Daily Kickoff: Benny Gantz speaks | Saban says Schultz guarantees a Trump win | Why portraying Israel as a victim to college kids has failed

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ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — On Tuesday, former IDF chief Benny Gantz launched his bid to replace PM Benjamin Netanyahu. In a live, televised speech, Gantz described himself as neither on the right nor the left politically. He also ripped into the prime minister, whom he claimed is sowing “division and incitement.” In a tweet after Gantz’s speech, Netanyahu pushed back: “To those who say he is neither right nor left—he’s left.” The speech was sharply criticized by Gantz’s rival parties on the center-right, but, nonetheless, the newcomer to politics has emerged as a credible alternative to Netanyahu, whom he thanked for “10 years of service as prime minister.” But now, he said, “it’s time to move on.”

HOW IT PLAYED — The silent Israeli general challenging Netanyahu in the election is silent no more — by Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash: “Nicknamed ‘the prince,’ Gantz has been described by those who know him as a mild-mannered pragmatist… If Gantz forms a political alliance with other contenders ahead of the vote, he could pose a threat to the prime minister, especially given the legal woes.” [WashPost• Netanyahu’s Top Challenger Positions Himself as the Anti-Bibi [Bloomberg]

JI READERS REACT — Shalom Lipner, a veteran of 26 years in the prime minister’s office and currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Program, emails: “Gantz can expect to get a generous post-launch bounce in the polls, but will slide inevitably as all other contenders train their arrows on the no-longer-silent contestant for Israel’s leadership. In a campaign that has so far been mostly devoid of substance or ideology, and in a country that traditionally builds up and then cuts down its heroes, it now remains to be seen whether a cynical Israeli electorate is ready to embrace Gantz as the remedy to what ails its politics.”

IPF’s Michael Koplow: “Gantz has to overcome two obstacles in order to really challenge Bibi: first, come off looking like a viable prime minister from a purely image perspective, and second, reassure Israelis that he can be trusted on security issues. His speech accomplished both of those things as his first real introduction to the public as a political figure. Whether he can actually be a threat to Bibi is going to depend on a whole range of factors beyond his control and to what extent Likud and HaYamin Hehadash are successful at portraying him as a leftist, not to mention the pending indictments. But this was as strong as a start as he could have hoped for.”

ON THE HILL — A Growing Chorus of Republican Critics for Trump’s Foreign Policy — by Peter Baker: “The growing discontent among Republican national security hawks was most evident on Tuesday when Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky… effectively rebuked the president by introducing a measure denouncing “a precipitous withdrawal” of American troops from Syria and Afghanistan…  Mr. McConnell attached the amendment to a bill intended to extend aid to Israel and offer protections to state and local governments that refuse to do business with companies that boycott Israel. The Senate advanced the main bill on Tuesday on a 76-to-22 vote, with all the negative votes coming from Democrats.” [NYTimes

HEARD ON THE SENATE FLOOR — Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) spoke about his opposition to the anti-BDS measure during a debate on S.1: “The Trump administration under the guidance of the president’s designated Middle East senior advisor, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law; has embarked on an undisguised effort to crush the Palestinians by revoking all U.S. humanitarian assistance… The effort to crush the Palestinians to submit to a one-sided agreement that will never work. President Trump and Jared Kushner apparently think this is just another real estate deal where you turn off the water and electricity to force out your tenants. Instead, these actions will only add fuel to the boycott movement because many people will see no other vehicle for expressing their views.”

Van Hollen went on to say that the anti-BDS provision in the bill is an effort to suppress free speech, which will “only add momentum” to the BDS movement. “Some Senators tool this bill and used it as an attack on the constitutional rights of American citizens who may want to peacefully demonstrate their opposition to some of the Netanyahu government’s policies.” [CSPAN]

ATTN: JEWISH LEADERS — Benjamin Simon, a student at Stanford University, writes in the Wall Street Journal… “Israel Is Powerful. That Doesn’t Make it Wrong: Why do my peers op­pose Is­rael? Not be­cause col­lege stu­dents are anti-Sem­itic, but be­cause most hold one truth to be self-ev­i­dent: Pow­er­less­ness im­plies moral le­git­i­macy. The Is­raelis are pow­er­ful; the Pales­tini­ans are not. As such, the Is­raeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict is merely a strug­gle be­tween vic­tim and op­pres­sor, and no­body wants to sup­port the op­pres­sor.”

“Ac­cord­ingly, cam­pus pro-Is­rael groups of­ten try to por­tray Is­rael as a vic­tim, too — a vic­tim of in­ternational bias and un­pro­voked ag­gres­sion from its Arab neigh­bors. This strat­egy, how­ever, has failed. It will con­tinue to fail be­cause even though Is­rael may be un­der threat, it isn’t pow­er­less… But power doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally im­ply moral turpi­tude; and con­versely, pow­er­less­ness does not guar­an­tee good­ness. In other words, might does not make Is­rael right, but it cer­tainly does not make Is­rael wrong, ei­ther… Stu­dents can’t see that when they al­low the pop­u­lar moral­ity of power to ob­scure the truth.” [WSJ]

TOP TALKER — On North Korea and Iran, Intelligence Chiefs Contradict Trump — by David Sanger and Julian Barnes: “On one of Mr. Trump’s key assertions — that Iran had cheated on the spirit of the 2015 nuclear agreement even if it was temporarily following its terms — Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, said Tehran continued to comply with the deal even after the president announced in May that the United States would withdraw from it. ‘We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,’ Mr. Coats said. He added, however, that Iranian officials have ‘publicly threatened to push the boundaries’ of the nuclear agreement if it did not see benefits that were promised.'”

“Senator Angus King, the Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, asked CIA Director [Gina] Haspel point-blank if Iran remained in compliance with the nuclear deal. She said it was, but added that Iranian leaders were considering steps that would ‘lessen their adherence’ to the agreement.”[NYTimesCNN]

— DNI Coats on Syria: “Iran continues to pursue permanent military bases and economic deals in Syria and probably wants to maintain a network of Shia foreign fighters there despite Israeli attacks on Iranian positions in Syria… We assess that Iran seeks to avoid a major armed conflict with Israel. However, Israeli strikes that result in Iranian casualties increase the likelihood of Iranian conventional retaliation against Israel.” [Newsweek]

Eli Lake writes… “What the Intelligence on Iran and North Korea Doesn’t Say: The assessment of the U.S. intelligence community today is that Iran continues to be an aggressor in the region, while it is more or less complying with the limits spelled out in the 2015 agreement… At the same time, the very same assessment notes that Iran’s work on a space launch vehicle ‘shortens the timeline’ for it to develop the long-range missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload. Like North Korea, Iran is still pursuing its insurance policy.” [Bloomberg]

STATE-SIDE — Florida Cabinet recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli capital, warns Airbnb over West Bank policy — by Samantha Gross: “The Florida Cabinet passed a symbolic resolution Tuesday, declaring that the state officially recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel… At the meeting, Nikki Fried, the first Jewish woman on Florida’s Cabinet, said the resolution was symbolic of a ‘lifelong devotion’ between the states. ‘As a member of the Jewish community, this resolution is near and dear to my heart,’ she said.”

“The Cabinet voted Tuesday to put Airbnb on a “scrutinized companies” list, giving the company a 90 day period to correct their policy in the West Bank. “States like Florida are stepping up and saying if we allow Israel to be singled out, it’s only going to snowball,” DeSantis said Tuesday.” [MiamiHerald]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — David Leonhardt, an Op-Ed columnist at the NYTimes, discussed his upbringing and his family background on The Axe Files podcast with David Axelrod: “[My grandfather] Rene Leonhardt owned a tiny little photography business in Times Square in New York, took photos of babies for diapers ads and things like that. Like a lot of people, I went through my family’s immigration records several years ago and on the ship’s manifest as he was arriving in New York escaping Nazi Germany, he’s listed as a journalist. I mean it was this incredible feeling of, ‘Oh my goodness he did the same thing I did.’ As I looked more into it, he was a photojournalist, but of course, when he came to this country he had to make money, and so I assume that’s why he started this commercial photography business.”

“As I thought more about it, it has just given me this sense of tremendous gratitude ― that he fled Nazi Germany… He essentially had to leave behind what he liked doing — being a journalist — and now I get to be a journalist working for a newspaper in the same square where he worked, Times Square.”

Axelrod: Was your grandmother also an immigrant?

Leonhardt: “No, I’m a mutt. My dad is a New York Jew. My mom is a Philadelphia WASP. Her parents, whom I was very close to, they lived long lives. They were the classic children of the depression in Philadelphia and then went on to have very prosperous lives as middle-class and upper-middle-class Americans who got to ride that great up escalator, and I grew up in New York.”

Leonhardt recalled attending a State Dinner for German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011: “I had this same feeling of, ‘my goodness I’m going to meet the leader of Germany tonight at the White House and this is the country that sent my family fleeing to this country.'” [AxeFiles]

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — Inside Kushner’s immigration plans — by Alayna Treene and Jonathan Swan: “Jared Kushner ran a white board planning session last week at the White House with the Koch network and Hispanic leaders… to see if the administration can replicate the approach they took to pass criminal justice reform to overhaul America’s immigration system… Daniel Garza, president of the Koch network’s LIBRE Initiative and a supporter of Kushner’s approach, said Kushner used a quote he presumably gathered from his ongoing efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. ‘At one point during the meeting Jared quoted [former Israeli President] Shimon Peres and said something along the lines of ‘You don’t arrive at peace by meeting with just friends,’’ Garza said.” [Axios]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Steven Mnuchin Draws Claims of Conflict of Interest in Decision on Russian Oligarch — by Kenneth Vogel: “In a letter to Mr. Mnuchin, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee said Mr. Mnuchin’s connection to an entertainment business owned in part by the donor, Len Blavatnik, a business partner of Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska’s, represented a potential conflict of interest… Other Democrats are also considering taking steps to investigate Mr. Mnuchin’s connections to Mr. Blavatnik, including Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. Tony Sayegh, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, said that Mr. Mnuchin had ‘no business relationship’ with Mr. Blavatnik and that any implication of a conflict of interest or ethical problem was ‘absurd.’”[NYTimes

2020 WATCH — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday that he would not run for president… Democratic megadonor Haim Saban said in a statement that a Schultz run “guarantees Trump a second term.”… Schultz reportedly undertook a months-long effort to prepare for the rollout of his independent bid, deploying more than six national polls and laying the groundwork for paid advertising that could debut in the next two months… Mike Bloomberg creates own lane in New Hampshire swing…

Tulsi Gabbard campaign in disarray — by Daniel Strauss and Alex Thompson: “For years, Gabbard has been regarded as a rising star in the Democratic Party, and supporters hoped she could use a presidential bid to pressure party elites toward a non-interventionist foreign policy. But her early campaign stumbles and problems back home—where at times she’s had sky-high approval ratings—call into question whether the Hawaii lawmaker can compete on the national stage.” [Politico]

** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Michael Milken’s Son Lance Leaves Black’s Apollo For Family Office Role [Bloomberg] • Disney, under the leadership of Bob Iger, has re-engineered its operating segments and reshuffled its management ranks to prepare for its streaming future [Variety• Quibi Taps Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Craig Kurland As Head Of Business Affairs [Deadline] • World Trade Center leases booming, famed developer Larry Silverstein says [FoxBusiness• Wynn Resorts Executives Ignored Sexual Misconduct Claims Against Steve Wynn [WSJ• Intel offered up to $6 billion for Israel’s Mellanox [Reuters]

** A message from The Maimonides Scholars Program: Do you know a student interested in Jewish Thought, Zionism, and Philosophy? The Maimonides Scholars Program is a two-week summer institute for high school students hosted at Yale University. Our faculty members include Rabbi David Wolpe, novelist Dara Horn, historian Daniel Gordis, and former MK Einat Wilf. Students with all levels of familiarity with Jewish text study are encouraged to apply—the only prerequisite is a hunger to learn. Application deadline is February 3rd. [Visit The Maimonides Scholars Program]  **

A cure for cancer? Israeli scientists say they think they found one — by Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman: “‘We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer,’ said Dan Aridor, of a new treatment being developed by his company, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBi), which was founded in 2000 in the ITEK incubator in the Weizmann Science Park… ‘Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market,’ Aridor said.” [JPost]

PROFILE —The unstoppable envoy — by Benjamin Weinthal: “In the short time since Ric Grenell took up his post as ambassador, major German transnational companies including BMW, Karcher, BASF, SMS Group, Munich Re, IMS Deutschland, Siemens, Daimler, and Deutsche Telekom have announced they will slash their business relations with Iran… Grenell’s sharp-elbowed diplomacy has raised his stock. His name was floated as a candidate for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Trump’s chief of staff… When asked about his future, he said with a broad smile: “Finish building my house in Palm Springs and have a gin at 5 p.m.” [WashExaminer]

HOLLYWOOD — Director Jason Orley on How Pete Davidson Helped Shape His Character in Big Time Adolescence — by Nicole Sperling: “The Big Time Adolescence, a sweet and funny tale about Mo (Griffin Gluck), a high-schooler who stays pals with his older sister’s boyfriend, Zeke (Pete Davidson), after she dumps him, was beloved in Hollywood circles, landing on the Black List in 2014 and earning Orley a spot in a few writers’ rooms. The script was optioned twice, then fell apart twice, and Orley made peace with it remaining unproduced. But then Saturday Night Live’s Davidson came on board, a healthy dose of financing showed up, and suddenly Orley was directing his first feature, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday night… Orley made it clear that the similarities to his childhood end there. He never dealt drugs. He has no terrible tattoos. In fact, Orley’s version of the cool guy, the Midwestern Jew in tight jeans who introduced him to the Strokes, quickly became Davidson’s version in the film, the Staten Island guy with tattoos who turned Mo onto the Wu-Tang Clan.” [VanityFair]

‘The Invisibles’ Reveals How Some Jews Survived Nazi Germany By Hiding In Plain Sight — by Eleanor Beardsley: “Hanni Weissenberg, now Hanni Lévy, survived as a Jew in Nazi Germany. Today, the petite and lively 94-year-old lives in Paris. Earlier this month, she returned to Berlin, her home during the war years, to attend the screening of a film about her and other Jews who survived while hiding under the noses of the Nazis. The Invisibles, a German documentary-drama based on the accounts of four survivors, opened Friday in the U.S. In the film, Lévy is depicted first at age 17, sitting in her Berlin apartment in 1943, with the Gestapo pounding on the door. ‘That’s when I knew it was now or never,’ Lévy tells NPR… She managed to slip out of the apartment that day and escape.” [NPR]

TALK OF THE NATION — Hate crimes charged in Pittsburgh synagogue massacre case — by Mark Scolforo: “A man accused of opening fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October… was indicted Tuesday on additional counts that include allegations of hate crimes. A federal grand jury added 19 charges to the 44 counts previously levied against Robert Bowers, 46, of Baldwin, Pennsylvania. Thirteen of the new counts are hate crime violations and the others accuse him of obstructing religious beliefs and discharging a firearm during crimes of violence.” [AP]

SPORTS BLINK — Randy Levine’s wife sent Yankees gear in appreciation of Israeli ‘Lone Soldiers’ — by Cindy Adams: “NYC, capital of the world, is spreading to the rest of the world. El Al just flew Yankee hats, bandanas and T-shirts, embroidered with the Israeli flag, 1,000 pounds worth, into Tel Aviv. This gift’s organizer and deliverer — in the presence of Prime Minister Netanyahu and its generals and the Knesset — was New Yorker Mindy Levine, wife of team president Randy Levine. Question: Why? Answer: To thank the Lone Soldier.” [PageSix]

BIRTHDAYS: Theatrical producer and director, winner of 21 Tony Awards, more than other person, Harold Prince turns 91… Chairman of The Cordish Companies, a Baltimore-based development firm specializing in casinos, urban revitalization projects and entertainment districts, David S. Cordish turns 79… Teacher and national community leader, holder of a Ph.D. in modern Jewish history from New York University, Judith Friedman Rosen turns 67… Heather Graf turns 65… Native of El Paso, Texas, he is the CEO of the Jewish National Fund, Russell F. Robinson turns 63… Republican member of the California State Senate from Riverside County, he was first elected in 2014 and then re-elected in 2018, Jeff Stone turns 63… Philadelphia area psychologist, Dr. Rachel Ginzberg turns 61… Managing partner (elect) of lobbying and law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, he will assume the role as of July 2019, Richard B. Benenson turns 51… Assistant Professor in the electrical engineering department at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Guy Gilboa turns 48… Publicist, manager and socialite, she runs an eponymous NYC PR and management firm, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Grubmanturns 48…

Elected in 2018 as council member at-large for Montgomery County, Maryland, he was previously a CNN producer (1999-2011), Evan M. Glass turns 42… Gisele Rogers turns 41… Senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Joshua M. Kram turns 40… Republican member of the US House of Representatives since 2015, his district is in eastern Long Island, NY, Lee Zeldin turns 39… White House correspondent for CBS Radio News, following a nine year (2006-2015) assignment as Congressional correspondent for ABC News Radio, Steven Portnoy turns 38… Israeli actor, director, writer and television presenter, he is known for starring in “Shtisel, Out in the Dark” and as the host of the popular reality TV show, “The Voice Israel,” Michael Aloni turns 35… Chief Executive Officer at Harvesting Media, Eli Langer turns 33… Senior reporter for Real Vision TV, she was a host, producer and writer for Salon and the lead political host for HuffPost Live, Alyona Minkovski turns 33… Senior consultant in the tech sector for Deloitte Israel, Max Delahanty turns 30… Professional ice hockey defenseman, he played on Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics and is currently playing with HC Dinamo Minsk in Belarus, Jonathon Blum turns 30… Associate at Blue Wolf Capital Partners, Jared Isenstein turns 27… Professional ice hockey forward, she played four seasons for the Northeastern U’s women’s ice hockey team and is currently playing for the Boston Blades in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Chelsey Goldberg turns 26… Alexa Smith

Correction: In yesterday’s Daily Kickoff we mistakenly identified Eugene Kontorovich’s professional affiliation. He is no longer a professor at Northwestern’s Pritzker school of Law, he’s now a professor at George Mason’s Scalia School of Law




Daily Kickoff: Top Dems form new pro-Israel group | Peter Orszag on Holocaust survivors’ longevity | The bumbling Israeli corporate spy caught in NYC

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ON THE HILL — Senate Dems split on pro-Israel package: The Senate voted 74-19 to advance the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S.1) yesterday. Most Democratic Senators followed the lead of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in voting in favor of the motion to invoke cloture.

2020 hopefuls, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren(D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were among the 19 Democrats opposing the package, which included a measure that would empower local governments to counter the BDS movement. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) was the only possible presidential candidate who voted in favor. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who was in Iowa for a live town hall meeting to kick off her presidential bid, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) missed the vote.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who voted in favor, explained in a statement that while he “appreciates” the wide array of opinions on the anti-BDS measure, “I also recognize that, too often, Israel’s opponents use the BDS movement to delegitimize Israel. I oppose the BDS movement, and I believe it is critical that the United States support the economic stability and political independence of Israel.” [JewishInsider]

Schumer tells JI“I strongly oppose the BDS movement and I believe that states, like my home state of New York, should be able to pass legislation to combat it.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweets: “I don’t support BDS. I don’t support forcing public employees to sign loyalty pledges to anyone in order to do their job. I don’t support allowing Republicans to politicize support for Israel by pushing needlessly divisive bills. None of these are inconsistent with each other.”

HOW IT PLAYED — Senate Advances Pro-Israel Bill as G.O.P. Searches for Democratic Divisions — by Catie Edmondson: “The late inclusion was an opportunity for Republicans to draw out the new generation of insurgent liberal representatives who have been critical of Israel.”[NYTimes• “Debate on the measure will now begin and is likely to rekindle bipartisan concerns on Capitol Hill about Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria.” [CNN]

REACTION — Halie Soifer, Executive Director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), tells JI“The fact that this is the fourth vote on the same measure exposes it for what it is, which is an attempt to politicize these issues. There are some very real concerns with regards to how to legislate this larger issue of combating BDS. There’s a difference within the Democratic caucus on that matter. That doesn’t mean that any Democrat — literally zero Democrats support BDS, in the Senate. That doesn’t mean that there’s been any change or reduction in support of Israel in the Senate among Democrats. So, I would caution anyone from reading too much into this vote, and somehow interpreting this as a litmus test for Democratic support of Israel.”

Matt Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), emails: “It’s a shonda! For the past several weeks, Democrats have professed that they opposed this critical pro-Israel/pro-Jewish community legislation on principle because of the shutdown. Now, with the shutdown over, many leading Dems again voted against it. At least the charade is now over, we know exactly where they stand — and it’s not with Israel.”

Amb. Dan Shapiro: “The bill advanced in the Senate codifies the $38 billion MOU for military aid to Israel signed during the Obama Administration, something that should be welcomed. As for its provisions aimed at combatting BDS, now the Senate has an opportunity to debate them and try to ensure that they reflect the broad consensus against boycotting, sanctioning, or divesting from Israel and that they pass constitutional muster and protect individual rights. With bipartisan goodwill, it is possible to pass such legislation.”

Eugene Kontorovich, Professor at George Mason Scalia School of Law:“I think the more impressive thing is how many Democrats voted for it. It shows that mainstream pro-Israel legislation still has a substantial and majority support amongst the Democratic Party. I think it’s important to point out that in today’s polarized Washington, this is actually about as bipartisan as a vote can be. At the same time, it also shows that there’s a split in the Democratic Party between the mainstream wing and the more radical progressive wing, or at least those who are scared and intimidated by the intensity of that progressive wing.”

TOP TALKER — Prominent Democrats Form Pro-Israel Group to Counter Skepticism on the Left — by Jonathan Martin: “The new group — the Democratic Majority for Israel — is planning to wage a campaign to remind elected officials about what they call the party’s shared values and interests with one of America’s strongest allies. “Most Democrats are strongly pro-Israel and we want to keep it that way,” said Mark Mellman, the group’s president and a longtime Democratic pollster… The group, whose board includes former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and a former Clinton administration housing secretary, Henry Cisneros, will create a political action committee later this year and may engage in Democratic primaries, Mr. Mellman said. They also are planning an “early states project” with the goal of organizing pro-Israel Democrats in the first nominating states to lobby the party’s presidential hopefuls.”

“Mr. Mellman will be joined at the group by co-chairs Ann Lewis, another veteran Democratic strategist, and Todd Richman, a J.P. Morgan executive and Democratic fund-raiser. They would not say how much they would spend in the 2020 election, but Mr. Mellman said the group has “substantial” financial backing and planned to “be around for years.” … Some Jewish Democrats have suggested that Mr. Mellman’s group represents a Democratic arm of AIPAC, though he said they are “separate and independent.” [NYTimesHaaretz]

— In 2016, Todd Richman wrote: “All the AIPAC bashing just isn’t fair.” [ToI]

— Ann Lewis emails: “I think the Republican maneuvering in the Senate in the last two weeks is another example why we have organized DMF. Anti-BDS legislation is important to Israel’s security and well-being, but congressional Republicans are trying to use it as a weapon. We will be stressing the need for anti-BDS legislation to Democratic lawmakers as a policy; and why we cannot let Republicans try to claim it for political ends.”

David Brooks writes… “Kindness Is a Skill: Your narrative will never win. In many intractable conflicts, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, each side wants the other to adopt its narrative and admit it was wrong the whole time. This will never happen. Get over it. Find a new narrative.” [NYTimes]

ON THE GOLAN — Congressional sources tell JI that the Senate is gearing up for a reintroduction of a resolution encouraging the United States to formally recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The New Pro-Israel Law That Could Backfire on Israel — by Neri Zilber: “The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act… set to come into effect on Feb. 1, would force the Palestinians to forgo all American aid or else accept the jurisdiction of the U.S. court system in various terrorism-related civil suits… Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the bill’s primary sponsor, recently offered an amendment to soften the bill’s impact. But a congressional source familiar with the matter told Foreign Policy that the proposal was “dead” due to opposition from the State Department.” [ForeignPolicy]

House Democrats to challenge Trump again on Yemen — by Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan: “House Democrats are renewing their push to cut off U.S. involvement in Yemen’s bloody civil war… Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) told Politico on Monday that he planned to reintroduce a War Powers resolution in the coming days, and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), indicated that his panel would make the issue a top priority.” [Politico]

INFLUENCERS — Twitter diplomacy: How three former Trump rivals influence foreign policy — Alex Daugherty, Lesley Clark and Emma Dumain: “A scattershot foreign policy approach from the president has allowed [Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham] the three former rivals for the GOP presidential nomination to gain influence through White House dinners with Venezuelan opposition leaders and golf outings with the president. And Trump doesn’t appear to hold grudges with the trio, who have each publicly disagreed with the president by voting against his Cabinet nominees in the case of Paul, pushing for tougher Russia sanctions in the case of Rubio or, like Graham, calling Trump’s initial Syria announcement a “stain on the honor of the United States.” [MiamiHerald]

2020 WATCH — Michael Bloomberg Warns Howard Schultz an Independent Presidential Bid Would Help Trump — by Reid Epstein: “In the first instance of a billionaire-on-billionaire political skirmish in the 2020 presidential campaign, Michael Bloomberg warned… Howard Schultz that an independent bid for the White House would re-elect President Trump… “There is no way an independent can win,” Mr. Bloomberg said Monday.” [WSJ

— Schultz responded on Monday: “Mike Bloomberg has built a great business but I don’t agree with his conclusion.” • Schultz camp: Ex-Starbucks chief could save Democrats from far-left nominee [Politico

Wall Street Journal editorial“Mr. Bloomberg’s assumption is that an independent would divide the vote for change. But why couldn’t Mr. Schultz appeal to independents and Republicans who voted reluctantly for Mr. Trump but are put off by the constant chaos of his governing style?”

At Koch gathering, a turn away from partisan politics — by Michelle Ye Hee Lee: “At their biannual meeting at a luxury resort [in Indian Wells, California], officials with the network founded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch emphasized new investments in anti-poverty initiatives and reentry programs for former convicts… The Koch network aims to rebrand itself as a group of bipartisan, philanthropic collaborators… as it seeks to distance itself from President Trump and the Republican Party… Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, noted, “It’s harder for a donor to make an impact in a social media world where a guy with a large Twitter following might have more sway than the guy with a large savings account.” [WashPost]

TALK OF THE REGION — Israel’s Netanyahu to eject foreign observers in flashpoint Hebron: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he would eject a foreign force set up to help safeguard Palestinians in a flashpoint city in the occupied West Bank… “We will not allow the continued presence of an international force that acts against us,” Netanyahu said in a statement announcing that the Temporary International Presence in Hebron’s (TIPH) mandate would not be renewed.” [Reuters]

Why is no one guarding the Iron Dome batteries in central Israel? — by Nevo Ziv: “The news that Israel recently deployed Iron Dome batteries in the central Dan region, made the headlines of most national media outlets… The Yedioth Ahronoth team made the journey to the not-so-secret spot and stopped only some five meters away from the system where it could be admired in all its splendor, and where it was guarded only by a 2-meter-high fence that an average person could climb in a few seconds. The team stood at the spot for nearly 10 minutes, filming the system without anyone noticing it.” [Ynet]

Palestinian PM, government resign — by Ali Sawafta: “Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah has tendered his resignation and that of his unity government to President Mahmoud Abbas, he said on Tuesday.”[Reuters

AT THE UN — Envoy says no UN membership for Palestinians now — by Edith Lederer: “The Palestinian ambassador at the United Nations said Monday that the day will come when “obstacles” in the Security Council to full U.N. membership for Palestine will be removed “but that day is not today.” The main hurdle is the United States, a veto-wielding Security Council member which insists that the only way Palestine can gain full membership in the United Nations is after negotiating a peace deal with Israel.” [AP]

ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — Prime Minister Netanyahu said during a visit in Gush Etzion that if it was up to him, “There won’t be any more uprooting or halting settlements.”… Dema Taya, an Israeli-Arab Muslim woman, is vying for the non-Jewish spot in Likud primaries… Under pressure to stop election meddling, Facebook says it will require identification for political ads from starting in March… Yair Lapid says that as if elected as PM, he would demand from Hungarian PM Viktor Orban to apologize for ‘anti-Semitic campaign’ against George Soros… Tzipi Livni kicked off on Tuesday her party’s official campaign, saying Netanyahu has left the country “in a state of emergency.”

Happening today: Benny Gantz will kick off his bid for prime minister in a much-anticipated event held at the Tel Aviv Convention Center at 1PM EST (8PM Israeli time). According to a draft of the speech, leaked to Channel 12 news, Gantz will vow not to sit in a government whose head has been indicted. He will also say that Israel “is not a kingdom, and has no royal family, a king or a queen” and will promise to limit the prime ministership to two terms. [Livestream

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Chemical Bank to acquire TCF in $3.6 billion deal that creates Midwest powerhouse; Gary Torgow will become executive chairman [CrainsDetroitNews• Mark Cuban in an interview for the Freakonomics Radio series “The Hidden Side of Sports” [Freakonomics• Inside HBO CEO Richard Plepler’s Plan to Win the Streaming Wars [VanityFair] • PG&E, the nation’s biggest utility company, files for bankruptcy after California wildfires [WashPost] • Intel to invest $11 billion on new Israeli chip plant [Reuters]

** A message from The Maimonides Scholars Program: Do you know a student interested in Jewish Thought, Zionism, and Philosophy? The Maimonides Scholars Program is a two-week summer institute for high school students hosted at Yale University. Our faculty members include Rabbi David Wolpe, novelist Dara Horn, historian Daniel Gordis, and former MK Einat Wilf. Students with all levels of familiarity with Jewish text study are encouraged to apply—the only prerequisite is a hunger to learn. Application deadline is February 3rd. [Visit The Maimonides Scholars Program]  **

Israel Is No. 1 Exporter of Academic Talent to the U.S., Data Shows — by Lior Dattel: “Relative to the size of national population, Israel has sent a larger proportion of academic researchers to the United States than any other country, U.S. State Department data show. The number of Israeli researchers working in the U.S. reached 1,725 in 2017, an increase of 5.6% from the year before.” [Haaretz]

SPOTLIGHT — Trump’s Freeze on China Exposes Israeli Tech Firms to Chill Wind— by  Gwen Ackerman and Ivan Levingston: “For [Igal] Rotem and the CEOs of Israeli companies like his, the risk is they end up on the wrong end of U.S. efforts to curb technology sales to China, especially innovation that might give Beijing an edge over Washington. “I’m concerned,” said Rotem, whose startup Credorax enables global payment service providers like China’s WeChat Pay to enter the lucrative European e-commerce market.”[Bloomberg]

Huawei and Top Executive Face Criminal Charges in the U.S. — by David E. Sanger, Katie Benner and Matthew Goldstein: “The Justice Department unveiled sweeping charges on Monday against the Chinese telecom firm Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, outlining a decade-long attempt by the company to steal trade secrets, obstruct a criminal investigation and evade economic sanctions on Iran.” [NYT]

DEEP DIVE — The Case of the Bumbling Spy: A Watchdog Group Gets Him on Camera — by Ronen Bergman and Scott Shane: “Over lunch at New York’s five-star Peninsula Hotel last week, the white-bearded visitor, who said his name was Michel Lambert, praised Mr. Scott-Railton’s work and pried for details about Citizen Lab. Then — “as I was finishing my crème brûlée,” Mr. Scott-Railton said — a reporter and photographer from The Associated Press… confronted the visitor, who bumped into chairs and circled the room while trying to flee. At least two other men nearby appeared to be operatives… “Michel Lambert” is a pseudonym and the Paris company he claimed to represent does not exist. The New York Times, in collaboration with Uvda, an investigative television show on Israel’s Channel 12, has confirmed that the mysterious visitor was Aharon Almog-Assoulin, a retired Israeli security official who until recently served on the town council in a suburb of Tel Aviv.” [NYTimesAP]

TALK OF OUR NATION — Holocaust Health Paradox: Survivors Lived Longer — by Peter Orszag: “The most comprehensive evidence on Holocaust survivors comes from a new analysis in the American Medical Association publication JAMA by a team of Israeli researchers. It compared Holocaust survivors born in Europe between 1911 and 1945 who later moved to Israel to people born in Palestine over the same period… The surprising part is that despite being in worse health, the Holocaust survivors lived 7.1 years longer — their average age at death was 85 years, compared to 78 among the control group. Those differences persist even after adjusting for socioeconomic status (Holocaust survivors tend to be poorer than their contemporaries), sex and other factors.” [Bloomberg]

Experts sound alarm on measles — by Eileen Drage O’Reilly: “After having practically eradicated measles from the U.S. almost two decades ago, a growing anti-vaccination movement has led to a resurgence of cases, currently focused in the Pacific Northwest and New York. Unless doctors and the public step up to counteract the vocal opposition to vaccines with evidence-based facts, there is a serious concern that infectious diseases like measles could return full-force, public health officials and scientists tell Axios.” [Axios]

Amid a Measles Outbreak, an Ultra-Orthodox Nurse Fights Vaccination Fears in Her Community — by Amanda Schaffer: “Blima Marcus is an oncology nurse and a member of the ultra-Orthodox community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where the incidence of measles has risen sharply since last fall.” [NewYorker]

TALK OF THE TOWN — They Created a Muslim Enclave in Upstate N.Y. Then Came the Online Conspiracies — by Rick Rojas: “Deep in the dense woods near the Catskill Mountains, a settlement was started decades ago by Muslim families, many of them African-Americans from New York City, who were seeking to distance themselves from neighborhoods they saw as dangerous and laden with corrosive influences…  But residents of Islamberg have found that there is no such thing as a safe haven in the internet age. Conspiracy theorists and anti-Muslim groups have sketched a false portrayal of the community as a hidden-away den of Islamic extremism. Last week, the police in Greece, N.Y., roughly 200 miles away, arrested four young people who are accused of amassing a stockpile of firearms and homemade bombs with plans to target the community.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT — SF’s Only Kosher Bakery Opens in the Richmond With Shakshuka Bowls and More — by Caleb Pershan: “SF’s only kosher bakery operation, Frena, has completed its expansion to the Richmond at 5549 Geary Boulevard. The new location sells the same assortment of sweet and savory baked goods that have been popular at 132 6th Street and beyond thanks to catering. Frena will continue to produce most of its challah, rugelach, and savory sambusak pita pockets at its SoMa facility, but will bake some items and toast others in a shiny new brick oven at the Geary Boulevard location.” [EasterSF]

BIRTHDAYS: Physician and an author of a New York Times best-selling book, he is a professor of medicine and engineering at USC, as well as a CBS News contributor, Dr. David Agus turns 54… Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (2015-2019), Paul Ryan turns 49… Public speaker and author of the “Maggid” book series for ArtScroll, Rabbi Paysach Krohn turns 74… President of Libitzky Property Companies, he is on the board of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Moses S. Libitzky turns 72… Singer and songwriter, he is a two-time gold medal winner in the Maccabiah Games (1985 and 1989) in fast pitch softball, Steve March-Torméturns 66… Director of the Houston chapter of the American Jewish Committee, Randall Czarlinsky turns 65… Jerry Keller turns 60… Woodland Hills, California wealth manager, he was the executive director of Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (2012-2013), Larry Greenfield turns 57… Senior writer and editor at the Union for Reform Judaism, a.k.a. Jane the Writer, Jane E. Herman turns 56…

Actress known for her role as Amy MacDougall-Barone on the TV sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, she is married to the show’s creator, Philip Rosenthal, Monica Horan turns 56… VP of government relations and public policy operations at the American Hospital Association, Robyn Bash turns 47… Writer and occasional Bollywood film actor, he is known for his writing of the popular Jewish children’s comic book series “Mendy and the Golem,” Matt Brandstein turns 47… Founder and managing director of the NYC-based Tembo Group, she was also the part-time executive director of Blue Sphere Foundation (2015-2018), Denielle Sachs turns 42… Israeli actress, model and television host, Yael Bar Zohar turns 39… Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US, she was the foreign policy advisor for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, Laura Rosenberger turns 39… Consultant at the World Bank Group since 2017, he was previously the director of global relations at Hillel International in DC (2015-2016), Yasha Moz turns 34… Martha Baumgarten




Daily Kickoff: Senate to vote on pro-Israel package for 4th time in ‘19 | Elliott Abrams rejoins gov’t | Howard Schultz’s lesson from a Rabbi

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DRIVING THE DAY — The White House has issued a strong warning to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, saying that any violence against U.S. diplomats or National Assembly President Juan Guaidó would elicit a “significant response” from the U.S.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Axios’ Jonathan Swan that as recently as a couple of weeks ago Trump mused to him about the possibility of using military force in Venezuela. When Graham cautioned him to “go slow” on that, Trump responded: “Well, I’m surprised, you want to invade everybody.”

TRANSITION — On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named Elliott Abrams as special envoy to Venezuela. Abrams was in the George W. Bush administration at the time of the failed coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002. Speaking at the State Department, Pompeo said Abrams would likely to travel to the region soon.

Abrams joined the Secretary for a special session at the United Nations Security Council in New York on Saturday. Abrams, seated at the table after Pompeo departed early, accused Venezuela of being a “satellite” of Cuba and Russia. Abrams and Kimberly Breier, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, later met with representatives of Guaido’s government.

— Israel joined the U.S. and other western countries in recognizing Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela, Netanyahu announced in a 9-second video statement on Sunday. The move came at the request of the Trump administration. Guaido thanked the Israeli leader, replying to his statement on Twitter.

Bret Stephens writes… “Yes, Venezuela Is a Socialist Catastrophe: All of this used to be obvious enough, but in the age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez it has to be explained all over again. Why does socialism never work? Because, as Margaret Thatcher explained, “eventually you run out of other people’s money.” … The Trump administration took exactly the right step in recognizing National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s constitutionally legitimate president.” [NYTimes]

PayPal co-founder Max Levchin tweets“I try to keep out of politics generally, but having spent the first 16 years of my life in the then-socialist paradise, this [Stephens’s Op-Ed] rings true: The poor do matter, and it’s on all of us to improve income inequality, but socialism is not the way.”

Trump warns Europeans not to try to evade Iran sanctions — by Deb Riechmann and Matt Lee: “The White House is putting the Europeans on notice, saying that if they try to do an end-run around U.S. sanctions on Iran, they will be subject to stiff fines and penalties. Unfazed, the European Union is marching forward with the plan, which, if implemented, could further strain trans-Atlantic relations. A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said preparations for the alternative system were “at an advanced stage.” [AP]

ON THE GROUND — Israel Demands for U.S. Base Are a Hitch in Trump’s Syria Plans — by Margaret Talev, Udi Segal and Ilya Arkhipov: “U.S. troops in one small outpost in the south of Syria, the U.S base at Al-Tanf, may be preparing for a longer stay… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been doing his best, and he has the president’s ear, according to one senior U.S. diplomat… Netanyahu has repeatedly urged the U.S. to keep troops at Al-Tanf… Even if they don’t do much, the mere presence of American troops will act as a deterrent to Iran, the Israelis say.” That argument holds sway with Iran hawks in the U.S. administration including National Security Adviser John Bolton, who’s been talking down a speedy U.S. withdrawal.” [Bloomberg]

Discovery of Hezbollah ‘attack tunnels’ rattles a northern Israeli town — by F. Brinley Bruton and Paul Goldman: “Only a few weeks ago [Haim] Hod’s trees grew on what is now beaten-down earth. On Dec. 4, the couple and the nation were told that an “attack tunnel” had been discovered in Israeli territory that led into Lebanon. The first of the six tunnels that were eventually found ran under farmland near Metula, which sits among apple, plum and peach orchards that ring with the chirrups of parakeets and the caw-caw of crows.” [NBCNews]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Gen. John R. Allen at the Institute for National Security Studies 12th international conference in Tel Aviv: “The [Middle East] region still remains extraordinarily important to us if for no other reason than the commitment of the United States to Israel, and that will, I think, always be at the heart of American policy in that regard. And while I think we can say that much of what President Trump has done in Syria was in fact a continuation, perhaps an invigoration, of the Obama commitment to Iraq and Syria in the wake of the Islamic state, the difficulty that we see there now in Syria is one I think which is going to create some very serious policy challenges for the United States in a very near future.”

“We have for example, with the most recent tweet made the decision to withdraw most of our special operators from Northeast Syria… We were in the process of building the stabilization of that population when we woke up one morning after a late-night phone call with President Erdogan and suddenly we’re finding ourselves evacuating Northeast Syria. That means that for all intents and purposes the skin that the United States had in the game in the Syria conflict has largely been abandoned, and that leaves not surprisingly the preponderance of the outcome of that conflict is going to be in the hands of Russia and Bashar al-Assad… So, the combination of the transition from Obama to Trump is not as different as you might imagine, but we’ve just given up a lot of our leverage, I think, in the region with this recent decision, and we’re going to see how it plays out.” [Video]

ON THE HILL — This afternoon, the Senate will once again vote to advance the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 — legislation that incorporates four bipartisan bills, including the reauthorization of the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the U.S. and Israel in 2016, and a measure that would empower state and local governments to counter the BDS movement. Due to the government shutdown, Senate Democrats blocked the package three times from reaching the 60 vote threshold citing the timing of the vote. [CSPAN

DRIVING THE CONVO — Members of the Knesset lauded comments made by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to Jewish Insider last week that “Israel should maintain control of the Golan Heights.” Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who has been lobbying Congress on the issue for months, tweeted, “Thank you to my friend Leader Hoyer for his support for recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. We now have prominent support from both sides of the aisle. The Golan will forever remain a part of Israel and it’s time for the whole world to recognize reality.”

MK Michael Oren“Thank you House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Democrats Eliot Engel and Josh Gottheimer for supporting permanent Israeli control over the Golan. Your position proves that Israeli sovereignty over the Heights is a strategic American interest and deserving of bipartisan support.”

The comments to JI were picked up by Israel HayomTimes of Israel and The Tower.

SCENE SATURDAY NIGHT — Pence, Ivanka, Kushner no-show as Mattis gets standing ovation at elite DC dinner — by Eli Watkins: “Former Defense Secretary James Mattis received a standing ovation Saturday at the annual black-tie Alfalfa Club dinner after delivering a speech in which he honored the troops and talked about the importance of the US’ standing abroad… Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen as well as White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were all on the seating chart for the head table but didn’t show at the event.” [CNN

MAKING THE MINYAN AT ALFALFA (according to attendees + the dinner program): Joe & Hadassah Lieberman, Steven Mnuchin, Jane Harman, David Rubenstein, Josh Bolten, David Solomon, Jerry Speyer, Lawrence Bacow, Steve Schwarzman, Henry Kissinger, Mike Bloomberg, Al Michaels, Maurice Levy, Mark Ein, Henry & Marie Josee Kravis, James & Elaine Wolfensohn, Ken Duberstein, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Ken Weinstein, Howard Friedman, Laura Lauder, Walter Isaacson, Eli Jacobs, Diane Feinstein, Stephen Friedman, Alan Greenspan, Gerald Parsky, Kenneth Jacobs, Abby Blunt, Richard Haass, John Hess, Wayne Berman.

ALSO SPOTTED (via Politico Playbook): Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jim Mattis, Dina Powell and Dave McCormick.

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — Jared Kushner, a Confident Negotiator, Finds Immigration Deal to Be Elusive — by Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman: “Jared Kushner… was confident in his ability as a good-faith negotiator who could find a compromise to end the government shutdown. His pitch to Democratic lawmakers was simple: He told them he was the person who could “land this plane.” Buoyed by his success in helping pass a criminal justice bill, Mr. Kushner… agreed to take the lead when the president asked him to find a way to end the monthlong stalemate… But negotiating a broad immigration deal that would satisfy a president committed to a border wall as well as Democrats who have cast it as immoral proved to be more like Mr. Kushner’s elusive goal of solving Middle East peace.”

“Mr. Kushner has told Mr. Trump that he should spend the next three weeks trying to achieve a broader immigration package. That challenge has eluded both parties for years, but Mr. Kushner has suggested to colleagues that it is worth trying for, according to West Wing aides. But for now, Mr. Kushner appears to have few allies… Mr. Kushner finds himself with little sway over Democrats… And conservatives are not convinced Mr. Kushner is the right person to negotiate a deal.” [NYTimes]

Ann Coulter tweeted on Friday: “Maybe the solution to the border crisis is not deporting 22 million illegals but one Jared Kushner.”

— Trump responded in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Sunday: “I hear she’s become very hostile. Maybe I didn’t return her phone call or something.”

ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — In comments to his associates over the weekend, Netanyahu reportedly said that it seems AG Avichai Mandelblit “can’t stand up to the pressure.” from the media and the Left… Netanyahu posted a video on his Facebook page Saturday evening calling it “absurd” that positive media coverage of him, and not of other political leaders, is considered bribery… Yair Lapid shared the video on his own Facebook page, criticizing Netanyahu of “breaking a new record of incitement” and “dragging the whole country into his battle of survival.”… In an interview on Saturday, Netanyahu’s coalition partner Naftali Bennett called Mandelblit ‘an honest man, decent, very professional’… He also aimed his fire at Benny Gantz.

Anshel Pfeffer profiles Benny Gantz, the first politician in a decade to seriously threaten Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘Mr. Security’ image… Gantz is said to be close to a merger deal with former Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon… Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is reportedly prepared to join politics if Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz merge…

Daniel Gordis writes: “The April 9 election, it seems, is more about jockeying for position in the next election, when, common wisdom has it, Netanyahu will no longer be a candidate. This is an election about personalities, not issues, because there are no major policy matters about which Israelis are agitated.” [BloombergView]

2020 WATCH — Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz confirms interest in independent 2020 bid, as Democratic worries rise — by Michael Scherer: “I am seriously thinking of running for president,” Schultz, a self-described Democrat, said on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” “I will run as a centrist independent outside the two-party system.” … Democrats fear a credible third-party candidacy could allow Trump to win states he otherwise would have lost… William Kristol, who has been encouraging a Republican primary challenge for Trump, said he made a strategic decision to avoid pushing a third-party bid. “One reason we are focused on the Republican primary fight is that it runs no risk of inadvertently reelecting Trump,” Kristol said. Asked on “60 Minutes” about these concerns, Schultz did not directly answer the question. “I want to see the American people win,” he said.” [WashPostTheAtlantic]

Howard Wolfson tweets“I have seen enough data over many years to know that anyone running for POTUS as an independent will split the anti-incumbent, anti-Trump vote. The stakes couldn’t be higher. We can not afford the risk of spoiler politics that result in Trump’s re-election.”

Flashback: Schultz wrote on August 6, 2015 ― “The speculation about my candidacy reminds me of a lesson from a great Jewish leader. A decade ago, I visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem with Nosson Tzvi Finkel, a widely respected rabbi in Israel. As we approached one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the rabbi halted about 10 yards away as a crowd of admirers gathered nearby. I beckoned him further. “I’ve never been closer than this,” the rabbi told me. Astounded, I asked why. “You go,” he said. “I’m not worthy.” [NYTimes• A blanket of trust: The chairman of Starbucks learns about life from Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel [Aish]

Trump tweets this morning: “Howard Schultz doesn’t have the “guts” to run for President! Watched him on 60 Minutes last night and I agree with him that he is not the “smartest person.” Besides, America already has that! I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) formally kicked off her presidential campaign in Oakland, California with a mix of unity and blunt talk about race… Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters on Thursday that a teachers strike in his city “stopped my thinking” about running for president, but now that it’s over, “Stay tuned.”… Mike Bloomberg told Democratic business leaders on Friday that Trump is “flunking” as president… Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) plans to announce his presidential bid imminently, according to a report by Yahoo News’ Hunter Walker… Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 strategy: Stand out by ‘nerding out.’

Hillary Clinton is still considering another presidential run… NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio insists he could still launch a 2020 bid… Andy Spahn of Gonring, Spahn & Associates, a public affairs firm that represents Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, tells Variety that donors “are very much focused on winning” against Trump in conversations with potential candidates… and billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller tells the NYTimes that he would back a GOP primary challenger to Trump…

** 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: Murray Kushner’s KRE snags $258M loan for phase II of massive Jersey City project [TheRealDeal• Tinder CEO Elie Seidman Swipes Right on These Advisers [WSJ] • Randi Zuckerberg launches a new podcast where she tells woke fairy tales [Mashable• WPP has sought repayment for expenses incurred by former CEO Martin Sorrell [WSJ] • SLU announces partnership with Medial EarlySign, an Israeli tech company [Bizjournals• Elite Law Firm’s All-White Partner Class Stirs Debate on Diversity [NYTimes• Divorce attorney Laura Wasser and Kara Swisher on Recode Decode podcast [Recode• Saudi Crown Prince’s New Gambit: $425 Billion for Infrastructure [Bloomberg Israel’s Arison sells Miya water firm to Bridgepoint for $260 million [Reuters]

Roman Abramovich’s private Boeing 767 landed today at Ben Gurion International Airport [Pich/t Avi Scharf

** A message from The Maimonides Scholars Program: Do you know a student interested in Jewish Thought, Zionism, and Philosophy? The Maimonides Scholars Program is a two-week summer institute for high school students hosted at Yale University. Our faculty members include Rabbi David Wolpe, novelist Dara Horn, historian Daniel Gordis, and former MK Einat Wilf. Students with all levels of familiarity with Jewish text study are encouraged to apply—the only prerequisite is a hunger to learn. Application deadline is February 3rd. [Visit The Maimonides Scholars Program]  **

SPOTLIGHT — An Art Collector On a Mission to Share His Passion — by Brenda Cronin: “For more than three decades, Jordan Schnitzer, 67, has been assembling what he calls a “teaching collection” of prints, largely by American artists of the post-World War II period. Instead of hanging the works at home or keeping them in storage, Mr. Schnitzer established a foundation that lends to museums around the country, with a special focus on getting the works in front of young people. Many of his loans are to small institutions or ones affiliated with colleges and universities…In March, his collection will move to a new home in Portland, with offices, an exhibition area and space for 30,000 to 35,000 works—more than double the current size… “As much as I may moan and groan the day after an auction and say to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I spend?’” he says, “I’ve never regretted anything I’ve bought. Ever. I’ve only regretted the things I didn’t get.” [WSJ]

TALK OF DAVOS — Cannabis Comes to Davos, Sharing Spotlight With Global Elites — by Kristine Owram: “Over at the Canada Cannabis House Pavilion — a rented bar in Davos — Anthony Scaramucci interviewed former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak… If you had told someone at Davos two years ago that a former White House communications director would be interviewing a former Israeli prime minister about the benefits of medical marijuana, they might have thought you were smoking too much of the product.” [Bloomberg]

Gary Cohn jokingly offered Trump to the Brits in Davos — by Jonathan Swan: “On Wednesday night, top Goldman Sachs executives gathered business and political leaders for their big client dinner at the Central Sporthotel in Davos… Cohn turned to the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and made a tongue-in-cheek offer. “Chancellor,” Cohn said, “you’ve got your issues and we’ve got our issues. But we do have this guy in America who’s supposed to be the world’s best negotiator. In fact he wrote the book ‘The Art of the Deal.’ Maybe if we sent him over to you it could help you, and it could be helpful for us too.” [Axios]

SPORTS BLINK — Baseball documentary follows Team Israel as they go from underdogs to all-stars — by Jessica Buxbaum: “In 2017, Team Israel — made up of “has-beens and wannabes” — unexpectedly defeated giants Cuba, South Korea and the Netherlands to reach the quarterfinals in the World Baseball Classic. The documentary, Heading Home, follows the team’s incredible journey from misfits to all-stars. The film won five audience awards at festivals across the United States. Heading Home’s success spawned a sequel following ten Jewish-American athletes who became dual Israeli citizens to help Team Israel qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Matt Wasserlauf, the executive producer of Heading Home 2: Return of the Mensch, said the team’s success stems from their collective identity.” [Joe]

ACROSS THE SEA — Vandals smash Greek university’s memorial to Jewish cemetery: “A university in Greece’s second-largest city says unknown vandals smashed a campus monument that marks the site of a former Jewish cemetery… The centuries-old cemetery was razed during the German Nazi occupation, and the university was built on its site… The vandalism on the campus in northern Greece occurred with the annual observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.” [AP• Angela Merkel urges world to fight anti-Semitism [NYPost

HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE — On the Way to Auschwitz, I Found ‘Heil Hitler’ Signs For Sale — by Alexandra Levine: “Once a bazaar and kosher slaughterhouse for Kazimierz, Krakow’s old Jewish quarter, Plac Nowy — or “New Square” — is today known for its open-air flea market and food stalls. So on a recent visit, I ordered zapiekanka (a traditional Polish sandwich) and perused the souvenir stands as I waited for the cheese to melt. There were, of course, shot glasses, figurines, mood rings and other standard tourist trinkets. And then there were the “Heil Hitler” signs… Nazi swag is not uncommon in Poland today, and it’s particularly easy to find in tourist hubs.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT — Makers of Sara Lee and Arnold say their breads will remain certified kosher — by Ben Sales: “In a reversal, the largest baking company in the United States will be keeping kosher certification on nearly all of its bread and rolls… after talks with the two kosher agencies that certified the bread, the Orthodox Union and Kof-K. “After hearing from our loyal kosher consumers and after productive meetings with our kosher certifiers, Bimbo Bakeries USA is pleased to announce that we will once again be offering kosher products under the Arnold, Sara Lee and Ball Park brands,” the company announced.” [JTA]

Save Our Starbucks: The regulars at an Upper West Side outpost of the coffee chain have launched a petition — by Lindsay Gellman: “Titled “Keep Our Very Special Starbucks Open,” the petition, which has garnered more than four hundred and fifty signatures, implores the company not to abandon a struggling store at the corner of Seventy-sixth Street and Columbus Avenue.” [NewYorker]

REMEMBERING — Frank Blaichman, 96, Dies; Led Jewish Fighters in World War II — by Neil Genzlinger: “Frank Blaichman, who as a teenager during World War II fled into the forests of eastern Poland to avoid a roundup of fellow Jews by occupying Germans and soon became a leader of a band of partisans trying to disrupt the Nazis from inside the country, died on Dec. 27 at his home in Manhattan… Mr. Blaichman, who settled in the United States after the war, was active in promoting the legacy of the partisans, hoping to counter the misperception that all Jews went passively to their fate and that none fought back against the Nazis… He was among the organizers of an effort to create a memorial to Jewish partisans and soldiers.” [NYTimes]

Meshulam Riklis, Israeli-American ‘corporate takeover artist,’ dies at 95 — by Eytan Halon: “Riklis, who passed away at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, was known for both pioneering the leveraged buyout and junk bond acquisitions of major companies, as well as for his role in securing a Golden Globe Award for his second wife Pia Zadora for her role in Butterfly, a film later slammed by critics. Born in Istanbul in December 1923 and raised in Tel Aviv, Riklis traveled to the United States in 1947 with his first wife Judith Stern. He studied mathematics at Ohio State University before working as a junior stock analyst at Minneapolis-based investment firm Piper Jaffray. Coined by some as a wheeling and dealing “corporate raider” and by others as a “corporate takeover artist” for his acquisitions based on borrowed finances, Riklis commenced building his business empire in the 1950s by purchasing sufficient stock to take control of and merge Rapid Electrotype Company and American Colortype Company into the Rapid-American Corp.” [JPostDeadline]

BIRTHDAYS: Executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robert Satloff turns 57… Former chair of the Political Science Department of the Hebrew University, now a Professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Avraham Diskin turns 72… Founding Secretary at West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, previously Western Region Coordinator for B’nai B’rith (2005-2007), Lyndia Lowy turns 70… Long-time Baltimore area dentist now living in Jupiter, Florida, Joel L. Goldberg, DDS turns 74… Actress Barbi Benton (born Barbara Lynn Klein) turns 69… Graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2009, Reba Carmel turns 66… Managing director and board member of the World Economic Forum, Donna Redel turns 66… Director at UCLA Center for Community Learning, Shalom David Staub turns 63… Angel investor and mentor for growing companies, Mark N. Schwartz turns 63…

Member of the New Jersey General Assembly since 2006, she is active in the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Jewish Federation of Greater Monmouth County, Amy H. Handlin turns 63… Founder and CEO of Boca Raton-based Lyons Capital LLC, sponsor of the annual Wall Street Conference for small-cap and micro-cap stocks, Jason Lyons turns 50… CEO since 2018 of the Jewish Federation of San Diego, Michael Jeser turns 43… Producer for CNN’s Jake Tapper, Ariel Bashi turns 37… Director at London-based Park Hill Group, a global alternative asset placement agent, he is also Chair of Tamid Group, connecting American college students with Israel’s economic landscape, Max Heller turns 28… Financial analyst for Goldman Sachs, Perry Blochturns 24…

Kafe Knesset for October 19

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mr. Liberman Goes to Washington: Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman departed last night on a four-day visit to Washington, DC and New York City. This is the second time…

Kafe Knesset for October 18

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hamas not welcome: Last night the Security Cabinet concluded a two-day session debating the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. A joint statement was issued describing Israel’s new “red…

Kafe Knesset for October 17

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

To evacuate or not to evacuate? New Labor chair Avi Gabbay has been making headlines for a few days now with a series of statements signaling an apparent…

Kafe Knesset for October 16

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bibi versus the Police: With the continued corruption investigations against Netanyahu, the Prime Minister has taken his responses up a notch. Now he is not only blaming the…

Kafe Knesset for October 9

Monday, October 9, 2017

Family man: Israelis are very familiar with Bibi’s family story. They are especially familiar with his legendary brother, Yoni Netanyahu, who was killed leading the Entebbe raid in…

Kafe Knesset for October 4

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Liberman “believes” Trump: Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman gave a lengthy pre-Sukkot interview to Walla. After declaring Syrian President Assad’s victory, he also had some interesting answers to share…