Daily Kickoff: Abbas aide says settlement freeze no longer a precondition for talks | Livni-Greenblatt ties | Preet & a Rabbi spotted at Comey hearing

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DRIVING THE DAY — THE COMEY SHOW: “Comey’s testimony could turn congressional probes toward question of obstruction” by Ed O’Keefe and Karoun Demirjian: “Barak Cohen, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice at Perkins Coie, said of Comey’s testimony: “There’s enough here to raise serious questions about whether obstruction occurred.” [WashPost

Norm Eisen, former WH ethics czar and a long time defense lawyer who got to know Comey while overseeing an FBI office as Ambassador, tells us… “Comey’s opening statement makes out a prima facie case of obstruction of justice, although that of course is not the same as a conclusive final case. It is the most damaging evidence of a president’s words since the Nixon tapes. But it leaves many questions unanswered. Expect Comey to address some of them today — it would not be like him to not have saved some surprises.”

SPOTTED AT THE HEARING: Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld sitting next to former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara [Pic]

Ari Fleischer‏: “Seems to me key headline is Comey confirming Trump is not under investigation. Isn’t that what collusion w/ Russia was all about?” [Twitter]

HEARD YESTERDAY — NJ Gov. Chris Christie on MSNBC with Nicolle Wallace: “I want to hear, and I think most people want to hear, from Jared Kushner. And he has said that he is absolutely willing to testify.” [MSNBC]

PRESSURE OFF SETTLEMENTS = PRESSURE ON PEACE: “Abbas Will Put Aside Settlement Halt for Peace Talks, Aide Says” by Jonathan Ferziger and Fadwa Hodali: “Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will temporarily shelve his long-standing demand for Israel to freeze West Bank settlement construction in order to revive peace talks under the Trump administration, a top adviser said… “We have not made the settlements an up-front issue this time,” [Mohammad Mustafa, Abbas’s senior economic adviser and former deputy prime minister,] said in an interview Monday… “We think it’s better for all of us right now to focus on giving this new administration a chance to deliver.” … Another high-ranking Abbas aide, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said Trump earned Palestinian confidence when he postponed moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.” [Bloomberg]

“Trump Middle East envoy deals with his own palace intrigue” by Jonathan Swan: “A narrative is catching on among pro-Israel hardliners that President Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, is getting too close politically to… [one of Israel’s opposition leaders] Tzipi Livni. The argument… is that Livni has become a “mentor” of sorts to Greenblatt… The (much more boring) reality: Greenblatt and Livni have met and spoken with each other but are hardly close. He met Livni for the first time on Friday March 24, when she visited Washington. Two administration sources with direct knowledge of the encounter said Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer also attended the meeting. Livni then joined Greenblatt for Shabbat dinner. Two days later Greenblatt met with Naftali Bennett, who leads Israel’s right-wing Jewish Home party, and on May 9 he had his second and final meeting with Livni. Dermer and the U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman both attended that second meeting.” [Axios]

“Have two ministers annexed Area C of the West Bank?” by Tovah Lazaroff: “Two ministers have discovered a loophole to apply the bulk of new Israeli laws to Area C of the West Bank without formally annexing the region to sovereign Israel. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin have instructed the Ministerial Legislative Committee to only debate government-sponsored bills that provide an option for residents of Judea and Samaria… The new measure, effective immediately, could be through legislation, military edicts or other provisions, said Shaked.” [JPost]

INBOX — Ron Lauder’s World Jewish Congress strongly supports the Taylor Force Act… “These bills will condition U.S. foreign assistance to the PA on its public condemnation of terrorism, it’s taking credible steps to investigate, punish and end acts of terror, and its terminating of payments to terrorists and their families. We applaud these leaders and all the co-sponsors for introducing and supporting these bills and urge all the members of the House and Senate, on both sides of the aisle, to pass them. Combating terrorism is not a partisan issue. We hope all the Senators and Representatives will support and pass the Taylor Force Act.”

ON THE HILL — Increasing Dem Support for Disapproving Saudi Arms Sale — by Aaron Magid: Senate Democrats are expressing growing concern over the Saudi Arabia arms agreement before today’s expected vote of disapproval introduced by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Al Franken (D-MN). Speaking from the Senate Subway yesterday, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) told Jewish Insider, that he will be joining Murphy and Paul in disapproval of the agreement. “I believe that the sale of those weapons will simply prolong humanitarian crisis rather than resolve it,” he said. Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin (D-MD) also announced his support: “I have not been able to get satisfactory explanations from our administration in how they are monitoring the human rights issues in regards to the Saudis as well as their long term plans in arming the Middle East. This is part of a long range of arms sale,” Cardin told Jewish Insider. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted that he is “inclined to support” the resolution.

— On the Republican side, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), passionate advocates for human rights in the Middle East, explained why they would not support the resolution of disapproval. According to McCain, in order to fight Iran’s aggression, “I believe the best way to bring about progress is to continue the pressure that I have been exerting upon them for years.” Rubio stressed, “I hope it will be carefully monitored… I have a huge problem with Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. But, the pragmatism of the region is one of the considerations.” [JewishInsider]

Cardin Expresses Skepticism Over House Bill Targeting Qatar for Hamas Support — by Aaron Magid: Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin (D-MD) expressed concern over a bipartisan House legislation that would sanction Qatar for its ongoing financial support of Hamas. Cardin told Jewish Insider that there are numerous countries who are “strategic partners of ours that are doing things that we don’t like.” If Congress were to pass legislation sanctioning Qatar as the House bill proposes, Cardin explained, “I would be concerned about our policies as it relates to our strategic partners in the Gulf.” [JewishInsider]

MIDDLE EAST DIPLOMACY: “Trump Has Busy Day in Vortex of Middle East Relations” by David Sanger, Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt: “Rarely has the Trump administration spoken of Iran other than to condemn it as the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism and an aspiring nuclear weapons state. So when the White House woke on Wednesday to images of a possible Islamic State attack on Tehran, it prompted a sharp quandary: How does President Trump condemn the violence without seeming to embrace the victims? Several administration officials said it took most of the day for the White House to work out the terse, curt wording of a statement that sought to show sympathy for the Iranian public even as it pointedly suggested that the behavior of Tehran’s clerical leaders made its people a target… Mr. Trump wrote. “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.” [NYTimes]

Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif responded: “Repugnant WH statement & Senate sanctions as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients. Iranian people reject such US claims of friendship.” [Twitter]

IRAN SANCTIONS — “Russia sanctions talks leave Iran bill hanging in the balance” by Elana Schor: “Any failure to reach agreement on a Russia sanctions vote could cause trouble for the Iran sanctions bill to which it may get attached. [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer warned Wednesday that without a deal to vote on punishing Russia, Democrats would find it “very difficult” to cast a vote on passage of the Iran bill, which some in their party wanted to delay in the wake of Wednesday terrorist attacks against Tehran… “We feel strongly that we need a tough, effective package of Russia sanctions to move alongside the Iran sanctions,” Schumer said on the floor Wednesday.” [Politico; USAToday

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the Senate floor: “I have serious concerns about the sanctions on Iran contained in this bill. As we have heard from former Obama administration officials including Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Sherman, these measures could undermine the JCPOA, the very important nuclear agreement signed in 2015. Let us be aware that earlier today the people of Iran suffered a horrific terror attack in which 12 people were killed. The Islamic State has claimed credit for this attack. At a time when tensions are extremely high in that part of the world, our goal must be to find ways to bring people together to reduce tensions rather than to exacerbate this very painful and dangerous situation.” [YouTube] • Sanders, Feinstein call for delay in Iran sanctions vote after Tehran attack [Politico]

On Capitol Hill this morning, Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) sponsored a Congressional briefing titled: “50 years of Occupation & Life for Palestinian Children.” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at the Human Rights Watch, and Nadia Ben-Youssef, Director of the Adalah Justice Project, were two of the invited speakers. Senior Foreign Policy advisor for Bernie Sanders, Matthew Duss, was also spotted among the packed crowd. The event is also sponsored by Defense for Children International-Palestine and American Friends Service Committee. Pocan has recently circulated a letter, also sponsored by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), calling for the dropping of all Israeli charges against a Palestinian named Issa Amro. [Pic]
 
SCENE YESTERDAY — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ambassador Ron Dermer, Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed Israel’s control of an undivided Jerusalem during a first-ever bi-country event to mark the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. The event was broadcast live from the Knesset and Capitol Hill, simultaneously, along with watch parties in all 50 states. Ambassador Dermer thanked the Senate for passing a resolution that recognizes the 3 millennia Jewish presence in Jerusalem and reaffirms the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.

In his speech, Knesset Speaker Edelstein said, “For the sake of Jerusalem, let us not remain silent. Let us promise that support for unified Jerusalem remains high on both sides of the aisle, across the political spectrum, and throughout the United States… I therefore call upon the Administration – follow the lead set by the House and Senate. Recognize Jerusalem as the official and unquestioned capital of the State of Israel. Bring your embassy to our capital.” PM Netanyahu did not directly address the administration’s refusal to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Instead, he spoke about life in Jerusalem before the 1967 Six Day War. He also reiterated, “America has no better friend than Israel, and Israel surely has no better friend than the United States of America.” [YouTube

Spotted at the Capitol Hill event: Sheldon Adelson, Senator Lindsey Graham, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Ted Deutch, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Pastor John Hagee, Sandy Hagee Parker, Ralph Reed, Richard Sandler, David Harris, Richard Sandler, Jerry Silverman, William Daroff, Nathan Diament, Josh Block, Mike Makovsky, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Matt Brooks, Steve Rabinowitz, Brian Shankman, Elliot Brandt, Eddy Acevedo.

ACROSS THE POND: “Britain’s largest pro-Israel event this year is scrapped amid fears of another London terror attack” by Scott Campbell: “Britain’s largest pro-Israel event this year has been scrapped amid fears of another London terror attack. Organisers had sold 1,000 tickets for A Night to Honour Israel which sees Christians and Jews come together each year for a night of celebration and music. But they have been forced to cancel the event on the orders of security experts in both the US and UK in the wake of this week’s terror attack on London Bridge and last month’s Manchester bombing… But a pro-Palestinian event organised by the Friends of Al-Aqsa is still set to go ahead at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster next month.” [DailyMail

UK ELECTION DAY: “Labour-supporting banner showing Theresa May wearing Star of David earrings removed after complaints of anti-Semitism” by Natasha Clark: “Labour supporters have been forced to take down a giant banner showing Theresa May wearing Star of David earrings – after it was slammed as being anti-Semitic… The banners were unveiled yesterday – but have already been taken down… Local Labour candidate Thangham Debbonaire, who is seeking re-election in Bristol West, denounced the banner and said anti-Semitism had no place in the party. She said in a statement on Facebook: “There is no excuse for this. It is anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism has absolutely no place in our party and I will not tolerate it.”” [TheSun] • Jewish Conservatives expected to sweep their constituencies in UK general elections [ToI]

** Good Thursday 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: Paul Singer Says System May Be More Leveraged Than 2008 [Bloomberg] • George Soros confident he’ll ‘prevail’ against detractors [WashPost] The Fishman Debt: Is Israel’s Bank Hapoalim Playing Tough or Playing for Time? [Haaretz] • How was Israeli ‘tycoon’ allowed to rack up $1.13b debt to the banks? One word, say critics: Corruption [ToI] • China Defends Arrest of Men Investigating Ivanka Trump’s Shoe Supplier [Time] • The Real Estate Start-Up Jared Kushner Co-Founded Is Now Worth $800 Million [VanityFair] • Crescent Heights lists development site on Alton Road for $9M [TRD] • Douglas Development pitches hotel in Mount Vernon Triangle [Bizjournals] • Ari Horowitz — who is the executive chairman of the String app, a local discovery app — lists penthouse for $30,000/month [NYPost] • WeWork has acquired venture-backed Fieldlens [TC] • Microsoft agrees to buy U.S.-Israeli cyber firm Hexadite [Reuters]

“Who did President Trump bring onstage during his Cincinnati speech?” by James Leggate“President Donald Trump interrupted his speech at Rivertowne Marina Wednesday to invite a pair of New York City real estate developers onstage. Steven Roth of Vornado Realty Trust and Richard LeFrak will have a role as advisors in Trump’s infrastructure plan… “These are great builders, and we’re watching and they’re looking over our shoulders,” Trump said… Roth has partnered on projects with Trump, co-owning a pair of properties worth hundreds-of-millions of dollars. Vornado also has invested in a real estate project with the business owned by the family of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. LeFrak is a longtime friend of Trump and a member at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.” [WCPO]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: “This Email Startup Wants You To Go Shopping In Your Inbox” by Pavithra Mohan: “An eBay newsletter that employs RebelMail’s technology, for example, allows subscribers to take quizzes within the body of the email, while Home Depot customers can now fill out reviews for products they’ve purchased without leaving their email—a change that Rebel founder Joe Teplow says has nearly doubled the number of reviews submitted. In terms of e-commerce, RebelMail also offered the ability to “add to cart.” Teplow cited the example of an Old Navy email that would let customers view photos of a product, choose the desired color and size, and then add the item to their shopping bag… But one of the biggest challenges, according to Teplow, is convincing email marketers… that keeping people in an email for longer, without necessarily encouraging them to click through, is a good idea.” [FastCompanyTC]

HOLLYWOOD: “Israel’s TV Producers Become Heavy Hitters in Exporting Shows” by Ethan Bronner: “Fauda illustrates the transformation of Israeli television from a purveyor of treacly drama and embarrassing slapstick into a high-octane content machine. In the past few years, networks worldwide have picked up dozens of series that originated in Israel—Homeland and In Treatment among them—placing the country of 8 million among the world’s top producers of shows. “Israel is up there with the best,” says Walter Iuzzolino, who runs a British streaming service of foreign shows called Walter Presents. “Their stuff is emotionally poignant, three-dimensional, and never boring.” [Bloomberg]

“How the Jewish identity of ‘Wonder Woman’s’ star is causing a stir” by Sarah Pulliam: Bailey: “[Gal] Gadot’s identity has been noted across Jewish media, including the Jewish Journal, which examined the Jewish essence of her character. “It isn’t just a triumph for women that the new savior of the world is female; it is a triumph for the Jews,” Danielle Berrin wrote… People will politicize anything connected to Israel, said Deborah Lauter, Anti-Defamation League’s senior vice president of policy and programs, but the timing of the film comes during the anniversary of Israel’s Six-Day War, which tripled the land under Israeli control. “Anti-Semites will exploit a current event like this,” she said. “They latch onto the popular trend and try to gain legitimacy by talking about it.” … “Wonder Woman” resurfaced debates over Jews and intersectionality, said Yair Rosenberg, senior writer for Tablet Magazine. Jews have been the only white people white supremacists target, but Jews are seen as white privileged and part of the problem, he said. “Everyone who has preconceived views about Israelis will project them onto the film,” he said. “People will use this to hang their hat on certain issues.”” [WashPost]

DESSERT: Which Ice Cream Brand Is Big, Gay — And Defiantly Kosher?” by Michelle Honig: “Kosher ice cream lovers have a lot to celebrate this Pride month, specifically in the form of a pint of Big Gay Ice Cream. That’s because when the ice cream truck-turned-brick-and-mortar shop decided to package its popular soft serve to be sold nationally, it sought and received kosher certification. The pints… are officially under the auspices of the kashrut division of… the OU.” [Forward]

“This Muslim-owned Jewish deli is one of Brooklyn’s best-kept (open) secrets” by Yaakov Schwartz: “Just out of reach of a halo of boutique doughnut shops and yuppie-centric taco stands is David’s Brisket House – sandwiched, as it were, between the gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy… The restaurant’s name itself is somewhat of a misnomer: For one thing, it’s not owned by a David, and the brisket itself, while good, is nothing to write home about. In fact, the deli belongs to Riyadh Gazali, a Yemeni Muslim, and it’s the corned beef and pastrami that are the stars — arguably as good as New York’s famous deli meccas, Katz’s or Ben’s… But while the closet-sized restaurant continues to pump out the Jewish classics as it has for decades, the once-kosher meat is now hallal.” [ToI]

BIRTHDAYS: Businesswoman, friend of Ivanka and Jared, art collector and editor, married to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, Dasha Zhukova turns 36… South African businessman and philanthropist, formerly the Chairman of De Beers, Nicky Oppenheimer turns 72… Denver-based chief marketing officer at Layer3 TV, previously the head of social media at United Talent Agency, Eric J. Kuhn turns 30… Offensive tackle for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, Hebrew name “Mendel,” Mitchell Schwartz turns 28… Comedian and actor, originally of the comedy team of Stiller and Meara, later of both Seinfeld and King of Queens, Jerry Stiller turns 90… Hebrew University mathematics professor and Nobel Prize laureate in Economics, Robert Aumann turns 87… Long-time Republican member of the Ohio State Senate (1967-1996), the last 7 years of which he served as Senate President, Stanley J. Aronoff turns 85… Founder of the Family Dollar Stores chain of discount stores in 1959, he remained chairman and CEO until 2003, Leon Levine turns 80… Guru of alternative, holistic and integrative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil turns 75…

Hedge fund founder and manager, founder of the Paloma Funds and New China Capital Management, board member of Carnegie Hall, Selwyn Donald Sussman turns 71… Detective novelist, best known for creating the character of V.I. Warshawski, Sara Paretsky turns 70… The Juilliard School’s classical pianist, teacher and performer, Emanuel Ax (child of Holocaust survivors) turns 68… Community affairs coordinator at UCLA’s Leve Center for Jewish Studies, awarded a Ph.D. in Social Ethics from USC, Mary Enid Pinkerson turns 66… Member of Knesset since 2015 from the Zionist Union party, professor at Ben-Gurion University, Yosef “Yossi” Yona turns 64… Journalist, stand-up comedian, author, cartoonist, blogger and occasional commentator on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Aaron Freeman turns 61… Assistant Vice President for Campaign at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, Patti Frazin turns 56…

Moscow-born, living in the US since 1976, a major figure in the Russian energy sector, lead director of UK-based L1 Energy, co-founder and CEO of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Stan Polovets turns 54… Winner of many Emmy and SAG awards, star of the long-running TV series “The Good Wife,” Julianna Margulies turns 51… Actor and screenwriter, married to the sister of baseball executive Theo Epstein, Daniel Paul “Dan” Futterman turns 50… Former Congresswoman, survivor of an assassination attempt near Tucson in 2011, Gabrielle Giffords turns 47… Actor, starred in USA Network’s “Royal Pains,” Mark Feuerstein turns 46… Deputy Chief of Staff for Charlie Baker, the Governor of Massachusetts, Michael Emanuel Vallarelli turns 38… Rabbinic fellow in the inaugural cohort of the Jewish Emergent Network at DC’s historic Sixth & I Synagogue, Suzy Stone turns 37… Michael Fishberg

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