Daily Kickoff: Amb. Dermer to gain West Wing VIP status as US Ambs. Shapiro, Haney forced to step down | Kafe Knesset interview with MK Erel Margalit

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RENEWED VIP: “Trump restores power of Israeli ambassador” by Michael Crowley: “In November 2014, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, was a featured guest at a dinner for graduates of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school of business. The other honoree that night: Donald J. Trump. For Dermer, it was an extra-special occasion. As the Israeli envoy explained to the crowd at a Washington hotel, according to the text of his prepared remarks, the mogul had been an inspiration for the diplomat. When Trump’s The Art of the Deal was published in 1987, a teenaged Dermer read the cutthroat manifesto and resolved to become an entrepreneur like Trump. The book even convinced him to attend Trump’s alma mater of Wharton. “Mr. Trump,” Dermer said, “the truth is, I wanted to be your apprentice.” Dermer quickly indicated that his quip about Trump’s hit reality show of the same name was lighthearted: “But seriously…” he continued. An Israeli official confirmed the accuracy of the speech text.”

“Now, Dermer is poised to become a VIP in Trump’s West Wing — giving his boss and confidante, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, powerful access to the new White House regime…Dermer… remained quietly neutral during the campaign. But he communicated with Trump’s team through the candidate’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner… “He likely is to become much more influential,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the conservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “now that he will be interacting with a more friendly White House, which doesn’t spend its waking moments wondering how to undermine him and his government.” Obama officials would dispute that language. But there’s little doubt that Dermer’s job is about to get easier.” [Politico] Flashback — Video of Dermer’s last interaction with President Obama at the White House in December [YouTube]

“Kerry: Nobody can predict Trump administration’s choices” by Laura Koran and Elise Labott: “Nobody can predict what choices (the Trump) administration is going to make,” Kerry told reporters Thursday. “I don’t know, and I don’t think you know.” … He defended, in particular, the international agreement he helped negotiate to curb Iran’s nuclear program. That agreement, he insisted, “has made the world and our allies safer, including Israel and the Gulf states.” To terminate it would leave the US with the same “bad choices” of accepting a nuclear Iran or getting involved in another Mideast conflict… Despite his tireless efforts to secure a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians early in his tenure, the efforts ultimately floundered. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues,” he said, “but we are absolutely right to support a two-state solution, and to warn about the danger of actions on any side that could obstruct that possibility.” [CNN] Read Kerry’s full remarks at the State Dept. presser here [State]

NYTimes Revenue Dept: “J Street took out a full-page ad in The New York Times on Wednesday to thank President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for speaking “hard truths” to Israel. J Street called Obama and Kerry “true friends of the state of Israel” and predicted that “history will applaud your courage in addressing the conflict in both practical and moral terms.”” [Hamodia]

“Congress Probes FBI Over Top Obama National Security Advisor’s Security Clearance” by Adam Kredo: “Ben Rhodes… is under scrutiny in the wake of disclosures he was declined interim clearance status by the FBI in 2008… Lawmakers are now concerned that Rhodes’ access to the top levels of government—including its diplomacy with Iran—is inappropriate due to the FBI’s concerns about his past.” [FreeBeacon]

TRANSITION TOWER: “In Break With Precedent, Obama Envoys Are Denied Extensions Past Inauguration Day” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis: “Trump’s transition staff has issued a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day, according to several American diplomats familiar with the plan, breaking with decades of precedent by declining to provide even the briefest of grace periods. The mandate — issued “without exceptions,” according to a terse State Department cable sent on Dec. 23, diplomats who saw it said — threatens to leave the United States without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical nations like Germany, Canada and Britain… A senior Trump transition official said there was no ill will in the move, describing it as a simple matter of ensuring that Mr. Obama’s overseas appointees leave the government on schedule. They are weighing a direct appeal to Rex W. Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, or other top transition officials to reconsider the policy.” [NYTimes]

“In Costa Rica, Ambassador Stafford Fitzgerald Haney is hunting for a house or an apartment as his family — which includes four school-age children and his wife, who has been battling breast cancer — struggles to figure out how to avoid a move back to the United States with five months left in the school year, according to the diplomats.” [NYT]

From Amb. Haney’s bio: “Haney, a black convert to Judaism, was born in Nashville, Tennessee… Haney has served on the council of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and is an active member of Ayecha, a group that provides resources for Jews of color. He lives in Englewood, New Jersey, with his wife, Rabbi Andrea Haney.” [TicoTimes; State]

“US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to resign January 20” by Gary Willig: “Shaprio announced that he will resign his position as the top US diplomat in Israel on January 20… Leslie Tsou, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Tel Aviv, will take over at the embassy until the Senate approves Trump’s appointment of David Friedman… Shapiro will be allowed to remain in Israel after he submits his resignation until the end of the school year.” [Arutz7]

John Podhoretz: “Re NYT story: Trump won Nov. 8. Political ambassadors have known for 2 months they’d have to vacate. Absurd to have published this nonsense.” [Twitter]

“Former CIA director James Woolsey quits Trump transition team” by Philip Rucker:“Woolsey’s resignation as a Trump senior adviser comes amid frustrations over the incoming administration’s national security plans and Trump’s public comments undermining the intelligence community. “Effective immediately, Ambassador Woolsey is no longer a Senior Advisor to President-Elect Trump or the Transition. He wishes the President-Elect and his Administration great success in their time in office,” Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for Woolsey, said in a statement… People close to Woolsey said that he had been excluded in recent weeks from discussions on intelligence matters with Trump and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the incoming White House national security adviser. They said that Woolsey had grown increasingly uncomfortable lending his name and credibility to the transition team without being consulted.” [WashPost; CNN]

“Ivanka Trump turns to Goldman Sachs partner for advice” by Annie Karni:“[Dina] Powell, an Egyptian-born, Dallas-raised, fluent Arabic speaker… has become an invaluable resource to Ivanka Trump, who wants to position herself as a national leader on women’s economic empowerment, an issue that allows her to serve as a potential bridge to some liberals and moderates troubled by her father’s election as president… And over the past few weeks, the sources said, Powell has been discussed as a top candidate to advise Ivanka Trump in a more official way.” [Politico]

ON THE HILL: “House of Representatives Officially Disapproves of U.N. Censure of Israel” by Byron Tau: “On a 342 to 80 vote, more than 100 Democrats joined with a nearly unanimous Republican caucus to back the measure — a significant margin that shows the depth of congressional support for the Jewish state… The congressional disapproval, which doesn’t carry the force of law, states that the U.S. “should oppose and veto future United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status issues, or are one-sided and anti-Israel.” The show of support for Israel in Congress comes amid years of frosty relations between Mr. Obama and the conservative government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” [WSJ; Politico]

— “A visibly angry House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. opened debate on the resolution by saying that the Obama administration “abandoned our ally Israel when she needed us the most… Do not be fooled,” Ryan said. “This U.N. Security Council resolution … was about one thing and one thing only. Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish, democratic state. These types of one-sided efforts are designed to isolate and delegitimize Israel. They do not advance peace, they make it more elusive.”” [FoxNews]

Mike Pence: “Great to see strong bipartisan vote in Congress opposing recent UN resolution against our most cherished ally. America stands with Israel.” [Twitter]

“Two-State Solution Divides Congress During House Debate” by Aaron Magid and Jacob Kornbluh: “I can’t vote for the resolution when we are advocating what Joel 3 say will bring judgment down upon our nation for trying to partition Israel. Can’t do it,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said in his opposition to House Resolution 11… From the other side of the aisle, David Cicilline (D-RI) told the House floor, “I am extremely fearful that the two-state solution is, if not dead, in critical condition.” Other Democrats rejected House resolution 11 because the GOP-led Rules Committee refused to allow an amendment to the measure, which would have focused additional attention on the two-state solution instead of assailing the Obama Administration for abstaining at the UNSC vote last month. Rep. David Price (NC) urged his colleagues to vote against the bill and expressed disappointment that Resolution 11 did not include adequate support for a Palestinian state.” [JewishInsider; Haaretz]

DNC WATCH: “Keith Ellison votes against GOP-backed Israel resolution” by David Weigel: “He did not give a floor speech explaining the vote, but in a statement, he said that he had hoped to vote on a compromise resolution but had to oppose a version that looked like a political swipe. “Today Republicans were more interested in attacking President Obama in his last weeks as President,” said Ellison…  Ellison was one of 77 Democrats and three Republicans who opposed the GOP resolution, which was nonbinding, and criticized by some on the right for not going further in its critical language… The Democratic votes came largely from progressives, some of them Jewish, in politically safe seats.” [WashPost]

ADL’s Marvin Nathan and Jonathan Greenblatt: “As we enter a period of one party government, it’s vital for Americans and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to move forward in unison, building on decades of America’s bipartisan support for its vital ally and sister democracy, Israel.”

“Some Democrats relieved to bid the Obama doctrine farewell” by Michael Wilner: “While they now sit in opposition to a unified Republican government, Democrats critical of Obama’s Mideast policies may find themselves voting alongside their Hill Republican colleagues on a host of policies they now hope will earn the support of incoming president Donald Trump. On matters concerning Israel, they are likely to vote with the majority on a series of measures that Obama supported before his reelection in 2012… Should the incoming Trump administration choose to proceed with legislation targeting Iran for its non-nuclear activities… it will find in this group of Democrats potentially critical support, as 60 Senate votes are required to secure the passage of such bills.” [JPost

“Why Britain’s leader is desperate to work with Trump” by Benny Avni: “British diplomats were instrumental in pushing the UN Security Council resolution that Kerry was defending. So why is their prime minister now dumping on Obama’s top diplomat? It’s all about Brexit, those familiar with the thinking in London tell me. As relations with the continent cool off, they explain, Britain needs to forge a strong alliance with the United States. Kerry is the past. Trump, who has strongly criticized Obama’s diplomatic attack on Israel, is the future. May isn’t looking back.” [NYPost]

“Wiesenthal Center’s Hier defends decision to appear at Trump inauguration” by Eitan Arom: “I’ve done invocations for President [Bill] Clinton, both Bushes, Ronald Reagan,” he said. “I wouldn’t make any exception.” …  Hier dismissed news reports linking his inauguration appearance to $35,000 in donations made to the Simon Wiesenthal Center by the family of Jared Kushner… “They’re longtime supporters of Simon Wiesenthal,” Hier said of the Kushners, whom he considers friends. “It’s got nothing to do [with the inauguration]. They were supporters before Ivanka met Jared.” [JewishJournal]

PROFILE: “Donald Trump’s power broker” by Theodore Schleifer: “Part of the trouble was that despite Tom Barrack‘s place in the firmament of high society, sources said, he offered none of traditional fundraising relationships that Trump desperately needed. He knew nothing of the network assembled by Charles and David Koch, and though he scored a meeting with Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, he was unable to secure his confidence and a donation to his super PAC. The inauguration grants him something of a path to fundraising redemption. This time, Barrack won a $5 million check from the Adelsons, according to a person familiar with the donation.” [CNN]

2018 WATCH: “Former Bush operative Matthew Dowd mulls challenging Cruz for Senate” by Aby Livingston: “I don’t think Ted served the state well at all,” Dowd said. “He hasn’t been interested in being a U.S. senator from Texas. He’s been interested in national office since the day he got in… I think Ted is vulnerable, but I don’t think Ted’s vulnerable in the Republican primary, and I don’t think Ted is vulnerable to a Democrat in the general,” he said. “I think a Democrat can’t win in the state.” [TXTribune]

** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **

STARTUP NATION: “The Coolest Israeli Technologies Wowing The Crowds At CES 2017” by Einat Paz-Frankel: “Israeli company Beyond Verbal‘s cutting-edge, artificially intelligent technology deciphers people’s moods, emotional characteristics, and attitudes in real-time. Having already analyzed millions of voice samples from 170 countries, Beyond Verbal’s technology decodes human vocal intonations into their underlying emotions… Israeli startup TytoCare has developed an innovative hand-held instrument, called Tyto, which can detect and classify common diseases such as the flu or ear infections.” [NoCamels]

Michael Granoff tweets us a pic from Las Vegas:“I have no statistics, feels there are more kippot at CES every year.” [Twitter]

SPOTLIGHT: “Mark Zuckerberg shares Facebook’s secrets with all his employees, and almost none of it leaks” by Kurt Wagner: “Sources say Zuckerberg uses these weekly meetings to tell his nearly 16,000 employees details of yet-to-be-released products, like news reader app Paper or Snapchat competitor Slingshot — and M, the AI assistant. He’ll open up about the company’s product strategy, like its push into live video. And Zuckerberg will also share his personal opinions on competitors like Snapchat and Twitter, and even Facebook’s board members. Almost nothing is off limits. And almost nothing leaks to the press, even though Facebook’s entire workforce — including its interns — have access to the meetings.” [Recode]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “This Billionaire’s Plan Could Save Philadelphia Schools” by Laura Goldman: “The co-founder of Susquehanna Investment Group (SIG), Jeff Yass, presented his bold initiative at Philadelphia Magazine’s Thinkfest… “We would give every child in the city of Philadelphia a voucher… everybody $10, 000. You are free to go to any school that you want-a Catholic school, a charter school, a private school… Plus you would get $6000 that you could put in the bank… over 13 years (K-12), you could invest in the stock market, bond market, or whatever; on average you would have $109,000 when you graduated,” suggested the investor.” [HuffPost]

MEDIA WATCH: “Rupert Murdoch Is Turning Fox News Into Trump TV” by Gabriel Sherman: “Murdoch came around to backing Trump (after a détente brokered by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner). Now he seems intent on turning up Fox’s support to a new level.” [NYMag]

“Cheddar Teams Up With ‘Vanity Fair’ & Conde Nast For New Show” by Amy Mackelden: “This is an exciting collaboration for Bustle board member Jon Steinberg’s startup Cheddar, which has already been dubbed the “CNBC for Millennials.” The new series will premiere on Feb. 19, 2017, and will broadcast from the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange… According to the official press release, “VF Hive on Cheddar” will focus on the most important events in “business, politics, and technology.” The series will be available across a number of platforms, including on Cheddar and Vanity Fair’s Facebook Live, on Sling TV and Amazon.” [Bustle]

CAMPUS BEAT: “Martha Minow to Step Down as Dean From Harvard Law” by Casey Sullivan: “Through a spokeswoman, Minow, 62, released a statement on why she is stepping down: “I intended to serve five years; I’ve been Dean for eight. Following one of our strongest years ever in terms of admissions and the strongest ever for fundraising, it seemed a great moment to turn over the reins as we look to the Law School’s bicentennial year ahead.” … Minow will remain on the faculty as a professor, the school said in its announcement.” [BOL]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Painter Lisa Singer’s stormy weather at the Aspen JCC” by Andrew Travers: “More than 20 of her new paintings are now on view at the Aspen Jewish Community Center on Main Street in a show running through Feb. 26… These paintings are textured and atmospheric. They’re filled with Singer’s personal symbols of safety and hope, various shelters from the storm. There are sailboats battling rocky seas. There is a barn offering refuge on a rain-darkened plain… “That’s what interests me: finding and experiencing the centeredness and the solidness and the sense of hope within the tumult,” Singer said.” [AspenTimes]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Text to Text: Comparing Jewish Refugees of the 1930s With Syrian Refugees Today” by Laura Tavares: “Safety was also a concern. Jews were associated with a variety of acts and ideas that were seen as un-American, [Peter] Shulman said, including Communism and violence. That caused Jewish refugees to be “extraordinarily, excruciatingly vetted,” said Marion Kaplan, a professor in the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. “The State Department worried that among the Jewish refugees there would be Nazi spies,” she said. “There was hysteria about fifth columnists coming in with the refugees.”” [NYTimes]

KAFE KNESSET — Interview with MK Erel Margalit — by Tal Shalev: Yesterday, a few hours before the police arrived at the Prime Minister’s residence for a second interrogation within a week, the biggest petition in Israel’s history was submitted to the Supreme Court, demanding to investigate Netanyahu’s ship and submarine dealings, and his connection to the German company thyssenKrupp, as well as his relationship with French convicted fraudster Arnaud Mimran. The petition was initiated by Zionist union MK Erel Margalit, and Labor party activist Eldad Yaniv, and they gathered more than 19,000 signatures to support their demand. This morning, the Knesset guard ordered to step up security protection around Margalit, following an escalation in social media threats, mainly surrounding Margalit’s clear-cut objection to granting a pardon to convicted soldier Elor Azaria earlier this week.

Kafe Knesset: Netanyahu’s supporters claim this investigation is not about justice but about toppling his rule, shouldn’t that be done through the ballot?

Margalit: “Look, when it was about Netanyahu’s house, or porch, or ice cream, I said nothing, I started talking about this when two things occurred– first, about 8 months ago, when I found out his lawyers and him are involved with the European crook, Mimran, and I asked myself – what the hell is going on here? Then, regarding the vessels deal, I am a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and I was asking questions quietly during our sessions about the ship deals and why the tenders were canceled and directed to Germany, but it was behind closed doors and I didn’t have any suspicion of Netanyahu’s involvement in the manner. But when media reports came out about Shimron’s connections to ThyssenKrupp – that Netanyahu’s personal attorney and one of his closest associates is doing the work for the company – things started to look suspicious. Then I found out that one of the owners of the company is the Lebanese defense minister, which according to reports meets with Rouhani and Nasrallah. I think these are the big issues that need to be on the table. We deserve to get answers to these questions.” Read the entire interview with Margalit [JewishInsider]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Professor of Chemistry (now Emeritus) at The University of Chicago since 1957, member of the Board of Governors at Tel Aviv University, Stuart A. Rice turns 85… Canadian businessman, investor, author and philanthropist, Seymour Schulich turns 77… Billionaire, philanthropist and co-founder of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts Henry R. Kravis turns 73… Start-Up Nation Central alum, former Fulbright Scholar in Uganda, Anna Phillips… President and editor in chief of Rewire (once known as RH Reality Check), previously Director of Advocacy at American Jewish World Service, Jodi Lynn Jacobson… Founder of Pure California Beverages, past president of American Technion Society’s Western Region, Advisory Board Member of Spinal Singularity, Sarah Beth Rena Conner… Jonah Kaplan… Daniel Slatopolsky… Mel S. Coben

Co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, current owner of Men’s Journal and Us Weekly magazines, member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jann Wenner turns 71… Physician, US Senator from Kentucky since 2011, son of Congressman Ron Paul and presidential candidate in 2016, Rand Paul turns 54… Jeremy Ragent… Ezra Kest… Ari Mittleman… Television, film, stage actor and comedian, Larry Storch turns 94… Moscow-born classical pianist, living in the US since 1987, Vladimir Feltsman turns 65… Lobbyist, attorney, patron of contemporary art and philanthropist, Heather Miller Podesta

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