Feb
20

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Daily Kickoff: Kushner and Greenblatt attend Abbas’ UN speech | Munich recap — ‘Collapse of the Global Elite’ | Jake Tapper on Jewish upbringing

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PODCAST PLAYBACK — CNN host Jake Tapper joined The Axe Files with David Axelrod where he recalled his Jewish upbringing: “My mom converted to Judaism and my dad was raised conservative-Jewish, but probably not really all that observant. They divorced when I was about 7 or 8 and around that time my dad started getting more in touch with his Jewish roots, and so I started going to Jewish camps and then I ended up in Jewish school from 6 through 12. There was some sort of awakening that my dad went through, maybe right before or during the divorce, and so I learned a lot about Judaism and I spoke semi-fluent Hebrew for a while when I was in college. Not really anymore…”

Axelrod: And was there a spiritual component to it? I mean, I was Bar Mitzvah’ed and all of that, and I feel culturally akin, but it was kind of a compulsory thing, and being compulsory I was resistant to it.

Tapper: “That’s probably what my kids are going through right now. For me it was different because I guess like any other spiritual journey, I went through periods where I was very into it. When you go to Jewish camps – and when I say Jewish camps I don’t just mean like everybody there was Jewish. I mean, we’d get up and we would pray every day, every day of the week. Then on the Sabbath it was a very intense situation where you couldn’t use electronics and all that. There would be a lot of praying. There were times in my life that I was really into it and other times that I’m not.”

Tapper on practicing Judaism today: “I would say right now it’s important to me, but I’m also at the phase of my life, and maybe this is a silly phase, where I don’t really think God cares too much about what I eat and put in my body. I think that God probably, if there is any sort of sense of justice in this universe, would prefer that I spend more time devoted to doing good deeds, which is part of Judaism, than praying…”

Axelrod (joking): Do you have proof of this? Do you have two sources on this?

Tapper: “I have no sources on this. I have not reported this (laughter). I think a lot of the lessons of Judaism have stayed with me in terms of trying to be a good person and trying to give people the benefit of the doubt in terms of charity, and that part of Judaism and the intellectual debate – that’s part of Judaism as well – that has stayed with me much more than the religious part of it, just in terms of observance. So we go to synagogue. My kids go to Hebrew school and all that but…”

Axelrod: Yeah, you’re reaching for the deeper — You’re reaching for the sort of more spiritual elements, the ethical constructs and so on.

Tapper: “Yeah. Sometimes I’ll see — I see some very unethical behavior by people who think that they are very observant. Not just Jews but all sorts of religions. I was just thinking about it today, somebody who looks as though he is an Orthodox Jew on Twitter was attacking me…”

Axelrod: How does one look like an Orthodox Jew on Twitter?

Tapper: “Well, his avatar was a guy with the hat and the payos and all of that. All I could think of was this is not what I learned is being Jewish… I’ve seen a lot of that behavior. Again, not just Jews. Christians, Muslims, certainly Muslims, and a lot of people who consider themselves to be very pious doing some pretty horrific things.” Listen to the episode [JewishInsider]

MUNICH RECAP: “Witnessing the Collapse of the Global Elite” by Eliot Cohen: “At events like the Munich Conference, it is no coincidence that the word “networking” has largely replaced the word “debate” among global elites. Most of the faces in attendance you could see at other, similar gatherings, like the World Economic Forum in Davos. You could sense the same frenetic socializing among those more eager to be seen than to make a point, more likely to ponderously recite conventional wisdom than to doggedly defend a point of view. When the Polish prime minister declared that Jews were also perpetrators of the Holocaust, there were mere tut-tuts in response. It is a far cry from the Wehrkunde founded by Kleist. His successor is a bland former German diplomat who greets everyone—free citizen or dictator’s henchman—as a long-time friend of the conference, to be cherished for that reason alone, rather than for what he or she says or believes.” [TheAtlantic

MUNICH ATTENDEES included… Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt of the Conference of European Rabbis’; Woodrow Wilson Center’s Jane Harman; Palantir’s Alex Karp; Ron Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress; former Sen. Joe Lieberman; Israeli Knesset Member Tzipi Livni; Gen. David Petraues; Wendy Sherman… [FullList] • Bibi and Sara Netanyahu attended a Shabbat dinner at the conference [PicVideo]

“Polish leader denies being a Holocaust revisionist after blaming ‘Jewish perpetrators’” by Avi Selk: “Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki… was speaking in Munich on Saturday when a journalist [Ronen Bergman] asked about a new Polish law that bans accusations the country collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II… “You’re not going to be seen as criminal [if you] say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators… not only German perpetrators,” Morawiecki said… Netanyahu called his Polish counterpart’s comments “outrageous” and gave Morawiecki a history lesson the next day… Since then, Morawiecki has appeared at pains to demonstrate he knows the difference. “The Holocaust, the genocide of the Jews committed by the German Nazis, was a horrific crime,” he wrote on Twitter…” [WashPost

“Israel, Saudis Find Common Cause in Warning of Iran Expansionism” by Marc Champion, Jonathan Ferziger and David Wainer: “Netanyahu evoked the West’s appeasement of Nazi Germany before World War II in a speech… that described Iranian aggression as “the greatest threat to our world” and warned that Israel would resist it. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir, addressing the event later Sunday, said Iran needs to pay a price for its “aggressive behavior.” … Netanyahu interrupted his speech to hold up a piece of metal he said came from the drone and asked if Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif recognized it.” [BloombergNYTimes] • Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif: Israel ‘will see the response’ if they act against Iran [NBCNews

“Iran, Deeply Embedded in Syria, Expands ‘Axis of Resistance’” by Ben Hubbard, Isabel Kershner and Anne Barnard: “Some people in Israel have started referring to a potential “First Northern War,” meaning that Israel will have to fight across both the Lebanese and Syrian frontiers. And many Israelis say the danger is not just from the new Iranian-backed militias, but also from the Iranian efforts to give advanced, high-precision weapons capable of hitting sensitive infrastructure to Hezbollah… “Israel will face not only quantity, but the threat to vulnerable strategic sites,” said Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser… “Each one is problematic; together, they are devastating.”” [NYTimes] • Israel’s Deepening Involvement with Syria’s Rebels [WarOnTheRocks]

DRIVING THE DAY — “Kushner among White House officials attending Abbas U.N. speech” by Barak Ravid: “In a surprise move, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt will attend Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech this morning at the U.N. Security Council in New York…” [Axios] • Kushner in attendance [Pic]

From Josh Raffel, White House Spokesperson: “As we continue to finalize our plan, we came to the United Nations to hear President Abbas’ speech. We strongly hope that he shares fresh and constructive ideas that can create a comprehensive and lasting peace for both sides because merely recycling the same talking points has not led to peace for decades.”

Spotted: Jason Greenblatt chatting with Amb. Nikki Haley [Pic

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to urge international involvement in peace process at the UN: “Addressing the council for the first time since 2009, Abbas will call for a new collective approach in a bid to salvage the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour… In this new approach, the United States “will not have the only control. They will be part of the collective process for sure,” said Mansour.” [Ynet]

Abbas to seek wider peace process in rare UN speech: “We can live with different formats, the P5, P5+1, expanded Quartet, we can live with an international peace conference,” [Senior Palestinian official Nasser al-]Qudwa told a news conference in Ramallah. “Anything that can do the job, provide a reasonable basis for negotiation and follow up the process — sponsor it until it successfully concludes.” Watch the speech [CSPAN]

Abbas draws two-year timeline” by Uri Savir: “Abbas is disappointed… He follows closely and with some delight the legal troubles that Netanyahu is undergoing, but he believes that with or without Netanyahu, the Israeli right led by the settlers will continue to have the upper hand. Abbas spoke about a time framework of two years until 2020, which according to the PLO official could indicate a timeline to resignation… Abbas, surprisingly to his PLO confidant, did not rule out a violent intifada. If everything else fails, that may be the last resort.” [Al-Monitor]

“In Ramallah, Israeli finance minister urges Palestinians to return to US-led peace talks” by Adam Rasgon: “Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Monday called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table under the patronage of US President Donald Trump’s administration.” [JPost]

REPORT — “U.S. ambassador to Israel says massive settlement evacuation could spark civil war” by Barak Ravid: “According to three people who attended the meeting, of the conference of presidents… [David] Friedman said that the approximately 400,000 settlers who live in the West Bank “are not going anywhere…and significant evacuation could result in a civil war. This is my opinion”… More from Friedman’s remarks: The claim that a peace deal is needed to keep Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is a platitude because for 25 years people have been saying that and Israel has only thrived and prospered.” [AxiosNana10

DAMAGE CONTROL — “A U.S. Embassy spokesperson pointed out that Channel 10 based their report “upon three attendees at the conference who failed to provide much of the context behind Ambassador Friedman’s comments…” The spokesperson added that “the Ambassador believes that unrestrained settlement growth is not helpful for peace.” Stephen M. Greenberg and Malcolm Hoenlein… refuted the report and said that “the words attributed to him [Friedman] were taken out of context, are incomplete, and are therefore a distortion of the ambassador’s remarks.” [Haaretz

Former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk emails… “It depends what Friedman means by ‘significant evacuation.’ Since the vast majority of settlers live in the large settlement blocs, it would be possible to create a Palestinian state on some 94% of the West Bank and only some 20% of settlers would have to be evacuated. The argument about the threat of continued occupation to Israel’s Jewish and democratic nature refers to the next 25 years, not the last 25 years. That’s when the failure to resolve the Palestinian problem will present a profound threat.”

THE DAILY KUSHNER — “Mueller’s interest in Kushner grows to include foreign financing efforts” by Shimon Prokupecz, Kara Scannell and Gloria Borger: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition… It’s not clear what’s behind Mueller’s specific interest in the financing discussions. Mueller’s team has not contacted Kushner Companies for information or requested interviews with its executives.”[CNN

“New White House security clearance policy could put ‘bull’s eye’ on Kushner” by Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa: ”White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly announced Fridaythat beginning next week, the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top-secret information — a move that could threaten the standing of Jared Kushner… A senior administration official… said that the chief of staff has been frustrated with Kushner’s high level of access without a final clearance and that he was aware the new policies announced Friday could jeopardize Kushner’s ability to carry out his duties in the West Wing. The move puts a “bull’s eye” on Kushner.”[WashPost

“Reed Cordish to leave White House post” by John Fritze: “Cordish, 43, said in an interview that he never intended to stay in the job for more than a year. He said that the time was right to move on partly because the White House recently sent its framework for overhauling infrastructure to Congress… Cordish, whose last day will be later this month, will be replaced by Brooke L. Rollins, a former aide to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the White House said. Cordish said he would return to the private sector, but would not say whether that meant returning to the Cordish Companies.” [BaltimoreSun

“Trump’s rebuke of McMaster was months in the making” by Eliana Johnson: “Back in November, Trump and a small circle of senior aides involved in the conversation about McMaster’s fate, including Kelly, ultimately decided to keep McMaster in place. Among their reasons for doing so: Removing him would have launched them on a search for the president’s third national security adviser in a year, and Trump and Kelly could not agree on a replacement… Trump, according to two administration officials, was looking to tap former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, whose frequent Oval Office visits ended when Kelly became chief of staff last summer. Kelly opposed his appointment.” [Politico]

Tom Friedman writes… “Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now: Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history…” [NYTimes

INSIDE THE ADMIN — “Under fire for travel expenses, Pruitt cancels trip to Israel” by Juliet Eilperin and Ruth Eglash: “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has canceled a nearly week-long trip to Israel… Pruitt was to arrive in Israel on Sunday and would have stayed at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem from the time of his arrival until Thursday… He had been slated to meet with Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin… as well as private-sector representatives and visit multiple sites in Israel “to gain an understanding of Israel’s unique infrastructure and environmental challenges.” [WashPost

“Shhh! The back story of EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s highly secret, on-and-off, official non-visit to Israel“ by Noga Tarnopolsky: “All attempts to get a schedule, discover his arrival time or the members of his entourage — all information usually made available — failed. Nor were officials forthcoming about why the visit was so hush-hush… Sunday arrived — and no Pruitt.” [LATimes]

Jennie Shulkin, the daughter of embattled VA Secretary David Shulkin, writes on Facebook… “A few years ago, my father left his career in the private sector when President Obama called on him to serve and fix the VA. He stayed on under President Trump to continue this important work. You see, my dad likes to finish what he starts. Unfortunately, under the guise of “ethical violations” – involving an approved coach airfare for my mother to accompany him on an official VA trip to London and a weekend afternoon Wimbledon match attended with friends – he may not get the chance… This is a full-scale political attack waged by right-winged, pro-privatization Trump appointees, designed to uproot an Obama holdover, who prioritizes bipartisan collaboration, and has refused to privatize the VA.” [Facebook

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — “Netanyahu Faces New Accusations: Did His Adviser Try to Bribe a Judge?” by David Halbfinger: “The new allegations significantly raise the level of political and legal peril he faces, suggesting that Mr. Netanyahu or his camp could be exposed to obstruction of justice charges. According to the police and Israeli news reports, Nir Hefetz, a top adviser to the prime minister, passed a message to a former judge, Hila Gerstel, through an intermediary in late 2015: Would she drop the case against Sara Netanyahu in exchange for being named attorney general? The case was not dropped, and Judge Gerstel, who was Israel’s commissioner for prosecutorial oversight, did not become attorney general.” [NYTimes• Scandals highlight Israeli leader’s media obsession[AP]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Barry Sternlicht Ventures Into Airbnb’s Territory [WSJ• The Cordish Cos. is planning a two-level collaborative workspace in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Called Spark KC [CPExecutive• Plan exists for $4-5b Intel investment in Israel [Globes• MedTech Opportunity Pushes Israel-China Romance to Next Level [Bloomberg

“Israel to Export Natural Gas to Egypt in $15 Billion Deal” by David Wainer and Yaacov Benmeleh: “Noble Energy Inc. and Delek Drilling-LP said they plan to supply around 64 billion cubic meters of natural gas over 10 years to Egypt’s Dolphinus Holdings Ltd. from Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs.. .“This paves the way for further deals and cements Egypt as a regional energy hub,” Yossi Abu, Delek Drilling’s chief executive officer, said… “This will be an engine for both the Egyptian and Israeli economies alike.”” [Bloomberg]

“The WeWork Manifesto: First, Office Space. Next, the World” by David Gelles: “In September, WeWork will open its most ambitious project to date: a kindergarten… The creation of Neumann’s wife, Rebekah, 39, the school is known as WeGrow. It promises a well-designed space with a curriculum that emphasizes socializing and entrepreneurship for 3-year-olds on up. WeGrow fits neatly into Adam Neumann‘s expansive vision for creating a generation of empathetic social impact entrepreneurs. But the risk-reward calculus is different when starting a school. WeGrow won’t scale as rapidly as WeWork has, so the financial upside is limited… Although Rebekah Neumann has no background in education… she has applied for accreditation from the state, has hired a team of career educators and is accepting applications for the coming school year. Tuition for toddlers: $36,000 a year.” [NYTimes]

“For tech entrepreneur, ancient Purim saga a modern wake-up call” by Tracy Frydberg: “The story of Purim is less a miraculous saga about a group of courageous Jews triumphing over evil, and more about what happens when a Jewish community assimilates in a land outside of their own. At least, that’s the story tech giant Michael Eisenberg aims to tell in his new book published in both English and Hebrew, “The Vanishing Jew: A Wake-Up Call from the Book of Esther.” … “Michael’s book is without any humor at all,” warned Rabbi Benny Lau… Eisenberg is a venture capitalist with his fund, Aleph Partners.” [ToI]

SPOTLIGHT — ”Thomas Heatherwick, Architecture’s Showman” by Ian Parker: “Stephen Ross, the seventy-seven-year-old billionaire property developer and the owner of the Miami Dolphins, has a winningly informal, old-school conversational style. On a recent morning in Manhattan, he spoke of the moment, several years ago, when he decided that the plaza of one of his projects, Hudson Yards—a Doha-like cluster of towers on Manhattan’s West Side—needed a magnificent object at its center… Before long, he met with Thomas Heatherwick, the acclaimed British designer of ingenious, if sometimes unworkable, things… Ross looked down on a model of the plaza, which featured a miniature version of the structure commissioned from Heatherwick: a copper-colored, urn-shaped lattice of a hundred and fifty-four staircases and eighty landings… Ross called it “my baby.” For the moment, it’s known as Vessel…”

“I asked Heatherwick about the way the planned bridge had become known, fairly or not, as a symbol of privilege. He answered by saying, “I never went to school with Boris [Johnson], or anyone from power… My grandmother was a servant at Windsor Castle. My other grandmother was a German Jewish refugee who fled for her life.” [NewYorker]

LongRead: “When our woman in Havana asked Fidel Castro to the synagogue Hanukkah party” by David Horovitz: “Adela Dworin, the president of Cuba’s Jewish community, is not shy. When she found herself face-to-face with Fidel Castro for the first time, at a meeting he initiated with religious leaders in 1998, she immediately invited him to come and meet Havana’s Jews at the capital’s Beth Shalom synagogue… Join us for our Hanukkah party, she suggested. To which he replied, “What’s Hanukkah?” … Dworin says she knew she had to think fast. Castro’s aide was already motioning impatiently to her that the president’s time was short. “Hanukkah,” she managed, “is revolution for the Jews.” … “I’ll come,” said Castro… Come he did… The notoriously long-winded revolutionary spoke for two hours — about Judaism.” [ToI]

HOLLYWOOD — HBO Developing ‘Stuxnet’ Miniseries Based On Alex Gibney’s ‘Zero Days’ With Carnival Films” by Peter White: “Stuxnet is based on Gibney’s cyberwarfare documentary Zero Days, which came out in 2016 from Showtime Documentary Films… The dramatic thriller will focus on the spread of a self-replicating computer virus developed by the West to disable and destroy nuclear facilities in the Middle East… It is now generally acknowledged that in the mid-to-late 2000s, the U.S. and Israel jointly developed Stuxnet, one of the most elegant, ingenious and terrifying pieces of malware ever created, which was used to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.” [Deadline]

TRANSITION — Former Director of National and Legislative Affairs at the
American Jewish Committee Richard Foltin emailed on Friday
 “As of yesterday, I closed out my many years with AJC—although those years now seem very short. I am at once sad to be leaving this great organization and very much looking forward to new challenges and opportunities.”

REMEMBERING: “West Coast Developer Used Real-Estate Wealth to Support Medical Research” by Austen Hufford: “When Sanford Diller had an idea for a real-estate project or philanthropic initiative, he would spell them out in long, detailed voicemail messages to family members and employees. Sometimes his daughter, Jackie Safier, spent her entire 45-minute commute listening to messages filled with aphorisms that his loved ones called “Sanford’s Rules.” “In the era of brevity, he was a brilliant writer and a brilliant speaker,” she said. Mr. Diller died Feb. 2 at the age of 89. The founder of Prometheus Real Estate Group was known for his design-focused approach to developing rental apartment buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area. With his wife, Helen Diller, Mr. Diller was also a major donor in support of medical research, Jewish causes and the arts.” [WSJ]

SPORTS BLINK — Bob Kraft among the celebs who showed up for the NBA All-Star Game in LA: “Stars came out for Hollywood’s NBA All-Star Game, but the weekend belonged to Hollywood blockbuster ‘‘Black Panther.’’ … Patriots owner Robert Kraft was also seen in attendance, at one point taking a photo with Snoop Dogg.” [BostonGlobe] • Kraft showed off his Super Bowl ring to comedian Tracy Morgan and other onlookers. [Video

“‘I remembered her’: During trip to Israel, Josh Norman reunites with one of his biggest fans” by Scott Allen: “Eliana Pieprz said she figured meeting Josh Norman and receiving a pair of autographed gloves from the cornerback at Redskins training camp in Richmond two years ago would be a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” … On Wednesday, Norman returned the favor, reuniting with Pieprz, 14, in the ancient city of Shiloh during a surprise visit to Israel with six other current and former NFL players.” [WashPost

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Ancient beard traditions shape the face of modern Jerusalem” by Ian Deitch: “In Jerusalem wearing a beard can also reflect political sentiments. “In the 1980s religion begins to be intertwined with political orientations and this is reflected with the rise of the beard among the more right-wing oriented and religiously oriented, both Jews and Muslims,” [Michael] Silber said…. Tal Johnson, a barber in the Israeli city of Holon, said growing one is not as easy as it looks. “You can’t eat with it … there are lots of things that are terrible, like hummus … or fried egg that is runny, and you need to wash it afterward, all of this, it’s very complicated. Eating soup is awful,” he said.” [AP

DESSERT — “Modern Kosher Deli Fleishik’s Lasts Under a Year in Beverly Grove” by Farley Elliott: “Ownership had been quietly shopping the Fleishik’s space… for a couple of months after chef Eric Greenspan stepped away from the project to pursue other interests. Now it seems partners Avi Heyman and Daniel Uretsky may have found a buyer, as the phone number is disconnected and a tipster says the place is locked up tight… The shutter of Fleishik’s comes less than a year after first opening in March of 2017. At the time, the place got an initial bump from the prodigious conservative Jewish population living nearby.” [EaterLA]

Watch: In episode 9 of Kevin Durant’s “Parking Lot Chronicles,” Omri Casspi of the Golden State Warriors offers a primer on keeping Kosher. [Video

BIRTHDAYS: Born in Tehran, Iran, emigrated to the US in 1950, co-owner of NYC-based TF Cornerstone, owner of 8 million square feet and 7,000 apartments in NYC and DC, Kamran Thomas Elghanayan turns 73… Brown University Professor, winner of a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, David Kertzer turns 70… Andrea Kachuck turns 67… Founder of 18 Media, Inc. whose titles include the Gentry lifestyle magazines directed at affluent readers in the San Francisco Bay Area, M. Sloane Citron turns 62… SVP of News at CBS-owned local television stations, David M. Friend turns 62… Senior editor at Politico since 2010, David Cohen turns 55 (h/t Playbook)… Cantor at University Synagogue in West LA’s Brentwood area, Kerith Carolyn Spencer-Shapiro turns 48…

Comedienne, actress, and writer, best known for portraying Gina Linetti on Fox’s series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Chelsea Peretti turns 40… Former starting pitcher for the Houston Astros and the Colorado Rockies, Jason Hirsh turns 36… Press secretary to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Amy Spitalnick turns 32 (h/t Playbook)… Ethiopian-born Israeli fashion model and television personality, winner of the Israeli version of “Big Brother,” Tahounia Rubel turns 30… Levi Shemtov (but not DC’s Chabad leader) turns 25… Senior Program Officer at Maimonides Fund, Aimee Weiss

BDAYS YESTERDAY: Founder of NYT’s DealBook and co-creator of Showtime’s “Billions,” Andrew Ross Sorkin turns 41… Founder and president of the eponymous Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, she is on the boards of the Whitney Museum, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Aspen Institute, Laurie M. Tisch
and also the birthday of her first cousin once removed, founder and CEO of the e-commerce app, Spring, Alan Tisch who turned 30…

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Feb
16

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Daily Kickoff: Taylor Force Act updated in Senate | Why Warren Buffett loves Teva | Report: Soros boycotts Bibi in Munich | 38 Tel Aviv restaurants

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Ed note: We’ll be back Tuesday. Have a wonderful Presidents’ Day Weekend! 

DRIVING THE WEEKEND — World leaders and government representatives are expected to attend the Munich Security Conference, a high profile annual security gathering, held this weekend in Munich, Germany. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster and CIA Director Mike Pompeo will represent the U.S. at the conference. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak on Sunday, followed by a Q&A discussion moderated by Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the MSC. [Agenda

REPORT — George Soros boycotts Netanyahu lunch in Munich: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke today to dozens of heads of some of Germany’s largest corporations during a lunch hosted by Netanyahu and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Funds. According to Israel Hayom’s Eldad Beck, George Soros declined an invitation by the organizers to attend the lunch due to Netanyahu’s presence.” [IsraelHayom]

“Netanyahu to Follow Putin in Munich Wake-Up Call to the West” by Marc Champion, Jonathan Ferziger and David Wainer: “A decade ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin chose the West’s annual security conference in Munich to say “what I really think” about the U.S. … Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu plans to use this week’s event for a similarly blunt wake-up call about the threat of war with Iran. “The prime minister will tell the world if you want to avoid a huge war in Israel — stop Iran,” said Yaakov Amidror, a retired general and former Israeli national security adviser…  It isn’t clear Netanyahu will be able to muster the support Israel seeks — any more than Putin succeeded in doing so a decade ago. “In the end,” said Amidror… “Israel is alone.” [Bloomberg]

DRIVING THE CONVO — Senate Republican have updated the Taylor Force Act (bipartisan legislation that would cut off U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until they cease payments to families of terrorists) by removing a sunset clause that would have required Congress to re-pass the bill in several years, Senate Republicans also pulled vaccinations for children and wastewater projects. The two exemptions were added to the bill passed unanimously by the House of Representatives last December. A previous exemption for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, a specialty health care facility, was maintained.

— “Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is expected to bring the new version to the floor imminently, several sources told Al-Monitor.” [Al-Monitor]

WHY IT MATTERS: On Sunday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer promised to do “everything I can to pass” the bill by unanimous consent. “I’ve checked with every Democratic senator,” Schumer said. “Not a single Democrat would block it.” The new version, however, which we’re told is still backed by Schumer, could face opposition among some Democratic lawmakers, forcing a floor fight.

Schumer’s spokeswoman Marisa Kaufman tells us… “Senator Schumer strongly supports the Taylor Force Act and, as Minority Leader, will do everything possible to help get it passed. Just this week, Senate Republicans made changes to the House-passed version, which senators are now closely reviewing.”

Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) urged Majority Leader McConnell and Schumer to bring the Taylor Force Act for a vote on the Senate Floor in a letter signed by another 62 House members. “It is time we hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for financially incentivizing terrorism. My colleagues and I urge the Senate to provide this critical legislation with a vote without delay,” Lamborn said in a statement.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? We’re told the bill was ‘hotlined’ earlier this week, which means leadership notified the Senate that they want to pass the bill by unanimous consent. Apparently no Republican Senators objected but it is unclear if any of the Democrats will object. If even one Senator objects, the bill will head for a floor vote. If the Senate passes the new version, the House would either have to pass the identical version of the bill or there could be a conference committee where members of both the House and the Senate work out a compromise bill, which is then passed by both chambers.

A Foreign Relations Committee aide tells us… “Senator Corker is proud of this bill. It reflects emerging consensus for the U.S. to finally ensure that no American tax dollars can benefit the Palestinian Authority until they end the despicable practice of rewarding terrorists like the one who murdered Taylor Force. The legislation received strong bipartisan support in committee, and we expect it to pass both chambers by a wide margin and become law in the near future.”

QUESTION REMAINS: Where is the White House on the updated version of the Taylor Force Act?

‘DAYLIGHT’ EXPLAINED — “In Pursuit of Peace, Trump Generates Rare Friction With Netanyahu” by Mark Landler: “The lack of visible progress, and the cone of silence, surrounding the peace initiative have raised questions about how much of a plan the White House really has. Several officials, however, said that the proposal being devised by two of Mr. Trump’s aides, Jared Kushner and Jason D. Greenblatt, was detailed and substantive, and that Mr. Trump’s willingness to risk friction with Mr. Netanyahu over it showed that he was more, not less, committed… Aides recount, for example, that last month, when he reached Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on his cellphone in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Mnuchin relayed that he was in a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. Mr. Trump requested to speak to the king, whom he then asked for help in dealing with the aggrieved president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas…” [NYTimes]

HEARD YESTERDAY ON THE HILL — Former Senator Joe Lieberman during a panel discussion on Hezbollah and Iran in the Middle East hosted by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) on the Hill: “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments on recognizing the reality that Hezbollah plays a role in Lebanon’s political process is “confusing and troubling… it is at best confusing, and at worst it puts us on a slippery slope to accepting the unacceptable… It gives Hezbollah a pass it doesn’t deserve.” [Pic]

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL): “Separating Hezbollah’s political wing from its military wing is like saying on a plane that the left wing is good, but the right wing is bad. Both are part of the plane. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization at its core.”

“Tillerson on Thursday says Hezbollah must be constrained” by Nicole Gaouette: “Tillerson, speaking at a news conference in Beirut alongside Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said [Hezbollah] “uses terrorism to advance its political agenda inside Lebanon, across the region, and around the world… It is unacceptable for a militia like Hezbollah to operate outside the authority of the Lebanese government,” Tillerson said. “The only legitimate defender of the Lebanese state is the Lebanese Armed Forces.” [CNN]

SCENE YESTERDAY IN AMMAN — Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations met yesterday with Prince Feisal bin Hussein, the brother of King Abdullah II, in Jordan as part of a Mideast tour, which included a trip to the UAE. “Talks covered efforts aimed at achieving a just and all-inclusive peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis based on the two-state solution and the resolutions of international legitimacy,” the Jordan Times quoted a government news agency. “Prince Feisal stressed that the issue of Jerusalem must be settled within the framework of a holistic and long-term solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” [Pic

The annual Conference of Presidents’ Mission to Israel begins Sunday at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. President Reuven “Ruvi” Rivlin will speak at the opening gala. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address the conference on Wednesday.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — “In Netanyahu’s Israel, the Divisiveness Is Now All About Him” by David Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner: “Mr. Netanyahu’s Israel is as polarized as it has been in generations, and under his lengthy tenure, the national conversation has become steadily more toxic. Now, as the prime minister awaits a possible criminal indictment, his efforts to cling to power could pose even greater strains on a society that already seems at risk of tearing itself apart… Some, including in Israel’s national security establishment, worry that Mr. Netanyahu has practiced partisanship at the expense of the country’s long-term interests.” [NYTimes]

“Bibi Is Burning Down the House” by Michael Koplow: “Netanyahu has always done or said whatever he thought he needed to in order to remain in power. Annexing settlements, even if it is limited to the Jerusalem bedroom community of Maale Adumim, would bring unparalleled international condemnation, a crisis with neighboring Jordan, and turmoil among West Bank Palestinians, but it would also go a long way toward ensuring that Netanyahu is not replaced by his own party… While the conflagration might be months away, there is no doubt that Netanyahu is preparing to strike the match.” [ForeignPolicy]

INSIDE THE ADMIN — “VA chief fights for his political future amid internal strife and allegations of subterfuge” by Lisa Rein, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Josh Dawsey: “Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s standing with Trump appears tenuous, a White House official said. Trump, who has held Shulkin in high regard and publicly praised his efforts to turn around the troubled agency, is said to be upset, though there are no immediate plans to fire him…  White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly summoned Shulkin on Thursday afternoon, but details of their conversation were tightly held… White House officials have been told not to defend or attack Shulkin, the officials said.” [WashPost]

NEW DC FIRM: Michèle Flournoy and Tony Blinken have started WestExec Advisors, a new strategic advisory firm. Flournoy is the co-founder and former CEO of the Center for a New American Security and former under secretary of defense for policy, while Blinken is a former deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser to President Obama. Other principals include Robert Work, Avril Haines, David Cohen, Lisa Monaco, Matt Olsen and Dan Shapiro. Nitin Chadda and Sergio Aguirre are the firm’s founding partners. [PoliticoPlaybook]

Romney makes it official: He’s running for Utah Senate seat: “The former presidential nominee made his campaign official Friday in an online video after a delaying his launch following a deadly shooting at a Florida high school. Romney is considered a heavy favorite for the Senate seat held by Orrin Hatch. The longtime Republican senator is retiring. Romney has been a persistent critic of President Donald Trump, but those close to Romney say he’ll focus his campaign instead on Utah.” [AP]

** 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: Why Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway loves loathed Israeli drug stock Teva [CNBC• Bezeq Is Said to Accept Elliott Demand to Hire New Directors [Bloomberg] • Antony Ressler’s Ares Becomes Litmus Test for Buyout Firms Mulling Tax Change [Bloomberg] • A battle for control of Russia’s Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) resurfaced on Friday as billionaires Vladimir Potanin and Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich made counter offers for each others shares [Reuters Carlyle’s Three Founders Take Home $193 Million in 2017 Payouts [Bloomberg] Harry’s Raises $112 Million to Move Beyond Shaving [NYTimes] • Penn Alumni Argue Over Yanking Steve Wynn’s Name From Commons [Bloomberg] • Ron Perelman’s Creeks Puzzles Almost Solved [EastHamptonStar]

SPOTLIGHT — Trump’s Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to Firm of First Lady’s Adviser” by Maggie Haberman and Ken Vogel: “The company that received the biggest payment — $26 million — was WIS Media Partners of Marina del Rey, Calif. Records show that the firm was created in December 2016, about six weeks before the inauguration, and its founder… was Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a longtime friend of [Melania] Trump’s… Ms. Winston Wolkoff has subsequently been brought on as a senior adviser to the first lady’s official government office…”

“An operative who worked with the inaugural committee… said Ms. Winston Wolkoff’s firm handled everything from securing venues and table settings to arranging Instagram filters and satellite feeds, as well as the transportation of heavy equipment. The operative said Ms. Winston Wolkoff personally received $1.62 million for her work.” [NYTimes]

“Steve Schwarzman Makes The Biggest-Ever Donation To A Public High School” by Susan Adams: “Billionaire private equity titan Stephen Schwarzman startled educators gathered at the annual American Association of School Administrators conference today when he announced that he was giving his public high school in suburban Philadelphia a gift of $25 million… Schwarzman’s donation to Abington High School appears to be the largest-ever gift to a single public school…” [Forbes]

PROFILE — “The Jewish sheriff leading the response to the Florida school shooting quotes the Talmud” by Ben Sales: “Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel… is the county’s first Jewish sheriff, and it’s an identity he has embraced. A 2016 campaign flier reported on that year by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel centers on the role that faith in general, and Judaism in particular, plays in his life… In speeches, Israel is known to quote the Bible… “As Broward’s first Jewish sheriff, I carry a heavy burden knowing I am making history,” the campaign flier said… Israel told the Sun-Sentinel that he attends the Parkland Chabad…” [JTA]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Museum manager fired for plot to block Israel celebration” by Carl Campanile: “The head of the Queens Museum and a top deputy have been ousted after a boneheaded move last year to try to prevent Israel from celebrating its 70th anniversary at the facility… The investigative report found that museum director Laura Raicovich and deputy director David Strauss “exercised poor judgment” and “knowingly misled” the board… Raicovich had a massive conflict. She was a staunch critic of Israel and did not disclose her hostility to the museum’s board, the report said.”[NYPost]

PIC OF THE DAY — Redskins’ Josh Norman spotted in Israel while on a week-long trip organized by American Voices in Israel. Former MK Dov Lipman: “Of particular note was his “chai” necklace which he was been wearing with great pride for four months!” [Pic]

SPORTS BLINK: “N.B.A. Stars Get Into the Hollywood Game” by Brooks Barnes: “Hollywood is very much on the N.B.A. superstar’s mind, however. [Kevin] Durant and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, started an entertainment company, Thirty Five Media, in April. Last month, YouTube tapped them to develop sports programming… On Tuesday, Apple said it was working with Thirty Five Media and the Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer to develop “Swagger,” a drama partly inspired by Mr. Durant’s rough-and-tumble adolescence. “I’m looking forward to giving my input and sharing my insight,” Mr. Durant said of the project, which Mr. Kleiman described as “‘Friday Night Lights’ with ‘Power’ and ‘The Wire’ mixed in.”” [NYTimes]

DESSERT — “The 38 Essential Tel Aviv Restaurants” by Keren Brown: “You can easily walk or bike — use the city­wide Tel­-O-­Fun rentals — across the entire city, from its beachfront boardwalks to its grittier neighborhoods, experiencing Tel Aviv through its kaleidoscope of eateries. Yemenite, Moroccan, Tunisian, Spanish, and homegrown Israeli food can all be relished here, from hole­-in-­the-­wall food joints to a groundswell of fine dining, and everything in between, while fresh produce can be picked up for a song in one of the city’s many bustling open­-air markets.” [Eater]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Benhaim 2004 Grand Reserve Cabernet — by Yitz Applbaum: “Before I decide which wine to review, one of the questions I ask myself is whether a wine is distributed widely enough for the reader to obtain it. For this reason, I was unsure whether to highlight the Benhaim 2004 Grand Reserve Cabernet, one of my favorite bottles. When I recently found it for sale online, I figured it was appropriate to review. Of course, once I found it online, I bought a bottle immediately and had a terrific experience drinking it.”

“The Benhaim 2004 Grand Reserve Cabernet is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and is aged for 24 months in predominantly new French oak.  The 13 years in bottle have allowed this once highly tannic wine to mellow out and balance.  The opening is primarily characterized by a blissful sweetness and the finish is equally memorable with notes of mellow plum.  The finish lingers a while and continues to engage the palate long after the liquid has vanished. This wine still has a few years to age in the bottle and is worth collecting. Drink it with anything.  It can stand alone, with no food, even under intense scrutiny.” [Benhaim]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Business magnate, activist shareholder and philanthropist, he served as a special advisor to President Trump on regulatory reform during 2017, Carl Icahn turns 82… Founding national director of American Friends of Lubavitch, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov turns 81… Educator, theorist, writer and professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Michael Joseph Shapiro turns 78… Ecuador-born, interim executive director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County (MD), veteran of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum as counsel and director of external affairs (1988-1999), Ralph Grunewald turns 62… Marrakech, Morocco-born co-founder and managing partner of Avenue Capital Group, Sonia Gardner turns 56… Co-director of “Women for Israel’s Tomorrow” (better known as Women in Green), a grassroots Israeli movement supporting settlements and annexation, Nadia Matar turns 52… Associate Regional Director of Birthright Israel Foundation, previously at NYC’s Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation, Marissa Schaevitz Levey turns 34… CEO of FinePoint, a PR, communications and professional development company, Meredith Fineman turns 31… Singer-songwriter and guitarist, Danielle Haim turns 29… Deputy national health, science and environment editor at the Washington Post, formerly at Politico, Susan K. Levine… Amy Kurtz… Rachel Rubenstein… Eric McDonald

SATURDAY: Former Treasurer of Massachusetts, he was President of AIPAC (1992-1996), Steven Grossman turns 72… Executive Director of HUC-JIR’s American Jewish Archives and professor of Reform Jewish History at HUC-JIR, Gary Phillip Zola turns 66… One of the most popular Israeli basketball players of all time, Miki Berkovich turns 64… Israel’s Minister of the Interior and leader of the Shas party, Aryeh Deri turns 59… Partner in the DC office of Skadden, Arps specializing in communications, national security, CFIUS, Congressional investigations and government policy, Ivan A. Schlager turns 57… Filmmaker Michael Benjamin Bay turns 53… Emmy-winning journalist, currently co-host of Bloomberg’s “Masters in Politics,” former executive producer of Meet the Press (2002-2013), executive in residence at American University, Betsy Fischer Martin turns 48… Israeli actress, Linor Abargil turns 38… Actor and filmmaker, Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns 37… Public policy official at San Francisco-based Stripe, an online payment firm, previously at the US Treasury, National Security Council and Goldman Sachs, Samantha Vinograd turns 35… Senior multi-platform editor for CNN Politics, formerly at Politico and Reuters, Dianna Heitz turns 34… Executive Director of the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life (the Columbia / Barnard Hillel), Brian Cohen… Executive editor of McClatchy Washington and a Politico alum, Kristin Roberts… Miriam Schulman

SUNDAY: Democratic US Representative from New York since 1989, ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel turns 71… Portfolio manager at Capital Group, Hilda Lea Applbaum… Chief Development Officer, Valley Alliance of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Lori Tessel turns 55… CEO of an eponymous Baltimore-based branding, marketing, PR, advertising and design firm, David F. Warschawski turns 47… Actor Isaac “Ike” Barinholtz turns 41… Singer-songwriter and pianist, Regina Spektor turns 38… Born in Israel and raised in Baltimore, national director of development for J Street, previously the West Coast Director for the OneVoice Movement, Adee Telem turns 37… Instagram celebrity known commonly as The Fat Jew, he is a writer, actor, model, vintner and entrepreneur, Josh Ostrovsky turns 36… National political  correspondent for The Washington Post and author of The Daily 202, James P. Hohmann turns 31… Dylan Sandler turns 30… Supreme Master of the Board of Governors of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the global Jewish college fraternity (2014-2016), Larry C. Leider… Associate producer at CBS Evening News, Rebecca Kaplan… Stacey Gardner… Ben Wofford… Scott Liebman

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Feb
15

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Daily Kickoff: Bibi weathering political storm… for now | Scooter Braun on why some celebrities go crazy | The shift at Ike Perlmutter’s Marvel

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FLORIDA MASSACRE — Jewish student identified among dead in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting — by Graham Lanktree: “Student Jamie Guttenberg is the first confirmed fatality. Local outlet ABC News 10 reported that Guttenberg’s parents were notified that she died in the shooting after they had shared pictures of her on social media in hopes of locating her amidst the panic. Guttenberg’s Facebook page has since been turned into a memorial. Her brother Jesse Guttenberg is reported to be alive.” [NewsweekLocal10]

— “Rabbi Bradd Boxman of Kol Tikvah, a Reform congregation in the town inland from Boca Raton, said he knew of at least four Jewish high school students among the wounded, including three from his congregation. They were in area hospitals and had undergone surgery.” [JTA]

Sen. Chuck Schumer: “Another shooting in our schools, today at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Yes, our children are resilient, but this is not a burden they should ever have to bear. My heart aches for these children & their families. #StopGunViolence” [Twitter]

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee: “Just waking up in Israel to news of heartbreaking school shooting in FL; Reminded that Israel pretty much eliminated it by placing highly trained people strategically to spot the one common thread–not the weapon, but a person with intent. #PrayForParkland” [Twitter]

COMING SOON — President Trump will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office next month when the Israeli leader visits DC for the annual AIPAC Policy Conference (March 4-6). This will be their fourth meeting since Trump took office. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, and possibly Vice President Mike Pence, will represent the administration at the annual gathering.

A White House official tells us… “The President has a tremendous relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu and looks forward to meeting with him. This was a long planned meeting.”

REPORT — Trump and Netanyahu put annexation row behind them: “An official told Israel’s Hadashot news that the annexation kerfuffle “is already water under the bridge and has no consequence to our relationship with Netanyahu.”” [ToI

SPOTTED LAST NIGHT: Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer on United 84 from Newark to Tel Aviv.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — “Israel’s Netanyahu Absorbs Fresh Political Shocks” by  Rory Jones: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, battling corruption allegations that threaten to bring down his government, is arguing that he is the best person to keep Israel safe amid sharply rising tensions with its Middle East foes… Mr. Netanyahu’s strong response this past weekend to Iran’s breach of Israeli airspace has bolstered the leader’s security credentials, said Yehudit Auerbach, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University… “Even among his rivals, he’s known as ‘Mr. Security,’ ” Ms. Auerbach said. “There’s no alternative leader who can play the role managing relations around the world, and especially in the Middle East.”” [WSJ] • Netanyahu, Linked to $300,000 in Bribes, Says He Won’t Quit [NYTimes]

“Israel’s Netanyahu may weather corruption allegations for now, but a storm is brewing” by Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash: “Few expect Netanyahu not to fight to the bitter end. The prime minister and his wife are “addicted to power,” said Ben Caspit, the author of two books about Netanyahu… “He does not think he did anything wrong, and he really believes that no one else can lead Israel, and he cannot be himself anywhere else but here as the prime minister of Israel,” Caspit added.” [WashPost]

Alon Pinkus, a former Israeli Consul General in New York, tells us… “Ostensibly, Netanyahu has not been indicted yet and in any case innocent until proven otherwise, but his ability and legitimacy to carry out policy and make decisions is by nature impeded and restricted. His standing in the world, despite what he likes to think and how he brags about it, has never been high. However, this weakens him considerably in terms of how he is perceived and his political durability and longevity.”

VIEW FROM DC — “Trump Will Be the Big Loser If Netanyahu Falls” by Zev Chafets: ” Netanyahu is, for better or worse, one of the world’s most important statesmen. On matters pertaining to the Middle East, he has been President Donald Trump’s mentor, guru and partner. In some ways, his senior partner… He is a trusted and reliable go-between for Washington and Moscow…” [BloombergView]

DRIVING THE CONVO — “US Secretary of State meets key Hezbollah allies in Lebanon” by Andrea Rosa: “Tillerson was expected to discuss the heightened tensions in his talks with the country’s top officials, including President Michel Aoun, Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri — who all maintain close relations with the militant Hezbollah group… Aoun, who kept Tillerson waiting for several minutes at the palace ahead of their meeting, said he asked Tillerson to work on preventing what he said were ongoing Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty and said that Lebanon rejects Israeli claims over parts of the countries’ maritime border. It was not clear why Tillerson was left waiting, but he arrived at the palace earlier than scheduled. At his meeting with Berri, a pro-Hezbollah politician, one of the photographers asked the men to shake hands. Berri laughed and said: “Why do you need that?” They then looked at each other, chuckled and obliged.” [AP]

Ahead of Beirut visit, Tillerson says Hezbollah ‘part of political process’ in Lebanon: “We know that Lebanese Hezbollah is influenced by Iran. This is influence that we think is unhelpful in Lebanon’s long-term future,” Tillerson said at a press conference in Jordan. “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon.” Later, US Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said however that Lebanon “would be better off without Hezbollah’s terrorism and malign influence.” “We will continue our efforts at strengthening those institutions that bolster Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability.” [DailyMail]

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert compares Israel to her best friend Julie when explaining why Tillerson skipped Israel on his Mideast tour: “We have a strong relationship with the Israeli people and the Government of Israel. There is no question about that… I kind of liken that to my relationship with my best friend from junior high school, Julie,” Nauert said. “She lives in the Midwest. Every time I go to the Midwest, I don’t get to see my friend Julie. Every time that Secretary Tillerson is going to go to the Middle East, he’s not going to be able to hit every single country.” [Video]

HAPPENING TODAY — United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) will host an event on Capitol Hill at noon to discuss Hezbollah’s future in Lebanon and the region. Speakers include former Senator Joe Lieberman, Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Brad Schneider (D-IL), and the Israeli Embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission, Reuven Azar.

“Jordan, a Pivotal Arab Ally, Gets More U.S. Aid Despite Rancor Over Jerusalem” by Gardiner Harris: “In a remarkably cordial reception that contrasted sharply with Vice President Mike Pence’s visit last month, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson signed an agreement that guarantees Jordan nearly $1.3 billion in annual assistance… With Mr. Tillerson, Jordanian officials were far less hectoring, as [King] Abdullah kept his meeting with Mr. Tillerson private. The softer response may have partly resulted… because Mr. Pence had stood smiling behind President Trump when he made the announcement about Jerusalem, while Mr. Tillerson was nowhere to be seen. Or maybe it was because Mr. Tillerson was known to have successfully lobbied President Trump to only halve funding for the United Nations agency that provides aid to millions of Palestinian refugees instead of eliminating it altogether.” [NYTimes]

“UN gets report on what Palestinians say is Gaza catastrophe” by Edith Lederer: “Nikolay Mladenov, the special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the council that drinking water is short, hospitals have been closed and “doctors stopped doing surgeries.” … [Bolivian Ambassador Sacha] Llorenty Soliz said he highlighted that the situation in Gaza has been worsened by the U.S. suspension of millions of dollars in funding for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees… Llorenty Soliz said he told the council the primary responsibility for “the catastrophic situation in Gaza” rests with Israel.” [AP]

“Top Secret Israeli cable warns of Syrian chemical attacks spillover” by Barak Ravid: “According to a “Top secret” cable sent to Israeli ambassadors earlier this week, Israel fears that the Assad regime will use the chemical weapons it still has left in a way which might spill over to Israeli territory… In the cable the ambassadors were asked to tell their counterparts, “Such an incident will mandate a harsh response by Israel”… “Israel does not want an escalation but has an obligation to defend itself,” the cable reads.”[Axios]

“What Iran Is Really Up To in Syria” by Sam Dagher: “After the downing of the F-16, Iran and Hezbollah signaled that they did not want escalation. They are, however, bent on using the recent events to blunt further moves by Israel against the military presence they have built up inside Syria to protect the Assad regime… With their position entrenched in Syria and their influence in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen secure, Iran and Hezbollah and their Shiite allies believe they have built a formidable, unified, border-spanning front. How they choose to exert their power could dictate the future for this region.” [TheAtlantic] • Russian official: If Iran attacks Israel, we’ll stand with you Israel [ToI

HEARD YESTERDAY ON THE HILL — Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, among others, addressed the Agudath Israel leadership mission in DC. Yeruchim Silber‏ tweeted: “Sen. Gillibrand compares herself to Queen Esther. Both plucked from obscurity and like Esther saved the Jewish people, Sen. Gillibrand says she stands ready to defend Israel and our community. Spoke forcefully against BDS and other hate speech and groups.” [Pic] • Schumer: “America is an amazing country – for everybody, but also for the Jewish people.” [Video]

— Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt also addressed the delegation at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building [Pic]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “Veterans Affairs chief Shulkin, staff misled ethics officials about European trip, report finds” by Lisa Rein: “Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer… Shulkin also improperly accepted a gift of sought-after tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match, the investigation found, and directed an aide to act as what the report called a “personal travel concierge” to him and his wife… Shulkin wrote a check Wednesday to reimburse the government for the cost of his wife’s travel, his attorneys said, and he intends to repay the cost of the tennis tickets.” [WashPost]

** 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: Kushner Investors Subpoenaed by U.S. Tax Authorities, Source Says [Bloomberg] • Mark Zuckerberg is increasing his stock sales to fund the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative [Recode] • Tech Luminary Peter Thiel Parts Ways With Silicon Valley [WSJ]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Talent manager Scooter Braun on The Bill Simmons Podcast discussing how Justin Bieber dealt with fame during his teenage years — Bill Simmons: “Why do most people who have a ton of success before they hit the age of 25 go crazy? You had Bieber and he’s a massive success at age 16 and went through a hard time but is now healthy.” Scooter Braun: “Look, I think Justin figured out something that we talk about all the time, that is the only reason that he did not go crazy. And that is and I’m going to get spiritual on you here — I don’t think human beings were made to be worshiped. I think we were made to serve. I think we worship something upstairs, whatever it may be, I respect anybody for their beliefs. But there’s something bigger than us that can be worshiped. I think as human beings, we’re here to serve each other and that’s the only way we can keep our sanity.”

“We hear of Fortune 100 CEOs killing themselves, and we’re like, ‘I can’t believe with everything they had, they would kill themselves,’ but we’re not surprised. But if I was to tell you, hey, there was a lifetime volunteer at a soup kitchen who killed themselves, you’d be like, ‘That makes no sense to me. I’ve never heard of anything like that.’ And it’s because people who serve, don’t go crazy. People who give back, don’t go crazy. And people who don’t, who just take and take and take, and are worshiped and are just receiving, they lose their mind because they don’t know where to give anything… With celebrity when you live far away by yourself and the whole world is just praising you all the time… the only way you survive is if you have an outlet to give.” Listen at the 42 minute mark [Audio]

The Mooch, Anthony Scaramucci, on The Axe Files: “I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. I know the difference between a sheigetz and a shiksa. Not a lot of Italians know that difference.” [AxeFiles]

MEDIA WATCH: “Observer names former Thrillist executive to top editor job” by Keith J. Kelly: “The Observer Media Group finally tapped a new editor-in-chief, naming former Thrillist Chief Creative Officer Ben Robinson to the post on Wednesday. The top slot has been vacant since Ken Kurson — a pal of then-publisher and Donald Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — jumped back to the p.r. side as a senior managing director of Teneo Strategy in May 2017… His brother-in-law, Joseph Meyer, is now the managing partner of Observer Capital and chairman of Observer Media.” [NYPost]

“Leaked Chat Transcripts: New York Times Employees Are Pissed About Bari Weiss” by Ashley Feinberg: “Criticism flew in from all points of the compass — including from within the Times itself, where staffers were unusually frank in expressing their anger at both Weiss and the newspaper, according to an internal chatroom transcript obtained by HuffPost. People were outraged not only at the tweet ― which referenced a line from a song from “Hamilton” ― but also at Weiss’ refusal to acknowledge that perhaps she had been insensitive in placing an American citizen in the category of other… Many employees of The New York Times were not able to engage in this lively Twitter conversation thanks to the publication’s oppressive social media guidelines that seem only to apply to its reporters — not its opinion writers… So some employees took to Slack… to discuss the incident in a chatroom visible to the rest of the company.” [HuffPost]

“Who Is Weev, and Why Did He Derail a Journalist’s Career?” by Rachel Gutman: “In the span of about six hours… The New York Times announced the hiring of Quinn Norton as a tech columnist and then apparently fired her. The Times claims that their decision to “go their separate ways” was guided by “new information,” revealed… about her friendship with someone called weev… weev’s given name is Andrew Auernheimer. As Luke O’Brien reported for The Atlantic in December, Auernheimer is a white supremacist, Nazi, and internet troll who’s the webmaster for The Daily Stormer… In a podcast hosted by Christopher Cantwell in December, Auernheimer blamed Jewish people for the loss of a dot-com home for The Daily Stormer. He said, “If you don’t let us dissent peacefully, then our only option is to murder you. To kill your children. To kill your whole families.”” [TheAtlantic]

PROFILE: “This Prolific Nerd Is Shaping the Future of Wikipedia” by Daniel Malloy: “The Francisco article launched Steven Pruitt on a journey to become by far the most prolific English language Wikipedian — as the site’s editors are known — with more than 2.2 million edits pixeled into history (the next closest has completed a mere 1.8 million edits)… Time magazine recently named Pruitt one of the 25 most influential people on the internet, but unlike his fellow influencers Kim Kardashian and Chance the Rapper, Pruitt tells OZY he embraces a “stereotypical internet nerd” existence. The single 33-year-old lives with his parents, to help them as they age and to save money in the pricey Washington area.”

“With the thoroughness of a lengthy Wiki entry, Pruitt explains the global historical forces that shaped his personal narrative: A Leonid Brezhnev–era weakening of emigration restrictions for Jews allowed Pruitt’s mother to leave the Soviet Union, ostensibly for Israel, but she rerouted to the United States. Pruitt’s father was a college professor in Virginia and later a Russian linguist for the Navy. They immersed their only child’s ears in opera, his mind in literature and his eyes in art.” [Ozy]

HOLLYWOOD: “Marvel’s last four films have featured female leads of color. Here’s how the shift occurred” by Michael Cavna: “In May 2015, as IndieWire reported, an email by Ike Perlmutter that was sent the previous summer came under much scrutiny. According to the leaked email, Perlmutter… said in 2014 that superheroines weren’t profitable. Writing to Sony chief executive Michael Lynton, Perlmutter cited three female-led superhero movies — “Electra,” “Catwoman” and “Supergirl” — that he viewed as disasters or, at the least, “very, very bad.” Perlmutter’s email, once leaked, was widely interpreted as his argument against female-led movies, despite myriad other factors at play here — even as the email neglected to mention smash action franchises such as the Hunger Games trilogy or the Alien saga, which were led by female heroes. What that leaked email widely did, in fan perception, was paint Perlmutter as the chief obstructionist as Marvel took years to put “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” in motion.” [WashPost]

“What It’s Like Taking Photos of the Ultra Wealthy from Inside a Helicopter” by Tiffy Thompson: “Jeff Cully has a unique window into an exclusive world of obscene wealth, marauding development, and breathtaking beauty. He’s been hanging out of helicopters as an aerial photographer for nearly three decades. Now, shooting primarily over the Hamptons, Cully enjoys the view while he gets paid to capture the sprawling summer playgrounds of billionaires and celebrities… What are some memorable residences you’ve photographed? Ira Rennert’s Fair Field Estate in Sagaponack, NY. This place is nuts. It was America’s biggest residential compound—it’s sprawling and ridiculous. Multiple pools, gardens that go on and on, multiple tennis courts side-by-side. It’s completely over-the-top. Though his gardens create some really cool patterns so it photographs beautifully.” [Vice

“Why I went from Catholic schoolgirl to Hasidic Jewish wife” by Doree Lewak: “I would drive through Williamsburg and I remember thinking, ‘What language is that?’ I thought they were Amish,” says [Yehudit] Chervony, 34… Reading “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Judaism,” she realized that she was interested in the strictest form of the religion…  At age 25, she became an Orthodox Jew. “I went from the call-me-to-find-a-party girl to the Shabbos girl,” she says, referring to the Jewish day of rest that commences on Fridays at sundown…” [NYPost

DESSERT — “Temple Israel makes more sandwiches” by Dean Poling: “Temple Israel hopes to feed more than 10 percent of the Valdosta population with the annual Kosher Corned Beef Sandwich fundraiser. The area Hebrew congregation has set a goal of making and selling more than 6,000 sandwiches the second weekend of March, said Harriet Messcher, a member of Temple Israel… For a $12 ticket, a purchaser receives a third-pound of Hebrew National corned beef sandwich, chips, dill pickle, drink, a dessert, and condiments.” [ValdostaDailyTimes• Tallahassee Jewish Food Fest taking orders for that pastrami on rye [Tallahassee]

BIRTHDAYS: Burson-Marsteller’s founding Chairman, Harold Bursonturns 97… Professor emeritus of American Jewish history at Columbia University, Arthur A. Goren (born Aryeh Gorenstein) turns 92… British actress, Claire Bloom, whose paternal grandfather shortened his name from Blumenthal, turns 87… Chair of Jewish Studies at Arizona State University, a scholar of Jewish philosophy, Norbert M. Samuelson turns 82… Professor of cognitive science at both the University of Michigan and Indiana University, Pulitzer Prize winner, Douglas Hofstadter turns 73… Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives (1991-2017), Elliott Naishtat turns 73… Cartoonist, editor, teacher at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and long-time contributing artist for The New Yorker, Art Spiegelman (born Itzhak Avraham ben Zeev) turns 70… Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, television, film and stage actress, Melissa Manchester turns 67…

Host of the radio program “Jewish Moments in the Morning” since 1983, president of the Nachum Segal Radio Network, Nachum Segal turns 55… Washington director for the New Israel Fund, Karen Paul-Stern turns 55… Managing director of external affairs and development based in the DC office of CARE, the global poverty fighting organization, Elizabeth Ives (“Beth”) Solomon turns 52 (h/t Politico)… Founder of “Talking Points Memo,” he earned a Ph.D. in American history from Brown University, Josh Marshall turns 49… Director of business development at Treetop Development, Eric Distenfeld turns 38… Deputy executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Alex Siegel turns 32… Yogi Sanders

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