Daily Kickoff: Israelis blindsided by Trump’s comments on Iran but ‘reassured’ no shift in U.S. policy | Speaker Paul Ryan discovers Jewish roots

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DRIVING THE CONVO: House Speaker Paul Ryan uncovers Jewish roots on PBS show — by Beth Harris: “The Wisconsin Republican discovered his family history while filming a segment for the upcoming season of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” Gates said Tuesday at a TV critics meeting that he traced Paul Ryan’s heritage back to his 10th great-grandfather born in 1531 in Germany. The research showed Ryan is 3 percent Ashkenazi Jewish.”

“You could have knocked him over with a feather and then he was very proud of it,” Gates said of Ryan’s reaction. “We don’t know who that Jewish person was, but we know it was on his mother’s German line, which makes sense. So somebody who was a Christian German slept with a Jewish German person and that’s where that came from.” [APWashPost]

Politico’s Jake Sherman tweets“Paul Ryan is the first Jewish speaker of the House.”

— Ryan’s Press Secretary AshLee Strong replies“Breaking.”

Former Paul Ryan advisor Dan Senor tells us that Ryan called him late at night on July 11th to break the news. “I have something really exciting to tell you, I just learned that I’m part Jewish. I’m officially a member of the family!” Senor jokingly replied, “Just our luck, we Jews finally get a Jewish Speaker except it’s a Speaker that’s about to retire!”

Senor noted that during their time together on the campaign trail, he and Ryan would sometimes share Shabbat dinner. Senor said he would make the Kiddush and Motzi and Ryan knew some of the blessings from Jewish family friends in Janesville. “Perhaps now he can use them every Friday night,” Senor said.

TALK OF THE REGION — PA slams US ambassador for ‘provocative’ visits to settlements — by Khaled Abu Toameh: “The Palestinian Authority… accused the US administration and its “Zionist staff” of working towards imposing their policies on the international community. The PA’s condemnation came after Friedman paid a condolence visit Monday to the family of Yotam Ovadia who was stabbed to death Thursday in a terrorist attack in Adam.” [JPost

Amb. Friedman responds“Yesterday I visited a young widow grieving the death of her husband, murdered last week by a Palestinian terrorist. I was heartbroken by her tears and those of her in-laws who had lost their only son. Today, the PA Foreign Ministry condemned my visit. Nothing more to say.”

Mike Huckabee says he may buy home in West Bank settlement: “Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee… laid bricks and spread cement Wednesday in a new neighborhood in Efrat. He says he may one day “purchase a holiday home” there. Huckabee… says he’s sure President Donald Trump would have been pleased to join him, “because he is a builder and he loves to see construction sites.”” [AP]

INTERVIEW — White House Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt talked with Hamodia’s Sara Lehmann about the Trump administration’s Middle East policy:

Greenblatt on the two-state solution: “Different people think it means different things, and in isolation, it does not really mean anything… The Israeli Palestinian conflict is so nuanced, so complicated. No one understands what a two-state solution really means, particularly when it comes to issues related to Israel’s security or recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. There are just too many layers… Without the right context, it’s just a slogan, which is why we don’t use it.”

Does Bolton agree? — Greenblatt: “In terms of President Abbas, we have not advocated for regime change. That’s not for us to do. We don’t dictate to others who to choose as their leaders or negotiators.”

Support for Nikki Haley: “I’m sure you’re also well aware of Ambassador Haley’s work at the U.N. She’s been doing an unbelievable job for Israel, defending Israel, and trying to reset the conversation at the U.N. I think she is making changes; she is dedicated to this.”

Greenblatt on whether he gets the Dershowitz Martha’s Vineyard treatment: “Most of my friends respect what this administration is trying to accomplish. I’ve definitely experienced a few people who are just anti-the Trump Administration and have therefore cut off ties with me. That has been very disappointing to me. You know people for ten, twenty years and then they turn their nose up at you in the street. Thankfully, it’s been very few but it’s surprising… I also think, after a year and a half, people understand that coming up to me at shul to tell me we can never achieve peace or explain their way to achieve peace isn’t the way to help the administration. So we’ve gotten past that as well.” [Hamodia

HEARD LAST NIGHT — President Trump touted the Jerusalem Embassy move at a campaign rally in Tampa, Florida: “We took an existing building, we played around with it; we renovated it, we fixed it up. We used Jerusalem stone, one of the finest stones, actually, in the world.”

— Claims no one else would have moved the embassy: “Can you imagine Crooked Hillary doing that? Honestly, can you imagine? (‘lock her up’ chants) In all fairness to her, could you imagine anybody else doing that? Nobody else was going to do that.” [CSPAN]

— Trump on Iran: “I hope it works out with Iran. They are having a lot of difficulties right now. I hope it works out well, and I have a feeling they will be talking to us pretty soon. And maybe not, and that’s okay too.” [CSPAN

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley aboard Air Force 1: The President “has been clear on what he wants from Iran, and that is to end its destabilization efforts, its actions of being the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. And he’s been tough on Iran for that very reason… We’ve ramped up sanctions on Iran, and we’ve bolstered some of our partnerships to try and put more pressure on Iran. So this continues. But as he said yesterday… he does want to meet, he wants to come to a solution. And when we have an announcement, we’ll let you know.”

Ordinary Iranians on Trump Talks Offer: ‘Why Not Try the Americans?’ — by Thomas Erdbrink: “Jamshid Moniri, a 45-year-old building contractor sweating under the Tehran summer sun, summed up what many ordinary Iranians think. “Of course we should talk to Trump,” he said on Tuesday. “What is wrong with talks? We’d be nuts not to talk to him.” [NYTimes]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: Trump comments on Iran don’t signal policy shift, U.S. assures Israel — by Barak Ravid: “Senior U.S. officials reassured Israel today that regardless of President Trump’s public call for direct and unconditional talks with Iran, there is no change in the administration’s tough policy against the Iranian regime, Israeli officials tell me… Trump’s statement on talks with Iran blindsided the Israeli government… After the statement, Israeli officials asked whether there had been a change in policy, an official said.” [Axios

— “Yaakov Amidror, a former national security advisor, joked that Israelis should always worry about everything, but on a more serious note estimated that Trump’s remarks do not yet signal a significant departure from his aggressive approach toward the regime.” [ToI]

Former advisor to seven Israeli Prime Ministers, Shalom Lipner emails us… “Was safe to assume that Iran – at least for now – would stick with righteous indignation and refuse Trump’s initial overture. But that could easily change. Iranian leaders are undoubtedly studying the North Korean precedent. And it might not be long before we have a repeat of Singapore, where a hostile leader (Kim Jong-Il) signed a mostly meaningless document with Trump and was offered respect and rehabilitation in return. Tehran could do worse than to make a similar transaction. And then Israel could have a big problem with Trump if it maintained its belligerent stance toward his administration’s newest friend and partner.”

Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emails us… “The worst thing Israel could do with President Trump’s Iran statement is to take what are the inevitable tactical shifts in diplomacy and read into them much larger strategic changes that Washington might contemplate. It must be recalled that there is a wide chasm between the U.S. and Iranian positions which make a full rapprochement between them highly unlikely. President Trump withdrew from the Iran agreement, calling it “defective at its core.” Yet Iran still clings to the agreement and shows no sign of any willingness to modify it. The U.S. wants Iran out of Syria, but Iran remains steadfast in insisting that it will remain. Overall, Iran’s expansionist ambitions are visible from Morocco to Iraq and Yemen. It is now openly threatening the freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.”

“Historically, the U.S. has always been prepared to give diplomacy ‘another chance’ – like the famous meeting between Secretary of State James Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz before the First Gulf War. That meeting was hardly a signal that President Bush (41) was about to accept the policies of Saddam Hussein.”

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro tweets“Trump’s famous unpredictability now enters his Iran policy. He says he wants to meet Rouhani without preconditions. Pompeo then rushes out to list a series of preconditions. The trouble, if you are an ally of the United States, is: who do you believe? Trump’s record on such summits, which he prefers be improvisational, rather than well-prepared, raises concerns… A clever Iranian play might be to draw Trump into talks. Because if Trump actually gets in a room with the Iranians, God only knows what could happen. Certainly, his advisers and America’s allies don’t know.”

Aaron David Miller writes… “Trump’s Iran offer is just more ‘all about me’ diplomacy: We should have channels to Tehran, if only to lessen the dangers of an unnecessary and dangerous war. But without a broader policy toward Iran, a summit with a senior Iranian is not only a key to an empty room, but another one of Trump’s unproductive and potentially dangerous “all-about-me” summits.” [CNN]

ON THE GROUND — Russia says Iranian forces pulled back from Golan in Syria; Israel unsatisfied — by Polina Nikolskaya and Dan Williams: “Iranian forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons in Syria to a distance of 85 km (53 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, TASS quoted a Russian envoy as saying on Wednesday, but Israel deemed the pullback inadequate… [Alexander] Lavrentiev said Iranian service personnel whom he described as advisors could be among Syrian army forces who remain closer to the Israeli border.” [Reuters]

ISRAEL — DIASPORA RELATIONS: Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat write… “We’re Staunch Zionists. And We Are Worried About Israel’s Democracy: The Israeli government and public need to become more aware of the long-term consequences of steps that may, over time, weaken Israel’s democracy. Israel can ill afford to lose a majority of Democrats or a substantial percentage of American Jewry; throughout its history, the American Jewish community has been and remains a pillar of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. It needs to remain so, and that is why we are speaking out now.” [Forward]

Gershom Gorenberg writes… “Netanyahu weakens support for Israel in the United States: With a few exceptions, the Israeli media has paid scant attention to Democratic dissatisfaction. Immediate crises on the borders take up too much bandwidth… As for Netanyahu, he appears oblivious. Perhaps Israeli diplomats have cautioned him that his actions could affect the attitude of a changed Congress after November, or of a Democratic administration after Trump. If so, there’s no sign he’s listening.” [WashPost]

INSIDE THE ADMIN: Kelly Agrees to Remain Chief of Staff Through 2020 at Trump’s Request — by Rebecca Ballhaus, Byron Tau and Peter Nicholas: “White House chief of staff John Kelly told staff on Mondaythat President Trump had asked him to remain in his post through the 2020 election… Mr. Kelly told staff he agreed to the president’s request.” [WSJ]

— “There also have been recent discussions inside Trump’s orbit about Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as a possible successor to Kelly. A Trump loyalist who also is close to Ivanka Trump and Kushner, Mnuchin was being encouraged by some allies to consider the post… But Mnuchin did not seriously entertain the entreaties and is happy in his role…” [WashPost]

2018 WATCH — Trump endorsed David Kustoff (R-TN), a Jewish Republican in Congress, for reelection: “Congressman David Kustoff has been a champion for the Trump Agenda – I greatly appreciate his support. David is strong on crime and borders, loves our Military, Vets and Second Amendment. Get out and vote for David on Thursday, August 2nd. He has my Full and Total Endorsement!”

— Flashback: In an interview with Jewish Insider last March, Kustoff rated Trump’s performance an “A.”

Ted Cruz bashes Beto O’Rourke for accepting funds from J Street PAC; Democrat notes they are from individuals — by Rachel Cohrs: “Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign is criticizing his challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, for accepting contributions collected by a political action committee that backs candidates based on their support of a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Cruz released a statement Mondayderiding O’Rourke for taking $167,408 in contributions this election cycle collected by the J Street PAC. The PAC did not contribute directly to O’Rourke– it bundled donations on O’Rourke’s behalf… O’Rourke has made rejecting PAC money a calling card of his campaign.” [DallasNews]

Muslim candidates band together in Michigan — by David Weigel: “[Rashida] Tlaib… would join Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) as the second Palestinian American in Congress. At a forum at a Detroit synagogue on Friday night, she told Jewish voters that she wants more integration between Jews and Muslims in Israel. “We need to be much more honest about the fact that the walls are not working,” Tlaib said in an interview. “We need to be honest about the dehumanization on both sides, frankly. And more importantly, we need to be not choosing a side. What I bring to the table, growing up in a Palestinian American household, and coming to Detroit, is an understanding that there’s so much comparison between what happened there and what happened to African Americans here.”” [WashPost]

SPOTLIGHT: Russian Agent And A GOP Operator Left A Trail Of Cash, Documents Reveal — by Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier: “Last summer, [Paul] Erickson sent two wires for $15,000 to a California company established by the son and brother of Jack Abramoff, a disgraced former lobbyist who is Erickson’s longtime friend, political ally, and business partner. The company, Landfair Capital Consulting, was incorporated in March 2017. Abramoff’s son, Alex, a recent college graduate, is the CEO and sole director; Abramoff’s brother, Robert, is the registered agent. Because the company was newly established and based out of the home of Alex Abramoff, who does not list it on his public profiles, bank investigators flagged it as a possible shell company established to hide Jack Abramoff’s interests. Abramoff has not been accused of wrongdoing.” [BuzzFeed]

Accused Russian Spy Maria Butina Told American CEO: Send Cash to Moscow — by Betsy Woodruff: “The story starts in June 2008, with legendary American businessman Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the one-time CEO of insurance and financial services giant AIG. Greenberg’s Starr Russia Investments III bought 20 percent of Investtorgbank, a Russian bank.” [DailyBeast]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Shari Redstone’s Company Accuses CBS Executives of Destroying Evidence [HollywoodReporterDeadline] • CBS Alleges Videotape of Ailing Mogul Sumner Redstone Felled Board Member [WSJ] • Kobre & Kim Partners With Bentham on $30M Fund Aimed at Litigating Claims for Israeli Start-Ups [TheRecorder] • The story of the 37-year-old who took over the New York Times and is taking on Trump [WashPost]

Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at Treasury Chris Campbell is leaving his post. Marc Rowan, co-founder of private equity firm Apollo Global Management, told Politico’s Ben White: “He’s just an incredibly smart and incredibly nice guy. Democrats and Republicans really loved Chris and found him to be a straight shooter. He’ll be very attractive in New York between his time at Treasury and before that at Senate Finance.”

SHELDON & SCOTUS: Kavanaugh Sided With Trump Casino in 2012 to Thwart Union Drive — by Josh Eidelson: “Judge Brett Kavanaugh sided with Trump Entertainment Resorts’ successful effort to thwart a unionization drive at one of its casinos… The casino has since shut down. But labor advocates point to the case — as well as ones where he backed management at Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Venetian hotel and at SeaWorld after an orca killed a worker — as evidence that Kavanaugh may hobble enforcement of workplace laws and the already-embattled union movement.” [Bloomberg]

MEDIA WATCH: Kushner Family Newspaper Cuts Ties With Writer Who Attacked Kremlin Foes — by Steven Perlberg: “The Kushner family–owned New York Observer has cut ties with a writer who has, since 2014, authored dozens of pro-Kremlin articles for the website, the most recent a story in April offering Russia’s spin that the British staged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons…” [BuzzFeed]

The Times Appoints Cliff Levy to Lead Metro, Throwing a Monkey Wrench in the Future Executive-Editor Runoff — by Joe Pompeo: On Tuesday afternoon, The New York Times [announced] the appointment of Cliff Levy, a veteran reporter, editor, and digital-newsroom seer of sorts, to lead the Metro section… But the real story behind the Levy appointment has implications beyond what happens at Metro… According to Times sources familiar with the process, the move was pitched to Levy as an important gesture, and one that would make him a stronger candidate for executive editor when the time comes.” [VanityFair]

Noah Pollak tweeted a 12 part thread: “A thread about Forward reporter Josh Nathan-Kazis using Al Jazeera as a source on a forthcoming story in which he will smear pro-Israel groups that are working to combat the BDS movement…”

Pollak emails us: “I have seen emails from Josh Nathan-Kazis in which he states that his forthcoming report is based on materials leaked to him by Al Jazeera — specifically transcripts of secret recordings made by a spy Al Jazeera sent to Washington to infiltrate Jewish groups. Those recordings were supposed to form the basis of an Al Jazeera “documentary” promoting ugly tropes about Jewish political power, but the Qatari regime compelled Al Jazeera to shelve it. At what point was The Forward going to inform its readers that the basis for its allegations is a film too extreme even for Al Jazeera? Here’s something else Forward readers should know: Mr. Nathan-Kazis hasn’t seen video or heard audio to substantiate the “transcripts.” He and his editors are simply trusting that documents supplied by a notorious anti-Israel activist in Qatar are accurate.”

When asked for The Forward’s response, Editor-in-Chief Jane Eisner declined to comment about the publication’s work in progress but added, “Much, if not all, of what Noah Pollak asserts is not true.”

Documentary Examines Largest Immigration Raid In U.S. History: “What started was the biggest immigration raid in U.S. history: 389 immigrants were detained of which 287 ended up being deported,” says Univision’s Almudena Toral, who produced “America First,” a new documentary on the [Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse plant in Postville, Iowa] raid… “This town has a high percentage of immigrants, but still, the county where it’s located at voted majority for Trump, over 58 percent for Trump. And it wasn’t unusual. We met a lot of Trump supporters. The interesting thing is that a lot of them voted for Trump on a one-issue basis. So some of the ones that lived in Postville were pro-immigration, but for example, the economics and jobs [were] a huge issue for them, so they voted for him that way, or [on] national security, some of the Jewish people.” [WBUR]

ACROSS THE POND: Corbyn apologizes over event where Israel was compared to Nazis — by Sarah Marsh: “Jeremy Corbyn has apologized for speaking at an event where the actions of Israel in Gaza were compared to the Nazis. The Labour leader acknowledged he had appeared with people “whose views I completely reject” when he hosted a Holocaust Memorial Day event in 2010, while he was a backbench MP. He apologised for the “concerns and anxiety” it had caused.” [TheGuardian

SPORTS BLINK — New book reveals Tom Brady freaked out at Patriots owner Bob Kraft after Deflategate: “In the new book 12: The Inside Story of Tom Brady’s Fight for Redemption, authors Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge claim that the quarterback was caught completely off-guard on May 19, 2015, when Kraft announced he would not appeal the loss of multiple draft picks, $1 million fine and four-game suspension for Brady in a press conference alongside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.” [DailyMailNYPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Formerly CEO of multi-billion travel and hotel franchisor Cendant Corporation, now CEO of 54 Madison Partners LLC, Henry Silverman turns 78… Israeli film director and screenwriter, winner of the Israel Prize and Professor Emeritus at Tel Aviv University, Ram Loevy turns 78… Founder and chairman of NYC-based Midtown Equities, a major developer of nationwide real estate projects, he started his career as the owner of a record label and then as a video game publisher, Joseph Cayre turns 77… President of Brandeis University from 1994-2010, he is now a professor at Brandeis and the president of the Cleveland-based Mandel Foundation, Jehuda Reinharzturns 74… Egyptian-born British businessman, graduate of both Oxford and Harvard Business School, he has been described as “the father of British venture capital,” Sir Ronald Mourad Cohen turns 73…

Israeli born businessman and film producer, later CEO of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad turns 70… Santa Monica, California resident, Eric Biren turns 66… Long-time media writer for The Washington Post, then at the Daily Beast, and now at Fox News, Howard Kurtz turns 65… US diplomat now serving as the Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Cuba, he was the US Ambassador to Bolivia (2006-2008) and the Philippines (2013-2016), Philip Seth Goldbergturns 62… Elected for three terms in the Minnesota Senate (2006, 2010 and 2012), she ran for the US House of Representatives in 2016, Terri E. Bonoffturns 61… Born in Israel, raised in Cleveland, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience and the director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D. turns 59… Government relations strategist in the DC office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, previously chief of staff for Senator Al Franken and more recently senior counselor to the Secretary of HHS, Andrew (“Drew”) Littman turns 57… Senior Rabbi of the British movement for Reform Judaism, Laura Naomi Janner-Klausner turns 55… SVP for External Relations and Chief Communications Officer at The Center for Strategic and International Studies, H. Andrew Schwartz turns 50…

Former US Ambassador to Israel (2011-2017), Daniel B. Shapiro turns 49. When asked what’s a fun fact people in DC might not know, Shapiro tellsPolitico’s Birthday of the Day section: “I met my wife, Julie, at Jewish summer camp (in Wisconsin) when we were 14 years old. So we prioritize sending our daughters to a camp similar to the one we attended, and try to spend at least one weekend visiting and guest lecturing each summer. We are hoping to get at least one son-in-law out of it.”

The son of two Hebrew University professors, himself a professor of mathematics at Princeton (since 2004) and Hebrew U (since 2009), winner of the 2010 Fields Medal, Elon Lindenstrauss turns 48… HAFTR and YU graduate, tech entrepreneur and political correspondent, Ari Zoldan turns 42… CEO of Moishe House, David Cygielman turns 37… Staffer for Hillary Clinton in her Senate and State Department posts, now an SVP at corporate and personal branding firm Main & Rose, David Helfenbein turns 32… Communications and policy specialist and analyst in the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, previously president of the Binghamton University Zionist Organization, Yael Rabin turns 26… Director of New York Government Relations at Agudath Israel of America since 2017, previously Executive Director of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, Yeruchim Silber… Treasurer of the Harvard Law School Republicans, Asher Perez… Vice President of Student Engagement and Leadership at Hillel International, she is a co-founder of Ask Big Questions, a national initiative of Hillel,  Sheila Katz… Culver City, California resident, Allene Prince




Daily Kickoff: Trump floats summit with Iran without preconditions | Israel’s UNRWA dilemma | Paul Grinberg has eaten at 99 of the 100 top restaurants

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PODCAST PLAYBACK — Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield talks about growing up in the remote backwoods of British Columbia, Canada on NPR’s How I Built This podcast with Guy Raz: “[My parents] had restored an old log cabin that was built around the turn of the last century. Didn’t have running water until I was 3, didn’t have electricity till I was 4… My mother’s father, who came from Poland to Montreal in between World War I and World War II, was coming to visit them. And they had a bathtub in the front yard and, you know, just like trying to eat the food that they were growing and didn’t have many possessions. And he was like, ‘I can’t believe I escaped the shtetl in Poland and sent all of you to university, and now you’re back living in this dump.'”

Raz: You are now a billionaire, I mean, at least on paper. Does that eliminate stress in your life? Does that mean that everything’s set? Everything is taken care of?

Butterfield: “One nominal correction, we’ve been around for a long time as a company and I have four co-founders so I’m not even a billionaire on paper (laughter). Yeah, it certainly makes my life easier… There’s all that research that beyond a certain amount of money it doesn’t make your life any better.”

“I really feel like there’s three levels of wealth in the world. The first level is I’m not stressed out about debt. People who no longer worry about their credit card bills or student loans. Level two is I don’t care what stuff costs in restaurants. There’s a level where suddenly it doesn’t really matter. And then the ultimate level of wealth is I don’t care how much vacation costs, how expensive the hotel is or which flight we go on. Beyond that, I really don’t think it makes any difference. So I feel incredibly fortunate and it’s great to have all these resources but I’m just going to give almost all of it away because I don’t get any additional happiness in spending it. And there’s a lot of suffering in the world and a lot of inequality and I think that’s a place the whole company can make a difference.” [NPR

DRIVING THE CONVO — Vowing to make sure the Iranian regime “never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon,” and just over a week after threatening Iran with military means, President Trump instantaneously opened the door yesterday to a meeting with Iran’s leaders without preconditions.

“I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet,” Trump said during a press conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “I don’t know that they’re ready yet. They’re having a hard time right now. But I ended the Iran deal; it was a ridiculous deal. I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet, and I’m ready to meet any time they want to. And I don’t do that from strength or from weakness. I think it’s an appropriate thing to do. If we could work something out that’s meaningful, not the waste of paper that the other deal was, I would certainly be willing to meet.”

Possible date: September 18-25 alongside the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

HOW IT PLAYED — Trump says he’s willing to meet Iranian President Rouhani ‘anytime’ and without preconditions — by Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and Felicia Sonmez: “Direct presidential negotiations with Iranian leaders would be another break with Republican orthodoxy and a potential point of friction with Israel and with Arab allies in the Persian Gulf who are united in opposition to Iran.” [WashPost]

— “In a televised interview later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed preconditions for such a meeting, in contrast to Mr. Trump’s offer.” [WSJ; CNBC

JINSA’s Michael Makovsky tells us… “I am banking on the Iranians to spare us such a summit in the near future. Given Trump’s recent summits with the North Korean leader and with Putin, I think it’s best that the President learned from them before hurdling towards another one. I think the issue though is less about pre-conditions than about building leverage and having clear objectives. And one mistake with the Putin summit is — setting aside the fact it was one-on-one and we don’t fully know what was said — that we didn’t build enough leverage with the Russians before the summit.”

“The main issue with the Iranians is their expansion into Syria, and I think that before even consider any such dialogue with the Iranians it’s important for the U.S. to boost its leverage in Syria and the region, and at the minimum bolstering Israeli military capabilities and bolstering our support for the Syrian Kurds.”

— Washington Institute’s David Makovsky tweets“Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is probably counting on Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei to scuttle the sudden offer of Donald Trump to meet to Iranian President Rouhani. Bibi may not be able to count on Trump in this instance but can count on the Ayatollah.”

FDD’s Mark Dubowitz tells us that the Iranian regime, faced with the risk of a dying economy that could possibly lead to the end of the Islamic Republic, would likely take Trump’s offer and meet “sometime soon.”

However, Dubowitz cautioned: “The Mullahs will want to drag out these negotiations into 2021 on the assumption that Trump will be out of office and a more flexible U.S. president will be in place. Trump should be careful not to fall into this trap. It’s critical for the Trump Administration to maintain the maximum pressure until all of the twelve demands on Iran laid out by Secretary Pompeo are fully met.”

Former Ambassador Dennis Ross emails… Trump’s comments “reflect that Trump is about a deal with the Iranians, not regime change. Iran is unlikely to say yes now, but the worse their economy becomes, the more they will look for a way out. Now, however, they will ratchet things up. Hence the Houthis firing on Saudi oil tankers off the Bab el Mandeb, something that has the Saudis suspending tankers going through the Red Sea. That can lead to a rise in oil prices. The Iranians will seek to show they can hurt our interests as we pressure them.”

Martin Indyk tweets“Now America’s Middle East allies taste what it’s been like for Japan and Europe to watch while Trump embraces their adversaries. For BB, MBS and MBZ it’s their worst nightmare.”

CFR’s Richard Haass‏ tweets“It is one thing to meet without preconditions, something else to meet w/o careful preparations and a notetaker. Both the Singapore and Helsinki summits disappointed and arguably caused more problems than they solved; we do not want or need that with Iran.”

Wendy Sherman, the leading U.S. negotiator of the 2015 nuclear deal under President Obama, tweets“Mr. President, Iran just might have a precondition — rejoin the community of nations in support of the JCPOA that ensures Iran can never obtain a nuclear weapon.”

VIEW FROM TEHRAN: Hours before Trump’s statement… Tehran had poured cold water on talks with Washington. “With current America and these policies, there will definitely not be the possibility of dialogue and engagement, and the United States has shown that it is totally unreliable,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told a weekly news conference on Monday. [Reuters]

THOUGHT — Aaron David Miller‏ tweets“We’re like suckers — rats in [a] maze — responding to every tweet, comment by the first President unable to define the national interest apart from his own overriding desire to be the story all day every day.”

ON THE GROUND — Syrian government retakes Golan Heights frontier with Israel: “The Syrian government regained control of the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time in seven years on Monday, after Islamic State-linked militants gave up their last pocket of territory in the area.” [AP]

— “Israel has reportedly asked Russia to ensure that Syrian government forces do not harm or massacre civilians in the south of the war-torn country as they complete their takeover of the area.” [ToI]

Russia Says It ‘Cannot’ Kick Iran Out of Syria Like Israel and U.S. Want — by Tom O’Connor: “They (the Iranians) are playing a very, very important role in our common and joint effort to eliminate terrorists in Syria. That is why, for this period of time, we see as non-realistic any demands to expel any foreign troops from the entirety of the Syrian Arab Republic,” [Russian Ambassador Anatoly] Viktorov told Israel’s Channel 10 news… “We can talk with our Iranian partners very frankly and openly, trying to persuade them to do or not to do something,” he added. When asked if Russia could expel Iran by force, he answered: “We cannot.” [NewsweekNews10]

TALK OF THE REGION: Israel’s ‘UNRWA dilemma’ — by Ben Caspit: “On the one hand, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees does not have many fans in Israel… There is another side to the coin, however, and it involves a single date: Sept. 1. On that day, tens of thousands of Palestinian students are scheduled to start the new school year… Many Palestinian schools, especially primary schools, are financed by UNRWA, which has announced that given its dire finances due to the freezing of American aid, the schools cannot be opened. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is well aware that this poses a major problem, potentially generating the energy and critical mass to ignite the Palestinian street in the West Bank at any moment.” [Al-Monitor]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Jason Greenblatt‏ tweets“Met today with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah at the White House. We had an important conversation about current dynamics in the Middle East and the Administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.”

Rob Malley writes… “What Saudi Arabia’s position means for Trump’s Israel–Palestine strategy: Although Saudi Arabia is counseling Washington to wait for a more favorable regional context before unveiling its ideas, the administration might not feel it needs Saudi public acceptance. More likely, the U.S. will go forward with its plan — even in the face of absolute rejection by the Palestinian leadership, which it has given up on — if the administration can bank on a “yes, but” from Israel… and a “no, but” from key Arab countries.” [Axios]

Huckabee, Scaramucci: No ‘unpredictability’ on Trump’s support for Israel — by Herb Keinon: “When you analyze the president, he is really one of the most consistent people you will ever meet,” said Anthony Scaramucci… “The president has a lot of posturing in his personality because he knows that will force people to the table to get the objectives that he wants.” But when it comes to policy – be it tariffs, trade, or Israel – Trump is “very consistent,” he said.

“Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee… said that Trump is “absolutely committed to the relationship and alliance to Israel,” and there is no “unpredictability” in that support… The president, Huckabee said, has “already shown that he is respectful of Israel’s right to a sovereign, secure space,” adding that in the plan “I can pretty much guarantee you that Jerusalem will not be divided.”” [JPost]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Huckabee at a dinner hosted by Dr. Joe Frager at the King David Hotel ln Jerusalem: “Israel gets treated around the world a lot like my daughter (White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders) got treated at the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.”

Is U.S. Embassy lifting ban on official West Bank settlement visits? — by Tovah Lazaroff: “US Ambassador David Friedman’s condolence call in the West Bank settlement of Adam on Sunday, left settler politicians wondering if a policy change had been made to allow American officials to visit Area C. “It seems as if we are talking about a change in US policy with respect to the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria,” a spokesman for the Binyamin Regional Council said in a statement… Efrat Council head Oded Revivi said, “It is encouraging to see Israelis treated equally by the [Trump Administration] without paying attention to where they live.” [JPost

THIS AM IN ASPEN: Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will speak about her newest book, Fascism: A Warning, at the Aspen Chabad Jewish Community Center.

COMING SOON: In a new book, Bob Woodward plans to reveal the ‘harrowing life’ inside Donald Trump’s White House — by Manuel Roig-Franzia: “Simon & Schuster announced that it will publish “Fear: Trump in the White House” by Bob Woodward on Sept. 11… In the book, Woodward’s 19th, the 75-year-old journalist and author “reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies,” the publisher’s release states.” [WashPost]

2020 WATCH: Inside the Trump 2020 Campaign’s Wild Attempt to “Keep America Great” — by Gabriel Sherman: “With eyes on 2020, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are pushing Trump to adopt more moderate positions… According to a former White House official, Kushner and Ivanka have also been polling more inclusive language on transgender rights. “The 2020 campaign is about the rehabilitation of Jared and Ivanka,” the source said. In late June, one outside Trump adviser explained to Kushner that the population of white voters shrinks by one million every year. Kushner expressed alarm at the speed of the changing demographics, a source familiar with his thinking told me… It is widely assumed among Trump advisers that Kushner, who was instrumental in the hiring of Parscale, will depart the White House at some point after the midterms to oversee the 2020 campaign.”

“The possibility that Trump won’t run in 2020 has motivated Republicans serving in his administration to position themselves in ways that would be unthinkable in a normal White House. U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who is widely considered to have presidential aspirations, has staked out the Establishment lane. She’s courted Wall Street donors at private dinners in Manhattan and has socialized with former Paul Ryan adviser Dan Senor and his wife, Campbell Brown.”

“Haley rarely mentions Trump in her public speeches. According to a Republican close to Trump, Trump has been annoyed with this omission. “He’s gotten feedback she never mentions his name at events,” the Republican close to the White House said. “Nikki is ambitious. She’s going to run. It’s just a question of when,” a former West Wing official said. “Her staff is very careful when they speak to other people. They always say 2024; one of Haley’s people told me 2024 is code for 2020.” [VanityFair]

David Brooks writes… “The Third-Party Option: To have a chance, the third-party candidate would have to emerge as the most radical person in the race. That person would have to argue that the Republicans and Democrats are just two sides of a Washington-centric power structure that has ground to a halt. That person would have to promise to radically redistribute power across American society.” [NYTimes]

Dershowitz Scolds MSNBC Panel: ‘Don’t You Dare Accuse Me’ of Defending Trump — by Tamar Auber: “Things got heated on MSNBC’s Kasie DC on Sunday as former Assistant US District Attorney Mimi Rocah, Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, and host Kasie Hunt battled it out over if Dershowitz was actually, in his arguments, making a case for President Donald Trump… “You are implying in a kind of McCarthyite way that I am somehow defending Trump and that I am making his case. Shame on you,” Dershowitz scolded. He added: “I am making a civil liberties case. I am not part of the Trump defense team and don’t you dare accuse me of doing that… I would be making the identical case if Hillary Clinton had been elected and they were trying to stretch the law the way all four of you are trying to stretch the law to target somebody who you disapprove of.” [Mediaite]

Former Senator Al Franken (D-MN) in first interview since resignation: “I put my heart in the job. I miss the whole job. I loved that job, I loved the job as Senator… It was very meaningful for me and bittersweet, I would like to still be there.”

On running for office again: “I don’t know. I haven’t ruled it out, and I haven’t ruled it in.” [CBSMinnesota]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork Will Renovate UBS Office in Its Biggest Design Deal [Bloomberg] • Alli Webb Couldn’t Stand Working With Her Brother. Then They Started a $100 Million Company Together [Inc] • Kushner’s Cadre Fails to Win Backing From SoftBank [Bloomberg] • Uber shutting down self-driving trucks division, after purchasing Israeli company Otto nearly two years ago, to focus its efforts on self-driving cars [TechCrunch]

STARTUP NATION — YellowHead launches data visualization for app store optimization — by Dean Takahashi: “Israel-based YellowHead is launching a data visualization platform for ASO so that developers can get better results from ads. The new data analysis tool brings together data from the Google Play Developer Console and App Store Connect via applications programming interface integration, and it turns the results into actionable insights. The tool automatically updates data on a daily basis in a completely private and secure manner.” [VentureBeat]

CBS to Appoint Outside Law Firm to Handle Probe Into Moonves Allegations — by Joe Flint and Keach Hagey: “CBS Corp.said its board of directors was in the process of selecting an outside law firm to handle an independent investigation into allegations Chief Executive Leslie Moonves sexually harassed women. No other actions were taken on the matter at the Monday board meeting… CBS’s statement Monday made no mention of Mr. Moonves’s status.” [WSJ]

— “Les Moonves was spotted out on Sunday night at Nobu Malibu with his wife, Julie Chen, and a group of friends. Said a Hollywood insider of Moonves: “Les is out instead of hiding . . . He went to one of the biggest, most powerful places in Hollywood. That is a statement. If you want to see anyone or be seen, you’re going to Nobu.” Also at the eatery, we hear, were NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer, his former son-in-law Tobey Maguire, hip-hop producer Scott Storch, Haute Living COO Seth Semilof and PR exec Ronn Torossian.” [NYPost]

After Les Moonves’s Downfall, CBS Investors Fear the Reign of Shari — by William Cohan: “If Moonves ultimately goes, as seems likely, it will presumably be just a matter of time before Shari tries to merge CBS and Viacom once more. And that’s what CBS investors fear most… With Moonves gone, there will be less impetus for the blood feud to continue. Look for [Joe] Ianniello and the CBS board to find a way to settle with Shari, with her getting the better part of that outcome… That Shari now has the best chance to not only be her father’s successor but to openly defy his wishes—while he is still alive, no less—is the ultimate irony, as she herself must realize.” [VanityFair]

HOLLYWOOD — ‘Fauda’ Star Lior Raz to Co-Star With Ryan Reynolds in Michael Bay’s ‘Six Underground’ — by Borys Kit: “Lior Raz, co-creator and star of the Israeli TV political thriller Fauda, is joining Ryan Reynolds in Six Underground, the action pic that Michael Bay is directing. Netflix and Skydance are behind the project, which is scheduled to begin shooting next month in locales such as Italy and the United Arab Emirates… Character details for Raz were being kept secret. Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Don Granger are producing Six Underground, along with Bay and Ian Bryce.” [HollywoodReporter]

INTERVIEW — Israel’s Herzog vows to bridge Jewish divide — by Aron Heller: “Three years after he narrowly missed out on becoming prime minister of Israel, Isaac Herzog says he looks forward to becoming the “prime minister of the Jewish people” in his new role as chairman of the Jewish Agency… “I was ready to be prime minister of Israel. I wanted to be prime minister of Israel. And yet now I am actually intrigued by this new challenge,” he said… Ahead of taking office at the Jewish Agency on Wednesday, he said he met with all members of the country’s governing coalition to deliver a stern warning. “I explained to them openly and I said it both publicly and privately: ‘Everything you say and hear in Israel hurts the hearts and gives a lot of pain to our Jewish brothers and sisters outside who love Israel, who respect Israel and who are part of its strength,’” he said. “There are enough elements who want to tear up this relationship, so calm down.” [AP]

ACROSS THE POND — Corbyn ally says ‘Jewish Trump fanatics making up’ antisemitism claims — by Verity Bowman and Pippa Crerar: “Peter Willsman, a member of the party’s national executive committee, was taped at a meeting this month when the NEC refused to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. Willsman said he would “not be lectured” by Jewish supporters of the US president “making up duff information without any evidence at all.” [TheGuardian]

— “A senior Labour source confirmed to Sky News that Mr. Corbyn was present at the meeting while Mr. Willsman made his remarks about anti-Semitism.” [SkyNews]

REMEMBERING: Herman Shine, One of the Few to Escape Auschwitz, Dies at 95 — by Daniel Slotnik: “At least 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz, the complex of three main camps and dozens of sub-camps in German-occupied Poland that had the heinous distinction of being the largest killing center of the Nazi regime during World War II. About 1.1 million people died there. Fewer than 200 escaped and lived. One was Herman Shine. Indeed, Mr. Shine lived to be one of the last surviving escapees from Auschwitz. He died on June 23 at 95 at his home in San Mateo, Calif.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT: After Eating at 99 of the World’s Best Restaurants, a Gourmet Whiffs at 100 — by John Clarke: “Paul Grinberg set out to eat at the world’s top 100 restaurants. Since 2011, he has had meals at 99 of them. Yet the last restaurant on his list—a small members-only sushi house in Japan—has remained maddeningly out of reach. “I can’t get into one restaurant in Tokyo? That’s just crazy!” said Mr. Grinberg, who lives in Orinda, Calif., and manages international operations for Encore Capital Group , a finance company in San Diego.”

“All that eating hasn’t added much to his 5-foot-6 140-pound frame, in part because of regular workouts. He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family that kept kosher and rarely went out for meals. Today, he rebels against his frugal upbringing with extravagant tasting menus that can feature as many as 20 courses. “When I do something, I’m all in,” he said. “Obsession is part of my personality.” He said he can’t decide on his favorite dish but his favorite food is toro sushi, or tuna belly.” [WSJ]

BIRTHDAYS: District Attorney for Manhattan for 35 years (1975-2009), Robert M. Morgenthau turns 99… Graduate of Yale Law School in 1951, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights (1985-1992), chairman of the American Jewish International Relations Institute, Ambassador Richard Schifter turns 95… Investment banker, chairman and president of Blum Capital, he is married to US Senator Dianne Feinstein, Richard C. Blum turns 83… Actress, who went on to become CEO of Paramount Pictures and president of production at 20th Century Fox, Sherry Lansing turns 74… Nobel laureate in Economics in 1997, known for his quantitative analysis of options pricing, long-time professor at both Harvard and MIT, Robert C. Merton turns 74… Scholar, professor, rabbi, writer and filmmaker, who specializes in the study of the Holocaust, Michael Berenbaum turns 73…

Founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, in 2015 he bought a 16th century copy of the Babylonian Talmud for $9.3 million, Leon David Black turns 67… Author of 31 best selling mystery novels, many with Jewish themes, Faye Kellerman turns 66… Software entrepreneur, he is president of Ameinu and serves on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency since 2008 (where he is also a member of the Executive Board since 2017), Kenneth Bob turns 66… Manhattan-based criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, radio talk show host and television commentator, Ronald L. Kuby turns 62… TV personality and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban turns 60… Senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center, he was the director of the Los Angeles office of the American Jewish Committee (2017-2018), Dan Schnur turns 55…

Born into a practicing Catholic family in Nazareth, Israel, investor and majority owner of the Detroit Pistons, Tom Gores turns 54… Writer, known for her best-selling memoir “Prozac Nation,” Elizabeth Wurtzel turns 51… Manager of MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies, he was an MLB outfielder (1998-2010), the first player known as the “Hebrew Hammer,” Gabe Kapler turns 43… Political activist and the founder and president of Stand Up America, a progressive advocacy community, he is also the president of Hudson River Ventures, Sean Simcha Eldridge turns 32… Senior manager of corporate communications at Samsung Electronics North America, Danielle Meister Cohen turns 30… Aryeh Canter turns 28… CEO at Leenie Productions (a multi-media company), she serves on the board of the Northbrook, Illinois-based Haym Salomon Center, Helene Miller-Walsh… Adam Rosenberg… David Goldenberg… Richard Rosenstein




Daily Kickoff: Saudi King reiterates pro-Palestinian stance | Dem divide over Israel reflected in House bills | CBS’ Latest (Off-Screen) Drama

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SCENE LAST NIGHT IN JERUSALEM — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was seen filming former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee playing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ at a BBQ hosted by Simon Falic at his residence in Talpiot, Jerusalem. Also in attendance: The Prime Minister’s son Yair Netanyahu, former and brief White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, Ken Abramowitz, and Dr. Joe Frager. [VideoPic]

— US ambassador makes rare visit to settlement, after terror attack:”US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman traveled to the Adam settlement north of Jerusalem on Monday where he met with the family of 31-year-old Yotam Ovadia, who was killed in the Thursday attack by a Palestinian who had sneaked into the settlement.” [ToI]

ULTIMATE DEAL — As U.S. pushes for Mideast peace, Saudi king reassures allies — by Stephen Kalin: “Saudi Arabia has reassured Arab allies it will not endorse any Middle East peace plan that fails to address Jerusalem’s status or refugees’ right of return… King Salman’s private guarantees to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his public defense of long-standing Arab positions in recent months have helped reverse perceptions that Saudi Arabia’s stance was changing under his powerful young son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, diplomats and analysts said.”

“A diplomat in Riyadh briefed on [Jared] Kushner’s latest visit to the kingdom said King Salman and MBS had seen him together: “MBS did the talking while the king was in the background.” … Kushner and fellow negotiator Jason Greenblatt have not presented a comprehensive proposal but rather disjointed elements, which one diplomat said “crossed too many red lines.”

A senior Arab diplomat in Riyadh quoted by Reuters: “In Saudi Arabia, the king is the one who decides on this issue now, not the crown prince. The U.S. mistake was they thought one country could pressure the rest to give in, but it’s not about pressure. No Arab leader can concede on Jerusalem or Palestine.” [Reuters]

— “As one diplomatic source… described the change in the Saudi approach, “they told the administration, ‘what we could do for you before Jerusalem, we won’t be able to do now.’” [Haaretz]

Aaron David Miller tells us… “It was two newbies — MBS and Kushner — looking up to one another, both whom I think misread what the other was prepared to do, and, I think, the primary misreading was on our side. Clearly, the Saudis are trying to get the Saudi position back to the mainstream. I think the Saudis overcommitted and the Americans were amenable to hearing what they wanted to hear. I don’t doubt the fact that Kushner heard from MBS that he will support what Kushner is doing. I just think that as time went on, particularly after the Jerusalem embassy announcement, it created a whole new frame for the Saudis that they couldn’t endorse.”

Sisi urges Israeli public to seize ‘a great opportunity for peace’ — by Michael Bachner: “We have a great opportunity to achieve peace in the region and solve the Palestinian issue,” [President Abdel Fattah al-] Sisi said in an address at a conference for youth at Cairo university carried by the country’s media. “This solution will not take away from your security or stability,” he added, clarifying that he was directing his words at Israelis… “Egypt’s policies are clear,” he added. “We support all UN decisions, the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and [an Israeli withdrawal] to pre-1967 borders.” [ToI]

Egypt’s Sisi says Palestinian reconciliation would help revive peace talks with Israel: “Sisi’s remarks came during his meeting in Cairo with President of the U.S.-based World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder. The Egyptian president stressed that restoring legitimacy in the Gaza Strip and ending the internal Palestinian division would help push forward efforts to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and reach a just solution to the Palestinian issue, presidential spokesman Bassam Radi said.” [Xinhua]

— “Sisi and Lauder reviewed Egypt’s efforts to achieve political solutions to the crises in the region which respects the sovereignty of states, without interference in their domestic affairs. They also reviewed a number of regional issues with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on top of the list, Rady said.”[EgyptTodayPic]  

TALK OF THE REGION — Erdogan dismisses Trump’s threat of sanctions over detained American pastor — by Kareem Fahim: “[President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, speaking to reporters during a visit to South Africa, also confirmed a report in The Washington Post that Trump had intervened to help secure the release of a Turkish citizen held by Israel on terrorism charges. But he denied that Turkey had offered to release the pastor, Andrew Brunson, in exchange for Trump’s intervention. “That type of negotiation didn’t happen,” Erdogan said.” [WashPost]

Trump seeks to revive ‘Arab NATO’ to confront Iran — by Yara Bayoumy, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel: “The Trump administration is quietly pushing ahead with a bid to create a new security and political alliance with six Gulf Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, in part to counter Iran’s expansion in the region… The plan to forge what officials in the White House and Middle East have called an “Arab NATO” of Sunni Muslim allies will likely raise tensions between the United States and Shi’ite Iran.” [Reuters]  

ON THE HILL — The Senate is expected to vote this week on the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018, which authorizes the 10-year MOU (memorandum of understanding) signed between Israel and the Obama administration in 2016 and agreed-upon increases in Israel’s security assistance. [CSPAN]

Divide Over Israel Widens in Democratic Party — by Rachel Oswald: “What many Palestinian rights activists are most excited about is legislation from Rep. Betty McCollum, a nine-term Democrat from Minnesota, that would prohibit Israel from using any of the billions of dollars in annual aid received from Congress for “the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill treatment of Palestinian children.” The bill has 28 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats… A number of the co-sponsors of McCollum’s bill — such as Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Pramila Jayapal of Washington State — are newly elected, signaling a generational shift within the Democratic Party.” [RollCall]

TURTLE BAY TRANSITION? — via Yossi Melman: Prime Minister Netanyahu has extended Danny Danon’s term as Israel’s Ambassador to the UN by another six months. The leading candidate to replace him is David Keyes, Netanyahu’s spokesperson to foreign media since March 2016.

THE DAILY KUSHNER — Still Standing, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Step Back in the Spotlight — by Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers: “Several times Mr. Trump joked that he “could have had Tom Brady” as a son-in-law. “Instead,” the president said, according to five people who heard him, “I got Jared Kushner.” And yet, after 18 months of bruising internal White House conflicts and bitter criticism that they have failed to be a moderating influence on the president, both Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump… are still in Washington and still working as aides to Mr. Trump. They are as comfortable — and as close to the center of the president’s orbit — as they have ever been.”

“I have greatly enjoyed working collaboratively with so many extraordinarily devoted and competent people,” Mr. Kushner said through a spokesman… “But those who have tried to undermine the president have found me to be an obstacle.” [NYTimes]

HEARD THE OTHER NIGHT — Alan Dershowitz and Michael Avenatti clashed about Trump and Michael Cohen’s tape on CNN’s AC360 Friday evening program. But then it got personal — Avenatti: “You need to go back and concentrate on what invites you’re getting on Martha’s Vineyard since that appears to be what you’re really good at.” Dershowitz: “Well, I’m about to head off to a party. So I have to leave in a minute.” Avenatti: “Good luck to that.”

Avenatti: “You know what I want to know? I want to know about the relationship between you and Donald Trump. I think you ought to disclose the extent of the relationship. How did you get that positive book review?”Dershowitz: “Happy to disclose it… I’ve met him three times in my life. All three times dealing with the Middle East. I have no relationship with him.”[Video]

2020 WATCH — Mayor Garcetti’s presidential ambition: Is he serious? — by Steve Lopez: “A lot of political insiders guess [Eric] Garcetti is more interested in branding himself as a contender so he gets consideration for a Cabinet post if a Democrat beats Trump, or because it might help in a run to replace California Sen. Dianne Feinstein when she retires.” [LATimes]

Ginsburg suggests she has at least five more years on the Supreme Court — by Dan Berman: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she hopes to stay on the Supreme Court until the age of 90. “I’m now 85,” Ginsburg said on Sunday. “My senior colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90, so think I have about at least five more years.” She has already hired law clerks for at least two more terms. “You can’t set term limits, because to do that you’d have to amend the Constitution,” Ginsburg said. “Article 3 says … we hold our offices during good behavior. And most judges are very well behaved,” she added, to laughter.” [CNN]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Iran’s Rial at Historic Low as U.S. Sanctions Loom[WSJ] • KKR Gains Momentum Among Rivals After Switching to a Corporation [Bloomberg]  • These Hedge Funds Are Doing Great but Don’t Want Your Money [WSJ• At Rich Kid Summer Camp, Big Banks Try to Hook Heirs for a Lifetime [Bloomberg] • WeWork is just one facet of SoftBank’s bet on real estate [TechCrunch]

CBS Board to Meet on Les Moonves’s Role After Misconduct Allegations — by Edmund Lee: “The board of CBS Corporation spent most of the weekend discussing what immediate actions it should take involving Les Moonves, the company’s chief executive, after a published report that included allegations of sexual misconduct from six women. At least two of the board’s 14 members have questioned whether Mr. Moonves should continue to run the company during an internal investigation.” [NYTimesWSJ] • Accusations of misconduct against CBS CEO Les Moonves may enable Shari Redstone to finally carry out a merger with Viacom[BloombergLATimes

GOOGLE CAMP SCENE — by Chris Spargo and Sarah White: “It was a stylish crowd that was first to arrive for the start of Google Camp on Sunday. Karlie Kloss, fresh off a modeling shoot in Beijing, touched down at the airport in Palermo before being flown to the Vedura Resort in a helicopter to meet up with fiancee Joshua Kushner. The supermodel… gave her followers a look at Barry Diller’s massive yacht Eos, which he arrived to Google Camp on alongside his wife Diane von Furstenberg and CBS This Morning host Gayle King.”[DailyMail]

Karlie Kloss converted to Judaism to marry Josh Kushner — by Richard Johnson: “Karlie Kloss is kosher, a family insider confirms… Ivanka studied for her conversion at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on East 85th Street, but it is not known where Kloss was instructed… Rabbi Shmuley Boteach told me, “The Kushners are deeply observant. Charlie Kushner has an afternoon prayer service in his office every day.” [NYPost]

Trump appointee condemns Zuckerberg’s comments on Holocaust deniers — by Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene“Paul Packer, appointed by President Trump as chairman of the U.S. Commission to Preserve America’s Heritage Abroad, an independent government agency, has sent an official letter to Mark Zuckerberg condemning his comments on Holocaust denial and calling on Facebook to change its content policy… The company has had a draft of the letter since last week, Packer said, and he met with senior Facebook executive Joel Kaplan this week in D.C. to raise his concerns.”[Axios

INTERVIEW — Religion Looms Large for Education Official in Charge of Civil Rights — by Michelle Hackman: “As an elementary-school student, Ken Marcus once wandered down a street just outside his predominantly Jewish hometown of Sharon, Mass., when a group of children spotted him. “They started throwing rocks and yelled for me to go back to my ‘Jew town,’” he recalled in an interview this week. The episode, Mr. Marcus said, shaped his view on the need for greater civil-rights protections—and particularly for a more vigorous battle against anti-Semitism in the U.S. That led him to found the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which pursues legal avenues to fight discrimination against Jews, especially on college campuses. It has now brought him to the Education Department, where he was confirmed last month as head of the civil-rights division.” [WSJ]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Vandals paint Nazi symbols on wall at Jewish temple in Indiana — by Deanna Hackney and Jay Croft: “Nazi images, including a swastika, were discovered Saturday morning painted on a structure that is part of a Jewish synagogue in Indiana, the temple said. The swastika and two iron crosses were on a brick wall that goes around a dumpster at the Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel, just north of Indianapolis. The synagogue has not been attacked before and has not received threats or harassing calls, said Lindsay Shipps, the temple’s media representative. Shabbat services were not delayed.” [CNNIndyStar]

The ‘New Anti-Semitism’ in France — by Adam Nossiter: “The solemn boulevards and quiet side streets of the 17th Arrondissement in Paris suggest Jewish life in France is vibrant: There is a new profusion of kosher groceries and restaurants, and about 15 synagogues, up from only a handful two decades ago. But for residents like Joanna Galilli, this area in northwestern Paris represents a tactical retreat. It has become a haven for many Jews who say they have faced harassment in areas with growing Muslim populations… “They spit when I walked in the street,” she said, describing reactions when she wore a Star of David.” [NYT]

A Jewish Revival: Communities Return to Cities in Poland, Sicily and Myanmar  — by Stephen Starr: “Back in 1910, [Jewish community in Yangon] even boasted the city’s first Jewish mayor. But the Japanese, after their 1941 invasion, suspected Jews of spying for the British and sent some to concentration camps. Many Jews fled then, and most others left when the post-independence government nationalized private businesses in the 1960s. But with the country’s then–military rulers opening Myanmar up to the world seven years ago, at least 80 expat Jews have moved there to help rebuild the country and return it to the international fold while also reinvigorating Yangon’s tiny Jewish community of just about 10 people… At a time when Jewish communities from Paris to New York City to Manchester, England, are facing increasing threats, a rebirth is happening in Yangon and a host of other cities — such as Oporto, Portugal; Palermo, Sicily; Brighton, England; and Kraków, Poland — where they had almost disappeared.” [Ozy]

Yuval Noah Harari Rebuffs Israeli Consulate Event in Protest of New Israeli Laws: “Best-selling Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari declined to participate in an Israeli consulate event in Los Angeles, in protest at Israel’s enactment of the Nation-State and surrogacy laws. Prof. Harari explained through a representative that he is “proud of his Israeliness,” but that the consulate is the long arm of Israeli government policy.” [Haaretz]

LongRead: The Man Who Captures Criminals for the D.E.A. by Playing Them — by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee: “On the afternoon of February 9, 2011, in a suite at the City Hotel in Bucharest, two men, hoping to sell a stash of Russian military-grade weapons on the black market, met with an ebullient businessman in his sixties named Yianni. A short man with a neatly trimmed beard and a bulging midriff, Yianni was, the men had learned, a financier entrusted by the Taliban to buy armaments. As is advisable when broaching the sale of millions of dollars’ worth of illicit goods, the men—a thirtysomething Iranian-American who once worked as a translator for the U.S. Army and a Chicago-based Israeli-American in his mid-fifties—began their negotiations with caution. But after several meetings they were reassured by Yianni’s confident manner and social ease…” [NewYorker]

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Israeli Character Uses Fake Pedophile Detector on Alabama Judge Roy Moore on ‘Who Is America?’ — by Jean Bentley: “The former Alabama judge, who lost an open Senate seat in his state after being accused of an inappropriate encounter with a 14-year-old girl, was interviewed by Baron Cohen’s anti-terrorist expert character in a technology-focused segment about a scanner that can sense pedophiles. It beeped when he ran it in front of Moore, who became increasingly frustrated and eventually cut the segment short. “I’ve never had an accusation of such things,” he said, before standing up and ending the interview. “I support Israel, I don’t support this kind of stuff,” he said.” [HollywoodReporterVideo]

— Sacha Baron Cohen Tried to Prank Me. Here’s How I Knew It Was a Scam — by Michael Caputo: “The short pitch from Ashley Winthrop, calling herself a producer with Yerushalayim Television, was a familiar mix of producer’s flattery and information. She was happy to inform us Michael Grimm had been “chosen as one of Israel’s ‘70 at 70’ for his strong support of the state of Israel.” … Things were smelling fishier and fishier. I grew skeptical, and made a few excuses to rebuff her…” [Politico]

— Where is Baron Cohen? Madonna’s manager Guy Oseary’s A-list summer break with Sacha Baron Cohen, Isla Fisher, Bono, Matthew McConaughey and Chris Rock [DailyMail]

DESSERT — New food truck Bibi’s Kitchen now open in the Encino area: “A new kosher Israeli food truck has rolled into the neighborhood. Located at 5113 Zelzah Ave. in Encino, the fresh arrival is called Bibi’s Kitchen. The mobile spot combines classic and familiar Mediterranean dishes in an effort to break street food conventions with elevated fare that is far from ordinary, the eatery says on its Yelp page.” [ABC7-LA]

REMEMBERING: Judith Appelbaum, a Guide for Would-Be Authors, Dies at 78 — by Anita Gates: “Judith Appelbaum, whose almost 60-year career in book publishing became a crusade to make the industry better — for writers, publishers and readers — died on Wednesday at her home in Bedford, N.Y… Judith Ethel Pilpel was born in Manhattan on Sept. 26, 1939, the daughter of Robert Pilpel, an executive of various humanitarian organizations, including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and Harriet (Fleischl) Pilpel, a lawyer and women’s rights advocate.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Co-founder and now chairman emeritus of the tax-preparation company H&R Block, Henry Wollman Bloch turns 96… Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1992 to 2015, Allan Huber “Bud” Selig turns 84… Of Counsel to the law firm of Hatton, Petrie & Stackler in Aliso Viejo, CA, Ronald E. Stackler turns 81… Film director over many decades, Peter Bogdanovich turns 79… The first woman justice on the Nebraska Supreme Court, when she was 14 years old she won two gold medals and a silver medal as a swimmer at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, Justice Lindsey Miller-Lerman turns 71… Actor, director and producer, Ken Olin turns 64… Billionaire businessman, of Uzbek Bukhari background, known as the “King of Diamonds,” Lev Leviev turns 62…

Born in Moldova, made aliyah in her late 20s, elected as Mayor of Arad in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, now serving in the Knesset for the Kulanu party, Tali Ploskov turns 56… Former Southwest Regional political director for AIPAC, leading the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign, Michael Glassner turns 55… A descendant of the French branch of the Rothschild family, he is the chairman of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, a private Swiss bank established by his father, Benjamin de Rothschild turns 55… Emmy Award winning actress, comedienne and producer, Lisa Kudrow turns 55… Best-selling non-fiction author, contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone magazines, he is a co-creator of the HBO series “Vinyl,” Rich Cohen turns 50… District director for Congressman Jerrold L. Nadler [D-NY10], Robert Gottheim turns 47…

Childhood actor, he served as a law clerk in 2008 for Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg, the only blind person to clerk for the US Supreme Court, now a motivational speaker, author and entrepreneur, Isaac Lidsky turns 39… News reporter and producer at Southern California public radio station KCRW, where he produces “DnA: Design and Architecture,” Avishay Artsy turns 38… President and founder in 2013 of Dallas-based ECA Strategies, Eric Axel turns 38… Division director at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Lewis Sohinki turns 38… New Media editor at the Times of Israel, Sarah Tuttle-Singer turns 37… Director of policy and public affairs for the Jewish Community of Denmark, Jonas Herzberg Karpantschof turns 36… Winner of the Miss Israel pageant in 2014, Mor Maman turns 23… Regional field director at Greg Pence for Congress, Joshua Weintraub

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…