Daily Kickoff: Saudis to allow flights to Israel to pass through its airspace | Houzz acquires fellow Israeli startup | Burgerim to San Antonio


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MEDIA WATCH — “Las Vegas Review-Journal staffers reject claims that Wynn story was a hit piece” by Tom Kludt and Hadas Gold: “To the journalists of the Las Vegas Review-Journal… the mere suggestion that the story was a hit piece commissioned by [Sheldon] Adelson is “deeply offensive.” That’s how Review-Journal managing editor Glenn Cook described it when he was asked about the speculation regarding the paper’s incredible move on Monday — admitting that it spiked a story 20 years ago detailing sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn, but was now publishing some details of the allegations… “He knew this story was coming when it landed on his driveway this morning,” Cook said.

“There’s no communication with ownership on this story. One of the things that frustrates me about any assertion that we did this story because of some interest in our owner.” A representative for Adelson echoed this, telling CNNMoney on Monday that “Mr. Adelson had nothing to do with the story, was unaware it was being published and hasn’t read it.”

“Steve Friess… who worked at the Review-Journal for three years in the 1990s, told CNNMoney that he finds it hard to believe Adelson did not know the story was coming… “The king is dying, and Adelson knows it,” Friess said. “Once Steve Wynn is gone, Sheldon Adelson is the king. There’s nobody singular like that in Vegas after him… Sheldon and Steve have always had very different lifestyles,” Friess said. “Sheldon is very religious, very serious about his Judaism. Steve always has been a flashy playboy, very much like Donald Trump.” [CNNMoney]

“Steve Wynn resigns as chair and CEO of Wynn resorts” by Mark Arsenault: “Stephen A. Wynn… resigned Tuesday night as chief executive of the casino company he founded, in the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct. The Wynn Resorts Board of Directors has chosen Matt Maddox, currently president, to be CEO, and Boone Wayson to be non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors, the board said.” [BostonGlobeWSJ]

PALACE INTRIGUE: “As Memo-gate Implodes, Trump Seeks a Reset” — by Gabriel Sherman: “The president is increasingly frustrated that members of his administration aren’t going to war for him, and he’s being encouraged by his daughter Ivanka to bring in new blood… “He’s saying he should have put Rudy [Giuliani] at State and Chris Christie at Justice.” Ivanka, who’s been frustrated with Chief of Staff John Kelly, has told her father that he needs people around him that will put his interests above their own. “She wants to clean house,” a Trump friend told me. “Her view is J.F.K. had Bobby there to have his back.”

“Another scenario being discussed is that Trump could fill the strategist role with [Corey] Lewandowski and former deputy campaign manager Dave Bossie. Both… face stiff opposition from Ivanka and Jared Kushner. “They have blocked Corey at every turn. They kept him from going into [the] family box at the inaugural,” one former campaign staffer told me. “If Corey gets back in, they’re not long for the place.” [VanityFair]

WEATHER REPORT: “The Trouble Before the Storm” by Andrew Miller: “For all of the tumult of the last year, the Middle East was relatively crisis free… Without minimizing the Gulf crisis or Jerusalem situation, Trump remains untested in a military emergency. How will the administration respond if Iranian proxies in Syria kill U.S. soldiers, a Houthi rocket hits a major target in Riyadh, or Israel launches a new war in Lebanon? Nothing in this analysis instills confidence in Trump’s capacity for managing such situations.”[ForeignPolicy]

BREWING? “Syrian Air Defenses Respond to ‘New Israeli Aggression’ Near Damascus, State TV Reports” by Jack Khoury: “Syrian state media said early on Wednesday that Syrian air defenses had responded to what it described as “a new Israeli aggression” in the countryside around the Syrian capital of Damascus. Sources close to the Syrian government said Israeli missiles had targeted a “research center” in the town of Jamraya… According to reports on social media, three explosions were heard in the Damascus area.” [Haaretz• Netanyahu visits Golan Heights, near Syrian border, and cautions Israel’s enemies [Reuters]

“Neither Israel nor Hamas wants another war in Gaza. That might not be enough to stop one” by Noga Tarnopolsky and Rushdi Abu Alouf: “Gen. Yom-Tov Samia, who retired from the Israeli army as head of its southern command, noted that before each of Israel’s three recent wars with Hamas, in 2009, 2012 and 2014, “all analysts agreed they were completely unwanted by all sides.” “Sometimes you have a confluence of circumstances that leads to war without anyone actively wanting war,” he said in an interview.”[LATimes]

“Cabinet mulls artificial island for aid transfer to Gaza” by Itamar Eichner: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directed his cabinet to look into Transit Minister Yisrael Katz’s proposal to construct an artificial island across from the Gaza coast to allow aid to be delivered from the island to Gaza itself… Israel believes that Hamas is not interested in conflict at the moment. However, if hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents take to the streets to protest harsh living conditions, Hamas might be inclined to create a conflict with Israel… “If Hamas senses that it is in existential danger and that the protests are out of control, the only way for them to extricate themselves would be to direct the fire at us,” warned a cabinet minister.” [Ynet]

“Israel needs Abbas to solve Gaza crisis” by Shlomi Eldar: “Some in Israel think Abbas’ refusal to take a stand stems not only from unresolved issues with Hamas over the stalled reconciliation process with Fatah, but also from a desire to take revenge against Trump and Netanyahu for humiliating him… And for that, Abbas would rather see Gaza’s downfall blamed on Netanyahu.” [Al-Monitor]

HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert: “We are calling upon the international community to sit down and have conversations about this to come up with some sort of a resolution, because it’s clear that the people of Gaza continue to suffer and it’s largely of the hands of Hamas, because Hamas has the authoritarian rule over that area… We’re glad that the Palestinian Authority has decided to restore previous levels of electricity to Gaza, but the electricity is simply not enough.”

Abbas says US cannot impose peace deal: “Raising his pen at a rally on Tuesday, he said “this is our pen and we are the only ones to sign.”” [ABCNews]

“Trump shouldn’t take Jordan for granted” by David Ignatius: “What worries Amman is that Trump’s disruptive diplomacy — symbolized by his decision in December to reverse long-standing U.S. policy and move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — will cause internal political problems for Jordan, with its large Palestinian population. When Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas denounces Trump’s peace process, Jordan fears it will have to pick up the pieces.” [WashPost]

OLIVE BRANCH — “In Historic First, Saudi Arabia Allows Flights to Israel Over Its Airspace” by Anshel Pfeffer and Rina Rozenberg Kandel: “Saudi Arabia has granted Air India approval to operate direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv… Air India’s New Delhi-Tel Aviv route is the first concrete and public piece of evidence to the warming of ties between Israel and the Saudi leadership… Air India will now be able to operate a flight which will be at least three hours shorter and most likely significantly cheaper, than El Al’s Mumbai service.” [HaaretzNDTV]

RAISE FOR NICK — by Theodoric Meyer and Marianne LeVine: “Nick Muzin, whose firm, Stonington Strategies, signed Qatar as a client last summer, has gotten a raise. The Qatari government is now paying Muzin $300,000 a month, six times the $50,000 rate Muzin commanded when he was hired in August, according to Justice Department filings. The catch: The contract requires at least $150,000 per month to “be reserved for compensation of Stonington Strategies’ subcontractors, selected after written approval by the Embassy, which shall assist in performing the services required by the Agreement.” The raise took effect in November, and the contract runs through August.” [PoliticoInfluence]

ON THE HILL — Some 200 activists from across the country gathered yesterday for an event marking the eighth annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day – as part of Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month – on Capitol Hill. The event, sponsored by The Jewish Federations of North America and URJ’s Religious Action Center, featured panels by disability experts and administration officials, and a luncheon attended by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Gene Green (D-TX), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). [Pic]

PROFILE: “The Congressman Who Infuriates the President” by Natasha Bertrand: “A GOP aide… said he doesn’t think Trump “has ever faced an adversary quite like [Rep. Adam] Schiff, and it’s freaking him out. First off, he’s a skilled prosecutor with an acid tongue, and a command of all the facts including the most deeply held classified information,” the aide told me. “Second, he’s not in leadership and therefore doesn’t have to consider being at the negotiating table like [Chuck] Schumer or [Nancy] Pelosi do. Third, he’s got a squeaky clean record (wouldn’t have ascended to that position if he didn’t) and comes from a district where when Trump lashes out at him, it only makes him more powerful and popular.”” [TheAtlantic]

2018 WATCH — “Pritzker apologizes for remarks on African-American politicians, as rivals say he’s now unelectable” by Rick Pearson, John Byrne and Monique Garcia: “Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker issued a public apology Tuesday, saying he regretted remarks he made about African-American politicians with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich during a 2008 discussion about filling Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. “I regret some of the things that I didn’t say and some of the things that I did, but my heart is in the right place — that I’ve tried really hard through the course of my life to do the right things for the African-American community and for communities across Illinois,” Pritzker said at a West Side restaurant… The apology came as other Democratic governor candidates contended Pritzker’s comments tainted the billionaire’s candidacy and would jeopardize chances for a Democratic victory in the fall.”[ChicagoTribune]

“New candidate for Massachusetts Senate president emerges” by Frank Phillips and Joshua Miller: “As Senate Democrats prepare for a tense, closed-door meeting Wednesday amid a leadership crisis… State Senator Eric P. Lesser, 32, of Longmeadow, is pulling together a politically and geographically diverse faction of other relatively new faces to the Senate… “I would feel very confident backing Eric as Senate president,’’ said Senator Anne M. Gobi of Spencer. “He would be great as well as a fresh face for the Senate.” She… said he represented a “fresh set of eyes” and would be able to lead the Senate into a new era.” [BostonGlobe]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Police Recommendations on Charges Against Netanyahu Expected Next Week” by Josh Breiner: “In recent weeks, investigators wrapped up their work in the two cases dubbed Case 1000 and Case 2000; the recommendations are expected by Tuesday.” [Haaretz]

TOP TALKER: “Poland’s Controversial Holocaust Bill Becomes Law” by Drew Hinshaw: “Poland enacted a libel law to punish those who accuse Polish society of complicity in the Holocaust, despite objections from the U.S., Israel and some Auschwitz survivors, who said it threatened to stifle honest discussion of the Nazi genocide.” [WSJ]

“The Truth About Poland’s Role in the Holocaust” by Edna Friedberg: “In 2012, President Barack Obama made reference to a “Polish death camp” when posthumously awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Polish resistance figure Jan Karski. While Obama quickly apologized, his statement touched a nerve in the debate about Poland and Poles’ place in the universe of Nazi victims. Make no mistake: Terms such as “Polish death camps” are historically inaccurate and distort our understanding of how and why Nazi Germany came to build killing centers in that country. A clear-eyed look at the facts demonstrates that the record of Christian Poles, amid the German occupation and the crimes of the Holocaust perpetrated in their country, is not uniformly one of complicity or innocence.”

“Poland was the victim of German aggression, suffering one of the most brutal occupation regimes among countries in the Nazi orbit. Despite severe penalties, more Christian Poles have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations—those who risked their lives to aid Jews—than citizens of any other country in Europe. But many others supported and enabled Germany in its campaign to exterminate the Jews… Individual Poles also often helped in the identification, denunciation, and exposure of Jews in hiding, sometimes motivated by greed and the opportunities presented by blackmail and the plunder of Jewish-owned property.” [TheAtlantic]

** 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: George Soros, Steve Cohen Boost Stakes in Argentine Mobile Banking Venture [Bloomberg] • Here Are the World’s Virtual Currency Billionaires (or at Least They Were) [NYT] • How Salesforce is compelling Israeli retailers to go online [JPost• Alex Taub’s SocialRank is making it easier to suss out fake Twitter and Instagram followers[FastCompany] • Clark Valberg’s InVision launches Studio Platform, challenging Adobe with an open ecosystem [TechCrunch• Delhi-Israel Flights Soon, Air India To Get 7.5M Lakh Euros For Launch [NDTV• Talks for an Israel-India anti-tank missile deal are still ongoing [CNBC

STARTUP NATION: “Houzz acquires IvyMark to expand into services for designers” by Ingrid Lunden: “IvyMark’s designer customers primarily are based in the U.S., but the company was founded in Tel Aviv and as it happens its offices are right around the corner from Houzz’s R&D offices in the city, Houzz’s co-founder and president Alon Cohen said in an interview. The team based in Israel will continue to work there, and those in California will move over to Houzz’s offices in Palo Alto, Cohen said… Cofounded by Alex Schinasi and Lee Rotenberg in 2016, IvyMark has now signed up some 2,400 design firms and under Houzz will likely be scaling that quite significantly.”[TechCrunch]

SPOTLIGHT — “Penny Pritzker’s firm gets a name change and a new office. What’s next?” by Lynne Marek: “Billionaire Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker… this week moved her firm, formerly known as PSP Capital, to a 40,000-square-foot office… “I am very excited to share the news that we have decided to acknowledge in our name the great contribution of our team and change our name to PSP Partners,” she told investment clients and other contacts outside the firm in a short note today. “We are also pleased to announce that to accommodate our growth, we have moved to a new office.” PSP currently has about 70 employees, most of whom work in Chicago. It invests in real estate, mature private companies, startups and other investment funds.” [CrainsChicago]

INTERVIEW: “The Closing: David Rozenholc” by Will Parker: “David Rozenholc is one of NYC’s most feared tenant lawyers. Over three-plus decades, Rozenholc has won millions of dollars in settlements and gone up against some of the city’s biggest developers, including the Zeckendorf brothers, Tishman Speyer and Donald Trump… You represented tenants in the ’80s against Trump at 100 Central Park South. Was he different than other developers? Rozenholc: “He was much more aggressive. He brought a $105 million RICO lawsuit against my firm. People threaten me, whatever. Nobody brought a completely frivolous RICO suit to try to convince us not to represent the clients. It made no difference. Ultimately, he paid my legal fees, the case was dismissed, he withdrew his application to evict the tenants and demolish the building.” [TheReaDeal]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli players ‘honored’ to represent country in Davis Cup” by Dzevad Mesic: “Israel handed a 3-2 defeat to South-Africa in the Europe/Africa first round to set up a second-round clash against the Czech Republic… “The Israeli players regard it as a great honor representing their country – and reserve their best performances for the Davis Cup,” [Captain Harel] Levy said.” [TennisWorldUSA]

PROFILE: “The Israeli Taking Concrete Steps to Save Marine Life” by Merav Savir: “Shimrit Perkol-Finkel’s office sits in an industrial section of Tel Aviv, a few kilometers from the shorelines of the Mediterranean. Outside are warehouses, garages and a smattering of food joints. A concrete jungle, if you will. From the midst of this concrete jungle, Perkol-Finkel, a 42-year-old marine biologist and CEO of ECOncrete, is working to save urban marine life by using a new type of concrete, one she and her business partner, Ido Sella, patented in 2011.” [Ozy]

COMING SOON — “Gal Gadot to Voice Herself in Upcoming ‘The Simpsons’ Episode” by Beatrice Verhoeven: “Gal Gadot will voice herself in an upcoming episode of “The Simpsons,” the actress announced on Twitter Monday… Gadot will star in an episode titled “Bart’s Not Dead” airing in during season 30, which will debut next fall.” [TheWrap]

“Israeli actress to star in NBC drama” by Amy Spiro: “Moran Atias… has just been cast in an upcoming NBC drama called The Village. The Village, which NBC picked up for its 2018-2019 season, tells the story of a diverse group of residents living in a Manhattan apartment building… According to Deadline, Atias will be playing Edda, an Iranian immigrant who is detained by immigration officers over fraudulent citizenship papers.” [JPost]

“Can a Film Push Israelis Into Peace Talks?” by Justin Higginbottom: “The Oslo Diaries, directed by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan, tells the secret history of the 1993 peace talks between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israeli government… Daniel Sivan: “It makes me feel old, but this historic handshake [between PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin] was over 20 years ago. That means that a 20-year-old Israeli soldier today, or a 20-year-old Palestinian who crosses a checkpoint and meets that soldier, has never lived in those years of hope. I really hope this film can give them this glance into a different reality.” [OZY]

“Thirsty for Wisdom of the Body, Finding It in Dance” by Brian Schaefer: “Facing each other, Rabbi [Hanania] Schwartz and Mr. [Yuval] Azoulay alternately adopted opposing postures meant to represent the extremes of modern Jewish and Israeli masculinity: One was bent over, as if studying in a yeshiva; the other upright, chest thrust out like a soldier or farmer. “These are the archetypes,” said Ronen Izhaki, who choreographed the piece. After laying them out, “we destroy them, we mix them together.” The excerpt is from a work called “Heroes,” which is to be performed on Wednesday at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan when the Ka’et Ensemble, a contemporary dance company of religious Jewish men from Israel, makes its American debut.” [NYTimes]

TRANSITION — Steven Hodas, an innovator and business entrepreneur, was appointed as ADL’s Vice President of Education. Hodas, who served in New York City Department of Education’s Office of Innovation in the years 2012-2014, will be responsible for creating and implementing a strategic vision for ADL’s educational programming.

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Buffalo area’s second-last kosher restaurant closes in Jewish Community Center” by Andrew Z. Galarneau: “Tel Aviv Café by Falafel Bar, the kosher restaurant inside the Jewish Community Center in Amherst, closed Feb. 5 after losing its kosher certification. Chef-owner Oded Rauvenpoor said that factional disputes in the Buffalo area’s Jewish community made it infeasible to continue the restaurant’s operations… The café’s closing leaves NY Deli and Diner, in Talbert Hall on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus, as the only BVK-approved restaurant in the area… Rauvenpoor said he was disappointed but thankful to all the staff and customers at JCC who made it possible.” [BuffaloNews]

DESSERT: “Israeli burger Burgerim franchise opening first San Antonio location” by Paul Stephen: “Burgerim is an Israeli chain launched in Tel Aviv in 2011. The name, in Hebrew, is the plural form of “burger,” and reinforces the brand’s focus on a mix-and-match mini-burger approach… Chris and Brenda Branchizio, the third generation of Branchizio restaurateurs behind the late Branchizio’s Naples Italian Restaurant in Alamo Heights, will open the city’s first Burgerim franchise.” [Chron]

“Abigael’s Takes Over Kosher Stand at MSG for Knicks & Rangers Games” by Dani Klein: “After recently bowing out of the Barclay Center, Abigael’s by Jeff Nathan has taken over the kosher stand inside Madison Square Garden, replacing Carlos & Gabby’s for Knicks & Rangers games.” [YeahThatsKosher]

BIRTHDAYS: Milwaukee-born businessman and philanthropist, former US Senator from Wisconsin (1989-2013), and former owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Herb Kohl turns 83… and also born in Milwaukee on the same date 16 years later, Senior Rabbi of Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto, president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis (2012-2015), Baruch Frydman-Kohl turns 67… French native, now living in West Roxbury, MA, he is a financial advisor for the Bulfinch Group, Michel R. Scheinmann turns 70… Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives since 2010, previously the Executive Director of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition (1988-2010), Robyn Gabel turns 65… Rick Wice turns 62… American businessman and investor arrested in Bolivia in July 2011 and held for 18 months without charges, freed through public outcry and the efforts of Sean Penn, Jacob Ostreicher turns 59… Actor, humorist, comedian and writer known for his Saturday Night Live “TV Funhouse” cartoon shorts and as the puppeteer and voice behind Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, Robert Smigel turns 58…

Rabbi, director of congregational learning at Har Shalom in Potomac, MD and author of Jewish children’s books and teen novels, Deborah Bodin Cohen turns 50… VP of marketing and communications at trade show manager Hargrove, Inc., previously a VP/MD at at Qorvis MSLGROUP and a producer at ABC, NBC, CBS and Discovery Channel, Jennifer Diamond Haber turns 49… MLB pitcher since 2005, has played for the Rangers, Cubs, Orioles, Astros and Blue Jays, signed to a one-year deal in 1-2017 by the Reds, now a free agent, Scott Feldman turns 35… Executive Director of the Aviv Foundation, Adam Simon turns 43… VP at Lieberman Research Worldwide, Jonathan Weissturns 42… Associate Director of Development at Chicago’s Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, previously Major Gift Officer at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Rachael Fenton… Rabbi, spokesman and director of public relations for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Zalman Shmotkin… David Israel… Michael Harris… Carol Mulrooney

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