Daily Kickoff: Blackstone’s Schwarzman makes first donation in Israel | Did Qatar promise to squash anti-Israel documentary? | Story of Moe Berg

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BIG NEWS — AP HEADLINE: “Billionaire Trump adviser donates to Israel National Library” … “Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of private equity firm Blackstone, says the $10 million donation is his first in Israel. The donation will fund classrooms and education workshops Schwarzman hopes will foster inclusiveness and “cross-cultural relationships” between Jews, Christians and Muslims… Schwarzman said on Wednesday the collection “enables all different types of groups to be comfortable in that setting and see things that reflect their historical backgrounds.”” [AP]

FLASHBACK to 2015: “The Archdiocese of New York Announces Record Gift of $40 Million from Christine & Stephen A. Schwarzman” [Newswire]

From a 2008 New Yorker profile of Schwarzman: “Jimmy Lee jokes that his friend [Schwarzman] has received more accolades and raised more money for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York than any other Jew…” [NewYorker]

COMING SOON: “Evangelical-funded Israel Charity Hopes to Cash in by Getting Cozy With Trump” by Judy Maltz: “For an organization that relies heavily on donations from evangelical Christians – that is, on Trump’s political base – having an in with the president might actually benefit fundraising efforts. That appears to be the thinking of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of the [International Fellowship for Christians and Jews], which is holding a first-of-its kind fundraising dinner at Mar-a-Lago next month. The gala event, scheduled for Sunday March 25, is meant to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Israel…”

“There’s a strong possibility that the president will stop by,” Eckstein told Haaretz… The event, Eckstein noted, is scheduled to begin at 5 P.M. – an hour that was chosen carefully. “That will give the president time to hang around before he needs to head back to Washington,” he said. More importantly, Eckstein made sure to appoint someone he describes as close to Trump to the dinner-planning committee… According to Eckstein, [Keith] Frankel (CEO of Vitaquest) and Trump play golf together “almost every Saturday.”” [Haaretz] • Evangelicals, Having Backed Trump, Find White House ‘Front Door Is Open’ [NYTimes]

“Ivanka Trump, ex-Democratic donor, teams up with conservatives to push family-friendly policies” by Eliza Collins: “USA TODAY took an exclusive day trip with Ivanka Trump to deep-red South Carolina late last month for a tax event with Republican women hosted by GOP Sen. Tim Scott… Stopping for coffee before the event, Ivanka Trump was swarmed by fans who wanted a picture with her and to give their gratitude to the Trump administration— she stayed and took every last one… Kenneth Beattie said he was “very right-wing” but he believed in “reaching across the table, some” and Ivanka Trump is the person to do it. “I think it’s possible (she) may be our president in the future,” Beattie continued…” [USAToday]

HEARD THIS MORNING — CNN’s Camerota Confronts Literal Nazi Running For GOP Congressional Seat in Insane Interview” by Aidan McLaughlin: “It is shocking to hear how vocally and unapologetically racist you are,” [CNN host Alisyn] Camerota opened the interview. “Are you a Nazi?” [Arthur] Jones contended that he does not call himself a Nazi, but an “American patriot and statesman.” Camerota noted that Jones dresses in Nazi garb and celebrates Hitler’s birthday. “You’re a Nazi,” she charged… As Camerota patiently tried to reason with Jones, he began shaking his fist at her. “The Democrats and Republicans, it’s the cursed two party, Jew party system can’t stand it!” “You deny the Holocaust,” Camerota noted. “Yes I deny the Holocaust, it’s an extortion racket!” When Camerota began listing Holocaust facts, Jones exclaimed: “Poppycock!” [Mediaite

BIDEN SPEAKS OUT — Addressing the House Democratic Issues Conference on Capitol Hill yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden said too many Republicans were silent as Trump gave “comfort and safe harbor” to neo-Nazis and white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer: “We are not a nation that gives comfort and safe harbor to neo-Nazis crawling out of fields carrying torches, walking through a historic city in the United States of America, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile, carrying Nazi flags that occurred in Germany in the 1930s, accompanied by white supremacists, and being resisted by groups who said, ‘Not here.’ And a President making a moral equivalency, saying there are good people in both groups… I was a good boy, I kept quiet for the longest time until Charlottesville. I couldn’t remain quiet anymore.” [Video]

INSIDE THE ADMIN — “How Betsy DeVos softened her message on school choice” by Kim Hefling and Caitlin Emma: “Behind the scenes, DeVos met with Frank Luntz, one of the top Republican messaging experts, to figure out how to talk about conservative educational policies without sparking protests from teachers and liberals. “Frank has a 60-slide deck of the words to use, and the words to lose, regarding parental choice, vouchers, charter schools, teacher pay, and all the other issues in education reform,” said a copy of her schedule from last June, published by the liberal nonprofit American Oversight, which sued for her calendar.” [Politico]

“Trump’s favorite general: Can Mattis check an impulsive president and still retain his trust?” by Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan: “One tense moment came last May as officials grew increasingly concerned about aggressive Iranian behavior. For weeks, [Defense Secretary James] Mattis had been resisting requests from the White House to provide military options for Iran. Now Trump made clear that he wanted the Pentagon to deliver a range of plans that included striking Iranian ballistic missile factories or hitting Iranian speedboats that routinely harassed U.S. Navy vessels. “Why can’t we sink them?” Trump would sometimes ask about the boats. National security adviser H.R. McMaster and his staff laid out the president’s request for Mattis in a conference call, but the defense secretary refused… At that point, McMaster took Mattis off speakerphone, cleared his staff from the room and continued the conversation. “It was clear that the call was not going well,” one official said. In the weeks that followed, the options never arrived…” [WashPost]

“U.S. Secretly Offered Iran a Channel for Talks on Prisoners” by Farnaz Fassihi and Felicia Schwartz: “The White House secretly reached out to Iran in December to propose creating a direct channel to negotiate the release of prisoners held by each side… However, Iran didn’t respond and, despite at least three subsequent offers from Washington, so far has refused to engage with U.S. officials on the offer… The U.S. offer in December represented the first time since Mr. Trump took office that it had signaled its willingness to engage in a potential prisoner swap…” [WSJ]

Tillerson to visit Lebanon on Middle East tour — by Michael Wilner: “Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs David Satterfield visited Lebanon in recent days to lay the groundwork for Tillerson’s visit. The last time a US secretary of state visited Beirut was in 2014 when John Kerry held the post. Tillerson’s travel will also include stopovers in Turkey, Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt, according to the UAE-based National.” [JPostDailyStar]

OF NOTE: Tillerson will skip Israel despite visiting three countries bordering with Israel and expected talks over rising tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border. The Secretary of State last visited Israel with Trump last May.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Tillerson on the administration following through with its threat to cut aid to countries that opposed the U.S. at the UN on Jerusalem during a press conference with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness in Jamaica: “There has been no new policy adopted at this point, but he’s asked us to think about all of our elements of our aid programs, and are they really advancing and promoting the values that the American people want to see advanced.”

Dave Clark‏: “Interesting data point: Both the Jamaican questions at the Tillerson-Holness presser were about the UN Jerusalem vote and Trump/Haley threats to cut aid.” [Twitter]

HAPPENING TODAY: President Donald Trump will meet with Dr. Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office in the afternoon, according to the WH schedule.

‘NO DAYLIGHT’ — REPORT: Netanyahu nixes medical marijuana export because of Trump: “Israel will forego its plans to become a pioneer medical marijuana exporter for fear of upsetting US President Donald Trump, Channel 2 News reported… Netanyahu said Trump had called him and made clear his general attitude against marijuana exports… The report went on to say that when a Finance Ministry representative suggested that the issue could be skirted by avoiding export to the US, Netanyahu said it might not serve Israeli interests to go against the administration’s policy.” [JPost]

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH — Abbas spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeinah blames Ambassador David Friedman for crisis in U.S.-Palestinian relations: “The statements by the US ambassador lead us to wonder about the ambassador’s relationship with the occupation: Does he represent the US or Israel? … The ambassador’s advice and consultations, which are not aimed at achieving a just peace based on international legality, have led to this crisis in US-Palestinian relations.” [Wafa]

Jason Greenblatt tweets: “Pres. Abbas states about Jerusalem: “it is Arab, Muslim, and Christian.” And makes no mention of any Jewish ties. Nothing peaceful or productive can come from statements like this. Lasting peace will not be achieved by denying Judaism’s thousands of years of ties to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is holy to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Peace can ONLY be based on truth.” [Twitter]

INTERVIEW — “Q&A with Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri: Plan to deport thousands of Africans is not about race” by Ruth Eglash and Loveday Morris: “I think it is my job as the interior minister of this Jewish country to make sure this small place can take in those who have nowhere else to go in the world,” said Deri, who leads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party… I say to all the pilots, doctors and professors, well done for fighting for the rights of other people. But as the wise men have taught us: Take care of the poor in your city before taking care of the poor in other cities… We are the only Jewish country in the world; there is no one else who takes care of the Jews except for us. We do what we are required to do by law, which is to take care of those who are seen by our law as being in danger, and we deport those who we are not required to do so.” [WashPost]

Rabbi Susan Silverman writes… “How Did Israel Become a Place of No Refuge? The first deportation-or-jail orders are set to coincide with Passover. The first night of Passover, Jews around the world, including the Netanyahu family, will recite the same line during the Seder: “In every generation we are obligated to see ourselves as though we personally went out from Egypt.” Our prime minister is on the wrong side of the Exodus story. But the people of Israel — a country built by those who fled Hitler’s ovens and the oppression of Arab countries where they were treated as second-class citizens — understand the injustice of the government’s policy in our bones…” [NYTimes]

AL-JAZEERA WATCH — “Qatar Promised U.S. Jewish Officials: Al Jazeera Documentary on D.C. ‘Israel Lobby’ Won’t Air” by Amir Tibon: “Shortly after Al Jazeera announced that the new documentary would be shown, Jewish-community officials asked [Nick] Muzin to see if he could use his ties with the Qataris to stop the airing. One of them, Noah Pollak, a political consultant working with a number of pro-Israel groups, warned Muzin that if the documentary were broadcast as planned, it would sink his efforts to improve Qatar’s image with U.S. Jews. Muzin brought up the issue with the Qataris and by late October received verbal assurance that the film would not be aired. No written assurance was provided… One source told Haaretz that the Qatari emir himself helped make the decision.” [Haaretz]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Israel’s Netanyahu bracing for corruption charges” by John Bacon: “Israel’s Channel 2 reported that a team of top Israeli police officials will seek charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust… Police will not present a recommendation on another case alleging Netanyahu negotiated with Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes for favorable coverage… Netanyahu shrugged off the reports in a video posted on Facebook. “Many of you are asking what is going to happen,” Netanyahu said. “So I’m here to calm you down. There won’t be anything, because I know the truth.” [USAToday; Newsweek]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: BlackRock’s Larry Fink Wants to Become the Next Warren Buffett [WSJ] • Perry Ellis’s Former Executive Chairman, George Feldenkreis, Makes Bid to Buy the Apparel Company [WSJ• NRG Divesting $2.8 Billion in Assets Following Paul Singer’s Push [Bloomberg] • U.S., Israeli drone makers keep wary eye on rising Chines [Reuters

Hungarian government spent €40 million on anti-Soros propaganda in 2017: “The Hungarian government spent 40.5 million euros on advertising and communicating the results of its two ‘national consultations.’ These were the propaganda campaigns that flooded the streets of Hungary with posters of Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros and told people to ‘stop’ him.”[Atlaszo]

US genetics scientist among winners of esteemed Israel prize: “American genetics scientist Mary-Claire King, credited with connecting a gene mutation with breast cancer, is among the winners of Israel’s prestigious Dan David Prize this year… The Dan David Foundation awards $1 million prizes in three categories — past, present and future — for scientific, technological and cultural accomplishments.” [AP]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “New York’s Met can keep Picasso sold during Nazi flight: judge” by Jonathan Stempel: “A U.S. judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking the return by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan of a Pablo Picasso masterpiece that a German Jewish businessman was allegedly forced to sell at a low price to fund an escape from the Nazis and fascism. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan on Wednesday said the great-grandniece of Paul Leffmann, who once owned “The Actor,” could not show under New York law that he sold the painting under “duress,” justifying its return to her family.” [Reuters]

SPORTS BLINK: Bucks’ Marc Lasry to show off hops in All-Star Celebrity Game: “Four years after buying the Milwaukee Bucks, Marc Lasry has reason to celebrate: His team is steadily trending up, led by one of the NBA’s biggest new stars in Giannis Antetokounmpo… Next Friday, Lasry will need gym shorts and sneakers instead of cufflinks and loafers. He is among 24 players who have committed to showing off their hops in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game in Los Angeles… Lasry will be playing on Team Lakers, coached by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.” [ESPN]

“Scrub to Star: Max Adler, Israel’s New Face-off Man” by Justin Meyer: “If things go according to plan for Adler — who dropped everything and relocated to Israel earlier this week — he will don the Star of David at the 2018 FIL World Lacrosse Championships… Adler’s unexpected pursuit of an international career follows his successful debut on the professional circuit. Major League Lacrosse’s Denver Outlaws selected him 61st overall in the seventh round of the 2017 Collegiate Draft and he had his professional debut in July, his first of three appearances in his rookie season… Adler recognized the need to help spread lacrosse in the country he desires to compete for through its’ grassroots movement of school visits and lacrosse outreach programs. He’s packed his bags and relocated to Netanya, Israel, the host city of the 2018 World Championships, and if all goes according to plan, he’ll earn his way onto Israel’s roster.” [LaxAllStars]

“Story Of Moe Berg, Baseball Player Turned WWII Spy, Set To Hit The Big Screen” by Jesse Bernstein: “Moe Berg was, as a baseball player, unexceptional. He played in the Majors, bouncing around the league for between 1923-1939, but he was a career .243 hitter, and is the inspiration for this ignominious, traditional baseball scouting assessment: “Good field, no hit.” … A diligent scout might have found that, but here’s something they certainly wouldn’t have uncovered: Moe Berg was to become a spy for the O.S.S. That’s the premise for The Catcher Was A Spy, a big screen adaptation of the biography of the same name, by Nicholas Dawidoff… Directed by Ben Lewin, the film debuted at Sundance last month, and stars Paul Rudd as Berg.” [Tablet]

TRANSITION — Tevi Troy has been named as Vice President of public policy at JUUL Labs Inc., a company trying to provide smokers an alternative to regular cigarettes. Troy served as deputy secretary of HHS and Jewish Liaison in the Bush 43 administration. h/t Playbook

SCENE YESTERDAY IN DC — The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) hosted Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon for lunch at Char Bar kosher steakhouse. “We need the entire Jewish community united behind Israel. Period,” Danon told the group. “We cannot let issues concerning Israel become partisan issues. Israel is one of the only issues to have unified support in Congress.” JDCA attendees included board chair Ron Klein, Barbara Goldberg Goldman, Joel Rubin, Dede Feinberg, and Peter Gillon. [Pic]

PIC OF THE DAY — Jerusalem-born talent manager for Madonna and U2, Guy Oseary, posted a picture of Chris Rock and Ashton Kutcher standing beside him at his Chuppah ceremony last October as he wished them both a happy birthday: “They are always beside me, supporting me.. Both are godparents to 2 of my children.. Both of these guys were born on this magical day…” [Pic

BIRTHDAYS: Boston attorney and author, whose 2013 book on Jews and baseball was turned into the 2016 play “Swing, Schmendrick, Swing,” Larry Ruttman turns 87… Broadcast journalist, best known as the anchor of ABC’s Nightline from its inception in 1980 until his retirement in late 2005, five-time Emmy Award winner, Ted Koppel (born Edward James Martin Koppel) turns 78… Stand-up comedian, singer and actor, Robert Klein turns 76… Columbus, Ohio born attorney and president of Schottenstein Legal Services, James M. Schottenstein turns 71… CEO of NYC-based Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation, Charles S. Cohen turns 66… Graduate of Harvard Law School with an MBA from Stanford, active private investor and business operator, Marc Abramowitz turns 65… Founder and President of NYC-based BlackRock, he is Chair of the Board of UJA-Federation of New York, Robert S. Kapito turns 61… Senior Director of Kehilla Affiliations and Operations for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Barry S. Mael turns 60…

British businessman and chairman of the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur since 2001, Daniel Levy turns 56… Member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party between February 2013 and March 2015, and again since October 2015, Shulamit “Shuli” Mualem-Rafaeli turns 53… Attorney, rabbi and New Jersey political consultant, Benjamin G. Kelsen turns 46… Popular Israeli musician Eviatar Banai turns 45… President of Zichal Inc., a DC-based energy and environmental advisory consultancy, she was a deputy assistant to President Obama for Energy and Climate Change, Heather R. Zichal turns 42… Member of the Knesset for the Zionist Union party, he is a former leader of the National Union of Israeli Students, Itzik Shmuli turns 38… Founder of DC-based JTR Strategies, she is the former head of Aviation and International Affairs at USDOT under President Obama, Jenny Thalheimer Rosenbergturns 38…

Senior Counsel to the Inspector General at USAID, Adam Kaplan turns 36… Associate at Sidley Austin, he is a graduate of Yale Law School and served as a law clerk to Justice Samuel Alito in 2012, his father is the Dean of Duke Law School, William Ranney Levi turns 34 (h/ts Playbook)… Professional ice hockey center, has been under contract with five NHL teams including the Islanders, Lightning, Penguins, Maple Leafs and Predators, Trevor Smithturns 33… Canadian jazz-pop singer-songwriter, who performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Nicole “Nikki” Yanofsky turns 24…

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Daily Kickoff: Saudis to allow flights to Israel to pass through its airspace | Houzz acquires fellow Israeli startup | Burgerim to San Antonio

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MEDIA WATCH — “Las Vegas Review-Journal staffers reject claims that Wynn story was a hit piece” by Tom Kludt and Hadas Gold: “To the journalists of the Las Vegas Review-Journal… the mere suggestion that the story was a hit piece commissioned by [Sheldon] Adelson is “deeply offensive.” That’s how Review-Journal managing editor Glenn Cook described it when he was asked about the speculation regarding the paper’s incredible move on Monday — admitting that it spiked a story 20 years ago detailing sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn, but was now publishing some details of the allegations… “He knew this story was coming when it landed on his driveway this morning,” Cook said.

“There’s no communication with ownership on this story. One of the things that frustrates me about any assertion that we did this story because of some interest in our owner.” A representative for Adelson echoed this, telling CNNMoney on Monday that “Mr. Adelson had nothing to do with the story, was unaware it was being published and hasn’t read it.”

“Steve Friess… who worked at the Review-Journal for three years in the 1990s, told CNNMoney that he finds it hard to believe Adelson did not know the story was coming… “The king is dying, and Adelson knows it,” Friess said. “Once Steve Wynn is gone, Sheldon Adelson is the king. There’s nobody singular like that in Vegas after him… Sheldon and Steve have always had very different lifestyles,” Friess said. “Sheldon is very religious, very serious about his Judaism. Steve always has been a flashy playboy, very much like Donald Trump.” [CNNMoney]

“Steve Wynn resigns as chair and CEO of Wynn resorts” by Mark Arsenault: “Stephen A. Wynn… resigned Tuesday night as chief executive of the casino company he founded, in the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct. The Wynn Resorts Board of Directors has chosen Matt Maddox, currently president, to be CEO, and Boone Wayson to be non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors, the board said.” [BostonGlobeWSJ]

PALACE INTRIGUE: “As Memo-gate Implodes, Trump Seeks a Reset” — by Gabriel Sherman: “The president is increasingly frustrated that members of his administration aren’t going to war for him, and he’s being encouraged by his daughter Ivanka to bring in new blood… “He’s saying he should have put Rudy [Giuliani] at State and Chris Christie at Justice.” Ivanka, who’s been frustrated with Chief of Staff John Kelly, has told her father that he needs people around him that will put his interests above their own. “She wants to clean house,” a Trump friend told me. “Her view is J.F.K. had Bobby there to have his back.”

“Another scenario being discussed is that Trump could fill the strategist role with [Corey] Lewandowski and former deputy campaign manager Dave Bossie. Both… face stiff opposition from Ivanka and Jared Kushner. “They have blocked Corey at every turn. They kept him from going into [the] family box at the inaugural,” one former campaign staffer told me. “If Corey gets back in, they’re not long for the place.” [VanityFair]

WEATHER REPORT: “The Trouble Before the Storm” by Andrew Miller: “For all of the tumult of the last year, the Middle East was relatively crisis free… Without minimizing the Gulf crisis or Jerusalem situation, Trump remains untested in a military emergency. How will the administration respond if Iranian proxies in Syria kill U.S. soldiers, a Houthi rocket hits a major target in Riyadh, or Israel launches a new war in Lebanon? Nothing in this analysis instills confidence in Trump’s capacity for managing such situations.”[ForeignPolicy]

BREWING? “Syrian Air Defenses Respond to ‘New Israeli Aggression’ Near Damascus, State TV Reports” by Jack Khoury: “Syrian state media said early on Wednesday that Syrian air defenses had responded to what it described as “a new Israeli aggression” in the countryside around the Syrian capital of Damascus. Sources close to the Syrian government said Israeli missiles had targeted a “research center” in the town of Jamraya… According to reports on social media, three explosions were heard in the Damascus area.” [Haaretz• Netanyahu visits Golan Heights, near Syrian border, and cautions Israel’s enemies [Reuters]

“Neither Israel nor Hamas wants another war in Gaza. That might not be enough to stop one” by Noga Tarnopolsky and Rushdi Abu Alouf: “Gen. Yom-Tov Samia, who retired from the Israeli army as head of its southern command, noted that before each of Israel’s three recent wars with Hamas, in 2009, 2012 and 2014, “all analysts agreed they were completely unwanted by all sides.” “Sometimes you have a confluence of circumstances that leads to war without anyone actively wanting war,” he said in an interview.”[LATimes]

“Cabinet mulls artificial island for aid transfer to Gaza” by Itamar Eichner: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directed his cabinet to look into Transit Minister Yisrael Katz’s proposal to construct an artificial island across from the Gaza coast to allow aid to be delivered from the island to Gaza itself… Israel believes that Hamas is not interested in conflict at the moment. However, if hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents take to the streets to protest harsh living conditions, Hamas might be inclined to create a conflict with Israel… “If Hamas senses that it is in existential danger and that the protests are out of control, the only way for them to extricate themselves would be to direct the fire at us,” warned a cabinet minister.” [Ynet]

“Israel needs Abbas to solve Gaza crisis” by Shlomi Eldar: “Some in Israel think Abbas’ refusal to take a stand stems not only from unresolved issues with Hamas over the stalled reconciliation process with Fatah, but also from a desire to take revenge against Trump and Netanyahu for humiliating him… And for that, Abbas would rather see Gaza’s downfall blamed on Netanyahu.” [Al-Monitor]

HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert: “We are calling upon the international community to sit down and have conversations about this to come up with some sort of a resolution, because it’s clear that the people of Gaza continue to suffer and it’s largely of the hands of Hamas, because Hamas has the authoritarian rule over that area… We’re glad that the Palestinian Authority has decided to restore previous levels of electricity to Gaza, but the electricity is simply not enough.”

Abbas says US cannot impose peace deal: “Raising his pen at a rally on Tuesday, he said “this is our pen and we are the only ones to sign.”” [ABCNews]

“Trump shouldn’t take Jordan for granted” by David Ignatius: “What worries Amman is that Trump’s disruptive diplomacy — symbolized by his decision in December to reverse long-standing U.S. policy and move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — will cause internal political problems for Jordan, with its large Palestinian population. When Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas denounces Trump’s peace process, Jordan fears it will have to pick up the pieces.” [WashPost]

OLIVE BRANCH — “In Historic First, Saudi Arabia Allows Flights to Israel Over Its Airspace” by Anshel Pfeffer and Rina Rozenberg Kandel: “Saudi Arabia has granted Air India approval to operate direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv… Air India’s New Delhi-Tel Aviv route is the first concrete and public piece of evidence to the warming of ties between Israel and the Saudi leadership… Air India will now be able to operate a flight which will be at least three hours shorter and most likely significantly cheaper, than El Al’s Mumbai service.” [HaaretzNDTV]

RAISE FOR NICK — by Theodoric Meyer and Marianne LeVine: “Nick Muzin, whose firm, Stonington Strategies, signed Qatar as a client last summer, has gotten a raise. The Qatari government is now paying Muzin $300,000 a month, six times the $50,000 rate Muzin commanded when he was hired in August, according to Justice Department filings. The catch: The contract requires at least $150,000 per month to “be reserved for compensation of Stonington Strategies’ subcontractors, selected after written approval by the Embassy, which shall assist in performing the services required by the Agreement.” The raise took effect in November, and the contract runs through August.” [PoliticoInfluence]

ON THE HILL — Some 200 activists from across the country gathered yesterday for an event marking the eighth annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day – as part of Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month – on Capitol Hill. The event, sponsored by The Jewish Federations of North America and URJ’s Religious Action Center, featured panels by disability experts and administration officials, and a luncheon attended by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Gene Green (D-TX), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). [Pic]

PROFILE: “The Congressman Who Infuriates the President” by Natasha Bertrand: “A GOP aide… said he doesn’t think Trump “has ever faced an adversary quite like [Rep. Adam] Schiff, and it’s freaking him out. First off, he’s a skilled prosecutor with an acid tongue, and a command of all the facts including the most deeply held classified information,” the aide told me. “Second, he’s not in leadership and therefore doesn’t have to consider being at the negotiating table like [Chuck] Schumer or [Nancy] Pelosi do. Third, he’s got a squeaky clean record (wouldn’t have ascended to that position if he didn’t) and comes from a district where when Trump lashes out at him, it only makes him more powerful and popular.”” [TheAtlantic]

2018 WATCH — “Pritzker apologizes for remarks on African-American politicians, as rivals say he’s now unelectable” by Rick Pearson, John Byrne and Monique Garcia: “Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker issued a public apology Tuesday, saying he regretted remarks he made about African-American politicians with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich during a 2008 discussion about filling Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. “I regret some of the things that I didn’t say and some of the things that I did, but my heart is in the right place — that I’ve tried really hard through the course of my life to do the right things for the African-American community and for communities across Illinois,” Pritzker said at a West Side restaurant… The apology came as other Democratic governor candidates contended Pritzker’s comments tainted the billionaire’s candidacy and would jeopardize chances for a Democratic victory in the fall.”[ChicagoTribune]

“New candidate for Massachusetts Senate president emerges” by Frank Phillips and Joshua Miller: “As Senate Democrats prepare for a tense, closed-door meeting Wednesday amid a leadership crisis… State Senator Eric P. Lesser, 32, of Longmeadow, is pulling together a politically and geographically diverse faction of other relatively new faces to the Senate… “I would feel very confident backing Eric as Senate president,’’ said Senator Anne M. Gobi of Spencer. “He would be great as well as a fresh face for the Senate.” She… said he represented a “fresh set of eyes” and would be able to lead the Senate into a new era.” [BostonGlobe]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Police Recommendations on Charges Against Netanyahu Expected Next Week” by Josh Breiner: “In recent weeks, investigators wrapped up their work in the two cases dubbed Case 1000 and Case 2000; the recommendations are expected by Tuesday.” [Haaretz]

TOP TALKER: “Poland’s Controversial Holocaust Bill Becomes Law” by Drew Hinshaw: “Poland enacted a libel law to punish those who accuse Polish society of complicity in the Holocaust, despite objections from the U.S., Israel and some Auschwitz survivors, who said it threatened to stifle honest discussion of the Nazi genocide.” [WSJ]

“The Truth About Poland’s Role in the Holocaust” by Edna Friedberg: “In 2012, President Barack Obama made reference to a “Polish death camp” when posthumously awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Polish resistance figure Jan Karski. While Obama quickly apologized, his statement touched a nerve in the debate about Poland and Poles’ place in the universe of Nazi victims. Make no mistake: Terms such as “Polish death camps” are historically inaccurate and distort our understanding of how and why Nazi Germany came to build killing centers in that country. A clear-eyed look at the facts demonstrates that the record of Christian Poles, amid the German occupation and the crimes of the Holocaust perpetrated in their country, is not uniformly one of complicity or innocence.”

“Poland was the victim of German aggression, suffering one of the most brutal occupation regimes among countries in the Nazi orbit. Despite severe penalties, more Christian Poles have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations—those who risked their lives to aid Jews—than citizens of any other country in Europe. But many others supported and enabled Germany in its campaign to exterminate the Jews… Individual Poles also often helped in the identification, denunciation, and exposure of Jews in hiding, sometimes motivated by greed and the opportunities presented by blackmail and the plunder of Jewish-owned property.” [TheAtlantic]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: George Soros, Steve Cohen Boost Stakes in Argentine Mobile Banking Venture [Bloomberg] • Here Are the World’s Virtual Currency Billionaires (or at Least They Were) [NYT] • How Salesforce is compelling Israeli retailers to go online [JPost• Alex Taub’s SocialRank is making it easier to suss out fake Twitter and Instagram followers[FastCompany] • Clark Valberg’s InVision launches Studio Platform, challenging Adobe with an open ecosystem [TechCrunch• Delhi-Israel Flights Soon, Air India To Get 7.5M Lakh Euros For Launch [NDTV• Talks for an Israel-India anti-tank missile deal are still ongoing [CNBC

STARTUP NATION: “Houzz acquires IvyMark to expand into services for designers” by Ingrid Lunden: “IvyMark’s designer customers primarily are based in the U.S., but the company was founded in Tel Aviv and as it happens its offices are right around the corner from Houzz’s R&D offices in the city, Houzz’s co-founder and president Alon Cohen said in an interview. The team based in Israel will continue to work there, and those in California will move over to Houzz’s offices in Palo Alto, Cohen said… Cofounded by Alex Schinasi and Lee Rotenberg in 2016, IvyMark has now signed up some 2,400 design firms and under Houzz will likely be scaling that quite significantly.”[TechCrunch]

SPOTLIGHT — “Penny Pritzker’s firm gets a name change and a new office. What’s next?” by Lynne Marek: “Billionaire Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker… this week moved her firm, formerly known as PSP Capital, to a 40,000-square-foot office… “I am very excited to share the news that we have decided to acknowledge in our name the great contribution of our team and change our name to PSP Partners,” she told investment clients and other contacts outside the firm in a short note today. “We are also pleased to announce that to accommodate our growth, we have moved to a new office.” PSP currently has about 70 employees, most of whom work in Chicago. It invests in real estate, mature private companies, startups and other investment funds.” [CrainsChicago]

INTERVIEW: “The Closing: David Rozenholc” by Will Parker: “David Rozenholc is one of NYC’s most feared tenant lawyers. Over three-plus decades, Rozenholc has won millions of dollars in settlements and gone up against some of the city’s biggest developers, including the Zeckendorf brothers, Tishman Speyer and Donald Trump… You represented tenants in the ’80s against Trump at 100 Central Park South. Was he different than other developers? Rozenholc: “He was much more aggressive. He brought a $105 million RICO lawsuit against my firm. People threaten me, whatever. Nobody brought a completely frivolous RICO suit to try to convince us not to represent the clients. It made no difference. Ultimately, he paid my legal fees, the case was dismissed, he withdrew his application to evict the tenants and demolish the building.” [TheReaDeal]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli players ‘honored’ to represent country in Davis Cup” by Dzevad Mesic: “Israel handed a 3-2 defeat to South-Africa in the Europe/Africa first round to set up a second-round clash against the Czech Republic… “The Israeli players regard it as a great honor representing their country – and reserve their best performances for the Davis Cup,” [Captain Harel] Levy said.” [TennisWorldUSA]

PROFILE: “The Israeli Taking Concrete Steps to Save Marine Life” by Merav Savir: “Shimrit Perkol-Finkel’s office sits in an industrial section of Tel Aviv, a few kilometers from the shorelines of the Mediterranean. Outside are warehouses, garages and a smattering of food joints. A concrete jungle, if you will. From the midst of this concrete jungle, Perkol-Finkel, a 42-year-old marine biologist and CEO of ECOncrete, is working to save urban marine life by using a new type of concrete, one she and her business partner, Ido Sella, patented in 2011.” [Ozy]

COMING SOON — “Gal Gadot to Voice Herself in Upcoming ‘The Simpsons’ Episode” by Beatrice Verhoeven: “Gal Gadot will voice herself in an upcoming episode of “The Simpsons,” the actress announced on Twitter Monday… Gadot will star in an episode titled “Bart’s Not Dead” airing in during season 30, which will debut next fall.” [TheWrap]

“Israeli actress to star in NBC drama” by Amy Spiro: “Moran Atias… has just been cast in an upcoming NBC drama called The Village. The Village, which NBC picked up for its 2018-2019 season, tells the story of a diverse group of residents living in a Manhattan apartment building… According to Deadline, Atias will be playing Edda, an Iranian immigrant who is detained by immigration officers over fraudulent citizenship papers.” [JPost]

“Can a Film Push Israelis Into Peace Talks?” by Justin Higginbottom: “The Oslo Diaries, directed by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan, tells the secret history of the 1993 peace talks between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israeli government… Daniel Sivan: “It makes me feel old, but this historic handshake [between PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin] was over 20 years ago. That means that a 20-year-old Israeli soldier today, or a 20-year-old Palestinian who crosses a checkpoint and meets that soldier, has never lived in those years of hope. I really hope this film can give them this glance into a different reality.” [OZY]

“Thirsty for Wisdom of the Body, Finding It in Dance” by Brian Schaefer: “Facing each other, Rabbi [Hanania] Schwartz and Mr. [Yuval] Azoulay alternately adopted opposing postures meant to represent the extremes of modern Jewish and Israeli masculinity: One was bent over, as if studying in a yeshiva; the other upright, chest thrust out like a soldier or farmer. “These are the archetypes,” said Ronen Izhaki, who choreographed the piece. After laying them out, “we destroy them, we mix them together.” The excerpt is from a work called “Heroes,” which is to be performed on Wednesday at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan when the Ka’et Ensemble, a contemporary dance company of religious Jewish men from Israel, makes its American debut.” [NYTimes]

TRANSITION — Steven Hodas, an innovator and business entrepreneur, was appointed as ADL’s Vice President of Education. Hodas, who served in New York City Department of Education’s Office of Innovation in the years 2012-2014, will be responsible for creating and implementing a strategic vision for ADL’s educational programming.

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Buffalo area’s second-last kosher restaurant closes in Jewish Community Center” by Andrew Z. Galarneau: “Tel Aviv Café by Falafel Bar, the kosher restaurant inside the Jewish Community Center in Amherst, closed Feb. 5 after losing its kosher certification. Chef-owner Oded Rauvenpoor said that factional disputes in the Buffalo area’s Jewish community made it infeasible to continue the restaurant’s operations… The café’s closing leaves NY Deli and Diner, in Talbert Hall on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus, as the only BVK-approved restaurant in the area… Rauvenpoor said he was disappointed but thankful to all the staff and customers at JCC who made it possible.” [BuffaloNews]

DESSERT: “Israeli burger Burgerim franchise opening first San Antonio location” by Paul Stephen: “Burgerim is an Israeli chain launched in Tel Aviv in 2011. The name, in Hebrew, is the plural form of “burger,” and reinforces the brand’s focus on a mix-and-match mini-burger approach… Chris and Brenda Branchizio, the third generation of Branchizio restaurateurs behind the late Branchizio’s Naples Italian Restaurant in Alamo Heights, will open the city’s first Burgerim franchise.” [Chron]

“Abigael’s Takes Over Kosher Stand at MSG for Knicks & Rangers Games” by Dani Klein: “After recently bowing out of the Barclay Center, Abigael’s by Jeff Nathan has taken over the kosher stand inside Madison Square Garden, replacing Carlos & Gabby’s for Knicks & Rangers games.” [YeahThatsKosher]

BIRTHDAYS: Milwaukee-born businessman and philanthropist, former US Senator from Wisconsin (1989-2013), and former owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Herb Kohl turns 83… and also born in Milwaukee on the same date 16 years later, Senior Rabbi of Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto, president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis (2012-2015), Baruch Frydman-Kohl turns 67… French native, now living in West Roxbury, MA, he is a financial advisor for the Bulfinch Group, Michel R. Scheinmann turns 70… Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives since 2010, previously the Executive Director of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition (1988-2010), Robyn Gabel turns 65… Rick Wice turns 62… American businessman and investor arrested in Bolivia in July 2011 and held for 18 months without charges, freed through public outcry and the efforts of Sean Penn, Jacob Ostreicher turns 59… Actor, humorist, comedian and writer known for his Saturday Night Live “TV Funhouse” cartoon shorts and as the puppeteer and voice behind Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, Robert Smigel turns 58…

Rabbi, director of congregational learning at Har Shalom in Potomac, MD and author of Jewish children’s books and teen novels, Deborah Bodin Cohen turns 50… VP of marketing and communications at trade show manager Hargrove, Inc., previously a VP/MD at at Qorvis MSLGROUP and a producer at ABC, NBC, CBS and Discovery Channel, Jennifer Diamond Haber turns 49… MLB pitcher since 2005, has played for the Rangers, Cubs, Orioles, Astros and Blue Jays, signed to a one-year deal in 1-2017 by the Reds, now a free agent, Scott Feldman turns 35… Executive Director of the Aviv Foundation, Adam Simon turns 43… VP at Lieberman Research Worldwide, Jonathan Weissturns 42… Associate Director of Development at Chicago’s Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, previously Major Gift Officer at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Rachael Fenton… Rabbi, spokesman and director of public relations for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Zalman Shmotkin… David Israel… Michael Harris… Carol Mulrooney

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Daily Kickoff: Howard Schultz, the dark roast 2020 candidate | When Barry Diller introduced Murdoch and Ailes | Homeland to be set in Israel again?

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TAKE IT FROM AN ELDER: “The Boss of Victoria’s Secret, Les Wexner, Bets on a Radical Idea: Smartphones Will Fade” by Khadeeja Safdar: “For a man who runs a company known for its eye-catching marketing, Wexner avoids the spotlight. A tastemaker for decades, he can be seen dressed in a simple dress shirt, tie and zippered vest. He may think smartphones have peaked, but he carries two and wears an Apple Watch with an Hermès wristband…Some investors are trying to profit by betting against Mr. Wexner, believing that his commitment to stores and malls is starting to hurt the business…”

“The internet won’t kill stores, the Columbus-based billionaire says.Moreover, the fascination with smartphones will fade. “We’re in the process of bouncing back from that,” he says in an interview. “I don’t think this is a new norm.” People crave social interaction and will seek it at places like malls. “There are times when that gets interrupted, but people want to be with other people,” he says. “I’ve got 5,000 years of history on my side,” pointing to the ancient shopping bazaars in Rome and Istanbul.” [WSJ]

LongRead: “A Kingdom from Dust: A story of power, drought, migrant labor, and an insatiable drive to expand” by Mark Arax: “Stewart Resnick is the biggest farmer in the United States, a fact he has tried to keep hidden while he has shaped what we eat, transformed California’s landscape, and ruled entire towns. But the one thing he can’t control is what he’s most dependent on — water…”

“Unlike many other billionaires, Stewart and Lynda Resnick could poke fun at themselves. During the holiday season, they sent out 4,000 gift boxes to their “nearest and dearest friends” filled with their fruits and nuts, along with a card of the two of them dressed in skin-colored body stockings, posing as Adam and Eve. “If only Eve had offered Adam a pomegranate instead of an apple,” Lynda wrote, “every day could have been a holiday.”

“Growing up in New Jersey, Resnick’s pals were all Jewish kids from upper-class families, so it wasn’t easy being the poorest one, the one whose father was a gambler and capable at any moment of losing the few comforts they had… Over the years, they had donated large sums of money to political campaigns, and some of it went to Republicans who had pledged to prop up California agriculture. This was how a billionaire who needed more water did politics. At the core, though, the Resnicks were still moved by the duty of social justice, not just as traditional liberals but as secular Jews. Stewart would deny that [John] Gibler’s reporting played a part in their philanthropy. “Look, I have no guilt. I’ve done no big wrong in my life that would cause me to have any. Well, maybe just a little guilt, but that’s Jewish.” [CaliforniaSundayMagh/t EMF

“Fraying Israel-Turkey Ties Threaten Planned Natural Gas Venture” by Yaacov Benmeleh and David Wainer: “Malcolm Hoenlein, a director at Leviathan stakeholder Delek Drilling LLP, said it’s too early to rule out a deal with Turkey, even though Erdogan has “complicated progress.” Trade continued to grow even after ties soured in 2010 over Israel’s deadly storming of a Turkish ship trying to break Israel’s Gaza blockade, noted Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations… Egypt, though, is a better option at this point “because there’s a lot to be done with the existing LNG plants there,” he said in a phone interview.” [Bloomberg]

“Hoenlein: Bridges need to be built to Democratic party” by Herb Keinon: “We can’t afford in the United States right now to lose the Democratic left,” [Conference of Presidents’s Malcolm Hoenlein] said. “We are working hard all the time, reaching out and trying to build connections.” … At the same time, Hoenlein made clear: “We welcome the support of [US] President [Donald] Trump. We are not going to sacrifice that, and say that because they don’t like it, we should dismiss him, or not express appreciation for the good that he is doing. It is a big change from where we were.”” [JPost]

DRIVING THE CONVO — “Poland’s President Supports Making Some Holocaust Statements a Crime” by Marc Santora: “President Andrzej Duda announced on Tuesday that he would sign into law a bill that makes it illegal to accuse “the Polish nation” of complicity in the Holocaust, but in a nod to critics, he asked the Constitutional Court to review the legislation. In a speech broadcast live on Polish television and radio, Mr. Duda said that he was seeking the high court’s involvement because this “very painful, delicate issue” needed to be dealt with carefully…” [NYTimes

“Polish PM says it’s too late to amend Holocaust bill” by Michael Bachner: “Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday said it was too late to amend his country’s contentious legislation… adding that “no Jews could have survived on this land without the help of a Polish family.” Morawiecki invited several Israeli journalists to his Warsaw residence in order to voice the Polish stance on the controversial law… “The response from our friends in Israel is serious and so I take that seriously,” he told Hadashot TV news… The Polish leader told the journalists that his aunt is Jewish and lives in the central Israeli city of Herzliya, and that he himself had sent his kids to a Jewish school…” [ToIVideo]

“Israeli minister ‘honored’ to be barred from Poland over Holocaust bill” by Lidia Kelly and Maayan Lubell: “Earlier on Monday, Naftali Bennett said he would travel to Poland to discuss the bill, which Israeli officials have said amounts to Holocaust denial. However Poland’s government spokeswoman said there would be no such visit. “The blood of Polish Jews cries from the ground, and no law will silence it,” Bennett later said in a statement. “The government of Poland canceled my visit, because I mentioned the crimes of its people. I am honored.” [Reuters]

“On Holocaust distortion, Poland is the ‘tip of the iceberg,’ Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff says” by Raphael Ahren: “It was ironic that the Israeli government chose to speak out on Poland’s Holocaust complicity bill when it has never chastised such countries as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Croatia and Hungary, which played a more active role aiding the Nazis in their genocide of the Jews during World War II and have for decades tried to downplay their guilt.” [ToI]

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST: “Abbas sets conditions for fresh peace talks, with diminished US role” by Khaled Abu Toameh: “The Palestinians are prepared to return to the negotiating table with Israel, but only on the basis of an international multilateral mechanism, the Arab Peace Initiative and international resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday. Abbas’s comments… were made during a phone conversation with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.” [ToI

Boris Johnson: “Good to speak to President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority today. We discussed the importance of resuming peace negotiations towards a two-state solution.” [Twitter

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweets: “20 years ago I gave an ambulance to Har Bracha hoping it would be used to deliver healthy babies. Instead, a man from Har Bracha was just murdered by a terrorist, leaving behind a wife and four children. Palestinian “leaders” have praised the killer. Praying for the BenGal family.” [Twitter

“Modi to ‘Honor’ Arafat in ‘Historic Palestine Visit,’ Three Weeks After Netanyahu’s India Tour” by Noa Landau: “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the Yasser Arafat Museum in Ramallah during his official visit to the West Bank this weekend, according to the Indian Foreign Ministry. At the museum, Modi will be attending a ceremony “in the honor of the departed leader,” a senior ministry official told journalists… According to the official, the purpose of the “historic visit” is to demonstrate India’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and its commitment to “deepening ties with Palestine.” … Modi is scheduled to arrive in Ramallah on February 10.”[Haaretz

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — “Trump administration is an opportunity for West Bank sovereignty, MKs say” by Lahav Harkov: “The time is right for the government to apply sovereignty to West Bank settlements in light of the Trump administration’s attitude toward Israel, said cabinet ministers, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and other MKs at a Land of Israel Caucus conference on Monday…” [JPost

“Abbas’ government sued over alleged CIA-backed wiretapping” by Mohammed Daraghmeh: “Allegations of continued intelligence-sharing with the United States could prove embarrassing for Abbas who has been on a political collision course with Washington since President Donald Trump’s recognition in December of contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The claims are contained in a 37-page anonymous document that was been shared widely among Palestinians, mostly on WhatsApp. The document alleges that three of the Palestinian security services set up a joint electronic surveillance unit in mid-2014 and monitored the phone calls of thousands of Palestinians, from senior figures in militant groups to judges, lawyers, civic leaders and political allies of Abbas.” [AP]

COMING SOON — For the second year in a row, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley will speak at AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center in DC on March 4th – 6th. Haley is the first member of the Trump administration to be confirmed as a speaker. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to attend the conference after skipping it last year.

TOP TALKER: “Pro-Israel Groups Receive Letters From Al Jazeera Seeking Response for ‘Lobby’ Documentary” by Amir Tibon: “A number of pro-Israel organizations in the United States received letters from Al Jazeera on Friday, informing them their employees will appear on the Qatari-owned network’s upcoming documentary on the Israel lobby in Washington… Al Jazeera publicly admitted in October it had planted an undercover reporter inside leading pro-Israel organizations in the United States… Some said the letters indicate that the film will be broadcast within the next weeks, possibly around the time of the annual AIPAC conference in early March. Others believed the opposite was true, claiming that the Qatari government was pressuring Al Jazeera not to air the report, and that the letters are the result of an internal debate within the network about the documentary… One senior official in a pro-Israel organization called the Al Jazeera documentary a “wake-up call.”” [Haaretz

ON THE HILL — Menendez Will Retake Foreign Affairs Committee Role — by John Hudson: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has given his blessing for Sen. Bob Menendez… to return to his previous job as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee… this week, aides said… In recent years, Menendez took more money from pro-Israel donors than any other Democrat in the Senate, and members of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC personally financed his legal defense fund as he fought corruption charges… Menendez is expected to retake the position from Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin who on Monday filed for re-election for what would be his third term.”[BuzzFeed

PROFILE: “Former Congressman Still Active At 99” by Sheri Arbital Jacoby: “Lester Wolff, a 50-year resident of the peninsula who turned 99 on Jan. 4, is the oldest former Congress member… In fact, he tweets every day at @repwolff and four or five years ago, began streaming Ask Congress, the show he hosted on PBS for many years… Wolff was born in New York City and raised by a Jewish family who immigrated to the United States in the early 1800s… He still attends services almost every Friday night at Temple Emanuel… Wolff was first elected to Congress in 1964… The amendment he put into the Foreign Assistance Act forced President Lyndon B. Johnson to sell F4 jets to Israel, which was a factor in helping Israel survive the attack by the Arabs during the Six-Day War in 1967.” [GreatneckRecord

2018 WATCH — UPDATE: “Illinois Republican Party exploring ‘options’ to dump GOP Holocaust denier” by Lynn Sweet: “The Illinois Republican Party on Monday announced it was exploring “all options” to dump Holocaust denier and white supremacist Arthur Jones… The Republican Jewish Coalition chair also floated on Monday the possibility of a write-in candidate surfacing to run against Jones to deny him the GOP nomination in March. Republican Jewish Coalition chairman Norm Coleman told Jewish Insider, a newsletter covering the U.S. Jewish community, “I would hope there is a write-in candidate so he doesn’t get the nomination…””[ChicagoSunTimes

“In turbulent year, a newcomer challenges a political veteran in Montgomery” by Rachel Siegel: “Montgomery County Council candidate Ben Shnider was born in 1989, about a decade after the incumbent he is challenging in the Democratic primary was first elected to public office. That incumbent, Sidney Katz (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) says his long experience in politics and government is invaluable… A graduate of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Shnider previously worked as the political director for J Street, a liberal, nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on policies related to Israel, and launched the political arm of Bend the Arc, a progressive, Jewish justice organization.” [WashPost

INBOX — Rabbi Robert Barr Ending OH-1 Congressional Campaign: “Rabbi Robert Barr announced today that he will end his campaign for Congress in Ohio’s First Congressional District. Rabbi Barr said, “My campaign was motivated by the same belief that drew me to become a rabbi – the belief that each of us needs to leave our world better than we found it, and I will continue to do my part. I decided to end my campaign for Congress after Aftab Pureval decided to enter the race. Aftab has a proven track record of unseating a long-standing Republican incumbent, and he is committed to representing the voters of Southwest Ohio in a manner focused on many of our shared concerns.”

PODCAST PLAYBACK — David Axelrod on a potential 2020 presidential bid by Starbucks founder Howard Schultz: “You see the outside candidates being talked about – the Howard Schultz’s… Someone told me that they thought he could be a dark horse candidate, I said, ‘He sounded more like a dark roast candidate.’” [AxeFiles

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Steven Schoenfeld’s ETF tracking Israel’s hot cyberstocks is breaking out [CNBC• Study finds lower ultra-Orthodox male employment in Israel [ABCNews] • Vladimir Putin inherits apartment in downtown Tel Aviv [JPost] • Daniel Freedman’s BurnAlong raises $1M to let more people work out online with familiar faces [Technical.ly]

“Germany agrees to compensate Holocaust survivors from Algeria” by James Master: “Approximately 25,000 people are eligible for a one-off payment of €2,556 ($3,184), according to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, an organization that negotiates with the German government on behalf of Holocaust survivors… Daniel Gal, who lived during the war with his family in Oran, a coastal city in northwest Algeria, told CNN he remembers being “kicked out” of his school and sent to learn with other Jewish children… Gal left Algeria after graduating from high school in 1950, eventually settling in Jerusalem… “I am very happy,” Gal told CNN on Monday. “Justice has been done and while it has taken a long time, the Claims Conference has done a very good job. My phone has been going all morning with friends calling me about it.” [CNN

HOLLYWOOD: “Netflix Nabs Ryan Murphy Series ‘The Politician’; Ben Platt Set, Barbra Streisand & Gwyneth Paltrow In Talks To Star” by Nellie Andreeva: “Netflix has landed The Politician, a new hourlong comedy series from longtime collaborators Brad Falchuk, Ian Brennan and Ryan Murphy, I have learned. The project, starring Tony winner Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen), with Oscar winners Barbra Streisand and Gwyneth Paltrow in negotiations to co-star, has received a two-season straight-to-series order.” [Deadline]

HOMELAND BACK TO ISRAEL? — “Homeland Boss on Season 7’s Trump Inspiration, Alex Jones and RIP Peter Quinn” by Debra Birnbaum: Do you have a plan in mind for the final season? Alex Gansa: “More of a hope than an idea. This show began in Israel [as “Prisoners of War”], and there’s something poetic about going back to that part of the world in the show. So we’ve been thinking, just in a thematic way, that it might be nice to end the show set in Israel.”” [Variety]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Gossip From the Liz Smith Memorial, Just the Way She’d Want It” by Jacob Bernstein: “In the late 1980s, [Barry] Diller worked as an executive at Fox, where one of his responsibilities was starting what he described as an “‘Entertainment Tonight”-type show. “Liz introduced me to a producer she had known and who I had never met before,” Mr. Diller said. “He’d come from political campaigning, and I thought he’d be great. He was, but not for this show. We became friends, and later I introduced him to Rupert Murdoch. His name was Roger Ailes. So, Liz, it’s all your fault.”[NYTimes

“Paul Simon to give up touring ‘after all these years’” by Corky Siemaszko: “The beloved singer-songwriter announced Monday he was retiring from the road and this spring his aptly-named “Homeward Bound — The Farewell Tour” will be his last… Simon, 76, said he still expects to do the “occasional performance in a (hopefully) pristine hall” and donate the proceed to philanthropies “whose objective is to save the planet, ecologically.””[NBCNews

WINTER OLYMPICS — “The Hebrew Hammer’ set to make Israeli Olympic history” by Nick Zaccardi: “A.J. Edelman… will be easy to spot in his racing helmet in PyeongChang next week. It features the biblical figure Samson breaking pillars above the flag of Israel. “The breaking of the pillars represents accomplishing the impossible dream,” said Edelman, who was born in Boston but said he has several family connections to Israel. Edelman said the International Olympic Committee allowed his helmet, determining that it is not a political or religious statement.” [NBCOlympics]

“Ivanka Trump to attend Olympics closing ceremony” by Betsy Klein: “Ivanka Trump will lead the Presidential delegation to South Korea for the closing ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic winter games… The first daughter and senior adviser was asked to attend the closing ceremony by her father, President Donald Trump, and the United States Olympic Committee.” [CNN]

SPORTS BLINK: “Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie fulfills lifelong dream” by Michael Silver: “Jeffrey Lurie sat in the corner of a mint-green loveseat in the back of a jam-packed victory party early Monday morning, clutching his mother’s left arm with one hand and the Lombardi Trophy with the other. The 66-year-old owner of the Philadelphia Eagles had just realized his lifelong dream… Lurie had his reasons for wanting to prevail over the Pats: A native of Newton, Massachusetts, which is just outside of Boston, Lurie had lost out to Robert Kraft on a bid to buy the Patriots in 1994, instead purchasing the Eagles from Norman Braman a few months later.” [NFL]

PIC OF THE DAY — Philadelphia-born songwriter Benj Pasek with Kobe Bryant, who notes that Bryant’s dad was his JCC soccer coach. [Pic]

ACELA CORRIDOR — Colm O’Comartun tweets this morning: “Maybe in a nod to growing inequality, the first class car on the 5:00 Acela to NYC From DC has separated from the train while moving, causing the train to stop and become stranded between Baltimore and Wilmington.” [Twitter]

COMING SOON — Walter Russell Mead will become a columnist for the Wall Street Journal opinion pages, writing the weekly Global View column on foreign affairs. Mead is the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and previously taught American foreign policy at Yale University. [DowJones]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at Columbia University hosted Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan for a speech on Israel and the Middle East conflict. Outside, a group of protesters held up posters against Israel and attempted to encourage students and the faculty to boycott the event. Dayan joked that he often gets confused with Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon. “We sit in the same building, I often get his emails, and he gets my phone calls. The most ironic thing happened when I sent flowers to this lady, and he got the thank you note,” Dayan said to laughter. [Video

SCENE SUNDAY NIGHT — at Abby Cable’s 30th birthday party at the Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, MD: AIPAC’s Steve Beckerman, JBG’s Nicole Hollander and Lily Goldstein, former Bush operative Eric Gallagher, Ariana Kaufman, Ivanka Trump’s Rachael Baitel, Ariana Heideman and Joe Tipograph, Nick Muzin, CNN’s Ariel Bashi, Alex Shively, Jonathan Arogeti, and Isaac Snyder.

REMEMBERING: “Melvyn Weiss, Lawyer Who Fought Corporate Fraud, Dies at 82” by Sam Roberts: “Weiss was a pro bono lawyer for victims of terrorism and other causes, a prodigious fund-raiser for liberal Democratic candidates and a leader of the Israel Policy Forum, which favors a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict. He and his wife, the former Barbara Joan Kaplan, sponsored a program in public-interest law at his alma mater, New York University Law School.” [NYTimes

DESSERT: “Eat The World’s Largest Bagel & Lox This Week In Brooklyn” by Stephanie Maida: “In honor of National Bagel and Lox Day… [Acme Smoked Fish] is teaming up with Zucker’s Bagels to break the Guinness World Record for the heftiest smoked salmon sandwich ever, complete with gigantic globs of cream cheese, tomatoes, red onions, and capers… The fishy foodie event is free for all this Friday, February 9th, at noon.” [GuestofaGuest

BIRTHDAYS: Israeli pediatric endocrinologist, winner of the the 2009 Israel Prize, in 1966 he described the type of dwarfism later called Laron syndrome in his name, Dr. Zvi Laron turns 91… Bill Levine turns 86… Member of the New Jersey Senate since 2005, she currently serves as Senate Majority Leader, Loretta Weinberg turns 83… Rosalyn Kaplan turns 81… Cantor of Congregation Hugat Haverim in Glendale, California, Harvey Lee Blockturns 77… Syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, Richard Martin Cohen turns 77… Louisiana Commissioner of Administration, after serving as Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana (2010-2016), Jay Dardenne turns 64… Author and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Michael Pollan turns 63…

Los Angeles attorney specializing in criminal and civil appeals, author of an amicus brief for members of Congress in the Jerusalem passport case of Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State, Paul Kujawsky turns 61… Long-time foreign correspondent for NPR in many capitals including Jerusalem, author of the NYT-bestseller “The Geography of Bliss,” Eric Weiner turns 55… Special events producer at Ballas Bloom Consulting, Jacquelyn Ballas Bloom turns 49… Television and film actress, writer and producer, best known for her role as Pepper in the FX series “American Horror Story,” Naomi Grossman turns 43… Israeli-French singer-songwriter whose hit single “New Soul” was used by Apple in a 2008 advertising campaign for its MacBook Air, Yael Naim turns 40… AIPAC’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Political Director, Stephen Knable turns 37… Steven I. Weiss… IBM consultant and Bnai Akiva Toronto boger Yadin Koschitzky

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New book by former Bush 43 aide and Jewish liaison Tevi Troy

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dallas News reports on a new book on 200 years of popular culture in the White House written by former George W. Bush aide Tevi Troy. To be blunt,…

Nachama Soloveichik to launch new super PAC

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Politico reports that Nachama Soloveichik, a former senior aide to Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and a onetime spokesperson for the conservative Club for Growth, will be launching a…

Atlantic Magazine: Casino Jack’s New Game

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mariah Blake of The Atlantic Magazine profiles Jack Abramoff. Jack Abramoff, the infamous lobbyist, was slumped over a table in a dimly lit Clear Channel studio on a recent Sunday…

An Israeli lollipop that helps you lose weight

Thursday, March 21, 2013

“Willy Wonka may have the secret recipe for the Everlasting Gobstopper, but it’s an Israeli candy company that is taking the confectionery and health food world by storm…

NYTIMES: Jailed Unjustly in the Death of a Rabbi, Man Nears Freedom

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On today’s front page, the NYTimes reports that a Brooklyn prosecutor plans to seek freedom of man convicted in 1990 killing of Rabbi.

Orthodox Jewish groups endorse Christie in Lakewood

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

NorthJersey.com reports Governor Christie visited Lakewood Tuesday to accept the endorsement of the town’s elected leadership and the Orthodox Jewish community, after he held a town hall-style meeting at…