Daily Kickoff: JI Readers React to UNSC | Dermer on Rhodes: “He’s a master of fiction” | First Hasidic woman in US public office | Lefsetz on Hanukkah

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: David Axelrod to President Obama — “I heard you got a little verklempt.” [CNN]

READERS REACT — Yesterday, we asked “Who will be the biggest longterm loser from Friday’s events at the UNSC?” Below are some responses from JI readers. We’re aware that some of you sent replies to [email protected] that were bounced. We apologize. If that issue comes up again, please email [email protected]. Thanks! 

Dr. Dore Gold, former Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry: “Netanyahu met the test that he is serious about peace when he accepted Kerry’s framework agreement in 2014. President Obama presented the framework to Abbas in the Oval Office and was told, ‘I will get back to you.’ Abbas never got back. Those facts are not reflected in the administration’s approach, which should have blocked the Palestinian strategy of internationalization at the UN and advanced the common US-Israeli strategy of a negotiated solution.”

Ann Lewis, WH Communications Director in the Clinton Administration: “I can tell you a few things I think will not happen: This will not add fuel to the BDS movement, certainly not in the US. The progress of anti-BDS victories in states legislatures shows that Americans have made up their minds on this kind of tactic. This will, unfortunately, make the odds of a Palestinian state longer and the process of getting there more difficult. Why negotiate — which requires compromise — when you can go directly to the UN and be told you’re right? We don’t yet know the exact impact on UN funding – but we do know that the UN has just hurt its own credibility with the American public.”

Noam Neusner, WH Jewish Liaison for Bush 43: “This was a tantrum – and one which we have come to expect from someone supposedly believed to be above such emotion. Now, if there was any doubt, the pro-Israel community has seen it in full flower. Of course, there were signs before. Of the disastrous deal to grant legitimacy to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and funding its expansionist agenda, he said – in his defense, no less – “If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this.” For him, what happens to Iran and Israel and the region twenty years from now is about him – as if the rest of the people in that region don’t matter.”

Rabbi David Wolpe, Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in LA: “The abstention accomplished three things at once: it exacerbated tensions within the Jewish community; strengthened the hands of the Palestinians without demanding any corresponding moderation on their part; and pulled the rug out beneath those who argued for the President’s essential sympathy to Israel. Its long-term effects are uncertain, but in the short-term, he handed his successor not a gauntlet but a gift.”

Tevi Troy, WH Jewish Liaison for Bush 43: “While the UNSC Resolution hurts Israel in the short-run, in the long-run, it will hurt both the UN and the legacy of the outgoing Obama administration. Twenty-five years ago this month, the UN at long last repealed the noxious “Zionism is racism” resolution. While that resolution was initially designed to harm Israel, it ended up harming the credibility of the UN for at least a generation. This new anti-Israel resolution will similarly damage the credibility of the UN, and in the process hurt the reputation of the outgoing Obama administration, which has now been revealed to have been actively promoting the resolution behind the scenes.”

Attorney Andrew Weinstein, Prominent Democratic Donor: “While it’s convenient for some to say this was a parting shot at Bibi, unlike our president-elect, Barack Obama would never allow US policy to be dictated by a personal grudge. One need only read the eulogy President Obama gave at the funeral of his friend Shimon Peres to know what is truly in his heart. President Obama will leave office next month with near historic approval ratings… Those in the American Jewish community who support him will continue to do so and the minority that don’t, are unlikely to change their minds at this point.”

Grand Rabbi Yitzhak Aharon Korff: “For Israel, this is an opportunity to reiterate its position publicly and in private diplomacy yet again, and to assess or re-assess realistically who its loyal allies actually are, if any. It may even be a personal opportunity for Netanyahu himself to demonstrate again his strong leadership and diplomacy in defending his country as eloquently and articulately as he always does… With the US set to restore balance and equity to the issue after January 20th, ultimately it will be Obama personally who will be the biggest loser, for once again undermining established, coherent, U.S. policy, stature and reliability in the world to take a vindictive parting shot and satisfy his personal views or agenda, dare we say grudge.”

T’ruah’s Rabbi Jill Jacobs: “The biggest losers are Israelis and Jews around the world who are distracted by arguing over this resolution, rather than moving forward toward the solution needed to create a peaceful, just, and secure future for Israelis and Palestinians. And the other biggest loser is Zionism, which for too many on the far right and far left has become equated with a policy of military occupation and settlement, rather than with taking our future in our own hands–including by taking responsibility for ensuring that Israel is both safe, and lives up to the highest principles of Jewish law and morality.”

GOP Campaign Finance Lawyer Charlie Spies: “What was left of Obama’s Carter-esque legacy only got worse. Jewish Americans who supported Obama’s domestic agenda had to spend eight years suspending disbelief on foreign policy and rationalizing his hostility to Israel so they could sleep at night. Now, Obama’s reversal of longstanding American policy at the UN made clear that his petty personal slights against the Israeli government are in fact dangerous, not only to Israel but also to stability in the world. The biggest loser from the Obama abandonment of Israel at the UN will be J Street and their sham claim of being pro-Israel. Obama’s legacy is now in shambles, both domestically and internationally.”

Prof. Alan Abbey: “The ZOA and others on the Right never were going to invite Barack Obama to their conferences, even before this vote. I cannot imagine that financial issues have ever played any role in Obama’s thinking. And it is absolutely inaccurate to equate Obama and Jimmy Carter in any way. Obama has made his feelings for Israel clear in many ways and at many times, most recently in his comments at the funeral of Shimon Peres.”

Hank Sheinkopf, political strategist: “Obama will remain unwelcome in large segments of the pro-Israel community. No big deal. He’s not welcome now. The real problem: expect Sanders-faction Democrats moves to slash aid to Israel and to generally create distance between the U.S and the Middle East’s sole democracy, Israel.”

Michael Fragin, political consultant: “This unfortunate decision was nothing more than a lump of coal in Bibi’s holiday stocking. Obama’s foreign policy doctrine consistently is to undermine friends and reward enemies… Even with the change to a Trump administration, supporters of the Israeli right should be alarmed that the world’s focus is once again on Israel.”

Ezra Friedlander, pr consultant: “To compare him to Carter is not fair. Notwithstanding this vote, Obama can legitimately take credit for enhancing US-Israel security ties. A lot will depend on how Obama further involves himself in the Middle East. Assuming that he doesn’t, Obama will be popular on the speaking circuit, but if he continues to aggressively follow in publicly pressuring Israel it may turn him off to mainstream Jewish and like-minded supporters.”

Donald A. Newman of Long Beach, CA: “In the short run, this UNSC vote may strengthen Netanyahu’s hand and weaken the Israeli left. But, if Israel fails to stop and refuses to appreciate the mistakes of its policies, it will do itself long term damage.”

Read all the comments in full here [JewishInsider

DRIVING THE WEEK — “Defying U.N., Israel Prepares to Build More Settlements” by Peter Baker: “Israel’s government said Monday that it would move ahead with thousands of new homes in disputed areas… [Jerusalem] city intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of town on Wednesday in what a top official called a first installment on 5,600 new homes… The 618 housing units to be granted building permits… have been in the works for a while, and the planning committee meeting agenda was set before the United Nations acted… The fury of Mr. Netanyahu’s response has generated debate at home… But to his base, the Security Council action confirmed what they believed all along, that Mr. Obama is inherently anti-Israel, and so the prime minister comes across as a champion beset by enemies.” [NYTimes]

“Israel curbs working ties with nations who voted for UN resolution” by Elise Labott, Oren Liebermann and Theodore Schleifer: “The officials said that business with the embassies of those countries — Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand — will be suspended. Netanyahu will not meet with the foreign ministers of those countries and their ambassadors will not be received at Israel’s foreign ministry, the officials added. In addition, travel by Israeli ministers to those countries will also be limited.” [CNN

TRUMP PRAISES UN, SORTA: “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!” [Twitter]

“Amb. Ron Dermer: Obama ‘Handcuffing’ Incoming Trump Administration” by Jacob Kornbluh: “The real story is how an outgoing President would fundamentally change U.S policy towards Israel in the waning days of the Administration,” Dermer told MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson, defending President-elect Donald Trump’s intervention at the behest of Israel. “Imagine if President (George W.) Bush on the way out of the door, a month before he leaves office, decides to move the [U.S.] Embassy to Jerusalem, to recognize Israel’s annexation of the settlement blocs, would then everybody be saying, ‘Well, we only have one president at a time’? Of course not. They would say, ‘Look, you’re undermining and handcuffing the next Administration.’ This was an attempt to handcuff a new Administration and prevent us from advancing peace.” [JewishInsiderWatch: Dermer on CNN’s The Lead [CNN

Dermer on Ben Rhodes: “Look, he’s a master of a fiction. Israel has to deal with the real world, with real enemies, not with narratives, not with echo chambers.” [HughHewitt]

Rhodes on Israel’s Channel 2: “By definition it’s not an ambush when Obama and [John] Kerry have been saying that Israeli settlement activity was making a two-state solution unachievable.” [ToI; MAKO

TOP TALKER: “Elkin to JPost: Joe Biden told Ukrainians to vote against Israel” by Gil Hoffman: “Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin… said openly that Biden spoke to the Ukrainians and that they would have abstained had he not intervened. A source said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s office confirmed that Biden called, but will not confirm or deny that it had to do with Israel. Biden’s office said in response that, “this is not accurate, he hasn’t made any calls.”” [JPost]

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) emails us: “I am extremely disappointed by the vote at the UN Security Council and by the Administration’s decision not to veto. Resolutions at the UN are not the right tool to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I will continue working to protect Israel in international institutions and to support a directly negotiated solution to this conflict.”

“Dem lawmaker: Israel’s accusations start of ‘war on the American government’” by Rebecca Kheel: “What we’re seeing is the beginning of a war on the American government,” Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said Monday on MSNBC…. McDermott said Israel is attacking Obama as a pretext for pushing Trump to adopt more friendly policies than Obama had. “They never could get 100 percent out of Barack Obama, so they decided to attack him and use him as the reason for why Trump should come in and give them everything they want.” [TheHill; MSNBC] • McDermott abstained from voting for emergency aid for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system in 2014 [JNS]

“No-drama Obama? You gotta be kidding” by Shmuel Rosner: Obama did not start anything. He cannot start anything. So everything he does now is a shot in the dark… Alas, Obama – the man of a no-drama image – proved less immune to personal grudges and considerations than his admirers believed. Last weekend was no substance – it was all drama… Obama’s last (or almost last) act is to weaken the US’ ability to be a leader in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Possibly because he does not trust Donald Trump to lead in this arena in the direction Obama would prefer.” [JewishJournal

“What’s new and what’s not in the U.N. resolution on Israeli settlements” by Natan Sachs: None of this—the determination of “occupation,” the inclusion of East Jerusalem, the U.S. abstention—was actually new. But two things were: the involvement of Donald Trump, not yet in office, in the process of tabling the resolution; and the sense that this was not merely a condemnation of Israeli settlements, nor an attempt to promote a two-state solution, but an attempt to prevent the worst of the no-solution reality.” [Brookings]

“If Israel is a land thief, how can it negotiate?” by David Suissa: “Once you stipulate that settlements are illegal, what is there for the Palestinians to negotiate? Nobody owes a criminal anything, least of which the indignity of having to sit down and talk. A thief is lucky to avoid jail time. He must return stolen property. End of story. Have you ever wondered why Palestinian leaders always appear so reluctant to make any concessions?” [JewishJournal]

“Obama’s Fitting Finish” by Bret Stephens: “Even this might be excusable, if Mr. Obama at least had the courage of his mistaken convictions, or if his deception were in the service of a worthier end. Instead, we have the spectacle of the U.S. government hiding behind the skirts of the foreign minister of New Zealand… in order to embarrass and endanger a democratic ally in a forum where that ally is already isolated and bullied… Unlike Mr. Carter, Mr. Obama hasn’t joined the jackals. He has merely opened the door wide to them, whether at the U.N. or in the skies over Syria or in the killing fields in Ukraine. The United States abstains: What a fitting finish to this ruinous presidency.” [WSJ

Newt Gingrich tweets: “President-elect Trump must prepare a comprehensive offensive for Jan 20 to undo the damage to Israel the Obama team is inflicting… Congress should pass resolutions January 3-4 condemning Obama attacks on Israel and demanding he not participate in French or UNSC attacks.” [Twitter]

“Don’t Move the Embassy to Jerusalem; the Downsides Are Too Great” by Aaron David Miller: “If the new administration wants to reassure the Israelis and demonstrate a break with U.S.-Israeli tensions of the Obama administration, there are other less risky and encumbering ways to do so. Having danced around the Jerusalem issue for a half century, my advice to a new president is to keep on dancing.” [NYTimes]

FIRST LOOK — “Facing Pressure On All Sides, ADL Storms Ahead” by JI’s Aaron Magid: “No Jewish group has arguably faced more controversy during the past year than the ADL, which has taken hits from both Trump supporters and liberals for its stances critiquing anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination. The ADL has been “ferociously focused on fighting anti-Semitism whether it’s coming from the extreme right or the radical left,” Greenblatt explained in an interview with Jewish Insider. “What that basically means is that I am not interested in partisanship.”

Leon Wieseltier, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, rejected the charge that the organization was acting out of partisan motives. “There were really repulsive expressions of Jew-hatred that turned up in the larger universe of the Trump campaign. I think it was ADL’s proper role and responsibility to decry it.” Wieseltier explained. “I am tired with everything being politicized… It should not be made into a political football. The whole purpose of an organization such as the ADL is to offend all sides,” noted Wieseltier.” [JewishInsider]

TRANSITION TOWER — “Trump readies war room to defend Cabinet picks” by Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook: “Mnuchin, in particular, is expected to undergo multiple murder boards since Democrats are already targeting him because of his tenure at Goldman Sachs and his ownership of a mortgage company that foreclosed on thousands of homeowners during the recession. Transition officials are also schooling Mnuchin in the finer points of Washington politesse, urging him to downplay his master-of-the-universe sensibility and act humbly and respectfully to senators, even if they ask tough questions.” [Politico]

“Israelis wary, Palestinians despairing over Tillerson appointment” by Uri Savir: “Tillerson reminds veteran Israeli diplomats of the former secretary of state who recommended him to Trump — James Baker — who more than once gave the Yitzhak Shamir government the cold shoulder and pressured Israel into participating in the Madrid international peace conference in 1991… A senior PLO official close to President Mahmoud Abbas told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the whole Trump administration is an American extension of the Benjamin Netanyahu-Naftali Bennett right-wing government… Both sides are currently contemplating and preparing for Washington’s new Middle East team. According to the Israeli senior official, the current Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, will hold talks with the secretary-designate in the near future, before his congressional confirmation hearing.” [Al-Monitor

“Iranian dissidents urge Trump to break with Obama’s pro-Iran policy” by Benjamin Weinthal: “Unfortunately, Iranians have been among the main victims of the detrimental policies adopted by President Obama in the Middle East. A prime example of these detrimental policies was the secret delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to the Revolutionary Guards in exchange for the release of the hostages,” the dissidents’ letter said… The signers urged Trump “to support the pro-democracy Iranians whose goal is to replace the Khomeinist regime of Tehran with a liberal-democratic government.” [JPost

Richard Cohen: “Thanks to no-drama Obama, American leadership is gone: That coolness, that no-drama Obama, cost lives in Syria. Instead of rallying the United States to a worthy cause — intervening to save lives and avoid a refugee crisis that is still destabilizing Europe — he threw in the towel. The banner he flew was one of American diminishment.” [WashPost

LongRead: “Egypt’s Failed Revolution” by Peter Hessler: “A European diplomat said that Sisi could easily counter any movement against him, much as President Recep Erdoğan did in response to the recent coup attempt in Turkey. “He could make a call to the people and say, ‘I stand for order,’ ” the diplomat said. “And that will go down very well.” It would likely also appeal to American officials—after Donald Trump won the election, the first foreign leader to call with congratulations was Sisi.” [NewYorker

** 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 [email protected] **

SPOTLIGHT: “Who Will Do What Harry Reid Did Now That Harry Reid Is Gone?” by Jason Zengerle: “The man who’ll be replacing Reid as the Democrats’ Senate leader is Chuck Schumer. This is by Reid’s design. The taciturn Mormon from Nevada and the manic Jew from New York were one of the odder couples on Capitol Hill, but they had a remarkably close — and successful — partnership. Schumer was the perfect complement to Reid. “Senator Reid never cared about messaging, and he sure as hell didn’t care about polls,” says Jim Manley, Reid’s former communications director, “but Schumer certainly thrives on that stuff.” Unlike Reid, Schumer also had good working relationships with many of his Republican ­colleagues. Reid admired Schumer’s hustle. “He knows that Chuck’s the guy who works his ass off,” says one Reid adviser.” [NYMag]

MEDIA WATCH: “The Media Blew Overall, Yes, But There Were Noteworthy Exceptions, And Here They Are” by Howard Wolfson: “Leon Wieseltier advises us to remain angry and channel our rage. Foreign Affairs showed that democracies die not with a bang but with a whimper. Alana Newhouse and Yehudah Mirksy captured why so many Jews are so nervous.” [DailyBeast]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Brooklyn judge becomes first Hasidic Jewish woman in U.S. public office” by Christina Carrega: “The people of Brooklyn are used to making history — and they did it again this year after voting in the country’s first Hasidic Jewish woman to serve in public office. “It’s an incredible feeling,” said Rachel Freier, who was sworn in just last week as a New York City Civil Court judge. “I didn’t become a lawyer until I was 40. I was an older student. I was an older first-year lawyer, always older. Now I finally caught up,” said Freier, a mother of six. Freier, 51, founded the first female volunteer ambulance service in Brooklyn called Ezras Nashim — Hebrew for helping women…” [DailyNews]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “A Sportscaster’s Secret Mission To Save Jewish Family At The ‘Nazi’ Olympics” by Karen Given: “There’s very little in this tale that’s simple. The events that I’m about to describe never became part of the official history books. And the who, what, when, where, why and how depend a bit on who you ask. But here’s where we can start. Stanley Wertheim was a little more than 2 years old when Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. He doesn’t remember much from his childhood in Warburg, about 400 kilometers southwest of Berlin… Stanley Wertheim is Jewish. Everything he did — or didn’t do — could have resulted in serious consequences.” [WBUR]

Bob Lefsetz on Hanukkah in Vail: “There were nearly a hundred people there. Probably not every Jew in the valley, but more than I expected. Why did they come? I was not sure. But I looked around and I felt warmth, I felt friendship, I felt like I belonged.” [Lefsetz]

BIRTHDAYS: British businessman, owner of the Swan Hellenic cruise line and member of the UK’s House of Lords, Baron Jeffrey Maurice Sterling (born Steinberg) turns 82… First head coach of the NBA’s Miami Heat and head coach and assistant coach of multiple NBA teams, Ron Rothstein turns 74… Film, television and stage actress, singer and playwright, a Broadway star for more than four decades, Tovah Feldshuh turns 63 (h/t Playbook)… Professional wrestler, mixed martial arts color commentator and former NFL player for the Rams (1990-91) and Falcons (1993-94), Bill Goldberg turns 50… CEO, Co-founder and Chairman at Box, which he launched in 2005, Aaron Levie turns 32… Executive Director of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, the international Jewish fraternity with more than 10,000 undergraduate members and 185 active chapters, Andrew S. Borans… JD Candidate at NYU School of Law, in 2012 he was an Obama for America Regional Field Director for Jefferson County, Colorado, lifelong New Yorker, Ben Lazarus (h/t Playbook)… George Blum…… Rachel Parker

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