Daily Kickoff: Daylight re-emerges in US-Israel relationship | Gulf States offer Israel stronger ties | Zomlot blames WINEP | Meet Chef Joshua Massin


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WSJ A1: “Gulf States Offer Better Relations If Israel Makes New Bid for Peace” by Jay Solomon, Gordon Lubold and Rory Jones: “Arab Gulf states have offered to take concrete steps to establish better relations with Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a significant overture aimed at restarting the Middle East peace process… The potential steps include establishing direct telecommunications links with Israel, allowing overflight rights to Israeli aircraft, and lifting restrictions on some trade… The Gulf countries, in turn, would require Mr. Netanyahu to make what they would consider to be a peace overture to the Palestinians. Such steps could include stopping construction of settlements in certain areas of the West Bank and allowing freer trade into the Gaza Strip.” [WSJ]

–One pro-Israel reader emails us: “Wow! That’s a huge, huge win. Those are actually big concessions from the Arabs for relatively little. Seems like something has changed. Can you imagine the Arab states offering those concessions in exchange for mere goodwill gestures on peace in the past?”

HEARD YESTERDAY — Palestinian envoy blames Washington Institute for failed peace process — by Aaron Magid: Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday, Husam Zomlot, the PLO’s Chief Representative to the U.S., called out the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) and blamed them for the stalled peace process. “They were a major reason why we failed. Major reason,” he said. “Because they have framed the agenda in a way that was exactly in the opposite direction of peace. An agenda that wanted to build and sustain a process that was designed to prevent the outcome.” [JewishInsider]

Rob Satloff, WINEP’s Executive Director, responds: “Given #PalestineAuthority’s record of rejecting peace deals, this critique is quite a compliment” [Twitter]

Signaling flexibility on the longstanding divide on refugees, Zomlot emphasized that “half of the issue” is Israeli “acknowledgment” of their role in the 1948 war. “The issue of refugees is made to be the mother of all issues and that it would actually be storming the state of Israel with demography. It’s not true. It’s my opinion as a refugee myself,” he explained. “Only one of these options include negotiating with Israel, which is to return to their actual homes. But, the other options do not involve Israel. Why should we wait?”

Zomlot cautioned regarding the White House’s Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, “There is no approach: there is no mechanism. There is nothing by the way. We did not discuss or agree on exactly what would be the way forward.” Zumlot praised the American “deep state” as playing an important role in preserving core Palestinian positions in the period of initial uncertainty. [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — Under Trump, Daylight Re-emerges in US-Israel Relationship — by Jacob Kornbluh: Just days before President Donald Trump’s first visit to Israel, the U.S.-Israel relationship is undergoing its first major crisis in the Trump era. Yesterday, in response to a Fox News report that Netanyahu told Trump not to move the embassy right away, the Prime Minister’s Office released partial transcripts of Netanyahu’s White House meeting. “The embassy – the PM supports moving it,” a summary of the Oval Office meeting read. During a working lunch at the White House, “the PM was asked about the embassy and explained [that moving it would not lead to bloodshed in the region, as some were trying to intimidate President Trump into believing.”

Visiting the Wall: According to a report by Israel’s Channel 2, the U.S. advance team rebuffed a request from Netanyahu’s team to accompany Trump while he visits the Western Wall. According to the report, the US team explained that the site is part of disputed territory in the West Bank and not under Israeli sovereignty. An official in Netanyahu’s office expressed “astonishment” over the comment. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel has contacted the administration to discuss the matter.

A White House spokesperson told us: “The comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the President.”

“I am very disappointed he hasn’t moved the embassy,” ZOA’s Mort Klein told Jewish Insider. “It’s a mistake. This harms President Trump’s credibility and if the Arabs don’t respect his credibility, it is more likely that they would be making impossible demands. The President is getting bad advice from some of his aides.” Klein said he’s worried about Tillerson, citing the current Secretary of State’s relationship with former Secretary of State James Baker. “I am concerned that Tillerson will begin to pressure Israel to take stands that they can’t take,” he said. “I am worried.” [JewishInsider] Israel wants White House to explain U.S. official’s Western Wall comment [Reuters]

What Trump is hearing regarding the embassy — by Jeremy Diamond and Elise Labott: “Some of Trump’s top advisers are urging him to make good on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announce plans to move the embassy there during his visit next week, and Trump has yet to reach a decision, two White House officials confirmed… Officials are also considering a lesser announcement outlining a US vision for the future of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without taking any immediate action, designed to help Trump save face on his campaign pledge.” [CNN

Dore Gold, former MFA Director General and current President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, emails us… “The Prime Minister is right to push on Jerusalem. We are commemorating now the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. In the collective memory of this country, when the Arab armies invaded in 1948, they destroyed or desecrated 50 synagogues and yeshivot. The synagogue of the Ramban dated back to 1267 was obliterated The Jewish population was cleared out. In 1967 that historical injustice was corrected. Now that the administration is expressing strong determination to reach a final status deal, naturally Israelis are concerned about what happens to Jerusalem. This is a core value of national identity for Israelis which may not be fully appreciated by the outside world.”

DRIVING THE DAY: “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador” by Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe: “One day after dismissing Comey, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak… into the Oval Office… Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft… Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner… Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.” [WashPost; BuzzFeed]

“Trump Revealed Highly Classified Intelligence to Russia, in Break With Ally, Officials Say” by Matthew Rosenberg and Eric Schmitt: “A Middle Eastern ally that closely guards its own secrets provided the information… Mr. Trump’s disclosure does not appear to have been illegal — the president has the power to declassify almost anything. But sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it was a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship.” In fact, the ally has repeatedly warned American officials that it would cut off access to such sensitive information if it were shared too widely, the former official said.”

“Jared Kushner… signaled to people outside the White House that he was not closely involved. But internally, Mr. Kushner lashed out at Mr. Spicer, who has been the target of his ire over bad publicity for the president since Mr. Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, last week.” [NYTimes]

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Prof. Alan Dershowitz on MSNBC’s For the Record with Greta: “Let’s take the following hypothetical: What if it was Israel who provided this intelligence because they have spies on the ground in Syria and within the terrorist organization. You have the information that gets to Russia, Russia sends it to Iran – they are allies when it comes to Syria – and Iran sends it to Hezbollah. This could be a real disaster especially on the eve of President Trump’s visit to Israel. I hope it’s not Israel and the information doesn’t get to Hezbollah.” [MSNBC]

Dershowitz on CNN’s Outfront: “This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president of the United States. Let’s not underestimate it… We may have to take emergency action.” [CNN]

Eliot A Cohen‏: “This is appalling. If accidental, it would be a firing offense for anyone else. If deliberate, it would be treason.” [Twitter] • Cohen in more than 140 characters: The Terrible Cost of Trump’s Disclosures [TheAtlantic]

“When the World Is Led by a Child” by David Brooks: “Mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom… From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.” [NYTimes] • Eli Lake: Trump’s Best Defense on Russia Is Incompetence [Bloomberg]

DRIVING THE WEEK: “Trump will have to navigate diplomatic land mines abroad. Here’s how he’s preparing” by Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker: “As the White House was engulfed by a crisis of its own making — the abrupt firing of the FBI director — President Trump received an unlikely visitor: Henry Kissinger, the Republican Party’s leading elder statesman, who came to deliver a tutorial on foreign affairs last Wednesday… Kissinger was not alone. In the days leading up to Trump’s high-risk debut on the world stage… the Oval Office has morphed into a graduate seminar room, with a rotating roster of policy experts briefing the president… “He’s going to be in the spotlight, under the microscope, and for a lot of people in the world this will be a chance to see him ‘in action,’ ” said Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations… The process largely is being overseen by Jared Kushner… as well as [H.R.] McMaster and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell.” [WashPost]

THE MASADA SPEECH — “Netanyahu seeking to speak at Masada alongside Trump” by Raphael Ahren and Alexander Fulbright: “Netanyahu is looking to deliver a speech at Masada together with US President Donald Trump… However, the American delegation organizing Trump’s visit has expressed reservations about the idea, according to Hebrew media reports… The prime minister is currently set give a few short remarks introducing Trump at the Judean Desert fortress, according to Walla.”  [ToI

“Why Trump won’t be able to land helicopter on Masada” by Sharon Udasin: “The Americans will land in the Bar Yehuda landing strip,” Eitan Campbell, director of Masada National Park, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “They will go up to the mountain by cable car.” … In 2008, when president George W. Bush visited Masada, he took the cable car up to the mountain, which he then toured with prime minister Ehud Olmert… “When Clinton visited in 1998, he came up with the old cable car and walked up 100 steps,” Campbell told the Post. “George W. Bush came by the new cable car. We were saved the 100 steps.” [JPost]

FRIEDMAN ERA: “Controversial new US ambassador arrives in Israel” by AFP’s Mike Smith and Joe Dyke: “After his arrival in Tel Aviv, Friedman visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, praying there and kissing the sacred site… Friedman, a frequent visitor to Jerusalem, did not comment to reporters, but did speak near the wall with Steven Tyler of American rock band Aerosmith, in town for a concert.” [DailyMail]

— Friedman in a recorded statement: “We’re a bit tired, but we wanted to come straight to the holiest place in the entire Jewish world, the ‘Kotel Hama’aravi,’ the Western Wall, so we straight came here. I had the opportunity to say some prayers… I prayed for the president, and I wished him success, especially on his upcoming trip. I hope we all wish him success. We hope it’s going to be an amazing trip.” [Video]

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed Ambassador Friedman today in Jerusalem. “It’s a pleasure to see you and to welcome you to Jerusalem, our eternal capital. I know you went to the Kotel [Western Wall]. It’s deeply appreciated by all our people,” Netanyahu told Friedman. “There was no other place to go,” the Ambassador responded. Netanyahu added, “It was a strong gesture of solidarity. We look forward to receiving President Trump and we want to work with you and with the President these coming years to strengthen our great alliance.” [Pic]

2020 WATCH: Happening today — The Center for American Progress is hosting a daylong “Ideas Conference” at the St. Regis hotel in Washington, DC. Speakers include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA),  Governors Terry MacAuliffe (D-VA) and Steve Bullock (D-MT ); and former UN Ambassador Susan Rice. About half of the speakers are considered potential 2020 presidential candidates. [WashPost]

–Democrats divided on Bernie’s 2020 plans: “Many top Democrats are furious that Bernie Sanders appears to be running for president again, or at least planning to drag out his decision long enough to freeze the race around him.” [Politico]

ELECTION DAY TODAY: “Can the anti-Trump resistance take Philadelphia’s DA office?” by Alice Speri: “[Larry] Krasner’s run has electrified Philadelphia’s progressives and brought to the city the expertise and resources of national racial justice advocates as well as Bernie Sanders alumni… A lot of people have stacked their hopes in such an insurgency at the polls. Others, like billionaire George Soros, are investing more than hope. Soros has been injecting money into DA and sheriff races across the country and gave $1.45 million to a PAC supporting Krasner’s run in Philadelphia, raising some eyebrows among the candidate’s progressive base. “We can’t play by a different set of rules than our opponents because that’s how we have allowed the system to get rigged against us,” said Becky Bond, a former advisor to the Sanders campaign whose group is now working on Krasner’s campaign.” [TheIntercept

–Background: “Krasner says he inherited idealism and sense of justice from his parents. His father, a crime-fiction author, was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, and his mother was an evangelical Christian minister.” [PhillyJewishExponent]

TEHRAN WATCH: “Why I’m Rooting for the Hardliner in Iran’s Elections” by Elliott Abrams: “[Ibrahim] Raisi is the true face of the Islamic Republic, while Rouhani is a façade. Rouhani has shown himself powerless to effect any change in the regime’s conduct and his only role is to mislead the West into thinking “moderates” are in charge. We are far better off, as we were when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president, when there are no illusions about Iran’s regime and the men who lead it.” [Politico

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israel’s Economic Growth Slows as Business Investment Falls [Bloomberg] • Palestinian officials hope to launch e-currency in 5 years [Reuters; IBTimes] • Disney Chief Bob Iger Says Hackers Claim to Have Stolen Upcoming Movie [HollywoodReporter] • Real estate mogul Barry Sternlicht sees an ‘inverse Trump effect’ on the US economy [CNBC] • The 2017 Rich List of the World’s Top-Earning Hedge Fund Managers [IIAlpha] • Entrepreneurial Israeli couple starts two new businesses [Bizjournals] • CEO of Josh Kushner’s Oscar Health believes the U.S. has a moral obligation to provide healthcare to its citizens [TechCrunch]

LongRead: “The People’s Princess: Ivanka Trump is hard at work in Washington — but for whom?” by Caitlin Flanagan: “At her father’s side, Ivanka is a sort of human luxury brand, with her pale makeup and sleek golden hair, her expensive clothes and stiletto heels, her understated jewelry and her stilted, careful way of speaking. Her father stammers away, trying to find the right word and then giving up: “Jared is terrific, he’s … he’s … Jared is terrific!” Daughter pauses, scrolls through her private lexicon, and comes up with a slightly pumped-up version of the right word. She is never “aware” of something; she is “cognizant” of it. Nothing is “unusual”; it is always “unique.” Imagine how impressive this broad command of big-league words would seem to you if you could never manage to locate and deploy the right one yourself. To him, she is a kind of miracle.” [NYMag]

“Inside Corey Lewandowski’s Failed Romp in Trump’s Swamp” by Jason Zengerle: “His fate was apparently sealed when Lewandowski ran afoul of Jared Kushner. According to multiple sources, Lewandowski was discovered not only shopping damaging stories about Trump’s son-in-law to reporters, but also trying to keep Kushner from talking to higher-ups at the RNC. On a Sunday in mid-June—Father’s Day, in fact—Ivanka Trump reportedly insisted to her dad that he get rid of Lewandowski.” [GQ]

KAFE KNESSET — IBC opens with a scoop from Bennett — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The Israel Broadcasting Corporation, known as Kan, began airing TV and radio programming Monday. Kan opened with higher ratings that its predecessor, as people were eager to see if they would succeed and what things would look and sound like. On the first night of Kan’s main news broadcast, Bennett was asked if he would leave the coalition over corruption charges against Netanyahu. Bennett replied that it would depend on their severity – the first time any coalition partner said anything of that nature. The anchor of the 8 o’clock news, by the way, is Geula Even-Sa’ar, wife of former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, a possible successor to Netanyahu, who the prime minister is not particularly fond of. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Fading Netanyahu Will Be Dumped by Year’s End, Rival Lapid Says” by Michael Arnold and Jonathan Ferziger: “[Yair] Lapid says he expects the current government to last only through the end of the year. “I don’t see a lot of juice in this government,” Lapid, 53, said in an interview Monday… “Our assumption is the government will hold until the end of the year, and not longer.” Lapid also said he’s encouraged by U.S. President Donald Trump’s early efforts to resurrect peace negotiations with the Palestinians… The fact that Trump “wants to be proactive, that after a long time when nothing happens somebody’s trying to push some sort of an envelope, is a good sign,” Lapid said.” [Bloomberg]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Seth Rich, slain DNC staffer, had contact with WikiLeaks, say multiple sources” by Malia Zimmerman: “A federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report detailing the contents of DNC staffer Seth Rich’s computer generated within 96 hours after his murder, said Rich made contact with Wikileaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter… The federal investigator, who requested anonymity, said 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments between Democratic National Committee leaders, spanning from January 2015 through late May 2016, were transferred from Rich to MacFadyen before May 21.” [FoxNews]

–BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith this morning: “Rich family knocks down last night’s story and PI who, they say, doesn’t speak for them and they don’t pay” [Twitter]

TRANSITION — Betsaida Alcantara has been named Vice President of Communications and Digital at the Anti-Defamation League. Betsaida served six years in the Obama Administration as a senior executive leading the communications teams for three large government agencies and on the Clinton/Kaine campaign. Todd Gutnick will now assume his role as Senior Director of Communications and Digital.

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Wow Air to Launch $149 Flights from New York to Tel Aviv” by Ryan Craggs: “Starting September 12, WOW air will begin service to Tel Aviv, flying to Israel four times weekly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays on the new Airbus A321 aircraft… WOW air CEO Skuli Mogensen made the announcement while on a visit to Israel, speaking alongside the country’s Minister of Transport, Yisrael Katz. Of course, the key part of the announcement for Americans looking to get to Israel on the cheap is Mogensen’s announced price points. As Jeruselem Online reports, flights will cost just $149 one-way from New York, Boston, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal; $199 from San Francisco and Los Angeles; and $99 from Iceland. “Our mission is to enable everyone to fly by offering the cheapest prices in Tel Aviv,” Mogensen said.” [CNTraveler]

“Can A New Airline Succeed Flying From The NYC Suburbs To Paris And Tel Aviv?” by Ted Reed: “In March 2018, US Global intends to begin Paris and Tel Aviv flights from Stewart International Airport, about 60 miles north of Manhattan. It would lease Boeing 767s from longtime aviation entrepreneur Connie Kalitta. [CEO Anthony] Koulouris said he is on the path to raising $50 million. The Federal Aviation Administration must certify airlines before they start to fly, evaluating both safety and financial fitness.” [Forbes]

“Brad Grey, who led Paramount Pictures for 12 years, dies at 59” by Ryan Faughnder and Daniel Miller: “Grey was hired by Tom Freston, then the CEO of parent company Viacom, to run Paramount in 2005, replacing Sherry Lansing… Grey developed a reputation as a survivor, leveraging close and often fruitful relationships with Hollywood heavyweights including Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese. He also tapped J.J. Abrams to reboot the valuable “Star Trek” franchise. “His genius at picking and identifying talent was unprecedented,” [Harevey] Weinstein said. Grey led Paramount’s acquisition of DreamWorks SKG, the studio created by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. He is also credited with securing a deal to release movies from Marvel Studios.” [LATimes]

DESSERT: “Is this man the most innovative kosher chef in the metropolitan area?” by Esther Davidowitz: “Joshua Massin, the chef and co-owner of kosher restaurant Nobo Wine and Grill in Teaneck, can vaguely remember what bacon tastes like. The once-secular, today-Orthodox Jewish cook also can recall somewhat the briny tang and slinky texture of oysters, the salty flavor and moist composition of ham and the sweet taste and creamy quality of sheep cheese — even though he hasn’t eaten those, or any other non-kosher foods, for nearly two decades, and won’t ever again. But Massin, who is 37 and lives in Teaneck, has on his menu: bacon, ham, oysters and even a ham-and-cheese dish, which he unhesitatingly and proudly offers to his overwhelmingly kosher diners…”

“To me the challenge isn’t kosher or not kosher,” he said recently, sitting in one of Nobo’s two dining rooms, wearing dark cargo pants, a black chef’s coat and a yarmulke. The room sports exposed brick walls, polished wood floors, and Chilewich-covered tables. “To me, the challenge is to run a really good non-kosher-style kosher restaurant.” In other words, Massin is determined to create dishes that would taste delicious whether the restaurant is kosher or not. “I look at kosher food as another flavor system,” he said,  “In Japanese cuisine, there’s no cream, no butter. In Caribbean cuisine you wouldn’t use blue cheese.” [NorthJersey]

BIRTHDAYS: Real estate developer and ‘mechuten’ of Donald Trump, Charles Kushner turns 63… Former CEO of Warner Music Group, Edgar Bronfman Jr. turns 62… President of Tribe Media, columnist for the Jewish Journal, David Suissa… Special Assistant to VPOTUS Walter Mondale (1977-1981), later Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (1989-1993), Bernard W. Aronson turns 71… Longest serving member of the New York State Assembly (46 years), his district includes portions of Midtown Manhattan and the Upper West Side, Richard N. Gottfried turns 70… Member of the House of Representatives since 2013, representing Florida’s 21st congressional district, previously Mayor of West Palm Beach (2003-2011), Lois Frankel turns 69… Harvard history professor, Emma Georgina Rothschild, a member of the Rothschild banking family of England, turns 69… Proto-punk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jonathan Richman turns 63… Film and stage actress, noted for “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) and “Terms of Endearment” (1983), Debra Winger turns 62… Real estate mogul and collector of modern and contemporary art, Aby J. Rosen turns 57… Social entrepreneur, independent scholar and local civic leader, earned a Ph.D in Religious Studies from UCSB, co-founder of non-profit Jumpstart, Jonathan Shawn Landres turns 45… Actress, television personality and author, Tori Spelling turns 44… Actor and Travel Channel personality, Adam Richman turns 43… Lake Worth, Florida resident, Harriet L. Caplan… Esther Bushey

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Daily Kickoff: Iran’s Khamenei calls Soros a ‘rich American Zionist’ | Sam Altman for CA Gov? | Bibi to appear on Harvey Levin’s show | Guten Gefilte!


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FIRST LOOK – In an interview with Susan Glasser on The Global Politico podcast, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed Trump’s visit to Israel on his first trip overseas: “To go to a place like Israel and see what it’s like to be a democracy in a sea of countries that would have destroyed you had it not been for your toughness and your will… And so these are early days and I think the President and many around him have not been in government. Let’s give it a little time.”

Glasser: You write in your book about that moment, that shock when you realized that Hamas, who had not been expected to win was going to win the elections, basically free and fair, more or less, elections to take over Gaza. That dealt a serious blow to your own peacemaking efforts between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It was not expected. You had pushed hard for the elections.

Rice: “Well, my undiminished faith is that elections have to happen, right? … I think one mistake we made with Hamas was we really should have said they had to disarm if they were going to participate in the elections, along the lines of what was done in Northern Ireland, for instance… So that’s one thing. Don’t let armed militias participate in elections because they have a, shall we say, unfair advantage. It would be true, for instance, of Hezbollah in Lebanon. But a more important one is that yes, if you have elections and the only organized forces are Islamists, radical Islamists, then you’re going to get a bad outcome.” [PoliticoMag]

TOP TALKER — Bibi & Lauder talk to Leibler: “Netanyahu says Lauder peace push is his biggest challenge” by Isi Leibler: “When I spoke to the prime minister, it was clear that [Ron] Lauder’s intervention with Trump angered and distressed him. He referred to Lauder as “my biggest challenge to overcome” because he has immense influence on Trump and is promoting a peace program that had been rejected by Israel but was attractive to an American president possibly easily seduced into believing that a quick peace could be achieved…  [Lauder] told me he is being flooded with letters of support including many from former critics…  He insists that if his efforts fail, we will have tried, nothing will have been lost and we will simply return to the status quo.” [JPost]

These Are the Voices Whispering in Trump’s Ear About Israel and How to Make the ‘Ultimate Deal’ — by Amir Tibon: “In addition to Lauder and Adelson, another billionaire with Trump’s ear is Thomas Barrack, a real estate investor with Lebanese roots who is a personal friend of the president and helped arrange his inauguration events. Barrack has reportedly been advising Trump on the Middle East (not specifically the Israelis and the Palestinians), and also used his vast regional network to help the Trump administration in its early days. Barrack said earlier this month that Trump’s “lack of predictability” has “gained respect” in the Middle East and around the world. “Every foreign leader has come to the table for him,” Barrack added.” [Haaretz]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “U.S. Secretary of State Signals Caution on Israel Embassy Move” By Dion Nissenbaum: “In an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd,” [Rex] Tillerson said the president “is being very careful to understand how such a decision would affect the peace process… I think it’ll be informed, again, by the parties that are involved in those talks,” Mr. Tillerson said. “And most certainly Israel’s view on whether Israel views it as being helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction.”” [WSJ; NBCNews

“Sheldon Adelson “furious” about Tillerson’s comments” by Jonathan Swan: “Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson — a man who has no trouble getting the President on the phone — is “furious” about comments Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made today… The sources say the Las Vegas billionaire doesn’t buy the argument that the embassy move should be contingent on the peace process. He has told Trump that Palestinians are impossible negotiating partners and make demands that Israel can never meet.” [Axios] • Report: Casino Mogul Adelson to Be Questioned in Probe of Israel PM [AP

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “Netanyahu Responds to Tillerson: U.S. Embassy Move Would Advance Peace by Shattering Palestinian Fantasy” by Barak Ravid: “Relocating the American embassy would not harm the peace process, on the contrary,” a statement by the Prime Minister’s Bureau said. Moving the embassy, the statement said, “would advance it (the peace process) by correcting a historic injustice and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy according to which Jerusalem isn’t the capital of Israel.” A senior Israeli official said that Netanyahu expressed his desire that the embassy be moved to Jerusalem in his meetings with Trump and Tillerson during his latest visit in Washington. Netanyahu, the official noted, even brought the issue up in several phone calls with Trump since the latter took office as U.S. president in January.” [Haaretz]

Dan Shapiro: “Timing matters. Avoid the emotional 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, and don’t undercut peace initiatives at key moments… Hard to imagine those Arab states lending support to a US initiative at the exact moment when an embassy move could embarrass them… In my 8 years in the Obama Admin, it was never raised seriously with us by Israeli officials: a dozen issues had higher priority for them… The embassy move doesn’t need to wait until the end of the talks. But doing it smartly means a bit more patience.” [Twitter

Education Minister Naftali Bennett: “I call on the Prime Minister to make clear that we expect the US administration to move the embassy to Jerusalem and recognize a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Moving the US Embassy to Israel’s capital strengthens the chances of reaching a true peace, because any agreement based on the division of Jerusalem is bound to fail.” [Twitter] • Deputy foreign minister to Trump: Don’t divide Jerusalem [JPost]

KAFE KNESSET — Bibi vs. Bennett — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The Likud released a special response just for Bennett, claiming he “memorizes the PMs press releases and then quotes them as if they were his demands.” The never-ending battle between Netanyahu and Bennett over the right wing constituency is expected to escalate, if Trump indeed is determined to reach a peace deal which will entail some Israeli concessions. At the moment, Bennett is focusing on Jerusalem, but if the de facto settlement freeze continues after the President’s visit, pressure from the settler base is likely to increase. While both sides are heating their engines, Netanyahu also made a point yesterday that he is not interested in early elections. In the weekly meeting of the coalition leaders, he said that this government will survive until its last day, in November 2019. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Russia Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital. Why Can’t the U.S.?” by Eugene Kontorovich: “If Mr. Trump nonetheless signs the waiver, he could do two things to maintain his credibility in the peace process. First, formally recognize Jerusalem—the whole city—as the capital of Israel… Second, make clear that unless the Palestinians get serious about peace within six months, his first waiver will be his last… This is Mr. Trump’s moment to show strength.” [WSJ]

SPOTTED:Amb. David Friedman and his wife Tammy have arrived in Israel, according to pictures posted on Twitter by Meron Reuben [Pic]

TRUMP ISRAEL TRIP —  National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster on Friday: “With President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu, [Trump] will reaffirm America’s unshakeable bond to the Jewish state. With President Abbas, he will express his desire for dignity and self-determination for the Palestinians. And so to leaders and peoples alike, across the entire trip, he will demonstrate his hopes for a just and lasting peace.”

On Netanyahu-Abbas summit: “The final plans aren’t set yet… But it will obviously be up to the President and those leaders about how he wants to engage with them. But he’ll engage with both those leaders there as part of the trip.” [CSPAN]

“Top US official to Post: No plans to hold Netanyahu-Abbas peace summit during Trump trip” by Michael Wilner: “A trilateral meeting is remotely possible given the president’s penchant for acting “on the fly,” the aide acknowledged. But several officials intimately involved in planning the trip would be surprised if such a summit took place. “Let’s not get carried away,” a second senior administration official said… “People are taking Abbas’ comments about willing to meet too far.” … The administration is also weighing to what extent Trump should publicly comment on the conflict at all: A speech is not guaranteed, although at minimum, the White House will offer descriptions of his meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas.” [JPost]

JI PREVIEW — What to Expect from Trump’s Israel Visit — by Aaron Magid: Daniel Kurtzer, former US Ambassador to Israel and Egypt, told Jewish Insider, “What Trump is trying to do is contrast his close closeness to Israel with that of Obama. Obama didn’t go for the first four years and Trump is going in the first four months.” … The visit to Israel is part of a long term US strategic investment towards the process, noted Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum. “Someone in the White House has learned the lesson from the last administration where it was clearly a mistake not to go to Israel early on. (They) realize that if you are going to get the Israelis to make concessions, it’s probably a good idea to actually go to Israel and show the Israelis some love.”

The White House’s showering of love towards Israel is concerning many in Jerusalem, explains Daniel Shapiro, former US Ambassador to Israel from 2011-2017. “When it comes to President Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, both sides are nervous about what this trip, and events beyond it, could produce. Trump is unpredictable, and his team is inexperienced in Middle East negotiations,” he told Jewish Insider… With Trump’s unpredictable nature and the threats of a Twitter war launched against Jerusalem and Ramallah, Kurtzner emphasized the willingness of both sides to please Trump. “They (Netanyahu and Abbas) are going to try and put on the best face they can: neither one wants the responsibility of failure to be on their doorstep.” [JewishInsider]

“Will Trump launch Mideast shuttle diplomacy?” by Uri Savir: “A senior PLO official close to Abbas told Al-Monitor that despite the positive impressions of his meeting with Trump, Abbas came back to Ramallah with more questions than answers… According to the PLO official, it was Abbas who raised the 2002 Arab initiative in the Oval Office, and he received no negative reactions, neither from the president nor from his advisers… He said that Trump also shared with his Palestinian guests that he will continue to resist settlement expansion.” [Al-Monitor

“White House Staffer Scrubs Mention Of “Palestine” From Facebook Post” by John Hudson: “When asked if this explicit mention to Palestine was intentional, White House spokesperson Michael Short told BuzzFeed it was “unintentional” in an email on Friday. Later in the day, [Dan] Scavino edited his original Facebook post — scrubbing the word “Palestine” and replacing it with “Palestinian Territories.” “That’s a junior mistake,” a longtime Middle East diplomat told BuzzFeed News. “The Israelis will catch him up on that for sure.”” [BuzzFeed]

IRAN DEAL: “US may waive Iran sanctions in coming days” by Laura Rozen: “Notification of the waivers might be issued as early as May 17, a day before Donald Trump is due to depart on his first foreign trip as president, sources told Al-Monitor, while cautioning that the anticipated action and timing could change. That is also a couple of days before Iran holds presidential elections May 19.” [AlMonitor

TRUMP TUMULT — “White House ‘systems failed’ with Comey firing, but Trump pushed the buttons” by Philip Rucker: “Much of the internal blame has fallen to the communications operation, with Kushner and other top officials questioning why the small army of press staffers led by Spicer and Dubke took so long to forcefully defend the president’s decision and agree to a set of talking points that could withstand scrutiny… Inside the West Wing, it became a running joke among some staffers that the answer to every question would be “Rosenstein,” referring to the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who wrote a memo outlining a case for Comey’s ouster.” [WashPost]

“Jared and Ivanka stay out of the spotlight amid Comey fallout” by Betsy Klein: “On more than one occasion, the power couple has been seemingly absent when the going gets tough… In April, when leaks of infighting within the administration were on top of the news cycle, they were celebrating Passover at the Four Seasons Whistler in Canada, according to reports. And this week was no exception. Though the President’s daughter and son-in-law remained in Washington and working at the White House, they stayed under the radar and away from the cameras following news of Comey’s departure.” [CNN]

2018 WATCH: “Sam Altman for governor? Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown says it’s a possibility” by Tess Townsend: “Y Combinator President Sam Altman might run for governor of California — or so says Willie Brown, who spent decades in the California State Assembly and served two terms as the mayor of San Francisco. Brown slipped a few comments on Altman’s apparent interest in holding office into his Sunday column for the San Francisco Chronicle. Altman is considering running as soon as 2018, Brown said… The investor and startup founder has a history of political engagement. He’s been a loud critic of President Donald Trump and funds a voter engagement nonprofit.” [Recode]

TEHRAN WATCH: Khamenei warns against election unrest, George Soros” by Rohollah Faghihi: “The issue of security and calm is very important for the country,” [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei said in a May 10 speech to graduates of the Imam Hussein military academy… Khamenei also had a few words to say about George Soros, the billionaire investor who has spent millions of dollars around the world to advance political causes. “That rich American Zionist who said that he toppled Georgia with $10 million started to think he could do the same to Iran in 2009,” Khamenei said. “If anyone wants to rise up against the security of the nation, they will encounter a firm reaction.” [Al-Monitor; NYT] • Wondering how Soros feels to be labeled a ‘Zionist’ by Khamenei … or perhaps this is Khamenei’s way of thanking Soros for his support of the Iran deal in 2015…

“Demonization of Soros recalls old anti-Semitic conspiracies” by Vanessa Gera: “The demonization of the American-Hungarian billionaire and Holocaust survivor has spread across Central Europe, with the 86-year-old increasingly accused by nationalists of using his money to force his liberal values, including support for refugees, on their societies. This groundswell began in late 2015, as large numbers of migrants and refugees were arriving in Europe. A far-right nationalist at an anti-refugee rally in Poland set fire to an effigy of an Orthodox Jew as a crowd chanted slogans against Islam and the European Union. The man said the Jewish figure represented Soros.” [AP]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Kushner Real Estate Project Still Seeking First Chinese Investor [Bloomberg] • Inside the universe of Kushner Companies [TRD] • Delek completes Ithaca acquisition for $590m [Globes] • Blackstone lends David Bistricer’s Clipper Realty $74M for BK rental [TRD] • Israel’s high-tech sector is thriving, and now China wants in on the action [CNBC] • Iran’s Mining Projects on Hold as Investors Fear New Sanctions [Bloomberg]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Condo Tower to Rise Where Muslim Community Center Was Proposed” by Ronda Kaysen: “One-bedrooms at 45 Park Place start at $1.92 million; two-bedrooms at $3.725 million; three-bedrooms at $4.595 million; and four-bedrooms at $10.5 million. The second duplex penthouse will be listed for about $39 million. Michel Abboud, a founding partner of SOMA Architects, designed the tower; Piero Lissoni designed the interiors… [Sharif] MEl-Gamal does not see the outcome of his project as a defeat, but instead as proof of his grit. “Real estate in New York is a blood sport,” he said.” [NYTimes]

“Fire Damages New York’s Beth Hamedrash Hagodol Synagogue” by Niraj Chokshi:“A fire broke out Sunday at an abandoned Lower East Side synagogue that once housed the city’s oldest Jewish Orthodox congregation. It took the Fire Department about two hours to bring the fire, which started around 7 p.m., under control, a spokesman said. No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire was under investigation. The fire occurred at 60 Norfolk Street, the spokesman said, which is the home of Beth Hamedrash Hagodol, a city landmark built in 1850.” [NYT; Pic]

“Sheryl Sandberg Speaks Out On Judaism — And Grieving” by Jane Eisner: “Sandberg apparently doesn’t pray regularly — she didn’t realize until afterward (her husband’s death) that “Oseh Shalom” is the last line of the Kaddish and the Amidah… But she eagerly embraced the Jewish rituals that shape and structure death and mourning. “Judaism said we should bury soon as possible, so we buried as soon as possible,” she said. “It says we should shovel dirt on the grave, so we shoveled dirt on the grave. I had done that before, for my grandparents. I had been to funerals, I had been to graves, so I found it all incredibly comforting. It gives us a connection to something bigger than ourselves.“ The seven-day period of shiva… was also helpful. “Having your house fill up with the people you love is comforting,” she recalled. So was the constant repetition of the mourner’s prayer: “Jews have been saying it for a long time. Long before I said it for Dave, Dave said it for his father. And before that, for centuries.”” [Forward] • Sheryl Sandberg and Elizabeth Alexander on Love, Loss and What Comes Next [NYTimes

“Elie Wiesel’s Only Son Steps Up to His Father’s Legacy” by Rick Lyman: “Throughout his young life, [Elisha] Wiesel’s father made only one demand — that he marry in the Jewish faith, which he did. But as his father neared death, he made one more request, that his son say kaddish for him. “I was what we call a three-day-a-year Jew,” Mr. Wiesel said. “But I decided that I really wanted to do it, and I wanted to do it correctly.” So, he began to go to synagogue every day, sometimes twice a day. “There was also this moment I remember when I watched my father hold my son during his circumcision,” Mr. Wiesel said. “It was a real sense of connection. My father was terrified of being the end of the line.”” [NYTimes

MEDIA WATCH — “New York Times publisher sends personal appeal to those who canceled over Bret Stephens” by Hadas Gold: “The Times’s Opinion pages remain an independent and unblinking forum for debate from a wide range of viewpoints among open-minded, informed writers and readers. I don’t think, in these polarizing and partisan times, there’s anything quite like it in American journalism,” [the email sent by NYT publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. read]… A New York Times spokesperson… said less than 6 percent of people who canceled their subscriptions to The Times since Stephens’ hire was announced in April cited the hire or the new column as the reason for the cancellation.” [Politico]

“Associated Press Rebuts Charge That It Aided Nazi Regime” by Daniel Victor: “The review acknowledged some missteps, including the news agency’s lack of protest when its photos were used for Nazi propaganda and its employment of German photographers with active political affiliations. But the news organization… said it “took steps to retain its independence and provide factual, unbiased information to the world despite intense pressures from Nazi Germany.”” [NYTimes

“Trump Arranged Meeting Between Harvey Levin and Israeli Prime Minister, All For Reality TV” by Taryn Hillin and Ryan Naumann: “Our sources tell us that Levin asked Trump to call Netanyahu during their infamous Oval Office meeting (a story we broke) and ask if the Prime Minister would be on Levin’s pseudo reality show “Objectified.” … We’re told Trump obliged, placed the call.. and… the Prime Minister agreed… Levin is catching a flight to Israel this week (he was noticeably absent from TMZ Live on Thursday). We’re told he’ll meet with Netanyahu and tape the show in the next few days.” [Entity

— “The Prime Minister’s Office strongly denied the Entity report. Senior officials at the Israeli embassy in Washington also denied the report and said that Trump had no role in organizing Levin’s interview with Netanyahu. Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said in recent weeks that Levin had approached the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, as well as Netanyahu’s foreign media spokesman, David Keyes, seeking an interview with the prime minister for the program. Netanyahu and his advisers considered the request and decided to consent, the officials said.” [Haaretz]

“For Palestinian Hikers In West Bank, A Chance To Enjoy Nature And Escape Tensions” by Daniel Estrin: “Life in the West Bank is tense. That is why four Palestinians started the Shat’ha club about 11 years ago. They wanted to get some fresh air after the violence of the Second Intifada…  “Nature … gives me a lot of power. I found it a very important thing in my life,” says Juwana Rafidi, the hiking organizer for the day… The Shat’ha group has a strict rule for its Palestinian hikers: No Israeli food products — whether they be Hebrew-labeled packs of crackers or Israeli-grown apples — are allowed on the trek.” [NPR

“Noga Erez: ‘I get told by people not to talk about what is happening in Israel'” by Kate Hutchinson: “If you take culture away from places then it doesn’t do good to anyone, it makes that place even worse, because art and culture are the opposition to the political situation,” she says. If anything, she continues, the liberal left needs what positive reinforcement it can get… “It’s so diverse and split,” she says when asked whether young Israelis differ from previous generations about the conflict. “There is a conflict inside Israel about those things because it’s so complicated.” According to Erez, “there is a lot of empathy for the other side,” but she laments how, when it comes to the Netanyahu administration, “the word ‘peace’ is not brought up any more. ‘Hope’ is something that people are cynical about because people have lost hope.” [Guardian]

LongRead: “Seeing with Your Tongue: Sensory-substitution devices help blind and deaf people, but that’s just the beginning” by Nicola Twilley: “In 2007, the Israeli neurobiologist Ella Striem-Amit embarked on doctoral research investigating whether people who are born blind could ever learn to perceive visual information in the way that sighted people do. She joined the lab of Amir Amedi, a neurologist at Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, and they set about training a small group of congenitally blind subjects to use the vOICe. The vOICe translates a camera feed into electronically produced notes according to reasonably simple principles: brightness is mapped to volume, and elevation to pitch… Striem-Amit discovered that teaching people to see using the vOICe required more than simply helping them master the technology. “Congenitally blind people don’t know how vision works,” she explained. “They don’t know principles of occlusion”—that one object can block another—“or that things appear larger when they’re closer.” Yet, after seventy hours of training, her subjects were able to grasp these concepts and to identify shapes, objects, and even faces.” [NewYorker]

DESSERT: “Brut Wine Bar pop-up brings taste of Israel to Tokyo” by Melinda Joe: “The project is the brainchild of LIK Hospitality, launched by Israeli-born expats Ori Kushnir and Sivan Lahat [who] run a startup that develops financial models and trading technologies for companies… Inspired by the serial pop-up restaurant “The Table By” in Madrid, which featured a rotating line-up of Spanish chefs, Kushnir and Lahat teamed up with hospitality expert Aya Ikeda to create a similar project that would help connect chefs looking to open restaurants in Tokyo with potential investors.” [JapanTimes]

“Guten Gefilte! Jewish Delicacies Beguile the German Capital” by Lindsay Gellman: “Gefilte fish can be sexy,” [Jeffrey] Yoskowitz assured the 150 people who gathered in late March in Kreuzberg, in the western part of Berlin, to taste some of the delicacies that had all but disappeared from the city’s shops and restaurants after World War II… “It can’t just be nostalgia; it can’t just be your bubbe’s cooking,” Mr. Yoskowitz said, using the Yiddish word for grandmother. “This is a living food tradition.” [NYTimes

BIRTHDAYS: Canadian molecular biologist and pioneer in human genetics, Louis Siminovitch turns 97… Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, she was the first woman to serve as US Secretary of State (1997-2001), Madeleine Albright turns 80… Chairman and CEO of The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States, a human rights organization in NYC, Rachel Oestreicher Bernheim turns 74… CEO of Emigrant Bank, real estate developer, financier and philanthropist, has co-chaired the annual campaign for the UJA/Federation of New York, Howard Philip Milstein turns 66… Actor David Krumholtz turns 39… Noam Finger turns 39… Actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, known for her role as Tony Soprano’s daughter, Meadow, turns 36… Rochelle Wilner… Ofir Richman

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: How Howard Jonas’ “worst mistake” made him billions | Haim hosts Hillary | Inside NYC’s Eruv | Schottenstein’s new sunglasses startup


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SPOTLIGHT: “How Telecom Speculator Howard Jonas Made Billions From Verizon, AT&T” by Thomas Gryta and Drew FitzGerald: “Jonas, who sold a startup to AT&T for $1.1 billion in 2000, just sold another one to Verizon for $3.1 billion. It is a big premium for an obscure company called Straight Path Communications Inc. that has just nine employees and has yet to build out a network. The 60-year-old cut his teeth selling hot dogs in the Bronx, N.Y., at the age of 14, studied economics at Harvard and eventually moved into the phone business with the founding of long-distance provider IDT Corp. in 1990. He used the windfall from his Net2Phone deal to fund an array of ventures including looking for shale oil in Mongolia, publishing “Star Trek” comic books and trying to cure cancer.”

“One of these forays led to the creation of Straight Path. IDT bought a swath of U.S. airwave licenses and other assets for $56 million in 2001 and 2002 from Winstar Communications Inc., which had filed for bankruptcy protection. At the time, Mr. Jonas praised the deal: “It might not top the Dutch settlers buying the Island of Manhattan for twenty four dollars, but it comes pretty close.” The thinking was the Winstar assets would allow IDT to expand its telecom offerings to customers, but the business didn’t develop as expected and led to losses that eventually piled up to $300 million, Mr. Jonas said. “If you asked me two years ago what was the worst mistake I made in business, I would have said Straight Path,” he said this week.”

“Despite his repeated success, Mr. Jonas doesn’t fit the stereotype of a New York investor… On the wall is an original painting by Winston Churchill, an 1878 letter from Thomas Edison, pictures of Mr. Jonas with past Republican presidents and a drawing of him from comic legend Stan Lee. He has a framed check for $37.02 signed by notorious Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky in 1936 to the New York Telephone Company, now part of Verizon… He has family members scattered throughout his businesses, including some of his nine children. His son Shmuel is chief executive of IDT, while Davidi runs Straight Path. Another son, Michael, was involved in the search for shale oil in Mongolia and is chairman of cellphone ringtone maker Zedge.” [WSJ]

LOOKING BACK ON ’16: “New York Playbook Interview: Howard Wolfson” by Azi Paybarah: Was that Bloomberg’s mistake, not staying in one of the two major parties? Wolfson: “No… He had been pro-choice and pro-gun safety earlier in his life… I believe it is fair to say had he not changed his position on those issues, he would not have been able to gain traction within the Republican primary, or not enough traction. Mike is not someone who is ever going to change his position on issues for purposes of politics. He doesn’t fit neatly in a box. On the Republican side, his position on choice and guns makes him suspect. And on the Democratic side, his position on capitalism, wealth and finances make him suspect. In theory, if he was willing to change his position on one of those sets of issues he could have been an extremely competitive candidate in one of those two primaries, I believe.” [Politico] • Ed note: Happy birthday to Howard who turns 5-0 on Sunday!

THANK YOU TOUR: “Hillary Clinton Returns to L.A. for Dinner Event at Home of Haim Saban” by Ted Johnson: “Hillary Clinton attended a private dinner at the home of Haim and Cheryl Saban on Thursday night at an event that sources described as a thank you to 2016 campaign donors and an introduction to her plans to launch a political group, Onward Together. Sources said that the gathering was for about 40 to 50 people, including a number who were major donors during her 2016 presidential campaign… Hillary and Bill Clinton are both in Los Angeles for the graduation of her nephew, Zach Rodham, from USC, sources said.” [Variety]

CREDIT KUSHNER: “Saudis Said to Boost U.S. Ties With $40 Billion Investment” by Dinesh Nair, Keith Campbell and Matthew Martin: “The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund is set to announce plans to deploy as much as $40 billion into U.S. infrastructure, according to people familiar with the matter. The investment may be unveiled as early as next week to coincide with Trump’s visit to [Saudi Arabia]… No final decisions have been made and the announcement may still be delayed, they said… A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the plans were in the works and that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, had played a critical role in the discussions.” [Bloomberg]

DON’T FAULT KUSHNER: “Trump’s attempt to fix the Comey crisis made it worse” by Josh Dawsey, Annie Karni, Eliana Johnson and Tara Palmeri: “Trump told aides and outside advisers that the press shop was failing him and he was displeased that “they don’t know how to defend anything,” in the words of one adviser. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, is also upset with the press operation, according to a close Trump ally.” [Politico]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Rosenstein Pressed White House to Correct the Record on Comey Firing” by Del Quentin Wilber, Aruna Viswanatha and Rebecca Ballhaus: “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pressed White House counsel Don McGahn to correct what he felt was an inaccurate White House depiction of the events surrounding FBI Director James Comey’s firing… Mr. Rosenstein left the impression that he couldn’t work in an environment where facts weren’t accurately reported, the person said… Mr. Rosenstein grew more distressed when, in television interviews that evening, White House advisers reiterated that the decision was made in response to the Justice Department’s recommendation… Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior Thursday denied reports that Mr. Rosenstein had threatened to quit over the White House depiction of the events leading up to Mr. Comey’s dismissal.” [WSJ; Politico]

“Sen. Mike Lee floats Garland for FBI, a move that would skew D.C. Court of Appeals” by David Weigel: “Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)… used a tweet and a morning TV appearance to float an idea… nominating Judge Merrick Garland to run the FBI… Lee quickly got a bipartisan attaboy from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)… The praise from a Democrat stopped at that, for a simple reason: Taking Garland off the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit would open a seat to be filled by Trump. Since Democrats ended the filibuster for lower-court nominees, it would take just 51 Republican votes to replace Garland with a conservative, shrinking the Democratic-appointee advantage on the court from 7 to 4 now to 6 to 5.” [WashPost]

— “Both [VP Mike] Pence and [WH counsel Don] McGahn are said to have seen merit in the idea of Garland as FBI chief, while others in the White House said it was a non-starter given Garland’s affiliation with the Obama administration.” [FoxBusiness

JI INTERVIEW — Jeremy Wynes, the Midwest Regional Director for the Republican Jewish Coalition and formerly AIPAC’s Midwest Political Director, announced this week he is running for Congress in Illinois’ 10th congressional district against Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider. Claiming voters are tired of partisanship, Wynes stresses his background at AIPAC where he worked with both Democrats and Republicans in an interview with JI’s Aaron Magid. “I have close to a decade of experience focusing in a bipartisan way on issues in Congress that are hugely important and we can only solve when both parties are on board,” he said. “Part of what I did, both here in the 10th district and across the Midwest: travel around, advising and briefing Members of Congress and candidates on both sides of the aisle on these critical issues where too often the two sides can’t get together and work on this.”

Q: Congressman Schneider opposed the Iran Deal and joined with Republicans to condemn the UN Security Council vote in December against Israel. What makes you different on Israel?

Wynes: “The 10th district is very unique in that there are a large number of constituents here are very passionate about this issue and the US-Israel relationship. I don’t doubt that Congressman Schneider is a pro-Israel Congressman. But it’s also about to being a leader, and when it comes to the Iran deal, what we have seen over the past few years both when he was in Washington and a candidate is an example of him being unwilling to break from his party in a real meaningful way. Yes, I give him credit for eventually coming out against the Iran deal. Let’s not forget that for a month that both Democrats and Republicans were in the trenches fighting over the Iran deal, we heard radio silence from candidate Schneider on the issue. I would question, if you are going to be a leader on this issue, where was Congressman Schneider or then-candidate Schneider when those of us were in the trenches fighting? Is it leadership to wait a month until the party leadership gives you the ok because you are worried about a partisan primary? I don’t think that’s the leadership this district demands when it comes to this issue.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

“By firing Comey, Trump makes Israel nervous (again)” by Shmuel Rosner: “Israel tended to worry about Barack Obama for somewhat similar reasons. Obama didn’t always bother to update Israel about his intentions. He occasionally chose to surprise Israel with a speech or an action. This habit made Israel less trusting, less prone to rely on American commitments… Israeli leaders, observers, and citizens are now processing the Trump phenomenon and learning to live with it. Some of them – like me – realize that they were fooled by a candidate whom they thought was a man of his word (I believed that the embassy will be moving). Some of them – mainly on the right – must live with disappointment.” [JewishJournal]

THE ‘ULTIMATE DEAL’ TRIP — “Netanyahu wary of Trump’s interest in solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict” by Itamar Eichner and Smadar Perry: “17 Arab and Muslim rulers affiliated with the Sunni camp received invitations Wednesday from Saudi King Salman to participate in a series of summit conferences to be held in Riyadh on June 21 during Trump’s visit to the country. Among those invited were the kings of Jordan and Morocco and the presidents of Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt.” [Ynet

“‘Abbas has decided to sign peace deal with Israel’” by Yaakov Katz: “Since his meeting with Trump last week, Abbas has changed his rhetoric, issuing a number of statements meant to reflect flexibility on previous demands. He has, for example, said that he would renew the talks under Trump’s auspices without preconditions… He has also sent his advisers to the press to declare that the Palestinians are prepared to negotiate land swaps with Israel, a recognition that some West Bank settlements will remain part of Israel in the framework of a future deal. Netanyahu, on the other hand, has largely remained quiet. The strategy within the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem seems to be to wait and hope not to be blamed for preventing the success of the peace talks Trump is planning to restart.” [JPost] • Palestinian Leader Hails Trump’s Mideast Peace Efforts [AP]

AMBUSH? — “Netanyahu Fears Trump’s Cooking Something Big” by Yossi Verter: “The official, who often speaks to the president’s envoy to the Middle East, attorney Jason Greenblatt, said this week he was surprised to hear the rightist, Orthodox Jew, Har Etzion yeshiva graduate’s repeated references to former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s ideas on the peace process. “Several times during my conversation with Greenblatt he said ‘Livni says,’ ‘Tzipi believes,’ ‘in Tzipi’s opinion.’ It’s like she’s become a quasi-mentor. It appears he appreciates her a lot and is very attentive to her views,” the official said with a note of dread in his voice. This relationship isn’t helping reduce the worry level in the Prime Minister’s Office. At the end of March, before the AIPAC conference in Washington, when Greenblatt tweeted he was hosting Livni at home for a Sabbath meal, Netanyahu and his people took it hard. An Israeli official said Livni was… also refuting Netanyahu’s argument about being unable to reach an agreement because of his government’s makeup. Livni told Greenblatt that the Prime Minister was assured of the opposition’s votes in the Knesset… Livni stressed that her meetings with him, including one this week, aren’t held underground but with the Israeli Embassy’s knowledge.” [Haaretz]

“U.S. Ambassador Advises Israeli Officials: Trump’s Serious About Peace, Work With Him” by Barak Ravid and Amir Tibon: “[David Friedman] termed Trump a great opportunity for Israel, someone who greatly wants to help the country, inter alia by achieving a peace agreement with the Palestinians. As evidence of this, Friedman noted that all the people Trump has appointed to deal with the Israel issue are graduates of Jewish religious schools… This week, Friedman met with Trump to receive the president’s final instructions and his best wishes for his new job… Two people who have spoken with Friedman… told Haaretz that the new ambassador has given Trump his own assessment that the chances of achieving a peace deal are slim.” [Haaretz]

“How Trump Can Have an Impact in the Holy Land” by Daniel Shapiro: “Rawabi is the first new, entirely planned Palestinian city in the West Bank, long heralded as the advent of the Palestinian economic future… By associating himself with Rawabi’s future, Trump can instantly incentivize Israeli, Palestinian and Gulf leaders to ensure its success; none will want to be blamed for the failure of a project with Trump’s stamp of approval… It’s hard to find better optics too. Only a short helicopter ride from Jerusalem or Bethlehem, Rawabi’s grand scale will appeal to Trump the real estate developer.” [Bloomberg]

TAYLOR FORCE ACT: “Cabinet source: IDF fears defunding Palestinian Authority will increase terrorism” by Lahav Harkov: “Almost all of Israel’s security and intelligence agencies are opposed to proposed Knesset legislation that would cut off tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority due to its payment of salaries to terrorists imprisoned in Israel, a senior cabinet source told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. According to the source, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit, the IDF, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and other security bodies are opposed to the measure, fearing that a cut to PA funding will lead to an escalation in terrorist attacks.” [JPost

KAFE KNESSET — Interview with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked met her US counterpart Jeff Sessions yesterday for the very first time, concluding a five-day visit to NYC and DC in the midst of the Comey crisis. Shaked told Kafe Knesset that she and Sessions discussed the latest developments at length, and that “it was very interesting to hear his point of view,” although she refused to reveal any more details. Speaking from the train on her way back from DC, Shaked shared some impressions from her visit.

Shaked on the US Embassy move to Jerusalem: “I still hope that the President will stand by his commitment – to his voters and constituents – and move the Embassy. We need to ignore all the intimidation attempts. There will always be fears and concerns – we know that from every significant move we have made in the past, but we have to believe in the move and make it happen. Let us wait for the President’s visit, maybe he will surprise us.”

On the Trump’s push for peace: “We have made our position clear to the Prime Minister and it has not changed. We do not oppose talks so long as there are no preconditions or demands. If they want to talk, they are invited to do so, as long as there are no preconditions. From our brief history in the Middle East, we have seen that after every intensive and significant effort to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, there has been a wave of violence. I am therefore afraid of such a scenario if we go back to intense efforts again.” Read the full interview and today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats at the Senate Intelligence Committee: “Tehran’s public statements suggest that it wants to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action because it views the deal as a means to remove sanctions while preserving some nuclear capabilities. Iran’s implementation of the deal has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year. Tehran’s malignant activities, however, continue.”

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Kushner Companies Backs Out of Chinese Investor Events After Furor [NYTimes; WashPost] David Lichtenstein’s Lightstone Group seeks EB-5 funds for $700M FiDi condo project [RealDeal] Loan for Rubin Schron: Cammeby’s locks down $54M for 614 Sheepshead Bay Road [TRD] • Seth Klarman Sells Innoviva Days After Activist Stakeholder Defeat [Forbes] • How James Packer made six times his money on Macau [AFR] • Former cyber-intelligence sleuths for Israel now work to uncover malicious hackers [CNBC] • Fidelity is betting $65 million that David Tisch’s Spring app can be a department store of the future [Recode]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: “Privé Eyewear shakes up the industry by releasing frames for less than $30” by Rachel Strugatz: “The well-heeled start-up wants to undercut the “under $100” business model that’s dominated eyewear online since Warby Parker hit the scene in 2010 by offering hundreds of styles that cost less than a third of that price. Founder David Schottenstein has tapped a handful of celebrity partners to help spread the word via their respective social media channels and participate in the design and marketing of product. Jamie Foxx, Hailee Steinfeld, Ashley Benson and Jeremy Piven are all partners in the venture. Schottenstein declined to say how much of a stake each has in the company but confirmed they all have equity… Schottenstein — whose family started DSW and whose cousin Jay is head of American Eagle Outfitters — isn’t worried about the pressure on margins the tie-up [with Amazon] will cause.” [LATimes]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Miami Beach board moves forward with citywide casino ban” by Francisco Alvarado: “Fontainebleau owners, led by developer Jeffrey Soffer, are interested in competing for a gaming slots license should the State Legislature authorize a gambling expansion in Miami-Dade County. Currently, gambling is only allowed at pari mutuel facilities and Indian reservations. During the recently concluded legislative session, an update to existing gambling laws that would have allowed more casinos in South Florida did not pass, but Miami Beach leaders still want to move forward with a preemptive strike.” [TRD

“The Ins and Outs of New York’s Eruv” by Allan Ripp: “Every Thursday and Friday, Rabbi Moshe Tauber dutifully travels to Manhattan from his home in Monsey, N.Y. The 43-year-old rabbi and father of 12 usually arrives by 5:30 a.m. He drives as far as 25 miles in the city, his eyes focused well above street level. That’s because he sees what nobody else does. Rabbi Tauber’s job is to keep tabs on the Manhattan eruv, a precisely designated zone that zigzags from 126th Street in Harlem to the bottom of the island and from the Upper East Side to the Lower East Side. Its perimeter is marked by heavy-duty fishing line strung almost invisibly on city light poles 18 feet high… For many of New York’s observant Jews, their enjoyment of the Sabbath depends on Rabbi Tauber. Under cover of the eruv, which symbolically extends one’s residence into the public domain, carrying and pushing are kosher.”

“Two locations will never be certified: Times Square and Penn Station. The number of people passing through both reaches levels the Torah finds unacceptable for eruv inclusion, or so the sages say. The United Nations is also off-limits. Rabbi Tauber noted that the land under the U.N. is not owned by the city but by all member states, making an appeal for a Jewish safe zone unlikely.” [WSJ]

“Rahm, sitting in his old Cabinet Room seat, ponders nature of evil” by Kim Janssen: “Emblazoned with the words “Chief of Staff, January 20, 2009,” the seat that once graced the Cabinet Room in the White House now sits in a conference room on the fifth floor of City Hall — just to remind everyone who’s boss… “I bought it when I left, and it kind of has my tush indented in it, so I keep it,” [Mayor Rahm Emanuel] said in a recent interview, acknowledging he was sitting in the chair at the time. And he rejected the suggestion, first made by his White House pal David Axelrod, that switching from the White House to become mayor had “maybe taught Rahm a bit of empathy.” “I’ve always had empathy and I’ve always cared,” he told interviewer Kai Ryssdal… “David may be right, but he may not be totally right… It’s not like being chief of staff lends itself to public expressions of empathy.”” [ChicagoTribune

TRANSITIONS — Steve LeVine, who has been Quartz’s Washington correspondent, has left the business news organization to become the Future editor at Axios. [TBN]

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has named Rori Kramer its new Director of Government Affairs. Kramer previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Senate Affairs at the State Department. Before joining the State Department, Kramer worked as the Senior Foreign Policy Adviser to Sen. Ben Cardin.

WINE OF THE WEEK — Adir Plato 2013 — by Yitz Applbaum: The Adir Plato 2013 is absolutely stunning. Instead of describing where I was physically when I devoured this bottle of wine, I am going to describe where the wine took me in my imagination. The forest. I was sitting on a damp patch of ground situated in a clearing, fit for a small picnic. It was close to dusk and a bit cold outside. The ground was littered with leaves and birds were howling, out of sight, from the tops of the tall dark trees. I imagined that I sat alone eating a large smoked turkey leg and other smoked meats.

The Adir Plato is a powerful wine. The tannins and complexity are drawn from the 24 months it is aged in new French oak. The result is just short of overpowering. Each flavor-sense in the mouth is put on high alert. There are notes of very ripe blackberries, a slight lemon tartness and of deeply roasted coffee. The wine is made of 90% Cabernet grapes and 10% Syrah. The Syrah has a disproportionate influence on this wine. The nose is of mushroom and mold. Drink this wine with a very close friend. You will talk and think about this wine a lot. [AdirWinery]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAYComposer, songwriter, record producer, pianist and singer, Burt Bacharach, who won three Academy Awards and six Grammys, turns 89… Co-founder and the first CEO of Home Depot, Chairman of the Board until retiring in 2002, Bernard “Bernie” Marcus turns 88… British lawyer and member of the House of Lords until 2015, Baron Joel Goodman Joffe, turns 85… Israeli agribusiness entrepreneur and real estate investor, was chairman and owner of Carmel Agrexco, Gideon Bickel turns 73… World renowned architect and master planner for the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, Daniel Libeskind turns 71… Former member of the California State Senate (2008-2016), following six years as a Member of the California State Assembly (2002-2008), Lois Wolk turns 71… Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo News, previously an investigative journalist for Newsweek and NBC News, Michael Isikoff turns 65… Washington correspondent for the Miami Herald covering the Pentagon, previously a McClatchy reporter, James Rosen turns 62… Romanian-born, made aliyah in 1965, member of the Knesset for Meretz (1999-2003 and again since 2009), Ilan Gilon turns 61… Matthew Hiltzik, founder of strategic communications and consulting firm Hiltzik Strategies, turns 45… Communications officer for the DC-based Open Society Foundations, previously a speechwriter in the State Department (2009-2012) and a reporter for The Hill (2002-2009), Jonathan E. Kaplan turns 45… Member of the US House of Representatives from Colorado since 2009, serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, Jared Polis turns 42 (h/t Playbook)… Digital director at American Action Network and Congressional Leadership Fund, Erica Arbetter turns 25… Analyst in the Boston office of venture capital firm Battery Ventures, Galit Krifcher

SATURDAY: Lawyer, businessman and philanthropist, Sir Sydney Lipworth QC turns 86… Film, television and stage actress, Zohra Lampert turns 80… Actor and producer Harvey Keitel turns 78… San Francisco-born, raised in Israel, UCLA and Harvard Law graduate, author, attorney, columnist and CEO of LRN, a legal research, ethics and compliance management firm, Dov Seidman turns 53… NFL defensive lineman (1995-2002), he has played for the Lions, Jaguars, Patriots, Dolphins, Raiders and Panthers, Josh Heinrich Taves, a/k/a Josh Heinrich, turns 45… UK Labour Party MP since 2010, Luciana Berger turns 36… Software entrepreneur, Google project manager (2004-2007), Facebook engineering lead (2007-2008), co-founder of the collaboration software company, Asana, Justin Rosenstein turns 34… NFL offensive lineman since 2008, he has played for the 49ers, Chiefs, Panthers, Seahawks, Saints, Bears and Redskins, Brian de la Puente turns 32… Actress, writer, producer and director, best known as the creator, writer and star of the HBO series “Girls,” Lena Dunham turns 31… Community Engagement Manager at Google, alum of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Raquel Saxe… Israel Director for J Street since 2012, Yael Patir

SUNDAYFacebook’s chairman, CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg turns 33… Physician, environmental and social activist and politician, she was the Green Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 and 2016 elections, Jill Stein turns 67… Technion professor of computer science, Orna Grumberg turns 65… Founding dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law in 2008, one of the most frequently cited American legal scholars on constitutional law and federal civil procedure, Erwin Chemerinsky turns 64… Los Angeles City Attorney since 2013, previously a member of the California Assembly (2006-2012), the Los Angeles City Council (1995-2001) and executive director of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Mike Feuer turns 59… Author of five international bestsellers on topics such as strategy, power and seduction, Robert Greene turns 58… ESPN’s SportsCenter anchor and football sideline reporter, Suzy Kolber turns 53… Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Howard Wolfson, former Deputy Mayor of NYC, turns 5-0… Managing partner of Alexandria, VA-based MVAR Media and a leading strategist in Democratic politics, Jon Vogel turns 42 (h/t Playbook)… Emmy award-winning executive producer of CNN’s political programming, David Philip Gelles turns 40… Bloomberg Businessweek reporter covering the union movement, labor law and related policies and politics, Josh Eidelson turns 33… Actress who has appeared in nine movies, member of a band called Wardell with her brother Theo, daughter of Steven Spielberg, Sasha Rebecca Spielberg turns 27… Research analyst at SRI International’s Center for Education Policy, former track star and then football player at Harvard, Andrew Ezekoye turns 25… Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Senator Charles Schumer, Alex I. Katz … Senior defense analyst for Bloomberg Government, previously a strategic communications consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, Robert Levinson … Connecticut State Senator Gayle Slossberg (h/t Jeff Wice)…

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Kafe Knesset for April 25

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It is either me or them: Netanyahu is at war with “Breaking the Silence,” the left-wing NGO which gathers testimonies from IDF soldiers about alleged human rights violations….


Momentum to Delay Senate Sanctions Bill Until After Iranian Election

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

WASHINGTON – While the Senate Iran sanctions legislation has obtained influential bipartisan co-sponsorship, there is a growing understanding that the bill could be delayed until Tehran’s May 17…

Photo by GPO

Kafe Knesset for April 24

Monday, April 24, 2017

Israel came to a standstill at 10:00 this morning for the Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) siren, as it does every year, and its politicians attended various memorial…

via Twitter/@netanyahu

Kafe Knesset for April 21

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sign up for the Daily Kickoff newsletter to read Kafe Knesset in your inbox each day All in the family: Two TV channels possibly ruined Netanyahu’s weekend last…


Kafe Knesset for April 20

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sign up for the Daily Kickoff newsletter to read Kafe Knesset in your inbox each day Shabbat is back on the political agenda, following a High Court of…


Anthony Brown Stages Political Comeback in Congress

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

WASHINGTON – While Anthony Brown served as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland in 2008, violence struck close to home. The Maryland politician’s cousin was shot and killed by her…