Daily Kickoff: Wendi Murdoch and the Kushner brothers | Saudi Crown Prince MBS eyes investment in Ari Emanuel’s WME | Hugo Smith on dad @BuzzFeedBen
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MEDIA WATCH: “When Your Dad Is BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith: Featuring Hugo Smith, age 14, grade 9” by Laura Bennett: “My dad works a lot. He really loves his job, you can tell.” How can you tell? “When he’s working, it doesn’t really seem like he’s working. He very clearly enjoys it. I think for him it doesn’t feel like work. Like, the fact that even when he doesn’t need to be working, sometimes he does. Cause he really cares about what he does. I really respect that.”
Does your dad use Twitter a lot on his phone? “Oh yeah, occasionally at family events and stuff.” How do you know when he’s tweeting? “I check his Twitter account. He is always on Twitter.” So you’ll be at a family event, and you’ll look at Twitter just to see if your dad is tweeting? Definitely. I’ll be like, “Dad, you retweeted something 30 seconds ago.” [Slate]
TOP TALKER — “U.S. Warned Jared Kushner About Wendi Deng Murdoch” by Kate O’Keeffe and Aruna Viswanatha: “U.S. counterintelligence officials in early 2017 warned Jared Kushner… that Wendi Deng Murdoch, a prominent Chinese-American businesswoman, could be using her close friendship with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, to further the interests of the Chinese government… The project, a planned $100 million Chinese garden at the National Arboretum, was deemed a national-security risk because it included a 70-foot-tall white tower that could potentially be used for surveillance… The warning was part of an effort by national-security officials to highlight to Mr. Kushner, who was new to government, the need to be careful in his dealings with people whose interests may not align with those of the U.S… The representative for Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump said the two “have been friends with Rupert and Wendi Murdoch for a decade before coming to Washington and their relationship is neither political nor about China.” [WSJ]
Worth noting: Wendi Murdoch ‘liked’ Josh Kushner’s post yesterday on Instagram quoting Martin Luther King Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” [Pic]
RUPERT’S OTHER PAPER: “Ivanka and Jared ‘love it in Washington’” by Richard Johnson: “They love it in Washington. The kids love it,” said her friend. “They are in it for the long haul.” [PageSix] h/t Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter
TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST — The Palestine Liberation Organisation voted yesterday to call for the suspension of the Palestinian Authority’s 1993 recognition of Israel. The non-binding vote was followed by the reaffirmation of a 2015 resolution to suspend security coordination with Israel, which was never implemented.
On Sunday, Abbas delivered a two-hour-plus rambling speech
The speech was condemned across Israel’s political spectrum. During a visit to India, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Abbas exposedhimself, thus giving credence to Israel’s narrative of the conflict. President Reuven “Ruvi” Rivlin told a visiting AIPAC delegation that Abbas was peddling ‘terrible’ anti-Jewish ‘conspiracies.
SLANG OR BANG? — “To laughter from the crowd, in reference to President Trump, Abbas then added the phrase “Yekhreb Beitak,” literally translated as “may your house be demolished.” In colloquial Palestinian Arabic, the phrase can have different connotations, from a harsh to a casual insult.” [AP]
— Avi Issacharoff: “Telling US President Donald Trump, “May God demolish your house,” could be attributed to the general “Trumpism” which has seized world leaders, but it also points to the deep despair of the Palestinian leadership.” [ToI]
Marian Houk: “”Yikhrab beitak” (“May your house fall into ruin”) is not used every day… It’s a warning of real annoyance, but can be used affectionately among friends, or as a real curse.” [Twitter]
DEEP DIVE — “Palestinians hit dead end on all fronts” by Ben Caspit: “The Palestinians said they had received information about Trump’s up-and-coming peace program, via communication from the Egyptians and Saudis to Ramallah. The program… did not include a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, did not include Palestinian sovereignty and did not even mention the issue of Palestinian refugees. In addition, bits of information reached Ramallah on the US intention of turning Ramallah into Palestine’s capital city. High-ranking Palestinians explained to the Israelis that under such circumstances, there was no point to continue with US mediation. Abbas’ divorce decree was final and absolute…” [Al-Monitor]
Dore Gold, former Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tells us… “Abbas has given the world a repeat performance of what he did toward the end of the Obama administration. To recall, Prime Minister Netanyahu accepted the Kerry plan with reservations but Abbas firmly refused. The upside of the recent round of negotiations is that it has finally become clear who is holding things up. Not Israel. It is also now clear that there are Arab states pressing the Palestinians to soften up, but the Palestinians refuse. For a peace process to work, the parties need to take into account Israeli security concerns, particularly in the Jordan Valley. In the meantime, the good news from all this is that many Arab states now understand the risks Israel is being asked to undertake.”
Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro writes… “Abbas Exits With One Final, Outrageous Performance. Now, America Must Contain the Damage: Those in Israel (or Washington) celebrating the demise of Abbas as a partner and any chance for a Trump peace plan should think again. True, some pressure will be off Israel, as no one will call for hard decisions to be made… But that does not advance American interests of ensuring Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, democratic state… if [two states] cannot be achieved now – which it clearly cannot – it is critical that the United States work to keep it alive for the future.” [Haaretz]
IRAN DEAL — “Netanyahu Backs Trump on Iran Ultimatum to European Leaders” by David Wainer: “I think it’s the last chance for the Western world to fix the deal,” Netanyahu told Israeli journalists during a state visit to India. “They need to make changes that will prevent Iran from advancing unperturbed to nuclear weapons. That is what this deal allows.” The clock is ticking on the ultimatum from Trump, who has said he won’t waive sanctions again, giving other signatories less than four months to come up with a solution.” [Bloomberg] • Iran’s Rouhani says Trump ‘failed’ to kill off nuclear deal [CNN]
REPORT — Trump looking to remove sunset clause in negotiations with Europe — by Michael Wilner: “The president is seeking an agreement that “never expires,” and that “denies Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon forever – not for 10 years or any other shorter period of time,” the senior [U.S.] official said…” [JPost]
Flashback to August — Netanyahu tells Congress: Remove sunset clause from Iran deal [JewishInsider]
PODCAST PLAYBACK — Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power discuss Trump’s foreign policy and Obama’s last year on The Global Politico podcast with Susan Glasser — Rhodes: “We tried to keep the Saudi-Iranian proxy conflict from completely overwhelming the whole region, and so my concern is that even though we are partners with the Saudis and the Emirates, that doesn’t mean our interests are always entirely aligned. And basically, what I see is an administration that has subcontracted out the view of regional conflicts in the Middle East, to Mohammad bin Salman, and I don’t think that leads in the right direction… On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, I think it leads to, potentially, like the situation where a Palestinian state is unrecognizable because of settlement activity and kind of just despairing on both sides… I mean, the only place in the world where I think leaders have preferred Trump are in Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia and Israel.”
Power recalls her election night party in Nov 2016: “I’ve had a lot of bad ideas in my life, but none as immortalized as this one. I decided on election night to invite the 37 women ambassadors to the U.N., many of whom face struggles in their own foreign service… And I thought what an amazing night for them. I mean, that’s what America represents to the world, when a glass ceiling is shattered in our country, it creates a whole new sense of possibility for people everywhere. And so, I invited them. Most of them came, and we gathered with Madeleine Albright, our first woman secretary of state; Gloria Steinem… As the host, I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t be quite the blowout that it was anticipated to be, because I wanted to make sure that people had a chance to interact with Gloria Steinem… And then, it [was] slowly dawning on us that not only was this going to be much closer than anybody anticipated, but that it was not going to end well.” [Politico]
ON THE HILL — On Friday, a group of bipartisan House members introduced a resolution opposing the UN General Assembly’s recent vote condemning the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. H.Res.684 is co-sponsored by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Eliot Engel (D–NY), and Mike Gallagher (R-WI). “Last January, Rep. Gallagher, Ranking Member Engel and I were proud to vote for H.Res.11, which condemned the U.N. Security Council’s appalling resolution singling out our ally Israel and damaging the prospects for peace. It’s sad that the biased-United Nations… chose, yet again, to convene a special emergency session for the sole purpose of denouncing Israel,” Gottheimer said.
“Trump thanks Qatar for efforts to combat terrorism” by Tim Ahmann: “The White House statement on the call with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani did not directly address the rift but said Trump “reiterated his support for a strong, united Gulf Cooperation Council that is focused on countering regional threats.”” [Reuters]
— OF NOTE: The link was shared on Twitter by Nick Muzin, whose firm Stonington Strategies was hired by Qatar to help its U.S. outreach, particularly to Jewish leaders.
DRIVING THE CONVO — “Proud to Live in a Nation of Holers” by Bret Stephens: “I mention Moldova because it’s where my paternal grandfather was born in 1901. An anti-Semitic rampage in his hometown, Kishinev, soon forced his family to leave for New York, where my great-grandfather labored as a carpenter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for eight dollars a week. Low skills, low wages, minimal English, lots of children and probably not the best hygiene — that’s half of my pedigree. The other half consisted of refugees. I’m not alone. America is a nation of holers. It is an improbable yet wildly successful experiment in the transformation — by means of hope, opportunity and ambition — of holers into doers, makers, thinkers and givers… Donald Trump has not, to say the least, risen from a hole. But he is sinking into one.” [NYTimes]
“Haitian-American Pastor Slams Trump During Martin Luther King Day Celebration in Jerusalem” by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “I am calling on… all Jews and Israelis – who I believe should stand b y Haiti because Haiti stood by the Jewish nation of Israel by casting the deciding UN vote in 1947… Please stand with Haiti, Africa and El Salvador, and demand that President Trump apologize for his remarks,” [Pastor Mullery Jean-Pierre] said…” [Haaretz]
HEARD YESTERDAY — Anthony Scaramucci, The Mooch, dismisses MSNBC host Katy Tur’s list of examples of Trump’s alleged racism: “The only one I’ll give you on that whole list is the Charlottesville one. I don’t think you can equivocate on Nazis.” [Video]
“We’re With Trump and Netanyahu” by Israel Cohen: “For many Orthodox Jews in America, it doesn’t matter that Trump is far from stable, that he speaks crudely about women, that he is hostile to immigrants and is sowing division among Americans. He may be meshugga, but he’s one of us. He thinks like a Jew.” [Haaretz]
2018 WATCH: “Former Romney Adviser Dan Senor: ‘Highly Likely’ Mitt Will Run For Utah Senate” by Aidan McLaughlin: “Senor, appearing on CBS This Morning on Monday, said that while he could not confirm the speculation, he has spoken to Romney and thinks it is “highly likely that he’s going to move forward” with a run.” [Mediaite]
— Jonathan Martin in the NYTimes: “‘I’m Running,’ Romney Says Privately, but as a Trump Friend or Foe?” [NYTimes]
2020 WATCH — “Al Sharpton jokes about recruiting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for President after her rousing MLK Day speech” by Jillian Jorgensen: “[GiIlibrand] went on to draw connections between the current political climate and the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale of a queen who stops a genocide.” [NYDailyNews]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Shari Redstone Still Desires Viacom-CBS Merger[Bloomberg] • Israel-based people data startup Pipl Search Ltd. raised $19 million from growth stage venture capital firm IGP Lichtman and Shani Ltd. [Calcalist] • Intel Israel CEO Yaniv Garti: US tax reform weighs on Israeli high tech [Globes] • New toolbox for Israeli startups aims to help navigate US healthcare system [ToI] • Activist fund Elliott Advisors urges changes to Bezeq Israel Telecom board [Reuters]
SPOTLIGHT: “BlackRock CEO Fink’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Support” by Andrew Ross Sorkin:“Laurence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of the investment firm BlackRock, is going to inform business leaders that their companies need to do more than make profits — they need to contribute to society as well if they want to receive the support of BlackRock. Mr. Fink has the clout to make this kind of demand: His firm manages more than $6 trillion in investments through 401(k) plans, exchange-traded funds and mutual funds, making it the largest investor in the world… Part of Mr. Fink’s argument rests on the changing mood of the country regarding social responsibility.” [NYTimes]
DEPARTURE LOUNGE: “Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey to Leave Disney’s Board” by Christopher Palmeri: “Given our evolving business and the businesses Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Dorsey are in, it has become increasingly difficult for them to avoid conflicts relating to board matters,” Disney said in a statement… Safra Catz, co-CEO of software giant Oracle Corp., and Francis Desouza, head of Illumina Inc., will join the board on Feb. 1.” [Bloomberg]
“Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor Close to Investment by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince” by Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman: “WME’s parent company, Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor, is poised to get a significant investment from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman, an individual familiar with the discussions told TheWrap on Monday.” [TheWrap; Bloomberg]
“HBO to Talent: You Won’t Get This Much Love at Netflix” by Joe Flint: “As platforms stockpile content, HBO is resisting the impulse to bulk up, getting pickier about its programming, trimming its development pipeline and embracing the idea that it won’t outbid the field on every single hot prospect. “We are not trying to do the most,” said HBO Chief Executive Richard Plepler, adding, “More is not better. Only better is better.” [WSJ]
“Power players powwow at MediaLink’s CES dinner” by Ian Mohr: “At the event co-hosted by Condé Nast and Universal Music Group were Michael Kassan, Michele Anthony, Bob Sauerberg, Shari Redstone, Tim Armstrong, Maverick Carter, Aryeh Bourkoff and Casey Wasserman… Meanwhile, we’re told that Lyft’s self-driving car has been a favorite with celebs, with Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, Mark Cuban and Hannah Bronfman all calling by to check it out.” [PageSix]
Brian Cuban, brother of Mark, recreated his family tree based on a photo of his grandfather’s sister and brother-in-law, Frida and Menashe Sterenberg: “The soldiers who slaughtered my family and murdered the majority of Jews in Noua Sulita, may have died later in the war… They may have gone on to live the full lives they denied my family. They may have been prosecuted as war criminals. I will never know. They will probably always [be] nameless, faceless, murderers relegated to the images I give them and I sometimes relive the pain and desperation Frida and family must have felt having their futures taken from them. As long as I live however, they will always live. As long as the entire Feldman family goes on in the form of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, they will always live. Family, including my long lost relatives in Israel who I have now reconnected with and will soon meet for the first time.” [BrianCuban]
“A Holocaust Survivor’s Digital Doppelgänger” by Anna Russell: “Not long ago, Eva Schloss, a survivor of the Holocaust and a childhood friend of Anne Frank’s, left her home in London and flew to Los Angeles, where she spent a week inside a camera-filled dome, answering painful questions about her past… Schloss recounted these facts to a hundred and sixteen video cameras, which photographed her from all sides, and logged some fifteen hundred of her patient answers. The recordings were used to develop an artificial Eva Schloss, housed inside a screen, which schoolchildren might question years from now. On a recent Monday, the flesh-and-blood Eva Schloss stopped by the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in Battery Park City, to meet her digital counterpart…” [NewYorker]
“No Longer Writing, Philip Roth Still Has Plenty to Say” by Charles McGrath: “What have you been reading lately? Roth: “…Pre-publication copies of books arrive regularly in the mail, and that’s how I discovered Steven Zipperstein’s “Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History.” Zipperstein pinpoints the moment at the start of the 20th century when the Jewish predicament in Europe turned deadly in a way that foretold the end of everything. “Pogrom” led me to find a recent book of interpretive history, Yuri Slezkine’s “The Jewish Century,” which argues that “the Modern Age is the Jewish Age, and the 20th century, in particular, is the Jewish Century.” … Just in the past week, I read… an engagingly eccentric autobiography, “Confessions of an Old Jewish Painter,” by one of my dearest dead friends, the great American artist R. B. Kitaj.” [NYTimes]
Lebanon bans Spielberg film and Israeli adventurer biopic: “Lebanese authorities have banned Steven Spielberg’s latest film, political thriller “The Post”, and Australian drama “Jungle” to comply with a boycott of Israel, an official told AFP Monday…” [AFP; HollywoodReporter]
“Jewish child orphaned in Mumbai attacks makes first visit” by Muneeza Naqvi: “Moshe Holtzberg, a young boy whose parents were killed at a Jewish center in Mumbai during a 2008 terror attack, returned to that city for the first time Tuesday to visit the site of the attack with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu arrived in New Delhi for a six-day visit Sunday and will travel to Mumbai on Thursday where he will visit the Chabad Center where Holtzberg’s parents, Rabbi Gabriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah, were gunned down as 10 Muslim militants rampaged through Mumbai in a three-day siege… On Tuesday afternoon the 11-year-old boy visited the Chabad Center along with his grandparents.” [ABCNews] • Special kosher feast awaits Baby Moshe [DNAIndia]
TALK OF OUR NATION: “Puerto Rico’s Largest Newspaper Runs Column Blaming Jews for Hurricane Maria Aftermath” by Nicole Goodkind: “In the Spanish op-ed last week from El Nuevo Dia, whose title translates to “What Does ‘The Jew’ Want with the Colony?,” columnist Wilda Rodriguez justified her assertion that Jews run the government by pointing to an alleged Israeli article published in Hebrew 20 years ago that recognized Jewish power in Washington. “For Israelis,” she wrote, “recognizing Jewish power over the United States is no offense. It is the victory of their diaspora.” She said the “Jewish itinerary is so loaded with wars and profits that they rarely think about Puerto.” … The editorial sparked immediate backlash, with the Anti-Defamation League calling it “a collection of classic anti-Semitic assertions.”” [Newsweek]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “Gov. Cuomo may have an ally in new Speaker Corey Johnson” by Anna Sanders: “There’s lots of people around Corey who are Cuomo allies,” veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said. “That should be a warning the mayor: Don’t get into a battle with a speaker who’s got a friend in Albany… Having a speaker that you can rely on if you’re the governor means you can keep the mayor busy.” [NYPost]
TRANSITIONS — Matt Nosanchuk, former White House National Security Council outreach director and liaison to the Jewish community under President Obama has joined the DC-based crisis management firm Quadrant Strategies as a vice president.
Aaron Weinberg, former Director of Jewish Engagement for the DNC, has joined the office of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) as the Foreign Policy Legislative Assistant.
SCENE IN JERUSALEM — Israel’s Opposition Leader Issac Herzog, Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni, Minister Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud) and Gilad Sharon, son of the late PM Ariel Sharon, attend a panel hosted by AIPAC for its Board of Directors delegation at King David Hotel in Jerusalem. [Pic]
WATCH: Kathie Lee Gifford, co-host of The Today Show, has returned from a trip to Israel connected to her upcoming book “The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi,” and she shared some photos from the trip. [Video]
DESSERT: “Kosher to-go: Central Mass Chabad brings traditional Jewish cuisine to your doorstep” by Amanda Roberge: “Using Central Mass Chabad (in Worcester County)… as home base, [Rabbi Mendel Fogelman and his wife, Chani] oversee a small kitchen staff each Thursday as they lovingly prepare soups, stews, falafel and much more; all Kosher, all from scratch… Mrs. Fogelman even hand-makes the 70-80 loaves of challah — in traditional, cinnamon, olive and chocolate varieties — from fresh ingredients…”[Telegram]
BIRTHDAYS: Physicist and professor of materials science at Oxford (1966-1992), Sir Peter Bernhard Hirsch turns 93… Editor-in-Chief (1960-1995; now Editor-at-Large) of Commentary magazine, author of the 2009 book “Why Are Jews Liberals?” Norman Podhoretz turns 88… Author, sports journalist for the New York Times, ESPN, CBS and NBC, he served as the Ombudsman for ESPN, Robert Lipsyte turns 80… Socially conservative talk radio host and relationship advisor since 1975, on Sirius XM Radio since 2011, author of over 20 books, Dr. Laura Schlessinger turns 71… Staff writer for the Atlanta Jewish Times, Suzi Brozman turns 71… Chef, food writer, culinary editor for the Modern Library, host of PBS’s “Gourmet’s Adventures With Ruth,” recipient of four James Beard Awards, Ruth Reichl turns 70… Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hazon Ovadia, Harav Yitzhak Yosef turns 66…
Uzbekistan-born Israeli billionaire and industrialist, Michael Cherney turns 66… Founder, Chairman and CEO of RealNetworks which produces RealAudio, RealVideo and RealPlayer, Robert Denis “Rob” Glaser turns 56… Billionaire, first employee and subsequently first president of eBay, internet entrepreneur, philanthropist and movie producer, Jeffrey Skoll turns 53… Educational entrepreneur with a Ph.D in behavioral psychology, she is the founder and CEO of Cognition Builders, Ilana Kukoff turns 53… DC-native, back in DC after 10 years in London, a strategic communications consultant at Podium, Debbie Berger Fox turns 45… Author, writer and Ph.D. candidate in political theory at Columbia U, former speechwriter for then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senator Chris Dodd, Rob Goodman turns 34… David Ptalis turns 28… Joseph Bornstein…
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