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Daily Kickoff: Taylor Force Act added to omnibus bill, ensuring its passage | RJC ‘disgusted’ with Republican primary winner | King of the Mitzvahs

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JI EXCLUSIVE — Sen. Graham tells us that the Taylor Force Act has now been added to the omnibus: The Senate is expected to pass the Taylor Force Act as part of the $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill this week, according to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who introduced the legislation last year. The bipartisan Taylor Force Act will cut off U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority until they cease payments to terrorists and their families. The omnibus faces a Friday midnight deadline in order to prevent a government shutdown.

RECAP: The House passed the Taylor Force Act in December but it was held up in the Senate after Senate Republicans insisted that a sunset clause requiring Congress to re-pass the legislation in later years be removed. Senate Republicans also pulled two exemptions — vaccinations for children and wastewater projects. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer promised to do “everything possible” to help get it passed, preferably by unanimous consent. However, after Rep. Eliot Engel’s staff insisted on the exemption for water treatment totaling $37 million, the only other path would be allocating floor time for a stand-alone vote. As floor time is especially limited, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell preferred not to allocate it for this.

WHAT CHANGED LAST NIGHT: The breakthrough came after Senate and House leaders reached a compromise with Engel where the exemption for wastewater projects is capped at $5 million. “The goal is to punish the Palestinian Authority for these payments but the wastewater efforts have proven to be a successful project,” Graham told us.

Graham tells us: “After over two years of very hard work, we’ve achieved our goal of having the Taylor Force Act become law. This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation I’ve been involved with. The effort by the pro-Israel community led by Sander Gerber and the power of the Force family made it possible. This was truly bipartisan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer worked together. House Speaker Paul Ryan was very supportive. This will give us leverage with the Palestinians to push back on what I think is outrageous. You can make more money being a terrorist than getting a real job. This has to end.” [JewishInsider]

TALK OF THE REGION — “Israel admits 2007 Syrian ‘nuclear reactor’ strike for first time” by Mike Smith: “Israel’s military admitted for the first time Wednesday it was responsible for a 2007 air raid against a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor… An Israeli military spokesman declined to respond to questions related to the admission and the release of the documents, including over the timing, which could be seen as a warning regarding Iran’s activities. The declassified material includes footage of the strike, video of a speech by military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot on the operation and pictures of secret army intelligence communiques about the site.” [YahooNews]

“Inside Israel’s Secret Raid on Syria’s Nuclear Reactor” by Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv: “Former Mossad director Tamir Pardo asked in an interview with us: “Where were the Americans? North Korea is a highly important target for them. And it still isn’t clear whether [Syrian President Bashar] Assad was running the nuclear project, or was it the North Koreans? … “This is a resounding failure by the Americans,” Pardo said. Pardo’s questions raise another: If one of the best intelligence communities in the world, and certainly the most formidable in the Middle East, could be fooled by North Koreans and Syrians, what might the CIA be missing? That could be true in Korea, in Iran, or almost anywhere on Earth.”

“Deir ez-Zur, the largest city in eastern Syria, would be captured in 2014 by ISIS forces and then held by the Islamic militants for more than three years. Just imagine if ISIS had gotten its hands on plutonium and other parts designed to construct nuclear bombs. Israel’s action – a difficult decision by then-Prime Minister Olmert, after he unsuccessfully asked President George W. Bush to bomb the building –prevented the world’s most bloodthirsty terrorists from acquiring the world’s most lethal weapons. Israeli ministers and officials are proud of it.” [PoliticoHaaretz

“No Longer a Secret: How Israel Destroyed Syria’s Nuclear Reactor” by Amos Harel and Aluf Benn: “One of the president’s close advisers later told a senior Israeli official that [George W.] Bush replied in his typical Texas style: “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” Bush also had another crude observation, about Olmert: “You see why I love him? Because he’s got the world’s biggest balls.” [Haaretz]

“Israel ponders a new war in the Middle East” by David Gardner: “It is probable that, in the coming days, the Israelis will strike hard at what they describe as an Iranian base in Syria south-west of Damascus. Satellite images of the purported base were broadcast on Fox News at the end of last month. When the BBC reported on what a western intelligence source called an Iranian-backed Shia militia base near Damascus in November, Israel’s air force obliterated it within weeks. Some western officials believe a follow-up is imminent.” [FinancialTimes]

REPORT — “Merkel warned Netanyahu collapse of Iran deal could lead to war” by Barak Ravid: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a decision by President Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal might lead to the collapse of the agreement and, as a result, could lead to a regional war… Merkel stressed that a U.S. withdrawal would divide the west. According to the German official, Merkel said to Netanyahu: “It will put us, the Brits and the French on the same side with Russia, China and Iran when the U.S. and Israel will be on the other side. Is this what you want?” Netanyahu and Merkel spoke [last night] on the phone. The purpose of the call was for Netanyahu to congratulate Merkel on forming a new government, but the two also discussed the Iran deal.” [Axios

“Germany at odds with US on condemning Hezbollah in Iran talks” by Benjamin Weinthal: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration is the “least cooperative” of the three European powers. Germany is resisting the U.S. negotiating team appeal — and President Donald Trump’s position — to outlaw all of Hezbollah because that demand, say German diplomats, is linked to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks…” [FoxNews

“Saudi Prince’s White House Visit Reinforces Trump’s Commitment to Heir Apparent” by Mark Landler: “Mr. Trump, [a senior administration] official said, urged Prince Mohammed to settle the festering battle that pits Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar… Mr. Trump repeated his description of the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated by President Barack Obama, as the “worst deal ever,” the official said. But he did not preview what he plans to do about it, when he faces the next deadline in May. “The Iran deal is coming up soon and you will see what will happen,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “Iran hasn’t been treating that part of the world, or the world appropriately.” … On Tuesday evening, Prince Mohammed had dinner with Jared Kushner… Jason D. Greenblatt, Mr. Trump’s special envoy for Middle East peace; and Michael Bell, the senior director for the Middle East at the National Security Council. The three Americans briefed the prince on the status of their peace plan for the Israelis and Palestinians, which is nearly finished.” [NYTimes

“Finance minister eases procedures for moving U.S. embassy to Jerusalem” by Udi Shaham: “Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) Wednesday announced he would order the National Council for Planning and Construction to immediately assemble in order to approve decisions to speed up the process of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Kahlon said he would order the council to waive approval for several infrastructure projects that are required in order to move the embassy to the capital. The finance minister informed US President Donald Trump of his plans in a tweet.” [JPostTwitter]

HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert: “I had a chance to meet with Ambassador [David] Friedman last week and had dinner at his home, and spent some time with my colleagues in Tel Aviv and also for a short period of time in Jerusalem. I can say when I saw the comments that came out by Mahmoud Abbas – I mean, you look at that, it’s a terrible thing to say about anyone. It’s a terrible thing to say about a U.S. official. So comments like that are not only rude, but they’re unhelpful… What he said hampers the ability, we believe, to have the Israelis and Palestinians sit down and have a conversation together to work out a peace process.”

ILLINOIS PRIMARY RESULTS — “Billionaire Pritzker Wins Democratic Nod for Illinois Governor by John McCormick and Elizabeth Campbell: “Billionaire J.B. Pritzker won the Democratic primary for Illinois governor Tuesday after investing at least $69.5 million of his fortune to try to win a job that comes with some of the biggest fiscal challenges faced by any state… The brutal primary — Pritzker’s rivals called him a fraud, liar and painted him as someone trying to buy his way into office — could leave some lasting scars on the Democratic nominee and plenty of video clips for the GOP candidate to use against him.” [Bloomberg

In the 10th Congressional District, where Republicans hope to reclaim the seat they lost to Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider in 2016, social conservative Doug Bennett and former AIPAC, RJC staffer Jeremy Wynes are locked in a close race, separated by some 200 votes. [ChicagoTribune]

“Denounced by His Party as a Nazi, Arthur Jones Wins Illinois G.O.P. Congressional Primary” by Liam Stack: “Arthur Jones, a Holocaust denier described as a Nazi by the Illinois Republican Party, won the Republican primary on Tuesday in the state’s Third Congressional District… His victory on Tuesday was a foregone conclusion after the Republican Party failed to draft another candidate to enter the race against him… “Arthur Jones is not a real Republican — he is a Nazi whose disgusting, bigoted views have no place in our nation’s discourse,” Tim Schneider, the Illinois Republican Party chairman, said in a statement. He said the party had urged voters “to skip over his name when they go to the polls” and moving forward planned on “vehemently opposing Jones with real campaign dollars.” A spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party said those dollars would be used to support an independent candidate in the November general election.” [NYTimes]

RJC National Chairman and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman emailsus… “We are disgusted. There is no place for Arthur Jones, Holocaust deniers, anti-Semites and White Supremacists in the Republican Party. The RJC joins with the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Illinois Republican Party in rejecting Arthur Jones candidacy and urging his defeat. Jones is a Nazi, not a Republican.”

TALK OF THE TOWN — “Anti-Semitic posters surface at University of Minnesota” by Maura Lerner: “The fliers, headlined “Why Are Jews After Our Guns,” listed Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer and other Jewish lawmakers by name, next to images of the star-shaped badges that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps. The fliers said they were “brought to you by” a neo-Nazi group that was linked to previous anti-Semitic posters on campus. Steven Hunegs, executive director of the [Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas], described the latest flier as “ugly, pernicious, malicious” anti-Semitism.” [StarTribune

“D.C. lawmaker who said Rothschilds control the climate also said they control the federal government” by Fenit Nirappil and Paul Schwartzman: “As D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) tried Monday to apologize for a Facebook post in which he claimed that Jewish financiers control the climate, new footage released by the city showed it wasn’t the first time he had made such comments. White also contended that the Rothschilds — a European business dynasty and frequent subject of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories — control the World Bank and the federal government, making those remarks during a Feb. 27 gathering of top city officials, including Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D)… No one in the room challenged his remarks. Bowser wore a puzzled look.” [WashPost

The Washington Post editorial… “A D.C. leader’s anti-Semitic remarks are only part of the problem: As part of his rounds of apology, Mr. White has reached out to members of the Jewish community, and he said he plans to hold additional future meetings… Good that he is open to that learning; better if he adds another stop. At the Rockefeller Foundation, he could learn about the important work being done to make cities better places to live. Also that weather is not something that can be conjured up on a whim or wish. And that ignorance about the world, particularly by those making public policy, is the real threat to worry about.” [WashPost]  

** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: James Packer, Australian Billionaire, Resigns from Casino Company [NYTimes] • Where in the world is Mark Zuckerberg? Frustrated Facebook execs are asking [CNNMoney] • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to break silence on Cambridge Analytica data use [NBCNews• Ex-Uber Chief Travis Kalanick Buys Real Estate Company, Takes CEO Reins [Bloomberg] • Waze brings its ride-sharing app to Washington state [Engadget

STARTUP NATION: “Tesla denies Musk in talks with Israeli AI vision firm Cortica” by Tova Cohen: ““The reports that [Elon] Musk was in Israel to discuss a collaboration between Tesla and Cortica are completely false, he was in Israel, but not to meet or have discussions with Cortica,” said a Tesla spokesman based in Palo Alto, Ca… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday he had met Musk and that they discussed the potential of solar energy generation in the Negev desert.” [Reuters]

Jerusalem mayor expected to announce Knesset bid this week: “Nir Barkat is expected to announce this week that he will not be seeking a third term as Jerusalem’s mayor, and that he will instead run for the Knesset on the Likud party ticket.” [ToI]

“Chief Rabbi Calls African-Americans ‘Monkeys’ in Sermon” by Callum Paton: “Yosef made the remarks in footage aired by the Israeli news site Ynet, reportedly citing a hypothetical story about encountering a black person in the U.S. He then referred to black people using the pejorative Hebrew word “kushi” and called a black person a “monkey.” In a response to the Israeli press, Yosef’s office said there was a religious context to the comparison made in the rabbi’s weekly sermon… Yosef is the most senior representative of the Sephardic Jews.” [Newsweek

— ADL: “Racially charged comment made by Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, comparing people of color to “monkeys”, is utterly unacceptable.” [Twitter

“Enigmatic Dead Sea Scroll makes rare show in Jerusalem” by Ilan Ben Zion: “A fragment of an enigmatic Dead Sea Scroll has gone on public display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum for the first time since its discovery 70 years ago… The Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish texts found in desert caves in the West Bank near Qumran in the 1940s and 1950s, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D… “This is the only copy of this book on Earth,” said Adolfo Roitman, curator of the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book, where the scrolls are housed.” [AP]

HOLLYWOOD: “Mayim Bialik Says Sticking Up for Israel Has Come With ‘A Heavy Price’” by Judy Maltz: “Delivering a keynote address at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, [Bialik] the Jewish-American celebrity said: “It hasn’t yet, that I know of, impacted my acting career, but it has impacted the way that I am seen, and that does impact my career in terms of speaking engagements and endorsements.” The star of “The Big Bang Theory” provided the audience with numerous examples of the vicious attacks she receives on social media, which have included calls to boycott her and the program. But, she said, “I’m happy to take that public bullet for the state.”” [Haaretz]

SPOTLIGHT: “Silicon Valley Insiders Think That Facebook Will Never Be the Same After the Cambridge Analytica Scandal” by Nick Bilton: “On a more prosaic level, as one entrepreneur who has personally spent time with Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg put it to me, this scandal has likely eliminated the potential for any of the company’s leaders to ever credibly run for public office. Another person who has worked with Zuckerberg in the past pointed out that the C.E.O.’s hopes of getting his company into China are now less likely… In the short term, the one saving grace for Zuckerberg is that the people who took advantage of the data manipulation and ad targeting to win office—namely Donald Trump… may not want to regulate a company that could, if left to its own devices, be used again in 2020 to retain the White House.”[VanityFair

“The New Threat of ‘Leak-Flavored’ Propaganda” by Eli Lake: “Last June the Associated Press published details of what appeared to be a scandal: The Wall Street Journal’s star national security correspondent, Jay Solomon, had been offered a stake in a startup by one of his sources, an Iranian-born arms dealer named Farhad Azima. The AP story was not based on anonymous sources, but rather texts and emails between Solomon, Azima and others… The Solomon-Azima case does show a new approach: how hacked emails and texts can be used to create a false mosaic. In this case, the AP report was careful not to directly conclude that Solomon was an arms dealer. But the implication of the coverage was that maybe he was. He wasn’t. “It was a mistake not to protect myself by making it clear when Azima sent a document on this business to me that journalistic ethics forbid me from entering the agreement,” Solomon told me. “But the entirety of my communications with him and others would show that no business ever happened.”” [BloombergView]

“YouTube Removes the ‘Hail, Trump’ Video From Search” by Robinson Meyer: “YouTube removed the video of Spencer’s speech from all public search results on its site and made it much more difficult to access overall. The YouTube video was only accessible during this period by clicking a direct link or by first finding The Atlantic’s user page, then locating the video in a menu… After The Atlantic challenged the deactivation, YouTube allowed the video to appear in public searches again and reopened comments on Mondayafternoon. In a statement, a YouTube spokeswoman said that the video’s delisting was a mistake.” [TheAtlantic]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Axios CEO Jim VandeHei discussed Michael Wolff on the latest Digiday Podcast: “A lot of the conversations that he put on the record that were off the record sound really familiar to conversations I had with a lot of those same people off the record, so I know them to be true. Were there things in there inaccurate? Yes. Where there things that were sloppy, for reasons I will never understand? Absolutely. But it was a book I do think that captured Trump at least in a broad brush better than anything that is captured to date. If Michael Wolff would come to us for advice, I’d say take another month or two and tighten it up. Get rid of the stuff that is not accurate. Double check stuff. And he used techniques as a reporter I wouldn’t use. If you tell me something is off the record, it really is off the record. So that’s between him and his God.” [Digiday] • Michael Wolff’s book tour is shrinking [WashPost]

DESSERT — “A Seder Feast in Provence, With Roots in Ancient Rome” by Joan Nathan: “This year, about 50 people will hold a communal Passover Seder at the Carpentras Synagogue, built in 1367 and one of the oldest active synagogues in Europe… Gilberte Levy, who can trace her family tree here back to the 1600s, will also cook some of the kosher recipes that Provençal Jews have been making for centuries… Most traditional foods of the Provençal Jews have been forgotten, but a few live on. Some old-time bakeries here sell brassados, bagel-like rolls that are boiled and then baked. Lightly sweet and sometimes spiked with anise, orange flower water or orange peel, they were adopted by Christian bakers as a Lenten and Easter tradition. Ms. Levy makes her own crunchy brassados with matzo meal.” [NYTimes]

“‘Shark Tank’ featured vegan, kosher cinnamon bun bakery opens in Boca” by Lulu Ramadan: “When Naomi and Todd Cohn and their three children fled Florida to avoid Hurricane Matthew in 2016, they landed in Atlanta. Cohn found herself unexpectedly eager to return to Boca Raton after noshing on warm, sticky — and guilt-free —cinnamon buns at Cinnaholic. The buns were vegan, and therefore kosher, as the Cohns adhere to eating guidelines of their Jewish faith. “Naomi immediately said, ‘Boca Raton needs one of these bakeries,’ ” Todd Cohn said. A year-and-a-half later, the Cohns opened a franchise of Cinnaholic on Northwest 20th Street, near Florida Atlantic University… The customizable cinnamon bun, cookie and brownie offerings are all vegan-friendly, nut-free and kosher — fitting right in Boca’s health-conscious, populous and large Jewish community.” [PalmBeachPost]

KING OF THE MITZVAHS — “Kareem Wells grew up in a rough neighborhood in Chicago. He started selling drugs when he was 14 and dropped out of school two years later. Still, he never let his love of music go. When he got a call to perform at his first bar mitzvah, his whole life changed. Now, as Chicago’s go-to local entertainer, Wells is the reigning King of the Mitzvahs. Today, he’s so popular that his gigs are booked three years in advance.” [GreatBigStory]
 
BIRTHDAYS: Yale Law School graduate in 1954, in 1978 she became the first woman appointed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Ellen Ash Peters turns 88… Rabbi emeritus of Manhattan’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (active 1958-2015) and principal of the Ramaz School (1966-2015), Rabbi Haskel Lookstein turns 86… Harvard professor, biochemist, physicist, molecular biology pioneer and winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Walter Gilbert turns 86… Scholar of Jewish mysticism and founding dean of the non-denominational rabbinical program at the Hebrew College in Boston where he still teaches, Arthur Green turns 77… Istanbul-born entrepreneur, hotelier and real estate developer, he is president of NYC-based Alexico Group LLC,Izak Senbahar turns 59… First Jewish member of the US House of Representatives from New Hampshire (2007-2011), later on the boards of the ADL and NJDC, Paul Hodes turns 67… Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, previously Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem turns 59… Co-founder of Wynnefield Capital Management, on the Board of Trustees of S.A.R. Academy in Riverdale, NY, Joshua H. Landesturns 56… Award-winning film, stage and television actor and singer whose roles include the title role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) and the adult voice of Simba in Disney’s The Lion King trilogy, Matthew Broderick turns 56… Hedge fund manager, philanthropist and chairman of the board of the New York City Opera, Roy Niederhoffer turns 52… Senior editor of the National Review, syndicated columnist, author and commentator, Jonah Jacob Goldberg turns 49… James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef from Miami who is known for her culinary skills as an expert in Latin-style flavors of cooking, Michelle Bernstein turns 48… Co-anchor of CNN Newsroom, John Berman turns 46… Digital marketing guru and president and founder of Bully Pulpit Interactive, Andrew Bleeker turns 33… Student activist at Miami University of Ohio, worked in the Office of Community Engagement at the Democratic National Committee, Addison Caruso turns 22… Samuel Gross

Mar
20

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Daily Kickoff: How Jared & MBS forged a bond | Gary Cohn was headed to CIA | Dershowitz vs. Cynthia Nixon | Pardo’s new firm | Jewish deli in Tokyo

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DRIVING THE DAY — Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at noon today for the start of a 3-week U.S. visit. In the hour and 15 minutes designated for the meeting, the President and the Crown Prince will discuss the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran’s aggression in the Middle East, and Israeli-Palestinian peace among other topics, senior administration officials said in a background briefing yesterday.

“One of the things we’ve heard consistently from the region both from the Saudis, Emiratis and the Israelis is that they didn’t really have a relevant voice in the process of the JCPOA and so [Trump] wants to make sure that their views are heard and that we understand their security concerns as we move forward,” a senior administration official explained. “We’ll discuss the peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians, and the situation in Gaza,” the official addedand the U.S. will “thank the Saudis for their participation in the Gaza conference” at the White House last week.

“How Jared Kushner forged a bond with the Saudi crown prince” by Carol D. Leonnig, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Greg Jaffe: “One year ago, two young princes began to forge a friendship at a lunch meeting in the White House’s regal State Dining Room. A snowstorm had kept away President Trump’s scheduled guest that day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel — giving the president and his advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, more time to spend with the visiting son of Saudi King ­Salman… They consulted with one another frequently in private calls over the following months… Kushner is now set to play a major role hosting the crown prince as he arrives in Washington Monday to kick off a tour of United States. In addition to official meetings, he is scheduled to attend several dinners with Mohammed, along with other U.S. and Saudi officials.”

“Allies and aides described his personal outreach to Mohammed as unconventional yet effective… “President Trump has given Mr. Kushner the important task of overseeing the peace process, and this has been the primary subject of discussion between Mr. Kushner and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince,” [a senior Saudi] ­official said…  Kushner’s unique role was ­evident a few weeks ago when White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly asked a question in an intelligence briefing about a ­sensitive policy matter related to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the crown prince’s visit. In response, intelligence briefers told him that virtually all of the conversations that U.S. officials had with the Saudis on the matter had been between Kushner and Mohammed.”

“As Mohammed kicks off his U.S. tour, Kushner is continuing his efforts to work with the crown prince and others to ­develop an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, associates said. In the end, the president’s son-in-law emphasized to aides last week, he hopes to be judged not on the process, but on the results.” [WashPost]

MEANWHILE IN RAMALLAH — Mahmoud Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a ‘son of a dog’: “The US ambassador in Tel Aviv is a settler and a son of a dog,” Abbas said in comments to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Monday… In response to Abbas, Friedman, who is Jewish, told a conference that Abbas’s comments could have antisemitic connotations. “His response was to refer to me as ‘son of a dog’. Is that antisemitism or political discourse? I leave that up to you,” he said.”[TheGuardianWSJ]

Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt in a statement: “The time has come for President Abbas to choose between hateful rhetoric and concrete and practical efforts to improve the quality of life of his people and lead them to peace and prosperity.  Notwithstanding his highly inappropriate insults against members of the Trump administration, the latest iteration being his insult of my good friend and colleague Ambassador Friedman, we are committed to the Palestinian people and to the changes that must be implemented for peaceful coexistence. We are finalizing our plan for peace and we will advance it when circumstances are right.”

Aaron David Miller emails us… Abbas’ attack on Friedman is a result of “frustration combined with catering to the street. He can’t be perceived to be passive on settlements or somehow bowing to the U.S. on the issue. It’s grist for Friedman’s mill of course and unwise to personalize, but it reflects the reality that Abbas has nowhere to go.”

IPF’s Michael Koplow tweets“There is no scenario in which is it ok for a foreign leader to call an American ambassador a son of a dog. Doesn’t matter what prompted it. But I would be remiss if I did not gently point out that this particular ambassador is not always an exemplar of polite discourse.”

Dan Williams: “In January, Donald Trump threatened to cut US aid to the Palestinians after they declined to meet visiting VP Pence. How will he respond to Abbas personally insulting Friedman, his longtime lawyer and adviser?” [Twitter]

SIGHTING — Ambassador Friedman visited a matzah bakery and participated in the baking process during a visit to Kfar Chabad earlier today [Pic]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett publicly criticized World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder for his op-edin the New York Times during back-to-back appearances at the opening session of the 6th annual Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem: “Ron, I read your piece in the New York Times – not a great piece. I very much respect you, but I disagree. Assimilation in America is not a result of Israel’s policy but a result of Jewish prosperity in America. It is an ongoing trend we have to fight back against. I don’t see [the] moral equivalence of settlement building – what I call building communities in our homeland – and Palestinian incitement. It’s not the same thing.”

— “U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who was in attendance, clapped along with the audience after Bennett’s statement.” [HaaretzVideo

Lauder responded to Bennett at the start of his remarks: “Naftali, we may disagree on many things, but when it comes to Jewish life and fighting anti-Semitism, and what it means to be a Jew, we are 100 percent there. And the Jews in Diaspora are with you a hundred percent.”

In a video captured by Maariv diplomatic correspondent Yanir Cozin, Bennett is seen confronting Lauder as he entered the hall for the plenary session: “What are you doing? What are you doing, man? What are you doing?” Lauder: “You are my inspiration.” Bennett: “I am your inspiration? Say that, and I am going to lose 5 seats in the Knesset.” [Video]

Chemi Shalev writes… “Lauder’s J’Accuse Against Netanyahu’s Israel Is Also a Mea Culpa: Lauder may not be “King of the Jews,” as his predecessor Edgar Bronfman was dubbed, but he is the closest thing that world Jewry has to a senior statesman who can represent the consensus of the Diaspora as a whole. In the eyes of many Jews, Lauder is “Mr. Establishment.” … Lauder’s article is an expression of the severity of the developing schism between Netanyahu’s Israel and American Jews.” [Haaretz]

BEHIND THE SCENES — “Negotiators think it’s a long shot to satisfy Trump on Iran deal” by Barak Ravid: “A senior European diplomat who participated in the talks told me that the gaps between the U.S. and the three European powers are actually closing… The U.S. and the European powers are close to an agreement on sanctions against Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missiles program. The gaps were narrowed on sanctions against the Iranian activity in the Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen… Big gaps remain on the U.S. demand to significantly fix the “Sunset clause” in the nuclear deal… The European diplomat told me… “We are much closer to an agreement with the U.S. delegation than we have ever thought we will be. We are not optimistic but we keep trying. It’s like a roulette with a 50:50 chance. But our fear is that even if we get a deal with the American negotiators there is a big chance that Trump will just tear it up and announce he is withdrawing from the deal.”” [Axios;Nana]

“Israel prepares for ‘May Madness’” by Ben Caspit: “The month of May is shaping up to be “May Madness,” a take on the “March Madness” of collegiate basketball. According to Israel’s intelligence and political echelons, President Donald Trump’s policies will be tested in May on numerous fronts that have implications for Israel’s national security… There is great satisfaction in Jerusalem over the change in US policy on Iran thanks to Trump. According to an intelligence source… recent Israeli intelligence reports assess, “Instead of policy leaning toward an arrangement with Iran and viewing the country as a strategic partner, the Americans now classify Iran as a key threat to their interests….” In Israeli eyes, these changes follow a pattern: numerous, fundamental changes in US foreign policy in Trump’s first year in the White House.” [Al-Monitor

“MK Steinitz: Iran deal should be extended indefinitely” by Gil Hoffman: “Asked about the possibility that US President Donald Trump could decide to pull out of the deal, Steinitz said: “I would prefer a fixed version of the agreement, with changes in the length of the agreement and its surveillance.”” [JPost]

“What happens the day after Trump pulls out of the Iran deal” by Josh Rogin: “The Treasury Department is working on the logistics of “snapping back” various sanctions, including restoring Obama-era executive orders that the deal rescinded… After that, there’s no certainty how other powers will react… The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies… recently convened a group of about 20 senior Iran and non-proliferation experts to game out scenarios, the results of which were compiled in a memo… shared with State, NSC and Treasury… FDD senior adviser Rich Goldberg, a longtime critic of the Iran deal, worked with [Mark] Dubowitz to compile the memo. He said that preparing for the day after the United States exits the deal is the best way to prevent what deal supporters warn will happen: war with Iran.” [WashPost]

“Pros and Cons of Trump’s Random Foreign Policy” by Noah Feldman: “The very same unpredictability that makes life difficult for opponents also makes coordination much harder for nations that want to cooperate. Your friends need to know what you plan to do next, or at least know which option you’re most likely to take, in order to act in concert with you. It’s not realistic for allies to consult the U.S. about every last detail of their foreign policy conduct.” [BloombergView]

TURTLE BAY — “Germany’s shameless power play against Israel” by Benny Avni: “Berlin is set to block a historic chance for raising the Jewish state’s international profile. The issue is a fight for seats on the top UN body, the Security Council. Germany, a major UN donor, mover and shaker, serves on it often. Israel, frequently singled out for international criticism, never has… In June UN members will choose which countries will take two available council seats next year: Germany, Belgium or Israel… Germany is unlikely to withdraw. So, unless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now — and maybe for the foreseeable future. Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member.” [NYPost

TRANSITION — “John Kelly promotes Kushner ally for key deputy role” by Jonathan Swan: “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has named Christopher Liddell, a Jared Kushner ally who ran the Office of American Innovation, as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination… Two White House officials told me they interpret this move as a signal that Kelly is trying to soothe tensions with Kushner and make this fraught arrangement work for the long haul. But I have not confirmed whether Kelly himself was thinking about this when he made the decision to promote Liddell.” [AxiosPolitico]

THE DAILY KUSHNER — “Kushner Companies confirms meeting with Qatar on financing” by Michael Kranish and Karen DeYoung: “Jared Kushner’s father met with Qatar’s finance minister three months after President Trump’s inauguration… However, Charles Kushner said he turned down possible funding to avoid questions of a conflict of interest for his son… “I was invited to a meeting,” he said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Before the meeting, Kushner Companies had decided that it was not going to accept sovereign wealth fund investments. We informed the Qatar representatives of our decision and they agreed. Even if they were there ready to wire the money, we would not have taken it.”” [WashPost]

INSIDE THE ADMIN — “Trump originally planned to put Cohn at CIA, but changed his mind” by Eliana Johnson, Ben White and Andrew Restuccia: “Former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn reached a tentative agreement with President Donald Trump to become his CIA director — but lost out on the role after Trump abruptly changed his mind… Trump… informally offered Cohn the position, telling him he thought he’d be a good fit for the job, and Cohn had agreed to take it… Cohn… told associates he was interested in running the CIA or, potentially, serving as secretary of state.” [Politico]

MUELLER WATCH — “Trump shakes up team of lawyers as legal threats mount” by Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa: “The president continues to complain that his lawyers are not protecting him and that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — who is supervising the probe — is up to mischief, said the person, who spoke to Trump in recent days… Some of Trump’s closest friends, including Tom Barrack and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, have told the president that he needs a legal heavyweight on his personal team, or someone with a record of defending clients in hot water with the Justice Department and winning.” [WashPost]

“Who is Joseph diGenova, Trump’s newest pick to defend him in Mueller Probe?” by Max Kutner: “diGenova, who regularly criticizes the FBI and Department of Justice in appearances on television, previously served as a United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In his role as an assistant U.S. Attorney, he led the prosecution of Jonathan Pollard, who pleaded guilty to spying for Israel.” [Newsweek]

HAPPENING TODAY — At 11:15AM EST, Former Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer and ADL Senior Vice President for International Affairs Sharon Nazarian will discuss “Confronting Neo-Nazism and Antisemitism of the Extreme Right in the United States and Elsewhere” at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem [Livestream] • Today’s program[GFCA2018]

2018 WATCH — “Alan Dershowitz Slams ‘Sex in the City’ Star Cynthia Nixon as ‘anti-Israel Candidate’ in N.Y. Race” by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “Actress and liberal activist Cynthia Nixon… announced on Monday she would run for governor of New York, challenging incumbent Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination… In the run-up to Nixon’s announcement… Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz slammed her Middle East politics in a tweet, calling out what he said was her “bigotry” in supporting “Israel Haters Jewish Voice for Peace” and actress “Vanessa Redgrave in boycotting Israel.” After she made her announcement he reiterated his belief that Nixon was “anti-Israel.”” [Haaretz]

— “Cynthia Nixon gave a Shabbat sermon in 2011 — and praised Andrew Cuomo” by Ben Sales: “Nixon isn’t Jewish herself, but she’s almost an honorary member of the tribe. Her two eldest children from her first marriage are Jewish and have both been bar- and bat-mitzvahed. At least one of them attended Hebrew school at B’nai Jeshurun… She’s also an active member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Manhattan’s most prominent LGBTQ synagogue, and has spoken there multiple times.” [JTA

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Oracle’s Larry Ellison Unveils Hydroponic Farming Start-Up [DealBook] • The Weinstein Company files for bankruptcy[Reuters] • London Brawl Between Pro-Putin Tycoons Tests Kremlin’s Patience [Bloomberg] • This adviser could be to blame for Broadcom, iHeart’s failures [NYPost] • Jon Steinberg’s Cheddar, the ‘CNBC for Millennials,’ Raises $22 Million for International Expansion [WSJ] • New York City Council investigating Kushner firms’ alleged false filings[NYPost] • N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to Meet With Tenants About Kushner Report [Bloomberg• Sequoia Israel Partner Haim Sadger Raises New $100 Million Fund [Calcalist]

STARTUP NATION — “Former Israeli spy chief and team of elite hackers form cybersecurity firm” by Tova Cohen: “Retired Mossad chief Tamir Pardo said he has assembled a team of more than 30 hackers from Israel’s security and intelligence services into a startup called XM Cyber that seeks to keep companies’ networks safe by imitating how real hackers work. XM Cyber raised $15 million, mostly from Israeli billionaire Shaul Shani, who sold his Brazilian company Global Village Telecom to Vivendi for $4.5 billion in 2009.” [Reuters]

SPOTLIGHT: “KLA-Tencor Buys Israel’s Orbotech at $3.4 Billion Valuation” by Yaacov Benmeleh: “KLA-Tencor Corp. agreed to acquire Orbotech Ltd., an Israeli firm that develops ways to enhance manufacturing of electronic products, to diversify its sources of growth. KLA will buy Orbotech for about $69.02 per share through a combination of cash and stock… That gives Orbotech an equity value of approximately $3.4 billion… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an evangelist for Israeli technology on his foreign travels, praised the deal. “More good news for the hi-tech sector and the Israeli economy!” he said on his Twitter feed… The deal “is further proof of Orbotech’s positioning in the markets in which it operates and the strength of its business model,” Orbotech CEO Asher Levy said.” [Bloomberg]

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — Yuval Noah Harari on politicians looking back instead of forward: “I think that parties and governments in most of the world today, they are doing a far better job than ever before in running the day to day business of the country, but what they have almost lost completely the ability to have a long term plan for the future because they have no realistic vision of basic things like the job market in 30 years. What you see is more and more countries look to the past instead of to the future, and instead of formulating meaningful visions for where humankind will be in 2050 they repackage nostalgic fantasies about the past. And there is a kind of competition who can look back furthest. So you have Donald Trump wanting to go back to the 1950s or something like that, and you have Putin basically wanting to go back to the Tsarist Empire a century after the Bolshevik revolution, and you have ISIS that wants to go back to the 7th century Arabia, and in my country, Israel, they beat everybody — they want to go back 2,500 years to the age of the Bible. So we win, we have the longest term vision backward.” [Video

SPOTTED IN JERUSALEM — Elon Musk, on a visit to Israel, posts a video from the Gatsby bar in Jerusalem: “Learning how to pour flaming absinthe over a tower of glasses in a Jerusalem speakeasy. Everything’s better with fire.” [Instagram] • Musk gets serious at Masada, parties in Jerusalem bar [ToI]

— “Elon Musk in talks with Israeli AI vision co Cortica” by Oshrit Gan-El: “According to industry sources, the visit by Elon Musk in Israel is connected to collaboration between electric vehicle and autonomous vehicle company Tesla, which Musk heads, and Israeli computerized vision company Cortica.” [Globes]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Spring cleaning for Western Wall’s notes to God” by Jeffrey Heller: “Even God’s mailbox needs a spring cleaning. Equipped with long sticks, a team of cleaners on Tuesday gouged out written prayers that visitors to Judaism’s Western Wall in Jerusalem traditionally cram into its crevices. Twice a year, the Rabbi of the Western Wall oversees the collection of thousands of notes to ensure there’s always room for more. The papers are then buried on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives in accordance with ritual.” [Reuters]

“Leonard Bernstein, social activist, is focus of new exhibit” by Kristen de Groot: “Bernstein’s lifelong effort to find that solution through music is on moving, and sometimes surprising, display at Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History in its new exhibit, “Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music.” Bernstein thrilled millions around the world with his compositions, his theatrical works like “West Side Story” and his over-the-top conducting style before his death in 1990 at age 72. But the focus here is on a lesser-known side of Bernstein: the second-generation American Jew who inspired social progress on and off the stage.” [AP]

“Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Platt stage powerful duet for March for Our Lives” by Sandra Gonzalez: “Two of Broadway’s most popular voices have joined forces for a song to benefit March For Our Lives. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt are featured on the new song “Found/Tonight.” The mash-up combines the sentiments and messages in the songs “The Story of Tonight” from “Hamilton” and “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen.” [CNN]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli soccer player posts photo with Iranian counterpart” by Amy Spiro: “Maor Buzaglo, a player with Maccabi Haifa who also plays for Israel’s national team, was in London over the weekend receiving treatment for a knee injury. While there, he ran into Ashkan Dejagah, an Iranian who plays for Nottingham Forest in the UK and is also captain of the Iranian national team. Buzaglo posted a photo of the pair on Instagram and Twitter, alongside Israeli and Iranian flags and the peace sign. Buzaglo, 30, tagged Dejagah in his photo… [He commented] on Buzaglo’s post, writing: “wish you a quick recovery too my friend.”” [JPostPic]  

DESSERT — “The Coolest New Jewish Deli? It’s in Tokyo” by Simone Somekh: “For the launch of Wise Sons Tokyo in late February, the restaurant’s founders and chef decided to keep the menu almost identical to the original. One of the deli’s staple dishes is the matzo ball soup, but—alas—they couldn’t find any matzo in Tokyo. Importing it from abroad was too costly, so they naturally decided to bake their own. Jotaro Tanaka, appointed to be the chef and manager of the Japanese branch, had never tried matzo before—let alone tried baking it. With the help of Wise Son’s own chef Joey Boujo, who spent six weeks training the team to make every dish on the menu, he learned.” [Tablet

BIRTHDAYS: Activist philanthropist, pioneer in corporate social responsibility, Chair of Maoz, formerly CEO of family-owned Timberland, Jeffrey Swartz turns 58… Actor, director, Carl Reiner turns 96… Stage and screen actor, television director and musician, best-known role as the title character in the television comedy series “Barney Miller,” Hal Linden (born Harold Lipshitz) turns 87… Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences as a geologist and oceanographer, but known popularly as poet and performer, Alexander Gorodnitsky turns 85… Australian award-winning writer of Portuguese Sephardi descent, David George Joseph Malouf turns 84… Senior advisor to the family office of Charles Bronfman, Dr. Jeffrey R. Solomon turns 73… Talmudic scholar Rav Tzvi Berkowitz turns 67… Award-winning author of 25 children’s books, Louis Sachar turns 64… Israel’s Chief of Police, Roni Alsheikh turns 55…

Host of Time Team America, a PBS program, she produced and directed a feature-length documentary entitled Our Summer in Tehran, Justine Shapiro turns 55… Chilean philanthropist and businessman with substantial mining interests, Leonardo Farkas turns 51… Journalist, author and lecturer best known for writing about his lifestyle immersion experiments, he is an editor at large for Esquire, Arnold Stephen “A. J.” Jacobs turns 50… Actor, podcast host, director and comedian, has acted in more than forty films, Michael Rapaport turns 48… Director at West Wing Writers, Matt Finkelstein turns 33… Development associate at Urban Investment Partners, Jason Lifton turns 29… Comedian, writer, and actress who gained popularity through her comedy videos on YouTube, she is a correspondent on the Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World, Joanna Hausmann turns 29… Hyman Grossman… Ehud Lazar

Mar
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Daily Kickoff: Ron Lauder on ‘Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds’ | Saudis invest in Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor | The challenge of writing Jewish history

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TOP-OP: Ron Lauder writes in today’s New York Times… “Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds: I am conservative and a Republican, and I have supported the Likud party since the 1980s. But the reality is that 13 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And almost half of them are Palestinian. If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy. To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution. President Trump and his team are wholly committed to Middle East peace… and contrary to news media reports, senior Palestinian leaders are, they have personally told me, ready to begin direct negotiations immediately. But some Israelis and Palestinians are pushing initiatives that threaten to derail this opportunity…”

“The second, two-prong threat is Israel’s capitulation to religious extremists and the growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora… The crisis is especially pronounced among the younger generation, which is predominantly secular. An increasing number of Jewish millennials — particularly in the United States — are distancing themselves from Israel because its policies contradict their values… Sometimes loyalty requires a friend to speak out and express an inconvenient truth. And the truth is that the specter of a one-state solution and the growing rift between Israel and the diaspora are endangering the future of the country I love so dearly.” [NYTimes]

Question on our mind — Does Lauder actually still believe he can broker a legacy-defining Middle East peace deal?

Flashback to April 2017 — “According to multiple sources, Lauder is the one who has convinced Trump that ‘the ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians is achievable, a deal that has eluded each of Trump’s immediate predecessors. Lauder is said to have told the President that the Palestinians are ‘desperate’ for a deal and that ‘Israel is the problem.’” [JewishInsider

Lauder honored in Jerusalem today: “World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder and outgoing Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein had their names immortalized on Monday at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue. Lauder and Hoenlein were honored with the dedication of walls on either side of the ark. One wall is named the “Ronald and Jo Carole Lauder Prayer for the State of Israel Wall” and the other, the “Malcolm and Frayde Hoenlein Prayer for The Security and Emergency Services Wall.” … “Nothing could more reflect our commitment to Israel and the Jewish people,” Hoenlein said. “Ronald’s and my grandchildren will be able to come here and look at the walls proudly and say that their grandparents made a difference.” [JPost]

Jonathan Weisman writes… “Anti-Semitism Is Rising. Why Aren’t American Jews Speaking Up? I have personally seen the anti-Semitism, in online insults, threatening voice mail messages and the occasional email that makes it through my spam filter… Yet American Jewish leaders — the heads of influential, established organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federations of North America — have been remarkably quiet, focused instead, as they have been for decades, on Israel, not the brewing storm in our own country.” [NYTimes]  

-American Jewish Committee responds on Twitter: “Jonathan Weisman reveals the problem some have dealing w/ anti-Semitism. For him, it’s all about the right. That’s a big threat of course, but he fails to mention danger from the left, Nation of Islam, etc. Why? Trifocal, not monofocal, lenses are needed.”

“D.C. lawmaker says recent snowfall caused by ‘Rothschilds controlling the climate’” by Peter Jamison and Valerie Strauss: “D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) posted the video to his official Facebook page… as snow flurries were hitting the nation’s capital… The video… shows snowy skies while White narrates. “Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control… And D.C. keep talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.” … In a series of text messages, he confirmed the voice in the video is his but expressed surprise that his remarks might be construed as anti-Semitic… However, about four hours after The Washington Post published this story online Sunday, White sent a statement of apology via text message. “I work hard everyday to combat racism and prejudices of all kinds. I want to apologize to the Jewish Community and anyone I have offended,” he said.” [WashPost]

Rep. Keith Ellison writes… “I Have Fought Against Hate My Entire Career: I do not have and have never had a relationship with Mr. Farrakhan, but I have been in the same room as him… I have not been in any meeting with him since then, and he and I have no communication of any kind. But as the attacks on me and my fellow Black representatives in Congress intensify, I want to be clear: this is a smear by factions on the right who want to pit the Jewish community and the Black community against each other, and distract from the hatred and bigotry on display by the president and the white supremacists who stormed Charlottesville this summer with their anti-Semitic chants and Confederate flags.” [Medium]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at the COJO of Flatbush legislative breakfast in Brooklyn: “The long-term danger for Israel is something we don’t think about enough: The young people in America do not know Israel’s story. If you look at the polling data, they don’t know what Israel has gone through and their support for Israel is declining. In every part of the country, every age group, even among young Evangelicals, support for Israel is declining. I had an hour lunch, just me and Bibi Netanyahu and this was the subject — because it is so important… We need to alert the young people to the truth.”

Schumer also boasted: “I am, baruch Hashem, the highest ranking elected Jewish official ever in America.” [Video]

— Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon presented the COJO of Flatbush Distinguished Chesed Award to fertilizer tycoon Alex Rovt. [Pic

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH — “Palestinians believe US delaying peace plan for a post-Abbas era – report” by Khaled Abu Toameh: “They [the Americans] know that President Abbas will not accept this plan,” the  London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted an unnamed senior Palestinian official as saying. “They are betting on the time factor.” The US administration is preparing for the day when there will be Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who “would not be able to reject the peace plan and would have to deal with it gradually.” [ToI]

— Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh: “Any suspicious political solution that does not meet the hopes and aspirations of our people for freedom and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital will not pass.” [Xinhuanet]

“Israeli military destroys Gaza tunnel, underground military complex” by Oren Liebermann: “The Israeli military destroyed a Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza on Sunday morning and struck an underground “military complex” in central Gaza, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said… Tensions between Israel and Gaza have remained high ever since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December. Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza have regularly called for “Days of Rage,” fueling wide-scale protests along the Gaza border.” [CNNVideo]

RISING PROFILE — “Nauert’s meteoric rise takes State Department by surprise” by Matt Lee and Josh Lederman: “The moment that Trump canned Tillerson by tweet, [Heather] Nauert was in a Hamas-built tunnel on the border near the Gaza Strip, on a tour organized by the Israeli military to show U.S. officials the smuggling routes used by militants. Caught by surprise by the move back in Washington, Nauert cut the tour short and returned to Jerusalem to deal with the crisis. Soon, Trump also fired the undersecretary of state who publicly defended Tillerson. The president named Nauert to that suddenly vacant position, near the top of the hierarchy of American diplomacy.” [AP]  

TOP TALKER — “What Hope Hicks Knows” by Olivia Nuzzi: “Over dinner in Bedminster in early August, [Hicks] told Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump that she was unhappy… Sharing her frustrations, Jared and Ivanka engaged her idea with caution; they asked her to give General John Kelly, the new chief of staff, a chance to change the West Wing for the better… Yet, if she waited, she probably couldn’t avoid the impression that she was leaving because of a crisis, because there was always a crisis. If she’d resigned in August, they’d have said it was owed to Charlottesville. In December? Mueller or Roy Moore. January? Fire and Fury.”

“Hicks met [Matthew] Hiltzik in Texas during Super Bowl XLV (in 2011), at a tailgate with Alec Baldwin, who starred in a movie Hicks had auditioned for… But Hicks made an impression on Baldwin’s then-rep, and within a few years, she was handling the Trump Organization account at Hiltzik Strategies and working closely with Ivanka Trump… Trump also had a different relationship with Hicks than he did with his children, who keep what the source called “ironic distance” from their father. “He knows that Ivanka has a separate agenda. Ivanka refers to him as ‘DJT’ just like the boys do, and Ivanka understands that her father is gonna be dead in ten years.” [NYMag]

Hillary Clinton says Ivanka Trump will not be the first female president — by Jessica Kwong: “Hillary Clinton was quick to shoot down the prospect of Ivanka Trump becoming the first woman president of the United States when asked about it on Dutch TV last week. “That’s not going to happen,” Clinton responded. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “No, we don’t want any more inexperienced Trumps in the White House.” … The report that Ivanka Trump wants to follow in her father’s footsteps surfaced in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury… “The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump,” the book stated.”[Newsweek]

TRUMP TUMULT — “Newly Emboldened, Trump Says What He Really Feels” by Maggie Haberman: “The president has his own original style, and it’s unlikely to be changed at this stage of his life,” Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, said in an interview. “But it also is conducive to bringing forward opportunities like this Korean conversation. It is not what we traditionalists would have recommended in the first place. But I have to say, when I have thought it through, and how it could play out, it could restore a political initiative to us, and could compel a conversation with countries” otherwise disinclined.” [NYTimes]

“Trump’s firings signal hawkish turn on North Korea and Iran” by Julian Borger: “James Carafano, vice-president of the Heritage Foundation, said: “Tillerson wanted to preserve the deal but the instructions were ‘Fix it in the way I want or we walk away from the deal’, and Pompeo will do that.” Carafano said Tillerson’s firing demonstrated Trump’s increased confidence in his own instincts in foreign policy. Tillerson and other top aides told Trump his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem would spark an eruption of unrest across the Middle East in December. The actual response was muted.”[TheGuardian]

Fareed Zakaria: “Pompeo should recognize that his job as secretary of state will be to solve problems, not produce them, and he should preserve the Iran accord and spend his time on North Korea.” [WashPost]

— “Sen. Bob Corker says he thinks Trump will pull out of Iran deal in May” by Kathryn Watson: “The Iran deal will be another issue that’s coming up in May, and right now it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be extended,” Corker said. “I think the president likely will move away from it, unless our European counterparts really come together on a framework. And it doesn’t feel to me that they are. Now, as we get within two weeks of the May 12 date, that could change.” Asked by Brennan if he believes the president will pull out of the deal, Corker responded, “I do. I do.” [CBSNews• European powers propose new Iran sanctions to meet Trump ultimatum [Reuters]

2018 WATCH — “Emanuel feigns neutrality, but teases support for Pritzker” by Fran Spielman: On Thursday, [Rahm Emanuel] came about as close as ever to going public with his support for [J. B.] Pritzker. It happened when WGN-AM Radio’s morning host Steve Cochran asked the mayor a pointed question. “If J.B. Pritzker wins, how can I or anybody in this state feel comfortable he’s gonna work for the state and not for Mike Madigan?” Cochran said, referring to the embattled Illinois House Speaker who doubles as state Democratic Party chairman… “It’s simple. … The problems are at a breaking point. And I think J.B. knows this is his one chance at political leadership and he has to leave the state better than he inherited,” the mayor said.” [ChicagoSunTimes]

2020 WATCH — “Sen. Jeff Flake eyes 2020 primary challenge to stop Trump” by Steve Peoples: “Flake has powerful friends who could help, however, including the outspoken anti-Trump billionaire Mark Cuban. “I’m a Jeff Flake fan,” Cuban told The Associated Press.” [AP

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — “In Israel’s Poorer Periphery, Legal Woes Don’t Dent Netanyahu’s Appeal” by Isabel Kershner: “The seeming dissonance between a rise in the polls and the prime minister’s deepening legal troubles makes complete sense to Mr. Netanyahu’s defiant base in Kiryat Malachi and in other strongholds of his conservative Likud party. In these parts, Bibi, as he is lovingly nicknamed, is extolled as a popular hero who is persecuted by a liberal news media; a leader without peer whose peccadilloes are easily forgiven… “We are all Bibi,” said Erez Madar, 33, a hairdresser in Kiryat Malachi. “Let him have a cigar. He deserves an airplane.”” [NYTimes]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Saudi Fund Said to Take $400 Million Stake in Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor [Bloomberg] • Last Head of Bear Stearns Alan Schwartz Taking on Wall Street Goliaths at Guggenheim [WSJ] • Kushners’ Cadre Startup Benefited From Misleading Rent Filings [BloombergAP] • New York hotelier Stephen Brandman and developer Jake Chetrit are opening two landmarked Beaux Arts hotels in Los Angeles under the Journal Hotel collection [NYPost] • How Debriefing Like The Israeli Air Force Can Help Your Business [Forbes] • Ben Rubin’s Meerkat was the darling of SXSW in 2015. Here’s why it pivoted three months later and became Houseparty [Recode]

STARTUP NATION’S FUTURE — As we near the 10th anniversary of the publication of Start-Up Nationthe book’s co-author Dan Senor spoke last week at the Jewish Funders Network conference on where Israel’s economy is headed: “For three millennia, Israel has been at the crossroads of empires. Now Israel stands at a new crossroads — it’s a new global geography of innovation. Ten years ago, innovation was primarily happening in the rich, developed world. Israel was partnering with North America and Europe. Today, the fastest growing innovation ecosystems are to be found in big developing countries, like India and China. And these countries are partnering with Israel to solve their biggest problems.”

“Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba is part of the flood of Chinese business leaders to recently visit Israel. In addition to acquiring an Israeli start-up, Alibaba announced plans to set up an office in Tel Aviv as part of a $15 billion global R&D initiative. China is now the source of more than 10% of the total capital raised by all Israeli start-ups… Israel has established 28 Centers of Excellence around India to improve agricultural yields by 5-10 times. Multiplied across the subcontinent, such increases could produce the second agricultural revolution that India needs to contend with a growing population, fast growing youth unemployment, urbanization, and the demands of an expanding middle class.”

SPOTLIGHT: “Welcome to Powder Mountain – a utopian club for the millennial elite” by Paul Lewis: “The story of how [Elliott ]Bisnow and his friends – [Jeff] Rosenthal, Ryan Begelman, Jeremy Schwartz and Brett Leve – came to occupy their bubble on a mountaintop in Utah has become something of a legend. It began in 2008, when Bisnow… cold-called entrepreneurs he admired and invited them on an all-expenses-paid trip to Utah. Bisnow shouldered the cost of the 19-strong gathering on his credit card, then repeated the trick with another get-together in Mexico, racking up $75,000 in debt. Bisnow and the others quickly coalesced a sort of “mutual aid society” for young, well-connected businessmen, which in the early days included the co-founders of Twitter and Facebook and the real-estate heiress Ivanka Trump.”

Having finessed the art of persuading rich people to pay to join these getaways, the founders convinced their friends to help them buy an entire mountain in Utah, complete with 10,000 acres of some of the best ski terrain in the US. They bristle at the idea that they’re trying to build a high-altitude utopia for plutocrats, but then casually refer to a segment of their clientele as “the billionaire set” – and don’t hesitate to mention that their mountain happens to be located between towns named Eden and Paradise.” [TheGuardian]

LongRead: “Why Jewish History Is So Hard to Write” by Adam Kirsch: “What does being a Jewish historian in the twenty-first century allow one to see, and what does it obscure? These are the questions raised by two major new surveys of the subject: “A History of Judaism” (Princeton), by Martin Goodman, and “The Story of the Jews: Volume Two: Belonging, 1492-1900” (Ecco), the newest installment of a trilogy by Simon Schama. In certain obvious ways, the two books present very different approaches to the topic. Goodman, as his title declares, is interested in the history of Judaism—that is, of the religious ideas and practices that have defined Jewish life over the millennia… Rather, Schama is fascinated by figures like Dan Mendoza, a celebrity boxer in late-eighteenth-century England, and Uriah Levy, a Jewish lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, who purchased Thomas Jefferson’s house, Monticello, in 1834…”[NewYorker]

“Learning to Pray When Words Fail” by Deborah Gastfreund Schuss: “Julie Shulman —an Orthodox Jew deeply immersed in her faith—wanted to enhance her husband’s practice of Judaism. Today she helps reintegrate others suffering from aphasia into communal religious participation. As she agitates for public educational and inclusion efforts of the sort that better-known disorders receive, she has come to view the religious community as a natural ally.” [WSJ]

“Jonathan Sacks at 70 reinvents himself as the ‘cartoon rabbi’” by Michael Freedland: “Having celebrated his 70th birthday last week, Jonathan Sacks is maintaining his reputation as one of the world’s best-known rabbis by launching several new projects to reach more people than ever. “I’m moving faster and faster. I’ve got my Rollerblades on,” he says… His website is already being peppered with millions of hits from people viewing a series of “whiteboard animations” of Sacks talking about Judaism. Each video begins with a woman’s delicate hand sketching a caricature of Sacks. As he goes into his topic, subtitles, other faces and bodies appear, and buildings come alive… How does Sacks cope with the inevitable mental strain of keeping up his prodigious output? “I have a gym upstairs, including various weights and a treadmill. And I walk a lot on Hampstead Heath — when it’s not too cold.”” [TheTimes]

SPORTS BLINK: “Man Behind U.M.B.C. Twitter Account Also Takes a Victory Lap” by Malika Andrews: “The human behind the triumphal stream was Zach Seidel, 27, the director of multimedia communications and digital for the athletic department. For a couple of hours on Friday night, he was the voice of the ultimate underdogs, the about-to-be-vindicated sports fan who got to revel in something historic — with an audience of millions high-fiving his every remark. “People I haven’t talked to in years were texting me, ‘Hey, I still have your number from school,’ ” Seidel said in a phone interview late Friday night. “ ‘I know we only hung out a few times, but oh my God, you’re killing it on Twitter.’ ”” [NYTimes

“The Secret Behind the Greatest Upset in College Basketball History” by Freeman Hrabowski, President of UMBC: “We’ve defied the odds before. Three decades ago, nobody believed you could close the achievement gap between white and underrepresented minority students, who were disproportionately likely to be lower-income and to be less academically prepared, without adjusting academic standards. But UMBC and the philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff didn’t believe it had to be that way… We started the Meyerhoff Scholars Program to support, challenge, and mentor underrepresented minority students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Today, the university is a top producer of African-American graduates who go on to earn PhDs in the sciences, and is the leading producer of ones who go on to earn MD-PhDs.” [TheAtlantic]

MEDIA WATCH — “NBC News’ Andy Lack is not a fan of Facebook” by Alexandra Steigrad: “At lunch with journalists at NBC last week, Lack pooh-poohed the platform for NBC Digital and other publishers in general. “Facebook doesn’t have any value to publishers really — that’s the dirty little [secret],” Lack told The Post. “They take all the value.” As a result, NBC is “pulling back” on working with the social media firm after it had conversations with the company regarding its concerns.” [NYPost]

“Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Under Pressure Over Data Breach” by Sara Frier: “Government officials in the U.S. and Europe are demanding answers from Facebook Inc. after reports that Cambridge Analytica, the advertising-data firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, retained information on tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent. Over the weekend, entreaties for the social-media giant to take responsibility evolved into calls for Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear in front of lawmakers.” [Bloomberg]

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN LA — Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson announced a new $13 million gift to the Israeli-American Council (IAC) at its 10th annual gala at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. In total, the IAC raised more than $16.5 million at the event, including a $1 million pledge from Haim Saban.

DESSERT — Trump Hotel in Scotland to Be ‘Kashered’ for Pesach: “A Chareidi man from London has rented out a Trump hotel in Scotland and is turning it Kosher for Pesach. Aryeh Wagner is the person in charge of Kosher catering for all royal functions that take place in any of the royal buildings in England, as well as meals taking place in the residence of the Prime Minister that have Jews in attendance… When asked if Trump’s Daughter and Son-in-Law Ivanka and Jared Kushner will be attending, Wagner said: “I am not at liberty to discuss the guest list…” [YeshivaWorld

“‘There is no kosher meat’: the Israelis full of zeal for going vegan” by Oliver Holmes: “From a tiny faction of outliers just five years ago, Israeli vegans now say they make up 5% of the country’s population, a higher percentage than anywhere else in the world. An estimated 500 restaurants are vegan or have substantial plant-based dishes on their menus… “Veganism is almost mainstream,” said Ori Shavit, a consultant for Israeli restaurants… Judaism has helped too, she says, because the kosher diet means Jews, even many secular ones, have a culture of checking what is in their food.”[TheGuardian]

“Landmark Worcester, Massachusetts Jewish restaurant Weintraub’s beset by health-code violations” by Mark Sullivan: “Two years shy of its 100th anniversary, Weintraub’s Jewish Delicatessen at 126 Water St. is showing its age. Customers these days are few… A vintage sign in the window read “kosher,” but the deli, more accurately described as kosher-style, has not been officially certified kosher since the 1970s, when the original owners dispensed with the weekly visits from the rabbis.” [Telegram]

BIRTHDAYS: Philanthropist, art collector and chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder turns 85… Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, whose books focus on Jewish life and identity, Philip Rothturns 85… Israeli politician, the daughter of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, she served as a member of the Knesset for three different parties (1999-2003), Dalia Rabin-Pelossof turns 68… Disgraced former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein turns 66… Author and journalist, best known as the first female executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson turns 64… NYC-based real estate investor and chairman of Turtle Pond Publications which invests in new media, he is one of three co-founders of the Tribeca Film Festival, Craig Hatkoff turns 64… EVP of merchandising at American Signature Furniture, a Schottenstein company, Steve Rabe turns 58… Writer, musician and radio commentator, he was founder and lay leader of the South Berkshire Minyan in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Seth Rogovoy turns 58 (h/t Playbook)… Neurologist in Naples, Florida, Brian D. Wolff, MD turns 56… Online producer, writer and director, who together with his brother Rafi, are best known for their React video series which have billions of YouTube views, Benny Fine turns 37… Founder of the Brave Collection, a Brooklyn-based company that sells hand-made Cambodian jewely and donates 10% of its profits to support a Cambodian anti-human-trafficking organization, Jessica Hendricks Yee turns 30… Aaron Bock

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