Apr
12

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Daily Kickoff: Israel caught in US – Russia rift | Moonves vs. Redstone | What’s become of Isaac Lee’s media empire | How diamonds shape NYC’s skyline

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WAR OF WORDS — Russian President Vladimir Putin is pushing backagainst Trump’s threats to launch missile strikes against the Assad regime in Syria. Yesterday, Putin spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone and warned him against violating Syria’s sovereignty. However, it’s unclear if Netanyahu is heeding the call. Speaking at Yad Vashem on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), Netanyahu said, “I have a message to the rulers of Iran: Do not put to test Israel’s resolve.”

TRUMP’S TWEETS THIS AM: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”” [Twitter]

“Israel Caught in U.S.-Russia Rift Over Syria” by Yaroslav Trofimov: “It has definitely been a goal of Israeli policy to avoid confronting Russia on a number of issues that have been a cause of friction between Russia and the West,” said Dan Shapiro… “But if we see an open conflict emerge between Russia and the U.S., I don’t think Israel could afford that luxury,” he added. “Israel’s primary alliance is of course with the United States. Israel will stand beside the United States, but this would be a particularly painful vise to be caught in.” [WSJ]

— “Israel ‘alone in fight’ against Iran in Syria” by Ben Caspit: “Trump apparently told Netanyahu that now that the Islamic State has been defeated and eliminated, the United States has no reason to remain there. At the same time, Trump promised Netanyahu that the United States would stand beside Israel and provide it with assistance if needed. This was a major disappointment for Netanyahu… “Ostensibly, when it comes to the situation of Iran along our northern border, there is no difference between his [Trump’s] position and that of Obama,” a senior Israeli Cabinet member told Al-Monitor.”[Al-Monitor]

“Bernie Sanders: Trump has no authority to broaden war in Syria” by Max Greenwood: “President Trump has no legal authority for broadening the war in Syria,” Sanders said in a statement. “It is Congress, not the president, who determines whether our country goes to war, and Congress must not abdicate that responsibility.” [TheHill]

Eli Lake writes… “America Learned Wrong Lessons From Iraq, and Syria Suffers: It’s an irony that the reason for the Iraq War was the dictator’s failure to account for and destroy his stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Today Syria’s dictator has not only failed to destroy such weapons, but is actually using them on his own population. It would be a tragedy if he got away with it because the U.S. president is still fighting against the last war.”[BloombergView

TRUMP WHISPERER — Alan Dershowitz was back at the White House yesterday, less than 24 hours after he dined with President Trump on Tuesday, huddling again with senior Trump aides. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Dershowitz insisted that he’s not advising Trump on the Mueller probe. However, minutes before the start of the 9 PM Hannity program, Trump promoted the program, which featured an extensive segment with Dershowitz, who suggested Rod Rosenstein should recuse himself from overseeing the Russia probe.

“Trump’s lovefest with Dershowitz blossoms” by Annie Karni and Eliana Johnson: “The president… has increasingly turned to [Alan Dershowitz] privately as his stable of lawyers has dwindled. He has spoken with him about a range of issues, including his escalating legal troubles, people familiar with the conversations said. Top White House advisers said they view Dershowitz as an important legal asset, even if he’s not officially on the payroll… For weeks leading up to Tuesday’s dinner, Dershowitz appeared to be playing a coy game with journalists who asked him whether he had been approached by the president… about joining the legal team… On Wednesday, however, Dershowitz categorically denied that Trump had personally asked him to join his legal defense team. Instead, he has used the newfound fame that alights on anyone in Trump’s orbit to tout his Middle East bona fides – and position himself as a conduit to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”[Politico]

OUTSIDER WITHOUT INFLUENCE — “Bannon pitches White House on plan to cripple Mueller probe and protect Trump” by Robert Costa: “Stephen K. Bannon… is pitching a plan to West Wing aides and congressional allies… The first step… would be for Trump to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein… Bannon is also recommending the White House cease its cooperation with Mueller… And he is telling associates inside and outside the administration that the president should create a new legal battleground to protect himself from the investigation by asserting executive privilege… There is no indication that Trump… would be willing to take Bannon’s advice or is aware of the plan… If you say his name in front of the president, it’s not a pretty sight,” said a senior administration official.”[WashPost]

“Michael Cohen had lunch with Donny Deutsch hours after the Morning Joe contributor said that Trump’s lawyer could be on the ‘right side of history’ and help ‘bring down the presidency'” by Jamie Jones: “Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen dined out with ad exec and MSNBC regular Donny Deutsch on Wednesday… At lunch Cohen told Donny, according to Donny,  ‘I’d rather jump out of a building than turn on Donald Trump.'” [DailyMail]

PALACE INTRIGUE — “Jared, Ivanka heading to Peru amid White House drama” by Nancy Cook: “Where in the world are Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner? The pair… has been largely absent from the news during a hectic period at the White House. But the two are heading to Lima, Peru this week for the Summit of the Americas… The pair has not been totally missing from public view — Ivanka Trump made an appearance on Wednesday at the Oval Office signing of a bill aimed at combatting human trafficking… A Republican close to the White House acknowledged that the married couple prefers to lay low during hectic moments because they don’t want to be associated with stories about chaos in the White House.” [Politico]

TRANSITION — “Aide Ousted From White House Re-emerges at Justice Dept.” by Adam Goldman: “Ezra Cohen-Watnick will play an important role at the Justice Department, advising [Jeff] Sessions on counterintelligence and counterterrorism… Mr. Cohen-Watnick was ousted in August 2017 as part of changes in the White House, one of several appointees of [Mike] Flynn who were removed by his replacement, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.”[NYTimes

“The hawkish world of GOP national-security hands sees hope for renewed relevance in John Bolton and Mike Pompeo” by Rosie Gray: “With Tillerson and McMaster there were basically no normal conservative right-wing kids getting national-security jobs. Anybody who wrote an anti-Trump letter was iced out,” [a] Bolton ally said.  “Now with Pompeo and Bolton, if it can last long enough, there’s a chance to mold another generation of conservative foreign-policy types with real experience, a real network… The people who work for Pompeo and Bolton could be the core of the movement for a long time to come.” [A Republican foreign policy] source said that even the nixing of Bush administration official Elliott Abrams last year for a top job in the State Department could be less definitive than it appears… Some insiders think Abrams could have a shot at a job in the State Department again now.” [TheAtlantic]

LATEST ON THE ‘ULTIMATE DEAL’ — “As Trump Mideast peace plan nears completion, rollout still unclear: source” by Matt Spetalnick, Steve Holland and Yara Bayoumy: “The Trump administration has nearly completed a long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan but is still struggling to decide how and when to roll it out, a senior White House official said… While offering few specifics… the official confirmed it would not contain a U.S. commitment to a two-state solution, as the Palestinians had demanded. It will instead stick to Trump’s assertion that he will accept whatever the two sides agree… “We are refining it,” the official said… “We are definitely still struggling on Jerusalem … But we are very close to completing it.”

“While Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, is a pro-Israel hawk who has criticized previous U.S. peace moves, the official said the Middle East team has already met with him and believe he will be supportive.” [Reuters• Abbas says Palestinians won’t accept any American peace plan [JPost]

TOP TALKER: “Killed Palestinian Journalist’s Colleagues And Family Refute Israel’s Hamas Claim” by Daniel Estrin: “Days after Israeli troops fatally shot a Palestinian photojournalist covering protests on the Gaza border, Israel’s defense minister alleged the photographer had served as a high-ranking member of… Hamas since 2011. But State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the photojournalist had passed a U.S. government vetting process for his media company to receive a USAID agency grant. The seemingly conflicting claims by Israeli and U.S. officials about the photographer’s identity are raising new questions over a killing that drew international media coverage and calls for an investigation.” [NPR

ON THE HILL — Mike Pompeo will testify this morning before members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State. [CSPAN]

In prepared remarks released last night, Pompeo is expected to say that President Trump is still prepared to fixing the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) “if such a fix is achievable.” If confirmed in time, Pompeo is expected to travel to Toronto to participate in the G7 Ministerial Meeting on April 22nd and the NATO Ministerial Meeting later that week to discuss the matter with key European allies ahead of the May 12 deadline.

Ahead of the hearing, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sent a letter urging senators to press Pompeo about his past comments on Muslims and seek assurances that he’ll reactivate the State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Senators also received a letterfrom ZOA’s Mort Klein pushing back on the ADL’s concerns. “The ADL Letter ignores and downplays Islamist threats and attacks on Jews, Americans, and others,” Klein wrote. 

“Mnuchin Signals ‘Very Strong’ New Sanctions on Iran Coming” by Saleha Mohsin: “[Steve] Mnuchin, testifying before a House appropriations subcommittee, said there will be “primary and secondary sanctions” against Iran… Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Mnuchin said he was referring both to a possible fresh round of sanctions, as well as the return of previous sanctions that have been periodically waived as part of the nuclear deal. “If the president doesn’t sign the certification, the sanctions snap back into place,” Mnuchin said… “I do think the primary and secondary sanctions would have an important impact on the Iranian economy, and that’s something he’s thinking about and balancing as he makes his decision.” [Bloomberg]

2018 WATCH — “The leading Republican running for Paul Ryan’s seat is a white nationalist” by Carter Sherman: “Long-shot candidate and self-described “pro-white” politician Paul Nehlen is now the leading Republican to take over Ryan’s Wisconsin seat… Prior to Ryan’s resignation, few believed that Nehlen had a chance at stealing the Republican nomination for Wisconsin’s first district from the Speaker; now, the GOP establishment will almost certainly find another candidate to back.” [Vice]

INBOX — Jewish Democratic Council of America: “Let that sink in: The Republican Party’s strongest—if only—candidate in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District is an open anti-Semite… And, come November, he could be a member of the U.S. Congress. We can’t let that happen… We call on the Republican Party to strongly disavow Paul Nehlen.” 

RJC’s Matt Brooks in a statement: “Although a fringe candidate with abhorrent neo-Nazi views was already running against the Speaker, we are very confident that with the leadership of the Wisconsin GOP, the eventual Republican nominee to fill Paul Ryan’s House seat (WI-01) will be someone who upholds the GOP’s best values and traditions.”

“Former ADL director: Trump has opened the ‘sewers’ of antisemitism” by Juliane Helmhold: “The rise of antisemitic incidents in the United States is “worrying, but not critical,” the former National Director of the ADL Abe Foxman said in an interview with Army Radio… “Antisemitism has always been here,” Foxman clarified… “When you remove political correctness, when it’s OK to say Mexicans are rapists and Muslims are murderers — of course that means it’s OK to be more anti-Semitic or more anti-Semitic in public.” The former ADL director specified his concern, specifically calling on President Trump to “put the cover back on the sewers.” [JPost

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — by Jacob Kornbluh: New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman responded to the pushback he received for writing that the American-Jewish establishment is too preoccupied with Israel and ignores anti-Semitism at home. Weisman’s comments came during a panel discussion, featuring Stanford historian Steven Zipperstein and NYTimes opinion editor Bari Weiss, at The Cooper Union on Tuesday: “There’s been a lot of pushback and I’ve had this weird pushback that I did not expect. I expected pushback from conservative Jews that I didn’t talk enough about anti-Semitism of the left. I did talk about it. But I had an odd pushback from liberal, kind of social justice Jewish organizations who were just angry that I didn’t give them enough credit. ‘We’re doing wonderful things! Why aren’t you giving us credit?’ Well, my book is something of a wake up call.”

According to Weisman, there are two ways to look at how the Trump presidency has impacted the fate of the Jewish community in America. “The tribalists view everything through the prism of, ‘What is going to be good for the state of Israel and empower and strengthen Israel,’” and therefore point to Trump’s strong pro-Israel record, he explained. The Internationalists, however, view the rise of nationalism in so many forms as usually bad for the Jews. Weisman went to claim that the security of Israel would be in jeopardy if the United States becomes a hostile nation to Jews. Read a full recap of the panel here [JewishInsider]

** 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: Shari Redstone likely to replace Moonves as head of CBS if no deal with Viacom, sources say [CNBC Moonves vs. Redstone: Inside the Poisonous War for Control of CBS and Viacom [HollywoodReporter] • Thrive Capital partner Chris Paik leaving to start own fund; Josh Miller is joining the firm’s investment team fulltime[Axios] • Bernie Madoff’s Beachfront Mansion Is Selling for $21 Million [Bloomberg] • As Elliott Circles, Hyundai Readies ‘Shareholder Friendly’ Plan[Bloomberg] • WeWork is buying China’s Naked Hub for $400 million[FastCompany]

MEDIA WATCH: “As Fusion Media Implodes, Will the Gawker Orphans Hit the Block?” by Joe Pompeo: “It was around 2011 when Isaac Lee, then a 40-year-old news executive at the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, saw the writing on the wall, and it read: multicultural millennials. So Lee and Univision made a bold, some thought outlandish, series of bets. It all began with Fusion, a general-interest Web site and corresponding cable channel launched in 2012 and 2013, respectively… Lee’s biggest coup was the August 2016 acquisition of a half dozen orphaned Gawker Media brands, including Gizmodo, Jezebel, and Deadspin. Less than two years after that acquisition, and seven years since Lee first started assembling his fiefdom, Univision is letting the air out of the Fusion Media Group balloon at a fairly rapid rate.”

“Lee, for his part, has still had some moments in the spotlight lately… On March 2, Lee was photographed by a Daily Mail paparazzo as he and Univision chairman Haim Saban entered Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s Washington, D.C., home for a Purim celebration. “He still runs a big chunk” of Univision, said one of the executives I spoke with. “It’s just that he’s not a part of the business he built anymore.” [VanityFair]

SPOTLIGHT: “The dismantling of Forest City Ratner” by Konrad Putzier: “In early 2003, Bruce Ratner walked into City Hall with a proposal to… erect a sports-and-entertainment arena along with 4,500 apartments and 2.1 million square feet of commercial space on (and around) an underused rail yard along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. During Ratner’s presentation, a senior policy adviser in the Bloomberg administration reportedly leaned over to deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff and whispered, “the guy has balls.” Fifteen years later, Ratner’s vision has become only a partial reality, with an arena that’s home to the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders and four of 16 residential towers up… But Ratner is now retired, and his company — once one of the most powerful real estate developers in New York — is a shell of its former self… The firm doesn’t have any other major projects in the works in New York City. Last year, Forest City Ratner Companies… quietly dropped Ratner’s name, rebranding itself as Forest City New York.” [TheRealDeal]

“Rough cut: How the global diamond trade — from cartels to war zones — shaped New York’s skyline” by Konrad Putzier: “Developers who began in the diamond trade have built, acquired or have an interest in over 200 properties and projects now worth at least $20 billion, according to an analysis of Real Capital Analytics by The Real Deal. And then there’s the broader influence diamond money has on the market — entities tied to Manhattan’s Diamond District own at least 259 properties in New York City, an analysis of property records shows… “The diamond business is a cash business,” [Yitzchak] Tessler said. “So diamond people — the successful ones, at least — always have cash. And developers don’t have cash. So they all came in one way or another.”” [TheRealDealMag]

TALK OF THE TOWN — “Polish Consulate Cancels Award for Polish-Jewish Dialogue” by Armin Rosen: “The Jan Karski Humanitarian Awards Night… recognizes Jews and non-Jews who are helping to heal the painful and in all likelihood permanent wounds that the near-total extermination of the country’s Jewish community created. But not this year: On Tuesday, the [Polish] Consulate announced that the dinner was “canceled,” owing to “factors beyond our control which will impact the overall quality of the event.” “Let’s focus on the issue of the Holocaust law. I think that’s where the attention and the priority needs to be right now,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik… who received a Karski award in 2014.” [Tablet]

HOLLYWOOD — “Sacha Baron Cohen To Star As Eli Cohen In Netflix Limited Series ‘The Spy’” by Nellie Andreeva: “Sacha Baron Cohen is set to headline the six-episode limited series The Spy, which will debut globally on Netflix (outside of France), and on OCS in France. Written and directed by Gideon Raff, creator of the Israeli drama Prisoners of War on which Showtime’s Homeland was based, The Spy tells the story of legendary Israeli spy Eli Cohen (Baron Cohen). Eli Cohen lived in Damascus undercover in the beginning of the ’60s, spying for Israel… Baron Cohen’s interest in Syria has led him and his wife, actress Isla Fisher, to donate to a number of organizations including a $1 million to support Syrian refugees in 2015.” [Deadline]

‘When Heroes Fly,’ ‘State of Happiness’ Top Canneseries” by John Hopewell: “Omri Givron, co-creator of famed Israeli series “Hostages,” proved the big winner at the first Canneseries festival taking Best Series for the fast paced Israel/Colombia-set drama-thriller “When Heroes Fly,” which he created, wrote and directed. Produced by Eitan Mansuri’s Spiro Films (“Foxtrot” and “Lebanon”), “When Heroes Fly” … turns on a former 2006 Lebanon war combatant who reunites with his estranged commando unit comrades to rescue the love of his life, abducted by a cartel in Colombia.” [Variety]

“Steven Spielberg said to turn down invite to light Independence Day torch” by Sue Surkes: “Top American filmmaker Steven Spielberg was approached to light the Diaspora Torch at Israel’s Independence Day ceremony but turned it down because of previous commitments… The multiple award-winning director said he would have been happy to come but would be filming in Japan at the time, the paper said, describing him as “very moved” by the offer.” [ToI]

SPORTS BLINK — “Patriots owner Robert Kraft calls for criminal justice reform after visiting Meek Mill in prison” by Chuck Schilken: “New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft spent some time Tuesday in a Pennsylvania state prison visiting Meek Mill and emerged calling for the rapper’s release and an overhaul of the criminal justice system. “Makes it clear to me we have to do something with criminal justice reform,” Kraft said. “His kind of case, to be in a situation like this, it’s really bad… I see it firsthand that it’s just wrong. We have to find a way to correct it and also help the community help themselves.”” [LATimesTheGuardian]

COJO TO ISRAEL — NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, also known as CoJo, is heading a weeklong mission to Israel to participate in Israel’s 70th-anniversary celebration taking place next week. Other members of the delegation – leaving this evening – include Councilman Chaim Deutsch, Chair of the NYC Jewish Caucus, and Councilmembers Stephen Levin, Karen Koslowitz, Francisco Moya, Carlina Rivera, Rafael Espinal, Ritchie Torres, Alika Ampry-Samuel, and Justin Brannan. The trip is sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of New York. [JewishInsider]

DESSERT — “Orthodox Rabbis Order Jews To ‘Stick To Budweiser’ — Or Skip Beer” by Josh Nathan-Kazis: “The unusual edict was made after the rabbis… realized in the weeks before Passover that the owner of the NYC’s dominant beer wholesaling firm is Jewish. “He’s 100% Yid,” said a rabbinic administrator at the Central Rabbinical Congress… That posed a problem for the rabbis, because while the New York beer magnate, Simon Bergson, is Jewish, he is not traditionally observant. Under certain complexities of Jewish law, that has led some Orthodox rabbis to rule that all the beer he owned during the week of Passover is not suitable for consumption by Jews… Budweiser, which is distributed in New York by its manufacturer and not Bergson’s firm, is among the few beers these rabbis say is permitted.” [Forward]

BIRTHDAYS: Phoenix, Arizona resident, Anita Rochelle Goldberg turns 81… Son of NYC real estate mogul Seymour Durst, and the elder brother of Douglas Durst, head of the Durst Organization, linked to three murder investigations, Robert Durst turns 75… Media entrepreneur and philanthropist, built SFX Entertainment (a concert and stage performance promoter that was sold to Clear Channel in 2000 for $4.4 billion), Robert Sillerman turns 69… Attorney and bestselling novelist of ten legal thrillers and author of two nonfiction books, Scott Turow turns 69… Television producer, screenwriter, director and businessman, he serves as chairman of the Liverpool Football Club and the Boston Red Sox, Thomas Charles Werner turns 68… Senior Vice President at UJA Federation of New York, Stuart Tauber turns 66… Moroccan-born fashion designer, Paul Marciano turns 66… West Bloomfield, Michigan resident, Ron Mitnick turns 64…

Partner in Holland & Knight’s Washington, D.C., office, Norman B. “Norm” Antin turns 62… Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews since 2014, she is a former British Labour Party Member of Parliament (1997-2010), Gillian Joanna Merron turns 59… US District Judge for the Southern District of New York, he was a law clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall (1988-1989), Judge Paul A. Engelmayer turns 57… Realtor and VP for Keller Williams focused on Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts, Ilya Jacob Rasner turns 37 (h/t Playbook)… Comedienne, writer and actress, best known for co-creating and co-starring in the Comedy Central series Broad City, Ilana Glazer turns 31… Israeli actress, for her lead role in the 2012 film, Fill the Void, she won the Israeli version of an Oscar and Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, Hadas Yaron turns 28…

Apr
11

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Daily Kickoff: Dershowitz’s day at WH: Advice on Middle East.. & Mueller? | J Street’s dinner list | Artichoke War: Rome’s Jews vs. Israel’s Rabbinate

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BREAKING — “Paul Ryan confidants say he’s not running again” by Jonathan Swan: “House Speaker Paul Ryan has told confidants that he will announce soon that he won’t run for reelection in November. One of Washington’s best-wired Republicans said: “This is a Titanic, tectonic shift. … This is going to make every Republican donor believe the House can’t be held.” [Axios]

Statement from Brendan Buck, Counselor to Speaker Ryan: “This morning Speaker Ryan shared with his colleagues that this will be his last year as a member of the House. He will serve out his full term, run through the tape, and then retire in January. After nearly twenty years in the House, the speaker is proud of all that has been accomplished and is ready to devote more of his time to being a husband and a father. While he did not seek the position, he told his colleagues that serving as speaker has been the professional honor of his life, and he thanked them for the trust they placed in him. He will discuss his decision at a press conference immediately following the member meeting.”

WHEN IT RAINS… Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, told his staff this morning he is retiring. [TampaBayTimes]

COMING SOON: J Street will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a dinner on April 16th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. The event coincides with the group’s annual conference. The evening will feature a keynote address from Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and a conversation with former Mideast Envoy George Mitchell, moderated by Susan Glasser.

Ahead of the event, J Street released a list of 99 public figures who have agreed to serve on the honorary host committee for the evening, including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, James Baker and John Kerry; former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former Vice President Walter Mondale, former Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, former Hillary Clinton aide Jake Sullivan; former Obama Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, former Obama aide Rob Malley, former Reagan aide Marshall Breger, Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, former Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller, former Massachusetts governor and 1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, former Congressman Barney Frank, former Senators Ted Kaufman and Gary Hart; CAP’s Neera Tanden, HBO’s Richard Plepler, and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad. It is unclear how many names on the list actually plan to attend.

Daniel Kurtzer, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt under Bill Clinton and as Ambassador to Israel under George W. Bush, told us that he signed up as an honorary committee member in honor of J Street President Jeremey Ben-Ami even though Kurtzer will not be attending the conference. “He is a friend.”

Aaron David Miller also does not plan to attend and said he has “no real involvement beyond a briefing or two,” but added “I like and respect” Ben-Ami.

Why It’s Noteworthy: The list is impressive and indicates the influence the group would have maintained in a Hillary Clinton administration. However, it also highlights the irrelevancy the group has faced in the Trump era.

A JEWISH DEM WHO HAS INFLUENCE AT THE MOMENT… Last night, President Trump dined with professor Alan Dershowitz in the private residence of the White House. The dinner came after a “pre-arranged meeting” regarding Middle East peace with Trump and White House staff, as described by Dershowitz. Asked by The Washington Post whether he offered any legal advice about the Russian investigation and Mueller, Dershowitz replied, “I’m not going to discuss what I discussed with the president.” In an interview with Slate, Dershowitz said he couldn’t judge Trump’s state of mind and “didn’t see fury, seething,” but “he seemed upbeat about the Middle East when we talked about it.”

TRUMP TUMULT — The day after his personal attorney Michael Cohen was targeted by the FBI, President Trump spent much of the day “brooding and fearful and near a meltdown” over the expanded Robert Mueller probe, and actively considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump and his aides have reportedly discussed firing Mueller for months. Shortly after the raid, Trump’s legal team had a “tense” meeting with Mueller’s staff as part of ongoing negotiations about a potential one-on-one interview.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… Michael Cohen, the ‘ultimate Trump loyalist,’ now finds himself in the sights of the FBI, a situation he described yesterday as difficult for his family. In an interview with CNN, Cohen said the raid was “upsetting, to say the least.” Cohen has reportedly confided in associates in recent weeks that he is fearful of being a fall guy for his boss. Meanwhile, it was reported, that the interim Manhattan U.S. attorney, Geoffrey Berman, recusedhimself from his office’s investigation into Cohen, leaving the probe in the hands of his deputy Robert Khuzami.

“Robert Mueller Is Asking About This Little-Known Chapter Of Michael Cohen’s New York Life” by Anthony Cormier, John Templon, Chris McDaniel and Jason Leopold: “Monday’s FBI raid… was reportedly an attempt to seek information on… Cohen’s history as a New York City cab owner. Questions have arisen about Cohen’s work with Symon Garber and Evgeny Freidman, two Soviet-born New York taxi barons who managed his fleet… There is no indication that Mueller’s team is investigating Garber or Freidman for wrongdoing. One witness who was asked about them was asked about a total of 40 people or companies with ties to Cohen… Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, has been in the taxi business for decades, and was charged in the early 1990s with knowingly conspiring to defraud the IRS.”[BuzzFeed]

Republican donors remain silent on Cohen news — by Brian Schwartz: “GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson… hasn’t yet expressed an opinion about the investigation into Trump’s loyal comrade, associates close to the billionaire told CNBC… So far in 2018, he has contributed minimally to the congressional elections, but people close to him say that’s expected to change before Election Day… A spokesman for Adelson declined to comment… Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman and real estate tycoon Geoffrey Palmer, both top donors to the Trump’s re-election campaign, declined to comment about the raid.” [CNBC] • Meet the wealthy donors pouring millions into the 2018 elections [WashPost]

ON THE HILL — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endured 5 hours of questions from some 40 senators. Zuckerberg mostly stuck to well-preparedtalking points. [Highlights

TODAY — Zuckerberg will face another day of questioning at the House Energy and Commerce Committee. [CSPAN] • What to watch for [NYT]

HOW IT PLAYED — “Senate fails its Zuckerberg test” by Dylan Byers: “What the first day of the Zuckerberg hearings made clear is that many American lawmakers are illiterate when it comes to 21st century technology… The senators’ lack of understanding allowed Zuckerberg to evade important, unanswered questions about the extent of Facebook’s data monitoring and why the company hasn’t been more transparent with users how their data is used and how it’s been abused.” [CNNMoney]

— “Facebook’s Zuckerberg Earns Likes for Washington Performance” by Sarah Frier and Nico Grant: “Before the appearance ended, public speaking and crisis-communication experts gave Zuckerberg high marks for his statements and delivery. Based on past public appearances under scrutiny, expectations were low. Facebook shares jumped more than 5 percent to the highest level in more than two weeks.” [Bloomberg• The Daily Show: “Facebook unveils new, lifelike Mark Zuckerberg ahead of today’s hearing.”[Instagram]

DRIVING THE DAY — “Trump Weighs More Robust Military Strike Against Syria” by Peter Baker, Helene Cooper and Thomas Gibbons-Neffa: “President Trump and his advisers on Tuesday weighed a more robust retaliatory strike against Syria than last year’s missile attack, reasoning that only an escalation of force would look credible and possibly serve as a deterrent against further use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians… Possible options included hitting more than a single target and extending strikes beyond a single day.” [NYTimes]

TRUMP TWEETS THIS AM: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” [Twitter]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “Netanyahu expecting Trump to strike in Syria” by Barak Ravid: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in security consultations on Monday that he thinks there is high probability President Trump will order a military strike in Syria… The official said Israel published a formal statement blaming the Assad regime for the attack on Monday night as a consequence of this assessment by Netanyahu. The official said the purpose was to give diplomatic support for possible U.S. military action.” [Axios] • Despite blowback over Syrian strike, some Israelis say more military action needed [WashPost

“Iran vows to retaliate against Israel for Syria strike” by Oren Lieberman: “Speaking in Damascus at a two-day conference on Jerusalem Tuesday, a senior advisor to Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, told Iran’ state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that Israel’s “crimes will not remain unanswered.” [CNN] • The Israeli security cabinet is meetingtoday to discuss the situation in Syria.

Former Israeli Air Force General Amos Yadlin tweets“There are two ongoing and significant developments for Israel’s northern front: the discussion in the U.S. regarding a response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons and the discussion in Iran regarding a response to the alleged Israel’s strike on the T-4 airbase. As it stands, the two issues are mutually exclusive but they can converge into a significant event vis-à-vis Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. The Iranians will probably respond to the strike attributed to Israel, even if not immediately… If the situation escalates to a direct Israeli-Iranian confrontation or brings about problematic Russian interference, Israel will need U.S. assistance.”

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST — “Gaza Barrier Can’t Withstand an Assault by Mob, Fencemaker Says” by Jonathan Ferziger: “Thousands of Palestinians marching on the Gaza Strip’s border could trample the 10-foot-high fence… “It would take about 30 seconds to cross,” said Saar Koursh, chief executive officer of Magal Security Systems Ltd., which built the Gaza fence and is vying to work on the wall President Donald Trump wants to erect on the U.S.-Mexico border. “This fence wasn’t built to stop riots like you see now. It was built to give real-time indication if somebody is trying to cross the border.” [Bloomberg]

“Israel Faults Soldiers Who Filmed and Cheered Shooting of Palestinian” by Isabel Kershner: “The Israeli military on Tuesday censured soldiers who filmed and cheered the shooting of a Palestinian man across the barrier fence in Gaza several months ago. But at the same time, the military defended the shooting of the man… The military said the conduct of the censured soldiers was not what was expected of its forces, adding that they would be dealt with by their commanders.” [NYTimes]

“Saudi student enjoys tech tour of Israel” by Lidar Gravé-Lazi: “A total of 55 students from 25 nations, including Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Malaysia, Jamaica and China… took part in the trip [organized by the Imperial College Israeli Society]. While the trip focused on the hi-tech scene in Israel, the [Saudi] student said he was able to see and experience for himself many aspects of the country, some of which challenged his preconceptions… The anonymous student also said he was very surprised to see Arabs living, studying and working in Israel, and even women wearing Hijabs. “I thought all Arabs had been kicked out of Israel, so I was very surprised to see some,” he said.” [JPost]

“The Real Danger in Qatar-Gulf Feud is Iran, U.S. Officials Say” by Ian Talley and Gordon Lubold: “U.S. officials have grown concerned that the protracted conflict is endangering Washington’s strategic interests by pushing Qatar, a global financial hub, more deeply into Iran’s sphere of influence… U.S. officials say they are worried a shift by Doha into Iran’s political and economic orbit would give Tehran access to U.S. dollars, money it then could funnel to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthi rebels in Yemen and other militant groups in the region.” [WSJ] • United States says risks remain for those considering doing business with Iran [Reuters]

** 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: Carl Icahn’s $5.4 Billion Exit Strategy Soothes Auto-Parts Retailers [Bloomberg• Will James Packer take Crown private? Don’t bet on it [SMH Ex-Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on Saving the Future of Jobs [Wired] • Nightclub mogul Sam Nazarian reloads lavish party pad in L.A.’s 90210 [LATimes] • Tel Aviv is leading the co-working trend with these insane offices [Quartz]

STARTUP NATION — “Palo Alto Networks to Acquire Cybersecurity Startup Secdo” by Meir Orbach: “Palo Alto Networks Inc. has entered a definitive agreement to acquire Israel-based cybersecurity startup Cyber Secdo Ltd… The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but one person familiar with the matter… said the sum of the acquisition was around $100 million. Secdo develops patented technology that combines endpoint detection and response (EDR) with security automation capabilities.” [Calcalist]

PROFILE: “Finding the Right Corporate Message Isn’t Always Easy” by John Ortved: “Born and raised in Manhattan, Hildy Kuryk graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in political science. She worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and as a fund-raiser for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign before joining the finance wing of the Democratic National Committee… in June, Ms. Kuryk decided to strike out on her own and start a consulting film, Artemis Strategies, which she is pitching to clients as a vehicle to help them craft their message for socially aware consumers. Kuryk has picked up some splashy clients, including Nordstrom, the news briefing service the Skimm, as well as Condé Nast.” [NYTimes]

EMBASSY ROW — “Meet the Diplomat at the Center of the U.S.–China Trade War” by Viola Gienger: “Most of the time, [China’s U.S. ambassador] Cui Tiankai’s job is to be the warm schmoozer… In the early days after Trump’s election victory… Cui found his China whisperer. With an introduction by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in December 2016, Cui began cultivating Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.” [Ozy]

“How to Defeat Drought: Cape Town is running out of water. Israel offers some lessons on how to avoid that fate” by Seth Siegel: “Israel’s second grand water initiative — desalination — … began in the 1960s. Around that time, an experimental desalination facility in Israel produced a cubic meter of water (264 gallons) for $14. Israel now produces the same volume for about 50 cents. By filtering seawater through holes that are about 0.5 nanometers wide, the desalination process captures all dissolved material, including salt, while the fresh water passes through… These two technologies alone could prevent, or at least postpone, another Cape Town-like crisis. Yet both are expensive and sometimes out of reach for countries on the lower end of the economic development scale. But Israel also leads in low-cost efforts to reduce the use of water for agriculture.” [ForeignPolicy]

“Israel Wanted to Bar Entry to Dublin’s Mayor Over BDS Ties – but Got His Name Wrong” by Noa Landau: “Israel announced on Tuesday it had barred Dublin Lord Mayor Mícheál Mac Donncha from entering the country – while he was already in the West Bank city of Ramallah after having flown in through Tel Aviv. The Interior Ministry later admitted Mac Donncha had entered Israel due to a typo.” [Haaretz]

ACROSS THE POND — “Israeli Labour party suspends relations with Britain’s Corbyn” by Ori Lewis: “It is my responsibility to acknowledge the hostility you have shown to the Jewish community and the anti-Semitic statements and actions you have allowed as leader of the Labour party UK,” Israeli Labour party leader Avi Gabbay wrote in a letter to [Jeremy] Corbyn, announcing the suspension. [Reuters]

TALK OF THE TOWN — “Holocaust Museum surpasses fundraising goal, now aims for $1 billion” by Peggy McGlone: “The Never Again: What You Do Matters campaign set out five years ago to raise $540 million by the museum’s 25th anniversary. The campaign reached that goal 18 months ahead of schedule and has now brought in $715 million from 366,000 donors… The Washington museum announced Monday evening that it would increase its goal to $1 billion by 2023, its 30th year. “We see that we have all this momentum that we really want to seize,” museum director Sara J. Bloomfield said… The new fundraising goal was announced at Monday’s 25th-anniversary tribute dinner, when the museum honored all survivors of the Holocaust with its highest honor, the Elie Wiesel Award.” [WashPost]

“An Obscure Magazine From 1934 Predicted the Nazi Genocide” by Sarah Wildman: “In March 1934, a collection of North American thinkers from the religious… to the journalistic… gathered to observe a yahrzeit, a memorial of loss, marking the first anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s ascension to power. They met in the pages of Opinion: A Journal of Jewish Life and Letters, a then-monthly magazine that, these days, is all but forgotten… “There tends to be a misperception in the general public today that Americans didn’t have any sense of the threat of Nazism as it was unfolding, and the opposite is true,” says Daniel Greene, a history professor at Northwestern University and guest curator of the new exhibit Americans and the Holocaust at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The monographs printed in Opinion eloquently reinforce that point.” [ForeignPolicy]

PREMIERING TODAY — “GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II” airs at 10 PM on PBS in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. The documentary spotlights the 550,000 Jewish men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces from 1941-45, some experiencing anti-Semitism and racism for the first time. Included are interviews with Mel Brooks, Henry Kissinger and Bronx-born TV legend Carl Reiner, among others. [NYPostVideo]

HOLLYWOOD — “FremantleMedia Boards Israeli Drama ‘Fertile Crescent’ From ‘False Flag’ Creator” by Elsa Keslassy: “London-based FremantleMedia is on board to co-develop, co-produce and handle global distribution on “Fertile Crescent,” an ambitious drama set in the Middle East which is being created by the talent behind “False Flag,” Maria Feldman… “Fertile Crescent” centers on a seemingly picture-perfect French family shattered by the death of their estranged daughter in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Years after her tragic death, Antoine, her younger brother, is convinced he saw her in a TV program showing footage of female Kurdish fighters and sets off to find her in the Middle Eastern crescent-shaped region.”[Variety]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “The Italy-Israel Artichoke War” by Barbie Later Nadeau: “Nothing says Jewish-Roman cuisine like carciofi alla giudia, or artichokes prepared in the Jewish style. They’re a fried staple found in every kosher restaurant in this city and across Italy. But late last week, Yitzhak Arazi, Israel’s chief rabbi in charge of kosher imports, who generally sets the pace for the entire kosher world, warned in an interview with Haaretz that artichokes aren’t really kosher after all and immediately banned all imports. He did not differentiate between those grown in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries and those grown specifically for the Italian market—but he did refer to the way Rome’s chefs prepare their beloved vegetable for the Jewish community.”

“The heart of the artichoke is full of worms, there’s no way you can clean it,” he said, adding that the Roman Jewish style of frying the vegetable makes it even more difficult to get the pests out. And because worms, along with reptiles, amphibians, and most other insects except certain types of locusts, are not considered kosher, eating the Roman-prepared artichokes is now off-limits for observant Jews who want to stay kosher. “It can’t be kosher. This isn’t politics, it’s Jewish religious law.” On a rainy Monday lunch time along the Via Portico d’Ottavia that slices through the heart of Jewish Rome, no one had removed their artichoke shrines or scratched the item off the menu.” [DailyBeast]

DESSERT — “In New Orleans, Crawfish Boils Can Be a Jewish Tradition Too” by Naomi Tomky: “On the last Sunday in May, as happens so often in spring in Louisiana, a room fills with tables covered in red-checked tablecloths and set with endless rolls of paper towel. Bright red, boiled through with local spices, ready for their tails to be pinched and their heads sucked, the ripe crustaceans await some 150 or more diners. What sets this crawfish boil apart is the location and the audience: It’s a fundraiser for the Brotherhood of Temple Sinai, held inside the Jewish synagogue. Temple Sinai is Louisiana’s biggest and oldest congregation of the Reform Jewish movement, a form of the religion with very little focus on keeping kosher. A 2013 Pew Study found that only 7 percent of Reform Jews in the U.S. keep kosher.” [AtlasObscura

“4 DC Area Vegan Restaurants Are Now Kosher Certified” by Dani Klein: “Four existing vegan restaurants in the Washington, DC area are now kosher certified under the auspices of Ohav Shalom, the National Synagogue… The restaurants now under supervision are: Evolve Restaurant and Vegaritos in Takoma Park (DC), Sweet and Natural in Mount Rainier, and Everlasting Life in Capitol Heights.” [YeahThatsKosher]

5 Must-Haves From Beirut’s Booming Vegan Street Food Scene:“Every tourist will readily admit that the most memorable — and adventurous — meals are the ones you come by in the street. That’s no exception in Beirut: No matter what city alley or seaside corniche you explore, you’re bound to be greeted with wafting aromas of good food. Beyond meat shawarma wraps and chicken taouk sandwiches, there’s actually a plethora of delicious and satisfying grub to whet every vegan appetite…” [Ozy]

BIRTHDAYS: Australian billionaire, executive chairman of Visy Industries and Pratt Industries US, the world’s largest privately owned packaging company, Anthony Pratt (family name in Poland was Przecicki) turns 58… Executive chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies, on several charitable boards including the University of Pennsylvania and the 92nd Street Y, William P. Lauder turns 58… Actress who played the title character on the 325-episode soap opera satire “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” she was married to Woody Allen (1966-1970), Louise Lasser turns 79… Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and syndicated columnist, co-founder (2010) and director of “The Conversation Project” focused on end-of-life care, Ellen Goodman turns 77… Founder and CEO of the USA Network in 1977, she is the co-founder and chairman of Springboard Enterprises, Kay Koplovitz turns 73… Barry Schwab turns 71… Sarita Dery turns 69…

Senior advisor of WomenStrong International, a consortium of non-profit organizations in five nations supporting women-driven solutions to urban poverty, Sydney Rubin turns 66… Managing partner and a founder of LA-based law firm Glass & Goldberg, Marshall F. Goldberg turns 64… Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 1999 from the Pittsburgh area, he serves as the Democratic Caucus Chairman, Dan B. Frankel turns 62… Co-founder of Caracal Global Strategies and founder and CEO of Brigadoon, Marc A. Ross turns 47 (h/t Playbook)… Israeli-based angel investor and entrepreneur, David Galper turns 43… Senior sales and relationship manager at Citadel LLC, previously a VP at Goldman Sachs and a Major League Soccer midfielder, Jordan Cila turns 36…

Apr
10

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Daily Kickoff: Zuckerberg’s day on the Hill | Richest Russians lose $12B | Brooks on ‘the failures of anti-Trumpism’ | Cheryl Saban’s glass blowing

TOP TALKER — The Robert Mueller probe hit close to home yesterday as the offices and hotel room of President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen were raided by FBI agents at the referral of Mueller. Law-enforcement agents spent several hours at the Loews Regency hotel in NYC on Monday morning. The Cohen raids required high-level authorization within the Justice Department. Trump lashed out hours later in a public appearance and called the raids a “disgraceful situation” and an “attack on our country in a true sense.”

“Trump is angrier than he has been at any point in the many fuming news cycles,” Maggie Haberman tweeted. Trump’s rage continued into Tuesday morning with a few short angry tweets. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was also targeted for approving the warrant. Trump reportedly also complained about Rosenstein in private and said that he wished Rosenstein was not in the job and there was no one making the prosecutors follow the rules. This morning, Trump cancelled a planned trip to Latin America this week.

“Feds Are Treating Michael Cohen Like a Mob Lawyer, Trump Allies Say” by Betsy Woodruff and Asawin Suebsaeng: “It’s a tactic generally used against organized crime, against very serious, very serious criminals and lawyers who are operating outside of the protections of the law,” said Alan Dershowitz… “The only excuse for raiding a lawyer’s office is if the lawyer is potentially involved in crime—if there’s probable cause to believe that the attorney is either involved in crime or his services are being used for that,” said Sol Wisenberg, a white collar defense attorney at Nelson Mullins and former federal prosecutor.” [DailyBeast]

SPOTLIGHT: “Mueller Investigating Ukrainian’s $150,000 Payment for a Trump Appearance” by Mike Schmidt and Maggie Haberman: “Investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization this year for an array of records about business with foreign nationals. In response, the company handed over documents about a $150,000 donation that the Ukrainian billionaire, Victor Pinchuk, made in September 2015 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in exchange for a 20-minute appearance by Mr. Trump that month through a video link to a conference in Kiev. Michael D. Cohen… solicited the donation. The contribution from Mr. Pinchuk, who has sought closer ties for Ukraine to the West, was the largest the foundation received in 2015 from anyone besides Mr. Trump himself.” [NYTimes]

Mike Allen’s observation: “Take a minute to think about the history unfolding before our eyes. You have the president’s top lawyer getting raided by the FBI, prompting the president to warn of an epic attack on government and signaling he might try to can the special counsel investigating him. This is on the eve of the arguably most powerful and well known CEO of our generation getting grilled by Congress, in part because the Russians used his platform to try to elect the man at the center of it all. History books will be written about this — and you were there to see it all unfold.” [Axios]

DRIVING THE DAY — “What Mark Zuckerberg Will Be Grilled On at the Congressional Hearings” by Scott Shane: “When Mark Zuckerberg appears Tuesday afternoon before members of two Senate committees, it will be the culmination of a Facebook public relations blitz in the face of a series of controversies that have tarnished the reputation of the world’s largest social network. It will be the first appearance before Congress for Mr. Zuckerberg, who looks only slightly older than during his giddy first television appearance in 2004 to explain the unexpected growth of the college service he called “The Facebook.” Here are the major issues he is likely to be asked to address: Privacy, F.T.C. investigation, Russian chicanery, fake news, political bias and polarization, radicalization and violence.” [NYTimes]

“Mark Zuckerberg’s growing up moment” by Laurie Segall: “He may be 33, a billionaire many times over and unquantifiably powerful, but he is still relatively young and cloistered — he has, after all, only ever had one job, and he started in it when he was 19.” [CNN]

“Mr. Zuckerberg goes to Washington — so let’s stop acting like he can’t handle it. He can.” by Kara Swisher: “As someone who made him do so once, I can attest that the formerly sweaty CEO won’t melt under the withering klieg lights of Congress.” [Recode]

“Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Charm Offensive” by Maya Kosoff: “Flanked by several besuited attendants, his body postured at an impossibly precise 90 degrees, Mark Zuckerberg was spotted marching through the corridors of the Hart Senate Office Building Monday morning as he made the rounds with lawmakers—the final leg of his apology tour before attempting to explain to a joint congressional panel how Facebook allowed the data of almost 90 million users to be siphoned by a rogue app.” [VanityFair]

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST — “Iran-Israel Conflict Escalates in Shadow of Syrian Civil War” by Ben Hubbard and David Halbfinger: “The attack on the Syrian air base near the desert town of Palmyra in central Syria drew new attention to a conflict between Iran and Israel that has been steadily increasing in intensity while mostly hidden in the shadows of Syria’s civil war… “The more we see of this, it seems like it’s a strike against Iranian capacities to operate drones from Syria potentially against Israel,” said Ofer Zalzberg, a Middle East analyst for International Crisis Group.” [NYTimes]

“Israel has launched countless strikes in Syria. What’s new is Russia’s response” by Patrick Wintour: “Israel’s assault on Sunday night can be read as much as an opportunistic raid seizing on the outrage over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma to prosecute pre-existing battles rather than to punish the Syrian government. But Israel is also sending a message to the US president, Donald Trump… that [the U.S.] cannot see the Syrian war solely as a battle to defeat Isis; it must also be seen as a battleground about Iranian expansionism.” [TheGuardian

“Israel Wages a Growing War in Syria” by Robin Wright: “Recent Israeli military calculations are partly the byproduct of an agreement between the United States and Russia to “de-conflict” areas where they both have deployed manpower on the ground… Israel felt exposed. “It was basically a partition agreement that legitimized Iran as one of the shareholders in Syria. It gave Syria to Iran and Russia,” Ephraim Sneh, a retired brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces and former member of the Knesset, told me. “Hezbollah already has a hundred and twenty thousand rockets and missiles pointed at Israel from Lebanon. We can’t let them do the same thing in Syria,” he said. “There is no government in Jerusalem—whoever is prime minister—who can accept the reality that has been created at the end of the war in Syria.”” [NewYorker]

VIEW FROM DC — “Will John Bolton Push Trump Toward War in Syria?” by Abigail Tracy: “This is quite an overly full plate for the first day of a brand new National Security Adviser,” a former State Department official who knows Bolton told me. “The good news is that Bolton is up to speed on policy and knows the U.S. government well. The bad news [is] he hasn’t worked in this White House. . . . And while Bolton clearly knows the president, he hasn’t worked for him.” … Trump’s new national security adviser is a notorious hawk on Iran and Russia—and the Assad regime in Syria is a proxy for both. “It is certainly trial by fire. Walking in on your first day and having to organize and unite the U.S. government around a course of action to use military force, this is about as hard as it gets,” [Nicholas] Burns told me.”” [VanityFair]

Aaron David Miller writes… “How John Bolton will fit into Trump’s foreign policy team: Trump has called for bringing U.S. troops home from Syria. Given his hawkish stance on Iran, Bolton… may prefer to keep them on the ground to counter Tehran. If he is able to help Trump through the present Syrian crisis, that could cement his credentials with the President on other issues.” [Axios]

“Pompeo asks Clinton for advice as he preps for confirmation battle” by Nahal Toosi: “Now that [Mike] Pompeo faces a tough confirmation process to become secretary of state himself, he has reached out to [Hillary] Clinton and [John] Kerry, as well as every other living occupant of the office, to ask for guidance. Clinton, for one, has been willing to help. “These were lengthy calls seeking advice” from the former secretaries, a person familiar with Pompeo’s prep work told POLITICO. “He understands the gravity of the challenge before him.”” [Politico]

TRANSITION — President Trump has formally nominated David Schenker, a director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. The nomination was sent yesterday to the Senate for confirmation.

HAPPENING TODAY: “Qatar Charm Offensive Appears to Have Paid Off, U.S. Officials Say” by Gardiner Harris and Mark Landler: “Mr. Trump will host Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at the White House, shifting from describing Qatar as a “funder of terror” to what a senior administration official on Monday said was sympathy with Doha’s continued struggle under a four-nation embargo led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates… Over the past year, the emir has spent millions of dollars hiring lobbyists and flying influential American power brokers to Qatar in a charm offensive to win over the Trump administration.” [NYTimes

2018 WATCH — “Rick Scott Enters Senate Race, and Florida Is Again Poised for a Bruising Campaign” by Patricia Mazzei: “Gov. Rick Scott made official on Monday what Floridians have suspected for months: He is running for the United States Senate against Bill Nelson, the incumbent Democrat, in a premier race that will return the nation’s largest swing state to its familiar role as the political vortex of a tumultuous election year… Mr. Scott’s candidacy leaves Democrats with no choice but to divert time and money to Florida.” [NYTimes] • Strategists in both parties think this race could cost up to $200 million [Politico]

Ron Krongold, a Miami-based board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, tells us… “Rick Scott has been very supportive of Israel. He has gone there a number of times as governor. He has succeeded in developing trade missions that have effectively caused more cooperation between companies in Israel and companies in Florida, and he’s helped in any way he can with the Israel Bonds. And I know from personal conversations with him that he very much admires the United States’ only ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. As far as his term as governor, Scott has turned the state’s economy around, and he’s done a great job in bringing our state to be one of the most growth-oriented and employment-oriented states in the union.”

“The Democrats are going to have to throw a lot of money into this race because on one hand you have a professional politician in Bill Nelson, who voted for the Iran deal, and who has really not done much to help the state of Florida accomplish everything that Rick Scott has been trying to accomplish, against a dynamic young businessman who has chosen to change from being successful in business to being successful as a public servant. And he would never ever have voted in favor of the Iranian deal, which should tell you everything that you need to know about Bill Nelson.”

Andrew Weinstein, a Florida-based attorney and prominent Democratic donor, emails us… “Rick Scott, who oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in US history, took the fifth 75 times, and once rescheduled an execution so his attorney general could attend a political fundraiser has been on the wrong side of every single issue important to Floridians. Climate change, the environment, gun safety, marriage equality, education – you name it and Rick Scott has taken an indefensible position. He has been a disaster as governor and would be a rubber stamp for the Trump agenda as a member of the United States Senate. No thanks. Bill Nelson has worked hard for the people of Florida. He is a moderate voice, a steady leader, and he deserves to be re-elected. While I expect this race to be competitive and expensive, I am confident Bill Nelson will emerge the victor.”

SELF-REFLECTION: “The Failures of Anti-Trumpism” by David Brooks: “Over the past year, those of us in the anti-Trump camp have churned out billions of words critiquing the president. The point of this work is to expose the harm President Trump is doing, weaken his support and prevent him from doing worse. And by that standard, the anti-Trump movement is a failure. We have persuaded no one. Trump’s approval rating is around 40 percent, which is basically unchanged from where it’s been all along.”

“A lot of us never-Trumpers assumed momentum would be on our side as his scandals and incompetences mounted. It hasn’t turned out that way. I almost never meet a Trump supporter who has become disillusioned. I often meet Republicans who were once ambivalent but who have now joined the Trump train. Why has Trump dominated? Part of it is tribalism. In any tribal war people tend to bury individual concerns and rally to their leader and the party line. Part of the problem is that anti-Trumpism has a tendency to be insufferably condescending.” [NYTimes]

ON THE HILL — Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) will announce today the introduction of new bipartisan Holocaust education legislation. The Never Again Education Act would establish a program to allocate funds to schools to teach the important lessons of the Holocaust and the consequences of intolerance and hate.

“Is There Anything Left To Say About the Holocaust?” by Thane Rosenbaum: “It’s the great paradox of the Holocaust. The mere thought of the genocide of European Jewry both paralyzes and demands action. It summons the silence and the scream. The contradictions are endless but understandable. The Holocaust is ineffable, and yet everyone wants to hear about it. It is unimaginable, and yet that never stopped artists from reimagining it. Either as a duty to the dead or in response to the lurid, voyeuristic fascination it evokes, finding new ways to remember the Holocaust always has been a moral imperative. But in the 73 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, these collective acts of giving voice to its memory make one wonder: With all that speaking about the unspeakable, is there anything left to say, or has everything already been said about the Holocaust? The question is overdue. Holocaust memory has grown a little stale over the past several years and fatigue has set in. The number of Yom HaShoah commemorations has declined around the world. With each passing year they dwindle, not unlike the number of survivors.” [JewishJournal]

Correction: In yesterday’s Daily Kickoff we incorrectly noted that MBS met with Haim Saban at Saban’s residence. The dinner took place at the Crown Prince’s Beverly Hills mansion. 

** 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: Glencore boss Ivan Glasenberg quits as Rusal director after US slaps sanctions on Russian firms [TheIndependentFT] • U.S. Sanctions Cause Richest Russians to Lose $12 Billion in a Day [Newsweek] Marc Benioff: Every VC in Silicon Valley turned us down [TechCrunch] • CBS likely will reject Viacom’s demands for a higher valuation [LATimes] • Rachael Horwitz is joining Coinbase as its first vice president of communications [Recode

“This Man Hopes to Bring Peace to the Middle East by Solving Sky-High Unemployment” by Jonathan Russo: “In 2006, Ron Bruder, an American entrepreneur and property developer, set out to see if he could crack one of the Middle East’s most explosive and intractable problems: youth unemployment. He started a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Education For Employment (EFE) to help young people in the region learn a marketable skill and find employment… EFE is currently operating in nine countries—Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia.” [Observer]

PROFILE — “The Lonely Man of Faith: Rabbi Rick Jacobs runs America’s largest Jewish denomination. Can he save liberal Zionism in the age of Netanyahu?” by Abraham Riesman: “There was a time, not so long ago, when Jacobs defied conservative expectations by establishing a close rapport with Netanyahu. The famed Israeli activist and Jewish Agency chief Natan Sharansky brokered the pair’s first meeting in Israel not long after Jacobs’s installment. Jacobs recalls telling Netanyahu that their partnership had the potential to be like that between the late, liberal URJ president Alexander Schindler and legendarily conservative Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In Jacobs’s telling, he said to Netanyahu, “I hope that, as Rabbi Schindler and Prime Minister Begin could see something bigger than whatever particular issue, I hope that we’ll be able to see something bigger.” For a time, they were. The catalyst for their partnership — and for its dissolution — was the Western Wall issue.“ [NYMag]

“Sally Kohn Says Everyone Can Unlearn Hate” by Hilary Weaver: “In April of 2016, Sally Kohn publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders at a rally in Washington Square Park. As she spoke, her then 7-year-old daughter, Willa, a Hillary Clinton supporter, stood by her side. When Kohn mentioned that Willa is a Hillary fan, Bernie supporters in the crowd booed. Backstage, Kohn remembers her daughter asking, “Were they booing me?” Kohn came up with a white lie, telling Willa the crowd wasn’t booing, and that cheers can sometimes sound like boos… In her new book, The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity, Kohn addresses the role that hate plays in our lives and how anyone—even a former neo-Nazi-turned-Buddhist—can change.”[VanityFair]

“When Neo-Nazis Marched Through Berlin’s Old Jewish Quarter, a Bookshop Took Notice” by Sally McGrane: “When right-wing extremists first marched in fall 2016 through the central Berlin neighborhood where [Jorg] Braunsdorf’s independent bookshop, Tucholsky Bookstore, is, he and many of his customers were shocked and appalled. When they marched again last spring, Mr. Braunsdorf decided it was time to act. First, he emailed everyone on his bookstore distribution list… Forty people attended an after-hours meeting. Along with a half-dozen of these attendees, Mr. Braunsdorf co-founded the Residents’ Initiative for Civil Courage. By last summer, when a third march through this neighborhood was announced, the group was ready… A friend of Mr. Braunsdorf’s designed colorful posters and fliers and together they set up three protest stations along the marchers’ route. Between 200 and 300 neighbors showed up with soup spoons, banging on pots and pans, to protest the march.” [NYTimes]

Despacito YouTube music video hacked plus other Vevo clips: “YouTube’s music video for the hit song Despacito, which has had over five billion views, has been hacked… The Despacito video has been removed, but its cover image had shown a group wearing masks and pointing guns. The hackers, calling themselves Prosox and Kuroi’sh, had written “Free Palestine” underneath the videos.” [BBC]

MAZEL TOV — “Seth Meyers names baby after Holocaust survivor great grandparents” by Amy Spiro: “Meyers and his wife, Alexi Ashe, welcomed their second son, Axel Strahl Meyers, on the floor of their apartment lobby on Sunday. In an emotional monologue on his show, Late Night with Seth Meyers, the host regaled his audience with… the meaning behind his name… “His middle name is Strahl, which is my mother in law Joanne – that’s her parents name, that’s her maiden name,” he said. “I never met my wife’s grandparents, but I’ve heard so much about them, and they were Holocaust survivors who met the day after they were liberated. They met in the hospital in Austria and days like this… when someone was born, you just have such an appreciation for everyone in your lineage who lived so that you could have this mom.” [JPost]

“Who Is Neri Oxman? What to Know About the [Israeli] MIT Professor Hanging Out With Brad Pitt” by Megan Friedman: “Oxman was born in Israel to an American father and an Israeli mother who were both architects. She fulfilled her mandatory service in the Israeli military, then went to medical school. But she ended up pursuing her interest in design, transferring to architecture school after two years, then studying in London and finally entering the PhD program in design computation at MIT.” [HarpersBazaar]

“Cheryl Saban Turns Her Artistry to Glass Blowing” by Amy Ephron:“Known for her elegant hosting for politics, causes, friends, holidays, and the way she embraces her own family and those closest to her, it surprises me that she describes herself as a loner. “Really, I am,” she says, “what I really like to do is ski, walk, blow glass…I spend an enormous amount of time alone, making jewelry and with my glass blowing…” Saban has recently opened a shop. The interior of Cheryl Saban Designs is almost minimalist. The wares are shelved on glass, so each piece sparkles, with space between the collections. Every piece of glass is signed.”

“No stranger to cutting edge science, Saban’s book Miracle Child: Genetic Mother, Surrogate Womb, (yes, she’s also a writer) relates the birth of her children with Haim Saban. Their son Ness (which means miracle in Hebrew) was the eighth child in the world to be born by a surrogate, and their daughter Tania, the fortieth. (Cheryl had previously had a hysterectomy and, through the miracle of modern science, was able to be the genetic mother with the use of a surrogate.)”

“Both Haim and Cheryl are both known, in addition to their individual artistic feats—Yes, I do think the personification in Power Rangers is an amazing child-like work of art —for their philanthropy and commitment to the arts: the theater they built in Beverly Hills which also functions as a synagogue on Fridaynight. (Cheryl is Lutheran but she agreed to raise their children in the Jewish faith.)” [Vogue]

DESSERT — Restauranteur leans on family’s Jewish heritage in Edmonton cafe: “Charles Rothman, born in São Paulo, Brazil, leaned on his Jewish heritage to create the menu for the Rooster Cafe and Kitchen. Looking back on his family history and the hardships his grandparents faced as Holocaust survivors, he decided to assert his Jewish background into the menu. He started by bringing in bagels from Toronto’s Gryfe Bagels and using challah bread as the basis for some of his dishes… Though Rothman estimates there are only about 5,000 Jewish people in the Edmonton area, Rooster has been successful.” [CBC]  

BIRTHDAYS: Encino, California-based optometrist, Martin Bordo, D.O. turns 83… Past president of the U.S. Soccer Federation (1990-1998), previously an executive of both the LA Lakers and the LA Clippers, Alan Rothenbergturns 79… Author of three novels and a political history book, he is a former senior editor at The New Yorker and a deputy editor of the Outlook Section in the Washington Post, Jeffrey Frank turns 74… Author of 200 books including the Cam Jansen series and books for youth on the Holocaust, David Abraham Adler turns 71… Former VP of global strategic communications at the Motion Picture Association of America, Howard Gantman turns 67… Scarsdale, NY resident, Robin Samot turns 62… Soviet-born Israeli-American pianist, Yefim Bronfman turns 60… Member of Knesset (Likud) since 1999, Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources, in charge of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, Yuval Steinitz turns 60…

Author of three books (including one made into an award-winning miniseries), she is the chief national correspondent at Yahoo News, following thirty years at the New York Times, Lisa Belkin turns 58… Dana B. Fishman turns 57… Tom Kohn turns 57… Co-host of both NPR’s Invisibilia and Slate’s DoubleX Gabfest, she was born in Israel and moved to Queens when she was 5 years old, Hanna Rosin turns 49… Governor of Missouri since January 2017, Eric Greitens turns 44… Director of Communications at RespectAbilityUSA,Lauren Appelbaum turns 35… Student at Yale Law School, writer on law, the Middle East, religion and philosophy, Yishai Schwartz turns 28… President of NJI Media and co-founder of FamousDC blog, Josh Shultz… Digital strategy manager, Daniel Wolman… Naomi Atlani… Phil Hayes… Susie Diamond

Kafe Knesset for August 24

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bibi-Putin bromance – the aftermath: Before Bibi headed to Putin’s dacha in Sochi, politicians across the political spectrum wished him luck. But now that the meeting is over,…

Netanyahu tells Congress: Remove sunset clause from Iran deal

Thursday, August 24, 2017

WASHINGTON – During a meeting with Republican Congressmen this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the lawmakers to “get rid of the sunset clause” from the 2015…

Kafe Knesset for August 23

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

While Bibi is meeting Putin in Sochi, the US special envoy to Syria, Michael Ratney, is in Jerusalem this week, Kafe Knesset has learned. Ratney will be meeting…

Rep. Smucker Rebukes Palestinian PM for Terror Payments

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

WASHINGTON – Fresh off a trip to Israel with 32 other Republican House Members, Representative Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) slammed Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah for justifying payments to…

Kafe Knesset for August 22

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dasvidaniya, Bibi: Netanyahu is preparing for a day trip to Sochi, Russia. There, he will be meeting President Putin tomorrow for the sixth time in the past two…

Kafe Knesset for August 21

Monday, August 21, 2017

Instructions from the top? This Saturday night marked the 39th consecutive week of protests near Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit’s home. The demonstrators continue to call for Netanyahu to…