Daily Kickoff: Israeli firm Black Cube back in news, this time for snooping on Obama aides | McCain regrets not picking Lieberman for VP | Met Gala

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LongRead — “The Digital Vigilantes Who Hack Back: Companies that fall victim to data breaches want to retaliate against the culprits. But can they do so without breaking the law?” by Nicholas Schmidle: “Eran Reshef, a former Israeli intelligence officer, has learned the dangers of fighting a shadowy opponent online. In 2004, he co-founded a company called Blue Security, which he marketed as the ultimate anti-spamming service. Subscribers to Blue Security became part of a mutually protective community; whenever a member received a piece of spam, it was automatically forwarded to all the others, which simultaneously returned the message to its sender, overwhelming the spammer’s server.”

“Blue Security’s service was starting to catch on when a Russian spammer warned Reshef to stop. He refused, even though he suspected that the spammer had ties to organized crime. The Russian launched a distributed denial-of-service attack against Blue Security’s Web site and its service provider. Reshef didn’t waver. He spammed the Russian while fending off intensifying attacks.”

“One day, Reshef went with a colleague to see a friend, Nadav Aleh, who at the time worked for Unit 8200, Israel’s equivalent to the N.S.A. Aleh recalled Reshef’s visit: “When they came into my office, they were pale.” Reshef told Aleh about some alarming e-mail correspondence from the Russian, which included, as an attachment, a recent photograph showing a Blue Security executive’s children playing outside, in Tel Aviv. Reshef soon shut down Blue Security… Aleh told me, “If you think about hacking back from a military perspective, it’s like going into battle with little intelligence. Your weapon sets won’t fit the target set. These are not good odds to win.”” [NewYorker]

REPORT — “Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran deal” by Mark Townsend and Julian Borger: “People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes… and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal… Sources said that officials linked to Trump’s team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago… Investigators were also apparently told to contact… pro-deal journalists – from the New York Times, MSNBC television, the Atlantic, Vox website and Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper among others – who had frequent contact with Rhodes and Kahl in an attempt to establish whether they had violated any protocols by sharing sensitive intelligence… It is not clear how much work was actually undertaken, for how long or what became of any material unearthed.” [TheGuardian

—  “Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials” by Ronan Farrow: “Two sources familiar with the effort told me on Sunday that the operation was carried out by Black Cube—a firm… that offers its clients access to operatives from “Israel’s élite military and governmental intelligence units,” including the Mossad… The documents show that Black Cube compiled detailed background profiles of several individuals, including Rhodes and Kahl, that featured their addresses, information on their family members, and even the makes of their cars… The campaign is strikingly similar to an operation that Black Cube ran on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, which was reported in The New Yorker last fall… The company compiled a list of more than thirty reporters who it believed were in touch with Obama Administration officials.” [NewYorker]

“Source Says Israeli Black Cube Hired by Business Entity, Not Trump” by Yotam Berger: “Israeli intelligence company Black Cube was hired to spy on former aides in the Obama administration last year. A source close to the company says that the Israeli intelligence company was acting on behalf of a business entity, however, and not on behalf U.S. President Donald Trump’s aides. However, the source refused to say who hired Black Cube.” [Haaretz]

DRIVING THE WEEK — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up the pressure on Iran ahead of President Trump’s looming decision about U.S. participation in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. “We are determined to block Iran’s aggression against us even if this means a struggle. Better now than later,” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting. On Wednesday, Netanyahu is expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss “regional issues.”

Israel believes Iran is determined to retaliate for the April 9th strike on Syria’s T4 base, Israeli media reported. Defense sources said Israel’s anti-missile systems are prepared to deal with an expected missile barrage from Iran proxies in Syria. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview Monday, “If Syrian President Bashar Assad continues allowing the Iranians to operate out of Syria, it would be the end of him, the end of his regime.”

Following the recent visits by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is visiting the U.S. hoping to convince Trump to uphold the deal. Johnson is expected to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton and other senior administration officials this week.

Israel hasn’t yet been informed of Trump’s decision whether he will withdraw from the Iran deal before Saturday’s deadline. “I don’t know what Trump will decide because he hasn’t told me,” a senior Israeli official was quoted as saying yesterday. In a briefing to foreign reporters yesterday, Netanyahu insisted that the nuclear deal “has to be either fully fixed or fully nixed.”

“As Deadline on Nuclear Deal Nears, Israel and Iran Issue Warnings” by Isabel Kershner and Thomas Erdbrink: “An Israeli intelligence official who briefed the foreign reporters, on the condition of anonymity in line with his agency’s rules, said that only a fraction of the stolen Iranian archive had been presented publicly. He added that 99 percent of it was new to Israel in the quantity and quality of information it provided about Iran’s military nuclear project.” [NYTimes] • So far only the U.S. has seen the material in its entirety, a senior Israeli official told reporters. [Bloomberg]

“Giuliani: Trump is ‘committed to’ regime change in Iran” by Brent Griffiths: “Rudy Giuliani pushed for regime change in Iran on Saturday, saying President Donald Trump is “as committed to regime change as we are.” It’s “the only way to peace in the Middle East” and “more important than an Israeli-Palestinian deal,” Giuliani… told reporters after giving a speech to the Iran Freedom Convention for Democracy and Human Rights in Washington… At one point in his speech, Giuliani… pretended that his notes were the Iran nuclear deal, ripping them up and spitting on them.” [PoliticoVideo]

Phil Gordon writes… “Trump Is About to Provoke an Unnecessary Crisis With Iran: I don’t know how or when the Iranian people are going to bring about change in Tehran, but I do like the fact that the JCPOA blocks Iran from getting anywhere close to a nuclear weapons capability until at least 2030—at a minimum it would seem to make sense to wait to assess the situation then rather than provoke a nuclear crisis now.” [TheAtlantic]

Dennis Ross writes… “Israel’s intel coup actually provides good arguments for staying in the Iran nuclear deal: Maybe the Israeli disclosures and the materials will convince the British, French and Germans that the deal requires corrections… The Trump administration should use the Israeli revelations as a new source of leverage to “fix” the deal and not simply walk away from it.” [WashPost]

— INBOX: Former Ambassador Dennis Ross joined DC-based WestExec Advisors as a senior advisor. Ross is also the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“John Kerry quietly seeking to salvage Iran deal he helped craft” by Matt Viser: “[Kerry] sat down at the United Nations with [Iranian] Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to discuss ways of preserving the pact… It was the second time in about two months that the two had met to strategize over salvaging a deal they spent years negotiating during the Obama administration… Kerry has also met with French President Emmanuel Macron in both Paris and New York… The quiet lobbying campaign… is being conducted below the radar because he and his allies believe a high-profile defense of the deal by prominent Democrats would only backfire and provoke Trump… In recent weeks he’s placed dozens of phone calls and, often with [former Energy Secretary Ernest] Moniz by his side, has lobbied members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.” [BostonGlobe]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Former Senator Joe Lieberman on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures: “John Kerry is not negotiating on behalf of the U.S. government – I hope everybody he’s talking to knows that. But in my opinion, what he’s doing is inappropriate and he shouldn’t be doing it.”

Lieberman, Chairman of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), added: “I’m encouraged by what the president has said so far and I hope he does pull out.” [Video]   

“Verifying the End of a Nuclear North Korea ‘Could Make Iran Look Easy'” by David Sanger and William Broad: “North Korea could make Iran look easy,” Ernest J. Moniz… said last week. “This isn’t ‘Trust, but verify,’” he said, using President Ronald Reagan’s phrase from arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. “It’s ‘Distrust everything and verify, verify, verify.’” [NYTimes]

TALK OF THE REGION — “At the Israeli-Gaza Strip border, a growing sense of anxiety and fear” by Noga Tarnopolsky: “The anxiety of Israelis living by the border is escalating as May 15 approaches. That’s when Palestinians observe Nakba, or catastrophe day…and this year Palestinians are planning to mark the day with huge protests at the Israeli-Gaza Strip border. Hamas… projects that thousands of Gazans will storm the insubstantial fence that marks the border.” [LATimes

JERUSALEM EMBASSY WATCH — Road signs pointing to ‘US Embassy’ go up in Jerusalem: “Jerusalem’s city hall says it has put up road signs pointing to the new U.S. Embassy… Mayor Nir Barkat placed the first signs on Monday in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood where the embassy is to be located.” [APVideo] • New US Embassy building in Jerusalem unveiled [Ynet]

“Most of Israeli Opposition Not Invited to U.S. Embassy Opening Gala With Kushner” by Noa Landau: “The event, slated for Sunday night in Jerusalem, will include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka, as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and a delegation of U.S. lawmakers. Also invited are members of the Israeli government, Knesset members who are on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and all MKs that are members of the ruling coalition. However, besides chairman of the opposition, MK Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, not a single member of the opposition was invited who does not hold a spot on the key committee.” [Haaretz]

“Israel fears ‘explosion of violence’ as US prepares to open embassy in Jerusalem” by Oliver Holmes: “Israel’s police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said officers were assessing the level of security needed for the opening, including deploying CCTV cameras and guards in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Arnona… “We’re still waiting to see if the US president will come here for the opening move. The level of security will be raised accordingly,” he said.” [TheGuardian

Fresh from recent White House visit, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Israel’s Meet the Press program: “Nothing comes for free, and the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will come at a price and it is worth paying it. We should be prepared to pay a price.” [HaaretzReshet]  

FOGGY BOTTOM — “Kuwait blocks UN statement criticizing Palestinian leader” by Edith M. Lederer: “Kuwait blocked the U.N. Security Council on Friday from issuing a U.S.-sponsored statement sharply criticizing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for what Washington called “vile anti-Semitic slurs and baseless conspiracy theories.” … The proposed statement… would have expressed the Security Council’s “firm and unequivocal rejection of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial” and called on Abbas “to refrain from anti-Semitic comments.”” [WashPost

Germany to support Israel if it gets on UN Security Council: “The German foreign ministry said Saturday that Israel’s decision to withdraw its candidacy “is a further incentive for us to stand up for the interests and safety of our Israeli friends” if Germany wins a Security Council seat. Friday’s withdrawal by Israel virtually guarantees Germany and Belgium victory in the June 8 election and seats on the council.” [AP

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “How Michael Cohen, Trump’s Fixer, Built a Shadowy Business Empire” by William K. Rashbaum, Danny Hakim, Brian Rosenthal, Emily Flitter and Jesse Drucker: “It was through his wife’s family that Mr. Cohen would be introduced to the taxi business, which would ultimately allow him to pull in millions of dollars. Mr. Cohen’s father-in-law, [Fima] Shusterman, initially found work as a taxi driver after arriving in the United States… Mr. Shusterman circulated among his fellow taxi operators, trying to help Mr. Cohen find work. He introduced his son-in-law to Ilya Palinsky, a longtime fixture in the business. Mr. Palinsky said his impression of Mr. Cohen was that “he talks a lot, screams, you know. He’s a hyper guy.” [NYTimes]

MUELLER WATCH — “Mueller team questions Trump friend Tom Barrack” by Tom Lobianco, Jonathan Lemire and Alan Suderman: “Barrack was interviewed as part of the federal investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election… A second person with knowledge of the Barrack interview said the questioning was broader and did include financial matters about the campaign, the transition and Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.” [AP]

“Behind the Trump n’ Rudy show” by Jonathan Swan: “A White House official told me there were “a couple of Mooch references” in the West Wing last week, as Giuliani’s performance recalled Anthony Scaramucci’s frenzied 11-day stint last summer as White House communications director… And West Wingers raised their eyebrows when he took a gratuitous shot at Jared Kushner, describing the president’s son-in-law as “disposable.” [Axios]

— “After Rudy Giuliani called Jared Kushner “disposable” … the president’s son-in-law watched the clip himself to see what all the fuss was about… As long as his wife didn’t call him “disposable,” he joked to people, everything was going just fine.” [Politico]

“Dershowitz: Trump team playing ‘into the hands’ of Mueller investigation” by Kailani Koenig: “The Trump team has to speak with a single narrative,” [Alan Dershowitz] said [on Fox News]. “They have to get their story clearly set out. It has to be put in writing. It shouldn’t be put on television shows off the cuff. This is not the way to handle a complicated case.”[NBCNews]

TOP TALKER: “At His Ranch, John McCain Shares Memories and Regrets With Friends” by Jonathan Martin: “Mr. McCain is using a new book and documentary to reveal his regret about not selecting former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman as his running mate in 2008… He calls the decision not to pick Mr. Lieberman “another mistake that I made” in his political career… Mr. Lieberman said he didn’t know Mr. McCain felt that regret until he watched the film. “It touched me greatly,” he said.” [NYTimes]

SPOTTED IN DC: Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin “was snapped bringing a $22 bottle of red wine on a visit to Jared Kushner’s house in Washington DC on Sunday… Kushner opened the door for Mnuchin and gave him a hug before Mnuchin handed him the wine, which appeared to be a gift.” [DailyMail]

2018 WATCH — “Neo-Nazi Senate candidate kicked out of California Republican Party convention” by Phil Willon and Seema Mehta: “An anti-Semitic GOP Senate candidate was kicked out of the California Republican Party’s convention in San Diego on Saturday morning, with one witness saying he was dragging and kicking an Israeli flag while being escorted out. Party officials said that, from the outset of the convention the candidate, Patrick Little, was not welcome at the gathering.” [LATimes]

“A Scramble For Cash In Senate Races” by Peter Overby: “Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas hasn’t invested in Heller yet, but he is backing the GOP candidate for governor, Adam Laxalt.” [NPR

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Shari Redstone makes concessions on Viacom CEO in bid to clinch CBS deal [Reuters] • Private equity firm KKR to convert to a corporation after U.S. tax reform, Henry Kravis and George Roberts announce [Reuters] • Simon and David Reuben, the billionaire owners of Chepstow and Doncaster racecourses, clinch £300m deal to buy the Burlington Arcade in Mayfair [TheTimes] • British Ambassador Leads British Real Estate Companies to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange [Calcalist]

MET GALA — “The Man Who Bought New York” by Jacob Bernstein: “Stephen A. Schwarzman’s birthday bash with camels and Ms. Stefani may have been cheaper than last year’s Costume Institute gala, but it is thanks to his fortune ($12.3 billion, according to Forbes) that there’s another Costume Institute gala this year. He and his wife helped underwrite the exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” handing over a check that two sources close to the museum said was in the ballpark of $5 million… Jimmy Lee, a friend of Mr. Schwarzman’s, has joked that Mr. Schwarzman has given more money to the archdiocese than any Jew in New York. Partly, this is because his wife, Christine, is Catholic.” [NYTimes]

“Israel offended Japan’s prime minister by serving him dessert out of a shoe, which Japanese people ‘despise'” by Alex Lockie: “Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife had their dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife interrupted by an offensive cultural faux pas — dessert was served in a shoe… “There is nothing more despised in Japanese culture than shoes. Not only do they not enter their houses while wearing shoes, you will not find shoes in their offices either. Even the prime minister, ministers and members of parliament do not wear shoes to work… It is equivalent to serving a Jewish guest chocolates in a dish shaped like a pig,” [a senior Israeli] diplomat said.”[BusinessInsider]

TALK OF THE TOWN — “Anti-Semitism controversy exposes D.C.’s fault lines — and a leadership vacuum” by Peter Jamison: “The fallout from a D.C. lawmaker’s claim that Jewish financiers control the weather has laid bare divisions that many in the nation’s capital would just as soon ignore. It has also exposed what critics say is a leadership vacuum among the city’s elected officials… [Rabbi Shmuel] Herzfeld — who interrupted a meeting of District lawmakers Tuesday, shouting “shame on you” — said in an interview that both the mayor and council had taken the easy way out, mouthing platitudes rather than condemning specific actions. “I don’t think we as citizens should allow our elected officials to make political calculations when it comes to bigotry and hatred,” said Herzfeld.” [WashPost]

HEARD AT THE ADL NATIONAL LEADERSHIP SUMMIT — ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt: “When there is a nominee for high office that has spouted anti-Muslim or homophobic beliefs, you better believe that ADL will speak out even if it means we won’t be invited to the holiday party… When authorities try to put in place a Muslim ban, you better believe that we will take a stand and fight them in court. When those in power try to deny the centrality of Jews to the Holocaust, we will speak out for the six million… When a city councilman here in our Nation’s capital bizarrely claims that a Jewish family controls the weather… and gives taxpayer dollars to the anti-Semitic, bigoted, and homophobic Louis Farrakhan or when other prominent leaders… refuse to condemn Farrakhan – no matter what other good they may profess to do, the ADL will speak out.” [Video]

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein quoted President Trump twice about condemning hatred and fighting hate crimes in remarksat the conference last night. “Opposing parties are at war, figuratively,” Rosenstein said. “But in [President Abraham] Lincoln’s time, people were literally at war. The differences of opinion then were deeper than any of ours today. Still, Lincoln insisted that his opponents not be treated as enemies, because they were all Americans… President Trump echoed that sentiment with his remarks last summer: “We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.”

New ADL reportAt least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were shared or re-shared in English on Twitter over the 12-month period ending January 28, 2018. Those 4.2 million tweets were sent from an estimated three million Twitter handles. Philanthropist George Soros figures prominently in anti-Semitic tweets, with claims that he directly uses his largess to fund false flag events. “This new data shows that even with the steps Twitter has taken to remove hate speech and to deal with those accounts disseminating it, users are still spreading a shocking amount of anti-Semitism and using Twitter as a megaphone to harass and intimidate Jews,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

“Video of man berating hassidic boy goes viral” by Amy Spiro: “A video of an adult man berating a small hassidic boy over his appearance was pulled from Twitter late Sunday night, but not before it had been viewed more than 1 million times and liked more than 100,000 times… New York City council member Brad Lander wrote that the video was “gross viral anti-Semitism” and it is “critical to push back against this small-minded & dehumanizing hate.” [JPost

“Poland’s Holocaust law triggers tide of abuse against Auschwitz museum” by Christian Davies: “Officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum have described how they were subjected to a wave of “hate, fake news and manipulations” as a result of the controversy surrounding a contentious Holocaust speech law passed by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party earlier this year. The campaign of disinformation and abuse at the hands of Polish nationalists has raised concerns about pressure being exerted on official guides at the site in southern Poland, after the home of one foreign guide was attacked and supporters of a convicted antisemite filmed themselves repeatedly hectoring their guide during a visit to the camp last month.” [TheGuardian]

ON THE HILL — “Why Does the House Even Have a Chaplain? Tradition” by Noah Feldman: “The real reason we still have a House chaplain is that we’ve always had one. The Continental Congress overcame some internal dissension to pick a chaplain. And the first Congress established under the Constitution continued the tradition… Speaker Paul Ryan’s failed attempt to get rid of Catholic House chaplain Patrick Conroy is a case in point. Had Ryan respected tradition and let the chaplain stay in office, there would have been no public speculation about whether he was being removed to placate evangelicals who wanted a Protestant sympathetic to their point of view. The lesson is that, even constitutionally, it can sometimes be best to let sleeping dogs lie.” [Bloomberg

REMEMBERING — “Rabbi Aaron Panken, President of Jewish Seminary Killed in Plane Crash in Hudson Valley” by Matt Stevens: “Rabbi Panken was elected to serve as the 12th president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2013 and was installed the next year… While presiding over the graduation ceremonies this month he noted that the world was “particularly challenging and painful” in a way that “transcends anything I have seen in my lifetime.” “But here’s the thing,” he continued. “The Jewish people, and our religious friends of other faiths, have seen this before, and we have lived through it, and thrived and built again and again and again.”” [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK — Lance Armstrong travels to Israel for work: “Armstrong has been following the Grande Partenza of the iconic Giro d’Italia race with his cycling podcast, “Stages.” He was covering the event over the weekend — starting in Jerusalem on Friday and then in stages from Haifa to Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva to Eilat on Sunday.” [NYPost]

DESSERT — “Lipkin’s Bakery returns to South Philly” by Sandy Smith: “When the Lipkin family started their kosher bakery at Fourth and McKean streets many decades ago, the neighborhood surrounding it was 90 percent Jewish… Lipkin’s return to South Philly, with a retail store at 2153 S. Hancock St., has generated an enthusiastic response from the bakery’s many fans, Jewish and otherwise, and it hasn’t even opened yet…” [PassyunkPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Billionaire who converted Chris-Craft Industries from the small boat business into a large media holding company, then sold Chris Craft to Rupert Murdoch in 2001 for $5.3 billion, Herbert J. Siegel turns 90… Ontario-based politician, psychiatrist, academic and public servant, served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as a member and leader of the Liberal Party (1975-1982), Stuart Lyon Smith turns 80… Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and chemistry at Yale University, Sidney Altman turns 79… Member of the New York State Assembly since 1993, representing parts of Westchester and Putnam counties, Sandra R. “Sandy” Galef turns 78… Napa, California-based media executive and interview host, Jeffrey Schechtman turns 68… Deputy US Secretary of State (2009-2011), Deputy National Security Advisor (1996-2000), currently a professor at Syracuse University, James Steinberg turns 65… Professional poker player and hedge fund manager, Daniel Shak turns 59…

Emmy Award-winning film and television director, Adam Bernstein turns 58… Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from the City of Alexandria since 2016 and host of a nationally syndicated progressive public policy radio program, Mark H. Levine turns 52… Democratic member of the US House of Representatives since 2010, representing parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, Theodore Eliot “Ted” Deutch turns 52… Director of floor legislative operations for Minority Leader Pelosi, Keith Stern turns 44… Member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party since 2013, Israeli Minister of Justice since 2015, Ayelet Shaked turns 42… AIPAC national board member, Yana J. Lukeman… Director of corporate communications at Citadel LLC, a leading alternative asset manager, Robert Warren Saliterman turns 36 (h/t Playbook)… CEO of Austin-based Harris Media, he served as Chief Digital Strategist for Senator Rand Paul and assisted PM Netanyahu and the Likud in the 2014 Israeli elections, Vincent Robert Harris turns 30… Las Vegas-based fashion blogger, model and writer, Bebe Zeva (a pseudonym of Rebeccah Hershkovitz) turns 25… Jane Press




Daily Kickoff: Will Pompeo be able to hire Never Trumpers? | Joe Lieberman would sooner back Bernie than Elizabeth Warren | Giro D’Italia B’Israel

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TOP TALKER — “Influential outsiders have played a key role in Scott Pruitt’s foreign travel” by Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis: “Scott Pruitt’s itinerary for a February trip to Israel was remarkable by any standard for an Environmental Protection Agency administrator: A stop at a controversial Jewish settlement in the West Bank. An appearance at Tel Aviv University. A hard-to-get audience with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One force behind Pruitt’s eclectic agenda: casino magnate and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson… Pruitt was scheduled to unveil an agreement with Water-Gen, an Israeli water purification company championed by Adelson… The EPA signed an agreement with the company in January; Pruitt had hoped to announce it while he was in Israel.”

“On Thursday, Adelson’s top political adviser, Andy Abboud, confirmed his involvement in planning Pruitt’s Israel agenda, but played down its significance, saying, “Many people consult” Adelson before making the journey. “In some cases, we will make an introduction to various officials traveling to Israel and Israeli staff officials,” Abboud said. Of the planned Pruitt trip, he said: “It was very perfunctory, and I would describe them as simple introductions.”” [WashPost]

“Abbas Apologizes to ‘Jewish People’ for Offensive Comments, Condemning Holocaust and anti-Semitism? by Jack Khoury: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas apologized Friday for comments he made last week which were widely decried as anti-Semitic. “If people were offended by my statement, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them. I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith, as well as other monotheistic faiths. I would also like to reiterate our long held condemnation of the Holocaust, as the most heinous crime in history, and express our sympathy with its victims,” he said.” [HaaretzReuters] • PLO convention affirms Abbas, 83, as unchallenged leader [AP]

Israeli defense minister rejects Abbas apology over remarks on Jews: “Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday rejected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ apology for his remarks on Jews. Lieberman wrote on Twitter: “Abu Mazen is a wretched Holocaust denier, who wrote a doctorate of Holocaust denial and later also published a book on Holocaust denial. That is how he should be treated. His apologies are not accepted.” [Reuters]

‘ULTIMATE DEAL’ — THE VINEGAR: “Trump to tell Israel: Withdraw from four east Jerusalem neighborhoods” by Yanir Cozin: “The Trump administration will ask Israel to withdraw from four Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which will likely become the capital of a future Palestinian state, US officials told Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman during his visit to Washington last week. The transfer of control over the neighborhoods – Jebl Mukabar, Isawiya, Shuafat and Abu Dis – was presented to Liberman as just one piece of the larger peace plan the administration has been working on over the last year.”

THE HONEY: “Alongside the concessions expected of Israel, the administration has promised its full support in the event of a widespread conflict with Iran or Syria. The administration has told Israel it would supply the IDF with significant support, including advanced weaponry, if a war broke out with Iran, even one instigated by Israeli action against Iran’s presence in Syria.” [JPost]

TRANSITION — Grant Rumley, a research fellow at Foundation For Defense of Democracies and co-author of The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas, has joined the Pentagon as Country Director for Israel at the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy.

“Pompeo faces a hiring obstacle course” by Nahal Toosi: “If Pompeo were to try to bring on GOP critics of Trump, he “needs to argue to the president that some people are terrible ‘Never Trumpers’ but others just supported other candidates so they naturally attacked him just as he very strongly attacked his opponent,” a Republican former government official said. “The key difference is probably what people have said since he got elected: If they have stayed critical, the hell with them. If they have been supportive for a year and a half, they should be forgiven, because Pompeo needs some of them to take control of State back from the awful, horrible State bureaucracy.”

“Many members of that bureaucracy are especially keen to see Pompeo oust one member of Tillerson’s inner circle who remains at State: Brian Hook, the director of the secretary’s Policy Planning Staff. Hook, whose current position doesn’t require Senate confirmation, is leading talks with European allies on the future of the Iran nuclear deal. He also was among the State officials who traveled overseas with Pompeo this past weekend. Hook’s future remains uncertain.” [Politico]

Vice President Mike Pence in an interview with CBN News: “When we open the American Embassy in Jerusalem, we will in a very real sense end this historic friction, we’ll embrace reality. And President Trump and I believe that in doing that, that peace in the region becomes more possible.” [CBN]

Yossi Klein Halevi writes… “How Israelis See the World: The moral dissonance between Israel and the international community only strengthens the Israeli hard right, which argues, in the words of an old Israeli song, that “the whole world is against us.” … When critics trivialize a threat to Israel’s border as “peaceful demonstrations,” Israelis conclude that world opinion is either obtuse or hostile. The result is a dismissal of any criticism. By contrast, when Israelis sense a willingness in the international community to consider their concerns, they tend to respond with greater openness to the moral critiques of outsiders.”[NYTimes]

IRAN DEAL: “Top Trump Ally Predicts Iran Deal Will Hold Up, for Now” by Asawin Suebsaeng and Andrew Desiderio: “Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and one of the lawmakers with whom Trump speaks with most regularly, told The Daily Beast that the president would likely decline to back out entirely when a deadline to certify Iran’s compliance comes next week… “If I had to handicap it, I would believe there’d be a short-term extension as we look to re-negotiate an agreement… Knowing that the deadlines on some of this correspond to key discussions on trade with China and denuclearization talks with North Korea, I can see a deferral more than an outright withdrawal being a tactic that is used right now,” Meadows added.” [DailyBeast]

“Israeli satellite firm reports ‘unusual’ activity at Iran nuclear site” by Judah Ari Gross: “An Israeli satellite imaging company on Thursday released images showing what it described as “unusual” movement around the Iranian Fordo nuclear facility… The photographs, which show large numbers of vehicles at the entrance to the facility and other signs of increased activity there, do not in themselves indicate any violation of the nuclear accord.” [ToI

“Iran nuclear deal: Is its economy better off?” by Amir Paivar: “The International Monetary Fund reported that the real GDP of Iran grew 12.5% in the first year following the implementation of the deal… Growth has fallen since then, and the IMF estimates the economy will grow at 4% this year, which is healthy but below the 8% target Iran had for the five years following the deal… Most of the post-nuclear deal boom came from increased oil revenues that go directly into the government coffers and that takes time to trickle down into people’s pockets.” [BBC]

“More Iranians With British Links Held in Iran” by Thomas Erdbrink and Rick Gladstone: “Speculation has grown in recent months that freedom for the Iranians with British connections may be tied to a longstanding legal dispute between Britain and Iran over Iran’s 1976 purchase of British tanks that were never delivered… A similar financial dispute over an old arms deal between Iran and the United States appeared to play a role in the 2016 release of Americans held by the Iranians, with the delivery of $400 million to Iran on the same day the nuclear deal took effect.” [NYTimes]

BOLTON TIME? —  Retired Col. Jack Jacobs writes… “John Kelly’s ‘idiot’ comments suggest an imminent exit, clearing the way for John Bolton’s rise: If Bolton plays his cards right he could very well be one of the most powerful men in Washington by the end of the year — if not sooner — due to his proximity to the president… Trump has been described as a person who tends to be most influenced by the last person to speak with him, making access paramount. And so in this scenario, it would be Bolton calling the shots.” [NBCNews]

“Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller has been in touch with Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton” by Eliza Relman: “Pamela Geller, a well-known anti-Islam activist, says she has had “positive” interactions in recent years with John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser… In an email to Business Insider, Geller [said] that she is “very happy” Bolton, who she called “an extraordinarily intelligent man,” was selected for the top administration post. “John Bolton knows what he is doing,” she said… But it’s unclear how much the two have been in touch in recent years. Geller would only say that all of her recent interactions with Bolton have been “cordial” and “positive.”” [BusinessInsider

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “NBC News corrects explosive story on Michael Cohen” by Oliver Darcy: “NBC News on Thursday afternoon corrected an explosive story it had reported earlier in the day that said federal authorities had wiretapped Michael Cohen… The correction was announced on MSNBC during “Meet the Press Daily” by the story’s lead reporter, Tom Winter. He said US officials had told him that it “was not a wiretap” but instead a “pen register.” … Winter explained that a pen register meant authorities were “not able to listen in in real-time or record his conversations.”” [CNNMoney]

Comey blasts Giuliani for comparing FBI agents to ‘stormtroopers'” by Cristiano Lima: “Former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday rebuked Rudy Giuliani… for referring to bureau officials as “stormtroopers.” … The remark appeared to reference a paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party — known as the Sturmabteilung… “I know the New York FBI. There are no ‘stormtroopers’ there; just a group of people devoted to the rule of law and the truth,” Comey tweeted. “Our country would be better off if our leaders tried to be like them, rather than comparing them to Nazis.” [Politico]

“Alan Dershowitz Hired as Harvey Weinstein Consultant” by Eriq Gardner: “Alan Dershowitz may not want to jump aboard Donald Trump’s legal team, but apparently, he has no qualms with advising Harvey Weinstein’s legal team. On Thursday, Weinstein continued his bid in Delaware Bankruptcy Court to obtain personal and business records kept by The Weinstein Co… “I have been retained to consult with Benjamin Brafman, Esquire who is representing Harvey Weinstein,” Dershowitz states in a declaration. “I have agreed to consult on the specific issue of Mr. Brafman’s access to his client’s personal and business emails… in order to prepare his constitutionally-mandated role as counsel to Mr. Weinstein.”” [HollywoodReporter]

SCENE YESTERDAY — Approximately 200 guests from faith-based communities attended the National Day of Prayer hosted by President Trump at the White House Rose Garden. Attendees included Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who delivered a special prayer, OU’s Nathan Diament, Agudath Israel’s Abba Cohen, and Ezra Friedlander [CSPAN] • Before the event, Rabbi Shemtov was seen chatting with Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz [Pic]

HAPPENING ON SUNDAY — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will address the ADL National Leadership Summit at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C.

2018 WATCH — “Anti-Semites on the ballot: GOP ‘condemns’ three contenders with racist views” by Caitlin Dickson: “Three Republican candidates in this year’s midterms have been disavowed by the Republican National Committee for their racist and anti-Semitic views — including one who, according to a local television news poll, is leading among Republicans in the primary for California’s Senate election. “While they have no chance of winning, we nonetheless condemn these candidates and their hateful, racist views in the strongest possible terms,” an RNC official said in a statement… “There’s no place for them in the Republican Party.”” [YahooNews]

The race for Georgia Governor: “Tippins Puts SEAL, Business Skills Before Politics” by Sarah Moosazadeh: “Former Navy SEAL Clay Tippins has no political experience, but the business executive and consultant still won a Republican Jewish Coalition straw poll in March as the first choice of 42 percent of the people who attended a candidate forum… While Tippins was deployed to the Middle East, he saw firsthand the threats to Israel. “Israel is never going to find a better partner than Clay Tippins, whether that is as a warrior, a governor or as a citizen,” he said… Tippins said he will build on the business relationships Gov. Nathan Deal cultivated during a trade mission to Israel in 2014.” [AtlantaJewishTimes] • Stacey Abrams Vs. Stacey Evans: Inside GA’s Governor’s Race [NYMag]

“Missouri lawmakers agree to call special session to consider Greitens’ impeachment” by Allison Kite, Jason Hancock And Bryan Lowry: “According to the petition signed by 138 House members and 29 senators — both more than the three-fourths required in each chamber to call a special session — lawmakers will consider the findings and recommendations of a House committee investigating Greitens, “including, but not limited to disciplinary actions against Gov. Eric R. Greitens.” The special session would begin at 6:30 p.m. on May 18, immediately after the legislature adjourns its regular session for the year.” [KansasCItyStarWSJ] 

2020 WATCH — Former Senator Joe Lieberman indicates he would sooner support Bernie Sanders over Elizabeth Warren in 2020 on Tablet Magazine’s Unorthodox podcast, hosted by Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick, and Liel Leibovitz — If it’s Elizabeth Warren, whom you’ve been very critical of, versus Donald Trump. Do you stick with the Democrats? Lieberman: “I don’t know, tough call. I mean that would be my instinct, but she would make it hard. I don’t know really know her. Interestingly enough, I know Bernie Sanders because I served with him.” Would you vote Bernie over Trump? Lieberman: “It depends where we are. That would be an easier call for me as a Democrat interestingly enough. Bernie is a genuine article.” [TabletMag

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israel is One of the Three Countries Alibaba is Considering for Expansion, Says Jack Ma [CTech] • Isadore Sharp’s Four Seasons luxury hotel in Vancouver to close amid complaints of ‘tired, dated’ appearance [GlobeAndMail] • Steve Cohen’s Point72 hedge fund makes slight gains in 2018 [BusinessInsider] • Former Millennium Trader Dodson to Start New Oil Hedge Fund [Bloomberg] • Jeff Sutton, the Cayre family and others will not attend this years International Conference of Shopping Center’s because it conflicts with Shavuot [TheRealDeal]

PROFILE: “Isaac Hager’s higher power: The developer is gaining outer borough market share, despite a trail of foreclosures and lawsuits from his early real estate days” by Mark Maurer and Eddie Small: “A couple months ago, one of Brooklyn’s most active and under-the-radar developers, Isaac Hager, crossed into Queens to buy a 50,000-square-foot Long Island City warehouse for just shy of $20 million. But while reviewing the deal’s terms, Hager uncovered a problem: He could not take advantage of the property’s total floor-area ratio. The discovery could have scored him at least $1 million off the price… But when it came time to close, Hager opted not to push for a lower price. “It’s a chillul Hashem,” Hager told Junik, using Hebrew to call it a desecration of God’s name. “Why look bad?” Hager — whose Hasidic Jewish faith is said to be sometimes at odds with his aggressive dealmaking style — reasoned that it was important to stick to his word. And that philosophy seems to be working well for him.” [TheRealDealMag]

“Theranos Cost Business and Government Leaders More Than $600 Million” by John Carreyrou: “In an April 10 email to shareholders… Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes raised the likelihood that the company would be liquidated by August… Other Theranos investors facing big losses include… members of South Africa’s Oppenheimer family, which controlled the diamond company De Beers until it was sold to Anglo American PLC in 2011… The Oppenheimers invested… $20 million… New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft invested about $1 million.” [WSJ]

Glencore, a hard-slugging mining giant, meets its match in Congo: “The clash between [Ivan] Glasenberg and [Dan] Gertler, two former business partners, dates back to December, when the American government slapped sanctions on Mr Gertler, accusing him of amassing hundreds of millions of dollars through “opaque and corrupt” mining deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which he denies… Mr Glasenberg may be partially reaping what he sowed, analysts say. His firm long did business with Mr Gertler, despite reports about the latter’s relationship with [Joseph] Kabila… Glencore may survive the slugfest. Some analysts say it may be encouraged to make a big tax prepayment to Gécamines to preserve its assets… Others say it may attempt to convince America’s Treasury to relax sanctions against Mr Gertler… But that is unlikely.” [Economist]

“The Battle for Sumner Redstone’s Affection—and Fortune—Gets Even Weirder” by William Cohan: “Shari Redstone’s current crusade to put together what her father intentionally tore asunder is just the latest chapter of a very long—Sumner is currently 94—and very ugly quasi-Shakespearean epic. There are so many versions of the “truth” swirling around the family, the lawyers who worked for them, Sumner’s various girlfriends, paramours, nurses, and other employees, that it is nearly impossible to figure out what really transpired and why. There are a number of ongoing lawsuits, so the courts will be in charge of determining the truth—and who, therefore, should pay whom.” [VanityFair]

“Dead Sea Scrolls discovery: Tech reveals hidden script” by James Rogers: “The technology, which was originally developed for NASA, has identified new letters and words, giving experts fresh insight into the historic texts. One of the fragments may even indicate the existence of a previously unknown manuscript, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is conducting the research… Fragments have also been found from The Temple Scroll, the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which provides directions for conducting Temple services, and the Great Psalms Scroll.” [FoxNews]

Israeli diplomat in US booted from Uber for speaking Hebrew: “An Israeli diplomat in Chicago said he was thrown out of an Uber on Thursday night when the driver heard him speaking Hebrew. Itay Milner, Israel’s deputy consul general in Chicago, posted on Facebook that it was one of the worst experiences of his life. “I was just thrown out of an Uber in the middle of the highway only because I answered my phone in my mother tongue,” he posted.”[ToI]

Roger Cohen writes… “Israel Banishes a Columbia Law Professor for Thinking Differently: “Katherine Franke, who is a Columbia Law School professor and was co-heading a delegation of American civil rights leaders when she was detained last Sunday, interrogated, accused of lying, and, upon expulsion, told she could never return… Franke told me the reaction from Columbia had been “disappointing.” Although she informed the law school dean and the provost of her detention, no one asked whether she got out the country safely, and no statement was issued from the university. The law school dean’s chief of staff informed her, she told me, that “because there are pro-Israeli centers at the law school” the school “would not get involved in defending” her.” [NYTimes]

“There’s More to Being Jewish Than Fighting Anti-Semitism” by Emma Green: “[Jonathan] Weisman’s book never overcomes this foundational flaw: It is based on the wildly inaccurate claim that American Jews are not talking about, thinking about, and calling out anti-Semitism… Weisman does not excavate enough Zionist history to recognize the uncanny parallel between his fears and those of Jewish thinkers past, but this ripple of anxiety through the generations is one of the reasons why this moment in America politics is so powerful. Like the Jews of today, many of Europe’s early 20th-century Jews were highly secular and assimilated, and this may have made them slower to address the deadly threat of rising bigotry in their time. Anti-Semitism provides a framework for thinking about other problems of extremism and xenophobia, as well.” [TheAtlantic]

SPORTS BLINK — May 4th sees the start of cycling’s Giro D’Italia, with the opening stage held in Jerusalem. This is the biggest sporting event in the history of Israel. [CNNBBC]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Five Stones Virtuous — by Yitz Applbaum: “Before Passover I suggested some wonderful wines to enhance your Seder. At our own Seder, we drank all the wines suggested plus a few more. One of the new wines was the “Five Stones Virtuous.”

“The Five Stones Virtuous wine is a masterpiece. The Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes are separately aged for 15 months in new French oak, and then blended together and re-aged for 18 more months.  This wine requires an immense amount of focus because you can simultaneously taste the individual grape varietals, and the overall blend all at the same time. At first, one is bombarded with deep, passionate, middle-mouth dark chocolate covered blueberry flavors. Then, just as you are about to regain your composure, the finish overwhelms you with elegant, deep-toasted wood and cherry overtones. Ideally, one drinks this wine with the leftover lamb from the Passover sacrifice. If that is not available, then a regular leg of lamb will suffice.” [WinesIsrael]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Former chairman and CEO of American International Group, now chairman and CEO of the Starr Companies, Maurice Raymond “Hank” Greenberg turns 93… Best-selling Israeli author, Amos Oz (born Amos Klausner) turns 79… Former member of the New York State Assembly (1983-2010), now a Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Public Service at NYU, Richard L. Brodsky turns 72… Congregational rabbi (1974-1977), then executive director of the Texas A&M Hillel (1983-2013), now a consultant for the tourism industry, Peter E. Tarlow turns 72… US Special Envoy for Climate Change in the Obama administration, chief negotiator at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Todd Stern turns 67… EVP and Global General Counsel of the Las Vegas Sands since 2016, previously Group General Counsel and Senior EVP of News Corporation (1996-2011), Lawrence “Lon” A. Jacobs turns 63… Baltimore-born triathlete, she earned a Ph.D. in 2001 from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is a winner of international ironman competitions, Joanna Sue Zeiger turns 48… Executive Director of Surprise Lake Camp and Director of Youth Engagement for the Union for Reform Judaism, Bradley Solmsen turns 48… State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida since 2013, he was the youngest member of the Florida Senate when he was elected in 2002, Dave Aronberg turns 47… Former member of the New York City Council (2006-2017), Daniel Garodnick turns 46… Former Secretary of State of Missouri (2013-2017), he ran for the US Senate in 2016, Jason Kander turns 37… MPA candidate at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School, Allison Bormel Ament turns 31… Speechwriter for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Shana Mansbachturns 26… 2017 graduate of the MFA program at American University, Steven A. Rosenberg turns 29… Mechal Wakslak

SATURDAY: Talk radio show host, a 2014 inductee into the National Radio Hall of Fame, Barry Farber turns 88… Writer of the “Letter from America” column for The International Herald Tribune, previously a foreign correspondent and a book critic at The New York Times, Richard Bernsteinturns 74… Best-selling author of 19 novels featuring fictional Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper, Linda Fairstein turns 71… Retired judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (2000-2017, the last 11 years as Chief Judge), he was previously president of the Jewish Community Council of Washington, Peter B. Krauser turns 71… Member of the Knesset, almost continuously since 1988, for the Haredi parties of Degel HaTorah and United Torah Judaism, Moshe Gafni turns 66… Member of the Knesset (1996-2018) for the Shas party, he now serves as Minister of Religious Services, David Azulai turns 64… South African-born President of American Jewish World Service, Robert Bank turns 59… Executive Director for North America of the Avi Chai Foundation since 1994, Yossi Prager turns 53… Television writer and producer, known for The Simpsons, Josh Weinstein turns 52… Television news correspondent, Lara Berman turns 38… Former Israeli national soccer team captain, Yossi Benayoun turns 38… Principal at New Enterprise Associates and a member of the inaugural class of the Schwarzman Scholars program, Andrew Adams Schoen turns 28…

SUNDAY: Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford U, Abraham David Sofaer turns 80… Media executive and philanthropist, he was a long-time executive of Time Inc. (later Time Warner) who negotiated the merger between AOL and Time Warner in 2000, Gerald M. “Jerry” Levin turns 79… Born in Buenos Aires, later emigrated to Chile and then the US, novelist, playwright, essayist, academic and human rights activist, professor of Latin American studies at Duke University, Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman turns 76… Professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, Martha Nussbaum turns 71… Former Deputy Attorney General of the US (1994-1997), Jamie S. Gorelick turns 68… French-born president of the Jerusalem College of Technology (2009-2013), Noah Dana-Picard turns 64… Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies at Northeastern University, Lori Hope Lefkovitzturns 62… President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life (since 2013), previously Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents (2007-2011) and a US Congressman (1993-1995), Eric David Fingerhut turns 59… Attorney and partner in LA-based real estate development firm, Regent Properties, Daniel Gryczman turns 43… Los Angeles-based television personality, actress, writer and video blogger, Shira Lazar turns 35…




Daily Kickoff: Did Israeli F-15s pretend to be US planes in Syria? | NYT Editorial calls for Abbas to go | The woman tasked with cleaning up the NFL

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DRIVING THE CONVO — “Sources: Trump has all but decided to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal” by Steve Holland and Arshad Mohammed: “President Trump has all but decided to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord by May 12 but exactly how he will do so remains unclear… There is a chance Trump might choose to keep the United States in the international pact… in part because of “alliance maintenance” with France… Top aides are not seeking aggressively to talk Trump out of withdrawal because he seems intent on it, a second White House official said.” [Reuters]

“Quitting Iran Deal a Bad Idea But Not End of World, Condoleezza Rice Says” by Daniel Flatley: “I would probably stay in it because once you’re in an agreement, you don’t want to send the signal that the United States just turns its back on agreements that are there,” Rice said during an interview Wednesday on Bloomberg Television’s “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations.” But, she added, it “won’t be the end of the world” if President Donald Trump withdraws from the agreement… Rice echoed backers of the agreement, including Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry, in saying that the information detailed by Netanyahu wasn’t new.” [Bloomberg]

Washington Post editorial… “Netanyahu’s revelations aren’t enough to justify ripping up the Iran nuclear agreement: Mr. Trump has frequently said he does not want the United States to fight more Middle East wars. If so, it would be in his interest to look beyond Mr. Netanyahu’s video appeals before making a final decision.” [WashPost]

Richard Goldberg writes… “Netanyahu’s Intelligence Bombshell Should Spell End of Iran Deal: The response from President Donald Trump should be no different than his response to North Korea: maximum pressure until the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.” [NationalReview]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — “With Three Rapid Strokes, Netanyahu Advances Agenda Against Iran” by David Halbfinger: “All these years [Netanyahu] was trigger-unhappy,” said Nahum Barnea, a respected columnist at Yediot Ahronoth… “Now, it seems that he is pushing everybody toward a more hostile environment.” … Increasingly in recent years, Mr. Netanyahu has spoken with almost prophetic fervor about stopping Iran. Yet for all of his assertive moves this week, analysts said it remained unclear where exactly they were intended to lead. In particular, if he succeeds in scuttling the nuclear agreement with Iran, then what? ”He didn’t give us Israelis any logical scenario for what will happen after the American decision,” Barnea said… “This is something he never elaborated on. And it’s time he does it.” The heightened tension with Iran, along with the Knesset’s enactment of the lowered threshold to declaring war, came as a surprise… “Suddenly, they’re faced with a big question mark: Where are we heading?” “Maybe,” Mr. Barnea added, “he feels his war has come.” [NYTimes]

“Israel braces for Iranian military reaction” by Ben Caspit: “The intelligence assessment is that Iran will attempt a response that exacts a similar cost and mode of operation to those taken by Israel. In other words, it would attack an Israeli military target and try to take a toll on uniformed troops. If that is the case, will Israel “contain” the Iranian response and react in a measured and tempered way so that the situation doesn’t deteriorate any further? It all depends on the circumstances of the attack. Should Israel respond against Iranian targets in Syria, or should it attack Iran itself? This lies at the base of a significant debate, which has yet to be decided.” [Al-Monitor] • Israel Sees Iran War Looming as Mideast Tinderbox Awaits a Spark [Bloomberg]

“Israeli Army Chief Eisenkot: Stay Forceful in Syria Despite Iran” by Amos Harel: “Tehran seems to be debating over the nature of its promised retaliation against Israel, and even more, over its timing… One theory being advanced is that Tehran may be reluctant to respond prior to Lebanon’s parliamentary elections this coming Sunday and U.S. President Donald Trump’s expected announcement on May 12… Israeli officials also believe the Trump Administration is reconsidering its decision to remove American forces from Syria… Several people well-versed in the ongoing talks with the Trump Administration said Trump is likely to approve keeping the U.S. troops there for another six months.” [Haaretz]

“Israel to Russia: We sat out Western sanctions, so help us in Mideast” by Dan Williams: “Israel’s defense minister reminded Russia on Thursday of his government’s decision not to join Western sanctions against it, and asked that Moscow reciprocate with a more pro-Israel approach to Syria and Iran… “We value these relations with Russia,” [Avigdor] Lieberman said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant… “A lot of countries have recently expelled Russian diplomats. Israel did not join in this action,” he added.” [Reuters]

DEEP DIVE: “Let’s Talk About This Rumor That Israeli F-15s Mimicked US Jets To Strike At Iran In Syria” by Joseph Trevithick: “How the jets were able to get to their targets and not prompt any significant response from Syrian air defense forces remains unclear… One unconfirmed rumor explains that the Israeli jets masked their approach by setting their Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponders to emit the same type of signal associated with U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles, as well as using false callsigns to help keep up the ruse. These jets routinely conduct operations in Eastern Syria in support of American forces and their local partners. The presence of Strike Eagles would not necessarily have aroused suspicions if they appeared on Syrian or Russian radars while over Eastern Syria. Israel’s aircraft then supposedly flew through Jordan, Iraq, and into Eastern Syria before blitzing toward their targets…” [TheDrive]

Israel Reportedly Seeks to Renegotiate Refugee Deal With UN: “Israel is looking into renewing negotiations with the UN’s refugee agency over a deal to find a solution for the African asylum seekers living in the country… Channel 10 reported that the UN agency reached out to Israel and said that as far as it was concerned, the deal was still on the table.” [HaaretzNana10]

NYTimes Editorial… “Let Abbas’s Vile Words Be His Last as Palestinian Leader: “Even in this gloomy climate, however, Mr. Abbas’s vile speech was a new low. No doubt he feels embittered and besieged on all sides. But by succumbing to such dark, corrosive instincts he showed that it is time for him to leave office.” [NYTimes

— Jonathan Freedland: It’s right to condemn Mahmoud Abbas for his anti-Semitic remarks [TheGuardian]

ANOTHER ABBAS SPEECH TODAY — “Palestinians said set to withdraw recognition of Israel” by Stuart Winer: “The top-level governing body of the Palestine Liberation Organization is reportedly set to adopt a resolution freezing its recognition of Israel and conditioning it on Israel recognizing a state of Palestine. Sources close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat that the Palestinian National Council is expected to pass the resolution during its current gathering… Abbas is reportedly to announce the measures during a speech to the council on Thursday evening.” [ToI]

JERUSALEM EMBASSY WATCH — “Turks, Saudis, UAE said to pump quarter billion dollars into East Jerusalem” by Sue Surkes: “Less than two weeks away from the scheduled transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pumping a quarter of a billion dollars into the Islamic Waqf and a slew of Muslim organizations in East Jerusalem, Hadashot news reported… The three countries are describing the move as an act of “rescue” to finance renovations at holy sites, but Israeli officials fear their involvement will go beyond money and could spark violence in the run-up to the ribbon-cutting on May 14.” [ToI]

“Rick Scott will travel to Israel for U.S. Embassy opening” by Alex Leary: “Gov. Rick Scott will travel to Israel this month for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, his office said, noting it’s his third official visit. The trip dovetails with Scott’s Senate campaign.” [TampaBayTimes]

PIC OF THE DAY — Mrs. Rhoda Dermer, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, Paul Singer, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, and Dan Loeb at the Manhattan Institute’s 18th annual Alexander Hamilton Award Dinner last night [Pich/t Playbook

SIGHTING — “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner test out new Israeli eatery” by Sarah Polus: “Hey, isn’t that … Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner leaving Sababa? The first daughter and presidential adviser were spotted trying out the newly opened Israeli restaurant in Cleveland Park, where they dined about 8 p.m. Tuesday. “They were both very warm and friendly,” said Scott D. Forman, the restaurant’s general manager.” [WashPostTheHill

MUELLER WATCH — “Giuliani ally Marc Mukasey in talks to join Trump legal team” by Kara Scannell and Sara Murray: “Marc Mukasey, a longtime ally of Rudy Giuliani, is in talks to possibly join President Donald Trump’s legal team. Adding Mukasey to the President’s roster of lawyers outside the White House is under consideration, but sources cautioned that a final decision has not been made.” [CNN]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Rudy Guiliani on a report that Robert Mueller might interview Ivanka Trump in an interview on Fox News’ Hannity: “I think I would get on my charger and go right into their office with a lance if they go after Ivanka… If they do [interview] Ivanka, which I doubt they will, the whole country will turn on. ‘They are going after his daughter?’ I guess Jared [Kushner] is a fine man, you know that, but men are, you know, disposable (chuckle). But a fine woman like Ivanka, come on.” [Video]

— “Near the end of his hour-long appearance, Giuliani called the federal agents who raided Cohen’s Manhattan office last month “stormtroopers.” [DailyBeast]

— The big headline: Giuliani says Trump reimbursed Cohen for Stormy Daniels payment [CNN]

2018 WATCH — “Heller targets Rosen for her support of the Iran nuclear deal” by Humberto Sanchez: “Who does Jacky Rosen stand with? Iran … or #Israel? Based on her record of supporting the #IranDeal, we all know the answer,” [Sen. Dean] Heller said in a tweet posted Tuesday… Rosen’s campaign took offense that Heller would cast Rosen, who is Jewish, as against Israel and in league with Iran,.. citing her activism in the Jewish community as president of Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson… Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel of Midbar Kodesh Temple in Henderson said that while the Nevada Jewish community skews slightly toward Democrats, it reflects the community at large with some who oppose the deal and some who support it. “We’re not a monolithic community,” Tecktiel said. “It’s not going to affect how Jews in Nevada vote for either one of them… Neither one is going to change anybody’s mind.” [TheNevadaIndependent]

“Greitens donor and state contractor funded $90k in travel in 2017, new filing shows” by Kevin McDermott: “[Gov. Eric] Greitens’ newly released personal financial disclosure statement shows that Herzog Contracting Corp., a highway and railroad building company based in St. Joseph, Mo., provided $89,600 worth of travel and lodging to Greitens for four separate outings in 2017… According to the new filing, Herzog Contracting paid for Greitens to travel to Las Vegas in February 2017 to attend the Republican Jewish Coalition Conference and Republican National Governors Association events.” [STLToday]

“Doctor used Hebrew code to warn Sheldon Silver about FBI” by Kaja Whitehouse: “Dr. Robert Taub said he used the phrase “bikur cholim” — a Jewish commandment to visit and extend aid to the sick — to warn [then-Assembly speaker Sheldon] Silver that the feds were on his tail. “I mentioned it to let him know that I had been rendered ill … rendered sick by a visitation,” Taub told the Manhattan federal jury Tuesday.” [NYPost

** 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: Michael Lynton and Len Blavatnik are backing an acquisitions group that bought regional publisher Arcadia Publishing[WSJ] • Sam Zell Says Warehouses Getting ‘Too Exciting’ in E-Commerce Age[Bloomberg] • Point72 Human Resources Chief, Mike Butler, Leaves Cohen’s Hedge Fund Firm [Bloomberg] • Larry Silverstein raises $200M in bonds in Tel Aviv [TheRealDeal] • The Harvard Undergrad Fixing Finance: JPMorgan, Bank of America, and big-name hedge funds are trying to diversify. BLK Capital wants to make it easier for them [Businessweek]

“This startup is doubling down on the idea that your inbox can be a one-stop shop for businesses” by Zoë Bernard: “Opening your inbox shouldn’t be a static experience. This is the fundamental belief of Joe Teplow, CEO and founder of the New York-based email marketing startup Rebel, who, for the past four years has been working on creating marketing tools tailored to the inbox experience… The company has caught the attention of investors as well. Rebel recently raised $5 million in a seed round that included Courtside Venture Capital, Sinai Venture Capital, and Wisdom Venture Capital.” [BusinessInsider]

JI INTERVIEW — Why did you start Rebel? Joe Teplow: “It began with a charity newsletter I had started called Good Street that enables members to donate 25¢ to different organizations daily. Every day features a new cause and two charities that are addressing that problem in unique ways. While I was an undergrad at Yeshiva University, I became really fascinated by the engagement we were seeing. More than half our members were opening our email on a daily basis and were clicking! I was curious to learn why people were engaging at such a high rate, so I started talking to our subscribers, and while I initially thought guilt was the main motivator for friends, one thing that emerged was that people loved that they didn’t have to login, download an app, put in a password… the email itself was the interface for Good St. and that was pretty interesting and novel. I became curious as to why there were not more interactive experiences from within email and this curiosity was the impetus for the Rebelmail platform.”

“Someone once told me that there is a Jewish principle which states it is better to give a small amount of charity every day than one large amount one day. The rationale being that daily giving cultivates a behavior and is a character forming endeavor. I liked the idea of turning people into givers. Today Good St. is a testament to the power of the collective, and the list has grown from a couple friends giving 25¢/day to over 550 subscribers now giving nearly $200/day. My dream is for Good St. to one day be giving thousands of dollars a day. A world where a member can pass by a Good St. wing in a hospital, knowing that they contributed 25¢.” [GoodSt]

STARTUP NATION — “Regulus Cyber launches with a technology to secure autonomous vehicles” by Jonathan Shieber: “[Yonatan] Zur first had the idea to launch the company three years ago while he was working with drones at the Israeli technology firm, Elbit… Backing the company are a clutch of well-known Israeli and American investors, including Sierra Ventures, Canaan Partners Israel, Technion and F2 Capital… The company’s first two products are a spoofing protection module that integrates with any autonomous vehicle and a communication security manager that protects against hacking and misdirection.” [TechCrunch]

“The 100 Most Influential People in Boston” by David S. Bernstein: “Jonathan Kraft, President of the Kraft Group: Not to take anything away from the legendary Bob Kraft, but the true power behind the throne is now his son Jonathan, who’s running the Patriots and spearheading the organization’s efforts to combat opioid addiction and push for juvenile justice reform. Bob still gets plenty of camera time at the Super Bowl, but Jonathan’s cell number is the one you want in your contacts list… Lawrence Bacow, President of Harvard University: The former head of Tufts University doesn’t actually start his new job until July, but he earned a spot on this list the minute he was selected. What he does with the elite perch remains to be seen.” [BostonMagazine]  

“At Milken, Wall Street touts itself as force for good” by Lawrence Delevingne: “Eric Cantor, the former U.S. House majority leader and now vice chairman of investment bank Moelis & Company, told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference that he has long been drawn to Milken’s focus on capitalism as a force for good, often through partnership with the public sector. “It’s about how you create an environment for that collaborative effort to end up yielding one of the highest standards of living in the world,” Cantor said.” [Reuters

“Franklin Graham talks about his last days with Billy Graham and what he misses most” by Tim Funk: “Graham also uses his new book [Through My Father’s Eyes] to try to clear Billy Graham of what many consider one of the biggest blemishes on his record: His comments about Jews during a 1972 conversation with then-President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office… Franklin Graham argues that Billy Graham was not speaking about Jews, but about Hollywood producers of the time, some of whom were Jewish and some who were not. “My father said that he was uncomfortable with some of the people in Hollywood and if they only knew how he really felt. The Harvey Weinsteins of that day,” Graham told the Observer. “His entire life, my father (had) been a friend to the Jewish people … and (had) defended Israel.” … “In hindsight, my father would have done things a lot differently,” Franklin Graham said of the incident. “But he didn’t even remember the conversation.” [CharlotteObserver]

VIDEO — The Man Making Hasidic Music Pop: “He’s been called the Hasidic Lady Gaga, the Jewish Elvis, but soon, you’ll know him as just Lipa. Raised in a close-knit community, Lipa Schmeltzer grew up with no radio and no television. Hasidic music became his outlet. After he heard his first non-Hasidic song at age 21, Lipa’s life changed. Realizing there was a whole new world of music out there, he began incorporating song structures from modern pop, hip-hop and R&B into his tracks. Nineteen albums and millions of YouTube views later, Lipa is revolutionizing Hasidic music as we know it.”[GreatBigStory

SPORTS BLINK: “She Was Handpicked by the NFL Commish to Help the League Clean Up Its Act” by Lisa Rabasca Roepe: “Sports have long been a focal part of Anna Isaacson’s life. Raised in Brooklyn, New York — her mom was a schoolteacher and her dad ran an office supplies business — she attended Barnard College, where she broadcast radio shows for the Columbia University Lions. During the summer, Isaacson worked at a souvenir shop outside Yankee Stadium, and after graduating in 2001, she took a job with the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones… After five seasons with the Cyclones, she was hired by the NFL as director of community relations, where she ran campaigns that included Play 60, a program encouraging kids to be active, and Crucial Catch, geared toward cancer education.” [Ozy]

“How Italy’s Most Famous Bike Race Wound Up in Israel” by Joshua Robinson: “Nothing in the rules of Italy’s most famous bicycle race says it must be contained entirely in Italy. In its 109-year existence, for example, the Giro d’Italia has spilled over the Italian border into neighboring Monaco, France, and landlocked San Marino… Which is why the 101st running of the Giro d’Italia, the three-week stage race, will begin here, in Israel, on Friday, in one of the most audacious bits of race planning in cycling history. Between volunteers, security personnel and support staff, the Israeli legs of the race will involve some 25,000 people.” [WSJ]

DESSERT — Muslim, Jewish students campaign for more halal, kosher food options on campus: “Last week, Arielle Zoken felt a wave of joy wash over her at the sight of a leftover box of matzo on a counter of the dining commons. It was symbolic of Zoken’s efforts to introduce kosher food at the UC Davis DCs for Passover… Last year, when she was a freshman, her mother sent her two whole grocery bags of kosher food to sustain her for the week. “Two of my roommates are not Jewish, and last year, I didn’t really see them for a whole week because I was cooped up in my dorm, eating my matzo and like fruit and meat that was in my mini fridge,” Zoken said.” [TheAggie]

“And The Brisket King Of NYC Is…” by Clay Williams: “Rounding out the winners of the evening, Josh Massin only had to cross a couple rivers to get the festivities from Teaneck, New Jersey, where he cooks kosher fare at Nobo Wine and Grill and the upcoming Narruto Bowl. His beautifully prepared bowls of ramen drew one of the longest lines of the night… In recent years, the kosher chef community has joined in, and bloggers and videographers covering kosher food could be seen filming and interviewing chefs and judges.” [Gothamist]

BIRTHDAYS: Southern California-area philanthropist, writer and activist promoting wellness, founder of the New Americans Museum in San Diego, Deborah Shainman Szekely turns 96… Physicist and Nobel Laureate, professor at University of Texas at Austin, Steven Weinberg turns 85… Founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, David A. Siegel turns 83… Pioneer in late night television advertising for his company Ronco, inventor and marketing personality, known for the phrase, “But wait, there’s more!” Ronald M. “Ron” Popei turns 83… Senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Ely Karmon, Ph.D. turns 77… US Senator from Oregon since 1996, previously served in the House of Representatives (1981-1996), Ron Wyden(original family name was Weidenreich) turns 69… Partner at Jones Day (previously at Patton Boggs), represents political parties, campaigns, candidates, governors and members of Congress on election law matters, Benjamin L. Ginsberg turns 66…

Retired in 2017 as chair and CEO of Mondelez International, a multinational food and beverage company (including Oreo, Nabisco and Cadbury), Irene Rosenfeld turns 65… Real estate attorney, a partner in the Chicago office of DLA Piper, Mark D. Yura turns 65… Veteran of 13 NHL seasons, who in 2005 sat out a hockey game to observe Yom Kippur, now an assistant coach for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, Jeff Halpern turns 65… EVP for Program Development and Management at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Susan Steinmetz turns 62… President of the North American division of Finsbury, he was the founder of Georgetown Policy Advisers and a senior writer at The New York Times, Stephen Labaton turns  57 (h/t Playbook)… Russian billionaire and owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center (though he is in the process of selling a 49% interest in both), Mikhail Prokhorov turns 53… Partner at Burton Kamins Advocacy, Scott A. Kaminsturns 43… Educated at the Hebrew Academy of San Francisco, played as a defensive lineman in the NFL from 2004 until 2011 (Chargers, Cowboys and Dolphins), Igor Olshansky turns 36… Managing director and director of executive communications of SKDKnickerbocker, graduate of CESJDS, he was previously a speechwriter for President Obama, Stephen Andrew Krupinturns 36…

CUFI Warns Trump of Failing to Move Embassy to Jerusalem

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

WASHINGTON – Speaking before a crowded gathering of pro-Israel supporters at the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) annual summit on Monday, former Congressman Allen West warned President Donald…

Trump Certifies Iran Complying with Nuclear deal, Promises New Sanctions

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration certified on Monday night in its quarterly review that Iran was complying with the 2015 nuclear agreement while also warning about Tehran’s malign…

Kafe Knesset for July 18

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Submarine confusion: Is Israel going to lose out on the German submarines at the center of a major corruption scandal involving Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and cousin David Shimron?…

Pence: ‘Question of When’ Trump Will Move Embassy to Jerusalem

Monday, July 17, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence assured thousands of Christian supporters of Israel on Monday that it’s only a matter of time until President Donald Trump moves the U.S. Embassy…

CFR’s Haass: Only ‘Optimist on Steroids’ Believes Syrian Ceasefire Will Hold

Monday, July 17, 2017

WASHINGTON – After six years of horrific bloodshed across Syria, President Donald Trump has invested presidential credibility towards negotiating a ceasefire with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in…

Kafe Knesset for July 17

Monday, July 17, 2017

Dispatch from Paris: Providing the perfect summer break from ongoing scandals and affairs surrounding him and his closest confidants, Netanyahu is spending the week far away in Europe….