Daily Kickoff: Palestinians say Trump to make ‘historic’ offer to Abbas next month | Meet Josh Gottheimer | Shabbat dinners in Vogue | Matzo Makeover


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JI INTERVIEW — This Freshman says he ran for Congress so that Jewish Insider would interview him — by JI’s Aaron Magid: “Why did you run for Congress,” we asked New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer… “So I could do an interview with Jewish Insider. It was my entire objective,” Gottheimer joked. He added, “I ran because I was in business, worked most recently at Microsoft, and I started my career working for President Clinton and it was a very different time. People actually were willing to work together and sit at the table: Democrats, Republicans and some independents and find some common ground. Too many people I thought were only going to Washington to scream at each other and not solve problems. Like most people, I was frustrated… I flew home one day. I had just worked on developing a product and finished an hours-long marathon meeting. I took the red-eye home from the West Coast that night, walked-in and saw my wife the next morning and said I got this idea and then she sent me out of the room onto the couch for a couple of days.”

The Democrat from New Jersey cited five policies in which he agreed with Trump during the February 28 address: “infrastructure, tax reform, aspects of regulatory reform, a strong foreign policy, and standing by veterans and law enforcement.” While objecting to Trump’s immigration stance, Gottheimer stressed that remaining objective was critical to maintaining credibility. “You have to call balls and strikes,” he asserted… Even during a round of voting, Gottheimer insists on speaking with his young children, Ellie and Ben via FaceTime at 6:30 each evening. He starts his day with an early morning workout session led by former Mixed Martial Arts fighter Markwayne Mullin. His family is a “split household” with the Congressman an ardent Yankees fan while his wife Marla supports the Mets. Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “White House Seeks to Cut Billions in Funding for United Nations” by Colum Lynch: “State Department staffers have been instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for U.N. programs… It remains unclear whether the full extent of the steeper U.N. cuts will be reflected in the 2018 budget… or whether, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has proposed, the cuts would be phased in over the coming three years… The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides aid to Palestinian refugees, has long been the target of Israeli and congressional criticism on the grounds that it has a pro-Palestinian bias. But one diplomat said UNRWA might be spared because it relieves Israel of the obligation to care for some Palestinians and because Israel sees the program as ultimately promoting stability.” [FP]

ON THE HILL — A bipartisan group of 167 Members of Congress are calling on President Donald Trump to keep the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in a letter released yesterday. “As Members of Congress who care deeply about anti-Semitism at home and abroad, we urge you to maintain and prioritize the appointment of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism,” the letter states. [JewishInsider]

‘GREAT’ DEAL: Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for five hours yesterday on his first visit to the region. “In meeting with Israeli PM Netanyahu, discussed regional situation, how progress towards peace with Palestinians can be made and settlements,” Greenblatt tweeted following the meeting. In a readout, the PM’s Office said the two “continued discussions relating to settlement construction in the hope of working out an approach that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security.”

— “In a photo op at the start of their meeting, Mr. Netanyahu greeted Mr. Greenblatt warmly, addressing him as Jason, and said, “I hope we can do some good things together.” Mr. Greenblatt replied, “I think we are going to do great things together.” Once seated, he thanked Mr. Netanyahu for reorganizing his schedule, throwing in a “todah,” Hebrew for thank you.” [NYTimes]

“Trump adviser makes first foray into Middle East peace process” by John Reed: “[Greenblatt] will also meet students, religious leaders and businesspeople in the first of what US officials say will be “numerous visits” to the region. “This is a visit where Mr Greenblatt will be listening to Israelis and Palestinians about their views and perspectives, and hearing their thoughts about how peace is possible,” a US embassy official in Tel Aviv said.” [FT] • Palestinians say Trump to make ‘historic’ offer to Abbas next month [ToI]

“Advice to Trump’s Middle East Envoy: Don’t Stop with Netanyahu and Abbas” by Daniel Shapiro: “These early visits… represent a unique opportunity to get out of the prime minister’s office and the Muqata’a, and hear the views of other Israeli and Palestinian officials and civilians who will be relevant players in the success or failure of any diplomatic effort… Much of the work outlined above will be carried out between envoys’ visits by our diplomats on the ground. But the more the knowledge these engagements produce penetrates the most senior levels of the U.S. government, the more informed and realistic our policy decisions will be.” [FP

COMING SOON: House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer will all speak at AIPAC’s Policy Conference on March 26-28, AIPAC announced yesterday. Vice President Mike Pence will deliver the keynote address.

KAFE KNESSET — Bibi and Sarah’s day in court — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Dozens of journalists and cameramen gathered this morning outside the Tel Aviv Court to accompany the PM and his wife Sarah to a hearing in a libel suit the couple filed against journalist Yigal Sarna. The Netanyahus are suing Sarna, who writes for Yedioth Aharonot, for over $75,000 as a result of a Facebook post he wrote last year, in which he alleged that the PM’s motorcade stopped in the middle of the main highway and Netanyahu, according to Sarna’s post, was kicked out of the car by his wife.

Netanyahu tried to avoid today’s testimony and asked the court to postpone the hearing due to his “many international political tasks” but the judge rejected his petition and obliged him to arrive in court today… Netanyahu took the stand, insisting that everything that Sarna described “never happened and is a total lie.” His testimony lasted 23 minutes, and judging by the tweets coming from the reporters inside the courtroom, Bibi was well prepared for the show and engaged in back and forth comments during the cross-examination. “New media today is very popular and as influential and strong as what I call classic journalism. Facebook is everything for the young generation,” Sarah explained from the witness stand. “We are being slaughtered by the media. If I would sue over every lie that slandered my name in the last 20 years I would spend all my days in court. I choose a case once in a while,” she said. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

INTERVIEW – Member of the Knesset Yair Lapid, who is visiting the U.S. to lobby against funding for the UN’s Human Rights Council, spoke with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh last week in the Knesset about holding the UN accountable for its bias against Israel and the need for Israel to maintain bipartisan U.S. support for Israel. Regarding the Trump Administration’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lapid said, “We are in the middle of what is known as the PPR (Presidential Policy Review), and I think it will take some time before we know where exactly this administration is going. Yet, this is obviously a very friendly administration. I mean, emotions matter and it is so obvious that this is an administration that is very fond of Israel, and, of course, we are happy about this. Now, how this is going to be translated into policy, we don’t know yet.”

Lapid on the Taylor Force Act: “The idea that the Palestinian Authority is taking U.S. taxpayer dollars and using it to pay the families of terrorists as a compensation for them sitting in jail is an absurdity. This is mocking the American idea of what is justice. Yet, we need to remember that Israel has a security coordination with the Palestinian Authority which is helpful for us, and nobody thinks it’s a good idea to allow the Palestinian Authority to collapse. And therefore, you have to be firm on your attitude towards terror and flexible on your attitude towards the PA. But if you ask me on moral grounds, this bill is the right bill.”

TOP TALKER: “Can You Be a Zionist Feminist? Linda Sarsour Says No” by Collier Meyerson: “The latest fissure making its way into public consciousness is about the role of Zionism in feminism, raised last week by Bustle politics editor, Emily Shire, in a New York Times op-ed… In the days after its publication, Shire’s piece has reignited a debate among feminists about the tenets of the movement. I spoke with Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American feminist activist, who disagrees with Shire’s claim that feminist actions shouldn’t take a hard line on Israel.” [TheNation; JPost]

“Is Intersectionality a Religion?” by Andrew Sullivan: ““Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice…”

“It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably.” [NYMag]

“Republican Congressman Steve King Sparks Row Over Support for Geert Wilders” by Conor Gaffey: “King’s tweet also drew condemnation from Democrats. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of defeated 2016 U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, said: “Clearly the Congressman does not view all our children as, well, all our children. Particularly ironic & painful on Purim.” Purim is a Jewish festival commemorating the biblical story of the deliverance of the Jewish people from annihilation by an ancient Persian emperor.” [Newsweek]

2018 WATCH: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s finance guy Paul Egerman signs on to Setti Warren’s potential 2018 bid for governor” by Gintautas Dumcius: “Paul Egerman, a top supporter of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is ready to back Newton Mayor Setti Warren if he mounts a campaign against Gov. Charlie Baker in 2018… Joshua Boger, founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, is serving as the finance committee’s chair.” [MassLive

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: LeFrak to buy Dumont hotel for $120M, eyeing resi conversion [TRD] • Engie, the Israeli car diagnostics app and mechanic marketplace, launches in UK [TC] • How Larry Silverstein hustled to rebuild the World Trade Center [RealDeal]

“Zvi Scheiber’s Freightos Born Out Of Frustration With Archaic Freight Business” by Bruce Rogers: “Freightos is a fast-growing, Israeli-headquartered SaaS software company designed to simplify the complicated and archaic shipping business. Founded by software engineer and serial entrepreneur Zvi Schreiber in 2012, the firm works with 90 percent of the top freight forwarders and automated 60,000 price quotes in the last quarter… “We are very much like an Expedia for freight,” says Schreiber.” [Forbes

Kushners Set to Get $400 Million From Chinese Firm on Tower” by David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby: “The planned $4-billion transaction… provides them with both a sizable cash payout from Anbang Insurance Group for a property that has struggled financially and an equity stake in a new partnership… The deal would value the 41-story tower (at 666 Fifth Ave) at $2.85 billion, the most ever for a single Manhattan building: $1.6 billion for the office section and $1.25 billion for the retail section. The new partnership will refinance $1.15 billion in existing mortgage debt. “This is a huge, huge exit strategy for an office building,” said Joshua Stein, a New York real estate lawyer. “It does sound like a home run of a transaction for Kushner and his group.” … . A company spokesman, James Yolles, said that Jared Kushner sold his ownership stake in 666 Fifth to family members so the transaction poses no conflict of interest with his White House role.” [Bloomberg

“Why Glencore bought Israeli tycoon out of Congo mines” by Tom Burgis: “Glencore’s announcement last month that it would pay $534m to [Israeli mining tycoon Dan] Gertler to buy him out from their shared prize assets in the DRC — two giant copper mines — is designed to insulate the London-listed mining cum trading behemoth from the fallout of a widening corruption investigation involving the Israeli businessman, say people who have followed the saga. The decision by Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore’s chief executive, highlights the risks of doing business in the resource-rich, war-torn central African country, where Mr Gertler wields influence by virtue of his close friendship with Joseph Kabila, the DRC president.” [FT

MEDIA WATCH: “Is Trump Trolling the White House Press Corps?” by Andrew Marantz: “The next day, the President held another two-and-two, this time with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump’s two questions went to the Christian Broadcasting Network and to Townhall. On the way back to the briefing room, three cameramen stopped outside for a cigarette. “Who’s gonna get the next question at one of these?” one of them said… “At least the Israeli press got to ask tough questions,” another said. “I guess Israel’s still a democracy.” [NewYorker]

“How a Wonky National-Security Blog Hit the Big Time” by Emily Bazelon: “A little over a year ago, Benjamin Wittes, the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare, made the case that Donald Trump, as a Republican presidential candidate, represented nothing less than a national-security threat… The warning was an early sign of the opposition to Trump that has since hardened among the national-security professionals and observers for whom Lawfare serves as a kind of bulletin board.” [NYTimesMag]

“Veteran journalist Willow Bay named dean of USC Annenberg” by Beth Shuster: “Willow Bay is exactly the right person to lead USC Annenberg at this important time, given the dramatic changes in communications and journalism,” [USC Provost Michael] Quick said… “Our students, faculty and staff will greatly benefit from Willow’s expertise as they grapple with the ever-evolving world of social media, print and broadcast journalism and converged communication.” [USC]

“I Went To Turkey To Interview The President And (Almost) All I Got Was A Meeting With A Conspiracy Theorist” by Jessica Schulberg: “According to [Ankara Mayor Melih] Gökçek, the U.S. and Israel had collaborated to “trigger” a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in the Gulf by sailing up to a coastal fault line and attempting to extract energy. “They couldn’t manage it, just like an atom bomb, the energy inside the ground exploded and it turned into an earthquake,” he said. There’s no evidence of such an occurrence.” [HuffPost

TALK OF OUR NATION: “How to Host a Shabbat Dinner and Why You Should—Even if You Aren’t Celebrating” by Ariel Feldman: “About halfway through each week, I implore anyone and everyone to “come over for Shabbat.” My requests are often met with blank stares or responses of “but I’m not Jewish?” from friends and coworkers. While I am Jewish, I’m not Orthodox or extremely observant—yet the rituals of this Friday night tradition have become so much more than a religious experience to me. What’s better than winding down the week at home filled with your favorite people and the scent of a chicken roasting in the oven?” [Vogue]

SPORTS BLINK: Meet the Jewish MVP leading Princeton to the NCAA Tournament” by Marc Brodsky: ““We’re battle tested,” [Spencer] Weisz told Jerry Carino of the New Jersey Hoops Heaven website following the victory over Yale and a day after beating Penn in overtime. “These two games kind of give you that feeling of sudden death.” Weisz will be looking to add to a trophy case that includes the gold as a member of the U.S. junior team that won at the 2013 Maccabiah Games, the Olympics-style competition held every four years in Israel. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.” [JTA

DESSERT: “The Definitive Guide to Kosher Dining in New York City” by Gayle L Squires: “New York City is a haven for the kosher eater. There are at least 300 kosher restaurants in the city (more if you include those with less-stringent supervision), running the gamut from special-occasion steakhouses, to one of the city’s best new BBQ spots, to a burger joint that rivals its non-kosher brethren. Focusing primarily on Manhattan, where there’s the highest per-capita concentration of kosher spots, we’ve put together this guide to the city’s best kosher restaurants — making it easy for kosher-law observers to find something for every occasion.” [Thrillist]

“Matzo Makeover: Can The Bread Of Affliction Become A Snack Addiction?” by Larissa Zimberoff: “Finally, a piece of matzo you can Instagram. No one has ever been all that excited about matzo, the bread of affliction. But two New Yorkers, Kevin Rodriguez and Ashley Albert, are looking to make matzo — the unleavened bread that Jews eat during the eight days of Passover — as ubiquitous as that other cracker that jumped the cultural hurdle: the pita chip. “The Matzo Project” was born two years ago, about the same time that Streit’s was abandoning its century-old home in exchange for the more economical expanse of New Jersey.” [NPR]

BIRTHDAYS: One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Ben is four days younger), Jerry Greenfield turns 66… Professor emeritus of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University, winner of the 1982 Israel Prize, Joshua Jortner turns 84… Founder and President of Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center since 1995, previously EVP and Dean of HUC-JIR (1975-1995), Rabbi Dr. Uri Herscher turns 76… Actor, writer, producer, director, comedian and television host, Billy Crystal turns 69… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1995, representing Howard County, Shane Elizabeth Pendergrass turns 67…  Eliezer Barak turns 66… President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and a senior rabbinic fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, Denise (Davida) Eger turns 57… Microgrid architect at Urban Ingenuity, a DC-based consulting firm for advanced clean energy infrastructure projects, Shalom Flank PhD. turns 52… Heiress, together with her brother and cousins, to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, philanthropist, former child actress, Liesel Pritzker Simmons turns 33… Managing Director of Investments at Hefter, Leshem, Margolis Capital Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Steven Hefter… Sophie Galant… Phil Liebman


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Daily Kickoff: Largest ever Israeli tech acquisition — Intel buys Mobileye for $15B | Trump advisor visits Israel | Team Israel’s first WBC loss


BIG DEAL: “Intel to Buy Jerusalem-based Mobileye for About $15 Billion in Car Tech Push” by Ian King: “Intel Corp. plans to buy Israel’s Mobileye NV for about $15 billion, its second-biggest acquisition and a bold attempt to dominate technology for self-driving cars. The U.S. chipmaker will pay $63.54 per share in cash for Jerusalem-based Mobileye, according to a statement Monday from both companies. Mobileye shares closed at $47.27 on Friday in New York.” [Bloomberg; CNBC] • Intel will move its automotive unit to Israel [TechCrunch]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’ — by Jonathan Swan: “Influential figures in the conservative pro-Israel community have concluded that President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have convinced themselves that their dealmaking talents can clinch this “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians… The Trump administration alienated some allies in conservative pro-Israel circles by allowing the State Department to hire Michael Ratney, who was a senior U.S. diplomat in Jerusalem under John Kerry. In recent days, a number of influential conservatives have reached out to White House officials, urging them to fire Ratney… A conservative pro-Israel leader tells me Trump’s aspirations “will run up against the reality of dealing with the Palestinians.”” [Axios

“Trump invites Palestinian leader Abbas to White House” by Luke Baker: “Trump on Friday invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House, in a first phone call between the two leaders since Trump took office.” [Reuters]  

White House readout: “The President emphasized his personal belief that peace is possible and that the time has come to make a deal… He underscored that such a peace agreement must be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the United States will work closely with Palestinian and Israeli leadership to make progress toward that goal.  The President noted that the United States cannot impose a solution on the Israelis and Palestinians, nor can one side impose an agreement on the other.”

“Abbas: Trump told me he wants two-state solution” by Sue Surkes and Alexander Fulbright: “Speaking in Ramallah, Abbas on Sunday said that his phone conversation with Trump… was “constructive” and that Trump “confirmed his full commitment to the peace process and the two-state solution.” He added: “We will continue to cooperate with [Trump], in order to arrive at a comprehensive and just peace that will bring security and stability to everyone.” Other Palestinian sources said that Trump told Abbas he wanted to broker a deal, and that he referred to Abbas as a “partner.”” [ToI]

KEY QUESTION FOR PRO-ISRAEL FOLKS —How much of this is driven, perhaps with encouragement from the Israelis, by the White House’s desire to be viewed by the Palestinians as an ‘honest broker’? According to Michael Herzog’s extensive recap of the last major round of negotiations, the Israeli’s central issue with Kerry wasn’t so much the ‘honest broker’ aspect as it was with the lack of coordination, with the US holding back info and misleading both the Israelis and the Palestinians. To the extent there is currently very high levels of coordination between the White House and the Israelis, another question is how long will it last?

“Trump Envoy Jason Greenblatt to Visit Israel on Monday” by Barak Ravid: “[Jason] Greenblatt will be getting together Monday with President Reuven Rivlin and will then meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ron Dermer… On Tuesday, Greenblatt will go to the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials… Accompanying Greenblatt on his trip is Yael Lempert, who held the Israel portfolio for the National Security Council at the White House during the Obama administration and has remained in the position under President Trump.” [Haaretz

Greenblatt created a new Twitter account @jdgreenblatt45, promising followers that he’ll be tweeting updates from his trip such as this one: “Time for morning prayer (shacharit) at unexpected stop in Frankfurt. Pray for peace.” [Twitter]

QUICK PREVIEW — by the Kafe Knesset team: Just a few hours before Jason Greenblatt landed in Israel, Minister of Defense Liberman conveyed his message to the Trump administration envoy. “Ahead of another attempt to launch Israeli Palestinian negotiations, we should learn lessons from the past and the first lesson is that any attempt to solve the Palestinian issue by the ‘land for peace’ formula is doomed to fail. The only way to reach a viable agreement is a broad regional agreement which will include territory and population exchange,” he wrote on Facebook this morning. Liberman will not be meeting Greenblatt during his Israel trip, though Kafe Knesset has learned that during his visit to DC last week, the Israeli Defense Minister and the President’s special advisor did have a chance to sit down, during Liberman’s meeting with NSC Director McMaster. [KafeKnesset]

“Tillerson Leads From State Dept. Shadows as White House Steps In” by David Sanger: “Henry A. Kissinger slipped into the State Department last week for a quiet lunch in his old office with Rex W. Tillerson… “The normal tendency when you come into that job is to increase your visibility and to show that you are present and in charge,” he said in an interview. “He wanted to first inform himself of all the nuances. I was impressed by the confidence and self-assurance that he showed.” … “He’s won status and respect of the president, of McMaster, and talks all the time to Jared,” [Senator Bob Corker] said.”

Mr. Kissinger, at 93, is philosophical about most things, including Mr. Tillerson. “I would expect that as foreign policy evolves, Rex Tillerson will become an increasingly prominent exponent of it,” he said. “When I first came to Washington” as national security adviser to President Richard M. Nixon, “you would find me mentioned in The New York Times maybe 10 times.” A computer index suggests that the actual number in his first year was around 228.” [NYTimes]

“Foreign leaders try to find their footing with a mercurial yet crucial ally: Trump” by Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker: “Some leaders who had strained relations with Obama welcome the chance to turn the page. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was greeted in Washington last month like a conquering hero, and he made a point to celebrate his long personal history with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.” [WashPost

In an interview with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh, Israel’s Minister for Public Security Gilad Erdan commented on Trump’s settlements policy: “Look, the American administration is not the Israeli government. I don’t expect them to see everything eye to eye. And after saying that I think there is still a huge improvement in the way that the new administration sees many issues concerning Israel and it’s challenges compared to what we had in the Obama administration… We heard things from the White House that we didn’t hear for many years. For example when they announced that they understand that the settlements are not the real obstacle for peace and that shows a deep understand of the conflict, because it’s true. When all the settlements are between 2-3 percent of Judea and Samaria, no serious guy can believe that this is what is stopping us from achieving peace.”

“I think that we should do whatever we plan to be coordinated with the new administration. About the settlements, we established a team. Let’s give this team a chance for — I hope for a short time — to try to agree on the policy concerning the building in the settlements. But, personally, I believe that for many years the Palestinians heard from everyone that time is running out only against Israel. So why should they make concessions? They can wait and the world and the American administration would put pressure only on the Israeli side… I hope that we will convince the administration that putting pressure or limiting our construction in the settlement… that will be a mistake because again that will put the pressure on Israel instead of putting the pressure on the Palestinian side to come to the table without preconditions and to challenge us around the table with talking to us and not by boycotting us.”

“Blair did offer to help Trump in the Middle East” by Simon Walters: “US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has confirmed to the British Government that Tony Blair has offered to help Donald Trump win a Middle East peace deal… and the Trump administration had ‘taken his approach seriously’… A senior diplomatic source said: ‘Blair has offered to help Kushner and the White House and they are very interested. They think his general diplomatic and Middle East background could be useful.’” [DailyMail

ON THE HILL 115 House Members Sign Letter Warning About One-State Outcome — by JI’s Aaron Magid: Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) have circulated a letter calling on President Donald Trump to “reaffirm” America’s support for the two state solution while warning against a one state scenario. At least 115 Members of Congress have co-signed the letter including two Republican Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and John Duncan (R-TN). “There are those who argued that this is just a party line letter, so when we got two Republicans, I was able to say, ‘not anymore,’” Rep. Connolly told Jewish Insider. [JewishInsider]

KAFE KNESSET — UN Human Rights Council, Yair Lapid is coming to get you — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The Yesh Atid leader, and likely leading challenger to Netanyahu in the next election, headed to Washington D.C. on Monday to advocate for the US to stop funding the panel. Lapid recently called the UNHRC “the rotten core of [the] antisemitic campaign” to delegitimize Israel. Lapid plans to meet with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Congressional Israel Allies Caucus chairmen Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Trent Franks (R-AZ).  Lapid will also meet with Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and others in Congress and make appearances in the American media. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

Lapid tells us: “In the last decade, in the UNHRC, there were 61 resolutions regarding global events. In the same decade, they had 67 resolutions about Israel. They had more resolutions about Israel than they had about the entire world. In the past, the U.S. left the organization and came back. And on top of being part of it, the U.S. is its main sponsor. American taxpayers are actually paying the organization on a day-to-day basis for horrible unbalanced, anti-Semitic propaganda. We want to bring this to the attention of Congress and tell senators and House Members: ‘It’s time to leave and take your money with you.’” The friendship between the U.S. and Israel is so firm that I think it’s ok for us to at least make sure that the U.S. administration is aware of what is going on.”

“Trump’s Middle East diplomacy is complicated by Palestinian terror incitement” by Josh Rogin: “Even some longtime advocates of Palestinian institution-building are now on board with defunding. “We have been doing the same thing for decades, and it isn’t working to change Palestinian political culture, and that political culture has to change if we want peace,” said Elliott Abrams, a former White House and State Department official… [Sen. Lindsey] Graham said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on board. An Israeli embassy official wouldn’t confirm that but told me that the government thinks it very important to shine a spotlight on the issue, especially as the peace process gets going again… Robert Danin, a former Middle East negotiator now at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Graham’s legislation is too blunt an instrument but could be useful as leverage, if and when a more comprehensive strategy takes shape.” [WashPost]

** 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 **

SPOTLIGHT: “A New York startup shakes up the insurance business” by The Economist: “Daniel Schreiber and Shai Wininger, tech entrepreneurs with no insurance background, spotted that the industry is huge… distrusted, antiquated and hopelessly unreformed. In September they started Lemonade, a New York-based insurer for homeowners and renters. Some describe it as a peer-to-peer insurer (“Spiritually we’re a tech company,” says Mr Schreiber). Most agree that its app makes insurance a lot easier. This appeals to the digital generation: of 2,000 policies sold in its first 100 days, over 80% were to first-time buyers.” [Economist]

“Mark Cuban on running for president: ‘I wouldn’t say never'” by Michelle Castillo:“”I wouldn’t say never, but it’s not my lifelong dream,” Cuban told CNBC at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. “It depends on how things turn out.” … At the very least, Cuban said he could do better at being president than Trump is doing right now. “Yeah I think I could,” he said to CNBC, smiling.” [CNBC

“CNN’s Jake Tapper Says His Son Has Adapted “Fake News” Line From Trump” by Natalie Jarvey: “Tapper noted that even his 7-year-old son has picked up on the phenomenon, explaining with a laugh that he “now does an impression where whenever I’m bothering him he says, ‘fake news.'”” [THR

“ADL plans Silicon Valley center to fight cyberhate” by Jon Swartz: “The center on cyberhate, technology and society will leverage technology and experts to “monitor, analyze and mitigate hate speech and harassment” across the Internet. The facility, which should open somewhere south of San Francisco  in the next three to six months, received seed funding through eBay founder Pierre Omidyar‘s philanthropic investment firm, Omidyar Network… Greenblatt called the center the “first of its kind” in the civil rights era. Brittan Heller, a former Justice Department official who leads ADL’s anti-cyberhate efforts, will be founding director of the new center.” [USAToday]

“Gaza tailor makes prayer caps for Jewish worshippers” by Nidal al-Mughrabi:“It’s not easy doing business from Gaza but tailor Mohammad Abu Shanab has found a demand he can supply — his sewing factory is churning out religious skull caps, for devout Jewish men. Since Israel resumed importing clothing from Gaza in 2015, Abu Shanab has renewed commercial contacts to sell merchandise to neighboring Israel. With salaries in Gaza much lower, Abu Shanab’s costs are very competitive. “We make all kinds of clothes and recently began making the skull caps that are worn by Israeli rabbis and Christian priests,” said Abu Shanab.” [Reuters]

YESTERDAY’S HEADLINE: “Israel Wins Again in the W.B.C., Beating Cuba to Stay Undefeated” by Ken Belson: “The victory kept Israel undefeated in its first W.B.C. appearance and pushed the team one step closer to a berth in the semifinal round in Los Angeles… Former and current New York Mets played a big role in the game for Israel… Israel will then play host Japan, which includes some of the elite players from the country’s top league.” [NYTimes

TODAY: “Israel falls to first defeat in World Baseball Classic” by Allon Sinai: “Another victory over the Netherlands would have put Israel on the verge of advancing to the last four at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. However, Monday’s lopsided defeat complicates Israel’s position, especially considering it faces favorite Japan in its final Pool E game on Wednesday.” [JPost]

DESSERT: “DC cafe becomes ‘second White House cafeteria’” by Richard Johnson: “Cafe Milano in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, is the favorite restaurant of the Trump administration. On Wednesday night, at three separate tables were Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “It’s like the second White House cafeteria,” said one regular at the Italian eatery.” [NYPost]

WEEKEND WEDDING — Lauren Weinstein, Eli Kintisch: “Lauren Beth Weinstein and Eli Steven Kintisch were married March 12 at Hotel Monaco in Washington. Lilah L. Pomerance, a friend of the couple who received authorization from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, officiated, with Cantor Benjamin Kintisch, the groom’s brother, participating. The bride, 32, who is keeping her name, is a leadership and career coach at the Washington site of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, where she helps candidates find jobs in the Jewish nonprofit sector… The groom, 39, is based in Washington as a contributing correspondent covering climate change at Science magazine, published by Association for the Advancement of Science.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Futurist, social engineer, industrial designer and director of the Venus Project, Jacque Fresco turns 101… Pop singer, pianist, composer of over 500 songs and record producer, whose family name derives from the Hebrew word for charity, Neil Sedaka turns 78… Syndicated columnist whose weekly column appears in more than 400 publications worldwide, author, political commentator and non-practicing physician, Charles Krauthammer turns 67… Former Florida congressman (2009-2011 and again 2013-2017), 1983 graduate from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, Alan Grayson turns 59… Former US Ambassador to the United Nations and deputy national security advisor to President Bill Clinton, currently president and CEO of Soderberg Global Solutions, Nancy Soderberg turns 59… Founder and CEO of MediaBistro which she sold in 2007, now managing partner of Flatiron Investors, a NYC-based investors syndicate, Laurel Touby turns 54 (h/ts Playbook)…

Heavy metal songwriter, vocalist for the band Disturbed as well as for the band Device, former yeshiva student, David Draiman turns 44… Senior advisor for Senator Bernie Sanders, former host of daily Sirius XM program “The Agenda,” Ari Rabin-Havt turns 38… Television and film actor, Emile Hirsch turns 32… Television and film actor, Emory Cohen turns 27… Social Media Manager at NBC Universal, Jessie Rubin… Gabriel Romano… Neil Scheindlin Matthew Gelles… Robert Smith

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]




Daily Kickoff: Rabbis argue against notion that Shabbat’s to blame for Trump tweets | Rich -> Putin tells Bibi to stop dwelling on past | Happy Purim!


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About Those Tweets… “Shabbat’s not the reason Trump tweets on Saturdays” by Annie Karni: “I think it’s a very foolish assumption to say that in some way, people in the Trump administration wait until the Sabbath so they can make decisions that otherwise, other members of the Trump administration might weigh in on,” said Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, rabbi emeritus at the Kehilath Jeshurun congregation on Manhattan’s Upper East Side… The rules of Shabbat “are not so black and white,” explained Rabbi Avidan Milevsky, the interim rabbi at Kesher Israel… But he said it was a “dangerous misconception” to assume Kushner was out of touch and off the grid during Trump’s most inflammatory moments. “It implies that anything disastrous is somehow indirectly to be blamed on Jared’s absence—and by extension, Jews,” Milevsky said. “It’s a dangerous narrative — this idea that he’s not allowed to discuss these things on the Sabbath is absolutely false… Jared is not locked in a room. It was a cool idea, and it got some press, but it is a dangerous and false narrative.” [Politico

President-in-law: “Mexican foreign minister goes straight to the White House, skips usual channels” by Tracy Wilkinson: “Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray met at the White House with President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, along with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, a top financial aide, the Mexican government announced… When asked whether any sessions were scheduled at the State Department, the spokesman, Mark Toner, said he didn’t know Videgaray was in town.” [LATimes]

“Rex Tillerson is off to an agonizingly slow start” by David Ignatius: “Tillerson’s first big setback was his failed advocacy of Abrams… Trump seemed enthusiastic during an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 7 that included Tillerson, Kushner and Abrams. As they were leaving the Oval Office, Bannon, in a true “House of Cards” moment, said to Abrams: “Huge fan.” Several hours later, reportedly after Bannon showed Trump some critical comments Abrams had made about him during the campaign, Tillerson was informed that the nomination had been nixed. Tillerson tried to reverse the decision but failed. He’s still looking for a deputy.” [WashPost]

“Leave Steve Bannon Out of Your Shpiel” by Tevi Troy: “Comparing Mr. Bannon, or any Trump aide, to Haman diminishes the true threats that Jews face in a dangerous world. A political figure, even one with whom you disagree, is not worthy of comparison with someone who paid a pliable king 10,000 talents of silver for the “privilege” of slaughtering the Jews. The suggestion that the two are alike will only undermine legitimate criticism of Mr. Bannon… The Hamanization of Trump aides threatens badly needed Jewish unity and could also turn off otherwise sympathetic gentiles.” [WSJ]

“Trump’s Intelligence Nominee Gets Early Lesson in Managing White House” by Matthew Rosenberg and James Risen: “Until last week, the White House was weighing a plan to bring in Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management and a friend of Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner, to lead a White House review of the intelligence community… Stiff resistance from [Dan] Coats and Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency — aided by pushback from allies in the Senate and even Mr. Pence — appears to have derailed the plan. Mr. Feinberg is now in discussions with administration officials to take on a still-undetermined role in defense, rather than intelligence… Mr. Coats saw Mr. Feinberg’s potential appointment as an effort by Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner to undercut him, according to current and former officials.” [NYTimes

“When the Generals Become Democracy’s Guardians” by Andrew Exum: “Military officers have checked some of the president’s uglier populist impulses. But what does that mean for liberal values? …it makes me worry about what that means for both liberal values and the role of the military officer corps in American society. For some answers, it’s worth taking a look at another country in which the senior ranks of the military officer corps have been thrust into a role as the vanguard of liberalism: Israel.” [TheAtlantic]

HAPPENING TODAY: President Trump will speak with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by telephone at 12:15 PM, according to the White House.

Aaron David Miller‏: “Trump talks to Abbas. If Trump puts his brand on a peace initiative — like steaks, ties, wine — Bibi watch out.” [Twitter]

Dan Shapiro writes: “Today seems like a good day to debunk this oft-repeated but erroneous claim: That Obama’s first call as POTUS was to Abbas. It wasn’t. I was in the Oval Office that day, Jan 21, 2009… Operation Cast Lead had just ended, and Obama wanted to reinforce the shaky, Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that was taking hold. Just past 8:30 AM, we entered the Oval for the calls. The sequence had been carefully scripted: Mubarak, Olmert, Abbas, King Abdullah. Thank Egypt for its role on the ceasefire; support for Israel’s self-defense; appreciate PA helping keeping the WB stable; support Jordan.” [Twitter

Greenblatt to meet with Palestinians, too: Jerusalem is preparing for the first visit by a Trump administration official, as the president’s special representative, Jason Greenblatt, is set to arrive next week. A US official told Kafe Knesset yesterday that Greenblatt will be visiting both Jerusalem and Ramallah, meeting both Netanyahu and President Abbas, as well as officials from both the Israeli and the Palestinian side.

On the Israeli side, Greenblatt’s visit is likely to be dominated by the settlements issue, as he is the US point man on the team coordinating the matter. He will arrive against the backdrop of right-wing pressure on Netanyahu to expand settlement construction and stand by his commitment to build a new settlement for the Amona evacuees. The Jewish Home is now threatening not to support Likud legislation until Netanyahu fulfills his promise on Amona. [KafeKnesset]

Bill Clinton Talks Rabin, Peace Process — by JI’s Aaron Magid: Former President Bill Clinton spoke to a packed audience at Brookings Institute on Thursday and called for an end to ongoing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians… Clinton called the day of [Rabin’s] assassination his worst day in the White House, adding, “I remain convinced that had he lived we would have achieved a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians by 1998 and we’d be living in a different world today.” He recalled Rabin telling him once that he was making peace because otherwise, “Very soon we will either no longer be a democracy or no longer be a Jewish state.” [JewishInsiderPolitico

HEARD IN MOSCOW: “Rejecting Purim spiel, Putin tells Netanyahu to stop dwelling on past” by TOI: “Russian President Vladimir Putin told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop living in the past Thursday, after the Israeli premier tried to tie tensions with Iran to an upcoming Jewish holiday about a thwarted genocide of Jews in ancient Persia. Adopting a conciliatory tone, Putin said that the events described by Netanyahu had taken place “in the fifth century B.C.” “We now live in a different world. Let us talk about that now,” Putin said.” [ToI]

KAFE KNESSET — Putin’s perfect present — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: At home, Netanyahu is dealing with an inconvenient gift scandal, but during his visit to Moscow yesterday, a present from President Putin actually warmed his heart. The Russian president and Netanyahu are considered quite close, and Putin chose the perfect gift for Netanyahu, the son of the historian: an antique copy of “The Jewish War” by Josephus Flavius. The volume was printed in Tuscany, Italy in 1526, almost 500 years ago. “It’s a very special gift.” Netanyahu told reporters in a phone call briefing from the tarmac before flying back to Israel. “There is no doubt this book has a significant place in our historical heritage. I really appreciate it,” he added, stressing he will be passing on the book to the National Library.

Gifts aside, Netanyahu stressed the importance of his Kremlin meeting, which was dedicated to the Syrian front and Israeli concerns about Iran bolstering its standing in post-war Syria. Netanyahu presented Putin with intelligence demonstrating recent Iranian moves from the past few weeks, which show Tehran is attempting to create a permanent military presence in Syria, including attempts to build a naval port. “I can tell you from past experience that these face-to-face conversations between us are very significant. It was a direct and frank conversation,” Netanyahu said, refusing to reveal what Putin’s response was. “I can tell you for sure – he got the message.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

ON THE HILL: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced David Friedman’s nomination for US Ambassador to Israel. The vote was mostly along party lines with Democratic Senator Bob Menendez who, by voting yes, gave Friedman bipartisan backing. Friedman’s candidacy will proceed to a Senate floor vote at an undetermined time.

“Menendez, Booker at odds over Trump’s ambassador to Israel” By Jonathan D. Salant: “Menendez said he voted yes after discussing his and constituents’ concerns with the nominee, including a two-state solution… “I believe maintaining that bipartisan support is critical, and that it is vitally important we enjoy open channels of communication with our ambassador.” [NJAdvance

After the vote, Senator Rob Portman explained his vote to Jewish Insider, “He’s the President’s pick. I tend to defer to the President, Republican and Democrat alike. He answered some of the questions I had and I thought he did a good job responding to those.” Senator James Risch (R-ID) told Jewish Insider, “He’s the right guy for the job. Period,” [JewishInsider

Clinton’s Rabbi backs Friedman — “A new US ambassador at a critical time” by Menachem Genack: “David Friedman is uniquely qualified to provide this sense of friendship and backing, and would be an excellent choice as ambassador to Israel. Not only does he possess extraordinary intelligence, he also is intimately familiar with the region, speaks Hebrew fluently, is at home with Israeli culture, and is sensitive to Israel’s concerns.” [JPost

“Trump’s hard-line Israel ambassador pick will have to bend” by Aaron David Miller: “An argument can be made that the ambassador to watch isn’t Friedman at all but Ron Dermer, Israel’s envoy to the United States, who not only is exceptionally close to Netanyahu but also has close ties to the Trump administration. The issue on the US side isn’t really proximity to Netanyahu, but to Washington and the US President — and there Dermer and Kushner will have a distinct advantage… It would be a cruel irony if Trump ends up using the pro-settlement Friedman as his channel to the settlers to persuade them to act with restraint on some kind of settlements freeze.” [CNN

COMING SOON: “British Royal ‘to become family’s first member to make state visit to Israel later this year'” by Niamh McIntyre: “Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli President, extended the invitation via Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at a meeting in Jerusalem earlier this week… A spokesperson for Clarence House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales, told The Independent that the Prince of Wales’ overseas visits are only made at the request of the government. They could not confirm whether the Prince would be visiting Israel. However, they did point to the Prince’s “strong and growing relationship with the Jewish community.”” [Independent]

PURIM, beginning Saturday evening: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes… “Purim is the Jewish answer to one of the great questions of history: how do you live with the past without being held captive by the past? Ours is a religion of memory, because if you forget the past, you’ll find yourself repeating it. Yet it’s also a future-oriented faith. To be a Jew is to answer the question, Has the Messiah come?, with the words, Not yet. There are so many parts of the world today where ancient grievances are still being played out, as if history were a hamster wheel in which however fast we run we find ourselves back where we started. Purim is a way of saying, remember the past, but then look at the children, celebrate with them, and for their sake, put the past behind you and build a better future.” [RabbiSacks] • h/t Yair Rosenberg

IN AUSTIN THIS WEEKEND — Extra ‘Snap’ to SXSW: Purim Coming to the Streets of Austin: More than 300 people are expected at Shabbat dinner this week in Austin as part of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) film, interactive media and music festival that takes place from March 10 to March 19. The Friday-night dinner, #openShabbat, is organized by Chabad Rabbi Mordechai and Chana Lightstone and co-hosted by Chabad Young Professionals in Austin. The joyous holiday of Purim comes right on the heals of Shabbat and SXSW goers will have every opportunity to celebrate and imbibe at the YAAASS Queen Esther SXSW Purim party which will begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Mordechai Lightstone will also be speaking Sunday with Julia Ioffe from the Atlantic about the rise of online anti-Semitism. [EvenbriteSXSW

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Inbox maintenance was taking up a lot of Dan Ariely’s time, so he decided to study it as he would anything else [TheAtlantic] • Extell sells three UES walk-ups to Izaki Group for $42M [TRD] • Former Hedge Fund Exec Bruce Kovner Seeks $67 Million for Caribbean Estate [WSJ] • Lawsuit claims Mori Arkin misled eCam shareholders [Globes] • Patrick Drahi of Altice Is Struggling to Bridge Atlantic Divide [Bloomberg] • Despite sanctions relief, Shell still cool on Iranian oil buys [Reuters] • Sixers owner Joshua Harris meets with Trump over $1 trillion infrastructure plan [PhillyVoice]

“With Trump in White House, Some Executives Ask, Why Not Me?” by James Stewart: “Stu Loeser, once the press secretary for Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who considered a presidential run last year, concurred. “If you run a company that has employed tens of thousands of people, and generated lots of profit and been undeniably successful, and you look at a sitting president who, to be honest, a lot of business people don’t have much respect for, you think, why not me?” he said. Mr. Loeser now runs his own strategic consulting firm, and told me he has clients who are business executives considering a run for high public office. “I can’t tell you their names, obviously,” he said.” [NYTimes

“Blumberg Capital closes $200 million fund” by Katie Roof: “They are willing to look at opportunities that are just in the idea stage and will write checks “even in companies with no product,” explained David Blumberg, founder and managing partner. He likes focusing on seed- and early-stage startups because of the potential for bigger returns… He’s particularly interested in “helping the little guy do better,” and that guides some of his investments in the personal finance category.” [TC

“WeWork Is Giving Away $20 Million in Cash Prizes to Other Startups” by Ellen Huet: “The New York-based co-working giant said it’ll give away $20 million in cash prizes to entrepreneurs and small businesses in a series of competitions called the Creator Awards. Adam Neumann, WeWork’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said the contest will serve as a way to celebrate reaching 100,000 members… In WeWork’s case, the company won’t take equity or ask for repayment from the startups it gives money to, Neumann said. “We’re doing this to give back,” said the 37-year-old CEO. “We’re not doing this as a loan. We’re literally giving this.”” [Bloomberg]

“Maverick’s Guy Oseary: ‘Engineers Are the Rock Stars of Today'” by Craig Marks: “A friend of mine started WeWork, and I didn’t invest. I loved the concept, too: It’s about sharing of services, location, support — it’s everything I love. And it’s now worth 20 billion dollars. What was I thinking?” [Billboard]

MEDIA WATCH: “An anti-Trump tabloid pulls back” by Joe Pompeo: “During a rare newsroom appearance last January, according to people who were there, owner Mort Zuckerman, the 79-year-old real estate mogul and long-time Democratic donor, gushed about what the News was doing and all the buzz it was getting. At one point, according to two of the sources present, he turned to Rich and quipped, “Where have you been all my life?” (It’s no secret in New York media circles that Zuckerman’s health is in decline, which is why he has now fully stepped away from running the paper, entrusting that responsibility to his nephew, Eric Gertler.)” [Politico

“Being Norman Oppenheimer” by Hannah Brown: “At an expensive men’s clothing store, Norman insists on treating Eshel to a very pricey pair of shoes, and this creates a bond between them. When Eshel becomes prime minister a few years later, Norman congratulates himself, exulting, “For once, I bet on the right horse.” How Norman tries to cash in on his connection to Eshel is a story that is fun and full of twists. These involve connections and deals he tries to make among a diverse group of powerful men, including a blustering, self-important rabbi (Steve Buscemi) of an upscale Manhattan synagogue — genius casting — and not one but two billionaire financiers (Josh Charles and Harris Yulin).” [JPost] With the help of A-list actors, Israel’s most successful director takes a jab at Israeli exploitation of U.S. Jewry [Haaretz

SCENE LAST NIGHT: Carol Blue, widow of the late Christopher Hitchens, cohosted a book party for Jamie Kirchick’s debut book The End of Europe. In introducing Kirchick, Blue noted “No one could fill his (Christopher’s) shoes but Jamie comes close.” About 200 people were in attendance including Michael Barone, Peter Berkowitz, Jim Denton, Amb. Norm Eisen, Benjamin Haddad, Michael Pillsbury, David Satter, Amb. Andras Simonyi and Andrew Sullivan.

“DeVos praises Orthodox Jewish group that strongly backs public funding for religious schools” by Valerie Strauss: “U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has made school “choice” a policy priority, met on Wednesday with leaders of an Orthodox Jewish group that has been instrumental in pushing voucher programs across the country. She praised their “leadership and commitment” in helping communities secure schools that “meet the academic and religious needs of their families” and said she looks forward to working with them… Although Agudath Israel of America does not ordinarily advocate for Cabinet members, it urged its supporters to lobby the Senate to confirm DeVos, with whom it has worked for years on school-choice issues.” [WashPost]

Rabbi A. D. Motzen, National Director of State Relations for Agudath Israel, tells us: Agudah leaders walked away “very impressed” and encouraged from the meeting. “She was very genuine, and she sincerely wants to continue this conversation to work with us on these issues,” he said. “This about having a seat at the table so that our voice is heard. We are a minority, and sometimes the minority voice is not heard. With DeVos, we know we will be heard. Having someone who is looking out for that minority voice. Whatever the discussion might be, we have our unique voice in being loud and clear. That, I think, is going to be amplified much more in this administration.”

DESSERT: “Eric Greenspan Jumps Into the Deli Scene With New Kosher Sandwich Shop in Los Angeles” by Farley Elliott: “Fleishik (Yiddish for meat) lands in the former Urban Garden space right along that dense stretch of Beverly not far from The Grove, and next door to Sweet Rose Creamery. The spot will serve traditional Jewish fare that expands beyond the traditional deli, from brisket to grilled salami to more composed sandwiches you’d never find at Jerry’s Deli. You can also find throwbacks like a Waldorf salad and miniature bites of kugel, and all with a full underlying liquor license to boot.” [LAEater]

“The 10 Coolest Places to Eat in 2017” by Ann Abel: “If you’re from Israel you know this restaurant,” says restaurateur and sommelier turned professional bon vivant Kristian Brask Thomsen, host of the three-day gastronomic blowouts known as Dining Impossible. But it deserves wider attention. On a steep side street by the city’s bMy Dinner at Nothing: Dining at the World’s Most Exclusive Kosher Restaurant” ustling food market, Machneyuda is the creation of Israeli Iron Chefs Krav Sakinim, Asaf Granit and Uri Navon, alongside Jerusalem’s “slow food” champion, Yossi Asaf. “They realized a dream of serving guests ‘happy food’ in an extremely fun-loving dining experience, combining seasonal cuisine with a homey interior featuring china from one chef’s grandmother’s house,” says Brask Thomsen. “Add loud music and staff and guests dancing on tables, and you just might have the most memorable eating experience of the Middle East.” Ask for a bespoke evening at the Chef’s Bar, where one of the principals will curate a custom made tasting menu.” [Forbes]

PURIM SPOOF: “My Dinner at Nothing: Dining at the World’s Most Exclusive Kosher Restaurant” by Gamliel Kronemer: “I had been wanting to dine at the legendary Nothing ever since I first heard about it a year ago. Nothing, the brainchild of autodidactic wunder-chef Yankel Gornisht, is a 12-seat kosher restaurant located in the basement of Gornisht’s suburban Bergenfield home, where diners are treated to a six-course prix fixe tasting menu for an entirely reasonable $400 per person (plus wine and gratuities). For those following the treif world’s culinary trends, Gornisht might be compared to Damon Baehrel’s Damon Baehrel in Earlton, New York, a half hour south of Albany—which, for some, is the most exclusive restaurant in America.” [JewishLink] • Read the original New Yorker profile on Baehrel by Nick Paumgarten for context [NewYorker]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Odem Mountain 1060 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — by Yitz Applbaum: Although travel has always been a necessary and important part of my life, I have always made it a policy to be home with family on Shabbat. The exceptions to this rule have been few and far between. Last Shabbat, I had no choice but to be in Maui. My better half could not join, so I invited my wine-making and wine-drinking buddy, Dan, to spend Shabbat with me. We opened a bottle which I recently acquired, the Odem Mountain 1060 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, vintage 2012. The wine is produced by the Alfasi family.

This bottle is one of the top wines I have ever experienced. Reminiscent of a giant California cabernet, this bottle exploded with deep tannins on the front part of my tongue. In the middle palate I got a brief respite in intensity, then the finish overwhelms with unripened fruit — think blackberries. It was only five minutes later that it all actually blended together, in my memory. The grapes are grown in the northernmost part of the Golan, and it is predominantly Cabernet. The label does not list any Petit Verdot, but somehow or other I know there is Petit Verdot in this wine. The “1060” will last a very long time, but if you dare to open a bottle now, let it breathe and eat it with a 16-20 oz steak. [Harodam

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Long Beach, California general surgeon, Leonard M. Lovitch, MD turns 73… Record producer, former co-president of Columbia Records and a co-founder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin turns 54… Peabody Award-winning financial journalist and market news analyst for CNBC and one of the co-hosts of its morning show “Squawk on the Street,” David Faber turns 53… Stage, screen and television actor, the son of novelist Norman Mailer, Stephen Mailer turns 51… Investigative reporter for The New York Times stationed in the London bureau, Danny Hakim turns 46… CEO of DC-based International Lifeline Fund, an NGO focused on poor countries, previously President of both the Genesis Prize Foundation (2013-2015) and Hillel (2006-2013), Wayne L. Firestone… News editor of Mishpacha magazine, Binyamin Rose turns 61… Author and publisher of the Phoenix Scottsdale Jewish Friendship Trail Guidebook, Michael A. Ross… Chief Transformation Officer at Gaithersburg, MD-based BroadSoft, previously a consultant to Israeli start-up and established companies and government officials, Jeffrey Kahn

SATURDAY: Professor emeritus at Princeton University whose research focused upon the Cairo Geniza and Jewish life in Muslim countries, Mark R. Cohen turns 74… Composer and conductor specializing in movie scores, since 1984 he has composed the music for nearly 100 feature films, David Louis Newman turns 63… Hudson Bay Capital’s Sander Gerber… Singer-songwriter who has also worked in film, television, voice-over work and children’s recordings, also promotes an eponymous line of eyeglasses, Lisa Loeb turns 49… Israeli singer-songwriter and pianist who has twice been recognized as Israel’s Singer of the Year, Keren Peles turns 38… VP for investor relations and communications at Ridgewood Energy, an energy-focused private equity firm, Samuel J. Lissner turns 31… Graduate of Yale Law School, clerked for Judge Cabranes on the 2nd Circuit, co-founder of Headliner Labs, Dana Stern Gibber… President of Jerusalem Capital Studios, a graduate of Harvard Business School, Michal Grayevsky… Graduate of NYU (B.A., cum laude), University of Illinois (M.S. in journalism) and University of North Carolina (Ph.D.), Sharon Polansky… Hermine Warren… Glenda Kresh

SUNDAY: Chief Washington correspondent for CNN and anchor of the Sunday morning program “State of the Union,” Jacob Paul “Jake” Tapper turns 48… Attorney, real estate developer and president of AIPAC (2014-2015), Robert A. Cohen… Rabbi, born in Venezuela, raised in Israel, now residing in Lakewood, NJ, Yitzchak Abadi turns 84… Photographer, author of 15 children’s books and musician, married to Alan Alda since 1957, Arlene Weiss Alda turns 84… Director, producer and screenwriter of movies and television including “The Fast and the Furious” film franchise, Rob Cohen turns 68… Born in Bombay, British sculptor who recently won the $1 million Genesis Prize, Sir Anish Kapoor turns 63… Sportscaster for ESPN since 1993, host of SportsCenter best known for his work broadcasting NHL hockey, Steve Levy turns 52… Israeli figure skater who won the 2016 World Junior championship, Daniel Samohin turns 19… Chief Marketing Officer at Consensus Systems, better known as ConsenSys, a blockchain software technology company, Amanda Gutterman… Founder of, and designer for, a NYC-based eponymous clothing line that uses CEOs and other successful women as its fashion models (“role models not runway models”), Carrie Hammer… Principal of the Ryan Advocacy group, previously campaign manager for Rick Perry’s presidential campaign and an advisor for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Jeff Miller… Sam Cohen turns 84… Carol Margolis turns 72… Lynne Blumenthal turns 59…

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Taylor Force Act

Graham Calls on AIPAC to Support Taylor Force Act

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday urged AIPAC to “get on board” and support the Taylor Force Act, a bill introduced Tuesday to cut off US assistance to…


Kafe Knesset for Feb. 28

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Shifting the focus from the Prime Minister, one of the politicians who received a harsh blow from the State Comptroller report on Operation Protective Edge – which was…


At J Street, Sanders Assails Israel’s ’50-Year-Long Occupation’

Monday, February 27, 2017

WASHINGTON – Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) lauded J Street as a ‘powerful’ pro-Israel group while rebuking Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Welcomed by a thunderous applause, the Vermont lawmaker…

Bibi Knesset

Kafe Knesset for Feb. 27

Monday, February 27, 2017

The contentious State Comptroller’s report about the 2014 Gaza operation is due to be published tomorrow. The report is slated to harshly criticize Netanyahu, his former defense minister…

Photo - screenshot via YouTube

INTERVIEW: Norm Coleman on Role as New RJC Chairman

Monday, February 27, 2017

Former Senator Norman Coleman, who was appointed as the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Chairman last week, spoke to Jewish Insider about his new role and his group’s relationship with…

Screenshot via YouTube/IsraeliPM

Kafe Knesset for Feb. 24

Friday, February 24, 2017

The statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordanian Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, criticizing “the lenient sentence” given by the Tel Aviv Military Court in…