddish-speaking family in Chelsea, Mass., and attended Harvard in the 1930s and ’40s as an undergraduate and for medical school, when universities had quotas for Jewish students. [His wife] Melissa said that Jacob didn’t live in the dorms, but rather at home with his mother. There’s a picture of Jacob in the office from his Harvard days — “he doesn’t look like a Jewish man,” Melissa said, noting Jacob’s round glasses.” Jacob found success — his patients included actress Anne Bancroft (when he met her, she was a waitress, Bornstein said), and of course Donald Trump. Bornstein thinks that one of Jacob’s patients, an electrical engineer, introduced Trump to Jacob.” [STAT]
LongRead: “How Goldman and Seinfeld Helped Put Steve Bannon in the White House” by David Rovella: “Perhaps the most ironic thing about Trump’s right-hand man is that he made much of his money investing in a wildly successful television program not known for its right-wing politics. Seinfeld is the ultimate paean to the urbanized, educated, wealthy demographic Bannon just spent the better part of a year helping vilify. For a man condemned by civil rights groups and members of Congress as offensive, sexist, and anti-Semitic, it doesn’t get more alt-right than that.” [BloombergBW]
MEDIA WATCH — Peter Beinart moving from Haaretz to The Forward: “For the past few years, I’ve greatly enjoyed being a columnist for Haaretz. But starting next year, I’ll be doing my Israel/Jewish writing for The Forward instead. I’ve long been a fan of Jane Eisner and her colleagues and am excited to be part of a publication that’s so deeply tied to American Jewish history. I’ll remain a Contributing Editor at The Atlantic, where I’ll continue to write on politics and foreign policy more broadly. I’ll also remain a Patriots fan, a coffee skeptic and a lover of anchovette.” [Facebook]
DESSERT — Israelis open San Francisco’s latest — and now only — kosher bakery: “As Oakland’s Grand Bakery gets set to close this week after 55 years of operation, Taboon will become the city’s only true kosher bakery. Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels, which is kosher-certified, has locations in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.
Taboon offers challah, pita, bagels, babka, rugelach, bourekas, sufganiyot for Hanukkah and more. The recipes are taken from Yanni’s great-grandfather, an Iraqi Jew who migrated to Israel and owned a bakery in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda Market. The bakery has been churning out 1,000 pitas a day and selling out of most of its items daily.” [JTA]
Hollywood Superagent Scooter Braun posts on Instagram: “An amazing day with with my wife and parents helping provide lunch for over 100 survivors of the Holocaust. The stories, the smiles, the laughs, and the latkes… just a great day. I know my Ma would of been smiling. Thank you Harley and JFS for making me aware 🙂 #neverforget” [Instagram]
BIRTHDAYS: CEO of DreamWorks Animation after a lengthy stint as chairman of Walt Disney Studios Jeffrey Katzenberg turns 66… NFL insider for ESPN since 2009, previously on the NFL Network, Adam Schefter turns 50… Political consultant at Yahoo News, graduate of Stanford Law School, founder of Junction Investments and formerly a producer at CBS Evening News, Brian Goldsmith turns 35… Chief Investigative Reporter at KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, IA (since last week), after a stint at New Haven’s WTNH News 8, Josh Scheinblum turns 28… VP in the financial services practice at NYC-based Bliss Integrated Communication, Julia Mellon… Political reporter for the Boston Globe since 2013, previously in DC for ABC News and the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Joshua Miller… Marta Skipper…