Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Taylor Force Act added to omnibus bill, ensuring its passage | RJC ‘disgusted’ with Republican primary winner | King of the Mitzvahs

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JI EXCLUSIVE — Sen. Graham tells us that the Taylor Force Act has now been added to the omnibus: The Senate is expected to pass the Taylor Force Act as part of the $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill this week, according to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who introduced the legislation last year. The bipartisan Taylor Force Act will cut off U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority until they cease payments to terrorists and their families. The omnibus faces a Friday midnight deadline in order to prevent a government shutdown.

RECAP: The House passed the Taylor Force Act in December but it was held up in the Senate after Senate Republicans insisted that a sunset clause requiring Congress to re-pass the legislation in later years be removed. Senate Republicans also pulled two exemptions — vaccinations for children and wastewater projects. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer promised to do “everything possible” to help get it passed, preferably by unanimous consent. However, after Rep. Eliot Engel’s staff insisted on the exemption for water treatment totaling $37 million, the only other path would be allocating floor time for a stand-alone vote. As floor time is especially limited, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell preferred not to allocate it for this.

WHAT CHANGED LAST NIGHT: The breakthrough came after Senate and House leaders reached a compromise with Engel where the exemption for wastewater projects is capped at $5 million. “The goal is to punish the Palestinian Authority for these payments but the wastewater efforts have proven to be a successful project,” Graham told us.

Graham tells us: “After over two years of very hard work, we’ve achieved our goal of having the Taylor Force Act become law. This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation I’ve been involved with. The effort by the pro-Israel community led by Sander Gerber and the power of the Force family made it possible. This was truly bipartisan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer worked together. House Speaker Paul Ryan was very supportive. This will give us leverage with the Palestinians to push back on what I think is outrageous. You can make more money being a terrorist than getting a real job. This has to end.” [JewishInsider]

TALK OF THE REGION — “Israel admits 2007 Syrian ‘nuclear reactor’ strike for first time” by Mike Smith: “Israel’s military admitted for the first time Wednesday it was responsible for a 2007 air raid against a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor… An Israeli military spokesman declined to respond to questions related to the admission and the release of the documents, including over the timing, which could be seen as a warning regarding Iran’s activities. The declassified material includes footage of the strike, video of a speech by military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot on the operation and pictures of secret army intelligence communiques about the site.” [YahooNews]

“Inside Israel’s Secret Raid on Syria’s Nuclear Reactor” by Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv: “Former Mossad director Tamir Pardo asked in an interview with us: “Where were the Americans? North Korea is a highly important target for them. And it still isn’t clear whether [Syrian President Bashar] Assad was running the nuclear project, or was it the North Koreans? … “This is a resounding failure by the Americans,” Pardo said. Pardo’s questions raise another: If one of the best intelligence communities in the world, and certainly the most formidable in the Middle East, could be fooled by North Koreans and Syrians, what might the CIA be missing? That could be true in Korea, in Iran, or almost anywhere on Earth.”

“Deir ez-Zur, the largest city in eastern Syria, would be captured in 2014 by ISIS forces and then held by the Islamic militants for more than three years. Just imagine if ISIS had gotten its hands on plutonium and other parts designed to construct nuclear bombs. Israel’s action – a difficult decision by then-Prime Minister Olmert, after he unsuccessfully asked President George W. Bush to bomb the building –prevented the world’s most bloodthirsty terrorists from acquiring the world’s most lethal weapons. Israeli ministers and officials are proud of it.” [PoliticoHaaretz

“No Longer a Secret: How Israel Destroyed Syria’s Nuclear Reactor” by Amos Harel and Aluf Benn: “One of the president’s close advisers later told a senior Israeli official that [George W.] Bush replied in his typical Texas style: “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” Bush also had another crude observation, about Olmert: “You see why I love him? Because he’s got the world’s biggest balls.” [Haaretz]

“Israel ponders a new war in the Middle East” by David Gardner: “It is probable that, in the coming days, the Israelis will strike hard at what they describe as an Iranian base in Syria south-west of Damascus. Satellite images of the purported base were broadcast on Fox News at the end of last month. When the BBC reported on what a western intelligence source called an Iranian-backed Shia militia base near Damascus in November, Israel’s air force obliterated it within weeks. Some western officials believe a follow-up is imminent.” [FinancialTimes]

REPORT — “Merkel warned Netanyahu collapse of Iran deal could lead to war” by Barak Ravid: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a decision by President Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal might lead to the collapse of the agreement and, as a result, could lead to a regional war… Merkel stressed that a U.S. withdrawal would divide the west. According to the German official, Merkel said to Netanyahu: “It will put us, the Brits and the French on the same side with Russia, China and Iran when the U.S. and Israel will be on the other side. Is this what you want?” Netanyahu and Merkel spoke [last night] on the phone. The purpose of the call was for Netanyahu to congratulate Merkel on forming a new government, but the two also discussed the Iran deal.” [Axios

“Germany at odds with US on condemning Hezbollah in Iran talks” by Benjamin Weinthal: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration is the “least cooperative” of the three European powers. Germany is resisting the U.S. negotiating team appeal — and President Donald Trump’s position — to outlaw all of Hezbollah because that demand, say German diplomats, is linked to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks…” [FoxNews

“Saudi Prince’s White House Visit Reinforces Trump’s Commitment to Heir Apparent” by Mark Landler: “Mr. Trump, [a senior administration] official said, urged Prince Mohammed to settle the festering battle that pits Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar… Mr. Trump repeated his description of the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated by President Barack Obama, as the “worst deal ever,” the official said. But he did not preview what he plans to do about it, when he faces the next deadline in May. “The Iran deal is coming up soon and you will see what will happen,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “Iran hasn’t been treating that part of the world, or the world appropriately.” … On Tuesday evening, Prince Mohammed had dinner with Jared Kushner… Jason D. Greenblatt, Mr. Trump’s special envoy for Middle East peace; and Michael Bell, the senior director for the Middle East at the National Security Council. The three Americans briefed the prince on the status of their peace plan for the Israelis and Palestinians, which is nearly finished.” [NYTimes

“Finance minister eases procedures for moving U.S. embassy to Jerusalem” by Udi Shaham: “Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) Wednesday announced he would order the National Council for Planning and Construction to immediately assemble in order to approve decisions to speed up the process of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Kahlon said he would order the council to waive approval for several infrastructure projects that are required in order to move the embassy to the capital. The finance minister informed US President Donald Trump of his plans in a tweet.” [JPostTwitter]

HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert: “I had a chance to meet with Ambassador [David] Friedman last week and had dinner at his home, and spent some time with my colleagues in Tel Aviv and also for a short period of time in Jerusalem. I can say when I saw the comments that came out by Mahmoud Abbas – I mean, you look at that, it’s a terrible thing to say about anyone. It’s a terrible thing to say about a U.S. official. So comments like that are not only rude, but they’re unhelpful… What he said hampers the ability, we believe, to have the Israelis and Palestinians sit down and have a conversation together to work out a peace process.”

ILLINOIS PRIMARY RESULTS — “Billionaire Pritzker Wins Democratic Nod for Illinois Governor by John McCormick and Elizabeth Campbell: “Billionaire J.B. Pritzker won the Democratic primary for Illinois governor Tuesday after investing at least $69.5 million of his fortune to try to win a job that comes with some of the biggest fiscal challenges faced by any state… The brutal primary — Pritzker’s rivals called him a fraud, liar and painted him as someone trying to buy his way into office — could leave some lasting scars on the Democratic nominee and plenty of video clips for the GOP candidate to use against him.” [Bloomberg

In the 10th Congressional District, where Republicans hope to reclaim the seat they lost to Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider in 2016, social conservative Doug Bennett and former AIPAC, RJC staffer Jeremy Wynes are locked in a close race, separated by some 200 votes. [ChicagoTribune]

“Denounced by His Party as a Nazi, Arthur Jones Wins Illinois G.O.P. Congressional Primary” by Liam Stack: “Arthur Jones, a Holocaust denier described as a Nazi by the Illinois Republican Party, won the Republican primary on Tuesday in the state’s Third Congressional District… His victory on Tuesday was a foregone conclusion after the Republican Party failed to draft another candidate to enter the race against him… “Arthur Jones is not a real Republican — he is a Nazi whose disgusting, bigoted views have no place in our nation’s discourse,” Tim Schneider, the Illinois Republican Party chairman, said in a statement. He said the party had urged voters “to skip over his name when they go to the polls” and moving forward planned on “vehemently opposing Jones with real campaign dollars.” A spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party said those dollars would be used to support an independent candidate in the November general election.” [NYTimes]

RJC National Chairman and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman emailsus… “We are disgusted. There is no place for Arthur Jones, Holocaust deniers, anti-Semites and White Supremacists in the Republican Party. The RJC joins with the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Illinois Republican Party in rejecting Arthur Jones candidacy and urging his defeat. Jones is a Nazi, not a Republican.”

TALK OF THE TOWN — “Anti-Semitic posters surface at University of Minnesota” by Maura Lerner: “The fliers, headlined “Why Are Jews After Our Guns,” listed Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer and other Jewish lawmakers by name, next to images of the star-shaped badges that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps. The fliers said they were “brought to you by” a neo-Nazi group that was linked to previous anti-Semitic posters on campus. Steven Hunegs, executive director of the [Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas], described the latest flier as “ugly, pernicious, malicious” anti-Semitism.” [StarTribune

“D.C. lawmaker who said Rothschilds control the climate also said they control the federal government” by Fenit Nirappil and Paul Schwartzman: “As D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) tried Monday to apologize for a Facebook post in which he claimed that Jewish financiers control the climate, new footage released by the city showed it wasn’t the first time he had made such comments. White also contended that the Rothschilds — a European business dynasty and frequent subject of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories — control the World Bank and the federal government, making those remarks during a Feb. 27 gathering of top city officials, including Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D)… No one in the room challenged his remarks. Bowser wore a puzzled look.” [WashPost

The Washington Post editorial… “A D.C. leader’s anti-Semitic remarks are only part of the problem: As part of his rounds of apology, Mr. White has reached out to members of the Jewish community, and he said he plans to hold additional future meetings… Good that he is open to that learning; better if he adds another stop. At the Rockefeller Foundation, he could learn about the important work being done to make cities better places to live. Also that weather is not something that can be conjured up on a whim or wish. And that ignorance about the world, particularly by those making public policy, is the real threat to worry about.” [WashPost]  

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: James Packer, Australian Billionaire, Resigns from Casino Company [NYTimes] • Where in the world is Mark Zuckerberg? Frustrated Facebook execs are asking [CNNMoney] • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to break silence on Cambridge Analytica data use [NBCNews• Ex-Uber Chief Travis Kalanick Buys Real Estate Company, Takes CEO Reins [Bloomberg] • Waze brings its ride-sharing app to Washington state [Engadget

STARTUP NATION: “Tesla denies Musk in talks with Israeli AI vision firm Cortica” by Tova Cohen: ““The reports that [Elon] Musk was in Israel to discuss a collaboration between Tesla and Cortica are completely false, he was in Israel, but not to meet or have discussions with Cortica,” said a Tesla spokesman based in Palo Alto, Ca… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday he had met Musk and that they discussed the potential of solar energy generation in the Negev desert.” [Reuters]

Jerusalem mayor expected to announce Knesset bid this week: “Nir Barkat is expected to announce this week that he will not be seeking a third term as Jerusalem’s mayor, and that he will instead run for the Knesset on the Likud party ticket.” [ToI]

“Chief Rabbi Calls African-Americans ‘Monkeys’ in Sermon” by Callum Paton: “Yosef made the remarks in footage aired by the Israeli news site Ynet, reportedly citing a hypothetical story about encountering a black person in the U.S. He then referred to black people using the pejorative Hebrew word “kushi” and called a black person a “monkey.” In a response to the Israeli press, Yosef’s office said there was a religious context to the comparison made in the rabbi’s weekly sermon… Yosef is the most senior representative of the Sephardic Jews.” [Newsweek

— ADL: “Racially charged comment made by Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, comparing people of color to “monkeys”, is utterly unacceptable.” [Twitter

“Enigmatic Dead Sea Scroll makes rare show in Jerusalem” by Ilan Ben Zion: “A fragment of an enigmatic Dead Sea Scroll has gone on public display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum for the first time since its discovery 70 years ago… The Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish texts found in desert caves in the West Bank near Qumran in the 1940s and 1950s, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D… “This is the only copy of this book on Earth,” said Adolfo Roitman, curator of the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book, where the scrolls are housed.” [AP]

HOLLYWOOD: “Mayim Bialik Says Sticking Up for Israel Has Come With ‘A Heavy Price’” by Judy Maltz: “Delivering a keynote address at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, [Bialik] the Jewish-American celebrity said: “It hasn’t yet, that I know of, impacted my acting career, but it has impacted the way that I am seen, and that does impact my career in terms of speaking engagements and endorsements.” The star of “The Big Bang Theory” provided the audience with numerous examples of the vicious attacks she receives on social media, which have included calls to boycott her and the program. But, she said, “I’m happy to take that public bullet for the state.”” [Haaretz]

SPOTLIGHT: “Silicon Valley Insiders Think That Facebook Will Never Be the Same After the Cambridge Analytica Scandal” by Nick Bilton: “On a more prosaic level, as one entrepreneur who has personally spent time with Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg put it to me, this scandal has likely eliminated the potential for any of the company’s leaders to ever credibly run for public office. Another person who has worked with Zuckerberg in the past pointed out that the C.E.O.’s hopes of getting his company into China are now less likely… In the short term, the one saving grace for Zuckerberg is that the people who took advantage of the data manipulation and ad targeting to win office—namely Donald Trump… may not want to regulate a company that could, if left to its own devices, be used again in 2020 to retain the White House.”[VanityFair

“The New Threat of ‘Leak-Flavored’ Propaganda” by Eli Lake: “Last June the Associated Press published details of what appeared to be a scandal: The Wall Street Journal’s star national security correspondent, Jay Solomon, had been offered a stake in a startup by one of his sources, an Iranian-born arms dealer named Farhad Azima. The AP story was not based on anonymous sources, but rather texts and emails between Solomon, Azima and others… The Solomon-Azima case does show a new approach: how hacked emails and texts can be used to create a false mosaic. In this case, the AP report was careful not to directly conclude that Solomon was an arms dealer. But the implication of the coverage was that maybe he was. He wasn’t. “It was a mistake not to protect myself by making it clear when Azima sent a document on this business to me that journalistic ethics forbid me from entering the agreement,” Solomon told me. “But the entirety of my communications with him and others would show that no business ever happened.”” [BloombergView]

“YouTube Removes the ‘Hail, Trump’ Video From Search” by Robinson Meyer: “YouTube removed the video of Spencer’s speech from all public search results on its site and made it much more difficult to access overall. The YouTube video was only accessible during this period by clicking a direct link or by first finding The Atlantic’s user page, then locating the video in a menu… After The Atlantic challenged the deactivation, YouTube allowed the video to appear in public searches again and reopened comments on Mondayafternoon. In a statement, a YouTube spokeswoman said that the video’s delisting was a mistake.” [TheAtlantic]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Axios CEO Jim VandeHei discussed Michael Wolff on the latest Digiday Podcast: “A lot of the conversations that he put on the record that were off the record sound really familiar to conversations I had with a lot of those same people off the record, so I know them to be true. Were there things in there inaccurate? Yes. Where there things that were sloppy, for reasons I will never understand? Absolutely. But it was a book I do think that captured Trump at least in a broad brush better than anything that is captured to date. If Michael Wolff would come to us for advice, I’d say take another month or two and tighten it up. Get rid of the stuff that is not accurate. Double check stuff. And he used techniques as a reporter I wouldn’t use. If you tell me something is off the record, it really is off the record. So that’s between him and his God.” [Digiday] • Michael Wolff’s book tour is shrinking [WashPost]

DESSERT — “A Seder Feast in Provence, With Roots in Ancient Rome” by Joan Nathan: “This year, about 50 people will hold a communal Passover Seder at the Carpentras Synagogue, built in 1367 and one of the oldest active synagogues in Europe… Gilberte Levy, who can trace her family tree here back to the 1600s, will also cook some of the kosher recipes that Provençal Jews have been making for centuries… Most traditional foods of the Provençal Jews have been forgotten, but a few live on. Some old-time bakeries here sell brassados, bagel-like rolls that are boiled and then baked. Lightly sweet and sometimes spiked with anise, orange flower water or orange peel, they were adopted by Christian bakers as a Lenten and Easter tradition. Ms. Levy makes her own crunchy brassados with matzo meal.” [NYTimes]

“‘Shark Tank’ featured vegan, kosher cinnamon bun bakery opens in Boca” by Lulu Ramadan: “When Naomi and Todd Cohn and their three children fled Florida to avoid Hurricane Matthew in 2016, they landed in Atlanta. Cohn found herself unexpectedly eager to return to Boca Raton after noshing on warm, sticky — and guilt-free —cinnamon buns at Cinnaholic. The buns were vegan, and therefore kosher, as the Cohns adhere to eating guidelines of their Jewish faith. “Naomi immediately said, ‘Boca Raton needs one of these bakeries,’ ” Todd Cohn said. A year-and-a-half later, the Cohns opened a franchise of Cinnaholic on Northwest 20th Street, near Florida Atlantic University… The customizable cinnamon bun, cookie and brownie offerings are all vegan-friendly, nut-free and kosher — fitting right in Boca’s health-conscious, populous and large Jewish community.” [PalmBeachPost]

KING OF THE MITZVAHS — “Kareem Wells grew up in a rough neighborhood in Chicago. He started selling drugs when he was 14 and dropped out of school two years later. Still, he never let his love of music go. When he got a call to perform at his first bar mitzvah, his whole life changed. Now, as Chicago’s go-to local entertainer, Wells is the reigning King of the Mitzvahs. Today, he’s so popular that his gigs are booked three years in advance.” [GreatBigStory]
BIRTHDAYS: Yale Law School graduate in 1954, in 1978 she became the first woman appointed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Ellen Ash Peters turns 88… Rabbi emeritus of Manhattan’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (active 1958-2015) and principal of the Ramaz School (1966-2015), Rabbi Haskel Lookstein turns 86… Harvard professor, biochemist, physicist, molecular biology pioneer and winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Walter Gilbert turns 86… Scholar of Jewish mysticism and founding dean of the non-denominational rabbinical program at the Hebrew College in Boston where he still teaches, Arthur Green turns 77… Istanbul-born entrepreneur, hotelier and real estate developer, he is president of NYC-based Alexico Group LLC,Izak Senbahar turns 59… First Jewish member of the US House of Representatives from New Hampshire (2007-2011), later on the boards of the ADL and NJDC, Paul Hodes turns 67… Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, previously Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem turns 59… Co-founder of Wynnefield Capital Management, on the Board of Trustees of S.A.R. Academy in Riverdale, NY, Joshua H. Landesturns 56… Award-winning film, stage and television actor and singer whose roles include the title role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) and the adult voice of Simba in Disney’s The Lion King trilogy, Matthew Broderick turns 56… Hedge fund manager, philanthropist and chairman of the board of the New York City Opera, Roy Niederhoffer turns 52… Senior editor of the National Review, syndicated columnist, author and commentator, Jonah Jacob Goldberg turns 49… James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef from Miami who is known for her culinary skills as an expert in Latin-style flavors of cooking, Michelle Bernstein turns 48… Co-anchor of CNN Newsroom, John Berman turns 46… Digital marketing guru and president and founder of Bully Pulpit Interactive, Andrew Bleeker turns 33… Student activist at Miami University of Ohio, worked in the Office of Community Engagement at the Democratic National Committee, Addison Caruso turns 22… Samuel Gross