Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Obama’s UN vote in response to Trump’s Friedman pick? | Kerry questions how much longer US can support Israel | Dichter interview

Have our people email your people. Share this sign up link with your friends

End Of Year Note What We’re All About: We’re not advocacy news. We’re not here to confirm your biases or challenge your beliefs. We are here, however, to introduce you to new ideas, information and individuals. Most importantly, we are here to serve as a daily platform for our siloed community to convene and share a common conversation about the issues. We hope you will consider supporting us in this worthy and necessary mission. Your tax deductible donation, through our parent organization Tribe Media, will go 100% towards supporting the Jewish Insider team and our goals for expanded coverage in the critically important 2017. Happy Hanukkah and New Year to you and yours! [PayPal]

BEHIND THE SCENES — “The Obama Administration’s Final Warning on the Middle East Peace Process” by David Remnick: “The President-elect’s appointment of David Friedman, a pro-settlement bankruptcy lawyer, as the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel “had a lot of weight in the President’s thinking” about what to do next, one senior Administration official told me. The official told me that the Administration had been “alarmed” by many of Trump’s appointments to his national-security team—notably the appointment of Michael Flynn as national-security adviser—but the selection of Friedman was “over the top.” “The last thing you want to do as you leave office is to pick a fight with the organized Jewish community, but Friedman is so beyond the pale,” the adviser said. “He put his political and charitable support directly into the settlements; he compares Jews on the left to the kapos in the concentration camps—it just put it over the top.”” [NewYorker

Question On Our Mind: Theoretically, had Trump delayed announcing his Ambassador to Israel by a few weeks, would this latest clash between the Obama Administration and Israel have been avoided?

“John Kerry’s mission to save diplomacy” by Elise Labott: “After Trump’s election, the administration worried a dramatic move — such as supporting a UN Security Council resolution laying out the “parameters” of a final peace deal — could push Trump to take a hardline stance… Another UN resolution, this one condemning Israeli settlement activity, seemed a workable compromise… Diplomats said the effort gained steam after the US election because of the consensus the incoming Trump administration would veto any action against Israel at the UN.” [CNN] • John Kerry, tireless in his diplomatic efforts, often came up empty-handed [LATimes• John Kerry’s Middle East plan mirrors Bill Clinton’s futile end-of-term attempt [Guardian]

“How the U.S. came to abstain on a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements” by Karen DeYoung:“People debated whether the backlash to the vote, if we abstained, would do more harm than good, that it would reverberate into our politics, into Israeli politics, and would accelerate trends,” a senior administration official said. But “every potential argument about making things worse is already happening.” [WashPost

TOP TALKER — “Kerry Questions How Much Longer US Can Support Israel Under Status Quo” by Jacob Kornbluh and Aaron Magid: “Questioning how much longer the US could go on supporting Israel while the status quo remains, Kerry posed a series of rhetorical questions: “How would Israel respond to a growing civil rights movement from Palestinians, demanding a right to vote, or widespread protests and unrest across the West Bank? How does Israel reconcile a permanent occupation with its democratic ideals? How does the U.S. continue to defend that and still live up to our own democratic ideals?” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a response carried live by CNN, blasted Kerry’s speech as a “big disappointment” while calling the focus on settlements as “obsessive.” “Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by world leaders” Netanyahu declared.”

“The speech was replete with paternalistic, arrogant lecturing,” Abraham Foxman, former National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), told Jewish Insider. “The threats to peace and the implementation of a two-state solution are not Israeli settlements, but the non-recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Palestinian incitement, and violence.” Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also criticized Kerry for focusing on the settlements while ignoring the fact that Hamas continued launching rockets into Israel after Israel forced settlers to withdraw from all settlements in the Gaza strip. “This is something that people of all political stripes in Israel vividly remember,” he said in a statement.”

— “Others recommended Israelis take a hard look at the substance of the Secretary of State’s remarks. “It’s an important speech for those who support the two-state solution and do not want to see Israel’s Jewish & democratic nature being undermined,” Dan Arbell, former Deputy Chief of Israel’s Embassy in Washington, told Jewish Insider. “I regret that not many Israelis will see this as an opportunity for peace, rather than looking at this from a standpoint that the world is against us and Obama is against us. This is unhelpful and biased.” Hussein Ibish, a senior scholar at the Arab Gulf Institute in Washington, told Jewish Insider, “I think it’s probably the most sympathetic (speech) to the Palestinian cause given by a major American official.” However, Ibish found the timing of the speech problematic. “It would have been very useful 3 or more years ago, linked to policies with consequences. Now it’s sad and pointless, alas.” [JewishInsider

Mark Dubowitz tells us: “Barack Obama and John Kerry’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are shared by very few Americans. Most Americans see a loyal US ally under attack by radical Islamists and Arab rejectionists who have rejected Israel’s right to live in safety and security for decades… Now the UN and Obama have severely undermined Israel’s negotiating position and made peace less likely. By declaring all of the land illegal, including Israel’s most holy sites and already possessed by the Palestinians, Israel will now be in position of negotiating land it illegally possesses. Israel cannot negotiate for peace when it has nothing to give… Most Democrats in Congress, Obama’s former Middle East negotiator George Mitchell, and his top Middle East adviser Dennis Ross believe Obama and Kerry have made an enormous mistake.”

HOW IT PLAYED: Kerry Rebukes Israel, Calling Settlements a Threat to Peace [NYTimes] • In parting shot, Kerry tears into Israel over settlements [AP] John Kerry Gives a Final Warning to Israel and Netanyahu [DailyBeast] • Kerry to Israel: We support you but can’t defend ‘right-wing’ agenda [Politico] • 12 big takeaways from John Kerry’s speech on the Mideast peace process [WashPost

“Kerry’s Blunt Words for Israel Denounced by Lawmakers in Both Parties” by Jonathan Martin: “Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Mr. Kerry’s speech “gratuitous” and “wrong.” “There doesn’t seem any purpose to this other than to embarrass Israel,” Mr. Engel said. “It just pained me to watch it.” Democratic members of Congress who are closer to Mr. Kerry, a former senator, and the Obama administration were more measured… Yet even these Democrats — eyeing the arrival of a Republican administration-in-waiting that has vowed strong support for Israel — left little doubt that they were parting ways with Mr. Obama on the substance of the United Nations resolution.” [NYTimes]

“Chris Murphy: White House actions could push Trump further into Israel’s camp” by Louis Nelson: “Maybe this is the natural extension of what has been a very dysfunctional relationship. My worry, though, is that this, in the end, may have the very opposite effect that Obama and Kerry hope… It may be pushing Donald Trump further and further into Netanyahu’s camp such that he’s not going to be able to be an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” Speaking to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee member said the U.N. is “just fundamentally not a fair forum for the Israelis” and that the White House should have vetoed the Security Council measure.” [Politico; TheHill] • Murphy Blasts UN On Israel Vote, Criticizes Obama [Courant]

INBOX — RJC’s Matt Brooks: “By claiming this speech is a framework for peace in the Middle East, President Obama and John Kerry are playing the Jewish community for fools… We are deeply saddened and troubled by the actions of President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the U.N. and are confident that President Trump and the Republican Congress will work quickly to reverse these statements and actions, and reestablish the strong bonds between the U.S. and Israel.”

“In John Kerry’s Mideast Speech, a Clash of Policies and Personalities” by Peter Baker: “Mr. Trump, after initially saying he wanted to be a neutral figure in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has thrown in his lot with Mr. Netanyahu, especially since the election, perhaps encouraging the prime minister to castigate the departing president and secretary… After all the stormy exchanges and recriminations, the remaining question is where Mr. Trump’s alliance with Mr. Netanyahu will lead. Mr. Trump fashions himself a deal maker, and this would be the ultimate deal.” [NYTimes]

KAFE KNESSET — Interview with Avi Dichter — by Tal Shalev: John Kerry’s speech last night captured the headlines, and prompted vocal responses from both sides of the political spectrum. Kafe Knesset talked to the Likud chair of the Knesset’s foreign affairs committee, Avi Dichter, former head of the Shin-Bet security services, to try to understand his party’s anger.

Q: Why did Kerry spark such an intense reaction? Dichter: You know, just in court, you commit to tell only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Kerry only fulfilled the first part of that obligation. His speech included truths, but not all of the truth, and not only truth, and its unfortunate because one would expect someone as senior and experienced as Kerry to be more loyal to the facts, and more trustworthy in his historic review. I feel like inviting him for a cup of coffee and clarifying the course of history.

Q: But Kerry was trying to convey a specific message about the direction this government is leading to? Dichter: I think he was unfair. He quoted an Israeli politician calling to annex the West Bank, and I expected his next sentence to include a quote from Abbas or Haled Mashaal, but it didn’t. To denounce the Israeli leadership and not even mention the fact that Abbas will be concluding 12 years in power soon since the last elections. I think Kerry should have showed us that he understands the whole story and the wide array of complexities, but he didn’t, and the speech’s credibility just faded out – because he was not telling the whole truth.

Q: Some of your colleagues have been using extremely harsh words towards the Obama administration, do you agree with their accusations? Dichter: I don’t agree with the some of the statements, I don’t think the Obama administration is anti-Semitic or hostile, but I think that its Middle East policy was naïve in a concerning manner, and if you would interview an Egyptian, or a Saudi, even a Syrian or an Iraqi – they would probably agree. All of the US moves in our region in recent years have failed, from Egypt to Iran to Syria to Yemen. But you didn’t hear anything about that from Kerry. Read the entire Kafe Knesset interview [JewishInsider]

WSJ editorial: “Kerry’s Rage Against Israel: But the effect of Mr. Kerry’s efforts will be to put it further out of reach. Palestinians will now be emboldened to believe they can get what they want at the U.N. and through public campaigns to boycott Israel without making concessions. Israelis will be convinced that Western assurances of support are insincere and reversible.” [WSJ

AJC’s David Harris: “Unless we can expect major pronouncements from you [John Kerry] between now and January 20th about the unparalleled carnage in Syria, the unraveling of Libya, Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East and growing challenge to American forces, and Russia’s continued occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine – all of which touch on fundamental American interests and may not be handled in the same way by President Trump and his team, then why this one issue, and with a close ally to boot, on Friday at the UN, today at the State Department, and tomorrow possibly back at the UN – with our without U.S. initiation – or in Paris?” [HuffPost

Amir Tibon: “Sad but true: We didn’t hear this important speech from Kerry when it truly mattered, because it could have hurt Iran deal push in Congress.” [Twitter

“The only thing he didn’t say was ‘apartheid’” by David Horovitz: “Benjamin Netanyahu will fall from power one day. Presumably. But, in contrast to 1999, and notwithstanding widespread concern in Israel over building beyond the security barrier, it is unlikely to be because Israelis feel he is blocking what would otherwise be an open path to peace.” [ToI

“Bibi Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump” by Tom Friedman: “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and right now Obama and Kerry rightly believe that Israel is driving drunk toward annexing the West Bank… I greatly sympathize with Israel’s security problems. If I were Israel, I would not relinquish control of the West Bank borders — for now. The Arab world is far too unstable, and Hamas, which controls another 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, would likely take over the West Bank. My criticism of Netanyahu is not that he won’t simply quit all the West Bank; it is that he refuses to show any imagination or desire to build workable alternatives that would create greater separation and win Israel global support… One day Trump will wake up and discover that he was manipulated into becoming the co-father, with Netanyahu, of an Israel that is either no longer Jewish or no longer democratic. He will discover that he was Bibi’s chump.” [NYTimes]

“The War on Israel Never Ends” by Douglas J. Feith on upper fold of WSJ’s A15: “Settlements aren’t the issue. Many of the Jewish state’s enemies don’t even believe in its right to exist.” [WSJ]

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach emails us: “Truth be told, Israel has been helped militarily. The problem is that Israel is consistently on the raw edge of a PR war for existence. While Obama helped internally with funding and such, he fed the haters exactly what they wanted by giving Israel a public black eye, and telling the world, so to speak, that Israel does not have the moral high ground. Israel needs democracies like the US to have its back in the public eye too.”

“WH says it would veto UN resolution recognizing Palestinian state” by Daniella Diaz: “So just to be clear here, when (Kerry) says, ‘These are not the choices we will make,’ which is kind of vague, is he saying that the US would veto any resolution in the UN which might dictate a peace solution or might recognize a Palestinian state?” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Rhodes on “The Lead.” “Yes,” Rhodes responded. “We’ve made that clear over and over, Jake.” [CNN

TRANSITION TOWER – “Don King appears alongside Trump, talks Israel” by Mark Hensch: “The Israeli flag is about peace, you know, peace in the Middle East,” [King] told reporters Wednesday at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. “We want everyone to come together and as one unit and make things happen. He’s the leader that can make it happen,” King added, waving a bundle of flags including the U.S. and Israeli flags… Trump then panned Secretary of State John Kerry for criticizing Israel’s settlement building in occupied territories in a speech earlier Wednesday. “It speaks for itself,” he said of Kerry’s remarks at the State Department. “It’s pretty obvious. We have different views. I think it set us back. We have to have peace,” Trump added of the conflict. “We’ll see what happens after Jan. 20, right? You’re going to be very impressed.” [TheHill]

Trump: “I’m very very strong on Israel. I think that Israel has been treated very very unfairly by a lot of different people. If you look at resolutions in the United Nations … they are up for 20 reprimands and other nations that are horrible places, horrible places that treat people horribly haven’t even been reprimanded. So there is something going on and I think it is very unfair to Israel.” [YouTube

“Trump team says he will continue to speak with Obama despite clashes” by Hunter Walker: “With respect to the White House, the comments on Friday, I think the president-elect is very clear that Israel … should be treated better by the United States. It’s our closest friend in the Middle East, the only democracy there,” he said. Spicer went on to say Trump “intends to have a much stronger relationship with Israel” going forward.” [YahooNews

WATCH — Israeli Ambassador: Trump Will Be a Strong Supporter of Israel [MSNBC

‘Trump Could Be Israel’s Worst Nightmare” by Gregg Carlstrom: “Israel often claims that “shared values” unite it with America; how can it continue to do so if Israel’s top representatives embrace figures like Gaffney? It may not be an issue under Trump, but the Republicans, who lost the popular vote by a large margin, will not stay in power forever… Trump may yet disappoint his fans in Israel. If he doesn’t, though, Netanyahu is right: A “new era” is coming. But it will be an era in which the two leaders, aligned with the far right of the pro-Israel establishment, pursue policies that will erode Israel’s support in the U.S. and its standing in the world. The Israeli right may have an ally in the White House—but they will be in short supply elsewhere.” [PoliticoMag] • Trump Could Be Even More Wrong on Israel [WSJ

Ron Fournier: “Prediction: Netanyahu will one day regret tweeting this [to Trump].” [Twitter

Marc Schulman: “Tel Aviv Diary: Bibi Netanyahu rails against the world: For the past few months, the joke in Tel Aviv has been that President-elect Donald Trump was an invention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After all, to most Israelis, even ardent opponents of Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister seemed a sane choice compared with Trump. During the past few days, however, many Israelis are scratching their heads wondering which one of these political leaders is the more responsible.” [Newsweek

“Trump’s inauguration rabbi gives President Obama top spot on #TopTenAntiSemitic2016 list” by Celeste Katz: “Trump’s presidential inauguration will feature remarks from the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (Rabbi Marvin Hier), which just gave President Barack Obama the top spot on its 2016 list of the 10 worst anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents in the world… On Tuesday, the Center called Obama out by name in its list of the “Top Ten Worst Global 2016 Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Incidents,” which the center branded for social media with the hashtag #TopTenAntiSemitic2016. Said the Center in a scathing report, “The most stunning 2016 U.N. attack on Israel was facilitated by President Obama when the U.S. abstained on a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel for settlement construction.”” [Mic

“Who Will Really Be the Next President of the United States?” by David Rothkopf: “In a holding company, the power lies with the person who ends up coordinating the structure and resolving the inevitable rivalries that emerge within it. Will it be Pence — continuing the recent trend of increasingly important No. 2s, from Al Gore to Dick Cheney to Joe Biden — inheriting a vice presidency vastly more powerful than ever before? … Could it be a small committee of advisors that could include Jared Kushner or Ivanka Trump?” [FP] • Pence’s Influence Likely to Be Limited as VP [RCP]

“Can Donald Trump Hire Ivanka Trump?” by Norm Eisen and Richard Painer: “The ideal — and honest — solution to this legal question would be for President Trump to ask Congress to amend the anti-nepotism statute to allow the president to appoint a limited number of relatives to formal positions in the White House… But if Mr. Trump does not seek an amendment, or if he does and Congress refuses… he should at a minimum appoint Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner to formal positions on the White House staff. This would force them to file financial disclosure forms, revealing their finances. They would also have to divest assets that create conflicts of interest.” [NYTimes

DNC WATCH: “Leading DNC Candidates Duck Debate Over Obama’s Handling Of UN Israel Resolution” by Sam Stein: “A spokesperson for Labor Secretary Tom Perez told The Huffington Post that Perez wouldn’t be weighing in on the matter “given his role in the cabinet.” Several requests for comment sent over several days to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) were not returned. A similar request to New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley went unanswered, while a statement from South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison notably avoided taking a position.” [HuffPost]

IRAN DEAL: Inside the 37-Year Standoff Over Iran’s Frozen U.S. Dollars” by Jay Solomon and Carol Lee: “Over the past 18 months, Iran has detained at least three more American citizens for allegedly threatening the country’s national security. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wants the U.S. to return another chunk of Iranian money, $2 billion frozen in 2009 in a Citibank account in New York. He has suggested that a deal similar to the one involving the $400 million could resolve the issue… Iran was demanding as much as $10 billion, citing the high rates of interest in the 1970s. In an out-of-court settlement, the U.S. agreed to pay Iran the $400 million, plus $1.3 billion in interest.” [WSJ

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

STARTUP NATION: “From Local To Everywhere – Lemonade is going nationwide!” by Shai Wininger: “In the last 3 months since our New York launch, we’ve had overwhelming demand coming in from all over the country to open up for business in more states. This was very encouraging because it showed us hints of initial demand and product market fit to people and age groups which we never thought would be our early adopters… But what surprised us most was the excitement coming from unexpected places such as government offices and regulators alike. Having a favorable regulatory environment is a great opportunity to bring honest, affordable, transparent and fun insurance experience to everyone in the US .” [Medium]

SPOTLIGHT: “Reclusive Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter Photographed in Public at Trump Event” by Erik Hayden: “Ike Perlmutter, the CEO of Marvel Entertainment, has been photographed in public — a rare instance for the reclusive mogul. Perlmutter met with Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Wednesday and was photographed by Jonathan Ernst for Reuters news agency. The image shows a sunglasses-wearing Perlmutter and Trump peering out of a window. Perlmutter was helping organize a health summit with the president-elect at Trump’s Florida retreat. Unlike executives at other major studios and networks, the 74-year-old Marvel CEO has been photographed very few times over the years.” [THR]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Muslim high schooler tracks down homeless man who allegedly struck Jewish woman on Brooklyn subway” by Todd Maisel: “A brave Muslim high school student helped cops bust a homeless sicko who randomly slammed his open hand into an Orthodox Jewish woman’s face on a Brooklyn subway train Tuesday night, officials said. Ahmed Khalifa, 17, of Midwood chased down Rayvon Jones, 31, after he decked the woman, who was simply reading a book on a Coney Island-bound Q train near the Newkirk Ave. station at about 7:50 p.m.[DailyNews]

BIRTHDAYS: English journalist and author, economics correspondent for the Financial Times since 1966, Sir Samuel Brittan turns 83… Linda Zweig turns 74… Foreign policy and public diplomacy advisor to seven consecutive Israeli Prime Ministers (1990-2016), now a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings Institution, Shalom Lipner turns 51… Film, television and stage actor, best known for his role as Marshall Flinkman on ABC’s “Alias” (2001-2006), Kevin Weisman turns 46… The youngest GM in MLB history when the Boston Red Sox hired him at the age of 28; President of the Chicago Cubs since 2011, winners of the 2016 World Series after a 106 year drought, Theo Epstein turns  43… Social worker at Brookline (MA) High School, co-founder in 2005 of the “Foundation To Be Named Later” with his twin brother Theo, Paul Epstein also turns 43… Senior Adviser on Research and Digital Strategy at The Israel Project (TIP), Gary Rosen… Politico’s national political reporter Katie Glueck

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]