Daily Kickoff: A month after honoring Kerry, Saban says he’s ‘deeply disturbed’ by Admin’s actions on Israel | How ‘Elites’ became a nasty epithet

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TOP TALKER: “Haim Saban Says He’s ‘Deeply Disturbed’ by Obama Administration’s Recent Actions on Israel” by Ted Johnson: “Saban, through his publicist, issued a statement, saying that “as a longstanding Democrat who has supported and defended President Obama on his treatment of Israel throughout his presidency, I am deeply disturbed by the Administration’s decision not to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and Secretary Kerry’s subsequent one-sided speech.” “These actions undermine our country’s long-standing support for Israel and harm any long-term prospects for peace, which is in our national interest,” he added.” [Variety]

“Month after awarding Kerry, Haim Saban repudiates him over Israel actions” by Michael Wilner: “Saban’s condemnation of Kerry comes shortly after he hosted the secretary at his annual forum held by the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Thank you so much for all you’ve done,” Saban said, presenting Kerry with a large inscribed award.” [JPost]

“Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s exit memo is filled with policies that Trump could undo” by Carol Morello: “He also shows his frustration that Israelis and Palestinians never resumed peace talks, which Kerry spent nine months trying to make happen. “I sincerely hope for the future of both Israelis and Palestinians alike that their leaders will make the difficult choices necessary to advance the prospects for peace,” he said. Kerry describes the security relationship between the United States and Israel “stronger than it has ever been.” There is no reference to the tension over an anti-settlement Security Council resolution passed without a U.S. veto, nor Trump’s promise “things will be different” after he is sworn in… He defends the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump called a “disaster” and the “worst deal ever negotiated.” Kerry argues that with the deal, “we took a major security threat off the table without firing a single shot.”” [WashPost]

HAPPENING TODAY: JohnKerry will hold a press conference at the State Department today at 2pm EST [Livestream]

On The Hill: The House is set to vote on a resolution objecting to the recent UNSC vote against Israel starting at around 12:00 pm est [CSPAN]

MORE DETAILS: “Ivanka Trump’s New Washington Home Once Belonged to a Putin Foe” by  Julie Hirschfeld Davis: “The house was previously owned by a Latvian-born financier with extensive investments in Russia and ties to a Russian opposition leader… Dan K. Rapoport and his wife, Irina… Vladimir Ashurkov, a top aide to Aleksei A. Navalny, a leading Russian opposition leader and critic of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, described Mr. Rapoport as a successful financier in Moscow and an investor in Soho Rooms… He recently relocated from Washington to Kiev, Ukraine, where he manages a private equity fund, Mr. Ashurkov said. It was not clear whether Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner bought the house from the Rapoports or would be renting it from a new owner.” [NYTimes]

“Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s choice of neighborhood narrows the focus on Chabad” by Julie Zauzmer January: “Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who leads TheShul, cited his policy of not discussing any of his conversations with prospective worshipers. “Our shul is a beautiful seven- to ten-minute’s walk from the address of the house they have reportedly rented,” Shemtov said. Norman Eisen… said people who work in politics at a high level, whether Democrats or Republicans, are frequently welcomed at TheShul, where he worships. “They welcome everybody of every political orientation to TheShul. Its what we call a haimish minyan: It’s a comfortable, friendly, intimate minyan,” he said.” [WashPost]

PROFILE: “Jewish Senate Candidate Tests Trump’s Model In Ohio” by JI’s Aaron Magid: “While Ohio GOP Senator Rob Portman tried avoiding the Republican Presidential nominee during his successful 2016 reelection bid, [Josh] Mandel appears to be adopting the opposite strategy of embracing Trump and his rhetoric in the hopes that this too will propel him across the finish line… After repeatedly gushing about Trump’s stances on immigration and terrorism, the Republican Senate candidate noted that he has “not seen any evidence” of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections — a stance in line with Trump’s.” When pressed if there was even one policy issue on which Mandel differed with the President-elect, Mandel would not name a single disagreement. [Herb] Weisberg emphasized that Mandel’s embracing of the next Commander in Chief’s rhetoric could have mixed results. “If Trump is successful as President, Mandel is riding that tiger into the race. If Trump isn’t successful, Mandel is stuck with him,” he noted.” [JewishInsider]

DISPATCH FROM JERUSALEM: “With Israel divided, court convicts soldier in killing of wounded Palestinian assailant” by Ruth Eglash: “Even before the verdict was read, some Israeli leaders, including senior government ministers, called for the soldier to be pardoned. “He should not sit one day in jail. We expect the defense minister to stick to his promises and initiate an immediate amnesty for Azaria,” read a statement from the far-right Jewish Home party, headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Facebook that he also supported a pardon for Azaria, calling the nation’s soldiers “our sons and daughters.”” [WashPost]

–“A poll by pro-Netanyahu newspaper Israel Hayom found that around 70 percent of Israelis favor a pardon for Azaria.” [France24]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: After hours of silence, the Israeli Prime Minister reacted last night to the dramatic verdict in the Elor Azaria trial, convicting the soldier of manslaughter in the shooting of a Palestinian terrorist last March in Hebron. In a short Facebook post, published just a few minutes before the main 8PM news shows, Netanyahu expressed his empathy with the soldier and his family, and called on the public to keep the IDF out of the debate. “I urge all citizens to act responsibly toward the IDF, the officers, and the IDF chief… IDF soldiers are our sons and daughters, and they must remain above all conflict,” Netanyahu wrote, responding to the various curses and statements against the IDF leadership and chief of staff – many of them coming from his own party.

It’s all about the base, as a popular pop song goes. The Azaria affair has turned into a battle over public opinion and specifically over right wing constituents. In sharp contrast to Netanyahu and Bennett, Israel Beitenu leader Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Kulanu head, Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon, are taking a different approach to the pardon issue. Kachlon released a statement last night, declaring a clemency should only be examined after the legal procedures are over, and should depend on the IDF’s position towards the move. Liberman, for his part, is emerging to be the most vocal voice against the pardon demand, and in a series of media interviews this morning he attacked Bennett and other politicians for politically interfering in the court’s decision.

Despite the wide support for Azaria’s clemency, the truth of the matter is that the political system has nothing to do with a potential clemency process. A pardon can be granted by the President or by the IDF itself. President Rivlin emphasized that yesterday in a special statement – clarifying that only the defendant himself can apply for a pardon, and that he will not make any decision until after the sentence in rendered, slated for later this month. Just last month, Rivlin rejected a petition signed by 65 parliament members, requesting a pardon for an Ethiopian man who killed his alleged rapist and abuser, and many in the political system believe he will also reject a pardon in the Azaria affair. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Why Sgt. Elor Azaria is no less a pawn than he is a villain” by Shmuel Rosner: “Early on, the military made a mistake by portraying Elor Azaria as a villain much greater than he really is. Azaria’s supporters were also irresponsible by portraying him as an innocent victim, much more than he really is. The Elor Azaria case – as a legal case – is simple and straightforward: The verdict was not surprising; Azaria’s guilt was proven beyond doubt. The Elor Azaria case – as a political storm and a public debate – is less simple. In this case, Azaria is not a player, he is a pawn.” [JewishJournal]

“Elor Azaria and Israel’s moral core” by David Horovitz:”The very fact that Azaria was tried, painstakingly tried in an unimpeachably credible Israeli court of law, represented reaffirmation of Israel’s determination to preserve its morality — its insistence on preventing our enemies, our terrorist foes, from reducing us to their cynical, murderous depths.” [ToI]

CONFIRMATION TALK: “Rex Tillerson talks tough on Russia in private Capitol Hill meetings” by Josh Rogin: “Next week, former ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson will testify for two consecutive days on every foreign policy issue under the sun. If he says the right things about Russia in public — as he has in private — Democrats likely won’t be able to prevent him from becoming the next secretary of state… “He said, ‘Look, I understand Putin and Russia is a playground bully and they only respect strength and you need to come from a position of strength to them or you are going to have a lot of problems,’” one senior Senate staffer who was not authorized to speak about the private meeting told me, paraphrasing Tillerson’s remarks… Transition sources said that Tillerson has been studying a range of issues in advance of his hearing… He doesn’t have any background, for example, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is learning the history and nuances from scratch. “ [WashPost]

“Asked Wednesday whether he could support Tillerson’s nomination, McCain told reporters, “Sure. There’s also a realistic scenario that pigs fly.”” [HoustonChronicle

DRIVING THE WEEK: “Republicans Are Readying A Push To Defund The United Nations” by Paul McLeod and Lissandra Villa: “The right-wing House Freedom Caucus will meet next Monday to decide between two proposals to bring to the House. One would be to reduce American funding to the UN. The other, more aggressive proposal is to make funding voluntary, thus leaving it to Congress every two years to decide whether to continue contributing to the organization… The Trump transition team told BuzzFeed News there was no comment on whether Trump would support measures to defund the United Nations.” [BuzzFeed

“Bipartisan Support for Rubio/Cardin Resolution Condemning UN” by Aaron Magid and Jacob Kornbluh: “The bill has received the support from over 20 Senators including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) highlightings its broad bipartisan appeal. In a statement on Wednesday, Schumer blasted the outgoing Obama Administration for not following in the path of past administrations – both Democrat and Republican – in “protecting Israel from the vagaries” of the “biased” UN… The resolution also urges the current Administration and future administrations to uphold the practice of vetoing all United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to dictate terms and a timeline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on unilateral terms.”

— A Republican Congressional staff official told Jewish Insider… that the resolutions to cut the UN’s funding and move the Embassy to Jerusalem will likely require more time and take weeks to months… The Republican staffer noted: “We are not going to see a blanket ban on funding to the entire body. If anything happens in terms of limiting funding to the UN, you would see it to specific agencies or programs and not just US pulling our entire package from the UN.”” [JewishInsider

— “Ten Senate Democrats Break With Obama Over U.N. Censure of Israeli Settlements” by Byron Tau: “Nearly a quarter of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, signed the non-binding resolution introduced Wednesday… Support from U.S. politicians for Israel typically crosses party lines, and members of both parties distanced themselves from the action. “ [WSJ]

INBOX — “US Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced today that he is one of 12 Democrats who are an original co-sponsor of a bipartisan Senate resolution… “UN Resolution 2334 was a one-sided effort targeting the state of Israel that set back efforts to move us closer to a two-state solution and to peace. That’s why I spoke out against this resolution before the Security Council vote in December,” Sen. Booker said.”

Patrick Svitek: “Ted Cruz on U.S. embassy not being in Jerusalem: “It’d be like Israel having their embassy in Detroit.” Asked if he’s comparing Detroit to Tel Aviv, Cruz replied “Not remotely… Detroit’s a lovely city, by the way.” [Twitter

“Bibi’s Revenge at U.N. Risks Israel’s Bid for Security Council Seat” by Colum Lynch and John Hudson: “For the past year, Israel has engaged in an intensive, if quixotic, campaign to secure one of two Security Council seats reserved for Western governments for 2019-20… That effort is now in jeopardy as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, Israel, and its supporters in the U.S. Congress threaten to retaliate against the United Nations and governments that supported what they view as a deeply unfair resolution. The move could alienate even potential supporters of an Israeli bid to the Security Council… “They are back to square one,” the Arab diplomat told Foreign Policy.” [FP

“In exit memo, U.S. envoy warns U.N. retreat would be harmful” by Michelle Nichols: “Power also promoted the importance of the United Nations in ensuring the success of the a deal between Iran and key world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Trump has vowed to scrap the deal. “We must continue to fulfill our own commitments and use U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 … to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will remain exclusively peaceful,” Power said.” [Reuters] • After disparaging United Nations, Trump and new U.N. chief talk [Reuters

TRANSITION TOWER: How Christie’s top aide shook Bridgegate and won over Trump” by Josh Dawsey, Ryan Hutchins and Alex Isenstadt: “Stepien was brought into the Trump campaign in August. It was Jared Kushner, who is from New Jersey and follows the state’s politics closely, who introduced him to other members of the Trump campaign hierarchy… By winter, Kushner was quizzing other members of the Trump team on whether Stepien would make a good fit for the political director job. Kushner and Stepien have something in common: a cool relationship with Christie.” [Politico

“Democrats Gather Ammo Against Treasury Pick Steven Mnuchin” by  Gabriel Rubin: “The liberal group Allied Progress is launching a six-figure television ad campaign in Arizona and Nevada to call on Sens. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) and Dean Heller (R., Nev.) to vote against Mr. Mnuchin’s nomination… Opponents also are poring over records related to OneWest’s activities while Mr. Mnuchin was there, particularly with regard to the legality of its foreclosure practices.” [WSJ]

“How ‘Elites’ Became One of the Nastiest Epithets in American Politics” by Beverly Gage:”Our new president is a private-jet-setting billionaire Ivy League graduate, a real estate tycoon, a TV star and a son of inherited wealth. But he is no longer, by his own calculations, a member of the “elite.” Nor are the men (and the few women) now joining his inner circle — 1-percenters and corporate executives, Harvard and Yale alumni, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Goldman Sachs bankers. The true elite apparently sits elsewhere, among those who, in Sarah Palin’s notable 2008 formulation, think “that they’re — I guess — better than anyone else.”” [NYTMag]

“Jewish groups tussle over Friedman pick” by Dan Schere: “One of Friedman’s biggest backers in the Jewish community is Mort Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America… Klein said he has called a number of senators in the last week, both Democrats and Republicans, urging them to confirm Friedman. The National Council of Young Israel sent a statement to its members urging them contact their senators and representatives in support of Friedman’s nomination. [NIF’s Daniel] Sokatch said has had conversations with center-right Jews who are opposed to Friedman’s nomination, but will not say so publicly out of fear they will be lumped in with the rest of Friedman’s opponents.” [WashJewishWeek]

DNC WATCH: “Ellison backs banning lobbyist contributions to the DNC” by Brent Griffiths:”The ban began at President Obama’s behest, but was overturned by former chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz during the 2016 presidential race… Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who officially entered the DNC race on Dec. 15, was previously noncommittal on reinstating the ban.” [Politico]

** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
STARTUP NATION: “ProoV: the start-up that test-drives start-ups for the world’s largest companies” by Michael Zeff: “According to ProoV, the big corporations that are already using the platform successfully include Amazon, General Electric, AIG international and NBC’s Comcast. A start-up that wishes to sign up to prooV has to go through a validation process, since the platform is intended only to match mature and fully developed concepts with big enterprises. The platform it not a testing environment for developers of pre-released products.” [JPost] • Flush with funds, Fiverr among Israeli tech firms delaying exits [JPost]

LongRead: “Cyberwar for Sale” by Mattathias Schwartz: “A subscription-based website called Insider Surveillance lists more than a dozen companies selling so-called ethical malware, including Milan-based Hacking Team, the German firms FinFisher and Trovicor and the Israeli company Nice. Compared with conventional arms, surveillance software is subject to few trade controls; a recent attempt by the United States to regulate it under a 41-country pact called the Wassenaar Arrangement failed. “The technology is morally neutral,” says Joel Brenner, a former inspector general of the National Security Agency. “The same program that you use to monitor your babysitter might be used by Bashar Assad or Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to keep track of whomever they don’t like.”” [NYTMag]

“From Hands to Heads to Hearts” by Tom Friedman: “Seidman reminded me of a Talmudic adage: “What comes from the heart, enters the heart.” Which is why even jobs that still have a large technical component will benefit from more heart. I call these STEMpathy jobs — jobs that combine STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills with human empathy, like the doctor who can extract the best diagnosis from IBM’s Watson on cancer and then best relate it to a patient.” [NYTimes]

“How praying every day helped me heal from grief — in synagogues all over the world” by Paula Shoyer: “As a woman, I was never counted as one of the 10 participants by an Orthodox minyan, but I was never ignored. Orthodox rabbis literally ran after me after services to ask who I was and to welcome me… My minyan experiences taught me to value daily prayer… I managed to focus on others while I prayed, and by directing my energy toward others as well as my own pain, the daily experience became meaningful… And once you see the power of one single Jew to make a minyan, you show up. People do not appreciate the minyan until they have to.” [WashPost]

TRANSITION: White House Jewish Liaison Chanan Weissman emails… “In the weekly Sabbath prayer service on Friday night, we recite the words “sof ma’aseh b’machshava t’chilah – meaning, “last in deed; first in thought.” This idea remains top-of-mind as I internalize the reality that tomorrow is my last day serving as the White House liaison to the Jewish community. While this email accounts for a belated note of appreciation – for your friendship, your guidance, your leadership, your support for, and at times principled disagreement with, this Administration – the feeling of gratitude is one that has defined my daily experience since first walking into the halls of this White House not too long ago… it has been the honor of a lifetime to work for President Obama and this Administration on issues of such consequential importance – and to do so with you, the leaders and laypeople that constitute our American Jewish community.”

TALK OF THE TOWN — “De Blasio defends donations from conservatives to his nonprofit” by Jennifer Fermino: “Donald Trump used to donate to Hillary Clinton,” a frustrated de Blasio said on Wednesday. “Come on.” … Among those conservative donors was George Klein of the Park Tower Group, who gave the mayor’s nonprofit $50,000 in March 2015… A month earlier, Klein gave $125,000 to Republican Jeb Bush’s White House campaign, Politico’s analysis found… “People who give to Democratic causes, (it) does not disqualify them . . . from giving to Republicans too,” de Blasio said… “Come on, this is the real world. There’s plenty of people in business who give to both sides.” [NYDN]

“An Interview With The First Hasidic Woman Elected To Public Office In The U.S.” by Raphael Pope-Sussman: What if there’s a conflict between religious and civil law? “So there is a dictum in the Talmud, that’s dina d’malkhuta dina. Which is Aramaic for, “The law of the land is the law.” If something comes to the courtroom, it’s the law of the United States that applies. When two religious Jews have a dispute and they arbitrate in front of the beis din, then the beis din has the authority to make the decision. Because they chose arbitration. But once something comes into a court of law, it’s the law of the country that applies. It’s not even a question.” [Gothamist]

DESSERT: “Historic Designation Sets Stage for a Washington Market District’s Future” by Eugene Meyer: “The scene is now collectively known as the Union Market district, a gentrifying area of Northeast Washington where technology start-ups and an independent movie theater coexist with the old warehouses. At the heart is an indoor space, also called Union Market, with 39 artisanal vendors selling not only food to eat in or take out, but also tableware, kitchen knives and sundries… Many of the original owners were Greek, Italian and Jewish. Now, Chinese, Koreans and immigrants from African countries are also part of the mix.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Former Philadelphia mayor (1992-2000) and Pennsylvania governor (2003-2011), currently a fellow at Brookings and co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Immigration Task Force, Ed Rendell turns 73 (h/t Playbook)… Former Attorney General of the U.K. (2001-2007), now Chair of the European and Asian litigation practice at Debevoise & Plimpton, Lord Peter Goldsmith, turns 67… Chief creative officer of Sinclair Broadcasting’s Circa News, previously editor-in-chief at The Washington Times, John F. Solomon turns 50 (h/t Playbook)… CEO of Legacy Interactive / Legacy Games, founded in 1998, Ariella Lehrer, Ph.D…. Founder and principal of DC-based Mager & Associates, a boutique public policy and advocacy consulting firm, also on the board of Emily’s List, Mimi Mager… Paul Meyer

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