Daily Kickoff: WH tumult complicates Bibi’s visit | Dermer’s vindication | Corker doesn’t endorse Friedman… yet | Platt to produce ‘The Fox Hunt’

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DRIVING THE DAY: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the White House at 11:50 a.m. where he will be greeted by President Trump and the First Lady. Netanyahu will sign the White House guest book. After that, they will head to the East Room for a brief press conference at 12 p.m. [CSPAN]

Netanyahu and Trump will then meet privately in the Oval Office at 12:40 p.m. The Israeli delegation, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, and Jared Kushner will join the two leaders for a bilateral meeting at 1:00 p.m, followed by a working lunch.

— Yesterday, senior White House officials said in a press briefing that Trump will not push Netanyahu to reiterate his (2009) support for a “two-state solution” or dictate any preconditioned terms on the two parties. “It’s something the two sides have to agree to. It’s not for us to impose that vision,” a WH official said. “We’re looking at the two sides to come together to make peace together and we’ll be there to help them.”

— The official said the term “two-state solution” has not been particularly well defined. “If I ask five people what a two-state solution is, I get eight different answers… A two-state solution that doesn’t bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve,” the official said. “Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution if that’s what the parties want or something else, if that’s what the parties want, we’re going to help them. We’re not going to dictate what the terms of peace will be.”

Issues on the agenda: Iran, settlements, “a possible meeting between the Israelis and Palestinians,” whether to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and the recent UNSC resolution in December critical of Israel.

Goals: According to the senior administration official, the meeting would “usher in a new relationship between Israel and the United States — something that Israel has not seen in well over eight years, a relationship that will show there is no daylight, that we are fully cognizant of the situation that Israel finds itself in.”

KAFE KNESSET in DC — by Tal Shalev: Netanyahu’s team divided their time yesterday between the Blair House and the Israeli Embassy, where they spent a few hours to discuss the most sensitive issues on the table (for years, Netanyahu and his team have been quite anxious about electronic eavesdropping in the Blair House and prefer to discuss confidential items elsewhere). They then had a meeting and short dinner with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department. Even after the Tillerson meeting, the PMO was not forthcoming on details of the meeting, issuing only a brief statement that in the two hour meeting regional issues were discussed and that Netanyahu invited Tillerson to Israel in order to “establish an independent working relationship.”

A senior Israeli aide told Kafe Knesset that Flynn’s resignation definitely cast a cloud over the pre-meeting deliberations “exhibiting just how liquid the situation here is these days.” After lunch, Netanyahu will be meeting the Israeli press corps for a short briefing, before continuing to Capitol Hill for a series of back-to-back meetings with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and other senators. Tomorrow morning he will be having an early morning breakfast with Vice President Mike Pence. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset [JewishInsider]

“White House Upheaval Complicates Netanyahu Visit” by Mark Landler: “The resignation of Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, deprives Mr. Netanyahu of his strongest ally inside the White House for raising pressure on Iran… With Mr. Flynn no longer in the picture, and Mr. Mattis and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson are traveling, the Netanyahu-Trump meeting is likely to include Mr. Kushner and Mr. Bannon. That lineup, analysts said, could tilt the conversation more toward a potential peace initiative than to additional steps to pressure Iran… Other analysts, however, said the upheaval in the White House would lower expectations for Mr. Netanyahu.” [NYTimes]

“Netanyahu arrives to Trump White House in turmoil” by Laura Rozen: “Netanyahu’s acting national security adviser, Yaakov Nagel, had met with Flynn earlier that day to prepare the agenda for the Feb. 15 meeting between Trump and Netanyahu, Israeli Channel 2’s Udi Segal told Al-Monitor. After they wrapped up their talks, they hugged and said they would see each other the next day. Two hours later, Flynn was out, Segal said. The Israeli delegation was stunned.” [Al-Monitor]

“‘An Absolutely Crazy Time to Hold a Meeting with the President of the United States’” by Susan Glasser: “It is, [Dan] Shapiro says, “an absolutely crazy time to hold a meeting with the president of the United States.” According to Shapiro, Flynn had been helping lead planning for the meeting with Netanyahu and had met at least three times with the head of Israel’s top spy agency, the Mossad, and Netanyahu’s national security advisory council in advance of Wednesday’s session with the two leaders. “All that preparation is now out the window.” … “The idea that there is going to be this massive sea change of U.S. policy,” Shapiro said, “is very much called into question.”” [Politico]

“What Does Trump Want from Netanyahu?” by Daniel Shapiro: “Netanyahu and President Donald Trump benefit from a valuable channel of communication between Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, each of them perhaps the single person closest to their respective leader… It’s traditional for Israeli prime ministers, at their first meetings with American presidents, to seek a commitment to a principle of no surprises… But Trump will want it to be reciprocal… How will Trump respond when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on his first visit to Israel, is greeted with a major surprise settlement announcement, as has often happened to others in the past? Netanyahu would be wise to offer the same commitment.” [TheAtlantic] • What Has Netanyahu Really Got to Offer Trump, the Deal-Making President? [Haaretz

President-in-law: “Jared Kushner’s ready for his global debut. Could he be just the man Trump needs in the Middle East?” by Gillian Turner: “After months of behind-the-scenes work cultivating ties on both sides of the Arab-Israeli divide, Jared Kushner is ready for his debut on the global stage this week… This will be Donald Trump’s first pow-wow with Benjamin Netanyahu as president, and SLOTUS (America’s son-in-law) cum unofficial special envoy for Middle East peace, will be by his side….” [FoxNews]  

Trump friend Thomas Barrack, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, on Kushner and the Middle East: “Barrack said with a new set of leaders in the Arab world wanting a solution, the timing is right. “Israel aligned with tolerant Islam is the answer,” Barrack said. “And I think that that’s what Jared… is pushing towards… trying to use those relationships and a clean canvas with his influence on the president to say, ‘Have a soft hand, be culturally sensitive. This would be an opportunity for you, Mr. President, to maybe do something along the lines of what President Reagan and [Margaret] Thatcher did in bringing down the wall.”” [CBSNews]

“The Ambassador Who Came In From the Cold -The vindication of Ron Dermer” by Amir Tibon: “Dan Meridor, a former senior Cabinet member in two of Netanyahu’s governments, told me that he “did not like the confrontational approach” of Netanyahu and Dermer toward President Obama—but that now, with Trump in power, Netanyahu might need Dermer, whom he considers brilliant, more than ever… An open line to Kushner is better than what many of Dermer’s colleagues currently enjoy, four weeks into the Trump administration… The downside, and danger, of such an approach, is the effect it could have on Israel’s relationship with the Democratic party going forward. “The most urgent task for an Israeli ambassador in the U.S. right now is to preserve bipartisan support for our country,” Danny Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to Washington from 2002 to 2006, told me.” [TheAtlantic]

“Many U.S. Democrats skeptical on chances to reset Netanyahu ties” by Patricia Zengerle: “Israeli officials said Netanyahu’s aides have been aware of the need to re-establish a semblance of bipartisan even-handedness, even as the Prime Minister works to create a personal bond with Trump.” [Reuters]

“CIA chief meets Palestinians’ Abbas in first top-level talks” by Karin Laub: “Two senior Palestinian officials say CIA chief Mike Pompeo secretly held talks in the West Bank with Mahmoud Abbas, the first high-level meeting between the Palestinian leader and a Trump administration official. The officials said on Wednesday that the meeting took place a day earlier at Abbas’ headquarters in Ramallah.” [AP]

“President Trump, Will You Save the Jews?” by Thomas Friedman: “If Netanyahu’s weak leadership and the overreach of the settlers in his party end up erasing the two-state solution, the debate within the Jewish community will move from “left versus right” to “right versus wrong.” That debate will not be about which are the best borders to defend the state of Israel, said the Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halbertal, “but whether the state is worth defending in moral terms.”” [NYTimes]

ON THE HILL: Sen. Bob Corker declined to endorse David Friedman for Ambassador to Israel ahead of Thursday’s confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When asked by Jewish Insider if he supports Friedman’s candidacy, Corker replied, “I want to go through the process. I think he is a very qualified nominee but as with all nominees that come before our committee, I want to have the hearing to understand more fully who he is…” Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) appeared to show some willingness to back Friedman. “My private meeting with him indicates someone who is different than some of those public comments,” Menendez told JI’s Aaron Magid. “I look forward to hearing his official response before the committee.” [JewishInsider]

Via NYT’s Mark Landler: “Representatives of [David] Friedman… told Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and other officials that he would express regret for saying that supporters of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street were “worse than kapos,” the Jewish prisoners who worked for the Nazis in concentration camps.” [NYTimes]

“Trump’s Pick for Israel Envoy Not an Extremist, Jewish Group Tells Senate” by Amir Tibon: “There is no denying that many American Jews – certainly in the Orthodox Union’s constituency – and other pro-Israel Americans share Mr. Friedman’s deep skepticism toward this decades-old approach which has been tried and tested and failed repeatedly to deliver security and peace to the people of Israel, the Palestinians and the region,” according to the letter… “But it is wrong to assert, in this context, that the other side’s views are extreme and beyond the pale. We urge you to take our perspective into account as you consider Mr. Friedman’s nomination.” [Haaretz]

TRUMP TUMULT: “Flynn’s ouster leads to more chaos in Trump world” by Eli Stokols, Tara Palmeri and Annie Karni: “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has privately expressed frustration at not knowing whether to contact Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss the administration’s Middle East policy… And Cruz is not alone. “I can’t figure out what’s going on over there,” said a foreign policy staffer in the office of another GOP senator.” [Politico] • TOP TALKER: “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence” [NYT]

“The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn” by Eli Lake: “It’s also possible that a group of national security bureaucrats and former Obama officials are selectively leaking highly sensitive law enforcement information to undermine the elected government… Imagine if intercepts of a call between Obama’s incoming national security adviser and Iran’s foreign minister leaked to the press before the nuclear negotiations began? The howls of indignation would be deafening.” [Bloomberg]

“Kellyanne Conway Claims She Doesn’t Know Who Retweeted A White Nationalist From Her Twitter Account” by Tasneem Nashrulla: “Conway not only retweeted Lib Hypocrisy’s tweet, but also told the Twitter user, “Love you back” and wished her “Hapless Haters” a happy Valentine’s Day… Lib Hypocrisy’s Twitter bio includes the hashtags “WhiteIdentity” and “Nationalist” … [and] Pepe the frog — a symbol of the alt-right movement… Conway told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday, “I don’t know who had access to my account. Let me see who tweeted that,” she said… After the conversation, Conway deleted the tweet.” [BuzzFeed]

“The hottest invite in town: Donald Trump’s supper club” by Sara Murray: “At least four nights a week, he welcomes a steady stream of Cabinet members, staffers and members of Congress to the residence to brush up on national security issues and foreign affairs over steak, fish and salads, according to Trump aides… Some evenings, he’ll break bread with top staffers, including senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief strategist Steve Bannon or chief of staff Reince Priebus.” [CNN]

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Clipper Realty is buying an 11-story Brooklyn Heights rental building from the Jehovah’s Witnesses for $87.5 million [RealDeal] • Trump’s claim that his “friends” can’t get loans is not backed by data [Crains] • Elliott Exits Position in Interpublic Group [WSJ] • Top Israeli VC Says Startup Nation Drives U.S. Economic Growth [Bloomberg]

STARTUP NATION: “Step inside Israel’s thriving startup scene in the first episode of WIRED’s Holy Land series” by Victoria Woollaston: “In the first of five episodes in the Holy Land: Startup Nations series, titled The era of permanent revolution, WIRED visits Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to investigate how technology and innovation are emerging to become the region’s dominant themes.” [WiredMag]

“That ‘Free’ App Isn’t Free: How Self-Improvement Became a Market” by Beth Kobliner: “Liking Joe Lieberman, for example, could lead Facebook to decide you have an “ethnic affinity” with Jewish-Americans and sell that information to marketers who may want to sell you Manischewitz.” [NBCNews]

SPOTLIGHT: “Ivanka Trump Logistics Firm Sued for Discrimination” by Spencer Woodman: “In November 2015, a 67-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman named Marilyn Cohen filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a freight logistics firm named Alba Wheels Up International, which has helped facilitate more than a hundred shipments of Ivanka Trump brand merchandise from China. The suit, filed in the southern district of New York, alleges the Cohen suffered an array of discriminatory harms at the hands of her superiors at Alba. Cohen not only claims that she was shunned for her religion and her age, but she also describes one of these slights as intermingling with overt sexism. As Alba is only a contractor of her brand’s licensee, Ivanka Trump, an Orthodox Jew herself, is likely to have never heard of the lawsuit.” [Racked]

HOLLYWOOD: “Fox 2000 Catches ‘The Fox Hunt’ For ‘La La Land’ Producer; ‘Spotlight” Screenwriter Adapting” by Anita Busch: “Mohammed Al Samawi’s non-fiction book The Fox Hunt was just picked up by Fox 2000 for La La Land producer Marc Platt with Josh Singer, the Oscar winning screenwriter for Spotlight aboard to adapt… The project about the courageous millennials who were united online in a singular cause to help the then 28 year-old Al Samawi find his freedom will also be produced by Adam Siegel and Benji Pasek. Al-Samawi has become a public speaker on the war in Yemen, the refugee crisis, and extremism in the Middle East.” [Deadline; Variety]

“PewDiePie Show Canceled by Google’s YouTube” by Jack Nicas: “YouTube canceled its top star’s show on Tuesday over his anti-Semitic jokes, complicating its efforts to court television advertisers while also retaining its edgy video stars. YouTube, a unit of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, distanced itself from its most popular creator—27-year-old Felix Kjellberg, who goes by PewDiePie—after The Wall Street Journal reported he made anti-Semitic jokes or showed Nazi imagery in nine videos since August. Walt Disney Co., which helped run Mr. Kjellberg’s business, severed ties after the revelations.” [WSJ]

“Saved From Holocaust: ‘He Loved Me and He Wanted to Keep Me’” by Corey Kilgannon: “For Isaac and Rosa Blum, who became teenage sweethearts 75 years ago in a ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland, that moment came as they and thousands of other terrified Jews were being herded to a death camp by Nazi soldiers. “I saw her walking in front of me,” Mr. Blum recalled. “I went up to the German and told him, ‘That’s my sister,’ even though she was my girlfriend.” Miraculously, they were both pulled off the line and managed to survive the Holocaust by working as slave laborers in a munitions factory. The following 70 years have been a cinch by comparison, the couple said on Monday in their two-story house in the Manhattan Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT: “Houston’s Top Chefs Cook Kosher Next Monday” by Alice Levitt: “When diners hear the name Luis Roger, the chef at BCN Taste & Tradition, they likely think of crisp-skinned suckling pig. Mark Holley of Holley’s? Probably some delicious shellfish. But next Monday, February 20, such ingredients will be literally off the table. Those chefs will join five other big names to cook a five-course meal as part of the Gourmet Kosher Extravaganza, an annual benefit dinner for Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Houston branch. It’s one thing to eat an all-kosher dinner prepared by some well-respected secular chefs, but when’s the last time you attended a meal that had a goal of raising money to establish a cyber security research lab?” [Houstonia]

“Pastrami on wry: Jewish deli scores customers, retweets with Trump-mocking signs” by Lauren Gill: “Call it a schmear campaign! The owner of popular Boerum Hill bagel and lox joint Shelsky’s is creating a buzz in the neighborhood and on social media with sidewalk signs that poke fun at President Trump and his bungling administration — the latest of which is “Thanks to customer feedback, we no longer sell Ivanka brand lox, whitefish, or herring,” in reference to Nordstrom dropping the First Daughter’s clothing line.” [BrooklynPaper]

BIRTHDAYS: Professor emeritus of American Jewish history at Columbia University, Arthur A. Goren (born Aryeh Gorenstein) turns 91… British actress, Claire Bloom, whose paternal grandfather shortened his name from Blumenthal, turns 86… Chair of Jewish Studies at Arizona State University, a scholar of Jewish philosophy, Norbert M. Samuelson turns 81… Professor of cognitive science at both the University of Michigan and Indiana University, Pulitzer Prize winner, Douglas Hofstadter, turns 72… Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1-1991 to 1-2017, Elliott Naishtat turns 72… Cartoonist, editor, teacher at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and long-time contributing artist for The New Yorker, Art Spiegelman (born Itzhak Avraham ben Zeev) turns 69… Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, television, film and stage actress, Melissa Manchester turns 66… Burson-Marsteller’s Founding Chairman Harold Burson, who comes into the N.Y. office nearly every day, turns 96 (h/t Playbook)… Host of the radio program “Jewish Moments in the Morning” since 1983, president of the Nachum Segal Radio Network, Nachum Segal turns 54… TPM’s Josh Marshall, the pride of Upland, Calif., turns 48 (h/t Playbook)… Deputy executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Alex Siegel turns 31… Washington director for the New Israel Fund, Karen Paul-Stern… Yogi Sanders… Eric Distenfeld

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