Daily Kickoff: Why Trump mentioned Israel in his Saudi statement | Zuckerberg defends himself | Florida’s first Jewish Governor
Ed. note: Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving! We’ll be back after the holiday.
HEARD LAST NIGHT — As problems pile up, Mark Zuckerberg stands his ground in exclusive CNN Business interview — by Seth Fiegerman: “A lot of the criticism around the biggest issues has been fair, but I do think that if we are going to be real, there is this bigger picture as well, which is that we have a different world view than some of the folks who are covering us,” Zuckerberg told CNN Business’ Laurie Segall at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.”
“When asked if he would consider stepping down as Facebook’s chairman, Zuckerberg said, “That’s not the plan.” He also threw his support behind his No. 2, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg… “Sheryl is a really important part of this company and is leading a lot of the efforts for a lot of the biggest issues that we have,” Zuckerberg told CNN Business. “She’s been an important partner to me for ten years. I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done together and I hope that we work together for decades more to come.” [CNN]
Zuckerberg on Definers going after George Soros — Segall: The PR firm was founded by Republican political strategists and it launched a campaign linking Facebook critics to George Soros. This is a common tactic used by anti-Semitic and alt-right groups. That’s why people were so shocked when they found out about this… Does that strike you as stooping low?
Zuckerberg: “I wasn’t particularly happy about that piece of it, and that is certainly a big part of what — when I read about it — made me want to look into this deeply. The intention was never to attack an individual, but there are these lobbying groups and folks out there whose primary focus is to attack the company. And I do think it’s fine to push back on that.”
Segall: Do you approve of the way they went after George Soros? Do you approve of that methodology?
Zuckerberg: “I don’t think that this is the type of thing that our company should be engaging with.”
Segall: What would be your message to George Soros?
Zuckerberg: “Well, I know that George Soros has been the target of a lot of really horrendous attacks, and I think that is terrible. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone who’s associated with our company to be part of that.”[Video] • Internal Facebook memo sees outgoing VP of comms Schrage take blame for hiring Definers [TechCrunch]
MISSISSIPI SENATE RUNOFF — Ex-Facebook President Sean Parker Funded Race-Baiting Senator’s Super PAC — by Lachlan Markay: “Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook and the founder of the pioneering music sharing service Napster, provided a huge cash infusion this year for the Mississippi Victory Fund… He made the donation in an effort to defeat Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel, [Sen. Cindy] Hyde-Smith’s controversial Republican opponent, during their primary race. And it worked—McDaniel, a man who had ties to the neo-Confederate movement, took money from figures connected to the KKK, and made numerous inflammatory comments about women and minorities, lost badly. But the leftover funds are now being used to help Hyde-Smith in her runoff against her Democratic opponent, former congressman and Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.” [DailyBeast]
DRIVING THE CONVO — President Donald Trump affirmed yesterday that the U.S. would continue to stand with Saudi Arabia despite Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s suspected involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month.
“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” Trump said in a lengthy statement, which made mention of the kingdom’s agreement to invest $450 billion in the U.S. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) likened Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia to former President Barack Obama’s charm offensive with Iran. “One thing I learned during the Obama years is that when you look the other way regarding problems in the Middle East, it seldom works out,” Graham said in a statement. “Time and time again President Obama chose to look the other way as Iran took increasingly provocative actions. Each time it led to even worse Iranian behavior and created even larger problems for the future. Likewise, it is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”
WHY IT MATTERS — “Jared Kushner saw Prince Mohammed as critical to advancing a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians that has been a major focus of his time in the White House. Mr. Trump’s hawkish aides, encouraged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, saw the prince as critical in marshaling a coalition to isolate Iran.” [NYTimes]
Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tells us… “Trump is far more invested in the campaign against Iran than he is the campaign for Middle East peace and his decision to prioritize strategic interests in not further penalizing Saudi Arabia for the Khashoggi murder appears to reflect this focus on pressuring Iran.”
“While I believe the Administration is fundamentally making the correct strategic decision, its tactics may backfire, given that Congress may react to the White House’s apparent indifference to the Khashoggi murder with an overreaction that does real and lasting damage to U.S. interests in the Gulf. I would have preferred the White House extract a pound of flesh from Riyadh so Congress doesn’t decide to extract ten pounds of flesh.”
Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro emails us… “Trump associating Israel with his bizarre statement formally letting MBS off the hook for Khashoggi’s murder does Israel no favors. The fact is we do need a reliable Saudi partner to help confront an aggressive Iran. So does Israel. But the problem is, with MBS in charge, we don’t have one. What we have is a Saudi Arabia that shares certain strategic interests and is pursuing a limited set of reforms, but which is led by a reckless, vindictive, violent ruler whose personal vendettas actually weaken the strategic coordination against Iran. That’s not good for the United States or Israel.”
Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “It would be a mistake to read too much into President Trump’s mention of Israel as a factor in U.S. considerations regarding Saudi Arabia. Trump actually based his arguments for preserving U.S.-Saudi ties on traditional American interests including the Kingdom’s role as the world’s largest oil producer and as the decisive player in determining its price. It is true that Israeli and Gulf state interests have come to overlap in recent years, which is why it is so important to explore ways they can work together under these changed circumstances.”
Tom Friedman writes: “Last May, Hanukkah came early for Israel when Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a dream of every Israeli prime minister — for free! … Well, I shouldn’t say that. He got millions of dollars in donations for the G.O.P. from right-wing Jewish megadonor Sheldon Adelson — who lobbied for the move — and warm applause from evangelicals. So Trump got something, but America got nothing. Now Christmas has come early for the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Trump gave M.B.S. a pass on Khashoggi’s murder for the promise of future arms purchases… That may be the most crass giveaway of U.S. principles by any president in American history.” [NYTimes]
Mohammed bin Salman expected to attend G20 summit — by Julian Borger: “Prince Mohammed’s presence in Buenos Aires will put Trump’s position under even more scrutiny… Jon Alterman, the director of the Middle East programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said Prince Mohammed’s decision to attend was a deliberate challenge to the international community.” [TheGuardian]
Inside the Saudis’ Fancy, Boozy, Upper East Side PR Push — by Erin Banco: “The party took place in a classic—and classically posh—uptown, East Side apartment. Plated finger foods, assorted cheeses, and charcuterie were picked at by guests. Attendees got wine and cocktails from the open bar and gathered to listen to [Turki al-]Faisal… The former intelligence chief told people in the crowd that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia couldn’t possibly move away from their strategic partnership. Too much was at stake, he said, including thwarting Iran’s aggression in the Middle East. For that, the country would lean on Israel, too, he said.” [DailyBeast]
TALK OF THE REGION — Trump administration slaps new sanctions to punish Iran and Syria — by Caitlin Oprysko: “The Trump administration on Tuesday announced new sanctions designed to punish both Iran and Syria and choke off illicit oil sales. The new actions target Syrian national Mohammad Amer Alchwiki and his Russia-based company, Global Vision Group… Administration officials said Tuesday that the scheme involved funneling money from Iran’s central bank through an Iranian company posing as a medical and pharmaceuticals business to a state-owned Russian bank account… Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime then facilitated the movement of “hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars” to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “for onward transfer to Hamas and Hezbollah.” [Politico]
REPORT — Russian proposal linked Iran sanctions relief with Syria withdrawal — by Barak Ravid: “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a closed hearing on Monday that Russia recently proposed to Israel and the U.S. that Iran be granted relief from some U.S. sanctions in return for the removal of Iranian forces and proxies from Syria… This is the first we’re hearing that the Russians have floated an idea for Iran’s withdrawal, and that they’re linking it to U.S. sanctions.” [Axios]
David Ibsen, President of United Against Nuclear Iran, emails us…”The Iranian threat cannot be bargained away and U.S. national security interests are not for sale. Iran needs to leave Syria, Iran needs to end its support for terror, and Iran needs to abandon its nuclear program. Period.”
FDD’s Mark Dubowitz: “Russia and Iran are looking for ways to undermine the administration’s maximum pressure campaign before it really gets going. Washington should build up much greater pressure and much greater leverage before starting to deal.”
Iran turns to pragmatism as Israel woos Oman — by Saeid Jafari: “Iranian officials may not have been happy with Netanyahu visiting the capital of a friendly country in the Persian Gulf. However, they have tried to address the matter in a pragmatic way in order to prevent tensions with Oman, with which they have enjoyed close ties for decades.” [Al-Monitor]
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Top Israeli minister: Trump wasting his time with peace plan: “Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked says Wednesday that reaching peace is currently impossible and Trump should focus his energy elsewhere until the Palestinians are ready to compromise. Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, Shaked says “I think personally it is a waste of time.” [AP; Haaretz]
— Israeli minister urges Airbnb boycott, talks up rival service — by Dan Williams: “I call today on all those who support Israel and oppose discriminatory boycotts: they should cease using Airbnb and turn to other services,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan told a diplomatic conference hosted by the Jerusalem Post newspaper. “By the way, BookingDOTcom is a great service,” added Erdan, the point-man in Israeli government efforts to combat pro-Palestinian boycotts.” [Reuters]
SIGHTING — U.S. Ambassador David Friedman attended the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardoning ceremony at the White House yesterday. He entered the event with Jared Kushner, according to a White House pool report.
ON THE HILL — Congress to probe Ivanka Trump’s private email use in WH — by Chad Day: “New revelations about the extent of Ivanka Trump’s personal email use in the White House will be getting a hard look from House Democrats when they take power in January… The report prompted Sen. Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, the outgoing chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, to send letters to the White House requesting a written response and briefing… The action came the same day Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the likely incoming chairman of the House Oversight panel, said he would pressure Trump’s administration to turn over records about the use of private email for public business by Ivanka Trump, [Jared] Kushner and other senior officials.” [AP]
HEADLINE — Meet Carlos Lopez-Cantera: Florida’s first Jewish governor (for five days): “[Florida] will have its first Jewish governor on an interim basis for five days when [Rick] Scott is sworn into the Senate on Jan. 3, 2019. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera… will become the Sunshine State’s [governor]… until former Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis… is sworn in as governor on Jan. 8, 2019.” [JNS]
** 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 **
STARTUP NATION — Computer vision: how Israel’s secret soldiers drive its tech success — by Mehul Srivastava: “When Ofir Schlam, the co-founder of Taranis, an Israeli agriculture tech start-up, was growing up on a farm in Israel, he would regularly wake at 5am to search through the crop for the tiniest caterpillars, pests and rot. Years later, when he joined the military and was attached to the prime minister’s office, he adapted that skillset to analyze thousands of surveillance images, looking for the smallest anomaly. One of his key senior executives at Taranis, Amihay Gornik, developed his expertise working at large aerospace companies, designing imaging parts for military drones.” [FinancialTimes]
SPOTLIGHT — How an obscure legal document turned New York’s court system into a debt-collection machine — by Zachary Mider and Zeke Faux: “Some U.S. states outlawed confessions in the middle of the 20th century, and federal regulators banned them for consumer loans in 1985. But New York still allows them for business loans. For David Glass, they were the solution to a problem: People were stealing his money. Among the hustlers and con men who work the bottom rungs of Wall Street, Glass is a legend. Before he was 30, he’d inspired the stock-scam movie Boiler Room. Later busted by the FBI for insider trading, he avoided prison by recording incriminating tapes of his old colleagues. Even his enemies say Glass… is one of the sharpest operators they’ve ever dealt with.”
“In 2009, while still on probation, Glass and a friend named Isaac Stern started a company called Yellowstone Capital LLC… In the aftermath of the financial crisis, banks were cutting back on lending just when small businesses most needed cash. Companies such as Yellowstone stepped in. They got around lending regulations by calling what they did “merchant cash advances,” not loans—a distinction judges recognize though there’s little practical difference… Yellowstone would hire anyone who could sell. A nightclub bouncer sat next to ultra-Orthodox Jews fresh out of religious school. The best brokers earned tens of thousands of dollars a month, former employees say; others slept at the office, fought, sold loose cigarettes, and stole from each other… To keep the troops focused, management would stack a pile of cash on a table and hold a drawing for closers.” [Bloomberg]
FILM — Rosamund Pike Dramatizes Marie Colvin’s Life Story — by Paige Williams: “The reporter Marie Colvin… was deployed to conflict after conflict… In 2012, Colvin ventured into Syria. After she reported that Bashar al-Assad’s forces were slaughtering civilians in the ravaged city of Homs, the media center where she was working was bombed, allegedly by the regime, which had discovered her location… The filmmaker Matthew Heineman recently turned Colvin’s life story into a film, “A Private War,” based on Marie Brenner’s posthumous Vanity Fair profile of the reporter and starring Rosamund Pike.” [NewYorker]
Holocaust Survivor, Now Living in Queens, Details Remarkable Triumph Over Tragedy — by Amanda Farinacci: “[Sam] Solasz rarely talked about his wartime experiences, how he repeatedly, improbably escaped death. But now Solasz is telling his story, in a memoir, “Angel of the Ghetto,” which details his harrowing life in Nazi-occupied Poland, including the infamous burning of the Great Synagogue of Bialystok with Jews locked inside… When the war ended, Solasz made his way to New York, working as a butcher for a large meat supplier. Today, Master Purveyors is an $85 million-dollar-a-year business with 80 employees… Solasz says he’s sharing his story so history doesn’t repeat itself. Citing the deadly shooting rampage at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, he says it’s an idea that’s not so farfetched.” [NY1]
Suit Accuses Dutch Museums of Holding On to Nazi-Tainted Art — by Nina Siegal: “Throughout World War II, the Dutch art dealers Benjamin and Nathan Katz sold art they owned, including works by Rembrandt and Jan Steen, to Nazi officials, in one case in exchange for exit visas… Three generations of the Katz family… say more than 140 of the works are held by the Dutch government to whom the Allies returned them after seizing them back from the Nazis… On Monday, an American heir of Benjamin Katz brought the dispute to the U.S. court system with a lawsuit that demands the Dutch government and the museums return 143 works.” [NYTimes]
ACROSS THE POND — Labour PM Clement Attlee took in Jewish child refugee who fled Nazis — by Rajeev Syal: “Clement Attlee, the Labour prime minister whose government founded the welfare state, looked after a child refugee who escaped from the Nazis in the months leading up to the second world war, it can be revealed. The then-leader of the opposition sponsored a Jewish mother and her two children… During [Paul] Willer’s stay [with his family], Attlee was formulating Labour’s policy to oppose Hitler’s advances towards the Sudetenland, a policy that led him to cast doubt upon Chamberlain’s Munich agreement and claims of “peace in our time”. … Willer will renew his bond with the Attlee family on Wednesday at the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport organized by the Association of Jewish Refugees.” [TheGuardian]
TALK OF THE NATION — Linda Sarsour apologizes to Jewish members of the Women’s March — by Ben Sales: “Linda Sarsour released a statement apologizing on behalf of the Women’s March for causing harm to the movement’s Jewish members and for being too slow to show its commitment to fighting anti-Semitism. “We should have been faster and clearer in helping people understand our values and our commitment to fighting anti-Semitism. We regret that,” said the statement, issued Tuesday afternoon.”[JTA]
John Podhoretz writes… “Words Spoken to My Daughter, One Week After the Horrors at the Tree of Life Synagogue: The theologian Emil Fackenheim said Auschwitz had required this of us—that we were not allowed to grant Hitler any posthumous victories. He called it the Commandment of Auschwitz. It is also the Commandment of the Tree of Life. The monster who slaughtered and wounded all those people wanted to kill Jews for being Jews. “All Jews must die,” he shouted as he murdered them… If you want to make Robert Bowers’s words turn to ash, follow in the footsteps of Abraham and Sarah. Live as a Jew. Have Jewish children.” [CommentaryMagazine]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Ultra-Orthodox schools could face pressure under new NY regs: “Private and religious schools that don’t provide instruction “substantially equivalent” to New York state’s public schools will be threatened with loss of funding for textbooks, transportation and other services under new state Education Department rules. The guidelines… could have an immediate impact on ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools that critics have accused of providing little or no instruction in secular subjects like English and math.”[AP]
SPOTTED — Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) attended the wedding of the grandson of the Grand Rabbi of Bobov, Rebbi Ben Zion Aryeh Leibish Halberstam, held at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. [Pic]
NOMINATION — President Trump announced yesterday the nomination of Safra Catz as a member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, among others.
MAZEL TOV — Keith Sonderling, senior policy adviser at the wage and hour division at the Labor Department, got engaged to Fara Klein, manager of government affairs at the American Forest and Paper Association. The couple met at a Jewish outreach event for Jeb Bush in Miami and were introduced by Lisa Spies. [Pic] h/t Playbook
TODAY IN HISTORY — FBI arrests Jonathan Pollard, Nov. 21, 1985. [Politico]
BIRTHDAYS — WEDNESDAY: British entrepreneur and philanthropist, Baron Harold Stanley Kalms turns 87… Academy Award-winning actress, Goldie Hawn turns 73… Founder, Chairman and CEO of Men’s Wearhouse (1973-2013), currently holding these same positions at Generation Tux, an online tuxedo rental platform, George Zimmer turns 70… Beverly Hills resident, Julie Shuer turns 66… US District Judge for the Northern District of California since 2014, she was the president of Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo, CA (1998-2000), Judge Beth Labson Freeman turns 65… Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group, Thomas Rothmanturns 64… VP of wealth management at the San Francisco office of Taylor Frigon Capital Management, he serves on AIPAC’s National Council, Jonathan Wornick turns 55… CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jonathan A. Greenblatt turns 48…
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and political commentator, editor of the Jerusalem Post (2002-2004), he moved from the WSJ to the New York Times in 2017, Bret Stephens (family name was Ehrlich) turns 45… Born in Teheran, his family emigrated after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, he is the founder and publisher of the business magazine The Real Deal, Amir Korangy turns 45… Political Director of ABC News, Rick Klein turns 42… Director of government relations at the Hershey Company, she was previously a deputy assistant secretary at the US Department of Transportation, Joanna Liberman Turner turns 42… US foreign service officer, Danielle Hana Monosson turns 42… Reporter at Bloomberg News and Businessweek, Max Abelson turns 34… Judy Brilliant… Ruth Shapiro…
THURSDAY: Majority owner of MLB’s New York Mets, he was a high school teammate of Sandy Koufax and went on to a successful career as a real estate developer, Fred Wilpon turns 82… Professor at NYU Law School, she served in the Carter and Clinton administrations and on the Obama transition team, she once taught Hebrew School in Pittsburgh, Sally Katzen turns 76… Novelist and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, he was formerly CEO of PJ Media, Roger Lichtenberg Simon turns 75… Born to a Jewish family in Tunisia, he served as a member of the Canadian House of Commons (1997-2006), Jacques Saada turns 71… Former president (1996-2010) of the 2.2 million member Service Employees International Union, now a senior fellow at the Economic Security Project, Andy Stern turns 68… Television personality with past shows on MSNBC, CNN and Bloomberg TV, formerly an advertising executive, Donny Deutsch turns 61… Marty Robinson turns 61…
Billionaire Ukrainian businessman best known for being the chairman of Dynamo Kyiv (Kiev’s soccer team) since 2002, Ihor Surkis turns 60… Senior editor and writer for The Daily Beast and columnist and editorial writer for the New York Daily News, Harry Siegel turns 41… Actress, model, singer and brand ambassador for Israel’s Sodastream home-carbonation company, Scarlett Johansson turns 34… Manager of public relations, communications and media relations for theSkimm, Jessica Sara Turtletaub turns 33… Actor, who has appeared in films directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, the Coen brothers and Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich turns 29… SVP of Development for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Tim R. Cohen… Chief of Staff of Israel’s Embassy in Washington, Yarden Golan…