Daily Kickoff: Congress crafting Iran sanctions for AIPAC week | Israelis grumble about US official | Ivanka joins West Wing | Rabbi Lookstein BDay


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TOP TALKER: “Billionaire-Backed Jewish Settlement Emerges as New Battleground” by Jonathan Ferziger: “As U.S. policy frowned on settlement construction, money kept flowing to Beit El from billionaires abroad. Among the top contributors are American Eagle Outfitters Inc. Chief Executive Jay Schottenstein, Duty-Free Americas Inc. President Leon Falic, Jordache Jeans founder Joe Nakash and Renco Metals Inc.’s Ira Rennert… Inside the settlement, [David] Friedman’s name is everywhere, starting in the study hall where a brass plaque identifies his father, Rabbi Morris Friedman, as one of the founding trustees. Then there is the Rabbi Morris Friedman Center for Computer Sciences, the Friedman Faculty House and the Friedman fitness center at the settlement’s pre-army academy… Ultimately, said Gilead Sher, a former Israeli peace negotiator, the settlers in Beit El are likely be disappointed in Trump who will “bow to reality” and work toward a two-state solution that keeps Israel and the Palestinians from hurting each other. “We’re looking for a divorce, not a real estate deal,” he said.” [Bloomberg

“Top Palestinian official: Trump committed to two states” by Aron Heller: “Jibril Rajoub told foreign reporters that President Donald Trump made clear to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a recent phone call that he was his “strategic partner” in making a “real and serious” peace between Israelis and Palestinians… Rajoub, a former West Bank security chief, said Trump’s “America First” slogan also indicated that he would be less prone to supporting Israel by default. “I have to understand that it means he is not in the pocket,” he said.” [AP

REPORT — Israeli officials have increased their criticism of Yael Lempert who accompanied Trump advisor Jason Greenblatt on his visit to Israel — by Ariel Kahana: “According to Israeli sources, Lempert “strained the atmosphere.” Diplomatic sources revealed that Lampert tried to prevent a meeting between Greenblatt and the heads of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, and only counter-pressure from Netanyahu’s office eventually led to Greenblatt holding the meeting. They added that it was evident that Greenblatt himself had come to listen, as he has said in public, but Lempert’s influence was on display, and not in a positive way.”

“Among other things, Greenblatt repeated statements that were heard many times during the Obama administration – that Israel is the stronger side in the conflict and therefore there are expected to first take conciliatory measures towards the Palestinian Authority. Israel concluded that this argument, and the human rights issues raised by Greenblatt, echoed similar comments made in the past by Lempert, who holds similar views to those of J Street.” [NRG-Hebrew; Twitter]

–Worth Noting: Sheldon Adelson purchased the NRG website in 2014 for 17 million shekels ($4.86 million).

“The Liquidator From Washington Comes Calling on Netanyahu” by Aluf Benn: “Into this morass stepped Trump, with his demand for a settlement freeze and renewed negotiations with the Palestinians about a “deal.” Netanyahu can’t stave off the current president with the help of Congress the way he did with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama; he is totally dependent on Trump. Thus he would rather avoid conflict with the White House and risk elections, after which he can form a coalition that would be less confrontational toward Trump.” [Haaretz

KAFE KNESSET — The Crisis Is Still On — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Political crises in Israel tend to be hectic and chaotic, but they usually last somewhere between 24 and 48 hours. The current coalition crisis over the Israeli Broadcasting Authority vs. the Israeli Broadcast Corporation is now entering its fourth day. The crisis is not likely to be resolved until Thursday when Netanyahu returns from his visit to China… In Israel, Netanyahu’s surrogates – Likud minister Yariv Levin, who’s filling in as Prime Minister in Netanyahu’s absence, and Shlomo “Momo” Filber, director of the Communication Ministry – are attempting to bridge the differences between Netanyahu and Finance Minister Kahlon, but in Beijing, so far, it appears there is no room for compromise. Levin and Filber are trying to work out a creative solution that would merge the IBC and the existing IBA – whatever it takes to bring the sides closer.

The Geula factor: The IBC crisis, by the way, already has a new name – “the Geula Crisis” – named for the chief anchor on the new channel, Geula Even. Even’s appointment was announced yesterday, in the midst of the mediation attempts. Yedioth Aharanoth coined the term Geula Crisis this morning with a widespread front-page headline and photo of Even. Even, aside from being a gifted and talented journalist also happens to be married to Netanyahu’s rival, former Likud minister Gideon Saar, considered one of the biggest enemies on Balfour Street. The appointment is widely considered one of the reasons Netanyahu’s aides dismissed reports about a settlement last night, and clarified that Bibi still insists that the IBC will not go on the air. But Kahlon also didn’t like the timing of the announcement, and is fuming at IBC directors for breaking the news while he is trying to save the channel. So the only way out of this mess seems to be a one-on-one meeting between Netanyahu and Kahlon and that cannot even occur for a few more days.

A source close to Netanyahu tells Kafe Knesset: “All the mediators running around right now are just the prelude. Bibi and Moshe have to settle this between themselves.”

A senior minister summed up the political game: “Netanyahu and Kahlon are in a zero sum game right now. One of them will end this crisis as a loser, because the IBC will either go on air, or not. If Kahlon caves he will lose all credibility and will be the joke of the Knesset. Netanyahu, on the other hand, has climbed up a very high tree – so this is basically a game of chicken.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Congress races to craft Iran sanctions bills ahead of AIPAC conference” by Julian Pecquet: “Rep. Eliott Engel, D-N.Y., told Al-Monitor last week he has “confidence” he can hammer something out with Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif. “We’re still negotiating it, and like everything I do with the chairman I’m hopeful we’ll have a meeting of the minds,” Engel said… Meanwhile in the Senate, Democrats have yet to coalesce around a single vision that can get the backing of Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn. The top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., is insisting that any sanctions bill preserve President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement, while his more hawkish colleague Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is publicly signaling that he’s ready to make the necessary concessions to get a deal done… The internal congressional politics have left AIPAC lobbyists discreetly pushing both parties to compromise and avoid a repeat of the highly partisan Iran deal debate of 2015.” [Al-Monitor

Trump once again criticized the Iran nuclear deal — by AP’s Vivian Salama and Robert Burns: “In brief remarks in the presence of reporters during al-Abadi’s White House visit, Trump raised his frequently stated objections to the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor… “One of the things I did ask is, ‘Why did President Obama sign that agreement with Iran?’ because nobody has been able to figure that one out,” Trump said. “But maybe someday we’ll be able to figure that one out.”” [AP

“Backing UN moves and Iran deal, China shows Netanyahu it’s not (only) about the money” by Raphael Ahren: “Premier Li has expressed that China does not have its own interest in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. We’d like to see the issue properly solved in line with the UN resolution and international consensus,” Deng Li, the director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of West Asian and North African Affairs, told reporters… Deng said that the two premiers also discussed the Iran nuclear deal… “China’s position has always been clear. That is, we need to strictly implement the JCPOA,” he said… “And the starting point of this implementation is to safeguard the nonproliferation system and world peace. Also, the JCPOA will be very conducive for regional and international peace.” [ToI

“Israel, U.S. Trying to Persuade Western Countries to Oppose Five anti-Israel UN Resolutions” by Barak Ravid: “Israel contacted the Trump administration and asked to coordinate activity in Geneva and other capitals around the world against the resolutions. A request to this effect was also transferred to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who undertook to help. Israel’s permanent envoy to the UN and other international institutions in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter, has been working in recent days with American representatives to influence Germany, Britain and other countries, hoping to persuade them to oppose the resolutions or abstain.” [Haaretz]

PALACE INTRIGUE: “Ivanka Trump set to get West Wing office as role expands” by Annie Karni: “The powerful first daughter has secured her own office on the West Wing’s second floor — a space next to senior adviser Dina Powell, who was recently promoted to a position on the National Security Council. She is also in the process of obtaining a security clearance, and is set to receive government-issued communications devices this week… except she is not being sworn in, will hold no official position, and is not pocketing a salary, her attorney said. Ivanka Trump’s role, according to her attorney Jamie Gorelick, will be to serve as the president’s “eyes and ears” while providing broad-ranging advice.” [Politico

“Despite a Trust, Ivanka Trump Still Wields Power Over Her Brand” by Rachel Abrams: “Even if Ms. Trump is trying to tread carefully, her trust raises questions about how effectively a voluntary arrangement can minimize conflicts, said Norman L. Eisen, the chief White House ethics adviser under President Barack Obama. “There’s no enforcement,” he said. “If this is voluntary, what if she voluntarily decides not to do it?” … Mr. Eisen praised the appointment of Ms. [Jamie] Gorelick as an ethics adviser… “Whatever questions I and others may have about the arrangement,” Mr. Eisen said, “I think it speaks well of Ivanka and of the process that has been set up to manage the conflicts that the trustees’ monitor is one of the most prominent Democratic lawyers in the country.”” [NYTimes

“Ivanka Trump enjoys some mother-daughter time on the slopes in Aspen” by Chris Spargo: “Ivanka and the children could not leave until after sundown on Saturday as the family observes Shabbat.” [DailyMail

Another Trump MOT… “Eric and Lara Trump Expecting Their First Baby” by Gilliam Telling: “Eric Trump and his wife Lara are expecting their first child this September—and they’re having a boy… The couple, who dated for six years before marrying at Mar-A-Lago in 2014, note that their pregnancy was starting to become a hard secret to contain: “Eric’s dad was so excited,” says Lara, “that we were worried he’d blurt it out at a press conference.”” [People

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Gas Talks With Turkey May Wrap Up in Summer, Says Israel Energy Minister [Bloomberg] • For Every Mobileye, 600 Israeli Start-ups Crash [Haaretz] • Is there a new wave of Ponzi schemes coming? There’s a possibility [MiamiHerald] • Israel’s tallest planned building approved [Globes]

MEDIA WATCH: “Tech’s Biggest Consumer Is Not Who You Think It Is” by Jessica Abo: “Does the thought of using tech for your business want to make you swipe left? Jessica Naziri, the CEO and founder of TechSesh wants to change that. When the former Los Angeles Times technology reporter started covering tech for her job, she discovered most of the people reviewing gadgets designed for women were men. Named as one of the most influential women in technology, the former journalist turned entrepreneur is empowering women in technical fields. Her reviews give women a voice in an industry that needs to know “pink is not a strategy.”” [Entrepreneur]

“Good Schools Aren’t the Secret to Israel’s High-Tech Boom” by Naftali Bennett: “Unlike quiet Western libraries, the Jewish beit midrash—house of study—is a buzzing beehive of learning. Since the Talmud is one of the most complex legal codes ever gathered, the idea of a verdict is almost irrelevant to those studying. Students engage in debate for the sake of debate. They analyze issues from all directions, finding different solutions. Multiple answers to a single question are common. Like the Talmud itself—which isn’t the written law but a gathering of protocols—the learning process, not the result, is valued.” [WSJ

“Tim Samuels’ Sleepover: Inside the Israeli Hospital” by BBC Radio 4: “On the children’s ward, a mother who has brought her son for treatment describes how her trip to Israel must remain a secret – or she fears she could be killed when they return. On the Syrian border, Tim sees two badly wounded fighters smuggled into Israel by the IDF as they are rushed to Ziv for emergency attention. In the hospital – staffed by Jewish, Muslim and Druze medics – the doctors talk about the psychological toll of treating the war wounded. A hospital social worker describes waking up repeatedly through the night at home to check that his young son wasn’t injured. The doctors at Ziv say they hope their work is at least a sliver of humanity in a dark region.” [BBC]

TRANSITIONS — Rabbi David Saperstein Joins URJ and RAC as Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy: “President Rabbi Rick Jacobs announced today that Rabbi David Saperstein will return to the URJ senior staff as Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy. He will assume this new position as of April 1, 2017.”

Josh Lipsky, an Obama White House and State Department alum, is heading to the International Monetary Fund, where he will serve as speechwriter and advisor to IMF chief Christine Lagarde. In January, Lipsky finished a tour at State working as special advisor to Rick Stengel, who was under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. h/t Playbook

“Trump immigration lawyer on travel ban: ‘What happens to Muslims can happen to Jews'” by Danielle Ziri: “As an observant Jew, [Michael] Wildes added he believes the Jewish community has a responsibility to stand up for marginalized people. “We are historically people of the passport and we need to make sure that we get this right,” he told the Post. “What happens to a Muslim can happen to a Jew and we have to take our responsibility to our biblical cousins very seriously.” Michael Wildes’ brother, Rabbi Mark Wildes added that the travel ban is “complicated from a religious perspective.”” [JPost]

“This Jewish Photographer Documented a Nazi-Controlled Ghetto” by Clyde Haberman: “More than 200 of his photos, along with dozens of related objects are part of an exhibition, “Memory Unearthed: The Lodz ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross,” that will open March 25 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston… Not all of his images were grim. There are pictures of birthday parties, of a young woman smiling in a garden, of a little girl on a swing, of a couple kissing… Still, some things are eternal. One photo in the exhibition is particularly striking. It is also, appropriately, the last image in a book of Mr. Ross’s work that the Ontario gallery published with Yale University Press in 2015. It shows a man standing atop the rubble of a destroyed synagogue in Lodz. He is carrying a Torah scroll that he had managed to save from the ruins.” [NYTimes]

“Israel’s Rich Culinary Legacy Revealed in a New Film” by Front Burner: “In the new feature-length documentary “In Search of Israeli Cuisine,” the chef Michael Solomonov travels from one end of Israel to the other sampling food and talking to cooks in a narrative style reminiscent of Anthony Bourdain. After watching this film, one has to conclude that with more than 100 nationalities living within the country’s borders, an Israeli cuisine resists easy definition… While exploring the food mosaic, the film also points out the simmering tension between Arabic and Israeli cooking. Who can claim ownership of falafel, shakshuka or chopped salad?” [NYTimes

“How to make the best Israeli pita bread: ingredients, method and tips” by Samantha Gross: “There are lots of Middle Eastern restaurants in the capital, but for Israeli-born chef Eran Tibi, none of them the embodied the cuisine of his homeland. Earlier this year, Tibi brought his version of Tel Aviv-style eating to London, when he opened Bala Baya in Southwark. “London is the perfect blend of cultures where people are curious, adventurous and expect excellence,” he says. “It’s a fantastic way to challenge myself and the team.” [EveningStandard]

BIRTHDAYS: Yale Law School graduate in 1954, who in 1978 became the first woman appointed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Ellen Ash Peters turns 87… Rabbi emeritus of Manhattan’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (active 1958-2015) and principal of the Ramaz School (1966-2015), Rabbi Haskel Lookstein turns 85… Co-founder of Wynnefield Capital Management, on the Board of Directors of S.A.R. Academy in Riverdale, NY, Joshua H. Landes turns 55… Harvard professor, biochemist, physicist, molecular biology pioneer and winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Walter Gilbert turns 85… Scholar of Jewish mysticism and founding dean of the non-denominational rabbinical program at the Hebrew College in Boston where he still teaches, Arthur Green turns 76… First Jewish member of the US House of Representatives from New Hampshire (2007-2011), later on the boards of the ADL and NJDC, Paul Hodes turns 66… Acting Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, previously Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem turns 58…

Award-winning film, stage and television actor and singer whose roles include the title role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) and the adult voice of Simba in Disney’s The Lion King trilogy, Matthew Broderick turns 55… Hedge fund manager, philanthropist and chairman of the board of the New York City Opera, Roy Niederhoffer turns 51… Senior editor of the National Review, syndicated columnist, author and commentator, Jonah Jacob Goldberg turns 48… James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef from Miami who is known for her culinary skills as an expert in Latin-style flavors of cooking, Michelle Bernstein turns 47… Digital marketing guru and president and founder of Bully Pulpit Interactive, Andrew Bleeker turns 32… Student activist at Miami University of Ohio, worked in the Office of Community Engagement at the Democratic National Committee, Addison Caruso turns 21… Samuel Gross

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Daily Kickoff: Bibi sends Chief of Staff Yoav Horowitz to DC | Elliott Abrams on Dina Powell | Saban’s Star | Schottenstein bids for Maccabi Tel Aviv


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DRIVING THE WEEK: “He believed in ‘Power Rangers’ when nobody else did, and it turned him into a billionaire” by Meg James: “For Saban, the Power Rangers have long been his trusty sidekicks, catapulting him into the Hollywood limelight. To coincide with the movie premiere, the Israeli American mogul on Wednesday will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — another notch in his noisy and kinetic career. A shrewd deal maker, Saban has parlayed audacious bets into vast wealth and political influence. Forbes estimates his worth at $3 billion. His empire includes interests in real estate, apps and online games, an Israeli phone company, Asian TV channels and an ownership interest in the struggling Spanish-language media company Univision Communications…”

“Many people underestimate him,” said fellow mogul Peter Chernin, the former Fox president who now runs his own entertainment firm. “But if you look at his career, Haim [Saban] has been at the forefront of where big trends and opportunities are heading.” … Since the election, he has been busy forging a new relationship — with Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Trump who has a prominent role in the White House, helping steer foreign policy… “At first I thought, maybe it was a mistake, a kind of Oscar-snafu where they give the prize to the wrong person,” Saban said. “I consider myself a cartoon schlepper, and for a cartoon they gave me a star. I’m humbled and grateful.” [LATimes]

–Flashback: Connie Bruck profiled Saban in the New Yorker in 2010 — “The Influencer: An entertainment mogul sets his sights on foreign policy” [NewYorker]

JUST IN: “US boycotts UN rights council debate on Israel, Palestinians” by The Associated Press: “The State Department says the United States is boycotting a session at the U.N. Human Rights Council that focuses on Palestine and other Arab occupied territories, saying it is biased against Israel. State Department spokesman Mark Toner in a statement took aim at a recurring agenda item at the council, which focuses on Israel and the Palestinian territories — the only one of its kind to focus on a single country at every HRC session… Toner also said the United States would vote against every resolution that might be put forward under the agenda item.” [AP]

TEHRAN WATCH: “Here’s one country where hard-liners might not be poised for election success: Iran” by Shashank Bengali and Rabin Mostaghim: “Iran’s conservatives have been vocal in their criticism of President Hassan Rouhani, dismissing his outreach to the West as naive and the nuclear deal he championed as an economic failure. But when it comes to challenging the moderate Rouhani for reelection in May, the hard-liners, who oppose expanding political and social freedoms, are struggling to agree on a message or candidate.” [LATimes] • Trump Policy Uncertainty Clouds Iranian-Americans’ Investment Plans [Bloomberg]

INBOX …in response to the Jewish leader who told us last Thursday: “This [Dina Powell appointment] is the worst. She was responsible for the money that was supposed to go to Iranian dissidents and she gave it to NIAC (National Iranian American Council), which is one of the worst of the worst groups. The Deputy NSA is not a minor position.”

Elliott Abrams, who served as deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration, emails us… “The line (or accusation) “she gave it to NIAC” is false. In 2007 the National Endowment for Democracy gave a grant to NIAC. I have checked carefully, and neither State nor Dina had anything to do with that grant. No one at State recalls any State grant to NIAC, not from any part of State under Dina nor from any part of State at all. So your informant has almost certainly — and erroneously — attributed the NED grant to State and to Dina. My memory is that all of us in the Bush administration, including Dina, had a dim view of NIAC and would not have given it a dime. We at the NSC worked closely with Dina and would have consulted on such a proposal—and rejected it.”

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — Trump Fails to ‘Shoot Iran’s Little Boats Out of the Water’ — by JI’s Aaron Magid: Speaking at a crowded campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida last September, then Republican nominee Donald Trump issued a stern threat to Tehran. Responding to a recent incident where Iranian ships harassed a US navy patrol, Trump warned, “With Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures — that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.” Only months into Trump’s presidency, Iran has continued its provocative actions, south of the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard ships were not “shot out of the water.”

Jonathan Schanzer, VP for Research at the Foundations for the Defense of Democracies: “What we are looking at is an evolving Iran policy… We’ve certainly seen tougher rhetoric and an inclination to use sanctions, but I don’t think a policy has fully taken shape yet… We have seen a President who is rather committed in following through on his campaign promises. This, I think, has been a point of pride for this Administration. I wouldn’t discount the possibility of a US challenge to the Iranians in this regard… The context of [Mike] Flynn putting Iran on notice and reportedly having a very robust policy regarding Iran and then his exit shouldn’t be ignored. It’s not to say that there isn’t continuity between Flynn and McMaster but some of this still remains to be seen.”

JINSA’s Michael Makovsky: “That is the difference between campaigning and governing. I think he’s right what he said and it’s very important that we do such things and signal the Iranians that there is a new sheriff in town. I just don’t think they are ready yet to embark on such a policy… The key is if they harass our ships, we have to sink them. He’s (Trump) right. We can’t look like we’re afraid of a confrontation. On the contrary, we need to show that we are not afraid and we are fully prepared for one. If the Iranians misbehave, then we’re going to push back.” Read in full here [JewishInsider

HEARD YESTERDAY — The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg on CBS’s Face The Nation: “On matters of life and death, I’m not confident yet that these guys can handle a crisis, because, remember, nothing really has happened yet in the Trump administration. There’s been no terror attacks, nothing of North Korean magnitude.” [Mediaite]

“Trump’s foreign policy doctrine: Escalate to de-escalate” by Josh Rogin: “Trump may want to escalate in certain areas to force a negotiation where actors might not be interested or willing to negotiate otherwise.” [WashPost] • While Trump talks tough, US quietly cutting nuclear force [AP]

WAR ROOM: “In One Rocky Week, Trump’s Self-Inflicted Chaos on Vivid Display” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman: “The public outbursts are mirrored by internal tensions… A new realignment has emerged in a West Wing already rived by suspicion and intrigue. Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive who serves as the president’s top economic policy adviser and who is decidedly more liberal than the rest of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, is on the rise, and has the ear of the president’s powerful son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Kushner also gained an ally on the National Security Council with the appointment of Dina Powell… as a deputy for strategy.” [NYTimes

“Inside Trump’s White House, New York moderates spark infighting and suspicion” by Philip Rucker and Robert Costa: “Kushner and Cohn are particularly close with the Cabinet’s industry barons — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — as well as Chris Liddell and Reed Cordish, two businessmen recruited by Kushner to work on long-term projects… Many people inside and outside the White House frequently note the growing visibility of Cohn and Powell and wonder if they might eventually gain influence over Trump’s message and moderate it from Bannon-style populism… Sometimes when staffers feud, Kushner summons them to his office, a few doors down from the president’s, where the 36-year-old adviser sits them on the couch and mediates as though he were a couple’s therapist, officials said.” [WashPost]

President-in-law: “What China wants from Trump” by Jonathan Swan: “The Chinese ambassador in Washington — Cui Tiankai, a silky operator — has been focusing intensely on the White House rather than the State Department, particularly cozying up to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. One source says Cui has been dealing mostly with Kushner, and has been AWOL at State.” [Axios

Spotted at the King David yesterday: Sen. Tom Cotton. Our source did not see Senators Rubio or Cornyn, although they were with Cotton in Beirut on Saturday [Pic] • Cotton joined Jake Tapper’s State of the Union show from Jerusalem [Pic]

STATE-SIDE VISIT: “Netanyahu chief of staff heads to US to sort out settlements” by Marissa Newman: “Netanyahu’s chief of staff Yoav Horowitz… will join Ron Dermer, Israel’s Washington ambassador, to continue discussions with US special envoy Jason Greenblatt in an attempt to reach an understanding between Israel and US President Donald Trump’s administration about building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Netanyahu left Israel on Saturday night for a three day trip to China, and the fact that Horowitz did not accompany the prime minister but went instead to Washington highlights the importance of the negotiations with the US.” [ToI]  

“Ahead of First Mideast Visit, Trump’s Peace Envoy Met With Obama Negotiators to Seek Advice” by Amir Tibon: “[Jason] Greenblatt reached out to Frank Lowenstein, who was the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in John Kerry’s State Department from 2014 to 2017, and Dennis Ross… In his conversations with these former negotiators, just like during his visit to the region last week, Greenblatt mostly listened and took notes.” [Haaretz

“All Trump wants is an Israeli-Palestinian deal” by Nahum Barnea: “Greenblatt… worded the White House statement during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington. In the statement, Israel was urged to restrain its settlement policy… “Why did you include this paragraph?” he was asked by a friend. “Did Netanyahu imply that he needs it in order to curb the pressures from the Right?” Greenblatt appeared surprised by the question. “We didn’t even think about it,” he said. “I included the paragraph because I thought it was the right thing to do.”” [Ynet

VIEW FROM SHOMRON: “’Trump may condemn Israel at some point – and that’s ok’” by Shimon Cohen: “Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, one of the regional heads who met with Greenblatt, spoke with Arutz Sheva about his meeting… When asked how optimistic his meeting with Greenblatt left him, Dagan answered: “I’m not euphoric, because my expectations and demands as an Israeli citizen are aimed at our Prime Minister… I [anticipate] that the Trump Administration may condemn Israel for the settlements and possibly for other things. I have no requests from the US administration, but I am confident that he won’t ‘go to war’ over condemning [construction] and that he won’t pick a fight over it.”” [INN] • Slightly higher number of Jews approve Trump’s job performance than had voted for him [Gallup

KAFE KNESSET — Crisis not averted — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Did you think the public broadcasting crisis was behind us? Think again. We are definitely still in crisis mode. Netanyahu is currently in China, celebrating 25 years of Sino-Israeli diplomatic relations. But just before he took off Saturday night he dropped a political bomb and left his confidants to deal with the consequences. “Either the Israel Broadcast Corporation is cancelled – or we will go to elections,” the premier announced on Saturday. This posed a crystal-clear ultimatum to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and backtracked from previous understandings between them. The whole political system was thrown into havoc, and Bibi – well, he got on the plane, leaving everyone back in Israel wondering what exactly he wants. Is he serious about elections? Will he bring down the government because of a public broadcast channel? And why does he keep on picking fights with Kahlon, after making a point of getting close to him last month over a plate of hummus? Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“U.N. Diplomat Behind Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid Quits” by Rick Gladstone and Somini Sengupta: “Rima Khalaf’s resignation also reflected the pressure from the Trump administration on her boss, Secretary General António Guterres. President Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, has assailed what she and Israeli officials regard as a strong anti-Israel bias at the organization. “When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N., it is appropriate that the person resign,” Ms. Haley said in response to Ms. Khalaf’s resignation.” [NYTimes

PROFILE: “Can Chuck Schumer Check Donald Trump?” by Elizabeth Kolbert: “Schumer, who’s sixty-six, is an optimist, a trait that he says he inherited from his father, Abe. Abe, for his part, inherited an exterminating business from his father, Jack, a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine. The family lived in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and Schumer, growing up, would sometimes lend a hand killing roaches… In 1974, the State Assembly seat for the district that included Flatbush came open. Fresh out of Harvard Law School, Schumer decided to run for it. His mother, Selma, urged her neighbors not to vote for him. Schumer had an offer from the prestigious law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Selma didn’t want him wasting his time when he could be making good money.” [NewYorker]

“Al Franken may be the perfect senator for the Trump era — a deadly serious funnyman” by Karen Tumulty: “Nearing the halfway mark of his second term, Franken said, he feels “a little freer to be myself, and so every once in awhile, something comes out.” … He has many sides. During slow periods in committee hearings, Franken sometimes sketches elaborate portraits on a notepad. If he does not take them when he leaves, Senate staffers scoop up the Franken doodles as collector’s items… But he is also part of the club. When the bells rang for a vote on a recent afternoon, Franken and four colleagues crowded onto a Senate subway car. “We have Franken here to make us laugh!” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) announced. Which they all did.” [WashPost

“Eric Greitens, Missouri’s First Jewish Governor, Is Eyeing The White House” by Nathan Guttman: “After Greitens’s speech at the RJC conference last month, a major Jewish Republican donor walked over to the press area to make sure reporters listened to the governor’s address dedicated to the recent spate of anti-Semitism in his state. “That’s our guy,” he said, “you’ll be hearing about him.”” [Forward

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: For developers trying to influence the president, the White House is no Trump Tower [TRD] • Hedge Fund Titan William A. Ackman’s Surefire Bet Turns Into a $4 Billion Loss [NYTimes] Why Music Mogul Irving Azoff Is Snapping Up Tiny Trade Magazines [WSJ] • CEO Stewart Butterfield says Slack is growing up, but maybe not going public [Axios]

“Lemonade Is Using Behavioral Science To Onboard Customers And Keep Them Honest” by Ainsley O’Connell: “That deceptively simple claims process is the byproduct of academic research on psychology and behavioral economics conducted by Dan Ariely, one of the field’s most prominent voices and Lemonade’s chief behavioral officer… “There’s a lot of science about when people behave and misbehave that has not been put to use,” says Lemonade cofounder and CEO Daniel Schreiber. Some of that science would suggest design tweaks like signature placement; other ideas are more fundamental to Lemonade’s B Corp business model, like the decision to donate surplus premiums to charity.” [FastCompany]

“Salt Bae set to sprinkle at new Midtown restaurant” by Christopher Cameron: “The restaurant is being backed by Turkish billionaire Ferit Sahenk, the media mogul behind the conglomerate, Dogus Group. Real estate moguls Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen are also said to be backing the restaurant, according to the New York Post. Sahenk, Sapir and Rosen also own Zuma at 261 Madison Avenue and the Nomo Soho Hotel.” [TRD]

Trump spent Saturday night with Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter… “A Saturday pool report indicated Trump would be dining Saturday night with Perlmutter and his wife, with the dinner closed to press. Perlmutter, an Israeli-American who served in the Israeli Army and who advises Trump on veterans affairs, has previously met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago.” [Politico]

Trump on Friday: “Ike Perlmutter is an amazing man — Marvel — is one of the great, great businessmen of our time.” [WhiteHouse]

“Robert Kraft flew on Air Force One with Donald Trump” by Hayden Bird: On Sunday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft flew on Air Force One with President Trump from West Palm Beach to Washington D.C., according to the White House press pool report. And, as the report noted, Kraft wore his Air Force 1 sneakers: A pair of black canvas Nikes. The pool report didn’t specify why Kraft was on Air Force One, but it said that Trump briefly introduced “Bob Kraft” before making a comment about North Korea.” [Boston]

BOOK REVIEW: Elliott Abrams reviews “Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman” by Itamar Rabinovich…“Mr. Rabinovich explains the steps by which the tough military leader came to abandon his promises to Israeli voters, but not his underlying motivation. The only deeper explanation we are offered is striking: “In private conversations with confidants Rabin expressed concern over the Israeli public’s and the IDF’s ability to shoulder the price of a long-term, seemingly endless conflict.” Rabin had collapsed in the lead-up to the 1967 war from nervous exhaustion and been out of action for two days. Did he project his own fatigue onto the nation? If so, he greatly underestimated Israel’s stamina… Mr. Rabinovich acknowledges that while it is “quite realistic” that Rabin would have won the 1996 elections, “that he would have come to an agreement with Arafat is less so.”” [WSJ

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Prague’s Old-New Synagogue gets first new Torahs since World War Two” by Jiri Skacel: “Prague’s medieval Old-New Synagogue received two new Torah scrolls on Sunday, the first ones since World War Two shattered the country’s once-thriving Jewish community. The Torahs, funded by donations to the Prague Jewish community, were written in Israel and brought into the synagogue in a ceremony that included scripting of the final letters by guests and members of the community, and a street dance. The Old-New Synagogue is over 700 years old, one of the oldest existing synagogues in Europe. Apart from its significance to the community, it is the main attraction of Prague’s Jewish Town, a popular destination for visitors.” [Reuters]

“Law partners call themselves ‘Double Trouble’ and always wear pink outfits to court” by Graham Rayman: “Sartorial twins [Sara] Shulevitz and [Mindy] Meyer are both Orthodox Jewish women practicing criminal law — a rarity in the gritty hallways of the city’s legal world. “We comply with Orthodox Jewish rules of modesty, but we like to wear pink,” Shulevitz said… “They say a woman’s place is in the house,” said Meyer, who in 2012 became the youngest person ever to run for state Senate as a Republican. “I say it’s in the courthouse, but I remain steadfast to my values.”” [DailyNews

“Inside a Met Director’s Shocking Exit and the Billion-Dollar Battle for the Museum’s Future” by William D. Cohan: “Then there was the series of unfortunate events that began, in April 2013, with Leonard Lauder’s extraordinary gift of his unmatched collection of 78 Cubist paintings, drawings, and sculptures… valued at more than $1 billion. “In one fell swoop this puts the Met at the forefront of early-20th-century art,” [Thomas] Campbell said at the time… According to the former administrator, Lauder got the better of Campbell over the terms and conditions of the donation. “If you put Leonard Lauder and Tom Campbell in the room in a negotiation, I don’t think Tom Campbell would emerge victorious,” this person says.” [VanityFair

SPORTS BLINK: “American Eagle’s Schottenstein Negotiating to Buy Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball” by David Israel: “Jay Schottenstein, chairman of American Eagle Outfitters and DSW (formerly Designer Shoe Warehouse) is in talks to acquire control of the basketball club Maccabi Tel Aviv, at a value of $35 million, Calcalist reported on Sunday. The club’s major shareholders are David Federman, controlling shareholder of publicly traded Petrochemical, and the Recanati family, the former controlling shareholder of IDB – each of whom holds 29% of the club’s shares. American businessman Richard Dietze holds 17.5% of the shares, American real estate magnate Ben Ashkenazi holds 10% of shares. The team’s annual budget is about $75 million.” [Calcalist; JewishPress]  

DESSERT: “San Francisco’s Frena is the kosher bakery you’ve been waiting for” by Jessica Yadegaran: “Israeli owners Isaac Yosef, Avi Edri and fourth-generation baker Yanni (who goes by first name only) had little idea just what a niche they were about to fill with their baked goods… “The focus in San Francisco is on sweets,” Yosef says. “It’s hard to find a good sandwich in a bakery anymore. So we decided to do something about it.” The mother of all sandwiches is their sabich ($10.49), which is filled with mashed potatoes, oven-roasted eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, Israeli pickles, tomatoes, tahini and tangy amba, a mango condiment.” [MercuryNews]

BIRTHDAYS: Philanthropist, visionary, pioneer in corporate social responsibility, former CEO of family-owned Timberland which was sold in 2011 to VF Corporation, Jeff Swartz turns 57 (celebrating both English and Hebrew birthdays today)… Senior advisor to the family office of Charles Bronfman, previously President of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and SVP and COO of UJA-Federation of New York, Dr. Jeffrey R. Solomon turns 72… Actor, director, producer and writer of comedy whose career spans nearly seven decades, Carl Reiner turns 95… Stage and screen actor, television director and musician, best-known role as the title character in the television comedy series “Barney Miller,” Hal Linden (born Harold Lipshitz) turns 86… Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences as a geologist and oceanographer, but known popularly as poet and performer, Alexander Gorodnitsky turns 84… Australian award-winning writer of Portuguese Sephardi descent, author of fiction, non-fiction, screenplays and poetry collections, David George Joseph Malouf turns 83… Award-winning author of 25 children’s books, Louis Sachar 63… Israel’s Chief of Police (since 2015) after a 27 year career at Shabak (a/k/a the Shin Bet), Roni Alsheikh turns 54… Chilean businessman and philanthropist with substantial mining interests, Leonardo Farkas turns 50… Journalist, author, and lecturer and Editor-at-Large for Esquire, Arnold Stephen “A. J.” Jacobs, Jr. turns 49… Actor, podcast host, director and comedian, has acted in more than forty films, Michael Rapaport turns 47… Development associate at Urban Investment Partners, a multi-family and mixed-use development firm in the DC area, holder of both a B.A. and MBA from GWU, Jason Lifton turns 28… Director at West Wing Writers since 2014, previously director of online content at the super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, Matt Finkelstein (h/ts Playbook)… Ehud Lazar… Hyman Grossman

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Daily Kickoff: Norman Podhoretz, still going strong | Magerman talks Mercer, again | Details not adding up at Kushner’s 666 Fifth | Bibi’s Minyan Club


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SIREN: “Israeli jets strike inside Syria; military site near Palmyra reportedly targeted” by Oren Liebermann and Euan McKirdy: “In the most serious clash between Israeli and Syrian forces since the start of Syria’s civil war six years ago, Israeli aircraft struck several targets in Syria overnight… The Syrian military said the strikes targeted a military site near Palmyra… In response, Syrian forces fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets, saying they downed one aircraft and hit another. Israeli vehemently denied the assertions… “At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised,” a statement from the Israel Defense Forces said. One of the missiles was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense system, marking its first operational use.” [CNN]

DEEP DIVE: “The blow-it-all-up billionaires” by Vicky Ward: “If Trump was an unexpected victor, the Mercers were unexpected kingmakers. More established names in Republican politics, such as the Kochs and Paul Singer, had sat out the general election. But the Mercers had committed millions of dollars to a campaign that often seemed beyond salvaging… A longtime colleague, David Magerman, recalls that when Robert began working at Renaissance in 1993, he and his wife, Diana, were “grounded, sweet people.” (Magerman was suspended from Renaissance in February after making critical comments about Robert in The Wall Street Journal.) But “money changed all that,” he says. “Diana started jetting off to Europe and flying to their yacht on weekends. The girls were used to getting what they wanted.”

“Magerman, Robert’s former colleague at Renaissance, recalls him saying, in front of coworkers, words to the effect that “your value as a human being is equivalent to what you are paid. … He said that, by definition, teachers are not worth much because they aren’t paid much.” His beliefs were well-known at the firm, according to Magerman. But since Robert was so averse to publicity, his ideology wasn’t seen as a cause for concern. “None of us ever thought he would get his views out, because he only talked to his cats,” Magerman told me.” [HuffPost.Highline]

WEEKEND READ — Podhoretz the Pugilist: “Norman Podhoretz Still Picks Fights and Drops Names” by John Leland: “Mr. Podhoretz, who ran Commentary magazine from 1960 to 1995, has now outlived most of his old adversaries, including those he chronicled in his 1999 memoir “Ex-Friends: Falling Out With Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt and Norman Mailer.” Smart, ambitious, argumentative, back-stabbing, front-stabbing, he is a living amalgam of New York ego and intellect…. His story is also one of sweeping political reversal. Born in 1930 in a modest Jewish immigrant Brooklyn home, he made his mark in liberal Manhattan, broke ranks with the friends who nourished him and became a shaper of the neoconservative movement.”

“In those years, writers attacked one another first in the pages of so-called little magazines like Partisan Review and Commentary, and then at parties where politics and art were battlefields. If the players considered themselves high-minded, Mr. Podhoretz scathingly suggested other motives. “Every morning,” he wrote in the 1967 memoir “Making It,” “a stock-market report on reputation comes out in New York. It is invisible, but those who have eyes to see can read it. Did so-and-so have dinner at Jacqueline Kennedy’s apartment last night? Up five points. Was so-and-so not invited by the Lowells to meet the latest visiting Russian poet? Down one-eighth.”

“After supporting Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primaries, Mr. Podhoretz took a position that was not so much an endorsement of Mr. Trump as a rebuttal to conservatives who opposed him. “I was anti-anti-Trump,” he said. “I said it was a choice of evils, and he was the lesser evil. And I still think that’s true, although it might turn out that he wasn’t evil at all. He has the most conservative cabinet since Reagan, more than Reagan. So I watch what he does more than what he says.” He was not put off by Mr. Trump’s conciliatory approach to Russia, nor his support from white nationalists, whom he considered too marginal to be a real threat.” [NYTimes]

Bret Stephens: “A remarkably fair-minded tribute to the great Norman Podhoretz (who’s wrong about Trump and I will never forgive it).” [Twitter]

“Daughter diplomacy: Trudeau’s unorthodox play for Donald Trump’s approval” by Daniel Dale: “For [Justin] Trudeau, daughter diplomacy offers the prospect of a lifeline to a president who shares almost none of his principles but who often appears to value personal relationships over ideology and policy — and who appreciates a political gift… Donald Trump, not Ivanka Trump, was Trudeau’s original invitee to the play, communications director Kate Purchase said. Trump told Trudeau he couldn’t make it, Purchase said, “but suggested that perhaps Ivanka Trump could join instead.” … It is not only the president with whom Ivanka Trump might help Trudeau. Her husband, Jared Kushner, has emerged as one of the most powerful people in the country.” [TheStar

Trump kids, families to visit Aspen this weekend: “A large contingent of President Donald Trump’s children and grandchildren are scheduled to vacation in Aspen this weekend, sources said Thursday. The Trump family is expected to arrive in Aspen late Saturday night or early Sundaymorning, along with about 100 Secret Service agents, a source said. Another Aspen area law enforcement source said the Trump visitors to Aspen will include Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and their families.” [DenverPost; AspenTimes]

JASON GREENBLATT’S WEEK: “On His First Visit to the Middle East, Trump’s Envoy Jason Greenblatt Surprises Everyone” by Barak Ravid: “Greenblatt’s Twitter account was the best show in town this week. Anyone following his tweets might have thought he wasn’t the U.S. envoy for the peace process, but the Energizer bunny…  Everyone on the Israeli side who met with Greenblatt this week, on both the right and the left, as well as everyone on the Palestinian side, had a positive impression…

“A senior minister who sits in the diplomatic-security cabinet said he met with Netanyahu this week and found him very worried. The reason… [was] Donald Trump. “There’s enormous pressure on him over the settlements from Trump,” the minister said. “Trump told Netanyahu, ‘Tell me what your needs are on the settlements, and what you’re willing to do to rein in construction.’ … That’s also why he isn’t going to the AIPAC conference in Washington at the end of the month,” the minister added. “He doesn’t yet have anything to bring to Trump. The feeling I got is that he’s starting to miss Obama.”” [Haaretz

BIBI’S MINYAN CLUB — Greenblatt‏ tweets: “Thank you Israeli PM’s office for mincha minyan and Netanyahu for davening with me so that I could say Kaddish for my mother.” [Twitter

KAFE KNESSET — The Missing Yarmulke — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt definitely won the hearts and minds of many Israelis and Palestinians, who followed his Twitter reports with great enthusiasm. But for some Haredi observers, Greenblatt’s shuttle diplomacy was overshadowed by his missing kippa, and Haredi journalists and news outlets have been freaking out over it this whole week. “People who watched the video and the pictures from the meeting with Netanyahu couldn’t resist wondering where his Kippa is,” the Kikar Hashabat website wrote this week.

“Haredim 10,” another popular website, explained that many US Orthodox businessmen give up wearing the kippa during business meetings and even gave the religious explanation for the habit, which is unusual for religious Israelis, from all denominations. “Many Jews have this habit, based on a Halacha ruling by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who ruled that since wearing a kippa is a Hasidic custom, one can sit at work without it.” The Prime Minister’s new media advisor, Jonathan Urich, came to Greenblatt’s defense: “You can calm down. They prayed Mincha together yesterday, and had a Minyan in the cabinet room. When there is nothing wrong, you don’t have to look for people to blame.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

ON THE HILL: “Democrat Engel prepares to work with Trump on Israel” by Michael Wilner: “With all my troubles with Donald Trump and his policies, if he shows that he’s a pro-Israel president, I will praise him for it,” [Rep. Eliot] Engel said. “We don’t want Israel to be used as a political football. Presidents come and go and prime ministers come and go, [but] it is the US-Israel relationship that must remain.” … “I don’t know him, but I’ve heard good things,” Engel said of Kushner… “I would think that he would have Israel’s best interests at heart if he sits down to negotiate.” [JPost

INTERVIEW — Meet The Republican Congressman Who Calls for a Settlement Freeze — by Aaron Magid: In many ways, Representative Walter Jones (R-NC), is a staunch conservative… However, his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are far outside the norm for a Republican member of Congress these days. In an interview with Jewish Insider, Jones called for a “moratorium” on Israeli West Bank settlement growth. Jones was one of four Republicans who voted with 76 Democrats against House Resolution 11 in January, a measure that criticized the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)…

Jones was one of only two Republicans to sign onto a letter, signed by 113 Democrats, which “affirms” support for the two state solution. “If we just sit back, watch and complain, and nobody is making any effort to get the two sides together, I think it is wrong,” Jones explained while repeatedly using the term “Palestine.” … “I hope that this Administration will find the time over the next few months to make this the number one issue: what can we do as a nation to be a facilitator to find peace.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

HEARD AT YU — Joe Lieberman: “Ambassador Friedman Will Perform Above Expectations” — by Jacob Kornbluh: “David, who I love and think will be a great Ambassador, said some things that I totally disagreed with. And all he could do is what he did at the hearing, and that’s just to apologize,” Lieberman, who is a partner at the Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman law firm, said at a symposium hosted by the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Program for International Affairs at Yeshiva University on Wednesday. “I want to assure you that David Friedman will perform as Ambassador way above expectations.” Regarding Friedman’s apology over comments he made about J Street, ADL and others, Lieberman quipped, “I told him that I don’t think he has to go to shul on Yom Kippur this year. I though he already did his Al Chets at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

Former Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer: “David Friedman may be a nice guy, but he is a polarizing figure. What he said about J Street is beyond acceptable, and has written off a large segment of the American Jewish community. They may not be J Street members, but they are pro-peace and pro-Israel. We are now about to send a man who doesn’t fit any criteria for serving as U.S. envoy. He doesn’t represent Americans at large. And how can he possibly represent Israeli views when those on the Left or center-left feel alienated by his nomination. It makes no sense.” [JewishInsider

“Ex-Sen. Lieberman Welcomes ‘Change in the White House Attitude’ on Iran” by Patrick Goodenough: “Though I will say that I was a proud supporter of Secretary Clinton in the election last year, when it comes to the question of Iran, the change from President Obama to President Trump is an enormously significant and hopeful change,” [Lieberman] told a Nowruz (Persian new year) gathering on Capitol Hill… “The change in the White House attitude, it gives us an important opportunity,” he said… I think you’ll find and already have found that the bipartisan consensus about the threat that Iran represents has returned,” he said, “and there’s a real interest in focusing in on a regime in Iran and changing what exists now.” [CNSNews

“Trump budget preserves aid for Israel, other countries being evaluated: State Dept.” by David Alexander: “”Our assistance to Israel is … guaranteed and that reflects obviously our strong commitment to one of our strongest partners and allies,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “With respect to other assistance levels, foreign military assistance levels, those are still being evaluated and decisions are going to be made going forward,” Toner added, noting that treaty obligations would be a factor. The United States provides assistance to Jordan and Egypt as part of their peace treaties with Israel.” [Reuters

Robert Satloff‏: “In budget blueprint, only aid to Israel assured, leaving key US Mideast allies – like Egypt and Jordan – nervous.” [Twitter] • Dan Shapiro: “That should — and will — make Israel nervous, too.” [Twitter

TOP TALKER: “Top Trump Adviser Sebastian Gorka Denied A Report That He Belongs To A Nazi-Allied Group” by Talal Ansari and Lissandra Villa: “When BuzzFeed News reached Gorka by phone on Thursday, he stonewalled when asked about the report. “Send a request to White House press,” Gorka told BuzzFeed News. Later Thursday, in an interview with Tablet magazine, Gorka was quoted, “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend.” Gorka reportedly belongs to a “reconstitution of the original group on the State Department list… “These revelations are deeply disturbing, not least because of what they reveal about the kinds of people able to influence the president of the United States,” said US Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York.” [BuzzFeedUSAToday]

“Tale of Trump Advisor’s Nazi Ties Unravels : Sebastian Gorka Denies Reported Affiliations with Vitézi Rend” by Liel Leibovitz: “Gorka himself told me that the allegations are flat-out false. “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend. Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism.” … Why didn’t Gorka simply tell this to The Forward? A source close to the White House, who was briefed on how the administration treated this story, explained things a little more to me. “These guys genuinely believed that the allegations were so blatantly false and so aggressively poorly-sourced, that no responsible journalist would ever publish them,” the source told me on the phone.” [Tablet] • Bruce Abramson, Jeff Ballabon write… “The ‘Forward’ is dead wrong, Gorka is a defender of Israel, Jews” [JPost]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Paul Singer accuses aluminum giant’s bosses of buying their jobs [NYPost] • Israeli developer breaks ground on condo near beach in Miami-Dade [Bizjournals] • Crescent Heights puts $64M price tag on school board’s downtown Miami site [TRD] • Rumors of purchase by Sheldon Adelson boost Steve Wynn’s stocks [ReviewJournal• Roman Abramovich submits plans to turn three New York homes into stunning $78m mansion [Mirror

SPOTLIGHT: “At 666 Fifth, the devil’s in the details – and the details don’t add up” by Hiten Samtani and Konrad Putzier: “Several market observers, however, told TRD that the numbers, no matter how they’re spun, just don’t make sense. Some even questioned Anbang’s commitment to the property, saying the news reports could serve as a way for Kushner Companies to court other interested investors even if the Chinese insurer walks away.” [TRD]

“Palantir Blocked Its Investors From Selling Their Shares, Lawsuit Claims” by William Alden: “Palantir Technologies, one of the most valuable startups in Silicon Valley, has deprived investors of basic information about its business and repeatedly hindered efforts by investors to sell their shares, according to a blistering lawsuit filed by longtime investor Marc Abramowitz. In addition to keeping at least some shareholders in the dark about its financial performance, Palantir has “engaged in a pattern and practice” of attempting to thwart their attempts to sell stock, according to the lawsuit, filed by investment firm KT4 Partners.” [BuzzFeed]

“When Hate Surges” — George Soros’ latest op-ed: “Having survived the Nazi persecution of Jews in Hungary, I escaped from Soviet occupation at age 17 and made my way first to Britain and then to America. This is not the America that attracted me. I have seen the damage done when societies succumb to the fear of the “other.” And I will do all I can to help preserve the openness, inclusiveness and diversity that represent our greatest strength. Demonizing immigrants weakens our country. Fighting against hate crimes makes us grow stronger together.” [NYTimes]

“What Gorsuch Sees That Scalia Didn’t” by Nathan Diament: “Since the owners of Hobby Lobby faced an impossible choice between “abiding their religion or saving their business” and because the government had other ways to achieve its policy goals, Judge Gorsuch held that RFRA overrode the ObamaCare regulation… Whether Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court remains to be seen. But his record suggests that those who care about religious liberty may want to pray that he gets the chance to rule on it.” [WSJ]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Two-and-a-half years after rabbi’s voyeurism arrest, Georgetown’s Kesher Israel hires a new leader” by Julie Zauzmer: “After an extensive search, the Georgetown synagogue has hired Rabbi Hyim Shafner… “He seems to be a very sensitive, warm and caring individual,” Kesher president Elanit Jakabovics said of Shafner. “We knew that was going to be something that was an important quality. We were going to be looking for warmth.” Shafner, who will start his new job at Kesher this summer, comes from Bais Abraham, a smaller Orthodox synagogue of about 120 families near St. Louis… Shafner said he has hardly ever talked about politics from the pulpit… That means he’s not too concerned about one of the buzziest topics of conversation lately in Washington’s Orthodox community, the arrival of Ivanka Trump, the first Jewish member of an American first family. “To me, every Jew is a Jew. It doesn’t matter what you do 9-to-5,” he said about Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.” [WashPost]

HOLLYWOOD: “The Israeli actress Efrat Dor shares a childhood photo and tells why her new film The Zookeeper’s Wife hits so close to home” by Rachel Wallace: “The most amazing thing about this character and me getting this movie is my grandma, God bless her. She’s 94 and she’s alive. She’s from Poland. Her mother, father and brother died in the Holocaust… I felt very emotionally involved in the movie. I had many conversations with my grandma about it, whom obviously said, “Oh, I have so many stories to tell them! They should add it to the script!” I was like, “It’s kind of set, but…” She was really nice and sweet.” [Dujour]

SPOTTED IN JERUSALEM: “Tiki Barber heads to Israel to run marathon” by Ian Mohr: “While the city’s ancient, the race is just 6 years old and starts at the Knesset building before runners wind their way through the Jaffa Gate into the Old City, where the Christian, Jewish and Muslim Quarters are located. “This isn’t like the Boston or Paris marathons,” said one regular. “You’re running by a 2,000-year-old wall.” Former NY Giant Barber will also broadcast his CBS Sports Radio show from the city.” [NYPost] • JI readers spotted Tiki and his wife Traci Lynn Johnson dining at Mamilla Rooftop in Jerusalem last night…

SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli basketball team’s unknown underdog story opens Baltimore Jewish Film Festival” by Chris Kaltenbach: “The exultant documentary film that resulted, “On the Map,” opens the 29th Baltimore Jewish Film Festival on Sunday. Chronicling the team’s achievements on the basketball court, the frenzied nationwide celebration that followed their victory and the circumstances that made it so much more than a matter of one team scoring more points than another, [Dani] Menkin’s film is one of those underdog-conquers-the-world stories that can’t help but leave audiences cheering.” [BaltimoreSun

“The Jew Who Changed Football Forever” by Gil Troy: “Part of the reason why this pioneer is forgotten, part of the reason why he failed to get selected for Football’s Hall of Fame before killing himself in despair, is because Benny Friedman was a Jew. Ultimately, he was more successful at freeing the game he loved from its heavy-handed tactics than the country he loved from one of its prejudices… Friedman ended his pro-career with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1932 to 1934, having been named All-NFL four times and having led the league in touchdown passes from 1927 to 1930. He completed about half his passes when other quarterbacks barely hit a third. Eventually, the NFL changed the rules and the ball to make the game fly.” [DailyBeast]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Yarden Katzrin Cabernet — by Yitz Applbaum:As the Israeli wine industry continues to mature, one of the most noticeable improvements is the consistency in production. More often than not, you can open a new vintage of a bottle that you enjoyed in the past and the new vintage is often just as good or even better than the older vintage. One such wine, that never disappoints, is the Yarden Katzrin Cabernet. Long considered one of Israel’s greatest wines, the 2012 vintage did not disappoint.

This wine is 94 percent Cabernet and 6 percent Merlot.  It is aged for 24 months in new French Oak and the overwhelming notes are of toast and leather. There are essences of very ripe blackberries on the front palate, 75% cocoa dark chocolate in the mid-palate and the lingering finish of English Toffee is last on the palate. Drink this wine with aged beef or with a large portion of lamb chops. [GolanWines]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Retail and real estate executive, CEO of Wilherst Developers and trustee of publicly traded Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, Mark K. Rosenfeld turns 71… Highly popular, sometimes controversial, Hasidic singer, entertainer and composer, Lipa Schmeltzer turns 39… Actor, music producer and stand-up comedian, best known as Gustavo Rocque on the Nickelodeon television series “Big Time Rush,” Stephen Kramer Glickman turns 38… Digital reporter and producer for ABC News including “World News Tonight With David Muir,” Emily Claire Friedman Cohen turns 32… Assistant professor at GW University in the School of Media and Public Affairs, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago in 2016, Ethan Porter turns 32… General manager for Uber in the Washington, DC market, previously an analyst at LivingSocial, Annaliese Rosenthal turns 30… Musician and digital strategy executive, CEO of Santa Monica-based mobile messaging technology company Kapps Media, Rick Sorkin… Los Angeles-based tech journalist and founder of the TechSesh blog, Jessica Elizabeth Naziri… Student at the University of Michigan, Zach Sherman… VP at Las Vegas-based Gold Coast Promotions, assisting non-profits in fundraising, Richard Metzler… Founder, president and CEO of Laurel Strategies, also the co-founder and board member of ImagineNations Group, Alan H. Fleischmann

SATURDAY: Professor emeritus of biochemistry in the medical school of the University of North Carolina, author of five books since turning 80 years old, Edward Glassman, Ph.D. turns 88… Screenwriter, actor, comedian and film executive, best known for co-writing the screenplay for “Jaws” and its first two sequels, Carl Gottlieb turns 79… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Jerry is four days older), Bennett “Ben” Cohen turns 66… Crisis response team manager for the City of Los Angeles (1998-2013), consultant for non-profit organizations in the areas of event management, administration and development, Jeffrey Zimerman MSW, turns 61… Filmmaker, writer and stand-up comedian, best known as the screenwriter for “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and for writing the screenplay adaptation of “Battlefield Earth,” J. D. Shapiro turns 48… Identical twin brothers and former yeshiva students, both singers and songwriters who recorded as “Evan and Jaron,” Evan Lowenstein and Jaron Lowenstein, turn 43… Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actor, record producer and lead vocalist for the pop rock band Maroon 5, Adam Levine turns 38… Consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, Ariel Koschitzky Andy Weiss… Michael Shapiro… Jenni Volz

SUNDAY: Philanthropist, art collector and chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder turns 84… Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, whose books focus on Jewish life and identity, Philip Roth turns 84… Hollywood mogul as a film producer and film studio executive, co-founder of Miramax and stalwart of the Democratic Party, Harvey Weinstein turns 65… Author and journalist, known as the first female executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson turns 63… EVP of merchandising at American Signature Furniture, a Schottenstein company, Steve Rabe turns 57… Online producer, writer and director, who together with his brother Rafi, are best known for their React video series which have billions of YouTube views, Benny Fine turns 36… Founder of the Brave Collection, a Brooklyn-based company that sells hand-made Cambodian jewely and donates 10% of its profits to support a Cambodian anti-human-trafficking organization, Jessica Hendricks Yee turns 29… Neurologist in Naples, Florida, Brian D. Wolff, MD… Aaron Bock

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