Daily Kickoff: Dems accuse GOP of stalling Iran sanctions | How WeWork was built | Evan Spiegel’s advice to an Israeli VC firm’s intern | THR 100

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TOP QUOTE: “When you’re writing, be riveting, be right, and ask people to pay. They will pay.” — Jeff Bezos, speaking yesterday at the Future of Newspapers conference in Turin, Italy [CNBC]

TOP TALKER: “Wall Street Journal Fires Reporter With Ties to Iranian-Born Magnate” by Michael Grynbaum and Sydney Ember: “The correspondent, Jay Solomon, is a highly regarded veteran of The Journal and Washington diplomatic circles, and his dismissal came as a shock to the paper’s newsroom. Shortly after the firing was announced, The Associated Press published a report detailing Mr. Solomon’s communications with Farhad Azima, an Iranian-born businessman, about a venture that at times involved aerial espionage in Iran and the sale of defense equipment to the United Arab Emirates. It was unclear if Mr. Solomon ever formally entered into a commercial arrangement or received compensation tied to Mr. Azima, according to the A.P. report. In a statement to the A.P., Mr. Solomon conceded “mistakes in my reporting” and apologized to his colleagues at The Journal.”[NYTimesAP]

”The Fall of a Foreign-Affairs Reporter” by David A. Graham: “The news stunned reporters at U.S. organizations, who frantically traded rumors and surprise on Slack and Gchat, and for good reason. Not only was Solomon a well-regarded reporter at a major newspaper, but it’s a clear breach of ethics for a journalist to become involved in arms deals or attempt to interfere in foreign relations through subterfuge. Which is not to say that it doesn’t happen… For as long as journalists have covered foreign affairs, they’ve felt the pull of getting involved in the conflicts themselves, whether to earn a little extra cash, to satisfy their own ambitions of grandeur, or as a method of covering up other work.” [TheAtlantic]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — “Reasons the U.S. cares about Saudi Arabia’s newly named crown prince” by Oren Dorell: “Diplomatic tensions with Iran are not likely to ease, but there could be an advantage to the prince’s hawkish stance, [Hussein] Ibish (of the Arab Gulf States Institute) said. “It’s easier for a hawk sometimes to make a compromise, because they’re less vulnerable to being accused of giving away the store,” he said… [Mohammed] Bin Salman would like to develop what today is a clandestine security and trade relationship with Israel into an open and deeper partnership, said Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Henderson said it’s unclear if bin Salman’s priority is to get a peace agreement or to find an interim solution that would “park (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) on one side of the road.”” [USAToday]  

“Trump’s Preferred Candidate Wins Again, This Time in Saudi Arabia” by Mark Landler and Mark Mazzetti: “Even more than Karen Handel, the Republican who won a hotly contested House seat in a special election in Georgia this week, Prince Mohammed [bin Salman] was Mr. Trump’s anointed candidate — in this case, for the byzantine struggle to control the House of Saud. Mr. Trump views Prince Mohammed as a crucial ally in his effort to cement a Sunni Muslim alliance in the Persian Gulf… The young prince is also a favorite of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner… Mr. Kushner also hopes for Prince Mohammed’s backing, or at least his blessing, in a peace initiative between Israel and the Palestinians.”

“When the prince visited Washington in March, he dined with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, at their home. When the couple joined Mr. Trump on his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, the prince hosted Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump for a dinner at his house. “There’s a certain compatibility there,” said Jon B. Alterman, the director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The president and his entourage think fellow billionaires who have an itch to get things done make the world go ‘round.” [NYTimes]

Trump spoke on the phone yesterday with the newly-appointed Saudi Crown Prince: Among other topics, Trump and Salman also “discussed efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” the White House said.

KAFE KNESSET — More highlights from the Herzliya Conference — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman: “The Palestinians do not have the ability to reach an agreement with the State of Israel alone. Without learning any lessons from the past 24 years we will not be able to move forward. The order must be reversed: First of all, a regional agreement and only then an agreement with the Palestinians.”

Tzipi Livni: “If Trump wants to correct Obama’s mistakes, he should lay the US principles on the table here and now. Netanyahu agreed in 2014 to discuss these principles with reservations. Trump should not force content on the sides but rather force them to make a decision according to existing principles. He can now lay a document on the table based on some basic principles. Netanyahu has no political problem to say yes – there is an alternative coalition in Israel for peace.”

Minister of Transportation and Intelligence Yisrael Katz: “Saudi King Salman should invite the prime minister to visit Saudi Arabia, like Sadat and Begin, or send the new heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, for a public meeting in Israel.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union): “Netanyahu is afraid of leaving the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street. So every time Bennett lifts his head, he copies him. Netanyahu, at the logical level understands Israel’s demographic danger. But then his fears enter, and he cannot think or act. He cannot act like Sharon, Rabin or Olmert. He cannot take a risk and be de Gaulle. He has no desire for action. He is shocked that Trump is somewhere else, but he is using delay tactics very well. I say with certainty that Netanyahu is not capable of reaching peace with the Palestinians. He is able to talk and delay. I think he probably tried to do that with Kushner yesterday, too, and at some stage the White House will get tired of it or decide who is to blame for the lack of the process.” Full highlights and today’s entire Kafe Knesset here[JewishInsider]

JARED KUSHNER IN ISRAEL — Netanyahu, Abbas agree peace will take time: In respective readouts of Kushner’s meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas yesterday, the White House said both sides “underscored that forging peace will take time and stressed the importance of doing everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking.” The WH described both meetings as “productive.”

Journalists barred from photographing Kushner in Israel — by Peter Beaumont: “Journalists were prevented from even filming Kushner’s arrival at Netanyahu’s office. The Associated Press said one of its cameramen was prevented from filming the arrival of his convoy while another was ordered to delete his memory card of all images of the prime minister’s office.”[Guardian]

Prof. Alan Abbey, director of internet and media at Shalom Hartman Institute, tells us…“It does seem as if the Trump Administration has adopted a position of listening, rather than lecturing the Israelis and Palestinians. More than anything, both sides want to be heard, first to make their case, but perhaps even more deeply, because they feel that no one listens to them. Unfortunately, neither side has been able to really listen to the other at the upper, political levels. Even as there are many small, grassroots efforts for communication and cooperation under way, there is too much blood, sadness, anger, and resentment for most on both sides. There are times when it seems as if both sides wish that an outsider would just tell us what to do and to impose their will on us. But of course, each side will howl if it perceives that Big Daddy will favor one of us over the other.”

–Great Big Story highlights the Jerusalem Youth Chorus which brings together Palestinian and Israeli teens to learn about each other’s experiences and forge friendships in a famously divided city — and, of course, to make beautiful music. [Video]

“Jared Kushner’s falling into a trap on Mideast peace” by Benny Avni: “Yes, Kushner and Trump may have gained some respect from all sides here, and that’s not nothing. Who knows, they may even move the ball a few yards. But Mideast peace? A June drizzle greeting a guest may be extremely rare here, but it’s a long way before it turns him into a rainmaker.” [NYPost]

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH — “Kushner bolsters Trump Middle East peace push” by Laura Rozen: “I think, first of all, there is a message: The US is still committed and serious,” Ghaith al-Omari, a former member of the Palestinian negotiating team, told Al-Monitor. “The fact that Kushner is with [Greenblatt] is an indication of high-level interest from the administration and also strengthens Greenblatt. It shows he is not working on his own; he has the support of Kushner. The Palestinians ultimately are looking for only one thing in an American envoy: Is this person empowered or not?” al-Omari said. “In this regard, Kushner is seen as someone serious coming and supporting Greenblatt.” … The Trump administration “is making this effort a priority,” Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian-American analyst with the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told Al-Monitor.” [Al-Monitor

“Taking a Lead From Trump, U.S. Mideast Envoy Greenblatt Tweets His Every Move in Israel” by Matthew Kalman: 
“Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s special Middle East envoy, is discovering that there might be a downside in following his boss’s lead and constantly commenting on his every move and every thought on Twitter… Greenblatt may need all of his diplomatic skills to deal with one disappointed and influential woman. “Maybe when you have a chance you can sit down with the Moskowitz family, specifically my grandmother,” suggests rabbinical student Yechezkel Moskowitz. “She did give $1 million to the Trump campaign and did not even get a thank you.” Yechezkel’s grandmother is Cherna Moskowitz, wife of the late casino mogul Irving Moskowitz. She appeared on the list of top donors to the Trump presidential campaign last year. Yechezkel Moskowitz said he was in touch with Trump aide Kellyanne Conway to suggest that Trump might like to thank her for the donation, but is still waiting for a response. “She’s not in Israel. She’s in Miami. I would love to arrange a meeting. Never heard back from anyone,” he said.” [Haaretz]

ON THE HILL — Dems Charge GOP with Stalling Iran Sanctions Bill — by Aaron Magid: With the Senate passing bipartisan legislation strengthening sanctions against Iran last week by a vote of 97-2, the House bill targeting Tehran remains stalled. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Ed Royce (R-CA) told Jewish Insider, “It’s not going to be delayed long. It has to do with a blue slip issue.” The California lawmaker was referring to a constitutional requirement that all bills raising revenue for the government must originate in the House. Royce refused to elaborate when asked a follow-up question and quickly walked away.

The ranking Democrat on the Committee Eliot Engel (D-NY) blamed Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for holding up the legislation. “I think it’s disgraceful. We have an important bill that slaps sanctions on both Russia and Iran. Passes the Senate 98-2. About as bipartisan as it gets. The fastest way it could pass would be to bring it right to the floor and vote on it,” Engel explained. Citing the different committees that are citing jurisdiction including HFAC and the Ways and Means Committee, Engel added, “If you want to kill something, you make sure it passes by four committees.” [JewishInsider]

Following yesterday’s Washington Post article about the Trump administration’s efforts to free American hostages detained in Iran, Rep. Ted Deutch is drawing attention to the fact that article made no mention of Bob Levinson. “I feel very strongly that any article that references Americans in Iran needs to start with Bob Levinson, who is the longest held American hostage in history,” Deutch told Jewish Insider on Capitol Hill yesterday… “I have been in contact with the administration. They understand the importance of the Levinson case. I encouraged them to move as swiftly as possible at every possible level to bring Bob home.”

PALACE INTRIGUE: “White House Looks to Chart Steadier Course Amid Turmoil Over Russia Probes” by Eli Stokols and Michael C. Bender: “Mr. Trump continues to privately express his frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to head the Russia probe, and has at least given voice to the idea of shaking up the Justice Department… He also has discussed trying to fire Mr. Mueller with friends outside the White House and senior aides… [Steve] Bannon has expressed more openness to the idea… Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top adviser, advocated Mr. Trump’s May 9 firing of James Comey as FBI director but has “backed off” on the subject of firing Mr. Mueller, the official said.” [WSJ] • Trump Turns an Iowa Rally Into a Venting Session [NYTimes

HAPPENING TODAY — The funeral of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old student who died after returning in a coma from captivity in North Korea, will be held at the Wyoming High School auditorium. [ABCNews

President Trump at a campaign-style rally in Iowa last night: “Look at Otto, beautiful Otto. Went over there a healthy, wonderful boy, and you see how he came back.” [WashPost]

“Rob Portman met secretly with North Koreans to push for Warmbier’s release” by Jessica Wehrman: “In a coffee with constituents Wednesday, Portman spoke emotionally about [Otto] Warmbier, mentioning that he secretly visited with the North Korean representatives in December that had been closely coordinated with the U.S. State Department. Portman brought photos of Warmbier to the meeting in New York, and urged the North Korean government to allow the Swedish ambassador to North Korea — the main U.S. contact with that government — to meet with Warmbier.” [Dispatch] • Otto Warmbier’s family kept his Jewishness under wraps while North Korea held him hostage [ToI]

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Gus Wenner to Sell Men’s Journal, Continuing Shift From Print [NYTimes] • 12 Massachusetts cybersecurity companies with Israeli roots [BizJournals] • Israel to launch index of North American real estate companies [TRD] • Germany delays decision on Israeli drones, approves warships [Reuters] • Israel picks landing pads to draw foreign entrepreneurs[ToI]

SPOTLIGHT: “Out with $70M: Rotem Rosen leaves ASRR Capital” by Kathryn Brenzel and Chava Gourarie: “ASRR Capital’s Alex Sapir is buying out his partner Rotem Rosen for $70 million. Rosen is leaving his position as director of ASRR, a publicly traded Israeli real estate company, according to filings on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. His departure leaves Sapir with an 80.5 percent share of the company. According to news site Maariv, Rosen was represented by the law firm of Mark Kasowitz, President Trump’s attorney. Rosen is married to Zina Sapir, daughter of the late Tamir Sapir, founder of the Sapir Organization.” [RealDeal]

PODCAST PLAYBACK: WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey discussing how he first met Adam Neumann on NPR’s How I Built This podcast hosted by Guy Raz: “While I was working for the [architecture] firm, I had a co-worker – this Israeli guy named Gil – and I became friendly with him… And I remember he invited me over to his apartment one weekend and I went over there, and as we are walking into the building, in walks this other dude and we get introduced – and it’s Adam [Neumann] — it’s a hot summer day and he’s got his shirt off… I remember as we were like going up in the elevator, he is starting conversations with people who are on the elevator and then he’s like holding the door as the person got off and then continuing the conversation. I don’t know Israelis at all. First of all, I am coming from Oregon. I’ve never met an Israeli before, so I don’t even know this sort of abrasiveness – which I have come to love – but there’s that and there’s Adam who just has like a really exuberant sort of personality. He was Gil’s roommate. I didn’t know that at the time though. But sort of on that elevator ride it was all explained to me along the way.”

Raz: So you and Adam just like hit it off right there?

McKelvey: “Yeah, and that sounds weird because it doesn’t really make sense. I mean, besides from the fact that we are both tall we don’t have that much in common. We are totally different people. For whatever reason, we just connected.

McKelvey on WeWork’s first investment: “Before we even built the first location, we actually had an encounter with a potential investor, who was in a room for one of these potential real estate deals. So we were pitching the building, we really wanted to get this cool building down Canal street, and the owner of it was like, you know, I am not sure if I will give you the building, but I’ve got this friend who might be interested and he’s going to come over. So this guy shows up at the meeting, sits down, doesn’t really speak to us, doesn’t shake hands — these are Orthodox Jewish guys wearing the black suit and stuff… But he ends up calling later that day or the next day after the meeting and saying, hey I don’t think we are getting that building, but I want to partner with you guys. And we are like, well, we don’t really need a partner… He says, yeah, but what will it take? Whatever it takes, I want to be a partner with you… We were like, why not? Let’s throw out a number and we will make it outrageous – it is no chance he’ll say yes, but if he does, then hey we are fine – we did pretty well. We had no building, we had no signed lease even, and we proposed a $45 million valuation – that’s pretty high for a business that is unproven – and he said, yes!” [NPR]

“Snap CEO Evan Spiegel gave the best career advice to a 19-year-old aspiring entrepreneur” by Julie Bort: “Daniel Newman, a 19-year-old student at USC, grew up in Beverly Hills and loves Southern California’s star tech company, Snap. So when Snap’s famous founder, Evan Spiegel, came to USC and spoke to one of his classes, Newman was all over it. Newman approached Spiegel after the talk, and to his surprise, Spiegel gave him his contact information and a few days later took his call. They talked for about 30 minutes during which Spiegel gave him three pieces of career advice that has changed Newman’s aspirations, and quite possibly his life…”

“Newman upped his involvement in a student organization called TAMID, a group that matches US college kids with Israeli startups for mutual advice, internships, and the like. He and the TAMID team created a “Shark Tank” like event where students got to pitch to three VCs for prize money. And all of that helped Newman land a two-month internship at an Israeli VC firm, where he’s currently spending the summer. Most importantly, the conversation with Spiegel encouraged Newman to put himself out there, approach people and try and make things happen.” [BusinessInsider]

MEDIA WATCH: “Sizing Up BuzzFeed: Could This Unicorn Ever Go Public?” by Andrew Wallenstein and Todd Spangler: “All of which may explain why one such unicorn, BuzzFeed, has the tech industry abuzz in anticipation of an IPO of its own — even though CEO Jonah Peretti has yet to confirm that’s where he’s headed. In an interview with Variety last week (read the full Q&A here), he makes clear he’s aware of the attention that “one possible path” is bringing to his company. “I know that there’s a lot of focus on things like IPOs or potential transactions,” says Peretti. “The thing I try to stay focused on is the work itself.” [Variety]

THR 100: Hollywood Reporter’s Most Powerful People in Entertainment: “In compiling the THR 100, our second annual ranking of Hollywood’s most powerful people, we used one overarching criterion: the power of “yes.” THR 100 essentially is a greenlight list: who has the authority to take projects from a no to a yes or the talent and track record to make what he or she wants. There are objective factors, like the size of an executive’s empire (owning it helps, a la Shari Redstone), access to vast sums of money (both Megan Ellison and David Ellison)… 1. Bob Iger: Best advice I’ve received about power — “Always be humble. No matter how successful you are or how good the world thinks you are, it’s very important not to let that go to your head.” [HollywoodReporter]

MORE LISTS: “Observer’s 2017 Young Social Power List” by Zachary Weiss: “While their parents may hail from the worlds of politics or real estate, these PYTs are striking out on their own to make a name for themselves… 6. Larry & Toby Milstein … 7. Colby Jordan Mugrabi… 9. Gaby & Charlie Rosen… 20. James Sternlicht…” [Observer]

“Israeli man drowns while meditating face-down in Yuba River” by Michelle Robertson: “Yoav Timmer, a citizen of Israel, died at Rice’s Crossing, northwest of Nevada City, around 3:30 p.m. on Friday, June 16, The Union reports. Timmer was practicing a type of meditation that involves floating face down in the water for a period of time. A friend meditating nearby checked on Timmer, according to the Sacramento Bee, and found him unresponsive.” [SFGate]

“Ben Jacobs’ glasses, David Fahrenthold’s notebook to go on display at Newseum on June 23 by Leah DePiero: “Ben Jacobs’ broken glasses and David Fahrenthold’s notebook used in his reporting on President Trump will go on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., later this week, the museum said. “On Friday, the Newseum will unveil two new artifacts in its News Corporation News History Gallery: a pair of broken eyeglasses and a legal pad scrawled with handwritten notes. These artifacts may appear unassuming, but they tell powerful stories about freedom of the press in the United States,” a press release said.” [WashExaminer]

“This 29-Year-Old Makes A Living Taking Insanely Cute Dog Photos” by Hannah Loewentheil: “Meet Elias Weiss Friedman…. He’s also the guy behind The Dogist — the viral Instagram account that’s racked up 2.6 million followers. All of those followers visit the account to look at the photos of real-life dogs that Elias snaps every day while he roams the streets of NYC. To date, he’s photographed over 25,000 dogs around the world. Elias got tons of followers, and within a year of starting the account, he scored a few paid photo shoots.” [BuzzFeed]

SPORTS BLINK: “Robert Kraft-led trip to Israel has profoundimpact on Hall of Famers” by Mike Reiss: “You could hear just really how proud [Netanyahu] is of his state and how resilient and tough they are,” [Andre] Reed said. “It really teaches a lesson. It’s really nice to see he’s so confident about… how the region can make other nations better.” Said [Jerome] Bettis, “One thing that was resounding was the resolve of the Jewish people… The message that you get — outside of the things that happened in each person’s individual life — was their love with the state of Israel, their country. But also the understanding that they were a people who were bashed and beaten, and they were able to rise and overcome it.” [ESPN]

** FRIDAY NIGHT IN ASPEN: For the second year in a row, Jewish Insideris partnering with OneTable and The Paul E. Singer Foundation to host a Fridaynight dinner on the sidelines of the Aspen Ideas Festival. The dinner, on June 30th, will also feature an upscale Israeli and California wine tasting from our own Yitz Applbaum. The dinner is open to all – whether you’re 25 or 65, we’ve got a seat at the table for you. RSVP Here [OneTable] **

BIRTHDAYS: A leading securities, corporate and M&A attorney, he is a founding partner of the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Martin Lipton turns 86… United States Senator from California since 1992, Dianne Feinstein turns 84… Jerusalem-born 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, she is the director of a research center at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Ada Yonath turns 78… UK judge, who chaired high profile hearings on ethics in the media, prompted by the 2011 News of the World phone hacking affair, Sir Brian Henry Leveson turns 74… Winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics, professor at Brown University, J. Michael Kosterlitz turns 74… A justice on Israel’s Supreme Court (2004-2014), previously she was the Israeli State Prosecutor (1996-2004), Edna Arbel turns 73… Member of the California State Assembly since 2012, prior to that he served as a member of the City Council and then Mayor of Santa Monica, Richard Hershel Bloomturns 64… Immediate past President of the UJA – Federation of New York, Alisa Robbins Doctoroff turns 59… Secretary of Veterans Affairs since he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on February 13, 2017, David Jonathon Shulkin turns 58… Democratic member of Congress since 2001, he is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiffturns 57…

Creator of the Android operating system which he sold to Google, then executive at Google (2005-2014), founder in 2014 and CEO of tech incubator Playground Global, a $300 million fund, Andrew E. “Andy” Rubin turns 55… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party since 2009, he is currently serving as Minister of Tourism, Yariv Gideon Levin turns 48… Program director for the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Rafi M. Rone turns 46… Second baseman for MLB’s Detroit Tigers since 2014, his first eight seasons were with the Texas Rangers, Ian Kinsler turns 35… Russian-Israeli Internet entrepreneur, co-founder of Russia’s largest social network VK.com, Vaizra Capital investment fund, and Selectel network centers, Lev Binzumovich Leviev (not the diamond dealer) turns 33… Israeli-born NBA player since 2009, Omri Casspi turns 29… Outfielder in the Washington Nationals organization, started all three games for Team Israel in the 2016 World Baseball Classic qualifier round, Rhett Wiseman turns 23…

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




Daily Kickoff: Spinning Ossoff’s loss | Heard at Herzliya | What Yossi Klein Halevi told Jason Greenblatt | Israel’s missing Yemenite children affair

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GA06 ELECTION RESULTS: Democrat Jon Ossoff fell short in his bid for a vacant U.S. House seat, losing to Republican Karen Handel by almost 4 percentage points.

Ossoff’s loss means that Georgia still awaits its first Jewish member of Congress since Democrat Elliott Levitas left office in 1985… “About 8 percent of the district is Jewish, representing 40 percent or more of the population of Jewish Atlanta. It was a long night for those who campaigned for Ossoff, such as lawyer Matt Weiss, a member of the American Jewish Committee ACCESS steering board… “It’s obviously disappointing. It’s a very Republican district, so it’s always going to be tough,” Weiss said. “He made enormous progress in taking what was an 8- or 9-point Republican district and coming very close. Hopefully he’ll have another opportunity to do something else in politics.” [ATLJewishTimes• What Kind Of Democrat Will Be The Next Jon Ossoff? [BuzzFeed]

RJC Board Member Phil Rosen‏: “Most important for Israel – this was a resounding defeat of J Street which raised a chunk of the $26mm Osoff raised for this election.” [Twitter]

J Street spokeswoman Jessica Rosenblum tells us… “JStreetPAC is proud to have supported Jon Ossoff, who managed a double-digit swing in a district no one thought would have been competitive a year ago, all while standing up for the nuclear agreement with Iran, supporting bold US leadership to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and making the case for keeping our doors open to refugees. We are under no illusion as to the hard work that lies ahead of the 2018 elections, as we work to build a bulwark in Congress to protect and defend diplomacy-first policies. We are focused, energized and ready for the fight.”

Dem strategist Aaron Keyak emails: “It would have been much better if Ossoff won — and he was closer than anyone initially expected — but the Republican euphoria about holding onto a Republican seat is premature. They should be happy this morning but yesterday’s election is only one data point in an intense campaign leading up to the midterms. The fight continues. Lots of work to do.”

“What Democrats can learn from spending $30M on a House race — and losing” by John Podhoretz: “That $30 million could’ve funded six House races next year in which Democrats would’ve had a better shot than they did here… The Georgia results ought to be a warning shot for Democrats, not a battle cry. They have to be smarter. They have to spend their money more wisely. They have to win where they can, not where they hope to. As for Republicans and Trump: They, too, need to be cold-eyed and ruthless about what last night meant… Triumphalism would be short-sighted and foolish. This was no triumph. They dodged a bullet.” [NYPost]

Kellyanne Conway tweeted last night after the results came in: “Laughing my #Ossoff” [Twitter]

Representative Jacky Rosen (D-NV) confirmed to Jewish Insider that she plans on running against incumbent Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) in 2018. Rosen’s statement is the first on-the-record confirmation from the Congresswoman of her Senate campaign. Rosen’s spokesperson added that a formal announcement would come shortly. [JewishInsider]

JARED IN ISRAEL — Kushner lands in Israel, rushes to visit Malka family: “Kushner touched down in Israel on Wednesday morning before paying a visit to the family of 23-year-old MSG. Hadas Malka, who was murdered last Friday in a combined shooting and stabbing terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City… He was joined by US Ambassador David Friedman… A close friend of the Malka family said that the duration of the visit lasted for approximately half an hour. “He offered the condolences to the bereaved family from the US president, who spoke to his son-in-law on the way and asked that he be kept updated about the visit,” the friend said. “(Kushner) said that the President himself asked him to express condolences on behalf of the United States.”” [YNetNYPost]

Jared then visited Prime Minister Netanyahu and was joined in the meeting by Amb. David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt and Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer [PicsVideo]

Norm Eisen on Kushner’s visit: “I am of the school that you should always try. And I think, based on my own experience, it is no disadvantage if – like Trump, Greenblatt and Kushner – you are strongly associated with one side (with Israel). I frequently hosted Israelis and Palestinians on economic matters in Prague, using it as a meeting place away from the conflict. I think that everybody knew that I was a fervent Zionist and nobody cared. If anything, it enabled me to credibly push people towards the middle… But there’s a big caveat. The one thing you shouldn’t do is to excite beyond realistic expectations because when those expectations are disappointed, it can have consequences, including violence in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem. But even though I tend to be critical of this administration in other areas, I do think that they have, so far, avoided that, and they are proceeding in a careful way.”

Yesterday, Jason Greenblatt met with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem. No readouts were provided by the Prime Minister’s Office or the White House after the meeting.

What Yossi Klein Halevi told Jason Greenblatt — by Jacob Kornbluh: Greenblatt also met yesterday with noted Israeli author and columnist Yossi Klein Halevi and tweeted about it. In an email to Jewish Insider, Klein Halevi said he shared with Greenblatt his belief that the administration would be wise to focus on mediating an interim agreement rather than a comprehensive deal, “which I don’t believe is possible anytime soon,” he wrote. “I also said that there’s not much that the Palestinian leadership can really offer Israel — or is willing to offer Israel — and that the most likely tradeoff Israel will get for concessions in the territories will come from our Arab neighbors in the form of normalization.”

Klein Halevi praised Greenblatt’s approach to the region: 
“Jason Greenblatt is a superb listener. At least at this stage, he’s come to listen more than to speak. After years of hearing lectures from the Obama administration, this is a refreshing change.” [JewishInsider

“Trump Administration Pressuring Israel to Move Ahead With Peace Deal, Senior Israeli Minister Moshe Kahlon
 Says” by Barak Ravid: “There’s mounting American pressure to advance a deal,” Moshe Kahlon told a conference in central Israel on Tuesday. “Something has happened. The American government feels it can reach an agreement, maybe because the good ties with the Israeli government allow Trump more influence than was possible during Obama’s term.” [Haaretz

KAFE KNESSET — Herzliya conference highlights — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: 
Dozens of politicians, defense officials, academics, government officials and experts are convening this week for the Annual Herzliya conference, under the headline “Israel’s Strategic Balance – Opportunities and Risks.” Throughout the three days of the conference, various issues are on the agenda, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, the war against ISIS, the Palestinian peace process and regional peace initiatives. Here are some of the highlights from the first two days:

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on his dialogue with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Kahlon said: “This discourse is important and I am motivated by the interests of the Israeli people – if the Palestinians also benefit from it – I don’t mind. I am careful not to get into political issues. Hamdala told me, ‘We are doing a good job between us, the PA is satisfied with the economic ties, but without a political agreement it is very difficult.’ I think that the Palestinians aren’t ready for a political agreement. I got that impression from conversations with them. Who’s right: us or them? The truth is somewhere in the middle. They themselves say: Let’s get through these years. We have internal problems, problems with Gaza, etc. I don’t see them going now in the direction of an agreement.”

Ambassador Dennis Ross on the regional peace efforts: “There is a strange paradox today. There is a desperation amongst Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states for the US to stay in the region. There is a desire to ensure that the US isn’t going to retreat, and there is fear that after Raqqa and Mosul that the US may say mission accomplished and won’t stay there. That gives the Trump administration leverage with them. If the administration uses the leverage and says: OK – here is what we want from you on the peace issue they may well do that, but they will say if we are going to reach out to Israelis we have to show that we are delivering something for the Palestinians which they cannot deliver themselves.”

Former Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo: “I don’t think that a real move within the Arab countries will happen before they see something on the Palestinian issue. We might have excellent security and intel relationships but to make a real move will be only after we see some kind of movement by the Israeli government towards some kind of solution with the Palestinians.”

Former Obama advisor and CFR fellow Phil Gordon: “I will be surprised if anyone has success on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It was hard or unreachable for the past 30 years but arguably the conditions are worse now. Abbas is now 82 years old, in the 12th year of his 5 year term.  He is just not in a position to make political concessions that he can sell to his public. I don’t think the conditions are ripe for that ultimate deal. Saudis said to me in private discussions that ‘Israel is not killing us – Iran and ISIS are killing us’ but that doesn’t mean that they are willing to play the public role that would be necessary to give the Palestinians the cover.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

TOP TALKER: “Saudi King Salman Ousts Nephew as Crown Prince, Installs Son” by  Nicholas Parasie, Margherita Stancati and Summer Said: “The new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is the elderly monarch’s 31-year old son and minister of defense… He replaces as crown prince Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a nephew of the king, who was stripped of all his positions, including interior minister. His ouster effectively ends the political career of a royal who was one of Washington’s most trusted security partners and was known as the country’s counterterrorism czar.” [WSJ] • State Department Demands Saudis Prove Terror Allegations Against Qatar [WSJNYTimes

Dan Shapiro writes: “For Israelis, a dynamic Saudi leader who shares their strategic outlook and openly acknowledges that it places them in the same camp, is nearly a dream come true. At the same time, MBS has demonstrated a penchant for confrontation with neighbors and adversaries quite unlike previous Saudi rulers, and his campaigns have not always been well-coordinated with the United States.” [Haaretz]

ON THE HILL – New sanctions on Russia and Iran hit House roadblock” by Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian: “The sanctions bill, known as the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act, passed the Senate last week on a 98-to-2 vote. But this week, House staff flagged the bill for violating the constitutional provision that only the House can originate bills raising revenue for the government… House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has supported stronger sanctions on both Russia and Iran but has not specifically committed to bringing the Senate bill to the House floor… Rep. Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee… [called] the roadblock “nothing but a delay tactic” and said “anything short of an up-or-down vote on this tough sanctions package is an attempt to let Russia off the hook.” … If the House committees each get an independent shot at the bill, “it’ll be a big mess,” said one senior Senate Democratic aide.”[WashPost

WHAT THE WEST WING IS READING… “The Trump administration is working to free American hostages in Iran” by Josh Rogin: “The Trump administration has quietly ramped up its involvement in trying to free two Iranian Americans being held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, including one who is in very poor health. The effort is now not only a focus of the administration’s approach to Iran, but also part of an overall increase of attention to the plight of Americans held unjustly abroad.” [WashPost] • Detained Americans Fast Facts [CNN]

“Ivanka Trump on Capitol Hill, teams up with Rubio on tax reform” by Ashley Killough, Grace Hauck and Emily Karl: “Ivanka Trump met privately Tuesday morning for about an hour with Sen. Marco Rubio and other lawmakers on the Capitol Hill to discuss “pro-family” tax reform… Nebraska Rep. Deb Fischer, who introduced a bill this year to give tax credits to companies offering paid maternity and paternity leave, participated in Tuesday’s meeting… Fischer said the discussions are “still in the talking stage” and the point of the meeting was to make the White House “aware of what we all have here in the Senate and also in the House.”” [CNN• Rubio, Ivanka joke about ‘alleged’ failed hug [AP

“Nikki Haley Tells UN: States Supporting Terror Group Hamas Should Face Consequences” by Amir Tibon: “The United Nations Security Council gathered on Tuesday for a periodic discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with America’s envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, saying that states that support Hamas should pay a price for it. “We need to pressure Hamas to end its tyranny over the people of Gaza, we should name Hamas as the group responsible when rockets are fired from Gaza, and designate it as a terror organization in a resolution with consequences for anyone who supports it,” she said. “We stand with Israel against forces of terror,” she said.” [Haaretz] • Israel flouting U.N. Security Council settlement demand: U.N. envoy [Reuters]

TRUMP TRANSITION: “Grenell under consideration to be ambassador to Germany” bu Josh Dawsey: “Richard “Ric” Grenell, a former United Nations official and prominent backer of President Donald Trump, is under consideration to be ambassador to Germany… It is unclear if Grenell will get the nod, officials said, as internal disagreements remain about a number of ambassador jobs… The 50-year-old Grenell is often acerbic on Twitter… He is generally perceived as intelligent about foreign affairs. But he is also seen as “potentially problematic,” according to one White House official.” [Politico

“Why Trump’s Foreign Policy Can’t Be Stopped” by Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky: “Trump lives in a Darwinian dog-eat-dog world where America needs to look to its own interests and cut the best deals it can — allies and adversaries be damned (perhaps minus Putin)… Trump also benefits because in [James] Mattis he has an experienced, intelligent, and sensible advisor who understands and accepts America’s responsibilities for global leadership and spends much of his time advising U.S. allies to ignore the tweetstorms from the man behind the curtain. Vice President Mike Pence, [Rex] Tillerson, and [H. R.] McMaster have also helped to calm the jittery nerves of allies… and, in the process, provide cover and legitimacy to Trump’s behavior.” [FP]

“Trump’s Not Ready for a Crisis: The White House national security team is still in transition, nearly five months on” — by Douglas Lute, who recently served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO: “We pay a heavy price for the ongoing extended transition. Without the team in place and procedures set, decision-making becomes ad hoc and unpredictable, leading to mistakes and poor execution. Coordination suffers, as the players are not on the same page, leading to misstatements and a perception of internal disputes… While we undergo this too-slow transition, the world continues to spin. Without our national security team and process in place, we are living on borrowed time before we confront a significant national security crisis that overnight becomes our first priority. Opponents deliberately will test us, friends will move on in their own interests, natural disasters will happen… We cannot afford 2017 to be a year of endless transition.” [PoliticoMag]

“Trump’s silent surge in the Middle East — and the slippery slope to war” by John Podesta and Brian Katulis: “In the Middle East’s tinderbox, for every action there’s a reaction, and it is not clear that the Trump administration has thought through what could go wrong — such as the possibility of slipping into a direct war with Iran or U.S. troops facing chemical weapons attacks by the Islamic State… The United States needs to work with partners to defeat terrorist groups and counter destabilizing policies from countries such as Iran. But in five months, the Trump administration has exposed the country to greater risks without a clear strategy.” [WashPost] 

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: An insider describes the Bayrock Group, its links to the Trump family and its mysterious access to funds. It isn’t pretty. [Bloomberg] • Israeli-owned Dutch company in legal battle over fiber optics in Miami[JPost] • Israeli plastics company opens first U.S. operations in Gaston County[Bizjournals• Intel to collaborate with Israel’s Team8, Illusive on cybersecurity [ReutersFortune• Israeli blockchain companies that shoot for the stars [CNBC• Josh Kushner’s Oscar Health Will Expand Obamacare Footprint In Five States [ForbesBloomberg] • Uber Founder Travis Kalanick Resigns as CEO [NYTimes] • The summer of Alice Rogoff’s discontent [MustReadAlaska]

“Mnuchin Says He Divested Stake in Hollywood Financing Company” by Anousha Sakoui and Max Abelson: “The Treasury secretary, who had promised to sell his stake in a Hollywood financing company known as RatPac-Dune by last week, said in a filing released Tuesdaythat he has completed all divestitures under his ethics agreement… That would mean the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive and one-time hedge fund manager will no longer back major motion pictures such as “Wonder Woman” while helping run the economy for President Donald Trump.” [Bloomberg

SOUND BITES – Michael Bloomberg talked Trump last night on CNN’s AC360: “Donald Trump.. had a saying, ‘make America great again.’ I don’t know what ‘again’ means, but ‘America’? That’s patriotic. And ‘great’ — that’s a good word. And I thought it’s not quite that simple. But we do live in a world of 140 characters. And slogans matter… I never understood… why Hillary couldn’t find somebody to give her a good tagline. That’s what she should have done I always thought.” [JewishInsider]

“The Secret Room, the Nazi Artifacts and an Argentine Mystery” by Russell Goldman: “In a hidden treasure room dedicated to celebrating the Third Reich, Argentine police officers have found a trove of Nazi artifacts, including a bust of Hitler, that they believe were taken to the country by fugitive Germans… The police also found toys and musical instruments, including a box of harmonicas, emblazoned with swastikas and Nazi symbols, that would have been used to indoctrinate children… “We know the history, we know of the horrible experiments conducted by Josef Mengele,” said Ariel Cohen Sabban, president of the Delegation of Israelite-Argentines Associations, the country’s largest Jewish organization. “When I see these objects,” Mr. Sabban said, “I see the infamy of that terrible era of humanity that has caused so much damage, so much sadness.”” [NYTimes]

“Missing babies: Israel’s Yemenite children affair” by Yolande Knell: “In the years after the creation of the Israeli state hundreds of babies went missing. Their parents, mostly Jewish immigrants from Yemen, were told their children had died, but suspicions linger that they were secretly given away to childless families – and newly released documents have revealed some disturbing evidence…”

“Working with [MK] Nurit Koren, MyHeritage, a company that researches family ancestry, recently began offering help to Yemenite Jews who have a missing child, or who think they were secretly adopted. Leah Aharoni, who has long been convinced that her daughter, Hanna, could be alive and searching for her biological family, gave a DNA sample… to be checked against others in a new database for Yemenite-Israelis. “I want to find out where my daughter went. I want her to know that I didn’t abandon her, that I love her,” Leah says… A few months ago, Yehuda Kantor became the first person to be reunited with his biological family through the MyHeritage testing programme.” [BBC

“Why Have Jewish Orgs. Been Silent About Otto Warmbier’s Death?” by Liel Leibovitz: “Otto Warmbier, an American student at the University of Virginia—who was active in Hillel and who went on Birthright, where he received a Hebrew name—died yesterday after being arrested and tortured by North Korea. You’d think that the cluster of handsomely funded Jewish organizations that fly the banner of promoting and protecting Jewish life in America and abroad would notice and acknowledge Warmbier’s murder. So far, though, American Jewish officialdom has been deafeningly silent. The odious Anne Frank Center… didn’t bother taking a break from bashing Donald Trump to lament a young Jew put to death by the world’s worst offender of human rights. Nor did the ADL, an organization quick to stand up with Linda Sarsour as she denied Jews their right to self-determination but not so swift when the victim was a young Jewish man whose crime was pulling a silly prank at his hotel.” [Tablet• Otto Warmbier’s family objects to autopsy [NYPost

MEDIA WATCH — “Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump surrogate, now defends him as a Sinclair TV pundit” by Paul Farhi: “In his initial pieces for Sinclair, the owner of the largest string of TV stations in the nation, Epshteyn has played much the same role he did during the presidential campaign — as a Trump booster and defender. His “Bottom Line With Boris” segments have echoed positions taken by Trump himself… Epshteyn appears by himself on his two-minute segments, making him more akin to commentators such as Fox’s Sean Hannity or MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.” [WashPost]

“Under New Editor, Adelson’s Israel Hayom Quietly Getting Less Netanyahu Friendly” by Nati Tucker: “[Boaz] Bismuth also has more ambitious editorial plans than his predecessor Amos Regev did… Bismuth is pressing reporters to get scoops and is highlighting them on the front page. He is also following the advice of the U.S. consulting team and making the newspaper’s website more dynamic. Breaking stories and scoops now go up on the site before they appear in the newspaper. For readers, however, the biggest change of all is how Israel Hayom presents itself. It is quietly trying to jettison the image of Netanyahu’s newspaper and become a newspaper of the center-right… Photos of Sara Netanyahu attending events or traveling with her husband abroad, once a staple of the paper, have largely disappeared from its pages. But articles that present the prime minster in a bad light still don’t get published.” [Haaretz]

HEARD THE OTHER DAY — American novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon on Israel national radio: “Every morning I wake up and in the seconds before I turn my phone on to see what the latest news is, I have this boundless sense of optimism and hope that this is the day that [Trump] is going to have a massive stroke and be carted out of the White House on a gurney. And every day, so far, I have been disappointed in that hope, but, you know, hope springs eternal.” [Kann]

Israel Prime Minister Compares Peace Policy to NFL Football: “Netanyahu told a group of NFL Hall of Famers that his approach to peace is “no different” from how a football player prepares for victory … be strong or else. The meeting was arranged by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft… “You seek peace but you’ve got to be strong. If you’re not strong you’ll never get peace and if you’re not strong you’ll be more in turmoil and the worst thing is you’ll lose… Your game is no different from ours. The only difference is if we lose the consequences are immutable. And we’ve had enough of that in our history. So we won’t let that happen again.”” [TMZ]

“Jim Brown meets with Browns Backers of Israel” by Andrew Gribble: “Browns legend Jim Brown met Tuesday with the Israel chapter of Browns Backers as he traveled through the country with 17 other Pro Football Hall of Famers. Brown is participating in the weeklong “Touchdown in Israel II”…  The Browns Backers Worldwide (BBW) is considered to be one of the largest organized fan clubs in all of professional sports with members and Clubs established throughout the world.” [CLVBrowns]

Israeli Alon Day is set to make NASCAR debut: “Alon Day will become the first driver from Israel to ever compete in NASCAR’s top series next weekend in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 driving the BK Racing No. 23 EarthWater Limited Toyota Camry. Day, a 25 year-old native of Tel Aviv, Israel, was named Israel’s 2016 “Athlete of the Year”… “I’m very excited to make my debut in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next week in Sonoma,” said Day. He continued, “Being the first Israeli who is going to race in NASCAR’s highest Series is a dream come true.”” [RacingNews]

DESSERT: “Hidden message reveals ancient soldiers’ thirst for wine” by Chris Mercer: “Scientists from Tel Aviv University used ground-breaking image technology to uncover an eroded message on the shard of pottery, found near the site of an ancient fortress and dating to around 600 BC. Their research revealed an order for wine, oil and flour, most likely from soldiers stationed at the fortress, located near to the modern-day Israeli city of Arad… ‘It begins with a request for wine – “If there is any wine, send [quantity]” – as well as a guarantee for assistance if the addressee has any requests of his own,’ researchers said.” [Decanter]

“Christian-Born Teaneck Pizza Shop Owner Feels Connected To Kosher Community” by Cecilia Levine: “A Jewish star hangs around Hanna Mendez’ neck as she tends to business in her Teaneck store. But Mendez, who recently took over Cedar Lane’s Pizzalicious — and added frozen yogurt section Berrylicious to it — is not Jewish: She was born and raised a Christian in Mexico. “People will never understand when you’re not Jewish but you feel that you are,” said Mendez of White Plains, N.Y. “It’s something that pulls so hard.” [DailyVoice]

“Restaurant Review: Is This Silver Lake Israeli Spot Worth the Hype?” by Besha Rodell: “Chef-owner Conor Shemtov… grew up in Los Angeles, but his father is Israeli, and he’s spent a lot of time eating in Israel. As such, this is being billed as an Israeli restaurant, a distinction that’s becoming common as a catch-all designation for restaurants with jumbled Middle Eastern influences.” [LAWeekly]

** FRIDAY NIGHT IN ASPEN: For the second year in a row, Jewish Insideris partnering with OneTable and The Paul E. Singer Foundation to host a Fridaynight dinner on the sidelines of the Aspen Ideas Festival. The dinner, on June 30th, will also feature an upscale Israeli and California wine tasting from our own Yitz Applbaum. The dinner is open to all – whether you’re 25 or 65, we’ve got a seat at the table for you. RSVP Here [OneTable] **

BIRTHDAYS: Former member of the US House of Representatives (1993-1995), mother-in-law of Chelsea Clinton, Marjorie Margolies (formerly known as Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky) turns 75… British businessman, co-founder with his brother Charles of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi which became the largest in the world, appointed to the House of Lords in 1996, Baron Maurice Saatchi turns 71… UK cabinet minister in both the Thatcher and Major governments, Sir Malcolm Leslie Rifkind turns 71… Creditors rights’ attorney at Chicago-area Blitt & Gaines, David Stephen Miller turns 67… Senior counselor at The Reis Group, a PR firm, since 2013, following 32 years of experience as an award-winning journalist with The Washington Post, Peter Perl turns 67… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party since 2013, he was the head of Jerusalem branch of the Israel Police (2000-2003) and then an attache at the Israeli embassy in Washington, Mickey Levy turns 66… Washington Institute fellow and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, David Makovsky turns 57… Former general manager of Bloomberg Politics, Tanya Rebecca Singer turns 44… Former Trump aide, hired and fired three times, Sam Nunberg turns 36… Born in Melbourne, Australia, now living in San Francisco, co-founder and CEO of Kaggle, a data science platform acquired by Google in March 2017, Anthony Goldbloom turns 34… Director of communications and marketing at the New York Community Trust, he is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, David L. Marcus… Susan Gutman… Daniel Padilla

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DRIVING THE DAY — GA06 SPECIAL: “Both Parties Look to Georgia to Send a Message” by Clare Foran: “The special election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel is down to the wire and too close to call as voters head to the polls on Tuesday to decide who will replace former Republican representative Tom Price, who now serves as President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.” [TheAtlantic]

The debate over Jon Ossoff’s “outsider” status reveals the core of the race” by Jeff Stein: “Though born in the district, Ossoff, 30, is the son of an Australian immigrant mother and a Jewish father of Russian-Lithuanian descent. He would be only the second Jew elected to represent Georgia in Congress, and the first in decades.” [Vox]

RJC’s Matt Brooks emails: “The GA 6 race has taken on national significance as the Democrats have tried now for the 3rd time (MT/KS and now GA) to make this a referendum on President Trump. The candidate they’ve chosen is a young, inexperienced Junior staffer who doesn’t live in the district and who worked for a Congressman who called Jewish settlers “termites.” In addition Ossoff has been heavily funded by J Street. Karen Handel by comparison is an accomplished and highly qualified candidate. The RJC has worked hard on her behalf and has raised very significant money for her. In the end while this will be a close race, I’m confident that by tonight Karen Handel will be the next Congresswoman from that district.”

Democratic donor Andrew Weinstein tells us: “Georgia 6 is a reliably Republican district that’s been in GOP hands since 1979. Tom Price won the district by 23 points in 2016 and Romney carried it in 2012 by the same margin. That a 30 year old Democrat who has never held elected office before is even competitive there should cause some sleepless nights for Republicans regardless of the outcome. President Trump currently has a 38% approval rating. When a Presidents approval is below 50%, their party typically loses somewhere around 30 seats in the House. The Democrats need a net pickup of 24 seats to retake the majority. Though the midterms are still a long way away, and a lot can happen between now and then, an Ossoff win will be viewed by many as a sign of a wave election. That perception alone is guaranteed to impact incumbent retirements, candidate recruitment, fundraising, & grassroots enthusiasm. Once that wave starts to build, it’s hard to stop it.”

“Jon Ossoff’s secret weapon in tight Georgia race: Jewish moms and daughters” by Ron Kampeas: 
“Ossoff… has cultivated Jewish voters: Leah Fuhr, the campaign’s political affairs manager, has organized a number of outings for Jews for Ossoff… Fuhr says she is surprised at the strength of Jewish support. “Jews here tend to lean more Republican than nationally,” she says. “But in this election, he’s getting more Jewish support.” … But talk to his Jewish backers and the first issues they mention are universal: women’s rights and Trump’s pledge to roll back the health care reforms of his predecessor, Barack Obama.” [JTA

EXCLUSIVE — Dina Powell visited AIPAC’s Board — by Aaron Magid: 
White House Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell accepted an invitation to meet with AIPAC’s National Board over lunch last week where she had a broad range foreign policy discussion on the latest developments in the Middle East and, in particular, those relating to Israel. AIPAC Spokesman Marshall Wittmann confirmed the meeting in an email to Jewish Insider on Monday. “We were pleased to host Ms. Powell at our Board meeting, and we had a good exchange of views and perspectives,” Wittmann said. [JewishInsider

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Jared Kushner Is About to Plunge Into Middle East Diplomacy” by Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman: 
“A senior administration official said Mr. Kushner’s trip to the Mideast had been planned for several weeks… Several officials said this could be the first trip in which Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt delved into the nitty-gritty of a possible peace agreement — borders, security and other questions that have bedeviled American peacemakers for decades — by asking both sides to list their priorities for negotiations… Mr. Kushner’s participation, officials said, will raise the stakes for both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.” [NYTimes]

HEARD, NOT SEEN, YESTERDAY — WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer in off-camera, no-audio gaggle: “This is a continuation of the President’s trip and conversations that he began in Israel to further Middle East peace and make incremental changes in the right direction… I think part of it is to figure out how to make incremental change that results in a lasting peace. Part of this is really to utilize the trust that has been built up, and not have these negotiations out in public. But I think that they had a very successful visit when the President was over there and they’re going to continue to build on that.”

–Rosie Gray asked Steve Bannon why White House briefings are now off camera. He texted back: “Sean got fatter.” h/t Yoni Appelbaum [TwitterAtlantic]

“Trump ups the ante in diplomatic process by dispatching Kushner to region” by Herb Keinon: “Kushner’s arrival and involvement in the process “raises the stakes for everyone,” [Daniel] Shapiro said (in a conference call on Monday organized by the Israel Project), with the President’s son-in-law essentially daring each of the parties to say “no.” “My guess is that they won’t… My supposition is that no party will want to say ‘no.’ They may say, ‘ yes, but;’, or, ‘yes, with reservations.’” [JPostToI]

Jason Greenblatt tweets: “Before my meeting with Netanyahu, I met with Yitzhak Molcho this morning. He shared his experience in how to build peace… Ahead of Jared Kushner’s visit to the region, today I met with Palestinian leaders to further our discussions on how to achieve peace… Met with Yossi Klein Halevi today and heard his perspective on peace. Appreciate Yossi’s insight and time.” [Twitter]

Bibi’s tweetstorm: 
“Palestinian President Abbas tells the world that he educates Palestinian children for peace. That’s a lie. Last week, the Palestinian Authority named a public square after Khaled Nazzal, a Palestinian terrorist chief… Naming yet another public square for a mass murderer teaches Palestinian youngsters to murder Israelis. That’s the very opposite of peace… President Abbas: stop poisoning the minds of Palestinian youth. Educate for peace, not terror.” [TwitterNewsweek]

TIMING DEPT: “Ground broken for first new West Bank settlement in 25 years” by Sue Surkes and Jacob Magid: “Netanyahu announced Tuesday that ground had been broken for the construction of the first Israeli West Bank settlement in 25 years. The new settlement, to be known as Amichai, is to accommodate residents of the illegal Amona outpost, which was evacuated in February in line with court orders because it was built on private Palestinian land.” [ToIBBC• Settlement tours: a new frontline in Israel’s ideological conflict [Reuters]

IRAN DEAL: “The CIA’s Secret Talks With Obama’s Arab Back Channel” by Eli Lake: While Obama used Oman’s good relations with Iran to advance his diplomacy with Iran, the Trump administration sees its ties to Iran as a problem. This was part of the delicate message Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo and Trump’s deputy national security adviser, General Ricky Waddell, delivered to Qaboos in a secret visit to Muscat on June 11… One U.S. official told me that Pompeo and Waddell were careful not to ask the Sultan to cut ties with Iran. That would be impossible for the Omanis, given their economic dependence on Iran. But the message was clear that Oman should take more action to stop Iran’s resupplying of the Houthis.” [Bloomberg]

TOP TALKER: “Michael Flynn, Trump’s Ex-National Security Adviser, is Target of New House Inquiry Related to His Dealings in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East” by Jeff Stein: “Newsweek reported on June 9 that Flynn had traveled to Egypt and Israel in the summer of 2015 as an adviser on a project to pursue a joint U.S.-Russian-Saudi business venture to develop nuclear facilities located in—and financed by—Saudi Arabia. He did not report that trip… As the Elijah Cummings-Eliot Engel letter on Monday noted, “According to a financial disclosure form that General Flynn submitted after he was fired as National Security Advisor, he did not begin advising X-Co Dynamics Inc./IronBridge Group until August 2015,” two months after his trip to Israel and Egypt.  “I met him in Israel on the end of a two-stop trip,” Thomas Cochran, a physicist advising the ACU group, told Newsweek. “This project makes no sense unless it has the complete support of the Israeli government.””[Newsweek]  

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — “For Jay Sekulow, New Trump Lawyer, Public Stumble Is Out of Character” by Charlie Savage: “Mr. Sekulow was born to a Reform Jewish family in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, according to a first-person account he posted on the website jewsforjesus.org. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Atlanta, where he attended the Atlanta Baptist College because it was a short distance from his house… As a student there, he wrote, he became convinced that Jesus was the savior predicted by Hebrew prophets. “I wasn’t concerned about how my parents would respond,” he wrote. “It didn’t enter my mind that they might be upset. After all, Jesus was a Jew. I knew that much. I didn’t see what the big deal would be about my believing he was the Jewish Messiah.” His parents, he wrote, accepted his decision.” [NYTimes

“Mueller team lawyer brings witness-flipping expertise to Trump probes” by Karen Freifeld: “Andrew Weissmann, who headed the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal fraud section before joining Mueller’s team last month, is best known for two assignments – the investigation of now-defunct energy company Enron and organized crime cases in Brooklyn, New York – that depended heavily on gaining witness cooperation… Kathryn Ruemmler, who served as White House counsel under former President Barack Obama, said Weissmann is willing to take risks to secure witness testimony that other prosecutors might not… “He’s not afraid to lose, and that is sometimes an unusual quality,” Ruemmler said of Weissmann.” [Reuters]

“Let’s Not Get Carried Away” by David Brooks: “There may be a giant revelation still to come. But as the Trump-Russia story has evolved, it is striking how little evidence there is that any underlying crime occurred — that there was any actual collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russians… There’s just something worrisome every time we find ourselves replacing politics of democracy with the politics of scandal. In democracy, the issues count, and you try to win by persuasion. You recognize that your opponents are legitimate, that they will always be there and that some form of compromise is inevitable… The politics of scandal is delightful for cable news. It’s hard to build ratings arguing about health insurance legislation. But it’s easy to build ratings if you are a glorified Court TV, if each whiff of scandal smoke generates hours of “Breaking News” intensity and a deluge of speculation from good-looking former prosecutors.” [NYTimes]

“How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration” by Peter Beinart: “Between 2008 and 2016, Democrats became more and more confident that the country’s growing Latino population gave the party an electoral edge. To win the presidency, Democrats convinced themselves, they didn’t need to reassure white people skeptical of immigration so long as they turned out their Latino base… As the Democrats grew more reliant on Latino votes, they were more influenced by pro-immigrant activism… Liberals must take seriously Americans’ yearning for social cohesion. To promote both mass immigration and greater economic redistribution, they must convince more native-born white Americans that immigrants will not weaken the bonds of national identity. This means dusting off a concept many on the left currently hate: assimilation.” [TheAtlantic]

2018 WATCH:” Sources: Heller gets Democratic opponent for 2018 race” by Seung Min Kim and Burgess Everett: “Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) plans to run against Republican Sen. Dean Heller for his Senate seat in Nevada, according to multiple people familiar with her plans… Rosen is expected to formally announce in a couple weeks, according to one source. The recruitment of Rosen has the strong imprint of former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada… After Reid settled on Rosen, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “closed the deal” and talked to Rosen four or five times to convince her to run, that person said.” [Politico] • Read our recent profile of Rep. Rosen: From Synagogue President to Member of Congress [JewishInsider]  

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

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israel’s Bezeq Sinks After Chairman Called Into Securities Probe [Bloomberg] • Inventor Dean Kamen: Next big thing engineered organs, not AI [Axios] • Soros Says U.K. Is Approaching ‘Tipping Point’ as Brexit Bites [Bloomberg] • Amazon Prime Picks up Israeli Comedy Series Worldwide [HollywoodReporter]

VOICE OF JARED — “After 150 days, Jared Kushner speaks” by Michael A. Memoli: “Jared Kushner.. is often seen at the president’s side. But until Monday, he had never been heard by much of the public. So Kushner’s otherwise unremarkable voice proved to be among the more interesting things at the kick-off event of what the White House is calling “Tech Week.” On the administration’s 150th day, the 36-year-old adviser spoke before reporters and television cameras to discuss one of the initiatives he’s leading: a review of how private-sector solutions could be adapted to modernize government’s technological infrastructure… All told, Kushner spoke for just under seven minutes.” [LATimesVideo]

How It Played: Jared Kushner Actually Has A Voice [HuffPost] • Kicking off Tech Week, Jared Kushner rallies tech leaders against floppy disks[TechCrunch] • “He’s a beautiful little bar mitzvah boy reading a speech his father wrote him, the meaning of which largely evades his soft mind.”[TheSlot]

TALK OF OUR NATION: Teen raises $15K to send Holocaust survivor to Israel: “A Southern California teen raised about $15,000 to send an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor to Israel so the man can meet his last living relative and finally receive his bar mitzvah, according to a newspaper report Monday. Drew Principe, 17, said he came up with the idea for a fundraiser after meeting Henry Oster during a school assembly in January. Oster… and his family were deported by Nazis from their home in Cologne, Germany, a few weeks before he was supposed to celebrate his bar mitzvah… He was sent to a few different camps before being liberated at 17 and eventually moving to Los Angeles to become an optometrist. Principe discovered that Oster had never been to Israel, so the teen decided on the spot to give the man a bracelet he had bought on a trip to the Holy Land a few years ago. The bracelet has the Shema, a Jewish prayer, inscribed on it. “It really is a gesture that cannot be measured,” Oster told the Ventura County Star… “I have not taken this off except for the shower.”” [APDailyMail]

“A rabbi, a reverend and an imam have a plan for peace in middleAmerica” by Dan Simon: “Nebraska’s largest city (Omaha) will soon also be known as the home of interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding. A rabbi, a reverend and an imam (no, it’s not a setup joke) are partners in a decadelong quest to bring together the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — to share and worship on the same property. It’s called Tri-Faith Initiative… The location chosen for the sacred endeavor is the old golf course of Highland Country Club, a “Jewish Club” developed in the 1920s when Jews were excluded from other clubs in the city and around the country… “If you can’t create peace in the Middle East — what about Omaha?” quipped Rabbi [Aryeh] Azriel, [the former senior rabbi at Omaha’s Temple Israel].” [CNN

“‘I felt afraid’: Lawsuit claims public university fostered anti-Semitism on campus” by Susan Svrluga: “A group of students and community members filed a lawsuit Monday against San Francisco State University and its leaders, alleging that the public school has fostered a climate of anti-Semitism “marked by violent threats to the safety of Jewish students on campus.” “I didn’t have the right to speak on my own campus; I felt afraid as a Jewish student,” said Jacob Mandel, who just graduated from San Francisco State… The lawsuit grew out of a confrontation in April 2016 when Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, was invited by SF Hillel to speak. Protesters yelled chants such as “Get the f— off our campus” and “Long live the intifada! Intifada, intifada!” using a microphone and bullhorns to drown out the speaker.” [WashPost

KAFE KNESSET — Kotel fight heats up — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: The Western Wall is back on the political agenda, and once again, the Haredi parties and their supporters are pitted against the Conservative and Reform streams of American Jewry. On the heels of demands by Shas and UTJ to Netanyahu that the government cancel its decision to expand a pluralistic section on the southern end of the Western Wall, the Chief Rabbinate came to the Knesset with demands to have its own representation in court, separate from the government, since it disagrees with the Cabinet’s resolution on the egalitarian section.

The Justice Ministry, however, put its proverbial foot down, saying that the government can only present one position to the courts. MKs raucously debated the issue – but the strife came from within the coalition, and there are even disagreements within the Likud. Meanwhile, Likud MK David Amsalem continued his Shas-esque tirades against Reform Judaism, tweeting: “[US President Donald] Trump came to the Kotel, respected Jewish values, and entered the men’s section without his wife. Who doesn’t respect us? Reform. Who wants to help them? Apparently the government and the High Court.” … No word yet on what Trump’s Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt thinks, but he did visit the Kotel, tweeting a photo and that he “prayed for an end to violence and that we would experience the blessings of peace.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

HEARD LAST NIGHT The Atlantic dissects the alt-right at 6th and I — by Aaron Magid: Leading writers from The Atlantic discussed the alt-right’s ideology and its future last night at the 6th and I Synagogue in DC. Commenting on the usage of “America First” to describe the President’s foreign policy, Editor in Chief Jeffrey Goldberg emphasized, “There’s politically correct and there’s Nazi slogans, right? It’s true that human beings can get used to anything but when a leading candidate for President of the US hears a Nazi-ish slogan and continues to use it, that’s a relatively novel experience in modern American politics.”

Political reporter Rosie Gray explained that one of the challenges of covering the alt-right was that there is no actual statistical data quantifying the number of alt-right American activists. Interestingly, she clarified that senior White House Advisor Steve Bannon shouldn’t be characterized as part of the alt-right movement. “Under his (Bannon) leadership, Breitbart has shown itself as alt-right curious but I wouldn’t lump Steve Bannon with Richard Spencer,” Gray said. When asked which member of the Trump administration appears to be most receptive to hardcore nationalist ideas, Gray selected Stephen Miller, the former Congressional aide to Senator Jeff Sessions. “Do they (alt-right) know that he’s (Stephen Miller) Jewish?” Goldberg quipped. [JewishInsider]

MEDIA WATCH: “The Not-So-Bitter Rivalry of Dean Baquet and Marty Baron” by Joe Pompeo: “Baron and Baquet are the two most important newspaper editors in America right now, at a time when the media is tackling the most epic and consequential story of the past 40 years… When it comes to inside reports from intelligence and national security agencies, the Times and the Post, with their expanding rosters of veteran correspondents, have the greatest institutional advantages. In particular, the investigations into whether the Trump team colluded with Russia in the 2016 election have played to the historic strengths of both newspapers. … The result has been a resurgence of ink-stained combat that makes NYT v. WaPo the most compelling journalistic rivalry since the days of Baquet and Baron’s respective forefathers, Abe Rosenthal and Ben Bradlee… Baron was born and raised in Tampa, the son of Jewish immigrants who arrived in the U.S. from Israel via Paris in 1954.” [PoliticoMag]

TRANSITION: “HuffPost’s Sam Stein leaving for the Daily Beast” by Erik Wemple: “Days after HuffPost announced a round of layoffs, one of its longtime voices is making a leap of his own accord: Sam Stein, the site’s senior politics editor, is joining the Daily Beast in a similar capacity… Nearly a decade ago, Stein was among three staffers… who launched the site’s Washington bureau in a one-office room at the Watergate… He covered Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and made history in February 2009 when he became the first legitimate online-only reporter to pose a question to the president at a press conference.” [WashPost

SPOTTED — at the annual New York Board of Rabbis Humanitarian Awards Dinner last night at the Pierre in NYC: Rabbi Joe Potasnik, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Robert Tucker, Vincent Pitta, JCRC’s Michael Miller, William Berger, Steve Cohen, Rabbi Debbie Bravo, Rabbi Lester Bronstein, David Alpert, Michael Lipman, Stefan Sansone, Stephen Palmese, Diana Gerson, WNBC anchor David Price, Meir Laufer, Ezra Friedlander, Pinny Ringel, and Alicia Post.

SPORTS BLINK: “Amar’e Stoudemire has 3 options after ‘roller-coaster’ season in Israel” by Marc Berman: “Amar’e Stoudemire is back from the Holy Land with a championship in tow, and he has not ruled out a return to the NBA — and the Knicks. Stoudemire arrived back in Miami on Sunday after his Hapoel Jerusalem club, despite being the fourth seed in playoffs, captured the Israeli Premier League championship on Thursday with an 83-76 victory over Maccabi Haifa. Now, what’s next? Stoudemire said he enjoyed living in Israel (he’s applied for citizenship). “To play and win a championship my first year there, I could just call it quits and leave as a champion,’’ said Stoudemire, who never made it to the NBA Finals. “That could be an option. Another option is maybe to play with a team that needs quality veteran leadership here in the NBA. That could be an option. Or I could go back and defend the title for a back-to-back. I have time to think about it. Those are my three options.” [NYPost]

Heard in Israel — “Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis: NFL’s been cagey on concussions” by Aron Heller: “Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis says the NFL has taken advantage of its players by not sharing with them all the information it had about the risk of concussions. After viewing an innovation expo in Jerusalem that included a presentation from ElMindA, an Israeli neuro-technology company that can help the NFL diagnose concussions, Bettis said Monday that he was encouraged by the progress but still perplexed about how transparent the league has been over the years.” [AP]

DESSERT: “Israel’s complicated relationship with other nations is what makes its food so good” by Debra Kamin: “On Friday mornings at Dizengoff Center, one of the flagship malls in central Tel Aviv, the term “food court” takes on a whole new meaning. Carts peddling home-cooked dishes from Iraq, Iran and Tunisia are wheeled in, as are those packed with delicacies from Italy, Morocco and old Europe. At the Persian stand, well-dressed young Israelis queue up for Gondi, an Iranian spin on matzo-ball soup; at the Tunisian stall, they grab steaming bowls of chicken and whole eggs in the shell that has been enjoyed in Tunis for centuries…”

“But to Israelis, the Friday food fair at Dizengoff Center is not an EPCOT-style bonanza of foreign cuisine. It is one of the most accurate — and appetizing — cross-sections of Israeli food to be found in the Jewish State. The colorful smorgasbord on hand is both totally Israeli, and also not Israeli as all, because of one simple fact: there is no true definition of Israeli food, because for Israeli food, like Israelis themselves, nationality is complicated.” [Mic]

** FRIDAY NIGHT IN ASPEN: For the second year in a row, Jewish Insideris partnering with OneTable and The Paul E. Singer Foundation to host a Fridaynight dinner on the sidelines of the Aspen Ideas Festival. The dinner, on June 30th, will also feature an upscale Israeli and California wine tasting from our own Yitz Applbaum. The dinner is open to all – whether you’re 25 or 65, we’ve got a seat at the table for you. RSVP Here [OneTable] **

BIRTHDAYS: Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro turns 44… Academy Award, SAG and Golden Globe award winning actor, Martin Landau turns 89… Weston, Florida resident Harold Kurte turns 88… Writer, humorist, journalist and author of over 70 books including four series of children’s books, Dan Greenburg turns 81… Born in Baghdad, made aliyah in 1950, served as a member of Knesset for the Ratz party and then the Meretz party (1984-2009), served as Minister of Industry and Trade (1999-2000), Ran Cohen turns 80… Detroit-based pawnbroker, reality TV star, author and speaker, Leslie “Les” Gold turns 67… Senior political editor at NBC News and adjunct professor at CUNY’s Baruch College, Gregg Birnbaum turns 57 (h/t Playbook)… Rabbi of Baltimore’s Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion, founding editor of Klal Perspectives and popular lecturer on Jewish law, thought and philosophy, Rabbi Moshe Hauer turns 52… Politico’s White House and Justice Department reporter, Josh Gerstein turns 47… Journalist and EMT in NYC, formerly media editor for Gawker and director of public relations for the Village Voice, Maggie Shnayerson turns 36… Jennifer Bernstein turns 32… Associate Executive Director at Hillel Montreal, Beverley Shimansky… Alan Schulman

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

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