Daily Kickoff: AIPAC highlights | Bibi’s blond highlights? | White House seeks to soothe Sheldon | Bannon’s man in Tel Aviv | Theodore Kushner turns 1

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FIRST LOOK: “Trump taps Kushner to lead a SWAT team to fix government with business ideas” by Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker: “The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner… will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington… “We should have excellence in government,” Kushner said Sunday in an interview in his West Wing office.”

“They include Gary Cohn… Reed Cordish… Dina Powell… and Andrew Bremberg… “The President is doing what is necessary to have a prudent budget, and that makes an office like this even more vital as we need to get more out of less dollars by doing things smarter, doing things better, and by leaning on the private sector,” Cordish said.” [WashPost]

“Senate Committee to Question Jared Kushner Over Meetings With Russians” by Jo Becker, Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman: “Senate investigators plan to question Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser, as part of their broad inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials or others linked to the Kremlin, according to administration and congressional officials.” [NYTimes]

Norm Eisen: “This is a big deal:  Kushner surely discussed Russia with Trump, and during campaign & transition, so no exec privilege” [Twitter]

“White House blame game intensifies as Trump agenda stalls” by Alex Isenstadt: “Still others pinned blame on Jared Kushner, Trump’s politically moderate son-in-law and senior adviser. As White House staffers struggled to galvanize support for the flagging health care bill, some became convinced that Kushner was working to defeat the repeal effort. Suspicions increased when Kushner invited Obamacare architect Ezekiel Emanuel to address staffers at a meeting on Monday — a gathering that left some staffers rolling their eyes. Then, with the legislation teetering, Kushner left town for a two-day ski trip to Aspen.”

“The White House is also moving to soothe megadonor Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas casino mogul has been pleased with many of Trump’s early moves, including his decision to tap David Friedman as ambassador to Israel. Yet people close to Adelson say he was alarmed by the administration’s decision to retain State Department official Michael Ratney, an appointee of former President Barack Obama who is viewed with suspicion by those in the pro-Israel community. Kushner, who is overseeing Trump’s push for a Middle East peace accord, has discussed the matter with Adelson.” [Politico] • Trump unhappy Jared Kushner took a powder on the ski slopes as health care bill floundered [CNN]

“All is forgiven! Trump has dinner with Ivanka and Jared at his flagship Washington hotel” by Kaileen Gaul: “The trio were spotted at Trump International Hotel restaurant just a short motorcade ride from the White House after Ivanka and Jared returned home from their relaxing family vacation in Aspen… Feud or not, the president appeared to be in high spirits despite the legislative failure at dinner with his oldest daughter. The two were seen smiling as hotel guests snapped photos and cheered.” [DailyMail]

WE COULDN’T AGREE MORE — Tamara Cofman Wittes tweets… “If you don’t follow Jewish Insider’s @jacobkornbluh, his live tweets of Jewish politics like #AIPAC2017 are priceless.” [Twitter]

KEY MOMENTS from AIPAC’s Police Conference — Pence upgrades Trump’s Jerusalem Embassy pledge: “After decades of simply talking about it, the President of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” [YouTube]

FEB. 25 — at RJC Leadership Summit: “We are also reviewing additional steps to demonstrate America’s support, including assessing whether the American embassy in Israel should be relocated.” [WashPost]

Martin Indyk‏: “Trump will still be seriously considering it 4 yrs from now. G. W. Bush seriously considered it for 8 yrs. We’re freiers to think otherwise.” [Twitter]

Pence highlights: “Honestly, I was never more proud than when, at the outset of his very first joint address to Congress, President Trump paused to condemn threats and acts of vandalism against Jewish communities across America… I say with confidence to all gathered here, President Trump and I stand without apology for Israel and we always will… While there will undoubtedly have to be compromises, I can assure you all President Trump will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish State of Israel… Under President Donald Trump, the United States of America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This is our solemn promise to you, to Israel and to the world.”

Ambassador David Friedman received a warm AIPAC reception as Pence acknowledged him from the stage [Pic]

Pence was introduced by AIPAC President Lillian Pinkus, who thanked him and President Trump for offering a “warm embrace of Israel in these early days of this administration.” In her speech at the morning plenary session, Pinkus stressed bipartisanship on Israel: “Support for Israel is not immune. Elements on each side of the aisle are trying to fracture our movement… We will not allow, frankly cannot allow, support for Israel to fall victim to the same divisiveness that overwhelms other issues. We will work harder than ever before to hold the ideological center.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking via video this morning: “Congratulations to Ambassador David Friedman. David, I look forward to welcoming you warmly to Israel, and especially to Jerusalem.”

Ambassador Ron Dermer: “For the first time in many years, perhaps even many decades, there is no daylight between our two governments.” [YouTubeTranscript [Facebook]

Dermer also ostensibly pitched bipartisanship, but made it clear his government was relieved at the departure of President Barack Obama and his team… He also twice praised the Trump administration and its U.N. envoy, Nikki Haley, for “finally” bringing moral clarity to the United Nations… Dermer praised several Republicans slated to speak at the conference, but only one Democrat: Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., one of only two Democrats to vote last week to confirm David Friedman as ambassador to Israel.” [JTA]

Tony Blair touts Trump regional peace plan: “We’re not going to reach peace in the old way. Up to now, people thought if you do a peace deal, then the circumstances will change. I think it’s the other way around. The key to transforming the Middle East is to have a relationship between Israelis and Arabs which can be open, above the table, acknowledged in which Israel’s existence is accepted and Israel works closely with Arab states.”

“At AIPAC, Dershowitz pulls water out of thin air” by Eric Cortellessa: “Standing onstage inside the Washington Convention Center, Dershowitz and AIPAC National Managing Director Elliot Brandt unveiled the technology from the Israeli company Water Gen — a contraption that is able to pull water from the air and purify it…. Brandt noted Seth Siegal’s 2015 book “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World,” which detailed the “Zionist dream to overcome water scarcity.”” [ToIVideo]

Panel at AIPAC blasts Trump administration’s proposed foreign aid cuts — by JI’s Aaron Magid: At an AIPAC breakout panel yesterday, Retired General Charles Walk asserted, “I have never heard of a general officer” who doesn’t support foreign assistance. “The assistance we give to others for instance Jordan is in Israel’s interest as well,” noted Lindsay Plack, Director of Government Relations at the US Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC). “The threats that we face, frankly it became most clear after 9/11, they can’t be solved with the military alone,” Plack said. “When America leads, it’s good for Israel. When we pull back, that is not good for Israel.” [JewishInsider]

Democratic strategist Ann Lewis explains to JI’s Jacob Kornbluh why Israel remains a bipartisan issue that unites Republicans and Democrats: “In the midst of this polarization, we like knowing there are some things we can agree on. It reassures us that we have some things to be for. That politics doesn’t have to be only negative. It doesn’t only have to be name calling and division. It’s almost an island of calamity in what is a raging sea. And boy, if you are in that raging sea, you are happy to know there is an island. You may not want to spend all your time there, but you want to know it’s there. And that’s what this conference demonstrates. And also, this is a chance to be something larger than yourself. It’s a chance to feel that you’re part of a movement that focuses on the future. When I come to AIPAC, I am not defined by what I am against. Much of American politics these days is what you are against. At AIPAC, I am defined by what I am for.”

VINDICATED? “Trump Pushed FBI to Nab Israeli-American Suspect in Bomb Threats on Jewish Centers, Sources Say” by Yaniv Kubovich and Almog Ben Zikri: “The sources attributed the turnabout to pressure from United States President Donald Trump. A few weeks ago, after Trump announced that the FBI would do everything in its power to catch the perpetrator, the agency sent 12 investigators from its cybercrime unit to Israel to assist the Israeli investigation.” [Haaretz]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “Israel May Offer Only a General Commitment to Slow Settlement Building” by Mark Landler: “The White House believes it is unrealistic to expect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign on to an agreement that sets numerical or geographic limitations on construction, said the official… Instead, the official said, the United States would measure success by whether there was evidence that construction was slowing down — a trend that President Trump has said is important to create the conditions for a peace accord between the Israelis and Palestinians.” [NYTimes]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Netanyahu’s eye is on America these days, not only because of the settlement issue – he’s been admiring POTUS’s ability to make his own appointments to government positions. The ruling coalition controls many appointments and Bibi is out to change that. While ministerial search committees that recommend people for jobs will continue to exist, ministers will be able to forgo that process for one senior position. In addition, deputy directors-general will be appointed by ministers. The change is expected to go to a cabinet vote next week. Likud Minister Yariv Levin said that the new system will strengthen good governance, such that ministers will be able to act on the policies for which they were elected. Yesh Atid, whose leader Yair Lapid has campaigned on clean government and emphasized that issue in an interview with Politico last week, called the government “shameless,” and said it’s going against the public interest. “Their whole goal is to give party activists and cronies jobs. This government forgot that its first job is to serve the citizens and not itself.”

Keen political observers in Israel may have noticed Netanyahu looking a little different these days. It seems his hair stylist has been experimenting with color a bit – or maybe it’s a trick of the light? Either way, in photos from his trip to China last week, he looked oddly blonde – an almost Trump-esque hue – and in a video on Bibi’s Facebook page from yesterday’s cabinet meeting he was back to grey, but a much darker charcoal shade than usual. Kafe Knesset thinks it’s more dignified for a Prime Minister to stick to a natural, distinguished grey, but no one asked us for style tips. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

FLASHBACK — “Portraits of Power” in the New Yorker’s Dec 7, 2009 issue: “This past September, when nearly all the world’s leaders were in New York for a meeting of the United Nations, Platon, a staff photographer for this magazine, set up a tiny studio off the floor of the General Assembly, and tried to hustle as many of them in front of his lens as possible. And so what did the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ask the photographer before the shutter clicked? “Platon,” he said, “make me look good.” While political theatre went on inside the General Assembly, Netanyahu kept stopping by Platon’s makeshift studio and repeated his request: “Make me look good.” [NewYorker]

HOT TAKE: “Netanyahu’s honeymoon with Trump ends abruptly” by Oren Liebermann: “So far, the parties have not found a framework for settlement construction acceptable to Trump and Netanyahu… Trump’s “concerns regarding settlement activity” remained. So did Netanyahu’s desire to keep building… To some degree, President Barack Obama’s deep opposition to settlements helped Netanyahu navigate the thorny politics of the issue… Trump is making some signs that he’s no fan of settlements either, but the right doesn’t see his opposition as stiff enough to warrant Netanyahu caving in and therefore is unlikely to be satisfied with small steps.” [CNN]

“Trump son-in-law’s ties to Israel raise questions of bias” by Daniel Estrin: “Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and co-chairman of an Israeli real estate fund that counts Kushner’s father, Charles, among its backers, said he doesn’t know Jared Kushner personally but thinks his affiliations to Israel will be helpful in peace negotiations. “There’s trust. When there’s trust on one side, there can also be a more conciliatory attitude on that side,” Shoval said.” [AP

“Trump aide Boris Epshteyn leaving White House, officials say” by Jim Acosta: “Boris Epshteyn, a special assistant to President Donald Trump who leads the White House’s television surrogate operations, is expected to leave the White House, potentially for a position outside the West Wing, two senior administration officials have told CNN. A senior administration official confirmed Epshteyn’s expected departure, saying, “We are exploring opportunities within the administration.”” [CNN; NYTimes]

FLASHBACK: White House aide Epshteyn wrote the controversial Holocaust memorial statement [Politico

GREENBLATT TRAVEL — Greenblatt tweets: “I’m sorry to miss the AIPAC Policy Conference this weekend as I am traveling… Honored to be representing the United States, as an observer, at this week’s Arab League Summit in Jordan. Looking forward to meeting with our Arab partners to discuss how to best work together against extremism and towards peace and prosperity.” [Twitter]

“The mystery of Trump envoy’s missing yarmulke” by Mordechai Goldman: “A person close to Trump’s envoy told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Greenblatt is a  Modern Orthodox Jew who sends his children to religious institutions, but he separates between his function in the community and his function in the working world.” According to the source… “Jason didn’t really like the discussion of his yarmulke. He felt it was petty and invasive of his privacy.”” [Al-Monitor

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SPOTLIGHT: “Icahn Raises Ethics Flags With Dual Roles as Investor and Trump Adviser” by Eric Lipton: “Since Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, was named by President Trump as a special adviser on regulatory matters, he has been busy working behind the scenes to try to revamp an obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed into gasoline nationwide…Mr. Icahn is a majority investor in CVR Energy, an oil refiner based in Sugar Land, Tex., that would have saved $205.9 million last year had the regulatory fix he is pushing been in place… Mr. Icahn, 81, in a series of interviews in the last week, was unapologetic. He said he was not subject to conflict of interest rules because he is an informal, unpaid adviser to Mr. Trump, not an official government employee. “I’m not making any policy,” Mr. Icahn said. “I am only giving my opinion.”” [NYTimes

MEDIA WATCH: “Steve Bannon’s man in the Middle East” by Katie Glueck: “On a Wednesday afternoon in March, Klein was found running Breitbart Jerusalem operations from his luxurious three-story apartment located, notably, not in Jerusalem but in Tel Aviv, the most liberal, cosmopolitan city in Israel. As storm clouds gathered over the Mediterranean, which was visible from his airy kitchen, Klein sipped a Diet Coke and alternated between expounding on the opportunities for Breitbart Jerusalem in the Trump era and tending to his dog, a black and white papillon named Uzi—for the gun. “We have major influence right now politically,” said Klein, who also makes the 45-mile trek to Jerusalem multiple times a week to report.” [McClatchy]

“Head of GOP in Israel calls Sarah Silverman ‘self-hating Jew’ for decade-old joke” by Andrew Tobin: “Marc Zell made the comments Saturday night on behalf of the Republicans Overseas Israel Facebook page… The post links to a blog post about a decade-old video clip of the Jewish comedian performing her standup show “Jesus is Magic.” Zell, an attorney who lives in the West Bank settlement Tekoa, said Silverman’s comments “damage” the Jewish community and insult Christians… “Republicans Overseas Israel exists in order to… represent the Jewish community in Israel to the Republican Party and the millions of Americans who support the Republican Party and our president,” he told JTA Sunday. “I think it’s appropriate to say something about a public figure as widely known as this woman, who during the campaign also had some ‘precious’ views to express about our candidate and our president.”” [JTA

“A small town in Belarus basks in the publicity of a Trump connection” by Sabra Ayres: “On the eve of Trump’s inauguration in January, the founder of the Novogrudok Museum of Jewish Resistance invited the Trump family via an e-mail to Kushner’s father, Charles. “I received an answer in just a few seconds: Yes, he will give the invitation to all members of the Trump family,” Tamara Vershitskaya said in an interview on state television. “Charles has a very warm attitude towards Novogrudok.” His relationship with the city began in 1989, when he visited with his mother. He frequently returns with family members to see where his mother and five other members of the Kushner family survived Nazi occupation… Novogrudok is still waiting for the Trumps to RSVP to the invitation to visit. “We really need to fix our roads first, we can’t have visitors coming here and walking through that,” said [Marina] Yarashuk, pointing to the muddy parking lot.” [LATimes]

“Egypt’s last Jews aim to keep alive heritage” by AFP: “[Magda] Haroun carries the title of president of Cairo’s Jewish community — six elderly women including herself and her mother — and says her task is to preserve a centuries-old heritage. “It’s my duty, for future generations,” she says. Her mother Marcelle Haroun, 91, cries when she discusses her community’s fading past. “According to the stories, Jews lived in Egypt since the pharaohs. Do you want to make centuries of history vanish?” she says… The head of Alexandria’s Jewish community, Youssef Gaon, wanted to be quoted as little as possible when interviewed by AFP. Gaon simply said he “trusts” the Egyptian government will help restore the country’s Jewish heritage.” [DailyMail

HOLLYWOOD: “The Kid Stays in the Picture review – from mogul to minor player” by Kate Kellaway: “The son of a Jewish dentist working in Harlem, [Robert] Evans became a millionaire after selling the women’s clothing business he started with his brother, and then became a film actor, improbably spotted by Norma Shearer next to the Beverly Hills hotel’s swimming pool. She helped land him a part in Man of a Thousand Faces as her husband, Irving Thalberg, who was, appropriately, a producer… When Evans, thanks to charm, cunning and luck, became a producer himself, he turned Paramount’s fortunes around with Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, The Godfather and Chinatown.” [Guardian
SCENE THE OTHER NIGHT — in DC: The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation hosted a networking reception on Saturday night at Espita Mezcaleria across the street from the DC convention center. Spotted: Stacy Schusterman, Lisa Eisen, Seth Cohen, Amb. Itamar Rabinovich, Mark Yudof, Gidi Grinstein, Ashley Bell, Matt Grossman, Elliot Brandt, Brian Shankman, Adam Teitelbaum, Phil Brodsky, Daniel Fine, David Yarus, Hal Ossman, Tilly Shames, Tiffany Harris, David Adelman, Avi Wolf, Yossi Abramowitz, Eli Shaharabany, Candice Simone Petty, Mary Ann Weiss, Lauren Weinstein, Abby Saloma, Rella Kaplowitz, Sarah Schoenberg, Sarah Glickstein.

BIRTHDAYS: Son of Jared and Ivanka, Theodore James Kushner turns 1… Canadian psychologist and educator, awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1945, she was the first woman Chancellor of the University of Western Ontario (1992-1996), Reva Appleby Gerstein turns 100… Sports cartoonist and writer whose art has been used by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and hung above each Hall of Fame bust, Murray Olderman turns 95… Chairman emeritus of Warner Bros. Records, a 2003 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, music executive Mo Ostin turns 90… Founder in 1961 of Business Wire, a news release service which he has since sold to Berkshire Hathaway, he has donated in excess of $700 million to charities, Lorry I. Lokey turns 90… Federal judge on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, reputed to be the judge most frequently reversed by the Supreme Court, last active service appellate judge appointed by President Carter, Stephen Reinhardt turns 86… Composer, violinist and improviser who has been active in the presentation of new music and dance since the early 1960s, Malcolm Goldstein turns 81… Billionaire, philanthropist and founder of of one of the the oldest and largest private equity firms globally, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Thomas H. Lee (family name was Leibowitz) turns  73… Principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal (1991-2013), now the executive editor of The Verge and editor-at-large of Recode, Walter S. Mossberg turns 70…

Sports agent who consistently represents the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, he is widely reputed to be the real-life inspiration of the sports agent in the film “Jerry Maguire” in 1996, Leigh Steinberg turns 68… Host of the “Matty in the Morning Show” in Massachusetts on KISS 108, has been on the air since 1981, Matt Siegel turns 67… Member of the Knesset from 2003-2005 and again since 2011 representing the United Torah Judaism party, Yisrael Eichler turns 62… Director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany, earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard, taught at Yale and Tel Aviv U, moral philosopher, cultural commentator and essayist, Susan Neiman turns 62… Economist and banker, reportedly the wealthiest man in Latvia, Valerijs Kargins turns 56… Smooth jazz saxophonist, recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dave Koz turns 54… Founder and CEO of the Movement Vision Lab, a grassroots think tank, political commentator and community organizer, Sally Kohn turns 40… Assistant Professor of Poetry at Columbia University School of the Arts, author of four full-length collections of poetry, Dorothea Lasky turns 39…

MSNBC correspondent who debuted on the network in September 2015, Jacob Hirsch Soboroff turns 34 (h/t Playbook)… Professional baseball outfielder, signed to minor league contracts by a number of MLB teams, starred for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Blake Shane Gailen turns 32… CEO since 2004 of BBYO (an organization launched almost 100 years ago, formerly B’nai B’rith Youth Organization), Matthew Grossman… Executive Director at Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue Club (a mental health center), holder of a Ph.D. in sociology from Boston University, Rachel Forman… AIPAC’s Associate Director for Westchester County (NY) and Riverdale, Adam Engel… David Greenbaum

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Daily Kickoff: President-in-law MIA in Aspen | Ya’alon prepping campaign | Theo Epstein named top leader | Kentucky bourbon giving Rabbis headaches

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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Trump the Dealmaker Projects Bravado, but Behind the Scenes, Faces Rare Self-Doubt” by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: “To Mr. Trump and his team, the health care repeal is a troublesome stepchild. His son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who is vacationing with his family in Aspen this week, has said for days that the bill was a mistake to support. Yet Mr. Trump wants to fulfill his party’s pledge to roll back President Obama’s signature accomplishment, but only as a prelude to building his wall, cutting taxes and pushing his $1 trillion infrastructure package.” [NYTimes

“Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner on Aspen Ski Break Amid Washington Drama” by Rebecca Ballhaus: “During a week in which Mr. Trump has faced perhaps the most significant test yet of his presidency, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump were in Aspen, Colo., skiing with other members of the Trump family… Mr. Kushner, officially a senior adviser, and Ms. Trump are considered two of the most influential voices in Mr. Trump’s orbit.” [WSJ] • Pics [DailyMail]

Jim Manley: “The idea that Jared Kushner is supposedly a top WH aide and yet is in Aspen this week is amazeballs and an insult to staffers everywhere.” [Twitter]

“Trump, Tillerson Settle on No. 2 at State Department” by Felicia Schwartz and Gordon Lubold: “John J. Sullivan, 57, initially was the Trump administration’s pick to be the Pentagon’s general counsel… But in recent days Trump administration officials decided they would instead tap him to be deputy secretary of state, the officials said… Mr. Tillerson met Mr. Sullivan while Mr. Tillerson was preparing for his confirmation hearing, the person said. Mr. Sullivan role-played as a senator to help him prepare, and the two men have kept in touch.” [WSJ

Robert Costa: “Trump wants to bring John Bolton into the administration. That’s why Bolton is at the WH today, per a Trump confidant. Ongoing convo.” [Twitter

Glenn Thrush‏: “John Bolton just walked into the West Wing — I asked him what he was doing, he smiled and said ‘health care!!!!'” [Twitter

ART OF THE DEAL? “US-Israeli talks conclude with no agreement on settlements” by Carol Morello and Anne Gearan: “The White House expressed its “concerns” with settlement construction after talks with senior Israeli officials in Washington ended Thursday night with a joint statement showing the two governments unable to agree on a settlement policy that could pave the way to peace talks resuming… In two sentences, the statement laid out positions that made it clear that issue was unresolved. “The United States delegation reiterated President Trump’s concerns regarding settlement activity in the context of moving towards a peace agreement,” it said. “The Israeli delegation made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes those concerns into consideration.”” [WashPost; Reuters]

Bret Stephens:“Most interesting about this readout is that it could have come from a Democratic Administration. #embassymove?” [Twitter

Earlier in the day, Senator Ted Cruz told JI’s Aaron Magid: “I have long said that the question of settlements is a question for the democratically elected government of Israel to resolve. I am going to focus on the underlying substance and leave conversations between the Administration and Israel to the Administration and Israel.”

Jason Greenblatt: “It was an honor to meet with Sen. Ted Cruz today. We had an engaging discussion on ways we can collaborate.” [Twitter]

“Conservatives in Israel, U.S. Target Obama Holdover on Trump’s Mideast Team” by Barak Ravid and Amir Tibon: “A senior minister in the security cabinet told Haaretz that [Yael] Lempert’s presence during Greenblatt’s visit – and her involvement in talks between the White House and Prime Minister’s Office about reining in settlement construction – were a concern for Netanyahu and his advisers. “The feeling I got was that the Prime Minister’s Office would rather distance her,” said the senior minister.” … The Israeli Embassy in Washington… said Dermer and Lempert have had, and continue to enjoy, a good working relationship. “We have no objections to working with Yael Lempert or with any other American official,” stated the Prime Minister’s Office.” [Haaretz]

Member of Knesset Yair Lapid on the Global Politico podcast with Susan Glasser: “I’m old enough to remember the first year of the Bill Clinton administration, which was as messy, if my memory, serves me. So in all, the American president has now been the president for a month. We’re not into the 100 days yet, right? So we’re willing to wait and I find this encouraging that there is a commitment, that there is a positive way of looking at things. You know what? If you are appointing your son-in-law, then you care about this… We know one thing about the son-in-law. Even four or eight years from now, after he’s president, he’s still going to meet him every Friday night. So if you’re putting somebody who is that close to you over there, then it means something… I’d rather be optimistic about it and there are signs that there is a reason to be optimistic… If you have an American president who is willing to put effort into solving the problem, then it’s a good thing.” [Politico] • Full Transcript [Politico]

KAFE KNESSET — Ya’alon Prepping PM Campaign — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Still in waiting mode for the next chapter of the latest coalition crisis, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is starting to heat up his campaign on the sidelines of the main court. Its been almost a year since Ya’alon was replaced by Avigdor Liberman, and earlier this month he reaffirmed that he will be heading a new party in the next election. That election, he estimated in a radio interview today, will take place within less than a year… Ya’alon hasn’t officially launched his new party yet, and his aides say he is discreetly working on scouting various public figures to join him on the list, which he envisions as a pragmatic right-wing party that will counter the growing populism in his former Likud home.

But recent polls show that the electoral prospects of another right wing party – alongside the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi, and center-right Kulanu – are shaky. In the latest poll, conducted this week for the local 103 radio station, Ya’alon does not even pass the electoral threshold, and in other surveys this month he was projected to receive between 4-6 seats. Ya’alon is only beginning his campaign, and polls in this era are always taken with a grain of salt, but these numbers are far from the minimum needed to reach the number 1 post, where Ya’alon has stated he is aiming. If the numbers don’t change dramatically, many political pundits assume he might have to eventually join forces with another party, presumably Lapid’s Yesh Atid or Kahlon’s Kulanu. However, Ya’alon and his aides totally dismiss this scenario. Time will tell. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

FRIEDMAN, AMBASSADOR FRIEDMAN: After a brief debate yesterday afternoon, the Senate confirmed David Friedman’s nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Israel in a near party-line vote. Only two Democrats, Bob Menendez (NJ) and Joe Manchin (WV), crossed party lines and voted with the Republicans in favor of Friedman. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand voted against their fellow New Yorker.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) on the Senate floor: “Mr. Friedman’s smearing of my fellow Jews, many of whom are members of J Street, should be a disqualifier… I am convinced that a just and lasting agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians on a two-state solution though very difficult, can and must be achieved. Confirming David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel will only serve to make that job more difficult, if not impossible.” [JewishInsider]

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI): “There are some things that we ought to be able to agree upon, that our Ambassador to Israel should not be more involved in Israel’s politics than our own, that our Ambassador to Israel should not be so provocative that they wouldn’t even be welcome at the peace negotiating table. Our Ambassador should not be the kind of person who uses language to fuel violence, hate, instability, and that means we should be able to agree that our Ambassador to Israel cannot be Mr. Friedman.”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM): “29 Holocaust scholars objected to his Kapo remarks. The Historical record shows they said and I quote, ‘That Kapos were Jews who the Nazis forced at pain of death to serve them in the Concentration and Extermination Camps. These Jews faced terrible dilemmas but ultimately were made into unwilling tools of Nazi brutality. To brand one’s political opponents, members of one’s own community merely for debate is historically indefensible and is a deeply disturbing example of the abuse of the Holocaust and its victims for present political gain’ end quote. Mr. Friedman, a group of Holocaust survivors called his use of Kapos, and I quote here, ‘Slanderous, irresponsible, cynical and immensely damaging to our people,’ end quote.”

— “Inside the Israeli government, the party-line vote indicated that his confirmation was viewed less as a policy statement by lawmakers than as a statement on Trump’s ability to ram through a controversial appointment.” [WashPost

Phil Rosen, past foreign policy advisor to candidates Romney and Rubio, tells us… “It’s terrific that a great friend of Israel and of the wonderful U.S./Israel relationship in all respects will be representing the United States on the ground in Israel. David brings strong advocacy and fresh ideas to everything he does and touches. President Trump trusts David explicitly and implicitly which is essential for an ambassador in a key country like Israel. I’m disappointed that so few Democrat Senators supported David. David will represent the entire United States and its government and people as ambassador.”

“Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Is Defending Russia’s Biggest Bank,” by Anthony Cormier, Jeremy Singer-Vine and John Templon: “One of President Donald Trump’s personal attorneys was just named a lead attorney to defend Russia’s largest state-run bank against claims that it helped a granite-mining company raid and kill off its main competitor in the Russian market. Marc E. Kasowitz is representing OJSC Sberbank of Russia, which is accused in US federal court of conspiring with granite company executives… Kasowitz has served as an attorney for Trump for more than 15 years… In December, Trump named another partner at Kasowitz’s firm, David Friedman, to serve as the ambassador to Israel.” [BuzzFeed]

ON THE HILL — “Iran sanctions bill unveiled by bipartisan Senate group” by Austin Wright: “Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Thursday unveiled a bipartisan bill to slap Iran with new sanctions… The bill is supported by more than a dozen senators… giving it a strong chance of being taken up in the Senate. The measure would impose mandatory sanctions on those involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program. It would apply terrorism sanctions to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard… An aide to Cardin said the senator worked behind the scenes to strip from the bill anything that would harm the Iran nuclear deal… Cardin stripped out language that would have prohibited the president from using the national security waiver to enter into international agreements with Iran.” [Politico]

HAPPENING TODAY: The Foundation for Defense of Democracies will host a breakfast conversation titled “Keeping Iran in Check: How to Combat Iran’s Illicit Activities” with David Albright, Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security, FDD’s CEO Mark Dubowitz, and Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Oren Dorell, foreign affairs reporter at USA Today, will moderate the panel at 10 am EST.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Wendy Sherman discussed the Iran nuclear talks leading up to the deal on The Axe Files“We negotiated with partners and allies – Israel, of course – on a regular basis… Technically, every step of the way they knew what we were doing and they were immensely helpful… We never told everybody that we could get everything done (re: Iran’s missiles and regional behavior) in one deal, and indeed oddly, at the beginning of the negotiation, Gulf countries said to us, ‘Don’t discuss anything else because we are not in the room. You are talking about our lives and our futures.’” [CNN

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) talked to Aaron Magid about calls for the US to reduce funding or withdraw membership to the UNHRC: “I think Ambassador Haley should work really hard to try to prevail upon the other members — I hate for us to send the signal that we are no longer interested in human rights, but I also understand that Israel is not getting a fair shot at the UN right now. I think that (withdrawing membership) would be a dramatic step. I think we should do everything short of that to try to see if we can make it a fair place for Israel.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK): “I would do anything to get their attention so that they prioritize the independence of Israel.”

“What’s Behind Israel’s Diplomatic Flare-Up With Russia” by Adam Chandler: “Despite Netanyahu’s exhortations, there’s no guarantee that Russia will maintain its tacit agreement with Israel over its activities in Syria, especially as Assad’s prospects only continue to brighten. Should Russia change its mind and tell Israel to cease its activities in Syria, the cost of future Israeli strikes will go up, leaving Bibi with fewer options. He could turn to the U.S. for sympathy—something he may not find within the new administration.” [TheAtlantic

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Jewish groups say they are relieved and heartbroken after arrest in JCC threats” by Mark Berman: “It was heartbreaking to learn that a Jewish man is a prime suspect,” Jerry Silverman, president and chief executive of the Jewish Federations of North America, said in a statement… “While the details of this crime remain unclear, the impact of this individual’s actions is crystal clear: These were acts of anti-Semitism,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive of the ADL, said in a statement… The FBI briefed Jewish leaders in the United States on Thursday morning, according to Silverman, who praised “the unprecedented level of time and resources that were committed to this investigation… Jewish groups pointed out that there are still troubling anti-Semitic incidents left unsolved.” [WashPost; NYTimes

** 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: Robert Iger, Disney’s C.E.O., Agrees to One-Year Extension [NYTimes] • Expedia Chairman Barry Diller explains why he recruited Chelsea Clinton for board [Bizjournals• The Other Page in Patrick Drahi’s Billionaire Playbook [Bloomberg] • Teva Pharm says media reports of up to 6,000 layoffs incorrect [Reuters] • Amazon sets its sights on Martin Selig’s Seattle office building [Bizjournals] • Eric Mindich’s Eton Park Hedge Fund to Close Down [WSJ]

“This Startup Wants to Be the Netflix for Jobs” by Valentina Zarya: On Thursday, the company announced that it has raised a $18.5 million series B funding round, led by Trinity Ventures, with participation from WayUp’s existing investors, including General Catalyst, BoxGroup, Lerer-Hippeau Ventures, Index Ventures, SV Angel, and Female Founders Fund. WayUp, which was founded by Liz Wessel and co-founder JJ Fliegelman in July 2014, has raised a total of $27.5 million so far.” [Fortune

SPOTLIGHT: “The Anti-Trump Prosecutor the President Can’t Control – or Fire” by Ciro Scotti: “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been hunting for the former real estate mogul’s distinct scalp for years… has hired one of [Preet] Bharara’s top public-corruption prosecutors, Howard Master, whose focus New York magazine says will include “issues relating to the Trump White House.” Among Master’s successful prosecutions was the corruption conviction of New York State House Speaker Sheldon Silver, The Wall Street Journal said… The animus Schneiderman has for Trump sometimes seems to go beyond prosecutorial zeal, however. In a statement last July to The Forward… the AG said, “As a Democrat and a Jewish American, I feel that I have a duty to help prevent such a dangerous, offensive, and grossly uninformed individual from occupying the Oval Office.”” [FiscalTimes]

“Ivanka’s lawyer, a Democrat, defends herself” by Annie Karni: “Attorney Jamie Gorelick… who served as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton and a former member of the 9/11 Commission, was recommended to Kushner by former News Corp. executive Joel Klein, who now serves as chief strategy officer at Oscar, the health insurance company co-founded by Kushner’s younger brother Josh… Longtime Gorelick friends, like President Obama’s former ethics czar Norm Eisen, have criticized her read of the anti-nepotism statute… But Eisen said that despite his legal disagreement, he thinks Gorelick’s involvement is good in that it’s pushing top members of the Trump administration in the right direction.” [Politico]

HOLLYWOOD: “Huma Abedin and David Foster Walk the Red Carpet at Event Celebrating Close Friend Haim Saban” by Tierney Mcafee: “Abedin, 40, wore a palm-print dress from Zara for the occasion and was all smiles as she chatted with actress Elizabeth Banks and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti… The Clintons even sent a congratulatory letter to Saban on his Walk of Fame star, according to Vanity Fair. The letter, signed “Bill and Hillary,” reads: “This well-deserved honor is not only a testament to your decades of groundbreaking contributions in the entertainment industry, but to your enduring generosity and efforts to advance good causes across American and around the world.”” [People• Read Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Congratulatory Letter to Haim Saban [Variety]

SPORTS BLINK: “Theo Epstein on being named world’s top leader: ‘I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in the house'” by Scott Davis: “After helping the Chicago Cubs break their 108-year championship drought, team president Theo Epstein was named Fortune’s No. 1 World Leader… Esptein had a fantastic reaction to the title, scoffing at it to ESPN’s Buster Olney. “Um, I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in the house. That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It’s baseball–a pastime involving a lot of chance. If Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I’m on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan.” [BI]

DESSERT: “Artsy-Craftsy Booze Is Giving Kentucky Rabbis a Headache” by Ian Lovett: “With globalization, there’s literally a whole new world with regard to kosher,” said Rabbi Avrohom Litvin, the family patriarch who moved to Kentucky from Brooklyn in 1985. He now certifies liquors as kosher along with four sons and two sons-in-law—all of them rabbis with Chabad-Lubavitch, a movement of orthodox Judaism. “In Judaism, people are always eating and drinking,” he said, explaining how he got into the business of giving liquor his blessing. When a couple decides to get married, he said, “we need to certify a kosher caterer. Then they want to say L’chaim”—a Hebrew phrase often used as a toast… Deborah Shapiro, vice president of marketing for Kosher Network International, said kosher certification labels only began showing up on liquors once companies “started to get artsy-craftsy oriented with drinks, adding flavorings to things.” [WSJ

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Award-winning classical pianist with a special affinity for Chopin, honored by several US Presidents during his long career, Byron Janis (family name Yankilevich) turns 89… Billionaire, member of the House of Lords and star of the UK’s version of The Apprentice, Alan Sugar turns 70… Billionaire and philanthropist, CEO of Microsoft (2000-2014), owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA since 2014, Steve Ballmer turns 61… Retired NASA astronaut and a veteran of four space shuttle missions, awarded a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Tech in 1982, Scott Jay “Doc” Horowitz turns 60… Poet and professor of art history at Hofstra University, having earned a Ph.D. in 1990 in art history from the University of California at Berkeley, Martha Hollander turns 58… Professional wrestler under a series of ring names including “The Star of David,” his wrestling career spanned from 1979 until 2000, Barry Horowitz turns 57… President and CEO of the Newseum, previously president of Colgate University, Jeffrey Herbst turns 56… Actor who is best known for his portrayal of Dr. Chris Taub on the Fox medical drama series “House,” currently starring on the USA Network science fiction drama “Colony,” Peter Jacobson turns 52… Producer at i24 News, political commentator and columnist, Fred Menachem turns 45… Famed NYC photographer, known for wearing vintage suits and hats daily, worked for the NY Daily News and now MTA New York City Transit, Marc A. Hermann turns 35… Pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals who was a major contributor to Team Israel’s surprising run in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, he wears a Star of David and a Chai around his neck whenever he pitches, Josh Zeid turns 30… Venezuelan-born featured celebrity chef on NBC’s “Food Fighters,” consultant for cooking TV shows and private chef in Los Angeles, Deborah Benaim turns 29… Competitive pair skater who with a partner were the first pair representing Israel to qualify for an Olympics, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Andrea “Anya” Davidovich turns 20… Deputy Managing Editor at Bloomberg, formerly a writer for the WSJ’s Metropolis blog, Aaron Rutkoff (h/t Playbook)… Josh Cohen… Tami Wolf… Deborah Rudy

SATURDAY: Member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Chairman of Eastern Savings Bank, Chair of Community Planning at the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Beth H. Goldsmith… Film and book critic, with regular appearances on NBC’s “The Today Show” from 1973 until 2010, Gene Shalit turns 91… Pulpit rabbi, rosh yeshiva, historian, author and lecturer Rabbi Berel Wein turns 83… Feminist, journalist and social activist who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Gloria Steinem turns 83… Actor and director, best known for his role as Detective David Starsky on the 1970s television series “Starsky & Hutch” and as Captain Jack Steeper on NBC’s “Third Watch” (2004-2005), Paul Michael Glaser turns 74… Mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada since 2011, her husband had been Mayor from 1999 until 2011, Carolyn Goodman turns 78… Norman Goldberg turns 73… VP for new initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson Center since 2006 after 24 years at the US Department of State (1978-2003), Aaron David Miller turns 68… Senior reporter for climate and related issues at ProPublica, he was a reporter for the New York Times from 1995 through 2009, Andrew C. Revkin turns 61… Columbus, Ohio-based business consultant focused on dental practice management and marketing, Cynthia S. Levy turns 60… Author, freelance journalist and the eHealth editor for Politico Pro, Arthur Allen turns 58… Emmy Award-winning actress, producer, and designer, best known for her leading role on the HBO television series “Sex and the City” (1998-2004), reprised in two later films, Sarah Jessica Parker turns 52… Israeli special forces soldier turned software entrepreneur turned political leader, leader of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett turns 45… Boston-based director of media and public relations at Oxfam America, previously at BBC World Service and CNN, Alissa C. Rooney turns 37… VP at Chicago-based Resolute Consulting since 2016, previously DC-based for seven years at Politico, Roll Call and Yahoo News, Meredith Shiner turns 30… Congressional staffer for Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), Grant C. Dubler turns 28… Jordan Rossman turns 27… Attorney and President of Mizel Financial Holdings, in 2002 he founded Jconnect in Los Angeles devoted to creating Jewish connectivity, continuity and unity in Southern California and beyond, Cheston David Mizel… Communications and non-profit consultant, previously executive director of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee (an independent affiliate of AJC), Karen Hochberg… Regional Director for New Jersey and Rockland County in the Orthodox Union’s Department of Community Engagement, Rabbi Avi Heller… Principal at DC-based Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, focused on health care policy, Lauren Aronson … Managing editor for content at CNN Politics, Steven Sloan (h/ts Playbook)… Glyn Gerber… Pamela Snyder

SUNDAYAlphabet CEO Larry Page turns 44… Argentine-born, Israeli clarinetist who specializes in klezmer music, Giora Feidman turns 81… Actor who has appeared in more than 60 films since 1964, including as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather” (1972), James Caan turns 77… Award-winning novelist and poet, whose debut novel in 1973 “Fear of Flying,” has sold over 20 million copies, Erica Jong turns 75… Physician, author of five books and former medical correspondent at ABC News for 15 years, then 9 years as chief medical editor for NBC News, Nancy Lynn Snyderman, MD turns 65… Bloomberg’s editor-at-large for Canada since 2014, previously editor-in-chief of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, Edward Greenspon turns 60… Actress who has appeared in many movies over a 30-year career, in 2010 she was the winner of Season 11 of Dancing with the Stars, Jennifer Grey turns 57… Politician and patent attorney from the Detroit area, 1992 graduate of Harvard Law School, elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives in 2008, 2010 and 2012, Ellen Cogen Lipton turns 50… Founder, president and CEO of Waxman Strategies, a DC-based communications firm that now includes his father, 20-term Congressman Henry Waxman, Michael Waxman turns 43… Born in Phoenix, now living in Israel, talk show host who founded Israel Sports Radio in 2010 and Israel Sports and News Radio in 2015, sports and politics blogger for the Times of Israel, Ari Louis turns 34… Actress best known for her roles in ABC’s sitcom “Suburgatory” and the USA Network’s drama “Mr. Robot,” Carly Chaikin turns 27… Philipp Tolentino Marty Rosmarin

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Daily Kickoff: Tony Blair to address AIPAC | Greenblatt defends Lempert | Chelsea & Ivanka trade places | Adam Braun’s mission to prevent college debt

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SIREN: “Israel police arrest suspect in threats on US Jewish targets” by The Associated Press: “Israeli police say they have arrested a 19-year-old Israeli Jewish man as the primary suspect in a string of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers in the U.S. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld… says the suspect is “the guy who was behind the JCC threats” … He says the investigation was carried out with the help of the FBI and police from other countries… There are still few details available about the suspect’s profile, but he is not in the IDF, not ultra-Orthodox, and at some point made aliya and possibly has psychological and social problems.” [APJPost]

“The suspect reportedly has US citizenship. According to his lawyer, the suspect has been suffering from a brain tumor since the age of 14, and he’s been homeschooled ever since. According to her, the illness affects his behavior, which impedes him from working and even prevented him from being enlisted.” [YNet]

FLASHBACK — March 1st: “Trump questions who is really behind anti-Semitic threats and vandalism” [WashPost]

TOP TALKER: “Federal staffers panicked by conservative media attacks” by Nahal Toosi and Andrew Restuccia: “The claims posted on the conservative sites include allegations of anti-Israel and pro-Iran bias against staffers at institutions such as the State Department and the National Security Council. Breitbart News, whose former executive chairman Steve Bannon is now Trump’s chief strategist, has even published lists of workers that the president should fire… Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career civil service officer in State’s policy planning office who’s been targeted in the past, has come under renewed fire because of her role shaping the Iran nuclear deal and other Iran policy during the Obama administration.”

“Yael Lempert, a National Security Council official who deals with Israeli-Palestinian issues and has nearly 20 years of government experience, also has been targeted by reports casting her to be anti-Israel. People from across the political spectrum have risen to her defense, noting that she’s well-liked by Israeli officials and served as a top negotiator for a recent $38 billion security assistance package for Israel.”

“In a statement to Politico, Jason Greenblatt, a Trump special envoy for international negotiations, described Lempert as “extremely hard-working” and one of several people across various agencies who are “enthusiastically working to advance the president’s agenda.” “She’s not an Obama lackey. She has served all presidents because she’s valued,” added another U.S. official who has worked with Lempert.” [Politico]

“In Greeting to Iranian People, Trump Leaves Out Their Government” by Mark Landler: “The five-paragraph statement went through multiple drafts, according to two people involved in the process. Hard-liners in the White House first tried to kill the message, and when that failed, stripped it of references to engaging with the Iranian government… Mr. Bannon, an administration official said, “gutted the most ridiculous material” after arguing that Mr. Trump should not send the message at all… “This is a message designed to put the regime on the defensive,” said Dennis B. Ross, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama on Iran. “It is smart and well crafted with clear messages in mind.” … Mr. Trump claimed “wonderful friendships with Iranian-Americans.” His director of Jewish outreach during the campaign was an Orthodox Jewish immigrant from Iran, David Peyman.” [NYTimes

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Channel 2’s Udi Segal reported last night that Jason Greenblatt offered to accept building within settlement blocs and under quotas, but that BB rejected that offer and is still trying to improve the framework. The report was immediately met with right-wing objections, as the Jewish Home party and many members of the Likud will not settle for a restriction to the blocs, reflecting the political constraints Netanyahu is facing. Bezalel Smotrich from the Jewish Home tweeted “It seems like Trump really wants Netanyahu to fall. Weren’t they supposed to be friends?” Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett is on his way to DC himself, to address AIPAC, and mark his first visit in the US in the Trump era. The day after the elections, Bennett was dreaming of a whole new world with the administration, but so far, his dreams seem far from coming true. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset, including the latest on the fight between Bibi and Kahlon over the IBC, here [JewishInsider]

“Obama’s Israel envoy sees positive elements in Trump’s peace efforts” by Yuval Ben-David: “So far the approach on the Israeli-Palestinian issue has been more cautious and more responsible than almost anything else,” Dan Shapiro told Reuters. “I can’t quite explain why on this one issue they’re closer to the norm than they’ve been on other issues.” In the interview, he said Trump has surprised him by calling for a slowdown in Israeli settlement construction… Still, Shapiro cautioned, Trump’s government is inconsistent and unpredictable. “I’m not sure how comfortable the Israelis should be with an administration that’s hard to read, that’s far from fully staffed, that has a very undeveloped policymaking apparatus and has very divergent voices within it.” [DailyMail]

“Why Netanyahu won’t attend this year’s AIPAC conference” by Ben Caspit: “A diplomatic source in Washington told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that it was impossible to arrange a meeting between the two men due to “scheduling conflicts.” As of now, it is unclear who really tried to avoid meeting with whom… Regardless of who was responsible for that, a source in the prime minister’s office said on condition of anonymity, “We’re not quite there yet, but we will soon start to miss Barack Hussein Obama.” …

“During his talks in Washington, Netanyahu tried to intimidate the Americans by telling them that he was restrained by politics and his coalition. Given the makeup of his government, he explained that there was little he could do in terms of the Palestinian issue. As such, when Greenblatt met with Herzog and also with Zionist Camp co-leader Tzipi Livni, he asked discreetly and with considerable sensitivity about the current political situation. In other words, he tried to find out whether Netanyahu’s analysis of the situation was accurate, or whether he had other political options.” [Al-Monitor]

COMING SOON — Former Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair will address AIPAC’s Policy Conference during a Sunday morning session alongside Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer. Blair reportedly courted WH Senior Advisor Jared Kushner to become Trump’s envoy on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed last week that Blair has offered to help Trump win a peace deal… and the WH had “taken his approach seriously.”

ON THE HILL — Three days before the AIPAC Policy Conference commences, House and Senate members are rushing to introduce bills attractive to the pro-Israel community. Yesterday Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Ted Poe (R-TX) in the House and Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Jon Tester (D-MT) in the Senate introduced resolutions to strengthen US economic cooperation with Israel. The Iran sanctions bill is also being advanced, with Sen. Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, telling Jewish Insider that after intense deliberations with Democratic Senators, Ben Cardin and Bob Menendez, “we’re down to just a couple of paragraphs and hopefully we will be able to complete discussions today.”

Senator Chris Coons told JI’s Aaron Magid that he would support the Iran sanctions bill. “Iran hasn’t in any way moderated its behavior with regards to terrorism,” Coons explained. “Iran’s bad behavior with regards to human rights violations and ballistic missile launches has not only not moderated, if anything it’s worsened, since the JCPOA. It’s important that we work to find a path a forward for a strong bipartisan bill that responds to the concerns.” [JewishInsider

“Iranian navy endangering international navigation in Gulf: U.S. commanders” by Sami Aboudi: “It was the first time a U.S. carrier entered the narrow waterway, where up to 30 percent of global oil exports pass annually, since President Donald Trump took office in January pledging a tougher U.S. stance toward Iran. U.S. commanders said Tuesday’s incident, in which the George H.W. Bush sent helicopter gunships to hover over the Iranian speedboats as some came as close as 950 yards (870 meters) away from the aircraft carrier, ended without a shot being fired. The encounter with Iranian Navy boats occurred as the USS George H.W. Bush was en route to the northern part of the Gulf to participate in U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.” [Reuters]

FLASHBACK – Trump on 09-09-2016: “With Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures — that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.” [JewishInsider]

“Congress, Trump need a united front to face down Iran” by Richard Fontaine, Elizabeth Rosenberg and Ilan Goldenberg: “With Iran now “officially on notice,” President Trump has yet to spell out the precise contours of his more aggressive approach.” [TheHill

“The Delusion of the Iran Nuclear Deal” by Mark Dubowitz: “The Trump administration should work with Congress to design a statutory architecture that freezes the Iranian nuclear program where it is today and impose new crippling sanctions if it expands… While putting the squeeze on the regime, the administration should make it clear to the Chinese, Europeans and Russians that Washington is prepared to negotiate a follow-on agreement that addresses the fatal flaws of the original deal… Rigorously enforcing the Iran deal is a delusion.” [WSJ

“An Open Letter from a Young Saudi to Prince Mohammad bin Salman” by Abdulhameed Hakeem: “A Message to the Israeli and Jewish People – Joining Forces… The policies of the Iranian regime are alarmingly similar to the Nazi policies that aimed to exterminate your people. Thus, the Iranian and Nazi regimes are two faces of the same coin in their enmity and hatred of you and the danger they pose. Nevertheless, please be assured that peace can be achieved, and your historical role in our region secured, within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative. This process would also promote the achievement of peace with Israel within the framework of the Saudi (Arab) Peace Initiative. If achieved, it will save the region from the flames fueled by the Iranian regime, and also allow Saudi Arabia to openly partner with the many technological advances Israel offers.” [WashInstitute]

House Hearing Highlights Rise in Anti-Semitism — by JI’s Aaron Magid: Given the partisan tensions, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) called for the fight against anti-Semitism be removed from the daily squabble between Republicans and Democrats. “It is my hope that this bipartisan consensus will continue, and that none will seek to score political points to advance a political narrative.” [JewishInsider

“This Is The White House Aide Who Met With An Anti-Muslim Leader This Week” by Hannah Allam: “This week, [Paul] Teller met with ACT for America founder Brigitte Gabriel… Under [Ted] Cruz, Teller was a behind-the-scenes player who was described in a Washington Post profile as “one of the most influential conservative aides in Congress” and by The Hill as Cruz’s “agitator in chief.” He is known for an aggressive take-no-prisoners style… In the Trump administration, Teller serves as special assistant to the president for legislative affairs in the House, focusing on conservative lawmakers.” [BuzzFeed]

“Pulse Check: Zeke Emanuel’s lonely fight to shift Trump on health care” by Dan Diamond: “Emanuel also insists that he’s no liberal patsy, despite some Democrats’ worries that the White House will use his meetings with Trump to provide bipartisan cover for what’s been a partisan bill… “I’m not going to be a fig leaf for them,” Emanuel said, promising that he consistently delivered “straight talk” to Trump… “Just because I got invited to the White House, I’m never not going to say what I think,” Emanuel said. “This is an appalling bill.”” [Politico

2018 WATCH: “Billionaire running for Illinois governor passed bad check” by Natasha Korecki: “Billionaire J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel empire and who was named one of the wealthiest people in the world this week, once pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of writing a “worthless check.” The check was written in June of 1986 for the amount of $60.46. Two years later, he was charged with writing a bad check for an even smaller figure: $17.72, records show. In a statement to POLITICO, Pritzker, through a spokesperson, accused a potential gubernatorial opponent of planting a story about “two checks totaling $78 dollars that were accidentally written 30 years ago while JB was in college.”” [Politico]

** 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: Netanyahu Seeks China Waiver on Israel Technology Investments [Bloomberg] • Israeli defense company Elbit optimistic in age of Trump [Reuters] • Sam Nazarian’s SBE set to merge with Hakkasan Group [LVSun; WSJ] • James Packer’s Crown Resorts steps up cost-cutting [TheAustralian] • Elliott Management Threatens to Force Akzo Nobel to Engage With PPG [WSJ] • Black Elk Down: How did a small Houston oil company with grand ambitions get caught up in the biggest Ponzi scheme since Bernie Madoff? [TexasMonthly] • Guardian Announces Cuts After $250,000 Kushner Lease Debacle [BuzzFeed]

“Inside the Troubled Kushner Tower: Empty Offices and Mounting Debt” by Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski: “The Manhattan tower co-owned by the family of Jared Kushner… has been losing money for three years and faces increasing loan fees in 2017, which may explain why the family has been negotiating with Chinese insurance behemoth Anbang on new financing. The fees, at 666 Fifth Avenue, kicked in last month and escalate with each payment until the loan is repaid, a 2011 refinancing agreement shows. December brings another hurdle: Interest paid on the bulk of about $1.1 billion of loans jumps to 6.35 percent, more than double what it was after the debt was refinanced in 2011.” [Bloomberg]

“Chelsea and Ivanka Are Trading Places” by Michelle Cottle: “This time last year, people were pestering Clinton fille about what role she would be playing in her mother’s administration and how much time she would be spending in the White House. Now, Chelsea pops up in the news only rarely, when she issues some piquant remark on Twitter or when someone wants to float a rumor that she’s considering a political run in the very near future… At this rate, Chelsea will soon roll out her new eponymous line of fragrances while Ivanka is announced as her dad’s new chief of staff.” [TheAtlantic] • When Ivanka Trump Was a Cool Teen, She Reportedly Went ‘Missing’ in Aspen [NYMag]

‘Power Rangers’ creator Haim Saban hits out at Trump: “The 62-year-old Israeli-American billionaire, who turned the teen superhero franchise into one of the longest-running children’s shows of all time, was receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame when his thoughts turned to Trump. “I’m heartbroken (at) the breaking up of families, the way it’s happening right now,” he told AFP of the president’s crackdown on undocumented migrants and court-challenged 90-day ban on entry to the United States by people from six Muslim-majority countries. “It’s a very saddening thing, it’s not who we are as Americans. We are not that.”” [AFP]

— “Take it from this immigrant from Israel, a proud Israeli-American, born in Egypt, a Muslim country: America is great. Not perfect, but great,” Saban said to applause. “And we shouldn’t allow any rhetoric to make us think otherwise, because America is great — period.” [LADailyNews]

Haim Saban’s Rise From Poor Kid in the Middle East to ‘Power Rangers’ Godfather” by Malina Saval: “It was August 2003 and Haim Saban was awaiting word on a deal to acquire a controlling stake in ProSiebenSat.1 Media, Germany’s largest broadcasting group… Saban’s cell phone vibrated in his pocket as he was standing in the [Dachau] death camp with his son, Ness… It was Adam Chesnoff, president and CEO of Saban Capital, who’d been negotiating all day with the bankers. “I pick up the phone, and Adam says… ‘We got it. The bankers decided to sell it to us.’ I’m standing there, and my whole body is covered with shivers… All of a sudden I’m someone people wanted to talk to in Germany,” says Saban, on whom the irony of being a Jew and owning the largest group of German TV networks has never once been lost, even as he tells the story 14 years later. “I never felt threatened, not even close. In fact, it was the opposite. The German politicians, the German employees, and the people, they were all absolutely fantastic.”” [Variety] • Haim Saban’s Deep Love for Israel Drives His Philanthropy [Variety

“Backed By Big Wheels, A Boston Incubator Hooks Up Young Israelis And Palestinians To Launch Startups” by Richard Behar: “The venture [Ohad Elhelo] has built in a short time — a rigorous annual academic fellowship and business incubator in the Boston area for young Israelis and Palestinians called “Our Generation Speaks” — ought to be replicated in every American city. Former governor Patrick chairs its advisory board, while Dan Kraft — Robert’s son and the CEO of the family’s giant International Forest Products — also serves on that board. The Kraft family provided seed capital plus $1 million, and to date, the venture has raised nearly $4 million from a variety of American, Israeli and Palestinian investors.” [Forbes

ADAM BRAUN’S LATEST: “Start-up partners with Lyft, Spotify to help young people skip college and land high-paying jobs” by Catherine Clifford: “Inspired by (his wife) Tehillah’s struggles and those of millions of smart, motivated young people like her, [Adam] Braun set out to build an alternative to the current higher education system in the U.S. MissionU launched Tuesday and is currently accepting applications… If accepted, students at the one-year skills-focused program have no upfront payment. Instead, they agree to pay 15 percent of their salary for three years once they have graduated from the program and secured a job making at least $50,000 a year… Corporate partners including Lyft, Warby Parker, Casper, Bonobos, Spotify and Harry’s help establish the curriculum so that MissionU graduates are sure to have the skills that employers need in their workers.” [CNBC; USATodayCollege]

“Israel’s Autotalks raises $30M, total to date $70M” by Tova Cohen: “Autotalks, an Israeli provider of vehicle to vehicle (V2V)communication for improving road safety, said on Wednesday it raised $30 million in a late-stage funding round, bringing to $70 million its total raised to date. It will use the funds to expand operations and accelerate deployment of technologies for safer autonomous vehicles.” [Reuters

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Can We Still Be People of the Book in the Age of Trump and Twitter?” by Yishai Schwartz: “For too many of us, our days are framed by texts filled with news stories, not values debates. And as we go to bed, it is Gorsuch and Comey and Kahlon that we ponder, not the meaning of the Exodus or whether I overcharged my most recent customer.” [Tablet

“Meet Benoit Cohen, The Decorated French Director Who Went Undercover as a New York City Cab Driver” by Armin Rosen: “Encouragingly for himself, his adopted city, and perhaps the human race at large, Cohen did not emerge from four months of driving a cab in New York with his faith in humanity shattered—like his inhibitionless late-night fare, most customers were perfectly adequate tippers. And Cohen, a French citizen and the son of a Tunisian Jew, has had what counts as a successful if somewhat idiosyncratic immigrant experience these last three years. (Although he isn’t religious, and says he grew up in what was basically an atheist household, Cohen recognizes that “being a Cohen is a something special.” More than one passenger noticed his last name on his taxi license and asked about it.)” [Tablet

TRANSITION — Barry Shrage, longtime CEO of Boston Jewish federation, announces retirement: “Shrage, 69, who has helmed the Combined Jewish Philanthropies for three decades, made the announcement in a letter Wednesday to the local Jewish community — the fourth largest in the United States.” [JTA

DESSERT: “Israel finds hundreds of bottles of alcohol left behind by British soldiers during First World War” by Raf Sanchez: “Israeli archaeologists digging near the city of Ramla are used to uncovering flint tools and Palaeolithic remains. But when they began excavating land that is about to be used for a new motorway they made a significantly less dry discovery. Hundreds of bottles of gin, wine, beer and other alcohols left behind by British troops during the First World War were dug out of the dry earth.” [Telegraph]

BIRTHDAYS: Stand-up comedian, actor, veteran of World War II who has worked as a comedy headliner in nightclubs and as a dramatic actor in TV roles, Marty Allen (born Morton David Alpern) turns 95… Actor, film director, television director and producer,  Mark Rydell turns 88… Former National Football League referee for 23 seasons, the only NFL head referee to officiate four Super Bowl games (1983,1987, 1992 and 1995), Jerry Markbreit turns 82… Of counsel at the ultra-prestigious law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, served as White House counsel for President Clinton (1993-1994), Bernard W. Nussbaum turns 80… Mandolinist and composer of acoustic, instrumental, bluegrass and newgrass music, David Grisman turns 72… Writer and producer of television series, creator of “Deadwood” and co-creator  of “NYPD Blue,” summa cum laude graduate of Yale University, David Milch turns 72… Los Angeles-based psychologist and author, whose first book is “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children,” Wendy Mogel turns 66…

Designer of men’s and women’s footwear, men’s and women’s clothing, and also accessories under the Kenneth Cole Reaction Line, promoter of progressive social causes, Kenneth D. Cole turns 63… Mayor of Austin, Texas since January 6, 2015, previously board member or board chair of multiple Austin-based nonprofits and civic organizations including the ADL, Stephen Ira Adler turns 61… Investor, author, financial commentator and radio personality, he owns an offshore bank, a management company and a NYC-based precious metals dealer, Peter Schiff turns 54… French actress who has appeared in more than 30 films and whose Holocaust survivor grandparents changed their name from Goldreich, Judith Godrèche turns 45… Member of the Maryland General Assembly since 2011, initially as a delegate and since 2016 as a state senator, Craig Zucker turns 42… Israeli stage and screen actor, Itay Tiran turns 37… Israeli singer-songwriter, actress and musician who performs in Hebrew, French and Arabic, winner of Israel’s 2013 “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” award, Riff Cohen turns 33… Tax counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee, Aharon Friedman… Beth Millstein… Yehuda Hausman

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Leslie Wexner’s Limited Brands deal in line with new Ohio State apparel contract

Sunday, January 6, 2013

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Wilf brothers work quietly behind the scenes to help Vikings turn things around

Thursday, January 3, 2013

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – For Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, leadership isn’t about doing interviews about the state of the organization. It’s about placing a symbolic…