Daily Kickoff: Netanyahu to deliver ‘big speech’ on Iran today | When Qatar paid Iran’s Soleimani a $50M ransom | Milken Scene | Bob Dylan’s whiskey

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DRIVING THE DAY — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to deliver a primetime address at 1PM EDT to issue a statement on a “significant development regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu will also reportedly “present new intel evidence about Iran’s plots to attack Israel and its wide deployment in Syria.”

President Trump spoke on the phone with Netanyahu on Saturday. “The two leaders discussed the continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East region, especially the problems posed by the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities,” according to a White House readout. The White House did not provide further details of the phone call.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. Much of the conversation centered on Iran, Pompeo said following the meeting. “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains. The United States is with Israel in this fight.”

— “Syria Missile Strikes Reportedly Kill at Least 16” by Ben Hubbard: “Missile strikes in Syria hit military bases used by Iran and its proxy militias fighting in the civil war there, killing at least 16 people… There was no claim of responsibility for the strikes, but suspicion fell on Israel, which has repeatedly bombed what are believed to be Iranian convoys in Syria transporting weapons to its regional allies… The Israeli military… declined to comment on whether it had carried out the strikes on Sunday.” [NYTimes]

“Pompeo and Palestinians Have ‘Nothing to Discuss’ Amid Gaza Crisis” by Gardiner Harris and Isabel Kershner: “No one at the State Department called Palestinian leaders to ask for a get-together with Mr. Pompeo, according to Palestinian officials. And that may be because the Americans knew the answer they would have gotten: No… “No meeting in Ramallah on his first visit sets an ominous tone about prospects for any progress, or even dialogue, with the Palestinians,” said Daniel B. Shapiro.” [NYTimes]

“Pompeo says Israel, Palestinian peace still a US priority” by Matt Lee: “He said the United States is open to a two-state solution to the conflict if both parties agree, calling it a “likely outcome.” But he would not agree with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi’s characterization of the conflict as “the main cause of instability” in the region. “The parties will ultimately make the decision as to what the correct resolution is,” Pompeo told reporters at a joint news conference with Safadi. “We are certainly open to a two-party solution as a likely outcome.” [ABCNews

VIEW FROM RIYADH — “Saudi Crown Prince: Palestinians should take what the U.S. offers” by Barak Ravid: “In a closed-door meeting with heads of Jewish organizations in New York on March 27th, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) gave harsh criticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), according to an Israeli foreign ministry cable sent by a diplomat from the Israeli consulate in New York… The Saudi Crown Prince told the Jewish leaders: “In the last several decades the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given. It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining.”

“A source who was briefed on the meeting told me the attendees were stunned when they heard the Saudi Crown Prince comments on the Palestinian issue. “People literally fell off their chairs,” the source said.” [Axios]

— “Saudi court starts trial of two Arabs accused of spying for Mossad”  by Marwa Rashad: “A Saudi Arabian court began the trial of two Jordanians accused of spying against the kingdom for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency…” [Reuters]

Jordan, Israel, Palestinians in rare Japan-hosted meeting: “The Japanese foreign minister has presided over a rare meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials to push ahead with an agro-industrial park intended to enhance cross-border trade and cooperation.” [AP]

“Pompeo swaps no-profile espionage for overt diplomacy” by Matt Lee: “I haven’t been to my office yet,” Pompeo quipped on Sunday after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on only his third full day on the job.” [AP]

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky write… “As Pompeo’s star rises in Trumpland, Haley and Kushner risk getting eclipsed: [Mike] Pompeo’s star will eclipse that of Haley — who recently angered Trump, and not for the first time, with a statement about new sanctions against Russia — and she will likely assume a lower public profile in deference to Pompeo… Kushner’s wings have been clipped by the Mueller investigation; he’s keeping his head down and out of the line of fire. He can claim no foreign policy successes; Middle East peace diplomacy, which he owned lock, stock and barrel, is going nowhere. Pompeo knows it and seems determined to wrestle back foreign policy authority from the White House. The odds are in his favor.” [CNN]

IRAN DEAL — After visiting Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Pompeo accusedIran of “behaving worse” since signing the 2015 nuclear deal, asserting that if the U.S. fails to reach a new deal with the Europeans, Trump will withdraw from the deal.” Talking to reporters en route to Israel, Pompeo brushed asideconcerns that a decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal could impact negotiations with North Korea. At a campaign-style rally in Michigan on Saturday, Trump critiqued the previous administration ahead of his highly-anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “Strength will keep us out of nuclear war,” he said. “I’m not gonna be a John Kerry who makes a horrible Iran deal.”

National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Fox News Sunday:“Trump has made no decision on the nuclear deal, whether to stay in or get out.” [Video

“Squeeze Iran and It Will Cave Like North Korea, Top Israeli Minister Says” by Ethan Bronner: “If North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons, credit belongs to President Donald Trump for his aggressive rhetoric and increased sanctions — and a similar policy would defang Iran… Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said in an interview… Katz… was critical of French President Emmanuel Macron for his attempt last week to persuade Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. “Macron made a big mistake. He should have gone to Iran to persuade Iran to change, not to Trump,” he said.” [BloombergReuters]

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) on Fox News Sunday: “If President Trump can successfully lead an effort with our European allies to rein in or to end their ballistic missile program, to change the outcome of the current Iranian deal so there isn’t a sunset clause — I think these will be positive things that I would support.” [Video]

Peter Beinart writes… “Trump May Already Be Violating the Iran Deal: Section 22 of the deal specifically obliges the United States, subject to some restrictions, to “allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran.” … Erich Ferrari, a lawyer in Washington who works on sanctions issues, told me there’s “definitely been a shift. Certain transactions that we’ve seen licensed in the past under the Obama administration, are now being denied.” … The Trump administration has never fully complied with the nuclear deal, and likely never will. The real question isn’t whether Trump violates it, but how.” [TheAtlantic]

“Hacked messages show Qatar appearing to pay hundreds of millions to free hostages” by Joby Warrick: “The conversations and text messages obtained by The Post show senior Qatari diplomats appearing to sign off on a series of side payments ranging from $5 million to $50 million to Iranian and Iraqi officials and paramilitary leaders, with $25 million earmarked for a Kata’ib Hezbollah boss and $50 million set aside for “Qassem,” an apparent reference to Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a key participant in the hostage deal.”[WashPost]

REPORT — Trump could let Pollard go to Israel in honor of embassy launch: “Donald Trump seems increasingly likely to attend the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem next month, and is reportedly thinking of allowing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard to come to Israel at the same time. The president… is being pressured to go to Israel for the ceremony by supporters and donors, Hadashot TV news reported.” [ToI]

“Trump ‘May’ Go to Opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem” by Felicia Schwartz: “I may go,” Trump said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday… Mr. Trump revealed new details about his deliberations on the decision to construct a temporary facility, saying he almost signed off on a $1 billion plan. “I had my name half-signed, then I noticed the figure. I never got to the word ‘Trump,’” he said… Mr. Trump said he then called David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, who told him he could relocate the embassy for $150,000… In the end, the U.S. spent about $400,000 to retrofit a complex in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, U.S. officials said. “It will be somewhat temporary, but it could be for many years,” Mr. Trump said.” [WSJWashPost

HEARD YESTERDAY AT THE JPOST CONFERENCE IN NYC — Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) on Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem: “Every country determines its own capital – what’s the big news here? I don’t see this as a major decision by the president of the U.S. (the audience booed this line). The manner in which the president handled it, in my view, was a missed opportunity. But Israel’s capital is Jerusalem, and we’ve all recognized that and will continue to recognize that.”

— “Reporter’s Notebook: Effusive celebration of Israel in NY” by Lahav Harkov: “When I interviewed Senator Ben Cardin – the senior US Senator from Maryland, the former ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a Democrat – you could get whiplash from the crowd, cheering one minute and jeering the next. Few could doubt Cardin’s pro-Israel bona fides in his decades of public service, but when he mentioned that he spoke at the J Street Conference, the crowd seemed to do just that, and began to jeer. And they booed again when Cardin gave Congress credit for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital 23 years ago, as opposed to US President Donald Trump.” [JPost]

HIGHLIGHTS — Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Trump’s Jerusalem move: “It should have happened many years ago… However, before we get overjoyed, let’s not forget that in Trump’s announcement he refers to the West side of Jerusalem, and he also said that the final borders will be determined in negotiations, which means that he does not necessarily accept that all Arab neighborhoods ought to be part of Jerusalem. We rather have a Jewish Jerusalem, and I hope it will be recognized by the entire international community soon.”

Olmert on Trump’s peace plan: “From past experience, we know that America can’t impose on any of the sides to do what they don’t want to do. It depends what the plan is. But for the time being, if the president will sponsor a thoughtful and forthcoming peace initiative, I think it will be a positive step forward… If there is peace between us and the Palestinians, then overnight there will be peace between Israel and 10 Arab Muslim countries and Israel will become the capital of the Middle East and all the money coming to the region will pass through Tel Aviv.”

Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi: “I think Trump will nix the deal. I think nixing the deal is a good idea. It’s time the world – and I am glad that the Trump Administration understands the real nature of Iran… The real issue is whether the Iranian will decide to go for the [nuclear] bomb.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “I want to applaud President Trump for understanding this [Iran] deal sucks. I hope we get out unless we make it better because its a lousy deal.”

Ron Lauder: “In many ways, the World Jewish Congress serves as Israel’s foreign ministry. Which is a good thing, because Israel is probably the only country in the world right now that doesn’t have its own foreign minister… Imagine if Israel bought one less F-16 plane, and used that money on hasbara. What a difference that would make.”

— Lauder on Trump: “With the most pro-Israel president in American history, Donald J. Trump, I believe that peace is possible and within reach. And we all thank President Trump for his historic courage in moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.” [Video

Anthony Scaramucci, defending Trump over his Charlottesville ‘both sides’ comments: “If you think about what the president is doing for the State of Israel and the Jewish community in general, he’s the least anti-Semitic person that I know… There are mezuzahs in the West Wing – it’s not just Jared’s office… Trump’s comments [on the Charlottesville protests], he probably meant to say that there are ‘bad people’ on both sides, and then he said something like there are quite a few fine people on both sides, and that got him into a lot of hot water… I think he gaffed in Charlottesville.” [Video]

— The Mooch: Trump “thinks he can beat Netanyahu in an election for prime minister. I know he believes that.” Added that Trump told him in a phone call in November, ‘You tell Bibi that I am coming to Israel, I’m going to beat him to be prime minister. I am very popular over there, Anthony.’

“Roseanne Barr Talks Donald Trump, Says She Wants to Run for Prime Minister of Israel” by Kathy Campbell: “Barr, who has been to Israel three times, told interviewer Dana Weiss, “I want to move to Israel and run for prime minister, I do. In 2012, I said I was gonna run for president of the United States and prime minister of Israel, a twofer. I do have that fantasy. If God calls me, I’ll go, of course.” “I still have this fantasy of being an old Jewish lady living in the Jewish homeland, so someday I will do it,” added the star… “I want to buy a farm there, maybe bring my family.”” [USMagazine

Roseanne on Natalie Portman: “I asked a lot of Israeli friends what they thought, and they said, ‘Oh I wish she would have said it in Israel.’ Because Israel is a country where dissent is allowed, and to go out of your country and say something like that, it’s not the bravest way of doing it. Also, I think it plays into the hands of the BDS movement. You know, they are thanking her today. But, whatever, we have to figure out a way to talk to each other and stand together… We have to be able to talk to the young people in America because they’re way off, they’re way out there. We have to figure out a way to reach them instead of turning them off… I would make her a lovely meal, and then I would talk to her about Jewish history and Torah because I think those are the things that bring people back and wake people up.” [VideoJPost]

NYTIMES AD DEPT: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s World Values Network ran a full-page ad in the New York Times on Saturday calling Portman a “hypocrite” for criticizing Israel. Boteach emails… “Our full-page NYT ad holding Natalie Portman to account for her false charge of Israeli atrocities generated a massive response, both pro and con. Those who agree with her excoriated us for pointing out her hypocrisy. But those who understand that Israel, a righteous democracy, has a moral obligation to defend innocent life thanked us in untold number for our bold defense of the Jewish state.”

“Blasted limbs, broken dreams: Israeli gunfire is taking a severe toll on the lower limbs of Palestinian protesters” by Erin Cunningham and Hazem Balousha: “For some youths like [Muhammad al-] Ajouri, the weekly protests were a welcome distraction, an escape from daily life in the Gaza Strip, where jobs and hope are both rare. The soft-spoken 17-year-old said he was injured at a March 30 protest after he had turned to leave. The bullet tore through his right leg, which was subsequently amputated above the knee. He still smiles, his eyes crinkling, when he recalls the medals he’d won for the 400-meter dash. “I’m fast, and I love running,” he said from his bed in a sparse room in Jabalya’s refugee camp, as friends and family held vigil. “My hope was to travel to the West Bank and to compete in international games.” [WashPost

HAPPENING TODAY — The Charles Bronfman Prize is expected to hold its annual award ceremony in New York, honoring David Lubell, founder of Welcoming America, for helping immigrants coming into the U.S. feel welcomed in 190 communities across the nation. The Charles Bronfman Prize is an annual award of $100,000 presented to humanitarians under 50 who have significantly improved the world. The prize was created by Charles Bronfman’s children as a surprise for his 70th birthday back in 2004.

Bronfman, co-founder of Taglit-Birthright Israel, tells JI’s JacobKornbluh… “Immigrants have made this country great. If we are an outreaching society, we must welcome those who come to our shores. I know that my own grandparents came to Canada in the 1890s, and there was a Jewish organization at that time called the Jewish Colonization Association, which bought a lot of land in western Canada for 2-5 dollars an acre. They saved that land for the Jewish people when they immigrated to Canada, and look at Canada today, and the Jewish community today. It’s great.”

Bronfman on Israel-Diaspora relations: “I think it’s vital to the Jewish future that these two great societies have empathy for each other. Really, we are one people. It’s not just a campaign slogan. And the day we forget it, we’re in terrible trouble. I think that there has to be some accommodation on both sides. The diaspora is not going to do legislation in Israel, but at the same time, I think we have a right and a responsibility to say, ‘Look, this might be very good for your country, but it’s going to be very difficult for the Jews in America, or Jews in Russia etc.’ Yes, we do not vote in Israel, but we are Jews and we are one Jewish people, and our view must be taken into account.” [JewishInsider]

PROFILE — “Meet the pro-Trump PR Guy at the Center of the Mueller Probe — And Everything Else” by Ben Schreckinger: “[Ronn] Torossian’s numerous other ties to Trumpworld span the professional, the political and the personal. He sends his children to the same New York private school that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s children attended before the family decamped for Washington. And in August, when POLITICO revealed numerous allegations of financial misconduct against Moshe Lax, a former close business partner of Ivanka Trump’s who first introduced her to Kushner, Lax turned to Torossian to make a video statement in response… Trump’s longest-serving political adviser, the dirty trickster Roger Stone, has done work with Torossian, too, and once delivered a speech at 5W’s offices. And before he was Stone’s protege, future Trump political adviser Sam Nunberg, while on the payroll of Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law & Justice, regularly worked out of 5W’s offices in 2009 and 2010… Despite his extensive ties to Trump world, Torossian gave $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in June 2016 and did not give to Trump’s campaign.”[PoliticoMag]

“The Original Donald Trump: The New York Establishment will ignore unscrupulous acts to serve its interests — just look how it treated Roy Cohn, onetime lawyer to the president” by Frank Rich:“The more I’ve looked back at the entanglements of Trump, Cohn, and their overlapping circles and modi operandi, the more I think the crux of their political culture could be best captured if Edward Sorel were to create a raucous mural depicting the Friday night in February 1979 when Cohn celebrated his 52nd birthday at Studio 54. The guest list? “If you’re indicted, you’re invited,” went the comedian Joey Adams’s oft-repeated joke about Cohn’s soirées.”

“The investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, who covered the scrum from the sidewalk for the Village Voice, noted that, among the usual Warhol celebrity crowd, politicians, and fixers, was a “surprise” attendee — “newcomer Chuck Schumer, a ‘reform’ assemblyman from Brooklyn who insisted he was just the date of a gossip columnist.” Also in attendance, less surprisingly, and camera-ready for the paparazzi, was the 32-year-old Trump, who by then had been in Cohn’s orbit for six years.” [NYMag]

“‘Who the hell is this person?’ Trump’s Mar-a-Lago pal stymies VA project” by Arthur Allen: “Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, an internist and friend of Trump confidant Ike Perlmutter, who advises the president informally on vet issues, objected to the $16 billion Department of Veterans Affairs project because he doesn’t like the Cerner Corp. software he uses at two Florida hospitals… With the White House’s approval, Moskowitz has been on two or three monthly calls since November with the contracting team responsible for implementing the 10-year project… Perlmutter, the Marvel Entertainment chairman, has also been on some of the calls… Perlmutter, meanwhile, has been advising Trump on veterans affairs since before the inauguration. Some news reports say the Israeli-born businessman’s interest in veterans stems from serving in the Six-Day War of 1967.” [Politico

2018 WATCH — “Republican Senate Candidate, Who Has Called for Country ‘Free From Jews,’ Could be Dianne Feinstein’s Challenger” by Michael Edison Hayden: “Patrick Little, an extremist with hardline anti-Semitic views who is backed by David Duke and other far-right extremists… will be squaring off in a top-two primary with 10 other Republicans as well as Democrats and independents on June 5 for the chance to oppose veteran Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein… A poll conducted by local ABC News affiliates along with the polling company Survey USA, suggested that Little is polling at 18 percent of the vote on the Republican ticket, a full 10 points ahead of his next strongest opponent.” [Newsweek]

“Rahm Emanuel racks up campaign cash — fund nears $5 million” by Fran Spielman: “The new donors also include: Bernard Schwartz, CEO of BLS Investments ($100,000); Eli Broad ($25,000) and Michael Polsky, CEO of Invenergy LLC ($25,000).” [ChicagoSunTimes]

2020 WATCH — Trump’s Role in Midterm Elections Roils Republicans” by Jonathan Martin, Alex Burns and Maggie Haberman: “The president’s announcement that Brad Parscale, his 2016 digital guru, would manage his 2020 re-election campaign caught many of his most senior advisers by surprise… And the hasty decision immediately raised suspicions it was part of a power play by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, to isolate Corey Lewandowski… Mr. Parscale has rankled Trump advisers by giving the president a perpetually rosy assessment of his poll numbers. He often tells Mr. Trump his numbers have “never been higher,” according to two advisers.” [NYTimes

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Alibaba chairman Jack Ma to visit Israel this week, will meet with Netanyahu [GlobesCalcalist] • Sumner Redstone’s Grandson Rips RICO Lawsuit Filed by Mogul’s Ex-Companion [HollywoodReporter] • Dan Gertler seeks $3bn damages from former partner Glencore[FinancialTimes]

MILKEN CONFERENCE — “Milken Lures Mnuchin, Goldman’s Solomon to ‘Davos of the West’” by John Gittelsohn, Christopher Palmeri and Sonali Basak: “With an expected attendance of 5,000 and a more eclectic agenda than the World Economic Forum, some call the gathering “Davos of the West” or “Davos With Palm Trees.” … “Mike always assembles an array of fascinating individuals and things to talk about going on around the world, whether it’s in the capital markets, whether it’s about science or health care,” said Eric Cantor, the vice chairman of Moelis & Co. and former House majority leader who’s a Milken conference regular… Milken, 71, is set to take the stage with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, retired CIA Director David Petraeus and former Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer.” [Bloomberg

— HAPPENING THIS MORNING — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will be interviewed by Frank Luntz and Milken Family Foundation’s Richard Sandler at 9:30 AM PT. [Program] • Schumer was spotted holding court at the opening reception yesterday at the Beverly Canon Gardens adjacent to the Montage [Politico]

GQ interview with former Labour leader Ed Miliband — on Trump: What does it say about the US that they elected him? “It is similar to Brexit. Read about the Midwest, where he won. It was economic. No doubt there is racism among some people. But two days before the election, his last big ad was taken as being anti-Semitic because he attacked three Jews, but it was his message that the global elite have taken your jobs, closed the factories and it’s time to take back the country. This has been coming for a long time. The same kind of discontent that drove Brexit drove Trump.” [GQ]

“Krafts honor family legacy at newly renovated CJP building” by Joe Halpern: “Robert Kraft, along with sons Jonathan and Dan, were on hand Friday morning to dedicate the newly renovated headquarters for Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) in downtown Boston… [Kraft] earned the honor of cutting the ceremonial ribbon… after his family donated $10 million… in honor of Robert’s late wife who served as chair of the CJP board of directors. The Krafts’ donation is the largest ever received by the CJP for a capital project.”[Bizjournals]

“The tycoon who donated half a billion dollars to Jewish causes” by Tamara Zieve: “Russian businessman Roman Abramovich had poured half a billion dollars into Jewish communities in Russia, Israel and other countries around the world, over the past 20 years, The Federation of Jewish communities of Russia (FJCR) announced… A special recognition has been bestowed upon Abramovich, honoring him for his contributions… The award is signed by Rabbi Alexander Boroda, FJCR president and the Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar.” [JPost]

COMING SOON: “Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles to Celebrate Trio of Honorees” by Gregg Kilday: “The Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles will honor Netflix exec Larry Tanz, Star Wars: The Last Jedi producer Ram Bergman and philanthropist Stanley Black at a May 31 Sponsor Luncheon to be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. The fest, which bills itself as the largest showcase of Israeli films in the U.S., will use the luncheon to kick off its 32nd edition, which will is set to run Nov. 6-20, and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel. The honorees were announced Friday by festival founder and executive director Meir Fenigstein. [HollywoodReporter]

LongRead: “Who Stole The Torahs? An Ancient Sect, A Brazen Theft And The Hunt To Bring The Manuscripts Home” by Daniel Estrin: “Before dawn on March 21, 1995, someone broke into a synagogue in the Palestinian city of Nablus. The thief — maybe it was a band of thieves — crossed the carpeted sanctuary, pulled back a heavy velvet curtain, and opened a carved wooden ark. Inside were two handwritten copies of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. One was a sheepskin scroll written around 1360 and kept in a slender copper case. The other was a codex, a thick book, probably from the 15th century and bound in a maroon leather cover…”

“They were perhaps the most ancient Torahs stolen in the Holy Land since the Crusaders pillaged Jerusalem. And they belonged not to Jews but to the Samaritans, one of the world’s oldest and tiniest religious sects… Benny [Tsedaka] believes the community did not wish to revisit Palestinians’ potential involvement in the theft, which could threaten the Samaritans’ delicate relations with their neighbors. The high priest says he was not willing to lose ownership of the Torah scroll by allowing a museum to purchase it. And community members were clearly uncomfortable investigating prominent Samaritans who may have helped orchestrate the theft. Whatever the reason, the Samaritans sacrificed their chance to recover the very Scriptures their ancestors had protected for centuries.” [NPR]

“Is Germany Capable of Protecting Its Jews?” by James Kirchick: “Completely sealing off the continent’s borders is neither sensible nor humane. But nor is it sensible or humane to admit unlimited numbers of people whose cultures and value systems are so fundamentally different from those of the native population—and among whom are many who hold beliefs so firmly at odds with Europe’s post-Holocaust reckoning. A country like Germany will have to try harder at inculcating an appreciation for its liberal democratic values among the Muslim migrants wishing to live there. Among those values is acceptance of what it means to be a citizen of the country that perpetrated the Holocaust.” [TheAtlantic]

DESSERT — “Bob Dylan’s Latest Gig: Making Whiskey” by Ben Sisario: “A trademark application for the term “bootleg whiskey” had been filed under Mr. Dylan’s name. Among those who noticed the news was Marc Bushala, 52, a lifelong fan and a liquor entrepreneur whose bourbon brand, Angel’s Envy, had just been sold for $150 million. Mr. Bushala said he immediately spent weeks “obsessing over this concept of what a Dylan whiskey could be.” … Next month, he and Mr. Dylan will introduce Heaven’s Door, a collection of three whiskeys — a straight rye, a straight bourbon and a “double-barreled” whiskey… Mr. Dylan is not simply licensing his name. He is a full partner in the business, Heaven’s Door Spirits, which Mr. Bushala said had raised $35 million from investors.” [NYTimes

BIRTHDAYS: Psychologist, glassblower and founder of Cheryl Saban Designs, president of the Saban Family Foundation, Cheryl Saban… Israeli actress, star of Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot turns 33… Social critic, political activist, co-founder of the DC-based the progressive Institute for Policy Studies and professor of public policy at GWU, Marcus Raskin turns 84… Rabbi, scholar, associate professor at Yeshiva University, adjunct professor at Columbia University Law School, Saul J. Berman turns 79… US Ambassador to Portugal (2010-2013), distinguished professor at UMKC, former City Commissioner of Tallahassee, Allan J. Katz turns 71… Marsha S. Rimlerturns 71…  Tunisian-born, Israeli Supreme Court justice since 2014, previously Attorney General of Israel (2004-2010), Menachem “Meni” Mazuz turns 63… Partner in the communications and ad agency GMMB, James David (Jim) Margolis turns 63… Cartoonist and illustrator, best known for his over one hundered magazine covers appearing on The New Yorker and other publications, Barry Blitt turns 60…

Commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 2010, previously a US Supreme Court law clerk and then a professor at Georgetown Law Center, Chai Feldblum turns 59… Professor of sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and president of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Eva Illouz turns 57… Founding VP of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies and diplomatic columnist for The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom newspapers, David M. Weinberg turns 56… Democratic member of the New York City Council and chair of the New York City Council Jewish Caucus, Mark D. Levine turns 49… Washington, DC-based senior program officer for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, David Rittberg turns 38…  Growth strategy editor at The New York Times, Ari Isaacman Bevacqua turns 33… Founder of Lubin Strategies, former director of the Obama White House Office of Digital Strategy, Nathaniel (Nate) Lubin turns 31… Press secretary for Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Rachel S. Cohen turns 31… Manager of Digital Strategy at the Podesta Group, Daniel Wolman turns 28… Jenna Luks turns 25… Idan Megidish… Noam Aricha




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Dept: Friedman’s Meeting Palestinian Negotiators ‘Perhaps an Upgrade’

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s meeting with senior Palestinian negotiators is “not a downgrade but perhaps even an upgrade,” State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said…

State Dept: Israel Takes Trump’s Concerns About Settlements Into Account

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

WASHINGTON – The Israeli government has “implemented a policy” that takes President Donald Trump’s concerns about settlement construction “into account” despite the recent announcement that it advanced plans…

Kafe Knesset for July 11

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Last night, hundreds of Labor party activists gathered in Tel Aviv to witness the results of the party’s leadership runoff. Activists broke out in tears of excitement as…

Despite US Pressure, Most Palestinians Support Terrorist Payments

Thursday, July 6, 2017

In the face of increased pressure from the Trump administration and Congress to end Palestinian terrorists’ payments, a new poll released on Wednesday showed that an overwhelming majority…

Republicans and Democrats Dispute Iran Sanctions Delay

Friday, June 30, 2017

WASHINGTON – With the House still unable to pass Iran sanctions legislation, Members of Congress are disputing the source of delay, naturally based on party lines. Representative Ted…

Haley Defends UNRWA’s Schools and Healthcare Against Congressional Attacks

Thursday, June 29, 2017

WASHINGTON – Amidst an onslaught of Congressional criticism, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley defended UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for aiding Palestinians. “I will say…