JI EXCLUSIVE — How Trump truly felt about Ivanka’s conversion, according to Chris Christie: In his book set to be released on January 29, an advance copy of which was obtained by Jewish Insider, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie details a conversation he had over dinner with Donald and Melania Trump in 2009 when the real-estate mogul informed him that his daughter, Ivanka Trump, had decided to convert to Judaism and marry Jared Kushner.
“It was a little hard to gauge Donald’s reaction” to Ivanka’s decision, Christie writes in his forthcoming book titled, Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics. “He was greeting the news with what I would describe as acceptance. ‘She’s a big girl. She’s a smart girl. If that’s what she wants to do, then that’s what she wants to do. I support her. I trust her.’”
“You never know what your kids will do next,” Trump remarked, according to Christie.
But something else was also on Trump’s mind that night: His future son-in-law was the son of Charles Kushner, whom Christie, as U.S. Attorney, had sent to jail. Trump was curious to know all of the details — “including the steamy ones” — about Ivanka’s future father-in-law’s case. “There was some sleazy stuff, right? He really did that?” Trump asked him. “Yes, he did,” Christie replied. ”Oh, that’s not good,” Trump responsed.
Christie adds that Trump later called him to see whether he would consider coming to Ivanka’s wedding despite Christie’s involvement in the Charles Kushner case, an invitation which Christie politely declined. “I am confident that he was relieved that we didn’t make things awkward for him, Ivanka, and his son-in-law-to-be,” Christie writes. [JewishInsider]
Cliff Sims’s book describes Trump’s reaction to Paul Ryan’s criticism of Charlottesville remarks — by Philip Rucker: “President Trump watched on television, increasingly angry, as House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized his handling of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. He held the remote control “like a pistol” and yelled for an assistant to get the Republican leader on the phone. “Paul, do you know why Democrats have been kicking your a– for decades? Because they know a little word called ‘loyalty,’” Trump told Ryan… “Why can’t you be loyal to your president, Paul?” The tormenting continued… “I remember being in Wisconsin and your own people were booing you,” Trump told him, according to former West Wing communications aide Cliff Sims. “You were out there dying like a dog, Paul. Like a dog! And what’d I do? I saved your a–.” [WashPost]
— “In one scene, Mr. Sims describes Mr. Trump’s top policy adviser, Stephen Miller, openly undermining his onetime ally, Stephen K. Bannon, as Mr. Miller appealed to Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. Mr. Miller described Mr. Bannon as “leaking” to reporters.” [NYTimes]
SHUTDOWN WATCH — Now Trump’s Shutdown Threatens Israel’s Security — by Neri Zilber: “U.S. legislation passed by Congress last year and set to go into effect at the end of the month will effectively end all remaining aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), including to the security forces. It will also cut the funding for a small American mission in Jerusalem, headed by a U.S. three star general… Potential amendments to the law that would allow this aid to continue are on hold due to the shutdown… Washington is now in a race against time until the legislation comes into effect February 1.”
“In the short term, direct Israeli-Palestinian security coordination will likely remain intact even absent the American role. “It’s a ‘holy interest’ for [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas, and coordination operationally will continue,” Lt. Col. Alon Eviatar, a retired Israeli intelligence officer with long experience in Palestinian affairs, told The Daily Beast. And yet, Eviatar warned, the Palestinian response could be… “demonstrative” – creating a crisis so as to “drag Israel on to its side [vis-à-vis the U.S.], so that everyone understands the implications and consequences.” [DailyBeast]
TALK OF THE REGION — U.S. aid cuts hit Palestinians, further dimming hope for peace — by Joseph Krauss: “Tens of thousands of Palestinians are no longer getting food aid or basic health services from America, U.S.-funded infrastructure projects have been halted, and an innovative peace-building program in Jerusalem is scaling back its activities. The Trump administration’s decision last year to cut more than $200 million in development aid to the Palestinians is forcing NGOs to slash programs and lay off staff.” [AP]
REPORT — After Chad ties restored, Israel set to host Mali’s PM in coming weeks: “Israel is preparing for an historic visit by Mali’s Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga… Maiga will visit Israel “in the coming weeks,” and Netanyahu hopes the trip will take place before the April 9 elections, according to reports by Channel 13 and the Kan public broadcaster… The West African country, whose population is also majority Muslim, severed ties with Israel in 1973, following the Yom Kippur War.” [ToI]
Jordan protests Israel’s new Ramon airport: “Jordan rejects the establishment of the Israeli airport in its current location,” head of Jordan’s Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission Haitham Misto said… Misto said the airport violated “international standards regarding respect for the sovereignty of airspace and territory of other countries.” [France24]
Airbnb continues settlement boycott, to delist disputed areas of Georgia — by Tovah Lazaroff: “Professor Eugene Kontorovich… said that Airbnb’s boycott of West Bank settlements was discriminatory, even though it expanded its boycott list to include other disputed regions. “Airbnb’s attempt to put a fig leaf on their anti-Jewish discrimination actually only accentuates the extent of their discrimination in relation to Israel… Having been criticized for only applying its supposed global policy to Israel, the company has now added some tiny obscure Georgian territories, occupied by Russia,” Kontorovich stated. “However, Airbnb’s has delisted all properties in these regions, whereas with regard to the West Bank only Jewish properties were delisted.”[JPost] • Tel Aviv to hit Airbnb hosts with new tax [ToI]
ON THE GROUND – Another suicide attack targets U.S. forces in Syria; Israel strikes at Iranian presence there — by Nabih Bulos and Noga Tarnopolsky: “U.S. forces were targeted again Monday when a suicide bomber drove a car toward a joint U.S.-Kurdish convoy and blew it up 11 yards from a checkpoint in northeastern Syria… The attack near the town of Shadidi came as the United States begins to draw down its presence in Syria and other countries step up their activity there. Israel launched a multi-pronged attack on military targets in Syria late Sunday night.” [LATimes] • After Striking Syria, Netanyahu Boasts About ‘Renovating’ Damascus Airport [Haaretz]
TOP TALKER — Brett McGurk Says Trump Has ‘No Plan’ for What’s Next in Syria — by Andrew Kragie: “The expected power vacuum [in Syria] may come back to haunt the United States, much as it did after the withdrawal from Iraq, McGurk, the former special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, forecasted… McGurk also defended himself against Trump’s charge that his resignation was political, pointing out that he worked under Bush, Obama, and Trump. “I’ve served all three administrations,” he said. “I’ve worked on policies that I fully supported. You work on policies here in the government that you might not support. You argue your case. In this case, I think the entire national-security team had one view, and the president in a conversation with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan just completely reversed the policy.” [TheAtlantic]
STATE-SIDE — Pro-choice Orthodox Rabbi replaces Lang in the Illinois General Assembly — by Shia Kapos and Adrienne Hurst: “Yehiel Kalish will be the first ordained rabbi to serve in the Illinois General Assembly… Kalish told Politico, “During my conversation with Lou Lang, I said, ‘The voters of the 16th District won’t notice a difference in my voting record compared to yours.’” That means: “Yes,” he’s pro-choice. “Yes,” he supports gay marriage. And “yes,” he supports a $15 minimum wage… Lang assures that Kalish is a good fit for the district.” [IllinoisPlaybook]
— Kalish told the Chicago SunTimes: “I have not been chosen to be the rabbi of the state legislature. I have been chosen to be the representative of the 16th District.”
2020 WATCH — How Bloomberg plans to create his own lane in 2020 — by Marc Caputo: “He’s not going to be running to the far left like the other candidates are. He describes himself as fiscally moderate, fiscally conservative, but he’s clearly socially liberal and he’s a key driver of social policies,” said a top Bloomberg insider. “For Mike, it’s not ideologically driven, It’s pragmatic. People die from an excess of guns in America. People are dying and suffering and will continue to from the effects of climate change.” … Bloomberg is polling and collecting “data,” the source said, and climate change and guns are “going to drive Democrats to the polls.” [Politico]
On King Holiday, Democrats Convey Hope, Remorse and Invective Against Trump — by Astead Herndon and Jonathan Martin: “The commemoration of Martin Luther King’s Birthday on Monday became a day of confession, invective and promise for prominent Democrats, who used events across the country honoring the slain civil rights leader to try to inoculate themselves from criticism, lash out at President Trump as a racist and, in one case, begin a history-making run for the White House.” [NYTimes; WashPost]
— Former Vice President Joe Biden said at an MLK breakfast in DC that “white Americans” need to acknowledge the fact that systemic racism still exists and must be rooted out… Michael Bloomberg avoided talking ‘stop and frisk’ during the MLK breakfast… Bloomberg told the crowd: “Whatever the next year brings for Joe and me, I know that we will both keep our eyes on the real prize, and that is electing a Democrat to the White House in 2020.”… Bernie Sanders (I-VT) labeled Trump as a racist in South Carolina speech… Also in South Carolina, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) spoke about the importance of unity and having what he called “courageous empathy” and acting on dissatisfaction… In New York, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced her campaign as a spiritual fight against “darkness”…
ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — Lawyers for PM Netanyahu met withAG Avichai Mandelblit for almost three hours yesterday in an effort to persuade him not to announce a hearing for the prime minister before April… New leaks from Case 4000 show Netanyahu used his alleged deal with Walla! owner Shaul Elovitch to get the site to run a series of articles attacking his rival Naftali Bennett… In veiled criticism of Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin says rule of law in Israel ‘eroding’… Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab Joint List party, said he plans to use Netanyahu’s phrase in the last election that Arabs were heading to the polls “in droves” to whip up turnout amongst the Arab minority in April’s election… Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party, polling barely above the threshold, unveiled its campaign slogan: Only Kahlon cares…
** Good Tuesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Leon Black’s Apollo Global Management Nears Deal to Acquire U.K. Packaging Company RPC Group for More Than $3.8 Billion[WSJ] • Telecom Italia Spinoff Plan Still Leaves Elliott Fighting Vivendi [Bloomberg] • China grants Ivanka Trump 5 trademarks amid trade talks [AP] • Shari Arison, Israel’s wealthiest woman, divests her empire at bargain basement prices [Haaretz] • Daniel Libeskind charts how he built a path to success — and how you can too [ToI] • Israeli Venture Capitalist Erel Margalit Warns Against Cybersecurity, AI Collaborations With China [Calcalist] • Israeli deep-learning startup Hailo raises $21 million[BusinessInsider]
STARTUP NATION — These Are the World’s Most Innovative Countries — by Michelle Jamrisko, Lee J Miller and Wei Lu: “Patent activity boosted the scores for China and Israel, which was a big winner by jumping five spots to fifth overall. The Middle Eastern country surpassed Singapore, Sweden and Japan in the process.” [Bloomberg]
TALK OF DAVOS — A Bleak Warning on Global Division and Debt — by Andrew Ross Sorkin: “Seth Klarman doesn’t make the annual pilgrimage to [the World Economic Forum in] Davos, but his words are often invoked by policymakers and executives who do. His dire letter, which is considerably bleaker than his previous writings, is a warning shot that a growing sense of political and social divide around the globe may end in an economic calamity. “It can’t be business as usual amid constant protests, riots, shutdowns and escalating social tensions,” he wrote. He made the remarks in a 22-page annual letter to his investors… It was being passed around ahead of the Davos gathering, which draws business leaders like Bill Gates and Sheryl Sandberg, social and cultural figures like Bono, and elected officials like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.” [NYTimes] • Israeli Finance Minister to Meet in Davos With Amazon, Google [Calcalist]
HAPPENING TODAY — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address the Davos Forum via satellite at 10 AM EST [Livestream]
MEDIA WATCH — Veteran Editor Maer Roshan Is the New Editor in Chief of Los Angeles Magazine: “Los Angeles magazine is proud to announce that Maer Roshan has been named Editor in Chief of Los Angeles magazine… As deputy editor of New York for nearly seven years, he oversaw the magazine’s Intelligencer section and produced some of its most talked-about features and investigative reports, including the first interview with Donatella Versace after the murder of Gianni Versace, and the first post-impeachment interview with Monica Lewinsky.” [LAMag; VanityFair]
Author Etgar Keret’s ‘A Fault at the Edge of the Galaxy’ wins Sapir Prize — by Amy Spiro: “Author Etgar Keret was awarded the Sapir Prize, one of Israel’s highest literary honors, on Monday evening for his latest work, A Fault at the Edge of the Galaxy. The top prize includes NIS 150,000 and translation of the book into Arabic and into another language of the author’s choosing. “The book ‘A Fault at the Edge of the Galaxy’ touches the heart of the experience of global disruption,” wrote the judging panel. “The existence of Israel becomes a crumb of being in a world without hierarchies, that has no single center, and has no controlling point of view.” [JPost]
BEHIND BARS — Michael Cohen’s Prison Request: The Jewish ‘Club Fed’ — by Corey Kilgannon: “For a Jewish person, there is no place like Otisville,” said Earl Seth David, 54, a former inmate… “As a Jew, there’s no other prison you can get services like that.” Otisville’s camp has long been the lockup of choice among Jewish white-collar offenders, including Sheldon Silver, the former speaker of the New York State Assembly… Most inmates are Jewish — many of them orthodox and Hasidic — and many are doctors, lawyers, accountants and businessmen who committed fraud. A few also have backgrounds as ordained rabbis and, once inside, some assume a spiritual leadership role. Inmates periodically hold an informal vote to elect a “gabbai” to run the shul… There is never a problem reaching a minyan.”
“Orthodox inmates wear fringed vests known as zizit under their green prison uniforms. Prison work shifts are scheduled around daily prayer sessions and Sabbath observances… There are kosher vending machines in the visiting room. The prison commissary sells skullcaps for $6 and offers a kosher selection that includes matzo, gefilte fish, rugelach and seltzer… A lawyer for Mr. Cohen did not respond to messages, and it is still uncertain whether Mr. Cohen will wind up at Otisville.” [NYTimes]
DESSERT — Celebrity Israeli Chef Opening Gluten-Free Restaurant ‘Arba’ In NYC — by Haim Handwerker: “What was originally planned as a pop-up for a few months, starring Chef Nir Tzuk, is turning into a new restaurant in every way. To be called Arba, it will open in early February in the Upper West Side, and is now in final preparations for its launch… Arba will open its doors on the corner of Columbus Avenue and 83rd Street, where a bagel restaurant once was. Tzuk says there’s no hidden meaning in the name, he simply liked it.” [Forward]
Erez Komarovsky Brings Taste of Israel to New York With Mint Kitchen — by Kristen Tauer: “Do you want me to come to sit with you, or do you want to taste some falafel?” Israeli chef Erez Komarovsky posed the proposition as a question, but it was quickly apparent it was rhetorical. “Taste falafel,” said Zeev Sharon, one of the partners of the new, fast-casual concept Mint Kitchen… Located in Greenwich Village, the space is outfitted with natural wood tones and decorated with hanging lights and plenty of foliage. In addition to tables, the space offers stadium-style seating as a unique option.” [WWD]
BIRTHDAYS: Israeli singer known by the mononym Netta, she was the winner of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon, Portugal, Netta Barzilai turns 26… Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry in 2000, he is a professor (now emeritus) at the University of California Santa Barbara since 1982, Alan J. Heeger turns 83… Los Angeles resident, Ruth Lynn Sobel turns 78… Managing director and founder of Brave Warrior Advisors, an investment advisory firm, he is the son of Hall of Fame baseball star Hank Greenberg, Glenn H. Greenberg turns 72… Ordained at HUC-JIR in 1978, he has served as a rabbi and in other leadership capacities in New York, New Jersey and California, Mark Hurvitz turns 72… Brooklyn-born conductor, who during his tenure as artistic director of the Kraków Philharmonic became friends with Pope John Paul II for whom he later conducted multiple Papal concerts, Gilbert Levine turns 71… Founder and executive director of the Bridge Multicultural and Advocacy Project, Mark Meyer Appel turns 67… Director-General of the Israeli Defense Ministry, he is a retired Major General in the IDF, Ehud “Udi” Adam turns 61…
Justice on the Supreme Court of Israel, Noam Sohlberg turns 57… Michael Marquis turns 54… Sportscaster and host of a mid-day radio show on ESPN 980 in Washington, he was previously on the national ESPN network (2008-2015), Bram Weinstein turns 46… Director of the Chabad House in Kathmandu, Nepal, Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz turns 45… Politics and local news editor at Hamodia, Yochonon Donn turns 42… NYC-based manager of strategic partnerships at Politico States and Media, Jesse Shapiro turns 28… Religion reporter for the Washington Post, she is also a professional balloon twister and was a 2018 contestant on Jeopardy, Julie Zauzmer turns 28… A leading young Jewish hockey player, he was a first round pick of the New York Islanders in 2014, Josh Ho-Sang turns 23… Retired Ob-Gyn in Toronto, Dr. Geoffrey Kalchman… Policy associate at Illinois Action for Children, he was previously a senior legislative assistant in the DC office of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Matthew Lustbader…
HAPPY 80TH LYNN! — Born in Kansas City, raised in Oklahoma City, based in Tulsa and Jerusalem, philanthropist and co-founder of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Lynn Schusterman turns 80 today.
We asked Lynn if she wanted to share anything with her fellow JIreaders, to which she replied: “As I reflect on 80 wonderful years, I am most thankful for the love and support of family, friends and colleagues, and for being able to help make this world a better place for so many people. I look forward to seeing our family’s foundation grow and thrive under my daughter Stacy’s leadership. I am also excited to see how the next generation of young people will bring their passion and talent to bear on a world in need of healing. As I always say, while I may help make it possible, they are the ones who make it happen!”
25 YEARS AGO TODAY — Robert Kraft’s plan to purchase the Patriots was a complicated, multistage pursuit that spanned nearly a decade. The following is The Athletic’s oral history of that chain of events, which culminated Jan. 21, 1994, when Kraft took over the team:
Kraft: “The right number to buy it was $115 million, and I told my wife I might go to 120, 122… It was sort of back to Newfoundland. In life, you don’t get second chances sometimes. When you believe in something — and I believed in the value of the franchise and thought it was under-managed — I agreed to pay the price, which was not my normal way of doing things. We wound up paying the highest price for any sports franchise for anywhere in the world. And it happened to be the worst team in the NFL. My wife really thought I had gone insane.” [TheAthletic]
HEARD LAST NIGHT — Bob Kraft following the New England Patriots win over Kansas City (37-31) for the AFC championship, advancing to the Super Bowl: “Being here, this was our family’s 25th anniversary and the nicest man to us was Lamar Hunt when we came into the league. So, I know everyone here wanted to win, but for us to have this trophy in his house… he was an elegant man and we thank him for doing what he did for the league, it’s great to be here.” [NESN]
TALK OF THE REGION — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Chad, a Muslim-majority country, yesterday for rapprochement with Chad’s President Idriss Deby. In addition to renewing diplomatic ties, the two leaders signed several agreements. “Chad will do everything it can to strengthen the ties between the two countries and the bilateral cooperation in various matters,” Deby said at a press conference with the Israeli leader.
Netanyahu indicated on the trip that additional Muslim countries in Africa would soon warm up to Israel. “There will be more major news. There will be more countries,” he said, without elaborating.
HOW IT PLAYED — Israel Re-establishes Ties With Chad in Bid to Project Country’s Clout — by Felicia Schwartz: “Yet another Arabic speaking country, even if it’s not a member of the Arab League, represents an important push forward for the state of Israel,” said Dore Gold, former director general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” [WSJ]
DRIVING THE CONVO — JI asked Middle East experts to weigh in on which Arab or Muslim country Netanyahu will visit next.
Washington Institute’s David Makovsky: “The general conventional wisdom is that Bahrain is next in line. The Bahraini Foreign Minister has had a few public statements now, he didn’t criticize Australia’s move, and he’s also in the past said that Israel has legitimate security concerns, so I think, most people think that Bahrain is next.”
Elliott Abrams: “What are the options? The Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, not going to happen. So I think Bahrain is the one that looks possible. The image they have traditionally tried to convey is one of being a moderate and progressive country. That image has been greatly damaged in the last decade by internal repression, ever since the Arab Spring, so they might see this as a way of burnishing their image again. Any security cooperation they need can be obtained in the private sector (especially for cyber) or secretly, but they might get more after a visit. There are rumors about an Emirati visit to Israel, perhaps by the foreign minister, and though I’d love to see it right now it would surprise me.”
Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro explains the rationale behind a possible Bahraini move: “No country has gone as far as Bahrain in its rhetorical challenge to old taboos about recognizing Israel’s legitimacy. Bahrain is closely aligned with — and fully protected by — Saudi Arabia, and often its bolder strokes have the appearance of testing the waters for steps that Riyadh is considering, but not yet willing to take. If and when Bahrain does decide to host Netanyahu, it should be understood as more than a bilateral development. In all likelihood, it will also be intended to prepare the ground for an eventual Saudi-Israeli engagement.”
According to Aaron David Miller, the next move would depend on Saudi Arabia and the outcome of the April 9th elections in Israel: “The question that needs to be watched is to what degree will the Trump administration get involved in helping re-elect Benjamin Netanyahu. And to what degree would MBS, in the service of both American and Saudi objectives and diminishing his own pariah status, use a meeting with Bibi to shore up his flank in Washington and help Netanyahu get reelected. Clearly, traveling to Chad and Oman strengthens Netanyahu in the run-up to an election. He demonstrates that he’s not just capable of managing relationships with the world, but he’s reducing Israel’s isolation, particularly in the region. The question is what is it designed to achieve? You would have presumably two purposes. If it was done before the elections, it’s designed to help strengthen Bibi’s reelection. If it’s done after the elections, it will be done in the context of some rollout of the administration’s peace plan.” [JewishInsider]
EXCHANGE — Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator and a member of the PLO Executive Committee, engaged in a Twitter feud over the anticipated Trump peace plan on Sunday. “The US administration has zero credibility,” Ashrawi claimed about the ‘leaked’ peace plan documents reported last week. To which Greenblatt replied, “You may dislike our policies and decisions, but to say we have “zero credibility” is simply not factual. POTUS has kept his commitments, such as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving our Embassy to Jerusalem… Let’s not ignore the huge disservice being done to the Palestinians by refusing to engage… The ball is in your court. Time to be credible leaders.”
Ashrawi: “‘Zero credibility’ is my polite way of saying that you have unilaterally destroyed the chances of peace by taking illegal unilateral measures to prejudice/predetermine the outcome of the basic requirements of peace.”
Greenblatt: “If the two sides were making any progress towards peace, I could understand why you might say that. But when we started, they were as far apart as ever.”
Palestinians renounce all bilateral US funds, including for security — by Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff: “The Palestinian Authority has formally renounced all financial assistance from the United States, in order to avoid liability for US court decisions demanding millions in payment for terrorist attacks. PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah informed the Trump Administration of the decision in a letter he sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.” [JPost]
Israel opens new airport to boost Eilat tourism, provide wartime back-up — by Steven Scheer: “Israel opened a new international airport outside its Red Sea resort of Eilat on Monday, hoping to boost winter tourism from Europeans and provide an alternative for times of conflict to its main gateway in Tel Aviv… Jordan and Egypt, Red Sea neighbors which both have peace treaties with Israel, may also benefit from transit tourists landing there, Israeli officials say.” [Reuters]
ON THE GROUND — Israel Hits Iranian Targets in Syria After Attack on Golan Heights — by Dov Lieber: “Israel struck Iranian targets in Syria in response to what it said was an Iranian rocket fired at the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, an exchange that raises the risk of a wider regional war as U.S. troops prepare to leave Syria… Israel’s military generally avoids commenting on its frequent individual strikes in Syria so as to maintain ambiguity and avoid retaliation. But an apparent change of tack in recent weeks has seen Israel going public following strikes, which could prompt the Iranians to respond.” [WSJ]
— Netanyahu earlier on Sunday: “We have a permanent policy, to strike at the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us.”
In Turkey, Lindsey Graham Calls for Slower, Smarter U.S. Withdrawal From Syria — by Carlotta Gall: “After lengthy meetings with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Senator Lindsey Graham called on Saturday for a slower, smarter withdrawal of American troops from Syria… Mr. Graham met with Mr. Erdogan for over two hours, and described it as a “direct and productive meeting” on Friday. Then, on an impromptu invitation from the Turkish president, the senator joined him at a concert by the Turkish pianist Fazil Say, which he described as one of the best evenings of his life.” [NYTimes]
TOP TALKER — On day of Women’s March, Sarsour rejects Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism and defends BDS — by Marcy Oster: “Linda Sarsour defended the legality of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel during her speech on stage in Washington D.C. at the third Women’s March… “We will protect our constitutional right to boycott, divest and sanctions in this country,” Sarsour said… Prior to attending the march, Sarsour on Saturday morning told CNN’s New Day Weekend with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul that the Women’s March rejects anti-Semitic and homophobic statements by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.”[JTA; Video] • The 2019 Women’s March battled controversy. These women turned out anyway [Vox]
Watch: Embattled Women’s March Inc. co-leader Tamika Mallory refused to say if Israel has a right to exist in an interview on PBS’s Firing Line with Margaret Hoover. [Video]
— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who spoke at the Women’s March in New York City, focused her response on concerns about the leadership’s anti-Semitism at the Trump administration. “I think that concerns of anti-Semitism with the current administration in the White House are absolutely valid and we need to make sure that we are protecting the Jewish community and all those that feel vulnerable in this moment,” she told CNN.
Bari Weiss writes… “Ilhan Omar and the Myth of Jewish Hypnosis: Those who call themselves anti-Zionists usually insist they are not anti-Semites. But I struggle to see what else to call an ideology that seeks to eradicate only one state in the world — the one that happens to be the Jewish one — while empathetically insisting on the rights of self-determination for every other minority… Ms. Omar now sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she’ll represent a growing intellectual climate that sees Jews as bearers both of monstrous moral guilt and of the secret power to conceal it. It may be more difficult to call out those who ought to be our friends and political allies, but alas for the Jews, not all anti-Semites carry tiki torches.” [NYTimes]
ON THE TRAIL — Rep. Steve King challenger raises $100,000 in 10 days — by Emily Kopp: “As Rep. Steve King has faced calls for his censure and resignation by congressional colleagues this week, his primary challenger has been raking in donations. Conservative state Sen. Randy Feenstra has raised $100,000 in the 10 days since he formed his congressional campaign committee.” [RollCall]
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — In Business and Governing, Trump Seeks Victory in Chaos — by Russ Buettner and Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Trump has increasingly leaned on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for guidance on dealing with Congress amid the current stalemate. Mr. Kushner, who like Mr. Trump is the son of a wealthy real estate developer, has not always impressed old hands on Capitol Hill. He began some early conversations by saying that Democrats would need to yield because his father-in-law would not budge, a statement that lawmakers found naïve.” [NYTimes]
2020 WATCH — Advisers to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz are looking at him running as an independent for president in 2020 — by Michael Scherer: “Advisers to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz have been exploring the possibility of launching an independent bid for the White House in 2020… “Anyone thinking of running for president as an independent would have to think really hard about splitting the anti-incumbent, anti-Trump vote and just playing the spoiler role and reelecting Trump,” said Howard Wolfson.” [WashPost] • Democrats decry Schultz’s idea to run as an independent in 2020 [AP]
— Meg Whitman tells the FT over lunch she’d vote for Schultz if he were to run for president in 2020. [FinancialTimes]
David Brooks tweets: “I’m not sure any of the Dem presidential hopefuls are well positioned to take on the Republican nominee, Larry Hogan.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her presidential candidacy, bypassing the formal exploratory stage, in a video published Monday morning… Harris picked Baltimore as the site for her campaign headquarters… On her first trip to Iowa, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) highlighted her upstate New York roots, bipartisanship and small-town political ancestry… Gillibrand defendedher decision to call on former Sen. Al Franken to resign… Los Angeles teachers’ strike shows Eric Garcetti risks in ’20 bid… Many 2020 Dems silent on Trump’s Afghanistan, Syria withdrawals…
HAPPENING TODAY — Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg will speak at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network celebration in Washington, DC. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will join an NAACP march in Columbia, South Carolina. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is in New York for an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program.
ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — PM Netanyahu launched a blistering attack on AG Avichai Mandelblit, saying quotes from him reported by Channel 12 are “unprecedented in the history of Israeli justice and raise serious questions” about the probe… The Likud unveiled a new billboard on the Ayalon Highway featuring the pictures of journalists reporting about Netanyahu’s allegations. “They won’t decide, you will decide. Despite them, Netanyahu!” the billboard reads… ‘Only the strong survive’: Benny Gantz’s new campaign videos laud his IDF bona fides… Avigdor Lieberman released his campaign slogan, which is “Lo Dofek Heshbon” — will not be cowed… Raoul Wootliff on how campaign slogans get lost in English translation… Facebook was caught off guard by the announcement of Israeli elections in April, but will soon announce strategies for protecting the platform and its users from online manipulation and abuse…
** Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Justice Department’s Reversal on Online Gambling Tracked Memo From Sheldon Adelson Lobbyists [WSJ] • Israel’s Tech Expansion Spotlights Glaring Inequality in Tel Aviv [Ozy] • Sheryl Sandberg admits to Facebook stumbles, says ‘we need to do better’ after rough year[CNBC] • Huawei Snags Samsung Exec to Head Marketing Operations in Israel [Calcalist]
DAVOS 2019 — Davos Billionaires Keep Getting Richer — by Tom Metcalf and Simon Kennedy: “The World Economic Forum — titled Globalization 4.0 — is expected to host 3,000 people. This year, George Soros is hosting a dinner at which he will speak and Jamie Dimon’s JPMorgan is throwing a cocktail party. Bill Gates will be present again, as will billionaire Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, who hosts a show on Bloomberg Television and whose fortune has doubled over the past decade.” [Bloomberg] • The Quick Read on Davos 2019, aka the World’s Most Important Watering Hole [Time]
MEDIA WATCH — BuzzFeed News in Limbo Land — by Jim Rutenberg: “BuzzFeed News has produced top-flight work. But in fashioning itself as a 21st-century upstart challenging the traditionalists, it has also pushed the limits…. The Mueller team’s challenge to the BuzzFeed report [on Michael Cohen] is also exposing the flaws of the wider media ecosystem, which is all too ready to spring into action at any sign of the Big One… Ben Smith, the BuzzFeed News editor, told me that the special counsel’s office was “gnomic” in its denial. “We are confident that our reporting will stand up,” he said.” [NYTimes] • Inside the Mueller team’s decision to dispute BuzzFeed’s explosive story on Trump and Cohen [WashPost]
DEEP DIVE — The Unbelievable Story Of The Plot Against George Soros — by Hannes Grassegger: “[Arthur] Finkelstein and [Georg] Birnbaum saw something in Soros that would make him the perfect enemy… Finkelstein and Birnbaum had expanded their work into exactly those countries where the Open Society Foundations was trying to build liberal local elites and civil rights movements: Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, Albania. Birnbaum believed Soros stood for “a socialism that is wrong for these areas.” According to Birnbaum, Finkelstein was more practical about his opposition to Soros, whom he saw as simply a means to an end: “It wasn’t an emotional thing.” … “When we planned the campaign,” he said, “we didn’t think a second about Soros being a Jew.” [BuzzFeed]
ACROSS THE SEA — Malaysian PM doubles down on anti-Semitism in Oxford Union address: “In an address at the Oxford Union on Friday night, the Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad doubled down on his well-known anti-Semitism, saying it was a matter of freedom of speech for him to speak “against the Jews”. When it was pointed out his previous remarks about Jewish people being “hooked nosed” with “an instinctive sense of money” were anti-Semitic, he responded saying: “We are free to say what we like, we can say something that can be regarded as anti-Semitic by the Jews.” [TheJC]
Holocaust victims buried after remains found in UK museum: “The remains of six unidentified Holocaust victims were buried in a solemn ceremony at a Jewish cemetery near London on Sunday after spending years in storage at a British museum. The Imperial War Museum found the ashes and bone fragments during a stock-taking last year.” [AP]
PROFILE — ‘Order! Order!’: Parliament Speaker Is Brexit’s Surprise Star and Villain — by Ellen Barry: “The outside world rarely takes much notice of the speaker of the House of Commons, a nonpartisan and typically low-profile figure who presides over parliamentary debates. But Britain’s last-minute paralysis over exiting the European Union, or Brexit, has made John Bercow into a kind of celebrity… Clips of his signature cry, “Order, Order!,” have gone viral on social media… Mr. Bercow is the grandson of Jack Bercowitch, who emigrated from Romania to the East End of London at the age of 16… As a young man, he aligned himself with the far-right wing of the Conservative Party, at one point promoting the “assisted repatriation” of immigrants, an odd position for the grandson of Jewish immigrants… In 2009, he became speaker of the House of Commons — the first Jewish lawmaker ever to hold that post.” [NYTimes]
TRANSITION — Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, a member of Agudath Israel of America’s board of trustees, was chosen by the Democratic Committee members to represent the 16th District in the Illinois House of Representatives on Sunday. The seat was vacated by Rep. Lou Lang on January 7 after Lang accepted a partnership offer from the lobbying firm Advantage Government Strategies.
RISING STAR — Meet Broadway’s Next ‘Evan Hansen’ — by Michael Paulson: “Last June, Andrew Barth Feldman was competing in the National High School Musical Theater Awards (known as the Jimmys) — which he won — when the lead producer of “Dear Evan Hansen” happened to be in the audience. She knew immediately she wanted him for the show, and on Jan. 30, he assumes the title role, playing Broadway’s favorite socially anxious and ethically confused adolescent.” [NYTimes]
SPORTS BLINK — Showboat: billionaire NFL team owner installs Imax cinema on superyacht — by Rupert Neate Wealth: “Dan Snyder, the American billionaire owner of the Washington National Football League (NFL) team, is taking delivery of a new superyacht, complete with the world’s first floating private Imax movie theatre – at an additional $3m cost.”[TheGuardian]
MAZEL TOV — Neri Oxman and William Albert Ackman were married Jan. 19 at Central Synagogue in New York. Rabbi Angela Buchdahl performed the ceremony. Ms. Oxman, 42, is a professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab. Mr. Ackman, 52, is the founder and chief executive of Pershing Square Capital Management, a hedge fund company in New York… Ackman met Oxman after being introduced by Marty Peretz, a former professor at Harvard who has since become a mentor and father figure. [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE NATION — How to Read the Good Books — by Adam Gopnik: “[Robert] Alter’s task, as he explains it in a hugely entertaining and irreverent companion study, “The Art of Bible Translation” (Princeton), was to offer a modern English translation that had some of the solemnity and sublime simplicity of the King James Version, while being more accurate (apparently, the King James committee had an imperfect grasp of Hebrew). It should somehow be at once lucid and properly “estranged,” sounding more like an ancient language than, as with so many contemporary Christian translations, like a TV evangelist’s homey English; at the same time, he wanted his version to reflect the sound of good writing in our era.” [NewYorker]
REMEMBERING — Nathan Glazer, Urban Sociologist and Outspoken Intellectual, Dies at 95 — by Barry Gewen: “Nathan Glazer, one of the country’s foremost urban sociologists, who became most closely identified with the circle of disillusioned liberals known as the neoconservatives, died on Saturday at his home in Cambridge, Mass… A child of Jewish immigrants from Warsaw, Nathan Glazer was born on Feb. 25, 1923, in New York City and spent his early years in East Harlem… After graduation, in 1944, he got a job at The Contemporary Jewish Record, soon to become Commentary. Mr. Glazer, who had come out of a “very narrow world,” as he put it, described his life in the late 1940s and early ′50s as leaving “the womb.”[NYTimes]
— From an interview with Jason Willick in September, 2018: “Glazer believes anti-Semitism in the U.S. has been all but eliminated in his lifetime, and adds: “I don’t see it connected to Trump—if his daughter marries a Jew and converts, if his grandchildren are being raised as Jews and no one cares.” As for open racists and anti-Semites who describe themselves as “alt-right”: “I don’t think anybody in the alt-right these days is going to get elected.” [WSJ]
BIRTHDAYS: Writer specializing in modern Judaism and women’s issues, Blu Greenberg (born Bluma Genauer) turns 83… Owner of the NHL’s Boston Bruins and chairman of Delaware North (a global food service and hospitality company with 55,000 employees), Jeremy Maurice Jacobs turns 79… Literary critic, feminist, writer on cultural and social issues, television critic for People magazine, Elaine Showalter (born Elaine Cottler) turns 78… Chinese-American Governor of Washington (1997-2005), US Secretary of Commerce (2009-11) and US ambassador to China (2011-14), Gary Locke turns 69…82nd Attorney General of the United States (2009-2015), Eric Holder turns 68… Actor, singer, musician, director, producer, writer, composer and educator, he is the voice of Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Robby Benson (born as Robin David Segal) turns 63… Chairman of the Zionist Organization of America and chair of the real estate group at the NY/NJ law firm of Sills Cummis & Gross, Mark Levenson turns 62… Chairman and CEO of Norfolk, Virginia-based Harbor Group International, an $8.2 billion real estate investment firm, Jordan E. Slone turns 57…
Former political editor at Newsweek (2014-2018), he had worked earlier for Time, The New Republic, National Journal and US News & World Report, Matthew Cooper turns 56… Managing director of OneTable (promoting Shabbat meals for young people throughout the country), Andrea Greenblattturns 52… Born in Trinidad and Tobago, SVP and Washington bureau chief for CNN since 2011, employed by CNN since 1991, Sam Feist turns 50… Ramat Gan native, director, producer and screenwriter of American films, best known as the producer or director of the six films in the “Paranormal Activity” series, Oren Peli turns 49… Dean of School at Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Los Angeles, lecturer, educator and author, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn turns 40… Director of the DC government’s Organizational Change Management Division within the Access System Administration, Jordan Grossman turns 33… Congressional reporter for the Los Angeles Times since 2018, after eight years covering health care policy for Politico and five years at the Washington Times, Jennifer Haberkorn turns 36 (h/t Playbook)…
JI EXCLUSIVE — Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) sent a letter to President Trump today urging him to adopt a “comprehensive strategy” on the day after the withdrawal from Syria and to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“In recent months, Iranian-backed militias fighting alongside Assad’s forces assailed rebels in southwestern Syria, bringing Shia militiamen within reach of the Golan and Israel,” states the letter obtained by Jewish Insider. “Given the state of present-day Syria and its foreseeable future, requiring Israel to cede control over this area would pose an unacceptable risk to our ally’s existence. The United States must make clear that we are committed to rolling back Iran’s presence in Syria and consider a range of measures, including recognition of the Golan, to protect our ally Israel from serious threats on its borders.” [JewishInsider]
Last month, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced a Senate resolution encouraging the United States to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Jewish Insider that he supports the move.
MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), who has been lobbying Congress for months, tells us: “The American administration and both parties – Republicans and Democrats – should lead an international process of recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Doing so is not only historically just but also strategically smart. I raised the issue on my last visit to the United States with dozens of senior members of the House and Senate and am pleased to see some of them now leading the efforts on Capitol Hill.”
DRIVING THE WEEKEND — Thousands of women across the nation are expected to attend marches and rallies to mark the second anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Saturday. The Women’s March in Washington, DC, which drew a large crowd in 2017, has sparked controversy over the last few weeks.
A number of groups removed their endorsement from the Women’s March Inc., including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, due to charges of anti-Semitism among its leadership. Most Democratic presidential hopefuls are skipping the formal march. In DC, New York and Los Angeles, the Zioness Movement held “Pre-Women’s March Teach-In” events, which were designed to address the struggles of being a liberal Zionist in the U.S.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who announced her exploratory committee for a presidential campaign on Tuesday, is planning to speak at the Women’s March in Iowa on Saturday. In a statement released on Thursday, Gillibrand’s spokeswoman Meredith Kelly said that the junior Senator from New York “strongly condemns anti-Semitism from anyone, in all forms, and believes it has no place in a movement for women’s empowerment or anywhere else,” but she “will not turn her back on the thousands of Iowa women who are joining this locally organized march to advocate for the issues that deeply impact them and their families.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) writes… “Why I refuse to walk with the Washington Women’s March: While I still firmly believe in its values and mission, I cannot associate with the national march’s leaders and principles, which refuse to completely repudiate anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. I cannot walk shoulder to shoulder with leaders who lock arms with outspoken peddlers of hate.” [USAToday]
BIG DEAL — President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project — by Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier: “President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow… Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen… The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.” [BuzzFeed]
HEARD LAST NIGHT — Former Senator Joe Lieberman used the phrase ‘Baruch Hashem‘ to describe his relief that he did not accept Trump’s offer to serve as FBI Director during a panel discussion alongside former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center in New York City, sponsored by the Jewish Week.
“The President asked me to take the job, and I was torn because I am actually very happy with my life today,” Lieberman recalled. “But I have this public service gene that, as Hadassah said, it’s kind of an infectious disease for which there has not yet been found a cure. During that time, I called my friend, the great late John McCain — and he was no fan of President Trump — and I said, ‘The President asked me to think about becoming the head of the FBI. What do you think?’ He said, ‘Take it.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He answered, ‘Because it’s a call to serve your country. Have you ever turned that down before?’ So I said,’ You know what? You are the last person I should’ve called.’ Anyway, Baruch Hashem — we wrestled with this, and then the President asked Marc Kasowitz, who was the senior partner at the firm I am with, to represent him in the Mueller investigation, which was all playing out the same week, and Marc said yes. Of course, I couldn’t go forward because I would be running the agency who would be staffing the investigation above which Kasowitz would be defending from. Anyway, that was the end of that, and Baruch Hashem.” [Pic]
ON THE HILL — Sen. James Risch is set to be the referee between Trump and the GOP — by Josh Rogin: “Newly minted Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James E. Risch (R-ID) is positioning himself as a referee with significant power… In a long interview in his office, I asked Risch to characterize his foreign policy philosophy. Is he a Jacksonian like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a Jeffersonian like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a “nationalist” like Trump, a neoconservative like Vice President Pence, or a conservative hawk like national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? “I’m none of those. I’m a ‘Jim Rischian,’ whatever that is,” he said. “I’m much more transactional, depending upon the situation.” [WashPost]
House Republicans are criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to appoint Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in a statement, “Anti-Semitism has no place in Congress and certainly not on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I am deeply disappointed in Speaker Pelosi’s choice, a choice that threatens the Committee’s long history of bipartisan support for Israel.” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) added on Twitter: Instead of the Dems supporting Israel and combatting BDS and anti-Semitism on college campuses and elsewhere, they’re now empowering it.”
— Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) dismissed those concerns: “I welcome my new Democratic colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Let’s continue the proud bipartisan work of the Committee in promoting American values and defending human rights around the world, standing firmly with our allies and against our enemies.”
— J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami in a statement: “While it’s fair to disagree with and criticize her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the BDS movement or any other issue, smearing Rep. Omar as an anti-Semite – or suggesting that she is somehow not fit to serve on an important committee like Foreign Affairs – is bigoted and deeply wrong.”
Why it matters: “The committee oversees bills and investigations related to US foreign affairs, such as foreign aid and exports to other countries… It is rare for freshman representatives to join high-ranking congressional committees.”[BusinessInsider]
HEARD ON CABLE — Ilhan Omar on CNN Newsroom with Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow: “I don’t know how my comments [about Israel] would be offensive to Jewish Americans. My comments, precisely, are addressing what was happening during the Gaza war, and I am clearly speaking about the way that the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that war.”[Video]
Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) on CNN’s New Day program: “We have to adjust our foreign policy accordingly, that’s one reason why I think Congress needs to play a far more aggressive role in determining our nation’s foreign policy. We can not allow though for mission creep. Should a presence in Syria be justified along the lines of countering Iran or coming to the aid of our Kurdish allies, then certainly that would require congressional approval.”
GOP lawmaker pushes to derail Rashida Tlaib from leading delegation to West Bank — by Melanie Zanona: “In a letter obtained by Politico, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democratic committee chairs not to sign off on Tlaib’s proposed trip to the West Bank… Babin, who began hand-delivering the letter to offices on Thursday, argues that a trip to “Israel’s nemesis” would “undo years of goodwill built by the foreign policy and Israeli-American communities.”
“Please consider the damage that a yet unexperienced and overly caustic Member of Congress may cause to Israeli relations, or the perceptions of our own Jewish-American citizens,” Babin added.” … Babin is hoping to find an ally in House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY)… But only one chair or the Speaker needs to authorize a congressional trip for it to be approved.”[Politico]
GOP Congressmen Meet With Accused Holocaust-Denier Chuck Johnson — by Will Sommer: “Notorious alt-right figure and accused Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson met with Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Phil Roe (R-TN) in Congress on Wednesday… In statements, Poe and Harris confirmed they had met with Johnson to discuss genetic testing and DNA, but claimed they weren’t aware of Johnson’s controversial history.” [DailyBeast]
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports: “Tony Blair met with Jared Kushner at the White House earlier this week to discuss Middle East policy. Blair worked on the unsuccessful Quartet.”
Palestinian School And Sewage Projects Unfinished As U.S. Cuts Final Bit Of Aid — by Daniel Estrin: “The White House has blocked an emergency effort to finish major U.S.-funded school, water and sewage projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to a government document reviewed by NPR. It is the latest of a series of moves by the Trump administration to shut down U.S. aid to Palestinians, which is scheduled to end Feb 1… Anera, the U.S.-funded aid group carrying out the school project, recently received notification from the U.S. government that it may have to tear down the school, said Sean Carroll, the head of Anera.” [NPR]
SHUTDOWN WATCH — Most State Dept. Employees Will Return to Work Next Week Despite Shutdown — by Eileen Sullivan: “In a message posted online on Thursday, the State Department’s Deputy Undersecretary for Management, Bill Todd, cited the agency’s core national security mission as the reason many furloughed employees were being asked to return to work next week… The department had already decided to keep its plans to fly all of its ambassadors from around the world to Washington for a two-day conference this week, despite the shutdown.” [NYTimes; WashPost] • Trump cancels US delegation to Davos World Economic Forum due to shutdown [CNBC]
Gary Cohn criticizes shutdown — by Michael Levenson: “Gary Cohn, President Trump’s former top economic adviser, is sharply criticizing the government shutdown, as he heads to Harvard for a fellowship. In an interview with the Globe, Cohn called the shutdown… “completely wrong,” and said the furloughing of thousands of federal workers “makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.” [BostonGlobe]
Brooklyn businesses offer specials to gov’t workers affected by shutdown: “The non-profit food pantry Masbia Flatbush and Masbia Boro Park extended their hours for federal employees to offer food relief. Executive Director Alexander Rapaport and staffers went to Laguardia and JFK to pass out flyers to TSA workers… “All my childhood I was brought up with my grandmother telling me stories how she risked her life every day during the Holocaust in the concentration camps to find food for other people,” Rapaport said. “That’s become my DNA, my oxygen. Giving out some flyers that’s easy.”[Bklyner; Pic]
2020 WATCH — Popular GOP governor Hogan flirts with primary challenge vs. Trump — by Alex Isenstadt: “Republican Gov. Larry Hogan [is] planning a March trip to Iowa as vice chair of the National Governors Association… Hogan aides strenuously deny that he’s actively exploring a White House bid… Yet he’s given hope to Never Trump Republicans like Bill Kristol… Kristol was invited to Hogan’s inauguration — though he didn’t attend — and he’s expected to meet soon with the governor. Kristol and Hogan briefly chatted last month after the Maryland Republican delivered a speech at the Niskanen Center, a right-of-center think tank that’s been critical of the president. “He went out of his way to be a little more forward-leaning than he needed to be. He could have given a very good inaugural speech for his second term as governor without the father, without the impeachment, without the contrast with Washington, so he knows what he’s doing,” Kristol said.”[Politico]
Before she announced her candidacy for president, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) met with several prominent Jewish feminists in Manhattan last Saturday… Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has hired his first Iowa staffer as he considers White House run…
Peter Beinart writes… “Bernie Sanders Has To Run – To Make Democrats More Critical Of Israel: What explains Sanders’ unusual boldness? Perhaps it’s because, as a self-professed socialist, he’s spent his career on the ideological margins. Being perceived as radical doesn’t faze him… Perhaps it’s because, as a Jew, Sanders feels particularly invested in the subject and somewhat insulated from charges of anti-Semitism… For whatever reason, a second Sanders candidacy could fundamentally change the debate inside the Democratic Party on Israel.” [Forward]
Peggy Noonan on the challenge, pressure and opportunity of being a female candidate in 2020: “Golda Meir gave not a thought to how she looked, which was fine with Israel.” [WSJ]
ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET— Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit agreed to meet with Netanyahu’s lawyer to discuss the PM’s demand to postpone the timing of an indictment decision… Netanyahu posted yesterday on Facebook a Hebrew-translated article written by professor Alan Dershowitz in defense of him… Speaking at a town hall meeting for some 500 English speakers in Tel Aviv, Yair Lapid warned that if centrist parties do not unite, “It’s going to be a disaster.”…
** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Gary Barnett, the Man Behind Billionaires’ Row Battles, to Sell the World’s Tallest Condo [WSJ] • Leslie Moonves to Fight CBS Decision to Withhold $120 Million Severance [WSJ; NYTimes] • WeWork’s size gives startup public responsibilities, Sam Zell says[ChicagoBusiness] • Glossier CEO Emily Weiss on startup advice, new beauty products [Recode] • Lightstone Group is launching Lightstone Capital to finance projects in NYC, LA and Miami [TheRealDeal] • In Print Since 1897, The Forward Goes Digital Only [NYTimes] • Israel’s first lunar spacecraft heading to Cape Canaveral for launch [JPost]
Portland’s Land Rush for New ‘Opportunity Zone’ Tax Breaks — by Noah Buhayar and Lauren Leatherby: “Portland’s zones are so atypical that Barry Sternlicht, the real estate investor and founder of the Starwood hotel chain, used the city as a punchline when he criticized Congress for passing the tax breaks. “That’s not a blighted district,” he scoffed on a recent conference call. “Only in Washington would they say this helps the poor.”[Bloomberg]
STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — SeeTree raises $11.5M to help farmers manage their orchards — by Frederic Lardinois: “SeeTree, a Tel Aviv-based startup that uses drones and artificial intelligence to bring precision agriculture to their groves, today announced that it has raised an $11.5 million Series A funding round led by Hanaco Ventures, with participation from previous investors Canaan Partners Israel, Uri Levine and his investors group, iAngel and Mindset. This brings the company’s total funding to $15 million.”[TechCrunch]
Israeli Officials Discount U.S. Concerns Over China — by Osnat Nir: “Amid mounting U.S. pressure to adopt a tougher stance on Chinese investment out of espionage fears, Israeli officials are countering that the concerns are overwrought and that investments are vetted for security risks… “The security warnings about the Chinese are a joke, completely mad,” said one senior government source. “If they want to gather intelligence, they can simply rent an apartment in Haifa instead of investing in ownership of a port.”[Haaretz]
Israeli museum to drop ‘McJesus’ sculpture after protests — by Rami Ayyub: “An Israeli museum plans to withdraw a sculpture depicting the McDonald’s mascot as the crucified Jesus following protests which briefly united the country’s Christian minority.” [Reuters]
DAVOS 2019 — Anthony Scaramucci to interview Ehud Barak at World Economic Forum Cannabis Pavilion — by Tzally Greenberg: “Israel’s former prime minister Ehud Barak and Anthony Scaramucci will be meeting at the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to discuss the future of the medical cannabis industry on stage… Called Cannatech, the event will start with the former director of communications for President Donald Trump interviewing the former Israeli prime minister and current cannabis firm chairman.” [Calcalist]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Push for ‘Otto Warmbier Way’ outside North Korea’s UN Mission picks up steam — by Eric Shawn: “In a defiant gesture aimed at Kim Jong Un’s regime, New York City Councilman Joe Borelli, R-Staten Island, wants the street where the North Korean Mission to the United Nations is located to be renamed “Otto Warmbier Way.” “This will be something that will be engrained in the memory, it will be a slight thumb in the nose of Kim Jong Un,” Borelli told Fox News… “We want people to look up, see that street sign, ‘Otto Warmbier Way,’ and recall that this was a life given up essentially, in the face of an absolute dictator and authoritative government,” Borelli said.” [FoxNews]
MEDIA WATCH — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first speech made C-SPAN history — by Mark Moore: “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first speech on the House floor Wednesday quickly made C-SPAN history. “In just over 12 hours C-SPAN tweet of @RepAOC floor remarks last nite have become most-viewed twitter video by @cspan of any remarks by a member of House either party. 1.16M,” Howard Mortman, the broadcaster’s communications director, posted Thursday on Twitter, and linked to the video of her speech.”[NYPost]
ACROSS THE SEA — Hungarian Jews split about Danube search for Holocaust victims — by Marton Dunai: “Hungary’s largest Jewish organization on Thursday asked Israeli and Hungarian authorities to suspend a search for the remains of Holocaust victims in the Danube riverbed, saying the dead should be left in peace… “Disturbing the resting place of the dead is a complex and sensitive matter,” the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, or Mazsihisz, said on its website… “Searching for them is needless, and breaches the peace and dignity of the dead, Jewish or Goyim.” … ZAKA plans to return to Budapest with divers in February.” [Reuters]
TRANSITIONS — Benjamin Haddad, a leading French analyst and author, was named the new director of The Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative (FEI).
David Schenker, of New Jersey, was nominated by the White House to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Near Eastern Affairs).
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Publisher of a weekly community newspaper founded in 2016, The Boston Guardian, after a 20 year stint as the publisher of the now defunct Boston Courant, David Jacobs turns 71… US Representative for Maryland’s 7th congressional district since 1996, he was appointed in 2019 as the chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Elijah E. Cummings turns 68… Communications director at NYC’s Charter Commission, she was formerly director of communications at NYC’s Department of Education and a bureau chief at the NY Daily News, JoAnne Wasserman turns 64… Microbiologist and professor of biology at Wichita State University since 2006, Mark A. Schneegurt, Ph.D. turns 57… 2016 presidential candidate, he is a former Governor of Maryland (2007-2015) after serving as Mayor of Baltimore (1999-2007), Martin O’Malley turns 56… Strategic advisor for Olami (an umbrella group for campus outreach), a founding director of the Honestreporting website and former executive director of Aish HaTorah NY, Rabbi Yitz Greenman turns 55… Personal finance commentator and journalist, and author of a New York Times bestseller on personal finance, Beth Kobliner turns 54…
VP of government and airport affairs at JetBlue Airways, Jeffrey Goodellturns 50… Head of public affairs at the DC office of APCO Worldwide, he was previously the director for international economics at the National Security Council (2014-2015), Gadi Dechter turns 44 (h/t Playbook)… SVP of PR firm GMMB, with a focus on education policy, Samara Yudof Jones turns 41… Actor, comedian, producer, composer, musician, singer, author and screenwriter, he wrote and acted in 2008’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and 2011’s “The Muppets,” Jason Jordan Segel turns 39… Baltimore-born basketball player, dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the “Jewish Jordan” in a 1999 feature, Tamir Goodman turns 37… Israeli-born, moved to Los Angeles as a child, comedian, actor, writer and television host, best known for his web series “Jake and Amir” (with Jake Hurwitz), Amir Blumenfeld turns 36… Deputy political director of the Midwest Region of AIPAC, Tali Alter Gevaryahuturns 28… Linda Rubin…
SATURDAY: Retired after 40 years of service as a news reporter and White House correspondent for ABC News, Ann Compton turns 72… President and CEO of PayPal and Chairman of the Board of Symantec, he is on the board of Verizon, Daniel H. Schulman turns 61… Jay Susman turns 58… Los Angeles-based attorney and founder of the blog, American Trial Attorneys in Defense of Israel, Baruch C. Cohen turns 56… Governor of Illinois, Jay Robert “J.B.” Pritzker turns 54… Political journalist who has covered the White House, Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and the State Department, now Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News, Jonathan Karl turns 51… United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the USA, Yousef Al Otaiba turns 45… Television journalist, entrepreneur, social activist, YouTube creator and motivational speaker, Jessica Abo turns 38… DC-based Director of Political Outreach at AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy, Julie Fishman Rayman turns 38… VP of income security, child care and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center, Melissa Boteach turns 36… Director of policy and communications at AJC Global, Alex Bronzo turns 34… Actor since early childhood, he has already appeared in over 25 films including playing d’Artagnan in 2011’s “The Three Musketeers,” Logan Lerman turns 27… Jewish rapper, best known by his stage name Mac Miller, Malcolm James McCormick turns 27… Senior account executive at Chicago’s Resolute Consulting, she was deputy director of strategic partnerships in the office of Chicago’s Mayor, after four years at AIPAC, Emily Berman Pevnick… Isaac Wolf…
SUNDAY: Lakewood, NJ-born, American diplomat and former State Department official (1959-1991), later President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1991-1997), Morton I. Abramowitz turns 86… Pleasant Hill, California resident, Daniel L. Fisher turns 75… Israeli politician, refusenik during the 1970s and 1980s who spent nine years in Soviet prisons, he served as Chairman of the Jewish Agency (2009-2018), Natan Sharanskyturns 71… US Representative from Nevada (1999-2013), now CEO and senior provost for Touro University’s Western Division, Shelley Berkley (born Rochelle Levine) turns 68… Comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, animal rights activist, actor, media critic and host of HBO’s political talk show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” William “Bill” Maher turns 63… Diane Kushnir Halivni turns 49… US Ambassador to the United Nations for the first two years of the Trump administration (2017-2018), she was previously Governor of South Carolina (2011-2017), Ambassador Nikki Haley (born Nimrata Randhawa) turns 47… Prime Minister of Ukraine since 2016, Volodymyr Groysman turns 41… Philanthropist, professional equestrian, author and younger daughter of former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Georgina Leigh Bloomberg turns 36… Member of the digital communications team at Purple Strategies, after internships on Capitol Hill and the Motion Picture Association of America, Alec Jacobs turns 29… Jason Berger… Adar Belinkoff…
Between Trump and Sisi: Even before stepping up to the marble United Nations General Assembly podium this afternoon, Netanyahu can mark this as a very successful visit. The…
Making amends: Netanyahu dedicated yesterday afternoon to patching up relations with Jewish leaders. First, he met with WJC president Ronald Lauder, marking the end of a lengthy silent…
A blessed distraction for Bibi: Netanyahu’s Latin American tour continued this week. So far, he can call the trip a success on a few levels. Sure, when Bibi…
Haredi-IDF Bombshell: Last night, the Israeli High Court threw a wrench in Netanyahu’s coalition. The court gave the government a year to pass a new law regulating the…
Iran, Iran, and Iran again: High on PM Netanyahu’s agenda yesterday, as he launched his historic Latin America visit in Buenos Aires, was Iran. He visited the sites…
Neo-Nazis embrace Yair Netanyahu: The Netanyahus consider their oldest son, Yair, to be their “heir to the throne.” But if we had to compare him to the British…