Daily Kickoff: Obama Admin looks for DNC alternatives to Keith Ellison | Kushner to solve Middle East peace? | Gen. Winston tapped to run inauguration

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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Democrats’ Leadership Fight Pits West Wing Against Left Wing” by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman: “In a sign of the discord gripping the party, President Obama’s loyalists, uneasy with the progressive Mr. Ellison, have begun casting about for an alternative, according to multiple Democratic officials close to the president… along with his inability to do the job full time and his links to Mr. Sanders, Mr. Ellison’s past criticism of Mr. Obama and praise for Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, worry some Democrats looking for a figure to lead the opposition to Mr. Trump.”

“Mr. Ellison, a Muslim, defended Mr. Farrakhan in the 1990s, saying he was “not an anti-Semite,” and has positioned himself on the left flank of congressional Democrats on Israel… Aides to Mr. Ellison were going to make him available for a telephone interview, but then declined when informed that he would be asked about his past comments on Mr. Farrakhan. They emailed a list of his links to the Jewish community.”[NYTimes

“Keith Ellison’s ascent signals the Democrats’ willingness to redefine ‘pro-Israel’” by Ron Kampeas: “It sends the wrong symbol for someone with those views to take a leadership role in the Democratic Party, especially since the party has been struggling with Israel,” said Abraham Foxman, the retired national director of the Anti-Defamation League, giving voice to what many establishment pro-Israel figures are saying without attribution. “Israel has always been a bipartisan issue; this makes it less of one.” Jonathan Greenblatt, Foxman’s successor at the ADL, in a statement sought to straddle the warmth Ellison has engendered at home in Minneapolis with concerns about his record. “We spoke with leadership in the Jewish community in Minnesota who confirmed what ADL and other national organizations have seen: that Keith Ellison is a man of good character,” he said in an email to JTA… He has been on the record in support of Israel and supports a two-state solution.” [JTA

National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar: “Dems really don’t want to talk about Ellison’s record on Israel. “No comment” said one Schumer ally. Many stories avoiding elephant in room.” [Twitter]

Steve Rabinowitz: “Defending Keith Ellison: Those praises from diverse members of the Jewish and pro-Israel community coupled with what I do know about his record in Congress convince me that Jews shouldn’t worry if he becomes the next DNC chair… For me, it’s much more noteworthy what the Alan Dershowitzes and the Chuck Schumers, the Marshall Bregers and the Michael Latzes, the Marc Schneiers and the Religious Action Centers and the Jews of Minnesota all say.” [JPost

TOP TALKER: “Trump, in Interview, Moderates Views but Defies Conventions” by Michael Shear, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Trump rejected the idea that he was bound by federal anti-nepotism laws against installing his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a White House job. But he said he would want to avoid the appearance of a conflict and might instead seek to make him a special envoy charged with brokering peace in the Middle East… He said that Mr. Kushner, who is an observant Jew, “could be very helpful” in reconciling the longstanding dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians. “I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” Mr. Trump said, adding that Mr. Kushner “would be very good at it” and that “he knows the region.” “A lot of people tell me, really great people tell me that it’s impossible — you can’t do it,” Mr. Trump added. “I disagree; I think you can make peace… I have reason to believe I can do it,” he added.”

— “Mr. Trump made a forceful defense of Mr. Bannon, who he named to become his chief strategist and who has drawn charges of racism and anti-Semitism. He said Mr. Bannon had been dismayed at the reaction to his hiring. “I’ve known Steve Bannon a long time. If I thought he was a racist or alt-right,” he said, “I wouldn’t even think about hiring him.” Mr. Trump added: “I think he’s having a hard time with it, because it’s not him. I think he’s been treated very unfairly.” He also defended Breitbart, the news site Mr. Bannon founded, which has carried racist and anti-Semitic content, saying it was no different than The Times, only “much more conservative.”” [NYTimes• Full transcript[NYTimes

Thomas Friedman: “Wow, watching Trump try to forge a deal between Bibi Netanyahu and the Palestinians would be pay-per-view!” [NYT]

Lunch topic? — Former Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair “was seen sharing lunch on Wednesdaywith Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and billionaire Sam Zell — who just took Trump’s name off his Upper West Side buildings — at Harry Cipriani at the ­Sherry-Netherland.” [NYPost on 11-16

Aaron David Miller tells us: “The main reason we don’t have serious negotiations between Israel and Palestinians isn’t because of any potential mediator – the proverbial man/woman in the middle; it’s because of Israel and the Palestinians who sit on either side. Neither is able or willing to make the decisions that would make serious mediation possible, let alone successful. As for a future President Trump, let him have a go at  the problem of the much too promised land. Having tried for twenty plus years, I wish him the best of luck.”

KAFE KNESSET — Bennett Recruits Trump — by Amir Tibon & Tal Shalev: At the Jerusalem Post’s Diplomatic Conference this morning, Education Minister Naftali Bennett called on PM Netanyahu to use Donald Trump’s election victory in order to put the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. Bennett has been advancing this line ever since November 9th, when he first declared that the Trump presidency ensured there won’t be a Palestinian state.

The problem for Bennett is that just yesterday, Netanyahu himself signed a new cooperation agreement with the visiting Prime Minister of Poland, which included a clear referrence to the two-state solution. And at the JPost conference, Egypt’s Ambassador to Israel reiterated his country’s commitment to the decades-old formula that Bennett is calling Netanyahu to disavow.

It seems like Netanyahu, for the time being, is playing it safe: he is waiting to see what Trump will do once he enters office, and is trying to reassure Israel’s other allies that his government isn’t going to rush towards annexation in the West Bank anytime soon. Bennett, however, is making a political profit by challenging the PM from the right, and is counting on the fact that previous statements by some of Trump’s aides and advisers, have convinced many right-wing Israelis that if Trump is elected, there will be no limits for Israel. Now, if it turns out there are, the Education Minister will try to pin it on Netanyahu. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

“Trump’s Jewish Ties May Be Key to Moscow’s Outreach” by Alexander Bratersky: “A high-ranking and well-informed source has told online Russian news publication Gazeta that in their search for channels of communication with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, Kremlin representatives have used members of Russia’s Jewish business circles who have contacts with the family of his daughter Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew.” [RussiaInsider]

“Donald Trump disavows ‘alt-right’” by Jeremy Diamond: “I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group,” Trump told a group of New York Times reporters and columnists during a meeting at the newspaper’s headquarters in New York. “It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.” [NYTimes; CNN]

Abe Foxman tells us: “It was a good beginning.”

“Alarm in Germany and Israel as U.S. white supremacists ride Trump wave” by Noah Barkin and Luke Baker: “Yair Lapid, a member of the foreign affairs and defense committee in the Israeli Knesset, called the video “sickening” and “intolerable”… David Keyes, foreign media spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in response to a Reuters query about the Washington meeting: “Prime Minister Netanyahu condemns anti-Semitism everywhere and appreciates President-elect Trump’s denunciation of all forms of racism.” [Reuters

INBOX — Conference of Presidents’ statement: “We welcome President-elect Trump’s unambiguous disavowal and condemnation of Mr. Spencer’s repugnant rhetoric and ideology in the remarks he made today…  We hope President-elect Trump’s remarks today will be joined to reset the national conversation.”

HEARD YESTERDAY – Alan Dershowitz on CNN: “One thing we know about Donald Trump, he knows how to show outrage. He knows how to yell and scream at the people at ‘Hamilton’ because somebody got up and made a polite reference to the Vice President[-elect]. So, considering who he is and what he’s said about other people, including at his own party, this statement that ‘I disavow’ just is nothing. It was worse than nothing in some ways… This is not even a condemnation… He’s much crueler, much tougher on people who have run against him or who have upset him, or have insulted him. He knows how to be outraged. We haven’t seen that kind of outrage. And he has to say it not to the New York Times, he has to say it to his own people. He has to say it to his constituents, and he has to say to his constituents, ‘Don’t you dare glorify them or join them because if you go near them, you are not on my side.’ He can do it.” [JewishInsider

TRANSITION TOWER: “Mitt Romney Leads Donald Trump’s Picks for Secretary of State” by Michael Bender and Damian Paletta: “Trump is leaning toward asking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to be his secretary of state, according to people familiar with the deliberations… Delaying Mr. Trump’s decision about secretary of state is an internal tug of war between supporters of Mr. Romney, and those urging the selection of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.” [WSJ] • Romney said to be serious about secretary of state job [CNN]

“Gov. Nikki Haley picked to become UN ambassador, sources say” by Andy Shain: “The Trump administration is likely banking on Haley’s strong communication and problem-solving skills in being the U.S. representative at the 193-member United Nations in New York.” [PostandCourier]

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “Governor Haley is a strong supporter of the State of Israel.  Her presence as Ambassador will be reassuring to all those who are concerned about the increasing hostility of the United Nations toward Israel.”

RJC’s Matt Brooks: “Governor Nikki Haley is a brilliant choice to serve as our country’s Ambassador to the United Nations. Governor Haley is hardworking, smart, and has a strong world view that will represent the United States well on the global stage.”

Dan Senor‏: “Critics will ask if Nikki Haley has been engaged in international affairs. I’ve had conversations with her on and off over the years. She has a strong worldview.” [Twitter

“Democrat Harold Ford Jr. emerging as potential Trump pick” by Annie Karni: “Ford endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race, and he and his wife, Emily, contributed to Clinton’s campaign. But Ford is also close with Trump’s children, Don Jr., Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, an associate said.” [Politico

SPOTTED IN NYC: “Mark Cuban — Talking Trump with Controversial Adviser Stephen Bannon: The Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark Tank” star met with Stephen Bannon Tuesday afternoon at the King Cole Bar in NYC’s St. Regis. They’ve done business deals together in the past, but this had to be about politics.” [TMZ

“Fellow Trump Critics, Maybe Try a Little Listening” by David Brooks: “It seems like the first thing to do is really learn what this election is teaching us. Second, this seems like a moment for some low-passion wonkery. It’s stupid to react to every Trump tweet outrage with your own predictable howls. It’s silly to treat politics and governance purely on cultural grounds, as a high school popularity contest, where my sort of people denigrates your sort of people. We’ve arrived at the moment of actual governing. We’ve arrived at the moment when Trump has to turn his vague notions into concrete proposals. Trump promised to rip up the Iran deal, but he seems to be realizing there are six other signatories and we’ve lost leverage with the Iranians because we already gave them back their money.” [NYTimes]

“The ‘Trump Effect’: Allies and Adversaries Adapt to Uncertainty” by Eli Lake: “It remains to be seen whether Trump will reassure NATO and other allies when he is president. But so far, many conservative foreign policy elites who were critical of Trump’s approach in the campaign have become willing to give the next president a chance. Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser under George W. Bush who supported Marco Rubio and later Ted Cruz in the primaries this year, told me that recalibration from allies and adversaries could be an opportunity. “This uncertainty is good,” he said.” [BloombergView

“Airbus Says U.S. Approves More Plane Deliveries to Iran” by Robert Wall: “The export license was granted on Tuesday by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, an arm of the Treasury Department, and clears Airbus to deliver more than $20 billion in jets to Iran Air, the Islamic Republic’s flag carrier… The Airbus and Boeing plane deals have been staunchly opposed by critics of the nuclear accord with Iran.” [WSJ

“Iran’s atomic chief doesn’t think Trump will scrap the nuclear deal” by Ishaan Tharoor:“The Islamic Republic of Iran acts upon its undertakings under the nuclear deal and we expect the other side to act upon its undertakings as well,” Salehi said Tuesday, according to a report by the semiofficial Fars News Agency. “I imagine when the U.S. president practically takes the country’s leadership, he will take actions on the basis of the realities.” Salehi added, “It is an international issue, and we think that we will not face so many problems.” [WashPost

“Israel accuses Iran of sending Hezbollah arms on commercial flights” by Michelle Nichols:“In a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, Israeli U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon… wrote that Quds Force officers pack arms and materiel into suitcases that are transferred to Hezbollah either by commercial flights to Beirut or commercial flights to Damascus in Syria, and then transferred by land to Lebanon.” [Reuters

“Former US defense official calls on Trump to halt Israel’s sub program” by Gavin Rabinowitz: “The American taxpayer is effectively subsidizing this new round of submarine procurement,” wrote Dov Zakheim, a former senior Department of Defense official and adviser to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, arguing that given the cloud over the deal, the US should evaluate the purchase and stop it if necessary. “It may be too late for the Obama administration to do much about the Israeli submarine purchase,” Zakheim, who led a joint US-Israel evaluation 30 years ago that approved the original submarine program, wrote in the National Interest. “But the incoming Trump administration should insist that Israel not move ahead until the Pentagon, working in tandem with Israel’s Navy, has had a chance to review the new submarine program, especially since the IN [Israel Navy] itself has reservations about it.” [ToI] 

**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
SPOTLIGHT: “Peter Thiel’s Silicon Valley Brain Trust Hits a Wall” by Maya Kosoff: “Thiel has been asking some tech entrepreneurs to join Trump’s administration. Thiel, “carrying around an iPad with an editable list of possible candidates,” is receiving mixed responses. Some right-wing thinkers, feeling out of place in largely liberal northern California, are excited by the idea of working with Trump to effect governmental changes they feel have long been neglected… Possible candidates at this point include Thiel’s Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, Thiel Foundation president Blake Masters, and Zenreach founder Jack Abraham the Post reports. Thiel, a Facebook board member and a PayPal founder, has also enlisted the help of PayPal co-founder Max Levchin to help suggest names.” [VanityFair]

PROFILE: “Meet Robert Mercer, the Mysterious Billionaire Benefactor of Breitbart” by Max Kutner: “Bannon critics can apparently blame Rebekah; she pushed Trump to bring him on board, the Republican fundraising insider says. Her ties with Bannon go back a few years or more. They served together as officers of at least two nonprofits, Reclaim New York and the Government Accountability Institute. They have also produced at least one documentary together, Clinton Cash, a fearmongering look at the Clinton family’s finances. It was also Rebekah who convinced Trump to hire Conway, according to the fundraising insider. “She is like her dad,” says the Media Research Center’s Bozell. “She understands issues, she understands people, she has a very good read on what’s real and what’s BS.”” [Newsweek]

“Koch brothers can keep $2 billion they received from Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, Manhattan judge says” by Victoria Bekiempis: “The billionaire brothers, Charles and David, and about 100 other Madoff customers had claimed a victims’ advocate couldn’t recoup their profits for distribution because the money had been transferred outside the U.S. long before Madoff was arrested in December 2008, according to Bloomberg. Irving Picard, the lawyer charged with liquidating Madoff’s firm, maintained the money could be brought back. He argued that U.S. law applied, but the judge did not agree.” [NYDailyNews; DealBook

LongRead: “Bernie Sanders on Donald Trump’s Victory, Identity Politics, and the Failures of the Democratic Party” by Jason Zengerle: “Sanders—his hair unkempt, his Brooklyn accent untamed—brought campaign crowds to their feet with wonky calls to reinstate Great Depression-era banking legislation. And now, in the wake of Trump’s election, Sanders has become a crucial voice in determining the direction of a depressed and decimated Democratic Party… GQ: Is there any silver lining to the fact that Trump’s victory will help ensure big changes to the Democratic Party—changes that could push it in the progressive direction you favor? No, I would not say that there’s any silver lining in Trump’s victory. It is scary, and I think there are many, many people throughout this country who are very frightened about what will happen over the next four years. So I don’t see any silver lining…. GQ: What was it like to become a pop-culture figure? The good news, from a political point of view, is that having Larry David imitate you on Saturday Night Live has a real political impact, no question about it.” [GQ

MEDIA WATCH: “Top journalists warn of threat to press freedom ‘quite close to home'” by Brian Stelter: “This year the threats to press freedom are quite close to home. It’s right here,” New Yorker editor David Remnick said at the Committee to Protect Journalists dinner in New York City… “We will hold the new administration’s feet to the fire. And they should respect that, even if they don’t welcome it,” CNN president Jeff Zucker said… “It is still too early to draw conclusions about how this administration will work with the media,” but, “I think it is fair to say that based on some of what we saw during the campaign, we have some reason for concern.” [CNNMoney]

“Can the journalists who work for Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner still cover the White House fairly?” by Eric Johnson: “[Ken] Kurson himself provided input on a speech in March that Trump delivered to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC. After that, the Observer instituted a de facto “one man policy,” in his words, that its employees would not assist anyone’s campaign… He also noted that the Observer “ran some very tough columns about Donald Trump… “My feeling about being in media is, you’ve just got to do your best to do a good job and ignore this stuff,” he added. “I’m not on Twitter, I never Google myself, I try really hard not to let people get in my head.”” [Recode]

“Met Gala mastermind tapped to plan inauguration events” by Emily Smith: “Met Gala mastermind Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is being brought in to help plan the presidential inauguration events. Wolkoff, an ex-Vogue staffer who planned the glamorous gala for years and went on to orchestrate New York Fashion Week’s Lincoln Center expansion, is known in fashion circles as “General Winston” — a name bestowed by her mentor, Anna Wintour.” [NYPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Jerusalem cafés to ‘open for Shabbat,’ but not for business” by Jessica Steinberg: “Hayat and a group of fellow, young secular and religious Jerusalemites created “Open for Shabbat,” a program to open cafés on Saturdays as a place to meet and spend time together, but not for ordering food or doing anything that would violate the observance of the Sabbath, which starts at sundown Friday to Saturday night. “It’s a fact that cafés are a meeting place for people, and on the one day when people have free time, they’re not open,” said Hayat. “We’re not activists,” he added. “We’re community organizers. We’re not trying to go against anything, we’re trying to work within the existing framework.”” [ToI]

BIRTHDAYS: Grammy and Academy Award-winning American composer and music arranger, Johnny Mandel turns 91… Investment banker and former Chairman of NYC-based Lazard Frères, Michel David-Weill turns 84… United States Senator from New York since 1998, elected to his fourth term in 2016, Senate Minority Leader (next year) Chuck Schumer turns 66… Former United States Senator (1997-2015), Mary Landrieu turns 61… Psychiatrist, television personality and author of both fiction and non-fiction books, Keith Ablow turns 55… Majority owner of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Daniel Snyder turns 52… Vice President at Blueprint Interactive for digital strategy, having previously managed a number of Congressional campaigns, Geoff Mackler turns 41… Account Vice President at UBS Financial Services in Baltimore, P.J. PearlstoneYaakov Neuberger… Development and grant writer for Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans (Beit Halochem), Elise Fischer… Government affairs and market development manager at The Copia, Shmuel Winiarz… Board member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and the Yitzhak Rabin Center, Andrea Lavin Solow… VP of media affairs at USTelecom, formerly deputy tech editor with Politico, Amy Schatz… Uri Landesman… Naomi Matlow… Erin Ross


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