Daily Kickoff: Trump to Israel next month? | The Steinmetz-Kushner partnership | Will Theo Epstein enter politics? | NBA to visit Israel this summer

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KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Israeli sources tell Kafe Knesset that there are early attempts to coordinate President Trump’s first visit to Israel by the end of May.

According to Channel 2’s Udi Segal, the visit could take place on May 21 or later in the month. [Twitter]

Worth noting: Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day is on May 23rd and June 1st is the deadline for the waiver on moving the Embassy to Jerusalem…

Putin says ‘Nyet’ to Liberman: Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is off to Moscow for the first time since taking this office last year. On the top of the agenda for the visit, which includes meetings with his Russian counterpart and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, is the Syrian issue and the Israeli concern with a growing Iranian influence in the Middle East. Who is is missing from Liberman’s itinerary? President Vladimir Putin. Of course, diplomatic protocol does not require Liberman be granted such a high-level meeting, but in the past, he was Putin’s guest of honor. In 2009 and 2011, when Putin was Prime Minister, he didn’t care about diplomatic protocol that much and he met Liberman, then Foreign Minister, during both of Liberman’s Russian visits.

Putin’s cold shoulder is interesting against the backdrop of recent events in Syria. After the Idlib chemical attack earlier this month, Liberman was the first to point a direct finger at the Assad regime, and Putin didn’t like it, expressing his discontent in a phone call with Netanyahu a few days later. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

TOP TALKER: “White House Intervened to Toughen Letter on Iran Nuclear Deal” by Jay Solomon and Carol Lee: “Top White House officials said the initial letter the State Department submitted was too soft because it ignored Tehran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East and support for regional terrorist groups… Mr. Trump personally weighed in on the redrafting of the letter… Mr. Trump also told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to follow up the next day with a strident public message that the new administration was planning a shift on policy toward Iran, putting the nuclear deal in play, these officials said… The initial State Department letter on Iran, senior U.S. officials said, was drafted by career diplomats who played leading roles during the Obama administration in negotiating and implementing the Iran deal.” [WSJ; Bloomberg

The other night, Trump discussed the Iran deal review at WH reception with conservative media… “We can never let Iran have nuclear weapons,” Trump said… “Israel wouldn’t have a chance,” he added. “They’ve broken the feel of a deal,” he said. “We’re going to have a big report. It’s not going to be a positive report for Iran.” [Powerline]

Politico/Morning Consult poll: “47% said that they are more likely to support the Iran nuclear deal now that the U.S. said the nation is complying with the agreement.” [Playbook]

“Royce chides Obama administration on proliferation” by Josh Meyer: “Rep. Ed Royce made the request in a letter to Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions… “Needless to say, the Obama Administration appears to have done serious damage to our national security,” wrote Royce (R-Calif.) and Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who co-signed the letter… urging Sessions and Tillerson to make the request a top priority within the Trump administration’s broader review of the Iran Deal and U.S. policy toward Tehran that was announced last week… “We have received the letter, and will respond to Chairman Royce and Ranking Member [Eliot] Engel. Generally speaking, we remain committed to prosecuting, regardless of citizenship, those who violate our export control laws and the U.S. trade embargo on Iran,” a State Department official said.” [Politico

“At Holocaust event, Trump pays tribute to ‘those who survived history’s darkest hour’” by Philip Rucker and David Nakamura: “This is my pledge to you: We will confront anti-Semitism,” Trump said, receiving applause from the audience. “We will stamp out prejudice, we will condemn hatred, we will bear witness and we will act. As president of the United States, I will always stand with the Jewish people, and I will always stand with our great friend and partner, the state of Israel.” Vice President Pence, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn were among the guests sitting in the front row. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, has acted as Trump’s top adviser on Israel, helping write his first speech on Israel during the campaign.”

“Before Trump spoke, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States praised the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian airfield that Trump authorized… “That decision was a defiance of indifference,” Dermer said. “And if evil triumphs when good men do nothing, we should all seek to live in a world that defies indifference.” Dermer went on to say that the civilized world should be “prepared to use military might to confront barbarism.” Trump returned the praise, saying of Dermer that “he’s done a great job and said some wonderful words.” [WashPost]

— “White House officials said that Trump decided himself that he wanted to speak at Tuesday’s Days of Remembrance event, and he took personal ownership of the drafting of his remarks.” [WashPost

HOW IT PLAYED — “Trump’s Holocaust Remembrance Day speech was normal — for any other president” by Sarah Wildman: “Solemn as they were, the most remarkable aspect of the speech were not the words themselves, but the identity of the man giving them — and the continued controversy over the administration’s past comments about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism… On the Holocaust, Trump has, at last, finally begun sounding like his predecessors — and in a good way.” [Vox

“A New Donald Trump? Moving Holocaust Speech Wins Praise From Jews, Derision From Alt-right” by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “After the speech, there was widespread speculation in the media as to how influential his Jewish family members had been in the crafting of the text.” [Haaretz

Andrew Weinstein, a member of the Holocaust Memorial Council who attended the event, shared with us his personal opinion of Trump’s remarks: “I thought Donald Trump delivered a well written and long overdue speech at the Days of Remembrance ceremony today. Remarks by the president of the United States have enormous influence, and it was important for the world to see this president recognize the incomparable tragedy of the Holocaust and the enormous suffering of the Jewish people. I was also pleased to see him strongly and unequivocally denounce anti-Semitism.”

“That said, while the words were powerful, it is difficult to reconcile the comments made today with the continuing actions of the Trump administration. How does the president continue to justify his positions concerning refugees and immigration? Why did he offer praise for Marine Le Pen? And how does Sebastian Gorka still have a job in his White House? These questions and many more need answers before I am satisfied that the speech he made today came from his heart and not just his teleprompter.”

Abe Foxman emails us… “President Trump’s speeches – to the World Jewish Congress and at the U.S. Holocaust Museum – should put to rest the debate about where POTUS stands on anti-Semitism. He stands very clearly with the Jewish community against anti-Semitism! it is also a very clear message to the alt-right and all those who support him who may espouse animosity to Jews. The Jewish Community should now stop blaming the President for the rise in anti-Semitism in the USA.”

“Ivanka Trump visits Berlin’s Holocaust memorial” by Regina F. Graham: “Crowds of people snapped cellphone photos and yelled out ‘Hi, how are you?’ as she entered the center to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe for a short visit Tuesday. The First Daughter walked slowly through the undulating grounds filled with concrete slabs, along with U.S. Embassy personnel. She paused occasionally to look at the slabs, meant to symbolize the chaos of the Holocaust, before emerging on the other side of the monument to a crush of cameras and onlookers.” [DailyMail]

HEARD YESTERDAY — U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley touted her young pro-Israel record at the UN during a speech at the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in NY: “I can safely say that it’s a new day for Israel at the United Nations.  I know it’s a new day for Israel at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations… The United States will no longer be silent as Israel is unfairly attacked at the United Nations. Silence is not my thing anyway, but that’s especially true when it comes to standing up for America’s friends.  And we have no better friend in the Middle East than Israel.” [Transcript]

ON THE HILL — Senate panel calls for cutting US aid to Egypt – by JI’s Aaron Magid: In overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion on Tuesday, Senators and three panelists invited by the Appropriations Committee called for Congress to reexamine its $1.3 billion annual funding to Egypt. The panelists invited were Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security advisor during the George W. Bush administration, Dr. Michele Dunne, Senior Fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Tom Malinowski, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy during the Obama presidency.

Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) asked the expert witnesses if cutting US aid to Egypt would damage Cairo’s strong current relationship with Israel? (The US dramatically boosted its assistance to Egypt due to Cairo’s 1978 peace treaty with Jerusalem). However, Abrams was unconvinced. “Good relations with Israel are in the interest of Egypt. The army understands that. As Senator [Lindsey] Graham mentioned, they (Egypt) are getting help in the Sinai. I think the answer is no impact,” the former Bush official asserted. Dunne added that shortly after the 2013 military coup, when the Obama administration froze much of the US security assistance. “That was the heyday of Egyptian-Israeli relations. That really proved the point that the relationship now has its own logic and dynamic.” The Carnegie expert added that even with the tightening security ties, the people-to-people relationship between the Israelis and Egyptians under President Sisi is quite weak with almost zero study exchange and a relentless incitement campaign against the Jewish state in the Egyptian media often crossing into blatant anti-Semitism. [JewishInsider

TRUMP TEAM: “How Trump’s Pick for Top Antitrust Cop May Shape Competition” by Cecilia Kang: “Makan Delrahim, the nominee for chief antitrust cop at the Justice Department, was 10 when his family immigrated to the United States from Iran as Jewish political refugees. Unable to speak English, he struggled to keep up in school… “I came to realize that my values identified with the conservative viewpoints of personal responsibility, hard work, respect for individual rights and appreciation of a limited role of government,” Mr. Delrahim, 47, said in his first interview since being nominated last month by President Trump for assistant attorney general for antitrust. On Wednesday, Mr. Delrahim will have his confirmation hearing for the Justice Department position, where these views will be closely scrutinized by Congress. If he is confirmed — and he is expected to be — his philosophies will help shape the corporate competition landscape for the next few years.” [NYTimes]

“The Swamp Is Getting Tired Of Winning” by Adrian Carrasquillo and Ben Smith: “The source close to the administration said that the worst transgression of all is that Trump seems open to retaining Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen… “I’m incredibly bothered that he said Yellen could be reappointed,” the source close to the administration said. “She’s the personification of the swamp, very much a detriment to the American worker. Great for Wall Street but terrible for most wage-earning, paycheck to paycheck Americans.”” [BuzzFeed

FARM SYSTEM: “Could Theo Epstein Perform a Miracle for the Democrats?” by Ben Strauss: “Plenty of others have speculated about Epstein’s political future. He is telegenic, well-spoken and has a demonstrated interest in public service, having started a foundation that has donated millions of dollars to support urban youth and families. His grandfather wrote the screenplay for “Casablanca.” Epstein’s father, Leslie, won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford and is a Boston University English professor (He also happened to predict Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton.). When Epstein was hired by the Red Sox, then the youngest general manager in baseball history, his father quipped, “At Theo’s age Alexander the Great was already general manager of the world.” More recently, Leslie Epstein has mentioned that his son could run anything from the United Nations to the Ford Foundation after his baseball career… David Axelrod says his baseball management skills, honed in Boston and Chicago, could win for him in politics too. If he wants it, that is.” [PoliticoMag]

NYC 2017 WATCH: “NYC Dems asked to boot Council hopeful over anti-Semitic remarks” by Erin Durkin: “City Councilman David Greenfield is asking the Manhattan Democratic Party to boot a City Council candidate running on his opposition to “greedy Jewish landlords” off the party rolls. Thomas Lopez-Pierre, who is challenging Councilman Mark Levine for a West Harlem seat, has drawn attention for a series of anti-Semitic comments and racial slurs. “There’s no question that Lopez-Pierre’s campaign is based on good, old-fashioned, virulent anti-Semitism,” he said…  Quite frankly, if Lopez-Pierre wants to run for City Council he should do so by petitioning his way onto the Ku Klux Klan party. His views are very much in line with David Duke’s.” … Manhattan Democratic Party chair Keith Wright condemned Lopez-Pierre and said… “I have considered removing a whole lot of people from the party — I just never knew quite how to do it,” he said.“ [NYDailyNews]

** 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: This Hedge Fund — Renaissance Technologies — May Be Poised to Create the Most Billionaires [Bloomberg] • Israel Chemicals says in talks to sell IDE stake [ToI] • Why Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush are paying so much for the Miami Marlins [Yahoo] • The Other Chetrit: Isaac stitches together mini-empire in Garment District [RealDeal]

SPOTLIGHT: “Kushners Are Partners With One of Israel’s Wealthiest Families” by David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby: “Gaia Investment Corp. is an Israeli company owned by Raz Steinmetz. A search by Bloomberg of real-estate documents revealed a Steinmetz-Kushner partnership. Asked about it, a spokesman for Kushner Cos. said, “Kushner Companies has a longstanding relationship with Raz Steinmetz and Gaia, who have been terrific partners.” … Gaia Investment lists Shlomo Meichor and Assi Arev as principals. Meichor previously served as chief financial officer of Ampal-American Israel Corp., a New York-traded investment firm that Raz Steinmetz and his father Daniel bought a controlling interest in from Bank Hapoalim in 1996. Bank Hapoalim is among Kushner’s lenders.” [Bloomberg

“WeWork’s office takeover continues with the launch of the Services Store” by Jordan Crook: “For WeWork’s streamlined partners, users can simply purchase software from the WeWork site like any other e-commerce transaction, and the software automatically gets information about the number of seats, name, and billing. For the CEO, that transaction is reflected as part of the WeWork invoice for that month…  WeWork’s Services Store launches with 100 launch partner, and SVP of digital product Ron Gura told TechCrunch that the partner list is expected to continue growing over time. Gura also explained that WeWork isn’t currently taking revenue on the Services Store, but he didn’t rule it out in the future.” [TC]

HOLLYWOOD: “Universal’s Insurer Says Studio Ignoring Realities of Warfare in 21st Century” by Eriq Gardner: “As evidenced by a clash between Universal Cable Productions and Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company over USA Network’s Dig, a mystery-thriller miniseries set in Jerusalem that premiered in 2015… In June of that year, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped… On July 8, 2014, Israel conducted its own offensive campaign, Operation Protective Edge… In the midst of all this, producers were filming Dig… By July 10, the security assessment came that the crew’s safety could no longer be guaranteed, and the studio made the decision to postpone shooting… Dig later completed filming in New Mexico and Croatia… The studio contends that the Hamas rocket fire amounted to terrorism, and as such, there is no exclusion. Atlantic not only sees the events in question as warlike activity, but is also arguing that it doesn’t have to cover insurrection, rebellion, revolution or usurpation of power, nor cover use of a weapon of war including atomic fission or radioactive force.” [HollywoodReporter]

PERSON OF INTEREST: “Interview with Vox Founder and ‘Math-for-Jocks Poster Boy’ Ezra Klein” by David Hochman: “He briefly interned on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2003 and, the following year, ran a blog—still called a “web-log” back then—from the Democratic National Convention. With a mind for large numbers and an ability to write fluently and fast on many topics, Klein was hired by The Washington Post in 2009 and soon gained a following with his intelligent, nuanced posts on Obama-era politics for Wonkblog, which he launched in 2011. When he left to start his own news operation in 2014, Klein was one of the country’s top political commentators—at least among those who appreciate five-alarm coverage of the ever-hardening right.” [Playboy]

IAC launches first legislative initiative: The Israeli-American Council will introduce its first national legislative project today in a Congressional resolution honoring the Israeli-Americans contributions to the United States. Sponsored by Representatives Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Grace Meng (D-NY), the symbolic measure noted the 800,000 Israeli-Americans whose hundreds of startups have created tens of thousands of American jobs. “From high-tech to Hollywood, from agriculture to clean energy, Israeli-Americans are making their mark in the U.S. to strengthen our country’s security, economy, and future,” said Israeli-American Council CEO Shoham Nicolet.

SPORTS BLINK: “In tense political times, NBA heading to Israel this summer” by Jon Krawczynski: “Basketball Without Borders has visited cities across the globe since 2001… “We’re looking forward to the chance to bring all communities together for this program,” said Kathy Behrens, NBA president of social responsibility and player programs. “This is going to be about bringing the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Druids and other communities together.” The camp will take place from Aug. 13-16 in Netanya. The top teenagers from over 30 countries, including Israel, Spain, Germany and France, will get coaching and tutoring from NBA and FIBA players, coaches and former stars, including former Spurs All-Star David Robinson.” [AP]

BIRTHDAYS: Billionaire businessman and philanthropist, friend of Warren Buffet and early investor in Berkshire Hathaway (and a member of its board of directors), David Sanford “Sandy” Gottesman turns 91… Former owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers (1981-2014) until its forced sale for $2 billion to Steve Ballmer, Donald Sterling (born Donald Tokowitz) turns 83… Computer expert, author, lecturer, Jewish genealogy researcher and publisher of Avotaynu, the International Review of Jewish Genealogy, Gary Mokotoff turns 80… CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay (Oakland, CA) until 2008, Loren Basch turns 73… Investment banker best known as the Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers through its bankruptcy filing in 2008, Richard S. Fuld Jr. turns 71… Professor of computer science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Hal Abelson turns 70… President of Brandeis University since 2016, Ronald D. Liebowitz turns 60… Moscow-born, conservative journalist and political activist in Israel, Avigdor Eskin turns 57… Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, contributing editor of The Atlantic, author of six books, previously a journalist for the National Journal and The Economist magazine, Jonathan Rauch turns 57… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates (2006-2010) and the Maryland State Senate (since 2010) where he serves as Majority Whip, Roger Manno turns 51… Senior staff editor on the international desk of The New York Times, Russell Goldman… Ahron Singer

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