Daily Kickoff: Inside the effort to make Israel trips a wedge issue among Dems | Jeff Zucker on not getting into Harvard Law | Coach K on ‘Zion’


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DRIVING THE CONVO — The Intercept reported yesterday that incoming Democratic Congresswoman from Michigan Rashida Tlaib is planning a trip for fellow House members to the West Bank. Tlaib has not announced which members, if any, will be joining her, nor which organizations will fund the travel. According to the report, Tlaib is butting heads with her party’s leadership even before officially entering office, as freshmen members traditionally visit Israel during their first August recess with AIPAC’s educational affiliate, known as AIEF.

Tlaib is not planning any meetings with the Palestinian Authority or with Israeli government officials, both mainstays of the AIPAC trip. The Intercept article, which criticizes AIPAC for not bringing members of Congress to Gaza, does not make clear whether Tlaib’s delegation plans to visit the coastal enclave themselves. Also in the article, Tlaib reveals that she’s a BDS supporter. “I personally support the BDS movement,” said Tlaib.

What we’re hearing: Incoming Democratic House members are starting to hear from The Intercept asking which trip they are planning to join. It appears there’s an effort underway to spotlight individual members and make the trips a bellwether of sorts for progressives and their approach towards the Middle East.

Question: Were the AIEF trips on Tlaib’s radar before now, or are others who have been fixated on these visits for years orchestrating the effort to make these trips a wedge issue among Democrats?

WHERE INCOMING MEMBERS ARE TODAY — At Harvard’s Institute of Politics for an educational and preparatory program for newly elected Republican and Democratic Members of the House of Representatives.

HEARD LAST NIGHT ― U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at the Hudson Institute’s 2018 Award Gala held at the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel: “There is a belief in parts of the media and in some foreign policy circles that American leadership has declined under this administration. I absolutely reject that conclusion. I believe the record shows a reemergence of the U.S. leadership in the world under this administration, not an abandonment of it.”

— Haley says Trump is tough on Russia: “For example, just last week Russian fired upon and seized three Ukraninan naval ships near Crimea. It was a serious escalation and an outrageous blatant provocation. The next day Russia called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting with the topic listed as ‘violation of the borders of the Russian Federation.’ It was up to the U.S. along with key allies to oppose the Russian resolution and represent the interest of the Ukranian people at the Security Council. I spoke to President Trump and we agreed that a strong condemnation of Russian aggression was needed, which I was happy to deliver.”

— Criticizes prior administration’s stance at the UN: “Real leadership usually makes someone mad. It sometimes makes our friends mad too, but that’s okay. This administration’s predecessors at the UN were less concerned about the U.S. leading and more concerned about avoiding the U.S. being isolated at the UN. They didn’t want other countries to be upset at us… This administration has advanced U.S. leadership, sometimes in cooperation with others, sometimes we are standing alone.”

— Haley on Iran: “When the U.S. got out of the Iran nuclear deal, our European friends were not happy… The Iran deal was a bad deal from the security of the U.S. and for the world, it was a bad deal for the Iranian people, but it was a good deal for the Iranian government. Now the western money that Iran used to fund Hezbollah, send missiles to Yemen, and fight alongside Assad in Syria is now drying up. And thanks to our leadership, the Iranian people are risking their lives to protest their government and know they now have an ally in the United States of America.”

— Preview of Haley’s future campaign message? “Leadership is a function of confidence. My entire public life, I have worked to help people find the power of their voice. I am proud to have been part of the U.S. rediscovering the power of her voice at the United Nations. No other country can lead the way the U.S. can lead. The rest of the world knows that and respects us, even if they don’t always say so… I will never stop being inspired by the greatness of America, and I will never stop advocating its strong moral leadership in the world.” [Pic]

US seeks to condemn Hamas by name in landmark UN resolution — by Arthur MacMillan: “The United States will on Thursday ask the United Nations to explicitly condemn Hamas… by name for the first time. The measure – one of outgoing American ambassador Nikki Haley’s last actions at the body – has won EU backing… The chances of passage through the General Assembly… look slim, despite the 28-member European Union’s agreement to support the US measure.” [TheNational] • Families of Iran’s hostages unite to pressure Tehran — by Jason Rezaian [WashPost]

ON THE GROUND — Israeli Army Starts Operation to Destroy Hezbollah Tunnels — by Gwen Ackerman: “The Israeli military launched an operation to destroy underground tunnels from neighboring Lebanon that the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia could use to attack Israel’s northern communities. Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Cornicus said the military “had a good estimate” of how many tunnels existed and their locations, warning Hezbollah not to engage or “interfere with our work or threaten our forces.”

“The action was launched after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Brussels on Monday. At the start of that meeting, Netanyahu said they would discuss “how we can together curb Iran’s aggression in the region, in Syria, in Iraq, in Lebanon and elsewhere.” [Bloomberg]

“The revelation of Operation Northern Shield brings new perspective to the security cabinet debates surrounding the cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza. Now we can say that the tunnels in the north were among the considerations in the security cabinet meeting where the ministers decided not to launch a full-scale operation in Gaza.” [Haaretz]

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted yesterday: “This evening in Brussels, I met with PM Netanyahu. It was a joy to wish him a happy Hanukkah as we lit candles on the menorah. Chag Sameach! I also emphasized our commitment to Israel’s national security and absolute right to self defense.”

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Netanyahu fights for political survival amid corruption cases — by Barak Ravid: “Netanyahu’s battle for survival has many similarities to Donald Trump’s outrage-fueled fight against special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation… Like Trump, Netanyahu has accused the police and media of carrying out a “witch hunt” against him. He has aggressively attacked the press and denounced leaks… Like Trump, Netanyahu is counting on his attorney general. He appointed Avichai Mandelblit, a former member of his Cabinet, to the post in 2016. Mandelblit’s critics claim he’s going soft on Netanyahu and dragging his feet on the corruption cases.” [Axios]

Netanyahu’s Obsession With Image Could Be His Downfall — by David Halbfinger: “He is still playing the victim. But if his legal troubles spell the end of his storied career — and no one is writing him off yet — the evidence uncovered by the police suggests that Mr. Netanyahu will have only himself to blame… Throughout his political life, his detractors have discerned in Mr. Netanyahu an unseemly obsession with his public image, even for a politician… That said, one of Mr. Netanyahu’s greatest gifts, and most successful political strategies, may be portraying himself as a victim… Israelis love a good victim, and his base, in particular, nursed ethnic and class resentments that Mr. Netanyahu has stirred adroitly and consistently over the years.” [NYTimes

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Pope, Abbas discuss Jerusalem at first meeting after U.S. embassy move — by Philip Pullella: “The Vatican expressed concern over the status of Jerusalem on Monday as Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held their first meeting since the United States stirred international anxiety by moving its embassy there. The two embraced and kissed on the cheek as the pontiff welcomed Abbas to a library in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace for a private, 20-minute meeting… As Abbas was leaving the library, he told the pope: “We are counting on you.” It was not clear what he was referring to.” [Reuters]

HEARD YESTERDAY —The Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute launched a new comprehensive report yesterday entitled “Ending Gaza’s Perpetual Crisis: A New U.S. Approach.” The report, authored by Hady Amr, Ilan Goldenberg, Kevin Huggard and Natan Sachs, makes the argument that the U.S. can no longer afford to ignore the status quo in Gaza and urges the U.S “reexamine fundamentals” and update its policy on the Strip.

During a panel discussion at the Brookings Institute, Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute noted, “To the extent to which there is a presumption that the relationship between this administration and Netanyahu can be used for peace purposes, it tends to be focused far less on Gaza and far more on the presentation of [Trump’s peace] plan.” Considering the political capital Netanyahu has cultivated with President Trump, Ross said it will be difficult for the Israeli leader “not to be responsive” to the administration’s proposals, which he speculated would have a “significant” economic aspect. He criticized the administration for cutting aid to the Palestinians, pointing out that such an act diminishes “the political space for Arab readers to be responsive” to a potential peace agreement.

Ross praised current draft legislation in Congress that would give upwards of $150 million to joint Israeli and Palestinian projects: “Cutting $10 million for projects that are joint projects between Israelis and Palestinians, the rationale for that is hard to grasp. If there is one thing that we should be doing [it is] demonstrating that when Israelis and Palestinians cooperate there’s a payoff for it. And that ought to be elementary. That ought to be just a given. Anything you’re doing should be to designed to elevate the payoffs of practical tangible cooperation.” [Video]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — CNN president Jeff Zucker on The Axe Files podcast with David Axelrod: 

Zucker on not getting accepted into Harvard Law School: “I was stunned. I remember crying on my bed at Harvard. I couldn’t believe it. It was the first time I really didn’t get something I wanted. And as I say now, I thank God every day I didn’t get into Harvard Law School. You know if I’d gotten in, I probably would’ve gone. And so I thank God all the time. I’d also say that I’d like to apply now and see what happens, see if I could get in. But no, listen, thank God I didn’t get in.”

Zucker on entering the political arena: “With regard to where I will be in five years, I don’t know for sure where I’ll be, but here’s the two things that I do know: if the Miami Dolphins call, that’s where I’ll be. And number two, look, I still harbor somewhere in my gut that I’m still very interested in politics.”

Axelrod: You turned down an opportunity to work for Al Gore in 2000. You have talked in the past about potentially running for office.

Zucker: “So I’m still interested in that. It’s something that I would consider.”

Axelrod: Interesting. Well, give me a call if you’re thinking about it. [AxeFiles

2020 WATCH — Michael Bloomberg will travel to Iowa tonight for a screening of a climate change documentary called “Paris to Pittsburgh.” In an op-ed for the Des Moines Register, Bloomberg writes: “Iowa gets more than a third of its energy from wind power, the most of any state. If every state got as much of its power from clean sources as Iowa does, America would already be nearly all the way to the goal we set under the Paris Climate Agreement of cutting carbon emissions 26 percent by 2025. Iowans understand what too many leaders in Washington don’t: Fighting climate change is good for our health and our economy.”

Mike Bloomberg, Eternal Presidential Hopeful, Hits Iowa — by Chris Smith: “Bloomberg, a notoriously stiff retail campaigner, certainly welcomes any positive publicity generated by his current national tour. But his travels right now aren’t about selling him to voters. They are about Bloomberg selling the idea of a presidential campaign to himself. When he flirted with White House bids in 2008 and 2012, Bloomberg was looking for reasons not to run. This time around, he’s looking for reasons that he should run.” [VanityFair]

Megadonor Sheldon Adelson wants GOP fundraising groups to shape up or risk losing support in 2020 — by Brian Schwartz: “Adelson’s closest advisors are preparing to warn the heads of the GOP congressional fundraising committees that they need to make significant changes to the way they raise money if they want to see the Las Vegas Sands CEO invest in the 2020 congressional elections, according to one of Adelson’s top lieutenants.” [CNBC]

DEEP DIVE — How No Labels Went From Preaching Unity to Practicing the Dark Arts — by Sam Stein and Lachlan Markay: “The group, which was founded as a champion of political bipartisanship, has been quietly courting donations from some of the most notoriously partisan money men and women in politics… The attempt to recruit these financiers was, according to sources, part of a concerted effort by No Labels to steer emphasis away from its nonprofit arm and toward campaign operations designed to boost preferred political candidates and target those deemed too extreme or impediments to its policy agenda.” [DailyBeast]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Disney Raises the Bar Bob Iger Has to Clear to Win Bonus [WSJ] • Diamond smuggling scandal spotlights shadowy Israeli tycoon Lev Leviev [ABCNews] • Discovery Stock Drops After CEO David Zaslav Talks Flagship Channel’s Ratings, Ad Weakness [HollywoodReporter] • All Hell Is Breaking Loose in the Sumner Redstone Trial [VanityFair]

MEDIA WATCH — How Bryan Goldberg Became Media’s Buyer of Last Resort — by Tom Dotan: “Mr. Goldberg has tried to work on his public persona. He dresses better, friends say, and he’s worked to ingratiate himself into the New York media scene. A few years ago he bought film director Steve Soderbergh’s apartment in Chelsea, where he hosts dinner parties with investors, media executives and journalists. Mr. Goldberg basks in the opportunity to hold court.”

“Whether he’s able to turn Bustle into the larger media empire he’s been talking about remains unclear. Even a well-run digital media company still runs up against the challenges of an unforgiving online advertising space.  For the time being, he’s content to capitalize off the business mistakes that the other companies in his cohort make. And at the final moment when they need him to avoid going under, Mr. Goldberg will be waiting.” [TheInformation]

HEADLINE DEPT. — “MAISEL TOV! New Season Just as Marvelous as the First” [NYDailyNewsh/t Stu Loeser

TALK OF THE TOWN — Do Children Get a Subpar Education in Yeshivas? New York Says It Will Finally Find Out — by Eliza Shapiro: “Over three years ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration opened an investigation into a lack of secular education at yeshivas that serve about 57,000 students in the city, but the probe essentially stalled almost as soon as it began. The reason, advocates say, is the city’s politicians, including the mayor, are fearful of angering the Orthodox Jewish community that represents a crucial voting bloc in major elections. Then the state stepped in with the most significant action yet in the probe… The guidance could force yeshivas to change how they operate and what they teach. It will also hold Mr. de Blasio’s feet to the fire, as his administration is forced to ramp up its investigation into the schools.” [NYTimes]

LONG READ — Investigating Hate: Inside New York City’s task force on bias — By Kathy Dobie: “Formed in 1981 as the Bias Incident Investigation Unit, nineteen years before New York State had even passed a hate crime law, the Hate Crimes Task Force is the second-oldest such unit in the country, after Boston’s. The job of the twenty-­eight-member task force is twofold: investigate and solve the underlying crime—whether it’s vandalism, assault, arson, or murder—and determine whether or not it qualifies as a hate crime under Article 485 of the state penal code. That is, was the crime motivated wholly or substantially by the victim’s identity?… The HCTF has long had the staunch and vocal support of many politicians and leaders of the Jewish, black, and LGBT communities. But hate crimes not only roil the city, they bring the media out in droves. They are regime changers, with the indirect power to depose and elect mayors.” [HarpersMag]

HAPPENING TODAY — Councilmembers Mark Levine and Donovan Richards are holding a press conference on the steps of New York City Hall at noon calling for passage of their legislation to create a city office for the prevention of hate crimes.

IN ISRAEL — Two girls’ deaths in Israel spur nationwide strike to protest inaction on violence against women — by Noga Tarnopolsky: “Silvana [Tsegai] and Yara [Ayoub] were the 23rd and 24th female victims of domestic violence to die this year in Israel, officials said. Their deaths have led to a week of protests and a nationwide “women’s strike” planned for Tuesday, to protest government inaction toward violence against women. More than 200 companies and institutions have said employees may take the day off to participate. Organizers expect more than 100,000 to strike.”[LATimes]

CAMPUS BEAT — Pitzer President Criticizes Faculty Support of Israel Study Abroad Suspension: Pitzer College is a member of the Claremont Colleges consortium, which also includes Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, and Scripps Colleges. “Amid the recent decision by Pitzer College’s faculty to vote in favor of suspending the college’s only study abroad program in Israel with the University of Haifa, the Pitzer College Council—a faculty and student governance board—held a discussion about the conflict during their November 29th meeting. During the meeting, Pitzer College President Melvin L. Oliver criticized the faculty vote, which he questioned as a “repudiation of Pitzer’s values.” [ClaremontIndependent]

SPORTS BLINK — Coach K lights the Hanukkah menorah on campus — by Derek Saul: “No, it was not extra latkes or jelly donuts. Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is Catholic, lit the menorah on the Bryan Center Plaza, commemorating the second night of Hanukkah with the school’s Jewish community. After an introduction from Jewish former star Blue Devil and current associate head coach Jon Scheyer, Krzyzewski spoke to the crowd about his relationship with the Jewish people and Hanukkah… On Zion Williamson: “Although we have Zion on our team, so come on. Zion’s a pretty cool word, for us, and you and all of us.” [DukeChronicle]

SPOTTED — at Bluelight Strategies’ 24th annual Latkes and Vodkas Hanukkah party last night in DC: William Daroff, Rabbi Sid Schwarz, Danny Schwarz, Amy Rudkin, Tevi Troy, Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau, Ben Weyl, Professor Ethan Porter. Matt Nosanchuck, Jason Epstein, Mark Morozowich, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt; Jerome Copulsky, Daniel Lippman, Omri Nahmias, Amir Tibon, Jennifer Bell, Jackson Richmond, Lynn Sweet, David Eisner, Rabbi Hayim Shafner, Sara Winkelman, Ira Forman, Tobby Dershowitz, Jerome Socolovsky, Stacy Burnett, Jennifer Bradley, Eric Cortellessa, Rachel Kohn, Chanan Weissman, Jonathan Beeton, Kevin Bohn, Joanne Kenen, Cherri Daniels, Gil Preuss, Ruth Wattenberg, Michael Lieberman, Laurie Moskowiz, David Polansky, David Holzel, Ron Kampeas, Michael Wilner, and Norm Goldstein. [Pic]

DESSERT — The Family-Run Store That’s Sold New York’s Best Latkes Since 1914 — by Reggie Nadelson: “A chilly day in early December and I’m sitting on a bench outside Russ & Daughters, eating a hot latke. Made of grated potato and onions, fried until golden brown, crispy outside, fluffy within, these are eaten to celebrate Hanukkah, which began last night. Down-home types eat them with sour cream or apple sauce; better still is the Russ way, with crème fraîche and a nice spoonful of red caviar, the fat red salmon roe that you can pop with your tongue. Eight nights of Hanukkah, eight occasions to nosh a latke.” [NYTimes]

REMEMBERING — An oral history of Roshi Bernie Glassman — by Daniel Burke: “Glassman, who died November 4 at age 79, was a Brooklyn-born Jew, a recognized Zen master, a Buddhist trailblazer, a restless mensch and a serial plunger.” [CNN]

BIRTHDAYS: Biographer and winner of the 1980 National Book Award, A. Scott Berg turns 69… Television director and producer, Dan Attias turns 67… Founder, senior Rabbi and lead guide of the Adventure Rabbi program based in Boulder, Colorado, Jamie Korngold turns 53… Publisher and founder of FlashReport on California politics and principal of the Fleischman Consulting Group, Jon Fleischman turns 51… Actor best known for playing Stuart Bloom on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Kevin Sussman turns 48… Founder and former CEO of Relativity Media, Ryan Kavanaugh (family name was Konitz) turns 44… Born in Ramat Gan, now living in New Jersey, Grammy Award-winning violinist, Miri Ben-Ari turns 40… Assistant US Attorney in Manhattan, he was previously a US Treasury aide and a law clerk for Judge José A. Cabranes on the Second Circuit, Sam Adelsberg turns 32… National campaign strategist at the ACLU, she was previously a campaign manager at the Center for American Progress, Sarah Baron turns 28… First round pick in the 2016 National Hockey League draft, he is a center in the Minnesota Wild organization, Luke Kunin turns 21… Israeli fashion model, as a 14-year old she became the lead model for Dior, she now works for Dior, Chanel and other couture firms, Sofia Mechetner turns 18… Tony Sarif..


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