Daily Kickoff: US Navy may avoid Haifa if Israel gives China control of port | Schiff’s screenplay | Kraft visits Tree of Life | Plepler BDay


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TOP TALKER —  U.S. Navy may stop docking in Haifa after Chinese take over port — by Michael Wilner: “The U.S. Navy has acknowledged that its longstanding operations in Haifa may change once a Chinese firm takes over the civilian port in 2021… A 2015 agreement between Israel’s Transportation Ministry and Shanghai International Port Group — a company in which the Chinese government has a majority stake — granted SIPG control over the port for 25 years. The deal was signed off by Israel Katz, who was serving as transportation minister at the time and has remained in the position since.”

“Retired Israeli and American defense and intelligence officials raised concerns throughout the summer that Chinese management of the port might jeopardize America’s operations there. Two sources familiar with the matter said that due to concerns that U.S. defense officials privately shared with their Israeli counterparts, the Israeli government has launched “a review of the agreement at a high level,” specifically among members of the inner cabinet.” [JPost]

— FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer“Israel now coming to grips with a bonehead move.”

TALK OF THE REGION —  Australia reaffirms recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite backlash: “Australia’s conservative prime minister on Sunday stood by his decision to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite criticism from neighboring Muslim countries… But a contentious embassy shift from Tel Aviv… will not occur until a peace settlement is achieved… “I think the responses that we have seen from countries so far has been measured,” [Prime Minister Scott] Morrison told reporters in Canberra.” [France24NYTimes]

— “Recognizing Jerusalem is expected to help the embattled Australian PM — who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year — with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.” [ToI

Israel signals displeasure at Australia’s ‘mistaken’ West Jerusalem move — by Dan Williams: “Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s minister for regional cooperation and a Netanyahu confidant in the right-wing Likud party, was… openly critical of Australia… “To our regret, within this positive news they made a mistake,” Hanegbi told reporters outside the cabinet room. “There is no division between the east of the city and west of the city. Jerusalem is one whole, united… And we hope Australia will soon find the way to fix the mistake it made.” [Reuters

WHY IT MATTERS — Former US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro“Something Israelis may have to get used to. The Australian model of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is likely to be replicated by other countries. And maybe by the next U.S. administration.”

PMO veteran Shalom Lipner emails: “The Australian model has always been available — Russia employed it already in April 2017 —but it threatens to put the Israeli government in a difficult spot. Ironically, it could even lead Netanyahu to regret his campaign for international acceptance of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Should ‘partial recognition’ become the new gold standard, one can envision a situation where Israel’s ostensible friends adopt this half-pregnant route, and wind up inflicting inadvertent damage to Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the entire city.”

“One surreal outcome of this conundrum could conceivably be Israeli diplomatic outreach to countries that are considering partial recognition, imploring them to maintain the status quo instead. At that point, some will no doubt wonder whether it was the right decision to force open this Pandora’s Box at all.”

Bahrain defends Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israeli capital: “The Arab League in a statement said it “strongly condemns” Australia’s move which it called “irresponsible and biased” and “contrary to international law.” … But Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa took issue with the statement, saying in a tweet: “These are irresponsible statements. Australia’s position does not hamper the legitimate demands of the Palestinians and first and foremost East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. It also does not contradict the Arab Peace Initiative.” [ToI]

Meanwhile… Israel Announces Designated Embassy District in East Jerusalem: “Make the move quickly, the best places are going to be taken quickly,” Israeli construction minister Yoav Galant said in a statement Wednesday. Galant announced plans to build an embassy complex in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of East Talpiot, also known as Armon HaNetziv, which will house nine separate embassies.” [Calcalist]

BEHIND THE SCENES — Here’s How The Chief Palestinian Negotiator Described His Last Meeting With Jared Kushner — by Tom Gara: “[Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb] Erekat’s last meeting with Kushner took place more than a year ago and it did not go well, according to his account of the situation. In fact, you could fairly describe it as a disaster. Kushner revealed Trump’s plan to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem… It didn’t go well from there.”

Transcript of Erekat’s account of his final meeting with Kushner: “I told him, ‘Look: if you do this, you will have disqualified yourself from any role in the peace process.’ He replied: ‘Don’t threaten me… You don’t know the changes that are happening around you in the Arab world.’ I told him, ‘The best thing for me is to be a student — so teach me.’ ‘DON’T BE SARCASTIC,’ he shouted.” [BuzzFeed]

On Twitter, Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt condemned settler attacks on Palestinian vehicles in response to terror attacks: “The recent Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis are unconscionable. But throwing rocks at vehicles who have nothing to do with these attacks is NOT a legitimate response. Innocent people could be killed.”

Greenblatt also denounced Hamas for boasting about recent attacks: “Disgraceful that Hamas videos glorify drive-by shootings & other terrorism including one that killed Amiad Yisrael – a baby. This is what Hamas boasts about on its 31st anniversary & what countries who undermined & voted against our resolution failed to condemn. Disgusting!”

Facebook temporarily bans Israeli PM’s son over posts: “A son of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says Facebook blocked him for 24 hours amid a spat over several posts railing against Palestinians and Muslims… A post in which the 27-year-old said he would prefer if “all Muslims leave the land of Israel” was also taken down. He called Facebook “thought police.” But it accused him of hate speech.” [BBC]

PROFILE — Adam Schiff’s Plans to Obliterate Trump’s Red Line — by Jeffrey Toobin: “On a recent weekend, at a busy restaurant in downtown Burbank, in the heart of his congressional district, Schiff talked about his plans for conducting an investigation that will be parallel to Mueller’s, probing Trump’s connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other places around the world… “Our role is not the same as Bob Mueller’s,” Schiff told me, over a vegan burger. (He changed his eating habits a few years ago, in order to lower his cholesterol.)… “The one that has always concerned me is the financial issues, which obviously have come much to the fore this week,” he said… “At the end of the day, what should concern us most is anything that can have a continuing impact on the foreign policy and national security policy of the United States.”

“On a recent Sunday, [Schiff] viewed an exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust… [and] then went to light the candles on an oversized menorah in front of a Mr. Luggage store at a mall in Burbank, where a man named David Nathan Schwartz introduced himself. They discovered that they had been in the same third-grade class, in Framingham, Massachusetts. Later, recalling third grade, Schiff told me, “That was the last time that someone called me Adam Shit. I think the kid’s mother actually washed his mouth out with soap.” … It’s less known that… Schiff has been writing screenplays on the side for years… “The first was a post-Holocaust story called ‘Remnant.’ As Schiff recalled, “I had an agent at William Morris tell me it was good but no one would want to see it—too depressing. Then ‘Schindler’s List’ came out, and I was, like, ‘Come on!’” [NewYorker]

ON THE HILL — Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) introduced the Blocking Iranian Illicit Finance Act, which would impose maximum pressure on the Iranian regime in addition to current U.S. sanctions. The bill — which only has Republican cosponsors — seeks to counter the Iranian regime’s money laundering and financing of terrorism and protect the global financial system from Iranian illicit finance.

How a Senate Debate Is Hurting U.S. Policy in the Mideast — by Eli Lake: “Nominated last spring to be assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, [David] Schenker enjoys broad bipartisan support in the Senate. But Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, is holding Schenker’s nomination in a bid to get President Donald Trump to turn over the legal memo that authorized U.S. air strikes on a Syrian airbase in April 2017… He is worried that Trump may have no legal justification for those strikes.” [BloombergView]

COMING SOON — Rashida Tlaib will wear a Palestinian gown as she’s sworn into Congress — by Nadeem Muaddi: “Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib will be sworn into office next month while wearing a traditional Palestinian gown. The Michigan Democrat announced on social media Friday that she intends to wear a thobe to the ceremony.” [CNNHaaretz

RIYADH WATCH — Washington Sends the Saudis a Long-Overdue Bill — by Samuel Oakford: “The Pentagon said that the $331 million shortfall was split between $36.8 million in fuel and $294.3 million in U.S. flight hours. It’s unclear how much the Saudis and Emiratis owe individually. In response to a question about whether either had reimbursed the U.S. at all, the Pentagon stated that the “U.A.E. has provided some repayment for refueling services.” The Pentagon later confirmed that the Saudis have not made any payments — a stunning revelation given the amount of attention the campaign has received.” [TheAtlantic

’20 or ’24? — Outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley Sounds Like She’s Running for Something — by Michael Warren: “A young, charismatic former governor, the daughter of immigrants from India, with foreign-policy experience and national name recognition: Many don’t see a mere “voice” in Nikki Haley, they see a future president. Friends tell her she ought to run one day. “I hope she does,” says Trey Gowdy, a retiring congressman from Haley’s state of South Carolina. “She’s very smart, very tough, very politically skilled.” People in the administration who worked with her say similar things.” [WeeklyStandard

MEDIA WATCH — Who Killed The Weekly Standard? — by David Brooks: “This week, Phil Anschutz and Ryan McKibben murdered The Weekly Standard, the conservative opinion magazine that Anschutz owned. They didn’t merely close it because it was losing money. They seemed to have murdered it out of greed and vengeance. John Podhoretz, one of the magazine’s founders, reports that they actively prevented potential buyers from coming in to take it over and keep it alive. They apparently wanted to hurt the employees and harvest the subscription list so they could make money off it.”

Over the past year, under the editorship of Steve Hayes, the magazine was as good as it ever was. Adam Keiper did brilliant work with the back of the book. Amazingly talented young writers were recruited, like Adam Rubenstein, Alice Lloyd and Haley Byrd… The Standard is now gone, but the people and ideas The Standard nurtured will continue to flourish. The talented young people who were fired this week will go on to have brilliant careers.” [NYTimes]

Trump tweeted on Saturday: “The pathetic and dishonest Weekly Standard, run by failed prognosticator Bill Kristol (who, like many others, never had a clue), is flat broke and out of business. Too bad. May it rest in peace!”

— Bill Kristol replied“@ me next time.”

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Major hedge funds are scrambling to prevent financial wipeout [NYPost] • Genome Protection received $10.5M investment from fund controlled by Roman Abramovich [Bizjournals• Seth Klarman Gains Stake In Akebia Therapeutics [Forbes

STARTUP NATION — Israel’s tech sector faces challenge from shortage of workers — by Tova Cohen: “Israel is struggling to recruit enough workers to its technology sector, a report showed on Sunday… Start-Up Nation Central, which published the report with the Israel Innovation Authority, said that while the number of high-tech workers in Israel had grown over the past five years, their percentage of the labor force remained unchanged.” [Reuters Israel joins the race to become a quantum superpower [JPost]

SPOTLIGHT — The Toy Magnate Who Took On Barbie Gears Up for Christmas Season — by Sophie Alexander: “Isaac Larian arrived in the U.S. as a teenager with $750 in his pocket, then spent a decade working in a restaurant before making his fortune in the toy business. But his biggest obstacle may have been an 11.5-inch tall plastic doll with blonde hair. “Everyone said, ‘No one has been able to challenge Barbie. It won’t work,’” said Larian, 64, the Iranian-born founder and chief executive officer of MGA Entertainment, creator of Barbie rival Bratz dolls. Well, it worked well enough to help make MGA one of the world’s largest toy companies. Along with Bratz, the firm’s offerings include Little Tikes and L.O.L Surprise!, this year’s top-of-the-wish-list item. Larian’s 82 percent stake in the Van Nuys, California-based company puts his net worth at about $2.5 billion.” [Bloomberg]

Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she’s ‘almost repaired’ after last month’s fall — by Ariane de Vogue: “More than a month after falling and fracturing three ribs, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg declared Saturday night in New York that she is “almost repaired.” [CNN]

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Nephew on Winning the Aunt Lottery — by Michael Schulman: “[Daniel] Stiepleman’s aunt is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In other words, he won the aunt lottery. The movie, “On the Basis of Sex,” which opens on Christmas Day, stars Armie Hammer as Martin and Felicity Jones as Ruth. “I think we do her a disservice when we turn her into a superhero,” Stiepleman, thirty-seven, said in his Upper West Side apartment. Growing up, on Long Island, he found his aunt “intimidating,” he said, “because you talk to her and there’s always a long silence. It took me a while to figure out that that was how she communicated.” Every Thanksgiving from when he was five to twelve, she would give him a copy of the U.S. Constitution for Hanukkah… As he wrote the screenplay, Stiepleman made several trips to Washington, D.C., where his aunt granted him access to her files at the Library of Congress.” [NewYorker]

SPORTS BLINK — Julian Edelman wears cleats to honor synagogue shooting victims: “Edelman, who is Jewish, wore specialized cleats during pregame warmups at Heinz Field. The right cleat featured the Star of David and the hashtag “stronger than hate.” The left cleat included the logo of the Tree of Life Synagogue as well as writing in Hebrew. Edelman tweeted out a picture of the cleats, along with the names of the 11 victims.” [WCVB]

Robert Kraft visited Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday, ahead of big Patriots-Steelers game — by Shalise Manza Young: “On Saturday, ahead of his team’s showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft flew into the city to visit the Tree of Life synagogue… After visiting Tree of Life, Kraft went to a second synagogue in Pittsburgh, Rodef Shalom, to attend services. The rabbi invited Kraft to speak and Kraft accepted, telling the congregation that as big as Sunday’s Steelers-Patriots game is, attending services with Pittsburghers was bigger to him.”[YahooSports]

Lenny Dykstra reveals his new life as an amateur Torah scholar — by Kirsten Fleming: “A rabbi and Lenny Dykstra walk into an East Side wine shop… In fact, it happens nearly every Wednesday afternoon, as the bad-boy former Met attends Torah study in the basement of Ambassador Wines shop, where Rabbi Shmuel Metzger leads a group over red wine and kosher pizza… We enjoy his company and he’s a great guy. A lot of fun. We can handle his [unsavory] language,” said Metzger of Dykstra, who has no plans to convert to Judaism… He and the former big-leaguer often head to the Chabad at Beekman Sutton synagogue and talk baseball, and Dykstra has been to Shabbat dinner at Metzger’s Sutton Place home with the rabbi’s wife and six kids.”[NYPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Indiana governor says passing hate crime law ‘long overdue’ — by Brian Slodysko and Tom Davies: “The spray-painting of a swastika outside a suburban Indianapolis synagogue this summer was the final straw for Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who quickly called for Indiana to join the 45 states that have hate crime laws. “It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s long overdue,” Holcomb said Friday… As the annual legislative session draws near, though, some warn that such a proposal could spark a bitter cultural debate that would bring unwanted attention to the deeply conservative state… David Sklar, assistant director of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, said the only reason anyone should worry about a hate crime law “is if you are a criminal.” [AP]

Arrest In Machete Incident Outside North Hollywood Chabad: “An image of a masked man with a machete scared many people at a local synagogue but Saturday night an arrest was made. A frightening picture taken outside the Chabad of North Hollywood appears to show a man with his face covered in a scarf, holding a machete in a threatening manner toward the Chabad.” [CBSLA]

Tevi Troy’s end-of-year reading suggestions: “On the Jewish-books front, I enjoyed Steven Weisman’s The Chosen Wars, about the development of the American Jewish community before the 20th century. Weisman recounts that Judah Monis, the first Jew in America to get a college degree, earned it from Harvard, starting a long association with Jews and what would become the Ivy League… My brother Gil Troy edited The Zionist Ideas, an excellent anthology of great writing about Zionism. Gil not only put together a superb collection of pieces on the subject, but he also skillfully introduced each author with a short essay explaining the author’s historical relevance. Avi Jorisch’s Thou Shalt Innovate highlights a series of impressive Israeli innovations in a variety of fields that are truly changing the world.”[NationalReview]

DESSERT — Proposed Street Name Change to Honor Bronx Deli Has Local Officials in a Pickle — by Amy Yensi: “For nearly 60 years, Fredy Loeser has been serving up delicious deli food in Kingsbridge. His pastrami has even won awards… Loeser opened his deli in 1960 with some of his remaining bar mitzvah money. It’s one of only two kosher delis left in the Bronx. In fact, he’s still using his father’s recipes, but there is one change Loeser supports — co-naming West 231st Street, Loeser Deli Way… But the proposal for Loeser Deli Way, formally submitted by Loeser’s daughter, hit a roadblock Tuesday night. The community board said the approving it could be seen as the city promoting or advertising a particular business… The board said it made the decision in the interest of fairness, local business owners tell NY1 they don’t have a problem with the street naming proposal.” [NY1]

How a Cambridge-educated investor turned into a kosher restaurateur — by Victoria Prever: “David Levin’s motives in opening a kosher restaurant are not entirely altruistic. Although keen to provide high-quality nosh for the observant eaters of North West London, there was some self-interest. “As a single person I’d spent a lot of Shabbats sitting on my own at home, and my friends sat on their own. It’s very easy to say, ‘Why didn’t you get together and one of you cook’, but it’s not always easy to do when you’re working hard. But when you’ve got a restaurant that’s open on Shabbat like Tish, it’s much easier to say ‘Let’s all meet at Tish for Friday night or Shabbat lunch’. It works very well.” [TheJC]

BIRTHDAYS: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HBO, Richard Plepler turns 60… and his NY neighbor, Founder and CEO of LionTree LLC,Aryeh B. Bourkoff turns 46… Current member and former Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, she was appointed in 1976 and is the longest serving justice in the history of that court, Shirley Abrahamson turns 85… Washington attorney and vice chair of The American Jewish International Relations Institute, Stuart Sloame turns 79… VP of strategic planning and marketing at Queens, NY based NewInteractions, Paulette Mandelbaumturns 71… Israeli soccer goalkeeper who played 386 matches for Maccabi Haifa (1994-2013) and 51 matches or the Israeli national team (1998-2010), now a coach for the national team, Nir Davidovich turns 42… Omidyar Fellow at the New America Foundation, he served as chief executive of Upworthy and was a co-founder of Avaaz, he was formerly the board president of MoveOn.org (2004-2009), Eli Pariser turns 38…

Online editor of “Commentary” and author of “Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America,” Noah C. Rothman turns 37… Chief of staff at Burrow, he was deputy CFO/COO for Martin O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign, then a regional operations director at Hillary for America, Daniel Ensignturns 28… Actor, singer-songwriter and musician, he starred in the Nickelodeon television series “The Naked Brothers Band” (2007-2009), Nat Wolff turns 24… Life-long advocate on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers for the International Rescue Committee and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), Sheppie Glass Abramowitz turns 82… and Sheppie’s son, Director of the Committee on Conscience, which conducts the genocide prevention efforts of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Michael Abramowitz turns 55…


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