Daily Kickoff: Israel stays quiet on Saudi crisis | Ron Lauder meets with top PA officials; WH says he wasn’t sent by Trump | Kloss Kushner wedding


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SCENE LAST NIGHT — Nikki Haley Pokes Fun at Trump, and Herself, at Al Smith Dinner — by Rick Gladstone: “For about 17 minutes Thursday night in the New York Hilton ballroom, Haley… tried her hand at one-liners before a crowd of 700 guests at the annual Al Smith charity dinner, a high-powered event of the political and Roman Catholic elite hosted by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan… Having breakfast with Cardinal Dolan a few weeks ago to prepare for her speech, she told the crowd, “I asked, ‘Was there anything I could do to really boost attendance?’ And he said, ‘Why don’t you resign as U.N. ambassador?’” [NYTimes]

The diplomat also saved some mild ribbing for Trump: “The president called me this morning and gave me some really good advice,” she said. “He said if I get stuck for laughs just brag about his accomplishments. It really killed at the UN. I’ve got to tell you.” [NYPost]

Haley and her husband, Michael, were surrounded by powerful figures in New York government, finance, media, real estate and philanthropy. They included Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Senator Chuck Schumer, former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, the Wall Street financier Stephen A. Schwarzman.” [NYTVideo]

REPORT — Trump considering Richard Grenell for U.N. ambassador — by Andrew Restuccia: “President Donald Trump is now seriously considering Richard Grenell, the controversial U.S. ambassador to Germany, to replace Nikki Haley at the United Nations… Grenell met with officials at the White House last week to discuss the job.” [Politico]

HEARD ON THE TRAIL — President Trump during a campaign rally in Missoula, Montana: “Israel has a wall. Bibi Netanyahu – think of it – he said it worked 99.9 percent, their wall. They have a big wall. It’s in the form of a very tough fence, but they have a wall. Schumer knows this.”

MIDTERMS — GOP Ad Channels Anti-Semitism to Portray George Soros as Puppetmaster — by Spencer Ackerman: “The ad, literally titled “Owns,” ties Minnesota congressional aspirant Dan Feehan, a Democrat, to George Soros… In “Owns,” funded by the National Republican Campaign Committee, Soros is an Oz-like figure hovering over stacks of cash… “Just remember,” the narrator intones, “the left owns Feehan,” while Soros’ intense, baggy-eyed visage floats in the storm clouds above Feehan, [Colin] Kaepernick, an Antifa protester, oil drums on fire and, flanking the candidate, piles of money. “He’ll never be for you.” [DailyBeastVideo]

Senator Bob Menendez in an interview with the New Jersey Jewish Link: “Regardless of what party is leading the U.S. government, or the Israeli government for that matter, the bond between the United States and Israel transcends partisan divides. There may be disagreements between us from time to time over specific policies, but I truly believe that the bond between Israel and the United States is timeless in the sense that it is guided by common values such as our love of freedom, belief in human rights, thirst for scientific progress and innovation and commitment to the rule of law.”

MAKE NEW YORK GREAT — Will Trump Make New York Democrats the New Lords of Capitol Hill? — by Jennifer Steinhauer: “If the Democrats retake the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, New York would play a larger role in Washington than it has in a generation. Representative Jerrold L. Nadler would head the powerful House Judiciary Committee, charged with investigations into Mr. Trump’s administration. Representative Eliot L. Engel would become chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Representative Nita M. Lowey would take the helm of the House Appropriations Committee — the first woman to do so.” [NYTimes]

2020 WATCH — Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, tells The New York Times he could live with Mike Bloomberg as president: “As an executive he would be a good president. I can’t see how I could ever endorse him because of some of the positions I think he would bring into the government, and a lot of his people who are very left-leaning. But would I be comfortable that he is qualified to be president? Sure.”

DRIVING THE CONVO — Three former U.S. Ambassadors to Israel criticized the Trump Administration’s decision to transform the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem into a ‘Palestinian Affairs Unit’ within the U.S. Embassy.  “The downgrading of U.S. representation to the Palestinian people and placing it under the authority of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel is yet another blow to the Palestinians after the closure of their mission in Washington,” Martin Indyk, who served as Ambassador to Israel under President Bill Clinton, told Jewish Insider. The move “emphasizes just how broken the relationship is and just how far away we are from Trump’s ‘deal of the century.’”

Indyk suggested that Friedman may also be eying the Consulate location on Agron Street in Jerusalem to serve as his official residence. “Once the Embassy to Israel was relocated to Jerusalem it was only a matter of time before Ambassador Friedman set his sights on the Consulate with its elegant, historic residence in the heart of downtown Jerusalem,” Indyk speculated.

Friedman’s predecessor, Ambassador Daniel Shapiro asserted in an email that it is “very unlikely that the Palestinian Authority will engage the US government through the Embassy.” Shapiro added, “This decision downgrades diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. It is not consistent with the goal of achieving a two-state solution, and that is how it will be understood by both sides.” [JewishInsider]

Daniel Kurtzer, who served as Ambassador to Israel under President George W. Bush, writes… “The administration’s decision to close the Consulate… will further downgrade our dialogue with Palestinians, which is already quite fractured. It will send an unmistakable signal that Palestinian views and perspectives will be assessed by Washington through a lens defined by our relationship with Israel.” [NYDailyNews

Elliott Abrams emails us: “The separation was never sensible. Under that system, the CIA would deal with the Mossad and Shin Bet about everything in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, and the Defense Attache would deal with the IDF about everything in all those places too — but the ambassador and his diplomatic staff were forced to stay out of anything involving the Palestinians. That’s nuts. It meant our ambassador could not work with Salam Fayyad when he was prime minister, for example. This is a much more logical arrangement.”

David Makovsky speculates“Could it be that in return for Secretary Pompeo becoming an interlocutor with the Saudis (sharing the portfolio with Jared Kushner), the quid pro quo from State was closing of U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and enhancing WH control over another key foreign policy issue run by Kushner?”

Ghaith Al-Omari tells us: “The fact that the Consulate reported directly to HQ gave Washington an unfiltered ground truth that helped decision-makers in DC understand and navigate Palestinian politics. The nuanced understanding of Palestinian dynamics and the networks that some Consuls General developed enabled them to effectively implement American policies and achieve American objectives vis-à-vis the Palestinians. This tool will now unfortunately no longer be available to American diplomacy.”

AIPAC, while thanking Trump for the move, reiterated their support for a two-state solution in a series of tweets: “AIPAC remains fully supportive of direct negotiations leading to a two-state solution – a Jewish state of Israel living in peace with a demilitarized Palestinian state.”

BACKCHANNEL? —Ron Lauder met Palestinian officials on Trump’s behalf in bid to jump-start peace talks: “According to a Hadashot TV news report Thursday, Lauder met with senior Palestinian officials “behind Israel’s back” and without the knowledge of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt… The report said Lauder urged [them] to work with the Trump administration to jump-start talks and told him he would be positively surprised by the US president’s peace plan. Lauder also met with Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian peace negotiator; and the PA’s intelligence chief, Majid Faraj.” [ToI

NSC Spokesman Garrett Marquis in a statement: “The report in Channel 2 is false. Ambassador Lauder is a friend of the President but he was not sent by the White House to meet with the Palestinians on the President’s behalf — secretly or otherwise.”

The Battle for Young Evangelicals’ Views on Israel Could Determine the Future of U.S. Policy — by Amir Tibon: “Many young Evangelicals, unlike their parents, don’t want their first interaction with Israel to be based on either politics or eschatology,” [Bishop Robert] Stearns says, referring to the theological concern with the end of times. The reason for that, he explained, is that they prioritize other issues, such as social justice, human rights and community building. The problem, however, is that “many aren’t aware of other kinds of engagements with the country.” … Stearns believes that in order to attract young Evangelicals to Israel, “that’s something we have to change.”[Haaretz]

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — In Shift on Khashoggi Killing, Trump Edges Closer to Acknowledging a Saudi Role — by Maggie Haberman, Mark Landler, Michael Schmidt and Eric Schmitt: “Mr. Trump stopped short of saying the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death. But he acknowledged that the allegations that the prince ordered the killing raised hard questions about the American alliance with Saudi Arabia… “This one has caught the imagination of the world, unfortunately,” Mr. Trump said in a brief interview with The New York Times… In conversations with allies, the president has begun to distance himself from Prince Mohammed, 33, saying he barely knows him. And he has played down the relationship that Mr. Kushner has cultivated with the Saudi heir.” [NYTimes

Saudis May Blame Intelligence Official for Killing Jamal Khashoggi — by David Kirkpatrick and Ben Hubbard: “Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, has been urging the president to stand by the prince, according to a person close to the White House… Mr. Kushner has argued that the crown prince can survive the outrage just as he has weathered past criticism.” [NYT]

In Washington, Israel Stays Quiet As Anger Grows Over Saudi Arabia — by Emily Tamkin: “The Israelis are “in a very difficult position,” Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, told BuzzFeed News. “They count very much on Saudi Arabia,” which is “central to their strategic concept of the region.” On the other hand, “They wouldn’t want to use capital to argue against a strong conclusion” that Saudi Arabia is in the wrong. “They’re not going to defend this indefensible concept,” said Shapiro.” [BuzzFeed]

— FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer writes… “The killing of Jamal Khashoggi has upended Washington’s policy debates. Many of the same experts pushing for sanctions against Saudi Arabia have previously argued, in other contexts, that sanctions don’t work.” [TheAtlantic]

** Good Friday 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: Sears’s Edward Lampert Was a Wizard. Now He’s Coming to Terms With Failure [NYTimes] • Sam Tabar wants to eliminate the middlemen from real estate deals, but says it can be a tough sell[TheRealDeal] • Daniel Loeb’s Third Point turns up the heat on Campbell Soup [FinancialTimes] • Showtime chief executive David Nevins is getting a piece of Leslie Moonves’s old job at the CBS Corporation [NYTimes]

Facebook hires Nick Clegg as head of global affairs — by George Parker and Tim Bradshaw: “Facebook has hired Nick Clegg, the former UK deputy prime minister, to head its global affairs and communications team… Mr Clegg, 51, will move to Silicon Valley in January to succeed Elliot Schrage… He agreed to take on the job after months of wooing by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, who told Mr Clegg he would have a leading role in shaping the company’s strategy.” [FinancialTimes]

SPOTLIGHT — Falcon Edge’s Gerson Said to Field, Reject Russia Fund’s Advance — by Caleb Melby: “In the weeks after Donald Trump’s stunning election win, Rick Gerson… was at the Four Seasons in New York for a meeting with members of the president’s transition team. Then came a break in the Seychelles, the nation off the coast of Africa — which has since been identified as a private meeting ground for Erik Prince and a Russian money manager… That January 2017 outreach, which hasn’t previously been reported, raises the prospect that Gerson was viewed as a potential line into the incoming administration by influential Russians.”

“Gerson has known Kushner for more than a decade. Gerson’s brother, Mark Gerson, is an investor in Cadre, a real estate investing startup co-founded by Kushner and his own brother, Josh Kushner, a venture capitalist. Both Kushners maintain a stake in the company, which has done business with their family real estate company Kushner Cos. and has considered investments from international firms while Jared Kushner has served in the administration.” [Bloomberg]

Karlie Kloss Weds Joshua Kushner in ‘Intimate and Moving’ Jewish Ceremony in New York: “A rep for the supermodel, 26, confirms to PEOPLE the couple wed on Thursday evening. Kloss and Kushner held a small, Jewish ceremony in upstate New York, with under 80 people in attendance. They will also host a larger celebration for friends and loved ones in the spring… “The wedding was intimate and moving. The couple was beaming with happiness,” a friend who attended the ceremony tells PEOPLE.” [People]

HOLLYWOOD — ABC to Adapt Israeli Romantic Comedy Series ‘Baker and the Beauty’ — by Joe Otterson: “ABC has given a put pilot commitment to an American adaptation of the Israeli series “The Baker and the Beauty,” Variety has learned. The new version of the one-hour romantic comedy series follows the Miami love story between a simple baker and an international superstar… “ [Variety]

HOUSES OF WORSHIP — ISIS Overlooks a Synagogue in Mosul — by Bernard-Henri Lévy: “In the fall of 2016 I began filming a documentary about the battle to retake Mosul from Islamic State. I made a promise to myself and to my crew: Whatever risks and obstacles the war unpredictably produced, we would reach the burial ground of the prophet Jonah on the Tigris River—right in the middle of the city.”

“The goal was met. Though the site was buried in rubble and ash, one of our film’s scenes would show the final resting place of the most enigmatic and provocative biblical prophet. When my crew and I deemed our mission accomplished, we savored a double satisfaction: We had covered the first half of the war to destroy ISIS and also rediscovered an important site in the biblical narrative and Jewish history.” [WSJ]

Court permits U.S. student to enter Israel, despite attempt to ban her over BDS ties — by Ruth Eglash: “The case of Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old Florida native who argued against her deportation order in three court hearings, leaves a question mark over the law, passed in 2017, that takes aim at the international BDS movement. Alqasem, whose father is of Palestinian heritage, is the first person to appeal the ban… Ruling on her case Thursday, the Supreme Court of Israel said there was not satisfactory cause to bar her entry. Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, whose ministry is charged with implementing and monitoring the law, said in a statement that the Supreme Court had “granted BDS a great victory.” [WashPost]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Ephod Ebiatar — by Yitz Applbaum: Yesterday, I witnessed a novel technology in Tel Aviv. It was a speaker set that projected sound beams directly into the listener’s ears without the need for any in-ear appliances. Only the intended listener could hear the sounds, and in 360 degree surround sound, while the rest of the room could not hear it at all.

This technology reminded me of a great wine I had drank the preceding Friday night at dinner with my son. It was the 2016 “Ephod” from a winery call Ebiatar. The wine is made with fifty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and fifty percent Petit Verdot. The Cabernet grape took over my whole mouth in a total 360 degree experience. The Petit Verdot exploded specifically in my mid-palate, as if projected directly there. It felt like I was drinking two wines at the same time, having two different wonderful experiences at the same time. There was a lot of pomegranate tartness in the middle palate, the opening was very grapey, and the finish lingering. From the time I bought the bottle till the time it hit my glass was about one hour. I would suggest letting this wine sit in your cellar for six months and then start drinking it with a large steak. [Wine1980]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Born in Vienna, Austria, oceanographer and professor emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, Walter Munk turns 101… South African-born developmental biologist, professor emeritus at University College of London, Lewis Wolpert turns 89… Born in Israel during the British Mandate period, he was the long-time CEO of Aramark Corporation (1981-2015) and presently serves as chairman of the University of Chicago’s Board of Trustees, Joseph Neubauer turns 77… Executive Director of “Second Thought: a US – Israel Initiative,” former Israeli diplomat with multiple US postings, Yoram Ettinger turns 73… Retired hospitality executive, Michelle Fischler turns 70… Founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquistturns 62…

Mayor of Jerusalem since 2008, Nir Barkat turns 59… Chief Rabbi of Kiev and all of Ukraine since 1990, he has also served as a VP of the World Jewish Congress since 2009, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich 54… Founding president and CEO of Global Policy Initiatives, he was the White House Jewish Liaison in the Clinton administration, Jay Footlik turns 53… Elementary and pre-school educator at various Jewish schools in Houston, Shira Moses turns 52… Director of development at NYC-based Israel & Co., he is a graduate of Cardozo School of Law, Evan Majzner turns 36… David Ochs turns 35… Pittsburgh-based digital editor and designer, Lindsay Applebaum turns 33… DC-based digital micro-targeting analyst, equities trader and financial marketer, Elie Litvin turns 26…

SATURDAY: Economist who earned the nickname “Dr. Doom” during his tenure as the chief economist at Salomon Brothers during the 1970s, Henry Kaufman, Ph.D. turns 91… Poet, essayist and literary critic, who has taught at Wellesley College, UC Berkeley and Boston University, Robert Pinsky turns 78… Miami Beach-based real estate developer, Russell W. Galbut turns 66… Music composer for many films, winner of six Grammys and an Emmy Award, Thomas Newman turns 63… Rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Katamon area, Rabbi Binyamin (Benny) Lau turns 57… Russian TV and radio journalist, he is a member of the Russian Jewish Congress, Vladimir Solovyov turns 55… United States Senator from Hawaii since 2012, following 8 years in the Hawaii House of Representatives and two years as Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, Brian Schatz turns 46… Classical violinist and a 2008 winner of a MacArthur genius fellowship, Leila Josefowicz turns 41… Senior advisor and director of strategic engagement for Massachusetts State Senator Eric P. Lesser, Michael Clark turns 29…2016 Columbia Law grad, now an associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Evan G. Zuckerman turns 29…

SUNDAY: Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu turns 69… Emmy Award winning reality courtroom personality, “Judge Judy,” Judith Sheindlin turns 76… News anchor who worked for 36 years in Philadelphia (appearing at various times on all three major local stations) and author of three books on the Beatles, Larry Kane (born Lawrence Kanowitz) turns 76… Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy at Harvard University, Shaye J. D. Cohen turns 70… Director of policy and government relations at Health Care For All, Brian Rosman turns 60… Russian born classical composer and pianist, emigrated to NYC at four years old, a graduate of Julliard, Lera Auerbach turns 45… Non-profit manager previously at Soaringwords and Areivim Philanthropic Group, Dori Tenenbaum turns 32… Director of Data and Evaluation at NCSY and the Orthodox Union, Dan Hazony turns 31… Jerusalem-based journalist for Breaking Israel News and Israel365, Eliana Rudee… Mitch Davis


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