Daily Kickoff: Magerman sues Mercer | Wine in hand, Navarro attacks Kushner, Trump at ADL | Comey on the Holocaust | Is ‘Norman’ good for the Jews?

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HEARD LAST NIGHT — Wine in Hand, Ana Navarro’s Freewheeling ADL Speech — by Jacob Kornbluh: Republican strategist and political commentator Ana Navarro, sipping from a glass of wine, veered on and off script as she recounted the controversial moments of the 2016 presidential campaign, concluding that the Jewish community cannot rely on President Trump to stand up against bigotry and anti-Semitism.

Highlights — “Did you guys hear how Barbra Streisand is blaming her weight gain on Trump? Stop laughing! I am too. It’s like I am pregnant with this baby, Rosemary’s baby. I do not know what to do about this. I cannot stop eating and drinking since this man got elected… I should also tell you… I am Ashkenazi Jewish — and Sephardic. And I am also the descendant of slaves, and Hispanic. So basically, Donald Trump has offended all of me, every single part of me. ”

The one good thing about Trump: “I think he has been supportive of Israel’s right to exist. I am not sure he can find Israel on the map. I am not sure he doesn’t think it’s a deli in the Bronx… Other than liking matzah — in the same way he likes taco bowls — Donald Trump does understand that Israel has the right to exist, and that is – in my eyes – one of his few saving graces.”

On Jared’s Middle East portfolio: “I am not sure how much Jared understands [about the Middle East], but, you know, he’s got a lot on his plate. Keeping Ivanka happy can’t be easy. Getting his family out of financial straits can’t be easy either.”

On Steve Bannon: “They keep saying that Jared and Ivanka are Jewish, so, you know, Trump is good because his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. Well, go to them. I mean, surely you’ve got friends who know these people. Um. Hell, even I have friends who know these people. That’s why I am not deported yet – yet.” [JewishInsider]

FBI Director James Comey discussed the Holocaust in a speech at the ADL conference — by Aaron Magid: “Although the slaughter of the Holocaust was led by sick and evil people, those sick and evil leaders were joined by and followed by people who loved their families, took soup to sick neighbors, who went to Church, who gave to charity. Good people helped murder millions… I believe the Holocaust is the most significant event in human history. How could such a thing happen? How is that consistent in any way with the concept of a loving God? The answer for me is, I don’t know.” [JewishInsider

Abe Foxman tells us… “Comey understands what most people fail to comprehend about the Shoa – that six million Jews perished because ‘the good people’ implemented Hitler’s Final Solution. Germans and their accomplices, who loved their families and dogs, and religiously went to Church on Sunday, systematically murdered Jews because of anti-Semitic hatred preached and practiced for hundreds of years… Comey says he doesn’t know why. We do know why! Hate has consequences; it infects and eventually kills. That is the price of prejudice and the Shoa was the price of anti-Semitic prejudice which is still alive today.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center: “I understand what Director Comey wanted to say. But to be clear, any German who participated in or abetted in any way Hitler’s Final Solution could no longer be considered “good people.” By their words and deeds abetting genocide, they voided anything “good” they had previously done.”

TOP TALKER: “Washington Loves General McMaster, But Trump Doesn’t” by Eli Lake: “In recent weeks, Trump has privately expressed regret for choosing McMaster. Last Monday, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, who was a finalist for McMaster’s job, met with Trump to discuss a range of issues with the National Security Council. White House officials tell me the two discussed the prospect of Bolton coming in as McMaster’s deputy, but eventually agreed it was not a good fit… [Steve] Bannon and Trump, according to White House officials, pressed McMaster to fire a list of Obama holdovers at the National Security Council who were suspected of leaking to the press… Trump said in his statement to me that he couldn’t be happier with the general.” [Bloomberg]

Joe Scarborough: “Several WH sources say the Gen McMaster stories are coming from Bannon and are false. Trump has full confidence in McMaster. “He loves him.” [Twitter

Bill Kristol‏: “My read: Bannon going after McMaster, who purged him from NSC. Flynn holdovers helping Bannon. Kushner, Dina Powell allied with McMaster.” [Twitter]

Trump’s schedule today — 10:00 AM“The President meets with National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster.”

“Steve Bannon’s Former Hollywood Partner Jeff Kwatinetz Breaks Silence: “He’s Not a Racist” Q&A by Paul Bond: “I know that he’s not anti-Semitic. I am absolutely positive that he’s not anti-Semitic or racist. It is absurd. I am Jewish, Roy Furman was Jewish, Andrew Breitbart was Jewish. He is not anti-Semitic. Period… Steve and I and a few others at the company had an idea for the future of the music business and spent a year of our lives doing the banking work and analysis for the purchase of Warner Music [from Time Warner] by private equity firms. A dozen private equity firms told us our numbers were fantasy, but a group agreed with us and bought Warner Music for $2.6 billion. Then when Edgar Bronfman was brought in late as executive chairman, we decided not to go ahead because we didn’t believe in his vision, but our analysis of how to finance and purchase the company was highly accurate and it allowed the buyers to make hundreds of millions of dollars, and in the process Steve and I made millions of dollars for putting together the deal.” [HollywoodReporter]

“Kushner emerged as conduit for Canada on NAFTA talks” by Julie Pace and Catherine Lucey: “According to a White House official, aides to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called [Jared] Kushner urgently on April 26 after seeing news reports that Trump was considering signing an executive order withdrawing from NAFTA… Kushner told his Canadian counterpart that this was a matter the leaders needed to discuss themselves, according to the White House official… But accounts of Kushner’s involvement differed Monday in Canadian media reports. According to The Canadian Press news agency, it was Kushner who first reached out to Trudeau’s chief of staff to suggest a call between the two leaders.” [AP]

“Kushner Family Stands to Gain From Visa Rules in Trump’s First Major Law” by Eric Lipton and Jesse Drucker: “There is no assertion that Mr. Kushner broke any conflict-of-interest rule; but the law does not prevent his relatives from attempting to exploit those ties to benefit the family business. Mr. Kushner’s portfolio includes a central role on China policy. That role has heightened the Kushner family name in a nation accounting for more than 80 percent of the EB-5 visas issued. Wealthy Chinese see the program as an easy way to legally move to the United States.” [NYTimes• The Kushner Project Touted in China Is in Trouble at Home [Bloomberg]

Norm Eisen: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump should recuse themselves from China policy… “It is well past time for this administration to begin drawing real and meaningful lines to avoid catastrophic conflicts of interest. The latest reports make it is even more important that Kushner and Ivanka Trump step forward and do the right thing. A broad recusal on China policy would be a good — and essential — start.” [WashPost]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Dem rep: State Dept. video ‘edited out’ Israel” by Mark Hensch: “Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) on Monday criticized the State Department for a video posted by the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia that “edited out” mentions of Israel. “I am appalled that the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia disingenuously posted this incomplete and misleading video,” Engel said in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson… “I urge you to immediately instruct the embassy to replace the video with the unedited version that includes the announcement of the President’s planned visit to Israel. We must continue to be true to our values and interests.” … Engel… noted how the version posted on the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh’s website and its Arabic-language Twitter account make no mention of Israel. The video and tweet have both been deleted.” [TheHill; Politico]

“Embassy used video of Trump travel doctored by Saudi citizen” by Richard Lardner: “The American Embassy was unaware that the video had been altered, according to the State Department official. The video was immediately replaced on the embassy’s social media accounts with the original version that includes Trump stating Israel will be among the countries he’ll be visiting. The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity, said the embassy regretted the mistake.” [AP]

“Erdogan says US debates over Jerusalem embassy move ‘wrong’” by AFP: “Speaking at a forum in Istanbul, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan said everyone should be careful on issues that concerned the status of Jerusalem, warning that even “relocating a stone” in the city could have serious implications. “The debates over the possibility of US moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem are extremely wrong and should certainly drop from the agenda,” the Turkish president said.” [DailyMail• Israel slams Turkey’s Erdogan over ‘apartheid’ remarks [MEE]

“Benjamin Netanyahu angry Lauder advised Abbas” by Gil Hoffman: “Confidants who spoke to Netanyahu about Ron Lauder told The Jerusalem Post that he was furious about the American Jewish leader’s meeting. “You don’t understand how much influence he has over Trump,” Netanyahu told a confidant in a private conversation Monday. “Out of the people around Trump, he is my biggest challenge to overcome.”” [JPost• Abbas ready to meet Netanyahu under auspices of Trump [Ynet]

“Abbas Told Trump: Peace Talks Should Resume From Where 2008 Negotiations With Israel Left Off” by Jack Khoury: “Abbas and his staff showed Trump documents and maps from Israel’s talks with the Palestinians near the end of Olmert’s term, explaining the proposal to him… According to Abbas… the U.S. president showed interest and revealed that he wanted to move quickly, “and even said within a year or a bit more.”” [Haaretz• U.S. Pressures Abbas to End Controversial Family Payments [WSJ]

‘Read his book’ — WH aide Sebastian Gorka on Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’ in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2: “I’ll just repeat what the President has said, okay? It’s always good to stick with what the boss says. He wishes to have a deal in which both sides are satisfied. We’re not going to say what that is. We’re not going to predict it. But I recommend all your viewers  – I’m sure it’s available in Hebrew – read his book ‘The Art of the Deal.’ If you want to understand what is possible, read that book… If anybody can bring an agreement that is good for Israel, it will be President Donald Trump. He is the master of the deal.” [Mako

“Bennett: We must tell Trump the ‘truth’ about peace process” by Ben Caspit: “I am the only person in the government of Israel who ever made a business deal in general and a business deal in America in particular,” said [Education Minister Naftali] Bennett. “I lived in the US for years. I know New York and the American business world… What I learned about dealmaking in America from this is to tell the truth, even if it is unpleasant. Don’t bluff… and I am sure that Trump would be able to appreciate that. The truth is that there is no [feasible] deal. The maximum that we are willing to give and the minimum that they are willing to accept don’t jive. As for saying that it’s possible, creating hopes and then causing disappointments and, later, violence, I don’t see who benefits from that. President Trump is talking about a deal? Let’s talk about the real deal. The real deal is economic peace and expanded [Palestinian] autonomy… All the rest is an illusion, and it will be shattered.” [Al-Monitor

KAFE KNESSET — Preparing for Friedman — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz sat down in DC yesterday with new US Ambassador David Friedman for a chat before Friedman embarks on his trip to Israel. During the meeting, also attended by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, Katz presented the two regional and economic initiatives he has been pushing — the artificial island off the coast of Gaza and a regional rail network that will connect Israel, Jordan and the Gulf States. Katz told Kafe Knesset that he “was very impressed by my meeting with Ambassador Friedman, by his knowledge, vision and sincere concern for the security and well-being of the State of Israel. I am convinced that his activities in Israel will strengthen and deepen the historic alliance between the United States and Israel. I am happy to find a partner to promote regional economic initiatives that will change the reality for the benefit of all the countries of the region and the Palestinian residents.” Today Katz is expected to present the initiatives to members of the National Security Council, and Jason Greenblatt is also expected to participate. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

ON THE HILL — – Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Brian Mast (R-FL) introduced legislation yesterday to increase funding for Arrow 3 system, an anti-ballistic missile defense program. “As the threat of terror explodes in the unstable Middle East, it’s critical that we defend our vital ally, Israel, and strengthen our military partnership,” Gottheimer said. Mast, who personally volunteered in the Israeli military after losing both of his legs while serving in Afghanistan, emphasized the bipartisan nature of this legislation. “This bipartisan legislation would expedite the development of the Arrow 3 long-range missile defense system, which is absolutely critical to Israel’s defense and stability in the Middle East,” he noted. The measure calls for an increase of $105 million to Israel for fiscal year 2018 to fund the program. [JewishInsider

“Progressives Need a New Foreign Policy Vision. This Democratic Senator Says He Has One” by Eric Levitz: One foreign policy issue that Democratic voters have strong — and often, diametrically opposed — views on is the Israel-Palestine conflict. Polls show that younger progressives are much more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than their elders. And many such voters, along with pro-Israel, anti-occupation groups like J Street, believe that the United States should do more to discourage Israeli settlement expansion, and bring an end to the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. Do you agree?

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT): “I think that conflict is very hard to resolve given the existing leadership on both sides of the divide. The United States has always had a tricky position. We have to stand by Israel as a sacred friend in that region, but we also know historically that no deals get done unless the United States isn’t willing to tell some hard truths to Tel Aviv. The settlement construction under Netanyahu did make peace less likely because it ultimately carved out sections of a future Palestinian state in a way that wasn’t constructive. I think, I’m a believer in supporting Israel, but also in not being afraid to call them out, when they’re doing something that isn’t ultimately good for peace. I think you can walk that line. I don’t support those that the only way you are a friend to Israel is to support whatever the existing government asks you to support.”” [NYMag

–Worth noting: Sen Murphy says “to tell some hard truths to Tel Aviv” and not Jerusalem.

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Sam Zell on WeWork: “I wouldn’t let those virtual office guys near my business ‘with a ten-foot pole'” [CNBC] • Eliot Spitzer’s marketing campaign puts the ‘high’ in high-rise [NYPost] • Sir Philip Green £433 million worse off, according to Rich List [TheJC] • Harry Macklowe may be secretly selling artwork amid $2B divorce [NYPost] • Hedge fund activist Paul Singer just found his next target [CNBC] • Hedgie Gerstner says United Airlines still has much to gain [NYPost] • Waze Now Lets You Record Navigation Instructions in Your Own Voice [lifehacker] • Has Uber Killed Off Its Self-Driving Trucks? Federal records show that Otto’s 18-wheelers are covering fewer miles than ever before [BackChannel]

“Mercer Sued by former Hedge Fund employee David Magerman who claims he was fired for calling Mercer racist” by Erik Larson: “The complaint by David Magerman, a research scientist who worked at Renaissance Technologies LLC for two decades, alleges he was wrongfully fired April 29 after his relationship with [Robert] Mercer and his family became toxic. For example, Magerman alleges that Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah Mercer, a member of Trump’s transition team, called him “pond scum” at a celebrity poker tournament. The confrontation “just shows the hostility that the Mercers had toward Mr. Magerman because he dared to challenge their political views,” his lawyer, H. Robert Fiebach, said in a phone call on Monday…”

“The dispute started on Jan. 16 when Magerman called Mercer and asked to have a conversation about his support of Trump… During the chat, Mercer said… that black Americans “were doing fine” in the late 1950s and are the “only racist people remaining in the U.S.,” according to the complaint. “Magerman was stunned by these comments and pushed back,” according to the complaint… Magerman complained about Mercer’s comments to Co-Chief Executive Officer Peter Brown, who “expressed disbelief” and urged the two men to speak again… Magerman agreed and called Mercer back on Feb. 5. “I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist,” Mercer said.” [Bloomberg; WSJ• Robert Mercer, Trump’s Sugar Daddy, Is Being Sued [VanityFair]

“Michael Bloomberg Sounds Off on Trump, Clinton and the Media” by Alexandra Steigrad: “Bloomberg said he had a post-election chat with Trump, in which he said: “Look Donald, you don’t know anything.” “We’ve got to cut him a little slack,” he said, emphasizing that it’s in everyone’s best interest that Trump succeeds as president… Eventually, the chat turned back to politics and why Clinton couldn’t close the deal. “Hillary ran a campaign that was flawed and Obama didn’t really help her,” he said… “Trump won…even if he didn’t win the popular vote. He had a positive message… I’m going to do something….The only thing Hillary said was vote for me because I’m a woman…and Trump is bad.”” [WWD]

“Sheryl Sandberg: fighting fake news and Facebook’s future” by Hannah Kuchler: “With her smooth manner, it’s little wonder that there has been speculation that Sandberg could run for political office, but she says that since her husband’s death she feels more tied to Facebook, where people continue to post memories on his page. When she was young, she thought she would work in government or a non-profit, never a company. What changed? “I think when technology happened, that Google, Facebook, these companies have as much of a mission as other organisations,” she says… Rumours were fuelled when Mark Zuckerberg embarked on a US tour to meet community groups, churches and businesses that appeared remarkably similar to an election campaign trail. Does she think he might run for president? “No.” And you? “Nope, I’ve said no.” [FT• Inside Zuckerberg’s real political strategy [Axios]

RISING STAR: “Jack Schlossberg, the grandson of John F. Kennedy, is ready for his time in the spotlight” by Rachel Shukert: “Last week, in a joint television interview with his mother [Caroline Kennedy] on The Today Show last week, [Jack] Schlossberg, in his first live TV appearance, explained their decision to award this year’s John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award to former President Barack Obama… When asked about his plans for the future on Today—particularly in regards to one day seeking public office—he was non-committal… But he also left the door wide open and swinging on its hinges: “I’m inspired by my family’s legacy of public service. It’s something I’m very proud of. But I’m still trying to make my own way and figure things out. So stay tuned—I don’t know what I’m going to do.”” [Tablet

LongRead — “Taking Down Terrorists in Court: Zainab Ahmad has prosecuted thirteen international terrorist suspects for the American government. She hasn’t lost yet” by William Finnegan: “Ahmad had a multifaceted upbringing. She grew up in suburban Nassau County, Long Island, with her father and stepmother and two younger brothers, and she also lived part time with her mother, in Manhattan. Her parents had divorced, amicably, when she was an infant, and, as Zainab grew, according to her father, Naeem, “she would play Mom off against Dad, but always for one thing—to buy more books.” “We felt comfortable here,” Naeem told me, when I visited him and his wife, Nasrin, at their home, in East Meadow. “I felt comfortable with my neighbors, and never told my children to avoid kids because they’re Christian, Jewish—none of that.” (Most of Zainab’s friends as a child were Jewish.) Naeem, a retired engineer, is an active member of a local mosque, and has taught Sunday school since the nineteen-eighties. “I am a very religious man,” he said. “But not a religiosity man. I don’t care what other people do.”” [NewYorker]

PROFILE: “A Travel Ban’s Foe: A Young Firebrand and Her Pro Bono Brigade” by Miriam Jordan: “Saying he admired [Becca] Heller’s “chutzpah,” Charles Bronfman, the Seagram heir and an executive whose organization had already given her a $100,000 prize, threw a fund-raiser for her last month at his Fifth Avenue apartment. Ms. Heller, who uses profanity when ranting and raving, kept her promise to Mr. Bronfman that she would sanitize her speech. She drew chuckles from the two dozen guests when she referred with irony to the president’s “excellent” policies, and when she threatened to steal a Chagall mounted on the wall. “We made a lot of money,” she said afterward, declining to say how much. But all the attention has helped triple the IRAP budget this year, to $6.5 million, she said. During a summer in Israel, Ms. Heller quit an internship and traveled to Jordan, where she met Iraqi refugees stuck in a state of limbo that appalled her. After finagling meetings with the United Nations refugee agency and the United States Embassy so she could better understand the resettlement process, she returned to Yale and, with another student, founded IRAP — the “I” then standing for Iraqi.” [NYTimes

TALK OF OUR NATION: “It took a century to create the weekend—and only a decade to undo it” by Katrina Onstad: “The state of the weekend is an ongoing battle in Israel, where the official weekend is the day and a half that constitutes the Sabbath, from Friday evening through Saturday. But Israel’s weekend is changing, too—tensely. Some Orthodox Jews, appalled at Sabbath-breakers, have reportedly thrown stones at Israelis taking the bus on Saturdays. With Arabs and Christians to please, there have been calls for a full, two-day FridaySaturday weekend to accommodate holy days for all groups.” [Quartz

“Why was this Passover different from all other Passovers?” by Susan Abeles: “I was punished, and effectively forced out of my job of over 26 years, because I observed Passover. So I’m going to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear my case… As I made in my case, each year during my 26 years at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), I submitted a list of all Jewish holidays on which I would take leave that year, a procedure that was always accepted by my different supervisors… In 2013, I followed the same protocol as I had for decades… Then the MWAA… placed me on AWOL for the last two days of Passover for violating leave policy and suspended me in May for an additional five days without pay with an added-on insubordination charge for using my own vacation time to worship God.” [TheHill

TRANSITION: Jonathan Schulman has been hired as AIPAC’s National Synagogue Initiative Director. Jonathan originally came to AIPAC in 2006 joining their Southeast office as the first ever regional Synagogue Initiative Director in the country. In 2008, Jonathan moved to Washington, DC to become the National Deputy Director of the Synagogue Initiative.

HOLLYWOOD: “Is “Norman” good for the Jews?” by Jeffrey Salkin: “Norman is a collection of classic Jewish archetypes – a macher (a person who gets things done), a schnorrer (a beggar), and even sometimes, despite himself, a mensch. But, more often, he is a name dropper, a business card distributor, and a people collector. His life is a viral contagion of favors, in which he owes people, people owe him, and people owe each other because they owe Norman… We meet Norman at every major Jewish conference and convention. He hangs out on the fringes, and sometimes on the inside, of every Jewish organization. In fact, the film features a knowing facsimile of an AIPAC policy convention. And so, is “Norman” good for the Jews? Let’s just say this. “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer” would have killed my grandmother. And yours, too, come to think of it.” [ReligionNewsService]

SPORTS BLINK: “Los Angeles Makes Its Case for 2024 Olympics” by Matthew Futterman: “Casey Wasserman, the sports and entertainment executive chairing the Los Angeles bid, recently said in a conference call with the media that the characteristics that have “made our bid viable and popular remain the same from the beginning, and that is the opposite of what has driven people to criticize other bids.” [WSJ]

BIRTHDAYS: Owner of St. Louis-based Harbour Group Industries, investor in 200 companies in 40 industries, US Ambassador to Belgium (2007-2009), Sam Fox turns 88… Vice President of Global Public Policy at Facebook, previously White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy (2006-2009), law clerk for Justice Scalia (1999-2000), Joel D. Kaplan turns 48… ‘Downtown macher’ Nathaniel Rosen, a Blackstone associate starting HBS this fall (h/t DB)… Business executive and philanthropist, co-managing partner of Bain Capital, owner of a minority interest in the Boston Celtics, Jonathan Lavine turns 51… Budapest-born philanthropist and social activist, she marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965, Eva Haller turns 87… Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter, James L. Brooks (family name was Bernstein) turns 77… Guitarist and record producer, best known as a member of the rock-pop-jazz group “Blood, Sweat & Tears,” Steve Katz turns 72… Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, professor of structural biology at Stanford University, lives in both Israel and California, Michael Levitt turns 70…

Pianist, singer-songwriter, composer and one of the best selling recording artists of all time, Billy Joel turns 68… Physician in Burlington, Vermont, she was the First Lady of Vermont from 1991 until 2003 when her husband Howard Dean was Governor, Judith Steinberg Dean turns 64… Media, entertainment and technology entrepreneur and inventor, Brian D. Litman turns 63… Film director, film producer, playwright, author, marketing executive and arts philanthropist, Barry Avrich turns 54… DC-based, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich turns 52… Journalist, author, and political commentator, he is currently a co-founder and editor-in-chief at Vox, and formerly wrote for and edited Wonkblog at the Washington Post, Ezra Klein turns 33 (h/ts Playbook)… Mikhael Smits turns 21…

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Daily Kickoff: Pro-Israel Hard-Liners Worry About Trump | Kushner’s sister makes news in China | Gorka’s campaign | Scooter Braun meets Bibi

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LAUDER’S LATEST: “Jewish Trump confidant: US president has convinced Abbas to make concessions” by Gil Hoffman: “Behind the scenes at the [JPost] conference, [Ron] Lauder briefed ministers Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Ofir Akunis, as well as opposition leader Isaac Herzog on his impressions from talking to Trump about how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Trump is very optimistic that he can renew the peace process,” one of the politicians told The Jerusalem Post after speaking to Lauder. “Lauder understands from Trump that he believes Abbas can be convinced by him and Arab leaders to come back to the table and make concessions.” [JPost]

Alan Dershowitz on Lauder’s meetings with Abbas: “I think it’s very important for all leaders to meet with other leaders. I think you should always extend the hand and find out what they are prepared to offer and see if there are bridges that could be built towards peace. So I commend Ron Lauder for doing that. He is a strong Zionist, a strong supporter of Israel. He would never do anything to undercut the security of Israel under any circumstances.”

ITEMS FIRST REPORTED BY JEWISH INSIDER… “Mixed Signals From Trump Worry Pro-Israel Hard-Liners” by Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman: “They are particularly concerned about the role of one of Mr. Trump’s closest Jewish friends, the New York billionaire Ronald S. Lauder, who is prodding Mr. Trump [1] to forge an alliance with Mr. Abbas. Mr. Lauder is in frequent contact with Mr. Trump’s chief Middle East negotiator, Jason D. Greenblatt, who attended a dinner at Mr. Lauder’s Georgetown home with Mr. Abbas [2] the night before the Palestinian leader went to the White House…  Later this month, when Mr. Trump will test his ideas on his first foreign trip, to Saudi Arabia and Israel, one of his most powerful donors, the Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson, will be in Israel [3] when the president is, according to people briefed on his schedule… David M. Friedman, the bankruptcy lawyer who is Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Israel, has told people he plans to divide his time between the ambassador’s seaside residence near Tel Aviv and the King David Hotel in Jerusalem [4], where the State Department keeps an apartment for its envoy.” [NYTimes]

SATURDAY AFTERNOON LIVE… “Jared Kushner’s Sister Highlights Family Ties in Pitch to Chinese Investors” by Javier Hernandez, Cao Li and Jesse Drucker:On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Kushner’s sister Nicole Meyer made a pitch to attract $150 million in financing for a Jersey City housing development, known as One Journal Square, to more than 100 Chinese investors gathered at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Beijing… The tagline on a brochure for the event: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.” And the highlight of the afternoon was Meyer, a principal for the company, who was introduced in promotional materials as Jared’s sister… Journalists were initially seated at the back of the ballroom, but as the presentations got underway, a public-relations representative asked The Washington Post to leave, saying the presence of foreign reporters threatened the “stability” of the event… Asked why reporters were asked to leave, a PR person who declined to identify herself said simply, “This is not the story we want.” [NYTimesWashPost]

— “Ms. Meyer’s presentation at the event began “with a history of the family fortune,” said an architect who attended and identified himself by his surname, Wu. The story, Mr. Wu said, included a description of how her grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from Germany after making money supplying metalwork to builders. Ms. Meyer afterward could be seen posing for pictures with some attendees.” [WSJ] • Kushner family apologizes for mentioning White House adviser Jared Kushner [CNN]

AMBASSADORS UNITE — Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro met with his successor, Ambassador David Friedman in Long Island on Saturday, according to Eli Beer, Founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, who posted about the impromptu summit on Facebook. Shapiro spent Shabbat as a scholar-in-residence at the Young Israel of Woodmere, the largest Orthodox Jewish congregation in the Five Towns, led by Rabbi Heshie Billet. After morning service, at the behest of Beer – according to his account – Shapiro walked over to the home of Daniel Friedman, who was hosting his parents for Shabbat. “The two men showed great excitement meeting each other” and engaged in a lengthy conversation that was continued when Friedman walked over after the meal to the family that hosted Shapiro, according to Beer. [JewishInsider]

SCENE YESTERDAY — Israeli cabinet ministers and the leader of the Israeli opposition welcomed President Trump’s investment in Middle East peace efforts at the Jerusalem Post’s 6th annual conference in New York. On the left, Member of Knesset Isaac Herzog lauded Trump’s desire to bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and promised his political support in the event of a peace settlement. “I believe he’s adamantly committed to this cause,” Herzog said about the President. “So far, the way he’s handled this mission is impeccable.”

On the right, ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) praised Trump for adopting a new approach to the conflict. “I was personally encouraged that the Trump Administration did not automatically adopt the two-state solution narrative,” said Shaked, Israel’s Justice Minister. “I think the Trump Administration will continue to positively surprise us.” Bennett, pointing to the fact that the Palestinians (Hamas faction) already have a state and an army in the Gaza strip, called for the “Trump Plan,” an economic development initiative to boost the Palestinian economy, modeled after the Marshall Plan.

Regarding the Jerusalem embassy, Shaked said: “President Trump doesn’t need to do anything. On June 1, if he doesn’t sign a waiver, the embassy will need to move to Jerusalem according to the American law.”

Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) tells us… “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, no doubt about that. I think all the previous U.S. presidents recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Moving the embassy is important. I think it’s high time to do it. I was very encouraged by Trump’s promise to move it during the campaign – he was crystal clear about it – and I hope that this is forthcoming as well.”

Steinitz on Trump’s push for ME peace: “I am not very optimistic about the ultimate deal. We hope to achieve peace and security, but currently, we don’t see that we have a reliable partner. Abu Mazen (Abbas) is talking very nicely about peace in Washington, but if you examine the core messages of his education system, they are very anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli. Without terminating this horrible incitement, this is a non-starter.”

White House national security aide Sebastian Gorka, who was greeted by loud applause and a standing ovation, referred to recent news about his imminent departure from the White House as “very fake news.” “I will be there as long as the President has use for me,” Gorka said. He refused to address the controversy over his involvement with a Nazi-linked Hungarian group head-on but stressed: “Nobody, not one person, has found one sentence that I have ever said that is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.” Noting that his appearance occurred on the same day Nazi Germany surrendered to the Western Allies (May 7, 1945), Gorka compared the fight against ISIS to the battle against Hitler’s regime. “When the black flag of ISIS is rejected like the Nazi flag is today, we will have won,” he said.

According to the White House aide, critics of current administration come from pro-BDS and Iran deal supporters. “Because we are pro-Israel, we must be attacked, whether it’s the president, whether it’s Steve Bannon, whether it is Steve Miller or myself, we are friends of Israel,” Gorka said. “Who are the leaders of the slanders against the administration? People who are either connected to BDS or pro-JCPOA [Iran deal].” [JewishInsider; NYPost]

“Trump and Bannon ‘Personally Intervened’ to Save Seb Gorka” by Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng: “After news emerged last week that the Trump administration was setting the stage to move the British-born national security aide out of the White House, President Donald Trump and his chief strategist Stephen Bannon “personally intervened” to put a halt to [Seb] Gorka’s White House eviction, two senior administration sources said… According to multiple administration sources, a White House faction led by Jared Kushner… isn’t pleased with this development… One White House source says Kushner now views him as a “clown” and wants nothing to do with him.” [DailyBeast]

“The Campaign to Rehabilitate Sebastian Gorka” by Rosie Gray: “Pro-Gorka op-eds have popped up in the Jewish press as well as the conservative media, and Gorka is also speaking to the Christians United for Israel conference this summer. Rabbi Heshie Billet, who presides over a large Orthodox congregation on Long Island, this weekend wrote an essay for Algemeiner entitled: “End The Gorka Calumny.” … Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein… has taken a leading role in these efforts… Klein said he had spoken with two mutual friends: David Goldman, a columnist for PJ Media, and Jeff Ballabon, a Republican activist and lawyer… Ballabon said he had not been asked to defend Gorka  by anyone in the White House, but that people in the White House had been “appreciative” of his efforts.” [TheAtlantic]

Spotted: Gorka met in private with Education Minister Bennett on the sidelines of the JPost conference.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz on Trump’s Israel trip: “I think his message will be that he wants to make a deal, and he wants to see both sides come to the negotiation table and offer compromises in the interest of making peace. That will be his message. I think there will be a combination of carrots to both sides and possibly even some sticks. I think he is going to announce that during his administration, the U.S. embassy will move to Jerusalem, but it will take negotiations with U.S. allies to bring about an exact time schedule.”

KAFE KNESSET — Welcome back, Knesset — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: It may feel like the Knesset never left, but, in fact, today is the first full day of the summer session after the Knesset’s Passover recess. There is a lot on the agenda for MKs in the coming months and today’s busy schedule reflects that. The marathon debates on public broadcasting are continuing, with coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) maintaining his usual bluster. The special committee formed to work on the bill has less than a week to finish its work, but it has been discussing minutiae like specific reporters’ jobs, whether or not right-wing reporters have been hired by the nascent Israel Broadcast Corporation or not (they have, but some Likud MKs are in denial), and whether two people have been hired to do the same job. A significant portion of the debate was devoted to major cuts to Radio Reka, which broadcasts in languages other than Hebrew and Arabic; some meeting attendees were amazed to find that there is a daily 15 minute news show in Aramaic.

The Knesset has even more contentious bills planned for the months ahead. Yesterday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the controversial “Jewish nation-state bill.” … Meanwhile, Netanyahu is expected to give a speech tonight to belatedly mark Herzl Day – the Zionist visionary’s birthday – in the Knesset. Maybe he’ll confirm reports from the Swiss press that he plans to visit Basel in August for the 120th anniversary of the first Zionist Congress, which Herzl organized in the city. According to the Telebasel news site, the city is not so excited about a possible high-profile visit and its cost. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

HAPPENING TODAY: FBI Director James Comey will address the Anti-Defamation League’s conference in Washington, D.C at 1:30 PM ET [CSPAN]

“For Arab Gulf States, Israel Is Emerging as an Ally” by Yaroslav Trofimov: “This unlikely partnership has gathered steam with the rise of Saudi Arabia’s new deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman…  who wants a more vigorous response to Iran. And it has received new momentum since the election of Donald Trump… Pressure from the Gulf—particularly from Hamas’s longtime backer Qatar—played a key role in the Palestinian group’s decision Monday to remove slurs against Jews from its revised charter. Israel scoffed at the changes, noting that Hamas retained its goal of “liberating” all of historic Palestine… Still, some Israeli officials have praised the Gulf monarchies’ shift on Hamas… Most of the influential TV news channels and pan-Arab newspapers are owned by Saudis, Qatari or Emiratis. “On TV, we no longer hear the usual words ‘Israeli aggression.’ Now, it’s mostly about the ‘Persian aggression,’ ” said Ahmad al-Ibrahim, a Saudi businessman and political analyst.” [WSJ]

ACROSS THE POND: “Prince Charles has visit to Israel cancelled ‘by Foreign Office camel corps pandering to Arab dictators’” by David Willetts and Jack Royston: “Prince Charles was set to pay respects to 16,000 British and Commonwealth troops who died during the Palestine Campaign in 1917. And commemorate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration… But the Royal Visits Committee – part of the FCO – who decide where and when Royals will be sent around the world have decided against it. It is understood the invite never even reached the Royal household or Prince Charles. Prince Charles has already visited the country in a private capacity… His paternal grandmother Princess Alice of Battenberg – who saved a Jewish family during the Holocaust – is buried at Mount of Olives’ Church of Mary Magdalene.” [TheSun]

“Report: Trump Refused to Delay Israel Visit to Coincide With Six Day War Anniversary” by Jack Khoury: “According to the report, which the [Al-Hayat] paper said was confirmed by anonymous Western sources, the White House’s refusal stemmed from schedule constraints and a concern that the visit would cast Trump as a biased negotiator who would take the side of Israel in the conflict.” [Haaretz

TEHRAN WATCH: “Rouhani: Revolutionary Guards tried to sabotage nuke deal with anti-Israel slogans on missiles” by Eric Randolph and Ali Noorani: “In rare criticism of the elite Revolutionary Guards, President Hassan Rouhani… slammed the decision to write anti-Israel messages on ballistic missiles before testing them. “We saw how they wrote slogans on missiles and showed underground (missile) sites to disrupt the JCPOA (nuclear deal),” he said during the debate, which comes ahead of the May 19 election. “Our nation got through these issues because the majority of society chose morality and Islam from day one,” he added.” [ToI; Al-Monitor]

FRENCH ELECTION: “French Jews Just Helped Vote Down Le Pen. Now They Have Another Fear Under Macron” by Shirli Sitbon: “In Paris’s historic Jewish quarter Rosiers St. most people seemed relieved although not thrilled. “Macron was the best choice we had. His program isn’t good, he’s definitely not a statesman but he seems smart enough to make crucial decisions when necessary,” said Guillaume… Congratulating Macron for his victory Jewish community leader Joel Mergui urged the president-elect to tackle terrorism.” [Haaretz] • Emmanuel Macron’s foreign policy doctrine(s): The newly minted French president knows Brussels, distrusts Moscow and must learn everything else [Politico]

SPECIAL ELECTION WATCH — “Georgia 6th: Ossoff is engaged to longtime girlfriend” by Greg Bluestein: “The 6th District candidate popped the question to his longtime girlfriend Alisha Kramer on Friday night. His supporters showered her with congrulatory wishes at a campaign stop on Saturday morning. She and [Jon] Ossoff had been dating for 12 years, and she’s played a prominent role in his campaign. She’s a third-year medical student at Emory University, and Ossoff cites her need to be close to school when he’s pressed about why he doesn’t live in the suburban Atlanta district.” [AJC]

“Soros dumps $1.4 million into Philly DA primary” by Chris Brennan: “On April 28, [George] Soros poured that cash into Philadelphia Justice and Public Safety, an independent political action committee running television ads in support of civil rights lawyer Larry Krasner, according to a campaign finance report filed Friday… The Soros funding significantly surpasses what Krasner and the other six Democrats in the May 16primary election for district attorney had been able to raise. And it fits a pattern that Soros started in 2015, when he began investing heavily in races for district attorney and sheriff across the country.” [TheInquirer]

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Paul Singer’s Flagship Fund Raises $5 Billion in 24 Hours[Bloomberg] • David Einhorn may be trapped in a terrible paired trade [BusinessInsider] • Is PayPal Co-Founder Max Levchin Making The Next Credit Card Killer? [Forbes] • Google ranked best place to work in Israel [ToI; JPost• OurCrowd adds Andy Kaye to team as president & CIO [ToI] Arcadi Gaydamak gets prison leave to give evidence in Israel [Globes]

TECH NATION: “Oculus and Vive Headsets Are Taking Israel’s Army Underground” by Gwen Ackerman: “In a refurbished building on a military base in central Israel, soldiers are training in underground combat using headsets made by Oculus, the virtual reality headset maker owned by Facebook Inc., and Vive, owned by HTC Corp. The goal is that with Oculus and Vive, more Israeli soldiers will know how to fight in the tunnels Palestinian militant groups dig under the Gaza Strip and across its border into Israel.” [Bloomberg]

Scooter Braun visits Israel…“Such an incredible week. Although passions run high in this region I walked away knowing that Israel is a beautiful and open society. Great food, great music, great innovation, and great people. As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, I know the importance of a state where the Jewish people can forever be safe. I met Prime Minister Netanyahu because as I have stated before I believe it’s important to listen to all sides in this complex region. Israel isn’t a perfect country — no country is — but it is an inspiring place which has contributed so much to the world. Thank you Mr. Prime Minister for making the time and for sharing your love for this land and all it’s people. I appreciated your honesty and your willingness to debate and share. Thank you to the people of Israel… such an amazing place. The Holy land! Can’t wait to return.” [Instagram]

“What it’s like to have a surprise dinner with Mark Zuckerberg” by Alex Heath: “About two weeks ago, Daniel Moore received a cryptic phone call. The 57-year-old resident of Newton Falls, Ohio was told that a billionaire philanthropist from California wanted to meet and have dinner with his family. “I thought it was a prank phone call,” Moore told Business Insider… Facebook’s 32-year-old CEO has given himself a personal goal of visiting the roughly 30 U.S. states he hasn’t been to yet by the end of 2017… After Zuckerberg asked them why they had voted for Trump, Moore turned the tables and asked if Zuckerberg had spoken with Trump since he was elected. Zuckerberg, who was noticeably absent from Trump’s meeting with tech leaders in December, said he had in fact talked with Trump multiple times on the phone.” [BI]

PROFILE: “Sam Zell Looks Back” by Alexandra Wolfe: “Mr. Zell learned to take risks in part from his parents, Jews who escaped from Poland just before the Nazis bombed their hometown. His father, a grain merchant, and his mother, a homemaker, moved to Seattle and then to Chicago, where Mr. Zell was born. He remembers once setting up a chess board with the pieces arranged in a way that he thought would stump his father—who checkmated him in one move, shrugged and left the room. “I was crushed,” writes Mr. Zell. “He didn’t make anything easier or softer. That just wasn’t who he was.”” [WSJ]

“How Lakewood became a worldwide destination for Orthodox Jews” by Mark Di Ionno: “While Orthodox Jews will clearly shape Lakewood’s future, they have long shaped its history. “This was a Jewish resort as far back as the 1920s,” [Rabbi Aaron] Kotler said. “It was the New Jersey version of the Borscht Belt (Catskills).” One of those hotel owners was Lithuanian refugee Betzalel Goldstein. His hotel was located by Shenandoah Lake, one of Lakewood’s three large bodies of water along the Metedeconk River. He knew my grandfather from Lithuania and always told him, ‘Come to Lakewood,’ ” Kotler said. The men knew each other in the village of Kletsk, which is now part of Belarus… Once here, he started a yeshiva in White Plains, N.Y., but his old friend Betzalel Goldstein told him of a paradise on the edge of the Jersey Pinelands, where property was cheap and Jews were already part of the landscape.” [StarLedger]

BILLIONS: “Why Wall Street can’t stop talking about its favorite show” by Renae Merle: “One comparison Koppelman and Levien are struggling to kill is that the show is based on a showdown between two real-world figures: Bharara and hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen. Bharara (like Rhoades) was an ambitious and aggressive prosecutor who brought headline-grabbing cases against hedge-fund giants. Cohen, like Axelrod, has spent years being investigated by federal prosecutors on accusations of insider trading. Cohen has never been charged. Bharara has a standing offer to join the show as a consultant, Koppelman and Levien say. “We haven’t heard from him,” Levien said. As for Cohen, he is not talking.” [WashPost]

BIRTHWEEK: AIPAC National Board Member Yana J. Lukeman… CEO of Austin-based Harris Media, he recently served as Chief Digital Strategist for Senator Rand Paul and assisted PM Netanyahu and the Likud in the 2014 Israeli elections, Vincent Robert Harris turns 29… (both birthdays were yesterday)

BIRTHDAYS: Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Danny Danon turns 46… NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio turns 56 (h/t Jacob Kornbluh)… Retired senior British judge, Baron Leonard Hoffmann turns 83… Former Attorney General of Canada and past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Irwin Cotler turns 77… MIT Biologist and Nobel Prize laureate H. Robert Horvitz turns 70… Former MLB pitcher (1969-1975) who played for the Angels, Rangers and White Sox, Lloyd Allen turns 67… Born in Amsterdam to a survivor of Auschwitz, now a leading rabbi in both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, dean of the Dutch Israelite Seminary, Rabbi Raphael Evers turns 63… Actor and director Stephen Furst (born Stephen Nelson Feuerstein) turns 62… Director of the Office of Special Investigations at the Justice Department (1994-2010) focused on deporting Nazi war criminals, now the Director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy at USDOJ, Eli M. Rosenbaum turns 62… NYC-based advertising executive, author and entrepreneur, board member of ArtsConnection, an art program provider to NYC public schools, Richard Kirshenbaum turns 56… Co-founder and CEO of the disability advocacy nonprofit, RespectAbility, based in Bethesda, Maryland, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi turns 53… Canadian social activist and documentary filmmaker critical of corporate capitalism, Naomi Klein turns 47… Stand-up comedienne, writer, actress and author, known for appearing on the 9th season of America’s Got Talent, Jodi Miller turns 46… Chief Operating Officer at West End Strategy Team’s DC Office, Ari Geller turns 44… Managing principal of Los Angeles-based Lockman Consulting Group, lecturer at USC Law School, fellow with the Truman National Security Project, Josh Lockman turns 35… Chief Financial Officer for The Manischewitz Company, Thomas E. Keogh Barry Seidman… Daniel First

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




Daily Kickoff: Inside Lauder’s meetings with Abbas | Trump’s itinerary signals anti-Iran alliance | Katzenberg backing Bob Iger to be 1st Jewish POTUS

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SCENE LAST NIGHT — LA Edition: Cheryl and Haim Saban opened up their Beverly Park estate for an evening event to introduce their friends to the Israel Policy Forum and its partnership with Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS). The two organizations advocate for a two-state solution that is ‘consistent with Israel’s security needs.’ In introducing the evening’s program, Haim Saban joked that typically he hosts events at his home that cost between $5-25k to attend in support of a variety of causes but that ‘this one is free so everyone should make sure to really enjoy the food.’ On a more serious note, Saban explained “all of us here tonight — whether left, right, center, meshugeners, non-meshugeners — care about Israel. While there are some who say there’s no such thing as ‘Palestinians’ — call them whatever you would like but the facts are it’s pretty much equal (populations) between the Jordan river and the sea. We have to find a way to keep Israel both Jewish and democratic.”

In describing CIS, Nimrod Novik noted how rare it is for even one Israeli general to follow another one but “when 270 retired generals, who make up approximately 80%, unite around one organization, led by one general, that’s focused on one issue — the two state solution — it’s worth paying attention.”

Rabbi David Wolpe summed up the evening’s overall discussion for us by quoting the author Flann O’Brien “It is a great thing to do what is necessary before it becomes unavoidable”

ALSO SPOTTED: Israeli-American entrepreneur Avi Arad, Executive Producer of Homeland Alex Gansa, Former LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Barbara Yaroslavsky, Tribe Media’s David Suissa, Tikkun Olam Journeys’ Tova Suissa, IPF’s Executive Director David Halperin, Gen. (ret.) Amnon Reshef, IAC’s Shawn Evenhaim, RAND Corporation’s Shira Efron, Saban Family Foundation’s Amitai Raziel, film producer Mike Medavoy, Head of TV at WME Rick Rosen, Charles Perez, Ada Horwich, Don Feder, Shifra Efron.

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — Trump’s Israel trip — White House aides, speaking on background yesterday, did not offer any specific details about Trump’s upcoming trip to Israel, after he first visits Saudi Arabia. Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, according to a senior administration official, will focus on trying to reach an understanding with Arab leaders on joint “long-term” goals to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East. In Israel, Trump will “reinforce the strong alliance that we have with the Israeli people, and then we are going to talk a little bit about the peace process with the Palestinians and how we plan to go forward… We will approach it with a lot of humility. The President is very involved in [discussing] a lot of ideas.” [JewishInsider]

Initial itinerary… “A senior Israeli official said Trump was due to land in Israel on May 22 at 11 A.M. He will be received at an official ceremony at Ben-Gurion International Airport by President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu… Trump will then proceed to Jerusalem for a series of meetings with Rivlin and Netanyahu… The Foreign Ministry and the Shin Bet security service are preparing for the possibility that the U.S. president will visit the Western Wall and Masada. It is still not clear whether Trump will give a speech during his visit. On May 23, Trump will visit Bethlehem, meet Abbas and apparently will also visit the Church of the Nativity. From there, he will head back to Ben-Gurion airport, taking off at about 1 P.M. [Haaretz

We’re Hearing… Sheldon Adelson will likely be in Israel during Trump’s visit. For the folks who can, might be time to book your Air Adelson tickets…

“Why Does Trump Want to Address Israel at Masada?” by Sigal Samuel: “Six years ago, he inquired about whether he could hold the Miss Universe Pageant at Masada, according to Eran Sidis, the spokesman for the Knesset Speaker… Trump also loves an underdog… Now he’s about to embark on a high-profile mission to solve what may be the world’s most notoriously unsolvable conflict… In this scenario, too, he is an underdog… But he’s a confident underdog, one who believes he can and will make a historic deal. So why not throw some spectacle into the mix? Masada has been a centerpiece of the Zionist national myth for decades.” [TheAtlantic]

“Trump’s selective world tour” by Frida Ghitis: “The stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia will… please his base at home and will strengthen his hand as he seeks to score a historic victory he says we wants, helping to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. The very fact that Trump will visit Israel on his first trip carries symbolic value. Israelis and many of the Jewish State’s supporters in the US had trouble forgiving Obama for failing to visit the country during his first term. Obama came within short distances of Israel, visiting nearby Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the first months of his administration, but pointedly did not go to Israel.” [CNN]

“Trump Joins Saudi Arabia, Arab Leaders for Potential Anti-Iran Alliance” by Kimberly Dozier: “The trip indicates that Trump is re-aligning the White House with Saudi Arabia’s and Israel’s anti-Iran position, while the Obama administration had sought to stay more neutral in order to deliver the Iranian nuclear deal. It’s also a signal that Trump is returning to the Bush-era reliance on Sunni Arab strongmen to quell a roiling Middle East, and it’s an in-your-face rejection of critics who called him anti-Islamic.” [DailyBeast] • Angry at Criticism by Saudi Prince, Iran Accuses Him of ‘Unveiled Threat’ [NYTimes]

“Trump goes soft on Saudi” by Michael Crowley: “Trump’s Israel visit promises to be more reflective of establishment thinking than of his past rhetoric. He is not expected, for instance, to press his campaign vow to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem… “He’s approached this like a stunningly conventional president,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former chief of staff to the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Obama’s State Department. “That’s been a pleasant surprise.” Some Netanyahu supporters in Washington and Israel, skeptical that an acceptable peace deal with the Palestinians is feasible, find Trump overly eager to break the historic impasse… Hard-liners close to Netanyahu are especially anxious about reports that Trump is taking advice on Israel from an old friend, New York businessman Ronald Lauder, who has played a behind-the-scenes role in past peace talks, has ties to Palestinian officials, and who believes Trump can broker a deal.” [Politico; NYTimes]

KAFE KNESSET — Lauder lore — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: In the past two weeks, since Jewish Insider first revealed Ronald Lauder as a top White House whisperer, Israeli officials and politicians have been whispering about him as well. In addition to a public meeting with Egyptian President Sisi, Kafe Knesset has learned that Lauder met with Abbas twice in the past month, a few weeks ago in a European capital and earlier this week in DC, a day before Abbas’ White House meeting this week.  “Lauder has emerged as a significant unofficial envoy to the President, and is increasing his involvement with the Israeli Palestinian issue, and he is convinced he can help the President secure a deal,” one well informed source told Kafe Knesset. “He thinks peace is possible and is embracing the Palestinians who feel they have found their man and he believes he can bring them to the table,” he added. Another well informed source said that during the Trump-Abbas meeting this Wednesday, the President praised Lauder, adding that “Lauder is determined to move forward, and is convinced that the Palestinians want a deal.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

HAPPENING ON SUNDAY The Jerusalem Post will be holding its 6th annual conference at the Marriott Marquis in NY. Speakers include top Israeli ministers, Israel’s Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, White House aide Sebastian Gorka, Senators Tom Cotton and Deb Fischer; Congresswoman Grace Meng, Ambassador Danny Danon, Ron Lauder, and Alan Dershowitz, among others. Larry King will receive the Jerusalem Post Lifetime Achievement Award and talk about his career and Jewish identity.

ON THE HILL — Reaction to Trump’s upcoming trip to Israel — by Aaron Magid: “I guess when he can’t get any of his domestic programs done, it’s good to go overseas. Certainly, we have heard nothing about infrastructure,” Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ) told Jewish Insider. “For somebody who during the campaign who was almost solely focused on Making America Great Again and bringing jobs home, he seems to be spending a lot of time focused abroad and not dealing with infrastructure which is jobs.”

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) added, “I’m glad that he would pick those countries and any positive outreach that he does. I’m very skeptical. He doesn’t have a good comprehension on foreign affairs and doesn’t do his homework.” [JewishInsider]

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN NYC — Jake Sullivan discussed American foreign policy under Trump, as well as his experience in establishing back channel talks with Iran that led to the nuclear deal, in a conversation with Jordan Hirsch, Visiting Fellow at The Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University, at the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life.

“I am very skeptical that the traditional approach is going to lead to success,” Sullivan said about Trump’s efforts to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. “I am deeply skeptical. It did not work when George Mitchell and Hillary Clinton tried it. It did not work when John Kerry tried it. It did not work when Condoleezza Rice tried it. I do not believe that it is right for success in this administration either. And I think Donald Trump saying that maybe it isn’t as hard as everyone made it out to, I can say from personal experience, I have my grave doubts that he is correct in that statement. I have my doubts about whether Abu Mazen (Abbas), given his current political position, given his history on this, he is not strong enough, in my view, to deliver a yes to a deal. Even a yes to a deal that gave him most of all what he needed.”

Sullivan on the Iran deal going forward: “I believe that job number one today – and I think the Israeli intelligence and military establishment would agree with this – is not to try to enter a renegotiation on the nuclear deal, which I think is on sound footing right now. Iran is in compliance, We can continue to shape their behavior around the nuclear issue. It’s to deal with the broader issue of their activities. And I think that the administration deciding that it is going to increase pressure on that – economic pressure, intelligence pressure, military cooperation with our allies – that is where their focus should be. The notion that they say we are going to open core trade-offs in this deal right now is a way to alienate our partners. As time progresses, If Iran continues to remain a state that is looking to get a nuclear weapon ultimately, we have options down the road to do something about that, not just a military option.”

Thoughts on 2020 and whether he would join another campaign: “I think it’s going to be a big field (in the Democratic primary), and there are a lot of intriguing candidates. In terms of me getting involved, I do not plan on working full time on a campaign again, unless it’s the campaign of a close friend or family member. But, of course, I will be in the fight. I will participate in some way in 2018 and in 2020 and beyond because I think it’s important not to retreat from the field.”

Sullivan’s reading list: “Core international relations texts like Man, the State, and War, Robert Gilpin’s The Political Economy of International Relations, and John Gaddis’s The Cold War: A New History. I am in the middle of a book right now about the ratification of the U.S. constitution and contingent it was… and then in terms of the daily stuff, I pretty much follow the same newspapers, foreign policy outlets that everybody does.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m a full service celebrator” — Dan Senor on CBS This Morning when asked if he’s celebrating Cinco de Mayo today [Video]

TRUMP TEAM — “The Voice in His Ear – Jared Kushner’s access to power” by Michael Warren: “It’s a mistake to believe Kushner controls Trump, like a globalist Svengali… “I think you don’t get Kushner trying to influence Trump, you get Trump directing Kushner,” says Gingrich. “I don’t think anybody drives the Trump system except Trump.” As one senior White House official put it, “Trump is the face of Trumpism.” That’s true. But when Trump turns to the side, more often than not it’s Jared’s face he sees.” [TWS]

“In House Health Vote, Reince Priebus Sees a Much-Needed Reprieve” by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Priebus has half-joked that Mr. Kushner has “all the fun” but few of the responsibilities that burden him, according to one longtime Priebus confidant… At the height of the Kushner-Bannon spat last month, Mr. Trump instructed both men to “stop it” or face the boot, and delegated to Mr. Priebus the role of evenhanded mediator. Instead, Mr. Priebus interpreted that as a license to forge an alliance with Mr. Kushner.” [NYTimes

“Omarosa Manigault: I’ve never shied away from having a good relationship with Louis Farrakhan” by Louis Nelson: “Manigault, the former reality TV star turned White House adviser to President Donald Trump, said Thursday that she has a “good relationship” with the controversial Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, and would “look forward” to a meeting with him… “I would look forward to receiving that invitation and sitting down with him.” Farrakhan has been the leader of the Nation of Islam since 1977… Farrakhan himself is “an anti-Semite who routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power,” according to the SPLC.” [Politico]

INBOX: “The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was deeply disturbed by comments earlier today by former reality star and White House staffer Omarosa Manigault… “Louis Farrakhan should not be made to feel welcome by anyone in the White House,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “Such an overture would only serve to legitimize his long record of conspiratorial and hateful views toward Jews. We hope that the administration will make it clear that Farrakhan and his anti-Semitic organization will find no supporters in the White House.””

“Gorka: Reports about leaving White House ‘very fake news'” by Nikita Vladimirov: “President Trump’s deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka went after “very fake news” on Thursday… “I will be in the White House as long as the president wants me there and if he needs me to do something somewhere else, I will do whatever he needs me to do,” Gorka said on Fox News Radio’s “Kilmeade and Friends.”” [TheHill]

“Bernie Sanders just defended Israel on Al Jazeera. Here’s why that’s a big deal” by Ron Kampeas: “Asked by Takruri whether he “respected” BDS as a legitimate nonviolent protest movement, Sanders said, “No, I don’t.” The senator suggested in his reply that the tactic was counterproductive as a means of bringing the sides to peace talks.” [JTA; Video]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Cordish seeks to woo Madrid with revised plan for casino project [FT] • Developer Martin Selig says it won’t take long to fill F5 Networks’ void on the waterfront [BizJournals] • Kushner Companies sells swanky Brooklyn townhouse for record sum [FoxNews] • Billionaire Trump Adviser Says He Feels Misunderstood: Stephen Schwarzman wants to know “who’s doing the P.R.” for private equity [VanityFair] Lasry’s Milwaukee Bucks will field team in new NBA e-sports league [BizJournals] • YL Ventures closes $75 million fund to bring Israeli startups to the US [TechCrunch]

“Here’s Why Israeli Fintech Startups Are Conquering The Market” by Leigh Cuen: “The fintech industry at large revolves around financial regulation in the target market. So the Israeli mentality, known for a no-nonsense approach and a penchant for redefining boundaries, makes Middle Eastern startups especially attractive to international fintech investors who want to break the mold. “Israeli entrepreneurs are fearless, that is a big factor when it comes to regulation,” Yuval Ariav, Tel Aviv investment partner at Lion Bird Venture Capital, told IBT.” [IBTimes]

“Congo Hires Israeli Firm to Lobby Trump Administration” by Thomas Wilson: “Congo agreed to pay MER Security and Communication Systems Ltd. $5.58 million between Dec. 8, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2017 for policy advice and support in lobbying senior government officials and members of Congress… MER will hire U.S.-based lobbyists, while advising the Congolese government on U.S. concerns relating to African security issues and on the appointment, travel and engagements of a Congolese special envoy to the U.S., according to the filings signed by Omer Laviv, the company’s chief executive officer.” [Bloomberg]

FIRST JEWISH POTUS? “Hollywood v. Trump: Disney CEO intrigued by 2020 bid” by Mike Allen: “Disney CEO Bob Iger is being pelted with entreaties to run for president in 2020, and is clearly intrigued by the idea, according to industry sources… A ringleader? Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Disney Studios chairman, is said to be among those encouraging a run. The Hollywood Reporter said in March that “Iger has told friends he is considering their nudges.” The rumor in Hollywood is that Katzenberg was a key leak of the story.” [Axios]

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND — Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Conference: “The annual meeting takes place on Saturday at the CenturyLink Center in Nebraska’s largest city. Shareholders have been streaming in from across the globe to take part in what has become several days of activities around the featured event… Meanwhile, in a borrowed storefront at 1011 Capitol Ave. just across the street from the shareholders meeting, another annual assembly will be taking place. Chabad of Nebraska, co-directed by Rabbi Mendel and Shani Katzman, will host a weekend of Shabbat activities, as they’ve done since the conference moved downtown nearly two decades ago.” [Chabad]

DESSERT: “A Culinary Renaissance in the Israeli Countryside” by Saki Knafo: “As we staggered out of the restaurant, an Israeli tour bus pulled up. Israelis—Jewish Israelis—love Arab cooking. Maybe it has something to do with a hunger for a certain kind of authenticity, a visceral connection to the land that the Jewish people only dreamed of during all those years in exile eating matzo ball soup. Whatever the reason, Ein Hawd has benefited from Habait’s popularity in at least one unexpected way. The village got connected to the electrical grid only 10 years ago, after an executive from the national power company came to the restaurant for lunch and learned that her amazing meal had been cooked on a stove powered by a generator.” [Smithsonian]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAYVenture Capitalist at New Enterprise Associates and a member of the inaugural class of the Schwarzman Scholars program, Andrew Adams Schoen turns 27… Conservative radio talk show host, author, commentator and language-learning enthusiast, a 2014 inductee into the National Radio Hall of Fame, Barry Farber turns 87… Journalist, columnist, author, writer of the “Letter from America” column for The International Herald Tribune, previously a foreign correspondent and a book critic at The New York Times, Richard Bernstein turns 73… Best-selling author of 18 novels featuring fictional Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper, written by the former head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office (1976-2002), Linda Fairstein turns 70… Judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals since 2000 (Chief Judge since 2007), previously chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and president of the Jewish Community Council of Washington, Peter B. Krauser turns 70… Member of the Knesset, almost continuously since 1988, for the Haredi parties of Degel HaTorah and United Torah Judaism, Moshe Gafni turns 65… Member of the Knesset since 1996 for the Shas party, Minister of Religious Services since 2015, David Azulai turns 63… Television writer and producer, known for The Simpsons, Josh Weinstein turns 51… Television news correspondent, print journalist, stage and film actress, entrepreneur and pro-Israel activist, Lara Berman turns 37… Former Israeli national soccer team captain, Yossi Benayoun turns 37… Executive Director for North America of the Avi Chai Foundation since 1994, a graduate of Yeshiva College and Yale Law School, Yossi Prager… South African-born President of American Jewish World Service, Robert Bank

SATURDAY: Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford U, previously a Columbia U law professor (1969-1979), a US District Cout judge (1979-1985) and the State Department legal adviser (1985-1990), Abraham David Sofaer turns 79… Media executive and philanthropist, he was a long-time executive of Time Inc. (later Time Warner) who negotiated the merger between AOL and Time Warner in 2000, Gerald M. “Jerry” Levin turns 78… Born in Buenos Aires, later emigrated to Chile and then the US, novelist, playwright, essayist, academic and human rights activist, professor of Latin American studies at Duke University, Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman turns 75… Professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, Martha Nussbaum turns 70… Former Deputy Attorney General of the US (1994-1997), who despite life-long ties to the Democratic Party has recently become the ethics adviser for Ivanka Trump, Jamie S. Gorelick turns 67… French-born president of the Jerusalem College of Technology (2009-2013), holder of two Ph.D degrees (Nice University in France and Bar Ilan), mathematician, professor and Talmudic scholar, Noah Dana-Picard turns 63… Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies at Northeastern University, Lori Hope Lefkovitz turns 61… Sheri Goldberg, special education attorney and Israel chair of the CRC of Greater MetroWest… President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life (since 2013), previously Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents (2007-2011) and a US Congressman (1993-1995), Eric David Fingerhut turns 58… Attorney and partner in LA-based real estate development firm, Regent Properties, Daniel Gryczman turns 42…

SUNDAY: Billionaire who converted Chris-Craft Industries from the small boat business into a large media holding company, then sold Chris Craft to Rupert Murdoch in 2001 for $5.3 billion, Herbert J. Siegel turns 89… Ontario-based politician, psychiatrist, academic and public servant, served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as a member and leader of the Liberal Party (1975-1982), Stuart Lyon Smith turns 79… Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989, professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and chemistry at Yale University, Sidney Altman turns 78… Member of the New York State Assembly since 1993, representing parts of Westchester and Putnam counties, Sandra R. “Sandy” Galef turns 77… Deputy US Secretary of State (2009-2011), Deputy National Security Advisor (1996-2000), currently a professor at Syracuse University, James Steinberg turns 64… Professional poker player and hedge fund manager, Daniel Shak turns 58… Emmy Award-winning film and television director, Adam Bernstein turns 57… Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from the City of Alexandria since 2016 and host of a nationally syndicated progressive public policy radio program, Mark H. Levine turns 51… Democratic member of the US House of Representatives since 2010, representing parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, Theodore Eliot “Ted” Deutch turns 51… Member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party since 2013, Israeli Minister of Justice since 2015, Ayelet Shaked turns 41… Snapchat’s Rob Saliterman… Jane Press

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House C’ttee Passes Measure Boosting U.S.-Israel Economic Cooperation

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed on Wednesday a bipartisan resolution – among four bipartisan measures on the agenda – which recognizes the importance of the United States-Israel…

Kerry: Israeli Settlement Construction ‘Unhelpful’

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The continued expansion of Israeli settlements is not helping to ease tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday. “I don’t think…

RJC, J Street Heads to Discuss Israel in Vegas Next Month

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Heads of the Republican Jewish Coalition and J Street are set to square off over the U.S.-Israel relationship next month in Las Vegas, according to a news release….

Jeb Pushes Back Against Rubio’s Foreign Policy Pitch

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Jeb Bush pushed back forcefully against Marco Rubio’s charge that he has zero foreign policy experience on Wednesday, as the two seek to boost their candidacies with a…

Jeb: Bad Feelings Cannot Jeopardize U.S.-Israel Alliance

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Something as personal as bad feelings between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have broken the special U.S.-Israel relationship, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush…

OU Calls on Nevada Dem Party to Allow Absentee Voting for Observant Jews

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pressure is mounting on the Nevada State Democratic Party to change its caucus plans next Saturday to accommodate voters who observe the Sabbath. The Nevada Democratic Party Caucus…