Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: President Obama’s Final Hanukkah in the White House | Jerusalem ‘likely disappointed’ by Tillerson | Microsoft’s $1B Campus in Herzliya

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DRIVING THE DAY: “President Obama’s Last Hanukkah Party a ‘Bittersweet’ Moment for Liberals With Trump in Wings” by Nathan Guttman: “For Jewish Democrats, the annual gathering will not be the joyful event it has been, as attendees will inevitably reflect on the time of political access and shared ideology that’s coming to an end… In the security line snaking outside the White House on December 14, Jewish movers and shakers will wonder, as in past years, who will be there next year. The difference: Most of them won’t be… Former liaisons and Jewish Democrats involved in Hanukkah receptions throughout the years estimated that next year, under Trump, at least half of the faces attending the event will be new.” [Forward]

HAPPENING TODAY: President Obama will host two Hanukkah receptions in the East Room. The first reception is scheduled for 3:50 pm and the second for 7:35 pm. “This year, President Obama has dedicated the lighting ceremony to the memory of his friend, the late Ninth President, Shimon Peres, and invited the Peres family to light the first candle… Chemi Peres and Mika Almog, Shimon Peres’ granddaughter, will bring a special menorah to the White House to use for the candle lighting – a menorah that survived the Holocaust and was passed down through the generations as a family Hanukkah miracle.”

Exclusive Photo: White House Jewish liaison Chanan Weissman making the White House Kitchen Kosher last night with Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Cynthia Bernstein, and Menachem Shemtov [Twitter

Flashback: Our coverage of the White House Hanukkah parties last year [JewishInsider

“ADL, Major Jewish Groups Snub Invite to Trump Hotel Hanukkah Party in DC” by Debra Nussbaum Cohen: “Sources at the ADL, AJC and Hadassah confirmed that they will not participate, as did someone close to JFNA… What’s more, the Conference invited the current and three former Obama White House liaisons to the Jewish community to be honored and attend its party. All declined to participate at any level… Someone close to the JFNA said that its leaders “are traveling home” and “have other commitments.” One of the White House Jewish liaisons struck a different tone, telling Haaretz, “are you kidding? I was getting invitations to the protest and I know half the people who are going to that,” speaking of the If Not Now-organized demonstration planned for outside the hotel.” [Haaretz]

DISPATCH FROM JERUSALEM — “How Donald Trump could soon discard a long-standing precedent on Israel” by Carol Morello and Ruth Eglash: “They are serious about this,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said Tuesday after returning from a trip to the United States, where he met with transition aides whom he declined to identify. “I am optimistic that this will happen sooner rather than later.” Meir Turgeman, the head of the Jerusalem building and planning committee in the Jerusalem City Council, said on Israeli radio this week that the transition team contacted Barkat asking for help finding an appropriate property. “Everything is on the table; they are still checking things out,” said Barkat in an interview Tuesday. “The decision was already approved by Congress, and it is the right thing to do to recognize Jerusalem. It’s been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years,” said Barkat, who is a friend of Trump son-in-law Jarad Kushner.” [WashPost]

“Netanyahu praises Trump’s pledge to open US Embassy in Jerusalem” by Itamar Eichner: “Regarding the idea of opening the US Embassy to Jerusalem, I will respond to this in one word: Great,” the prime minister said as he praised Donald Trump’s professed support of Israel. “We enjoy the fact that we have large support in the US…The US understands that on the future of Israel—Israel is the one that must decide.” [Ynet]

HEARD YESTERDAY – MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Trump’s plan to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem: “Why are we moving the embassy to Jerusalem at a time that the whole place over there could blow up? Why do we something that’s right in the face of the Palestinians, right in the face of the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Egyptians? You say you’re going to do it to pander a little bit. Fine, that’s politics. But you don’t actually do it. Doesn’t Trump know this?” [Newsbusters]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Analysis: Jerusalem likely disappointed by Trump’s secretary of state pick” by Herb Keinon: “It’s not because Jerusalem dislikes or does not trust Trump’s nominee, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson – policy makers in Israel, like those in most other non-oil producing countries, don’t know that much about him. It’s just that the Netanyahu government really liked some of the other candidates that were bandied about over the last five weeks: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John Bolton… no one seems to have any idea about where he stands on issues such as the settlements, Jerusalem and the two-state solution.”

— “One thing it is important to keep in mind, said Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the US and deputy foreign minister, is that US secretaries of state “serve at the pleasure of the president, and we know that Trump is closer to Israel on issues like the settlements.” In fact, Ayalon said that taking into account Trump’s informal advisers, such as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, “I don’t think we could have a better team than we have now with the advisers around him.”” [JPost]

“Democrats enlist experts to scour Tillerson’s business record” by Patricia Zengerle: “Exxon also has development rights in Iraq, which is battling Islamic State, and Saudi Arabia, with its controversial record on human rights and complex relationship with U.S. ally Israel and Iran, whose international nuclear agreement signed by President Barack Obama has been harshly criticized by Trump. “Mr. Tillerson has demonstrated he knows the corporate world and can put his shareholders’ interests first, but can he be a respected secretary of state that puts the national security interests of the American people first?” asked Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking Foreign Relations committee Democrat.” [ReutersInside Rex Tillerson’s long romance with Russia [WashPost]

“Trump Lines Up Establishment Republicans to Vouch for Rex Tillerson” by Michael Shear: “A series of statements followed from former Vice President Dick Cheney and former secretaries of state James A. Baker III and Condoleezza Rice, among others… Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, who was a finalist to become Mr. Trump’s secretary of state and will oversee confirmation hearings as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued an enthusiastic statement. “Mr. Tillerson is a very impressive individual and has an extraordinary working knowledge of the world,” Mr. Corker said.” [NYTimes]

Former Congressman Ron Klein tells us: “I think that’s where his relationships come from, that’s where he comes from, and so when push comes to shove, we want to know that someone in the Secretary of State’s position is going to stand up for our best and strongest ally in the Middle East, and that’s Israel.”

Klein on the notion that Tillerson’s ties with the Arab world can be helpful for the peace process: “I have no idea because I think his allegiances up to this point have been to the countries where he does business, and that’s not Israel. That’s these other countries. I think the other countries that want to have peace with Israel will have peace with Israel when they choose to have peace with Israel. I don’t think Tillerson, who’s friendly with them, is going to have any influence over them. I would love to have them sit down at the table with Israel and create a true and lasting peace, but I don’t see where his relationships as being a friend and supporter and investor in oil fields in those regions is going to be an advantage to Israel.”

DEEP DIVE: “The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.” by Eric Lipton, David Sanger and Scott Shane: “Mr. Obama was briefed regularly on all this, but he made a decision that many in the White House now regret: He did not name Russians publicly, or issue sanctions. There was always a reason: fear of escalating a cyberwar, and concern that the United States needed Russia’s cooperation in negotiations over Syria. “We’d have all these circular meetings,” one senior State Department official said, “in which everyone agreed you had to push back at the Russians and push back hard. But it didn’t happen.”” [NYTimes]

Noah Pollak tweets: “And by “Syria” the admin means “the Iran deal.”” [Twitter]

“Iran to work on nuclear-powered vessels after U.S. ‘violation’ of deal” by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Shadia Nasralla: “Iran ordered its scientists on Tuesday to start developing systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels in response to what it calls a U.S. violation of its landmark 2015 atomic deal with world powers… The White House said it was aware of Iran’s order and noted that Rouhani had said any such work on the vessels would be done within the framework of Iran’s commitments. “The announcement from the Iranians today does not run counter to the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a news briefing.” [Reuters]

TRANSITION TOWER — “Trump wasn’t happy with his State Department finalists. Then he heard a new name” by Michael Kranish, Anne Gearan, Dan Balz and Philip Rucker: “Trump became increasingly concerned about the 72-year-old Giuliani’s fitness for the job. Trump confided to friends that he thought that Giuliani, two decades removed from his heyday running New York, was past his prime and might not have the stamina or discipline to travel the globe and negotiate delicate matters… After [Bob] Gates went through the pluses and minuses of the four candidates, and Trump asked about other possibilities, Gates made his pitch for Tillerson. It was an unexpected move. Trump didn’t know the ExxonMobil CEO. Gates said Tillerson’s experience doing business in difficult parts of the world is an asset, and not because he has any cozy relationships with despots.” [WashPost; Politico]

“Was Mitt Romney played by the king of reality TV?” by Michael Levenson: “It’s hard to believe that Trump ever seriously considered him for the position, and it’s not hard to believe at all that Trump was simply interested in trying to humiliate Romney in public,” said Dan Schnur, a former aide to Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who is now director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “But Mitt Romney is a very smart person and it’s unlikely that he was at all surprised by what the process turned out to be.” [BostonGlobe]

“Scarborough Blasts Bolton as Dep SecState, Blames ‘Neo-cons, Sheldon Adelson’ For Boosting Him” by Mark Finkelstein: “Sheldon Adelson especially loves this guy Bolton. So this is a Sheldon Adelson thing… I think he needs to tell Sheldon Adelson, sorry, I love you buddy, and I’ll play blackjack out at your casino, but I can’t let you destroy US foreign policy because you like this guy.” [LI]

Donald Trump Is Officially Exploring How Ivanka Could Work in His White House” by Caroline Hallemann: “A recent series of tweets from Trump also suggests that Ivanka will play a role in his administration, and further confirms that his two elder sons will run his business.” [Town&Country]

INBOX — “Schumer announces, after his push, U.S. providing massive investment for U.S.-Israel missile defense programs: The funding was authorized as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2017 following a bipartisan letter that Schumer signed onto urging the Committee on Armed Services to provide these funds… “As our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel must have every resource it needs to sufficiently defend itself from deadly rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians—and it’s incumbent upon the United States to ensure they get these critical defense measures… The United States must always come to the aid of our indispensable friend, Israel, and I pledge to continue being among the Jewish State’s strongest advocates in the Senate,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.”

“Telhami slams Obama for Koranic arguments in 2009 Cairo speech at Brookings Panel” by JI’s Aaron Magid: “At a crowded Brookings Panel on Tuesday discussing the role of religion in Israel and the Middle East, Shibley Telhami  — a non-resident fellow at the think tank—blasted President Obama for his heavy reliance on Islamic language in the famous 2009 Cairo address. “Obama, a secular Christian President of a country that is not trusted is trying to tell people what they should do because of his own interpretation of what the Koran says,” explained Telhami… As with almost every debate that addresses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tensions rose between Mohammad Darawshe, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and co-executive director of the Center for a Shared Society at Givat Haviva, and Yehudah Mirsky, a Professor of Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, over which side is responsible for the divide between Israeli Arabs and the Jewish majority. During his presentation, Darawshe admonished the Netanyahu government for anti-democratic legislation, while Mirsky also blasted Hamas and PA leaders for hardening attitudes among Palestinian citizens of Israel.” [JewishInsider

“Settlement bill could go to final vote next week amid US objections” by Lahav Harkov: “Despite previous indications that the final plenum vote would only take place after President- elect Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, a source close to Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said the party is working on getting the law passed much sooner. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would prefer to wait until the end of January and has publicly called for caution, as the current diplomatic climate is “sensitive.” Sources in his office said earlier this week that he had reached an understanding with Bennett about the need to wait. However, the source close to Bennett said: “Bibi has his thoughts and we have ours. It hasn’t been decided yet. I don’t think we will wait until after the budget.”” [Jpost]

“Israel: EU labelling rules have ‘non-existent impact'” by Nigel Wilson: “Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy to the Yesha Council, an umbrella organisation for settlers in the West Bank, described the EU’s labelling guidelines as “a pain in the backside” that had an “almost non-existent” effect on businesses on the ground. “Although, at the beginning, it was frightening, we have learned that it is not such an obstacle,” Revivi told Al Jazeera, before linking the EU labelling measures to boycott movements against companies located in the settlements.” [AlJazeera

“In the Trump era, imams and rabbis struggle to come up with a strategy to counter anti-Muslim hostility” by Ron Kampeas: “Rabbi Sid Schwarz, a senior fellow at Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, outlined to the larger group what his lunch table came up with, including volunteering to register as Muslims should Trump make good on his campaign proposal to set up a national Muslim registry.” [JTA

**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 

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Goldman Sachs Names David Solomon, Harvey Schwartz to Succeed Gary Cohn [WSJ] • In Founders Den, a private club that relies on the power of persuasion [TechCrunch] • Gary Barnett’s Extell secures one-week extension on $235M Blackstone loan [TRD] • Amazon is doubling down on the secretive Israeli chip startup it bought for $350 million 2 years ago [BusinessInsider] • Tech giant Microsoft announces $1 billion campus in Herzliya [IsraelHayom]

“Israeli VC Pitango launches its 7th early-stage fund of $175M” by Mike Butcher: “The new fund focuses on IT and life science investments, specializing in enterprise infrastructure, IoT, artificial intelligence and digital health. This latest move brings Pitango’s recent capital raising to a total of $400 million in both funds, taking its total assets under management to $2 billion… Pitango has also established two seed investment platforms for the fields of IoT and digital medicine.” [TC] • Why Only Israel Can Customize America’s F-35 (At Least for Now) [WiredMag]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Hogan proposes to boost funding for private school scholarships” by Pamela Wood: “The state-funded scholarship program would gradually increase over three years from $5 million currently to $10 million under Hogan’s plan. The governor visited Bais Yaakov School for Girls in Baltimore County to make the announcement, which was greeted with a standing ovation from students and teachers from Bais Yaakov and other Jewish day schools. “I knew I came to the right audience,” Hogan said.” [BaltimoreSun

“Surge of hate graffiti on bathroom walls, other areas, has Maryland county rattled” by Donna St. George: “Students have long scrawled their thoughts on bathroom walls at school, but recent graffiti in Montgomery County — including swastikas and racial insults — have left many educators grappling with a troubling rise in acts of hateful vandalism.” [WashPost]

“Anti-Defamation League condemns Lupe Fiasco “dirty Jewish execs” lyric” by Ryan Torok: “The lyrics about artists being robbed by ‘dirty Jewish execs’ are offensive,” Greenblatt said in a Dec. 13 statement.  “These lyrics reinforce the anti-Semitic myth of Jewish control of the music industry, a stereotype that has been exploited in recent years by well-known hatemongers. It is irresponsible for a recording artist to perpetuate the hateful anti-Semitic stereotype of the ‘greedy Jew.’ Even if Lupe Fiasco has concerns about exploitation of his artistic output, it’s deplorable to stigmatize an entire group in response.” [JewishJournal]

SCENE LAST NIGHT: Bluelight Strategies hosted their 22nd annual Latkes and Vodkas party (Theme: From Russia with Love) in Washington, D.C.

SPOTTED: Former WH Jewish liaisons Jay Footlik, Tevi Troy, Noam Neusner, and Matt Nosanchuk [Pic]; former Congressman Ron Klein, Josh Handelman, pollster Jim Gerstein, JFNA’s William Daroff, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, NJDC’s Greg and Marti Rosenbaum, Rabbi Steve Gutow, Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, Ron Sachs, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Rabbi Menachem Shemtov, Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau, Steve Rabinowitz, ONE’s Laurie Moskowitz, Aaron Keyak, AIPAC’s Elliot Brandt and Johnathan Kessler, Jason Epstein, Jonathan Beeton, Mira Kogen Resnick, Avi Goldgraber, TIME’s Phil Elliott and Zeke Miller, Walla’s Omri Nahmias, ABC’s Ali Weinberg, Jordan Fabian, JPost’s Michael Wilner and his father Mark Wilner, Ann Lewis, Ben Weyl, Dan Arbel, Sarit Arbel, Ethan Porter, DNC’s Eric Walker, AP’s Josh Lederman, JTA’s Ron Kampeas, WashPost’s Josh Rogin, CNN’s Hilary Krieger, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar, Sara Wheaton, Frank Chi, TOI’s Eric Cortellessa and Rebecca Shimoni-Stoil, JFNA’s Liz Leibowitz, JI’s DC correspondent Aaron Magid, Shai Franklin, NCJW’s Nancy Kaufman, Aviva Kempner, Politico’s Joanne Kenen, CBS radio’s Dan Raviv, Bluelight’s Madeline Peterson, Bend the Arc’s Jason Kimelman-Block, Corey Jacobson, Geoffrey Melada, Jennifer Bell, Jared Feldman, Pamela Wexler, Rachel Snyder, Sarah Arkin, Marin Stein, Danny Schwartz, and Jessica Schwartz.

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN L.A.: At a Jewish high school cafeteria, Anti-Defamation League National Director Jonathan Greenblatt found a rare occasion to look forward to President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. “This man walks into the Oval Office with a more intimate relationship with the Jewish people than any president in the history of the United States of America,” he said to scattered applause in the gym at Shalhevet High School during the Jewish Journal Crucial Conversations panel. “The notion of having Jewish children who are shomer shabbos in the first family is a pretty remarkable thing.” On Keith Ellison as Democratic National Committee chair, he said, “He’s certainly been someone who’s done tshuva (penance) for his prior affiliation with the Nation of Islam, and we take him at his word… We still don’t know where Keith would go with it if he becomes head of the Democratic Party.”

SPOTTED: Jewish Journal columnist Danielle Berrin (moderator), Shalhevet head of school Rabbi Ari Segal, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Dan Schnur (panelists), California State Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), David Suissa, Rob Eshman, ADL Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda Susskind, Maya Kadosh and Scott Jacobs of JooTube.

BIRTHDAYS: Co-founder and Chairman of Creative Artists Agency (1975-1995), then President of the Walt Disney Company (1995-1997), philanthropist Michael S. Ovitz turns 70… Retired SVP at Warner Brothers, key advocate for Israel on the Platform Committee of the Democratic party on the national and state levels, Howard Welinsky turns 67… Co-founder of many companies, including Beanstalk, Sixpoint Partners and Vringo, author of NYTimes bestseller “Let There Be Water,” Seth (Yossi) Siegel turns 63… Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (2009-2012), rumored to have been Hillary Clinton’s choice as the first ever woman Secretary of Defense, Michele Flournoy turns 56…

Founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness established to combat abusive class-action settlements, now a division of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ted Frank turns 48… Matt Duss, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a CAP alum and the pride of Nyack, N.Y. … Sloane Speakman, who in January is joining the counter-ISIL team in the Mideast office for OSD policy (h/ts Politico Playbook) … Senior Rabbi of the Beth Jacob Congregation of Beverly Hills, California, Kalman Topp turns 44… Owner of Bundles of Boston, Sheree Boloker … Director of government affairs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Robin Schatz… Jerome Varon… Matt Kosman

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