Daily Kickoff: Trump taking time on Jerusalem Embassy | Jewish country club invites Obama | After lieutenant’s exit, Izzy Englander left alone again

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KAFE KNESSET IS BACK — INSS Edition — by Tal Shalev: In a message that appears to be designed for the ears of the Trump administration, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, addressing the INSS [Institute for National Security Studies] annual policy conference in Tel Aviv, called for abandoning the two-state solution and coined it a “failed idea of yesterday, not the future.”… referring to one of Trump’s well-known catchphrases, Bennett noted “In my previous life, I was a high-tech CEO. If one of the managers in my company came to me and said: ‘Listen, I tried a program. It failed. But you know what? I tried the exact same program again. And it failed again. And I even tried it again a third time. Yup, it failed again. I’d say to him: ‘You’re fired.’”

The hot topic at INSS wasn’t the peace process or moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but the explosive state comptroller’s report on Operation Protective Edge, slated to be published in the coming weeks. The events of the July 2014 Gaza war are the subject of an ongoing political quarrel between Netanyahu, Bennett, and Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid. Bennett and Lapid, both of whom served in the government at the time, blame Netanyahu, his former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and the leadership of the IDF for failing to prepare the country for the threat of Hamas tunnels under Gaza and into Israel. A source told Kafe Knesset that the report will likely adopt Bennett and Lapid’s version of events. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset[JewishInsider]

Spotted at the INSS conference: David Petraeus, Martin Indyk, Philip Gordon, Michelle Flournoy, Jane Harman, Abe Foxman, Robert Danin, Yossi Vardi, David Ignatius, Itamar Rabinovich, Tzipi Livni, Barak Ravid, Shimon Shiffer, Amos Harel, AIPAC’s Cameron Brown, and TIP’s Lior Weintraub.

INBOX from a JI reader, responding to our report yesterday on the Trump team promoting the ZOA: “So we’ve gone in a decade from the AIPAC big tent… to a J Street White House… to a ZOA White House… insane”

GOP official with close ties to the Jewish community tells us: “Mort [Klein] is a good guy and does a great job sending out press releases but everyone knows that the real player for money and also votes without question is the Republican Jewish Coalition. It has not gone unnoticed inside Trump world that at critical times ZOA has said comments critical of Mattis and Nikki Haley as everyone knows this Administration takes note of who is loyal.”

TOP TALKER: “US sent $221 million to Palestinians in Obama’s last hours” by Matthew Lee and Richard Lardner: “Congressional holds are generally respected by the executive branch but are not legally binding after funds have been allocated. A State Department official and several congressional aides said the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning. The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday. The aides said written notification dated Jan. 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office. The Palestinian funding is likely to draw anger from some in Congress as well as the Trump White House.” [AP

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Maryland country club gives itself a mulligan, reaches out to Obama” by Bill Turque: “In an email to members Monday, Woodmont president Barry Forman said that after “many hours in recent weeks considering this matter and the views of our members,” the club’s executive committee decided to invite Obama to join. “Political views have never been part of our membership criteria, and our members have always reflected a range of opinions on issues of the day,” Forman wrote… “We are proud of our Jewish heritage.. Given our legacy, it is regrettable that we have now been widely portrayed as unwelcoming and intolerant, because that is not who we are.” Democratic activist and Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, who resigned his membership over the issue and threatened a boycott of the club if Obama was not invited, said he was “really delighted” by the club’s decision. He declined to say whether he would rescind his resignation.” [WashPost]

“Thomas R. Nides, a former deputy secretary of state who is friendly with Mr. Obama, first introduced the president to Woodmont, where he is a member, when he played a round in 2015, along with John Shulman, the head of a private equity firm, and one of Mr. Obama’s personal aides. “This whole issue is ridiculous,” Mr. Nides said. “The only thing the guy wants to do is to play golf.” [NYTimes

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “President Trump Hasn’t Decided on Israeli Embassy Move, Despite Campaign Pledge” by Zeke Miller: “After reports suggesting the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could come as soon as this week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that the administration is only beginning to consider the relocation… “We are at the early stages of this decision-making process,” Spicer told reporters. When pressed if he could commit that at the end of Trump’s first term that the embassy would be moved, Spicer replied, “If it was already a decision, we wouldn’t be going through a process.”” [TIME

“Trump White House lowers expectations for quick embassy move in Israel” by Luke Baker and Matt Spetalnick: “Another consideration for Israel is the stronger relations it has quietly been building with the Sunni Muslim world. Netanyahu speaks frequently about the “new horizon” Israel has with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf states. If the United States were to shift its embassy, it could rock those ties. Israeli officials say they don’t want any move to be rushed.” [Reuters

“Jerusalem mayor in talks with US officials over possible embassy move” by Daniel K. Eisenbud: “Although White House spokesman Sean Spicer has said that such a deal is still in its nascent stages, Barkat told Army Radio that he believes it is just a matter of time until the relocation takes place. “I am holding talks with government officials in the US and I know that they are serious about their intention,” said Barkat, who is friendly with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.” [JPost

“How Trump can move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem” by Ilan Goldenberg: “On a more practical level, the American Embassy in Tel Aviv is in poor physical condition, making it harder for our diplomats to do their jobs and for embassy security to keep U.S. officials safe. The foreign ministry, prime minister’s office and Knesset are all in Jerusalem, where key Israeli interlocutors spend most of their time at work. American diplomats waste hours going back and forth.” [Politico

Shmuel Rosner: “The Jerusalem embassy deserves its own moment in the sun. Trump could be saving it for later – for the Netanyahu visit in February, for the AIPAC Policy Conference in March, for Israel’s 50th Jerusalem Day in May. From a PR standpoint, saving Jerusalem for later is wise. And the more the administration seems hesitant about it today – the better the impact tomorrow.” [JewishJournal]

“Giuliani: Media doesn’t like Trump and is against him” by Louis Nelson: “Giuliani also said he that he will travel Monday evening to Israel on business for his law firm, Greenberg Traurig. While there, the former New York mayor said he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, something he said he does every time he visits Israel… Asked if he would be bringing to Netanyahu a message from Trump, Giuliani played coy. “If I do, it’ll be from him. But I can give the general message, which is ‘I like you very much and we’re very good friends,’” Giuliani said.” [Politico

“Netanyahu Warns Lawmakers: ‘Surprises’ for Trump Could Harm Israel” by Barak Ravid and Chaim Levinson: “At a closed meeting with members of his Likud party Knesset faction, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu… [said] that he has a personal relationship of trust with Trump. “That’s an important asset,” the prime minister said. “It’s important that I be given the chance to steer this. I have been steering it for eight years now, and I don’t think anyone else would have done it better under very difficult circumstances.” In a dig at Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi party, Netanyahu said now is not the time to “shoot from the hip” when it comes to the new U.S. administration.” [Haaretz] • Israel okays 2,500 new settlement homes, 2 days after PM talks to Trump [ToI]

“Jared Kushner Needs a Wingman” by Jonathan Schanzer: “The U.S. needs someone to first broker a peace deal between the Palestinians themselves. The Palestinian internecine conflict is a bipartisan blind spot. The last two presidential administrations labored to achieve a two-state solution without giving serious thought to solving the current three-state scenario. Indeed, Israel is currently sandwiched between two separate Palestinian statelets: a Palestinian Authority-run West Bank and a Hamas-run Gaza Strip.” [PoliticoMag]

“What Trump can do for Mideast peace on day one” by Jonathan A. Greenblatt: “Whatever he decides on the embassy, there are measures that Mr. Trump can support on day one that may not solve the whole crisis but can demonstrate strong support for the Jewish state and foster trust between Israel and the Palestinian Authority… This could be achieved by invoking the existing Bush letter rather than contriving a new formula.” [JTA

According to Playbook, “Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s business attorney turned guru for international deals (whatever that means), just bought an apartment in Foggy Bottom for $425,000.” [Politico]

TRUMP TUMULT: “The first days inside Trump’s White House: Fury, tumult and a reboot” by Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Matea Gold: “Two people close to the transition also said a number of Trump’s most loyal campaign aides have been alarmed by Kushner’s efforts to elbow aside anyone he perceives as a possible threat to his role as Trump’s chief consigliere. At one point during the transition, Kushner had argued internally against giving Conway a White House role, these two people said.” [WashPost

“Trump aide Kushner scraps plan for Canada visit: Canada official” by David Ljunggren: “The source said the planned visit by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner had hit logistical problems. A separate source had earlier said Kushner intended to meet Trudeau aides on the margins of a cabinet retreat in Calgary.” [Reuters

“Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers” by Michael Shear and Emmarie Huetteman: “Representative Steny H. Hoyer who attended the meeting, said that Mr. Trump also talked about the size of the crowd for his Inaugural Address. “It was a huge crowd, a magnificent crowd. I haven’t seen such a crowd as big as this,” Mr. Hoyer told CNN, quoting Mr. Trump… The reception included, among others, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan… and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.” [NYTimes

Ed O’Keefe: “McConnell on WH meeting with Trump: “I enjoyed the President and Sen. Schumer talking about all the people they knew in New York.”” [Twitter]

“Trump’s biggest donors consider abandoning new political arm” by Eliana Johnson and Kenneth Vogel: “It is unclear precisely why Rebekah Mercer became unhappy with the plans for the organization, though tensions surfaced between her and Brad Parscale, who served as the Trump campaign’s digital director, during a December meeting in Trump Tower. What is clear is that she may be nearing a breaking point both with Parscale and Nick Ayers, the Trump aides slated to run the group, as well as with Home Depot CEO Bernie Marcus and his political guru Steve Hantler, who are expected to provide key financial backing for the effort.” [Politico

HEARD YESTERDAY: Bill Kristol on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper: “For a sitting president of the United States, not a candidate, not a spokesman, to go to the CIA, stand in front of that wall, and make the rambling and inappropriate comments the president made, people were seriously worried. I talked to serious people who are not unfriendly to the Trump administration who thought, ‘Oh, my God.’” [Newsinc

ON THE HILL: “Tillerson approved by Senate panel as secretary of state” by Karoun Demirjian and Sean Sullivan: “Republicans unanimously backed Tillerson in the 11-to-10 vote, after key Republicans who had voiced criticism of Tillerson opted to support his nomination. Chief among them was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a committee member who announced Mondaymorning that he would support Tillerson… “My concern was that Mr. Tillerson would be an advocate for, and would pursue a foreign policy of dealmaking, at the expense of traditional alliances and at the expense of the defense of human rights and democracy,” Rubio explained to the committee Monday.” [WashPost]

“Why Marco Rubio Will Vote To Confirm Trump’s Secretary Of State” by Tarini Parti: “Rubio also got calls from Oracle CEO Safra Catz, urging him to support Tillerson. Catz was part of the Trump transition committee, while Oracle founder Larry Ellison was one Rubio’s major supporters during his White House bid. “In the end, I think Marco decided that it was better to be inside the tent than outside,” a source close to Rubio said. “A vote against Tillerson would have reduced his influence on foreign policy matters with the Trump Administration to zero.”” [BuzzFeed

PROFILE: “Meet the ‘New Ted Cruz’” by Tim Alberta: “Restitution can be found in doing the little things. Cruz called Trump two weeks ago, for instance, to give a heads-up on legislation he was introducing with Lindsey Graham that would defund the United Nations in retaliation for its resolution on Israeli settlements. It was a deferential show of etiquette that hasn’t exactly been a hallmark of his Senate career. Cruz had previously run the idea through Senate leadership, and then reached out to the unlikeliest of partners in Graham, who has been one of his harshest critics and who joked last year that Cruz could be murdered by colleagues on the Senate floor—and that members of the chamber would vote to acquit. “I want to apologize to Ted for saying he should be killed on the Senate floor,” Graham said during their eyebrow-raising joint appearance on Morning Joe. “I’m sorry, Ted.”” [Politico

ON THE HILL: “Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Democratic Caucus has approved Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida to be the next Ranking Member of the House Ethics Committee. “Congressman Ted Deutch’s integrity commands the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” said Leader Pelosi. [DemLeader]

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

SPOTLIGHT: “After Bond Chief’s Exit, Millennium’s Englander Left Alone Again” by Saijel Kishan: “Israel Englander isn’t used to getting blindsided. But on the morning of Jan. 3, Englander, the billionaire founder of Millennium Management, was caught off guard in his eighth floor offices on Fifth Avenue when his top lieutenant and potential successor abruptly resigned. The reason was as old as they come in the hedge fund game. After eight years, Michael Gelband, a hot shot in fixed income, wanted to be more than an employee at Englander’s wildly successful hedge fund. He wanted a stake. Englander, 68, known as Izzy, now finds himself where he’s spent much of his career: alone at the top. His $34.4 billion empire, built out of scores of separate trading teams, remains solely in his control and without an anointed successor.”

The question for Englander’s 2,100 employees and his deep-pocketed investors is whether Millennium can move out of its founder’s shadow. Gelband’s looming departure has set the industry abuzz. Outsiders, and many insiders, are asking what exactly is going on at Millennium. The answer, according to people close to the firm, is that Englander didn’t share ownership. A Brooklyn native with a no-nonsense demeanor, Englander is famous for his eat-what-you-kill ethos. Make money, and you get rich. Lose money, and you’re out — fast. He’s placed his traders in about 175 silos, each with a different market strategy. Few of them get to see the big picture, a setup that makes managing Millennium a challenge but also keeps the teams focused.” [Bloomberg]

STARTUP NATION: Mike Granoff emails us… “The digitization of information and communication has transformed our lives — now we are digitizing transportation and that will be no less a transformation. Israel is already well known as a hub for new mobility technology innovation. With companies like General Motors and Mobileye, among many others, developing autonomous vehicle technology in Israel, it is only natural to test self-driving cars here. And with these first steps the Netanyahu government is sending a signal that Israel also intends to stamp itself an early adopter in deployment of self-driving cars, bringing an age of safer, cleaner, more efficient, less expensive and more widely accessible transportation to the public.” [JPost

“Trends in Israel’s cybersecurity investments” by Yoav Leitersdorf: “Even as the global cybersecurity market experiences a slowdown in investment, the Israeli sector continues to grow. Companies are raising significant capital, even in tough times. Innovation from Israeli companies is a real bright spot as new security fields keep emerging. More and more companies are able to raise follow-on financing and continue to grow their business before exiting—a great sign of maturity of the cybersecurity entrepreneurs.” [TechCrunch]

“Zuckerberg’s latest philanthropy move: acquiring a tech startup” by Kia Kokalitcheva: “Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropic organization has made its first acquisition: Meta, a startup that uses artificial intelligence to help scientists parse through scientific papers… Science and medicine are some of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s main areas of focus, so Meta’s technology will help it with its goals to improve research and curing diseases. Meta’s tools will become free to scientists, the company said in an announcement.” [Axios

“A star tech and media banker shares his thoughts on dealmaking in 2017” by Portia Crowe: “For Aryeh Bourkoff, the star tech, media, and telecom (TMT) banker and founder of the boutique bank LionTree, 2017 will be a year of uncertainty. But it will also be ripe with opportunity, especially in the TMT and consumer spaces. That’s the message Bourkoff gave his team in a year-end letter sent out in December. He referred specifically to the election of Donald Trump as US president and said that political shift could lead to a repatriation of cash, among other things. That could free up cash for mergers and acquisitions — especially for companies like Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Cisco, and Oracle, which combined hold some $500 billion in cash overseas.” [BI

AT&T announces new unlimited $10 a day pass in over 100 countries including Israel: “You can talk and text all you want, and use your data plan in over 100 countries, only paying for the days you use abroad. Instead of being charged per minute, message, or megabyte while traveling, you‘ll pay just $10 a day per device for any 24-hour period you use your device in an International Day Pass country.” [ATT

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Ivanka and Jared’s Ride to Church on Shabbat Sparks Controversy” by Debra Nussbaum Cohen: “When America’s most famous observant and newly influential Jews, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kusher, travelled to her father’s inaugural balls by car last Friday and then attended a church service with the new president on Saturdaymorning, it sparked a debate that continues to ping-pong around the world on social media. At issue: What are the ramifications of Trump, who converted to Judaism under the tutelage of an Orthodox rabbi, and Kushner, who is from an Orthodox family, doing things publicly which violate the Sabbath and are contrary to Jewish norms?” [Haaretz]

“Ivanka Trump grabs lunch in Woodley Park with her son and some pals” by Emily Heil: “Hey, isn’t that … first daughter Ivanka Trump dining in Woodley Park at the Open City coffee shop Monday afternoon? President Trump’s elder daughter was with her son, Joseph, and several female friends, according to the restaurant’s manager. They ordered from the breakfast menu (little Joseph had oatmeal, spoon-fed by mom) and were greeted by only a few well-wishers.” [WashPost]

“Philip Roth E-Mails on Trump” by Judith Thurman: “Asked if this warning has come to pass, Roth e-mailed, “My novel wasn’t written as a warning. I was just trying to imagine what it would have been like for a Jewish family like mine, in a Jewish community like Newark, had something even faintly like Nazi anti-Semitism befallen us in 1940, at the end of the most pointedly anti-Semitic decade in world history. I wanted to imagine how we would have fared, which meant I had first to invent an ominous American government that threatened us. As for how Trump threatens us, I would say that, like the anxious and fear-ridden families in my book, what is most terrifying is that he makes any and everything possible, including, of course, the nuclear catastrophe.”” [NewYorker

“Messaging App Has Bipartisan Support Amid Hacking Concerns” by Mara Gay: “Signal, a smartphone app that allows users to send encrypted messages, is gaining popularity in the political world amid rising fears about hacking and surveillance in the wake of a tumultuous election year. Council members Daniel Garodnick, David Greenfield and Corey Johnson are on the app. So are Howard Wolfson and Marc La Vorgna, close aides to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.” [WSJ]

“Mark Halperin leaves Bloomberg” by Dylan Byers: “I am no longer with Bloomberg Politics,” Halperin wrote in an email to friends and associates on Monday. “I will have more updates soon on 2017 and beyond, but you might want to follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Just in case.” [CNNMoney

“Fox News signs ex-Kerry adviser Marie Harf as contributor” by Joe Concha: “Harf most recently served as senior adviser for strategic communications to former Secretary of State John Kerry. Prior to that, she held the position of deputy spokesperson for the State Department from July 2013 until May 2015.” [TheHill

“From Harvard to ‘La La Land’” by Colleen Walsh: “On the phone recently from Los Angeles, the composer (Justin Hurwitz) recalled being told a key Harvard takeaway would be “the people you meet.” It was a spot-on prediction. As a freshman he met Damien Chazelle, a skilled jazz drummer whose budding passion for film foreshadowed the screenplay and director Golden Globes he took home for “La La Land.” A shared love of music brought the pair together.” [Harvard

SPORTS BLINK: “Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank is paying for every team employee to go to the Super Bowl in Houston” by Emmett Knowlton: “According to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, franchise owner Arthur Blank is paying to send every Falcons employee — every single one! — to Houston for the big game. As SB Nation revealed, there are approximately 270 employees in the Falcons directory, and the cheapest Super Bowl tickets are currently listed at over $3,000.” [BI

“Jeff Bagwell came to my bar mitzvah” by Darren Rovell: “I had to have a baseball player at my bar mitzvah. That was my wish to my dad as that day, June 15, 1991, was fast approaching. Knowing that I was an avid reader of Baseball America and Minor League Baseball Card Monthly, my dad was looking to find some prospects for the celebration. Interpretation: We weren’t going to break the bank on having some Hall of Famer, though one of my brother’s friends did, in fact, have Mickey Mantle at his party. The irony is that today, some 25½ years later, it turns out we had a Hall of Famer there. We just didn’t know it at the time.” [ESPN]

DESSERT: “Biderman’s Jewish Deli Opens in Far West With Sandwiches and Soups” by Elizabeth Leader Smith: “The deli is located around the corner from the Jewish Community Center of Austin. “Austin lacks a good Jewish deli,” stated Biderman. “The Northwest Hills area, and specifically Far West, are a hub for Jewish activity in Austin with the Jewish Community Center and multiple congregations. We think our food will appeal to the masses, but thought it best to locate close to our core target market.” [Eater]  

BIRTHDAYS: Singer-songwriter, musician and actor, one of the world’s best-selling recording artists of all time, member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Neil Diamond turns 76… Born in Tel Aviv, 2011 Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry, Professor at Technion and Iowa State University, Dan Shechtman turns 76… Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, previously Deputy National Security Advisor in the Bush 43 administration and Assistant Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, Elliott Abrams turns 69… Soviet-born comedian, actor and writer, emigrated to the US in 1977, noted for the catchphrase “What a country,” Yakov Smirnoff (born Yakov Naumovich Pokhis) turns 66… Conductor, violinist, and violist, who has performed with leading symphony orchestras worldwide, Yuri Bashmet turns 64… Editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Jewish Times and news editor at Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, Joshua Runyan turns 36… TACKMA’s Jeffrey Schottenstein turns 31… Danny Flamberg… Judith Alban

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




Daily Kickoff: Trump team promotes ZOA over other pro-Israel groups | ‘Achashverosh incarnate’ | Josh Kushner is everywhere | Kraft’s payback in sight

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DRIVING THE DAY: According to Mike Allen, “Anthony Scaramucci, the charismatic investment pioneer who now is a top White House official, is showing rising West Wing clout. In New York this afternoon, he’ll hold two high-stakes meetings that reflect his internal juice: Mort Klein, close friend of Sheldon Adelson and national president of the Zionist Organization of America, will exchange views on Israel with Scaramucci, who has been a loyal friend to the pro-Israel community. Adelson wants to convey his views on Israel, including the movement of the embassy. “Mooch,” as Scaramucci is affectionately known, is director of the White House Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, and will report today’s findings to Jared Kushner.” [Axios]

Our Take: This news struck us as odd considering Mort Klein was in DC all weekend. He could have easily met with Scaramucci or others and likely did. Why make a big public deal of this particular NYC meeting?

We asked Mort Klein… who told us: “Scaramucci has the same job as Valerie Jarrett had in the Obama White House. I am meeting with him to talk about Israel, about the dangers of a Palestinian state, about the extraordinary importance of moving the embassy, especially as a sign that Islamic terrorist threats will not control policy, and to talk about the Palestinian Authority’s war against Israel. I am speaking to as many Trump officials about these issues as I can. They have told me that they realize that ZOA is the Jewish organization that most promotes and reflects their views about the Arab-Islamic war against Israel. They know that almost all the other organizations support a Palestinian state, do not come out and say Jews have a right to live in Judea and Samaria. They have told me — one after another — that we are the only major Jewish group they understand reflects Trump’s views on these issues. So, they have reached out to me, they call me about Israel issues all the time, and my meeting with Scaramucci is just a continuation of a strong and enduring relationship between the Trump Administration and the ZOA and myself.”

As for why they didn’t meet in DC over the weekend: “Everybody was running around during the weekend, going from one party to another.”

Klein on Spicer’s statement about the embassy relocation: “They began to discuss this during the campaign. So that statement was really not quite accurate. Trump has been talking about this for many many months. They are very serious. I’ve been told by all the top officials that they are going to move the embassy. I have urged them to move as soon as possible.”

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “U.S. in ‘beginning stages’ of talks on Jerusalem embassy move: spokesman” by Warren Strobel and Matt Spetalnick: “”We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement. Aides said no announcement of an embassy move was imminent.” [Reuters• Chinese President Calls for East Jerusalem as Capital of Palestinian State [Haaretz

“Among Jerusalem Embassy Backers, Varying Views On When And How” by JI’s Aaron Magid: “The U.S. Embassy should be relocated “as soon as possible,” Mike Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute told Jewish Insider. “There will be some gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes and then it will be forgotten, but the longer we drag it out the more it becomes an issue,” he added… Professor Eugene Kontorovich… told Jewish Insider. “The law has said that the Embassy should be relocated to Jerusalem since 1995. So, 22 years too late is the latest it should be. I see absolutely no reason for delay.” However, Daniel Gordis, Senior Vice President at Shalem College, advocates for a more “gradual” approach. “If it happens in a month, or six months or a year, I don’t think makes much substantive difference,” he explained.

“Some argue that the Trump Administration should adopt a more minimalist approach to the transfer. “If the U.S. has a huge ribbon cutting ceremony with Bibi and Trump getting on the podium and making all sorts of pronouncements, I think it puts Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. in a very uncomfortable position because they can’t not respond to something like that,” Gordis explained.” [JewishInsider

MK Sharren Haskel (Likud) tells us: “The fact that the United States will move its Embassy to what Israel has always considered and will forever consider as its capital will send a message to the rest of the world that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, Jerusalem will always stay the capital of Israel. It would be greatly appreciated once they do it and, obviously, I hope they do it as soon as they can.”

Ayman Mohyeldin: “Sources to Joe Scarborough Trump admin won’t move US embassy to Jerusalem quickly. The big priority is a peace deal by gauging regional positions 1st.” [Twitter]  

Ben Jacobs: “Worth noting that the Obama Administration spent eight years in the “beginning stages” of discussing closing Guantanamo.” [Twitter

FLASHBACK 02-04-2001 — Bush aides cautious on moving U.S. Embassy in Israel: “Powell said there are no immediate plans to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, but the administration was “studying it.” … In an interview with CNN, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice… said there was no timetable for the embassy move… “Part of the process will be to talk to friends in the region to assess the possibilities of doing this,” Rice said. “But the commitment remains. The question of exactly when and how, I think, has to be judged within the context in which we find ourselves.”” [CNN

“US Ambassador Friedman to reside in Jerusalem” by Itamar Eichner: “In private talks, Friedman expressed his intention to live in Jerusalem regardless of the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. Friedman owns a spacious apartment in the Talbiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem, which he visits several times per year.” [Ynet

“In Israel, marchers criticize talk of moving U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem” by Joshua Mitnick: “[Larry] Derfner also slammed Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel, real estate lawyer David Friedman, for referring to the liberal American Jewish political advocacy group J-Street as “kapos.” “We have to organize a boycott of him,’’ said Derfner, an Israeli American.” [LATimes]

HEARD ON FRIDAY — Trump to Chuck Schumer: “Here is one that is not at all controversial: David Friedman from New York you must know, right?” Schumer: “I’ve never met him.” Trump: “You sort of said that about me too… David is going to do a great job.” [YouTube]

“Trump speaks with Netanyahu” by Karen DeYoung: “Trump invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit him at the White House in early February, during a brief telephone call Sunday that Trump described as “very nice.” A White House statement said the two agreed to consult closely on regional issues, “including the threats posed by Iran.” It said Trump emphasized the close relationship between the two countries, promised to work toward Israeli-Palestinian peace… Netanyahu, in a statement released by his office, called the conversation “very warm.” He said he had “expressed his desire to work closely” with the administration, “with no daylight between” the two countries.” [WashPost; WSJ• Trump Speaks With Netanyahu, Seeking to Thaw U.S. Relations [NYTimes]

Gil Hoffman: “Breaking: POTUS invites Netanyahu to DC next month. But will BB still be PM then? And will he still come 2 March AIPAC policy conference?” [Twitter]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “Ministers Push Back Vote on Israeli Settlement Annexation Until Netanyahu-Trump Meet” by Barak Ravid: “Israeli ministers postponed a vote on a bill to annex the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim on Sunday, agreeing to hold the vote after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington… Netanyahu told [Education Minister Naftali] Bennett that Trump’s advisers said no unilateral steps should be taken by Israel before the Netanyahu-Trump meeting, scheduled to take place in the first week of February, but rather to coordinate and cooperate. “I’m getting messages from Trump not to jump in head first,” Netanyahu told Bennett… On Saturday night, Netanyahu posted a video to his Facebook page stating that one of the main issue he would be bringing up with Trump in their first meeting was the Iranian threat.” [Haaretz; WashPost• Netanyahu says he’ll lift restrictions on East Jerusalem construction [ToI]

“Trump Presidency Is Already Altering Israeli-Palestinian Politics” by Ian Fisher: “Amid the lack of clarity on Mr. Trump’s embassy intentions, Mr. Netanyahu engaged in a day of furious political positioning. On one hand, he is happy to have someone in the White House seemingly more like-minded on the Palestinian question than Mr. Obama was. But on the other, Mr. Trump’s advisers and his designated ambassador, David M. Friedman, a supporter of Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, are in some ways in closer political step with Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing rivals. As such, Mr. Netanyahu tried to tamp down his rivals by positioning himself both as Mr. Trump’s main interlocutor as well as the champion of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.” [NYTimes]

Josh Block: “Nice. Currently on State Dept web site: “The U.S.-Israel Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet is currently being updated.”” [Twitter; State]

INAUGURATION SIGHTS & SOUNDS: “Trump takes office, vows an end to ‘American carnage’” by Philip Rucker, John Wagner and David A. Fahrenthold: “And as Trump promised to return power to “struggling families,” two of his wealthiest benefactors — casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and wife Miriam — were among the day’s guests of honor, scoring prime aisle seats behind Trump on the dais.” [WashPost• Top 5 Jewish inauguration moments: Rabbi Hier, ‘America First,’ Chuck Schumer and more [JewishJournal]

“How Senator Schumer and Rabbi Hier Snuck Jewish Dissent Into the Trump Inaugural” by J.J. Goldberg:“It was left to the sole non-Christian, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance, to quote the parts of the Bible that remind us of our duties to our fellow human beings, our obligations as a society to the poor, the weak and powerless. Hier, a conservative-leaning Orthodox rabbi, has been under pressure for weeks from Jewish leftists to make a bold statement at the inaugural and speak up for social justice. I don’t think they expected the rabbi to deliver, but he did — elegantly.” [Forward]

“The new Washington elite schmoozes over lunch” by Alexander Bolton: “His closest allies, Vice President Pence, daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner… GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson and political adviser Kellyanne Conway, were seated around the room… Schumer said that the finality of the moment reminded him of his daughter’s recent wedding.” [TheHill

“Sheldon and Miriam Adelson and the Ricketts family hosted a private inaugural party [Friday] night in a room decked out like a Vegas lounge with TVs framed in gold. The party took place at the Morning Consult office close to the White House. SPOTTED: Sylvie and Todd Ricketts, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), John Paulson, Paul Singer, Andy Abboud, Robin and Brian Baker, Rob Collins, Laura and Joel Kaplan, Campbell Brown and Dan Senor.” [Playbook

“Despite Sabbath, Ivanka Trump and Husband Celebrate Inauguration” by Maggie Haberman: “For Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, celebrating the presidential inauguration by attending the gatherings on Friday night posed an obstacle to their Orthodox Jewish observance of the Sabbath… A Jewish person who was briefed on the matter but not authorized to speak publicly about it said on Friday night that they were given an exemption under the principle in Jewish law of pikuach nefesh.” [NYTimes

Rabbi Jonathan Muskat: “For all I know, not attending this very momentous, festive event might be something that President Trump would take personally and remember for a long time and it is possible that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner not attending might have adverse affects on their relationship with their father and father-in-law which might have adverse effects on the State of Israel.” [Facebook

TOP TALKER: “Is Donald Trump’s Insecurity a National Security Threat?” by Nick Bilton: “The bigger challenge is that Trump is facing an unprecedented challenge in his career. For the first time in his adult life, Donald J. Trump is going to have to stop focusing relentlessly on Donald J. Trump. And I’m not sure that he can do it. Worse, I fear that his inability to look beyond his stifling narcissism has grave national security ramifications.” [VanityFair]

“Rocky First Weekend for Trump Troubles Even His Top Aides” by Peter Baker, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: “To the extent that there was a plan to take advantage of the first days of his administration, when a president is usually at his maximum leverage, Mr. Trump threw it aside with a decision to lash out about crowd sizes at his swearing in and to rewrite the history of his dealings with intelligence agencies. The lack of discipline troubled even senior members of Mr. Trump’s circle, some of whom had urged him not to indulge his simmering resentment at what he saw as unfair news coverage.” [NYTimes]

–How It Happened: “Mr. Trump grew increasingly angry on Inauguration Day after reading a series of Twitter messages pointing out that the size of his inaugural crowd did not rival that of Mr. Obama’s in 2009. But he spent his Friday night in a whirlwind of celebration and affirmation. When he awoke on Saturday morning, after his first night in the Executive Mansion, the glow was gone, several people close to him said, and the new president was filled anew with a sense of injury.” [NYT] • A comparison we’ve been hearing often — Avital Chizhik on Trump: “Achashverosh incarnate” [Twitter]

“Justice Department blesses White House post for Kushner” by Josh Gerstein: “A 14-page opinion dated Friday from Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel asserts that a federal anti-nepotism law that applies to agencies across the executive branch does not cover the White House itself… “We believe that the President’s special hiring authority [in the 1978 law] permits him to make appointments to the White House Office that the anti-nepotism statute might otherwise forbid,” [Deputy Assistant Attorney General Daniel] Koffsky wrote in the opinion sent to White House Counsel Donald McGahn at his request.” [Politico; NYTimes

“Kushner’s Brother Goes From The Women’s March To The White House” by Nitasha Tiku: On Saturday, Kushner was photographed amid Women’s March protesters in Washington, DC, and on Sunday he made a rare, if enigmatic, nod to the Trump administration by posting to Instagram a picture of himself and his brother standing below a photograph of John F. Kennedy at the White House. A source close to Kushner told BuzzFeed News: “Josh was at the White House with his family today to watch his brother being sworn in. Yesterday, he took a quick walk near his hotel, and someone took a picture of him.” However, according to The Washingtonian, Kushner, a lifelong Democrat who has donated to Democratic candidates, told fellow attendees at the Women’s March that he was there “observing.”” [BuzzFeed]

Spotted: Charles Kushner in the East Room for son Jared’s swearing-in [Pic

ICYMI: How Jared Kushner’s White House Deputy, Avrahm Berkowitz, Landed in the West Wing [JewishInsider

INTERVIEW: Oded Revivi, Chief Foreign Envoy of the Yesha Council spoke to JI’s Aaron Magid following his attendance at Trump’s inauguration: “For the first time, the Yesha council, which is an umbrella organization for all of the towns in the regional council of Judea and Samaria received an official invitation to come and take part. For us, it was a great sign of approval of interests that we are representing half a million people who live in Judea and Samaria and that was a basic reason why we have accepted the invitation and decided to form a delegation to come. The people who actually invited us asked to keep their names confidential. At the end of the day, the fact that we were sitting extremely close to the stage I think is a clear indication of the nature of the people who invited us.”

On his expectations of the Trump Administration: “We have got many people in the administration that we can basically reach. By, let’s say, two phone calls we can get to the President. There are many people who are in a very close circle of the new President who are big and longtime friends of Judea and Samaria, people who have studied in Judea and Samaria, and the people who are surrounding the President today are definitely aware and know the reality and the facts. Up until today, it was a long campaign. It was a celebration. Now we need to start working to make sure that not only America is great again but also Judea, Samaria and Israel are great again.”

HEARD OVER THE WEEKEND: NYT’s Peter Baker on Trump’s standing in Israel: “Israel, though – he’s very popular, I have to say. I’ve just got back from Jerusalem. That’s certainly one place in the world that they see his arrival as a – as a good thing. He’s going to support them, finally, in their view, after eight years of Barack Obama, who they did not feel was supportive.” [PBS

“Senior Israeli Diplomat Dore Gold Says Obama’s Arrogance Hurt Relationship W/Israel” by Jeff Dunetz: “The interview (in Hebrew) started with Gold relating a story from the funeral of Shimon Peres four months ago. He spoke of Prime Minister Netanyahu greeting each world leader who came to the funeral individually. As each leader left, Netanyahu shook their hands and exchanged a few niceties. Suddenly there was a phone call from Air Force One which along with the crew carried President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and Secretary of State John Kerry. Yoav Horowitz, Netanyahu’s chief of staff, answered the phone… “Tell your boss that if he wants a funeral like Peres’, he should begin to move, to go forward.” the American voice on the other end said. Horowitz passed on the message immediately. “Tell him,” Netanyahu responded, “that I give up the honor because I have no intention of participating in the funeral of my country.”” [TheLid; MakorRishon]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “The Netanyahu Investigations” by Gregg Carlstrom: “This all feels very much like 2008, when a similar swirl of controversy forced Ehud Olmert to resign, after being accused of accepting cash-filled envelopes from Morris Talansky, an American businessman, and spending the money on expensive cigars, watches, and other luxuries… “This government has reached the end. … National responsibility requires we return to the people for new elections,” said the opposition leader at the time, a certain Benjamin Netanyahu. But there’s a key difference here. Netanyahu, unlike Olmert at the time of his resignation, still enjoys the support of his coalition, casting doubt on the predictions of the doomsayers.” [TheAtlantic]

“‘Fire behind the smoke’: Probe of Netanyahu has Israelis worried” by William Booth: “Even a die-hard Netanyahu critic told The Washington Post that the evening broadcasts felt like “Chinese water torture.” The drip, drip, drip of alternatively embarrassing and damaging material continues… Life is unfair, but the probes are hurting Netanyahu with the public, at least in the short run.” [WashPost]

DNC WATCH: “Ralph Nader Slams Keith Ellison For ‘Toning Down’ His Stance on Israel” by Madina Toure: “When he started running for the chair of the DNC, he began changing: toning down his opinions, not repeating progressive positions,” Nader told the Observer… “And then he said that, because he was losing ground to the establishment who wanted former Secretary of Labor Perez to be the chair, he said, well he would quit his seat, won’t be a part-time chair, starts backing off on Israel-Palestine issue,” Nader continued. “So I think, do we have the real Keith Ellison or do we have a transformed, conditioned Keith Ellison so desperate for the position that he’s forgotten a lot of his own former courageous stands.” [Observer]

2018 WATCH: “J.B. Pritzker leans on Sacks, Steans as he explores governor’s run” by Natasha Korecki:“Michael Sacks, GCM Grosvenor CEO and a top personal adviser to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, called Pritzker “extraordinary” and offered his backing should Pritzker ultimately file campaign papers.” [Politico]

2020 WATCH: Booker walks 2020 tightrope” by Burgess Everett and Gabriel Debenedetti: “In interviews with over a dozen lawmakers, donors and operatives, Democrats say that whether he likes it or not, the 47-year-old senator is in the mix for the Democratic nomination in 2020 simply because of who he is — and what he’s doing now… “He obviously is interested in running for president, and he’s decided to position himself as vocally anti-Trump. There’s certainly an appetite for that,” said Bob Shrum, a veteran lead strategist for Democratic presidential campaigns.” [Politico

TOP-OP: “Machlochet L’Shem Shamayim: A More Perfect Argument” by Chanan Weissman: “Disagreements. Arguments. Quarrels. Disputes. Jews are not new to discord. We have a long and, perhaps, cherished history of expressing our differences… Yes, we were once strangers in a strange land, but we have never been strangers to a good argument. At its core, an argument for the sake of heaven is one whose objective is not the defeat of the other but rather the humble embrace of an ultimate truth. It’s less about “winning” an argument and more about solving a problem. And for those who embrace this values-based form of argument — sofah l’hitkayem, the end endures. The truth emerges. The disputants’ dignity is preserved. The community is strengthened.” [Sh’maNow]

** Good Monday 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 **

SPOTLIGHT: “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich” by Evan Osnos: “How many wealthy Americans are really making preparations for a catastrophe? It’s hard to know exactly; a lot of people don’t like to talk about it. (“Anonymity is priceless,” one hedge-fund manager told me, declining an interview.) Sometimes the topic emerges in unexpected ways. Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and a prominent investor, recalls telling a friend that he was thinking of visiting New Zealand. “Oh, are you going to get apocalypse insurance?” the friend asked. “I’m, like, Huh?” Hoffman told me. New Zealand, he discovered, is a favored refuge in the event of a cataclysm.” [NewYorker]

PROFILE: “President, with an asterisk: Laurent Morali is the new head of Kushner Cos. But how much power does he really wield?” by Konrad Putzier: ““Am I the leader of the company?” Laurent Morali, the new president of Kushner Companies, repeated the question, then answered without a moment’s hesitation. “I am.” … Morali, a France native and Wall Street veteran, has been with Kushner Cos. for almost nine years… “I think Laurent has played the role, in a lot of people’s eyes, as day-to-day president of that company for a long time,” said one source familiar with the firm… “Jared was running the Observer, he was helping Ivanka with her stuff, he was helping his brother with Thrive (Capital) –Laurent was was always the guy nose-to-grindstone running the business.” David Hochfelder, a former top acquisitions executive at RFR Realty who worked with Kushner Cos. on its first Dumbo acquisition, said he spent more time with Morali than with Jared over the deal.” [TRD]

“Behind Closed Doors At Davos: “Make Elites Great Again” by Miriam Elder: “The hostess, Lally Graham Weymouth, a senior associate editor at The Washington Post and daughter of the late Katharine Graham, was calling on people around the room to share their thoughts when she hit upon David Rubinstein, the jovial co-founder of the Carlyle Group. His remarks were different — and, people in attendance said, made as a joke. Rubinstein, three people in attendance told BuzzFeed News, pleaded to those gathered that elites were people too. With feelings! And they deserved to be listened to.” [BuzzFeed] • Larry Summers: Disillusioned in Davos [Blog]

“Plasco Building disaster rekindles painful memories for L.A.’s Iranian Jews” by Karmel Melamed: “At a time when Iran was beginning to modernize, the building was not only a symbol of the country’s positive transformation, but it was also a powerful symbol of immense achievement of Iranian Jews. It was likewise a symbol of great pride for Iranian Jews who just four decades prior had been forced by the Qajar kings of Iran to live in poverty and in run-down ghettos… The Jewish community leaders in Iran’s worry about the Plasco building’s backlash was real because according to Shahrzad Elghanayan (Habib’s granddaughter), Iranian Shiite cleric Mahmoud Taleghani objected to the idea that a Jew had built the tallest building of its time in Iran.” [JewishJournal]

“Attack on Alt-Right Leader Has Internet Asking: Is It O.K. to Punch a Nazi?” by Liam Stack: “[Richard] Spencer, who is credited with coining the term alt-right… was punched in the head on Inauguration Day by a person clad in black as he was being interviewed by a journalist. At the time of the attack, Mr. Spencer was explaining the meaning of Pepe the Frog… Opponents of the punch tended to say that violence had no place in political debate. Supporters tended to say the punch was funny, and more than a few compared Mr. Spencer’s attacker to famous Nazi punchers from pop culture, like Indiana Jones and Captain America.” [NYTimes]

HOLLYWOOD: “Alternate Endings: Will interactive films be this century’s defining art form?” by Raffi Khatchadourian: “Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, young directors who go by the joint film credit Daniels, are known for reality-warped miniatures—short films, music videos, commercials—that are eerie yet playful in mood… Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that when the Daniels were notified by their production company, several years ago, that an Israeli indie pop star living in New York wanted to hire them to experiment with technology that could alter fundamental assumptions of moviemaking, they took the call. The musician was Yoni Bloch, arguably the first Internet sensation on Israel’s music scene—a wispy, bespectacled songwriter from the Negev whose wry, angst-laden music went viral in the early aughts, leading to sold-out venues and a record deal.” [NewYorker]

SPORTS BLINK: “New England Patriots’ Owner, Still Sore at N.F.L., Has Payback in Sight” by Ken Belson and Ben Shpigel:“At the Super Bowl in Houston in two weeks, the N.F.L. may have no choice but to air a public and profound grudge on national television… Roger Goodell presenting the Lombardi Trophy to Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the Patriots. The moment would be delicious payback for Kraft, who is still simmering about the four-game suspension his quarterback, Tom Brady, served as a result of the cheating scandal known as Deflategate, after the underinflated footballs meant to give him a throwing advantage. Kraft largely kept quiet while the Brady case played out. But in a recent interview, he made clear that he remains annoyed by how his best player and team were pilloried.” [NYTimes]

“Tom Brady ad highlights Israeli-developed video tech” by Luke Tress: “Intel’s “Be the Player” technology will provide viewers with 360-degree replays of key moments in the game. Using the tagline “Intel 360 Replay makes anything look epic,” the commercial features triumphal music and dramatic views of Tom Brady getting out of bed, brushing his teeth and eating a dropped pancake off of the floor… For the Super Bowl, 38 cameras were installed throughout the stadium for the 360-degree reconstructions. Each clip will be around 15-30 seconds long and is around one terabyte of data. The technology was developed by Replay Technologies, founded in Israel in 2011.” [ToI]

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN LA: The Republican Jewish Coalition’s LA chapter held a book event for Tevi Troy’s “Shall We Wake the President?: Two Centuries of Disaster Management from the Oval Office” at Bart Kogan’s Westwood condo. Attendees included “How Trump Won” author Joel Pollak (just back from inauguration), his wife Julia, political strategist Julianne Shinto, and RJC LA’s Doris Ohayon. Troy noted that many people ask him if his book is about presidents who are disasters. “Half of those people think that the outgoing president is a disaster, half think the incoming president is a disaster, and Bill Kristol thinks both are true,” he answered.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD: Julianna Goldman, correspondent at CBS News and a Bloomberg alum, and Michael Gottlieb, a partner at Boies Schiller and Flexner, post on Facebook: “Introducing Abner Sam Gottlieb. He made his debut at 2:46 [Saturday] morning, weighing in at 8 lbs 4 oz (roughly half of which appears to be his head of hair).” [Pic] h/t Playbook

BIRTHDAYS: Real estate developer and minority owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, Bruce Ratner turns 72… Educational consultant, trade association and non-profit executive, previously an aide to Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (D-NY), Peter D. Rosenstein turns 70… Manager of Innovative Strategies LLLP and JHJ Investment LLLP, board member of the Baltimore-based Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Howard K. Cohen turns 70… Israeli archaeologist, educator, on the faculty of Oxford Brookes University, Estee Dvorjetski turns 66… 41st Mayor of Los Angeles (2005-2013), now a candidate for Governor of California in 2018, Antonio Villaraigosa turns 64… Avner Solomon Yochonon Donn, politics and local news editor at Hamodia (yesterday)…

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




Daily Kickoff: How a game of basketball landed Avrahm Berkowitz in the Trump White House | Ivanka’s Rabbinic Pass | Bernard-Henri Lévy on Trump

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EXCLUSIVE: How Avrahm Berkowitz Landed in the West Wing — From a simple game of pickup basketball to a top West Wing position in the Trump White House: For Avrahm (Avi) Berkowitz, an encounter on the court with Jared Kushner at a Passover hotel program in Arizona several years ago has led to a number of unique opportunities. The latest manifestation of this journey was announced Thursday in a Trump press release listing Berkowitz’s new title: Special Assistant to the President and assistant to Senior Advisor Jared Kushner… When Kushner and Berkowitz first met during a Passover program at the historic Arizona Biltmore Hotel, Berkowitz was attending classes at Queens College. The two kept in touch and when Avi graduated, Kushner hired him to join his family’s real estate company where Berkowitz helped manage the firm’s apartment portfolio.

On Thursday, Trump suggested that Kushner would serve as a mediator for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, saying “If [Kushner] can’t produce Middle East peace, nobody can.” While some reports suggested that Trump and Kushner were annoyed with AIPAC’s apology at its Policy Conference last year (after a number of AIPAC delegates cheered when Trump attacked President Obama, calling him “the worst thing ever to happen to Israel”), the new Administration doesn’t appear to be holding any grudges. In fact, to the contrary, Berkowitz’s first cousin is former AIPAC President Howard Friedman. David Cordish serves on AIPAC’s National Board. His son Reed, also a friend of Kushner, was appointed this week to serve as Assistant to the President for Intragovernmental and Technology Initiatives. How Trump’s White House and Kushner’s West Wing will operate is anyone’s guess but no one can deny the power of a pickup basketball game. If nothing else, expect to see activity on the White House basketball court come next Passover. [JewishInsider]

“Trump: If Ivanka’s husband can’t broker Middle East peace, no one can” by Caitlin Yilek: “Trump is setting the bar high for his eldest daughter’s husband, Jared Kushner. “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” Trump said on the eve of his inauguration at an event for campaign donors in Washington, D.C. “All my life I’ve been hearing that’s the toughest deal in the world to make. And I’ve seen it. But I have a feeling Jared’s going to do a great job.” … “I sort of stole her husband,” Trump quipped about his daughter and Kushner on Thursday.” [WashExaminer]

“Wealthy donors, once Trump’s punching bags, get VIP treatment at inauguration” by Matea Gold:On Thursday, the president-elect headlined a luncheon at his downtown hotel honoring GOP congressional leaders, where he singled out and thanked mega-donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson for their support… Wealthy contributors may have served as punching bags for Trump on the campaign trail, but they are enjoying VIP treatment in Washington this week.” [WashPost] • Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam arrive this morning at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol for Trump Inauguration [Pic]

“Trump’s New York real estate buddies descend on DC” by Kathryn Brenzel and Will Parker: “A cadre of real estate bigwigs are descending on the nation’s capital to watch one of their own be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. The guest list isn’t surprising: Outspoken supporters like Richard LeFrak, Howard Lorber and Steve Witkoff have all confirmed that they will attend Friday’s ceremony. Vornado Realty Trust’s Steve Roth will most likely also be in the crowd, though he hasn’t yet confirmed his plans.” [RealDeal]

“Trump supporters wish rest of the country shared their enthusiasm for the inauguration” by Hunter Walker: “In an interview with Yahoo News on SiriusXM’s POTUS radio channel on Thursday, [Boris] Epshteyn relentlessly stuck to his message that the inauguration is “all about the people” rather than any big-name talent. “It’s about the peoples’ voices being heard throughout this country and throughout the world,” Epshteyn said.” [YahooNews

REPORT: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Get Rabbinic Pass to Ride in Car on Inauguration Shabbat” by Thea Glassman: “In an interview with Kol Barama radio, Mark Zell, the chair of the Republican Party in Israel, said the couple have been granted special permission by a rabbi to use a vehicle because of “safety” concerns.” [Forward; NYPost]

Jake Sherman: “Joe Lieberman, also an observant Jew, said he would walk to inauguration ceremonies in 2001 — if Gore won.” [Twitter]

— NYTimes report from August 14, 2000 — by Bernard Weinraub and Elisabeth Bumiller:“Just this morning, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman was asked by Tim Russert on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ what would happen if the Gore-Lieberman ticket won the presidency. The inauguration date is Jan. 20, 2001, a Saturday. As an Orthodox Jew, Mr. Lieberman strictly observes the Sabbath, from sundown on Fridays to sundown on Saturdays, which ostensibly prohibits working, riding in vehicles and other activities. Mr. Lieberman smiled. ‘Well, as my mother would say, Tim, if she were here, “Sweetheart, we should have such a problem.”’ He went on to say that he would probably stay near the Capitol on Friday night, to avoid having to travel by car. And, if the Secret Service agreed, he would walk from the Capitol to the White House to participate in the events. Mr. Lieberman said that he has driven on the Sabbath in the past if important issues were at stake.” [NYTimes] • h/t Playbook

Rabbi Levi Shemtov tells us: “I think one should know of and be able to confirm all the details, including perhaps intelligence or other specific factors which could impact such a singular halachic decision for a specific individual and circumstance, before they comment about it. I won’t comment further.”

“Invitations in hand, West Bank settlers head to inauguration” by Josef Federman: “”I definitely agree that we are now getting the VIP treatment, which is something that we have been working on for many years,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council… “You could basically argue that it has taken 50 years, since 1967, to be recognized on such a level for such an event.” … When asked if Trump, his incoming administration or inaugural committee had invited the settlers, inaugural committee spokesman Boris Epshteyn did not answer the question, saying in a statement only that no heads of state or heads of government were among the invited guests.” [AP] • Israeli Lawmakers Celebrate the New “King of the United States” With Evangelicals [TheIntercept]

“Michael Cohen will be personal attorney to POTUS” by Kathryn Brenzel: “The position means he’ll deal with legal matters that don’t pertain to the White House, but to Trump personally, Cohen confirmed to The Real Deal on Thursday. He wouldn’t specify where he’d be based, but said “If (Trump) wants me to sit in the Oval Office, I’ll be at the Oval Office. If he wants me in New York, I’ll be in New York.”” [TRD]  

JI INTERVIEW — Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks on what to expect from President Trump: “There can be no doubt in anybody’s mind in the Jewish community that President Trump is going to be a radical departure from President Obama, who systematically weakened and undermined the U.S.-Israel relationship over the last eight years with his administration. You’ve seen it precisely by the people that he has appointed to key positions already… He is surrounding himself with folks who are unabashedly supportive of Israel and are willing to stand up and defend Israel in the international community and in international forums like the UN, something that we have not seen during the last eight years of the Obama administration.”

Q: What will the relationship between the Trump administration and Jewish American organizations look like?

Brooks: “I have no doubt that President Trump would be able to work with any of the organizations or folks in the Jewish community if there’s an opportunity to do so. The bigger question is, are these organizations, which have invested so much publicly in their protests and condemnation of the Trump candidacy and the initial stages of the Trump incoming administration, going to be able to work effectively with this administration. I think there will certainly be a willingness to be inclusive on the part of the Administration. I question and would like to see, hopefully, whether those groups from the Jewish community really will have an open mind and be willing to engage in an honest and sincere manner with the Administration on the range of issues that are so important to our community.”

“The biggest message that I have for people in the Jewish community right now, who are issuing statements left and right about their concern about this and their opposition to that, is: give the guy a chance. It’s easy to criticize. Right now people are criticizing in the abstract. They have no idea what he’s really going to do, or what his policies are because he’s not even sworn in yet. I would say it’s perfectly legitimate for people to be critical of actual policies that run counter to the missions of their organizations or things that they’re concerned about, but right now there’s no actual policy. All this flurry of press releases and interviews criticizing and objecting to this administration, I think, are ill-timed at this point. I think we owe it, as a community, to give the president an opportunity to lead and an opportunity to see what he’s really doing. There will be plenty of time for people to jump on the bandwagon and criticize down the road if they so choose. I say, give the guy a chance, and I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

“Following Trump’s inauguration: What’s next?” by Jacob Kornbluh and Aaron Magid: “Analysts in Israel, for example, are hoping the new commander in chief adopts a more assertive approach in the Middle East… Questions remain as to whether Trump’s presidency might push Israel away from the bipartisan support it traditionally has received… And there is still the eternally thorny issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how it might be impacted by the change in American leadership… What follows are not definitive answers to what we’re all wondering as the Trump era in America begins, but a sampling of perspectives from politicos, domestic and abroad, liberal and conservative.” [JewishJournal] • Dershowitz: Trump likely to be unpredictable on Israel [DetroitNews]

“Jews, Be Wary of Trump” by Bernard-Henri Lévy: “I cannot claim any knowledge of Donald Trump’s “heart” or of the sincerity of his commitment to the Jewish state. But there have been indications going back decades… Like all other American citizens, Jews must respect the president-elect in the forms provided in the Constitution. But they must not fall into the trap of believing in his inconsistent and ultimately double-edged benevolence. They must not forget that, no matter how many times Mr. Trump declares his love for Israel, for Benjamin Netanyahu or anyone else, he will remain a bad shepherd who respects only power, money and the perquisites of his palaces.” [NYTimes

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “In video praising Trump, Jerusalem mayor says Obama ‘surrendered’ to radical Islam” by William Booth: “Then the viewer hears some rousing music, sees Trump mount a stage, watches a crowd cheering wildly and cuts to Trump addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby in Washington, vowing, “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem …” [Nir] Barkat follows: “ … Join me in signing a letter supporting President Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem and his decisions supporting Israel. Let’s make the U.S. and Israel relationship great again!” Barkat paid for the video out of his own pocket. His spokesman Avi Lerner said the letter campaign garnered more than 10,000 signatures in the first six hours.” [WashPost] • Israel’s right wing has grand plans for Trump era [Reuters]

COMING SOON: “Trump spokesman says of possibility of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem: ‘Stay tuned’” by Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu: “Stay tuned,” incoming White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, asked about the issue at a briefing the day before Trump takes office. “There’ll be a further announcement on that… “The president (Trump) has made it very clear that Israel has not gotten the attention it deserves or the respect in the last eight years. He intends to really show his respect for Israel, the importance of it in the Middle East.” [Reuters

“Netanyahu Briefed on Scenarios of Violence Should Trump Move Embassy to Jerusalem” by Barak Ravid: “Earlier this week, Netanyahu convened a special security consultation on preparations for an announcement by Trump on the embassy… According to two senior Israel officials with knowledge of the consultations, Netanyahu and other officials at the meeting said Israel did not have definite information on whether or when Trump would announce an embassy move. One official said Netanyahu had spoken by phone with Trump a number of times since his election, but as of the meeting he had not received a clear answer on the embassy.” [Haaretz

INBOX: “The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed criticism and concern that South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Ambassador to the United Nations, said during her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill that she is a proponent of the “two-state solution”(meaning Hamas/Fatah Palestinian Arab Terror State) and that she understands how settlements “can hinder peace.”

“Donald Trump Should Isolate Iran Immediately” by Jeb Bush and Dennis Ross: “The United States has no shortage of tools for affecting Iran’s behavior. A good one to start with: aggressively enforce the existing sanctions architecture… Only through a new campaign of pressure can the U.S. demonstrate to Iran that it runs very great risks if its policies don’t change and if it is ever tempted to pursue nuclear weapons again.” [TIME]

“An insider’s view: Eight years watching the first Jewish US president” by Steve Rabinowitz: “Additionally, Obama had close relationships with the Crown family; Penny Pritzker, who would later become secretary of commerce; Eric Lynn, who would later work in the Defense Department; and Dan Shapiro, who Obama would seat on his national security staff before making him ambassador to Israel. What these Jews had in common was that they were all progressive liberals and staunch Zionists devoted to Israel and its well-being but who also didn’t think it was off limits to criticize Israeli policies, including settlements. Obama therefore developed an attitude toward Israel that reflected that of his friends: First, just as Jews respond viscerally when Israel is under attack, he doubled down on Israel’s security when it faced dangers. Second, loving Israel sometimes means disagreeing with it, a position that many Jews on the Right seem to reject even when it comes from a fellow Jew.” [JPost

** 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 **

SPOTLIGHT: “Private Equity Eyes Tax and Financial Reform in the Trump Era” by Melissa Mittelman: “Aside from assigning official posts, Trump has hosted a steady stream of private equity executives since the election. Carlyle Group LP co-CEO David Rubenstein, Blackstone’s real estate head Jon Gray, KKR’s Henry Kravis and Cerberus Capital Management’s Steve Feinberg have been among his visitors… Disapproval of the tax treatment of carried interest, the portion of a private equity fund’s profits paid to fund managers, was one of the few issues that Trump and rival Hillary Clinton agreed on during the 2016 election.” [Bloomberg]

“George Soros calls Trump a ‘would-be dictator’ who ‘is going to fail'” by Jeff Cox: “Uncertainty is the enemy of long-term investment,” Soros said. “I don’t think the markets are going to do very well. Right now they are still celebrating. But when reality comes in,” his bets against the market “will prevail.” [CNBC

“Homes Steeped in Jewish Heritage” by Katy McLaughlin: “Lane] Auten’s condos are one example of a new appreciation for traditionally Jewish neighborhoods in parts of Europe. Haunted by harsh conditions for Jews over the centuries and the specter of the Holocaust, these areas are now being embraced by both Jewish home buyers and non-Jews who value their unique character. Tourists are drawn by museums, guided tours and cultural events that explore Jewish history, and cafes, bars and restaurants have opened to cater to them.” [WSJ]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Cuomo: Bomb threats to Jewish centers won’t be tolerated” by Casey Seiler: “A day after three Jewish Community Centers across New York… received anonymous bomb threats, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement saying… ”We have zero tolerance for any individual who makes such threats – false or otherwise – which is against the law,” Cuomo said. ” … In these turbulent times, New Yorkers reject the divisive forces of hate and bigotry. We will not permit anti-Semitism or bias incidents to go unpunished – period.”” [TimesUnion]

DEEP DIVE: “Seth Rich wasn’t just another D.C. murder victim. He was a meme in the weirdest presidential election of our times” by Manuel Roig-Franzia: “The Jewish kid from Nebraska chose to attend a Jesuit college, Creighton, because he liked its political science curriculum. “He’d sometimes call himself a Jew with Jesuit values,” his father said… In June, an explosive story made headlines: A cybersecurity firm had determined that hackers associated with Russian intelligence had broken into DNC computers. “He was so upset,” a person who was very close to Rich said… “It was crazy. Especially for Seth. He said, ‘Oh, my God. We have a foreign entity trying to get involved in our elections?’ That made him so angry.” [WashPost]

TRANSITION: Longtime diplomat and Israeli Foreign Ministry official David Siegel tapped to serve as CEO of ELNET (European Leadership Network). Siegel served as Israel’s Consul General to the Southwest United States from 2011-2016. He also served as Chief of Staff to three of Israel’s Ambassadors to the United States, and later on as spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in DC. “There are significant opportunities to strengthen the important relationships between Europe and Israel, and the work ELNET does is more critical today than ever,” Siegel said in a statement. “I am honored to join ELNET and contribute to the exciting growth of the organization as we strengthen our presence in Europe and Israel and help deepen these important ties.

Politico’s Katie Glueck moves to McClatchy: “McClatchy DC is boosting its politics team with the addition of Roll Call senior political reporter Alex Roarty and POLITICO’s own Katie Glueck, where they’ll be covering the left and right, respectively. Glueck joins another POLITICO alum, former national editor Kristin Roberts, at McClatchy.” [Morning Media] • Hadas Gold joins FOX 5 as political contributor [Fox5DC]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: 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 84… 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 69… US Representative from Nevada (1999-2013), now CEO and senior provost for Touro University Western Division, Shelley Berkley (born Rochelle Levine) turns 66… Comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, animal rights activist, actor, media critic and host of HBO’s political talk show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” William “Bill” Maher turns 61… Governor of South Carolina since January 2011 and currently nominee to be US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley (born Nimrata Randhawa) turns 45… Philanthropist, professional equestrian, author and younger daughter of former NYC Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Georgina Leigh Bloomberg turns 34… Member of the digital communications team at Purple Strategies, after internships on Capitol Hill and the MPAA, blogger for Mediabistro’s FishbowlDC, Alec Jacobs (h/t Playbook)… Jason Berger… Adar Belinkoff

Born in Kansas City, raised in Oklahoma City, co-founder of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, philanthropist Lynn Schusterman… Literary critic, feminist, writer on cultural and social issues, television critic for People magazine, Elaine Showalter (born Elaine Cottler) turns 76… Chinese-American Governor of Washington (1997-2005), US Secretary of Commerce (2009-11) and US ambassador to China (2011-14), Gary Locke turns 67… 82nd Attorney General of the United States (2009-2015), Eric Holder turns 66… 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 54… Born in Trinidad and Tobago, SVP and Washington bureau chief for CNN since 2011, employed by CNN since 1991, Sam Feist turns 48… 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 47… Rabbi and Dean of School at Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Los Angeles, lecturer, educator and author, Shlomo Einhorn turns 38… Chief of Staff in the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Jordan Grossman turns 31… Former reporter in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press (2006-2011), who later wrote about the bias against Israel at the AP and the international media, author of two acclaimed books, Matti Friedman

Canadian philanthropist who created Shoppers Drug-Mart and Israel’s Super Pharm stores, co-founder of The Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Murray Koffler turns 93… Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry in 2000, since 1982 a professor in the Physics Department at the University of California Santa Barbara, Alan J. Heeger turns 81… Brooklyn-born conductor, who during his tenure as artistic director of the Kraków Philharmonic became friends with Pope John Paul II for whom he later conducted multiple Papal concerts, Gilbert Levine turns 69… Co-managing editor of Bloomberg Politics, senior political analyst for MSNBC and Bloomberg TV, co-author (w/ Mark Halperin) of “Game Change” and “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” John Heilemann turns 51… Senior Legislative Assistant in the DC office of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Matthew Lustbader… Michael Marquis… Ruth Lynn Sobel

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Sembler supports Liz Cheney

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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish college wins $10.6 million in public funds

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