Daily Kickoff: Preview of Pence’s Israel visit | Did Bibi know more about State Dept’s Embassy plan than Trump? | Two Rabbis divided over NFL Playoffs
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DRIVING THIS WEEKEND — “Pence has long pushed for Trump policies on Israel” by Ken Thomas and Tom LoBianco: “Vice President Mike Pence is making his fifth visit to Israel, returning to a region he’s visited “a million times” in his heart… On the embassy, Pence played a steady role in pushing for the shift in U.S. policy… Pence had wanted the Trump administration to convey “a clear-cut policy” on Jerusalem after the president asked him last summer to visit the Middle East, White House officials have said.”
“Pence has long aligned himself with Israel… Kenneth Weinstein, CEO of the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, said it has been “central to his political life from the absolute outset, from when he first ran for Congress — it’s something that’s central to who he is, to what he believes in.” Pence traveled to Israel for the first time as an Indiana congressman in January 2004, joining a delegation from the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis… Doug Rose, a philanthropist in Indianapolis, flew with Pence on his 2004 trip to Israel and recalled him being deeply affected by the experience.” [AP]
“Pence’s Middle East trip meant to highlight evangelical roots” by Peter Martinez: “[The Atlantic’s McKay] Coppins said that Pence often couches his political discussions about Israel in personal terms, even once going so far as quote the Bible as a religious justification.” [CBSNews]
“Top Sunni Islam cleric says meeting Pence would ‘tear up my identity'” by Ben Wedeman and Ghazi Balkiz: “Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar… said receiving Pence would “tear up my identity” and appear “contradictory in front of people.” … Tayyeb said the decision (on Jerusalem) would “feed terrorism in the region” but said the Muslim world was not “in a position for confrontation.”” [CNN]
Pence’s itinerary in Israel — Sunday evening (9:25 PM Israeli time): Arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport – to be welcomed by Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin.
— NO SELFIES — “With no vice PM, who’ll be greeting Pence at the airport?” by Gil Hoffman: “When Trump came, he was greeted on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion by the entire cabinet, as well as by MK Oren Hazan, who infiltrated the sterile security area to take a selfie with the US president. Hazan said he would not be going back… for Pence. “I shot with the sheriff, so I don’t need to shoot with the deputy,” Hazan said, paraphrasing a Bob Marley song… “When you succeed in getting the top guy, you don’t go back for the No. 2.” [JPost]
Monday — 10 AM (local time): Welcome ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
1:30 PM (6:30 AM EST): Pence addresses the Knesset [KnessetChannel]
8 PM (1 PM EST): Pence and Netanyahu will deliver joint statements before dinner at the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Tuesday — 10:45 AM: Meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
12 PM: Tour of Yad Vashem.
1:45 PM (6:45 AM EST): Visit to the Western Wall.
Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department official under John Kerry, writes… “Pence’s Visit to the Middle East Serves No Purpose: It is now quite clear that no negotiations are happening anytime soon, and possibly never again with Abbas… Into this environment steps Pence — the worst of all Trump administration officials to send to Israel at such a time. Pence is the official most associated with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, because the move was largely viewed as a nod to Trump’s evangelical base, which cares deeply about this issue… The visual of him giving a speech to the Knesset even as he meets with no Palestinian officials will not play well in the Arab world or pretty much anywhere outside of Israel…”[ForeignPolicy]
REPORT: “Macron sent aide to lobby Palestinians over Trump peace plan” by Barak Ravid: “French President Emanuel Macron sent his deputy national security adviser Aurélien Lechevallier for a secret visit in Ramallah earlier this week to convey reassuring messages to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas… Lechevallier told his Palestinian counterparts, “You might be right and the plan might turn out to be bad but don’t blow it up right now… It will be a shame if you throw the plan to the trash even before you received it. Read it first and then decide if you want to say no” … French diplomats told me Macron and his advisers coordinated their moves with Trump and the White House.” [Axios]
SO BIBI WAS RIGHT? — “U.S. Presses to Relocate Embassy to Jerusalem by 2019″ by Mark Landler: “It was not clear whether Mr. Trump’s advisers had briefed him on the new timetable until Thursday. Officials said he was referring to the construction of an entirely new embassy compound in Jerusalem… But the State Department has since settled on a more modest plan to convert an existing consular building in Arnona, a neighborhood in West Jerusalem. That will reduce the cost of the project and allow Ambassador David M. Friedman and his staff to move there as early as next year.”
“The timing of the move has caused tensions between Mr. Tillerson and the White House. Mr. Friedman… pushed to move the embassy this year, and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who oversees the president’s Middle East peace initiative, backed him. But Mr. Tillerson petitioned Mr. Trump in a meeting on Thursday for more time to upgrade the security of the building, and the president agreed. “What you’ll see from the secretary is that we will do this at the pace of security, not at the pace of politics,” said the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, Steven Goldstein.” [NYTimes]
FREEZING MORE FUNDS — “U.S. won’t pay $45 million pledged for Palestinian food aid for now” by David Alexander and Arshad Mohammed: “The United States had made clear to UNRWA that the $45 million was a pledge aimed at helping the agency with “forecasting,” but it was not a guarantee, [State Department spokeswoman Heather] Nauert told reporters… “At this time, we will not be providing that, but that does not mean – I want to make it clear – that does not mean that it will not be provided in the future,” Nauert said.” [Reuters]
BEHIND THE SCENES — “For Trump’s security advisers, tempering an impetuous boss” by Josh Lederman and Matt Lee: “Trump had stormed into the new year threatening on Twitter to cut off aid to the Palestinians after little Mideast peace progress. His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, egged Trump on, pushing him to suspend all of a planned $125 million payment to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees… In a phone call this past Friday, the secretary of state sold the president on a compromise: Give half the money, put the rest on hold. It would allow Trump to say he followed through on a threat, without further destabilizing the Arab world… It took an end run by Tillerson around Haley to ensure his word was the last… After re-convincing Trump to accept the compromise, Tillerson worked to keep the decision a secret… Haley and most White House officials didn’t get word until four days later, Tuesday, when the U.S. sent a letter to the U.N. body.” [AP]
“How Rex Tillerson Thinks He Can Avoid Mission Creep in Syria” by John Hudson: “We’ve been very clear that we’re not there to in any way engage with the regime, we’re not there to engage with Iran,” said Tillerson, almost shouting so he could be heard over the white noise of his plane flying between California and Andrews Air Force Base. “We’re there to defeat ISIS. If our forces are attacked by others, then we clearly have the authority and the right to defend ourselves,” he said. He insisted that his speech was “not inconsistent with what President Trump’s made the priority.” [BuzzFeed]
“How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse” by Nicolas Niarchos: “In a relationship fostered by the Emiratis and by the Lebanese-American businessman Thomas Barrack, who is a friend of Trump’s, [Jared] Kushner has grown close to King Salman’s thirty-two-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a chief proponent of the war in Yemen. (Gause, the professor at Texas A. & M. University, told me, “This is his war, it was his idea, he owns it.”). Kushner negotiated the new arms deal… According to a number of current and former government officials and weapons experts, Kushner’s action was irregular. It was also bad dealmaking.” [NewYorker]
DRIVING THE DAY — “Chuck Schumer’s DACA Dilemma” by John Cassidy: “[Chuck] Schumer knows the strength of feeling in his party, and he is keenly aware that Trump has failed to follow through on his promise to make a deal on DACA. But the Democratic leader must also be thinking of the November midterms… Opinion polls indicate that most Americans believe that the Dreamers should be protected—but, in the past, polls have also shown that government shutdowns are very unpopular. If one were to happen this weekend, perhaps the public could be persuaded that Trump and the Republicans, who control all three branches of government, were responsible. But, at a juncture when Democrats have a double-digit lead over Republicans in the generic congressional poll, relying on such an outcome would be a risky gambit—especially since there would be another opportunity to fight for DACA next month.” [NewYorker]
Pelosi, religious leaders push for ‘dreamers’ — by Michelle Boorstein: “At the conference several dreamers spoke, including Elias Rosenfeld, a Brandeis University student who has interned with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Rosenfeld is Jewish and from Venezuela. He described having to watch the funeral of his grandfather, with whom Rosenfeld was very close after his own mother’s death, via cellphone video because he could not leave the country. “In the Torah … we are called 36 times to welcome the stranger. This, with the Jewish community’s experience from Egypt to the Holocaust, informs our commitment to the Dream Act,” Rosenfeld said.” [WashPost]
TOP-ED: “A Modest Immigration Proposal: Ban Jews” by Bret Stephens: “Here’s a thought experiment: Would the United States have been better off if it had banned Jewish immigration sometime in the late 19th century…? The question is worth asking, because so many of the same arguments made against African, Latin-American and Muslim immigrants today might have easily been applied to Jews just over a century ago… Today, American Jews are widely considered the model minority, so thoroughly assimilated that organizational Jewish energies are now largely devoted to protecting our religious and cultural distinctiveness. Someone might ask Jeff Sessions and other eternal bigots what makes an El Salvadoran, Iranian or Haitian any different.” [NYTimes]
ON THE HILL — Senate advances nomination of Ken Marcus as head of the Education Department’s civil rights office: The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee approved yesterday the nomination of Kenneth L. Marcus as Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights by a 12-11 vote, along party lines. The next step is a floor wide vote.
— “An Advocate for Israel Draws Fire as He Nears Confirmation to Civil Rights Post” by Erica Green: “[Ken] Marcus’ support for Jewish students (as president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law) has earned him praise in some quarters as an ardent defender of civil liberties with an acumen for the rule of law… Critics see him as a biased crusader whose singular focus on what he believes to be rising anti-Semitism on the campus left will further impede the Education Department’s already tentative efforts to enforce civil rights protections for marginalized groups of students…” [NYTimes; WashPost]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Kushner’s Deutsche Bank-Backed Property Stung by Tenant Troubles [Bloomberg] • At last, construction is around the corner on Kansas City downtown convention hotel, says Alex Tisch[KansasCityStar] • Cuomo Proposes Ending Carried Interest Loophole for Hedge Funds [Bloomberg]
STARTUP NATION: “In Surprise Move, Microsoft Israel’s R&D Center Names New 34-year-old CEO” by Eliran Rubin: “Assaf Rappaport… who began his new position on Thursday, replaces Yoram Yaacovi, who stepped down a few months ago. Microsoft’s research and development facility in Israel, with its approximately 1,000 employees, is considered one of the corporation’s leading R&D centers in the world. Rappaport joined Microsoft in 2015 after it purchased the cloud security startup Adallom, which he founded together with two partners, Ami Luttwak and Roy Reznik… Rappaport will continue to head the Cloud Security group at Microsoft Israel in addition to his new appointment.” [Haaretz]
SPOTLIGHT: “One Goldman Takeover That Failed: The Trump White House” by James Stewart: “A year ago, with an impressive roster of Goldman Sachs alumni on their way to top White House positions, the return of “Government Sachs” was in full swing… “Everyone was wondering who would dominate the White House: Steve Bannon or the Manhattan mafia,” [Newt] Gingrich told me this week, referring to the Goldman alumni. “It turns out Donald Trump dominated the White House. Surprise! That should have been obvious to anyone who knows anything about Trump.” … Alone among the prominent Goldman alumni in the administration, [Steve] Mnuchin seems likely to stay. “He’s been a good and loyal employee,” Professor [Roy] Smith said. “But he’s more of a Hollywood person now. His reputation in the professional financial sector may not matter that much to him.”” [NYTimes]
“Trump to Mark One-Year Anniversary With Gala at Mar-a-Lago” by Jennifer Jacobs: “The event, hosted by Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, and the casino mogul Steve Wynn, will benefit the Trump presidential campaign and the RNC.”[Bloomberg]
“Tom Arnold: Ari Emanuel told me he lost too much money on Cosby to release embarrassing Miss Universe footage of Trump” by Kim Janssen: “Comedian Tom Arnold has… told Chicago Inc. that he last year had a conversation with Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel… [who] told him… that he would not release compromising footage of the president because “we lost so much money with Bill Cosby and Trump is still a client.” … A spokesman for his company, WME, said Ari Emanuel has never discussed the issue with Arnold, has not represented Trump for two years and that “there is no embarrassing unseen footage — we looked.””[ChicagoTribune]
“Israel puts tunnel dug under Gaza border on display” by Ori Lewis and Stephen Farrell: “The Israeli military brought journalists on Thursday to film a 2 km (1.25 mile) tunnel dug by militants from the Gaza Strip to Israel, saying it was putting the construction on display to show the continuing threat it faces from the territory.” [Reuters; CNN]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Israel’s capital is badly run and out of cash: “Jerusalem has attracted a lot of attention since President Donald Trump announced in December that America would recognise it as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there. Yet for all the fuss over the holy city’s international status, its management and finances are a mess. Its streets are often filthy (even when city workers are not striking) and its pavements are crumbling—visible indicators that it spends a quarter less per person on services for residents than Israel’s other large cities…” [Economist]
Israel’s Indian Jews and their lives in the ‘promised land’: “Many hold prestigious jobs in the government and private sectors. They also run for local elections and are vocal supporters of Israeli foreign policy… In addition to cricket, which they play in India team jerseys, many of them are avid watchers of Bollywood films, and have even opened Indian food restaurants across the country. “We are both Israeli and Indian. India is our motherland and Israel our fatherland,” [Naor Gudekar] says proudly. But Dr [Shalva] Weil believes that this may not be a feeling that extends to the younger generations of Bene Israelis. “Bene Israelis feel more and more Israeli. If you look at younger people they act and sound like Israelis. They have little to do with their Indian roots,” she says.” [BBC]
CAMPUS BEAT: “Rabbi Lord Sacks urged religious groups at Penn to come together to solve world problems” by Deena Elul: “Speaking to a room packed with students, faculty, and other members of the Penn community, the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth stressed the importance of creating meaningful connections between different religious groups, even as each preserves its own identity. “Our common humanity takes precedence over our religious differences,” Sacks said… Sacks suggested three ways students could foster meaningful interfaith interactions on campus. “Number one: doing social action together,” Sacks said. “Number two: celebrating together. Food and music are two of the most powerful bonding agents. Number three: whenever a particular faith group suffers a mishap or bad news, being there to give emotional support.””[TheDP]
SPORTS BLINK: “‘Lots Of Joking And Teasing’: Two New Jersey Rabbis Stand Divided For NFC Championship Game” by Anita Oh: “The friendship is still on but the Eagles better win,” joked Assistant Rabbi Bryan Wexler, a dedicated Eagles fan. Across the hall from his office, his colleague, Head Rabbi Micah Peltz, is perhaps the sole Minnesota Vikings fan in the building. “You know, I feel like a stranger in a strange land this week,” Peltz said… Although, there are counter-prayers at work too, Wexler says…. “Super Bowl week, we’ll read a verse in Exodus that says, ‘God bore us on eagle’s wings,’ and that must mean God is an Eagles fan.” [CBSPhilly]
PIC OF THE DAY — Netanyahu tweets group selfie with Bollywood stars in Mumbai: “Will my Bollywood selfie beat @TheEllenShow Hollywood selfie at the Oscars?” [Pic]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Retired after 40 years of service as a news reporter and White House correspondent for ABC News, Ann Comptonturns 71… President and CEO of PayPal and Chairman of the Board of Symantec, Daniel H. Schulman turns 60… Los Angeles-based attorney and founder of the blog, American Trial Attorneys in Defense of Israel, Baruch C. Cohen turns 55… Venture capitalist and entrepreneur, his family owns the Hyatt Hotel chain, he is running for Governor of Illinois in the 2018 election, Jay Robert “J.B.” Pritzker turns 53… Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News, Jonathan Karl turns 50… United Arab Emirates’ ambasssador to the USA, Yousef Al Otaiba turns 44… Television journalist, entrepreneur, social activist, YouTube creator and motivational speaker, Jessica Abo turns 37… DC-based Director of Political Outreach at AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy, Julie Fishman Rayman turns 37… VP of “Poverty to Prosperity” program at the Center for American Progress, previously a senior policy associate at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Melissa Boteach 35… Actor since early childhood, has already appeared in over 25 films, played d’Artagnan in 2011’s “The Three Musketeers,” Logan Lerman turns 26… Jewish rapper, best known by his stage name Mac Miller, Malcolm James McCormick turns 26… Senior account executive at Chicago’s Resolute Consulting, she was deputy director of strategic partnerships in the office of Chicago’s Mayor, after four years at AIPAC, Emily Berman Pevnick… Alex Bronzo… Isaac Wolf…
SATURDAY: Lakewood, NJ-born, American diplomat and former State Department official (1959-1991), later President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1991-1997), Morton I. Abramowitz turns 85… Israeli politician, refusenik during the 1970s and 1980s who spent nine years in Soviet prisons, since 2009 Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky turns 70… US Representative from Nevada (1999-2013), now CEO and senior provost for Touro University Western Division, Shelley Berkley (born Rochelle Levine) turns 67… Host of HBO’s political talk show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” William “Bill” Maher turns 62… Diane Kushnir Halivni turns 48… US Ambassador to the United Nations, she was previously Governor of South Carolina (2011-2017), Ambassador Nikki Haley (born Nimrata Randhawa) turns 46… Philanthropist, professional equestrian, author and younger daughter of former NYC Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Georgina Leigh Bloomberg turns 35… Member of the digital communications team at Purple Strategies, after internships on Capitol Hill and the MPAA, blogger for Mediabistro’s FishbowlDC, Alec Jacobs… Jason Berger… Adar Belinkoff…
SUNDAY: Born in Kansas City, raised in Oklahoma City, philanthropist and co-founder of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Lynn Schusterman… Literary critic, feminist, writer on cultural and social issues, television critic for People magazine, Elaine Showalter (born Elaine Cottler) turns 77… Chinese-American Governor of Washington (1997-2005), US Secretary of Commerce (2009-11) and US Ambassador to China (2011-14), Gary Locke turns 68… 82nd Attorney General of the United States (2009-2015), Eric Holder turns 67… Chairman and CEO of Norfolk, Virginia-based Harbor Group International, a $7 billion real estate investment firm, Jordan E. Slone turns 56… Political editor at Newsweek, previously managing editor for White House coverage at National Journal, reporter for Time, blogger for Talking Points Memo, Matthew Cooper turns 55… Managing director of OneTable, Andrea Greenblatt turns 51… Born in Trinidad and Tobago, SVP and Washington bureau chief for CNN since 2011, employed by CNN since 1991, Sam Feist turns 49… Ramat Gan native, director, producer and screenwriter of American films, best known as the producer or director of the six films in the “Paranormal Activity” series, Oren Peli turns 48… Dean of School at Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Los Angeles, lecturer, educator and author, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn turns 39… Deputy legislative director for US Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Jordan Grossman turns 32…
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