Daily Kickoff: Kushner returns to Middle East as he reconsiders his legal team | Meet the ‘Most Kosher Bacon’ in Congress | Sebastian Junger’s Tribe

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KUSHNER STUDYING ABROAD — “Jared Kushner to Travel to Middle East in Effort to Advance U.S. Peace Efforts” by Carol E. Lee: “Mr. Kushner plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to discuss “their priorities and potential next steps” in the peace process, [a] White House official said. He is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Wednesday. Jason Greenblatt, Mr. Trump’s top representative on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, plans to arrive in the region two days earlier.”

“The White House official stressed that no major breakthroughs are expected during the trip and said there is no expectation for three-party talks at this time. “It’s important to remember that forging a historic peace agreement will take time, and to the extent that there is progress, there are likely to be many visits by both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt, sometimes together and sometimes separately, to the region,” the official said, “and possibly many trips by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to Washington, D.C., or other locations as they pursue substantive talks.”” [WSJWashPost

Jason Greenblatt tweets: “Excited to be traveling back to Israel and the Pal. territories to continue the discussion about the possibility of peace.”

Why it matters — Aaron David Miller tells us… “First, that despite reports of special counsel investigation into his business dealings, Kushner is determined to signal he’s alive well and working. Second, Trump had made it unmistakably clear that Kushner’s his guy on this issue from the get go. It’s been six months, time to make his debut. Finally, they may believe that sending Kushner will create a greater sense of seriousness and urgency. But what they’re missing is that it’s not the mediator; it’s the parties who won’t make the key decisions. It’s a good thing they’ve signaled there are no breakthroughs on this trip; because there won’t be any.”

KAFE KNESSET — What Kushner and Greenblatt may see — by Tal Shalev: Kushner and Greenblatt intend to continue to promote the administration’s peace efforts, but they might also get a taste of the brewing – even boiling – political tensions their plans are already creating. For instance, during their stay, Kushner and Greenblatt might pass by a protest tent facing the Prime Minister’s office these days. The head of the Beit El Regional Council, Shai Alon, is intensifying his campaign against Netanyahu, demanding the government live up to its 2012 commitment to build 300 new housing units in the settlement… As part of the campaign, the Beit El Regional Council released a video today, headlined “Netanyahu – the man who lies again and again,” and this afternoon residents are planning a rally, and are expected to be joined by Likud and Jewish Home ministers and MKs, who have embraced their demands. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

JI INTERVIEW — Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE) discussed his decades-long military career, support for Israel and what it’s like being a backer of President Donald Trump’s agenda in Congress during an interview with JI’s Aaron Magid. “I was raised in a home where my dad was very pro-Jewish. He taught me early, ‘Those who bless Israel will be blessed,’ quoting Genesis,” Bacon noted. Adding that during his three decades of military service, while serving in Europe and NATO, he worked with Israeli defense officials on missile defense.

The GOP cornhusker enjoys using his last name for political use.During the campaign, he asserted that “a vote for Bacon will always be a vote against pork.” During the interview, the Nebraska lawmaker pointed out that at AIPAC events, he’s frequently introduced as the “most Kosher bacon anybody’s ever met.”

Bacon on Trump’s Middle East peace push: “All of our presidents come in with this vision that we can broker some major peace deal. I’m not convinced we can with the Palestinians until they recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. As long as they are paying families to commit suicide operations, I just don’t see a reasonable chance of an agreement with them. I would have encouraged Trump not to push down that path because I don’t see a good negotiating partner. I just think until the Palestinians show more earnestness in wanting to have peace, I wouldn’t push Israel to do it.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]

AIEF BRINGING DC PARTISANS TOGETHER: “Israel trip calms some D.C. tensions” by Daniel Lippman: “A number of former top Trump campaign officials and prominent Democrats say that their trip last week to Israel helped them dial down the bitter partisanship of current-day Washington. Trump campaign alumni Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, former Obama White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton, and Paul Begala were among the participants in the seven-day trip that ended Saturday… The trip was sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation and organized by AIPAC political director Rob Bassin; other trip-goers included Juleanna Glover, Corry Bliss, Trey Nix, Brad Todd and Jeffrey Pollack…”

“The 16 American political and Washington operatives traveled the entire country from the border of Lebanon to the Gaza Strip and also spent time in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, meeting with government officials in the Knesset, entrepreneurs and business leaders. On the trip, “You’re actually on a bus for a couple hours and you’re talking about your career, your job, the company that you work for, the things that you’ve done in your past, your kids. It really made some strong connections,” said J. Toscano. Burton noted the “stark contrast” between all the security challenges that Israel faces and “then you come home and see the abject stupidity in the debate over Shakespeare in the Park in New York City.” [Politico

Spotted hanging in the West Wing — Trump’s Israel Photos: Two pictures from President Trump’s recent visit to Israel are currently hanging in the hallways of the West Wing… One photo is the President inserting a personal note between the monumental stones during his historic visit to the Western Wall. The other photo is of Trump grasping the hand of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a speech on Middle East peace at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Kushner Is Said to Be Reconsidering His Legal Team” by Ben Protess,  Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Sharon LaFraniere: “Some of [Jared] Kushner’s allies have raised questions about the link between his current lawyer, Jamie S. Gorelick, and Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel appointed to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia… Given the president’s sentiments, he might view any link to Mr. Mueller with suspicion, including Ms. Gorelick’s representation of Mr. Kushner, according to one person who has been contacted about the matter. An official close to the president disputed that, saying Mr. Trump is pleased with Ms. Gorelick’s representation of his son-in-law… People within Mr. Kushner’s circle recently reached out to some courtroom litigators about possibly joining his legal team. Among the lawyers contacted, one person said, was Abbe D. Lowell, a prominent trial lawyer whose previous clients include Jack Abramoff, the powerful Republican lobbyist, in a corruption scandal that shook Washington in 2005. Mr. Lowell is currently defending Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, against federal corruption charges.” [NYTimes]

Blake Hounshell: “Very clear pattern with Kushner stories. See a bad one coming, plant a positive one in a different outlet.” [Twitter]

“In Hamptons House, a Link to Manafort and Jared Kushner’s Dad” by Andrew Martin: “Jared Kushner was a junior at Harvard when an enterprising political operative was drawn into his family’s orbit. His name: Paul Manafort. The Kushners and the Manaforts, it turns out, go way back — at least when it comes to two of New York’s great obsessions: money and real estate. Manafort’s wife, Kathleen, received a mortgage on a 10-bedroom home in the Hamptons on Long Island. The $150,000 loan was made by NorCrown Bank, in Livingston, New Jersey, whose chairman was Kushner’s father, Charles, the patriarch of the family real estate empire and, at the time, a Democratic powerbroker in New Jersey.” [Bloomberg]

“Meet the man managing Trump’s biggest crisis yet” by Eliana Johnson, Josh Dawsey and Josh Gerstein: “Veteran GOP operative Mark Corallo is known for accepting tough crisis-management cases, but even he wasn’t daredevil enough to accept the job an embattled President Donald Trump considered him for last month: White House communications director. Instead, Corallo chose to stay outside the building, becoming the top spokesman for Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz.” [Politico Trump’s tough-talking outside counsel Mark Kasowitz may do him more harm than good[NYDailyNews]

DRIVING THE DAY — Top technology industry leaders are expected to attend the first White House tech summit organized by Jared Kushner’s Office of American Innovation. President Trump will participate in the American Technology Council roundtable in the afternoon.

— “Attendees are expected to include Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, IBM’s Ginni Rometty, Oracle’sSafra Catz, and venture capitalist John Doerr, among others.” [Axios] • For Tech CEOs, Not Attending White House Summit Is Greater Risk [WSJ

ULTIMATE DEAL: “Trade talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia mark a historic first” by Michael Binyon and Gregg Carlstrom: “Saudi Arabia and Israel are in talks to establish economic ties… Arab and American sources said that the links would start small: allowing Israeli businesses to operate in the Gulf, for example, and letting El Al, the national airline, fly over Saudi airspace. However, any such progress would bolster the alliance between Iran’s two most implacable enemies and change the dynamics of the many conflicts destabilising the Middle East.” [SundayTimes

“Palestinian pilgrims to fly from Israel to Saudi Arabia” by Itamar Eichner: “The United States, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel have recently been conducting secret negotiations to coordinate the first flight of Palestinian pilgrims from Ben Gurion airport to Saudi Arabia, with a short layover on the way, probably in Jordan… The Americans initiated the matter as a result of President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel… A senior Israeli source said… the flight would be carried out through a foreign company that is neither Israeli nor Saudi. The Palestinians will be able to make pilgrimages to the holy places in Mecca and Medina. This is the closest to a direct flight that has yet to be offered.” [YNet

“Abbas eyes Merkel as Plan B if Trump fails on Mideast peace” by Uri Savir: “A senior Palestinian minister close to President Mahmoud Abbas told Al-Monitor… “We are showing great flexibility, as directed by President Abbas, on the phrasing of the condition to freeze settlement construction — restraining it to the existing built areas of settlements.” … According to Palestinian sources, a special Abbas envoy visited Riyadh last week, in the midst of the crisis with Qatar, to coordinate positions and the insertion of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative into the negotiation process… Yet, given Trump’s domestic troubles and Netanyahu’s positions, he believes Ramallah must have a fallback position in the diplomatic realm. “Unlike many others in the international community, the Palestinian president has not given up on Donald Trump,” he said. “But should Trump disappoint, like others in the international community, we have decided to opt for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in conjunction with French President Emmanuel Macron, to take the lead in preventing a deadlock in the peace process.”” [Al-Monitor

“Israel Gives Secret Aid to Syrian Rebels” by Rory Jones, Noam Raydan and Suha Ma’ayeh: “The Israeli army is in regular communication with rebel groups and its assistance includes undisclosed payments to commanders that help pay salaries of fighters and buy ammunition and weapons, according to interviews with about half a dozen Syrian fighters. Israel has established a military unit that oversees the support in Syria—a country that it has been in a state of war with for decades—and set aside a specific budget for the aid, said one person familiar with the Israeli operation… Israel’s aim is to keep Iran-backed fighters allied to the Syrian regime, such as the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, away from the 45-mile stretch of border on the divided Golan Heights, the three people said.” [WSJ

2020 WATCH: “How Jason Kander Won by Losing” by Edward-Isaac Dovere: “He’s clearly a star and everybody knows it,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who campaigned for Kander (when he ran for Senate against Sen. Roy Blunt in 2016) and has continued checking in with him by phone… “He’s the funniest of the candidates that we’ve had since I started doing this.” … And maybe, just maybe, he’s running for president in 2020 anyway. By then, he would only be 39 — seven years younger than Obama was in 2008. When I put this to Kander during our interview, he danced: “Politicians never say never to anything.” Which is what, as I pointed out to him, people who are running for president tend to say… “I’m really focused on making sure we still hold elections right now,” Kander said. “And maybe one day I’ll be in one.”[Politico

** Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Investors welcome tougher Israeli regulations[CNBC] • Israel to build quantum communications tech lab [ZDNet] • Billionaire John Paulson Joins Valeant’s Board of Directors [Bloomberg] • George Lindemann sells Palm Beach home 21% below asking price [TRD• Dodgers President Stan Kasten understands the task before Jeanie Buss [LATimes]

HEARD IN CANNES: “Ari Emanuel says leaving ICM was his toughest moment” by Claire Atkinson: “Ari Emanuel’s dramatic, Hollywood script-worthy exit from talent agency ICM more than 20 years ago was the mogul’s biggest professional fight, the WME/IMG co-CEO recalled on Sunday. “It was the day we walked out of ICM,” Emanuel admitted Sunday at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, asked to recall his most trying times in a session called “Survival of the Fittest.” “We were sued and we had no money and no clients. It was a bad situation.” Emanuel exited ICM in 1995 to set up a rival new agency and attracted talent agents across the business to launch Endeavor.” [NYPost]

“Sebastian Junger Focuses on Syria” by Alexandra Wolfe: “Mr. Junger grew up in Belmont, Mass., the son of a mother who is a painter and a Jewish physicist father who fled to the U.S. from Europe at the beginning of World War II. He found the wealthy suburb cold and sterile. “It just felt like a bubble,” he says… In his latest book, “Tribe,” he looks at the human need for community. He came up with the idea for the book after wondering why he got depressed when he left Sarajevo for short breaks in the 1990s. He found that soldiers felt the same way when they left the battlefield, as did people who left cancer wards as survivors. They missed the community they had left. “All of a sudden, I got it,” he says. “There’s a theme here.” What people instinctively want, he says, is to belong to small groups with a clear purpose. Too many of us are missing that sense of community and purpose in our increasingly isolated modern lives, he says.” [WSJ]

“He Thought He’d Be Your Rabbi. Now, He’ll Get You a Mortgage” by Ron Lieber: “Perhaps it was preordained that David Frankel would become a mortgage banker… His path to the industry was neither straight nor narrow. In the summers, he left for Jewish sleepaway camp, an experience that helped lead him to rabbinical school in Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York — places where his alma mater, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, had campuses. He graduated, and while the career didn’t stick, many of the texts and values did. As best as he can tell, he is the only ordained rabbi who spends his days helping people get the right home loan… So he thought he might be a camp director or a rabbi at a Hillel, a Jewish organization on college campuses. But as much as he loved text study and translation, he eventually figured out that his outspoken nature and skills were not a perfect match for the rabbinate… Today, he works for a direct lender called Guaranteed Rate.”[NYTimes

“These penthouses are bringing suburbia to the city” by Hana R. Alberts: “Victor had a bar mitzvah here and we had 50 to 60 people,” [architect Andrew] Tesoro added.” [NYPost

WEEKEND WEDDING: Ari Schaffer, a research analyst in the White House communications shop, married Marissa Schwartz, a senior analyst at The Advisory Board Company, yesterday at the Rockleigh Country Club in New Jersey. The two met at Kesher Israel Synagogue in Georgetown. [Pic] h/t Playbook

SPOTTED: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attending the wedding of David Keyes, the Prime Minister’s foreign media adviser and spokesperson. [PicInstagramh/t Adam Finkel

BIRTHDAYS: Journalist, academic and political figure, active in the Democratic party, she served as US Ambassador to the Netherlands (1978-1981) in the Carter administration, Geri M. Joseph turns 94… Binnie Stein turns 78… Attorney, investment banker, film producer, deputy mayor of NYC (1982-1985), EVP of Cushman & Wakefield (2004-2010), commissioner of NY / NJ Port Authority since 2013, Kenneth Lipper turns 76… Owner of Pittsburgh-based Wenkert Healthcare Services, after a long career as a territory sales manager for GlaxoSmithKline (1992-2014), Harry E. Wenkert turns 61… President and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jay Sanderson turns 60… Investment advisor and broker at the Sherman Oaks, California office of Morgan Stanley, Inna N. Zalevsky turns 60… Overland Park, KS resident Kathi Shaivitz Rosenberg turns 58… Director of communications for New York State Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz since 2012, Adrienne M. Knoll turns 57… Moscow-born, Russian activist, member of the executive committee of the World Jewish Congress (1991-1996) and EVP of of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (2001-2008), Valery Engel Ph.D. turns 56… Co-founder of Centerview Partners, a boutique investment bank based in NYC, he hosted Barack Obama (2014) and Hillary Clinton (2015) for fundraisers in his Upper East Side Manhattan home, Blair Wayne Effron turns 55… Singer-songwriter, voice actress, dancer, choreographer, actress and television personality, she was a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers at the age of 18, Paula Abdul turns 55… Member of Knesset for the Zionist Union party since 2015, in the 1990s she was a legal advisor to then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin turns 47… Founder of JSwipe, a Jewish dating app created in 2014, David Austin Yarus turns 31… Founder and executive director of Kahal: Your Jewish Home Abroad, which helps Jewish students studying abroad, Alexander Jakubowski turns 25… Jessica Brown

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