Daily Kickoff: Blackstone’s Schwarzman makes first donation in Israel | Did Qatar promise to squash anti-Israel documentary? | Story of Moe Berg


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BIG NEWS — AP HEADLINE: “Billionaire Trump adviser donates to Israel National Library” … “Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of private equity firm Blackstone, says the $10 million donation is his first in Israel. The donation will fund classrooms and education workshops Schwarzman hopes will foster inclusiveness and “cross-cultural relationships” between Jews, Christians and Muslims… Schwarzman said on Wednesday the collection “enables all different types of groups to be comfortable in that setting and see things that reflect their historical backgrounds.”” [AP]

FLASHBACK to 2015: “The Archdiocese of New York Announces Record Gift of $40 Million from Christine & Stephen A. Schwarzman” [Newswire]

From a 2008 New Yorker profile of Schwarzman: “Jimmy Lee jokes that his friend [Schwarzman] has received more accolades and raised more money for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York than any other Jew…” [NewYorker]

COMING SOON: “Evangelical-funded Israel Charity Hopes to Cash in by Getting Cozy With Trump” by Judy Maltz: “For an organization that relies heavily on donations from evangelical Christians – that is, on Trump’s political base – having an in with the president might actually benefit fundraising efforts. That appears to be the thinking of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of the [International Fellowship for Christians and Jews], which is holding a first-of-its kind fundraising dinner at Mar-a-Lago next month. The gala event, scheduled for Sunday March 25, is meant to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Israel…”

“There’s a strong possibility that the president will stop by,” Eckstein told Haaretz… The event, Eckstein noted, is scheduled to begin at 5 P.M. – an hour that was chosen carefully. “That will give the president time to hang around before he needs to head back to Washington,” he said. More importantly, Eckstein made sure to appoint someone he describes as close to Trump to the dinner-planning committee… According to Eckstein, [Keith] Frankel (CEO of Vitaquest) and Trump play golf together “almost every Saturday.”” [Haaretz] • Evangelicals, Having Backed Trump, Find White House ‘Front Door Is Open’ [NYTimes]

“Ivanka Trump, ex-Democratic donor, teams up with conservatives to push family-friendly policies” by Eliza Collins: “USA TODAY took an exclusive day trip with Ivanka Trump to deep-red South Carolina late last month for a tax event with Republican women hosted by GOP Sen. Tim Scott… Stopping for coffee before the event, Ivanka Trump was swarmed by fans who wanted a picture with her and to give their gratitude to the Trump administration— she stayed and took every last one… Kenneth Beattie said he was “very right-wing” but he believed in “reaching across the table, some” and Ivanka Trump is the person to do it. “I think it’s possible (she) may be our president in the future,” Beattie continued…” [USAToday]

HEARD THIS MORNING — CNN’s Camerota Confronts Literal Nazi Running For GOP Congressional Seat in Insane Interview” by Aidan McLaughlin: “It is shocking to hear how vocally and unapologetically racist you are,” [CNN host Alisyn] Camerota opened the interview. “Are you a Nazi?” [Arthur] Jones contended that he does not call himself a Nazi, but an “American patriot and statesman.” Camerota noted that Jones dresses in Nazi garb and celebrates Hitler’s birthday. “You’re a Nazi,” she charged… As Camerota patiently tried to reason with Jones, he began shaking his fist at her. “The Democrats and Republicans, it’s the cursed two party, Jew party system can’t stand it!” “You deny the Holocaust,” Camerota noted. “Yes I deny the Holocaust, it’s an extortion racket!” When Camerota began listing Holocaust facts, Jones exclaimed: “Poppycock!” [Mediaite

BIDEN SPEAKS OUT — Addressing the House Democratic Issues Conference on Capitol Hill yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden said too many Republicans were silent as Trump gave “comfort and safe harbor” to neo-Nazis and white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer: “We are not a nation that gives comfort and safe harbor to neo-Nazis crawling out of fields carrying torches, walking through a historic city in the United States of America, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile, carrying Nazi flags that occurred in Germany in the 1930s, accompanied by white supremacists, and being resisted by groups who said, ‘Not here.’ And a President making a moral equivalency, saying there are good people in both groups… I was a good boy, I kept quiet for the longest time until Charlottesville. I couldn’t remain quiet anymore.” [Video]

INSIDE THE ADMIN — “How Betsy DeVos softened her message on school choice” by Kim Hefling and Caitlin Emma: “Behind the scenes, DeVos met with Frank Luntz, one of the top Republican messaging experts, to figure out how to talk about conservative educational policies without sparking protests from teachers and liberals. “Frank has a 60-slide deck of the words to use, and the words to lose, regarding parental choice, vouchers, charter schools, teacher pay, and all the other issues in education reform,” said a copy of her schedule from last June, published by the liberal nonprofit American Oversight, which sued for her calendar.” [Politico]

“Trump’s favorite general: Can Mattis check an impulsive president and still retain his trust?” by Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan: “One tense moment came last May as officials grew increasingly concerned about aggressive Iranian behavior. For weeks, [Defense Secretary James] Mattis had been resisting requests from the White House to provide military options for Iran. Now Trump made clear that he wanted the Pentagon to deliver a range of plans that included striking Iranian ballistic missile factories or hitting Iranian speedboats that routinely harassed U.S. Navy vessels. “Why can’t we sink them?” Trump would sometimes ask about the boats. National security adviser H.R. McMaster and his staff laid out the president’s request for Mattis in a conference call, but the defense secretary refused… At that point, McMaster took Mattis off speakerphone, cleared his staff from the room and continued the conversation. “It was clear that the call was not going well,” one official said. In the weeks that followed, the options never arrived…” [WashPost]

“U.S. Secretly Offered Iran a Channel for Talks on Prisoners” by Farnaz Fassihi and Felicia Schwartz: “The White House secretly reached out to Iran in December to propose creating a direct channel to negotiate the release of prisoners held by each side… However, Iran didn’t respond and, despite at least three subsequent offers from Washington, so far has refused to engage with U.S. officials on the offer… The U.S. offer in December represented the first time since Mr. Trump took office that it had signaled its willingness to engage in a potential prisoner swap…” [WSJ]

Tillerson to visit Lebanon on Middle East tour — by Michael Wilner: “Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs David Satterfield visited Lebanon in recent days to lay the groundwork for Tillerson’s visit. The last time a US secretary of state visited Beirut was in 2014 when John Kerry held the post. Tillerson’s travel will also include stopovers in Turkey, Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt, according to the UAE-based National.” [JPostDailyStar]

OF NOTE: Tillerson will skip Israel despite visiting three countries bordering with Israel and expected talks over rising tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border. The Secretary of State last visited Israel with Trump last May.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Tillerson on the administration following through with its threat to cut aid to countries that opposed the U.S. at the UN on Jerusalem during a press conference with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness in Jamaica: “There has been no new policy adopted at this point, but he’s asked us to think about all of our elements of our aid programs, and are they really advancing and promoting the values that the American people want to see advanced.”

Dave Clark‏: “Interesting data point: Both the Jamaican questions at the Tillerson-Holness presser were about the UN Jerusalem vote and Trump/Haley threats to cut aid.” [Twitter]

HAPPENING TODAY: President Donald Trump will meet with Dr. Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office in the afternoon, according to the WH schedule.

‘NO DAYLIGHT’ — REPORT: Netanyahu nixes medical marijuana export because of Trump: “Israel will forego its plans to become a pioneer medical marijuana exporter for fear of upsetting US President Donald Trump, Channel 2 News reported… Netanyahu said Trump had called him and made clear his general attitude against marijuana exports… The report went on to say that when a Finance Ministry representative suggested that the issue could be skirted by avoiding export to the US, Netanyahu said it might not serve Israeli interests to go against the administration’s policy.” [JPost]

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH — Abbas spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeinah blames Ambassador David Friedman for crisis in U.S.-Palestinian relations: “The statements by the US ambassador lead us to wonder about the ambassador’s relationship with the occupation: Does he represent the US or Israel? … The ambassador’s advice and consultations, which are not aimed at achieving a just peace based on international legality, have led to this crisis in US-Palestinian relations.” [Wafa]

Jason Greenblatt tweets: “Pres. Abbas states about Jerusalem: “it is Arab, Muslim, and Christian.” And makes no mention of any Jewish ties. Nothing peaceful or productive can come from statements like this. Lasting peace will not be achieved by denying Judaism’s thousands of years of ties to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Peace can ONLY be based on truth.” [Twitter]

INTERVIEW — “Q&A with Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri: Plan to deport thousands of Africans is not about race” by Ruth Eglash and Loveday Morris: “I think it is my job as the interior minister of this Jewish country to make sure this small place can take in those who have nowhere else to go in the world,” said Deri, who leads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party… I say to all the pilots, doctors and professors, well done for fighting for the rights of other people. But as the wise men have taught us: Take care of the poor in your city before taking care of the poor in other cities… We are the only Jewish country in the world; there is no one else who takes care of the Jews except for us. We do what we are required to do by law, which is to take care of those who are seen by our law as being in danger, and we deport those who we are not required to do so.” [WashPost]

Rabbi Susan Silverman writes… “How Did Israel Become a Place of No Refuge? The first deportation-or-jail orders are set to coincide with Passover. The first night of Passover, Jews around the world, including the Netanyahu family, will recite the same line during the Seder: “In every generation we are obligated to see ourselves as though we personally went out from Egypt.” Our prime minister is on the wrong side of the Exodus story. But the people of Israel — a country built by those who fled Hitler’s ovens and the oppression of Arab countries where they were treated as second-class citizens — understand the injustice of the government’s policy in our bones…” [NYTimes]

AL-JAZEERA WATCH — “Qatar Promised U.S. Jewish Officials: Al Jazeera Documentary on D.C. ‘Israel Lobby’ Won’t Air” by Amir Tibon: “Shortly after Al Jazeera announced that the new documentary would be shown, Jewish-community officials asked [Nick] Muzin to see if he could use his ties with the Qataris to stop the airing. One of them, Noah Pollak, a political consultant working with a number of pro-Israel groups, warned Muzin that if the documentary were broadcast as planned, it would sink his efforts to improve Qatar’s image with U.S. Jews. Muzin brought up the issue with the Qataris and by late October received verbal assurance that the film would not be aired. No written assurance was provided… One source told Haaretz that the Qatari emir himself helped make the decision.” [Haaretz]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Israel’s Netanyahu bracing for corruption charges” by John Bacon: “Israel’s Channel 2 reported that a team of top Israeli police officials will seek charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust… Police will not present a recommendation on another case alleging Netanyahu negotiated with Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes for favorable coverage… Netanyahu shrugged off the reports in a video posted on Facebook. “Many of you are asking what is going to happen,” Netanyahu said. “So I’m here to calm you down. There won’t be anything, because I know the truth.” [USAToday; Newsweek]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: BlackRock’s Larry Fink Wants to Become the Next Warren Buffett [WSJ] • Perry Ellis’s Former Executive Chairman, George Feldenkreis, Makes Bid to Buy the Apparel Company [WSJ• NRG Divesting $2.8 Billion in Assets Following Paul Singer’s Push [Bloomberg] • U.S., Israeli drone makers keep wary eye on rising Chines [Reuters

Hungarian government spent €40 million on anti-Soros propaganda in 2017: “The Hungarian government spent 40.5 million euros on advertising and communicating the results of its two ‘national consultations.’ These were the propaganda campaigns that flooded the streets of Hungary with posters of Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros and told people to ‘stop’ him.”[Atlaszo]

US genetics scientist among winners of esteemed Israel prize: “American genetics scientist Mary-Claire King, credited with connecting a gene mutation with breast cancer, is among the winners of Israel’s prestigious Dan David Prize this year… The Dan David Foundation awards $1 million prizes in three categories — past, present and future — for scientific, technological and cultural accomplishments.” [AP]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “New York’s Met can keep Picasso sold during Nazi flight: judge” by Jonathan Stempel: “A U.S. judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking the return by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan of a Pablo Picasso masterpiece that a German Jewish businessman was allegedly forced to sell at a low price to fund an escape from the Nazis and fascism. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan on Wednesday said the great-grandniece of Paul Leffmann, who once owned “The Actor,” could not show under New York law that he sold the painting under “duress,” justifying its return to her family.” [Reuters]

SPORTS BLINK: Bucks’ Marc Lasry to show off hops in All-Star Celebrity Game: “Four years after buying the Milwaukee Bucks, Marc Lasry has reason to celebrate: His team is steadily trending up, led by one of the NBA’s biggest new stars in Giannis Antetokounmpo… Next Friday, Lasry will need gym shorts and sneakers instead of cufflinks and loafers. He is among 24 players who have committed to showing off their hops in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game in Los Angeles… Lasry will be playing on Team Lakers, coached by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.” [ESPN]

“Scrub to Star: Max Adler, Israel’s New Face-off Man” by Justin Meyer: “If things go according to plan for Adler — who dropped everything and relocated to Israel earlier this week — he will don the Star of David at the 2018 FIL World Lacrosse Championships… Adler’s unexpected pursuit of an international career follows his successful debut on the professional circuit. Major League Lacrosse’s Denver Outlaws selected him 61st overall in the seventh round of the 2017 Collegiate Draft and he had his professional debut in July, his first of three appearances in his rookie season… Adler recognized the need to help spread lacrosse in the country he desires to compete for through its’ grassroots movement of school visits and lacrosse outreach programs. He’s packed his bags and relocated to Netanya, Israel, the host city of the 2018 World Championships, and if all goes according to plan, he’ll earn his way onto Israel’s roster.” [LaxAllStars]

“Story Of Moe Berg, Baseball Player Turned WWII Spy, Set To Hit The Big Screen” by Jesse Bernstein: “Moe Berg was, as a baseball player, unexceptional. He played in the Majors, bouncing around the league for between 1923-1939, but he was a career .243 hitter, and is the inspiration for this ignominious, traditional baseball scouting assessment: “Good field, no hit.” … A diligent scout might have found that, but here’s something they certainly wouldn’t have uncovered: Moe Berg was to become a spy for the O.S.S. That’s the premise for The Catcher Was A Spy, a big screen adaptation of the biography of the same name, by Nicholas Dawidoff… Directed by Ben Lewin, the film debuted at Sundance last month, and stars Paul Rudd as Berg.” [Tablet]

TRANSITION — Tevi Troy has been named as Vice President of public policy at JUUL Labs Inc., a company trying to provide smokers an alternative to regular cigarettes. Troy served as deputy secretary of HHS and Jewish Liaison in the Bush 43 administration. h/t Playbook

SCENE YESTERDAY IN DC — The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) hosted Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon for lunch at Char Bar kosher steakhouse. “We need the entire Jewish community united behind Israel. Period,” Danon told the group. “We cannot let issues concerning Israel become partisan issues. Israel is one of the only issues to have unified support in Congress.” JDCA attendees included board chair Ron Klein, Barbara Goldberg Goldman, Joel Rubin, Dede Feinberg, and Peter Gillon. [Pic]

PIC OF THE DAY — Jerusalem-born talent manager for Madonna and U2, Guy Oseary, posted a picture of Chris Rock and Ashton Kutcher standing beside him at his Chuppah ceremony last October as he wished them both a happy birthday: “They are always beside me, supporting me.. Both are godparents to 2 of my children.. Both of these guys were born on this magical day…” [Pic

BIRTHDAYS: Boston attorney and author, whose 2013 book on Jews and baseball was turned into the 2016 play “Swing, Schmendrick, Swing,” Larry Ruttman turns 87… Broadcast journalist, best known as the anchor of ABC’s Nightline from its inception in 1980 until his retirement in late 2005, five-time Emmy Award winner, Ted Koppel (born Edward James Martin Koppel) turns 78… Stand-up comedian, singer and actor, Robert Klein turns 76… Columbus, Ohio born attorney and president of Schottenstein Legal Services, James M. Schottenstein turns 71… CEO of NYC-based Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation, Charles S. Cohen turns 66… Graduate of Harvard Law School with an MBA from Stanford, active private investor and business operator, Marc Abramowitz turns 65… Founder and President of NYC-based BlackRock, he is Chair of the Board of UJA-Federation of New York, Robert S. Kapito turns 61… Senior Director of Kehilla Affiliations and Operations for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Barry S. Mael turns 60…

British businessman and chairman of the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur since 2001, Daniel Levy turns 56… Member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party between February 2013 and March 2015, and again since October 2015, Shulamit “Shuli” Mualem-Rafaeli turns 53… Attorney, rabbi and New Jersey political consultant, Benjamin G. Kelsen turns 46… Popular Israeli musician Eviatar Banai turns 45… President of Zichal Inc., a DC-based energy and environmental advisory consultancy, she was a deputy assistant to President Obama for Energy and Climate Change, Heather R. Zichal turns 42… Member of the Knesset for the Zionist Union party, he is a former leader of the National Union of Israeli Students, Itzik Shmuli turns 38… Founder of DC-based JTR Strategies, she is the former head of Aviation and International Affairs at USDOT under President Obama, Jenny Thalheimer Rosenbergturns 38…

Senior Counsel to the Inspector General at USAID, Adam Kaplan turns 36… Associate at Sidley Austin, he is a graduate of Yale Law School and served as a law clerk to Justice Samuel Alito in 2012, his father is the Dean of Duke Law School, William Ranney Levi turns 34 (h/ts Playbook)… Professional ice hockey center, has been under contract with five NHL teams including the Islanders, Lightning, Penguins, Maple Leafs and Predators, Trevor Smithturns 33… Canadian jazz-pop singer-songwriter, who performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Nicole “Nikki” Yanofsky turns 24…

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