Daily Kickoff: Bibi and Trump admin’s rare rift | Report: Strikes kills dozens of Russian fighters in Syria | David Brooks on end of two party system


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SIREN: “He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse” by Charlie Warzel: “In mid-2016, Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse.” The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around it was wildly unhealthy, Ovadya argued. The incentives that governed its biggest platforms were calibrated to reward information that was often misleading and polarizing, or both.

“We are so screwed it’s beyond what most of us can imagine,” he said. “We were utterly screwed a year and a half ago and we’re even more screwed now. And depending how far you look into the future it just gets worse.” That future, according to Ovadya, will arrive with a slew of slick, easy-to-use, and eventually seamless technological tools for manipulating perception and falsifying reality, for which terms have already been coined — “reality apathy,” “automated laser phishing,” and “human puppets.” [BuzzFeed]

TOP TALKER — WHO’S YOUR FRIEND: “Sheldon Adelson exposes cold shoulder to former friend Netanyahu” by Gil Hoffman: “Asked if he wished Netanyahu well in the probes in a face-to-face interview with [Army Radio], Adelson would only say: “I wish I could tell my wife what to do and I wish for peace.” When asked further about Netanyahu, he would only add “I wish for everybody good things.” … The editor of Israel Hayom, Boaz Bismuth, later told the radio station that the reason why Adelson did not speak was for legal reasons, since he is a party in the case.” [JPostSrugim]

“I guess Netanyahu isn’t my friend, Rivlin says” by Itamar Eichner: “President Reuven Rivlin on Monday addressed his chilly relations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying: “Netanyahu is the prime minister and I’m the president. He does his job and I do my job. I guess he’s not my friend.”” [Ynet]

‘DAYLIGHT’ — “White House Strongly Denies as ‘False’ Netanyahu’s Claims of Talks With U.S. on Annexing West Bank Settlements” by Noa Landau, Amir Tibon and Chaim Levinson: “Reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false. The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the president’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative,” said Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman… In response to the White House’s request for a clarification, the Prime Minister’s Office said that “Netanyahu updated the Americans on the initiatives being raised in the Knesset, and the Americans expressed their unequivocal position that they are committed to advancing President Trump’s peace plan.” [Haaretz

HOW IT PLAYED: “Rare rift: U.S. demanded Netanyahu backtrack on annexation claim” by Barak Ravid: “Israeli and U.S. officials told me senior Trump administration officials were unhappy, fearing the claim could derail Secretary of State Tillerson’s trip to the Middle East, and gave Netanyahu and his advisers a clear demand to backtrack… the Prime Minister and his associates tried telling the White House his remarks were taken out of context, Israeli officials said.” [Axios] • With annexation gaffe, Netanyahu blunders into first real crisis with Trump [ToI

“The Middle East’s Coming War” by Ronen Bergman: “The Israeli bombardments of the air base had been dangerously close to Russian forces. A furious phone call on Saturday morning from President Vladimir Putin of Russia was enough to make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel cancel the plans…  “Even outwardly, publicly, the Russians took the other side, against us, and not only in private,” a senior Israeli military source told me. “They could have prevented the launch of the drone, but they didn’t do anything. We heard the Russian message, very loud and clear.” [NYTimes]

NEW SHERIFF — Putin and Trump talk over the phone “about the Palestinian-Israeli settlement.” [Reuters

White House readout: “President Putin noted that he would meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later today, and President Trump said that now is the time to work toward an enduring peace agreement.”

“Trump Gave Putin A Message To Pass Along to the Palestinians” by Ed Kilgore: “It sounds like Trump wants Putin to be his back-channel to the Palestinians… Presumably it’s good for Putin’s ego to be the honest broker between Trump and Abbas. Let’s hope that’s all he’s getting from the U.S. for his services.” [NYMag

WHAT ELSE THEY MAY HAVE DISCUSSED — “Dozens of Russians Are Believed Killed in U.S.-Led Syria Attack” by Ivan Nechepurenko, Neil MacFarquhar and Thomas Gibbons-Neff: “Four Russian nationals, and perhaps dozens more, were killed in fighting between pro-government forces in eastern Syria and members of the United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, according to Russian and Syrian officials. A Syrian military officer said that about 100 Russian soldiers had been killed in the fighting on Feb. 7 and 8… The Kremlin — seeking to play down its involvement in the fighting in Syria and seemingly hoping to avoid escalating tensions with the United States — has sidestepped questions about the episode.” [NYTimesBloomberg]

Dennis Ross writes… “After the weekend’s Iran-Israel attacks, a burden on Trump to confront Russia and engage Europe: While all is quiet now, the episode should set off a loud, flashing siren… That is potentially a game-changer and helps to explain the Israeli response… Precisely because this may be a game-changer, it should also be a wake-up call for the international community and the Trump administration… It may not be President Trump’s inclination to be blunt with Putin, but unless Putin sees that his current posture is likely to trigger American — and not only Israeli — responses to the Iranians and their proxies, he may not act.” [NYDailyNews]

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat writes… Forget Trump’s U.S. as the Mideast’s Mediator: “A year ago, we in Palestine, like everyone else, did not know what a President Trump would bring. Today, we know: He has taken Israel’s side in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle… In doing so, he has disqualified America from being the sole broker in that effort. The question now is whether this opens an opportunity to seek peace by other paths or means the end of any chance for peace.” [NYTimes]

TRUMP’S BUDGET — Israel gets first aid increase under new MOU — by Nicole Gaouette: “[Rex] Tillerson also stressed… a commitment to upholding the 10-year memorandum of understanding that the Obama administration signed with Israel — the largest in US history. [Deputy Secretary of State John] Sullivan said Israel would get a $200 million increase in 2019 aid over last year for a total of $3.3 billion, reflecting a newly signed 10-year memorandum.” [CNN]

— “This year’s proposal also saw some increases, including… increasing embassy security and construction funds by over $515 million. That jump is… also because of the Trump administration’s plans for a new embassy in Jerusalem. “The construction of a U.S. Embassy facility in Jerusalem will be among the Department’s highest priority for capital security investments in FY 2018 and FY 2019,” according to the proposal.” [ABCNews]

“Trump Threatened To Cut Off Aid Over A UN Vote. Budget Proposal Doesn’t Do That” by John Hudson: “Not a single country lost funding on the basis of voting against the US at the UN. In fact, the budget specifically carves out money for many of the countries that voted against the US in the UN General Assembly, such as Zimbabwe, Somalia, and Nigeria… Trump’s apparent lack of interest in following through on his own threat could cause foreign powers to doubt his sincerity when issuing ultimatums in the future.” [BuzzFeed

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST — “Diplomats back softened bill slashing PA funding over terror payouts” by Marissa Newman: “The Foreign Ministry said the revisions requested by the Defense Ministry — which allow the high-level security cabinet to make exceptions, or hand over part of the funds to the PA — will make it easier for Israeli diplomats to “justify” the measure to the international community…” [ToI]

“The Hush-Hush Deal That Keeps the Middle East From Exploding” by Neri Zilber and Ghaith Al-Omari: “Israeli and Palestinian officers are in constant contact—“daily and weekly” according to one senior PA security official—to discuss common threats in the West Bank that could “impact the stable security situation on both sides.” … It’s not an accident that, in the two months since President Donald Trump’s December speech recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the level of unrest on the ground has been tepid. The PASF have reportedly worked to stop armed protesters from reaching the front lines of the demos, and the PA writ large has not mobilized its people to take to the streets. As a senior IDF officer with responsibility in the West Bank told The Daily Beast, security coordination with the PASF has actually grown closer since Trump’s speech.” [DailyBeast]

TILLERSON MIDEAST TOUR — Sen. Bob Menendez, now Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement: “To omit a stop in Israel after Iran’s escalation last week would be nothing short of diplomatic malpractice and strategic folly.”

HEARD YESTERDAY — A senior State Dept. official briefing the press in Kuwait: “I was actually there (in the Middle East) through most of this and I didn’t hear all that much of the outcry. Look, the Secretary is very much following these events, as is the White House. We are in touch with the Israelis on this. We have, in our own voice, put out a message which is reflective from State, from the White House, that’s very clear: support for Israel’s right to defend itself is a fundamental pillar of U.S. policy.”

“PA Congressman at Penn: ‘Israel is greater threatened today than anytime since 1948′” by Gordon Ho: “During the event, Democrat Brendan Boyle said that while “Israel is stronger today than any time in the history of the modern state,” with its strategic advantage over its neighbors in terms of weapon and armed forces capabilities, Israel’s future is more threatened and uncertain today than any time since 1948… “Israel’s standing in the world under Netanyahu is in a lower position today than it was at the beginning of his tenure,” he added.” [TheDP]

DRIVING THE CONVO — “ADL finds report ‘extremely disturbing’ that Dems met with Farrakhan, Iran’s president in 2013” by Brett T: “Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, says the reportis “extremely disturbing… Yes, there may have been many ppl there but the presence of Louis Farrakhan should have been a red flag… Some of those who attended have repudiated Farrakhan and his intolerance in the past. They should do so again. They owe it to their constituents + Jewish community to explain their rationale and remind the world that there is no statue of limitations on standing up to hate.”” [Twitchy

Ron Halber. Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, tells us… “It is beyond outrageous that the current deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, as recently as five years ago, thought it was proper for an elected member of Congress to have a private dinner with perhaps America’s most notorious anti-Semite, and the leader of the country that our nation calls the leading international sponsor of terrorism, and a country that calls for the annihilation of Israel and the Jewish people. He has only one recourse of action, he should immediately resign his leadership position at the DNC, and his constituents need to really think about the man they have representing them in Congress. There’s only so many times you should be allowed to play footsie with an anti-Semite. This is coming from a man who, in 2006, theoretically disavowed his relationship with Farrakhan. Yet, seven years later, he’s having a private dinner. That’s not a disavowal, that’s a strengthening of the relationship, not disavowing.”

“Va. Republicans move to dump controversial leader over anti-Semitic online post” by Antonio Olivo: “In the wake of a wave of Democratic victories last fall that was fueled by anti-Trump sentiments in Northern Virginia, party leaders —worried about losing more voters — finally moved to force [Fredy] Burgos off of the state central committee this week after he posted a Facebook comment suggesting that Jews should not run for political office… The comment came as Burgos was campaigning for Tim Hannigan, who is running to become the next chairman of the Fairfax Republican committee. Hannigan’s rival in next month’s election is Mike Ginsberg, who is Jewish.” [WashPost]

“Anti-Semitic GOP Contender Nehlen Banned From Twitter After Racist Meghan Markle Tweet” by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “Controversial congressional contender Paul Nehlen was permanently banned from Twitter on Monday, following an outcry over a racist tweet he posted featuring Prince Harry’s fiancée, Meghan Markle.” [Haaretz]  

“Sorry, Whoopi, But That Pence-Is-to-Gays-What-Nazis-Are-to-Jews Analogy is Horrible” by James Kirchick: “Last week on The View, Whoopi Goldberg demonstrated the ease with which Trump administration critics can descend into moral idiocy when she compared Vice President Mike Pence to a Nazi. The controversy began when Adam Rippon, the first openly gay man to qualify to compete in the Winter Games… added that he would refuse a personal meeting with Pence, which Goldberg likened to “asking a Jewish person to sit down and understand where a Nazi is coming from.” [Tablet

David Brooks writes… The End of the Two-Party System: “Eventually, conservatives will realize: If we want to preserve conservatism, we can’t be in the same party as the clan warriors. Liberals will realize: If we want to preserve liberalism, we can’t be in the same party as the clan warriors. Eventually, those who cherish the democratic way of life will realize they have to make a much more radical break than any they ever imagined. When this realization dawns the realignment begins. Even with all the structural barriers, we could end up with a European-style multiparty system.” [NYTimes]

DEEP DIVE: “Is Shmuley Boteach Attacking Qatar Trip Because He Wasn’t Invited?” by Batya Ungar-Sargon: “I had a series of conversations with Boteach in August and September 2017 regarding his interest in meeting with the emir in New York, and in subsequently leading a delegation to Doha under the auspices of his ‘World Values Network,’” [Nick] Muzin wrote in a statement to the Forward… A source close to the matter revealed the reason that Muzin was unable to make it happen: The Qataris themselves nixed Boteach from a list of prospective visitors. “They did not find him to be credible and didn’t believe he had a significant following or constituency… The Qataris did not feel he could be trusted to keep sensitive issues to himself.” [Forward

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Facebook executive Campbell Brown says it has solved its dispute with Apple and will roll out a subscription tool for iOS [Recode] • IvyCap Ventures In Talks With Israel To Set Up $100 Mn Cross-Border Fund [Inc42] • Steven Cohen’s Investment Firm Accused of Hostility to Women [NYTimes] • Does a Lawsuit Now Help the Weinstein Victims? [DealBook• Apollo’s Leon Black Takes Home $191.3 Million Payout in 2017 [Bloomberg]

SPOTLIGHT — “The Silicon Valley Giant Bankrolling Devin Nunes” by Lachlan Markay and Sam Stein: “Weeks after they hired a controversial former Trump national security aide with ties to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), top executives at the tech company Oracle made substantial donations to Nunes’ 2018 re-election campaign… Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who worked as a top White House intelligence aide linked to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, joined Oracle just weeks before its executives began writing checks to Nunes… On October 16… Safra Catz, Oracle’s president, wrote a check to Nunes for $2,500. In late November, she wrote three more worth $5,200 (she was later refunded $2,500)… Neither Catz nor any of the other Oracle executives… had donated to the congressman before.” [DailyBeast]

“Bob Iger to Host Fundraiser for Vulnerable Democratic Senators in 2018 Midterms” by Ted Johnson: “Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Bob Iger is hosting a fundraiser next week for half a dozen Democratic senators facing tough re-election bids this year. The Feb. 22 event, which seeks the maximum contribution of $32,400 per person, also will be hosted by Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, and his wife Cindy Horn, a longtime environmental activist.” [Variety]

MEDIA WATCH: “Ben Shapiro’s Website Eyes Buying Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze” by Betsy Woodruff and Lachlan Markay: “The people who head Ben Shapiro’s conservative news site are in talks to buy Glenn Beck’s troubled media empire TheBlaze… The Wilks brothers, Ben Shapiro, and Glenn Beck have long shared a skepticism about President Donald Trump.” [DailyBeast]

WINTER OLYMPICS — “Army of one: How this Winnipeg man helped get Israel’s first skeleton racer to the Olympics” by Ted Wyman: “In 2002, David Greaves was living in Calgary when he was asked to help form the Israeli bobsled team along with former U.S. Air Force pilot Aaron Zeff and former San Francisco 49ers tight end John Frank… “Two weeks later, I found myself in the back of a bobsled and the rest was history.” … [A.J.] Edelman will officially begin competing on Feb. 14 and 15 and Greaves will be beside him every step of the way, serving as coach, mentor and official videographer. Greaves… doesn’t feel any pangs of jealousy about not being the one going down the slide…” [NationalPost]

Jewish snowboarder snags bronze in Pyeongchang Games: “American snowboarder Arielle Gold spun and ollied her way to a bronze medal in the women’s halfpipe competition at the Winter Olympics on Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday. The medal was the first ever for Gold, 21, who is one half of a Jewish snowboarding duo with her older brother Taylor Gold, who competed in Sochi.” [ToI]

TALK OF THE TOWN — “Parents get letters of rec from Dalai Lama to get kids into private school” by Dana Schuster and Isabel Vincent: “If you look at the private schools in New York… it’s a very small percentage of kids who are going to get in,” said one Upper East Side mom with a 7-year-old daughter currently enrolled at a $50,000-a-year private school (her fourth choice). “At Trinity, I had two board members that I knew who I called and they didn’t even look at my application . . . A little, nice white Jewish girl who lives on the Upper East Side isn’t as interesting as the half American half Chinese kid whose father is really rich, or a couple who’s half Indian and half Filipino who were living in Singapore… You look at members of the board and think, ‘Who do I know that’s super powerful and has a connection to the school who will vouch for me?’” [NYPost

BIRTHDAYS: Rabbi and Talmudic scholar, also emeritus professor of economics at New York University, closely identified with the Austrian school of economic thought, Yisroel Mayer Kirzner turns 88… Television, film and stage actor, George Segal turns 84… Professor at American Jewish University in Los Angeles and scholar of biblical literature and Semitic languages, Ziony Zevit turns 76… Pamela Brown turns 75… Host of the tabloid talk show “The Jerry Springer Show” since its debut in 1991, former Democratic mayor of Cincinnati, Jerry Springer turns 74… Newsweek columnist Jeff Stein turns 74… Former Speaker of the New York State Assembly (1994-2015), Sheldon Silver turns 74… Senior US Senator from Connecticut, elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2016, previously Attorney General of Connecticut (1991 to 2011), Richard Blumenthal turns 72… Professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto, author of “‘I Did Not Know You Were Jewish’ and Other Things Not to Say,” Ivan Kalmar turns 70…

Executive vice chairman emeritus of United Israel Appeal, formerly CEO of American Friends of Magen David Adom, Rabbi Daniel R. Allen turns 69… Former front office consultant for the Atlanta Falcons (2014-2015), CEO of the Cleveland Browns (2012-2013) and president of the Philadelphia Eagles (2001–12), Joe Banner turns 65… Radio broadcaster for the New York Mets, he also called games for the New York Rangers and New York Islanders, Howard “Howie” Rose turns 64… Ukrainian billionaire, previously president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, Ihor Kolomoyskyiturns 55… Casting director, Amy Sobo turns 55… President and CEO of the congressionally chartered National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, professor at GWU Law School, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Jeffrey Rosen turns 54… Internet entrepreneur best known as the co-founder of Zynga, maker of online social games, Mark Pincus turns 52…

Retired Israeli soccer player, Alon Harazi turns 47… Director of Summit Medical in Tenaeck, endocrinologist extraordinaire, Atara Schultz turns 40… SVP at Wells Fargo Advisors, Bryan M. Drowos turns 39… Publisher of Southern California’s Jewish Link Magazine, Dov Blauner turns 39… Wall Street Journal reporter covering the auto industry, focusing on safety, regulation, litigation and government investigations, Mike Spector turns 37… Communications director for US Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Samantha Slater turns 35… Dallas native and graduate of SMU, she is a government and public affairs associate at Dallas-based ECA Strategies, Alejandra Aguirre turns 27… Former senior speechwriter for Treasury Secretaries Geithner and Lew (2010-2017) and speechwriter for Senator Frank Lautenberg (2008-2010), Mark Cohen Arlene Milrad… Norman Gardner Jonathan Neuman

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