Daily Kickoff: Why Ari Emanuel is now advocating for Mel Gibson | Adelson’s $30M to GOP; Dem donors form alliance | A Muslim among Israeli settlers

Have our people email your people. Tell your friends to sign up for the Daily Kickoff here

TALK OF THE REGION — “Israel and Iran lurch closer to all-out war in Syria after alleged rocket attack on Golan Heights” by Raf Sanchez: “Israel and Iran lurched closer to an all out war in Syria on Thursday after Iranian forces allegedly fired rockets into the Golan Heights and Israel responded with some of its heaviest airstrikes in years. The exchange of fire was the most direct confrontation between the Middle East rivals after years of escalating tensions in Syria.” [TelegraphHaaretz]

“Israel Strikes Iranian Targets in Syria as Tensions Escalate” by Isabel Kershner: “By Thursday morning, the country’s air force had destroyed “nearly all” of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria, according to Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman. “If there is rain on our side, there will be a flood on their side,” Mr. Lieberman said… He added, “I hope we have finished with this round and that everybody understood.” [NYTimes

— The Golan flare-up with Israel “is just further demonstration that the Iranian regime cannot be trusted and another good reminder that the President made the right decision to get out of the Iran deal,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News. [Reuters]

— Former U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro tweets: “Israel has been crystal clear where its red lines are for Iranian action in Syria. Iran blew through them with the rockets it fired toward the Golan. Israel has made them pay a very heavy price.”

ON THE HILL — “Congress prioritizes smart bombs for Israel despite US shortages” by Bryant Harris: “Congress today advanced legislation that prioritizes the delivery of precision-guided munitions for Israel amid rising threats from its adversaries across the region. There’s just one problem: The United States’ own stockpile is already insufficient. That did not deter the House Foreign Affairs Committee from unanimously endorsing the US-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018, introduced by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., for a vote on the House floor… A House staffer told Al-Monitor… the bill serves as “a message to Israel that if Iran strikes you, we will help you strike them back.” [Al-Monitor

DRIVING THE CONVO — President Donald Trump is preparing to impose new sanctions on Iran, perhaps as early as next week, to ensure it does not develop nuclear weapons. At the start of a cabinet meeting yesterday, Trump warned Iran of “severe consequences” if it restarted its nuclear program.

“Trump Bets Sanctions Will Force Iran to Bargain. There’s No Plan B” by David Sanger: “One official said that John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, has argued that the Iranians will simply fold under enough pressure.” [NYTimes

HEARD THIS MORNING — Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer discussed President Trump’s views towards Iran in a conversation with Mike Doran at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC: The Israeli Ambassador emphasized that ratcheting up sanctions on Iran as a result of the U.S. withdrawal of the deal will only strengthen U.S. policy in pushing back against Iranian aggression in the Middle East. Dermer said he hopes the Europeans will join the U.S. in imposing tough sanctions on Iran if Iran continues to defy UN Security Council resolutions by launching ballistic missile tests. “Europe may take a strategy of ‘We want to stay in the deal as long as possible, and meanwhile we will also work with the U.S. on these other issues.’ And perhaps the President will use the leverage of U.S. sanctions to actually get them to move much faster on these other things.”

Regarding Israel’s concerns about the U.S. pulling out of Syria, Dermer said, “I am pretty conference that the U.S. will not want to simply leave Syria and cede it to the Iranians. I was pretty confident about that before President Trump made his decision. I do not believe this administration is going to cede Syria to the Iranians. I did not believe that before President Trump’s speech two days ago, and I am even more confident today that they will do what’s necessary to push them back, and they fully back Israel’s right to defend itself.” [Video] •

— Tal Shalev reports: Pompeo warned Tehran that the U.S. will respond to Iranian attacks on Israel [Twitter]

— “Saudi Arabia set to pursue nuclear weapons if Iran restarts program” by Nicole Gaouette: “Asked what his country will do if Iran restarts its nuclear program, [Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister] Adel Al-Jubeir told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “we will do whatever it takes to protect our people. We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability we will do everything we can to do the same.” Asked to clarify whether that means the kingdom will work to acquire its own nuclear capability, al-Jubeir said, “That’s what we mean.”” [CNN

Trump assailed Sen. Chuck Schumer for opposing this week’s move after opposing the deal in 2015. “Perhaps he changed his mind,” Trump remarked. “But, by the way, the deal only got worse.”

Boris Epshteyn, chief political analyst for Sinclair Broadcast Group and a former Trump administration official, blasted Sen. Schumer for criticizing Trump’s decision on the Iran deal in an interview with Jewish Insider. “Schumer represents a very large Jewish population in his home state, I doubt that constituency is going to be happy about him advocating for the U.S. to stay in a deal which allows Israel’s mortal enemy, Iran, to continue developing nuclear weapons, destabilizing the Middle East and supporting terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.”

“Withdrawal is the right decision and opposing that move is a mistake, no matter what party someone is a member of. The deal was a disaster because it did not effectively stop Iran from continuing any of its wrongdoings but did allow for Iran’s economy to breathe. The 2015 Agreement would not have been ratified as a treaty by the Senate, that is why President Obama rammed it through as an executive action. Now, with sanctions re-imposed, the Iran regime will have to negotiate on all fronts, nuclear, terror and sowing discord, because otherwise the Iranian economy will be crushed by sanctions and the people may finally topple the dictatorial government there.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer responded to the attacks in an emailed statement to Jewish Insider“I have not changed my mind on the JCPOA. I still believe it was flawed. But there is a greater, more immediate threat to Israel and America we must presently heed: what the Iranian military is doing in Syria; Iran is arming Hezbollah with rockets and Iran is building ballistic missiles. Undoing this agreement makes it harder to deal with those immediate threats, rather than easier, because we need new sanctions aimed at those threats, which are not addressed in the original agreement. We need our allies to impose these new sanctions. Sanctions won’t work if we are alone.”

A Schumer aide added, “Tough talk from former administration officials is meaningless, we’d like to see a real strategy from current ones.” The aide pointed out that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Lois Frankel (D-FL), who all opposed the deal in 2015, expressed their opposition to Trump’s move as well.

ONE DEM SUPPORTIVE OF TRUMP’S MOVE — Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, in a statement: “I opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, because while it may have placed temporary limits on certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, it did not permanently preclude Tehran’s pathway to the bomb. It also failed to address Iran’s aggressive development of long-range ballistic missiles to deliver these nuclear weapons. These facts remain true today… There should be nothing partisan about our national security, nor our relationship with our ally Israel. Iran must know that its destructive behavior throughout the Middle East will not be tolerated…”

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Former Vice President Joe Biden at the Seeds of Peace 25th Anniversary Spring Benefit held at Pier Sixty in NY: “One of the reasons I think the decision to withdraw from the Iran deal is such a gigantic mistake… it’s not a perfect agreement but we are throwing away a breakthrough achieved only after years of hard negotiation and diplomacy involving 5 very different countries. It’s throwing away a real accomplishment for peace by removing the threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon and providing a platform to address Iran’s other troubling activities in the region, including the threat it poses to Israel. It’s made us all safer. My worry is that by withdrawing we are putting ourselves in the path of only two outcomes: living with a nuclear-armed Iran or engaging in a new military conflict, which were not the alternatives two days ago. I worry we’ve damaged our ability to lead internationally and be a credible voice for peace.”

Biden also implored the audience not to give up hope on peace in the Middle East, pointing to the rapprochement between Israel and Turkey: “It’s all too easy to become disheartened… Of course, when we read the news of the day, seeing the continued conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, peace seems like an unlikely prospect… But remember two years ago, if you watched the situation in other places you learned that Turkey is never going to solve their differences with Israel. Well, it did. It’s not all harmony, but there is no conflict, no war between them, and they were on the brink of it. It wasn’t until Bibi [Netanyahu] signed the agreement with [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan that he said what I didn’t want him to say that it was Joe Biden who put this together. The reason I did it — nothing special about me — is I know both men, and they each asked me to speak for them to the other person because I gained their trust… The point is: there are more than one means to build and gain trust… We can’t expect to make any breakthroughs if we stop working at it.” [Pic]

— Spotted at Seeds of Peace: Steve Clemons, Aaron David Miller, Seth Meyers, Nicholas Ma, and Jordanian Ambassador to the U.S. Dina Kawar.

ULTIMATE DEAL — “If There’s a Trump Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan, Netanyahu Says He Hasn’t Seen It” by Noa Landau: “According to reports… the White House team headed by envoy Jason Greenblatt is currently finalizing its work ahead of an initial presentation to both sides. When asked about these reports on Tuesday while briefing reporters in Larnaca airport in Cyprus, Netanyahu said he “hasn’t seen” the aforementioned plan.”[Haaretz]

JERUSALEM EMBASSY WATCH — “Europeans said to be boycotting Foreign Ministry event celebrating new US embassy” by Raphael Ahren and Alexander Fulbright: “Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inviting the entire foreign diplomatic corps to Sunday’s [Foreign Ministry] event, many European envoys, including those from the United Kingdom, France and Germany, will boycott the ceremony, Hadashot TV news reported Wednesday… “At the moment 30 of 86 ambassadors have responded positively [to the invitation]. A large number of ambassadors have yet to respond. We hope all the ambassadors will arrive,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.” [ToI]

RJC’s Matt Brooks tweets: “Now hanging outside of the David Citadel hotel in advance of the historic opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel. RJC has a huge group coming!!” [Pic]

“His anti-Semitism bill near to becoming law, SC lawmaker in Israel” by Maayan Schechter: “State Rep. Alan Clemmons will join White House officials next week to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, where the Republican is likely to mention his proposal to target anti-Semitic incidents on S.C. college campuses… The bill’s passage will make South Carolina the first state to define anti-Semitism by law.” [TheState]

According to a source, some of the Senators who will be in Jerusalem for the Embassy opening include Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Dean Heller and Mike Lee.

“Trump’s trust in his gut-driven, out-of-the-box approach to international relations grows” by Anne Gearan: “Trump has pointed to the Jerusalem embassy issue as a particular example of what U.S. officials and others described as the “Chicken Little” effect — when dire warnings against something Trump wants to do seem like hollow threats after the fact. “He heard from many people — commentators, observers and Cabinet members — that there would be all kinds of negative repercussions if he were to make that decision” to move the embassy, the U.S. official said. “Violence, the endangering of U.S. forces all over the Islamic world, all kinds of warnings — virtually none of which have proven to be the case, at least thus far.” [WashPost

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — “Outlook for Israeli Leader Brightens as Prospects for Iran Nuclear Deal Dim” by Dov Lieber and Rory Jones: “President Donald Trump’s move to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal—long opposed by Mr. Netanyahu—has dramatically brightened the Israeli leader’s political outlook. Opposition politicians, who only weeks ago called for the Israeli leader’s resignation over alleged corruption, have lined up alongside Mr. Netanyahu… “When Israel is under existential threat no attorney general in their right mind would indict a sitting PM,” said Mitchell Barak, a political analyst and director at Jerusalem-based Keevoon Global Research.” [WSJ]

Netanyahu Surges in Polls After Trump Withdraws From Iran Nuclear Deal: “The Likud party would surge to 35 Knesset seats if elections were held today, up from 30 in the current Knesset, according to a poll released on Wednesday. Israel Television News, which commissioned the poll, said this is the highest Likud has polled in the past decade.” [HaaretzToI

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “How Michael Cohen, touting his access to President Trump, convinced companies to pay millions” by Michael Kranish, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Josh Dawsey: “From his perch in a law office on the 23rd floor of New York’s Rockefeller Center, Cohen pitched potential clients on his close association with Trump, noting that he still was the president’s lawyer… He showed photos of himself with Trump and mentioned how frequently they spoke, even asking people to share news articles describing him as the president’s “fixer.” “I’m crushing it,” he said, according to an associate who spoke to him in the summer of 2017.” [WashPost] • Trump Lawyer Helped Recruit Corporate Client With Ties to Kushner Probe [WSJ]

“Who is Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian billionaire linked to Michael Cohen?” by Amie Ferris-Rotman: “Vekselberg is… a prominent member of Moscow’s Jewish community. He gave money towards the sprawling Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, which opened in 2012. (Putin also reportedly gave a month’s salary towards the project.) At the opening, attended by the late Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Vekselberg said he hoped the museum would help Russians and Americans understand each other better by eradicating stereotypes that Russia is “an evil empire.” [WashPost

2018 WATCH — “Big Donors Form New Alliance to Seize House From Republicans” by Shane Goldmacher: “Major Democratic donors in New York have discreetly formed a new political alliance to raise roughly $10 million that would be injected into as many as two dozen key House battlegrounds… Others include Robert E. Rubin, the former treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton… “The idea is to win 24 highly curated races,” said Alan Patricof, a venture capitalist and Democratic donor, who said that many of the contributors involved have worked together for decades. Mr. Patricof said the goal was finding candidates with a “high probability of prevailing” in November.” [NYTimes]

“Adelson gives $30 million to help GOP save the House” by Jake Sherman and Alex Isenstadt: “Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has cut a $30 million check to the House GOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, a massive cash infusion that top Republicans hope will alter the party’s electoral outlook six months before Election Day. The long-sought donation was sealed last week when, according to two senior Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan flew to Las Vegas to meet with the billionaire at his Venetian Hotel. Also at the meeting with Adelson was his wife, Miriam; Norm Coleman, the former Minnesota senator who chairs the Republican Jewish Coalition; Corry Bliss, who oversees the super PAC; and Jake Kastan, Ryan’s No. 2 political aide. They laid out a case to Adelson about how crucial it is to protect the House.”

“As a federally elected official, Ryan is not permitted to solicit seven-figure political donations. When Ryan (R-Wis.) left the room, Coleman made the ask and secured the $30 million contribution… The $30 million contribution is three times as much as Adelson gave to CLF in 2016. And the cash comes much earlier in the cycle.” [Politico]

Democratic primary winner in North Carolina is former chair of Jewish federations movement: “Kathy Manning, the first woman to be chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, handily won a Democratic primary and will face a right-wing Republican congressman… Ted Budd in North Carolina’s 13th district, a once reliable Democratic district that trends Republican after recent redistricting.” [JTA]

“Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County executive and Democratic candidate for governor dies of heart attack” by Doug Donovan, Dan Rodricks and Pamela Wood: “Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz — a Democratic candidate for governor and a fixture in state and local politics for nearly a quarter-century — died Thursday morning of a heart attack, officials said… The news stunned his friends, colleagues and Maryland’s political establishment… His death will upend the political calculations in the race for governor both for Democrats and for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff.” [BaltimoreSun]

** 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 **

PODCAST PLAYBACK: “How Trump could break from the Fed’s independence” by Ben White: “Kevin Warsh, a former Fed governor who was on the final short list for the top job at the Fed, said in the latest Politico Money podcast that Trump — during an hourlong Oval Office interview last year — appeared to want to know exactly what Warsh would do on interest rates and seemed not to care about the Fed’s historical independence. “If you think it was a subject upon which he delicately danced around, then you’d be mistaken. It was certainly top of mind to the president,” Warsh said.” [Politico]

HOLLYWOOD: “Mel Gibson’s Unlikely New Advocate: Ex-Agent Ari Emanuel” by Kim Masters: “Ari Emanuel took a hard-line stance against and fired his then-WME client Mel Gibson after the actor’s 2006 arrest following an alcohol-fueled, anti-Semitic and sexist tirade. Now, more than a decade later, sources tell THR that the Endeavor CEO has been advocating for Gibson in recent deals. First, Gibson personally apologized to Emanuel some months back, says an insider. More importantly, Emanuel’s prized client Mark Wahlberg bonded with Gibson during the making of Paramount’s holiday comedy Daddy’s Home 2, in which he starred as Wahlberg’s father.” [HollywoodReporter]

“Ninja Supreme Court Justice: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Fun With Fame” by Melena Ryzik: “No one knew when, or even how or where, Ruth Bader Ginsburg would pop up. The Supreme Court justice was due at a screening here of “RBG,” a new documentary chronicling her exemplary life. But she was not tied to the night’s tightly scripted schedule — at some point she would just appear, “like a ninja,” an organizer said. Gathered in a theater at the Naval Heritage Center, the crowd was amped… When the justice arrived, bodyguards encircling her, the audience gave her a standing ovation, then hushed until she claimed her seat… Justice Ginsburg is an unlikely celebrity but then again, we live in an age full of those. What makes her ascendance to pop culture icon — the Notorious RBG, y’all — truly surprising is that, at 85, she is having fun with her unexpected fame, and making careful and inspired use of it for her own savvy ends.” [NYTimes]

LongRead: “A Muslim Among Israeli Settlers” by Wajahat Ali: “Meeting settlers for the first time in these bourgeois utopias, I felt like I was the token minority at an upscale New York City party; I could feel myself being scrutinized with equal measures of fascination and curiosity, and not a small quotient of horror. The settlers were friendly, a bit guarded and standoffish at first, but mostly curious why a guy who looked like a Long Island Uber driver had come to Israel to talk with them… As a result of engaging with Zionists, I found that once you allow a space for conflicting narratives, even those that might repulse you, the characters take up room in your mind and your heart. You can no longer unsee or unfeel them. You have to negotiate their presence without compromising your core principles. Yossi Klein Halevi had somehow conjured two dozen ways that Muslim extremists could destroy his people—but he also kissed my Muslim babies and looked at them lovingly, yearning for grandchildren.” [TheAtlantic]

“Paul McCartney to skip Wolf Prize ceremony” by Amy Spiro: “Sir Paul McCartney will not be attending the upcoming Wolf Prize ceremony in the Knesset after being selected earlier this year for the prestigious recognition… “It’s very flattering and I am grateful to be this year’s Wolf Prize winner in music,” McCartney said, according to the Wolf Foundation. “It’s certainly a great honor for me to be included among the greatest artists, creators, scientists and writers of today’s history. But after reviewing my schedule I have to announce that I will not be able to arrive at the date set.” The Wolf Foundation noted that recipients of the prize must appear in person to collect their honor but they may do so at the ceremonies of either of the following two years instead.” [JPost 

“The Brazen Bootlegging of a Multibillion-Dollar Sports Network” by Tariq Panja: “What do you do when your multibillion dollar sports network has been stolen? Executives at Qatar’s beIN Sports pondered that question last week as they stared at a bank of screens inside their sprawling headquarters here. On the night of May 2, the network’s main channel, which functions as the ESPN of the Middle East, televised the deciding game of the Champions League semifinal between A.S. Roma and Liverpool. Then they watched the same play 10 seconds later on live coverage from beoutQ, a bootlegging operation seemingly based in Saudi Arabia and whose roots lie in the bitter political dispute between Qatar and a coalition of countries led by its largest neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.” [NYTimes]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — Governor Andrew Cuomo, CNN’s Andrew Morse, Stuart Force, Sander Gerber, Tom Blumberg and Ben Blumberg were honored at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York’s annual gala at The Pierre Hotel. In his speech, Gov. Cuomo announced he’ll be visiting Israel “as soon as possible.” Facing a primary challenge from the Left, Cuomo declared, “As long as I am governor, New York State stands 100 percent with Israel.”

SPOTTED: NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Israeli Consul Gen. Dani Dayan, Councilmembers Kalman Yeger, Barry Grodenchik, Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Francisco Moya and Matthew Eugene; Michael Miller, David Pollock, Rabbi Bob Kaplan, William Daroff, Jason Koppel, Hindy Poupko, Jeff Leb, Mark Botnick, Yeruchem Silber, Janice Weinman Shorenstein, David Lobl, Pinny Ringel, Betty Ehrenberg, Elizabeth Velez, and Yidel Perlstein.

SCENE THE OTHER DAY IN DC — Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); and Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Brad Schneider (D-IL) and John Faso (R-NY) attended a Tribute to American Jewry luncheon in the Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill. The event, marking Jewish American Heritage Month, was emceed by Greg Rosenbaum and organized by Ezra Friedlander and honored Paul Packer, Chair of the U.S. Commision for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, among others. [Pic]

SPOTTED: Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Rabbi Abba Cohen, Phil Goldfeder, Jason Koppel, Jules Fleischer, Ashley Freiberger, Ann Linehan, Joe Stamm, Maurice Bortz, Stanley Treitel, Rita Wertlieb, Steve Rabinowitz, Aaron Keyak, Abe Eisner, Lesley Weiss, and C-SPAN’s Howard Mortman.

BIRTHDAYS: Shopping center developer and former US Ambassador to both Australia (1989-1993) and Italy (2001-2005), Melvin Floyd “Mel” Semblerturns 88… Real estate developer (majority owner of The Related Companies), developer of NYC’s Time Warner Center, philanthropist and principal owner of the Miami Dolphins, Stephen M. Ross turns 78… Independent media production professional, she serves on the boards of Israel21c and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Susan Libitzky turns 76… Rabbi of a Connecticut congregation, creator of RTN (a Russian language TV channel) and Shalom TV (a Jewish channel), Mark S. Golub turns 73… Leading Democratic pollster and political strategist, Stanley Bernard “Stan” Greenberg turns 73… British film, theatre and television actress, on the editorial advisory board of Jewish Renaissance magazine, she has become a harsh critic of the British Labour Party’s anti-Israel members, Maureen Lipman turns 72…

Israeli businessman and philanthropist, his family founded and owned Israel Discount Bank, Leon Recanati turns 70… Ed Brill turns 68… Anchor for SportsCenter and other programs on ESPN since 1979, host of ESPN’s NFL Countdown program (1985-2016), Chris “Boomer” Berman turns 63… Former NBA player, whose career spanned 18 seasons on 7 teams, Danny Schayes turns 59… Brazilian businessman, serial entrepreneur and partner with Donald Trump in Trump Realty Brazil, Ricardo Samuel Goldsteinturns 52… Associate Rabbi of Houston’s Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Brian Strauss turns 46… Israeli rock musician, singer, songwriter, producer, keyboardist, and guitarist, Aviv Geffen turns 45… Manager of government affairs at the American Forest & Paper Association, Fara S. Klein turns 30… National correspondent for New York Magazine, Gabriel Debenedettiturns 28… Actress who has appeared in 12 films and starred in three television series, Halston Sage (born Halston Jean Schrage) turns  25… Reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Adam Janofsky… Communications manager in the DC office of Pew Research Center, Rachel Weisel (h/ts Playbook)… CEO of Medical Reimbursement Data Management in Yanceyville, NC, Robert Jameson… Mollie Harrison




Daily Kickoff: Reactions to Trump’s Iran decision — “If you live by the Presidency, you die by the Presidency”| Remembering winemaker Leslie Rudd

Have our people email your people. Tell your friends to sign up for the Daily Kickoff here

DRIVING THE CONVO — Defying pleas from European allies, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and reinstate “the highest level of economic sanctions” on the Iranian regime. “The Iran deal is defective at its core,” Trump said, pointing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation of the Iranian files last week as “definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.” Israel hailed Trump’s “bold” decision, which was also welcomed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. The decision drew mixed reactions from Jewish groups.

Democrats, including those who opposed the deal in 2015, blasted Trump’s decision, while most Republicans applauded the move. However, Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio called the decision a “mistake.” Former President Barack Obama blasted Trump’s announcement as “so misguided” and “a serious mistake.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) pointed out… “Today is a reminder that if you live by the Presidency, you die by the Presidency. We ought to be clear about this: Donald Trump isn’t ripping up a treaty; he’s walking away from Barack Obama’s personal pledge. Two and a half years ago, President Obama made a bad deal with Iran without support from Congress, and today President Trump is pulling out of President Obama’s personal commitment, and he doesn’t need Congress’s support to do so. American foreign policy makes lasting progress when it is led by the President, approved by Congress, and presented honestly to the American people.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who voted against the nuclear deal in 2015, criticized Trump’s decision in a press briefing: “There are no reports that Iran has violated the agreement. To me, the greatest worries from Iran are not right now (on) the nuclear side, but rather what they’re doing in Syria. To me, the right thing today would have been to try to come up with our allies with an agreement on those issues and let the nuclear part of this continue because it’s not being violated in any way… This is a little like replace and repeal — they had these words, they used them in the campaign, and they don’t have a real plan here. I just don’t see a concrete plan emerging, and when I spoke to the Vice President, I asked him a whole lot of questions and didn’t get good answers.” [CSPAN]

Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh spent some time on Capitol Hill yesterday and received reactions from several Senators and members of the House. 

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH): “It’s a wrong decision. First of all, it can spark an arms race in the Middle East where Iran is going to move towards nuclear weapons. I don’t understand why our country would run counter to what our allies think about this, and how do you convince the North Koreans that Americans live by their words. Clearly, the deal has had a good impact in stopping them from getting nuclear weapons. That’s good for Israel and that’s good for the Middle East. Canceling that creates that kind of uncertainty that I cannot guess, but it is not good.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI): “It may feel satisfying to those who feel that America didn’t strike a tough enough deal. But the simple fact of the matter is, we are now giving Iran everything they wanted. They get their financial relief and their nuclear program soon. Israel is absolutely worse off and less safe as a result of us withdrawing from the deal.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH): “I am very disappointed. I think this makes the Middle East more dangerous, not less, and I think it makes Iran become more dangerous. It could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which doesn’t benefit Israel or America.”

Rep. John Faso (R-NY): “Obviously, Iran is not a willing partner or a good partner in this deal and some changes need to be made to the deal. The thing that concerns me is that I hate to see the U.S. act without having the agreement of our allies. I’m most concerned about the safety and security of the people in Israel and I want to make sure that everything we do is done in an effective way that enhances that security.”

Question: What’s the effect of having President Trump as the face of the opposition to the Iran deal? Does it matter? 

Menashe Shapiro, founder of the Shapiro Consulting Group: “It’s certainly not going to help keep those on the left in the pro-Israel fold. The more Trump becomes the face of pro-Israel policies, the more the radical left can play the “Trump card” to silence the left of center pro-Israel Democrats Israel needs to maintain its ever-shrinking bipartisan support in the US.  Even the proverbial good policies that enjoy wide-spread support – ie the majority of Americans were against the Iran deal, and moving the Embassy to Jerusalem that was a Democratic idea first proffered by a liberal George McGovern in 1972 – will come under assault because Trump has become the face of these actions. In the long run, it will exacerbate the left-right dichotomy when it comes to Israel support. That being said, it will have little effect on the midterms. The Iran deal will not determine control of the Senate. Not by a longshot.”

NYC-based communications guru Stu Loeser: “The overwhelming majority of people who oppose Trump from the left were probably for the deal or gave President Obama the benefit of the doubt. From a political perspective, this will certainly help him lock down right-of-center Jewish voters and more religiously traditional Jewish voters. These folks likely supported him in 2016, but by 2020 they might have grown wary or weary of Trump’s embrace of anti-Semitic tropes and worse. Taking care of a sizable and pretty easily identifiable base vote that’s growing in states like Florida, Michigan and Ohio two years from an election, most candidates only dream of doing that.”

Democratic campaign consultant Hank Sheinkopf: “Democrats who dislike the President are unlikely to change their opinions ever. Trump was simply keeping a campaign promise. The clear strategy is to prove he kept his word to those who voted for him. It’s the place where policy and politics meet. Scuttling the Iran deal is meant to show Trump as a person of honor who keeps his word and thus cannot be the villain some have painted him to be. However, foreign policy rarely moves public opinion strongly or decides elections.”

— “Trump’s decision on Iran deal has implications in Florida’s U.S. Senate race” by Alex Leary: “Sen. Nelson in 2015 provided crucial Democratic support for the deal, blocking attempts from opponents to rip it up… Gov. Scott, like many Republicans, opposes the deal. On Friday, he wrote a letter to Trump urging him to scrap the deal, noting that Florida is home to a large Jewish population… Now that Trump has followed through on his past threats to kill the deal, Scott could use it against Nelson.” [TampaBayTimes

HOW IT PLAYED — “Behind Trump’s Termination of Iran Deal Is Risky Bet That U.S. Can ‘Break the Regime’” by David Sanger and David Kirkpatrick: “It was a classic Trumpian move, akin to the days when he would knock down New York buildings to make way for visions of grander, more glorious edifices. But in this case, it is about upsetting a global power balance and weakening a government that Mr. Trump has argued, since he began campaigning, must go.” [NYTimes

“How Talks with North Korea Convinced Trump to Scrap the Iran Deal” by Brian Bennett: “It’s not clear that the Art of the Deal works,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies… “Obviously Trump has an appetite for risk that has led him to huge successes and four bankruptcies. This is clearly another example of a hugely risky negotiating strategy that could yield extremely positive results or be a potential disaster.” [Time]

Richard Goldberg: “Put aside the idea that Iran is going to race to the bomb now; that fear has existed for a very long time, and both Republican and Democratic administrations have agreed that they would use military action to prevent that scenario, and the Iranians know that and are therefore unlikely to provoke that response. Iran also doesn’t want to become politically isolated, and if they were to race to the bomb, they would lose the support they still have right now in Europe and elsewhere.” [Vox]

Bret Stephens writes… “A Courageous Trump Call on a Lousy Iran Deal: Build on political sand; get washed away by the next electoral wave. Such was the fate of the ill-judged and ill-founded J.C.P.O.A., which Donald Trump killed on Tuesday by refusing to again waive sanctions on the Islamic Republic. He was absolutely right to do so — assuming, that is, serious thought has been given to what comes next.” [NYTimes]

Eli Lake writes… “Trump Is Now Free to Fight for Iranian Freedom:“It’s ultimately up to the Iranian people to organize their next revolution, but Trump has a chance to pursue solidarity with their struggle instead of negotiating another deal with their oppressors.” [BloombergView]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — “For Netanyahu, Vindication and New Risk After Trump’s Iran Decision” by David Halbfinger: “For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, President Trump’s decision on Tuesdayto abandon the 2015 agreement was such a wholesale vindication that he abruptly cut short a trip to Cyprus to be in Israel when it was announced… Being seen as fiercely taking on Israel’s most fearsome adversary while standing shoulder to shoulder with its most critical ally can only help Mr. Netanyahu politically as he awaits a likely indictment in a sprawling corruption investigation… Yet… after more than a decade without a major war, the country now faces threats from almost every direction.” [NYTimes]

“Syria Hit by New Strikes As Trump Cancels Iran Deal and Israel Calls High Alert” by Tom O’Connor: “Suspected Iranian military positions were hit by new strikes Tuesday shortly after Israel ordered citizens to take shelter… The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported that Israeli jets struck Al-Kiswa, located near eight miles south of Damascus, claiming Syrian air defenses downed two incoming missiles.” [NewsweekReuters] • US officials growing increasingly concerned Iran could attack Israel [CNN]

“Former Israeli Prime Minister: Iran May Believe Trump Is Looking for War” by Lena Felton: “President Trump’s exit from the Iran deal… could send a signal to the Iranians that Trump is looking for a war. That was the assessment offered by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in a live interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, at Washington’s Sixth & I Historic Synagogue Tuesday evening… The decision, Barak argued, will communicate to Trump’s base that the president is willing to follow through on his promises… which is “extremely important.” Secondly, the former prime minister reasoned, Trump may have felt stymied by the lack of options, other than negotiation, to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat. Exiting the Iran deal, on the other hand, looks by comparison like a tangible action.”[TheAtlantic]

David Horovitz writes… “Trump’s Iran deal withdrawal: It should never have come to this: Iran is currently threatening that it may resumeuranium enrichment and boasting that it has improved its technology so that it can enrich to higher levels than ever before — all while complying with the deal. That tells you all you need to know about the agreement. It did not require Iran to trash all of its centrifuges, and it allowed Iran to continue research and development on enrichment. Good job, negotiators. Well done.” [ToI]

DRIVING THE DAY — Netanyahu meets Putin in Moscow amid new round of Syria strikes: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin to discuss military coordination… “The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so,” Netanyahu said ahead of his departure. “In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination” between the two militaries. Netanyahu made no mention of the overnight strikes. During the visit, Netanyahu and Putin attended a parade in Moscow commemorating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany 73 years ago.” [ToIVideo

JERUSALEM EMBASSY WATCH — The White House will host a live viewing ceremony for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday morning, according to an invitation sent out by the White House Office of Public Liaison to Jewish leaders and supporters.

ALREADY IN JERUSALEM — Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Mideast peace envoy and a member of the presidential delegation to the opening ceremony of the embassy in Jerusalem, was spotted at the King David yesterday. [Pic]

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro writes… “What everyone’s getting wrong about the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem: Advocates of a two-state solution see the embassy move as a blunder by the United States that signals the death knell of prospects for peace. But the sky is not falling. Moving the U.S. Embassy to a location in West Jerusalem is correct and reasonable… The U.S. Embassy in Israel belongs in Jerusalem, and I will join those celebrating this overdue step.” [WashPost

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “Michael Cohen Took Cash From Russian Oligarch After Election” by Noah Shachtman and Kate Briquelet: “Michael Cohen received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a company controlled by Putin-aligned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg… According to a dossier published by [Michael] Avenatti on Tuesday evening, “Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017.”” [DailyBeastNYTimes]

Speculation — by Paul Campos: “Here’s a Theory About That $1.6 Million Payout From a GOP Official to a Playboy Model: Why do all the facts about Elliott Broidy’s (supposed) affair with Shera Bechard point to Donald Trump?” [NYMag]

MEDIA WATCH: “How Two Persian Gulf Nations Turned The US Media Into Their Battleground” by Kevin Collier: “The leaks often have set the news agenda in Washington, leading to dozens of news stories. But there’s been little attention paid to the regional rivalry behind them… Ironically, both the UAE and Qatar are US allies, with Qatar providing a base for US aircraft flying missions in the Middle East and the UAE contributing pilots and planes to the anti-ISIS coalition.”

“Noah Pollak, the director of the Committee for Israel, which lobbies on Middle East issues, said the allure of such a campaign is almost irresistible. “It’s so low-cost yet so effective at knocking someone out of the game and embarrassing one side in a political fight,” he told BuzzFeed News. “You could spend years campaigning traditionally against someone or you could hack an email account and leak salacious details to the media. If you have no scruples, and access to hackers, the choice is obvious.” [BuzzFeed]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Trump Exit From Iran Pact Halts $40 Billion Boeing, Airbus Deals [Bloomberg] • Real-estate investor Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. and its partner Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal reach deal for New York’s Plaza Hotel [WSJ] • Thor Equities, Meyer Bergman to Sell London Retail Asset for $407M [CPExecutive] • Billionaire Patrick Drahi Isn’t Willing to Sell Altice’s French Unit [Bloomberg] • Disney CEO Bob Iger: Confident deal with Fox will close [CNBC] • Glencore’s Congo subsidiary wins breathing space in dispute with state-owned miner [FinancialTImes] • Michael Wolff on the CBS-Viacom Tug-of-War and Why Ownership Matters [HollywoodReporter] • “Univision Is A F***ng Mess” write Gizmodo Media Group staff [SpecilaProjectDesk]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — in NYC: The Paul E. Singer Foundation hosted a book launch for Yossi Klein Halevi’s new book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, at Campbell Brown and Dan Senor’s TriBeCa apartment. Bari Weiss and Senor led a conversation with the author in front of 100 guests, during which Klein Halevi argued that although Israel enjoys a growing economy and unprecedented geopolitical opportunities, it risks losing support in the liberal west and, in particular, among segments of the Jewish diaspora if it doesn’t find a solution to the conflict. After the author noted that the book is available for free download in Arabic, one attendee joked how this might provide a strong incentive for some Jews to learn to read Arabic. Guests enjoyed Israeli cuisine courtesy of New York Shuk.

SPOTTED: Rabbi David Wolpe, Richard Cohen, Paul Singer, Terry Kassel, Campbell Brown, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, Boaz Weinstein, Jodi Rudoren, Gregory Zuckerman, Tal Keinan, Sender Cohen, Liel Leibowitz, Alex Pelosi, Gary Rosenblatt, Noah Pollak, Andy Silow-Carroll, Marc Tracy, Thea Wieseltier, Jason Willick, Jordan Hirsch, Joel Winton, Daniel Bonner, Tali Lefkowitz, Eli Diamond, Lewis Kassel, Dana Gibber, Sam Adelsberg, Lisa Belzberg, Alex Berger, Jacob Buchdahl, Stephanie Butnick, Armin Rosen, David Fine, Harry Cohen, Mark Horowitz, Rivka Kidron, Max Karpel, Yehuda Kurtzer, Ira and Susan Akselrad, Steve and Deb Shapiro.

TALK OF THE TOWN — “Eric Schneiderman Abuse Claims Hit Jewish Political Circles ‘Like A Bomb’” by Josh Nathan-Kazis: “I really feel a mix of rage and grief and disorientation,” said Brad Lander, a member of the New York City Council who has known Schneiderman since the 1990s and considered him a political mentor. “I’m just so angry and appalled.” One person who had spoken with members of the tight Upper West Side political clique where Schneiderman made his bones said that it was “like a bomb went off in that world.” [Forward]

“Man Apologizes For Viral Video Taunting Hasidic Child” by Haley Cohen: “The man who filmed himself taunting a young Hasidic boy over his haircut has issued a video apology. Quai James’ apology came a few days after the original video went viral, with the original clip viewed over 1 million times… “I recently posted a online a video of me coming at a little kid in regards to his haircut. I just want to sincerely apologize to that young boy and his family. I never meant for anybody to get hurt. It was just a joke. I’m truly sorry,” James stated in Tuesday’s Twitter video.” [ForwardVideo]

CAMPUS BEAT — “Police Escort Required for Israeli Speakers After US College Protest” by Jeremy Sharon: “In a fresh incident of anti-Zionist activity at the University of California, Irvine, a US college notorious for its hostile atmosphere toward the Jewish state, Israeli speakers at an event were escorted off campus by police for their safety after anti-Israel protesters disrupted the proceedings. The event was a conversation being conducted by the Israeli organization Reservists on Duty who were invited by two UC Irvine student groups, Republicans on Campus and Students Supporting Israel to provide support and assistance for pro-Israel students during “Anti-Zionism Week” at the university.” [JPost

DESSERT — San Francisco’s only kosher bakery is expanding — by Nathan Falstreau: “SoMa’s Frena Bakery and cafe is expanding to the Outer Richmond with its second location. The kosher bakery — which specializes in sweet and savory pastries, breads, cakes, salads and more — will take over the former Emma’s Coffee House, which closed in 2016. The new location is “still in its early stages,” said Al M.” [HoodlineEaterSF]

REMEMBERING — “Goodbye, my friend: winemaker and entrepreneur Leslie Rudd” by Jeff Morgan: “Leslie grew up in a Jewish home in Wichita, Kansas, where he had a strong connection to his Jewish roots and identity. Today, his eponymous Rudd Vineyard and Winery in Napa Valley is among the great wine estates there… I had the good fortune of becoming his partner in this venture, which we called Covenant. Not surprisingly, Covenant’s top wine is called Solomon Lot 70, in honor of Rudd’s Hebrew name, Shlomo (or Solomon, in Hebrew). The grapes for this wine are sourced exclusively from Rudd Vineyards.” [JWeekly]

BIRTHDAYS: Owner of St. Louis-based Harbour Group Industries, investor in 200 companies in 40 industries, US Ambassador to Belgium (2007-2009), Sam Fox turns 89… Budapest-born philanthropist and social activist, she marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965, Eva Haller turns 88… Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter, James L. Brooks (family name was Bernstein) turns 78… Guitarist and record producer, best known as a member of the rock-pop-jazz group “Blood, Sweat & Tears,”Steve Katz turns 73… Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, professor of structural biology at Stanford University, lives in both Israel and California, Michael Levitt turns 71… Pianist, singer-songwriter, composer and one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, Billy Joel turns 69… Physician in Burlington, Vermont, she was the First Lady of Vermont from 1991 until 2003 when her husband (Howard Dean) was Governor, Judith Steinberg Deanturns 65… Media, entertainment and technology entrepreneur and inventor, Brian D. Litman turns 64… Film director, film producer, playwright, author, marketing executive and arts philanthropist, Barry Avrich turns 55… DC-based, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich turns 53… Business executive and philanthropist, co-managing partner of Bain Capital, owner of a minority interest in the Boston Celtics, Jonathan Lavine turns 52… EVP of Global Public Policy at Facebook, previously White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy (2006-2009), law clerk for Justice Scalia (1999-2000), Joel D. Kaplan turns 49… Associate in the political law practice at Perkins Coie LLP, where she functions as COS for partner Marc E. Elias, Danielle Elizabeth Friedman turns 35… Co-founder and editor-at-large at Vox, Ezra Klein turns 34… Harvard Business School student Nathaniel Rosen turns 28… Mikhael Smits turns 22…




Daily Kickoff: Decision day for Trump on Iran deal | Jason Greenblatt and Ron Lauder’s NYC meetup | Axelrod’s Sandy Koufax advice for Cory Booker

Have our people email your people. Tell your friends to sign up for the Daily Kickoff here

DRIVING THE DAY — “Unswayed by Allies, Trump Is Expected to Leave Iran Deal, Diplomats Say” by David Sanger and Steven Erlanger: “President Trump is expected to announce on Tuesday that he is withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, European diplomats said after concluding that they had failed to convince him that reneging on America’s commitment to the pact could cast the West into new confrontation with Tehran… One senior European diplomat who has been deeply involved in trying to persuade Mr. Trump to stay in the deal told reporters on Monday the chance that the president would keep the agreement intact was “very small.” [NYTimes

“Pompeo signaled Iran deal withdrawal to European colleagues” by Barak Ravid: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told his colleagues from the E3 — France, Germany and the United Kingdom — on Friday that President Trump has rejected the understandings that were drafted with American negotiators over the last four months regarding a possible fix of the Iran nuclear deal… According to the sources, Pompeo told his European counterparts that — after he showed the document to Trump — the President told him it would not change his thinking about the nuclear deal.” [Axios]

Aaron David Miller: “Whatever Trump decides, it’s the beginning of the end of the accord, either death by one, or 1,000, cuts.” [NYTimes

Asked what he would tell Trump if he had two minutes to convince him to stay in the deal, Jake Sullivan — who was one of the early negotiators for the deal — replied: “If we stay in the deal and enforce it, we can build international consensus to go after Iran on all of its other bad behavior… If you really want to make sure Iran doesn’t start working its way secretly toward a bomb, you need inspectors on the ground. And the only way you’re going to have inspectors have access to all of these facilities in Iran is if you keep the deal. And finally, if what you’re concerned with is the out years — 10, 15, 20 years from now when some of the restrictions in the deal expire — well, the United States has a long history of negotiating follow-on agreements.”[Axios]

Prediction from CNN’s Sam Vinograd: “Based on past behavior, I think Trump may try to present a “partial” pullout scenario whereby he violates the agreement by not certifying but leaves the door open to negotiate during the period in between now AND when sanctions go into effect” [Twitter]

BEHIND THE SCENES — “Peter Thiel in Eye of Iran Storm as Deadline Looms for Trump” by Jonathan Tirone: “Silicon Valley billionaire — and Donald Trump supporter — Peter Thiel has emerged as an unlikely player in the international debate over Iran’s nuclear deal with six world powers. Thiel’s big-data engine, Palantir Technologies Inc., is at the heart of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s system for verifying Iran’s compliance with the landmark 2015 agreement… Thiel… dined at the White House with Trump and the Israeli-born co-chief executive officer of Oracle Corp., Safra Catz, just hours after the president spoke with Netanyahu about Iran on April 4.” [Bloomberg]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — “Israel Security Leaders Split on Netanyahu Approach to Iran Deal” by David Wainer: “The Europeans want to push this off for a few years with the idea that it’ll be fine. It won’t be fine,” said Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, a security cabinet member… Others don’t see the Islamic Republic as the apocalyptic threat Netanyahu does… Netanyahu’s recently retired national security adviser, Yaakov Nagel, downplayed the debate among Israeli security officials, saying “there’s no argument among the security establishment regarding fixing or nixing the deal. There are different views regarding the level of the problem, in terms of what kind of fix would make it better than the alternatives.” [Bloomberg

If Trump credits Israel or Netanyahu for convincing him to pull out of the deal, will that be good or bad for Israel’s long term strategic interests?

Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller: “Short-term it would be good for Bibi politically as it shows he can manage the US. But if the unraveling leads to conflict and it heads south for both Israel and US this will be viewed as Bibi’s biggest mistake. If on other hand Iran over time is weakened in significant ways, people will look back and say he was a genius.”

FDD’s Mark Dubowitz: “What matters for Israel’s long-term interests is not any credit the President gives or doesn’t give but how the Trump administration follows up after today’s decision. Will it use all instruments of American national power to neutralize and rollback Iranian aggression in the region and target the regime? Will it use maximum pressure to build the leverage to get a better nuclear deal that truly cuts off all pathways to a nuclear bomb? Will it provide Israel with everything she needs to counter the Iranian regime threat?”

INTERVIEW — “Israel’s Ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak Says Keep the Iran Nuclear Deal” by Neri Zilber: “If Barak had his way post-deal, Israel and the U.S.—including under Barack Obama—would have come together behind closed doors to hedge against the risk: bringing all their intelligence assets to bear on monitoring Iran’s behavior, finding agreement on what exactly would constitute a nuclear “breakout,” as well as clear guidelines for putting the military option back on the table. “I thought we could do it,” he said, “but Bibi… chose to do something else with the big speech [to the U.S. Congress in 2015] that I thought was a mistake. But that’s all about the past.”

“Barak… didn’t think that the U.S. pulling out would necessarily spell the end of the nuclear deal… nor that Iran itself would pull out and race ahead towards a bomb… In the longer term, however, the U.S. leaving the agreement may provide Tehran diplomatic cover if it was caught violating the terms of the deal. “The Americans started it, American behavior basically legitimized our own deviation,” Barak said, channeling his inner Iranian official.” [DailyBeast]

IPF’s Michael Koplow writes… “Donald Trump Is About to Put Israel in Immediate Danger: “The Iran deal is keeping Iran in check from responding to repeated Israeli strikes on its interests in Syria. If Trump heeds Netanyahu’s exhortations to rectify what the prime minister views as a grave American mistake that made Israel more vulnerable, he may end up creating a new vulnerability by removing a key restraint on Iran’s conventional forces.” [Haaretz

“Iran ‘may no longer feel constrained’ against Israel after Hezbollah’s election success, analyst says” by Sam Meredith: “Although official results have not been announced, Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies were seen as the biggest winners in Lebanon’s first parliamentary vote since 2009. “With Lebanon’s elections now out of the way, Tehran may no longer feel constrained over a limited military response to Israel’s recent attacks on its forces in Syria,” Michael Every, senior Asia-Pacific strategist at Rabobank, said in a research note published Tuesday.” [CNBC]

James Stavridis and Michael Makovsky write… “How the U.S. Should Wish Israel a Happy 70th Birthday: To counter Iran, Washington should raise the Jewish state’s intelligence clearance and speed up promised military aid.” [Bloomberg]

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Dan Senor, co-author of Start-Up Nation and a past foreign policy advisor to Republican presidential candidates, previewed Trump’s decision on the Iran deal and the impact it might have on Israel’s security during a panel discussion, featuring Anshel Pfeffer, author of the newly released book, Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu, along with journalists Jodi Rudoren and Amir Tibon at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. [Pic]

“There are three possible outcomes, two of which are good for Netanyahu and Israel,” according to Senor. “One outcome is the President announces that the US is pulling out of the deal. I think that would be interesting if the administration has its ducks in a row for what to do the day after the announcement… I would argue that it’s good for Israel because it gives the U.S. the tools to put more pressure on Iran, which it is constrained from doing under the terms of the JCPOA. The second outcome, which is also good, is all this fanfare, including the powerpoint presentation [by Netanyahu], has so freaked out the European powers that they’re willing to actually demonstrate to the U.S. and Israel that they take it seriously and are willing to amend their policies to address those concerns, I think that’s also a good outcome.”

“The third outcome, which is what I worry about most, is that Europe basically persuades the Trump administration that they are going to make changes to address the President’s concerns and the Israeli government’s concerns, but those are actually very weak changes, and the policies that Europe is offering aren’t serious, but they are serious enough to mollify Trump and discourage him from pulling out of the deal. That would be, to me, the worst of all worlds.”

Peter Beinart writes… “Iran Hawks Are the New Iraq Hawks: Many of the assumptions that guided America’s march to conflict in 2003 still dominate American foreign policy today.” [TheAtlantic]

JERUSALEM EMBASSY WATCH — President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence won’t be attending the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem next week, the White House said yesterday. Instead, Trump announced he’s sending a delegation that includes his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jason Greenblatt. The delegation will be led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

“New U.S. embassy in Jerusalem: A stone plaque and $400,000 in renovations, for now” by Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash: “Standing in the yard outside the soon-to-be U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem last week, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman watched as a worker positioned a newly chiseled stone plaque on the wall. Friedman held up his phone and snapped a picture. For all the fanfare surrounding the opening of the new embassy this coming Monday, the hanging of the plaque on what is currently a consular services building is one of the few changes that will initially take place.” [WashPost]

“Square near U.S. embassy in Jerusalem to be named for Trump” by Hagay HaCohen: “Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced his intention to formally name the square near the US embassy site the “United States Square in honor of President Donald Trump,” the Jerusalem Press Office released on Tuesday.” [JPost]

“Israel says Paraguay to move embassy to Jerusalem” by Maayan Lubell: “Paraguay President Horacio Cartes plans to come to Israel by the end of the month to open an embassy in Jerusalem,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement. A Paraguay government spokesman said Cartes was scheduling a trip to Israel to move the embassy on May 21 or May 22.” [Reuters]

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Mideast peace envoy, met with Ronald Lauder at The Manhattan Club in Midtown yesterday, sources told Jewish Insider. In a recent speech at the Jerusalem Post conference in NY, Lauder remarked, “With the most pro-Israel president in American history, Donald J. Trump, I believe that peace is possible and within reach.”

— Earlier on Monday, Greenblatt met with Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, to discuss current dynamics in the Middle East. “Greenblatt joined Dr. Al Issa “in declaring the importance of speaking out against and condemning those who deny the Holocaust or distort its historical record,” a White House spokesperson said.

After delay, State Dept. begins implementing Taylor Force Act — by Jacob Kornbluh: The State Department submitted its first report to Congress regarding the criteria Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will use to determine what U.S. assistance directly benefits the Palestinian Authority, as required by the recently passed Taylor Force Act legislation. In a letter from last Thursday issued to Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary K. Waters listed the criteria that the Secretary of State will use to determine whether or not assistance for the West Bank and Gaza directly benefits the Palestinian Authority.

The Taylor Force Act requires the State Department to submit to Congress a list of the criteria no later than 15 days after its enactment. The deadline came and went on April 7, 2018. Although the report was submitted 40 days after the law was enacted, Waters noted, “This report fulfills the reporting requirement in that provision.”

OF NOTE: By this time, the State Department was already required to certify whether the PA has stopped the pay-for-slay program (30 days after enactment). [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE CONVO — “Israel intel firm denies it was hired by Trump aides to discredit Obama officials” by Oliver Holmes: “Referencing Black Cube has become an international sport during 2018,” the company said in a statement on Monday. “Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran nuclear deal.” [TheGuardian]

NEW DETAILS — by Michael Shear and Ronen Bergman: “One person with knowledge of the reports suggested that the company had been hired by a commercial client with an interest in opposing the nuclear deal… Among those listed under the heading “contacts to investigate” are Jeffrey Goldberg, now the editor of The Atlantic; Mark Landler, a White House correspondent for The Times who often writes about foreign policy; Andrea Mitchell, now NBC News’s chief foreign affairs correspondent; and Glenn Thrush, a Times reporter who covered the Obama White House for Politico.” [NYTimes]

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro tells us… “What seems clear is that someone made an effort to harass and dig up dirt on former Obama Administration officials and their families. Who did it and why, is something that the appropriate authorities should investigate. Obviously, if the Administration or its external supporters were involved, it would be scandalous. Public servants, regardless of party, need to know that they can serve their government without fear of harassment and intimidation when they leave office. All Americans should agree to that principle.”

HAPPENING TODAY — The annual Herzliya conference kicks off today on the IDC Herzliya campus. Speakers at the 3-day gathering include Israeli cabinet ministers, Knesset members, Elliott Abrams, Dennis Ross, Ron Prosor, Zalman Shoval, Danny Ayalon, Alon Pinkas, former Senator Mark Kirk, former Undersecretary of Defense Marcel Letter, Brett McGurk, Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, David Makovsky, Ilan Goldenberg, Ken Weinstein, among others. [Livestream]  

TOP TALKER — “Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, Quits After Assault Claims” by Danny Hakim: “Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general who rose to prominence as an antagonist of the Trump administration, abruptly resigned on Monday night hours after The New Yorker reported that four women had accused him of physically assaulting them…” [NYTimes]

— Julia Ioffe tweets“The Eric Schneiderman story is yet more confirmation of Czeslaw Milosz’s idea of “Ketman”: the man who rails the loudest against a sinner is often an even bigger sinner himself.”

“Trump grows frustrated with Giuliani as Stormy Daniels drama rages on” by Eliana Johnson, Annie Karni and Darren Samuelsohn: “[Rudy] Giuliani’s press tour has coincided with the announcement that White House lawyer Ty Cobb will be leaving… Trump and his daughter Ivanka both personally called Cobb to express concern about his decision.” [Politico]

“State Dept.: Giuliani doesn’t speak for US on foreign policy” by Josh Lederman: “On Saturday, Giuliani caused another stir when he… said that the president was “committed” to regime change in Iran… U.S. officials said they were taken aback by Giuliani’s comments and did not consider them to be consistent with current Trump administration policy.” [AP]

“After Rudy’s meltdown, Michael Cohen Grapples with His New Reality” by Emily Jane Fox: “Cohen’s friends told him that Trump chiding Giuliani was a signal that the president was looking out for Cohen… Cohen recognizes that these interviews have complicated his legal situation. They have also added to his mental strain and financial burden. Cohen has told friends that he and his wife have lost a collective 20 pounds since the raids… Cohen… is mostly distraught over the impact on his family… “I live for my wife and my kids,” he tells friends. “I’d die for my wife and my kids. And this is all ruining their lives.”” [VanityFair]

2018 WATCH — “George Soros has picked his candidate in the Florida governor’s race” by Kirby Wilson: “Andrew Gillum’s governor campaign raised about $450,000 in April. More than half of that sum came from one person: billionaire George Soros. Soros… gave $250,000 to a Forward Florida, a Gillum associated political committee in April. Combine that with two six-figure donations in 2017, and Soros’ contributions to Gillum now total $450,000.” [TampaBayTimes

2020 WATCH — “Is Cory Booker for real?” by Hunter Walker: “When pressed about a presidential campaign by Yahoo News, Booker admits he’s going to mull the possibility. “Look, my focus right now is two things; my own reelection and making sure we’re in a strong position for that and the 2018 elections,” Booker said. “I think, that passes, I’ll sit down and give a hard consideration about a lot of folks that are talking to me about doing something else.”

Asked about Booker’s future, David Axelrod sees Booker as an “exceptional political talent” who is a real potential 2020 contender. “I think he is a brilliant guy; big-time personality, interesting thinker, and an at times spellbinding presenter and … obviously, a really good story. So, I take him seriously,” Axelrod said… Axelrod recently hosted Booker in Chicago, and the strategist left with the impression that Booker’s flair for the dramatic can sometimes go “a bit too far” and reach a place where the senator “sacrifices a sense of authenticity” for “performance.”

“Axelrod offered up a classic piece of baseball lore from the early days of Dodgers pitching great Sandy Koufax as advice for Booker. “Some catcher … told him, ‘You know you are a great pitcher … and you throw the ball 100 miles an hour, but if you threw it at 97 and got it over the plate you’d be untouchable,’” recounted Axelrod. “I think that Booker is a great, great talent. … I think that he’s in public service for the right reasons, but he probably could take three miles off his fastball, and get the ball over the plate, and be even better,” added Axelrod.” [YahooNews]

** 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 **

STARTUP NATION — “IFF to buy Israel’s Frutarom for $7.1 billion, nearing top spot” by Steven Scheer: “International Flavors & Fragrances Inc agreed to buy Israeli flavors and ingredients maker Frutarom for $7.1 billion in cash and stock on Monday… IFF’s takeover of Frutarom, which has been approved by both boards, would be the second largest of an Israeli company, behind Intel’s $15 billion purchase of Mobileye… Frutarom sells more than 70,000 products, such as such as natural colors, health and beauty ingredients, natural food protection and enzymes, in 150 countries to mainly mid-sized companies.” [Reuters] • Why the Frutarom Deal Is Good, Bad and Ugly All at Once [Haaretz]

FORBES SUMMIT IN ISRAEL: “Dr. Ruth Thrills Under 30 Summit With Cofounder Couples Therapy, Tales Of Her Days As A Sniper” by Zach O’Malley Greenburg: “Be careful,” says Dr. Ruth Westheimer to the crowd of several hundred assembled before her in Tel Aviv. “I was trained as a sniper.” Dr. Ruth regaled the audience with tales of her early days in the Haganah–the forerunner to the Israeli Defense Force–when she arrived in the Holy Land in 1945 as a teenager after losing her family in the Holocaust.” [Forbes]

HAPPENING TODAY: “From Cryptocurrency to Space Travel, Is the Future Already Here?” by Leigh Kamping-Carder: “The first Future of Everything Festival kicks off Tuesday… The festival is organized around 12 themes, or tracks, ranging from food to medicine to work. Each covers a half-day of talks, interviews and panels. Speakers include Sarah Jessica Parker, Rahm Emanuel, Alex Rodriguez, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, JetPack inventor David Mayman and many more. An interactive innovation hub will showcase the products of tomorrow.” [WSJ]

SCENE LAST NIGHT: “Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and Girlfriend Make Met Gala Debut” by Alexia Fernandez: “New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft walked the red carpet at the 2018 Met Gala with girlfriend Ricki Lander. The couple smiled as they posed together Monday night on the stairs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” [People]

“Lynda Carter Wore a Legit Crown to the Met Gala, Hearkening Back to Her Famous Crowned Heroine” by Wendy Gould: “Lynda Carter — perhaps most well-known for kicking butt as Wonder Woman in the ’70s television series — hit the Met Gala red carpet wearing a legit golden crown… The front of the gilded crown was perched high atop her head over an elegant updo and features Hebrew writing across the entire length. On the back of her head, she wore a large star clip with an ethereal blue-green gemstone in the center. The shape is reminiscent of the Star of David.” [PopSugarPic]

MEDIA WATCH — “Qatar eyes stake in Newsmax” by Ben Schreckinger: “The Qatari government has sought to acquire a major stake in Newsmax, the conservative media company run by President Donald Trump’s friend Chris Ruddy… Qatari officials met with Newsmax representatives on multiple occasions this year… The two people familiar with Qatar’s interest in Newsmax say the talks with the company have been overseen by Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a younger brother of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani… According to a person familiar with the Qataris’ thinking on the subject, they view the potential Newsmax investment primarily as a political one,” [Politico]

Former Knesset Member Dov Lipman writes on Facebook: “I want to let you know that I am not continuing my political work at this time and have decided to step away from Yesh Atid. New opportunities have just opened up that have the potential to make real change on the ground in Israel. For me at this time, it is too good an opportunity to pass up.” [Facebook]

DESSERT: “Stunning landscape photos of skyscrapers, deserts and salt flats – but which country is this?” by Rosie Gizauskas:“Photographer Noam Chen has been taking photos of one country for ten years and is intent on showing off how diverse it is… “Besides being home to some of the world’s most iconic and historically important sites, Israel also has stunning and diverse landscapes that can rival any other country in the world.” [TheSun]

BIRTHWEEK: Co-Founder of the website JewBelong, Archie Gottesman

BIRTHDAYS: Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Danny Danon turns 47… Retired senior British judge, Baron Leonard Hoffmann turns 84… Former Attorney General of Canada and past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Irwin Cotler turns 78… MIT Biologist and Nobel Prize laureate H. Robert Horvitz turns 71… Former MLB pitcher (1969-1975) who played for the Angels, Rangers and White Sox, Lloyd Allenturns 68… Born in Amsterdam to a survivor of Auschwitz, now a leading rabbi in both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, dean of the Dutch Israelite Seminary, Rabbi Raphael Evers turns 64… Actor and director Stephen Furst (born Stephen Nelson Feuerstein) turns 63… Director of the USDOJ’s Office of Special Investigations (1994-2010) focused on deporting Nazi war criminals, he is now the Director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy at USDOJ, Eli M. Rosenbaum turns 63… Chief Financial Officer for The Manischewitz Company, Thomas E. Keogh turns 63… President of Barney’s and Ashley furniture stores in Springfield, Illinois, Barry Seidman turns 59… President of Clayton, Missouri-based JurisTemps, Andrew J. Koshner, J.D., Ph.D. turns 58… NYC-based advertising executive, author and entrepreneur, board member of ArtsConnection, an art program provider to NYC public schools, Richard Kirshenbaum turns 57… Co-founder and CEO of the disability advocacy nonprofit, RespectAbility, based in Bethesda, Maryland, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi turns 54… Canadian social activist and documentary filmmaker critical of corporate capitalism, Naomi Klein turns 48… Stand-up comedienne, writer, actress and author, known for appearing on the 9th season of America’s Got Talent, Jodi Miller turns 47… Chief Operating Officer at West End Strategy Team’s DC Office, Ari Geller turns 45… Managing principal of Los Angeles-based Lockman Consulting Group, lecturer at USC Law School, fellow with the Truman National Security Project, Josh Lockman turns 36… Past president of Congregation B’nai Torah in Sandy Springs, Georgia,Janice Perlis Ellin… Daniel First

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…