Daily Kickoff: Dermer’s contract extension | Magerman says Mercer ‘owns sizable share’ of Presidency | Bob Iger for President? | Max Webb turns 100


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KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: Netanyahu has decided to extend Ron Dermer‘s term for one additional year as Israel’s ambassador to Washington. The extension, through October 2018, will be presented this Sunday at Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting. Ahead of the US elections, talk in Jerusalem was that if Hillary Clinton were to be elected, Dermer would likely have come back home, but as he is now the top contact person for the Trump administration, the PM wants him to stay as close as possible to the White House. After the Trump meeting last month, Netanyahu told his fellow cabinet ministers that Dermer would establish a special consultation mechanism with Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt to coordinate Israeli moves vis a vis the settlements.

This coming Sunday that mechanism might come into play as another contentious piece of legislation is back on the agenda at the Knesset. The right wing settler lobby for Greater Israel is pushing for a preliminary vote on the Maale Adumim bill, which applies Israeli sovereignty to that West Bank city. The bill, sponsored by Jewish Home and Likud MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Yoav Kish, was initially put on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s agenda on the 22nd of January, two days after Trump’s inauguration, but Netanyahu succeeded in convincing the MKs to postpone the bill until after his meeting with the President. Now, Smotrich and Kish are resubmitting the bill for the ministers to vote on this Sunday, and are accompanying the efforts with a massive SMS campaign pressuring the cabinet to approve the bill.

Smotrich told Kafe Knesset that “the government and the Knesset must be attentive to the public sentiment. 80 percent of the Israeli public supports applying Israeli sovereignty in Maale Adumim now, without any correlation or dependence on the existence or absence of a diplomatic process. So this is a decision the government must make and a move the Knesset must lead.” Netanyahu’s office has refused to comment on whether the PM is going to let the legislation move forward but pressure from the right is mounting. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset [JewishInsider]

SCENE YESTERDAY IN NYC — The Hudson Institute hosted a luncheon at the University Club featuring Yousef Al Otaiba, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, dubbed “the most charming man in Washington” by the Huffington Post. The off-the-record discussion, moderated by Hudson Senior Fellow and Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani, focused on the UAE’s economic success and its two main national security challenges: Iranian behavior and ‘religious’ extremists. On the heels of a Bloomberg Businessweek report earlier this month detailing how Israeli firms quietly conduct business in the Gulf, a number of questions from attendees focused on the possibility of future ties between the UAE, along with the broader Arab world, and Israel.

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “The State of Trump’s State Department” by Julia Ioffe: “They really want to blow this place up,” said the mid-level State Department officer. “I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.” [TheAtlantic

“Has Trump Already Sidelined His Secretary of State?” by Romesh Ratnesar: “Few people close to Tillerson believed he was destined for government service, except his wife. “You didn’t know it, but you’ve been in a 41-year training program for this job,” she told him. “You’re supposed to do this.” … His charges had reason to believe that with a pragmatic corporate titan in command, the department would reassert its primacy over American foreign policy—and ease global anxieties about the new president’s nativism, naiveté, and flirtations with noxious strongmen… It hasn’t happened. Far from curbing Trump’s excesses, Tillerson has been blindsided by them.” [Businessweek]

“The Hurdle for Huntsman at State: Trump’s Loyalty Test” by Eli Lake: “Norm Eisen, who served as Obama’s special counsel for ethics and government reform, told me he believes Huntsman would be an “outstanding person” to fill the role as deputy secretary of state. Nonetheless, he said Huntsman will need to make a clean break from his family’s business. “He is going to need to make the same kind of clean break that Mr. Tillerson made and that Donald Trump has refused to do,” said Eisen.” [Bloomberg] • Jon Huntsman Is in Running to Be Russia Ambassador [CNNNYTimes

“Trump allies, donors play the ambassador parlor game” by Theodore Schleifer: “Lew Eisenberg, the most recent finance chair of the Republican National Committee, is reportedly under consideration to be Ambassador to Italy. Asked this weekend whether there have been any developments on his assignment to the country, Eisenberg would only joke that he enjoyed watching the “rumors” and that he considers Italy a “staunch ally.” … Morris Goldfarb, a New York businessman close with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, is also said to be courting a posting.” [CNN]

TOP TALKER: “When a hedge fund billionaire ‘buys’ democracy” — David Magerman writes about Robert Mercer —“Mercer, the co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies and my boss’s boss, holds views with which I disagree and, in some cases, find abhorrent. Nevertheless, I fully support his desire to engage in conversations about his views, financially support like-minded politicians, and speak out in support of political actions that further his goals… However, there is a difference between giving someone money to support their views, on the one hand, and investing in someone in a contractually binding way to see that the politician’s views and actions are supplanted by the donor’s, on the other. Robert Mercer hasn’t invested in Donald Trump because he believes in Trump’s campaign platform…. He was effectively buying shares in the candidate, and Robert Mercer now owns a sizeable share of the United States Presidency.”

Donors to a variety of causes, political, religious and social, do not think of their donations as gifts, with no strings attached, but investments that carry the entitlement to influence decision-making, hiring, and mission. I know this because up until recently I was one of those donors. I tried to buy influence in the schools in my community, in my synagogue, and in other communal institutions. These investments all failed for one key reason: communal institutions are not for sale, and you should not be able to buy stock in them. They require donations in order to operate, but they should serve their community, not their donors. When communal organizations, or governments, allow their donors to subvert their missions, they inevitably betray their missions, as our government is betraying us now. I have learned this lesson, and it is time for Robert Mercer and the rest of the 0.001 percenters to learn it too.” [PhillyInquirer]

INTERVIEW — The Second Jewish Republican in Congress — by JI’s Aaron Magid: While 24% of Jews voted for Donald Trump last November according to the Pew Research Center, Representative David Kustoff (R-TN) is not shy about his support of the President. In an interview with Jewish Insider from Rayburn building on Capitol Hill, the Tennessee lawmaker rated Trump’s performance as an “A.” Praising the President’s immigration Executive Order, Kustoff explained, “Everything he’s done, he promised. He’s following through on his commitment from the campaign.”

Waking up each morning between 3:15 and 3:45 AM, he usually only eats one meal throughout the day. Kustoff spoke to Jewish Insider from a cramped office filled with volumes of the United States Code in the back of the Financial Service Committee, where he serves as a Member. A staunch conservative, the Tennessee lawmaker repeatedly emphasized the importance of tax reform and rolling back Dodd-Frank… Commending the President’s work in combating anti-Semitism, Kustoff blamed the Democrats for failing to quickly confirm Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which he argues makes tackling the threat more difficult. Read the entire interview here [JewishInsider]

HAPPENING TODAY ON THE HILL: Members of the House, co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, will hold a press conference and release a letter calling on the President to “prepare and implement a comprehensive strategy to combat anti-Semitism in light of the recent waves of anti-Semitic threats and attacks since January 1.” The co-chairs include Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Kay Granger (R-TX), Marc Veasey (D-TX), and Peter Roskam (R-IL).

“Schumer asks FCC to allow JCCs to trace bomb threat calls” by Rachel Shapiro: “Schumer is asking the FCC to grant a special waiver to Jewish centers and schools that feel threatened, saying the centers “need valuable intel to help stop the threats and thwart these phony calls that have a real economic and psychic impact.” … An FCC spokesman said… “The FCC is actively exploring what steps the FCC can take quickly to help Jewish Community Centers and law enforcement combat these threats.”” [SILive]

“Ellison asks Justice Dept. to investigate Jewish cemetery vandalism as hate crime” by Mallory Shelbourne: “In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions released Tuesday, [Rep. Keith] Ellison calls for the vandalism to be “swiftly and thoroughly investigated.” … In the letter to Sessions, Ellison wrote that “anti-Semitism poses a grave threat to our democracy, and every American’s Constitutional right to freely practice religion.”” [TheHill] • Homeland Security offers support to Jewish communities [Politico]

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND: Governor Cuomo is taking an economic development trip to Israel on Saturday. “I’m also going to bring a message of solidarity,” Cuomo said at an Orthodox Union Student Rally in Albany, “and I want to say to the people of Israel and I want to say to the Jewish community, ‘In New York, you are not alone, and every person in the state of New York with any decency and understanding of what it means to be a New Yorker stands with you at this moment, and we speak with one voice condemning this repugnant behavior and we stand arm in arm with the Jewish community through this time of hardship.’ I say that to you today. We’ll say that to the people in Israel this weekend.” [JewishInsider]

“Cuomo Won’t Meet With Arabs During His ‘Solidarity’ Trip to Israel” by Will Bredderman: “This is a very short trip, I’m literally there for just about a day, and we’re going to do economic development meetings, and I won’t have an opportunity to do anything much more than that,” he said, saying he would spend the trip conferring with Israeli government ministers. “I want the Jewish community to know that we support them 100 percent, and we are arm-to-arm with them in this battle.” [Observer

Councilman David Greenfield tells us: “Governor Cuomo has always been at the vanguard of Jewish community relations. Especially when the Jewish community is under attack by a spike in anti-Semitism, this sends a clear message that the Governor is pro-Israel and committed to his Jewish constituents.”

HEARD YESTERDAY IN JERUSALEM — Addressing the Jewish People Policy Institute conference via video (due to a cold), Prime Minister Netanyahu lauded Trump’s response to a rise in anti-Semitism: “World leaders need to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism wherever it is found. And I appreciate the fact that in the last few weeks and days, President Trump and Vice President Pence have taken a strong stance in condemning anti-Semitism. This is what we expect too from European leaders… because Jews around the world should not live in fear.”

JI’s Aaron Magid asked Members of Congress whether they support the Taylor Force Act — Rep. Trent Frank (R-AZ): “It’s time to do that. There are sincere people even from Israel who disagree with me on that. I am convinced the support that we have given to much of the Palestinian Authority has only has empowered them to pay terrorists to kill Jews and other innocent people.”

Rep. Jim McCgovern (D-MA): “I don’t support cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority. I’m interested in supporting constructive measures, which will help both sides negotiate a two-state solution. There are some people here who are trying to sabotage that.”

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israel Quietly Begins Exporting Natural Gas to Jordan Amid Political Sensitivities: To keep the Israeli side at arm’s length, the gas is technically being sold to the Jordanians by an American company [Haaretz] • Facebook fights charges that it fueled Palestinian uprising [TheVerge] • Jared Kushner’s Brooklyn townhouse finds buyer [NYPost]  

TALK OF THE TOWN: “The Secret to Selling Manhattan’s Biggest Condo Project: Raise Prices” by Oshrat Carmiel: “Manhattan’s biggest new condo tower has reached a milestone: Buyers have signed contracts for 100 units at the property that Extell Development Co. is building on the Lower East Side. Only 715 more sales to go… At the same time, Extell is raising prices. “It tells the market that we’re confident about our product and that we are selling well, selling fast,” Raizy Haas, Extell’s senior vice president of development, said on a tour of the 8,000-square-foot (743-square-meter) sales gallery, carved inside an active self-storage warehouse. “We feel there’s still room for future price increases.” [Bloomberg]

2020 WATCH: “Will Disney’s Bob Iger Run for President in 2020? Hollywood Friends Are Nudging” by Tatiana Siegel: “Sources say Iger has told friends he is considering their nudges that he make a run for president in 2020 as a Democrat. There’s a hitch. Any political future would hinge on Iger, 66, finding a Disney successor, of course. Sources add that he has since consulted with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg about making the leap from the board room to high office.” [HollywoodReporter]

MEDIA WATCH: “CNN Chief Jeff Zucker Unveils Plan to Dominate Digital” by Marisa Guthrie: “Amid his feud with the president (“We all know the truth”), Zucker is taking his battle for TV news dominance online with a monthly audience of 100 million and a strategy to beat Vice and BuzzFeed, move stars like Anthony Bourdain and W. Kamau Bell to the web, and launch Casey Neistat, the vlog star he hired on the advice of his teen son.” [HollywoodReporter]

“Beau Biden’s [Jewish] Widow Hallie Biden Is Now Dating His Brother Hunter” by Lindsay Kimble: “Hallie Biden and Hunter [Biden], 47, began dating after Hunter split from his wife Kathleen… In a statement to Page Six, Hunter said, “Hallie and I are incredibly lucky to have found the love and support we have for each other in such a difficult time, and that’s been obvious to the people who love us most. We’ve been so lucky to have family and friends who have supported us every step of the way.”” [People]

DESSERT: “Meet the non-Jew who wants Hebrew and kosher food in LAUSD schools” by Eitan Arom: “If elected, [Gregory] Martayan, 33, a public relations consultant, has promised to install Hebrew education in L.A. Unified schools, deliver kosher food to campuses that request it and institute a zero-tolerance policy toward anti-Semitism — all within six months… “Sometimes a goy like Greg can be more helpful to Jewish causes than a Jew,” said Andrew Friedman, Martayan’s campaign co-chair and a well-connected attorney in the Orthodox Jewish community. Martayan’s candidacy pits him against two candidates who are Jewish: incumbent board President Steve Zimmer and Nicholas Melvoin.” [JewishJournal

BIRTHDAYS: Holocaust survivor, he is the co-founder of one of the largest real estate development companies in Southern California, philanthropist Max Webb turns 100… Restaurateur, lawyer, financier and former owner of Braniff International Airlines, Jeffrey Chodorow turns 67… Former US Senator from Wisconsin (1993-2011), failed to win the seat back in a spirited election race in 2016, Russ Feingold turns 64… Deputy chief of staff for Representative Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Yuri Beckelman turns 35 (h/t Playbook)… Senior coordinating producer at talent agency William Morris Endeavor – International Management Group, Sally Rosen… Editor and Director of Communications at Twin Cities, Minnesota’s TC Jewfolk (a Jewish news, events and culture online media hub), Lonny Goldsmith… Anesthesiologist in Skokie, Illinois who graduated from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine, Samuel M. Parnass, M.D…. Eric Goldscher… Daphne Lazar-Price… Donni Lurman

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]




Daily Kickoff: Study Up — Elliott Abrams’ advice for Jared Kushner | Sen. Graham urges AIPAC to ‘get on board’ | Apple’s 1,000 AR engineers in Israel


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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Bomb threats at Jewish centers originating overseas” by Eric Levenson and Anne Claire Stapleton: “Law enforcement officials believe many of the threatening calls to Jewish community centers have originated overseas… The FBI said the bureau and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division are “investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country.” But details on that investigation have been scarce, and it’s difficult to know the extent of these threats.” [CNN] • Bomb Threats To Jewish Centers Were Made Using “Spoofing” And Voice-Masking Technology [BuzzFeed]

“Trump begins his first speech to Congress by denouncing wave of anti-Semitism” by Maxwell Tani: “In the first sentences of his joint address to Congress… the president decried the defaced Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats made against Jewish community centers across the US… “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”” [HuffPost

Abe Foxman emails us… “Trump said what needed to be said. It was clear and unequivocal. Now our community should move forward and work with local and national law enforcement to apprehend the culprits and design strategies to protect our community from anti-Semitic attacks and threats. And we should all stop politicizing U.S. anti-Semitism here and in Israel.”

Martin Indyk: “Good on Trump for his clear condemnation of anti-Semitism and racism at the top of his SOTU speech.” [Twitter]

Chemi Shalev: “Trump will soothe many Jews by condemning attacks right at the outset.” [Twitter

Earlier headlines… “Trump questioned who is really behind anti-Semitic threats and vandalism, official says” by Mark Berman: “When Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) asked [Trump] about the recent threats against Jewish facilities, the president responded by condemning the statements but then “suggested the ‘reverse’ may be true,” Shapiro said. “I don’t know what the president meant by that statement,” Shapiro said in a statement. Trump “made this reference that sometimes it’s the reverse” and then “used that word ‘reverse’ several times,” Joe Grace, a spokesman for Shapiro, said in a telephone interview Tuesdayafternoon.” [WashPost; BillyPenn

Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci tweets: “It’s not yet clear who the #JCC offenders are. Don’t forget the Democrats effort to incite violence at Trump rallies… I’m saying until we know for sure it’s highly irresponsible to jump to conclusions… I have stood with and will stand for the Jewish People for my entire life. Those that know me know.” [Twitter

“Top Trump ally: I didn’t mean to link Dems to Jewish center threats” by Max Greenwood: “What I was really suggesting in that tweet is that we actually don’t know who’s behind it,” Scaramucci told CNN’s “New Day.” “And so what you’re finding is there’s a lot of allegations being made and I think people are suggesting that it could potentially be Trump supporters or people who that are affiliated with the president or his administration,” he continued. “I think that is categorically very unfair.” But asked why he appeared to tie the threats to the Democrats, Scaramucci pointed out that some Democrats got caught inciting violence at Trump campaign rallies last year. “I tied it to what has happened in the past,” he said.” [TheHill]

CNN has seen better chyrons than yesterday’s — “Trump to address Jewish threats tonight[Pic]

ISRAEL MOMENT — “I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.”

“Ivanka’s role in Trump’s speech” by Mike Allen: “A senior administration official emails: “The speech was all [Stephen] Miller, but Ivanka worked hard on it with him on many of the parts, especially affirming that the president’s desire to have an uplifting and aspirational speech was right. … A week ago, Ivanka and Dina Powell [senior counselor for economic initiatives] met with the president on those parts of the speech with Steve Miller and Hope Hicks, and talked about those issues and how they would resonate in an important way.” [Axios]

“Dems stick with muted ways of exercising art of dissent” by Nancy Benac: “Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who’s hugged the center aisle seat for 29 years of speechmaking by presidents of both parties, took a pass on an aisle seat this year – and made a point of announcing it.” [AP

Benny Johnson: “Sobbing widow of slain Navy Seal receives 2 minute standing ovation. Debbie Wasserman Schultz & Keith Ellison stay firmly seated, no claps.” [Twitter

“Winners and losers from President Trump’s big speech to Congress” by Chris Cillizza: “C-SPAN’s Howard Mortman: I loved Howard before this. And my love for C-SPAN is also well known. But, this image, captured by Howard, of Trump en route to the speech, made me love him even more.” [WashPost• See the viral picture here [Twitter

“Trump’s speech to Congress marks the real start of his presidency” by John Podhoretz: “He even seemed to criticize it himself in his closing words… It seemed, stunningly, an implicit acknowledgment that many of the fights he has been conducting over the past 39 days have been trivial ones, and it is time to rise to the moment… The formal presidency has begun.” [NYPost]

President-in-law: “Pelosi to Democrats: Treat Trump voters like a friend whose boyfriend is a jerk” by Dana Bash: “[Nancy Pelosi] also described the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, a top White House aide, as starry-eyed to the point that he missed the mark with Democrats. “We went to the meeting when Jared was there — and he said, ‘Is everyone so excited about the change?’ And we’re like ‘What?’ I said, ‘No, we’re so excited about the women’s march,'” recalled Pelosi.” [CNN

ON THE HILL — Yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged AIPAC to “get on board” and support the Taylor Force Act to cut off US assistance to the Palestinian Authority if they continue their policy of paying monetary rewards to terrorists and their surviving family members. “We all appreciate AIPAC. I have briefed them about the bill. They supported the concept. They want some changes,” Graham said. “To my friends at AIPAC, this is a chance to get on board.” [JewishInsider; Haaretz] • Trump Admin, Congress Behind Effort to Cut U.S. Aid to Palestinians [FreeBeacon

— AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann: “We strongly support the legislation’s goal to end these abhorrent payments, and we are committed to work with Congress to build the bipartisan support necessary for a bill to pass.” [JPost

Sander Gerber, Fellow at the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs and former Vice Chairman at Woodrow Wilson Center, tells us: “The Taylor Force Act is a chance for Republicans and Democrats to unite in an act of decency: stopping the Palestinian Authority from using American tax dollars as blood money, including the murder of an American hero, Taylor Force. There should be no party lines drawn in the fight against terrorism. Both Republicans and Democrats belong together -on the front line – saying, ‘Enough of the appeasement of the Palestinian Authority.’ I think anyone who actually reads the Palestinian Authority’s legislation to support an infrastructure of terror will be shocked and feel compelled to sign on to the Taylor Force Act.”

HEARD IN GENEVA: “U.S. seeks end to U.N. rights council’s ‘obsession’ with Israel” by Stephanie Nebehay: “Trump’s administration is reviewing its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council, seeking reform of its agenda and an end to its “obsession with Israel,” a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday. The United States “remains deeply troubled by the Council’s consistent unfair and unbalanced focus on one democratic country, Israel,” Erin Barclay, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, told the U.N. Human Rights Council. Barclay questioned whether focusing on Israel was a sensible priority, adding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was bombing hospitals while North Korea and Iran deny millions of their people of freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly and expression. “In order for this Council to have any credibility, let alone success, it must move away from its unbalanced and unproductive positions,” Barclay said.” [Reuters]

JI’s Aaron Magid asked several senators whether they support President Trump’s call for Israel to “hold back on settlements.” —  Senator Ron Johnson: (R-WI): “I have not particularly appreciated any administration pressuring Israel into unilateral concessions to a negotiating partner that is not negotiating in good faith that doesn’t acknowledge the right of the state of Israel to exist, including the Trump Administration.”

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ): “The question of settlements is one of several issues that have to be dealt with in the context of the pursuit of the path to peace. But at the end of the day that is the question for the government of Israel to deal with and if the administration is calling for them to ultimately have a pause as they try to figure out a plan — this is a new administration — to the extent that it intends to get engaged in trying to create a peace process, then it might be worthy of heeding the President’s call so that in fact they can have an opportunity to figure out whether there is a plan to put forward to succeed to acquiring peace.”

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN): “I think that having some front end caution where the parties are trying to figure out the best way to go forward is always a good way of going about a new relationship that has been fraught with difficulties in the past. The Trump administration is trying to figure out the best way to help the process of peace to go along. To always move slowly in a new relationship is a good thing to do.”

“DNC Chair Perez defends Rep. Keith Ellison’s past statements about Israel” by Yahoo News: “Keith Ellison is a friend of the Jewish community. I know that. I know him very well. He’s spent a lot of time with the Jewish community. We were just together earlier today and we accepted an invitation to address together a community (in Maryland) that has been torn apart by recent threats. And he is a civil rights leader… I am confident that we will be moving together.” [YahooNews

CATCH THE IRONY? — Ellison told Jewish Insider on Tuesday that he “does not support” David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s nominee for US Ambassador to Israel. The Minnesota lawmaker explained his opposition: “Because I believe in the two state solution. Because he said some horrible things about people here in our own country that I don’t agree with, and that’s my opinion.”

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: It is conference season in Jerusalem this month. After the Conference of Presidents annual gathering last week, this week the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) is holding its 2017 Conference on the Future of the Jewish People. Yesterday the conference, led by Dennis Ross, Stuart Eizenstat and Leonid Nevzlin, along with participants including Ellliott Abrams and Norm Coleman, met President Rivlin and Supreme Court President Miriam Naor. The Prime Minister — who was set to address the gathering this evening — canceled at the last minute.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s main rival these days in the polls, Yair Lapid, used the opportunity this morning to deliver a strong statement to JPPI on the rise of anti-Semitism across the Atlantic. “At times it seems like the only unifying force of the Jewish people in these times, is our shared fear and outrage from the revival of anti-Semitism. There we unite… The days in which the Jewish people hid from anti-Semitism are over. We will face it together. From here, from Jerusalem, we say “enough.” Jews won’t hide anymore, Jews won’t be scared anymore and we expect the governments of the world to fight anti-Semitism decisively and with all their might. Jewish blood will not be cheap anymore,” Lapid said.

Last month, when Elliott Abrams was tapped to be Deputy Secretary of State, expectations in Jerusalem were high — as was the disappointment when President Trump rejected him a few days later. Kafe Knesset spoke to Abrams on the sidelines of the JPPI conference. “Obviously I’m disappointed it didn’t work out, I do hear it from a lot of people here in Israel because obviously they would prefer to have someone they know in that position. The President had the absolute right to make that decision but obviously I think he made the wrong decision, and he ought to be looking forward to who can help this administration rather than backward to the primary campaign,” Abrams told Kafe Knesset.

Kafe Knesset: How high is the Israeli-Palestinian issue on the President’s agenda, how involved do you think he is going to be?

Elliott Abrams: “It is clear that he would like to achieve a breakthrough that Clinton, Bush and Obama tried and failed to achieve. That is one of the reasons that he involved Jared Kushner in this, that is a signal of commitment. I don’t think he will be personally involved, nor should he be on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.

What would you advise Jared Kushner?

Abrams: “The one piece of advice would be to study the record, and that can be done by getting documents and histories from the State Department historians. It could be done by talking to previous American officials and negotiators. I think there is no substitute for knowing what approaches have been tried and why they failed.”

Is the embassy move going to be another unfulfilled campaign promise?

Abrams: “We will know the answer in June when the President needs to sign the waiver. That is the first time he needs to say something. It’s my hope that he would do something. One doesn’t have to go from doing nothing, which is what Clinton, Bush and Obama did, to announcing that you’re starting construction this morning on a new embassy complex. I would like to see him say something, perhaps, like the embassy will be in Tel Aviv and the Ambassador would be in Jerusalem, or that I have ordered the State Department to develop a plan to move the embassy. This will obviously take multiple years.” Read the entire interview with Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

** 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: Main Line critic of Trump policy awaits hedge fund judgment [PhillyInquirer] • American Dream Miami mega-mall heads to final vote this summer, to open in 2022 [RealDeal; MiamiHerald] • Baltimore-area apartment portfolio sells for $247 million [BaltimoreSun] • Appeals Court Upholds Verdict in Favor of Lord & Taylor Against Lerner Enterprises in White Flint Mall Case [BethesdaMag; BizJournal] • Leviev wins $209M judgment in corporate split [RealDeal; NYPost] • Trump’s Son-In-Law Is Shaping Health Care Policy, And The Fate Of His Brother’s Obamacare App [HuffPost]

STARTUP NATION: “Apple already has 1,000 engineers working on AR in Israel” by Hannah Roberts: “Augmented reality (AR) will likely be Apple’s next major product innovation, according to analyst Steven Milunovich and his team at UBS. “According to some industry sources, the company may have over 1,000 engineers working on a project in Israel that could be related to AR,” the note also says.” [BusinessInsider]

RISING STAR: “General Mills’ Venture Fund Invests in 20-Year-Old’s Startup” by John Kell: “Daniel Katz is a 20-year-old Cincinnati native who created a protein-packed snack brand that’s generating nearly $10 million in annual revenue after just two years of business. And General Mills likes the brand so much it has become a financial backer. “This is the first investment I’ve taken outside of my family,” Katz told Fortune in an interview. “For the last two years, I’ve been essentially running this [alone] and it was getting to the point where I realized I couldn’t maintain it on my own.” [Fortune]

MEDIA WATCH: “Time Inc. Asks for Formal Bids From Potential Buyers” by Sydney Ember: “Five parties, including Meredith Corporation and a group led by Edgar Bronfman Jr., have indicated interest in buying Time Inc. in its entirety, according to one of the people, who requested anonymity because the plans are private.” [NYTimes]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Moishe Indig, latest focus in de Blasio probe, has long ties to mayor” by Laura Nahmias and Sally Goldenberg: “People close to Indig describe him as the unofficial, and unregistered, lobbyist for issues important to the Aroni Satmar community… “He’s the Bill Clinton of the Hasidic community.” ..  On Feb. 11, 2016, Indig and other Satmars attended an hour and a half long meeting with de Blasio at City Hall in the Blue Room, with several real estate developers, including Extell’s Gary Barnett and Park Tower Group’s George Klein… In a television interview Monday night, de Blasio said recent reporting on his relationship with Indig — including a report City Hall aides have strenuously denied suggesting de Blasio played a part in helping Indig with Department of Buildings-related problems at a yeshiva under his control — has been an unfair composite.”” [Politico]

“GOP lobbyist claims Russia is behind murder of Seth Rich” by Louise Boyle:“GOP lobbyist and DC lawyer Jack Burkman has formally appealed to Congress to investigate following new evidence he says he’s obtained that Russia may be behind [Seth] Rich’s murder… While Burkman is reluctant to elaborate, he revealed he was recently contacted about the investigation by a man claiming to be a former U.S. intelligence officer. The source is an older man, 65-70 years old, who claims to have been a contractor in Iraq in the 1970s, he revealed. ‘The source has claimed that it [the murder] was arranged by the Russian government at a very high level,’ Burkman said.” [DailyMail]

JEWISH AGENCY NEWS: “Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky has acceded to The Jewish Agency Board of Governors’ request that he remain as the organization’s leader for an additional year after his second four-year term concludes in June. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also expressed his support for Sharansky’s continued service as the organization’s Chairman.”

DESSERT: “Looking for a Trump Doctrine in the White House Kitchen” by Kim Severson and Marian Burros: “Some people have speculated that Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who gardens with her children and whose favorite recipes include broccoli kugel and her mother-in-law’s veal Marsala, may take on some of the duties. But don’t expect to see her stamp on White House food, other than perhaps more kosher meals for her Orthodox Jewish family. Ivanka Trump will not be a shadow first lady, said Risa Heller, who handles personal communications for her. In a statement, Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman, said, “Ivanka is not involved, but looks forward to seeing the traditions continue under the first lady, who will do an amazing job overseeing these important and historical institutions.”” [NYTimes

BIRTHDAYS: Film and television actor, best known for his role as James T. West in the 1965-69 television series “The Wild Wild West,” Robert Conrad (born Conrad Robert Falk) turns 82… Painter, sculptor, filmmaker and author, his illustrations have appeared over 500 times on the covers of various national publications including Time and Newsweek, Robert Grossman turns 77… Real estate developer, was part owner of MLB’s Kansas City Royals (1983-1991) and three sports franchises in Memphis, Tulane’s basketball arena is named in his honor, Avron B. Fogelman turns 77… Professor emeritus of Jewish Studies at Los Angeles Valley College and the editor of “Shofar,” a peer-reviewed academic journal of Jewish Studies, Zev Garber turns 76… Hollywood executive, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, Chairman of Dick Clark Productions, and a co-owner of both the LA Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, Peter Guber turns 75… Israeli historian, author and journalist, Tom Segev turns 72… Cantor at the Jewish Community Center of Paramus, Congregation Beth Tikvah, Sam Weiss turns 67… Member of the US national soccer team since 2004, played in England for 14 years and in 2017 joined Major League Soccer’s Orlando City, Jonathan Spector turns 31… VP of Special Projects at ASAPP, a NYC-based software technology company, Joshua Lachter turns 30… Harvard Law School student who was on the Surrogates and Strategy team in the Hillary Clinton campaign, Hannah Klain turns 26 (h/t Playbook)… Librarian at the Anti-Defamation League’s NYC HQ, Marianne Benjamin… Chief Strategy Officer for Bend the Arc, a Jewish Partnership for Justice, Jonathan Lipman… Director of Major Gifts at Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute, Dara Schapiro Schnee… Kevin Golden

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Daily Kickoff: Trump considers cutting anti-Semitism envoy from budget | Dershowitz interview | Jack Abramoff’s new adventure | Wired on Shimon Peres


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FOR THE ‘IN JARED WE TRUST’ CROWD: “Prince Jared Is Trying to Consolidate His White House Power” by Emily Jane Fox: “Kushner and Netanyahu recently shared dinner with Tillerson, before Tillerson’s overseas trip, a source familiar with the situation told me. And Kushner, who enjoys something of a sprawling, amorphous West Wing portfolio (he is nominally in charge of job creation, cutting governmental I.T. costs and brokering peace in the Middle East, among other issues), appears to have grown more comfortable in meetings with foreign officials, despite his lack of political or diplomatic experience…”

“One person close to the Trumps told me that when Kushner and his wife, Ivanka, sat down for a casual lunch in the White House soon after the inauguration, the president looked his son-in-law in the eye and mused that he had a lot on his plate, pointing to his commitments on jobs, I.T., and the Middle East. Still, Kushner has yet to lose his faith, even as other members of the president’s inner circle fall in and out of favor… he, too, isn’t immune to the brush-off from his father-in-law, this source said. “Trump yells at him in front of people all the time,” the source close to the family told me. “He’s in line, too.” [VanityFair

–Additional sources close to Kushner likely wanted to shift the narrative a bit after Vanity Fair’s previous story two weeks ago was headlined — “Far from being a moderating influence on his father-in-law, Kushner has embraced his inner Bannon”

FIRST LOOK: “Does Stephen Miller Speak for Trump? Or Vice Versa?” by Joshua Green: “Miller drafts the president’s major speeches, including the one Trump will deliver to Congress on Tuesday night. When Miller goes on television to defend Trump’s words, he’s often defending his own writing. In a sense, Trump is giving voice to Miller as much as the other way around… In his Tuesday speech to Congress, Trump will finally make a direct appeal for support. The imperative will then shift from talk to action. Trump is, in large measure, counting on Miller to navigate the treacherous legislative terrain and find ways to coax and reassure skeptical lawmakers. “I understand his vision, his ideas,” Miller says. “I can be an implementer.” It won’t be a natural role. Miller’s experience on the Hill as an angry tribune of populist conservatism rarely involved the messy give-and-take of legislating. Under Sessions, his energies were directed at halting a president’s agenda. Enacting one of his own is so far proving to be much harder.” [Businessweek]

HE’S BACK: “From K Street to Congo: Abramoff’s new adventure,” by Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan: “When Jack Abramoff was released from prison in 2010, he was pitching himself as a self-styled political reformer looking to tell the truth about a system he illegally exploited for personal gain. Now the disgraced D.C. lobbyist is back and immersed in a stranger-than-fiction project with an African strongman, controversial Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and ‘friends in Europe’ to — in his telling — defeat Islamic terrorists… Abramoff agreed to act as a liaison between his European friends… the president of the Republic of Congo, and Rohrabacher to try to establish a coalition of African states to defeat the terrorist group Boko Haram. Abramoff’s friends… were in talks with the country’s controversial president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, to try to enlist the United States to support the coalition…” [Politico]

HAPPENING TODAY: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is holding a press conference today to introduce legislation, which would cut off US assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA). “The Taylor Force Act” is named after an American Army officer who was killed in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian terrorist last year while on an MBA entrepreneurship study abroad program. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Congressmen Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) are expected to attend the presser as well.

— Representatives Ted Budd (R-NC) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) introduced a similar piece of legislation in the House on February 1. The House bill has received 8 co-sponsors, all Republicans. During the last Congressional session, Graham, Dan Coats (R-IN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) co-authored the Taylor Force Act. However, the bill never passed the Senate and received no Democratic support.

–ICYMI: Sander Gerber spoke about the legislation last week at CPAC [YouTube]

“Keith Ellison’s rise to second-in-command at DNC worries some Jewish Democrats” by Rafael Medoff: “I’m just happy that Perez defeated Ellison, but concerned that it was close,” Rabbi Menachem Genack, a prominent Jewish supporter of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, told JNS. “The future of the pro-Israel Jewish community does not rest well with Democrats,” longtime Democratic Party consultant Dr. Hank Sheinkopf said after the vote.” [JNS

Alan Dershowitz tells us: “I am okay with the fact that Keith Ellison was defeated. I am not okay with the fact that people say he was defeated because of a ‘smear’ campaign. It is not a smear to expose somebody’s anti-Semitism and his long history of bigotry. That’s the right thing to do. I am not happy that he was picked to be Deputy Chairman. But at least we beat him to be Chairman.”

Responding to Mort Klein, Dershowitz explained why he decided not to quit the Democratic Party despite Ellison being appointed in a senior position: “We won this fight, and I am going to continue to fight to win victories. Keith Ellison got a consolation prize. I will make up my own mind as to whether and when to remain in the Democratic Party just the way Klein has to make up his mind whether to remain in the Republican Party in light of the fact that there are obviously some people within that party that are inconsistent with his views and my own views. I think we both have to fight within our own parties to make sure that the Israel issue remains bipartisan and that the Democratic Party must have a zero tolerance policy toward anti-Semitism. It’s a fight worth fighting for. We won the Ellison fight, we won the fight over the platform, and I think we can still win if we stand together.”

“Keith Ellison’s Loss Leaves A Sour Taste For Progressives” by Ruby Cramer: “Liberal support for Ellison, a Minnesota congressman beloved by Bernie Sanders voters, “was a very clear message, given to the party by its progressive base, by young people,” Ries said. “The DNC instead decided that they knew better.” [BuzzFeed]

TOP TALKER: “Trump to Propose 10% Defense Increase in Budget Plan, Aides Say” by Shannon Pettypiece and Jennifer A Dlouhy: “Trump and his aides also are reviewing whether to eliminate many special envoy positions, the people said — diplomatic staff assigned to key regions and issues, including climate change, anti-Semitism and Muslim communities. State also handles a substantial chunk of U.S. foreign aid, which the administration officials said is being targeted for major cuts.” [Bloomberg] • Retired generals tell White House: Don’t cut State Department [CNN

Ira Forman, former U.S. Special Envoy of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, tells us (on his birthday): “I can’t believe someone at the White House won’t have better sense than to realize that this is a disaster. I just can’t believe that they would even think of this given the relatively small budget needed to run this office. The office exists by legislation. It’s just a matter of someone signing up to fund it. This is as bipartisan as an issue as you can get, and I just hope folks at the WH come to their senses.”

Abe Foxman emails… “I think that would be a sad message to send. America was proud of the fact that it was the only country that understood the history of anti-Semitism to the point that it made it a responsibility of the American government to monitor and combat. The U.S. government instructed and mandated its ambassadors around the world to report and combat it. And what it did was, it caused other countries to set up special ambassadors to the Jewish communities on Jewish issues. The special Ambassador to combat anti-Semitism at the State Department is one of those things that ‘make America great.’”

“Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in Talks to Be State Department’s No. 2” by Felicia Schwartz and Peter Nicholas: “The decision isn’t yet final and other candidates may be under consideration, officials said… Mr. Huntsman, who had at one point been considered as a candidate for secretary of state, has also been critical of Mr. Trump… He endorsed Mr. Trump for president in September, but in October called for Mr. Trump to drop out of the race after a recording leaked of Mr. Trump making sexually aggressive comments about women.” [WSJ

TRUMP TUMULT — Major Garrett‏: “News: 3 sources tell me Todd Ricketts hitting heavy financial separation issues; withdrawal as Dep. Commerce Sec nominee a real possibility.” [Twitter

HEARD YESTERDAY – At J Street’s National Conference in DC, Senator Bernie Sanders lauded the organization as a ‘powerful’ pro-Israel group while rebuking Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Welcomed by a thunderous applause, the Vermont lawmaker asserted, “the hard truth is the continued ‘occupation’ and the growth of Israeli settlements that the ‘occupation’ sustains undermine possibility of peace and it contributes to suffering and contributes to violence.” [JewishInsider

— J Street conceded yesterday that the campaign against David Friedman will not lead to their desired outcome. However, they stressed that the ultimate goal is to isolate Friedman from the White House decision-making process. “I do expect a roughly party-line vote in the committee. I also acknowledge that there’s very little precedent for a nominee being struck down in an actual floor vote,” Dylan Williams, Vice President of Government Affairs for J Street, told Jewish Insider. “With that in mind, it’s important to realize that a large part of this fight is about where this administration should take U.S. policy with respect to Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” According to Williams, Friedman’s long-held views on the issues are looming over the battle going on between the national security establishment and President Trump’s close advisors over what the administration’s policy should be on the two-state solution. If the outcome of the campaign against Friedman would result in diminishing his influence on policy, Williams declared “we would see that as a victory.” [JewishInsider

Martin Indyk: Friedman “is going to be in Jerusalem, he’s not going to be in Washington. He is not going to be in the White House. His ability to actually influence policy when his job is to implement policy shouldn’t be exaggerated.”

KFILE — Andrew Kaczynski’s latest: “Trump Israel ambassador pick said State Department has been anti-Semitic for ‘past 70 years'” [CNN]

“Palestinian envoy warns against moving US embassy in Israel” by Richard Lardner: “Maen Areikat (chief of the PLO delegation in Washington) says an “emotional decision” to shift the embassy’s location “is going to have very, very negative repercussions” and could seriously complicate and undermine any future efforts to resolve the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis… Areikat says the Palestinians have made their position clear, directly and indirectly, to the Trump administration.” [AP

TALK OF THE NATION: “Bomb Threats Were Directed At Jewish Centers In 18 States In Just One Day” by Mike Hayes and Claudia Koerner: “Local media and police confirmed reports of threats on Monday in Alaska, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan, Alabama, Maryland, Indiana, Virginia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, California, Arizona, Washington, and Nevada… The San Francisco office of the Anti-Defamation League also received a bomb threat Monday afternoon… The FBI and Department of Justice, meanwhile, have launched investigations into the rash of bomb threats.” [BuzzFeed]

“Spicer condemns JCC bomb threats and cemetery vandalizations” by Aidan Quigley: “The president continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned into the reports of further vandalism at Jewish cemeteries,” Spicer said. “The president continues to condemn these and other forms of anti-Semitic and hateful acts.” [Politico]

“Opposition Leader Herzog: Israel Must Prepare to Take in U.S. Jews Fleeing anti-Semitism” by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “I call on the government to urgently prepare and draw up a national emergency plan for the possibility of waves of immigration of our Jewish brothers to Israel,” Herzog said at a meeting of his Zionist Union Knesset faction, where he expressed shock and strongly condemned the outbreak of anti-Semitism in the United States, France and other places in the world. Herzog, however said at the same time that he was “convinced that the American government would do everything it can to harshly and aggressively eradicate this phenomenon.” [Haaretz; Newsweek]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: One of the politicians who received a harsh blow from the State Comptroller report on Operation Protective Edge — which was finally published this morning — is former defense minister Moshe Yaalon. Yaalon is condemned in the report for failing to inform the cabinet of the tunnel threat and failing to prepare the IDF for it. Yaalon dismissed the findings as political for months, and has stepped up his defense efforts in recent days. Yaalon has been focused on Naftali Bennet and accused him of leaking from the holy shrine of the security cabinet… Yaalon, who resigned from his post last May and is currently planning to establish a new party and to run for the leadership of the country, is having a tough month. Last week, the judges who convicted Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier who shot the Palestinian terrorist in Hebron last March, condemned Yaalon for making early public statements about the case before it was properly investigated.

Another interesting fight unraveling is between Netanyahu and Yosef Shapira, the State Comptroller. After the PM brushed off the critique yesterday and implied that the Comptroller is undermining the IDF and security echelon, Shapira released a statement today attacking the what he called “deligitimization attempts, especially from the political system, which are probably aimed at deterring the Comptroller and damage his standing,” he said in a special statement today. “It is important to focus on reading the report and learning the lessons from it and not badmouthing.” President Rivlin, playing responsible adult, backed Shapira today and emphasized the watchdog’s responsibility to the Parliament and the public. “It is not the time for exchanging blows, but for learning lessons and implementing what needs to be repaired.”

Earlier today, Rivlin met all of the North American senior Israeli diplomats who are in Israel for the annual gathering of consultations and meetings, including Ambassador Ron Dermer and NYC consul general Danny Dayan. Rivlin, addressed the rise in anti-Semitic incidents. “When we say ‘never again’ it means the whole world. Israel and its diplomatic representatives should stand strongly against these events and I commend President Trump for saying it clearly last week. It should be said again and again without any hesitation.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

** 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 **

SPOTLIGHT: “Ex-UBS Bankers Target Israeli Millionaires With Wealth Broker” by Yaacov Benmeleh: “Two former UBS Group AG bankers are exporting their Swiss private-banking advisory business to Israel as a boom in the country’s technology industry prompts a rise in the number of millionaires and money managers. Zurich-based Zwei Wealth Experts AG, founded by Patrick Müller and Klaus Wellershoff, opened their first overseas office in Tel Aviv this month. “In many ways, Israel is a very representative market to test our approach,” he said in an interview from Tel Aviv. “There is wealth and a curiosity for new solutions.” Israel’s high-tech boom is creating a new generation of millionaires after the value of assets sold in 2016 rose to their highest level for four years…” [Bloomberg]

“Strategic Cyber Ventures aims to build ‘supermax prison’ to halt hackers” by Aaron Gregg: “Strategic Cyber Ventures, a D.C.-based investment firm backed by New York hedge fund Hudson Bay Capital, recently added a second local cybersecurity start-up to its portfolio. The $3.5 million investment announced Monday went to a four-person start-up called Polarity. “Ron [Gula] and I were both tired of incredible talent leaving the NSA going to Silicon Valley to raise money,” said Strategic Cyber Ventures partner Tom Kellerman… The investment firm started when Hudson Bay chief executive Sander Gerber, a long-time friend of Kellerman, persuaded him to leave his position and get into the investment game.” [WashPost]

STARTUP NATION — Wired Magazine’s latest episode in their Future Cities series: “We examine Shimon Peres’s extraordinary legacy in shaping Israeli innovation, tracing the evolution of the country’s world-leading eductation and R&D. We visit miLAB at IDC Herzliya, a prototyping centre that focuses on physical-digital interaction, an IDF intelligence unit to learn about the military’s unique hierarchical structure and autonomous drone startup Airobotics. Finally we travel to Jerusalem, a city ‘complicated beyond description’, where we hear from Andy Dwonch of Gaza Sky Geeks, and Hani Alami of JEST to learn about how the political landscape in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem affects innovation.” [YouTube]

“30 Photos That Will Make You Want to Book A Flight To Israel ASAP” by Carrie Goldberg: “Israel is a country diverse and vibrant in culture, color and flavor–so much so that we dubbed it one of the top places to visit in 2017. We tapped travel photographer Sharon Zobali for her tour of the country’s biggest hubs–in photos… key sites that will make you want to book a trip sooner rather than later.” [Bazaar

DESSERT: “The Southeast Asian Snack I Drove Across Israel For” by Katherine Martinelli: “At home in New York, I was accustomed to ordering Thai food on any given night when I was too tired to cook, rainy evenings, lazy Saturday afternoons, you name it… When we moved to Israel, Thai food was hard to come by. In the small city where we called home, there wasn’t a single Thai restaurant, and I did lug home Thai take-out from a reputable restaurant in Tel Aviv… While it can be frustrating, it also forced me to be creative and figure out how to make it on my own. Burritos, Chicken Tikka Masala, and even meatloaf all made it into my repertoire when living in Israel.” [Food52]

SPORTS BLINK: “World Baseball Classic 2017: Can Israel surprise in its debut?” by Chris Cwik: “The team will be led by former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jason Marquis, but will also feature Ike Davis, Craig Breslow and Sam Fuld. Every one of those players has experienced success in the majors. ” [YahooSports]

BIRTHDAYS: Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1972, Professor of Science at Brown University since 1958, Leon Cooper turns 87… Professor emeritus of Mathematics at the University of California, San Diego, Linda Preiss Rothschild turns 72… Screen, stage and televison actress and singer, Ilene Susan Graff turns 68… Former State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Ira Niles Forman turns 65… NYTimes op-ed columnist and 2008 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, author of more than 20 books, Paul Krugman turns 64… Stand-up comedian, actor and voice actor, Gilbert Gottfried turns 62… Self-described as “America’s most notorious lobbyist,” Jack Abramoff turns 58… Editor-in-chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Andrew Silow-Carroll turns 56… Jerusalem-born businessman and philanthropist, worked as a NYC taxi driver after completing his IDF service, started and sold several companies in the automotive field, Mordechai (Moti) Kahana turns 49… Executive Director of the Montreal chapter of ORT, Emmanuel KallesJessie Singleton, MBA candidate at Harvard and former chief digital officer for NYC (h/t Playbook)… Samantha Friedman

Folks who won’t have a true birthday (2/29) for three more years: President of the Global Markets Institute at Goldman Sachs where she was the long-time Chief Investment Strategist, Board Chair at Jewish Theological Seminary (2009-2015), Abby Joseph Cohen turns 65… Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Paul D. Rosenthal turns 57… Former US Supreme Court law clerk and now UCLA law professor, Eugene Volokh, turns 49…

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Screenshot via YouTube/IsraeliPM

Kafe Knesset for Feb. 24

Friday, February 24, 2017

The statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordanian Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, criticizing “the lenient sentence” given by the Tel Aviv Military Court in…


Kafe Knesset for Feb. 23

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Netanyahu adds another stop to his busy itinerary — Far away from the troubling reality of criminal probes and political hazards, Netanyahu appears to be enjoying the Grand…

Dr. Ben Chouake with Senator Menendez - courtesy of NORPAC

NORPAC’s Chouake: Calling Menendez Anti-Semitic is ‘Horrible’

Thursday, February 23, 2017

WASHINGTON – Caroline Glick penned an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post on February 20 blasting Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) for his questioning during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee…

Bipartisan Congressional Letter Calls for Swift Action on JCC Bomb Threats

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

WASHINGTON – 150 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress signed a letter on Wednesday urging the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to take swift action against the…

Screenshot via YouTube

Graham to Introduce Bill Cutting Palestinian Aid

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

WASHINGTON – The office of Senator Lindsey Graham announced on Wednesday that the South Carolina Republican lawmaker would introduce legislation next week to cut off US assistance to…


Kafe Knesset for Feb. 21

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

On the sidelines of the Conference of Presidents’ meeting in Jerusalem, Malcolm Hoenlein told Kafe Knesset he plans to initiate a high level world leader summit to combat…