Daily Kickoff: Why did Cory Booker vote against Taylor Force Act in committee? | Ari Harow’s unenviable dilemma | Ray Allen on going to Auschwitz

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TAYLOR FORCE ACT — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the revised Taylor Force Act yesterday in bipartisan fashion (17-4). The legislation would cut off U.S. economic assistance that “directly benefits” the Palestinian Authority until they cease payments to families of terrorists. While yesterday’s committee vote is just one step in the process towards passage, every Republican on the committee along with six Democratic Senators supported the bill. Only four Senators — Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) — opposed the measure.

–Amendments added: Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) added an amendment on Thursday morning, which was approved by the committee, that places the cut off of U.S. funds in a one year escrow, allowing the Palestinian Authority to earn the money if the terror payments end and the law is overturned. However, members voted down another amendment proposed by Kaine which would have allowed Ramallah to earn back the assistance even if the law was not repealed.

–Initial confusion about Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s vote: After the vote, the Senate clerk announced that the results were 16-5. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) was not present so she voted by proxy and it appeared to sound that she opposed the bill. However, Micah Johnson, Corker’s Communications Director, confirmed to Jewish Insider that the bill total was 17-4 with Shaheen voting for the legislation. Full recap here [JewishInsider]

TOP TALKER — Question on the mind of many JI readers — why did Sen. Booker, who has long standing ties with the Jewish and pro-Israel community, vote against the Taylor Force Act yesterday?

In an exclusive statement to Jewish Insider, Sen Booker emailed us the following: “PA support for terrorist payments is plainly reprehensible and must be stopped. The path to accomplish this is highly complex, as evidenced by the Israeli government’s own reluctance to cut off sources of revenue to the PA despite their ability to do so without any help from the United States. There has been a failure to assure the Foreign Relations Committee that vital, stability-producing humanitarian programs would not end up facing cuts from this bill. I was deeply disappointed that yesterday’s committee vote was held despite there being so many important questions left unanswered about its impact on a volatile region, millions of civilians and America’s closest ally.”

“There have long been mixed signals and conflicting recommendations coming from both US and Israeli national security officials about whether the bill would achieve its desired ends without worsening the security situation. As recently as the day before the vote there was confusion among State Department officials over provisions in the bill and exactly what impact they would have on Israel’s security and the stability of the region.”

“With so many questions unanswered and the consequences so grave, I withheld my support for this version of the legislation yesterday. I’m continuing to seek answers to these questions and pursuing amendments that I offered to this legislation that will help prevent unintended humanitarian consequences and outcomes that would threaten Israel’s security. I hope these concerns are addressed quickly and well before the full Senate considers this legislation, so that this bill can receive my support.” [JewishInsider]

Noah Pollak, a leading advocate for the Taylor Force Act, emailed us: “After the vote yesterday, the single biggest theme of the emails and calls that poured in was: ‘What happened to Cory Booker?’ His arguments for opposing the bill are either wrong on the facts (TFA will cut off all humanitarian aid to the Palestinians) or unserious (TFA will destabilize the region). No, this has the appearance of being a political decision — a choice to associate himself with the Linda Sarsour wing of the party, which he believes is ascendant. This was a bad decision on moral and policy grounds, and it will turn out to be a bad decision on political grounds as well.”

Rabbi Clifford M. Kulwin from Livingston, New Jersey: “Senator Booker has been a close friend for nearly twenty years. I know first hand of his love for and respect of Israel. His committee vote was clearly bad politics for him. He genuinely believes the issue to be complex and the legislation as presently written not in the best interests of either Israel or the US. To suggest his vote was motivated by political consideration is nonsensical and demeans one of the most moral people I know.”

JI EXCLUSIVE: Taylor Force Act Could Hinder Greenblatt’s Water Deal — by Aaron Magid: The passage of the Taylor Force Act in its current form would bar U.S. participation in the water agreement trumpeted by Jason Greenblatt last month, an informed Congressional staffer told Jewish Insider. “The bill, if enacted as passed out of Committee, would halt any assistance that ‘directly benefits’ the Palestinian Authority, the aide explained. “So, yes, U.S. assistance to the Red-Dead water agreement falls under directly benefiting the PA, and would not be able to continue.”

There was confusion on Wednesday during a meeting between the State Department and Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) staffers. Aides were trying to discern whether the Trump administration believed that the Taylor Force Act would also cut humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians because of the ambiguity of the language that funding be restricted to programs that “directly benefit the Palestinian Authority.” The Congressional staffer claimed that the meeting was an “insult” to the Senate oversight committee (SFRC) with the State Department attempting to “obfuscate, undermine and delay.”

A State Department official told Jewish Insider, on condition of anonymity, “The Department often has informal discussions on technical aspects of legislation with Congressional staff. The Administration looks forward to continuing discussions with Congress on this bill as it moves forward.”

When asked for comment, a White House official did not directly address the water agreement but said the following about the Taylor Force Act in general: “The administration has made clear its position on payments to terrorists and their families. We will continue to work with Congress as this legislation proceeds to ensure it both encourages the PA to end the payments and supports our efforts to advance peace.” [JewishInsider

PALACE INTRIGUE: “McMaster gets new cover in West Wing skirmish” by Bryan Bender, Josh Dawsey and Nahal Toosi: “[John] Kelly told McMaster this week that he wanted him to remain as national security adviser, said two senior White House aides, and has encouraged him to make any staffing changes he deems necessary. McMaster took that as a green light this week to oust top intelligence aide Ezra Cohen-Watnick… Kelly’s arrival did not lead directly to Cohen-Watnick’s dismissal, officials said, but was months in the making… In recent weeks… McMaster has bristled at White House aides close to Trump whom he perceives as undercutting his authority. He seethes over every national security leak and lashes out over negative news stories he thinks are spread by his enemies… While he has occasionally clashed with Kushner, the influential son-in-law, has a better relationship with him these days, a White House official with direct knowledge said.” [Politico

— “Sources tell Al-Monitor that State Department, Pentagon and NSC professionals who argue for a more pragmatic approach feel they may gradually be getting the upper hand in policy debates. “McMaster has cleaned out some problems, but Trump is still Trump,” a former US official told Al-Monitor. “He still listens to Bannon and [his son-in-law Jared] Kushner and crew.” [Al-Monitor]

“McMaster Goes to War—Against His White House Enemies” by Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng and Kimberly Dozier: “Two senior administration officials say the combative adviser to the president Sebastian Gorka is safe from the latest clean sweep, in part because the president likes him (especially when Gorka is on TV repping the White House and sparring with cable-news hosts); he reports to Bannon, not the NSC; and he’s popular with the Trump base.” [DailyBeast]

Mark Dubowitz‏: “If you think changes at the NSC signal a less tough-minded Iran policy, you have no idea what you’re talking about.” [Twitter]

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “John Kelly Quickly Moves to Impose Military Discipline on White House” by Glenn Thrush, Michael Shear and Eileen Sullivan: “In discussions with Mr. Trump about moving to the White House, Mr. Kelly also insisted that Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump, who is also a White House adviser, report to him. They both agreed, in part because they wanted to see Mr. Priebus ejected as quickly as possible, and in part because they recognized Mr. Trump’s presidency needed to be professionalized… Aides said the ouster of Mr. Cohen-Watnick was intended as a show of confidence from Mr. Kelly to Mr. McMaster. Mr. Kushner did not object to the decision, and had conceded that Mr. McMaster was going to fire his friend three weeks ago.” [NYTimes]

Joe Scarborough writes… Ivanka and Jared, move back to New York: “Trump’s shocking victory led his son-in-law to believe he could reinvent government like Al Gore, micromanage the White House like James Baker and restructure the Middle East like Moses. Kushner’s confidence seemed to reach its apex whenever the subject turned to Middle East peace. His bizarre belief that the world began anew the day Trump was inaugurated was exposed again this week when a leaked audiotape caught Kushner telling White House interns: “We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books.” … Vice presidents, not daughters, should sit in G-20 summits. And a secretary of state should broker Middle East peace. Not an inexperienced 36-year-old son-in-law… The best thing they can do for their country is to move back to New York and let professionals run the White House.” [WashPost

“Top PLO official to ‘Post’: Kushner cannot broker peace with Israel” by Ben Lynfield: “Of course he’s not qualified because he disqualifies himself,” [PLO executive committee member Hanan] Ashrawi told The Jerusalem Post…. “His talk was really problematic. It betrays not just deep bias but a lack of knowledge of the history itself and therefore of the needs and requirements for a solution,” Ashrawi said… Abdullah Abdullah, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who supports Abbas, also said Kushner “is not fit to be a mediator in a peacemaking process.” [JPost

“King Abdullah to visit PA in Ramallah” by Elior Levy: “In the short visit, which is expected to last several hours, Abdullah is expected to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his Ramallah compound… The King’s last visit to the Palestinian territories took place five years ago.”[Ynet

“It’s time to stop kowtowing to Turkey” by Yair Lapid: “In addition, Israel should raise, either directly or through the United States, the question of Turkey’s membership in NATO and why an Islamist country that supports the Muslim Brotherhood remains a member. We should raise with the Trump administration the question of whether it might be time to reassess storing tactical nuclear weapons in an Islamic state, as the United States does at the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.” [JPost]

“Ex-Dodgers owner Jamie McCourt up for ambassadorship to France after switch from Belgium” by A.J. Perez: “[Jamie] McCourt, one of Trump’s top fundraisers during his presidential campaign, was originally nominated in June to become the ambassador to Belgium. (McCourt speaks French, one of the official languages of Belgium.) The White House, however, revealed her new assignment in a list sent to this week to the Senate, which will need to confirm McCourt before she takes her new post.” [USAToday]

–Vanity Fair’s description of a young Jamie McCourt: “Jamie Luskin, the Jewish daughter of a middle-class appliance-chain owner from Baltimore—“the cheapest guy in town,” or so claimed Jack Luskin’s ads.”

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Travis Kalanick has hired “CEO advisory” firm Teneo to improve his tarnished image [Recode] • Can Wendy Silverstein rescue New York REIT? [RealDeal] • David Cordish takes on Shaq in promotional free-throw contest at Live Casino [Bizjournals] • Israel, US grads dream up ideas in Birthright Ventures program [ToI

SPOTLIGHT: “Does the Bible say there’s oil in Israel? Thousands are paying a Dallas company to find out” by Jeff Mosier: “Sefander Knotts is a believer and willing to back her conviction up with money. Although Knotts describes herself as broke, she finds enough spare money to invest in a Dallas company that’s never earned a dime in its 17-year search for oil in a country that produces almost no oil. With the Bible as its North Star, Zion Oil & Gas has spent more than $150 million of investors’ money on a “special task, in a special country” — Israel. Knotts became a backer of Zion after watching a promotional video on YouTube of its quest to find oil in the Holy Land. Through the years, thousands of believers like Knotts helped Zion with the millions of dollars it needed to keep drilling dry holes in the prophesied land. “I’m going to keep investing for as long as it takes,” said the 43-year-old Knotts, who splits time between a rental and RV in middle Tennessee with her husband.”[DallasNews]

KAFE KNESSET — Bribery, fraud, and breach of trust — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: These three suspected Netanyahu crimes, which were laid out black in white in an official Police memo yesterday, are going to hover over the political system for at least the next few weeks. The suspicions against Netanyahu were already the subject of widespread speculation by various analysts and commentators over the past year, but this is the first time that the Police have publicly and officially detailed the suspicions against the Prime Minister. The Police memo appeared as part of a request for a gag order which was signed today regarding details of negotiations with Ari Harow over a state witness agreement.

A senior minister who met with Netanyahu this week told Kafe Knesset that Bibi appeared to be “troubled.” The lead news story every day during this past week was about the legal status of one or more of Bibi’s closest confidants. The phrase “critical mass” is being whispered more and more, even by some of Bibi’s partners, who are quietly contemplating that the rope around the PM’s neck is tightening. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Ari Harow’s Unenviable Dilemma As He Becomes State’s Witness Against Netanyahu” by Gil Hoffman: “In a private conversation in the Knesset cafeteria Thursday, an MK who was once a top official in an intelligence agency cautioned against comparing what security prisoners were subjected to in the past to retrieve information to prevent terror attacks to what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Ari Harow is enduring now. He said it is unlikely that Harow has been threatened with being thrown in boiling water if he does not deliver the goods and incriminate Netanyahu. But the MK acknowledged that Harow is under a tremendous amount of pressure right now.”

“Those who know Harow well have said that in an effort to make Harow cave in whatever information he might have, the police have made his life a living hell. They questioned him for 14 hours immediately upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport after back-to-back redeye flights. They have given him a hard time whenever he leaves the country. Harow cannot discuss any details of his case while police are leaking information nonstop that he can neither confirm nor deny. The former little league baseball star is on an unfair playing field, because he must obey by rules that the police do not enforce on themselves.” [JPost]• Netanyahu’s former aide turns state’s witness in bribery cases [Reuters]

“Ehud Barak: Internet troll or comeback wannabe?” by Lahav Harkov: “There is nothing more fun than sitting in New York and watching Israel react,” Barak said recently to a close associate who asked about his social media stardom, denying that this is a move toward a second political comeback. But it’s hard to believe that’s the whole story. Barak is investing a lot of time in these videos – though apparently not any money, as a former aide said he makes them himself – and it seems unlikely that the reason for making the clips would be just the satisfaction of making Netanyahu squirm.” [JPost]

“Bethlehem graffiti lampoons Trump embrace of Israeli wall” by Dan Williams: “On the concrete barricades erected by Israel around parts of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, giant spray-painted images of Trump have given constricted Palestinians some comic relief. “I’m going to build you a brother,” the U.S. leader tells the wall in one mural. In another, he hugs an Israeli army watch-tower, with heart-shaped emojis added alongside paint splashes and soot stains left by Palestinian demonstrations. The artist, who goes by the alias @LushSux and who Australian media have said comes from Melbourne, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.” [ReutersAP]

IF YOU ONLY READ ONE ITEM — “Why I Went to Auschwitz” by former NBA player Ray Allen: “I thought I knew what the Holocaust was, and what it meant. I went to Poland with a few close friends to learn more. But I wasn’t prepared for how deeply the visit would affect me. I had seen so many documentaries and films on Auschwitz, but nothing really prepares you for being there. The first thing I felt when I walked through those iron gates was … heavy. The air around me felt heavy. I stood on the train tracks where the prisoners of the camp would arrive, and I felt like I could hear the trains coming to a halt. I had to take a breath to center myself. It was so immediate. So overwhelming. We walked through the barracks and gas chambers and what I remember most is what I heard: nothing. I’ve never experienced silence like that… One question keeps repeating over and over and over in your mind: How can human beings do this to one another? How does somebody process that? You can’t. This is not history. This is humanity. This is now. This is a living lesson for us as a people.” [ThePlayersTribune]

“Hateful Conspiracy Theorist Backed by Jewish Politician Josh Mandel is Now Hyping Anti-Semitic Propaganda” by Yair Rosenberg: On Tuesday afternoon, Cernovich started pushing a campaign to discredit National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who is despised by the alt-right for his perceived effort to root out their sympathizers in the administration. Those who followed the link to the web-site, however, were immediately greeted with this bigoted graphic. The notion that the Rothschild family manipulates world affairs, of course, is a classic anti-Jewish canard. After the cartoon’s anti-Semitism began drawing attention, it was cropped slightly on the web site to hide the Rothschild bit at the top–as though a cartoon asserting that America’s administration is controlled by puppetmaster Jewish financier George Soros is somehow less anti-Semitic.” [Tablet]

HEARD YESTERDAY on Morning Joe — The Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe recalls coming to U.S. as an immigrant: “I was 7. It is very easy to learn a language at that age. My parents were 30, they didn’t speak very much English at all. My mom is a doctor and my dad is a computer scientist. My dad had a job in two weeks. They are amazing contributing members of American society. They are more American than anybody I know. But I also just think about the massive immigrant communities that came over over hundred years ago from places like Germany, Italy and Poland, that lives in these enclaves – they had printed their own newspapers in their own language – in Yiddish, in German and in Czech – and people were worried about their assimilation. Places like the Lower East Side, for example, where a lot of Jewish immigrants lived and spoke only in Yiddish. Who speaks Yiddish now? You know. Who reads newspapers in Yiddish now, or in German, in Czech? English is a pretty easy language to learn and it’s pretty easy to assimilate in the U.S. American culture does its work.” [MSNBC]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli super-agent Pini Zahavi, the architect of Neymar’s transfer to PSG?” by Jérémie Elfassy: “With the soccer “transfer of the century” materializing with the arrival of Brazilian player Neymar in Paris in the coming hours, the name of Pini Zahavi has again come to the forefront of the sporting world. The 73-year-old Israeli former journalist is the man who has orchestrated a move considered unthinkable in the sporting world up until recently, whereby Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) will pay 222 million Euros to snatch the Brazilian from FC Barcelona, a record-breaking sum.”

“After time serving in the Israeli army and a brief period of studying economics, Zahavi began a career as a sports journalist, at Israeli news organizations Hadashot Sport and Yediot Ahronoth. During this time, he began to forge strong ties to prominent figures in Israeli football, inviting foreign clubs to play friendly matches in Israel, before his involvement in his first transfer – the move of Israeli defender Avi Cohen from Maccabi Tel Aviv to Liverpool FC for 200,000 pounds in 1979.” [i24News]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY44th President of the United States, Barack Obama turns 56… Political donor, and casino magnate, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation including casinos in Las Vegas, Macao and Singapore, Sheldon Adelson turns 84… Professor of American history at Yeshiva University and Stern College, expert on the history of McCarthyism, Dr. Ellen Schrecker turns 79… Talmudic scholar, head of the rabbinical court of Mekor Haim in Queens, New York and a prominent leader of New York’s Sephardic Jewish community, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim turns 77… Member of the Knesset since 2013 for the Yesh Atid party, she served as mayor of Herzliya between 1998 and 2013, Yael German turns 70… Long-time member of the Knesset for Likud (1992-2015) including multiple ministerial positions, Silvan Shalom turns 59… Executive producer of “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” Michael Gelman turns 56… Executive Editor of PwC’s management magazine “Strategy + Business,”  previously editor of global finance for Daily Beast and Newsweek, Daniel Gross turns 50… Co-founder of the music and culture magazine The Source, former director of programming for the Wynn Las Vegas and current editor-in-chief for Cuepoint at Medium, Jonathan Shecter (also known as Shecky Green) turns 49… CEO of Aspiration (a financial services firm), author, former White House speechwriter, business consultant, prosecutor, Navy reserve officer and chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, Andrei Cherny turns 42… Executive Director of European Union of Jewish Students, Jonathan Keyson turns 25… Natalie Roberts… Evelyn Murphy

SATURDAY: Member of the New York State Senate (1961-1994) where he served as the Minority Leader (1975-1991), a founding partner of the New York law firm of Ohrenstein & Brown, Manfred Ohrenstein turns 92… Historian, Nazi hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff turns 69… Banker, once known as “Austria’s woman on Wall Street”  and founder of Bank Medici in 1994, Sonja Kohn turns 69… Former Soviet Refusenik, made aliyah in 1987, elected to Knesset in each of the last seven elections since 1996, now Speaker of the Knesset since 2013, Yuli-Yoel Edelstein turns 59… Member of the British House of Lords, he was chief executive of the Office of the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and then chief executive of the United Jewish Israel Appeal, Baron Jonathan Andrew Kestenbaumturns 58… Songwriter, author and political columnist, Seth Swirsky turns 57… Actor who starred in “Weekend at Bernie’s” and whose father and grandfather were both rabbis, Jonathan Silverman turns 51… Member of the Knesset since 2015 for the Kulanu party, Roy Folkman turns 42… Long-time member of the Israeli national soccer team who also played in Europe’s UEFA Champions League, Gil Vermouth turns 32… Former AIPAC staffer, now lobbyist for the Wireless Infrastructure Association and adjunct at American U, Matt Mandel… Leslie Saunders

SUNDAYBeverly Hills-based family law attorney, founding partner of Jaffe and Clemens, Daniel J. Jaffe turns 80… Casino owner, three time winner of the World Series of Poker, and former executive of Wilsons Leather and Rainforest Cafe, Lyle Berman turns 76… Founder and spiritual leader of The Elijah Minyan in San Diego, Wayne Dosick turns 70… Austrian businessman with many US, Israeli and Eastern European investments, Martin Schlaffturns 64… Distinguished Fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, formerly Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (2012-2013), Tara D. Sonenshine turns 58… NASA astronaut who spent 198 days on the International Space Station during 2008, he brought bagels from his family’s bagel store in Montreal into space on his first mission into orbit, Gregory Chamitoff turns 55… Famed computer hacker, now a computer security consultant, Kevin Mitnick turns 54… At-Large member of the board of directors at the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, board member of Hillel at Stanford University (from which she graduated in 1987), Susie Sorkin turns 52… Television and radio sports anchor on ESPN and ABC, one-half of the “Mike & Mike” team (now in its last year), Mike Greenberg turns 50… HBO’s boxing commentator and recently appointed co-host of ESPN’s First Take, Yiddish speaking Max Kellerman turns 44… Billionaire and former CEO of transportation network company Uber, Travis Kalanick turns 41… CEO at ReUp Education, Nitzan Pelman turns 41… Creative director and graphic designer at Facebook, Rachel Gogel… Director of Public Affairs at the American Council on Education, Jonathan Riskind… Senior Policy Advisor to Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), Corey A. Jacobson… Writer and producer for ABC News, Jessica I. Goldberg

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