May
24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May
23

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Daily Kickoff: Spotted at Trump’s Israel Museum speech | Dems & R’s switch on Jerusalem | Kushner’s other real estate empire | Norm Brownstein BDay

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TRUMP IN ISRAEL — Top 5 tweets: 1. Aaron David Miller: “In knowing working with Netanyahu for decades, never — and I mean never– have I seen him so relaxed in presence of a US president.” 2. Maggie Haberman: “Pooler extraordinaire Annie Karni notes that Netanyahu has repeatedly called Trump “Donald,” which I’ve only heard a few people do over years.” 3. Steven Portnoy‏: “US press traveling w/Trump to Abbas’s palace were advised by WH staff to remove creds displaying Israeli flag, pooler Mike Memoli reports.” 4. Yair Rosenberg: “Oh man, watch Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer (on right couch) react when Trump says—in Israel—”We just got back from the Middle East.” [Video] 5. Tal Shalev: “Jared Kushner and Amb. Dermer, sharing a moment” [Pic]

KEY MOMENT: In Jerusalem, Trump solemnly remembers Holocaust victims [AP] • Trump’s message in Yad Vashem guestbook: “It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends – so amazing + will never forget.” [Pic]

FAREWELL ADDRESS: “Trump: Israelis and Palestinians are ‘ready to reach for peace’” by Annie Karni: “In a brief speech at the Israel Museum, President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he feels confident, after two days of meetings, that the lsraelis and the Palestinians are eager for a peace deal… But it is unclear if either side actually shares Trump’s confidence… Trump received a standing ovation from the audience — which included Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson — when he proclaimed: “Iran’s leaders routinely call for Israel’s destruction. Not with Donald J. Trump. Believe me.”” [Politico

HIGHLIGHTS — “My administration will always stand with Israel… Under my administration, you see the difference. Big, big beautiful difference… Iran calls for the destruction of Israel. Not with Donald J. Trump, believe me… Jerusalem is a sacred city. The ties of the Jewish people to this holy land are ancient and eternal… I can tell you that the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace. I can tell you that my good friend Benjamin wants peace… My good friend Benjamin loves people.”

SPOTTED at the Israel Museum: Sheldon Adelson, Malcolm Hoenlein, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, RJC’s Matt Brooks and Norm Coleman, AIPAC’s Cameron Brown, Facebook’s Jordana Cutler, Rivka Kidron, GOP Israel’s Marc Zell, Shmuley Boteach, Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, Richard Heideman, David Hager, Dr. Joseph Frager, KamaTech’s Moshe Friedman, United Hatzalah’s Eli Beer, and Boaz Bismuth.

TAKEAWAYS — Aaron David Miller: “If President Trump wanted to demonstrate his stunningly pro-Israeli credentials to pave the way for pressing Netanyahu for concessions down the road, this trip couldn’t have gone any better.”

Elliott Abrams tells us: “The President’s belief that the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace appears to be based on statements made to him by Mahmoud Abbas. But actions by the PLO speak louder than words. The previous Israeli offers of peace were rejected, the glorification of terror continues, and payments to terrorists continue to be made. The idea that an Israeli-Palestinian peace would lead to peace in the region is certainly not new, but it is just not correct. The problems in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, for example, would not be affected by an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, nor would it slow down the Iranian nuclear program. It was encouraging to see the President state flatly that he would prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Last night, Trump had dinner with the Netanyahus, and the Prime Minister and his wife Sarah were the talk of the town after they made some awkward comments. “Thanks to you, we had a budget to paint the walls,” Bibi said as the Trumps signed the guest book at the Prime Minister’s residence. “The whole house was painted for you!” Sarah said, beaming. Soon after, Yair Netanyahu was introduced to the First Couple. Netanyahu pointed out that Yair looks like Sarah, but their other son, Avner, who was not present, looks more like him. Yair told the Trumps that he feels for Barron, because he was about the same age when his father first became prime minister. Dinner that night was prepared by celebrity chef Moshe Segev, who made sliders – perhaps to remind Trump of his favorite food, meatloaf – among other dishes. Entertainment was provided by singer-actress Shiri Maimon, most recently the star of “Evita” in Israel’s national theater, Habima. Maimon chose to belt out “New York, New York,” because she heard that Trump likes Sinatra. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

–Boaz Bismuth pointed out: “As I have seen at White House dinners, at Netanyahu’s dinner it was reported that no wine will be served. Trump has been anti-alcohol for years due to a family tragedy involving his brother.” [Twitter]

LET’S TALK ABOUT PEACE — “Trump Comes to Israel Citing a Palestinian Deal as Crucial” by Peter Baker and Ian Fisher: “Mr. Trump sought to showcase his friendship with Mr. Netanyahu as the two shared dinner with their wives and called each other “Donald” and “Bibi,” the prime minister’s nickname. But neither publicly cited any concrete steps in pursuing a peace agreement. Mr. Trump did not formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as some Israeli officials hoped he would do… Nor for that matter did he publicly press Israel to curb settlement construction in the West Bank as Palestinians hoped. Mr. Netanyahu offered nothing more than a few modest gestures like extending the hours at the border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.” [NYTimes] Rosie Gray reports from Jerusalem: Trump Goes After ‘the Ultimate Deal’ [TheAtlantic]

“In Israel, Trump Makes the Word ‘Peace’ Great Again” by Barak Ravid: “An Israeli official who attended one of the meetings with the U.S. president noted that the latter is focused on the issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace, and isn’t budging a millimeter from the message he has reiterated.” [Haaretz] • If Kushner has a Mideast peace plan, it’s a secret so far [Reuters]

“Why Trump’s Western Wall Visit Is Actually Bad News for the Israeli Right” by Anshel Pfeffer: “He has made three mini-speeches since arriving in Israel and hasn’t mentioned the word “Jerusalem” in one of them. He was warned not to do so by his advisers, and that’s it… So why did Trump visit the Wall anyway? Who knows why he does anything. Maybe it was a paternal gesture to his daughter Ivanka, the convert to Judaism. Probably he assumes that a photograph by the most visible symbol of Judaism could help him back home with Jewish and evangelical voters if he runs for reelection in 2020. Maybe it’s because he loves big buildings and has been gripped recently with a special passion for walls.” [Haaretz

NO, LET’S TALK ABOUT INTELLIGENCE — Bibi Changes the News Narrative, Perhaps Intentionally — by Jacob Kornbluh: A story that has caused headaches for the Trump administration in recent weeks was brought to life during the President’s first overseas trip. Perhaps uncoincidentally, this shift of attention away from the White House’s push for a renewed peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians could have been just what Netanyahu was hoping for. As Trump and Netanyahu wrapped up their opening statements ahead of a bilateral meeting at the King David Hotel, Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev called out a question to the two leaders asking if there was concern about the Israeli intelligence that Trump shared with the Russians in the Oval Office. Trump appeared to ignore the question and starting walking away but Netanyahu decided to answer it. “The intelligence cooperation is terrific,” he said.

At that point, Trump appeared anxious to respond and engage the cameras. “Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel,” Trump insisted. “Never mentioned during that conversation…” Within minutes, Twitter and Cable News immediately picked up on the brief off-script moment as a leading news item. [JewishInsider

Former U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro tells us… “President Trump risked stepping on his own narrative of strong support for Israel and restarting peace talks with his ‘I didn’t say the word Israel’ moment. From afar, it seems to have lit up Washington and the US press corps, giving new life to the Trump-Russia story. But here in Israel, it made a much smaller splash. Judging by the Channel 2 news broadcast, on which I served as a commentator, it rated a minor footnote to a visit in which the President’s diplomatic initiative and visit to the Kotel were dominating the coverage. That can pose a risk for the traveling White House staff, if they focus only on the good news from the road, and lose sight of a fire burning back home. Regardless, the President is likely to leave Israel with the well-deserved sense that the visit was a success.”

OR LET’S DISCUSS IRAN — Trump promises Israel Iran will never have nuclear weapons: “Speaking in Jerusalem, [President Trump] said Iran had negotiated a “fantastic deal” with his predecessor, Barack Obama, winning “a lifeline and prosperity”. But “instead of saying thank you”, the Iranians were backing terrorism, he said… “Iran will never have nuclear weapons, that I can tell you,” Mr Trump told Mr Netanyahu.” [BBC] • Trump, Netanyahu Cast Iran as Common Enemy [WSJ]

“Trump goes on Iran-bashing tour” by Laura Rozen: “I think there is a benefit to reassuring our Sunni partners and to pushing back on Iran for some of its behavior, especially given how anxious they were after the nuclear deal, and how much they … were irrationally angry at Obama,” [Ilan] Goldenberg, with CNAS, told Al-Monitor… “But there is a balance to be struck here. The right approach involves both pressure and engagement. And you also want to leave open channels to have a dialogue. And you don’t want to go so far as to become part of the conflict. And in some areas, [Trump administration officials] are trending dangerously close to that.” [Al-Monitor

OR BOTH… “Trump Bets Sunni Fears of Iran Can Win Israeli-Palestinian Peace” by Margaret Talev and David Wainer: “With appearances in Riyadh and Jerusalem, [Trump] has observed repeatedly that the threat posed by Iran is pushing Arab Gulf states and Israel closer together. He believes that realignment could create conditions for long-abandoned peace talks to resume… One idea floated is for increased commercial ties and Israeli overflight rights through Saudi Arabia in exchange for Israeli concessions toward the Palestinians and a freeze of settlement construction, according to an Israeli government official.” [Bloomberg]

“Why Trump’s flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel is such a big deal” by Adam Taylor: “Netanyahu is sometimes forced to make lengthy detours to avoid the airspace of Muslim-majority nations that do not have relations with Israel: In February, his flight from Singapore to Sydney added on four more hours and more than 1,000 miles to avoid Indonesian airspace… Trump is hoping that a renewed focus on a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians can help end the animosity between Israel and its Arab neighbors. For both Israelis and Arab states, a peace deal would carry the possibility of full diplomatic relations — with direct flights and any resulting deeper economic ties part of the appeal for both.” [WashPost

MAYBE THINGS ARE CHANGING — “Dubai and Saudi Arabia Among 104 Nations Producing Kosher Certified Products” [OUNews]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “There’s No Such Thing As Bad News For Trump’s Israeli Fans. Literally” by Miriam Berger: “Niran Dishi doesn’t know anyone who doesn’t love Donald Trump. Since he first saw Trump debating Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on television during the campaign last year “all of my friends and all of my family love him,” he said… Dishi still reads Israel’s leading newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, but now prefers its main competitor, Yisrael Hayom, a free daily funded by Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, GOP fundraiser… “What matters in the world today is not policy, it’s identity,” Amit Segal, a reporter for Israel’s Channel 2, told BuzzFeed News. “And people see Donald Trump as an extension of the right-wing in Israel because he’s anti-media and anti-elite.” Boaz Bismuth, Yisrael Hayom’s editor-in-chief, insists he’s just reporting what he sees…  These days he’s famous as Israel’s biggest Trump fan.” [BuzzFeed]

“Israelis angry at Trump’s failure to move U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as promised” by Franco Ordonez: “For the record, we recognize Washington, D.C.,” said Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. who now serves as deputy minister for diplomacy in the Netanyahu government… Oren… said Trump had lost credibility with some Israelis who believed him when he promised during his campaign for the presidency to move the embassy… “If it had been a one-off and he said it one time,” Oren said, the promise could be forgotten. “But he said it several times. It was a staggering campaign promise.” [McClatchyDC]

“Ivanka ‘Yael’ touches Jewish hearts with tears at the Kotel” by Lahav Harkov: “Likely unaware of being filmed, Ivanka touched the ancient stones and shed tears… And while nothing will get all the detractors to come around, it seemed like Ivanka struck a chord. Even hardened Israeli pundits called her “Ivanka, a member of our people,” applauding her for the quiet moment.” [JPost] • Ivanka Trump Mistakenly Identifies the Western Wall as Judaism’s ‘Holiest Site’ [Tablet]

VIEW FROM BETHLEHEM: “In Bethlehem, Palestinians Confident Trump’s One-hour Visit ‘Won’t Change Anything'” by Noga Tarnopolsky: “[Rami] Zayed, the pharmacist, used a metaphor to describe his views. “Asking about Trump’s visit is like a joke question,” he said. “It’s like in medicine: a placebo. We just take it to feel that ‘I took medicine,’ but in fact nothing has changed.” [Haaretz

ON THE HILL — Democrats and Republicans flip roles on Western Wall — by Aaron Magid: On Capitol Hill, Members of Congress switched their traditional roles on this sensitive issue of Jerusalem’s status when responding to comments from Trump administration officials who were asked if the Western Wall is part of Israel. Sec. Tillerson told reporters on Air Force One the other day that “The wall is part of Jerusalem” without elaborating. “I think they’re being sensitive. Much like, what I would be sensitive. They are in the midst of some very interesting times and are being wise with what they want to weigh in and how they want to handle things,” Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) told Jewish Insider. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) refused to criticize comments made by Rex Tillerson and H.E. McMaster regarding the Western Wall. “I don’t know their reasons for not being able to answer, so I can’t comment on that,” Carter noted.

Democrats, however, critiqued the administration for this policy decision. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) emphasized that she “very much” believed that the Kotel is part of Israel. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) said, “I recognize that the Western Wall is part of Israel. I think most members of the House do.” [JewishInsider]

SPECIAL ELECTION WATCH: “Iran Deal Divides Ossoff, Handel” by Atlanta Jewish Times: “The 6th District rivals appeared separately at the monthly breakfast meeting of Jewish War Veterans Post 112 in Dunwoody… [Karen] Handel, a Republican, said Iran was the only nation to benefit from the deal the Obama administration and its international partners negotiated with Iran in 2015… “We should strictly and uncompromisingly monitor Iran’s compliance” through International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and U.S. intelligence capabilities, Democrat [Jon] Ossoff said. “If Iran in any way violates the agreement, we should immediately impose harsh sanctions to punish the government of Iran.” [AtlantaJewishTimes]

“At a synagogue, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart blames anti-Semitism on the left” by Moriah Balingit: “Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey A. Stewart told an audience at a Northern Virginia synagogue Sunday night that he blames the political left for rising anti-Semitism, stunning many in the audience who felt Stewart excused bigotry coming from his own supporters. “Today most of the anti-Semitic bigotry is not coming from the right. It’s coming from the left. We have to face it,” said Stewart, prompting a collective gasp and incredulous laughter from the crowd of about 400 at Temple Rodef Shalom in Fairfax County. “What about Keith Ellison from Minnesota?” Stewart said, referring to the Democratic congressman who has been criticized by some for his earlier support for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Audience members shouted back, “What about Trump?” [WashPost]

2020 WATCH: “Eric Garcetti isn’t running for president (wink, wink)” by Edward-Isaac Dovere: “He’s 46, just been re-elected to a second term with 81 percent of the vote, half-Mexican (he speaks Spanish fluently) and half-Jewish (he’s an active member of a very progressive L.A. synagogue), a Rhodes scholar and former Navy intelligence reserve officer. Hillary Clinton thought he was handsome, and that helped keep him in play in the consideration to be her running mate, though he didn’t make it to the finalist round, people familiar with those conversations told me. His deflection on 2020 lasted about 20 seconds… “I’m not focused on it, but the sky’s the limit in terms of what we need to be able to imagine for this country,” Garcetti said.” [Politico]

** 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 **

SPOTLIGHT: “Jared Kushner’s Other Real Estate Empire: Baltimore-area renters complain about a property owner they say is a neglectful and litigious. Few know their landlord is the president’s son-in-law” by Alex MacGillis: “When Americans were introduced last year to Ivanka Trump’s husband and the nation’s prospective son-in-law in chief, it was as the preternaturally poised, Harvard-educated scion of a real estate empire whose glittering ambitions resembled Donald Trump’s own. But the Kushners’ empire, like Trump’s, was underwritten by years of dealing in much more modestly ambitioned properties. Jared’s grandfather Joseph Kushner, a Holocaust survivor from Belarus, over his lifetime built a small construction company in New Jersey into a real estate venture that owned and managed some 4,000 low-rise units concentrated in the suburbs of Newark.”

“Amid the high-profile Manhattan and Brooklyn purchases, in 2011, Kushner Companies, with Jared now more firmly in command, pulled together a deal that looked much more like something from the firm’s humble past than from its high-rolling present. That June, the company and its equity partners bought 4,681 units of what are known in real estate jargon as “distress-ridden, Class B” apartment complexes: units whose prices fell somewhere in the middle of the market, typically of a certain age and wear, whose owners were in financial difficulty. Kushner’s largest concentration of multifamily units is in the Baltimore area, where the company controls 15 complexes in all — which, if you assume three residents per unit, could be home to more than 20,000 people…” [NYTimesMag]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Ghermezian’s American Dream Meadowlands: what’s next after getting $1.6B in private financing secured” by John Brennan: “Anyone who has seen me in the last four years and asked me “Is American Dream Meadowlands ever going to open?” (which is almost everyone) as well as Meadowlands Matters readers has gotten the same answer: If Triple Five sells the $1.15 billion in bonds, its eventual opening is a foregone conclusion.” … The institutional investors put their money in escrow over the weekend only because Triple Five has proven to their satisfaction that it has gotten similar commitments from “the big boy” bond buyers to fund that side of the equation. So the likelihood of this project coming to fruition has increased substantially, as noted by New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority President Wayne Hasenbalg on Monday.” [NorthJersey]

STARTUP NATION: “Israeli startup Windward enters marine insurance” by Idan Rabi: “Founded in 2011 by CEO Ami Daniel and VP product Matan Peled, Windward has raised $22.5 million to date from the Aleph fund, Chinese billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Horizon Ventures fund, former US CIA director David Petraeus, Start-Up Nation author Dan Senor, former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer, and others. Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is an advisor in the company, although he has not invested in it. Sources inform “Globes” that Windward has raised substantial additional amounts in recent months, but the identity of the investors was not disclosed.” [Globes]

“Amid complicated relations with U.S., Turkey hires longtime Trump lobbyist Brian Ballard” by Marc Caputo: “President Donald Trump’s longtime Florida lobbyist, Brian Ballard, has expanded his practice globally and just signed a $1.5 million contract with the government of Turkey, which will be represented by the firm’s new big hire, former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler. Ballard Partners’ Turkey contract, inked Friday, comes on the heels of two other international clients signed by the firm: A March 6$900,000 contract with the Dominican Republic and an April 1 $240,000 contract with the Socialist Party of Albania, the ruling party in the Balkan nation.” [Politico]

“Israeli Settlers Weren’t Always So Religious—They Were Once Secular Hippies” by Emma Green: “According to new research by Sara Yael Hirschhorn, a lecturer at Oxford University, about 60,000 out of the 400,000 settlers currently living in the West Bank are American—roughly 15 percent. In a new book about this group, City on a Hilltop, Hirschhorn writes that the Americans who came to Israel in the 1960s and ’70s defy today’s common stereotypes about settlers. Instead of being ultra-religious and conservative, “these new arrivals were usually young, single, highly educated, upwardly mobile, and traditional but not necessarily Orthodox in their religious practice, voted for Democratic Party candidates, and were politically supportive of and active in … the civil-rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War struggle.”” [TheAtlantic]

MEDIA WATCH: “Fox News staffers ‘disgusted’ at network’s promotion of Seth Rich conspiracy theory” by Oliver Darcy: “Multiple Fox News employees told CNN that Hannity… and others were hurting the credibility of the outlet by continuing to advance the [Seth Rich] theory, for which there is no real evidence. “It is disappointing because it drags the rest of us down,” said a senior Fox News employee, who asked how Fox News leadership could continue to allow Hannity to spread an unproven theory on the network. Another Fox News employee said he feels that Hannity isn’t letting go of the Rich story because he wants to “distract from any and all Trump scandals.” “ [CNNMoney]

DESSERT: “Assuage any Donald angst with the #Trumpburger” by Jessica Steinberg: “With President Trump in town, snarling up traffic and wreaking havoc for Jerusalem residents through Tuesday, the folks at Crave, the Mahane Yehuda restaurant known for its groovy gourmet street food, decided to assuage customer tensions with the Trumpburger… “It’s made from steak, ketchup and the Mexican wall,” quipped James Oppenheim… Topping the restaurant’s whole wheat buns (“perfect for squeezing”) is Mexican guacamole — representing the US/Mexico border wall that Trump wants to put in place — well-done steak sliders (“perfect for little hands”), pickled (im)peaches (alluding to Washington impeachment talk) and topped with crispy stalks of orange sweet potato (hair), for the president’s quizzically-colored pate and signature coloring. The burger, available only this week, costs NIS 69 and so far, it’s going over well with customers, said Oppenheim.” [ToI]

BIRTHDAYS: Founding member and chairman of Denver-based law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, super-lobbyist, long-time proponent of the US-Israel relationship and national board member of AIPAC, and House of Cards cameo star, Norman Brownstein turns 74… Businessman, attorney and philanthropist, he acquired and rebuilt the iconic restaurant in Miami Beach, The Forge, Alvin Malnik turns 84… Member of Congress from Washington State (1985-1993), State Department official (2002-2006), taught at Yale, GWU and English at a yeshiva high school in Mercer Island, Washington, John Ripin Miller turns 79… British fashion retailer and promoter of tennis in Israel, he is the founder, chairman and CEO of three international clothing lines including the French Connection, Great Plains and Toast brands, Stephen Marks turns 71… Israeli businessman with holdings in real estate, construction, energy, hotels and media, Ofer Nimrodi turns 6-0… President of Newton, MA-based Liberty Companies, a real estate development and management firm, he is a long-time Boston Jewish community leader, Andrew M. Cable turns 6-0 (h/t Abigail)… Best-selling author and journalist, whose works include “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Mitch Albom turns 59…

Israeli-born entrepreneur, author and former academic, now serving as the president and executive director of the Irvine, California-based Ayn Rand Institute, Yaron Brook turns 56… Vancouver, British Columbia-native, former ski instructor, ordained by HUC-JIR in 1998, now rabbi of the Community Synagogue of Rye (NY), Daniel B. Gropper turns 49… Film and television director, Nanette Burstein turns 47… Prominent NYC matrimonial law attorney, daughter of TV journalist Jeff Greenfield, Casey Greenfield turns 44… Israeli educator and politician, she is a member of the Knesset for the centrist Kulanu party since 2015, Yifat Shasha-Biton turns 44… Professional golfer on the LPGA Tour, she turned pro at age 17 and is the youngest-ever winner of a modern LPGA major championship (the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship), Morgan Pressel turns 29… Professional boxer, winner of the California Golden Gloves Championship in 2010, known as “Kid Yamaka” (a phonetic spelling of “yarmulke”), Zachary Wohlman turns 29… Senior associate in social media engagement at United Airlines, Andrea Hiller turns 23… Stephanie Liss

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Daily Kickoff: Trump trip highlights | Tillerson calls Tel Aviv ‘home of Judaism’ | The Israelis behind Waze Carpool | Seth Klarman wins the Preakness

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ISRAEL WELCOMES TRUMP — Top 5 tweets: 1. Gil Hoffman: “Camera picks up Sara Netanyahu telling the Trumps: Also us the press hates and the public loves.” 2. Amy Spiro: “OMG. MK Oren Hazan to Trump: “They call me the Israeli Donald Trump.” #imnotmakingthisup” • Hazan also took a selfie with Trump much to the chagrin of Bibi [Pic] 3. Dan Shapiro‏: “Jackets on.” [Pic] Flashback to Obama and Bibi on the runway [Pic4. Chemi Shalev‏: “If Trump would learn to stick to script, as he has on much of this trip, he wouldn’t have half the troubles he’s having.” 5. Jason Greenblatt‏: “With U.S. Amb. to Israel, David Friedman, and other colleagues aboard Marine 3. We are so lucky to be here with great care by the Marines!” [Pic]

Small talk: “What is the protocol?” Trump inquired of the Israeli Prime Minister as they walked the red carpet at Ben Gurion airport. “Who knows,” Netanyahu said. “I think they’ll just tell us where to stand.”

Trump in remarks at the welcoming ceremony: “During my travels in recent days, I have found new reasons for hope… We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony prosperity and peace… But we can only get there working together. We love Israel, we respect Israel, and I bring the warmest greetings from your friend and ally, all of the people of the United States of America.” [YouTube]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Every minister who was at the airport got a chance to share his or her two cents with POTUS. Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who often laments that Bibi doesn’t tell Trump what Israel really wants, said “It is the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, and we expect you to be the first President to recognize a united Jerusalem.” Trump responded: “That’s a good one.” Trump also complimented Regev on her dress. And, after introducing him to the first Druse minister Israel has ever had, Netanyahu had to steer Trump away from Ayoub Kara, who was talking too much for the premier’s taste. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

At the start of his meeting with President Rivlin in Jerusalem, Trump put pressure on his aides: “I have some talented people, but in particular, Jason [Greenblatt], you love Israel so much, that you left a very, very, very substantial job to be able to help on a peace treaty, you would like to see that, wouldn’t you. David Friedman, likewise, one of the most successful lawyers.” Trump pointed to Greenblatt and Friedman as his representatives to negotiate peace. “If not, you’ll be blamed because I just put it on record,” he joked.

ADVICE FROM AN ISRAEL TRIP PRO — Dan Senor: “Israel should have cut back on President’s residence ceremony and instead insisted on more time for Trump visit to Yad VaShem” [Twitter]

MAKING HISTORY: Trump becomes the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall [Pic] • Video [YouTube]

David Horovitz: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not join him at the wall. The president was not overly acknowledging Israeli sovereignty at the site. This was not an act of provocation. It was a carefully calibrated signal of respect. And as such, immensely appreciated by his Israeli hosts.” [ToI]

Later today… Trump will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu at the King David Hotel. In the evening, Netanyahu will host the President and First Lady Melania Trump at his residence in Jerusalem.

Tuesday’s schedule… In the morning, Trump will visit Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The President will visit Yad Vashem at 1:00 pm(Israel time), accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu, and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau. Trump will rekindle the eternal flame and lay a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance. Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev will present the President with a token of remembrance, an exact replica of the original Holocaust-era personal album that belonged to Ester Goldstein who was murdered during the Holocaust at the age of 16. [Livestream]

Trump arrived in Israel at a critical moment in the U.S.-Israeli relations. Eager to broker the ‘ultimate deal’ between Israel and the Palestinians, Trump will have to reassure wary Israelis that he has their back and that the early stumbles of his administration are of the past.

BUT… speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Sec. of State Rex Tillerson said this: “Onto the second stop, Tel Aviv, home of Judaism, obviously, second of the great religions the President is going to also ask to join with all of us in this fight against terrorism.”

Tillerson on whether the Western Wall is part of Israel: “The wall is part of Jerusalem.”

Asked if the President will pressure Netanyahu to freeze settlement activity, Tillerson said: “You know, settlements are part of the overall peace discussion. It’s just there are a number of elements that have presented challenges to the peace process in the past, settlements is clearly one of those.”

Dan Senor on CBS This Morning: “I think the president wants to send a message to Israel: ‘We have your back. You’re not alone.’ And if he can get Israel to lock arms with the United States, and make them feel that the bond is unbreakable – ‘We have your back and you can trust us,’ Israel will be more comfortable making concessions, taking some risks for peace.” [CBSNews]

WHAT TRUMP BRINGS TO THE TABLE: “Can Donald Trump solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?” by Oren Liebermann, James Masters and Ian Lee: “If Trump offers to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights or release Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for Israel, from the terms of his probation, it would be a political win for Netanyahu, and it would give the Israeli Prime Minister maneuvering room within Israeli politics. Trump could also offer to increase US military aid to Israel from its record level of nearly $4 billion a year. As a last option, Trump can move the embassy to Jerusalem, but such a move would require large concessions to the Palestinians to avoid regional turmoil.” [CNN]

THE PLAYERS — Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — by Amir Tibon: On Sunday night, as President Donald Trump was concluding a successful two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, the White House distributed a very rare press release: a statement attributed directly, “on the record”, to Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner… The statement was a testament to Kushner’s central role in organizing Trump’s foreign trip… Kushner’s positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remain a mystery… The visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority could be the perfect opportunity for Kushner to take the stage and increase his involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian file.” [Haaretz]  

“Can Jason Greenblatt deliver peace for Donald Trump?” by Annie Karni: “Greenblatt, in large part, agrees with Trump, according to interviews with White House officials. He sees the experts trying to persuade him that peace is out of reach as having an outdated view of the region. He has described the current moment as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to broker peace, echoing Trump’s own words – in part because of his deep belief in Trump’s powers of negotiation, in part because of the shared threat of Iran to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. His success in Trump’s orbit has also made some skeptical of his ability to contradict the boss. “His job isn’t to listen to everyone and then come back to Trump and say here is what is possible and here is what is not,” said one outside adviser who has spoken extensively with Greenblatt. “Trump has said getting a deal is easier than it looks, and we’re going to do it. My impression is it’s not really possible to go back to him and say, ‘it can’t be done, not now.’”” [Politico]

–Greenblatt‏ tweeted: “Thanks to @USAinKSA and Ryan Cooper for all of their help during my stay in Riyadh and for getting me kosher food here #Frozenmealscanbegood.” [Twitter] • Pic of his Friday night meal [Twitter]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “Behind triumphant Trump visit to Israel, a few old tensions return” by  Anne Gearan and Ruth Eglash: “Privately, Netanyahu has groused that Trump’s personal stake in what the president has called “the deal of the century” puts the Israeli leader in a difficult spot, former U.S. officials and others said. The Trump administration is also poised to disappoint some in Israel and among his own supporters in the United States by reneging on a campaign pledge to quickly move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the capital, Jerusalem… Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said disappointment with Trump is largely limited to members of Israel’s “deep-right wing that were sure that President Trump would be working for them.”” [WashPost]

“Preparations for Trump’s Visit Expose Political Rifts in Israel” by Isabel Kershner: “Some in the Israeli news media have already described the visit as “hysterical,” rather than “historical.” And squabbling within Mr. Netanyahu’s governing coalition has marred much of the festivity surrounding Mr. Trump’s visit: Right-wing politicians are disappointed that the Trump administration appears to be adhering to longstanding American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they are agitating for Mr. Netanyahu to take a tougher stance.” [NYTimes

Among those disappointed with Trump: Naftali Bennett — by John Reed: “Throughout the past year, Donald Trump said some very positive statements, such as that ‘We will move the embassy’,” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister and head of the far-right, pro-settler Jewish Home party… told the Financial Times. “He was very positive about Jewish communities, about Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria,” Mr Bennett added, referring to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. “Over the past few months there is a sense that something may have changed, and the source of the change is unclear.” [FT; INN]

Oded Revivi, Chief Foreign Envoy of the Yesha Council who attended Trump’s inauguration, tells us… “We welcome President Trump to Israel and bless his trip with success. However, if he is going to try the same flawed policies that have failed for decades, he too will fail. The road to peace will begin in the towns and cities of Judea and Samaria and we pray that he will accept our invitation to come and see real peace and coexistence in action.”

“Israelis worry Trump’s changing stands look more and more like Obama’s” by Franco Ordonez: “He’s like any politician,” said Shlamit Lev-ran, 24, an art student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “They say one thing and then after they’re elected they do another. I see no difference.” “Trump and Obama, they want the same thing,” said Elie Adler, a 60-year-old shopkeeper in downtown Jerusalem. “They just serve it up in a different dish.” [McClatchyDC]

ON THE HILL — Senator Cory Booker  (D-NJ) spoke with JI’s Aaron Magid ahead of Trump’s Israel trip: “I think it’s good for the President of the United States to be going to Israel. I think it’s very important. We need to continue to deepen our ties and cooperation. Everything from our intelligence sharing to economic cooperation.”

JI: What about the two state solution?

Booker: “For me, it’s got to be a priority. I can tell you a lot of things that I hope the President discusses with the leadership of the country — I’m not just talking about Netanyahu but also the Palestinian leadership — that can help encourage the right things to happen. I think that it is very important that he (Trump) play a role in supporting an ultimate two state solution.”

TOP TALKER — Ivanka’s rabbi said to deny permitting Shabbat travel: “Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who heads Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is said to have told Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog that speculation he granted the couple the rabbinical dispensation was “fake news.” The Yedioth Ahronoth daily quoted Lookstein telling Herzog he has not been in touch with Ivanka for “several weeks,” and that the information was false.” [ToI]

“Does Flying On A Plane On Shabbos Make You Not Orthodox?” by Allison Josephs: “To clarify some of the halachic and historical reasons why many rabbis were defending Jared and Ivanka, we asked Rabbi Professor Jeffrey Woolf who teaches in the Talmud Department at Bar Ilan University… “One of these rare exceptions is for a person who fills a key, even unique, position in a Gentile government. Such an individual is described as being Karov l’Malchus (Literally, ‘close to the King or Kingdom’)… Since their unique status required them to make themselves available to the ruler, they were allowed to violate various rabbinic prohibitions… It is crucial to realize that their actions can be understood and justified within the parameters of the unique status of Karov l’Malchus, a position that they certainly hold.” [JewInTheCity

SAUDI VISIT: “In Saudi Arabia, Trump Reaches Out to Sunni Nations, at Iran’s Expense” by Ben Hubbard and Thomas Erdbrink: “In his speech on Sunday, Mr. Trump… spoke of a stronger alliance with mostly Sunni Muslim nations to fight terrorism and extremist ideology and to push back against Iran. “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region,” Mr. Trump told dozens of Muslim heads of state. “It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this very room.” That pointed to a departure from the policies of Mr. Obama, who pushed Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia to move toward greater self-sufficiency in defense while pressing for the agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program.” [NYTimes]

“Trump’s Visit Cements Saudi Support, Avoids Thorny Regional Issues” by William Mauldin: “This is someone who is making it clear that we’re making common cause with those who are prepared to take on ISIS and the Iranians,” said Dennis Ross, a former U.S. envoy in the region and senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy… “He got in and out of the speech conundrum fairly well,” Aaron David Miller said. “He made a few of the right points, missed many of the bad ones, dodged the bullet on formulations of ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ that could be seen as terribly offending.” [WSJ

HEARD YESTERDAY — Elliott Abrams on CNN: “The idea that you can call him, you know, bigoted against Islam, I think, takes a big hit today. His first foreign trip he goes to Riyadh. You have all of these visuals of him meeting with Muslim leaders, not only from that region but from around the world, so I think he comes out looking better, not only as presidential, but as reaching out to Muslim leaders from around the world. I think he has helped himself a lot in pushing back against the idea that the origin of his position is some kind of prejudice.” [MediaMatters

“Trump’s Politically Correct Speech in Saudi Arabia” by Peter Beinart: “Trump criticized terrorist groups like ISIS for their “persecution of Jews,” and he condemned Iran for pledging “the destruction of Israel.” But since ISIS and Iran are Riyadh’s most bitter foes, those condemnations won’t have bothered the Saudi monarchs at all. Unlike Obama, Trump avoided the broader problem of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in Islamic countries, a problem in which his Saudi hosts are deeply complicit. Nor did he even hint at the fact that Saudi Arabia still does not recognize Israel.” [TheAtlantic

“Saudi King Confident Trump Can Solve Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Foreign Minister Says” by Daniel Marans: “The king “expressed the kingdom’s optimism that President Trump, with a new approach and determination, can bring a conclusion to this long conflict,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al] Jubeir said, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “He certainly has the vision and we believe the strength and the decisiveness,” Jubeir continued. “And the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands prepared to work with the United States in order to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and Israelis and Arabs.”” [HuffPost

“High Fives in Riyadh as Trump Leaves Woes Behind for Deals” by Margaret Talev and Jennifer Jacobs: “At one point, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was seen high-fiving National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.” [Bloomberg

“Saudis pledge $20 billion to U.S.-focused infrastructure fund” by Dan Primack: “Saudi Arabia on Saturday made a tentative commitment of $20 billion to a new infrastructure investment fund that would be managed by The Blackstone Group, the private equity and real estate giant led by Trump economic advisor Steve Schwarzman.” [Axios

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — “Israeli minister expresses concern over U.S.-Saudi arms deal” by Ori Lewis: “Israel gave a muted response on Sunday… “This is a matter that really should trouble us,” said Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz prior to the weekly cabinet meeting, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no mention of the deal in his customary public remarks… “We have also to make sure that those hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia will not, by any means, erode Israel’s qualitative edge, because Saudi Arabia is still a hostile country without any diplomatic relations and nobody knows what the future will be.” [Reuters

–When asked about Steinitz’s comments, Sec. Tillerson responded during a gaggle on AF1: “There has been nothing entered into with the arms sales agreements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or any of the other countries that do not fully allow us to fulfill our commitments to Israel and the longstanding security arrangements we have with Israel. I’m sure we can answer those questions and address the concerns they have.”

Asked if the president plans to apologize for sharing Israeli intel with the Russians, Tillerson said, “I don’t know that there’s anything to apologize for. To the extent the Israelis have any questions, or clarification, I’m sure we’re happy to provide that.”

“Why Israel Thinks Trump Is Focusing on the Wrong Enemy in Syria” by David Wainer: “Islamic State “is being decimated,” said Avi Dichter, chairman of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and a former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency. “They no longer have that many men on the ground. Iran, on the other hand, is a major regional threat.” If that threat is present in Syria and directed at Israel, he said, “that’s a casus belli.” … Now Israel is pinning its hopes on Trump.” [Bloomberg Israeli Officers to Trump: You’re Doing ISIS Wrong [Politico]

“How Trump could deal a blow to Iran — and help save Syria” by Josh Rogin: “Those who support the Syrian opposition in Washington are also noticing a shift in the U.S. approach toward confronting Iran in Syria. Whether that represents mission creep or a deliberate change in approach on a policy level is unclear — and ultimately irrelevant. Perhaps by accident, Trump is moving toward a Syria policy that is tougher on Iran and the Assad regime, and it’s having real effects on the ground.” [WashPost]

PROFILE: “James Mattis, a Warrior in Washington” by Dexter Filkins: “Late in 2011, the Obama White House was worried about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program and concerned that the Israeli military might launch a preëmptive strike. At a briefing for American diplomats in Qatar, Mattis was asked to discuss the possibility of a confrontation in the waters of the Persian Gulf. According to a senior American diplomat who attended the briefing, Mattis declared that, if the Iranians attacked American forces, he was authorized to defend them—and that he expected retaliation. “Mattis was basically saying, ‘I’m ready. If I respond, Iran will respond in an escalatory fashion—and I will be rocking and rolling,’ ” the diplomat told me. “It wasn’t what they wanted to hear. It scared them. Mattis was not reckless—he was the straightest guy in the room. He’s just way more honest than most people would be in a situation like that.”” [NewYorker]

** 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: Investors Think Twice About Deals With Trumps and Kushners [Bloomberg] • Kushner keeps most of his real estate but offers few clues about potential White House conflicts [WashPost

AVOIDING THE SPOTLIGHT — “Why Trump’s No. 2 donor isn’t asking for much” by Theodore Schleifer: “Trump and [Bernie] Marcus are not friends. But observers of the relationship say his absence from Trump’s network is unusual for a Republican who gave so much to support Trump during the campaign and implored other donors to do similarly. “He does not relish the game,” said Mike Leven, formerly Adelson’s chief deputy who now works for Marcus projects. In fact, despite all his contributions ($7M), Leven described Marcus as not politically energized until this cycle. “Bernie was never involved like Sheldon was involved,” he said, adding, “I don’t think it’s been fun for him at all.” … Marcus, an avid golfer even as he turned 88 last week, has told his team recently that he has no interest in hitting the links with the commander-in-chief. They have never even dined together… “He’s never had such access to a president,” said one person close to Marcus. But as of this month, he has yet to even visit the White House.” [CNN

STARTUP NATION: “Waze Wants to Help You Hitch a Ride” by Adam Satariano and Mark Bergen: “Di-Ann Eisnor, Waze’s head of growth, says she was languishing inside the Google behemoth; her stock options payout didn’t make her feel much better. “I had just made a bunch of money. I should have been happy,” she says. In 2015, two years in, her feelings hadn’t changed much. Eisnor says she and other executives huddled in Waze’s Tel Aviv offices to ask, “How the hell are we going to stay here if we’re bored?” Instead of leaving the company, the group decided to expand Waze beyond avoiding traffic accidents and speed traps. Waze Carpool, a separate app, started as a small pilot in Israel that year and is now also available in San Francisco and, soon, Brazil.” [Bloomberg]

“Can this contraption really help you sleep on a plane?” by Thomas Heath: “[Ephi Zlotnitsky] and a business partner have invested three years and $350,000 to create the JetComfy. The pillow is the size of a purse and sells for $39.99. About 10,000 units have been sold since it went on sale in January. Zlotnitsky said he has plans to open the first JetComfy comfort sales center in Dulles International Airport in August and hopes to expand to 25 locations at larger airports in a year. The pillow is available now on Amazon Prime and at Luggage Plus stores and will be offered online by Walmart later this month.” [WashPost

SPOTLIGHT: “Caught in White House Chaos, Justice Dept. Official Seeks Neutral Ground” by Julie Hirschfeld and Rebecca R. Ruiz: “[Rod] Rosenstein, 52, is an improbable character in the theatrics surrounding Mr. Trump. Reserved and bookish, he spends most of his time, friends say, working or spending time with his wife and children, including frequently shuttling his two teenage girls to soccer and softball games… He and his wife, Lisa Barsoomian, a former prosecutor who later worked as a lawyer for the National Institutes of Health and took time off to raise their daughters, live in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Md., in a brick raised ranch house. Mr. Rosenstein’s quirks, according to friends and colleagues, include handing out books by the management guru Peter Drucker to colleagues and sending lengthy emails to his staff before federal holidays, documenting their history and little-remembered factoids about their observance.” [NYTimes

TALK OF THIS TOWN: “Gingrich spreads conspiracy theory about slain DNC staffer” by David Weigel: “Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a stalwart supporter of President Trump, used a Sunday-morning appearance on “Fox and Friends” to spread the conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was killed last year to cover up the true story of how WikiLeaks obtained tens of thousands of hacked Democratic Party emails… Gingrich confidently made claims about Rich that have not been proven and that the family has denied.” [WashPost]

HOLLYWOOD: “Comic Adam Sandler turns tables on critics with Cannes triumph” by Deborah Cole: “Sandler… plays the unemployed son of a New York sculptor (Dustin Hoffman) who suffers in the shadow of his successful young brother (Ben Stiller). The picture by Noah Baumbach (“When We Were Young”) garnered enthusiastic applause at a press preview ahead of its red-carpet premiere at the world’s top film festival… Sandler looked moved as he was greeted with a cheer by Cannes reporters and thanked Baumbach for an “amazing script.”” [Yahoo]

SPORTS BLINK: “After attending race growing up, Baltimore-raised owner Seth Klarman soaking in Preakness victory” by Don Markus: “The victory by Cloud Computing — one of several horses Klarman owns that he gave names related to finance, technology and “other names that make sense in a business or economics content” — eclipsed his two most lasting sports memories. Along with the win by Secretariat, which Klarman watched from the infield, there was the four-game sweep by his beloved Orioles over the favored Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series. “I was only nine when that happened,” said Klarman, who will celebrate his 60th birthday Sunday. Beth Klarman smiled at the memory of her husband’s involvement in horse racing, coming about a decade after they were married in 1983.” [BaltimoreSun]

MAZEL TOV — Jamie Stelter tweets: “It’s a girl! Sunny Ray Stelter was born yesterday weighing 6 pounds 13 ounces and 100% sunshine. Brian Stelter + I are over the moon” [Twitter]

BIRTHDAYS: President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Sanford Ronald (“Sandy”) Cardin turns 6-0… Actress, producer, model and singer, Noa Tishby turns 42… Co-founder of Facebook in 2004 and Asana in 2008, Forbes reported him to be the youngest self-made billionaire in history, worth more than $10 billion, Dustin Aaron Moskovitz turns 33… US economic and business columnist for The Sunday Times in London and The Courier-Mail in Australia, holder of a Ph.D in economics from Cornell University, Irwin M. Stelzer turns 85… Award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker since 1989, Connie Bruck turns 71… Cognitive scientist, former CEO of Haskins Laboratories in New Haven and director of the White House neuroscience initiative (2012-2015), Philip E. Rubin turns 68… Member of Knesset from the Zionist Union party, previously a Major General in the IDF where he served as commander of the military colleges and deputy commander of the Northern Command, Eyal Ben-Reuven turns 63… Democratic member of the US House of Representatives from Arizona’s 1st district (1993-1995), now a business and transactional attorney in Phoenix, Sam Coppersmith turns 62… Former head coach of the NBA’a Cleveland Cavaliers (2014-2016), winning coach of the EuroLeague Championship in 2014 with Maccabi Tel Aviv, now coaching an Istanbul team in the EuroLeague, David Blatt turns 58… British writer, philanthropist and documentary filmmaker, a member of the Rothschild banking family and daughter of Jacob Rothschild, the 4th Baron Rothschild, Hannah Mary Rothschild turns 55…

Chicago attorney clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist (1996-1997), then served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago (1998-2005) and Chicago Inspector General (2005-2009), David H. Hoffman turns 50… Former Major League Baseball relief pitcher, played from 1996 to 2005 for the White Sox, Rangers, Angels, Devil Rays, Royals, Tigers and Giants, Alan Brian “Al” Levine turns 49… Harvard Law School professor since 2007, clerked for Supreme Court Justice David Souter (1998-1999), Noah Feldman turns 47… Israeli cookbook author, food journalist, culinary editor and TV cookery show host, Shaily Lipa turns 43… Charismatic wide receiver and kick returner for the NFL’s New England Patriots since 2009, member of two Super Bowl winning teams, Julian Edelman turns 31… Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, Michael Wilner turns 28… Program manager at the Aspen Institute, Peter Kaplan… Emma Kaplan (h/ts Playbook)… Sacramento resident, Gloria Woodlock… Rebecca Weiss… Charles Scott… Benjamin Weiss… Aryeh Jacobson… rising political star Alex Friedman

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photo by Shahar Azran

Kafe Knesset for April 5

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