Daily Kickoff: Will Israel return money exceeding MOU? | Mixed messages from Trump admin on status of Western Wall | How Bronfman’s booze empire began

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SIREN: “At a Besieged White House, Tempers Flare and Confusion Swirls” by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Trump’s… own mood… has become sour and dark, turning against most of his aides — even his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — and describing them in a fury as “incompetent,” according to one of those advisers… There is a fear among some of Mr. Trump’s senior advisers about leaving him alone in meetings with foreign leaders out of concern he might speak out of turn. General McMaster, in particular, has tried to insert caveats or gentle corrections into conversations when he believes the president is straying off topic or onto boggy diplomatic ground. This has, at times, chafed the president.” [NYTimes]

“White House on edge: ‘We are kind of helpless'” by Josh Dawsey and Matthew Nussbaum: “In interviews, multiple White House officials indicated they feel under siege – unsure who in the intelligence community was leaking, how much damaging information was out there, when the next proverbial shoe would drop and what Trump might say… Trump was furious about the story, one of the officials said, but retreated to the White House residence within 75 minutes of it going online.” [Politico]

TOP TALKER: “Trump Called Netanyahu, but White House and Israel Kept Mum” by Barak Ravid: “U.S. President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday and discussed his upcoming visit to Israel. The call, which took place shortly after Trump called Jordan’s King Abdullah II… was not publicized by either the White House or by the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu’s office confirmed the phone call took place. A senior official noted that the call… lasted for about twenty minutes. The senior official noted that the call did not touch on reports that Trump leaked intelligence information in his meeting with the Russian foreign minister last week.” [Haaretz]

FIRST LOOK: “New US envoy: America won’t demand a settlement freeze” by Shlomo Cesana and Erez Linn:“We have no demand for a settlement freeze,” David Friedman, the new U.S. ambassador to Israel told Israel Hayom… “I am fairly confident that the president will not come to Israel with any particular plan or road map or with any specifics on peace,” Friedman told Israel Hayom… Asked whether the U.S. will pressure Israel to make concessions by promising more benefits, Friedman said, “I don’t know if he [Trump] will ever ask Israel to make concessions in the first place.” … The ambassador, who has raised money for the settlement enterprise as a private citizen, indicated that he plans to visit Judea and Samaria to meet with Jewish settlers.” [IsraelHayom]

MIXED MESSAGES — U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tells The Brody File last night: “I don’t know what the policy of the administration is but I believe the Western Wall is part of Israel and I think that that is how we’ve always seen it and that’s how we should pursue it…we’ve always thought the Western Wall was part of Israel.” [CBN

H.R. McMaster, Press Secretary Sean Spicer won’t say if Western Wall is part of Israel — Reporter: Can you tell us if Prime Minister Netanyahu would join President Trump at the Western Wall? And does the President believe that the Western Wall is part of Israel? McMaster: “No Israeli leaders will join President Trump to the Western Wall.” Reporter: I want to follow up on Jennifer’s question which you didn’t answer about the Western Wall being part of Israel? McMaster: “Oh, that sounds like a policy decision, you know — and that’s the President’s intention. And I did answer the question in terms of what his intention is whether to go with Israeli officials.” [CSPAN

Spicer during an off-camera press briefing: “The Western Wall is obviously one of the holiest sites in Jewish faith. It’s clearly in Jerusalem. But there’s been — it’s an issue that’s had serious consideration. It will be a topic that’s going to be discussed during the President’s trip between the parties that he meets with.”

“US Consulate’s political counselor named as official who told Israelis: Western Wall is not yours” by Raphael Ahren: “The American official who sniped at his Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall… is not part of Israel… was named Tuesday in a TV report as David Berns, the political counselor at the US Consulate in Jerusalem. A second US official, the consulate’s economic counselor Jonathan Shrier, was also involved in the bitter diplomatic incident.” [ToI

Trump Inauguration Rabbi Slams Administration’s Jerusalem Confusion — by Ben Cohen: ““The notion that there is a question as to whom the Kotel belongs to is just preposterous,” [Rabbi Marvin] Hier said. “This is an unnecessary blunder on the part of, firstly, low-level officials, and then McMaster. To leave open the suggestion that the sovereignty of the Kotel is attached to the West Bank is just mind-boggling to me.” Hier restated his conviction that the policy confusion on Jerusalem would end soon after Trump lands in Israel. “When President Trump arrives in Israel, I don’t think there will be any doubt over who has title over the Kotel,” he said.” [Algemeiner]  

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — “Israel Was Source of Secret Intelligence That Trump Gave to Russians, Officials Say” by Adam Goldman, Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo: “The classified intelligence that President Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel…  In a statement… Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, reaffirmed that the two countries would maintain a close counterterrorism relationship. “Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Mr. Dermer said… At least some of the details that the United States has about the plot came from the Israelis, the officials said. The officials… said that Israel previously had urged the United States to be careful about the handling of the intelligence that Mr. Trump discussed.” [NYTimes; NBCNews

— “The information that Israel provided in this case was considered so sensitive that it wasn’t shared even with the closest U.S. allies, known as the “Five Eyes,” a group of countries that includes the U.K. and Canada, the officials said.” [WSJ] • Trump’s disclosure endangered spy placed inside ISIS by Israel, officials say [ABCNews]

“Israeli Official: Trump Sharing Intelligence With Russia Is “Worst Fears Confirmed”” by Sheera Frenkel: “”We have an arrangement with America which is unique to the world of intelligence sharing… To know that this intelligence is shared with others, without our prior knowledge? That is, for us, our worst fears confirmed,” [said an Israeli intelligence officer] … A second intelligence officer, who spoke to BuzzFeed News via encrypted app… said Israeli intelligence officers were “boiling mad and demanding answers” as to whether Israel’s military would continue its current intelligence-sharing agreement with the US.” [BuzzFeed] • Former Mossad chief: Israel will “think twice” before sharing sensitive info [CBSNews]

“Trump’s intelligence gaffe creates tension with Israel” by Annie Karni: “Nobody expects Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to confront Trump in public. Weakened politically at home and dependent on his far-right coalition government, the embattled Israeli politician needs to use Trump’s visit to project a tight bond… “The Israeli government won’t want to blow up the issue,” a former senior U.S. official said in an email. “But behind the scenes I would assume that the Mossad is very upset and will want some ironclad assurances from its American counterparts about the handling of similar information before they share it again (like a promise that it won’t be shared with the president!).”” [Politico]

“Israel lauds US security ties following Trump disclosures” by Aron Heller: “The security relationship between Israel and our great ally the United States is deep, meaningful and unprecedented in its scope and contribution to our strength,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted. “That is how it has been and that is how it will continue to be.” … Avi Dichter, a lawmaker in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and a former head of the Shin Bet security service, said that even if what was reported was true it did not deliver a damaging blow. “The current president has been serving for slightly over 100 days. This is not enough time to accumulate experience that is as bad as it is described by the media,” he told Israel’s Army Radio. “I am familiar with a few other cases over the years in other countries where they made use of materials – perhaps even in a more scandalous manner than was described by the media in this case.” [AP]

TRUMP ISRAEL TRIP: “The President will meet with President Rivlin and lay a wreath at Yad Vashem. The President will then deliver remarks at the Israel Museum… Later that day, he will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu. That night, the President and the First Lady will join the Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu for a private dinner. The following morning, the President will meet President Abbas in Bethlehem… And he will visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and say a prayer at the Western Wall.” [JewishInsider

NO MASADA VISIT: “Why isn’t Trump visiting Masada?” by Judith Abramson: “According to Channel 2 News, the reason behind this decision is the result of an Israeli Air Force (IAF) defense regulation, which prohibits helicopters from landing on Masada’s summit… It was placed into effect following a past visit at the site by a US Defense Secretary and upon landing, the wind and rocks damaged both to the historical site and to the helicopter’s propellers. However, Israeli officials contacted their American counterparts offering an alternative: Trump may land at the bottom of the historical site and go up on the cable cars as former US President George W. Bush did… The offer was turned down by the Americans.” [JerusalemOnline

PREVIEW: “Trump to unveil plans for an ‘Arab NATO’ in Saudi Arabia” by Josh Rogin: “When President Trump arrives in Riyadh this week, he will lay out his vision for a new regional security architecture White House officials call an “Arab NATO,” to guide the fight against terrorism and push back against Iran. As a cornerstone of the plan, Trump will also announce one of the largest arms-sales deals in history. Behind the scenes, the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have been conducting extensive negotiations, led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman…  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is now heavily involved.” [WashPost]

“Trump’s overseas trip must be canceled. The risks are too great” by Sarah Posner: “Trump’s team has managed, over the past several days, to alarm Israeli officials with bizarre lapses in basic protocol and erratic statements on Trump’s own policy positions… Given Team Trump’s lack of preparedness and expertise in the White House and State Department, it’s not unreasonable to expect that further gaffes of this nature are possible during his trip abroad.” [WashPost

“Trump’s Russia-Israel disaster” by Rob Eshman: “The evidence was building that Trump was not going to be the hand puppet Sheldon Adelson thought he bought Bibi for Chanukah. Now, flying across the Atlantic with a self-inflicted puncture to his competence and credibility, Trump needs Bibi more than ever to keep his credibility afloat.” [JewishJournal]

SCENE YESTERDAY — How Progressive Democrats Are Approaching Israel — by Aaron Magid: Hundreds of liberal activists gathered at the Center for American Progress’ (CAP) 2017 Ideas Conference on Tuesday. While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was hardly mentioned, Jewish Insider’s Aaron Magid spoke with attendees about how they see Israel fitting into the progressive cause going forward. John Podesta, former campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, told Jewish Insider, “There is a commitment to a two state solution as an ongoing part of what the progressive worldview is in the Middle East.” Read the full report here [JewishInsider]

KAFE KNESSET — MOU Round 2 — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Remember when Senator Lindsey Graham held up the conclusion of the negotiations on the landmark $38 billion military package because of the provision barring the Israeli government from lobbying Congress for additional money? Senator Graham told Bibi in a phone call “the Obama administration can go f— themselves”… Well, Senator Graham might have gotten his revenge, because under the radar, he recently passed $3.175 billion for assistance to Israel under the Omnibus Appropriations bill for the remainder of FY2017. This amount exceeds the commitment to the existing MOU by $75 million. Last year, when Senator Graham’s objections were stalling the final announcement of the MOU, Netanyahu’s national security advisor, Yaakov Nagel, suggested to accompany the agreement with an Israeli appendix letter of commitment to return any extra funding allocated by Congress during 2017-2018, the two years remaining in the current MOU package. The President already signed the Omnibus appropriations bill, so now, the question is whether Israel will need to live up to its commitment and refund the excess appropriation.

Several well-informed sources told Kafe Knesset the incident “is somewhat embarrassing.” One of them added: “Trump may not demand the money back, and both sides can always claim that this is a commitment given to the Obama administration and does not apply to relations with the Trump administration. But it will also be difficult for Netanyahu to keep the money, because it undermines a written commitment he made, and Israel usually abides by these kinds of commitments.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Larry Krasner wins Democratic nomination for Philly District Attorney” by Maryclaire Dale: “A civil rights lawyer who has defended Black Lives Matter and Occupy Philadelphia protesters is poised to become Philadelphia’s next district attorney. Larry Krasner has never worked as a prosecutor but benefited from a $1.5 million donation from liberal billionaire George Soros to an independent political action committee that ran commercials and sent out canvassers in support of his candidacy.” [ABC6]

2018 WATCH: “Tiberi won’t run for Senate, making Mandel leading GOP hopeful” by Jack Torry: “Rep. Pat Tiberi said he will skip a run for the U.S. Senate next year, making it more likely that Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel will face Sen. Sherrod Brown for the second consecutive general election… “I certainly don’t have the baggage of losing to the current incumbent already,” said Tiberi, in a none-too-subtle jab at Mandel, who lost to Brown in 2012 after a bitter and expensive race. “I haven’t thought about endorsing Josh at this point,” Tiberi said when asked if he would support Mandel. “Who else is going to be in the race? That’s not a discussion for today.”” [Dispatch]

TEHRAN WATCH: “Forget the politics. Iran has bigger problems” by JI reader Seth M. Siegel: “Due to gross water mismanagement and its ruinous impact on the country, Iran faces the worst water future of any industrialized nation.. Beginning in 1987, as the war with Iraq was ending, the special military force of the Iranian regime — the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)… were given control over major engineering projects throughout the country. Recklessly, these companies began damming major rivers, changing the historical water flows of Iran… Sooner or later, the music will stop. Mother Nature is forgiving only up to a point. Once aquifers are pumped dry and begin collapsing on themselves, there is no engineering project — corrupt or otherwise — that can save them. The presidential election won’t change any of that. Reining in the IRGC and reallocating the country’s water is, like much else, not in the hands of Iran’s president.” [WashPost] • In Iran Election, Even Hard-Liners Turn to Instagram [NYTimes]

** 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: Hedge Fund Managers Don’t Always Beat the Market, but They Still Make Billions [NYTimes• Investors should be all smiles at this year’s SALT conference [NYPost] • Value investing giant Seth Klarman who takes after Buffett just bought big stakes in two Apple suppliers [CNBC] • Kushner Cos. takes another shot at massive Monmouth Mall redesign [APP Howard Milstein wants to reimagine the office building [NYPost

SPOTLIGHT: “Disney’s Iger Isn’t About to Let Go as CEO” by Ben Fritz: “Some people who know [Bob] Iger believe he simply doesn’t want to retire yet, despite stating repeatedly that he intends to. A contract extension signed in March runs through July 2, 2019. That is the fourth date he has announced for stepping down as CEO. Disney ’s board of directors and investors seem happy to back Mr. Iger for as long as he wants to stay. Under his widely acclaimed leadership, the Burbank, Calif., company’s share price has nearly quintupled, increasing the stock-market value of Disney to about $170 billion… On a conference call with analysts last Tuesday, Mr. Iger said that “more has been made about our succession than it really deserves.”” [WSJ

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Fulop distances himself from Kushners as mayor’s race nears” by Terrence McDonald: “It was a sunny morning in May 2014 and Steve Fulop and Jared Kushner were all smiles. The two men… were showering each other with praise at the groundbreaking for Trump Bay Street, a Waterfront high-rise Kushner was developing with KABR Group… Three years and one stunning presidential race later, Fulop, a Democrat seeking re-election in this liberal bastion where President Trump’s name is nearly an expletive, is sprinting from his connection to Kushner… “If Fulop has political ambitions beyond where he is today, it probably is not going to hurt him too much, trying to create some daylight between himself and the Kushners,” said Krista Jenkins, a professor of political science at FDU.” [JerseyJournal]

“Mini Israel comes to Manhattan” by Itamar Eichner: “Israeli entrepreneur Eiran Gazit—one of the founders of Mini Israel—has set up a large scale miniature model of Jerusalem in the heart of Times Square in Manhattan. The model of Jerusalem is part of Gazit’s $40 million project called “Gulliver’s Gate,” which includes meticulous miniature models of other world cities… The area upon which Gulliver’s Gate will stand has its own “Jewish history,” as it were. The property once belonged to Haredi billionaire Lev Leviev, before eventually being acquired by none other than Jared Kushner.” [Ynet] 

TALK OF THE NATION: “Family of Terror Victim Files Lawsuit Against Pro-Palestinian Groups” by Jacob Kornbluh: “Over two decades after their son was killed in a terrorist attack in Israel, a U.S. couple is returning to court to fight against Palestinians organizations that they claim fund terror… Last week, 17 years after the first suit was filed, attorneys Nathan Lewin, Alyza Lewin and Stephen Landes filed a new lawsuit against American Muslims for Palestine and Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation, groups they allege are alter egos and successors of HLF, AMS, and IAP, that were originally found to be liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act. In an interview with Jewish Insider, the attorneys representing [Stanley and Joyce Boim] asserted that the date picked to file the new lawsuit was symbolic – exactly seventeen years after they filed the first lawsuit and in memory of David who was seventeen years old when he was killed. “The Boims did not do this to make money,” Landes told Jewish Insider. “Mrs. Boim testified in court during the trial that if she could prevent another penny going to these organizations so the tragedy won’t be inflicted on others, then she would have accomplished a great deal.”” [JewishInsider]

“Little Havana’s First Museum, El Museo de Little Havana, Is Coming to Calle Ocho” by Nicole Lopez-Alvar: “If you’ve ever argued with your friends over whether Jewish people or Cuban people resided in Miami first, you’ll soon have your answer. Little Havana’s first-ever museum, El Museo de Little Havana, is set to open and tell the rich story of the area, through its Cuban history and beyond…. “The museum will depict the history of the area going back to the beginning, when you had people from the south, Bahamians, who were fairly prevalent in the area,” said [Dr. Paul] George. “And then it morphs through the late ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s into a large Jewish presence…” … So who first resided in Little Havana: Cuban or Jewish immigrants? George has the answer: Jewish people immigrated to Miami first. “I mean, my gosh, within a three-mile radius at one point in the ’50s, you had four synagogues!” said George.” [MiamiNewTimes

HOLLYWOOD: “How Barry Levinson and Robert De Niro Captured Bernie Madoff, the $65 Billion Con Man” by Julie Miller: “When Robert De Niro tapped him to direct an adaptation of The Wizard of Lies for HBO, [Barry] Levinson and his son Sam, who wrote the film’s screenplay, embarked on their own quest to create a more complex portrait of [Bernie] Madoff… With De Niro playing Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer playing Ruth Madoff, Levinson also made the unusual choice to cast author Henriques—the only person involved in the production who had interacted directly with Madoff—as herself in his adaptation.” What were you and Robert De Niro trying to accomplish with this movie? [Levinson:]I think to try to look inside of the scandal and to see how all the systems failed as well… There is a scene where one agent from the S.E.C. asks Bernie’s son, “How could you not know about your father’s misdoings?” And the son turns to the S.E.C. and asks, “How could you not know?” That’s what it’s really about.”” [VanityFair]

DESSERT — “Samuel Bronfman’s booze empire began with bootlegging in Saskatchewan” by Pamela Cowan: “Born in Russia in 1889, Bronfman and his family fled anti-Semitic pogroms to make their home in Canada. They settled in Wapella, Sask., before moving to Manitoba where the family bought a hotel business. While working there, Bronfman recognized the potential of the alcohol business and founded Distillers Corporation in Montreal in 1924. Four years later, he purchased rival distiller Joseph E. Seagram and Sons and the firm became the Seagram Company. Once the world’s largest distilling firm, Seagram had many links with Saskatchewan… In later years, Bronfman is said to have blended 600 samples of whiskey before creating the prestigious Crown Royal brand in honour of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Canada in 1939.” [LeaderPost]

SCENE LAST NIGHT: AIPAC’s New York Venture Tech division hosted a Shark-Up Nation event at the DGA Theater in midtown Manhattan. Over 300 attendees watched as Israeli startups pitched some of NYC’s top venture capitalists. Sharks included New York Angels Chairman Brian S. Cohen, HDS Capital’s Haim Dabah, ff Venture Capital’s John Frankel, and Alnitak Capital’s Stanley Stern who also serves as Chairman of the Board of Sodastream. [Pic]

BIRTHDAYS: Canadian philanthropist and the first woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia (2000-2006), Myra Freeman turns 68… News anchor for WPVI-TV (ABC Channel 6) in Philadelphia since 1977, Jim Gardner (born James Goldman) turns 69… Billionaire, investor and philanthropist, his family owned Dexter Shoe Company which it sold in 1995 for $433 million of Berkshire Hathaway stock (greatly appreciated since), Peter Alfond turns 65… Comedian, actor, and television host, Bob Saget turns 61… Founder and president of ENS Resources, a DC-based consulting and lobbying firm focused on natural resources and sustainable energy, Eric Sapirstein turns 61 (h/t Playbook)… Host of “Marketplace Morning Report” on public radio and “Now on PBS,” a public television news magazine, David Brancaccio turns 57… Author of the 2005 book “Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish,” Abigail Pogrebin… and her identical twin sister, Robin Pogrebin, art and auction reporter for The New York Times, both turn 52…

General Manager for Corporate Strategy at Microsoft, friend and classmate of President Obama at Harvard Law School, strategist, consultant, author, lawyer and former White House Fellow, Kinney Zalesne turns 51… CPA and founder of the Baltimore Hunger Project, it provides food packs for the weekend that are discretely slipped into poverty-stricken public school children’s backpacks each Friday, Lynne Berkowitz Kahn turns 48… Reporter in The Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau since 2014, covering national politics, Reid J. Epstein turns 38… Labor Party / Zionist Union member of Knesset, when elected in 2013 she became the youngest female Knesset member in Israel’s history, Stav Shaffir turns 32… Heather Renetzky turns 24… Digital Director of Hillary for America, Jenna Lowenstein… Senior political writer at Cosmopolitan Magazine, Rebecca Nelson (h/t Playbook)… Robert Pollock… Randolph Koch

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