Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Traveling in Africa, Ivanka talks ‘Jexodus’ | Rep. Lois Frankel on her Jewish identity | Preparing a Passover feast for 1,000

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Ed note: News cycle permitting, the Daily Kickoff will be on holiday mode over Passover. The next Daily Kickoff will be published on Tuesday, the 23rd. In the meantime, if you’re experiencing any withdrawal, follow us on Twitteror look out for scoops on JewishInsider.com. We wish you a happy and healthy Passover!

IVANKA TALKS ‘JEXODUS’ IN AFRICA — In an interview with The Associated Press on a trip to Africa, Ivanka Trump said she was concerned about a “rise in antisemitism” and said there currently was “less support for Israel than Israel has traditionally experienced.” Asked if she agreed with her father’s statements that Democrats had become an “anti-Jewish” party, she said: “I never make categorical statements, but certainly there are some who have said things that are not supportive of the state of Israel.”

In the interview, Ivanka revealed that her 7-year-old daughter Arabella recently used her nanny’s phone to ask the Siri digital assistant how many people her father, Jared Kushner, had helped get out of prison, after the passage of the criminal justice bill. [AP]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH ― The administration is expected to roll out the much-anticipated Mideast peace plan in June, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner said in a closed meeting with ambassadors at the Blair House on Wednesday.

According to Reuters, Kushner during his remarks pushed back on the idea that the peace plan was mostly centered around the economic package. “He said the plan will require concessions from both sides but won’t jeopardize the security of Israel,” a source told the news agency. “It requires everybody approaching the plan with an open mind.” [Pic]

Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt confirmed the remarks, saying on Twitter: “This is an accurate report.”

U.S. vs. PA ROUND 2 — Greenblatt also admonished the new ‏Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, for saying the peace plan will be ‘born dead.’

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday that Israel isn’t likely to take any steps toward annexing West Bank areas before the peace plan roll out in June. “I don’t believe there will be any movement from our side until we see the plan,” Danon said. “We’ll wait, we’ll engage, and then we’ll decide.”

REACTION ― Amb. Daniel Shapiro tells JI, “It was never realistic to present a plan before Israel formed its government ― too many moving parts. But the fundamental problem is that the plan ― if it is ever presented ― will be either unacceptable to this Israeli government, by calling for two states, or unacceptable to the Arab states, by failing to call for two states. Faced with that conundrum, there is always a reason to put off presenting it: Ramadan, August vacations, Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, the 2020 election campaign. Unless the purpose is issue a plan that the Palestinians and Arabs will reject, so Trump can throw up his hands, say he tried, and green light Israeli annexation moves. We don’t know which it is, which it makes it hard to predict.”

The State Department has now updated the Foreign Affairs Manualto reflect the U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, AP’s Matt Lee noted on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is preparing to lay off most of its Palestinian aid workers in its West Bank and Gaza mission, reducing the number of local staff from 100 to 14, NPR’s Daniel Estrin reported on Thursday.

WATCH ― U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman addressed Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan in a light manner as part of a traditional Passover-greetings video published on Wednesday. In the video, Friedman is seen briefing his staff about the U.S. updating the map of Israel to include the Golan when his wife Tammy interrupts him for Pesach preparations. [Video]

COMING SOON ― Ambassador Friedman will receive an honorary doctorate and deliver the keynote address at Yeshiva University’s 88th Commencement on May 30 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon was last year’s honoree, and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer was YU’s honoree in 2017.

BIBI 5.0 ― Benjamin Netanyahu formally got the mandate from Israel’s president to form the Israeli government for the fifth time in his political career on Wednesday. Netanyahu now has 28 days to form a majority coalition with the option of another 14-day extension, if necessary.

Netanyahu said he would use his fifth term as prime minister to unite Israel following a hard-fought election campaign that divided the country. “I am going to work as the emissary of the entire nation, in all its parts; those who voted for me and those who did not,” Netanyahu said in a news conference with President Reuven Rivlin.

On Bibi’s plate — Netanyahu will have to contend with a widening budget deficit and criticism of interventionist policies that call into question his reputation as a stalwart of capitalism and fiscal discipline, Bloomberg’s Ivan Levingston points out. For Netanyahu to address the challenges, he’d have to navigate between two politically unsavory options: go against his stated preference for tax cuts or avoid giving his religious allies the money they typically demand in exchange for their support.

Netanyahu also earned a spot on Time’s 100 most influential people list released Wednesday morning. “Israel is Bibi’s nation,” David French, a Time columnist wrote of the Israeli leader, following his reelection. “Bibi certainly deserves his share of credit for Israel’s strength, but persuading Israelis that he alone could achieve it is his true political accomplishment.”

JI INTERVIEW ― In a phone interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh, Susie Gelman, Chair of the Israel Policy Forum, discussed the reasons why her organization spearheaded a widespread and well-backed letter to President Trump. The letter warned the President about supporting a possible annexation plan by Israel’s incoming government.

Gelman shared, with deep concern, another reason why annexation might be viewed by the new Israeli coalition as a viable option. In anticipation of the peace plan rollout and the Israeli and Palestinian reaction to the current speculations, Gelman says the assumption is that if the plan would favor Israel over the Palestinians and the Palestinian leadership would reject the terms, it will provide “further incentive for Israel to move forward on annexation.”

Addressing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s comments about reconsidering U.S. aid to Israel if there’s annexation, Gelman suggested that the congressional reaction to such a move should be to look at whether assistance to Israel, through the MOU or additional defense aid, is being used towards the additional considerable costs for a new security barrier around Area C and checkpoints at the entrance to every Palestinian town and village in Areas A and B. “The question, I think, for Congress is: does the U.S. Congress, which has very consistently on a bipartisan basis promoted the two-state solution as the only way to move forward to resolve this conflict, going to go along with funding the security needs ― which we’re talking about billions of dollars a year ― of such a annexation,” Gelman explained.

Gelman also warned, “If anyone thinks that BDS is an issue now, if Israel starts annexing even a small part of the West Bank, this is just going to inflame those who promote BDS.”

“I think this could be headed towards a disaster if it takes place,” she concluded. “I really do hope that cooler minds will prevail. I know that the two state solution has been, for some time, challenged and no one’s talking about getting back to the negotiating table anytime soon because conditions are just not right. But to do this would make it impossible to ever get back to the negotiating table, and I don’t think that’s good for Israel’s long-term future.”

Professor Alan Dershowitz told The Jewish Week the two-state solution would only work if annexation were “limited to the major settlement blocs.”

Q&A — Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) spoke with Jewish Insider’s Laura Kelly in a phone interview yesterday, reflecting on her Jewish identity, connection to Israel, and the danger of playing politics when it comes to Israel.

“When I went with my congressional classmates, there were 50 of us in my class, we all went to Israel together with our families. I can tell you that — and most were not Jewish and many were going to Israel for the first time — it was incredibly spiritual and [a] bonding experience to be there and yes, I would say probably for any Jew, including myself — it does enhance your identity. I don’t consider myself — I am not a “religious” person, you’re not going to find me in Temple every Saturday morning, but I definitely identify myself as a Jew and I understand the struggle of the Jewish people.” Read the full interview here[Jewish Insider]

ON THE HILL – by JI’s Laura Kelly: The U.S. administration is missing key steps in formally recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Republican senators wrote in a letter to President Trump on Wednesday, urging more action to implement the policy announced last month.

The letter — led by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) — includes procedure for changing State Department policy to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel in all official documents, publications and maps for the purpose of issuing passports to Americans born on the territory and expressing sovereignty in treaties and agreements. The letter also asked that any “obstacles” to implementing these changes be identified and Congress notified.

Jewish Insider first reported that the State Department was waiting on instruction from the president on how to address American passport holders born in the Golan.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) accused President Trump of standing in the way of bipartisan support for ending U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen, in a statement Wednesday reacting to the president’s veto of the Yemen War Powers Resolution. He also criticized Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for not taking action to override the president’s decision.

“President Trump has made it clear with this veto that he will stand in the way of bipartisan opposition in Congress to continued U.S. involvement in Yemen, and it is deeply disappointing that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has already signaled that he will not pursue an override of the veto, which would need to happen before the House can act. With 22 million lives at stake, this fight is not over, and the House will explore further legislation and conduct rigorous oversight,” Hoyer said. 

Rep. George Holding (R-NC) is calling on the Department of Education to launch a federal investigation into an event on the Middle East co-sponsored by Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill following allegations of “severe anti-Israeli bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric at a taxpayer-funded conference.”

DRIVING THE CONVO — Bret Stephens writes… “Ilhan Omar, Harbinger of Democratic Decline? What is significant is that Omar’s defenders don’t consider her prejudices about Jews as particularly disqualifying, morally or politically, at least not when weighed against the things they like about her (and hate about her enemies). As for her views about Israel, she’s practically mainstream for her segment of the Democratic Party — a harbinger of what’s to come as the old guard of pro-Israel liberals like Majority Leader Steny Hoyer gives way to the anti-Israel wokesters typified by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” [NYTimes]

Trump Is Not Attacking Ilhan Omar But All Muslims and Minorities — by Jonathan Chait: 
“Anti-Semitism, of course, forms the backdrop for the present controversy, because Omar has made ugly comments questioning the loyalty of American supporters of their country’s alliance with Israel. If, like me, you objected to Omar’s use of a dual-loyalty smear against Jews, you should also object to dual-loyalty smears against Muslims… Democrats unwilling to frontally challenge the smears of Omar because they don’t like her are making the same mistake as Democrats who refused to condemn her dual-loyalty smears because they do like her.” [NYMag]

2020 WATCH ― Sanders makes the case he can take back the Midwest… Pete Buttigieg enlists Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fundraisers to build his 2020 campaign war chest… Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe won’t run for president in 2020… 2020 Democrats seek voters in an unusual spot: Fox News…

PODCAST PLAYBACK ― Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) discussed her support for Israel on the Pod Save America podcast with Jon Favreau.

Favreau: Bibi Netanyahu just won re-election. One of his promises right before the election was he said he might annex West Bank settlements. If you’re President, Netanyahu decides to annex West Bank settlements, what do you do?

Harris: “Well, I’m completely opposed to a unilateral decision to annex and, and I would express that opposition.”

Favreau: How do you see sort of your support for Israel — which I know you’re a strong supporter of Israel ― with the policies under Netanyahu and the direction he’s taken that politics? What can you do as president to show that, yes we support Israel but I’m unhappy with the direction?

Harris: “Let me be clear: I support the people of Israel. And I’m unambiguous about that. I’m supporting the people of Israel does not mean, it should not be translated to supporting whoever happens to be in elected office at that moment. And so, my support of Israel is strong and it is sincere. There is also no question that we must speak out when human rights abuses occur. We must work with our friend, which is Israel, to do those things that we collectively know are in the best interest of human rights and democracy because it is that shared commitment to democracy from which the relationship was born and so we have to hold on to that.”

“I also believe that there is no question a Harris administration would be very forceful in working toward a two state solution. That has to happen.” 

Favreau: What kind of diplomatic pressure could you exert on Israel to make sure that that happens, or at least push them towards that direction?

Harris: “Well, there are a number of things. But it has to be about opening a channel of communication that is honest and not informed by a lack of information or a lack of historical perspective or a lack of concern. And I think that all of those are concerns that we should have about the current administration.” [PodSaveAmerica]

** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? 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: Blackstone Preparing to Sell Vegas Strip Casino and Luxury Hotel [WSJ] • Penny Pritzker launches $10M prize targeting Chicago’s South, West Sides [REJournals• Business Quietly Returns to Saudi Arabia After Khashoggi’s Murder [NYTimes]

Mustang Bio Soars 485% After Its Novel Gene Therapy Cured ‘Bubble Boys’ — by Michelle Cortez: “A scientific breakthrough that cured eight infants suffering from the devastating Bubble Boy disease lifted the fortunes of a little-known company backed by Lindsay Rosenwald, a medical doctor and serial biotech entrepreneur.” [Bloomberg]

Barbie, Hot Wheels Go to Hollywood in Mattel CEO’s Turnaround Plan — by Paul Ziobro: 
“The company behind Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price had been in tumult for years, as declining toy sales and the loss of key licenses devastated its share price and demoralized its workforce. And Ynon Kreiz, an Israeli-born television executive who’d recently joined Mattel’s board, had never worked a day at a toy company.” [WSJ]

TIME 100 LIST — 
The Time list of 100 most influential people in the world of 2019 include Bob IgerMark ZuckerbergLeah Greenberg and Ezra LevinAdam Bowen and James Monsees. Political leaders on the list include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

IN THE SPOTLIGHT ― Judge halts prosecutors’ efforts to release police surveillance video of Patriots owner Robert Kraft — by Chris Francescani, Josh Margolin and Katie Conway: “The judge overseeing the case in which New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is charged with soliciting prostitution halted Florida prosecutors’ plans to release police surveillance video from a spa at which Kraft and two dozen other men have been charged… “I don’t want this released until I’ve ruled,” Florida Circuit Court Judge Joseph Marx said in an emergency hearing on a conference call with the two parties and the media late Wednesday afternoon.” [ABCNews]

CULTURE — What the Talmud can teach us about how to argue with each other — by Daniella Greenbaum Davis: 
“In today’s impolite society, when a person says or tweets something absurd or nonsensical, the widespread instinct seems to be to pounce: to dismiss it, condemn it and sometimes even to silence it. In the Talmud, the response is quite different. Even crazy ideas stir the lofty arguers of the Talmud to look inward, wondering whether they might be missing something. The Talmud features two overarching schools of thought that are almost constantly in conflict: Beit Shammai, or the house of Shammai, and Beit Hillel, or the house of Hillel.” [WashPost]

TALK OF OUR NATION — Morocco is a trove of Jewish history if you know where to go ― by Leanne Italie: “Today, after vast waves of departures over the years, only about 2,000 Jews remain in Casablanca and about 500 elsewhere in Morocco, but the Jewish presence is still alive in a variety of sights. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism in suburban Casablanca, for instance, is the only museum on Judaism in the Arab world. Jews of Moroccan descent, in Israel and around the globe, return to the North African kingdom often and some maintain second homes in familial regions. Jewish heritage tours to Morocco are abundant and easy to track down. Most cities have a mellah, which is an old Jewish quarter, along with Jewish cemeteries and synagogues.” [AP]

Lydia Pang, the creative director at Refinery 29, reflects on her recent Reality trip to Israel: 
“For the past 8 days, I’ve been in Israel. I went straight from a red eye to herd sheep with 50 strangers, ate the best roasted cauliflower of my life at Romano in Tel Aviv, did a storytelling workshop in an art gallery in Jaffa, met the creator of Fauda, sat in awe of [tour guide] Michael Bauer’s mind as he explained the nuances of Israel’s politics, drove an ATV along the Syrian border and stood inside the ruins of the Syrian HQ, spent the evening with super cool Ethiopian Jewish women hearing their immigration to Israel stories, met the Israel Story podcast creator whilst eating stewed meat, bought a large quantity of saffron which I will disguise as a gift, drove through the checkpoints and into the West Bank to meet a female Palestinian journalist whose integrity for her work I’ll never forget, ate the largest falafel ball I’ve ever seen and gained a cheek pimple from the incident…”

“Spent the day at Yad Vashem the holocaust museum, felt my heart break in my chest when listening to Giselle a 92-year-old holocaust survivor tell us her story, welcomed in Shabbat (learned what it actually was!!) with a dinner inside a local artists home, wrote my intention for the year and placed it inside the western wall, floated my hummus filled body in the Dead Sea, got dropped in the middle of a canyon and told to walk off into the darkness and speak to myself for ten minutes, realised I had a lot to say, danced under the moon with new friends in a Bedouin tent, realised Israeli politics is not something you can ever actually understand, but trying to is important, and that there are many versions of and much power in, a story.” [Instagram]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Measles Outbreak Upends Passover Traditions ― by Melanie Grayce West and Kate King: “City officials expect the number of measles cases to increase over the next several weeks partly because of gatherings over the holidays, said Herminia Palacio, the city’s deputy mayor for health and human services. ‘We’re very concerned about Passover,’ Dr. Palacio said… But many schools are closed during Passover so the city’s recent measures to prod people into vaccination won’t work, said Gerald Schulman, a pediatrician with an office in the Williamsburg and Midwood neighborhoods of Brooklyn.” [WSJ]

PASSOVER 2019 — This Passover Feast Involves Three Kitchens, 12 Ovens and Lots of Elbow Grease — by Charles Passy: 
“At the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, pulling off one of the biggest Passover celebrations in New York City is an exercise in controlled chaos. The 102-year-old nonprofit nursing home, spread across 32 acres in the Bronx, has some 1,000 mouths to feed when the Jewish holiday… For an institution that keeps kosher, that means plenty of preparations. Its three kitchens, 12 ovens, 2,000 pots and pans, and countless dishes must be cleaned in advance to the highest degree so that any trace of leavened products, as in bread, is removed in keeping with the dietary strictures of the holiday… The cooking for the holiday starts in earnest on Thursday. Mr. Iatrou has fanciful Seder menus planned, with offerings that range from short ribs in a red-wine sauce to the classic dish of gefilte fish. And 20 gallons of horseradish, the traditional gefilte fish accompaniment, will be on hand.” [WSJ]

How Harry Potter and emoji became part of Passover ― by Chavie Lieber: “Jordan Gorfinkel believes that Passover’s Exodus story, in which the ancient Jews are enslaved in and then freed from Egypt, is just as exciting as any superhero story. This year, just in time for the holiday he published the Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel. In his version, the superhero in question is Moses, Pharaoh is just as scary a villain as the Joker, and the Ten Plagues are drawn in classic comic book style. Illustrated by Israeli artist Erez Zadok, the book offers a fresh take on an old story, intended to engage kids who might be bored at the Seder and superhero-loving adults alike.” [Vox]

BIRTHDAYS: Jewish community leader in Detroit and former President of AIPAC, David Victor turns 60… Biochemist, geneticist and winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1985, Joseph L. Goldstein turns 79… Managing director of fundraising consultants Mersky, Jaffe & Associates, formerly CEO of Ampal-American Israel Corporation and the Jerusalem Foundation, Michael Jaffe turns 79… Saul Bernstein turns 74… President of DeForest Concepts, a consulting firm in Burlington, Vermont, she was previously a member of the Vermont State Senate (2002-2013) and co-founder in 1984 of Jogbra, Hinda Miller turns 69… Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona (2004-2012) after two terms on the Phoenix City Council, Phil Gordon turns 68… Composer, pianist and musicologist, Robert M. Greenberg turns 65… Dallas attorney and former Planning Commissioner, Sally Brenner Wolfish turns 64…

College basketball coach for 34 years, including 22 years as head coach at Long Beach State, the University of South Florida and Virginia Tech, he is now an ESPN analyst, Seth Greenberg turns 63… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of four acclaimed books, Susan Faludi turns 60… Editor of Commentary magazine, columnist for the New York Post, author of books on politics and speechwriter for presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, John Mordecai Podhoretz turns 58… President and rosh yeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone institutions in Israel since 2018, prior to making aliyah he was a VP at Yeshiva University (2005-2018) and rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue (1991-2005), Rabbi Dr. Kenneth R. Brander turns 57… VP and Deputy General Counsel at Scholastic Inc, he is serving as president of Beth El Synagogue Center in New Rochelle, NY, Mark Seidenfeld turns 56…

Executive Director of the American Zionist Movement since March 2017, he was previously Assistant EVP of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Herbert Block turns 54… Emmy Award-winning actress known for her work on daytime television, Tamara Braun turns 48… Film director, producer, writer and actor, who as a director and producer is most closely associated with the horror genre, Eli Roth turns 47… Chabad Rabbi, founder and executive director of the Aspen Chabad Jewish Community Center, Mendel Mintz turns 44… Partner in the white collar and cybersecurity practices of Paul Hastings, he was previously an assistant secretary for cyber policy at the Department of Homeland Security, Robert P. Silvers turns 39… Political director for AIPAC’s Florida region, Evan Philipson turns 30… Dov Maimon

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