May
8

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Daily Kickoff: Decision day for Trump on Iran deal | Jason Greenblatt and Ron Lauder’s NYC meetup | Axelrod’s Sandy Koufax advice for Cory Booker

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DRIVING THE DAY — “Unswayed by Allies, Trump Is Expected to Leave Iran Deal, Diplomats Say” by David Sanger and Steven Erlanger: “President Trump is expected to announce on Tuesday that he is withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, European diplomats said after concluding that they had failed to convince him that reneging on America’s commitment to the pact could cast the West into new confrontation with Tehran… One senior European diplomat who has been deeply involved in trying to persuade Mr. Trump to stay in the deal told reporters on Monday the chance that the president would keep the agreement intact was “very small.” [NYTimes

“Pompeo signaled Iran deal withdrawal to European colleagues” by Barak Ravid: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told his colleagues from the E3 — France, Germany and the United Kingdom — on Friday that President Trump has rejected the understandings that were drafted with American negotiators over the last four months regarding a possible fix of the Iran nuclear deal… According to the sources, Pompeo told his European counterparts that — after he showed the document to Trump — the President told him it would not change his thinking about the nuclear deal.” [Axios]

Aaron David Miller: “Whatever Trump decides, it’s the beginning of the end of the accord, either death by one, or 1,000, cuts.” [NYTimes

Asked what he would tell Trump if he had two minutes to convince him to stay in the deal, Jake Sullivan — who was one of the early negotiators for the deal — replied: “If we stay in the deal and enforce it, we can build international consensus to go after Iran on all of its other bad behavior… If you really want to make sure Iran doesn’t start working its way secretly toward a bomb, you need inspectors on the ground. And the only way you’re going to have inspectors have access to all of these facilities in Iran is if you keep the deal. And finally, if what you’re concerned with is the out years — 10, 15, 20 years from now when some of the restrictions in the deal expire — well, the United States has a long history of negotiating follow-on agreements.”[Axios]

Prediction from CNN’s Sam Vinograd: “Based on past behavior, I think Trump may try to present a “partial” pullout scenario whereby he violates the agreement by not certifying but leaves the door open to negotiate during the period in between now AND when sanctions go into effect” [Twitter]

BEHIND THE SCENES — “Peter Thiel in Eye of Iran Storm as Deadline Looms for Trump” by Jonathan Tirone: “Silicon Valley billionaire — and Donald Trump supporter — Peter Thiel has emerged as an unlikely player in the international debate over Iran’s nuclear deal with six world powers. Thiel’s big-data engine, Palantir Technologies Inc., is at the heart of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s system for verifying Iran’s compliance with the landmark 2015 agreement… Thiel… dined at the White House with Trump and the Israeli-born co-chief executive officer of Oracle Corp., Safra Catz, just hours after the president spoke with Netanyahu about Iran on April 4.” [Bloomberg]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — “Israel Security Leaders Split on Netanyahu Approach to Iran Deal” by David Wainer: “The Europeans want to push this off for a few years with the idea that it’ll be fine. It won’t be fine,” said Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, a security cabinet member… Others don’t see the Islamic Republic as the apocalyptic threat Netanyahu does… Netanyahu’s recently retired national security adviser, Yaakov Nagel, downplayed the debate among Israeli security officials, saying “there’s no argument among the security establishment regarding fixing or nixing the deal. There are different views regarding the level of the problem, in terms of what kind of fix would make it better than the alternatives.” [Bloomberg

If Trump credits Israel or Netanyahu for convincing him to pull out of the deal, will that be good or bad for Israel’s long term strategic interests?

Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller: “Short-term it would be good for Bibi politically as it shows he can manage the US. But if the unraveling leads to conflict and it heads south for both Israel and US this will be viewed as Bibi’s biggest mistake. If on other hand Iran over time is weakened in significant ways, people will look back and say he was a genius.”

FDD’s Mark Dubowitz: “What matters for Israel’s long-term interests is not any credit the President gives or doesn’t give but how the Trump administration follows up after today’s decision. Will it use all instruments of American national power to neutralize and rollback Iranian aggression in the region and target the regime? Will it use maximum pressure to build the leverage to get a better nuclear deal that truly cuts off all pathways to a nuclear bomb? Will it provide Israel with everything she needs to counter the Iranian regime threat?”

INTERVIEW — “Israel’s Ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak Says Keep the Iran Nuclear Deal” by Neri Zilber: “If Barak had his way post-deal, Israel and the U.S.—including under Barack Obama—would have come together behind closed doors to hedge against the risk: bringing all their intelligence assets to bear on monitoring Iran’s behavior, finding agreement on what exactly would constitute a nuclear “breakout,” as well as clear guidelines for putting the military option back on the table. “I thought we could do it,” he said, “but Bibi… chose to do something else with the big speech [to the U.S. Congress in 2015] that I thought was a mistake. But that’s all about the past.”

“Barak… didn’t think that the U.S. pulling out would necessarily spell the end of the nuclear deal… nor that Iran itself would pull out and race ahead towards a bomb… In the longer term, however, the U.S. leaving the agreement may provide Tehran diplomatic cover if it was caught violating the terms of the deal. “The Americans started it, American behavior basically legitimized our own deviation,” Barak said, channeling his inner Iranian official.” [DailyBeast]

IPF’s Michael Koplow writes… “Donald Trump Is About to Put Israel in Immediate Danger: “The Iran deal is keeping Iran in check from responding to repeated Israeli strikes on its interests in Syria. If Trump heeds Netanyahu’s exhortations to rectify what the prime minister views as a grave American mistake that made Israel more vulnerable, he may end up creating a new vulnerability by removing a key restraint on Iran’s conventional forces.” [Haaretz

“Iran ‘may no longer feel constrained’ against Israel after Hezbollah’s election success, analyst says” by Sam Meredith: “Although official results have not been announced, Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies were seen as the biggest winners in Lebanon’s first parliamentary vote since 2009. “With Lebanon’s elections now out of the way, Tehran may no longer feel constrained over a limited military response to Israel’s recent attacks on its forces in Syria,” Michael Every, senior Asia-Pacific strategist at Rabobank, said in a research note published Tuesday.” [CNBC]

James Stavridis and Michael Makovsky write… “How the U.S. Should Wish Israel a Happy 70th Birthday: To counter Iran, Washington should raise the Jewish state’s intelligence clearance and speed up promised military aid.” [Bloomberg]

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Dan Senor, co-author of Start-Up Nation and a past foreign policy advisor to Republican presidential candidates, previewed Trump’s decision on the Iran deal and the impact it might have on Israel’s security during a panel discussion, featuring Anshel Pfeffer, author of the newly released book, Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu, along with journalists Jodi Rudoren and Amir Tibon at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. [Pic]

“There are three possible outcomes, two of which are good for Netanyahu and Israel,” according to Senor. “One outcome is the President announces that the US is pulling out of the deal. I think that would be interesting if the administration has its ducks in a row for what to do the day after the announcement… I would argue that it’s good for Israel because it gives the U.S. the tools to put more pressure on Iran, which it is constrained from doing under the terms of the JCPOA. The second outcome, which is also good, is all this fanfare, including the powerpoint presentation [by Netanyahu], has so freaked out the European powers that they’re willing to actually demonstrate to the U.S. and Israel that they take it seriously and are willing to amend their policies to address those concerns, I think that’s also a good outcome.”

“The third outcome, which is what I worry about most, is that Europe basically persuades the Trump administration that they are going to make changes to address the President’s concerns and the Israeli government’s concerns, but those are actually very weak changes, and the policies that Europe is offering aren’t serious, but they are serious enough to mollify Trump and discourage him from pulling out of the deal. That would be, to me, the worst of all worlds.”

Peter Beinart writes… “Iran Hawks Are the New Iraq Hawks: Many of the assumptions that guided America’s march to conflict in 2003 still dominate American foreign policy today.” [TheAtlantic]

JERUSALEM EMBASSY WATCH — President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence won’t be attending the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem next week, the White House said yesterday. Instead, Trump announced he’s sending a delegation that includes his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jason Greenblatt. The delegation will be led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

“New U.S. embassy in Jerusalem: A stone plaque and $400,000 in renovations, for now” by Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash: “Standing in the yard outside the soon-to-be U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem last week, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman watched as a worker positioned a newly chiseled stone plaque on the wall. Friedman held up his phone and snapped a picture. For all the fanfare surrounding the opening of the new embassy this coming Monday, the hanging of the plaque on what is currently a consular services building is one of the few changes that will initially take place.” [WashPost]

“Square near U.S. embassy in Jerusalem to be named for Trump” by Hagay HaCohen: “Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced his intention to formally name the square near the US embassy site the “United States Square in honor of President Donald Trump,” the Jerusalem Press Office released on Tuesday.” [JPost]

“Israel says Paraguay to move embassy to Jerusalem” by Maayan Lubell: “Paraguay President Horacio Cartes plans to come to Israel by the end of the month to open an embassy in Jerusalem,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement. A Paraguay government spokesman said Cartes was scheduling a trip to Israel to move the embassy on May 21 or May 22.” [Reuters]

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Mideast peace envoy, met with Ronald Lauder at The Manhattan Club in Midtown yesterday, sources told Jewish Insider. In a recent speech at the Jerusalem Post conference in NY, Lauder remarked, “With the most pro-Israel president in American history, Donald J. Trump, I believe that peace is possible and within reach.”

— Earlier on Monday, Greenblatt met with Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, to discuss current dynamics in the Middle East. “Greenblatt joined Dr. Al Issa “in declaring the importance of speaking out against and condemning those who deny the Holocaust or distort its historical record,” a White House spokesperson said.

After delay, State Dept. begins implementing Taylor Force Act — by Jacob Kornbluh: The State Department submitted its first report to Congress regarding the criteria Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will use to determine what U.S. assistance directly benefits the Palestinian Authority, as required by the recently passed Taylor Force Act legislation. In a letter from last Thursday issued to Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary K. Waters listed the criteria that the Secretary of State will use to determine whether or not assistance for the West Bank and Gaza directly benefits the Palestinian Authority.

The Taylor Force Act requires the State Department to submit to Congress a list of the criteria no later than 15 days after its enactment. The deadline came and went on April 7, 2018. Although the report was submitted 40 days after the law was enacted, Waters noted, “This report fulfills the reporting requirement in that provision.”

OF NOTE: By this time, the State Department was already required to certify whether the PA has stopped the pay-for-slay program (30 days after enactment). [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE CONVO — “Israel intel firm denies it was hired by Trump aides to discredit Obama officials” by Oliver Holmes: “Referencing Black Cube has become an international sport during 2018,” the company said in a statement on Monday. “Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran nuclear deal.” [TheGuardian]

NEW DETAILS — by Michael Shear and Ronen Bergman: “One person with knowledge of the reports suggested that the company had been hired by a commercial client with an interest in opposing the nuclear deal… Among those listed under the heading “contacts to investigate” are Jeffrey Goldberg, now the editor of The Atlantic; Mark Landler, a White House correspondent for The Times who often writes about foreign policy; Andrea Mitchell, now NBC News’s chief foreign affairs correspondent; and Glenn Thrush, a Times reporter who covered the Obama White House for Politico.” [NYTimes]

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro tells us… “What seems clear is that someone made an effort to harass and dig up dirt on former Obama Administration officials and their families. Who did it and why, is something that the appropriate authorities should investigate. Obviously, if the Administration or its external supporters were involved, it would be scandalous. Public servants, regardless of party, need to know that they can serve their government without fear of harassment and intimidation when they leave office. All Americans should agree to that principle.”

HAPPENING TODAY — The annual Herzliya conference kicks off today on the IDC Herzliya campus. Speakers at the 3-day gathering include Israeli cabinet ministers, Knesset members, Elliott Abrams, Dennis Ross, Ron Prosor, Zalman Shoval, Danny Ayalon, Alon Pinkas, former Senator Mark Kirk, former Undersecretary of Defense Marcel Letter, Brett McGurk, Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, David Makovsky, Ilan Goldenberg, Ken Weinstein, among others. [Livestream]  

TOP TALKER — “Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, Quits After Assault Claims” by Danny Hakim: “Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general who rose to prominence as an antagonist of the Trump administration, abruptly resigned on Monday night hours after The New Yorker reported that four women had accused him of physically assaulting them…” [NYTimes]

— Julia Ioffe tweets“The Eric Schneiderman story is yet more confirmation of Czeslaw Milosz’s idea of “Ketman”: the man who rails the loudest against a sinner is often an even bigger sinner himself.”

“Trump grows frustrated with Giuliani as Stormy Daniels drama rages on” by Eliana Johnson, Annie Karni and Darren Samuelsohn: “[Rudy] Giuliani’s press tour has coincided with the announcement that White House lawyer Ty Cobb will be leaving… Trump and his daughter Ivanka both personally called Cobb to express concern about his decision.” [Politico]

“State Dept.: Giuliani doesn’t speak for US on foreign policy” by Josh Lederman: “On Saturday, Giuliani caused another stir when he… said that the president was “committed” to regime change in Iran… U.S. officials said they were taken aback by Giuliani’s comments and did not consider them to be consistent with current Trump administration policy.” [AP]

“After Rudy’s meltdown, Michael Cohen Grapples with His New Reality” by Emily Jane Fox: “Cohen’s friends told him that Trump chiding Giuliani was a signal that the president was looking out for Cohen… Cohen recognizes that these interviews have complicated his legal situation. They have also added to his mental strain and financial burden. Cohen has told friends that he and his wife have lost a collective 20 pounds since the raids… Cohen… is mostly distraught over the impact on his family… “I live for my wife and my kids,” he tells friends. “I’d die for my wife and my kids. And this is all ruining their lives.”” [VanityFair]

2018 WATCH — “George Soros has picked his candidate in the Florida governor’s race” by Kirby Wilson: “Andrew Gillum’s governor campaign raised about $450,000 in April. More than half of that sum came from one person: billionaire George Soros. Soros… gave $250,000 to a Forward Florida, a Gillum associated political committee in April. Combine that with two six-figure donations in 2017, and Soros’ contributions to Gillum now total $450,000.” [TampaBayTimes

2020 WATCH — “Is Cory Booker for real?” by Hunter Walker: “When pressed about a presidential campaign by Yahoo News, Booker admits he’s going to mull the possibility. “Look, my focus right now is two things; my own reelection and making sure we’re in a strong position for that and the 2018 elections,” Booker said. “I think, that passes, I’ll sit down and give a hard consideration about a lot of folks that are talking to me about doing something else.”

Asked about Booker’s future, David Axelrod sees Booker as an “exceptional political talent” who is a real potential 2020 contender. “I think he is a brilliant guy; big-time personality, interesting thinker, and an at times spellbinding presenter and … obviously, a really good story. So, I take him seriously,” Axelrod said… Axelrod recently hosted Booker in Chicago, and the strategist left with the impression that Booker’s flair for the dramatic can sometimes go “a bit too far” and reach a place where the senator “sacrifices a sense of authenticity” for “performance.”

“Axelrod offered up a classic piece of baseball lore from the early days of Dodgers pitching great Sandy Koufax as advice for Booker. “Some catcher … told him, ‘You know you are a great pitcher … and you throw the ball 100 miles an hour, but if you threw it at 97 and got it over the plate you’d be untouchable,’” recounted Axelrod. “I think that Booker is a great, great talent. … I think that he’s in public service for the right reasons, but he probably could take three miles off his fastball, and get the ball over the plate, and be even better,” added Axelrod.” [YahooNews]

** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **

STARTUP NATION — “IFF to buy Israel’s Frutarom for $7.1 billion, nearing top spot” by Steven Scheer: “International Flavors & Fragrances Inc agreed to buy Israeli flavors and ingredients maker Frutarom for $7.1 billion in cash and stock on Monday… IFF’s takeover of Frutarom, which has been approved by both boards, would be the second largest of an Israeli company, behind Intel’s $15 billion purchase of Mobileye… Frutarom sells more than 70,000 products, such as such as natural colors, health and beauty ingredients, natural food protection and enzymes, in 150 countries to mainly mid-sized companies.” [Reuters] • Why the Frutarom Deal Is Good, Bad and Ugly All at Once [Haaretz]

FORBES SUMMIT IN ISRAEL: “Dr. Ruth Thrills Under 30 Summit With Cofounder Couples Therapy, Tales Of Her Days As A Sniper” by Zach O’Malley Greenburg: “Be careful,” says Dr. Ruth Westheimer to the crowd of several hundred assembled before her in Tel Aviv. “I was trained as a sniper.” Dr. Ruth regaled the audience with tales of her early days in the Haganah–the forerunner to the Israeli Defense Force–when she arrived in the Holy Land in 1945 as a teenager after losing her family in the Holocaust.” [Forbes]

HAPPENING TODAY: “From Cryptocurrency to Space Travel, Is the Future Already Here?” by Leigh Kamping-Carder: “The first Future of Everything Festival kicks off Tuesday… The festival is organized around 12 themes, or tracks, ranging from food to medicine to work. Each covers a half-day of talks, interviews and panels. Speakers include Sarah Jessica Parker, Rahm Emanuel, Alex Rodriguez, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, JetPack inventor David Mayman and many more. An interactive innovation hub will showcase the products of tomorrow.” [WSJ]

SCENE LAST NIGHT: “Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and Girlfriend Make Met Gala Debut” by Alexia Fernandez: “New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft walked the red carpet at the 2018 Met Gala with girlfriend Ricki Lander. The couple smiled as they posed together Monday night on the stairs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” [People]

“Lynda Carter Wore a Legit Crown to the Met Gala, Hearkening Back to Her Famous Crowned Heroine” by Wendy Gould: “Lynda Carter — perhaps most well-known for kicking butt as Wonder Woman in the ’70s television series — hit the Met Gala red carpet wearing a legit golden crown… The front of the gilded crown was perched high atop her head over an elegant updo and features Hebrew writing across the entire length. On the back of her head, she wore a large star clip with an ethereal blue-green gemstone in the center. The shape is reminiscent of the Star of David.” [PopSugarPic]

MEDIA WATCH — “Qatar eyes stake in Newsmax” by Ben Schreckinger: “The Qatari government has sought to acquire a major stake in Newsmax, the conservative media company run by President Donald Trump’s friend Chris Ruddy… Qatari officials met with Newsmax representatives on multiple occasions this year… The two people familiar with Qatar’s interest in Newsmax say the talks with the company have been overseen by Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a younger brother of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani… According to a person familiar with the Qataris’ thinking on the subject, they view the potential Newsmax investment primarily as a political one,” [Politico]

Former Knesset Member Dov Lipman writes on Facebook: “I want to let you know that I am not continuing my political work at this time and have decided to step away from Yesh Atid. New opportunities have just opened up that have the potential to make real change on the ground in Israel. For me at this time, it is too good an opportunity to pass up.” [Facebook]

DESSERT: “Stunning landscape photos of skyscrapers, deserts and salt flats – but which country is this?” by Rosie Gizauskas:“Photographer Noam Chen has been taking photos of one country for ten years and is intent on showing off how diverse it is… “Besides being home to some of the world’s most iconic and historically important sites, Israel also has stunning and diverse landscapes that can rival any other country in the world.” [TheSun]

BIRTHWEEK: Co-Founder of the website JewBelong, Archie Gottesman

BIRTHDAYS: Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Danny Danon turns 47… Retired senior British judge, Baron Leonard Hoffmann turns 84… Former Attorney General of Canada and past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Irwin Cotler turns 78… MIT Biologist and Nobel Prize laureate H. Robert Horvitz turns 71… Former MLB pitcher (1969-1975) who played for the Angels, Rangers and White Sox, Lloyd Allenturns 68… Born in Amsterdam to a survivor of Auschwitz, now a leading rabbi in both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, dean of the Dutch Israelite Seminary, Rabbi Raphael Evers turns 64… Actor and director Stephen Furst (born Stephen Nelson Feuerstein) turns 63… Director of the USDOJ’s Office of Special Investigations (1994-2010) focused on deporting Nazi war criminals, he is now the Director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy at USDOJ, Eli M. Rosenbaum turns 63… Chief Financial Officer for The Manischewitz Company, Thomas E. Keogh turns 63… President of Barney’s and Ashley furniture stores in Springfield, Illinois, Barry Seidman turns 59… President of Clayton, Missouri-based JurisTemps, Andrew J. Koshner, J.D., Ph.D. turns 58… NYC-based advertising executive, author and entrepreneur, board member of ArtsConnection, an art program provider to NYC public schools, Richard Kirshenbaum turns 57… Co-founder and CEO of the disability advocacy nonprofit, RespectAbility, based in Bethesda, Maryland, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi turns 54… Canadian social activist and documentary filmmaker critical of corporate capitalism, Naomi Klein turns 48… Stand-up comedienne, writer, actress and author, known for appearing on the 9th season of America’s Got Talent, Jodi Miller turns 47… Chief Operating Officer at West End Strategy Team’s DC Office, Ari Geller turns 45… Managing principal of Los Angeles-based Lockman Consulting Group, lecturer at USC Law School, fellow with the Truman National Security Project, Josh Lockman turns 36… Past president of Congregation B’nai Torah in Sandy Springs, Georgia,Janice Perlis Ellin… Daniel First

May
7

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Daily Kickoff: Israeli firm Black Cube back in news, this time for snooping on Obama aides | McCain regrets not picking Lieberman for VP | Met Gala

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LongRead — “The Digital Vigilantes Who Hack Back: Companies that fall victim to data breaches want to retaliate against the culprits. But can they do so without breaking the law?” by Nicholas Schmidle: “Eran Reshef, a former Israeli intelligence officer, has learned the dangers of fighting a shadowy opponent online. In 2004, he co-founded a company called Blue Security, which he marketed as the ultimate anti-spamming service. Subscribers to Blue Security became part of a mutually protective community; whenever a member received a piece of spam, it was automatically forwarded to all the others, which simultaneously returned the message to its sender, overwhelming the spammer’s server.”

“Blue Security’s service was starting to catch on when a Russian spammer warned Reshef to stop. He refused, even though he suspected that the spammer had ties to organized crime. The Russian launched a distributed denial-of-service attack against Blue Security’s Web site and its service provider. Reshef didn’t waver. He spammed the Russian while fending off intensifying attacks.”

“One day, Reshef went with a colleague to see a friend, Nadav Aleh, who at the time worked for Unit 8200, Israel’s equivalent to the N.S.A. Aleh recalled Reshef’s visit: “When they came into my office, they were pale.” Reshef told Aleh about some alarming e-mail correspondence from the Russian, which included, as an attachment, a recent photograph showing a Blue Security executive’s children playing outside, in Tel Aviv. Reshef soon shut down Blue Security… Aleh told me, “If you think about hacking back from a military perspective, it’s like going into battle with little intelligence. Your weapon sets won’t fit the target set. These are not good odds to win.”” [NewYorker]

REPORT — “Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran deal” by Mark Townsend and Julian Borger: “People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes… and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal… Sources said that officials linked to Trump’s team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago… Investigators were also apparently told to contact… pro-deal journalists – from the New York Times, MSNBC television, the Atlantic, Vox website and Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper among others – who had frequent contact with Rhodes and Kahl in an attempt to establish whether they had violated any protocols by sharing sensitive intelligence… It is not clear how much work was actually undertaken, for how long or what became of any material unearthed.” [TheGuardian

—  “Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials” by Ronan Farrow: “Two sources familiar with the effort told me on Sunday that the operation was carried out by Black Cube—a firm… that offers its clients access to operatives from “Israel’s élite military and governmental intelligence units,” including the Mossad… The documents show that Black Cube compiled detailed background profiles of several individuals, including Rhodes and Kahl, that featured their addresses, information on their family members, and even the makes of their cars… The campaign is strikingly similar to an operation that Black Cube ran on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, which was reported in The New Yorker last fall… The company compiled a list of more than thirty reporters who it believed were in touch with Obama Administration officials.” [NewYorker]

“Source Says Israeli Black Cube Hired by Business Entity, Not Trump” by Yotam Berger: “Israeli intelligence company Black Cube was hired to spy on former aides in the Obama administration last year. A source close to the company says that the Israeli intelligence company was acting on behalf of a business entity, however, and not on behalf U.S. President Donald Trump’s aides. However, the source refused to say who hired Black Cube.” [Haaretz]

DRIVING THE WEEK — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up the pressure on Iran ahead of President Trump’s looming decision about U.S. participation in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. “We are determined to block Iran’s aggression against us even if this means a struggle. Better now than later,” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting. On Wednesday, Netanyahu is expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss “regional issues.”

Israel believes Iran is determined to retaliate for the April 9th strike on Syria’s T4 base, Israeli media reported. Defense sources said Israel’s anti-missile systems are prepared to deal with an expected missile barrage from Iran proxies in Syria. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview Monday, “If Syrian President Bashar Assad continues allowing the Iranians to operate out of Syria, it would be the end of him, the end of his regime.”

Following the recent visits by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is visiting the U.S. hoping to convince Trump to uphold the deal. Johnson is expected to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton and other senior administration officials this week.

Israel hasn’t yet been informed of Trump’s decision whether he will withdraw from the Iran deal before Saturday’s deadline. “I don’t know what Trump will decide because he hasn’t told me,” a senior Israeli official was quoted as saying yesterday. In a briefing to foreign reporters yesterday, Netanyahu insisted that the nuclear deal “has to be either fully fixed or fully nixed.”

“As Deadline on Nuclear Deal Nears, Israel and Iran Issue Warnings” by Isabel Kershner and Thomas Erdbrink: “An Israeli intelligence official who briefed the foreign reporters, on the condition of anonymity in line with his agency’s rules, said that only a fraction of the stolen Iranian archive had been presented publicly. He added that 99 percent of it was new to Israel in the quantity and quality of information it provided about Iran’s military nuclear project.” [NYTimes] • So far only the U.S. has seen the material in its entirety, a senior Israeli official told reporters. [Bloomberg]

“Giuliani: Trump is ‘committed to’ regime change in Iran” by Brent Griffiths: “Rudy Giuliani pushed for regime change in Iran on Saturday, saying President Donald Trump is “as committed to regime change as we are.” It’s “the only way to peace in the Middle East” and “more important than an Israeli-Palestinian deal,” Giuliani… told reporters after giving a speech to the Iran Freedom Convention for Democracy and Human Rights in Washington… At one point in his speech, Giuliani… pretended that his notes were the Iran nuclear deal, ripping them up and spitting on them.” [PoliticoVideo]

Phil Gordon writes… “Trump Is About to Provoke an Unnecessary Crisis With Iran: I don’t know how or when the Iranian people are going to bring about change in Tehran, but I do like the fact that the JCPOA blocks Iran from getting anywhere close to a nuclear weapons capability until at least 2030—at a minimum it would seem to make sense to wait to assess the situation then rather than provoke a nuclear crisis now.” [TheAtlantic]

Dennis Ross writes… “Israel’s intel coup actually provides good arguments for staying in the Iran nuclear deal: Maybe the Israeli disclosures and the materials will convince the British, French and Germans that the deal requires corrections… The Trump administration should use the Israeli revelations as a new source of leverage to “fix” the deal and not simply walk away from it.” [WashPost]

— INBOX: Former Ambassador Dennis Ross joined DC-based WestExec Advisors as a senior advisor. Ross is also the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“John Kerry quietly seeking to salvage Iran deal he helped craft” by Matt Viser: “[Kerry] sat down at the United Nations with [Iranian] Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to discuss ways of preserving the pact… It was the second time in about two months that the two had met to strategize over salvaging a deal they spent years negotiating during the Obama administration… Kerry has also met with French President Emmanuel Macron in both Paris and New York… The quiet lobbying campaign… is being conducted below the radar because he and his allies believe a high-profile defense of the deal by prominent Democrats would only backfire and provoke Trump… In recent weeks he’s placed dozens of phone calls and, often with [former Energy Secretary Ernest] Moniz by his side, has lobbied members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.” [BostonGlobe]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Former Senator Joe Lieberman on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures: “John Kerry is not negotiating on behalf of the U.S. government – I hope everybody he’s talking to knows that. But in my opinion, what he’s doing is inappropriate and he shouldn’t be doing it.”

Lieberman, Chairman of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), added: “I’m encouraged by what the president has said so far and I hope he does pull out.” [Video]   

“Verifying the End of a Nuclear North Korea ‘Could Make Iran Look Easy'” by David Sanger and William Broad: “North Korea could make Iran look easy,” Ernest J. Moniz… said last week. “This isn’t ‘Trust, but verify,’” he said, using President Ronald Reagan’s phrase from arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. “It’s ‘Distrust everything and verify, verify, verify.’” [NYTimes]

TALK OF THE REGION — “At the Israeli-Gaza Strip border, a growing sense of anxiety and fear” by Noga Tarnopolsky: “The anxiety of Israelis living by the border is escalating as May 15 approaches. That’s when Palestinians observe Nakba, or catastrophe day…and this year Palestinians are planning to mark the day with huge protests at the Israeli-Gaza Strip border. Hamas… projects that thousands of Gazans will storm the insubstantial fence that marks the border.” [LATimes

JERUSALEM EMBASSY WATCH — Road signs pointing to ‘US Embassy’ go up in Jerusalem: “Jerusalem’s city hall says it has put up road signs pointing to the new U.S. Embassy… Mayor Nir Barkat placed the first signs on Monday in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood where the embassy is to be located.” [APVideo] • New US Embassy building in Jerusalem unveiled [Ynet]

“Most of Israeli Opposition Not Invited to U.S. Embassy Opening Gala With Kushner” by Noa Landau: “The event, slated for Sunday night in Jerusalem, will include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka, as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and a delegation of U.S. lawmakers. Also invited are members of the Israeli government, Knesset members who are on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and all MKs that are members of the ruling coalition. However, besides chairman of the opposition, MK Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, not a single member of the opposition was invited who does not hold a spot on the key committee.” [Haaretz]

“Israel fears ‘explosion of violence’ as US prepares to open embassy in Jerusalem” by Oliver Holmes: “Israel’s police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said officers were assessing the level of security needed for the opening, including deploying CCTV cameras and guards in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Arnona… “We’re still waiting to see if the US president will come here for the opening move. The level of security will be raised accordingly,” he said.” [TheGuardian

Fresh from recent White House visit, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Israel’s Meet the Press program: “Nothing comes for free, and the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will come at a price and it is worth paying it. We should be prepared to pay a price.” [HaaretzReshet]  

FOGGY BOTTOM — “Kuwait blocks UN statement criticizing Palestinian leader” by Edith M. Lederer: “Kuwait blocked the U.N. Security Council on Friday from issuing a U.S.-sponsored statement sharply criticizing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for what Washington called “vile anti-Semitic slurs and baseless conspiracy theories.” … The proposed statement… would have expressed the Security Council’s “firm and unequivocal rejection of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial” and called on Abbas “to refrain from anti-Semitic comments.”” [WashPost

Germany to support Israel if it gets on UN Security Council: “The German foreign ministry said Saturday that Israel’s decision to withdraw its candidacy “is a further incentive for us to stand up for the interests and safety of our Israeli friends” if Germany wins a Security Council seat. Friday’s withdrawal by Israel virtually guarantees Germany and Belgium victory in the June 8 election and seats on the council.” [AP

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “How Michael Cohen, Trump’s Fixer, Built a Shadowy Business Empire” by William K. Rashbaum, Danny Hakim, Brian Rosenthal, Emily Flitter and Jesse Drucker: “It was through his wife’s family that Mr. Cohen would be introduced to the taxi business, which would ultimately allow him to pull in millions of dollars. Mr. Cohen’s father-in-law, [Fima] Shusterman, initially found work as a taxi driver after arriving in the United States… Mr. Shusterman circulated among his fellow taxi operators, trying to help Mr. Cohen find work. He introduced his son-in-law to Ilya Palinsky, a longtime fixture in the business. Mr. Palinsky said his impression of Mr. Cohen was that “he talks a lot, screams, you know. He’s a hyper guy.” [NYTimes]

MUELLER WATCH — “Mueller team questions Trump friend Tom Barrack” by Tom Lobianco, Jonathan Lemire and Alan Suderman: “Barrack was interviewed as part of the federal investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election… A second person with knowledge of the Barrack interview said the questioning was broader and did include financial matters about the campaign, the transition and Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.” [AP]

“Behind the Trump n’ Rudy show” by Jonathan Swan: “A White House official told me there were “a couple of Mooch references” in the West Wing last week, as Giuliani’s performance recalled Anthony Scaramucci’s frenzied 11-day stint last summer as White House communications director… And West Wingers raised their eyebrows when he took a gratuitous shot at Jared Kushner, describing the president’s son-in-law as “disposable.” [Axios]

— “After Rudy Giuliani called Jared Kushner “disposable” … the president’s son-in-law watched the clip himself to see what all the fuss was about… As long as his wife didn’t call him “disposable,” he joked to people, everything was going just fine.” [Politico]

“Dershowitz: Trump team playing ‘into the hands’ of Mueller investigation” by Kailani Koenig: “The Trump team has to speak with a single narrative,” [Alan Dershowitz] said [on Fox News]. “They have to get their story clearly set out. It has to be put in writing. It shouldn’t be put on television shows off the cuff. This is not the way to handle a complicated case.”[NBCNews]

TOP TALKER: “At His Ranch, John McCain Shares Memories and Regrets With Friends” by Jonathan Martin: “Mr. McCain is using a new book and documentary to reveal his regret about not selecting former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman as his running mate in 2008… He calls the decision not to pick Mr. Lieberman “another mistake that I made” in his political career… Mr. Lieberman said he didn’t know Mr. McCain felt that regret until he watched the film. “It touched me greatly,” he said.” [NYTimes]

SPOTTED IN DC: Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin “was snapped bringing a $22 bottle of red wine on a visit to Jared Kushner’s house in Washington DC on Sunday… Kushner opened the door for Mnuchin and gave him a hug before Mnuchin handed him the wine, which appeared to be a gift.” [DailyMail]

2018 WATCH — “Neo-Nazi Senate candidate kicked out of California Republican Party convention” by Phil Willon and Seema Mehta: “An anti-Semitic GOP Senate candidate was kicked out of the California Republican Party’s convention in San Diego on Saturday morning, with one witness saying he was dragging and kicking an Israeli flag while being escorted out. Party officials said that, from the outset of the convention the candidate, Patrick Little, was not welcome at the gathering.” [LATimes]

“A Scramble For Cash In Senate Races” by Peter Overby: “Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas hasn’t invested in Heller yet, but he is backing the GOP candidate for governor, Adam Laxalt.” [NPR

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Shari Redstone makes concessions on Viacom CEO in bid to clinch CBS deal [Reuters] • Private equity firm KKR to convert to a corporation after U.S. tax reform, Henry Kravis and George Roberts announce [Reuters] • Simon and David Reuben, the billionaire owners of Chepstow and Doncaster racecourses, clinch £300m deal to buy the Burlington Arcade in Mayfair [TheTimes] • British Ambassador Leads British Real Estate Companies to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange [Calcalist]

MET GALA — “The Man Who Bought New York” by Jacob Bernstein: “Stephen A. Schwarzman’s birthday bash with camels and Ms. Stefani may have been cheaper than last year’s Costume Institute gala, but it is thanks to his fortune ($12.3 billion, according to Forbes) that there’s another Costume Institute gala this year. He and his wife helped underwrite the exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” handing over a check that two sources close to the museum said was in the ballpark of $5 million… Jimmy Lee, a friend of Mr. Schwarzman’s, has joked that Mr. Schwarzman has given more money to the archdiocese than any Jew in New York. Partly, this is because his wife, Christine, is Catholic.” [NYTimes]

“Israel offended Japan’s prime minister by serving him dessert out of a shoe, which Japanese people ‘despise'” by Alex Lockie: “Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife had their dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife interrupted by an offensive cultural faux pas — dessert was served in a shoe… “There is nothing more despised in Japanese culture than shoes. Not only do they not enter their houses while wearing shoes, you will not find shoes in their offices either. Even the prime minister, ministers and members of parliament do not wear shoes to work… It is equivalent to serving a Jewish guest chocolates in a dish shaped like a pig,” [a senior Israeli] diplomat said.”[BusinessInsider]

TALK OF THE TOWN — “Anti-Semitism controversy exposes D.C.’s fault lines — and a leadership vacuum” by Peter Jamison: “The fallout from a D.C. lawmaker’s claim that Jewish financiers control the weather has laid bare divisions that many in the nation’s capital would just as soon ignore. It has also exposed what critics say is a leadership vacuum among the city’s elected officials… [Rabbi Shmuel] Herzfeld — who interrupted a meeting of District lawmakers Tuesday, shouting “shame on you” — said in an interview that both the mayor and council had taken the easy way out, mouthing platitudes rather than condemning specific actions. “I don’t think we as citizens should allow our elected officials to make political calculations when it comes to bigotry and hatred,” said Herzfeld.” [WashPost]

HEARD AT THE ADL NATIONAL LEADERSHIP SUMMIT — ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt: “When there is a nominee for high office that has spouted anti-Muslim or homophobic beliefs, you better believe that ADL will speak out even if it means we won’t be invited to the holiday party… When authorities try to put in place a Muslim ban, you better believe that we will take a stand and fight them in court. When those in power try to deny the centrality of Jews to the Holocaust, we will speak out for the six million… When a city councilman here in our Nation’s capital bizarrely claims that a Jewish family controls the weather… and gives taxpayer dollars to the anti-Semitic, bigoted, and homophobic Louis Farrakhan or when other prominent leaders… refuse to condemn Farrakhan – no matter what other good they may profess to do, the ADL will speak out.” [Video]

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein quoted President Trump twice about condemning hatred and fighting hate crimes in remarksat the conference last night. “Opposing parties are at war, figuratively,” Rosenstein said. “But in [President Abraham] Lincoln’s time, people were literally at war. The differences of opinion then were deeper than any of ours today. Still, Lincoln insisted that his opponents not be treated as enemies, because they were all Americans… President Trump echoed that sentiment with his remarks last summer: “We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.”

New ADL reportAt least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were shared or re-shared in English on Twitter over the 12-month period ending January 28, 2018. Those 4.2 million tweets were sent from an estimated three million Twitter handles. Philanthropist George Soros figures prominently in anti-Semitic tweets, with claims that he directly uses his largess to fund false flag events. “This new data shows that even with the steps Twitter has taken to remove hate speech and to deal with those accounts disseminating it, users are still spreading a shocking amount of anti-Semitism and using Twitter as a megaphone to harass and intimidate Jews,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

“Video of man berating hassidic boy goes viral” by Amy Spiro: “A video of an adult man berating a small hassidic boy over his appearance was pulled from Twitter late Sunday night, but not before it had been viewed more than 1 million times and liked more than 100,000 times… New York City council member Brad Lander wrote that the video was “gross viral anti-Semitism” and it is “critical to push back against this small-minded & dehumanizing hate.” [JPost

“Poland’s Holocaust law triggers tide of abuse against Auschwitz museum” by Christian Davies: “Officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum have described how they were subjected to a wave of “hate, fake news and manipulations” as a result of the controversy surrounding a contentious Holocaust speech law passed by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party earlier this year. The campaign of disinformation and abuse at the hands of Polish nationalists has raised concerns about pressure being exerted on official guides at the site in southern Poland, after the home of one foreign guide was attacked and supporters of a convicted antisemite filmed themselves repeatedly hectoring their guide during a visit to the camp last month.” [TheGuardian]

ON THE HILL — “Why Does the House Even Have a Chaplain? Tradition” by Noah Feldman: “The real reason we still have a House chaplain is that we’ve always had one. The Continental Congress overcame some internal dissension to pick a chaplain. And the first Congress established under the Constitution continued the tradition… Speaker Paul Ryan’s failed attempt to get rid of Catholic House chaplain Patrick Conroy is a case in point. Had Ryan respected tradition and let the chaplain stay in office, there would have been no public speculation about whether he was being removed to placate evangelicals who wanted a Protestant sympathetic to their point of view. The lesson is that, even constitutionally, it can sometimes be best to let sleeping dogs lie.” [Bloomberg

REMEMBERING — “Rabbi Aaron Panken, President of Jewish Seminary Killed in Plane Crash in Hudson Valley” by Matt Stevens: “Rabbi Panken was elected to serve as the 12th president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2013 and was installed the next year… While presiding over the graduation ceremonies this month he noted that the world was “particularly challenging and painful” in a way that “transcends anything I have seen in my lifetime.” “But here’s the thing,” he continued. “The Jewish people, and our religious friends of other faiths, have seen this before, and we have lived through it, and thrived and built again and again and again.”” [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK — Lance Armstrong travels to Israel for work: “Armstrong has been following the Grande Partenza of the iconic Giro d’Italia race with his cycling podcast, “Stages.” He was covering the event over the weekend — starting in Jerusalem on Friday and then in stages from Haifa to Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva to Eilat on Sunday.” [NYPost]

DESSERT — “Lipkin’s Bakery returns to South Philly” by Sandy Smith: “When the Lipkin family started their kosher bakery at Fourth and McKean streets many decades ago, the neighborhood surrounding it was 90 percent Jewish… Lipkin’s return to South Philly, with a retail store at 2153 S. Hancock St., has generated an enthusiastic response from the bakery’s many fans, Jewish and otherwise, and it hasn’t even opened yet…” [PassyunkPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Billionaire who converted Chris-Craft Industries from the small boat business into a large media holding company, then sold Chris Craft to Rupert Murdoch in 2001 for $5.3 billion, Herbert J. Siegel turns 90… Ontario-based politician, psychiatrist, academic and public servant, served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as a member and leader of the Liberal Party (1975-1982), Stuart Lyon Smith turns 80… Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and chemistry at Yale University, Sidney Altman turns 79… Member of the New York State Assembly since 1993, representing parts of Westchester and Putnam counties, Sandra R. “Sandy” Galef turns 78… Napa, California-based media executive and interview host, Jeffrey Schechtman turns 68… Deputy US Secretary of State (2009-2011), Deputy National Security Advisor (1996-2000), currently a professor at Syracuse University, James Steinberg turns 65… Professional poker player and hedge fund manager, Daniel Shak turns 59…

Emmy Award-winning film and television director, Adam Bernstein turns 58… Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from the City of Alexandria since 2016 and host of a nationally syndicated progressive public policy radio program, Mark H. Levine turns 52… Democratic member of the US House of Representatives since 2010, representing parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, Theodore Eliot “Ted” Deutch turns 52… Director of floor legislative operations for Minority Leader Pelosi, Keith Stern turns 44… Member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party since 2013, Israeli Minister of Justice since 2015, Ayelet Shaked turns 42… AIPAC national board member, Yana J. Lukeman… Director of corporate communications at Citadel LLC, a leading alternative asset manager, Robert Warren Saliterman turns 36 (h/t Playbook)… CEO of Austin-based Harris Media, he served as Chief Digital Strategist for Senator Rand Paul and assisted PM Netanyahu and the Likud in the 2014 Israeli elections, Vincent Robert Harris turns 30… Las Vegas-based fashion blogger, model and writer, Bebe Zeva (a pseudonym of Rebeccah Hershkovitz) turns 25… Jane Press

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Daily Kickoff: Will Pompeo be able to hire Never Trumpers? | Joe Lieberman would sooner back Bernie than Elizabeth Warren | Giro D’Italia B’Israel

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TOP TALKER — “Influential outsiders have played a key role in Scott Pruitt’s foreign travel” by Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis: “Scott Pruitt’s itinerary for a February trip to Israel was remarkable by any standard for an Environmental Protection Agency administrator: A stop at a controversial Jewish settlement in the West Bank. An appearance at Tel Aviv University. A hard-to-get audience with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One force behind Pruitt’s eclectic agenda: casino magnate and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson… Pruitt was scheduled to unveil an agreement with Water-Gen, an Israeli water purification company championed by Adelson… The EPA signed an agreement with the company in January; Pruitt had hoped to announce it while he was in Israel.”

“On Thursday, Adelson’s top political adviser, Andy Abboud, confirmed his involvement in planning Pruitt’s Israel agenda, but played down its significance, saying, “Many people consult” Adelson before making the journey. “In some cases, we will make an introduction to various officials traveling to Israel and Israeli staff officials,” Abboud said. Of the planned Pruitt trip, he said: “It was very perfunctory, and I would describe them as simple introductions.”” [WashPost]

“Abbas Apologizes to ‘Jewish People’ for Offensive Comments, Condemning Holocaust and anti-Semitism? by Jack Khoury: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas apologized Friday for comments he made last week which were widely decried as anti-Semitic. “If people were offended by my statement, especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them. I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith, as well as other monotheistic faiths. I would also like to reiterate our long held condemnation of the Holocaust, as the most heinous crime in history, and express our sympathy with its victims,” he said.” [HaaretzReuters] • PLO convention affirms Abbas, 83, as unchallenged leader [AP]

Israeli defense minister rejects Abbas apology over remarks on Jews: “Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday rejected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ apology for his remarks on Jews. Lieberman wrote on Twitter: “Abu Mazen is a wretched Holocaust denier, who wrote a doctorate of Holocaust denial and later also published a book on Holocaust denial. That is how he should be treated. His apologies are not accepted.” [Reuters]

‘ULTIMATE DEAL’ — THE VINEGAR: “Trump to tell Israel: Withdraw from four east Jerusalem neighborhoods” by Yanir Cozin: “The Trump administration will ask Israel to withdraw from four Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which will likely become the capital of a future Palestinian state, US officials told Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman during his visit to Washington last week. The transfer of control over the neighborhoods – Jebl Mukabar, Isawiya, Shuafat and Abu Dis – was presented to Liberman as just one piece of the larger peace plan the administration has been working on over the last year.”

THE HONEY: “Alongside the concessions expected of Israel, the administration has promised its full support in the event of a widespread conflict with Iran or Syria. The administration has told Israel it would supply the IDF with significant support, including advanced weaponry, if a war broke out with Iran, even one instigated by Israeli action against Iran’s presence in Syria.” [JPost]

TRANSITION — Grant Rumley, a research fellow at Foundation For Defense of Democracies and co-author of The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas, has joined the Pentagon as Country Director for Israel at the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy.

“Pompeo faces a hiring obstacle course” by Nahal Toosi: “If Pompeo were to try to bring on GOP critics of Trump, he “needs to argue to the president that some people are terrible ‘Never Trumpers’ but others just supported other candidates so they naturally attacked him just as he very strongly attacked his opponent,” a Republican former government official said. “The key difference is probably what people have said since he got elected: If they have stayed critical, the hell with them. If they have been supportive for a year and a half, they should be forgiven, because Pompeo needs some of them to take control of State back from the awful, horrible State bureaucracy.”

“Many members of that bureaucracy are especially keen to see Pompeo oust one member of Tillerson’s inner circle who remains at State: Brian Hook, the director of the secretary’s Policy Planning Staff. Hook, whose current position doesn’t require Senate confirmation, is leading talks with European allies on the future of the Iran nuclear deal. He also was among the State officials who traveled overseas with Pompeo this past weekend. Hook’s future remains uncertain.” [Politico]

Vice President Mike Pence in an interview with CBN News: “When we open the American Embassy in Jerusalem, we will in a very real sense end this historic friction, we’ll embrace reality. And President Trump and I believe that in doing that, that peace in the region becomes more possible.” [CBN]

Yossi Klein Halevi writes… “How Israelis See the World: The moral dissonance between Israel and the international community only strengthens the Israeli hard right, which argues, in the words of an old Israeli song, that “the whole world is against us.” … When critics trivialize a threat to Israel’s border as “peaceful demonstrations,” Israelis conclude that world opinion is either obtuse or hostile. The result is a dismissal of any criticism. By contrast, when Israelis sense a willingness in the international community to consider their concerns, they tend to respond with greater openness to the moral critiques of outsiders.”[NYTimes]

IRAN DEAL: “Top Trump Ally Predicts Iran Deal Will Hold Up, for Now” by Asawin Suebsaeng and Andrew Desiderio: “Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and one of the lawmakers with whom Trump speaks with most regularly, told The Daily Beast that the president would likely decline to back out entirely when a deadline to certify Iran’s compliance comes next week… “If I had to handicap it, I would believe there’d be a short-term extension as we look to re-negotiate an agreement… Knowing that the deadlines on some of this correspond to key discussions on trade with China and denuclearization talks with North Korea, I can see a deferral more than an outright withdrawal being a tactic that is used right now,” Meadows added.” [DailyBeast]

“Israeli satellite firm reports ‘unusual’ activity at Iran nuclear site” by Judah Ari Gross: “An Israeli satellite imaging company on Thursday released images showing what it described as “unusual” movement around the Iranian Fordo nuclear facility… The photographs, which show large numbers of vehicles at the entrance to the facility and other signs of increased activity there, do not in themselves indicate any violation of the nuclear accord.” [ToI

“Iran nuclear deal: Is its economy better off?” by Amir Paivar: “The International Monetary Fund reported that the real GDP of Iran grew 12.5% in the first year following the implementation of the deal… Growth has fallen since then, and the IMF estimates the economy will grow at 4% this year, which is healthy but below the 8% target Iran had for the five years following the deal… Most of the post-nuclear deal boom came from increased oil revenues that go directly into the government coffers and that takes time to trickle down into people’s pockets.” [BBC]

“More Iranians With British Links Held in Iran” by Thomas Erdbrink and Rick Gladstone: “Speculation has grown in recent months that freedom for the Iranians with British connections may be tied to a longstanding legal dispute between Britain and Iran over Iran’s 1976 purchase of British tanks that were never delivered… A similar financial dispute over an old arms deal between Iran and the United States appeared to play a role in the 2016 release of Americans held by the Iranians, with the delivery of $400 million to Iran on the same day the nuclear deal took effect.” [NYTimes]

BOLTON TIME? —  Retired Col. Jack Jacobs writes… “John Kelly’s ‘idiot’ comments suggest an imminent exit, clearing the way for John Bolton’s rise: If Bolton plays his cards right he could very well be one of the most powerful men in Washington by the end of the year — if not sooner — due to his proximity to the president… Trump has been described as a person who tends to be most influenced by the last person to speak with him, making access paramount. And so in this scenario, it would be Bolton calling the shots.” [NBCNews]

“Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller has been in touch with Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton” by Eliza Relman: “Pamela Geller, a well-known anti-Islam activist, says she has had “positive” interactions in recent years with John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser… In an email to Business Insider, Geller [said] that she is “very happy” Bolton, who she called “an extraordinarily intelligent man,” was selected for the top administration post. “John Bolton knows what he is doing,” she said… But it’s unclear how much the two have been in touch in recent years. Geller would only say that all of her recent interactions with Bolton have been “cordial” and “positive.”” [BusinessInsider

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “NBC News corrects explosive story on Michael Cohen” by Oliver Darcy: “NBC News on Thursday afternoon corrected an explosive story it had reported earlier in the day that said federal authorities had wiretapped Michael Cohen… The correction was announced on MSNBC during “Meet the Press Daily” by the story’s lead reporter, Tom Winter. He said US officials had told him that it “was not a wiretap” but instead a “pen register.” … Winter explained that a pen register meant authorities were “not able to listen in in real-time or record his conversations.”” [CNNMoney]

Comey blasts Giuliani for comparing FBI agents to ‘stormtroopers'” by Cristiano Lima: “Former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday rebuked Rudy Giuliani… for referring to bureau officials as “stormtroopers.” … The remark appeared to reference a paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party — known as the Sturmabteilung… “I know the New York FBI. There are no ‘stormtroopers’ there; just a group of people devoted to the rule of law and the truth,” Comey tweeted. “Our country would be better off if our leaders tried to be like them, rather than comparing them to Nazis.” [Politico]

“Alan Dershowitz Hired as Harvey Weinstein Consultant” by Eriq Gardner: “Alan Dershowitz may not want to jump aboard Donald Trump’s legal team, but apparently, he has no qualms with advising Harvey Weinstein’s legal team. On Thursday, Weinstein continued his bid in Delaware Bankruptcy Court to obtain personal and business records kept by The Weinstein Co… “I have been retained to consult with Benjamin Brafman, Esquire who is representing Harvey Weinstein,” Dershowitz states in a declaration. “I have agreed to consult on the specific issue of Mr. Brafman’s access to his client’s personal and business emails… in order to prepare his constitutionally-mandated role as counsel to Mr. Weinstein.”” [HollywoodReporter]

SCENE YESTERDAY — Approximately 200 guests from faith-based communities attended the National Day of Prayer hosted by President Trump at the White House Rose Garden. Attendees included Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who delivered a special prayer, OU’s Nathan Diament, Agudath Israel’s Abba Cohen, and Ezra Friedlander [CSPAN] • Before the event, Rabbi Shemtov was seen chatting with Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz [Pic]

HAPPENING ON SUNDAY — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will address the ADL National Leadership Summit at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C.

2018 WATCH — “Anti-Semites on the ballot: GOP ‘condemns’ three contenders with racist views” by Caitlin Dickson: “Three Republican candidates in this year’s midterms have been disavowed by the Republican National Committee for their racist and anti-Semitic views — including one who, according to a local television news poll, is leading among Republicans in the primary for California’s Senate election. “While they have no chance of winning, we nonetheless condemn these candidates and their hateful, racist views in the strongest possible terms,” an RNC official said in a statement… “There’s no place for them in the Republican Party.”” [YahooNews]

The race for Georgia Governor: “Tippins Puts SEAL, Business Skills Before Politics” by Sarah Moosazadeh: “Former Navy SEAL Clay Tippins has no political experience, but the business executive and consultant still won a Republican Jewish Coalition straw poll in March as the first choice of 42 percent of the people who attended a candidate forum… While Tippins was deployed to the Middle East, he saw firsthand the threats to Israel. “Israel is never going to find a better partner than Clay Tippins, whether that is as a warrior, a governor or as a citizen,” he said… Tippins said he will build on the business relationships Gov. Nathan Deal cultivated during a trade mission to Israel in 2014.” [AtlantaJewishTimes] • Stacey Abrams Vs. Stacey Evans: Inside GA’s Governor’s Race [NYMag]

“Missouri lawmakers agree to call special session to consider Greitens’ impeachment” by Allison Kite, Jason Hancock And Bryan Lowry: “According to the petition signed by 138 House members and 29 senators — both more than the three-fourths required in each chamber to call a special session — lawmakers will consider the findings and recommendations of a House committee investigating Greitens, “including, but not limited to disciplinary actions against Gov. Eric R. Greitens.” The special session would begin at 6:30 p.m. on May 18, immediately after the legislature adjourns its regular session for the year.” [KansasCItyStarWSJ] 

2020 WATCH — Former Senator Joe Lieberman indicates he would sooner support Bernie Sanders over Elizabeth Warren in 2020 on Tablet Magazine’s Unorthodox podcast, hosted by Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick, and Liel Leibovitz — If it’s Elizabeth Warren, whom you’ve been very critical of, versus Donald Trump. Do you stick with the Democrats? Lieberman: “I don’t know, tough call. I mean that would be my instinct, but she would make it hard. I don’t know really know her. Interestingly enough, I know Bernie Sanders because I served with him.” Would you vote Bernie over Trump? Lieberman: “It depends where we are. That would be an easier call for me as a Democrat interestingly enough. Bernie is a genuine article.” [TabletMag

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israel is One of the Three Countries Alibaba is Considering for Expansion, Says Jack Ma [CTech] • Isadore Sharp’s Four Seasons luxury hotel in Vancouver to close amid complaints of ‘tired, dated’ appearance [GlobeAndMail] • Steve Cohen’s Point72 hedge fund makes slight gains in 2018 [BusinessInsider] • Former Millennium Trader Dodson to Start New Oil Hedge Fund [Bloomberg] • Jeff Sutton, the Cayre family and others will not attend this years International Conference of Shopping Center’s because it conflicts with Shavuot [TheRealDeal]

PROFILE: “Isaac Hager’s higher power: The developer is gaining outer borough market share, despite a trail of foreclosures and lawsuits from his early real estate days” by Mark Maurer and Eddie Small: “A couple months ago, one of Brooklyn’s most active and under-the-radar developers, Isaac Hager, crossed into Queens to buy a 50,000-square-foot Long Island City warehouse for just shy of $20 million. But while reviewing the deal’s terms, Hager uncovered a problem: He could not take advantage of the property’s total floor-area ratio. The discovery could have scored him at least $1 million off the price… But when it came time to close, Hager opted not to push for a lower price. “It’s a chillul Hashem,” Hager told Junik, using Hebrew to call it a desecration of God’s name. “Why look bad?” Hager — whose Hasidic Jewish faith is said to be sometimes at odds with his aggressive dealmaking style — reasoned that it was important to stick to his word. And that philosophy seems to be working well for him.” [TheRealDealMag]

“Theranos Cost Business and Government Leaders More Than $600 Million” by John Carreyrou: “In an April 10 email to shareholders… Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes raised the likelihood that the company would be liquidated by August… Other Theranos investors facing big losses include… members of South Africa’s Oppenheimer family, which controlled the diamond company De Beers until it was sold to Anglo American PLC in 2011… The Oppenheimers invested… $20 million… New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft invested about $1 million.” [WSJ]

Glencore, a hard-slugging mining giant, meets its match in Congo: “The clash between [Ivan] Glasenberg and [Dan] Gertler, two former business partners, dates back to December, when the American government slapped sanctions on Mr Gertler, accusing him of amassing hundreds of millions of dollars through “opaque and corrupt” mining deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which he denies… Mr Glasenberg may be partially reaping what he sowed, analysts say. His firm long did business with Mr Gertler, despite reports about the latter’s relationship with [Joseph] Kabila… Glencore may survive the slugfest. Some analysts say it may be encouraged to make a big tax prepayment to Gécamines to preserve its assets… Others say it may attempt to convince America’s Treasury to relax sanctions against Mr Gertler… But that is unlikely.” [Economist]

“The Battle for Sumner Redstone’s Affection—and Fortune—Gets Even Weirder” by William Cohan: “Shari Redstone’s current crusade to put together what her father intentionally tore asunder is just the latest chapter of a very long—Sumner is currently 94—and very ugly quasi-Shakespearean epic. There are so many versions of the “truth” swirling around the family, the lawyers who worked for them, Sumner’s various girlfriends, paramours, nurses, and other employees, that it is nearly impossible to figure out what really transpired and why. There are a number of ongoing lawsuits, so the courts will be in charge of determining the truth—and who, therefore, should pay whom.” [VanityFair]

“Dead Sea Scrolls discovery: Tech reveals hidden script” by James Rogers: “The technology, which was originally developed for NASA, has identified new letters and words, giving experts fresh insight into the historic texts. One of the fragments may even indicate the existence of a previously unknown manuscript, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is conducting the research… Fragments have also been found from The Temple Scroll, the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which provides directions for conducting Temple services, and the Great Psalms Scroll.” [FoxNews]

Israeli diplomat in US booted from Uber for speaking Hebrew: “An Israeli diplomat in Chicago said he was thrown out of an Uber on Thursday night when the driver heard him speaking Hebrew. Itay Milner, Israel’s deputy consul general in Chicago, posted on Facebook that it was one of the worst experiences of his life. “I was just thrown out of an Uber in the middle of the highway only because I answered my phone in my mother tongue,” he posted.”[ToI]

Roger Cohen writes… “Israel Banishes a Columbia Law Professor for Thinking Differently: “Katherine Franke, who is a Columbia Law School professor and was co-heading a delegation of American civil rights leaders when she was detained last Sunday, interrogated, accused of lying, and, upon expulsion, told she could never return… Franke told me the reaction from Columbia had been “disappointing.” Although she informed the law school dean and the provost of her detention, no one asked whether she got out the country safely, and no statement was issued from the university. The law school dean’s chief of staff informed her, she told me, that “because there are pro-Israeli centers at the law school” the school “would not get involved in defending” her.” [NYTimes]

“There’s More to Being Jewish Than Fighting Anti-Semitism” by Emma Green: “[Jonathan] Weisman’s book never overcomes this foundational flaw: It is based on the wildly inaccurate claim that American Jews are not talking about, thinking about, and calling out anti-Semitism… Weisman does not excavate enough Zionist history to recognize the uncanny parallel between his fears and those of Jewish thinkers past, but this ripple of anxiety through the generations is one of the reasons why this moment in America politics is so powerful. Like the Jews of today, many of Europe’s early 20th-century Jews were highly secular and assimilated, and this may have made them slower to address the deadly threat of rising bigotry in their time. Anti-Semitism provides a framework for thinking about other problems of extremism and xenophobia, as well.” [TheAtlantic]

SPORTS BLINK — May 4th sees the start of cycling’s Giro D’Italia, with the opening stage held in Jerusalem. This is the biggest sporting event in the history of Israel. [CNNBBC]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Five Stones Virtuous — by Yitz Applbaum: “Before Passover I suggested some wonderful wines to enhance your Seder. At our own Seder, we drank all the wines suggested plus a few more. One of the new wines was the “Five Stones Virtuous.”

“The Five Stones Virtuous wine is a masterpiece. The Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes are separately aged for 15 months in new French oak, and then blended together and re-aged for 18 more months.  This wine requires an immense amount of focus because you can simultaneously taste the individual grape varietals, and the overall blend all at the same time. At first, one is bombarded with deep, passionate, middle-mouth dark chocolate covered blueberry flavors. Then, just as you are about to regain your composure, the finish overwhelms you with elegant, deep-toasted wood and cherry overtones. Ideally, one drinks this wine with the leftover lamb from the Passover sacrifice. If that is not available, then a regular leg of lamb will suffice.” [WinesIsrael]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Former chairman and CEO of American International Group, now chairman and CEO of the Starr Companies, Maurice Raymond “Hank” Greenberg turns 93… Best-selling Israeli author, Amos Oz (born Amos Klausner) turns 79… Former member of the New York State Assembly (1983-2010), now a Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Public Service at NYU, Richard L. Brodsky turns 72… Congregational rabbi (1974-1977), then executive director of the Texas A&M Hillel (1983-2013), now a consultant for the tourism industry, Peter E. Tarlow turns 72… US Special Envoy for Climate Change in the Obama administration, chief negotiator at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Todd Stern turns 67… EVP and Global General Counsel of the Las Vegas Sands since 2016, previously Group General Counsel and Senior EVP of News Corporation (1996-2011), Lawrence “Lon” A. Jacobs turns 63… Baltimore-born triathlete, she earned a Ph.D. in 2001 from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is a winner of international ironman competitions, Joanna Sue Zeiger turns 48… Executive Director of Surprise Lake Camp and Director of Youth Engagement for the Union for Reform Judaism, Bradley Solmsen turns 48… State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida since 2013, he was the youngest member of the Florida Senate when he was elected in 2002, Dave Aronberg turns 47… Former member of the New York City Council (2006-2017), Daniel Garodnick turns 46… Former Secretary of State of Missouri (2013-2017), he ran for the US Senate in 2016, Jason Kander turns 37… MPA candidate at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School, Allison Bormel Ament turns 31… Speechwriter for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Shana Mansbachturns 26… 2017 graduate of the MFA program at American University, Steven A. Rosenberg turns 29… Mechal Wakslak

SATURDAY: Talk radio show host, a 2014 inductee into the National Radio Hall of Fame, Barry Farber turns 88… Writer of the “Letter from America” column for The International Herald Tribune, previously a foreign correspondent and a book critic at The New York Times, Richard Bernsteinturns 74… Best-selling author of 19 novels featuring fictional Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper, Linda Fairstein turns 71… Retired judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (2000-2017, the last 11 years as Chief Judge), he was previously president of the Jewish Community Council of Washington, Peter B. Krauser turns 71… Member of the Knesset, almost continuously since 1988, for the Haredi parties of Degel HaTorah and United Torah Judaism, Moshe Gafni turns 66… Member of the Knesset (1996-2018) for the Shas party, he now serves as Minister of Religious Services, David Azulai turns 64… South African-born President of American Jewish World Service, Robert Bank turns 59… Executive Director for North America of the Avi Chai Foundation since 1994, Yossi Prager turns 53… Television writer and producer, known for The Simpsons, Josh Weinstein turns 52… Television news correspondent, Lara Berman turns 38… Former Israeli national soccer team captain, Yossi Benayoun turns 38… Principal at New Enterprise Associates and a member of the inaugural class of the Schwarzman Scholars program, Andrew Adams Schoen turns 28…

SUNDAY: Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford U, Abraham David Sofaer turns 80… Media executive and philanthropist, he was a long-time executive of Time Inc. (later Time Warner) who negotiated the merger between AOL and Time Warner in 2000, Gerald M. “Jerry” Levin turns 79… Born in Buenos Aires, later emigrated to Chile and then the US, novelist, playwright, essayist, academic and human rights activist, professor of Latin American studies at Duke University, Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman turns 76… Professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, Martha Nussbaum turns 71… Former Deputy Attorney General of the US (1994-1997), Jamie S. Gorelick turns 68… French-born president of the Jerusalem College of Technology (2009-2013), Noah Dana-Picard turns 64… Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies at Northeastern University, Lori Hope Lefkovitzturns 62… President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life (since 2013), previously Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents (2007-2011) and a US Congressman (1993-1995), Eric David Fingerhut turns 59… Attorney and partner in LA-based real estate development firm, Regent Properties, Daniel Gryczman turns 43… Los Angeles-based television personality, actress, writer and video blogger, Shira Lazar turns 35…

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,…