Daily Kickoff: Lacking agreement with Trump, Israel approves settlement | Rep. Rooney interview | ‘Kosher Nostra’ fools Hollywood | Barney Frank BDay

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TOP TALKER: “Israel Approves First New Settlement in Decades” by Isabel Kershner: “Mr. Netanyahu said he was following through on a pledge he made a few weeks ago to 40 settler families who were evacuated from the illegal Amona outpost in the West Bank… Some analysts have speculated that the move could be a one-off gesture meant to appease settlement advocates before Mr. Netanyahu acquiesces to the Trump administration’s call for restraint, part of its push to revive long-stalled peace talks.” [NYTimes]

WH official reacted to Israel’s announcement: “President Trump has publicly and privately expressed his concerns regarding settlements. As the administration has made clear: while the existence of settlements is not in itself an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace. The Israeli government has made clear going forward, its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the President’s concerns into consideration.”

“With regards to the new settlement for Amona residents, we would note that the Israeli Prime Minister made a commitment to Amona settlers prior to President Trump laying out his expectations… We will continue to work with Israelis and Palestinians, and other players in the region, to create a climate that is conducive to peace. We hope that the parties will take reasonable actions moving forward that create a climate that is conducive to peace.”

“U.N. chief alarmed by Israel’s approval of new settlement” by Michelle Nichols: “United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is disappointed and alarmed by Israel’s decision to build a new settlement in occupied Palestinian territory, his spokesman said on Friday.” [Reuters]

At the same time… “Netanyahu to slow down settlement activity in effort to appease Trump” by Ruth Eglash: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed his cabinet Thursday evening that Israel will slow down its settlement activity in the West Bank, out of respect for President Trump.” [WashPost; Haaretz]

KAFE KNESSET — Smotrich, the killjoy — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: “Every party has a party pooper, and for the right, it’s Bayit Yehudi’s firebrand Bezalel Smotrich. Smotrich called the cabinet’s decision “very disturbing,” because, he said, judging from experience with Netanyahu, it probably won’t go anywhere. Smotrich added that since Trump’s election, the planning board for the West Bank was not called, so that any plans the Prime Minister authorized in recent months remain just that – plans. The left, of course, is unhappy with the whole thing. Labor MK Amir Peretz – who, in a blast from the past, is running for head of the party later this year – said that Netanyahu is leading Israel to a one-state solution, and that he should start packing his bags to leave office. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

COMING NEXT MONTH: President Trump will meet with the leaders of Israel’s neighboring countries Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority in April. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and King Abdullah II of Jordan (for the second time – Trump and Abdullah briefly met at the National Prayer Breakfast in Feb.) will visit the White house next week. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with the President in mid-April.

Politico profiles the Palestinian’s man in Washington: “Working for President [Abbas] the last couple of years, and being very close to him, allows me to understand his logic and strategy and to have a direct channel to him, and to be trusted by him is a crucial thing in Washington,” Husam Zomlot said. As with all things Palestinian, the Israeli comparison was not long in coming, and he mentioned the man known as “Bibi’s brain”— Israel’s powerful ambassador to Washington. “Remember, Ron Dermer is a very close friend of Netanyahu and almost every ambassador in power there has a direct link [back to the Israeli Prime Minister].” … For now, though, Zomlot is hopeful that a new wind is blowing in Washington, and that… Trump will play an active role. “I have a feeling President Trump wants it [a peace deal] more than Netanyahu. Way more than Netanyahu,” Zomlot said.” [PoliticoMag]

“Trump Admin to Host Convicted Palestinian Terrorist Despite Outrage” by Adam Kredo: “The State Department confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon late Thursday that it intends to permit Jibril Rajoub, secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, to participate in meetings with U.S. officials next week… “The U.S. government does not endorse every statement Mr. Rajoub has made, but he has long been involved in Middle East peace efforts, and has publicly supported a peaceful, non-violent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the official told the Free Beacon.” [FreeBeacon

“Trump meets with Condoleezza Rice” by Jeremy Diamond: “The former top administration official under President George W. Bush met Trump in the Oval Office after first sitting down with Vice President Mike Pence. Trump’s tête-a-tête Friday with Rice, their first publicly known meeting, also follows Trump’s repeated criticism on the campaign trail of the Iraq War and the neoconservative thinking that mired the US in the trillion-dollar war.” [CNN]

JI INTERVIEW – Congressman Francis Rooney (R-FL) discussed about his work in Congress and how it feels being a close ally of the Bush family Washington, DC in the Trump era. Rooney was appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican by President George W. Bush, where he served from 2005-2008. His company, Rooney Holdings Inc., donated more than $2 million to Jeb Bush’s campaign for President.

On Rooney’s foreign affairs page of his website, the former Ambassador to the Vatican places Israel as his top issue. “We need to publicly reaffirm that Israel is a beacon of democracy and capitalism and freedom in an area that doesn’t have much of any of those things,” Rooney told Jewish Insider in a sit-down interview with Aaron Magid. “It wouldn’t bother me a bit to move that Embassy just to show them,” he added when calling for the moving of the US diplomatic post from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He was especially struck by the 2006 Lebanon War when Rooney served as Ambassador. “Hezbollah took it to an all new level by taking all kinds of children and women and sticking them in those hospitals when they had their arms cached beneath them and there was no choice but to take them out,” he explained. Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

TRUMP TUMULT: “2 White House Officials Helped Give Nunes Intelligence Reports” by Matthew Rosenberg, Maggie Haberman and Adam Goldman: “Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis… Mr. Cohen-Watnick is a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who was originally brought to the White House by Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser. The officials said that this month, shortly after Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter about being wiretapped on the orders of President Barack Obama, Mr. Cohen-Watnick began reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials… Officials say Mr. Cohen-Watnick has been reviewing the reports from his fourth-floor office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the National Security Council is based.” [NYTimes; WashPost]

“Devin Nunes and the Tragedy of the Russia Inquiry” by Eli Lake: “Another U.S. official familiar with the affair told me that… Ezra Cohen-Watnick did not play a role in getting information to Nunes. This official said Cohen-Watnick had come upon the reports while working on a review of recent Justice Department rules that made it easier for intelligence officials to share the identities of U.S. persons swept up in surveillance. He turned them over to White House lawyers.” [BloombergView

ON THE HILL —  Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) tells Jewish Insider he has no regrets on coming out so harshly against the Trump Administration’s dealing with the rise of anti-Semitism after the arrest of an Israeli Jew who was behind some of the JCC bomb threats: “I think it’s fair to say that the President and his campaign contributed to an atmosphere that made this more likely,” Nadler told JI’s Aaron Magid yesterday. “Anti-Semitism is far worse than these threats, the whole atmosphere, people were probably anti-Semitic to start with, coming out feeling more free to express it. The fact that one guy is Jewish has no bearing to that.”

SPOTLIGHT: “U.N. looks for Trump foreign policy hints from tough-talking envoy” by Michelle Nichols: “The diplomat said that on Iran and North Korea: “The tone might be just slightly tougher, but the substance is almost identical (to the previous administration).” Haley has said that while it would be difficult to reimpose sanctions on Iran that were removed under a 2015 deal with world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, the United States is “going to watch them like a hawk.” … Haley said this week that during her first two months she dampened “Israel-bashing” at the United Nations… “There is a gap between her tough public posturing, designed for domestic consumption, and her positions within the U.N. … She will have to close this visible gap,” said a third Security Council diplomat.” [Reuters

HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department official about latest round of sanctions against Iran in press briefing call: “These steps we have taken are outside the JCPOA. The JCPOA is limited to Iran’s nuclear program, and the United States continues to implement its commitments under the JCPOA. We have consistently said that we will continue to counter Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, its human rights abuses, including through sanctions where appropriate.”

SPOTLIGHT: “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spends his first weeks isolated from an anxious bureaucracy” by Anne Gearan and Carol Morello: “Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact. Eight weeks into his tenure as President Trump’s top diplomat, the former ExxonMobil chief executive is isolated, walled off from the State Department’s corps of bureaucrats in Washington and around the world. His distant management style has created growing bewilderment among foreign officials who are struggling to understand where the United States stands on key issues.” [WashPost]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Retailtainment and American Dreams: Triple Five President Don Ghermezian on the Future of the AAA Mall [Blooloop] • Kushner-led group buying Invesco out of Dumbo Heights: sources [TRD• Kasowitz Reports Down Year; Trims Firm Name as Ex-Partner Assumes Ambassador Post [AmericanLawyer] • The stark difference between US and Israeli VCs [HackerNoon]

STARTUP NATION: “A self-flying drone can legally fly in Israel” by Max Toomey: “Airobotics, an Israeli company, has been authorized by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority to fly drones without a pilot. The fully automated drone, called Optimus, takes off, carries out missions and lands without any human pilot involved. It runs on software designed by the company which allows someone with little-to-no training to program the drone. It’s already being used in industrial facilities. Next, the inventors hope to tap the consumer market, say by providing live traffic analysis, or for use in emergency response situations.” [QZ]

HOLLYWOOD: “Fake Seth Rogen Script ‘The Kosher Nostra’ Fools Hollywood Gatekeepers” by Rebecca Ford: “Last week when a script called The Kosher Nostra, supposedly written by Superbad and The Interview writing duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, began circulating around town. Creative executives and agents rushed to read the crass comedy about a struggling screenwriter who drives for Uber to pay the bills and ends up working as a getaway driver for the Jewish mafia. But it turns out the script was a fake — it was not written by Rogen and Goldberg, and was not a Point Grey project. Kosher Nostra was actually written by Jonathan Witz, 25, and Jeremy Spektor, 29, two L.A.-based screenwriters who hoped that by putting the names of Rogen and Goldberg on their script, it would finally be read by the right people — including Rogen himself.” [HollywoodReporter]

MEDIA WATCH: “I worked for Jared Kushner. He’s the wrong businessman to reinvent government” by Elizabeth Spiers: “I worked for Kushner for 18 months as he tried to infuse a much smaller institution than the U.S. government with cost-cutting impulses from the commercial real estate world. And my experience doesn’t bode well for the Office of American Innovation… When I worked for him, I wasn’t sure he had a realistic view of his own capabilities since, like his father-in-law, he seemed to view his wealth and its concomitant accoutrements as rewards for his personal success in business, and not something he would have had in any case.” [WashPost]

Jewish Week Editorial hits AIPAC on treatment of press during the Policy Conference in DC — “AIPAC, Unlock Your Doors: This is about an organization championing American and Israeli democracies, including freedom of the press, yet fostering an overly aggressive and perhaps paranoid closed-door policy. One AIPAC official, speaking off the record (of course), told us his group must be more cautious than other Jewish organizations because the media “sharpens the knives when it comes to us.” Maybe that’s at least in part because of AIPAC’s arrogant attitude toward the media over the years… But opening the conference to the press and then banning coverage of the large majority of sessions is a formula for frustration and offense. Better to keep us out altogether.” [JewishWeek

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Trump Is Driving Some American Jews To Reclaim Citizenship in Europe” by Joseph Frankel: “According to the German embassy in Washington, D.C., the number of Jews applying for reclaimed citizenship from the U.S. has been increasing since the fall of 2016: 70 in September, 92 in October, 124 in November, and 144 in December. By January of this year, the number had climbed to 159… The month of the election also saw a spike in applications opened for Israeli citizenship—320 in November… However, in December 2016, the number dipped to 194… And when asked about their motivation, several cite Trump. None of the Americans I spoke to had immediate plans to leave the country. Rather, they were seeking citizenship in Europe as a kind of “back-up plan,” [attorney David] Young said.” [TheAtlantic]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Jewish donors express faith in Catholic Charities’ immigrant services” by Lisa Wangsness: “Now, Shrage’s group, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, is kicking off a major fund-raising effort to benefit Catholic Charities’ immigration law clinic, an unusual display of interfaith cooperation that leaders of both groups said reflects their communities’ shared history of living the immigrant experience and a common biblical obligation to help “the stranger.” The campaign has already drawn about $250,000 in commitments from large donors in advance of its formal announcement scheduled for Friday.” [BostonGlobe]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Domaine Netofa Dor Syrah 2013 — by Yitz Applbaum: There are many aspects of the Israeli wine industry that are miraculous. Within the past fifteen years the quality of Israeli wines has improved at a remarkable rate. It has become the case that many Israeli wines have reached the level of sophistication in craft that the wines can age for more then 10 years in bottle. There are so many new and interesting varietals that have proliferated in the wine-making scene. One of the reasons for the growing diversity in grape varietal and blending techniques is that there is no school of enology in Israel, so Israeli wine makers train all over the world, and often in more than one place.

One such wine which symbolizes the blossoming variety of the wines of Israel is the Domaine Netofa Dor Syrah 2013. This wine is a blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre — a grape grown in the Rhône and Provence regions of France, and in the Valencia and Jumilla regions of  Spain. This wine is aged in French oak for 15 months. There is an abundance of overly ripe fruit on the front of the palate and dry earthy terroir notes on the finish. The mid-palate provides a brief reprieve from the bold flavors. The nose gets your attention the second you smell its rich bouquets of cinnamon and dried figs. My suggested food for this bottle is another bottle of the same wine. I could not find a great food to pair with this unique bottle, so I drank a second. This is a wine for enjoying in the present and you will not regret buying it in pairs. [Netofa]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Chairman of Apple, Inc. since 2011, CEO of Calico (an Alphabet R&D biotech venture), previously CEO of Genentech (1995-2009), Arthur D.  Levinson turns 67… Music producer, band leader of the Tijuana Brass, Herb Alpert turns 82… New York Times best-selling novelist, poet and social activist, Marge Piercy turns 81… Composer, conductor and producer of soundtracks and songs for film and television, Arthur B. Rubinstein turns 79… Playwright of more than 70 plays, screenwriter for movies, director and actor, Israel Horovitz turns 78… Democratic congressman from Massachusetts (1981-2013), named co-sponsor of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, Barnett “Barney” Frank turns 77… Syndicated talk radio host on 400+ stations and conservative political commentator under the name Michael Savage, also best-selling author and nutritionist under his real name, Michael Alan Weiner turns 75… Emmy Award-winning movie and television actress, best known for her role in the sitcom Cheers, Rhea Jo Perlman turns 69… Russian ice dancing coach and former competitive ice dancer, now living in Stamford CT, Natalia Dubova turns 69… Israeli singer and songwriter, Ehud Banai turns 64… Show jumping equestrian and 10-time American Grandprix Association Rider of the Year, a 2009 inductee into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Margie Goldstein-Engle turns 59… Emmy award winning writer (“24,” “Homeland” and “Tyrant”) Howard Gordon turns 56… Heir to his grandfather’s NYC real estate fortune, LA-based businessman, film producer and donor to progressive causes, Steve Bing turns 52… Mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, elected in 2013 and overwhelmingly re-elected in 2017, Andy Berke turns 49… Chief legal correspondent at MSNBC, Ari Melber turns 37… Footballer for Maccabi Tel Aviv, who has also played for Chelsea, Manchester City and West Ham United in the English Premier League, Tal Ben Haim turns 35… Tinder co-founder, Justin Mateen turns 31… Jerusalem-born, raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, a 2010 contestant on America’s Next Top Model, she went on to join the IDF, Esther Petrack turns 25… Chief economic correspondent for Politico and author of its “Morning Money” column covering the nexus of finance and public policy, Ben White (h/t Playbook)… David Freedman… John Jacobson… Larry Nemer Joel Mittler… Arul Anna Raj… Howie Keenan

SATURDAY: Physicist and Nobel Prize laureate Claude Cohen-Tannoudji turns 84… President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, Gilda Jacobs turns 68… Singer-songwriter best known as the original lead guitarist for Sha Na Na and as the youngest person, at age 18, to play on the main stage at Woodstock in 1969, Henry Gross turns 66… Cinematographer for the Coen brothers and others, producer and director for film and television, Barry Sonnenfeld turns 64… NYC-based attorney, Freddie Berg turns 62… Six-term member of the US House of Representatives from Florida (1993-2005), founder of the Ben Gamla Charter School network in Florida (2007), now living in Ra’anana, Israel, Peter Deutsch turns 60… Author of over 150 children’s books, Mark Shulman turns 55… Lawyer, turned political thriller novelist, Brad Meltzer turns 47… Four-year star basketball player at the University of Maryland including a national championship (2006), drafted by the WNBA, she now plays for Maccabi Ashdod, Shay Doron turns 32… President of Baltimore-based Healthsource Distributors, Jerry L. Wolasky… Senior director of corporate reputation at GE since March 2017, previously Obama White House Deputy Press Secretary, Jennifer Friedman… Lecturer at Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism, previously writer of the Media Web column for MarketWatch (1999-2013), Jonathan P. Friedman… Ronald Lippman… Noah Schwartz

SUNDAY: Olympian, holder of the world record in the 50-mile walk, concentration camp survivor and professor at Ben Gurion University, Shaul Paul Ladany turns 81… National Security Advisor under President Clinton (1993-1997), professor of diplomacy at Georgetown, converted to Judaism in 2005, William Anthony Kirsopp Lake, best known as Tony Lake turns 78… Film director, screenwriter and producer, son of long-time NYTimes reporter and executive editor, Max Frankel, David Frankel turns 58… Civil court judge in Brooklyn since December 2016, Rachel “Ruchie” Freier turns 52… Los Angeles-based, raised in Israel, singer, songwriter, guitarist and composer, founding member of the Jewish rock band Moshav, Duvid Swirsky turns 41… Producer and screenwriter for the stage, television and film, best known as the creator and showrunner of the television series “Breaking In” and “The Goldbergs,” Adam F. Goldberg turns 41… Actress and singer who starred on General Hospital, Veronica Mars and Eastwick, Jaime Ray Newman turns 39… Corporate and securities attorney at the NYC office of Dechert LLP, a 2016 graduate of University of Pennsylvania Law School, Isaac Roszler turns 26… Presidential fellow for millennial engagement at the NYC office of the Union for Reform Judaism, Evan Lerner Traylor turns 23… Officer of both the annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival and the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival, Magda Strehlau… Miriam Rosen… Judith Berman

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