Daily Kickoff: Spotlight on AIPAC in the Age of Trump | Reed Cordish set to join Trump Admin | ‘Jerusalem-First Option’ | Israel’s flying car drone

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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “No One Is Afraid of AIPAC” by Armin Rosen: “At first blush, at least, a Trump presidency promises everything that AIPAC, America’s largest pro-Israel lobbying group, could ever wish for… In reality, Trump poses a string of new problems for AIPAC. “There’s definitely no question that it was better and easier for [AIPAC] if Hillary won,” said one Democratic strategist recently. “Policy is only part of it. It would’ve been an opportunity or their best chance at hitting reset for Democrats… In this new world where J Street really is a pro-Israel validator for segments of the Democrats and the Zionist Organization of America is a validator for segments of the Republicans, what’s AIPAC role?” the strategist wondered…”

“AIPAC’s mea culpa displeased the Trump team and Kushner himself, and the episode seems unlikely to be forgotten by a president who is infamous for holding grudges… Nor are AIPAC’s bipartisan policy prescriptions likely to convince Trump that AIPAC is a natural ally. For example, the 2016 Republican Party platform makes no mention of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, undermining AIPAC’s long-time bipartisan two-state doctrine, which soon mysteriously disappeared from sections of the organization’s website. The views of David Friedman, Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel, are well to the right of AIPAC’s. The White House and the Israeli government might find it convenient to ignore a flagship pro-Israel lobbying organization that likes to advertise its influence and which serves as a lightning rod for attacks on Jewish political power from both the left and the right.” [TabletMag]

Trump’s Israel Ambassador David Friedman told Jewish Insider in November: “I think that he has great respect for AIPAC,” Friedman said of Trump, who is now President-elect. “AIPAC does wonderful things, not just in terms of running the conference and in being an advocate for the interests of Israel, but also I think of the role it plays in educating people about Israel, I think in a very balanced way. He has great respect for AIPAC, and I think he will maintain a very good relationship with AIPAC. I think as well, AIPAC is a good example, but I think there are other Jewish organizations as well that he has great respect for.” [JewishInsider]

SCOOP: “Reed Cordish set to join Trump Administration: Sources” by Jacob Kornbluh: “Questions remain whether Jared Kushner will join the incoming Trump Administration in a formal White House role. While lawyers are left to address anti-nepotism law questions, Kushner is busying himself with helping close friends line up West Wing positions… Reed Cordish is the son of David Cordish, CEO and Chairman of Cordish Companies… David Cordish also serves as a member of AIPAC’s National Board. This is notable, as some around the Trump campaign — particularly Jared Kushner himself — were upset over AIPAC President Lillian Pinkus’s apology at the organization’s Policy Conference last year…”

“A week after Trump launched his campaign for the Republican nomination, Cordish convinced his friend to keynote the Maryland GOP’s Annual Dinner, held at a Marriott near BWI Airport. Introducing Trump, Cordish recalled how he asked Ivanka if she had a twin sister who could date his youngest son, Reed. Instead, Ivanka set the junior Cordish up with one of her best friends from college, Margaret Katz. The couple married in 2010 in the backyard of what was to be their future Baltimore home, with Jared and Ivanka in attendance.” [JewishInsider] • Pic of Jared & Ivanka at Reed Cordish’s wedding [JI-Pic]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner have found their D.C. home” by Helena Andrews-Dyer: “The couple’s new six-bedroom home is on Tracy Place NW, just blocks from the house the Obamas will be renting during their bonus two-year stint in the District… The house is within close walking distance of TheShul at Chabad-Lubavitch Center… Washington Fine Properties represented both sides in the transaction, according to Washingtonian magazine.” [WashPost; Washingtonian]  

TOP TALKER: “In Graft Inquiry, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Worst Enemy May Be Himself,” by Isabel Kershner and Peter Baker: “Abraham Diskin, a political scientist at the Academic Center of Law and Science outside Tel Aviv who has advised Mr. Netanyahu, said on Tuesday that it was “not very clear that Netanyahu is going to escape some kind of indictment.” And “once there is an indictment,” Professor Diskin added, “he will have to resign.” Details of the graft investigation remain murky — “the truth is that we don’t know anything,” Professor Diskin said — but the questions it raises are clear: Could an appetite for high living abetted by wealthy business executives ultimately undercut Mr. Netanyahu as it has so many other politicians in Israel and around the globe?” [NYTimes]

SPOTLIGHT: “Chuck Schumer: Trump opposition leader” by Dana Bash and Abigail Crutchfield: “The only way we’re going to work with him is if he moves completely in our direction and abandons his Republican colleagues,” Schumer said. “90-95% of the time, we’ll be holding his feet to the fire, holding him accountable. But we’re Democrats, we’re not going to just oppose things to oppose them,” he added… Over the past several years, Schumer has tried to be more disciplined. He’s more likely to either be on his cell phone in the Capitol hallways, or pretend to be, in order to avoid talking to reporters… Though he proudly declared that he bought a new suit for his first day as leader, he is clearly still the same rumpled guy who slept for 30-plus years on a mattress next to the kitchen in a rundown group house owned by former Rep. George Miller. He now lives in an apartment, which is why he told us he is excited to have a large balcony outside his Capitol office.” [CNN] • Inside Schumer’s inner circle [Politico]

Jacob Kornbluh:.”Sen. Schumer does the ‘Birchat Kohanim’ sign at swearing in #ShomerYisrael.” [Twitter

ON THE HILL: “GOP Senators Introduce Legislation to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital” by JI’s Aaron Magid: “The bill brought by Dean Heller (R-NV), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) also withholds some of the State Department’s funds until the embassy is relocated to Jerusalem.“It is finally time to cut through the double-speak and broken promises and do what Congress said we should do in 1995: formally move our embassy to the capital of our great ally Israel,” Cruz declared… “The Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act” comes on the heels of other pro-Israel measures advocated by the 115th Congress including a bill that condemns the United Nations for passing Security Council resolution 2234 criticizing Israeli settlements.” [JewishInsider]

Politico/Morning Consult poll: “Just 43% had heard not much or nothing about the U.N.’s resolution condemning Israel for building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Voters are split on whether Israel is right to build in those disputed areas. 28% support it, 28% say it’s illegal and 44% said they didn’t know or had no opinion. This shows a disconnect with Capitol Hill, which is working this week to condemn the U.N. resolution.” [Playbook]

“Abbas Says Trump Will Not Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Threatens Response if He Does” by Barak Ravid: “We are acting with patience and restraint in the face of president-elect Trump’s statements,” the source at the meeting quoted Abbas as saying. “We understand that things that are said during a campaign do not necessarily reflect the reality of his term. I do not believe that he will move the embassy to Jerusalem. Even he understands that this is a step with irreversible and broad significance beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” [Haaretz]

HEARD YESTERDAY: State Department spokesman John Kirby on CNN: “We’re not privy to any moves, any decisions or active efforts to go ahead and move the embassy. If that’s happening, and I’m certainly in no position to judge, we’re not aware of specific moves that are being made to that end. Our position has been and remains that moving the embassy is not constructive to the peace process, it’s not the right thing to do.” [Twitter

“Huckabee visits West Bank: ‘Build Israel Great Again’” by Oren Liebermann: “Standing in front of a bright red banner reading “Build Israel Great Again,” former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee… held a hat with the same catchphrase, and said he would bring one to Trump, whose campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” was the inspiration for the Maale Adumim banner. Huckabee told CNN that he rejected the use of the word “settlements.” “I think Israel has title deed to Judea and Samaria,” said Huckabee…”There’s no such thing as a settlement. They’re communities, they’re neighborhoods, they’re cities. There’s no such thing as an occupation.”” [CNN] • Huckabee on US action on UN vote and Kerry speech: ‘Cowardly betrayal of Israel’ [JPost

“A Zionist Weighs in on Trump’s Israel Stance” by Matthew Stein: “What does Mort Klein expect from the Trump administration and the future of US-Israel relations? We caught up with him at his home in Boca Raton to find out… It has given enormous power to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on campuses. Now they’ll be screaming that Israel is violating international law. The Arabs will feel encouraged. But the resolution has also galvanized most Jews, even those who are liberal, to say this is an outrage. They’ve lost sympathy for liberal Democrats like Obama and will now be more inclined to accept rational centrist positions they would have refused only a week ago.”

— ZOA President on increase of anti-Semitic acts since Trump’s election: “Trump loves Jews and Israel. [Trump’s chief strategist Stephen] Bannon loves Jews and Israel. Trump’s daughter and grandchildren are Orthodox Jews. I don’t know why there’s been an increase. But I think it’s important for Trump to make a major policy speech condemning racism and anti-Semitism in all its forms and to make it clear we’re going to crack down on this.”

— Klein on what will happen if Trump moves the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem: “Initially the Arab world will be screaming, because they think politically they have to, but I don’t think they really give a damn….Their biggest fear is of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and they know Israel can help them with that.” [Ozy]

“After Kerry’s Speech, Is the Two-State Solution Dead?” by Aaron David Miller: “As we’ve seen with the Arab Spring, Brexit and the rise of Mr. Trump, life is full of surprises. And it would be premature to pronounce the two-state solution dead and buried. More likely, it will remain trapped for the foreseeable future in a kind of twilight zone – too important to abandon, at least rhetorically, on one hand, yet just too difficult to implement on the other.” [WSJ]

“The Jerusalem-First Option” by Martin Indyk: “In previous peace talks, negotiations over the status of Jerusalem have been left for last, when progress on the other, less contentious issues might have made each side more amenable to accepting the legitimacy of the other side’s aspirations in the holy city. The new president, who seems attracted to disruption, can break this rule, using the embassy move to jump-start the moribund peace negotiations and deal with the thorniest issue first.” [NYTimes]

“Kissinger’s Washington Is Coming Back Around” by Eli Lake: “Officials with Donald Trump’s transition team tell me Kissinger has spent several hours since the election advising incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and his team. He’s also putting his network in place. He recommended his former assistant, K.T. McFarland, to be Flynn’s deputy, and urged Trump to nominate Rex Tillerson, the chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, as his secretary of state. Kissinger is one of the few people in Trump’s orbit who can get him on the phone whenever he wants, according to one transition adviser.” [Bloomberg]


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DEEP DIVE: “The Trader Seeking Revenge Against U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara” by Bethany McLean: “The anger is always lurking just below the surface for David Ganek. And as the pugnacious money manager begins to recount the events that led him to lose his hedge fund business, his influence as a patron of contemporary art, his status in Manhattan society, and some of his longtime friends, it threatens to boil over… The primary target of Ganek’s ire is Preet Bharara. Ganek’s suit has set up a potentially explosive confrontation—one that reads like an episode of the Showtime drama Billions—between an unlikely set of characters. And the implications for the chief protagonists on each side could be profound on both personal and professional fronts.” [FortuneMag]

MEDIA WATCH: “Gary Vaynerchuk Acquires Women’s Publisher PureWow” by Steven Perlberg: “Over the past few years, media companies ranging from BuzzFeed to Vice to the New York Times have expanded their in-house units that act like advertising agencies and work with big marketers. Increasingly, agencies are counteracting and creating editorial properties of their own, reaching new audiences across social media platforms. Now one well-known agency entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk, is outright acquiring a publisher: PureWow, a lifestyle digital media company focused on “upper” millennial and Gen-X women.” [WSJ]

STARTUP NATION: “Israel’s ‘flying car’ passenger drone moves closer to delivery” by Elana Ringler: The Cormorant, billed as a flying car, is capable of transporting 500kg (around half a tonne) of weight and traveling at 185 km (115 miles) per hour… Developers Urban Aeronautics believe the dark green drone, which uses internal rotors rather than helicopter propellers, could evacuate people from hostile environments and/or allow military forces safe access. “Just imagine a dirty bomb in a city and chemical substance of something else and this vehicle can come in robotically, remotely piloted, come into a street and decontaminate an area,” Urban Aeronautics founder and CEO Rafi Yoeli told Reuters.” [Reuters

FORBES 30 UNDER 30: “Meet The Consumer Technology 30 Under 30 Class Of 2017” by Ryan Mac: “As the 29-year-old CEO of San Francisco-based Doppler Labs and a member of the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 Consumer Technology list, Noah Kraft is attempting to forge his way through the unforgiving world of consumer hardware by developing new forms of audio wearables. Thus far, he’s been relatively successful, with one product launched and another on the way after a slight production delay. “With a software company, you can launch something and then you can rewrite the code,” he says. “You can make changes on the fly and really iterate.”” [Forbes] • Congrats to Ryan Melohn, co-founder of Expansion VC on making this year’s list [Forbes]

“Next Stop, Hawaii: Sheldon Adelson Sets Record With 18-hour Flight From Israel” by Gili Melnitcki: “Seventeen hours and 40 minutes – that’s the length, according to estimates, flown by American Jewish billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson after his departure from Israel on Monday in his private plane to Honolulu, Hawaii. The lengthy journey coincidentally set a record for the longest flight to ever depart from Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport… According to various reports, Adelson’s plane is personalized to his needs… Such a long flight requires the presence of multiple air crews on the plane, meaning that besides Adelson and his enterouge, as least three pilots must have been on board. It’s unkown if Adelson’s wife accompanied her husband on the record-setting flight.” [Haaretz]

“Mark Zuckerberg’s personal challenge this year is to travel all around the U.S. meeting new people” by Kurt Wagner: “By Zuckerberg’s estimation, that means he’ll need to travel to 30 states in 2017. (He’s already visited and met people in 20 of them apparently.) “After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they’re living, working and thinking about the future,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. He added that he hopes to meet with teachers and scientists and visit small towns and universities throughout the year.” [Recode

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: Its been dubbed as “the trial of the century”: the legal procedures against Elor Azaria, the 19 year old IDF soldier who shot a wounded Palestinian terrorist in Hebron last March have been catching the Israeli public’s attention for months and reached a milestone today, as a Tel Aviv military court decided to convict him of manslaughter. Three judges stated he killed the wounded Palestinian terrorist with no reason. For over two and a half hours, the judges read out the verdict, while hundreds of right wing demonstrators protested outside, clashing with police and chanting slogans against Palestinians, the left and liberal media. Even a Trump banner was spotted in the crowd.

The Elor Azaria case has divided Israeli society in recent months, exposing painful rifts and tensions between the military establishment and the political echelon.  Right wing politicians, including the PM himself, have embraced Azaria’s cause, and spoken out against the swift condemnation of his actions by the IDF leadership and former defense minister Moshe Yaalon. The affair is considered the main cause for last year’s biggest political tremor, when Netanyahu decided to fire Yaalon and replace him with Avigdor Liberman, and has prompted strong attacks against the IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who has insisted Azaria’s behaviour must be denounced. The verdict will not put an end to the political brouhaha: even before the final decision was read out, right wing politicians attacked the army and MKs started petitioning for his immediate pardon. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“In Israel, ultra-Orthodox artists start to make their mark” by Sara Toth Stub: “Once an anomaly, even featured on the Israeli evening news for his own art and for teaching his cheder students to draw, Brim is now among a growing number of Haredi artists contributing to Jerusalem’s contemporary art scene. More Haredi artists are participating in exhibitions, public art initiatives and seeking academic and professional training in the field. In addition to joining existing institutions, they are also carving out their own spaces, opening studios and galleries that cater specifically to their community’s needs for modesty and separation of the genders.” [TabletMag]

BIRTHDAYS: English celebrity chef, restaurateur and television star, Rick Stein turns 70… Founder and president of the Alliance for Justice in 1979, a progressive judicial advocacy group, after earlier stints at the EEOC (1973-76) and the ACLU (1976-79), Nan Aron turns 69… CEO since June 2001 of the Federation of American Hospitals, the advocacy organization for investor-owned hospitals, Charles N. (“Chip”) Kahn III turns 65… Member of Knesset since 1999, chairperson of Meretz (5 seats in the current Knesset) since 2012, Zehava Gal-On (born in Vilna, Lithuania as Zehava Schnipitzky) turns 61… Comedian, satirist, actor and New York Times-bestselling author, known for creating “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Andy Borowitz turns 59… Author of 30 best-selling mystery novels and thrillers, Harlan Coben turns 55… Emmy-award winning producer and journalist who oversees daily production and control room operations of “Morning Joe,” Ben Mayer turns 33 (h/t Playbook)… Development associate at the Association of Reform Zionists of America, previously an intern in J Street’s New York office, Alexander Langer… Daniel Zaretsky… Judah Gavant

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: Israeli police investigate Bibi | Inside Dan Senor’s bid for Globes | de Blasio’s Conservative Donors | NY Area Yeshiva Floor Hockey

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HOW SENOR SPENT THE HOLIDAYS — Over the past few weeks, reports and rumors have been swirling on both sides of the Atlantic about Dan Senor’s $13.6 million bid for the Globes newspaper. Senor submitted the bid after owner Eliezer Fishman’s assets entered bankruptcy proceedings. According to a report last week in Globes itself, “the bid to acquire ‘Globes’ is not related to American-Jewish billionaire Paul Singer. Senor wants to buy ‘Globes’ with his own money, and is not serving as a front for anybody.” Senor has said publicly — as recently as October to a group of entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv — that Israel deserves a world-class business newspaper, on par with the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.

Also last week, Haaretz reported that Senor’s New Media Group (the investment vehicle Senor formed to acquire media assets) “asked the court overseeing the sale of Globes to consider its bid for the financial daily, a day after receivers recommended selling it to another bidder. The New Media group, which made what appeared to be a last-minute 52­ million-shekel ($13.6 million) offer for Globes, has in fact been pursuing the newspaper for several months. The bid, which New Media said was preliminary and based on its conducting due diligence of the newspaper’s finances, was rejected by the receivers in favor of a 45-million-shekel offer made by Russian oligarch David Davidovich.”

Sources briefed on the matter tell us that over the past six months Senor assembled a team that includes KPMG’s Tel Aviv office and the Tel Aviv law firm Herzog Fox, to conduct financial and legal due diligence, respectively, on Globes; and a separate media business strategy team led by Andrew Perlmutter to explore opportunities for growing Globes. Perlmutter was a key player in turning around the Boston Globe, The Daily Beast, and launching Quartz for The Atlantic.

We’re told Senor first met with the Fishman family in Tel Aviv to explore a purchase, before the family’s business empire went into bankruptcy. After the receivers were appointed, Senor flew from the U.S. to London, and the receivers flew from Israel to London, to meet face-to-face on November 1 to discuss Senor’s bid. According to those familiar with the discussions, Senor was very clear that to make a binding bid, he would need to complete basic due diligence, but he argued that information he needed was being held back by the receivers.

Only in recent days have the receivers begun to provide Senor the information he requested, but the window for receiving all of the data and evaluating it is now very short. In the meantime, as recently as last week, Senor met with the company’s employees via phone and video conferences — including journalists, administrative personnel, and print facility employees — and we’re told they were ‘enthusiastic’ about Senor’s bid and his vision for Globes as a top-notch financial and tech news organization.

TOP TALKER: “Benjamin Netanyahu Questioned in Israel Graft Inquiry” by Isabel Kershner: “Mr. Netanyahu was questioned “under caution,” the police said in a statement, implying that there were grounds to suspect that Mr. Netanyahu might have committed a criminal offense… In a detailed statement, the [Ministry of Justice] described how the police had gathered testimony from dozens of witnesses, some abroad, and seized documents during a monthslong graft inquiry. While some aspects of the inquiry did not yield evidence of crimes, the statement said, other parts warranted a deeper investigation.” [NYTimes; Haaretz]

“Ronald Lauder admitted buying Netanyahu gifts in graft probe” by Linda Massarella: “Lauder confirmed to police that he had given several gifts, including a suit, to the prime minister, and financed a trip abroad for his son, Yair, according to Haaretz. The newspaper said police sources believe the value of the gifts is worth more than Lauder has admitted… Lauder’s Israeli attorney Helena Beilin dismissed the billionaire’s involvement in the case. She said he was summoned by police for questioning “related to a certain investigation conducted by them and in which Mr. Lauder is not its subject matter.”” [NYPost; AP]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: The police’s investigation of Netanyahu is the latest unknown to rattle Israeli politics and risks opening a whole new world of intrigues. For the time being, he has his party’s support. MKs and Ministers are speaking out on his behalf, defending him of any wrongdoing and accusing the media and the opposition of illegitimate attempts to topple him. According to the law, the investigation, and even an indictment, is not enough to force any changes— only a conviction can prompt any changes. And even then, it would require a vote from 60 MKs to remove him from office. Not likely.

But behind closed doors, the Knesset has started speculating how this may play out. Netanyahu did not appoint a substitute, a deputy PM who could fill in in case he decides, or is pressured, to recuse himself. And some of the senior members of his party would love to have the job. If Netanyahu eventually does succumb to public pressure and recuse himself, with no designated replacement, the Likud party would have to choose his successor, and that would spark an all out war over the job between various ministers who see themselves as a future premier, such as Israel Katz and Gilad Erdan.

Another possibility is that Netanyahu himself will choose to dissolve the Knesset and put a temporary halt on the police probe until after a new election is held. That option has been floated in the coalition, especially given a new bill currently being pushed by Likud MK Dudi Amsalem. According to the legislation, police will not be able to investigate incumbents or sitting PMs until after they leave office. A senior source in the coalition told Kafe Knesset that Netanyahu might decide to speed up the legislation process, and then go to new elections, assuming that once the bill passes – if Netanyahu is elected again – the probe will no longer be relevant. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Analysis: Eyeing Netanyahu’s seat?” by Lahav Harkov:“As long as the law leaves an opening, only public and political pressure could remove Netanyahu from office because of an investigation or trial before it’s required…  No matter what happens, he can certainly sit comfortably in the Prime Minister’s Office for many months to come.” [JPost

“Israel’s corruption conundrum” by Shmuel Rosner: “Until Israel figures out why every prime minister undergoes such investigations, we are bound to see this process again and again.” [JewishJournal]

IRAN DEAL: “Top Scientists Urge Trump to Abide by Iran Nuclear Deal” by William Broad: “We urge you to preserve this critical U.S. strategic asset,” the letter read. The 37 signatories included Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms, former White House science advisers… Mr. Trump’s nominee for defense secretary, James Mattis, is likely to counsel against abandoning the deal, according to officials who have discussed it with him. It is unclear what Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil and the nominee for secretary of state, would advise… In Monday’s letter, the scientists and nuclear experts noted that the accord takes no options off the table for Mr. Trump or any future president. “It makes it much easier for you to know if and when Iran heads for a bomb,” they wrote. “It provides both time and legitimacy for an effective response.” [NYTimes] • Iran, 6 Powers Make Public Restricted Nuke Deal Documents [AP]

“BP opts out of Iran deals ahead of Trump hard line on Tehran” by Andrew Ward: “BP has not applied to take part in a forthcoming tender of exploration and production rights in Iran, according to people briefed on the matter, and has no immediate plans for separate agreements of the kind reached by Shell and Total… These people acknowledged the continued existence of some US sanctions against Iran — and the prospects of a hardline stance against Tehran by the Trump administration — was a particular deterrent for BP.” [FT] • A Tally of Iran Sanctions Relief Includes More Than $10 Billion in Cash, Gold [WSJ]

“Why Netanyahu Will Miss Obama” by Philip Gordon: “With Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu now has an American partner who agrees with him that the deal is “disastrous” and threatens to blow it up. But if they kill an agreement the rest of the world believes is working, the United States and Israel will be blamed and isolated… It would be supremely ironic, but not entirely surprising, if Mr. Trump started to take steps that recklessly threatened the nuclear deal, and Mr. Netanyahu ended up quietly urging him to keep it in place.” [NYTimes

ON THE HILL: “Republican Congress Promises to Move Quickly Toward Goals” by Siobhan Hughes and Kristina Peterson: “Taking up another foreign policy debate, the House this week is expected to vote on a resolution disapproving of the Obama administration’s decision to allow the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israel’s expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas. The House vote will be an early sign of support for Mr. Trump, who urged that the U.S. veto the U.N. resolution.” [WSJ; Politico] • Five ways the Trump administration can negate the anti-Israel U.N. Security Council resolution [WashPost]

“House to Vote to Condemn UNSC Resolution on Israel” by JI’s Aaron Magid: “This Administration has lost all credibility when it comes to Israel,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Ed Royce, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a joint statement. “This Thursday, the House will not abstain from its responsibility and will vote on a bipartisan resolution reaffirming our longstanding policy in the region and support of Israel.” [JewishInsider

HEARD YESTERDAY — Rep. Lee Zeldin on Fox News’ “Happening Now” program: “The president is a couple of weeks away from leaving. I don’t think that if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, that President Obama on his way out would have unilaterally done this… He’s aware of the competing philosophies… President-elect Trump is on his way in, President Obama thought this was the right thing to do.” [FoxNews]

HAPPENING TODAY: Vice President Joe Biden will swear in new members of the United States Senate on Capitol Hill at 12:00 pm [Livestream] House meets at the same time to re-elect Speaker Paul Ryan and swear in new members of the 115th Congress [Livestream]

By The Numbers: “Jews, who make up 2% of the U.S. adult population, hold 30 seats in the new Congress (6%), up from 28 seats in the 114th (5%). However, Jews occupy far fewer seats than they did in the 111th Congress (2009-10), when there were 45 Jewish members of the House and Senate… Jews make up a higher proportion of the Senate than the House (8% vs. 5%)… Upwards of half of non-Christian freshmen are Jewish (8%). This is by far the largest share of Jews in any freshman class for which data are available. In the 114th Congress, 1% of freshmen were Jews; in the 113th, 4% were Jews; in the 112th, 2% were Jews.” [PewForum]

TRANSITION TOWER: Will Jared and Ivanka Formally Join The Administration? — by Peter Nicholas, Carol Lee and Michael Bender: “One Trump transition adviser said the “expectation” among aides is that Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law will join the White House team, though lawyers for Mr. Trump have been working through the legalities to ensure their hiring wouldn’t violate nepotism laws…A worse alternative is for Mr. Trump to sidestep the law by not formally appointing his daughter or Mr. Kushner to official positions… [Norm] Eisen said in an interview. “I would like to see Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump in the White House because of the relatively moderate strain they represent. But that’s not the right way for the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to apply the laws,” he said.”

“Mr. Greenblatt, in an interview on Monday, said that “as an employee of his [Mr. Trump] for two decades, I do believe that I know how his mind works and how best to achieve his goals. Given my extensive experience working with him, I am thoroughly comfortable freely speaking my mind.” [WSJ]

“Priebus faces daunting task bringing order to White House that will feed off chaos” by Karen Tumulty: “Bannon, Jared and I work together extremely well,” he said in an interview. “We’ve got a good team of people around [Trump] where we respect each other and we present options for him that I think he looks at and says, ‘Well, if these folks are on the same page, then it’s probably a pretty good option to take.’” [WashPost

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Trump advisers want Netanyahu to attend inauguration” by Aaron Short: “Transition leaders led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner have been aggressively courting Netanyahu and want him to attend the Jan. 20 festivities, the source said. “There’s a plan for Trump to meet with Netanyahu,” the source said. “They’re talking all the time. And Netanyahu is talking about possibly going to the inauguration.” [NYPost

— “Sources: Netanyahu has not received invite to Trump inauguration” by Herb Keinon: “Netanyahu has not received an invitation to attend US President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20, sources in Netanyahu’s office said… Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office were quoted as saying that the two men have spoken a few times since the election in November.” [JPost

Trump to reporters before NYE celebrations at Mar-a-Lago: “Look, we have to protect Israel, Israel to me is very very important, we have to protect Israel, and I disagree with what he’s done with Israel. I listened to Secretary Kerry’s speech, I think it’s very unfair to Israel, what happened.”

Bibi tweeted at Trump: “Thanks for your support, President-elect Trump!” [Twitter

“Mar-a-Lago, the Future Winter White House and Home of the Calmer Trump” by Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Trump’s arrival was greeted with sneers by the Palm Beach elite, and he opened up Mar-a-Lago’s membership to Jews and African-Americans, who had been excluded from other members-only establishments. A violinist sometimes moves among tables, plucking tunes like the theme from “Fiddler on the Roof.”” [NYTimes

“Trump’s Inaugural ‘Rabbi’ a Beneficiary of Kushner Donations” by Judy Maltz: “According to their tax forms, the Charles and Seryl Kushner Family Foundation has donated $35,000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in recent years – $25,000 in 2011 and $10,000 the following year.” [Haaretz]

“Israeli settlements grew on Obama’s watch. They may be poised for a boom on Trump’s” by Griff Witte: “Palestinians express disappointment that Obama wasn’t able to help them secure many tangible achievements. And they have few illusions that they will get any support from Trump.” [WashPost

“Trump’s plan to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem could help the peace process” by Miriam F. Elman: “A reversal of the longtime U.S. diplomatic boycott of Jerusalem could bode well for Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects. Sending a strong message that the new administration stands with the Israeli government on a major symbolic issue with high potential costs could push the Palestinian leadership to a greater sense of urgency in negotiations.” [WashPost

“Julie Bishop slaps down Tony Abbott’s Trump-esque Israel suggestion” by Primrose Riordan: “Bishop has dismissed a call from [former Australian Prime Minister] Tony Abbott to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority and follow US President-elect Donald Trump in pledging to move our embassy to Jerusalem… “Another way for Australia to demonstrate its unswerving support for Israel, as the Middle East’s only liberal, pluralist democracy, might be to join any move by the Trump administration to move its embassy to Jerusalem,” Mr Abbott wrote on Monday. Ms Bishop hit back saying Australia would not be shifting its embassy. “The Australian government does not have any plans to move the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” she said.” [AFR; Spectator] • Tony Abbott’s embassy stance welcome news in Israel [ABCNews

DNC WATCH –” Alan Dershowitz: If Keith Ellison is Appointed DNC Chair, I Will Resign My Membership” by Matthew Wisner: “I’m going to tell you right here on this show and this is news, if they appoint Keith Ellison to be chairman of the Democratic Party, I will resign my membership to the Democratic Party after 50 years of being a loyal Democrat… I will still vote my conscience and mostly I’ll vote for Democrats, but I will not be a member of a party that represents itself through a chairman like Keith Ellison and through policies like that espoused by John Kerry and Barack Obama.” [FBN

SPOTLIGHT: “Some donors to de Blasio nonprofit also gave heavily to conservative causes” by Laura Nahmias: “While some of the group’s largest donations came from reliably liberal groups, like the Rockefeller Family Fund and George Soros’ Fund for Policy Reform, numerous others came from companies headed by donors like Stanley Chera, who currently serves on the transition finance committee for President-elect Donald Trump… George Klein, the principal of the Park Tower Group, which is developing Greenpoint Landing in North Brooklyn, gave the Campaign For One New York $50,000 in March of 2015… Klein gave $216,600 to the Republican National Committee, and he would go on give nearly a million dollars to conservative groups and Republican candidates during the recent election cycle.” [PoliticoNY]

** 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: SpaceX finds cause of launch pad explosion that destroyed $300 million Israeli satellite [JPost; VanityFair] • The Fallout From Madoff’s Fraud Includes an Ironic Twist for Investors [Bloomberg] • Jewish Business Owners Devastated After Kew Gardens Hills, Queens Fire [CBSLocal

TALK OF THE  TOWN: “Vandals turned a Jewish family’s menorah into a swastika” by Julie Zauzmer: “We talk a lot about the importance of equality and tolerance, loving everybody no matter what,” Naomi Ellis said. “I had to tell them that not everybody feels that way. Some people are ignorant, and this is what they do.” She watched tears well up in her 9-year-old son’s eyes as she explained. “They know about the Holocaust. They know about Nazis,” she said. But before Friday morning, the three children — ages 5, 7 and 9 — had never before seen a swastika… “This is the real reality that we live in: People hate us for no reason or want us to feel scared for who we are. That’s not something I wanted to have to tell them.” [WashPost

“Former POW and unlikely star in Clinton campaign dies” by Carl Prine: “He had a great patriotic feeling about this country and the war affected him in many profound ways,” [his widow Dorothy Sollender] said in a phone interview from the couple’s Poway home. “Here was this smart-ass Jewish intellectual from New York City who became friends in the Army with a Missouri farmer, an Indian bootlegger. He just got along with everyone because he was a person for every man and he truly loved America.” … “He was devastated that Trump won and worried about the future of the country,” Dorothy Sollender said.” [SDUTribune

MEDIA WATCH: “Joe Scarborough against the world” by Dylan Byers: “I am sure that if you took pictures of, let’s say Tom Friedman… or David Ignatius… that went to state dinners that Barack Obama invited them to. Or, I’m sure if there were photographs of, let’s say, Thomas Friedman golfing with Barack Obama… I would say I’m sure there would be questions raised about that too, but actually there haven’t been that many questions raised.” [CNNMoney

“The Man Whose Dream Became Israel” by Gil Troy: “And, given how the last century has played out, and given how wrong Herzl was about a Jewish state eliminating Jew hatred, many distort his views regarding the Arabs of Palestine. Palestinian critics caricature Herzl as a Cecil Rhodes-like Western imperialist, solving the Jewish problem on the Arabs’ backs. Israeli fans caricature him as a male, Jewish, Mother Teresa, sure that a Jewish state will redeem the Arabs too. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the nuanced middle. Herzl did imagine Jews and Arabs living happily ever after in “our common Fatherland.” But Herzl also underestimated how deep Arab ties were to the land—and their resistance to the Jews’ return.” [DailyBeast

LongRead: “Ex-CIA director: I was sure if we didn’t strike Syria’s nuclear reactor, Israel would” by Ronen Bergman: “The crucial meeting took place at the White House. The matter was so secret that the meeting wasn’t held in the West Wing, but on the second floor of the White House’s residential area—in the Yellow Oval Room—to keep it out of the president’s public schedule. The meeting included President Bush, his vice president, the defense and state secretaries, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the national security adviser, the heads of the American intelligence community, and others… President Bush, who was deeply entangled in two wars against Muslim nations, concluded the discussion with: “What Mike (Hayden) just told me is this is not imminent danger, and therefore, we will not do this.” … Despite reaching a dead end, Hayden remembers that “I was pretty comfortable that if we didn’t strike the Syrian reactor, Israel would.”” [Ynet

BOOK REVIEW: “Becoming Michael Lewis” by Walter Isaacson: “The Undoing Project,” Michael’s new bestseller, explores the childhoods of Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky to provide insights into their work. They came of age as tough outsiders and fighters during the Holocaust and the birth of Israel. Michael’s upbringing was the opposite: He was the charmed and charming child of New Orleans gentry, and he never encountered a club or court that didn’t want to have him as a prince. “My New Orleans background is critical to allowing me to know I can fit in anywhere,” he told me over dinner as he was winding up his book tour. “I get to assume that I can belong. People can smell that I never had a sense of not belonging.”  [WashPost

DEEP DIVE: “A Secret Jew, the New World, a Lost Book: Mystery Solved” by Joseph Berger: “It is perhaps the most significant artifact documenting the arrival of Jews in the New World: a small, tattered 16th-century manuscript written in an almost microscopic hand by Luis de Carvajal the Younger, the man whose life and pain it chronicled. Until 1932, the 180-page booklet by de Carvajal, a secret Jew who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in Spain’s colony of Mexico, resided in that country’s National Archives. Then it vanished. The theft transformed the manuscript into an object of obsession, a kind of Maltese Falcon, for a coterie of Inquisition scholars and rare-book collectors. Almost nothing was heard about the document for more than 80 years — until it showed up 13 months ago at a London auction house.” [NYTimes]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Venezuelan Jews are moving to Israel to escape deepening poverty” by Ruth Eglash: “Official Israeli government figures show that 111 Venezuelan Jews made “aliyah” to Israel in 2015, more than double the number who arrived in 2012… For Reisy Abramof… the political situation in Venezuela is surprising and alarming. “It is very sad to see people queuing up for food and others dying in hospitals because there is no medicine,” said Abramof, who is from Venezuela’s third-largest city, Valencia. Her family could afford to buy goods on the black market at inflated prices.” [WashPost

SPORTS BLINK: “A ‘World Unto Itself’ in New York Area Yeshivas: Floor Hockey” by Corey Kilgannon: “The game in these Orthodox Jewish private schools stretches back at least to the late 1970s, but in recent years, it has grown enormously popular… Players in elementary grades at Jewish schools now set their sights on yeshivas with the most powerful hockey programs. “Outside the Orthodox community, this is a foreign thing,” said Amir Gavarin, 22, a former floor hockey league player. “But inside, it’s a whole world unto itself, and super competitive.” The game is similar to ice hockey, but played on foot on a gym floor with a hard orange ball and five-player squads made up of a goalie and four roaming players. Goalies wear full padding, but the other players wear sweatpants, jerseys and helmets with face masks. Under the jersey, some players wear the religious shawl or tunic known as a tallit.” [NYTimes

DESSERT: “Here’s the Key to Your Suite, and Another to Your Rolls-Royce” by Paul Sullivan: “Brad Gerstman, a lawyer and government lobbyist in New York, said that on a recent trip to Tel Aviv he requested an armored vehicle so he could make a trip to the West Bank. “I’m a proud supporter of Israel, and I wanted to see the military installations,” said Mr. Gerstman, who counts Donald J. Trump as a former client. But what he got from the Hilton in Tel Aviv was not what he expected. “It wasn’t a hollowed-out tank,” he said. It was a Cadillac Escalade. “It was very much a regular passenger vehicle, but they told me it could take a rifle round into the side, or if this kind of explosive went off, we would be protected,” he said. So proud was the concierge of the armored Cadillac that he tried to sell Mr. Gerstman one of his own.” [NYTimes

BIRTHDAYS: Treasury Secretary under President Carter (1977-1979), CEO of Burroughs Corporation and Unisys, followed by 17 years as director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, W. Michael Blumenthal turns 91… Contributing editor at Vanity Fair, previously legal affairs reporter at The New York Times, David Margolick turns 65… Deputy director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Igor Volsky turns 31… Graduate of West Point and with a Harvard MBA, partner and managing director in the NYC office of the Boston Consulting Group, Neal Zuckerman (h/t Playbook)… Director of Israel Engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism, Reuven Greenvald… Michael Novack… DC-based director of political advertising sales at Twitter, adjunct at Georgetown U teaching digital strategies, food blogger, formerly at The New Republic and National Journal magazines, Jenna Golden… DC-based national healthcare policy reporter for The Los Angeles Times, Noam N. Levey… Alana Herbst

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Daily Kickoff: One-State Solution Finds Support Among Palestinians and Trump’s Right-wing Jewish Backers | Mark Zuckerberg is no longer an atheist

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TOP TALKER — “In ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ Israel, Separate Lives and Divergent Narratives” by Peter Baker: “To borrow an analogy, there is a blue, or more liberal-leaning, Israel that thought Mr. Kerry offered painful but necessary truths in the spirit of friendship that indicted the failed leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And there is a red, or more conservative, Israel that thought the secretary of state was delusional and insulting, divorced from the harsh reality of the only real democracy in the Middle East struggling to preserve itself in a hostile neighborhood. Just as in the United States, many Israelis cling to their own facts, retreat to their own media outlets, advance their own narratives, and basically just talk with people who think like they do.” [NYTimes

“U.S. Will Veto Any Attempt to Put Kerry’s Speech to Vote at UN, Key Obama Aide Tells Haaretz” by Barak Ravid: “If there was more continuity with a [Hillary] Clinton administration, I am not sure how it would have affected our calculus… But the combination of the complete lack of any peace process… and the directional shift of the incoming administration all factored into our decision both to lay everything out in this speech but also to abstain on the UN resolution.” Rhodes added that… it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest that Trump will… throw Kerry’s speech into the garbage, he said. “On January 21, the settlements will still be there and it will still be a source of grave international tension,” said Rhodes. “There will still be an international consensus that supports what John Kerry has put out. So the issue is not going away just because there is a new president… After January 20, Barack Obama will no longer be available as some foil. It will be evident that the international concern about settlements has nothing to do with Barack Obama but with the settlements. There will not be this constant stirring of the pot about Obama that was used [by Netanyahu] as a distraction from the settlements issue.” [Haaretz] • Critics Say Kerry’s Israel Speech Could Backfire on Obama Administration [WSJ

Israeli Ambassador Dermer on Trump’s Friedman pick (amidst talk that the Friedman nomination may have played a role in Obama’s UN vote): “I don’t set the policies of the government of Israel, and Mr. Friedman will not set the policies of the government of the United States. That will be set by the president and prime minister.” [Politico] Friedman was photographed with Marion Wiesel and Shmuley Boteach last night [Pic]

MUST READ: “How Trump Made Israel A Zero-Sum Game” by Ben Smith: “Trump is a zero-sum figure… When Obama took a step away from Israel… Trump responded with the first real foreign policy move of his pre-presidency, a decisive embrace of one side of the Middle East conflict. After all, his campaign was about choosing sides… A “one state solution” has been gathering momentum for years among Palestinian advocates, who propose replacing Zionism with a federal, binational state… Ballabon’s and Friedman’s position, which seems to be Trump’s, is a different kind of one state solution. The state is Israel. In a United States where partisanship seems to shape policy views… it’s easy to see where this heads. There are two warring tribes. Each party supports one. Israel becomes a Republican cause, while Democrats align with the Palestinians. U.S. elections could carry even larger stakes for both sides than they have before.” [BuzzFeed

“With the two-state solution a distant dream, Palestinians ask if it’s time to push for a one-state solution” by Joshua Mitnick: “These days, as Palestinians see prospects for the so-called two-state solution disintegrating, a growing number are mulling over a provocative alternative: a single binational state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. The notion is the equivalent of a demographic Trojan horse, forcing Israel either to give Arab residents full voting rights — and jeopardize the Jewish identity upon which Israel was created in 1948 — or risk becoming an apartheid state under permanent sanction by the rest of the world.” [LATimes]

ACROSS THE POND: “Theresa May rebukes US for attack on Israel” by Peter Dominiczak: “Mrs May does “not believe that it is appropriate” for Mr Kerry to attack the make-up of the democratically elected Israeli government, the spokesman said. “We do not… believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” Mrs May’s spokesman said. “And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally… The spokesman added… “We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal.”” [Telegraph; JewishNews] • Australian PM condemns ‘one-sided’ UN settlement resolution [ToI]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “American Jews Divide Over Strain in U.S.-Israel Relations” by Adam Nagourney and Sharon Otterman: “At Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, a large and politically divided congregation, Rabbi David Wolpe said Mr. Obama had “pulled the rug out from under people who said the president’s intentions toward Israel was positive and strong.” … David Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, said that Orthodox Jews tend to be much more conservative, and that there is a general sense among them “that the outgoing administration is outgoing and should be outgoing, and it’s time for an approach that is more openly supportive of Israel.” [NYTimes

“‘We don’t need this America,’ deputy minister Michael Oren says after UN vote, Kerry speech” by Raphael Ahren: “Kerry’s speech was very disturbing for so many reasons,” Oren told The Times of Israel. “It is disturbing that this is the point to which US foreign policy has fallen. It’s sad, tragic and dangerous. We don’t need this relationship. We don’t need this America.” [ToI

“Dan Shapiro: US decision not to veto resolution was not revenge: “We understand why it hurts Israelis to hear such harsh things. The timing [of the vote] came from other countries, and was not revenge,” says Shapiro in Hebrew.” [ToI

“Kerry’s bombshell Israel speech is one of the most puzzling things I have seen in politics” by Matthew Yglesias: “It’s a rhetorical hand grenade, but a policymaking dud. And while I have some thoughts about the substance of the speech, I’m mostly left wondering … why? Why at a time when the country urgently needs effective political opposition to an alarming new regime that is entering office with vast power but little democratic legitimacy did the Obama administration choose to lash out ineffectually in a way that unites his successor’s coalition while dividing his own party? What does Obama hope this will accomplish? And why pick a fight he’s sure to lose?” [Vox]

The real reason for Netanyahu’s showdown with Obama” by Yochi Dreazen: “Bibi is not concerned at all with anyone from the center left,” Gilead Sher, a former Israeli peace negotiator and chief of staff for Prime Minister Ehud Barak, tells me in an interview…“He’s concerned about far-right politicians inside and outside his own party that are totally against any division of the land or agreement with the Palestinians. Those are the only people that he thinks could push him out of office.” [Vox

Incoming WH Press Secretary, Sean Spicer on rumors about a possible Trump trip to Israel: “I don’t want to get ahead of anything at this point, but I will tell you that the relationship with Israel both in terms of what the President-Elect has said, and what you saw Prime Minister Netanyahu say yesterday in terms of very looking forward to working with this next administration, really should highlight to anybody who is concerned about Israel or who loves Israel, that this administration is going to put Israel in its rightful place as a true, true friend of the United States, and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East.” [HughHewitt

“Donald Trump and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Bond During Transition” by Benjy Sarlin: “I think there’s a lot of excitement about this right now, but in general, presidents prioritize domestic issues and it wouldn’t surprise me if Trump and Netanyahu are not making headlines every week once he’s sworn in,” Heather Hurlburt, a former State Department official under President Clinton, told NBC News.” [NBCNews

“What did Kerry’s parting shot on Middle East mean?” by Aaron David Miller: This may well be the first time that the United States, at least in such a highly visible public forum rather than in the negotiating room, talked about Jerusalem as the capital of two states… That suggests that if in fact the Trump administration does carry out a campaign pledge to move the US Embassy there, the contents of this speech may well acquire legs.” [CNN

POLLS — What Americans think: “48% of Likely U.S. Voters feel U.S. relations with Israel have gotten worse since Obama took office… Among voters who consider America’s relationship with Israel ‘Very Important’ to U.S. national security, 65% believe that relationship has gotten worse under Obama… Among all voters, 42% believe America’s relations with Israel will get better under the new president, while 32% expect them to get worse… 55% of Democrats think Trump will make the U.S.-Israeli relationship worse.” [Rasmussen

What Israelis think: What caused the United States to not use their veto in the UNSC? 38% Hostility towards Israel, 31% American interest, 18% Don’t know, 13% Israeli interest.” [KnessetJeremy

“How Bibi Duped Kerry and Obama: A Theory For Egypt’s Role in UN Resolution” by Michael Eisenberg: “So here comes the theory: “settlements” was all [Kerry] could talk about in his speech because he needed to say that peace between Israel and its other Arab regional mates was dependent on progress with the Palestinians because that is exactly the opposite of what Bibi and the gulf states were trying to do… When Bibi responded to Kerry saying he had incontrovertible evidence that Kerry collaborated with Palestinians on the resolution, he had more than the calendar appointment with Palestinian leaders. He had the people in the room. He was letting Kerry know that he was set up and may have more information on him.” [Medium]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: After months of behind the scenes deliberations, the police sword appears to be getting closer to PM Netanyahu. In the upcoming week, Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit is expected to authorize opening an official investigation into two affairs which involve the premier. According to Channel 2, the alleged suspicion is that Netanyahu received large amounts of funds from two businessmen, one Israeli and one from overseas. So far, the probe has been handled under a unique veil of secrecy: over 50 people have been questioned, yet no details have been leaked to the press, in sharp contrast to the two years of endless leaks former PM Olmert endured before his indictment.

Netanyahu himself published a statement this morning repeating what has become his catch phrase on the various scandals attached to him: “there will be nothing because this is nothing,” insisting the allegations are baseless. His words were echoed by many of his party ministers who accused the media and the left of illegitimate attempts to topple the PM. Culture Minister Miri Regev, currently one of the closest to Bibi, said “the only interest that guides the PM is the national interest and Israel’s security. I back the Prime Minister and am confident he will be leading the country for many more years.”

Meanwhile, while police are about to investigate Netanyahu’s connections to private donors, he is promoting – with his fan Miri Regev – a new proposal that will enable him to raise private funds to sponsor the 70 year independence celebrations, slated to take place in May 2017. Citing budget restraints, Netanyahu decided to outsource the funding of the events, and suggested he would lead the efforts as the main presenter of the fundraising – focusing mainly on the Jewish diaspora. The plan – slated to be approved by the cabinet this Sunday – has raised eyebrows inside the coalition and out of it, since traditionally, these anniversaries have been funded by the state budget. Opposition MK Yoel Hasson sent a letter to Mandelblit yesterday, demanding he put a halt on the “scandalous and unprecedented” initiative. “Looking beyond the principle question if it is appropriate for a strong state like Israel to beg for donations for its independence celebration, this proposal raises serious concerns over conflicts of interest,” Hasson wrote, referring to Netanyahu’s alleged connections to various private businessmen as alleged in recent affairs. [KafeKnesset]

** 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 JewishInsider@Gmail.com **

SPOTLIGHT: “Mark Zuckerberg says he’s no longer an atheist, believes ‘religion is very important’” by Julie Zauzmer: ““Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah from Priscilla, Max, Beast and me,” he wrote, naming his wife, daughter and dog. Then a commenter asked him: Aren’t you an atheist? Zuckerberg identified himself as an atheist for years, but on Facebook on Christmas he wrote back: “No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.” He didn’t answer further questions about what he does believe in.” [WashPost]

TALK OF THE NATION — Emma Green talks to Michael Wear, a former Obama White House staffer, about the Democratic Party’s illiteracy on and hostility toward faith: “Liberals have been trying to convince Americans, and evangelicals in particular, that America is not a Christian nation. The 2016 election was evangelicals saying, “Yeah, you’re right! We can’t expect to have someone who is Christian like us. We can’t expect to have someone with a perfect family life. What we can expect is someone who can look out for us, just like every other group in this country is looking for a candidate who will look out for them.”

“There’s a religious illiteracy problem in the Democratic Party. It’s tied to the demographics of the country: More 20- and 30-year-olds are taking positions of power in the Democratic Party. They grew up in parts of the country where navigating religion was not important socially and not important to their political careers. This is very different from, like, James Carville in Louisiana in the ’80s. James Carville is not the most religious guy, but he gets religious people—if you didn’t get religious people running Democratic campaigns in the South in the ’80s, you wouldn’t win. Another reason why they haven’t reached out to evangelicals in 2016 is that, no matter Clinton’s slogan of “Stronger Together,” we have a politics right now that is based on making enemies, and making people afraid. I think we’re seeing this with the Betsy DeVos nomination: It’s much easier to make people scared of evangelicals, and to make evangelicals the enemy, than trying to make an appeal to them.” [TheAtlantic]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Meet the Businessman Introducing Kids in 12 Countries to Jewish Books — For Free” by Jake Romm: “Harold Grinspoon is not a scholar, he is a businessman – a fact which he reminded me of multiple times throughout our conversation. Yet, despite his protestations, Grinspoon has done more than most in terms of cultivating the next generation of Jewish learners. He isn’t a lecturer, an author, a rabbi, or in any way a part of the intelligentsia. He is simply a kind (and enormously wealthy) man who understands the importance of books to the Jewish communal experience.” [Forward

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Bill de Blasio Criticizes ‘Anti-Israel’ UN Resolution” by Jacob Kornbluh: “The U.N.’s anti-Israel positioning in the Middle East does nothing to advance the peace process,” City Hall Press Secretary Eric Phillips said in a statement, released almost a week after the unprecedented vote took place. “Mayor de Blasio said clearly that the U.N.’s role in the peace process has never been helpful. Like many at home and abroad, the Mayor also acknowledged that the ultimate consequences of the U.N.’s resolution cannot be predicted and that the effect of the U.S.’s abstention is unclear,” Phillips said.” [JewishInsider

TRANSITION: “Netanyahu taps Yuval Rotem as permanent Foreign Ministry D-G” by Herb Keinon: “Rotem has been serving in a temporary capacity in that position since the resignation of Dore Gold in October. The announcement came at a sending-off ceremony for Gold in the ministry… He served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff in the ministry when Netanyahu – who was then prime minister – held the foreign minister’s portfolio for 10 months in 1998.” [JPost]  

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Born in Borough Park in Brooklyn, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Dodgers who did not pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, Sandy Koufax (born Sanford Braun) turns 81… Professional poker player who has donated a large percentage of his $8 million in tournament winnings to charities, Barry Greenstein turns 62…  Host of The Today Show, whose father was of Romanian Jewish heritage, as seen on the Today Show’s “Finding Our Roots,” Matt Lauer turns 59… Fellowship Director at Israel’s TAMID Group, providing internship opportunities at Israeli startups and VCs, previously Senior Development Officer at Boston’s Jewish Federation, David Micley turns 29. David also celebrated his wedding to Molly Chadis yesterday in Jaffa, Israel… Psychotherapist, congregational rabbi and faculty member at Los Angeles-based Academy for Jewish Religion California, Michael Menitoff…  Deputy Director of AIPAC’s Midwest Synagogue Initiative, Lital Casper Rosenberg…  Assistant Director of Campus Affairs at AJC Global, Jacob LevkowiczPhil Goldstein… Larry MandelIan MorrisEllen Gordon

Israeli biochemist, Nobel Prize laureate in 2004, Distinguished Professor at the Technion in Haifa, Avram Hershko turns 79… Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg (born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin) turns 70… Author of over 20 novels, including five in the Star Trek series, Susan Shwartz turns 67… Third-term member in the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 18 in Montgomery County, Jeff Waldstreicher turns 37… One of the tallest MLB position players ever at 6’8″, has been on five MLB 40-man rosters, played for Israel in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifiers, Nate Freiman turns 30… Jonathan Scheiner turns 28… Moon Grindle… Roz Singer

The Paul E. Singer Foundation’s Daniel Bonner turns 27… German-born historian, noted for his expertise on WWII, professor and the professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill since 1974, Gerhard Weinberg turns 89… Yale Law graduate who went on to direct many films, documentaries and theatre productions, winner of a MacArthur genius fellowship, Frederick Wiseman turns 87… Austrian-born psychiatrist and medical researcher, president and vice-chancellor of Concordia University in Montreal, Frederick Lowy turns 84… 36th richest American (per Forbes), businessman and philanthropist, Ronald Perelman turns 74… US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (2008-2009), then founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy development institution, Ambassador James K. Glassman turns 70… German-born, graduate of Harvard and then Georgetown Law, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Max Richtman turns 70… Tunisian-born, now Los Angeles-based, fashion designer, chairman and CEO of the BCBG Max Azria Group, a global fashion house that includes over 20 brands sold world-wide, Max Azria turns 68… Founder of Gutsy Women Travel, a company that arranges luxury trips for women who are traveling overseas alone, wife of Carl Icahn, Gail Golden Icahn turns 64… Senior US Senator from  New Jersey since 2006, previously a member of the House of Representatives (1993-2006), Bob Menendez turns 63… President and founder of Ampersand Strategies, a D.C.-based communications and consulting firm, previously AIPAC’s Mid-Atlantic regional political director, Josh Nanberg turns 43… Manager of data analytics and strategy at Politico and Rubik’s Cube genius, Tomer Ovadia… Attorney and principal of Dupont Circle Communications, a firm assisting nonprofit organizations, previously at the National Women’s Law Center and People For the American Way, Margot Friedman

Canadian publisher, shopping center developer and philanthropist, Avie Bennett turns 89… Poet who has published twenty volumes of poetry, literary and art criticism, professor at Columbia, Princeton, Brooklyn College, Cooper Union and William Paterson University, David Shapiro turns 70… Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-reporter for The New York Times, went to jail to protect her source in the Valerie Plame matter, now a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Judith Miller turns 69… Long-time journalist for The New York Times, also author of two books including a memoir about fighting cancer, Joyce Wadler turns 69… CEO of Loews Corporation since 1999, James Tisch turns 64… President of the DC-based S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, member of the House of Representatives from Florida between 1997 until 2010, Robert Wexler turns 56… Executive Director of the Western Publishing Association since 1996, Jane Silbering

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