Daily Kickoff: Inside the JLOTUS Club — who ‘read Jewish Insider every day’ | Trump’s friends Roth & Silverstein compete to develop new FBI HQ

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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — “Jewish Groups and Unions Grow Uneasy With Keith Ellison” by Jonathan Martin: “After initially mixing praise and criticism for Mr. Ellison, the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday effectively came out in opposition to his candidacy, citing remarks he made about Israel in a 2010 speech that the anti-discrimination group termed “disqualifying.” In an audiotape released Thursday of a fund-raiser for his re-election to Congress that year, Mr. Ellison asserted that “United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of seven million people,” an allusion to Israel… Mr. Ellison had already drawn criticism from some Jewish officials for his policy stances toward Israel — he falls to the left of most in the Democratic caucus on the issue — and for his past defense of Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader.”

— “In an open letter to Mr. Greenblatt, Mr. Ellison wrote that he recalled his remarks differently. “My memory is that I was responding to a question about how Americans with roots in the Middle East could engage in the political process in a more effective way,” he said. “My advice was simply to get involved. I believe that Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship are, and should be, key considerations in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East.”” [NYTimes; JewishInsider

“Rep. Keith Ellison faces renewed scrutiny over past ties to Nation of Islam, defense of anti-Semitic figures” by Andrew Kaczynski: “A CNN KFile review of Ellison’s past writings and public statements during the late 1980s through the 1990s reveal his decade-long involvement in the Nation of Islam and his repeated defense of Farrakhan and other radical black leaders against accusations of anti-Semitism in columns and statements to the press. None of the records reviewed found examples of Ellison making any anti-Semitic comments himself.” [CNN

INBOX — RJC’s Matt Brooks: “None of these revelations about Ellison are new, and it’s deeply troubling how many prominent national Democrats rushed to endorse his candidacy for chairman of the Democrat National Committee. It is the responsibility of every single Democrat to declare that these beliefs long held by Ellison are not what this country stands for, and demand that he withdraw his candidacy for DNC Chair.”

TOP TALKER: “Shouting match erupts between Clinton and Trump aides” by Karen Tumulty and Philip Rucker: “Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri condemned Bannon… “If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost,” she said. “I would rather lose than win the way you guys did.” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, fumed: “Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform?” “You did, Kellyanne. You did,” interjected Palmieri, who choked up at various points of the session… Joel Benenson, Clinton’s chief strategist, piled on: “There were dog whistles sent out to people. . . . Look at your rallies. He delivered it.” At which point, Conway accused Clinton’s team of being sore losers. “Guys, I can tell you are angry, but wow,” she said.” [WashPost; Politico

HEARD LAST NIGHT IN  NYC — One current and two former White House Jewish liaisons – members of the now-called JLOTUS (Jewish Liaisons of the U.S.) club – offered a behind-the-scenes look at life as the administration’s representative to the American Jewish community in a panel moderated by Jordan Hirsch, Visiting Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies, at Columbia University.

Noam Neusner, former liaison for the George W. Bush administration, explained how being a liaison for a Republican president differs from working for a Democratic president:“We definitely had fewer pressures on us politically because support in the community was less and there weren’t a lot of people calling in for favors. The flip side is that you have fewer political allies. You have to build a coalition within the community using smaller pieces, and that’s harder to do. The way I approached it was: President Bush had a large agenda. There were many Jewish organizations that didn’t want to have anything to do with a good portion of it. But even the most progressive organizations were interested in pieces of it. And so when I found that 10% diagram where these interests overlap, I would say we are going to work together on this, and that generally worked pretty well. It worked well because I knew that was the president’s perspective on things and he – love him or hate him – was looking for allies where he could get them, and I knew that’s where his heart would be. He also inspired us that we were serving the entire country. In the end, the reputation you earn as a Jewish liaison is how you work with people day to day.”

Jarrod Bernstein, the liaison for the Obama administration during his reelection, on his experience working with the president during a time of tension with the Jewish community: “The Jewish liaison position is actually very apolitical. Some of the first calls I got when I got the job were from people like Noam who served in the opposite political party and they were offering advice. I think that story doesn’t get told enough. The guys who served Bush were really, really good to me, and to all those who worked there… I didn’t look at a poll the entire time, but I can’t say I was ignorant of what was going on. It was a stressful time all around. The fights I had with the organized Jewish community were with people who would very much surprise you from the Democratic administration because they weren’t always with conservative-religiously, but with people who I would consider our political allies.”

Where do they get their daily news from? Chanan Weissman, current liaison for the Obama administration: “Definitely Twitter, plus picking up a copy of NYTimes, WSJ, Washington Post. Every single day I read Jewish Insider (entire panel: YES!) because they do a fantastic job of consolidating a lot of the issues. I read the Forward, JTA, and Tablet – that sort of serves as a baseline.”

Bernstein: “I would say similar with the one addition, because I worked in New York politics a long time and I dealt a lot in the Hasidic world, I read Vos Iz Neias.”

Neusner: “Beyond what they have mentioned, I read Drudge.”

“Extension of Iran Sanctions Act passes U.S. Congress” by Patricia Zengerle: “The measure passed by 99-0. It passed the House of Representatives nearly unanimously in November, and congressional aides said they expected Obama would sign it when it reached his desk… “While we do not think that an extension of ISA is necessary, we do not believe that a clean extension would be a violation of the JCPOA (Iran deal),” a senior administration official said.” [Reuters

“Russia urges Donald Trump to honour 2015 Iran nuclear deal” by Graham Lanktree: “The practice has always in the United States of adjusting pre-election promises and intentions along the way of practical implementation of what is planned,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Russia’s largest news wire service TASS Thursday. Russia, he said… is watching “the position of [the] future US Administration on this document.” Rybakov believes the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will, in the end, be recognized by everyone as [sic] Washington, including those who have so far been countering the achievement of the deal with Iran and implementation of the joint plan for political motives.” [IBTimes

“Obama Renews Waiver Delaying Jerusalem Embassy Relocation” by Jacob Kornbluh:“Obama gave President-elect Donald Trump some breathing room before deciding whether to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, renewing on Thursday a presidential waiver suspending the relocation of the embassy for another six months… June 1st, 2017 is the next time the president will have to take action. Jewish American supporters of Trump, as well as right-wing parties in Israel, are hoping that this is the last waiver issued on the matter.” [JewishInsider] • Did Obama just sign the last waiver before Trump moves the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? [WashPost

Noah Pollak: June 1st is just a few days before the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War.” [Twitter

David Martosko: “Reading closely, Obama Jerusalem embassy thing is toothless, only prohibits Congress from denying State Dept. $ if it DOESN’T move embassy.” [Twitter]

Martin Indyk: “In parallel with moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the president could also announce that he has decided to establish a U.S. embassy to the state of Palestine in east Jerusalem, while opposing any division of the city… Wedding it to a preplanned diplomatic effort to resolve the conflict is more advisable than just battening down the hatches and hoping that the storm of adverse reaction will pass.” [Brookings

LISTEN — Daniel Levy, who served as a peace negotiator under Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin, discusses the likely implications of Trump’s presidency in the region [WNYC]

TRANSITION TOWER: “Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense” by Dan Lamothe: “To take the job, Mattis will need Congress to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years. Congress has granted a similar exception just once, when Gen. George C. Marshall was appointed to the job in 1950… Like Trump, Mattis favors a tougher stance against U.S. adversaries abroad, especially Iran… Mattis said the next president “is going to inherit a mess,” and argued that the nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration last year may slow Iran’s ambitions to get a nuclear weapon, but won’t stop them.”

— Even though Central Command didn’t encompass Israel, Gen. Mattis made a concerted effort to reach out to his Israeli military counterparts, according to Steven Simon, who worked with Gen. Mattis when he served on Obama’s National Security Council. Simon, who now teaches at Amherst College, said Mattis made frequent stops in Israel during trips to the region, part of an effort to encourage the Jewish State and its Arab neighbors to work together to counter Iranian influence. “They respected Mattis because they saw him as a straight shooter and a good listener,” said Simon of the Israelis and Arabs.” [WashPost

Trita Parsi: “Gave a presentation to Mattis a few years ago. He told me he thinks of 3 things before he goes to bed each night: Iran, Iran and Iran.” [Twitter

“Inside Trump’s personal universe on Fifth Avenue, a presidential transition unfolds” by Joanna Slater: “On this day, there are no protesters outside the building. But at lunchtime, Jeff Bergman, 38, stands on one side of the lobby, opens a book and begins to read aloud. “A little light reading,” he says wryly. The book is Night by Elie Wiesel, a landmark memoir of the Holocaust. “The idea is a teach-in,” he says, explaining that he strikes up conversations with passersby. Mr. Bergman works nearby and hopes to come each day to engage in a form of peaceful protest.” [GlobeandMail

Peter Beinart: “Trump Era Heralds Final Collapse of American Jewish Center: The losers in all this will be organizations like AIPAC that can neither support Trump nor actively oppose him and which can neither celebrate permanent Israeli control over the West Bank nor try to stop it… Trump, who has done so much to weaken the American political establishment, will weaken the American Jewish establishment too.” [Haaretz

Kelsey Osgood: “Can Donald Trump be anti-Semitic if his daughter is Jewish? In short, Yes… Because we can’t see into Trump’s heart, we can only judge his words and actions. He has a history of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes, such as when he said he preferred “short guys who wear yarmulkes every day” to count his money. He used an obvious Jewish symbol to attack his opponent during his presidential campaign. And he appointed Stephen K. Bannon as his chief strategist, a hero of the “alt-right,” a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state and is known for spreading anti-Semitic views.” [WashPost

“Mississippi Gov. to ‘JPost’: Trump will be great for Israel” by Herb Keinon: “Bryant, speaking to the Post just prior to a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said there is no longer an organized Ku Klux Klan, and that the media made far too big an issue of Louisiana’s David Duke, a former klansman, supporting Trump… He was a bit surprised that some people he had met in Israel had reservations about Trump because of allegations of anti-Semitic statements made by his chief strategist Steve Bannon… “He has Jewish grandchildren. A Jewish daughter, and a Jewish son-in law. I can’t remember the last president that had children who were Jewish,” he said.” [JPost]

Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to Australian publication: “I personally think Donald Trump will be less challenging to Israel than Hillary Clinton would have been. In a sense the Israel-US relationship has nothing to do with the personality of the individual leaders. We have had decades of steadily enhancing co-operation. But in the last eight years, especially in the last two or three, we have had more concrete disputes with the President (Barack Obama), which still didn’t interfere with an unprecedented military agreement. But on Iran, and on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, maybe we will have less tensions with the new president-elect. His instincts on these two issues are more similar to ours.” [TheAustralian]

**Good Friday 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
“Howard Schultz Stepping Down as Starbucks CEO to Focus on Higher-End Shops” by Julie Jargon: “Mr. Schultz, 63 years old, is handing over the CEO role to Chief Operating Officer Kevin Johnson, who served as a director of the company for seven years before joining its executive team two years ago. Mr. Schultz, who is credited with taking the company from small beginnings to an international behemoth, began handing over daily oversight of the company to Mr. Johnson a few months ago… Mr. Schultz will remain chairman of Starbucks after he steps down as CEO in April and said he has no plans to step away from the company. “This gives me the entrepreneurial freedom to do what I think I do best,” he said in an interview.” [WSJ; NYTimes]

SPOTLIGHT: “The next FBI headquarters, a $2 billion project, could be built by a Trump associate” by Jonathan O’Connell: “Two billionaire New York City developers bidding to build a new headquarters for the FBI have deep ties with President-elect Donald Trump. One, Steven Roth, served as an economic adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign and co-owns a building with him in Manhattan. Another, Larry Silverstein, has been referred to by Trump as a “friend of mine.””

“Roth is founder and chairman of Vornado Realty Trust, which acquired a mutual stake with Trump in a 2 million-square-foot Manhattan building in 2007 and has partnered in multiple commercial properties with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Silverstein supported Clinton for president, but the day after the election, speaking at a New York real estate conference, he complimented Trump’s leadership qualities. For the FBI project, Silverstein is bidding in partnership with Lerner Enterprises, headed by Washington Nationals owner Theodore N. Lerner.” [WashPost]

“AIPAC Proposes to Expand Headquarters in Mount Vernon Triangle” by Andrew Giambrone: “AIPAC, proposes to enlarge its seven-story headquarters at 251 H St. NW in Mount Vernon Triangle by converting an existing penthouse into an eighth story, and also building a new 11-story commercial office “intended to serve the organization’s projected future growth.” While the penthouse conversion will modestly increase the footprint of AIPAC’s current 89,000-square-foot headquarters, the planned 162,000-square-foot office building development nearly triples the organization’s space… The application notes that employment at AIPAC’s headquarters has grown from 125 when it opened in 2008 to 220 as of today, and that the organization expects similar growth in the next three to five years.”[DCCityPaper

STARTUP NATION: “Genesis Partners spins out $50 million fund, F2 Capital, to back early-stage startups in Israel” by Lora Kolodny: “While Genesis Partners was a $600 million fund for growth-stage deals, F2 Capital, founded by Eddy Shalev, Jonathan “Jonny” Saacks and Barak Rabinowitz, is in the midst of closing a $50 million debut fund to back seed stage companies. Limited partners in F2 are mostly family funds based in Israel, the U.S. and Australia, Rabinowitz told TechCrunch.” [TC] • Tax Breaks Are Israel’s Bait to Lure Multinational Companies [Bloomberg]

Bloomberg Beta’s Roy Bahat: “As an investor in startups, I often see the very qualities that made me and others standout successes in school turn out to be straitjackets. The setup of school might even be conforming us to something less than our best selves. As I meet founder after founder, some of the reasons are becoming clear to me. I summarized the things that school asks that are wildly different from the things that life, and founder life in particular, ask. The same attributes that in school are features, in life are bugs.” [Medium]

PROFILE: “Raviv Drucker: the Israeli journalist incurring the wrath of Netanyahu” by Peter Beaumont: “Drucker seemed to shrug off the attacks. “I’m used to it,” he told the Guardian in a cafe below his Tel Aviv studio a few hours before the latest Facebook rant from Netanyahu. “I believe he’s now published five or six posts against me, as far as I know. You know, I don’t go looking for them, but sometimes I bump up against them.” He mentions, the calls – sometimes to multiple people, one after the other. “He’s called everyone. Shareholders [in the television company], managers editors, even correspondents. I can’t believe how much time he spends on this. He texts people as well.” Drucker says the change came after the 2015 election, when Netanyahu won a far larger share of seats than expected… Netanyahu’s latest attack suggests that his interventions are calculated as much as angry, and he seeks, like Donald Trump in the US, to bypass traditional outlets to speak to his supporters via social media.” [Guardian

LongRead: “‘We Are Orphans Here’ Life and death in East Jerusalem’s
Palestinian refugee camp” by Rachel Kushner:
“Effectively, there are no laws in the Shuafat Refugee Camp, despite its geographical location inside Jerusalem. The Shuafat camp’s original citizens were moved from the Old City, where they sought asylum in 1948 during the Arab-Israeli War, to the camp’s boundaries starting in 1965, when the camp was under the control of the Jordanian government, with more arriving, in need of asylum, during and after the war in 1967. Now, 50 years after Israel’s 1967 boundaries were drawn, even Israeli security experts don’t quite know why the Shuafat Refugee Camp was placed inside the Jerusalem municipal boundaries.” [NYTimesMag]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Foundation fund nixes progressive donation” by Eitan Arom: “The Foundation was being asked to act as the vehicle to provide support for an organization that is hostile to established Jewish institutions, indirectly including The Foundation itself,” the statement read. “We concluded that such a course of action would directly conflict with our core values, requiring us to deny this recommendation.” IfNotNow admits to openly challenging the Jewish establishment. The group gained national attention during Israel’s last incursion in Gaza in 2014 by reading the Mourner’s Kaddish for Palestinian victims in front of major Jewish organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York City.” [JewishJournal

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: UC Berkeley Emeritus History Professor, Pulitzer Prize winner, Leon Litwack turns 87… Senate Minority Leader in the last month of his term, Harry Reid turns 77… Moroccan-born drummer for a secular rock band in France who then switched to a career in contemporary Jewish music, Isaac Bitton turns 69… French historian, professor at University of Paris 13 and author of 30 books on the history of North Africa, Benjamin Stora turns 66… Madison, Wisconsin-based class action and labor law attorney, Sarah Siskind turns 64 (h/t Playbook)… Emmy Award-winning actress Rena Sofer turns 58… Sephardi / Portugese actress best known for playing Special Agent Kensi Blye in CBS’s “NCIS Los Angeles,” Daniela Ruah turns 33… Account Executive at Jewish Journal, Lanna Solnit… EVP and Media Director at Rubenstein Communications, Nancy Haberman… Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University, formerly a White House staffer (2001-2005), Eleanor L. Schiff… Joseph Schlaiser

Bush 41 alum Mark A. Shiffrin is 6-0, celebrating with sushi and scotch as family and friends gather at Congregation Beth Israel, the historic New Haven Orchard Street Shul; Shiffrin also has served as CT commissioner of consumer protection, where he regulated boxing in the state (h/t Bryan Anderson/Playbook)

Howard Krizer turns 84… Sandra Wharton turns 74… Professional tennis player who won the gold medal in women’s singles at the 2005 Maccabiah Games in Israel, Sharon Fichman turns 26… Sandy Stackler… Malinda Marcus… SVP of Communications at NBC News since 9-2013, previously SVP of Communications for Time, Fortune and Money, Ali Weisberg Zelenko

Biographer and winner of the 1980 National Book Award, Scott Berg turns 67… Politics editor at Breitbart California and publisher and founder of FlashReport, Jon Fleischman turns 49… Campaign manager for Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress, Sarah Baron turns 26… Founder, senior Rabbi and lead guide of the Adventure Rabbi program based in Boulder Colorado, Jamie Korngold… Tony Sarif

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