Daily Kickoff: 2020 Dems vow to rejoin Iran deal | Rebecca Kantar’s plan to replace SATs with video games | Inside the Alexander bros ‘success’

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HEARD LAST NIGHT — Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) began his town hall meeting with Jewish constituents with an apology. “As a young congressman, I’ve got to tell you I’m sorry,” Rose confessed to the crowd gathered by the Council of Jewish Organizations (COJO) of Staten Island. “You sent me to Congress to take responsibility. You sent me to Congress to have your back… and I failed you. Because I know that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comments really caused you all a lot of pain by bringing up anti-Semitic tropes.” [JewishInsiderVideo]

During his first town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Beto O’Rourke took aim at Israeli PM Netanyahu over his alliance with the far right when asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Right now we don’t have the best negotiating partners on either side. We have a prime minister in Israel who has openly sided with racists. On the Palestinian side, we have an ineffectual leader. Mahmoud Abbas has not been very effective in bringing his side to the table.” [Video]

TRENDS — A new Bernie Sanders campaign ad features excerpts from activist Shaun King’s introduction of Sanders at his Brooklyn College campaign launch on March 2, lauding the Vermont Senator’s criticism of Israel. The ad also highlights a line from a recent CNN article, “Bernie smashes the Israel status quo.” [Video]

DRIVING THE CONVO — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, following recommendations by senior Pentagon officials, has agreed to extend a sanctions waiver to allow Iraq to buy electricity from Iran. However, the new waiver will expire in 90 days, in the middle of Iraq’s scorching summer, as the administration contemplates whether to renew waivers to countries seeking to purchase oil from Iran.  

A Congressional source tells us that the timing of the Iraqi waivers announcement yesterday turned up the anger among Republicans on Capitol Hill towards the State Department ‘to an 11.’ This comes amid several days of public complaints from leading Republicans that the waivers are sustaining the Iran deal and allowing Iran to wait out the Trump administration.

At least two tankers have ferried Iranian fuel oil to Asia in recent months despite U.S. sanctions against such shipments, according to a Reuters analysis of ship-tracking data and port information,

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted on Monday: “I urge President Trump to end all sanctions waivers for foreign purchasers of Iranian oil given the significant surplus capacity in international oil markets. It’s time to maximize pressure against Tehran’s terror-sponsoring & nuke-seeking regime.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday that he is aware of ‘elements within the Trump administration’ who are working behind the president’s back to save the nuclear deal. “A nuclear Iran is the most pressing near-term threat to American national security and to the survival of our Middle East allies. Every waiver for Iran allows them to work toward their nuclear goal,” Cruz said. “The president understands that basic fact but it appears that not everyone in the administration is totally on board. Maximum pressure should mean maximum pressure. Enough’s enough.”

WHAT TEHRAN IS READING — At least five 2020 Democrats — including Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris — have told Al-Monitor over the past few weeks that they would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal without preconditions should they win the presidency — as long as Iran continues to abide by the terms of the 2015 deal. According to Al-Monitor, a new group, the National Security Action, led by former Barack Obama administration officials, has circulated a draft memo to all declared Democratic candidates asking them to rejoin the JCPOA.

STATE VISIT — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Israel and will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem later today. The two will deliver statements to the press at the start of their meeting.

QUESTIONS — What is Bibi asking for from Pompeo? An announcement from the administration over the next few days recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights? Is Netanyahu pressuring Pompeo to not renew Iranian oil waivers? Will either be discussed publicly? 

NO PEACE PLAN TALK — One issue that Pompeo is not planning to discuss publicly is Jared Kushner’s peace plan, the AP’s Matt Lee reports. “‘Look, we desperately want a good solution,’ Pompeo told reporters Tuesday before his plane landed in Kuwait City. ‘Mr. Kushner is working on the Middle East peace plan. There’ll be a right time when we will introduce bigger pieces of that.’” 

NEW BOOK CLAIMS TO KNOW PEACE PLAN DETAILS — According to Vicky Ward’s new book Kushner, Inc. the plan includes “land swaps, where Jordan would give land to the Palestinian territories, and ‘in return, Jordan would get land from Saudi Arabia, and that country would get back two Red Sea islands it gave Egypt to administer in 1950.’” Amy Spiro at the Jerusalem Post has the report.

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Mideast peace envoy, responded to the report: “No one who has seen the plan would spread misinformation like that. Whoever made these claims has bad info. Next time feel free to reach out to us before you run with a story. A lot of people are sharing false info with the press now for bad reasons.”

Ward’s response to Greenblatt: “I spent two years researching Kushner Inc. I interviewed 220 individual people, interviewing 118 of those people multiple times,” Ward, the author of the book, tweeted. “There are anonymous sources, but everything is at least double-sourced. Nothing is based on just a single person’s recollection of events. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were given, via their lawyer, the opportunity to respond to fact-checking questions. I sent 7 or 8, which required just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. No one ever answered them; instead, I got the rather ludicrous statement that it would take too much time.”

Tom Friedman writes… “Beware the Mideast’s Falling Pillars: There was always a deep U.S. involvement in shaping the future of this region. But just look around today: The U.S. doesn’t even have ambassadors in Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, a former Trump bankruptcy lawyer, is so enthralled with the right-wing Jewish settler movement that he is more a propagandist than a diplomat. Bye-bye American pie. There has always been some kind of Israeli-Palestinian peace process pushing for the best two-state solution. Again, bye-bye.” [NYTimes]

ELSEWHERE — Lithuania’s Prime Minister says he’s consideringrelocating his country’s embassy to Jerusalem if he wins the elections in May… Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has invited Brazil’s pro-Israel President Jair Bolsonaro for a visit as he weighs moving his country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Bolsonaro is scheduled to visit Israel on March 31. He met with President Trump at the White House on Tuesday.

ON THE GROUND — In Gaza, Hamas is faced with unusual protests about bad public services, cracking down with widespread arrests, perhaps more than a thousand Gazans including local journalists and human rights activists, NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports. Hamas is planning a large protest next week against Israel to mark the one-year anniversary of the weekly protests on the Gaza border.

BARI WEISS IN ISRAEL — The NYTimes writer interviewed Yair Lapid, the number two in Kachol Lavan (Blue and White Party), while visiting Israel last week.

Lapid on Jewish peoplehood: Lapid recounted his father telling him how his friend in the Budapest ghetto Tom Lantos ended up as head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee while he ended up as Justice Minister in Israel when the two went to the same pier in the same harbor before parting ways. “They always felt that if they took the opposite boat, Tom would be the minister of justice and my father would be the head of the foreign committee,” Lapid said, using as a metaphor to explain the Jewish sense of history and destiny. “I was once a young journalist in this country. I could have been you and you could have been me,” the politician told Weiss the reporter. “We share something that we don’t totally have the words for. This is what the anti-Semites hate.”

Lapid on Trump’s statement that the Democratic Party has become anti-Israel and anti-Jewish: “I’m going to say this as politely as I can. He was wrong. I don’t think you can say that Eliot Engel and Jerry Nadler and Ted Deutch and Chuck Schumer don’t like Israel. They are the most pro-Israel people I know.” Lapid also said that if his party wins the April 9th election and Benny Gantz forms the next Israeli government, Lapid — who would then serve as Foreign Minister for the first 2 1/12 years — would seek to rebuild support for Israel among progressives. “Israel must be a bipartisan issue,” he stressed.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, and a candidate for the next Knesset, on a conference call with American Friends of Likud: “I believe we should do our utmost to find ways to deepen our dialogue with Democrat leaders in the United States. We should do our utmost in order to keep the support bipartisan as much as we can, but frankly, there are certain strengths in American politics that certainly are not under our control. Like the impression that I get is that the radical camp in the Democratic Party is getting a bit stronger, and this is something that will make things harder for us in the future, no doubt. I think we can do more by emphasizing things that the Democrats ears will like to hear. For example, we did great work over the last years investing billions for the Arab citizens of Israel from infrastructure to education, and I don’t think we spoke enough and explained to our friends what we did there. I think it is something that might be interesting for Democrats to hear and something that can increase support for Israel.”

TWITTER TROUBLE — JTA’s Ron Kampeas reports that Adam Milstein will no longer be speaking on a panel at AIPAC’s upcoming policy conference after he accused two Muslim lawmakers of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and CAIR and clashing with ‘American values.’

Milstein in a statement: “My social media postings represent my views — and my views alone. I have no interest in allowing this mischaracterization of me to distract from the important work of AIPAC. For this reason, I will not be moderating a panel at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference.”

Milstein tells us that as of yesterday, he’s still planning to attend the conference. 

AIPAC’s Marshall Wittmann to Kampeas: “Milstein is not a representative of AIPAC and his views are not ours.”

DEEP DIVE — A Mar-a-Lago Weekend and an Act of God: Trump’s History With Deutsche Bank — by David Enrich: “One of Rosemary Vrablic’s clients was Jared Kushner, who married Ivanka Trump in 2009. Mr. Kushner regarded Ms. Vrablic as the best banker he had ever worked with. Shortly after [Trump settled a litigation over a Chicago loan], Mr. Kushner was told that Mr. Trump was looking for a loan and introduced him to Ms. Vrablis.” [NYTimes]

2020 WATCH — Former Vice President Joe Biden told at least a half-dozen supporters that he intends to run for president and asked for their help in lining up contributions… The Democrats’ choice problem: Which candidate can beat Trump in 2020?… Where in the world is Tulsi Gabbard? The Hawaii congresswoman’s 2020 presidential campaign has not hewed to a traditional travel schedule… Trump’s re-election campaign has quietly spent nearly twice as much as the entire Democratic field combined on Facebook and Google ads… Bernie Sanders just hired his Twitter attack dog, David Sirota, as a senior adviser and speechwriter for his 2020 campaign… Sen. Brian Schatz, the Democrat planning to unite the party after 2020 turns ugly. 

KAFE KNESSET — Gantz meets the press — by Neri Zilber: With his poll numbers coming back to earth and the Likud now leading the race, Benny Gantz took to the airwaves last night for his first media interviews with the big three television stations (Channels 11, 12, 13) and the popular Ynet online portal. Overall the reviews were cautiously positive: Gantz didn’t trip up, stayed on message (often repeating the same talking points in each interview), and made no hard commitments for or against any issue (except possibly engaging with the Arab parties). He wouldn’t explicitly say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was corrupt, preferring instead the formulation that “something happened” to the PM after 2015 and that, as a citizen, he was “saddened” by it all.

On the Palestinian issue, Gantz went out of his way not to endorse a two-state solution, saying instead that he would strive to keep Israel “Jewish, democratic and secure” and to avoid a “bi-national reality.” “We’re not ashamed to use the word ‘peace,’” he added, but “there’s no one to talk to at the moment” on the Palestinian side. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Volkswagen chief Herbert Diess’s future is at risk after he evoked a Nazi phrase, ‘Ebit macht frei’ (profit makes you free), in a management meeting last week [FinancialTimes• Kushner Cos. Scaling Back in New York as Public Scrutiny Heats Up [WSJ• Bob Iger’s Disney Closes Fox Deal, Creating Global Content Powerhouse[HollywoodReporter• Fox Corporation Emerges as Standalone Entity, Paul Ryan Joins Board [Variety

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — What If Instead of Taking the SAT You Got to Play a Video Game? — by Romesh Ratnesar: “A 27-year-old entrepreneur who dropped out of Harvard, Rebecca Kantar, has a plan to fix it. The American obsession with college admissions, she says, benefits the wealthiest and highest-achieving students, while leaving the vast majority ill-qualified for the jobs of the future. She says a big part of the problem is the avalanche of standardized tests students take from kindergarten through high school, a $10 billion industry that drives much of what’s taught in the classroom. At the top of the pyramid sit the SAT and ACT, the generations-old multiple-choice tests that still help to determine who gains entry to top colleges and universities… Kantar is the founder of Imbellus Inc., a startup in Los Angeles that aims to reinvent testing and, in the process, challenge the received wisdom about what students are expected to learn.” [Bloomberg]

SPOTLIGHT — Life after Facebook: The Untold Story Of Billionaire Eduardo Saverin’s Highly Networked Venture Firm — by Alex Konrad: “To hear Saverin talk about it, he’s at peace with his Facebook past (and remains one of the biggest individual shareholders, with a 2% stake in the $475 billion company). Across two interviews, Saverin says the company is ‘incredibly close to my heart’ and shares praise for Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg’s leadership. ‘I’m incredibly proud of what Mark has done, to build an institution of its size and value. He’ll work hard to get things right,’ he says… In the years since he secured his once-in-a-lifetime stake—$2 billion at the time of IPO—he’s embraced a new role as venture capitalist at B Capital, the firm he cofounded in 2015.” [Forbes

Florida Prosecutors Offer to Drop Charges Against Patriots Owner Robert Kraft — by Andrew Beaton: “Florida prosecutors have offered to drop charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a number of other men charged with soliciting prostitution. The proposed deferred prosecution agreement calls for completion of an education course about prostitution, completion of 100 hours of community service, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and payment of some court costs.”[WSJ• Sources tell the NYPost there’s ‘absolutely no way’ Kraft will take the no-plea deal [NYPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Cracking the bro code: High on selling Miami and New York’s priciest homes, Tal and Oren Alexander are basking in their success. But is it entirely theirs? — by Katherine Kallergis and E.B. Solomont: 
“Days after Oren speaks to The Real Deal in Miami and after the brokers are interviewed for fawning spreads in Forbes and the Miami Herald, Tal cancels a follow-up interview with us in New York. Ken Griffin, it turns out, isn’t so happy with all the attention. ‘He [Griffin] had an expectation of privacy, as any client in this position would,’ said one source familiar with the hedge-funder’s thinking. ‘And he will not be working with them again.’ Call it luck, perseverance or just plain chutzpah, but the legend surrounding the 220 CPS sale is that Tal cold-called Griffin and pitched him on the opportunity to buy the most significant (read: expensive) penthouse in the country. A full 3 percent commission on the purchase price would be over $7 million.” [RealDeal]

ACROSS THE POND — Spicy or Wonky, Scapegoat or Hero? Commons Speaker Upends Brexit — by Ellen Barry: “The 56-year-old son of a Jewish cabdriver from North London, John Bercow rose through the ranks of the Tory party through sheer elbow grease, and then resigned from the party when he took the nonpartisan role of speaker, in 2009… A measure of the strangeness of the times in Brexit Britain is that one can buy T-shirts bearing the face of John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, in the stylized stencil preferred by street artists and skateboarders, with the word ORDER.”

“This enthusiasm is not universal in Britain, especially on Tuesday, after Mr. Bercow startled the country by blocking Mrs. May’s plan to push her withdrawal agreement through Parliament before a trip on Thursday to Brussels. He announced that he would not allow a third vote on her plan for Brexit… This ruling has made Mr. Bercow, a wonky arbiter of parliamentary procedure, one of the most admired and hated men in the country. ‘I certainly think he sees this as his big moment, that this is what he will be remembered for,’ said Bobby Friedman, the author of a biography of Mr. Bercow.”[NYTimes

MEDIA WATCH — Anti-Muslim Hate Speech Is Absolutely Relentless On Social Media Even As Platforms Crack Down On Other Extremist Groups — by Jane Lytvynenko: 
“Researchers say Facebook is the primary mainstream platform where extremists organize and anti-Muslim content is deliberately spread… Politicians have also used anti-Muslim rhetoric to bolster their popularity among voters, which then takes off on social media… Researchers of extremism say the horrifying attack in New Zealand should be the catalyzing moment that makes platforms like Facebook and others put more focus on removing anti-Muslim hate speech from their platforms. But they aren’t optimistic about it happening.” [BuzzFeed]

DESSERT — This Acclaimed Chef Didn’t Hit His Stride Until He Embraced Something He Had Long Hoped to Forget: Where He’s From — by Leigh Buchanan: 
“Michael Solomonov is co-founder, with Steve Cook, of CookNSolo, a 300-employee Philadelphia company comprising 11 restaurants. He has won four James Beard awards, including Outstanding Chef in 2017 for the Israeli restaurant Zahav. With the introduction of Federal Donuts, now in five locations around the city, CookNSolo ignited the national trend of coffee-doughnuts-fried chicken restaurants. Solomonov’s success required both exercising his culinary imagination and vanquishing his personal demons.” Read his story here [Inc]

BIRTHDAYS: Active philanthropist, pioneer in corporate social responsibility, formerly CEO of Timberland and now board chair of an Israel-based leadership program called MAOZ, Jeffrey Swartz turns 59… Actor, director, producer and writer of comedy whose career spans nearly seven decades, Carl Reiner turns 97… Stage and screen actor, television director and musician, best-known role as the title character in the television comedy series “Barney Miller,” Hal Linden (born Harold Lipshitz) turns 88… Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences as a geologist and oceanographer, but known popularly as poet and performer, Alexander Gorodnitsky turns 86… Australian award-winning writer of Portuguese Sephardi descent, author of fiction, non-fiction, screenplays and poetry collections, David George Joseph Malouf turns 85… Retired executive officer at Standard & Poor’s where he was responsible for credit ratings of states and municipalities, Hyman C. Grossman turns 84… Senior advisor to the family office of Charles Bronfman, Dr. Jeffrey R. Solomon turns 74… Talmudic scholar at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz turns 68… Award-winning author of 25 children’s books, Louis Sachar turns 65… Owner of Diamond Point Metals, a trader and broker of non-ferrous scrap metal, he serves on the boards of The Baltimore Jewish Council and the Maryland Israel Development Center, Jack Zager turns 65… Retired as Israel’s Chief of Police (2015-2018) after a 27 year career at Shabak (a/k/a the Shin Bet), Roni Alsheikh turns 56…

Host of Time Team America, a PBS program, she also produced and directed a feature-length documentary entitled Our Summer in Tehran, Justine Shapiroturns 56… Chilean businessman with substantial mining interests, in 2014 he donated seven newly written Sefer Torah scrolls to synagogues on six different continents, Leonardo Farkas turns 52… Journalist, author and lecturer best known for writing about his lifestyle immersion experiments, he is an editor at large for Esquire, Arnold Stephen “A. J.” Jacobs turns 51… Actor, podcast host, director and comedian, has acted in more than sixty films, Michael Rapaport turns 49… Director in Accenture’s NYC-based communications, media and technology practice, he is also the Lead of the firm’s Interfaith Employee Resource Group in the NYC area, Daniel M. Eckstein turns 35… Director at West Wing Writers since 2014, he was previously the director of online content at the super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, Matt Finkelstein turns 34… Political Reporter at NBC News since 2013, Benjamin (Benjy) Sarlin turns 34… Development analyst at the CIM Group, he was previously an associate at Urban Investment Partners, he is the holder of both a B.A. and MBA from GWU, Jason Lifton turns 30… Comedian, writer, and actress who gained popularity through her comedy videos on YouTube, she is a correspondent on the Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World, Joanna Hausmann turns 30… Associate at the Philadelphia office of the American Jewish Committee working on the Leaders for Tomorrow (program for high schoolers) and ACCESS programs, Max Buchdahl turns 23… Ehud Lazar

Daily Kickoff: Will Bibi publicly pressure Pompeo and Trump on Iran waivers? | Cuomo criticizes Dems on Omar | Circumcision enters 2020 convo

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HOT TOPIC — IRAN WAIVERS: President Trump has six weeks to decide whether to renew waivers to countries seeking to purchase oil from Iran. After an article over the weekend in The Atlantic detailed how Trump could actually end up preserving the Iran deal, Republican allies on Capitol Hill have begun to pressure the President.

Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted on Monday: “The Iranian regime uses its petrodollars to fund terrorism and sow chaos throughout the region. Going forward, the proper amount of oil exports from Iran is zero.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)“[The] U.S. should not grant any more waivers for Iran to sell oil. Iran uses sales to fund terrorism, missiles and nukes.”

Rep. Brad Wenstrup‏ (R-OH)“We know that Iran uses money from oil sales to fund terrorism. The U.S. should not grant any waivers for Iranian oil exports.”

WHERE’S BIBI? — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no qualms with publicly challenging the Obama administration on the Iran deal. With Netanyahu in D.C. next week for AIPAC, experts are wondering whether the Prime Minister will join Republican lawmakers in publicly pressuring President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to restrict the Iranian oil trade by refraining from renewing waivers. 

KEY FACTORS — While experts against the deal argue the waivers allow the Iranians to more easily ‘wait out’ the Trump administration, Trump and Pompeo’s hesitation to end the waivers appears to stem from a fear of causing oil prices to rise. However, according to four U.S. officials cited by Bloomberg, cutting off Iranian oil completely could be offset by American and Saudi production. Further complicating Trump’s decision on waivers is his desire to obtain a ‘win’ with the Chinese on trade. China tops the list of the eight countries granted Iranian oil waivers. 

Iranians Line Up at Dawn for a Sanctions Meal They Can Afford — by Golnar Motevalli: “With U.S. officials pledging to tighten curbs on Iran’s oil sales, and import waivers for several of the nation’s oil buyers set to expire in May, life is only getting harder. It’s a grim backdrop as Iran this week celebrates Persian new year, or Nowruz, a festival normally characterized by feasts, sweets and gifts. Central bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati said last month families should adjust spending habits and prepare to see fewer foreign brands on the shelves.” [Bloomberg

DRIVING THE DAY — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is kicking off his Middle East tour on Tuesday with a stop in Kuwait before heading to Israel to meet with Israeli PM Netanyahu. 

During a conference call with faith-based reporters only on Monday, Pompeo wouldn’t say whether or not he would meet with Netanyahu’s main challenger Benny Gantz while in Jerusalem, according to JTA’s Ron Kampeas. Asked whether he believes his visit boosts Netanyahu ahead of the April 9th election, Pompeo maintained that the trip was “long planned” and that the aim is to discuss “the threat from Iran.” Speaking to reporters en route to the region, Pompeo added: “There’s always an election. We’ve got an election a year away, and they’ve got one that’s less than a month away. I’m going to Israel because of the important relationship we have.” 

INSIDE THE ADMIN — U.S. Pressures Iraq Over Embrace of Militias Linked to Iran — by Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt: “The United States’ attempts to isolate Iran, including by punishing Iraqi militias and politicians who are supported by Iranian officials, has deepened tensions… within the Trump administration… Under plans recommended by Mr. Pompeo and some White House officials, the State Department would designate Iran’s military Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. It would be a first instance of the United States designating a unit of another government’s military as a terrorist group… Officials at the Pentagon and the C.I.A. oppose designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or the Iraqi militias as terrorist groups, fearing a backlash that could constrain American troops.” [NYTimes
Trump Administration Officials Clash Over Relief for Venezuelan Immigrants — by Jessica Donati and Dion Nissenbaum: 
“Special envoy Elliott Abrams, the State Department official who is leading U.S. diplomatic efforts in Venezuela, advocates granting special immigration status for Venezuelans residing illegally in the U.S. as a way to support the Venezuelan people and pressure Mr. Maduro. But key officials of the White House National Security Council opposes such action, saying it would be inconsistent with President Trump’s crackdown on immigration, asylum seekers and refugees… Mr. Abrams has argued that Venezuela’s dire economic and political conditions would justify the move. ‘We have absolutely got to avoid any noncriminal deportations while we sort it out. To send some family back to [Venezuela] now would make us all laughingstocks,’ Mr. Abrams wrote in a sharply worded email sent Feb. 24 to the National Security Council.” [WSJ]

PAGE 1 — Trump response to New Zealand massacre highlights his combative history with Muslims — by Ashley Parker: 
“In a broader planning meeting, administration officials briefly considered holding a roundtable featuring persecuted religious minorities — Muslims, as well as Christians and Jews — but the idea was scuttled when the group decided they couldn’t pull off such an event on short notice, a White House official said.”[WashPost]

HEARD YESTERDAY — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo criticized ‘politically reluctant’ Democrats on Monday for their muted response to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic comments earlier this month. “I think some people were reluctant to vociferously stand up and condemn it because the whole political environment is so charged. Whatever you say, you’re going to get criticized by the other side,” Cuomo said during an interview on WAMC’s The Roundtable with host Alan Chartock. “Say what’s right, say what’s your belief, and say the truth and damn the rest.”

In his criticism, Cuomo did not single out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as being responsible for watering down the House resolution on antisemitic rhetoric. “I think there are a lot of Democrats, and a lot of Republicans by the way, who are just politically reluctant to say anything because they have a fear of retaliation. You can’t ask a speaker to stand up and articulate a position that her conference is not going to support… It shouldn’t have been just Speaker Pelosi and the Congress. It should have been every Democrat, you know. Everyone should have stood up, every New Yorker — for crying out loud, you want to tolerate antisemitism in New York?” [JewishInsider]

Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) 
at the start of his first district town hall meeting held at St. Philips Baptist Church in Port Richmond, New York, said:“I have to make a confession: I’m not a socialist. I’m not an anti-Semite… I was the first member of the Democratic Party to come out and criticize what I saw as an anti-Semitic remark.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) shared on an Instagram story a recent quotefrom Sen. Bernie Sanders in her defense, saying she was being targeted “as a way of stifling the debate” on Israel. Omar added an oncoming fist emoji to the quote. [Pic]

Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) writes… “The Jew Who Died for Ilhan Omar: In 1992 the U.S. sent Lawrence Freedman as part of an advance team to prepare the way for American troops in Somalia. On Dec. 23, two weeks after the troops had arrived, Freedman became the first American killed as part of the relief effort in Somalia… Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Freedman is buried in Arlington Cemetery beneath a black marker etched with a green beret and a Star of David. His epitaph reads: ‘The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.’ Americans— including Ms. Omar — should remember him and those who died with him to give Somalis a chance to live in freedom.” [WSJ]

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Monday.[Pic]

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon 
was honored with the Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) Award at the Chabad House at Rutgers 40th anniversary dinner in New Brunswick, NJ. In his remarks, Danon said, “We see antisemitism on the rise in Europe and also here in the U.S. And when we see leaders in the UK or here supporting antisemitism, we have to denounce them, we have to isolate them, and we have to remove them from any position of leadership. We should not allow them to stay where they are.” [PicVideo]

ACROSS THE SEA — Putin jokes about Jews and money during visit to Crimea: “During a meeting with residents that involved religious leaders, Putin responded to a comment by a local Jewish community member about financial difficulties. ‘So the Jews have problems with finances!’ he answered, to laughter. ‘Such a thing could only happen in Crimea.’ He then spoke in Hebrew, saying ‘thank you very much.'” [ToI]

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Reps. Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Randy Weber (R-TX) introduced legislation on Monday that would strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel on environmental projects in developing countries.

The bill calls for $2 million to be provided each year, for four years, to support collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its counterpart in Israel called MASHAV, on projects related to water resources, agriculture and energy storage. “This legislation would expand the reach of our important partnership and improve lives around the world,” Rep. Frankel said in a statement.

The House and Senate are out this week as members work from their home districts. [JewishInsider]

House Judiciary Committee Planning Hearing on the Rise of White Nationalism — by Erin Banco and Sam Stein: “The House Judiciary Committee is planning on hosting a hearing in the coming weeks addressing the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. and the hate crime and hate speech surrounding the movement.” [DailyBeast]

AT THE UN — U.N. Panel Urges Investigation Into Israeli Shootings at Gaza Border a Year Ago — by Nick Cumming-Bruce: 
“The three-person commission of inquiry made its recommendation on Monday in presenting the United Nations Human Rights Council with its full 252-page report on a deeply divisive issue… The commission chairman, Santiago Canton, told journalists in Geneva on Monday: ‘I hope Israel expands the investigation to all the killings and all the injured. That’s what we expect or hope Israel will do.’ Israel, however, said the report was legally and factually flawed. Senior Israeli officials in Geneva said it ignored the active role of Hamas’s military wing in organizing and manipulating the protests, as well as the extensive use of military-grade explosives supplied by Hamas.” [NYTimes

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on a conference call hosted by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA): 
“This UN report is on its face absurd. And we know that because they had been doing it for a long time, that both Hamas and Hezbollah use human shields as a deliberate tactic. They use innocent Palestinian civilians, put them in harms way because they intend to exploit those human shields for when they are injured or killed, and when Israel defends itself, to number one, get the media to echo back on Israel, and number two, to get useful idiots in places like the United Nations to echo those facts as well. It is a repeated deliberate strategy of Hamas to use human shields. This UN report ignores that reality. The United Nations has long been a reservoir of deep anti-Israel animus and the report is yet another example of that.”

2020 WATCH — A group of former lawmakers and activists have launched a new organization focused on supporting pro-Israel members of Congress in the forthcoming election cycles. Pro-Israel America — a small dollargrassroots effort led by Jeff Mendelsohn, a former AIPAC national director of outreach, and Jonathan Missner who served as AIPAC’s managing director for national affairs — is supported by former Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and former Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA). The group released on Tuesday a list of 27 incumbents from both parties they are endorsing in 2020. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) during an MSNBC town hall in Auburn Hills, Michigan: Trump “did not create hate and racism and antisemitism, but what he has done is pour fuel on a fire that is raging more than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”

Cory Booker finds his moment — by David Brooks: “Some people believe that fire can be fought only with fire… Other people are in the as-they-go-low-we-go-high camp… People in this camp believe that we can change our laws only after we’ve changed our politics… So far, Cory Booker is the candidate who has placed the biggest bet on this latter argument. He agrees with many of his rivals on policy, but he argues that how you behave is just as important as what you propose… Booker uses religious categories more naturally than any other candidate: grace, faith, sacrificial love, the command to love your neighbor as yourself, the awareness that love has a redemptive power to cast out fear. The gospels are pretty clear that the correct response to hate is love.”[NYTimes

Joe Biden readies major endorsements and message of strength ahead of likely 2020 run… Team Biden braces to be clobbered from both sides… As Beto O’Rourke soaks up attention, rival Democrats appeal for funds… Campus collision course: 2020 Democrats battle for the youth vote… Ahead of 2020, white evangelicals are sticking with Trump… 

Andrew Yang, Upstart Democratic Presidential Candidate, Comes Out Against Circumcision — by Will Sommer: “Outsider presidential hopeful Andrew Yang’s latest idea is both literally and figuratively his most unorthodox yet: He’s taking a strong public stance against circumcision… In an interview with The Daily Beast, he said that if he were elected he would incorporate that view into public policy, mainly by pushing initiatives meant to inform parents that they don’t need to have their infants circumcised for health reasons. ‘It’s sort of pushed on parents in many situations,’ Yang said, describing pressure to circumcise a child as a ‘cultural onus’ imposed on families.” [DailyBeast]

KAFE KNESSET — Gantz Shifting Gears and ‘Takes Gloves Off’ — by Neri Zilber: After last week’s Iranian phone hacking report and with his poll numbers coming back to earth, Benny Gantz’s campaign for prime minister has shifted gears in recent days, highlighting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged involvement in a complex corruption scandal involving a multi-billion dollar IDF submarine deal with a German shipmaker invloving several close Netanyahu associates. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Gantz said that the “submarine affair” had recently thrown up new details of alleged Netanyahu financial gains stemming from approval of the deal (via the sale of stocks in a company with business ties to the German shipbuilder). “It is the most serious national security corruption scandal in the history of the country,” Gantz said, and vowed to set up a national committee of inquiry if he wins the election. 

Gantz Doesn’t Rule Out Sitting With Bibi: Channel 13 aired leaked tapes of a private conversation wherein Gantz doesn’t rule out sitting in government with Netanyahu. “I closed the door [to such an arrangement], I didn’t lock it,” Gantz is heard telling unnamed interlocutors. “As we’ve seen, life is dynamic, the situation can change. Trump will unveil his [peace] plan, I will win, Trump will unveil his plan. Good, so now what?” Gantz goes on to say. Gantz this morning said, as he put it, “not in an anonymous recording but publicly and in my own voice: I won’t sit in government with Netanyahu.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

Are Israeli Politics Dooming Kushner’s Peace Push? — by David Makovsky: “There is speculation that Netanyahu would use the presentation of the Trump plan after the elections to widen political space in the center—making Gantz defense minister and the other leading Blue-White centrist, Yair Lapid, foreign minister… Gantz, however, has said that he would not sit in the same coalition as Netanyahu. If he stands by that pledge, what was once deemed the most likely scenario has evaporated—at least for now… [If Gantz wins,] Gantz is unlikely to get behind a peace plan he has not had a chance to shape, as Netanyahu had for the last two-plus years. The U.S. will need to consult Gantz, who might not take office until late spring.” [PoliticoMag]

** Good Tuesday 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Gett looks to join taxi-hailing rush to IPO[FinancialTimes• Israel’s chip sales to China jump as Intel expands[Reuters• Bucks Co-Owner Marc Lasry Isn’t Looking to Buy a Team Outside of NBA [Bloomberg•  Ziel Feldman set tongues wagging when he borrowed $1 billion for a site near the High Line, and with the project now topping out, the market is not cooperating [RealDeal

ON SHELVES TODAY — Who Do Jared and Ivanka Think They Are? — by Michelle Goldberg: “According to ‘Kushner, Inc.,’ Gary Cohn, former director of the National Economic Council, has told people that Ivanka Trump thinks she could someday be president. ‘Her father’s reign in Washington, D.C., is, she believes, the beginning of a great American dynasty,’ writes Vicky Ward… Among the most interesting parts of ‘Kushner, Inc.,’ are the chapters about the business history of Charles Kushner, Jared’s felonious father, and his plan to restore his reputation, with Jared’s help, after getting out of prison in 2006… Ward’s book suggests that the search for someone who would bail out 666 Fifth Avenue has played a significant role in American foreign policy during the Trump administration.” [NYTimes]

Vicky Ward on Why She Wrote About Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s Unprecedented White House Role: 
“I felt that it was my civic duty, the most important and urgent thing I could do for a country I’ve grown to love deeply and to which I owe so very much. I must play my part to rescue it from two entitled New York silver-spooners.” [TownAndCountry]

ENTERTAINMENT — ‘Fauda’ to tackle Hamas tunnels in Season 3 — by Amy Spiro: “The much-anticipated third season of Fauda will head into Gaza and explore the tunnels used by Hamas for both smuggling and attacking Israel. In a sneak peek of the upcoming season – which began filming earlier this month – Yes revealed new details to reporters at a media event unveiling its 2019 programming… Yes did not provide a premiere date for the third season, though it is slated to air sometime later this year and contain 12 episodes. The show will premiere on Yes in Israel before it lands on Netflix.” [JPost]

LONG READ — The Chaotic Triumph of Arron Banks, the ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ — by Ed Caesar: “Two recent posts by LeaveEU had featured images of the financier George Soros, a target of anti-Semitic hatred and a focus of right-wing conspiracy theories. In one post, Soros was pictured as a puppet master controlling Tony Blair; the image echoed a Nazi propaganda poster of the nineteen-forties, in which a Jewish man controls Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin with strings.”

“During our meeting, Arron Banks spoke scathingly of the Web site Open Democracy, which has published detailed articles on Banks’s business dealings and political activities. The site is partly funded by Soros. In October, three days after a pipe bomb was discovered at Soros’s house in Connecticut, Banks tweeted, ‘I suppose there are good Jews and bad Jews, then George Soros.'”[NewYorker]

SPOTTED LAST NIGHT — Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve Chair, at Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, D.C.

DESSERT — Savory, Sweet and Everything In-Between — by Florence Fabricant: “A new book gives an alphabetical rundown, with recipes, of the foods most beloved by Jewish-Americans… Most entries come with recipes, and some with dissenting opinions. There’s Eric Ripert on gefilte fish, Gail Simmons on pickles, Ruth Westheimer on pomegranates (and a tip on removing the seeds) and the spice expert Lior Lev Sercarz on kosher salt. The book is the work of Alana Newhouse, the founder of Tablet, an online magazine of Jewish news and culture. She said the selections reflect the foods that relate most closely to the American Jewish experience.” [NYTimes

REMEMBERING — Alan B. Krueger, Economic Aide to Clinton and Obama, Dies at 58 — by Ben Casselman: “Alan B. Krueger, a Princeton University economist who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, died over the weekend… Mr. Krueger was an assistant secretary of the Treasury from 2009 to 2010, as President Barack Obama’s administration tried to lead the United States out of its worst recession since the Great Depression. Later, he was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the early days of the economic recovery, from 2011 to 2013. From 1994 to 1995, he was the Labor Department’s chief economist under President Bill Clinton.” [NYTimes]

Bernard Krisher, Journalist and Philanthropist, Dies at 87: 
“Bernard Krisher, chairman of World Assistance for Cambodia, publisher of The Cambodia Daily and former Newsweek Tokyo bureau chief, died on March 5 at a hospital in Tokyo. He was 87. His death from heart failure was disclosed by his family following a private burial in New York… Krisher was born on August 9, 1931, in Frankfurt, Germany, where his mother had gone to give birth close to her parents. The family lived in Leipzig, where his father, a Jew from Poland, owned a fur shop. Krisher and his family fled Germany in 1937 for the Netherlands and France to escape Nazi persecution.” [CambodiaDaily]
Philanthropist, art collector and chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder turns 86… Rabbi of Temple Hatikvah in Flanders, New Jersey, Dr. Daniel M. Zucker turns 70… Israeli politician, the daughter of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, she served as a member of the Knesset for three different parties, Dalia Rabin turns 69… Senior lecturer on journalism at the Harvard English Department and author, she was the first woman to be executive editor of The New York Times (2011-2014), Jill Abramson turns 65… NYC-based real estate investor and chairman of Turtle Pond Publications which invests in new media, a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, Craig Hatkoff turns 65…

EVP of merchandising at American Signature Furniture, Steve Rabe turns 59… Writer, critic, author, teacher, musician and radio commentator, he writes often about klezmer, Jewish music and Bob Dylan, Seth Rogovoy turns 59… Neurologist in Naples, Florida, Brian D. Wolff, MD turns 57… Online producer, writer and director, who together with his brother Rafi, are best known for their React video series which have billions of YouTube views, Benny Fine turns 38… Director of North American staff at Taglit-Birthright Israel, Aaron Bock turns 35… Founder of two lines of jewelry, the Brave Collection in 2012, and Zahava (Golden, in Hebrew) in 2018, Jessica Hendricks Yee turns 31…

Daily Kickoff: In big shift, Exxon eyeing Israel | Local MN Dems seeking Omar challenger | Bibi makes peace… with Sa’ar | Profile: Andrew Zobler

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TOP TALKER — The State Department referred to the Golan Heights as “Israeli-controlled” instead of as “Israeli-occupied” for the first time in its annual report on human rights released on Wednesday. The change comes a year after the administration dropped the “occupied” reference to the West Bank and Gaza at the top of the report.

Israel first captured the Golan from Syria in the Six Day War in 1967 and effectively annexed it in 1981. At the time, the Reagan administration described the move as being inconsistent with the Camp David accords and suspended a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel on strategic cooperation. Since then, consecutive administrations from both political parties have refused to change existing U.S. policy. 

In a press briefing at the State Department, Michael Kozak, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, explained the change: “This is not a human rights issue. It’s a legal status issue… and ‘occupied territory’ has a legal meaning to it. I think what they tried to do was shift more to just a geographic description… My understanding from the policy bureaus on this is that there’s no change in our outlook or our policy vis-a-vis the territories and the need for a negotiated settlement there… We decided not to use the term in the reports because it’s not a human rights term and it was distracting.”

 U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has been the key U.S. figure pushing for the change, according to U.S. officials.” [Axios]

Aaron David Miller tells Jewish Insider“This is a big deal, and it will be an even bigger deal if the language is elevated consistently in statements by the president and Secretary of State. The strategic imperative of this administration is to change U.S. policy toward Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is another step in that process. For many in the administration, these areas aren’t occupied. So poof — with a simple word change, it’s no longer occupied.” 

Amb. Dennis Ross: “It reflects the Administration’s different approach; the terminology is different. It makes the Palestinians more suspicious and creates a context in which Arab leaders are likely to be more cautious and hesitant about responding to the administration’s plan. But time will tell whether that is really the case.” 

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Israeli ministers hailed the change as a diplomatic victory for the country and a political victory for the right. The State Department announcement, Likud’s Gideon Sa’ar tweeted, “was proof that the correct and determined path of the Likud will ultimately win… The people of Israel aren’t occupiers in their own land… We’ll keep defending the Land of Israel and to settle it.”

Brazil’s Bolsonaro to visit Israel with embassy move still undecided — by Lisandra Paraguassu: “Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro will visit Israel at the end of the month but he may not be able to deliver on a promise to move Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem, a move opposed by military officers in his cabinet. A government official told Reuters on Wednesday that no decision has been taken on the embassy move, which could give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s standing a boost a week before Israel’s elections… He added that a formal announcement might not be made during the March 31 to April 2 visit.” [Reuters]

We’re hearing rumblings 
that another country will announce two weeks from now that they are moving their embassy to Jerusalem. 

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Following reports that Hezbollah is operating a terror cell in Syria on the border with Israel, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) on Wednesday reissued their call for the U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“Iran and Hezbollah have deployed fighters and terrorists, including those with American blood on their hands, to deepen their hold over the region. This aggression highlights the need for the United States to affirm Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the Congress members said in a joint statement. “Hezbollah’s missile arsenal and terror tunnels pose severe threats to the State of Israel. To support Israel’s right to self-defense, both houses of Congress should take up our legislation establishing that it shall be the policy of the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan.”

In an email to Jewish Insider, Sen. Cotton added that the decision of the State Department to refer to contested areas as “Israeli controlled” instead of “occupied” is a step in the right direction. “It’s encouraging to see the change in State Department language included in their annual global human rights report; the Golan is rightfully Israeli territory,” the Arkansas Senator wrote.

Congressional sources tell Jewish Insider that a final version of Sen. Cruz’s antisemitism resolution is circulating. It includes a previously unreported section about the unique manifestations of antisemitism that American Jews confront.

Senate Votes Again to End Aid to Saudi War in Yemen, Defying Trump — by Catie Edmondson: “The Senate on Wednesday again rebuked President Trump for his continued defense of Saudi Arabia after the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, voting for a second time to end American military assistance for the kingdom’s war in Yemen and to curtail presidential war powers. The 54-to-46 vote… sets the foundation for what could become Mr. Trump’s first presidential veto.” [NYTimes

Senate confirms Trump judicial pick to replace Kavanaugh — by Marianne Levine: 
“The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s judicial nominee Neomi Rao Wednesday to the nation’s second highest court despite initial concerns raised by a handful of Republicans over her prior writing on sexual assault and her position on abortion. In a 53-46 vote along party lines, the Senate approved Rao to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.” [Politico]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Jordan’s King Abdullah II discussed the Trump administration’s push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) told Jewish Insider, but that the conversation was shallow. “We certainly talked about it but it’s hard to ask anyone, let alone a King, whether they’ll support something that hasn’t been written, let alone read,” he said.

The closed-door meeting, which took place in the Capitol, also touched on the economic strain the Kingdom is under as a result of the Syrian refugee crisis. “I think the King has shown himself to be a leader of goodwill,” Rep. Sherman said.

Jonathan Schanzer and Ghaith al-Omari write…  “Trump’s Subtlety Could Yield Middle East Peace: To the surprise of many, the Trump administration so far has forestalled needless violence through a novel combination of discipline and secrecy. That surely hasn’t been easy. But the next phase will be even harder, because a plan’s release can be as important as what’s in it.” [WSJ

Israeli group honors Nikki Haley with coin: 
“The Sanhedrin, a Jewish group that says it aims to restore the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, is one of three organizations behind the coin. The collector’s coin, which costs $50, features Haley’s face set against the U.N. building, and a rendition of the Jewish Temple on the back.” [AP]

How Lobbying Has Changed in Donald Trump’s Washington — by Luke Mullins: 
“Others try to influence the thinking of the White House officials Trump listens to. One consultant told me he has geofenced the Kalorama home of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump with digital ads in an effort to shape their views on an issue.” [Washingtonian]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — A bipartisan group of legislatures gathered for a somber event marking eight years since the start of the Syrian Civil War, a memorial to the victims of torture and murder by Syrian President Bashar Assad and pledging swift action on legislation that punishes the regime. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Michael McCaul (R-TX), French Hill (R-AK) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) spoke about the need for continued action to punish Assad.  

Rep. Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act should be voted on in the House on its own to keep it a bipartisan issue. It passed the Senate as part of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, which was held up because of an anti-BDS bill. “It seems that every year there’s another monkey wrench thrown in somehow. What I’ll call on my colleagues to pass the Caesar bill alone, not as partisan package to play political games, so Democrats can’t vote for it, or that Republicans can’t vote for it,” Rep. Engel said. [Pic

Former President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker at the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Humanitarian Awards Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Rahm Emanuel also spoke at the event. [Pic

AIPAC PC — AIPAC announced on Wednesday its list of confirmed Israeli speakers at the Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. In addition to PM Netanyahu’s appearance, speakers on the main stage include Benny Gantz (Kachol Lavan candidate for PM), Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Ron Dermer and Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. Additionally, cabinet ministers Naftali Bennett (New Right), Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud) and Yoav Galant (Likud), Gideon Saar (Likud), Yoaz Hendel (Kachol Lavan); and MKs Stav Shaffir (Labor), Merav Michaeli (Labor), Amir Ohana (Likud) and Pnina Tamano-Shata (Kachol Lavan) have confirmed their attendance. 

INBOX — J Street asked supporters on Tuesday to tell 2020 presidential candidates that if they speak at AIPAC, they must condemn Netanyahu and his policies. 

Of note: There is no precedent for presidential candidates speaking at the conference in a non-election year. In the last two presidential elections cycles, none of the candidates were given speaking slots on the main stage in the year before the election (2011 and 2015). In 2007, the two Democratic front-runners, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton held competing receptions at the gathering, but did not speak. 

STATE-SIDE — Democrats upset over Omar seeking primary challenger — by Reid Wilson: “Some Minnesota Democrats, aghast at controversial comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D), are taking initial steps to recruit a candidate to run against her in next year’s primary election… ‘There’s definitely some buzz going around about it, but it’s more a buzz of is anyone talking about finding someone to run against her than it is anyone saying they’re going to run against her or contemplate it. There’s definitely talk about people wanting someone to run against her,’ said state Sen. Ron Latz (D), who represents a portion of Omar’s district… ‘Our community is exasperated by Rep. Omar’s unfulfilled promises to listen and learn from Jewish constituents while seemingly simultaneously finding another opportunity to make an anti-Semitic remark and insult our community,’ Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said in a statement.” [TheHill]

GALLUP — One in Six U.S. Jews Identify as Republican — by RJ Reinhart: 
“Prior to Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent comments questioning U.S. support for Israel… roughly half of U.S. Jews identified as Democrat in Gallup polling. Far fewer, 16%, said they were Republican… While it is too soon to know whether Jewish Americans’ orientation to the major parties has changed in recent weeks, Gallup trends suggest the potential is there. In 2008, 55% of Jewish Americans identified as Democrats, compared with the current 52%… Jewish Americans were among the least likely to approve of Trump of all religious groups in 2018, with just 26% approving and 71% disapproving.” [Gallup]

2020 WATCH — Beto O’Rourke formally announced his bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 in a video this morning… ‘I’m just born to be in it,’ O’Rourke told Vanity Fair… Joe Biden mulls 2020 campaign aimed at the working class… Tom Friedman writes that so far he hasn’t heard any of the Democrats running claiming they are the best person to answer the 3 AM phone call… Trump’s reelection campaign is seeking to turn anti-Semitism and Israel into a wedge issue for Jewish voters… Two of the Democrats’ best-funded outside groups— both of which are backed in part by George Soros — are planning at least a $130 million campaign to build support for Democrats in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. 

Howard Schultz says he grew up in a poor, rough place. Those who lived there called it the ‘country club of projects’ — by Marc Fisher: “In recent TV interviews, Schultz has repeatedly pointed out that ‘I came from the projects,’ calling his escape from Bayview and success at Starbucks a classic example of ‘the American Dream.’ But the place Schultz sought to escape from was a community that many residents pushed hard to get into… ‘This was an all-white, Jewish neighborhood, with some Italians,’ Henry Blank said. ‘Even the rabbi and the toy-store owner lived in the development.’ … Sheryl Boyce has lived at Bayview since it opened and runs its residents association. Boyce, who is black, said the population of the complex was anything but diverse… ‘I even went to synagogue with the Jewish kids. We had two kosher delis that everybody shopped in, whether you were Jewish or not.'”[WashPost]

How Milwaukee talked the Democrats into bringing the 2020 national convention to the city — by Bill Glauber and Mary Spicuzza: “‘I don’t like to think of us as any sort of underdog, some David versus Goliath matchup,’ said Alex Lasry, the bid committee chair who is a Milwaukee Bucks executive. ‘This was Milwaukee outing itself as a top city in the country. It was Milwaukee showing everyone what it is we see when we live here, what we believe.'” [JournalSentinel]

Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale sitting next to Agudath Israel board member Chaskel Bennett on a flight from DC to NY last night. [Pic• An unenthused Bernie Sanders waiting for the elevator with Hasidic lobbyist Ezra Friedlander on Capitol Hill [Pic]

KAFE KNESSET — Bibi Makes Peace With Sa’ar — by Neri Zilber: 
Over the past week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apparently made peace with his biggest rival inside the Likud — Gideon Sa’ar, a popular former interior and education minister who only recently returned to political life after taking a hiatus in 2014. At the party’s launch event last week Netanyahu made a big show of shaking Sa’ar’s hand (it was a long and jerky gesture, with thin smiles fixed on both men’s faces). After that the floodgates were opened; a truce, if not real peace, had been achieved. This week Sa’ar was included in a photo Netanyahu circulated on social media of his top Likud lieutenants, with another image of the two men speaking intimately also making the rounds. Two nights ago Sa’ar was the main guest on the “Likud TV” Facebook stream, a Netanyahu propaganda arm, singing the PM’s praises. “We have a prime minister with terrific talent, with vast experience, with connections spanning the world,” Sa’ar said, contrasting the incumbent with his rivals in Blue and White. Those words may be turned back on Sa’ar in future — but not anytime soon. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

** Good Thursday 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS:Marijuana company hires billionaire snack food tycoon Nelson Peltz [NYPost] • Brookfield takes control of Oaktree Capital in $4.7bn deal [FinancialTimes• SodaStream CEO Birnbaum joins bubbling medical cannabis race [JPost• Hamptons oceanfront home goes for $1.5 million as a summer rental [NYPost]

TALK OF THE REGION — Exxon eyes Israel gas bid in major Middle East shift — by Ron Bousso: “Exxon Mobil Corp is considering exploring for oil and gas in Israel, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter, in what would make Exxon the first oil major to operate in the country still technically at war with Gulf Arab states… Exxon executives held talks with Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz in Houston this week about bidding for the right to explore and pump oil from offshore blocks in an auction that Israel will hold in June… Exxon is one of the biggest foreign investors in Qatar. It also has refining and petrochemical operations in Saudi Arabia, and produces oil and gas in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.” [Reuters]

PODCAST PLAYBACK ― Former White House economic advisor Gary Cohn explained the reason he left Goldman Sachs on the Freakonomics podcast with Stephen Dubner: 
“When I was asked by Lloyd [Blankfein] and the board to become president, chief operating officer, Lloyd called me and Jon Winkelried into a room. We were co-’s at the time and said, ‘Guys, will you give me two years? I got to know you’re committed for two years.’ And I said, ‘Lloyd, I’ll give you two. Two’s not hard. But you’ve got to understand, I think these are seven-to-10-year jobs. I don’t think these are lifetime jobs.’ … And literally at seven years, I started getting a little antsy. Lloyd, at that point, ended up getting sick. And I wasn’t going to rattle the boat or rock the boat at all in year seven or eight, or maybe it was eight, nine… At that point, I was letting the board know that I wasn’t going to be here forever. So I sat down, and I made it clear that I would be gone by the end of the year…  And the Trump thing was pure lucky coincidence.” [Freakonomics]

PROFILE — Meet the man who creates today’s coolest hotels — by Rima Suqi: 
“Andrew Zobler currently has six unannounced projects in the works. All of this comes just a year after the debut of The Ned, Zobler’s collaboration with Nick Jones of Soho House, which quickly became a go-to spot in London. In the past year alone, Sydell Group’s portfolio has grown from 1,993 hotel rooms to 5,986. ‘If you look at what we’ve done, it’s pretty unusual in terms of the number of independent concepts, that have legs, that we’ve created all within a relatively short period of time,’ he says over coffee at a corner table at Studio, an all-day café at the Freehand in New York.”[NationalGeographic]

Jaffa Is Tel Aviv’s Unexpected Luxury Hotspot — by Debra Kamin: 
“Three new luxury properties — The Setai Tel Aviv (in a former Ottoman prison with Crusader-era origins); The Jaffa (an Aby Rosen recreation of a former hospice for malaria victims) and The Drisco, a revival of Jaffa’s first luxury hotel — opened last year, within spitting distance of each other. And that’s not all: Add to the mix of this major makeover a new lush Japanese spa, a bustling night life district and a flea market packed with restaurants led by major Israeli chefs… ‘Jaffa is the hottest area in Tel Aviv — the energy and authenticity, coupled with the creativity seen in the ancient architecture, the local artists, galleries and not to mention the amazing food and the sea — it’s all part of the appeal,’ says Mr. Rosen.” [NYTimes]

HOLLYWOOD — Israeli Actress Moran Atias Moves Into ‘The Village’ — by Gerri Miller: “The intertwined lives, loves and crises of neighbors in a Brooklyn apartment building play out in the new NBC ensemble drama ‘The Village.’ … Israeli actress Moran Atias plays Ava Behzadi, an Iranian immigrant who has been living in New York for 10 years… Atias has never lived in an apartment building like The Village, where the neighbors are close as family and have regular get-togethers on their rooftop, ‘but growing up in Israel, you feel like your hometown is your village,’ the Haifa native said.”[JewishJournal]

TALK OF THE TOWN — NYPD Hate Crimes Unit Investigating Vile Defacing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Poster in Brooklyn: “The NYPD’s hate crimes unit is investigating slur-ridden ‘DIE’ graffiti scrawled on a Brooklyn subway station poster of Ruth Bader Ginsburg after a rider flagged it on Twitter Tuesday. ‘DIE’ in all capital letters was scrawled in black marker across Ginsburg’s forehead on the poster; ‘JEW’ was written over her glasses, followed by another slur and a swastika over her mouth. The NYPD tweeted its transit and hate crimes units were both investigating the matter… For its part, the MTA says it removed the ‘offensive imagery’ immediately after the NYPD collected evidence for its investigation.” [NBC4]

SPORTS BLINK — Amare Stoudemire granted Israeli citizenship: 
“Former NBA star Amare Stoudemire was granted Israeli citizenship… in a ceremony at the Interior Ministry on Wednesday. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he was granted citizenship due to his ‘unique contributions’ to Israeli society. Now, Deri said, ‘Amare will be Israel’s ambassador to the world.’ ‘It’s a very exciting moment for me. My body is flooded with emotions now, my love for Israel has been with me for many years, and being part of Israel is something very special,’ Stoudemire said at the ceremony.” [JTA]

MEDIA WATCH — The Intercept lays off several staffers — by Maxwell Tani: 
“Laura Poitras — the Citizenfour director and award-winning filmmaker who helped start The Intercept’s parent company First Look Media — lashed out Wednesday after layoffs were announced internally at the publication… CEO Michael Bloom’s email announced that First Look Media would be letting go about 4 percent of their staff.” [DailyBeast]

TRANSITION — Omri Nahmias
, the Washington correspondent for Israel’s Walla News, is joining The Jerusalem Post as its D.C. Bureau Chief at the end of this month. 

DESSERT — Turns Out East Village Kosher Icon Moishe’s Is Not Permanently Closed — by Stefanie Tuder: “A bright spot this week is that kosher East Village bakery Moishe’s Bake Shop is not closed permanently after all. Despite recent reports that the 40-year-old institution had shuttered, it turns out the clearing out of the space is merely for renovations. Though owner Moishe Perl reportedly told storefront photographers James and Karla Murray that it closed due to a building sale, a sign in the window now says it’s closed for renovations and a manager has confirmed this to Eater. The bakery should reopen in six to eight weeks.” [EaterNY]

Here’s Why Israel Is a Dream Destination for Wellness Lovers — by Krista Gray: 
“Dairy-free and vegan food is always available. One of the first things I noticed (and felt grateful for) on my first day in Israel was how easy it was to eat dairy-free; the country is often referred to as the vegan capital of the world, and an estimated five percent of the population has completely ditched animal goods in their daily diet. After doing a bit more research, I found that the reasons behind the rise in Israeli veganism include desired health improvement, concerns about animal cruelty and the environment, religious reasons, and a younger population that’s less inclined to follow traditional eating patterns and loves to try trends.” [Brit+Co]

Thinking Outside the Triangle — by Joan Nathan: 
“Originally called mohntaschen, hamantaschen date back at least to 16th-century Germany, when mohn, or poppy seeds, were eaten as a snack during winter, when little grew. The seeds, from the flower that produces the powerful drug opium, were also turned into jam and encased in pastries for special occasions.” [NYTimes]

REMEMBERING — Sidney Verba, Innovative Scholar of Democracies, Dies at 86 — by Sam Roberts: 
“Sidney Verba, whose pioneering research comparing political behavior among the world’s democracies became a classic book among students of politics, died on March 4 at his home in Cambridge, Mass… Sidney Verba was born on May 26, 1932, in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn to Morris and Recci (Salman) Verba, Jewish immigrants from what is now Moldova in Eastern Europe. They ran a curtain store but were always worried about money. His parents also worshiped Franklin D. Roosevelt.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Professor emeritus of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University, winner of the 1982 Israel Prize, Joshua Jortner turns 86… Founder and President of Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center, Rabbi Dr. Uri Herscher turns 78… Canadian criminal defense attorney, Brian Greenspan turns 72… Actor, writer, producer, director, comedian and television host, Billy Crystal turns 71… Executive director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of San Francisco, Dr. Anita Friedman turns 70… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1995, representing Howard County, Shane Elizabeth Pendergrass turns 69… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Ben is four days younger), Jerry Greenfield turns 68… Eliezer Cohen Barak turns 68… Encino, California resident and co-founder of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, Gila Milstein turns 66… Managing Director of Investments at Hefter, Leshem, Margolis Capital Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Steven Hefter turns 65… Special advisor to the President at Union for Reform Judaism, she is also the founder and leader of ChangeCommunications, Jo-Ann Mort turns 63… NYC-based restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, he and his team have won 28 James Beard Awards, Danny Meyer turns 61…

Past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and a senior rabbinic fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, Denise (Davida) Egerturns 59… Microgrid architect at Urban Ingenuity, a DC-based consulting firm for advanced clean energy infrastructure projects, Shalom Flank, Ph.D. turns 54… Film and television actress, she is best known for her title role in the 1985 film The Journey of Natty Gann and the 1989 teen comedy, Dream a Little Dream, Meredith Salenger turns 49… Canadian fashion stylist, publicist and close friend of Princess Meghan Markle, Jessica Brownstein Mulroneyturns 39… Heiress to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, Liesel Pritzker Simmonsturns 35… Former NASCAR driver, he is the sole inductee into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in the “Auto Racing” category, now a VP of Corporate Trading at INTL FCStone Financial, Jon Denning turns 32… QA Test Engineer at Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Philip Liebmanturns 29… Four-time Israeli national champion in the skeleton event, he competed for Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Adam Edelman turns 28… Sophie Galant

Daily Kickoff: Bernie aide apologies for ‘dual allegiance’ charge | Hezbollah in Southern Syria | Larry Page’s veiled threat

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INBOX — Following our report on Monday about Benny Gantz’s time in D.C., Elliott Abrams shared his own recollection: “Benny Gantz was a successful and widely respected defense attaché. I will just tell one story, which is about U.S. aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Benny came in to see me at the White House, to argue against any sophisticated U.S. assistance to the LAF. I answered, ‘Come on Benny, how long would it take you to roll over the Lebanese army? 15 minutes?’ He gave me a terrific reply, that I remember well: ‘Yes, it won’t take long, maybe 15 minutes and maybe a few hours. But in those hours some of my boys will die. Some young Israeli soldiers will be killed. And that’s what I’m trying to stop, and that’s why I am here — to save every one of those lives, no matter how many or how few they are.’ It was the most effective argument he could possibly have made, and as you see it stuck with me to this day.” 

KAFE KNESSET —Gantz Briefs European Ambassadors — by Neri Zilber: Netanyahu’s challenger Benny Gantz took another step in his efforts to look prime ministerial, holding a briefing with 26 European ambassadors in Tel Aviv yesterday and laying forth his own security vision for the country. The leaked portions from the gathering were, as expected, hawkish, with Gantz threatening Iran and not explicitly endorsing a two-state solution. Gantz also described Hamas in Gaza as “a gang of criminals that holds two million people hostage,” saying he rejected the idea of building a sea port in the territory. “All they’ll want to import is orange juice? Really?” he was quoted as saying. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

LATimes editorial… “Benjamin Netanyahu veers Israel away from democracy: For years, he has manipulated fear and anger to dominate the Israeli political stage. He has been divisive and demagogic. He has been, on balance, an enemy of the two-state solution that has been the only realistic path to peace between Palestinians and Israelis… Now, in the face of the corruption indictment and the strong electoral challenge, he seems to be growing desperate. Perhaps he will go too far and be driven from office.” [LATimes]

TALK OF THE REGION — Top UAE diplomat slams Netanyahu’s comments on Arab minority: “Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said Tuesday on Twitter that Netanyahu’s comment that “Israel is not a state for all its citizens,” and is the homeland of Jews alone, provided “vindication sought by extremists” and undermined peace efforts.” …  At a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem, Netanyahu touted growing behind-the-scenes alliances with the Arab world.” [AP]

Erdogan calls Netanyahu ‘thief’ and ‘tyrant’ in latest spat: 
“Turkish President Recep Tayyip has called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a ‘thief’ and a ‘tyrant’ in the latest spat between the two leaders. The dispute comes after Erdogan’s spokesman denounced Netanyahu as a racist for saying that Israel was the nation-state of the Jewish people only. Netanyahu then struck back calling Erdogan a dictator and criticizing the country for imprisoning journalists.” [Yahoo

ON THE GROUND — Hezbollah commander captured by UK special forces resurfaces in southern Syria, Israeli military says — by Raf Sanchez: 
“A senior Hezbollah commander captured by British special forces in Iraq has resurfaced in southern Syria where he is setting up a network to launch attacks against Israel, according to the Israeli military… Ali Musa Daqduq has re-emerged in the Syrian Golan Heights where he is the leader of a unit known as the Golan File… Israeli officials said they were exposing the network in the hope that Hezbollah would withdraw its operatives rather than risk Israeli strikes, which could escalate the already tense situation in the Golan.”[TelegraphWSJ

DRIVING THE CONVO — Trump sees advantage in debate over Israel, anti-Semitism — by Zeke Miller: “As Democratic lawmakers try to turn the page after the liberal legislator’s use of anti-Semitic tropes ignited an embarrassing, intra-party fight, the Republican president is trying to prolong and weaponize the issue for his 2020 campaign… Trump on Tuesday promoted comments by former model and 2016 campaign staffer Elizabeth Pipko, who said on Fox & Friends that “Jewish people are leaving the Democratic Party.” Pipko, who serves as a spokesperson for the group ‘Jexodus,’ saw her comments amplified by Trump on Twitter.” 

“‘We’re slicing the salami very thin, and an incremental shift in traditional Democratic blocs to the other side can have a profound impact,'” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. He said his group plans to make ‘the largest investment that we’ve ever had in the 2020 race in terms of outreach, advocacy and independent expenditures on behalf of the president.’ Hallie Soifer, the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said her group welcomes Trump’s focus on the issue of anti-Semitism. ‘He himself has emboldened anti-Semites in our country by both repeating anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories,’ she said. ‘He has no credibility with Jewish voters.'” [AP]

“’This is something people have talked about for decades,’ Matt Boxer, a professor at Brandeis University who has studied Jewish political involvement, said of the push for Jews to leave the Democratic Party. ‘But there’s no evidence when you look at survey data.'” [WashPost]

ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt tweets“When antisemitism is repeatedly politicized, it not only hurts the Jewish community, it fosters division. At a time when antisemitism is rising, we need leaders to lead and fight hate rather than point fingers and cast blame. Enough.”

Daniel Shapiro“Memo to my Republican friends: If you wanted to make a serious play to convince Jewish voters to leave the Democratic Party, you could not have a more laughable, pathetic, ridiculous (and offensive) leader of the campaign than the guy tweeting at us from the White House ;).” 

Yair Rosenberg“There is only one Jexodus, and it takes place during the rabbi’s sermon and ends at the Kiddush club.”

Sanders aide apologizes for questioning American Jews’ ‘dual allegiance’ to Israel — by Marc Caputo and Holly Otterbein: “A spokeswoman for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign apologized Tuesday after questioning whether the ‘American-Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel’… ‘In a conversation on Facebook, I used some language that I see now was insensitive. Issues of allegiance and loyalty to one’s country come with painful history,’ Belén Sisa, Sanders’ national deputy press secretary, told Politico… Sisa posed the question Sunday during a discussion in a Facebook thread in which she said that, like Sanders, she stood with Rep. Ilhan Omar. She deleted the post after Politico began asking about it.”[Politico]

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley participated in a Q&A session hosted by the UJA-Federation of New York at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center. According to a JI reader in attendance, Haley declared that the resolution on hate passed in Congress last week was “not good enough.” [Pic]

STATE-SIDE — Florida bill defines anti-Semitism, prohibits discrimination: “The Floridian House Criminal Justice Subcommittee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would prohibit speech that makes dehumanizing or stereotypical allegations about the Jewish community, or that compares contemporary Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany. The anti-Semitism definition also would prohibit expressing a hatred for Jews, calling for the killing or harming of a Jewish person, criticizing the collective power of the Jewish community, or accusing Jewish people or Israel of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.” [AP]

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will host Jordan’s King Abdullah II in a closed-door hearing on Wednesday afternoon, following two days of meetings the Hashemite leader had with senior administration officials, including the Middle East peace team of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt on Monday. 

Chairwoman of the House Committee on Appropriations Nita Lowey(D-NY) said that support for Israel must remain bipartisan, during a marathon testimonial Tuesday by over 30 advocates and activists calling for U.S. aid. “I think it’s absolutely essential that we keep this a bipartisan issue,” Lowey said. 

Testifying witnesses also brought up the unintended consequences of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), a law passed last year that leaves the Palestinian Authority open to being sued in U.S. courts for supporting terrorism if they accept American aid. J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami and William O’Keefe of Catholic Relief Services said a solution must be found to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered without fear of retribution under the law. 

“I just want to say, Jeremy, I remember being on the White House lawn when Yasser Arafat was shaking the hand with Mr. [Rabin],” Rep. Lowey said to the J Street head. “It’s been a long time I’ve been in this Congress working for two states for two people and we have no choice but to continue our advocacy, and hopefully we’ll see that day.” 

Following the 12th anniversary of the disappearance of Robert Levinson in Iran, a bipartisan group of representatives introduced a bill Tuesday calling on the Iranian regime to cooperate in freeing the former FBI and DEA agent, who is the longest-held American hostage. Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Michael Waltz (R-FL) introduced the bill, with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) proposing an identical version in the Senate. “We are directly calling on the Iranian government to fulfill its commitments to help in Bob’s case, and we are also asking other foreign leaders to push Iran to do more,” Deutch said in a statement. 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) posted on Instagram a picture frame of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in her Capitol Hill office with the caption, ‘New addition to my office.’ [Pic

Tlaib expressed her support of a Pitzer College Council proposal to suspend the college’s study abroad program with the University of Haifa, posing with the hashtag #SuspendPitzerHaifa,ahead of a March 14  vote. [Pic]

Trump Jr. fires back at Dick Cheney over foreign policy — by Katie Galioto: “Donald Trump Jr. lashed out at Dick Cheney on Tuesday, attacking the former vice president for criticizing the Trump administration’s foreign policy. ‘Isn’t it fitting that Cheney is the one mad that Trump is ending his reckless and endless wars?’ Trump Jr. tweeted. ‘I never knew peace would be so unpopular!’” [Politico]

Saudis return to Washington scene after Khashoggi fallout — by Jenna McLaughlin: 
“Perhaps one of the surest signs Riyadh is rebuilding bridges in Washington is the willingness of former officials and think tank representatives to attend events linked to the Saudis. Dennis Ross, a retired ambassador who was involved in Middle East peace negotiations over the years, told Yahoo News he chose to participate in [a] panel [hosted by  Arabia Foundation] because he knew the debate would be robust… Ross joined Karen House, a former senior vice president of Dow Jones, and Aaron Miller, a vice president at the Wilson Center and former diplomat.” [YahooNews

2020 WATCH — Joe Biden signals he is close to 2020 run for president…Beto O’Rourke and Biden, signaling presidential bids, would infuse centrism into a left-leaning Democratic field…Hillary Clinton to headline DNC fundraiser in Washington later this month… Howard Schultz will announce on Wednesday specific promises and priorities that he intends to uphold if elected president of the United States… Schultz said on Monday that third-party musings have prompted ‘character assassination.’

INTERVIEW —  Howard Schultz discussed his Jewish faith and positions on Israel in an interview with Texas Monthy — TM: As someone of Jewish faith, have you encountered any anti-Semitism to your candidacy, and is the nation ready for a Jewish president?

Schultz: “I have not felt any degree of anti-Semitism pointed at me. The numbers that I’ve heard, it is about a 61 percent rise in anti-Semitism in America over the last twelve months. It’s even worse in Europe. I was asked on 60 Minutes if I think that the country is ready for a Jewish president. I answered yes. I’ve got great faith in the goodness of the American people, and if I run for president I’m not running as a Jew; I’m running as an American. I remember vividly John Kennedy in 1960 came under such assault because he was Catholic, and he did a masterful job in 1960 of talking about the differences between church and state.”

Schultz on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Many Jewish people might not even agree with my position currently with regard to the settlements and the fact that I always believed that we need a two-state solution for the state of Israel and for the entire Middle East.” 

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Roman Abramovich Is Raising $550 Million in a Russian Stock Sale [Bloomberg• Bob Iger’s Disney says Fox purchase to be final by March 20 [LATimes• David Nevins has taken full ownership of the Pop TV cable channel after buying out the 50% stake held by Lionsgate [Variety• The boundless views from Brooklyn Point, the borough’s tallest building [BrooklynEagle

SPOTLIGHT — Google’s Larry Page Leveled ‘Veiled Threat’ Over Control of Company — by Mark Bergen, Gerrit De Vynck and Jef Feeley: “Google co-founder Larry Page worried he would lose control of the company in 2011 and delivered what appeared to be a ‘veiled threat’ to quit over the issue, according to confidential emails and other documents recently unsealed in a court case. Page was particularly concerned that co-founder Sergey Brin and top executive Eric Schmidt would sell special voting stock, diluting their lock on decisions at the online search giant.” [Bloomberg]

How the Superrich Leave Their Mark on New York — by Azi Paybarah: 
“The real estate mogul Harry Macklowe erected 42-foot-tall photographs of himself and his new wife on a Park Avenue building last week for the whole world — including his ex-wife, who lives nearby — to see. It was the latest example of how New York has been uniquely shaped by the idiosyncrasies of the superrich.” [NYTimes

How a Fledgling Millennial Hit the Big Time by Hugging Trump — by Ben Schreckinger: 
“After a contentious November meeting with black pastors at Trump Tower, Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, who is Jewish, and one of the pastors, Darrell Scott, set about forming a National Diversity Coalition to counter the widespread view that Trump was running a racist campaign. The coalition organized meetings, promoted Trump on social media and found surrogates to defend him publicly… Few establishment figures were willing to publicly embrace Trump at the time, so the coalition turned to outsiders and ambitious up-and-comers. People like Christos Marafatsos.” [PoliticoMag]

Protesting Award to Robert Kraft Amid Prostitution Scandal, Genesis Prize Board Member Quits — by Judy Maltz: 
“A member of the Genesis Prize advisory board has resigned in protest at its decision to move ahead with honoring Jewish-American billionaire Robert Kraft, after he was charged last month with soliciting prostitution. Prof. Rivka Carmi, former president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, tendered her resignation earlier this week… Haaretz spoke with several individuals involved in the Genesis Prize selection process, who expressed concerns about the decision to move ahead with honoring Kraft after he was charged… Kraft had been a candidate in previous years as well, Haaretz has learned, but did not make the final cut. Sources close to the selection process speculated that the decision to award him the prize this year might have been prompted by a desire to make amends with Netanyahu, after the embarrassment he suffered last year.”[Haaretz

PROFILE — Meet the Orthodox millennial who convenes Jewish artists, protests Trump and talks with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — by Ben Sales: 
“Elad Nehorai is the communications director of Torah Trumps Hate, an Orthodox progressive group, and a prolific tweeter as @PopChassid. He’s also the founder of Hevria, a community of Jewish artists whose events — including a recent one featuring a sword swallower — are mostly by invitation only. ‘I’m trying to create communities for people who don’t have them,’ he said… Nehorai himself doesn’t hold back from criticizing the president on Twitter, where he has nearly 13,000 followers. Amid the latest debate over Rep. Ilhan Omar and anti-Semitism, Nehorai lambasted Trump’s criticism of the Democratic response to the controversy.” [JTA]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Disabled animals given new lease of life at Israeli sanctuary — by Elana Ringler: “Founded by animal rights activists Adit Romano, a 52-year-old former business executive, and Meital Ben Ari, 38, who used to work in tech, Freedom Farm serves as a refuge for mostly disabled animals and as an educational center for visitors… Most of the nearly 240 animals at the facility were raised for slaughter. Some were donated by farmers who chose to save them.” [Reuters

DESSERT — ‘Hamantaschen’ for the Doughnut Lover — by Florence Fabricant: “Fany Gerson, the Mexican confectioner best known for her paletas (frozen fruit pops) at At Dough in Brooklyn, is having a Cronut moment. She is frying and filling hamantaschen-shaped doughnuts for Purim, which starts the evening of March 20. The feather-light yeast-raised doughnuts are triangular and come filled with strawberry or blueberry jams, lemon curd with poppy seeds or a thick honey-nut mixture. ‘The fillings are not traditional, though I did use poppy seeds,’ Ms. Gerson said.” [NYTimes

REMEMBERING — Hal Blaine, celebrated as ‘the most recorded drummer in history,’ dies at 90 — by Harrison Smith: 
“Hal Blaine, a drummer who provided the seismic backbeat and cannon-shot snare on thousands of rock songs and scores of midcentury hits — so many that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dubbed him “the most recorded drummer in history” — died on March 11… Harold Simon Belsky was born in Holyoke, Mass., on Feb. 5, 1929. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia, and the family moved to Hartford, Conn., when Mr. Blaine was 7.” [WashPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Pop singer, pianist, composer of over 500 songs and record producer, whose family name derives from the Hebrew word for charity, Neil Sedaka turns 80… Israeli singer who won the 1978 Eurovision Song Contest, Izhar Cohen turns 68… Robert Smith turns 67… Founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, a NYC-based organization working to end the War on Drugs, he lobbies for the legalization of marijuana, Ethan Nadelmann turns 62… Former Florida congressman (2009-2011 and again 2013-2017), 1983 graduate from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, Alan Grayson turns 61… Former US Ambassador to the UN and deputy national security advisor to President Bill Clinton, she is currently the director of a leadership program at the University of North Florida, Nancy Soderberg turns 61… Ordained by Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1986, he now serves as a rabbi and as a faculty member at HUC-JIR Los Angeles, Rabbi Neal S. Scheindlin turns 59…

Founder and CEO of MediaBistro which she sold in 2007, now managing partner of Supernode Ventures (formerly Flatiron Investors), a NYC-based investors syndicate, Laurel Touby turns 56… Heavy metal songwriter, vocalist for the band Disturbed as well as for the band Device, he is a former yeshiva student, David Draiman turns 46… Member of the California State Senate since 2014, Benjamin Allen turns 41… Former member of Knesset for the Jewish Home party (2013-2015), he is a decorated IDF officer (now a reservist), Yonatan “Yoni” Chetboun turns 40… Deputy chief of staff for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, he is the former host of daily Sirius XM program “The Agenda,” Ari Rabin-Havt turns 40… Television and film actor, Emile Hirsch turns 34… EVP of Nefco, a distributor of construction and industrial supplies, Matthew Gelles turns 31… Television and film actor, Emory Isaac Cohenturns 29… Social media manager at NBC Universal since 2015, Jessie Rubinturns 28… Gabriel Romano

Daily Kickoff: Bret Stephens calls Bibi ‘the Richard Nixon of Israeli politics’ | What’s next for Richard Plepler? |Adelson’s health

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DRIVING THE CONVO — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) drew widespread criticism once again after suggesting that influential pro-Israel Americans are pushing for “allegiance to a foreign country.” The remarks reported by Jewish Insider on Thursday come about two weeks after Omar apologized for anti-Semitic tweets that prompted the Democratic Party’s leadership to speak out against her. 

Omar Accuses Israel Hawks of ‘Allegiance to a Foreign Country’ — by Jonathan Chait: “Omar went much farther, reports Laura Kelly. After an audience member shouted out, ‘It’s all about the Benjamins,’ at which she smiled, she proceeded to state, ‘I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.’ … Accusing Jews of ‘allegiance to a foreign country’ is a historically classic way of delegitimizing their participation in the political system. Whether or not the foreign policy agenda endorsed by American supporters of Israel is wise or humane, it is a legitimate expression of their political rights as American citizens… Omar is directly invoking the hoary myth of dual loyalty, in which the Americanness of Jews is inherently suspect, and their political participation must be contingent upon proving their patriotism.” [NYMag]

David Rothkopf tweeted
“I defended her last round–as having said something troubling & insensitive. It’s hard to defend this.” 

Ari Fleischer“This is deeply insulting. I’m a first generation American. My mother fled the Nazis in 1939 and came to this great country. Almost all her family was slaughtered in the Holocaust… As an American, I love and support Israel because it, along with the U.S., is one of the few countries on earth where Jews can live in freedom & peace.”

Bret Stephens“Rep. Ilhan Omar seems to calculate that if she makes only one blatantly anti-Semitic remark per week, progressives will forgive her. Is she right?” 

Carly Pildis“The problem with Ilhan Omar’s claim that her Jewish Colleagues are attempting to shut down debate on the conflict is that she isn’t being criticized for policy opinions. She is being criticized for engaging in anti-semitic language at a time when Jews face rising global violence.

A Democratic Hill staffer tells JI“While the grown ups in the caucus are trying to get messaging out on bread and butter issues like healthcare and infrastructure, she’s drowning us out with her antics. The day after she lets an inflammatory tweet fly, we’ll get a dozen calls about it.” 

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone magazine released their March cover featuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi posing alongside Rep. Omar. 

The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) said in a statement, “We reject the parallels Representative Omar has repeatedly drawn between Israel and apartheid South Africa. We also want to make clear to both Reps. Omar and Tlaib that our denunciation of their recent tweets was completely unrelated to their religion. We celebrate the diversity of Democrats in 116th Congress, but unequivocally oppose the use of anti-Semitic tropes. We would have condemned such tweets from any member of Congress, regardless of their party or background.”

AJC Global“Ilhan Omar, if you feel that people are ‘silencing’ the debate on Israel and the Palestinians by accusing you of antisemitism, maybe you should stop saying antisemitic things.”

HEALTH MATTERS — Billionaire Adelson Diagnosed With Cancer, Undergoing Treatment — by Christopher Palmeri and Edvard Pettersson: “Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire founder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., has been diagnosed with cancer and hasn’t been at work since December. Adelson, 85, is still dealing with side effects from the medication he’s taking for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said Ron Reese, the company’s spokesman. ‘These side effects have restricted his availability to travel or keep regular office hours,’ Reese said in an emailed statement. ‘They have not, however, prevented him from fulfilling his duties as chairman and CEO.’ The company anticipates Adelson will return to his regular schedule when he’s completed his treatment.”[Bloomberg]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, on Thursday. With 40 days to go before Israelis head to the polls, Netanyahu called the prosecution’s announcement “outrageous” and an “unprecedented witch hunt” carried out by his “leftist” opponents. He referred to himself as “Benjamin Netanyahu, the most maligned man in the history of Israeli media.”

In his prime-time address, Netanyahu boasted about his warm ties with world leaders, thanking President Trump for his words of praise. This “unique connection with the leaders of the world powers is not something that should be taken for granted,” Netanyahu said. 

Speaking after Netanyahu, Benny Gantz ruled out joining a coalition with Netanyahu and called on the PM to step down to conduct his legal battle as a private citizen. “The state of Israel is worthy of more than this,” he said.

HOW IT PLAYED — Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bid for Reelection Hit By Legal Storm — by David Wainer, Jonathan Ferziger and Ivan Levingston: “This year could see Benjamin Netanyahu surpassing founding father David Ben-Gurion as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. It also could be the year he steps down in disgrace… Netanyahu’s bid for history got much more difficult with the [AG] announcement.” [Bloomberg• Accused of corruption, Benjamin Netanyahu vows to fight on [Economist]

Arnon Milchan Will Not Face Corruption Charges in Israel — by Amy Spiro: 
“In a surprise decision, Israel’s attorney general has announced that he will not press charges against Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan for his central role in a case of alleged corruption involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” [Variety]

— Nathan Guttman
“Sheldon Adelson is, in fact, the good guy in this story. He refused to go ahead with Bibi’s quid-pro-quo with the publisher of Yediot Ahronot. The deal would promise Bibi favorable coverage if he could ensure curbing the circulation of Adelson’s newspaper.” 

REACTION — Dennis Ross: “The PM is trying to make the story one in which his opponents on the left cannot defeat him at the polls so they have used a trumped-up set of charges to force him out. The problem is that the AG was his cabinet secretary, is a religious Zionist, and can hardly be called a leftist. But Israel is polarized and those who support Bibi will say it’s all a political maneuver and those who oppose him will say he has to go because how can he function as PM if he has to spend his time in Court. The real question is where do the undecideds come out — do they believe a threshold has been crossed and it is time for him to go or do they believe he is being unfairly persecuted?”

Dr. Einat Wilf: “I have no doubt that the Prime Minister truly believes that he is innocent. Moreover, it is clear that his obsession with the media and his desire to control it at any price, which are at the root of the three charges, comes from a deep sense of being substantially under-appreciated. But this is the curse of all leaders and politicians  —that save for a select few, they will always be maligned and under-appreciated, certainly by their own measure. The charges that this is orchestrated by an all encompassing mystical ‘left’ are of-course bogus and collapse in the face of the fact that they have been brought forth by people who politically belong to the right. But Netanyahu’s ‘left’ has long ago ceased having any political meaning and has become a stand-in for a nefarious force that seeks to stand in the PM’s path. What Netanyahu has encountered is what every politician in a democracy (and even not in democracies) has encountered: the limits of power. It is an old tale, but that is all it is.”  

Aaron David Miller: “They key for Bibi is demonstrating indispensability. He’d agree with De Gaulle that cemeteries of France are filled with indispensable people. But he wants to convince voters he is. He believes Putin and Trump help him do that. And Trump will likely play his part. Same on the ultimate deal peace plan. He knows that the plan was written for him to play a key role. And while Trump’s search for progress would likely be better with Gantz, Bibi will portray himself as the only one could either work with Trump or if necessary stand up to him.”

IPF’s Michael Koplow on Gantz’s statement: “It’s not surprising that Gantz is ruling out joining a government with Netanyahu given that his central campaign plank is that Netanyahu must be replaced for the good of the country. On the day that Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu, it would be foolhardy for him to do anything but double down on his argument that Netanyahu must go. More significant is his and Lapid’s refusal to rule out forming a government with a Netanyahu-less Likud. As for Netanyahu, his most potent argument is that he has raised Israel to unprecedented heights on the world stage and that he is accepted by the leaders of global powers as a peer. I expect him to tout his relationship with Trump, Putin, Modi, and others as often and as loudly as he can as a way of warning Israeli voters and his coalition partners that Israel’s status is overly dependent on his remaining on Balfour Street.” 

Watch: Bret Stephens told MSNBC’s Katy Tur that Netanyahu “is going to be remembered as the Richard Nixon of Israeli politics.” [Video]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — “A senior U.S. official insists that the administration’s peace plans are not contingent on Mr. Netanyahu staying in office, and that the White House remains ready to work with a number of Israeli leaders.” [TheNational]

Brazil’s far-right leader to visit Israel in potential boost for Netanyahu — by Dan Williams: 
“Brazil’s nationalist President Jair Bolsonaro will visit Israel days before its April 9 election, the Israeli government said on Thursday… The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said Bolsonaro would visit Israel between March 31 and April 4.” [Reuters]

2020 WATCH — Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted
“First embracing right-wing extremism. Now manipulating a free press, accepting bribes, and trading government favors. The allegations against Prime Minister Netanyahu are serious and cut to the heart of a functioning democracy.” 

AT THE UN — UN Human Rights Council Bashes Israel Over Gaza Protests — by Alisa Odenheimer: “The United Nations Human Rights Council commission said 189 Palestinians were killed in connection with the campaign of demonstrations against Israel that began 11 months ago. It concluded that Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who didn’t pose an imminent threat… ‘The Theater of the Absurd of the Human Rights Council has produced another hostile, false and slanted report against Israel,’ acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a text message.” [Bloomberg]

“Johan Eriksson, a media adviser for the U.N. high commissioner for Human Rights, said that the commission had also assembled a confidential dossier of complicit individuals that ‘will be made available for an appropriate legal body to use.’ He did not disclose if the document named individual soldiers, commanders or key decision-makers.” [WashPost]

Rep. Eliot Engel, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, saidon Twitter: 
“UNHRC predictably denounces Israel’s conduct in last year’s Gaza operations but discounts Hamas violence. Another example why the Human Rights Council is undeserving of its own name. Unfortunate, it taints the important work this body could do.” 

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) tweeted“Not surprising the UNHRC issued another biased report related to Israel. It’s a shame that this body chooses to obsess over one country instead of taking a strong stand for human rights around the world.” 

BOOK EXCERPT — Israel’s Secret Founding Fathers — by Matti Friedman: “‘Espionage,’ John le Carré once observed, ‘is the secret theater of our society.’ Countries also have cover stories and hidden selves. The identity of Israel’s spies teaches us who Israel has to spy on, of course. But it also has much to say about what Israel is — and how that country differs from the country we know from stories.” [NYTimes

HEARD AT CPAC — by JI‘s Laura Kelly: “Nobody has stood by Israel better than Donald Trump, nobody!” Senator Lindsey Graham exclaimed to the crowds at CPAC at the National Harbor on Thursday. The South Carolina Republican joked that while his relationship with the President got off to a rocky start, “we’ve got a lot in common now, I like him and he likes him.”

— Former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold, in remarks mostly dedicated to a history lesson on the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, spoke on the importance of Israeli control over all of Jerusalem, slamming the UN for propagating “fake history.” At one point, audience members seemed to miss the mark to cheer at a standard rallying cry, when the Gold shouted, ‘Jerusalem is not for sale!’ After a few seconds of quiet, some people whooped and cheered and Gold said, “I mean, that is the applause line.”

TOP TALKER — Trump Ordered Officials to Give Jared Kushner a Security Clearance — by Maggie Haberman, Michael Schmidt, Adam Goldman and Annie Karni: “Mr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been ‘ordered’ to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance… Mr. Kushner and [Ivanka] Trump both complained to the president about the situation, current and former administration officials said. In Mr. Kushner’s case, Mr. Trump would often turn to other aides and say in frustration, ‘Why isn’t this getting done?’ according to a former administration official. On at least one occasion, the president asked another senior official if the person could sort out the issue. That official said no.” [NYTimesWashPost

ON THE HILL — Michael Cohen will return to the Hill next week for another closed-door interview, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said during a press conference Thursday. The committee head also announced that Felix Sater, the former mobster Cohen mentioned this week’s testimony as linked to the Moscow Trump Tower deal, will testify in an open hearing on March 14. [Video]

— The Inside Story Behind Cohen’s Deposition — by Emily Jane Fox: “It was around this point that Cohen saw a congressman on cable news discussing Trump’s financials, and he remembered that he had some of those documents… About nine boxes were there waiting for him… ‘Oh my god,’ he said when he opened the third. He’d hit the mother lode. In the third box were three years of Trump’s financial statements, from 2011 through 2013… The box also contained an e-mail with Trump Organization C.F.O. Allen Weisselberg… The exchange had to do with how Cohen would be reimbursed for the $130,000 payment he made to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.” [VanityFair]

House Intel Will Call Trump Org Moneyman Allen Weisselberg To Testify — by Spencer Ackerman: 
“The House intelligence committee intends to call the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer to testify. Allen Weisselberg received renewed congressional attention after disgraced Trump fixer Michael Cohen on Wednesday repeatedly mentioned the Trump Org CFO as crucial to various aspects of dubiously legal practices by the president.”[DailyBeast• Why Allen Weisselberg, Trump’s Money Man, Could Face Scrutiny Next [NYTimes]

Madeleine Albright: Trump repeating mistakes that led to ‘Holocaust and global war’  — by Joel Gehrke: 
“President Trump is pursuing the same ‘sad and dangerous’ foreign policy that led to the Holocaust and the Second World War, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Congress. ‘We have seen firsthand the cost of abdication: Holocaust and global war,’ Albright said Wednesday in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. ‘Today the enemies of freedom smell something in the air that gives them hope — the odor of America’s absence and the impression that our leader shares their disdain for democracy.'” [WashExaminer

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Time to Sell? David Rubenstein Puts Leon Black on the Spot Over 2013 Call [Bloomberg] • Activist Investor Elliott Takes Majority Control of Troubled Trucker Roadrunner [WSJ• Meet the 15 richest family-wealth dynasties in the US, who have a combined net worth of $618 billion[BusinessInsider• Panavision, Sim and Saban Capital Acquisition Abandon Merger Plans [HollywoodReporter• Altice picks Morgan Stanley to gauge interest in Israel unit: sources [Reuters• The New York Public Library is abiding by an agreement that says Stephen Schwarzman’s name should be inscribed at every entrance to its main building [NYTimes• Hedge-fund manager David Einhorn says he will make fewer, bigger bets after a disastrous year [WSJ]

HBO’s C.E.O., Richard Plepler, Is Leaving After 27 Years and Scores of Emmys — by John Koblin and Edmund Lee: “Richard Plepler, the gregarious chief executive of HBO and one of the most influential executives in entertainment, abruptly stepped down on Thursday. His decision came eight months after AT&T acquired Time Warner, the network’s corporate home, in an $85.4 billion deal. Mr. Plepler found he had less autonomy after the merger, according to two people familiar with his thinking… ‘Hard as it is to think about leaving the company I love, and the people I love in it, it is the right time for me to do so,’ Mr. Plepler said in a memo to HBO employees on Thursday.”[NYTimesVanityFair] • Read Plepler’s full memo here[HollywoodReporter]

— Will Apple or Amazon hire Plepler? Dylan Byers asks in his newsletter this am. [NBC]

SPOTLIGHT — The Master of Spin: Michael Sitrick will mess with your moral compass — by Lyz Lenz: “Michael Sitrick, 71, is a public relations puppet master who has pulled the strings behind some of the biggest stories in media… I ask Sitrick if there is someone so bad he won’t defend them. ‘The American Nazi Party, of course not,’ he says. What about Richard Spencer? ‘I don’t want to talk about specifics,’ he tells me. ‘But if you are talking about Harvey Weinstein.’ He launches into a story about getting the call to represent Weinstein on the day his own mother died. He focuses on that story. It’s detailed. I get the name of the restaurant he was at with his father when the nurse called with the news. What he said to the nurse. As for Weinstein, I get one sentence. Sitrick agreed to represent him and a few months later dropped him. Why? ‘It’s a client confidence matter,’  he says. It’s brilliant spin. I can’t think of him as a Weinstein-defending monster when he’s telling me a story about the death of his mother, can I?” [ColumbiaJournalismReview

Robert Kraft pleads not guilty to soliciting prostitution in Florida — by Janelle Griffith: “New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has pleaded not guilty to charges of soliciting prostitution at a Florida massage parlor, court documents show… His attorney, Jack Goldberger, requested a nonjury trial for the billionaire.” [NBCNews]

Genesis Prize stands behind Robert Kraft despite charges: 
“The Jerusalem Post asked Stan Polovets, chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation, to comment on the situation with Robert Kraft… Let’s start with the question that’s on everyone’s mind. Are you going to rescind the prize and select a different laureate in light of the allegations made against Robert Kraft last week? Stan Polovets: ‘Absolutely not. Robert was selected for decades of extraordinarily generous philanthropy, his unwavering support of Israel, and unparalleled success in his field of work – professional sports. Israel doesn’t have a better friend than Robert Kraft… The incident reported last week is unfortunate. However, as of now, it remains an unproven allegation… In democratic countries, everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence and I have no reason to doubt Robert’s word. He has my and my partner’s, Morris Kahn’s, full support.'” 

— Unusual note at the end of the JPost ‘article’ — “This article was written in cooperation with the Genesis Prize.” [JPost]

DEEP DIVE — How a Private Israeli Intelligence Firm Spied on Pro-Palestinian Activists in the U.S. — by Adam Entous: 
“Internal documents from a private Israeli intelligence firm called Psy-Group show that the company, and possibly other private investigators, were targeting Hatem Bazian because of his leadership role in promoting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement… Psy-Group’s operations against BDS. activists on U.S. college campuses began in February, 2016… The company raised money in New York from Jewish-American donors and pro-Israel groups, and assured them that their identities would be kept secret. Psy-Group told them that its goal was to make it appear as though the donors were not involved in any way. The campaign, code-named Project Butterfly, initially targeted BDS activists on college campuses in ‘a single U.S. state,’ which former Psy-Group employees have told me was New York.” [NewYorker]  

1,600-year-old estate that belonged to a wealthy ancient Samaritan discovered in Israel — by James Rogers: “Archaeologists have discovered the estate of a wealthy ancient Samaritan at Zur Natan in central Israel. A Greek inscription reveals that the agricultural property belonged to a man named ‘Adios,’ who was a member of the ancient Samaritan religious group… Translated by Prof. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the inscription has been dated to the fifth century, a time when the Samaritan community was thriving in the area. n addition to the winepress, archaeologists also discovered stone quarries with rock-cut depressions for cultivating grapevines.” [FoxNews]

Poland, Judaism and Historical Memory — by Elisabeth Zerofsky: 
“When NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, in Warsaw to cover the recent summit, said on air that the ‘uprising of the Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto’ had been against the ‘Polish and Nazi regime,’ there was an aggrieved condemnation from Polish and Jewish groups. The Home Army actually provided some of the weapons that Jewish fighters used during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Poles were treated as subhuman colonial subjects by their Nazi occupiers, who killed them en masse. But some Poles assisted the Nazis or betrayed their Jewish countrymen.” [WSJ]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Schism on Town Board Deepens — by Christopher Walsh: “Simmering tension on the East Hampton Town Board erupted last Thursday during a discussion about the town’s settlement with Marc Rowan, the billionaire who bought Duryea’s fish market in Montauk in 2014.” [EastHamptonStar]

Lakewood hires its first-ever Orthodox Jewish police cadet — by Steve Strunsky: 
“With an Orthodox Jewish community making up most of Lakewood’s rapidly growing population, the township has hired its first-ever Orthodox police cadet, officials said. ‘I’m excited about it,’ Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles said Thursday… Lakewood Police Chief Gregory Meyer said the Orthodox officer and other members of the cadet class who graduate from the six-month academy program could hit the streets in about 10 months, or sometime around the end of 2019 or start of 2020, following additional departmental training.” [NJAdvance]

Holocaust Center starts fundraising for move with $10 million pledged, seeks tourism-tax funds — by Matthew Palm: 
“The Holocaust Center publicly launched its fundraising campaign for a new museum in downtown Orlando on Tuesday, with a $10 million head start from some of Central Florida’s biggest philanthropists. Leading the $35 million effort is Jim Pugh, a longtime board member who has spent years raising money for the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where he is chairman of that board. In addition, the Holocaust Center hopes to pick up another $10 million for its campaign from Orange County’s tourist-development taxes.” [OrlandoSentinel

Justin Hayet, who served as Senior Advisor to Ambassador Danny Danon, is joining the Genesis Philanthropy Group as Senior Project Manager for Israel and Diaspora Initiatives. 

DESSERT — It’s kosher: Israelis offer fresh daily bread, locally — by Rob Golub: “Inspired by their failed search for freshly baked bread for Shabbat, the Hershkos bought a small south-side commercial bakery at 2952 S. 13th St. on Nov. 7. They’ve obtained certification from Wisconsin K. Now, besides business-to-business bread sales, they’re offering free delivery of bread baked the same day to addresses in Mequon, Glendale, Fox Point and Bayside… Dorit baked professionally in Israel for 20 years before moving here, operating a bakery out of their home in Nahariyya, near the Lebanese border.[JewishChronicle]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Metzuda Har Eitan — by Yitz Applbaum: 
“While in Jerusalem this past Shabbat, I contemplated that as I age, I grow increasingly more aware of my mortality. As such, I try to be conscientious with how I spend my time. Among those choices is deciding which wines to drink. I found myself deliberating, unsure whether to go with an older, rarer vintage or a shiny new wine, recently acquired. As we sat down to dinner with family and friends, I chose the Metzuda Har Eitan blend.”

“The Metzuda Har Eitan blend comes in a large bottle with a beautifully etched label. Rarely do Israeli vineyards wait six years to release a wine. This 2012 blend is made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Shiraz, which were each aged separately for 12 months, and then aged again as a blend for another 12 months. This wine is young on the front palate with dancing ballerinas, each with peach-dipped ballet-shoes, fouettéing on my tongue. The mid-palate had the density of a great Bordeaux blend, jammy and full of coffee notes. The finish pulled it all together like a perfect Napa Cabernet, but with an extra kick.” [Metzuda]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS —  FRIDAY: Film and television actor, best known for his role as James T. West in the 1965-69 television series “The Wild Wild West,” Robert Conrad (born Conrad Robert Falk) turns 84… President of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in NYC since 2001, he previously served on the Los Angeles City Council (1971-2001), Joel Wachsturns 80… Real estate developer, he was part owner of MLB’s Kansas City Royals (1983-1991) and three sports franchises in Memphis, Tulane’s basketball arena is named in his honor, Avron B. Fogelman turns 79… Professor emeritus of Jewish Studies at Los Angeles Valley College and the editor of “Shofar,” a peer-reviewed academic journal of Jewish Studies, Zev Garberturns 78… Hollywood executive, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, a member of the University of California Board of Regents and a co-owner of both the LA Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, Peter Guber turns 77… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, he is a son of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Ze’ev Binyamin (“Benny”) Begin turns 76… Librarian at the Anti-Defamation League’s NYC HQ, Marianne Benjamin turns 75… Israeli historian, author and journalist, he earned a Ph.D. in history from Boston University in the 1970s, Tom Segev turns 74…

Israeli journalist, author, television personality and political commentator, Ehud Yaari turns 74… Cantor at the Jewish Community Center of Paramus, Congregation Beth Tikvah, Sam Weiss turns 69… Chairman and president of Berexco, an oil and gas firm based in Wichita, Kansas, Adam E. Beren turns 58… Vice President of Philanthropy at the Baltimore Community Foundation since 2018, Dara Schapiro Schnee turns 48… Television writer, director and producer, he is best known for co-creating the comedy-drama “Glee” and the drama “Pose,” he was also the executive producer for “Nip/Tuck,” Brad Falchuk turns 48… Chief strategy officer for Bend the Arc, a Jewish partnership for justice, Jonathan Lipman turns 42… Member of the US national soccer team since 2004, he played in England for 14 years and in 2017 joined Major League Soccer’s Orlando City, Jonathan Spector turns 33… VP of Special Projects at ASAPP, a NYC-based software technology company, Joshua Lachter turns 32… 3L Harvard Law School student who was on the Surrogates and Strategy team in the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, Hannah Klain turns 28… Kevin Golden

SATURDAY: Restaurateur, lawyer, financier and former owner of Braniff International Airlines, Jeffrey Chodorow turns 69… Comedian, actress and writer, she was part of the original cast of NBC’s Saturday Night Live (1975-1980), Laraine Newman turns 67… Former US Senator from Wisconsin (1993-2011), Russ Feingold turns 66… Anesthesiologist in Skokie, Illinois who graduated from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine, Samuel M. Parnass, M.D. turns 62… Board member of the Washington JCRC and adjunct faculty member at Georgetown Law, Daphne Lazar Price turns 46… Editor and Director of Communications at Twin Cities, Minnesota’s TC Jewfolk (a Jewish news, events and culture online media hub), Lonny Goldsmithturns 44… Culture reporter for the New York Times who writes frequently about film, television and comedy, David L. Itzkoff turns 43… Director of marketing at Window Nation, Eric Goldscher turns 40… Deputy chief of staff for Representative Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Yuri Beckelman turns 37… Israeli television and radio newscaster and host, she completed medical school in 2017, Hila Chaya Korach turns 35… Non-fiction creative executive at Endeavor Content, Sally Rosen turns 33… Corporate communications assistant at Bonobos, she was previously deputy director of scheduling for Senator Chuck Schumer, Kaylee Berger turns 27… Jerusalem resident Donni Lurman

SUNDAY: Australian billionaire residential property developer, colloquially known as “High-Rise Harry,” builder of more than 75,000 residential units, Harry Triguboff turns 86… Professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, author of 27 books and the former co-editor of Dissent magazine, Michael Laban Walzer 84… Researcher in Yiddish language at Sweden’s Lund University’s Centre for Languages and Literature, Henrik Lewis-Guttermann turns 70… Best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of financiers and politicians, Ron Chernow turns 70… NPR personality and the host and producer of the radio and television show “This American Life,” Ira Jeffrey Glass turns 60… Dean Emeritus of Pace University School of Law, he was previously chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, David Yassky turns 55… Co-founder and co-president of Clarity Capital, an investment management firm based in NYC and Tel Aviv, also chair, co-founder and trustee of NYC-based giving circle, the Natan Fund, David Steinhardt turns 50… EVP and general counsel to Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans, Anat Hakim turns 50… Founder and CEO of Bunk1, a provider of parent-engagement software for summer camps, he is a co-owner of the Miami Marlins as a member of the Jeter investment group, Ari Jack Ackerman turns 48… Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and an adjunct professor of law at NYU, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Scalia (2012-2013), Danielle R. Sassoonturns 33… Deputy Press Secretary for NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Freddi Goldstein turns 29… Steven Kantor… 

Daily Kickoff: At Busboys, Omar and Tlaib push back on anti-Semitism charges | Bibi indictment looms | The Glazers not selling Man U to Saudis

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DC SCENE — Reps. Omar and Tlaib: Anti-Semitism charges shut down criticism of Israel — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Several hundred supporters of Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) crowded into Busboys and Poets, a bookstore cafe in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night to hear the pair speak at a ‘Progressive town hall.’ The night was billed as a conversation on a wide array of progressive issues but it was questions on anti-Semitism and Israel that ignited the fiercest passions, from Reps. Tlaib and Omar and those in the audience. “It is about the Benjamins,” shouted one audience member to laughter and acclaim. Reps. Omar and Tlaib both smiled along furtively. [Pic]

To begin the discussion among a boisterous and friendly audience, the moderator asked what “we as a community here can do to support you criticizing Israel for some of the war crimes that it has done so that it’s not seen as ‘you’re anti-Semitic’? Because you’re not criticizing the religion, you’re not criticizing Jewish people, you’re criticizing the government policies.”

Rep. Omar elaborated that when she hears her Jewish constituents offer criticisms of Palestinians, she doesn’t automatically equate them as Islamophobic but is “fearful” that people are painting her as anti-Semitic because she is a Muslim. “What I’m fearful of — because Rashida and I are Muslim — that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim,” she explained. “To me it’s something that becomes designed to end the debate because you get in this space of – yes, I know what intolerance looks like and I’m sensitive when someone says, ‘The words you used Ilhan, are resemblance of intolerance.’ And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that. But it’s almost as if, every single time we say something regardless of what it is we say… we get to be labeled something. And that ends the discussion. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine.”

 “So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Rep. Omar exclaimed.

Reps. Omar and Tlaib were joined onstage by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House, and Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), co-chair of the House’s LGBT Equality Caucus. At the event, Rep. Pocan made note that two years ago he led a delegation of five members of Congress to Ramallah, Hebron and East Jerusalem. “As someone who’s not religious and [is] gay, it doesn’t seem to be natural that Palestine would be an important issue,” Rep. Pocan said, “but it’s an important issue because it’s a human rights issue.” [JewishInsiderVideo]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Omar discussed her tweets and criticism of Israel on The Intercept’s Deconstructed podcast posted this morning: 
“I think [the criticism of the AIPAC tweet] was appropriate for our party to speak on it, and it was appropriate for me to acknowledge the harm that it caused. But I think that people conflate two things. I think there were some people who were condemning me not only on the hurt the words can cause. There were people who were actually condemning me for speaking the truth about the kind of influence that determine our foreign and domestic policies, and for that, I think, my tweet kind of spoke to it.”

Omar on the two-state solution: “I believe in a two-state solution. I think it is important for there to be the existence of two states that allow both of the peoples that are involved to have their own sanctuaries.” [Deconstructed]

— In an interview with Rolling Stone, published on Tuesday, Rep. Omar discussed the fallout of her now-deleted anti-Semitic tweets — 
Rolling Stone wrote in an editors note that the original interview took place in January and following the controversy with Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic tweet, they asked for a follow-up call, which the congresswoman denied. Instead, she offered an email statement to their questionIn a tweeted apology, you wrote you were grateful to ‘Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating [you] on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.’ What do you think you still have to learn about the Jewish faith or Jewish culture to avoid repeating such mistakes? In her response, Omar mentioned, “One of the first things I did as a member-elect was to speak about the rise of anti-Semitism — and one of the first bills I cosponsored as a new member was legislation to elevate the position of a Special Envoy to combat anti-Semitism.'” [RollingStone]

— Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) disputes Omar’s claims: 
“Perhaps, her inability to justify these anti-Semitic statements is why she declined to explain them in Rolling Stone’s request for a follow-up interview. For this reason and many others, she should not be serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House should immediately pass H. Res. 72, condemning the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate rising in the United States and around the world.” [DailyCaller]

ON THE HILL — A bipartisan group of House members relaunched the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, that had been reinstated since the 114th Congress with more than 100 Republicans and Democrats, on Wednesday. “Congress has an important responsibility to raise awareness of this anti-Jewish bigotry and to condemn and combat it in all its forms,” Reps Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Kay Granger (R-TX), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Randy Weber (R-TX), Marc Veasey (D-TX), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), serving as co-chairs of the panel, said in a joint statement.  

ON THE GOLAN — by Laura Kelly: Following the move by Republican Senators to formally recognize Israeli control over the Golan Heights, Annalise Davis, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), told JI, “Mr. Hoyer believes Israel should maintain control of the Golan Heights. He will review the legislation as it is considered by the Committee of jurisdiction.” 

HEARD YESTERDAY — All the Jewish moments from Michael Cohen’s dramatic House testimony — by Ron Kampeas: “It was Mark Meadows (R-NC) who inadvertently brought about the day’s most Jewish moment when he challenged Cohen’s testimony… Meadows demanded to know how Cohen could call Trump a racist when Cohen himself brought Lynne Patton, an African-American woman, into the Trump organization. ‘You made some demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn’t agree with!’ Meadows said… ‘She says that as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there was no way she should work for an individual who is racist — how do you reconcile the two of those.’ Cohen interrupted: ‘As neither should I as the son of a Holocaust survivor.'” [JTA

Trump judicial nominee Rao faces uncertain committee vote — by Marianne Levine: “The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote Thursday on whether to send Rao’s D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nomination to the Senate floor… Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) remains undecided on Rao’s nomination and met with her Wednesday afternoon.” [Politico]

KUSHNER MIDEAST TOUR — Jared Kushner Met With Saudi Crown Prince to Push Mideast Peace Plan — by Ben Hubbard: “The meeting, held on Tuesday, was Mr. Kushner’s first face-to-face encounter with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since Saudi agents killed the dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October… The White House issued its statement a day after the meeting took place, as public attention was dominated by congressional testimony by Michael Cohen… Mr. Kushner, King Salman and Prince Mohammed, the White House statement said, discussed the peace efforts, as well as American-Saudi cooperation and plans to improve conditions in the region through investment.” [NYTimesCNN]

“One of the sources… said the plan presented this week did not appear to take into consideration previously stated Arab demands on the status of Jerusalem, the right of Palestinian refugees to return and Israeli settlements in occupied territory… The source said Kushner, a real estate developer with little experience of international diplomacy or political negotiation, wanted to make a deal first and then agree on details.” [Reuters]

TALK OF THE REGION — Two Days After Resigning, Iran’s Foreign Minister Returns to Post — by Benjamin Mueller: 
“Two days after saying he intended to step down, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, returned to his post after President Hassan Rouhani rejected the resignation. There were smiles all around on Wednesday, as Mr. Zarif appeared alongside Mr. Rouhani during a welcoming ceremony for a visiting dignitary broadcast live on state television.” [NYTimes]

Trump defends Kim over death of Otto Warmbier — by Josh Dawsey: 
“President Trump on Thursday defended North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, whose family says was ‘brutally tortured’ while imprisoned in North Korea… ‘I don’t believe he would have allowed that to happen,’ Trump said. ‘It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen.’ Trump said he spoke to Kim about the death of Warmbier and that ‘he feels badly about it.’ He said the North Korea leader, who holds an iron grip over the country, knew about the case, but he only learned about it after the fact… ‘He tells me he didn’t know about it and I take him at his word,’ Trump said.” [WashPost]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Israel awaits decision on Netanyahu corruption indictment — by Aron Heller: “Israel’s attorney general is expected to deliver a much-anticipated decision Thursday on whether to indict Benjamin Netanyahu on a series of corruption allegations, a momentous move that looks to shake up Israel’s election campaign and potentially spell the end of the prime minister’s illustrious political career.” [AP]

MEANWHILE, WHERE’S BIBI? — Filming Facebook videos on the roof of the Ritz Carlton Moscow, made infamous by the Trump-Russia dossier. Netanyahu appears to be standing next to the rooftop Macallan Winter Baroverlooking the Kremlin and Red Square. No word on whether Bibi enjoyed the 1969 Macallan single malt whisky available on the menu at $400 a measure. 

HEARD THIS MORNING — President Trump during a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam: “I can say this, [Netanyahu] has done a great job as prime minister. He’s tough, smart, and strong. He’s very defensive, his military has been built up a lot. They buy a lot of equipment from the U.S.”[Video]

Is Netanyahu coordinating with Trump over ‘deal of the century’? — by Ben Caspit: 
“The prevailing opinion within Israel’s highest political-security ranks is that Netanyahu is completely in the U.S. administration’s loop regarding the ‘deal of the century.’ … The [plan], explains a high-level Israeli Cabinet member, ‘is meant to try to extricate Netanyahu from his legal troubles. After the elections, he is supposed to take a political turn to the center and announce to the public that there is no way he can turn down the best US president that Israel ever faced in the White House.'” [Al-Monitor]

KAFE KNESSET — Sexual Harassment Claim Made Against Gantz — by Neri Zilber: An Israeli national living in the U.S. alleged yesterday in a public Facebook post that main Netanyahu challenger Benny Gantz (head of Blue and White) sexually harassed her when both were teenagers studying in a youth village in central Israel in the 1970s. Israel’s Channel 12 interviewed a distraught Nava Jacobs on its primetime telecast last night, with the local press debating whether it was appropriate to air/publish such uncorroborated, four-decades old accusations. Walla News reported today that a senior Likud minister may have assisted Jacobs in airing the salacious details, a claim the Likud has denied. Blue and White, for its part, told Kafe Knesset that the allegations were “a blatant lie” and that they were pursuing legal action against the woman. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

NYTimes editorial… “Netanyahu Stoops to Survive: Perhaps AIPAC will use its gathering to let Mr. Netanyahu know that his pact with the Kahanists is unacceptable. And then it will be the Israeli people’s task to sort this out.” [NYT]

Israel’s Election Shows How Dead the Two-State Solution Really Is — by Shmuel Rosner: “The main parties, Likud and Kahol Lavan, both speak about security much more than about peace. Both are attacked from the right because of the likelihood that they will accept the ‘deal of the century’ — President Trump’s peace plan… Both are attacked from the left for offering essentially the same platform… So, this is it. The two-state solution is acceptable to most Israelis, including center-right, center and center-left Israeli voters, only if the Palestinians do not really get what they consider a state. This probably means that it cannot be a solution.” [NYTimes]

2020 WATCH — Beto O’Rourke has decided not to run for U.S. Senate next year against Texas Republican incumbent John Cornyn and likely will announce a campaign for president soon… As Joe Biden weighs 2020 bid, Democrats ask: ‘Does he meet the moment?’… Michael Bloomberg lookingat 7 World Trade Center and the old NYT building in Times Square as headquarters for 2020 campaign… Inside Chuck Schumer’s plot to be majority leader. 

HAPPENING TODAY — The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) enters its second day at the National Harbor in Maryland, with speakers like former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka, Fox News host Laura Ingraham and political strategist Matt Schlapp headlining some of the day’s events. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is expected to speak in the afternoon, although his speech has been left untitled, and Dore Gold, former advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will hold a session on ‘Protecting the Freedom of Jerusalem.’ 

** Good Thursday 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Robert Greenblatt is in advanced talks with AT&T to take a senior role at WarnerMedia that could include oversight of the HBO and Turner entertainment networks [WSJ•Bob Iger’s Disney-Fox Merger Nears Completion as Brazil Grants Approval With Conditions [Variety• Altice Europe’s Portuguese Fiber Is Said to Draw Brookfield, KKR [Bloomberg]• Ashkenazy deal for Brookfield’s Atlantis resort in the Bahamas falls through [RealDeal] • Scott Bessent, the former investor for George Soros lists a $22.5 Million Hamptons home [WSJ] • Experts question value of Hawaiian statue Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff bought for $7 million [BusinessInsider] 

Israel’s Newest Airport Is a Futuristic Desert Mirage — by Nick Mafi: “The new airport — which was named after Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon (who died in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster) and his son Asaf, an Israeli Air Force pilot (who died during a training exercise) — is a $473.5 million structure that’s slated to begin operations this winter… What makes this airport so different from most others in the world is not only its location but also the fact that much of the technical infrastructure was buried underground. This includes the area through which both public and private vehicles travel to drop off and park. Furthermore, baggage handling, security processes, and other technical operations are located dozens of feet below ground. This allows for much of the logistical work to be done underground, opening the ground level to provide uninterrupted views of the dramatic desert expanse all around.”[ArchitecturalDigest]

DEEP DIVE — Inside Facebook’s War on Hate Speech — by Simon van Zuylen-Wood: “Guy Rosen’s team trained its automatic detection classifier to seek only the most severe tier of hate speech. Since then, Facebook has gone from flagging about a quarter of all hate speech before users do, to more than half, without accidentally removing proud uses of ‘dyke.’ … Here’s how it works in practice: late last year, Facebook removed several posts by Yair Netanyahu, the son of Israel’s prime minister. Netanyahu had called Palestinians ‘monsters’ and advocated that ‘all the Muslims leave the land of Israel.’ Palestinians and Muslims are both protected groups. ‘Monster’ is dehumanizing, ‘leave’ is a call for exclusion, and both are classified as hate speech. The removal was consistent with the new policy. In response, Netanyahu called Facebook ‘the thought police.'” [VanityFair]

Court filing links spy exposed by AP to Israel’s Black Cube — by Raphael Satter and Aron Heller: 
“In a court filing made public last week, Toronto attorney Darryl Levitt says that the spy, whose real name is Aharon Almog-Assouline, ‘bears a striking similarity’ to a man he identified as an alleged Black Cube operative… Levitt made his claim after reading the AP’s account of how Almog-Assouline was caught trying to extract information from an employee of Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research group, at the Peninsula Hotel in New York on Jan. 24.” [AP]

MEDIA WATCH — theSkimm is launching a daily news podcast offering contextualized, nonpartisan coverage — by Sarah Perez: 
“News media company theSkimm is delving further into podcasting, with the launch of its first daily news podcast called Skimm This, set to launch on March 4… For starters, it will be released in the evenings — Monday through Friday at 5 PM — in order to reach people hitting the gym after work, commuters on their way home, or those who like to listen to podcasts during dinner prep, among others… Skimm This will focus on around four stories in total over the course of about 10 minutes.” [TechCrunch]

A new conservative media company — by Mike Allen: 
“Jonah Goldberg is leaving National Review in the coming months to start a new conservative media company with Steve Hayes, who was editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard when its owner shut it down in December.” [Axios]

What’s Next For New Yorker Reporter Jane Mayer? — by Molly Langmuir: 
“Since 2016, due to some weird alchemy between Twitter, where Mayer has 167,000 followers, and the rise of Trump, her work’s prominence has risen dramatically, with her New Yorker features — about Trump’s The Art of the Deal ghostwriter, about the ex-spy behind the Trump dossier — slamming into the media landscape, one after the next… The paradox is that Mayer is having this moment at a time when even deeply reported pieces are dismissed as ‘fake news’ and blockbuster stories soon get swallowed up.” [Elle]

SPOTLIGHT — Israeli musician with Iraqi roots finds fans from Tel Aviv to Baghdad — by Rami Ayyub and Hamuda Hassan: “Singing in Arabic, an Israeli musician is winning over listeners from Tel Aviv to Baghdad, covering tunes by his grandfather and great uncle, an Iraqi Jewish duo who were once two of the Arab world’s most famous performers… ‘We get reactions from all over the Arab world, on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram,’ Dudu Tassa, who regularly sells out concerts in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities, said… ‘We love Dudu not only because he is the grandson of [Daoud] al-Kuwaiti, but because he has his own unique style,’ Fatima Kabbani, 24, said while streaming Tassa’s music from a park near the University of Baghdad.” [Reuters]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Meet the Muslim family who looks after a Jewish synagogue in India — by Nina Strochlic: “Today, only two dozen Jews live in Kolkata, according to the New York Times, but dedicated Muslim caretakers tend to the three active synagogues and their dwindling congregations. One patriarch, featured in this Short Film Showcase, has been a caretaker for 60 years. He now shares the work with his two sons. Without them, the last vestiges of a Jewish Kolkata could disappear… With only a few aging members left, the last of Kolkata’s Jews fear that the community’s future will be a memory held by gravestones and fading street names. For now, the synagogues are kept afloat by donations and the dedication of the Muslim families who oversee them.” [NationalGeographic]

SPORTS BLINK — Saudi Arabia Rejects Report That Prince Wants Manchester United — by Zaid Sabah and Steve Geimann: 
“Saudi Arabia dismissed a U.K. newspaper report that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is stalking Manchester United and wants to tempt the Glazer family to cede control of the Premier League soccer team… United is controlled by the Glazer family, owners of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers… They have no interest in selling, the newspaper said.” [Bloomberg]

Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea confronts anti-Semitism problem — by Rob Harris: “For more than a year, Chelsea has been working with Jewish organizations to harness the power and influence of the world’s biggest sport to promote a more inclusive environment at games… UEFA disciplinary officials on Thursday will decide how to punish Chelsea for anti-Semitic chants made by fans during a Europa League game in Hungary in December against Vidi. Chelsea could be forced to play a game behind closed doors without any fans… Bruce Buck hopes up to $4 million will be raised for the campaign, and that awareness will be boosted by Chelsea playing a game later this year in suburban Boston against Robert Kraft’s New England Revolution.” [WashPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Counsel in the NYC office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, a former New York State Assemblyman (1957-1962) and New York state judge (1970-1993), Bentley Kassal turns 102… Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1972, Professor of Science at Brown University since 1958, Leon Cooper turns 89… Professor emeritus of Mathematics at the University of California, San Diego, Linda Preiss Rothschild turns 74… Screen, stage and television actress and singer, Ilene Susan Graff turns 70… Former State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism (2013-2017), Ira Niles Forman turns 67… NYTimes op-ed columnist and 2008 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, author of 27 books, Paul Krugman turns 66… Professor of medicine and chairman of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, and brother of ZOA president Morton Klein, Samuel Klein, MD turns 66… Stand-up comedian, actor and voice actor, Gilbert Gottfried turns 64… Self-described as “America’s most notorious lobbyist,” at the center of an investigation that led to 21 convictions, Jack Abramoff turns 60…

Editor-in-chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Andrew Silow-Carrollturns 58… Jerusalem-born businessman and philanthropist, worked as a NYC taxi driver after completing his IDF service, started and sold several companies in the automotive field, Mordechai (Moti) Kahana turns 51… Deputy director general for international affairs of all local governments in Israel, she formerly served as advisor for Shimon Peres, Ruth Wasserman Lande turns 43… Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey, he was first elected in 2013 and re-elected in 2017, Steven Fulop turns 42… Reporter for The New York Times covering campaigns, elections and political power, Lisa Lerer turns 39… Research director at Purple Strategies, Erica Goldman turns 31 (h/ts Playbook)… Commercial and constitutional litigator in the Los Angeles office of Latham & Watkins, he is vice chair of the LA branch of the American Constitution Society, Adam Sieff turns 30… Risk assurance associate in the Boston office of PwC, Li-dor David turns 29… Executive Director of the Montreal chapter of ORT, Emmanuel Kalles

And special wishes for those whose birthday truly only happens every four years — on February 29th: Advisory director and senior investment strategist at Goldman Sachs, where she was the long-time Chief Investment Strategist, former Board Chair at Jewish Theological Seminary (2009-2015), Abby Joseph Cohen turns 67… Former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives (2013-2018), Paul D. Rosenthal turns 59… Former US Supreme Court law clerk and now a UCLA law professor known for his eponymous prominent legal blog “The Volokh Conspiracy,” Eugene Volokh turns 51… Israeli mountain climber, search and rescue professional, photographer and speaker, best known for his heroic rescue of an unconscious Turk he found near the summit of Mount Everest in 2012, Nadav Ben Yehuda turns 31… Samantha Friedman turns 27…

Daily Kickoff: Kushner seeks $65 billion for peace effort | Dov Zakheim blasts Bibi | How an LA Jewish neighborhood became the ‘mecca of streetwear’

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KUSHNER MIDEAST TOUR — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet Jared Kushner in Ankara on Wednesday. Erdogan told NTV television on Tuesday that he and Kushner would discuss conflicts in the Middle East as well as economic relations.

It’s worth noting that Kushner is not visiting Egypt or Jordan on this trip, two countries likely critical to any peace plan rollout, as the primary goal of his current Middle East tour is raising funds for a large financial investment with the Palestinians and Israel’s other neighbors. According to former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk, the number Kushner has in mind is $65 billion, a rather ambitious fundraising goal.

“Kushner is trying to raise $65 billion in funds to support not just the Palestinians but also Egypt and Jordan. So there’s no reason to go there on this trip. They’re supposed to be beneficiaries, not donors,” Indyk explained to Jewish Insider.  

Asked how much of the $65 billion he thinks the Trump administration will be willing to put up, Indyk replied: “Somewhere between effes and shumdavar‘ (zero and nil). Actually, I have no idea but it’s probably the second question the potential donors will ask. The first question will be: ‘What’s in the plan?’ And since it could cause an upheaval in Israel if any part of the plan leaks, he [Kushner] probably can’t answer that.” 

New government documents reveal Jared Kushner’s Secret Service codename as ‘Mechanic’ — by Justin Rohrlich: “Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner’s Secret Service codename is “Mechanic,” a new government filing reveals.” [Quartz]

Top Israeli minister to Trump: Reveal plan before the election: 
“Israeli cabinet minister Naftali Bennett is calling on President Donald Trump to reveal his much-anticipated ‘Deal of the Century’ for Middle East peace before the upcoming Israeli election. Bennett… says Tuesday that Trump is leaving Israelis in the dark before a crucial election and ‘friends do not keep secrets’ from each other.” [AP]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — by JI’s Laura Kelly: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told a group of Jewish Democrats that Israel as a bipartisan issue is being put at risk by people who would like to separate the Jewish community and the Democratic Party. [Pic]

At a reception hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), the majority leader said Democratic members were united in criticizing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for touting an anti-Semitic trope on Twitter. “Well we made some criticism when one of them said something we thought was not appropriate and gave the wrong message of anti-Semitism, but she apologized… I said, ‘We’re prepared to criticize our own,’” Hoyer said.

Over a dozen members of Congress came out to the event, held at the Liaison Hotel in Washington, DC. “We are a wonderful noble country and in the last few years, there have been real attempts to derail that,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said at the opening of the event, before heading to a fundraiser across the hall.

Also speaking at the event were freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), who voiced greater action in confronting anti-Semitism, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who promoted Jewish values as central to democratic values, and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that strong support of Israel is essential for America’s national security. “I know that the Israelis are key to our national security as well, in terms of their partnership, in terms of their sharing information with us — we’ve got to end this notion that somehow one party or the other is promoting stronger ties with Israel. We should all be promoting stronger ties.”

William Daroff of the Jewish Federations of North America said, “I think it’s important in the current environment to ensure that there is a pro-Israel majority on both sides of the aisle and there are certainly forces on the right and the left to wedge support between the U.S. and Israel and we need to vigilantly, we need to be vigilant across the board and across the spectrum.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar deletes the controversial tweets that drew charges of anti-Semitism — by William Cummings: “Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) seems to have deleted the tweets that drew accusations of anti-Semitism from both Republican and Democratic colleagues two weeks ago.”[USAToday]

ARGUMENT — No More Mr. Nice Jew: How to deal with those who hate us? — by Edward Luttwak: “Those who favor ‘dialogue’ with the likes of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar appear to be driven by the delusion that our enemies would not be so if only they knew us better, or stood in solidarity with them on issues of mutual concern… The good news is that we live in a democracy, and there is another election coming up soon enough. Let their opponents receive all proper encouragement and support, both local and national… When it comes to those who proclaim anti-Jewish hate, the American Jewish community needs to follow the examples set by British and French Jews when confronted with even greater threats: Stop dialoguing and start winning.” [Tablet]

JI INTERVIEW — Dov Zakheim, former Undersecretary of Defense in President George W. Bush’s administration, harshly criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu for causing long-term damage to the U.S.-Israel relationship in a phone interview with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh. “Perhaps the longest-term damage that Netanyahu has done — and it’s true damage — is losing Israel’s status as a bipartisan issue in the U.S., Zakheim charged, joiningprominent critics of Netanyahu’s latest political moves.  

“The next Israeli prime minister will have to begin repairing that, partly by reaching out to the Democrats and partly by at least working with the Palestinians, whereas now I think it’s impossible with Netanyahu,” Zakheim continued. “And not only is it impossible with Netanyahu, I think he’s jeopardizing the entire relationship that the U.S. has worked on with the Gulf and other Muslim countries. It’s going to be very, very difficult to convince the Gulf leaderships that they can work with a guy who’s willing to have on his team people who are ready to throw the Arabs into the desert. The Jews always say the Arabs want to throw them into the sea. Well, you now have people who want to throw the Arabs into the desert. It’s fraught with difficulties.” 

“I think the impression that people have already developed for some time, and this move reinforces it, is that Bibi is not about Israel. Bibi is about Bibi. And given all the other issues that have already been there: the friction over the Palestinians, the friction over religious issues, this is just on top of them all. And I think, when it comes to AIPAC or the AJC or the other organizations that have spoken out, I think this simply was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Deborah Lipstadt resigns from synagogue over defense of Israeli extreme right: “Deborah Lipstadt, the prominent Holocaust historian, is resigning her membership in her local synagogue because it belongs to a movement that defended an Israeli political deal with the extremist right wing. Lipstadt belonged to Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta, an Orthodox congregation. The rabbi of Lipstadt’s synagogue, Adam Starr, himself condemned the statement in a Facebook post, writing, “Not in my name and not in my shul’s name!” But Lipstadt still felt that she could not continue to be associated with Young Israel, despite having fond words for her synagogue and rabbi.” [ToI]

— American Friends of Likud 
said in a statement on Tuesday that it was ‘disappointed by the overt interference into the elections in Israel by certain leaders of American Jewish organizations,’ and calling the criticism by organizations like AJC and AIPAC ‘insulting and obtrusive.’ The criticism sends an ‘unmistakable message to the Israeli public,’ it charged, ‘that these American Jewish leaders are casting their uninvited votes in the election against the Likud, the Prime Minister’s party, and that Israeli voters should vote the same way.’ [ToI]

ON THE HILL — Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer and attorney, will testify publicly before the House Oversight and Reform Committee at 10 AM EST, one day after a closed-door hearing with the Senate Intelligence committee. On Thursday, he’ll testify in another private session with the House Intelligence Committee. [CSPAN• Read Cohen’s opening statement here [NYT]

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) appeared to — as per former ethics czar Walter Shaub — warn or tamper with Cohen around the time of his hearing. Gaetz apologized and deleted his tweet about six hours later.

At around the same time, former secretary of state Madeline Albright is scheduled to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, giving an assessment of the Trump Administration’s foreign policy.

ON THE GOLAN — Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) introduced a resolution recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights on Tuesday. An identical proposal was filed in the House by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI).

The bill changes long-standing U.S. policy that any decision on control over the Golan Heights would occur in a peace deal between Israel and Syria. The Republican Senators, instead, say that Israeli control of the area is in the national security interest of the U.S. and is a punishment to Syrian President Bashar al Assad for war crimes in that country. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) signed on as co-sponsors. The House version has at least 13 Republican co-sponsors.[JewishInsider]

— At the moment, this bill is only being co-sponsored by Republican members although Democratic members have previously told Jewish Insider that they support recognition. 

HAPPENING TONIGHT — Former UN Ambassador to the U.S. Nikki Haley will be the guest of honor at a dinner with about 20 of Manhattan’s top GOP donors. The dinner will be the first of a series being organized by Paul Singer to spotlight key surrogates for the congressional races of 2020.” [Axios]

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon welcomed the nomination of Kelly Craft to replace Nikki Haley at the United Nations on Tuesday. “With her previous experience as part of the US delegation to the 61st General Assembly, Craft is no stranger to the United Nations,” Danon told Jewish Insider. “I have no doubt she will continue the strong positions Ambassador Nikki Haley took and look forward to working with her to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship,” he added. [JewishInsider]

KAFE KNESSET —Bibi Cuts Moscow Trip Short; Dershowitz Enters the Fray — by Neri Zilber: Netanyahu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later today for the first official summit between the two since last September’s downing (by Syrian air defenses) of a Russian military jet — an act the Kremlin blamed on Israel. On the agenda: Iran’s entrenchment in Syria. Yet Bibi cut his Moscow trip short — he’ll be flying back this evening, instead of tomorrow — amid growing speculation that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will issue his decision on the PM’s three corruption cases imminently, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. For his legal and public defense, Netanyahu conscripted Prof. Alan Dershowitz, who issued an open letter to Mandelblit arguing that charging the PM for crimes related to his dealings with the media could “endanger democracy and freedom of the press.” Netanyahu released a video last night quoting extensively from Dershowitz’s letter and called for the AG to “seriously reconsider” pursuing charges. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

2020 WATCH — Former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday at the University of Delaware that after several meetings with his family, “there’s a consensus” that they want him to run for president… Bernie Sanders’ media strategists split from his 2020 presidential campaign… Hillary Clinton is not a candidate. She looms over 2020 anyway.

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Insight Venture Partners Acquires Israeli Fund’s Portfolio [WSJ]• Equity investing will have harder time than debt investing, says hedge fund manager Marc Lasry [CNBC] • YieldStreet Raises $62M To Bring Alternative Investing To The Masses [Fobes• Wynn Resorts to Pay $20 Million Fine Related to Sexual Misconduct Investigation [WSJ• Boeing nominates former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to its board of directors [CNBC•Israeli Accelerator theDock Partners with U.S. Tank Barge Operator Kirby Corp [Calcalist]

STARTUP NATION — Israeli Startups Shine In The $92 Billion Cybersecurity Market — by Gil Press: “In 2018, Israeli startups received $1.19 billion or almost 20% of global VC investments in cybersecurity, up 47% from the previous year, according to a new report from Start-Up Nation Central. Another report, published by Strategic Cyber Ventures, shows that Israel has surpassed China last year as the hottest spot for VC investments in cybersecurity companies outside of the U.S.” [Forbes]

TALK OF OUR NATION — Becoming a dad after death: Is preserving a Jewish bloodline worth creating a child who will never know her father? — by Shira Rubin: 
“Over the past two decades, posthumous reproduction has occurred throughout the world in modest but growing numbers… In Israel, IVF is one of the rare issues supported by nearly all sectors, regardless of religion or sexuality, in an infamously divided society. ‘There’s a very strong urge to have children here,’ said Julia Pozniansky… ‘There’s tradition, family, 2,000 years of persecution in which we’ve needed to rise from the ashes to create life.’ Like many Jewish Israelis, Pozniansky sees reproduction as a way to replenish the numbers of the Jewish people, in the wake of the Holocaust and millennia of Jewish suffering.” [Undark]

SPOTLIGHT — Daniel Barenboim Seemed Untouchable. Now He’s Accused of Bullying — by Christian Marquardt: “Mr. Barenboim, 76, has long been considered untouchable in Berlin, where he is music director of the Staatsoper — the city’s premier opera house — and principal conductor for life of its orchestra, the Staatskapelle… But cracks have begun to emerge in the conductor’s image as Mr. Barenboim has been accused of bullying and humiliating members of the Staatskapelle… Mr. Barenboim dismissed the accusations. ‘I was born in Argentina, so there’s a bit of Latin blood in my body, and I get upset now and then,’ he told RBB, a German broadcaster.”[NYTimes]

ACROSS THE SEA — Drones launched to help preserve Europe’s Jewish cemeteries: “A private organization is expanding its work preserving old Jewish cemeteries in Europe by employing aerial drones to map burial sites in countries where the Holocaust decimated local Jewish populations. The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative said Tuesday that teams plan to survey 1,500 Jewish cemeteries in Slovakia, Greece, Moldova, Lithuania and Ukraine this year.” [AP]

DEEP DIVE — The real story of the Green Book, the guide that changed how black people traveled in America — by P.R. Lockhart: 
“Filmmaker Yoruba Richen, whose new documentary The Green Book: Guide to Freedom, premiered on the Smithsonian Channel on February 25, talks about the history of the Green Book, how the book was used to build community among African Americans during a time of formal and informal segregation… ‘The Green Book was first published in 1936 by Victor Green. He was a postal worker, and he had a Jewish friend who had a book that listed places in the Catskills where Jewish people could go to. And Green says, “This would be great for black people — we need a book like this.'” [Vox]

TALK OF THE TOWN — How Fairfax Became the Mecca of Streetwear: An Oral History — by Karizza Sanchez: 
“This is the story of how a subculture transformed an unassuming Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles into the epicenter of streetwear, and then how that mecca became mainstream. This is also the story of the people who built Fairfax into a streetwear destination and the obstacles they faced, the chaotic lineups, the unforgettable celebrity sightings, and the lasting legacy of the block.”[Complex]

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN NYC — The Met Council honored Jeffrey Feil, a New York-based real estate developer, at its inaugural real estate cocktail reception held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan. Met Council CEO David Greenfield announced at the event that $1.5 million had been raised in one night to benefit its kosher food program. [Pic]

Merryl Tisch, Ben Tisch, Joseph Allerhand, Lee Feil, Randi Schatz, Richard Mack, Eliot & Debbie Gibber, Stanley Chera, Lloyd Goldman, Regina Goldman, Ziel Feldman, Abraham Fruchthandler, David Lichtenstein, Mitchell Hochberg, Ralph Herzka, David Herzka, Scott Domansky, George Klein, Joseph Shenker, Scott Weiner, Lynne Koeppel, Stacy Scheinberg, Jon Estreich, Stanley Chera, Willy Pilku, Gary Barnett, Raizy Haas, Michael Davis, Darcy Stacom, Simon Ziff, Linda and Jerome Spitzer, Marc Caller, Steven Hurwitz, Jay Kriegel, Evan Stavitsky, Jason Koppel, and Ben Segal.

BIRTHDAYS: Performance artist and film-maker, Eleanor Antin turns 84… Writer and illustrator of children’s books, Uri Shulevitz turns 84… William Drykos turns 80… Investor and philanthropist, Chair of Julliard, Vice Chair of Lincoln Center and on the Board of the Metropolitan Opera, Bruce Kovnerturns 74… Judith Meyer turns 74… Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Alan Harvey Guth turns 72… Grand “Pa” of Dov, Joe and Rael et al., Michael Gervis turns 72… Senior Rabbi of the West London Synagogue, a member of the British House of Lords, Baroness Julia Neuberger turns 69… Film and television actor, he starred as FBI Agent Stan Beeman on the FX series “The Americans” (2013-2018), Noah Emmerich turns 54… Jewish leader involved with the UJA of New York, Suzy Appelbaum turns 57… VP of regional operations and advancement at the Anti-Defamation League, David S. Waren turns 56… Founder of Spanx, she is also a part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Sara Blakelyturns 48… Senior Washington editor for NBC News, Rebecca Sinderbrandturns 42… Singer-songwriter, composer and prayer leader, creative director at Romemu and director of engagement at Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal,Sam Benjamin “Shir Yaakov” Feinstein-Feit turns 41… Member of the Knesset since 2015 for the Jewish Home party, Bezalel Smotrich turns 39… SVP of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, Chaim David Bloomturns 36… Massachusetts State Senator since 2015 and former Obama White House aide where he was one of the originators of the White House Seder, Eric P. Lesser turns 34… Alana Berkowitz… Lenore Wax

Daily Kickoff: On Mideast tour, Kushner says peace plan will focus on borders & Palestinian unity | Amb. Nikki Haley’s new group | Zarif resigns

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ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — In an interview with Sky News Arabia, while on a visit to Abu Dhabi, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner revealedthat the Trump peace plan will focus on the “border issue” in an effort to jumpstart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. “The political plan is very detailed and focuses on resolving the border issue, and if we can resolve this factor and bring peace away from intimidation, then we can guarantee people’s freedom,” Kushner said. So far, Kushner added, “We have not been able to convince the two sides to make concessions.” [Video]

Kushner and Jason Greenblatt met yesterday with leaders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman. Kushner is expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia later in the week, but it’s not clear whether he will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). 

REACTION — The Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller emails: “No Administration since there have been serious negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis has ever talked about the U.S. ‘drawing borders.’ The approach to borders has always been either to lay out parameters or provide general formulations to guide the parties’ negotiations. Kushner either misspoke or is about to put out a plan — to borrow a phrase from Star Trek — that goes beyond where anyone has gone before. I suspect it’s the former — given the reality that bilateral negotiations or those assisted by the U.S. will be critical — and the plan will contain generalities on the issue of territory.  If it’s not — and the only way to truly draw borders is with a map — the odds of this plan succeeding have gone from slim to none.”

Hudson Institute’s Douglas Feith: “I think the Palestinians will not make progress toward peace or toward freedom and prosperity until they have better quality leaders and political institutions. The current leaders are corrupt and self-serving, mired in pro-terrorist policies and attached to inflexible principles of hostility to Zionism. It’s a sad situation, bad for Israel and catastrophic for the Palestinians. If Mr. Kushner’s plan moves the Palestinians toward new leadership, it may open a constructive path. One can hope, but it isn’t easy.” 

Dr. Einat Wilf: “Kushner has said very little in the interview. It is very broad and open to interpretations. Bennett is using this anyways to make his claim — that was his campaign from day one — ‘do you want a Bibi-Gantz government or a Bibi-Bennett government?’ So Kushner’s very fuzzy comments make no difference to his campaign. For Netanyahu, anything after the elections might as well take place in a thousand years  — he is focused on winning them — which means he needs the Likud to be the largest party and the right wing+haredi block to be greater than 60. He’ll deal with everything afterward.”

Shalom Lipner, a veteran of 26 years in the Israeli prime minister’s office and currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Program: “Jared Kushner is now fixing to become a star of the election campaign. The debates between Bennett and Likud are certain to grow more fierce during the remaining weeks. The bigger dilemma will then fall to the new Israeli government, which will have to navigate a careful response to whatever blueprint Trump presents as his legacy.” • Kushner’s peace plan looks dead on arrival, Lipner writes. [PoliticoMag]

Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “Kushner led with two principles in his comments: freedom and dignity. I certainly have no problem with his emphasis. In my public addresses, I always stress that only a democratic Israel can protect the freedom of Jerusalem for all the great faiths. Besides dignity, we need to add security. With Iran employing Shiite militias increasingly in Syria and Iraq a new threat is emerging along Jordan’s borders that will affect Israel. That problem can only be ameliorated by Israel retaining the Jordan Valley in the widest sense of that term as Rabin advised before he died.”

KAFE KNESSET — The New Right Blasts ‘Trump-Netanyahu’ Plan — by Neri Zilber: The Kushner interview led to a torrent of responses, especially from The New Right, led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who used it as an electoral opportunity. “Kushner’s comments prove what we already know — on the day after the election the Americans will push for a Netanyahu-Lapid-Gantz government that will create a Palestinian state… and divide Jerusalem, and Netanyahu will have to fall in line,” Bennett said. A video depicting Netanyahu’s past support for Palestinian statehood, interspersed with Bennett’s call to voters, quickly went viral on social media. “Netanyahu will divide Jerusalem,” it said at the end — an ironic callback to Netanyahu’s first campaign for PM in 1996 when he alleged the same about Shimon Peres. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

WHO’S GOT BIBI’S BACK? — Orthodox group defends Netanyahu’s deal with far-right political party — by Ben Sales: “’Prime Minister Netanyahu acted to get right-wing parties to merge in order to meet the threshold necessary to secure a victory in the election,’ read a statement Monday by Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel… ‘We understand what Prime Minister Netanyahu did, and he did it to have ministers of the national religious and national union parties in his coalition.'”[JTA]

ZOA’s Mort Klein, who is leading an annual mission to Israel this week, told Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh: 
“Why has AIPAC, ADL, and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) never — that I’m aware of — publicly condemned the Arab members of Knesset who have praised Hamas, praised martyrs who have murdered Jews, have said Israel should not exist as a Jewish state? Why have they never condemned any of them? And ADL especially who has praised the Black Lives Matter movement, an anti-Semitic anti-Israel group, praised them, praised J Street publicly, and now they open their mouth about these people? First I want to see them condemn Black Lives Matter and J Street and the members of the anti-Israel Arab members of Knesset before they criticize right-wing Jews. I want to see that first.” 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the only Democratic presidential candidate who voted in favor of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S.1), tweeted on Monday: ‘This is wrong and has been rightly condemned. To quote the American Jewish Committee, “[The views of Otzma Yehudit] do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel.'”

The Onion chimes in — Netanyahu Defends New Alliance With Israel’s Far-Right Aryan Supremacy Party [TheOnion]

TALK OF THE REGION — Iran’s Foreign Minister Resigns, in an Instagram Post — by Farnaz Fassihi and Sune Engel Rasmussen: “Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s unexpected resignation, announced on his Instagram account late at night in Iran, signals a victory for Iran’s hard-liners, who favor confrontation with the West, as Washington ratchets up pressure on the country after pulling out of the deal. His exit leaves a potential void in the world’s dealings with Iran, depending on who his successor is… Mr. Zarif, once hailed as a national hero, saw his reputation sink in the aftermath of U.S. exit from the nuclear deal.” [WSJ] • Iran’s parliamentarians urge foreign minister not to quit [FinancialTimes]

Iran’s Charmer-in-Chief Resigns — by Eli Lake: 
“Zarif’s resignation is welcome news. He was never going to moderate the Iranian regime. His job was to con Westerners into thinking Iran’s regime was moderating. With his departure, the civilized world has one less excuse for failing to see what has been in front of its nose all along.” [Bloomberg]

FDD’s Mark Dubowitz emails: “Javad Zarif is a true master of deceit. Too many in the gullible West have entered into his forcefield of mendacity and forgotten that, behind his smiling face, the regime he represents is brutal, corrupt and destructive.”

Iran Is Committing Suicide by Dehydration — by Alizreza Nader and Nik Kowsar: “The water crisis… poses a threat to Iran as a nation-state capable of sustaining itself. If the crisis is not resolved in 20 to 30 years, millions of Iranians will be forced to leave… The Islamic Republic has been the primary force in creating Iran’s water crisis. It lacks the desire and ability to govern Iran for the benefit of its people. It is no wonder that many Iranian farmers, once considered a natural constituent for the revolutionary regime, now call for its overthrow.” [ForeignPolicy]

TRANSITION — Former Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) 
has joined law and lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck as a policy director. Royce, who served as Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee until his retirement in 2018, told Politico Influence that he will be “giving insights, giving advice, giving direction to companies that are involved in international business,” as well as lobbying on domestic matters. Asked whether he’d lobby for foreign governments, Royce said he’d decide “on a case-by-case basis.” 

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley writes on Instagram
“Excited about starting a new policy group, Stand for America Now. We will focus on how to keep our country safe, strong, and prosperous. Join me as we stand up for America’s freedoms and values.” 

SPOTTED ― Nikki Haley at the Kosher UN Plaza Grill on Monday evening.[Pic]

Trump’s U.N. pick, Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft, thin on foreign policy, long on political connections — by Alexander Panetta and Lauren Gardner:
“Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, a senior Democratic member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters Monday he looked forward to hearing from Craft about her views on the U.N. When asked whether he’d taken note of her performance thus far in Canada, he said he has ‘not noticed anything that stands out.’ ‘That’s probably good for an ambassador,’ he added.” [Politico]

Bob Barnett, the Williams and Connolly attorney, is shopping around a book by former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn to publishers in New York. [Playbook]

TOP TALKER — Cohen to Testify That Trump Engaged in Criminal Conduct While in Office — by Rebecca Ballhaus and Warren Strobel: “Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, will for the first time publicly accuse the president of criminal conduct while in office… Appearing on Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee, Mr. Cohen also will make public some of Mr. Trump’s private financial statements and allege that Mr. Trump at times inflated or deflated his net worth for business and personal purposes… Mr. Cohen’s testimony is expected to focus on his ‘behind-the-scenes’ accounts of working for Mr. Trump for over a decade, a period during which Mr. Cohen will say he witnessed ‘lies, racism and cheating’ by Mr. Trump.” [WSJNYTimes]

— Emily Jane Fox reports: 
“Cohen has been preparing for this very public moment every day for the last several weeks,” [VanityFair]

ON THE BENCH — In support of Neomi Rao’s nomination to D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the WSJ Editorial Board writes… “Someone should also instruct the young Mr. Hawley on the history of Ronald Reagan’s judicial selection after the failed nominations of Robert Bork and Doug Ginsburg in 1987. The anti-abortion lobby threw its support behind Judge Anthony Kennedy because he was Catholic and anti-abortion in his personal views. Judge Laurence Silberman, the other finalist, was Jewish and thought to be pro-choice in his personal views.” [WSJ]

STATE-SIDE — Pro-Israel Democrats Clash With Leftists In Races For L.A. Party Posts — by Aiden Pink: 
“When arguments about Israel became the central issue in a mundane election for low-level California Democratic Party posts last month, things got weird. There were secret votes, bruised feelings, a cameo by Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign co-chair – and a preview of how the shifting Democratic discourse on Israel could make for a difficult year of caucuses and conventions for pro-Israel advocates… Israel-related issues have also popped up elsewhere in the state. Andrea Beth Damsky, the president of the San Diego County Progressive Democratic Club, told the Forward that… she had been heavily criticized by local activists for going to Israel and the West Bank on a trip arranged by an AIPAC-tied organization.”[Forward]

2020 WATCH — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in newly-released comments she made in an off-the-record session at AIPAC’s Policy Conference last year: “I do believe, walking the halls of the United States Senate these last several months, that this is a shared value. I do believe this is one of the issues that is more obviously not even a bipartisan issue but a nonpartisan issue.”

Harris added that her support for Israel goes back to her childhood: “We would have our little boxes where we were raising money to plant trees for Israel, and we would go around with our box, and you know, I actually never sold Girl Scout cookies, but I raised money to plant trees in Israel.” [HuffPost]

— Bernie Sanders is poised to open up a painful intraparty debate about Israel — by Matthew Yglesias: 
“Because Sanders is Jewish — he even lived on a socialist kibbutz for a time in 1963 — he has a personal connection to the Israel issue that candidates typically lack, as well as a certain credibility to go further in criticisms of the Jewish state than many gentiles would typically be comfortable doing. And the voting public may be eager to hear that.” [Vox]

Sen, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) raised $10 million in less than a week… In a CNN town hall last night, Sanders sounded like he was already running against Trump in a general election… Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) gives a new promise: No fundraisers, phone calls with wealthy donors… GOP donors: Trump campaign lacks a strategy to win in 2020… Trump’s former deputy campaign manager David Bossie launched an effort to blunt a potential 2020 challenge by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan…

** Good Tuesday 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Upstarts challenge private equity’s top tier[FinancialTimes]• Salesforce Chairman and Co-CEO Marc Benioff discusses how AI is transforming the tech industry and beyond on Talks as GS [GoldmanSachs] • Marriott Moxy hotel set for Oakland thanks to Manny Friedman’s EJF Capital’s Opportunity Zone fund [RealDeal• Walmart acquires Israel’s Aspectiva, which analyzes UGC to recommend products to shoppers [TechCrunch• AECOM, Canyon Partners JV will spend $4B to develop properties nationwide [RealDeal] • Warburg Pincus brings in strategic partners for Israel’s Leumi Card [Reuters] 

The Trauma floor: The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America — by Casey Newton: 
“One of Miguel’s colleagues once referred casually to ‘the Holohoax,’ in what Miguel (a content moderator) took as a signal that the man was a Holocaust denier.” [TheVerge]

SPOTLIGHT — It’s Robert Mueller’s Investigation. But Right Behind Him Is Andrew Goldstein — by Noah Weiland and Michael Schmidt: “Mr. Mueller is often portrayed as the omnipotent fact-gatherer, but it is Mr. Goldstein who has a much more involved, day-to-day role in one of the central lines of investigation. Mr. Goldstein, the lone prosecutor in Mr. Mueller’s office who came directly from a corruption unit at the Justice Department, has conducted every major interview of the president’s advisers… And he was one of two prosecutors who relayed to the president’s lawyers dozens of questions about Mr. Trump’s behavior in office that Mr. Mueller wanted the president to answer under oath.”

“As a toddler, Mr. Goldstein accompanied his father, a Republican appointee, to work, until President Jimmy Carter and the attorney general at the time, Griffin B. Bell, pushed the elder Mr. Goldstein to resign, replacing him with a Democrat. Incensed, he talked with his young children at the dinner table about his dismissal, warning of the perils of a politicized Justice Department.” [NYTimes]

LONG READ — The Palestinian-Jewish Author Rocking America’s Literary Scene — by Tzach Yoked: 
“Hannah Lillith Assadi describes herself as dissociated from both Judaism and Islam; even though one year she fasted for the entire month of Ramadan, Judaism played a bigger part in her home life, although even that was minimal. As for many Jewish American families, it amounted largely to a loose connection to Israel, a single trip to the Holy Land, mainly to check it off a list, and a membership at a synagogue where they would go for the High Holidays… When they did attend, her father [Sami] would sometimes come along. Ahlam is much closer to her father than her mother (Susan Assadi) in the book, and he is the more dominant character. But Assadi says that ‘My mother and I speak every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I think she’s a typical Jewish mom — she’s just constantly worried about everything. Me and everything.'” [Haaretz

HOLLYWOOD ― Rare Oscar Win by Israeli Director Has Holy Land Kvelling — by Itay Hod: 
“Israeli morning shows were in full-on celebration mode Monday morning, ditching politics-heavy news for wall-to-wall coverage of filmmaker Guy Nattiv — the first Israeli to take home an Oscar in more than four decades. On Sunday, Nattiv won Best Live Action Short for his movie “Skin” — about a white supremacist father and his young son — giving Israelis a rare and much-welcomed moment of kvelling. ‘It’s all anyone can talk about,’ Amit Cotler, an entertainment reporter for Israel’s Channel 13, told TheWrap. ‘It’s like nothing else is going on in the world right now.'” [TheWrap]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Argentina chief rabbi severely beaten in ‘anti-Semitic’ home invasion — by Joshua Davidovich: 
“Argentina’s chief rabbi was hospitalized in serious condition Monday after being beaten during a home invasion Monday. The attack on Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Once was condemned by Jewish groups as an anti-Semitic attack. The attackers, who entered the home of Davidovich in the pre-dawn hours, shouted ‘We know you are AMIA’s rabbi,’ while beating him… Davidovich’s wife was restrained and the assailants took money and belongings from the home before fleeing,” [ToI]

Police in NYC are investigating the second set of swastikas found in the last three days — by Evan Simko-Bednarski and Augusta Anthony: 
“For the second time in three days, the New York City Police Department is investigating swastikas found scrawled in places where children play. Two swastikas were discovered some time between Sunday night and Monday morning at Brighton Playground in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn… The graffiti was discovered after dozens of swastikas, a Nazi eagle and the words “Hail Hitler” (sic) were found Friday morning drawn in chalk on the pavement of a Queens schoolyard.” [CNN]

An Open Letter To The American Left: Don’t Make The Mistakes We Did In Britain — by Rachel Shabi: 
“I have some advice for Democrats looking to avoid the scorched earth on which UK progressives now stand. First, deal with anti-Semitism on the left — and yes, that’s an actual thing, not a smear concocted by political opponents. In fact, this might be the most important advice, namely: Do not let your opponents define the terms of your response to a very real problem. When accusations of anti-Semitism come from the right, it is all too easy to react defensively, rail against double standards, and cast the issue solely as a weapon of attack rather than a genuine problem… It’s true: Cynical exploitation of anti-Semitism is as real as anti-Semitism itself. But focusing only on this creates a decoy that will divide your movement.”[BuzzFeed]

CAMPUS BEAT — Wharton receives $10 million from 76ers owner and alum Joshua Harris — by Anushree Aneja: 
“Owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and 1986 Wharton graduate Joshua Harris and his wife Marjorie donated $10 million to the Wharton School as part of the university-wide Power of Penn fundraising campaign. The donation will create the Joshua J. Harris Alternative Investments Program to expand research opportunities for students and host events that connect students to alumni and experts in the industry. The new program will focus on research and programming in private equity, hedge funds, venture capital, and investment management.” [DailyPennsylvanian]

Robert Kraft Facing First-Degree Misdemeanors in Prostitution Case — by Ken Belson, Victor Mather 
and Patricia Mazzei: “Three weeks and a day after he watched his team win its sixth Super Bowl championship, Robert K. Kraft was formally charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution… State Attorney Dave Aronberg of Palm Beach County increased the severity of the charges to two first-degree misdemeanors.” [NYTimes• Robert Kraft hugs it out with Tom Brady after prostitution bust[NYPost]

DESSERT — A kosher couple in Silver Spring wanted Chinese — so they bought a restaurant, the Holy Chow — by John Kelly: “The Schreibers were confident they’d find an audience for kosher Chinese food — so confident they took out a home-equity loan — but they knew they couldn’t be the ones doing the actual cooking. Kosher, they know. Chinese, not so much. They advertised in Chinese-language papers for a head chef and, after a few false starts, brought David Sun aboard.” [WashPost]

Babka Makes These Treats Better — by Florence Fabricant: 
“With their new Babka Menschkins, Alicia and Daniel Mekelburg have faced off against Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins doughnut holes, down to the packaging. But the Mekelburgs form their treats with cinnamon babka, a delicious variation that stays fresher longer than the average doughnut hole.”[NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Founder and editor-in-chief of Tablet Magazine, Alana Newhouse… American sociologist now living in Israel, he is a professor emeritus of sociology and Jewish studies at Rutgers University, Chaim Isaac Waxman, Ph.D. turns 78… Billionaire, art collector, philanthropist and political activist, President of the World Jewish Congress since 2007, active in rebuilding Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe, Ronald Lauder turns 75… Las Vegas resident, Chantal Reuss turns 73… Singer and songwriter in multiple musical genres, who has sold over 75 million records, Michael Bolton turns 66… President of Turkey since 2014, Recep Tayyip Erdogan turns 65… Baltimore community activist, Julie Levitt Applebaumturns 62… Member of Knesset since 1988, he is a member of the Likud party, he also serves as Regional Cooperation Minister, Yitzhak “Tzachi” Hanegbi turns 62…

United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey (2009-2017), now a partner at Arnold & Porter and a visiting fellow at Seton Hall Law School, Paul J. Fishman turns 62… President of Perception Neuroscience since 2017 after long stints at Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, Jonathan Sporn, M.D. turns 61… Director of digital research at Lake Research Partners and SVP of digital strategies at turner4D, Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D. turns 57… Chief Planning Officer of the Paramus-based Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Lisa Harris Glass turns 53… Former president of MLB’s Miami Marlins (2002-2017), in 2014 he was a player in the 28th season of Survivor, David P. Samson turns 51… Motivational speaker, focused on anti-bullying, Jon Pritikin turns 46… Brett Michael Kaufman turns 25…

Daily Kickoff: ‘Sports owners aren’t gods’ | The Religion of Workism is making Americans miserable | How Barbra Streisand honored Spike Lee

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OH HOW THE MIGHTY — Later today, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is expected to be formally charged for soliciting prostitution in a Florida massage parlor. Kraft, who denied the accusations through a spokesman, was in Los Angeles over the weekend where he attended a Friday night bash thrown by Ron Perelman and a pre-Oscars lunch on Saturday hosted by Barry Diller.

President Trump stood by his longtime friend on Friday. “He’s proclaimed his innocence totally — but I’m very surprised to see it,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

How much damage has Robert Kraft done to his reputation? — by Ben Volin: “If Robert Kraft is only charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution, and isn’t connected to the human trafficking associated with the Jupiter, Fla., massage parlor, then the Patriots owner has a chance to resolve his legal troubles quickly and relatively painlessly… Technically, each count could cost him up to 60 days in jail, but ‘nobody ever goes to jail for a first offense of a second-degree misdemeanor,’ said Valentin Rodriguez, a West Palm Beach, Fla., criminal defense attorney. ‘The penalty really for this offense is the embarrassment that comes with it,’ Rodriguez said.” [BostonGlobe

Mr. Kraft’ and the Sports Owner God Complex — by Jason Gay: “This isn’t to say that Kraft hasn’t done great things for his team, his sport or in decades of philanthropy. But it turns out he is human, mortal, and fallible. Owners aren’t gods or royalty. On game day, or any other day, sports shouldn’t treat them as such.” [WSJ

Robert Kraft, accused of soliciting prostitution, gave hundreds of millions to charitable causes — by Joey Garrison: “Just weeks ago, before Robert Kraft won his sixth Super Bowl as owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots, he was awarded perhaps a greater honor. The Genesis Prize is given to leaders of Jewish heritage ‘who have attained international renown in their chosen professional fields’ and ‘have made a significant contribution to improving the world.’ It’s sometimes called the Jewish Nobel Prize. The announcement capped decades of good works by the billionaire businessman, an icon not only in professional sports but in philanthropy.” [USAToday]

WHAT DOES GENESIS DO NOW? — Last September, the Genesis Prize Foundation announced the 37 winners of its Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality grants. In light of Friday’s large-scale human-trafficking and prostitution bust involving the honoree of Genesis’ 2019 prize, will the organization issue a statement? Or will they stay quiet and hope this episode passes? Genesis did not respond to our request for comment.

Background: Genesis has had to cancel their award ceremony in Israel the past two years after winners Natalie Portman and Anish Kapoor backed out of participating. The decision to pick Kraft, a close friend of both Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump, appeared to be an effort to avoid having to cancel the ceremony again due to political concerns.

 For the full story on Portman’s decision at the time, read our detailed report [JewishInsider]

KAFE KNESSET — Bibi Distills Campaign Message — by Neri Zilber: Now trailing in the polls to Blue and White (led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid), Netanyahu took to social media to make his pitch directly to the public. The message was distilled and defiantHe accused the future “left-wing Lapid-Gantz government” of counting on the Arab parties for a parliamentary blocking majority; of pressuring the AG to indict him “at any cost and before the election” on spurious corruption charges; and of withholdingfrom him the basic right to mount a legal defense.” Read the entire Kafe Knesset by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES — The outrage over Netanyahu’s alliance with the extremist Jewish Power party intensified over the weekend as AIPAC — in a statement on Twitter — joined the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and other major U.S. Jewish organizations in criticizing Netanyahu’s move. Despite its criticism, AIPAC confirmed in a late Saturday night announcement that Netanyahu will speak at its upcoming Policy Conference in Washington, DC (March 24-26). Gantz and Lapid were also invited to address the conference.

David Kreizelman, a former AIPAC foreign policy associate: “This has been growing for a long time, because Netanyahu over the past years has really been detrimental to AIPAC’s entire concept of bipartisan politics in the United States. He has been hurting that for a long time.” [ToI]

Netanyahu responded to the criticism in a Facebook post. “They denounce a bloc on the right with right-wing parties while the left has acted to put extremist Islamists into the Knesset to create a bloc that would overtake the right,” he wrote in Hebrew. Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom daily had a screaming headline calling AIPAC “irresponsible” for getting involved in domestic politics. Itamar Ben-Gvir, a Jewish Power leader, issued a short video clip blasting AIPAC and calling for it to “first move to Israel” and “pay the price” before they opine about its politics. “It’s clear that AIPAC wants to elevate the left to power,” he added.

Dan Arbell, an Associate Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) — Americas, tells us: “The fact that AIPAC chose to direct attention to a domestic issue, a contested issue in Israeli politics is rare. This is important and not something that you can ignore. It’s obviously a call for Bibi to be more considerate of the American Jewish community. But still, those who think that the AIPAC is going against Bibi or that Bibi is no longer in the favors of the good folks of AIPAC is the wrong assumption. And I believe that we’ll see it when the prime minister speaks at the AIPAC annual conference.”

IPF’s Susie Gelman: “I applaud the nearly unanimous condemnation by major American Jewish organizations of this outrageous move that defies all acceptable norms and values. Netanyahu’s response to this criticism was only in Hebrew, not English, so most likely it was directed at an Israeli audience. I would only add that, in Israel, the term ‘left’ has come to be synonymous with ‘traitor’ and is widely used to dismiss the legitimacy of any criticism. It’s not surprising that Bibi would lash out at his critics rather than take responsibility for what he has done.”

Yossi Klein Halevi writes… “The desecration of Israel: Netanyahu has committed the secular equivalent of Hillul Hashem: He has desecrated the name of Israel. We have at least this much to be grateful for to Netanyahu and to the leaders of the Jewish Home party: They have clarified the defining issue of this election, a referendum over whether the next government of Israel will be a government of Hillul Hashem.” [ToI]

Rabbi Benny Lau, in his sermon Shabbat morning in Jerusalem, equated the ideology of Jewish Power with that of Nazism. “A vote for [Bayit Yehudi] is a vote for the racism of Kahane,” the Jerusalem Post reported the rabbi telling his congregation.

Gershom Gorenberg: “Unlike Netanyahu’s alleged bribe-taking, his pact with the hate-spewing Kahanists is not illegal. Yet historically and morally, it is an even greater offense.” [WashPost]

Conference of Presidents’ Malcolm Hoenlein told the Associated Press: “For those who follow this, there’s a lot of concern… [Netanyahu] obviously has some political calculation that drove him to it, but politics can’t dictate everything. You have to take into consideration all of the ramifications and all of the concerns.” [AP]

Ben Rhodes tweeted“AIPAC is suddenly shocked, shocked that Bibi is a far right politician when they have been enabling his rightward move for years.”

HEARD ON CABLE — Jake Tapper asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the issue on CNN’s State of the Union — Tapper: Does the Trump administration have any concerns about Netanyahu extending outreach to this racist political party?

Pompeo: “The United States relationship with Israel, we’re not about to get involved in an election, to interfere in an election of a democracy. Election campaigns are tough. We’ll allow the Israeli people to sort this out, and I am confident that when the election’s over the United States will continue to have a strong, important, very, very deep relationship with Israel that protects the American people and benefits Israel as well.”

Tapper: “Is it not the responsibility of an ally of Israel to reach out and say when you think the prime minister is doing something… that violates the values of that relationship and the values of the Jewish state?

Pompeo: “This administration has been very vocal when we see human rights violations wherever we find them – friends, foes, adversaries, allies. We’ve been very consistent. We do it in different ways. We do it at different times. We will certainly continue to do that.” [Video]

Defender of World Order or Trump Mouthpiece? Pompeo Is Tested by Iran and U.S. Allies — by David Sanger and Edward Wong: “A senior aide said Mr. Pompeo ‘has been all about Iran,’ dating to his time in Congress… Mr. Pompeo is banking that sanctions on Iran will compel political change there… To his frustration, the European countries that negotiated the nuclear deal alongside the United States — Britain, France, Germany — refuse to follow Washington’s lead… Few other issues have so poisoned relations with allies.” [NYTimes

TALK OF THE REGION — First joint EU-Arab summit, an opportunity to protect against China and Russia: “Host Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi painted a ‘bleak’ picture for a region hit by wars and terrorism as he appealed for deeper cooperation, in his opening Arab-European Summit speech at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh… EU sources said the first EU-Arab summit is all the more important as the United States ‘disengages’ from the region while Russia and China make inroads… Sisi called for resolving the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict and settling more recent wars and conflicts in Libya, Yemen and Syria. ‘The picture is, in fact, bleak at present,’ said Sisi.”  [France24TheNational]

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — In a meeting with Jewish visitors in Cairo last Tuesday, Egyptian President El-Sisi reportedly told the guests that he would like to see “the revival of a Jewish community in Egypt and should that happen the government would provide appropriate religious needs.” [Pic

The Muslim World Looks On as China Persecutes Its Muslims — by Yaroslav Trofimov: “Virtually all Muslim leaders are equally quiet, in contrast to the steady stream of condemnation that they shower on Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians and on Myanmar for the Rohingya crisis.” [WSJ]

JI INTERVIEW — Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spoke with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh at the 33rd annual International Mayor’s Conference, led by the American Jewish Congress, at the Jerusalem City Council Hall Chambers. [Pic]

“There is a wave of anti-Semitism that has been growing around the world. In Pittsburgh, we’ve been unfortunately a victim of where hate speech leads to hate crime. My goal here is to simply make sure that people understand that you’re not going to be able to defeat hate with hate,” Peduto explained why he is visiting Israel on this mission. “The Jewish community in Pittsburgh came together very quickly after October 27th, and the greater community rallied around them. I hope to have the opportunity to talk with the mayors from around the world how the importance of that aspect of dealing with a tragedy is the only way that we’ll be able to address this issue.”

“In the darkness of the Tree of Life shooting, there were bright examples of shining light,” Peduto added. “The support that Pittsburgh got not only from the rest of this country and Israel, but the rest of the world. I hope that no other city has to go through that nor any other group has to go through it. But it’s very important to realize that the support that the Jewish community received in Pittsburgh was universal.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]

TRANSITION — Saudi Arabia Names a Princess as Ambassador to Washington — by Ben Hubbard: “Saudi Arabia appointed a princess as its new ambassador to the United States on Saturday, the first time the kingdom has named a woman to such a post… Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan will replace Prince Khalid bin Salman, a son of King Salman and a younger brother of the crown prince, who took the post in 2017. Also in a royal decree on Saturday, Prince Khalid was named deputy defense minister under the crown prince.” [NYTimesFinancialTimes]

ON THE HILL — Concerns rise over Neomi Rao, Trump’s D.C. Circuit nominee — by Jonathan Swan: “A new obstacle has emerged in the path to Neomi Rao replacing Brett Kavanaugh on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court… A source close to the White House confirmation process told me that Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has “deep concerns” about Rao’s judicial philosophy and has raised these concerns with a number of key figures including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.” [Axios]

TRI-STATE SCENE: Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) addressed AIPAC leaders at Young Israel of Staten Island on Sunday. [Pic]

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) in remarks at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley on Sunday: “I will continue to be a very clear and strong voice for Israel. But we have an important responsibility to hold all of our leaders, including all presidential candidates, accountable for their positions on this critical issue.” [Pic]

WHY TWEET THIS? — Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted on Sunday: “‘We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become.’ — Benito Mussolini.”

2020 WATCH — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) released off-the-record AIPAC remarks after being asked about them in Iowa on Sunday… Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is set to hold his first 2020 campaign rally in Brooklyn on Saturday… Maryland Governor Larry Hogan urged Republicans to look beyond the ‘shrinking base’…

** Good Monday 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Deal for 6,000 apartments marks Kushner Cos. biggest acquisition in more than a decade [WSJ• It Started With a Jolt: How New York Became a Tech Town [NYTimes• Drone maker Airobotics moving production from Israel to Arizona [Reuters]

STARTUP NATION — How an Israeli start-up turned the cellphone into a testing lab for kidney disease — by Lori Ioannou: “An Israeli digital health start-up called Healthy.io has developed an FDA-cleared at-home smartphone urinalysis test to help people test their kidneys for proteins, a sign of damage to the organ. Early detection makes an enormous difference in avoiding complications from kidney disease.” [CNBC• Israeli startups join firms making lab-grown ‘clean meat’ [ABCNews]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Hearst Magazines Chairman, David Carey in a conversation with LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff on the KindredCast podcast: “Your business is proudly in the TMT space, right? But it actually stands for something different than you thought. I think it stands for Tumult, Mayhem and Turbulence.” [KindredCast

SPOTLIGHT — How Norwegian Cruise’s Chief Navigates the Sea-Suite — by Laine Higgins: “Now the chief executive of Norwegian, the third-largest cruise line by global market share, Frank Del Rio seeks advice from people whose skills complement his… One of his trusted advisors is Russell Galbut, Chairman of Norwegian Cruise Lines and managing principal of Crescent Heights: Over the course of the 17 years he has served on the boards of Del Rio’s companies, Mr. Galbut has become an important sounding board for questions of strategy. And while Mr. Del Rio admires his board member’s business acumen, he places the highest value on his integrity. ‘He always takes the high road. It’s part of the company’s culture.'” [WSJ]

TALK OF THE NATION — The religion of: Workism is making Americans miserable — by Derek Thompson: “The economists of the early 20th century did not foresee that work might evolve from a means of material production to a means of identity production. They failed to anticipate that, for the poor and middle class, work would remain a necessity; but for the college-educated elite, it would morph into a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community. Call it workism.”

“The best-educated and highest-earning Americans, who can have whatever they want, have chosen the office for the same reason that devout Christians attend church on Sundays: It’s where they feel most themselves… One of the benefits of being an observant Christian, Muslim, or Zoroastrian is that these God-fearing worshippers put their faith in an intangible and unfalsifiable force of goodness. But work is tangible, and success is often falsified. To make either the centerpiece of one’s life is to place one’s esteem in the mercurial hands of the market.” [TheAtlantic]

AT THE OSCARS — Barbra Streisand Honors Spike Lee’s ‘Real,’ ‘Horrifying’ BlacKkKlansman — by Evan Real: “Barbra Streisand took the stage Sunday at the 2019 Oscars to introduce best picture nominee BlacKkKlansman. In a touching speech, the Academy Award-winning actress revealed what she loved so much about Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed film… ‘So, after a lifetime of bold, game-changing work, here is Spike Lee’s masterpiece,’ Streisand said, seemingly referencing the fact that despite decades of groundbreaking work, BlacKkKlansman is Lee’s first film to be nominated for an Oscar. ‘The story of the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who joins forces with his Jewish colleague to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan — that is funny already.'”[HollywoodReporter] • Israeli Oscar winner promises to bring award to Israel [ToI]

SPORTS BLINK — Remember The Ringleader — by Michael McKnight: “For more than a century Ajax, the finest football club in Holland, has had a strong Jewish identity, not because of Eddy Hamel, the first Jew to play for them (and one of only five in the team’s history), but because of the Wooden Stadium’s proximity to Jodenbuurt—Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter. In Hamel’s day, and even before, lower-middle-class Jews formed the bulk of Ajax’s fanbase. That association still lingers today. At the team’s Champions League match against Real Madrid on Wednesday, Ajax supporters who aren’t the slightest bit Jewish will file into Johan Cruyff Arena waving flags and bearing tattoos that depict the Star of David, chanting the Dutch word for ‘Jews’: YO-den! YO-den! … Hamel’s Jewish heritage is irrelevant to his soccer career, other than the retroactive sense of foreboding it provides today, for his playing days ran concurrent with Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.”[SportsIllustrated]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Are Uggs kosher? Rabbis say the boots might violate Jewish law — by Chavie Lieber: “Ugg is categorically denying that its shoes are made with both wool and linen. In an email to me, Ugg senior service manager Mandi Geary says that the company has ‘been contacted by numerous members of the Jewish community following the release of erroneous information that our products contain both wool and linen. Please be assured that none of our current UGG footwear products contain both wool and linen.’ But according to the Shatnez Test Center in Lakewood, New Jersey, seven different types of Ugg footwear styles were found to have wool and linen in them.” [Vox]

DESSERT — In NY, new gluten-free bagel joint transforms after dark to chic kosher gourmet — by Cathryn Prince: “Orly Gottesman, the founder and CEO of Blends by Orly, a line of gluten-free flours and baking supplies, and executive chef Nir Zook, are fusing their talents in a new Upper West Side restaurant venture. By day, the space will be ‘Modern Bread & Bagel,’ a gluten-free and kosher bagel café. By night the space will transform into ‘Arba,’ a Mediterranean gourmet, gluten-free dairy and fish restaurant.” [ToI]

BIRTHDAYS: Owner of MLB’s Chicago White Sox (since 1981) and the NBA’s Chicago Bulls (since 1985), Jerry M. Reinsdorf turns 83… Former talk show host, Sally Jessy Raphael (born Sally Lowenthal) turns 84… President of the Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore (1979-1986), then EVP of the UJA-Federation of New York (1986-1999), then first-ever CEO of United Jewish Communities, Stephen Solender turns 81… Visiting scholar at NYU, he is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, formerly CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (2005-2015), Steve Gutow turns 70… Jerusalem-based attorney who has practiced in the US as well, chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel and a VP of Republicans Overseas, L. Marc Zell turns 66… Chief of the General Staff of the IDF (2007-2011), he is now 4th on the list for the Blue & White party in the 2019 Knesset election, Gabi Ashkenazi turns 65… Opinion columnist and podcast contributor for the New York Times since 2016, after 9 years as the NYT’s editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal turns 63… VP of Communications at CNN, Barbara Levin turns 63… CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo since 2015 after a 20-year career at Hillel, Rob Goldberg turns 60…

Co-President of Paterson, New Jersey-based JNS-SmithChem, LLC, Michael F. Smith turns 58… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who served as the deputy national editor of the Washington Post, she is now the director of news and new initiatives for Facebook, Anne Elise Kornblut turns 46… Travel planner based in Southport, Connecticut, she was previously SVP of marketing and communications at NBC News, Lauren Raps turns 46… Comedian, actress and writer, Chelsea Joy Handler turns 44… Actress, comic book author, producer, singer and screenwriter, best known for her roles in NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and Fox’s “Boston Public,” Rashida Jones turns 43… General manager of Covenant Wines in Berkeley, California, previously at Larkmead Vineyard in Napa Valley, Sagie Kleinlerer turns 42… Assistant Director at San Francisco-based EUQINOM  Gallery, Lyla Rose Holdstein turns 37… Actor best known for his role in Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle, he is the founder and head of programming at Richard Branson’s Virgin Produced, Justin Berfield turns 33… Born in Tel Aviv, raised in Arizona, in August 2017 she moved from being Politico’s reporter covering media and politics to CNN where she is covering European business and media, Hadas Gold turns 31… 2013 US national figure skating champion, Maxwell Theodore “Max” Aaron turns 27… Julie Goldman

Daily Kickoff: The donors who funded SpaceIL’s moonshot | Kushner’s Middle East tour | Why Startup Nation still relies on fax machines

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TOP TALKER — Rachel Maddow reveals former GOP VP’s secret financial deal with Saudis to ‘wage a scorched earth political war on Jews’ — by Bob Brigham: “MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow revealed never-before-seen documents that appear to show former Republican Vice President Spiro Agnew engaged in a $2 million international conspiracy to [fight] Jewish citizens in America… The host revealed a 1980 telegram from Agnew to Ahmed Abdul Wahab, the chief of royal protocol for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, asking for an audience with Crown Prince Fah’d.”

“Agnew then followed up with a detailed description of what he would be requesting in the meeting. ‘Spiro Agnew was writing to solicit their help to lead a propaganda campaign in the United States to expose the Jews — to wage a scorched earth political war on Jews in America,’ Maddow explained. Agnew requested that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia deposit $2 million in a Swiss bank account so Agnew could live off of $200,000 in interest a year… ‘About a month later… Agnew drafted another letter thanking the Saudi Crown Prince for coming through for him with the funds,’ Maddow noted.” [RawStoryVideo]

ISRAEL TO THE MOON — Israel’s Beresheet Moon mission gets underway — by Jonathan Amos: “Israel’s first Moon mission has launched on a Falcon rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida… The Falcon put Beresheet high above the Earth from where it must now make its own way to the Moon – a two-month trip.” [BBCToIWatch the launch here [Video]

— “NASA installed a small laser retroreflector aboard the lander to test its potential as a navigation tool. The agency also provided images of the Moon’s surface to help the engineers identify a landing site for the mission. NASA will also use its deep space telecommunications network to transmit images and science data home to SpaceIL and its partners.” [NASA]

Buzz Aldrin‏ tweeted“Talking to my good friend in mission control at Team SpaceIL.” [Pic]

Mel Brooks“Jews in space! #HistoryOfTheWorldPart1.”

How Israel’s Moon Lander Got to the Launchpad — by Kenneth Chang: “Back in November 2010, it was a rush for the SpaceIL founders just to get to the starting line. The Google competition had been announced three years earlier. About 30 teams had already entered, and the deadline for submissions was the end of the year. From friends and family, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub scrounged $50,000 for the entry fee, and on Dec. 31, they sent in the money and the paperwork with less than two hours to spare. From the beginning, their pitch was geared to philanthropists, not venture capitalists… One of the people who heard their presentation was Morris Kahn, an Israeli telecommunications billionaire. ‘I gave them $100,000, no questions asked,’ Mr. Kahn said, ‘and I said, ‘Start.’’ Mr. Kahn became president of SpaceIL.”

“Now SpaceIL is approaching its end in a few months. ‘A day after, all of us will need to look for a job,’ said Eran Shmidt, deputy manager of SpaceIL. Mr. Winetraub joked, ‘This is a great job description. If it’s successful, then you’re fired.'” [NYTimes

— The other billionaires who made it happen — by Jackie Wattles: “Miriam and Sheldon Adelson… gave a total of $24 million. Other major SpaceIL backers who gave around $5 million each include Nancy and Stephen Grand, a US real estate developer; The Schusterman Foundation, which is backed by an oil and gas fortune; Sami Sagol, whose family made their money in plastics manufacturing; and Canadian-Israeli real estate developer Sylvan Adams.” [CNNBusiness]

TALK OF THE REGION — Jared Kushner Is Preparing for Another Face-to-Face Meeting with MBS — by Emily Jane Fox: “This weekend, Jared Kushner will board a military plane and embark on a six-country trip to present foreign diplomats with part of his long-awaited proposal to solve an epic quandary and bring peace to the Middle East… Over the course of seven days, Kushner’s team will travel to Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey. They will also make a stop in Saudi Arabia, where Kushner plans to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It will be the first time the two will meet since 15 Saudis brutally strangled Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi… The uncomfortable optics of the meeting are not lost on those planning the road show. But Kushner is meeting with the heads of states from the region, a person familiar with the trip explained, and MBS is a head of state.” [VanityFair]

Trump Shifts Course to Keep 200 Troops in Syria — by Alex Leary and Dion Nissenbaum: “The U.S. will maintain a small peacekeeping force of about 200 troops in Syria despite President Trump’s earlier decision to remove all American troops… The announcement of the partial reversal came after the White House released a brief summary of a conversation between President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier Thursday… The move signals a small victory for members of the Trump administration and lawmakers who have pressed the president to keep some U.S. forces in Syria to ensure that Islamic State doesn’t regroup and counter Iran.” [WSJ]

Audience of One: Why Flattery Works in Trump’s Foreign Policy — by Susan Glasser: “[Sen. Lindsey] Graham (R-SC) has been particularly incensed over the President’s recent decision to unilaterally pull U.S. forces out of Syria. In [a] private meeting in Munich, Graham dropped an F-bomb on the acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, when Shanahan told the members of Congress that Trump had ordered him to make sure all forces were out by April… If Graham was exasperated with Trump, however, it wasn’t evident in public the next day, when he appeared on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ from Munich. On the show, Graham was once again the over-the-top Trump loyalist… By this Thursday evening, Graham’s office was sending out a delighted press release, headlined ‘Graham Applauds Trump Decision to Leave Troops in Syria.'” [NewYorker]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Trump’s anti-Semitism envoy assures American Jewish leaders that president is committed to protecting Jews — by Sam Sokol: “Elan Carr appeared to charm delegates of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who hosted the envoy on Thursday… Carr declared that the president ‘could not be more passionate about the issue’ of fighting anti-Semitism and had ‘spent considerable time speaking about anti-Semitism in his State of the Union address.’ … Carr also praised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying that Pompeo ‘couldn’t be more determined’ to wipe out the ‘disease’ of Jew hatred. ‘It’s the business of this administration and of the United States to fight anti-Semitism.'” [JTAPic]

HAPPENING ON SUNDAY — Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion will be hosting a delegation of mayors from around the world at the 33rd Annual International Mayor’s Conference, led by the American Jewish Congress, at the Jerusalem City Council Hall Chambers.

, President and Chairman of the American Jewish Congress, discussed the annual mission to Israel and support for Israel in the U.S. in an interview with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh.

“We try to identify mayors who have a voice in the community and a potential voice in the international political arena, who will become future leaders, with a voice to speak out against anti-Semitism and in support of Israel,” Rosen said, boasting that four mayors who had attended  the conference in the last six years went on to become heads of states. This year, one of the U.S. attendees is Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto.

Rosen on the rise of anti-Semitic acts and rhetoric in the U.S.: “The fact that it is front and center in public platforms is really troubling, and it’s reinforcing the problem in reaching levels that I think people who don’t know the facts misunderstand. And it’s giving, I think, a public voice to people like [Rep. Ilhan] Omar and [Rashida] Tlaib. Today, coupled with what happened in Pittsburgh and in Charlottesville, it all has risen to a good conversation level, but I think it’s out of proportion. And that hurts us. The more people who think they can come forward and show their anti-Israel attitude and anti-Semitic, the worse it is for us. And I think we give license to that today. I know we have an increase in anti-Semitism. But today, it’s the talk of the media and at the dinner tables. The President gets involved. That can’t help — unless they all do something about it rather than just speak about it.”

Rosen, a longtime donor to Democratic party candidates, said he’s concerned about the growing “extreme progressive movement” within the Democratic Party that is shifting the conversation on Israel. “As I said to Nancy Pelosi, ‘I’m a progressive, too — a Jewish kid who grew up in the Bronx to liberal parents.’ So I’m a progressive like Bernie Sanders. It’s just that I love Israel and want to manage a little bit of my own money. Otherwise, I’m pretty progressive. But there’s an extreme wing that has had a larger voice than they deserve. And it’s become part of the political process,” Rosen stressed. “I don’t think the majority of Democrats have changed their position on Israel or they’ve become anti-Semites. But you have this extreme wing that controls the primary process.”

Rosen on 2020: “I’m concerned about two things. One is certainly what will the Democratic party platform be on Israel because the progressives will have a voice. I’m much more concerned about what is that message to young people who were never touched with the question of anti-Semitism or Israel. I don’t think that the candidates will alter their views and express any different opinions than they’ve had before. They may go against some of the Likud forces and talk positively about a two state solution, and maybe some of the Israelis on the right won’t like that. But that’s an accepted policy. I don’t think you’ll find people speaking out in favor of BDS, either. That’s not going to happen.”

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Capitol Hill was quiet while Congress worked from home this week, but members shared their travels and thoughts on Twitter. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) visited the Columbian border with Venezuela between Sunday and Monday. He was joined by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Carlos Trujillo, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States… Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) cheekily tweeted support for a joint resolution to terminate the president’s national emergency declaration… Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) weighed in on the Jussie Smollett controversy.

On Thursday, three ranking Democratic committee members sent a letter to President Trump criticizing him for withholding critical information related to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, one week before the second summit will take place in Vietnam between the president and Kim Jung Un.

Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-NY), Adam Smith (D-WA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairmen from the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, respectively, called out statements by the president’s national security team that are in contradiction to the Administration’s statements of the threat posed by North Korea. “We are perplexed and troubled by the growing disconnect between the Intelligence Community’s assessment and your administration’s statements about Kim Jong Un’s actions, commitments, and intentions,” the members wrote in the letter. The congressmen called for a full report of the first and second summit to be presented to Congress by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo within at least seven days of the conclusion of the summit.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — The General Who Wants to Topple Netanyahu Expands Rival Bloc: “Benjamin Netanyahu is facing his most formidable election challenge yet after his top rival teamed with another large opposition party to run together in Israel’s April 9 vote… Polls Thursday showed the new alliance surging to as many as 36 seats to become the Knesset’s largest party, passing Netanyahu’s Likud, which ranged from 26 to 32 seats. Yet Netanyahu, with the support of religious and nationalist partners, still appeared best positioned to form a governing coalition with at least 61 of the legislature’s 120 seats.“ [Bloomberg]

THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES — Abe Foxman tweets“Legitimizing racist candidates in the forthcoming Israeli election undermines Israeli democracy and its values. There is still time to reconsider this cynical political step.”

A Wider Bridge called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to “put the future of Israel and the Jewish people ahead of political expediency by ending this relationship, effective immediately.” The American Jewish Committee (AJC), initially refusing to comment on internal Israeli politics, released a statementdenouncing Otzma Yehudit’s racist views on Thursday.

Jewish Democratic groups also criticized Netanyahu. “For those of us who care about Israel’s future, this is a deeply concerning political development that goes against our core values,” the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) said on Twitter. Democratic Majority for Israel’s co-chair Ann Lewis said in a statement: “Because we at Democratic Majority for Israel believe in a strong and democratic Israel, we are compelled to speak out against the possibility that followers of radical racist Meir Kahane could enter Israel’s parliament.”

Henry Siegman, President of the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP), writes… “Netanyahu’s agitation to bring the former Israeli Kach party into the circle of political parties supporting his candidacy… may finally have outraged even the old line grandees of the American Jewish establishment organizations who until now have not allowed Netanyahu’s outreach to racist and anti-Semitic governments to compromise their support for Netanyahu… By aligning himself with Jewish terrorists that the U.S. government has barred from entry into America, and that previous Israeli governments barred from Israel’s political life, Netanyahu may finally have crossed a line that even these loyalists can no longer abide.” [NationalInterest]

Netanyahu’s Most Cynical Ploy Yet — by Eli Lake: Even if no Kahanists serve in a future government, the prime minister’s political embrace of them is a stain that cannot be ignored. For this reason alone, Netanyahu and his coalition deserve to lose power.” [Bloomberg]

WATCH — Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi, who was a follower of Meir Kahana as a teenager, explains on i24News that Kahane’s movement took on attributes of religious politics similar to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. [Video]

2020 WATCH — Maryland Governor Larry Hogan ripped the RNC for shielding Trump from a primary challenge… Hillary Clinton met with Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar on 2020… In a speech on Thursday, Biden called on candidates not to ‘aid and abet’ foreign election interference… Sanders tappedSan Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen as campaign co-chairs.

It’s Foreign Policy That Distinguishes Bernie This Time — by Peter Beinart: “What distinguishes Sanders is the same quality that distinguished him on domestic policy in 2016: his willingness to cross red lines that have long defined the boundaries of acceptable opinion. One clear example is Israel. Most of the Senate Democrats running for president have shifted left on the subject… But Sanders has gone much further: He’s produced videos that call Gaza an ‘open-air prison,’ he’s depicted Benjamin Netanyahu as part of the ‘growing worldwide movement toward authoritarianism,’ and, most controversially of all, he’s suggested cutting U.S. military aid to Israel.” [TheAtlantic]

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Philip Roth’s Manhattan Home Goes on the Market for $3.2 Million [WSJ• Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff is out — co-founder Rich Barton is taking over [CNBC• Qlik buys Attunity in $560m cash deal [Globes] • U.S. Ambassador to Italy Lewis Eisenberg visited the Rome headquarters of Italian phone group Telecom Italia on Wednesday [ChannelNewsAsia

STARTUP NATION — Why Startup Nation still relies on fax machines — by Felicia Schwartz: “In a country dubbed Startup Nation for its booming technology sector, everyday business in Israel is often a low-tech affair. Fax machines remain an important part of life, buying a book online can take weeks and most banking issues can be dealt with only in person at the branch where an account was opened. Natalie Blenford, a British-Israeli actress in Tel Aviv, said she cried in the bank after waiting hours to set up an account. ‘That’s the paradox of Israel. A modern country with one foot in the future, one foot in the Bible,’ Ms. Blenford said… Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, last year moved to allow Israelis to communicate with government agencies by email instead of fax. The law, however, excluded banks, credit companies and telecommunications companies, which can continue to demand faxes.” [WSJ]

MEDIA WATCH — Altice Eyes Viewers Tired of Trump With New Cable News Channel i24News — by Cynthia Littleton: “Altice USA, which owns the former Cablevision systems in the New York area, has used its market clout to gain distribution for i24News on Comcast and Charter Communications, the nation’s two largest cable operators. At the same time, Altice USA has increased its investment in the News 12 regional channels that serve Long Island and other markets covered by Altice’s Optimum cable systems. [Patrick] Drahi… sees i24News as a vital independent source of information for viewers in the Middle East, and a market opportunity in the U.S. for those who seek out international news.” [Variety]

HOLLYWOOD — Netflix’s ‘Shtisel’ Is Binge-Worthy TV on a Strict Form of Judaism — by Joseph Berger: “While there have been a handful of movies about the group, like ‘Felix and Meira’ and ‘Fill the Void,’ ‘Shtisel’ is the first television series in America exclusively focused on ultra-Orthodox Judaism… A word-of-mouth grapevine of emails and Facebook posts lauding the show’s touching characters and its humor has flourished online, particularly among Jewish viewers. Netflix does not comment on ratings. But interviews and anecdotal evidence suggest that Jewish viewers, some gentile viewers and even many Haredim, who generally shun television, are bingeing on the series. The response on social media has been so strong since the show started streaming on Netflix in December that the creators are contemplating a third season.” [NYTimes]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Federal prosecutors broke law in Jeffrey Epstein case, judge rules — by Julie Brown: “Federal prosecutors, under former Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by wealthy New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, a federal judge ruled Thursday. While the decision marks a victory for crime victims, the federal judge, Kenneth A. Marra, stopped short of overturning Epstein’s plea deal, or issuing an order resolving the case.” [MiamiHerald]

BOOK EXCERPT — The New Jerusalem Is Crumbling ― by Bernard-Henri Lévy: “Donald Trump’s exaggerated invocations of Jerusalem no longer have much to do with the case of real Jews who are being attacked by white supremacists—and even less with real Jewish culture, a culture that preaches the humanity of others, kindness to strangers, and a willingness to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and offer water to the thirsty.” [Tablet]

Ben Judah writes… “Europe’s Ubiquitous Anti-Semitism: I realize that anti-Semitism is actually like the flu: uncomfortable, sickly, occasionally deadly, but constantly with us… For Jews confronting the disease, the most important thing to remember and to share is the beauty of Judaism. Tweet a recipe, a book, a novel, not just your fury. Attend a Shabbat dinner, host one, light the Sabbath candles. Don’t just sit there seething; slip into the morning prayers, if only to meditate; say a blessing over a glass of water, as a point of mindfulness; or do whatever it is that you most identify with from Jewish culture or tradition. A bagel, an old song, even a joke… Don’t let your Jewish identity be defined by those who hate you. Instead make it a source of strength.” [TheAtlantic]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Horrifying mass grave of 1,000 Jewish men, women and children shot in the head by Nazis unearthed at building site in Belarus —by Will Stewart: “A horrifying mass grave of more than 1,000 Jewish men, women and children shot in the head by Nazis has been unearthed at a building site in Belarus. Discovered with gunshot wounds to their skulls, the victims’ remains were buried in a pit located at a building site in the city of Brest on the Polish border. The skeletons of about 600 have been unearthed so far, with Belarus soldiers – deployed to undertake the macabre work – now locating the remains of some 40 people each day in the sinister burial place.” [TheSun]

DESSERT — Kosher beef prices may rise in the event of no-deal Brexit — by Ben Weich: “Fears were raised over the price of kosher beef after it was announced that protective tariffs on food imports will be imposed in the event of a no-deal Brexit… On Tuesday, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, told the National Farmers’ Union conference in Birmingham that, should Britain leave the European Union without a deal, ‘there will be protections for sensitive sections of agriculture and food production.’  Details of the tariff regime will be revealed in the ‘next few days,’ according to the Guardian.” [TheJC]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Winner of multiple awards and fellowships as a poet, essayist and educator (Temple U and Drew U among others), he was the first ever poet laureate of New Jersey, Gerald Stern turns 94… 1969 winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, Dutch singer-songwriter especially popular in France, she converted to Judaism and her children live in Israel, Lenny Kuhr turns 69… White House Counsel to President Obama (2010-2011), then a partner in the DC office of Perkins Coie LLP, now a professor at NYU School of Law, Robert (Bob) Bauer turns 67… Chief strategist for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, now a distinguished senior fellow at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and a CNN commentator, David Axelrod turns 64… President of the New York Yankees baseball club since January 2000, executive producer for the YES Network, Randy Levine turns 64… Winner of five major golf championships and 24 other LPGA Tour championships, member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, now a golf course architect, Amy Alcott turns 63… IDF colonel (reserves) who currently serves as a member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party, Mordechai “Moti” Yogev turns 63…

Office and programs coordinator at Cincinnati’s Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, Lisa Shusterman turns 60… Writer, editor and publisher best known for his dark fiction, as well as his publishing imprint Aardwolf Publishing, Clifford Lawrence Meth turns 58… Spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Glendale, Wisconsin and a senior rabbinic fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Rabbi Jacob Herber turns 56… Actress, comedian and cast member of Saturday Night Live (1999-2006), her 2012 autobiography is titled “Girl Walks Into a Bar: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters and a Midlife Miracle,” Rachel Dratch turns 53… Leader of the Israeli Labor Party, he was CEO of the telecommunications company Bezeq (2007-2013) before entering politics, Avraham “Avi” Gabbay turns 52… Israeli soccer player (1990-2004) on domestic teams, on the Israeli national team and on European teams in both Spain and Turkey, now a successful Israeli businessman, Haim Michael Revivo turns 47… Consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, Miranda R. May (not the actress) turns 26…

SATURDAY: Partner in the Baltimore office of DLA Piper, he served as President of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation (2005-2010), Shale D. Stiller turns 84… EVP Emeritus of the Orthodox Union and editor-in-chief of the Koren Talmud Bavli, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb turns 79… Bethesda, Maryland resident, Lois Copeland turns 75… Philosopher, novelist and public intellectual, she earned a Ph.D. from Princeton and was a winner of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship in 1996, Rebecca Newberger Goldsteinturns 69… Madison, Wisconsin resident, Mark Jacobs turns 68… Born in the Soviet Union, now holder of both Kazakh and Israeli citizenship, he served as president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (a regional branch of the WJC), Alexander Mashkevitch turns 65… 25 year veteran of USAID’s Foreign Service, she is now the mission director for USAID in the West Bank and Gaza, Monica Stein-Olson turns 62… CEO at NYC-based Puder PR, after 10 years as director of communications and PR for the Jewish Federations of North America, Joe Berkofsky turns 59… Political consultant and pollster, awarded a Ph.D. from Oxford, founder of Luntz Global, LLC, Frank Luntz turns 57…

Founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, investor, philanthropist and author, Michael Dell turns 54… Movie, stage and television actor, comedian and singer, Josh Gad turns 38… Financial consultant and organizer for non-profit organizations, archives and artists, Johnathan Morpurgo turns 34… Head of communications at the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, she was previously director of women’s media at Hillary for America, Rebecca Chalif turns 33… Bloomberg political reporter, previously a White House reporter for Politico, she was once managing editor of the Daily Princetonian, Jennifer Epstein turns 33… AIPAC alum, now a senior front-end web engineer at Business Insider, Reuben A. Ingber turns 31… Reporter for the Texas Tribune in Austin covering state politics and the Texas Legislature, he is also the author of The Blast, the Tribune’s premium daily newsletter, Patrick Svitek turns 27… Director of special projects at Securing America’s Future Energy, he was previously at DRT Strategies and interned at the White House Office of Public Engagement, Gidon Feen turns 24… Program Associate in the Washington, DC office of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, Mary Ann Weiss… Barak Daon

SUNDAY: Attorney General of Connecticut (1983-1989), US Senator (1989-2013), Democratic nominee for Vice President (on the Al Gore ticket) in the 2000 US presidential election, Senator Joe Lieberman turns 77… Founder of WhatsApp in 2009, he sold the company to Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion, Jan Koum turns 43… Former chairman and CEO of Warner Bros (until 2001), then chairman and CEO of Yahoo (2001-2007), co-chair (emeritus) of the board of LA County Museum of Art, Terence Steven “Terry” Semel turns 76… Moscow-born professor of mathematics at Yale University since 1991, Grigory Margulis turns 73… Faye Waldman turns 71… Rabbi and author of a book about chocolate and Judaism, she has held a number of leadership positions in the national and regional Reform movement, Deborah R. Prinz turns 68… President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Clifford D. May turns 68…

Public relations executive, television pundit, author and lecturer, Howard Bragman turns 63… Member of the Knesset since 2015 for the Likud party, Nurit Koren turns 59… Explorer, author, survival expert, anthropologist and TV host, Josh Bernstein turns 48… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party (she first served from 2003-2006 and again since 2009) and Minister for Social Equality (since 2015), Gila Gamliel turns 45… Professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of his books has been translated into 45 languages and has sold over 10 million copies, Yuval Noah Harari turns 43… Principal and director of investments at MizMaa Ventures Limited, Aaron Applbaum turns 28… Israeli actress and model, she has appeared in advertising campaigns for Urban Outfitters, Samsung and Sephora, Dar Zuzovsky turns 28… Mitchell Brown