Daily Kickoff: Congress urged to act on anti-Semitism, Israel | Schumer’s new title | Itzhak Perlman performs in Pittsburgh

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SCHUMER’S NEW TITLE — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrated the birth of his first grandchild, Noah Melvin Schumer-Shapiro, born to his daughter Jessica and son-in-law Michael Shapiro on Wednesday. The baby’s middle name, Melvin, is in honor of his great-grandfather Melvin Weinshall, who was a cab driver in New York City.

Schumer tells Jewish Insider“In the Old Country, they would have called me ‘zayde,’ but here I want to be called ‘grandpa.'”

DRIVING THE DAY — President Trump departs this morning for the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he will engage in a handful of high-level meetings with foreign leaders. Trump is not expected to sit down with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, although the White Househas not ruled out “any interaction” with MBS at the summit.

ON THE HILL — Senators, Furious Over Khashoggi Killing, Spurn President on War in Yemen — by Gardiner Harris, Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper and Nicholas Fandos: “The Senate voted 63 to 37 to bring to the floor a measure to limit presidential war powers in Yemen. It was the strongest signal yet that Republican and Democratic senators alike remain vehemently skeptical of the administration’s insistence that the Saudi crown prince cannot, with certainty, be blamed for the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi… It took place hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed senators about the Yemen conflict in a classified discussion.”

“The final vote in the Senate is likely to be scheduled for next week — giving the Trump administration time to win back Republicans and hold on to a Middle East strategy that has been largely built around a blossoming partnership with Prince Mohammed… Mr. Mattis and Mr. Pompeo had urged senators against withdrawing military support and warned that doing so could embolden Iran and endanger the United States.” [NYTimes

Jewish groups urge Congressional action on bills related to Israel and anti-Semitism before end of session: The ADL and coalition partners sent a letter to Congressional leaders earlier this week urging the quick passage of two bipartisan bills aimed at targeting anti-Semitism abroad. “We believe action on these bills before Congress ends its session would send an important message that America will not remain silent as international Jewish communities are threatened,” wrote the 72 signatories.

The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act would see a new envoy appointed to the position, left empty since January 2017, while the Combating European Anti-Semitism Act “declares that it is in the U.S. interest to combat anti-Semitism at home and abroad.” The letter was sent to Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

At the same time, lawmakers are hoping to push through votes on several Israel-related bills in the current Congress. Four bills await action: legislation pressuring Hamas to halt the use of human shields against Israel; an act formalizing the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel, which Senator Rand Paul is currently blocking; an anti-BDS bill; and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which has yet to gain the backing of likely 2020 contenders in the Senate — save for Cory Booker, who recently announced in Jewish Insider that he will back it.

Halie Soifer, Executive Director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), tells us… “In blocking legislation that would formalize the historic MOU agreement Senator Paul is standing in the way of something that is in not only Israel’s security interests but also that of the United States because we have shared security interests, and our relationship and the Memorandum of Understanding is mutually beneficial. This is a long-standing effort by Senator Paul to oppose foreign aid against many countries. But this instance is particularly egregious because what he’s doing is not just blocking the vote. He’s blocking something that would otherwise pass by unanimous consent. This is a very strong obstructionist move that could potentially be very damaging to our national security interests.”

Soifer on concerns about Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “The three Democrats, we haven’t actually seen what that will look like in terms of whether it will translate into any sort of legislative reality or have any real implications. We don’t know. And you know, these three women have views on Israel that the Jewish Democratic Council of America has publicly come out against. But we are hopeful that once they arrive in Washington in January and become fully versed in not only U.S. foreign policy but U.S. national security interests, and the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, especially the military relationship with Israel, that their views may change and they may not translate into any sort of specific legislative action.”

RJC’s Norm Coleman emails: “One Republican Senator who opposes foreign aid is impacting aid for Israel. The Democrat Party leadership, however, supported giving over $150 billion to Iran to support its terrorism in the Mideast. The Democrat Party leadership supported an Iranian nuclear deal that represented an existential threat to Israel.”

“In January, a Pew poll found the widest partisan gap ever between how Republicans and Democrats view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Self-described liberal Democrats’ sympathies for Israel have plummeted from 48 percent at the beginning of the century to just 19 percent today. (Coleman quoted a Roll Call report). The lack of support for Israel is not limited to a few Democrat backbenchers. By every measure, the Democrat base is markedly less supportive of Israel today. I lament that reality. Unfortunately, support for Israel is not an applause line at a Democrat party function today.”

RAND’S ITINERARY — On Friday, Sen. Rand Paul will be speaking at an event hosted by right-wing think tank Frontiers of Freedom. The Koch-backed group’s Washington event, entitled “Saudi Arabia and UAE: Regional Adventures and US Interests,” will focus on wars in Yemen and Syria, terrorism funding, and human rights violations. It will also feature remarks from Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, formerly Chief of Staff to Colin Powell and a recent Bernie Sanders foreign policy adviser. Wilkerson is known for making controversial statements about Israel and has frequently argued that Jewish groups have too much influence in Washington. Last March, Wilkerson suggested that Israel was trying to “suck America into” a war with Iran. He has also said that Israel would be eliminated by its enemies and claimed in a 2007 documentary that American foreign policy is dominated by “Jewish lobby” AIPAC.

Republicans vying for key spot on House Foreign Affairs committee — by Guy Taylor: “House leaders are expected Thursday to resolve an internal GOP battle over who gets tapped as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee… “I see the Committee as having a role in promoting the most effective form of foreign policy that can be achieved,” said Rep. Joe Wilson, whom Capitol Hill sources say is the likely front-runner in a close race with Reps. Michael McCaul of Texas and Ted Yoho of Florida. All three are jockeying with the House Republican Steering Committee in hopes they’ll be picked to replace retiring Rep. Ed Royce of California, who had been the Foreign Affairs Committee’s chairman.” [WashTimes]

WHO’S AFTER HALEY? — UN ambassador hunt drags on as top candidate fades — by Gabby Orr and Eliana Johnson: “The hunt for a new United Nations ambassador… has faced repeated delays and is running up against Nikki Haley’s end-of-year departure date… The White House Counsel’s office has not yet been asked to vet anyone for the role… “It seems like this has been the position they could never quite find someone to fill,” said a Republican close to the White House… Trump is now looking at John James, the Michigan Republican who lost his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, for the position… If James fades, Trump could return to Ric Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany… But two sources inside the administration characterized Grenell as a default candidate who would only land the job if the president finds himself in “crisis mode.”  [PoliticoEU]

JERUSALEM EMBASSY — Son of Brazil’s president-elect confirms to Kushner to move embassy — by Herb Keinon: “The question is not whether Brazil will move its embassy to Jerusalem, but when, Eduardo Bolsonaro – the son of Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro – said… during a meeting in the White House with… Jared Kushner… “We don’t know the date for the relocation or when it will happen, but we have an intention to [set one],” he told Brazilian media when leaving the meeting, wearing a hat bearing the message “Trump 2020.” [JPost

National security adviser John Bolton met with Brazil’s far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro at his beachside gated community on the south side of Rio de Janeiro on Thursday. Bolsonaro said after the meeting that he spoke with Bolton about Israel, Cuba and custom duties.

TOP TALKER — Jewish Americans sue Airbnb over West Bank listing ban — by Jonathan Stempel: “A group of Jewish Americans sued Airbnb Inc on Wednesday in U.S. federal court, accusing the home rental company of religious discrimination over its decision last week to remove listings for about 200 homes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The 18 plaintiffs, including Israeli-American families and individuals who said they own or wish to rent affected homes, accused Airbnb of “redlining” Jewish-owned properties while letting Muslims and Christians rent their homes… The complaint was filed in federal court in Delaware, where Airbnb is incorporated.” [Reuters]

Israeli Minister Calls on U.S. Governors to Act Against Airbnb Over Settlement Ban — by Noa Landau and Amir Tibon: “Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan approached five U.S. governors and requested that they “consider speaking out against the company’s decision, and taking any other relevant steps, including in relation to commercial dealings.” … Erdan sent the letters to governors with whom he had previously met: New York governor Andrew Cuomo, California governor Jerry Brown, outgoing Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, Missouri governor Mike Parson and newly elected Florida governor Ron DeSantis.” [Haaretz

“Airbnb’s actions, sadly, have contributed to the rising tide of anti-Semitism that we’ve seen happening all over the world,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)… told the Free Beacon. “They caved to pressure from the anti-Israel boycott movement, which promotes falsehoods in its campaigns against the world’s only Jewish state. This kind of persecution has no place in any society and must end,” Cruz said… Newly elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a former member of Congress, told the Free Beacon he is reviewing a range of options to penalize Airbnb.” [FreeBeacon• Florida leaders blast Airbnb over West Bank rental ban [OrlandoSentinel]

— During an unrelated press briefing in New York yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declined to comment after asked by Jewish Insider if he would follow through with action against Airbnb at the urging of the Israeli government. “I did not see the letter. I will review it, and after I review it, I am going to have a response,” Cuomo said.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — In rare Knesset Q&A, Netanyahu is served soft pitches with a side of admiration — by Amanda Borschel-dan: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played a game of softball on Wednesday at the Knesset as a group of international Jewish journalists and bloggers were given the rare opportunity to ask the Israeli leader “anything.” The group of 150 writers from 30 countries participated in the third Jewish Media Summit…  Asked about the state of the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora, the prime minister turned to another favored topic: the Holocaust and demography. Assimilation, he said, is “chipping away at our numbers” in the Diaspora… However, he forecasts that very soon, the majority of the Jewish people will live in Israel “for the first time since the Second Temple.” … Lauding the country’s “robust demographic base,” he continued, “the bad part is the shrinking of the Diaspora… The disappearance of Jewish identity is what concerns me.” [ToI]

Civil Service Commission drops probe of Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes — by Raphael Ahren: “Israel’s Civil Service Commission this week formally closed its probes into alleged misbehavior by David Keyes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s international media spokesman… According to [a TV] report, Keyes would formally quit his position as Netanyahu’s spokesperson in exchange for the case being closed. The PMO on Thursday did not reply to a Times of Israel query as to whether Keyes was still working for Netanyahu.” [ToI

MUELLER WATCH — Michael Cohen to Plead Guilty to Charge in Mueller Investigation — by Benjamin Weiser, Ben Protess, Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt: “Michael D. Cohen… made a surprise appearance in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday morning to plead guilty to a new criminal charge…  The expected new guilty plea in Federal District Court marks the first time the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has charged Mr. Cohen.” [NYTimes]

Team Trump Had Many Ties to Israeli Intel Firm in Mueller’s Crosshairs — by Erin Banco: “The New York Times reported in October that a senior Trump campaign official, Rick Gates, sought plans from Psy Group, a firm connected to Israeli intelligence… But The Daily Beast has learned that the overtures from Trump world to Psy Group in 2016 were more extensive than previously reported. Former employees said there were at least two other individuals who reached out to the firm during the campaign… Former employees were reluctant to tell The Daily Beast their names in fear they would face retribution from their colleagues and additional scrutiny from the special counsel’s office.” [DailyBeast]

STARTUP NATION — A Plan to Turn New York Into a Capital of Cybersecurity — by Bruce Horovitz: “Cyber NYC will initially be funded by about $70 million in private investments, including from the two Israeli firms: Jerusalem Venture Partners, a venture capital fund; and SOSA, a corporate innovation specialist… Jerusalem Venture Partners has raised over $1.3 billion to create and finance more than 130 companies — more than one-third of them in cybersecurity, including CyberArk, which is one of Israel’s largest cybersecurity companies (Israel is second to the U.S. in terms of overall investment in cybersecurity firms)… Erel Margalit, founder and chairman of Jerusalem Venture Partners… says that his company will oversee much of the business end of the venture. “Most innovation occurs when the two disciplines meet: investors and cybersecurity experts,” he said.” [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: Mic is in talks to sell to Bustle [Recode• Facebook Considered Charging for Access to User Data [WSJ• WeWork’s Adam Neumann invests in cannabis co InterCure [Globes• Apollo Global Management finds TV station partner for Tribune Media bid: sources[Reuters• State-owned Israel Aerospace to partner with Boeing on potential aviation contracts [Reuters• Israel’s Bank Hapoalim to raise more than $500 mln in bond sale [CNBC]

SPOTLIGHT — How Les Moonves Tried to Silence an Accuser — by James B. Stewart, Rachel Abrams and Ellen Gabler: “Saturday, April 28, 2018, was Marv Dauer’s 75th birthday… More than 100 friends, sports figures, casting directors, actors, golf and bridge partners… had gathered to celebrate at a friend’s Los Angeles home. At a V.I.P. table were the biggest names Mr. Dauer could muster: the actor-turned-polemicist James Woods; former Senator Norman Coleman; and Bruce McNall… Then, at about 8 p.m., a star arrived: Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS and one of Hollywood’s most powerful people… Mr. Moonves had never attended Mr. Dauer’s previous parties. So what was he doing there? Four months later, Mr. Moonves was pushed out by CBS’s board after 12 women told The New Yorker that he had sexually harassed or assaulted them… Mr. Dauer says the mogul told him before and after the birthday party, only one woman could bring him down: “If Bobbie [Phiilips] talks, I’m finished.”

“Mr. Moonves… had crossed paths with Mr. Dauer on golf courses and tennis courts. After a mutual friend introduced them, they had lunch, and Mr. Dauer arranged for Ms. Phillips to meet Mr. Moonves… On Dec. 4, six days after The Times contacted him, Mr. Dauer emailed Mr. Moonves: “Leslie — it’s very important you call me.” Moments later, Mr. Moonves was on the phone. It was the first time in years that the two men had spoken… They discussed the possibility of getting Ms. Phillips an acting gig to keep her happy… On May 14, CBS sued its largest shareholder, Shari Redstone, trying to weaken her control of the company. It was a declaration of civil war that meant Mr. Moonves’s conduct would face intense scrutiny from Ms. Redstone’s camp. That made it even more important to keep Ms. Phillips quiet.” [NYTimes]

DEEP DIVE — Prosecutors worked to cut Jeffrey Epstein a break — by Julie Brown: “Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life. But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved… Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.”[MiamiHerald

MEDIA WATCH — CNN Commentator Defends Comments on Palestine After United Nations Speech — by Donica Phifer: “CNN’s Marc Lamont Hill made comments some have deemed anti-Semitic following a speech at the United Nations on Wednesday. The Washington Examiner writes that Hill gave the speech at an event held in conjunction with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People… “We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grassroots action, local action, and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” Hill said… When challenged about the comment on Twitter, Hill responded to say that he believes in a “single secular democratic state for everyone.”[NewsweekWashExaminer]

CAMPUS BEAT — Columbia Teachers College professor’s office vandalized with swastikas, anti-Semitic slurs — by Karen Xia: “The office of Jewish professor Elizabeth Midlarsky, who teaches and researches the Holocaust at Columbia Teachers College, was vandalized with swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs on Wednesday. The incident is under active investigation by the NYPD…  Midlarsky… found the graffiti—two swastikas alongside the derogatory term “Yid”—when she came to her office around 1 p.m. [yesterday], at which point she notified security… All Teachers College academic buildings require ID for entry, either from Teachers College, Columbia, Barnard, or other affiliated schools.” [ColumbiaSpectator]

SPORTS BLINK ― Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce selected the Israel Collective, a Christians United for Israel (CUFI) initiative, as his cause for the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign. “The message for me is just the oneness and connectedness I feel with that land,” Pierce said in a video message. “To go over there and see the difference and to see just exactly how the culture is, I went to Shabbat dinner, I just enjoyed their company and learned so many different customs.” Pierce will wear his Israel Collective-inspired cleats on December 16, 2018, during the Baltimore Ravens’ home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

SCENE LAST NIGHT — Renowned Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at a concert, titled “A Concert for Peace and Unity,” in honor in honor of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting victims. [PicVideo]

REMEMBERING — Randolph Braham, Holocaust Scholar Who Saw a Whitewash, Dies at 95 —  by Sam Roberts: “Randolph L. Braham, who as the foremost American scholar of the Holocaust in Hungary, his homeland, rejected that country’s highest award to protest what he denounced as a whitewash of its collusion in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews during World War II, died on Sunday at his home in Forest Hills, Queens… From 1943 to 1945 he was forced to serve in a Hungarian army slave labor battalion in Ukraine. Captured by the Soviets, he escaped and was sheltered by a Hungarian Christian farmer, Istvan Novak, who was later honored by Israel as a Righteous Among the Nations, an award given to non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews during World War II.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Mayor of Chicago since 2011, he was previously a member of Congress (2003-2009) then the White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010), Rahm Emanuel turns 59… Consul General of Israel in New York since August 2016, following seven years as Chairman of the Yesha Council, Dani Dayan turns 63… Heiress of the UK’s Tesco supermarket empire started by her father (Sir Jack Cohen), philanthropist (especially in Israel) and former Lord Mayor of Westminster, Dame Shirley Porter turns 88… President of Baltimore’s Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Rabbi Sheftel M. Neuberger turns 75… Lou Loomis turns 72… Co-founder of Knowledge Universe and founder of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, he is the younger brother of Michael Milken, Lowell Milken turns 70… One-half the renowned film-making team of the Coen Brothers, Joel David Coen turns 64…

Comedian, actor, television host and, since 2010, a judge on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, Howie Mandel turns 63… Rabbi and author, currently serving as the president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), Rabbi Irwin Kula turns 61… CEO of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, a graduate of MIT with a Masters degree in city planning, Joseph Sternlieb turns 58… Andrea Glick turns 58… Foreign policy and public diplomacy advisor to seven consecutive Israeli Prime Ministers (1990-2016), now a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings Institution, Shalom Lipner turns 53… Louise Rothschild turns 39… Research scientist, focusing on economic field experiments and Silicon Valley policy, Gregory Ferenstein turns 36… Chanoch Ben Yaacov… Abigail Langer




Daily Kickoff: Rand Paul’s rationale for holding back aid to Israel | Inside the Saudi family feud | The $1B company with no offices

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DRIVING THE CONVO — Rand Paul’s rationale for holding back aid to Israel: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is expected to introduce an amendment in the coming days that would limit the amount of U.S. security assistance to Israel, Jewish Insider has learned.

In an exclusive statement issued to Jewish Insider in advance of his proposed amendment, Paul responded to critics from AIPAC and CUFI, who censured him for placing a hold on the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018. “I’m not for foreign aid in general, if we are going to send aid to Israel it should be limited in time and scope so we aren’t doing it forever, and it should be paid for by cutting the aid to people who hate Israel and America,” he wrote. “This is a stance I’ve taken for many years.”

Paul cited comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress in 1996 expressing his desire to see Israel achieve economic independence, presumably allowing for the gradual reduction of U.S. aid to the Jewish state. “In the next four years, we will begin the long-term process of gradually reducing the level of your generous economic assistance to Israel,” Netanyahu said at the time.

Paul calls out AIPAC: “Why are we giving twice as much money to nations that surround Israel, which forces Israel to spend more on defense? We have given billions to Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority. I’ve repeatedly introduced legislation to stop this, only to be opposed by AIPAC and others… Each time I’ve tried to stop giving aid to enemies of the US and Israel, I have been thwarted, often by groups that claim they are pro-Israel.”

In the statement, Paul speculates that the “supposedly” pro-Israel groups “fear a broader debate on whether we should be borrowing from foreign countries simply to send the money to other foreign countries.” Read Paul’s full statement here [JewishInsider]

CUFI Action Fund Chairwoman Sandra Parker responds: “The amendment Sen. Paul is reportedly expected to introduce sounds a great deal like the one he introduced in committee months ago; save Sen. Paul himself, that amendment received no support from any senator in either party. Like most Americans, we place a premium on ensuring our taxpayer dollars are used wisely. That is why CUFI led the efforts to advance the Taylor Force Act and oppose continued aid to UNRWA. Sen. Paul’s decision to hold this bill does not make America safer and does not ensure taxpayer dollars are used most efficiently – quite the opposite. Whether one is guided by liberal, conservative or libertarian values, aid to Israel is fiscally sound, in the national security interests of the United States and keeps with our country’s finest moral traditions.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in a statement to Jewish Insider“At a time when Israel faces unprecedented threats from the Iranian regime as well as from Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists, the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 demonstrates America’s ironclad commitment to the Jewish state’s security and survival. This legislation, which enjoys nearly unanimous bipartisan support, overwhelmingly passed the Senate on August 1, 2018, and then passed the House with amendment on September 12, 2018. While it’s regrettable that anyone would hold hostage legislation to empower the United States to stand with Israel, I am hopeful the Senate will quickly find a way to send this important bill to President Trump to become law.”

Sander Gerber, architect of the Taylor Force Act legislation, emails: “Paul’s foreign aid legislation pretends to attack the moral equivalency argument between Arab terrorism and Israel, but in fact maintains the false ‘linkeage’ argument. The extremes of both parties need to understand that supporting Israel not only promotes American values but sends a message to the world that free societies have each other’s backs.”

RJC’s Matt Brooks: “We have been working very closely over the past several weeks with Sen. Paul to try to resolve this matter. In our conversations, we have made clear that we would like to see a speedy resolution to this and move the MOU funding forward. While Sen. Paul has made clear to us that this isn’t punitive to Israel (Sen. Paul has been a long time critic of foreign aid in general and specifically aid to those hostile to  America), we are concerned that this funding is being used as a pawn in this legislative skirmish.”

“Sen. Paul’s hold is to block a unanimous consent motion to pass this bill. He’s working with Leader McConnell to get a floor vote on this – where this will pass overwhelmingly.  We are working hard to get this resolved either with the opposition to unanimous consent removed or a floor vote soon.”

ON THE HILL — Senate to vote on U.S. military role in Yemen amid anger over Saudi-led war, Khashoggi murder — by Deirdre Shesgreen: “The Senate is poised to vote as early as Wednesday on a proposal to force the Trump administration to withdraw U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen… Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will deliver a classified briefing on Wednesday to senators on Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi’s murder… Their answers to lawmakers could determine the fate of the Yemen war resolution.”

“There’s got to be a price to pay for what has happened,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said unless the two Cabinet secretaries spell out a more forceful response to Khashoggi’s death, he may vote in favor of ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen – a step he has opposed in the past.” [USAToday• 50+ experts and former officials urge the Senate to end US role in Yemen war [Vox]

Why Both AIPAC and J Street Are Celebrating Victory in the Midterms — by Amir Tibon: “The midterm results… is exactly what AIPAC officials were talking about when they warned against relying on Republicans alone to advance pro-Israel legislation. Furthermore, the fact that Congress is divided… makes bipartisanship even more important when it comes to promoting legislation… For J Street, the most important outcome of the midterms is that the group will once again have access to one of D.C.’s centers of power.” [Haaretz]

HEARD YESTERDAY — President Trump in an interview with The Washington Post“[The Saudis] have been a great ally. Without them, Israel would be in a lot more trouble. We need to have a counterbalance to Iran… It’s very important to have Saudi Arabia as an ally, if we’re going to stay in that part of the world. Now, are we going to stay in that part of the world? One reason to is Israel. Oil is becoming less and less of a reason because we’re producing more oil now than we’ve ever produced.”

Elliott Abrams emails us… “This is not at all a surprising statement. People have been asking for years now, since the increase in fracking and in American oil and gas supplies, whether the Middle East is still significant to the United States. The answers include the danger of terrorism from the region, the danger of nuclear proliferation in the region, and the safety of allies such as Jordan and Israel. The president is right, and this is not a new policy.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo writes… “The U.S.-Saudi Partnership Is Vital: Is it any coincidence that the people using the Khashoggi murder as a cudgel against President Trump’s Saudi Arabia policy are the same people who supported Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Iran—a regime that has killed thousands world-wide, including hundreds of Americans, and brutalizes its own people? Where was this echo chamber… when Mr. Obama gave the mullahs pallets of cash to carry out their work as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism?” [WSJ]

DEEP DIVE — The Khashoggi killing had roots in a cutthroat Saudi family feud — by David Ignatius: “An avid courtier who helped King Salman and his son MBS consolidate power… was Saud al-Qahtani, a lawyer and former Air Force member with a penchant for hacking and social media… Saudi and U.S. investigators have concluded that Qahtani, as MBS’s commander of information-related operations, helped organize Khashoggi’s murder… Every Saudi watcher I spoke with believes that MBS is likely to survive in power… The closest thing to a “smoking gun” in the Khashoggi case is that Qahtani is said to have exchanged multiple messages with MBS in the two days surrounding the journalist’s murder. But unless those messages are disclosed, it might be impossible to prove a connection.”[WashPost]

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — Kushner makes White House policy power play — by Nancy Cook and Daniel Lippman: “Jared Kushner is pushing to install an ally as director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council… The front-runner to take the job is Brooke Rollins, an assistant to the president and former top aide to then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry who has worked closely with Kushner on his prison reform legislation… Kushner… has long eyed the policy council as a way to gain yet another platform inside the West Wing, said one Republican close to the White House.” [Politico]

Pence, Kushner huddle with Senate GOP on criminal justice reform — by Jordain Carney: “Vice President Mike Pence and… Jared Kushner met behind closed doors with Senate Republicans to talk criminal justice reform on Tuesday… Senators said Kushner, who has been deeply involved in the Senate talks, didn’t speak during the lunch, instead letting Pence make the administration’s case for supporting the legislation.” [TheHill]

Kushner to receive Mexico’s highest honor — by Rafael Bernal: “Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto will reportedly award White House senior adviser Jared Kushner with the Order of the Aztec Eagle, Mexico’s highest honor for foreigners. Kushner will receive the prize “for his contributions to achieve the negotiation of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA),” according to a statement by Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretariat. Peña Nieto will present Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, with the award on Thursday at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.”[TheHill]

DRIVING THE DAY — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will seek her party’s backing for House Speaker in a caucus meeting today. Some holdouts include nine Democrats from the Problem Solvers Caucus, who are threatening to withhold their votes for Pelosi unless she agrees to change rules so when a bill gets “broad bipartisan support it forces it to the floor,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), a co-chair of the group. Another mini-rebellion came from a bloc of more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers who signed a letter on Nov. 19 saying they would vote for new leadership.

Centrist Group Behind Pelosi Holdouts Plotted to Make Her ‘Bogeyman’ — by Sam Stein and Lachlan Markay: “Behind the scenes, No Labels and its leader, political strategist Nancy Jacobson, have been more skeptical of Pelosi and more willing to try and marginalize her among her members… According to the emails, No Labels chief strategist Ryan Clancy appears to have tried to talk Jacobson down. A direct confrontation with Pelosi would blow back on the group’s congressional allies, he explained… In an email statement to The Daily Beast, Jacobson said she was not aware of any “internal communications” about a campaign against Pelosi… However, Jacobson did note that No Labels had “no relationship with Leader Pelosi but we do have a strong relationship with Senator Chuck Schumer who has met with our group numerous times and who many of our members support.” [DailyBeast

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — U.S. could unveil peace plan at start of 2019: Israel’s U.N. envoy — by Michelle Nichols: “We don’t know the details of the plan but we know that it’s completed. So now the question is when will they submit it. As far as we know they speak with us about the beginning of ‘19,” Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon told reporters… “We always spoke about the fact that maybe we are going to elections in Israel and the issue was whether you present the plan in the middle of a campaign. As it looks now we are going for elections but not immediately… So basically today the president is able to come and present it without interfering in a political debate in Israel,” he said. “If you present it during an election it will be horrendous.” [Reuters]

U.S. demands Palestinians release citizen held for selling land to settlers — by Barak Ravid: “The Trump administration has demanded that the Palestinian Authority release a Palestinian — and U.S. citizen — currently being held in Ramallah. The man, Isaam Akel, was arrested two months ago by the Palestinian General Intelligence Service for allegedly selling real estate in East Jerusalem to Israeli settlers.” [Axios]

A Journalist Was Killed in Mexico. Then His Colleagues Were Hacked — by Azam Ahmed: “Javier Valdez, a prominent investigative reporter, had been shot dead only a day earlier. Then came a sudden breakthrough: According to a text message received by his colleagues, his killers had been detained… The messages were infected with a spyware known as Pegasus, which the Mexican government purchased from an Israeli cyber arms dealer called the NSO Group… The Israeli company claimed it had sold the software only to governments, and said it had measures in place to ensure that its clients followed the ethical guidelines stipulated in purchasing agreements.”[NYTimes]

** Good Wednesday 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: Condé Nast CEO Bob Sauerberg to Step Down[WSJ• The Miseducation of Sheryl Sandberg [VanityFair] • Israel Stocks’ Best Year in Four Unlikely to Be Repeated in 2019 [Bloomberg• Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to double size of Tel Aviv home amid UK visa problems [TheSun• Swiss VC fund Lakestar to invest in Israel [Globes• Mexichem launches Israel tech hub, building on Netafim deal[Reuters• Israel to invest billions to get rail and roads up to speed [Reuters]

STARTUP NATION — A Secret Military Unit Drives Israel’s Surge in Cutting-Edge Tech — by Mehul Srivastava: “The full name for Unit 9900 — the Terrain Analysis, Accurate Mapping, Visual Collection and Interpretation Agency — hints at how it has created a critical mass of engineers indispensable for the future of this industry. The secretive unit has only recently allowed limited discussion of its work. But with an estimated 25,000 graduates, it has created a deep pool of talent that the tech sector has snapped up.” [OZY]

This Software Company Has a $1 Billion Valuation, 700 Employees, and Zero Offices — by Jeff Bercovici: “InVision’s software lets product designers make rapid digital prototypes and seamlessly share them… [Clark] Valberg identified the need for something like InVision while running a creative agency in New York. He became frustrated by the inability to get designers and clients around the same virtual table… Valberg couldn’t afford to compete with [Google] for New York City’s limited supply of coders. So instead he targeted the best engineers in places like Saskatchewan, Wichita, and Phoenix… It worked out so well, Valberg decided to eschew physical offices entirely. InVision’s VP of product strategy works out of a roving Airstream trailer.” [Inc]

MEDIA WATCH — Can Laurene Powell Jobs Save Storytelling? — by Kara Swisher: “Over the last few years, Ms. Powell Jobs, an activist, investor and entrepreneur, has been investing in media companies through her social impact firm, Emerson Collective… I asked Peter Lattman, a former New York Times reporter and editor who is now the managing director of media at Emerson, what the firm’s goals are. “Broadly, we invest in and support super high-quality journalism,” he said. “We are looking at innovative approaches to media and storytelling.” [NYTimes• Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective bought Pop-Up Magazine Productions [Recode]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Why Wisconsin High Schoolers Aren’t Being Punished for Mimicking a Nazi Salute — by Joe Pinsker: “Catherine Ross, a professor at George Washington University’s law school, says when considering students’ First Amendment rights, it’s important to gauge whether what they’re doing or saying could be confused with their school’s official stance on a certain issue… I asked Ross, given schools’ policies on all sorts of other matters… whether a free-speech doctrine that permits a pre-prom Nazi salute to go unpunished is misguided; she responded with a firm no. “Public schools are not only bound by the Constitution, they have an obligation to teach students that constitutional rights are real, not a sham, not something from the days of the founders but for them too.” [TheAtlantic]

Facing Attack, George Soros’s Foundation Will Shut Down in Turkey — by Sarah Mervosh: “Open Society Foundations, the philanthropic group founded by George Soros, announced Monday that it would stop its operations in Turkey… after it became the target of “baseless” accusations that made it impossible to work in the country. The Turkish government has tried to link Open Society to the Gezi Park protests of 2013… “We are deeply dismayed and disappointed that the foundation had to close,” an Open Society spokeswoman, Laura Silber, said on Monday. But, she said, “it became completely untenable.”[NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK — At a sporting event in an Arab capital, an unexpected sound: The Israeli national anthem — by Ruth Eglash: “Judoka [Sagi Muki], who is ranked ninth worldwide, recalled being frustrated the two previous times he competed in Abu Dhabi, when team members were required to cover the Israeli flag on their uniforms with a white patch. Last year, his teammate Tal Flicker was awarded a gold medal with no Israeli flag and no “Hatikva.” This year, the Israelis competed openly, all their national symbols on display… The man Israelis credit for that moment is Austria’s Marius Vizer, president of the International Judo Federation, who had threatened to cancel the Grand Slam if Israel did not receive the same treatment as the 60 other participating countries.” [WashingtonPost]

BOHEMIAN HANUKKAH — Jewish a cappella group Six13 has released a new parody Hanukkah video with a timely twist. The scene-by-scene recreation of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” features lyrics like, “I spin a gimmel, now I’ve got a lot of gelt (Sivivon, sivivon, will you spin this clay dreidel?)” The group performed at President Obama’s last White House Hanukkah party and includes Democratic leader of the 81st Assembly District Eric Dinowitz among its members.

William Shatner reminisces about his Hanukkah traditions — by Amy Spiro: “Shatner, the legendary actor known for playing the iconic Captain Kirk in Star Trek, appears in a new PBS documentary on Hanukkah airing next week. The film, Hanukkah: A Festival of DeLights by David Anton, “traces the evolution of Hanukkah from its origin as a small holiday within Judaism… to one of major prominence in assimilated American Jewish life,” said PBS. Shatner, who grew up in a Jewish family in Montreal, reminisced about his family’s Hanukkah traditions.” [JPost]

Israeli artist beats Gaza rockets into Hanukkah lamps — by Stephen Farrell: “Israeli metal sculptor Yaron Bob… crafts artwork and religious symbols from the metal, selling his creations in Israel and abroad. In the run-up to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, he was busy crafting a monumental hanukkiyah… “The idea of turning rockets into menorahs and hanukkiyot is turning the symbol of death and destruction into a symbol of light, and hanukkiyah is the symbol of light,” Bob said.” [Reuters]

Dutch carpenter who built life-sized replica of the Ark plans to sail it to Israel – by George Martin: “Johan Huibers’ Biblical boat complete with wooden animals, was constructed six years ago at the cost of nearly $1.6million, and is currently a popular attraction in Dordrecht, south of Amsterdam. But Huibers told JTA earlier this month that he wants to take his creation to ‘God’s land’, and is seeking donations from good Samaritans to get him there… Huibers planned to take the ship to Israel soon after its completion, but wildfires in Israel torpedoed the journey.  Now he no longer has the approximately $1.3 million necessary for getting there (the ark has no motor, so Huibers needs to rent tugboats to sail it).” [DailyMail]

MAZEL TOV — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is a Zayde (grandfather) for the first time. His daughter, Jessica Schumer, gave birth to Noah Melvin Schumer-Shapiro. h/t Axios

REMEMBERING — Harold O. Levy, Progressive New York City Schools Chief, Dies at 65 — by Robert D. McFadden: “Harold O. Levy, who as the chancellor of New York City’s vast public school system from 2000 to 2002 waged war on its bureaucracy, created specialized high schools and attracted thousands of new teachers by insisting on higher starting wages, died Tuesday at his home in Manhattan… The son of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, Mr. Levy grew up in New York City, attended its public schools and became a Wall Street lawyer who immersed himself privately for years in state and city education issues.” [NYTimes

BIRTHDAYS: Winner of two Academy Awards, three Emmys and seven Grammys, Randy Newman turns 75… New Orleans attorney and associate professor of trial advocacy at Tulane University Law School, Joel Loeffelholzturns 73… David Letterman’s musical director, band leader and sidekick from 1982 to 2015, Paul Shaffer turns 69… Los Angeles-based attorney, Steven Jacob Barkin turns 66… Chief Operating Officer of American Friends of Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Israel, Judy Rapfogel turns 64… Former judge on the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals and then Homeland Security Secretary (2005-2009), he is senior of counsel at Covington & Burling, Michael Chertoff turns 65… Comedian and former host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central (1999-2015), Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz) turns 56… Tampa, Florida speech pathologist, Nancy Turkel Laskowitz turns 56… Senior United States Senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet turns 54…

Former CFO of Citigroup and then president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America, now CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck turns 54… Editor on the Washington Post’s national desk leading coverage of political enterprise stories and investigations, Matea Gold turns 44… Principal at Chamber Hill Strategies after previous stints at the Podesta Group and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Anna Weinstein turns 46… Writer, public speaker and pro-Israel activist, he is the executive director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, David Nekrutman turns 45… Managing Partner and founder of PR firm, EDGE Partners, Jeremy Wimpfheimer turns 39… Congressman-elect (D-NY-11) from Staten Island, set to take office in January, he served in the US Army (2008-2013) and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, Max Rose turns 32… Chief Field Building Officer at UpStart, she was previously the executive director of Bikkurim, Aliza Mazor… Jude Rabinowitz




Daily Kickoff: Why there’s no Saban Forum in 2018 | Lena Dunham proud of appearing on Jewish-power-couple list | Inside Israel’s Burning Man

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DRIVING THE CONVO — Sign of the times? Middle East experts won’t convene in 2018: For the past 13 years, come December in DC this invite-only gathering of top Jewish and Middle East leaders has been the hottest ticket in town. Held a block away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s not the White House Hanukkah party with long lines and random guests, but the exclusive Saban Forum. Hosted by media mogul Haim Saban, the Forum has served as an annual off-the-record convening of key Middle East movers and shakers since it was launched in 2004. Think AIPAC’s Policy Conference — if only the speakers’ lounge was invited. The Saban Forum has included conversations with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Jared Kushner respectively over the last four years.

The Forum’s featured guest speaker in 2018? There’ll be none. In fact, there will be no gathering at all, organizers revealed in a letter to past attendees. Is the Saban Forum another casualty of the Trump effect on DC’s establishment? Perhaps, but organizers say they are taking this year off to reassess and refresh the format. [JewishInsider]

In a letter to frequent attendees earlier this year, Haim Saban and Natan Sachs of Brookings wrote: “We wanted to let you know that we have decided to take a year off to rethink and reformat the Saban Forum. This will allow us to ensure it can live up to its mission while adapting to the new realities in the Middle East and in the United States.”

Martin Indyk, formerly the Executive Vice President of the Brookings Institute, said the Saban Forum was cancelled simply because the content had gone stale. “The context needed to be renovated or reinvented. It was the same conversation with the same people, more or less,” Indyk told Jewish Insider. “It tended to devolve to the same conversation, especially because there were the same figures for all intents and purposes, on the Israeli side. On the American side, of course, it changed. We went from Obama and Kerry, to Trump and Jared Kushner. That was all different. But it really felt like the conversation wasn’t going anywhere. We were basically ships passing in the night.”

The Trump Effect? — Some believe that the makeup of the Trump administration’s foreign policy team and the fact that the current Israeli government has established its own very close ties with the White House could have played a factor in the decision.

Dennis Ross tells us: “I do believe the Forum would have been held this year if Hillary had been elected.”

Elliott Abrams: “I think that the Saban Forum has suffered from the fact that it was almost entirely center-left to left. There were very few Republicans, there were very few Likud or Yisrael Beitenu people. It’s basically a progressive club, and that’s just not smart because it does not reflect the political reality in either country.”

Indyk says the cancellation of this year’s gathering wasn’t influenced by the Trump administration. “We were able to engage with the current administration. Last year we had Jared Kushner come, which I think was the first time he appeared publicly,” he pointed out. “We had quite a few other officials there from the Trump administration who were not speaking publicly. It wasn’t a problem of attracting the high level people. There was a question of whether there was really anything productive coming out of it.”

Haim Saban emails us: “The Forum not taking place this year had nothing to do with Trump, Hillary or anything else. Been holding the Forum for 14 years. Time to rethink and refresh.”

Missed Opportunity? — “You can’t make the argument that there’s nothing to talk about,” Aaron David Miller of the Wilson Center told Jewish Insider. “Absolutely, there’s a need for such a gathering. On the cusp of what may be the first effort by the administration to lay out a ‘comprehensive’ solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I would have thought that now would be an intriguing, fascinating time to hold this gathering. I think the issue is pregnant with all kinds of material, fascinating politics, security issues and personalities. At a time where there’s so much of consequence occuring, at a time when Israel faces so many security challenges, and at a time when Bibi faces a momentous year, why not have the Saban Forum? This could’ve been one of the more intriguing Saban Forums.”

According to Susie Gelman, Chair of the Israel Policy Forum: “Given how strained our political discourse has become, the opportunities for dialogue provided by the Saban Forum are needed now perhaps more than ever.”

Former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro: “The relationship is always more than just a few people around the president and the prime minister. I hope we will resume the Saban Forum, or something like it, in the years ahead.”

Indyk and Saban say they are in the process of reevaluating the Forum, with plans to relaunch in the future. “We might bring it back in 2019,” said Saban. 

Last week, the Israeli-American Council (IAC) announced that top Democrats — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — will be interviewed by Haim Saban on stage at the group’s conference in South Florida this upcoming weekend. Is this a makeup of sorts for not having a Saban Forum this year?

According to Indyk, the answer is no. “The IAC and the Saban Forum are two different things. I don’t call them apples and oranges. The IAC is for former Israelis living in America. Haim is very much part of that community. That’s his chevra. It’s not an either-or proposition.”

CNN poll reveals depth of anti-Semitism in Europe — by Richard Allen Greene: “More than a quarter of Europeans polled believe Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Nearly one in four said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars across the world… Meanwhile, a third of Europeans in the poll said they knew just a little or nothing at all about the Holocaust.” [CNN]

Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Graham after he tells her to take a tour of the Holocaust Museum — by Avery Anapol: “Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) fired back Monday evening at Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) [for] telling her to “take a tour of the Holocaust Museum” after she compared Central American migrants to Jewish families fleeing Nazi Germany. “This administration has jailed children and violated human rights. Perhaps we should stop pretending that authoritarianism + violence is a historical event instead of a growing force,” she tweeted.” [TheHill• Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter Presence Is a Blueprint for 2020 Democrats [GQ]

Abe Foxman emails us… “The bruhaha over Ocasio-Cortez’s refugee comments seems to be more about her rather than what she said. The Jewish community must be careful not to politicize every reference that may touch our community. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez did not compare the Central American situation to the Shoah. She did not trivialize the Holocaust. She compared the two people who became refugees fleeing their homes due to danger or fear. There is nothing inappropriate in that comparison. If our community overreacts because of politics, we will trivialize our history.”

ON THE HILL — Trump’s foreign policy agenda faces a gauntlet of House Democrats led by New York’s Eliot Engel — by Deirdre Shesgreen: “Rep. Eliot Engel, a mild-mannered Democrat from the Bronx, is drawing up an aggressive oversight plan for January, when he is expected to seize the gavel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. First on his priority list: getting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at his witness table after Trump’s chief diplomat “snubbed” the panel earlier this year… Engel is a staunch supporter of Israel, and he shares the administration’s views that Iran presents a dangerous threat to Middle East stability. But the New York Democrat also says he wants to make sure the Saudis realize they don’t have a “blank check” from the U.S. to commit human-rights abuses.” [USAToday]

Pro-Israel Groups Expose Rand Paul as Blocking U.S. Aid to Israel — by Adam Kredo: “AIPAC… has been purchasing advertisements on Facebook outing Paul as the primary Senate force blocking the reauthorization of the U.S.-Israel security pact… Other prominent pro-Israel organizations, such as Christians United for Israel… [organized] an email blitz aimed at pressuring the isolationist senator to remove his hold on the critical funding bill.”[FreeBeacon]

— A CUFI spokesperson tells Jewish Insider that the group is spending $100,000 on a TV commercial airing on Fox News. The spot questions whether Sen. Paul will stand with Trump and Israel or “stand in the way.”

TOP TALKER — Jared Kushner pushed to inflate Saudi arms deal to $110 billion: Sources — by Tara Palmeri: “President Donald Trump’s reluctance to hold Saudi leadership accountable for the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi stemmed from a partly aspirational $110 billion arms deal between the U.S. and Saudia Arabia that was inflated at the direction of Jared Kushner… Kushner… pushed State and Defense officials to inflate the figure with arms exchanges… Secretary of Defense James Mattis supported Kushner’s effort and ultimately endorsed the memorandum.” [ABCNews]

U.S. promises Israel it will press nuclear watchdog on Iran atomic archive — by Barak Ravid: “The Trump administration has promised Israel it will put pressure on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to examine revelations from Israel about Iran’s nuclear program… Two weeks ago, U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook visited Israel… Israeli officials told Hook the IAEA was dragging its feet over Israel’s disclosures… State Department officials who were briefed on Hook’s talks in Israel told me the U.S. envoy promised his Israeli counterparts the U.S. would press the IAEA on the matter.” [Axios]

TALK OF THE REGION — Jordan faces wave of dissent as government’s troubles mount — by Tom Perry and Suleiman Al-Khalidi: “Adding to the pressures, Donald Trump’s proposed Middle East peace plan has hit a political nerve in Jordan, where millions of citizens of Palestinian refugee origin live alongside native Jordanians. Despite questions over whether the president’s “ultimate deal” will get anywhere, his approach has stirred old fears of any attempt to settle the conflict in a way that would suit Israel but forgo Palestinian rights at Jordan’s expense.” [Reuters]

Palestinians Seek Emergency Arab League Session Over Israel’s Warming Ties With Arab States — by Jack Khoury: “Palestinian Authority officials are seeking emergency sessions of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation over Israel’s increasingly close ties with some Arab countries.” [Haaretz]

Neri Silber writes… “Securing the Peace: For over two decades a significant Palestinian security force—today numbering nearly 30,000 men-under-arms—has been operating west of the Jordan River… Over the past decade, these Palestinian Authority Security Forces, trained by the United States and other international partners, have worked in close cooperation with the IDF to maintain stability. These forces are, in many respects, the most positive aspect of the entire peace process enterprise. Far from being the impediment, security could help set the foundation of an Israeli-Palestinian peace.” [TheAmericanInterest]

Shmuel Rosner writes… “In Israel, War Is for the Weak: Mr. Netanyahu seems to understand something that some of his colleagues, like [Avigdor] Lieberman (with Education Minister Naftali Bennett playing second fiddle), fail to grasp: A right-wing Israeli leader has to gain the people’s trust, and he must do that by demonstrating that he is cautious and considerate. That’s precisely what Mr. Netanyahu did by not rushing into a new conflict in Gaza.” [NYTimes]

2020 WATCH — Michael Bloomberg to visit Iowa as he considers a 2020 presidential run — by Brianne Pfannenstiel: “Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie confirmed that Bloomberg will host a panel discussion and screening of his new film about climate change, “Paris to Pittsburgh.” The event is Dec. 4 in Des Moines… This is Bloomberg’s first trip to Iowa this cycle.” [DesMoinesRegister]

Wall Street’s Case for President Bloomberg — by William Cohan: “Think he would be great for America, and therefore for Wall Street,” one senior banker e-mailed me the other day. “Can’t think of anybody else I’d rather see win frankly.”… The senior banker thinks Bloomberg could win the popular vote, although he’s less sure about the Electoral College. “The number of voters who would want almost anybody (except Hillary) over Trump exceeds the number of core Trumpers,” he wrote.” [VanityFair]

Early-state Dems sound off on 2020 — by Katie Glueck: “From a wattage standpoint, both Sen. [Cory] Booker and Sen. [Kamala] Harris had excellent first trips to the state that gathered a lot of attention,” said a veteran Democratic Iowa operative… Booker and his team, which includes chief of staff Matt Klapper, have been reaching out for conversations with potential staffers in early states.” [McClatchyDC]

The discussion the most popular democratic socialist in America is having over his political future — by Gabriel Debenedetti: “In Washington, there’s still no shortage of [Bernie] Sanders critics within the party, people who see him as a cranky narcissist with a victim complex, or an old, out-of-touch white man with few legislative accomplishments, or someone deluded into thinking his success has to do with anything other than being the alternative to Clinton… Sanders’s advisers fear that he doesn’t fully appreciate how difficult another run will be.” [NYMag]

STATE-SIDE — Governor-Elect DeSantis Visits Broward BMA Jewish Day School: “Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor-elect Jeanette Nuñez… toured the Brauser Maimonides Academy Jewish Day School and attended a school roundtable… “One of the concerns is, unfortunately, the need for school security particularly at these Jewish day schools, given recent events. I’m 100 percent supportive of continuing,” said DeSantis… His other topics of discussion included Florida’s anti-BDS legislation.” [CBSMiamiPic]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Elliott welcomes Alps Electric’s plans to boost shareholder returns [Reuters• Jerry Springer is headed back to daytime TV as ‘Judge Jerry’ [CNN] • In court battle, blockchain firms reveal ties to banned binary options industry [ToI]

Liam Fox to visit Israel to push post-Brexit trade: “British trade minister Liam Fox is visiting Tel Aviv on Tuesday to discuss post-Brexit trade opportunities with major Israeli investors and tech-companies… The trip will also include a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.” [Reuters]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Is Tainted by Crisis After Crisis — by Sarah Frier: “When Facebook was growing quickly and its shares were soaring, Sandberg was lauded for her leadership and meticulous management of relationships… But this year, a series of company scandals and missteps… have caught up to the 49-year-old executive… There are signs she’s already altering her approach, changing key advisers and creating a “strategic response” team to speed her reaction to hiccups that could turn into the company’s next crisis.” [Bloomberg]

PROFILE — Lena Dunham comes to terms with herself — by Allison Davis: “Perhaps because we’re sitting in her room like teenagers, with her mom downstairs, Dunham begins to talk about her breakup with [Jack] Antonoff. They had been set up on a blind date by his sister, the designer Rachel Antonoff, and the comedian Mike Birbiglia. “Jack and I made a couple of Jewish-power-couple lists, which I was proud of,” she says.” [TheCut]

Philanthropist Steve Ballmer’s take on Detroit’s comeback and how he might help —by Sharon Luckerman: “Steve describes himself as an ethnic Jew, not religious, yet he decided later in life to learn more about Judaism as a religion. He studied for a year and a half and had a bar mitzvah in 2015 at Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue. Asked about the effect of the 11 Jews recently murdered in the Pittsburgh synagogue, Steve says, “It caught me by surprise … There was plenty of talk growing up about the persecution of the Jews, and this incident took me back to those times. Maybe I didn’t expect it here. I had a different kind of pain and sadness and outrage.”[TheJewishNews]

BURNING MENSCH — In a land known for war, the Midburn gathering offers a vision of peace and love — by Yardena Schwartz: Midburn is Israel’s version of Burning Man, named for the Hebrew word for desert, midbar… Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, home to the world’s most intractable political conflict, is now also home to the largest and fastest-growing regional Burning Man of all. A celebration of peace and love in a nation permanently at war might sound absurd, but cities like Tel Aviv can be some of the most hedonistic, party-loving places on Earth. Indeed, some Midburners say, it is precisely because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not despite it, that burner culture has flourished so profoundly here… Muad Abd El Hay, a 28-year-old Muslim citizen of Israel, grew up in the predominantly Arab town of Tira. Yet he never really felt at home there… Midburn has given Abd El Hay hope for what lasting peace in his home country might look like. “In this one place, I get a taste of what Israel, my home, could be.” [PacificStandard]

LONG READ — Five Countries Slow to Address Nazi-Looted Art, U.S. Expert Says — by William Cohan: “In 1998… 44 nations agreed to the Washington Principles, a treaty of sorts that committed its signers to making best efforts to return the [Nazi] looted art. But speaking Monday in Berlin… the man who negotiated the principles on behalf of the United States delivered a blunt rebuke to what he characterized as foot-dragging by five countries. “We have made giant strides,” said Stuart E. Eizenstat, an advisor to the State Department, “toward achieving the goals of identifying, publicizing, restituting and compensating for some of the looted art, cultural objects and books, and in so doing, providing some small measure of belated justice to some victims of the Holocaust or their heirs.” But, he continued, “We must candidly confront the unfulfilled promises we solemnly made.” Mr. Eizenstat… said an estimated 600,000 paintings had been stolen during the war and that 100,000 remain missing.” [NYTimes]

TRANSITION — Rabbi Benjamin Berger is joining Hillel International as Vice President for Jewish Education. In his new role, Rabbi Berger will oversee the Hillel U Center for Jewish and Israel Education, charged with leading the growth and development of all Hillel professionals. Most recently, Rabbi Berger served the Director of the Wexner Heritage Program.

SCENE TODAY — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman paid a visit to the Belzer Rebbe and toured the Belz Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. [PicPic]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — The American Jewish Congress, headed by Jack Rosen, honored Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) with the Stephen S. Wise Award at its 100th-anniversary dinner held at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. [Pic]

DESSERT — NYC’s Iconic Carnegie Deli Temporarily Returning — and Serving Up 99-Cent Sandwiches: “The iconic Carnegie Delicatessen is reopening for one week in December, and it’ll be serving up 99¢ sandwiches and sides for even less. The Jewish deli on Seventh Avenue in Midtown closed in 2016, after 79 years of serving up heaps of cured meat to tourists, theater patrons and workaday New Yorkers. But from December 1 to 8, the makers of that ridiculously oversized sandwich will be back with an eight-day popup at 201 Lafayette Street to promote the second season of Amazon Prime Video’s period comedy-drama “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” [NBCNews]

Disney World opened its first-ever Jewish food pop-up at Epcot — but there’s one big problem —  by Aly Walansky: “At this year’s Epcot International Festival of the Holidays at Disney World in Orlando, Florida… there’s a variety of pop-up kitchens with food from various cultures. One of them is L’Chaim! Holiday Kitchen, the first to serve Jewish-inspired food at the festival… The food is mostly traditional items found at any Jewish-style deli in New York, but with one big difference: The food is not kosher, and therefore is not an option for many observant Jews.” [Mic]

Vanilla’s First-Known Use Came 2,500 Years Earlier and Half a World From Where We Thought — by Jason Daley: “Researchers have long believed that the first people to cultivate vanilla orchids were Mexico’s indigenous Totonac people in east-central Mexico about 1,000 years ago, or perhaps even a little longer… That, however, is not the story four small ceramic jugs at Megiddo, an archaeological site in Israel, tell. The jugs were found in an untouched Bronze Age tomb called “Tomb 50,” which dates back 3,600 years…. [archaeologist Vanessa] Linares suggests that three vanilla species, one from East Africa, one from India or one from southeast Asia could have been in use and made it to the Middle East via trade routes in ancient times.”[SmithsonianMag]

BIRTHDAYS: Attorney, insurance executive and real estate investor, Brian J. Strum turns 79… Founding partner of TPG Capital (formerly Texas Pacific Group) and its Asian affiliate, Newbridge Capital, David Bonderman turns 76… Former collegiate (Harvard) and professional (Maccabi Tel Aviv) basketball player, he then practiced corporate law at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in NYC, Louis Grant Silver turns 65… Founder, chairman, and CEO of Starwood Capital Group, Barry Stuart Sternlicht turns 58… CEO of website and blog Time4Coffee, she was previously VP of Global Engagement at Mercy Corps (2011-2017) and a television journalist like her father, Ted Koppel, Andrea Koppel turns 55… Immigration attorney for many celebrities, he was the mayor of Englewood, New Jersey (2004-2010), Michael Jay Wildesturns 54…1996 graduate of the University of Maryland Dental School who worked for the US Navy for three years and now practices in Stevenson, Maryland, Joshua P. Weintraub, DDS turns 49… Co-host of seasons two through nine of Dancing with the Stars and then a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, Samantha Harris (born Samantha Harris Shapiro) turns 45… Executive director for the Alliance for Middle East Peace, he is a contributor at Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Post, Joel Braunold… DJ Levy

Kafe Knesset for October 31

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Netanyahu vs. Ha’aretz “fake news:” Ha’aretz is in the Prime Minister’s Office’s crosshairs, Kafe Knesset learned today, over a story about Netanyahu’s planned participation in the Jewish Federations…

Kafe Knesset for October 30

Monday, October 30, 2017

Hi-Tech Defense: The latest breaking story from Israel today is the destruction of a Hamas terror tunnel from Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, into Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin…

Kafe Knesset for October 26

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Happy Birthday, Daddy: Dozens of Likud ministers and MKs gathered in the cabinet room to celebrate Bibi’s 68th birthday. Perhaps because of the scandalous police investigations underway, no…

Kafe Knesset for October 25

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

TKO on PM immunity: The Bayit Yehudi party put the kibosh on the controversial bill to give sitting prime ministers immunity from criminal investigations. After days of MKs…

Kafe Knesset for October 24

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Pickles and politics: Both PM Netanyahu’s speech and President Rivlin’s speech at the Knesset winter session’s opening meeting yesterday made big waves. Netanyahu’s speech was based around a…

Kafe Knesset for October 23

Monday, October 23, 2017

Welcome back, Knesset: After a three-month summer recess, the Knesset has returned to regular work. As always, the afternoon plenum meeting will be full of pomp and circumstance,…