Daily Kickoff: Reactions to Trump’s Jerusalem move | Should Israel expect to make concessions now? | Disney’s Bob Iger likely to extend term past 2019

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DRIVING THE CONVO: In a move described as historic, President Donald Trump announced yesterday that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The President also directed the State Department to begin a process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said in a speech at the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.” Prior to the speech, Trump signed the 6-month waiver postponing the relocation of the embassy.

The move was hailed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli politicians — right and left — as an “important step toward peace,” while the Palestinian Authority condemned the move, saying the decision “destroyed any possibility of a two-state solution.” Among other Arab states and most Western countries, Saudi Arabia expressed “great regret” over the decision and warned of the “serious consequences of such an unjustified and irresponsible move.” However, the President, in his remarks, insisted that the move will advance the peace process and is a “necessary condition for achieving peace.”

“U.S. asks Israel to restrain response to Jerusalem move – document” by Arshad Mohammed: “While I recognize that you will publicly welcome this news, I ask that you restrain your official response,” the document dated Dec. 6 said in talking points for diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to convey to Israeli officials… A second State Department document… said the agency had formed an internal task force “to track worldwide developments.” [Reuters] • Man With Palestinian Flag Smashes Jewish Restaurant Windows in Dutch Capital [Reuters]

“Rallying Cry of Jerusalem May Have Lost Force in Arab World” by Anne Barnard, Ben Hubbard and Declan Walsh: “As Arab and Muslim leaders raised their voices to condemn the move, many across the Middle East wondered if so much had changed in recent years that the real Arab response would amount to little more than a whimper… While Arab leaders have continued to pay lip service to the Palestinian cause, it has slipped in importance” [NYTimes]

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer tells JI’s Aaron Magid regarding concerns Trump’s move could undermine peace efforts: “You should ask some of the people who told you that this would undermine peace whether they think that what President Obama did in May 2011, when he said that the Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 lines plus swaps, undermines peace? That border issue is a matter of dispute and a point of negotiations between the parties so the Obama administration was putting its thumb on the scale and moving the goal posts. That undermined peace.”

“The fact that Israel will have a capital in Jerusalem is ostensibly not a point of dispute between the parties, not even according to the Palestinian Authority’s stated public positions. And the US did not say there were deciding the boundaries of Jerusalem, which they said would be up to the parties. So here, the US did not move goal posts on negotiation but are righting a historic wrong, puncturing the campaign to deny Jewish history and claims in Jerusalem and laying a cornerstone for a peace based on truth.” The full conversation with Ambassador Dermer will be featured in tomorrow’s Daily Kickoff

WHITE HOUSE MIND MELD — A senior White House official emails Jewish Insider: “The President said he would do it during the campaign and he delivered on a decision he thinks is in the best interest of the United States. The President didn’t say anything yesterday that would preclude peace negotiations going forward. We recognize that the Palestinians may take a step back from talks for the time being but that’s ok. We’ve done a lot of listening and now we’re typing away and getting closer to preparing a plan. This action has the potential to enhance the President’s credibility both with Israel and the Arab world in the future when tough decisions need to be made for peace.”

IS THIS PART OF A GRAND STRATEGY? — Nimrod Novik, a Fellow at Israel Policy Forum and former advisor to Shimon Peres, tells us… “The silver lining that I see here is that the President and the administration are accumulating a lot of stocks in their pro-Israeli credentials. When the President one day unveils his roadmap to the ultimate deal, no one will be able to challenge his pro-Israel credentials.”

HEARD YESTERDAY ON CNN — Dennis Ross to Wolf Blitzer: “He’s now done something that every Israeli Prime Minister would have liked to have seen. It puts him in a position where with the Israeli public, he’s crossed a threshold… With the plan that at some point is going to be presented, he does have the capacity to be asking something of Israel that will won’t be so easy for Israel. He’s created a political context in Israel that will obviously give him some leverage.”

Aaron David Miller responded to Ross: “If this is the honey as a prelude to the vinegar during an actual negotiation, in other words, if the President, the ultimate transactional man, really thinks that this is the way to create a situation where no one will now be able to say about Donald Trump that he is not the most pro-Israeli president since Harry Truman, well then, he is in a position to apply ample amounts of vinegar along with the honey during the course of an actual negotiation. But I’m telling you… that’s straining the bounds of credulity to the breaking point because that would require a degree of pressure and awkwardness, and tension with the government of Israel, and all of the president’s constituencies for whom he did this.”

Also on CNN, Elliott Abrams: “Israel has a capital. It is Jerusalem. Presidents go and visit it. Where do they think they are, on the moon? They’re in the capital city of Israel. All of these countries that we were just hearing about have interest in fighting terrorism, in alliances, in friendship with the United States, they’re going to pursue those interests. They’re not going to break relations. They’re not going to say, ‘Oh, we don’t want to talk to you anymore.’ This is really completely overblown.”

Tom Friedman… “Trump, Israel and the Art of the Giveaway: Trump just gave it away — for free. Such a deal! Why in the world would you just give this away for free and not even use it as a lever to advance the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian deal? … Trump is susceptible to such giveaways, not only because he is ignorant, but because… he sees himself as the president of his base. And because that’s the only support he has left, he feels the need to keep feeding his base by fulfilling crude, ill-conceived promises he threw out to them during the campaign.” [NYTimes]

“Praise and Alarm From American Jews Over Trump’s Jerusalem Move” by Laurie Goodstein: “I’ve never thought the U.S. should be an honest broker,” said [Nathan] Diament, who represents the largest umbrella group of Orthodox Jews (OU)… “Pro-Israel Americans aren’t looking for the U.S. to be an honest broker. Pro-Israel Americans are looking to the U.S. to be a friend to our ally, Israel.” [NYTimes]

BEHIND THE SCENES — “Jerusalem Divides Trump’s Team and Complicates Kushner’s Peace Plan” by Margaret Talev and Jennifer Jacobs: “[Mike] Pence was a strong advocate within the administration for the policy shift …Chief of Staff John Kelly and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley also recommended that Trump overturn U.S. policy and publicly acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital… Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis recommended against the move… [Jared] Kushner and… Jason Greenblatt were kept “fully in the loop” about the decision and support it, two White House officials said.” [Bloomberg]

 According to CNN, CIA Director Mike Pompeo was also against the move. [Source]

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Vice President Mike Pence at the Kemp Leadership Award Dinner: “During his time in Congress, there was really no greater friend to Israel, in the Republican ranks, than Jack Kemp… Throughout his career, Jack Kemp worked tirelessly to strengthen the bond between our two nations. And today, President Donald Trump strengthened that bond even further…  After decades of talk, President Trump took action. He’s a man of his word. As the President said today, today we finally acknowledge the obvious; we recognize facts that we know will form a foundation for real progress, for real peace, in that region of the world.”

SHELDON’S EFFORTS: “On Jerusalem, Trump’s view molded by powerful allies” by Jonathan Lemire and Julie Pace: “Appearing before a forum organized by the Republican Jewish Coalition… Trump was asked a delicate, but predictable, diplomatic question: Did he believe Jerusalem was the undivided capital of Israel? The presidential candidate, who prided himself on candor and straight talk, dodged… A smattering of boos erupted from the audience. But as Trump’s candidacy took off, he began courting pro-Israel American Jews and evangelical Christians. [Sheldon] Adelson… consistently raised the topic in nearly all of his phone calls and meetings with the President.” [AP]

“Kushner bets he can have it both ways on Jerusalem move” by Annie Karni: “For Kushner, the Jerusalem issue also provided a chance to reassert some of his lost authority in the White House. Privately, he told the president he backed the move… “If he’s right, he will be a hero of heroes,” [a] Kushner ally said. “He end-ran Tillerson again. If he’s wrong, he’s doomed.” … Kushner also feels as though he has the private backing of major players in the region… Kushner and [Jason] Greenblatt… have no pending trips planned, a spokesman said.” [Politico]

— “Trump’s decision was supported by both Mr. Kushner and… Jason D. Greenblatt, who had concluded that shaking up the status quo could actually help rather than hurt their peace efforts. While they say they recognized that it would cause an immediate uproar — including potentially driving the Palestinians away from negotiations for some time — they believed the process was resilient enough to withstand the shock.” [NYTimes]

Last night on CNN’s Outfront, Erin Burnett asked Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer about his infamous reaction to Trump mistakenly implying Israel was not located in the Middle East during his last visit to Israel: “That is you, Ambassador, on the right-hand side… appearing to cover your eyes as Trump says while he is in Israel, right in the heart of the Middle East, that he just got back from the Middle East. Look, I’m making a serious point here. Do you have confidence that President Trump is making this historic and consequential decision with a true understanding of what he’s doing?”

Dermer replied: “The funny thing about it is that a helicopter had landed a few minutes before, blew dust in my hair, my kippah off my head, and that’s all I was doing in that clip. I know it was the stuff of late-night comedies, but that was ultimate fake news… I have confidence in the President of the United States because what the President has done has just put a dagger in fake history, that the Jews have no claim to Jerusalem, no history in Jerusalem.” [Video]

WEST WING SCENE: The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier, who spoke at Trump’s inauguration, and Rabbi Meyer H. May posed for pictures with Jared Kushner and other administration officials at the White House yesterday after Trump’s announcement. [Pic]

OVAL OFFICE MEETING TODAY: “The President will meet with former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.”

HAPPENING TODAY — Trump will host his first White House Hanukkah party at 7:30 PM ET. The Vice President and Second Lady Karen Pence will attend the reception.

ON THE HILL — “Schumer called, met with Franken and told him to resign” by Jordan Carney and Mallory Shelbourne: “Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday told Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) that he needed to resign after another woman came forward with sexual misconduct allegations. A person familiar with their discussions said Schumer called Franken… before the resignation calls started, to tell him he needed to step down. Schumer also urged Franken to resign during a “series of phone calls” throughout Wednesday, the source said, and had a meeting with Franken and his wife at Schumer’s apartment.” [TheHill]

2018 WATCH — Kathy Manning, former JFNA chief, mounts congressional run in North Carolina: “Kathy Manning, the first woman to be chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, is mounting a challenge as a Democrat to… Ted Budd in North Carolina’s 13th district, a once reliable Democratic district that trends Republican after recent redistricting… In addition to chairing JFNA from 2009-2012, she was the founding chairwoman of Prizmah, the umbrella body for Jewish day schools of all denominations. At Harvard in the 1970s, she founded the university’s first all-woman a capella group, the Radcliffe Pitches, which still exists.” [JTA]

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

SPOTLIGHT: “Disney CEO Bob Iger expected to stay past 2019 if Fox deal happens” by Ryan Faughnder and Meg James:
“The Disney board is expected to extend Iger’s contract so that he can oversee the integration of Fox properties with Disney… However, Iger has not extended his contract yet, and Disney may not buy Fox… Many people have speculated that Iger, who has been outspoken on issues such as gun control and climate change, may seek public office after he leaves Disney. But investors have been reluctant to see him leave.” [LATimes]

RECODE 100 — No. 77: “Jonathan Greenblatt is the man trying to shut down extremists online” by Joe Brown: “Jonathan Greenblatt is evolving the century-old Anti-Defamation League to fight white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other forms of extremism in the digital age. “We shouldn’t be surprised that extremists exploit new media,” says Greenblatt. With his guidance, the tech and media industries are taking a more proactive role in combating hate and extremists on their platforms. ADL is now working directly with engineers at tech companies like Twitter to solve problems with code rather than lawsuits.” [Recode] • Also on list: Stewart Butterfield at No. 36 [Recode]

TALK OF OUR NATION — Jewish Cemetery Dug Up to Make Way for Supermarket in Poland:
“Authorities say human remains from an old Jewish cemetery in Poland have been dug up and dumped unceremoniously in an empty lot to make way for the construction of a supermarket, parking lot and an electrical transformer station. Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, who is originally from New York, described it Thursday as a “full-out scandal” and the worst desecration of a Jewish cemetery that he has witnessed in the 17 years that he has served in Poland.” [AP]

“This fighter pilot flew the last mission over Japan in WWII. Then he learned to love his enemy” by Marwa Eltagouri: “[Jerry] Yellin… was shaken by the attack on Pearl Harbor… and enlisted two months later on his 18th birthday… It was the physical test that proved tricky — particularly the eye exam. He had 20/30 vision in one eye and failed as a result, he said. The doctor told him to go home, stay in a dark room, eat a lot of carbs, avoid reading anything and come back to retake the exam. Yellin… asked his mother, who worked for the draft board, to bring him home an eye chart and spent the next three days memorizing it. He passed. He spent the next 18 months training. His Jewish faith, he discovered, meant he had to work especially hard to prove his worth as a fighter pilot… Yellin said he suffered discrimination throughout his childhood and recalled how, during his freshman year of high school, boys he played football and basketball with on the street saw him leave a synagogue. A few days later, his family’s home was vandalized with swastikas.” [WashPost]

DESSERT: “Hanukkah cheese-basked pastries celebrate the story of Judith” by Peggy Wolff: “We used to have a cake that was made out of cheese, like a fried-cheese-type thing,” says chef Laura Frankel, culinary director for Kosher Media International. Until the fried cheese tradition made it to northern and eastern Europe where they fried things in schmaltz (animal fat). “Obviously, with kosher rules,” Frankel explained, “you can’t fry anything with cheese in schmaltz… So they changed the cheese out for potatoes. It was something people ate a lot of, they were filling, they were plentiful. This brings us to a shocking revelation. Though the original latkes were cheese latkes, the Ashkenazic Jews (who brought the latke to America) subbed potatoes.”[ChicagoTribune]

BIRTHDAYS: British expressionist painter, known for portraits, life drawings and cityscapes of London, England, Leon Kossoff turns 91… Linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, political activist and Professor Emeritus at MIT, Noam Chomsky turns 89… Rabbi of The Jewish Center of Princeton, NJ (1992-2005), now Rabbi Emeritus, author or editor of 45 books including the New York Times best-selling Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul, Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins turns 80… Hedge fund manager and philanthropist, he is the co-founder of Taglit-Birthright Israel and the founder of Hebrew language charter schools in NYC, Michael Steinhardt turns 77… Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University, Nicholas Michael Katz turns 74… Novelist (15 books), essayist and screenwriter, Susan Isaacsturns 74… Former Israeli Foreign Ministry legal adviser and then Israeli ambassador to Canada, now at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Ambassador Alan Baker turns 70… Campaign chairman for Massachusetts State Senator Eric P. Lesser, member of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee and chair of the Longmeadow Democratic Town Committee, Candy Glazer turns 70… Woodland Hills, California resident, Elaine Kretchmanturns 70… President and COO since 1996 of Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in the US, Richard S. Sokolov turns 68…

Chairman of Loews Hotels and co-owner of the NFL’s New York Giants, Jonathan Tisch turns 64… Pamela Decker turns 63… Teacher in the Elko County School District in the northeast portion of Nevada and local Jewish community leader, Shawn Welton-Lowe turns 54… Co-Founder of Laurel Strategies, a CEO advisory firm based in Washington, formerly at the International Finance Corporation, Dafna Tapiero turns 48… Director, producer, writer, actor and comedian, best known as the director of “Modern Family” and “Life in Pieces,” Jason Winer turns 45… Leading actress in multiple television series including “Roswell,” ” Life Unexpected” and “UnREAL,” Shiri Appleby turns 39… VP and executive recruiter at NYC’s Mission Staffing, Jaime Leiman turns 27… Founder of Dash Dot, an active wear accessories brand, Hannah Fastov turns 27 (h/ts Playbook)… Partner in Cornerstone Venture Partners and founder of “Made in Jerusalem,” Hanan Brand Hannah Vilinsky… Toby Lerner… Jeff Blum

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Daily Kickoff: 10 key moments from Kushner’s appearance at the Saban Forum | Zomlot’s schmoozing skills | Meet Supergirl Naomi Kutin

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SABAN FORUM 2017 — The most anticipated session on the schedule for this past weekend’s Saban Forum featured White House senior advisor Jared Kushner in conversation with Haim Saban. The appearance was Kushner’s first opportunity to publicly discuss the Trump admin’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. As can often be the case with overhyped events, some attendees were underwhelmed with the lack of news that Kushner made. However, those paying close attention were able to pick up some interesting takeaways. Here were a few key moments: 

1. Why did he show up? Kushner was clearly not interested in making much news. Given the recent developments regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s plea with lying to the FBI, Kushner’s strategy seemed to be one of projecting extreme confidence that everything is ok. Of note, Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell was seen in attendance. Although sources claimed to Politico’s Annie Karni that his presence was “simply in Lowell’s off-the-clock capacity as a longtime figure in Washington’s power Jewish community, not as a legal representative.”

2. Making amends with the experts: Back in August, a recording of Kushner addressing Congressional interns was leaked. Yesterday, at the Saban Forum, the President’s son-in-law appeared eager to make up for those comments in which he criticized the Middle East experts who had preceded him. “We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books,” Kushner said at the time. At the forum yesterday, Kushner was overly respectful of the Middle East experts and former diplomats in the room, stressing a number of times, including in his brief opening remarks, “It’s really an honor to be able to talk about this topic with so many people who I respect so much, who have given so much to this issue.” 

3. … that strategy took away a potential talking point: Given that Kushner had a clear objective to show respect for the experts gathered, when he was later pressed by Saban on his team’s lack of experience, instead of noting how the so-called experts have failed until now, Kushner declared “it’s a perfectly qualified team.” 

REPEAT THAT, WILL YA — Saban: “I don’t know how you’ve lasted eight months with this lineup, and it’s impressive that it’s still going. There’s not a Middle East macher in this group. I mean, how do you operate with people who basically — you know, with all due respect, are a bunch of Orthodox Jews who have no idea about anything? What are you guys doing? Seriously I don’t understand this.” Kushner: “I’ll definitely say it’s not a conventional team.” Saban: “Oh, you can say that again, yeah absolutely.” Kushner: “That’s what I said.” Saban: “Well, say it again.” Kushner: “Okay. It’s a perfectly qualified team in the way Haim sees it.” Saban: “How is that?” Kushner: “No, no, I was joking.” [Video]  

4. Beating expectations in one area: The 36-year-old senior advisor even deployed some humor, at one point pretending to pull the administration’s secret peace plan out of his jacket pocket. “We know what’s in plan, the Palestinians know what discussions we’ve had with them, the Israelis know what discussions we’ve had with them,” Kushner stated until Saban interrupted him: ‘So, you can tell us.’ “Okay, so let me start,” Kushner said with a serious face and reaching out to his pocket. He then added with a smile, “We are not going to disclose that today.”

5. Unique recollections on how Kushner and Saban met: During the 33-minute conversation, Saban recalled how he first met Kushner. “We have a guy who runs our foundation, and one day he calls me up and he says, ‘I am putting some documents in storage and there’s a letter from Jared Kushner – from 2010 – praising you.’ I said, ‘Praising me? I don’t know who the guy is. I never answered that letter.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it was about an article — which I hated – in the New Yorker – they shredded me to pieces — and he loved it.’ … And I said, ‘Oops, here we go.’ So I called Jared, and he was very gracious… This is how we met, and I’m glad I did so. We became friends and we exchange ideas on an ongoing basis.” 

Kushner decided to give his version and, in the eyes of some attendees, might have suggested that perhaps Saban wasn’t as confident that Hillary Clinton would win and therefore sought a relationship with the Trump son-in-law. “We were in the middle of a presidential campaign, and needless to say we were on slightly different sides. And then I got a call from Haim Saban, and I said, “What the hell is going on here?’” Kushner recounted. “You said to me, ‘I am very concerned [about the US-Israel relationship]. I don’t know much about Trump and I don’t know what this means for Israel.’ I remember saying that you should hope that Trump wins if you care about the U.S.-Israel relationship because there’d be no better president who could strengthen the relationship and try to cause change in the region if Trump wins, and so I’m not going to put you on the spot at the forum and ask you if in retrospect you’re happy with the outcome or not.” 

6. Not just the Middle East: Kushner made sure to mention his work in strengthening the U.S. – Mexican relationship and noted that it was another issue he and Saban care deeply about. 

7. Is MBS focused on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict? Kushner claimed that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) cares deeply about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. “The Saudis care a lot about the Palestinian people, they believe the Palestinian people need to have hope and opportunity, and this has been a big priority for the King and the Crown Prince,” he said. In a panel earlier in the day at the Saban Forum, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman disputed the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ranks high on the Crown Prince’s list of concerns. “When I first started going to Saudi Arabia in the 90s, you know, you couldn’t go to a private home and the first thing on the table wasn’t Israelis and Palestinians. Today, you can’t go to private home and the first question isn’t ‘red wine or white wine?’ Okay?” Friedman said. “I was there for three days (last month), I didn’t hear the Israel-Palestine thing come up at all, and I tried to engage [MBS] on that; he wouldn’t bite.” 

8. Bringing Linkage Back: Kushner also appeared to revitalize the “linkage” theory that peace is key to solving the broader problems of the Middle East. “I think that if we’re going to try and create more stability in the region as a whole, this issue has to be solved,” he asserted. 

9. What will happen with the Embassy? On the eve of another deadline on the Jerusalem Embassy Act, Kushner said that Trump is still deliberating whether to announce the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. “The president will make his decision. He is still looking at a lot of different facts. He’ll make sure he does that at the right time.”

10. The White House’s approach to other “issues” getting in the way of the ultimate deal: “We’ve been very focused on the deal… You see a lot of reasons why this deal can go south very quickly, and there’s a ton of distractions that come up. My team deals every month with maybe three or four different issues that that’ll come up, and everyone says this is the end of it, if it doesn’t work, and I tell my guys – we’re not chasing rabbits. And they will say, ‘These aren’t rabbits, these are elephants. These are big deals.’ I say that means they’re slower, we’ll get to them after. But a lot of the issues that come up on a daily basis are because of not having a final-status agreement. We try to stay focused on solving the bigger issues.” Question on our mind: Which issues was Kushner referring to? Is it the Taylor Force Act or moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem or reconciliation with Hamas? [JewishInsider• Watch the full Kushner Saban interview here [CSPAN]

HOW IT PLAYED — “Kushner Makes as Little News as Humanly Possible in First Public Appearance Since Flynn Indictment [Slate• Jared Kushner on Stage: Hearing His Voice, at Last, if Little Else [NYTimes• Jared Kushner Responds (Very Briefly) to Flynn’s Plea Deal [TheAtlantic• Barak Ravid: “Kushner wasn’t critical either of Israel or the Palestinians, but some of the points he made are contrary to Netanyahu’s positions.” [Axios]

Brookings Institute’s Tamara Cofman Wittes emails us… “Generally speaking, peace negotiators don’t want to make much news until they can announce an agreement on something, and Kushner made clear yesterday that keeping lips sealed was part of their trust-building strategy with the parties. So it’s no surprise his appearance was 99.8% content-free. The question is whether there is a substantive peace plan underneath the coyness, or whether this is all cover for the fact that they haven’t achieved any common ground; whether, after all their listening tours and quiet diplomacy, it turns out achieving Middle East peace is a lot harder than they thought. We have plenty of examples to teach that doing Middle East peacemaking badly is worse than not doing it at all. Raising expectations they can’t meet, or running into the buzzsaw of highly symbolic issues, can all-too-easily tip this conflict into a crisis. Let’s hope the Trump Administration can at least avoid these sorts of mistakes. ”

Aaron David Miller tells us… “The fact that Kushner said nothing in respect to substance is quite consistent with the way they have been operating. Is it to protect nothing or is it to protect something of real value?”

Michael Koplow, Policy Director of the Israel Policy Forum: “They have done an incredible job of not leaking any details at all. I give him an A+ for the process in terms of staying directly on message… I still don’t buy the argument that if you solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that brings peace to Syria, ends the fighting in Yemen or magically eliminates Iran’s revisionist designs on the region.”

MORE SABAN FORUM HIGHLIGHTS — Tom Friedman: “There is one caution I would have for my Israeli friends and that is — I saw [Minister Yuval] Steinitz talking about Israel talking to Saudi Arabia, and that’s just really stupid… For any Israeli minister to talk publicly about Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia, is just bloody stupid… If Israelis have any interest in seeing [MBS’s] reforms succeed, how about shutting up, you know. I know that’s hard, but I think that that would be my best advice. You are not doing him any favor to get a headline out on that.” [Video]

Netanyahu compares Iran to the Nazi regime in Germany: “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia recently referred to President Rouhani as ‘the new Hitler in the Middle East.’ Obviously, there are some important differences between Nazi Germany and the Islamic Republic of Iran, but both regimes do have two important things in common: one a ruthless commitment to imposing tyranny and terror, and second, a ruthless commitment to murder Jews.”[Video]

MAKING NEWS: Ehud Barak told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that as Defense Minister under Prime Minister Netanyahu, he failed to convince the defense establishment to support an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Barak also said he thought that decertifying the Iran nuclear deal was a mistake. ”It’s a bad deal, but is a done deal,” he explained. [Video]

Moving Tribute to Sen. John McCain, who tweeted: “Humbled to be honored @BrookingsInst’s #Saban17 Forum today. The three amigos were back together on one stage to discuss our critical US-#Israel alliance & the importance of US international leadership.” [Twitter]

SABAN’S MINYAN CLUB: Former Senator Joe Lieberman, retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, WINEP’s David Makovsky, Saban Capital Group’s Fred Gluckman and Amitai Raziel, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Hager Pacific’s David Hager, MK Elazar Stern, Mayor of Efrat Oded Revivi, AIPAC’s Elliot Brandt, Brookings’ Shalom Lipner, at Havdalah on Saturdaynight. [BHOLPic]

Saban Forum guests — including former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and MK Elazar Stern — sing Psalms together: “On the sidelines of the forum, several of the guests on Friday visited the new Museum of the Bible… The guests were seen discussing the various exhibits and at one point, stopping at an overview of Jerusalem to sing a verse from the 23rd Psalm, “Mizmor LeDavid,” to the melody of the late hassidic composer Rabbi Benzion Shenker.” [INN]

TALK OF THE REGION: “Talk of a Peace Plan That Snubs Palestinians Roils Middle East” by Anne Barnard, David Halbfinger and Peter Baker: “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presented a plan that would be more tilted toward the Israelis… The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank… would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants… One Lebanese government official who received a call was most surprised by what he said was a Saudi suggestion that the Palestinians could have Abu Dis, a suburb of East Jerusalem, as their capital.” [NYTimes]

ZOMLOT’S PALS: Yesterday at the Saban Forum, Husam Zomlot, a senior advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was busy chatting with a range of attendees. Zomlot appearing to make a case to White House advisor Jason Greenblatt [Pic] • Zomlot whispering in the ear of UAE Amb. Yousef Al Otaiba [Pic• And finally, Zomlot schmoozing directly with Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli’s Minister for Regional Cooperation [Pic]

“Kushner Is Leaving Tillerson in the Dark on Middle East Talks, Sources Say” by Nick Wadhams and Erik Schatzker: “In recent weeks, Tillerson has attempted to put the brakes on key parts of any potential plan, the people said, saying he does not want the Saudis to get mixed messages from U.S. diplomats and the president’s son-in-law. The White House denied the contention that Kushner isn’t fully communicating with Tillerson and the State Department… Kushner frequently visits the State Department to brief Tillerson about his efforts in the Middle East, but the worry is that, whether by design or neglect, Kushner hasn’t kept the secretary of state or his top aides informed about many of the details of his overseas negotiations. Tillerson has concluded that even Trump didn’t know all of the details of Kushner’s discussions with the crown prince.” [BloombergCNN]

–Kushner told Saban yesterday: “We work with all the agencies very well… people in the State Department and all the different agencies. So we’ve got plenty of lawyers around who are looking to get involved if we need any more help.”

BIG DEAL: “Trump approves National Security Strategy” by Jonathan Swan: “President Trump has signed off on the core elements of the National Security Strategy (NSS). The NSS is as important as strategy documents get. It will explain how Trump’s “America First” mantra applies to the vast range of threats America faces, including Chinese economic competition, Russian influence operations, and the weaponization of space. Sources familiar with the document call it “hard-nosed” and “realistic” — and less ambitious and idealistic than prior efforts. Critics will likely argue it forfeits American values and moral leadership.” [Axios]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Ambassador Ron Dermer talks to Susan Glasser on The Global Politico: “He offered his first public comments on a story that underscored the close alliance between the Trump team and the Netanyahu government: the guilty plea of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn… Dermer confirmed to me that he personally had consulted with the Trump team in the effort to head off the U.N. Security Council resolution rebuking Israel for its West Bank settlements – and urged them to lobby other foreign governments to kill the measure. Dermer said he was “not sure” whether he had spoken directly with Flynn, but acknowledged, “I definitely spoke to officials” in what would become Trump’s administration…”

“In our interview, Dermer praised MBS, as he is known, and said he should be applauded for his “boldness” in carrying out domestic reforms, but the ambassador highlighted another factor that is also putting peace talks back on the agenda: the enemy-of-my-enemy common ground….  the theory of the case behind the Middle East policy Dermer is pushing… is already fairly evident. “The Iranians,” he told me, “want Riyadh for breakfast and Jerusalem for lunch, and they want New York for dinner.” [Politico]

DRIVING THE WEEK — The Palestinian Authority and Jordan launched a diplomatic campaign aimed at stopping President Donald Trump from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move reportedly expected later this week. Over the weekend, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohamed Bin Salman, King Abdullah of Jordan, Egyptian President Sisi, French President Macron, Turkish President Erdogan and the Emirs of Kuwait and Qatar and asked them to intervene with the U.S. on this issue. Meanwhile, the Jordanians have begun consultations on convening an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster dismissed concerns that moving the embassy or recognition of Jerusalem would deal a blow to the administration’s peace efforts. “There are options involving the move of an embassy at some point in the future, which I think… could be used to gain momentum toward a peace agreement, and a solution that works both for Israelis and for Palestinians,” he said on Fox News Sunday.

KAFE KNESSET — Embassy Watch — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: While the PMO is still keeping its distance from the explosive Jerusalem Embassy move or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, some of Bibi’s senior ministers are openly declaring support for the move, despite the reported strong Jordanian and Egyptian opposition. “It’s a very crucial decision and this is a historic opportunity,” Defense Minister Liberman said today. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Retired General David Petraeus at The Simon Wiesenthal Center annual Chicago dinner honoring Leo Melamed: “Our partnership with Israel also makes America safer. Indeed the Israel-U.S. relationship is an asset, not a liability, for our United States… The collaboration between American and Israeli governments brings very significant strategic benefits to both countries.” [Video

FLASHBACK — Petraeus told Congress in 2010: “The conflict foments anti-American sentiment due to a perception of U.S. favoritism toward Israel.” [WashPost]

** 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: Early Uber advisor Bradley Tusk on selling his shares, and the fights he’ll wage in 2018 [TechCrunch• Now on Oracle’s Campus, a $43 Million Public High School [NYTimes] • Israeli serial startup stars of blockchain tech return with QEDit, a zero-knowledge proof diligence tool [TechCrunch]

TALK OF THE NATION: “Greek Orthodox Church Sells Land In Israel, Worrying Both Israelis And Palestinians” by Daniel Estrin: “In a city contested by both Israelis and Palestinians, the story of church-owned land in Jerusalem has always been sensitive. A former Israeli city planner, Israel Kimhi, said he mapped out all the church-owned lands in Jerusalem for an atlas he helped prepare in the early 1970s. But he said the Israeli government censor prohibited the map from being released to the public… Some fear that investors with deep pockets and ideological ambitions — Israelis wanting a toehold in a Palestinian area of the city, or vice versa — might pressure a church into selling a property, giving Israelis or Palestinians one more win in the real estate battle for control in the city.” [NPR]

PROFILE: “Meet ‘Supergirl,’ the World’s Strongest Teenager” by Corey Kilgannon: “During weekend powerlifting competitions, when the crowd is revved up and that bar is loaded with hundreds of pounds — Naomi [Kutin] squats 321 pounds and dead lifts 365 pounds — she turns into Supergirl…“In school plays, I get stage fright, but I don’t have stage fright in powerlifting, even if I’m in front of hundreds of people,” said Naomi, whose modern Orthodox Jewish family follows strict religious rules…Naomi is the subject of a documentary “Supergirl,” to be broadcast Dec. 18 as part of the Independent Lens series on PBS. The Kutins are often the only observant Jewish family at lifting meets, and they bring a large box of kosher food and drinks… Because of Sabbath rules, they do not compete on Saturdays, when many of the female trials are held. Many tournament officials allow Naomi to lift on Sunday with men competing in the heavyweight category.” [NYTimes

SPOTLIGHT: “Success Academy’s Radical Educational Experiment: Inside Eva Moskowitz’s quest to combine rigid discipline with a progressive curriculum” by Rebecca Mead: “To Moskowitz’s detractors, Success’s celebration of standardized test-taking—students attend “Slam the Exam” rallies—is a cynical capitulation to a bureaucratic mode of learning. Success Academy has attracted large donations—in the past two years, the hedge-fund manager Julian Robertson has given forty-five million dollars to the group—and Moskowitz’s opponents say that such gifts erode the principle that a quality education should be provided by the government. Last fall, Donald Trump summoned Moskowitz, who is a Democrat, shortly after he was elected President. Although she declined to be considered as his Education Secretary, she was widely criticized for agreeing to the meeting, including by members of her own staff.” [NewYorker

ISRAEL-DIASPORA RELATIONS: “Has Netanyahu written off liberal US Jews?” by Gil Hoffman: “Netanyahu’s closest confidants were divided on Saturday night about whether or not he believes non-Orthodox Jewry in the US will disappear in two generations… Makor Rishon diplomatic correspondent Ariel Kahane quoted Netanyahu on Friday as making that prediction in closed conversations and saying that Israel had to prepare accordingly. According to the report, Amb. Ron Dermer has been heard making similar assessments recently… The sources said Netanyahu believes that due to the diminishing numbers among American Reform and Conservative Jews, Israel should instead rely for the future on the growing Orthodox population and Evangelical Christians… “To the best of my knowledge, those are not his views,” said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren.” [JPost• Avraham Infeld, the first Jewish Agency community envoy: ‘Israel Has Become the Most Disunifying Force in the Jewish Community’ [Haaretz]

PICK YOUR OP-ED — Ehud Barak in The New York Times… “We Must Save Israel From Its Government: The entire debate… is actually only over the fate of the isolated settlements… Even if it is not possible to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at this stage — and it probably is not — it is obvious that continued construction in those isolated settlements directly damages Israel’s vital interests… In the service of this agenda, Mr. Netanyahu elevated fake news, alternative facts and whataboutism into art forms in Hebrew, long before those terms gained any traction in English.” [NYTimes

Elliott Abrams in Newsweek… “Netanyahu is quietly charming the world: This is no automatic development, but a tribute to the energy, dedication, and perspicacity of Prime Minister Netanyahu. They aren’t just welcoming Israel; they are welcoming him. They are interested in his extraordinary country, obviously, but also in his personal understanding of economic change, of the role of military strength, and of world affairs… Netanyahu’s critics… ought to be honest enough to acknowledge what he has achieved for his country in countering isolation, BDS, and anti-Semitism and greatly widening and deepening Israel’s global ties.” [Newsweek

Kennedy Center celebrates icons without Trump — by Jeff Mason: “Television producer and writer [Norman] Lear, 95, who is famous for producing the hit comedy “All in the Family” as well as “Maude,” “Good Times,” and “The Jeffersons,” said it felt great to become a Kennedy Center honoree. “It probably feels the same as it might have felt at 80. Everything else does,” he quipped. Lear said he was not upset that Trump chose not to attend. “It wasn’t a hand I needed to shake.”” [Reuters

TRANSITION: “Rep. Sander Levin announces retirement” by Brent Griffiths: “Rep. Sander “Sandy” Levin (D-Mich.) announced on Saturday that after 18 terms in Congress, he will not run for re-election next year… Levin’s brother Carl, was also elected to Congress and served as Michigan’s senator from 1979 until 2015. According to the Associated Press, they were the longest-serving sibling duo in congressional history.” [Politico

— Levin’s op-ed: “The voters respected my strong belief that stereotypes and prejudice do not represent the measure of an individual or of a community. In one of my elections, a primary opponent suggested that I could not represent Macomb County because I had never owned a Christmas tree. But I have always felt rooted there.” [DetroitFreeNews

Walter Isaacson writes… “Why I Left DC: I began to believe that one way to counteract the national bitterness, and to regain a spirit of American optimism, was to get local. I could have done it in many places, perhaps even by getting involved with community activities in Washington, but it felt more meaningful to do it in my hometown, where I was shaped. I felt it was time for many of us who had moved to Washington in our youth to go back to cultivate our own gardens. A way to fight against America’s dysfunction would be to tend to the locales where the plague had not yet spread. I became a member of New Orleans’s city-planning commission, took a job teaching history at Tulane, and signed up with some local school organizations.” [Washingtonian]

WEEKEND WEDDING: “The Bachelor’s Erica Rose Is Married! Inside Her Lavish Wedding Ceremony” by McKenna Aiello and Alli Rosenbloom: “The newly minted Mr. [Charles] and Mrs. Sanders tied the knot in a traditional Jewish ceremony at temple Emanu El (in Houston, Texas), a source told E! News… “Erica’s father walked her down the aisle while Erica held her daughter Holland in her arms as they approached the Chupah.” A first, more formal cocktail reception held at their synagogue featured a string quartet and harpist.” [EOnline

BIRTHDAYS: Biographer and winner of the 1980 National Book Award, A. Scott Berg turns 68… Television director and producer, Dan Attias turns 66… Founder, senior Rabbi and lead guide of the Adventure Rabbi program based in Boulder Colorado, Jamie Korngold turns 52… Politics editor at Breitbart California and publisher and founder of FlashReport, Jon Fleischman turns 50… Actor best known for playing Stuart Bloom on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Kevin Sussman turns 47… Founder and CEO of Relativity Media, he has financed more than 200 films representing more than $17 billion in revenue, Ryan Kavanaugh (family name was Konitz) turns 43… Senior regional field director at the ACLU, she was previously a campaign manager at the Center for American Progress, Sarah Baron turns 27… Israeli fashion model, as a 14-year old she became the lead model for Dior, she now works for Dior, Chanel and other couture firms, Sofia Mechetner turns 17… Tony Sarif

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Daily Kickoff: Report — Pompeo to replace Tillerson; Cotton to CIA | Latest on Bibi investigations | Spotted at AIFL Dinner | BDay: William Daroff

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BREAKING NEWS — REXIT REPORT: “White House Envisions Tillerson Ouster From State Dept., to Be Replaced by Pompeo, Within Weeks” by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman: “The White House has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whose relationship with President Trump has been strained, and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, within the next several weeks, senior administration officials said on Thursday. Mr. Pompeo would be replaced at the C.I.A. by Senator Tom Cotton It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Trump has given final approval to the plan… John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, developed the transition plan and has discussed it with other officials.” [NYTimes]

According to a media advisory, Sen. Cotton is expected to participate in a Saban Forum panel discussion this weekend together with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and moderated by Jeffrey Goldberg. The panel is titled “Before Sunset: The Iran Deal and What to Do About It”

DRIVING THE CONVO: “Trump administration considers moving U.S. embassy in Israel” by Vivian Salama: “Israeli media reports Wednesday indicated that President Donald Trump does intend to move the embassy [to Jerusalem] and that a decision could come as early as Sunday. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said those reports were “premature,” adding, “we have nothing to announce.”

“This step would kill the possibility of a peace deal any time soon,” said Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “The Arab states would be furious. The Jordanians would be worried. The Palestinians would walk away from any discussion.” … “I would be surprised if they made an announcement about moving it before they come out with their peace initiative because it would undercut the initiative,” said Dennis Ross, the U.S. point man on the peace process in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. “The problem is everyone sees Jerusalem through an emotional lens and it’s so easy to misportray this.” [NBCNews]

KAFE KNESSET — The View From Israel On The Embassy Move — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Two senior Israeli politicians told Kafe Knesset they believe “this time it is serious,” citing internal pressure from Trump’s evangelical base as the main impetus for the announcement. These officials pointed to the statement by VP Pence earlier this week about the White House “actively considering how and when” to make the Embassy move. On the other hand, this morning King Abdullah II of Jordan already made clear what he thinks about an Embassy move. Other senior Israeli insiders expressed concern that the Channel 2 report itself could have thwarted any intent to make a policy change on the subject at this time.

The latest with the Netanyahu investigations: After months of chasing him around the globe, the Israeli Police have finally caught up to Australian billionaire James Packer and collected his testimony in File 1000, a/k/a the Gift Affair. Packer was questioned this week by Australian and Israeli investigators in Australia. Packer gave his version of events in response to allegations that he partnered with US billionaire Arnon Milchan, to give gifts and presents to the Netanyahu couple. Now, the police intend to question Netanyahu again, and confront him with Packer’s testimony, but according to various reports, they already have sufficient evidence to conclude the investigation and intend to finalize it and submit a recommendation for indictment by the end of the year.

However, there is a race between the Police and Bibi’s Knesset loyalists, coalition chairman David Bitan and MK Dudi Amsalem, who are vigorously promoting the Police Recommendations bill, that is aimed at preventing the publication of Police conclusions and recommendations on criminal affairs involving public and elected officials, and leave that to the Attorney General. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

REPORT: “Netanyahu asked Mubarak to settle Palestinians in Sinai” by Roi Kais: “Former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, confirmed on Wednesday past reports that in 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made him an offer to resettle Palestinians in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as part of a land swap with the Palestinian Authority. According to Mubarak, he flat-out refused Netanyahu’s offer. “During that meeting, I immediately told him in no uncertain terms that I wouldn’t even hear of such offers in that context.” According to… BBC, however, Mubarak did agree to the resettlement plan, as long as it was part of a larger agreement aimed at ending the Israeli-Arab conflict.” [Ynet]

“How Trump Is Going After Hezbollah in America’s Backyard” by Matthew Levitt: “Since it took office, the Trump administration has taken a series of actions against Hezbollah in particular — including indictments, extraditions, public statements and issues rewards for information on wanted Hezbollah terrorist leaders—and officials are signaling that more actions are expected, especially in Latin America…” [PoliticoMag]

ON THE HILL — House hearing focuses on Saudi moves in Yemen — by Aaron Magid: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa clashed on Wednesday regarding Saudi Arabia’s increased involvement in Yemen and Lebanon. Citing reports of Hezbollah activity in Yemen, Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) asserted, “There is simply no way Saudi Arabia would allow for Hezbollah to gain a presence in Yemen and then build up an arsenal and presence on the Saudi border.”

Tamara Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brooking Institute, offered a different viewpoint of Riyadh’s military campaign in Yemen. “The Saudi decision to intervene in Yemen appears impetuous and ill-considered, miring the Kingdom in a military quagmire, producing a nightmarish level of human suffering, and strengthening both Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula and Iran,” she charged.

“The Saudis are no longer willing to prop up Lebanon while it serves as the base for Hezbollah’s military and terrorist activities in league with Iran,” said Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It is not Mohammed bin Salman who is bringing danger to Lebanon, it is not the Saudis who are bringing Lebanon into the region’s wars, it is not Saudi policy that threatens to collapse Lebanon’s coalition politics. It is the actions of Hezbollah, abandoning any national role to act as Iran’s enforcer and foreign legion.”

Ranking Subcommittee member Ted Deutch (D-FL) expressed concern about the Trump administration’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. “I’m worried that the current administration’s sole focus on the strategic relationship, while ignoring other aspects, does not help provide full American leadership on issues vital to the U.S. like human rights in the broader region,” Deutch noted. Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) added, “I’m concerned that he (Kushner) has no idea what he’s doing. He has no foreign policy experience and zero foreign policy credentials,” [JewishInsider]

“Will Israel launch pre-emptive strike against Assad?” by Ben Caspit: “What disturbs the Israeli officers more is the Iranian “Precision [Missile] Project,” intended to provide Assad and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah with the capability to manufacture their own rockets and missiles. As one top Israeli minister told Al-Monitor…, “For that, we would need to consider going to war. That should be a red line flashing brightly at us.” [Al-Monitor]

HAPPENING TODAY: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak will participate in a panel discussion with philanthropist Charles Bronfman and Bloomberg News senior editor Ethan Bronner at an event honoring Bronfman and hosted by Israel Policy Forum in NYC tonight.

SCENE LAST NIGHT: The American Israel Friendship League honored two entrepreneurs-turned-mayors at their annual Partners for Democracy dinner. The event, held at The Plaza Hotel, honored former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and current Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Both mayors delivered prepared remarks and later participated in an off-the-record conversation moderated by new AIFL President Joel Klein.

SPOTTED: Diana Taylor, Patricia Harris, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, Ira Rennert, Ingeborg Rennert, Ken Bialkin, Malcolm Hoenlein, Hart Hasten, former Amb. Dan Gillerman, Consul Gen. Dani Dayan, Richard Stone, Stephen Greenberg, George Klein, Frank Luntz, Shmuley Boteach, Max Karpel, Stu Loeser, Ari Ackerman, Lauren Ackerman, Alex Berger, Dan Smith, Caroline Mehl, Joseph Potasnik, Ken Abramowitz, Guy Franklin, Brachie Sprung, Ari Sprung, Gil Galanos.

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “Mueller’s Prosecutors Are Said to Have Interviewed Jared Kushner on Russia Meeting” by Matt Apuzzo: “Jared Kushner met this month with investigators working for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and answered questions about a meeting with a Russian ambassador during the presidential transition… The special counsel’s interview of Mr. Kushner lasted less than an hour and did not touch on the range of topics Mr. Mueller is investigating. That leaves open the possibility that Mr. Kushner could be interviewed again.” [NYTimes]

“Why the White House can’t get its political act together” by Jonathan Swan: “The Trump White House stands at the doorstep of the 2018 midterm elections with no serious political operation… And the man in charge of the political office, Bill Stepien, is seen by administration officials and conservative leaders as a non-entity — a situation senior Republicans blamed on Jared Kushner, who put him there… “Jared put somebody in there he could keep his eye on,” said a senior administration official. The source added that Kushner took other “ridiculous” political actions early in the administration, including inviting Michael Berland, a former adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, into the Oval Office to brief the president on multiple occasions. A White House official pushed back on the idea that Kushner wanted somebody he could control, saying Kushner has little involvement in the political operation.” [Axios]

“As the West Wing Is Engulfed in Chaos, Ivanka Trump Brings Her Talents to Hyderabad” by Emily Jane Fox: “Ivanka, as she noted, is an entrepreneur moonlighting in D.C. after a unique opportunity opened itself to her… During her year in the West Wing, she has been blamed for both not intervening to stop some of her father’s more incendiary positions and unduly exerting too much influence. “She’s been branding since birth. You think she’s going to stop now that she has the ultimate platform?” one person close to the family told me… The ongoing, ever-shifting parlor game about when the couple will return to New York now has them staying in Washington through the end of the school year—in June, according to four people in their social orbit… That Ivanka is thinking about how all of this can translate into a post-White House life, to people who know her, is unsurprising. “Everything to Ivanka is a business transaction,” one person who has known her since childhood recently told me. “She’s Donald.”” [VanityFair]

“Peter Thiel Turns Down a Senior Intelligence Role” by Rosie Gray: “The PayPal cofounder and billionaire investor Peter Thiel recently withdrew his name from consideration to lead the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board… Thiel informed the White House of his decision earlier this month, said one of the sources.” [TheAtlantic]

“We’re All Part of Trump’s Show” by Bret Stephens: “The president is conducting a kind of meta-politics, the purpose of which is to erase ordinary standards of political judgment. The question is not “How am I doin’?” as the late New York City mayor Ed Koch used to ask. It is, gladiator-like, “Are you not entertained?” Even those of us most aghast at this administration must confess we are.” [NYTimes]

2018 WATCH: “Paul Ryan Cancels Fund-Raiser for Lee Zeldin Over Tax Bill Vote” by Shane Goldmacher: “Several people familiar with the planning for the fund-raiser said the cancellation was designed to punish Mr. Zeldin… The fund-raising lunch event still occurred on Wednesday, but the proceeds now went to Mr. Ryan’s political operation and the National Republican Congressional Committee, rather than Mr. Zeldin’s campaign… Next month, Stephen K. Bannon… is scheduled to headline a fund-raiser for Mr. Zeldin. Arthur Schwartz, a co-host of the December fund-raiser… said Mr. Bannon had agreed to attend after Mr. Ryan canceled on Mr. Zeldin. “It wasn’t a coincidence,” Mr. Schwartz said. “After the speaker pulled out, Steve stepped in to help protect our majority in the House.”” [NYTimes]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Casino Magnate Adelson Loses Appeal of Federal Defamation Suit [LawJournal] • Accelerator for Israeli Startups in Los Angeles Raises $5 Million [CTech] • HBO Head Richard Plepler Says Regulators Need Not Worry About Price Hikes at Network [HollywoodReporter]

TOP TALKER: “Randi Zuckerberg Is Really Angry at Alaska Airlines” by Lisa Marie Segarra: “Randi Zuckerberg said on Twitter Wednesday night that Alaska Airlines workers allowed a man to continue making lewd comments to her during a flight from Los Angeles to Mazatlán, Mexico. The founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, and whose brother is Mark Zuckerberg, posted a screenshot of a letter to Alaska Airlines executives and CEO.” [FortuneMagCNN]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Success Academy boss Eva Moskowitz rips de Blasio for failing to open up classroom space” by Erin Durkin: “Success Academy Charter school CEO Eva Moskowitz ripped Mayor de Blasio for failing to fork over adequate classroom space in a raucous Wednesday rally on the steps of City Hall. Flanked by angry parents, the fiery former councilwoman blasted de Blasio for making a lowball offer on requests of classroom space for new middle schools. “The mayor is waging a war of attrition on the public charter sector,” Moskowitz said.” [DailyNews]

New York Times editorial — Justice Long Delayed for Nazi Collaborator: “The Justice Department says that since 2005 it has won deportation orders for 11 Nazi criminals, but only one was actually shipped out: the notorious John Demjanjuk, who died at age 91 in Germany in 2012… Absent any countries willing to take the others, nine of the 11 died in the United States. That leaves [Jakiw] Palij. He is, as a Justice Department official put it, “the last adjudicated Nazi criminal in the United States” — not to mention a man who should not have been allowed here in the first place.” [NYTimes]

“Nazi Sympathizer Profiled by The Times Loses His Job” by Richard Perez-Pena: “A Nazi sympathizer who was profiled recently in The New York Times and his wife and brother-in-law have lost their jobs, after the article prompted an outpouring of hostility to the restaurant that employed them, both he and the restaurant said… The manager… said that there were dozens of angry, crude and threatening messages and that employees were scared.”[NYTimes

“Russian Orthodox Church Says Last Czar’s Execution Was Jewish ‘Ritual Killing’” by Gayathri Anuradha: “Authorities announced that they would investigate an anti-Semitic theory that the death of the last czar of Russia, Czar Nicholas II in 1918 was a ritual killing after comments by a bishop close to Russia President Vladimir Putin… Chief spokesman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Rabbi Boruch Gorin was quoted as saying Tuesday by Russian news agency, Interfax [In Russian]: “We, as a Jewish community are shocked not only because of the absurdity of such assumptions… This has become a typical anti-Semitic myth, used by anti-Semitic propaganda for several decades.”” [IBTimes

DESSERT: “A Replacement for A Beloved Fish Market” by Alex Israel: “There’s already a replacement lined up for Joon Westside Fish Market, which closed a few weeks ago after being in business 26 years. Boru Boru, a Kosher Japanese restaurant, will replace Joon. The owner, Daniel Zelkowitz, is looking to reach an “underserved market” and believes serving “Kosher food that goes outside of the norm” will draw visitors in from all over the city.” [WestSideRag]

BIRTHDAYS: Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, screenwriter and film director, David Mamet turns 70… Actor, tenor and comedian, well known for his work on the Showtime series “Homeland” (2011-2017), Mandel Bruce “Mandy” Patinkin turns 65… Former US Treasury Secretary (1999-2001) and then President of Harvard University (2001-2006), Larry Summers turns 63… Historian and author of nine books, mostly focused on the US presidency, Michael Beschloss turns 62… Award-winning author, journalist, and co-founder of Berkeleyside, a news site about Berkeley, California, Frances Dinkelspiel turns 58… Actor, comedian and filmmaker, he has written, starred in, directed or produced more than 50 films, Ben Stiller turns 52… SVP for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Federations of North America, William Daroff turns 49… Reporter and editor at The New York Times since 1998 including four years as the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief, she now serves as editorial director of NYT Global, Jodi Rudoren turns 47… Executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Gilad Kariv turns 44… Former model, actress and reality TV star, now legally known as Tziporah Atarah Malkah, formerly Kate Fischer, turns 44… Wall Street Journal reporter who covers New York State politics and government, Erica Orden turns 37… Steve Albert

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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…