Daily Kickoff: Congress continues to complain about MOU provision | Lake on ‘Trump’s Coming Witch Hunt Against Political Islam’ | William Daroff BDay
KAFE KNESSET — Coalition Feuds Escalate — by Amir Tibon & Tal Shalev: The cracks inside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition are growing wider by the day, as the government discusses the fate of the illegal West Bank outpost Amona, which is supposed to be evacuated in weeks. Today, the coalition was supposed to advance a bill that would effectively cancel the court order to evacuate the outpost, but Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s party decided not to support it. Netanyahu himself is also worried that if the bill passes, it could lead to international probes against Israeli officers at the International Court in the Hague. For now, the legislation is stuck – at least until next week.
The Jewish Home party, led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, isn’t happy about that. “If there won’t be an outpost legalization bill, there won’t be a government,” a senior source in the party declared today – and since Jewish Home has enough Knesset members to bring down the government, this is no empty threat. Bennett, in his own voice, said that until other coalition partners support the bill, his party will break with the coalition in other key votes.
Meanwhile, Isaac Herzog, the leader of the opposition, seems to be enjoying the feud. He said today that if the bill passes, Bennett would become the de-facto leader of the Israeli right, gaining a major victory over Netanyahu. The Prime Minister obviously can’t allow that to happen, but it would also be politically dangerous for him to block the controversial bill and allow Bennett an opening to attack him from the right. Politically, there are no good choices for Netanyahu on this issue.
FIRST LOOK: “Muslim government officials huddle on ways to survive Trump” by Nahal Toosi: “Since the Nov. 8 election, Muslims and members of other minority groups at the State Department have held informal meetings to talk about the implications of a Trump administration. Some of the gatherings have brought together Muslims and Jews, the latter of whom are deeply concerned about the anti-Semitism expressed by many Trump supporters. (“Muslims and Jews who disagree on Palestine and Israel are agreeing on this stuff,” a State Department official of Arab descent told POLITICO.)”[Politico]
“Trump’s Coming Witch Hunt Against Political Islam” by Eli Lake: “On the day after Donald Trump won the election, one of his campaign’s advisers and endorsers made a prediction. “You are going to see a purging,” retired Lt. General Jerry Boykin told Frank Gaffney on his “Secure Freedom Radio” podcast. Boykin predicted that Trump as president would purge “people inside the government that are known to have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and its front groups and its entities here in America.” Until now, this movement was largely ignored by elites in the Republican and Democratic parties.”
“If indeed this is what a Trump administration does, it will be entering dangerous territory. While it’s true that CAIR’s founders were Islamists and linked to Hamas, the organization and its chapters today spend a lot of time documenting anti-Muslim hate crimes. A federal prosecution of CAIR and organizations like it would be perceived in many quarters as an abuse of power and a return to the witch hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy. The thing to remember about the McCarthy era was how much harm the senator ended up doing to his own cause of anti-communism. It’s a lesson Trump would do well to learn as he decides how to prosecute his ideological war against radical Islam.” [BloombergView] • “How One Policy Change Could Wipe Out Muslim Civil Liberties” [BuzzFeed]
SCENE YESTERDAY IN NYC — A bipartisan panel of Republican and Democratic lawmakers discussed national security matters awaiting President-elect Donald Trump in the first 100 days of his administration at an annual legislative luncheon hosted by Agudath Israel of America at Alliance Bernstein Global Wealth Management in Midtown, and organized by Ezra Friedlander of The Friedlander Group. Participants included Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Randy Weber (R-TX), moderated by Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s vice president for federal affairs and Washington office director.
— The panel unanimously asserted that the provision in the new MOU agreement preventing Israel from approaching Congress for additional funds was likely unconstitutional. “It’s unconstitutional, and as far as I am concerned, I reject it and I will fight it,” said Rep. Engel, adding he will resist efforts to undermine the power of the legislative branch.” I think we’ve already given up too much, and we shouldn’t give up anymore.”
Rep, Jeffries: “One, it is likely unconstitutional. The constitution was delivered and constructed to give the House of Representatives, in particular through the Ways and Means Committee, the power to initiate decisions on taxation and spending. So it is not clear to me how you could prohibit our capacity to weigh in in a way that is locked in by an executive branch agreement that we inhaled. The other reason why I don’t think it’s good policy, besides from perhaps it being unconstitutional – certainly inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution – is that we as members of Congress should have the capacity to respond to an emergency circumstance, domestic or foreign, which we did the last time there was a serious conflict and we needed to provide additional military aid to Israel. I don’t think we should give that authority up.”
On the U.S.-Israel relationship under Trump — Engel: “The relationship between the U.S. and Israel has always been strong, in all administrations. You know, there’s been a lot of talk about President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu not liking each other, they didn’t get along personally. And I’d always say, I don’t really care if the President of the U.S. and the Prime Minister of Israel don’t like each other. What I care about is that strengthening the relationship is the most important thing that matters because the policy of supporting Israel transcends partisan politics in the U.S. Now, there have been some rumblings about President-elect Trump that he has considered or will, and then he retracted, moving the embassy to Jerusalem. The bottom line for me is that embassy should be in Jerusalem.”
“I think we have to give each administration a chance. There are some things that Trump has said vis-à-vis Israel that are just terrific, and then there are other things that you worry. One of his big appointees (Steve Bannon) is somebody who’s alleged to be an anti-Semite. I don’t know if it’s a smear or if it’s true. I think we will find out. But I think it is something of grave concern. But I do believe that we have to hold elections in this country, and regardless of who each of us may have voted for, Donald Trump will be our president. We should hope that he succeeds, and one of the places that I want him to have bipartisan support for is our support for Israel.”
Rep. Gosar: “This President-elect, if anybody is guessing what he is thinking, I guess I’d be, ‘You are wrong.’ But here is what I do look at. His son-in-law and his daughter are very proactive in regards to Israel, and I think that’s a good sign. I think that’s really a good sign that he’s looking to that applications. And so, it’s an opportunity. The proof is in the pudding, I’ve always said that. When you start seeing actions and they rhyme with what you promised, that’s an affirmation that we need to see. But I think everyone in Congress would go along that to get back to Jerusalem is the proper thing to do.
“Bipartisan House Resolution Calls on Obama to Oppose Anti-Israel Efforts at UN” by Jacob Kornbluh: “The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed bipartisan legislation urging President Barack Obama to oppose or veto anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations before he leaves office. The resolution, approved by voice vote, also calls on Obama to reject any resolution that sets ‘parameters’ for a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. “Republicans and Democrats agree that a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.” [JewishInsider]
“House votes to strengthen cyber ties with Israel” by Joel Gehrke: “The United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act focuses on the private side by expanding a pilot program that funds research projects by private Israeli and American companies. With the second bill, lawmakers proposed creating a grant program to fund research conducted jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Israeli Ministry of Public Security.” [DCExaminer]
“CIA’s Brennan says tearing up Iran deal would be ‘folly'” by Estelle Shirbon and Kate Holton:“It could lead to a weapons program inside of Iran that could lead other states in the region to embark on their own programs,” Brennan said in an interview with the BBC aired on Wednesday. “So I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.” [Reuters]
HEARD YESTERDAY – Sec. of State John Kerry: “Remember that before the negotiations began on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Iran had already developed the ability to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear device in just two months, and they had enough highly enriched uranium to build 10 to 12 bombs… Now, I know that some people have said that Iran is such a huge threat that we shouldn’t have attempted to do that, that we should have passed up the best chance we had for the international community to come together and block each and every one of Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon. But I’ve got to tell you something, folks: That argument just doesn’t compute under any reasonable standard of common sense. The Iran agreement has made the world safer, including our allies and our friends in the Middle East.” [StateDept] • Kerry urges Senate Democrats to back off Iran sanctions renewal [AlMonitor]
TRANSITION TOWER: “Steven Mnuchin Is Donald Trump’s Expected Choice for Treasury Secretary” by Binyamin Appelbaum and Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Mnuchin, 53, was the national finance chairman for Mr. Trump’s campaign. As Treasury secretary, Mr. Mnuchin… could also help lead any effort to roll back President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and opening to Cuba by reimposing sanctions on Tehran and Havana.” [NYTimes; CNNMoney]
— “Mnuchin grew close to Trump’s children and son-in-law, Jared Kushner— a top adviser to Trump — and worked with them on fundraising events.” [AP]
Harry Enten: “I wonder how some anti-Semites are taking the news of Mnuchin… I want them to know I’m there for them.” [Twitter]
David Martosko: “Has anyone seen Steven Mnunchin’s signature? It’s going to be on all our money soon. (Can’t be worse than Jacob Lew’s loopy mess, right?)” [Twitter]
“Trump Meets With Goldman’s Cohn” by Dakin Campbell and Jennifer Jacobs: “A representative from Trump’s team called Cohn to come in for a meeting and the Goldman Sachs banker agreed to sit down with the president-elect, according to another person who had knowledge of the invitation. Cohn has known Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for a while and the two men speak from time to time, the person said, asking for anonymity to discuss private talks.” [Bloomberg]
“What would David Petraeus bring as secretary?” by Tara McKelvey: “As the transition started, Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka called Petraeus, according to someone who knows the former general well, asking him to consider taking a position in the administration. Jason Miller, Mr Trump’s spokesman, said on Tuesday it’s too early to say who’ll become the nation’s top diplomat – or if Petraeus is a top contender.”[BBC]
“Romney dinner may signal Trump is close to a decision” by Daniel Halper and Danika Fears: “Trump met with Mitt Romney for a second time on Tuesday as the president-elect went over his final list for the top State Department job. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, also huddled with Trump, saying afterward that his “instincts on foreign policy are obviously very, very good.” Multiple sources told Politico that Trump favors Romney.” [NYPost] • Romney gushes over Trump after posh dinner [Politico]
INBOX — Michael Glassner is now a special advisor for operations on Presidential Transition Team.
“Trump and Bloomberg seek to bury the hatchet in lengthy phone call” by Annie Karni and Alex Isenstadt: “It was a “very good talk, and long,” said a source familiar with the discussion, who would not elaborate on the details.” [Politico]
“Trump’s pick for national security adviser praised alt-right figure as one of the bravest people he’s met” by Andrew Kaczynski: “I was also with Milo Yiannopoulos,” Flynn said at the Young America’s Foundation conference. “See, a lot of people in here won’t know who he is. I tag him on Twitter, you know, because he’s phenomenal individual… He’s definitely, he’s one of the most different, one of the most brave people that I’ve ever met. We have different views on different things, but he is deeply, deeply conservative in his views about this country.” [CNN]
SCENE LAST NIGHT —Over 500 attendees packed the Marriott Marquis M4 ballroom for the Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s (JINSA) Annual Awards Dinner honoring Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX12), and Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA51) with the Henry M. ‘Scoop’ Jackson Distinguished Service Award. Fox News Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge was the evening’s Master of Ceremonies and Rabbi Levi Shemtov delivered the invocation. Guests enjoyed ‘glatt-kosher’ dinner with an entree of boneless beef short ribs, served atop whipped potatoes.
JINSA CEO Dr. Michael Makovsky noted that although the JINSA acronym remains, the group did recently change its name from the ‘Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs’ to the ‘Jewish Institute for National Security of America.’
SPOTTED: Vice Admiral Herm Shelanski, Inspector General of the US Navy and his wife Patty, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ed Royce, Rep-Elect Brad Schneider, Wynnefield Capital’s Joshua Landes, Israeli Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, Gen. Chuck Wald (Ret.), Michael David Epstein, Deputy Head of Mission at the Israeli Embassy Reuven Azar, Defense Attaché for the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt Maj. Gen. Khaled Mogawer, Israeli BG. (Res.) Assaf Orion, B’nai B’rith’s Dan Mariaschin, Ken Abramowitz, Noah Pollak, Joel Mowbray, David Milstein, California Assemblyman Travis Allen & Arielle Bailey, Harris Vederman, Ariana Kaufman, and Jennifer Zis.
SPOTLIGHT: “Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei Reveal Their Plan for Media Domination” by Sarah Ellison: “For starters, their new company will be called Axios, which means worthy in Greek. And Allen will return with a newsletter that “cuts across our topic areas.” For VandeHei, too many media companies have fallen into the traffic trap, or as he has eloquently put it, the ‘crap trap.’ What Axios is trying to do is occupy the space that VandeHei feels The New York Times and The Economist could have commanded if they weren’t tethered to their old print roots. He has joked with potential investors that Axios is best described as what you get if the ‘Economist mated with Twitter,’ and ‘smartly narrated all the good stuff its own reporters missed,’ according to someone familiar with the conversation.” [VanityFair]
STARTUP NATION: “How Otto Defied Nevada and Scored a $680 Million Payout from Uber” by Mark Harris: “It could be the plot of an Ocean’s Eleven movie: A team of daring engineers heads to the wilds of Nevada to create a dazzling spectacle, defy officials, and walk off with a $680 million jackpot. In May of this year, Otto unveiled a video of an 18-wheeler thundering down a freeway with no one at the wheel. The San Francisco-based startup had retrofitted a freight truck with lidar, video cameras, radar, and other sensors, enabling it to operate “completely driverless without a driver in the backseat,” according to co-founder Lior Ron at the time… The story of why Otto flouted Nevada’s directive, how it got away with it, and what this means for the future of self-driving regulation stretches back to the dawn of driverless cars.” [BackChannel]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “Selig’s latest plan for historic building: high-rise to mid-rise” by Marc Stiles: “Initially, Martin Selig’s plan was to merely rehab the former Federal Reserve Bank branch in downtown Seattle. Later, a 660-foot-tall office and apartment tower was going to go on top of the historic building. Now the goal is to add just five floors of office space.” [PugetSoundBiz]
“Sotheby’s and IfOnly to Auction Rare Experiences” by Jordi Lippe-McGraw: “The “IfOnly Presents: Experiences Auction” will run from Cyber Monday (November 28) through December 9 and feature items like lunch with celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe ($10,000), an opportunity to attend the London Star Wars premiere and after party with Forest Whitaker ($50,000), and tickets to the NBA All-Stars Weekend in New Orleans with Milwaukee Bucks Owner Marc Lasry ($50,000).” [CNTraveler]
“Israeli Health Minister Rabbi Litzman Meets Sheldon Adelson” by Yochonon Donn:“Litzman met Tuesday with mega-GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, to pitch him on sponsoring a revolutionary treatment of pediatric cancer patients for Israeli hospitals. The 220-ton cyclotron is used for proton therapy, which zaps cancerous tumors while avoiding healthy tissue. It comes at a cost of $60 million.” [Hamodia]
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY — William Daroff, SVP for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Federations of North America, turns 48. We asked William how he’s celebrating, to which he replied: “Thanks for asking! I am being sworn in as a member of the US Supreme Court bar tomorrow morning!! I can’t think of a more fun way to celebrate my birthday than to do so with the eight Justices of the US Supreme Court!”
BIRTHDAYS: Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, screenwriter and film director, David Mamet turns 69… Actor, tenor and comedian, now appearing in the Showtime series “Homeland,” Mandy Patinkinturns 64… Former US Treasury Secretary (1999-2001) and then President of Harvard University (2001-2006), Larry Summers turns 62… Historian and author of nine books, mostly focused on the US presidency, Michael Beschloss turns 61… Wall Street Journal reporter who covers New York State politics and government, Erica Orden… Deputy international editor of The New York Times after four years as the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren… Award-winning author, journalist, and co-founder of Berkeleyside, a news site about Berkeley, California, Frances Dinkelspiel… Steve Albert…