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TALK OF THIS TOWN: “Will President Trump attend this year’s Alfalfa Club dinner? It’s a toss-up” by Roxanne Roberts: “The Alfalfa Club is the most insidery bastion of inside Washington, an exclusive club of establishment elites who meet once a year to dine, drink and tell self-deprecating jokes. Its members include billionaires, business leaders, military, senior politicians — influential power brokers who can be useful to a new administration with an ambitious agenda. Will President Trump show up at Saturday’s black-tie dinner? Or will he skip the annual celebration, now in its 104th year? Presidential pundits are watching for this small but symbolic gesture: Making an appearance would be a nod to Washington’s culture of politesse; skipping the dinner would underscore the message that Trump is bypassing the traditional conventions of this town.” [WashPost] • Better question is whether Jared & Ivanka will attend? Check back here Monday morning for the answer.
ON THE HILL: “Durbin Flooded with Calls After Holding Up Pro-Israel Measure” by Jenna Lifhits: “Jewish Insider reported Wednesday that Durbin was holding up the resolution, citing comment from Democratic New Mexico senator Tom Udall. Durbin is resisting the measure because it does not condemn Israeli settlements… Durbin’s offices in Washington and Illinois were slammed with over one thousand phone calls from supporters of the Republican Jewish Coalition this week, one of several groups lobbying for the resolution… “Senator Durbin has chosen to play politics with the security of our closest ally, Israel,” RJC spokesman Fred Brown told TWS.” [TWS] • We are told that Sen. Durbin’s staffers in his DC and Chicago offices shut down the phones for a while on Wednesday based on the number of calls they were receiving.
“Woodall, Hastings Introduce Bill Assailing Palestinian Incitement” by Aaron Magid: Rob Woodall (R-GA) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning Palestinian incitement on Wednesday. The bill calls on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to “publically condemn incitement and acts of violence against Israeli citizens and to discontinue incitement in Palestinian Authority-controlled media outlets.” The resolution includes a 27-page introduction that lists every Palestinian attack or attempted strike from September 2015 until the present day. [JewishInsider]
TRUMP TUMULT: “The State Department’s entire senior administrative team just resigned” by Josh Rogin: “[Rex] Tillerson was actually inside the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, taking meetings and getting the lay of the land… Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, [the State Department’s long-serving undersecretary for management, Patrick] Kennedy and three of his top officials resigned unexpectedly… All are career Foreign Service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.” [WashPost]
“Trump administration asks top State Department officials to leave” by Elise Labott: “Any implication that that these four people quit is wrong,” one senior State Department official said. “These people are loyal to the secretary, the President and to the State Department. There is just not any attempt here to dis the President. People are not quitting and running away in disgust. This is the White House cleaning house.” Mark Toner, the State Department’s acting spokesman, said in a statement that “These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term.” [CNN; Politico]
Aaron David Miller tells us: “I am not sure the State Department matters much in the President’s foreign policy universe. It’s in a galaxy far, far away. Meanwhile back on planet earth, Rex Tillerson’s job just got a lot more complicated.”
“White House Hobbles Nikki Haley Before Her First Day at the U.N.” by Colum Lynch: “The White House itself gut-punched Haley and the international community, drawing up draft plans to cut funding for critical programs and withdraw from international treaties… Trump’s inner circle prepared a pair of draft executive orders that mull 40 percent cuts in voluntary U.S. funding for key U.N. agencies… The disclosure came just a day after Haley was confirmed as Trump’s new U.N. envoy with broad bipartisan support… She may have been blindsided by the executive orders.” [FP]
“Trump lays groundwork to change U.S. role in the world” by Karen DeYoung and Philip Rucker: “His words and actions reflect “a view that the status quo that has essentially grown up over the last 70 years costs the U.S. more than it benefits it,” said Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations… That view, extending from trade policy to traditional alliances, Haass said, “is fundamentally flawed in its assumption that American involvement and leadership in the world has cost us more than it’s gained us, but that nonetheless appears to be their vision.”” [WashPost]
“Trump administration debates designating Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist group” by Mark Hosenball: “A faction led by Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor, wants to add the Brotherhood to the State Department and U.S. Treasury lists of foreign terrorist organizations, the sources said. “I know it has been discussed. I’m in favor of it,” said a Trump transition advisor… They worry that a U.S. move to designate the entire Brotherhood a terrorist group would complicate relations with Turkey.” [Reuters]
“Trump’s foreign policy revolution” by Charles Krauthammer: “Some claim that putting America first is a reassertion of American exceptionalism. On the contrary, it is the antithesis. It makes America no different from all the other countries that define themselves by a particularist blood-and-soil nationalism. What made America exceptional, unique in the world, was defining its own national interest beyond its narrow economic and security needs to encompass the safety and prosperity of a vast array of allies.” [WashPost]
DRIVING THE WEEK: “Trump says that he has already completely ‘repaired’ U.S.-Israeli relations” by Christopher Brennan: ““It’s repaired … got repaired as soon as I took the oath,” the president said… “Within five minutes?” [Sean] Hannity questioned before Trump repeated any problems had been repaired. “We have a good relationship. Israel has been treated very badly. We have a good relationship with them,” Trump said.” [NYDN]
— Trump would not answer Hannity’s question about how he may respond to former President Barack Obama’s sending $221 million to the Palestinian Authority on his final day in office… “We’re going to see what happens. Yes, I don’t want to talk about it,” Trump said… When Hannity asked how [the embassy] move [to Jerusalem] is coming, Trump responded with, yet again, no new information, nor confirmation that the administration was still pursuing it. “I don’t want to talk about it yet,” Trump said.” [WashExaminer; YouTube]
HEARD YESTERDAY: Malcolm Hoenlein discussed moving the Embassy to Jerusalem on Councilman David Greenfield’s weekly radio show: “There are ways that we can help enhance the success of this to make sure that it happens, and that it happens with the minimal repercussions. We can’t be intimidated. We can’t succumb to a threat of violence. This is the right thing. It’s a decision the American President has the right to make, and I think he’s very serious about it. I think people went too far upfront, too public, and all of a sudden the Administration gets messages from regional allies to hold back. Or they are just saying, ‘We have to look at this to see how do we do this in the most effective and pragmatic way.’ I’m not at all surprised by that statement (of Press Sec. Sean Spicer), and I think it’s in part because our people have made, you know, irresponsible statements in ways, and certainly the threats that we have gotten from parties in the Middle East about it. America has to make up its mind that this is the decision it’s going to make and implement it smartly.”
“Trump Will Keep Vow to Put Embassy in Jerusalem, Giuliani Says” by Michael Arnold and Jonathan Ferziger: “Giuliani said the new U.S. president and his advisers will probably take “six months or so” to develop a new strategy for American peace efforts in the Middle East. How and when the U.S. moves the embassy will be discussed when Netanyahu visits the White House in early February, Giuliani said. “I think you’ve got to wait a little bit, but it will get done,” Giuliani said of the embassy move, speaking in an interview at the Tel Aviv offices of Greenberg Traurig LLP… Trump realizes the embassy decision “implicates four or five countries and how they’re going to react,” Giuliani said. “He needs to know how the Prime Minister of Israel is going to react and how he wants to see something like this done.” Giuliani predicted Netanyahu and Trump would have a “very, very good, collaborative relationship,” as opposed to what he described as the “hostile relationship” between President Barack Obama and the Israeli leader.” [Bloomberg]
KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: While the Prime Minister was questioned for the third time, about 1,500 Likud activists gathered in the southern city of Eilat for the second Likudiada weekend, an annual celebration of the ruling party including speeches by ministers and MKs, stand up performances, music and partying, and lots of food. The highlight of the event is a mock primary vote, in which old and new figures compete over prestige and popularity, including some interesting outsider candidates, such as the heir, Yair Netanyahu, whose name was supposedly added without his consent but still managed to top the conversation.
One of the scandals surrounding the Likudiada this year was the timing – which coincidentally fell on the International Holocaust Memorial Day – and sparked much criticism from Holocaust survivors and opposition leaders. Yair Lapid posted a picture of Likud founder Menachem Begin, asking: “Would Begin, who lost his parents and siblings in the Holocaust, agree to have the Likudiada in Eilat on International Holocaust Memorial Day?” The organizers said it was done unintentionally, but they made a point of opening the day with a special moment of silence and had memorial candles lit in the entrance to the main hall. However, the Likud activists were furious about the attack, claiming this is just another demonstration of how the media is out to get them. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset [JewishInsider]
Spotted at Likudiada: Ministers Haim Katz, Yuval Steinitz, Gila Gamliel, Ayoob Kara, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Likud MKs: Yoav Kish, Anat Berko, Sharen Haskel, Amir Ohana and more. Also testing the waters was Gilad Sharon, son of former PM Ariel Sharon, who is hoping to be elected to the party in the next primary elections.
“Mattis Assuages NATO Fears, Reaffirms Commitment to Israel’s Security” by Amir Tibon: “Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called his Israeli counterpart Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday… Mattis called Lieberman “to emphasize his intent to advance the U.S.-Israeli defense relationship and to protect Israel’s qualitative military edge,” the statement said. According to the Pentagon, the two leaders discussed regional security challenges as well as the need “to create common approaches to challenges facing the region.”” [Haaretz]
“Prime Minister May aligns the UK with GOP on Israel and Iran” by Michael Wilner: “Addressing a GOP retreat one day before meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House, May said… “A newly emboldened, confident America is good for the world… “And whether it is the security of Israel in the Middle East or Estonia in the Baltic states, we must always stand up for our friends and allies in democratic countries that find themselves in tough neighborhoods too,” she added… May also offered tough language on Iran and the nuclear deal it reached with world powers in 2015… “The nuclear deal with Iran was controversial,” she said… “The agreement must now be very carefully and rigorously policed– and any breaches should be dealt with firmly and immediately,” she said.” [JPost]
‘Even a Shining City on a Hill Needs Walls’ — Jeffrey Goldberg interviews Senator Tom Cotton: “Goldberg: Do you always refer to them as a Judea and Samaria? Cotton: I do. Goldberg: Why? Cotton: That’s why the Jews are called Jews, because they’re from Judea… These are the traditional names going back to biblical times. I think this is a reminder that it’s not just some kind of abstract administrative division there. It is a homeland to which the Jews have been attached for many millennia… If you were to compare the foreign policy record of the last eight years of President Obama, on the one hand, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the other, I think I would strongly favor Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has gone from one success to the next, not only in his own neighborhood but in Africa and South Asia, East Asia. It’s hard to think of a time in which Israel was in a stronger position relative to its neighbors in the world then it is after Netanyahu’s tenure. It’s hard to think of a place where the U.S. is in in a better position than we were eight years ago.” [TheAtlantic]
“Gabbard’s Assad Trip–Courtesy of an Anti-Semitic Middle East Organization” by Lee Smith: “Now [Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s] office says the trip was funded by the Ohio chapter of the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services… The executive director of AACESS is Bassam Khawam, who accompanied Gabbard on the trip. Khawam… is a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), a pro-Assad Lebanese political party that has sent members to fight on behalf of the Syrian regime during the almost 6-year-long conflict. The SSNP also sent fighters against Israel in support of Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon war.” [TWS; DailyBeast]
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STARTUP NATION: “Kik snaps up video chat app maker Rounds for a reported $60-$80 million” by Jon Russell: “Kik CEO Ted Livingston declined to give us a price, but local media in Israeli reported it is in the region of $60-$80 million… What’s more certain is that the deal will immediately bolster Kik’s tech team. The Canadian company is acquiring all 35 staff from Rounds, and turning its Tel Aviv office into a Kik product and engineering center, and its first international base. Kik, which is headquartered in Waterloo, said that it has opened a similar base in
LongRead: “What Does the Billionaire Family Backing Donald Trump Really Want?” by Rosie Gray: “This disdain for an elite political class — of which they themselves are members — could be one reason why the Mercers have not constructed their own donor network to rival that of the Koch brothers, or Paul Singer. Most elite Republican donors tend to favor establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. The Mercers, tied as they are to the anti-establishment fervor sweeping the Republican Party in recent years, don’t fit in. But their distance from their peers has only made them more relevant.” [TheAtlantic]
SPOTLIGHT: “Kushner’s Felon Father Back at Helm of New York Empire With Two Fellow Inmates” by David Kocieniewski: “It’s hard to find work right out of prison. But Avram Lebor and Richard Goettlich walked from their Alabama penitentiary into top jobs at the real estate company then run by Jared Kushner, now President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. The two men, convicted in separate sprawling fraud schemes, were hired several years ago by his father, Charles Kushner, who had been locked up in the same federal prison with them… For years, Jared carried a wallet Charles had made for him in prison. Some describe Jared as like his father in ambition and drive, but softer—Charlie on decaf, in the words of a friend… “I talk to Charlie a lot. He’s working harder than he’s worked in a long time,” said Alan Hammer, a lawyer who has known Kushner for more than 35 years.” [Bloomberg]
Spotted in Playbook:“Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump eating last night at downtown hotspot Tosca with Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and Lisa Jackson. Jackson, the former administrator of the EPA, is Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. She is also on the board of the Clinton Foundation.” [Politico]
“Parents at Arabella Kushner’s D.C. Private School Voice Concerns About a Trump in Their Midst” by Sam Dangremond: “Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s eldest child, Arabella, reportedly began classes at the Jewish Primary Day School in Washington, D.C. this week. As you might imagine, the reaction among parents has been strong… The running joke at the school is that “parents are saying Kaddish for the election,” one parent said, referring to the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning. “The other night, I heard a parent who was very upset saying, ‘I can’t believe they’re invading my personal space! They’re against everything I stand for!'” The school’s spokesperson, Richard Mintz, told me that JPDS would not confirm the attendance of any student at the school.” [Town&Country]
“How Trump’s Election Inspired Me To Fully Observe Shabbat” by Gabby Deutch, a student at Yale University and daughter of Rep. Ted Deutch: “Last Friday, the Shabbat observant daughter and son-in-law of the recently inaugurated President Trump were shuttled by car back and forth from inauguration balls and parties to their new home in Georgetown. That same night, I chose to fully observe Shabbat for the first time since my days at Jewish summer camp. 4 days earlier, I had arrived in Israel to study at Hebrew University, and with the time difference, Shabbat arrived just as the world turned its eyes to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration ceremony… Last Shabbat, I felt the world continue apace without me. It felt great.” [Forward]
TRANSITION: “Publicis Groupe Names Creative Head Arthur Sadoun to Succeed Longtime CEO Maurice Lévy” by Nick Kostov and Suzanne Vranica: “The appointment aims to end years of uncertainty about who will take the reins from the 74-year-old Mr. Lévy, who built Publicis from a French-focused firm into the world’s third-largest ad company by revenue. Mr. Lévy is only the second executive to lead Publicis, which was founded in 1926. He is seen by some in the industry as irreplaceable, much like his rival Martin Sorrell at WPP PLC.” [WSJ] • Flashback: “Maurice Levy’s inspiration: his grandfather rabbi” [TheJC]
INBOX — Ambassador Michael Froman Joins CFR as Distinguished Fellow: Former United States Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman will join the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) this month as a distinguished fellow, where his work will focus on international economic policy and trends, trade and investment policy, and globalization and populism.
“Cruz’s Former Chief Of Staff To Serve As Trump’s Conservative Liaison” by Russ Read: “Paul Teller, who served as Cruz’s chief of staff from early 2014 to July 2016, is expected to head congressional conservative relations for the new administration. The new role will put Teller in charge of ensuring that conservative congressmen in the House Freedom Caucus, Republican Study Committee and Senate Steering Committee are on board with the administration’s most important new policies.” [DailyCaller]
PROFILE: “Not Just Good at National Politics, but the Best” by Craig Shirley: “‘Good morning!” Each time we speak by phone, I hear this slightly amused and amusing lyrical greeting in Arthur’s distinctive, Jewish-Brooklyn accent… As I write this, I still can’t believe Arthur Finkelstein is ailing. Badly. It can’t be… He quite literally changed our world. Arthur made a difference. He’s struggling through chemotherapy now, and as with everything in life, there is more than a particle of risk… Early in our friendship, I asked him whether it was “Finkelsteen” or “Finkelstine” (with a long i), and Arthur characteristically replied, “If I was a poor Jew, it would be Finkelsteen, but since I am a rich Jew, it’s Finkelstine.” … Without Arthur Finkelstein, Ronald Reagan might never have become president of the United States… In 1996, Arthur handled the campaign of Bibi Netanyahu, the current prime minister of Israel. Again, history was made… Just to prove that it was no fluke, Arthur steered him to further victories.” [NRO]
MEDIA WATCH: “Jewish Journal at 30” by Rob Eshman: “Last year, TRIBE extended our reach by adding JewishInsider.com, with full-time reporters and editors in Washington, D.C., and New York, and a morning newsletter read by diplomats, activists, philanthropists and journalists globally. Also in 2016, we began to expand our real, non-virtual presence in the community through live events. At a time when it is so easy to retreat to our computer screens to talk only to those with whom we agree, TRIBE Media Corp. (the parent of the Journal) is embarking on a series of events that will bring our diverse community members to face challenging issues — together. And this week, we roll out our new JewishJournal.com website with even more features, including mobile-friendly compatibility, that will make it easier than ever to access news of the Los Angeles Jewish community and beyond.” [JewishJournal]
SCENE LAST NIGHT IN NYC: Rabbi Yosef and Devorah Wilhelm, directors of Chabad Young Professionals of the Upper East Side, hosted the 4th annual Jewish People’s Choice Awards at the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan. Winners of the “Making a Difference,” “Making a Difference in the Workplace,” “Lover and Defender of Israel,” and “Open Heart, Open Home” awards included Ariel Sterman, co-founder of Good Street, Danielle Posner, Leibel Mangel, and Meir Shemtov. SPOTTED: Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan, Amir Sagie, Councilman Ben Kalos, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Kim Kushner, Shahar Azani, Melissa Jane (MJ) Kronfeld, Sivan Aloni, Andrew Gross, Laura Adkins, nominees for the Lover and Defender of Israel award.
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Communicati
Former chair of the Political Science Department of the Hebrew University, Avraham Diskin turns 70… Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, lecturer on conflicts, violence and religious beliefs, Shalom David Staub turns 61… Founder and CEO of the annual Wall Street Conference in Boca Raton, activist in the US-Israel Security Alliance, Jason Lyons turns 48… Founding Secretary at West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, previously Western Region Coordinator for B’nai B’rith (2005-2007), Lyndia Lowy… Associate at Park Hill Group LLC, a global alternative asset placement agent, also Chair of Tamid Group, connecting American college students with Israel’s economic landscape, Max Heller… Director of Financial Resource Development at The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, previously executive director of USC’s Hillel, Michael Jeser… Mark Schwartz… Rabbi Rebe Carmel… Joel Goldberg… CNN’s Ariel Bashi…
For 25 years, until 12-2016, partner at Venable’s DC office in the Financial Services Group, previously President of the JCRC of Greater Washington, Ronald Glancz turns 74… Director of the Houston Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, Randy Czarlinsky turns 63… Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Paul Ryan turns 47… Israeli actress, model and television host, Yael Bar Zohar turns 37… Director of Global Relations at Hillel International in DC, previously the Director of Hillel in Ekaterinburg in Russia, Yasha Moz turns 32… Jane Herman… Martha Baumgarten… Laura Rosenberger, former Foreign Policy Advisor for Hillary for America… Jerry Keller…
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