Daily Kickoff: Jewish groups supportive of Ilhan Omar’s rule change | Trump peace team to hold ‘crucial meeting’ | Schumer’s green kippah

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TOP TALKER — A New York Times story entitled “Are Jared and Ivanka good for the Jews” drew strong reaction on social media over the weekend. In the article, authors Amy Chozik and Hannah Seligson note that the administration use of Kushner and Ivanka’s religion to push back against accusations that Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened anti-Semites, following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, “has unnerved many Jews who oppose the president.”

The article quoted Eric Reimer, a lawyer in New York who was on Kushner’s trivia team at The Frisch School, as saying, “We, as Jews, are forced to grapple with the fact that Jared and his wife are Jewish, but Jared is participating in acts of Chillul Hashem.” Rabbi Ethan Tucker of the Hadar yeshiva in New York further suggested that the couple would be snubbed when they eventually return to the city. “They certainly won’t be banned, but I don’t think most synagogues would give them an aliyah,” Tucker said.

John Podhoretz tweeted“This isn’t about how Jews hate Jared Kushner. It’s about how liberals hate Jared Kushner.”

Joe Kristol‏: “I understand why my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generation often asked, non-ironically, “is it good for the Jews?” Maybe it’s time to retire this formulation—along with “Renegade Jew” while we’re at it.”

Norm Eisen emails us… “The question was if they were good for our people, not if they are bad for us. There is a difference. They have not been good for us because they have not advanced Jewish or democratic values, and indeed have facilitated gross corruption, illegality and general racial animus. That includes being a part of an operation that advances anti-Semitism, such as the closing campaign ad targeting Jews using stereotypes and dog-whistles, or the ‘good people on both sides’ scandal.  They have also furthered the weaponizing of Israel as a partisan issue and pushed a series of strategic initiatives that in my opinion will leave Israel weaker in the long-term. So there has been no particular Jewish benefit. That is, however, different from saying they have been bad for the Jewish people in particular. They have been bad for everyone.”

Howard Wolfson‏: “Jews voted Democrat 79-17 in the midterms. The rest is just commentary.”

— RJC’s Matt Brooks replied“It’s a stupid and meaningless statistic with no predictive or analytical value. Tell me how the Jews voted in Scott/Nelson, DeSantis/Gilliam or Fitzpatrick/Wallace. That would be interesting and meaningful.”

Haim Saban tells the NYT from his hotel in Israel: “Jared and by extension the president understand the importance of the relationship between the U.S. and Israel on multiple levels — security, intelligence, but most of all, shared values.”

— “In September, Mr. Kushner and his top advisers, Jason D. Greenblatt and Avi Berkowitz, hosted a private dinner at the Pierre Hotel on the Upper East Side. Over a kosher meal, Mr. Kushner… fielded the advice of a range of Jewish leaders, including hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor Paul Singer and Mr. Saban, to craft his Middle East peace plan. “He called and said ‘I’ll bring 10 Republicans and you bring 10 Democrats,’” Mr. Saban said.”[NYTimes]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant at the Jerusalem Leaders Summit held at the Knesset: “[Trump] is all about our relationship with Israel. Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, is a very dear friend of mine, as is Ivanka. I talked to him not long ago when the tragedy occurred in Pittsburgh, the tragic attack there on a synagogue. He said, ‘Phil, I wish people would realize,’ and I think some of them do, that his grandchildren are Jewish. His son-in-law is Jewish. His daughter is Jewish… He understands how important this relationship is.” [Video]

Sam Sokol tweets on Sunday: “So I quit my synagogue over the pervasive anti-press attitude that many of my fellow congregants hold. Didn’t make a fuss. Didn’t announce anything. Just went to a different synagogue yesterday and don’t plan on going back to the old one.”

DRIVING THE CONVO — Jewish groups support Ilhan Omar’s rule change push: A new rule change proposed by Democrats would roll back a 181-year-old ban on hats in the House of Representatives and allow religious headwear like yarmulkes and hijabs to be worn by lawmakers. The proposal is backed by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jim McGovern (MA) and member-elect Ilhan Omar (MN), one of the two first Muslim women to serve in Congress. Several Jewish groups are supportive of the rule change.

Worth Noting — Omar received some criticism in the pro-Israel community when she announced last week that she “believes in and supports the BDS movement.” On the rule change issue, however, Omar has found support from prominent Jewish leaders.

Nathan Diament, Executive Director for the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, tells us… “The OU has long supported laws and policies that foster the accommodation of religious practices in the workplace. Religious practices – such as wearing religious garb, whether a kippah or a hijab, should be accommodated in all workplaces – including Congress.”

Avi Shafran, Director of Public Affairs at Agudath Israel of America… “While we haven’t seen the wording of the proposal, the Agudah has long been in the forefront of advocating for religious rights in the workplace and public spaces – both of which characterize the Congressional chambers. And so, just as we would want a Jewish Congressman to be able to wear a yarmulke in chamber, we would want a Muslim or Sikh representative to be able to hew to his or her religious convictions. That said, relaxing the rules on hats in general, where religious rights aren’t at issue, is not something we have any position on.”

Jewish Insider asked the RAC and Rabbinical Assembly for comment but they did not respond prior to press time.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Israel avoids early elections as coalition is kept intact — by Tia Goldenberg: “Israel avoided early elections after… Naftali Bennett said his hard-line, pro-settler Jewish Home party would give Netanyahu another chance to address the security challenges facing Israel… “I tell the prime minister here: we are withdrawing right now all of our political demands and will stand to help you in this great mission of getting Israel to win again,” he said… While the move put off early elections for now, it keeps the governing coalition on shaky ground with only a slim 61-seat majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament.” [APWashPost]

“On Monday morning, Netanyahu called it “irresponsible” to topple the government at this “sensitive security time.” Attending the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for the first time as Defense Minister, Netanyahu said, “Whether our partners decide to topple the government or not, we will continue to take action to ensure the security of our state and of our people. We will do so sensibly, responsibly and with determination.”[CNN• Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s political stalwart, survives another day[TheNational]

Why did Bibi seek to avoid early elections? Dan Arbell, a 25 year veteran of the Israeli Foreign Service and a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, tells us… “Netanyahu would like to set the playing field, as convenient as possible for him, and right now, the last few weeks have not been so good to him. Naturally, he feels this is not a good time to announce the elections. I feel he’s trying to buy time and hold the elections at a date which is likely more favorable to him when the memory of the recent crisis with Hamas is a distant memory. I think it’s politics and not security that is driving his consideration.”

Noah Efron, a professor at Bar-Ilan University,  emails us… “Netanyahu believes that if elections are held now, they will become a referendum on his government’s handling of Gaza, a poor starting point for an election campaign. But it goes deeper than that. Netanyahu has worked hard to draw back to the Likud votes that had, over the past decades, devolved to Bennett and Lieberman. An election called after Lieberman and Bennett resigned over putative government’s ‘weakness’ over Gaza would spur right-wing Likud voters to cast their ballots for the further right parties. This would deny Netanyahu the option of forming a government that includes Yesh Atid (and perhaps a new Benny Gantz party). It is a center-right government that Netanyahu seems to wish to lead because he thinks he can better rule with such a government… And, as perhaps a secondary matter, having a good portion of what is today the opposition in a government with him may prove useful once the first indictments come. Elections next fall, as opposed to this winter, will produce for Netanyahu a stronger Likud, a weaker niggling right, and increase the likelihood of a center-right government.”

David Horovitz writes… “How Netanyahu dwarfed his political rivals within: Netanyahu has for the umpteenth time given his would-be successors a political leadership masterclass, and apparently given his fractious, depleted coalition a little more breathing space… Some might wonder why he bothered. There is certainly an argument to be made that elections in spring might suit Netanyahu… It would presumably be easier for the state’s legal hierarchy to announce to the public that it is going to prosecute a prime minister who is facing new elections than one who has just been voted back into office. But since Netanyahu seems determined to stay on and fight even if he is indicted, that may not be a central consideration.” [ToI]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Trump, top advisers to meet about launch of Middle East peace plan — by Barak Ravid: “President Trump will hold a crucial meeting this week with his top national security and foreign policy advisers to discuss both the details of the White House’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and the timing for its release… U.S. officials said the current political crisis in Israel and the imminent announcement on early elections in the country will play a role in any decision Trump makes regarding the plan’s release… David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, flew to Washington this weekend to be there.” [Axios]

REPORT“Netanyahu is planning to reach out to the White House to try and push back the publication of the peace proposal until after elections.”

Aaron David Miller emails us… “Trump now faces a timing challenge with his peace plan. Putting it out during an election campaign is no longer the problem since elections isn’t in cards. But unless the plan is so pro-Netanyahu and poses no challenges for him on statehood or Jerusalem, offering it up in these charged political circumstances might cause the government to fall. And one thing is clear, Bibi isn’t interested in running a campaign defending Palestinian statehood.”

David Makovsky writes“Waiting until after early elections, U.S. officials may hope that the next Netanyahu government will incorporate centrist parties that are more receptive to President Trump’s ideas. The gaps between Netanyahu and Abbas make it unlikely that a U.S. peace plan could succeed anyway. Yet early elections could at least affect the Israeli political map at the margins. They also provide better timing for the Trump administration than the original schedule of November 2019, when the U.S. presidential campaign season would have made a peace push too difficult politically.”

Will Israeli defense minister’s exit impact Russia-Israel cooperation on Syria? — by Luiza Khlebnikova: “In Russia, some pro-Israeli experts who have advocated for a stronger response to Hamas attacks raised concerns over the departure of Lieberman. The concern is that Netanyahu’s backtracking on the operation in Gaza may send a wrong signal to Iran and Hezbollah over Israel’s resolve to tackle the security challenges they pose in the north of the country. This, the argument goes, may embolden Tehran and pro-Iranian militias, and thus create new risks for Russia’s own policies in Syria and its relationship with Israel.” [Al-Monitor• Benjamin Netanyahu battered by bungled Gaza raid [TheTimes]

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — John Bolton Energizes Trump’s Agenda—And His Own — by Dion Nissenbaum: “Mr. Bolton’s ability to shape Mr. Trump’s priorities and pursue his own causes have given rise to a new nickname among some critics: President Bolton… “If John ever behaved in a way that led people in the administration to refer to him as ‘President Bolton,’ his effectiveness would be destroyed,” said Elliott Abrams, a longtime Bolton friend and one time member of President George W. Bush’s National Security Council. “It’s critical that the president never think that, and no one understands that better than John.”[WSJ]

2020 WATCH — Beto O’Rourke blows up the 2020 Democratic primary — by David Siders: “Sparked by his narrow defeat in a Texas Senate race, Beto O’Rourke is scrambling the 2020 presidential primary field… “He’s game changing,” said Robert Wolf, an investment banker who helped raise Wall Street money for Obama in 2008 and 2012. “If he decides to run, he will be in the top five. You can’t deny the electricity and excitement around the guy… A lot of people have comparisons around him and a Robert Kennedy or a Barack Obama. And the [Democratic] Party likes young, ambitious and aspirational.” [Politico]

GOP money group prepares opposition research blitz against Mike Bloomberg if he runs for president in 2020 — by Brian Schwartz: “America Rising, a super PAC whose targets have included Hillary Clinton, is preparing an opposition-research blitz against Bloomberg… It’s a sign that Republican Party insiders are taking the prospect of a Bloomberg run seriously.” [CNBC]

Bloomberg donates record $1.8B to Johns Hopkins — by Cristina Alesci: “Michael Bloomberg… is donating $1.8 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins. The university and Bloomberg are calling it the biggest contribution to an academic institution in American history, according to a press release — and the gift’s record-setting size will not be lost on possible challengers in a [2020] Democratic primary…  The gift will fund financial aid for qualified low- and middle-income students, allowing the university to forever make admissions decisions on a “need-blind” basis — without considering an applicant’s ability to pay.” [CNNNYTimes]

How the biggest donors’ candidates performed in the midterms — by Melissa Klein: “Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were the top donors, contributing $113 million, according to a list compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, which was released Friday. The Adelsons were followed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who gave $61.3 million… shipping supplier Richard Uihlein and his wife Elizabeth, who kicked in $39 million; and financier Donald Sussman, who donated $22.8 million… Bloomberg… spent a total of $110 million, including $8 million on state races, according to his office.”

“In all, Bloomberg got a hefty rate of return with 21 of 23 House candidates he backed winning their races… Adelson also got a bang for his buck by kicking in $25 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, whose mission is to expand the Republican majority.” [NYPost

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: With Facebook at ‘War,’ Zuckerberg Adopts More Aggressive Style [WSJ• Marc Benioff defends Salesforce’s contract with Customs and Border Patrol [Recode• Trouble in the Congo: The Misadventures of Glencore [Bloomberg• Wharton’s Amir Yaron Confirmed as Bank of Israel Governor [Bloomberg

STARTUP NATION — Israeli Investment House Offers Crypto Funds for Institutions — by Gwen Ackerman: “Silver Castle Ltd., Israel’s first dedicated cryptocurrency investment firm for institutional and accredited investors, launched two funds this month and expects to have $50 million under management by the end of the year… “We spent close to a year building robust infrastructure for managing other people’s money at the level of institutional grade with very, very high security,” Chief Executive Officer Eli Mizroch said.” [Bloomberg]

Developer Reed Cordish buys into Baltimore sports management firm after leaving White House — by Meredith Cohn: “Reed Cordish, who left his family’s development firm for a year-long stint leading a White House effort on infrastructure and government innovation, plans to announce that he has invested in a five-year-old Baltimore-based sports management agency. PFS Agency represents players in the National Football League players and was founded by NFL agents Dan Saffron and Jon Herbst.”[BaltimoreSun]

Hollywood power crowd hosting fundraiser for wildfire relief — by Ian Mohr: “A power crowd of Malibu regulars — including… Rande Gerber… U2 manager Guy Oseary… producer Lawrence Bender and financier Vivi Nevo — are hosting a Woolsey Fire Fundraiser on Friday night.”[PageSix]

PROFILE — How to Talk to People, According to Terry Gross — by Jolie Kerr: “It’s fair to say Terry Gross knows some things about talking to people. The host and co-executive producer of NPR’s “Fresh Air” has interviewed thousands of personalities over the course of her four-decade career… Ms. Gross brings a combination of empathy and rigorous preparation to the job. “I read, watch or listen to as much of the person’s work as possible, so I have an understanding of what makes them, or their story, important,” she said… One thing she does not allow of her interview subjects, however, is input on the edit. “When the interview is over, you don’t have a chance to call back and say, ‘Well I like my answer to this, I don’t like my answer to that, can you edit that out,” she said.” [NYTimes]

Inside Christian Jerusalem’s New Makeover — by Neri Zilber: “The Terra Sancta Museum (Latin for “Holy Land”) is located near the start of the Via Dolorosa… Up the Via Dolorosa is the Convent of the Flagellation, inside of which the museum is located. Appropriately for the Old City, the convent sits just past a row of Palestinian carpet merchants, across the street from the exit to the Western Wall subterranean tunnels (a major Israeli/Jewish attraction), and around the corner from a Muslim-only entrance to the Haram al-Sharif compound.” [DailyBeast]

‘We were kidnapped by El Al’ say passengers on horror flight from New York — by Jeremy Sharon: “Passengers on the nightmare El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv on Thursday night have accused the airline of lying and of a “kidnap” after a five-hour delay in taking off meant that the plane could not reach Israel before Shabbat began. Despite El Al’s initial statement alleging that haredi fliers had been violent, numerous passengers stated subsequently that there had been no violence at all, with many blaming the late arrival of the cabin crew to the airport for the severe delay and failure to reach Israel on time.” [JPostDailyMail]

TALK OF THE TOWN —  Michigan rabbi leads caravan of faith to help immigrant kids in Texas — by Niraj Warikoo: “As someone rooted in Jewish tradition, [Rabbi Josh] Whinston of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor said his faith and the faith of other religions compels them to help the stranger.  So the 37-year-old rabbi launched an effort to lead a multi-faith caravan from Michigan and other states to drive to Tornillo, Texas, to help immigrants and refugees in shelters and the growing tent camp… The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting — which was carried out by a man who targeted Jews because he said they supported immigrants and refugees — added to the urgency of their mission. “That man murdered 11 of my brothers and sisters not only because they were Jews but because of the values we hold,” said Whinston.” [DetroitFreePress]

Flyers with KKK logo, hate speech found in Howard Co. — by Keara Dowd: “Howard County police are investigating after fliers containing hate speech and a Ku Klux Klan logo were found in Ellicott City, Maryland. Police collected around 40 fliers that appeared to be tossed along Main Street.”[WTOP]

Ex-NYPD police chief Raymond Kelly on how to fight surge in anti-Semitic crimes: “For the last 12 months we have been on a mission to assess the depth, manifestation and trajectory of anti-Semitism in key European countries as well as the physical security of the Jewish diaspora, personally commissioned by Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress… So what can be done? First, every Jewish institution needs to develop a comprehensive security plan, including active-shooter drills, functioning alarm systems and the use of CCTV cameras.  In Europe, virtually all of the Jewish institutions we visited had installed a “double door” system…” [NYPost• Spotted: Kelly at the World Jewish Congress awards gala on November 7th[Pic]

MAZEL TOV — Chuck Schumer’s daughter weds in Brooklyn — by Reuven Fenton and Aaron Feis: “Alison Schumer, the younger of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s two daughters, married Elizabeth Weiland on Sunday in Brooklyn, with the couple posing for wedding photos on a bridge over the toxic Gowanus Canal. Alison Schumer, 29, is a six-figure product-marketing manager at Facebook… Sen. Schumer showed up for his daughter’s big day wearing a green yarmulke.” [NYPost]

Via PlaybookJenna Sakwa and Jake Kastan got married on Saturday at Franklin Hills Country Club in Franklin, Michigan. Jake is [Paul] Ryan’s political director, and Jenna is director of media affairs. Dan Senor led the hora in his New York Jets kippah. [Pic]

BIRTHDAYS: Award winning television and radio host including the eponymous “Larry King Live” nightly show on CNN from 1985 to 2010, Larry King (born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger) turns 85… Retired New York State Supreme Court judge, whose tenure on the television program “The People’s Court” was far shorter than that of his wife “Judge Judy,” Jerry Sheindlinturns 85… Attorney, investment banker and major fundraiser for the Democratic party, he served as US Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2009-2013), Louis B. Susman turns 81… Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, Richard Zare turns 79… Fifteen term member as a Democrat in the US House of Representatives from New York (1983-2013), since 2018 he is a partner in NYC-based Gotham Government Relations, Gary Ackermanturns 76… Fashion designer Calvin Klein turns 76… Following a 27-year career as a Professor at Princeton, in 2004 she became President of the University of Pennsylvania, Amy Gutmann turns 69… Los Angeles based real estate investor, Sydney Cetner turns 69… Owner of Patty’s Piano Studio in Los Angeles, Patricia Fiden turns 65…

Member of the California State Senate since 2014, he was previously a member of the California State Assembly (1996-2002) and Speaker of the California State Assembly (2000-2002), Robert Myles “Bob” Hertzberg turns 64… University professor of Jewish history, literature and law at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel turns 63… Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director and lyricist, best known as the writer of “Being John Malkovich,” Charlie Kaufman turns 60… Angel investor, investment banker and President of Sunrise Financial Group, Nathan Low turns 58… Member of the Knesset (2003-2016) originally for the Likud party and then as head of the Kulanu party, he has served as Israel’s Minister of Finance since 2015, Moshe Kahlon turns 58… Vice President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and director of its Washington, DC office, Lisa Eisen turns 55… Author of over 30 books, television host and Chabad Rabbi in Oxford, England (1988-99), Rabbi Shmuley Boteach turns 52… Senior Director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Seth Cohen turns 45… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2005, Andrew D. Hevesiturns 45… New York Times best-selling novelist, she is also a professor at Rutgers University-Camden, Lauren Grodstein turns 43… Digital director and executive editor of Time Magazine, Samuel P. Jacobs turns 33…




Daily Kickoff: Haley’s Golan Heights vote | Magerman funded Freedom from Facebook group | Inside Nas Daily

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HEARD LAST NIGHT — NYTimes opinion editor Bari Weiss joined Tablet Magazine’s Yair Rosenberg and the Forward’s Batya Ungar-Sargon for a panel discussion on the generational divide regarding Israel. The event — co-hosted by the ADL and the Israel Policy Forum — was held at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center in NYC.

Weiss: “I think what’s unique about this current moment is less [a] generational [divide on Israel], and more the fact that American Jews and Israeli Jews, it seems to me, are in a kind of collision course where we are threatening each others’ most basic values. For American Jews, the fact that this government has aligned itself so strongly with the Trump administration presents a huge problem, because most American Jews — for whatever they might like about Nikki Haley at the UN, or scuttling the Iran deal, or moving the embassy to Jerusalem — American Jews are overwhelmingly opposed to Trump. So what does it mean when the nation-state of the Jews is aligned with him? From the Israeli perspective, you have an American Jewish community that, for example, overwhelmingly supported the Iran deal, something they see as an existential threat.”

Unger-Sargon on Trump citing support for Israel in response to questions about anti-Semitism: “In a way, where did he get that from? He got that from us. For 50 years, the Jewish American community has outsourced its identity to Israel. It has not focused on what it means to be a Jew… It has focused on Israel. What does it mean to be a Jew? It means to be uncritical of Israel and to give unconditional support to Israel. So, in a way, I don’t really blame Trump. He was saying the messaging that we have been telegraphing for 50 years.”

Rosenberg: “Very few Jews, historically, have thought that supporting Israel meant doing it unconditionally. It’s mostly people who criticize Israel who accuse Jews of doing that. Even the right-wing Jews — remember when we had the disengagement from Gaza and tons of American Jews on the right came out and said this was a terrible idea… The right-wing and the left-wing of the Jewish community in America — and also people in the middle — have been critical of Israel for quite some time.” You can watch the full discussion here [Video]

DRIVING THE DAY — U.S. Plans to Change Vote to ‘No’ on UN’s Golan Heights Measure — by David Wainer: “The U.S. plans for the first time to vote against a United Nations resolution that calls on Israel to end its occupation of the Golan Heights… Though the [annual] resolution is non-binding and will likely pass, the U.S. has previously abstained from voting against it. In a statement Thursday, Ambassador Nikki Haley cited the resolution’s “anti-Israel bias” — a key focus of her tenure at the UN — as one reason to oppose it. Another, she said, was the ongoing conflict in Syria.” [Bloomberg]

Deputy Minister Michael Oren tweets“For the first time, U.S. to oppose UN resolution condemning Israeli “occupation” of the Golan Heights. Even now, near the end of her term, Ambassador Nikki Haley continues to show the world the meaning of courage and moral clarity. And the people of Israel will always be grateful.”

HAPPENING TODAY AT 1PM — President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Freedom to Dr. Miriam Adelson, among others, in the East Room of the White House. [CSPAN]

Miriam Adelson said she is “deeply humbled and moved by this exceptional honor,” in a statement released by the Las Vegas Sands Corp. yesterday. “Liberty is at the heart of my decades of work against substance abuse. Drug dependency is enslavement, for the user and his or her family and society, and treatment an emancipation. Together, my husband Sheldon and I have dedicated our lives to freedom: to a free market that benefits the greater good and to philanthropic endeavors that succor those suffering from poverty and disease.”

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Trump Peace Plan on Course Despite Israeli Election Talk, Official Says — by Amir Tibon: “President Trump said in New York in September that we would be releasing the plan in two to four months. That remains our timeframe,” [a White House] official stated. The same official added that they would avoid any “speculation” about how a possible election in Israel could impact the plan’s rollout efforts. In recent weeks, the team inside the White House working on the plan… has hired more staff members in anticipation of the plan’s release.” [Haaretz

Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt published another series of op-eds in English, Hebrew and Arabic yesterday — “Now is the time to work on peace and prosperity in the Middle East: Following the old rules — the Khartoum “Three No’s” and the Palestinian Authority’s and PLO’s anti-normalization policies — hurts everyone. Such old-fashioned policies are now proven to not be helpful, are almost certainly harmful to all and drive peace between Israelis and Palestinians further away. It is time for a change, and it is heartening to see some Arab leaders exercising the boldness needed to achieve it.” [TheHill

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) in an interview with Arutz 7“In order to make peace, we need two sides, and it is clear to all of us that the Palestinian side is not interested in peace and does not want peace. The American plan has not yet been laid on the table, and Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has already said openly and publicly that he intends to reject any American plan that will be presented. So it is quite clear that an American plan, if presented at this time, will end up in the drawer.”

TALK OF THE REGION — With Small Steps, Palestinians and Israelis Try to Tackle Gaza’s Ills — by David Halbfinger: “Deep in the Negev Desert, a group of Israeli and Palestinian civilians… [are hammering] out creative ways to bring solar power, sewage treatment and clean water to the impoverished Gaza Strip. Dennis Ross, the veteran United States negotiator who is advising the Arava partners, said they were benefiting from his own self-critique after repeated failures at peacemaking. His strategy had always been to try to reach a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian agreement on all issues, he said. But energy and water problems, which cross borders, need to be solved more immediately. “One of the lessons I learned was that we never focused enough on the ground up,” Mr. Ross said. “Any approach to peace that’s trying to create a horizon has no credibility if the day-to-day realities continue to deteriorate.” [NYTimes

The Ceasefire in Gaza: A Turning Point for Hamas and Netanyahu — by Bernard Avishai: “Netanyahu seems to be pivoting toward the army strategists who believe that the status quo in Gaza entails too high a price… Ordinarily, associating oneself with the Army’s position would do no harm to any Israeli politician. But Netanyahu has, in a way, made himself hostage to “strategic events” partly under Hamas’s control. And he’ll have difficulty, in any case, re-ingratiating himself with the defense establishment… In a way, Sinwar, the Hamas leader, is in a corresponding dilemma, raising expectations that improvement is at hand, making himself a hostage to a process that requires reciprocity from the other side while refusing to concede its moral legitimacy.” [NewYorker] • Netanyahu Is No Longer Hawkish Enough for His Own Government [NYMag]

UN Palestinian refugee agency says it’s overcoming Trump funding cuts: “UNRWA had… faced a gap of $446 million when the Trump administration announced it was cutting support. UNRWA responded to its “unprecedented” financial pressures by seeking support across UN member-states and raised an additional $382 million, bringing the shortfall for the year down to just $64 million, [agency chief Pierre] Kraehenbuehl told reporters in Geneva.” [ToI]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Israel Headed to Elections After Failed Netanyahu-Bennett Meeting — by Jonathan Lis: “At the end of a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett it was decided to hold elections as soon as possible, sources close to Bennett said. The coalition heads will agree on a date to hold elections coming Sunday.” [HaaretzTheGuardian]

JI INTERVIEW — Israel’s Opposition Leader will not challenge Netanyahu in the upcoming elections — by Jacob Kornbluh: In an interview with Jewish Insider while in New York for a keynote speech at the Israel Policy Forum’s annual event last month, Knesset Member Tzipi Livni expressed her hope that Israel will be ready for change if it is presented with a clear alternative to Netanyahu in the upcoming elections. “We will win by putting our vision on the table, by explaining to Israelis that the current government will take us to the moment of no return,” she asserted. “I read polls. I know the situation is not easy, but I’m in politics for a reason. I believe in a vision. It’s 50/50. We need to work hard, but in the end I think that even now Netanyahu understands that he might lose the next election if some of the small parties on the right don’t cross the threshold.”

“I see myself as helping change the path that Israel has taken in the past years,” Livni said, when asked if she still has aspirations of one day becoming Israel’s leader. “The goal is to have a better prime minister and help him take Israel in the right direction. It’s not personal. And me being in any position that I could do so, this is what I will do.”

In the interview, Livni — who served under Netanyahu as Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians in 2013-2015 — said she’s worried that Trump’s anticipated Middle East peace plan would deal a final blow to the future of peace if it’s rejected by the Palestinians. “I’m not sure that we cannot afford another failure,” she said, pointing to previous unsuccessful attempts at Camp David and Annapolis to craft a peace treaty. “I am worried that this would lead us to more frustration, violence, and complete lack of hope.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]

TRANSITIONS — Jewish state appoints Christian envoy to Muslim country — by Herb Keinon: “The Foreign Ministry announced the appointment of George Deek as Israel’s next Ambassador to Azerbaijan on Thursday, making him Israel’s first ever Christian Arab ambassador.” [JPost]

Mary Kissel, a former Wall Street Journal editorial board member, has joined the State Department as a senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for policy and strategic messaging, State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced yesterday.

TRUMP DIPLOMACY — To ease Turkish pressure on Saudis over killing, White House weighs expelling Erdogan foe — By Carol Lee, Julia Ainsley and Courtney Kube: “The secret effort to resolve one of the leading tensions in U.S.-Turkey relations — [Fethullah] Gulen’s residency in the U.S. — provides a window into how President Donald Trump is trying to navigate hostility between two key allies after Saudi officials murdered [Jamal] Khashoggi on Oct. 2 at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. It suggests the White House could be looking for ways to contain Erdogan’s ire over the murder while preserving Trump’s close alliance with Saudi Arabia’s controversial de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman… Erdogan has for years demanded the U.S. send Gulen back to Turkey.” [NBCNews]

Daniel Dale fact checks President Trump’s recent comments on the trail on the cost of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal: At a campaign rally in Ohio on November 5th, Trump claimed to have saved over $1 billion in building the Jerusalem embassy. According to ABC News, however, “The renovations required by the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem will cost far more than $500,000… Documents filed with the official database of federal spending show that the State Department awarded the Maryland-based company Desbuild Limak D&K a contract for $21.2 million to design and build an ‘addition and compound security upgrades’ at the embassy.”

Trump also took credit for deflating Iran’s regional ambitions with his administration’s tough policies. “It’s a big difference since I’ve been in office. When I came to office, if you go a day before, it looked like Iran was going to take over the Middle East,” he said on November 4th. But according to Hussein Banai, a professor who studies Iran at the international studies school at Indiana University, “The claim that Iran was on the verge of taking over the Middle East prior to Trump taking office is utterly false. In fact, quite the opposite was the case, as the Sunni-majority Arab states in the region… had already begun to curb Iran’s influence in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.” [TorontoStar]

HEARD ON CABLE — Harry Enten, CNN senior political writer and analyst, on the delayed Democratic ‘blue wave’: “Right now, we’re already up to a net gain of 33 seats for the Democrats in the House. That’s the largest net gain for them since the Watergate… And the other thing we should point out is, the seats keep on coming… It feels more like Hanukkah than Christmas. It’s spread out over time.”

STATE-SIDE — Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signs order to support Israel against BDS movement: “Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has signed an executive order to ban the award of state contracts to companies that participate in boycott, divestment and sanction practices against Israel. Bevin signed the order during a ceremony at the Kentucky Capitol with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and Consul General of Israel to the Southeast United States Judith Varnai Shorer… Bevin called the movement anti-Semitic and “repugnant.” He referenced passages from the book of Ezekiel in the Bible about being a watchman, saying Kentucky was watching and sounding the alarm.” [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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Goldman’s CEO David Solomon Says He’s ‘Personally Outraged’ by 1MDB Scandal [Bloomberg• Brookfield turns to Apollo Global for financing on 666 Fifth Avenue [TheRealDeal• Russia’s Yandex to launch ride-hailing service in Israel [Reuters• Russell Galbut may finally get his South Beach tower [TheRealDeal• Dalian Wanda agrees to sell glitzy development site next to Beverly Hilton for more than $420 million [WSJ]

TOP TALKER — The millionaire funding the campaign to break up Facebook — by David McCabe: “A Pennsylvania philanthropist and former hedge fund executive named David Magerman was the initial donor behind a high-profile campaign urging regulators to break up Facebook, he confirmed to Axios for the first time on Thursday. Magerman has given more than $400,000 to the campaign — “Freedom from Facebook” — because he believes Facebook has too much power over how the world communicates… A Republican consulting firm — Definers Public Affairs — working for Facebook tried to link the Freedom from Facebook campaign with George Soros, whose Open Society Foundations help fund the Open Markets Institute, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.” [Axios]

— Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg are facing intense scrutiny following the New York Times exposé. Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would cut ties with Definers, claiming he and Sandberg hadn’t known about Facebook’s relationship with the firm. A senior Soros aide has called for an investigation into Facebook’s lobbying and PR work. Michael Vachon, an adviser to the chair at Soros Fund Management, wrote in a letter to friends and colleagues that it was “alarming that Facebook would engage in these unsavory tactics, apparently in response to George’s public criticism in Davos earlier this year of the company’s handling of hate speech and propaganda on its platform.”

Sandberg writes in a Facebook post“I did not know we hired them or about the work they were doing, but I should have. I have great respect for George Soros — and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against him are abhorrent.”

PROFILE — Nas Daily’s Next Adventure — Building a Viral Video Empire: “Three years ago, Nuseir Yassin decided to quit his high-paying tech job at PayPal to travel the world and create one-minute videos for 1,000 days. Nearing the end of the self-set challenge, the Israeli-born Arab Harvard graduate is now known as Nas Daily, his popular video persona. He sports over 10 million followers and his videos have garnered around 2.5 billion views. On day 1,001 he plans to start working on Nas Daily Co., a new video content agency to be based out of San Francisco. Yassin’s videos put a spotlight on local trends and persons of interest, documenting stories from around 70 countries… Some of the videos deal with his views on identity politics. He identifies with neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian flag. In and out of the videos, he wears a T-shirt showing a battery bar representing a rough estimate of his expected lifespan vs. years lived.” [Calcalist]

When Lucy Met Tzachi — by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “The Israeli celebrities Lucy Aharish and Tzachi Halevy kept their wedding a secret… But it wasn’t just a matter of keeping the paparazzi away. Aharish, a popular television anchor, is Muslim. Halevy, an actor on the mega-hit Netflix series Fauda, is Jewish… Their [wedding] last month came at a particularly fraught moment for co-existence between the two sides, just months after Israel enacted a controversial law which seemed to enshrine the idea that Arab citizens could not be equal to Jews…  Such romances, particularly between high-profile couples like Halevy and Aharish, take on a Romeo and Juliet quality because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” [ForeignPolicy]

ACROSS THE OCEAN — Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg attacks Malaysian PM Mahathir for ‘anti-Semitic’ comments — Paul Karp: “Australia’s treasurer has hit back at Mahathir Mohamad’s warning that Australia moving its embassy in Israel could encourage terrorism by citing a history of anti-Semitic remarks by the Malaysian prime minister. The deputy Liberal leader, Josh Frydenberg, accused Mahatir of making “derogatory comments” about Jews in the past, including calling them “hook-nosed,” questioning the number of people killed in the Holocaust and banning the classic Holocaust film Schindler’s List. Frydenberg made the comments at a press conference… as he maintained the pressure on the prime minister, Scott Morrison, to make a decision on the embassy.” [TheGuardian]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Man shouts ‘Heil Hitler, Heil Trump,’ does Nazi salute during Baltimore performance of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ — by Christina Tkacik, Sarah Meehan and Lillian Reed: “Audience member Rich Scherr said the outburst, during intermission at the Hippodrome Theatre on Wednesday, prompted fears that it was the beginning of a shooting. The man, who had been seated in the balcony, began shouting “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump.” Immediately after that, “People started running,” Scherr said. “I’ll be honest, I was waiting to hear a gunshot. I thought, ‘Here we go.’” … The outburst occurred immediately following a scene that depicts a wedding interrupted by a pogrom — an attack on Jewish people which can range from destruction of homes or property to outright massacre…  “As reprehensible as those words are, they are considered protected free speech because nobody was directly threatened,” police spokesman Matt Jablow said in an email.” [BaltimoreSun]

Neo-Nazis Have No First Amendment Right to Harassment, Judge Rules — by Karen Zraick: “A lawsuit accusing the publisher of the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer of coordinating a “terror campaign” of online harassment against a Jewish real estate agent cannot be dismissed on First Amendment grounds, a federal judge in Montana ruled this week. In his ruling denying a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Dana L. Christensen… wrote that the real estate agent, Tanya Gersh, was a private citizen, not a public figure, and that the publisher, Andrew Anglin, incited his followers to harass her as part of a personal campaign.” [NYTimes]

REMEMBERING — H. Peter Stern, 90, Co-Founder of Storm King Art Center, Dies — by Richard Sandomir: “H. Peter Stern, who co-founded the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, N.Y., and developed it into a prestigious outdoor sculpture museum with modern and contemporary works arrayed over a vast pastoral landscape, died on Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 90… Harold Peter Stern was born on June 12, 1928, in Hamburg, Germany, and moved with his family to Bucharest, Romania, when he was an infant… In 1939, Otto Stern was warned by a German officer of the perils his family would face — the Sterns were Jewish — if they stayed in Romania, which was turning increasingly anti-Semitic and leaning politically toward Hitler. Peter, his mother and his sister, Ellen, fled to Geneva, where they stayed for about a year, before boarding a ship in Genoa, Italy, for the United States.” [NYTimes]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Retired Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada (2003-2013), Morris Fish turns 80… Roxanne White turns 70… Milwaukee-based founder and CEO of direct marketer, A.B. Data, Ltd., he is chair of the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, Bruce A. Arbit turns 64… Professional golfer who has played on the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour starting in 1982, he won two gold medals at the 1981 Maccabiah Games, Corey Pavin turns 59… Susan Brooks turns 55… Television and film writer and producer, he was an executive producer of Fox’s “Fringe” (100 episodes 2008-2013) and co-writer of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014), Jeff Pinknerturns 54…

Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition since 1990, Matt Brooks turns 53… Ordained at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, now Dean of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, Rabbi Justus Baird turns 46… Stage, film and television actress, she is the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaal turns 41… After 15 seasons in the NBA, he became an owner and player for Hapoel Jerusalem and led the team to the Israeli League championship in 2017, Amar’e Stoudemire turns 36… Managing director of strategic initiatives at TIAA, he was previously a special assistant to President Obama for energy and economic policy, Michael A. Levi

SATURDAY: Biochemist who was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Stanley Cohen turns 96… Rabbi of Agudath Israel of Baltimore since 1981, he is also the Rabbinic Administrator of the Star K Kosher Supervision service, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann turns 81… Original creator and producer of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels (born Lorne Lipowitz) turns 74… Detroit philanthropist and director of the William Davidson Foundation, Karen Davidson… Global editorial director of the Huffington Post Media Group, his bar mitzvah was at Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh, Howard Fineman turns 70… Retired CEO of Feeding America (2015- 2018), a nationwide network of 200 food banks, South African born Diana Aviv turns 67… Daniel Gastaldi turns 61… Nonfiction author, lecturer and journalist, Gary M. Pomerantz turns 58…

Attorney and business executive who once played on the South African national teams in both cricket and field hockey, Mandy Yachad turns 58… National Security Advisor to President Obama (2013-2017) after an earlier posting as President Obama’s Ambassador to the UN (2009-2013), Susan Rice turns 54… “The Travelling Rabbi” of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies who serves 13 sub-Saharan countries, Moshe Silberhaft turns 51… Former Microsoft executive, a leading “bundler” for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, she served as US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein (2014-2017), Suzan Gail Davidson (Suzi) LeVine turns 49… Managing editor and Washington bureau chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites, David Kurtz turns 49…

Editorial producer and guest booker for CNN’s Van Jones Show and the Axe Files, Michele Tasoff turns 49… EVP at JDA Frontline, a DC-based public affairs firm (soon to be acquired / merged into Blue Engine Message & Media), Ralph Posner turns 48… President of NBC News, Noah Oppenheim turns 40… Executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, she has been an advisor to Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ted Kaufman (D-DE) and Chris Coons (D-DE), Halie Soifer turns 40… Partner at AKPD Message and Media, he was the was the deputy director of paid media and message on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, Isaac Baker turns 39… Tel Aviv-based reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Felicia Schwartz turns 27… Zack Teichman

SUNDAY: Israeli theoretical physicist, who at age 27 became a professor and then later President of the Weizmann Institute, Haim Harari turns 78… Richard Gorman turns 78… Lecturer at Boston University School of Law, formerly SVP and General Counsel of Fidelity Management & Research Company, Eric D. Roiter turns 70… Israeli cantor and actor, known for his Broadway performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, David “Dudu” Fisher turns 67… Author and singer-songwriter who writes children’s music, books, poems and stories, he is also the author of a popular Passover Haggadah, Barry Louis Polisar turns 64… Former mayor of Dallas, Texas (2002-2007), Laura Miller turns 60…

Moroccan-born, member of the Knesset since 2003 for the Shas party. he served as the Minister of Religious Services (2009-2013), Yaakov Margi turns 58… NYC-based writer, activist and performer, Shira Dicker turns 58… Congressional correspondent for The New York Times, in her two decades plus at the NYT she has covered the White House, science and politics, Sheryl Gay Stolberg turns 57… Retired Baltimore attorney who devotes her time to philanthropic and pro-Israel activities, Laurie Luskin turns 55… Associate development director for the Orthodox Union and the Teach Advocacy Network, Talia Fadis turns 31… Roberta Goldstein




Daily Kickoff: Trump’s peace plan rollout in jeopardy amid Israeli coalition crisis

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DEEP DIVE — How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis — by Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg and Jack Nicas: “In July, organizers with a coalition called Freedom from Facebook crashed a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, where a company executive was testifying about its policies. As the executive spoke, the organizers held aloft signs depicting [Sheryl] Sandberg and [Mark] Zuckerberg, who are both Jewish, as two heads of an octopus stretching around the globe… A Facebook official quickly called the Anti-Defamation League… to flag the sign… That afternoon, the A.D.L. issued a warning from its Twitter account… The criticism was soon echoed in conservative outlets including The Washington Free Beacon, which has sought to tie Freedom from Facebook to what the publication calls “extreme anti-Israel groups.”

“A research document circulated by Definers to reporters this summer, just a month after the House hearing, cast George Soros as the unacknowledged force behind what appeared to be a broad anti-Facebook movement… Definers pressed reporters to explore the financial connections between Mr. Soros’s family… and groups that were members of Freedom from Facebook, such as Color of Change, an online racial justice organization, as well as a progressive group founded by Mr. Soros’s son. (An official at Mr. Soros’s Open Society Foundations said the philanthropy had supported both member groups, but not Freedom from Facebook, and had made no grants to support campaigns against Facebook.)”

“In at least one instance, the company also relied on Senator Chuck Schumer He has long worked to advance Silicon Valley’s interests on issues such as commercial drone regulations and patent reform… In July, as Facebook’s troubles threatened to cost the company billions of dollars in market value, Mr. Schumer confronted [Sen. Mark] Warner, by then Facebook’s most insistent inquisitor in Congress. Back off, he told Mr. Warner… Mr. Warner should be looking for ways to work with Facebook, Mr. Schumer advised, not harm it.” [NYTimes] • Sheryl Sandberg repeatedly tried to downplay Russia’s involvement in misinformation on Facebook, report says[BusinessInsider]

Who does Facebook fire after a bombshell New York Times investigation? — by Kurt Wagner: “The truth… is that the issues outlined in this story came from the top. Whether it was poor decision-making, or an absence of decision-making, Facebook’s problems ultimately trace back to just two people: Zuckerberg and Sandberg.” [Recode

DRIVING THE DAY — Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman submitted his resignation today in protest to a cease-fire reached with Hamas in Gaza. Lieberman dispatched a one-sentence letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, informing him of his decision to step down. The move weakens Netanyahu’s hold on power and could force him to call for early elections at a not-so-convenient time. A poll released yesterday showed 74 percent of Israelis are dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s performance in the most recent confrontation with Hamas.

Netanyahu’s key coalition partner and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told Netanyahu today that for the sake of the economy, a date for early elections should be set as soon as possible. Shas leader Aryeh Deri also supported that stance in his meeting with Netanyahu.

HOW IT’S BEING PLAYED — Trump’s Middle East Plan Dealt Another Blow With Israel Turmoil — by David Wainer and Nick Wadhams: “Israel’s political turmoil isn’t just a problem for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: It’s the latest blow to President Donald Trump’s hopes to unveil a grand Middle East peace plan his son-in-law has spent almost two years on… Israeli officials already had been urging the Trump administration not to release its proposal too close to the elections, afraid that a plan demanding concessions from Israel would hurt Netanyahu’s chances when hard-liners already accuse him of being too soft on Hamas.”

“Yet even before the latest developments, Trump was showing increasing frustration that the Israeli leader — with whom he’s forged a close personal bond — wasn’t doing more to help the plan overseen by son-in-law Jared Kushner come to fruition… Trump complained in recent meetings that Netanyahu hasn’t been “flexible” or “forward-leaning” enough on the plan.”

“Some analysts, including Natan Sachs, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, say there’s now a chance the plan will never see the light of day.” [Bloomberg]

JI INTERVIEW  — Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), explains Lieberman’s resignation in an interview with Jewish Insider: “Before Lieberman became defense minister, I would say he was less pragmatic and more of a populist. He was seen as a guy who’s particularly tough on terrorism, tough on Palestinian extremism. And then, as he steps into the defense ministry, from everyone that I’ve ever talked to in Israel about his time in office, he became a pragmatist, which is what the job requires. And he did what was expected of him, which was to approach this pragmatically. It is why we didn’t see major wars in Gaza in the past two years despite multiple provocations.”

“I think as he has stayed in that role, from all accounts, he’s lost some of his popular political appeal, and I think that there is probably a realization on his part now that he can’t gain much more. He’s already spent a significant time in the role, it will be on his resume, but the politician in him has lost. Right now, he’s going into opposition light. I think he is testing to see whether this helps him politically in any way. I think a lot of this really does stem from this fact that he’s gotten what he can out of the defense minister position and he has been touting what I would call the pragmatic, careful Bibi line, and that’s not how Lieberman made a name. ”

On Israeli criticism of Netanyahu’s handling of the situation: “I think that even if 74% of the population disapproves of Bibi at this moment, I think that when you look at his overall popularity and the overall Israeli interpretation of his time in office, he’s not seen as soft. He is seen as a guy that has guided Israel through a particularly turbulent political moment. This is a man who’s not risk-averse. He’s still carrying out daring operations, but those that are seen as perhaps a limited risk to the country’s overall security posture, and he has guided Israel away from wars that may distract it from the more important battles that lie ahead. In other words, Bibi is preparing for a war in the north, which may be coming soon, it may not. We don’t know. But it’s not in Israel’s long-term interest to engage in a battle with Hamas and he’s keeping his eye, I think, on the ball.”

Moran Stern, Adjunct Lecturer at the Program for Jewish Civilization in Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, tells us… “As talks about possible Knesset elections are in the air for some time, Lieberman saw the recent round of clashes between Israel and Hamas as a golden opportunity to differentiate himself from his two main contenders from the right: Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett. Lieberman, it can also be argued, learned from the experience of other defense ministers who worked under Netanyahu before him: he will not be willing to take the blame for strategic failures whereas Netanyahu enjoys the glory of successful operations – such as obtaining secret Iranian documents or persuading the Trump administration to de-certify the agreement with Iran.”

“It will be interesting to see if Lieberman will be able to capitalize on his resignation to boost his electoral support. I would not be surprised if we see his party significantly weaken or even not crossing the threshold.”

David Makovsky, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, emails us… “Prime Minister Netanyahu is risk-averse when it comes to diplomatic moves to peace and when it comes to ground incursions relating to war. This may be key to his longevity as premier. He does not see the value of having Israeli soldiers risked being killed in taking over Gaza. Specifically, they believe the military priority should be in ensuring that Iran does not gain a foothold in Syria for the purposes of entrenching its advanced military infrastructure as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon. By comparison, Gaza is a distraction. Lieberman represents a minority opinion in comparison to Netanyahu and the military.”

Herb Keinon writes… “March’s AIPAC conference could influence next Israeli election date: In looking at the different math and calculations behind choosing a time for new elections, there is one important date that stands out in Netanyahu’s mind: March 24… the date of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference in Washington DC. Netanyahu loves that event… Once in Washington he will, of course, meet the US president… Both those elements – a rousing reception by 18,000 people to a powerful speech on a big stage and a bear hug from the US president – are things that Netanyahu would love to have his domestic audience witness just prior to elections.” [JPost

Netanyahu met today with U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. “I want to congratulate the President and your team for the powerful sanctions against Iran,” Netanyahu told Hook, according to a readout of the meeting. [Pic]

Putin says no meeting with Netanyahu planned: Russian President Vladimir Putin said today in Paris that he discussed with Netanyahu Israel’s downing of a Russian Plane in Syria in September, and that no meeting between the two leaders is being planned. “We talked about the tragedy that had occurred in Syria, of course. I mean the loss of our plane and our people, our military personnel,” Putin said during a press conference following the East Asia Summit. “No specific dates of a future bilateral meeting were negotiated,” he said, adding that there were “no plans for talks in this format for the time being.” [Tass]

ON THE GROUND — Botched Gaza mission sheds light on Israel’s elite Maglan unit — by Mehul Srivastava: “On Sunday evening, a civilian car pulled up at a Hamas checkpoint set up among the warren of streets in Khan Younis… Inside were Israeli soldiers, including members of the elite Maglan unit renowned for slipping behind enemy lines to collect intelligence or destroy targets. Some, according to a local resident, were dressed as women. What happened next is unclear. But within hours, seven Palestinians were dead, including a Hamas commander, along with an Israeli lieutenant colonel… [A] retired official [said] that missions into Gaza were so precarious that they required high level political approval, usually from the prime minister.”

“A senior Hamas official said that the group’s initial response to Sunday’s incursion was furious, even to the point of risking war, because it was convinced that the unit was a hit squad.” [FinancialTimes]

In Hebron, mourning a Palestinian killed in Ashkelon by a rocket fired from Gaza — by Adam Rasgon: “The funeral [of Mahmoud Abu Asabeh] was almost entirely devoid of chants and factional flags, which are commonplace at funerals for Palestinians killed in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… No senior Fatah or PA officials attended the burial service. In contrast, a month ago, many high-level Fatah and PA officials took part in a funeral for a Palestinian who was allegedly killed by settlers in the northern West Bank. Few journalists covered the event.” [ToI]

— Jewish Agency Chair Isaac Herzog instructed the Jewish Agency’s fund to aid victims of terror to offer emergency assistance to the family of Abu Asabeh, who had a legal working permit in Israel. [Twitter] h/t Lahav Harkov

SPOTLIGHT — In Florida Recount Fight, Democratic Lawyer Draws Plaudits and Fire — by Ken Vogel and Patricia Mazzei: “Marc E. Elias, who is representing Senator Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, in the Florida recount, has been at the center of an unusually large number of high-stakes political fights. His role in the Florida battle… has thrust him even further onto center stage as the Democrats’ lead lawyer and spokesman, making him a tempting foil for Mr. Trump… Mr. Elias is perhaps best known for his role in helping to deliver a handful of previous recounts to Democrats, including in the bitterly fought two-month battle over a Minnesota Senate election in 2008 that brought victory to Al Franken… Mr. Elias has earned a reputation as one of the most formidable election lawyers in the country, and arguably one of the most influential of unelected Democrats in Washington.”

“Right now, though, the Democratic Party’s leadership and base appear united in cheering for Mr. Elias’s aggressive tactics in the Florida recount, and galvanized by Republican attacks on him… The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, one of Mr. Elias’s clients, has gone so far as to send out summaries of the coverage of Mr. Elias’s conference calls with reporters, a treatment more typically reserved for the candidates themselves.” [NYTimes]

Muslim Trailblazer Ilhan Omar Admits She Backs BDS — Now That Election Is Over — by Aiden Pink: “Tuesday marked the start of “freshman orientation” in Washington, D.C… Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minneapolis and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, quickly met up with some of her fellow trail-blazing colleagues like Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But back at home, many of her Jewish constituents were grappling with remarks her office made on Sunday to a website called MuslimGirl, claiming that… Omar’s campaign told them: “Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS movement.” [Forward• Omar confirmed that position in a text-message conversation with TC Jewfolk on Monday.

2020 WATCH — O’Rourke Invited to Iowa, Called Most ‘Authentic’ Democrat Since Obama as Presidential Speculation Mounts — by Jessica Kwong: “Speculation that Beto O’Rourke may make a presidential bid in 2020 despite losing his Senate race to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz last week has swirled after he received an invitation to visit the Polk County Democratic Party in Des Moines, Iowa, the state whose caucuses are considered the first presidential votes… O’Rourke reportedly has not yet responded to the invitation. He was rumored to have been in Des Moines, Iowa City or another part of the state over the weekend.” [Newsweek]

Bernie Sanders: ‘We have a president who is a racist’ — by John Bowden: “Speaking to the National Action Network, a nonprofit group founded by Rev. Al Sharpton, [Sanders] received applause from the group’s members for his condemnation of the president. “But we must be honest and straight-forward and say that we have a president who is a racist,” Sanders, who is thought to be a likely 2020 presidential contender, said.” [TheHill]

Rob Malley writes… “How the world might prepare for a Democratic resurgence: Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel are some of the countries that have invested most heavily in their relationships with Trump in an effort to fortify bilateral relations. But now that the omens regarding 2020 seem less favorable to Republicans, countries that banked on Trump might have to start hedging their bets by endearing themselves to the Democrats.”

“Countries targeted by the U.S. — mainly Iran — could also decide to wait Trump out. What they will interpret as the growing possibility of a one-term president makes it easier for Tehran to bide its time, hunker down even as sanctions ramp up, ignore Trump’s violations of the Iran deal, and refuse any offers to renegotiate a new one in the hopes that a Democrat will rejoin in 2021.” [Axios]

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: MassChallenge is looking for a new CEO[BostonGlobe] • The Redstone Saga Faces Another New Turn[VanityFair] • Levi Strauss plans IPO that values company at up to $5 billion, sources say [CNBC] • Hines lands $425M refinancing on River Point office tower [TheRealDeal] • Watch Marc Benioff try to explain what he’s going to do with Time magazine [Recode]

AEI’s Dan Blumenthal writes… “Israel’s Embrace of China Is Sorely Misguided: Israel is finding itself on the wrong side of a shift in geopolitics, and is allowing itself to become too cozy with a viciously repressive regime (one sign, incidentally, of the profound dissimilarity between Jewish and Chinese civilization). Yet this does not mean that Israel has to go out of its way to antagonize China. Washington is not asking any friend to do that—and Washington, for its part, has a role to play in its outreach to Jerusalem, much as it is attempting to do with others throughout Europe and Asia.”[MosiacMagazine]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — U.S. says defendant in Elliott Broidy hacking case has diplomatic immunity — by Josh Lederman: “The former U.N. diplomat accused of helping steal and distribute Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy’s emails is entitled to diplomatic immunity… It’s the latest blow to Broidy’s legal campaign against Qatar and the individuals he says hacked him on its behalf… A spokesman for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, whose office oversees recognition of U.N. diplomats, says it reviewed Morroco’s accreditation of [Jamal] Benomar… “Based on this information, we have registered Benomar with diplomatic privileges and immunities,” Haley’s office… said in a written statement.” [NBCNews]

TALK OF THE TOWN — DC Neo-Nazi Who Called Pittsburgh Murders A ‘Dry Run’ Arrested; Has Deep Ties To ‘Alt Right’ — by Jessica Schulberg, Nick Baumann, Ryan Reilly, Travis Waldron and Luke O’Brien: “Jeffrey Clark, the 30-year-old man federal agents arrested here Friday after he called the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting a “dry run” … wasn’t shy about being a neo-Nazi… Clark lived in a rowhouse in Bloomingdale with his father, sister and younger brother Edward William “Teddy” Clark, who killed himself on Washington’s Theodore Roosevelt Island on Oct. 27, the day of the Tree of Life shooting… In May 2017, the Clark brothers teamed up with far-right “Pizzagate” propagandist Jack Posobiec… to shoot footage for a film Posobiec was working on about Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer whose murder near the Clarks’ home in Bloomingdale has spawned numerous far-right conspiracy theories.” [HuffPost]

LONG READ — The Cost of Courage: The 2 Couples Who Rescued My Family From The Nazis — by Uri Berliner: “In recent months, I’ve learned that my life is bound together with two families who took enormous risks to save my father and my grandparents from the Nazis. What I have discovered about the rescuers is both wondrous and bleak. One family, the Furstenbergs, has thrived; another, the Mynareks, is gone, seemingly without a trace… 80 years later, my father, Gert Berliner, age 94, has been reconnected with the Furstenbergs… Various members of the Furstenberg family have visited my dad and his wife, Frances, at their home in Manhattan.” [NPR]

DESSERT — How to Attend a Party Full of DC Insiders — by Hayley Garrison Philips: “As a third of Politico’s beloved daily newsletter Playbook, Daniel Lippman spends his nights out on the town at some of the city’s most exclusive parties, looking for “spotteds” or the next story lead. We asked for his advice on how to work a room… Since DC is such a networking town, I think people are less shy than in other cities. I would think in terms of the upsides and benefits to talking to and meeting new people, not in terms of potential downsides, because most people in DC are here to pursue their career and to meet new people, so you can gain a lot if you don’t have that fear of conversation.” [Washingtonian]

BIRTHDAYS: Biochemist and winner of the Israel Prize in 1957, professor of microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (1966-1993), David Sidney Feingold turns 96… Actor best known for his role as Lou Grant in two TV series, former president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ed Asner (born Yitzhak Edward Asner) turns 89… Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and the leader of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, he was a long-time member of the Knesset (1977-2003), Rabbi Haim Drukman turns 86… Little Rock, Arkansas native, founder of Guardsmark, a privately owned security company with 17,000 employees which he sold in 2015, noted art collector, Ira A. Lipman turns 78… Author of dozens of children’s books and young adult fiction, frequent NPR guest, Daniel Pinkwater turns 77… Pianist and conductor, formerly Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim turns 76… Stephen Wolff turns 73…

Former Chairman and CEO of Film and Music Entertainment, now a consultant and movie producer, Lawrence (Larry) Lotman turns 71… NYC-based consultant for non-profit organizations, he previously held senior positions in the NYC government and Board of Education, Perry Davis turns 70… Immigration and nationality attorney in Southern California, Michael D. Ullman turns 69… Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museums of Tolerance, Rabbi Meyer H. May turns 66… Executive producer and director of television programs, including Friends (1994-2004), one of the most popular TV programs of all time, Kevin S. Bright turns 64… Member of the Knesset since 2013 for the Yesh Atid party, he was previously the Minister of Welfare and Social Services (2013-2014) and mayor of Dimona (2003-2013), Meir Cohen turns 63… Senior project manager at Boeing, Michael A. Lewine turns 55…

Member of Knesset since 2015 for the Likud party, she was previously a journalist at both Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma’ariv, Nava Boker turns 48… Founder and chairman of Perilune Capital and founder of Harspring Capital Management, Carey Robinson Wolchok turns 47… Mortgage executive,Joshua Shein turns 46… As a 12-year old baseball fan in Yankee Stadium, he interfered with a ball batted by Derek Jeter in the 1996 ALCS that was ruled to be a game-tying home run, Jeffrey Maier turns 35… White House reporter for The Associated Press, he was previously a political reporter and White House correspondent at Time Magazine, Zeke Miller turns 29… Acting national director at Mission: Readiness and Champions for America’s Future, Ben Goodman turns 29… Client strategies analyst at Targeted Victory, Alison Borowsky turns 24…

Congressional Hearing Highlights the Plight of Americans Jailed in Iran

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

WASHINGTON – The Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a special bipartisan hearing on Tuesday titled “Held for ransom: The families…

Kafe Knesset for July 26

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Yisrael Hayom says “Bye, Bibi.” Readers of Yisrael Hayom were shocked this morning to see the following headline: “Removing the metal detectors shows Netanyahu’s helplessness. Israel’s response to…

Kafe Knesset for July 25

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Jordan crisis solved: After several nights with very little time to sleep, Netanyahu opened his morning with a positive photo-op, welcoming to his office the Israeli Ambassador to…

Kafe Knesset for July 21

Friday, July 21, 2017

Metal detector dilemmas: A tense weekend is starting at the end of a fabulous week for the PM. Netanyahu concluded a five-day visit to France and Hungary, a…

Kafe Knesset for July 20

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Budapest Dispatch – An “asterisk” on the marred submarine deal: Netanyahu gave some clarity on the corruption scandal surrounding Israel’s purchase of German submarines. Speaking to Israeli journalists…

Kafe Knesset for July 19

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Budapest dispatch – Bibi’s hot mic incident: Some journalists wait a lifetime for a “fly on the wall” moment, and reporters accompanying Bibi on his European trip got one…