Daily Kickoff: When the UAE and Israeli Ambassadors shared a DC dinner table with Sheldon Adelson | De Blasio at AIPAC | RBG turns 86

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DRIVING THE DAY — Global condemnation, condolences after NZ mosque attack — by Mike Corder: 
“World leaders expressed condolences and condemnation Friday following the deadly attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, while Muslim leaders said the mass shooting was evidence of a rising tide of violent anti-Islam sentiment.” [APCNN]

Rockets Fired on Tel Aviv From Gaza, and Israel Strikes Back — by David Halbfinger: 
“Two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv from the Gaza Strip on Thursday — the first time since 2014 that rockets had reached the area — in an attack that led to retaliatory airstrikes by Israel hours later. Israel blamed Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, for the rocket fire, but by Friday morning, the assessment of Israeli military officials was that Hamas operatives had launched the rockets ‘by mistake.’ … The Israeli military said it had carried out retaliatory strikes overnight against approximately 100 military sites belonging to Hamas throughout the Gaza Strip, including an underground rocket manufacturing facility and an office complex in a residential area of Gaza City that housed Hamas’s headquarters for directing activities in the West Bank.” [NYTimesWSJ]

“The timing of this latest outbreak in violence could create a political dilemma for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu… If he is seen as hesitating to strike back forcefully, that could cost his Likud party votes among right-wingers who seek a tough response to attacks from Gaza. A large-scale offensive, however, would entail other risks if Israeli casualties mount.” [Bloomberg]

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) condemned the ‘unprovoked’ attack on Israel and stressed the need for bipartisan support for Israel’s security. “These attacks also show why Congressional support for systems like the Iron Dome are so critical,” Hoyer wrote on Twitter. “I will continue to work in Congress to ensure robust, bipartisan support for Israel’s defense.” 

Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted“Hamas and other terror orgs in Gaza continue to fail their people day after day and drag Gaza further & further down by constantly choosing violence. This method will never work. Ever! It will just continue to cause more suffering… Presumably all responsible countries/international orgs will condemn attacks/confirm Israel’s right to defend. Anything else is tone deaf — to Israelis, Palestinians and to peace. Time to wake up folks!”

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Congress is pushing for increased U.S.-Israel cooperation on next generation war capabilities, including lasers and high-power microwaves, to protect against increasing threats from competing countries.

Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) re-introduced on Thursday the U.S.-Israel Directed Energy Cooperation act, authorizing the Department of Defense work with Israel in developing “directed energy capabilities,” weapons that are based off high-energy lasers and microwaves. “The ability to stop ballistic missiles and other major threats through directed energy technology, such as lasers, will save lives,” Rep Lieu said in a statement. Rep. Stefanik added, “Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East, and working together to enhance security for both of our nations is of the utmost importance.”

A spokesperson for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) emailed Jewish Insider on Thursday that the move by the State Department elevating language regarding Israel – from “occupied” territories to “controlled” – is a “welcome step” but more must be done. “Sen. Cruz believes that it is in the United States’ national security interests to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Anything that moves in that direction is a welcome step, but we must do more. He will continue advancing his legislation, introduced with Sen. Cotton and Rep. Gallagher in the House, to establish that it is the policy of the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty. Any policy short of full recognition is a policy that falls short of securing American national security interests.”

— Christians United for Israel, the largest pro-Israel organization with five million members, put their support behind Republican efforts to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the group announced on Thursday. “It is past time for our leaders in Washington to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights and make clear to Iran and Syria that any attack on the Golan Heights is an attack on Israel,” CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee said in a statement.

Progressive Democrats hope the Omar clash will reset debate in Congress over Israel — by Jennifer Haberkorn: “’I think there will be more and more willingness on the part of members of Congress and policymakers to speak up and be critical of the policies of the U.S. and the government of Israel. There’s been more reluctance in the past,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street… ‘This is a start of the conversation that didn’t happen in a positive way,’ said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont). ‘But the conversation is not going away.'” [LATimes]

Trump tweets this morning: 
“The ‘Jexodus’ movement encourages Jewish people to leave the Democrat Party. Total disrespect! Republicans are waiting with open arms. Remember Jerusalem (U.S. Embassy) and the horrible Iran Nuclear Deal! @OANN @foxandfriends.” 

U.S. ambassador condemns convicted Palestinian terrorist’s speech in Germany — by Benjamin Weinthal: 
“The U.S. ambassador to Germany has condemned the presence of a convicted Palestinian terrorist who entered Germany in order to deliver a talk on Friday… about ‘Palestinian women in the liberation struggle.’ The event is organized by a reportedly ‘anti-Semitic alliance of BDS.’ Ambassador Richard Grenell told Fox News Thursday: ‘The rise of anti-Semitism around the world is very troubling… Offering a public speaking role to a Palestinian terrorist convicted of murder, terrorism and immigration fraud legitimizes anti-Semitism at a time when we should be condemning it.'”[FoxNews]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in an interview with the Washington Examiner: “We’re trying to find that perfect place to land, and ultimately, there will be some Israelis that view [the plan] as exceeding their maximum and some Palestinians for whom it doesn’t meet their minimum. But it will hopefully, if nothing else, provoke a serious discussion that hasn’t taken place in a long time.” Pressed on the issue of Palestinian statehood, Friedman only said: “We’d like to see Palestinian autonomy improve significantly, as long as it doesn’t come at the risk of Israeli security. Where you slice that can be debated.”[WashExaminer]

TRUMP DIPLOMACY — Talk to Trump, Skip the Diplomats: World Leaders’ New U.S. Tactic — by Vivian Salama and Peter Nicholas: 
“Increasingly, savvy leaders are bypassing the standard protocols and government processes of American diplomacy to go directly to President Trump himself… An official familiar with the inner workings of the White House said the president’s advisers suspect that he regularly speaks with world leaders on his phone… ‘At this point, foreign leaders understand that nobody can speak authoritatively other than Trump, and that what other interlocutors say may not represent the president’s position today,’ said Robert Danin, a longtime U.S. diplomat, now at the Council on Foreign Relations.” 

“‘I should have a nickel for every foreign minister who has asked me to help decipher and interpret this administration,’ said Richard Haass, who held foreign-policy positions in the past two Republican administrations. ‘They just don’t know how to read it. It’s been a nightmare for ambassadors and foreign ministers.'” [WSJ]

DEEP DIVE — Inside the opulent Trump inaugural dinner designed as a glittery overture to foreign diplomats — by Michael Kranish, Rosalind Helderman, Mary Jordan 
and Tom Hamburger: “Details about the invitation-only Chairman’s Global Dinner, Tom Barrack’s signature event of the week, have been largely out of public view. An examination of the event… provides a window into how Trump’s upstart victory quickly drew influential figures eager to shape the new administration… Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador who had emailed with Barrack, was also among the guests — assigned to a table with the Israeli ambassador… Two of the RNC’s biggest fundraisers were in attendance: Steve Wynn and Elliott Broidy… Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who was assigned to Table 4 with Otaiba, gave $5 million for the inauguration, more than any other donor.”

“Barrack’s relationship with Trump, meanwhile, has suffered. His hopes of brokering Middle East policies were outstripped by the influence of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner… The two men once spoke regularly, according to people familiar with their relationship. But now, they said, their conversations are sporadic.” [WashPost

SCENE YESTERDAY — NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio discussed antisemitism and U.S. support for Israel at an event for women hosted by AIPAC in Manhattan. [PicDe Blasio is expected to speak at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on March 24th.

HAPPENING NOW — Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is hosting a rally to mark Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 86th birthday, a Brooklyn hero, outside Brooklyn Borough Hall.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Netanyahu’s departure would be a very big deal — by Aaron David Miller: “Should Benny Gantz become prime minister, unlike Netanyahu, he will likely stay out of U.S. politics. There will be no end runs to Congress; no twinning with Trump’s inflammatory politics about ‘witch hunts’; no circulating Trump endorsements from Fox News; and no effort to help Trump make the Republican Party the most pro-Israel party in U.S. politics. At the same time, Gantz has already indicated he will address American Jews’ concerns about egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem — a move that will help defuse tensions from the Netanyahu years. Gantz, unlike Netanyahu or Trump, won’t be a divider.” [CNN]

Netanyahu Outfoxed Russia, Iran 
and ISIS With His Cynical, Ruthless Syria Policy — by Anshel Pfeffer: “Netanyahu doesn’t have many fans among the IDF General Staff, but on his Syrian record, they are near-unanimous in praise. The only criticism you can hear today is that in recent months he has been too quick to acknowledge Israel’s strikes, which in the past had been left unattributed. But that claim is hard to stick to Netanyahu, when Eisenkot himself spoke about the strikes openly in the interviews he gave in January at the end of his term… If he has one valid claim to remaining in office, it’s his Syria policy.” [Haaretz

— No One Wants to Help Bashar al-Assad Rebuild Syria — by Krishnadev Calamur: 
“Assad is in a bind. His supporters can’t afford to pay for reconstruction; his adversaries in the West can, but won’t. Iran, Assad’s other principal supporter, is suffering from reimposed U.S. sanctions and doesn’t have that much to spare.” [TheAtlantic]

GONE VIRAL — Whatcha got cookin’? — 
PM Netanyahu spent some time in the kitchen on Thursday to demonstrate his cooking skills in an attempt to reinforce his campaign theme that Benny Gantz will form a left-wing government with the support of Arab parties. “This is what I know how to cook,” Netanyahu, in an apron, said as he fried up a sunny side up in a puddle of olive oil. “What they [Blue and White] are cooking up is a left-wing government with support from left-wing parties and Arab parties. They aren’t fooling anyone.” [Video]

Israel suspects Iran of hacking election frontrunner Gantz’s phone: 
“Israel’s Shin Bet security service suspects Iran of hacking the mobile phone of Benny Gantz… Gantz, a former chief of Israel’s armed forces, was informed of the hack five weeks ago, Channel 12 said, adding that the Shin Bet believed Iranian state intelligence had accessed the ex-general’s personal information and correspondences.” [Reuters]

2020 WATCH — 
Beto O’Rourka wants to be Obama— but came off like Trump… Peter Beinart writes: Instead of invoking God, O’Rourke and most other Democratic contenders identify religion as a source of division… Biden will be a bust, Trump aides have tried to assure their boss… Institute founded by Bernie Sanders’ wife and son is shutting down… Howard Schultz apologized for claiming he had spent more time with the military than any other 2020 candidate… 

** 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: Fantasy or transformation? New York’s $25bn Hudson Yards set to open [TheGuardianNYTimes• Ken Griffin Says Amazon Exit Damped His Interest in NYC Headquarters [Bloomberg• Two of Mark Zuckerberg’s most important executives are leaving Facebook [NYTimesRecode]

SPOTLIGHT — Here are the hip coliving apartments under construction in Hollywood — by Bianca Barragan: “On a cul-de-sac near Hollywood Boulevard and Bronson, nestled among midcentury apartment buildings, construction is well underway on the latest investment in co-living. The years-vacant lot is giving way to a fully-furnished, five-story apartment complex called Treehouse Hollywood, where 60 bedrooms will be organized into 18 suite-like living spaces with shared kitchens and living rooms. ‘It’s not going to feel like a generic apartment building,’ says Joe Green, Treehouse’s board chairman… Treehouse’s founders say they want to foster a feeling of belonging among tenants. One of the ways they’ll accomplish that is by having residents help review applications for prospective tenants… ‘We think to have a good community, you can’t have people coming in and out all the time,’ Green said.” [CurbedLA]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Patrick Radden Keefe, a New Yorker staff writer, discussed his latest book, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, on the Longform podcast: “When I went over there for the first time, I talked to David Remnick, my boss, and he’d gone 20 years earlier to write a piece about the peace process and Gerry Adams for the New Yorker. As I was leaving to Belfast for the first time, he said. ‘You are going to love it. It’s a reporter’s dream. Just like Israel — everybody talks, talks, talks.’” [Longform]

MEDIA WATCH — The Intercept Bars Co-Founder From Meeting After Snowden Archive Shutdown — by Maxwell Tani: 
“Laura Poitras, one of the founding editors of The Intercept, was barred from attending a company meeting on Thursday following a decision by First Look Media to discontinue managing The Intercept’s archive of leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden… Since 2014, Poitras and Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald have entrusted The Intercept, which is owned by First Look Media, to maintain the voluminous archive.” [DailyBeast]

CAMPUS BEAT — Pitzer President Melvin Oliver vetoes suspension of Haifa study abroad program — by Marc Rod: 
“Less than three hours after the Pitzer College Council voted 67-28 to suspend Pitzer’s study abroad program to the University of Haifa in Israel, Pitzer President Melvin Oliver vetoed the decision and said he will not implement the suspension… The Faculty Executive Committee will meet Friday to discuss Oliver’s decision, FEC chair Claudia Strauss said.” [StudentLife]

University of Haifa President Prof. Ron Robin said in a statement: 
“The Pitzer boycott is particularly misguided given the fact that at University of Haifa, 35 percent of our students are Arabs, and that our Israeli and Arab students work together harmoniously on extracurricular activities and community service. This is diversity, coexistence, and tolerance at its finest.” 

TALK OF THE TOWN — American Dream mega mall, opening soon, will feature these swanky restaurants, savory food halls — by Allison Pries: “American Dream [in East Rutherford, NJ] will be comprised of 55 percent entertainment and 45 retail.  But what foodies should know is, there will also be more than 100 places to eat, including 14 to 18 full-service restaurants… American Dream has said that it will have the first Kosher food hall in the U.S. in a retail and entertainment destination. It will have six units culled from the best kosher food operators on the East Coast.” [NJAdvance]

Real Estate for the Afterlife — by Jane Margolies: 
“Across the city, recent arrivals to New York are leaving their mark on older burial grounds. Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, for example, have brought a preference for polished headstones of black granite with photorealistic depictions of the dead — a stark contrast to the plainer, timeworn stones with Hebrew lettering favored by Jews of earlier generations.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT — In the Future, Everything Will Be Made of Chickpeas — by Ambda Mull: 
“Biena Snacks is part of a constellation of American food companies, such as Banza Pasta and The Good Bean, that has sprung up around the humble chickpea in recent years, ready to fully integrate a global staple food into the country’s diets. Now there are chips made with chickpea flour and vegan butter emulsified with the liquid waste of hummus manufacturing. There’s dessert hummus, which might be one of the more difficult sells in the garbanzo-food family tree. Beyond the grocery store, there are viral chickpea recipes to prepare at home, and maybe even some chickpea brine behind the bar at your favorite cocktail spot.” [TheAtlantic]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a.k.a. “Notorious RBG,” turns 86… Theoretical chemist and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, professor emeritus at Harvard University and Director of the Biophysical Chemistry Laboratory in France, Martin Karplus turns 89… Emmy Award and Tony Award-winning actor, Judd Hirsch turns 84… Former federal prosecutor (1961-1966), then founder of Baer & McGoldrick (now Schulte, Roth & Zabel), movie producer, now vice-chair of Medici Arts LLC, Thomas H. Baer turns 82… UCLA professor, biochemist and biophysicist, David S. Eisenberg turns 80… First-ever New York City Public Advocate (1994-2001), winner of Democratic primaries for NYC Mayor (2001), the House (1980) and the Senate (1986) but lost each general election, author of 23 books, Mark J. Green turns 74… Sam Treynor turns 71… British billionaire and philanthropist, chairman of retail conglomerate Arcadia Group, Sir Philip Nigel Ross Green turns 67… Animator and director of The Simpsons, David Silverman turns 62… Los Angeles-based writer, director and producer, Andrea Blaugrund Nevinsturns 57… Chief operating officer at Jewish Child & Family Services of Chicago, Wendy Platt Newberger turns 56…

CEO and Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis since September 2013, Debra Barton Grant turns 50… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party since 2015, Amir Ohana turns 43… Retired MLB infielder, then a special assistant to the Chicago Cubs GM Theo Epstein, he now owns a brew pub in Los Gatos, CA, Kevin Youkilis turns 40… Global business editor for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security, Marcus Weisgerber turns 37… MSW candidate at Simmons University, she was previously in the DC office of the Jewish Federations of North America and at the Anti-Defamation League, Mindy Beth Reinstein Brodsky turns 36… Born in Jerusalem, she is a member of the New York State Assembly for the northeast portions of Queens since first being elected in 2012, Nily Rozic turns 33… Board member of the African Middle Eastern Leadership Project (AMEL), he played a key role in Mohammed Al Samawi’s rescue from Yemen, Justin Hefter turns 30… Freelance multimedia journalist, he was previously a business reporter at The Jerusalem Post, Max J. Schindler turns 27… and Max’s twin sister, Rachel Schindler, who works in the media partnerships group at Facebook, also turns 27… Shirley Hoffner… Robert Rosner… Ze’ev Bar-El

SATURDAY: Former CEO and chairman of Citigroup, Sanford I. “Sandy” Weill turns 86… Dean and founder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, its Museum of Tolerance and of Moriah, the Center’s film division, Rabbi Marvin (Moshe Chaim) Hier turns 80… Graduate of Harvard Law School in 1964, tax assistant to the Solicitor General of the US (1973-1983), now a NYC tax attorney and litigator, Stuart A. Smith turns 78… Actress and film director, Susan Linda Bay turns 76… Computer scientist and author of multiple computer science textbooks, he is a professor emeritus of computer science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Andrew S. Tanenbaum turns 75… Film, stage and television actor and singer, Victor Garber turns 70… Mathematician and founder of four technology companies, creator of the first camera phone, Philippe Kahn turns 67… Peabody Award and Emmy Award-winning NPR journalist since 1977, now a host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, Scott Simon turns 67… VP of external affairs at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Amy Kaplan turns 65… Film producer, production designer and adjunct faculty member at Chicago’s Columbia College, Gail Sonnenfeld turns 64… Adjunct professor at both George Washington University Law School and Stanford In Washington, previously a partner at DLA Piper, Andrew D. Eskin turns 62… VP for talent, booking at ABC News’ specialized units at Disney / ABC Television Group, Eric Avram turns 54…

Philanthropist and president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, in 2005 he enlisted in the IDF, Jay Ruderman turns 53… Actor and comedian, best known for playing the role of writer Frank Rossitano on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” Judah Friedlander turns 50… VP at the BGR Group since 2017 focused on financial services and tax issues, he was previously a principal at the Podesta Group, Andy Lewin turns 45… Partner at West Wing Writers, Jeff Nussbaum turns 44… Founder of Seward Square Strategies, he was previously the director of digital advertising at Hillary for America and director of elections and advocacy media at Google, Jason Rosenbaum turns 42… Retired soccer player in the Israeli Premier League who is now the first team manager of Maccabi Tel Aviv, Yoav Ziv turns 38… Detroit-based founder and managing partner of Ludlow Ventures and Sandwich Fund, he is a mentor at numerous technology accelerators, Jonathon Triest turns 37… Head of policy and communications at Facebook’s Israel office since 2016, she was previously Chief of Staff at the Israeli embassy in Washington DC and adviser to PM Netanyahu (2009-2013), Jordana Cutler turns 37… VP at the Glover Park Group, he was previously a public affairs official at the Pentagon, Adam Blickstein turns 37… Strategic communications consultant at Endeavor WME-IMG, Alexandra Stabler turns 30… Senior legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a graduate of Northwestern University, Nathan Bennett… Customer care manager at CCRA Travel Commerce Network, Judy Karta… Investigative reporter on the Metro desk of The New York Times since 2017, he was previously at the Houston Chronicle (2014-2016) and the Seattle Times (2011-2013), Brian M. Rosenthal… Jackie Stern… Jeremy Levin

SUNDAY: Retail and real estate executive, CEO of Wilherst Developers and trustee of publicly traded Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, Mark K. Rosenfeld turns 73… Founder, president and CEO of Laurel Strategies, also the co-founder and board member of ImagineNations Group, Alan H. Fleischmann turns 54… Director of Legislative Affairs at B’nai B’rith International since 2003, Eric A. Fusfield turns 52… Lead field/floor reporter for CBS Sports football and basketball broadcasts, she also serves on the board of the JCC in Tenafly, NJ (using her married name, Tracy Reichel), Tracy Wolfson turns 44… VP at Las Vegas-based Gold Coast Promotions, assisting non-profits in fundraising, Richard Metzler turns 42… Hasidic singer, entertainer and composer, Lipa Schmeltzer turns 41… Actor, music producer and stand-up comedian, best known as Gustavo Rocque on the Nickelodeon television series “Big Time Rush” (2009-2013), Stephen Kramer Glickmanturns 40…

Musician and digital strategy executive, CEO of Santa Monica-based mobile messaging technology company Kapps Media, Rick Sorkin turns 40… Justice on the Florida Supreme Court, he was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis in January 2019, at his swearing-in he recited the fourth blessing of the Amidah seeking wisdom, Justice Robert J. Luck turns 40… Digital reporter and producer for ABC News including “World News Tonight With David Muir,” Emily Claire Friedman Cohen turns 34… Assistant professor at GW University in the School of Media and Public Affairs, he received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago in 2016, Ethan Porter turns 34… Head of US and Canada field operations at Uber, she was previously an analyst at LivingSocial, Annaliese Rosenthal turns 32… Los Angeles-based tech journalist and founder of the TechSesh blog, Jessica Elizabeth Naziri turns 31… Casino marketing analyst at Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Zach Sherman




Daily Kickoff: In big shift, Exxon eyeing Israel | Local MN Dems seeking Omar challenger | Bibi makes peace… with Sa’ar | Profile: Andrew Zobler

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TOP TALKER — The State Department referred to the Golan Heights as “Israeli-controlled” instead of as “Israeli-occupied” for the first time in its annual report on human rights released on Wednesday. The change comes a year after the administration dropped the “occupied” reference to the West Bank and Gaza at the top of the report.

Israel first captured the Golan from Syria in the Six Day War in 1967 and effectively annexed it in 1981. At the time, the Reagan administration described the move as being inconsistent with the Camp David accords and suspended a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel on strategic cooperation. Since then, consecutive administrations from both political parties have refused to change existing U.S. policy. 

In a press briefing at the State Department, Michael Kozak, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, explained the change: “This is not a human rights issue. It’s a legal status issue… and ‘occupied territory’ has a legal meaning to it. I think what they tried to do was shift more to just a geographic description… My understanding from the policy bureaus on this is that there’s no change in our outlook or our policy vis-a-vis the territories and the need for a negotiated settlement there… We decided not to use the term in the reports because it’s not a human rights term and it was distracting.”

 U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has been the key U.S. figure pushing for the change, according to U.S. officials.” [Axios]

Aaron David Miller tells Jewish Insider“This is a big deal, and it will be an even bigger deal if the language is elevated consistently in statements by the president and Secretary of State. The strategic imperative of this administration is to change U.S. policy toward Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is another step in that process. For many in the administration, these areas aren’t occupied. So poof — with a simple word change, it’s no longer occupied.” 

Amb. Dennis Ross: “It reflects the Administration’s different approach; the terminology is different. It makes the Palestinians more suspicious and creates a context in which Arab leaders are likely to be more cautious and hesitant about responding to the administration’s plan. But time will tell whether that is really the case.” 

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Israeli ministers hailed the change as a diplomatic victory for the country and a political victory for the right. The State Department announcement, Likud’s Gideon Sa’ar tweeted, “was proof that the correct and determined path of the Likud will ultimately win… The people of Israel aren’t occupiers in their own land… We’ll keep defending the Land of Israel and to settle it.”

Brazil’s Bolsonaro to visit Israel with embassy move still undecided — by Lisandra Paraguassu: “Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro will visit Israel at the end of the month but he may not be able to deliver on a promise to move Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem, a move opposed by military officers in his cabinet. A government official told Reuters on Wednesday that no decision has been taken on the embassy move, which could give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s standing a boost a week before Israel’s elections… He added that a formal announcement might not be made during the March 31 to April 2 visit.” [Reuters]

We’re hearing rumblings 
that another country will announce two weeks from now that they are moving their embassy to Jerusalem. 

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Following reports that Hezbollah is operating a terror cell in Syria on the border with Israel, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) on Wednesday reissued their call for the U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“Iran and Hezbollah have deployed fighters and terrorists, including those with American blood on their hands, to deepen their hold over the region. This aggression highlights the need for the United States to affirm Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the Congress members said in a joint statement. “Hezbollah’s missile arsenal and terror tunnels pose severe threats to the State of Israel. To support Israel’s right to self-defense, both houses of Congress should take up our legislation establishing that it shall be the policy of the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan.”

In an email to Jewish Insider, Sen. Cotton added that the decision of the State Department to refer to contested areas as “Israeli controlled” instead of “occupied” is a step in the right direction. “It’s encouraging to see the change in State Department language included in their annual global human rights report; the Golan is rightfully Israeli territory,” the Arkansas Senator wrote.

Congressional sources tell Jewish Insider that a final version of Sen. Cruz’s antisemitism resolution is circulating. It includes a previously unreported section about the unique manifestations of antisemitism that American Jews confront.

Senate Votes Again to End Aid to Saudi War in Yemen, Defying Trump — by Catie Edmondson: “The Senate on Wednesday again rebuked President Trump for his continued defense of Saudi Arabia after the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, voting for a second time to end American military assistance for the kingdom’s war in Yemen and to curtail presidential war powers. The 54-to-46 vote… sets the foundation for what could become Mr. Trump’s first presidential veto.” [NYTimes

Senate confirms Trump judicial pick to replace Kavanaugh — by Marianne Levine: 
“The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s judicial nominee Neomi Rao Wednesday to the nation’s second highest court despite initial concerns raised by a handful of Republicans over her prior writing on sexual assault and her position on abortion. In a 53-46 vote along party lines, the Senate approved Rao to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.” [Politico]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Jordan’s King Abdullah II discussed the Trump administration’s push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) told Jewish Insider, but that the conversation was shallow. “We certainly talked about it but it’s hard to ask anyone, let alone a King, whether they’ll support something that hasn’t been written, let alone read,” he said.

The closed-door meeting, which took place in the Capitol, also touched on the economic strain the Kingdom is under as a result of the Syrian refugee crisis. “I think the King has shown himself to be a leader of goodwill,” Rep. Sherman said.

Jonathan Schanzer and Ghaith al-Omari write…  “Trump’s Subtlety Could Yield Middle East Peace: To the surprise of many, the Trump administration so far has forestalled needless violence through a novel combination of discipline and secrecy. That surely hasn’t been easy. But the next phase will be even harder, because a plan’s release can be as important as what’s in it.” [WSJ

Israeli group honors Nikki Haley with coin: 
“The Sanhedrin, a Jewish group that says it aims to restore the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, is one of three organizations behind the coin. The collector’s coin, which costs $50, features Haley’s face set against the U.N. building, and a rendition of the Jewish Temple on the back.” [AP]

How Lobbying Has Changed in Donald Trump’s Washington — by Luke Mullins: 
“Others try to influence the thinking of the White House officials Trump listens to. One consultant told me he has geofenced the Kalorama home of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump with digital ads in an effort to shape their views on an issue.” [Washingtonian]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — A bipartisan group of legislatures gathered for a somber event marking eight years since the start of the Syrian Civil War, a memorial to the victims of torture and murder by Syrian President Bashar Assad and pledging swift action on legislation that punishes the regime. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Michael McCaul (R-TX), French Hill (R-AK) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) spoke about the need for continued action to punish Assad.  

Rep. Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act should be voted on in the House on its own to keep it a bipartisan issue. It passed the Senate as part of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, which was held up because of an anti-BDS bill. “It seems that every year there’s another monkey wrench thrown in somehow. What I’ll call on my colleagues to pass the Caesar bill alone, not as partisan package to play political games, so Democrats can’t vote for it, or that Republicans can’t vote for it,” Rep. Engel said. [Pic

Former President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker at the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Humanitarian Awards Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Rahm Emanuel also spoke at the event. [Pic

AIPAC PC — AIPAC announced on Wednesday its list of confirmed Israeli speakers at the Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. In addition to PM Netanyahu’s appearance, speakers on the main stage include Benny Gantz (Kachol Lavan candidate for PM), Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Ron Dermer and Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. Additionally, cabinet ministers Naftali Bennett (New Right), Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud) and Yoav Galant (Likud), Gideon Saar (Likud), Yoaz Hendel (Kachol Lavan); and MKs Stav Shaffir (Labor), Merav Michaeli (Labor), Amir Ohana (Likud) and Pnina Tamano-Shata (Kachol Lavan) have confirmed their attendance. 

INBOX — J Street asked supporters on Tuesday to tell 2020 presidential candidates that if they speak at AIPAC, they must condemn Netanyahu and his policies. 

Of note: There is no precedent for presidential candidates speaking at the conference in a non-election year. In the last two presidential elections cycles, none of the candidates were given speaking slots on the main stage in the year before the election (2011 and 2015). In 2007, the two Democratic front-runners, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton held competing receptions at the gathering, but did not speak. 

STATE-SIDE — Democrats upset over Omar seeking primary challenger — by Reid Wilson: “Some Minnesota Democrats, aghast at controversial comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D), are taking initial steps to recruit a candidate to run against her in next year’s primary election… ‘There’s definitely some buzz going around about it, but it’s more a buzz of is anyone talking about finding someone to run against her than it is anyone saying they’re going to run against her or contemplate it. There’s definitely talk about people wanting someone to run against her,’ said state Sen. Ron Latz (D), who represents a portion of Omar’s district… ‘Our community is exasperated by Rep. Omar’s unfulfilled promises to listen and learn from Jewish constituents while seemingly simultaneously finding another opportunity to make an anti-Semitic remark and insult our community,’ Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said in a statement.” [TheHill]

GALLUP — One in Six U.S. Jews Identify as Republican — by RJ Reinhart: 
“Prior to Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent comments questioning U.S. support for Israel… roughly half of U.S. Jews identified as Democrat in Gallup polling. Far fewer, 16%, said they were Republican… While it is too soon to know whether Jewish Americans’ orientation to the major parties has changed in recent weeks, Gallup trends suggest the potential is there. In 2008, 55% of Jewish Americans identified as Democrats, compared with the current 52%… Jewish Americans were among the least likely to approve of Trump of all religious groups in 2018, with just 26% approving and 71% disapproving.” [Gallup]

2020 WATCH — Beto O’Rourke formally announced his bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 in a video this morning… ‘I’m just born to be in it,’ O’Rourke told Vanity Fair… Joe Biden mulls 2020 campaign aimed at the working class… Tom Friedman writes that so far he hasn’t heard any of the Democrats running claiming they are the best person to answer the 3 AM phone call… Trump’s reelection campaign is seeking to turn anti-Semitism and Israel into a wedge issue for Jewish voters… Two of the Democrats’ best-funded outside groups— both of which are backed in part by George Soros — are planning at least a $130 million campaign to build support for Democrats in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. 

Howard Schultz says he grew up in a poor, rough place. Those who lived there called it the ‘country club of projects’ — by Marc Fisher: “In recent TV interviews, Schultz has repeatedly pointed out that ‘I came from the projects,’ calling his escape from Bayview and success at Starbucks a classic example of ‘the American Dream.’ But the place Schultz sought to escape from was a community that many residents pushed hard to get into… ‘This was an all-white, Jewish neighborhood, with some Italians,’ Henry Blank said. ‘Even the rabbi and the toy-store owner lived in the development.’ … Sheryl Boyce has lived at Bayview since it opened and runs its residents association. Boyce, who is black, said the population of the complex was anything but diverse… ‘I even went to synagogue with the Jewish kids. We had two kosher delis that everybody shopped in, whether you were Jewish or not.'”[WashPost]

How Milwaukee talked the Democrats into bringing the 2020 national convention to the city — by Bill Glauber and Mary Spicuzza: “‘I don’t like to think of us as any sort of underdog, some David versus Goliath matchup,’ said Alex Lasry, the bid committee chair who is a Milwaukee Bucks executive. ‘This was Milwaukee outing itself as a top city in the country. It was Milwaukee showing everyone what it is we see when we live here, what we believe.'” [JournalSentinel]

Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale sitting next to Agudath Israel board member Chaskel Bennett on a flight from DC to NY last night. [Pic• An unenthused Bernie Sanders waiting for the elevator with Hasidic lobbyist Ezra Friedlander on Capitol Hill [Pic]

KAFE KNESSET — Bibi Makes Peace With Sa’ar — by Neri Zilber: 
Over the past week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apparently made peace with his biggest rival inside the Likud — Gideon Sa’ar, a popular former interior and education minister who only recently returned to political life after taking a hiatus in 2014. At the party’s launch event last week Netanyahu made a big show of shaking Sa’ar’s hand (it was a long and jerky gesture, with thin smiles fixed on both men’s faces). After that the floodgates were opened; a truce, if not real peace, had been achieved. This week Sa’ar was included in a photo Netanyahu circulated on social media of his top Likud lieutenants, with another image of the two men speaking intimately also making the rounds. Two nights ago Sa’ar was the main guest on the “Likud TV” Facebook stream, a Netanyahu propaganda arm, singing the PM’s praises. “We have a prime minister with terrific talent, with vast experience, with connections spanning the world,” Sa’ar said, contrasting the incumbent with his rivals in Blue and White. Those words may be turned back on Sa’ar in future — but not anytime soon. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS:Marijuana company hires billionaire snack food tycoon Nelson Peltz [NYPost] • Brookfield takes control of Oaktree Capital in $4.7bn deal [FinancialTimes• SodaStream CEO Birnbaum joins bubbling medical cannabis race [JPost• Hamptons oceanfront home goes for $1.5 million as a summer rental [NYPost]

TALK OF THE REGION — Exxon eyes Israel gas bid in major Middle East shift — by Ron Bousso: “Exxon Mobil Corp is considering exploring for oil and gas in Israel, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter, in what would make Exxon the first oil major to operate in the country still technically at war with Gulf Arab states… Exxon executives held talks with Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz in Houston this week about bidding for the right to explore and pump oil from offshore blocks in an auction that Israel will hold in June… Exxon is one of the biggest foreign investors in Qatar. It also has refining and petrochemical operations in Saudi Arabia, and produces oil and gas in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.” [Reuters]

PODCAST PLAYBACK ― Former White House economic advisor Gary Cohn explained the reason he left Goldman Sachs on the Freakonomics podcast with Stephen Dubner: 
“When I was asked by Lloyd [Blankfein] and the board to become president, chief operating officer, Lloyd called me and Jon Winkelried into a room. We were co-’s at the time and said, ‘Guys, will you give me two years? I got to know you’re committed for two years.’ And I said, ‘Lloyd, I’ll give you two. Two’s not hard. But you’ve got to understand, I think these are seven-to-10-year jobs. I don’t think these are lifetime jobs.’ … And literally at seven years, I started getting a little antsy. Lloyd, at that point, ended up getting sick. And I wasn’t going to rattle the boat or rock the boat at all in year seven or eight, or maybe it was eight, nine… At that point, I was letting the board know that I wasn’t going to be here forever. So I sat down, and I made it clear that I would be gone by the end of the year…  And the Trump thing was pure lucky coincidence.” [Freakonomics]

PROFILE — Meet the man who creates today’s coolest hotels — by Rima Suqi: 
“Andrew Zobler currently has six unannounced projects in the works. All of this comes just a year after the debut of The Ned, Zobler’s collaboration with Nick Jones of Soho House, which quickly became a go-to spot in London. In the past year alone, Sydell Group’s portfolio has grown from 1,993 hotel rooms to 5,986. ‘If you look at what we’ve done, it’s pretty unusual in terms of the number of independent concepts, that have legs, that we’ve created all within a relatively short period of time,’ he says over coffee at a corner table at Studio, an all-day café at the Freehand in New York.”[NationalGeographic]

Jaffa Is Tel Aviv’s Unexpected Luxury Hotspot — by Debra Kamin: 
“Three new luxury properties — The Setai Tel Aviv (in a former Ottoman prison with Crusader-era origins); The Jaffa (an Aby Rosen recreation of a former hospice for malaria victims) and The Drisco, a revival of Jaffa’s first luxury hotel — opened last year, within spitting distance of each other. And that’s not all: Add to the mix of this major makeover a new lush Japanese spa, a bustling night life district and a flea market packed with restaurants led by major Israeli chefs… ‘Jaffa is the hottest area in Tel Aviv — the energy and authenticity, coupled with the creativity seen in the ancient architecture, the local artists, galleries and not to mention the amazing food and the sea — it’s all part of the appeal,’ says Mr. Rosen.” [NYTimes]

HOLLYWOOD — Israeli Actress Moran Atias Moves Into ‘The Village’ — by Gerri Miller: “The intertwined lives, loves and crises of neighbors in a Brooklyn apartment building play out in the new NBC ensemble drama ‘The Village.’ … Israeli actress Moran Atias plays Ava Behzadi, an Iranian immigrant who has been living in New York for 10 years… Atias has never lived in an apartment building like The Village, where the neighbors are close as family and have regular get-togethers on their rooftop, ‘but growing up in Israel, you feel like your hometown is your village,’ the Haifa native said.”[JewishJournal]

TALK OF THE TOWN — NYPD Hate Crimes Unit Investigating Vile Defacing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Poster in Brooklyn: “The NYPD’s hate crimes unit is investigating slur-ridden ‘DIE’ graffiti scrawled on a Brooklyn subway station poster of Ruth Bader Ginsburg after a rider flagged it on Twitter Tuesday. ‘DIE’ in all capital letters was scrawled in black marker across Ginsburg’s forehead on the poster; ‘JEW’ was written over her glasses, followed by another slur and a swastika over her mouth. The NYPD tweeted its transit and hate crimes units were both investigating the matter… For its part, the MTA says it removed the ‘offensive imagery’ immediately after the NYPD collected evidence for its investigation.” [NBC4]

SPORTS BLINK — Amare Stoudemire granted Israeli citizenship: 
“Former NBA star Amare Stoudemire was granted Israeli citizenship… in a ceremony at the Interior Ministry on Wednesday. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he was granted citizenship due to his ‘unique contributions’ to Israeli society. Now, Deri said, ‘Amare will be Israel’s ambassador to the world.’ ‘It’s a very exciting moment for me. My body is flooded with emotions now, my love for Israel has been with me for many years, and being part of Israel is something very special,’ Stoudemire said at the ceremony.” [JTA]

MEDIA WATCH — The Intercept lays off several staffers — by Maxwell Tani: 
“Laura Poitras — the Citizenfour director and award-winning filmmaker who helped start The Intercept’s parent company First Look Media — lashed out Wednesday after layoffs were announced internally at the publication… CEO Michael Bloom’s email announced that First Look Media would be letting go about 4 percent of their staff.” [DailyBeast]

TRANSITION — Omri Nahmias
, the Washington correspondent for Israel’s Walla News, is joining The Jerusalem Post as its D.C. Bureau Chief at the end of this month. 

DESSERT — Turns Out East Village Kosher Icon Moishe’s Is Not Permanently Closed — by Stefanie Tuder: “A bright spot this week is that kosher East Village bakery Moishe’s Bake Shop is not closed permanently after all. Despite recent reports that the 40-year-old institution had shuttered, it turns out the clearing out of the space is merely for renovations. Though owner Moishe Perl reportedly told storefront photographers James and Karla Murray that it closed due to a building sale, a sign in the window now says it’s closed for renovations and a manager has confirmed this to Eater. The bakery should reopen in six to eight weeks.” [EaterNY]

Here’s Why Israel Is a Dream Destination for Wellness Lovers — by Krista Gray: 
“Dairy-free and vegan food is always available. One of the first things I noticed (and felt grateful for) on my first day in Israel was how easy it was to eat dairy-free; the country is often referred to as the vegan capital of the world, and an estimated five percent of the population has completely ditched animal goods in their daily diet. After doing a bit more research, I found that the reasons behind the rise in Israeli veganism include desired health improvement, concerns about animal cruelty and the environment, religious reasons, and a younger population that’s less inclined to follow traditional eating patterns and loves to try trends.” [Brit+Co]

Thinking Outside the Triangle — by Joan Nathan: 
“Originally called mohntaschen, hamantaschen date back at least to 16th-century Germany, when mohn, or poppy seeds, were eaten as a snack during winter, when little grew. The seeds, from the flower that produces the powerful drug opium, were also turned into jam and encased in pastries for special occasions.” [NYTimes]

REMEMBERING — Sidney Verba, Innovative Scholar of Democracies, Dies at 86 — by Sam Roberts: 
“Sidney Verba, whose pioneering research comparing political behavior among the world’s democracies became a classic book among students of politics, died on March 4 at his home in Cambridge, Mass… Sidney Verba was born on May 26, 1932, in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn to Morris and Recci (Salman) Verba, Jewish immigrants from what is now Moldova in Eastern Europe. They ran a curtain store but were always worried about money. His parents also worshiped Franklin D. Roosevelt.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Professor emeritus of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University, winner of the 1982 Israel Prize, Joshua Jortner turns 86… Founder and President of Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center, Rabbi Dr. Uri Herscher turns 78… Canadian criminal defense attorney, Brian Greenspan turns 72… Actor, writer, producer, director, comedian and television host, Billy Crystal turns 71… Executive director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of San Francisco, Dr. Anita Friedman turns 70… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1995, representing Howard County, Shane Elizabeth Pendergrass turns 69… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Ben is four days younger), Jerry Greenfield turns 68… Eliezer Cohen Barak turns 68… Encino, California resident and co-founder of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, Gila Milstein turns 66… Managing Director of Investments at Hefter, Leshem, Margolis Capital Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Steven Hefter turns 65… Special advisor to the President at Union for Reform Judaism, she is also the founder and leader of ChangeCommunications, Jo-Ann Mort turns 63… NYC-based restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, he and his team have won 28 James Beard Awards, Danny Meyer turns 61…

Past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and a senior rabbinic fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, Denise (Davida) Egerturns 59… Microgrid architect at Urban Ingenuity, a DC-based consulting firm for advanced clean energy infrastructure projects, Shalom Flank, Ph.D. turns 54… Film and television actress, she is best known for her title role in the 1985 film The Journey of Natty Gann and the 1989 teen comedy, Dream a Little Dream, Meredith Salenger turns 49… Canadian fashion stylist, publicist and close friend of Princess Meghan Markle, Jessica Brownstein Mulroneyturns 39… Heiress to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, Liesel Pritzker Simmonsturns 35… Former NASCAR driver, he is the sole inductee into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in the “Auto Racing” category, now a VP of Corporate Trading at INTL FCStone Financial, Jon Denning turns 32… QA Test Engineer at Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Philip Liebmanturns 29… Four-time Israeli national champion in the skeleton event, he competed for Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Adam Edelman turns 28… Sophie Galant




Daily Kickoff: Bernie aide apologies for ‘dual allegiance’ charge | Hezbollah in Southern Syria | Larry Page’s veiled threat

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INBOX — Following our report on Monday about Benny Gantz’s time in D.C., Elliott Abrams shared his own recollection: “Benny Gantz was a successful and widely respected defense attaché. I will just tell one story, which is about U.S. aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Benny came in to see me at the White House, to argue against any sophisticated U.S. assistance to the LAF. I answered, ‘Come on Benny, how long would it take you to roll over the Lebanese army? 15 minutes?’ He gave me a terrific reply, that I remember well: ‘Yes, it won’t take long, maybe 15 minutes and maybe a few hours. But in those hours some of my boys will die. Some young Israeli soldiers will be killed. And that’s what I’m trying to stop, and that’s why I am here — to save every one of those lives, no matter how many or how few they are.’ It was the most effective argument he could possibly have made, and as you see it stuck with me to this day.” 

KAFE KNESSET —Gantz Briefs European Ambassadors — by Neri Zilber: Netanyahu’s challenger Benny Gantz took another step in his efforts to look prime ministerial, holding a briefing with 26 European ambassadors in Tel Aviv yesterday and laying forth his own security vision for the country. The leaked portions from the gathering were, as expected, hawkish, with Gantz threatening Iran and not explicitly endorsing a two-state solution. Gantz also described Hamas in Gaza as “a gang of criminals that holds two million people hostage,” saying he rejected the idea of building a sea port in the territory. “All they’ll want to import is orange juice? Really?” he was quoted as saying. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

LATimes editorial… “Benjamin Netanyahu veers Israel away from democracy: For years, he has manipulated fear and anger to dominate the Israeli political stage. He has been divisive and demagogic. He has been, on balance, an enemy of the two-state solution that has been the only realistic path to peace between Palestinians and Israelis… Now, in the face of the corruption indictment and the strong electoral challenge, he seems to be growing desperate. Perhaps he will go too far and be driven from office.” [LATimes]

TALK OF THE REGION — Top UAE diplomat slams Netanyahu’s comments on Arab minority: “Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said Tuesday on Twitter that Netanyahu’s comment that “Israel is not a state for all its citizens,” and is the homeland of Jews alone, provided “vindication sought by extremists” and undermined peace efforts.” …  At a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem, Netanyahu touted growing behind-the-scenes alliances with the Arab world.” [AP]

Erdogan calls Netanyahu ‘thief’ and ‘tyrant’ in latest spat: 
“Turkish President Recep Tayyip has called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a ‘thief’ and a ‘tyrant’ in the latest spat between the two leaders. The dispute comes after Erdogan’s spokesman denounced Netanyahu as a racist for saying that Israel was the nation-state of the Jewish people only. Netanyahu then struck back calling Erdogan a dictator and criticizing the country for imprisoning journalists.” [Yahoo

ON THE GROUND — Hezbollah commander captured by UK special forces resurfaces in southern Syria, Israeli military says — by Raf Sanchez: 
“A senior Hezbollah commander captured by British special forces in Iraq has resurfaced in southern Syria where he is setting up a network to launch attacks against Israel, according to the Israeli military… Ali Musa Daqduq has re-emerged in the Syrian Golan Heights where he is the leader of a unit known as the Golan File… Israeli officials said they were exposing the network in the hope that Hezbollah would withdraw its operatives rather than risk Israeli strikes, which could escalate the already tense situation in the Golan.”[TelegraphWSJ

DRIVING THE CONVO — Trump sees advantage in debate over Israel, anti-Semitism — by Zeke Miller: “As Democratic lawmakers try to turn the page after the liberal legislator’s use of anti-Semitic tropes ignited an embarrassing, intra-party fight, the Republican president is trying to prolong and weaponize the issue for his 2020 campaign… Trump on Tuesday promoted comments by former model and 2016 campaign staffer Elizabeth Pipko, who said on Fox & Friends that “Jewish people are leaving the Democratic Party.” Pipko, who serves as a spokesperson for the group ‘Jexodus,’ saw her comments amplified by Trump on Twitter.” 

“‘We’re slicing the salami very thin, and an incremental shift in traditional Democratic blocs to the other side can have a profound impact,'” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. He said his group plans to make ‘the largest investment that we’ve ever had in the 2020 race in terms of outreach, advocacy and independent expenditures on behalf of the president.’ Hallie Soifer, the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said her group welcomes Trump’s focus on the issue of anti-Semitism. ‘He himself has emboldened anti-Semites in our country by both repeating anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories,’ she said. ‘He has no credibility with Jewish voters.'” [AP]

“’This is something people have talked about for decades,’ Matt Boxer, a professor at Brandeis University who has studied Jewish political involvement, said of the push for Jews to leave the Democratic Party. ‘But there’s no evidence when you look at survey data.'” [WashPost]

ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt tweets“When antisemitism is repeatedly politicized, it not only hurts the Jewish community, it fosters division. At a time when antisemitism is rising, we need leaders to lead and fight hate rather than point fingers and cast blame. Enough.”

Daniel Shapiro“Memo to my Republican friends: If you wanted to make a serious play to convince Jewish voters to leave the Democratic Party, you could not have a more laughable, pathetic, ridiculous (and offensive) leader of the campaign than the guy tweeting at us from the White House ;).” 

Yair Rosenberg“There is only one Jexodus, and it takes place during the rabbi’s sermon and ends at the Kiddush club.”

Sanders aide apologizes for questioning American Jews’ ‘dual allegiance’ to Israel — by Marc Caputo and Holly Otterbein: “A spokeswoman for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign apologized Tuesday after questioning whether the ‘American-Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel’… ‘In a conversation on Facebook, I used some language that I see now was insensitive. Issues of allegiance and loyalty to one’s country come with painful history,’ Belén Sisa, Sanders’ national deputy press secretary, told Politico… Sisa posed the question Sunday during a discussion in a Facebook thread in which she said that, like Sanders, she stood with Rep. Ilhan Omar. She deleted the post after Politico began asking about it.”[Politico]

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley participated in a Q&A session hosted by the UJA-Federation of New York at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center. According to a JI reader in attendance, Haley declared that the resolution on hate passed in Congress last week was “not good enough.” [Pic]

STATE-SIDE — Florida bill defines anti-Semitism, prohibits discrimination: “The Floridian House Criminal Justice Subcommittee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would prohibit speech that makes dehumanizing or stereotypical allegations about the Jewish community, or that compares contemporary Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany. The anti-Semitism definition also would prohibit expressing a hatred for Jews, calling for the killing or harming of a Jewish person, criticizing the collective power of the Jewish community, or accusing Jewish people or Israel of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.” [AP]

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will host Jordan’s King Abdullah II in a closed-door hearing on Wednesday afternoon, following two days of meetings the Hashemite leader had with senior administration officials, including the Middle East peace team of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt on Monday. 

Chairwoman of the House Committee on Appropriations Nita Lowey(D-NY) said that support for Israel must remain bipartisan, during a marathon testimonial Tuesday by over 30 advocates and activists calling for U.S. aid. “I think it’s absolutely essential that we keep this a bipartisan issue,” Lowey said. 

Testifying witnesses also brought up the unintended consequences of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), a law passed last year that leaves the Palestinian Authority open to being sued in U.S. courts for supporting terrorism if they accept American aid. J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami and William O’Keefe of Catholic Relief Services said a solution must be found to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered without fear of retribution under the law. 

“I just want to say, Jeremy, I remember being on the White House lawn when Yasser Arafat was shaking the hand with Mr. [Rabin],” Rep. Lowey said to the J Street head. “It’s been a long time I’ve been in this Congress working for two states for two people and we have no choice but to continue our advocacy, and hopefully we’ll see that day.” 

Following the 12th anniversary of the disappearance of Robert Levinson in Iran, a bipartisan group of representatives introduced a bill Tuesday calling on the Iranian regime to cooperate in freeing the former FBI and DEA agent, who is the longest-held American hostage. Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Michael Waltz (R-FL) introduced the bill, with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) proposing an identical version in the Senate. “We are directly calling on the Iranian government to fulfill its commitments to help in Bob’s case, and we are also asking other foreign leaders to push Iran to do more,” Deutch said in a statement. 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) posted on Instagram a picture frame of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in her Capitol Hill office with the caption, ‘New addition to my office.’ [Pic

Tlaib expressed her support of a Pitzer College Council proposal to suspend the college’s study abroad program with the University of Haifa, posing with the hashtag #SuspendPitzerHaifa,ahead of a March 14  vote. [Pic]

Trump Jr. fires back at Dick Cheney over foreign policy — by Katie Galioto: “Donald Trump Jr. lashed out at Dick Cheney on Tuesday, attacking the former vice president for criticizing the Trump administration’s foreign policy. ‘Isn’t it fitting that Cheney is the one mad that Trump is ending his reckless and endless wars?’ Trump Jr. tweeted. ‘I never knew peace would be so unpopular!’” [Politico]

Saudis return to Washington scene after Khashoggi fallout — by Jenna McLaughlin: 
“Perhaps one of the surest signs Riyadh is rebuilding bridges in Washington is the willingness of former officials and think tank representatives to attend events linked to the Saudis. Dennis Ross, a retired ambassador who was involved in Middle East peace negotiations over the years, told Yahoo News he chose to participate in [a] panel [hosted by  Arabia Foundation] because he knew the debate would be robust… Ross joined Karen House, a former senior vice president of Dow Jones, and Aaron Miller, a vice president at the Wilson Center and former diplomat.” [YahooNews

2020 WATCH — Joe Biden signals he is close to 2020 run for president…Beto O’Rourke and Biden, signaling presidential bids, would infuse centrism into a left-leaning Democratic field…Hillary Clinton to headline DNC fundraiser in Washington later this month… Howard Schultz will announce on Wednesday specific promises and priorities that he intends to uphold if elected president of the United States… Schultz said on Monday that third-party musings have prompted ‘character assassination.’

INTERVIEW —  Howard Schultz discussed his Jewish faith and positions on Israel in an interview with Texas Monthy — TM: As someone of Jewish faith, have you encountered any anti-Semitism to your candidacy, and is the nation ready for a Jewish president?

Schultz: “I have not felt any degree of anti-Semitism pointed at me. The numbers that I’ve heard, it is about a 61 percent rise in anti-Semitism in America over the last twelve months. It’s even worse in Europe. I was asked on 60 Minutes if I think that the country is ready for a Jewish president. I answered yes. I’ve got great faith in the goodness of the American people, and if I run for president I’m not running as a Jew; I’m running as an American. I remember vividly John Kennedy in 1960 came under such assault because he was Catholic, and he did a masterful job in 1960 of talking about the differences between church and state.”

Schultz on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Many Jewish people might not even agree with my position currently with regard to the settlements and the fact that I always believed that we need a two-state solution for the state of Israel and for the entire Middle East.” 

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Roman Abramovich Is Raising $550 Million in a Russian Stock Sale [Bloomberg• Bob Iger’s Disney says Fox purchase to be final by March 20 [LATimes• David Nevins has taken full ownership of the Pop TV cable channel after buying out the 50% stake held by Lionsgate [Variety• The boundless views from Brooklyn Point, the borough’s tallest building [BrooklynEagle

SPOTLIGHT — Google’s Larry Page Leveled ‘Veiled Threat’ Over Control of Company — by Mark Bergen, Gerrit De Vynck and Jef Feeley: “Google co-founder Larry Page worried he would lose control of the company in 2011 and delivered what appeared to be a ‘veiled threat’ to quit over the issue, according to confidential emails and other documents recently unsealed in a court case. Page was particularly concerned that co-founder Sergey Brin and top executive Eric Schmidt would sell special voting stock, diluting their lock on decisions at the online search giant.” [Bloomberg]

How the Superrich Leave Their Mark on New York — by Azi Paybarah: 
“The real estate mogul Harry Macklowe erected 42-foot-tall photographs of himself and his new wife on a Park Avenue building last week for the whole world — including his ex-wife, who lives nearby — to see. It was the latest example of how New York has been uniquely shaped by the idiosyncrasies of the superrich.” [NYTimes

How a Fledgling Millennial Hit the Big Time by Hugging Trump — by Ben Schreckinger: 
“After a contentious November meeting with black pastors at Trump Tower, Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, who is Jewish, and one of the pastors, Darrell Scott, set about forming a National Diversity Coalition to counter the widespread view that Trump was running a racist campaign. The coalition organized meetings, promoted Trump on social media and found surrogates to defend him publicly… Few establishment figures were willing to publicly embrace Trump at the time, so the coalition turned to outsiders and ambitious up-and-comers. People like Christos Marafatsos.” [PoliticoMag]

Protesting Award to Robert Kraft Amid Prostitution Scandal, Genesis Prize Board Member Quits — by Judy Maltz: 
“A member of the Genesis Prize advisory board has resigned in protest at its decision to move ahead with honoring Jewish-American billionaire Robert Kraft, after he was charged last month with soliciting prostitution. Prof. Rivka Carmi, former president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, tendered her resignation earlier this week… Haaretz spoke with several individuals involved in the Genesis Prize selection process, who expressed concerns about the decision to move ahead with honoring Kraft after he was charged… Kraft had been a candidate in previous years as well, Haaretz has learned, but did not make the final cut. Sources close to the selection process speculated that the decision to award him the prize this year might have been prompted by a desire to make amends with Netanyahu, after the embarrassment he suffered last year.”[Haaretz

PROFILE — Meet the Orthodox millennial who convenes Jewish artists, protests Trump and talks with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — by Ben Sales: 
“Elad Nehorai is the communications director of Torah Trumps Hate, an Orthodox progressive group, and a prolific tweeter as @PopChassid. He’s also the founder of Hevria, a community of Jewish artists whose events — including a recent one featuring a sword swallower — are mostly by invitation only. ‘I’m trying to create communities for people who don’t have them,’ he said… Nehorai himself doesn’t hold back from criticizing the president on Twitter, where he has nearly 13,000 followers. Amid the latest debate over Rep. Ilhan Omar and anti-Semitism, Nehorai lambasted Trump’s criticism of the Democratic response to the controversy.” [JTA]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Disabled animals given new lease of life at Israeli sanctuary — by Elana Ringler: “Founded by animal rights activists Adit Romano, a 52-year-old former business executive, and Meital Ben Ari, 38, who used to work in tech, Freedom Farm serves as a refuge for mostly disabled animals and as an educational center for visitors… Most of the nearly 240 animals at the facility were raised for slaughter. Some were donated by farmers who chose to save them.” [Reuters

DESSERT — ‘Hamantaschen’ for the Doughnut Lover — by Florence Fabricant: “Fany Gerson, the Mexican confectioner best known for her paletas (frozen fruit pops) at At Dough in Brooklyn, is having a Cronut moment. She is frying and filling hamantaschen-shaped doughnuts for Purim, which starts the evening of March 20. The feather-light yeast-raised doughnuts are triangular and come filled with strawberry or blueberry jams, lemon curd with poppy seeds or a thick honey-nut mixture. ‘The fillings are not traditional, though I did use poppy seeds,’ Ms. Gerson said.” [NYTimes

REMEMBERING — Hal Blaine, celebrated as ‘the most recorded drummer in history,’ dies at 90 — by Harrison Smith: 
“Hal Blaine, a drummer who provided the seismic backbeat and cannon-shot snare on thousands of rock songs and scores of midcentury hits — so many that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dubbed him “the most recorded drummer in history” — died on March 11… Harold Simon Belsky was born in Holyoke, Mass., on Feb. 5, 1929. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia, and the family moved to Hartford, Conn., when Mr. Blaine was 7.” [WashPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Pop singer, pianist, composer of over 500 songs and record producer, whose family name derives from the Hebrew word for charity, Neil Sedaka turns 80… Israeli singer who won the 1978 Eurovision Song Contest, Izhar Cohen turns 68… Robert Smith turns 67… Founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, a NYC-based organization working to end the War on Drugs, he lobbies for the legalization of marijuana, Ethan Nadelmann turns 62… Former Florida congressman (2009-2011 and again 2013-2017), 1983 graduate from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, Alan Grayson turns 61… Former US Ambassador to the UN and deputy national security advisor to President Bill Clinton, she is currently the director of a leadership program at the University of North Florida, Nancy Soderberg turns 61… Ordained by Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1986, he now serves as a rabbi and as a faculty member at HUC-JIR Los Angeles, Rabbi Neal S. Scheindlin turns 59…

Founder and CEO of MediaBistro which she sold in 2007, now managing partner of Supernode Ventures (formerly Flatiron Investors), a NYC-based investors syndicate, Laurel Touby turns 56… Heavy metal songwriter, vocalist for the band Disturbed as well as for the band Device, he is a former yeshiva student, David Draiman turns 46… Member of the California State Senate since 2014, Benjamin Allen turns 41… Former member of Knesset for the Jewish Home party (2013-2015), he is a decorated IDF officer (now a reservist), Yonatan “Yoni” Chetboun turns 40… Deputy chief of staff for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, he is the former host of daily Sirius XM program “The Agenda,” Ari Rabin-Havt turns 40… Television and film actor, Emile Hirsch turns 34… EVP of Nefco, a distributor of construction and industrial supplies, Matthew Gelles turns 31… Television and film actor, Emory Isaac Cohenturns 29… Social media manager at NBC Universal since 2015, Jessie Rubinturns 28… Gabriel Romano

Kafe Knesset for September 1

Friday, September 1, 2017

The BB-Sheldon Hotline: So just how close are Bibi and Sheldon and what is the extent of the PM’s involvement in Adelson’s freebie, Israel Hayom? That was the…

Kafe Knesset for August 31

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bibi against Meni Naftali: PM Netanyahu’s Rosh Hashana toast was, as promised, quite a show. Two thousand Likud activists gathered at the Avenue Conference Center near the Ben…

Kafe Knesset for August 30

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bibi launches Rosh Hashana toast season: It is that time of the year again, as the Jewish New Year approaches. Politicians are starting to make the rounds with…

Kafe Knesset for August 29

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Greenblatt’s tour: The President’s special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, stayed on after the senior White House delegation visited the region last week. According to senior Israeli sources, Greenblatt is…

Kafe Knesset for August 28

Monday, August 28, 2017

Guterres in Jerusalem: The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrived in Israel yesterday for his first visit to the region. His first meeting was last night, as he…

Kafe Knesset for August 25

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trump-Netanyahu Instagram diplomacy: The Kushner-Greenblatt-Powell short visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah hardly made headlines this morning. The niceties of the Kushner-Netanyahu meeting, and the smiles in the Ramallah…