Daily Kickoff: State of the Union preview | Why Mort Klein went to Qatar | Noble Energy sells Tamar stake for $800M | BDays: David Cordish; Lee Zeldin

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DRIVING THE DAY — President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 9 PM ESTAccording to a senior administration official, who previewed the speech in a background call to reporters, after outlining the administration’s domestic priorities, the president will emphasize rebuilding the military, promoting peace through strength, and discuss a return to clarity in who America’s friends and adversaries are. [CSPAN]

Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), has invited Christine Levinson, the wife of Bob Levinson from Coral Springs who has been missing in Iran for nearly 11 years, as his guest to the State of the Union.

Breaking with tradition: “Rep. Eliot Engel… has repeatedly scored aisle seats to steal a handshake with the president. This year, Engel told Business Insider he would not be doing so. “I’m gonna be there for the speech, but I’m going to sit with my colleagues in the middle of the row rather than the aisle,” Engel said.” [BusinessInsider

“Schakowsky will boycott Trump’s State of the Union speech” by Lynn Sweet: “[Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)] cited specific reasons for skipping the speech – usually the biggest audience of the year for a president: Trump’s Muslim ban; reaction of the violence in Charlottesville and his failure to denounce Nazi’s and more recently using vulgar language to refer to African nations during a discussion about immigration.” [ChicagoSunTimes

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) explains why she’ll boycott Trump’s address: “We have to stand up for Africa just as people who are Jewish here stand up for Israel.” [Cosmopolitan]

SPOTLIGHT — “Ahead of State of the Union, Democrats are united against Trump — but not on impeachment” by David Weigel and Sean Sullivan: In one year, if Democrats win control of the House of Representatives, [Rep. Jerry] Nadler will become Judiciary chairman. At a recent town hall in his Upper West Side district, Nadler’s constituents made clear what they want him to do… Nadler’s record and philosophy suggest that he will not necessarily push relentlessly for impeachment. “An impeachment cannot be partisan,” he said at the Capitol earlier this month… More importantly, Nadler said, some portion of those who voted for the target of impeachment must support the effort, or at least believe “you had no choice.” “If you don’t achieve that, then the country’s going to be torn apart. You’re going to have 20 years of recriminations.’ We won the election, you stole it.’” [WashPost]

IMMIGRATION POLICY — “How ‘chain migration’ brought us the Trump White House” by Philip Bump: “A number of prominent members of the Trump administration have ancestors who are only in the country because they came to join members of their families who would be excluded from sponsoring them under the new proposal… [Stephen] Miller is the great-grandson of a man named Sam Glosser… son of a man named Wolf Lieb Glotzer… Glotzer’s arrival wouldn’t have met Trump’s standard for entry. But once here, he could have petitioned for Sam Glosser — under 21 and unmarried — to join him…”

“Perhaps the most interesting immigrant story is Jared Kushner’s. His paternal grandparents immigrated to the United States in 1949, after surviving the Holocaust. His grandmother, Rae Kushner, was instrumental in helping orchestrate a mass escape from a Nazi-controlled ghetto… In an interview with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington given in 1982, Kushner laments that the policies of the United States during the war made it hard for refugees from Nazi-controlled areas to immigrate.” [WashPost

HEARD YESTERDAY — Ron Lauder in an interview with Udi Segal on Reshet TV: “I feel like President Trump is probably going to be the first president to make a two state solution [happen]. He is committed to it. How he is going about it is a question we have to look at, but I believe the final outcome will be a positive one for both Israelis and Palestinians.” [Video

REPORT — In first since US Jerusalem move, Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah and Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to meet: “The meeting set for next Sunday at Kahlon’s Jerusalem office will focus on joint economic initiatives that were put on ice after US President Donald Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem last month… Ahead of his sit-down with Hamdallah, Kahlon met with US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who implored him to stress to the Palestinians that there is no alternative to US-brokered peace talks… The report said the Palestinians had initiated the meeting.” [ToI]

Palestinian protesters disrupt US-organized seminar in Bethlehem: “Protesters threw tomatoes at the sports utility vehicle, which had US consular licence plates, kicked one of its doors and ripped the plastic casing off a side mirror as it drove off under Palestinian police escort from the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce…” [Ynet]

“Slovenia’s Parliament Expected to Recognize State of Palestine” by Noa Landau: On Wednesday, the foreign affairs committee of Slovenia’s legislature will vote on a draft resolution, with the backing of Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec, before it passes to parliament for a full vote… Slovenian President Borut Pahor told AFP that he opposed recognizing Palestine for the time being. However, the president, like in Israel, does not control what the parliament does.” [Haaretz

IRAN DEAL — “Trump, Haley Press U.N. Security Council on Iran” by Felicia Schwartz: “Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley… said she pressed fellow Security Council members: “‘If you don’t do anything about all of these violations, I can’t promise you that we’re staying in the deal,’” she said…  The nuclear accord came up during a lunch with Mr. Trump… Mr. Trump told the U.N. ambassadors he believed the nuclear agreement is “a really bad deal.” He also told them that other actions by Iran are “clear violations” that require action…” [WSJ

“Netanyahu threatens to ‘stop’ Iran if it tries to entrench itself in Syria” by Raphael Ahren: “The question is: Does Iran entrench itself in Syria, or will this process be stopped. If it doesn’t stop by itself, we will stop it,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters during a telephone briefing, moments before taking off from Moscow en route to Tel Aviv…” [ToI]

DEEP DIVE: “Hezbollah Goes on the Cyber Offensive with Iran’s Help” by Levi Maxey: “Hezbollah has proactively sought to develop its cyber capabilities, expanding its potential disruptive and influential reach into the digital sphere. While the group has long used the internet to disseminate recruitment messaging, propaganda, and operational know-how, it also has begun leveraging it as an attack vector to gain valuable intelligence, undermine the reputation of opponents and hold its adversaries, especially Israel, at risk.”[TheCipherBrief]

“Why Did ZOA’s Mort Klein Go to Qatar? ‘I Talked With the Emir About Hamas and Al Jazeera’” by Amir Tibon: “Earlier this month… Klein had visited Qatar at the invitation of the Emir, and had a private meeting with him in Doha, the Emirate’s capital city. The visit… took place at the same time that other prominent public figures who are known as supporters of the Israeli government, such as Alan Dershowitz and Mike Huckabee, visited Doha… “They invited me to go a number of times – in September, October, November and December,” he said. “At first I refused, because of their support for Hamas and the anti-Semitism being broadcast on Al Jazeera. But over time, I saw that more and more Jewish leaders were going there, and I realized that at this point, they won’t be able to use me for propaganda, because everyone is already going, but I might use the visit to push them on these issues.”

Klein told Haaretz that the Qatari choice to engage with “right-of-center Zionists” was noticeable. “They didn’t invite people from J Street, Americans for Peace Now or the Reform Movement,” he said. “I think it’s interesting.” Like most of the other Jewish leaders invited to Qatar, Klein’s trip was paid for by the Emirate (“I didn’t take anything else from them,” he emphasized).” [Haaretz]

Of note: “Just this past June, ZOA called on the Trump administration to cancel the license of Qatar Airways to fly into the United States because of Qatar’s support for terrorism.” Ibid

DOUBLING DOWN — “Poland Opposes Calls to Scrap Bill on Nazi Camp Talk” by Konrad Krasuski and Adrian Krajewski: “There is declaration by the Polish government to form a working group to discuss the issue with the Israeli side, but I would like to say very clearly that this does not mean we are ready to negotiate the provisions of this law,” Jacek Sasin, an aide to the prime minister, told state broadcaster TVP Info. “There is no stepping back.” … The bill still requires approval of the upper house of Poland’s parliament and must be signed by President Andrzej Duda to become law. “There was no participation by Poland or the Polish people as a nation in the Holocaust,” Duda said during a visit to Zory in the south of the country.” [Bloomberg]

New York Times editorial… “Poland’s Holocaust Blame Bill: Regardless how it is parsed, the Polish bill is a blatant and chilling effort by a nationalist government waging an offensive against the rule of law and freedom of expression to discourage that search… In a striking coincidence, the Polish bill was passed just as the leader of a major Muslim institution in Saudi Arabia, a sternly Islamic kingdom better known for its virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli positions, publicly proclaimed the Holocaust “among the worst human atrocities ever.”” [NYTimes]

“Former ADL chief Abe Foxman: Poland’s nationalist gov’t is trying to rewrite history” by Tamara Zieve: “This is a political move to do two things: first, to rewrite history, but more importantly to prevent new history,” Foxman told The Jerusalem Post… “We understand they don’t want to hear ‘Polish concentration camp’ – nobody is arguing that. Nobody says that is not a legitimate sensitivity and concern… What we are seeing is a political move to rewrite history, deny history and to make sure that honest history is not written.” [JPost]

2018 WATCH: “Ron DeSantis launches gubernatorial bid, vows he’s the outsider’s choice” by David Smiley: “DeSantis said after his speech that he chose Boca Raton… in part because of his support in the Jewish community… “You heard about my leadership on moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he told the Miami Herald. “I got a lot of support from people in Boca who said, you were the guy who was out there on it, and I think that’s part of the reason why we had a good crowd today.” Ron Krongold, a Coral Gables businessman and a director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said after a private breakfast between DeSantis and some supporters that the Jacksonville native has become the state’s champion in Congress on diplomacy with Israel. Boca is also home to some of DeSantis’ biggest supporters, including Home Depot Co-founder Bernie Marcus.” [TampaBay

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Houston’s Noble Energy said it will sell a 7.5 percent stake in its large Tamar gas field offshore of Israel in the Mediterranean for $800 million [Chron] • Games developer Playtika to invest up to $400 million in Israeli tech [Reuters] • Activist hedge fund Elliott in talks to buy Waterstones [FinancialTimes] • Jared Kushner Played a Role in Guy Fieri’s Restaurant Closure [NYEater] • Extell’s Diamond District plans just got even more mysterious: Developer  Gary Barnett has filed paperwork to demolish 12 buildings [RealDeal] • Disney CEO Bob Iger sells classic Fifth Avenue pad for $18.75M [CurbedNY] • Isaac Kassirer and Harbor Group are selling 15 Bronx buildings for $65M [RealDeal]

STARTUP NATION: “SAP, Comcast Back Israeli Data Protection Startup BigID” by Meir Orbach: “Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Tel Aviv with additional offices in New York, BigID develops and markets a data protection product that uses machine learning and identity intelligence technologies to track and guard enterprise customer and employee data… In a statement, BigID said it will use the funding to recruit additional engineers in Israel and to expand its global sales and marketing operations.” [Calcalist]

HOLLYWOOD: “Warner Bros’ Shed Media Takes U.S. Rights To Israeli Format ‘Back To Life’” by Peter White: “Shed Media, a division of Warner Bros. Unscripted and Alternative Media, run by General Manager Pam Healey has optioned the U.S. rights to the format, which launches on Israel’s Channel 10 in February. Back To Life, which has already been sold into Germany, Italy and Poland, is a docu-reality series that follows the stories of patients and families in a race against time as they wait for a lifesaving organ donation. Each episode will tell the story as well as their donor and follow the pair on the emotional journey to good health.” [Deadline]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Big Changes Are Reshaping Jerusalem” by Gwen Ackerman and Fadwa Hodali: “The number of employed east Jerusalem Arabs is rising, salary gaps with the city’s Jewish population are narrowing, more are learning Hebrew—6,000 currently study the language in classes—and registration at higher education institutions in the western sector is up. City Hall has established an employment center in east Jerusalem and plans a second one. There are even growing applications for citizenship, said Ben Avrahami, the mayor’s adviser for east Jerusalem affairs…” [Bloomberg

“Western Wall rabbi apologizes for gender segregation during Pence visit but says rules won’t change” by Ruth Eglash: “Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, chairman of the ultra-Orthodox Western Wall Heritage Foundation that runs the sacred site, indicated in a statement to The Washington Post that the situation would not change. “The plaza is a place of prayer and a synagogue, separation between men and women will remain for every type of event,” the rabbi said… Rabinovitch did say, however, that efforts would be made to improve press coverage for future events but “without compromising the sanctity of the site and its customs.” [WashPost]

TOP-OP: “The Slut-Shaming of Nikki Haley” by Bari Weiss: “In the Trump era, the left has smartly and justifiably seized a moral high ground that the right has abandoned by its embrace of the president. That’s a high ground the left cannot hold if it embraces subtle double standards that it would never accept for a moment if the woman in question was a Kirsten Gillibrand or a Kamala Harris. When Matt Lauer subjected Hillary Clinton to a harsh interview, within 24 hours it was common knowledge that it was evidence of misogyny. But when Nikki Haley is smeared with the most base, sexist lie, it’s met with little more than a collective shrug.” [NYTimes

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg interviewed Noah Feldman, author of “The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President.” Sandberg notes Madison was also “partner to Dolley Madison, one of America’s most fascinating first ladies – and truly a woman ahead of her time.” [Video]

“Cohen, cantor, choir win Grammy for best rock performance” by Bill Brownstein: “Of course, the late Leonard Cohen, Montreal cantor Gideon Zelermyer and the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue choir would win the Grammy Award Sunday for Best Rock Performance for their collaboration on You Want It Darker, the first track on Cohen’s 14th and final album… Zelermyer… was left nearly speechless after hearing the announcement in a ceremony prior to the main 60th annual Grammy Awards presentation at New York’s Madison Square Garden. “This is just so surreal,” Zelermyer said. “A Grammy Award — that is beyond my wildest dreams. I just let out a scream when I heard it announced. I hadn’t been this nervous since my Bar Mitzvah.” [MontrealGazette]

REMEMBERING: “Arno Motulsky, a Founder of Medical Genetics, Dies at 94” by Denise Grady: “Dr. Motulsky’s path to prominence began in harrowing fashion. He had been one of more than 900 Jewish refugees aboard the German liner St. Louis, which reached the Miami coast in 1939 but was turned away by the United States and sent back to Europe. He then spent a year in internment camps in France, where many prisoners died from starvation or typhoid, before finally reaching the United States in 1941.” [NYTimes

PIC OF THE DAY — Tevi Troy was back at the White House yesterday: “Awaiting the swearing in of new HHS Secretary Alex Azar [Pic

Troy emails us… “It was old home week at the White House as Team Alex — the group of health experts, most of whom worked for George W Bush, who helped Alex Azar prepare for his confirmation — gathered in the Roosevelt Room, along with Azar‘s family, for his swearing in to be the 24th Secretary of Health and Human Services. President Trump came in and gave remarks and Vice President Pence – who knows Alex well from Indiana — did the swearing in, followed by brief remarks from now Secretary Azar. Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, who knows Sec Azar from their time at Dartmouth, was there as well, and elated by his success. When the ceremony was finished, Sec Azar came and thanked the team, posed for a picture, and said, “Let’s get to work.””

INBOX — “Joey Allaham Spearheads Allaham Consultancy to Offer a One-Stop Solution with Unique Real Estate Spaces and Long-Term Profitability” [DigitalJournal

DESSERT — The Dish: Israeli chef Michael Solomonov: “Israeli chef Michael Solomonov is a master of Middle Eastern cuisine. His Philadelphia restaurant Zahav has become a must-visit venue for food lovers and last year earned Solomonov a James Beard award for outstanding chef. He also won the 2016 awards for both cookbook of the year and best international cookbook. Here are some of Solomonov’s signature recipes…” [CBSNews]

SPORTS BLINK: “Owner Zygi Wilf vows Vikings will ‘get to the Lombardi’ soon” by Courtney Cronin: “Eight days removed from Minnesota’s 38-7 loss in the NFC Championship Game, the Wilfs are beginning to move past what could have been after the Vikings came up short of their goal of being the first team to both host and play in the Super Bowl in the same season. Minnesota is early in the reflection period, according to co-owner Mark Wilf, who did little to dwell on the “amazing experience” it would have been to have his family’s team take center stage in Minneapolis and the surrounding area this week. “We’ve been in the business for 13 years and we have our ups and downs,” Zygi Wilf said.” [ESPN]

BIRTHDAYS: Chairman of The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based international development firm specializing in casinos, urban revitalization projects and entertainment districts, David S. Cordish turns 78… Republican member of the US House of Representatives from eastern Long Island, NY since 2015, Lee Zeldin turns 38… Theatrical producer and director, winner of 21 Tony Awards, more than other person, Harold Prince turns 90… Teacher and national community leader, holder of a Ph.D. in modern Jewish history from New York University, Judith Friedman Rosen turns 66… Heather Grafturns 64… Philadelphia area psychologist, Dr. Rachel Ginzberg turns 60 (h/t Daniel Lippman)… Assistant Professor in the electrical engineering department at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Guy Gilboa turns 47… Senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Joshua M. Kram turns 39… White House correspondent for CBS Radio News, Steven Portnoy turns 37… Max Delahanty turns 29… Jared Isenstein turns 26… Eli Langer… Alexa Smith… Gisele Rogers

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]




Daily Kickoff: Why the Pew poll on Israel is faulty | ADL calls for Obama to denounce Farrakhan again | Trump’s Chilean Ambassador’s Kushner ties

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‘NO DAYLIGHT’ A TWO WAY STREET? “Israel supports Rwandan resolution, breaks with U.S.” by Barak Ravid: “Israel supported and co-sponsored a UN general assembly resolution, initiated by Rwanda, that rewrites the historical narrative regarding the 1994 genocide. Why it matters: This is against the U.S. government’s position… “One of the reasons for co-sponsoring the resolution was the deportation deal with Rwanda,” a senior Israeli official told me… U.S. diplomats in New York even asked their Israeli counterparts to press their Rwandan allies to back off from the resolution. The U.S. was amazed to find out that Israel refused to do so… Not only that — Israeli diplomats told their American counterparts that Israel has decided to co-sponsor the resolution.”

BACKSTORY: “Rwanda tabled the draft UNGA resolution two months ago in order to amend a previous resolution from 2003 which set April 7 of every year as the international remembrance day for the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The amended resolution changed the name of the remembrance day to the “International Remembrance Day for the Tutsi Genocide” — disregarding thousands of Hutu victims who were murdered… In the end the U.S. and the EU decided to drop their objections in order to avoid a vote and a public crisis with Rwanda. The resolution passed last Friday in consensus without a vote but the U.S. deputy permanent representative to the UN spoke highly critically against the resolution, warning of historical revisionism. Her Israeli colleague who spoke after her welcomed the resolution and praised it.” [Axios]

WHAT ABOUT IN POLAND? — “Israel Slams ‘Baseless’ Holocaust Legislation in Poland” by Isabel Kershner: “Legislation in Poland… would make it illegal to suggest Poland bore responsibility for atrocities committed on its soil by Nazi Germany during the occupation in World War II… The bill, which would need approval from Poland’s Senate and the president to become law, sets prison penalties for using phrases such as “Polish death camps” to refer to concentration camps set up by the Nazis in Poland… Many pointed out that the effort to outlaw mention of Polish complicity in the Holocaust coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day.” [NYTimes]

“Netanyahu said Sunday that his country could not tolerate a proposed law in Poland that distances Warsaw from responsibility for the Holocaust. Israel also summoned Poland’s deputy ambassador to express its outrage. At a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said Israel has “no tolerance for the distortion of the truth, the rewriting of history and the denial of the Holocaust.” [USAToday]

“Netanyahu and Polish Counterpart Agree to Open ‘Immediate Dialogue’ on Holocaust Bill” by Noa Landau: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Sunday on the phone with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. The two leaders agreed to open “immediate dialogue” in an attempt to solve [the] crisis… and try to reach understandings on the pending legislation.” [Haaretz]

FAKE NEWS? — “Israel will pay civilians $9,000 to capture African migrants” by Abdi Latif Dahir: “In an advertisement this month, the Population and Immigration Authority said it would pay up to 30,000 Israeli shekels ($8,845) for civilians to carry out an “enterprise of national importance.” That included undertaking “enforcement tasks” against migrants that involved detecting, investigating, and arresting them… The move comes a few weeks after Israel said it would help purchase tickets, obtain travel documents, and give $3,500 to African illegal migrants to leave—threatening them with arrest if they are caught after the end of March.” [Quartz]

— Yair Rosenberg: “This is completely false. The Hebrew advertisement used as the source for this report is for hiring immigration and customs enforcement officers. Nothing to do with bounties for civilians. I guess the author of this can’t read Hebrew, or is relying on readers not being able to… You may not like that Israel is hiring more ICE officers to help investigate and deport asylum seekers. I certainly don’t. But that’s no excuse for completely making stuff like this up about paying ransoms to random civilians to go after them.” [Twitter]

HAPPENING AT NOON — President Trump will have a lunch meeting with members of the United Nations Security Council at the State Dining Room. Later, the UN delegation will inspect debris from a ballistic missile fired from Yemen into Saudi Arabia and tour the Holocaust Museum in DC.

DRIVING THE CONVO — “Long, uneasy love affair of Israel and U.S. evangelicals may have peaked” by “Loveday Morris, Michelle Boorstein and Ruth Eglash: “Education Minister Naftali Bennett… said the Israeli right is “very happy” with the relationship with U.S. evangelicals, explaining that evangelical influence on the White House has created an “era of opportunity” for Israel… But the high-water mark, ironically, comes just as younger American evangelicals are growing less attached to Israel. Recent polls have sparked anxiety among Israeli officials and Christian Zionist groups, which are trying to reverse the decline.” [WashPost]

“How Not to Measure Americans’ Support for Israel” by Tamara Cofman Wittes and Daniel Shapiro: “This poll question, asked annually by Pew since 2001, is a very poor indicator of American attitudes toward Israel. The question reads, “In the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, which side do you sympathize with more, Israel or the Palestinians?” The wording, quite obviously, asks the respondent to make a binary choice between two seemingly exclusive options. (The poll also records the number of those who volunteer an answer of “both” or “neither,” but those options are not offered by the interviewer.) The poll question is faulty because sympathy for Palestinians should not imply hostility to Israel, nor should sympathy for Israel require disregard for the fate of Palestinians.” [TheAtlantic]

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST — “PA President Abbas says US is punishing the Palestinians” by Shlomo Cesana and Gideon Allon: “The U.S. can no longer mediate between Israel and the Palestinians,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas remarked Friday… In a condolence call with Israeli lawmaker Zehava Galon… Abbas went on to say that “we are ready for negotiations and we never wanted to leave the talks, but unfortunately, no one is offering us to engage in talks, especially not the Americans,” whom he said “now seek to punish us.” [IsraelHayom]

White House advisor Jason Greenblatt tweets: “Had a very productive meeting with Netanyahu and his senior staff today to discuss peace efforts. Broke (challah) bread this past Shabbat with young & dynamic Palestinians. We enjoyed respectful, open and honest dialogue, and shared our cultures and traditions, finding common ground. This is the path to peace …. singing Shalom Aleichem that night was especially meaningful!” [Twitter

— Greenblatt will address the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) 11th Annual International Conference tomorrow morning.

Roger Cohen writes… “It’s Time for Mahmoud Abbas to Go: By dismantling Palestinian freedoms, by disempowering his people, Abbas has been undoing the foundations of statehood and sapping the energy that comes with personal agency. It is time to organize elections that might usher in younger leadership — and reveal the balance of forces in the West Bank and Gaza. The alternative is a drift to despotism under a bunch of old men long on outrage but short on everything else.” [NYTimes]

STATE OF THE UNION PREVIEW — “Will Trump Stick to the Script?” by Michael Shear and Mark Landler: “Mr. Trump can point to seminal policy shifts, like his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as evidence of his global impact. But it is less clear how the president will address challenges like the nuclear threat from North Korea and the Iran nuclear agreement… “The president should highlight success,” said Elliott Abrams… Mr. Trump, he said, also needed to “analyze frankly the greatest threats to the United States from opponents,” which the administration has done in the National Security Strategy it issued last month.” [NYTimes]

WHY RBG WILL NOT BE ATTENDING — “Justice Ginsburg signals her intent to work for years more” by Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko: “Soaking in her late-in-life emergence as a liberal icon, [Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg] is using the court’s monthlong break to embark on a speaking tour that is taking her from the Sundance Film Festival in Utah to law schools and synagogues on the East Coast. One talk will have her in Rhode Island on Tuesday, meaning she won’t attend the president’s State of the Union speech that night in Washington. She has a standard response for interviewers who ask how long she intends to serve. She will stay as long as she can go “full steam,” she says, and she sees as her model John Paul Stevens, who stepped down as a justice in 2010 at age 90.” [AP]

TALK OF THE NATION: “The Surprising Resilience of American Democracy” by Eliot Cohen: “My grandparents—who came to this country from lands that the president would undoubtedly term “shitholes,” left behind pogroms, and survived all that, plus World War I and the great influenza pandemic. Set against those experiences, it is an unworthy whinge to complain about what Americans are living through today. The United States has survived much worse than one contemptible president and a craven political party; its resilience is built into the bones of its political system. What it is going through now is simply a good, hard shake.” [TheAtlantic]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “RNC finance chair Steve Wynn resigns after sexual harassment allegations” by Alex Isenstadt: “Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn on Saturday stepped down as Republican National Committee finance chairman… The decision followed a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal alleging that Wynn engaged in sexual harassment… Wynn acknowledged the “distraction” caused by the controversy in a statement released Saturday.” [Politico]

— “Why Trump Can’t Quit Steve Wynn” by Eliana Plott: “While sources close to the president predict Trump may publicly attempt to distance himself from Wynn in the coming days, they’re less sure about how he’ll navigate their increasingly close relationship in the long run… Trump was always quick to “tease” Wynn that he “came on late” to the campaign… Yet far from keeping Wynn at a distance, Trump seemed insistent on tightening their relationship. “They became pretty close,” said former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich… Others with the president’s ear have proven reluctant to level judgment: “It’s very important to make all of these allegations subject to proof. There has to be proof and a process,” said Alan Dershowitz, who recently appeared on Fox News alongside Wynn, calling him “smart and funny and fair.”” [TheAtlantic]

“The Politics of Race and the Photo That Might Have Derailed Obama” by Vinson Cunningham: “When I saw a recently released photo, by Askia Muhammad, of Obama and a beaming Louis Farrakhan, I immediately thought of the Clinton campaign. What fun they could’ve had with this one! Muhammad took the picture, in 2005, at a gathering hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, after Obama’s star-making turn at the 2004 Democratic National Convention but before it was clear that the Senator would offer himself as a candidate for President… After some pressure from one of the caucus’s staffers, Muhammad agreed to bury it. Now he plans to include the picture in an upcoming self-published book; Talking Points Memo asked to run the photo after learning of it from a newsletter written by the journalist Richard Prince.” [NewYorker• Dershowitz: I Wouldn’t Have Campaigned for Obama If I Knew About Farrakhan Pic [FoxNews]

ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt tweets: “In Israel catching up on news about 2005 photo of Obama & Farrakhan. Over his career, Barack Obama has denounced the bigotry of Farrakhan. Time to do so again. Leaders always should make sure that there’s no doubt: America is no place for those who advocate #antisemitism or hate.” [Twitter]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — “Sara Netanyahu’s Aides Sued Over Her Tirades. Now, There’s a Recording” by David Halbfinger: “The recording, published on the Walla News site… was made in 2009. Mrs. Netanyahu had become angry after [a] 44-word item mentioned her obligation, as the prime minister’s wife, to perform public service — but did not cite her education credentials to her satisfaction. “I’m an educated woman!” she can be heard shouting at the publicist. “Psychologist! B.-A! M.-A! That’s it!” … Mr. Netanyahu spoke up for his wife in a pair of Facebook posts on Sunday, saying that everyone sometimes “gets angry and says a few words that he didn’t mean.”” [NYTimes• Netanyahu lashes out at media after release of wife’s recordings [JPost]

** Good Monday 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: Buyout firm Leonard Green nears deal to acquire Pro Mach [Reuters] • Paul Singer’s Elliott Management takes stake in Sky [TheTimes] • Dan Loeb is ‘closely watching’ these 4 key risks — including inflation — that can stop the market rally [CNBC] • WeWork boss looks to build a highly valued community [FinancialTimes] • Former top FBI officer warns: Israeli law enforcement lax, reforms needed [ToI]

THE DAILY KUSHNER — “Trump’s Chilean Ambassador Pick Entwined in Kushner Family Deals “by Caleb Melby, David Kocieniewski and Brendan Coffey: “When the White House nominated a new ambassador to Chile this month, it touted his role running his father’s food-importing business. Not mentioned: his deep financial ties to the family of Jared Kushner. Andrew Gellert is president of Gellert Global Group and the son of George Gellert, a close friend of Jared’s father, Charles Kushner… Most prominent of their shared interests is 666 Fifth Avenue… When Jared Kushner purchased the Observer newspaper, some of the funds were from the Gellerts. At a New Jersey bank in which both families own stakes, Andrew Gellert sits on the board with Jared Kushner’s brother-in-law, David Orbach.” [Bloomberg]

THIS TOWN: “No, Ivanka Trump didn’t stop José Andrés from getting into a party. Here’s what really happened” by Helena Andrews-Dyer: “On Saturday night, Nuschese’s fellow restaurateur José Andrés claimed via Twitter that he was denied entry to an exclusive event at Cafe Milano. Andrés, who spent nearly two years in a legal battle with President Trump and has staunchly criticized the administration’s stance on immigration, took his beef a step further by suggesting that Ivanka Trump had something to do with the slight…”

“So what happened? … On Saturday, the uber-rich folk descended on Washington for the 105th Alfalfa Club dinner… This year’s feast featured punchlines delivered by former president George W. Bush, former secretary of state John F. Kerry, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg… Afterward, the herd, which this year also included Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, typically thins as the VIPs head to a private after-party at Cafe Milano in Georgetown… Andrés, who attended the dinner at the Hilton where he said he even chatted briefly with Ivanka, assumed he would get in because of an “unwritten rule” on the Washington party circuit: All after-parties are fair game.” [WashPostCNN]

HOLLYWOOD: “HBO Picks Up Controversial Israel-Palestinian Doc ‘Oslo Diaries'” by Tatiana Siegel: “Directed by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan, the film features never-before-seen footage of meetings involving an unlikely group of negotiators — two Israeli professors and three PLO members — who met secretly in Norway… The deal plays out against the backdrop of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians as high as ever. HBO will debut the film later this year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords.”[HollywoodReporter]

“Why HBO made a Holocaust documentary for kids” by Gina Salamone: “The story of 92-year-old Holocaust survivor Jack Feldman, who made it out of Auschwitz, is told through conversations with his great-grandson, Elliott Saiontz. Elliott, who was 10 at the time the film was shot and lives in Westchester, sits beside his great-grandfather on the couch… The documentary weaves archival footage and photos with animation, in between the pair’s conversations and Elliott’s narration… That lesson, Elliott says, is why he wants other kids to know his great-grandpa’s story, to stop it from happening again.”[NYDailyNews]

“The Nazi Hunter of Crete” by By Sam Rosenthal: “Crete, and Greece in general, was also in those days the site of a concerning political shift: a rise in extremist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, ethno-nationalist politics. A far-right party known as the Golden Dawn had been gaining strength, and by 2012 it had garnered a frightening amount of influence and power. Hans had a different name for the Golden Dawn’s constituents, though: neo-Nazis. And he had traveled to Crete to fight them… Toward the end of my stay on Crete, a week or two after Hans and the rest of our ragtag group and I had all parted ways, I caught glimpses of what it was that had drawn Hans there in the first place. A night after visiting one of the synagogues that had been set ablaze by arsonists, I passed a plaza filled with dim light and angry voices. I asked someone on the street what was happening, and he said the Nazis were meeting.” [Ozy]

“Nazi past followed Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad to his death” by Derek Hawkins: “In 1943, Ingvar Kamprad… founded a mail-order company called Ikea… His first employee was his close friend Otto Ullmann, an Austrian Jew about his age whose parents had sent him to Sweden to escape the Nazi takeover in their home country… Around the same time he started Ikea, Kamprad joined Sweden’s fascist movement. He regularly attended meetings with pro-Nazi extremist groups, maintained a long-running friendship with a leading Swedish fascist and, according to some accounts, was an active member of the Swedish version of the Hitler Youth… It’s not clear how… Kamprad kept his Nazi connections hidden from Ullmann, whose parents were murdered in the Holocaust. But, as Rabbi Dow Marmur wrote in 2013 for the Toronto Star, when the revelations were first made public in the 1990s, Ullmann was one of the first people Kamprad called to apologize.” [WashPost]

PIC OF THE DAY — Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp‏ with Judith Varnai Shorer, Israeli Consul General to the Southeastern United States, at AIPAC’s annual Atlanta event held at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium [Pic

REMEMBERING — Julia Reyes Taubman passes away after long battle of Cancer: “Julia, active in the national arts community, was a founder and board chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MoCAD)… Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Julia, known best to her friends as “Julie,” was a member of the Reyes family, owners of Chicago-based food and beverage distributors Reyes Holdings LLC, one of the nation’s largest privately held companies. She married Robert Taubman in 1999.” [Fox2Detroit]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Deaths of Billionaire Toronto Couple, Barry and Honey Sherman, Were Homicides, Police Say” by Catherine Porter: “Six weeks after the bodies of Barry and Honey Sherman were found hanging in the basement of their mansion, the Toronto Police confirmed what the couple’s friends and family have maintained all along — that they died in a murder… It was another bizarre turn in a dizzying case that has captured the country’s attention. The couple’s four children, furious at the police for leaking the murder-suicide theory, hired their own team to conduct a private investigation into their parents’ deaths.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT — Made In Chicago: Milt’s Extra Innings: “Located in the storefront next door, it’s a kosher deli that employees people with developmental disabilities. “We have created this environment there. We have 13 special needs employees there now…” [Jeff] Aeder says he hopes Milt’s will lead by example… The space also showcases Aeder’s love for baseball with displays of his own Jewish baseball memorabilia. “I named the restaurant in honor of my uncle Miltie. We are located near Wrigley Field… There have been 170 Jews who have played in the Major Leagues, and the whole history is told on the walls of Milt’s Extra Innings.” [CBSChicago]

BIRTHDAYS: Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Paul Ryan turns 48… Former partner at Venable’s DC office, previously President of the JCRC of Greater Washington, Ronald Glancz turns 75… Public speaker, Rabbi Paysach Krohn turns 73… President and founding principal of Libitzky Property Companies, a developer of over seven million square feet of large industrial, mixed-use and office projects, Moses S. Libitzky turns 71… Director of the Houston chapter of the American Jewish Committee, Randy Czarlinsky turns 64… Jerry Keller turns 59… Fellow at the Claremont Institute, he was the executive director of Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (2012-2013), Larry Greenfield turns 56… Physician and an author of a New York Times bestselling book, Dr. David Agus turns 53… Founder and managing director of the NYC-based Tembo Group, Denielle Sachs turns 41 (h/t Playbook)… Israeli actress and television host, Yael Bar Zohar turns 38… Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US, she was the top foreign policy advisor for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, Laura Rosenberger turns 38… Director of Global Relations at Hillel International in DC, previously the Director of Hillel in Ekaterinburg in Russia, Yasha Moz turns 33… Senior writer and editor at the Union for Reform Judaism,  a.k.a. Jane the Writer, Jane E. Herman… Avid skier Martha Baumgarten


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Daily Kickoff: What Obama told a synagogue crowd earlier this week | Shmully vs. Shmuley on Qatar | Shabbat dinner at Wynwood Yard | Jill Deutch BDay

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EXCLUSIVE — Jewish Insider obtained an audio recording from former President Barack Obama’s appearance at Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center in NYC on Wednesday evening. In a conversation with Rabbi Joshua Davidson, Obama defended his administration’s record on Israel, the December 2016 abstention at the UN Security Council, and criticized Israel’s settlement policy.

On ensuring Israel’s security: “I think it is not just in America’s strategic interest, but I think it is a moral obligation globally to ensure that Israel is secure. In light of history, that a secure Jewish state is an expression of our commitment that all people should be able to worship their God, cultivate their culture, and raise their children safely without discrimination, and that the intersection between human rights and civil rights, and combating anti-Semitism and affirming the rights of a people to their homeland, those things are all inbuilt as was often displayed during the Civil Rights movement, as people like Dr. [Martin Luther] King understood, and that’s the reason why — this is not subject to dispute — my administration provided more security assistance to Israel than any other administration before…”

Obama on settlements: “I deeply believe that if Israel is to fulfill its vision as a Jewish state and a democratic state, that the current arrangement in the West Bank and Gaza is unsustainable… One of the reasons why [a peace deal] is becoming less and less achievable is because of settlements outside the blocs… deep into the West Bank; the pace of settlements during my presidency and during Netanyahu’s time as prime minister, skyrocketed and accelerated. If you look at a map, it starts becoming like a swiss cheese matter where it is almost impossible to create any kind of functioning, continuous Palestinian state — even one that is disarmed, even one that ensures security, it just becomes impossible to do it. And this was a source of constant tension between myself and the Likud government that was in charge, and I continued to warn the Israeli government that that posture of being able to just continue endless settlement construction was not only harmful to the peace process but was leading to very powerful objections internationally… And to this day, that settlement construction continues.”

UNSC 2334: “Towards the end of my term, when the Egyptians drafted a yet another declaration with respect to settlement construction, using language that not only I, but previous presidents, had said was impediment to peace, and that if we didn’t insist that it include condemnation of violence and incitement by the Palestinians to make it more balanced, we couldn’t pull back the entire rest of the world getting off it, other than just a pure exercise of [veto] power – and I thought that was misleading because our ability to protect Israel on the international stage, at some point, does require credibility — people believing that we are true to our principles, and, by the way, Israel’s founding principles…”

Not optimistic right now for the peace process: “My hope — going forward — is that there is sufficient self-reflection inside of Israel, that there is change in orientation on this issue, and my hope, by the way, is there is a change in orientation by the Palestinians because as I used to tell Abbas, ‘Have you from the start — set aside Arafat — when you came into power, recognizing Israel and affirming that you wanted a peace deal; had you had the moral authority to insist on only peaceful protests, and based on the principle of recognizing the right of return to exist and the humanity of the Jewish people, and it was universal principles that were being taught in Palestinian schools, that my strong suspicion is that Israelis would have responded differently. That’s not what happened.’ Right now, I can’t say I am optimistic about a potential peace process. I think the Palestinian leadership is too weak, and I think politics within Israel has moved away from the prospect of the two state solution… To be a true friend of Israel, it is important to be honest about it, and the politics of this country sometimes do not allow that.” Listen to the audio here [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE CONVO — Trump administration doubles down on Palestinian aid cutoff threat: Following President Trump’s declarationthat U.S. aid to the Palestinians “is on the table,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah went on CNN to emphasize that the administration is considering not only to cut off funding for UNRWA, but also direct U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority. “Restrictions in all forms to aid are on the table,” Shah said. “The many forms of aid that the United States gives to the Palestinians, directly and indirectly through UNRWA and other agencies, you know, the levels of aid and the amount of aid would be all up to subject to changes if they don’t come to the table or change, at least calm down some of the anti-American and anti-White House rhetoric.”

Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken on CNN with Wolf Blitzer: “This is a little bit kicking them when they’re down, threatening to cut off aid after he has unilaterally decided Jerusalem… The idea of a Jewish, democratic Israel… now may be off the table because absent a two-state solution, Israel can’t be both Jewish and democratic… So, President Trump is presiding over the demise of the dream of a Jewish, democratic state.”

Blitzer: “Those are strong words from Tony Blinken coming in.”

PLO Representative to DC Husam Zomlot at the Middle East Institute: “Our rights are not for sale… When the tradeoff is between legitimate birthrights, of dignity, of freedom, of one’s right to access his own land or resources, of one’s right to be unified with his family, money comes in at number 20. If the choice — which is unfair, unprecedented, illegal, immoral — is between starving the people of Palestine and surrendering their rights, the people will definitely not choose the option of succumbing to this unacceptable pressure. Live with it — financial pressure and blackmail does not work when it comes to national rights.” [Video]

ULTIMATE DEAL: “Trump administration looks to “shake things up a bit” in peace talks” by Kylie Atwood: “The administration is looking for ways “shake things up a bit” to get the Palestinians and Israelis back to the table, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. “There are a lot of things are under review,” said Heather Nauert. “The President sees that nothing has happened with regard to peace process over many decades and they are looking for ways to get people back to the table…” [CBSNews

Amb. Nikki Haley tells UN Security Council the U.S. will not chase Palestinians lacking will to seek peace — by Michelle Nichols: “The United States remains deeply committed to helping the Israelis and Palestinians reach a historic peace agreement,” [Haley] said. “But we will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace. To get historic results, we need courageous leaders.” [Reuters

In interview on Politico’s Women Rule podcast, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley says Henry Kissinger — with whom she shares monthly lunches — has the biggest influence on her worldview: “Whether it’s politics or whether it’s foreign policy, you tend to pass judgment, whether you should or not, on what you think is right or wrong. And what Dr. Kissinger has taught me is, get into the shoes of the other person: Think like the Russians, see what the motivations of the Russians are, then decide how you’re gonna act. Think like the Chinese, what are the Chinese worried about? Why would they be making that decision? And when you start to make decisions based on what they’re thinking, then you all of a sudden have a conversation that they can relate to.”

Explaining Trump’s ‘Jerusalem has been taken off the table’ — Haley says Trump was referring not to the geographical contours of Jerusalem but to the location of the embassy: “We took it off the table because we didn’t want it to be the one point they kept holding on it, because they were pulling us on both sides. What we’re saying is, both of you need to come to the table, both of you need to talk past Jerusalem and an embassy and you need to start talking about how Palestinians and Israelis are going to live together…but basically that’s what he was saying, is don’t use the United States as a tug of war because we’re not going to allow that to happen, so we took Jerusalem off the table.” [Politico]

REPORT — US bought shuttered Jerusalem hotel to step up diplomatic presence in city — by David Lee Miller: “In Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood where the U.S. operates its Consular Section, moving crews were spotted bringing boxes and equipment from the U.S. Embassy into the now-shuttered Eden Hotel… Israel’s Channel Two reported that the U.S. was planning to move consular facilities to the Eden Hotel as part of a plan to open the embassy nearby. But the U.S. Consulate General’s Jerusalem spokesperson denied that was the case.” [FoxNews

DAVOS 2018 — “Israel’s Netanyahu explains why previously ‘unimaginable’ Israeli-Arab alliances are now growing” by Natasha Turak: “There is an alliance between Israel and other countries in the Middle East that would have been unimaginable years ago. I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime,” Netanyahu said Thursday on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “If Iran tries to rush for a bomb, there are many countries that will not let them,” the Prime Minister said. “We would not let them acquire a nuclear weapon. There are Arab states, unnamed, that agree with me.” [CNBC]

WATCH: “Ali Velshi Tracks Down Netanyahu At Davos — Bibi Mis-Networks Him” by Amber Athey: “We’re taking a look over here. Prime Minister, do you want to come and talk to NBC? We’re live right now. Come and say hello to viewers,” Velshi said as the PM passed. Netanyahu seemed to recognize Velshi and said, “you’re with CNN!” before giving him a handshake. “I’m with MSNBC now. Thanks for watching. Good to see you, sir,” Velshi gushed. “Ali, right there, right there, Benjamin Netanyahu told the world he has been your fan for decades. Bravo to you, my partner,” Velshi’s co-anchor Stephanie Ruhle praised.” [DailyCaller]

Spotted by Politico Davos Playbook: “Benjamin Netanyahu clearing the terrace at the Schatzalp restaurant, after commandos with sub machine guns cleared the line at the funicular. Playbook’s sources said Mossad agents were friendly and apologetic about regular customers being bumped from their favorite tables.” [Politico

PIC OF THE DAY — Jared Kushner attending a young leaders dinner with Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah – hosted by Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, and Jared Cohen [Pic]

“George Soros Says Trump Administration Is ‘Danger to the World’” by Katia Porzecanski: 
“I consider the Trump administration a danger to the world,” the billionaire investor said in a speech from Davos, Switzerland. “But I regard it as a purely temporary phenomenon that will disappear in 2020, or even sooner.” He expects a Democratic “landslide” in the 2018 elections.”[Bloomberg] • Soros to Google and Facebook: ‘Your days are numbered’[Yahoo]

HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY — First lady Melania Trump tours Holocaust memorial in Washington — by Maria Puente: “In a statement released by the East Wing, Trump said she wanted to pay respect to the 6 million Jews lost in the Holocaust and to the millions of other victims of Nazi persecution… “Yet it is also through our shared humanity that we come together now in commemoration, strength, and love.  My heart is with you, and we remember.” … The tour concluded at the Hall of Remembrance where Trump participated in a moment of silence by the Eternal Flame Memorial, followed by a lighting of a candle at the Prayer Wall.” [USAToday

New York Times editorial… “Trump and the Holocaust Remembrance: A Second Chance: Saturday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. For President Trump, it is a shot at redemption. He failed a moral test on the same occasion a year ago when he issued a message that strangely left out any specific reference to the six million Jews murdered in the Nazis’ industrialized genocide… In May he visited the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem, but offended some people by zipping through it far too quickly to absorb its poignancy and power. Then he signed the guest book with a discordantly, but typically, self-referential entry… He can make Saturdayhis day of atonement.” [NYTimes]

IRAN DEAL — “Iran has fired 23 ballistic missiles since start of 2015 nuclear deal, explosive report shows” by Rich Edson: “Out of all the ballistic missiles Iran fired in 2017, only four or five missiles can be considered nuclear-capable. In 2016, Iran fired 10 to 11 missiles than can be considered nuclear-capable,” according to a report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.” [FoxNews]

“Iran’s Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy, Baffling Military” by Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef: “Since January 2016, there has been an average of more than two “unsafe or unprofessional” incidents each month, according to the U.S. military. There have been 50 such incidents in the past two years, officials said. But in response to a query, U.S. military officials said there have been no such incidents since August 2017. The apparent shift in Iranian behavior comes as an international nuclear agreement with Tehran is teetering.” [WSJ]

NEW REVELATION: “Israel claims 82,000 fighters are under Iranian control in Syria” by Nicole Gaouette: “Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, told a UN Security Council meeting that he was revealing classified information about Iran to convey what he claimed are Iran’s plans to dominate Syria, destroy Israel and “terrorize the entire free world.” “Iran is turning the entire country of Syria into the largest military base in the world. In fact, Iran is trying to destabilize all aspects of Syria,” Danon said… Even though Iran is targeting Israel first, the Israeli envoy said, “it is you who are next.” [CNN]

ON THE HILL — Dr. Henry Kissinger in a testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee: “In the aftermath of the Second World War, a group of historic countries confronted a Soviet Union enhanced by the war and imbued with a revolutionary ideology. Under American leadership, a coalition was formed that drew a line defining the limit of Soviet expansion that would be tolerated, eventually achieving containment and a negotiated end of the Cold War… The United States needs to make clear that beyond the enforcement of the JCPOA, it will oppose the emergence of any Iranian nuclear military capability. These steps are essential to shoring up and reshaping world order.” [Video]

SHMULLY VS. SHMULEY — “Muzin and Dershowitz are on the right side of history” by Rabbi Shmully Hecht: “If you want to know what’s really going on with Qatar, or frankly with any serious matter, ignore the speculation of brash bystanders who have been left out of these engagements. In some instances they have been ignored precisely due to their inability to dialogue with anyone in strict confidence. Concerned citizens must step away from the worn-out soapboxes of uninformed commentators who (desperate to cling to any form of prominence) will repeat the same talking points, over and over again, in absolute denial of which way the wind is actually blowing.” [TOI]

2018 WATCH — “Sources: Romney expected to announce Senate bid next week, will gather signatures to get on the 2018 ballot” by Bob Bernick: “Sources close to Mitt Romney tell Utah Policy that the former GOP presidential nominee will announce next week that he is running for the U.S. Senate this year… Romney held a strategy meeting earlier this week at his Holladay mansion to discuss policy for his upcoming race for Senate…Romney’s Utah campaign will be run by folks that helped his 2012 presidential race.”[UtahPolicy]

“GOP Senate candidate Lou Barletta did interview in 2006 with Holocaust-denying publication” by Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie: “Rep. Lou Barletta, an immigration hardliner running in a crowded US Senate primary in Pennsylvania… did an interview (as mayor of Hazleton) with a fringe publication that promotes Holocaust denial and headlined a rally where a political activist and musician who has questioned the Holocaust and promoted conspiracies about the September 11, 2001 attacks also spoke and performed.” [CNN]

2020 WATCH: “Bernie Sanders summons team to discuss 2020” by Gabriel Debenedetti: “The top-line message the Vermont senator received from the operatives gathered during the government shutdown was a more formal version of the one they’ve been giving him regularly for months: You would be one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination. And if you want to run, it’s time to start seriously planning accordingly.” [Politico

TALK OF THE TOWN: New Orleans City Council rescinds pro-BDS resolution — by Kevin Litten: “New Orleans City Council members withdrew a resolution Thursday connected with the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement (BDS) that the Greater New Orleans Jewish Federation called anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. After the vote, the City Council went into recess as protesters in favor of keeping the resolution began singing at a volume level that made the council unable to continue to conduct business.” [NOLA

** 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: Hedge fund giant Seth Klarman trashes bitcoin, says cryptocurrencies are ‘tulip bulbs for the digital age’ [CNBC] • Ackman’s Pershing Square Takes Stake in Nike [WSJ• Cuomo Uses Barry Rosenstein’s Plane for Sundance Trip [NYTimes] • Penny Pritzker: The US leaving the TPP would go down in history as a mistake [Yahoo• ESPN Exploring Sale of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight [TheBigLead] • Celeb attorney Laura Wasser can help you divorce like a star [CNN]

SPOTLIGHT:  George Soros on Viktor Orban’s war against him — by Neil Buckley and Andrew Byrn: “In a December interview at his white clapboard house in upstate New York, Soros hardly comes across as the traitor of Fidesz propaganda. At 87, he meets the FT straight after his daily tennis game with his wife. He sketches Orban’s authoritarian shift while sipping tea in his dining room. The “rise of the nationalists”, he warns, means open society is facing its biggest test since the second world war.  But Soros insists Orban’s main motive is the pursuit of power and its trappings. “[Orban] started really going wrong when he made his father rich by giving him a quasi-monopoly on road-building materials, which was a big source of wealth,” he says, recalling the 1999 revelation. “That’s when [Orban] started building a mafia state. It’s really when he actually gained power.”” [FinancialTimes

MEDIA WATCH — “Jeff Zucker Reassures CNN Staff at Town Hall Over Security Threat” by Jeremy Barr: “At an employee-only town hall meeting on Thursday, CNN president Jeff Zucker addressed a recent security threat against the network and promised to tackle the issue. “Nothing is more important than you feeling safe in the office and in the field,” he said… He also used the meeting on Thursday to address reports that he’s lobbied to become president of ESPN, a position that was vacated recently by John Skipper. Zucker said he’s not leaving and has not had any talks with ESPN or parent company Disney. “I fully intend to stay at CNN and have no desire to work at ESPN,” he told his employees.” [HollywoodReporter

PROFILE — “Be Smart: Mike Allen Wrote The Rules Of Washington And Now Donald Trump’s Destroying Them” by Steven Perlberg: “Around Washington, Allen is still known for his Playbook persona, a cheerful insider comfortable with all the swamp politics people claim to hate about Washington… But at Axios, something seems to have changed about Allen’s way of doing things. A dissonance now appears regularly in his newsletter as the political press trudges through whatever wild thing Trump just said or did. Some days, Allen reports the kind of outrageous things he might not have before, like Sean Spicer threatening to “call the authorities” on him… To read Axios AM every morning is to watch Allen working out, in real time, what happens when the person who wrote the rules of Washington has to grapple with the person unwriting them.” [Buzzfeed]

“In an Israeli Cave, Scientists Discover Jawbone of Earliest Modern Human Out of Africa” by Nicholas St. Fleur: “Scientists on Thursdayannounced the discovery of a fossilized human jawbone in a collapsed cave in Israel that they said is between 177,000 and 194,000 years old… “This would be the earliest modern human anyone has found outside of Africa, ever,” said John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Wisconsin… The upper jawbone, or maxilla, was found by a team led by Israel Hershkovitz, a paleoanthropologist at Tel Aviv University…” [NYTimesBusinessInsider

DESSERT: “It’s hip. It’s eclectic. It’s Shabbat dinner, Wynwood style — and everyone’s invited” by Carlos Frias: “Yes, it’s a Shabbat dinner, but really it is all about the community coming together,” said Julie Frans, culinary director at the Wynwood Yard. “We break bread together and commune.” Della Heiman turned a weed-covered acre off Northwest 29th Street into this manicured, outdoor community space… That, she said, made the Yard the perfect host for these group Shabbat dinners. Every month, the head chef of the Wynwood Yard, Nicole Votano, collaborates with a different Miami chef to bring a new flavor to the event. The dinners are $65 a person… “I love the idea of Shabbat to begin with, and this is an opportunity to meet like-minded people. There’s no judgment,” added Votano, who grew up in London with a Jewish mother and an Italian father. “And the food is amazing.” … Most of the meals at the Wynwood Yard are vegan or vegetarian. And a new Shabbat dinner at the nearby restaurant Dizengoff, founded by award-winning Israeli-born chef Michael Solomonov, sticks to some of the tenets of kosher cuisine…” [MiamiHerald]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAYPulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist, Jules Feiffer turns 89… Actor Henry Jaglom turns 80… Singer-songwriter, socialite and political fundraiser, Denise Eisenberg Rich turns 74… Connecticut attorney, Herbert Mendelsohn turns 69… Founding rabbi of the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, NY, Rabbi Marc Schneier turns 59… Argentina’s largest real-estate developer, President of Chabad Argentina, President of Hillel Argentina and President of Taglit Birthright Argentina, Eduardo Elsztain turns 58… Long-time judge in New York, appointed in 2017 to the New York Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, Judge Paul George Feinman turns 58… Santa Monica, CA resident, Brent Cohen turns 55… Better half of Congressman Ted Deutch and Development Director at Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, Jill Weinstock Deutch… Head of School at Manhattan Day School, Raizi Gruenebaum Chechik turns 46… Retired tennis pro, Justin Gimelstob turns 41… Former Obama White House Jewish Liaison (2011-2013), now Disaster Response and Resilience Lead at Bloomberg LP, Jarrod Neal Bernsteinturns 38… Director of Partnerships at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Tamar Remz… Barbara Simons

SATURDAYSenior counsel focused on mergers and acquisitions in the NYC office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, Arthur Fleischerturns 85… Winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, he is a professor emeritus at California Institute of Technology, Barry Clark Barish turns 82… Priscilla Alexander turns 79… Builder and operator of luxury casinos and hotels, Steve Wynn (born Stephen Alan Weinberg) turns 76… Corporate venture capitalist and scientist, he served as VP at Intel Corporation (1984-1999) where he co-founded Intel Capital, Avram Miller turns 73… Topanga, California resident, Joseph Helfer turns 71… Gene Bruton turns 69… Professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam at the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Reuven Firestone turns 66… Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts turns 63… CEO of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, Daniel Och turns 57… Communications Director at C-SPAN, Howard Mortman turns 51… Research assistant at the Washington Institute, focused on the Middle East peace process, Lia Michal Weiner… Associate at Baron Public Affairs, LLC, Joshua Henderson… Charles Geffen… Josh Weinstein

SUNDAY: Long-time Baltimore area dentist now living in Jupiter, Florida, Joel L Goldberg, DDS turns 73… Former chair of the Political Science Department of the Hebrew University, Avraham Diskin turns 71… Founding Secretary at West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, previously Western Region Coordinator for B’nai B’rith (2005-2007), Lyndia Lowy turns 69… Actress and singer, Barbi Benton (born Barbara Lynn Klein) turns 68… Rabbi Reba Carmel turns 65… Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, Shalom David Staub turns 62… Angel investor Mark N. Schwartz turns 62… Member of the New Jersey General Assembly since 2006, Amy H. Handlin turns 62… Founder of the annual Wall Street Conference in Boca Raton, Jason Lyons turns 49… Director of Financial Resource Development at The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland (Oregon), Michael Jeser turns 42… Anchor Producer at CNN, Ariel Bashi turns 36… Associate at Park Hill Group LLC, also Chair of the Tamid Group, involving American college students with Israel’s economic landscape, Max Heller turns 27..

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