Daily Kickoff: Has Bernie Bernstein called you? | Taylor Force Act passes House Foreign Affairs | Apple eyes Israeli Startups | Marijuana Matzo Balls

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SPECIAL ELECTION WATCH: “An Alabama Senate Candidate Keeps Democratic Leaders Away — but Not Their Money” by Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin: “As Republicans in Washington pressure [Roy] Moore to leave the race… Democratic leaders convey a stark public message to Mr. Jones: You’re on your own. “It’s an Alabama race,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said at a news conference on Monday, repeating the phrase three times for emphasis… For all his public caution, Mr. Schumer has been effusive about the Alabama campaign in private… Mr. Schumer has told allies he believes the race is now clearly winnable for Mr. Jones, but that Democrats must take pains not to nationalize the contest in a way that might offend voters in a deeply conservative state.”[NYTimes

“Asked by whether he would support Sen. Chuck Schumer as his party’s Senate leader, Jones declined to commit.” [NationalJournal

TOP-OP: “Roy Moore Reminds Me of My Rabbi” by Bethany Mandel: “If he wins, the Republicans may have a reliably conservative vote in the Senate, but one thing is guaranteed: Religious leaders who defend him risk their flock being infected with the same disenchantment I was after the arrest of my rabbi. Religious leaders often fret that such creeping faithlessness puts society at risk more than any political ideology. As a prominent evangelical put it in a 2006 Washington Times column: “Our peace and happiness as well as our prosperity depend not on any political party or any great leader, but rather upon our return as a nation to faith in Almighty God.” It’s a lovely message, but one that’s too often discredited by its messengers. The man who wrote that column? Roy Moore.” [NYTimes]

VIRAL: “Fake Reporter Bernie Bernstein’s Robocalls Add Bizarre Twist to Roy Moore’s Senate Bid” by Itay Hod: “According to WKRG, a local TV station in Mobile, Alabama, at least one person in the station’s coverage area has received a robocall from someone claiming to be “Bernie Bernstein,” offering cash to women willing to make “damaging remarks” about Republican candidate Roy Moore… Only one problem… the call is bogus, according to Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron… The report by WKRG was enough to make Bernie Bernstein a trending topic on Twitter Tuesday.” [TheWrapWKRG]

“An Alabama Robocall Invokes Ugly Tropes” by Matt Ford: “The Alabama robocall also seems to draw upon the dark motifs of antisemitism to accomplish its goal. The fake Bernstein’s nasally, high-pitched voice and forced New York accent evoke anti-Semitic caricatures and stereotypes.”[TheAtlantic]

TOP TWEETS —  John Podhoretz‏: Bernie Bernstein just won the coveted Jewlitzer Prize… Jeffrey Goldberg‏: I tried to hire Bernie Bernstein once. Couldn’t afford him… Rick Hasen‏: Bernie Bernstein is now trending, making his fictitious mother kvell… Daniel Dale: “Hello. It is The Jews. We have money. We would like to eat your Christian candidate with our Passover matzo. Please telephone us.”

INSIDE THE ADMIN: “How Mike Pompeo became the favorite to succeed Rex” by Eliana Johnson and Annie Karni: “Whereas Tillerson has consistently worked to counter the president’s hawkish instincts, pushing to open talks with North Korea and opposing the decertification of the Iran nuclear deal, for example, Pompeo’s views are more in tune with the president’s views on foreign policy… As Pompeo’s relationship with the president has deepened, people close to Trump say he has cooled on the idea of nominating U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to succeed Tillerson… The president has been turned off in part by speculation that Haley has her eyes on a presidential bid, two people close to the president said.” [Politico]

DRIVING THE DAY — House committee advances Taylor Force Act — by Aaron Magid: The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed the Taylor Force Act on Wednesday. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in February, would cut off U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until they cease payments to families of terrorists. The next step for the legislation is a floor wide vote at an undetermined time.

The House bill included three exemptions. The first is for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which was originally inserted in the Senate version. In addition, following an effort by the White House’s Jason Greenblatt, the updated legislation now allows for US assistance to Palestinian wastewater programs, even if they ‘directly benefit’ the P.A. Finally, a third exemption permits childhood vaccination programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) opposed the exemptions, “I believe that we should not allow for exceptions or carve outs in this legislation because that flexibility will be used to once again circumvent the spirit of the law and Congressional intent,” she cautioned. [JewishInsider]

INBOX — ZOA ‘reluctantly’ supports weakened Taylor Force Act: “The ZOA’s support for this latest House version of the Taylor Force Act comes with disappointment that the bill is not nearly as strong as it should be, or even as it was when originally introduced,” ZOA’s Mort Klein said in a statement. “ZOA feels strongly that the House Foreign Affairs Committee, during the course of the markup, should keep in mind the reason for the appropriateness of the much larger reductions in US aid in the original Taylor Force Act.”

JINSA’s Mike Makovsky: “The purpose of the Taylor Force Act is to put pressure on the PA to stop supporting terror, and to ensure that American taxpayer dollars do not in effect support that either. Every exemption granted undermines the purpose and effectiveness of the legislation. Ultimately, the Palestinian people will benefit more when he PA directs all their funding toward basic services and not toward terror.”

“In White House, Israeli widow laments payout to family of her husband’s killer” by Eric Cortellessa: “In a meeting with Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, [Michal] Salomon “expressed dismay that the [family of the] terrorist would be receiving compensation from the Palestinian Authority for his action,” a senior White House official [said].” [ToI] • Israel demolishes home of Palestinian who killed 3 Israelis [WashPost]

REPORT: “Saudi document lays out plans for peace with Israel” by Yasser Okbi: “Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement with Israel involves a risk to the Muslim peoples of the Kingdom, because the Palestinian cause represents a spiritual and historical and religious heritage,” reads the report claiming to quote the document. “The Kingdom will not take this risk unless it feels the United States’ sincere approach to Iran…” A key demand of the Saudis… is the dismantling of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons capabilities… Among the guidelines Riyadh is reportedly proposing are: the subordination of the city of Jerusalem to international sovereignty, the permanent settlement of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank or their naturalization by other Muslim states and the holding of a major summit to launch a final peace agreement.” [JPost

JARED INSIDER: “The Upstart Saudi Prince Who’s Throwing Caution to the Winds” by Ben Hubbard and David Kirkpatrick: “Jared is a bit of a black hole,” said one State Department official… “There is no sense of the positions he has advocated. We can only guess, based on what he has done and where he has been.” The official added: “The Emirates and the Saudis have been very careful to cultivate him and bring him along” toward their “confrontational posture in the region.” A White House official… disputed the characterization of Mr. Kushner, saying he regularly briefed the State Department and National Security Council on his trips and conversations.”

“Mr. Kushner made his third visit to the kingdom this year — this time unannounced until his return to Washington — in late October, when American officials say he stayed up late talking with Prince Mohammed at his ranch. The sweep of arrests unfolded days later, and Mr. Trump was quick to applaud, although several White House officials said the Saudis gave Mr. Kushner no heads up on what was about to take place.” [NYTimes]

ON THE HILL —Congress moves bill imposing certification requirements on sale of commercial aircraft to Iran — by Bryant Harris: “The Strengthening Oversight of Iran’s Access to Finance Act would make it much more difficult for Iran to purchase commercial aircraft from firms that do business in the United States… The House Financial Services Committee voted to advance the bill 38-21 [yesterday], paving the way for the full House to vote. All of the Republicans on the commitee voted yes, joined by only five Democrats… The bill, introduced by Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas… imposes reporting and certification requirements that could well prompt the Treasury Department to cease issuing licenses allowing for such sales… Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., likened the bill to current law requiring the president to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal every 90 days, thereby giving Trump another avenue to unravel the deal.” [Al-Monitor]

“Israel PM offers quake aid to arch foe Iran” by AFP: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered aid to the victims of the weekend’s deadly earthquake in Iran… The offer, made in a video conference with the Jewish Federations of North America, was largely rhetorical. Iran does not recognise the Jewish state and Israeli media reported that the offer was swiftly turned down through the International Committee of the Red Cross.” [Yahoo]

Miss Israel, Miss Iraq find ‘peace and love’ amid Mideast tensions: “[Adar] Gandelsman on Tuesday posted a picture with [Sarah] Idan on Instagram, saying, “Get to know, this is Miss Iraq and she’s amazing,” followed by a heart emoji.  On her Instagram page, Idan also posted the picture, along with the caption “peace and love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel.”” [JNS]

Tom Friedman writes… China Could Sell Trump the Brooklyn Bridge: “China, with its ability to focus, is getting 90 percent out of its inferior system, and it has brought China a long way fast. And we, with too little focus, are getting 50 percent out of our superior system. If that persists, it will impact the balance of power. Now you know why the Chinese were so happy to throw a bash for Trump in Beijing.” [NYTimes]

DEEP DIVE: “Rural Wisconsin voters swung for Trump, change; found frustration” by Craig Gilbert: “This past summer, a New York-based group called Resetting the Table, which specializes in conflict resolution over Israel among American Jews, sat down with hundreds of voters in the Driftless Area to promote dialog across political lines. One thing it found was “just this sense of frustration to the point of repugnance with the … political class, shared on the left, shared on the center, shared on the right,” said Eyal Rabinovitch, the group’s co-founder.” [USAToday

Democratic Party leaders must take on Bernie Sanders on Israel — by American Jewish Congress’ Jack Rosen: “I have spoken to decision makers and privately, they are very critical of Sanders. But talking privately is no longer enough. If you are pro-Israel then you need to defend her publically… Changes are afoot within the Democratic Party, with new governors coming into power in New Jersey and Virginia, and a string of state legislative election victories last week…  There are prominent voices that could turn the tide, but they need to mobilize before more damage is done.” [NYDailyNews

TALK OF THE TOWN: “‘It’s a Disgrace’: New York G.O.P. Fund-Raiser Quits Over Tax Bill” by Shane Goldmacher: “Steve Louro, a Republican donor who hosted an event for Donald J. Trump at his Long Island home last year, abruptly quit his post as regional finance chairman for the state’s Republican Party on Tuesday over objections to the Republican-led tax bill advancing through Congress. “The bill that’s going to get passed is not going to take care of the American people. It’s a disgrace,” Mr. Louro said in a phone interview… Mr. Louro has been an outspoken supporter of Representative Lee Zeldin, whom he called “the best congressman” and who has opposed the elimination of state and local tax deductions. “The bottom line is I told Lee I’m done,” Mr. Louro said. “I’m totally done.” As recently as last week, Mr. Louro had been trying to drum up support for a fund-raising visit to New York by Mr. Trump in early December. Mr. Louro said he still supports the president.” [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: Altice USA shares drop after filing shows Jana exited stake [FinancialTimes Housing rights group sues Jared Kushner’s ‘predatory’ real estate company for ignoring NYC rent stabilization laws[NYDailyNews] • The Plaza Hotel’s Secret Investor: Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, one of the most influential figures in Qatar[Bloomberg]

STARTUP NATION: “Apple’s roaring chip business has a new M&A target, executive says: Israeli start-ups” by Jason Gewirtz and Anita Balakrishnan: “Israel could be a target for an Apple acquisition “because we have to have the best technology to differentiate ourselves,” Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, told Hebrew daily business paper Calcalist… Srouji said that it doesn’t necessarily matter if Apple acquires start-ups in Israel or elsewhere, as long as the technology is innovative. But he said Apple’s Israeli team is already involved “in all areas and new devices including the development of a new chip.”” [CNBCCTECH]

“Kim Kardashian Backs New Fashion App Created by Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and Jerusalem” by Liel Leibovitz: “Screenshop is a new application that’s being hailed as Shazam for fashion, allowing users to create an online shopping list just by capturing a screenshot of an outfit they like. It was co-founded by Mark Fishman and Molly Hurwitz, two Brooklyn-based Orthodox entrepreneurs. It’s CTO is Jonathan Caras, a Jerusalem-based computer scientist. And its investor, ambassador, and spirit animal is Kim Kardashian. “The fact that we brought on a team from Israel that has some of the best technology to figure out how to come up with something that no one has done before is so groundbreaking to me,” Kardashian told Mashable… After Kardashian started promoting the app in interviews and via her social media feeds, more than a million users flocked to Screenshop… But the reality TV star, said Caras, was more than just a promoter, and is intimately involved with the product. “She is a real part of the company,” he said in an interview with the Israeli press.” [Tablet]

“Joan Tisch’s kids ask judge for control of her $4 billion fortune” by Julia Marsh: “Steven, Laurie and Jonathan Tisch are asking a Surrogate’s Court judge to give them control over their mother’s finances “to preserve her estate in the face of an unpredictable securities market.” Tisch, who died at 90 earlier this month, inherited her vast wealth from her late husband Bob Tisch… Joan Tisch’s heirs will continue to run and own the struggling New York Giants, whose helmets now bear their late owner’s initials, JHT, as a tribute.”[NYPost]

COMING SOON TO DC: “New-look Labor leader vows to unseat Netanyahu in Israel” by Aron Heller: “Little known outside of Israel, Gabbay will soon make his debut on the international stage when he travels to Washington this month for the Saban Forum, an influential gathering of policy makers, and holds a series of meetings with American officials. Gabbay says he can topple Netanyahu — who has been prime minister since 2009 — by re-energizing the long listless Labor party. His strategy is to poach Netanyahu’s own supporters by adopting some positions of the conservative Likud Party. “I come from the people and I’m here to work for the people,” he said.” [AP]

“US State Dep’t: Israel won’t get visa waiver so fast” by Ran Dagoni: “A State Department spokesperson said, “We understand the interest shown by the Israeli government in the visa exemption program… Israel does not meet all the requirements at this stage, but we are working with the Israeli government on measures that Israel can take with the potential for enabling Israel to join the program.” … [Justice Minister Ayelet] Shaked is planning to visit Washington in two weeks, at which time she hopes to sign an “agreement in principle” for Israel’s accession to the visa waiver program. It is not clear, however, when the agreement, assuming that it is signed, will be implemented. The State Department did not mention Shaked’s planned visit or the possibility of any agreement whatsoever being signed.”” [Globes]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — StandWithUs Northeast held their 3rd Annual Leaders of Tomorrow Gala at the Edison Ballroom in New York. Honorees included Shir Levy of Francis Lewis High School, Eden Gorodischer from Hunter College, and Andrew Kligerman. The event also featured remarks from Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan, comedy from Elon Gold, and a keynote address by former Ambassador Dore Gold.

SPOTTED: Francine Raubvogel, Galit Peleg, Sam Schear, Avi Posnick, Shahar Azani, Lior Suchard, Idan Raichel, Udi Urman, Regev Gur, Herb London, Marcella Rosen, Bill Behrer, Nira and Ken Abramowitz, and Rabbi Mark Golub.

DESSERT: “Jewish foodies lose their minds over marijuana matzo balls” by Doree Lewak: “The Eastern European food staple, often served during Sabbath dinner, is traditionally made with matzo meal, egg, oil, salt, pepper and schmaltz… [Joan] Nathan’s controversial recipe adds hemp — specifically, cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive marijuana derivative… Some Jewish foodies think her marijuana matzo balls are blasphemous. “It is a bit sacrilegious,” says New Jersey-based professional chef Sarah Lasry. “Sabbath is such a high to begin with… There’s no need to infuse anything with weed.”” [NYPost]

“This ‘accidental’ vintner is crushing it with his homemade wines” by Alix Wall: “[Michael] Kaye, who lives in Berkeley, is a mashgiach (kosher certifier) for Gallo Wine in Fresno. He is somewhat of an accidental winemaker, and says it was either the hand of God or George Bush who put him on this path. In 2008, he was working as a book editor but had become a kosher certifier to earn extra money on the side. Rabbi Ben-Tzion Welton of the Vaad of Northern California started referring him to gigs, and then a winery called requesting that “Michael” be sent to help with sparkling wine production in Hopland… When he arrived, he was greeted with “Who are you?” As it turns out, the Michael the winery had requested no longer lived in the area. “But they needed someone, so they said ‘Well, you’ll do, we’ll have to show you what to do.’” [JWeekly]

BIRTHDAYS: Biochemist and winner of the Israel Prize in 1957, professor of microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (1966-1993), David Sidney Feingold turns 95… Actor best known for his role as Lou Grant in two TV series, former president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ed Asner (born Yitzhak Edward Asner) turns 88… Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and the leader of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, he was a long-time member of the Knesset (1977-2003), Rabbi Haim Drukman turns 85… Little Rock, Arkansas native, founder of Guardsmark, a privately owned security company with 17,000 employees which he sold in 2015, noted art collector, Ira A. Lipmanturns 77… Author of dozens of children’s books and young adult fiction, frequent NPR guest, Daniel Pinkwater turns 76… Pianist and conductor, formerly Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim turns 75… Stephen Wolff turns 72… Former Chairman and CEO of Film and Music Entertainment, now a consultant and movie producer, Lawrence (Larry) Lotman turns 70…

NYC-based consultant for non-profit organizations, previously held senior positions in the NYC government and Board of Education, Perry Davis turns 69… Immigration and nationality attorney in Southern California, Michael D. Ullman turns 68… Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museums of Tolerance, Rabbi Meyer H. May turns 65… Executive producer and director of television programs, including Friends (1994-2004), one of the most popular TV programs of all time, Kevin S. Bright turns 63… Member of the Knesset since 2013 for the Yesh Atid party, he was previously the Minister of Welfare and Social Services (2013-2014) and mayor of Dimona (2003-2013), Meir Cohen turns 62… Senior IT project manager at Harbinger Partners, Michael A. Lewine turns 54… Member of Knesset since 2015 for the Likud party, she was previously a journalist at both Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma’ariv,Nava Boker turns 47… Reverse mortgage executive, Joshua Shein turns 45… As a 12-year old baseball fan in Yankee Stadium, he interfered with a ball batted by Derek Jeter in the 1996 ALCS that was ruled to be a game-tying home run, Jeffrey Maier turns 34… Political Reporter at Time Magazine, Zeke Miller turns 28… Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives at Council for a Strong America, Ben Goodman turns 28… Alison Borowsky turns 23…

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