Daily Kickoff: Rand Paul on Friedman — “I’m favorably disposed” | Bibi gives cover for Trump on anti-Semitism | Why Kushner might not buy the Marlins


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DRIVING THE DAY: David Friedman will testify at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his nomination as U.S. ambassador to Israel at 10:30am EST. Friedman will be introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Sen. Joe Lieberman. Worth noting: Lieberman is now an attorney at Friedman’s law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP [CSPAN

–Early spotted list of those at the hearing: RJC’s Matt Brooks, J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami, OU’s Nathan Diament, NORPAC Long Island President Stanley Stern and his wife Trudy, Iris and Shalom Maidenbaum, Cindy and Sheldon Small.

KEY SFRC VOTE: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told Jewish Insider yesterday that he is “favorably disposed” towards Friedman. Paul’s support could be critical for Friedman if the vote falls on party lines. [JewishInsider

Flashback: Trump’s ambassador nominee to Israel on ADL: ‘They’re Morons’ — “In an interview with Jewish Insider on the eve of the election, David Friedman referred to leaders of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as “morons” for condemning Trump’s campaign rhetoric and commercials that were perceived as dog-whistles to his anti-Semitic supporters.” [JewishInsider]

“Five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel say Trump pick is unqualified” by Richard Lardner: “In a letter sent to members of the Foreign Relations Committee, the former diplomats said David Friedman has staked out “extreme, radical positions” and has derided the two-state solution as an “illusory” fix for a non-existent problem… “The American ambassador must be dedicated to advancing our country’s longstanding bipartisan goals in the region: strengthening the security of the United States and our ally Israel, and advancing the prospects for peace between Israel and its neighbors, in particular the Palestinians,” the former ambassadors wrote… The letter opposing Friedman’s nomination was signed by Thomas Pickering, William Harrop, Edward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer and James Cunningham.” [AP

–Noticeably absent from the list: former Amb. Dan Shapiro. Shapiro told Jewish Insider in an interview last week: “I don’t know Mr. Friedman, but I assume that any Ambassador appointed by the US government will implement the policy that is made in Washington. That certainly was true in my experience that Ambassadors come with their own perspectives and their own history and maybe even their own views but in the end those are not as important, in fact they’re much less relevant than faithful implementation of the policy that’s made in Washington so I think that is likely to be true of any Ambassador including Mr. Friedman.” [JewishInsider]

“Israeli Settlement Sees Friendly Faces in Trump Administration” by Isabel Kershner: “There’s the Friedman Faculty House, the Rabbi Morris Friedman Center for Computer Sciences, a Friedman fitness room at a pre-army academy, a playground and a plaza. The plaques dedicating sites around Beit El, a religious Jewish settlement deep in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, attest to years of financial, emotional and family bonds nurtured by an American lawyer, David M. Friedman, and his wife, Tammy. Under previous administrations, American diplomats have been barred from setting foot in such settlements…” [NYTimes]

“Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel is a former attorney of accused killer Robert Durst” by Cameron Joseph: “He’s an attorney. I don’t ascribe to an attorney the deeds of his or her clients,” former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who heads the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. “I don’t even think it’s fair to blame an attorney for taking a client, everyone is entitled to capable and adequate representation.” [NYDailyNews

EXCLUSIVE: Photo of David Friedman at Jared and Ivanka’s wedding [JewishInsider

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “It is a new day for the United States-Israel relationship, defined by a responsible approach to the challenges and opportunities our two countries face in the Middle East,” Trump and Netanyahu declared in a joint statement after their WH meeting. “In today’s meeting, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed that there will be no daylight between the United States and Israel.”

At their joint press conference, Trump and Netanyahu at once departed from standard procedure while also reverting to their comfortable roles: Bibi as professor lecturing on the Middle East and Trump, the real estate mogul, looking to sell and score the ‘ultimate deal.’ While Netanyahu mostly read from written notes placed on the lectern ahead of time by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, Trump spoke freely, sometimes contradicting comments he has made in the past.

A significant off script moment occurred when Netanyahu mentioned the idea of reaching a broader regional peace agreement with the Palestinians. The President seemed genuinely surprised that Netanyahu preempted him on that plan. “I didn’t know you were going to be mentioning that, but now that you did, I think it’s a terrific thing and I think we have some pretty good cooperation from people that in the past would never, ever have even thought about doing this,” Trump said while looking directly at the Israeli Prime Minister.

Trump also perceived that Netanyahu wasn’t fully with him when he expressed his confidence in achieving a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians — a “bigger and better deal” in his words. “Let’s try it,” the Israeli leader responded. To which Trump asserted, “Doesn’t sound too optimistic, but he’s a good negotiator.” “That’s the ‘art of the deal,’” Netanyahu quipped referencing the title of Trump’s 1987 book. Full recap here [JewishInsider

— After the meeting, Netanyahu acknowledged that he and Trump have yet to reach an understanding on settlement activity. “We spoke about the settlements, and we agreed to continue talking about this issue in order to reach an agreement,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters at the Blair House. “Trump is willing to upgrade our ties in every field. So if there’s a request from the President to examine this issue of construction in the settlement then I think our national interest to reach an understanding. Nonetheless, he stressed that “building will continue in Jerusalem.”

HOW IT PLAYED: “Trump, Meeting With Netanyahu, Backs Away From Palestinian State” by Peter Baker and Mark Landler: “But even as Mr. Trump drastically reoriented American policy, he told Mr. Netanyahu to stop building new housing in the West Bank for the moment… The president also stressed that Israel would have to be flexible in any future peace talks. “As with any successful negotiation, both sides will have to make compromises,” Mr. Trump said. Turning to Mr. Netanyahu, he asked, “You know that, right?” Mr. Netanyahu responded with a smile. “Both sides,” he said, pointedly emphasizing the first word… If Mr. Netanyahu viewed Mr. Trump’s arrival as license to do as he pleased without American interference, he may be surprised that the new president seems inclined to make a serious investment in forging a peace deal. Mr. Trump’s assignment to Mr. Kushner to focus on the matter has been taken as a sign of determination.” [NYTimes] Yair Rosenberg: Experts Have Been Proposing Alternatives to Two-States for Some Time. Will Trump Consider Them? [Tablet]

Did Trump back a one-state solution? Full quote — “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. (Laughter.) I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

Aaron David Miller: “To casually abandon the two-state solution without an alternative, due diligence, or consultations with any of the parties (minus the Israelis) calls into question US credibility as an effective broker… The two-state solution may well be impossible to implement. It requires leadership on both sides and effective US mediation. All three are currently missing… Give Trump, Jared Kushner and Netanyahu a chance to test the one-state solution. We certainly couldn’t produce a deal; perhaps they will.” [CNN]

TOP TALKER — Netanyahu stepped in to defend Trump against any charges of not taking anti-Semitism seriously. “I’ve known the President and I’ve known his family and his team for a long time, and there is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump,” Netanyahu declared. “I think we should put that to rest.”

Abe Foxman tells us: “I wish Bibi wouldn’t have gone where he went. If the President wasn’t willing to stand up to say he will fight anti-Semitism, I thought that was an unnecessary move… It was a missed opportunity. It was a low moment.”

— Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) called Netanyahu’s cover for Trump “very inappropriate.” Nadler told Jewish Insider that Netanyahu’s defense “is a nonsensical statement frankly as long as the President refuses to come out and condemn anti-Semitism, full-throatedly…  and refuses to identify the Holocaust with Jewish victims… Our ability to monitor and fight anti-Semitism around the world is very much less when the President of the US refuses to condemn it here.” [JewishInsider

Netanyahu: Trump administration now ‘understands’ Jewish meaning of Holocaust: “There is no doubt that they now understand the meaning of the Holocaust as a means to strike out the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said in a briefing after the summit for Israeli reporters… Asked to comment on expressions of concern by Jewish organizational leaders, Netanyahu insisted: “There is no basis for these worries.” [JTA

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: Immediately following the White House visit, Netanyahu summoned the press to the Blair House for a briefing. He couldn’t wipe the smile off his face, and that was the main takeaway as Netanyahu didn’t provide much details regarding the understandings achieved in the meeting but was very generous in complimenting the President and stressing their new bromance. “I have met, during my life, quite a few presidents, and we never had a greater friend to Israel than President Trump,” Netanyahu said while praising the “warm welcome to me and my wife. They went out of their way to demonstrate this friendship.” The President certainly did his homework on the Netanyahus, as was evident when he called on Sara Netanyahu to stand up during the press conference…

Meanwhile, back in Israel the reaction included mixed feelings and various interpretations about exactly what Trump meant. For Naftali Bennet, the fact that the term ‘Palestinian state’ was not mentioned is considered a great victory, though it is not clear how satisfied he will be with the fact that Bibi and Trump agreed to discuss curbing settlement activity. Meanwhile, Bennett reacted as if it’s the dawn of a new era, ignoring the inconvenient questions. “Today the Palestinian flag was replaced by the Israeli flag. Palestinians already have two states: Gaza and Jordan. There is no need for a third one. I congratulate the Prime Minister for making the right decision, demonstrating leadership and boldness and strengthening Israel’s security and sovereignty.”

When Netanyahu comes home and tells Bennet his sovereignty dreams need to be put on hold, he will likely be less generous. On the other side, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said “It was a sad and shameful to see Netanyahu twisting and winding only to avoid the idea of separation from the Palestinians in the form of two states. Every Israeli should be very worried about the possible one state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, which means there is no Jewish state. This could be a dangerous disaster and we will fight it in every way possible.”

Abe Foxman on the Trump-Netanyahu meeting — by Jacob Kornbluh: “The optics are better. The sounds are better. There is a warmth and friendliness. All these things are good. But we are dealing with the shifting sands of the Middle East and Washington. This is the one area where President Trump has shifted from where he was very dramatically. So, the devil is in the details. The truth is that even with U.S. intervention and initiation, there was no peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So without it, you know, to say ‘I don’t care,’ I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere.”

On Trump and Netanyahu hashing out the idea of regional peace: “You know what? Egypt had an interest to make peace — it made peace. Jordan had an interest to make peace — it made peace. That interest did not lead them to push a Palestinian peace. If what unites all these countries today is Iran, they can deal with Iran without a solution on the Palestinian problem. It’s just the reverse. If they want to go public, it’s only after there’s a solution. I am not sure that’s going to go anywhere. But time will tell. At least, there’s no tension and no anger, and that’s nice. It’s a good feeling to watch it.”

On Trump backing away from the two-state solution: “Netanyahu cannot be ‘holier than the Pope.’ If the President says he doesn’t care if it’s one or two states, you can’t expect the Prime Minister to insist on two states. But the truth is, there is no reality in a one-state solution.”

Foxman on Trump acknowledging the Jewish nature of the Holocaust: “He came very close to it, but he didn’t deal with it. He didn’t close the controversy (surrounding the WH Holocaust statement). He had an opportunity to close that issue and he just stepped up to it and didn’t do it. These were prepared remarks. I would’ve talked about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism clearly. And there again, somebody in the White House has an issue with that subject, not willing to give him the opportunity to put it to rest, and that’s troubling.”

“Trump-Netanyahu meeting: Tell me what you heard from Trump, and I will tell you what you want” by Shmuel Rosner: “Trump promised nothing. He did not promise to move an embassy to Jerusalem, nor did he promise to do something about Iran that his predecessor did not do… There were many platitudes in the press conference, and the leaders’ body language was relaxed. But what about substance? … Trump is wiser than Obama when it comes to dealing with Israel. Obama began his relations with Israel by being critical, and by making demands. Trump is making similar demands – restrain settlements – he professes similar ambitions – bring about peace. But he manages to do all of this without alienating Israel. Count it as an achievement.” [JewishJournal

“Netanyahu’s High With Trump Portends an Inevitable Fall” by Chemi Shalev: “Trump’s battiness should serve as a warning signal: As long as Netanyahu praises Trump as he did on Wednesday, as long as he doesn’t cross him or insult him, the Prime Minister will continue to be welcomed and embraced. But when he won’t – and that moment will come – he will fondly remember the great opening night he had in Washington, from which he could only fall.” [Haaretz]

“Melania Trump debuts as White House hostess alongside Netanyahus” by Kate Bennett: “Following the news conference, she hosted Sara Netanyahu on a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. “As we remember, with deep humility and reverence, the historic plight of slavery which the Jewish and African-American people have known all too well, we rededicate ourselves to those powerful words that both our nations hold dear: “NEVER AGAIN!” Melania Trump said in a statement to CNN.” [CNN]

TRUMP TEAM: “Where Is Rex Tillerson? Top Envoy Keeps Head Down and Travels Light” by Gardiner Harris: “Having decided to spend Wednesday flying to Bonn so he could get a good night’s sleep before the Group of 20 meeting, [Rex] Tillerson sent [his acting deputy Thomas A.] Shannon to Mr. Trump’s meetings with the Israeli prime minister instead… Mr. Tillerson has said almost nothing publicly since the Senate confirmed him for the job two weeks ago… The very public rejection of [Elliott] Abrams by Mr. Trump sent a chill through the ranks of other Republican foreign policy veterans.” [NYTimes]

“Conway, Pence, You Name It—Being Around Trump Ruins Them” by Matt Lewis: “Kellyanne Conway… seemed to calm things down a bit, which no doubt helped Trump win… Today, it appears she has morphed into Katrina Pierson… Kellyanne is seen as someone who is either a liar or—maybe worse in Washington—simply out of the loop… Like Conway, Vice President Mike Pence was once seen as someone who could soften Trump’s rough edges and serve as a bridge to both movement conservatives and mainstream journalists. And just like Conway, it is now clear that Pence is out of the loop.” [DailyBeast]

“White House Plans to Have Trump Ally Review Intelligence Agencies” by James RIsen and Matthew Rosenberger: “The possible role for Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has met fierce resistance among intelligence officials already on edge because of the criticism the intelligence community has received from Mr. Trump during the campaign and since he became president… There has been no announcement of Mr. Feinberg’s job, which would be based in the White House, but he recently told his company’s shareholders that he is in discussions to join the Trump administration… Mr. Feinberg, who has close ties to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, declined to comment on his possible position.” [NYTimes] • Spies Keep Intelligence From Donald Trump on Leak Concerns [WSJ]

TEHRAN WATCH: “Russia, Iran Need Each Other, Despite Disagreements” by Yaroslav Trofimov: “Iran and Russia aren’t often on the same page in the Middle East. But if President Donald Trump’s administration attempts to drive a wedge between the two, there is precious little incentive it can offer Moscow to abandon its crucial partner. Confronting Iran while also improving relations with Russia and turning it into an ally against “radical Islam” have emerged as two early foreign-policy priorities for the new U.S. administration.” [WSJ] • U.S., Middle East Allies Explore Arab Military Coalition: Potential alliance would share intelligence with Israel, with the goal of countering Iran’s influence [WSJ]

STATE SIDE: “Illinois Gubernatorial Primary Might Pit a Millionaire Against a Billionaire” by John McCormick: “The potential contest -– [Chris] Kennedy declared his intention to run last week, and [J.B.] Pritzker stopped just a bit shy of doing so in a Bloomberg interview Tuesday — would be for the right to challenge another very rich man, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. “If I ran, I would self-fund,” said Pritzker… One Democrat who could find himself picking between a Kennedy and a Pritzker would be former President Barack Obama, who has close ties to both families. Besides serving in Obama’s Cabinet, Penny Pritzker was the national finance chairwoman for his first White House bid.” [Bloomberg]

** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: JI reader Scott Shay writes… ‘Fix corporate taxes by tying them to American workers’ [TheHill] • Universal Takes Minority Stake in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin [THR] • Vornado’s Roth: ‘Board has a robust succession plan if I get hit by a bus’ [REW• Tinder’s Sean Rad On How Technology And Artificial Intelligence Will Change Dating [Forbes]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Miami Beach multifamily development site sells for $31M” by Brian Bandell: “Caton Owner, owned by Sarah Boymelgreen, Shmuel Boymelgreen and Chen Lamdan, sold the 1.08-acre site at 340 W. 42nd Street to JP Roosevelt LLC, managed by New York attorney Brian Itzkowitz. The property was acquired for $21 million in August 2015. Caton Owner received city approval to build 49 residential units. The 88,116-square-foot building designed by Arquitectonica would have seven townhouses and 42 condos.” [BizJournals

TALK OF OUR NATION: “‘Telephone terrorism’ has rattled 48 Jewish centers. Is anyone paying attention?” by Daniel Burke: “In all, 48 JCCs in 27 states and one Canadian province received nearly 60 bomb threats during January, according to the JCCA, an association of JCCs. Most were made in rapid succession on three days: January 9, 18 and 31. A number of JCCs, including Orlando’s, received multiple threats. No bombs have been found, but Jewish leaders hesitate to label the calls “hoaxes.” The chaos and terror the calls have caused are real, as are more tangible consequences. Some wonder why the threats haven’t garnered more media attention and lament the spike in hate crimes seemingly incited by the divisive 2016 presidential campaign.” [CNN]

MEDIA WATCH — “Gizmodo Ads Target Potential Trump Leakers” by Lukas Alpert: “The Gizmodo Media Group’s investigative team has taken to buying highly-targeted Facebook ads to steer potential leakers to a new website, TellOnTrump.com, which lays out a variety of secure methods to pass on sensitive information. The Univision Communications Inc.-owned media group started running ads on the social media platform within the last week that specifically target people who list certain government agencies as their employers.” [WSJ] • Of note: Univision’s chairman is Haim Saban

An editor’s note regarding a story about Cordish Companies by The NY Daily News editor: “A Daily News story posted on January 18, 2017 focused on President Trump’s appointment of Reed Cordish as his assistant for intergovernmental and technology initiatives… The story reported on three lawsuits that asserted discrimination claims against Cordish Companies and its affiliates. While the story drew on court filings and sworn testimony to describe allegations leveled against Cordish Companies and affiliates, it has become clear since publication that the article contained several inaccurate statements, as well as omissions. Accordingly, the Daily News has taken down the article… The story failed to report that a judge dismissed the case on summary judgment for lack of evidence.” [NYDailyNews]  

COMING SOON: “Tel Aviv, we’re coming back for a TechCrunch Meetup + Pitch-Off” by Romain Dillet: “During the Pitch-Off, a dozen local startups will all compete and pitch for 60 seconds in front of judges. Those local VCs and TechCrunch editors will then ask some tough questions. At the end of the night, we’ll crown the winners. We’ll give them the opportunity to come to the big show — TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin in December 2017. I’m sure you can’t wait to apply for the pitch-off competition. Stay tuned as the applications will open in May.” [TC]

SHOTS FIRED: “30-somethings who dig co-living are losers: Yardeni” by Rich Bockmann: “Ofer Yardeni, who’s known mostly as a value-add multifamily investor and landlord, also considers himself something of an expert on development. “If you are a 35-year-old and you live in [WeLive or Common], you are a loser,” the Stonehenge Partners CEO said to riotous laughter Wednesday morning during a panel discussion on the city’s multifamily market. “I’m sorry, but if you live with 10 people and you share breakfast or lunch… where do you go with your girlfriend?” Yardeni was referring to shared-housing spaces such as WeWork’s WeLive platform and the startup Common, which he said provides a valuable service for young renters in their early to mid-20s, but not a scalable business like traditional multi-family housing…” [TRD

“In the Annals of Party Throwing, Steven Schwarzman Has Some Competition” by Stuart Emmrich: “Perhaps the most visible couple during the latter stages of the Reagan era was Saul and Gayfryd Steinberg… In 1988, the Steinbergs were said to have spent $3 million (or roughly $6.1 million in today’s dollars) on the wedding of Saul’s daughter Laura to the real-estate heir Jonathan Tisch — a candlelight ceremony at the Central Synagogue on Lexington Avenue, with the bride and her 10 attendants dressed in gowns by Arnold Scaasi, followed by a sit-down dinner for 500 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that featured centerpieces of gilded magnolia leaves and spring branches. It was covered by the Metro Section of The New York Times, which stated simply, “It was a power wedding.” A year later, in August, 1989, Gayfryd spent $1 million on Saul’s 50th birthday party, held at their estate in Quogue, on Long Island.” [NYTimes]

“Kushner’s convictions are irrelevant in $600M fraud case, judge rules again” by Craig McCarthy: “Superior Court Judge Vincent LeBlon ruled — for the second time — the real estate developer’s convictions were irrelevant to the case, in which a mistrial was declared last week… “That was a personal conviction,” LeBlon said in Middlesex Superior Court Tuesdayafternoon… “It was not a conviction linked to the Kushner Companies. [Charles] Kushner is not a defendant.” “ [NJAdvance

“Kushner family to back out of deal to buy Marlins if Jeffrey Loria is nominated as Ambassador to France” by John Healy: “Loria reached a “handshake agreement” to sell the Marlins for $1.6 billion to Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law, last week but if Loria is being considered as Ambassador to France then the Kushner’s feel it would not be in either party’s best interest to pursue the purchase. Kushner’s son-in-law released a statement to the New York Times on Wednesday explaining why…”

“Our family has been friends with Jeff Loria for over 30 years, been in business together, and even owned an AAA baseball team together,” the statement read. “Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest that Mr. Loria will soon be nominated by the President to be Ambassador to France. If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it. The Kushners remain interested in purchasing a team and would love to buy the Marlins at another time.” [DailyNewsSunSentinel

SPORTS BLINK: “NFL players flap upends Israel’s PR game plan” by Andrew Silow-Carroll: “Perhaps [Michael] Bennett and the other no-show players caved to the BDS side, although the NFL story is playing in Israel as a fumble on the part of [Ministers Gilad] Erdan and [Yariv] Levin. By making explicit the implicit purpose of the “mission,” they put the players in an untenable position… To Bennett’s credit, he signals that he has an open mind, and that when he does visit, he’ll hear from both sides.” [JTA]

“Skating, and Scoring, for God’s Glory” by Corey Kilgannon: “In their second season, the Maccabees, named for a band of ancient Jewish freedom fighters, are doing their faith proud and bringing athletic acclaim to this college in northern Manhattan better known for training religiously devout students than turning out powerhouse sports teams. This unlikely band of Orthodox Jewish students is tearing up the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association, against teams with few or no Jewish players and more resources.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT: “How One Jerusalem Joint Is Dealing with Israel’s Terrible Restaurant Wages” by Ilan Ben Zion: “Crave’s prices are slightly higher than average—NIS 33 ($8.80) for a half liter of craft beer instead of NIS 30 ($8), for example—to account for service, but the food and experience more than makes up for the difference. For [James] Oppenheim, tipping culture simply generates bad vibes—between customer and waiters, between waiters and owners, between wait staff and the guys in the kitchen sweating buckets to get food cooked and dishes cleaned. By dispensing with tips, waiters can focus more on quality of service, server Naomi Yitzhak said. Staff make between $10 and $12 an hour, well above minimum wage.” [Munchies]

“James Beard 2017 Semifinalists: Brad Kilgore and Zak the Baker Among Miami Nods” by Laine Doss: “The Beard Awards are the culinary world’s equivalent of the Oscars, and winning an award — or even being nominated — can mean more customers for a restaurant and an upward trajectory for a chef… Miami’s most beloved bread-maker, Zak Stern, AKA Zak the Baker, has received a nod for Outstanding Baker.” [MiamiNewTimes]

“There’s Now a Kosher Italian Restaurant in the Former Scratch Bar Space in Beverly Hills” by Besha Rodell: “Mazal’rella is owned by Karen Attias, who recently moved here from Paris, where there are many kosher Italian restaurants. She wanted to re-create that convergence of Italian food, bistro atmosphere and kosher status (Mazal’rella is certified Kosher Cholov Yisroel under the Orthodox Union) here in L.A. She’s installed a pizza oven, and is serving lunch and dinner menus of Neapolitan-style pizzas.” [LAWeekly

BIRTHDAYS: Novelist, Holocaust survivor, winner of the Bialik Prize (1979) and the Israel Prize (1983), author of novels that are focused on Jewish life in Europe before, during and after World War II, Aharon Appelfeld turns 85… Billionaire business magna, recently named Special Advisor to President Trump on Regulatory Reform, Carl Icahn turns 81… Educator, theorist, writer and professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Michael Joseph Shapiro turns 77… Ecuador-born, Director of Institutional Advancement at the Washington DC JCC, veteran of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum as counsel and director of external affairs (1988-1999), Ralph Grunewald turns 61… Marrakech, Morocco-born as Sonia Esther Lasry, co-founder, president and managing partner of Avenue Capital Group, Sonia Gardner turns 55… Co-director of “Women for Israel’s Tomorrow” (better known as Women in Green), a grassroots Israeli movement supporting settlements and annexation, Nadia Matar turns 51… Associate Regional Director of Birthright Israel Foundation, previously at NYC’s Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation, Marissa Schaevitz Levey turns 33… CEO of FinePoint, a PR, communications and professional development company, Meredith Fineman turns 30… Singer-songwriter and guitarist, Danielle Haim turns 28… Deputy national health, science and environment editor at the Washington Post, formerly at Politico, Susan K. Levine (h/t Playbook)… Amy Kurtz… Rachel Rubenstein… Eric McDonald

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




Daily Kickoff: WH tumult complicates Bibi’s visit | Dermer’s vindication | Corker doesn’t endorse Friedman… yet | Platt to produce ‘The Fox Hunt’


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DRIVING THE DAY: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the White House at 11:50 a.m. where he will be greeted by President Trump and the First Lady. Netanyahu will sign the White House guest book. After that, they will head to the East Room for a brief press conference at 12 p.m. [CSPAN]

Netanyahu and Trump will then meet privately in the Oval Office at 12:40 p.m. The Israeli delegation, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, and Jared Kushner will join the two leaders for a bilateral meeting at 1:00 p.m, followed by a working lunch.

— Yesterday, senior White House officials said in a press briefing that Trump will not push Netanyahu to reiterate his (2009) support for a “two-state solution” or dictate any preconditioned terms on the two parties. “It’s something the two sides have to agree to. It’s not for us to impose that vision,” a WH official said. “We’re looking at the two sides to come together to make peace together and we’ll be there to help them.”

— The official said the term “two-state solution” has not been particularly well defined. “If I ask five people what a two-state solution is, I get eight different answers… A two-state solution that doesn’t bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve,” the official said. “Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution if that’s what the parties want or something else, if that’s what the parties want, we’re going to help them. We’re not going to dictate what the terms of peace will be.”

Issues on the agenda: Iran, settlements, “a possible meeting between the Israelis and Palestinians,” whether to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and the recent UNSC resolution in December critical of Israel.

Goals: According to the senior administration official, the meeting would “usher in a new relationship between Israel and the United States — something that Israel has not seen in well over eight years, a relationship that will show there is no daylight, that we are fully cognizant of the situation that Israel finds itself in.”

KAFE KNESSET in DC — by Tal Shalev: Netanyahu’s team divided their time yesterday between the Blair House and the Israeli Embassy, where they spent a few hours to discuss the most sensitive issues on the table (for years, Netanyahu and his team have been quite anxious about electronic eavesdropping in the Blair House and prefer to discuss confidential items elsewhere). They then had a meeting and short dinner with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department. Even after the Tillerson meeting, the PMO was not forthcoming on details of the meeting, issuing only a brief statement that in the two hour meeting regional issues were discussed and that Netanyahu invited Tillerson to Israel in order to “establish an independent working relationship.”

A senior Israeli aide told Kafe Knesset that Flynn’s resignation definitely cast a cloud over the pre-meeting deliberations “exhibiting just how liquid the situation here is these days.” After lunch, Netanyahu will be meeting the Israeli press corps for a short briefing, before continuing to Capitol Hill for a series of back-to-back meetings with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and other senators. Tomorrow morning he will be having an early morning breakfast with Vice President Mike Pence. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset [JewishInsider]

“White House Upheaval Complicates Netanyahu Visit” by Mark Landler: “The resignation of Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, deprives Mr. Netanyahu of his strongest ally inside the White House for raising pressure on Iran… With Mr. Flynn no longer in the picture, and Mr. Mattis and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson are traveling, the Netanyahu-Trump meeting is likely to include Mr. Kushner and Mr. Bannon. That lineup, analysts said, could tilt the conversation more toward a potential peace initiative than to additional steps to pressure Iran… Other analysts, however, said the upheaval in the White House would lower expectations for Mr. Netanyahu.” [NYTimes]

“Netanyahu arrives to Trump White House in turmoil” by Laura Rozen: “Netanyahu’s acting national security adviser, Yaakov Nagel, had met with Flynn earlier that day to prepare the agenda for the Feb. 15 meeting between Trump and Netanyahu, Israeli Channel 2’s Udi Segal told Al-Monitor. After they wrapped up their talks, they hugged and said they would see each other the next day. Two hours later, Flynn was out, Segal said. The Israeli delegation was stunned.” [Al-Monitor]

“‘An Absolutely Crazy Time to Hold a Meeting with the President of the United States’” by Susan Glasser: “It is, [Dan] Shapiro says, “an absolutely crazy time to hold a meeting with the president of the United States.” According to Shapiro, Flynn had been helping lead planning for the meeting with Netanyahu and had met at least three times with the head of Israel’s top spy agency, the Mossad, and Netanyahu’s national security advisory council in advance of Wednesday’s session with the two leaders. “All that preparation is now out the window.” … “The idea that there is going to be this massive sea change of U.S. policy,” Shapiro said, “is very much called into question.”” [Politico]

“What Does Trump Want from Netanyahu?” by Daniel Shapiro: “Netanyahu and President Donald Trump benefit from a valuable channel of communication between Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, each of them perhaps the single person closest to their respective leader… It’s traditional for Israeli prime ministers, at their first meetings with American presidents, to seek a commitment to a principle of no surprises… But Trump will want it to be reciprocal… How will Trump respond when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on his first visit to Israel, is greeted with a major surprise settlement announcement, as has often happened to others in the past? Netanyahu would be wise to offer the same commitment.” [TheAtlantic] • What Has Netanyahu Really Got to Offer Trump, the Deal-Making President? [Haaretz

President-in-law: “Jared Kushner’s ready for his global debut. Could he be just the man Trump needs in the Middle East?” by Gillian Turner: “After months of behind-the-scenes work cultivating ties on both sides of the Arab-Israeli divide, Jared Kushner is ready for his debut on the global stage this week… This will be Donald Trump’s first pow-wow with Benjamin Netanyahu as president, and SLOTUS (America’s son-in-law) cum unofficial special envoy for Middle East peace, will be by his side….” [FoxNews]  

Trump friend Thomas Barrack, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, on Kushner and the Middle East: “Barrack said with a new set of leaders in the Arab world wanting a solution, the timing is right. “Israel aligned with tolerant Islam is the answer,” Barrack said. “And I think that that’s what Jared… is pushing towards… trying to use those relationships and a clean canvas with his influence on the president to say, ‘Have a soft hand, be culturally sensitive. This would be an opportunity for you, Mr. President, to maybe do something along the lines of what President Reagan and [Margaret] Thatcher did in bringing down the wall.”” [CBSNews]

“The Ambassador Who Came In From the Cold -The vindication of Ron Dermer” by Amir Tibon: “Dan Meridor, a former senior Cabinet member in two of Netanyahu’s governments, told me that he “did not like the confrontational approach” of Netanyahu and Dermer toward President Obama—but that now, with Trump in power, Netanyahu might need Dermer, whom he considers brilliant, more than ever… An open line to Kushner is better than what many of Dermer’s colleagues currently enjoy, four weeks into the Trump administration… The downside, and danger, of such an approach, is the effect it could have on Israel’s relationship with the Democratic party going forward. “The most urgent task for an Israeli ambassador in the U.S. right now is to preserve bipartisan support for our country,” Danny Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to Washington from 2002 to 2006, told me.” [TheAtlantic]

“Many U.S. Democrats skeptical on chances to reset Netanyahu ties” by Patricia Zengerle: “Israeli officials said Netanyahu’s aides have been aware of the need to re-establish a semblance of bipartisan even-handedness, even as the Prime Minister works to create a personal bond with Trump.” [Reuters]

“CIA chief meets Palestinians’ Abbas in first top-level talks” by Karin Laub: “Two senior Palestinian officials say CIA chief Mike Pompeo secretly held talks in the West Bank with Mahmoud Abbas, the first high-level meeting between the Palestinian leader and a Trump administration official. The officials said on Wednesday that the meeting took place a day earlier at Abbas’ headquarters in Ramallah.” [AP]

“President Trump, Will You Save the Jews?” by Thomas Friedman: “If Netanyahu’s weak leadership and the overreach of the settlers in his party end up erasing the two-state solution, the debate within the Jewish community will move from “left versus right” to “right versus wrong.” That debate will not be about which are the best borders to defend the state of Israel, said the Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halbertal, “but whether the state is worth defending in moral terms.”” [NYTimes]

ON THE HILL: Sen. Bob Corker declined to endorse David Friedman for Ambassador to Israel ahead of Thursday’s confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When asked by Jewish Insider if he supports Friedman’s candidacy, Corker replied, “I want to go through the process. I think he is a very qualified nominee but as with all nominees that come before our committee, I want to have the hearing to understand more fully who he is…” Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) appeared to show some willingness to back Friedman. “My private meeting with him indicates someone who is different than some of those public comments,” Menendez told JI’s Aaron Magid. “I look forward to hearing his official response before the committee.” [JewishInsider]

Via NYT’s Mark Landler: “Representatives of [David] Friedman… told Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and other officials that he would express regret for saying that supporters of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street were “worse than kapos,” the Jewish prisoners who worked for the Nazis in concentration camps.” [NYTimes]

“Trump’s Pick for Israel Envoy Not an Extremist, Jewish Group Tells Senate” by Amir Tibon: “There is no denying that many American Jews – certainly in the Orthodox Union’s constituency – and other pro-Israel Americans share Mr. Friedman’s deep skepticism toward this decades-old approach which has been tried and tested and failed repeatedly to deliver security and peace to the people of Israel, the Palestinians and the region,” according to the letter… “But it is wrong to assert, in this context, that the other side’s views are extreme and beyond the pale. We urge you to take our perspective into account as you consider Mr. Friedman’s nomination.” [Haaretz]

TRUMP TUMULT: “Flynn’s ouster leads to more chaos in Trump world” by Eli Stokols, Tara Palmeri and Annie Karni: “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has privately expressed frustration at not knowing whether to contact Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss the administration’s Middle East policy… And Cruz is not alone. “I can’t figure out what’s going on over there,” said a foreign policy staffer in the office of another GOP senator.” [Politico] • TOP TALKER: “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence” [NYT]

“The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn” by Eli Lake: “It’s also possible that a group of national security bureaucrats and former Obama officials are selectively leaking highly sensitive law enforcement information to undermine the elected government… Imagine if intercepts of a call between Obama’s incoming national security adviser and Iran’s foreign minister leaked to the press before the nuclear negotiations began? The howls of indignation would be deafening.” [Bloomberg]

“Kellyanne Conway Claims She Doesn’t Know Who Retweeted A White Nationalist From Her Twitter Account” by Tasneem Nashrulla: “Conway not only retweeted Lib Hypocrisy’s tweet, but also told the Twitter user, “Love you back” and wished her “Hapless Haters” a happy Valentine’s Day… Lib Hypocrisy’s Twitter bio includes the hashtags “WhiteIdentity” and “Nationalist” … [and] Pepe the frog — a symbol of the alt-right movement… Conway told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday, “I don’t know who had access to my account. Let me see who tweeted that,” she said… After the conversation, Conway deleted the tweet.” [BuzzFeed]

“The hottest invite in town: Donald Trump’s supper club” by Sara Murray: “At least four nights a week, he welcomes a steady stream of Cabinet members, staffers and members of Congress to the residence to brush up on national security issues and foreign affairs over steak, fish and salads, according to Trump aides… Some evenings, he’ll break bread with top staffers, including senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief strategist Steve Bannon or chief of staff Reince Priebus.” [CNN]

** 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: Clipper Realty is buying an 11-story Brooklyn Heights rental building from the Jehovah’s Witnesses for $87.5 million [RealDeal] • Trump’s claim that his “friends” can’t get loans is not backed by data [Crains] • Elliott Exits Position in Interpublic Group [WSJ] • Top Israeli VC Says Startup Nation Drives U.S. Economic Growth [Bloomberg]

STARTUP NATION: “Step inside Israel’s thriving startup scene in the first episode of WIRED’s Holy Land series” by Victoria Woollaston: “In the first of five episodes in the Holy Land: Startup Nations series, titled The era of permanent revolution, WIRED visits Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to investigate how technology and innovation are emerging to become the region’s dominant themes.” [WiredMag]

“That ‘Free’ App Isn’t Free: How Self-Improvement Became a Market” by Beth Kobliner: “Liking Joe Lieberman, for example, could lead Facebook to decide you have an “ethnic affinity” with Jewish-Americans and sell that information to marketers who may want to sell you Manischewitz.” [NBCNews]

SPOTLIGHT: “Ivanka Trump Logistics Firm Sued for Discrimination” by Spencer Woodman: “In November 2015, a 67-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman named Marilyn Cohen filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a freight logistics firm named Alba Wheels Up International, which has helped facilitate more than a hundred shipments of Ivanka Trump brand merchandise from China. The suit, filed in the southern district of New York, alleges the Cohen suffered an array of discriminatory harms at the hands of her superiors at Alba. Cohen not only claims that she was shunned for her religion and her age, but she also describes one of these slights as intermingling with overt sexism. As Alba is only a contractor of her brand’s licensee, Ivanka Trump, an Orthodox Jew herself, is likely to have never heard of the lawsuit.” [Racked]

HOLLYWOOD: “Fox 2000 Catches ‘The Fox Hunt’ For ‘La La Land’ Producer; ‘Spotlight” Screenwriter Adapting” by Anita Busch: “Mohammed Al Samawi’s non-fiction book The Fox Hunt was just picked up by Fox 2000 for La La Land producer Marc Platt with Josh Singer, the Oscar winning screenwriter for Spotlight aboard to adapt… The project about the courageous millennials who were united online in a singular cause to help the then 28 year-old Al Samawi find his freedom will also be produced by Adam Siegel and Benji Pasek. Al-Samawi has become a public speaker on the war in Yemen, the refugee crisis, and extremism in the Middle East.” [Deadline; Variety]

“PewDiePie Show Canceled by Google’s YouTube” by Jack Nicas: “YouTube canceled its top star’s show on Tuesday over his anti-Semitic jokes, complicating its efforts to court television advertisers while also retaining its edgy video stars. YouTube, a unit of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, distanced itself from its most popular creator—27-year-old Felix Kjellberg, who goes by PewDiePie—after The Wall Street Journal reported he made anti-Semitic jokes or showed Nazi imagery in nine videos since August. Walt Disney Co., which helped run Mr. Kjellberg’s business, severed ties after the revelations.” [WSJ]

“Saved From Holocaust: ‘He Loved Me and He Wanted to Keep Me’” by Corey Kilgannon: “For Isaac and Rosa Blum, who became teenage sweethearts 75 years ago in a ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland, that moment came as they and thousands of other terrified Jews were being herded to a death camp by Nazi soldiers. “I saw her walking in front of me,” Mr. Blum recalled. “I went up to the German and told him, ‘That’s my sister,’ even though she was my girlfriend.” Miraculously, they were both pulled off the line and managed to survive the Holocaust by working as slave laborers in a munitions factory. The following 70 years have been a cinch by comparison, the couple said on Monday in their two-story house in the Manhattan Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT: “Houston’s Top Chefs Cook Kosher Next Monday” by Alice Levitt: “When diners hear the name Luis Roger, the chef at BCN Taste & Tradition, they likely think of crisp-skinned suckling pig. Mark Holley of Holley’s? Probably some delicious shellfish. But next Monday, February 20, such ingredients will be literally off the table. Those chefs will join five other big names to cook a five-course meal as part of the Gourmet Kosher Extravaganza, an annual benefit dinner for Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Houston branch. It’s one thing to eat an all-kosher dinner prepared by some well-respected secular chefs, but when’s the last time you attended a meal that had a goal of raising money to establish a cyber security research lab?” [Houstonia]

“Pastrami on wry: Jewish deli scores customers, retweets with Trump-mocking signs” by Lauren Gill: “Call it a schmear campaign! The owner of popular Boerum Hill bagel and lox joint Shelsky’s is creating a buzz in the neighborhood and on social media with sidewalk signs that poke fun at President Trump and his bungling administration — the latest of which is “Thanks to customer feedback, we no longer sell Ivanka brand lox, whitefish, or herring,” in reference to Nordstrom dropping the First Daughter’s clothing line.” [BrooklynPaper]

BIRTHDAYS: Professor emeritus of American Jewish history at Columbia University, Arthur A. Goren (born Aryeh Gorenstein) turns 91… British actress, Claire Bloom, whose paternal grandfather shortened his name from Blumenthal, turns 86… Chair of Jewish Studies at Arizona State University, a scholar of Jewish philosophy, Norbert M. Samuelson turns 81… Professor of cognitive science at both the University of Michigan and Indiana University, Pulitzer Prize winner, Douglas Hofstadter, turns 72… Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1-1991 to 1-2017, Elliott Naishtat turns 72… Cartoonist, editor, teacher at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and long-time contributing artist for The New Yorker, Art Spiegelman (born Itzhak Avraham ben Zeev) turns 69… Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, television, film and stage actress, Melissa Manchester turns 66… Burson-Marsteller’s Founding Chairman Harold Burson, who comes into the N.Y. office nearly every day, turns 96 (h/t Playbook)… Host of the radio program “Jewish Moments in the Morning” since 1983, president of the Nachum Segal Radio Network, Nachum Segal turns 54… TPM’s Josh Marshall, the pride of Upland, Calif., turns 48 (h/t Playbook)… Deputy executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Alex Siegel turns 31… Washington director for the New Israel Fund, Karen Paul-Stern… Yogi Sanders… Eric Distenfeld

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




Daily Kickoff: Dov Zakheim, Elliott Abrams talk Trump team’s grudges | Kushner embraces his inner Bannon | Will Friedman vote come down to Rand Paul?


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HEARD LAST NIGHT: Appearing on CNN, Elliott Abrams addressed the President’s decision to nix his expected appointment as Deputy Secretary of State. “I think it’s really destructive for the President to go back to the primary season and say, ‘People who’ve said tough things about me can’t come into the administration.’ He is hurting himself,” Abrams said in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett. Abrams said he had a productive meeting with Trump and that his past criticism of the President during the Republican presidential primary never came up during the hourlong conversation. “I was ready to address it.” The former diplomat said his guess is that WH Chief Strategist Steve Bannon “riled up” the President against his appointment. “The only person on the White House staff I know was opposed to me being hired was Steve Bannon.” [JewishInsider

JI INTERVIEW — Dov Zakheim, former undersecretary of defense in President George W. Bush’s administration and one of the over 50 top Republican national security officials who signed the anti-Trump letter in the presidential election, shared his thoughts about the first three weeks of the Trump Administration and the President’s conduct on foreign policy issues in a phone interview with Jewish Insider on Monday.

“They’re clearly disorganized. They’re running very, very far behind,” Zakheim said with regards to the tumult surrounding Trump’s first weeks of his presidency. “They don’t have undersecretaries, they don’t have assistant secretaries, so they don’t have the people that are meant to really execute whatever the cabinet, the National Security Council, and the President want to have happen. They’re relying on civil servants and holdovers so you already have a problem there and you have a second kind of problem because a lot of these people are not necessarily loyal to Trump, which is why you’re getting the leaks.”

–Zakheim on Trump denying Elliott Abrams as Deputy Secretary of State: “It’s very clear that either the President or his top three advisors, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, and Stephen Miller, are holding hard and fast to the idea that anybody who said anything negative about the President during the campaign is ‘treyf’ (non-kosher). I mean, you know, I signed these letters, but from the minute he became President, my feeling has been he’s the only President we’ve got, we have to support him and I’ve gone on the record to say that. For the point of view, those people who are being considered for jobs, evidently that’s not sufficient and it’s not just happened to Elliott Abrams, it seems to have happened to others. These are the people that really have a lot of expertise and if you’re going to eliminate those who wrote articles, you’ve probably eliminated 150 of the most experienced, talented, knowledgeable national security people.”

–On Trump’s emerging traditional stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “I’m not surprised. If the President gets briefed, he finds out the realities of things. He’s got three very, very sophisticated senior advisors. James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, and Mike Pompeo are clearly much more nuanced and understanding of the situation in the region. Then, of course, he’s met with King Abdullah of Jordan. Abdullah is no enemy of Israel. He’s just telling the President the reality and the reality is that moving the embassy or supporting the settlements is going to make it much more difficult for the Arabs who are already dealing with Israel, whether openly like Jordan or maybe less openly like some of the others in the Gulf, it’s going to make it more difficult for them to continue.”

–Zakheim discussed Jared Kushner’s role as ME envoy: “Arab leaders are used to dealing directly with the President. They don’t even deal with Secretaries of State. And so you send Jared Kushner to, say King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who’s old enough to be practically his grandfather, where he’ll be polite to him, he’ll entertain him, he’ll escort him to his airplane, but he’s not going to make the deal with him. These people make deals with the President and to the extent that they deal with anyone else, they’ll deal with a Tillerson because they know him from Exxon. They’ll deal with a Mattis because they know him from Central Command. As long as these people are not in the lead on dealing with the Middle East, I don’t think anything much is going to happen.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

“Mideast Rules For Jared Kushner” by Bret Stephens: “The U.S. cannot solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; only Palestinians can. The U.S. does have an interest in strengthening ties between its allies, both for their own sake and to counter their common enemies. If the Palestinians want to be a part of the solution, so much the better. If they want to continue to be a part of the problem, they can live with the consequences. The principles are straightforward. The courage to stick to them will be the test of Mr. Kushner’s diplomatic mettle.” [WSJ

DRIVING THE WEEK: “Netanyahu, Trump meeting to set tone for U.S.-Israeli ties” by Noga Tarnopolsky: “By far the main item on the agenda is Iran,” said Dennis Ross… “The settlements came up only because Netanyahu’s right-wing has been pushing the issue. They put settlements on Israel’s public agenda, I don’t think otherwise it would have been there at all.” [USAToday] • Buoyed by Trump-Netanyahu summit, ministers openly scratch annexation itch [ToI]

“Israeli PM seeks ‘no gaps’ with Trump ahead of White House talks” by Luke Baker: “Staff have cleared most of Tuesday for discussions with Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, and other senior advisers ahead of Wednesday’s Oval Office meeting. The only event of the day is an evening meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “There isn’t going to be any daylight, no gaps,” one adviser said as the prime minister left for Washington… Aside from Trump and Tillerson, Netanyahu will meet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence during the Feb. 13-16 visit.” [Reuters]  

JI’s Aaron Magid asked several Democratic House Members whether they were interested in meeting Netanyahu on his visit to the Capitol this week.

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA): “I didn’t know he was coming.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD): “I didn’t know it (meeting with Netanyahu) was an option. I would gladly like to hear what he has to say about moving forward on a two-state solution. I assume he is coming to Congress, so I will definitely go and hear what he has to say.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA): “I don’t know that there is going to be an opportunity to meet with him. Yeah, if he wants to meet with some Members of Congress, I would be happy to meet with him. I have met with him a number of times.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD): “Sure, why not? Never met him before.”

“Americans Tepid on Palestinian Statehood” by Lydia Saad: “Currently, 45% of Americans support establishing an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip while 42% oppose it… 61% of Democrats, 50% of independents and 25% of Republicans are in favor… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu… is viewed more favorably than unfavorably by Americans, 49% vs. 30%… Currently, 32% of Democrats view Netanyahu favorably and 41% unfavorably. That compares with 31% favorably and 31% unfavorably in February 2015, before Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.” [Gallup

Jennifer Rubin: “Without need to defend President Obama’s rhetoric or positions, the Democratic Party may see an uptick in support for the Jewish state.” [WashPost]

“Can This ‘Special Relationship’ Be Saved?” by Steven Simon and Aaron David Miller: “What will things look like in four to eight years? American support for an increasingly right-wing Israeli policy will mean that Israel will have built more settlements; diplomacy aimed at a two-state solution will be stillborn or abandoned; and violence in the West Bank will require Israel to use force to restore order. Politics in Israel will continue to drift right amid a deepening conviction that it has no Palestinian partner and against the backdrop of an increasingly dangerous region. If these things come to pass, the erosion of shared values will quicken. The American-Israeli partnership will not collapse… But the relationship would become a pale version of what it once was and what it could be.”

“Jewish fears of Trump White House mount on eve of Netanyahu visit” by Katie Glueck: “When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Donald Trump in Washington this week, he will do so against the backdrop of an American Jewish diaspora more fearful and skeptical of the U.S. government than it has been in decades. Interviews with more than a dozen top Jewish political operatives and leaders across the country reveal deep discomfort with a refugee ban than hits close to home, alarm about some of Trump’s top advisers and, most of all, overwhelming concerns about the administration’s rhetoric on the Holocaust and its approach to dealing with anti-Semitism.” [McClatchyDC; MiamiHerald]

INTERVIEW — Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh caught up with Congressman Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in New York City on Sunday.

“We don’t have a king in this country. We have three co-equal branches of government,” Engel told Jewish Insider with respect to the executive branch’s growing power on foreign policy issues. “I think that there are things that are important to members, and we will pass laws and hope the President will sign them… I think it’s a shared responsibility and no matter who’s been the president, who’s been in Congress, there is always that antagonistic kind of pulling and tugging, but I think there is a very important role of Congress to play and as the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I intend to fulfill that role.”

Q: Will a cozy relationship between Trump and Netanyahu hurt Israel’s bipartisan support?

Engel: “I think that Bibi is doing what any prime minister and leader of a country would do and that’s to have good relations with the U.S… I want to make it so that the U.S. and Israel are so close together that it doesn’t matter who’s prime minister and who is president at any given time… The U.S. doesn’t elect Israel’s leaders, and Bibi Netanyahu has been the leader of Israel a long time and we have to respect it and work with him. I have no trouble working with him. I respect what he has done. Does that mean that I have agreed with everything he’s done? No. I didn’t agree with everything Obama did and he was from my party. Obama did some really good things for Israel, but he did some – as my grandmother would say – ‘narish’ (foolish) things. So, everything is a balance.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

TRUMP TUMULT: “Michael Flynn resigns as national security adviser” by Josh Dawsey, Alex Isenstadt, Tara Palmeri and Eli Stokols: “The list of possible replacements includes retired Gen. David Petraeus, who’s scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the plans. Vice Admiral Robert Harward and Kellogg are also under consideration… Sources close to the White House said Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was involved with the search, though a senior White House official disputed that.” [Politico]

DEPT OF NOTABLE TIMING — Michael Ledeen, who is the coauthor with Michael Flynn of “Field of Flight,” published an op-ed in the WSJ this morning titled “To Break the Moscow-Tehran Alliance, Target Iran’s Regime” [WSJ

Aaron David Miller: “Mike Flynn was literally the personification of putting Iran on notice. A blow to those pushing for tough response on Iran — Bibi included.” [Twitter

Dan Shapiro: “Netanyahu arrives tomorrow at a White House in utter turmoil. NSA Flynn gone. Vicious staff infighting. More heads likely to roll. Precious planning hours spent with Flynn now out the window. Major unanswered questions on Russia… Still important business to be done on Iran, Palestinians, Syria, security coop. But who in WH can focus on it with fires burning? Suspect Netanyahu will seek greater clarity from VP Pence, Sec State Tillerson — outside Trump inner circle.” [Twitter]

President-in-law: “Far from being a moderating influence on his father-in-law, Kushner has embraced his inner Bannon” by Emily Jane Fox: “As he prepares to take a central role in the meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kushner seems renewed, his power intact. To those who know him and interact with him, he is no longer perceived as the quiet, moderating force in his father-in-law’s ear, but rather a true believer who remains in lock step with Bannon and Miller and intent on pushing through their White House agenda… Weeks after he took the gig, according to a longtime friend, Kushner’s office remains empty, save for a phone and some desk supplies… He is considering turning his office into a conference room, or maybe even knocking down the wall between his office and Bannon’s and getting a standing desk for himself, the source said.”

“Several sources told me that Kushner was defensive about the executive order that temporarily barred Muslim immigrants and refugees. The longtime friend said that when he pointed out that refugees had not, in fact, been responsible for any of the terror attacks on U.S. soil, Kushner, he said, answered by saying that that was not true. Kushner has encountered dissent in his own ranks. According to the longtime friend, Kushner’s brother Josh… has reportedly expressed his disapproval of the measures. Several sources say that Ivanka Trump is also concerned about the executive order, particularly as it relates to Dreamers—the children of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children who may normally be subject to deportation, but through President Obama’s executive action can stay temporarily and apply for work permits.” [VanityFair]

“Emanuel trying to build ‘relationships’ with Trump team” by Fran Spielman and Lynn Sweet: “The mayor also met with Kushner… The “goal is to find a way to work together,” a City Hall spokesman said about the meeting… If relationships are based on each side getting something, an area where Emanuel could be helpful to Kushner is on Israel… Obama and Netanyahu had a chilly relationship. Still, Emanuel has considerable expertise when it comes to Israel: The son of an Israeli, Emanuel knows the players and the issues, and even if he does not agree on the Trump approach, he brings his experience of dealing with the issue in the Obama and Clinton White House.” [ChicagoSunTimes

“Christie gets called to D.C. for lunch Tuesday with Trump, sources reveal” by Brent Johnson: “One source told NJ Advance Media that Kushner reached out to Christie ahead of Tuesday’s meeting and that senior White House officials speak with the governor regularly.” [NJAdvance

“Senate confirms former banker Mnuchin as Treasury secretary” by Stephen Ohlemacher: “A bitterly divided Senate on Monday confirmed Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary… He was confirmed by a mostly party-line vote of 53-47. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined the Republicans.” [AP]

COMING SOON: “Trump’s Senate Battle for Israel Ambassador Could Come Down to One Wildcard Vote” by Amir Tibon: “The only Republican senator who has thus far threatened to vote against some of Trump’s potential nominees… has been Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky… So far, Paul has not released any statement regarding Friedman… The more interesting votes to watch on the Democratic side will be those of senators considered to be close to AIPAC. It’s not clear what the lobby group will be doing behind the scenes, if anything, with regards to the nomination, if it becomes clear that it has been secured by the Republican members of the committee… The Democrats on the senate panel who are seen as close to AIPAC are ranking member Ben Cardin (Md.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Chris Coons (Del.) – all of whom have yet to comment publicly on Friedman.” [Haaretz]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Glencore Buys Out Israeli Billionaire Dan Gertler With $1 Billion Congo Mining Deal [Bloomberg; WSJ• Bruce Lane’s Meridian Group Raises $232M For Second DC Real Estate Fund [Bisnow• Apollo’s Leon Black made $142.5 million last year [MarketWatch• Startup Backed by Spielberg and Studios Seeks to Create VR Experiences for Malls [WSJ] • American Dream Meadowlands for the birds? [NorthJersey]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Attorney looks to question Charles Kushner about his conviction” by Suzanne Russell: “Attorney Patrick Whalen has filed a motion asking the court to allow evidence of Charles Kushner incarceration in 2005 and 2006 to be admitted during testimony by plaintiff witnesses. Whalen also is asking the court to allow for Kushner, the former chairman of Kushner Companies, to be questioned about his conviction when he testifies… Jared Kushner is not scheduled to testify in the case.” [MyCentralJersey

“Steve Schwarzman Hosted an Epic 70th Birthday Party in Palm Beach” by Sam Dangremond: “The Blackstone co-founder and his wife, Christine, hosted about 600 guests at their 15,000-plus square-foot estate in Palm Beach, which is only about a mile-and-a-half from Mar-a-Lago… Saturday night’s party reportedly included a private dinner with a “acrobats, Mongolian soldiers and two camels,” billionaire attendee David Koch told Bloomberg… Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were photographed leaving Mar-a-Lago in black tie, reportedly en route to Schwarzman’s party. Presumptive incoming Trump cabinet members Steve Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, and Elaine Chao also attended.” [T&C; Bloomberg]  

“How Kosher Are Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner?” by Jessica Sidman: “Based on their dining destinations, it’s safe to say that the couple isn’t strictly observant. “If you are very strict kosher, you’re not going to eat in any restaurant that’s not certified kosher,” says Lise Stern, author of How to Keep Kosher… Kushner and Trump aren’t the only high-profile politicos to have to navigate Washington’s barren kosher scene. Previously, former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman was perhaps the most notable government official to keep kosher. Before the Dirksen Senate Office Building cafe added kosher meals in 2012, Lieberman told the Hill he maintained a very limited diet.” [Washingtonian]  

“How The 29-Year-Old Owner Of Katz’s Deli Is Bringing The NYC Landmark Into The 21st Century” by Natalie Sportelli: “While keeping the regulars happy, to [Jake] Dell, making Katz’s more accessible means putting it in front of more customers, which also means educating and attracting the next generation of regulars. “To me this place is perfect,” he says. “You have to honor that tradition and you pay homage to that tradition, and you teach a new generation about that food tradition, that it was so prevalent 130 years ago or 150 years ago and has largely disappeared over the years.”” [Forbes]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “The revival of Yiddish in music and literature” by Prospero: “Despite its radical socialist past, some of the most innovative work in Yiddish now comes from the ultra-Orthodox community. In these close-knit groups, families have preserved the Yiddish of their forefathers. Lipa Schmeltzer, an ultra-Orthodox Jew from New York State, combines club beats with lyrics about Jewish rabbis. This unusual mix has proved immensely popular: Mr Schmeltzer has released over ten albums and is known as the “Hasidic Lady Gaga”. Last year, Mr Schmeltzer was chosen to sing “God Bless America” at the inauguration of a Jewish judge in New York. Naturally, the words were in Yiddish.” [Economist]

“Disney Severs Ties With YouTube Star PewDiePie After Anti-Semitic Posts” by Rolfe Winkler, Jack Nicas and Ben Fritz: “Millions of people have watched a Jan. 11 video by YouTube’s biggest star that included two men laughing as they held a banner that read, “Death to all Jews.” The man behind the video is Felix Kjellberg, a 27-year-old Swede known as “PewDiePie,” who has amassed 53 million subscribers. His success has brought him multimillion-dollar deals from YouTube and Walt Disney Co., which owns a firm that runs Mr. Kjellberg’s business. Since August, PewDiePie has posted nine videos that include anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery… On Monday after the Journal contacted Disney about the videos, the entertainment giant said it was severing ties with Mr. Kjellberg.” [WSJ]

SPORTS BLINK: “Robert Kraft Talks Patriots Players Skipping White House Visit on ‘Today’” by Superfan TV: “As of Monday morning, the number of players not attending stands at six, including Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty, who have voiced opposition to President Trump. Kraft thinks the attention is overblown… Kraft doesn’t have a problem with some of his players opting out of the visit, despite his longtime close friendship with Donald Trump. “This is America. We’re all free to do whatever is best for us. And we’re just privileged to be in a position to be going,” Kraft said. ” [Yahoo]

BIRTHDAYS: Recently ranked as the 6th richest person in the US ($43.3 billion), former Mayor of NYC Michael Bloomberg turns 75… Award-winning investigative journalist for The Washington Post and author, who together with Bob Woodward did much of the original news reporting on the Watergate scandal, Carl Bernstein turns 73… Former Borough President of Brooklyn (2002-2013) and New York State senator (1979-2001), Marty Markowitz turns 72… Billionaire investor, private equity manager, philanthropist, chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, Stephen A. Schwarzman turns 70… Born in Lakewood, NJ, film producer and chairman and EVP of the NFL’s New York Giants, winner of a Golden Globe award, an Academy Award and two Super Bowl rings, Steve Tisch turns 68… Host and co-executive producer of “Fresh Air” on WHYY-FM in Philadelphia, an interview program distributed throughout the United States by NPR, Terry Gross turns 66… Chairman and CEO of Townsquare Media, previously Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (2001-2003), Steven Price turns 55… Jewish hockey player selected in the first round of the 2002 NHL draft, then played on four NHL teams, also a player on the United States national team, Eric Nystrom turns 34… Paulette Nessim

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Menendez: Senate Resolution Condemning UNSC ‘Should Still Proceed’

Friday, February 10, 2017

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) clarified on Thursday that the stalled S. Resolution 6 assailing the December UN Security Council vote critical of Israel is still alive….

Photo credit: Kobi Gideon (GPO)

Kafe Knesset for Feb. 10

Friday, February 10, 2017

Preparations for the first meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump continue. According to an Israeli official involved in the preparations, the White House is going out…

UANI Panel Discusses New U.S. Policy on Iran

Thursday, February 9, 2017

United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) co-hosted a panel discussion with JINSA on Thursday afternoon to discuss US policy towards Iran during the Trump Administration. Meeting on Capitol…

Bob Corker

Corker: Defunding UN is ‘Taking a Hammer’ When ‘Scalpel’ More Useful

Thursday, February 9, 2017

WASHINGTON– Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) criticized a bill proposed by fellow GOP Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), which calls for the immediate defunding of all…

Netanyahu Likud

Kafe Knesset for Feb. 9

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Netanyahu is back at the Blair House next week. A PMO official confirmed the White house has invited PM Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sarah, and senior members of…

Robert Sattloff and David Makovsky

Washington Institute Panel Previews Trump-Netanyahu Meeting

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Washington Institute hosted a policy forum to discuss the agenda of President Trump and PM Netanyahu’s first Oval Office meeting and the broader issues at stake for…