Daily Kickoff: How Israeli firms do business in Saudi Arabia | White House puts Iran ‘on notice’ | Meet Brian Mast | Charlie Kushner’s redemption
Have our people email your people. Share this sign up link with your friends
Ed note: Barring breaking news or poorly written statements to the Jewish community, the next Daily Kickoff will be on Tuesday morning. We’ve been running nonstop ever since 2:33am on Nov 9, 2016. As Rosie Gray tweeted last night, “the pace of completely off-the-wall stuff happening is now down to about once an hour.” The good news is today’s Daily Kickoff should have plenty of great content to last a few days. We’ll still be posting stories to JewishInsider.com and via all the social channels. Have a wonderful and restful weekend!
PROFILE — The US Army vet, IDF volunteer, now in Congress — by Aaron Magid: Freshman Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL) served 12 years in the US Army earning a Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart Medal, in addition to obtaining an economics degree from Harvard. For many in the Jewish community, the icing on top is that Mast volunteered with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in January 2015, packing medical kits at a military base near Tel Aviv. However, the Florida legislator’s climb from the US Army to Capitol Hill has not been without challenges. Stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Mast lost both legs along with his left index finger in the blast. In an interview with Jewish Insider from his Congressional office, Mast focused on the high cost of war including the 67 friends he has lost while serving overseas. [JewishInsider]
COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF: “Questions Cloud U.S. Raid on Qaeda Branch in Yemen” by Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger: “Just five days after taking office, over dinner with his newly installed secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Trump was presented with the first of what will be many life-or-death decisions: whether to approve a commando raid that risked the lives of American Special Operations forces and foreign civilians alike. With two of his closest advisers, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, joining the dinner at the White House along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Mr. Trump approved sending in the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, hoping the raid early last Sunday would scoop up cellphones and laptop computers that could yield valuable clues about one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups… As it turned out, almost everything that could go wrong did.” [NYTimes]
— U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations. [Reuters]
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Trump White House Puts Iran ‘On Notice’ After Missile Launch” by Carol Lee and Michael Bender: “Calling Iran a “destabilizing influence” in the Middle East, National Security Adviser Mike Flynn declared Wednesday: “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.” Administration officials, while providing few specifics, said Mr. Trump has begun a process of reviewing current U.S. policy and is “considering a whole range of options,” including tougher sanctions. Asked if military force also was one of the options, the officials didn’t rule it out.” [WSJ]
–Worth noting: “The Pentagon was informed before the announcement and the defense secretary, James Mattis, prevailed upon Flynn to soften his language about Iran from an earlier version.” [TheGuardian]
GOP Lawmakers introduce new Iran sanctions bill — by Aaron Magid: Republican lawmakers introduced new legislation yesterday sanctioning Iran for its human rights abuses, support for terrorism and ballistic missile program. Reps. Peter J. Roskam (R-IL), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Doug Lamborn (R-CO) introduced the “Iran Nonnuclear Sanctions Act of 2017.”
“For hardline West Bank settlers, Jared Kushner’s their man” by Maayan Lubell: “He will stand up for our interests. I suppose he will lean in our favor,” said Avi Lavi, 46, who has lived in Bet El for more than 40 years. “He’ll be fair, as opposed to Obama, whose policy leaned always towards the Arabs.” The big question for the Palestinians is whether he can be an impartial actor given his family foundation’s past financial ties to Bet El.” [Reuters] • Palestinian leaders are fuming over warnings from Trump administration about halting aid and even restoring the PLO to list of terror groups if the Palestinian leadership attempts to sue Israel in international court [Haaretz]
House introduces bill to cut funding to the PA — by Aaron Magid: Republican Congressmen Ted Budd (R-NC) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) introduced legislation yesterday to end funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) if Ramallah doesn’t “cease all financial rewards to terrorists or their families.” The GOP lawmakers were particularly incensed by the Obama Administration’s decision to release $221 million to the PA immediately before leaving office last month. Currently, no Democrats have co-sponsored the bill and it is unclear if AIPAC will back the legislation.
“Trump’s pick for Israel envoy to undergo unprecedented Senate grilling” by Julian Pecquet: “Some of the language that he has been quoted using against leaders of the Jewish community here I find really inflammatory,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Middle East panel. “There are some things I’m very interested in exploring with him.”… “What I’ve read is concerning. But I want to let him make his case,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told Al-Monitor. “It’s certainly an out-of-the-box choice. But everything this administration is doing so far is out of the box.” [AlMonitor]
“Anthony Scaramucci Won’t Get Announced White House Role, Official Says” by Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Scaramucci was informed on Wednesday by Reince Priebus, President Trump’s chief of staff, and by Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s top strategist, that he would not get the job as liaison to the business community. At issue is Mr. Scaramucci’s sale of his firm, SkyBridge Capital, to a division of HNA Group, a politically connected Chinese conglomerate that would become the firm’s majority owner. The sale has not been completed, and administration officials said the White House Counsel’s Office had predicted that it would take up to three months for Mr. Scaramucci to be cleared of potential ethics conflicts.” [NYTimes]
Question — ZOA sent out a press release last week with the title “ZOA’s Mort Klein Scores First Jewish Meeting With Trump Officials” after we reported that Klein was scheduled to meet with Scaramucci. Now that Scaramucci is officially not working in the White House, can Klein still claim the ZOA ‘scored the first Jewish meeting with the Trump team’?
SPOTTED — Rabbi Haskel Lookstein and President Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning [Pic]
“Donald Trump Declares a Vision of Religious Nationalism” by Emma Green: “Trump is championing an agenda of religious nationalism. Along with key White House staffers like Stephen Bannon, he believes America represents a set of values, rooted in the country’s religious identity. While there’s little evidence that Trump himself is religiously devout, he has benefited from affiliations with largely white evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr… Repealing the Johnson Amendment would theoretically allow houses of worship and religious leaders to openly advocate for political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status, while also allowing them to funnel religious donations into explicitly political efforts.” [TheAtlantic]
JI INTERVIEW — Judge Gorsuch’s classmate David Javdan reflects on college days at Columbia University — by Aaron Magid: Jewish Insider spoke on Wednesday with David Javdan, a classmate and longtime friend of Judge Neil Gorsuch. Javdan, who first met Gorsuch when they were students at Columbia University, has represented the Austrian Jewish community on Holocaust restitution issues and worked pro bono for the Iranian American Jewish Federation.
Jewish Insider: How long have you known Judge Neil Gorsuch?
David Javdan: I have known Neil for 31 years. We went to college together and wrote on the newspaper (The Federalist) together. He’s a wonderful guy.
JI: Outside of the courtroom, how would you describe Judge Gorsuch?
Javdan: He’s very humble, very committed to inclusiveness. He founded the newspaper at Columbia. He let pretty much everyone write what they wanted: everything from very liberal and libertarian to conservative articles. He was very welcoming to everyone, very gracious, very intellectual. He has a lot of friends from very different backgrounds.
JI: What is unique about the Judge’s background?
Javdan: He is incredibly dedicated to public service. He is someone with two Supreme Court clerkships, a PhD in law, he could have gone and cashed in. Instead, he spent his entire adult life — when a lot of his classmates were going to Goldman Sachs and big law firms — he basically spent most of his adult life in government service. That says a lot about him. Even back then, he has incredible respect for the law. He is a huge believer in that. He is someone who is really humble and wants to make sure that he does the right thing.
** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Charlie Kushner’s redemption: After a stint in prison and years in the shadows, the developer is regaining his stature thanks to his son’s meteoric rise to the White House [RealDeal] • The Folded Flag Foundation Receives $10K Donation from Fashion Neckwear Designer David Fin Ties [Newswire] • Eli Broad, billionaire philanthropist and charter school backer, urges senators to oppose DeVos [WashPost] • Media Mogul Patrick Drahi to Launch Cable News Network i24 in U.S. [Variety]
STARTUP NATION: “How Do Israel’s Tech Firms Do Business in Saudi Arabia? Very Quietly” by Jonathan Ferzinger and Peter Waldman: “Bar, a tousle-haired 62-year-old with a wry sensibility, emerged from government service in 2003 amid the proliferation of global terrorism, and in the rising sense of doom he saw a business opportunity. He founded a company called IntuView, a miner of data in the deep, dark web—a sort of Israeli version of Palantir, the Silicon Valley security contractor… Then, two years ago, an e-mail arrived out of the blue. Someone from the upper echelons of power in Saudi Arabia, Bar says, invited him to discuss a potential project via Skype. The Saudis had heard about his technology and wanted his help identifying potential terrorists. There was one catch: Bar would have to set up a pass-through company overseas to hide IntuView’s Israeli identity. Not a problem, he said, and he went to work ferreting out Saudi jihadis with a software program called IntuScan, which can process 4 million Facebook and Twitter posts a day.”
“The Arab embargo of Israel, nominally in force since the Jewish state’s founding in 1948, necessitates that all business between Israel and most Arab states remain strictly off the books, cloaked by intermediaries in other countries. But the volume and range of Israeli activity in at least six Gulf countries is getting hard to hide. One Israeli entrepreneur set up companies in Europe and the U.S. that installed more than $6 billion in security infrastructure for the United Arab Emirates, using Israeli engineers. The same companies then pitched Saudi Arabia to manage overcrowding in Mecca. Other Israeli businesses are working in the Gulf, through front companies, on desalination, infrastructure protection, cybersecurity, and intelligence gathering.” [Businessweek]
SPOTLIGHT: “Immigration builds America’s tech dominance” by Walt Mossberg: “Who co-founded Google? Sergey Brin, a Russian-born Jew whose family fled anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union to settle here and who considers himself a refugee. Brin showed up at the San Francisco airport to protest the Trump order… And it’s not just Google. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was born in South Africa. Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang was born in Taiwan. Oracle CEO Safra Catz was born in Israel. And Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, like Google’s Pichai, was born and raised in India.” [ReCode]
TRANSITION: Jason Koppel was promoted to AIPAC Political Director for their Northeast Region, previously serving as Deputy Political Director.
KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: While hundreds of policeman and border patrol moved forward with the evacuation of the last standing building in the Amona outpost, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a rare trip to the settlements and delivered his first public response to the dramatic events of the last 48 hours. “We have made all efforts not to reach this moment, but at the end of the day we fulfilled the law’s demand because we are a state which I lead by the rule of law. We all feel the big pain of the family’s that had to desert their houses and their life missions and we all understand the pain.” Just moments before Netanyahu started to speak, security forces were struggling with dozens of teenagers refusing to leave the last Amona building, the community synagogue, and things became violent. The outburst sparked strong reaction from interior security minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) who called on the police to evacuate them immediately, referring to the youngsters as “hooligans who deserve every condemnation, they abuse Judaism and have no respect for religion, rabbis and synagogues.”
Despite the fact that the clearing of Amona is proceeding far more peacefully than the previous evacuation ten years ago, the operation still threatens to take a political toll on the Likud, which would rather have settler anger directed at Naftali Bennet’s Jewish Home party. Members of Knesset from Jewish Home accompanied the settlers throughout the past two days, and have vowed to finalize the land appropriation bill next week, even threatening to topple the government if the law doesn’t pass. One of the party’s young, promising and outspoken lawmakers, Bezalel Smutrich, caused a public uproar after comparing the evacuation to a “woman being raped.” Smutrich refused to apologize or withdraw his comment, saying today “I am part of a government who has been raped by the judicial system to do something horrible – destructing a community in the land of Israel, which is 180 degrees opposite to our policy. I am glad I succeeded to create a storm with all kinds of hypocrites.”
SPORTS BLINK: “The Uncomfortable Love Affair Between Donald Trump and the New England Patriots” by Mark Leibovich: “Brady is friends with President Trump. So are the Patriots’ owner, Robert Kraft, and Coach Bill Belichick. No sports team has been more closely associated with a new president… The team represents a kind of sporting ideal of Trump’s promise to make “America win so much, you’ll be bored of winning.” New England, which will appear in an N.F.L.-record ninth Super Bowl on Sunday, is a team that wins so much that a lot of America has become, yes, bored of its winning.”
““Bob said, ‘I had a wink from the commissioner,’” Trump added, meaning that Kraft seemed to think that by standing down and not fighting the N.F.L., the league would reduce Brady’s penalty on appeal. Kraft was under pressure, Trump explained. “He choked, just like Romney choked. He said: ‘You know what? They winked at me.’ I said, ‘Bob when you make a deal, you should have gotten it all wrapped up.’ Who ever heard of making a deal like that? Now you got this mess.” Kraft should never have trusted Goodell, he said.” [NYTimesMag] • Patriots Owner Robert Kraft – Preparing for the Super Bowl Is Like Studying Talmud [Forward]
DESSERT: “Jared and Ivanka turned down a free dinner on date night. Could they have taken it?” by Helena Andrews-Dyer: “For the most part, the young couple enjoyed a completely ho hum meal at the sleek new RPM Italian where main courses range from $14 to $61. Other diners stole quick glances at the pair and their Secret Service retinue, but no one interrupted the couple’s evening out. Everything seemed to be running smoothly until the bill came. According to two people sitting directly adjacent to the pair, minutes after Trump and Kushner received the check, an employee of the restaurant swooped in to “handle it” Olivia Pope-style. “Jared said right then and there, ‘I am not allowed to accept this, I’m a government employee,’” Mallampalli said. An RPM spokeswoman told us that Kushner “paid 100 percent for their bill.”” [WashPost]
“With Trump in Town, Washington Restaurants Await a Visit — From Ivanka” by Katie Rogers: “As they settle their family into a new home in the Kalorama neighborhood, just around the corner from the Obamas, Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner, who are Jewish and keep kosher, are beginning to venture out. Their first stops have not been Michelin-starred hot spots or establishment restaurants, but low-key eateries that tend to draw families. During his first week in the West Wing — where he is working as an unpaid adviser tasked with, among other things, bringing peace to the Middle East — Mr. Kushner found time to visit the bar at Founding Farmers. With another man and a Secret Service agent in tow, Mr. Kushner drank a beer and ordered a plate of deviled eggs last Tuesday, according to a bartender on duty that night.” [NYTimes]
“How a secular Jewish baker became Miami’s kosher king” by Carlos Frias: “Zak the Baker’s Zak Stern may not be religious but his certified kosher bakery, and a new glatt (ultra) kosher deli, are how he expresses his Jewish culture. Fans of his freshly baked challah bread line up Friday at noon for this special treat. The bakery is housed inside of a former art gallery and has a cafe were patrons can watch the baking operation.” [MiamiHerald] • Meet the Sensei Teaching Self-Defense to Brooklyn’s Jewish Community [Vice]
BIRTHDAYS: Billionaire, philanthropist, CEO of Paramount Pictures (1974-1984), CEO of Fox (1984-1992), now Chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp and Expedia, Barry Diller turns 75… Former mayor and city councilman of Irvine, California, graduate of Harvard Law School, Larry Agran (family name, Agranowsky) turns 72… Author, host of the Food Network program “Barefoot Contessa,” and former OMB staffer for Presidents Ford and Carter, Ina Rosenberg Garten turns 69… Television, movie and theatre actor, comedian and singer, best known for his portrayal of the android, Lieutenant Commander Data, in the Star Trek television series and four subsequent films, Brent Spiner turns 68… Movie and theatre actress and screenwriter, known for the 2001 film “Kissing Jessica Stein,” Jennifer Westfeldt turns 47… Tony Award-winning actress with many stage, movie and television credits, a semi-finalist on Season 6 of Dancing With the Stars, Marissa Jaret Winokur turns 44… Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, now living in Boston, television and radio host, political commentator, Internet personality and self-described liberal-progressive political activist, David Pakman turns 33… Managing director and co-founder of Bluelight Strategies, a DC based full-service messaging, marketing and public relations firm, Aaron Keyak turns 32… Actress and musician, who has appeared in various television series including “Mad Men,” “United States of Tara” and as Shoshanna Shapiro on the HBO original series “Girls,” Zosia Mamet turns 29… Washington correspondent for the Times of Israel and a Ph.D. candidate at Johns Hopkins University, Rebecca Shimoni Stoil … Ross Gianfortune… Avi Katz…
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Comedian, actor, writer, teacher, lecturer and poet, Sheldon “Shelley” Berman turns 92… Longest-serving Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (1993-2001), one-time owner of “Roll Call,” now a senior adviser at the Carlyle Group, Arthur Levitt Jr. turns 86… President and CEO of clothing manufacturer Warnaco Group (1986-2001), at one time the only woman CEO of a Fortune 500 industrial company, Linda J. Wachner turns 71… Chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the US for almost the full 8 years of the Obama administration, formerly president of the Lillian Vernon Corporation, Fred Hochberg turns 65… Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, formerly Associate Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, Joette Katz turns 64… Singer-songwriter, best known for composing “From a Distance,” a big hit for Bette Midler and winner of the Grammy for Song of the Year in 1991, Julie Gold turns 61… Professor of biology at MIT, mathematician and geneticist, was co-chair of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Eric Lander turns 60… Founder of Fourth Factor Consulting, Joel Mowbray turns 41… Policy advisor and speechwriter for Rick Stengel, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs during the Obama administration and Kerry State Department, Josh Lipsky turns 31… Chief planning officer at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Lisa Harris Glass… Director of Business Strategy for Birmingham Wealth Management Group within Morgan Stanley, and on the boards of the Jewish Federations in both Detroit and Aspen, Steven F. Schlafer… Intern during 2016 for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Noam Safier… Program Associate in the Synagogue Leadership Initiative at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Joshua Keyak…
SATURDAY — Actor best known for his work as Herman “Hesh” Rabkin on HBO’s “The Sopranos” and as Howard Lyman on CBS’s “The Good Wife,” Jerry Adler turns 88… Attorney, bank executive and philanthropist, donor of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, Adrienne Arsht turns 75… Attorney, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, Evan Wolfson turns 60… Senior content editor of the Koren/Steinsaltz English Talmud, his Ph.D. dissertation was on the effects of the gap-year spent by many American high school graduates in Israel, Shalom Berger turns 57… Mayor of Anchorage, Alaska since July 2015, previously he was the Democratic Minority Leader in the Alaska House of Representatives (1999-2007), Ethan Berkowitz turns 55… Billionaire, philanthropist, charter school advocate and global head of real estate and a member of the board of directors of Blackstone Group, Jonathan D. “Jon” Gray turns 47… The first elected Jewish mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti turns 46… Director of Policy and Government Affairs at the Israeli American Council, following six years in a comparable role at AIPAC, Abigail Cable turns 29… Patrick Leek turns 64… Barbara Stern… Jan Winnick… Dan Ben-Canaan…
Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]