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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]
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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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