Jan
18

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Daily Kickoff: Trump appears to contradict Bibi on embassy | Amb. Friedman visits Ohel | Israel’s first Olympic skeleton athlete | Shabbat at Sundance

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MAGGIE HABERMAN ON IVANKA — by Jessica Kwong: “Time in the White House has made first daughter Ivanka Trump more like her father President Donald Trump, Maggie Haberman, a White House correspondent for The New York Times told Katie Couric and co-host Brian Goldsmith in a podcast released on Thursday. “She has gone from being sort of a somewhat resentful daughter to really being in many ways the spitting image of him—not physically, obviously, but she’s him without a lot of the the flash and style,” Haberman said of Ivanka. “She has a very similar set of grievances, she has a very similar sense that people are being unfair to her,” Haberman said. “She’s a lot like him.” [Newsweek]

NOT SO SILENT — The New York Times devoted its entire editorial page in today’s paper to featuring letters from Trump supporters — Steven Sanabria from Oakdale, California writes: “Donald Trump has succeeded where Barack Obama failed. The economy is up, foreign tyrants are afraid, ISIS has lost most of its territory, our embassy will be moved to Jerusalem and tax reform is accomplished. More than that, Mr. Trump is learning, adapting and getting savvier every day… Who knew that all it would take to make progress was vision, chutzpah and some testosterone?”

Ellen Mackler from New Haven, Connecticut: “So far I am thrilled with his performance. Numerous reasons, but here are a few: recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; letting the generals crush ISIS; stronger plans to prevent North Korea and Iran from using nuclear weapons; getting out of biased United Nations organizations…”

Emily Robertson from Austin, Texas: “I’m thrilled at his support for Israel. Nikki Haley is one of his best appointments…” [NYTimes]

GALLUP — Israeli approval of U.S. leadership up 14 points: “The 67% of Israelis who approve of U.S. leadership is on par with the ratings Israelis gave the U.S. during the Bush administration. Notably, interviewing in Israel took place before Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”[Gallup]

NO DAYLIGHT? — “Trump denies U.S. embassy to be moved to Jerusalem within a year” by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton: “Netanyahu… said on Wednesday: “My solid assessment is that it will go much faster than you think – within a year from now.” Asked about Netanyahu’s comment, Trump told Reuters… that was not the case. ”By the end of the year? We’re talking about different scenarios – I mean obviously that would be on a temporary basis. We’re not really looking at that. That’s no.“ Trump… promised, however, that it would be “a beautiful embassy but not one that costs $1.2 billion,” referring to what he says was the cost of the new U.S. embassy in London.” [Reuters]

— “After Trump denial, Netanyahu clarifies remarks on time frame for U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem” by Jeffrey Heller: “An official in Netanyahu’s office said the Prime Minister recognized that construction of a new embassy will take years but believes Washington is considering “interim measures that could result in an embassy opening much faster”…. The Israeli official, responding to Trump’s remarks, said: “The President and the Prime Minister are not saying anything different.” [Reuters]

SPOTTED LAST NIGHT — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman praying at the grave, or ‘Ohel,’ of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe in Queens, New York [Pic]

POST ABBAS SPEECH — Oded Revivi, Chief Foreign Envoy of the YESHA Council, writes… “If the Oslo Accords Are Over, the Real Work of Peace Can Begin: In his declaration on Jerusalem, Mr. Trump cited his promise “to look at the world’s challenges with open eyes and very fresh thinking.” … So far he is making good on these words. His special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, broke with decades of U.S. policy by meeting with all types of Israeli and Palestinian thinkers far beyond the usual suspects. Next week Vice President Mike Pence will address the Knesset in Jerusalem and ignore the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians who want to work for Israeli companies or meet socially with Israelis should not fear for their lives…” [WSJ

DRIVING THE CONVO — “U.S. Funding Cut Reignites Debate on Palestinian Refugee Agency” by David Halbfinger: “The perpetuation of Unrwa is not the dream of any peace-loving person in Israel,” said Yossi Beilin, a longtime Israeli politician who helped initiate the Oslo process….“Only an ignorant person, like President Trump, who doesn’t understand the whole story, could say, ‘Tomorrow there is no Unrwa,’ because tomorrow, we will have to pay the price — either by violence if it erupts, or because of the need to help them. Who else will do that?” [NYTimes

“‘A death sentence’: Palestinians slam U.S. decision to cut aid as U.N. pleads for new donors” by Hazem Balousha and Ruth Eglash: “Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian delegation to the United States, said that “taking away food and education from vulnerable refugees does not bring a lasting and comprehensive peace.” … Zomlot said that by first taking Jerusalem off the table and then attempting to remove the Palestinian refugee issue by dismantling UNRWA, “Trump was heeding Netanyahu.” [WashPost]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Ambassador Nikki Haley on Voice of America with Greta Van Susteren: “Why does the United States have to be the only one that bails out everyone? Why do we continue to give the money? You have 120 countries who voted against us, that could more than take up the level of debt that UNRWA has… We want a peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians… By the Palestinians cutting us out of the peace process, it shows… that they’re not serious in truly getting to peace. So, we’re trying to make sure that if we’re going to spend taxpayer dollars, that we’re not spending it on something that doesn’t move U.S. interests forward.” [VOANews]

Elliott Abrams writes… “Trump Gets UNRWA Right: Cutting funding to UNRWA is of a piece with the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That Israel was the sole country in the world not allowed to choose its capital, and have that choice respected, was part of the long assault on Israel’s legitimacy and permanence. Similarly, that the sole group of refugees whom the UN keeps enlarging is Palestinian, and that the only way to remedy this under UN definitions would be to eliminate the State of Israel or have 5 million Palestinian “refugees” move there should simply be unacceptable.” [CFR

REVISED SYRIA POLICY — “U.S. troops will stay in Syria to counter ‘strategic’ threat from Iran” by Liz Sly and Carol Morello: “[Sec. of State Rex Tillerson’s] comments represented the most comprehensive and ambitious articulation of Washington’s often-contradictory policy in Syria since President Trump took office a year ago… “Continued strategic threats to the U.S. other than ISIS persist. I am referring principally to Iran,” he said. “Iran has dramatically strengthened its presence in Syria by deploying Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops; supporting Lebanese Hezbollah… Through its position in Syria, Iran is in a stronger position to extend its track record of attacking U.S. interests, allies and personnel in the region.” Squeezing Iran will, therefore, be one of the foremost goals of the continued U.S. troop presence in Syria, he said.” [WashPost

— “The agreement in the southwest also addresses Israel’s security by requiring Iranian-backed militias, most notably Hezbollah, to move away from Israel’s border.” [Transcript

“Tillerson Calls For Indefinite US Military Presence In Syria To Remove Assad” by John Hudson and Vera Bergengruen: “Tillerson’s speech calls for “UN-supervised” elections, a process that is more invasive and includes additional requirements such as a voting populace that isn’t intimidated, fearful of arrest and has access to media. One person familiar with the decision told BuzzFeed News the stronger language could create the conditions for dismantling Assad’s rule.” [BuzzFeed• Syrian opposition delegation visiting DC iced out of White House [Al-Monitor]

REPORT: Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman boasts he has Trump’s backing in ‘anti-corruption’ crackdown — by Ryan Parry and Josh Boswell: “A source close to the Saudi leader, known by his initials MBS, said that Salman ‘bragged’ about his cozy relationship with the U.S. president and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, claiming that the president backed Salman’s takeover…” [DailyMail]

“Qatar Doubles Down on PR Campaign Appealing to U.S. Jews and D.C. Insiders” by Amir Tibon: “Last week, prominent New York attorney Alan Dershowitz published an article on the Hill website, following his visit to Qatar at the invitation of the country’s powerful emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani… In a conversation with Haaretz on Tuesday, Dershowitz emphasized that he has “not come to any firm conclusions” about Qatar’s ties to Hamas, Iran and other problematic actors in the region. Coincidentally, on Monday – shortly after the publication of Dershowitz’s article and the culmination of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Qatar visit – U.S. President Donald Trump talked with the emir by phone.” [Haaretz]

ON THE HILL — “The House Republican plan to toughen the Iran deal” by Jonathan Swan: “Highlights of the “Iran Freedom Policy and Sanctions Act,” per the bill summary and text… U.S. sanctions would immediately “snap back” against Iran if they take any action “related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.” … The bill also goes further, to whack Iran for its support for terrorism and human rights abuses…”[Axios]

CITY-SIDE: “New Orleans City Council members say they didn’t intend anti-Israel message” by David Hammer: “After belatedly realizing the resolution was part of an international movement to boycott Israel, City Council President Jason Williams and other council members say they will move to reconsider it at their next council meeting… “I’m sad to say I didn’t realize or know anything about the BDS movement until a friend, Harold Asher, educated me on it Friday morning and I began to do my research,” said Williams, who said Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell had only notified him about the resolution on Jan. 10.” [WWLTV

DACA FIGHT — “Mark Zuckerberg is urging people to call their local congressperson in support of undocumented Dreamers” by Kurt Wagner: “Every day that Congress doesn’t act more DACA recipients are losing their status,” Zuckerberg wrote Wednesday… Zuckerberg added that he’s been “calling members of Congress,” and encouraged others to do the same… His counterpart at Facebook, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, also posted on Wednesday shortly after Zuckerberg, calling the expiration of the DACA program “cruel.”” [Recode

“82 Rabbis, Activists Arrested On Capitol Hill Over DACA Protest” by Antonia Blumberg: “More than a hundred rabbis and activists, some wearing prayer shawls and yarmulkes, gathered in the center of the rotunda in the Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday morning. They sang songs, shouted cheers and made statements of support for the young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers… Police arrested 82 protesters, U.S. Capitol Police communications director Eva Malecki told HuffPost.” [HuffPost]

Seen on Snapchat’s Dream Act Rally story: Stosh Cotler, the Chief Executive Officer of Bend the Arc, was the final protester to be arrested [Pic]

Zioness Movement Joins Women’s March” by Kelly Hartog: “Ann Lewis, who served as White House director of communications for President Bill Clinton and as a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, will head the Zioness contingent at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. “I am proud to march with the young people of Zioness,” Lewis said in a statement. “Zioness is inspiring and empowering our country’s next generation of progressive leaders to wear their Zionist identities proudly, as they fight for human rights and women’s rights…” [JewishJournal

2018 WATCH: “Cuomo Amasses $30 Million War Chest” by Shane Goldmacher: “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo raised an average of more than $32,000 per day for the last six months… He collected $129,200 from the hedge fund manager Joseph DiMenna and his wife, $50,000 from the billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, $25,000 from the Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife, and $30,000 from Barry Diller.” [NYTimes

** 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: David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital Adds Stakes in Brighthouse and Twitter [Bloomberg] • Condo comeback? Cordish may offer for-sale units at $130M Three Light [Bizjournals] • Shari Redstone Wants New CBS Directors, Renews Push for Merger With Viacom [WSJ• Goldman’s No. 2, David Solomon, Allegedly Swindled Out of $1.2 Million of Wine by Assistant [BloombergWSJ] • Silverstein Properties, Elad Group land $300M condo inventory loan for 1 West End [RealDeal

“Waze Finds Path Back to Iran, Report Says” by Nitsan Sadan and Tofi Stoler: “The block against Google-owned mobile navigation app Waze in Iran has been lifted, Iranian news site Tasnim News reported on Monday… Persian users on Twitter confirmed the app is currently working in the country… Israel’s official state Twitter handle in Persian commented on the reported end of the ban on Monday. “Now that the block on Waze has been lifted–is it no longer a Mossad app?” the tweet asked.” [Calcalist]

PODCAST PLAYBOOK — LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman references his Tech Shabbat on How I Built This with Guy Raz: “Every time I get to Friday, I am — like Friday night, I am totally exhausted. It’s like I run the marathon that whole week, and then by about Sunday afternoon I get back into the race.” [NPR]

DEEP DIVE: “Inside Harvey Weinstein’s Frantic Final Days” by Adam Ciralsky: “With battles looming on multiple fronts, Weinstein summoned those he had trusted or worked with over the years… and people Weinstein called out of the blue, informally, to get their opinions, such as communications strategist Matthew Hiltzik, who had left Weinstein’s Miramax in 2005, and former sex-crimes prosecutor (and novelist) Linda Fairstein. Said one attendee, “He was basically asking for advice of people [who were] blindfolded, without their knowing what the accusations were—nor the truth.” [VanityFair• Harvey Weinstein sells Amagansett mansion for $10M [TheRealDeal]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Critics say The Frisch School was ‘unfairly targeted’ by news reports” by Melanie Anzidei: “Critics, including the heads of local Jewish organizations, say the reports “unfairly target” the private Orthodox Jewish high school, which Jared Kushner graduated from in 1999 and have blown an otherwise private interaction between parents in a Facebook forum out of proportion. “The school is an asset to the community,” said Jason Shames, chief executive officer of the Paramus-based Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, which the school is a beneficiary agency of. “I think it was unfairly targeted. The reports in the media were political.” [NorthJersey]

“Hungary steps up anti-Soros crackdown ahead of election” by Lili Bayer: “Hungary’s government unveiled a so-called “Stop Soros” plan to crack down on individuals and organizations it accuses of supporting illegal immigration. Coming less than three months ahead of a general election, the announcement on Wednesday marks the latest escalation in an ongoing battle between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government and George Soros… Local media reported earlier Wednesday that the government intends to ban Soros from entering the country.” [Politico]

Netanyahu visits Chabad House in Mumbai with Moshe Holtzberg: “Benjamin Netanyahu met with Moshe Holtzberg, a boy whose parents were among six people killed at the Chabad Center during the attack. Netanyahu patted Moshe’s shoulder and cheeks and posed for photographs. Netanyahu said light would spread from the memorial to make the world a better place. Moshe, 11, thanked the prime minister for visiting the center.” [AP

“After 50 Years, Israel Philharmonic Names a New Conductor” by Michael Cooper: “Lahav Shani, a 29-year-old Israeli conductor and pianist, will become the [Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s] next music director in 2020, succeeding Zubin Mehta, 81, who is stepping down after half a century.” [NYTimes]  

SPORTS BLINK: Patriots to honor woman whose wheelchair was stolen during playoff game: “A wheelchair that a New England Patriots fan thought had been stolen from Gillette Stadium while she watched the team’s playoff win over the Tennessee Titans has been found… Her friend, Samantha Medeiros… says Patriots owner Robert Kraft reached out to her friend. She writes that on Sunday, Morais “will be receiving a customized Patriots wheelchair and will be on the field with Mr. Kraft.” [Fox61KomoNews]

“Meet A.J. Edelman, Israel’s First Olympic Skeleton Athlete” by Jeffrey Boxer: “I want to challenge the perception of what Jews and Israelis can do in sports.” That was the theme that A.J. Edelman kept returning to during an interview just hours after the 26-year-old learned that he would be competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics. On Wednesday, Edelman became Israel’s first-ever Olympic athlete in skeleton, a sport in which you slide face-first down a frozen track on a small sled. The Brookline, Massachusetts native will represent his adopted country next month in PyeongChang, South Korea.”[Forward]

COMING SOON: “Shabbat lounge to appear at Sundance Film Festival for second year” by Amy Spiro: “Any celebrities — and non-celebrities too — looking for a hearty meal, a little oneg, and even some cholent can stop by the Shabbat Lounge this weekend at the Wasatch Brew Pub in Park City, Utah. Friday night’s lineup includes pre-Shabbat cocktails, a range of services options, dinner and an oneg after-party. Saturday begins with Shabbat morning yoga, continues with a cholent-laden kiddush (after prayers, of course), afternoon speakers and a musical havdalah party to end the weekend…” [JPost

PIC OF THE DAY — Ta-Nehisi Coates in shul discussing his book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, with The Atlantic’s Alex Wagner at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on Tuesday. [Pic

BIRTHDAYS: US Representative for Maryland’s 7th congressional district since 1996, following 14 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, Elijah Cummings turns 67… Director of Communications at NYC’s Department of Education, formerly at NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services and the NY Daily News, JoAnne Wasserman turns 63… Microbiologist and professor of biology at Wichita State University since 2006, Mark A. Schneegurt, Ph.D. turns 56… 2016 presidential candidate and former Maryland Governor, Martin O’Malley turns 55… Strategic advisor for Olami, a founding director of the Honestreporting website and executive director of Aish HaTorah NY, Rabbi Yitz Greenman turns 54… Personal finance commentator and journalist, and author of a New York Times bestseller on personal finance, Beth Koblinerturns 53… SVP of PR firm GMMB, with a focus on education policy, previously worked for seven years at the U.S. Department of Education including as press secretary, Samara Yudof Jones turns 40…

Actor and screenwriter, he wrote and acted in 2008’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and 2011’s “The Muppets,” Jason Jordan Segel turns 38… Baltimore-born basketball player, dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the “Jewish Jordan” in a 1999 feature, Tamir Goodman turns 36… Israeli-born, moved to Los Angeles as a child, comedian, actor, writer and television host, best known for his web series “Jake and Amir” (with Jake Hurwitz), Amir Blumenfeld turms 35… Publisher of a weekly community newspaper founded in 2016, “The Boston Guardian,” after a 20 year stint as the publisher of the now defunct “Boston Courant,” David Jacobs… Northeast Political Coordinator for AIPAC’s Grassroots Mobilization Network, Tali Alter Gevaryahu Linda Rubin

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Jan
17

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Daily Kickoff: Peace, cybersecurity concerns = Israel atop Davos 2018 priority list | Ivanka spotted at Char Bar! | Robert Caro’s last line technique

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PEACE SUMMIT? “Aside from Trump limelight, Davos discreetly pushes peace talks” by Tom Miles: “Davos attendees include King Abdullah of Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah and Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. “I hope that there will be at least discussions on the situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and we will have a lot of key players in that ecosystem in Davos,” [Berge] Brende said, adding that business leaders from both sides would call for a peace solution at Davos. The exclusive venue gives key political actors the chance to meet out of the public eye, or to communicate indirectly, he said.”[Reuters]

“A Year After Trump, Davos Elite Fear Cyberattacks and War” by Stephen Morris: “The threat of large-scale cyberattacks and a “deteriorating geopolitical landscape” since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump have jumped to the top of the global elite’s list of concerns, the World Economic Forum said ahead of its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.” [Bloomberg]

HEADLINE DEPT: “Breitbart called Davos a collective of ‘leftist elites’ and ‘corporate cronies.’ Then Trump said he was going.” [WashPost]

DRIVING THE DAY — Trump’s Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt is expected to arrive in Israel today for a standard meeting with the envoys of the Middle East Quartet “to exchange information and continue our engagement on advancing peace,” according to a White House official.

— “Western diplomats say the meeting is going to deal among other issues with the crisis in the peace process and the Trump administration efforts to draft a peace plan.” [Axios]

Martin Indyk: “This is a Quartet meeting. It was invented back in 2001 to provide a filler when nothing else was happening in the peace process. Maybe this time will be different?” [Twitter

David Makovsky: “Even before Abbas’s speech, Israeli and Palestinian officials had very low expectations about a Trump-led peace breakthrough, despite White House advisor Jason Greenblatt’s assiduous efforts toward that end… Both sides generally assumed it would not come near the parameters issued by the Obama administration, and would therefore be rejected out of hand by the Palestinians. The parties have seemingly been preparing to play the blame game for some time, and Abbas’s speech made clear his view that the U.S. plan would fall short… In other words, Washington is bound to interpret his speech as a preemptive strike… Yet this posture may suit the PA and the Trump administration just fine for now. U.S. officials will be satisfied as long as the PA exists and Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation continue.” [WashInstitute]

TOP TALKER — “U.S. Aid to Palestinians Through UN Cut by Half to $60 Million” by Nick Wadhams: “It is time other countries, some of them quite wealthy, step in and do their part to advance regional security and stability,” the State Department said in a statement Tuesday, saying the money is enough to keep the agency from running out of funds while the remaining $65 million is withheld “for future consideration.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster supported the plan to reduce funding for the aid program, while UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and coordinator for stalled peace efforts in the region, wanted to cut off the money completely.” [Bloomberg]

— “Robert B. Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he was “not a fan of massive cuts” to funding for the relief agency, saying he would prefer other solutions, such as changes to how Palestinians become eligible for refugee status.” [NYTimes]

PLO official Wasel Abu Youssef told Reuters: “This decision confirms the U.S administration is continuing in wiping out the rights of the Palestinian people. First was declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and today the refugee issue.” [Reuters]

PALACE INTRIGUE — “Tillerson prevails over Haley in Palestinian funding debate” by Josh Rogin: “One senior administration official said that while the issue was being debated, Tillerson raised it personally with Trump and secured the president’s agreement to support the State Department’s position… “This shows that we have a secretary of state who is not really wandering around in a Bermuda Triangle with no sense of mission or influence with the president, despite the press coverage,” said Aaron David Miller, vice president at the Wilson Center.” One State Department official… concurred… “While not flashy or concerned about what job he may have later on, the Secretary is focused on his current role.” That take can be seen as a not-so-subtle jab at Haley, who is viewed by some inside the administration as too quick to announce policies that have yet to be finalized and too politically ambitious.” [WashPost

REPORT — Abbas fury after Saudi briefing on Trump’s peace plan: “A close associate of the PA president was summoned to Riyadh for an urgent meeting earlier this month. There, the details of Trump’s peace plan were presented to the Palestinians for the first time, according to Hadashot news. The plan’s main clauses were as follows: less-than-full statehood for the Palestinians, maintained Israeli control over security matters, a permanent IDF presence in the Jordan Valley, land swaps not based on the 1967 borders, no settlement evacuations, and an Israeli veto regarding the final status of Jerusalem, which would be later negotiated by the parties…”

“In a statement responding to the Tuesday TV report, the White House called it “regrettable that the Palestinian leadership is looking to create a false impression against an unfinished plan they have not even seen.”” [ToI]

“Palestinian President Shows the World Who He Really Is” by Eli Lake: “The Abbas we saw on Sunday was not a leader inviting his people to embrace dark conspiracies and hopeless struggle. Rather, Abbas was meeting many Palestinians where they already are. He was reflecting a movement that equates Palestinian nationalism with the negation of the Jewish state… His legacy will be that of a weak man who was unwilling and unable to challenge deep flaws in his people’s liberation movement.” [BloombergView]

AHEAD OF SCHEDULE? Netanyahu says US Embassy to move to Jerusalem this year: “Netanyahu told Israeli reporters traveling with him in India on Wednesday his “solid assessment” is that the American Embassy “will be moved far faster than what we think … in the course of the year.”” [AP]

“Kids at Kushner’s Old High School Were Asked to Write Letters Sucking Up to Trump – and Parents Are Fuming” by Judy Maltz: “Located in Paramus, N.J., Frisch is the alma mater of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and one of his senior advisers. Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Mideast envoy, is a parent at the school… On Tuesday, students at Frisch received an email from Rabbi David Sher – the school’s director of Israel education and advocacy – urging those who “believe that the president made the right decision” to send letters to the White House thanking Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and for beginning the process of moving the U.S. Embassy there… Several parents called and wrote Frisch Schools principal, Rabbi Eli Ciner, to complain. In response, he issued a follow-up email clarifying that “this is entirely voluntary and should be done only if you agree with President Trump.”” [Haaretz]

SPOTTED LAST NIGHT IN DC — Ivanka Trump and her son were seen enjoying dinner in the private room of the kosher restaurant Char Bar on L St. after addressing a “Conversation With The Women of America” panel earlier at the White House [Pic] • Ivanka posed for a picture with lobbyist Ezra Friedlander at the restaurant [Pic]

PROFILE: “Jerusalem’s new British-born deputy mayor: Israel is no apartheid state – it just has an issue with bad PR” by Joe Wallen: “Fleur Hassan-Nahoum has Donald Trump to thank for making her new job one of the most interesting and controversial in the world. She has been named as the new deputy mayor of Jerusalem…  Ms Hassan-Nahoum is the first British citizen to hold a senior political role in Israel’s history.” [Independent]

ACROSS THE BORDER — “Trudeau defends Canada’s no-vote on Jerusalem” by Melanie Marquis: “We are less interested in grousing and playing politics,” he said. “We are more interested in finding solutions and moving forward at a substantial level… This idea of using votes in the United Nations to isolate or condemn Israel… is not productive in international relations. And Canada avoids taking sides in that.” Trudeau reiterated that Canada won’t move its diplomatic corps from Tel Aviv. “I have always been very clear: our embassy will stay in Tel Aviv,” he said.” [NationalPost

SHIFTING ATTENTION: “Iran’s leader accuses Saudis of ‘treason’ against Muslims” by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin: “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was “a big mistake” and “doomed to failure.” “Regional governments that are cooperating with the United States and the Zionist regime to fight against Muslims are certainly committing treason. That is what Saudi Arabia is doing,” Khamenei said.” [Reuters]

STILL ‘MAD DOG’ MATTIS? … “How Mattis softened on Iran — for now” by Wesley Morgan: “For now, it’s a striking change for the former military commander who repeatedly clashed with the Obama administration’s diplomatic approach — and who once described the top three threats in the Middle East as “Iran, Iran and Iran.” In the past year, Mattis has openly contradicted Trump by testifying that Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran “is something that the president should consider staying with.” [Politico]

HEARD THIS MORNING — Sen. Lindsey Graham at a national security discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute:“Here is something most people don’t think about: Israel started to have nuclear weapons – they won’t confirm it, but everyone believe its. Name one Arab state that got nuclear weapons in response. Nobody in the Arab world believes that Israel will wake up one day and blow them off the map. When you talk to any Arab leader they are apoplectic about the idea of the Ayatollah having a nuke because they believe he will use it.”

BEHIND THE SCENES: “How Michael Wolff Got Into the White House for His Tell-All Book” by Jennifer Jacobs: “[Jared] Kushner met with Wolff late in the author’s reporting, only in order to push back on anticipated attacks on him, two White House officials said.” [Bloomberg]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “Missouri governor says affair won’t deter him from work” by David A. Lieb, Summer Ballentine and Jim Salter: “[Eric] Greitens, who has stayed out of the public eye since admitting to an affair last week, distributed a message via Facebook and email Tuesday that simultaneously apologized for his actions and asserted that some allegations against him were false and “extremely hurtful.” “I assure you that this personal mistake will not deter us from the mission we were sent here to do,” Greitens said in the statement.” [WashPost] • Missouri Republicans debate whether Greitens should stay or go [STLToday]

2018 WATCH — “GOP Senate Candidate Challenging Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer Says She Not Conservative Enough — by Jon Kipper: “While not saying he was for a wall, [Todd] Watson said that America can take lessons from the barrier that Israel constructed on parts of its border to protect against terrorism. “I think Israel has some good ideas on border security, I’d like to talk to them, but we have to get something done, against nothing,” says Watson.” [KWBE

** 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: Three-way Battle Suddenly Erupts for Control of Israel’s Bezeq [Haaretz] • Leon Cooperman’s Omega Advisors sells entire stake in Time Inc. [NYPost] • Kushner Cos. offers site plan for Monmouth Mall overhaul [APP• Will Wilbur Ross Replace Gary Cohn as Economic Czar? [Newsmax] • This Wharton alum’s startup helps college students negotiate their financial aid packages [DailyPenn]

SPOTLIGHT — Obama Foundation million-dollar donors jump — by Lynn Sweet: “Another $1 million-plus giver in the last three months of 2017 is Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne. In November, former first lady Michelle showed her appreciation: She was the keynote speaker for a convention in San Francisco put on by Salesforce, where Benioff led her in a “fireside chat” conversation, according to a report on the KGO website. It’s not known whether Mrs. Obama was paid for the speech or she spoke to Benioff’s group without charging a fee…”

“Among the new million-dollar donors… the Blum-Kovler Foundation/Peter and Judy Kovler; and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Also, the Linda and Richard Price Family Fund. Another new million-dollar-plus donor is former Obama administration official Jeffrey Zients and his wife Mary and Hollywood producer Phil Rosenthal, the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond” through his Rosenthal Family Foundation.” [ChicagoSunTimes]

RISING POLITICAL STAR: “Ex-chief of staff Benny Gantz eyes political career” by Sue Surkes: “During a speech at a conference of municipal corporations in the southern resort city of Eilat, [Gantz] said, “It’s not relevant at this moment, but Israeli society is one to which I willingly committed my life, and to which I would certainly commit my activity. What the implication is, what the situation will be, and if and when it might happen, only time will tell,” he added… In November 2015, a poll showed that Gantz would defeat Benjamin Netanyahu by a wide 44% to 32% margin… Gantz’s mandatory cooling-off period before he is allowed to run for office expires next month.”[ToI]

“This Israeli plane was so good the Marines used it as an aggressor” by Harold Hutchison: “Israel faced a problem in the 1970s. The Yom Kippur War had seen them take heavy aircraft losses. They needed more planes… The Israelis had been forced to steal the plans for the Mirage 5 from France after an arms embargo. Mossad had managed to get the Mirage 5 plans in a very brilliant operation, but it was just an interim solution. Israel built 50 Neshers, which correlated to the number of aircraft it had ordered from France… Israel did get lucky when they acquired a license to produce the J79 engine… figuring out how to make the J79 work with the Mirage airframe… The planes… proved to be excellent – and so good that the United States Navy borrowed a number of them to serve as aggressors at schools like Top Gun.” [WeAreTheMighty]

“A missing tourist scattered Bible pages in Israel’s desert. Is ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ to blame?” by Alex Horton: “Oliver McAfee, a 29-year-old living in Essex, England, was due home in early December following a bicycle adventure along the Israel National Trail, a 631-mile pilgrimage running north to south that includes religious sites. But he vanished in November, with few clues about his whereabouts… Researchers believe Jerusalem Syndrome is the result of a trio of circumstances: preexisting mental illness, strong religious beliefs and travel to Israel that sparks a psychotic state when encountering the intense religious history of Jerusalem… Volunteers recovered torn passages from the Bible weighed down by rocks, handwritten scripture and references to Jesus’ desert fasting, which lasted 40 days.” [WashPost

INTERVIEW — “‘Studies in Power’: An Interview with Robert Caro” by Claudia Dreifus: “A technical question: your books range from 500 to 1,200 or so pages. How does an author keep track of the storyline when you’re writing such huge books? Caro: “I outline. I couldn’t outline The Power Broker, at first. There was too much material. For months, I couldn’t figure out how to organize the book. Then, one day Robert Moses was giving a speech. Cardinal Spellman had given him an exedra, a huge marble bench for reflection. Moses was speaking at the dedication. In the front row were all these “Moses Men,” engineers, functionaries, officials. Moses said something like, “Let us sit on this bench and reflect on the ingratitude of man.” And in the front, I saw all these guys whispering. Yes, why weren’t they grateful to him? And all of a sudden, I knew that was going to be the last line of the book. “Why weren’t they grateful?” I drove back home and started outlining. I learned a lesson from that. Before I start a book, I must know the last line. If I can’t, I can’t do the book. Once I have it, I’ll write toward that last line.” [NYBooksh/t Your Daily Biscuit 

ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt writes… “The Resurgent Threat of White-Supremacist Violence: If Americans don’t take action to directly address the threat posed by those who traffic in racism and hatred, they shouldn’t be surprised by the next white-supremacist killing… In recent years, much of the public discussion and the federal government’s focus have been on the violent threat posed by extremists inspired by ISIS, while less attention has been paid to the reality of right-wing violence. There’s no doubt that Islamic extremism is a significant threat, but we shouldn’t ignore any forms of extremism—we must tackle them all.” [TheAtlantic]

ACROSS THE POND — Chelsea launch campaign to tackle anti-Semitism: “Set to launch ahead of their Premier League game against Bournemouth on January 31st, the initiative, which is supported by the club’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, is part of the club’s on-going inclusion work, through the Chelsea Foundation’s Building Bridges campaign… A committee of experts will be leading the campaign, and led by club Chairman Bruce Buck, includes Ronald Lauder, Robert Singer, Malcolm Hoenlein…” [JewishNews]

HOLLYWOOD –– Lebanon reverses ban on Spielberg film: “Lebanon’s interior ministry will allow the release of Steven Spielberg’s latest film, “The Post”, overturning a ban by the General Security authority, a senior official said Wednesday.” [DailyMail]

PIC OF THE DAY — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stars in an advertisement for Indian dairy products this morning in local papers. “Utterly Bibi-ly Delicious!” [Pic

GONE VIRAL: Sen. Orrin Hatch removes a pair of reading glasses he’s not wearing during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing [Video]

BIRTHDAYS: Former member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1980-1996), in 1967 he was the attorney who won the Supreme Court case banning state laws against interracial marriage, Bernard S. Cohen turns 84… Former two-term member of Congress from Iowa (1973-1977), he is the father-in-law of Chelsea Clinton, Edward Mezvinsky turns 81… Host of televison’s tabloid talk show “Maury,” originally known as the “Maury Povich Show,” Maury Povich turns 79… Joseph Berger turns 72… Australian neuroscientist, engineer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and former Chancellor of Monash University (2008-2016), he is designated as Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel turns 65… Economist, professor, New York Times best-selling author and social entrepreneur, he has written eleven books and is the founder of six companies, Paul Zane Pilzer turns 64… President and co-founder of Bluelight Strategies, a marketing and media relations firm, Steve Rabinowitz turns 61…

Majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans and investor in dozens of companies, Dan Gilbert turns 56… Professor of Law at Harvard University, he is a legal strategist fighting the BDS movement including representing the plaintiffs in a suit against the American Studies Association regarding BDS, Jesse M. Fried turns 55… Film director Bart Freundlich turns 48… President of the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute, Yohanan Plesner turns 46… Kansas City-native, now DC-based SVP for PR firm Finsbury, Jeremy Pelofsky turns 43… Odessa-born choreographer and dance instructor, widely known as one of the professional dancers in “Dancing with the Stars,” Maksim Chmerkovskiyturns 38… New York Director of Institutional Advancement for Moishe House, Jason Freeman turns 29… Politics reporter for CNN, Rebecca Berg turns 28… Freelance writer and digital content manager at Emily’s List, Alyssa Franke turns 26…

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]

Jan
16

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Daily Kickoff: Wendi Murdoch and the Kushner brothers | Saudi Crown Prince MBS eyes investment in Ari Emanuel’s WME | Hugo Smith on dad @BuzzFeedBen

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MEDIA WATCH: “When Your Dad Is BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith: Featuring Hugo Smith, age 14, grade 9” by Laura Bennett: “My dad works a lot. He really loves his job, you can tell.” How can you tell? “When he’s working, it doesn’t really seem like he’s working. He very clearly enjoys it. I think for him it doesn’t feel like work. Like, the fact that even when he doesn’t need to be working, sometimes he does. Cause he really cares about what he does. I really respect that.”

Does your dad use Twitter a lot on his phone? “Oh yeah, occasionally at family events and stuff.” How do you know when he’s tweeting? “I check his Twitter account. He is always on Twitter.” So you’ll be at a family event, and you’ll look at Twitter just to see if your dad is tweeting? Definitely. I’ll be like, “Dad, you retweeted something 30 seconds ago.” [Slate]

TOP TALKER — “U.S. Warned Jared Kushner About Wendi Deng Murdoch” by Kate O’Keeffe and Aruna Viswanatha: “U.S. counterintelligence officials in early 2017 warned Jared Kushner… that Wendi Deng Murdoch, a prominent Chinese-American businesswoman, could be using her close friendship with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, to further the interests of the Chinese government… The project, a planned $100 million Chinese garden at the National Arboretum, was deemed a national-security risk because it included a 70-foot-tall white tower that could potentially be used for surveillance… The warning was part of an effort by national-security officials to highlight to Mr. Kushner, who was new to government, the need to be careful in his dealings with people whose interests may not align with those of the U.S… The representative for Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump said the two “have been friends with Rupert and Wendi Murdoch for a decade before coming to Washington and their relationship is neither political nor about China.” [WSJ

Worth noting: Wendi Murdoch ‘liked’ Josh Kushner’s post yesterday on Instagram quoting Martin Luther King Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” [Pic]

RUPERT’S OTHER PAPER: “Ivanka and Jared ‘love it in Washington’” by Richard Johnson: “They love it in Washington. The kids love it,” said her friend. “They are in it for the long haul.” [PageSixh/t Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST — The Palestine Liberation Organisation voted yesterday to call for the suspension of the Palestinian Authority’s 1993 recognition of Israel. The non-binding vote was followed by the reaffirmation of a 2015 resolution to suspend security coordination with Israel, which was never implemented.

On Sunday, Abbas delivered a two-hour-plus rambling speech laced with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. “This is a colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness. The Jews were used as a tool under the concept of the promised land.” Abbas also proclaimed the U.S. role as a peace broker over. “The deal of the century is the slap of the century,” Abbas said in reference to Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled peace plan. The Palestinian leader also lashed out at UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, “I hope she hears me. Our reaction will be worse, but not with high heels.” Abbas derided U.S. Ambassador David Friedman: “He is an offensive human being. They asked me to meet him. I said: ‘Him? No, I won’t meet him.’ Not here, not outside the country… I will not meet this man.” Lastly, Abbas lambasted Hamas for not showing up, and scolded the Arab League for pointed criticism, “You can all go to hell.”

The speech was condemned across Israel’s political spectrum. During a visit to India, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Abbas exposedhimself, thus giving credence to Israel’s narrative of the conflict. President Reuven “Ruvi” Rivlin told a visiting AIPAC delegation that Abbas was peddling ‘terrible’ anti-Jewish ‘conspiracies.

SLANG OR BANG? — “To laughter from the crowd, in reference to President Trump, Abbas then added the phrase “Yekhreb Beitak,” literally translated as “may your house be demolished.” In colloquial Palestinian Arabic, the phrase can have different connotations, from a harsh to a casual insult.” [AP

— Avi Issacharoff: “Telling US President Donald Trump, “May God demolish your house,” could be attributed to the general “Trumpism” which has seized world leaders, but it also points to the deep despair of the Palestinian leadership.” [ToI

Marian Houk‏: “”Yikhrab beitak” (“May your house fall into ruin”) is not used every day… It’s a warning of real annoyance, but can be used affectionately among friends, or as a real curse.” [Twitter

DEEP DIVE — “Palestinians hit dead end on all fronts” by Ben Caspit: “The Palestinians said they had received information about Trump’s up-and-coming peace program, via communication from the Egyptians and Saudis to Ramallah. The program… did not include a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, did not include Palestinian sovereignty and did not even mention the issue of Palestinian refugees. In addition, bits of information reached Ramallah on the US intention of turning Ramallah into Palestine’s capital city. High-ranking Palestinians explained to the Israelis that under such circumstances, there was no point to continue with US mediation. Abbas’ divorce decree was final and absolute…” [Al-Monitor

Dore Gold, former Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tells us… “Abbas has given the world a repeat performance of what he did toward the end of the Obama administration. To recall, Prime Minister Netanyahu accepted the Kerry plan with reservations but Abbas firmly refused. The upside of the recent round of negotiations is that it has finally become clear who is holding things up. Not Israel. It is also now clear that there are Arab states pressing the Palestinians to soften up, but the Palestinians refuse. For a peace process to work, the parties need to take into account Israeli security concerns, particularly in the Jordan Valley. In the meantime, the good news from all this is that many Arab states now understand the risks Israel is being asked to undertake.”

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro writes… “Abbas Exits With One Final, Outrageous Performance. Now, America Must Contain the Damage: Those in Israel (or Washington) celebrating the demise of Abbas as a partner and any chance for a Trump peace plan should think again. True, some pressure will be off Israel, as no one will call for hard decisions to be made… But that does not advance American interests of ensuring Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, democratic state…  if [two states] cannot be achieved now – which it clearly cannot – it is critical that the United States work to keep it alive for the future.” [Haaretz

IRAN DEAL — “Netanyahu Backs Trump on Iran Ultimatum to European Leaders” by David Wainer: “I think it’s the last chance for the Western world to fix the deal,” Netanyahu told Israeli journalists during a state visit to India. “They need to make changes that will prevent Iran from advancing unperturbed to nuclear weapons. That is what this deal allows.” The clock is ticking on the ultimatum from Trump, who has said he won’t waive sanctions again, giving other signatories less than four months to come up with a solution.” [Bloomberg• Iran’s Rouhani says Trump ‘failed’ to kill off nuclear deal [CNN

REPORT — Trump looking to remove sunset clause in negotiations with Europe — by Michael Wilner: “The president is seeking an agreement that “never expires,” and that “denies Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon forever – not for 10 years or any other shorter period of time,” the senior [U.S.] official said…” [JPost]

Flashback to August — Netanyahu tells Congress: Remove sunset clause from Iran deal [JewishInsider]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power discuss Trump’s foreign policy and Obama’s last year on The Global Politico podcast with Susan Glasser — Rhodes: “We tried to keep the Saudi-Iranian proxy conflict from completely overwhelming the whole region, and so my concern is that even though we are partners with the Saudis and the Emirates, that doesn’t mean our interests are always entirely aligned. And basically, what I see is an administration that has subcontracted out the view of regional conflicts in the Middle East, to Mohammad bin Salman, and I don’t think that leads in the right direction… On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, I think it leads to, potentially, like the situation where a Palestinian state is unrecognizable because of settlement activity and kind of just despairing on both sides… I mean, the only place in the world where I think leaders have preferred Trump are in Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia and Israel.”

Power recalls her election night party in Nov 2016: “I’ve had a lot of bad ideas in my life, but none as immortalized as this one. I decided on election night to invite the 37 women ambassadors to the U.N., many of whom face struggles in their own foreign service… And I thought what an amazing night for them. I mean, that’s what America represents to the world, when a glass ceiling is shattered in our country, it creates a whole new sense of possibility for people everywhere. And so, I invited them. Most of them came, and we gathered with Madeleine Albright, our first woman secretary of state; Gloria Steinem… As the host, I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t be quite the blowout that it was anticipated to be, because I wanted to make sure that people had a chance to interact with Gloria Steinem… And then, it [was] slowly dawning on us that not only was this going to be much closer than anybody anticipated, but that it was not going to end well.” [Politico]

ON THE HILL — On Friday, a group of bipartisan House members introduced a resolution opposing the UN General Assembly’s recent vote condemning the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. H.Res.684 is co-sponsored by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Eliot Engel (D–NY), and Mike Gallagher (R-WI). “Last January, Rep. Gallagher, Ranking Member Engel and I were proud to vote for H.Res.11, which condemned the U.N. Security Council’s appalling resolution singling out our ally Israel and damaging the prospects for peace. It’s sad that the biased-United Nations… chose, yet again, to convene a special emergency session for the sole purpose of denouncing Israel,” Gottheimer said.

“Trump thanks Qatar for efforts to combat terrorism” by Tim Ahmann: “The White House statement on the call with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani did not directly address the rift but said Trump “reiterated his support for a strong, united Gulf Cooperation Council that is focused on countering regional threats.”” [Reuters]

— OF NOTE: The link was shared on Twitter by Nick Muzin, whose firm Stonington Strategies was hired by Qatar to help its U.S. outreach, particularly to Jewish leaders.

DRIVING THE CONVO — “Proud to Live in a Nation of Holers” by Bret Stephens: “I mention Moldova because it’s where my paternal grandfather was born in 1901. An anti-Semitic rampage in his hometown, Kishinev, soon forced his family to leave for New York, where my great-grandfather labored as a carpenter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for eight dollars a week. Low skills, low wages, minimal English, lots of children and probably not the best hygiene — that’s half of my pedigree. The other half consisted of refugees. I’m not alone. America is a nation of holers. It is an improbable yet wildly successful experiment in the transformation — by means of hope, opportunity and ambition — of holers into doers, makers, thinkers and givers… Donald Trump has not, to say the least, risen from a hole. But he is sinking into one.” [NYTimes

“Haitian-American Pastor Slams Trump During Martin Luther King Day Celebration in Jerusalem” by Allison Kaplan Sommer: “I am calling on… all Jews and Israelis – who I believe should stand b y Haiti because Haiti stood by the Jewish nation of Israel by casting the deciding UN vote in 1947… Please stand with Haiti, Africa and El Salvador, and demand that President Trump apologize for his remarks,” [Pastor Mullery Jean-Pierre] said…” [Haaretz]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Anthony Scaramucci, The Mooch, dismisses MSNBC host Katy Tur’s list of examples of Trump’s alleged racism: “The only one I’ll give you on that whole list is the Charlottesville one. I don’t think you can equivocate on Nazis.” [Video

“We’re With Trump and Netanyahu” by Israel Cohen: “For many Orthodox Jews in America, it doesn’t matter that Trump is far from stable, that he speaks crudely about women, that he is hostile to immigrants and is sowing division among Americans. He may be meshugga, but he’s one of us. He thinks like a Jew.” [Haaretz]

2018 WATCH: “Former Romney Adviser Dan Senor: ‘Highly Likely’ Mitt Will Run For Utah Senate” by Aidan McLaughlin: “Senor, appearing on CBS This Morning on Monday, said that while he could not confirm the speculation, he has spoken to Romney and thinks it is “highly likely that he’s going to move forward” with a run.” [Mediaite]

— Jonathan Martin in the NYTimes: “‘I’m Running,’ Romney Says Privately, but as a Trump Friend or Foe?” [NYTimes]

2020 WATCH — “Al Sharpton jokes about recruiting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for President after her rousing MLK Day speech” by Jillian Jorgensen: “[GiIlibrand] went on to draw connections between the current political climate and the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale of a queen who stops a genocide.” [NYDailyNews

** 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: Shari Redstone Still Desires Viacom-CBS Merger[Bloomberg] • Israel-based people data startup Pipl Search Ltd. raised $19 million from growth stage venture capital firm IGP Lichtman and Shani Ltd. [Calcalist] • Intel Israel CEO Yaniv Garti: US tax reform weighs on Israeli high tech [Globes• New toolbox for Israeli startups aims to help navigate US healthcare system [ToI Activist fund Elliott Advisors urges changes to Bezeq Israel Telecom board [Reuters]

SPOTLIGHT: “BlackRock CEO Fink’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Support” by Andrew Ross Sorkin:“Laurence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of the investment firm BlackRock, is going to inform business leaders that their companies need to do more than make profits — they need to contribute to society as well if they want to receive the support of BlackRock. Mr. Fink has the clout to make this kind of demand: His firm manages more than $6 trillion in investments through 401(k) plans, exchange-traded funds and mutual funds, making it the largest investor in the world… Part of Mr. Fink’s argument rests on the changing mood of the country regarding social responsibility.” [NYTimes]

DEPARTURE LOUNGE: “Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey to Leave Disney’s Board” by Christopher Palmeri: “Given our evolving business and the businesses Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Dorsey are in, it has become increasingly difficult for them to avoid conflicts relating to board matters,” Disney said in a statement… Safra Catz, co-CEO of software giant Oracle Corp., and Francis Desouza, head of Illumina Inc., will join the board on Feb. 1.” [Bloomberg]

“Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor Close to Investment by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince” by Matt Donnelly and Sharon Waxman: “WME’s parent company, Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor, is poised to get a significant investment from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman, an individual familiar with the discussions told TheWrap on Monday.” [TheWrapBloomberg]

“HBO to Talent: You Won’t Get This Much Love at Netflix” by Joe Flint: “As platforms stockpile content, HBO is resisting the impulse to bulk up, getting pickier about its programming, trimming its development pipeline and embracing the idea that it won’t outbid the field on every single hot prospect. “We are not trying to do the most,” said HBO Chief Executive Richard Plepler, adding, “More is not better. Only better is better.” [WSJ]

“Power players powwow at MediaLink’s CES dinner” by Ian Mohr: “At the event co-hosted by Condé Nast and Universal Music Group were Michael Kassan, Michele Anthony, Bob Sauerberg, Shari Redstone, Tim Armstrong, Maverick Carter, Aryeh Bourkoff and Casey Wasserman… Meanwhile, we’re told that Lyft’s self-driving car has been a favorite with celebs, with Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, Mark Cuban and Hannah Bronfman all calling by to check it out.” [PageSix]

Brian Cuban, brother of Mark, recreated his family tree based on a photo of his grandfather’s sister and brother-in-law, Frida and Menashe Sterenberg: “The soldiers who slaughtered my family and murdered the majority of Jews in Noua Sulita, may have died later in the war… They may have gone on to live the full lives they denied my family. They may have been prosecuted as war criminals. I will never know.  They will probably always [be] nameless, faceless, murderers relegated to the images I give them and I sometimes relive the pain and desperation Frida and family must have felt having their futures taken from them. As long as I live however, they will always live. As long as the entire Feldman family goes on in the form of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, they will always live. Family, including my long lost relatives in Israel who I have now reconnected with and will soon meet for the first time.” [BrianCuban]

“A Holocaust Survivor’s Digital Doppelgänger” by Anna Russell: “Not long ago, Eva Schloss, a survivor of the Holocaust and a childhood friend of Anne Frank’s, left her home in London and flew to Los Angeles, where she spent a week inside a camera-filled dome, answering painful questions about her past… Schloss recounted these facts to a hundred and sixteen video cameras, which photographed her from all sides, and logged some fifteen hundred of her patient answers. The recordings were used to develop an artificial Eva Schloss, housed inside a screen, which schoolchildren might question years from now. On a recent Monday, the flesh-and-blood Eva Schloss stopped by the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in Battery Park City, to meet her digital counterpart…” [NewYorker]

“No Longer Writing, Philip Roth Still Has Plenty to Say” by Charles McGrath: “What have you been reading lately? Roth: “…Pre-publication copies of books arrive regularly in the mail, and that’s how I discovered Steven Zipperstein’s “Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History.” Zipperstein pinpoints the moment at the start of the 20th century when the Jewish predicament in Europe turned deadly in a way that foretold the end of everything. “Pogrom” led me to find a recent book of interpretive history, Yuri Slezkine’s “The Jewish Century,” which argues that “the Modern Age is the Jewish Age, and the 20th century, in particular, is the Jewish Century.” … Just in the past week, I read… an engagingly eccentric autobiography, “Confessions of an Old Jewish Painter,” by one of my dearest dead friends, the great American artist R. B. Kitaj.” [NYTimes]

Lebanon bans Spielberg film and Israeli adventurer biopic: “Lebanese authorities have banned Steven Spielberg’s latest film, political thriller “The Post”, and Australian drama “Jungle” to comply with a boycott of Israel, an official told AFP Monday…” [AFPHollywoodReporter]  

“Jewish child orphaned in Mumbai attacks makes first visit” by Muneeza Naqvi: “Moshe Holtzberg, a young boy whose parents were killed at a Jewish center in Mumbai during a 2008 terror attack, returned to that city for the first time Tuesday to visit the site of the attack with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu arrived in New Delhi for a six-day visit Sunday and will travel to Mumbai on Thursday where he will visit the Chabad Center where Holtzberg’s parents, Rabbi Gabriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah, were gunned down as 10 Muslim militants rampaged through Mumbai in a three-day siege… On Tuesday afternoon the 11-year-old boy visited the Chabad Center along with his grandparents.” [ABCNews• Special kosher feast awaits Baby Moshe [DNAIndia]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Puerto Rico’s Largest Newspaper Runs Column Blaming Jews for Hurricane Maria Aftermath” by Nicole Goodkind: “In the Spanish op-ed last week from El Nuevo Dia, whose title translates to “What Does ‘The Jew’ Want with the Colony?,” columnist Wilda Rodriguez justified her assertion that Jews run the government by pointing to an alleged Israeli article published in Hebrew 20 years ago that recognized Jewish power in Washington. “For Israelis,” she wrote, “recognizing Jewish power over the United States is no offense. It is the victory of their diaspora.” She said the “Jewish itinerary is so loaded with wars and profits that they rarely think about Puerto.” … The editorial sparked immediate backlash, with the Anti-Defamation League calling it “a collection of classic anti-Semitic assertions.”” [Newsweek

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Gov. Cuomo may have an ally in new Speaker Corey Johnson” by Anna Sanders: “There’s lots of people around Corey who are Cuomo allies,” veteran Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said. “That should be a warning the mayor: Don’t get into a battle with a speaker who’s got a friend in Albany… Having a speaker that you can rely on if you’re the governor means you can keep the mayor busy.” [NYPost

TRANSITIONS — Matt Nosanchuk, former White House National Security Council outreach director and liaison to the Jewish community under President Obama has joined the DC-based crisis management firm Quadrant Strategies as a vice president.

Aaron Weinberg, former Director of Jewish Engagement for the DNC, has joined the office of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) as the Foreign Policy Legislative Assistant.

PIC OF THE DAY — Israeli-American behavioral economist Dan Ariely gets painted by artist Alexa Meade. Alexa creates the illusion of a world where 2D and 3D have become one. [PicPic

SCENE IN JERUSALEM — Israel’s Opposition Leader Issac Herzog, Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni, Minister Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud) and Gilad Sharon, son of the late PM Ariel Sharon, attend a panel hosted by AIPAC for its Board of Directors delegation at King David Hotel in Jerusalem. [Pic

WATCH: Kathie Lee Gifford, co-host of The Today Show, has returned from a trip to Israel connected to her upcoming book “The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi,” and she shared some photos from the trip. [Video]

DESSERT: “Kosher to-go: Central Mass Chabad brings traditional Jewish cuisine to your doorstep” by Amanda Roberge: “Using Central Mass Chabad (in Worcester County)… as home base, [Rabbi Mendel Fogelman and his wife, Chani] oversee a small kitchen staff each Thursday as they lovingly prepare soups, stews, falafel and much more; all Kosher, all from scratch…  Mrs. Fogelman even hand-makes the 70-80 loaves of challah — in traditional, cinnamon, olive and chocolate varieties — from fresh ingredients…”[Telegram

BIRTHDAYS: Physicist and professor of materials science at Oxford (1966-1992), Sir Peter Bernhard Hirsch turns 93… Editor-in-Chief (1960-1995; now Editor-at-Large) of Commentary magazine, author of the 2009 book “Why Are Jews Liberals?” Norman Podhoretz turns 88… Author, sports journalist for the New York Times, ESPN, CBS and NBC, he served as the Ombudsman for ESPN, Robert Lipsyte turns 80… Socially conservative talk radio host and relationship advisor since 1975, on Sirius XM Radio since 2011, author of over 20 books, Dr. Laura Schlessinger turns 71… Staff writer for the Atlanta Jewish Times, Suzi Brozman turns 71… Chef, food writer, culinary editor for the Modern Library, host of PBS’s “Gourmet’s Adventures With Ruth,” recipient of four James Beard Awards, Ruth Reichl turns 70… Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hazon Ovadia, Harav Yitzhak Yosef turns 66…

Uzbekistan-born Israeli billionaire and industrialist, Michael Cherney turns 66… Founder, Chairman and CEO of RealNetworks which produces RealAudio, RealVideo and RealPlayer, Robert Denis “Rob” Glaser turns  56… Billionaire, first employee and subsequently first president of eBay, internet entrepreneur, philanthropist and movie producer, Jeffrey Skoll turns 53… Educational entrepreneur with a Ph.D in behavioral psychology, she is the founder and CEO of Cognition Builders, Ilana Kukoff turns 53… DC-native, back in DC after 10 years in London, a strategic communications consultant at Podium, Debbie Berger Fox turns 45… Author, writer and Ph.D. candidate in political theory at Columbia U, former speechwriter for then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senator Chris Dodd, Rob Goodman turns 34… David Ptalis turns 28… Joseph Bornstein

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