Daily Kickoff: Bibi claims Putin agreed to restrain Iran in Syria | Bob Iger’s “baller move” at Sun Valley | Bryan Goldberg buys Gawker

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SUN VALLEY SCENE: “A very social Mark Zuckerberg got his networking on in a big way on Thursday at the Allen & Company conference in Sun Valley. The Facebook founder was spotted chatting to New York Senator Chuck Schumer and his wife as well as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in between sessions at the Idaho campus…” [DailyMail] • Zuckerberg was also pictured with Haim Saban [Pic]

HIGHLIGHTS FROM DAY 3: “Apropos of Disney vs. Comcast, several attendees made mention of what one described as a “baller move” by Disney chief Bob Iger to take his breakfast at a prominent front table with Fox’s Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch and Rupert’s wife, Jerry Hall. “That was a statement,” said one Iger admirer.”

— Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Speed-Dates With Apple, Google Chiefs in Sun Valley [Bloomberg]

 “Jeff Bezos was the headliner of Day 3 of the annual gathering of media and tech bigwigs in the Sun Valley Lodge mountain resort. The schedule also included a session with King Abdullah II of Jordan and his wife, Queen Rania, and Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. King Abdullah II made a pitch to the influential crowd about the importance of Western countries welcoming refugees from war-torn regions. He noted that his tiny country takes in a huge number of humanitarian refugees every year, relative to the country’s size and GDP.” [Variety]

THE DAILY KUSHNER — Jared Kushner lacks security clearance level to review some of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence in White House role — by Carol Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker: “When White House security officials granted [Kushner] a permanent clearance in late May, he was granted only “top secret” status — a level that does allow him to see some of the country’s most closely guarded intelligence…  Kushner has not been approved to review “sensitive compartmented information,” better known as SCI… That has blocked Kushner at times from seeing some parts of the President’s Daily Brief.”

“The limits on Kushner’s intelligence access could complicate his ability to manage a portfolio that includes meeting with foreign leaders on Trump’s behalf and crafting a Middle East peace plan. “I think it would severely hamper his ability to do his job,” said Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer and security clearance expert.” [WashPost]

HAPPENING TODAY: Kushner will meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The delegation will also meet with Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray to “discuss the transition of power, trade, migration and border issues,” according to the White House.

HELSINKI SUMMIT — Putin Steps Up Effort to Broker Syria Deal Ahead of Trump Summit — by Henry Meyer: “Russia has agreed in principle to U.S. and Israeli demands that the Iranian-backed forces in southern Syria be kept away from Israel’s border, replaced with troops that are loyal to the government in Damascus, according to Kremlin advisers. The deal, unlikely to be made public after Monday’s summit in Helsinki, is part of a Russian strategy to ease tensions with the U.S. “On the eve of the summit between Putin and Trump it seems like Russia’s mediation efforts are bearing fruit,” said Elena Suponina, a Middle East expert in Moscow.” [Bloomberg]

Josh Rogin writes… “Trump and Putin may be about to make a terrible deal on Syria: Trump and Putin may be about to make a terrible deal on Syria: “Helsinki is not a peace conference ending a war. It is a way station on the path to the war’s next phase. Assad’s brutal slaughter will only increase as the United States withdraws. Unless Trump negotiates tough with Putin now, he could see the Islamic State return and Iran expand — on his watch and with no one else to blame.” [WashPost]

Washington Fears Trump Will Be No Match for Putin in Helsinki — by Susan Glasser: “Most of those I spoke with, Republican and Democrat alike, were resigned to Trump being outplayed by Putin, a view perhaps best summed up by a former State Department official who spent decades preparing meetings between U.S. and Russian leaders. “I’m afraid,” he told me, that “our guy here is like an amateur boxer going up against Muhammad Ali.” [NewYorker]

David Ignatius writes… Better relations with Russia are a worthy goal. But at what price? With Trump’s acquiescence, Russia’s successful military intervention to rescue Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made the Kremlin the new indispensable power in the region — simultaneously maintaining close relations with Israel, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. One little-noted sign of Russia’s new influence is its partnership with Saudi Arabia in shaping global oil production and prices, through what analysts call “OPEC Plus.” [WashPost]

HEADLINE: “Netanyahu Says Putin Agreed to Restrain Iran in Syria” [NYT]

VIEW IN JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was subject of pointed criticism by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for the second day in a row for signaling that Israel would accept a U.S.-Russian deal that keeps Bashar al-Assad in power as the decades-long ceasefire is kept on the Golan border. “We haven’t had a problem with the Assad regime, for 40 years not a single bullet was fired on the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu told reportersafter meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. “I have set a clear policy that we do not intervene and we have not intervened. This has not changed.”

— Netanyahu also insisted that he has fully coordinated with the Trump administration on Syria. “We act with full transparency with the United States.”

Reacting to Netanyahu, Graham tweeted“Just to be clear: Without Iran/Hezbollah, Syria’s Assad would not be in power and would not have the ability to slaughter almost a half-million Syrians. Without Assad’s blessing, the flags of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would not be on Israel’s front door.”

WHY IT MATTERS: “A willingness to accept Mr. Assad’s resumption of control over all of Syria is no small concession, said Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence… “Nobody can these days destabilize the Assad regime,” he said. “The only one who can do it is Israel. And the Russians know that very well. So to get a commitment from Israel not to destabilize Syria is something that Russia will value very much.”” [NYT]

PROFILE — An Israeli Aid Worker’s Clandestine Effort to Help Syrian Refugees — by Bernard Avishai: “Gal Lusky, a founder and leader of the relief organization Israeli Flying Aid… has been working covertly—and audaciously—to support displaced civilians in southwest and northern Syria since the beginning of the insurgency against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad… Israeli military commanders in the north, with whom Lusky now admits she has collaborated, have provided—or enabled aid workers to provide—emergency aid to displaced civilians living under F.S.A. control since at least 2015… If it were up to her, Lusky said, she would simply open the border and take in some of the quarter-of-a-million Syrian refugees.”

“She supposes that many Israeli families would adopt these children. “All last week, the Israeli and American press was focussed on the rescue of those twelve young boys in the flooded caves of Thailand. Fine. Thank God they were saved,” she told me. “But this is a much bigger disaster, right in our backyard, and we act like these Syrian babies are a burden. A child is not a burden. A child is a blessing.” [NewYorker]

ON THE HILL — The House of Representatives passed yesterday by voice vote a bipartisan amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act that would direct the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to report on Iran’s support for proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon, including Hezbollah, and an assessment of the threat posed to Israel and other U.S. regional allies. The amendment was introduced by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Norma Torres (D-CA).

REPORT — Netanyahu’s economic adviser backs Trump’s trade war with China — by Barak Ravid: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior economic adviser, Avi Simhon, last Tuesday supported President Trump’s trade war with Beijing during a classified hearing on China. During the hearing, in the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee of the Israeli parliament, he attacked the economists who criticized Trump’s tactics, calling them “Hillary Clinton supporters.”

“All those economists who won the Nobel Prize and voted for Hillary Clinton warned that the steps Trump is taking will be counterproductive… Those are not changes you can do through dialogue and it will not happen without a confrontation — and all those economists who supported Hillary Clinton just don’t get that.” [Axios]

Jewish or democratic? Israel debates its founding principles — by Ruth Eglash: On Thursday, the Israeli government edged closer to approving the so-called “nation-state bill” aimed at boosting Israel’s Jewish character… On Monday, President Reuven Rivlin expressed his concern about that clause in a letter to Netanyahu. The law has no balance and “could harm the Jewish people and Jews around the world and in Israel,” he said… Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Judaism… also said he believed the law would “empower our enemies, giving them more fodder and weakening the case we make for Israel every day across America.” … Despite the backlash, Netanyahu has expressed a desire to see the bill passed before the Knesset breaks for the summer next week.” [WashPost]

Complaints about Jewish nation-state bill reach Congress — by Gil Hoffman: “Congressmen have complained to Israel’s ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer about the Jewish nation-state bill and asked him to relay their concerns to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu… Jewish Federations of North America president Jerry Silverman intends to arrive Sunday to personally lobby Netanyahu and other officials against the bill. The head of the committee legislating the bill, MK Amir Ohana (Likud), rejected a request by the Jewish Agency to allow Silverman to speak to the committee against the legislation.” [JPost]

SCENE IN JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met yesterday with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. Netanyahu thanked NASA Administrator Bridenstine for choosing Israel as a destination on his first visit abroad since assuming office.[Pic]

SCOTUS WATCH — Schumer hamstrung in SCOTUS fight — by Burgess Everett and Elana Schor: “Democrats close to Schumer say that he truly wants to defeat the nomination. But they say he is taking a more deliberate tack by simply hearing out potential Kavanaugh supporters in private conversations rather than cracking the whip. “The worst thing you can do is to try to strong arm a resilient, experienced, independent senator from a red state,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a member of the whip team.”

“The conundrum for Schumer is a regular topic of discussion among Republicans. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) even ribbed Schumer at the Senate gym on Wednesday as the minority leader sweated it out on an exercise bike, telling Schumer he’s in a bind but that he’s “kind of like Houdini” and will figure a way out. Schumer laughed a bit but “didn’t think it was all that funny,” Cornyn recalled.” [Politico

2018 WATCH — What Progressives Should Learn From the Left-Wing Anti-Semite Challenging California’s State Assembly Speaker — by Yair Rosenberg: “Maria Estrada is running as a progressive challenger to California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in the state’s 63rd district… There’s just one small problem: Estrada is also an anti-Semite, and not a particularly subtle one. On social media, she has declared that, “I, for one, enjoy listening to Farrakhan’s sermons.” … This past May, Estrada also attacked Eric Bauman, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, telling him to “try keeping your party, your religion and your people in check.” (Bauman is an openly gay Orthodox Jew.)” [Tablet]

North Carolina GOP candidate compares Democrats to Nazis: “The News & Observer of Raleigh reports former Durham County sheriff’s deputy Rickey Padgett is challenging incumbent Democrat Mike Woodard. On Twitter, Padgett’s posted in January an image depicting U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer in Nazi uniforms with the words “Chuck’s SS anti Trump unit.” State Democratic Party spokesman Robert Howard called Padgett anti-Semitic and urged the GOP to distance itself from Padgett.” [AP]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Bustle Owner Bryan Goldberg Wins Bankruptcy Auction for Gawker [WSJ] • Bob Weinstein to Leave Board of the Weinstein Company [NYT] • Saban-controlled Partner Communications most likely candidate to buy Leumi Card [Haaretz] • Seth Klarman Set to Win No Matter Who Prevails in Sky Fight [Bloomberg] • Why an out-of-print investment book gets bootlegged and sells for $3,000 [Quartz] • Steven Cohen’s Venture Capital Firm Gets Into Crypto With New Partner [Fortune] • Canyon Partners Closes a $450 Million Real Estate Debt Fund [Bloomberg] • Abercrombie teaming up with hotel/restaurant operator, Sam Nazarian’s SBE [Bizjournals] • No visa, no worries: Roman Abramovich buys £30m London pad [TheTimes]

STARTUP NATION — Israeli Startup Monday Had To Change Its Name After Mockery. Now Its Team Software Is Worth $550M — by Alex Konrad: “Israeli startup Monday knows that despite the 35,000 teams that pay for its work software, the average person still hears “Monday” and just thinks of the first day of the workweek. With a new $50 million funding round that values it at half a billion dollars, Monday thinks it can change that. Announced on WednesdayMonday’s $50 million Series C funding round brings the six-year-old startup once known as dapulse to more than $84 million in total funding.” [Forbes]

Big corporates’ quest to be hip is helping WeWork: “With his flowing locks and hip clothes Adam Neumann, co-founder and chief executive of WeWork, looks less like a property baron than the frontman of a rock group. He speaks expansively on the subjects of character, destiny and God. His four-year-old daughter wanders through his office during an interview with The Economist. Yet Mr Neumann, a veteran of the Israeli navy, also has a reputation for being an intense and demanding businessman. Both sides to his character come together in WeWork. Mr Neumann thinks of his property startup as a profit-making version of Israel’s famed communal farms—a sort of “capitalist kibbutz.”” [Economist]

MEDIA WATCH — Business Insider columnist quits after editors delete her Scarlett Johansson story — by Tom Kludt: “Daniella Greenbaum, the Business Insider columnist whose piece defending Scarlett Johansson’s upcoming role as a transgender man was removed from the website, said Thursday that she is resigning from her post. In a letter addressed to Business Insider global editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson, Greenbaum said that the decision to take down her column represented “the tarring of a commonsensical view as somehow bigoted or not thought out; the capitulation on the part of those who are supposed to be the adults to the mob.” … The column was originally published on July 6, and was removed sometime thereafter.” [CNNMoney]

Daniella Greenbaum writes… “The social media mob is a danger to society: As an opinion columnist for Business Insider until my resignation Thursday, I had grown accustomed to strong reactions from readers when I wrote about Hamas (I’m not a fan) or the problems with accusations of cultural appropriation. But I didn’t see this one coming… We are slowly normalizing the policing of speech and opinion. Sometimes overtly, and sometimes through the intimidation that stops people from saying or writing or publishing what they believe because they know that the social media mob is lying in wait.”[WashPost]

Roy Moore hints that he, too, was duped by Sacha Baron Cohen, blaming ‘shadowy media groups’ — by Eli Rosenberg: “Former Alabama judge Roy Moore hinted Wednesday that he, too, was duped by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen… Moore issued a statement Thursday saying he accepted an expenses-paid trip to Washington in February to receive an award for his support of Israel. “I did not know Sacha Cohen or that a Showtime TV series was being planned to embarrass, humiliate, and mock not only Israel, but also religious conservatives such as Sarah Palin, Joe Walsh, and Dick Cheney,” he wrote. Moore said he did not receive any other financial compensation for his travel other than expenses.” [WashPost] • Sacha Baron Cohen hits back at Sarah Palin as Roy Moore admits being duped [TheGuardian

TALK OF THE TOWN — “The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has long been a destination for fans of illuminated manuscripts, with a trove including Christian prayer books from the Middle Ages. Now it also owns a rare Jewish illuminated manuscript from 1296, known as the Rothschild Pentateuch. “This is the most spectacular medieval Hebrew manuscript that’s come to market in over a century — it’s unusual at this late stage in the development of collections to find something like this not already owned by a major museum,” said the Getty Museum’s director, Timothy Potts, who finalized the acquisition last month.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT — This Soon-To-Open Deli Wants To Put Your Recipe On The Menu — by Lori McCue: “There are a few things that go into the perfect deli menu, according to Andrew Dana, who, along with the rest of the team from Timber Pizza, is preparing to open the self-described “Jew-ish” deli Call Your Mother in Park View…” [Dcist]

A Grande Problem for Starbucks-Loving Jews? — by Caroline Lagnado: “Out of fear of cross-contamination with non-kosher equipment, Star-K is no longer certifying the kashrut of several beverages at Starbucks… The Orthodox Union kosher certification agency continues to list over 300 Starbucks products as kosher on its site.” [JWFood&Wine]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Zwebner Estate Blend — by Yitz Applbaum: “This past weekend was a great adventure. I did not spend it in Jerusalem as I normally do when in Israel, but rather in old Jaffa at a spectacular new hotel. Jaffa is magical and beautifully blends its 3,000 years of history with its present modernity. And then there is the wine. This was as confusing and enjoyable a bottle I have tasted in a very long time.”

“The Zwebner Estate Red blend is a blend of Caringnan, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each grape played a major role in my tasting experience. Imagine a thick bar of dark chocolate with nuts melting in your mouth flowing down the sides of your tongue. Think of overripened black raspberries tossed with plums on the finish. The forward caused slight pucker with distinct pepper notes on the front of your mouth. Our Jaffa hotel served an abundance of spare ribs, young veal and goose for dinner. I would suggest all three with this wine.”

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAYPresident of the San Fernando Valley Council of NA’AMAT USA, Zita Gluskin turns 92… Scottsdale, Arizona resident, Howie K. Kipnes turns 79… One of the highest box-office grossing actors ever, his maternal grandmother was Anna Lifschutz, a Jewish immigrant from Minsk, Harrison Ford turns 76… Co-host of “Pardon the Interruption” on ESPN since 2001, former sportswriter and columnist for The Washington Post, Anthony Irwin “Tony” Kornheiser turns 70… Director of governmental and regulatory affairs for Calpine Corporation’s East Region, Stuart Widom turns 61… Manager of institutional affairs at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, Jennifer Rebecca Goodman Lilintahl turns 38… Founder of Omanut Consulting, Sarah Persitz… Co-founder and president at Time Flash, Jared Kash turns 25… Founding Partner and CEO of Trinnacle Capital Management, Eric Kohlmann Kupper… Louis Panzer

SATURDAYArchitect Moshe Safdie turns 80… MLB pitcher (1971-1981) for the Giants, White Sox, Cubs and Orioles, now a sportscaster and author, he won the Cy Young Award and was an All Star in 1980, Steve Stone turns 71… Susan Farrell turns 71… Film producer, best known for the Lethal Weapon series and the first two Die Hard movies, Joel Silver turns 66… Film producer and a theatrical producer, in 2012 he became the first producer to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award, Scott Rudin turns 60… Scott Shagrin turns 57… Media columnist for the Chicago Tribune, he has been a working journalist since he was 17 years old, Phil Rosenthal turns 55… PR, political communications and media strategist, principal at Oakland-based Full Court Press Communications, Daniel Eli Cohen turns 49… Rapper and record producer from Brooklyn, he is the producer, founder and CEO of Uncle Howie Records, William “Bill” Braunstein, better known as “Ill Bill,” turns 46… Politico’s Eliana Johnson… Program analyst at Crown Family Philanthropies in Chicago, Rachel Giattino… Omaze’s Director of Brand Development, Daniel Jeydel… Chabad GW’s Menachem Shemtov

SUNDAY: Nobel laureate in Physics, Leon M. Lederman turns 96… President and chairman of the board of the Annenberg Foundation, Wallis Annenberg turns 79… Member of the British House of Lords, BaronRobert Maurice Lipson Winston turns 78… Creator of the first cable TV shopping channel in the 1980s later purchased by QVC, now CEO of FLW (sponsor of bass fishing tournaments), Irwin L. Jacobs turns 77… Four time winner of the World Series of Poker, Mickey Appleman turns 73… One of the four Talmudic scholars who serve as Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ, Rabbi Dovid Schustal turns 71… Congresswoman since 1989, former Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen turns 66… EVP at the Aspen Institute responsible for its policy and public programs, Elliot Gerson turns 66… Partner in the California-based appellate law firm of Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland, Feris M. Greenberger turns 62… Regional Director in Florida for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, Miriam Baron Jankovits turns 62… Professor at the UCLA School of Law, expert in human rights, international criminal law and international trade, Richard Harold Steinberg turns 58… Member of Congress since 2011 (D-Rhode Island-1), David Nicola Cicilline turns 57… Member of the Alaska House of Representatives since 2012, Andrew Lewis “Andy” Josephson turns 54… CEO of NYC-based International Rescue Committee, David Miliband turns 53… Jewish Journal’s Eli Fink… Senior Israel Education Director at Hillel International, Jonathan Steven (“Jon”) Falk turns 30…




Daily Kickoff: Inside IfNotNow | Sen Graham warns Israel about relying on Russia | Sacha Baron Cohen used a fake pro-Israel event to dupe Joe Walsh

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FIRST LOOK —  The Jewish Revolt: Can the young activists of IfNotNow change the conversation about Israel and the Palestinians, or will their contradictions hold them back? — by Abraham Riesman: “In just four years of existence, they’ve gone from a few dozen disgruntled activists in a borrowed apartment to a group that has trained an estimated 1,675 people, drawn countless more sympathizers and casual supporters, and become a formidable opponent to the right and center-left. In fact, especially in the wake of the Birthright walkout, IfNotNow has become perhaps the most-talked-about activist group in Jewish American politics.”

Allies — “Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the left-leaning Israel-lobbying group J Street, tells me he finds IfNotNow “really exciting”… and the prominent Israel critic Peter Beinart says IfNotNow is able to “say things and take moral stances that other people are too inhibited to take.” Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s general delegation to the U.S. has said, “Hope is the young American Jews like the brave souls in IfNotNow.”

Critics — “Far more interesting than the attacks from the rightists are those from fellow left-leaning Jews who oppose the occupation but can’t abide by the fact that IfNotNow won’t take a stand on BDS, statehood, or Zionism. The most formidable opponent in this camp is the Reform Judaism movement… Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the current URJ head, tells me of IfNotNow, “I can’t really explain what it is their strategy is about; I don’t fully understand it.” … IfNotNow members push back against those criticisms by saying the three big questions they decline to address are merely distractions from the issue that so many Jews can unite on, which is their collective opposition to the occupation.”

Will it matter? — “Yet one can’t avoid the fact that IfNotNow has the same problem that much of the American left has right now, which is that it hasn’t articulated and agreed upon what it’s for so much as what it’s against. Perhaps the group will reach a plateau of support at some point, when they can’t attract more young people without assuring them about those three key questions. Even if they accomplish their goal of altering the American Jewish consensus, it might not matter much: Netanyahu and his government have made it abundantly clear in recent months that they care far more about Donald Trump… and his base of Christian Evangelicals than they do about the average American Jew.” [NYMag

In Politico today, Daniel Lippman asks Alex Levy: What is a trend going on in the U.S. or abroad that doesn’t get enough attention? Levy: “One of the things I find unsettling is the eroding support for Israel among young progressives. Many American millennials associate Israel with the right-wing policies of the Netanyahu government; they don’t see Israel as the vibrant, pluralistic liberal democracy it is, the fulfillment of Theodor Herzl’s vision.”

Can Young Palestinians’ Rejection of the PA Lead to a Binational State With Israel? — by Miriam Berger: “Many of the young Palestinians interviewed by Newsweek—from the West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel and Gaza—reject their politicians’ self-serving priorities. They’re highly educated and heavily underemployed… This generation’s goals are equality, dignity and freedom: relief from joblessness, housing shortages and censorship, and an end to monitoring by Israeli police and soldiers. Though they are geographically fragmented, social media have enabled them to share information in ways they never could before… This has allowed them to unite in mapping a vision for the future…”

“Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki says that while there is still a desire for self-determination among young people, the belief is growing that a multinational state “will win out in the end.” If that’s true, it means Israeli, U.S. and PA officials are wildly disconnected from a generation of Palestinians.” [Newsweek

DRIVING THE DAY —  Trump’s claim that NATO will boost defense spending disputed — by Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin: “President Donald Trump closed out his chaotic two-day visit to NATO Thursday by declaring victory, claiming that member nations caved to his demands to significantly increase defense spending and reaffirming his commitment to the alliance. But there were no immediate specifics on what he had achieved, and French President Emmanuel Macron quickly disputed Trump’s claim that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending beyond 2 percent of gross domestic product. “The United States’ commitment to NATO remains very strong,” Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference following an emergency session of NATO members held to address his threats.” [AP]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer at a Washington Post Live panel on ‘The Future of Democracy’ — “I think the issue of burden-sharing is a real issue for my country, Israel. We spend 6 percent of our GDP on our defense… without U.S. assistance. Now, we also receive military assistance from the United States, which we are very grateful for – that helps us bear this enormous burden that we have on our economy, and that takes us over 8 percent.”

“So I think it is a real issue. I guess how this is going to work out in Europe remains to be seen. It seems to me that many countries are starting actually to address this to various degrees and in various speeds. But from the discussions I have had, most people think this is a real legitimate issue that the President has raised. So I expect that he will achieve something at the [NATO] summit. We will see how much and how fast… I think it’s hard to judge these things in the moment. You have to look a year, two years, three years, and see if Europe is on a trajectory of a greater share in their GDP being devoted to defense.” [Video]

— Dermer on the state of democracy in the Middle East: “Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, so we’d like to have neighbors who would be democratic because non-democratic states tend to fight others—external enemies—in order to justify their internal repression. But when it comes to Israel’s democracy I think it is a tremendous model for the world because democracies are tested under crisis. That’s actually when it counts—not when you’re at peace. And Israel is the most beleaguered democracy on earth. We’ve never known a day of full peace. Fortunately, we have peace with our Egyptian and Jordanian neighbors now, but in our 70-year history we’ve had to deal with security threats faced by no other democracy, and yet we’ve maintained our democratic institutions and democratic values.”

HEARD THIS MORNING — Trump on the Iran deal: Iran is “treating the U.S. with a lot more respect right now. They are feeling a lot of pain right now… At a certain point, they’re going to call me and say let’s make a deal, and we’ll make a deal.” [Video]

— French President Emmanuel Macron on CNN with Christiane Amanpour: Pulling out of the Iran deal “because President Obama negotiated it, I mean it’s not a good reason.” [Video]

Pompeo presses Europe to get tough on Iran — by Matt Lee: “U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday pressed European nations to get tough on Iran by cutting off all funding the country may use to foment instability in the Middle East and beyond. Pompeo was meeting with European officials in Brussels following a summit of NATO leaders.” [AP]

HOW ITS BEING PLAYED — Why Trump has few friends in Europe — by Tom McTague: “The problem was on display in Brussels as Trump made small talk with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán while going out of his way to attack Germany. After a brief chat with Turkey’s authoritarian president on the sidelines of the summit, Trump mouthed: “I like him, I like him.”” [Politico]

Eli Lake writes… “NATO’s Real Crisis Is Turkey, Not Trump: Yet while the rhetoric is dangerous, U.S. policy — so far — has not reflected Trump’s tantrums. U.S. forces remain in Poland (and Germany, for that matter). The sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, meddling in Eastern Ukraine and its interference in the 2016 U.S. election remain… The weak link in the alliance, in fact, is Turkey. Here is a country slipping into the sphere of influence of Russia — the very country that NATO was created to deter… Ideally, this week’s NATO summit would be an opportunity for the U.S. president to cajole European allies into presenting a unified opposition to Erdogan’s conduct… Trump has not availed himself of that opportunity.”[BloombergView]

TALK OF THE REGION — Russia Working to Remove Iran From Syria Border, Israeli Sources Say — by Noa Landau: “Russia has been working to push Iran away from Israel’s border with Syria, diplomatic sources told Haaretz Wednesday evening… The sources said that while Iranian forces have not completely been ousted from the border area, Moscow is currently acting to carry out the process… This attempt may collude with Israeli interests, but it just as well might work, they added… This report comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.” [Haaretz]

VIEW FROM MOSCOW — In a transcript released by the Kremlin, President Putin described Netanyahu’s trip to Moscow as a ‘private visit’ to watch the World Cup semi-final match between England and Croatia. “Mr. Prime Minister, colleagues, I am very happy to see you in Moscow, this time during your private visit to the FIFA World Cup. Nonetheless, this does not deny us the pleasure of meeting and discussing current issues,” Putin said, according to an English translation of his opening statement ahead of the meeting with the Israeli leader.

— Netanyahu on Sunday: “This week I will fly to Moscow for an important meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We meet from time-to-time in order to ensure security coordination and, of course, to discuss regional developments.”

FRIENDLY WARNING — Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweets“To our friends in Israel – be very careful making agreements with Russia re Syria that affect U.S. interests. I don’t trust Russia to police Iran or anyone else in Syria. U.S. must maintain presence in Syria to ensure ISIS doesn’t come back and to counter Russia/Iran influence.”

ON THE GROUND — Israel says hits Syrian army posts in response to drone incursion —  by Ellen Francis and Dan Williams: “Israeli forces attacked Syrian military positions near the Golan Heights frontier in the early hours of Thursday, causing limited damage, Syrian state media said. The Israeli military said in a statement that it hit three targets in retaliation for an incursion on Wednesday of a Syrian drone which was shot down over northern Israel.” [Reuters]

At Golan frontier, Syrian family fears more army advances — by Ellen Francis: “Abu Ahmad has sheltered at the frontier of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for days, fleeing an army offensive that has swept through southwestern Syria… Now, they have nowhere left to go… He said he would not mind escaping to Israel if that was possible.” [Reuters

As Israeli bulldozers circle, a tiny village takes center stage in Palestinian struggle — by Loveday Morris and Sufian Taha: “Growing up herding sheep and goats in the hills east of Jerusalem, Eid Jahalin never expected to find himself one day lobbying in the halls of the U.S. Congress. But that is how the 51-year-old spent last week, as the [Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar] comes under threat of demolition by Israeli bulldozers… Palestinian officials say the U.S. silence amounts to a green light. The Trump administration, they say, is allowing Israel to erode their rights without even limited censure. The former tractor driver met with staffers of nearly 30 U.S. lawmakers of both parties during his visit to Washington.”

“A White House National Security Council spokeswoman said it would be “premature to comment on an ongoing legal process” and referred questions to the Israeli government. “In general, we continue to encourage both sides to create an environment conducive to negotiations on a comprehensive and enduring peace,” the spokeswoman said.” [WashPost]

ON THE HILL — In a letter to President Trump, Democratic members on the House Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee requested “transparency regarding the timeline and metrics” being used by the Trump administration to assess U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, which has been frozen since January 2018. “There seems to be no information available to Members of Congress as to the nature, scope, or duration of this assistance review,” the letter — signed by Reps. Ted Deutch,  Lois Frankel, Eliot Engel, Gerry Connolly, Tulsi Gabbard, Ted Lieu, Brad Schneider, David Cicilline, and Tom Suozzi — reads.

INSIDE THE ADMIN — Marc Short, Trump’s legislative director, becomes latest senior White House aide to depart [WashPost]

Joey Allaham on Qatari donations to ZOA and Our Soldiers Speak: “I don’t know why everyone’s making such a big deal out of this. If I made the donations to a playmate, I wonder if it would get the same attention,” he told The National. “I made those donations on my behalf – nobody’s else’s behalf, without any expectations. I have supported ZOA, I still support ZOA and I will always support ZOA.” He said he was no longer working for the Qataris “because the job was done. We did what we had to do.” [TheNational

2018 WATCH — This Jewish Latina wants to bridge political divides at the border — by Rina Raphael: “Alma Hernandez doesn’t fit the description of a traditional politician. She’s Jewish, Latina, 25 years old, and she’s fundraising for migrant families at the border… Hernandez’s dual minority background makes her double the target–but it also enables her to bridge two communities that aren’t always aligned in mutual interests. A longtime activist and community organizer, Hernandez is using her unique positioning to get both Latinx and Jews in Tucson, Arizona’s second-largest city, to come together for progressive causes.” [FastCompany]

** 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: Comcast’s Brian Roberts is talking to Disney’s Bob Iger the only way he can — through opaque M&A strategy [CNBC] • Elliott Management to inject €50m of equity capital into AC Milan [FinanicalTimes• Sumner, Shari, and the Greek Tragedy Set in a Delaware Court [VanityFair] • Judge Dismisses Ex-Companion’s Suit Against Sumner Redstone’s Daughter, Grandson [WSJ] • Univision confirms auction plans for Gizmodo and The Onion [Bizjournals

Sheldon Adelson clarifies casino in Korea comments: “In an email, Las Vegas Sands Corp. spokesman Ron Reese wrote that Adelson was referring to opening a casino in South Korea. It’s unclear why the war would need to end for Sands to build in South Korea though. Addressing that question, Reese wrote, “I’m sure a lot of American companies would feel even better about doing business in South Korea if the situation with the North was resolved.” He added: “Bottom line, the company’s interest remains in South Korea.”[NYMag]

Kushner’s Firm Deepens Ties to Those With Business in Washington — by Jesse Drucker and Kate Kelly: “Kushner Companies has continued to do deals in 2018. In March, it bought a pair of apartment buildings in Hackensack, N.J., for about $102 million, with financial backing from a firm run by Andrew Farkas, according to a previously unreported securities filing. While Mr. Farkas hasn’t been vocal in seeking to influence federal policymaking, he has repeatedly worked with a prominent businessman from the United Arab Emirates, where Mr. Kushner is a point person for American foreign policy… Mr. Farkas attended Mr. Trump’s inaugural ball in January 2017 with his frequent business partner, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the chief executive of the emirates’ powerful ports operator, DP World.” [NYTimes]

DEEP DIVE — Tower of secrets: the Russian money behind a Donald Trump skyscraper — by Tom Burgis: “By 2010, the Trump Toronto was supposed to be finished 65 stories containing 261 luxury hotel rooms and condominiums, all encased in a shimmering glass façade. But construction dragged on and in October, Alex Shnaider, the billionaire backer who had broken ground with Trump three years earlier, put aside another $40m for the project. Millions from the project would subsequently flow out to Trump himself — and documents seen by the FT raise serious questions about how Shnaider’s company was making its money in the period leading up to the decision to invest this $40m in the Trump Toronto. A few months earlier, documents show Shnaider had approved a secret $100m “commission” payment to “introducers” representing the Kremlin’s interests.”

“With the $100m commission arranged, the sale went through, and the proceeds flowed into Shnaider’s company, which in turn earmarked funds for the Trump Toronto… Experts on illicit finance said that any legal vulnerability for Trump and his business would depend on what he and other executives knew — or should have known — about the source of his partner’s funds.” [FinancialTimes]

SUN VALLEY SCENE — by Chris Spargo: “Love was in the air on Wednesday as couples strolled the campus at annual Allen & Company conference in Sun Valley. Most of this year’s guests emerged from the Sun Valley Lodge around 9am and were seen walking hand-in-hand with their significant other to the first session of the day, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her billionaire beau Bobby Kotick of Activision Blizzard leading the pack. CBS president Les Moonves was seen soon after, leaning into his wife Julie Chen, who hosts The Talk and Big Brother for her husband’s network… Also spotted on Wednesday were Brian Grazer with his wife Veronica… Bryan Lourd, Michael Ovitz and Francois-Henri Pinault were in Sun Valley as well… Michael Lynton and wife Jamie and General Motors CEO Mary Barra with husband Anthony have been seen on campus as well this year.” [DailyMail

MEDIA WATCH: Once partners, ‘Game Change’ authors feuding over their shattered franchise — by Paul Farhi: “For months, [John] Heileman, 52, and [Mark] Halperin, 53, have engaged in negotiations over material that was to be part of a follow-up “Game Change” book and TV miniseries about the 2016 presidential campaign. Halperin appears to hold the key to the project: Notes and transcripts of interviews with Donald Trump and his campaign advisers and staff. But Heilemann has made clear that his collaboration with Halperin is over and that Halperin won’t share in any advances or royalties from anything Heilemann produces… Halperin has explored ways to regain his stature as a political commentator, all to no avail… According to people close to both men… a successful revival of the “Game Change” franchise could help Halperin with a comeback. But Halperin’s return seems likely to be complicated by the harassment allegations.” [WashPost

‘Borat’ comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s explosive new TV series has duped the likes of Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney — by John Lynch: “Sacha Baron Cohen will return to television on Sunday at 10 p.m. with the premiere of his new Showtime series, “Who Is America?” … Sarah Palin wrote a Facebook post saying that Cohen had “duped” her and her daughter into participating in an interview for the show, which looks like it will feature a number of other prominent guests, including Bernie Sanders… Former Congressman turned radio host Joe Walsh said in a series of tweets tagged “#BoycottShowtime,” that he had also been “duped” by Cohen. Walsh said Cohen’s team flew him to Washington D.C. for a fake pro-Israel event that honored him with an award for his “Significant Contributions to the State of Israel.” [BusinessInsider]

SPORTS BLINK — For a shot at world championship, area lacrosse players follow family history to nontraditional nations — by Edward Lee: “There’s no shortage of men’s lacrosse stars for powerhouses like the United States, Canada and the Iroquois Nationals to tap for the Federation of International Men’s World Lacrosse Championship, which opens Thursday in Netanya, Israel. But for nontraditional nations, the pool is not quite as deep… The path to Israel was no picnic. Players said they had to compete against as many as 50 other candidates over two or three days of tryouts, and sometimes more than once. And because many of the countries will be competing at the world championship for the first time, some players had to pay for airfare, lodging, food and equipment, which in some cases totaled as much as $5,000.” [BaltimoreSun] • Iroquois Nationals reject Palestinian request to boycott world lacrosse championship in Israel [NationalPost]

Grizzlies sign forward Omri Casspi to 1-year deal: “The Memphis Grizzlies have signed their second free agent in forward Omri Casspi. General manager Chris Wallace announced the deal Wednesday. Memphis did not announce terms, but the contract is for 1 year.” [ESPN

DESSERT: A look inside Ben & Jerry’s Israeli factory — by Eliana Schreiber and Daphna Krause: “Off of a seemingly deserted industrial road in the southern moshav of Be’er Tuviya lies a sweet and creamy oasis – Israel’s very own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, founded in Vermont in 1978, came to Israel 30 years ago. The man responsible for the move is Avi Zinger, an ice cream aficionado who first had the idea to bring Ben & Jerry’s to the Holy Land. His company, a licensee of Ben & Jerry’s, is one of only two factories outside the United States, exporting to countries all across Europe.” [JPost]

NEW IN LONDON — A New Contemporary Kosher Restaurant Will Open in Belsize Park This Month — by Adam Coghlan: “Tish — a contemporary kosher restaurant and bar offering an all-day menu of European cuisine, featuring Jewish heritage family favorites — will open in Belsize Park, north London on July 29. It fulfills owner David S Levin’s childhood dream; an operator who grew up cooking for family and friends, who has been “honing his restaurant vision for years.” A statement released says that Levin is “a perfectionist who has obsessed over every detail from the menu dishes to the acoustics, to the luxurious seating, Tish is his true love.” The dairy free menu will offer “modern classics and seasonal new dishes alongside Jewish heritage favorites.” [EaterLondon]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — in NYC: Approximately 400 people attended the Algemeiner’s seventh annual Summer Benefit at Showroom Seven in midtown Manhattan. Honorees included Siggy Flicker, formerly of Real Housewives of New Jersey and film producer Adam Margules. The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto was the evening’s keynote speaker.

Attendees included the New York Post’s Benny Avni and Doree Lewak, Ari and Lauren Ackerman, Algemeiner’s Dovid and Mushka Efune, Ben Cohen, Chana Yemini, Barney Breen-Portnoy, Shiri Moshe and Shiryn Solny, Meir Kay, TV host Michelle Divon, artist Ron Agam, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Sonia Talati of Barron’s, Kerry Drew of Fox 5, Consul for Media Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York Almog Elijis, filmmaker Matthew Taylor, journalist Jere Van Dyk and fashion influencer Elizabeth Savetsky.

BIRTHDAYS: Former US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council (1969-1972), senior partner for more than twenty years at the NYC law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Rita E. Hauser turns 84… Former congressman (R-Oklahoma-5) (1977-1993), he was a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation and national chairman of the American Conservative Union, Marvin Henry “Mickey” Edwards turns 81… Former executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, Dan Botnick turns 80… Canadian journalist, she is the author of three bestselling books, Michele Landsberg turns 79… Member of the Florida House of Representatives (2005-2013), Franklin Sands turns 78… Bestselling author, screenwriter, and playwright, sister of the late Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron turns 74…

Professor of religion at the University of Vermont, he was an advisor to Bernie Sanders on his 2016 presidential campaign, as an undergrad at Yale his roommate was Joe Lieberman, Richard Sugarman turns 74… Co-founder of Imagine Entertainment, his films and TV series have been nominated for 43 Academy Awards and 187 Emmys, Brian Grazer turns 67… Executive Director of Newton, Massachusetts-based Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, focused on children with special educational needs, Arlene Remz turns 63… Co-owner of the Midland Group with holdings in steel, shipping, real estate, agriculture and sports, Eduard Shifrin turns 58… Israeli journalist, television presenter and politician, mother of eight children, she served as a member of Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party (2009-2013), Anastassia Michaeli turns 43…

Chief news anchor of the Israeli Channel 2 prime time news program, Yonit Levi turns 41… Senior White House reporter for Politico, Edward-Isaac Dovere turns 38… Partner in the Des Moines-based public relations firm AdelmanDean Group, Liz Rodgers Adelman… Former Schumer aide and president of executive communications firm A.H. Levy & Co., Alex Halpern Levy… Rena Meira Rotter turns 29… SVP at DC-based government relations and public policy firm of CRD / Cavarocchi Ruscio Dennis, Jennifer Leib… Ben Birnbaum




Daily Kickoff: Sun Valley Scene | Dov Zakheim on Trump, Putin & Bibi | Sheldon’s Korea dream | Casino war in downtown Miami — Braman vs. Galbut

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THE BOOK SHORT — Baupost Says Copy of Seth Klarman’s Book on Amazon Was Not Authorized — by Charles Stein and Erik Schatzker:“Baupost Group said the version of Seth Klarman’s 1991 investment book, “Margin of Safety,” that appeared on Amazon was published without his approval and that his legal team is taking action. The Kindle version of the book appeared online earlier this month and was being sold for $9.99. Hard copies of the book, which has long been out of print, have fetched as much as $2,500 among collectors.” [BloombergCNBC]

SUN VALLEY SCENE — Spotted at the Sun Valley Lodge’s circular driveway Tuesday: Investors Haim Saban and Peter Chernin, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, producer Brian Grazer, HBO’s Richard Plepler, Sony’s Kenichiro Yoshida, Kazuo Hirai and Tony Vinciquerra, Snap chairman Michael Lynton, Grupo Televisa’s Emilio Azcarraga Jean, WndrCo.’s Jeffrey Katzenberg, General Motors’ Mary Barra, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Discovery’s David Zaslav, Activision’s Bobby Kotich, Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi, YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki, 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki, Liberty Media’s Greg Maffei, former WPP chief Martin Sorrell, Oath’s Tim Armstrong, Revolution’s Steve Case, former Disney exec Tom Staggs, ex-superagent Michael Ovitz, and former senator Bill Bradley. [Variety] • Arrival photos [DailyMail]

MORNING BREW’S TAKE — “Mark Zuckerberg excitedly packed his sunscreen, sleeping bag, and yarmulke and made his way to Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho—the home of a networking conference hosted by investment bank Allen & Co. Or as some like to call it: “Summer camp for billionaires.” [MorningBrew]

BONUS — The Top 5 CEO Conferences Catering to the World’s Power Players: It’s that time of year when thought leaders pack their bags for exclusive powwows held in picturesque locales. Part symposium, part summer camp, these events attract the biggest of the bigwigs [WSJMag]

TOP TALKER — Mike Flynn’s Lawyers Say He Is No Longer Joining Consulting Firm — by Julie Bykowicz: “Hours after a new lobbying firm aimed at domestic and global clients announced it was partnering with former national security adviser Mike Flynn, attorneys for the embattled Mr. Flynn said the deal was off and the notice had been released as a result of a “misunderstanding” among the participants in Stonington Global LLC. “General Flynn has not joined Stonington and did not personally issue any public statement,” Mr. Flynn’s attorneys Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony said in a statement Tuesday. “He was aware that a statement was being drafted, but he did not intend that it be issued at this time.”

“Nick Muzin and Joey Allaham told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesdaythat they had started their firm with Mr. Flynn… “We cannot comment on General Flynn’s considerations about the timing of the announcement, but we have faith in his patriotism and long history of service to our country,” Messrs. Muzin and Allaham said after Mr. Flynn’s lawyers issued their statement. “We look forward to working together.” … Mr. Flynn was to serve as its director of global strategy. The firm hasn’t announced any clients.” [WSJ

DRIVING THE DAY — At Start of NATO Summit, Trump Renews Push for Allies to Increase Defense Spending — by Rebecca Ballhaus: “President Donald Trump on Wednesday reiterated his call for allies to increase their defense spending at the outset of this week’s NATO summit, while sharply criticizing Germany for supporting a major gas deal with Russia… A NATO official said that expectations were very low for the summit, given Mr. Trump’s unabashed criticism of Germany. “The mood ahead of the G-7 was also quite bad and still it ended worse than expected,” the official said.” [WSJReuters]

Julia Ioffe‏ tweets“After a contentious breakfast with Donald Trump, NATO Sec. Gen. Jens Stoltenberg says the breakfast was good, “some nice fruit salad, paid for by the United States.” #NATOEngages.”

WHY IT MATTERS — Dov Zakheim, former Under Secretary of Defense in President George W. Bush’s administration, tells us… “Clearly we know that some companies in Europe have already backed away from the Iranians, but the question becomes if NATO really blows up at this meeting, the Europeans are going to go their own way. I was recently in Europe speaking to senior defense officials. They have an alternative now for defense cooperation called PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation). It’s not particularly serious at this point, but if they begin to see that NATO’s not going anywhere, then they’re going to cooperate within that framework, and of course, you have on top of that the tariff increases. Those two things could very well drive the Europeans to say, ‘Okay, fine, we’re going to deal with Iran because the United States isn’t cooperating with us anyway.'”

Former Ambassador Dan Shapiro tweets: “If [Trump] sabotages the NATO summit the way he did the G-7, don’t be surprised if he actually makes a move toward exiting NATO. Think he won’t? On what basis? Because his staff restrains him? Because of his strategic understanding? Please. If we get there, the implications are innumerable & terrifying: Russia pawing at Baltics & other E & C European states; breakdown of joint defense structures; withdrawal of US troops from Euro bases; less restrained German foreign policy; weaker US power projection to Eurasia… We honestly cannot begin to imagine living in a new era without these international organizing structures.”

TALK OF THE REGION — There Are Fears of New Conflicts at One of Israel’s Quietest Borders — by David Wainer, Jonathan Ferziger, and Donna Abu-Nasr: “As the thud of shells echoes across what has dependably been Israel’s quietest frontier for decades, fears of new conflicts have risen… [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has agreed in principle to U.S. and Israeli demands to replace pro-Iranian forces in southern Syria with troops loyal to Assad, two Kremlin advisers said. But Russia’s ability to enforce the emerging agreement with Trump is questionable… The Russian leader may agree to keep letting Israel bomb Iranian convoys transporting advanced weapons to Hezbollah while allowing Iran to maintain a route for arms supplies to Hezbollah.”

“Iran, some analysts said, is playing a long game. It’s sitting out the campaign in southern Syria, deeming it less risky to let Assad’s troops win back territory near the Israeli-held section of the Golan, said Omar Lamrani, senior military analyst at Startfor… “This is the Iranians themselves accepting that for the sake of the success of the offensive, it’s better they sit it out,” Lamrani said. Then, at a time of their choosing, they can try to penetrate the border area, said Ehud Yaari, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.”[Bloomberg]

— Israeli sirens sound over Golan frontier with Syria, Jordan: “Israeli air defense sirens sounded on Wednesday on the Golan Heights frontier with Syria and the nearby Jordanian border, the Israeli military said… Israel’s Channel 10 TV said Israel launched a Patriot interceptor missile, but it did not disclose the target.” [Reuters]

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview with The National“We have spoken with many parties in Syria, including the Russians, and made very clear, as have the Israelis, that the Iranian presence in Syria is not appropriate and won’t be tolerated. So we’re working diligently to develop a political solution that not only achieves America’s goal of defeating ISIS that’s still there, still a challenge for us in Syria, but leads Iran to the place where they conclude it’s not worth the candle for them to be in Syria… And we’re going to undertake, along with our partners, a comprehensive program to diminish that activity.”

HAPPENING TODAY — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss Syria, Iran and Israel’s security needs. “I very much appreciate the excellent direct connection, without intermediaries, between myself and the Russian President,” Netanyahu said upon his departure at Ben Gurion Airport. “It is very important for the national security of the State of Israel.”

Dov Zakheim previews: “From Israel’s perspective, both Trump and Putin are pretty good guys. In the United States, Putin is not seen as a good guy and at least half the country doesn’t see Trump as a good guy. But Netanyahu’s objective is simply to get the Iranians out of Syria. And frankly, there are only two ways to get the Iranians out. One is via the United States, which is not likely. The other is via Russia, which is not necessarily likely but more likely than the United States. So Netanyahu’s doing what he needs to do.”

Zakheim on the report that Israel privately pushed Trump to strike a ‘grand bargain’ with Putin: “If anyone has leverage in Syria, it is Putin. But clearly, it would serve Netanyahu’s interests if the United States were in some way involved in that, and so a grand bargain may be a more embellished term than perhaps is the reality, but some kind of deal whereby the United States and Putin cooperate to get the Iranians out is clearly the Israeli objective. So some kind of arrangement where Putin agrees to some degree of American presence and Trump agrees to Putin essentially having the lead on Syria, which in reality he does anyway, would be in Israel’s interests.”

‘Israel’s Closure of Gaza Crossing Is Like Shooting a Dying Man’ — by Jack Khoury, Yaniv Kubovich and Noa Landau: “The Palestinian business community in the Gaza Strip is calling the Israeli decision to close the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza to all but humanitarian aid the final nail in the coffin of Gaza’s industry and trade… “If Hamas decides to bring about a conflict how can I or others prevent it? That’s absurd, no one can influence Hamas because it is a strategic policy decision,” said Dr. Maher al-Tabaa of the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Gaza… “It is Gaza’s civilian population and businesspeople who will suffer, and this is collective punishment,” said Tabaa… “The situation in Gaza is like that of a dying man who they now decide to just shoot straight in the head,” he added.”[Haaretz

REPORT — Israel did not notify US of Kerem Shalom closure — by Michael Wilner: “The US government was not given advance notice of the closure,” [a] US official [said]. “This is an internal Israeli decision.” [JPost

ON THE HILL — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the US-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 yesterday, which authorizes the 10-year MOU (memorandum of understanding) signed between Israel and the Obama Administration in 2016 and agreed-upon increases in Israel’s security assistance, pending a floor vote. The committee also rejected an amendment pushed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to eliminate all aid to Israel over a 10-year period.

— “This bipartisan legislation authorizes agreed-upon increases in Israel’s security assistance and encourages expanding weapons stockpiles and new U.S.-Israel cooperation in anti-drone technologies, cybersecurity and space,” AIPAC said in a statement.

REPORT — Trump works to thank Guatemala for moving embassy by weakening anti-corruption panel — by Franco Ordonez: “After Guatemala joined the United States in moving its embassy to Jerusalem, the Trump administration has been working to weaken an international commission on corruption that is targeting the Guatemalan president, according to three people familiar with the discussions. The Trump administration is still debating what specific changes it wants to pursue… “The only reason why the U.S. is all about it is because they’re so happy with Guatemala that they moved the embassy to Jerusalem,” said one U.S. source with direct knowledge of the conversations.” [McClatchyDC]

FOGGY BOTTOM TRANSITION — President Trump has nominated U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale, to be Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. Hale served as special envoy to Middle East peace under President Obama from 2009 to 2013.

— US Consul General to Jerusalem Donald Blome is expected to be tapped to head the Libya external office, operating out of Tunis, Tunisia, US officials told Al-Monitor. Blome had recently been rumored to be under consideration to become the deputy assistant secretary of state for the Levant (Syria, Lebanon and Jordan). [Al-Monitor]  

THE DAILY KUSHNER — Kushner, Mnuchin join delegation to meet López Obrador in Mexico — by Jude Webber: “Mexico’s President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador will meet a larger-than-expected delegation from the US government on Friday… Marcelo Ebrard, designated foreign secretary, said Jared Kushner, a close adviser to President Donald Trump, as well as treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and Kirstjen Nielsen from homeland security would join the already-scheduled talks with Mike Pompeo, secretary of state.” [FinancialTimes]

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Exercise in the Dark to Avoid Being Seen: Report — by Jessica Kwong: “President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law like to go to spin classes early in the morning at a studio near their Washington, D.C. home, which turns the lights off when the session starts. “The better to pedal unobserved,” The Washington Post reported… After a recent class, Kushner left the spinning studio quickly with a baseball cap shielding his face, straight for an SUV that chauffeured him out of sight.” [NewsweekWashPost]

SCENE THE OTHER NIGHT — Heavy hitters gather downtown to raise money for Israel’s covert and controversial Duvdevan Unit — by Brian Niemietz: “Fresh off appearing in court with his controversial client Harvey Weinstein, hard-hitting defense attorney Benjamin Brafman went on offense by attending a fundraiser for Israel’s Duvdevan Unit on Monday… We’re told that the event raised more than $250,000 for the covert unit… According to one source at the event there were undercover agents on hand and photos of them were strictly prohibited. Attendees also saw videos of the Duvdevan Unit in action… Monday’s Duvdevan Foundation fundraiser was held at the kosher steakhouse Reserve Cut in lower Manhattan. Joining Brafman and 100 VIP guests, including our spy, were Jordache founder Ralph Nakash, nightlife operator David Einhorn, public relations specialist Ronn Torossian, reality TV star Siggy Flicker and Israeli consul general Dani Dayan.”

“After the event had ended, First Daughter Tiffany Trump visited the restaurant and had dinner with a group that included event attendees, according to a source at the restaurant.” [DailyNewsVideo

DRIVING THE CONVO — Senate Democrats Come Out Swinging in Long-Shot Fight to Block Kavanaugh — by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Mark Landler and Thomas Kaplan: “Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, joined all of the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday to deliver a direct appeal to Americans to rise up in opposition to Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination… Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, issued a specific plea to the survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.: “If you care about common-sense gun violence protection, Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare.””[NYTimes]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Republican strategist Dan Senor on CBS This Morning: “The reality is, [Kavanaugh] is not some firebrand right-winger. You can’t put him in that box. Eleven of his opinions have been adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court… The Democrats are much more organized this time than they were during Gorsuch, and the pressure on the Democrats from the base is far higher now. If you listen to the base of the Democratic Party, they’re saying, ‘Do everything you can, Senator Schumer, to stop this.'” [Video]

David Brooks writes… “It Took a Village to Raise Kavanaugh: Kavanaugh is the product of a community. He is the product of a conservative legal infrastructure that develops ideas, recruits talent, links rising stars, nurtures genius, molds and launches judicial nominees. It almost doesn’t matter which Republican is president… It almost doesn’t even matter if Kavanaugh is confirmed or shot down; there are dozens more who can fill the vacancy, just as smart and just as conservative.” [NYTimes]

Kathleen Parker writes… “Catholics rock the courthouse: That some justices are also informed by a faith that encourages service and a reverence for life doesn’t bother me, just as long as the Constitution lives loudly within them.”[WashPost]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Questions are being raised about Facebook’s decision to give a Russian internet company, Yuri Milner’s Mail.Ru, temporary special access to its user data [BusinessInsiderWired] • Miami heavyweights, including auto magnate Norman Braman and developer Jorge Perez, declared war on Magic City Casino plans to become a tenant in Russell Glabut’s Edgewater complex [MiamiHerald• Paragon Real Estate of SF acquired by Ori Allon’s Compass to form city’s largest brokerage [SFChronicle] • Walt Disney Company sells its two Upper West Side campuses to developer Larry Silverstein for $1.1 billion [NYTimes] • Elon Musk’s SpaceX to Launch Israeli Spaceship to the Moon [Bloomberg] • Next Insurance, an Israeli insurtech targeting small businesses, scores $83M Series B led by Redpoint [TechCrunch]

How a Tiny Bank From the Ozarks Got Big and Outpaced Wall Street’s Real Estate Machine — by Peter Robison: “Ozarks didn’t have a New York office until 2013; this year, industry watcher the Real Deal named it the city’s third-biggest construction lender. It’s committed more than $6 billion there, including loans for the Kushners’ purchase of a parking lot in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn, a $700 million Long Island City office tower anchored by Bloomingdale’s and WeWork Cos., and a 73-story residential tower that will be the tallest ever in Brooklyn. Gleason’s bank is the largest construction lender in Los Angeles, the largest in Miami, and one of the largest in Chicago, Denver, and Seattle.” [Bloomberg]

Sheldon Adelson wants to open a casino in North Korea — by Steve Mollman: “Late last month, Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul and friend of Trump’s, also made reference to North Korea’s economic potential… Speaking at a charity event in Jerusalem, Adelson said he hoped Trump would get the North and South to end the Korean War, of which he was a veteran, so that he could go there again—this time not to fight, but to open up one of his casinos.”[Quartz]

— “I’m a veteran of the Korean War. Actually, I hope Trump gets North and South Korea to finish the war. I feel as though I might be called back up. I fight enough. I don’t want to go back to Korea to fight. I want to go back to Korea to open up my business.” [Video]

‘I risked everything to dance in Iran’ — by BBC World Service women’s affairs reporter Feranak Amidi: “Raids and arrests never stopped us from going to the next party – it just made us more creative in how to avoid the authorities. We paid off police officers, made sure cars were not parked outside the venue and kept the guest list strictly limited to friends. We used mattresses to conceal the windows to keep the music from sounding outside… Today, young Iranians are still taking challenging social norms and breaking taboos in many ways. The social media campaign in support of arrested Instagram dancer Maedeh Hojabri is just one of them.” [BBC]

MEDIA WATCH: “Business Insider Pulls Conservative Column About Scarlett Johansson Playing Trans Man” by Maxwell Tani: “Business Insider removed a post about portrayals of trans individuals in Hollywood after staff complained internally about the column, saying the article did not meet the publication’s standards. On Friday, conservative columnist Daniella Greenbaum published a piece titled: “Scarlett Johansson is being unfairly criticized for doing her job after being cast as a transgender man.” “The job of an actor is to represent someone else,” Greenbaum wrote. “Johansson’s identity off the screen is irrelevant to the identities she plays on the screen. That’s what she’s paid for. And if she does her job, she’ll make everyone forget about the controversy in the first place.” Several Business Insider staff told The Daily Beast that some employees were offended by the column.” [DailyBeast]

SPORTS BLINK — NBA star slammed over Israel trip — by Amy Spiro: “A week after returning from a trip to Israel, NBA star Draymond Green has been slammed online for his visit by critics of the Jewish state. Many critics were particularly upset over a video posted to the Israel Police Instagram page, featuring Green shooting a gun inside a Border Police training center. “You got played,” wrote Shaun King, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist and political commentator, on Twitter.” [JPost]

Alona Barkat, a female pioneer in Israeli football: “The Israeli desert city of Beersheba may seem to have little in common with the gleaming capitals of Europe, but for the third year running its football club is to play in the UEFA Champions League. The success of Hapoel Beersheba, known as “The Camels,” owes much to its pioneering female owner, Alona Barkat. Barkat, who rarely misses her team’s games, will once again be one of the few females with a side in the competition… Barkat became the first woman to own a professional football club in Israel when she bought the Camels in 2007 with the support of her husband Eli Barkat, a high-tech businessman.” [BeSoccer]

DESSERT — Boogie Down Bites: Loeser’s Kosher Deli & Caterer: “Loeser’s Kosher Deli & Caterer on W. 231st Street opened in 1960 by owner Fredy Loeser. Loeser still works at the store and he’s been serving the community delicious Kosher food ever since. Known for its overstuffed sandwiches and other traditional delicacies, Loeser’s has even come up with its own originals. The ‘Knish Wish’ is a combination of a potato knish, and a pastrami sandwich… Everything is made in house, Loeser says and he intends to keep doing it that way just has he has for the past five decades. “Old fashion is only the best,” Loeser says.” [BronxNews12]

BIRTHDAYS: IRS Commissioner during the JFK and LBJ administrations (1961-1964), founding member of the tax law firm of Caplin & Drysdale, Mortimer Caplin turns 102… Professor of Humanities at Yale and noted literary critic, Harold Bloom turns 88… Professor of Social Sciences emeritus at Harvard, he has written many books on Japan, China and Asia generally, Ezra Feivel Vogel turns 88… Co-founder and chairman of Odyssey Investment Partners, Stephen Berger turns 79… Member of the UK’s House of Lords since 1997, formerly PM Tony Blair’s special envoy to the Middle East, Baron Michael Abraham Levy turns 74… Partner in the Santa Monica-based law firm of Maron & Sandler, EVP of the Milken Family Foundation and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America, Richard V. Sandler turns 70… Founder in 1992 of Schnur Associates, a marketing, PR and lobbying firm, she spent 12 years as Executive Director of the Greater New York Coalition for Soviet Jewry, Zeesy Schnur turns 69… Founder and current president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which is headquartered in Chicago and Jerusalem, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein turns 67…

Singer known by his stage name “RebbeSoul,” Bruce Burger turns 61… Former CEO and president of Bloomberg L.P. (2008-2014), now CEO of Sidewalk Labs, Daniel L. Doctoroff turns 60… Los Angeles-based Group EVP of Public Relations for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel, Laurie Goldberg turns 59… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party since 2015, now serving as Deputy Environmental Protection Minister, Yaron Mazuz turns 56… Born in Marrakesh, Morocco, he is presently commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, Major General Shlomo “Sami” Turgemanturns 54… Managing Member at Samuel Capital Management, Barry Mannis… Member of the Editorial Board at the New York Daily News, Alyssa A. Katz turns 50… Graduate of Stanford U Law School, then White House aide in the Bush 43 administration, now based in Los Angeles at land use law firm of Park and Velayos, Lindsey Caren Kozberg turns 48…

Consultant focused upon social impact strategies, previously COO of the DNC and director of community relations at the NBA, Joshua D. Wachs turns 47… CEO of the digital lending start-up Affirm and former chief technology officer of PayPal, Max Levchin turns 43… Founder and CEO of Wisconsin-based Good Karma Brands, Craig Karmazin turns 43… Director of community relations in the office of Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Celine Mizrahi turns 40… Screenwriter known for The Green Hornet (2011), 50/50 (2011) and Bad Sports (2013), Theodore Bressman turns 34… Legislative Director for Representative Tim Ryan and former Fellow at the American Jewish Committee, Anne Sokolov turns 33… as does her twin sister, a brand marketing manager at Google, Kate Sokolov

Offensive guard in the NFL for eight seasons for the Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants, Geoffrey Isaiah “Geoff” Schwartz (his Hebrew name is Gedalia Yitzhak) turns 32… Principal at Cleveland-based Willoughby Union Point Associates and EVP at Omni Group Development Company, Bryan Stone… Prior litigation associate at the DC office of Paul, Weiss, he was previously special advisor to the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Matthew J. Rosenbaum… Chabad rabbi at Washington University in St. Louis, Rabbi Hershey Novack… Jeffrey Maas… Harvey Mamon

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