Daily Kickoff: Sen. Booker now supports Taylor Force Act | Sara Netanyahu to be indicted | Contrasting North Korea and Osirak | Yasmin Lukatz interview
JI EXCLUSIVE — After amendment, Sen. Cory Booker now supports Taylor Force Act — by Aaron Magid: With a significant change in the latest version of the Taylor Force Act, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) will now support the effort — to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until they cease payments to families of terrorists — after an amendment was agreed to on Thursday by the Appropriations Committee, a Booker aide told Jewish Insider. The New Jersey lawmaker was one of only four Senators to vote against the Taylor Force Act in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) included the Taylor Force Act in the Fiscal Year 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill.
In the updated version advanced out of the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, the text clarifies that the U.S. funding to the West Bank and Gaza would only be severed for assistance that “directly benefits the Palestinian Authority.” U.S. funding towards humanitarian projects assisting Palestinians would now be permitted, a key demand by Booker who was concerned about the impact of cutting off U.S. aid to Palestinians not involved with committing acts of terrorism… Given the scarcity of floor time in the Senate, it appears more likely that the Taylor Force Act will go to the floor through the annual Appropriations bill rather than in a standalone bill. [JewishInsider]
HEARD YESTERDAY: During a press conference with the Emir of Kuwait, President Donald Trump expressed hope that the administration’s effort to reach a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians would bear fruit but was less confident than in the past. “I believe that the relationships that we have with both can help,” the President explained. ”I think the Palestinians would like to see it happen. I think the Israelis would like to see it happen. And usually, when you have two groups that would like to see something happen, good things can happen. So I think there is a chance that there could be peace.”
BUT… “But again, I say that a little bit reluctantly. We’re going to give it our best. We have tremendous talent working on that particular transaction. As you know, David Friedman, the ambassador, is very much involved. We have a great group of people. We’ll see what happens.” [Video]
“U.S. Rebukes Ambassador to Israel: ‘No Policy Shift’ Regarding Occupied Territories” by Amir TIbon: “Friedman said in an interview to the Jerusalem Post last week that the Israeli left-wing is opposing the “alleged occupation” of the West Bank… Heather Nauert, the State Department’s spokeswoman, was asked about Friedman’s choice of words on Thursday and replied: “Our position on that hasn’t changed. The comment does not represent a shift in U.S. policy.” When asked why the sitting American ambassador in Israel therefore used those words, she repeated the same answer, signaling that if Friedman intended to question the status of the West Bank, such an intention does not represent official American policy.” [Haaretz]
“Bashing the media is how Trump tries to bond with world leaders” by Callum Borchers: “President Trump used a familiar bonding activity to commiserate with the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah, during Thursday’s joint news conference at the White House. The two men shared a laugh at the media’s expense… We’ve seen this before. Trump had barely stepped off Air Force One in Tel Aviv in May when he and the Netanyahus, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin and wife Sara, broke the ice by complaining about negative media coverage in their respective countries. “The majority of the people in Israel, unlike the media, they love us,” Sara Netanyahu told Trump…. “We have something very much in common,” Trump said.” [WashPost]
NO REXIT, FOR NOW: “Tillerson is working with China and Russia — very, very quietly” by David Ignatius: “The Tillerson approach focuses on personal diplomacy, in direct contacts with Chinese and Russian leaders, and through private channels to North Korea… Tillerson appears to have preserved a working relationship with Trump despite pointedly separating himself from the president’s controversial comments after the Charlottesville unrest. Although Trump didn’t initially like Tillerson’s statement, it’s said he was ultimately comfortable with it… On Syria, Tillerson has warned Putin that the real danger to Russian interests is increasing Iranian power there… To counter the Iranians, Tillerson supports a quick move by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to capture the lower Euphrates Valley. Trump’s boisterous, sometimes belligerent manner and Tillerson’s reticence are an unlikely combination, and many observers have doubted the relationship can last. But Tillerson seems to roll with the punches — and tweets.” [WashPost]
“Israel Has a Playbook for Dealing With North Korea” by Zev Chafets: “North Korea is now truly dangerous — unlike Iraq and Syria, it already has nuclear weapons — and it won’t get less so as time goes on. Trump has said this in no uncertain terms… But if the American president does back down, if Kim Jong Un stays in power, keeps his nuclear warheads and ballistic weapons, and gets away with threatening the U.S. and its allies with nuclear destruction, every friend and foe of Washington will be revisiting its strategic playbook. For Israel, so far away from Korea yet so close to Iranian aggression, that book begins with the Begin Doctrine.” [BloombergView]
LongRead: “The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea” by Evan Osnos: “Another option is akin to Israel’s 1981 stealth attack on the Osirak nuclear reactor, the linchpin of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear-weapons development, which set back Iraq’s pursuit of nuclear weapons by at least a decade. “That’s a textbook case of a preventive war,” the senior Administration official told me. But the comparison between Osirak and North Korea is limited. In 1981, Iraq had yet to make a bomb, and it had just one major nuclear target, which was isolated in the desert and relatively easy to eliminate. North Korea already has dozens of usable nuclear warheads, distributed across an unknown number of facilities, many of them hidden underground. Even destroying their missiles on the launch pad has become much harder, because the North has developed mobile launchers and solid-fuel missiles, which can be rolled out and fired with far less advance notice than older liquid-fuel missiles.” [NewYorker]
“Airstrikes on Syrian Military Sites Renew Focus on Chemical Weapons” by David Halbfinger and Ben Hubbard: “Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser, said the strike on Thursday went a step further. “The big change now is that somebody decided to go to another level of hitting: to the producing stage,” he said in an interview. As is common with strikes in Syria, Israeli officials declined to comment on it. But Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman… said in a radio interview on Thursday that Israel was determined to resist Iran’s influence in the region. “Everything will be done to prevent the existence of a Shiite corridor from Tehran to Damascus,” he said.”[NYTimes]
— “A U.S. official… confirmed that the Israelis carried out the strike.The United States had no involvement in it and was assessing the situation, the official said.” [WashPost]
Wall Street Journal editorial… The Next Middle East War: “Israel may have to make more such strikes in Syria because Iran isn’t likely to give up on this strategic opening… The danger of a proxy war or even a direct war between Iran and Israel is growing, and it will increase as Iran’s presence builds in Syria. Mr. Trump may not like it, but he needs a strategy for post-ISIS Syria that contains Iran if he doesn’t want the U.S. to be pulled back into another Middle East war.” [WSJ]
JARED INSIDER: “Trump DACA decision followed months of meetings involving senior Democrat” by Richard Cowan: “No. 2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin has had multiple conversations with Jared Kushner and other top White House officials about how to protect young immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation, the lawmaker said on Thursday. Durbin, in an interview with Reuters, described Kushner as a conduit to his father-in-law… Kushner… held private meetings at the White House with Durbin and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in April and July… Besides the White House meetings, Durbin said there were telephone calls with Kushner… Durbin said that Kushner invited Trump aide Stephen Miller to attend one of the White House meetings because of his experience as a Senate aide to Jeff Sessions.” [Reuters]
“Trump Is Disgusted by White Supremacists, Paul Ryan Says, Because His Grandchildren Are Jewish” by Harriet Sinclair: “I really think he’s disgusted by these people,” [Paul] Ryan told the Times. “And from the conversations I’ve had with him, I know he’s disgusted by these people. I mean, good grief, his kids, his grandkids are Jewish,” he added. “So I think he’s disgusted by these people.” [Newsweek]
SCHUMER HONEYMOON: “Trump, jovial after debt deal, turns meeting into a freewheeling affair” by Josh Dawsey: “In an Oval Office meeting with the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations, he repeatedly shook Schumer’s hand and kept him after for a private session, his third chat with the Democrat in 30 hours… During the meeting, he repeatedly told the room how happy he was to work with Schumer on a debt deal, a move that has angered many Republicans.” [Politico]
ON THE HILL — ANTI-BOYCOTT ACT: “Alan Dershowitz… told the Washington Free Beacon that Senator Gillibrand’s concerns about the Israel Anti-Boycott Act could be settled with the simple addition of a line stating “no provision of this law shall be construed in a manner that violates the First Amendment.”” [FreeBeacon]
2018 WATCH: “New primary challenger to Feinstein emerges” by Carla Marinucci: “Add another name to the list of progressive Democrats seriously considering a primary challenge to California’s senior Senator Dianne Feinstein: wealthy financial entrepreneur Joseph N. Sanberg. Sanberg, 38 – co-founder of Aspiration, a socially-conscious investment firm, and a founding investor in Blue Apron… Sanberg had been mulling a governor’s run… Now, sources close to Sanberg say he is being strongly encouraged to make a play for the Senate — and take Feinstein on from the left.” [Politico]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Yasmin Lukatz, the daughter of Miriam Adelson, established the Israel Collaboration Network that connects the Israeli start-up community to Silicon Valley [TheMarker] • Las Vegas Sands Gives Billionaire CEO Adelson 400% Salary Bump [Bloomberg] • Michael Dell extols the benefits of going private, a year after Dell-EMC mega merger [USAToday] • Israeli drone maker Airobotics raises $32.5 million in private funds [Reuters] • David Schottenstein teams up with celebrities on sunglasses venture [ColumbusDispatch] • Israel Story podcast on why the Better Place electric car generated such excitement and inspired such devotion, and why its ultimate demise was so devastating [IsraelStory]
Michael Dell: ‘I’m Glad I Went and Met With the President’: “Dell said, as a Jewish American, he was horrified to see what happened Charlottesville… In the following days, Dell said he was in communication with other business leaders about how to respond – and then events changed. “As we were having that conversation, the president decided to just dissolve the councils,” he said.” [Newsmax]
KAFE KNESSET — Boom! — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: After months of investigations, deliberations, leaks and discussions over Sara Netanyahu’s alleged criminal affairs – Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has officially announced that the PM’s wife will be indicted, She will be charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly diverting public funds for her own private uses. According to the AG’s statement, during 2010-2013, Netanyahu ordered hundreds of meals prepared by chefs as well as take-out meals worth NIS 360,000 (over $100,000) while employing a full-time official cook at the PM’s Residence. Netanyahu has a “partner in crime” who will also be indicted.
Ezra Saidoff, the former deputy director-general in the Prime Minister’s Office, will also be charged. Saidoff is alleged to have helped Mrs. Netanyahu present a “false representation” that there was no full-time cook at the residence. This enabled billing the external food orders to the State. Saidoff also allegedly falsified invoices to chefs and waiters invited to the residence, in order to pay more for the outside personnel and meals. The original investigation against Sara Netanyahu included three additional affairs – the electrician affair, the “father’s homecare” affair, and the garden furniture affair – all of which the AG decided not to pursue.
The indictment will not be formally issued until Sara Netanyahu goes through a hearing, but one can only imagine the atmosphere on Balfour Street this morning. At least the Netanyahus have something to look forward to. On Sunday evening, they will be taking off for an 11 day overseas trip, starting with a historic first-ever visit by an Israeli PM to Latin America. The trip will conclude in their favorite city – New York City. However, criminal news is likely to follow them abroad as well. On September 17th – the same date Netanyahu is slated to meet President Trump – the gag order expires concerning the testimony of Bibi’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
PREVIEW: “Shimon Peres, in Memoir, Takes on Israel Past and Future” by Isabel Kershner: “Mr. Peres completed work on the book in his final weeks, Chemi Peres said, using it as “his last voice” … Mr. Peres sat and recorded the memoir in English to reach as wide an audience as possible, in the hope, his son said, of inspiring future leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs… The book by no means offers a full accounting or reckoning. Mr. Peres simply does not grapple with the more contentious episodes… “My father was the greatest optimist on earth,” Chemi Peres said. “He believed that the future was the only thing that mattered because the past cannot be changed.” The book, he added, was not meant to settle disputes or disagreements.” [NYTimes] The book, “No Room For Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination and the Making of Modern Israel,” will be published on Sept. 12.
“Doctors Could Do Nothing to Help Palestinian With Rare ‘Tree Man’ Disease. Then Israel Stepped In” by Benny Johnson: “Muhammad Taluli lives in Palestinian-controlled Gaza and suffers from an extremely rare skin disease called epidermodysplasia verruciformis or “Tree Man” disease… He had traveled to doctors throughout the region for help with no luck. Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian doctors all shrugged their shoulders… Then, as a last resort, Palestinian and Israeli officials agreed to admit Taluli to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center… The prospects of a difficult surgery did not stop the Jewish doctors from operating on the Muslim man… Taluli is now home in Gaza, back with his six children and free of his debilitating disease for the first time in 10 years. He returns with a large assortment of medications used to treat his skin disease. They were all personally paid for by the Jewish doctors who operated on him.” [IJR]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “Rabbi says state trooper held him at gunpoint in ‘traumatizing’ ordeal” by Reuven Fenton: “The family’s horror began Aug. 7 along I-91 north near Fairlee, Vermont, Rabbi Berl Fink’s wife Sarah told The Post. Berl, who was driving, was ordered out of their 2004 Toyota Camry at gunpoint by Trooper Justin Thompson around 11:30 p.m., as their two teen kids looked on, she said… Now, the family is threatening to sue the Vermont State Police for civil rights violations. Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind said he was “appalled” over the incident and called on Vermont Gov. Phil Scott to investigate the Finks’ allegations.” [NYPost]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Philanthropist, owner of L Brands (which includes Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works), Leslie H. “Les” Wexner turns 80… United States Senator from Vermont and 2016 presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders turns 76… Pharma executive Samuel D. Waksalturns 70… Chairman of Douglas Elliman and its parent company, NYSE listed Vector Group, also chairman of Nathan’s Famous, Howard Mark Lorberturns 69… Owner of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie turns 66… Born in Casablanca, made aliyah in 1962, co-chair of the Jewish National Fund starting in 2012, he was previously a member of Knesset for the Likud (2003-2005) and then the Kadima party (2005-2012), Eli Aflalo turns 65… CEO of Weight Watchers since July 2017, she was the CEO of Home Shopping Network (2006-2017) after stints as an executive at Ralph Lauren (1991-2000) and then Nike (2000-2006), Mindy Grossman turns 60… British physician, neuroscientist and engineer, Professor of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, Daniel Wolpert turns 54… Billionaire, born in Azerbaijan (then part of the Soviet Union), he is reported to be the most successful real estate developer in Russia owning many luxury hotels and shopping centers, Zarakh Iliev turns 51… Australian businessman James Douglas Packer turns 50… Rabbi of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park, PA, Rabbi Andrea Merow turns 48… Aspen, Colorado resident, Adam Goldsmith turns 48… Founder in 2010 of Atlanta-based JewishGPS, LLC, designed to help guide Jewish organizations in a variety of aspects of Jewish education, Robyn Faintich turns 44… Principal and co-founder of Berlin Rosen, Jonathan Rosen turns 39… Yale University student Gabby Deutch… and her twin sister at Vanderbilt, Serena Deutch, daughters of Congressman Ted Deutch, both turn 21… The Jewish Agency’s Gilad Peled… Jay Abarbanel… Philip Ehrensaft…
SATURDAY: President of Israel since 2014, former Speaker of the Knesset from 2003 to 2006, Reuven Rivlin turns 78… Real estate investor and manager, he operates seven hotels, resorts and retreats with 6,300 rooms in the Orlando metropolitan area, Harris Rosen turns 78… President of the Middle East Forum and publisher of its Middle East Quarterly journal, Daniel Pipesturns 68… Fourth president of Yeshiva University (2003-2017), Richard Joelturns 67… A founder of the Shas party, previously Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem (1983-1998) and a member of Knesset (1999-2015), he also served as a rabbi in Mexico City and Brooklyn in the 1970s, Nissim Mordechai Ze’ev turns 66… Founding president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, where he continues to teach the history of the Middle East, he is also a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Martin Kramer turns 63… Editorial director of Schocken Books (the Judaica imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, which is part of Penguin Random House), Altie Karper turns 61… Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, reported to be the wealthiest woman in the Middle East, her holdings include Bank Hapoalim, Shari Arison turns 60… CFO since April 2017 of New Science Ventures, a NYC-based VC firm, Lloyd Eric Appel turns 54… Actor, comedian, screenwriter, film producer and musician, famous for “The Chanukah Song,” Adam Sandler turns 51… Born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, member of Knesset for the Yesh Atid party (2013-2015), author of three books, he is now a radio host and political correspondent, Dov Lipman turns 46… Global lead at McKinsey & Company’s public and social sector practice advanced analytics group, he is the founder and former CEO of Measuring Success, Sacha Frédéric Litman turns 44… Founder of the Silverstein Group, Rustin Silverstein turns 41… SVP of Tiedemann Wealth Management since August 2017, he was previously a US Treasury official posted to Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Michael B. Greenwald turns 34… Co-founder of Mapme, now working on Spoke (a startup service desk app), Ben Lang… Beverly Hills resident, Barbara Schechter… Suzy Stone…
SUNDAY: CEO of Shamrock Holdings, Roy Disney’s private investment company, he has served in leadership roles on the boards of Walt Disney Company, Tadiran, USC, HUC-JIR and the LA Jewish Federation, Stanley Gold turns 75… Huntington Beach, California resident, Dianne Varon turns 77… Attorney focused principally on the areas of futures and derivatives law, he was EVP and General Counsel at Chicago’s futures broker Rosenthal Collins Group, Gerald Fishman turns 75… Coordinator of the Youth Advisory Council at Independence, Missouri’s Truman Heartland Community Foundation, Henri Goettel turns 71… Houston attorney, Republican party activist, publisher of the Texas Conservative Review, he has served on the boards of AIPAC and Jewish Federations of North America, Gary M. Pollandturns 67… Denver attorney and politician, he served in the Colorado House of Representatives (2003-2011), Joel Judd turns 65… Award-winning journalist who has worked at Forbes, Time and Fortune magazines, he is now the editor of Mideast Dig, Richard Behar turns 57… Founder and CEO of NYC-based hedge fund JS Capital Management LLC, he is the son of George Soros, Jonathan Soros turns 47… Director of the Mid Atlantic Region of Agudath Israel, Ariel Sadwin turns 42… PR strategist Josh Nass turns 26… Jennifer Meyer…
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