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TOP TALKER: Kushner = Kissinger? — David Ignatius writes… “Kushner is apprenticing for the role of Trump’s Henry Kissinger. He’s the secret emissary, the evaluator of talent, the whisperer of confidential advice. He’s the only person in this White House who Trump can’t fire, really. All these qualities strike me as beneficial, so long as Kushner uses them to make Trump a better president who learns how to compromise and govern. Trump’s problem is that he’s used to operating a family business, where people such as his daughter and son-in-law and a few hired guns are the only operatives he needs and trusts. He doesn’t seem to understand that he runs a public company now. His stockholders are the American people. He has disclosure requirements. He has fiduciary responsibilities.” [WashPost]
“Russian banker who met with Jared Kushner has ties to Putin” by Thomas Frank and Marshall Cohen: “The meeting is raising questions both because of the sanctions and because Kushner spent years as a real-estate developer and was trying to attract financing for a building project of his in Manhattan. The White House said Kushner was acting as a Trump adviser — not as a private developer — when he met with Gorkov… VEB confirmed the meeting with Kushner in a statement to CNN, though described Kushner in his role as head of Kushner Companies, not as a representative of Trump.” [CNN] Exasperated Spicer tosses out salad dressing analogy to defend WH [CNN]
“Anbang, Kushner End Manhattan Talks as Lawmakers Cite Conflicts” by Hui-Yong Yu and Keri Geiger: “China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. and a company co-owned by the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner have ended talks to redevelop a Manhattan office tower, a deal that had drawn scrutiny from lawmakers citing ethics concerns.” [Bloomberg]
THE ONION CHIMES IN… “Jared Kushner Quietly Transfers ‘Solve Middle East Crisis’ To Next Week’s To-Do List: “Ushering in lasting peace across the Mideast is definitely still a big priority for me, but given everything else I’ve got going on right now, I’m just going to need to bump it to next week when I have a little more time on my hands,” Kushner reportedly said… “I was really hoping to at least knock out the Arab-Israeli conflict before the weekend, but this week’s kind of gotten out of hand. It’ll be fine, though—I’ll just carve out an hour or two next week, hunker down in my office, and sort it all out then. If I can push back a couple business calls, I can definitely get this whole Middle East situation ironed out by Wednesday—Thursday at the latest.”” [TheOnion]
HAPPENING TODAY — at 5PM: Vice President Mike Pence will preside over a formal ceremony to swear in David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel in the Indian Treaty Room at the White House.
“Abbas expects Arab summit backing ahead of talks with Trump” by AP’s Mohammed Daraghmeh: ”Abbas met with U.S. President Donald Trump’s international envoy, Jason Greenblatt… Referring to the settlements, Abbas said Tuesday that “we are now waiting how things are being dealt with between them (the Americans) and the Israelis.” At the same time, he said, there are “lots of questions from the American side at this stage, and we answered all of their questions.” … Greenblatt met Tuesday with the Qatari and Egyptian foreign ministers as well as the European Union’s foreign policy chief on the sidelines of the summit. In Twitter messages, Greenblatt said he was talking to them about ways to support Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.” [ABCNews]
“US planning Israeli-PA-Gulf peace summit this summer, sources say” by Michael Wilner: “US officials are quietly gauging interest in the event, according to Israeli sources… No event has been formally planned… But several discussed the idea as a concrete goal of an administration seeking a momentous foreign policy victory… “Trump said at his press conference that he wants a settlements slowdown, and he talked about the outside-in approach using the regionals. So this is not that far of a jump,” said one former State Department official involved in Middle East peace issues. “One plus one equals two.”” [JPost]
“2 months in, and Trump’s Israel policy looks a lot like Obama’s” by Zack Beauchamp: “Trump turns out to look a lot more like every single president who has been in office since, really, President Reagan on the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” the Israel Policy Forum’s [Michael] Koplow says. “He’s trying to get the two sides together, recognizing that Israeli settlement activity does pose a problem for a peace deal, and not giving the prime minister a green light to do anything he wants… “He [doesn’t] seem to have any real policy views other than that he wants to get to a deal.” [Vox]
WORTH RE-READING — from the last time a Republican White House dealt with the Israel-Palestinian conflict — “How serious is the Bush Administration about creating a Palestinian state?” by Connie Bruck in The New Yorker’s Dec. 15, 2003 issue: “In the 2000 Presidential campaign, George W. Bush was sharply critical of Bill Clinton’s efforts to pressure Israel for a peace settlement with the Palestinians. “In recent times, Washington has tried to make Israel conform to its own plans and timetables,” Bush said… Then in November, 2001, Bush seemed to change his mind, telling the United Nations General Assembly, “We are working toward a day when two states, Israel and Palestine, live peacefully together within secure and recognized borders.” He had now endorsed, more explicitly than any previous President, the creation of an independent Palestinian state.” [NewYorker]
ON THE HILL — Senator Bob Menendez tells Jewish Insider he’s open to give Lindsey Graham the bipartisan backing he wants to pass the Taylor Force Act. “I have a degree of sympathy for finding ways to change the Palestinian Authority’s views that you support people who are dedicated to killing Jews — whether that is a more calibrated denial of money versus what I am hearing, which is an outright cut, — is the only question for me,” Menendez told JI’s Aaron Magid yesterday. “I think something should be done… I don’t know that Israel needs a collapsed Palestinian Authority next door to them.” Menendez was one of only two Democratic Senators to vote for David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel in last week’s vote. [JewishInsider]
“Pay for Slay in Palestine” by WSJ Editorial Board: “President Trump hasn’t commented on the Taylor Force Act, but Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats co-sponsored the original bill in the Senate last year. A White House endorsement would be timely as Mr. Trump has invited Mr. Abbas to Washington “in the near future.” Whenever that meeting happens, ending the PA’s bureaucracy of terror should be atop the agenda.” [WSJ]
Key Senators Non-Committal About New Iran Sanctions Bill — by JI’s Aaron Magid: Influential Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee declined to take a position on the bill introduced last week to boost sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile program and support for terrorism. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), considered the most independent Republican on foreign policy told Jewish Insider, “We haven’t come to a decision on that yet.” Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) offered a similar non-committal response. The former Vice Presidential candidate told Jewish Insider, “I’m taking a look at it. We were not involved in the drafting of it so I have had my time spend time on it, and I’m not ready to take a position yet.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT): “I haven’t made a decision on it. I supported the Iran nuclear agreement because it reserved our right to be able to impose new sanctions against Iran for its expansion of the ballistic missile program or continued violations of human rights or support for terrorism. I don’t have any problem with sanctions that are right sized against Iran’s non-nuclear activity. I just want to make sure that this legislation doesn’t have the unintended effects of unwinding the nuclear agreement and that the sanctions are right sized to the violations.” [JewishInsider]
INTERVIEW — Member of Knesset Erel Margalit spoke to JI’s Jacob Kornbluh about his political campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu on allegations about possible conflict of interests in Israel’s arms deals and the need to pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace. “I think he needs to go – on a moral level before on a criminal one,” Margalit, who is expected to compete for the Labor Party leadership later this year, said about Netanyahu in an interview on the sidelines of AIPAC’s Policy Conference in DC.
“Besides the investigations, his government is falling apart. I think that anybody who has the right mind – in Israel – needs to get ready with a new government, with new leadership. Because I think there is a high chance that this government doesn’t hold up. I was meeting here with people of the Administration and I know that a major regional deal is being discussed. I have been leading the Converging Interest Plan which calls for an economic security set of cooperative efforts in the region. I am happy that people are talking about that, but it needs completely new leadership. It’s not just words, it’s not just talk, it’s deeds. And we have heard enough general discussions. And with all the Arab countries that I am speaking to, people are saying, ‘Look, we are very excited about this. We are very excited to work with Israel, but we need a political solution – a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and we need Israel to say that. Even if it’s not going to be easy to close a deal, we need the Israeli leadership to say that that’s what they are aiming for.’”
Margalit on Trump’s push for peace: “I am meeting people. I am trying to discern what the intentions are. I like the fact that — you know, business people understand each other. I met a few people that come from the business world who are connected to this administration, and the message is: Guys, there is a deal that needs to be done and Israel can either be reactive or proactive; could either be a leader or a follower. And I think Israel should be active… I think there is a new set of ideas that are needed in Israel, a new set of energies, and perhaps it’s time for new leadership as well. Maybe it’s time for the startup nation generation to come into the first row of political leadership. I am hoping that would be the case.”
KAFE KNESSET — Bar Mitzvah Summit — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: “Ariel Mishal, one of Deri’s closest aides and director-general of Deri’s Negev and Galilee Ministry, invited all of the top officials to his son’s Bar Mitzvah. The Bar Mitzvah turned into a high-level summit, which included Kahlon, Herzog and Shas leader Aryeh Deri. Herzog, just back from AIPAC, was the center of attention, holding not-so-discrete discussions with Deri and Kahlon, who arrived at the event after his nighttime meeting with Bibi. Deri tweeted that he enjoyed speaking with Herzog and called to him to join a unity government: “The challenges facing Israel require Herzog and his party join the government.”
That tweet was enough to raise speculation and concerns amongst Labor party members that Herzog could be planning a new move to postpone his upcoming primary elections yet again. Aware of the never-ending party suspicions towards him, Herzog swiftly tweeted in reply that he calls on Deri to support the alternative government he has been plotting during this last crisis. “Come join my alternative government. It’s the right path for Israel,” he wrote. Tomorrow, the Labor party convention is set to take place and approve the July 3rd primary date, after months of Herzog trying to stall the process. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
“Hamas launches manhunt in Gaza for ‘Israeli assassins who gunned down one of its leaders'” by Raf Sanchez: “Hamas has launched a manhunt in the Gaza Strip following the mysterious killing of one its military commanders, which the group says was carried out by Israeli assassins. The lslamist militant organisation has placed the isolated Mediterranean enclave of Gaza on lock down as it hunts for the killers of Mazen Faqha, a Hamas leader who was shot dead on Friday. While it searches for the alleged Israeli hit squad – and any Palestinian collaborators – Hamas is preventing men younger than 45 from leaving Gaza and imposed a media blackout on details of its investigation.” [TheTelegraph]
SCENE LAST NIGHT — in NYC: Dan Senor and Campbell Brown hosted a conversation at their Tribeca apartment with the co-creators of the hit Israeli TV show ‘Fauda’ — Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff. Since debuting on Netflix this past December, the show has dominated the talk around town, and among many of our readers. During their off-the-record discussion, Raz and Issacharoff detailed several real life experiences that inspired them to create the show. Given its tremendous popularity, Fauda sounds like it’ll be around for several more seasons to come so stay tuned!
Spotted among the diverse group of attendees: David Remnick, Gail Collins, John Podhoretz, Emma Bloomberg, David Nevins, Joel Klein, Nicole Seligman, Pepper Binkley, Gary Ginsberg, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Alexandra Pelosi, Michiel Vos, Paul Singer, Terry Kassel, Richard Cohen, Patricia Duff, Rabbi David Ingber, Seth M. Siegel, Ken Kurson, Gabe Sherman, Bart Gellman, Dafna Linzer, Mosheh Oinounou, Jenna Gibson, Chris Altchek, Kovie Biakolo, Margaret Hoover, John Avlon, Roger Bennett, David Segal, Vanessa Bennett, Jacob Buchdahl, Max Boot, Charlotte Morgan, Melody Margolis, Ariela Dubler, Jesse Furman, Jonathan Alter, Cyrus & Peggy Vance, Richard Zabel, Ilan Benatar, Naama Shefi, Stephen & Ellie Backer, Debbie Hochberg, Daniel Bonner, Elena Lefkowitz, Daniel Mael, Wendy Singer, Eugene Kandel, Ira Akselrad, Susan Akselrad, Jeff Feig, Alexander Libby.
** 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 **
FIRST LOOK — from NPR’s How I Built This podcast, Guy Raz interviews Haim Saban: “As a refugee growing up in Tel Aviv, Haim Saban remembers not having enough money to eat. As an adult, he hustled his way into the entertainment business, writing theme songs for classic cartoons like Inspector Gadget and Heathcliff. But producing the mega-hit Mighty Morphin Power Rangers put him on track to becoming a billionaire media titan.” [NPR]
SPOTLIGHT: “Ad agency rebrands with the name of its Jewish founders” by Kate Bassett: “In a stand against xenophobia, the agency has renamed itself Valenstein & Fatt, putting the name of its Jewish founders (Lawrence Valenstein and Arthur Fatt) above the door for the first time. ‘We started delving into its history and realised that its founders hadn’t been properly recognised; their names meant nothing in the wider industry,’ says CEO Leo Rayman. ‘This also felt like the right time to make a statement against the rising tide of extremism and prejudice.’ For the next 100 days, all the company’s branding – from email signatures and client presentations to the reception walls – will bear the names of the agency’s original founders.” [MT; CNBC]
“TPG ends Strauss Coffee saga” by Dan Primack: “Private equity firm TPG Capital has agreed to sell its 25.1% stake in listed Israeli coffee producer Strauss Coffee back to the company for around $279 million… Why it’s a big deal: Because this marks the end of a protracted saga between TPG and Strauss, which first got together via a $293 million TPG investment back in 2008. At issue was Todd Morgan, a TPG employee and the firm’s rep on Strauss Coffee’s board, before he was later named CEO. In early 2014, however, Morgan was fired over TPG’s objections, which became public via a court fight.” [Axios]
“Amazon confirms acquisition of Souq, marking its move into the Middle East” by Ingrid Lunden: “The announcement caps off several months of speculation about the fate of Souq. The company had originally been in talks with Amazon to acquire a 30 percent stake that would have valued that company at $1 billion, before entering into negotiations for an outright sale. Others reportedly interested in the company included eBay and Emirati retail group Majid Al Futtaim.” [TC]
TALK OF OUR NATION: “Selling Judaism, Religion Not Included” by Jennifer Miller:“If there ever was a moment when Shabbat was poised to become the new yoga practice, it’s now. “Jewish culture is in the mainstream, it’s popular, and that’s something any brand would want to jump on,” says Danya Shults, 31, founder of Arq… Of course, there has long been a mainstream taste for Jewish humor and food (see: Seinfeld, bagels, challah French toast), but the fervor is something new. “I see rabbis doing really creative things, saying, ‘Come in and try this out,’ ” says Rabbi Ari Moffic.” [Businessweek]
DESSERT: “A Rabbi Walks Into a Bar — and Enforces the Law” by Noga Tarnopolsky: “At Bell Wood Bar, finding a bottle of Glenfiddich Scotch stamped by a recognized London authority, Rabbi [Shmouel] Semelman exclaimed, “A hechsher! Amazing!” But at Dorothy, a nearby bar he had visited a few weeks earlier, matters went downhill. “No, no, no!” he said. “Chartreuse? I took this down two weeks ago. Why is it back?” The barman, terrified, said he served it all the time and no one had complained, further infuriating Rabbi Semelman. “You have to decide if you want to be kosher or not,” he said. “If not, no problem. We live in a democracy. But the people will not be cheated!”” [NYTimes]
SPORTS BLINK: “Staff members with Baltimore ties reflect on Team Israel’s surprising WBC run” by Peter Schmuck: “The team that represented Israel in the World Baseball Classic defied all odds to win its first four games and capture the imagination of baseball fans around the globe, but that miracle run in South Korea and Japan really wasn’t the reason Team Israel physical therapist Yoni Rosenblatt came back to Baltimore swelling with pride in his Jewish heritage. “It’s the people you meet along the way who kind of pull you aside and say ‘You don’t understand what this means to me,'” Rosenblatt said. “Whatever that is. I got text messages from guys dealing with stuff that was tough in their lives — religiously or otherwise — and for them to see a Jewish star on a guy’s hat in such a positive light. To see Israel portrayed so positively when so often it’s in the news for the opposite…what an honor to be part of something like that.” [BaltimoreSun]
BIRTHDAYS: Hollywood mogul, co-CEO of entertainment and media agency William Morris Endeavor, Ariel Zev “Ari” Emanuel turns 56… Evolutionary biologist, geneticist, academic and social commentator, professor of zoology and biology at Harvard for many years, Richard Lewontin turns 88… Florida plaintiff’s attorney, he earned a $300 million fee for suing the tobacco industry, the University of Florida law school bears his name, Fred Levin turns 80… Chemist, professor at both Hebrew University and UCLA, winner of the 1974 Israel Prize, Raphael David Levine turns 79… Attorney, NYT best-selling author, sports agent for many atheletes including Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Kirby Puckett and Eddie Murray, Ronald M. Shapiro turns 74… Houston-based labor law, employment law and personal injury attorney, active in Jewish organizations, Carol Nelkin turns 72… Orthopedic surgeon, former professional boxer, entrepreneur, author, speaker, screenplay writer, movie producer and philanthropist, Harold “Hackie” Stuart Reitman, MD turns 67… Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for economics, University of Chicago professor Roger Myerson turns 66… Billionaire, computer scientist and quantitative hedge fund pioneer, founded D. E. Shaw & Co., major financial backer of Hillary Clinton, David E. Shaw turns 66… Chairman of consulting firm Roubini Global Economics and professor at NYU, he was a senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton administration, Nouriel Roubini turns 59… JoAnne Papir turns 57… National Press Secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, David A. Bergstein turns 29… Analyst at Aurora Energy Advisors, he was the student commencement speaker at his 2013 George Washington University graduation, Alexander Zafran turns 26… Senior administrative assistant in Christie’s impressionist and modern art group, Annie Rosen… Visiting fellow at The Washington Institute in the program on Arab politics, former special assistant to President Obama, Eric Pelofsky… Born in Atlanta, raised in Johannesburg, now VP of business development at Crowdpac, Liz Jaff (h/ts Playbook)…
Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]
Never-ending crisis mode: PM Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met this morning for the fourth time this week, in an attempt to find an agreed-upon solution to the Israel Broadcasting Corporation standoff, but there’s still no cease-fire on the horizon. According to a well-informed source, both sides have demonstrated “goodwill” and are trying to find a solution, but legal restraints are still preventing the end of this debacle. Kahlon has apparently agreed to many changes in the structure and essence of the IBC but he insists that it go on air on the date scheduled by the law – the 30th of April. However, many of Netanyahu’s plans to increase government supervision over the new channel have been met with Justice Ministry objections, so at the moment discussions are set to continue and Netanyahu and Kahlon might meet again today.
The public, by the way, appears to side with Kahlon. An Internet panel poll published today on Walla News shows that 41 percent of Israelis side with Kahlon, and only 27% support Netanyahu. The rest – more than 30% of the respondents, don’t know or don’t care. Most Israelis believe that Netanyahu’s election threat is a bluff – 67% said that they believe Netanyahu is just threatening to call for early elections and only 16% believe he is serious. If an election was held today, the poll further reveals, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid would win with 28 seats, while the Likud would only get 24. The Jewish Home is projected to get 13 seats, the Joint (Arab) List 12, the Zionist Union with a steady 10 followed by Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu, Kahlons Kulanu, and the Haredi UTJ with 7 seats each. Meretz and Shas end the list with 6 seats each.
Bar Mitzvah Summit: Meanwhile, while Netanyahu and Kahlon’s aides were trying to find a compromise, a Bar Mitzvah was the hottest political scene last night. The Bar Mitzvah turned into a high-level summit, which included Kahlon, Herzog and Shas leader Aryeh Deri. Ariel Mishal, one of Deri’s closest aides and director-general of Deri’s Negev and Galilee Ministry, invited all of the top officials to his son’s Bar Mitzvah. Herzog, just back from AIPAC, was the center of attention, holding not-so-discrete discussions with Deri and Kahlon, who arrived at the event after his night time meeting with BB. Deri tweeted that he enjoyed speaking with Herzog and called to him to join a unity government: “The challenges facing Israel require Herzog and his party join the government.” That tweet was enough to raise speculation and concerns amongst Labor party members that Herzog could be planning a new move to postpone his upcoming primary elections yet again. Aware of the never-ending party suspicions towards him, Herzog swiftly tweeted in reply that he calls on Deri to support the alternative government he has been plotting during this last crisis. “Come join my alternative government. It’s the right path for Israel,” he wrote. Tomorrow, the Labor party convention is set to take place and approve the July 3rd primary date, after months of Herzog trying to stall the process.
Hola, Nicaragua: Netanyahu has always had a flare for the dramatic, so he teased a new diplomatic development yesterday, saying in a speech that Israel has ties with over 160 countries and that the number would rise within a week. The mystery was solved pretty quickly, and by Wednesday morning, it was announced that Israel once again has restored diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. The Central American country cut ties with Israel seven years ago, over the Mavi Marmara incident. The renewed relations came as part of a Foreign Ministry goal to reestablish ties with four Latin American countries that have been hostile to Israel in recent years; the others are Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY — “Being Jewish has given me a foundation for everything I am and everything I hope to be” — Mark Cuban [Twitter]
KEY MOMENTS from AIPAC’s Policy Conference — U.S Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley received a hero’s welcome before a packed Verizon Center arena. A long standing ovation and whistles greeted her appearance onstage, where she discussed her determination to change the UN’s behavior towards Israel in a conversation moderated by Dan Senor. “Never again do what we saw with Resolution 2334 and make anyone question our support for Israel,” Haley declared. “Everyone at the United Nations is scared to talk to me about 2334.”
Highlights: “For anyone who says you can’t get anything done at the U.N., they need to know there is a new sheriff in town.. I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement. It’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick them every single time… We said the days of Israel-bashing are over… And I think what you’re seeing is, they’re all backing up a little bit. The Israel-bashing is not as loud… Until the Palestinian Authority comes to the table, until the UN responds the way they’re supposed to, there are no freebies for the Palestinian Authority anymore.”
Senor to Haley: “I think this crowd would be thrilled to hear you for hours, days, weeks, months.” [YouTube]
Other speakers quickly figured out that by simply mentioning Nikki Haley’s name they were guaranteed a standing ovation…
OVERHEARD: “Too bad she’s not collecting campaign donations these days…”
“Nikki Haley, personable, serious, and the undisputed star of AIPAC’s conference” by David Horovitz: “That was the next president of the United States,” said a man watching alongside me as Haley left the stage to a huge standing ovation… The standing ovation continued for so long that Haley, having finally sat down after acknowledging every section of the crowd, was forced to stand right back up again, and eventually to motion the audience to take their seats.” [ToI]
Question on the mind of attendees: 2020 or 2024?
“Nikki Haley, Rock Star to the Jews and Their Knight in Shining Armor” by Chemi Shalev: “Haley stood tall as the only Jewish hero in town… Haley may soon find out that she is overestimating the American sway over the UN and its ability to impose its will on the organization… But until that happens, Haley certainly seems to be one of Trump’s more successful appointments, if not the best of the all.” [Haaretz]
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer this morning: “We cannot let the UN impose terms on negotiations with the Palestinians, ever. The United States should have vetoed resolution 2334 in December and it should never, ever use the UN as a forum to put pressure on Israel for any kind of agreement.”
From Politico Playbook: “Spotted: An AIPAC attendee giving former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) his iPad back after Israel had accidentally forgotten his device at the hotel bar at the Marriott Marquis … ”
“At annual US-Israel event, a new warmth but old differences” by Josh Lederman: “Israeli leaders hoping President Donald Trump would be a rubber stamp for the Jewish state are hearing plenty of reassuring rhetoric at this week’s annual gathering for the “unbreakable” alliance. Missing from the agenda: Concrete steps advancing the Israeli government’s top priorities. The Iran nuclear deal, so despised by Israel, is solidly in place. The U.S. Embassy is no closer to moving to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government wants. As it has under past presidents, Washington is still telling Israel to slow settlement construction.” [AP] • Lawmakers Back Measures to Protect Israel by Punishing Iran [AP]
“Netanyahu and Trump Skip AIPAC Meeting” by Mark Landler: “Mr. Netanyahu, several experts said, wants to talk to Mr. Trump about how best to confront Iran. But the administration’s policy toward Iran is still taking shape, making it less fruitful for the Israeli leader to come to Washington for a face-to-face meeting with the president… For Aipac, the ascension of Mr. Trump is a mixed blessing. His close alliance with Mr. Netanyahu and his hard line on Iran will resonate with the group’s rank and file, after years of tension caused by Mr. Obama’s clashes with Mr. Netanyahu… On the other hand, the Trump administration reinforces what some longtime observers of the group say is a structural problem for AIPAC: an erosion of support among Democrats and a perception that backing Israel has become predominantly a Republican preoccupation.” [NYTimes]
“Israel’s ambassador breathes a sigh of relief” by Jennifer Rubin: “As was stressed over and over by [Ron] Dermer and others at AIPAC, Israel ironically has become once again a remarkably bipartisan issue — with Republicans eager to show they can be better friends to Israel and Democrats eager to shed the anti-Israel bent of the Obama team.” [WashPost]
Rabbi David Wolpe emails us… “The great struggle of AIPAC this year is to hold both ends, right and left, together. Not to succumb to the demonization of the other side that afflicts American politics. It is not easy: As the Yiddish saying has it, Jews are like other people, only more so.”
“U.S. Jewish Leaders Warn Israel Against Close Embrace of Trump” by Amir Tibon and Barak Ravid: “No fewer than five senior officials in centrist American Jewish organizations that are known for their unequivocal support of Israel told Haaretz that they personally had conveyed messages of this nature to officials in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, to the Prime Minister’s Office and to the Foreign Ministry… A senior Foreign Ministry official… confirmed the messages, telling Haaretz that they had come from both representatives of Jewish organizations identified with the Democratic Party and from representatives of Jewish groups affiliated with the Republican Party and with the right.” [Haaretz]
ALTERNATIVE GATHERING — Several blocks away from the Washington Convention Center, over 200 people celebrated 50 years of rejuvenation in Judea and Samaria at The Loft over Sushi, Hummus, Halva, and wine, with the participation of senior Israeli cabinet ministers and settler leaders. “For us, Judea and Samaria is Israel,” Minister of Construction Yoav Galant declared. “We will never go back to the ‘67 borders. Never,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who is from the Likud Party. “We definitely have an American administration that is open minded to think about new solutions… We are a half million now, “We need to go to a million settlers in Judea and Samaria. And we are going to celebrate, hopefully, with an American embassy in Jerusalem.” Several attendees expressed their disappointment that AIPAC chose not to mark 50 years to the 1967 war at this year’s Policy Conference.
KAFE KNESSET — Bennett trolling Netanyahu from DC — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: While his party’s activists are working to dethrone him, Bennett is engaging in some A+ twitter trolling during his trip to the US with a series of tweets Netanyahu probably won’t like. Earlier this week, Bennett and Trump special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, tweeted each other’s praises. Yesterday, Bennett tweeted a photo of himself taking a selfie with Tzipi Livni, saying that it’s a sign of peace in the Middle East. Finally, last night, Bennett tweeted a picture of himself with Buji Herzog, all smiles on the tarmac, with the caption “Love in the Sky” – the Hebrew title of the movie “Top Gun.” Is Bennett riding into the Danger Zone? Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
“Spicer slams ‘immediate jump’ to blame right for hate crimes” by Ben Kamisar: “There has been a rush to judgment in a lot of other cases when it comes to, in particular, the anti-Semitic discussion, where people have jumped to conclusions about denouncing people on the right,” Spicer said during the White House’s daily press briefing. “In that particular case, we saw the president was right and this rush to judgment by a lot of folks on the left was wrong and none of them have been held to account on that. That’s something that equally needs to be called out, when people are charging something of someone that is not true.” [TheHill]
Abe Foxman emails us… “Trump certainly deserves thanks for his attention and efforts on the anti-Semitic incidents, as well as an apology from some in the American Jewish Community.”
ON THE HILL — Representatives David Kustoff (R-TN) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) introduced legislation yesterday to strengthen penalties for bomb threats against religious centers.
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Nunes admits meeting with source of Trump surveillance documents on White House grounds” by Karoun Demirjian, Greg Miller and Philip Rucker: “The development coincided with the disclosure that Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, had privately met in December with the chief executive of a Russian bank being targeted by U.S. sanctions and that Kushner has agreed to discuss such contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Trump administration officials sought to play down the significance of both developments, describing Kushner’s contacts as inconsequential and refusing to answer questions about the Nunes visit. “I’m not going to get into who he met with or why he met with them,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said… Spicer defended Kushner’s meetings, saying that he was the “official primary point of contact” with foreign governments and officials during the campaign and transition period.” [WashPost]
“Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s ever-growing spheres of influence” by Betsy Klein: “Trump and Kushner have also been notably absent during some of Trump’s most tumultuous moments. The Orthodox Jewish couple is not able to work or use technology from sundown Friday to Saturdays, the timing of some of Trump’s most controversial tweets and actions.” [CNN]
“Democrat Adam Schiff, probing Trump-Putin ties, has gone up against Russia (and Stephen Colbert) before” by Olivier Knox: “In 2009, he introduced the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, named after the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan. His only co-sponsor in the House of Representatives? Then-congressman Mike Pence. The measure became law in 2010… Schiff jokes that he’s gotten good mileage from the fact that his wife’s name is Eve. “Yep, Adam and Eve,” he said. Early in their relationship, they went to a used car dealership together. The “typically enthusiastic” salesman introduced himself. But when he heard his prospective buyers give their names, Schiff recalled, “He said, ‘I don’t have time for this,’ and basically turned around and walked away.”” [YahooNews]
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HEARD THE OTHER NIGHT: “Mark Cuban talks sports, technology and heritage at Adelson charity gala” by Brooke Wanser: “Away from the crowd at the beginning of the event, Cuban and Sheldon Adelson exchanged stories about their similar experiences as young entrepreneurs. Attendees participated in a silent auction and cocktail hour, followed by dinner and a question-and-answer session with Cuban.Students at the Adelson Educational Campus, along with parents and teachers, wrote and asked many of the questions. Asked about his Jewish heritage, Cuban responded positively. “Being Jewish has given me a foundation for everything I am and everything I hope to be,” he said.” [ReviewJournal]
2020 WATCH: “Fame, Fortune and an Itch to Run for Office” by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin:”This group includes the Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz, who has sought to raise his profile and has a cadre of people around him with experience in politics and journalism. Aides to Mr. Schultz are trying to schedule a meeting between him and Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who pioneered an earlier, more costly and tightly controlled model for moguls to jump into politics. Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner and gleeful Trump troll, gladly engaged on his own political ambitions via email, even praising Mr. Trump for recognizing that the nature of communications in campaigns had changed. (Though when asked directly if he was thinking of running for president, Mr. Cuban sounded more like a politician: “Nice try,” he wrote, adding a smiley face.)” [NYTimes]
STARTUP NATION: “Israeli companies are going to set up a Latin American cyber-defense center: A group of Israeli companies led by state-owned defence contractor Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI) has won a deal worth tens of millions of dollars to establish a national cyber centre in an unnamed Latin American country.” [BusinessInsider]
IRAN DEAL: “Foreign Investors Flock to Iran as U.S. Firms Watch on the Sidelines” by Asa Fitch and Benoit Faucon: “Two of the world’s biggest auto makers, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., have steered clear of Iran since the nuclear accord. A Ford spokeswoman said the company was complying with U.S. law and didn’t have any business with Iran. GM is focusing “on other markets, and other opportunities,” spokesman Tony Cervone said… U.S. companies usually need special permission from the Treasury Department to do business with Iran… Large international banks remain reluctant to re-establish links with Iran despite the nuclear deal. That reluctance has made transfers of money into and out of Iran a challenge.” [WSJ]
TOP TALKER: “Iran, Gulf Monarchies Seek to Ease Tension” by Margherita Stancati and Asa Fitch: “Iran and the Gulf states, whose contest for power in the Middle East has been tipping toward open confrontation, are quietly trying to repair the damaged relationship as the U.S. takes a more confrontational stance toward Tehran. Now, even as public rhetoric remains strident, signs of a tentative rapprochement have surfaced in recent low-profile meetings between Iranian and Gulf officials, including a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Kuwait and Oman, and a recent agreement between Riyadh and Tehran to allow Iranians to join this year’s hajj pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca.” [WSJ]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “Turk in Iran Sanctions Case Adds Rudy Giuliani to Legal Team” by Benjamin Weiser and Maggie Haberman: “Reza Zarrab, a prominent Turkish gold trader who has been jailed in New York on charges of violating the United States sanctions on Iran, has added Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, to his legal team… Just last month, Mr. Giuliani and another prominent lawyer, Michael B. Mukasey, traveled to meet with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as part of their efforts on behalf of Mr. Zarrab… Mr. Zarrab’s lead lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, responded in a letter to the judge, saying no hearing was necessary because no lawyers from either firm “will have any involvement in the trial preparation or trial in this case, and neither Mr. Giuliani nor Mr. Mukasey intends to file a notice of appearance before your honor.” … Adding to the intrigue surrounding the Zarrab case is the fact that Mr. Giuliani has recommended Mr. Mukasey’s son, Marc L. Mukasey, a fellow lawyer at Greenberg Traurig, to Mr. Trump to become the next United States attorney in Manhattan, according to two people briefed on the discussions.” [NYTimes]
“Chuck Schumer ‘Loses Cool’ With Trump Supporters In Restaurant ‘Scene'” by Tom Sykes:”Perhaps Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer should remember the old adage not to discuss politics or religion at mealtimes. And especially not in fancy restaurants. Schumer allegedly ‘caused a scene’ at smart Upper East Side Manhattan restaurant, Sette Mezzo, when, according to Page Six, he began “yelling” at a connected Trump supporter that the president is “a liar.”” [DailyBeast; NYPost]
DESSERT: “In Brooklyn’s Kosher Pizza War, Modern Tastes Battle Ancient Law” by Corey Kilgannon: “Two pizza restaurant owners, both orthodox Jews, have become entangled in an only-in-Brooklyn lawsuit, not in an august courthouse, but in an obscure hall of justice known as the Rabbinical Court of Borough Park… At the center of the battle are not prices or sauce recipes, but cryptic interpretations of holy law set down in ancient Aramaic thousands of years ago… Like many rabbinical courts, the Borough Park panel is set up like a simple civil courtroom, akin to a traffic court in that it has no gallery, bailiffs or court reporter… In the pizza case, the rabbis took the unusual step of visiting the restaurants, using an Uber car to drive them there. “These are not people who hang around restaurants, but they got into the nuances of the different ovens and atmosphere,” Mr. Branover said. “They really did their homework.” [NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Professor emeritus of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics, Jerome Isaac Friedman turns 87… Billionaire, investor and philanthropist, chairman and CEO of the Hartz Group and Hartz Mountain Corporation, a leading seller of pet supplies, Leonard N. Stern turns 79… Expert on the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, supporter of women’s health issues and wife of former US Senator and VP-candidate Joe Lieberman, Hadassah Lieberman turns 69… Iranian-born billionaire, CEO of Los Angeles-based toy company MGA Entertainment, Isaac Larian turns 63… Member of the Knesset since 2006, leader of the Israeli Labor Party (2011-2013), previously a journalist, author of three books and media commentator, Shelly Yachimovich turns 57… CEO of the American Health Policy Institute, senior White House aide in the George W. Bush administration (2005-2007), Deputy HHS Secretary (2007-2009), Tevi Troy turns 50… Film producer, entertainment executive and director of movies, music videos, and television programs, Brett Ratner turns 48… Author of six best-selling novels including in 2003 “The Devil Wears Prada” based upon the author’s time as an assistant to Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Lauren Weisberger turns 40… MLB outfielder, who has played for the Boston Red Sox in 2010 and 2012 and for the Chicago Cubs in 2014 and 2016, now a free agent, Ryan Kalish turns 29… Glenview, Illinois native, Genie Kutchins… Tarzana, California native, Marlene R. Bane… Gus Kayak… Dr. Ivan Hronsky…
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