Daily Kickoff: AIPAC highlights | Bibi’s blond highlights? | White House seeks to soothe Sheldon | Bannon’s man in Tel Aviv | Theodore Kushner turns 1

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FIRST LOOK: “Trump taps Kushner to lead a SWAT team to fix government with business ideas” by Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker: “The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner… will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington… “We should have excellence in government,” Kushner said Sunday in an interview in his West Wing office.”

“They include Gary Cohn… Reed Cordish… Dina Powell… and Andrew Bremberg… “The President is doing what is necessary to have a prudent budget, and that makes an office like this even more vital as we need to get more out of less dollars by doing things smarter, doing things better, and by leaning on the private sector,” Cordish said.” [WashPost]

“Senate Committee to Question Jared Kushner Over Meetings With Russians” by Jo Becker, Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman: “Senate investigators plan to question Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser, as part of their broad inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials or others linked to the Kremlin, according to administration and congressional officials.” [NYTimes]

Norm Eisen: “This is a big deal:  Kushner surely discussed Russia with Trump, and during campaign & transition, so no exec privilege” [Twitter]

“White House blame game intensifies as Trump agenda stalls” by Alex Isenstadt: “Still others pinned blame on Jared Kushner, Trump’s politically moderate son-in-law and senior adviser. As White House staffers struggled to galvanize support for the flagging health care bill, some became convinced that Kushner was working to defeat the repeal effort. Suspicions increased when Kushner invited Obamacare architect Ezekiel Emanuel to address staffers at a meeting on Monday — a gathering that left some staffers rolling their eyes. Then, with the legislation teetering, Kushner left town for a two-day ski trip to Aspen.”

“The White House is also moving to soothe megadonor Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas casino mogul has been pleased with many of Trump’s early moves, including his decision to tap David Friedman as ambassador to Israel. Yet people close to Adelson say he was alarmed by the administration’s decision to retain State Department official Michael Ratney, an appointee of former President Barack Obama who is viewed with suspicion by those in the pro-Israel community. Kushner, who is overseeing Trump’s push for a Middle East peace accord, has discussed the matter with Adelson.” [Politico] • Trump unhappy Jared Kushner took a powder on the ski slopes as health care bill floundered [CNN]

“All is forgiven! Trump has dinner with Ivanka and Jared at his flagship Washington hotel” by Kaileen Gaul: “The trio were spotted at Trump International Hotel restaurant just a short motorcade ride from the White House after Ivanka and Jared returned home from their relaxing family vacation in Aspen… Feud or not, the president appeared to be in high spirits despite the legislative failure at dinner with his oldest daughter. The two were seen smiling as hotel guests snapped photos and cheered.” [DailyMail]

WE COULDN’T AGREE MORE — Tamara Cofman Wittes tweets… “If you don’t follow Jewish Insider’s @jacobkornbluh, his live tweets of Jewish politics like #AIPAC2017 are priceless.” [Twitter]

KEY MOMENTS from AIPAC’s Police Conference — Pence upgrades Trump’s Jerusalem Embassy pledge: “After decades of simply talking about it, the President of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” [YouTube]

FEB. 25 — at RJC Leadership Summit: “We are also reviewing additional steps to demonstrate America’s support, including assessing whether the American embassy in Israel should be relocated.” [WashPost]

Martin Indyk‏: “Trump will still be seriously considering it 4 yrs from now. G. W. Bush seriously considered it for 8 yrs. We’re freiers to think otherwise.” [Twitter]

Pence highlights: “Honestly, I was never more proud than when, at the outset of his very first joint address to Congress, President Trump paused to condemn threats and acts of vandalism against Jewish communities across America… I say with confidence to all gathered here, President Trump and I stand without apology for Israel and we always will… While there will undoubtedly have to be compromises, I can assure you all President Trump will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish State of Israel… Under President Donald Trump, the United States of America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This is our solemn promise to you, to Israel and to the world.”

Ambassador David Friedman received a warm AIPAC reception as Pence acknowledged him from the stage [Pic]

Pence was introduced by AIPAC President Lillian Pinkus, who thanked him and President Trump for offering a “warm embrace of Israel in these early days of this administration.” In her speech at the morning plenary session, Pinkus stressed bipartisanship on Israel: “Support for Israel is not immune. Elements on each side of the aisle are trying to fracture our movement… We will not allow, frankly cannot allow, support for Israel to fall victim to the same divisiveness that overwhelms other issues. We will work harder than ever before to hold the ideological center.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking via video this morning: “Congratulations to Ambassador David Friedman. David, I look forward to welcoming you warmly to Israel, and especially to Jerusalem.”

Ambassador Ron Dermer: “For the first time in many years, perhaps even many decades, there is no daylight between our two governments.” [YouTubeTranscript [Facebook]

Dermer also ostensibly pitched bipartisanship, but made it clear his government was relieved at the departure of President Barack Obama and his team… He also twice praised the Trump administration and its U.N. envoy, Nikki Haley, for “finally” bringing moral clarity to the United Nations… Dermer praised several Republicans slated to speak at the conference, but only one Democrat: Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., one of only two Democrats to vote last week to confirm David Friedman as ambassador to Israel.” [JTA]

Tony Blair touts Trump regional peace plan: “We’re not going to reach peace in the old way. Up to now, people thought if you do a peace deal, then the circumstances will change. I think it’s the other way around. The key to transforming the Middle East is to have a relationship between Israelis and Arabs which can be open, above the table, acknowledged in which Israel’s existence is accepted and Israel works closely with Arab states.”

“At AIPAC, Dershowitz pulls water out of thin air” by Eric Cortellessa: “Standing onstage inside the Washington Convention Center, Dershowitz and AIPAC National Managing Director Elliot Brandt unveiled the technology from the Israeli company Water Gen — a contraption that is able to pull water from the air and purify it…. Brandt noted Seth Siegal’s 2015 book “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World,” which detailed the “Zionist dream to overcome water scarcity.”” [ToIVideo]

Panel at AIPAC blasts Trump administration’s proposed foreign aid cuts — by JI’s Aaron Magid: At an AIPAC breakout panel yesterday, Retired General Charles Walk asserted, “I have never heard of a general officer” who doesn’t support foreign assistance. “The assistance we give to others for instance Jordan is in Israel’s interest as well,” noted Lindsay Plack, Director of Government Relations at the US Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC). “The threats that we face, frankly it became most clear after 9/11, they can’t be solved with the military alone,” Plack said. “When America leads, it’s good for Israel. When we pull back, that is not good for Israel.” [JewishInsider]

Democratic strategist Ann Lewis explains to JI’s Jacob Kornbluh why Israel remains a bipartisan issue that unites Republicans and Democrats: “In the midst of this polarization, we like knowing there are some things we can agree on. It reassures us that we have some things to be for. That politics doesn’t have to be only negative. It doesn’t only have to be name calling and division. It’s almost an island of calamity in what is a raging sea. And boy, if you are in that raging sea, you are happy to know there is an island. You may not want to spend all your time there, but you want to know it’s there. And that’s what this conference demonstrates. And also, this is a chance to be something larger than yourself. It’s a chance to feel that you’re part of a movement that focuses on the future. When I come to AIPAC, I am not defined by what I am against. Much of American politics these days is what you are against. At AIPAC, I am defined by what I am for.”

VINDICATED? “Trump Pushed FBI to Nab Israeli-American Suspect in Bomb Threats on Jewish Centers, Sources Say” by Yaniv Kubovich and Almog Ben Zikri: “The sources attributed the turnabout to pressure from United States President Donald Trump. A few weeks ago, after Trump announced that the FBI would do everything in its power to catch the perpetrator, the agency sent 12 investigators from its cybercrime unit to Israel to assist the Israeli investigation.” [Haaretz]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “Israel May Offer Only a General Commitment to Slow Settlement Building” by Mark Landler: “The White House believes it is unrealistic to expect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign on to an agreement that sets numerical or geographic limitations on construction, said the official… Instead, the official said, the United States would measure success by whether there was evidence that construction was slowing down — a trend that President Trump has said is important to create the conditions for a peace accord between the Israelis and Palestinians.” [NYTimes]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Netanyahu’s eye is on America these days, not only because of the settlement issue – he’s been admiring POTUS’s ability to make his own appointments to government positions. The ruling coalition controls many appointments and Bibi is out to change that. While ministerial search committees that recommend people for jobs will continue to exist, ministers will be able to forgo that process for one senior position. In addition, deputy directors-general will be appointed by ministers. The change is expected to go to a cabinet vote next week. Likud Minister Yariv Levin said that the new system will strengthen good governance, such that ministers will be able to act on the policies for which they were elected. Yesh Atid, whose leader Yair Lapid has campaigned on clean government and emphasized that issue in an interview with Politico last week, called the government “shameless,” and said it’s going against the public interest. “Their whole goal is to give party activists and cronies jobs. This government forgot that its first job is to serve the citizens and not itself.”

Keen political observers in Israel may have noticed Netanyahu looking a little different these days. It seems his hair stylist has been experimenting with color a bit – or maybe it’s a trick of the light? Either way, in photos from his trip to China last week, he looked oddly blonde – an almost Trump-esque hue – and in a video on Bibi’s Facebook page from yesterday’s cabinet meeting he was back to grey, but a much darker charcoal shade than usual. Kafe Knesset thinks it’s more dignified for a Prime Minister to stick to a natural, distinguished grey, but no one asked us for style tips. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

FLASHBACK — “Portraits of Power” in the New Yorker’s Dec 7, 2009 issue: “This past September, when nearly all the world’s leaders were in New York for a meeting of the United Nations, Platon, a staff photographer for this magazine, set up a tiny studio off the floor of the General Assembly, and tried to hustle as many of them in front of his lens as possible. And so what did the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ask the photographer before the shutter clicked? “Platon,” he said, “make me look good.” While political theatre went on inside the General Assembly, Netanyahu kept stopping by Platon’s makeshift studio and repeated his request: “Make me look good.” [NewYorker]

HOT TAKE: “Netanyahu’s honeymoon with Trump ends abruptly” by Oren Liebermann: “So far, the parties have not found a framework for settlement construction acceptable to Trump and Netanyahu… Trump’s “concerns regarding settlement activity” remained. So did Netanyahu’s desire to keep building… To some degree, President Barack Obama’s deep opposition to settlements helped Netanyahu navigate the thorny politics of the issue… Trump is making some signs that he’s no fan of settlements either, but the right doesn’t see his opposition as stiff enough to warrant Netanyahu caving in and therefore is unlikely to be satisfied with small steps.” [CNN]

“Trump son-in-law’s ties to Israel raise questions of bias” by Daniel Estrin: “Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and co-chairman of an Israeli real estate fund that counts Kushner’s father, Charles, among its backers, said he doesn’t know Jared Kushner personally but thinks his affiliations to Israel will be helpful in peace negotiations. “There’s trust. When there’s trust on one side, there can also be a more conciliatory attitude on that side,” Shoval said.” [AP

“Trump aide Boris Epshteyn leaving White House, officials say” by Jim Acosta: “Boris Epshteyn, a special assistant to President Donald Trump who leads the White House’s television surrogate operations, is expected to leave the White House, potentially for a position outside the West Wing, two senior administration officials have told CNN. A senior administration official confirmed Epshteyn’s expected departure, saying, “We are exploring opportunities within the administration.”” [CNN; NYTimes]

FLASHBACK: White House aide Epshteyn wrote the controversial Holocaust memorial statement [Politico

GREENBLATT TRAVEL — Greenblatt tweets: “I’m sorry to miss the AIPAC Policy Conference this weekend as I am traveling… Honored to be representing the United States, as an observer, at this week’s Arab League Summit in Jordan. Looking forward to meeting with our Arab partners to discuss how to best work together against extremism and towards peace and prosperity.” [Twitter]

“The mystery of Trump envoy’s missing yarmulke” by Mordechai Goldman: “A person close to Trump’s envoy told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Greenblatt is a  Modern Orthodox Jew who sends his children to religious institutions, but he separates between his function in the community and his function in the working world.” According to the source… “Jason didn’t really like the discussion of his yarmulke. He felt it was petty and invasive of his privacy.”” [Al-Monitor

** Good Monday 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 **

SPOTLIGHT: “Icahn Raises Ethics Flags With Dual Roles as Investor and Trump Adviser” by Eric Lipton: “Since Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, was named by President Trump as a special adviser on regulatory matters, he has been busy working behind the scenes to try to revamp an obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed into gasoline nationwide…Mr. Icahn is a majority investor in CVR Energy, an oil refiner based in Sugar Land, Tex., that would have saved $205.9 million last year had the regulatory fix he is pushing been in place… Mr. Icahn, 81, in a series of interviews in the last week, was unapologetic. He said he was not subject to conflict of interest rules because he is an informal, unpaid adviser to Mr. Trump, not an official government employee. “I’m not making any policy,” Mr. Icahn said. “I am only giving my opinion.”” [NYTimes

MEDIA WATCH: “Steve Bannon’s man in the Middle East” by Katie Glueck: “On a Wednesday afternoon in March, Klein was found running Breitbart Jerusalem operations from his luxurious three-story apartment located, notably, not in Jerusalem but in Tel Aviv, the most liberal, cosmopolitan city in Israel. As storm clouds gathered over the Mediterranean, which was visible from his airy kitchen, Klein sipped a Diet Coke and alternated between expounding on the opportunities for Breitbart Jerusalem in the Trump era and tending to his dog, a black and white papillon named Uzi—for the gun. “We have major influence right now politically,” said Klein, who also makes the 45-mile trek to Jerusalem multiple times a week to report.” [McClatchy]

“Head of GOP in Israel calls Sarah Silverman ‘self-hating Jew’ for decade-old joke” by Andrew Tobin: “Marc Zell made the comments Saturday night on behalf of the Republicans Overseas Israel Facebook page… The post links to a blog post about a decade-old video clip of the Jewish comedian performing her standup show “Jesus is Magic.” Zell, an attorney who lives in the West Bank settlement Tekoa, said Silverman’s comments “damage” the Jewish community and insult Christians… “Republicans Overseas Israel exists in order to… represent the Jewish community in Israel to the Republican Party and the millions of Americans who support the Republican Party and our president,” he told JTA Sunday. “I think it’s appropriate to say something about a public figure as widely known as this woman, who during the campaign also had some ‘precious’ views to express about our candidate and our president.”” [JTA

“A small town in Belarus basks in the publicity of a Trump connection” by Sabra Ayres: “On the eve of Trump’s inauguration in January, the founder of the Novogrudok Museum of Jewish Resistance invited the Trump family via an e-mail to Kushner’s father, Charles. “I received an answer in just a few seconds: Yes, he will give the invitation to all members of the Trump family,” Tamara Vershitskaya said in an interview on state television. “Charles has a very warm attitude towards Novogrudok.” His relationship with the city began in 1989, when he visited with his mother. He frequently returns with family members to see where his mother and five other members of the Kushner family survived Nazi occupation… Novogrudok is still waiting for the Trumps to RSVP to the invitation to visit. “We really need to fix our roads first, we can’t have visitors coming here and walking through that,” said [Marina] Yarashuk, pointing to the muddy parking lot.” [LATimes]

“Egypt’s last Jews aim to keep alive heritage” by AFP: “[Magda] Haroun carries the title of president of Cairo’s Jewish community — six elderly women including herself and her mother — and says her task is to preserve a centuries-old heritage. “It’s my duty, for future generations,” she says. Her mother Marcelle Haroun, 91, cries when she discusses her community’s fading past. “According to the stories, Jews lived in Egypt since the pharaohs. Do you want to make centuries of history vanish?” she says… The head of Alexandria’s Jewish community, Youssef Gaon, wanted to be quoted as little as possible when interviewed by AFP. Gaon simply said he “trusts” the Egyptian government will help restore the country’s Jewish heritage.” [DailyMail

HOLLYWOOD: “The Kid Stays in the Picture review – from mogul to minor player” by Kate Kellaway: “The son of a Jewish dentist working in Harlem, [Robert] Evans became a millionaire after selling the women’s clothing business he started with his brother, and then became a film actor, improbably spotted by Norma Shearer next to the Beverly Hills hotel’s swimming pool. She helped land him a part in Man of a Thousand Faces as her husband, Irving Thalberg, who was, appropriately, a producer… When Evans, thanks to charm, cunning and luck, became a producer himself, he turned Paramount’s fortunes around with Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, The Godfather and Chinatown.” [Guardian
SCENE THE OTHER NIGHT — in DC: The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation hosted a networking reception on Saturday night at Espita Mezcaleria across the street from the DC convention center. Spotted: Stacy Schusterman, Lisa Eisen, Seth Cohen, Amb. Itamar Rabinovich, Mark Yudof, Gidi Grinstein, Ashley Bell, Matt Grossman, Elliot Brandt, Brian Shankman, Adam Teitelbaum, Phil Brodsky, Daniel Fine, David Yarus, Hal Ossman, Tilly Shames, Tiffany Harris, David Adelman, Avi Wolf, Yossi Abramowitz, Eli Shaharabany, Candice Simone Petty, Mary Ann Weiss, Lauren Weinstein, Abby Saloma, Rella Kaplowitz, Sarah Schoenberg, Sarah Glickstein.

BIRTHDAYS: Son of Jared and Ivanka, Theodore James Kushner turns 1… Canadian psychologist and educator, awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1945, she was the first woman Chancellor of the University of Western Ontario (1992-1996), Reva Appleby Gerstein turns 100… Sports cartoonist and writer whose art has been used by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and hung above each Hall of Fame bust, Murray Olderman turns 95… Chairman emeritus of Warner Bros. Records, a 2003 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, music executive Mo Ostin turns 90… Founder in 1961 of Business Wire, a news release service which he has since sold to Berkshire Hathaway, he has donated in excess of $700 million to charities, Lorry I. Lokey turns 90… Federal judge on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, reputed to be the judge most frequently reversed by the Supreme Court, last active service appellate judge appointed by President Carter, Stephen Reinhardt turns 86… Composer, violinist and improviser who has been active in the presentation of new music and dance since the early 1960s, Malcolm Goldstein turns 81… Billionaire, philanthropist and founder of of one of the the oldest and largest private equity firms globally, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Thomas H. Lee (family name was Leibowitz) turns  73… Principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal (1991-2013), now the executive editor of The Verge and editor-at-large of Recode, Walter S. Mossberg turns 70…

Sports agent who consistently represents the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, he is widely reputed to be the real-life inspiration of the sports agent in the film “Jerry Maguire” in 1996, Leigh Steinberg turns 68… Host of the “Matty in the Morning Show” in Massachusetts on KISS 108, has been on the air since 1981, Matt Siegel turns 67… Member of the Knesset from 2003-2005 and again since 2011 representing the United Torah Judaism party, Yisrael Eichler turns 62… Director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany, earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard, taught at Yale and Tel Aviv U, moral philosopher, cultural commentator and essayist, Susan Neiman turns 62… Economist and banker, reportedly the wealthiest man in Latvia, Valerijs Kargins turns 56… Smooth jazz saxophonist, recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dave Koz turns 54… Founder and CEO of the Movement Vision Lab, a grassroots think tank, political commentator and community organizer, Sally Kohn turns 40… Assistant Professor of Poetry at Columbia University School of the Arts, author of four full-length collections of poetry, Dorothea Lasky turns 39…

MSNBC correspondent who debuted on the network in September 2015, Jacob Hirsch Soboroff turns 34 (h/t Playbook)… Professional baseball outfielder, signed to minor league contracts by a number of MLB teams, starred for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Blake Shane Gailen turns 32… CEO since 2004 of BBYO (an organization launched almost 100 years ago, formerly B’nai B’rith Youth Organization), Matthew Grossman… Executive Director at Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue Club (a mental health center), holder of a Ph.D. in sociology from Boston University, Rachel Forman… AIPAC’s Associate Director for Westchester County (NY) and Riverdale, Adam Engel… David Greenbaum

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