Daily Kickoff: Engel supports recognizing Israeli control of Golan, after Bibi asks Bolton to do same | Comparing Dead Sea Scrolls and NFL Rulebook

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DRIVING THE DAY — National Security Adviser John Bolton arrived in Israel this weekend to reassure Israeli leaders that Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria would not lessen the pressure on Iran and to reiterate the administration’s support of Israel’s security. U.S. concerns about the strengthening of Israel’s trade and technology ties with China was also a topic of dicussion during Bolton’s visit.

Netanyahu was supposed to take Bolton on a helicopter tour of the Golan Heights on Monday to convince the Trump administration of the importance of the U.S. recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. “I think that when you’re there you will be able to understand perfectly why we will never leave the Golan Heights and why it’s important that all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu told Bolton during a press conference at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem. But the tour was canceled due to inclement weather.

On Sunday, Bolton met with Netanyahu and Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen to discuss the U.S. and Israel’s “mutual response to the threat from Iran and the coordinated U.S. drawdown in Syria,” Bolton tweeted. Earlier in the day — accompanied by Ambassadors David Friedman and Ron Dermer — Bolton toured the ancient tunnels beneath the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Bolton, Friedman, Dermer and other members of the delegation get a virtual tour of ancient Jerusalem inside the tunnel complex beneath the Western Wall (Photo by AP) 

HOW IT PLAYED — Bolton Puts Conditions on Syria Withdrawal, Suggesting a Delay of Months or Years — by David Sanger, Noah Weiland and Eric Schmitt: “Mr. Bolton… told reporters that American forces would remain in Syria until the last remnants of the Islamic State were defeated and Turkey provided guarantees that it would not strike Kurdish forces allied with the United States. He and other top White House advisers have led a behind-the-scenes effort to slow Mr. Trump’s order and reassure allies, including Israel… While Mr. Bolton said on Sunday that he expected American forces to eventually leave northeastern Syria… he began to lay out an argument for keeping some troops at a garrison in the southeast that is used to monitor the flow of Iranian arms and soldiers.”

“The move to reverse course on Mr. Trump’s promised swift withdrawal picked up in recent days, even as Mr. Bolton worked to avoid openly confronting the president the way Mr. Mattis did.” [NYTimesWSJ]

Amid chaos over Trump’s foreign policy, Pompeo heads to Middle East with some explaining to do — by Tracy Wilkinson: “Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, starting this week, will swing through at least eight countries in eight days, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and most of the Persian Gulf… to explain U.S. intentions and reassure allies about the U.S. commitment to challenge Iran. “The United States is not leaving the Middle East,” a senior State Department official said, calling such suggestions “false narratives.” “We are not going anywhere… The policy of maximum pressure on Iran has not changed,” said the official.” [LATimes]

— America Isn’t Abandoning the Fight Against Iran — by Eli Lake: “In an interview, Pompeo stressed that the U.S. remains committed to kicking Iran and its proxies out of Syria — and to a broader strategy of countering Iran across the region. “That campaign hasn’t changed one lick,” he told me… Pompeo’s remarks also serve as a reminder that there are limits to Senator Rand Paul’s influence on Trump.” [Bloomberg]

BUT, BUT, BUT… Trump in a gaggle to reporters outside the White House yesterday: “We are pulling back in Syria. We’re going to be removing our troops. I never said we’re doing it that quickly, but we’re decimating ISIS… and we won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.” Reporter: How long?Trump: “It’s going quickly.”

SCENE YESTERDAY — Leaders of NORPAC, which calls itself the nation’s largest pro-Israel political action committee, hosted a fundraiser for Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY) at the home of Helene and Robert Rothenberg in Woodmere, New York. The new Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee reassured the some 40 attendees that bipartisan support for Israel would be maintained in the 116th Congress. [Pic

Rep. Engel discussed his new role as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh after the event. “There has to be a way where Congress authorizes the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to the president so the president just doesn’t have the blank check to do whatever he wants,” Engel said about Congress serving as a check to the Executive Branch on foreign policy. “After September 11, 2001, we voted for an AUMF to go after the terrorists. Each president since then has used that same AUMF. I think that that’s wrong, and that has to change.”

Engel on Israel requesting U.S. recognition of its sovereignty over the Golan Heights: “Yes, I support it. I think that Golan Heights is part of Israel and should remain part of Israel for strategic purposes. I also think that because of the situation it would be good for the United States, too. Whoever may take over Syria may try to recapture the Golan Heights. That’s certainly not something we want to see. It is also an important message to send that the close cooperation between the United States and Israel is still there, and still strong.”

Engel said he will talk with freshman members — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Rashida Tlaib (MI) and Ilhan Omar (MN) — regarding U.S. support for Israel. “I will talk to them,” he said. “I’ve already spoken to one of them. I will speak to all three of them. They may not agree with me at the end, but I’ll at least want them to hear the other point of view. You never know —sometimes when you talk to people you can convince them.”

“Look, it might not be in the past where you had 99 percent of everybody agreeing with Israel and maybe 90 percent or whatever,” the senior Democrat continued. “But it’s still gonna be an overwhelming majority of both parties agreeing that U.S. support of Israel is important. So, I’m not too worried. But we can’t sit back on our laurels. I will speak with anyone, including with any of the new freshmen, to give them my point of view about the Middle East and hopefully, they’ll agree and change their minds.”

ON THE HILL — With the partial government shutdown in its third week, Democratic Senators criticized Senate leadership for considering the passage of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 — legislation that would authorize the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding, provide new authorities for sanctions against Syria’s Assad regime, and empower state and local U.S. governments in the U.S. to counter the BDS movement — among the Senate’s top legislative priorities. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin from Maryland urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a prime sponsor of the bill, not take up any bills unrelated to reopening the government.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called it “absurd” that the first bill during the shutdown is “legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity. Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government. Let’s get our priorities right.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) tweeted in response: “They forgot what country they represent. This is the U.S. where boycotting is a right and part of our historical fight for freedom and equality. Maybe a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order, then get back to opening up our government instead of taking our rights away.”

Seth Mandel“The totally-not-anti-Semitic Rashida Tlaib levels the dual-loyalty accusation *right out of the gate.* Amazing. Every reporter going to ask all the prominent Dems about this?”

— Freelancer Howard Lovy“Not a week into it and Rashida Tlaib is already invoking the old anti-Semitic “dual loyalty” garbage. There are many things wrong with anti-BDS legislation, but when the first thing she raises is the ancient specter of Jewish disloyalty, you know this is going to be a rough ride.”

SHUTDOWN WATCH — U.S. Government Shutdown Endangers American Aid to Palestinian Security Forces — by Amir Tibon: “The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act states that international entities that receive any form of foreign assistance from the U.S. will become vulnerable to lawsuits filed by U.S. citizens in American courts… Over the past two months, the Trump administration has tried to work with Congress to amend the legislation so that it won’t prevent the PA from accepting U.S. security assistance. Attempts to amend the legislation, however, are currently in stasis due to the government shutdown… If the law isn’t fixed before the end of January, it will be too late for the upcoming fiscal year, and the PA will be forced to reject U.S. assistance.”[Haaretz]

Jonathan Weisman writes… “American Jews and Israeli Jews Are Headed for a Messy Breakup: My rabbi in Washington, Daniel Zemel, quoted the Israeli Yaniv Sagee during Kol Nidre, the Yom Kippur evening service, this fall: “For the first time in my life, I feel a genuine threat to my life in Israel. This is not an external threat. It is an internal threat from nationalists and racists.” Rabbi Zemel implored his congregation to act before it is too late, to save Israel from itself. But Israelis want nothing of the sort. American Jews don’t serve in the Israeli military, don’t pay Israeli taxes and don’t live under the threat of Hamas rocket bombardments. And many American Jews would not heed Rabbi Zemel’s call.” [NYTimes]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Unveiling of Trump’s much-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan to be delayed by months — by Carol Lee: “U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman says the Trump administration plans to release its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan “within the next several months.” “We want to release it a way that gives it the best chance of getting a good reception,” Friedman told reporters traveling with Bolton in Israel. He said the Israeli elections in April “are a factor, but not the only factor” influencing the timing of the proposal’s release… “The challenge to a peace plan is making the case for a much more sober assessment of the realities in this region,” Friedman said.” [NBCNews]

Jewish teenagers arrested in October stoning death of Palestinian woman — by Ruth Eglash: “Several Jewish teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of carrying out “serious terror offenses,” including the killing of a Palestinian woman three months ago, Israel’s internal security agency made public on Sunday… The arrests over the past week still served to stoke nationalist tensions in the country as it gears up for a general election on April 9.” [WashPost]

ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — Fratricide in Full Bloom as Israeli Election Campaign Heats Up — by David Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner: “Israeli politics is notoriously turbulent, but the drama-a-day tumult and the suspense over Mr. Netanyahu’s legal predicament left one columnist comparing the campaign to a television series and wishing only that it could be binge-watched.” [NYTimes]

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to announce his decision whether to charge Netanyahu in the three criminal investigations in February, a source close to the AG told Haaretz… The Washington Post likened Mandelblit’s dilemma to the lose-lose situation former FBI Director James Comey faced during the 2016 presidential election… Netanyahu in a 30-second clip posted on Facebook: “Don’t start a hearing before the election, if the hearing won’t be completed by the election.”

GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is reportedly behind the formation of the new right-wing party led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked… Though Bennett and Shaked have announced that they will recommend Netanyahu as PM after the elections, an editorial featured on Israel Hayom cover page on Sunday called on Netanyahu and Bennett to unite. In a two-page spread, editor-in-chief Boaz Bismuth invoked Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, “Don’t speak ill of your brothers and sisters on the Right.”… According to a report by Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, the New Right party reached out to former UN Ambassador Ron Prosor about joining the party list…

TALK OF THE REGION — Moscow’s Little-Noticed Islamic-Outreach Effort — by Hassan Hassan: “Russia’s growing presence in the Middle East is generally discussed in military and economic terms… A little-noticed trend, however, is Moscow’s focus on promoting politically pacifist Islam, which has coincided with an aggressive push by certain Arab countries to combat Islamism… “Russia is generally investing in the idea that it is not America, it is not against Islam, it is offering a moderate alternative, and their tool in this is Ramzan Kadyrov and the Chechen model,” says a political analyst of Chechen origins. “Chechnya is known … to people in the region.” [TheAtlantic]

China unveils plans to ‘sinify’ Islam amid signs of spreading crackdown — by Lucy Hornby: “China has pledged to “sinify” Islam over the next four years, amid signs that a security crackdown that has seen the internment of millions of the country’s Muslims could spread. In the past two years, China has locked up at least 1m Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic group native to the northwestern region of Xinjiang who speak a language closely related to Turkish.” [FinancialTimes

2020 WATCH —Biden Sees Himself as Democrats’ Best Hope in 2020, Allies Say — by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns: “Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is in the final stages of deciding whether to run for president and has told allies he is skeptical the other Democrats eyeing the White House can defeat President Trump… The former vice president told a senior Democratic official last week that he is both likely to run and that his aides have told him he must move quickly in this primary… Mr. Biden is under significant pressure from his party’s major donors to make up his mind — no later than the end of January — or risk watching them migrate to other candidates.” [NYTimes]

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand gauges Wall Street executives’ interest in backing a potential 2020 presidential run — by Brian Schwartz: “Gillibrand has personally been working the phones and calling senior executives at Wall Street firms in recent weeks to see whether they would back her campaign if she jumps into the race.” [CNBC]

** Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Sam Nazarian’s SBE Group is expanding its famed Delano brand with ambitious plans to open a new Delano Hotel in the Coachella Valley [Forbes] • CBS wants Les Moonves heir to run Viacom, too, if merger happens [NYPost• Bloomberg negotiating for business news TV channel in Israel [Haaretz• Zuckerberg hospital’s aggressive tactics leave patients with big bills [Vox] •An art dealer with clients including billionaires Leon Black and Ronald Lauder is selling 10 works from his private collection[Bloomberg]

MEDIA WATCH — CBS President David Rhodes stepping down after ‘nightmare’ year — by Emily Smith and Sara Nathan: “CBS President David Rhodes is to leave the network – after a “nightmare” year for CBS… Under-pressure Rhodes — whose contract is up next month — has been at the helm of the news division for over seven years. But he’s faced a troubled year starting with Charlie Rose’s exit amid sexual harassment allegations… A TV source told Page Six, Rhodes is working on an exit deal with CBS, saying: “David wasn’t going to be fired. But it has been a nightmare year for him after a good run.” [PageSixHollywoodReporter] • Susan Zirinsky will replace David Rhodes as CBS News president, becoming first woman to lead division [LATimes]

PROFILE — Meet Dr. Miriam Adelson: the record-breaking Republican donor driving Trump’s Israel policy — by Christina Binkley: “Miriam’s influence has been deeper than many credit, although she appears to have been perfectly comfortable remaining in her 85-year-old husband’s shadow until recently… Evidence suggests that [Miriam Adelson] is the driver in the couple’s political and philanthropic activities… “Everybody says it’s Sheldon, but it’s Miriam,” says Michael Cherry, associate chief justice of the Nevada supreme court, who sits on the board of the Las Vegas methadone clinic that the Adelsons founded… Federal election records reflect that Sheldon’s first political donation, in 1984, was $1,000 to the Democratic candidate from Massachusetts for US Senate, John Kerry. Miriam’s US political contributions began in 1991 – also to Democrats.” [TheGuardian]

HOLLYWOOD — Nicole Perlman Harnesses Her Superpowers — by Dana Goodyear: “Perlman is thirty-seven and gentle… In 2014, she became the first woman to write a Marvel Studios movie, “Guardians of the Galaxy”; its audience was forty-four percent female—a record. “Captain Marvel,” the brand’s first superheroine movie, which Perlman co-wrote, comes out in March. “It was very important to us that she didn’t get her powers from her outfit,” Perlman said. Later, she wrote in an e-mail, “I put a lot of thought into the way Captain Marvel interacts with her powers, in the light of what it means to be an empowered woman.” [NewYorker]

‘Game of Thrones’ creator George R.R. Martin discovers he’s nearly a quarter Jewish on ‘Finding Your Roots’ — by Curt Schleier: “PBS’ celebrity genealogy show “Finding Your Roots” season five premiere, which airs Jan. 8, contains the most dramatic Jewish story the show has unearthed so far: “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin discovers he’s nearly a quarter Jewish.” [JTA]

SPORTS BLINK — A year ago, Brady, Belichick, and Kraft were at a crossroads, but they have found common ground: “One thing that’s certain in the NFL is change,” Tom Brady said on Thursday, before the team broke for the bye… He wasn’t so happy last year, at least not until the team traded his backup and heir apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo. But that move didn’t sit so well with Belichick, done as it was at [Bob] Kraft’s behest, to ease things with Brady. That thorny situation, along with Belichick’s abrasive coaching style, Brady’s uncomfortable devotion to (Brady’s personal trainer Alex) Guerrero, and Kraft being put in the middle, made for awkward times.”[BostonGlobe]

TOP QUOTE — TV sportscaster Al Michaels during the Eagles vs. Bears playoff game last night: “The Dead Sea Scrolls are easier to dissect than the NFL rulebook.” [Video]

LONG READ — Viktor Orbán’s Far-Right Vision for Europe — by Elisabeth Zerofsky: “[Peter] Nizak told me that, one day, he was watching TV with his son, who is six, when an anti-Soros campaign ad appeared. “I told him, ‘Do you know I work for George Soros?’ And he said, ‘No! ’ ” … Some members of Fidesz argue that [George] Soros is a left-wing version of the Koch brothers, funding organizations that conform with his political vision. Soros has spent far more money, worldwide, than the Kochs have in the U.S. “He enters into the realm of political debate, O.K., he’s welcome. But then he will meet with political responses,” Balázs Hidvéghi, the communications director for Fidesz, told me. “If you step into a boxing ring, then you shouldn’t be surprised if you get a punch.” [NewYorker

TALK OF THE TOWN — A French blogger brought down by his own tweets wants a second chance — by James McAuley: “Two years ago, Mehdi Meklat was a prince among this city’s intellectual aristocrats, celebrated as a precocious thinker and an important minority voice. Just 24, he was a star blogger for the French newspaper Libération… But in February 2017, journalists uncovered anti-Semitic and homophobic tweets on an account belonging to Meklat, and his meteoric rise was quickly overshadowed by a staggering fall. Now Meklat is back, attempting to clear his name… Meklat used the account to attack any number of public targets… In one of these, Marcelin Deschamps calls for a physical attack on Alain Finkielkraut, a conservative Jewish intellectual and the son of Polish-Jewish refugees who escaped the Holocaust… As part of his apology tour, Meklat called Finkielkraut and asked to see him. “I was touched by that,” Finkielkraut said in an interview. He invited Meklat for tea and was curious to hear what he had to say.” [WashPost]

ACROSS THE SEA — Belgium Bans Religious Slaughtering Practices, Drawing Praise and Protest  — by Milan Schreuer: “A Belgian ban on the Muslim and Jewish ways of ritually slaughtering animals went into effect on New Year’s Day, part of a clash across Europe over the balance between animal welfare and religious freedom… “It is impossible to know the true intentions of people,” said Yaakov David Schmahl, a senior rabbi in Antwerp. “Unless people state clearly what they have in mind, but most anti-Semites don’t do that.” … Belgium, with a population of about 11 million, is home to roughly 500,000 Muslims and over 30,000 Jews… Leaders of both groups say they hope that lawsuits they have filed in Belgium’s Constitutional Court might still lift the ban on slaughtering.” [NYTimes

DESSERT — Is This Duck Kosher? It’s Complicated — by Dan Nosowitz: “Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Zohar Amar, professors at Bar Ilan University… write that, in 1861, a rabbi who had just moved to New Orleans found his new Jewish community was eating a weird duck he’d never seen before. He wrote to some other rabbis back in Europe, who said that there was no mesorah on the Muscovy duck, and further that the eggs looked sort of odd, and so it should be banned… Rabbis in Argentina actually sent back two live Muscovy ducks to Europe—only one survived—for some other European rabbis to examine. Those other rabbis wrote back saying that the bird was perfectly fine to eat.. With those rulings, the Muscovy gained in popularity among Jewish farmers in the Old World, especially in France and Israel, as well as in South America. But not in the U.S.” [AtlasObscura]

REMEMBERING — Moshe Arens, Israeli Statesman and Ex-Defense Minister, Dies at 93 — by Isabel Kershner: “Moshe Arens, the Israeli politician and statesman who served three times as defense minister, and also as foreign minister and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, died Monday in Savyon, Israel… Mr. Arens, also known by his nickname, Misha… was born in Kovno, now Kaunas, Lithuania, on Dec. 27, 1925, and moved with his family to the United States at 13. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as a technical sergeant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers in World War II before leaving to fight in Israel’s 1948 war of independence… After going back to the United States for graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology and a stint in the American aviation industry, Mr. Arens returned to Israel in 1957 for good.” [NYTimes]

IN MEMORIAM — The Israel of Amos Oz — by Bernard Avishai: “In recent years, Oz coined perhaps his most influential turn of phrase, which has been picked up by virtually all politicians in the peace camp and implies the solidarity of that “slimmer” Israel. Namely, he said that Israelis and Palestinians must “divorce,” that they must split “this small house into two little apartments.” … But divorce is not a neutral metaphor, and Oz made clear that he meant something quite radical by it: that the two peoples should get more or less entirely out of each other’s lives. (He often quoted Robert Frost on the virtues of “good fences.”) In effect, he was saying that the two-state solution should finally solve what the 1948 war did not. In his view, the occupation was to be condemned because it was inviting, ultimately, a demographic nightmare, an “Arab state from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the Jordan River.” [NewYorker] • Simon Schama: Amos Oz, the novelist whose sorrowing gaze extended well beyond Israel [FinancialTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: US District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, appointed by President Clinton in 1994, Judge Paul D. Borman turns 80… Pulitzer Prize-winning sports reporter, columnist and writer, he wrote for the New York Times from 1981 to 2007, Ira Berkow turns 79… Co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, former owner of Men’s Journal and Us Weekly magazines, co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jann Wenner turns 73… Scottsdale, Arizona resident, Bob Dorfman turns 73… President of the University of South Florida System serving over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students, Judy Genshaft turns 71… Dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills, starting in 2011 he assumed control of his family’s real estate operations, Dr. Ezra Kest turns 61… Documentary filmmaker with a focus on social justice inquiries and Jewish history subjects, Roberta Grossman turns 60… Heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, his 49,000 square foot mansion is the second largest home in Los Angeles, Anthony Pritzker turns 58…

Physician, US Senator from Kentucky since 2011, he was a presidential candidate in 2016, Rand Paul turns 56… Global head of marketing and investor relations at Amber Capital, she also serves since 2017 as president of the Jewish Communal Fund, Zoya Raynes turns 43… Television and film actress and model, Lauren Cohan turns 37… Founder of Keystone Strategy + Advocacy, Aryeh Eliezer “Ari” Mittleman turns 36… Director of communications at the Center For Global Development, Holly Shulman turns 36 (h/t Playbook)… Assistant director at Hillel of Stanford University, Jeremy Ragent turns 32… Los Angeles based correspondent at Entertainment Weekly, she has written for publications including The New Yorker, The Guardian, The New York Observer, and GQ, Dana Schwartz turns 26… The first Israeli player ever drafted by a Major League Baseball team, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 2018 as part of the Manny Machado deal with the Dodgers, Dean Kremer turns 23…




Daily Kickoff: ‘Cantankerous’ Jim Webb wouldn’t last long as SecDef, predicts GOP FP advisor | Mel & Betty Sembler reflect | New Israeli Netflix show

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BIG IN PHILANTHROPIC CIRCLES — Sandy Cardin, President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, emails: “Having entered my 25th year of service to the Schusterman Family Foundation, I have decided that now is the right time to step back from my day-to-day responsibilities as President and serve the Schustermans in my new role as Senior Advisor.”

“I depart humbled by the risk the Schusterman family took bringing me on board, inspired by their unwavering commitment to tikkun olam and encouraged by their dedication to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. I am also excited to see what the future holds for the Foundation to which I dedicated so much of my life and to watch the continued growth of the teammates alongside whom I have enjoyed working, many since my earliest days in Tulsa.”

NEXT UP — “Lisa Eisen, who has been my partner in this work for nearly 18 years, will become President of the Schusterman Foundation’s U.S. Jewish portfolio, which includes our Jewish and Israel Education grantmaking, as well as the Schusterman Fellowship and REALITY program. Julie Mikuta will become President of our U.S. Education portfolio, and David Weil will continue serving as our Chief Operating Officer. In Israel, we have a new colleague, Ohad Reifen, who will serve as CEO of our activities in our Israel office while Justin Korda will continue in his role as Executive Director.”

PROFILE — Mel and Betty Sembler reflect on the GOP they helped build: ‘It’s the end of an era’ — by Adam C. Smith: “At ages 88 and 87, Mel and Betty Sembler are long-standing pillars of the GOP establishment witnessing Donald Trump upend their party… The Semblers have slept and celebrated Shabbat in the White House, and former President George W. Bush has slept in theirs, working quietly on his memoirs in a robe on their terrace. But, as much as they may not care to acknowledge it, Mel is a dinosaur in today’s Trumpian political world.”

“Today, like most of the Republican old guard once aghast by Trump’s ascendancy, the Semblers do their best to avoid criticizing the president. They prefer to talk about his administration cutting regulations than the myriad administration scandals. Friends say their reluctance to publicly question the president reflects their nature, decidedly different from Trump’s. “It’s simple,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, calling the Semblers giants in the rise of the Republican Party in Florida. “He’s a gentleman. That’s how Mel Sembler operates. You don’t find him being critical of anybody.”

— Marriage advice from the Semblers: “What’s the secret to a 65-year marriage where husband and wife are virtually inseparable? Sitting in their 25th-floor penthouse overlooking downtown St. Petersburg, both shrugged. They cite their similar backgrounds: loving, Jewish families and a mutual commitment to Judaism’s emphasis on philanthropy and charity.”[TampaBay

DRIVING THE CONVO — President Trump is reportedly considering former Senator Jim Webb as a replacement for former Defense Secretary James Mattis. Webb, who served as Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and ran for president in the Democratic primary in 2016, opposed the Iraq War and more recently criticized former President Barack Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya and Syria.

“Webb is famously cantankerous and I wonder if he would last long in a Trump cabinet,” warned a former national security official who served in past Republican administrations. “He’d also likely be at war with the top generals within about a week.”

Dov Zakheim, who served with Webb in the Reagan administration, said during a phone interview with Jewish Insider this week that Webb “wouldn’t be a bad choice at all.” According to the former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Planning and Resources, Webb is “a serious, tense guy who stands for what he believes in. This is a man of integrity, who has strongly-held opinions. He would be very capable to serve in this position.” But Zakheim cautioned that while Webb would be closer to President Trump than Mattis, “the thing that I would ask about him is simply, how well would he do with a president who changes his mind so often?” [JewishInsider

Elliott Abrams emails us: Webb “fits perfectly into Walter Russell Mead’s description of ‘Jacksonian’ Americans and their foreign policy views. He opposes most foreign military involvement, hates our enemies, and thinks that if we have to fight, we have to fight to win.”

New Pentagon chief discusses Syria with Pompeo, Bolton: “The meeting was the first of its kind for Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who started his new job January 1 following the resignation of his predecessor Jim Mattis… Various timelines have been floated, but Trump on Wednesday seemed vague, saying only that it would happen “over a period of time.” [AFP] • U.S. warns Iran not to launch satellites into space [WashPost]

TRANSITION — Former Presidential Envoy to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk has been appointed the next Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford University.

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — Trump’s Iran comments defy the position of his top aides — by Missy Ryan and John Hudson: “Late last year, some of the president’s hawkish advisers drafted a memo committing the United States to a longer-term presence in Syria… The president has not signed the memo, which was presented to him weeks ago. In fact, Trump had warned his aides for months that he wanted out of Syria in short order. But [John] Bolton and [Mike] Pompeo, apparently believing like other officials across the government that the president had softened that demand, continued to relay bold plans for the country.”

“A White House official… said the United States would use “a range of tools of national power,” including sanctions and diplomatic pressure, to continue pressing Tehran to pull its forces out of Syria. “Iran knows the U.S. stands ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests,” the official said.” [WashPost]

Bolton tweeted on Thursday: “Leaving tomorrow for Israel & Turkey to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, how we will work with allies & partners to prevent the resurgence of ISIS, stand fast with those who fought with us against ISIS, & counter Iranian malign behavior in the region.”

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Netanyahu: U.S. acting against Iran economically, Israel operating militarily: “Netanyahu on Thursday painted a picture of close Israeli-American cooperation in efforts to stymie Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, saying US President Donald Trump “is acting against Iran at the economic level and we here in Israel are acting against Iran at the military level.” In an address to IDF cadets at Bar Ilan University, Netanyahu said he had “insisted” the US re-impose sanctions on Iran following Washington’s exit from the international nuclear accord last year, and that the US president “indeed made the courageous decision to renew them.” [ToI]

— Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed the situation in Syria in a phone call on Friday. “The discussion focused on developments in Syria, including in light of the United States’ plans to withdraw its troops from that country,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Amir Tibon reports“An official from one of the pro-Israel organizations [in the U.S.] told Haaretz this week: “The White House made an effort to convince people that Israel will continue to receive significant backing, not only verbal, for the things it has to do in Syria to prevent the Iranians from entrenching there.”

ARGUMENT — Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky write…“5 reasons why Trump is right about getting America out of Syria: Syria is not a major source of oil. It does not pose an existential threat to Israel… The country is so broken and dysfunctional that neither Russia nor Iran will be able to use its influence there as a springboard to establish hegemony in the Middle East… Keeping U.S. military forces in place with no serious, long-term strategy or attainable objectives to guide them would not make the situation significantly better. Syria was never America’s to win or lose, and getting out now is not a catastrophe.” [LATimes]

DEALMAKING — Croatia gives Israel deadline for sale of US-made F-16 jets — by Darko Bandic: “Croatia’s Defense Ministry said it needed an answer from Israel by Jan. 11 or the Balkan country’s $500 million order for a dozen F-16 aircraft would be canceled… “We are expecting final and clear stands from both Israel and the United States on this issue and then we will make a final decision,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said. Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic said Thursday that Israel provided guarantees during the contract bidding process that U.S. officials would greenlight the sale. “Can you imagine that we do not believe Israel?” Krsticevic asked.” [AP]

— According to a Capitol Hill source: “Israel got caught with their hand in the cookie jar on this one. They didn’t think anyone in DC would notice and that they could get away with making a few tweaks to these fighter jets but Congressional staffers in both parties are scratching their heads over this one. The bipartisan consensus is ‘this is shady’ and affects jobs back in districts with defense manufacturing.”

HEARD YESTERDAY — In a preview of an interview for CBS’ 60 Minutes, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi confirmed that the military cooperation between Egypt and Israel was the closest ever since Camp David. “We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis,” Sisi remarked.

Mike Pompeo says US has helped foster cooperation between Israel and Arab states: “In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Pompeo was asked whether the unofficial anti-Iran alliance between the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan could lead to a major peace breakthrough. “Undoubtedly. We have set the conditions in the Middle East where these countries are now working together across multiple fronts,” Pompeo said.” [ToI

ON THE HILL — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), James Risch (R-ID) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 yesterday. The bill would authorize the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the Obama administration and Israel in 2016, provide new authorities for sanctions against Syria’s Assad regime, and empower state and local governments in the U.S. to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The legislation incorporates four bipartisan bills that did not receive final approval in the last Congress, including the U.S.-Israel Security Authorization Assistance Act of 2018 that was blocked at the last minute by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).

HIGHLIGHTS OF DAY ONE OF 116TH CONGRESS — Newly sworn-in freshmen, Reps. Max Rose and Elissa Slotkin were among a handful of Democrats who voted against Nancy Pelosi for Speaker… Norm Eisen pictured with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi… A map in Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) office had a ‘Palestine’ Post-it note over Israel… Tlaib used coarse language during a speech last night, vowing to impeach Trump… Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) took the oath of office on a Tanakh… URJ’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs and RAC’s Rabbi Jonah Pesner greeted Senator Mitt Romney after his swearing-in… Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) helped Israeli Consul General of New York Dani Dayan knot his tie… Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) welcomed guests from New York with bagels and Kosher spreads at a lunch, which was also attended by Cardin’s rabbi, Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg from Beth Tfiloh…

Pew Research“Four additional Jewish members bring the Jewish share of the new Congress to 6% – three times the share of Jews in the general public (2%).”

Correction: The Capitol Hill events mentioned in yesterday’s DK were on the second of January, not the third.

ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — Prime Minister Netanyahu in a video posted to social media: Pre-elections indictment hearing is absurd… A new poll shows that 51 percent of Israelis voters expect Netanyahu to resign if AG Avichai Mandelblit indicts him pending a hearing… The Economist on the many challengers for PM: Israel’s opposition could defeat Netanyahu — if they are united, but nobody wants to be number two… Labor’s political divorce may cost it women’s vote… Labor Party members seek to oust leader Avi Gabbay after Livni’s ouster… Michael Oren seeks new party ‘to best serve country.’… A new ‘centrist’ Arab party has registered to participate in the upcoming elections…

David Makovsky and Dennis Ross write… “Foreign Policy Should Not Get Lost in Israel’s Election Campaign: In Israel’s upcoming election, given the potential of looming indictments… there will be other fundamental questions about national security challenges that must be addressed. And those questions, which have understandably gone to the heart of the Israeli public’s concerns historically, should be asked of both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his challengers Avi Gabbay, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, and others on the center-left.” [WashInstitute]

IPF’s Michael Koplow“Between now and April 9, expect many more surprises, including party mergers, party break ups, tremor-inducing announcements, and who knows what else. If this week is indicative of what is to come, Israeli politics will remain the world’s best reality show.”

** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Bob Iger offers free college education to employees[WSJ• Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives are fed up with The New York Times after weeks of what they see as overtly antagonistic coverage[ByersMarket How Facebook’s slumping stock price could hurt Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy plans [Recode] • Silverstein Properties may be part of a hack related to 9/11 documents [TheRealDeal] • The average hedge fund lost 6.7 percent in 2018 [NYPostCNBC] • Sapir Organization lands $115M refi for NoMo hotel [TheRealDeal]

SPOTLIGHT — Arthur Blank onto the Field as Mega Performer for Atlanta — by Marcia Caller Jaffe: “For all the talents and contributions to Atlanta and the state, we at the AJT salute Blank as Jewish Atlanta’s 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year. “Arthur Blank has raised the bar for sports and hospitality in Atlanta. From bringing home the MLS Cup to bringing the Super Bowl to Atlanta, Arthur deserves all the accolades possible,” said Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin… Jaffe: As a Jewish entrepreneur in 2018, what are you most thankful for? Blank: I’m always thankful for the love and support of my family, and that has been very true this year.” [AtlantaJewishTimes]

MEDIA WATCH — The ABCs of Jacobin: The unlikely success of a socialist print magazine — by Robert Baird: “Jacobin’s biggest recent bet was the purchase, last year, of Tribune, a left-wing British magazine that once employed George Orwell as literary editor. [Bhaskar] Sunkara’s interest in the British left is long-standing. He has established connections with the upper echelons of the Labour party, led by democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn, and Jacobin has not hesitated to defend Corbyn against accusations of anti-Semitism.” [CJR]

Rosie Gray is returning to BuzzFeed as media and politics reporter. Gray, who worked at BuzzFeed from 2012 through the 2016 election, was most recently at The Atlantic. [MorningMedia]

COMING SOON — Missing Woman, Drug Cartels and Police Corruption in New Israeli Series ‘When Heroes Fly’ — by Gerri Miller: “Four estranged Israeli army buddies who fought together in Lebanon reunite on a dangerous quest to find a missing woman in the TV series “When Heroes Fly,” a hit Israeli thriller from Keshet International and Netflix… Created and directed by Omri Givon (“Hostages”), and loosely based on a book of the same name by Amir Gutfruend, the series shifts back and forth in time to tell the story of friendships forged and destroyed lives scarred by war and the lengths men will go to for love… Tomer Kapon, who has appeared in “Fauda,” “One Week and a Day,” “7 Days in Entebbe” and worked with Givon on “Hostages,” plays the shellshocked Aviv, Yaeli’s ex-boyfriend… “When Heroes Fly” premieres Jan. 10 on Netflix.” [JewishJournal

DESSERT — SF’s Only Kosher Bakery Expands to Richmond — by Caleb Pershan: “Richmond District fans of Frena’s kosher sweets and savory baked goods won’t have to schlep to SoMa much longer. More than two years after opening a small cafe and sizable production facility at 132 6th Street, the city’s only kosher bakery is expanding to 5549 Geary Boulevard, where it will open as soon as the end of the month…The new Richmond location boasts a brick oven, which will bake some products and toast pita pockets, which customers can order “Frena style” — stuffed with boiled egg, pickles, spicy sauce, and onion before they’re baked a second time.” [SF]

REMEMBERING — Portland Trail Blazers’ Co-Founder Larry Weinberg Dies At 92 — by Colin Miner: “In the 48 years since, Weinberg was a major part of the Trail Blazers, even after he sold them to the late Paul Allen in 1988. Weinberg died on New Year’s Day at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92-years-old… Weinberg started out as one of four owners, working with founding president Harry Glickman, Herman Sarkowsky – who also helped found the Seattle Seahawks – and Robert Schmertz, a real estate developer who would later own the Boston Celtics, to secure the franchise. By 1975, he had become the majority owner of the team. Two years later they won their first – and so far only – NBA championship.” [Patch]

— Watch: Weinberg introduced then-Vice President Joe Biden at AIPAC’s Policy Conference in 2009. [CSPAN]

Edgar Hilsenrath, 92, Writer of Unvarnished Holocaust Novels, Dies — by Sam Roberts: “Edgar Hilsenrath, a German-Jewish survivor of Nazi persecution who unsentimentally stoked the embers of the Holocaust with brutally satirical autobiographical novels, died on Sunday in Wittlich, Germany. He was 92… Mr. Hilsenrath finished his first novel, “Night,” after emigrating to New York in 1951 as a refugee from war-torn Europe. (He lived in New York until 1975.) Published in English in 1964, the novel was inspired by his dehumanizing captivity in a Jewish ghetto.” [NYTimes]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: English celebrity chef, restaurateur and television star, Rick Stein turns 72… Founder and president of the Alliance for Justice in 1979, a progressive judicial advocacy group, Nan Aronturns 71… CEO since June 2001 of the Federation of American Hospitals, the advocacy organization for investor-owned hospitals, Charles N. (“Chip”) Kahn III turns 67… Retired member of Knesset (1999-2017), chairperson of Meretz since 2012, Zehava Gal-On (born in Vilna, Lithuania as Zehava Schnipitzky) turns 63… Author of the satirical Borowitz Report in The New Yorker and New York Times best-selling author, known for creating “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Andy Borowitz turns 61… Author of 30 best-selling mystery novels and thrillers with over 70 million copies in print, Harlan Coben turns 57… Professor of Economics and Strategic Management at UCSD, Yuval Rottenstreich turns 48… Daniel Zaretsky turns 47…

Historian who has held faculty positions at Harvard, Cambridge and Princeton and is the New York Times best-selling author of four books, he is a contributing editor at Politico Magazine, Joshua Michael Zeitz turns 45… Emmy award winning producer and journalist who oversaw daily production and control room operations of “Morning Joe” and now works on Kasie Hunt’s program, Ben Mayer turns 35… Director of scheduling and advance for Stacey Abrams in her 2018 run for Governor of Georgia, Samantha Slosberg turns 31… Center fielder for MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays since 2013, Kevin Pillar turns 30… Digital editor at The Washington Monthly and contributing correspondent for The Times of Israel covering US politics, Eric James Cortellessa turns 28… Member of the 2021 class at NYU Law School, he was previously a development associate at the Association of Reform Zionists of America and an intern in J Street’s NYC office, Alexander Langer… Judah Gavant

SATURDAY: Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party (1981-1999), the last three years of which he served as Speaker of the Knesset, Dan Tichonturns 82… Former Philadelphia mayor (1992-2000) and Pennsylvania governor (2003-2011), currently a special counsel at Ballard Spahr and co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Immigration Task Force, Ed Rendell turns 75… Paul Meyer turns 75… Former Attorney General of the U.K. (2001-2007), now London co-managing partner and chair of the European and Asian litigation practice at Debevoise & Plimpton, Lord Peter Goldsmith turns 69… CEO of Legacy Interactive / Legacy Games (founded in 1998) and President of HitPoint Studios since 2017, Ariella Lehrer, Ph.D. turns 66…

Founder and principal of DC-based Mager & Associates, a boutique public policy and advocacy consulting firm, Mimi Mager turns 65… Chairman of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeYisrael), he served briefly in the Knesset for the Zionist Union party (2015-2016), Daniel “Danny” Atar turns 61… EVP of digital video for The Hill, he was previously chief creative officer of Sinclair Broadcasting’s Circa News and editor-in-chief at The Washington Times, John F. Solomon turns 52… Professional poker player who won the 2010, 2012 and 2018 World Series of Poker Players Championship, he also has two World Poker Tour titles, Michael Mizrachi turns 38…

SUNDAY: EVP and senior counsel of the Trump Organization, he is best known as one of the advisors on the NBC reality television program, The Apprentice, George H. Ross turns 91… Professor of Chemistry (now Emeritus) at The University of Chicago since 1957, member of the Board of Governors at Tel Aviv University, Stuart A. Rice turns 87… Canadian businessman, Seymour Schulich turns 79… Co-founder of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Henry R. Kravis turns 75… Chairman, president and CEO of Phibro Animal Health Corporation, Jack C. Bendheim turns 72… Educator, author and former chief rabbi of Frankfurt am Main (1988-1993), currently residing in Antwerp, Belgium, Rabbi Ahron Daum turns 68… Attorney General of Oregon, elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, she was previously a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals (2005-2011), Ellen Rosenblum turns 68…

President and editor in chief of Rewire (once known as RH Reality Check), she is a co-author of ten books and served previously as director of advocacy at American Jewish World Service, Jodi Lynn Jacobson turns 60… Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Oleksandr Feldman turns 59… Daniel Slatopolsky turns 55… Founder of Pure California Beverages, past president of American Technion Society’s Western Region, Advisory Board Member of Spinal Singularity, Sarah Beth Rena Conner turns 52… Actor, painter and fashion designer, he is the nephew of fashion designer, Ralph Lauren, Greg Lauren turns 49… Serial entrepreneur based in NYC, he is the founder and CEO at GTTFP Holdings and the founder of Regal Wings and Jewish dating sites, Harei At and Jedding, Eli Ostreicher turns 35… Jonah P. Kaplan turns 33… Head of business development at Goldman Sachs Investment Partners (a venture capital group), she was the manager of strategic partnerships at Start-Up Nation Central and a former Fulbright Scholar in Uganda, Anna Phillips




Daily Kickoff: The new 116th Congress | Trump says Iran ‘can do what they want’ in Syria | Roth, LeFrak ditch tunnel tour

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DRIVING THE DAY — The 116th Congress is set to convene today at noon as members solemnly swear to govern a divided nation. While Republicans will increase their majority in the Senate, Democrats will take over control of the House of Representatives with Nancy Pelosi returning to the speakership to serve as the voice of the opposition to President Trump.[CSPAN]

Daniel Shapiro emails us: “Today, America restores the checks and balances the Founders intended, with a Democratic House majority that will assert itself, pursue a different agenda from the Administration, and conduct badly needed Congressional oversight. With a Democratic House and Republican Senate, and the 2020 election fast upon us, compromise will be difficult to come by, but for many Democrats, stopping Administration excesses and ethical abuses, and laying out an agenda for when Democrats have fuller control, will be worthwhile in its own right.”

“Hopefully, even more can be achieved. I expect continued strong bipartisan support for the close U.S.-Israel security partnership, and renewed emphasis on preserving, and where possible advancing, the two-state solution.”

Norm Eisen: “Nancy Pelosi will cement her reputation as one of the greatest Speakers ever, right up there with Sam Rayburn, by once again doing the impossible. Then it was getting a divided and unruly caucus to pass legislation that had thwarted every previous speaker for decades. The challenge is that there is so much to investigate, but with Pelosi working with smart and deeply experienced committee chairs like Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings, the investigations will be devastating. That does not mean that deals will not happen on things like re-opening the government and infrastructure. Both sides need them and they will get done, as will the pro-Israel legislation. Pelosi has demonstrated the ability to work with the independent members of her caucus since the election, as she has throughout her career, and while there may be some continued drama, she will find workable compromises.”

Newly-elected members to be sworn in today include Andy Levin (D-MI), Mike Levin (D-CA), Max Rose (D-NY), Dr. Kim Schrier (D-WA), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Dean Phillips (D-MI), Susan Wild (D-PA), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

The new Congress will also feature a group of young activist members — including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) — who plan to defy leadership and dominate headlines. [Pic]

THE OLD GUARD TOO — “Rep. Brad Sherman plans to introduce articles of impeachment against President Trump on Thursday, the first day of Democratic control of the House.” [LATimes]

Noah Rothman, Associate Editor of Commentary Magazine, tells us: “It is clear that the independent streak exhibited by freshman Reps. Ro Khanna and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez signal that the Democrats, too, will have to deal with an unwieldy cohort of ideologically zealous lawmakers who command the sympathies of the base, just as Republicans did when they took the House majority in 2011. And given that even Sen. Elizabeth Warren had to pay deference to Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal plan when announcing a 2020 presidential exploratory committee, and the freshman representative thanked her for her prudent courtesy, they appear aware of the power they are being allowed to wield.”

Zaid Jilani writes… “Ilhan Omar Needs To Apologize For Her Anti-Semitic Tweet – Like I Did: Omar cannot make the same mistake I did of affiliating so strongly with one group — pro-Palestinian activists — that she is unable to talk to the other side and understand that they are mostly good people who simply have different convictions… As much as I may disagree with pro-Israel activists, I have committed myself to not demonizing them or their concerns, and if Omar is truly going to be the effective and courageous advocate I know that she can be, she should do the same.” [Forward]

Georgia Democrat blasts Trump from pulpit, comparing presidentto Hitler — by Jessica Chasmar: “Marking the 156th anniversary of the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) warned black congregants at Atlanta’s Friendship Baptist Church to remain “diligent” against creeping tyranny by right-wing conservatives… “The Jewish people know a thing about tyranny,” he said. “Hitler did not start the Nazi Party, but he took over the party with charisma and leadership. The Nazis and Hitler became synonymous. Much like how Hitler took over the Nazi party, Trump has taken over the Republican Party.” [WashTimes]

Flashback to July 2016: “Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia compared Israeli settlers to “termites” and accused Jews of stealing Palestinian homes.” [NYPost

— RJC’s Matt Brooks in a statement: “The fact that Johnson serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee – and may be a Judiciary subcommittee chairman in the new Congress – is mind-boggling. The House of Representatives should hold Johnson accountable for his words by censuring him when the new Congress convenes this week.”

SHUTDOWN WATCH  — Sen. Elizabeth Warren donates salary to Jewish nonprofit helping refugees at the Mexico border amid government shutdown — by Paulina Cachero: “As the government shutdown enters its second week with Democratic congressional leaders and the president locked in a stalemate over funding a fortified wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she will be donating her Congressional salary to HIAS Refugees, a global Jewish nonprofit helping asylum seekers at the southern U.S. border. The Mass. representative said she will be donating her paychecks to the organization because she believes they “make our country stronger in the process.” [YahooLifestyle]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Mitt Romney on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper: “I think it’s important, as I begin this new job, to make it very clear where I stand. And I also note that the departure of Secretary Mattis and the decision to pull out of Syria and the abrupt way it was done was a precipitating event for my finally going on the record.” [Video]

Pentagon official: 120-day Syria withdrawal plan aims to please Trump ‘and not get everyone killed’ — by Jake Tapper: “Pentagon officials told President Donald Trump that his order to withdraw troops from Syria within 30 days was physically impossible without significant risk to US forces, multiple informed sources tell CNN, and the new 120-day timeline is not an example of anything but reality, logistics, and physics… The 120-day timeline is the military “trying to please the President and not get everyone killed,” one Pentagon official told CNN. “They should probably take longer if you ask me.” [CNN]

President Trump on Syria withdrawal at the start of a cabinet meeting: “Iran is no longer the same country. Iran is pulling people out of Syria. They can do what they want there, frankly, but they’re pulling people out. They’re pulling people out of Yemen. Iran wants to survive now.”

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD): “I strongly urge the President to issue a statement making clear that Iran must not be allowed to gain a permanent foothold in Syria from which it can threaten rocket attacks on Israel and sow instability in Jordan.”

Dov Zakheim tells us: “I think it’s a huge mistake. The Iranian government has faced opposition for a long, long time. They’re not about to fall tomorrow. In the meantime, if they wind up having a free road, essentially, from Iran to the Israeli border, they will embolden Hezbollah beyond where they already are, which is bad enough, and they will create a big problem for Israel. The president, he’s heard the concerns from Netanyahu, he’s heard from a lot of people, and he’s trying to backtrack at the same time, as he doesn’t want to admit that he made a major, major error.”

“But this is the thing about the President. In the morning it’s one thing, in the afternoon it’s something else, and in the evening it’ll be a third thing. He’s making it very difficult for his senior officials. There’s nothing new there, and it comes as no surprise.”

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Israeli official ‘in shock’ that Trump doesn’t get Iran moves in Syria — by Itamar Eichner: “It’s unfortunate that he isn’t paying attention to the evidence provided by the intelligence services,” said a senior Israeli source. “We are in a state of shock. Trump simply doesn’t understand the extent of the Iranian military’s presence in the region. What is comforting is that at least Trump isn’t opposed to Israel’s operations in Syria… The president’s statement will not change the situation as far as we are concerned, we will continue to act resolutely against the Iranian entrenchment.” [Ynet]

Josh Rogin writes… “Welcome to the world of President Rand Paul: Several U.S. officials and people who have spoken directly to Trump since his Syria decision tell me they believe that Paul’s frequent phone conversations with Trump, wholly outside the policy process, are having an outsize influence on the president’s recent foreign policy decisions. The two golf buddies certainly are sounding a lot alike recently… Everyone is aware that Paul’s voice is one to which the president is paying increasing attention. The existing concern over Paul’s influence on Russia policy has now boiled over with respect to Syria.” [WashPost]

SIGHTING —Rand Paul’s Communications Director Sergio Gor visited the Western Wall during a family trip to Israel yesterday. [Pic]

TALK OF THE REGION — Hariri urges end to Lebanon impasse as Hezbollah voices optimism: “Legislators have been unable to agree on a new cabinet since a general election in May. They remain at odds over how to parcel out cabinet positions among rival groups according to Lebanon’s confessional political system that allocates government positions according to sect. Meanwhile, the country continues to face economic malaise after months of political deadlock.” [AlJazeeraBloomberg]

Robert Nicholson, Executive Director of The Philos Project, tells us: “The only way to reduce the power of Hezbollah is to reduce the power of Iran, but it’s not really clear that the U.S. is interested in doing that. While Trump did cancel the Iran deal and levied sanctions, he seems less interested in checking Iranian power on the ground. His current policies actually seem likely to give Iran a stronger hand in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. That leaves Israel and its Arab allies to check the Iranians. Whether they’ll be content to rely on targeted strikes to degrade Iranian assets in Syria or will feel compelled to wage a wider war remains to be seen, but the situation seems unsustainable given America’s imminent withdrawal. Something’s got to give.”

“The future of Lebanon will be decided by these greater dynamics. All Lebanese politics stand in the shadow of regional conflict. The country has always been a microcosm of the wider region.”

TOP TALKER — A short statement made during a 90-minute cabinet meeting raised eyebrows after the President offered an unconventional explanation for the fall of the Soviet Union yesterday. “Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan,” Trump stated in remarks to reporters at the start of the meeting. “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union.”

Josh Rogin tweeted“Does Trump know America led a worldwide campaign to stop the Soviet Union, which included helping Afghans fight the Soviet invasion? Seems clear he does not. #facepalm.”

Susan Glasser“That sound you hear is historians, everywhere, weeping…”

Aaron Blake“The overlap between the fall of the Soviet Union and its foray into Afghanistan is obvious. The USSR invaded in 1979 and left a decade later, in 1989. The superpower dissolved shortly thereafter in 1991. But correlation is not causation. And Trump — who was using that anecdote to argue that the United States should pull out of Afghanistan and Syria — is really straining for causation here.”

ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — Polls show Gabbay’s live ousting of Tzipi Livni lost Labor support… Ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and Yahadut HaTorah are reportedly in talks to form an electoral alliance that would boost Netanyahu’s chances to form a majority government… Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is said to be considering joining the Likud Party…

2020 WATCH — Sexism Claims From Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Run: Paid Less, Treated Worse — by Sydney Ember and Katie Benner: “Episodes of sexual harassment and demeaning treatment as well as pay disparity in Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign have circulated in recent weeks in emails, online comments and private discussions among former supporters. Now, as the Vermont senator tries to build support for a second run at the White House, his perceived failure to address this issue has damaged his progressive bona fides.” [NYTimes] • Sanders contrite as 2016 aides face harassment allegations [AP]

Sen. Amy Klobuchar to decide soon on presidential bid — by Patrick Condon: “Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Wednesday that she is “getting close to a decision” about running for president in 2020… “I’m continuing to talk to people about it,” the Minnesota Democrat said.” [StarTribune]

Starbucks guru is said to be considering a run for the White House. That might be a hard sell in Seattle — by Mike Seely: “Howard Schultz, owner of Starbucks, a Seattle institution, also is the former owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, and for many Seattle residents that’s a problem, at least when it comes to giving him their vote… In 2006, Schultz sold the Sonics to an ownership group led by Oklahoma City energy baron Clay Bennett… Soon after the sale, Bennett moved the NBA team to the Sooner State and rechristened them the Thunder. Schultz completed this transaction 12 years ago, but in Seattle, where bitter Sonics fans still abound, it might as well have been yesterday.” [LATimes]

Evangelical Mega-donors Are Rethinking Money in Politics — by Emma Green: “In previous years, evangelicals responded to a sense of declining cultural power with anxiety—that is what yielded the age of “ferment” that Crouch described. But at least among this subset of next-generation evangelical mega-donors, there doesn’t seem to be much of a desire to fight the culture. Their hope, instead, is that they will be known by their fruits.”[TheAtlantic]

** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Apollo Global Is Aiming for Arconic Deal by Mid-January [Bloomberg• Activist Elliott embraces private equity strategy[FinancialTimes] • For Hedge Funds This Year, $1 Billion Is the Loneliest Number [Bloomberg] • Kushner firm wins records dispute against Jersey City[NorthJersey] • Amitim Senior Pension Funds, the largest institutional investor in Israel by assets under management, plans to allocate $3 billion to private-equity investments globally [WSJ] • Carl’s Jr launches vegan Beyond Meat burgers [ReutersFT] • Israel’s Leumi considers listing U.S. banking unit [Reuters]

Billionaire landlords bailed on tunnel tour — by Daniel Geiger: “Steven Roth and Richard LeFrak, who each control large real estate portfolios in the city, were to visit the Hudson River tunnels with Cuomo on Dec. 11 as part of a series of public inspections of Superstorm Sandy infrastructure damages. Cuomo has been locked in a struggle with Trump to come up with $13 billion for a new pair of Hudson River rail tunnels… Roth and LeFrak are friends of Trump and, earlier in his presidency, served on a committee that was to advise the White House on national infrastructure spending priorities and how to fund them… Roth, chief executive of the $11.5 billion public real estate company Vornado Realty Trust, had appeared ambivalent toward the tunnel project.” [CrainsNY]

SPORTS BLINK — 2018’s Top 50 Most Influential People in Sports Business include — Adam Silver, David Levy, Joe Lacob, Peter Guber, Gary Bettman, Mark Lazarus, Ari Emanuel, Patrick Whitesell, Robert Kraft, Michael Levine, Howard Nuchow, Michael Rapino, Arthur Blank, and Bobby Kotick. [SportsBusinessDaily]

Jim Harbaugh, Stephen Ross and the rumors that simply won’t go away — by Adam Beasley: “Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross left all but zero wiggle room last week when he said in no uncertain terms that Jim Harbaugh would not be the Dolphins’ next coach. Ross will not try to lure Harbaugh from Michigan, where Harbaugh, 55, has coached since 2015. And yet, former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik… is not convinced.”[MiamiHerald]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Uffizi Prods Germans to Return Painting Stolen in World War II — by Elisabetta Povoledo: “The Uffizi Galleries in Florence, Italy, is calling on the German government to step into a dispute over a baroque painting that German soldiers took 75 years ago. “Vase of Flowers,” by the 18th-century Dutch master Jan van Huysum, is in private hands in Germany, and neither the museum nor the Italian authorities have been unable to persuade or pressure the people who have it to give it up. The Uffizi made its message public on Twitter on Tuesday, with a link to a lengthy “appeal to Germany for 2019” by its director, Eike Schmidt… Stuart E. Eizenstat, a former State Department official and White House adviser, said that the Italian government had not carried out “provenance research or listing of possible Nazi-looted art in their public museums,” and that Italy appeared to be more interested in “what the Italian government lost.” [NYTimes]

ACROSS THE POND — British Jews look to Germany for Brexit ‘insurance policy’ — by Hannah Roberts: “With anti-Semitic attacks on the rise since the Brexit referendum — and in the wake of a campaign that played on resentment of foreigners and immigrants — many now look to Germany, which opened its doors to refugees at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, as a place of relative safety and tolerance… A German passport is “an insurance policy,” says Gaby Franklin, an author and interior designer.” [PoliticoEU]

TRANSITION — Former New York State Senator Jeff Klein is joiningMercury Public Affairs as co-chair for the firm’s New York business. Klein served as leader of the Independent Democratic Conference until his defeat in the Democratic Party’s primaries last September.

DESSERT — Citing ‘spiritual trauma,’ judge orders company to pay $25K for misrepresenting cake mix as kosher — by Joseph Brean: “An Ontario judge has acknowledged the “spiritual trauma” that can be done to observant Jews who unwittingly eat non-kosher food, and ordered a cake mix company to pay $25,000 to Canada’s largest kosher food certification agency for misusing its logo. “The kosher Jewish community takes their dietary habits extremely seriously, and thus have placed enormous trust on the (Kashruth Council of Canada) to maintain high standards of control,” wrote Small Claims Court Deputy Judge Lai-King Hum.” [NationalPost]

Why Middle Eastern Fast-Casual Chain Naf Naf Is Growing So Fast — by Gary Stern: “According to research firm Technomic’s ranking of the top 500 restaurant chains in the U.S., Naf Naf Middle Eastern Grill is one of the country’s fastest-growing eateries… In 2018 it grew to 36 units, all company-owned, with two more planned for 2019. Naf Naf actually means “fan the flame” in Hebrew and suggests encouraging friends and family to come together for a meal.” [Forbes]

Four Kosher Food Spots on the Upper West Side Close Down; What Gives? — by Alex Israel: “Four kosher businesses –Seasons (661 Amsterdam Avenue), Chocolate Works (641 Amsterdam) near 91st Street, Big Bang Burger (426 Amsterdam) near 80th, and CoffeeBerry (618 Amsterdam) near 90th – have closed their doors on the Upper West Side… Despite a local demand for kosher establishments, high rent paired with the necessary regulation from the glatt kosher industry puts them at even more of a disadvantage, some say.”[WestSideRag]

REMEMBERING — Bob Einstein, Actor on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ Dies at 76 — by Jackie Strause: “Bob Einstein, the two-time, Emmy-winning writer and actor who recurred on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and created the character of Super Dave Osborne, has died… Born Stewart Robert Einstein in 1942 Los Angeles, the middle child of three boys was raised Jewish by his parents, comic Harry Einstein and actress-singer Thelma Leeds… Einstein recurred on Larry David’s HBO comedy as Marty Funkhouser since the fourth season and was one of many characters to return for the comeback season that aired in 2017.” [HollywoodReporterNBCNews]

BIRTHDAYS: Treasury Secretary under President Carter (1977-1979), CEO of Burroughs Corporation and Unisys, followed by 17 years as director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, W. Michael Blumenthal turns 93… Professor of Medicine and chairman of the medical ethics committee at Columbia University Medical Center, Kenneth Prager, M.D. turns 76… CNN legal analyst, he was formerly a Watergate prosecutor and later a member of the 9/11 Commission, Richard Ben-Veniste turns 76… Contributing editor at Vanity Fair, he was previously the legal affairs reporter at The New York Times, David Margolickturns 67… Graduate of West Point and with a Harvard MBA, partner and managing director in the NYC office of the Boston Consulting Group, Neal Zuckerman turns 48… DC-based national healthcare policy reporter for The Los Angeles Times, Noam Naftali Levey turns 48… Founder and president of Golden Strategies since 2018, she was previously the director of political advertising sales at Twitter, Jenna Golden turns 35… Executive director at Guns Down since 2018, he was previously a VP at the Center for American Progress, Igor Volsky turns 33… Historian and prolific author Joshua Zeitzturns 45… Director of Israel Engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism, Reuven Greenvald… Michael Novack… Alana Herbst

Kafe Knesset for August 18

Friday, August 18, 2017

Bait and switch: As usual, the Barcelona terror attack was widely and quickly denounced by everyone in the Israeli political system. But the PM appeared to be putting…

Kafe Knesset for August 17

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Alternative realities: The front pages of the two biggest Israeli newspapers – Noni Mozes’s Yediot Aharonot and Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom, are many times mirror images of each…

RJC, Orthodox Groups Reject Trump’s ‘Both Sides’ Remarks

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jewish groups, with some members that have been more sympathetic to President Trump in recent months, have joined the widespread criticism against the President for drawing a moral…

State Dept Annual Report Critiques Israeli Actions in West Bank

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

WASHINGTON – In a move likely to upset conservative supporters of President Donald Trump, a new State Department report released on Tuesday criticized both Israeli and Palestinian policies…

Kafe Knesset for August 16

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Just one side: President Trump’s controversial press conference, backtracking from his condemnation of white supremacists in Charlottesville in favor of blaming “both sides,”drew strong criticism in Israel. Justice…

Kafe Knesset for August 15

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eyes on Pyongyang: The Israeli media has been following the US-North Korea standoff quite closely in recent days. Several media outlets have sent special correspondents to report from…