Daily Kickoff: Krauthammer calls Trump’s inside-out strategy for peace ‘delusional’ | Dr. Dermer makes Jewish mom proud | J.D. Vance vs. Josh Mandel?

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KAFE KNESSET — What does Trump want? — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Whether Israelis are skeptical or not (78% of Israelis think that there is no chance of a peace agreement with the Palestinians anytime soon), Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt is in Israel pushing something for peace. There have been different reports of what is going to happen next, and the PMO denied all of them. Channel 10 says that the US wants parts of Area C (Israeli control) in the West Bank moved to Area B (Palestinian control). Ma’ariv reported that Netanyahu is considering a plan written by MK Anat Berko (Likud) to transfer Arab neighborhoods that are in Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries but beyond the security barrier to the Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile, the PMO and the White House are keeping mum about what happened in Greenblatt’s meeting with Netanyahu on Thursday [Pic]. Abbas also met with Greenblatt yesterday, and he talked to him about the demands of Palestinian terrorists who are on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

Greenblatt tweeted this morning: “Great to be back home after an incredible trip with @POTUS. Thanks to my kids for such a great welcome home sign!” [Twitter] • Flags on the sign: US, Israel, Italy and Saudi Arabia.

PRESIDENT-IN-LAW: “Jared Kushner Under Scrutiny in Russia Probe, Say Officials” by Ken Dilanian, Peter Alexander and Courtney Kube: “Jared Kushner… has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News. Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to their inquiry, officials said. That does not mean they suspect him of a crime or intend to charge him… It is not known whether Kushner has received any records requests from federal investigators.” [NBCNews; WashPost]

“Points of focus that pertain to Kushner include: the Trump campaign’s 2016 data analytics operation; his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn; and Kushner’s own contacts with Russians… There is no indication Kushner is currently a target of the probe and there are no allegations he committed any wrongdoing.” [CNN• Jared Kushner’s Russia Problems [NewYorker]

DEEP DIVE: “Meet the Real Jared Kushner” by David Freedlander: “Those who know him from his days as a young New York real estate magnate and newspaper publisher say that America is just getting to know the Jared Kushner they have always known, that beneath the unflappable golden exterior is someone unafraid to bungee jump or to counter-punch when he feels slighted. “Polite elegance,” said his friend Strauss Zelnick, an entertainment mogul and founder of the private equity firm Zelnick Media Capital, when asked to describe Kushner’s modus operandi. But, Zelnick added, “He’s tough. In an exceedingly polite way, he is as tough as any one is in New York City real estate.” … It has always been part of the Kushner Way: unfailingly polite and urbane on the surface, while searching for the soft underbelly to stick the knife in.” [PoliticoMag• MAD Magazine gives Trump adviser Jared Kushner the Alfred E. Neuman treatment [WashTimes]

“Lieberman Withdraws From Consideration as FBI Director, Citing Appearance of Conflict of Interest” by Rebecca Ballhaus: “I do believe it would be best to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, given my role as senior counsel in the law firm of which Marc [Kasowitz] is the senior partner,” Mr. Lieberman wrote in the letter dated Wednesday.” [WSJ]

“Joe Lieberman: FBI Appointment Would Have Looked ‘Terrible’” by Andrew Rafferty: “With everything swirling in Washington, you can’t have a director of the FBI coming from the same law firm as the president’s private lawyer. It looks terrible,” Lieberman said in an interview with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace… While Republicans were largely approving of him becoming the next head of the FBI, Democrats said they would like to see a non-politician with a law enforcement background take the job. “I was disappointed but you know, I guess when I step back from it I wasn’t surprised because everything is so partisan in Washington,” Lieberman said. “There’s still a group, probably in the far left of the Democratic party, who still doesn’t forgive me.” [NBCNews]

SCHWARZMAN’S ART OF THE DEAL: “Blackstone Works With Saudi Arabia on U.S. Infrastructure Investments” by Kate Kelly and Landon Thomas Jr.: “A little over a year ago, the private equity titan Stephen A. Schwarzman sat down with Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia and chairman of the kingdom’s largest sovereign wealth fund, in hopes of expanding their relationship. Mr. Schwarzman’s company, the Blackstone Group, already counted Prince bin Salman’s Public Investment Fund as a major client. But the American financier now had a bold new idea: Court Saudi money to invest in projects like tunnels, bridges, airports and other sorely needed infrastructure improvements, predominantly in the United States… Thirteen months and one election upset later, Mr. Schwarzman, who leads an elite committee of business executives advising President Trump, has announced a $20 billion cornerstone investment by the Saudi entity in a soon-to-be-created Blackstone infrastructure fund…” [NYTimes] • Kushners’ Blackstone Connection Put on Display in Saudi Arabia [Bloomberg]

“Why Middle East peace starts in Saudi Arabia” by Charles Krauthammer: “Obama’s tilt toward Iran in the great Muslim civil war between Shiite Iran and Sunni Arabs led by Saudi Arabia was his reach for Nixon-to-China glory. It ended ignominiously. The idea that the nuclear deal would make Iran more moderate has proved spectacularly wrong… After eight years of U.S. policy hovering between neglect and betrayal, the Sunni Arabs are relieved to have America back. A salutary side effect is the possibility of a detente with Israel.”

“That would suggest an outside-in approach to Arab-Israeli peace: a rapprochement between the Sunni state and Israel (the outside) would put pressure on the Palestinians to come to terms (the inside). It’s a long-shot strategy but it’s better than all the others. Unfortunately, Trump muddied the waters a bit in Israel by at times reverting to the opposite strategy — the inside-out — by saying that an Israeli-Palestinian deal would “begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East.” And apart from being delusional, the inside-out strategy is at present impossible. Palestinian leadership is both hopelessly weak and irredeemably rejectionist.” [WashPost]

ON THE HILL — Senate Foreign Relations Committee advances Iran sanctions bill — by Aaron Magid: By an 18-3 vote majority, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced Iran sanctions legislation setting up a full floor wide vote. The bill “imposes mandatory sanctions on persons involved with Iran’s ballistic missile program and those that transact with them” while enforcing an arms embargo of prohibited weapons to and from Iran. S. 722 currently enjoys 48 co-sponsors and with near unanimous Republican backing along with significant Democratic support is likely to be approved by the entire Senate during a floor wide vote.

Prior the vote, Senator James Risch (R-ID) argued that the current sanctions legislation should have been part of the original nuclear deal. “We shouldn’t have to do this,” he added that “these people are not people who want to get on the international stage and take a place with the rest of the countries that want to see peace and harmony.” This provoked one of the tensest moments of the debate, as Senator Tim Kaine (D-VI) quickly interjected, “These people — that’s a tough, tough phrase. We’ve got no beef with Iranian people.”

“Former Obama Officials Relieved By Partial Victory On Iran Sanctions Bill” by Jessica Schulberg: “With a well-coordinated public and private messaging campaign, a group of Obama alumni succeeded in altering two sections of the bill they deemed risky. The amended legislation, approved by a vote of 18-3, changes language that would impose sanctions on anyone the president determines “poses a risk of materially contributing” to Iran’s ballistic missile program, to anyone who “knowingly” contributes to the program… Lawmakers also reworded a section that would have created new conditions for lifting some ballistic missile sanctions that are set to expire in seven years as part of the nuclear deal.” [HuffPost

— The SFRC also passed by voice vote a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. S. 176 “reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104–45) as United States law, and calls upon the President and all United States officials to abide by its provisions” while also noting the bipartisan US policy that Jerusalem remains an issue within final status negotiations as part of the two state solution framework. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) co-sponsored the measure. [JewishInsider]

“Pence, House leaders to honor Sheldon and Miriam Adelson at DC fundraiser” by Gary Martin: “Vice President Mike Pence and House leaders will honor Las Vegas residents Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson at a June 7 fundraiser in Washington for the National Republican Campaign Committee… The Washington fundraiser honoring the Adelsons requests contributions of up to $50,000 per couple.” [LVReviewJournal]

–Also on June 7th, Speaker Paul Ryan will be the honorary host of an event on Capitol Hill commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

At Yeshiva University, Dr. Dermer Makes His Jewish Mom Proud — by Jacob Kornbluh: “Doctor Dermer, Doctor Dermer. Finally, after all these years, my Jewish mother can be proud,” the American-born Israeli Ambassador [Ron Dermer] said with a touch of pride in his voice after receiving YU’s honorary doctorate. The Donald Trump connection: “When I was 15, I read a best-selling book by a very successful entrepreneur who had gone to the Wharton School of Business. I wanted to be an entrepreneur too so I decided to study there. But my life ended up taking a very different course. From an interest in business and finance, I became interested in public policy and politics, and later decided to move to Israel determined to serve my new country. The funny thing is, I just saw the author of that best-selling book in Israel and he lives not far from me in Washington. His book is called the ‘Art of the Deal’ and people call him President Donald Trump. I guess reading that book proved to be very useful after all.” [JewishInsider]

LIFE LESSONS — whether on Amtrak or United… “A Palestinian’s first-class seat next to Naftali Bennett” by Jamil Dakwar: “Business class ticket in hand, I proceeded to board the plane, looking for seat 2A. Imagine my surprise to discover, in seat 2B, one of the most right-wing nationalists in Israel’s government… Things got even more interesting when before takeoff, [Minister Naftali] Bennett got on his phone, via a hands-free headset. In listening to him loudly and freely chat away, I deduced that he must have been speaking with a reporter… Bennett provided his opinion and analysis on what he called “the three axes” controlling the narrative that Israel, and especially Benjamin Netanyahu, are peace “refuseniks.”” [972Mag]

2018 WATCH: “Key Republicans Are Encouraging Hillbilly Elegy Author J.D. Vance To Run For Senate In Ohio” by Henry J. Gomez: “The recruiting overtures reflect unease with the early GOP frontrunner, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is seeking a rematch with Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown… “The donors are kind of wishy-washy on Josh,” said one top Republican activist who has discussed a draft Vance scenario with party insiders… Mandel has aligned himself closely with Trump… Little of this endears Mandel to Ohio’s GOP establishment leaders. Many are close to [John] Kasich, who has a chilly relationship with Mandel. But the Kasich faction… enjoys less clout than it once did.” [BuzzFeed]

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SPOTLIGHT: “Mark Zuckerberg shares the prayer he says to his daughter every night” by Sarah Pulliam Bailey: “Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave the commencement address at Harvard University on Thursday, closing his speech by sharing a Jewish prayer called the “Mi Shebeirach,” which he said he recites whenever he faces a big challenge and which he sings to his daughter, thinking of her future, when he tucks her in at night. “It goes, ‘May the source of strength who blessed the ones before us help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing,’ ” he said. “I hope you find the courage to make your life a blessing.” Zuckerberg was quoting a version of the “Mi Shebeirach” prayer for healing that was written by Debbie Friedman, one of the most significant Jewish musicians of the past 50 years.” [WashPost• Mark Zuckerberg Positions Himself As The Anti-Trump In Speech To Harvard [BuzzFeed

“Mark Zuckerberg’s Great American Road Trip” by Mike Isaac: “In March, Mark Zuckerberg visited the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., the site of a mass murder by a white supremacist. Last month, he went to Dayton, Ohio, to sit down with recovering opioid addicts at a rehabilitation center. And he spent an afternoon in Blanchardville, Wis., with Jed Gant, whose family has owned a dairy and beef cattle farm for six generations. These were all stops along a road trip by Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, across the United States this year. His goal: to visit every state in the union and learn more about a sliver of the nearly two billion people who regularly use the social network.” [NYTimes]

“Bob Iger: New ‘Avatar’ land features Disney’s most advanced ride yet” by Julia Horowitz: “Pandora: The World of Avatar,” which opens at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in Florida on Saturday, will feature the most advanced ride the company has ever created, Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNNMoney’s Christine Romans in an interview at the theme park… Iger, who recently extended his contract through July 2019, shrugged off rumors he’s weighing a run for president in 2020. “I haven’t made any plans post-Disney,” he said. Besides, he added, he’s been told it’s a tough gig. “I did have a discussion, actually, with President Obama at one point and Mrs. Obama about who had the more fun job,” Iger said. “They concluded that I did.” [CNNMoney]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Herzog Reserve Single Vineyard 2013 Ink Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon — by Yitz Applbaum: There is a Hebrew saying that has always resonated with me: “a person’s name reflects his personality.” This saying can definitely be applied equally well to the Herzog Reserve Single Vineyard 2013 Ink Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Ink Ranch refers to a magnificent vineyard in Napa Valley but the name also goes a step deeper and describes the nature of the wine.

The wine is a deep, dark purple. This wine has been thoroughly oaked. The Herzog Reserve Single Vineyard 2013 Ink Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon has delicately soft tannins on the front palate, a berry-medley taste and a long supple finish. The finish is characteristic of all Herzog Special Reserve wines. This wine will age well for three to five years. It is best had with veal. Lots and lots of veal. [HerzogWine]

“Meet Roni Saslove, Israel’s pioneering female winemaker” by Lilit Marcus: “The Canada-born, Israel-bred winemaker, sommelier and educator has a love of the outdoors and the wine industry in her blood. Her father, Barry Saslove, founded his namesake Saslove Winery in the Golan Heights in 1991, and it became clear that Roni would be the one of his children to pursue the family business. She worked on her first wine harvest at the age of just fourteen and was immediately hooked… Now, she has become a sort of Israeli wine ambassador, traveling the world on behalf of her homeland and encouraging people around the world to try some of the best wines coming out of Israel. “Israeli wines — kind of like Israel — they’re very complex,” she laughs.” [CNN]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Political commentator and history professor at Brandeis and Georgetown, Walter Ze’ev Laqueur turns 96… World reknowned political cartoonist and journalist, cartoonist for Yediot Aharonot  (1957-1967), Life Magazine (1968-1972) and many world-wide newspapers, Ranan Lurie turns 85… Public speaker, teacher and author of more than 30 books on the English language, he writes the weekly column “Looking at Language” that is syndicated in newspapers throughout the US, Richard Lederer turns 79… Member of the US House of Representatives (D – IL 9th) since 1999, Janice Danoff “Jan” Schakowsky turns 73… Emmy award winning SVP of News at NPR, Michael Oreskes turns 63… NYC real estate developer, Chair of The Charles H. Revson Foundation and a Commissioner on the NYC Planning Commission, Cheryl Cohen Effron turns 52… Counsel in the fintech and payments practice at the DC office of Paul Hastings, she was previously a lobbyist for Quicken Loans and Chrysler and a senior aide on Capitol Hill, Dina Ellis Rochkind turns 48… South Florida entrepreneur, Sholom Zeines turns 37… Litigation associate in the Washington office of Covington & Burling LLP, Benjamin L. Cavataro turns 28… Program Assistant at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Morgan Jacobs turns 27… Tel Aviv-based freelance journalist, formerly a producer at NBC News in New York, Yardena Schwartz… Eytan Merkin

SATURDAY: Author of many best-selling books including fiction such as The Caine Mutiny (1951) and non-fiction such as This Is My G-d (1959), Herman Wouk turns 102… Billionaire businessman and media magnate, until recently the executive chairman of both CBS and Viacom, Sumner Redstone (born Sumner Murray Rothstein) turns 94… National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, Henry Kissinger, winner of the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize turns 94… Professor of International Marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Philip Kotler turns 86… CEO of British real estate firm Heron International, he has built 168 buildings in nine countries, Gerald Ronson turns 78… Actor, producer and real estate developer, Zack Norman (born Howard Jerrold Zuker) turns 77… School rabbi and director of Jewish studies at The Rashi School, a K-8 Reform Jewish school in Dedham, Massachusetts, Ellen Weinstein Pildis turns 67… Former MLB pitcher (1978-1982) who played for the White Sox and Pirates, Ross Baumgarten turns 62… Former MLB pitcher (1979-1990) who played for the Angels, Red Sox and Brewers, Mark Clear turns 61… Marriage counselor, therapist and author Sherry Amatenstein turns 60… Dallas-based trial lawyer, political activist and Jewish community leader, he served for six years as Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Marc R. Stanley turns 60… Beverly Hills-based immigration attorney, founder and chairman of the Los Angeles Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, Neil J. Sheff turns 56… Political strategist best known as the campaign manager for Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign, David Plouffe turns 50… General Manager of Phibro Israel, Jonathan Bendheim turns 41… Philadelphia Inquirer’s reporter in Trenton, Andrew Seidman… Long time senior editor for The New Republic, now at the New York Times, Rhodes Scholar Noam Scheiber… Associate Director of Development at JCRC of NY, Grant Silverstein… Emily Cohen Joshua Fitterman

SUNDAY: Founding rabbi of both Lincoln Square Synagogue in NYC and then later the City of Efrat in the Judean Hills, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin turns 77… UCSF’s neurologist and biochemist, director of UCSF’s Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Stanley Benjamin Prusiner M.D. turns 75… Former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani turns 73… Winnipeg-born attorney, previous campaign chair for Winnipeg’s Combined Jewish Appeal and governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Gail Sheryl Asper turns 57… Member of the Knesset since 2009 on behalf of the Likud party, he serves as Minister of Science, Technology and Space, Ofir Akunis turns 44… Manager of the Executive Office at The Pew Charitable Trusts, Lauren Mandelker turns 36… Real estate entrepreneur, member of the Pritzker family of Hyatt Hotels, Matthew Pritzker turns 35… Special Assistant for Community Affairs (Jewish Liason) for New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, David A. Lobl turns 33… Founder of At The Well, a wellness organization rooted in Jewish spirituality and women’s health, Sarah Michal Waxman turns 31… Associate Editor for the Forward, Thea Glassman turns 26… Harry Weinstein, studying at Fudan University in Shanghai next year as a Zeidman Fellow (in memory of John Fischer Zeidman of DC) turns 18. In honor of his birthday, Harry is encouraging donations to Chai Lifeline (h/t Harry’s dad Ken)…  Named for his dad, the late Wall Street Journal bureau chief murdered by Pakistani terrorists a few months before he was born, Adam Daniel Pearl turns 15… Politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News, Adelle Nazarian… Irwin Weiss

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Daily Kickoff: Why was McMaster not invited to Trump’s meeting with the Israelis | Tillerson embraces linkage | Ashkenazy to take over the Plaza?

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KAFE KNESSET — McMaster left out of Bibi-Trump meeting — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The White House National Security advisor General H.R. McMaster did not participate in the Trump-Netanyahu meeting on Monday, Kafe Knesset has learned. McMaster had a long, three-hour meeting with Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman on Monday evening, but according to multiple Israeli sources, he did not participate in the leaders’ summit that took place beforehand at the King David Hotel.

Trump and Netanyahu met on Monday evening, and started their encounter as a four-eyes meeting. Two Israeli officials said that later on the forum was joined by several advisors, to a Plus-3 forum. The President was then joined by Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman. The Israeli team was augmented with Ambassador Ron Dermer, Special Envoy Isaac Molcho and foreign policy advisor Jonathan Schachter. According to an Israeli official who was present at the venue, at some point, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was invited to join the expanded meeting. However, McMaster sat outside the King David room during the course of the entire meeting.

Two sources in the PM’s office said that Israel did not determine who would sit in from the US side. And it is worth pointing out that McMaster’s counterpart in Netanyahu’s office also did not participate in the meeting. However, the Israeli National Security Advisor seat is currently filled by a temporary appointment, Eitan Ben-David, and as such, is not considered nearly as substantial an advisor as McMaster. Two former US administration officials told Kafe Knesset that McMaster’s absence from the meeting is “highly unusual” and “for the President to prioritize his son-in-law and his lawyer over the National Security Advisor for these kind of strategic discussions is unconventional, to say the least.”

In the week ahead of Trump’s Israel visit, some of McMaster’s statements raised some eyebrows in Jerusalem. First, he announced that the President intends to use the meeting to express “his desire for dignity and self-determination for the Palestinians,” which, by the way did not end up happening. Then, during a press briefing, he twice refused to say whether the Western Wall is part of Israel, dodging questions on the topic with the answer: “That is a policy decision.” At the same time, a NYT article last week claimed that President Trump “has complained that General McMaster talks too much in meetings, and has referred to him as “a pain.” A spokesman for the NSC declined to comment about McMaster’s absence from the meeting. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: Tillerson Embraces Middle East Linkage Theory — by Aaron Magid: Aboard Air Force One yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to embrace the linkage theory of Middle East peace. “He was putting a lot of pressure on them that it was time to get to the table,” Tillerson told reporters referencing the meetings the President had with both Netanyahu and Abbas. “We solve the Israeli-Palestinian peace dilemma, we start solving a lot of the peace throughout the Middle East region,” he explained.

Grant Rumley, an expert on Palestinian politics at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told Jewish Insider, “This type of language harkens back to the Bush administration era concept of ‘linkage,’ whereby solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would somehow unlock regional peace. I think time, and the Arab Spring, has largely debunked the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is somehow central to regional stability.” Tamara Cofman Wittes, a Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East policy at Brookings Institute, noted: “I don’t see how resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict helps unwind the Syrian or Libyan civil wars, helps the Gulf states and Iran step back from a war in Yemen that is savaging the civilian population there, or helps defeat ISIS in Iraq or Syria or replace its rule with inclusive governance that will shut out extremists.” [JewishInsider]

Elliott Abrams tells us: “The Obama administration also began with the view that “solving” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the key to peace in the entire Middle East. It’s not a new thought–but it is discredited, so I am  surprised to see it emerge again in these early months of the Trump administration. It is completely wrong. Does anyone really believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has much to do with the conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, or Syria? Does Israeli-Palestinian peace end the subversion by Iran, or stop its nuclear program? The United States faces enormous challenges in the Middle East–from Russia and Iran, from jihadis and terrorists–and seeing them through the prism of Israeli-Palestinian relations leads nowhere–or leads to failure.”

“Dating conflict at 50 years old, Trump appears to quietly adopt Arab stance” by Raphael Ahren: “The White House’s use of Six Day War as starting point of strife may indicate it sees pullback toward 1967 lines as key to reaching peace.” [ToI]

PRESSURE IS ON  — “US said pushing Israel to transfer parts of West Bank to PA administrative rule” by Alexander Fulbright: “Despite a series of economic incentives approved on Sunday by the Israeli cabinet, the US wants to see greater concessions to the Palestinian Authority and views the recent measures as insufficient, Channel 10 reported Wednesday. Specifically they have asked for areas in the northern West Bank to be transferred from Area C to Area B, according to the report… The Prime Minister’s Office later denied the Channel 10 report.” [ToI] • Naftali Bannett: “The era in which we treat the Land of Israel as a mere piece of real estate – that era is over.” [INN]

“After Trump’s Israel love offensive, will Bibi reach a deal with him?” by Ben Caspit: “There is no way Trump will be able to ignore the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative if he really wants to resuscitate the now moribund diplomatic process. But will Netanyahu be willing to enter into negotiations on the basis of that initiative? Given the current state of his coalition, the answer is no… The question now is whether President Trump will be able to create the iron bridge that Netanyahu can use to cross that Rubicon for the first time in his career.” [Al-Monitor]

“We Can’t Predict Whether Trump Will Succeed in the Middle East” by Hussein Ibish: “The big danger is that Trump is raising expectations only to see them dashed because he lacks a real plan… Even with the best of intentions, miscalculations can cause enormous harm…  Alternatively, this may be just another Trumpian boondoggle, a baseless and reckless gamble at everybody else’s expense.” [TheAtlantic]

“Israel’s ‘Biggest Friend’? Not Quite” by Bari Weiss: “Mr. Trump may be a boor, goes the logic, but didn’t he promise to tear up the Iran deal? Wouldn’t the man who called himself Israel’s “biggest friend” finally move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? And wouldn’t the straight-talker buck the stalemated peace process and acknowledge the truth about the conflict — namely, that Palestinian recalcitrance, not settlements, is the real obstacle to peace? To paraphrase the country singer Toby Keith: How do you like him now? That’s a question that Mr. Trump’s pro-Israel supporters ought to begin asking themselves in the wake of the president’s visit this week to Jerusalem… There are plenty of people who might make an argument in favor of Mr. Trump’s decision to maintain all the essential features of the policy status quo that he inherited from Mr. Obama. But based on this visit, Mr. Trump’s right-wing pro-Israel supporters aren’t — or shouldn’t be — among them.” [NYTimes

ON THE HILL TODAY — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee will be voting on a new Iran sanctions bill. All Republicans, with the possible exception of Senator Rand Paul (KY), are expected to support the Senate legislation in addition to prominent Democratic co-sponsors such as Ranking Member Ben Cardin (MD) and Cory Booker (NJ). Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) told Jewish Insider last week that they were still undecided about the legislation. The bill was delayed until after Iran’s presidential elections, which occurred on Friday, to avoid any appearance of US intervention in Iranian internal affairs.

John Kerry’s tweetstorm: “After Rouhani’s reelection, there is much up in the air/room for misinterpretation. This is not the moment for a new Iran bill. There are many tools to up the pressure already in place and at our disposal. We need to weigh/consider risk to JCPOA. We need to consider the implications of confrontation without conversation.” [Twitter

–Update: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted just now as we’re going to print. The committee passed the new Iran sanctions bill by a vote of 18-3 with only one Republican (Rand Paul) voting against it. Senators Udall and Merkley also opposed the measure.

“Treasury chief says reviewing Iran’s aircraft licenses” by David Lawder: “The U.S. Treasury is reviewing licenses for Boeing Co and Airbus to sell aircraft to Iran, department head Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday… “We will use everything within our power to put additional sanctions on Iran, Syria and North Korea to protect American lives,” Mnuchin said in testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee. “I can assure you that’s a big focus of mine and I discuss it with the president.”” [Reuters

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — “Trump’s $110 Billion Arms Deal With Saudis Shouldn’t Worry Israel, Ex-intel Chief Says” by Gili Cohen: “U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the recent massive arms deal does not endanger Israel and is therefore no cause for concern, according to Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, the head of the Institute for National Security Studies. “It consists of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system to intercept ballistic missiles, whose chance of reaching us is very low, tanks Israel knows how to deal with and Black Hawk helicopters – these are weapons that shouldn’t raise concern,” Yadlin told Haaretz.” [Haaretz]

On Capitol Hill, Members of Congress raised questions about the Trump administration’s weapons deal with Riyadh — by Aaron Magid: Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) told Jewish Insider on Wednesday afternoon that the agreement “complicates the QME issue. We want Israel to always have a qualitative military edge in that region. It’s great that right now there seems to be a rapprochement between the Sunni states and Israel, but if we’re starting a new arms race to maintain the QM, that’s not a positive thing.”

Across the aisle, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) urged further time to examine the deal. “As we speak, I’m working to learn more. I’m sympathetic to Israel’s concerns so I’ve asked my staff a few hours ago to pull more information so we can see what new agreement was made. I share the concerns of Israel, which is our most cherished and reliable ally in the Middle East,” he said.

PALACE INTRIGUE: “Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump leave foreign trip early” by Jordan Fabian: “Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump will leave the president’s nine-day foreign trip early to return to Washington… “The plan was always for them to go back to D.C. after Rome,” a White House official told reporters… The official explained his decision to leave early, saying Kushner “helped plan and oversee the first part of the trip” that included the stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and at the Vatican.” [TheHill]

“Ivanka and Jared’s Roman date night in Rome” by Jennifer Smith: “The married couple dined at da Sabatino le Cave di Saint Ignazio restaurant… Their date night menu consisted of pizza margherita and caprese salad for Ivanka and a heartier combination of pasta, dumpling and bruschetta for Jared.” [DailyMail] • Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Failed to Disclose Their Multimillion-Dollar Art Collection [Artnet]

“Spicer’s absence in papal visit reveals Trump’s family-first rule” by Kevin Liptak and Jeff Zeleny: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner — who are both Jewish but nonetheless attended the Vatican session with the President — have rarely been away from the President’s side as he navigates the tricky international politics of the Middle East and Europe.” [CNN

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Israeli police question U.S. casino mogul Adelson in Netanyahu probe” by Maayan Lubell: “Israeli police questioned U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson on Thursday as part of an ongoing criminal investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a law enforcement source said… The source said Adelson gave his testimony in regard to what police have dubbed “Case 2000″, involving suspicions Netanyahu negotiated a deal in 2015 for favorable press coverage with the owner of Israel’s best-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth… Adelson, who visits Israel periodically and was questioned in a police station near Tel Aviv, is not a suspect, said the law enforcement source.” [Reuters]

** 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: Dan Loeb says Dow-DuPont merger plan may leave $20 billion on table [CNBC] • Peter Lowy Maps Westfield Growth [LABJ] • David Bistricer’s Clipper Realty to buy Touro College building on UWS for $79M [TRD] • Guess How Much Penn President Amy Gutmann Makes Now [PhillyMag] • The 25 coolest tech companies in Israel [BI] • Mark Cuban leads $1.5 million round in SaaS management tool Meta SaaS [VentureBeat]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Plaza Hotel has a promising deal with a Saudi prince” by Lois Weiss and Steve Cuozzo: “Hoping to lift the storied Plaza Hotel out of a years-long rut, Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal has partnered with Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. to force a buyout. The deal could pry the Plaza out of the hands of accused fraudster Subrata Roy, who had been locked up in India amid allegations that he bilked investors out of billions of dollars, leaving the Fifth Avenue landmark’s operations to languish over the past five years… City boosters are hoping the Plaza can finally open a new chapter, with a purchase by Ashkenazky, headed by Ben Ashkenazy and Michael Alpert, of a controlling portion of Al-Waleed’s pivotal stake in the hotel.” [NYPost]

“NYC Council Speaker Defends Zoning Chairman’s Right to Raise Political Cash From Real Estate” by Will Bredderman: “Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito today argued Councilman David Greenfield, her chairman of the powerful Committee on Land Use, has a legal right to use a state campaign account to circumvent local regulations barring politicians from raising money from real estate companies. The Observer revealed on Monday that the councilman has maintained GreenfieldNY, a political committee for an undeclared state office… As of January, GreenfieldNY had a balance of $308,641.71. Of that, $86,600 came from corporate donors, all but a few of them directly tied to development interests—donations that city Campaign Finance Board rules explicitly forbid, but which state Board of Election regulations allow.” [Observer]

“Simcha Felder Tells Fellow Rogue Democrats to Rejoin the Party Fold” by Jesse McKinley: “Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who also sides with the Republicans… sent a letter urging Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, the leader of the faction, the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, to “unconditionally and publicly rejoin the Democrats.” Mr. Felder’s letter concluded by suggesting he might unify with fellow Democrats, too, if the conference did. Mr. Felder has previously said he would side with whatever party would best serve his district, which includes a large population of Orthodox Jews.” [NYTimes]

ACROSS THE POND: “Ariana Grande’s manager Scooter Braun’s heartbroken wife pays tribute to Manchester bombing victims” by Lara Martin: “The wife of Ariana Grande ’s manager Scooter Braun has paid heartfelt tribute to the victims of the Manchester concert bombing that left 22 innocent people dead. Yael Cohen Braun reflected on the devastating terror attack while spending precious time with her and Scooter’s eldest son, Jagger, during a family day out at a snow park. Alongside a photo of her with Jagger and her father, she wrote: “My dad and I took my big boy to see snow for the first time today… Held space in the moment for the 23 families who have lost moments like this forever. Snuggling those I love a little closer today.”” [Mirror]

“How US intelligence leaks upset two allies in one week” by Zachary Cohen: “Just days after President Donald Trump was reported to have revealed highly sensitive, likely Israeli-shared intelligence to Russian officials in the Oval Office, the United Kingdom is voicing its frustration over leaked information coming from US sources. UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd slammed US leaks on the investigation into the attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, as “irritating” on Wednesday after a string of details emerged from US law enforcement sources before they were released by British police or officials.” [CNN]

PROFILE: “Wanna Know What Donald Trump Is Really Thinking? Read Maggie Haberman” by Rachael Combe: “Maggie’s magic is that she’s the dominant reporter on the [White House] beat, and she doesn’t even live in Washington… She’s so well-sourced and so well-connected that she doesn’t need to,” [Annie] Karni says… Trump has also sent her his famous press clippings with Sharpie notes on them, mostly with criticisms, but at least once with praise. Lately he’s gone digital (sort of): He’ll write the note on the clip, and then have White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks take a picture of the note and e-mail it to her.” [Elle

“Eli Pariser Predicted the Future. Now He Can’t Escape It” by Jessi Hempel: “Six years after the Upworthy cofounder coined the term “filter bubble,” things are much worse. The problem with online distribution, Pariser believes, is that specific, true information can’t compete with that guy surfing off his roof. “Is the truth loud enough?” he asks. “If the problem is that the truth isn’t loud enough, it points in very different directions than if the problem is that fake news is misleading people.” [BackChannel]

MEDIA WATCH: “Ken Kurson resigns at Kushner-owned ‘New York Observer’” by Dylan Byers:
“Ken Kurson, the editor-in-chief of Jared Kushner’s family-owned New York Observer, has resigned. In a move rich with political intrigue, Mr. Kurson said he would begin a new job next week as a senior managing director at Teneo Strategy, a division of the corporate advisory firm run by allies of Bill and Hillary Clinton. In a memo to staff, Kurson said Kushner had “never received the credit he deserves for supporting independent journalism and contributing to the cultural fabric of our city.” Defending Kushner against the “snark” and “unfair criticism” of his detractors, Kurson said the Observer “wouldn’t exist were it not for the willingness… of the Kushner family to cut those checks. They didn’t have to do that.”” [CNNMoney; NYTimes

SPORTS BLINK — Heard Last Night:On Wednesday, John Elway received the Mizel Institute 2017 Community Enrichment Award in recognition of his more than three decades of community service in Colorado. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock served as masters of ceremonies at the dinner and presented Elway with special honors from the state and city. About the honor, Elway said, “As far as what Larry Mizel’s done for the community with the Mizel Institute and everything, I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m obviously humbled. There’s been a lot of great people that have won this award before tonight. The list of awardees before me is tremendous. I thank Larry so much, and I’m humbled by the award.” [MileHighSports; ABC7]

DESSERT: “Silver Lake’s Mh Zh Is The Israeli Sidewalk Cafe That L.A. Didn’t Know It Was Missing” by Oren Peleg: “Mh Zh, a new Israeli restaurant opened in Silver Lake this Spring, fits into the second of these two metrics. Co-owner Conor Shemtov may be a native Angeleno, but he has spent years in kitchens near and far, including time in the central Israeli city of Ramla. The Israeli influence remains. The restaurant’s name itself is a Hebrew play on words. Mh Zh, pronounced “mAH zeh” means “what is this” in Hebrew, but could just as easily be read as mezze, a Middle Eastern version of tapas.” [LAist]

BIRTHDAYS: Physicist and winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics, Jack Steinberger turns 96… Academy Award winning film producer and director, responsible for 50 major motion pictures, Irwin Winkler turns 86… Co-founder and CEO of the clothing manufacturer, Calvin Klein Inc., which he formed with his childhood friend Calvin Klein, he is also a former horse racing industry executive, Barry K. Schwartz turns 75… Judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1986 (including 7 years as Chief Judge), now on senior status, Douglas H. Ginsburg turns 71… British journalist, editor, author and Jewish community leader, he has been the City Editor of the Daily Mail (London) since May 2000 and a past VP of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Alex Brummer turns 68… Actor, voice actor, and stand-up comedian sometimes referred to as “Yid Vicious,” Bobby Slayton turns 62… Member of the Australian Parliament since 2016, Julian Leeser turns 41… NYC-based senior producer for i24 News, Alison Kurtzman turns 27… Pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals organization who had two effective appearances for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifiers, Ryan Sherriff turns 27… Olympic Gold medalist at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, gymnast Aly Raisman turns 23… South Florida resident Marjorie Moidel… Laura Goldman… John Davis… Robin Kramer

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Daily Kickoff: Lieberman no longer being considered for FBI Director | Huckabee disappointed with Trump’s Israel trip | Uber’s legal battle in Israel

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NO DIRECTOR JOE — “Trump administration hits reset in FBI director search” by Sara Murray and Eugene Scott: “The team tasked by the White House with finding a new director for the FBI is resetting its search, a senior administration official told CNN… At one point, former Sen. Joe Lieberman was considered a leading candidate, but Trump has since decided he wants to see a broader range of candidates for the job, the official said. Lieberman is partners at the same law firm as Marc Kasowitz, whom Trump is expected to hire as part of a team on matters related to the inquiry into his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. The official said Kasowitz’s hiring hasn’t affected the FBI director search.” [CNN]

Worth noting — Lieberman campaigned for Hillary in Florida and told us at the time: “I think for people who have thought at some point about supporting Trump and have gone increasingly concerned in recent days about his focus on the election being rigged – which there’s no evidence of that, whatsoever – what he said last night, persuaded the persuadable that Hillary Clinton is their best choice.” [JewishInsider]

PRESIDENT-IN-LAW: “Sources Say Chris Christie Gave Jared Kushner Legal Advice About Trump” by Emily Jane Fox: “Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told people that Jared Kushner… asked him if Trump should hire a lawyer… An administration source said that the conversation about retaining counsel “simply did not happen.” Both sides confirmed that a phone call between them took place, as the two talk frequently… In private, according to one person who said Christie recounted his conversation with Kushner, Christie is said to have cautioned that the president “better lawyer up and keep his mouth shut,” this person told me. That Kushner would seek Christie’s legal advice on a matter pertaining to a family member raises eyebrows. Christie, after all, prosecuted a case against Kushner’s father, Charles, more than a decade ago.” [VanityFair]

ON THE HILL — Top Senate Democrat Dismissive of Rouhani Victory — by JI’s Aaron Magid: “I don’t believe their elections are free and fair. They certainly don’t have a democratic government,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) told Jewish Insider yesterday. “It doesn’t give me great hope whoever would have been elected. Their conduct before and after the Iran nuclear agreement shows anything but that they want to join the international community.” Speaking after a lunch celebrating American Jewish Heritage Month on Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) offered a more optimistic view of the outcome in Tehran. “It seems to be a more moderate Iranian segment of leadership, but the hardliners still have significant strength so we can’t be complacent,” he explained.

Both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee are expected to vote on Thursday to apply tougher sanctions against the Iranian government for its support of terrorism, ballistic missile programs and human rights violations. The votes were delayed until after the Iranian Presidential elections so not to appear as American intruding in Tehran’s domestic affairs. [JewishInsider]

JERUSALEM DAY: “Huckabee disappointed Trump didn’t mention embassy move during Israel visit” by Sally Persons: “I’m going to be honest, there were a couple of disappointments. It would have been a great time to announce that the U.S. Embassy is moving to Jerusalem, the true capital of Israel,” [Mike] Huckabee said on Fox News. “I think it’s a missed opportunity,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do, [and] it’s the right time to do it.” [WashTimes]

SIGHTING: Mike Huckabee performing with his guitar in Jerusalem [YouTube] h/t Yehuda Joel Friedman and Jeff Ballabon

TRUMP TRIP POSTGAME: “How Trump stayed out of trouble in the Middle East” by Annie Karni: “A decision was made early on… to pack his schedule so that he mostly stayed on message and, according to one aide, “didn’t have time to tweet.” But a key factor was the role played by Dina Powell, H.R. McMaster and Jared Kushner… [Powell] was one of a smaller cadre of top aides who stayed on with Trump on Air Force One en route to Israel… There, she accompanied Trump to bilateral meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas, as well as the president’s visit to the Western Wall… Trump’s aides on Mondaynight said they were pleased with the trip, but they were also eager to keep the focus on the president. At the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, one aide vented that Trump gets blamed when things go wrong, but his aides receive all of the credit when things actually go right.” [Politico] • Heather Hurlburt: Trump’s Messy, Mostly Successful Israel Visit [NYMag]

Ezra Klein: “Trump’s foreign trip is a reminder he’s much better suited to be a ceremonial head of state than President” [Twitter]

HEARD YESTERDAY — An unnamed senior administration official briefed the press on AF1 en route to Rome concluding that the President’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel was a “big success.” The overall objective on the trip, the official said, was to create a new direction for peace in the Middle East. “Where it’s gone for the last 15 years has not been a good direction and we have to figure out how we do change that direction so that we obviously can have less war and more opportunity people there to live a better life.”

Asked about what the next steps are to relaunch the peace process, the official said, “The first step there is to bring relationships (between the Arab world and Israel) that are warm and strong privately and bring them more public and also set forth a common set of principles that everyone wants to abide by” in order “to create a lot of momentum and optimism around the prospect for peace.” The official added, “You can’t just walk in on Day One and sign a deal that no one has gotten done in 35 years… We’re very optimistic that we have the ability to do some very transformative things that will really surprise a lot of people.”

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: There is a growing understanding in the Knesset corridors that if President Trump is indeed determined to launch a peace process, it will entail some internal political shuffle. Jason Greenblatt is expected to return to the region on Thursday. Plus, before departing, Jared Kushner met for a side meeting with opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, and told him that “This President always surprises” and assured him that the administration does not intend to leave a vacuum after the visit and will continue the momentum.

The soft side of Melania Trump: The media’s spotlight has been following Melania Trump’s hands for a few days now, including a video angle that appeared to show her rejecting her husband’s hand. But in Israel, Melania’s hands might have produced the most touching and human moment of the whole visit. While arriving at the President’s residence on Monday, Nechama Rivlin welcomed Melania out of the limousine, and when the two first ladies walked down the red carpet – they were holding hands. Rivlin, who suffers from a chronic lung disease, has to walk with an oxygen tank, and when she met Melania, she whispered in her ear that she would try to keep up with the pace “but it could be slower.” According to officials in the President’s office, Melania replied: “We will walk with you at any pace you choose,” and embraced her hand strongly. The photo of the two ladies holding hands went viral in Israel, and Mrs. Rivlin wrote a special Facebook post elaborating on their encounter. “In the hustle and bustle of this important and historic visit, I also got to know the First Lady Melania. A charming woman inside and out, sensitive and special,” she wrote of Melania Trump, adding that she gave her a gift, a children’s book titled “Hug” by David Grossman in 3 languages – Hebrew, Arabic and English. “It was great to sit with her and with the wonderful Ivanka who joined us, and to discuss bringing together strangers who might be less afraid of getting closer if they only were interested in each other.”

Everyone was so ecstatic about the warm hug that Trump gave Israel, that nobody was really talking about the mega-billion dollar arms deal the US signed with Saudi Arabia. According to the White House readout of the Trump-Netanyahu meeting, the President assured Netanyahu that the US will maintain Israels qualitative military edge, but Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said today that “we have our ways to deal with it.” Speaking on Army Radio this morning, Liberman reacted to the deal for the first time, stating he does “not live in peace with the whole Mideast arms race. Regional deals have reached $215 billion, which is a significant sum, so I do not live well with the arms race and the huge Saudi acquisition.” In the same interview, Liberman all but confirmed that Trump leaked intelligence that came from Israel, saying that the Defense Ministry “drew conclusions” from the incident. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

TRUMP’S SALES PITCH: “Trump’s Saudi Arabia Trip Figures Into Plan for Palestinian Deal” by Ben Hubbard and Ian Fisher: “With the gusto of a salesman pushing a limited-time offer, [Trump] cast the Saudi monarch in a leading role and invoked his name to push Mr. Netanyahu toward progress with the Palestinians. It was a case study in wheeler-dealer diplomacy, aimed at unlocking progress in a conflict that has bedeviled decades of peace efforts.” [NYTimes

“Trump’s Israel Love Offensive Might Carry a Hefty Price Tag” by Barak Ravid: “The hugs and kisses that Trump scattered everywhere in his Jerusalem speech did not distract him from the message he’d been hammering home… Trump wants a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and thinks that achieving such a deal will be difficult but not impossible… Trump believes that both Netanyahu and Abbas are ripe for making history. As of now, Trump has no plan, but he’s determined to try and determined to succeed, and fast.” [Haaertz]

Dore Gold, former MFA Director General and current President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, emails us… “There are two elements in the ties between the US and Israel that President Trump addressed. First, America is connected to the historical narrative of the Jewish people. He spoke about the links of the Jews to the Holy Land dating back thousands of years. The Jews did not come back to their land as a response to the Holocaust alone. Against a background of centuries of oppression, which he detailed, he assured his Israeli audience that America will stand at Israel’s side. Second, he focused on Iran’s genocidal threats and offered his own personal guarantee of Israel’s security, including that Iran would never obtain nuclear weapons. What was remarkable about his speeches in the Middle East was that his guarantees to the Saudis and his guarantees to Israel did not contradict each other. He understood that the region had fundamentally changed and he was moving American diplomacy forward in recognition of that fact.”

“In Trump’s private moments, it’s small talk and compliments” by Josef Federman and Aya Batrawy: “President Donald Trump spent part of his two-day visit to Israel with open microphones nearby, giving the world a small glimpse into his private banter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu between official appearances. They chatted about paint on the walls, their wives and where to stand during a ceremony. And they exchanged compliments – lots of compliments.” [AP]

“Mahmoud Abbas, Donald Trump, and the Politics of Peace” by Bernard Avishai: “The recent meetings with Trump have given Abbas a boost. During his visit to the White House, earlier this month, he reportedly proposed restarting negotiations with Israel where he and Olmert left off, in 2008. Those negotiations covered most major issues—security, borders, Jerusalem, and refugees—and both leaders considered the remaining gaps bridgeable. He is also turning up the heat on Hamas in Gaza, in an effort to force a genuine reunification—an action that may backfire, as Gazans are suffering in the process.” [NewYorker]

FAKE NEWS — Qatar says state news website hacked, fake article published: “Qatar says hackers broke into the website of its state-run news agency… The fake article claimed the small, gas-rich nation had ordered its ambassadors from Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates withdrawn over “tension” with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. The fake article also quoted Qatar emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani calling Iran an “Islamic power” and saying Qatar’s relations with Israel were “good.”” [AP]

** 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: Icahn Guides Trump’s Policy and Scores $60 Million [Bloomberg] • US Marshals to auction Aby Rosen’s longtime UES home: Sale to settle judgement against his landlord, the African nation of Niger [RealDeal] • Microsoft reportedly acquires Israeli cybersecurity startup Hexadite for $100 million [VB]

SPOTLIGHT — Uber Finds Itself Facing a Legal Battle in Yet Another Country: “Uber faces a legal challenge in Israel, adding to the list of places where it is under scrutiny, after the country alleged unauthorized drivers were illegally paid using its network for a new carpooling app the company is piloting. Israel’s Transportation Ministry said on Wednesday an undercover investigation had found Uber recruited private drivers to operate the network without the necessary licenses, and that Uber took 25% of the cost of each ride. Uber, which said it was operating within Israeli rules, is running a pilot of UberNight in Tel Aviv where it says passengers only pay to help cover the expense of the ride.” [Fortune]

Startup nation or left-behind nation? Israel’s economy is a study in contrasts: “For a country with many highly educated people, Israel scores poorly in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of the science, maths and reading skills of 15-year-olds from across the world run by the OECD… Israel also scores poorly on the OECD’s measures of restrictiveness in product markets and services… The cost of living is about 20% higher than in Spain and 30% higher than in South Korea. Kosher certification makes food more expensive, and the panoply of quotas, tariffs, regulatory barriers and guaranteed agricultural prices has piled on extra costs. Strikingly, a country that has produced globally popular taxi and navigation apps does not allow Uber to offer its cheap car-for-hire services because of resistance from the taxi lobby.” [Economist]

“Shavuot Could Prevent Orthodox Jews From Attending ICSC 2018” by Guelda Voien: “The important Jewish holiday of Shavuot will fall during next year’s ICSC RECon and may prevent observant Jewish real estate professionals from attending the convention, brokers told Commercial Observer. Because Jewish holidays are based on the lunar calendar, the issue hasn’t arisen in eight years or so, said Ira Zlotowitz, the president and chief executive officer of Eastern Union Funding who observes orthodox Judaism… A spokesperson for ICSC said the organization is aware of the problem and is “working on a solution,” but as of now the schedule remains unchanged.” [Observer]

TOP TALKER: “Hannity backs off story about murdered DNC staffer” by David Bauder: “Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity said Tuesday he’s backing off his speculation about the 2016 murder of Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich after talking with Rich’s family, which had appealed to the media to stop… Hannity said Tuesdaythat he had corresponded with Rich’s brother and that “out of respect for the family’s wishes for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time.” … Hannity sent mixed signals about whether he was actually through with the Rich story, both on his show and in a later tweet. “To the extent of my ability, I am not going to stop trying to find the truth,” he said.” [AP] • “We’re Seth Rich’s parents. Stop politicizing our son’s murder” [WashPost]

“The Shame of Defaming Seth Rich” by John Podhoretz: “I’m no fan of former DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz but even the suggestion she might have been a party to murder is so far out of bounds there aren’t even good similes or metaphors to capture how far out of bounds it is.” [CommentaryMag]

TOP-OP: “How the Ebb-and-Flow of American Politics Affects American Jewish Attitudes toward Israel” by Jordan Chandler Hirsch: “Israel’s achievements generated American goodwill. When asked in the 1970s whether a so-called Jewish lobby was taking over Congress, Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the Democratic Senator from Washington, responded that Americans of all kinds, far from being in the thrall of lobbyists, “respect competence. They like that we are on the side which seems to know what it’s doing.” … American Jews, for their part, largely adhered to the same views… And this seamless support would persist, at least on the surface, throughout the Reagan presidency and until the collapse of the Soviet empire—after which the tectonic plates undergirding the U.S.-Israel alliance and, correspondingly, the American Jewish relationship with Israel began to shift.” [Mosiac]

“What Progressives Miss About Arms Sales” by Andrew Exum: “Donald Trump obviously has no moral qualms about selling weapons to our partners and allies abroad. And so while Democrats leave points on the board with working-class voters by not talking about how much Democrats do to support U.S. industry, Republicans swoop in to take credit with assembly line workers for even those things that Obama approved and set in motion.” [TheAtlantic]

Adam Grant tweets: “Instead of telling boys to “be a man,” we should encourage them to “be a mensch.” [Twitter]

DESSERT — Ethan Daniel Davidson’s latest track: “A beautiful, crawling soundscape is what you will find in avant-garde Americana artist Ethan Daniel Davidson‘s new track “I Might’ve Been Wrong”. The Detroit, Michigan-based musician consistently and successfully rounds out his sound with a talented full band, including Jordan Schug, Gretchen Gonzales, Warren Defever, Kara Meister, Julie Benjamin, and Steve Nister, and we’re expecting a great deal from the lot with the release of his upcoming album in mid-June. Until then, we’ve got the exclusive premiere of “I Might’ve Been Wrong” to tantalize your eardrums.” [ImposeMag]

BIRTHDAYS: Professor at Brooklyn College and painter whose realist art works appear in many museums, Philip Pearlstein turns 93… Co-founder of the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a premier firm known for complex transactions and litigation, he is discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” Herbert Wachtell turns 85… Film director and daughter-in-law of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Joan Micklin Silver turns 82… Born Robert Allen Zimmerman, his Hebrew name is Shabsi Zissel, he is one of the most influential singer-songwriters of his generation, Bob Dylan turns 76… Member of Congress since 2007 [D-TN-9], his district includes almost three-fourths of Memphis, he is Tennessee’s first Jewish congressman, Stephen Ira “Steve” Cohen turns 68… Former Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs (2000-2003), author of articles in magazines such as Newsweek and Foreign Affairs, author of more than a dozen books, Jorge Castañeda Gutman turns 64… First-ever Jewish member of the parliament in Finland, first elected in 1979, in 2011 he was elected as the acting speaker of the Finnish parliament, Ben Zyskowicz turns 63… Constitutional historian, lecturer and writer, Richard B. Bernstein turns 61…

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer, one of his novels is “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union,” Michael Chabon turns 54… US Ambassador to Singapore (2010-2013), member of the the Georgia State Senate (2003-2010), now a partner in the global law firm Reed Smith, David Adelman turns 53… Ukrainian businessman, patron of the Jewish community in Ukraine, collector of modern and contemporary art and politician, Hennadiy Korban turns 47… Actor, who starred in the HBO original series “How to Make It in America,” Bryan Greenberg turns 39… Chief of Staff at The National September 11 Memorial and Museum, previously Deputy Chief Of Staff at the Department of the Interior during the Obama administration, Benjamin E. Milakofsky turns 33… Director of Development at Schwarzman Scholars, previously VP for Development at ProPublica and SVP for Development at the Center for American Progress, Debby Goldberg… President of Rosemont Seneca Advisors and board chair of DC-based non-profit 826DC, helping teachers and students with creative and expository writing skills, Eric D. Schwerin (h/t Playbook)… Senior Development Director in AIPAC’s Northeast Region, Nora Berger (h/t son Aylon)…

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