Daily Kickoff: Norman Podhoretz, still going strong | Magerman talks Mercer, again | Details not adding up at Kushner’s 666 Fifth | Bibi’s Minyan Club

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SIREN: “Israeli jets strike inside Syria; military site near Palmyra reportedly targeted” by Oren Liebermann and Euan McKirdy: “In the most serious clash between Israeli and Syrian forces since the start of Syria’s civil war six years ago, Israeli aircraft struck several targets in Syria overnight… The Syrian military said the strikes targeted a military site near Palmyra… In response, Syrian forces fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets, saying they downed one aircraft and hit another. Israeli vehemently denied the assertions… “At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised,” a statement from the Israel Defense Forces said. One of the missiles was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense system, marking its first operational use.” [CNN]

DEEP DIVE: “The blow-it-all-up billionaires” by Vicky Ward: “If Trump was an unexpected victor, the Mercers were unexpected kingmakers. More established names in Republican politics, such as the Kochs and Paul Singer, had sat out the general election. But the Mercers had committed millions of dollars to a campaign that often seemed beyond salvaging… A longtime colleague, David Magerman, recalls that when Robert began working at Renaissance in 1993, he and his wife, Diana, were “grounded, sweet people.” (Magerman was suspended from Renaissance in February after making critical comments about Robert in The Wall Street Journal.) But “money changed all that,” he says. “Diana started jetting off to Europe and flying to their yacht on weekends. The girls were used to getting what they wanted.”

“Magerman, Robert’s former colleague at Renaissance, recalls him saying, in front of coworkers, words to the effect that “your value as a human being is equivalent to what you are paid. … He said that, by definition, teachers are not worth much because they aren’t paid much.” His beliefs were well-known at the firm, according to Magerman. But since Robert was so averse to publicity, his ideology wasn’t seen as a cause for concern. “None of us ever thought he would get his views out, because he only talked to his cats,” Magerman told me.” [HuffPost.Highline]

WEEKEND READ — Podhoretz the Pugilist: “Norman Podhoretz Still Picks Fights and Drops Names” by John Leland: “Mr. Podhoretz, who ran Commentary magazine from 1960 to 1995, has now outlived most of his old adversaries, including those he chronicled in his 1999 memoir “Ex-Friends: Falling Out With Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt and Norman Mailer.” Smart, ambitious, argumentative, back-stabbing, front-stabbing, he is a living amalgam of New York ego and intellect…. His story is also one of sweeping political reversal. Born in 1930 in a modest Jewish immigrant Brooklyn home, he made his mark in liberal Manhattan, broke ranks with the friends who nourished him and became a shaper of the neoconservative movement.”

“In those years, writers attacked one another first in the pages of so-called little magazines like Partisan Review and Commentary, and then at parties where politics and art were battlefields. If the players considered themselves high-minded, Mr. Podhoretz scathingly suggested other motives. “Every morning,” he wrote in the 1967 memoir “Making It,” “a stock-market report on reputation comes out in New York. It is invisible, but those who have eyes to see can read it. Did so-and-so have dinner at Jacqueline Kennedy’s apartment last night? Up five points. Was so-and-so not invited by the Lowells to meet the latest visiting Russian poet? Down one-eighth.”

“After supporting Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primaries, Mr. Podhoretz took a position that was not so much an endorsement of Mr. Trump as a rebuttal to conservatives who opposed him. “I was anti-anti-Trump,” he said. “I said it was a choice of evils, and he was the lesser evil. And I still think that’s true, although it might turn out that he wasn’t evil at all. He has the most conservative cabinet since Reagan, more than Reagan. So I watch what he does more than what he says.” He was not put off by Mr. Trump’s conciliatory approach to Russia, nor his support from white nationalists, whom he considered too marginal to be a real threat.” [NYTimes]

Bret Stephens: “A remarkably fair-minded tribute to the great Norman Podhoretz (who’s wrong about Trump and I will never forgive it).” [Twitter]

“Daughter diplomacy: Trudeau’s unorthodox play for Donald Trump’s approval” by Daniel Dale: “For [Justin] Trudeau, daughter diplomacy offers the prospect of a lifeline to a president who shares almost none of his principles but who often appears to value personal relationships over ideology and policy — and who appreciates a political gift… Donald Trump, not Ivanka Trump, was Trudeau’s original invitee to the play, communications director Kate Purchase said. Trump told Trudeau he couldn’t make it, Purchase said, “but suggested that perhaps Ivanka Trump could join instead.” … It is not only the president with whom Ivanka Trump might help Trudeau. Her husband, Jared Kushner, has emerged as one of the most powerful people in the country.” [TheStar

Trump kids, families to visit Aspen this weekend: “A large contingent of President Donald Trump’s children and grandchildren are scheduled to vacation in Aspen this weekend, sources said Thursday. The Trump family is expected to arrive in Aspen late Saturday night or early Sundaymorning, along with about 100 Secret Service agents, a source said. Another Aspen area law enforcement source said the Trump visitors to Aspen will include Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and their families.” [DenverPost; AspenTimes]

JASON GREENBLATT’S WEEK: “On His First Visit to the Middle East, Trump’s Envoy Jason Greenblatt Surprises Everyone” by Barak Ravid: “Greenblatt’s Twitter account was the best show in town this week. Anyone following his tweets might have thought he wasn’t the U.S. envoy for the peace process, but the Energizer bunny…  Everyone on the Israeli side who met with Greenblatt this week, on both the right and the left, as well as everyone on the Palestinian side, had a positive impression…

“A senior minister who sits in the diplomatic-security cabinet said he met with Netanyahu this week and found him very worried. The reason… [was] Donald Trump. “There’s enormous pressure on him over the settlements from Trump,” the minister said. “Trump told Netanyahu, ‘Tell me what your needs are on the settlements, and what you’re willing to do to rein in construction.’ … That’s also why he isn’t going to the AIPAC conference in Washington at the end of the month,” the minister added. “He doesn’t yet have anything to bring to Trump. The feeling I got is that he’s starting to miss Obama.”” [Haaretz

BIBI’S MINYAN CLUB — Greenblatt‏ tweets: “Thank you Israeli PM’s office for mincha minyan and Netanyahu for davening with me so that I could say Kaddish for my mother.” [Twitter

KAFE KNESSET — The Missing Yarmulke — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt definitely won the hearts and minds of many Israelis and Palestinians, who followed his Twitter reports with great enthusiasm. But for some Haredi observers, Greenblatt’s shuttle diplomacy was overshadowed by his missing kippa, and Haredi journalists and news outlets have been freaking out over it this whole week. “People who watched the video and the pictures from the meeting with Netanyahu couldn’t resist wondering where his Kippa is,” the Kikar Hashabat website wrote this week.

“Haredim 10,” another popular website, explained that many US Orthodox businessmen give up wearing the kippa during business meetings and even gave the religious explanation for the habit, which is unusual for religious Israelis, from all denominations. “Many Jews have this habit, based on a Halacha ruling by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who ruled that since wearing a kippa is a Hasidic custom, one can sit at work without it.” The Prime Minister’s new media advisor, Jonathan Urich, came to Greenblatt’s defense: “You can calm down. They prayed Mincha together yesterday, and had a Minyan in the cabinet room. When there is nothing wrong, you don’t have to look for people to blame.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

ON THE HILL: “Democrat Engel prepares to work with Trump on Israel” by Michael Wilner: “With all my troubles with Donald Trump and his policies, if he shows that he’s a pro-Israel president, I will praise him for it,” [Rep. Eliot] Engel said. “We don’t want Israel to be used as a political football. Presidents come and go and prime ministers come and go, [but] it is the US-Israel relationship that must remain.” … “I don’t know him, but I’ve heard good things,” Engel said of Kushner… “I would think that he would have Israel’s best interests at heart if he sits down to negotiate.” [JPost

INTERVIEW — Meet The Republican Congressman Who Calls for a Settlement Freeze — by Aaron Magid: In many ways, Representative Walter Jones (R-NC), is a staunch conservative… However, his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are far outside the norm for a Republican member of Congress these days. In an interview with Jewish Insider, Jones called for a “moratorium” on Israeli West Bank settlement growth. Jones was one of four Republicans who voted with 76 Democrats against House Resolution 11 in January, a measure that criticized the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)…

Jones was one of only two Republicans to sign onto a letter, signed by 113 Democrats, which “affirms” support for the two state solution. “If we just sit back, watch and complain, and nobody is making any effort to get the two sides together, I think it is wrong,” Jones explained while repeatedly using the term “Palestine.” … “I hope that this Administration will find the time over the next few months to make this the number one issue: what can we do as a nation to be a facilitator to find peace.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

HEARD AT YU — Joe Lieberman: “Ambassador Friedman Will Perform Above Expectations” — by Jacob Kornbluh: “David, who I love and think will be a great Ambassador, said some things that I totally disagreed with. And all he could do is what he did at the hearing, and that’s just to apologize,” Lieberman, who is a partner at the Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman law firm, said at a symposium hosted by the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Program for International Affairs at Yeshiva University on Wednesday. “I want to assure you that David Friedman will perform as Ambassador way above expectations.” Regarding Friedman’s apology over comments he made about J Street, ADL and others, Lieberman quipped, “I told him that I don’t think he has to go to shul on Yom Kippur this year. I though he already did his Al Chets at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

Former Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer: “David Friedman may be a nice guy, but he is a polarizing figure. What he said about J Street is beyond acceptable, and has written off a large segment of the American Jewish community. They may not be J Street members, but they are pro-peace and pro-Israel. We are now about to send a man who doesn’t fit any criteria for serving as U.S. envoy. He doesn’t represent Americans at large. And how can he possibly represent Israeli views when those on the Left or center-left feel alienated by his nomination. It makes no sense.” [JewishInsider

“Ex-Sen. Lieberman Welcomes ‘Change in the White House Attitude’ on Iran” by Patrick Goodenough: “Though I will say that I was a proud supporter of Secretary Clinton in the election last year, when it comes to the question of Iran, the change from President Obama to President Trump is an enormously significant and hopeful change,” [Lieberman] told a Nowruz (Persian new year) gathering on Capitol Hill… “The change in the White House attitude, it gives us an important opportunity,” he said… I think you’ll find and already have found that the bipartisan consensus about the threat that Iran represents has returned,” he said, “and there’s a real interest in focusing in on a regime in Iran and changing what exists now.” [CNSNews

“Trump budget preserves aid for Israel, other countries being evaluated: State Dept.” by David Alexander: “”Our assistance to Israel is … guaranteed and that reflects obviously our strong commitment to one of our strongest partners and allies,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “With respect to other assistance levels, foreign military assistance levels, those are still being evaluated and decisions are going to be made going forward,” Toner added, noting that treaty obligations would be a factor. The United States provides assistance to Jordan and Egypt as part of their peace treaties with Israel.” [Reuters

Robert Satloff‏: “In budget blueprint, only aid to Israel assured, leaving key US Mideast allies – like Egypt and Jordan – nervous.” [Twitter] • Dan Shapiro: “That should — and will — make Israel nervous, too.” [Twitter

TOP TALKER: “Top Trump Adviser Sebastian Gorka Denied A Report That He Belongs To A Nazi-Allied Group” by Talal Ansari and Lissandra Villa: “When BuzzFeed News reached Gorka by phone on Thursday, he stonewalled when asked about the report. “Send a request to White House press,” Gorka told BuzzFeed News. Later Thursday, in an interview with Tablet magazine, Gorka was quoted, “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend.” Gorka reportedly belongs to a “reconstitution of the original group on the State Department list… “These revelations are deeply disturbing, not least because of what they reveal about the kinds of people able to influence the president of the United States,” said US Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York.” [BuzzFeedUSAToday]

“Tale of Trump Advisor’s Nazi Ties Unravels : Sebastian Gorka Denies Reported Affiliations with Vitézi Rend” by Liel Leibovitz: “Gorka himself told me that the allegations are flat-out false. “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend. Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism.” … Why didn’t Gorka simply tell this to The Forward? A source close to the White House, who was briefed on how the administration treated this story, explained things a little more to me. “These guys genuinely believed that the allegations were so blatantly false and so aggressively poorly-sourced, that no responsible journalist would ever publish them,” the source told me on the phone.” [Tablet] • Bruce Abramson, Jeff Ballabon write… “The ‘Forward’ is dead wrong, Gorka is a defender of Israel, Jews” [JPost]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Paul Singer accuses aluminum giant’s bosses of buying their jobs [NYPost] • Israeli developer breaks ground on condo near beach in Miami-Dade [Bizjournals] • Crescent Heights puts $64M price tag on school board’s downtown Miami site [TRD] • Rumors of purchase by Sheldon Adelson boost Steve Wynn’s stocks [ReviewJournal• Roman Abramovich submits plans to turn three New York homes into stunning $78m mansion [Mirror

SPOTLIGHT: “At 666 Fifth, the devil’s in the details – and the details don’t add up” by Hiten Samtani and Konrad Putzier: “Several market observers, however, told TRD that the numbers, no matter how they’re spun, just don’t make sense. Some even questioned Anbang’s commitment to the property, saying the news reports could serve as a way for Kushner Companies to court other interested investors even if the Chinese insurer walks away.” [TRD]

“Palantir Blocked Its Investors From Selling Their Shares, Lawsuit Claims” by William Alden: “Palantir Technologies, one of the most valuable startups in Silicon Valley, has deprived investors of basic information about its business and repeatedly hindered efforts by investors to sell their shares, according to a blistering lawsuit filed by longtime investor Marc Abramowitz. In addition to keeping at least some shareholders in the dark about its financial performance, Palantir has “engaged in a pattern and practice” of attempting to thwart their attempts to sell stock, according to the lawsuit, filed by investment firm KT4 Partners.” [BuzzFeed]

“When Hate Surges” — George Soros’ latest op-ed: “Having survived the Nazi persecution of Jews in Hungary, I escaped from Soviet occupation at age 17 and made my way first to Britain and then to America. This is not the America that attracted me. I have seen the damage done when societies succumb to the fear of the “other.” And I will do all I can to help preserve the openness, inclusiveness and diversity that represent our greatest strength. Demonizing immigrants weakens our country. Fighting against hate crimes makes us grow stronger together.” [NYTimes]

“What Gorsuch Sees That Scalia Didn’t” by Nathan Diament: “Since the owners of Hobby Lobby faced an impossible choice between “abiding their religion or saving their business” and because the government had other ways to achieve its policy goals, Judge Gorsuch held that RFRA overrode the ObamaCare regulation… Whether Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court remains to be seen. But his record suggests that those who care about religious liberty may want to pray that he gets the chance to rule on it.” [WSJ]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Two-and-a-half years after rabbi’s voyeurism arrest, Georgetown’s Kesher Israel hires a new leader” by Julie Zauzmer: “After an extensive search, the Georgetown synagogue has hired Rabbi Hyim Shafner… “He seems to be a very sensitive, warm and caring individual,” Kesher president Elanit Jakabovics said of Shafner. “We knew that was going to be something that was an important quality. We were going to be looking for warmth.” Shafner, who will start his new job at Kesher this summer, comes from Bais Abraham, a smaller Orthodox synagogue of about 120 families near St. Louis… Shafner said he has hardly ever talked about politics from the pulpit… That means he’s not too concerned about one of the buzziest topics of conversation lately in Washington’s Orthodox community, the arrival of Ivanka Trump, the first Jewish member of an American first family. “To me, every Jew is a Jew. It doesn’t matter what you do 9-to-5,” he said about Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.” [WashPost]

HOLLYWOOD: “The Israeli actress Efrat Dor shares a childhood photo and tells why her new film The Zookeeper’s Wife hits so close to home” by Rachel Wallace: “The most amazing thing about this character and me getting this movie is my grandma, God bless her. She’s 94 and she’s alive. She’s from Poland. Her mother, father and brother died in the Holocaust… I felt very emotionally involved in the movie. I had many conversations with my grandma about it, whom obviously said, “Oh, I have so many stories to tell them! They should add it to the script!” I was like, “It’s kind of set, but…” She was really nice and sweet.” [Dujour]

SPOTTED IN JERUSALEM: “Tiki Barber heads to Israel to run marathon” by Ian Mohr: “While the city’s ancient, the race is just 6 years old and starts at the Knesset building before runners wind their way through the Jaffa Gate into the Old City, where the Christian, Jewish and Muslim Quarters are located. “This isn’t like the Boston or Paris marathons,” said one regular. “You’re running by a 2,000-year-old wall.” Former NY Giant Barber will also broadcast his CBS Sports Radio show from the city.” [NYPost] • JI readers spotted Tiki and his wife Traci Lynn Johnson dining at Mamilla Rooftop in Jerusalem last night…

SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli basketball team’s unknown underdog story opens Baltimore Jewish Film Festival” by Chris Kaltenbach: “The exultant documentary film that resulted, “On the Map,” opens the 29th Baltimore Jewish Film Festival on Sunday. Chronicling the team’s achievements on the basketball court, the frenzied nationwide celebration that followed their victory and the circumstances that made it so much more than a matter of one team scoring more points than another, [Dani] Menkin’s film is one of those underdog-conquers-the-world stories that can’t help but leave audiences cheering.” [BaltimoreSun

“The Jew Who Changed Football Forever” by Gil Troy: “Part of the reason why this pioneer is forgotten, part of the reason why he failed to get selected for Football’s Hall of Fame before killing himself in despair, is because Benny Friedman was a Jew. Ultimately, he was more successful at freeing the game he loved from its heavy-handed tactics than the country he loved from one of its prejudices… Friedman ended his pro-career with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1932 to 1934, having been named All-NFL four times and having led the league in touchdown passes from 1927 to 1930. He completed about half his passes when other quarterbacks barely hit a third. Eventually, the NFL changed the rules and the ball to make the game fly.” [DailyBeast]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Yarden Katzrin Cabernet — by Yitz Applbaum:As the Israeli wine industry continues to mature, one of the most noticeable improvements is the consistency in production. More often than not, you can open a new vintage of a bottle that you enjoyed in the past and the new vintage is often just as good or even better than the older vintage. One such wine, that never disappoints, is the Yarden Katzrin Cabernet. Long considered one of Israel’s greatest wines, the 2012 vintage did not disappoint.

This wine is 94 percent Cabernet and 6 percent Merlot.  It is aged for 24 months in new French Oak and the overwhelming notes are of toast and leather. There are essences of very ripe blackberries on the front palate, 75% cocoa dark chocolate in the mid-palate and the lingering finish of English Toffee is last on the palate. Drink this wine with aged beef or with a large portion of lamb chops. [GolanWines]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Retail and real estate executive, CEO of Wilherst Developers and trustee of publicly traded Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, Mark K. Rosenfeld turns 71… Highly popular, sometimes controversial, Hasidic singer, entertainer and composer, Lipa Schmeltzer turns 39… Actor, music producer and stand-up comedian, best known as Gustavo Rocque on the Nickelodeon television series “Big Time Rush,” Stephen Kramer Glickman turns 38… Digital reporter and producer for ABC News including “World News Tonight With David Muir,” Emily Claire Friedman Cohen turns 32… Assistant professor at GW University in the School of Media and Public Affairs, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago in 2016, Ethan Porter turns 32… General manager for Uber in the Washington, DC market, previously an analyst at LivingSocial, Annaliese Rosenthal turns 30… Musician and digital strategy executive, CEO of Santa Monica-based mobile messaging technology company Kapps Media, Rick Sorkin… Los Angeles-based tech journalist and founder of the TechSesh blog, Jessica Elizabeth Naziri… Student at the University of Michigan, Zach Sherman… VP at Las Vegas-based Gold Coast Promotions, assisting non-profits in fundraising, Richard Metzler… Founder, president and CEO of Laurel Strategies, also the co-founder and board member of ImagineNations Group, Alan H. Fleischmann

SATURDAY: Professor emeritus of biochemistry in the medical school of the University of North Carolina, author of five books since turning 80 years old, Edward Glassman, Ph.D. turns 88… Screenwriter, actor, comedian and film executive, best known for co-writing the screenplay for “Jaws” and its first two sequels, Carl Gottlieb turns 79… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Jerry is four days older), Bennett “Ben” Cohen turns 66… Crisis response team manager for the City of Los Angeles (1998-2013), consultant for non-profit organizations in the areas of event management, administration and development, Jeffrey Zimerman MSW, turns 61… Filmmaker, writer and stand-up comedian, best known as the screenwriter for “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and for writing the screenplay adaptation of “Battlefield Earth,” J. D. Shapiro turns 48… Identical twin brothers and former yeshiva students, both singers and songwriters who recorded as “Evan and Jaron,” Evan Lowenstein and Jaron Lowenstein, turn 43… Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actor, record producer and lead vocalist for the pop rock band Maroon 5, Adam Levine turns 38… Consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, Ariel Koschitzky Andy Weiss… Michael Shapiro… Jenni Volz

SUNDAY: Philanthropist, art collector and chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder turns 84… Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, whose books focus on Jewish life and identity, Philip Roth turns 84… Hollywood mogul as a film producer and film studio executive, co-founder of Miramax and stalwart of the Democratic Party, Harvey Weinstein turns 65… Author and journalist, known as the first female executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson turns 63… EVP of merchandising at American Signature Furniture, a Schottenstein company, Steve Rabe turns 57… Online producer, writer and director, who together with his brother Rafi, are best known for their React video series which have billions of YouTube views, Benny Fine turns 36… Founder of the Brave Collection, a Brooklyn-based company that sells hand-made Cambodian jewely and donates 10% of its profits to support a Cambodian anti-human-trafficking organization, Jessica Hendricks Yee turns 29… Neurologist in Naples, Florida, Brian D. Wolff, MD… Aaron Bock

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Daily Kickoff: Dina Powell named deputy NSA, varied views from JIers | From Synagogue to Congress: Meet Jacky Rosen | Rappelling in Israel’s Makhtesh

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TOP TALKER: “Dina Powell to be named Trump’s deputy national security adviser” by Tara Palmeri and Ben White: “In her new role, [Dina] Powell is expected to work closely with national security adviser H.R. McMaster and focus on long-term issues. She is also expected to help lead an interagency policy process working with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis… Powell will also continue to work with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner on economic initiatives, but the NSC role is expected to take up much of her time.” [Politico; CNN

“General McMaster has also asked Nadia Schadlow to join his staff as a deputy assistant to the president for national security strategy. Ms. Schadlow served as a senior officer at the Smith Richardson Foundation and is the author of a recent book that examined 15 cases in which the United States Army intervened abroad, and the service’s role in political and economic reconstruction. She will be tasked with drafting the United States national security strategy, a comprehensive statement of the administration’s foreign policy and defense goals, which is issued by the White House.” [NYTimes]

Tevi Troy tells us: “I know Dina Powell since we both worked for the House Republican Leadership in the 1990s. We later reunited at the Bush White House, where she worked in presidential personnel, rising to be the head of that office. In that role, she was responsible for recruiting top talent to the Bush administration. I frequently fed her and her team ideas for people to fill top policy slots, and they were receptive to and solicitous of input from the policy team. The office she led had an appreciation for that famed mantra from the Reagan administration, “personnel is policy.” She later worked at Goldman Sachs, where we continued to stay in touch. Her current role is incredibly important: she’s one of only two current Assistants to the President — the highest White House staff rank — to have previously held that role (Joe Hagin is the other one). As such, she brings invaluable experience to the White House staff.”

ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt emails us: “Dina is a consummate professional whose intelligence and foresight I came to appreciate when she was an executive at Goldman Sachs leading their work on impact investing. I am certain that the Administration will benefit from her sharp mind and political smarts.”

Sen. Tom Cotton tweets: “With years of experience in Cong, WH, State, & business, Dina Powell is outstanding choice for deputy NSA” [Twitter]

COUNTERVIEW: A prominent Jewish leader tells us… “It was bad enough with the appointment of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, who is a complete sellout that led the fight for Obama on the Iran deal, and Michael Ratney. This [Dina Powell appointment] is the worst. She was responsible for the money that was supposed to go to Iranian dissidents and she gave it to NIAC (National Iranian American Council), which is one of the worst of the worst groups. The Deputy NSA is not a minor position. What’s the point of having an election if all these people are staying on or joining the Administration?”

ICYMI: “Iran deal architect is now running Tehran policy at the State Department” by Jordan Schachtel: “Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, the Iran director for former President Obama’s National Security Council (NSC), has burrowed into the government under President Trump. She’s now in charge of Iran and the Persian Gulf region on the policy planning staff at the State Department. To make matters worse, Nowrouzzadeh is a former employee of the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a non-profit that is accused of being a lobbying group for the Iranian regime.” [ConservativeReview]

FROM AN ’05 PROFILE OF POWELL: “Administration officials say that Ms. Powell, who has already made several highly public trips as a voice of the White House in the Middle East, will be persuasive. “The purpose is not necessarily to convince people that our policy is right,” said Adam Ereli, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, who appears regularly speaking in Arabic on Arab television, including on Al Jazeera. “But if you do the job right, at least they’re not going to think that you hate Muslims and you’re a nation controlled by the Jews. It’s dispelling the myths and attenuating the suspicions and debunking the conspiracies. If you speak to them in a language they understand, with a cultural relevance, that can save a lot of effort. That’s why somebody like Dina can be so powerful.” [NYTimes]

When Powell left State for Goldman Sachs, Sec. Condoleeza Rice told the Washington Post: “I’m really sorry to lose her. She is fantastic,” Rice said in an interview. “She had so many ideas. There are people who have ideas but can’t execute them. She really executed them.” Rice pointed especially to Powell’s creation of public-private partnerships, which brought corporations together with the government to assist other countries, such as in Lebanon. The U.S.-Lebanon partnership, formed after the Israeli-Hezbollah war last summer that stirred anger against the United States, is led by a group of corporate executives who traveled to Lebanon with Powell to promote initiatives to create jobs and rebuild homes.”

“Despite rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear program, Powell also resurrected people-to-people exchanges with the Islamic Republic, bringing Iranian medical doctors to the United States and sending a U.S. wrestling team to Iran. “She restarted exchanges with Iran in ways that I thought not possible,” Rice said.” [WashPost]

“Tillerson looks to global effort on Iran as model for North Korea” by Elise Labott and Nicole Gaouette: “He will explore with regional powers the creation of a broader international campaign similar to the Obama administration’s global approach on the nuclear deal with Iran, according to administration officials… While bringing in multiple players to rein in a rogue regime can make it harder for a country such as Iran or North Korea to find partners to work with and thereby contribute to an agreement’s success, it also can make deal-making more difficult and less responsive to unilateral steps. The administration’s dislike of the Iran deal raises questions about how Tillerson would adopt this approach to the Trump era.” [CNN

MUST READ: “Nine Reasons Jewish Organizations should Issue fewer Public Statements” by David Bernstein and Abby Porth: “In our current hyped up political environment, we could do little else than write and issue statements. Is this what our organizations were founded to do? Is writing and issuing statements why our constituents invest in us? Does issuing a statement achieve the actual outcomes our donors want our organizations to achieve? There are many ways of advancing the issues our organizations care about… We must ask: Will issuing a statement move the needle? Or, would we more likely affect the change we’d like to see by meeting with public officials, mobilizing our community to do e-advocacy, putting a call into a member of Congress, or developing a briefing paper for decision makers?”  [EJP]

JI INTERVIEW — Representative Jacky Rosen (D-NV) discussed her background as President of the Reform Synagogue Ner Tamid in Nevada and how it helped her during the transition to Capitol Hill in an interview with JI’s Aaron Magid. “I was the immediate past president of the largest Synagogue in Nevada Congregation Ner Tamid and through my 20 plus years of volunteering not just in Jewish philanthropy but philanthropy all around southern Nevada, serving Nevada and serving people was really important to me,” said Rosen. “When you are the head of any philanthropy organization, what you learn is empathy, how to listen and be responsive to people’s needs. What you realize when you volunteer or work in the philanthropy world is that people aren’t just numbers they are families with real needs and real issues and you need to make your judgments with kindness and thoughtfulness in order to serve those needs.”

Rosen on the U.S.-Israel relationship: “I was proud to be a cosponsor of House Resolution 11. It was my first floor speech. I was very proud to come out against that abstention because of course an abstention is really a vote because you just let happen whatever happened. We need to, as America, support a two state solution. We have to be the best facilitators we can because ultimately they have to live with it… Israel – our strongest ally – needs our support and needs our wisdom… So I’m hoping that the current Administration stands by that longstanding policy and we can help bring people to the table.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

JASON GREENBLATT IN THE MIDDLE EAST: “Jordan’s king meets with Trump adviser on Mideast peace push” by The Associated Press: “The U.S. Embassy in Jordan says Abdullah told envoy Jason Greenblatt on Wednesday that he would “do everything possible” to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-state solution.” [AP] • US Middle East envoy meets with Judea and Samaria leaders [INN

“In week of Middle East talks, Trump envoy avoids disruption” by Luke Baker: “Social media commentators were quick to point out that Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jew, had shown a notable degree of religious flexibility during his visit that may reflect a desire to be open and diplomatic: he has not worn his kippa, a skull cap worn by religious Jewish men, all week… U.S. officials indicated that Greenblatt… would report back directly to the president on his trip, rather than to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.” [Reuters]

INTERVIEW — Aaron David Miller shared his thoughts about Greenblatt’s Israel visit in a phone interview with Jacob Kornbluh: “The real issue is not the man or woman in the middle – between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It’s not important whether it’s Greenblatt or Kushner or John Kerry or whomever. The central problem is that the Israelis and Palestinian leaders are not willing or able to make the kind of decisions required to sustain a meaningful peace process that could actually – even if it’s done in phases – create the basis for the least worst outcome, which is two states. And until they own the process with a vision and a set of tactics that are aligned with one another, we are talking here about – at best – managing the problem.”

On Trump’s ME policy: “I would say that this administration is doing a couple of things that are better than the previous administration. 1) I think they are smart in avoiding, publicly, boxing in the Israelis on settlements. 2) They are smart in wanting to engage the Arab world. 3) They are smart in not focusing on a process trying to deal with the core issues. All of that strikes me as learning something from the mistakes of the Obama administration.”

“But here is the key question: have they also learned that if they really do want to resolve this problem then at some point nothing is going to substitute for an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation to deal with the core issues? You cannot use the bottom-up approach or the top-down approach with the Arabs to somehow get around the central issue. Because the central problem is still that neither Abbas nor Bibi are prepared to take the kind of steps required to change the environment, even over time, and then engage on the issues so that a third party could somehow find a way to bridge the gaps.

“And the other thing is, even if Bibi could reach an agreement with Naftali Bennett and even if the U.S. and the Israelis could hammer out some understanding on where to build in the settlements and what to do about East Jerusalem. Even if you could do all that, you still then have to take those understandings and make them functional by selling them to the Arabs and the Palestinians.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

“If Trump Makes Peace, Israeli Leftists Will Abandon American Jewish Liberals” by Chemi Shalev: “If Donald Trump starts to take peacemaking seriously, the Israeli right will turn on him in a jiffy but the Israeli left will start to see his positive sides…. If he presents an American peace deal and tells the sides to take it or leave it, peace supporters will start kvelling over Ivanka and Jared… Israeli leftists could start complaining about overwrought American liberals getting all worked up about a few bomb threats and desecrated cemeteries.” [Haaretz

ON THE HILL — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced yesterday that he would co-sponsor the bipartisan anti-BDS bill, introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), that would protect states who choose to divest themselves from businesses who boycott Israel. The bill now has 31 cosponsors and has been referred to the Senate’s Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.

Jewish Insider asked Schumer if he would back David Friedman, President Trump’s nominee for US Ambassador to Israel. The New York Senator lawmaker responded, “I’m waiting until I see him” and declined to comment further. [JewishInsider]

“GOP senators ask Tillerson to probe US funding of Soros groups abroad” by Adam Shaw: “A letter sent Tuesday asked for a probe into how U.S. funds are being used by agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to back left-wing political groups in other countries. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of the co-signers, even said foreign officials and political leaders have come to him with “reports of U.S. activity in their respective countries.” … The letter to Tillerson also was signed by Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; David Perdue, R-Ga.; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; and Bill Cassidy, R-La.” [FoxNews]  

WHAT GLASSNER IS UP TO — “Trump rallies: Campaign-funded, for a reason” by Jeremy Diamond and Jeff Zeleny: “Michael Glassner, the Trump campaign’s executive director, said the move will allow Trump to rely on the campaign’s “very effective method of promoting his appearances and filling these venues.” It also means the campaign use campaign dollars to advertise the events and sell campaign merchandise — think “Make America Great Again” hats — to all the eager supporters who attend, Glassner said… Glassner said the rallies were simply about sticking with what’s worked. “These rallies were a major source of energy that drove the entire campaign from the day he announced onward to a degree that had never been done before,” said Glassner… “If you have the capacity to do that then why wouldn’t you,” he said.” [CNN]

“Wherever Trump goes, his gang of aides stays close by” by Annie Karni and Josh Dawsey: “I can book a meeting with Reince, Jared and Bannon,” vented one consultant who has had business in the White House, “and only one of them will show up because everyone is chasing a meeting with the president.” [Politico]

PROFILE: “From Hebrew school to halls of power: Stephen Miller’s unlikely journey” by Eitan Arom: “Even in Hebrew school at Beth Shir Shalom, Miller was something of a budding provocateur, according to a classmate who asked not to be named… Miller seemed to enjoy getting a rise out of people, the classmate recalled. “He was not very concerned with being well liked,” he said. Another Hebrew school classmate, Sophie Goldstein, said classes encouraged debate — an area where Miller thrived — over Torah tractates and other aspects of the religion. Once, Goldstein said, the class of about seven or eight kids was discussing how to deal fairly with the sole remaining slice of a pizza pie, when Miller decided to end the debate. “We’re all talking and talking about it. In the middle of this discussion, Stephen slaps his open hand down on the middle of the slice of pizza,” she recalled. “And of course nobody would touch this pizza slice after he put his greasy 13-year-old paw on it.” [JewishJournal]

“Nazi-Allied Group Claims Top Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka As Sworn Member” by Lili Bayer and Larry Cohler-Esses: “Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counter-terrorism adviser, is a formal member of a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been ‘under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany’ during World War II, leaders of the organization have told the Forward. The elite order, known as the Vitézi Rend, was established as a loyalist group by Admiral Miklos Horthy, who ruled Hungary as a staunch nationalist from 1920 to October 1944.” [Forward

** 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: Bill Ackman Is Done Losing Money on Valeant [Bloomberg] • Report: Sands Bethlehem (PA) Casino to be Sold [PokerNews• Power Rangers creator Haim Saban to be honoured with Hollywood Walk of Fame star [Xpose• Gary Barnett’s Big Downtown Bet [CommercialObserver]

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro has joined ION Asset Management Ltd as a Senior Adviser. Shapiro will advise ION about key issues relating to its funds and portfolio companies, particularly regarding relevant geopolitical and commercial matters. “Daniel’s deep knowledge and understanding of global and regional trends, and their impact on Israel, will enhance ION’s ability to pursue our investment strategy and serve our investors. We are delighted that he is joining our team,” ION Chairman Jonathan Kolber said in a statement. • Shapiro tells us he also signed with the Harry Walker Agency for public speaking

“Justin Trudeau Brings Ivanka Trump to Broadway Show on Welcoming Outsiders” by Michael Paulson: “The surprise pairing at the new musical “Come From Away” was rich with symbolism, as Mr. Trudeau tries to maintain his country’s close relationship with the United States despite substantial differences in public policy. Ms. Trump, the president’s daughter and a close adviser, sat in Row F between Mr. Trudeau and Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations… It is rare, but not unprecedented, for a foreign head of government to attend a Broadway show. Last year, Mr. Trudeau and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel attended “Hamilton.” ” [NYTimes]

PHOTO: Ivanka saying hi to Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon before the Broadway show [Twitter]

“Tempest at U.N. Over Report Saying Israel Practices Apartheid” by Rick Gladstone: “The secretary general of the United Nations quickly disassociated himself from the report… “We just saw the report today,” Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for Secretary General António Guterres, said at a daily news briefing. “It was done without any prior consultation with the secretary general. The report as it stands does not reflect the stance of the secretary general.” Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said the report “is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie.” … Ambassador Nikki R. Haley of the United States… also expressed her anger. “That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel is unsurprising,” Ms. Haley said in a statement.” [NYTimes]

KAFE KNESSET — War and Peace — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Last night, coalition whip David Bitan hosted a social evening for the coalition’s MKs, with a meal in a wedding hall and a routine by a well-known stand-up comedian, but the festivities were overshadowed by hostilities, foremost of which was the one between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon over the Israel Broadcast Corporation (IBC).

A quick recap: The IBC is meant to replace the existing Israel Broadcast Authority (IBA) and go on the air on April 30. Netanyahu’s previous government passed a law to shut down the IBA and establish the IBC, because numerous efforts to make the IBA more efficient failed. Then, after the IBC made a series of left-wing hires, Netanyahu changed his mind. This reversal by the PM occurred despite the hiring of a few well-known right-wing people at the IBC, as well. Kahlon, however, said the government will lose too much money by backtracking and also mumbled a few words about freedom of the press. This back-and-forth squabble has flared up several times since last summer. Netanyahu has stepped up the rhetoric in recent days as soon-to-be-unemployed IBA workers held protests.

Last night, at the coalition event, Netanyahu dropped a bomb and called for Kahlon to postpone the IBC’s establishment by six months. Establishing the IBC “was my mistake, let’s fix it,” Netanyahu said. “Hundreds of workers, some experienced veterans, are going home…These workers said they are willing to do what they can to cut costs.” Finance Ministry sources commented that Netanyahu is trying to kiss up to the protesting workers, after he was the one who put them in this situation to begin with. Today, Kahlon made it clear that he was not going to let Netanyahu’s comments stand: “There is tension, and in our relations, how do the kids say it? Kahlon and Netanyahu are over.” Still, the Finance Minister said he is working on finding a middle ground, and announced that he agreed to the Histadrut labor union’s proposal for at least another 100 IBA workers to join the IBC.

Things got so bad that Shas chairman Arye Deri threatened to leave the government today – even though he’s not fighting with anyone in particular: “I won’t stay in a government where everyone is trying to take each other out. If they don’t come to their senses, it’s better to go to an election.” Within a couple of hours of making those comments, Deri talked Netanyahu and Kahlon off the ledge. Netanyahu agreed to have the IBC open as scheduled on April 30, but not without a price. In exchange, Kahlon’s Kulanu party will vote in favor of a controversial bill that Netanyahu is promoting in his capacity as communications minister that will create a centralized media regulation body. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

SPOTLIGHT: “How Trump’s Lawyer Placed A Big Casino Bet That Left Dozens Empty-Handed” by Anthony Cormier and Chris McDaniel: “In an interview this week, Michael Cohen at first said that he did not have a stake in the casino business, only the yacht, and bore no responsibility for lost wages and unpaid debts. But BuzzFeed News then sent him documents with his signature showing he owned 30 percent of the company. “I disagree and, if I did, I never knew it,” he said… About Atlantic Casino and his partners, Cohen said he rarely visited the operation, was not in charge of day-to-day activities, and saw himself as an investor who bet $1.5 million and lost it all.” [BuzzFeed]

“Trump vs. Cuban in 2020? Cuban doesn’t say no” by Christina Manduley: “In an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” the host asked Cuban if he would consider mounting a challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020. “I don’t want to say no … but it’s not my dream to be president of the United States,” Cuban said… When Tapper asked Cuban how he thinks Trump has been doing so far in office, his reviews were mixed. “No leadership skills. No management skills. Not very good communication skills,” Cuban said — but did give Trump credit for how the economy has responded to his first few months in office.” [CNN

“The hosts of ‘Pod Save America’ aren’t crazy about the idea of President Mark Zuckerberg” by Eric Johnson: “I worry that people are going to take from this, ‘Oh, that billionaire-celebrity outside of politics can run for politics, so can I,’” [Jon] Favreau said… “If there is a tech leader who goes out there and has a no-bullshit conversation with the American people about what we need to do, then, yeah, maybe they have a shot.” But if Zuck really is mulling a political move, he’s not yet in the “no-bullshit” radius. “The Zuckerberg thing is, they are so cautious, the statements are cautious, everything is calculated, it sounds so Washington right now.” [Recode]

“Walter Isaacson Is Getting Into Podcasting With a Series About Technology” by Lauren Johnson: “Working with Vancouver-based branded podcast company Pacific Content, the series is hosted by journalist Walter Isaacson, who is known within the tech world for writing the eponymous biography of Steve Jobs in 2011. In Trailblazers, Isaacson tells the stories and history behind technology’s impact on business… “Sometimes, when you’re creating websites, you’re letting people hop and link all over the place, but a podcast, like a book, basically sits somebody down and says, ‘Let me tell you a story,’” Isaacson said.” [Adweek]

Responding to Linda Sarsour — Ann Lewis writes… “When a women’s strike is not about women: I believe we must object when any individual or group attempts to co-opt successful, broad-based actions like the National Women’s March with a narrow, anti-Israel agenda. We cannot look away from efforts to misuse the networks we have built to advocate for women’s rights and social justice, by those who want to appropriate them as platforms for their own divisive policies… Our answer must be to speak out on for all our principles, for a world in which women’s lives are valued and respected, and a Jewish homeland is safe and secure.” [WashJewishWeek]

“L.A. embraces Israeli comedy ‘The Women’s Balcony'” by Kenneth Turan:“Though it’s set in an Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem, a world that may seem monolithic to outsiders, “The Women’s Balcony” well understands and is able to mine the potential that exists there for a genuine rift, a clash of religious cultures often unspoken and unacknowledged.” [LATimes]

“Netflix’s ‘Fauda’ Star Signs With Principato-Young” by Rebecca Sun:“Israeli actor-writer Lior Raz has signed with Principato-Young for management… Raz is the star and co-creator of Israeli political thriller Fauda, which has built a following on Netflix. The series is based on the real-life experiences of Raz and co-creator Avi Issacharoff, who served in the Israeli Defense Force’s special forces unit. Raz plays the commander of a mista’arvim, a commando unit trained to operate undercover in the Palestinian territories.” [THR

SPORTS BLINK: “American-Israeli Kenny Saief: The Champions League midfielder being overlooked by US Soccer” by Parker Cleveland: “As far as his motivation for wanting to play for the US he said, “The U.S. is a much bigger and better national team than the Israeli national team. They qualify for almost every World Cup, and it’s a dream of every football player to play in the World Cup. So that is where I want to play. I’m just waiting.” So there is a young midfielder with Champions and Europa League experience who is eligible for and wants to play on the USMNT, when are we going to see him in the red, red, and red Nike kit of the USA? Perhaps not anytime soon.” [SBNation]

DESSERT: “Rappeling down Israel’s desert formations” by Dayvee M Sutton: “A unique geological phenomenon, makhteshes seem to only happen in this part of the world. Not really a crater by definition – a cavity in the ground caused by an explosion or impact of a meteorite – rather, it is caused by millions of years of erosion. Deep Desert Israel led us on a very rocky, bumpy and at times treacherous journey inside 4×4 trucks, touring the makhtesh floor, making stops to learn about the history, trace animal tracks and explore the unique desert plants that actually survive there.” [USAToday

BIRTHDAYS: Telethon host, actor, slapstick comedian, singer, film producer, film director, screenwriter and humanitarian, Jerry Lewis (born Joseph Levitch) turns 91… Banker, financier and philanthropist, former CEO and chairman of Citigroup, Sanford I. “Sandy” Weill turns 84… Graduate of Harvard Law School in 1964, tax assistant to the Solicitor General of the US (1973-1983), now a NYC tax attorney and litigator, Stuart A. Smith turns 76… Actress and film director, who was married to Leonard Nimoy from 1989 until his death in 2015, Susan Bay turns 74… Computer scientist, author of multiple computer science textbooks and professor emeritus of computer science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Andrew S. Tanenbaum turns 73… Film, stage and television actor and singer, Victor Garber turns 68… Mathematician, technology innovator, entrepreneur and founder of four technology companies, creator of the first camera phone, Philippe Kahn turns 65… Peabody Award and Emmy Award-winning NPR journalist since 1977, now a host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, Scott Simon turns 65… AVP of external affairs at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland since 2006, a 1979 graduate of George Washington U Law School, she worked at two large law firms in Cleveland (1979-1992), Amy Kaplan turns 63…

Philanthropist and president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, Jay Ruderman turns 51… Actor and comedian, best known for playing the role of writer Frank Rossitano on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” Judah Friedlander turns 48… Soccer player who currently plays for Hapoel Petah Tikva in the Israeli Premier League, Yoav Ziv turns 36… Detroit-based founder and managing partner of Ludlow Ventures and Sandwich Fund, mentor at numerous technology accelerators, Jonathon Triest turns 35… Head of policy and communications at Facebook’s Israel office since 2016, previously Chief of Staff at the Israeli embassy in Washington DC and adviser to PM Netanyahu (2009-2013), Jordana Cutler… Principal at 30 Point Strategies, previously White House Jewish Liaison and domestic policy speechwriter for President George W. Bush, Noam Neusner… Film producer, production designer and teacher at Chicago’s Columbia College, Gail Sonnenfeld

Legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a graduate of Northwestern University, Nathan Bennett… Adjunct Professor at both George Washington U. Law School and Stanford In Washington, previously a partner at DLA Piper, Andrew D. Eskin… Customer Care Manager at CCRA Travel Commerce Network, Judy Karta… Partner at West Wing Writers, Jeff Nussbaum (h/t Clare Doody/Playbook) … Director of digital advertising for the Hillary Clinton campaign, the DSCC and the DCCC, Jason Rosenbaum… Principal at the Podesta Group, Andy Lewin… State bureau reporter for the Houston Chronicle Brian M. Rosenthal… Strategic Communications Consultant at 42West, Alexandra Stabler… VP for talent, booking and ABC News’ specialized units at Disney / ABC Television Group, Eric Avram (h/ts Playbook)… Jackie Stern… Jeremy Levin

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: Israel’s World Baseball Classic dream ends | A $1.6B Hoax | Tamir Pardo’s advice | Luxury hotel in lifeguard tower on Tel Aviv beach

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FIRST LOOK: “The 1.6 Billion Dollar Hoax” by Ken Bensinger, Jason Leopold and Craig Silverman: “An elaborate hoax based on forged documents escalates the phenomenon of “fake news” and reveals an audience on the left that seems willing to believe virtually any claim that could damage Trump. In the third week of January, an Israeli named Yoni Ariel flew from Tel Aviv to Rome carrying $9,000 in cash on a secret mission to bring down Donald Trump. There, he met with an Italian businessman… Ariel recalled, he handed over the cash. In exchange he was given a copy of a potentially explosive set of documents. Its 35 pages told the story of a $1.6 billion wire transfer from petroleum giant ExxonMobil to a European office of a Chinese mining company, which a day later transferred 1.4 billion euros to the Trump Organization…”

“The transfers appeared to have taken place in mid-June, at the exact same time that Exxon’s then chief executive, Rex Tillerson, was in St. Petersburg at an economic forum, which Russian President Vladimir Putin also attended. To Ariel, who is married to an American and calls Russia’s tampering in the elections “an act of war,” the implications of these billion-dollar transfers were clear: Exxon had secretly bribed Trump to name Tillerson to the powerful cabinet post. Alarmed, Ariel passed the documents to a network of Democratic and anti-Trump activists who in turn shared them with prominent news organizations including BuzzFeed News. The only problem: The documents were phony. The wire transfers never occurred, and the entire set of documents appear to have been forged as part of an elaborate scam.”

“Ariel is 60 years old and also goes by the name Jonathan Schwartz… He said he first heard about the Exxon documents late last year from Sheldon Schorer, an attorney who until recently was legal counsel and spokesman for Democrats Abroad–Israel… Schorer, in turn, said a former Israeli ambassador to Italy contacted him in the fall and asked if he might be interested in the documents. Both Schorer and Ariel declined to name the retired Israeli diplomat, but two sources confirm it was Gideon Meir, who from 2006 to 2011 held the Rome posting.” [BuzzFeed

“Tillerson To U.N. Rights Council: Reform or We’re Leaving” by Colum Lynch and John Hudson: “The Trump administration is threatening a withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council if it does not undertake “considerable reform,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned a group of nine non-profit organizations in a letter this week… “If they don’t make these reforms, we’re going to question the value of our membership,” said a senior aide to Tillerson. “We’re not taking withdrawal off the table.” … For the time being, Tillerson wrote, the U.S. will participate in the ongoing session of the Human Rights Council, to “reiterate our strong principled objection to the Human Rights Council’s biased agenda against Israel.” “Our aim is to fix the organization,” the Tillerson aide told FP.” [FP]  Tillerson’s Shrewd Ultimatum to UN Human Rights Council: Reform or We Withdraw [Tablet]

ON THE HILL — Sen. Ted Cruz talks with JI’s Aaron Magid regarding the delay of his and Sen. Graham’s bill to defund the UN in response to the December UNSC vote: “The decision about what to bring to a vote is a decision for leadership in both houses. I believe it is critically important that we vote on the legislation that I introduced along with Lindsey Graham to defund the UN unless and until they rescind this anti-Israel resolution. I know a great many people are urging leadership to bring this up for a vote and get every Senator on record. It’s very easy for Democratic Senators to pretend they disagree with the Obama administration’s anti-Israel agenda. Bringing this to a vote allows every Senator to go on record. I believe bringing this to a vote would deliver a major foreign policy victory for the Trump administration.”

Asked if he discussed his Taylor Force Act legislation with Trump when he met him for lunch at the White House the other week, Sen Lindsey Graham told us: “No, I didn’t but I will. That is a good point, I’ll bring that up to him.”

PALACE INTRIGUE: “Trump rejects push to oust NSC aide” by Kenneth Vogel and Eliana Johnson: On Friday, McMaster told the National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence programs, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, that he would be moved to another position in the organization… But Cohen-Watnick appealed McMaster’s decision to two influential allies with whom he had forged a relationship while working on Trump’s transition team — White House advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. They brought the matter to Trump on Sunday, and the president agreed that Cohen-Watnick should remain as the NSC’s intelligence director.” [Politico] • Defense Secretary Mattis withdraws Patterson as choice for undersecretary for policy [WashPost

“‘People are scared’: Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House” by Alex Isenstadt and Kenneth Vogel: “It’s an environment of fear that has hamstrung the routine functioning of the executive branch. Senior advisers are spending much of their time trying to protect turf, key positions have remained vacant due to a reluctance to hire people deemed insufficiently loyal… One senior administration aide said the degree of suspicion had created a toxicity that was unsustainable. “People are scared,” he said, adding that the Trump White House had become “a pretty hostile environment to work in.” [Politico]

“Trump Wins Saudi Praise for ‘Turning Point’ After Meeting Prince” by Nafeesa Syeed and Glen Carey: “Sunni Arab leaders are embracing Trump with praise the president isn’t finding from other U.S. allies in the world, reflecting an eagerness to reset ties after feeling shunned by President Barack Obama, who crafted the 2015 nuclear deal with their Shiite rival Iran. The Saudi statement said Trump had a “great understanding” of the bilateral relationship. The president and the prince “share the same views on the gravity of the Iranian expansionist moves in the region,” the adviser said.” [Bloomberg; NYTimes]

PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department‏ tweets: “Statement attributed to Dr. Saeb Erekat (about ‘historic’ Trump offer to Abbas next month) was never made. We expect a correction from Times of Israel.” [Twitter

TOP TALKER: “Prerequisite for Key White House Posts: Loyalty, Not Experience” by Sharon Lafraniere, Nicholas Confessore and Jesse Drucker: “President Trump’s point man on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a longtime Trump Organization lawyer with no government or diplomatic experience… Mr. Greenblatt’s ties to Mr. Trump have translated into more striking levels of power and prestige… A sign of Mr. Greenblatt’s expansive role came last month, not long after he traveled to Capitol Hill with Peter Navarro — a Harvard-trained economist who is head of Mr. Trump’s newly created National Trade Council — to discuss trade policy with staff aides of the Senate Finance Committee. Mr. Greenblatt missed a follow-up session with senators because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was visiting the White House that day.”

“He’s got to negotiate Middle East peace,” Mr. Navarro quipped to the senators, according to a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “So he can’t be here today.” Although Mr. Greenblatt has not been given the title of special envoy to the Middle East, he appears to be acting in that role too. Visiting the region this week, he met Mr. Netanyahu in Israel… and Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. A State Department spokesman said Mondaythat a senior National Security Council official was accompanying Mr. Greenblatt, but was unsure whether a State Department official had been included… In a brief telephone interview, Mr. Greenblatt suggested calling back later when “I’ll have something to actually say that’s meaningful.”” [NYTimes

Greenblatt’s second day on his first visit to the Middle East region included a lengthy meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, touring a Palestinian refugee camp, and a roundtable with Palestinian university students in Bethlehem. The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, in a joint readout of the meeting, noted that “President Abbas committed to preventing inflammatory rhetoric and incitement… President Abbas assured Mr. Greenblatt that he is fully committed to creating an atmosphere that is conducive to making peace and would heighten his outreach efforts to the Israeli public.”

“Trump sends his real estate lawyer-turned-diplomat to meet Netanyahu, Abbas” by Ruth Eglash: “In Ramallah, the de facto headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, feelings toward Trump and his intentions have been positive since the Friday phone call… “We received Greenblatt as a representative of the U.S., and we appreciate and welcome the fact that he is open and wanting to listen to the Palestinian side,” said Husam Zomlot, a senior adviser to Abbas. “This is a good start.” Zomlot will take up the post of the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to the United States next month. Zomlot said Greenblatt was attentive and spent hours in Ramallah meeting with the Palestinian president and many of his senior advisers. “It is crucial that they are consulting, and that is why we believe this is an opportunity for us,” he said.” [WashPost]

Netanyahu commented on his meeting with Greenblatt during a press conference yesterday: “I must say that they were good, in-depth talks. I cannot tell you that we finished. We agreed, we are in a process, but a process of genuine mutual, very frank dialogue, in the good sense of the word. Very open and very frank, just not open to the press. You will need to wait a little, I do not think for long.”

“Netanyahu Expects to Reach Deal With U.S. on Restrained Settlement Construction” by Barak Ravid: “Netanyahu and Greenblatt are expected to meet again this week before the envoy leaves the country… An Israeli official who has been involved in Israel-U.S. contacts on the settlements said the Trump administration had proposed to Netanyahu that he renew the understandings that had been in place between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.” [Haaretz]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: As the Trump administration is reportedly still deliberating between the outside-in or inside-out approach in order to renew Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Greenblatt can get some advice from former Mossad head Tamir Pardo. “Nothing in the region will move without progress on the Palestinian track,” Pardo said today. Pardo’s remarks were offered at a special conference sponsored by the Knesset Caucus for a Regional Solution and the Institute for National Security Studies focusing on regional security. Pardo and other experts agreed that there is a rare and unique opportunity with moderate Arab states based on mutual interests, but he stressed that “whomever thinks we can make any regional progress without moving towards the Palestinians is a fool. Israel needs to determine its own end-game. What do we want? Where are we going? Unfortunately Israel does not decide, and cannot decide, because of the political divide. As long as Israel does not define what it wants, nothing will happen.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) also spoke briefly at the meeting. “Last year I was in the middle of a huge regional move which would have changed the Middle East forever,” Herzog said, referring to the recent Ha’aretz revelations about attempts to jump-start the peace process and forge a unity government in Israel last year. “Now is the time to turn this opportunity into reality,” he added, stating that he will be meeting with Greenblatt tomorrow. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Advice for Trump’s would-be peacemaker” by David Horovitz: “You have a clean slate. Your administration is deemed unpredictable. And your president relishes deal-making. What would seem to have been logical for years — the need to invest strategic efforts in education in order to create a grassroots Palestinian climate that backs compromise — was ignored by your various predecessors… I urge you to defy conventional wisdom. Do the unexpected. It happens to be the smartest course.” [ToI]

NORPAC Passes On AIPAC Conference This Year — by Jacob Kornbluh: NORPAC, which calls itself the nation’s largest pro-Israel political action committee, is hosting a fundraiser for Senator Bob Menendez — at the same time as AIPAC’s annual Washington Policy Conference — in New Jersey. NORPAC President Dr. Ben Chouake told Jewish Insider that the date, Sunday, March 26, was chosen by Menendez despite the fact that a number of would-be participants are expected to attend the AIPAC gathering in Washington, DC. “We are grateful for all participation in the process and while we regret the date, when a friend asks for help we are inclined to say yes even at difficult time slots,” he explained. “I hope my colleagues at AIPAC will give me a pass on missing the conference.”

— Menendez, a frequent speaker at the pro-Israel gathering since 2013, is expected to address AIPAC attendees on Tuesday, the third day of the conference, according to the Senator’s spokesperson. Although AIPAC has yet to list him as a speaker on their website. Yesterday, AIPAC announced U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley as a confirmed speaker. [JewishInsider

TALK OF OUR NATION: “A Tide Turns as Israelis Pray for American Jews” by Daniel Gordis: “In Jerusalem this past Friday evening, we listened as the rabbi noted that we would be adding a newly written mi she-beirach. “For years,” the rabbi said, “communities across the globe have been praying for us, for our safety, for our children serving in the army and defending this country. But now, we are the ones who are secure, and they are the ones facing danger. It is time that we began to pray on their behalf.”” [Bloomberg

2018 WATCH: “Pritzker establishes exploratory committee to consider a run for governor” by Rick Pearson: “Raising the potential cash stakes in next year’s race, billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday formally created a fundraising committee to explore a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor… Pritzker says he is contributing $200,000 to cover day-to-day expenses of the exploratory committee, but he has indicated he could be willing to self-fund a campaign for governor.” [ChicagoTribune

** 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: Paul Singer Is Reopening His Flagship Hedge Fund to New Capital [Bloomberg] • Jann Wenner’s Us Weekly likely going to American Media after Tronc talks fall through [NYPost] • Talking Fifth Avenue Rents With Thor’s Dana Baines [Observer] • Aby Rosen is hosting star-studded blowout parties again [NYPost]

SPOTLIGHT: “Steve Cohen Is Trying to Teach Computers to Think Like Top Traders” by Saijel Kishan: “Steven A. Cohen got rich by going with his gut on big trades. Now the billionaire trader is experimenting with another path: automating the decisions of his best money managers. Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management, which oversees his $11 billion fortune, is parsing troves of data from its portfolio managers and testing models that mimic their trades, according to people familiar with the matter.” [Bloomberg]

STARTUP NATION: “Intel deal for Mobileye fuels Israel’s drive to become automotive tech hub” by Rory Jones: “This [Intel] deal will be looked at as the new phase for the industry,” Eran Shir, chief executive of Israeli startup Nexar Ltd., said of the Mobileye buyout. “Data is now the new oil.” … “We believe the auto industry is being transformed,” said Emanuel Timor, a partner at Vertex Ventures, which originally bought a stake in Israeli mapping firm Waze, purchased by Google in 2013 for $1 billion. “There’s a great opportunity for startups.” [WSJ] • Davidson Foundation grant helps Henry Ford collaborate with Israeli innovators [JewishNews]

“Ivanka Trump to End Fine Jewelry Line in Favor of Mass-Market One” by Rachel Abrams: “Jewelry, however, was Ms. Trump’s first major foray into licensing her name. She partnered with Moshe Lax, a New York-based diamond wholesaler, who helped Ms. Trump open a retail location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2007. In 2011, her boutique moved to a sprawling store in the city’s SoHo neighborhood. That location, however, was ultimately not profitable enough to stay open and closed in 2015.” [NYTimes

TRANSITION: “Walter Isaacson to Step Down as President and CEO of the Aspen Institute: Isaacson will be joining the history department of Tulane University as University Professor effective January 2018, and will become an Advisory Partner focusing on technology and the new economy with the global financial services firm Perella Weinberg Partners, where he currently serves on the board.” [AspenInstitue]

HOLLYWOOD: “On Netflix, the Borders Remain Open” by Mike Hale: “A pair of series added to the service in December without much fanfare, “Fauda” from Israel and “Nobel” from Norway, are both better than and distinctively different from most of the American TV you’re watching at the moment. “Fauda” is the latest gritty, naturalistic thriller turned out by the Israeli TV industry, a major supplier of ideas and concepts for American TV. (Other examples, like “Hostages” and the wonderful “Prisoners of War,” the model for “Homeland,” can be streamed from Netflix and Hulu.)” [NYTimes]

Adam Krief, whose battle with cancer united community and attracted celebrities, dies at 32 — by Oren Peleg: “Adam Krief, the cancer-stricken Jewish man from West Los Angeles whose search for a bone marrow transplant rallied the community and gained the notice of international celebrities, died on March 14. He was 32. Donor drives to find a match for the father of three young children were held all over the United States and in France, Israel and Mexico. Several matches resulted and Krief underwent a bone marrow transplant in December. But in a tragic turn of events, his body rejected the transplant and his condition deteriorated quickly, according to Jeremy Braun, a family friend… “Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik and reality television star Kim Kardashian West were among those who helped publicize a search for a matching donor.” [JewishJournal]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israel’s World Baseball Classic dream ends while Japan advances” by Marc Normandin: “Just making the World Baseball Classic tournament was an accomplishment for Israel. That’s not to be condescending to the team or country at all: it’s just that baseball in the country is still in the early stages of development, and the roster was filled out by American minor-league and role players. Despite this, Israel qualified for the main WBC tournament by winning their fourth of a smaller tournament a year ago, then they advanced to the second round after going undefeated in Pool A action. Now their journey is at an end following an 8-3 loss to Japan that gave them a 1-2 record, but the tournament has given Israel hope for 2021. Israel doesn’t need to win entry into the next World Baseball Classic, as their standing in the first round granted them automatic qualification.” [SBNation]

“Team Israel Is a Hit, but Barely Registers in Tel Aviv” by Jared Diamond and Rory Jones: “Israel is benefiting from the WBC’s lenient rules, which allow players to compete for a country if they are eligible to become a citizen there. In the case of Israel, that extends to anybody with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent. As a result, Team Israel is comprised almost entirely of American minor-league players with a bit of Judaism somewhere in their bloodlines. Most native Israelis wouldn’t know which way to run to first base… [Leah] Rosen (bartender at Mike’s Place), who originally hails from Chicago, spoke on Monday afternoon in Israel at the bar, where just a handful of Israelis and Americans sipped beers and ate burgers during Israel’s contest against the Netherlands. Most of the people there were dual citizens.” [WSJ

DESSERT: “Want good sea views? Stay in a luxury lifeguard tower” by Yuval Ben-David: “The mayor of Tel Aviv rushed to help the German travel blogger lift her luggage away from the incoming tide as she made her way into the city’s newest beachfront digs — a wooden lifeguard tower refurbished as a pop-up luxury suite. As part of an effort to market Israel as a winter tourist destination for Europeans, the city of Tel Aviv and Israel’s tourism ministry have teamed up with a local hotel chain to temporarily transform the tower into a two-storey suite, with hot tub, room service and very unobstructed ocean views.” [Reuters]

BIRTHDAYS: Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a.k.a. “Notorious RBG,” turns 84… Theoretical chemist and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, professor emeritus at Harvard University and Director of the Biophysical Chemistry Laboratory in France, Martin Karplus turns 87… Physicist and winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics, inventor of the heterotransistor and an influential member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Zhores Alferov turns 87… Emmy Award and Tony Award-winning actor, active in film, television and on the stage, Judd Hirsch turns 82… UCLA professor, biochemist and biophysicist, David Eisenberg turns 78… First-ever New York City Public Advocate (1994-2001), winner of Democratic primaries for NYC Mayor (2001), the House (1980) and the Senate (1986) but lost each general election, author of 23 books, Mark J. Green turns 72… British billionaire and philanthropist, chairman of retail conglomerate Arcadia Group, Sir Philip Nigel Ross Green turns 65… Animator and director of The Simpsons, David Silverman turns 60… Retired MLB infielder, currently a special assistant to the Chicago Cubs GM Theo Epstein, Kevin Youkilis turns 38…

Deputy Director of Government Relations, Advocacy and Community Engagement at the DC office of the Anti-Defamation League, Mindy Beth Reinstein turns 34… CEO and co-founder of Bandura Games Justin Hefter… Director of Early Childhood programs at the Chicago JCC, Wendy Platt Newberger … CEO and Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis since September 2013, Debra Barton Grant… Ze’ev Bar-El… Max Schindler… Shirley Hoffner Sam Treynor… Robert Rosner… Lida Dannevig


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