Daily Kickoff: How Jared & MBS forged a bond | Gary Cohn was headed to CIA | Dershowitz vs. Cynthia Nixon | Pardo’s new firm | Jewish deli in Tokyo

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DRIVING THE DAY — Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at noon today for the start of a 3-week U.S. visit. In the hour and 15 minutes designated for the meeting, the President and the Crown Prince will discuss the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran’s aggression in the Middle East, and Israeli-Palestinian peace among other topics, senior administration officials said in a background briefing yesterday.

“One of the things we’ve heard consistently from the region both from the Saudis, Emiratis and the Israelis is that they didn’t really have a relevant voice in the process of the JCPOA and so [Trump] wants to make sure that their views are heard and that we understand their security concerns as we move forward,” a senior administration official explained. “We’ll discuss the peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians, and the situation in Gaza,” the official addedand the U.S. will “thank the Saudis for their participation in the Gaza conference” at the White House last week.

“How Jared Kushner forged a bond with the Saudi crown prince” by Carol D. Leonnig, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Greg Jaffe: “One year ago, two young princes began to forge a friendship at a lunch meeting in the White House’s regal State Dining Room. A snowstorm had kept away President Trump’s scheduled guest that day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel — giving the president and his advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, more time to spend with the visiting son of Saudi King ­Salman… They consulted with one another frequently in private calls over the following months… Kushner is now set to play a major role hosting the crown prince as he arrives in Washington Monday to kick off a tour of United States. In addition to official meetings, he is scheduled to attend several dinners with Mohammed, along with other U.S. and Saudi officials.”

“Allies and aides described his personal outreach to Mohammed as unconventional yet effective… “President Trump has given Mr. Kushner the important task of overseeing the peace process, and this has been the primary subject of discussion between Mr. Kushner and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince,” [a senior Saudi] ­official said…  Kushner’s unique role was ­evident a few weeks ago when White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly asked a question in an intelligence briefing about a ­sensitive policy matter related to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the crown prince’s visit. In response, intelligence briefers told him that virtually all of the conversations that U.S. officials had with the Saudis on the matter had been between Kushner and Mohammed.”

“As Mohammed kicks off his U.S. tour, Kushner is continuing his efforts to work with the crown prince and others to ­develop an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, associates said. In the end, the president’s son-in-law emphasized to aides last week, he hopes to be judged not on the process, but on the results.” [WashPost]

MEANWHILE IN RAMALLAH — Mahmoud Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a ‘son of a dog’: “The US ambassador in Tel Aviv is a settler and a son of a dog,” Abbas said in comments to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Monday… In response to Abbas, Friedman, who is Jewish, told a conference that Abbas’s comments could have antisemitic connotations. “His response was to refer to me as ‘son of a dog’. Is that antisemitism or political discourse? I leave that up to you,” he said.”[TheGuardianWSJ]

Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt in a statement: “The time has come for President Abbas to choose between hateful rhetoric and concrete and practical efforts to improve the quality of life of his people and lead them to peace and prosperity.  Notwithstanding his highly inappropriate insults against members of the Trump administration, the latest iteration being his insult of my good friend and colleague Ambassador Friedman, we are committed to the Palestinian people and to the changes that must be implemented for peaceful coexistence. We are finalizing our plan for peace and we will advance it when circumstances are right.”

Aaron David Miller emails us… Abbas’ attack on Friedman is a result of “frustration combined with catering to the street. He can’t be perceived to be passive on settlements or somehow bowing to the U.S. on the issue. It’s grist for Friedman’s mill of course and unwise to personalize, but it reflects the reality that Abbas has nowhere to go.”

IPF’s Michael Koplow tweets“There is no scenario in which is it ok for a foreign leader to call an American ambassador a son of a dog. Doesn’t matter what prompted it. But I would be remiss if I did not gently point out that this particular ambassador is not always an exemplar of polite discourse.”

Dan Williams: “In January, Donald Trump threatened to cut US aid to the Palestinians after they declined to meet visiting VP Pence. How will he respond to Abbas personally insulting Friedman, his longtime lawyer and adviser?” [Twitter]

SIGHTING — Ambassador Friedman visited a matzah bakery and participated in the baking process during a visit to Kfar Chabad earlier today [Pic]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett publicly criticized World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder for his op-edin the New York Times during back-to-back appearances at the opening session of the 6th annual Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem: “Ron, I read your piece in the New York Times – not a great piece. I very much respect you, but I disagree. Assimilation in America is not a result of Israel’s policy but a result of Jewish prosperity in America. It is an ongoing trend we have to fight back against. I don’t see [the] moral equivalence of settlement building – what I call building communities in our homeland – and Palestinian incitement. It’s not the same thing.”

— “U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who was in attendance, clapped along with the audience after Bennett’s statement.” [HaaretzVideo

Lauder responded to Bennett at the start of his remarks: “Naftali, we may disagree on many things, but when it comes to Jewish life and fighting anti-Semitism, and what it means to be a Jew, we are 100 percent there. And the Jews in Diaspora are with you a hundred percent.”

In a video captured by Maariv diplomatic correspondent Yanir Cozin, Bennett is seen confronting Lauder as he entered the hall for the plenary session: “What are you doing? What are you doing, man? What are you doing?” Lauder: “You are my inspiration.” Bennett: “I am your inspiration? Say that, and I am going to lose 5 seats in the Knesset.” [Video]

Chemi Shalev writes… “Lauder’s J’Accuse Against Netanyahu’s Israel Is Also a Mea Culpa: Lauder may not be “King of the Jews,” as his predecessor Edgar Bronfman was dubbed, but he is the closest thing that world Jewry has to a senior statesman who can represent the consensus of the Diaspora as a whole. In the eyes of many Jews, Lauder is “Mr. Establishment.” … Lauder’s article is an expression of the severity of the developing schism between Netanyahu’s Israel and American Jews.” [Haaretz]

BEHIND THE SCENES — “Negotiators think it’s a long shot to satisfy Trump on Iran deal” by Barak Ravid: “A senior European diplomat who participated in the talks told me that the gaps between the U.S. and the three European powers are actually closing… The U.S. and the European powers are close to an agreement on sanctions against Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missiles program. The gaps were narrowed on sanctions against the Iranian activity in the Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen… Big gaps remain on the U.S. demand to significantly fix the “Sunset clause” in the nuclear deal… The European diplomat told me… “We are much closer to an agreement with the U.S. delegation than we have ever thought we will be. We are not optimistic but we keep trying. It’s like a roulette with a 50:50 chance. But our fear is that even if we get a deal with the American negotiators there is a big chance that Trump will just tear it up and announce he is withdrawing from the deal.”” [Axios;Nana]

“Israel prepares for ‘May Madness’” by Ben Caspit: “The month of May is shaping up to be “May Madness,” a take on the “March Madness” of collegiate basketball. According to Israel’s intelligence and political echelons, President Donald Trump’s policies will be tested in May on numerous fronts that have implications for Israel’s national security… There is great satisfaction in Jerusalem over the change in US policy on Iran thanks to Trump. According to an intelligence source… recent Israeli intelligence reports assess, “Instead of policy leaning toward an arrangement with Iran and viewing the country as a strategic partner, the Americans now classify Iran as a key threat to their interests….” In Israeli eyes, these changes follow a pattern: numerous, fundamental changes in US foreign policy in Trump’s first year in the White House.” [Al-Monitor

“MK Steinitz: Iran deal should be extended indefinitely” by Gil Hoffman: “Asked about the possibility that US President Donald Trump could decide to pull out of the deal, Steinitz said: “I would prefer a fixed version of the agreement, with changes in the length of the agreement and its surveillance.”” [JPost]

“What happens the day after Trump pulls out of the Iran deal” by Josh Rogin: “The Treasury Department is working on the logistics of “snapping back” various sanctions, including restoring Obama-era executive orders that the deal rescinded… After that, there’s no certainty how other powers will react… The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies… recently convened a group of about 20 senior Iran and non-proliferation experts to game out scenarios, the results of which were compiled in a memo… shared with State, NSC and Treasury… FDD senior adviser Rich Goldberg, a longtime critic of the Iran deal, worked with [Mark] Dubowitz to compile the memo. He said that preparing for the day after the United States exits the deal is the best way to prevent what deal supporters warn will happen: war with Iran.” [WashPost]

“Pros and Cons of Trump’s Random Foreign Policy” by Noah Feldman: “The very same unpredictability that makes life difficult for opponents also makes coordination much harder for nations that want to cooperate. Your friends need to know what you plan to do next, or at least know which option you’re most likely to take, in order to act in concert with you. It’s not realistic for allies to consult the U.S. about every last detail of their foreign policy conduct.” [BloombergView]

TURTLE BAY — “Germany’s shameless power play against Israel” by Benny Avni: “Berlin is set to block a historic chance for raising the Jewish state’s international profile. The issue is a fight for seats on the top UN body, the Security Council. Germany, a major UN donor, mover and shaker, serves on it often. Israel, frequently singled out for international criticism, never has… In June UN members will choose which countries will take two available council seats next year: Germany, Belgium or Israel… Germany is unlikely to withdraw. So, unless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now — and maybe for the foreseeable future. Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member.” [NYPost

TRANSITION — “John Kelly promotes Kushner ally for key deputy role” by Jonathan Swan: “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has named Christopher Liddell, a Jared Kushner ally who ran the Office of American Innovation, as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination… Two White House officials told me they interpret this move as a signal that Kelly is trying to soothe tensions with Kushner and make this fraught arrangement work for the long haul. But I have not confirmed whether Kelly himself was thinking about this when he made the decision to promote Liddell.” [AxiosPolitico]

THE DAILY KUSHNER — “Kushner Companies confirms meeting with Qatar on financing” by Michael Kranish and Karen DeYoung: “Jared Kushner’s father met with Qatar’s finance minister three months after President Trump’s inauguration… However, Charles Kushner said he turned down possible funding to avoid questions of a conflict of interest for his son… “I was invited to a meeting,” he said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Before the meeting, Kushner Companies had decided that it was not going to accept sovereign wealth fund investments. We informed the Qatar representatives of our decision and they agreed. Even if they were there ready to wire the money, we would not have taken it.”” [WashPost]

INSIDE THE ADMIN — “Trump originally planned to put Cohn at CIA, but changed his mind” by Eliana Johnson, Ben White and Andrew Restuccia: “Former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn reached a tentative agreement with President Donald Trump to become his CIA director — but lost out on the role after Trump abruptly changed his mind… Trump… informally offered Cohn the position, telling him he thought he’d be a good fit for the job, and Cohn had agreed to take it… Cohn… told associates he was interested in running the CIA or, potentially, serving as secretary of state.” [Politico]

MUELLER WATCH — “Trump shakes up team of lawyers as legal threats mount” by Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa: “The president continues to complain that his lawyers are not protecting him and that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — who is supervising the probe — is up to mischief, said the person, who spoke to Trump in recent days… Some of Trump’s closest friends, including Tom Barrack and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, have told the president that he needs a legal heavyweight on his personal team, or someone with a record of defending clients in hot water with the Justice Department and winning.” [WashPost]

“Who is Joseph diGenova, Trump’s newest pick to defend him in Mueller Probe?” by Max Kutner: “diGenova, who regularly criticizes the FBI and Department of Justice in appearances on television, previously served as a United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In his role as an assistant U.S. Attorney, he led the prosecution of Jonathan Pollard, who pleaded guilty to spying for Israel.” [Newsweek]

HAPPENING TODAY — At 11:15AM EST, Former Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer and ADL Senior Vice President for International Affairs Sharon Nazarian will discuss “Confronting Neo-Nazism and Antisemitism of the Extreme Right in the United States and Elsewhere” at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem [Livestream] • Today’s program[GFCA2018]

2018 WATCH — “Alan Dershowitz Slams ‘Sex in the City’ Star Cynthia Nixon as ‘anti-Israel Candidate’ in N.Y. Race” by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “Actress and liberal activist Cynthia Nixon… announced on Monday she would run for governor of New York, challenging incumbent Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination… In the run-up to Nixon’s announcement… Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz slammed her Middle East politics in a tweet, calling out what he said was her “bigotry” in supporting “Israel Haters Jewish Voice for Peace” and actress “Vanessa Redgrave in boycotting Israel.” After she made her announcement he reiterated his belief that Nixon was “anti-Israel.”” [Haaretz]

— “Cynthia Nixon gave a Shabbat sermon in 2011 — and praised Andrew Cuomo” by Ben Sales: “Nixon isn’t Jewish herself, but she’s almost an honorary member of the tribe. Her two eldest children from her first marriage are Jewish and have both been bar- and bat-mitzvahed. At least one of them attended Hebrew school at B’nai Jeshurun… She’s also an active member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Manhattan’s most prominent LGBTQ synagogue, and has spoken there multiple times.” [JTA

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Oracle’s Larry Ellison Unveils Hydroponic Farming Start-Up [DealBook] • The Weinstein Company files for bankruptcy[Reuters] • London Brawl Between Pro-Putin Tycoons Tests Kremlin’s Patience [Bloomberg] • This adviser could be to blame for Broadcom, iHeart’s failures [NYPost] • Jon Steinberg’s Cheddar, the ‘CNBC for Millennials,’ Raises $22 Million for International Expansion [WSJ] • New York City Council investigating Kushner firms’ alleged false filings[NYPost] • N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to Meet With Tenants About Kushner Report [Bloomberg• Sequoia Israel Partner Haim Sadger Raises New $100 Million Fund [Calcalist]

STARTUP NATION — “Former Israeli spy chief and team of elite hackers form cybersecurity firm” by Tova Cohen: “Retired Mossad chief Tamir Pardo said he has assembled a team of more than 30 hackers from Israel’s security and intelligence services into a startup called XM Cyber that seeks to keep companies’ networks safe by imitating how real hackers work. XM Cyber raised $15 million, mostly from Israeli billionaire Shaul Shani, who sold his Brazilian company Global Village Telecom to Vivendi for $4.5 billion in 2009.” [Reuters]

SPOTLIGHT: “KLA-Tencor Buys Israel’s Orbotech at $3.4 Billion Valuation” by Yaacov Benmeleh: “KLA-Tencor Corp. agreed to acquire Orbotech Ltd., an Israeli firm that develops ways to enhance manufacturing of electronic products, to diversify its sources of growth. KLA will buy Orbotech for about $69.02 per share through a combination of cash and stock… That gives Orbotech an equity value of approximately $3.4 billion… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an evangelist for Israeli technology on his foreign travels, praised the deal. “More good news for the hi-tech sector and the Israeli economy!” he said on his Twitter feed… The deal “is further proof of Orbotech’s positioning in the markets in which it operates and the strength of its business model,” Orbotech CEO Asher Levy said.” [Bloomberg]

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — Yuval Noah Harari on politicians looking back instead of forward: “I think that parties and governments in most of the world today, they are doing a far better job than ever before in running the day to day business of the country, but what they have almost lost completely the ability to have a long term plan for the future because they have no realistic vision of basic things like the job market in 30 years. What you see is more and more countries look to the past instead of to the future, and instead of formulating meaningful visions for where humankind will be in 2050 they repackage nostalgic fantasies about the past. And there is a kind of competition who can look back furthest. So you have Donald Trump wanting to go back to the 1950s or something like that, and you have Putin basically wanting to go back to the Tsarist Empire a century after the Bolshevik revolution, and you have ISIS that wants to go back to the 7th century Arabia, and in my country, Israel, they beat everybody — they want to go back 2,500 years to the age of the Bible. So we win, we have the longest term vision backward.” [Video

SPOTTED IN JERUSALEM — Elon Musk, on a visit to Israel, posts a video from the Gatsby bar in Jerusalem: “Learning how to pour flaming absinthe over a tower of glasses in a Jerusalem speakeasy. Everything’s better with fire.” [Instagram] • Musk gets serious at Masada, parties in Jerusalem bar [ToI]

— “Elon Musk in talks with Israeli AI vision co Cortica” by Oshrit Gan-El: “According to industry sources, the visit by Elon Musk in Israel is connected to collaboration between electric vehicle and autonomous vehicle company Tesla, which Musk heads, and Israeli computerized vision company Cortica.” [Globes]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Spring cleaning for Western Wall’s notes to God” by Jeffrey Heller: “Even God’s mailbox needs a spring cleaning. Equipped with long sticks, a team of cleaners on Tuesday gouged out written prayers that visitors to Judaism’s Western Wall in Jerusalem traditionally cram into its crevices. Twice a year, the Rabbi of the Western Wall oversees the collection of thousands of notes to ensure there’s always room for more. The papers are then buried on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives in accordance with ritual.” [Reuters]

“Leonard Bernstein, social activist, is focus of new exhibit” by Kristen de Groot: “Bernstein’s lifelong effort to find that solution through music is on moving, and sometimes surprising, display at Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History in its new exhibit, “Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music.” Bernstein thrilled millions around the world with his compositions, his theatrical works like “West Side Story” and his over-the-top conducting style before his death in 1990 at age 72. But the focus here is on a lesser-known side of Bernstein: the second-generation American Jew who inspired social progress on and off the stage.” [AP]

“Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Platt stage powerful duet for March for Our Lives” by Sandra Gonzalez: “Two of Broadway’s most popular voices have joined forces for a song to benefit March For Our Lives. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt are featured on the new song “Found/Tonight.” The mash-up combines the sentiments and messages in the songs “The Story of Tonight” from “Hamilton” and “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen.” [CNN]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli soccer player posts photo with Iranian counterpart” by Amy Spiro: “Maor Buzaglo, a player with Maccabi Haifa who also plays for Israel’s national team, was in London over the weekend receiving treatment for a knee injury. While there, he ran into Ashkan Dejagah, an Iranian who plays for Nottingham Forest in the UK and is also captain of the Iranian national team. Buzaglo posted a photo of the pair on Instagram and Twitter, alongside Israeli and Iranian flags and the peace sign. Buzaglo, 30, tagged Dejagah in his photo… [He commented] on Buzaglo’s post, writing: “wish you a quick recovery too my friend.”” [JPostPic]  

DESSERT — “The Coolest New Jewish Deli? It’s in Tokyo” by Simone Somekh: “For the launch of Wise Sons Tokyo in late February, the restaurant’s founders and chef decided to keep the menu almost identical to the original. One of the deli’s staple dishes is the matzo ball soup, but—alas—they couldn’t find any matzo in Tokyo. Importing it from abroad was too costly, so they naturally decided to bake their own. Jotaro Tanaka, appointed to be the chef and manager of the Japanese branch, had never tried matzo before—let alone tried baking it. With the help of Wise Son’s own chef Joey Boujo, who spent six weeks training the team to make every dish on the menu, he learned.” [Tablet

BIRTHDAYS: Activist philanthropist, pioneer in corporate social responsibility, Chair of Maoz, formerly CEO of family-owned Timberland, Jeffrey Swartz turns 58… Actor, director, Carl Reiner turns 96… 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 87… Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences as a geologist and oceanographer, but known popularly as poet and performer, Alexander Gorodnitsky turns 85… Australian award-winning writer of Portuguese Sephardi descent, David George Joseph Malouf turns 84… Senior advisor to the family office of Charles Bronfman, Dr. Jeffrey R. Solomon turns 73… Talmudic scholar Rav Tzvi Berkowitz turns 67… Award-winning author of 25 children’s books, Louis Sachar turns 64… Israel’s Chief of Police, Roni Alsheikh turns 55…

Host of Time Team America, a PBS program, she produced and directed a feature-length documentary entitled Our Summer in Tehran, Justine Shapiro turns 55… Chilean philanthropist and businessman with substantial mining interests, Leonardo Farkas turns 51… Journalist, author and lecturer best known for writing about his lifestyle immersion experiments, he is an editor at large for Esquire, Arnold Stephen “A. J.” Jacobs turns 50… Actor, podcast host, director and comedian, has acted in more than forty films, Michael Rapaport turns 48… Director at West Wing Writers, Matt Finkelstein turns 33… Development associate at Urban Investment Partners, Jason Lifton turns 29… Comedian, writer, and actress who gained popularity through her comedy videos on YouTube, she is a correspondent on the Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World, Joanna Hausmann turns 29… Hyman Grossman… Ehud Lazar




Daily Kickoff: Ron Lauder on ‘Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds’ | Saudis invest in Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor | The challenge of writing Jewish history

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TOP-OP: Ron Lauder writes in today’s New York Times… “Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds: I am conservative and a Republican, and I have supported the Likud party since the 1980s. But the reality is that 13 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And almost half of them are Palestinian. If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy. To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution. President Trump and his team are wholly committed to Middle East peace… and contrary to news media reports, senior Palestinian leaders are, they have personally told me, ready to begin direct negotiations immediately. But some Israelis and Palestinians are pushing initiatives that threaten to derail this opportunity…”

“The second, two-prong threat is Israel’s capitulation to religious extremists and the growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora… The crisis is especially pronounced among the younger generation, which is predominantly secular. An increasing number of Jewish millennials — particularly in the United States — are distancing themselves from Israel because its policies contradict their values… Sometimes loyalty requires a friend to speak out and express an inconvenient truth. And the truth is that the specter of a one-state solution and the growing rift between Israel and the diaspora are endangering the future of the country I love so dearly.” [NYTimes]

Question on our mind — Does Lauder actually still believe he can broker a legacy-defining Middle East peace deal?

Flashback to April 2017 — “According to multiple sources, Lauder is the one who has convinced Trump that ‘the ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians is achievable, a deal that has eluded each of Trump’s immediate predecessors. Lauder is said to have told the President that the Palestinians are ‘desperate’ for a deal and that ‘Israel is the problem.’” [JewishInsider

Lauder honored in Jerusalem today: “World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder and outgoing Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein had their names immortalized on Monday at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue. Lauder and Hoenlein were honored with the dedication of walls on either side of the ark. One wall is named the “Ronald and Jo Carole Lauder Prayer for the State of Israel Wall” and the other, the “Malcolm and Frayde Hoenlein Prayer for The Security and Emergency Services Wall.” … “Nothing could more reflect our commitment to Israel and the Jewish people,” Hoenlein said. “Ronald’s and my grandchildren will be able to come here and look at the walls proudly and say that their grandparents made a difference.” [JPost]

Jonathan Weisman writes… “Anti-Semitism Is Rising. Why Aren’t American Jews Speaking Up? I have personally seen the anti-Semitism, in online insults, threatening voice mail messages and the occasional email that makes it through my spam filter… Yet American Jewish leaders — the heads of influential, established organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federations of North America — have been remarkably quiet, focused instead, as they have been for decades, on Israel, not the brewing storm in our own country.” [NYTimes]  

-American Jewish Committee responds on Twitter: “Jonathan Weisman reveals the problem some have dealing w/ anti-Semitism. For him, it’s all about the right. That’s a big threat of course, but he fails to mention danger from the left, Nation of Islam, etc. Why? Trifocal, not monofocal, lenses are needed.”

“D.C. lawmaker says recent snowfall caused by ‘Rothschilds controlling the climate’” by Peter Jamison and Valerie Strauss: “D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) posted the video to his official Facebook page… as snow flurries were hitting the nation’s capital… The video… shows snowy skies while White narrates. “Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control… And D.C. keep talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.” … In a series of text messages, he confirmed the voice in the video is his but expressed surprise that his remarks might be construed as anti-Semitic… However, about four hours after The Washington Post published this story online Sunday, White sent a statement of apology via text message. “I work hard everyday to combat racism and prejudices of all kinds. I want to apologize to the Jewish Community and anyone I have offended,” he said.” [WashPost]

Rep. Keith Ellison writes… “I Have Fought Against Hate My Entire Career: I do not have and have never had a relationship with Mr. Farrakhan, but I have been in the same room as him… I have not been in any meeting with him since then, and he and I have no communication of any kind. But as the attacks on me and my fellow Black representatives in Congress intensify, I want to be clear: this is a smear by factions on the right who want to pit the Jewish community and the Black community against each other, and distract from the hatred and bigotry on display by the president and the white supremacists who stormed Charlottesville this summer with their anti-Semitic chants and Confederate flags.” [Medium]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at the COJO of Flatbush legislative breakfast in Brooklyn: “The long-term danger for Israel is something we don’t think about enough: The young people in America do not know Israel’s story. If you look at the polling data, they don’t know what Israel has gone through and their support for Israel is declining. In every part of the country, every age group, even among young Evangelicals, support for Israel is declining. I had an hour lunch, just me and Bibi Netanyahu and this was the subject — because it is so important… We need to alert the young people to the truth.”

Schumer also boasted: “I am, baruch Hashem, the highest ranking elected Jewish official ever in America.” [Video]

— Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon presented the COJO of Flatbush Distinguished Chesed Award to fertilizer tycoon Alex Rovt. [Pic

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH — “Palestinians believe US delaying peace plan for a post-Abbas era – report” by Khaled Abu Toameh: “They [the Americans] know that President Abbas will not accept this plan,” the  London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted an unnamed senior Palestinian official as saying. “They are betting on the time factor.” The US administration is preparing for the day when there will be Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who “would not be able to reject the peace plan and would have to deal with it gradually.” [ToI]

— Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh: “Any suspicious political solution that does not meet the hopes and aspirations of our people for freedom and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital will not pass.” [Xinhuanet]

“Israeli military destroys Gaza tunnel, underground military complex” by Oren Liebermann: “The Israeli military destroyed a Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza on Sunday morning and struck an underground “military complex” in central Gaza, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said… Tensions between Israel and Gaza have remained high ever since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December. Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza have regularly called for “Days of Rage,” fueling wide-scale protests along the Gaza border.” [CNNVideo]

RISING PROFILE — “Nauert’s meteoric rise takes State Department by surprise” by Matt Lee and Josh Lederman: “The moment that Trump canned Tillerson by tweet, [Heather] Nauert was in a Hamas-built tunnel on the border near the Gaza Strip, on a tour organized by the Israeli military to show U.S. officials the smuggling routes used by militants. Caught by surprise by the move back in Washington, Nauert cut the tour short and returned to Jerusalem to deal with the crisis. Soon, Trump also fired the undersecretary of state who publicly defended Tillerson. The president named Nauert to that suddenly vacant position, near the top of the hierarchy of American diplomacy.” [AP]  

TOP TALKER — “What Hope Hicks Knows” by Olivia Nuzzi: “Over dinner in Bedminster in early August, [Hicks] told Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump that she was unhappy… Sharing her frustrations, Jared and Ivanka engaged her idea with caution; they asked her to give General John Kelly, the new chief of staff, a chance to change the West Wing for the better… Yet, if she waited, she probably couldn’t avoid the impression that she was leaving because of a crisis, because there was always a crisis. If she’d resigned in August, they’d have said it was owed to Charlottesville. In December? Mueller or Roy Moore. January? Fire and Fury.”

“Hicks met [Matthew] Hiltzik in Texas during Super Bowl XLV (in 2011), at a tailgate with Alec Baldwin, who starred in a movie Hicks had auditioned for… But Hicks made an impression on Baldwin’s then-rep, and within a few years, she was handling the Trump Organization account at Hiltzik Strategies and working closely with Ivanka Trump… Trump also had a different relationship with Hicks than he did with his children, who keep what the source called “ironic distance” from their father. “He knows that Ivanka has a separate agenda. Ivanka refers to him as ‘DJT’ just like the boys do, and Ivanka understands that her father is gonna be dead in ten years.” [NYMag]

Hillary Clinton says Ivanka Trump will not be the first female president — by Jessica Kwong: “Hillary Clinton was quick to shoot down the prospect of Ivanka Trump becoming the first woman president of the United States when asked about it on Dutch TV last week. “That’s not going to happen,” Clinton responded. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “No, we don’t want any more inexperienced Trumps in the White House.” … The report that Ivanka Trump wants to follow in her father’s footsteps surfaced in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury… “The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump,” the book stated.”[Newsweek]

TRUMP TUMULT — “Newly Emboldened, Trump Says What He Really Feels” by Maggie Haberman: “The president has his own original style, and it’s unlikely to be changed at this stage of his life,” Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, said in an interview. “But it also is conducive to bringing forward opportunities like this Korean conversation. It is not what we traditionalists would have recommended in the first place. But I have to say, when I have thought it through, and how it could play out, it could restore a political initiative to us, and could compel a conversation with countries” otherwise disinclined.” [NYTimes]

“Trump’s firings signal hawkish turn on North Korea and Iran” by Julian Borger: “James Carafano, vice-president of the Heritage Foundation, said: “Tillerson wanted to preserve the deal but the instructions were ‘Fix it in the way I want or we walk away from the deal’, and Pompeo will do that.” Carafano said Tillerson’s firing demonstrated Trump’s increased confidence in his own instincts in foreign policy. Tillerson and other top aides told Trump his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem would spark an eruption of unrest across the Middle East in December. The actual response was muted.”[TheGuardian]

Fareed Zakaria: “Pompeo should recognize that his job as secretary of state will be to solve problems, not produce them, and he should preserve the Iran accord and spend his time on North Korea.” [WashPost]

— “Sen. Bob Corker says he thinks Trump will pull out of Iran deal in May” by Kathryn Watson: “The Iran deal will be another issue that’s coming up in May, and right now it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be extended,” Corker said. “I think the president likely will move away from it, unless our European counterparts really come together on a framework. And it doesn’t feel to me that they are. Now, as we get within two weeks of the May 12 date, that could change.” Asked by Brennan if he believes the president will pull out of the deal, Corker responded, “I do. I do.” [CBSNews• European powers propose new Iran sanctions to meet Trump ultimatum [Reuters]

2018 WATCH — “Emanuel feigns neutrality, but teases support for Pritzker” by Fran Spielman: On Thursday, [Rahm Emanuel] came about as close as ever to going public with his support for [J. B.] Pritzker. It happened when WGN-AM Radio’s morning host Steve Cochran asked the mayor a pointed question. “If J.B. Pritzker wins, how can I or anybody in this state feel comfortable he’s gonna work for the state and not for Mike Madigan?” Cochran said, referring to the embattled Illinois House Speaker who doubles as state Democratic Party chairman… “It’s simple. … The problems are at a breaking point. And I think J.B. knows this is his one chance at political leadership and he has to leave the state better than he inherited,” the mayor said.” [ChicagoSunTimes]

2020 WATCH — “Sen. Jeff Flake eyes 2020 primary challenge to stop Trump” by Steve Peoples: “Flake has powerful friends who could help, however, including the outspoken anti-Trump billionaire Mark Cuban. “I’m a Jeff Flake fan,” Cuban told The Associated Press.” [AP

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — “In Israel’s Poorer Periphery, Legal Woes Don’t Dent Netanyahu’s Appeal” by Isabel Kershner: “The seeming dissonance between a rise in the polls and the prime minister’s deepening legal troubles makes complete sense to Mr. Netanyahu’s defiant base in Kiryat Malachi and in other strongholds of his conservative Likud party. In these parts, Bibi, as he is lovingly nicknamed, is extolled as a popular hero who is persecuted by a liberal news media; a leader without peer whose peccadilloes are easily forgiven… “We are all Bibi,” said Erez Madar, 33, a hairdresser in Kiryat Malachi. “Let him have a cigar. He deserves an airplane.”” [NYTimes]

** 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: Saudi Fund Said to Take $400 Million Stake in Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor [Bloomberg] • Last Head of Bear Stearns Alan Schwartz Taking on Wall Street Goliaths at Guggenheim [WSJ] • Kushners’ Cadre Startup Benefited From Misleading Rent Filings [BloombergAP] • New York hotelier Stephen Brandman and developer Jake Chetrit are opening two landmarked Beaux Arts hotels in Los Angeles under the Journal Hotel collection [NYPost] • How Debriefing Like The Israeli Air Force Can Help Your Business [Forbes] • Ben Rubin’s Meerkat was the darling of SXSW in 2015. Here’s why it pivoted three months later and became Houseparty [Recode]

STARTUP NATION’S FUTURE — As we near the 10th anniversary of the publication of Start-Up Nationthe book’s co-author Dan Senor spoke last week at the Jewish Funders Network conference on where Israel’s economy is headed: “For three millennia, Israel has been at the crossroads of empires. Now Israel stands at a new crossroads — it’s a new global geography of innovation. Ten years ago, innovation was primarily happening in the rich, developed world. Israel was partnering with North America and Europe. Today, the fastest growing innovation ecosystems are to be found in big developing countries, like India and China. And these countries are partnering with Israel to solve their biggest problems.”

“Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba is part of the flood of Chinese business leaders to recently visit Israel. In addition to acquiring an Israeli start-up, Alibaba announced plans to set up an office in Tel Aviv as part of a $15 billion global R&D initiative. China is now the source of more than 10% of the total capital raised by all Israeli start-ups… Israel has established 28 Centers of Excellence around India to improve agricultural yields by 5-10 times. Multiplied across the subcontinent, such increases could produce the second agricultural revolution that India needs to contend with a growing population, fast growing youth unemployment, urbanization, and the demands of an expanding middle class.”

SPOTLIGHT: “Welcome to Powder Mountain – a utopian club for the millennial elite” by Paul Lewis: “The story of how [Elliott ]Bisnow and his friends – [Jeff] Rosenthal, Ryan Begelman, Jeremy Schwartz and Brett Leve – came to occupy their bubble on a mountaintop in Utah has become something of a legend. It began in 2008, when Bisnow… cold-called entrepreneurs he admired and invited them on an all-expenses-paid trip to Utah. Bisnow shouldered the cost of the 19-strong gathering on his credit card, then repeated the trick with another get-together in Mexico, racking up $75,000 in debt. Bisnow and the others quickly coalesced a sort of “mutual aid society” for young, well-connected businessmen, which in the early days included the co-founders of Twitter and Facebook and the real-estate heiress Ivanka Trump.”

Having finessed the art of persuading rich people to pay to join these getaways, the founders convinced their friends to help them buy an entire mountain in Utah, complete with 10,000 acres of some of the best ski terrain in the US. They bristle at the idea that they’re trying to build a high-altitude utopia for plutocrats, but then casually refer to a segment of their clientele as “the billionaire set” – and don’t hesitate to mention that their mountain happens to be located between towns named Eden and Paradise.” [TheGuardian]

LongRead: “Why Jewish History Is So Hard to Write” by Adam Kirsch: “What does being a Jewish historian in the twenty-first century allow one to see, and what does it obscure? These are the questions raised by two major new surveys of the subject: “A History of Judaism” (Princeton), by Martin Goodman, and “The Story of the Jews: Volume Two: Belonging, 1492-1900” (Ecco), the newest installment of a trilogy by Simon Schama. In certain obvious ways, the two books present very different approaches to the topic. Goodman, as his title declares, is interested in the history of Judaism—that is, of the religious ideas and practices that have defined Jewish life over the millennia… Rather, Schama is fascinated by figures like Dan Mendoza, a celebrity boxer in late-eighteenth-century England, and Uriah Levy, a Jewish lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, who purchased Thomas Jefferson’s house, Monticello, in 1834…”[NewYorker]

“Learning to Pray When Words Fail” by Deborah Gastfreund Schuss: “Julie Shulman —an Orthodox Jew deeply immersed in her faith—wanted to enhance her husband’s practice of Judaism. Today she helps reintegrate others suffering from aphasia into communal religious participation. As she agitates for public educational and inclusion efforts of the sort that better-known disorders receive, she has come to view the religious community as a natural ally.” [WSJ]

“Jonathan Sacks at 70 reinvents himself as the ‘cartoon rabbi’” by Michael Freedland: “Having celebrated his 70th birthday last week, Jonathan Sacks is maintaining his reputation as one of the world’s best-known rabbis by launching several new projects to reach more people than ever. “I’m moving faster and faster. I’ve got my Rollerblades on,” he says… His website is already being peppered with millions of hits from people viewing a series of “whiteboard animations” of Sacks talking about Judaism. Each video begins with a woman’s delicate hand sketching a caricature of Sacks. As he goes into his topic, subtitles, other faces and bodies appear, and buildings come alive… How does Sacks cope with the inevitable mental strain of keeping up his prodigious output? “I have a gym upstairs, including various weights and a treadmill. And I walk a lot on Hampstead Heath — when it’s not too cold.”” [TheTimes]

SPORTS BLINK: “Man Behind U.M.B.C. Twitter Account Also Takes a Victory Lap” by Malika Andrews: “The human behind the triumphal stream was Zach Seidel, 27, the director of multimedia communications and digital for the athletic department. For a couple of hours on Friday night, he was the voice of the ultimate underdogs, the about-to-be-vindicated sports fan who got to revel in something historic — with an audience of millions high-fiving his every remark. “People I haven’t talked to in years were texting me, ‘Hey, I still have your number from school,’ ” Seidel said in a phone interview late Friday night. “ ‘I know we only hung out a few times, but oh my God, you’re killing it on Twitter.’ ”” [NYTimes

“The Secret Behind the Greatest Upset in College Basketball History” by Freeman Hrabowski, President of UMBC: “We’ve defied the odds before. Three decades ago, nobody believed you could close the achievement gap between white and underrepresented minority students, who were disproportionately likely to be lower-income and to be less academically prepared, without adjusting academic standards. But UMBC and the philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff didn’t believe it had to be that way… We started the Meyerhoff Scholars Program to support, challenge, and mentor underrepresented minority students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Today, the university is a top producer of African-American graduates who go on to earn PhDs in the sciences, and is the leading producer of ones who go on to earn MD-PhDs.” [TheAtlantic]

MEDIA WATCH — “NBC News’ Andy Lack is not a fan of Facebook” by Alexandra Steigrad: “At lunch with journalists at NBC last week, Lack pooh-poohed the platform for NBC Digital and other publishers in general. “Facebook doesn’t have any value to publishers really — that’s the dirty little [secret],” Lack told The Post. “They take all the value.” As a result, NBC is “pulling back” on working with the social media firm after it had conversations with the company regarding its concerns.” [NYPost]

“Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Under Pressure Over Data Breach” by Sara Frier: “Government officials in the U.S. and Europe are demanding answers from Facebook Inc. after reports that Cambridge Analytica, the advertising-data firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, retained information on tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent. Over the weekend, entreaties for the social-media giant to take responsibility evolved into calls for Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear in front of lawmakers.” [Bloomberg]

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN LA — Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson announced a new $13 million gift to the Israeli-American Council (IAC) at its 10th annual gala at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. In total, the IAC raised more than $16.5 million at the event, including a $1 million pledge from Haim Saban.

DESSERT — Trump Hotel in Scotland to Be ‘Kashered’ for Pesach: “A Chareidi man from London has rented out a Trump hotel in Scotland and is turning it Kosher for Pesach. Aryeh Wagner is the person in charge of Kosher catering for all royal functions that take place in any of the royal buildings in England, as well as meals taking place in the residence of the Prime Minister that have Jews in attendance… When asked if Trump’s Daughter and Son-in-Law Ivanka and Jared Kushner will be attending, Wagner said: “I am not at liberty to discuss the guest list…” [YeshivaWorld

“‘There is no kosher meat’: the Israelis full of zeal for going vegan” by Oliver Holmes: “From a tiny faction of outliers just five years ago, Israeli vegans now say they make up 5% of the country’s population, a higher percentage than anywhere else in the world. An estimated 500 restaurants are vegan or have substantial plant-based dishes on their menus… “Veganism is almost mainstream,” said Ori Shavit, a consultant for Israeli restaurants… Judaism has helped too, she says, because the kosher diet means Jews, even many secular ones, have a culture of checking what is in their food.”[TheGuardian]

“Landmark Worcester, Massachusetts Jewish restaurant Weintraub’s beset by health-code violations” by Mark Sullivan: “Two years shy of its 100th anniversary, Weintraub’s Jewish Delicatessen at 126 Water St. is showing its age. Customers these days are few… A vintage sign in the window read “kosher,” but the deli, more accurately described as kosher-style, has not been officially certified kosher since the 1970s, when the original owners dispensed with the weekly visits from the rabbis.” [Telegram]

BIRTHDAYS: Philanthropist, art collector and chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder turns 85… Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, whose books focus on Jewish life and identity, Philip Rothturns 85… Israeli politician, the daughter of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, she served as a member of the Knesset for three different parties (1999-2003), Dalia Rabin-Pelossof turns 68… Disgraced former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein turns 66… Author and journalist, best known as the first female executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson turns 64… NYC-based real estate investor and chairman of Turtle Pond Publications which invests in new media, he is one of three co-founders of the Tribeca Film Festival, Craig Hatkoff turns 64… EVP of merchandising at American Signature Furniture, a Schottenstein company, Steve Rabe turns 58… Writer, musician and radio commentator, he was founder and lay leader of the South Berkshire Minyan in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Seth Rogovoy turns 58 (h/t Playbook)… Neurologist in Naples, Florida, Brian D. Wolff, MD turns 56… 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 37… 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 30… Aaron Bock




Daily Kickoff: When the next Goldman head turned down Sheldon Adelson | Bibi’s Newsweek cover | Dermer back to Israel? | The Mooch on Jewish culture

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HEARD LAST NIGHT IN NYC — Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scaramucci addressed the National Council of Young Israel’s (NCYI) Gala celebrating 70 Years of the State of Israel at Terrace on the Park in Flushing, NY. “This is my Bar Mitzvah,” Scaramucci joked as he began his remarks. “I got to tell you, I love the Jews… I grew up in the town of Port Washington, and so there were Jews, Italians, Irish, and African-Americans, and I hung out with everybody, but the family that had the biggest impact on me was an Eastern European Jewish family, where my best friend, who went on to Tufts and law school with me, wasn’t allowed to leave the house until he studied. Thank God for that because I studied alongside him and I got good grades, and then the good grades led to Tufts and Harvard, and those other things, it was really the Jewish culture and it was the emphasis on studying and human capital and that push that really helped me in my life.”

Ed note: Shoutout to the Wolasky’s Old City Wi-Fi for powering today’s Daily Kickoff 

COVER OF NEWSWEEK — “The Fall of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Future of Israel” by Gregg Carlstrom: “Even his allies are starting to whisper that this jubilant visit to Washington was his last. After years of investigations, the police are closing in; the cases against him grow more substantive by the day… The man Time once dubbed “King Bibi” has lorded over Israel’s political scene for 10 years and planned to stay for many more. Now, suddenly, he seems vulnerable… Netanyahu’s resilience seems puzzling, given that he has little to offer his voters. His critics often deride him as “Mr. Status Quo.” … Netanyahu has done little to address a nationwide housing shortage that has made apartments unaffordable for the majority of young Israelis…”

“Meanwhile, the Prime Minister hasn’t tried to address the constant skirmishes over religion and culture that roil Israeli politics… To some foreign audiences, Netanyahu’s most unforgivable lapse is his inaction on the peace process… If Netanyahu left office tomorrow, it would be difficult to choose a headline for his political obituary. Menachem Begin signed a lasting peace treaty with Egypt, and Rabin did the same with Jordan. Barak ended the decades-long occupation of Lebanon. Ariel Sharon withdrew from Gaza…. Netanyahu simply survived.”

“A senior officer in the Israeli army once called Netanyahu “a character from a Greek tragedy.” (The officer is still in the military and asked for anonymity.) He is both a gifted politician and an educated man, a keen student of world history and contemporary geopolitics. As a man of the right, the son of a prominent Revisionist historian and a former army commando, he had the stature to be a transformative politician in the mold of Begin. But his lust for power led him to pursue short-term tactics instead of grand strategy, and the schisms in Israeli society deepened all the while. “He’s full of hubris,” the officer said.” [NewsweekCover of Newsweek’s March 23 edition [Pic]

REPORT — “Two major diplomatic postings may become vacant in the summer” by Herb Keinon: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to make decisions in the coming weeks on whether to twist the arm of Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and convince him to stay a sixth year in Washington, and what to do regarding Ambassador to the UN Danny Danonin New York. Dermer is in the middle of his fifth year in the US… and has made clear that he is interested in returning to Israel in the summer. “He wants to come back,” said one official who has talked to Dermer about the issue. “He has said that he made aliya in order to raise his kids in Israel, and that after five years in Washington, it is time to come home.”

“According to one diplomatic source, whether Netanyahu accedes to Dermer’s request to return will be dependent on whether… Jared Kushner retains his role as Trump’s point-man on the Middle East, and whether the US rolls out its long-awaited peace plan. If Kushner stays in the White House and the plan is presented, Netanyahu is expected to ask Dermer to stay on.” [JPost]

INTERVIEW — “Meet Yair Lapid, Netanyahu’s Strongest Political Opponent and Maybe Israel’s Next Prime Minister” by Jack Moore: “Newsweek spoke with Lapid in Tel Aviv about his vision for the country and his bid to end the longest single term of any prime minister in Israeli history. Do you represent a true change from Benjamin Netanyahu? When you’ve been in politics for this long, you are first and foremost a politician. What we are offering is a real alternative to that. [Unlike Netanyahu], I truly believe we need to make progress with the Palestinians. I believe in the two-state solution, but in bringing it about cautiously.”[Newsweek]

TRUMP TUMULT — “Trump decides to remove national security adviser, and others may follow” by Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig: “President Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing potential replacements… Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster… but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up… Before The Washington Post report was published, a White House spokesperson checked with several senior White House officials and did not dispute that the president had made a decision. [John] Kelly has also told White House staff that Trump has made up his mind about ousting McMaster.” [WashPostNYTimes]

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back late Thursday on Twitter: “Just spoke @POTUS and Gen H.R. McMaster. Contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC.” [Twitter]

“McMaster Invokes Holocaust to Urge Action in Syria” by Dion Nissenbaum: “Speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Museum on the seventh anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster… invoked the phrase “never again” to urge world powers not to allow atrocities to unfold in the Middle East. “We cannot stop at remembrance alone,” he told a group that included Holocaust survivors and Syrian refugees. “If we are to fulfill our promise [of] ‘never again,’ we must also act to protect all victims and hold all responsible parties accountable… If Iran and Russia do not stop enabling the regime atrocities and adhere to U.N. Security Council resolutions, all nations must respond more forcibly than simply issuing strong statements,” he said.” [WSJ]

FUTURE OF THE DEAL — “Netanyahu privately predicts Trump will withdraw from Iran deal” by Barak Ravid: “Netanyahu was briefing the security cabinet Sunday on his meeting with Trump… He said Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Chief of Staff John Kelly had all been present for the discussion on Iran. According to the two ministers, Netanyahu said in Sunday’s meeting: “I think Trump is very close to withdrawing from the Iran deal. The meeting was very important. Trump spoke in front of all the most senior members of his administration and told me that if the nuclear deal would not change significantly the U.S. will withdraw.”” [Axios]

“Iran nuclear deal may be the first casualty of Tillerson’s ouster” by Carol Morello: “Now you have the appointment of someone who has made it an article of faith that the Iran deal is a bad deal that needs to be ripped up,” said Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group who helped broker the Iran negotiations under the Obama administration. “It may well be the first casualty of Tillerson’s ousting will be the end of the Iran deal.”[WashPost]

Aaron David Miller‏ tweets“The Ides of May: Trump withdraws from Iran deal; personally opens the US Embassy in Jerusalem en route to his historic summit with Kim Jong Un; and on way back announces his ultimate deal — Israel says yes, but; Palestinian say no way; take the hit; and they all live happily ever after.”

Bret Stephens writes… “Mike Pompeo Is Good for Diplomacy: Trump isn’t going to be disciplined by someone whose views are dovish or establishmentarian. But he might listen to, and be tempered by, a responsible hawk… It’s good that the State Department may at last get a leader who can persuade — and perhaps even restrain — the president, pursue a policy, manage a department, and make diplomacy effective again in an administration otherwise governed by chaos and Twitter.” [NYTimes]

Peter Beinart writes… “Mike Pompeo’s Allies on the Anti-Muslim Right: Try this simple experiment. Take Mike Pompeo’s statements about Muslims, and his alliances with anti-Muslim bigots. Then imagine that he had made similar statements about Jews, and forged similar ties to anti-Semites. Then imagine the reaction if he were nominated for Secretary of State… Two of Mike Pompeo’s close allies, Frank Gaffney and Brigitte Gabriel, are to American Muslims what David Duke and Louis Farrakhan are to American Jews.”[TheAtlantic]

PROFILE — “A Tillerson Ally Survives the Purge With Help From Friends” by Nick Wadhams: “[Brian] Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, is among the last Tillerson confidants standing… The key to Hook’s survival may be his long-standing reputation in Republican foreign policy circles, bolstered by the access he gained as Tillerson’s liaison with the White House. Even as Tillerson was viewed there with distrust and mounting exasperation, Hook developed relations with top Trump advisers including Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner… Kushner invited Hook along on some of his overseas trips. .. Hook’s most substantial role has been leading the administration’s talks with European allies on overhauling the Iran nuclear deal.” [Bloomberg]

TURTLE BAY — “Haley: Vote With U.S. at U.N. or We’ll Cut Your Aid” by Colum Lynch: “It is the opinion of the U.S. mission to the U.N. that all U.S. foreign assistance should be reevaluated to ensure that taxpayers dollars are spent to advance U.S. interests, not to fund foreign legacy programs that provide little or no return on investment,” according to the 53-page memo… The Palestinian aid cuts “should serve as a fulcrum from which we use our foreign assistance leverage and measure its impact.” The memo, titled “America First Foreign Assistance Policy” and marked sensitive, echoes Trump’s oft-repeated claim that the world takes advantage of U.S. largesse while opposing American goals.” [ForeignPolicy] • UN gets $100M in new funds for Palestinian aid after US cuts [ABCNews]

“Lebanon Is Boiling. Thousands of Americans Could Get Stuck in the Middle of a War” by Elliott Abrams and Zachary Shapiro: “If war breaks out, it will be far more destructive than in 2006. Hezbollah’s arsenal is larger and more advanced, so the damage it can do in Israel—despite Israel’s greatly improved anti-missile defenses—will be far greater… That damage will lead Israel to strike hard in Lebanon in an effort to stop the attacks as quickly as possible… Members of the Israeli governing coalition have warned consistently that the next conflict with Hezbollah will be much bloodier for the Lebanese side… The U.S. Embassy will not have two weeks or more before ground combat begins—and it was in those first two weeks when most Americans were evacuated last time… The time to work through these problems is right now.” [Politico]

TALK OF THE NATION — “Alan Dershowitz and other prominent Israel advocates warn Netanyahu against expelling Africans” by Ron Kampeas: “We, a group of ardent Zionists, who have devoted our lives to defending the good name of the state of Israel and the Jewish people, write with urgent concern about the situation of the African asylum seekers,” said the letter signed by Dershowitz… [Abe] Foxman, the former national director of the Anti-Defamation League; Rabbi Marvin Hier… Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, a former chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, and Rabbi Avi Weiss… “We respectfully urge you, Mr. Prime Minister, to appoint Natan Sharansky to head a committee that would propose a humanitarian solution to the problem that also takes into account the concerns of the government of Israel.” … “Mr. Sharansky was not a party to this initiative, has no knowledge of its details, and did not grant it his approval,” a spokesman for Sharansky told JTA .” [JTA]

2018 WATCH — Dan Senor, discussing the outcome of the PA18 special election and the upcoming midterms on CBS This Morning yesterday: “What it is looking like is that the president is very good at motivating the opposition. It is not clear that he’s motivating his base in these congressional races. It is another sign that Republicans are facing real headwinds heading into November… I keep telling my Republican friends who are running for office that the opposition’s motivation and their energy is not conditions-based… It’s all focused on one man – the revulsion against the president. So as long as he is in the frame, they are going to turn out in huge numbers.” [Video]

“Jewish talk radio host runs for 9th Congressional District” by Jeff Kronenfeld: “Seth Leibsohn — a talk radio host, author and attorney — is one of five candidates currently registered for the Republican primary for Arizona’s 9th Congressional District… If Leibsohn secures the Republican nomination, he will likely face off against current Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton in the general election in November. The seat’s current occupant, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, is running for the Senate seat left open when Republican Sen. Jeff Flake decided not to seek re-election.” [JewishAZ]

** 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: Scientist Turned CEO Rachel Haurwitz Wants to Gene-Edit a Way to Cure Cancer [Ozy] • Patrick Drahi’s debt-ridden telecoms group Altice seeing some recovery in France [ReutersBloomberg• Gal Gadot announces sponsorship deal with Reebok said to be worth $10 million [ToI] • Casino mogul Steve Wynn may sell his stake in Wynn Resorts [Reuters] • Hong Kong’s Richest Man Li Ka-shing Retires [Bloomberg• Flashback: Tycoon Li Ka-shing Looks to Israel [WSJ]

SPOTLIGHT: “The Gamble That Put David Solomon on Top at Goldman Sachs” by Liz Hoffman: “In the spring of 2014, Las Vegas tycoon Sheldon Adelson floated an offer to David Solomon : come run his casino empire. Mr. Solomon, a senior Goldman Sachs executive, had been Mr. Adelson’s banker since the 1990s. He had honed his craps game on weekend jaunts to Atlantic City, N.J. He was 52 years old and seen as a long shot to become chief executive of Goldman. But Mr. Solomon turned down the job, according to Michael Leven, who was Mr. Adelson’s second-in-command at the time. Mr. Adelson wasn’t willing to give up day-to-day control, and Mr. Solomon didn’t want to be an understudy. That patience paid off for Mr. Solomon, who this week was anointed the heir apparent to Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein.” [WSJ]

Hungary’s Orban launches a new attack on Soros at election rally — by Pablo Gorondi: “Prime Minister Viktor Orban, speaking at a massive rally three weeks ahead of Hungary’s parliamentary election, said Western Europe has surrendered with “its hands up” to a mass migration of people from Africa and the Middle East… Orban also made another of his attacks on George Soros, the Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist. He alleged Soros was seeking to impose his “open society” ideals on Europe and supports critics of the ruling party’s government, and listed Soros among Hungary’s historical foes — the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburgs and the Soviet Union.” [AP]

“White Supremacists Are Increasingly Using Public Banners” by Maggie Astor: “White supremacists are increasingly hanging banners in public places, such as from highway overpasses and rooftops, to promote their views, according to a report released on Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League. “While white supremacists have been using banners for some time, the number of banners deployed in the past 10 months marks an unprecedented trend,” the report said. The tactic, it added, is significant because it “can garner widespread attention with very little actual effort involved.” From May 20, 2017, through this Monday, the A.D.L.’s Center on Extremism found, there were 72 such episodes.” [NYTimes]

TRANSITION — “AEI’s Brooks to step down in summer 2019” by Blake Paterson: “American Enterprise Institute head Arthur Brooks said Wednesday he plans to step down in the summer of 2019 after more than ten years leading the conservative think tank… Tully Friedman and Daniel D’Aniello, co-chairs of AEI’s board of trustees, said a search committee will be formed in the coming weeks to find a successor.” [Politico]

— PODCAST PLAYBACK — Brooks recounted hosting PM Benjamin Netanyahu and presenting him with the AEI 2015 Irving Kristol Award in a conversation with Simon Sinek at New York’s 92Y in January of this year: “I was hosting a large gala dinner in Washington, DC, a huge event for 2,000 people two years ago. The guest of honor was Benjamin Netanyahu. It was very controversial. There were protesters outside. It was awesome. I hired a band to play and they were packing up their instruments at the end of the night, and I was feeling very good about myself that it had gone so well, and the drummer came walking up to me and said, ‘Are you Arthur Brooks, the French horn player?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ I recognized him. It turned out it was a drummer that I had made two records with in the 1980s. He said, ‘Are you the president of all of this now?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ He looked at me and said, ‘What happened to you, man?'”[92YOnDemand]

PREMIERING TODAY — 7 Days in Entebbe: How The Greatest Rescue Mission Unfolded [USAToday]

“A New Entebbe Movie, Hijacked by Bad Ideas” by Liel Leibovitz: “Like much of Hollywood these days, 7 Days believes that a movie’s primary responsibility is to make progressive statements, not unfettered art. The message is the medium, and the message is best delivered in bursts of political speechifying. Sadly for the bien pensants, however, we unwashed masses go to the movies to be entertained, not educated, which leaves the film in a bind. Disinterested in the true depths of terror, and disdainful of the sheer kineticism of a good action sequence, it opts for something in between. The film’s climactic scene, for example, the raid on the terminal, is shot in infuriating slow-motion and cross-cut with a modern dance performance, forcing you to embrace its sophomoric war-as-metaphor theme one last, frustrating time.” [TabletMag]

DESSERT — There’s a New Kosher Dairy Restaurant at the Sago Hotel on Orchard Street: “Noga is a kosher dairy restaurant from the same owners behind Bison and Bourbon steakhouse in Crown Heights – Duddy Shagalov, Ariel Mangami, and Menachem Wolf. This is the trio’s second venture, which offers a menu of pastas alongside “upscale fish and dairy dishes.” Former Jean-Georges chef John Goullette is reportedly in the kitchen.” [BoweryBoogie

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAYBanker, former CEO and chairman of Citigroup, Sanford I. “Sandy” Weill turns 85… Dean and founder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Hier turns 79… Graduate of Harvard Law School in 1964, tax assistant to the Solicitor General of the US (1973-1983), now a NYC tax attorney and litigator, Stuart A. Smith turns 77… Actress and film director, Susan Bay turns 75… Computer scientist, Andrew S. Tanenbaum turns 74… Film, stage and television actor and singer, Victor Garber turns 69… Mathematician, entrepreneur and founder of four technology companies, creator of the first camera phone, Philippe Kahn turns 66… Peabody Award and Emmy Award-winning NPR journalist since 1977, now a host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, Scott Simonturns 66… AVP of external affairs at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Amy Kaplan turns 64… Film producer Gail Sonnenfeld turns 63… Adjunct Professor at both George Washington U. Law School and Stanford In Washington, previously a partner at DLA Piper, Andrew D. Eskin turns 61… VP for talent, booking and ABC News’ specialized units at Disney / ABC Television Group, Eric Avram turns 53… Philanthropist and president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, Jay Ruderman turns 52… Actor and comedian, best known for playing the role of writer Frank Rossitano on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” Judah Friedlander turns 49… VP at the BGR Group since 2017, he was previously a principal at the Podesta Group, Andy Lewinturns 44… Partner at West Wing Writers, Jeff Nussbaum turns 43… Founder of Seward Square Strategies, Jason Rosenbaum turns 41… Retired soccer player in the Israeli Premier League who is now the the first team manager in Maccabi Tel Aviv, Yoav Ziv turns 37… Detroit-based founder and managing partner of Ludlow Ventures and Sandwich Fund, Jonathon Triest turns 36… Head of policy and communications at Facebook’s Israel office since 2016, previously Chief of Staff at the Israeli embassy in Washington DC, Jordana Cutler turns 36… VP at the Glover Park Group, Adam Blickstein turns 36 (h/t Playbook)… Strategic communications consultant at 42West, Alexandra Stabler turns 29… Legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Nathan Bennett… Customer care manager at CCRA Travel Commerce Network, Judy Karta… Investigative reporter on the Metro desk of The New York Times, Brian M. Rosenthal… Jackie Stern… Jeremy Levin

SATURDAYCEO of Wilherst Developers and trustee of publicly traded Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, Mark K. Rosenfeld turns 72… Founder, president and CEO of Laurel Strategies, Alan H. Fleischmann turns 53… Lead field/floor reporter for CBS Sports football and basketball broadcasts, she also serves on the board of the JCC in Tenafly, Tracy Wolfson turns 43… VP at Las Vegas-based Gold Coast Promotions, assisting non-profits in fundraising, Richard Metzler turns 41… Hasidic singer, entertainer and composer, Lipa Schmeltzer turns 40… Actor Stephen Kramer Glickmanturns 39… Musician and digital strategy executive, Rick Sorkin turns 39… Digital reporter and producer for ABC News including “World News Tonight With David Muir,” Emily Claire Friedman Cohen turns 33… 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 33… Uber manager, she was previously an analyst at LivingSocial, Annaliese Rosenthal turns 31… Los Angeles-based tech journalist and founder of the TechSesh blog, Jessica Elizabeth Naziri turns 30… Student at the University of Michigan, Zach Sherman

SUNDAYProfessor emeritus of biochemistry and genetics in the medical school of the University of North Carolina, author of five books since turning 80 years old, Edward Glassman, Ph.D. turns 89… Screenwriter, actor, comedian and film executive, best known for co-writing the screenplay for “Jaws” and its first two sequels, Carl Gottlieb turns 80… Professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, Deborah Lipstadt turns 71… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Bennett “Ben” Cohen turns 67… 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 62… Dean of the Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Daniel S. Nevins turns 52… 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 49… Identical twin brothers, both singers and songwriters who recorded as “Evan and Jaron,” Evan Lowenstein and Jaron Lowenstein turn 44… Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actor, record producer and lead vocalist for the pop rock band Maroon 5, Adam Levine turns 39… Consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, Ariel Koschitzky turns 29… Andy Weiss… Michael Shapiro… Jenni Volz

Kafe Knesset for June 12

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sign up for the Daily Kickoff newsletter to read Kafe Knesset in your inbox each day Labor versus BB: NO: The Haaretz expose revealing a secret Netanyahu-Herzog-Sissi meeting…

Lawmakers Discuss Bolstering Financial Pressure Against Hezbollah

Friday, June 9, 2017

WASHINGTON – The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on Thursday devoted to increasing the economic pressure against Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist organization which has fought multiple…

Kafe Knesset for June 9

Friday, June 9, 2017

Haley’s High Heels: After a private helicopter tour of the country’s borders yesterday, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley kicked off her third day in Israel at a meeting this morning…

Cardin Expresses Skepticism Over House Bill Targeting Qatar for Hamas Support

Thursday, June 8, 2017

WASHINGTON – Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin (D-MD) expressed concern over a bipartisan House legislation that would sanction Qatar for its ongoing financial…

Lawmakers Express Increasing Concern for Qatar’s Support of Hamas

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

WASHINGTON– With Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE cutting diplomatic relations with Qatar earlier this week, Members of Congress highlighted the problematic nature of Doha’s longstanding backing of…

Kafe Knesset for June 7

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sign up for the Daily Kickoff newsletter to read Kafe Knesset in your inbox each day Queen Haley: Early this morning, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley…