Daily Kickoff: At town hall, Sen. Wyden defends Israel Anti-Boycott Act | Bibi’s ‘business as usual’ | Profile: Yifat Oren | Mazel Tov Sophie & Alex

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Tu B’Av: “Google Doodle Celebrates Tu Be’av, Israel’s Holiday of Love” by Joseph Hincks: “It’s that special time of year again in Israel: Tu Be’av, the day of love. Often referred to as the Jewish version of Valentine’s Day, the holiday was treated in Google’s time-honored tradition of celebrating amorous dates with… pangolins, of course.” [TimeMag]

SCENE IN JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with a group of Democratic members of Congress visiting Israel on a trip led by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and sponsored by AIPAC’s AIEF affiliate. [Pic] Any JI reader who can correctly identify at least 15 seated individuals in this picture, will receive a shoutout in tomorrow’s Daily Kickoff. Email

KAFE KNESSET — “Business as usual” — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: One of Netanyahu’s confidants told Kafe Knesset: “It is better for us not to be dragged into a battle of containment with all the information coming out, and the best defense line is to show that we are working as usual. If we respond to every report or development, the public will see a PM who is constantly occupied with his legal affairs and they won’t necessarily tolerate it for a long time. So it is better to focus on leading the country.” … However, the State’s Witness agreement signed with Ari Harow has definitely been at the top of Netanyahu’s concerns for days, and over the weekend he held intensive consultations to deal with the developments.

Under the terms of the State’s Witness agreement Harow will be paying a 700,000 shekel fine and doing community service instead of serving prison time for his own felonies. “It is not like Shula Zaken. It is not that I broke the law together with Netanyahu and now I am seeking to bring him down to avoid punishment,” Harow was qouted by Channel 2’s Amit Segal last night, referring to the infamous State’s Witness deal signed with the closest assistant of former PM Ehud Olmert which was a crucial stage in the latter’s indictment. “The definition of a State’s Witness is an internal figure who turns on his boss. This not the case. I am not a classic ‘State’s Witness’ – not in the offenses that I am accused of and not in the agreement I signed.” Harow added that he “did not think in real time that these were criminal offenses, and even now I do not pretend to think so, so the argument that I am ‘opening up on Netanyahu’ is incorrect,” he said. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here[JewishInsider]

“As Netanyahu Investigators Close In, Some Ask: How Long Can He Hold On?” by  Isabel Kershner: “Any actual indictment could still be many months off, and most analysts, including [Sima] Kadmon, doubt that Mr. Netanyahu, a political survivor who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, will be going anywhere soon…” [NYTimes]

“Palestinian Officials: Israel Peace Talks Are a Non-starter While Netanyahu Under Investigation” by Jack Khoury: “What the Palestinian leadership is afraid of is that Netanyahu may make moves to appease the Israeli right wing that will have serious ramifications in the field and bury the two-state solution… According to [a source close to Abbas], the Palestinian leadership is beginning to believe that U.S. President Donald Trump won’t present any initiative in the near term, and even if the White House intends to do so it will prefer to wait until Netanyahu’s situation is clarified. If the investigations lead to Netanyahu being replaced or to new elections, the Palestinians say, everything will have to be reevaluated.” [Haaretz

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “Jared Kushner looks for a deal in the Middle East” by Katrina Manson and John Reed: “We’re very targeted, strategic, direct — I don’t want to say less diplomatic because we try to be diplomatic — and we try to break through issues,” said a senior White House official… Informal advisers such as World Jewish Congress leader Ronald Lauder… are encouraging Mr Kushner that a two-state solution is achievable… While the Trump administration has yet to present the Palestinians with a plan, Husam Zomlot, chief representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Washington, meets Mr Kushner regularly. He said he is “100 per cent supportive” of their efforts… The senior White House official insists the work has to go ahead “on parallel tracks” — defusing day-to-day tensions and keeping the big picture in mind. “We still remain as optimistic as we’ve ever been.” [FinancialTimes(subscription)

“Palestinians warn Abbas could dismantle PA in 2018” by Uri Savir: “The [Palestinian] official noted that given recent events, the diplomatic window of opportunity regarding any possible initiative by US President Donald Trump and his team may close in the months after the UN General Assembly meeting in September… Abbas has altered his rhetoric in internal leadership deliberations and is threatening, in the case of diplomatic failure and greater violence, to resign at the end of the year and dismantle the PA. Abbas’ mood is more militant nowadays. The official recounted that Abbas was disappointed with the lack of Arab support during the Temple Mount crisis, and he found the US intervention through envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt very lacking.” [Al-Monitor

“The End of This Road: The Decline of the Palestinian National Movement” by Palestinian negotiators Hussein Agha and Ahmad Samih Khalidi: “Abbas (Abu Mazen), represents the last slender chance for a negotiated settlement: he is the sole remaining national leader of his people with sufficient, if dwindling, authority to sign and ratify a deal. For President Trump and his team, as well as for all those seeking to end this century-plus-old conflict, there should be no doubt about the moment’s urgency. After Abbas, there will be no other truly weighty representative and legitimate Palestinian leadership, and no coherent national movement to sustain it for a long time to come.” [NewYorker

“Trapped between Israel and Hamas, Gaza’s wasted generation is going nowhere” by William Booth and Hazem Balousha: “In many interviews, in their torn-just-so jeans and fresh white sneakers, Gaza’s young people today say they would rather fight for a job in Tel Aviv than fight Israelis. “If the borders were open, I’d work in Israel in a minute. I got absolutely no problem with that. Everybody would work in Israel,” said Iyad Abu Heweila, 24, who graduated with a degree in English education two years ago but now spends his days hanging out… “I know it’s bad, but sometimes I wonder, if there’s another war with Israel, maybe there would be work for translators?” Heweila asked.” [WashPost]

PALACE INTRIGUE: “Trump Defends McMaster Against Calls for His Firing” by Peter Baker: “General McMaster and I are working very well together,” he said in a statement… “He is a good man and very pro-Israel. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country.” A senior White House official… added that Mr. Trump has “total confidence” in his national security adviser… At one point on Friday, Breitbart News, formerly run by Mr. Bannon, had close to a dozen headlines on its home page about General McMaster, like “McMaster ‘Deeply Hostile to Israel and to Trump.’” … “General McMaster is a true public servant and a tremendous asset for the president and the administration,” Jared Kushner… said in an email.”

“Eliot A. Cohen, a former State Department counselor under President George W. Bush and a staunch critic of Mr. Trump, used words like “terrific” and “thoughtful” to describe General McMaster. “He’s infinitely better than Michael Flynn; he’s infinitely better than some of the crazies that you could have,” Mr. Cohen said. “But I believe he’s just going to have very limited success because of Trump.” [NYTimes• Israeli officials say under-fire McMaster a great friend of Israel [ToI]

Mark Dubowitz‏: “Today I pulled up everything I could find that McMaster has said on Iran dating back to 2007. If he isn’t tough-minded, I don’t know who is.” [Twitter]

“White House ‘Enemies List’ Drove McMaster-Bannon Feud” by Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng, Kimberly Dozier and Spencer Ackerman: “An internal White House enemies list of alleged Obama loyalists to be fired early in the Trump administration is a key contributor to a long-running feud between the National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon… NSC intelligence director Ezra Cohen-Watnick and ret. Col. Derek Harvey, the NSC Mideast director… had meetings with Bannon throughout their tenure, described as hushed national-security related “chats,” by one senior White House official, without seeking McMaster’s permission beforehand… These “chats” between Bannon and Harvey and Cohen Watnick… contributed to McMaster’s desire to “finally make moves against” them, as one senior official recounted.”

“A source close to McMaster claims it also follows a pattern of leaks to right-wing blogger [Mike] Cernovich that he blamed on Cohen-Watnick, in which minor NSC staffers would be called out for anti-Trump infractions like being seen talking to a former Obama official… According to multiple administration sources, it became a source of bemusement among staffers that if one crossed Cohen-Watnick in a staff meeting, a punishing leak to Cernovich would often quickly follow.” [DailyBeast]

“The Mooch’s replacement could be Stephen Miller” by Mike Allen: “Stephen Miller, the Trump senior policy adviser who just tangled on-camera with CNN’s Jim Acosta, is under consideration for White House communications director, top Trump sources tell me… Miller is not the top contender, the sources said.” [Axios]

IRAN DEAL: “Iran vows ‘unified’ response to breach of nuclear deal” by Amir Vahdat: “Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said that his administration and country will show a “unified” response to a breach of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal… The Saturday remarks by the Iranian president came during the swearing in ceremony for his second term as president. Iran’s state TV reported that more than 130 high-ranking officials from various countries and international organizations attended the ceremony in Tehran. Among them was EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who coordinates follow-up of Iran’s nuclear deal… “Those who intend to tear down the deal, should know that they are tearing down their political life,” said Rouhani, without elaborating.” [ABCNews]

“How Trump can confront Iran without blowing up the nuclear deal” by Josh Rogin: “If Trump is determined to get the United States out of the Iran deal, nobody can stop him. But if the majority of his national security team gets its way, Trump will repeat what he did with Cuba: make minimal changes to the policy, then declare he has undone Obama’s “terrible deal” and fulfilled a campaign promise. And if Trump can’t bring himself to certify Iran’s compliance anymore, he should at least minimize the chances his decision will cause a diplomatic crisis and distract the United States from the mission of combating Iran’s other nefarious activities.” [WashPost]

“Trump is trying to politicize intelligence to support his Iran policy. That’s dangerous” by David Cohen: “When I traveled the world to build support for sanctions on Iran by presenting intelligence (with authorization, of course) on the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, the hangover from the Iraq intelligence failure was palpable. But because our intelligence on Iran was unquestionably sound, we were able to persuade dozens of countries to work with us in pressuring Iran.” [WashPost]

“In Afghanistan, U.S. Exits, and Iran Comes In” by Carlotta Gall:“Iran has come to see the Taliban not only as the lesser of its enemies but also as a useful proxy force… Iran has sent squads of assassins, secretly nurtured spies and infiltrated police ranks and government departments, especially in western provinces, Afghan officials say… But it could have been prevented, in the view of [Timor] Sharan. “The fact is that America created this void,” he said. “This vacuum encouraged countries to get involved. The Syria issue gave confidence to Iran and Russia, and now that confidence is playing out in Afghanistan.” [NYTimes]

SUMMER WHITE HOUSE — “President Trump is going on vacation to Bedminster. His critics are going to hate it” by David Jackson: Tevi Troy, who worked in the George W. Bush administration, criticized what he called the hypocrisy surrounding commentary on presidential vacations – the out-party criticizes the in-president over them, roles that reverse when the White House changes political parties. “It’s the most obvious and blatant hypocrisy,” Troy said. “Presidents of both parties deserve to have a vacation.” As perhaps a warning against avoiding a break from a very stressful job, Troy cited the example of a president who did not take any long vacations: James K. Polk.” [USAToday

UNGA WATCH: “Trump may host visiting leaders at his N.J. golf club during upcoming U.N. gathering” by  Anne Gearan: “Trump will potentially meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, diplomats said…. Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump and her husband, presidential adviser Jared Kushner, are also both expected to play roles during the gathering known as UNGA. Vera Jelinek, director of the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, said she expects Trump to highlight his administration’s view that the United Nations is biased against Israel, but also to cast himself as a global statesman.” [WashPost

ANTI BOYCOTT ACT: “Wyden pressed on Israeli anti-boycott legislation, talks healthcare at Wilson High” by Eder Campuzano: “The Democratic senator’s co-sponsorship of Senate Bill 720… drew some of the most prolonged questions and back-and-forths as Wyden explained his position… “As we have read the bill, it means that anybody in this audience can boycott Israeli products or say they intend to boycott Israeli products,” he said. What the bill won’t allow, Wyden told the audience, is collaboration “with a foreign government to promote the boycott” of Israeli products, just as U.S. companies are barred from doing under the Export Administration Act of 1979.” [Oregonlive

“Democratic Socialists of America vote to endorse BDS on Shabbat” by Shoshana Kranish: “The Democratic Socialists of America, whose membership has more than tripled in recent years, currently counts some 25,000 dues-paying members, and has long championed the Palestinian cause. While the movement is not officially associated with Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, the two are aligned politically. DSA was an official participant in the Women’s March in January 2017, of which Sarsour was a co-organizer.” [JPost] • The socialist movement is getting younger, thanks to one 75-year-old [WashPost]

2020 WATCH: ”Republican Shadow Campaign for 2020 Takes Shape as Trump Doubts Grow” by Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns: “In the wider world of conservative Trump opponents, William Kristol, editor at large of The Weekly Standard, said he had begun informal conversations about creating a “Committee Not to Renominate the President.” “We need to take one shot at liberating the Republican Party from Trump, and conservatism from Trumpism,” Mr. Kristol said… Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations… put her longtime pollster on the payroll, has gotten better acquainted with some of New York’s financiers and carved out a far more muscular foreign policy niche than Mr. Trump.” [NYTimes• Political Donors Put Their Money Where the Memes Are [NYTimes]

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Rent The Runway’s Jenn Hyman featured on the latest episode of How I Built This with Guy Raz [NPR• The promoter Seth Hurwitz has succeeded by creating high-quality venues and catering to artists’ needs. His latest undertaking is no exception [NYTimes] • Meet Ted Frank: This Lawyer Is Making It Less Profitable to Sue When Companies Merge [Businessweek] • The World’s Most Feared Investor, Paul Singer [Bloomberg] • We Want Answers: Josh Kopelman on Technology’s Next Wave of Disruption [PhillyMag] • WeWork to Pump $500 Million Into Southeast Asia, South Korea [Bloomberg]

SPOTLIGHT: “Some of L.A.’s richest people oversee USC. They will decide what to do after the dean drug scandal. Out of 57 voting trustees, only three have commented” by Sonali Kohli: “The full board of trustees, which includes director Steven Spielberg, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and mall magnate Rick J. Caruso, must ultimately determine whether USC President C.L. Max Nikias, himself a voting member, and other top administrators acted appropriately with regard to Puliafito… Wealth is a common thread in the trustee roster. About a dozen are billionaires, including developer Ed Roski; Miriam Adelson, an addiction specialist and the wife of casino owner Sheldon Adelson; Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff.” [LATimes]

“Google Camp is for tech royalty and British royalty alike” by Claire Atkinson: “Google Camp in southern Italy last week was the place to be for newfound tech royalty… The exclusive get-together was hosted by Alphabet boss Larry Page and Google chief Sundar Pichai and attended by Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel and Netflix’s Reed Hastings. The luminaries also included Britain’s Prince Harry, Emma Watson, Sean Penn and the NBA’s Kevin Durant, who ate local Sicillian specialties. Music empresario David Geffen was even posting Instagrams, sources told On the Money. Guests dined under the gaze of the historic Valley of Temples in Agrigento. Google hired Lenny Kravitz and Elton John to perform.” [NYPost]

“Billionaire Chelsea F.C. owner Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova separate” by Ian Mohr: “Russian billionaire and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich and his wife of 10 years, gorgeous Garage Magazine founder Dasha Zhukova, have separated. The jet-setting pair, who have two children, say the split is amicable. They confirmed their separation in a joint statement, exclusively telling Page Six: “After 10 years together, the two of us have made the difficult decision to separate, but we remain close friends, parents and partners in the projects we developed together. We are committed to jointly raising our two children. We will also continue to work together as co-founders of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and the New Holland Island cultural center in Saint Petersburg.” [PageSix]

–Yahoo News anchor Bianna Golodryga tweets: “Dasha is very close with Ivanka Trump. Attended the inauguration as a guest.” [Twitter]

“Gary Cohn Takes a Brief Trump Break at Hamptons Party for Pink” by Amanda L Gordon: “The former Goldman Sachs president reappeared on the Hamptons social scene that he had long inhabited before joining Donald Trump’s administration — attending the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s Party for Pink in Bridgehampton with his wife, the artist Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn and daughter Chelsea Cohn, a senior at Brown University… [Gary Cohen] declined to comment on the Federal Reserve position but confirmed that even at the party he was on duty. “I haven’t had a phone call in an hour,” Cohn said. He gestured to his pockets. “I have White House phones, I’m working. No one’s on vacation in the White House.”” [Bloomberg]

PROFILE: “A Hollywood Party Planner Who Isn’t Instagram-Obsessed” by Marielle Wakim: “For Yifat Oren, a party is never fully planned; she makes tweaks and changes until the lights go up and the band stops playing. “She sweats the details like there’s no tomorrow,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former longtime chief executive of DreamWorks Animation who started WndrCo, a new Hollywood venture. Mr. Katzenberg hired Ms. Oren to plan both of his children’s weddings. “I love how unflappable she was,” he said in an email, adding, “Given the circumstances and the customers, that’s pretty herculean.” … She was born in Tel Aviv but spent the majority of her formative years here in the San Fernando Valley. Early in her career she worked in catering; some patrons of the (now-defunct) company took note of her meticulousness and hired her to plan bar mitzvahs and weddings on the side.” [NYTimes]

MEDIA WATCH: “Israel moves to shut down local operations of Al Jazeera” by Ori Lewis: “Israel plans to revoke the media credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists, close its Jerusalem bureau and pull the Qatar-based station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said on Sunday.” [ReutersHollywoodReporter]

“Why Are There No New Major Religions?” by Jon Emont: “Faiths, of course, don’t have to be numerous to deliver spiritual sustenance to their followers, or even to be influential, as Judaism (a religion of 14 million) shows. Still, the small scale of new faiths over the past 1,500 years since Islam raises a question: Why, if creating new faiths is an inextinguishable feature of the human condition, have new religions had such limited recent success? … Instead most of the dynamism is happening within existing faith traditions, as religious entrepreneurs within established traditions adapt their faiths to the needs of 21st-century parishioners, leading to trends like the major growth of Pentecostalism among former Catholics in Latin America and the rise of puritan strains of Islam around the Muslim world.” [TheAtlantic

“The Secret Life of the City Banana” by Annie Correal: “New York’s first street-sweeping operation helped clean up the streets, but the notion of slipping on a banana peel made its way into American culture, Mr. Koeppel said, thanks to Yiddish theater.” [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK: “Kraft gives Tom Brady’s mother a Super Bowl ring” by Mike Florio: “Patriots quarterback Tom Brady excelled in 2016 while processing concern and worry for his mother, Galynn, who has been battling cancer… In recognition of her struggles and the impact it had on her son last year, Patriots owner Robert Kraft has given Galynn Brady a Super Bowl ring.” [NBCSportsDailyNews

MAZEL TOV SOPHIE & ALEX: “Hillary and Bill Clinton attend wedding alongside guests Huma Abedin and Tiffany Trump in NYC” by Cheyenne Roundtree: “The former President and First Lady were all smiles while at the wedding of 24-year-old Sophie Lasry, the daughter of Avenue Capital Group founder Marc Lasry, on Sunday night. Lasry married Alex Swieca, a 25-year-old investor and former University of Michigan quarterback, who is the son of another hedge fund manager, Henry Swieca… Hillary and Bill are long-time friends of the father-of-the bride, Marc Lasry. The Clintons weren’t the only high profile guests of the wedding. J-Lo and A-Rod came dressed to the nines, with the singer wearing an elegant teal gown.”[DailyMailJPost

BIRTHDAYS: Former US intelligence analyst, pled guilty to espionage in 1987, released from prison in 2015, Jonathan Pollard turns 63… President of merchant bank Palisades Associates, Chair of the NJDC, and former CEO of Empire Kosher Poultry, Greg Rosenbaum turns 65… Rabbi of a congregation in Monsey, NY, he is both a senior Rosh Yeshiva and professor of biology at Yeshiva University, expert in medical ethics, Rabbi Moshe David Tendlerturns 91… Brooklyn resident, Esther Holler turns 80… Partner in the Los Angeles office of Mayer Brown, previously the US Trade Representative (1993-1996) and then US Secretary of Commerce (1996-1997), Michael (“Mickey”) Kantor turns 78… Actress who appeared in 30 films and TV shows and co-starred with Clint Eastwood in “High Plains Drifter,” Verna Bloom turns 78… Co-founder of the world-wide chain of Hard Rock Café, board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Peter Morton turns 70… Retired Lieutenant General in the Israeli Air Force, he also served as Chief of Staff of the IDF, Dan Halutz turns 69… Former PR Director for the New York Yankees, sports management executive, television executive producer, and author of more than 20 books, Marty Appel turns 69… Founder and CEO of the Zimmer Children’s Museum located in the offices of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, Esther Netter turns 59… Deputy Director of AIPAC’s Leadership Institute, Havi Arbeter Goldscher turns 38… MLB catcher since 2011, he played for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and was named Pool A MVP, Ryan Lavarnway turns 30… Social activist, writer, public speaker and the founder of a global nonprofit organization (Love for the Elderly), he has given 2 TEDx talks, Jacob Cramer turns 17… Scott Harrison

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Daily Kickoff: Why did Cory Booker vote against Taylor Force Act in committee? | Ari Harow’s unenviable dilemma | Ray Allen on going to Auschwitz

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TAYLOR FORCE ACT — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the revised Taylor Force Act yesterday in bipartisan fashion (17-4). The legislation would cut off U.S. economic assistance that “directly benefits” the Palestinian Authority until they cease payments to families of terrorists. While yesterday’s committee vote is just one step in the process towards passage, every Republican on the committee along with six Democratic Senators supported the bill. Only four Senators — Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) — opposed the measure.

–Amendments added: Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) added an amendment on Thursday morning, which was approved by the committee, that places the cut off of U.S. funds in a one year escrow, allowing the Palestinian Authority to earn the money if the terror payments end and the law is overturned. However, members voted down another amendment proposed by Kaine which would have allowed Ramallah to earn back the assistance even if the law was not repealed.

–Initial confusion about Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s vote: After the vote, the Senate clerk announced that the results were 16-5. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) was not present so she voted by proxy and it appeared to sound that she opposed the bill. However, Micah Johnson, Corker’s Communications Director, confirmed to Jewish Insider that the bill total was 17-4 with Shaheen voting for the legislation. Full recap here [JewishInsider]

TOP TALKER — Question on the mind of many JI readers — why did Sen. Booker, who has long standing ties with the Jewish and pro-Israel community, vote against the Taylor Force Act yesterday?

In an exclusive statement to Jewish Insider, Sen Booker emailed us the following: “PA support for terrorist payments is plainly reprehensible and must be stopped. The path to accomplish this is highly complex, as evidenced by the Israeli government’s own reluctance to cut off sources of revenue to the PA despite their ability to do so without any help from the United States. There has been a failure to assure the Foreign Relations Committee that vital, stability-producing humanitarian programs would not end up facing cuts from this bill. I was deeply disappointed that yesterday’s committee vote was held despite there being so many important questions left unanswered about its impact on a volatile region, millions of civilians and America’s closest ally.”

“There have long been mixed signals and conflicting recommendations coming from both US and Israeli national security officials about whether the bill would achieve its desired ends without worsening the security situation. As recently as the day before the vote there was confusion among State Department officials over provisions in the bill and exactly what impact they would have on Israel’s security and the stability of the region.”

“With so many questions unanswered and the consequences so grave, I withheld my support for this version of the legislation yesterday. I’m continuing to seek answers to these questions and pursuing amendments that I offered to this legislation that will help prevent unintended humanitarian consequences and outcomes that would threaten Israel’s security. I hope these concerns are addressed quickly and well before the full Senate considers this legislation, so that this bill can receive my support.” [JewishInsider]

Noah Pollak, a leading advocate for the Taylor Force Act, emailed us: “After the vote yesterday, the single biggest theme of the emails and calls that poured in was: ‘What happened to Cory Booker?’ His arguments for opposing the bill are either wrong on the facts (TFA will cut off all humanitarian aid to the Palestinians) or unserious (TFA will destabilize the region). No, this has the appearance of being a political decision — a choice to associate himself with the Linda Sarsour wing of the party, which he believes is ascendant. This was a bad decision on moral and policy grounds, and it will turn out to be a bad decision on political grounds as well.”

Rabbi Clifford M. Kulwin from Livingston, New Jersey: “Senator Booker has been a close friend for nearly twenty years. I know first hand of his love for and respect of Israel. His committee vote was clearly bad politics for him. He genuinely believes the issue to be complex and the legislation as presently written not in the best interests of either Israel or the US. To suggest his vote was motivated by political consideration is nonsensical and demeans one of the most moral people I know.”

JI EXCLUSIVE: Taylor Force Act Could Hinder Greenblatt’s Water Deal — by Aaron Magid: The passage of the Taylor Force Act in its current form would bar U.S. participation in the water agreement trumpeted by Jason Greenblatt last month, an informed Congressional staffer told Jewish Insider. “The bill, if enacted as passed out of Committee, would halt any assistance that ‘directly benefits’ the Palestinian Authority, the aide explained. “So, yes, U.S. assistance to the Red-Dead water agreement falls under directly benefiting the PA, and would not be able to continue.”

There was confusion on Wednesday during a meeting between the State Department and Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) staffers. Aides were trying to discern whether the Trump administration believed that the Taylor Force Act would also cut humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians because of the ambiguity of the language that funding be restricted to programs that “directly benefit the Palestinian Authority.” The Congressional staffer claimed that the meeting was an “insult” to the Senate oversight committee (SFRC) with the State Department attempting to “obfuscate, undermine and delay.”

A State Department official told Jewish Insider, on condition of anonymity, “The Department often has informal discussions on technical aspects of legislation with Congressional staff. The Administration looks forward to continuing discussions with Congress on this bill as it moves forward.”

When asked for comment, a White House official did not directly address the water agreement but said the following about the Taylor Force Act in general: “The administration has made clear its position on payments to terrorists and their families. We will continue to work with Congress as this legislation proceeds to ensure it both encourages the PA to end the payments and supports our efforts to advance peace.” [JewishInsider

PALACE INTRIGUE: “McMaster gets new cover in West Wing skirmish” by Bryan Bender, Josh Dawsey and Nahal Toosi: “[John] Kelly told McMaster this week that he wanted him to remain as national security adviser, said two senior White House aides, and has encouraged him to make any staffing changes he deems necessary. McMaster took that as a green light this week to oust top intelligence aide Ezra Cohen-Watnick… Kelly’s arrival did not lead directly to Cohen-Watnick’s dismissal, officials said, but was months in the making… In recent weeks… McMaster has bristled at White House aides close to Trump whom he perceives as undercutting his authority. He seethes over every national security leak and lashes out over negative news stories he thinks are spread by his enemies… While he has occasionally clashed with Kushner, the influential son-in-law, has a better relationship with him these days, a White House official with direct knowledge said.” [Politico

— “Sources tell Al-Monitor that State Department, Pentagon and NSC professionals who argue for a more pragmatic approach feel they may gradually be getting the upper hand in policy debates. “McMaster has cleaned out some problems, but Trump is still Trump,” a former US official told Al-Monitor. “He still listens to Bannon and [his son-in-law Jared] Kushner and crew.” [Al-Monitor]

“McMaster Goes to War—Against His White House Enemies” by Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng and Kimberly Dozier: “Two senior administration officials say the combative adviser to the president Sebastian Gorka is safe from the latest clean sweep, in part because the president likes him (especially when Gorka is on TV repping the White House and sparring with cable-news hosts); he reports to Bannon, not the NSC; and he’s popular with the Trump base.” [DailyBeast]

Mark Dubowitz‏: “If you think changes at the NSC signal a less tough-minded Iran policy, you have no idea what you’re talking about.” [Twitter]

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “John Kelly Quickly Moves to Impose Military Discipline on White House” by Glenn Thrush, Michael Shear and Eileen Sullivan: “In discussions with Mr. Trump about moving to the White House, Mr. Kelly also insisted that Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump, who is also a White House adviser, report to him. They both agreed, in part because they wanted to see Mr. Priebus ejected as quickly as possible, and in part because they recognized Mr. Trump’s presidency needed to be professionalized… Aides said the ouster of Mr. Cohen-Watnick was intended as a show of confidence from Mr. Kelly to Mr. McMaster. Mr. Kushner did not object to the decision, and had conceded that Mr. McMaster was going to fire his friend three weeks ago.” [NYTimes]

Joe Scarborough writes… Ivanka and Jared, move back to New York: “Trump’s shocking victory led his son-in-law to believe he could reinvent government like Al Gore, micromanage the White House like James Baker and restructure the Middle East like Moses. Kushner’s confidence seemed to reach its apex whenever the subject turned to Middle East peace. His bizarre belief that the world began anew the day Trump was inaugurated was exposed again this week when a leaked audiotape caught Kushner telling White House interns: “We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books.” … Vice presidents, not daughters, should sit in G-20 summits. And a secretary of state should broker Middle East peace. Not an inexperienced 36-year-old son-in-law… The best thing they can do for their country is to move back to New York and let professionals run the White House.” [WashPost

“Top PLO official to ‘Post’: Kushner cannot broker peace with Israel” by Ben Lynfield: “Of course he’s not qualified because he disqualifies himself,” [PLO executive committee member Hanan] Ashrawi told The Jerusalem Post…. “His talk was really problematic. It betrays not just deep bias but a lack of knowledge of the history itself and therefore of the needs and requirements for a solution,” Ashrawi said… Abdullah Abdullah, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who supports Abbas, also said Kushner “is not fit to be a mediator in a peacemaking process.” [JPost

“King Abdullah to visit PA in Ramallah” by Elior Levy: “In the short visit, which is expected to last several hours, Abdullah is expected to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his Ramallah compound… The King’s last visit to the Palestinian territories took place five years ago.”[Ynet

“It’s time to stop kowtowing to Turkey” by Yair Lapid: “In addition, Israel should raise, either directly or through the United States, the question of Turkey’s membership in NATO and why an Islamist country that supports the Muslim Brotherhood remains a member. We should raise with the Trump administration the question of whether it might be time to reassess storing tactical nuclear weapons in an Islamic state, as the United States does at the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.” [JPost]

“Ex-Dodgers owner Jamie McCourt up for ambassadorship to France after switch from Belgium” by A.J. Perez: “[Jamie] McCourt, one of Trump’s top fundraisers during his presidential campaign, was originally nominated in June to become the ambassador to Belgium. (McCourt speaks French, one of the official languages of Belgium.) The White House, however, revealed her new assignment in a list sent to this week to the Senate, which will need to confirm McCourt before she takes her new post.” [USAToday]

–Vanity Fair’s description of a young Jamie McCourt: “Jamie Luskin, the Jewish daughter of a middle-class appliance-chain owner from Baltimore—“the cheapest guy in town,” or so claimed Jack Luskin’s ads.”

** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Travis Kalanick has hired “CEO advisory” firm Teneo to improve his tarnished image [Recode] • Can Wendy Silverstein rescue New York REIT? [RealDeal] • David Cordish takes on Shaq in promotional free-throw contest at Live Casino [Bizjournals] • Israel, US grads dream up ideas in Birthright Ventures program [ToI

SPOTLIGHT: “Does the Bible say there’s oil in Israel? Thousands are paying a Dallas company to find out” by Jeff Mosier: “Sefander Knotts is a believer and willing to back her conviction up with money. Although Knotts describes herself as broke, she finds enough spare money to invest in a Dallas company that’s never earned a dime in its 17-year search for oil in a country that produces almost no oil. With the Bible as its North Star, Zion Oil & Gas has spent more than $150 million of investors’ money on a “special task, in a special country” — Israel. Knotts became a backer of Zion after watching a promotional video on YouTube of its quest to find oil in the Holy Land. Through the years, thousands of believers like Knotts helped Zion with the millions of dollars it needed to keep drilling dry holes in the prophesied land. “I’m going to keep investing for as long as it takes,” said the 43-year-old Knotts, who splits time between a rental and RV in middle Tennessee with her husband.”[DallasNews]

KAFE KNESSET — Bribery, fraud, and breach of trust — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: These three suspected Netanyahu crimes, which were laid out black in white in an official Police memo yesterday, are going to hover over the political system for at least the next few weeks. The suspicions against Netanyahu were already the subject of widespread speculation by various analysts and commentators over the past year, but this is the first time that the Police have publicly and officially detailed the suspicions against the Prime Minister. The Police memo appeared as part of a request for a gag order which was signed today regarding details of negotiations with Ari Harow over a state witness agreement.

A senior minister who met with Netanyahu this week told Kafe Knesset that Bibi appeared to be “troubled.” The lead news story every day during this past week was about the legal status of one or more of Bibi’s closest confidants. The phrase “critical mass” is being whispered more and more, even by some of Bibi’s partners, who are quietly contemplating that the rope around the PM’s neck is tightening. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Ari Harow’s Unenviable Dilemma As He Becomes State’s Witness Against Netanyahu” by Gil Hoffman: “In a private conversation in the Knesset cafeteria Thursday, an MK who was once a top official in an intelligence agency cautioned against comparing what security prisoners were subjected to in the past to retrieve information to prevent terror attacks to what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Ari Harow is enduring now. He said it is unlikely that Harow has been threatened with being thrown in boiling water if he does not deliver the goods and incriminate Netanyahu. But the MK acknowledged that Harow is under a tremendous amount of pressure right now.”

“Those who know Harow well have said that in an effort to make Harow cave in whatever information he might have, the police have made his life a living hell. They questioned him for 14 hours immediately upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport after back-to-back redeye flights. They have given him a hard time whenever he leaves the country. Harow cannot discuss any details of his case while police are leaking information nonstop that he can neither confirm nor deny. The former little league baseball star is on an unfair playing field, because he must obey by rules that the police do not enforce on themselves.” [JPost]• Netanyahu’s former aide turns state’s witness in bribery cases [Reuters]

“Ehud Barak: Internet troll or comeback wannabe?” by Lahav Harkov: “There is nothing more fun than sitting in New York and watching Israel react,” Barak said recently to a close associate who asked about his social media stardom, denying that this is a move toward a second political comeback. But it’s hard to believe that’s the whole story. Barak is investing a lot of time in these videos – though apparently not any money, as a former aide said he makes them himself – and it seems unlikely that the reason for making the clips would be just the satisfaction of making Netanyahu squirm.” [JPost]

“Bethlehem graffiti lampoons Trump embrace of Israeli wall” by Dan Williams: “On the concrete barricades erected by Israel around parts of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, giant spray-painted images of Trump have given constricted Palestinians some comic relief. “I’m going to build you a brother,” the U.S. leader tells the wall in one mural. In another, he hugs an Israeli army watch-tower, with heart-shaped emojis added alongside paint splashes and soot stains left by Palestinian demonstrations. The artist, who goes by the alias @LushSux and who Australian media have said comes from Melbourne, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.” [ReutersAP]

IF YOU ONLY READ ONE ITEM — “Why I Went to Auschwitz” by former NBA player Ray Allen: “I thought I knew what the Holocaust was, and what it meant. I went to Poland with a few close friends to learn more. But I wasn’t prepared for how deeply the visit would affect me. I had seen so many documentaries and films on Auschwitz, but nothing really prepares you for being there. The first thing I felt when I walked through those iron gates was … heavy. The air around me felt heavy. I stood on the train tracks where the prisoners of the camp would arrive, and I felt like I could hear the trains coming to a halt. I had to take a breath to center myself. It was so immediate. So overwhelming. We walked through the barracks and gas chambers and what I remember most is what I heard: nothing. I’ve never experienced silence like that… One question keeps repeating over and over and over in your mind: How can human beings do this to one another? How does somebody process that? You can’t. This is not history. This is humanity. This is now. This is a living lesson for us as a people.” [ThePlayersTribune]

“Hateful Conspiracy Theorist Backed by Jewish Politician Josh Mandel is Now Hyping Anti-Semitic Propaganda” by Yair Rosenberg: On Tuesday afternoon, Cernovich started pushing a campaign to discredit National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who is despised by the alt-right for his perceived effort to root out their sympathizers in the administration. Those who followed the link to the web-site, however, were immediately greeted with this bigoted graphic. The notion that the Rothschild family manipulates world affairs, of course, is a classic anti-Jewish canard. After the cartoon’s anti-Semitism began drawing attention, it was cropped slightly on the web site to hide the Rothschild bit at the top–as though a cartoon asserting that America’s administration is controlled by puppetmaster Jewish financier George Soros is somehow less anti-Semitic.” [Tablet]

HEARD YESTERDAY on Morning Joe — The Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe recalls coming to U.S. as an immigrant: “I was 7. It is very easy to learn a language at that age. My parents were 30, they didn’t speak very much English at all. My mom is a doctor and my dad is a computer scientist. My dad had a job in two weeks. They are amazing contributing members of American society. They are more American than anybody I know. But I also just think about the massive immigrant communities that came over over hundred years ago from places like Germany, Italy and Poland, that lives in these enclaves – they had printed their own newspapers in their own language – in Yiddish, in German and in Czech – and people were worried about their assimilation. Places like the Lower East Side, for example, where a lot of Jewish immigrants lived and spoke only in Yiddish. Who speaks Yiddish now? You know. Who reads newspapers in Yiddish now, or in German, in Czech? English is a pretty easy language to learn and it’s pretty easy to assimilate in the U.S. American culture does its work.” [MSNBC]

SPORTS BLINK: “Israeli super-agent Pini Zahavi, the architect of Neymar’s transfer to PSG?” by Jérémie Elfassy: “With the soccer “transfer of the century” materializing with the arrival of Brazilian player Neymar in Paris in the coming hours, the name of Pini Zahavi has again come to the forefront of the sporting world. The 73-year-old Israeli former journalist is the man who has orchestrated a move considered unthinkable in the sporting world up until recently, whereby Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) will pay 222 million Euros to snatch the Brazilian from FC Barcelona, a record-breaking sum.”

“After time serving in the Israeli army and a brief period of studying economics, Zahavi began a career as a sports journalist, at Israeli news organizations Hadashot Sport and Yediot Ahronoth. During this time, he began to forge strong ties to prominent figures in Israeli football, inviting foreign clubs to play friendly matches in Israel, before his involvement in his first transfer – the move of Israeli defender Avi Cohen from Maccabi Tel Aviv to Liverpool FC for 200,000 pounds in 1979.” [i24News]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY44th President of the United States, Barack Obama turns 56… Political donor, and casino magnate, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation including casinos in Las Vegas, Macao and Singapore, Sheldon Adelson turns 84… Professor of American history at Yeshiva University and Stern College, expert on the history of McCarthyism, Dr. Ellen Schrecker turns 79… Talmudic scholar, head of the rabbinical court of Mekor Haim in Queens, New York and a prominent leader of New York’s Sephardic Jewish community, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim turns 77… Member of the Knesset since 2013 for the Yesh Atid party, she served as mayor of Herzliya between 1998 and 2013, Yael German turns 70… Long-time member of the Knesset for Likud (1992-2015) including multiple ministerial positions, Silvan Shalom turns 59… Executive producer of “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” Michael Gelman turns 56… Executive Editor of PwC’s management magazine “Strategy + Business,”  previously editor of global finance for Daily Beast and Newsweek, Daniel Gross turns 50… Co-founder of the music and culture magazine The Source, former director of programming for the Wynn Las Vegas and current editor-in-chief for Cuepoint at Medium, Jonathan Shecter (also known as Shecky Green) turns 49… CEO of Aspiration (a financial services firm), author, former White House speechwriter, business consultant, prosecutor, Navy reserve officer and chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, Andrei Cherny turns 42… Executive Director of European Union of Jewish Students, Jonathan Keyson turns 25… Natalie Roberts… Evelyn Murphy

SATURDAY: Member of the New York State Senate (1961-1994) where he served as the Minority Leader (1975-1991), a founding partner of the New York law firm of Ohrenstein & Brown, Manfred Ohrenstein turns 92… Historian, Nazi hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff turns 69… Banker, once known as “Austria’s woman on Wall Street”  and founder of Bank Medici in 1994, Sonja Kohn turns 69… Former Soviet Refusenik, made aliyah in 1987, elected to Knesset in each of the last seven elections since 1996, now Speaker of the Knesset since 2013, Yuli-Yoel Edelstein turns 59… Member of the British House of Lords, he was chief executive of the Office of the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and then chief executive of the United Jewish Israel Appeal, Baron Jonathan Andrew Kestenbaumturns 58… Songwriter, author and political columnist, Seth Swirsky turns 57… Actor who starred in “Weekend at Bernie’s” and whose father and grandfather were both rabbis, Jonathan Silverman turns 51… Member of the Knesset since 2015 for the Kulanu party, Roy Folkman turns 42… Long-time member of the Israeli national soccer team who also played in Europe’s UEFA Champions League, Gil Vermouth turns 32… Former AIPAC staffer, now lobbyist for the Wireless Infrastructure Association and adjunct at American U, Matt Mandel… Leslie Saunders

SUNDAYBeverly Hills-based family law attorney, founding partner of Jaffe and Clemens, Daniel J. Jaffe turns 80… Casino owner, three time winner of the World Series of Poker, and former executive of Wilsons Leather and Rainforest Cafe, Lyle Berman turns 76… Founder and spiritual leader of The Elijah Minyan in San Diego, Wayne Dosick turns 70… Austrian businessman with many US, Israeli and Eastern European investments, Martin Schlaffturns 64… Distinguished Fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, formerly Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (2012-2013), Tara D. Sonenshine turns 58… NASA astronaut who spent 198 days on the International Space Station during 2008, he brought bagels from his family’s bagel store in Montreal into space on his first mission into orbit, Gregory Chamitoff turns 55… Famed computer hacker, now a computer security consultant, Kevin Mitnick turns 54… At-Large member of the board of directors at the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, board member of Hillel at Stanford University (from which she graduated in 1987), Susie Sorkin turns 52… Television and radio sports anchor on ESPN and ABC, one-half of the “Mike & Mike” team (now in its last year), Mike Greenberg turns 50… HBO’s boxing commentator and recently appointed co-host of ESPN’s First Take, Yiddish speaking Max Kellerman turns 44… Billionaire and former CEO of transportation network company Uber, Travis Kalanick turns 41… CEO at ReUp Education, Nitzan Pelman turns 41… Creative director and graphic designer at Facebook, Rachel Gogel… Director of Public Affairs at the American Council on Education, Jonathan Riskind… Senior Policy Advisor to Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), Corey A. Jacobson… Writer and producer for ABC News, Jessica I. Goldberg

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Daily Kickoff: Trump uses Zivotofsky case to complain re sanctions bill | AIPAC backs Taylor Force Act | Spotted on Geffen’s yacht | Shaq vs. Cordish

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DOWN UNDER: “Bondi synagogue ban over terrorism risk leaves Jewish community shocked and furious” by Joe Hildebrand: “A local council has banned the construction of a synagogue in Bondi because it could be a terrorist target, in a shock move that religious leaders say has caved in to Islamic extremism and created a dangerous precedent. The decision, which has rocked the longstanding Jewish community in the iconic suburb, was upheld in court this week as the nation reeled from the alleged airline terror threat and debate raged over increased security measures at airports and other public places.” [News.Au]

JEWISH JOURNAL COVER STORY: “The Temple Mount, California edition: Anti-Semitic sermons test Muslim-Jewish bonds” by Ryan Torok and Nicholas Cheng: “The July 21 remarks by Imam Mahmoud Harmoush of the Islamic Center of Riverside and Imam Ammar Shahin of the Islamic Center of Davis drew strong condemnation from Muslim and Jewish leaders, fearful that such incendiary language could erode relations. The effect was like picking at a scab on a slow-healing wound. Since the terror attacks of 9/11, American Jewish and Muslim groups have made a concerted effort to forge bonds of understanding and cooperation. Those have been nursed along despite the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, not to mention the enduring friction between Israelis and Palestinians.” [JewishJournal]

2020 WATCH: “Zuckerberg hires former Clinton pollster Joel Benenson” by Annie Karni: “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have hired Democratic pollster Joel Benenson… as a consultant… Benenson’s company, Benenson Strategy Group, will be conducting research for the Zuckerberg-Chan Initiative, the couple’s philanthropy… The hiring of Benenson is sure to fuel renew speculation that Zuckerberg is getting more serious about how he plays in the political and policy worlds. Speculation, however, maybe the beginning and the end of the Zuckerberg for President story.” [Politico

But first, Zuckerberg’s plan for fake news… “Facebook Drowns Out Fake News With More Information: Starting Thursday, when Facebook’s U.S. users come across popular links—including made-up news articles—in their feeds, they may also see a cluster of other articles on the same topic. The “related articles” feature, which will roll out widely in the U.S. after months of testing, is part of Facebook’s strategy to limit the damage of false news without censoring those posts.” [WSJ]

TOP TALKER: “H.R. McMaster Cleans House at the National-Security Council” by Rosie Gray: “Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a 31-year-old former Defense Intelligence Agency officer… was let go from the council this week… According to a senior administration official familiar with the matter, Cohen-Watnick is expected to move to another job within the administration. The official said that there had been a plan to keep Cohen-Watnick in the job until a new position was finalized, but that Cohen-Watnick was called in to a meeting with McMaster on Wednesday in which McMaster informed him he would be leaving now… A source close to Kushner said “Jared is a big fan of Ezra’s and is grateful for his contributions to the administration as part of the NSC but obviously completely defers to General McMaster on all NSC personnel decisions. He looks forward to seeing what’s next for Ezra.”” [TheAtlantic

“Inside the McMaster-Bannon War” by Michael Warren: “The national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, has removed three NSC aides loyal to Trump aide Steve Bannon in the last three weeks… For some time, Steve Bannon has been considering leaving the White House… A newly emboldened H.R. McMaster, purging Bannonites with the backing of John Kelly (and the president), could hasten his exit.” [TWS 

Far-right Israeli columnist Caroline Glick writes: “The Israel angle on McMaster’s purge of Trump loyalists from the National Security Council is that all of these people are pro-Israel and oppose the Iran nuclear deal, positions that Trump holds. McMaster in contrast is deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump. According to senior officials aware of his behavior, he constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews.” [Facebook]

DRIVING THE DAY — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the Taylor Force Act during a business meeting that began at 10:00am. The legislation would suspend aid that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority until they end payments to families of terrorists.

AIPAC backs Taylor Force Act in letter to Senators — by Aaron Magid and Jacob Kornbluh: “We urge all members of the committee to work together to move this important legislation forward and to VOTE YES to report the bill from committee,” Brad Gordon and Marvin Feuer, AIPAC’s Directors on Policy and Government Affairs, wrote in a letter to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We are hopeful that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee markup will produce a strong, bipartisan bill that will send a very clear message to the Palestinian Authority: Stop these payments to terrorists and their families or your assistance will be cut.”

Noah Pollak, an advocate in favor of the Taylor Force Act, said that AIPAC’s formal backing is a “welcome development and something we have been encouraging for many months. We hope that AIPAC will now put its considerable resources behind promoting the bill, even if it is not possible to earn a perfectly equal number of Republican and Democratic votes.”

Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President at the Foundations for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), added, “Once this bill became bipartisan, it became easier for a wider range of groups to support it.” When informed of AIPAC’s support of the bill, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the decision was helpful. While AIPAC’s view on the Taylor Force Act isn’t conditional for Rubio, the pro-Israel organization’s position “is influential with me,” he added.

Eugene Kontorovich, Professor of Law at Northwestern University, tells us… “For too long, some supporters of Israel have feared cutting funding to the PA because it would ‘destabilize’ a supposed peace partner. Now, hopefully, [they] all understand that continuing to fund the PA while it funds murder legitimizes their policy and keeps peace further away. The Palestinian government’s salaries for convicted terrorists is not just a reward for murder, it is murder-for-hire.” [JewishInsider

The Republican Jewish Coalition sent a letter urging Senators to reject amendments that would dilute the final bill before being sent to the Senate floor [Doc]

ON THE HILL — Senators’ Views on anti-BDS Bill Diverge — by Aaron Magid: Independent minded Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) told Jewish Insider, “I haven’t looked at the specific language, but if it bans the ability to protest, I don’t know how that could possibly be constitutional.” In contrast to Paul, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) wholeheartedly backed the legislation, “I think it’s pro-free speech. I think it’s self-explanatory.”

But, for Democrats, criticism of the bill by progressive advocacy groups is pushing liberal lawmakers in an uncomfortable position. When Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was asked last week by Jewish Insider about his view on the legislation, he declined to voice support or opposition. Senator Tom Udall — arguably the most progressive Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — similarly declined to offer any substantive comment. “I’ve got to get briefed on the whole thing before the deal comes up,” he noted. [JewishInsider]

Video: An Israeli social media user Hen Mazzig added clips to an Al Jazeera video explaining the BDS movement and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. Twitter took down the video citing a DMCA violation. As of press time, the video is still available here [Facebook]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT… “Trump aide dismisses Statue of Liberty ‘huddled masses’ poem” by Russell Contreras: “Senior White House aide Stephen Miller told reporters the poem written by Emma Lazarus about the “huddled masses” is not part of the original Statue of Liberty… The statue was a gift from France commemorating its alliance with the United States during the American Revolution… Writers and authors later asked Emma Lazarus, a poet and descendant of Jewish immigrants, to write a sonnet to be sold at an auction to raise money for a pedestal to hold the Statue of Liberty. She wrote “The New Colossus” on Nov. 2, 1883, inspired by the plight of immigrants and refugees and her own experiences.” [AP

Fifteen minutes of defame — “White House aide blasts CNN reporter for ‘cosmopolitan bias’ in bizarre exchange” by Nolan D. McCaskill: “White House senior adviser Stephen Miller smiled as he volunteered to “take one actual last question” at Wednesday’s news briefing… He probably wishes he’d gone ahead and ceded the floor. Seven minutes later, Miller found himself apologizing to CNN’s Jim Acosta over the fiery, bizarre, combative and confusing exchange that had just ended. The dialogue culminated in the senior White House aide lobbing insults at a member of the White House press corps, prompting Acosta to note that he’d just been called “ignorant” on television. The explosive episode occurred as Miller took questions from reporters on a bill endorsed Wednesday by President Donald Trump that seeks to cut legal immigration to the United States in half.” [PoliticoWatch the full exchange here [YouTube

Brian Stelter in Reliable Sources: “Some other commentators took exception to Miller saying that Acosta, the son of a Cuban immigrant, displayed a shocking “cosmopolitan bias.” “The way Miller leaned into the word ‘cosmopolitan’ while answering Acosta has a long and ignoble history in 20th century authoritarianism, especially the anti-Semitic variety,” Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce writes.” [CNN]

“Glenn Thrush Rips Stephen Miller After Tense, ‘Scaramucci-esque’ Briefing Exchange” by Joe DePaolo: “[MSNBC] Host Nicole Wallace opined that Miller was getting mad during the exchange… “I don’t think Stephen Miller got mad,” Thrush said. “I think Stephen Miller got air time. And I think he enjoyed it immensely. He was not getting off that stage. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was standing around long enough to have charged him rent.” He added, of Miller’s performance, “It was [Anthony] Scaramucci-esque.”” [Mediaite

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “U.S. Attorney Subpoenas Kushner Cos. Over Investment-For-Visa Program” by Erica Orden, Aruna Viswanatha and Byron Tau: “The subpoena concerns at least one Jersey City, N.J., development financed in part by a federal visa program known as EB-5: twin, 66-floor commercial-and-residential towers called One Journal Square… A spokesman for the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, which issued the subpoena, declined to comment… Mr. Kushner’s personal attorney said in a statement Wednesday that he had recused himself from “matters concerning the EB-5 programs.”” [WSJ]

JARED INSIDER: “The Temple Mount crisis ended Trump’s Palestinian honeymoon. The Kushner tape made things worse” by Raphael Ahren: “We’re not saying that Trump is the most pro-Israel president in history. We’re not blaming him for anything,” a senior official in the Palestinian leadership told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. “But if he wants to have a peace process, we need to know what we’re talking about.”[ToI

“His Health Crisis Made Public, Palestinian Envoy Pushes On” by Isabel Kershner: “[Saeb] Erekat said he had spoken with [Jared] Kushner “more than once” and had held at least 19 meetings since February with American officials. Among them was Jason D. Greenblatt… whom Mr. Erekat described as having good “listening skills.” Mr. Erekat said he was surprised by Mr. Kushner’s comments expressing doubt about a solution, not least because Mr. Kushner had emphasized how serious Mr. Trump was about seeking one. Mr. Erekat added that administration officials have said “many times that they are not against two states,” but they have not stated it as their position.”[NYTimes]

“Relations between Israel and Jordan have become ‘very dangerous’” by Noga Tarnopolsky: “In the eyes of many Israelis, there was something uncomfortably familiar in what was perceived as Netanyahu’s disrespect toward Abdullah. “It’s Obama all over again,” fumed a former senior Israeli diplomat… The diplomat was referring to Netanyahu’s chilly relations with former President Obama, including a 2015 address to a joint session of Congress that he delivered without coordination with the White House… “This is the result of a longtime, ongoing, obstinate policy that doesn’t even bother for the sake of appearances to be considerate to any partner, friend or foe. It is simply a continuous state of non-communication,” the former diplomat said.” [LATimes]

“Under Trump, a Hollowed-Out Force in Syria Quickly Lost C.I.A. Backing” by Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt: “[President Barack Obama] changed his mind the following year, signing a presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to covertly arm and train small groups of rebels at bases in Jordan. The president’s reversal came in part because of intense lobbying by foreign leaders, including King Abdullah II of Jordan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who argued that the United States should take a more active role in trying to end the conflict.” [NYTimes]

COMING SOON: “Benjamin Netanyahu to speak at UN same day as Trump” by Herb Keinon: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak to the UN General Assembly on September 19, the same day that US President Donald Trump will make his maiden address to the world body, UN Ambassador Danny Danon said on Wednesday. Since the date for the address has just been finalized, efforts have not yet begun to arrange a meeting between the two leaders… The prime minister is expected to fly to the US a couple of days before the UN event.” [JPost

KAFE KNESSET — The Latest with Bibi — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The news cycle continues to be dominated by Netanyahu’s criminal entanglements with various reports emerging over the past 24 hours. Last night the main TV news shows opened with a reports about Ari Harow, Bibi’s former Chief of Staff, becoming a state’s witness. According to these reports, Harow will provide details on issues that have to do with all of the ongoing investigations.

At the same time, Netanyahu received some American legal support this week, as Alan Dershowitz gave a series of interviews in which he defended the Prime Minister and accused the opposition of “using the judicial system as a political tool.” In a front page interview in Adelson’s Israel Hayom, Dershowitz addressed the similarities between the legal affairs of the Netanyahu family and the Trump family. “It is a similar tactic to spread endless accusations and hope that one of them could eventually stick. Meanwhile the news diverts the leader’s attention from what he is trying to accomplish.”

Dershowitz staunchly brushed off any criminal aspects of both Trump and Bibi, stating: “I have been teaching criminal law for 50 years, and I am very knowledgeable about all the laws, and I can not find any proof of any accusation against Trump that would be a federal offense.” Dershowitz explained that he similarly does not find any criminal signs in Bibi’s behavior: “Even if his talks with Yedioth Ahranoth happened, what is criminal about it? Every politician in history tried to reach understandings with the media … and in any case it did not happen. It was just talk. If we would bring politicians to justice based only on what they say, all the politicians in the world today would be under investigation.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here[JewishInsider]

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin Says We Will Care for Transgender Vets We Displace: “Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin says his department has compassion for the transgender vets whom the President is kicking out of the military. We got the Secretary Wednesday on Capitol Hill and he spoke with resolve … if anyone — transgender people included — serves in the military, they will get medical and other care for life.” [TMZ]

TEHRAN WATCH: “Rouhani Starts Second Term With Trump’s Shadow Hanging Over Tehran” by Golnar Motevalli and Ladane Nasseri: “Trump’s decision to expand non-nuclear sanctions on Iran has been a setback for [Hassan] Rouhani… The curbs have spooked major banks and hindered Iran’s oil-led economic recovery, delaying the president’s efforts to spread the benefits of his diplomacy to poorer Iranians… An uncompromising assault on the nuclear deal would have even more far-reaching consequences, said [Ali] Vaez at Crisis Group. The accord’s collapse “would shift the mainstream of Iranian politics to the right,” forcing Rouhani and his chief ally — Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif — to adopt a more confrontational approach, he said.” [Bloomberg

“Trump signs what he calls ‘seriously flawed’ bill imposing new sanctions on Russia” by Abby Phillip: “Trump noted that he supported tough measures to punish the three regimes (Russia, Iran and N. Korea), and said that he will honor the review period prescribed in the bill. But in a potential warning to lawmakers that he might not observe those parts of the law, Trump added that he would “give careful and respectful consideration” to other provisions that direct the administration to undertake diplomatic initiatives.”[WashPost

“Like other presidents, Trump signs a bill with his fingers crossed” by Michael McGough: “Even as he approved the legislation, Trump insisted on issuing a “signing statement” registering constitutional objections to parts of it. For example, he asserted that two sections of the bill “purport to displace the president’s exclusive constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments, including their territorial bounds, in conflict with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Zivotofsky vs. Kerry.” The sections the president objects to state that the United States doesn’t recognize the acquisition of various territories by force or the Russian annexation of Crimea. Trump says he doesn’t disagree with those statements as policy, but he notes, absolutely correctly, that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution gives the president, not Congress, the power to recognize foreign governments.”

“That was the holding in the 2015 case of Zivotofsky vs. Kerry.Zivotofsky was Menachem Zivotofsky, an American boy born in Jerusalem in 2002, whose parents wanted the State Department to list his place of birth on his passport as “Israel.” The State Department refused, despite a law passed by Congress ordering it to do so at the request of a citizen born in those circumstances. The justices ruled for the State Department, holding that the Constitution’s text and structure grant the president the power to recognize foreign nations and governments. And no president has yet recognized Jerusalem as part of Israel.” [LATimes] • Trump’s Signing Statement on the Russia Sanctions Bill, Explained [NYTimes]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Ari Emanuel’s WME-IMG Takes on Another $1.1 Billion in Outside Money [HollywoodReporter] • David Rubenstein’s Carlyle Group has no plans to increase its $100B fundraising target, despite investor demand [BizJournalsBloomberg• James Packer rejoins Crown Resorts board[TheAustralian] • Take a rare look at the enormous mansions hidden behind the Hamptons’ famously high hedges [BusinessInsider]

“Saint-Tropez gets sinking feeling as luxury yacht owners ditch the ‘billionaires’ harbour'” — “St-Tropez officials are lamenting the sinking number of yachts that have berthed at the glittering French Riviera resort’s marina this year. They say that revenue at the iconic marina has fallen 30 percent since the start of 2017; luxury yacht owners are instead choosing destinations like Spain or Italy, where berthing fees, fuel and crew costs are lower. While many more superyachts appear to be sailing around Italy and Greece, many are still docking in St-Tropez, according to official marine sites. Roman Abramovich’s Eclipse, which is 533 feet and too large for any marina, is moored off the Cap d’Antibes.” [NYPostTelegraph]

–David Geffen posts a pic from his 454-foot luxury yacht Rising Sun near Sicily: “Michael Hess, Dasha Zhukova and me taken by Bob Iger on Rising Sun.” [Instagram

REMEMBERING: “Jeff Brotman, Founder of Retail Juggernaut Costco, Dies at 74” by Sam Roberts: “Jeff Brotman, a founder of Costco, which became one of the world’s largest retailers… died on Tuesday in Medina, Wash… Jeffrey Hart Brotman, a grandson of Jewish immigrants from Romania, was born on Sept. 27, 1942, in Tacoma, Wash., to Pearl and Bernard Brotman… Mr. Brotman also drew attention as a campaign fund-raiser for Democratic candidates and, with his wife, as a philanthropist whose beneficiaries included the University of Washington and the Seattle Art Museum.” [NYTimes

MEDIA WATCH: Reporter says ‘state run Russian propaganda outlet’ pushed him to cover Seth Rich conspiracy theory — by Hunter Walker: “[Andrew] Feinberg alleged Sputnik wanted him to bring up a news article that’s at the center of the lawsuit in the White House press briefing room… “It was, ‘We want you to ask about Seth Rich and just, you know, ask about the case and if it those revelations should put an end to the Russia hacking narrative and the investigation,” said Feinberg. According to Feinberg, his bosses handed him a termination letter when he declined. He described the situation as “disturbing.” “It’s really telling that the White House is pushing the same narrative as a state run Russian propaganda outlet,” Feinberg said.”[YahooNews• Confusion, anger inside Fox News over lack of answers in network’s Seth Rich probe [CNNMoney

“A Mossad Show Heavy on Spycraft Recounts Eichmann’s Capture” by Jason Farago: “Eichmann’s abduction in Argentina and prosecution in Israel are the subject of “Operation Finale: The Capture and Trial of Adolf Eichmann,” a new exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan. The show goes longer on spy thrills than on moral and legal perplexities, though that may have been inevitable given its co-organizer: none other than the Mossad, the intelligence service that is Israel’s equivalent of the C.I.A.” [NYTimes]

BOOK REVIEW: “Mahmoud Abbas: Negotiator Turned Autocrat” by Adam Rubenstein: “The success of this book (“The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas”) rests in its ability to analyze Mr. Abbas not only as a diplomatic figure but also as a politician with his own domestic concerns. Too often, writing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its key players denies readers insight into domestic Palestinian affairs. Not here. Messrs. [Grant] Rumley and [Amir] Tibon treat readers to their combined expertise and understanding of internal Palestinian politics. Mr. Abbas’s story, as they argue, is a tragic one. He appeared to be the man with the greatest political potential on the Palestinian side to make peace with his neighbors. Instead, he has turned into a power-consolidating silencer of dissent who eulogizes some of the more contemptible impulses of Palestinian nationalism.”[WSJ

TALK OF OUR NATION: Daniel Shapiro writes… Israel and American Jewry: Stepping Back from the Brink: “The crisis over the Kotel and the conversion bill took many Israeli political leaders by surprise, which itself is evidence of a deep disconnect between Israeli leaders attuned to Israeli voters, and the attitudes of American Jewish leaders and activists. Anyone who spends time these days in American Jewish communities cannot fail to take notice of the anger, disgust, and feelings of personal betrayal.”[INSS

“The Jewish People in 2017: Fault Lines, Threats, and Opportunities” by Shalom Lipner: “The prism through which [Trump] views the Jewish community—reflected by the comparatively hawkish Orthodox faction that backed him, and to which his daughter, son-in-law, and even ambassador to Israel belong—is one that sees Israel as a bulwark against Islamist extremism and upholds (at least in principle) its essential right to settle the Jewish homeland. This complicated calculus has generated the following equation: The governments of Israel and America, together with a plurality of Israelis, appear ideologically aligned behind current Israeli policy toward the peace process. At the same time, sitting on the other side of the scale are many American Jews whose personal belief systems are antithetical to those of Trump, Netanyahu, and the majority of the Israeli electorate.” [Tandfonline

TALK OF THE TOWN: “New York congregation owns oldest U.S. synagogue, court rules” by Chris Kenning: “A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that a New York Jewish congregation is the rightful owner of the nation’s oldest synagogue, in Rhode Island, along with a set of bells worth millions. The decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston marks the latest turn in a long-running legal battle that began when members of the Touro Synagogue in Newport tried to sell a set of ritual bells, called rimonim, worth some $7.4 million. New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel attempted to block the deal, citing an 18th century agreement that named it a trustee.” [Reuters]

“Menashe Is a Moving Drama of Hasidic Life” by David Sims: “Though Menashe (played by Menashe Lustig) is quite a relatable ne’er-do-well, his story is set in Hasidic Jewish Brooklyn, one of America’s most insular communities… But Menashe is wise not to be preachy, or to make sweeping judgments about Hasidic life. Weinstein’s workmanlike camera style allows him to act as a bystander who has gotten closer to a world that’s still sealed-off (the director struggled to convince Hasidic actors to participate in the project). In grounding the story in a particular personality, and the familiar connection between a father and son, Weinstein has created a subtly powerful work of human drama, driven by the charismatic, if frustrating, man at its center. Menashe bodes well for Weinstein’s future as a storyteller; it succeeds at taking older cinematic traditions of everyday storytelling and using them to help illuminate a world most viewers know little about.” [TheAtlantic

SPORTS BLINK: “Shaquille O’Neal to battle Maryland casino owner David Cordish in free-throw contest” by Callie Caplan: “Have you ever wanted to watch an NBA Hall of Famer battle a casino owner in a free throw competition?… Shaquille O’Neal will be in Hanover on Thursday evening to do just that against Live! Casino owner David Cordish…. Aside from having 20 seasons of NBA experience and a 7-foot-1, 325-pound stature, he likely has confidence facing a 77-year-old better known for his Baltimore-based real estate and entertainment company than sinking foul shots. But don’t count Cordish out.” [BaltimoreSun

DESSERT: “Catskills’ Culinary Revival Lures Newcomers” by Charles Passy: “For generations, many New Yorkers referred to the Catskills as the Borscht Belt, a nod to the Jewish resorts that once dominated the upstate region and were likely to feature the Eastern European beet soup on their menus. These days, the beets that one comes across at Catskills restaurants are likely to be of the heirloom variety and served in gourmet-minded preparations—say, a salad with shaved and roasted beets in an apple-cider vinaigrette.” [WSJ]

BIRTHDAYS: Retired Head Coach of both the NFL’s KC Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Marv Levy turns 92… English actor, author, playwright and theatre director, known for his roles as the villain in both James Bond and Rambo films, Steven Berkoff turns 80… Prominent Sephardic rabbi and rosh yeshiva in Tel Aviv, he was a member of the Knesset for the Shas party (1992-1996) and served as Deputy Minister of Education and Culture, Rabbi Moshe Maya turns 79… EVP of the UJA-Federation of New York (1993-2015), Vice Chancellor of JTS (1985-1993) and Education Director at the 92nd Street YM-YWHA (1980-1985), John S. Ruskay turns 71… Chairman and CEO of NYC-based commercial real estate brokerage firm Savills Studley, Mitchell S. Steir turns 62… Board Member of both the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and the LA Museum of Contemporary Art, Orna Amir Wolens turns 56… Political journalist, a Rhodes Scholar and Editor-in-Chief of Slate Group, Jacob Weisberg turns 53… Russian-born Canadian entrepreneur, he is the lead developer of the 65-story Trump International Hotel in Toronto and President of the Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario, Alexander Shnaider turns 49… Member of the New York Daily News editorial board and the paper’s opinion editor, Josh Greenman turns 44… National Security Advisor in the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, previously senior policy advisor to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Jeffrey A. Dressler turns 33… Carrie Keller-Lynn turns 30… Program Officer at The Natan Fund, Adina Poupko… Director of community engagement for the New York region of the Anti-Defamation League, Erica Greenblatt… Former aide to Senator Schumer, then senior adviser to President Clinton at the White House and thereafter, now President of DC-based Freedman Consulting, LLC, Thomas Z. Freedman… Ariana Kaufman

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