Daily Kickoff: State of the Union preview | Why Mort Klein went to Qatar | Noble Energy sells Tamar stake for $800M | BDays: David Cordish; Lee Zeldin


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DRIVING THE DAY — President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 9 PM ESTAccording to a senior administration official, who previewed the speech in a background call to reporters, after outlining the administration’s domestic priorities, the president will emphasize rebuilding the military, promoting peace through strength, and discuss a return to clarity in who America’s friends and adversaries are. [CSPAN]

Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), has invited Christine Levinson, the wife of Bob Levinson from Coral Springs who has been missing in Iran for nearly 11 years, as his guest to the State of the Union.

Breaking with tradition: “Rep. Eliot Engel… has repeatedly scored aisle seats to steal a handshake with the president. This year, Engel told Business Insider he would not be doing so. “I’m gonna be there for the speech, but I’m going to sit with my colleagues in the middle of the row rather than the aisle,” Engel said.” [BusinessInsider

“Schakowsky will boycott Trump’s State of the Union speech” by Lynn Sweet: “[Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)] cited specific reasons for skipping the speech – usually the biggest audience of the year for a president: Trump’s Muslim ban; reaction of the violence in Charlottesville and his failure to denounce Nazi’s and more recently using vulgar language to refer to African nations during a discussion about immigration.” [ChicagoSunTimes

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) explains why she’ll boycott Trump’s address: “We have to stand up for Africa just as people who are Jewish here stand up for Israel.” [Cosmopolitan]

SPOTLIGHT — “Ahead of State of the Union, Democrats are united against Trump — but not on impeachment” by David Weigel and Sean Sullivan: In one year, if Democrats win control of the House of Representatives, [Rep. Jerry] Nadler will become Judiciary chairman. At a recent town hall in his Upper West Side district, Nadler’s constituents made clear what they want him to do… Nadler’s record and philosophy suggest that he will not necessarily push relentlessly for impeachment. “An impeachment cannot be partisan,” he said at the Capitol earlier this month… More importantly, Nadler said, some portion of those who voted for the target of impeachment must support the effort, or at least believe “you had no choice.” “If you don’t achieve that, then the country’s going to be torn apart. You’re going to have 20 years of recriminations.’ We won the election, you stole it.’” [WashPost]

IMMIGRATION POLICY — “How ‘chain migration’ brought us the Trump White House” by Philip Bump: “A number of prominent members of the Trump administration have ancestors who are only in the country because they came to join members of their families who would be excluded from sponsoring them under the new proposal… [Stephen] Miller is the great-grandson of a man named Sam Glosser… son of a man named Wolf Lieb Glotzer… Glotzer’s arrival wouldn’t have met Trump’s standard for entry. But once here, he could have petitioned for Sam Glosser — under 21 and unmarried — to join him…”

“Perhaps the most interesting immigrant story is Jared Kushner’s. His paternal grandparents immigrated to the United States in 1949, after surviving the Holocaust. His grandmother, Rae Kushner, was instrumental in helping orchestrate a mass escape from a Nazi-controlled ghetto… In an interview with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington given in 1982, Kushner laments that the policies of the United States during the war made it hard for refugees from Nazi-controlled areas to immigrate.” [WashPost

HEARD YESTERDAY — Ron Lauder in an interview with Udi Segal on Reshet TV: “I feel like President Trump is probably going to be the first president to make a two state solution [happen]. He is committed to it. How he is going about it is a question we have to look at, but I believe the final outcome will be a positive one for both Israelis and Palestinians.” [Video

REPORT — In first since US Jerusalem move, Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah and Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to meet: “The meeting set for next Sunday at Kahlon’s Jerusalem office will focus on joint economic initiatives that were put on ice after US President Donald Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem last month… Ahead of his sit-down with Hamdallah, Kahlon met with US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who implored him to stress to the Palestinians that there is no alternative to US-brokered peace talks… The report said the Palestinians had initiated the meeting.” [ToI]

Palestinian protesters disrupt US-organized seminar in Bethlehem: “Protesters threw tomatoes at the sports utility vehicle, which had US consular licence plates, kicked one of its doors and ripped the plastic casing off a side mirror as it drove off under Palestinian police escort from the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce…” [Ynet]

“Slovenia’s Parliament Expected to Recognize State of Palestine” by Noa Landau: On Wednesday, the foreign affairs committee of Slovenia’s legislature will vote on a draft resolution, with the backing of Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec, before it passes to parliament for a full vote… Slovenian President Borut Pahor told AFP that he opposed recognizing Palestine for the time being. However, the president, like in Israel, does not control what the parliament does.” [Haaretz

IRAN DEAL — “Trump, Haley Press U.N. Security Council on Iran” by Felicia Schwartz: “Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley… said she pressed fellow Security Council members: “‘If you don’t do anything about all of these violations, I can’t promise you that we’re staying in the deal,’” she said…  The nuclear accord came up during a lunch with Mr. Trump… Mr. Trump told the U.N. ambassadors he believed the nuclear agreement is “a really bad deal.” He also told them that other actions by Iran are “clear violations” that require action…” [WSJ

“Netanyahu threatens to ‘stop’ Iran if it tries to entrench itself in Syria” by Raphael Ahren: “The question is: Does Iran entrench itself in Syria, or will this process be stopped. If it doesn’t stop by itself, we will stop it,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters during a telephone briefing, moments before taking off from Moscow en route to Tel Aviv…” [ToI]

DEEP DIVE: “Hezbollah Goes on the Cyber Offensive with Iran’s Help” by Levi Maxey: “Hezbollah has proactively sought to develop its cyber capabilities, expanding its potential disruptive and influential reach into the digital sphere. While the group has long used the internet to disseminate recruitment messaging, propaganda, and operational know-how, it also has begun leveraging it as an attack vector to gain valuable intelligence, undermine the reputation of opponents and hold its adversaries, especially Israel, at risk.”[TheCipherBrief]

“Why Did ZOA’s Mort Klein Go to Qatar? ‘I Talked With the Emir About Hamas and Al Jazeera’” by Amir Tibon: “Earlier this month… Klein had visited Qatar at the invitation of the Emir, and had a private meeting with him in Doha, the Emirate’s capital city. The visit… took place at the same time that other prominent public figures who are known as supporters of the Israeli government, such as Alan Dershowitz and Mike Huckabee, visited Doha… “They invited me to go a number of times – in September, October, November and December,” he said. “At first I refused, because of their support for Hamas and the anti-Semitism being broadcast on Al Jazeera. But over time, I saw that more and more Jewish leaders were going there, and I realized that at this point, they won’t be able to use me for propaganda, because everyone is already going, but I might use the visit to push them on these issues.”

Klein told Haaretz that the Qatari choice to engage with “right-of-center Zionists” was noticeable. “They didn’t invite people from J Street, Americans for Peace Now or the Reform Movement,” he said. “I think it’s interesting.” Like most of the other Jewish leaders invited to Qatar, Klein’s trip was paid for by the Emirate (“I didn’t take anything else from them,” he emphasized).” [Haaretz]

Of note: “Just this past June, ZOA called on the Trump administration to cancel the license of Qatar Airways to fly into the United States because of Qatar’s support for terrorism.” Ibid

DOUBLING DOWN — “Poland Opposes Calls to Scrap Bill on Nazi Camp Talk” by Konrad Krasuski and Adrian Krajewski: “There is declaration by the Polish government to form a working group to discuss the issue with the Israeli side, but I would like to say very clearly that this does not mean we are ready to negotiate the provisions of this law,” Jacek Sasin, an aide to the prime minister, told state broadcaster TVP Info. “There is no stepping back.” … The bill still requires approval of the upper house of Poland’s parliament and must be signed by President Andrzej Duda to become law. “There was no participation by Poland or the Polish people as a nation in the Holocaust,” Duda said during a visit to Zory in the south of the country.” [Bloomberg]

New York Times editorial… “Poland’s Holocaust Blame Bill: Regardless how it is parsed, the Polish bill is a blatant and chilling effort by a nationalist government waging an offensive against the rule of law and freedom of expression to discourage that search… In a striking coincidence, the Polish bill was passed just as the leader of a major Muslim institution in Saudi Arabia, a sternly Islamic kingdom better known for its virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli positions, publicly proclaimed the Holocaust “among the worst human atrocities ever.”” [NYTimes]

“Former ADL chief Abe Foxman: Poland’s nationalist gov’t is trying to rewrite history” by Tamara Zieve: “This is a political move to do two things: first, to rewrite history, but more importantly to prevent new history,” Foxman told The Jerusalem Post… “We understand they don’t want to hear ‘Polish concentration camp’ – nobody is arguing that. Nobody says that is not a legitimate sensitivity and concern… What we are seeing is a political move to rewrite history, deny history and to make sure that honest history is not written.” [JPost]

2018 WATCH: “Ron DeSantis launches gubernatorial bid, vows he’s the outsider’s choice” by David Smiley: “DeSantis said after his speech that he chose Boca Raton… in part because of his support in the Jewish community… “You heard about my leadership on moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he told the Miami Herald. “I got a lot of support from people in Boca who said, you were the guy who was out there on it, and I think that’s part of the reason why we had a good crowd today.” Ron Krongold, a Coral Gables businessman and a director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said after a private breakfast between DeSantis and some supporters that the Jacksonville native has become the state’s champion in Congress on diplomacy with Israel. Boca is also home to some of DeSantis’ biggest supporters, including Home Depot Co-founder Bernie Marcus.” [TampaBay

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Houston’s Noble Energy said it will sell a 7.5 percent stake in its large Tamar gas field offshore of Israel in the Mediterranean for $800 million [Chron] • Games developer Playtika to invest up to $400 million in Israeli tech [Reuters] • Activist hedge fund Elliott in talks to buy Waterstones [FinancialTimes] • Jared Kushner Played a Role in Guy Fieri’s Restaurant Closure [NYEater] • Extell’s Diamond District plans just got even more mysterious: Developer  Gary Barnett has filed paperwork to demolish 12 buildings [RealDeal] • Disney CEO Bob Iger sells classic Fifth Avenue pad for $18.75M [CurbedNY] • Isaac Kassirer and Harbor Group are selling 15 Bronx buildings for $65M [RealDeal]

STARTUP NATION: “SAP, Comcast Back Israeli Data Protection Startup BigID” by Meir Orbach: “Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Tel Aviv with additional offices in New York, BigID develops and markets a data protection product that uses machine learning and identity intelligence technologies to track and guard enterprise customer and employee data… In a statement, BigID said it will use the funding to recruit additional engineers in Israel and to expand its global sales and marketing operations.” [Calcalist]

HOLLYWOOD: “Warner Bros’ Shed Media Takes U.S. Rights To Israeli Format ‘Back To Life’” by Peter White: “Shed Media, a division of Warner Bros. Unscripted and Alternative Media, run by General Manager Pam Healey has optioned the U.S. rights to the format, which launches on Israel’s Channel 10 in February. Back To Life, which has already been sold into Germany, Italy and Poland, is a docu-reality series that follows the stories of patients and families in a race against time as they wait for a lifesaving organ donation. Each episode will tell the story as well as their donor and follow the pair on the emotional journey to good health.” [Deadline]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Big Changes Are Reshaping Jerusalem” by Gwen Ackerman and Fadwa Hodali: “The number of employed east Jerusalem Arabs is rising, salary gaps with the city’s Jewish population are narrowing, more are learning Hebrew—6,000 currently study the language in classes—and registration at higher education institutions in the western sector is up. City Hall has established an employment center in east Jerusalem and plans a second one. There are even growing applications for citizenship, said Ben Avrahami, the mayor’s adviser for east Jerusalem affairs…” [Bloomberg

“Western Wall rabbi apologizes for gender segregation during Pence visit but says rules won’t change” by Ruth Eglash: “Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, chairman of the ultra-Orthodox Western Wall Heritage Foundation that runs the sacred site, indicated in a statement to The Washington Post that the situation would not change. “The plaza is a place of prayer and a synagogue, separation between men and women will remain for every type of event,” the rabbi said… Rabinovitch did say, however, that efforts would be made to improve press coverage for future events but “without compromising the sanctity of the site and its customs.” [WashPost]

TOP-OP: “The Slut-Shaming of Nikki Haley” by Bari Weiss: “In the Trump era, the left has smartly and justifiably seized a moral high ground that the right has abandoned by its embrace of the president. That’s a high ground the left cannot hold if it embraces subtle double standards that it would never accept for a moment if the woman in question was a Kirsten Gillibrand or a Kamala Harris. When Matt Lauer subjected Hillary Clinton to a harsh interview, within 24 hours it was common knowledge that it was evidence of misogyny. But when Nikki Haley is smeared with the most base, sexist lie, it’s met with little more than a collective shrug.” [NYTimes

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg interviewed Noah Feldman, author of “The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President.” Sandberg notes Madison was also “partner to Dolley Madison, one of America’s most fascinating first ladies – and truly a woman ahead of her time.” [Video]

“Cohen, cantor, choir win Grammy for best rock performance” by Bill Brownstein: “Of course, the late Leonard Cohen, Montreal cantor Gideon Zelermyer and the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue choir would win the Grammy Award Sunday for Best Rock Performance for their collaboration on You Want It Darker, the first track on Cohen’s 14th and final album… Zelermyer… was left nearly speechless after hearing the announcement in a ceremony prior to the main 60th annual Grammy Awards presentation at New York’s Madison Square Garden. “This is just so surreal,” Zelermyer said. “A Grammy Award — that is beyond my wildest dreams. I just let out a scream when I heard it announced. I hadn’t been this nervous since my Bar Mitzvah.” [MontrealGazette]

REMEMBERING: “Arno Motulsky, a Founder of Medical Genetics, Dies at 94” by Denise Grady: “Dr. Motulsky’s path to prominence began in harrowing fashion. He had been one of more than 900 Jewish refugees aboard the German liner St. Louis, which reached the Miami coast in 1939 but was turned away by the United States and sent back to Europe. He then spent a year in internment camps in France, where many prisoners died from starvation or typhoid, before finally reaching the United States in 1941.” [NYTimes

PIC OF THE DAY — Tevi Troy was back at the White House yesterday: “Awaiting the swearing in of new HHS Secretary Alex Azar [Pic

Troy emails us… “It was old home week at the White House as Team Alex — the group of health experts, most of whom worked for George W Bush, who helped Alex Azar prepare for his confirmation — gathered in the Roosevelt Room, along with Azar‘s family, for his swearing in to be the 24th Secretary of Health and Human Services. President Trump came in and gave remarks and Vice President Pence – who knows Alex well from Indiana — did the swearing in, followed by brief remarks from now Secretary Azar. Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, who knows Sec Azar from their time at Dartmouth, was there as well, and elated by his success. When the ceremony was finished, Sec Azar came and thanked the team, posed for a picture, and said, “Let’s get to work.””

INBOX — “Joey Allaham Spearheads Allaham Consultancy to Offer a One-Stop Solution with Unique Real Estate Spaces and Long-Term Profitability” [DigitalJournal

DESSERT — The Dish: Israeli chef Michael Solomonov: “Israeli chef Michael Solomonov is a master of Middle Eastern cuisine. His Philadelphia restaurant Zahav has become a must-visit venue for food lovers and last year earned Solomonov a James Beard award for outstanding chef. He also won the 2016 awards for both cookbook of the year and best international cookbook. Here are some of Solomonov’s signature recipes…” [CBSNews]

SPORTS BLINK: “Owner Zygi Wilf vows Vikings will ‘get to the Lombardi’ soon” by Courtney Cronin: “Eight days removed from Minnesota’s 38-7 loss in the NFC Championship Game, the Wilfs are beginning to move past what could have been after the Vikings came up short of their goal of being the first team to both host and play in the Super Bowl in the same season. Minnesota is early in the reflection period, according to co-owner Mark Wilf, who did little to dwell on the “amazing experience” it would have been to have his family’s team take center stage in Minneapolis and the surrounding area this week. “We’ve been in the business for 13 years and we have our ups and downs,” Zygi Wilf said.” [ESPN]

BIRTHDAYS: Chairman of The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based international development firm specializing in casinos, urban revitalization projects and entertainment districts, David S. Cordish turns 78… Republican member of the US House of Representatives from eastern Long Island, NY since 2015, Lee Zeldin turns 38… Theatrical producer and director, winner of 21 Tony Awards, more than other person, Harold Prince turns 90… Teacher and national community leader, holder of a Ph.D. in modern Jewish history from New York University, Judith Friedman Rosen turns 66… Heather Grafturns 64… Philadelphia area psychologist, Dr. Rachel Ginzberg turns 60 (h/t Daniel Lippman)… Assistant Professor in the electrical engineering department at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Guy Gilboa turns 47… Senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Joshua M. Kram turns 39… White House correspondent for CBS Radio News, Steven Portnoy turns 37… Max Delahanty turns 29… Jared Isenstein turns 26… Eli Langer… Alexa Smith… Gisele Rogers

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