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TOP TALKER: “Sources: McMaster Mocked Trump’s Intelligence At A Private Dinner” by Joseph Bernstein: “Over a July dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz… McMaster bluntly trashed his boss… The top national security official dismissed the president variously as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” the sources said… The meeting, Oracle senior VP for government affairs Ken Glueck said, was about China, and “none of the statements attributed to General McMaster were said.” … According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, administration officials threatened to retaliate against several figures with knowledge of the July dinner if they spoke to BuzzFeed News. Asked whether he had made his statement under pressure from the administration, Glueck responded, “ridiculous.”
“News of the July dinner first surfaced in August, when Axios reported that Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson decided to support a campaign alleging that McMaster was anti-Israel after speaking with Catz about her meeting with the national security adviser… Of Kushner… McMaster said he had no business being in the White House and should not be involved in national security issues. “[Catz] said the conversation was so inappropriate that it was jaw-dropping,” another source told BuzzFeed News… According to sources, Catz was so alarmed by the tenor of McMaster’s comments about President Trump and Israel that she confided her concerns to several administration officials, as well as Adelson.” [BuzzFeed]
–Critics of the report: “Kate Brannen, deputy managing editor at Just Security, noted that Ezra Cohen-Watnick — whose ouster from the National Security Council spurred efforts by Trump loyalists to force McMaster out — took a job at Oracle in September. Oracle also hired Josh Pitcock, former chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence. “This story smells a bit funky,” noted Jenna McLaughlin, an intelligence reporter at Foreign Policy, adding, “At some point, if you’ve got a bunch of Oracle sources who did not attend an event they’re speaking about, with a history of hating McMaster, telling you things… time to question the motivation behind said ‘tips.'” [BusinessInsider]
DRIVING THE DAY: “UN envoy says conflict likely if Palestinians fail to agree” by Edith Lederer: “Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that “critical intra-Palestinian talks” are scheduled to open in Cairo on Tuesday… But the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process warned of the consequences and likely conflict if the Hamas-Fatah agreement fails. “Whether it would be triggered by a meltdown of law and order in Gaza, by the reckless action of extremists or by strategic choice, the result will be the same — devastation and suffering for all,” Mladenov said.” [AP]
“Palestinian Foreign Minister: Trump Admin Reconsidering Move to Close PLO Mission in D.C.” by Jack Khoury: “The Trump administration began to reconsider the move following threats by the Palestinian Authority’s leadership that Ramallah would cut its ties with Washington, Maliki told the official Voice of Palestine radio station. Maliki added that the Trump administration must reexamine all the laws passed by Congress since 1987 defining the Palestine Liberation Organization as a terrorist organization.” [Haaretz]
“Palestinians point finger at Israel for crisis with US” by Shlomi Eldar: “The Palestinians are convinced that Tillerson’s threats must be the doings of Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer… According to the [Palestinians] source, Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot sent reports in real-time that Dermer was conducting an “ugly and manipulative” struggle against the Palestinian office in Washington and tried to convince officials in the administration to close the office or at least curb Zomlot’s activities in the capital… According to an Israeli diplomatic source… there was nothing inappropriate about the behavior of Dermer… The Israeli source added that it would be an exaggeration to think that Tillerson’s threats on the Palestinians are only the results of Israeli diplomatic activity.” [AlMonitor]
IRAN POLICY: “U.S. sanctions individuals, entities for Iran-linked counterfeiting” by Lisa Lambert: “The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday sanctioned a network of individuals and companies it said counterfeited Yemeni bank notes potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force.” [Reuters; WSJ]
Sen. Ben Cardin in an interview on The Global Politico podcast with Susan Glasser: “Congress has a limited role in regards to the nuclear agreement with Iran… We’ve already done that; we passed a bill this year imposing new sanctions on Iran for their non-nuclear violations… In regards to the nuclear agreement… I don’t know how much Congress can do in that regard, but certainly, we can support the administration… I think Congress will try to be cooperative with the President, but, quite frankly, within the nuclear agreement, we have to work with our [European] partners.” [Politico]
‘THE MOOCH’ IN ISRAEL — Former, and very brief, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was greeted warmly by Likud and Bayit Yehudi Knesset Members and ministers as he keynoted the launch of the Israeli chapter of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce at King David Hotel in Jerusalem. The Mooch peppered his speech with Yiddish phrases, even telling jokes at his own expense. “I know what tzuris is – because, you know, I was in the White House,” he quipped. “Some people think that coming to Israel for just 5 days is a very short trip, but I remind them that since I only spent 11 days in the White House, it’s almost half of a Scaramucci.” He also recalled taking a course on Yiddish literature at Tufts University called From Shtetl to Suburbia. “And I can tell you, I am one of the few goys out there the knows the difference between a sheigetz and a shiksa.” [Video] • Read Aaron Magid’s full dispatch from the King David Hotel [JewishInsider]
— WATCH: The Mooch before reciting Shehecheyanu in Hebrew: “Now I am going to do something I promised myself I am not going to do. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Mayor [Mike] Bloomberg speak Spanish? Well, I am going to break out into Hebrew in about two seconds.” [Video]
YESTERDAY IN JERUSALEM — Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) met with Prime Minister Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem. “They discussed the challenges and opportunities we face in the region and the potential for deepening cooperation in water management, agriculture, cyber security and more, ” the PMO’s said in a statement. “The PM expressed his deep appreciation for America’s commitment to Israel’s security.” [Pic]
2018 WATCH: “Can a Jew from liberal Miami Beach be Florida’s next governor? Philip Levine is betting yes” by Amy Sherman: “I knew this African-American guy, believe it or not, who won the state twice and was elected president of the United States twice, and an older Jewish guy almost got the Democratic nomination for president,” former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, says. The last Jews elected statewide were in the 1970s: U.S. Sen. Richard Stone and Attorney General Robert Shevin. Stone, now 89 and living in Maryland, says being Jewish wasn’t an obstacle to running statewide — the main hurdle was being from Miami Beach. “It can be done, as I’ve shown, but people are normally more comfortable with a nearby neighbor running for office than someone from a longer way away,” he said.” [JTA]
2020 WATCH: “From City Hall to the White House? Eric Garcetti May Try to Defy the Odds” by Adam Nagourney: “In the course of an hourlong interview in his office, Mr. Garcetti, 46, a Democrat, made clear that, as unlikely as it might sound, he is considering a run for president, after announcing he would not run for governor. “There are 23 states that have a population smaller than Los Angeles,” he said… His background reflects the rich texture of the city that he governs and where he was raised. He is both Jewish and Mexican… Joel Benenson, who was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and served as Mr. Obama’s pollster, said the biggest thing Mr. Garcetti had going for him was the unsettled political field… “I wouldn’t say get out of the way,” Mr. Garcetti said. “That’s not how I function. I say there’s room for all of us.”” [NYTimes]
Mike Bloomberg on Disney CEO Bob Iger possibly running for president: “Bob Iger is a good friend, and he’s on the board of my foundation. We’ve talked about government and politics, I’m sure. I don’t remember any specific conversation. He’s a very smart guy. He cares very much about the environment and public education. He seems to have an interest in politics, which I would encourage. I don’t know we ever discussed literally should he run for president or shouldn’t he run for president.” [HollywoodReporter]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: How a Handful of Billionaires Kept Their Friend Harvey Weinstein in Power [Fortune] • The Education of Mark Zuckerberg: The Facebook founder has discussed “community” more than 150 times in public. A close reading reveals his road map for the platform’s future. [TheAtlantic] • Barry Sternlicht’s Starwood Retail to issue up to $280 billion in bonds in Tel Aviv [Haaretz] • How Israeli women techies are opening doors for each other in Silicon Valley [ToI]
PODCAST PLAYBACK — How I Built This with Guy Raz on Ben & Jerry’s Ben Cohen And Jerry Greenfield: “In the mid-1970s two childhood friends, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield decided to open an ice cream shop in Burlington, Vermont. Their quirky little shop packaged and sold unusual flavors like Honey Coffee, Mocha Walnut, and Mint with Oreo Cookies. In 1981, the regional brand spread across the country after Time magazine called it the “best ice cream in America.” Today, Ben & Jerry’s is one of the top selling ice cream brands in the world. And, like the original founders, the company doesn’t shy away from speaking out on social issues.” [NPR]
“Dan Gilbert and son Nick discuss their health care journey” by Jay Greene: “Businessman Dan Gilbert and his son Nick opened up Tuesday about their family’s journey through the health care system to treat Nick’s rare genetic disorder, neurofibromatosis, that caused tumors to form on his brain and eventually nearly blinded him… Gilbert said he has collected a number of what he called “Nick-isms” over the years, comments that Nick has made about his family, to the public and to health care providers. For example, when Nick was 3 years old, one of the family goldfish died. A babysitter flushed the dead fish down the garbage disposal. “We had to explain it to you. Where did it go? … We explained that the goldfish went up to heaven,” said Gilbert, asking Nick to recall what he said. Nick replied, “So heaven is in the garbage disposal?” [CrainsDetroit]
TALK OF OUR NATION — Holocaust survivor opens art museum in hometown Vilnius: “Painter and Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak on Monday opened a museum of his allegorical work inspired by Jewish history in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, more than half a century after he held his first exhibition as a nine-year-old inside its wartime ghetto… “For me to be here is somehow to come back to the very beginning of the beginning. It is also a possibility to express my gratitude to Christians who helped me survive,” he said before the opening ceremony attended by several hundred people.” [Yahoo]
“In secular France, a female rabbi dares to bring religion into public life” by James McAuley: “In a country where official Jewish life is overwhelmingly Orthodox, Delphine Horvilleur is something of a scandal, a married mother of three who defies centuries of gender norms in a manicured corner of French public life. A cause celebre, she remains unrecognized by France’s central Jewish authority… But what is perhaps most scandalous about “Madame le Rabbin,” as she is often called… Horvilleur is insisting that religion should play a role in this Western society… “It’s as if religion is a museum, or — as we say in France, a madeleine of Proust,” Horvilleur said… “Our goal is to reenter into history — to say, ‘We are what we are, but our texts, our beliefs, they are not locked in a box.’”” [WashPost]
“Liberal Jewish Group Demands The New School Apologize for Sarsour Panel, Collects Nearly 10,000 Signatures in Four Days” by Liel Leibovitz: “Enraged by The New School’s actions (hosting a panel on anti-Semitism featuring Linda Sarsour), Zioness, a “new initiative that empowers progressive and feminist Zionists who wish to engage in movements to advance civil rights, social justice and equality for all,” disseminated a petition late last week calling on the university to apologize… Since it was introduced less than a week ago, nearly 10,000 people have signed the petition.” [Tablet]
Amanda Berman, Zioness’ co-founder emails us: “Shocking to see an institution like The New School hosting a panel on anti-Semitism that itself perpetuates, exacerbates and excuses anti-Semitism. I’m pretty confident they would not sponsor a discussion of ‘alternative views’ of any other form of systemic bigotry. While the Jewish community rarely agrees on anything, the outrageousness of this panel has united us from left to right.”
KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The Knesset marked the 40th anniversary today of the historic 1977 speech by then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The event was, of course, filled with messages of peace, and the guest of honor was Egyptian Ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat. Speaking in Arabic, Khairat called upon his listeners to complete Sadat’s vision for regional peace and to seek an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, based on the two state solution.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, in what could easily be seen as a message to the Trump administration, said: “We are used to the idea of peace being forced upon us, but here is an example that peace can be made without mediators.” Of course, that statement is not quite accurate, and the Carter administration was involved in the negotiations, but with a possible Trump ultimate deal plan looming, she has her reasons to present things differently. “We are all waiting for a Palestinian Sadat to be born, but the conflict will not just be solved when there is a Palestinian Sadat and an Israeli Begin, but when the Palestinians’ world view is no longer based on rejecting the existence of the Jewish People.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here[JewishInsider]
MEDIA WATCH: “John King on CNN, Wolf Blitzer” by Lisa Weidenfeld: “I love Wolf like a brother. I have never arm-wrestled Wolf Blitzer, though… But Wolf is a unique figure to me because Wolf was the senior White House correspondent when I switched from print to television… I had worked for 12 years at the Associated Press. It was my family, it was my home, it was the only job in journalism I knew, even though I moved from Providence to Boston and then to Washington. My bosses were my mentors and my friends. They had allowed me to cover campaigns when I was a kid. They sent me off to war when I was young. So here I was going into this new environment. I was petrified; I was horrible at it. In a business that has a lot of egos and a lot of strange people, Wolf is just—he’s a Buffalo kid and I’m a Dorchester kid. He’s just the most decent human being you will ever meet in your entire life. And he’s such a gentleman. He’s just a quiet leader, carries himself with dignity.” [BostonMag]
COMING SOON: “‘Fauda’ 2 to air in Israel on New Year’s Eve” by Jessica Steinberg: “The “Fauda” wait is over. The second season of the award-winning Israeli political thriller, co-created by Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz, premieres December 31 on Israel’s Yes TV, and will follow a few months later on Netflix.” [ToI]
SPOTTED — at wedding of Yitz Ceitlin and Shana Shemtov, the daughter of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) Director Rabbi Levi & Nechama Shemtov, in Crown Heights, New York: Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, who recited a blessing under the chuppah[Pic], Rabbi Berel Lazar, Malcolm Hoenlein, William Daroff, NYC Councilman David Greenfield, Tevi and Kami Troy, Howard Friedman, Tom Kahn, Lewis Mayberg, Jeffery (Yaakov) Cohen, Ed Miller, Nathan Diament, Mitchell Silk, Sander Gerber, Nat Lewin, David Prager, Shmuley Boteach, and Yaacov Behrman.
DESSERT: “Pastrami Will Be Flown In for RiNo’s New Jewish Deli” by Josie Sexto: “Originally from Colorado, [Jerrod] Rosen spent time in New York training under Thomas Keller at Per Se, and Danny Meyer at Tabla… Rosen is teaming up with Denver chef consultant Ryan Leinonen… The two… promise to bring “the best of traditional Jewish comfort food” to Denver… Rye bread will be baked in–house daily, and pastrami will be flown in from New York’s Carnegie Deli.” [Eater]
BIRTHDAYS: British entrepreneur and philanthropist, Baron Harold Stanley Kalms turns 86… Academy Award-winning actress, director, producer and occasional singer, she founded The Hawn Foundation to help underprivileged children, Goldie Hawn turns 72… Founder, Chairman and CEO of Men’s Wearhouse (1973-2013), currently holding these same positions at Generation Tux, an online tuxedo rental platform, George Zimmer turns 69… Beverly Hills resident, Julie Shuer turns 65… Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group, Thomas Rothman turns 63… VP of wealth management at the San Francisco office of Taylor Frigon Capital Management and serves on AIPAC’s National Council, Jonathan Wornickturns 54… CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL),Jonathan A. Greenblatt turns 47… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and political commentator, editor of the Jerusalem Post (2002-2004), moved from the WSJ to the New York Times in 2017, Bret Stephens turns 44… Born in Teheran, his family emigrated after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, he is the founder and publisher of the business magazine The Real Deal, Amir Korangy turns 44… Political Director of ABC News, Rick Klein turns 41… US foreign service officer, Danielle Monosson turns 41… Reporter at Bloomberg News, Max Abelson turns 33… Judy Brilliant… Ruth Shapiro…
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Ed note: Over the past few weeks, as Congress has worked on the Taylor Force Act legislation, there have been a series of conversations between the White House and Congress. We were not present for those discussions but this week a number of participants who were privy to the conversations have expressed differing views on what exemptions to the legislation were proposed, by whom and with what motives. Below are the various viewpoints of those who spoke with us.
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE IS SAYING — After Jewish Insider’s Aaron Magid reported on Monday, citing several Congressional sources, that White House advisor Jason Greenblatt urged Congress to include wastewater exemptions in the Taylor Force Act, senior White House official Victoria Coates pushed back and attempted to clarify the administration’s stance towards the legislation. Coates told the Free Beacon on Wednesday, “The Trump administration strongly supports the Taylor Force Act, and the White House has communicated that support to Congress and in public statements.” The former staffer for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) added, “Reports to the contrary, including that anyone at the White House tried to water this legislation down, are false.”
WHAT CAPITOL HILL SOURCES ARE SAYING — “If this administration really wanted this bill to be signed into law quickly, they would be using their muscle to tell the House to markup either the SFRC version or Senate Ops bill so we could clear it on hotline and the House could pass their bill and it could be at the President’s desk in a few weeks,” one well-informed Congressional aide told us earlier in the week.
On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed an updated version of the Taylor Force Act. The revised bill includes exemptions for specific US programs to the Palestinians including the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, childhood vaccines and wastewater projects. These carve outs would be targeted and limited to tangible initiatives. However, aides in two Congressional offices tell Jewish Insider that earlier this month senior White House official Victoria Coates recommended an additional exemption for programs that would promote regional cooperation.
“Victoria Coates asked for this regional cooperation language, which is ridiculous. That is the most undefined, wide expansive waiver exemption that you could possibly give the administration. It’s not even a national security exemption. Literally, it could be anything,” one of the staffers stressed. In the end, the House Foreign Affairs Committee did not include the regional cooperation exemption on Wednesday.
“The fact that the administration is weighing in to make changes, at this point after we have done all of the work on the Senate side, I just get the feeling that they (the White House) are just dragging their feet,” the Congressional source charged.
When asked for comment yesterday, White House spokesman Josh Raffel replied: “The White House strongly supports the Taylor Force Act, we have not lobbied to water it down and never asked for an exemption contingent on regional cooperation. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress on this issue. It is disappointing to continue to see such false and misleading information about our involvement with and support of the Taylor Force Act.”
Noah Pollak, a strong supporter of the Taylor Force Act, tells us: “The administration doesn’t oppose TFA in principle, but it does view its timing as inconvenient to the effort to restart negotiations. This White House, like past White Houses, wishes to pursue its foreign policy goals without interference from Congress. But every exemption that is added to the bill frees up money for the PA to spend on terrorism, and communicates to the Palestinians that the US doesn’t really mean it when we say terrorism is unacceptable. I believe the only morally and politically defensible position is zero exemptions.”
Last night, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce emailed us the following statement: “The administration shares our goal of stopping the Palestinian Authority’s abhorrent ‘pay to slay’ scheme that incentivizes terrorism. This bill, as approved by the committee, is a strong, effective measure that is capable of clearing the Senate and moving to the president’s desk. We appreciate the productive role the White House has played in this process, and look forward to seeing the Taylor Force bill on the House floor.”
DRIVING THE CONVO: “Israel is nervous about the Syria ceasefire deal” by Barak Ravid: “Israeli leaders are worried about the ceasefire deal in southern Syria signed last weekend between the U.S., Russia and Jordan. That’s because the deal will allow Iranian-backed forces to position themselves as close as 3.5 miles from the Israeli border in the Golan Heights. But they also think it sends an alarming signal about the Trump administration’s policies. Israeli officials see the deal as a sign that the Trump administration is too eager to pull out of the Middle East, and not willing to back up its rhetoric about confronting Iran’s negative regional behavior with action.”
“Less publicly, Israeli officials admit they failed to convince Russia and the U.S. to draft a deal that will address Israeli concerns more seriously. While they are not surprised with the Russians, they are disappointed with the way the Trump administration handled the Syria deal. As one Israeli official told me: “America has turned into a rumor in the Middle East. It’s gone. There is nothing.” The only comfort Israeli officials have is that, while it doesn’t want to take action itself, the Trump administration is giving Israel a “green light” to continue its military strikes against Hezbollah and Iran in Syria. “We will just have to take care of it on our own”, an Israeli official told me.” [Axios]
DEADLINE APPROACHING — On December 1st, President Trump is expected to renew on a presidential waiver suspending the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv for another six months. “The president has always made it very clear that it is a matter of when, not if. We have no news to share at this time,” a White House official said last week. In an interview set to be broadcast on the JBS television network, Ambassador David Friedman says that he is “pretty confident” that the embassy will be moved to Jerusalem during Trump’s first term. [Video]
ON NAZIS, ISRAEL DOESN’T SIDE WITH U.S. AT UN: “The United States has voted against a yearly resolution that condemns the glorification of Nazism, though it doesn’t like Nazis… The Russian-drafted resolution was approved Thursday by the [United Nations] General Assembly’s human rights committee on a vote of 125-2, with 51 abstentions… Despite U.S. pressure to vote “no,” Israel supported the resolution.” [AP]
Family of captive Israeli arrives in DC to raise awareness — by Aaron Magid: The family of Avera Mengistu, an Israeli who has been detained in Gaza since September 2014, arrived in Washington this week to highlight his plight. Avera’s brother, Ilan and his mother Agurnesh met with the Trump administration’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt at the White House on Wednesday… For the first eight months after his detainment, the Israeli military issued an order preventing any media outlet from reporting on the situation. However, when the family did not receive any proof of life from Avera, they decided to publicize his detainment in an effort to try and bring him home from Hamas custody. [JewishInsider]
REPORT: Saudi Arabia king to step down and hand over the crown to his 32-year-old son — by Ryan Parry and Josh Boswell: “The move is seen as the final step in 32-year-old Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s power grab, which began earlier this month with the arrests of more than 40 princes and government ministers in a corruption probe… ‘Unless something dramatic happens, King Salman will announce the appointment of MBS as King of Saudi Arabia next week,’ said the source. ‘King Salman will play the role of the queen of England. He will only keep the title “Custodian of the Holy Shrines.”
“The high level source said once crowned king, the prince will shift his focus to Iran… with fears military action is possible. He will also enlist the help of the Israeli military to crush Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia supported by Iran, according to the source… ‘MBS can not confront Hezbollah in Lebanon without Israel. Plan B is to fight Hezbollah in Syria,’ said the source.” [DailyMail]
–Martin Indyk tweets about the Daily Mail story: “Not a well-sourced piece but it’s going to happen sooner than later: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman set to hand over the crown to his son.”
“Details of Abbas’ mysterious Saudi trip still scarce” by Adnan Abu Amer: “A Palestinian official told Donia al-Watan… that the Saudi visit seems to have troubled Abbas, who feels that some Arab parties are trying to unseat him or push him to resign… Ibrahim Habib, dean of scientific research at the Ribat University College affiliated with Gaza’s Interior Ministry, told Al-Monitor, “Abbas is under Arab and international pressure to settle the Palestinian cause. But he is smart, stubborn and elusive. He will not raise the white flag, even if he fails to face Saudi pressure… He would rather weaken Israel’s position globally without resigning to prevent any party from taking steps to strip him of his legitimacy.”” [Al-Monitor]
REX UPDATE: “Tillerson Got a Lot of Face Time With Trump on the Asia Trip” by Nick Wadhams: “[Rex] Tillerson frequently briefed the president alone at the start of the day… He sat at the president’s side at most of his bilateral meetings with other world leaders and rode with Trump in his armored limousine as they crisscrossed Beijing… Tillerson’s trip with Trump is unlikely to erase the rumors that United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley wants his job or that CIA Director Mike Pompeo might get it. But the secretary of state has burnished his credentials as a defender of Trump’s unconventional approach to world affairs.” [Bloomberg]
THE DAILY KUSHNER: “Senate Panel Says Kushner Failed to Provide Russia Documents” by Michael Schmidt: “The Senate Judiciary Committee has uncovered evidence that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was forwarded a document about a “Russian backdoor overture” that Mr. Kushner failed to hand over to the panel’s investigators… The Senate letter did not say what type of back channel communication the Russians were trying to set up. But it noted that “other parties have produced documents concerning the matter.” Mr. Kushner also failed to provide investigators with a September 2016 email he was sent about WikiLeaks… In a statement on Thursday, [Abbe] Lowell said that Mr. Kushner had responded to all of the committee’s requests.” [NYTimes] • Kushner still waiting on permanent security clearance [Politico]
“Regrets? Chris Christie Has a Few” by Josh Dawsey: “Two days after Trump’s surprise win, Steve Bannon and Christie were seen arguing for several hours in a glass office in the transition headquarters in New York. Bannon was firing him as chair of the transition… He wanted to know who was behind it, and he suspected Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner… “Oh, I asked,” Christie said, referring to Bannon. “He didn’t answer. But [based on] subsequent conversations I’ve had with the president, I just don’t believe this was the president’s decision.” … He declined to take a shot at Kushner when asked about the Trump son-in-law’s diminished White House role. “I would never underestimate Jared’s ability to be involved in whatever he wants to do be involved in,” Christie said.” [Politico]
“Al Franken Issues Apology After Accusation of Forcible Kissing and Groping” by Nicholas Fandos: “[Sen] Franken almost immediately released an apology to the newscaster, Leeann Tweeden, who said that Mr. Franken forcibly kissed her during a rehearsal and groped her for a photo as she slept… Response from Republicans and Democrats alike was swift and unsparing. Mitch McConnell… and Chuck Schumer… the Senate leaders, wasted no time before forwarding the matter to the Senate Ethics Committee — a move supported by Democrats, including Mr. Franken… While his fellow senators rushed to rebuke him, Mr. Franken hunkered down out of sight, skipping four votes in the Senate and the Democrats’ regularly scheduled luncheon.” [NYTimes]
“Trump chimes in on Franken sexual harassment, dubs him ‘Al Frankenstein’” by Kristen East: “President Donald Trump has a new nickname for Al Franken, hours after the Minnesota senator was accused of sexual misconduct: Al Frankenstein. “The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? …..” Trump tweeted.” [Politico]
“Democrats Missed A Chance To Draw A Line In The Sand On Sexual Misconduct” by Nate Silver: “If Franken were to resign, it probably wouldn’t cost Democrats a Senate seat. Instead, an interim replacement would be named by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton — a Democrat who would almost certainly appoint another Democrat… In other words, I thought the Democrats had an opportunity to maintain the moral high ground without having to pay a political price for it.” [FiveThirtyEight]
WHITE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE DEPT. — White House sent around Bernie Marcus’ op-ed in favor of the tax bill… “Tax bills give small businesses plenty to be thankful for: Small businesses and legislators should not let their pursuit of better tax legislation mar this good one. These bills give small-business owners, and all Americans, much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Anything else would be gravy.” [TheHill]
2018 WATCH: “Stacey Abrams’ stance on Israel under scrutiny in race for [Georgia] governor” by Greg Bluestein: “Steve Berman, founder of OA Development, wrote in the Atlanta Jewish Times that he was disappointed that Abrams was one of only a handful of legislators to speak against the [anti-BDS] bill on the Georgia House floor… Abrams published a lengthy response to the op-ed on Medium… calling herself an “unwavering ally” to the Jewish community… Abrams’ campaign pointed to Lois Frank, a well-known activist in the Jewish community who vouched for the candidate’s “longstanding ties to our community.” [AJCPolitics]
ALABAMA SPECIAL ELECTION: “All hail Roy Moore at ‘pro-family’ rally, while accusations pile up” by Christopher Wilson: “Rabbi Noson Leiter said during Thursday’s event that Moore would stand up against “gay terrorists” and the “LGBT rights mafia.” Leiter had previously blamed Hurricane Sandy on the legalization of gay marriage in New York state.” [YahooNews]
“Jon Stewart Returns to ‘Daily Show’ to Mock Anti-Semitic Roy Moore Robocalls” by Matt Wilstein: “I’m going to go out of a limb and say that this ‘Bernie Bernstein’ is not a real Washington Post reporter,” host Trevor Noah said after playing the call… “I don’t even know what that accent was,” he added. “It sounded like a guy trying to do a New York Jewish voice based on hearing a friend describe a Woody Allen movie.” Just then, Noah received a call from “Bernstein,” a “real person,” who happened to be calling from backstage. After revealing the caller to be his predecessor, Noah discovered that Stewart was just finding another elaborate way to promote this Saturday’s Night of Too Many Stars benefit. “You don’t need anti-Semitism to come on the show, you could have just asked me,” Noah said. “I don’t need it, I just like it that way,” Stewart replied.” [DailyBeast; Mediaite]
** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Nvidia Hires Uber Executive, Targets Mobileye[TheInformation] • Stephen Ross on Amazon HQ2: “I don’t think New York has a chance” [RealDeal] • Stephen Feinberg, The Reclusive Financier Moving From Weapons to German Banking [Bloomberg] • Jeff Zucker’s CNN vs. Ben Smith’s BuzzFeed: A media spat for the digital age [CJR] • PDVSA Looks Like a ‘Zero’ to Man Who Ran Elliott’s Argentina Bet [Bloomberg]
TRANSITION — President Donald Trump has appointed Paul Packer, a veteran hedge fund manager from New York, as the new chairman of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, replacing Leslie Weiss. The commission was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 to encourage, sponsor and facilitate the preservation and restoration of monuments, cemeteries, historic buildings and other sites that are important and associated with the heritage of US citizens. [JPost]
TOP TALKER: “Why Was the ‘Jewish Nobel’ Snatched From Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Given to Natalie Portman?” by Yossi Verter: “The central [Genesis] prize was supposed to go to Justice Ginsburg. She was informed of the decision a few weeks ago by the prize committee. She was delighted… But a public announcement did not follow… According to a source close to the committee, someone remembered that in 2016, the justice had lashed out sharply against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump… The incriminating information was made known to the Prime Minister’s Bureau. Major panic. How would Trump react when he saw a photo of his good pal Bibi presenting the most important prize in the Jewish world to the justice he abhors, a liberal icon and a declared supporter of Hillary Clinton? Heaven help us. Several days of frantic running around between offices and officials ensued, until the prize was taken from Ginsburg and transferred to Portman.”
“Another committee source maintains that this is not the reason that Ginsburg was denied the award. This source says that the committee’s legal adviser discovered that U.S. judges are barred from receiving monetary prizes from a foreign country, even if they re-distribute the sum to others. Accordingly, with great regret and despite the unpleasantness, the original decision was overturned. But why wasn’t such a basic point as that checked at an earlier stage, and why would the justice herself not have pointed it out to the committee?” [Haaretz]
TALK OF THE TOWN:“Rabbis’ Dinner Has Outgrown New York City Venues” by Charles Passy: “The Chabad-Lubavitch… conference’s Sundaynight dinner, attended by roughly 5,000 rabbis plus guests, has turned into such an oversize affair that Chabad says it could no longer find a suitable venue to stage it within New York City. The solution: Head to Bayonne, N.J. Lighting for the event is also an issue. The rabbis wear wide-brimmed hats, which can result in a shadow being cast on the faces of any speakers at the event’s stage. Chabad plans to prevent that by lighting the stage from below. The move to New Jersey has created a transportation dilemma. Rabbis will have to make it by bus from Chabad’s Brooklyn headquarters starting in the afternoon. Should they hit a major traffic snag, they may not be able to recite the middle-of-the-day (or “mincha”) prayers in a proper space. Chabad has arranged for a “mincha stop” along the bus route just in case.” [WSJ]
“Refugee who fled Iraq buys a home… in Baghdad” by Rosa Doherty: “A Jewish refugee from Iraq has done the unthinkable — gone back to Baghdad and bought a house there. Edwin Shuker, a 72 year-old north Londoner, is one of five families who tell their story as part of a new film called Remember Baghdad… The house he has bought in Bagdad is more “symbolic than anything else,” as he lives most of the time in Finchley, north London. But he says: “I try to visit when the security situation allows.”” [TheJC]
REMEMBERING: “Democratic megadonor, Houston trial lawyer Steve Mostyn has died” by Morgon Smith and Jay Root: “Steve Mostyn, a top Democratic donor and prominent Houston trial lawyer, has died. He was 46. According to a statement released by his wife, Amber, Mostyn died Wednesday after “a sudden onset and battle with a mental health issue.” She did not disclose the cause of death.” [TexasTribune] • Flashback to 2014: Mega-donor Steve Mostyn sponsors kosher chili cookoff at Houston Rodeo [WashExaminer]
PROFILE: “The Biggest Mouth in Wrestling” by Thomas Golianopoulos: “As Brock Lesnar’s spokesperson, Paul Heyman is one of WWE’s most essential figures and one of wrestling history’s greatest mavericks. But how much longer can the Beast and his boisterous advocate dominate WWE? … Just as he smoothed things over with [Ric] Flair, Heyman made new enemies. Executives called him the “New York Jew” behind his back. But by the end of 1991, after returning from another suspension, the Jewish guy from New York was leading the top heel faction in the industry, the Dangerous Alliance. New management then demanded he take a pay cut. He declined, was written off television, and then, once again, he sued Turner… Heyman claimed victory once the parties settled.” [TheRinger]
STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: “Hims Is Basically Glossier for Dudes” by Cheryl Wischhover: “Hims just closed on $7 million in Series A funding, according to TechCrunch. Among several others, it also counts as investors Josh Kushner’s (brother of Jared) Thrive Capital and Kirsten Green’s Forerunner Ventures. Dudum says of Kushner and Green, “From day zero, those two individuals are unfortunately receiving text messages from me, probably on a daily basis, of screenshots of copy or ideas, and we’re constantly going back and forth with new products we should be rolling out, how we should be communicating, other markets we should be playing in, and how to approach it.”” [Racked]
>WINE OF THE WEEK — Recanati 2014 Special Reserve Red — by Yitz Applbaum: I try to bring Israeli wine with me when I travel because I believe that Israeli wines infuse spirituality into any meal, especially when the wines become a topic of conversation. On a recent fishing trip to the Rogue River in Oregon, I tested this hypothesis. It is a challenge to describe the immense beauty of the place, and it is even more impossible to describe my state of mind after four days without email. A once in a lifetime experience on many levels.
I was with a group who were new to Israeli wines, and I decided to bring along the Recanati 2014 Special Reserve Red. An amazing wine. It is aged for 24 months in new French oak. The wine is toasty, deep, and envelops one’s palate. There are intense cherry flavors on the mid palate and deep plum on the finish. This wine is ready to drink tonight and will continue to drink well again in 10 years. Drink this wine with large quantities of freshly caught steelhead trout that are barbecued. [Recanati]
DESSERT — San Francisco’s Longest Running Comedy Show Celebrates 25 Years: “Kung Pao Kosher Comedy returns to the stage this Christmas season. Expect the comic styles of Cathy Ladman, Gary Gulman, and Wendy Liebman, and Kung Pao Kosher’s very own, Lisa Geduldig will be hosting the entire evening. This unique event will be seating in “family-style” tables of 10 only… The comedy is kosher, but the food is not.” [NBCBayArea]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Philanthropist and director of the William Davidson Foundation, Karen Davidson… Biochemist who was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Stanley Cohen turns 95… Rabbi of Agudath Israel of Baltimore since 1981, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann turns 80… Original creator and producer of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels(born Lorne Lipowitz) turns 73… Global editorial director of the Huffington Post Media Group and NBC News analyst, Howard Fineman turns 69… CEO of Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks, previously CEO of Independent Sector, a leadership network for nonprofits, South African born Diana Aviv turns 66… Daniel Gastaldi turns 60… Author, journalist, he lectures in the graduate journalism program at Stanford University, Gary M. Pomerantz turns 57… Attorney and business executive who once played on the South African national teams in both cricket and field hockey, Mandy Yachad turns 57… National Security Advisor to President Obama (2013-2017) after an earlier posting as President Obama’s Ambassador to the UN (2009-2013), Susan Rice turns 53… “The Travelling Rabbi” of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies who serves 13 sub-Saharan countries, Moshe Silberhaft turns 50… Former Microsoft executive, a leading “bundler” for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, she served as US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein (2014-2017), Suzan G. LeVine turns 48… Managing editor and Washington bureau chief of Talking Points Memo, David Kurtz turns 48… Supervising talent producer for the Chelsea Handler Show on Netflix, Michele Tasoff turns 48… EVP at JDA Frontline, a DC-based public affairs firm, Ralph Posner turns 47… Legislative Assistant to US Senator Kamala Harris, Halie Soifer turns 39… Partner at AKPD Message and Media, Isaac Baker turns 38… National security reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Felicia Schwartz turns 26 (h/ts to Playbook)… Zack Teichman…
SATURDAY: Israeli theoretical physicist, who at age 27 became a professor and then later President of the Weizmann Institute, Haim Harari turns 77… Richard Gorman turns 77… Lecturer at Boston University School of Law, formerly SVP and General Counsel of Fidelity Management & Research Company, Eric D. Roiter turns 69… Israeli cantor and actor, known for serving as the cantor of the Hampton Synagogue and his Broadway performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, David “Dudu” Fisher turns 66… Author and singer-songwriter, Barry Louis Polisar turns 63… Former mayor of Dallas, Texas (2002-2007), Laura Miller turns 59… Moroccan-born, member of the Knesset since 2003 for the Shas party, Yaakov Margi turns 57… NYC-based writer, activist and performer, Shira Dicker turns 57… Domestic affairs correspondent for The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg turns 56… Retired Baltimore attorney who devotes her time to philanthropy and pro-Israel activism, Laurie Luskin turns 54… Development and communications coordinator for the Orthodox Union and the Teach Advocacy Network, Talia Fadis turns 30… Roberta Goldstein…
SUNDAY: Award winning television and radio host including the eponymous “Larry King Live” nightly show on CNN from 1985 to 2010, Larry King (born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger) turns 84… Retired New York State Supreme Court judge, whose tenure on the television program “The People’s Court” was far shorter than that of his wife “Judge Judy,” Jerry Sheindlin turns 84… Attorney, investment banker and major fundraiser for the Democratic party, he served as US Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2009-2013), Louis B. Susman turns 80… Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, Richard Zare turns 78… Fifteen term member as a Democrat in the US House of Representatives from New York (1983-2013), Gary Ackerman turns 75… Fashion designer Calvin Klein turns 75… Following a 27-year career as a Professor at Princeton, she became President of the University of Pennsylvania, Amy Gutmann turns 68… Los Angeles based real estate investor, Sydney Cetner turns 68… Patricia Fiden turns 64… Member of the California State Senate since 2014, Robert Myles “Bob” Hertzberg turns 63… University professor of Jewish history, literature and law at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel turns 62… Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director, and lyricist, best known as the writer of “Being John Malkovich,” Charlie Kaufman turns 59… Angel investor, investment banker and President of Sunrise Financial Group, Nathan Low turns 57… Member of the Knesset (2003-2016) originally for the Likud party and then as head of the Kulanu party, he has served as Israel’s Minister of Finance since 2015, Moshe Kahlon turns 57… Vice President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and director of its Washington, DC office, Lisa Eisen turns 54… Author of over 30 books, television host and Chabad Rabbi in Oxford, England (1988-99), Rabbi Shmuley Boteach turns 51… Senior Director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Seth Cohen turns 44… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2005, Andrew D. Hevesiturns 44… Digital director and executive editor of Time Magazine, Samuel Jacobs turns 32…
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KAFE KNESSET — Israeli View of Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The top-secret White House Middle East peace effort to design the “ultimate deal” and solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a major discussion topic in the Knesset’s corridors. The deadline for the grand plan’s announcement continues to be extended. What used to be the end of the year has now turned into early next year, with some reports listed March 2018. Netanyahu himself has said on several occasions in recent weeks that he is preparing for an American document or plan, but he told Likud ministers and MKs that he knows nothing about the details. Likud MKs assume that “it will be the friendliest plan Israel has ever had” as a senior Likud minister told Kafe Knesset this week, predicting that the US administration “will accept some of our positions and red lines” on issues such as security, the Jordan Valley and settlements.
Even if this is the friendliest deal ever, another source added, Netanyahu understands that he will have to concede on some “deal breakers” of his own, and make concessions which will not necessarily be accepted by his coalition partners, most notably Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett. Some in the Likud, like Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, are more worried about American pressure. Akunis, who attended the JFNA’s General Assembly in Los Angeles this week, said in an interview with JPost that he will vote against any plan demanding a two-state solution, and that he is confident that others in the cabinet will vote against, as well.
A senior Israeli official said: “The American proposal will shake things up, and many people, including the Prime Minister and his partners, will have to make a decision. To say “no” is also a decision, and a decision not to respond as well. But decisions will have to be made.” A senior member of the coalition told Kafe Knesset: “The Americans are spoiling us now, but there are no free gifts, they will submit the bill, and Netanyahu will have to decide whether to lose Bennett or lose Trump, and to avoid that choice – he could call for new elections.”
The flexible deadline of Trump’s peace efforts coincides with another clock ticking these days, in the Israeli police interrogation rooms. There is growing talk of a peace plan that is set to accompany the upcoming publication of Police recommendations in Netanyahu’s criminal affairs. In any case, from Bibi’s point of view, talk about peace is a welcome break from cigar and champagne scandals. If the PM needs a plan to dodge both the criminal investigations and the Trump peace plan, new Knesset elections could turn out to be the perfect solution. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
TOP TALKER: “Israeli Military Chief Gives Unprecedented Interview to Saudi Media: ‘Ready to Share Intel on Iran'” by Amos Harel: “A Saudi newspaper published an unprecedented interview on Thursday with the Israeli military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. It marks the first time any senior Israel Defense Forces officer, let alone the chief of staff, has been interviewed by a media organization in Saudi Arabia, which does not have diplomatic ties with Israel. In the interview to the Saudi online newspaper Elaph, Eisenkot called Iran the “real and largest threat to the region.” He said Israel and Saudi Arabia are in complete agreement about Iran’s intentions.” [Haaretz]
TODAY AT TURTLE BAY: “US opposes Nazi speech, but will vote no at UN to banning it” by Josh Lederman: “Introduced by Russia, the resolution calls on all U.N. nations to ban pro-Nazi speech and organizations… The United States votes against the resolution every year, along with just a handful of others… But this year, the “no” vote from the U.S. is likely to create more of a stir, given it’s the first rendition of the vote since President Donald Trump entered office. [Trump’s] blame-on-both-sides response to violence in August at a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, gave fodder to Trump critics who say he’s insufficiently critical of neo-Nazis. So U.S. officials are working overtime this year to try to explain that no, America doesn’t support pro-Nazi speech — but can’t vote for a resolution that calls for outlawing it, either. The vote is scheduled for Thursday in the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee…”
“Will Israel, the close U.S. ally whose history is intertwined with the Holocaust, vote with the U.S.? In the past, Israel has voted for the resolution. But Washington has been pushing the Jewish state to vote “no” this year, or at a minimum to abstain. It’s unclear how Israel will vote.” [AP]
ON THE HILL — Democratic Congressman co-chairs caucus to defeat Palestinian ‘enemy’ — by Aaron Magid: The Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVS) convened yesterday to sign a joint declaration of support and cooperation towards an Israeli victory with members of the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus (KIVC), MKs Oded Forer (Yisrael Beitenu) and Avraham Neguise (Likud). Explaining the caucus’ ideology, Daniel Pipes, who initiated the group noted, “Victory means imposing your will on your enemy and the Palestinians give up.” Dmitry Shiglik, president of the American Forum for Russian-Speaking Jewry, emphasized, “Historically — always — (the) winner dictates what to do to (the) loser.” Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA), one of only six House Democrats who declined to sign a letter in March endorsing the two-state solution, joined as a co-chair of the organization. The California lawmaker also introduced the anti-Israel Boycott Act along with Rep. Peter Roskam (D-IL). [JewishInsider]
“Steve Bannon Is Bad for the Jews” by Bret Stephens: “If Israel is going to retain mainstream political support, it cannot allow itself to become the pet cause of right-wing bigots and conspiracy theorists. That requires putting serious distance between Bannon and every pro-Israel organization, to say nothing of the Israeli government itself, by refusing to provide a platform for him and his ilk… That thought may have dawned on Sheldon Adelson, who skipped Sunday’s [ZOA] dinner.” [NYTimes]
CAMPUS BEAT: “University of Maryland SGA bill supporting BDS dies before reaching the floor for legislative debate” by Carly Taylor: “After about two hours of student debate, the SGA Student Affairs Committee presented an unfavorable report of the bill in a 1-21 vote with three abstentions… Groups outside of this university weighed in on the debate before it took place Wednesday night. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and six of Maryland’s Democratic U.S. Congressmen signed a letter to SGA President A.J. Pruitt in opposition to the BDS movement “that would only undermine efforts to achieving Middle East peace through a two-state solution.”” [DBKNews]
“University of Michigan unlikely to divest from companies tied to Israel” by Martin Slagter: “After eight hours of intense debate, the University of Michigan’s Central Student Government voted in favor of calling on university leaders to investigate divestment from companies that do business with Israel. The university, however, isn’t likely to take up the matter. UM Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the university appreciates hearing from its students. However, the primary purpose of investments through its endowment – which is approaching $11 billion – is to generate the greatest possible income, subject to the appropriate amount of risk, in support of the university’s mission of teaching, research, patient care and service.” [MLive]
HAPPENING TODAY: “Washington’s huge new Bible museum says it wants to stay out of politics. But its opening gala is at the Trump Hotel” by Michelle Boorstein: “Officials at the non-profit museum say the decision was for pragmatic, scheduling reasons but some museum employees and academic consultants refused to enter the hotel affiliated with the controversial president. Museum officials said by the time they started looking for space, about a year ago, the Trump hotel was the only ballroom available in Washington that could accommodate such a big group. The Thursday dinner gala will have about 750 people in attendance… [Vice President Mike] Pence had been invited to do the official ribbon-cutting “because he is a personal friend of a number of board members,” but wasn’t able, said Susan Davis, head of the communications firm handling the opening.” [WashPost]
PODCAST PLAYBACK — CNN anchor Jake Tapper talks to the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg about his start in journalism: “I was a high-school journalist.. Jews for Jesus were really big in the ‘80s, and an alumnus started a thing called the Anti-Missionary Coalition. He was protesting Jews for Jesus, and there was a whole dispute how much Akiba [Hebrew Academy] should be associated with that, and I wrote a story about that…”
Goldberg: It got some attention? Tapper: “It was a school with 300 people… I mean, yes, a lot of 9th graders read it. It was very exciting (chuckle)… Then I went to Dartmouth, and I wanted to be a cartoonist and then I wanted to go into film, not as an actor but as a writer director, and then I found myself during film school at USC listening to the Clarence Thomas hearings in class on my walkman and I realized LA was not really for me. But one time I was on a ski trip and there was a guy there who has just written a freelance article with his brother for the New Republic. I read the New Republic religiously during that time and I said, ‘Oh, like real people could just right freelance stories.’ And then I just started submitting any freelance story anywhere I could and building up clips.” [TheAtlantic]
** 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: Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer poised to buy 15 per cent Atletico Madrid stake [DailyMail] • David Rubenstein: Private equity model ‘starting to look like spent force’ [FinancialTimes] • Avenue’s Marc Lasry raising $1 billion for distressed power bets [Reuters] • Nelson Peltz Declares Victory in Procter & Gamble Proxy Fight [NYTimes; WSJ] • Greenlight’s Einhorn Says Issues That Caused the Crisis Are Not Solved [Bloomberg]
SPOTLIGHT: “WeWork Takes a Dip in the Wave-Pool Business” by Eliot Brown: “WeWork Cos. has attained a $20 billion valuation as an office-leasing company. But its ambitions are extending well beyond the workplace—and into the water. The seven-year-old New York company has purchased a large stake in Wavegarden, a maker of wave pools, according to people informed by WeWork Chief Executive Adam Neumann in recent months. A WeWork spokeswoman said the investment occurred in mid-2016. It isn’t clear how Wavegarden—whose technology creates artificial waves up to 8 feet high for surfing at giant water facilities—would fit with WeWork.” [VanityFair; WSJ]
“Ashton Kutcher-Backed Medical Startup Brings A.I.-Assisted Body Scans to L.A. Mall” by Kathryn Romeyn: “[Guy] Oseary says he and Kutcher “were swept up in excitement from the second we walked into Forward — when has that ever happened at a doctor’s office?” [THR]
MEDIA WATCH: “Jon Lovett on Bringing Late-Night Flavor to Political Podcasts” by Matt Wilstein: “It’s been about 10 months since Lovett, along with former Obama administration colleagues Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor, decided to end their Keepin’ It 1600 podcast and start Crooked Media, home to Pod Save America and a slew of other political offerings including Lovett’s comedy-driven show. “When we decided to do this, we didn’t have a plan. We just had this feeling like we wanted to launch a company that answered some of our frustrations and spoke to why we were worried, why we were angry, like a lot of other people,” Lovett says.” [DailyBeast]
“Steven Mnuchin Gets His Name on the Dollar” by Saleha Mohsin: “In just a few years, Steven Mnuchin has gone from Hollywood movie financier and regional banker to the signatory of the almighty buck. The U.S. Treasury secretary on Wednesday took a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to see production of the new $1 bills with his signature. His wife, Louise Linton, joined the visit, along with Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and several Treasury officials. The new bills are scheduled to go into circulation next month.” [Bloomberg]
“Ivanka Trump says child tax credit ‘not a pet project’” by Catherine Lucy: “I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt since I’ve been here,” Trump said this week, as she hit the road to promote the tax overhaul effort that has drawn Democratic criticism and spurred internal GOP conflict…Trump says she and husband Jared Kushner, a fellow White House adviser, have no plans to return to their old New York City life any time soon. “It’s definitely not short-term,” Trump said.” [AP]
HEADLINE DEPT: “Google, Shmoogle. Reference Librarians Are Busier Than Ever” [WSJ]
“University of Texas President Shares Harrowing Story of His Father’s Holocaust Escape” by Shelby Hodge: “Tears fell across the ballroom as Gregory Fenves told of his father’s imprisonment at age 13 at Auschwitz, resulting in the loss of the young teen’s mother and grandmother, and how his trilingual skills as an interpreter enabled him to stay alive and to assist his sister who was kept in a neighboring compound. He was liberated by the Americans and in 1950 immigrated to the United States where he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War.” [PaperCIty]
“How a Shirt Covered in Swastikas Ends Up in a Department Store” by Kim Bhasin and Polly Mosendz: “How exactly a shirt covered in swastikas made it through the design process, much less crammed into a rack in a Ross Dress for Less store in Florida where Bloomberg found it this week, can probably be chalked up to retailers’ vast and complex retail supply chains, where errors can often go overlooked. Michael Haddad said the end product looked different from the design his company had sent to the factory in India. “It was [the factory owner’s] mistake, and it became confusingly similar to a swastika,” he said. “There was nothing malicious intended here,” said Haddad. “I’m an Orthodox Jew. The problem was contained. It was remedied.” [Bloomberg]
HOLLYWOOD: Gal Gadot confirms Brett Ratner off Wonder Woman 2: “Gal Gadot said in an interview on Wednesday’s episode of NBC’s TODAY show that Wonder Woman producer Brett Ratner is off the sequel in the wake of several sexual misconduct allegations against the mogul. Gadot was asked about a report that claimed she refused to return for the highly anticipated 2019 sequel if Ratner was still on the project. Gadot replied, “The truth is, there’s so many people involved in making this movie, it’s not just me, and they all echoed the same sentiments.”” [EW]
“Former Israeli Actress Alleged to Be Operative for Corporate-Investigation Firm” by Mark Maremont, Jacquie McNish and Rob Copeland: “[Stella Penn] Pechanac has been named in a court filing by Canadian financial firm West Face Capital Inc. alleging she is one of several Black Cube operatives who used false names, businesses and websites in recent months to obtain sensitive information from its current and former employees… Several West Face employees immediately recognized photos of the woman as “Maja Lazarov,” who claimed to be a London-based recruiter who had contacted the employees with potentially lucrative job offers.” [WSJ]
“Did Harvey Weinstein’s Israeli Spies Break the Law?” by Ashley Cullins: “The private investigators are accused of recording conversations without permission. Whether this is illegal depends on the physical location of the speakers. California is a two-party consent state, meaning if either of the parties is physically in the state during the conversation, both would have to agree to the recording. But New York is a one-party consent state… [Rose] McGowan is regularly spotted in both New York and California, and [Ben] Wallace is based in New York, meaning their surreptitious recording might have been legal… The scandal has moved Israeli parliamentarian Tamar Zandberg to call for an examination of Black Cube’s practices. “Instead of being used for Israel’s security … this knowledge is being used for harassing and lying and spying on women who are victims,” Zandberg tells THR.” [THR] • Deception and Ruses Fill the Toolkit of Investigators Used by Weinstein [NYTimes]
SCENE LAST NIGHT — in DC: The American Zionist movement (AZM) held an event at the Israeli Embassy, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration. With family of Abera Mengiustu in attendance, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer called for international action to free the captive Israeli who is currently being detained in Gaza.
SPOTTED: Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Baroness Ruth Deech, Col. Richard Kemp, Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), Israeli cabinet ministers Yariv Levin and Eli Cohen, MKs Oded Feurer and Abraham Neguise, AZM President Richard Heideman, Herbert Block, Rabbi Josh Weinberg, Ann Lewis, Ezra Friedlander, Aaron Weinberg, Fred Lawrence, Ellen Hershkin, Shai Franklin, Gusti Yehoshua Braverman, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, and Daniel Flesch.
DESSERT: “A Deli Where Rye Comes in Slices and in a Glass” by Robert Simonson: “At the Upper East Side branch of the Second Avenue Deli, they have matzo ball soup for what ails you… On Nov. 27, the brothers Jeremy and Josh Lebewohl, who own the storied Jewish deli on First Avenue, plan to open 2nd Floor, a cocktail lounge just above the restaurant, with a separate entrance on East 75th Street… Some ingredients are not ones you’re likely to find at any other cocktail bar in town. Man-O-Manischewitz, a riff on the gin cocktail called the Bramble, uses a syrup made from Manischewitz wine rather than the traditional crème de mûre. The Upper Eastsider, a long drink that can be made with gin or vodka, has Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda as a component. A drink called the Shofar, similar to a Jack Rose, is made up of ingredients whose flavors are associated with Rosh Hashana, including apple brandy, pomegranate… and honey.” [NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Retired Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada (2003-2013), Morris Fish turns 79… Roxanne White turns 69… Milwaukee-based founder and CEO of direct marketer, A.B. Data, Ltd., he is chair of the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, Bruce A. Arbit turns 63… Professional golfer who has played on the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour starting in 1982, he won two gold medals at the 1981 Maccabiah Games, Corey Pavin turns 58… Susan Brooks turns 54… Television and film writer and producer, he was an executive producer of Fox’s “Fringe” (100 episodes 2008-2013) and co-writer of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014), Jeff Pinkner turns 53… Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition since 1990, Matt Brooks turns 52. Read his Playbook Q&A here… Ordained at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, now Dean of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, Rabbi Justus Baird turns 45… Stage, film and television actress, she is the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaalturns 40… After 15 seasons in the NBA, he became an owner and player for Hapoel Jerusalem and led the team to the Israeli League championship in 2017, Amar’e Stoudemire turns 35… Senior Fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, Michael A. Levi…
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Liz Cheney announced Tuesday that she will challenge Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi in a Republican primary next year. While the ‘establishment’ rushed to quickly throw their support behind…
A City Council intern who collapsed during a press conference for mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn this afternoon was forced to wait more than 30 minutes before a Hatzollah…
Israel’s Washington, DC, embassy is having a rough day with two news reports detailing two unrelated problems. Apparently the US is ‘outraged’ with Israel after Israel backed out…
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday that he will visit Israel in October, a move that signals to the political world that he is seriously considering making another…
The New York Post’s Page Six reports in a post titled ‘Private Ryan party’ that Dan Señor, co-author of Start-Up Nation and former George W. Bush aide who advised Mitt…
Jarrett Renshaw and Kelly Heyboer report for The Star-Ledger that Beth Medrash Govoha, a 70-year-old, all-male, Orthodox Jewish rabbinical school in Lakewood, was awarded $10.6 million in New Jersey…