Daily Kickoff: Pompeo’s weekend includes Jerusalem stop | When Trump humiliated Michael Cohen at son’s bar mitzvah | The new Israeli CEO of Mattel

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WEEKEND TRAVEL — “Pompeo makes debut as Secretary of State” by Carol Morello: “Newly minted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Brussels before dawn on Friday, in a sprightly start to his job as the administration’s top diplomat… On Saturday, he will head to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman, and on Sunday he travels to Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to Jordan to see King Abdullah…”

“The official explanation for the trip is that the four stops were chosen to reflect their “importance as key allies and partners in the region,” said Heather Nauert, undersecretary of public diplomacy. Unofficially, the decision to send Pompeo on the road as literally his first act in office sends a strong message to dispirited State Department employees who felt diplomacy and their expertise were sidelined under Tillerson. The trip underscores Pompeo’s resolve to return the State Department to the center of foreign policy in the administration.”[WashPostPolitico]

Aaron David Miller tweets: “Will Pompeo take back the Israeli-Palestinian issue? It’s a dog; if Jared were smart, he’d wrap it up with a big red bow and give it to him.”

INBOX — Following Senate Confirmation, ADL Wishes Secretary of State Pompeo Success; Urges Him to Fulfill Promises: “Now that he is Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo will have an opportunity to play a leading role in shaping American foreign policy – to help build respect for the United States around the world and help to ensure its security,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO… “Given rising anti-Semitism globally, we urge Secretary Pompeo to appoint a qualified person to serve as the congressionally-mandated position of anti-Semitism envoy as one of his first orders of business.”

“Senate confirms Grenell as ambassador to Germany over Democrats’ objections” by Karoun Demirjian: “The vote of 56 to 42 establishes [Richard] Grenell as the U.S. envoy to Berlin just in advance of a planned Friday visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the United States… Grenell worked on restrictions and sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions as the long-serving spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration… Since leaving the government, he has been openly critical of the Iran deal.” [WashPost

“Mattis says Iran nuclear deal includes ‘robust’ verification” by Robert Burns: “Without explicitly giving his opinion about whether the United States should stick with the agreement, Mattis said that after reading the full text of the deal three times, he was struck by provisions that allow for international verification of Iran’s compliance… “I will say it is written almost with an assumption that Iran would try to cheat,” he said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “So the verification, what is in there, is actually pretty robust as far as our intrusive ability to get in” with representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency to check on compliance. “Whether that is sufficient I think is a valid question,” he said.” [AP]

TURTLE BAY — Nikki Haley drives Trump’s Israel policy at U.N.” by Pamela Falk: “From the time Haley arrived at the U.N. last year, she has made a point of trying to turn the tide of what the Trump administration considers to be overwhelmingly anti-Israel resolutions and debate at the Security Council, at the General Assembly and at U.N. agencies… A Quinnipiac University poll of American voters released Wednesday showed 63 percent approve of the job Haley is doing… We appreciate the strong alliance with America and Ambassador Haley’s steadfast support for the truth at the U.N.,” Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon told CBS News.” [CBSNews]

“At UN Mideast debate, Israel shows new evidence of Iran sticking to its militant ways” by Ben Evansky: “As decision time comes closer for President Donald Trump to stay in or withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, more evidence of Iranian intransigence in the region was given to members of the U.N. Security Council by Israel…” [FoxNews]

“Mattis warns of Israel-Iran military confrontation in Syria” by Joyce Karam: “[James] Mattis delivered his warning of yet another military conflict in the Middle East at a hearing in Congress. Asked if Israel and Iran were edging toward military confrontation, he said: “I can see how it might start, but I am not sure when or where. I think that it’s very likely in Syria because Iran continues to do its proxy work there through Hezbollah.” … Israel, he said “will not wait to see those missiles in the air and we hope Iran would pull back.”” [TheNational]

“US steps up surveillance of Iranian assets in Syria over concerns of strike against Israel” by Barbara Starr: “US satellites, surveillance aircraft, drones and ships have stepped up operations to monitor the movement of suspected Iranian anti-air and ballistic missiles inside Syria due to rising concerns they could be used to strike Israel in the coming days… The US continues to recognize Israel’s right to self-defense… But they are concerned that any Israeli strike could result in a counterstrike by Iranian elements inside Syria.” [CNN]

Israeli Defense Chief Meets Trump Aides Bolton, Kushner During White House Visit” by Noa Landau: “Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visited the White House on Thursday and met with… national security adviser, John Bolton, and with Jared Kushner… The meeting with Kushner was also attended by Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt… “I’m glad that the Americans and us see eye to eye when it comes to the Middle East and [I] thank the administration for its support of Israel,” Liberman said in a statement following the meetings…” [Haaretz]

HAPPENING THIS MORNING: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy is hosting a discussion with Liberman on the “urgent challenges for Israel’s security.” [LivestreamCSPAN]  

HAPPENING ON SUNDAY — Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, TV personality Roseanne Barr, and Anthony Scaramucci, The Mooch, will headline the 7th Jerusalem Post Conference at the Marriott Hotel in New York. This will be Olmert’s first U.S. visit since returning to public life after spending 16 months in jail. Ron Lauder will serve as the president of the conference. Other featured speakers include Senators Ben Cardin and Lindsey Graham, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Israeli cabinet ministers Naftali Bennett, Gilad Erdan, Yuval Steinitz, Gila Gamliel, Yoav Galant, Tzachi Hanegbi and Israel Katz; Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar. [Livestream]

ON THE HILL — Approximately 1,000 members of NORPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee, met with Senators and House members on Wednesday during their annual mission to Washington, DC. Among the Senators the group met with included Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [Picand Sen. Ted Cruz [Pic]

REPORT — “New embassy quarter to be built in Jerusalem, could be called ‘Trump Town’” by Gil Hoffman: “Construction Minister Yoav Gallant has instructed the top officials in his ministry to begin the process of planning and approving a new quarter for embassies from countries around the world that will be built in Jerusalem, he revealed on Thursday in an interview… Gallant suggested a couple possible names for the area where the embassies would be located. He initially called it “Embassy Town,” but then said he may decide to instead call it “Trump Town,” after US President Donald Trump, who initiated next month’s move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. [JPost

“The Awkward Exile of Michael Cohen” by Michael Rothfeld, Alexandra Berzon and Joe Palazzolo: “In the 15 months since Donald Trump shut him out of a White House job, Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, has made a show of publicly dining with a vocal Trump critic, the billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. After lunch at Freds restaurant in New York in April 2017, a gossip item appeared in the New York Post. When they had breakfast at the Time Warner Center in November, paparazzi “somehow” showed up, Mr. Cuban said. “I think he does it to piss off Trump when Trump is ignoring him.” The second meeting, reported by celebrity-news outlet TMZ, did catch Mr. Trump’s attention. He called Mr. Cohen to complain. The attorney sought to reassure him… “No, boss, I had breakfast with him to set him straight. I told him he has to respect the office, to respect you,” Mr. Cohen said.”

“Mr. Trump didn’t always demonstrate respect for his employee. After saying he’d attend Mr. Cohen’s son’s bar mitzvah in 2012, Mr. Trump was late, and the blessings were delayed, according to an attendee. After Mr. Trump arrived, he gave a speech, telling guests he hadn’t planned to come, but he relented after Mr. Cohen had repeatedly called him, his secretary and his children begging him to appear, the attendee said. The guests laughed because “everyone knew it was very realistic-sounding,” the attendee added.” [WSJNYMag] • Cohen loaned millions to Ukraine-born cab mogul [AP]

2018 WATCH — “Steve Cohen joins other billionaires in curbing GOP donations” by Charles Gasparino: “Cohen, who is reportedly worth $15 billion, made a single, $5,000 contribution on Jan. 19 to the Great America Committee, a PAC started by Vice President Mike Pence…  In 2017, he wrote at least two multimillion-dollar checks, including $2 million to the GOP’s Senate Leadership Fund.” [FoxBusiness]

“Secretly taped audio shows how a top Democrat worked to strong arm a progressive candidate out of a congressional race” by Lee Fang: “House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer bluntly told Levi Tillemann that it wasn’t his imagination, and that mobilizing support for one Democratic candidate over another in a primary isn’t unusual… “Staying out of primaries sounds small-D democratic, very intellectual, and very interesting,” said Hoyer. “But if you stay out of primaries, and somebody wins in the primary who can’t possibly win in the general,” the Maryland representative said, citing the surprise victory of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate election, “I’m not saying you’re that person.” But staying out of primaries, he argued, is “not very smart strategy.”

“Tillemann, while studying for his Ph.D., founded an energy efficient engine design company, and in 2012, was appointed by President Barack Obama to advise the Energy Department. Though he has positioned himself as a grassroots populist aligned with local resistance activist groups, if anything he is simultaneously a legacy of the Democratic establishment, as the grandson ofthe late Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., on his mother’s side and the grandson of former Colorado Lt. Gov. Nancy Dick on his father’s side.” [TheIntercept] • Pelosi defends Hoyer’s comments in secret recording [Politico]

“Rabbis demand congressional candidate stop using Holocaust ‘for political purposes’” by Hunter Woodall: “In a letter, the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City has asked to Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, to stop drawing comparisons between abortion and the Holocaust. “Senator, your words abuse the memory of the murdered victims of the Nazi regime by using their deaths as a political weapon in our national debate,” the letter says. Fitzgerald, who is running to become the Republican nominee in Kansas’ 2nd District… said during an interview Thursday that he would take the rabbis letter “into consideration and under advisement,” and appreciated them sharing their opinion. He would not commit to stop referencing Nazis and the Holocaust in the abortion debate.” [KCStar

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Elliott Management Buys British Bookstore Chain Waterstones [WSJ• Jeffrey Soffer buys Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach [Bizjournals] • Charles and Murray Kushner Can’t Seem to Avoid Each Other’s Shadow [Bloomberg] • UpWest’s Shuly Galili: Why Israeli startups tackle ‘unsexy’ industries with AI [VentureBeat• Israeli Allegro.AI nabs $11M for ‘deep learning as a service’, for businesses to build computer vision products [TechCrunch]

FIRST LOOK — “Mattel’s New Chief Takes Aim at Hollywood After Four Down Years” by Matthew Townsend: “Ynon Kreiz is clearly cast in the savior role. He’ll face Wall Street for the first time Thursday when Mattel reports first-quarter results after the close of U.S. markets. Kreiz kicks off his reign at a time when Mattel faces formidable obstacles. Toys “R” Us Inc., the toymaker’s second-largest customer after Walmart Inc., filed for bankruptcy in September… And several of Mattel’s big brands, like Fisher-Price and American Girl, are struggling. Investors are looking for a turnaround.”

“Kreiz, an Israeli who’s been described in press accounts as a driven workout junkie, made his first mark in the mid 1990s, just a few years out of business school. Haim Saban, a children’s TV producer known for “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” hired him to start Fox Kids Europe from scratch. Within a couple years, the channel was available in 28 countries and had a $1 billion valuation.” [Bloomberg]

INTERVIEW — “Junk Bond King Michael Milken on Drexel’s Legacy and Negotiating With Carl Icahn” by Tom Metcalf: What are you most proud of? Milken: The diaspora of people that worked for me: Kenny Moelis; Rich Handler, who runs Jefferies; Jon Sokoloff over at Leonard Green. Leon Black, Tony and Richard Ressler and so on. What I’m most proud of is that they are responsible members of the community and have used their wealth creation in the fields of philanthropy and obviously, building successful businesses… How do you approach negotiations? Even if you have a price that a person would want to do the transaction, sometimes you have to let a person feel like they can negotiate. A person like Carl Icahn, for example: It would take the thrill out of it if he couldn’t negotiate.” [Bloomberg]

HOLLYWOOD – “In emotional reunion, Spielberg revisits ‘Schindler’s List’” by Jake Coyle: “[Steven] Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and others reunited for a 25th anniversary screening of “Schindler’s List” at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday, in an evening that had obvious meaning to Spielberg and the hushed, awed crowd that packed New York’s Beacon Theater… Making “Schindler’s List” was a profound, emotional and fraught experience for many of those involved. Kingsley recalled confronting a man for anti-Semitism during production. Spielberg said swastikas were sometimes painted overnight. Recreating scenes like those in the Krakow ghetto and at Auschwitz were, Spielberg said, very difficult for most of those involved. Two young Israeli actors, he said, had breakdowns after shooting a shower scene at the concentration camp.” [AP] • How Robin Williams Helped Steven Spielberg Get Through Schindler’s List [VanityFair]

LongRead: “Barbra Streisand’s Singular Women” by Mayukh Sen: “[Streisand] had been fighting the itch to adapt Isaac Bashevis Singer’s 1962 short story, “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy” since she first read it in 1968. Streisand was utterly transfixed by this story of a shtetl girl in early 1900s Poland who wants to study the Talmud. She faced funding and distribution roadblocks, with Orion Pictures backing out after the titanic failure of 1981’s Heaven’s Gate, until United Artists stepped in. There is something enchantingly preposterous about the notion of Streisand, 40 at the time of filming, playing a teenager in Yentl. But she affects anyway. Streisand exhibits a lightness of touch as a director, threading musical numbers with grace and ease into the film’s tangled story of a teenage girl who cosplays as a yeshiva boy… Yentl suggested that perhaps Streisand knew something her previous directors didn’t, that she could tap into reserves only she knew she had. The film was a critical and commercial juggernaut.” [Hazlitt]

“10 teenagers swept away by flash flood in Israel’s desert” by Ruth Eglash: “A flash flood struck a group of 25 teenagers hiking in Israel’s southern desert Thursday, sweeping 10 of them to their deaths as an unseasonal storm hit the region… The teenagers’ bodies were recovered, officials said, after torrential rains swept over an area that is usually arid and dry… They were members of a post-high-school, pre-military educational academy, part of a group of 25 teens who had set out for a hike Thursday afternoon in an area just south of the Dead Sea… An exchange between one of the girls who was killed and a friend, showing her complaining about having to go on the hike in such weather, was published by Israel’s Hadashot news. “We could end up dying there,” wrote the girl to her friend.” [WashPost• Two Palestinian Children Drown as Rains Flood West Bank and Israel [Haaretz]

Michael Bloomberg and Randi Weingarten write… “We can expect more from teachers when we pay them like pros: Public education is fundamentally a local matter, and states and districts reap what they sow. The federal government can push and prod, but it is up to districts and states — with labor and management working together, bargaining collectively and engaging with community — to drive long-term, sustainable change.” As educators across the country demand better pay and better learning and teaching conditions, elected officials have an extraordinary opportunity to sit down with them to discuss changes that are good for kids, are fair to teachers and benefit communities.” [USAToday]

TRANSITION — Simcha Eichenstein, a senior advisor to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, is leaving his job in City Hall to run for the New York State Assembly. [Hamodia]

SPORTS BLINK — “Motivated’ Josh Rosen is last of top four QBs to go: “The Arizona Cardinals view Rosen as their quarterback of the future after Carson Palmer retired following the 2017 season… Rosen was lauded by many as the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft due to his accuracy and intellect. His brash personality and controversial opinions, however, were viewed as concerns for teams looking for their next leader. “I am more motivated than I have ever been in my entire life,” Rosen told ESPN after being selected.” [NYPost]

DESSERT: “Cleveland Ritz-Carlton opens kosher kitchen with reception, Israeli chefs” by Bob Jacob: “Kobi Ohayon, 33, spent last week in Cleveland – his first time in the United States – to help The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland, inside Tower City in downtown Cleveland, open its new kosher kitchen. His talents were showcased to the community through a bevy of events, including a private reception for about 100 people on April 20, presented by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. He and fellow chef, Adir Cohen, were brought from Israel to Cleveland by Yael Ron, an Israeli who was named general manager of the hotel in July 2016.” [CJN]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: US Senator from New Jersey since 2013, Senatorial Torah scholar, Cory Booker turns 49… Former refusenik in the Soviet Union, made aliyah in 1987, now a political activist in Israel, Ida Nudel turns 87… Financial executive, he retired in 2014 as head of marketing for money manager Van Eck Global, Harvey Hirsch turns 77… Turkish preacher, former imam, writer and political figure, now living in exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gülen turns 77… Author, attorney and non-profit executive who has managed the 92nd Street Y, the Robin Hood Foundation, the AT&T Foundation and Lincoln Center, he is also the lead director of First Republic Bank, Reynold Levy turns 73… Physician and a NASA astronaut, Chief of the Education/Medical Branch of the NASA Astronaut Office, Ellen Louise Shulman Baker, M.D., M.P.H. turns 65… Director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, he was previously a member of Knesset (2006-2014) and deputy director of Shin Bet, Yisrael Hasson turns 63… Officer at Covington Fabric & Design, Donald Rifkin turns 60… Entertainment industry businessman, Rande Gerber turns 56… Managing director at Julius Baer Financial Markets, Elliot Mayerhoffturns 52… Author, political analyst and columnist for The Washington Post, Dana Milbank turns 50… Basketball analyst and writer, profiled by Sports Illustrated in 2018 as “the smartest basketball mind outside the NBA,” Benjamin Falk turns 30… New York City-born actor, David Benger turns 27… Associate Area Director for AIPAC’s Baltimore office, Leah Berry… Jonathan H. Glidden

SATURDAY: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Elena Kagan turns 58… Austrian-born, Canadian chemist, businessman, philanthropist and collector of fine art, Alfred Bader turns 94… White House Chief of Staff for Presidents Reagan (1981-1985) and Bush 41 (1992-1993), Secretary of the Treasury (1985-1988) and Secretary of State (1989-1992), James Baker turns 88… Businesswoman Elaine Wynn turns 76… Retired four-star United States Marine Corps general, Robert Magnus turns 71… Editor of The Tower Magazine and a senior member of The Israel Project, David Hazony turns 49… Associate judge of the Baltimore City Circuit Court, Karen (Chaya) Friedman… Actress and film critic, Catherine Reitmanturns 37… Israeli artist and photographer, Neta Cones turns 30… Ahron Fragin turns 20… Jeffrey Hensiek

SUNDAY: Inmate #61727-054 at the Butner Federal Correctional Institute in North Carolina, Bernard Madoff turns 80… Nobel Prize-winning economist, professor at MIT, Peter Diamond turns 78… Comedian Jerry Seinfeldturns 64… London-born highly acclaimed actor, knighted at Buckingham Palace in 2014, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis turns 61… Sportscaster Gary Cohen turns 60… New York City Comptroller since 2014, previously Borough President of Manhattan, Scott M. Stringer turns 58… CEO and chairman of 20th Century Fox, Stacey Snider turns 57… Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight and author of many books including “Predictably Irrational,” Dan Ariely turns 51… NYC-based award-winning artist Julianne Swartz turns 51… Israeli-born, NYC resident, stand-up comedian, actor and sometimes chazzan, Modi Rosenfeld turns 48… Russian-born Israeli model and actress, has appeared in many American movies, TV shows and advertisements, Bar Paly turns 36… Real estate developer in the Mid-Atlantic region, Samuel Neuberger… Political Director at AIPAC, Rob Bassin Marcy Smith




Daily Kickoff: Why Justice Kagan used the anti-Semitic president hypothetical | Bob Iger vs. Brian Roberts | Spotted in the Wadi Rum Desert

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INTERFAITH PRINCELINGS — “Josh Kushner travels through Jordan with Crown Prince Hussein, girlfriend Karlie Kloss, pop star Ellie Goulding and friends” by Chris Spargo: “Josh Kushner and girlfriend Karlie Kloss managed to get the VIP treatment during their visit to Jordan this week. Jared’s kid brother and his supermodel squeeze were photographed with friends including Mikey Hess, singer Ellie Goulding, and documentary filmmaker Bryn Mosser exploring the Wadi Rum Desert on Wednesday, where they rode camels, watched a battle reenactment and rode ATVs through the area. Photos posted to social media also show that the group brought along one very famous tour guide… Prince Hussein, 23.” [DailyMailInstagram]

DRIVING THE CONVO — Supreme Court Justice Elena Kaganquestioned a government lawyer yesterday during oral arguments regarding President Trump’s policy of banning travelers from a number of Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. One of the key questions is whether campaign statements should be considered relevant to actions once that person is president. Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued for treating campaigning and governing as unrelated. In order to test Francisco’s position, Kagan offered up a hypothetical scenario of a “vehement anti-Semite” candidate who then as president issued a proclamation barring Israelis from entering the country.

Kagan: “So this is a hypothetical… Let’s say in some future time a President gets elected who is a vehement anti-Semite and says all kinds of denigrating comments about Jews and provokes a lot of resentment and hatred over the course of a campaign, and in his presidency… in the course of that, asks his staff or his cabinet members to issue recommendations so that he can issue a proclamation of this kind, and they dot all the i’s and they cross all the t’s. And what emerges — and, again, in the context of this virulent anti-Semitism — what emerges is a proclamation that says no one shall enter from Israel. Do you say Mandel (Kleindienst v. Mandel) puts an end to judicial review of that set of facts?”

Solicitor General Noel Francisco: “If his cabinet — and this is a very tough hypothetical that we’ve dealt with throughout — but if his cabinet were to actually come to him and say, Mr. President, there is honestly a national security risk here and you have to act, I think then that the President would be allowed to follow that advice even if in his private heart of hearts he also harbored animus… I think it would be very difficult for that to even satisfy Mandel rational basis scrutiny. I’d need to know what the rationale was. Given that Israel happens to be one of the country’s closest allies in the war against terrorism, it’s not clear to me that you actually could satisfy Mandel’s rational basis standard on that, unless it truly were based on a cabinet-level recommendation that was about national security.”

Kagan: “This is a out-of-the-box kind of President in my hypothetical (laughter), and -­- you know, he thinks that there are good diplomatic reasons, and there might — who knows what the future holds, that there might be good diplomatic reasons to put pressure on Israel or to say we want Israel to vote a certain way in the U.N. and this is a way to better our diplomatic hand, and so this is what he does. And who knows what his heart of hearts is. I mean, I take that point. But the question is not really what his heart of hearts is. The question is what are reasonable observers to think given this context in which this hypothetical President is making virulent anti-Semitic comments.”

Francisco: “It’s a tough hypothetical, but it’s why I also think that this is a relatively easy case because… given the process and substance that form the basis of this proclamation, no matter what standard you apply, this proclamation is constitutional.”

ANNOTATED — “Justice Kagan Has a Plan to End Trump’s Travel Ban” by Noah Feldman: “Her questioning at oral arguments seemed designed to sway Justice Kennedy to strike down the order as anti-Muslim… The only way the ban will be struck down is if five justices — including Kennedy — focus on Trump’s openly Islamophobic statements during the campaign. If that happens, they will in effect be treating version 3.0 of the ban as a product of the same motive as the first two versions. And that motive can potentially be characterized as unconstitutional.”

The genius of pressing the anti-Semitic president hypothetical was partly that it was designed to make Solicitor General Noel Francisco say that even on those facts, he actually believed the travel ban could survive… Francisco’s answer highlighted that the case for keeping the ban in place depends on the idea that there really is a pressing national security threat. If there isn’t, then Trump is just like the president in the hypothetical: a demagogue enacting an executive order based on prejudice.”

“Francisco seems to have picked up on this, and after giving the answer that Kagan had expected, he tried vaguely to distinguish the circumstances of the hypothetical by saying that Israel is a close ally of the U.S. in the war on terrorism, and so the hypothetical didn’t quite fit… Kagan brilliantly turn the effort against Francisco with humor: “General, this is an out-of-the-box kind of president in my hypothetical,” she said, to courtroom laughter. With this quip, Kagan reminded everybody in the room that Trump really is an out-of-the-box president with respect to his open expression of anti-Muslim sentiment. Her point had been made.” [Bloomberg

TOP TALKER — “Patriots owner Robert Kraft reportedly criticized Trump in a secret NFL meeting last fall” by Jaclyn Reiss: “Patriots owner Robert Kraft delivered what appeared to be a forceful criticism of his longtime friend, President Donald Trump, during a confidential emergency NFL meeting convened last fall to discuss player protests during the national anthem, according to The New York Times… “This kneeling,” Kraft reportedly said, addressing what he called an “elephant in the room.” “The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft reportedly continued. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.” [BostonGlobe

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie at the meeting: “We’ve got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whomever else. We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited. Another fact I want to throw out there: Many of us have no interest in supporting President Trump. Yes, there are some. There are some players who do, too. But this is not where you brandish a group of people because they own assets in a sport we love, supporting what many of us perceive as, you know, one disastrous presidency. Don’t quote me.” [NYTimes]

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN NYC — by Jacob Kornbluh: Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, discussed Muslim-Jewish relations and the Muslim acknowledgment of the Holocaust at an event hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the American Sephardi Federation at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park. [Pic]

“We must overcome the hurdle that has been put in our way, trying to prevent us from helping others. We must follow the seeds that our forefathers have sown and try to serve peace the best way possible,” Al-Issa said in a conversation — through an English translator on stage — with Dr. Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  “We have to try to assert our joint values and our joint goals simply because society loves harmony. We should carry on with dialogue, and we should never listen to voices of hatred and exclusion.”

Al-Issa, a former Saudi justice minister, also discussed a letter he sent in January to Sara Bloomfield, Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, about the Holocaust. “This human tragedy perpetrated by evil Nazism won’t be forgotten by history, or meet the approval of anyone, except criminal Nazis or their genre,” he wrote. “True Islam is against these crimes. It classifies them in the highest degree of penal sanctions and among the worst human atrocities ever. One would ask, who in his right mind would accept, sympathize, or even diminish the extent of this brutal crime?”

What made you write that letter, why now? Satloff asked.

“What prompted me to do so is tell the truth, and from my understanding of Islam, it cherishes to tell the truth any way you find it,” Al-Issa explained. “We wanted to show the world that this horrible event is not to be denied, and nobody should remain silent and not tell the world about the atrocity that happened in one part of the world against a religion in any place in history.”

SPOTTED: Joseph Chetrit, Ike Sutton, Malcolm Hoenlein, Stephen Greenberg, Bukharian Chief Rabbi Itzhak Yehoshua, Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Dr. Brenda Shaffer, Sam Schear, Richard Stone, Arthur Stark, Oliver Stanton, Herbert Block, Jason Guberman, Irina Tsukerman, Barbara Fix, Jamil Ezra, Dr. Yehuda Mimran, Dan Pincus, Yanky Samet, Dan Smith, Rabbi Rafael Benchimol, Jason Epstein.

HEARD YESTERDAY IN DC — “President of France fields student questions about Syria, climate change at town hall” by Parth Kotak: “Macron spoke about rising instances of attacks on Jewish people in France, calling the trend a resurgence of anti-Semitism exacerbated by the divisive Israel-Palestine conflict. The solution to the problem, Macron said, is to fortify Jewish communities, educate students in school about religious tolerance and reaffirm a vision of French society that includes Jewish people as vital members of society. “We have to protect our Jewish people and reaffirm every day that they are part of the French Republic,” he said. “I often say that the French Republic would not be the same without Jewish people.””[GWHatchet]

“Macron Says Trump Will Likely Kill The Iran Deal” by Ben Smith: “My view — I don’t know what your president will decide — is that he will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons,” Macron told a group of a dozen reporters and editors in an exchange at George Washington University… “When people say President Trump is not predictable, I think the opposite — he is very predictable,” Macron said. “Look at his campaign commitments… [Trump] repeated in his office two days ago … that this was the worst deal ever — it’s a nightmare, it was a catastrophe, and so on and so on.”

“Macron said he saw his trip as a success not in changing Trump’s mind, but in advancing a potential framework for both the US and Iran after the current deal collapses. “I think the US will decide very tough sanctions” after pulling out of the deal on May 12, he said. “I want to be the honest broker of the situation.”[BuzzFeed]

“Iran deal may survive an initial blow from Trump” by Nahal Toosi: “Some experts say the deal can survive even if Trump sits back and allows the sanctions that must be reviewed by May 12 to take effect once more. The potentially more important deadline, they say, arrives around July 11, when Trump must decide whether to reimpose a substantially larger batch of sanctions… The deal is “unlikely to completely blow up [May 12], since neither side wants that or to be blamed,” said Philip Gordon, a former senior foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama. “But still it can only take so many blows before it will die a death by a thousand cuts.” [Politico]

A group of bipartisan House members sent a letter to President Trump urging him to treat Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program as part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and impose sanctions on the program. The letter was spearheaded by Reps. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ).

“Russia sees no room for changes, additions to Iran nuclear deal: foreign ministry: “Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday… Moscow was seriously concerned by comments made by the presidents of France and the United States about the deal.” [Reuters]

“Israel wants Russia to remove pro-Iran militias from Syrian border” by Barak Ravid: “Israel has approached Russia several times in the last few weeks to demand that they meet their obligations under a cease fire deal signed with the U.S. last November by preventing pro-Iranian militias from entering a buffer zone on the Syrian-Israeli border… According to the deal, the Russians were the responsible for enforcing the zone… The Israeli officials said that despite the protests, the Russians haven’t taken any action.” [Axios]

“‘If Iran hits Tel Aviv, we’ll hit Tehran’ defense minister tells Saudi paper” by Liad Osmo: “Speaking in an interview with the London-based online Elaf Saudi newspaper, Avigdor Lieberman said that while Israel did not seek war with anyone, it will not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria—”whatever the cost may be… We hear many threats. If they attack Tel Aviv, we will attack Tehran. If there is not silence in Tel Aviv and in Israel, there won’t be in Tehran,” Liberman warned.” [Ynet]

Shalom Lipner writes… “Don’t Stand So Close To Me: Iran is Netanyahu’s signature issue. And he has the wind at his back. His Likud party continues to ride high in the polls. More importantly, on the narrow question of an Iranian beachhead on Israel’s border, Netanyahu is channeling the prevailing consensus… All this amounts to a green light for Netanyahu to do almost anything he deems necessary for the sake of deterring Iran in Syria.” [ForeignPolicy]

“Egypt enraged at Netanyahu over Gaza” by Ben Caspit: “Israel promised Egypt that it would encourage and advance the [Fatah-Hamas] reconciliation process… But then the process began. At its most critical stages, Israel underwent a transformation… “President Sisi is very disappointed with Netanyahu,” an Israeli security source close to these contacts told Al-Monitor… “This is the second time that Netanyahu stabbed him in the back. The first was when he added [right-wing Yisrael Beitenu head] Avigdor Liberman to his government instead of [center-left Zionist Camp leader Isaac] Herzog. But Sisi doesn’t have the privilege of a chillier relationship with Israel right now, so he prefers to sit quietly and let off steam.” [Al-Monitor]

“Behind a Roadside Hit in Malaysia, Israeli-Palestinian Intrigue” by Hannah Beech and Ronen Bergman: “On the day he was killed, [Fadi al] Batsh was supposed to travel to Istanbul to attend an academic conference. One Middle Eastern intelligence official, however, said that Hamas’s efforts to cultivate its scientists living abroad were directed from Istanbul, and that Mr. Batsh was scheduled to meet with the head of the unit, Maher Salah, upon arrival in Turkey. Western and Middle Eastern intelligence officials said that Mr. Batsh may have been involved in negotiating North Korean arms deals through Malaysia. Egypt recently seized a shipment of North Korean communications components used for guided munitions destined for Gaza, they said. One intelligence official said that Mr. Batsh had helped mediate the deal.” [NYTimes]

ON THE HILL — The Senate will vote today on Mike Pompeo’s nomination for Secretary of State. At least four Democrats have said they will vote in favor.[TheHill

Sen. Ben Cardin writes… “We need a secretary of state critically. I still won’t vote for Mike Pompeo: America needs to work with and lead our allies in pursuit of our shared national security interests and values. But Pompeo has demonstrated repeatedly that he is willing to back up the president’s go-it-alone approach to international affairs. Nowhere will that be more consequential than the Iran nuclear deal. Pompeo spoke out loudly against diplomacy, advocated launching up to “2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity” and supports the president’s eagerness to tear up the agreement.” [WashPost

“Pompeo plans to visit Jerusalem next week” by Barak Ravid: “Mike Pompeo… is expected to arrive in Jerusalem next week as part of his first trip abroad in his new post… Pompeo’s decision to include Israel in his first trip abroad as Secretary of State is important because his predecessor Rex Tillerson… never came to Israel on his own… It is not clear if Pompeo will visit the Palestinian Authority or meet with Palestinian officials during his trip to the region.” [Axios]

JERUSALEM EMBASSY — “May 14 opening of US Embassy in Jerusalem to include mezuzah-hanging ceremony” by Yori Yalon: “According to a Channel 20 report, organizers decided on the unusual move of holding a religious ceremony to install the mezuzah as a gesture to Israel and following the recommendation of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.” [JNS]

“US Embassy move in Israel emblematic of broader policy shift” by Josh Lederman and Matt Lee: “U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman… lobbied heavily for the recognition of Jerusalem and the embassy move but has so far been prevented from adopting the Israeli name “Judea and Samaria” for the West Bank in his official remarks and statements, according to administration officials. Friedman and Trump’s envoy for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt have also led internal administration opposition to criticism of Israel for its response to the recent Gaza protests organized by Hamas.” [AP]

“Czech Republic to move embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem” by Itamar Eichner: “During a reception making Israel’s 70th Independence Day in Prague Castle, the official office of the President of the Czech Republic, [Milos] Zeman reiterated his intention to move the embassy… Zeman says the move will take place in three steps: An honorary consulate will be opened in Jerusalem next month followed by other Czech institutions before the embassy’s actual transfer.” [YnetAP

2018 WATCH — “Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adelson are GOP midterm fundraising no-shows for now” by Charles Gasparino: “Some GOP strategists say that Adelson’s near-absence so far this year indicates that he believes the Republicans could lose control of the House… and that his money will be better spent focusing on specific races later in the year…  “Sheldon often holds back and gives later in the year,” the official said.” [FoxBusiness]

** 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: Steven Cohen’s Point72 is sued over use of California money manager’s name [Reuters] • Here’s how much Jeffrey Soffer paid for the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach [TheRealDeal] • South Florida mall, the American Dream Miami  largest in America, in final stretch of approvals [SunSentinel]

STARTUP NATION — “Former Facebook Executive Joins Autonomous Drones Company Airobotics” by Lilach Baumer: “Former Facebook executive Richard Wooldridge joined Israel-based drone maker Airobotics Ltd. as chief operating officer… Mr. Wooldridge is the former chief operating officer of Facebook’s hardware research division Building 8, and the former chief operating officer of Google ATAP (advanced technology and products group)… Airobotics designs and manufactures fully automated drones used for industrial purposes such as surveying, and for security in industrial facilities, mining sites, and refineries.” [Calcalist]

SPOTLIGHT — “The Disney-Comcast war gets personal” by Dylan Byers: “Disney CEO Bob Iger and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts have a deep animus toward one another that is fueling their battle over 21st Century Fox, sources familiar with their relationship tell me. Their intense dislike of one another, dating back to Comcast’s hostile takeover attempt of Disney in 2004, means the battle for Fox will be unpredictable and possibly irrational.” [CNNMoney]

“Inside Shari Redstone’s Twisted Plot to Breed CBS and Viacom” by William D. Cohan: “What seems to be driving Shari Redstone is familial score-settling, a quest for victory over her father, who never wanted her to have a role in either Viacom or CBS. “It’s the story of a person who was mistreated by her father,” said the source who recently noted Sumner’s physical condition… “She just was a step behind in a lot of ways and treated poorly,” this person continued… “The battle between Sumner and Shari Redstone has become the most notorious of the Redstone family disputes, especially due to its very public nature,” according to the unredacted lawsuit between Herzer and Shari and her son Tyler Korff that has been filed in federal court in California… Shari tried once before to effect a merger between Viacom and CBS, in 2016, but that effort went nowhere. And now she is trying again, with even greater fervor. She has gotten it to the point where the bid and the ask spread is down to around $3 billion.” [VanityFair

HOLLYWOOD: “‘Lioness: Golda Meir And The Nation Of Israel’ Is First Project of PatMa Producti” by Anita Busch: “Following a competitive bidding situation, former CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler and producer Denise Di Novi have acquired rights to the critically-acclaimed, non-fiction book Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel… The book was authored by Francine Klagsbrun and presents the life and career of Golda Meir, one of the most influential figures in the history of Israel and one of the most prominent figures in world history. The book spans her birth in Kiev to her American upbringing in Milwaukee, her role in the formation of Israel and her rise to become the new nation’s first and only female prime minister.” [Deadline]

CAMPUS BEAT — Hillel Condemns USS For Proposing An Anti-Israel Resolution: “The CUNY University Student Senate tabled a controversial resolution following major concerns over lack of information and strong critique from the Jewish community at CUNY. The resolution, titled CUNY Investment Policy, was in line with the ideology of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. That the BDS resolution would be voted on at the April 15 USS plenary meeting was “leaked” to a member of the Jewish community on Friday night, when many were keeping Shabbat. As a result, members of the pro-Israel community did not find out about the possible vote until Saturday night, giving them less than 24 hours to mobilize.” [TheTicker]

HOT TAKE: “Natalie Portman and the Crisis of Liberal Zionism” by Eric Levitz: “There have always been tensions between liberal universalism and Jewish nationalism. But the rise of the Trumpist right has heightened such contradictions. To remain true to both AIPAC and progressivism, a liberal Zionist must now lament border walls in Texas but defend them in the West Bank; condemn Republicans who suggest that nonwhite babies pose a threat to American civilization as proto-Nazis and endorse Israel’s right to defend itself against the “demographic threat” that is Palestinian children; decry Donald Trump’s ban on Syrian refugees and apologize for Israel’s imprisonment of African ones; abhor the president’s indifference to civilian casualties and ignore that Israel’s defense minister believes every man, woman, and child in the Gaza Strip is an enemy.” [NYMag]

SPORTS BLINK — “Josh Rosen can join Sid Luckman on short list at NFL draft” by Josh Peter: “Josh Rosen is expected to end an obscure but notable sports drought: It has been 79 years since the first and last Jewish quarterback was picked in the first round of the NFL draft. That was Sid Luckman, selected No. 2 overall by the Chicago Bears in 1939. Rosen, who played at UCLA, is widely projected to be taken among the first 10 picks of the 2018 NFL draft… “That’s pretty much the primary consideration for inclusion,’’ said Ron Kaplan, author of Kaplan’s Korner, a blog about Jews and sports. He later added by email, “Here’s wishing him mazel tov (good luck).’’”[USAToday]

MAZEL TOV — Eli Miller, chief of staff at Treasury, and his wife Jenna Miller on Wednesday welcomed a baby boy, Nathaniel David Miller. “Arrived 4:20 p.m. Sibley Hospital. 7 lbs 10 oz. 20.5 inches. Brother Henry is so excited.” [Playbook

BIRTHDAYS: Billionaire businessman and philanthropist, friend of Warren Buffet and early investor in Berkshire Hathaway and a member of its board of directors, David Sanford “Sandy” Gottesman turns 92… Former owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers (1981-2014) until its forced sale for $2 billion to Steve Ballmer, Donald Sterling (born Donald Tokowitz) turns 84… Computer expert, author, lecturer, Jewish genealogy researcher and publisher of Avotaynu, the International Review of Jewish Genealogy, Gary Mokotoffturns 81… CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay (Oakland, CA) until 2008, Loren Basch turns 74… Investment banker best known as the Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers through its bankruptcy filing in 2008, Richard S. Fuld Jr. turns 72… Professor of computer science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Hal Abelsonturns 71…

President of Brandeis University since 2016, Ronald D. Liebowitz turns 61… Moscow-born, conservative journalist and political activist in Israel, Avigdor Eskin turns 58… Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, contributing editor of The Atlantic, author of six books, previously a journalist for the National Journal and The Economist magazine, Jonathan Rauchturns 58… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates (2006-2010) and the Maryland State Senate (since 2010) where he serves as Majority Whip, Roger Manno turns 52… Senior staff editor on the international desk of The New York Times based in Hong Kong, Russell Goldman turns 38… Deputy staff director of the House Rules Committee, Karas Pattison Gross turns 36… Senior publicist for media relations at NPR, Benjamin Fishel turns 35 (h/ts Politico Playbook)… Ahron Singer




Daily Kickoff: Israel’s Defense Minister arrives in DC | Supreme Court conservatives rule against Israeli victims | The Rabbi who changed Obamacare

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PROFILE — “Meet the other mayor of Lakewood: How one man’s vision reshaped a school and community” by Stacey Barchenger in the Asbury Park Press: “Four dire words had Rabbi Aaron Kotlerscrambling up Capitol Hill in 2010. The phrase, “who is not married,” was tucked on page 14 of the 906-page tome of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The words were a tiny parenthetical overlooked by many during the chaotic moment as Congress was passing health care reform. The statement, though, had a profound meaning to Kotler, the president of Lakewood’s Beth Medrash Govoha, the largest Orthodox Jewish yeshiva, or college, outside of Israel.”

“Kotler went to Washington with goals to get meetings and get those four words deleted. “Try to buttonhole, same thing just as everyone else on Capitol Hill is doing,” he recalled recently of his mad-dash to Congress. “The beauty of the legislative system is that people can do that.” … Students at Beth Medrash Govoha often marry in their mid-20s. Obamacare extended the time those students could stay on their parents’ health insurance to age 26, but that four-word provision drawing Kotler’s concern threatened to cancel the insurance for couples who married young. So Kotler went to Washington, and when then-President Barack Obama signed the historic bill, those four words were gone.”

“Howard E. Friedman exemplifies the connections that Kotler brought to Beth Medrash Govoha — and how Kotler gets them there. Friedman is a former head of AIPAC and a political donor who hosted President Obama for a $32,000-a-plate dinner at his home in Baltimore… [Friedman connected Kotler with Obamacare’s architect, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana] … As kids, Kotler and Friedman attended the same summer camp in New York state… The Baltimore resident said Kotler has been successful because of what Friedman saw on a ski slope in Utah more than a decade ago — a charisma and an inability to say something was impossible. “When he was learning how to ski he just wouldn’t give up,” Friedman said… “He pushes and pushes and pushes,” Friedman said, “until he gets something done.” [APP]

FROM APP’S FEATURE ON BMG: “The college opened in 1943 with 13 students in a Tudor mansion at the center of what was then a town known for chicken farming. Poultry once outnumbered people here. Now, 75 years later, the institution of about 6,700 students costs $50 million a year to run and has transformed the township into an economic powerhouse… Charles and Seryl Kushner, parents to President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, are benefactors whose surname is emblazoned on the school’s rotunda. Board members include billionaire investors, investment bankers and a media company director.” [APP]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — “Murdoch, Kravis, Schwarzman Among Trump Guests at Macron Dinner” by Jennifer Epstein and Jennifer Jacobs: “Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, leveraged buy-out billionaire Henry Kravis and Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman were among the guests Tuesday at the first state dinner of Donald Trump’s presidency… Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Fluence Corp chairman Ron Lauder… also were among the corporate titans attending the White House celebration…  Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger walked past reporters using a cane and was followed by a man with a wheelchair.” [Bloomberg] • Full list of attendees [CNN

“A National Security Aide’s Departing Wish: Cooking for the State Dinner” by Mark Landler: “Michael Anton, a classically trained chef who favors French cuisine, resigned on April 8 in a phone call with President Trump, the night before General McMaster’s successor, John R. Bolton, started work. As he packed up his office the next day, he made a special request of the current chief of staff, John F. Kelly: that he be allowed to come back for a day to work as a line cook in the White House kitchen, helping to prepare Mr. Trump’s state dinner for President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte. At first bewildered by the request, Mr. Kelly readily gave his blessing.” [NYTimes]

IRAN DEAL — “Trump, Macron call for ‘new’ nuclear deal with Iran” by Andrew Beatty: “[Trump] described the deal as “insane” and “ridiculous,” despite European pleas for him not to walk away. Instead, Trump eyed a broader “deal” that would also limit Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for militant groups across the Middle East. “I think we will have a great shot at doing a much bigger, maybe, deal,” said Trump, stressing that any new accord would have to be built on “solid foundations.”

“Macron admitted after meeting Trump that he did not know whether the US president would walk away from the nuclear deal… “I can say that we have had very frank discussions on that, just the two of us,” Macron told a joint press conference… Putting on a brave face, he said he wished “for now to work on a new deal with Iran” of which the nuclear accord could be one part… Trump — true to his background in reality TV — teased his looming decision… “We’re going to see what happens on the 12th.”” [AFPWashPost]

Sen. Ted Cruz tweets“These proposed European ‘fixes’ don’t address the missiles Iran would actually build, the inspection problems that would actually arise, or the eventual sunsets as they would actually occur. They would only constrain the Iranians from doing things they never would have done.”

Eli Lake writes… “Trump, Macron and Merkel Have an Opportunity in Iran’s Crisis: Any deal to fix it might save the regime at a moment the world should let it fall. A step in the other direction, like re-imposing sanctions, could give the regime a pretext to spark a nuclear crisis and distract the Iranian people from the regime’s misrule…Trump, Macron and Merkel have an opportunity… [to] use negotiations over the nuclear deal to maintain the uncertainty that discourages foreign investment in Iran. Every week of inaction… buys more time for the next Iranian revolution.”[BloombergView

“The Iran Regime-Change Crew Is Back” by Vali Nasr: “These days, those regime-change evangelists having shrugged off the lessons of the Iraq war, are back at the helm of U.S. foreign policy. John Bolton, Donald Trump’s new national-security adviser, has long advocated regime change in Iran, and more recently has argued that the administration should openly embrace it as a foreign-policy goal.” [TheAtlantic]

HEARD THIS AM: Top policy planning official at State Dept. Brian Hooktells NPR’s Steve Inskeep that the Iran Deal is not binding in any way and simply a political agreement made by a previous administration. “This JCPOA is not a treaty. It’s not an executive agreement, it has no signatures, it has no legal status. It is a political commitment by an administration that’s no longer in office.” [Twitter] • Full interview with Hook [NPR]

“As Donald Trump Eyes Iran Nuclear Deal, North Korea Is Watching” by Christopher Dickey: “North Korea, which has close and controversial ties to Iran, will be watching closely, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif notes that any leader, including Kim Jong Un, would see little value in agreements with Washington that would last only as long as the term of the president who signed them. So, while Trump may have high hopes for his upcoming talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the “Little Rocket Man” he decided to describe on Tuesday as “very honorable,” Zarif is blunt: “People will not be prepared to give if the take is only temporary.”” [DailyBeast]

HEARD THIS MORNING — NYTimes columnist Bret Stephens on Morning Joe: “Listening to the President reminded me his ‘fire and fury’ remarks that he directed at Kim Jong Un just a few months ago, and now, of course, he’s entertaining negotiations with the North Koreans. So with this President, you never know. I argued strenuously against the Iran deal back in 2015. I think it has critical flaws… The real question is whether he can renegotiate the agreement… My question about this administration is whether it has the intellectual capacity and the seriousness to see through a renegotiation of a very flawed deal. Under a different Republican administration, I’d feel more confident about the idea of withdrawing from it completely.”

HAPPENING AT 10:30AM: Macron will address a joint meeting of Congress. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has invited Fran Greenberg, a Holocaust survivor and Paris native, as his guest for the speech. “She is a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit and a reminder of why we must remain vigilant against hatred across the globe,” Brown said in a statement. [CSPAN

DRIVING THE DAY: “For their part, Israeli officials moved to shape Mr. Trump’s thinking as well. Avigdor Liberman, the Israeli Defense Minister, said he planned to leave for the United States on Tuesday night so that he could meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and John R. Bolton, the president’s new national security adviser and a longtime opponent of the Iran nuclear agreement. The meetings, he said on Twitter, were to discuss “Iran’s expansion in the Middle East and Syria.”” [NYTimes]

 Liberman arrived this morning at Newark Liberty International Airport where he then boarded Amtrak to DC. The Defense Minister was welcomed by Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, Chaplain of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department [Pic]

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST — “Russian SC chief meets Israeli, Iranian counterparts” by Itamar Eichner, Alexandra Lukash and Nir Cohen: “Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev met separately on Tuesday with his Israeli and Iranian counterparts—Eytan Ben-David and Ali Shamkhani… The meetings were held in the Russian resort town of Sochi, and Patrushev discussed “Middle East developments” with the two officials.” [Ynet• Russia says it will soon deliver new air defense systems to Syria [ToI]

Dennis Ross writes… “Russia Risks a Wider Mideast War: So long as the Israelis said nothing publicly, neither the Iranians nor Hezbollah had to retaliate to avoid losing face. But with the Iranians losing at least seven Qods Force officers in the Israeli attack, and the Russians declaring Israeli responsibility, the Iranians have been exposed… Putin wanted it known this was not an American strike. He is allergic to anything that suggests American power might be shaping events in Syria. Russia is the arbiter… The president’s stated determination to get out of Syria and “let others take care of it” no doubt also emboldens both Russia and Iran—and tells the Israelis they are on their own.” [WSJ]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt at the American Jewish Committee’s Women’s Leadership Board Spring Luncheon in New York: “I’ve seen the wonder in the eyes of Syrian parents when they realize Israelis don’t want to kill them, but to help them. If one can find hope in something as terrible as the war in Syria, imagine what can happen with a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Greenblatt, who was introduced by former Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell via video, also discussed the peace process, according to excerpts released by AJC: “Past failures do not absolve us of the responsibility to try. I ultimately believe there may be a clear path toward peace… True, lasting peace will be only as strong as the moral values that underlie it.” [Pic]

“Israel scraps contested plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants” by Ruth Eglash: “The government’s announcement Tuesday that it was abandoning the effort to send the migrants to unidentified African countries — widely reported to be Rwanda and Uganda — was welcomed as a positive step by advocates for about 36,000 migrants in Israel. But the move is also likely to bring even more uncertainty to those who have no official status here.” [WashPost]

Tom Friedman writes… “Israel’s Got Its Own Refugee Dilemma: African ‘Dreamers’: [Taj] Haroun said he and his friends are trying to explain to Israel’s government and business community what an asset they could be: “Israel has a lot of companies working all over Africa. We could be their ambassadors and representatives.” Why not? They speak Hebrew, know Israel and know Africa. “We are normal people,” he added, “with dreams like everybody else’s dreams — to have your family safe and be able to contribute to your society.”” [NYTimes]

“Israel and South America: Strange Bedfellows or Great New Besties?” by Nick Fouriezos: “Many other Latin American countries are cozying up to Israel, and the reasons go beyond Trump and America. It starts with religious ties. “There are a lot of Christians and evangelicals in South and Central America,” [Eli] Hazan says, and they feel tied to the Jewish cause, which in turn ties their leaders. Also, about a “third to a quarter” of Israeli backpackers visit South America after their mandatory military service, a relationship built over decades of visiting Jewish relatives in those countries as part of their post-military “rite of passage,” as Chaim Noy, a tourism studies professor at Ashkelon Academic College in Israel, puts it.” [Ozy]

REPORT — “Mike Pompeo to head U.S. delegation to embassy ceremony” by Gil Hoffman: “Mike Pompeo… is slated to lead the delegation of some 250 American officials and Jewish leaders at a ceremony inaugurating the United States Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday. It was previously reported that United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would head the delegation.” [JPost]

TALK OF THE NATION — “Supreme Court: Foreign corporations can’t be sued under U.S. law for human rights abuses” by Richard Wolf: “The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that an Arab bank cannot be held liable for a decade of terrorist attacks against Israel under an obscure 1789 law… Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the court’s four other conservative justices, said only Congress can make such a decision. The ruling was 5-4… Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented and was joined by the court’s three other liberal justices… The decision was a blow to some 6,000 foreign victims, including survivors and relatives, of suicide bombings and other attacks in Israel and the Palestinian Territories from 1996 to 2005.”[USAToday]

STATE-SIDE — Missouri House OKs boycott on companies boycotting Israel: “The Missouri House is advancing a proposal to ban public contractors from protesting Israel. House lawmakers gave the bill initial approval in a voice vote Tuesday.” [Fox2Now]

ON THE HILL — House unanimously passes bill to help Holocaust survivors obtain restitution, seized assets: “The measure approved Tuesday requires the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries toward the return of or restitution for wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets, including property, art and other movable property… The Senate unanimously approved its version of the bill in December… The bill now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.” [JTA]

Lawmakers near deal on Kushner-backed prison reform plan” by Heather Caygle: “Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee are nearing agreement on a bipartisan prison reform bill that could be approved by the panel as soon as Wednesday and reach the floor in early May… Getting the legislation signed into law would be a coup for Kushner, who has struggled to land a policy win despite a sprawling portfolio that at times has included everything from negotiating peace in the Middle East to trying to combat the opioid epidemic.” [Politico

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “Michael Cohen, Amid Bewildering Stormy Chaos, is Still Holding Out Hope for Survival” by Emily Jane Fox: “[Cohen] sometimes sits with an espresso at his usual table in Sant Ambroeus, with his phone buzzing and beeping. Sometimes they’re messages of support from old friends, telling him they’re behind him and that he is going to be some sort of phoenix rising from the ashes-that there will be book deals, movie deals, all sorts of offers down the road. More often, however, it’s reporters seeking comments he can’t give. For someone who relishes defending himself, staying quiet is not easy, the people familiar with Cohen’s thinking said.”

“Not being in communication with Trump also weighs on Cohen. The president did call him several days after the F.B.I. raid, and publicly said that what happened to Cohen was a ‘disgraceful situation.’ But their relationship had shifted since Trump took office. Cohen, who sees the Trumps as family, has only visited the White House a handful of times, including the White House Hanukkah party in December.” [VanityFair

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork documents reveal it owes $18 billion in rent and is burning through cash as it seeks more funding [BusinessInsider] • Kushners’ Loan for Troubled N.J. Site Backed by Web Lender[Bloomberg• Aby Rosen’s RFR lands $74M loan for Gowanus acquisition[TheRealDeal] • Joe Lonsdale’s 8VC has closed its second early-stage fund with an eye on logistics and biotech [TechCrunch] • NYC Developer Michael Stern Gets Loan for Condo Project in Glutted Miami Area[Bloomberg• Mobile credit card startup called Extend will announce it has a $3 million investment led by Steve Cohen’s Point72 Ventures [CNBC• Kanye West fires manager Scooter Braun [PageSix

“What about Bob? Behind the Leadership Drama Holding Up a Viacom-CBS Deal” by Keach Hagey and Joe Flint: “Over cookies and snacks in late March, [Bob] Bakish and Viacom Chief Financial Officer Wade Davis pitched CBS board members on their vision for wringing $1 billion in synergies out of the merger. The CBS directors later told their Viacom counterparts that they were impressed by Mr. Bakish’s presentation… So Viacom’s camp and [Shari] Redstone were shocked when CBS made an initial offer on April 3 that carved out no role for Mr. Bakish… Viacom immediately countered with a proposal that would name Mr. Bakish as [Leslie] Moonves’s No. 2 and give him broad responsibilities.” [WSJ]

STARTUP NATION — “Former BP CEO joins Israeli co Windward’s board” by Nati Yefet: “Lord John Browne, 70, formerly the dominant CEO of British Petroleum (BP), is joining the board of directors of Israeli company Windward, founded in 2010 by CEO Amit Daniel and VP product Matan Peled. The big-data company, based on Hashlosha Street in Tel Aviv, analyzes maritime risks through reliable mapping and analysis of all the information about maritime traffic on the oceans and seas.” [Globes]

ACROSS THE POND — “Jewish Leaders Say Their Meeting With Jeremy Corbyn About Anti-Semitism Was A “Disappointing Missed Opportunity”” by Hannah Al-Othman: “Following weeks of criticism of Labour’s handling of antisemitism allegations, [Jeremy] Corbyn met the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies at Westminster on Tuesday evening in a bid to repair relations. While Corbyn described the meeting as positive and constructive, the groups released a joint statement that made clear their dismay at the party leader’s response. It was followed by an even stronger statement from Labour Against Anti-Semitism… to describe what it saw as the “arrogance and complacency” of Corbyn and his team as “astonishing.” [BuzzFeed

HOLLYWOOD — “Hank Azaria Says He’d Be Willing to “Step Aside” From ‘Simpsons’ Apu Role Following Controversy” by Patrick Shanley: “Hank Azaria dropped by the Late Show on Tuesday night to promote the new season of his IFC comedy Brockmire, and also address the recent controversy surrounding one of the characters he voices on The Simpsons, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. The character, an Indian immigrant who runs Springfield’s local convenient store, was the subject of the recent documentary, The Problem With Apu, which criticized Azaria’s voice portrayal as portraying a stereotype. When asked about the controversy surrounding his character, Azaria said… “The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad,” the actor went on. “It certainly was not my intention. I wanted to bring joy and laughter to people.””[HollywoodReporter]

“Natalie Portman Is No Prize” by Vivian Bercovici, former Canadian Ambassador to Israel: “Local gossip among the chattering classes in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem has it that the Israel Genesis Prize is a response of Russian-Israeli oligarchs who resented feeling sidelined in the fishbowl of Jewish power, which tends to be dominated by Americans. So, they pooled their considerable resources to create what some refer to as the “Jewish Nobel Prize.” … Rather than pandering to bankable stars who draw glitter and gold, perhaps they will refocus on the many exceptionally deserving individuals beavering away in obscurity and bereft of the obnoxious hubris with which Natalie Portman is afflicted.” [CommentaryMag]

SPORTS BLINK — Robert Kraft celebrates Meek Mill’s release from prison” by Tanya Ray Fox: “Two weeks after Robert Kraft told media that Meek Mill “shouldn’t be here” after a visit with the rapper in prison alongside Philadelphia 76ers owner Michael Rubin, the New England Patriots owner – and Meek Mill’s millions of supporters – got their wish. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s high court ordered the immediate release of Meek Mill… The Patriots Twitter account posted photos of Kraft and Meek Mill together on Tuesday.” [PatriotsWireDailyNews] • Meek Mill thanks 76ers Owner Michael Rubin [BleacherReport]

“Josh Rosen Details Anti-Semitic Slurs Used Against Him by Opponents During Games” by Rob Golberg: “NFL draft prospect Josh Rosen recently said he has heard a lot of anti-Semitic slurs used against him by opponents so far in his career. “I get a lot of Jewish things,” the former UCLA quarterback said about trash talk, per Michael Silver of NFL.com. “My nose, particularly. I get, like, ‘Stay the f**k down, you Jewish bastard … I’m gonna break your f***g nose, you Jew.'” Rosen, who is usually not afraid to speak his mind, said the taunts don’t bother him.” [BleacherReportNFL]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Pete Souza, the former White House photographer for President Obama, discussed one of the photos he’s most proud of with The Atlantic’s editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg: “Another one is this from Israel. They were overlooking the city, I believe. It’s taken from behind. There were a whole group of people, including Prime Netanyahu and [Shimon] Peres.. And at one point, the president just sort of raised his hands to say the something and the light just happened to magically fall in his hands, and I saw it happen. It happened so quick. Aesthetically, I love that picture.” [TheAtlantic] • See the pic [Instagram]

DESSERT — “A Kosher Barbecue Joint and Deli Will Soon Open Under One Roof” by Alaena Hostetter: “Just imagine a typical New York Jewish deli where you go in and buy prepared foods and sandwiches. You can sit down or take it to go,” Howard Goldfeder, owner of Kosher Palate [in Dallas, Texas], told CultureMap. “We’ll experiment with other things. We want it to be kosher but we want to have a good time.” [EaterDallas]

“Farm-to-table pastrami and much more at new deli in Providence’s Wayland Square” by Gail Ciampa: “With his business partner, Nick Mazonowicz, [Ben] Lloyd visited eight New York City delis in one day to gather information that would help them design the perfect deli… To try so many places in one day, Lloyd and Mazonowicz resolved that they would only take two bites of each sandwich at each deli. They were on foot and not taking any to-go bags. One server asked why they were leaving so much food on their plates. Far more dramatic was the woman who chased them from a deli into a subway station demanding that they tell her what they knew about the food that caused them to not eat it.” [ProvidenceJournal]

“An Old-School Deli from a Fermentation Expert Opens in Cleveland” by Douglas Trattner: “Chef Jeremy Umansky counts visiting his local Jewish deli on Cleveland’s east side among his most powerful childhood food memories. And stepping into Larder Delicatessen and Bakery, which opens in Cleveland this week, isn’t unlike the experience Umansky would have had on his after-school trips to grab a black-and-white cookie, a few flaky rugelach, and a chocolate phosphate.” [Eater]

BIRTHDAYS: Commissioner of the National Basketball Association since 2014, Adam Silver turns 56… American-British academic, social worker and health spokesman of the Green Party of the UK, he is the older brother of US Senator Bernie Sanders, Larry Sanders turns 83… Chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors, a NYC-based investment advisory firm, Leon G. “Lee” Cooperman turns 75… Rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University since 1973, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Riverdale Synagogue since 1974, Rabbi Mordechai Willig turns 71… Former French Finance Minister and later Managing Director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn turns 69… David Handleman turns 69… Los Angeles-based partner in the energy practice group of the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Beth A. Fox turns 58… Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, focused on the international politics of the Middle East, Michael Scott Doran turns 56… Litigator at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, he served as US Ambassador to the Czech Republic (2014-2017) and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun (1992-1993), Andrew H. Schapiroturns 55…

Actor, voice actor, comedian and producer, voices many roles on the “The Simpsons,” descended from a Sephardic family rooted in Thessaloniki, Hank Azaria turns 54… Beersheba-born director, writer, comedian and infomercial pitchman, better known as Vince Offer, Vince Shlomi, or “The ShamWow Guy,” Offer Shlomi turns 54… Editor of Shalom New Haven, the publication of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, Jeannette Brodeur turns 51… Democratic member of the Utah House of Representatives since 2000, currently serving as the Minority Leader, David E. Litvack turns 46… Moscow-born Democratic party strategist and television personality on the Fox News Channel, Julie Roginsky turns 45… Johannesburg-born political commentator, author and senior-editor-at-large for Breitbart News, Joel Barry Pollak turns 41… Attorney turned grocer, she is the founder of Glen’s Garden Market, carved out of the old “Secret” Safeway north of Dupont Circle, Danielle Brody Rosengarten Vogel turns 39… Director in the NYC office of Burson-Marsteller, Kenneth R. Gold turns 32 (h/ts Playbook)… Deputy press secretary for NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, Jaclyn Rothenberg turns 30… Film and television actress, model and singer, Sara Paxton turns 30… Senior political reporter in Manhattan for the news and media website Mic, Emily C. Singer, née Cahn, turns 29… Attorney, partner in the NYC-based law firm of Bernstein Liebhard LLP, Sandy A. Liebhard… Mike Sponder

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