Daily Kickoff: Preview of Pence’s Israel visit | Did Bibi know more about State Dept’s Embassy plan than Trump? | Two Rabbis divided over NFL Playoffs

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DRIVING THIS WEEKEND — “Pence has long pushed for Trump policies on Israel” by Ken Thomas and Tom LoBianco: “Vice President Mike Pence is making his fifth visit to Israel, returning to a region he’s visited “a million times” in his heart… On the embassy, Pence played a steady role in pushing for the shift in U.S. policy… Pence had wanted the Trump administration to convey “a clear-cut policy” on Jerusalem after the president asked him last summer to visit the Middle East, White House officials have said.”

“Pence has long aligned himself with Israel… Kenneth Weinstein, CEO of the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, said it has been “central to his political life from the absolute outset, from when he first ran for Congress — it’s something that’s central to who he is, to what he believes in.” Pence traveled to Israel for the first time as an Indiana congressman in January 2004, joining a delegation from the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis… Doug Rose, a philanthropist in Indianapolis, flew with Pence on his 2004 trip to Israel and recalled him being deeply affected by the experience.” [AP

“Pence’s Middle East trip meant to highlight evangelical roots” by Peter Martinez: “[The Atlantic’s McKay] Coppins said that Pence often couches his political discussions about Israel in personal terms, even once going so far as quote the Bible as a religious justification.” [CBSNews]

“Top Sunni Islam cleric says meeting Pence would ‘tear up my identity'” by Ben Wedeman and Ghazi Balkiz: “Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar… said receiving Pence would “tear up my identity” and appear “contradictory in front of people.” … Tayyeb said the decision (on Jerusalem) would “feed terrorism in the region” but said the Muslim world was not “in a position for confrontation.”” [CNN]

Pence’s itinerary in Israel — Sunday evening (9:25 PM Israeli time): Arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport – to be welcomed by Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin.

— NO SELFIES — “With no vice PM, who’ll be greeting Pence at the airport?” by Gil Hoffman: “When Trump came, he was greeted on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion by the entire cabinet, as well as by MK Oren Hazan, who infiltrated the sterile security area to take a selfie with the US president. Hazan said he would not be going back… for Pence. “I shot with the sheriff, so I don’t need to shoot with the deputy,” Hazan said, paraphrasing a Bob Marley song… “When you succeed in getting the top guy, you don’t go back for the No. 2.” [JPost

Monday — 10 AM (local time): Welcome ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

1:30 PM (6:30 AM EST): Pence addresses the Knesset [KnessetChannel]

8 PM (1 PM EST): Pence and Netanyahu will deliver joint statements before dinner at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Tuesday — 10:45 AM: Meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

12 PM: Tour of Yad Vashem.

1:45 PM (6:45 AM EST): Visit to the Western Wall.

Ilan Goldenberg,  a former State Department official under John Kerry, writes… “Pence’s Visit to the Middle East Serves No Purpose: It is now quite clear that no negotiations are happening anytime soon, and possibly never again with Abbas… Into this environment steps Pence — the worst of all Trump administration officials to send to Israel at such a time. Pence is the official most associated with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, because the move was largely viewed as a nod to Trump’s evangelical base, which cares deeply about this issue… The visual of him giving a speech to the Knesset even as he meets with no Palestinian officials will not play well in the Arab world or pretty much anywhere outside of Israel…”[ForeignPolicy]

REPORT: “Macron sent aide to lobby Palestinians over Trump peace plan” by Barak Ravid: “French President Emanuel Macron sent his deputy national security adviser Aurélien Lechevallier for a secret visit in Ramallah earlier this week to convey reassuring messages to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas… Lechevallier told his Palestinian counterparts, “You might be right and the plan might turn out to be bad but don’t blow it up right now… It will be a shame if you throw the plan to the trash even before you received it. Read it first and then decide if you want to say no” … French diplomats told me Macron and his advisers coordinated their moves with Trump and the White House.” [Axios

SO BIBI WAS RIGHT? — “U.S. Presses to Relocate Embassy to Jerusalem by 2019″ by Mark Landler: “It was not clear whether Mr. Trump’s advisers had briefed him on the new timetable until Thursday. Officials said he was referring to the construction of an entirely new embassy compound in Jerusalem… But the State Department has since settled on a more modest plan to convert an existing consular building in Arnona, a neighborhood in West Jerusalem. That will reduce the cost of the project and allow Ambassador David M. Friedman and his staff to move there as early as next year.”

“The timing of the move has caused tensions between Mr. Tillerson and the White House. Mr. Friedman… pushed to move the embassy this year, and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who oversees the president’s Middle East peace initiative, backed him. But Mr. Tillerson petitioned Mr. Trump in a meeting on Thursday for more time to upgrade the security of the building, and the president agreed. “What you’ll see from the secretary is that we will do this at the pace of security, not at the pace of politics,” said the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, Steven Goldstein.” [NYTimes

FREEZING MORE FUNDS — “U.S. won’t pay $45 million pledged for Palestinian food aid for now” by David Alexander and Arshad Mohammed:  “The United States had made clear to UNRWA that the $45 million was a pledge aimed at helping the agency with “forecasting,” but it was not a guarantee, [State Department spokeswoman Heather] Nauert told reporters… “At this time, we will not be providing that, but that does not mean – I want to make it clear – that does not mean that it will not be provided in the future,” Nauert said.” [Reuters]

BEHIND THE SCENES — “For Trump’s security advisers, tempering an impetuous boss” by Josh Lederman and Matt Lee: “Trump had stormed into the new year threatening on Twitter to cut off aid to the Palestinians after little Mideast peace progress. His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, egged Trump on, pushing him to suspend all of a planned $125 million payment to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees… In a phone call this past Friday, the secretary of state sold the president on a compromise: Give half the money, put the rest on hold. It would allow Trump to say he followed through on a threat, without further destabilizing the Arab world… It took an end run by Tillerson around Haley to ensure his word was the last… After re-convincing Trump to accept the compromise, Tillerson worked to keep the decision a secret… Haley and most White House officials didn’t get word until four days later, Tuesday, when the U.S. sent a letter to the U.N. body.” [AP

“How Rex Tillerson Thinks He Can Avoid Mission Creep in Syria” by John Hudson: “We’ve been very clear that we’re not there to in any way engage with the regime, we’re not there to engage with Iran,” said Tillerson, almost shouting so he could be heard over the white noise of his plane flying between California and Andrews Air Force Base. “We’re there to defeat ISIS. If our forces are attacked by others, then we clearly have the authority and the right to defend ourselves,” he said. He insisted that his speech was “not inconsistent with what President Trump’s made the priority.” [BuzzFeed]

“How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse” by Nicolas Niarchos: “In a relationship fostered by the Emiratis and by the Lebanese-American businessman Thomas Barrack, who is a friend of Trump’s, [Jared] Kushner has grown close to King Salman’s thirty-two-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a chief proponent of the war in Yemen. (Gause, the professor at Texas A. & M. University, told me, “This is his war, it was his idea, he owns it.”). Kushner negotiated the new arms deal… According to a number of current and former government officials and weapons experts, Kushner’s action was irregular. It was also bad dealmaking.” [NewYorker]

DRIVING THE DAY — “Chuck Schumer’s DACA Dilemma” by John Cassidy: “[Chuck] Schumer knows the strength of feeling in his party, and he is keenly aware that Trump has failed to follow through on his promise to make a deal on DACA. But the Democratic leader must also be thinking of the November midterms… Opinion polls indicate that most Americans believe that the Dreamers should be protected—but, in the past, polls have also shown that government shutdowns are very unpopular. If one were to happen this weekend, perhaps the public could be persuaded that Trump and the Republicans, who control all three branches of government, were responsible. But, at a juncture when Democrats have a double-digit lead over Republicans in the generic congressional poll, relying on such an outcome would be a risky gambit—especially since there would be another opportunity to fight for DACA next month.” [NewYorker]

Pelosi, religious leaders push for ‘dreamers’ — by Michelle Boorstein: “At the conference several dreamers spoke, including Elias Rosenfeld, a Brandeis University student who has interned with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Rosenfeld is Jewish and from Venezuela. He described having to watch the funeral of his grandfather, with whom Rosenfeld was very close after his own mother’s death, via cellphone video because he could not leave the country. “In the Torah … we are called 36 times to welcome the stranger. This, with the Jewish community’s experience from Egypt to the Holocaust, informs our commitment to the Dream Act,” Rosenfeld said.” [WashPost]

TOP-ED: “A Modest Immigration Proposal: Ban Jews” by Bret Stephens: “Here’s a thought experiment: Would the United States have been better off if it had banned Jewish immigration sometime in the late 19th century…? The question is worth asking, because so many of the same arguments made against African, Latin-American and Muslim immigrants today might have easily been applied to Jews just over a century ago… Today, American Jews are widely considered the model minority, so thoroughly assimilated that organizational Jewish energies are now largely devoted to protecting our religious and cultural distinctiveness. Someone might ask Jeff Sessions and other eternal bigots what makes an El Salvadoran, Iranian or Haitian any different.” [NYTimes

ON THE HILL — Senate advances nomination of Ken Marcus as head of the Education Department’s civil rights office: The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee approved yesterday the nomination of Kenneth L. Marcus as Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights by a 12-11 vote, along party lines. The next step is a floor wide vote.

— “An Advocate for Israel Draws Fire as He Nears Confirmation to Civil Rights Post” by Erica Green: “[Ken] Marcus’ support for Jewish students (as president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law) has earned him praise in some quarters as an ardent defender of civil liberties with an acumen for the rule of law… Critics see him as a biased crusader whose singular focus on what he believes to be rising anti-Semitism on the campus left will further impede the Education Department’s already tentative efforts to enforce civil rights protections for marginalized groups of students…” [NYTimesWashPost]  

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Kushner’s Deutsche Bank-Backed Property Stung by Tenant Troubles [Bloomberg• At last, construction is around the corner on Kansas City downtown convention hotel, says Alex Tisch[KansasCityStar• Cuomo Proposes Ending Carried Interest Loophole for Hedge Funds [Bloomberg]

STARTUP NATION: “In Surprise Move, Microsoft Israel’s R&D Center Names New 34-year-old CEO” by Eliran Rubin: “Assaf Rappaport… who began his new position on Thursday, replaces Yoram Yaacovi, who stepped down a few months ago. Microsoft’s research and development facility in Israel, with its approximately 1,000 employees, is considered one of the corporation’s leading R&D centers in the world. Rappaport joined Microsoft in 2015 after it purchased the cloud security startup Adallom, which he founded together with two partners, Ami Luttwak and Roy Reznik… Rappaport will continue to head the Cloud Security group at Microsoft Israel in addition to his new appointment.” [Haaretz]

SPOTLIGHT: “One Goldman Takeover That Failed: The Trump White House” by James Stewart: “A year ago, with an impressive roster of Goldman Sachs alumni on their way to top White House positions, the return of “Government Sachs” was in full swing… “Everyone was wondering who would dominate the White House: Steve Bannon or the Manhattan mafia,” [Newt] Gingrich told me this week, referring to the Goldman alumni. “It turns out Donald Trump dominated the White House. Surprise! That should have been obvious to anyone who knows anything about Trump.” … Alone among the prominent Goldman alumni in the administration, [Steve] Mnuchin seems likely to stay. “He’s been a good and loyal employee,” Professor [Roy] Smith said. “But he’s more of a Hollywood person now. His reputation in the professional financial sector may not matter that much to him.”” [NYTimes]

“Trump to Mark One-Year Anniversary With Gala at Mar-a-Lago” by Jennifer Jacobs: “The event, hosted by Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, and the casino mogul Steve Wynn, will benefit the Trump presidential campaign and the RNC.”[Bloomberg]

“Tom Arnold: Ari Emanuel told me he lost too much money on Cosby to release embarrassing Miss Universe footage of Trump” by Kim Janssen: “Comedian Tom Arnold has… told Chicago Inc. that he last year had a conversation with Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel… [who] told him… that he would not release compromising footage of the president because “we lost so much money with Bill Cosby and Trump is still a client.” … A spokesman for his company, WME, said Ari Emanuel has never discussed the issue with Arnold, has not represented Trump for two years and that “there is no embarrassing unseen footage — we looked.””[ChicagoTribune]

“Israel puts tunnel dug under Gaza border on display” by Ori Lewis and Stephen Farrell: “The Israeli military brought journalists on Thursday to film a 2 km (1.25 mile) tunnel dug by militants from the Gaza Strip to Israel, saying it was putting the construction on display to show the continuing threat it faces from the territory.” [ReutersCNN]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Israel’s capital is badly run and out of cash: “Jerusalem has attracted a lot of attention since President Donald Trump announced in December that America would recognise it as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there. Yet for all the fuss over the holy city’s international status, its management and finances are a mess. Its streets are often filthy (even when city workers are not striking) and its pavements are crumbling—visible indicators that it spends a quarter less per person on services for residents than Israel’s other large cities…” [Economist]

Israel’s Indian Jews and their lives in the ‘promised land’: “Many hold prestigious jobs in the government and private sectors. They also run for local elections and are vocal supporters of Israeli foreign policy… In addition to cricket, which they play in India team jerseys, many of them are avid watchers of Bollywood films, and have even opened Indian food restaurants across the country. “We are both Israeli and Indian. India is our motherland and Israel our fatherland,” [Naor Gudekar] says proudly. But Dr [Shalva] Weil believes that this may not be a feeling that extends to the younger generations of Bene Israelis. “Bene Israelis feel more and more Israeli. If you look at younger people they act and sound like Israelis. They have little to do with their Indian roots,” she says.” [BBC]

CAMPUS BEAT: “Rabbi Lord Sacks urged religious groups at Penn to come together to solve world problems” by Deena Elul: “Speaking to a room packed with students, faculty, and other members of the Penn community, the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth stressed the importance of creating meaningful connections between different religious groups, even as each preserves its own identity. “Our common humanity takes precedence over our religious differences,” Sacks said… Sacks suggested three ways students could foster meaningful interfaith interactions on campus. “Number one: doing social action together,” Sacks said. “Number two: celebrating together. Food and music are two of the most powerful bonding agents. Number three: whenever a particular faith group suffers a mishap or bad news, being there to give emotional support.””[TheDP

SPORTS BLINK: “‘Lots Of Joking And Teasing’: Two New Jersey Rabbis Stand Divided For NFC Championship Game” by Anita Oh: “The friendship is still on but the Eagles better win,” joked Assistant Rabbi Bryan Wexler, a dedicated Eagles fan. Across the hall from his office, his colleague, Head Rabbi Micah Peltz, is perhaps the sole Minnesota Vikings fan in the building. “You know, I feel like a stranger in a strange land this week,” Peltz said… Although, there are counter-prayers at work too, Wexler says…. “Super Bowl week, we’ll read a verse in Exodus that says, ‘God bore us on eagle’s wings,’ and that must mean God is an Eagles fan.” [CBSPhilly]

PIC OF THE DAY — Netanyahu tweets group selfie with Bollywood stars in Mumbai: “Will my Bollywood selfie beat @TheEllenShow Hollywood selfie at the Oscars?” [Pic]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Retired after 40 years of service as a news reporter and White House correspondent for ABC News, Ann Comptonturns 71… President and CEO of PayPal and Chairman of the Board of Symantec, Daniel H. Schulman turns 60… Los Angeles-based attorney and founder of the blog, American Trial Attorneys in Defense of Israel, Baruch C. Cohen turns 55… Venture capitalist and entrepreneur, his family owns the Hyatt Hotel chain, he is running for Governor of Illinois in the 2018 election, Jay Robert “J.B.” Pritzker turns 53… Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News, Jonathan Karl turns 50… United Arab Emirates’ ambasssador to the USA, Yousef Al Otaiba turns 44… Television journalist, entrepreneur, social activist, YouTube creator and motivational speaker, Jessica Abo turns 37… DC-based Director of Political Outreach at AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy, Julie Fishman Rayman turns 37… VP of “Poverty to Prosperity” program at the Center for American Progress, previously a senior policy associate at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Melissa Boteach 35… Actor since early childhood, has already appeared in over 25 films, played d’Artagnan in 2011’s “The Three Musketeers,” Logan Lerman turns 26… Jewish rapper, best known by his stage name Mac Miller, Malcolm James McCormick turns 26… Senior account executive at Chicago’s Resolute Consulting, she was deputy director of strategic partnerships in the office of Chicago’s Mayor, after four years at AIPAC, Emily Berman Pevnick… Alex Bronzo… Isaac Wolf

SATURDAY: Lakewood, NJ-born, American diplomat and former State Department official (1959-1991), later President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1991-1997), Morton I. Abramowitz turns 85… Israeli politician, refusenik during the 1970s and 1980s who spent nine years in Soviet prisons, since 2009 Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky turns 70… US Representative from Nevada (1999-2013), now CEO and senior provost for Touro University Western Division, Shelley Berkley (born Rochelle Levine) turns 67… Host of HBO’s political talk show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” William “Bill” Maher turns 62… Diane Kushnir Halivni turns 48… US Ambassador to the United Nations, she was previously Governor of South Carolina (2011-2017), Ambassador Nikki Haley (born Nimrata Randhawa) turns 46… Philanthropist, professional equestrian, author and younger daughter of former NYC Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Georgina Leigh Bloomberg turns 35… Member of the digital communications team at Purple Strategies, after internships on Capitol Hill and the MPAA, blogger for Mediabistro’s FishbowlDC, Alec Jacobs… Jason Berger Adar Belinkoff

SUNDAY: Born in Kansas City, raised in Oklahoma City, philanthropist and co-founder of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Lynn Schusterman… Literary critic, feminist, writer on cultural and social issues, television critic for People magazine, Elaine Showalter (born Elaine Cottler) turns 77… Chinese-American Governor of Washington (1997-2005), US Secretary of Commerce (2009-11) and US Ambassador to China (2011-14), Gary Locke turns 68… 82nd Attorney General of the United States (2009-2015), Eric Holder turns 67… Chairman and CEO of Norfolk, Virginia-based Harbor Group International, a $7 billion real estate investment firm, Jordan E. Slone turns 56… Political editor at Newsweek, previously managing editor for White House coverage at National Journal, reporter for Time, blogger for Talking Points Memo, Matthew Cooper turns 55… Managing director of OneTable, Andrea Greenblatt turns 51… Born in Trinidad and Tobago, SVP and Washington bureau chief for CNN since 2011, employed by CNN since 1991, Sam Feist turns 49… Ramat Gan native, director, producer and screenwriter of American films, best known as the producer or director of the six films in the “Paranormal Activity” series, Oren Peli turns 48… Dean of School at Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Los Angeles, lecturer, educator and author, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn turns 39… Deputy legislative director for US Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Jordan Grossman turns 32…

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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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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…

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

David Schottenstein’s collar stays startup Swiss Stays announced a special edition called “Think Yiddish, Dress British” where each stay features a Yiddish word on one side relating to…

A Rabbi, Senator, Congresswoman & Ambassador walk into Eli’s…

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Not the start of a joke. Rather, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Senator Cory Booker, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer all went out to…

Norpac Hosts Sen. Ayotte & Rep. Chabot

Monday, November 18, 2013

On Sunday, Norpac hosted a fundraiser for Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and a private dinner fundraiser for Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).  

Legendary Jewish Philanthropist Paul Moshe Reichmann Passes Away at 83

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Paul Moshe Reichmann, the Orthodox Jewish real estate developer who made and lost billions of dollars while transforming the skylines of Toronto, New York and London, died on…