Daily Kickoff — Lunch Edition: Trump may present peace plan without PA at the table | Bergman book party | BDays: Malcolm Hoenlein; Abbi Jacobson


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SCENE LAST NIGHT IN NYC — Richard Plepler, the Chairman and CEO of HBO, hosted a book party celebrating the publication of Ronen Bergman’s new title, Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations. Approximately 75 guests gathered at the Harold Pratt House on the Upper East Side to meet and hear from Bergman.

Bergman summarized his book in a nutshell: “The story of the book is a story of great technical successes and disastrous strategic political failures. And I think that nowadays when the U.S. has adopted many of the operational and intelligence lessons and skills that Israel developed through the last 70 years, when employing the tactics of focused targeted killings way beyond enemy lines, it is important to also understand the price that Israel has paid, and is still paying, for using these methods and having such power.”

“I think Israeli leaders have drawn the wrong conclusion from the success of the Israeli intelligence services who are arguably the best. Sooner or later, they provide Israeli leaders with solutions to every challenge but Israeli leaders drew the wrong conclusion. They thought that having this powerful tool at the tip of their finger they could order to bomb a facility, to kill someone, and in that way stop history, hold it by the tail, and that by using that tool they don’t need to turn to statesmanship, to turn to political discourse.”

Bergman, who published an excerpt of the book in last Sunday’s NYTimes Magazine, joked that NYT fact-checkers are tougher than Israeli security interviewers: “There are no other people like the New York Times. And every time I have to go through this forced labor, ongoing stress with the fact checkers, I swear I would never do this again (laughter)… You know, I got a call — one of the main interviewers for the story just published in the magazine was a former senior IDF official. After having a conversation with the fact checking team, he called me and said, ‘Listen, I have been through the most harsh and strict questioning by the Shin Bet, by the Mossad — for security clearances — and I’ve never experienced something like that.’”

Bergman thanked Plepler for hosting the event and noted the HBO Chief’s generosity even though “I don’t have any business with HBO,” to which Plepler quipped, “No, no, no, you do now.” Bergman recounted a dinner a few years back when he was going through some difficulties and Plepler gave him some advice. “Richard gave me a speech about life, about relationships, and told me a few words in Yiddish (laughter)… Just imagine the CEO of HBO from New York is teaching someone from Tel Aviv, who was born to Holocaust survivors, a Polish guy, words in Yiddish. And one of these words — ‘bashert’ – really helped me overcome the obstacle of that time. So Richard, thank you for being such a mensch.”

SPOTTED: ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, NYTimes Executive Editor Dean Baquet, Tablet Mag’s founder and editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse, CFR’s Richard Haass, Random House’s Andy Ward, NYTimes Book Review’s Pamela Paul, Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon, Jamie Black, Ashley Moskowitz. [Pic]

ON MORNING JOE TODAY — Bergman said that Israeli officials were warned about sharing sensitive intelligence information even before Trump was inaugurated: “In January, senior U.S. officials shocked their Israeli counterparts – meeting here in the U.S. – when they said at the end of a regular meeting, ‘We advise you, until it becomes clear that the Russian do not have any leverage on President-elect Trump, or his team, to be very careful not to share sensitive information with the White House and the National Security Council because we are afraid that this information might be leaked to Russia, and from Russia it’s a very short path to Iran.’”[MSNBC]

TRANSITION: “Top career US diplomat to step down in blow to State Dept” by Matt Lee: “The State Department’s third-ranking official, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon, informed agency staffers that he will retire as soon as a successor for his Senate-confirmed post is chosen and ready to assume the job. Shannon is a near 35-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service and was the most senior department official to remain in his job after the transition from the Obama to the Trump administrations…  Shannon’s departure is sure to be seized on by critics of the administration who accuse Trump and Tillerson of gutting the foreign service, particularly its senior ranks.” [AP]

“When Donald Rumsfeld Asks You to ‘Solve Pakistan” by Uri Friedman: “I asked [Douglas] Feith whether he ever solved the Pakistan problem. “No, of course not,” he responded. Then he got philosophical: “Technology advances. You can say polio got solved. But if you’re talking about a problem with a country—even if you talk about something like Nazism: Nazism to a large extent got solved by the defeat of the Axis in World War II. But as we see, fascistic Nazi-style thinking can make a comeback. And while it may get solved in one country, it could pop up in another. It could even pop up in the same one under different circumstances.” “Problems that relate to human nature never actually get solved,” Feith argued. “They simply change form.””[TheAtlantic]

DRIVING THE DAY — Polish senate passes Holocaust bill despite Israeli protests: “The upper house of parliament voted 57-23, with two abstentions, to approve the bill, which sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish or accuses Poland of complicity in the Third Reich’s crimes… To take effect, the legislation still needs to be signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda, who on Monday had said he was “flabbergasted” by Israel’s “violent and very unfavourable reaction.”” [France24

State Department warns Holocaust bill could hurt relations with Poland — by Justyna Pawlak and Mohammad Zargham: “The legislation “could undermine free speech and academic discourse…” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. “We are also concerned about the repercussions this draft legislation, if enacted, could have on Poland’s strategic interests and relationships,” Nauert said.” [Reuters]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM : “Israel ‘Adamantly Opposes’ Polish Parliament’s Approval of Controversial Holocaust Bill” by Noa Landau: “Israel views with utmost gravity any attempt to challenge historical truth,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said… An Israeli official expressed “deep disappointment given the fact that the relationship between the two countries is important to both sides.” He added that “the law’s passage goes against the spirit of the conversation between the two prime ministers [last] Sunday.” Earlier, Likud Minister Yisrael Katz demanded Netanyahu recall Israel’s ambassador to Poland over the bill. Minister Yoav Gallant said the bill amounts to Holocaust denial, with lawmaker and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni describing it as “spitting in Israel’s face.”[Haaretz]

Barak Ravid: “After Poland’s Senate approves Holocaust law Israel postpones visit to Jerusalem by Polish national security adviser planned for next week.” [Twitter]

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST — “Greenblatt to EU envoys: Settlements are not the obstacle” by Herb Keinon: “According to a participant in the meeting, Greenblatt said it is necessary to look at what construction has actually taken place, rather than at various announcements made about settlement construction in the media. Greenblatt, according to one of the participants, said there is not that much actual building taking place; that where it is taking place is contiguous to existing settlements; and that Israel has taken a sensible approach on the matter.” [JPost]

REPORT — “Trump may present peace plan even if Palestinians won’t negotiate” by Barak Ravid: “The White House is considering presenting President Trump’s Middle East peace plan even if the crisis with the Palestinian Authority continues and Palestinian President Abbas refuses to come to the negotiating table, senior U.S. officials tell me… U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt held a series of meetings with Netanyahu, his advisers and several ministers over the last two weeks… On Wednesday, Greenblatt participated in an emergency meeting of the donor countries to the Palestinian Authority… The Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also participated in the meeting. It was the first time senior Palestinian and U.S. officials were around the same table since the Jerusalem announcement. Greenblatt and Hamdallah shook hands but didn’t hold a meeting.” [Axios]

“UN roundly condemned for blacklist of companies doing business in Israeli settlements” by Ben Evansky: “In a statement from United States Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley said the report is “the latest anti-Israel actions taken by the Human Rights Council.” … Speaking later on at the U.N. General Assembly Holocaust Remembrance event, [Ambassador Danny Danon] said the blacklist goes back to centuries-old, anti-Semitic boycotts… Earlier Wednesday the U.N.’s Human Rights’ office issued the report which it said detailed a database of business enterprises “engaged in certain, specific activities in the occupied Palestinian territory that are explicitly linked to Israeli settlements.”” [FoxNews

“German FM says Trump support not necessarily good for Israel” by Aron Heller: “As a friend of Israel, and as a foreign minister of a country with a special commitment to your country’s security, I am sincerely concerned about Israel’s mid- to long-term options,” [Sigmar Gabriel] said in an address to the Institute for National Security Studies’ annual conference… “The Americans are taking your side more clearly than ever before, but is this really only a good thing? When I think of the likely consequences I think this is more ambivalent,” Gabriel said. He said the U.S. had long acted as an “arbiter” in the region despite its close ties to Israel… But he asked: “Can the Americans still play such a role if they take sides so openly?” [AP

Netanyahu interrupts German FM to downplay two-state support: “In statements after the meeting, Netanyahu interrupted Gabriel as he talked about a two-state solution to the conflict. Gabriel said he was “very thankful to hear that, of course, also the government of Israel wants to have two states” with secure Israeli borders. But Netanyahu interjected to reiterate his position… “No, that we will control security west of the Jordan (river)… that is, I think, the first condition,” Netanyahu said. “Whether or not it’s defined as a state when we have the military control is another matter, but I’d rather not discuss labels, but substance,” he added.” [ToI

Gabriel meets with Israeli opposition leaders to discuss new diplomatic plan — by Mazal Mualem: “In a breakfast meeting at the Jerusalem King David Hotel between German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Zionist Camp leader Avi Gabbay and head of the opposition Isaac Herzog on Jan. 31, Gabriel expressed great interest in the new diplomatic plan being formulated in the Labor Party…” [Al-Monitor

WAR ON TERROR — “U.S. State Department designates Hamas leader as terrorist” by Mohammad Zargham: “The State Department said in a statement that [Ismail] Haniyeh, along with two Islamist groups active in Egypt and one in the Palestinian territories, were listed as specially designated global terrorists. It quoted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as saying the designations “target key terrorist groups and leaders – including two sponsored and directed by Iran – who are threatening the stability of the Middle East, undermining the peace process, and attacking our allies Egypt and Israel.”” [Reuters

U.S. Shows Beginning of a Response to Muslim Brotherhood” by Eli Lake: “Jonathan Schanzer, the senior vice president for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told me this week, “There was a reluctance in the last three years of the Obama administration to designate Hamas guys.” Part of this is because of Israel. After the 2014 rocket war with Hamas in Gaza, Israel reached an understanding with two principal supporters of Hamas — Qatar and Turkey — to allow more approved goods into Gaza… Schanzer told me that at the time, he had heard from his contacts at the Treasury Department that they did not want additional sanctions to undermine those nations’ understanding with Israel…” [BloombergView

David Makovsky and Lia Weiner write… “Hamas Failures in Gaza Are Changing Israel’s Stance: During a recent trip to the Middle East, the authors were struck by the number of Israeli security officials and even right-wing politicians who have joined international groups operating on an unexpected principle: that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip cannot be ignored anymore… Whether the PA retakes control in Gaza is uncertain for now. Yet the imperative seems clear for international groups like the AHLC: to support the rebuilding of infrastructure in the Strip. In the end, such economic moves may be the only way of fostering favorable political consequences.”[WashInstitute

HAPPENING TODAY — Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg will discuss the intersection of law, media and Jewish life with Forward editor-in-chief Jane Eisner at Adas Israel in Washington, DC. Watch live at 7 PM ET here [Livestream]

DRIVING THE CONVO — ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt discussed the growing rift between Israel and U.S. Jewry during a panel yesterday at the INSS annual conference in Tel Aviv: “We have “Taglit,” Israel studies programs opening around the U.S., companies like Waze and WeWork and Gett, Gal Gadot and Fauda – but if we thought all that familiarity would engender good relations, we were wrong…. Dynamics in Israel have contributed to the strained relations; for US Jews, it’s deeply disconcerting to see the lack of momentum on the peace process, and they’re confused and upset about the conversion bill and the Kotel decision. I think it could get worse. Take a look at the situation with African refugees: if you start deporting them, American Jews will make parallels to “Dreamers” in the U.S.”

— Former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro: “Throughout 2015, a very difficult year for the relationship, many in the US felt they were put in that position — to “choose.” We face a somewhat different situation with the current administration… We’re in an unprecedented period of polarization, so it should be possible to cultivate a positive relationship with the current administration while also ensuring the U.S. President’s opponents in the US are not dismissed because this administration will be out one day and those opponents will have their turn.” [INSS

** Good Thursday 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: Alibaba’s Jack Ma plans May visit to Israel [Calcalist] • Maryland Lawmaker files ‘Jared Kushner Act’ to limit tenant arrests [ABCNews] • Seth Klarman Gives $5 Million to Spelman College[Bloomberg] • Chicago Cubs Co-Owner Todd Ricketts Named New RNC Finance Chairman [NPR] • Canadian billionaire Daryl Katz’s company is the new owner of LifeZette, the site co-founded by Fox News host Laura Ingraham [CNNMoney] • “This Is Serious” — Facebook Begins Its Downward Spiral [VanityFair] • Is Lionsgate’s Chief Finally Ready to Sell? [HollywoodReporter]

SPOTLIGHT: “European Jewish Congress head on US Treasury’s ‘Putin list’” by Tamara Zieve: “European Jewish Congress president Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor was among 96 businesspeople and 114 senior political figures alleged to have close ties to the Kremlin… The names were placed on what has been dubbed the “Putin list” or “oligarchs list,” as part of a US sanctions package signed into law in August. It does not mean those included will be subject to sanctions… Forbes estimated Kantor’s net worth at US $3.8b., making him the 34th-richest person in Russia… The US list also includes Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich and Eugene Kaspersky, the co-founder and CEO of IT security company Kaspersky Labs.” [JPost]

HOLLYWOOD: “Something’s coming: Spielberg and Kushner to take on ‘West Side Story’ remake” by Jordan Hoffman: “The initial casting call is looking specifically for Latino and Latina actors to play parts that were, in the 1961 film, played by white actors. Natalie Wood as “Maria” is nothing short of ridiculous when you look back at it now. (Though nothing is quite as cringeworthy as Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in another New York classic from that same year.) Spielberg’s primary collaborator on this project is Tony Kushner, the much celebrated Jewish-American author of “Angels in America,” arguably the most important theatrical work of the 1990s…” [ToI]

DESSERT: “Textile Magnate Weaves a Kosher Bakery and Cafe Into Boyle Heights” by Mona Holmes: “An industrial part of Boyle Heights is set to get a new bakery and cafe in early March. Asher Caffe comes from Asher Shalom, owner of Asher Fabric Concepts, a fabric and textile distributor located across the street from their showroom. A passion project for Asher, the eatery will be completely kosher. According to project manager Sergio L. Yang, the food will have a heavy European influence.” [LAEater

BIRTHDAYS: Actor Stuart Whitman turns 90… Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm I. Hoenlein turns 74… Partner in LA-based law firm, Fredman Liebermann Pearl, and past president of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, Howard S. Fredman turns 74… Midtown Manhattan physician, affiliated with Lenox Hill Hospital, specializing in Nephrology and Internal Medicine, Mark H. Gardenswartz, MD turns 68… Composer and conductor, music director of the Chappaqua Orchestra since 2002, author in 1994 of “The Jewish 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Jews of All Time,” Michael Jeffrey Shapiro turns 67… Far Rockaway, NY resident, Maurice Lazar turns 67… Lakewood, NJ-born, president and part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Stan Kasten turns 66… Artist whose oil on canvas paintings have many Jewish themes, Israel Tsvaygenbaum turns 57…

25-year veteran of the Israeli foreign service, now a scholar-in-residence at American University in Washington, Dan Arbell… Deputy director for policy and government affairs at AIPAC, David Gillette turns 57… Executive Vice President and Chief Program Officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Becky Sobelman-Stern turns 56… One of Israel’s top soccer players of all time, successful on both Israeli and European teams, now manager of Beitar Jerusalem, Eli Ohana turns 54… Actor Pauly Shore turns 50… Chair of Perkins Coie’s Political Law practice who was general counsel to Hillary for America and advises the DNC, DSCC, DCCC and the DGA, Marc E. Elias turns 49… Experimental jazz guitarist Yoshie Fruchter turns 36… Comedienne, writer, actress and illustrator, Abbi Jacobson turns 34… Cincinnati native, now a senior director of business development for Politico Pro, Andrew Friedman turns 31… District Director for Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila James Kuehl, Stephanie Beth Cohen turns 29… David Aryeh Leshaw turns 27… Television and movie actress, Julia Garner turns 24… Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for AIPAC, Tara Brown… David Shaw

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