Daily Kickoff: How Howard Jonas’ “worst mistake” made him billions | Haim hosts Hillary | Inside NYC’s Eruv | Schottenstein’s new sunglasses startup


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SPOTLIGHT: “How Telecom Speculator Howard Jonas Made Billions From Verizon, AT&T” by Thomas Gryta and Drew FitzGerald: “Jonas, who sold a startup to AT&T for $1.1 billion in 2000, just sold another one to Verizon for $3.1 billion. It is a big premium for an obscure company called Straight Path Communications Inc. that has just nine employees and has yet to build out a network. The 60-year-old cut his teeth selling hot dogs in the Bronx, N.Y., at the age of 14, studied economics at Harvard and eventually moved into the phone business with the founding of long-distance provider IDT Corp. in 1990. He used the windfall from his Net2Phone deal to fund an array of ventures including looking for shale oil in Mongolia, publishing “Star Trek” comic books and trying to cure cancer.”

“One of these forays led to the creation of Straight Path. IDT bought a swath of U.S. airwave licenses and other assets for $56 million in 2001 and 2002 from Winstar Communications Inc., which had filed for bankruptcy protection. At the time, Mr. Jonas praised the deal: “It might not top the Dutch settlers buying the Island of Manhattan for twenty four dollars, but it comes pretty close.” The thinking was the Winstar assets would allow IDT to expand its telecom offerings to customers, but the business didn’t develop as expected and led to losses that eventually piled up to $300 million, Mr. Jonas said. “If you asked me two years ago what was the worst mistake I made in business, I would have said Straight Path,” he said this week.”

“Despite his repeated success, Mr. Jonas doesn’t fit the stereotype of a New York investor… On the wall is an original painting by Winston Churchill, an 1878 letter from Thomas Edison, pictures of Mr. Jonas with past Republican presidents and a drawing of him from comic legend Stan Lee. He has a framed check for $37.02 signed by notorious Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky in 1936 to the New York Telephone Company, now part of Verizon… He has family members scattered throughout his businesses, including some of his nine children. His son Shmuel is chief executive of IDT, while Davidi runs Straight Path. Another son, Michael, was involved in the search for shale oil in Mongolia and is chairman of cellphone ringtone maker Zedge.” [WSJ]

LOOKING BACK ON ’16: “New York Playbook Interview: Howard Wolfson” by Azi Paybarah: Was that Bloomberg’s mistake, not staying in one of the two major parties? Wolfson: “No… He had been pro-choice and pro-gun safety earlier in his life… I believe it is fair to say had he not changed his position on those issues, he would not have been able to gain traction within the Republican primary, or not enough traction. Mike is not someone who is ever going to change his position on issues for purposes of politics. He doesn’t fit neatly in a box. On the Republican side, his position on choice and guns makes him suspect. And on the Democratic side, his position on capitalism, wealth and finances make him suspect. In theory, if he was willing to change his position on one of those sets of issues he could have been an extremely competitive candidate in one of those two primaries, I believe.” [Politico] • Ed note: Happy birthday to Howard who turns 5-0 on Sunday!

THANK YOU TOUR: “Hillary Clinton Returns to L.A. for Dinner Event at Home of Haim Saban” by Ted Johnson: “Hillary Clinton attended a private dinner at the home of Haim and Cheryl Saban on Thursday night at an event that sources described as a thank you to 2016 campaign donors and an introduction to her plans to launch a political group, Onward Together. Sources said that the gathering was for about 40 to 50 people, including a number who were major donors during her 2016 presidential campaign… Hillary and Bill Clinton are both in Los Angeles for the graduation of her nephew, Zach Rodham, from USC, sources said.” [Variety]

CREDIT KUSHNER: “Saudis Said to Boost U.S. Ties With $40 Billion Investment” by Dinesh Nair, Keith Campbell and Matthew Martin: “The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund is set to announce plans to deploy as much as $40 billion into U.S. infrastructure, according to people familiar with the matter. The investment may be unveiled as early as next week to coincide with Trump’s visit to [Saudi Arabia]… No final decisions have been made and the announcement may still be delayed, they said… A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the plans were in the works and that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, had played a critical role in the discussions.” [Bloomberg]

DON’T FAULT KUSHNER: “Trump’s attempt to fix the Comey crisis made it worse” by Josh Dawsey, Annie Karni, Eliana Johnson and Tara Palmeri: “Trump told aides and outside advisers that the press shop was failing him and he was displeased that “they don’t know how to defend anything,” in the words of one adviser. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, is also upset with the press operation, according to a close Trump ally.” [Politico]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Rosenstein Pressed White House to Correct the Record on Comey Firing” by Del Quentin Wilber, Aruna Viswanatha and Rebecca Ballhaus: “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pressed White House counsel Don McGahn to correct what he felt was an inaccurate White House depiction of the events surrounding FBI Director James Comey’s firing… Mr. Rosenstein left the impression that he couldn’t work in an environment where facts weren’t accurately reported, the person said… Mr. Rosenstein grew more distressed when, in television interviews that evening, White House advisers reiterated that the decision was made in response to the Justice Department’s recommendation… Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior Thursday denied reports that Mr. Rosenstein had threatened to quit over the White House depiction of the events leading up to Mr. Comey’s dismissal.” [WSJ; Politico]

“Sen. Mike Lee floats Garland for FBI, a move that would skew D.C. Court of Appeals” by David Weigel: “Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)… used a tweet and a morning TV appearance to float an idea… nominating Judge Merrick Garland to run the FBI… Lee quickly got a bipartisan attaboy from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)… The praise from a Democrat stopped at that, for a simple reason: Taking Garland off the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit would open a seat to be filled by Trump. Since Democrats ended the filibuster for lower-court nominees, it would take just 51 Republican votes to replace Garland with a conservative, shrinking the Democratic-appointee advantage on the court from 7 to 4 now to 6 to 5.” [WashPost]

— “Both [VP Mike] Pence and [WH counsel Don] McGahn are said to have seen merit in the idea of Garland as FBI chief, while others in the White House said it was a non-starter given Garland’s affiliation with the Obama administration.” [FoxBusiness

JI INTERVIEW — Jeremy Wynes, the Midwest Regional Director for the Republican Jewish Coalition and formerly AIPAC’s Midwest Political Director, announced this week he is running for Congress in Illinois’ 10th congressional district against Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider. Claiming voters are tired of partisanship, Wynes stresses his background at AIPAC where he worked with both Democrats and Republicans in an interview with JI’s Aaron Magid. “I have close to a decade of experience focusing in a bipartisan way on issues in Congress that are hugely important and we can only solve when both parties are on board,” he said. “Part of what I did, both here in the 10th district and across the Midwest: travel around, advising and briefing Members of Congress and candidates on both sides of the aisle on these critical issues where too often the two sides can’t get together and work on this.”

Q: Congressman Schneider opposed the Iran Deal and joined with Republicans to condemn the UN Security Council vote in December against Israel. What makes you different on Israel?

Wynes: “The 10th district is very unique in that there are a large number of constituents here are very passionate about this issue and the US-Israel relationship. I don’t doubt that Congressman Schneider is a pro-Israel Congressman. But it’s also about to being a leader, and when it comes to the Iran deal, what we have seen over the past few years both when he was in Washington and a candidate is an example of him being unwilling to break from his party in a real meaningful way. Yes, I give him credit for eventually coming out against the Iran deal. Let’s not forget that for a month that both Democrats and Republicans were in the trenches fighting over the Iran deal, we heard radio silence from candidate Schneider on the issue. I would question, if you are going to be a leader on this issue, where was Congressman Schneider or then-candidate Schneider when those of us were in the trenches fighting? Is it leadership to wait a month until the party leadership gives you the ok because you are worried about a partisan primary? I don’t think that’s the leadership this district demands when it comes to this issue.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

“By firing Comey, Trump makes Israel nervous (again)” by Shmuel Rosner: “Israel tended to worry about Barack Obama for somewhat similar reasons. Obama didn’t always bother to update Israel about his intentions. He occasionally chose to surprise Israel with a speech or an action. This habit made Israel less trusting, less prone to rely on American commitments… Israeli leaders, observers, and citizens are now processing the Trump phenomenon and learning to live with it. Some of them – like me – realize that they were fooled by a candidate whom they thought was a man of his word (I believed that the embassy will be moving). Some of them – mainly on the right – must live with disappointment.” [JewishJournal]

THE ‘ULTIMATE DEAL’ TRIP — “Netanyahu wary of Trump’s interest in solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict” by Itamar Eichner and Smadar Perry: “17 Arab and Muslim rulers affiliated with the Sunni camp received invitations Wednesday from Saudi King Salman to participate in a series of summit conferences to be held in Riyadh on June 21 during Trump’s visit to the country. Among those invited were the kings of Jordan and Morocco and the presidents of Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt.” [Ynet

“‘Abbas has decided to sign peace deal with Israel’” by Yaakov Katz: “Since his meeting with Trump last week, Abbas has changed his rhetoric, issuing a number of statements meant to reflect flexibility on previous demands. He has, for example, said that he would renew the talks under Trump’s auspices without preconditions… He has also sent his advisers to the press to declare that the Palestinians are prepared to negotiate land swaps with Israel, a recognition that some West Bank settlements will remain part of Israel in the framework of a future deal. Netanyahu, on the other hand, has largely remained quiet. The strategy within the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem seems to be to wait and hope not to be blamed for preventing the success of the peace talks Trump is planning to restart.” [JPost] • Palestinian Leader Hails Trump’s Mideast Peace Efforts [AP]

AMBUSH? — “Netanyahu Fears Trump’s Cooking Something Big” by Yossi Verter: “The official, who often speaks to the president’s envoy to the Middle East, attorney Jason Greenblatt, said this week he was surprised to hear the rightist, Orthodox Jew, Har Etzion yeshiva graduate’s repeated references to former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s ideas on the peace process. “Several times during my conversation with Greenblatt he said ‘Livni says,’ ‘Tzipi believes,’ ‘in Tzipi’s opinion.’ It’s like she’s become a quasi-mentor. It appears he appreciates her a lot and is very attentive to her views,” the official said with a note of dread in his voice. This relationship isn’t helping reduce the worry level in the Prime Minister’s Office. At the end of March, before the AIPAC conference in Washington, when Greenblatt tweeted he was hosting Livni at home for a Sabbath meal, Netanyahu and his people took it hard. An Israeli official said Livni was… also refuting Netanyahu’s argument about being unable to reach an agreement because of his government’s makeup. Livni told Greenblatt that the Prime Minister was assured of the opposition’s votes in the Knesset… Livni stressed that her meetings with him, including one this week, aren’t held underground but with the Israeli Embassy’s knowledge.” [Haaretz]

“U.S. Ambassador Advises Israeli Officials: Trump’s Serious About Peace, Work With Him” by Barak Ravid and Amir Tibon: “[David Friedman] termed Trump a great opportunity for Israel, someone who greatly wants to help the country, inter alia by achieving a peace agreement with the Palestinians. As evidence of this, Friedman noted that all the people Trump has appointed to deal with the Israel issue are graduates of Jewish religious schools… This week, Friedman met with Trump to receive the president’s final instructions and his best wishes for his new job… Two people who have spoken with Friedman… told Haaretz that the new ambassador has given Trump his own assessment that the chances of achieving a peace deal are slim.” [Haaretz]

“How Trump Can Have an Impact in the Holy Land” by Daniel Shapiro: “Rawabi is the first new, entirely planned Palestinian city in the West Bank, long heralded as the advent of the Palestinian economic future… By associating himself with Rawabi’s future, Trump can instantly incentivize Israeli, Palestinian and Gulf leaders to ensure its success; none will want to be blamed for the failure of a project with Trump’s stamp of approval… It’s hard to find better optics too. Only a short helicopter ride from Jerusalem or Bethlehem, Rawabi’s grand scale will appeal to Trump the real estate developer.” [Bloomberg]

TAYLOR FORCE ACT: “Cabinet source: IDF fears defunding Palestinian Authority will increase terrorism” by Lahav Harkov: “Almost all of Israel’s security and intelligence agencies are opposed to proposed Knesset legislation that would cut off tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority due to its payment of salaries to terrorists imprisoned in Israel, a senior cabinet source told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. According to the source, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit, the IDF, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and other security bodies are opposed to the measure, fearing that a cut to PA funding will lead to an escalation in terrorist attacks.” [JPost

KAFE KNESSET — Interview with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked met her US counterpart Jeff Sessions yesterday for the very first time, concluding a five-day visit to NYC and DC in the midst of the Comey crisis. Shaked told Kafe Knesset that she and Sessions discussed the latest developments at length, and that “it was very interesting to hear his point of view,” although she refused to reveal any more details. Speaking from the train on her way back from DC, Shaked shared some impressions from her visit.

Shaked on the US Embassy move to Jerusalem: “I still hope that the President will stand by his commitment – to his voters and constituents – and move the Embassy. We need to ignore all the intimidation attempts. There will always be fears and concerns – we know that from every significant move we have made in the past, but we have to believe in the move and make it happen. Let us wait for the President’s visit, maybe he will surprise us.”

On the Trump’s push for peace: “We have made our position clear to the Prime Minister and it has not changed. We do not oppose talks so long as there are no preconditions or demands. If they want to talk, they are invited to do so, as long as there are no preconditions. From our brief history in the Middle East, we have seen that after every intensive and significant effort to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, there has been a wave of violence. I am therefore afraid of such a scenario if we go back to intense efforts again.” Read the full interview and today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats at the Senate Intelligence Committee: “Tehran’s public statements suggest that it wants to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action because it views the deal as a means to remove sanctions while preserving some nuclear capabilities. Iran’s implementation of the deal has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year. Tehran’s malignant activities, however, continue.”

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Kushner Companies Backs Out of Chinese Investor Events After Furor [NYTimes; WashPost] David Lichtenstein’s Lightstone Group seeks EB-5 funds for $700M FiDi condo project [RealDeal] Loan for Rubin Schron: Cammeby’s locks down $54M for 614 Sheepshead Bay Road [TRD] • Seth Klarman Sells Innoviva Days After Activist Stakeholder Defeat [Forbes] • How James Packer made six times his money on Macau [AFR] • Former cyber-intelligence sleuths for Israel now work to uncover malicious hackers [CNBC] • Fidelity is betting $65 million that David Tisch’s Spring app can be a department store of the future [Recode]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: “Privé Eyewear shakes up the industry by releasing frames for less than $30” by Rachel Strugatz: “The well-heeled start-up wants to undercut the “under $100” business model that’s dominated eyewear online since Warby Parker hit the scene in 2010 by offering hundreds of styles that cost less than a third of that price. Founder David Schottenstein has tapped a handful of celebrity partners to help spread the word via their respective social media channels and participate in the design and marketing of product. Jamie Foxx, Hailee Steinfeld, Ashley Benson and Jeremy Piven are all partners in the venture. Schottenstein declined to say how much of a stake each has in the company but confirmed they all have equity… Schottenstein — whose family started DSW and whose cousin Jay is head of American Eagle Outfitters — isn’t worried about the pressure on margins the tie-up [with Amazon] will cause.” [LATimes]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Miami Beach board moves forward with citywide casino ban” by Francisco Alvarado: “Fontainebleau owners, led by developer Jeffrey Soffer, are interested in competing for a gaming slots license should the State Legislature authorize a gambling expansion in Miami-Dade County. Currently, gambling is only allowed at pari mutuel facilities and Indian reservations. During the recently concluded legislative session, an update to existing gambling laws that would have allowed more casinos in South Florida did not pass, but Miami Beach leaders still want to move forward with a preemptive strike.” [TRD

“The Ins and Outs of New York’s Eruv” by Allan Ripp: “Every Thursday and Friday, Rabbi Moshe Tauber dutifully travels to Manhattan from his home in Monsey, N.Y. The 43-year-old rabbi and father of 12 usually arrives by 5:30 a.m. He drives as far as 25 miles in the city, his eyes focused well above street level. That’s because he sees what nobody else does. Rabbi Tauber’s job is to keep tabs on the Manhattan eruv, a precisely designated zone that zigzags from 126th Street in Harlem to the bottom of the island and from the Upper East Side to the Lower East Side. Its perimeter is marked by heavy-duty fishing line strung almost invisibly on city light poles 18 feet high… For many of New York’s observant Jews, their enjoyment of the Sabbath depends on Rabbi Tauber. Under cover of the eruv, which symbolically extends one’s residence into the public domain, carrying and pushing are kosher.”

“Two locations will never be certified: Times Square and Penn Station. The number of people passing through both reaches levels the Torah finds unacceptable for eruv inclusion, or so the sages say. The United Nations is also off-limits. Rabbi Tauber noted that the land under the U.N. is not owned by the city but by all member states, making an appeal for a Jewish safe zone unlikely.” [WSJ]

“Rahm, sitting in his old Cabinet Room seat, ponders nature of evil” by Kim Janssen: “Emblazoned with the words “Chief of Staff, January 20, 2009,” the seat that once graced the Cabinet Room in the White House now sits in a conference room on the fifth floor of City Hall — just to remind everyone who’s boss… “I bought it when I left, and it kind of has my tush indented in it, so I keep it,” [Mayor Rahm Emanuel] said in a recent interview, acknowledging he was sitting in the chair at the time. And he rejected the suggestion, first made by his White House pal David Axelrod, that switching from the White House to become mayor had “maybe taught Rahm a bit of empathy.” “I’ve always had empathy and I’ve always cared,” he told interviewer Kai Ryssdal… “David may be right, but he may not be totally right… It’s not like being chief of staff lends itself to public expressions of empathy.”” [ChicagoTribune

TRANSITIONS — Steve LeVine, who has been Quartz’s Washington correspondent, has left the business news organization to become the Future editor at Axios. [TBN]

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has named Rori Kramer its new Director of Government Affairs. Kramer previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Senate Affairs at the State Department. Before joining the State Department, Kramer worked as the Senior Foreign Policy Adviser to Sen. Ben Cardin.

WINE OF THE WEEK — Adir Plato 2013 — by Yitz Applbaum: The Adir Plato 2013 is absolutely stunning. Instead of describing where I was physically when I devoured this bottle of wine, I am going to describe where the wine took me in my imagination. The forest. I was sitting on a damp patch of ground situated in a clearing, fit for a small picnic. It was close to dusk and a bit cold outside. The ground was littered with leaves and birds were howling, out of sight, from the tops of the tall dark trees. I imagined that I sat alone eating a large smoked turkey leg and other smoked meats.

The Adir Plato is a powerful wine. The tannins and complexity are drawn from the 24 months it is aged in new French oak. The result is just short of overpowering. Each flavor-sense in the mouth is put on high alert. There are notes of very ripe blackberries, a slight lemon tartness and of deeply roasted coffee. The wine is made of 90% Cabernet grapes and 10% Syrah. The Syrah has a disproportionate influence on this wine. The nose is of mushroom and mold. Drink this wine with a very close friend. You will talk and think about this wine a lot. [AdirWinery]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAYComposer, songwriter, record producer, pianist and singer, Burt Bacharach, who won three Academy Awards and six Grammys, turns 89… Co-founder and the first CEO of Home Depot, Chairman of the Board until retiring in 2002, Bernard “Bernie” Marcus turns 88… British lawyer and member of the House of Lords until 2015, Baron Joel Goodman Joffe, turns 85… Israeli agribusiness entrepreneur and real estate investor, was chairman and owner of Carmel Agrexco, Gideon Bickel turns 73… World renowned architect and master planner for the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, Daniel Libeskind turns 71… Former member of the California State Senate (2008-2016), following six years as a Member of the California State Assembly (2002-2008), Lois Wolk turns 71… Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo News, previously an investigative journalist for Newsweek and NBC News, Michael Isikoff turns 65… Washington correspondent for the Miami Herald covering the Pentagon, previously a McClatchy reporter, James Rosen turns 62… Romanian-born, made aliyah in 1965, member of the Knesset for Meretz (1999-2003 and again since 2009), Ilan Gilon turns 61… Matthew Hiltzik, founder of strategic communications and consulting firm Hiltzik Strategies, turns 45… Communications officer for the DC-based Open Society Foundations, previously a speechwriter in the State Department (2009-2012) and a reporter for The Hill (2002-2009), Jonathan E. Kaplan turns 45… Member of the US House of Representatives from Colorado since 2009, serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, Jared Polis turns 42 (h/t Playbook)… Digital director at American Action Network and Congressional Leadership Fund, Erica Arbetter turns 25… Analyst in the Boston office of venture capital firm Battery Ventures, Galit Krifcher

SATURDAY: Lawyer, businessman and philanthropist, Sir Sydney Lipworth QC turns 86… Film, television and stage actress, Zohra Lampert turns 80… Actor and producer Harvey Keitel turns 78… San Francisco-born, raised in Israel, UCLA and Harvard Law graduate, author, attorney, columnist and CEO of LRN, a legal research, ethics and compliance management firm, Dov Seidman turns 53… NFL defensive lineman (1995-2002), he has played for the Lions, Jaguars, Patriots, Dolphins, Raiders and Panthers, Josh Heinrich Taves, a/k/a Josh Heinrich, turns 45… UK Labour Party MP since 2010, Luciana Berger turns 36… Software entrepreneur, Google project manager (2004-2007), Facebook engineering lead (2007-2008), co-founder of the collaboration software company, Asana, Justin Rosenstein turns 34… NFL offensive lineman since 2008, he has played for the 49ers, Chiefs, Panthers, Seahawks, Saints, Bears and Redskins, Brian de la Puente turns 32… Actress, writer, producer and director, best known as the creator, writer and star of the HBO series “Girls,” Lena Dunham turns 31… Community Engagement Manager at Google, alum of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Raquel Saxe… Israel Director for J Street since 2012, Yael Patir

SUNDAYFacebook’s chairman, CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg turns 33… Physician, environmental and social activist and politician, she was the Green Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 and 2016 elections, Jill Stein turns 67… Technion professor of computer science, Orna Grumberg turns 65… Founding dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law in 2008, one of the most frequently cited American legal scholars on constitutional law and federal civil procedure, Erwin Chemerinsky turns 64… Los Angeles City Attorney since 2013, previously a member of the California Assembly (2006-2012), the Los Angeles City Council (1995-2001) and executive director of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Mike Feuer turns 59… Author of five international bestsellers on topics such as strategy, power and seduction, Robert Greene turns 58… ESPN’s SportsCenter anchor and football sideline reporter, Suzy Kolber turns 53… Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Howard Wolfson, former Deputy Mayor of NYC, turns 5-0… Managing partner of Alexandria, VA-based MVAR Media and a leading strategist in Democratic politics, Jon Vogel turns 42 (h/t Playbook)… Emmy award-winning executive producer of CNN’s political programming, David Philip Gelles turns 40… Bloomberg Businessweek reporter covering the union movement, labor law and related policies and politics, Josh Eidelson turns 33… Actress who has appeared in nine movies, member of a band called Wardell with her brother Theo, daughter of Steven Spielberg, Sasha Rebecca Spielberg turns 27… Research analyst at SRI International’s Center for Education Policy, former track star and then football player at Harvard, Andrew Ezekoye turns 25… Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Senator Charles Schumer, Alex I. Katz … Senior defense analyst for Bloomberg Government, previously a strategic communications consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, Robert Levinson … Connecticut State Senator Gayle Slossberg (h/t Jeff Wice)…

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Daily Kickoff: How Ben Platt became ‘the toast of Broadway’ | FBI agent: “We’re sitting shiva” | Kushner Cos. nixes planned Hasidic community


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TRUMP TUMULT — “Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey” by Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz and Robert Costa: “[Rod] Rosenstein threatened to resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter… Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and her husband, Jared Kushner — both of whom work in the White House — have frequently tried to blunt Trump’s riskier impulses but did not intervene to try to persuade him against firing Comey, according to two senior officials.” [WashPostNYTimes] • What Rod Rosenstein said about Trump and Russia two months ago [CNN]

“New FBI Boss Could Be More Controversial Than Comey” by Jana Winter and Betsy Woodruff: “For the time being, FBI agents are facing confusion, grief, and anger… “We’re basically sitting shiva,” said another agent, referring to the Jewish mourning period just after a funeral.” [DailyBeast]

Mike Bloomberg writes… “After Comey, Justice Must Be Served: Trump either has no advisers around him with the perspective and wisdom to talk him out of such an ill-fated and grossly incompetent decision — or was unwilling to listen to them. It’s hard to say which scenario is more troubling… it’s time for Congress to get serious about performing its constitutional duties… First, the Senate must insist that Trump replace Comey with an independent and experienced new director, one who will commit to completing any investigations into the president now underway… Next, Congress must appoint an independent commission to investigate Russia’s interference with the election.” [BloombergView]

“And then Henry Kissinger walks in…: 24 hours in the Donald Trump circus” by Chris Cillizza: “The White House press pool was called into the Oval Office just before noon eastern time for what they expected to be a photo op between Trump and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov since the two men were scheduled to huddle earlier today. But it wasn’t Lavrov they found sitting with the president! It was Henry Kissinger, best known for his role as Secretary of State to President Richard Nixon!” [CNN]

Peter Baker‏: “Which White House aide thought the two people Trump should be seen with today are Russia’s foreign minister and Henry Kissinger?” [Twitter]

“Trump is getting closer to collusion with Russia — in Syria” by Josh Rogin:“President Trump’s Wednesday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House was not primarily about sanctions or Crimea or even Russian interference in the 2016 election. According to Trump, the U.S. government now looks favorably on the Russian-Iranian-Turkish plan for Syria.” [WashPost]

IS SPICER NEXT? “Trump holds auditions while Spicer’s away” by Tara Palmeri and Hadas Gold: Stu Loeser, who acted as press secretary under former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said he saw comparisons to the early administration of former President Bill Clinton, who also dealt with drama in his communications shop. George Stephanopoulos, now an anchor for ABC News, was moved to a more internal role from his position as de facto White House press secretary just five months after Clinton’s first inauguration, after a series of bad briefings and missteps. “The parallels, at least at the superficial level, are pretty remarkable,” Loeser said… Loeser said [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders seems to do better with reporters… “It’s undoubtedly true that the press corps like her better,” he said. “But it could be the inadvertent case of good cop-bad cop, where Spicer is the bad cop and she is the good cop. But you shouldn’t forget, a good cop is still a cop.”” [Politico]

FIRST LOOK: “Donald Trump After Hours” by Michael Scherer and Zeke Miller: “…the President says the billionaire Ronald Lauder, a great collector of art, went crazy when he saw the painting of George Washington above the fireplace… This is the part of the job that he has clearly come to enjoy, playing businessman for the American people. He brags about the close relationships he believes he has formed with foreign leaders, complimenting Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel on inviting his daughter Ivanka to speak overseas. He boasts of convincing Egypt’s leader, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, to release several political prisoners, including an American­.” [TIME]

HEARD YESTERDAY – Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, speaking at a Hudson Institute luncheon, said Israel would be “grateful” if Congress passes the Taylor Force Act: “We have been trying for many years to stop it (the payments). The Palestinian Authority funds murders in Israeli jails and as long as you murder more, you get more money. I think President Trump and the Congress, if they will put pressure on it, I will say that the PA may not have a choice and they will have to stop it. Here definitely the United States can help us, and if this step will succeed, we will be very grateful.”

Shaked also appeared critical of Trump’s intense involvement to secure the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians and reaching a final status peace agreement. “Every time there was a peace process and it failed, after that there was a terror wave. If you ask me, I think that if the President is talking about a deal, the economic deal can be much better.” The Jewish Home official also predicted that the Trump peace effort will fail, explaining that she is “realistic.” The gaps between the Israelis and Palestinians are too large, noting the divides over Jerusalem and refugees. [JewishInsider

“Israel, AIPAC reluctant to endorse Taylor Force Act” by Michael Wilner: “The American Israel Public Affairs Committee will not endorse the bill unless it earns bipartisan support… The Trump administration has also declined to endorse the bill, and sources familiar with the administration’s thinking tell the Post they do not expect that to change anytime soon… The president’s team fears pushing the PA too hard at a time when the president wants to reboot direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks… “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu completely supports efforts to hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for the outrage of paying murderers hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” his spokesman David Keyes said. Netanyahu expressed this sentiment to  [Sen. Lindsey] Graham when he was in Washington in February, sources told the Post.” [JPost]

— Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told us in March that he would consider supporting the Taylor Force Act after consulting with the Israeli government [JewishInsider

TRUMP’S ISRAEL TRIP —The London-based Al-Hayat publication reported yesterday that the President is expected to host a trilateral summit with Netanyahu and Abbas during his one-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories after the Palestinian leader agreed to engage in direct talks with the Israeli Prime Minister. Preparations are underway but the exact location where the meeting would take place has yet to be determined, according to the paper, citing Palestinian officials.

“Netanyahu’s Office Postpones Meeting on Settlement Construction Until After Trump’s Visit” by Barak Ravid: “According to [a] senior official, the meeting will be postponed for a few weeks and will take place early in June. “We didn’t want to hold discussions on the settlements close to Trump’s visit,” the official said. “The postponement was necessary.”” [Haaretz]

Dan Shapiro‏: “We worked out very similar arrangements in the weeks leading up to President Obama’s visit to Israel in 2013, which contributed to success.” [Twitter]

Responding to Israeli media reports, WH Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Jerusalem embassy: “The President has not made a decision yet and is still reviewing that… I’m not going to get into the decision-making process. All I can tell you is that he’s still reviewing it and as soon as we have a decision, I know we’ll be happy to report back to you guys.” [CSPAN

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Repeated reports in recent weeks indicate that the President will not live up to his campaign promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Instead, Mr. Trump will sign a presidential waiver next month further delaying the implementation of the law that would move the embassy to Jerusalem. The most recent news report, one coming out yesterday in the right-wing Makor Rishon, stated that the White House has already informed Netanyahu that the decision has been made. The White House and the Prime Minister’s Office both denied the report, but a senior Israeli source told Kafe Knesset that Jerusalem has received messages that this is indeed the case, even though the source stressed that “it is still not official or final, and Trump – being Trump – might still change his mind.”

Another source added that “we are investing all our energy in the Jerusalem issue. Any move or statement recognizing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem will be historical,” also stressing the political impact such a move would bear. “The Right wing base’s expectations from Trump were so high, and the embassy move is an important symbol. If the Jerusalem issue collapses and nothing happens on the visit, the political pressure on Netanyahu will increase dramatically, especially regarding settlement construction.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Give Trump a chance” by Nahum Barnea: “Trump… doesn’t care about the details. In this sense, he presents a challenge to Netanyahu and Abbas. He strives to reach a deal before anything else, and then send the lawyers to finalize the details. That’s how he bought and sold hotels. He sees no difference between one deal and another. If both parties say they want a deal, let them reach a deal and give him credit for it. Otherwise, they will be presented in his tweets as complete liars.” [Ynet

Israeli hard-liner proposes railway link to Arab destinations: ‘It can be a game-changer’ — by David Ignatius: “[Transportation Minister Yisrael] Katz has pitched his plan twice to Jason D. Greenblatt… Katz’s team has also briefed other White House aides and key members of Congress. The plan would take a railway line that dates to Ottoman and British times, known back then as the Hejaz Railway and its Haifa Branch.. The idea is to continue that line to Irbid in northern Jordan and then connect it with a Jordanian rail hub that would stretch north to Damascus, east to Baghdad, southeast to Riyadh and the Gulf, and south to Jeddah and the Red Sea… “We want the U.S. to back this initiative,” Katz told me in an interview this week as he displayed his maps of the proposed rail network for the first time to a U.S. journalist. “It can be a game-changer,” he argued, noting that the Arabs could receive cargo without potential threats to commerce from Iran and its proxies.” [WashPost]

J Street unmoved by Hamas’ new charter — by JI’s Aaron Magid: Hamas officials announced with great fanfare their new charter in Doha last week and received some sympathetic coverage in the European media noting that the Islamist movement accepts a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. However, J Street rejected any suggestions that the move suggested a broader positive change for Hamas. Vice President of Government Affairs Dylan Williams for the dovish organization told us yesterday, “The new language may suggest Hamas is feeling some pressure to move in a somewhat different direction, but doesn’t change the fact that it is a terrorist organization inciting and committing violence against Israel and its citizens. Hamas will continue to be a drag on efforts toward peace as long as that remains the case.” • “Leading Hamas official says no softened stance toward Israel” [Reuters]

** 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: China’s tech money heads for Israel as U.S. welcome wanes [Reuters] • Sheldon Adelson pitches Brazilian president on $8 billion casino [JTA; GamesMag] • Robert Gladstone’s risky business [RealDeal] • Mark Zuckerberg’s Oculus trial transcript reveals his vision for Facebook VR [Mashable] • The holding company, founded by Franco-Israeli tycoon Patrick Drahi, said on Thursday that its quarterly profits in the United States grew ahead of a planned initial public offering (IPO) while those of SFR in France dropped [Reuters] • Darren Rovell tweets: “Must read story from serial entrepreneur and part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Jesse Itzler about buying season tickets he couldn’t afford” [Twitter; Deadspin]

SPOTLIGHT: “Kushners Quit Property Bid as Pressures Mount Over Conflicts” by David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby: “Kushner Cos. had been the leading bidder for the 95-acre formerly contaminated site known as Bayfront, which is co-owned by Honeywell and Jersey City, city officials said. The company had submitted plans to build as many as 8,100 housing units to be marketed to Orthodox Jewish residents of the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn who are being priced out of that neighborhood… On Wednesday, James Yolles, a spokesman for Kushner Cos., said, “A decision was made late last year not to pursue the project because the company was not persuaded by the economics of the deal.” [Bloomberg; Gothamist

HOLLYWOOD: “Megan Ellison-Mark Boal Israeli Terrorism Doc ‘Death in the Terminal’ Lands at Topic” by Tatiana Siegel: “Executive produced by Megan Ellison and Mark Boal, who previously teamed on Zero Dark Thirty, the documentary follows an event that took place Oct. 18, 2015, when a terrorist armed with a gun and a knife entered a bus terminal in the Southern Israeli city of Beersheba. Using surveillance footage and cellphone cameras, the film presents a minute-by-minute Rashomon-style account of the series of tragic events that unfolded over the ensuing 18 minutes. Integrated with eyewitness and participant testimonies, the film exposes a surprising and complex picture that dismantles our preconceptions and challenges our ability to judge these events as they’re revealed in real time.” [HollywoodReporter]

BROADWAY: “How a 23-Year-Old With Mild Anxiety and a Charmed Life Became the Lying, Sobbing, Lovesick Toast of Broadway” by Joel Lovell: “I recently followed Ben Platt up to his dressing room after a Sunday matinee of the Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” He looked worn out. His eyes were puffy and red… Even if you don’t know Mr. Platt, this is the instinctive response to his performance, a nightly display of almost unbearable anguish and likely to earn him a Tony Award on June 11. You’re stunned by the intensity of it, and then you immediately think of the toll it must take on him night after night. It seems impossible to sustain, and yet he’s been doing it now since mid-November, a feat that has made him not just musical-theater famous, but also Met Gala, late-night-TV, Time 100-most-influential-people-in-the-world famous.”

“In a recent phone interview, his mother, Julie Beren Platt, said: “I contemplate Ben’s emotional well-being every day. He’s very mature. But he’s also 23…” Ms. Platt talked about her and her husband’s traditional Jewish upbringing, and how it was important to them to raise their own five children in the same way… Mr. Platt’s lifelong rabbi, David Wolpe, has been close friends with Marc and Julie Platt since college. We talked just after Ben was named to the Time 100 list. “What do you do if you’re one of the most influential people at 23?” Rabbi Wolpe said. “What do you do at 25? Or 30? Or as you truly age? That’s where his family’s wisdom will come in. I think he understands the ephemeral nature of being in time, and the permanent nature of the support that comes from the people who love him.”

“His longtime voice coach, Liz Caplan, comes to his dressing room twice each week. She was there recently, a few days after he’d missed his first performance since 2015. “I got a yeast infection on my vocal cords,” [Ben] Platt said. “I really wanted to get through the run without missing a performance.” It was during Passover, and his entire family, parents and siblings and nephews, were in town to be with him. He didn’t speak for two days. “I whiteboarded my way through the seders,” he said.” [NYTimes

“Trevor Noah Thanks His Jewish Mom” by Maya Klausner: “Noah, 33, was raised by his Jewish mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah, who he spent time thanking in a moving speech at the MTV Movie & TV Awards on Sunday night. While accepting the award for Best TV Host, he singled out his mom for being one of the most meaningful influences in his life… When Noah was a child his mother converted to Judaism (on her own) and raised her son with Jewish traditions… “That was the gift my mother gave me,” said Noah. “I think that was part of her religious pursuits. My mother’s always looking for answers, she is searching for new information.”” [NYBlueprint]

MEDIA WATCH: “The People vs. Haaretz” by Shmuel Rosner: “Tempting as it is, the story of the people vs. Haaretz is not a story of a country whose public is no longer willing to tolerate debate. It is a story about a group within Israel that is losing its ability to communicate with the rest of society and have any chance of influencing its future. It is a story about a group within Israel that finds its relief in provoking the rest of us until we snap.” [NYTimes]

TRANSITIONS — President Trump formally announced yesterday the appointment of Howard Lorber as chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

Ian Cutler, Director of Media Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York, is leaving his post to join RISE, a group which partners with local communities, educators, pro athletes and sports leagues to use sports as a tool for promoting racial equality and tolerance, as its media relations director.

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Young adults gather ’round for Shabbat through OneTable” by Laura Paull: “Created in New York in 2015, OneTable has expanded to seven “hub” regions, including the Bay Area. Users go to the website where folks hosting Shabbat meals post what they’re offering, how many can come, when and where it is. You can see photos of who’s already attending to help you make your choice. Request a seat at the table, and you’ll find out more about your host and other details. Anyone in the target age group can join and membership is free, as are most of the dinners… Philanthropists Paul Singer and Michael Steinhardt (co-founder of Birthright Israel) brought the project to Aliza Kline in 2014 partly in response to the perennial issue of how to keep Jewish youth connected to their heritage in the post-college, pre-parenting years. Kline, a social entrepreneur with a background in nonprofit management, dove into the opportunity.” [JWeekly]

DESSERT: “Unstoppable Poke Trend Has Infiltrated Kosher Dining Scene” by Serena Dai: “The indomitable poke trend is now also available to observant Jews — at least three certified kosher restaurants in New York have started to serve poke or will soon. The newest opening Kureiji is on the Upper West Side at 506 Amsterdam Avenue, as spotted by West Side Rag. It’s apparently a conglomerate of Asian food du jour, serving poke bowls, sushi, and rolled ice cream, the Thai street food that’s been proliferating almost as rapidly as poke restaurants. It will open later this month. In the past year, two other kosher restaurants have also hopped on the poke train. Murray Hill fast-casual restaurant Eden Wok tore down a wall in the space to make room for a create-your-own poke bowl station… after kosher pizzeria Bravo Pizza moved to a new, bigger location in Midtown, it added a poke bar at the back of the restaurant.” [EaterNY]

“Katz’s Delicatessen to Launch World-Wide Shipping Service” by Charles Passy: “For 129 years, Katz’s Delicatessen has served New Yorkers hefty portions of classic Jewish-style fare. Now, it is looking to broaden its customer base and deliver… its corned beef, pastrami and other favorite menu items to Canada and Mexico by the end of the year and to other countries starting in 2018. To that end, Katz’s will soon open a 30,000-square-foot facility in Hackensack, N.J., to process domestic and foreign orders.” [WSJ

BIRTHDAYS: President of Fox Sports National Networks since 2015, Jamie Horowitz turns 41… Comedian Mort Sahl, the pioneer of social and political satire for comics, turns 90… Israeli optical and kinetic artist and sculptor Yaacov Agam (who was born Yaakov Gibstein) turns 89… Canadian television journalist and author, born in Vienna, Austria, survived the Holocaust via the kindertransport, joined the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1966, Joe Schlesinger turns 89… Judge of the International Court of Justice in The Hague (2000-2010), law professor at George Washington University, author of “A Lucky Child,” about his survival in Nazi concentration camps, Thomas Buergenthal turns 83… Canadian lawyer, academic and former Senator in the Canadian Parliament (2005-2009),  previously president of the Montreal-based Federation-Combined Jewish Appeal (1995-1997), Yoine J. Goldstein turns 83…

Managing Shareholder of the DC-based law firm of Carmel & Carmel PC, Frank Joseph Carmel turns 63… Brian Mullen turns 58… CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, William Albert “Bill” Ackman turns 51… Adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, visiting fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, Michael Pregent turns 49… Member of the California State Senate since 2016, his district includes San Francisco and parts of San Mateo County, Scott Wiener turns 47… Pittsburgh-based Special Projects Manager at Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Pamela Eichenbaum turns 31… Staff writer at Time Magazine, she is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Hamilton College, Olivia B. Waxman turns 28… Director of Regional Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in NYC (he previously held a similar post stationed in Philadelphia), Michael Alexander… Howard Pollack

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Daily Kickoff: King David Hotel prepares for Trump | Rod Rosenstein’s office sign: “Don’t tell me what I want to hear” | Rep. Gallagher interview


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DRIVING THE DAY — “After Comey’s ouster, Democrats press for independent probe of Russia’s meddling in election” by Ed O’Keefe: “All Democratic senators have been asked by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to be in the Senate chamber when the legislative day formally begins at 9:30 a.m.Wednesday. The rare early-morning appearance by the entire Democratic caucus is a symbolic attempt to sit, watch and listen as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) makes his traditional morning speech… Schumer is expected to use his morning floor speech to call out Republicans for supporting Trump’s controversial move. Schumer also plans to convene a caucus meeting Wednesday morning so that Democrats can discuss a more formal response, aides said… Under one scenario, the boldest, most extreme step Democrats could take is to drag the Senate to a halt. They could refuse to allow consideration of any legislation or nominees awaiting confirmation votes until Trump agrees to appoint a special prosecutor.” [WashPost]

The one who formally recommended Comey’s removal: “Officials released a Tuesday memo from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, laying out the rationale behind Comey’s dismissal. “The FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice,’’ Rosenstein wrote. “I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.’’” [WashPost; DailyBeast]  

From a 2011 Profile of Rosenstein: “In his downtown Baltimore office, Rosenstein keeps a pristine desk. On one recent visit, it held five papers organized in a neat cascade, and two coffee mugs, one with a DOJ insignia and another depicting Theodore Roosevelt. He has a few photographs of himself with his wife, Lisa Barsoomian, 43, a lawyer at the National Institutes of Health. There is also a photo of a young Rosenstein chipping away part of the Berlin Wall. On prominent display behind his desk is a sign: “Don’t tell me what I want to hear. Just tell me what I NEED TO KNOW.” [WashPost

BEHIND THE SCENES: “Before James Comey’s Dismissal, a Growing Frustration at White House” by Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael Bender and Del Quentin Wilber: “Mr. Trump grew unhappy that the media spotlight kept shining on the director. He viewed Mr. Comey as eager to step in front of TV cameras and questioned whether his expanding media profile was warping his view of the Russia investigation, the officials said. One White House aide, speaking after Mr. Comey’s dismissal, described him as a show horse.” [WSJ; Politico]

Prof. Alan Dershowitz on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon: “Comey lost his credibility… He should have looked in the mirror and said to himself, ‘I am not trusted by Democrats, Republicans, by the American public’ and should have resigned.”

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher: “Like many Americans, I have serious concerns and unanswered questions about the timing of Director Comey’s dismissal.” [Twitter]

JI INTERVIEW — The Pro-Israel Arabic-Speaking Marine Veteran in Congress — Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) discussed his military service and shared his views on the Iranian threat and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an interview with JI’s Aaron Magid. After studying Arabic at Princeton University, the Green Bay native enlisted in the US military and served seven years on active duty including multiple tours in Iraq. Gallagher served as a counterintelligence officer under H.R. McMaster, currently the White House National Security Advisor, for a year. After leaving the military, Gallagher worked as the lead Republican staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee covering the Middle East.

On Trump’s push for Middle East peace: “It’s necessary to recognize that Iranian destabilization of the region, as well as ISIS, are far more important issues than Israeli-Palestinian peace. If Netanyahu and Abbas were on the White House lawn tomorrowwith an agreement, we could live with — it might help — but the broader strategic picture in the Middle East would probably remain largely unchanged. Syria would still be a safe haven. ISIS would still have a caliphate. Iran would still be expanding its influence at the expense of Israel and threatening its existence. Understanding that and getting out of the trap that so many presidents fall into, which is to say that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is the focal point which everything else turns, which of course it does not is how this administration needs to view it.”

Gallagher’s foreign policy mentors: “My first professor on the Middle East at Princeton was a guy named Mike Doran and he provided a gateway into the region and remains a close friend and mentor and we talk all the time. He was incredible. He wrote me my first recommendation to the Marine Corps. H.R. McMaster, I worked for him for a year. He’s the reason I stayed in the military.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]

PALACE INTRIGUE: “The Knives Are Out for Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster” by Kate Brannen: “It’s true that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for McMaster and Trump, but, in many ways, that friction was built into the job from the start. “[McMaster] will always be on the outside looking in from so many circles,” the senior intelligence official said. “He isn’t family. He’s not a Bannon guy, and he’s still surrounded by Flynnstones.” … The NSC is not walled off from the internal power politics of the Trump White House, and staffers reading the tea leaves see they still need to curry favor with people like Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, if they’re to have their voices heard and survive in what one source described as the White House’s “Game of Thrones for morons.”” [FP]

IRAN DEAL: “The World Didn’t Agree to a Nuclear-Armed Iran, Even in 10 Years” by Max Singer: “President Trump does not have to solve the Iranian nuclear-weapon threat during his first term. The deadline for building the coalition with the strength and determination to stop Iran will come after 2020. But he would be wise to use the term to develop the American and international understanding and policies that can create the will and power to stop Iran.” [WSJ]

TRUMP’S ISRAEL TRIP — partial itinerary: The President’s first stop after a welcome ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport will be a “family visit” to the Western Wall followed by lunch at the King David Hotel. Trump will then attend a reception at President Reuven Rivlin’s residence. In the evening, Trump and Netanyahu will have a working dinner at the Prime Minister’s residence. On Tuesday, Trump is expected to deliver a policy speech at the Masada desert fortress, followed by a visit to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Dan Shapiro: “Upside to Trump’ speech at Masada: iconic images, strong message on Israeli security. Downside: Herod comparisons that write themselves.” [Twitter]

— “Questions remain about his visit to Yad Vashem. Ahead of the visit, the Israeli side emphasized the importance of such a visit, despite the fact that Trump is not obligated to do so… The Americans did not sound enthusiastic about the possibility of the president visiting Yad Vashem. At first, they announced that they would be able to allocate about half an hour for such a visit. On the Israeli side, they made it clear that there was no such possibility, as a visit to Yad Vashem would take at least an hour and fifteen minutes. But the Americans insisted. In Israel, they were very disappointed with the answer and still hope that they will convince the Americans to retract it.” [Ynet]

“No red carpet at the King David for Trump” by Greer Fay Cashman: “Confirmation that Trump would be staying at the King David was not received till late last Friday afternoon…  The Americans have made no special requests with regard to how the suite should be set up or what special foods should be served… The Americans have ordered more than a thousand rooms in total which has necessitated closing two other hotels in the Dan chain; the nearby Dan Boutique Jerusalem and the even closer Dan Panorama… Some of the Americans will be staying in other Jerusalem hotels but Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, will be staying at the King David along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster… Among the guests who had to be moved out of the hotel were… Mike Huckabee who had scheduled a large dinner party.” [JPost]

“The curious case of Donald Trump’s 1989 (non-)visit to Israel” by Raphael Ahren: “Oded Eran, a veteran diplomat who worked in the [Israeli] embassy, said he had never heard of Trump coming to Israel. And their boss at the time, then-foreign minister Moshe Arens, also told The Times of Israel that he does not remember ever having been involved in or hearing of plans to host Trump in Israel. The fact that, last year, three decades later, Trump the aspiring politician did not mention having been to Israel during any of his election campaign speeches further seems to suggest that the visit never took place… Neither the Associated Press nor the Israeli Government Press Office photo archives carry any images of Trump in Israel.” [ToI]

“Trump Administration Will Not Move Embassy In Israel To Jerusalem: Report” by Avaneesh Pandey: “Israeli news outlets Arutz Sheva and the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday that the prime minister’s office had not received any notice from the United States about a decision to not move its embassy to Jerusalem. The reports quoted a statement from the prime minister’s office which said: “Israel’s stance is that all the embassies belong in Israel’s capital of Jerusalem, and the U.S. Embassy should be one of the first to move.” Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli news website NRG reported, citing unnamed sources, that the U.S. government had decided to not move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and that the Israeli government had been informed of the decision.” [IBTimes]

Charles Bronfman—author of a new memoir, Distilled—on Trump and Bibi — by Mark Oppenheimer: Do you like Bibi Netanyahu? He’s not my favorite. Never has been. Look, I believe in proactively pursuing the two-state solution because I feel deep in my heart and my guts that failing the two-state solution there is no future for Israel… And yet, Netanyahu has been, is, and will no doubt continue to be a real believer in Birthright! … What do you think of Mr. Trump? Strange person. We don’t know because every day it’s a different Trump. There are things coming out of that White House, and you don’t know what to believe… I obviously wish him well. I really don’t know him. I have never done business with him. I played a round of golf with him. He was a damn good golfer.” [Tablet]

HEARD YESTERDAY – Senator Marco Rubio at the ADL conference in Washington, DC: “In a disturbing echo of Germany’s anti-Jewish boycotts of the 1930s, we also see today’s boycott, sanctions, and divestment movement (BDS), which engages in economic warfare against the Jewish state… These days, as you are probably well aware, it’s difficult to find much that everyone can agree upon in this city. But, the one issue that you will find a united voice on Capitol Hill is on the need to eliminate discriminatory behavior against Israel at international organizations. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and I recently led a bipartisan effort to the UN Secretary General that was signed by all 100 members of the US senate urging him to counter the anti-Israel bias at the UN.”

JI PLUG — ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt during a panel ‘Decoding the News: Navigating Conspiracies, Infotainment & Evidence Free News’: “I am going to make a plug for Jewish Insider, by the way.” Fellow panelist Jeffrey Herbst, CEO of the Newseum: “And I get the Jewish Insider push also.”

“The Princeling in the West Wing” by Jill Abramson: “The oligarchy emerging on Pennsylvania Avenue today is something not seen before. The president, Ivanka Trump and her husband are the three most powerful figures in the White House, and they still profit from companies with billions at stake in global real estate deals… Part of why Donald Trump won is that voters had extreme fatigue about the Clinton family’s ethical problems. His promise to end big-money corruption in Washington was taken seriously by his base. He could put his electoral future at risk by reneging on it.” [NYTimes] • Who is Nicole Kushner Meyer? [TheRealDeal]

“Anthony Scaramucci Thinks The Media is Too “Nosy” For its Own Good” by Bess Levin: “Scaramucci… blamed the hot water Kushner’s family recently landed in on the press being “nosy.” … Every day, Scaramucci told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, journalists “wake up . . . take a dozen eggs out, and say, ‘O.K., who are we going to throw these eggs at today?’ ” Over the weekend, he explained, they decided to throw the eggs at “the Kushner family.”” [VanityFair

“New Veterans Affairs Chief: A Hands-On, Risk-Taking ‘Standout’” by Dave Phillips and Nicholas Fandos: “Dr. [David] Shulkin, by his own admission, is an unlikely choice to overhaul veterans services under President Trump. The son of an Army psychiatrist, he is not a veteran — a first for the head of the agency. And when Dr. Shulkin led the medical side of the department in the Obama administration, Mr. Trump regularly criticized the agency — and by association Dr. Shulkin — as corrupt and incompetent… He was recommended by Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, who knows Dr. Shulkin personally, according to a White House official familiar with the process.” [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: Ziel Feldman’s HFZ Capital Group closes on $1.25B construction loan for Chelsea megaproject [TRD• The Nakash family and New York investment firm Gindi Capital bought the Smith & Wollensky building in Las Vegas for $59.5 million [ReviewJournal] • Dealmaker Weinberg Cracks Ranks of Best Paid Executives for 2016 [Bloomberg] • Hank Greenberg loses appeal over AIG’s 2008 bailout [NYPost• Israeli defense firm opens new national HQ in Howard County [BizJournals] • Billionaire Carl Icahn Loses $179 Million on Hertz Double Down [Bloomberg]

“Democratic Senators call for probe into Icahn’s biofuel credit dealings” by Timothy Gardner, Chris Prentice and Jarrett Renshaw: ““We are writing to request that your agencies investigate whether Carl Icahn violated insider trading laws, anti-market manipulation laws, or any other relevant laws based on his recent actions in the market for renewable fuel credits,” the senators said in a letter to the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency… Icahn became an unpaid adviser to Trump on regulation shortly after November’s presidential election.” [Reuters

“On Goldman alums in government, Blankfein says he worries about how it might look” by Evelyn Cheng: “I’m “a little apprehensive about it because for fear of how it might look,” Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, said on CNBC… Still, Blankfein is proud that President Donald Trump chose so many former Goldman bankers for his administration… “My blink reaction is a sense of pride that again another person who wasn’t necessarily friendly to our institution in his campaign recognized the talent of these people,” Blankfein said.” [CNBC]

“Inside The Employment Agreement Of Secretive Hedge Fund Renaissance Technologies” by Nathan Vardi: “A research scientist and senior level employee who worked out of his Pennsylvania home, [David] Magerman’s base salary at Renaissance was $251,212. Magerman claims his algorithms made billions of dollars for Renaissance and the bulk of his compensation came from the bonus he was paid semiannually, two installments based on the firm’s performance made on June 30 and December 31… His noncompetition agreement prevented Magerman from working for one year after leaving Renaissance for any firm engaged in the business of mathematically-based trading of futures and securities. Magerman also agreed that upon being terminated he would immediately hand over all of Renaissance’s confidential information in his possession, including models and algorithms.” [Forbes

Michael Bloomberg talks to Katie Couric about the challenge of saving the world — KC: What was one of the first causes you remember getting involved in? MB: “Johns Hopkins. I had gotten interested in Hopkins and public health. And then when I became chairman of the board I really became interested in it. My love of Hopkins is that, number one, they gave me an education, obviously. Number two, I’ve always respected what they do for the community and what they do for the world. Hopkins has a defense laboratory, one of the biggest in the country. We have an obligation as Americans to help defend this country, and a lot of universities would walk away from that kind of stuff, but Hopkins never did.” KC: They must be pretty jazzed that they accepted a young Mike Bloomberg. Best decision they ever made! MB: “They’re going to set up three statues: one to Johns Hopkins, one to me, but the biggest to the admissions officer who took me.” [Town&Country

PROFILE: “This Jewish attorney general is leading the Trump resistance” by Ron Kampeas: “My work for justice is very much grounded in what I see as the Jewish tradition’s commitment to justice,” [New York AG Eric Schneiderman] told JTA recently in his lower Manhattan office. Schneiderman switched handily into Hebrew and used the two biblical terms for justice, saying that “’mishpat’ and ‘tzedek’ are spoken of in the books of Moses.” … Schneiderman, who attends services at B’nai Jeshurun, an independent Manhattan synagogue, works closely with the city’s Jewish establishment. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, the executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis, said Schneiderman was always thoroughly prepared before taking on an adversary. “He looks at the Torah, the weekly portion, and he also looks at the haftarah,” the reading from the books of prophets, Potasnik said, using a metaphor for studiousness.” [JTA

KAFE KNESSET — Mabat’s unexpected finale — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: James Comey was not the only one who received a surprise dismissal notice on Tuesday. Last night, less than an hour before the Israel Broadcast Authority’s nightly TV news program Mabat was set to go on the air, its workers found out that the broadcast was going to be the finale for the show that has been on the air since 1968. In a Knesset meeting working on the public broadcast reform – final vote is tonight – David Hahn, who is responsible for dismantling the IBA, announced it would stop regular TV and radio broadcasts and most of its workers would be going home immediately.

The IBA workers thought they would have until Monday, when the Israel Broadcast Corporation is supposed to take the IBA’s place, so they were stunned. Veteran anchor Geula Even-Sa’ar was hosting the news magazine before Mabat when the news came in and broke down in tears; the program had to switch to a pre-recorded segment. During Mabat, almost every reporter had something to say, and the broadcast ended with the journalists and crew singing “Hatikvah.” The general consensus was that the way the IBA was shut down, at the last minute with no warning, was cruel. So much so, that the Prime Minister’s Office sent out a clarification that Netanyahu had nothing to do with the “undignified and disrespectful” way that it was done, only found out about it from the media, and that the PM did not have the authority to change it. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider] • Israeli government shutters state news show with just an hour’s notice [WashPost]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Holocaust Survivors in Poland Find Restitution Claims ‘Like a Carousel’” by Nina Siegal: “Poland is the only European Union nation that has not established formal procedures to resolve claims made by people whose property was seized during the Holocaust, according to a new report by the European Shoah Legacy Institute, based in Prague.” [NYTimes]

“ACLU files lawsuit against corrections, demanding kosher meals for Jewish inmates” by Ruth Brown: “The lawsuit, filed by four Jewish prisoners, asks the judge for what’s called a preliminary injunction, which would require IDOC to provide kosher meals immediately… The ACLU reported that during Passover last month, two of the plaintiffs ate only fruit and matzo because IDOC allegedly did not provide meals that were kosher for Passover… The class action lawsuit claims that IDOC has violated the prisoners’ constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and to equal protection, claiming that IDOC provides meals that meet the dietary requirements of all but the Jewish religion.” [IdahoStatesman

SPORTS BLINK: “Park School goalie Sam Cordish continues lacrosse family tradition” by Glenn Graham: “His grandfather, David Cordish, the CEO of Cordish Cos., played three years for Hopkins and was a key member of the 1959 national championship team. Sam had a great-uncle, Joel, who played goalie for the Blue Jays… When [Sam] Cordish steps on the field next spring at Penn, he committed there in October, he’ll not only be the second Cordish to play for the Quakers, but the second Cordish named Sam to play goalie there. While his brothers chose to play close to home at Hopkins, the original Samuel Cordish, who goes by his middle name, Mike, was an All-Ivy goalie at Penn in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Now residing in Israel, where he teaches religion, Mike Cordish is proud his great-nephew has chosen to follow in his footsteps.” [BaltimoreSun]

DESSERT — Blue Moon Brewing Company has obtained an OU (Orthodox Union) Kosher certification for all of its beers in 1995 and has placed the OU Kosher logo on its packaging ever since, the company announced yesterday. Its newest brewery in the River North (RiNo) neighborhood in Denver – which was officially opened in July 2016 – has now been certified as OU Kosher, a move that the company says will benefit more than 10.5 million people in the U.S. “We have worked with Blue Moon for more than 20 years and are pleased that they continue to partner with us as they expand their beer offerings to the kosher community,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher.

“Crown Heights Now Artisanal Kosher Haven” by Chaim Levin and Hannah Dreyfus: “Crown Heights has become a bastion of kosher culinary delights,” said Gabriel Boxer, founder of, a popular kosher dining website. And, while quality kosher restaurants are in no short supply in other Orthodox neighborhoods, what Crown Heights is offering is qualitatively different, he said. “It’s a chill vibe,” Boxer said, unlike the “high-end, elegant places in Manhattan. You never had that before. People used to come [to Crown Heights] for religious reasons — now they’re trekking [there] for culinary reasons.” [JewishWeek]

BIRTHDAYS: Shopping center developer and former US Ambassador to both Australia (1989-1993) and Italy (2001-2005), Melvin Floyd “Mel” Sembler turns 87… Billionaire real estate developer (majority owner of The Related Companies), and principal owner of the Miami Dolphins, Stephen M. Ross turns 77… Rabbi of a Connecticut congregation, media entrepreneur and educator, creator of RTN (a Russian language TV channel) and Shalom TV (a Jewish channel), Mark S. Golub turns 72… Leading Democratic pollster and political strategist who has advised the campaigns of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and many other candidates both within and outside the US, Stanley Bernard “Stan” Greenberg turns 72… British film, theatre and television actress, on the editorial advisory board of Jewish Renaissance magazine, she has become a harsh critic of the British Labour Party’s anti-Israel members, Maureen Lipman turns 71… Israeli businessman and philanthropist, his family founded and owned Israel Discount Bank, Leon Recanati turns 69… Ed Brill turns 67…

Anchor for SportsCenter and other programs on ESPN since 1979, Chris “Boomer” Berman turns 62 (condolences to Chris on the tragic passing of his wife Kathy) … Former NBA player, whose career spanned 18 seasons on 7 teams, Danny Schayes turns 58… Brazilian businessman, serial entrepreneur and partner with Donald Trump in Trump Realty Brazil, Ricardo Samuel Goldstein turns 51… Associate Rabbi of Houston’s Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Brian Strauss turns 45… Israeli rock musician, singer, songwriter, producer, keyboardist, and guitarist, Aviv Geffen turns 44… Actress who has appeared in 12 films and starred in three television series, Halston Sage (born Halston Jean Schrage) turns 24… CEO of Medical Reimbursement Data Management in Yanceyville, NC, Robert Jameson… Mollie Harrison

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

photo by Shahar Azran

Kafe Knesset for April 5

Friday, May 5, 2017

Sign up for the Daily Kickoff newsletter to read Kafe Knesset in your inbox each day Lauder lore: In the past two weeks, since Jewish Insider first revealed that…

Photo credit: Kobi Gideon (GPO)

WH: Trump will Reinforce Strong Alliance, Talk Peace on Israel Trip

Thursday, May 4, 2017

President Donald Trump will visit Israel later this month after visiting Saudi Arabia, his first foreign trip since taking office in January. “Tolerance is the cornerstone of peace,”…


House Members Divided About Trump’s Optimism on ME Peace

Thursday, May 4, 2017

WASHINGTON – Similar to almost every appearance by President Donald Trump, his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday afternoon was met with great anticipation and a…

Photo by Jacob Kornbluh

Kafe Knesset for May 3

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sign up for the Daily Kickoff newsletter to read Kafe Knesset in your inbox each day Politicians unite against UNESCO on Jerusalem: The vote by UNESCO’s executive board…

Pence WH

Pence at WH Independence Day Event: Jerusalem Embassy Under ‘Serious’ Consideration

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence celebrated Israel’s independence and touted the Administration’s unapologetic support for the Jewish State at a White House reception to mark Israel’s 69th Independence Day…

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with  Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt - Photo: Reuters

Lowering Expectations from Trump-Abbas Meeting

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

WASHINGTON – In the short time since elected into office, President Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed for securing the “ultimate deal” between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The Commander…