Daily Kickoff: Rabbis argue against notion that Shabbat’s to blame for Trump tweets | Rich -> Putin tells Bibi to stop dwelling on past | Happy Purim!

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About Those Tweets… “Shabbat’s not the reason Trump tweets on Saturdays” by Annie Karni: “I think it’s a very foolish assumption to say that in some way, people in the Trump administration wait until the Sabbath so they can make decisions that otherwise, other members of the Trump administration might weigh in on,” said Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, rabbi emeritus at the Kehilath Jeshurun congregation on Manhattan’s Upper East Side… The rules of Shabbat “are not so black and white,” explained Rabbi Avidan Milevsky, the interim rabbi at Kesher Israel… But he said it was a “dangerous misconception” to assume Kushner was out of touch and off the grid during Trump’s most inflammatory moments. “It implies that anything disastrous is somehow indirectly to be blamed on Jared’s absence—and by extension, Jews,” Milevsky said. “It’s a dangerous narrative — this idea that he’s not allowed to discuss these things on the Sabbath is absolutely false… Jared is not locked in a room. It was a cool idea, and it got some press, but it is a dangerous and false narrative.” [Politico

President-in-law: “Mexican foreign minister goes straight to the White House, skips usual channels” by Tracy Wilkinson: “Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray met at the White House with President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, along with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, a top financial aide, the Mexican government announced… When asked whether any sessions were scheduled at the State Department, the spokesman, Mark Toner, said he didn’t know Videgaray was in town.” [LATimes]

“Rex Tillerson is off to an agonizingly slow start” by David Ignatius: “Tillerson’s first big setback was his failed advocacy of Abrams… Trump seemed enthusiastic during an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 7 that included Tillerson, Kushner and Abrams. As they were leaving the Oval Office, Bannon, in a true “House of Cards” moment, said to Abrams: “Huge fan.” Several hours later, reportedly after Bannon showed Trump some critical comments Abrams had made about him during the campaign, Tillerson was informed that the nomination had been nixed. Tillerson tried to reverse the decision but failed. He’s still looking for a deputy.” [WashPost]

“Leave Steve Bannon Out of Your Shpiel” by Tevi Troy: “Comparing Mr. Bannon, or any Trump aide, to Haman diminishes the true threats that Jews face in a dangerous world. A political figure, even one with whom you disagree, is not worthy of comparison with someone who paid a pliable king 10,000 talents of silver for the “privilege” of slaughtering the Jews. The suggestion that the two are alike will only undermine legitimate criticism of Mr. Bannon… The Hamanization of Trump aides threatens badly needed Jewish unity and could also turn off otherwise sympathetic gentiles.” [WSJ]

“Trump’s Intelligence Nominee Gets Early Lesson in Managing White House” by Matthew Rosenberg and James Risen: “Until last week, the White House was weighing a plan to bring in Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management and a friend of Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner, to lead a White House review of the intelligence community… Stiff resistance from [Dan] Coats and Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency — aided by pushback from allies in the Senate and even Mr. Pence — appears to have derailed the plan. Mr. Feinberg is now in discussions with administration officials to take on a still-undetermined role in defense, rather than intelligence… Mr. Coats saw Mr. Feinberg’s potential appointment as an effort by Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner to undercut him, according to current and former officials.” [NYTimes

“When the Generals Become Democracy’s Guardians” by Andrew Exum: “Military officers have checked some of the president’s uglier populist impulses. But what does that mean for liberal values? …it makes me worry about what that means for both liberal values and the role of the military officer corps in American society. For some answers, it’s worth taking a look at another country in which the senior ranks of the military officer corps have been thrust into a role as the vanguard of liberalism: Israel.” [TheAtlantic]

HAPPENING TODAY: President Trump will speak with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by telephone at 12:15 PM, according to the White House.

Aaron David Miller‏: “Trump talks to Abbas. If Trump puts his brand on a peace initiative — like steaks, ties, wine — Bibi watch out.” [Twitter]

Dan Shapiro writes: “Today seems like a good day to debunk this oft-repeated but erroneous claim: That Obama’s first call as POTUS was to Abbas. It wasn’t. I was in the Oval Office that day, Jan 21, 2009… Operation Cast Lead had just ended, and Obama wanted to reinforce the shaky, Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that was taking hold. Just past 8:30 AM, we entered the Oval for the calls. The sequence had been carefully scripted: Mubarak, Olmert, Abbas, King Abdullah. Thank Egypt for its role on the ceasefire; support for Israel’s self-defense; appreciate PA helping keeping the WB stable; support Jordan.” [Twitter

Greenblatt to meet with Palestinians, too: Jerusalem is preparing for the first visit by a Trump administration official, as the president’s special representative, Jason Greenblatt, is set to arrive next week. A US official told Kafe Knesset yesterday that Greenblatt will be visiting both Jerusalem and Ramallah, meeting both Netanyahu and President Abbas, as well as officials from both the Israeli and the Palestinian side.

On the Israeli side, Greenblatt’s visit is likely to be dominated by the settlements issue, as he is the US point man on the team coordinating the matter. He will arrive against the backdrop of right-wing pressure on Netanyahu to expand settlement construction and stand by his commitment to build a new settlement for the Amona evacuees. The Jewish Home is now threatening not to support Likud legislation until Netanyahu fulfills his promise on Amona. [KafeKnesset]

Bill Clinton Talks Rabin, Peace Process — by JI’s Aaron Magid: Former President Bill Clinton spoke to a packed audience at Brookings Institute on Thursday and called for an end to ongoing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians… Clinton called the day of [Rabin’s] assassination his worst day in the White House, adding, “I remain convinced that had he lived we would have achieved a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians by 1998 and we’d be living in a different world today.” He recalled Rabin telling him once that he was making peace because otherwise, “Very soon we will either no longer be a democracy or no longer be a Jewish state.” [JewishInsiderPolitico

HEARD IN MOSCOW: “Rejecting Purim spiel, Putin tells Netanyahu to stop dwelling on past” by TOI: “Russian President Vladimir Putin told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop living in the past Thursday, after the Israeli premier tried to tie tensions with Iran to an upcoming Jewish holiday about a thwarted genocide of Jews in ancient Persia. Adopting a conciliatory tone, Putin said that the events described by Netanyahu had taken place “in the fifth century B.C.” “We now live in a different world. Let us talk about that now,” Putin said.” [ToI]

KAFE KNESSET — Putin’s perfect present — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: At home, Netanyahu is dealing with an inconvenient gift scandal, but during his visit to Moscow yesterday, a present from President Putin actually warmed his heart. The Russian president and Netanyahu are considered quite close, and Putin chose the perfect gift for Netanyahu, the son of the historian: an antique copy of “The Jewish War” by Josephus Flavius. The volume was printed in Tuscany, Italy in 1526, almost 500 years ago. “It’s a very special gift.” Netanyahu told reporters in a phone call briefing from the tarmac before flying back to Israel. “There is no doubt this book has a significant place in our historical heritage. I really appreciate it,” he added, stressing he will be passing on the book to the National Library.

Gifts aside, Netanyahu stressed the importance of his Kremlin meeting, which was dedicated to the Syrian front and Israeli concerns about Iran bolstering its standing in post-war Syria. Netanyahu presented Putin with intelligence demonstrating recent Iranian moves from the past few weeks, which show Tehran is attempting to create a permanent military presence in Syria, including attempts to build a naval port. “I can tell you from past experience that these face-to-face conversations between us are very significant. It was a direct and frank conversation,” Netanyahu said, refusing to reveal what Putin’s response was. “I can tell you for sure – he got the message.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

ON THE HILL: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced David Friedman’s nomination for US Ambassador to Israel. The vote was mostly along party lines with Democratic Senator Bob Menendez who, by voting yes, gave Friedman bipartisan backing. Friedman’s candidacy will proceed to a Senate floor vote at an undetermined time.

“Menendez, Booker at odds over Trump’s ambassador to Israel” By Jonathan D. Salant: “Menendez said he voted yes after discussing his and constituents’ concerns with the nominee, including a two-state solution… “I believe maintaining that bipartisan support is critical, and that it is vitally important we enjoy open channels of communication with our ambassador.” [NJAdvance

After the vote, Senator Rob Portman explained his vote to Jewish Insider, “He’s the President’s pick. I tend to defer to the President, Republican and Democrat alike. He answered some of the questions I had and I thought he did a good job responding to those.” Senator James Risch (R-ID) told Jewish Insider, “He’s the right guy for the job. Period,” [JewishInsider

Clinton’s Rabbi backs Friedman — “A new US ambassador at a critical time” by Menachem Genack: “David Friedman is uniquely qualified to provide this sense of friendship and backing, and would be an excellent choice as ambassador to Israel. Not only does he possess extraordinary intelligence, he also is intimately familiar with the region, speaks Hebrew fluently, is at home with Israeli culture, and is sensitive to Israel’s concerns.” [JPost

“Trump’s hard-line Israel ambassador pick will have to bend” by Aaron David Miller: “An argument can be made that the ambassador to watch isn’t Friedman at all but Ron Dermer, Israel’s envoy to the United States, who not only is exceptionally close to Netanyahu but also has close ties to the Trump administration. The issue on the US side isn’t really proximity to Netanyahu, but to Washington and the US President — and there Dermer and Kushner will have a distinct advantage… It would be a cruel irony if Trump ends up using the pro-settlement Friedman as his channel to the settlers to persuade them to act with restraint on some kind of settlements freeze.” [CNN

COMING SOON: “British Royal ‘to become family’s first member to make state visit to Israel later this year'” by Niamh McIntyre: “Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli President, extended the invitation via Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at a meeting in Jerusalem earlier this week… A spokesperson for Clarence House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales, told The Independent that the Prince of Wales’ overseas visits are only made at the request of the government. They could not confirm whether the Prince would be visiting Israel. However, they did point to the Prince’s “strong and growing relationship with the Jewish community.”” [Independent]

PURIM, beginning Saturday evening: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes… “Purim is the Jewish answer to one of the great questions of history: how do you live with the past without being held captive by the past? Ours is a religion of memory, because if you forget the past, you’ll find yourself repeating it. Yet it’s also a future-oriented faith. To be a Jew is to answer the question, Has the Messiah come?, with the words, Not yet. There are so many parts of the world today where ancient grievances are still being played out, as if history were a hamster wheel in which however fast we run we find ourselves back where we started. Purim is a way of saying, remember the past, but then look at the children, celebrate with them, and for their sake, put the past behind you and build a better future.” [RabbiSacks] • h/t Yair Rosenberg

IN AUSTIN THIS WEEKEND — Extra ‘Snap’ to SXSW: Purim Coming to the Streets of Austin: More than 300 people are expected at Shabbat dinner this week in Austin as part of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) film, interactive media and music festival that takes place from March 10 to March 19. The Friday-night dinner, #openShabbat, is organized by Chabad Rabbi Mordechai and Chana Lightstone and co-hosted by Chabad Young Professionals in Austin. The joyous holiday of Purim comes right on the heals of Shabbat and SXSW goers will have every opportunity to celebrate and imbibe at the YAAASS Queen Esther SXSW Purim party which will begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Mordechai Lightstone will also be speaking Sunday with Julia Ioffe from the Atlantic about the rise of online anti-Semitism. [EvenbriteSXSW

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Inbox maintenance was taking up a lot of Dan Ariely’s time, so he decided to study it as he would anything else [TheAtlantic] • Extell sells three UES walk-ups to Izaki Group for $42M [TRD] • Former Hedge Fund Exec Bruce Kovner Seeks $67 Million for Caribbean Estate [WSJ] • Lawsuit claims Mori Arkin misled eCam shareholders [Globes] • Patrick Drahi of Altice Is Struggling to Bridge Atlantic Divide [Bloomberg] • Despite sanctions relief, Shell still cool on Iranian oil buys [Reuters] • Sixers owner Joshua Harris meets with Trump over $1 trillion infrastructure plan [PhillyVoice]

“With Trump in White House, Some Executives Ask, Why Not Me?” by James Stewart: “Stu Loeser, once the press secretary for Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who considered a presidential run last year, concurred. “If you run a company that has employed tens of thousands of people, and generated lots of profit and been undeniably successful, and you look at a sitting president who, to be honest, a lot of business people don’t have much respect for, you think, why not me?” he said. Mr. Loeser now runs his own strategic consulting firm, and told me he has clients who are business executives considering a run for high public office. “I can’t tell you their names, obviously,” he said.” [NYTimes

“Blumberg Capital closes $200 million fund” by Katie Roof: “They are willing to look at opportunities that are just in the idea stage and will write checks “even in companies with no product,” explained David Blumberg, founder and managing partner. He likes focusing on seed- and early-stage startups because of the potential for bigger returns… He’s particularly interested in “helping the little guy do better,” and that guides some of his investments in the personal finance category.” [TC

“WeWork Is Giving Away $20 Million in Cash Prizes to Other Startups” by Ellen Huet: “The New York-based co-working giant said it’ll give away $20 million in cash prizes to entrepreneurs and small businesses in a series of competitions called the Creator Awards. Adam Neumann, WeWork’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said the contest will serve as a way to celebrate reaching 100,000 members… In WeWork’s case, the company won’t take equity or ask for repayment from the startups it gives money to, Neumann said. “We’re doing this to give back,” said the 37-year-old CEO. “We’re not doing this as a loan. We’re literally giving this.”” [Bloomberg]

“Maverick’s Guy Oseary: ‘Engineers Are the Rock Stars of Today'” by Craig Marks: “A friend of mine started WeWork, and I didn’t invest. I loved the concept, too: It’s about sharing of services, location, support — it’s everything I love. And it’s now worth 20 billion dollars. What was I thinking?” [Billboard]

MEDIA WATCH: “An anti-Trump tabloid pulls back” by Joe Pompeo: “During a rare newsroom appearance last January, according to people who were there, owner Mort Zuckerman, the 79-year-old real estate mogul and long-time Democratic donor, gushed about what the News was doing and all the buzz it was getting. At one point, according to two of the sources present, he turned to Rich and quipped, “Where have you been all my life?” (It’s no secret in New York media circles that Zuckerman’s health is in decline, which is why he has now fully stepped away from running the paper, entrusting that responsibility to his nephew, Eric Gertler.)” [Politico

“Being Norman Oppenheimer” by Hannah Brown: “At an expensive men’s clothing store, Norman insists on treating Eshel to a very pricey pair of shoes, and this creates a bond between them. When Eshel becomes prime minister a few years later, Norman congratulates himself, exulting, “For once, I bet on the right horse.” How Norman tries to cash in on his connection to Eshel is a story that is fun and full of twists. These involve connections and deals he tries to make among a diverse group of powerful men, including a blustering, self-important rabbi (Steve Buscemi) of an upscale Manhattan synagogue — genius casting — and not one but two billionaire financiers (Josh Charles and Harris Yulin).” [JPost] With the help of A-list actors, Israel’s most successful director takes a jab at Israeli exploitation of U.S. Jewry [Haaretz

SCENE LAST NIGHT: Carol Blue, widow of the late Christopher Hitchens, cohosted a book party for Jamie Kirchick’s debut book The End of Europe. In introducing Kirchick, Blue noted “No one could fill his (Christopher’s) shoes but Jamie comes close.” About 200 people were in attendance including Michael Barone, Peter Berkowitz, Jim Denton, Amb. Norm Eisen, Benjamin Haddad, Michael Pillsbury, David Satter, Amb. Andras Simonyi and Andrew Sullivan.

“DeVos praises Orthodox Jewish group that strongly backs public funding for religious schools” by Valerie Strauss: “U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has made school “choice” a policy priority, met on Wednesday with leaders of an Orthodox Jewish group that has been instrumental in pushing voucher programs across the country. She praised their “leadership and commitment” in helping communities secure schools that “meet the academic and religious needs of their families” and said she looks forward to working with them… Although Agudath Israel of America does not ordinarily advocate for Cabinet members, it urged its supporters to lobby the Senate to confirm DeVos, with whom it has worked for years on school-choice issues.” [WashPost]

Rabbi A. D. Motzen, National Director of State Relations for Agudath Israel, tells us: Agudah leaders walked away “very impressed” and encouraged from the meeting. “She was very genuine, and she sincerely wants to continue this conversation to work with us on these issues,” he said. “This about having a seat at the table so that our voice is heard. We are a minority, and sometimes the minority voice is not heard. With DeVos, we know we will be heard. Having someone who is looking out for that minority voice. Whatever the discussion might be, we have our unique voice in being loud and clear. That, I think, is going to be amplified much more in this administration.”

DESSERT: “Eric Greenspan Jumps Into the Deli Scene With New Kosher Sandwich Shop in Los Angeles” by Farley Elliott: “Fleishik (Yiddish for meat) lands in the former Urban Garden space right along that dense stretch of Beverly not far from The Grove, and next door to Sweet Rose Creamery. The spot will serve traditional Jewish fare that expands beyond the traditional deli, from brisket to grilled salami to more composed sandwiches you’d never find at Jerry’s Deli. You can also find throwbacks like a Waldorf salad and miniature bites of kugel, and all with a full underlying liquor license to boot.” [LAEater]

“The 10 Coolest Places to Eat in 2017” by Ann Abel: “If you’re from Israel you know this restaurant,” says restaurateur and sommelier turned professional bon vivant Kristian Brask Thomsen, host of the three-day gastronomic blowouts known as Dining Impossible. But it deserves wider attention. On a steep side street by the city’s bMy Dinner at Nothing: Dining at the World’s Most Exclusive Kosher Restaurant” ustling food market, Machneyuda is the creation of Israeli Iron Chefs Krav Sakinim, Asaf Granit and Uri Navon, alongside Jerusalem’s “slow food” champion, Yossi Asaf. “They realized a dream of serving guests ‘happy food’ in an extremely fun-loving dining experience, combining seasonal cuisine with a homey interior featuring china from one chef’s grandmother’s house,” says Brask Thomsen. “Add loud music and staff and guests dancing on tables, and you just might have the most memorable eating experience of the Middle East.” Ask for a bespoke evening at the Chef’s Bar, where one of the principals will curate a custom made tasting menu.” [Forbes]

PURIM SPOOF: “My Dinner at Nothing: Dining at the World’s Most Exclusive Kosher Restaurant” by Gamliel Kronemer: “I had been wanting to dine at the legendary Nothing ever since I first heard about it a year ago. Nothing, the brainchild of autodidactic wunder-chef Yankel Gornisht, is a 12-seat kosher restaurant located in the basement of Gornisht’s suburban Bergenfield home, where diners are treated to a six-course prix fixe tasting menu for an entirely reasonable $400 per person (plus wine and gratuities). For those following the treif world’s culinary trends, Gornisht might be compared to Damon Baehrel’s Damon Baehrel in Earlton, New York, a half hour south of Albany—which, for some, is the most exclusive restaurant in America.” [JewishLink] • Read the original New Yorker profile on Baehrel by Nick Paumgarten for context [NewYorker]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Odem Mountain 1060 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — by Yitz Applbaum: Although travel has always been a necessary and important part of my life, I have always made it a policy to be home with family on Shabbat. The exceptions to this rule have been few and far between. Last Shabbat, I had no choice but to be in Maui. My better half could not join, so I invited my wine-making and wine-drinking buddy, Dan, to spend Shabbat with me. We opened a bottle which I recently acquired, the Odem Mountain 1060 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, vintage 2012. The wine is produced by the Alfasi family.

This bottle is one of the top wines I have ever experienced. Reminiscent of a giant California cabernet, this bottle exploded with deep tannins on the front part of my tongue. In the middle palate I got a brief respite in intensity, then the finish overwhelms with unripened fruit — think blackberries. It was only five minutes later that it all actually blended together, in my memory. The grapes are grown in the northernmost part of the Golan, and it is predominantly Cabernet. The label does not list any Petit Verdot, but somehow or other I know there is Petit Verdot in this wine. The “1060” will last a very long time, but if you dare to open a bottle now, let it breathe and eat it with a 16-20 oz steak. [Harodam

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Long Beach, California general surgeon, Leonard M. Lovitch, MD turns 73… Record producer, former co-president of Columbia Records and a co-founder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin turns 54… Peabody Award-winning financial journalist and market news analyst for CNBC and one of the co-hosts of its morning show “Squawk on the Street,” David Faber turns 53… Stage, screen and television actor, the son of novelist Norman Mailer, Stephen Mailer turns 51… Investigative reporter for The New York Times stationed in the London bureau, Danny Hakim turns 46… CEO of DC-based International Lifeline Fund, an NGO focused on poor countries, previously President of both the Genesis Prize Foundation (2013-2015) and Hillel (2006-2013), Wayne L. Firestone… News editor of Mishpacha magazine, Binyamin Rose turns 61… Author and publisher of the Phoenix Scottsdale Jewish Friendship Trail Guidebook, Michael A. Ross… Chief Transformation Officer at Gaithersburg, MD-based BroadSoft, previously a consultant to Israeli start-up and established companies and government officials, Jeffrey Kahn

SATURDAY: Professor emeritus at Princeton University whose research focused upon the Cairo Geniza and Jewish life in Muslim countries, Mark R. Cohen turns 74… Composer and conductor specializing in movie scores, since 1984 he has composed the music for nearly 100 feature films, David Louis Newman turns 63… Hudson Bay Capital’s Sander Gerber… Singer-songwriter who has also worked in film, television, voice-over work and children’s recordings, also promotes an eponymous line of eyeglasses, Lisa Loeb turns 49… Israeli singer-songwriter and pianist who has twice been recognized as Israel’s Singer of the Year, Keren Peles turns 38… VP for investor relations and communications at Ridgewood Energy, an energy-focused private equity firm, Samuel J. Lissner turns 31… Graduate of Yale Law School, clerked for Judge Cabranes on the 2nd Circuit, co-founder of Headliner Labs, Dana Stern Gibber… President of Jerusalem Capital Studios, a graduate of Harvard Business School, Michal Grayevsky… Graduate of NYU (B.A., cum laude), University of Illinois (M.S. in journalism) and University of North Carolina (Ph.D.), Sharon Polansky… Hermine Warren… Glenda Kresh

SUNDAY: Chief Washington correspondent for CNN and anchor of the Sunday morning program “State of the Union,” Jacob Paul “Jake” Tapper turns 48… Attorney, real estate developer and president of AIPAC (2014-2015), Robert A. Cohen… Rabbi, born in Venezuela, raised in Israel, now residing in Lakewood, NJ, Yitzchak Abadi turns 84… Photographer, author of 15 children’s books and musician, married to Alan Alda since 1957, Arlene Weiss Alda turns 84… Director, producer and screenwriter of movies and television including “The Fast and the Furious” film franchise, Rob Cohen turns 68… Born in Bombay, British sculptor who recently won the $1 million Genesis Prize, Sir Anish Kapoor turns 63… Sportscaster for ESPN since 1993, host of SportsCenter best known for his work broadcasting NHL hockey, Steve Levy turns 52… Israeli figure skater who won the 2016 World Junior championship, Daniel Samohin turns 19… Chief Marketing Officer at Consensus Systems, better known as ConsenSys, a blockchain software technology company, Amanda Gutterman… Founder of, and designer for, a NYC-based eponymous clothing line that uses CEOs and other successful women as its fashion models (“role models not runway models”), Carrie Hammer… Principal of the Ryan Advocacy group, previously campaign manager for Rick Perry’s presidential campaign and an advisor for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Jeff Miller… Sam Cohen turns 84… Carol Margolis turns 72… Lynne Blumenthal turns 59…

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Daily Kickoff: Question dividing Israeli leaders — How to cash in on Trump? | Bill Clinton to talk Rabin at Brookings | Bush 41 receives Mensch Award

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HAPPENING TODAY ON THE HILL — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the nomination of David Friedman for US Ambassador to Israel at 10:30 AM.

The Republicans on the committee are all expected to vote for Friedman, including Senator Rand Paul (R-KN) who told Jewish Insider that he is “favorably disposed” to the New York attorney’s candidacy. Sen. Ben Cardin, the committee’s Ranking Democratic Member told reporters yesterday that he will vote against Friedman since his candidacy contradicts the “bipartisan tradition” of U.S. support for Israel. Cardin, one of the most hawkish Senate Democrats on Israel who voted against the Iran deal, will likely give cover to other Democrats on the committee to also oppose Friedman, while Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who was quoted as saying that he is “inclined to be supportive” of Trump’s pick, could provide Friedman with bipartisan support. [JewishInsider

“Senate Dems: State Department is in disarray” by Jordain Carney: “Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Chris Murphy (Conn.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warning that his department is nearing a “tipping point.” … The letter comes amid multiple reports speculating that Tillerson is being overshadowed on foreign policy decisions by some in the president’s inner circle, including White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law… Staffers for Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.)… told reporters that including ambassador nominations there are more than 200 vacancies currently at the department. Cardin, who didn’t sign the letter… stressed that he hopes the Secretary of State will be the leading designer of U.S. foreign policy.” [TheHill] 

“Jared Kushner’s Conflicts Of Interest Questioned By Democratic Lawmakers” by Cody Fenwick: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware and Maryland’s Rep. Elijah Cummings from the House Oversight Committee signed the letter. “Federal conflict of interest laws prohibit a federal official, such as Mr. Kushner, from profiting off of his government work,” they wrote. “Neither the White House nor Mr. Kushner’s attorneys has confirmed which financial assets Mr. Kushner still controls – rendering oversight of Mr. Kushner’s recusals and compliance with conflict-of-interest law impossible,” they continue.” [Patch

INTERVIEW — Freshman Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD 8th District) speaks to JI’s Aaron Magid about his Jewish identity, his views on the Middle East peace process and the recent rise in anti-Semitism. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Raskin’s career has shifted from the classroom to Capitol Hill. Nonetheless, one theme has consistently remained: “Everything I always wanted to be in life started with the letter ‘p’: professor, politician, philosopher, poet, a playwright and a professional football player,” he told Jewish Insider in an in-depth interview, adding, “I’m a big chess player and a bit of an insomniac so I stay up late playing chess online.”

On U.S. support for a two-state solution: “If we can’t make peace between peace between J Street and AIPAC, what are our chances of making peace between Israel and the Palestinians? I hope that I will be part of solutions that strengthen and fortify Israel and bring real peace between Israel and the Palestinians and make the whole region a source of prosperity and justice rather than unremitting conflict and terrorism… I favor a two state solution, which has been the American position for decades. I think it’s also been the Israeli position for decades. I am for a strong resilient prosperous Israel. I am for the vindication of the rights and aspirations of the Palestinians too who have been the victims of lots of events all over the world including from their own leaders.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

HAPPENING TODAY: Former President Bill Clinton will be speaking at a Brookings Institute event at 2:00 PM about Yitzchak Rabin’s peace negotiations with the Palestinians and relationship with global leaders. Afterwards, a panel moderated by Martin Indyk will discuss a new book titled: “Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman” by Itamar Rabinovich, a fellow at the think tank. Clinton and Rabin established an especially close bond while in power. The former US President delivered a deeply personal eulogy at Rabin’s funeral with the famous words “Shalom Chaver.” [Livestream]

DEALMAKING TIME: “Trump adviser to visit Israel, discuss settlements” by Times of Israel: “[Jason] Greenblatt’s visit will focus on West Bank settlement policy, Channel 2 news reported Wednesday. The goal of Greenblatt’s visit is reportedly to formulate the Trump administration’s position on settlements, including what the US will accept in terms of where and how much Israel can build. One of the main topics of discussion will be the new settlement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to the former residents of the Amona outpost, who were evicted from their homes last month, the report said.” [ToI

HEARD YESTERDAY – WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer on settlements: “I know that when [Trump and Netanyahu] met here at the White House, there was discussion of settlements, and the President was very clear about what his desires and his wishes were. I think as we continue to follow up with Israel in the coming weeks, we will have more on that.”

“Defense Chief Lieberman to Tillerson: Settlements Not an Impediment to Peace” by Gili Cohen: “According to a statement issued by Lieberman’s office, the defense chief told Tillerson that “even the uprooting of 21 blooming towns in Gaza did not lead to peace but rather to rocket fire at Israel.” Lieberman also asked the secretary of state to instruct the State Department to review its policy toward The United Nations’ Human Rights Council and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.” [Haaretz

“Will Trump split the Israeli right?” by Ben Caspit: “According to Israeli sources familiar with workings in Washington, a fight between two opposing factions is underway there as well over the shape of administration policy…Representing the pro-Israel faction are ambassador nominee David Friedman and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. Representing the realists are Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. That is why the Israeli right is watching Liberman’s trip to Washington and his meetings with Mattis and Tillerson with considerable consternation. “The damage he will do in Washington will be very hard to repair later,” said one Knesset member from HaBayit HaYehudi who requested anonymity.” [Al-Monitor]

“How to Cash In on Trump? The Question Dividing Israel’s Leaders” by David Wainer: “Netanyahu, according to an official close to him, wants to leverage Trump’s support to create a broad alliance against Iran… To keep that goal alive, the official said, Netanyahu wants to steer clear of dramatic moves on settlements. “Precisely because Netanyahu sees opportunities for renewing a strategic front against Iran, with America at the helm, settlement-building is much lower on the list of his priorities,” said Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute.” [Bloomberg] • Israeli Ambassador Dani Dayan: “We See Eye to Eye with U.S. on Iran” [Newsmax]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Prime Minister Netanyahu is spending the day at the Kremlin, meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin for the fifth time in a year and a half. For the past week, Bibi has been talking about this meeting on a daily basis, putting the Syrian front on the top of his agenda. Jerusalem is concerned about Iran boosting its presence in Syria the day after the civil war ends. Ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu said that it is a “very important meeting for Israel’s security. Defeating ISIS terror cannot lead to an increase in Iranian terror, nor its proxies. You do not replace terror with terror.” Accompanying Bibi to Moscow are IDF Intelligence chief Herzi Halevi and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin of the Likud. Elkin has been Netanyahu’s companion and translator in all of his recent meetings with Putin. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“As Trump Makes Threats, Iran Makes Friends” by Donna Abu-Nasr: “As the world adjusts to the Trump era, the message for Washington and its allies is that Iran wields growing influence in unexpected places. The Islamic power has been able to expand its reach regardless of the economic sanctions that excluded it from much of the global oil market until last year. In this case, it’s in Africa’s most populous nation, key oil producer and a country where the sectarian battle that has thrown the Middle East into chaos is festering. Nigeria’s Muslims are mainly Sunnis and Iran’s growing foothold in Africa has alarmed the Saudis.” [Bloomberg

“Israel to assist in US struggle against anti-Semitism” by Itamar Eichner: ““The US Jewish community leaders are very concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism and disappointed that Israel has failed to express enough understanding, sympathy and support of their situation,” said Michael Oren, a Deputy Minister in the prime minister’s office. “Jews in the US are now between a rock and a hard place, between left-wing anti-Semitism and right-wing anti-Semitism,” he said… “Israel needs to find ways to help,” Oren urged.” [Ynet]

MENSCH AWARD: “Condemning hatred – former President, First Lady honored by Jewish community” by Damali Keith:“The event was President George H.W. Bush’s second public appearance since battling pneumonia in January 2017. First, he appeared at Super Bowl LI as part of the pre-game coin toss. On Wednesday, he and his wife Barbara expressed their defiance toward hatred… President and Mrs. Bush arrived to a standing ovation from of a small crowd of invited guests and in a gracious ceremony, they were presented with the Mensch Award. The event took place at the Jewish synagogue Congregation Beth-Israel where Neil Bush, speaking on behalf of his parents, said they are disgusted by the dozens of recent Jewish Center vandalism cases and threats.” [Fox26]

SCENE YESTERDAY IN DC: White house aides — including Jason Greenblatt, Boris Epshteyn, Avi Berkowitz and Sebastian Gorka — met with members of Agudath Israel of America’s Board of Trustees and Regional Directors on their annual Leadership Mission to Washington at the White House for a briefing on the administration’s activities.

PHOTOS: Avi Berkowitz with his cousin former AIPAC president Howard Friedman [Pic] • Jeff Ballabon and Gorka in a friendly chat [Pic

TRUMP APPOINTMENTS: “Trump to Pick Former UN Spokesman Grenell for NATO Post, Official Says” by Nick Wadhams and Jennifer Jacobs: “President Donald Trump will nominate Richard Grenell to be his ambassador to NATO, according to a White House official, a selection that would make the longtime loyalist and former U.S. spokesman at the United Nations the highest-ranking openly gay person to serve in the administration… If he wins Senate confirmation, Grenell will take a pivotal position in the Trump administration. The president spurred widespread anxiety in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization when he called the alliance “obsolete” and suggested during the campaign the U.S. might not honor its defense commitments if other members don’t pay their share.” [Bloomberg

“Trump’s personnel problem” by Jonathan Swan: “Treasury has been having major headaches in getting Mnuchin’s people confirmed… The White House has been irritated that Mnuchin has been asking for people viewed as liberals or in one case a Hillary Clinton donor. Treasury spokesman Jason Chung denied there were any problems and said Mnuchin “could not be happier with how the appointment and nomination process is going.” [Axios]

“The Myth of Trump’s Loyalty” by McKay Coppins: “Despite his boasts, the president built his success on his willingness to toss aside mentors, friends, and family members during moments of frustration and chaos.” [TheAtlantic]

BROOKLYN JEWS STICKING WITH TRUMP — “Poll: New York Jews Would Vote For Trump Over Clinton Again” by Michael Johnson: “A closer look at the crosstabs shows that in predominantly Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Queens where we polled, voters backed Trump by significant margins—62 percent in Brooklyn and 24 percent in Queens. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, Clinton held a 53 percent edge over Trump in the heavily Jewish zip codes that NYJL polled.” [NYJLife

** 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: How Trump could soon be at war with Yellen [Politico] • Michael Bloomberg’s longtime money manager steps down [Axios] • Billionaire Rennert must pay $213.2 million judgment: U.S. appeals court [Reuters Glencore Is on to a Winner With This Obscure Metal [Bloomberg] • Inside the Leviev–Julius Klein Corporate Divorce [JCK• Edgar Bronfman Jr. drops out of the race for Time Inc. [WSJ]

STARTUP NATION: “Endor emerges from MIT research with unique predictive analytics tech” by Ron Miller: “Endor applied its own proprietary technology based on Social Physics theory, and created a commercial cloud service, where the customer simply feeds the data into the model, and then in minutes (after however it longs to take to upload the data) can begin asking questions and getting answers based on the content of that data in the context of Social Physics. In fact, the biggest bottleneck is not the processing itself. It’s getting the data into the system, according to Alter.” [TC]

“Ivanka Trump’s Landlord Is a Chilean Billionaire Suing the U.S. Government” by Mark Maremont and James Grimaldi: “The six-bedroom house in the capital’s Kalorama neighborhood was bought for $5.5 million in late December by a company controlled by Andrónico Luksic… The Obama administration in its waning days blocked a Luksic-company plan to build a giant copper-and-nickel mine adjacent to a Minnesota wilderness area, citing environmental concerns. The company and some Minnesota politicians are urging the Trump administration to reverse the decision… Rodrigo Terré, a relative of Mr. Luksic’s who manages the billionaire’s personal investments, said… “categorically” there was no relationship between the house rental and the Minnesota mining dispute, adding that he and Mr. Luksic had not met their famous tenants.” [WSJ]

Ivanka Trump writes “Women’s day is every day!” alongside a Golda Meir quote this morning: “Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” [Twitter]

ICYMI: “Does Feminism Have Room for Zionists?” by Emily Shire: “But my prime concern is not that people hold this view of Israel. Rather, I find it troubling that embracing such a view is considered an essential part of an event that is supposed to unite feminists. I am happy to debate Middle East politics or listen to critiques of Israeli policies. But why should criticism of Israel be key to feminism in 2017?” [NYTimes]

“White House Echoes Tech: ‘Move Fast and Break Things’” by Charles Duhigg: “During the race, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with Gabriel Leydon, founder of a company in Palo Alto, Calif., named MZ, previously known as Machine Zone, which created the highly popular games Mobile Strike and Game of War: Fire Age. Mr. Leydon, one of the biggest online advertisers, agreed to share insights about digital marketing tactics with the Trump campaign.” [NYTimes

MEDIA WATCH: “Top U.S. Media Execs Turn to Israel TV Conference for Guidance in Chaotic Times” by Debra Kamin: “This week, as Keshet Media Group — Israel’s undisputed television heavyweight — launched its fourth installment of INTV, its quasi-annual Jerusalem confab on innovation in television, it has among its participants for the first time CNN president Jeff Zucker, Fox Television Group CEO Dana Walden, and NBC president Jennifer Salke. “When you look at the gestalt, it’s about how you maintain your sense of direction, creation, and vocation under these circumstances,” says Avi Nir, CEO of Keshet.” [Variety]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “His great-grandfather spoke of a crashed Nazi plane. Decades later, the 14-year-old Danish schoolboy found it” by Ben Guarino: “In November 1944, or maybe it was December, a German fighter plane crashed down on the Kristiansen family farm in Denmark. That was one of the many tales told by 14-year-old Daniel Kristiansen’s great-grandfather… But Daniel and his father, Klaus Kristiansen, decided there was no harm in searching for the plane with a metal detector. To their surprise, the detector beeped. The father and son began to dig. Some four yards down, they hit metal. And then they found human remains.” [WashPost]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israel baseball team beats Netherlands, remains undefeated” by Allon Sinai:“Thursday’s showdown with the Dutch was mainly about maintaining momentum, with both teams having qualified for the last eight and the only difference between finishing first or second in Pool A being the eventual schedule in Tokyo. Israel, nevertheless, wanted to enter the next round on a high, and it will do so after once more getting off to a fast start. The blue-and-white scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back. Pitcher Jason Marquis got the win for Israel, allowing one hit in the opening inning, the only one he pitched.” [JPost; SBNation] • Team Israel Pool A recap: 3 wins. 21 runs. 1 Mensch on the Bench. [Twitter]

BIRTHDAYS: Mayor of North York, Ontario (1973-1997), then Mayor of Toronto (1998-2003), founder of the Bad Boy Furniture chain, Mel Lastman turns 84… Professor of sociology and Jewish studies at the University of Toronto (1974-2012, now professor emeritus), best known for his work on German Jewry, Y. Michal Bodemann turns 73… Sag Harbor-based painter, sculptor and printmaker, Eric Fischl turns 69… Rhodes Scholar, Harvard Law graduate, political journalist and commentator, former co-host of CNN’s Crossfire, editor at large for The New Republic, Michael Kinsley turns 66… Moroccan-born member of Knesset (since 1998) now representing the Zionist Union party, previously Minister of Defense (2006-2007) and leader of the Labor Party, Amir Peretz turns 65… President and CEO of NYC’s flagship public TV station WNET, previously the president of NBC News and the executive producer for Dateline NBC, Neal Shapiro turns 59… CEO of NYC-based Gotham Media, holds an MA in Russian history from the London School of Economics and a JD from Harvard Law, previously an Emmy Award-winning producer for ABC News Nightline, Gordon Platt turns 55… VP and Chief Strategy Officer at Intel Corporation, David I. Ginsberg turns 42 (h/t Playbook)… Chief of Staff and Acting Deputy US Trade Representative, Matthew Vogel turns 39…

Management consultant in the NYC office of McKinsey & Company, previously at the Washington Post, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, where he served as president of The Harvard Crimson, Amit Paley turns 35… Jerusalem City Councilman from the Hitorerut B’Yerushalayim party, Hanan Rubin turns 35… Israeli-born singer, now one-half of the world music duo Shlomit & RebbeSoul, Shlomit Levi turns 34… Communications director for North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper since 2-2017, previously at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Alissa “Sadie” Weiner turns 30… Founding partner of Mothership Strategies, a DC-based firm using digital strategies for organizational fundraising and activism, previously at the DCCC, Jacob “Jake” Austin Lipsett turns 24… CEO at New Orleans-based hotel restaurant chain, Our House Hospitality and COO of the Besh Restaurant Group, Emery Whalen… Private equity and venture capital investor, Howie Fialkov… Stephen Lent

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Daily Kickoff: Israel advances to 2nd round of WBC | Haidt, Bruni & Senor on state of the campus debate re Israel | Art World Disowns Javanka

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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “For Trump and Netanyahu, a Budding Symbiotic Relationship” by Mark Landler: “Mr. Trump’s conveniently timed call was a not-so-subtle reminder to Israel’s attorney general that indicting Mr. Netanyahu… could harm Israel’s national security at a dangerous time… “It appears that President Trump is prepared to go a long way to help Prime Minister Netanyahu with his domestic difficulties and that Netanyahu, in return, is willing to provide a kosher seal of approval for a president who was slow to condemn anti-Semitism,” said Martin S. Indyk… American and Israeli officials insist they did not coordinate Mr. Trump’s call for political effect. White House officials said Mr. Trump told aides on Monday morning he wanted to speak to Mr. Netanyahu.”

“So far, experts said, Mr. Netanyahu had benefited more from the relationship than Mr. Trump. “Solving today’s problems probably helps Bibi more than Trump in the short term,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer… “But in the larger picture of how Israel is viewed in Washington, it probably helps Trump as well.” [NYTimes]

“Defense Minister Lieberman Tells Pence: I Expect to See U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Soon” by Amir Tibon:“According to an official statement, Lieberman told Pence during the meeting that he “expects to see the U.S. Embassy [in Israel] at its new location in Jerusalem soon” and thanked Pence and the Trump administration for supporting Israel. “We have true friends in the White House,” Lieberman said after the meeting. He added that “the United States under President Donald Trump is a true partner of Israel’s in facing the different challenges in the region, first among them the Iranian issue.” … Also on Tuesday, Lieberman met with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis.” [Haaretz

Sebastian Gorka tweets: “The REAL West Wing: you walk into the lobby and there’s VP Pence with Dr Kissinger surrounded by scouts and cadets!” [Pic] • Gorka didn’t mention Lieberman who is with Pence in the photo

Dan Shapiro writes: “It’s a challenging time to be an ally visiting Washington. The ramp-up phase of any new Admin is difficult, even in best of conditions. The lack of articulated policies and empowered personnel can leave foreign delegations frustrated and without the clarity they seek… Under Trump, the challenge is clearly harder: no Deputies named, no UnderSecs, Asst Secs… Lots of other value in Lieberman’s trip: personal ties, coord on missile defense, joint training, cyber, Israel’s QME, Gaza, Lebanon. But when Bibi asks him what is US policy on Iran & Syria, I bet he goes with his sardonic “Ha Kol Gan Eden” – Everything is paradise.” [Twitter

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: While media outlets were swamped with leaks from Bibi’s fourth investigation, the Prime Minister along with his wife Sarah continued their Bibi-tours yesterday, this time encouraging domestic tourism with a visit to the southern city of Eilat. Netanyahu spent the day signing housing agreements with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Housing Minister Yoav Galant, pledging to double Eilat’s size and economy.

The Knesset erupted in debate today over the controversial Muezzin Bill, which limits the use of outdoor loudspeakers by houses of worship to daytime only. The bill passed a preliminary vote. The main target of the bill, proposed by MKs from Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu, is the crack-of-dawn call to prayer from mosques. Bayit Yehudi MK Motti Yogev said he proposed the bill after receiving complaints from both Jews and Muslims about the muezzin’s call. However, Likud MK Yehudah Glick and Zionist Union’s Zouheir Bahloul have commenced a bipartisan and interfaith campaign to reach agreements on the matter through a dialogue and not legislation. Glick rebelled against the coalition, absenting himself from the vote. The bipartisan efforts may be in vain, however, since Netanyahu has thrown his support behind the bill – some say at the behest of his son Yair, who can reportedly hear the mosques in Jisr az-Zarqa from the family’s home in Caesarea.

Tzipi Livni and Ayelet Shaked are the top female candidates for the premiership these days, according to a Walla! news poll published today for International Women’s Day. Livni has run for the job in the past, but lost to Netanyahu in the 2009 elections. Justice Minister Shaked, number two in the Jewish Home party, has recently stated that she sees herself as future PM candidate as well. However, Shaked rushed to avoid getting in trouble with her party’s leader, Naftali Bennett, saying she was talking about the distant future and that she believes Bennett will be the next PM after Netanyahu. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Israel’s travel ban: Boycott supporters to be turned away” by Oren Liebermann: “Every country has the right to determine who enters its borders,” said Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, speaking at conference on Tuesday. “The law adopted yesterday to prevent the entrance of BDS activists into Israel is another step in our struggle against those who seek to delegitimize Israel while hiding behind the language of human rights.” [CNN]

Kenneth Bob, president of Ameinu, which describes itself as a progressive Zionist organization in New York, told Foreign Policy: “Israel should never take actions that reinforce the Far Left’s claim that Israel and its supporters use the power of the state to violate the freedom of speech of their opponents.” [ForeignPolicy]

HEARD ON CHARLIE ROSE: NYU professor Jonathan Haidt and NYT’s Frank Bruni discussing the state of the debate regarding Israel on college campuses with guest moderator Dan Senor, stepping in for Charlie on the eponymous PBS show:

Senor: “When I was on college campus, I was active in the Israel debate – the Israel debate and the peace process. Let’s take the students today on campus, they say the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) debate about boycotting Israel – getting campuses to boycott Israel – it’s no longer just between those who support one policy on Israel and those who oppose one policy on Israel, which it was when I was going to college. Now those who are hostile to Israel, or U.S. policy towards Israel, are joined by almost like a coalition of all these different factions who know nothing about the issue but they all lock arms.”

Haidt: “The key to the new morality is a method of looking at society and looking in terms of power and privilege. So, the old idea of education is – come to campus, we’re going to teach you lots of perspectives that you can use…  What’s happening now is some students – only in a few departments – are learning only one perspective to look at everything. And so you start, this is a good kind of identity politics which is, you know, if black people being denied rights, that’s right for the right. That’s the good kind. There’s a bad kind which is to train students, train young people, to say, let’s divide everybody up by their race and gender and other categories. We will find a moral merit based on their level of privileges is bad and victimhood is good. Now, let’s look at everything through this lens. The Palestinians are the victims. So, therefore they are the good and the Jews, the Israelis are the bad. This is one totalizing perspective. All social problems get reduced to the simple framework. I think we’re doing them a disservice. I think we’re actually making students less wise.”

Bruni: “You mentioned Israel… I think if you’re an Israel supporter, you probably bite your tongue more than you shout out… and you shouldn’t have to do that.” Conversation is from 19:34 to 22:08 in the video [CharlieRose]

FOGGY PRESSER: “State Department’s resumed briefing strives for normal” by Nahal Toosi: “Associated Press diplomatic writer Matthew Lee was, as usual, called on first… Lee asked for details about a Trump administration plan to review financial assistance for the Palestinians. “As always, you’ve stumped me right out of the box,” Toner replied. “I don’t have a status update on that assistance.” … One topic where it was clear that the new administration has a more hard-edged view than the one before it was that of Iran. Just months ago, Toner—a career Foreign Service officer—was defending President Barack Obama’s engagement with Iran on a nuclear deal. On Tuesday, he repeatedly berated Iran in striking terms for its “bad behavior” in the Middle East.” [Politico

“No news at the State Department” by Josh Rogin: “On policies that the president has spoken out on, Toner was much more comfortable giving details — by repeating what the president has said. For example, Toner articulated U.S. policy on Israeli settlement activity by referring to the president’s news conference. President Trump “said he would like to see Israel hold back on settlement activity, and we are in discussions with Israel as to what that would look like,” Toner said. But when asked how the administration intends to get from that statement to an actual peace process, Toner returned to form. “We are working closely with the White House on evaluating where we stand,” he said. “At this point we are still at a stage where we are looking at the situation and formulating next steps.”” [WashPost]  Trump’s State Department Discovers That Press Briefings Aren’t Deadly [FP

“New Palestinian Envoy to U.S. Welcomes Trump’s Desire for an ‘Ultimate’ Peace Deal” by Mark Leftly: “Speaking to media in Ramallah minutes before he was sworn in as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)’s chief representative in Washington on Tuesday, Dr Husam Zomlot said he had faith Trump would listen to both sides in any negotiations. “There are sufficient signs he [Trump] is after the ultimate deal. My task is to explain we’re the ultimate power, that we have done sufficient investment to be the launchpad for that deal,” he said. “If President Trump seeks the ultimate deal, he needs to know we’re the ultimate partners. There will be no deal without us.” [TimeMag]

TOP TALKER: “Calls for more security as new threats made against Jewish centers” by Ray Sanchez and David Shortell: “”This is not ‘normal,'” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement, “We will not be deterred or intimidated. These threats (are) in addition to threats to at least six JCCs and three day schools in Oregon, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Florida, Maryland and Toronto.” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neil on Tuesday held a closed-door meeting with Jewish leaders at a JCC on Staten Island to discuss the anti-Semitic incidents throughout the city… Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday directed the state police to coordinate with federal and local law enforcement to investigate bomb threats against New York Jewish community centers in Rochester and Syracuse and the Anti-Defamation League headquarters in Manhattan.” [CNN; CBSNews

“Alluding to Trump, de Blasio calls for vigilance against spike in anti-Semitic crimes” by Azi Paybarah: “We understand what’s happened around the country in the last few months,” said [Mayor Bill] de Blasio, standing in the lobby of the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island… “We’ve never seen a concentrated threat against the Jewish community.” …  The mayor recalled hearing stories of World War II from his parents… When asked what he would like to see from Washington in light of these anti-Semitic incidents, the mayor replied, “In a moment like this, everyone should speak up… The more condemnation, the better.” [Politico]  De Blasio and Cuomo United Amid Wave of Anti-Semitic Threats [NYTimes

ON THE HILL — All 100 Senators have signed a letter urging the Trump Administration to take action in response to the rash of anonymous bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCC’s), Jewish Day Schools, synagogues and Jewish institutions. In a bipartisan letter directed to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director James Comey, the senators stressed the importance of these centers within their communities, and offers suggestions for deterring the threats of violence.

Two Democratic Senators spoke out yesterday against David Friedman’s nomination as U.S. Ambassador to Israel ahead of Thursday’s confirmation vote. “At this moment, I do not intend to support his nomination.” Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) told JI’s Aaron Magid. “His record clearly indicates that he is not in the bipartisan tradition of seeking out the two state solution. He is much more an advocate for some kind of one state solution. I think his views are so far out of the bipartisan mainstream.”

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) shared a similar viewpoint with Jewish Insider. “I’m deeply concerned about his nomination. His past comments have been pretty incendiary, and I don’t think he would help with any type of movement towards reconciliation and a two state solution,” she noted. [JewishInsider

“Israeli ambassador hopeful spurns J Street” by Burgess Everett: “In a letter to Friedman, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said that Friedman must meet with him before he is confirmed to prove that he willing to engage with advocacy groups that disagree with his brand of conservative politics… “We understand that during this process you have committed to senators that you are willing to meet with with pro-Israel organizations whose views you do not share, and with J Street specifically,” Ben Ami wrote this week in a letter obtained by POLITICO… “Accordingly, I am requesting a meeting with you to take place before the final vote on your confirmation.”” [Politico] • In Letter to Top Senator, WJC Head Lauder Defends Trump’s Pick to Serve as Next US Envoy to Israel, Blasts Criticism as ‘Beyond Outrageous’ [Algemeiner

TRUMP TEAM: President Trump announced yesterday the nomination of Jeffrey A. Rosen as Deputy Secretary for Department of Transportation. Rosen, a senior partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP,  was General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of Management and Budget from 2006 through 2009, and from 2003 through 2006, he served as General Counsel at the Department of Transportation.

Tevi Troy tells us: “Rosen is a great pick to be Secretary Chao’s deputy at the Department of Transportation. He is a smart and strategic policy maker. He knows the Department well from his previous sojourn there, but also has high-level OMB experience, which will be essential in his new role. As I know from long conversations and work with him, Jeff has given a lot of thought to the regulatory state and how to best reform it to the benefit of all Americans. He will have a lot of opportunities to work on this in the new position. The only bad thing I can say about Jeff is that he’s a Red Sox fan, but I try not to hold it against him.”

“The Trump loyalist roiling network green rooms” by Annie Karni: “On all three cable news networks, according to more than half a dozen interviews with TV insiders and contributors, [Boris] Epshteyn has earned a reputation as someone who is combative and sometimes difficult to work with, even when he arrives at studios as a guest of a network. He has offended people in green rooms with comments they have interpreted as racially insensitive and demeaning… Despite his critics, Epshteyn’s political profile has quickly risen, thanks to his early allegiance to the president… And in Trump’s world, loyalty and ubiquity on television count for a lot. “He goes on TV and he defends Donald Trump,” said one former campaign aide. “That carries a lot of weight.”” [Politico

“The Adult in the Room” by Michael Warren: “[Gary] Cohn is also uniquely positioned to have influence with Trump because of his closeness to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and another senior adviser… Cohn likely isn’t at the White House for his political views, or even for his policy recommendations. As his Goldman Sachs associate says, “He’s a take-charge guy, but in a crisis moment, he’s also the calmest one in the room.” For an administration that’s bound to face a lot of crises—as indeed it already has—Cohn may be a real asset.” [TWS]  

** 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: Why some airlines remove Israel from their online route maps [TheEconomist] • Apollo Seeks $20 Billion by May for New Buyout Fund [Bloomberg]  Barry Sternlicht: Trump was a hot topic at my dinner with Goldman’s Blankfein and other bigwigs [CNBC] • Will Ivanka Trump’s Brand Be Even Bigger Without Ivanka? (It’s Complicated) [Refinery29; CNN] • Jersey City fighting $2.7M court award over Journal Square property [JerseyJournal] • David Lichtenstein’s Lightstone Group has struck a deal with Noah Tepperberg’s Tao Group that brings the nightlife brand on board to host the restaurants and bars at the upcoming Marriott Moxy Hotel [RealDeal; NYPost]

SPOTLIGHT: “Questions About Loyalty to Trump Stall Mnuchin’s Treasury Picks” by Robert Schmidt and Saleha Mohsin: “As Mnuchin waited for the Senate to act on his own nomination, he spent much of his time interviewing people for his team. Others who sat in on the interviews were Eli Miller and Shannon McGahn, both of whom now work at the Treasury in non-Senate confirmed jobs. Miller, who worked on Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign before joining Trump, is Mnuchin’s chief of staff.” [Bloomberg]

“’Javanka’ Is the Perfect Celebrity Nickname for Our Strange Era” by Benjamin Freed: “Javanka goes out to dinner and becomes fodder for gossip mongers. Javanka also works in the White House, wielding considerable power not just over foreign and domestic affairs, but over the behavior of a short-tempered, paranoid, conspiracy-prone President who may one day dismiss or demote all his other aides. But he will never abandon Javanka. Better to use the name sparingly, but always with its potency in mind.” [Washingtonian]

“Disowning Ivanka: The Art World Stares Down the First Daughter” by Nate Freeman: “Hours after Clinton conceded on the night of November 8, the gathering that would come to form the core of Halt Action Group—[Alison] Gingeras and [Alissa] Bennett as well as artist Jonathan Horowitz, psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster, and curator Ariella Wolens—met for a hush-hush meeting at an art space in lower Manhattan to discuss how the art world should fight back during the age of Trump. They fixated quickly on Ivanka. “The most urgent thing was to get organized and not allow for a normalization of the Trump administration,” Gingeras said later, with the group’s formative Instagram action already implemented. “And that was before he named any administration picks. It didn’t make sense to continue angry marches… The Dear Ivanka conceit came out of these conversations.”” [ArtNews]

“German Foundation to Help Jewish Heirs in Search for Nazi Looted Art” by Colin Moynihan: “The project, called the Mosse Art Research Initiative, will be partly funded by the German Lost Art Foundation, which was formed in 2015 by the federal and state governments in Germany to find and identify cultural artifacts seized by the Nazi regime. Officials at the Lost Art Foundation said that this was the first time they had financed an initiative to track down a set of works that had belonged to a particular family… The Mosse Art Restitution Project, which was created by the Mosse heirs several years ago to search for the art, will share in financing the new partnership, and 11 museums and archives in Germany have agreed to cooperate.” [NYTimes

“Joan Rivers’s Bone China Seder Plate Is Being Auctioned. You Know You Want It!” by Rachel Shukert: “According to the New York Times, it has been acquired by Jonathan Greenstein, the operator of the premier (and self-proclaimed only) auction house in the United States dealing exclusively with the appraisal and sale of antique Judaica. The item will go on the block April 24, six days after the end of Passover this year, but who’s counting? The bone China plate itself is blue and white Spode, very nice and unchipped, and dating back to the 1980’s… Greenstein said, “This one is worth about $5000 because it belonged to her.”” [Tablet]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Gloria Steinem is inaugural speaker at Senesh School series” by Paula Katinas: “With the support of philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, Senesh is launching the speaker series to highlight the connection between timeless Jewish values and modern professional accomplishments… Steinem’s lifetime of campaigning for gender equality and human rights epitomizes the connection between Jewish values and accomplishments, according to a statement issued by officials at Senesh. The new series, called Conversations@Senesh, will feature leaders from all areas of public life whose careers embody the school’s values.” [BrooklynEagle]

“Mark Zuckerberg Named 2017 Commencement Speaker” by Leah Yared: “Zuckerberg, who is 32, is the youngest Commencement speaker selected in recent history. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg implored graduates to follow their “intuition” at last year’s ceremony… But Zuckerberg is neither the first Harvard dropout nor first tech billionaire to speak at Harvard’s graduation exercises: Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft, spoke at Commencement in 2007.” [TheCrimson]

MEDIA WATCH: “Trump Grants Oval Office Meeting to TMZ Founder” by Michael Grynbaum: “Mr. Trump, in a meeting last Wednesday that went unmentioned on his public schedule, spent about an hour in the Oval Office chatting with Harvey Levin, the tabloid emperor… The TMZ chieftain interviewed Mr. Trump for a Fox News special, “Objectified: Donald Trump,” that aired last fall. Mr. Levin, according to two people with direct knowledge of the visit, broached the possibility of Mr. Trump sitting for another interview.” [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK — Israel advances to 2nd round of World Baseball Classic:“The Netherlands’ 6-5 defeat of Taiwan means Israel’s baseball team qualiies for Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo on Sunday. Team Israel will face The Netherlands tomorrow to determine group placement in Pool A.” [ToI; ESPN] • Sam Fuld In Familiar Role with Team Israel [FanSided]

DESSERT: “7th Annual Houston Kosher Chili Cookoff” by Liz Lopez: “34 local organizations and businesses participated in the competition with unique kosher chili recipes to benefit the seven local Jewish Day Schools and the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center’s Meals on Wheels Program. The Houston Jewish community enjoyed live music from local bands, The Danny Gavin Band and Houston’s Young Kletzmer Band, an obstacle course, balloon artists and face painting while getting to sample some of Houston’s best kosher chili.” [Houstonia

BIRTHDAYS: Former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain (1991-2013), member of the House of Lords, philosopher, scholar and winner of the 2016 Templeton Prize, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks turns 69… Former Governor of Virginia (1994-1998) and US Senator (2001-2007), whose mother was from a Sephardic Jewish family in Tunisia, George Allen turns 65… Jazz pianist, composer, organist, arranger and music director, Dick Hyman turns 90… Democratic US Representative for California’s 47th congressional district since 2013, Alan Lowenthal turns 76… British television executive and businessman, chairman of the BBC (2004-2006), member of the House of Lords, Michael Grade (family name Winogradsky) turns 74… Graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, attorney at Seyfarth Shaw and now the ‘Judaism and Science’ blogger, Roger Price turns 73… Lyricist, singer, songwriter, painter and philanthropist, Carole Bayer Sager turns 70… Founder and CEO of 32 Advisors, LLC (advising on infrastructure) and chairman and co-founder of Measure (practical uses of drones), previously President of UBS Investment Bank, Robert Wolf turns 55… Vice chairman of the Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago, with a Ph.D. in Chinese politics from Stanford University, high-ranking State Department official (2001-2009), Evan A. Feigenbaum turns 48…

Albany Reporter for New York’s news channel NY1, covering state politics, including Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature, Zack Fink turns 44… Harvard Law grad, member of Congress since 2017 (D-NJ:5), former speechwriter for Bill Clinton, Joshua S. Gottheimer turns 42… DC-based labor and employment attorney at Bredhoff & Kaiser, clerked for Justice Brennan at the U.S. Supreme Court (1983-1984), Bruce R. Lerner… Licensed clinical psychologist and director of couple therapy training at the Chicago Center for Family Health, Dr. Mona Fishbane… Talent acquisition executive at Sageview Consulting, specializing in placements at Jewish federations and non-profits, Colorado Springs resident, Carin Maher… Senior Fellow on national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress, Alan Makovsky… Manager of Public Policy at the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership of The Forbes Funds, previously press secretary at NJDC, David Streeter

Retired in 2016 after 28 years as the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester NY, Larry Fine… Program analyst at Mathematica Policy Research, Karen Katz… Research associate at The Israel Project, a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, Amanda Botfeld… Senior digital and marketing associate at Catalist (a voter data service for progressive organizations), Lauren Farber… Special assistant to the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, Nathaniel Sobel… Brenda Krantz… Lexi Chavin… Jeff Sonderman… Alexis Rice

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

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