TOP TALKER: “Trump Picks Rex Tillerson, Exxon C.E.O., as Secretary of State” by Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Tillerson emerged as a contender on the strong recommendations of James A. Baker III, the secretary of state under President George Bush, and Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary, according to a person briefed on the process. Mr. Kushner and Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, advocated strongly for Mr. Tillerson, and the president-elect became intrigued.” [NYTimes]
“Exxon CEO could face struggle getting confirmed as Trump secretary of state” by Doina Chiacu and Gina Cherelus: “Lawmakers from both major parties have raised questions about Tillerson and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who has been mentioned as a possible No. 2 State Department official and has voiced hawkish views on Iraq and Iran.” [Reuters]
Morning Joe Panel on Tillerson and Israel: “They (team Trump) are obsessing over a possible Mideast peace deal. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit the grand slams. Tillerson is lined up very well to do that – with Arab countries. But there is this issue of Israel that, obviously, they are going to have to work and finesse, and that could be a challenge as well that they have to overcome.” [JewishInsider]
— Politico’s John Bresnahan: “Strong support for Israel and opposition to the Iran nuclear accord will win Tillerson some favor inside the panel. Two of the four Democrats to vote to oppose the agreement — Sens. Ben Cardin (Md.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.) — sit on Foreign Relations.” [Playbook]
Jewish Journal’s Shmuel Rosner on Tillerson: “Former Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister and Defense Minister Moshe Arens – at the time the ambassador in Washington – likes to tell the story of him and his colleagues in the Begin government being worried as hell over the appointment of George Schultz as Secretary of State in the Reagan administration. Prior to being nominated for State, Schultz was a Bechtel executive and president. He had ties to Arab governments. He was an oil man. He was also one of the secretaries with which official Israel got along very well.”
— “What is future secretary Tillerson going to hear from his Arab friends on these issues? On Iran he will get from them an even more alarmed version of Israel’s concerns. On chaos and terrorism – these states will have sentiments similar to those of Israel’s: keep stability, forget about great ideologies and the desire for a better world. On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – he will get the usual complaints, but with less urgency. The Arabs have more pressing issues worrying them. In other words: the fact that Tillerson comes with recommendation from Jim Baker does not mean that he will follow the Baker doctrine from 25 years ago. The Middle East has changed, circumstances have changed, the priorities of all countries have changed.” [JewishJournal]
INBOX — NJDC statement: “With his latest pick, President-elect Trump continues to double down on his mixed record when it comes to issues the pro-Israel community cares most about. At best, Tillerson is an unknown quantity when it comes to Israel, at worse his affinity for Putin and business dealings with some of Israel’s worst enemies adds to the growing list of fears for supporters of the US-Israel relationship.”
“A President Trump Excites, and Worries, Persian Gulf Leaders” by Eric Schmitt: “Will it be, they ask, the President Trump who has vowed to cut off American aid to the Syrian rebel groups that many Gulf states support in the fight against the Syrian government? Or the President Trump who is promising to get tougher with Iran, the great Shia scourge of the Sunni Arab monarchies here? … Whatever concerns Gulf leaders have about Mr. Trump, the departure of President Obama — whom regional leaders say abandoned Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring and negotiated the secret nuclear deal with archenemy Iran — cannot come soon enough, they say.”
— “General Mattis drew fulsome praise from diplomats, military commanders and intelligence officials in the region. “If I ever went into a fight, I would want General Mattis next to me,” Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States, said in an email. “He will be a great partner for his allies.” Although he was so hawkish on Iran that the White House cut short his Central Command tour in 2013, General Mattis is no warmonger — he led some of the bloodiest battles in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and knows the human costs of conflict. He has since said that tearing up the Iran nuclear agreement, as Mr. Trump has vowed to do, would hurt the United States.” [NYTimes]
“Why Trump’s Republican Party Is Embracing Russia” by Peter Beinart: “When he ran for president, Trump realized that on Islam, as on trade, Republican elites were out of step with the Republican base. Trump distinguished himself from his rivals not by proposing a different strategy against ISIS. He distinguished himself by suggesting that the problem was not merely ISIS, or even “radical Islam,” but Muslims in general. Republican leaders reacted to Trump’s call for banning Muslim immigration to the U.S. with revulsion. But, according to surveys, more than seven in 10 GOP voters supported it.”
“Trump also broke with his establishment rivals by taking a softer line on Russia. Maybe financial interests motivated him. Maybe he just likes authoritarian tough-guys. Whatever the reason, the deviation seemed politically dangerous given the overwhelming hostility to Putin among GOP foreign-policy elites. But Trump’s pro-Putin line hasn’t hurt him… Ideological conservatives loathe Putin because he represents an authoritarian challenge to the American-backed order in Europe and the Middle East. But many civilizational conservatives, who once opposed the Soviet Union because of its atheism, now view Putin’s Russia as Christianity’s front line against the new civilizational enemy: Islam.” [TheAtlantic]
“Trump: Moving U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem ‘Very Big Priority’” by Felicia Schwartz: “He made that very clear during the campaign. And as president-elect I’ve heard him repeat it several times, privately if not publicly,” Ms. Conway said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “It’s something that our friend in Israel, a great friend in the Middle East, Israel, would appreciate and something that a lot of Jewish Americans also have expressed their preference for.” Maen Rashid Areikat, the chief representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the U.S., said the Palestinians hope Mr. Trump’s administration will adhere to the longstanding U.S. position of keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv.” [WSJ; Guardian] • Read the full transcript [HughHewitt]
“Trump’s team already exploring logistics of moving embassy to Jerusalem — report” by Tamar Pileggi: “Israel’s Foreign Ministry has already gotten involved in the matter, with officials in Jerusalem checking into when a possible site for the embassy, in an area that includes the Diplomat Hotel in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood, would be available, Channel 2 reported. The Trump team’s advance work on moving the embassy is being conducted without coordination with the US State Department, and officials there “deeply dislike the idea,” the report said.” [ToI; Twitter]
“Israel’s Right Wing Expects Boost From A Trump Presidency” by Daniel Estrin: “A group of activists who lobbied Israeli-Americans to vote for Donald Trump gathered around a boardroom table to celebrate his victory. “Mazel tov!” they said, popping open a bottle of bubbly cava. “L’chaim!” they said, toasting life. “I hope [Trump] is better than his vodka,” one activist joked… Netanyahu might miss having a U.S. president like Obama as a counterweight to his right-wing backers, according to Israeli columnist Shmuel Rosner. “The Obama administration was a useful tool for Netanyahu,” Rosner said. “When he did not want to do something, he could always say, ‘Well, the White House wouldn’t let me.’ If the Trump administration signals that whatever Israel wants, Trump is willing to support, it will be much more difficult for Netanyahu to use the American administration as an excuse to block the right wing from running with its agenda,” Rosner said.” [NPR]
“How Trump emboldens Netanyahu” by Ben Caspit: “Netanyahu and his associates have closer, more extensive ties to Trump than have been reported by the media. Netanyahu has held open channels to Trump for a long time. Ambassador Ron Dermer has close ties with the president-elect and his people. Mossad head Yossi Cohen has held a number of meetings on sensitive issues in the United States with high-ranking officials of the next administration… As of today, Netanyahu still believes that Trump meant what he said when he talked about revoking the nuclear agreement and moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.” [Al-Monitor]
— Mr. Trump hasn’t specifically said whether he will roll back the deal the U.S. and other world powers reached with Iran to restrain its nuclear program, though he has been a fierce critic of the agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already begun to put pressure on Mr. Trump to back out of the deal, while Mr. Obama has tried to convince his successor that doing so would be a bad idea.” [WSJ]
TRANSITION TOWER — “Trump close to building out senior White House team” by Shane Goldmacher: “Stephen Miller, Trump’s chief speechwriter and policy adviser on the campaign, is expected to be named a senior policy adviser.” [Politico]
“Trump expected to pick Rick Perry as energy secretary” by Joe Tacopino: “Former Texas governor Rick Perry — who famously forgot the name of the Department of Energy while pledging to abolish it during a 2012 presidential debate — is reportedly expected to take over the same agency he vowed to destroy… In addition to promoting new energy technologies, the department is tasked with the safety and security of the nation’s nuclear weapons.” [NYPost; CBSNews]
“Netanyahu says Israel ‘mightier’ as first F-35 fighter jets arrive” by Ori Lewis: “Israel on Monday became the first country after the United States to receive the U.S.-built F-35 stealth jet which will increase its ability to attack distant targets, including Iran… “Our long arm has now become longer and mightier,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Nevatim air base in the southern Negev desert. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, also attending the ceremony which was delayed until after dark, said the planes were critical to maintaining Israel’s military edge in the region.” [Reuters]
Carter: “Israel is our first and only friend in the region that’s flying F-35s. And it’s my honor to be here marking the delivery of these planes to America’s closest friend and ally in the region… As we gather here today, the U.S.-Israel defense relationship is stronger than it’s ever been, and America’s pledge to defend Israel’s security remains unwavering… Together, we will dominate the skies.” [Defense.gov]
Netanyahu: “I wish to thank, on behalf of all the people of Israel, President Obama, the American Congress and the American people. Israel is your best and your most reliable ally in the Middle East and beyond the Middle East. We will always remain so… It is no coincidence that Israel is the first to receive these planes – after the US itself. I think that this symbolizes the very significant character of the strength of the alliance between us and the US. We appreciate this steadfast alliance, the American commitment to Israel’s security, and the continuity from administration to administration, from decade to decade.”[YouTube]
Lockheed Martin official in Israel to CNN’s Ian Lee: “If you compare the F-35 to the F-16, which Israel has right now, is like comparing the iPhone 7 to a flip phone.” [Twitter]
KAFE KNESSET — Netanyahu Looks for Friends in the Muslim World — by Amir Tibon & Tal Shalev: This morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu departed for a state visit to two Muslim-majority countries in Asia — Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. “These are two large and important countries in the Muslim world, and our aim is to strengthen our ties with them,” Netanyahu explained while boarding his plane in Ben Gurion Airport. Azerbaijan, the first stop on this two-day visit, shares a border with Iran, and some reports have pointed to extensive intelligence cooperation between Israel and this country with regards to Iran’s nuclear program. Kazakhstan, which Netanyahu will visit tomorrow, has never hosted an Israeli PM on an official visit before.
Netanyahu used the visit to push back against criticism by his political rivals that Israel is suffering from international isolation, highlighting that after his visit to Africa earlier this year and prior visits to important countries in East Asia, he is now investing in “important countries in the Muslim world.” When he returns from the visit, Netanyahu will meet the same problems that have been haunting him for the last few weeks – from the crisis over the illegal outpost of Amona, to the police investigations surrounding him and his office – but for the next 48 hours, his visit is likely going to be celebrated in the local media as a diplomatic achievement.
DNC WATCH: “Labor Secretary Thomas Perez Is Said to Plan Run to Lead D.N.C.” by Jonathan Martin:“Perez has told three senior Democrats that he intends to run for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, challenging the front-running candidate, Representative Keith Ellison, and inserting an ally of President Obama into the contest to rebuild a bruised party… With many senior Democrats casting about for an alternative to Mr. Ellison — whose views on Israel have drawn scorn from Jewish groups and Haim Saban, one of the party’s most significant donors — Mr. Perez could prove a contender.” [NYTimes]
A top Jewish Democrat emails us: “For the many of us who have been uncomfortable with Keith, Tom gives us a great place to land in the race for DNC chair. We’ve been pushing for Tom to jump in weeks ago, but we’re glad he’s doing it now. Keith has an important role in the party and he has been working overtime reaching out to members of our community, but now is a time when we need someone who can unify Democrats in the fight against Trump — and Tom will do just that.”
“Minneapolis Jewish Community Defends Rep. Keith Ellison Against Anti-Semitism Allegations” by Jessica Schulberg: “The idea that Ellison is anti-Semitic is “unkosher hogwash ― it’s ‘narishkeit,’” said Michael Latz, using the Yiddish word for nonsense. Latz first met Ellison seven years ago, when he became the senior rabbi at the Minneapolis synagogue Shir Tikvah. Rabbi Sim Glaser of Minneapolis’ Temple Israel is critical of Ellison’s views toward Israel, but said he is willing to move past Ellison’s past ties to the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan “is a nasty bedfellow to have, but people change,” Glaser said. “I can’t deny him the right to.”” [HuffPost]
LongRead: “Al Franken Faces Donald Trump and the Next Four Years” by Mark Leibovich:“Franken is fully aware that even the most thrown-off or nominally irreverent quip can become toxic after being put through what Franken calls the “de-humorizer” of partisan America. I witnessed this firsthand, and even participated, when I joined Franken in late August at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. As Franken made his rounds — pouring glasses of milk at a dairy stand, eating a pork chop on a stick — he paused for a minute to receive a distraught call from his son, Joe. Joe relayed the news that Teddy Bridgewater, the young quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, had just suffered a gruesome injury to his knee at practice that afternoon. “No!” said Franken, a lifelong Vikings fan. “This is so depressing,” he muttered after hanging up. “It’s like finding out Hillary’s having an affair with Anthony Weiner.”” [NYTimesMag]
**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.
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Redstone Firm Pulls Support for Viacom-CBS Merger [WSJ] • Goldman President Gary Cohn Named Trump Adviser, Opening Door for Younger Executives [NYTimes] • Con Ed Threatens to Nix Service at Jared Kushner-Owned Properties [DNAInfo] • Want to Research Medical Marijuana? Israel Is Open for Business [Bloomberg]
STARTUP NATION: “Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Quietly Visited Israel Ahead of Major Hiring Drive” by Eliran Rubin: “Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of the internet giant Amazon, secretly visited Israel recently as his company moves forward with plans to greatly expand its presence in Israel, TheMarker has learned. Bezos’ visit included meetings with the managers and staff of Annapurna Labs, the Israeli startup Amazon bought in 2015 for $360 million that will serve as the basis for the company’s major upgrade and expansion of its Israeli operations.” [Haaretz]
PROFILE: “At the desk of: Orin Wilf” by Katherine Clarke: “After leaving Poland as Holocaust survivors in the 1950s, Orin Wilf’s grandfather and great uncle got their first jobs as car salesmen in Queens. They eventually began building single-family homes in New Jersey and established a company called Garden Homes. Fast-forward 60 years: Wilf, 42, is today the founder and president of Skyline Developers, a New York affiliate of Garden Homes that specializes in residential development and which owns and manages more than 50,000 apartments across the country and more than 25 million square feet of retail, offices and hotels… It’s safe to say that sports are in the Wilf blood. Wilf is a minority owner of the New York Yankees, while his father and cousins own the Minnesota Vikings.” [TRD]
“Trump Supporter Sam Hyde on Why Political Correctness Canceled His Adult Swim Show – ‘Million Dollar Extreme’ star accuses Brett Gelman of Jewishness” by Michael Malice: “I don’t know how much influence a character actor has, but to be honest, what’s the difference between [what] he says and what I say? I have a hint. I wonder, what would be the one difference? [At this point Sam draws a Star of David and holds it up. He later DMed me, “Can you please mention that I did the Jewish star joke? I think that’s classic.”] I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s not like I hate Jewish people but it is what it is. I don’t know if he was instrumental but he gave it a little bit of extra steam publicly.” [Observer]
TRANSITION: “NYT’s Peter Baker Leaving Jerusalem Bureau to Cover Trump: “The Trump Effect has spread. The NYT has asked Peter to come back to Washington to cover the Trump White House and Susan is going to work from DC as Politico’s chief international affairs columnist while also consulting with them about editorial innovation initiatives,” Baker wrote in a message on his Facebook page… Baker was named as the publication’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief in January 2016 after covering the Obama White House since 2008… His first dispatch from Jerusalem was published on August 28.” [JI; Facebook]
— “New York Times announces new White House team” by Hadas Gold: “Thrush and Baker will be joined by Julie Davis, Mark Landler, Mike Shear and Maggie Haberman. Haberman will be based out of New York, covering what has become known as “White House North,” with President-elect Donald Trump spending so much time at Trump Tower.” [Politico]
“Bill Kristol to step down at Weekly Standard” by Dylan Byers: “Kristol, the founding editor of The Weekly Standard, a leading neoconservative voice for more than two decades, is stepping down and will become editor-at-large. Stephen Hayes, the magazine’s senior writer, will replace Kristol as editor-in-chief… “It’s good,” Kristol told CNNMoney in an email. “Here at The Weekly Standard, we’ve always been for regime change.”” [CNNMoney; TWS]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “Ivanka Trump Donates $1K to Project for 7 Children Killed in Brooklyn Fire” by Eddie Small: “The GoFundMe page for what has been dubbed “The Sassoon 7 Project” aims to raise $1 million to build a community facility at 3371 Bedford Ave., where a devastating fire in March 2015 caused by a hot plate killed seven children of the Orthodox Jewish Sassoon family between the ages of 5 and 16… Although contributors to GoFundMe campaigns have the option to make their donations anonymously, Trump made hers under her full name, and GoFundMe confirmed that the donation did indeed come from the president-elect’s daughter.” [DNAInfo]
SCENE LAST NIGHT IN NYC: Former mayor Michael Bloomberg presented the Magen David Adom’s 2016 Visionary Award to Mark Lebow, chairman of the board of directors of American Friends of Magen David Adom, and Patti Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies, at the annual Magen David Adom New York Gala held at Pier Sixty in Manhattan.
SPOTTED: Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan, URJ’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs, MDA’s Eli Bin, David Frankel, Howard Wolfson, Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg LP co-founder Tom Secunda, Bloomberg Counsel Dick DeScherer, Stu and Jessica Loeser, Sam and Eliana Tisch, Mark Botnick, Shea Fink, Actress Charlotte Kirk and Joshua Newton, Dr. Jason Nehmad, Andrew Levander, Allison Jaffin and Seth Unger, Jonathan Greenspun, Jim Anderson and Dror Katzir, Bill Knapp, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
ACROSS THE POND — “Theresa May slams Labour for fostering anti-Semitic views and for ‘turning a blind eye’ to problems” by Natasha Clark: “She mocked Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, for giving a rendition of Am Yisrael Chai at the Labour friends of Israel event at their party conference. “No amount of karaoke can make up for turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism,” she insisted. She said that the Labour Party and “their hard-left allies” had displayed unacceptable anti-Semitic views, and that they were ignoring what was happening within their own ranks. The PM said that her Government was taking a firm stance to crack down on anti-Semitic abuse, and condemned the rise of such incidents. “It is disgusting that these twisted views are being found in British politics,” Mrs May said today.” [TheSun; Telegraph] • Theresa May urges closer UK ties with Israel post-Brexit [TheJC]
BIRTHDAYS: Chairman of the Federal Reserve (2006-2014), now a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at the Brookings Institution, Ben Shalom Bernanke turns 63… After 10 years as a Maryland state senator from Montgomery County, to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1-2017, Jamie Raskin turns 54… Manager of Global Communications and Public Affairs at Google’s DC office since 7-2015, after almost three years at the House Republican Conference, Riva Litman turns 31… Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood since 1988, Chairman of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, and a member of the Executive Rabbinic Cabinet of J Street, John Rosove… President Emerita at UCLA Faculty Women’s Club, Bette Billet… Co-Founder and principal of The Lead PR, LLC, a NYC based public relations firm, following 14 years as SVP for communications at ABC News, Jeffrey W. Schneider…