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President-in-law: “Jared Kushner, a shadow diplomat, pulls the strings on U.S.-Mexico talks” by Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Joshua Partlow: “Kushner’s back-channel communications with Mexico — the full extent of which has not been previously reported — reveal him to be almost a shadow secretary of state, operating outside the boundaries of the State Department or National Security Council… One of his top ambitions is to help broker peace in the Middle East — something with which the president has publicly tasked him — and Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, quietly has taken an active role in helping select ambassadors to that region.”
“Some of the leaders who have dealt with Kushner said they were initially skeptical but found him to be a good listener and courteous intermediary who quickly intuits the core of their issues and can facilitate meetings throughout the administration… “Everyone is trying to get to know Jared Kushner,” said the ambassador from one U.S. ally… In Trump’s inner circle, Kushner draws plaudits for smoothing feathers ruffled by his father-in-law’s more erratic moves — with some aides bemoaning that on Saturdays, when Kushner observes Shabbat and does not work or use electronic devices, the workings of the White House sometimes devolve.” [WashPost; CBSNews]
“Trump vexed by challenges, scale of government” by Alex Isenstadt, Ken Vogel and Josh Dawsey: “Some staffers worry about running afoul of Kushner, and say they’re unclear about his role, describing his portfolio as amorphous. “No one quite knows what it is,” said one. “It’s confusing.”” [Politico]
Trump hosted Sheldon and Miriam Adelson for dinner at the White House last night: According to Alex Isenstadt, Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley joined Trump and Adelson at dinner. [Twitter]
–According to Axios’ Jonathan Swan, Adelson was expected to raise with Trump the subject of the two-state solution and specifically why it will not work and “Trump’s promise to move the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem (a move Adelson supports).” [Axios]
Trump tells Adelson’s paper Israel Hayom pre-dinner: “Israel has had a long history of condemnation and difficulty. And I don’t want to be condemning Israel. I understand Israel very well, and I respect Israel a lot, and they have been through a lot.”
On Israeli-Palestinian peace: “I want Israel to be reasonable with respect to peace. I want to see peace happen… Maybe there is even a chance for a bigger peace than just Israel and the Palestinians. I would like to see a level of reasonableness of both parties, and I think we have a good chance of doing that…”They [settlements] don’t help the process. I can say that. There is so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left… I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.”
On Jerusalem Embassy: “The embassy is not an easy decision… I’m thinking about it very seriously, and we will see what happens.” [IsraelHayom]
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Trump May Turn to Arab Allies for Help With Israeli-Palestinian Relations” by Peter Baker and Mark Landler: “The notion of recruiting Arab countries to help forge an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians — known as the “outside-in” approach — is not a new one. As secretary of state under President George Bush, James A. Baker III organized the first regional conference in 1991 at which Arab leaders sat down with Israel’s prime minister… “The logic of outside-in is that because the Palestinians are so weak and divided — and because there’s a new, tacit relationship between the Sunni Arabs and Israel — there’s the hope the Arabs would be prepared to do more,” said Dennis B. Ross, a Middle East peace negotiator under several presidents, including Mr. Obama.”
“Jared Kushner… has been intrigued by this logic, according to people who have spoken with him. Mr. Kushner has grown close to Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador and a close confidant of Mr. Netanyahu’s. A series of telephone conversations and personal meetings with Arab leaders in recent weeks have also shaped Mr. Kushner’s thinking and that of the president… Mr. Kushner has also met with Arab officials, including Yousef Al Otaiba, the ambassador from the United Arab Emirates.” [NYTimes]
“Trump adds nuance to pro-Israel approach ahead of Netanyahu visit” by Matt Spetalnick and Luke Baker: “There is growing consensus in the White House that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will require extensive deliberations and consultations with key lawmakers and U.S. allies before a decision on how to proceed… “This is a case where campaign promises run head-on into geopolitical reality and they have to be adjusted accordingly,” said a U.S. official.” [Reuters]
“In Trump Meeting, Israel Sees Chance to Target Iran Proxies” by David Wainer and Michael Arnold: “Israel Katz, intelligence and atomic energy minister, said Netanyahu will urge U.S. officials to drive a wedge between Iran and Hezbollah through harsh sanctions that will make Tehran think twice about supporting the Lebanese group… “We see a new and very close alliance on the question of Iran, something that has changed from the past U.S. administration,” Katz said in an interview in Tel Aviv… Netanyahu may also discuss with Trump how to cope with the possibility that Iran could one day pursue a nuclear bomb. Israel will request to tighten intelligence-sharing and forge a joint plan on what steps to take when the deal ends and most limits on Iran’s nuclear capabilities expire, said Michael Oren, a deputy minister in the prime minister’s office.” [Bloomberg]
KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: Preparations for the first meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump continue. According to an Israeli official involved in the preparations, the White House is going out of its way to provide a warm welcome to the Netanyahus. Netanyahu’s first encounter with the new administration is turning into a family affair. Kafe Knesset has learned that the premier’s oldest son, Yair, will join his parents next week. He is currently on a private vacation in the US and will travel to meet his parents when they arrive in Washington on Monday.
Ahead of the trip, Netanyahu met today with President Reuven Rivlin and will convene the security cabinet on Sunday afternoon to discuss the agenda and the goals of the Trump meeting. While most of Netanyahu’s coalition partners are willing to back his stance on any matter, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett will push him for more. He is demanding Netanyahu disavow his 2009 Bar Ilan speech, in which he endorsed the two-state solution. “I expect the PM to tell Trump that there is no chance for a Palestinian state and that we should start applying Israeli law in West Bank Area C. Trump will follow our suit. So the story is Netanyahu and what we want. After 50 years, I expect Netanyahu to state clearly that he opposes a Palestinian state because it’s stupid,” Bennett said today. He added that he is concerned about Israelis encouraging Trump to stand by the two-state solution. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset [JewishInsider]
HEARD YESTERDAY ON THE HILL — United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) co-hosted a panel discussion with JINSA to discuss US policy towards Iran during the Trump administration. The session featured Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, former Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), and former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Stephen Rademaker.
Highlights — Senator Gardner: “We should pursue new initiatives at the United Nations to condemn Iranian behavior and impose additional sanctions for their behavior… If we are worried about them launching another missile, they are already doing that. If we are worried about their ability to continue to try and develop a nuclear program, they already have permission [as part] of the nuclear deal to do that in just a few years from now. I think retaliation is something that they are doing each and every day to mock the deal that they got and to mock all of us for entering into a deal that they got.”
Kirk: “The best thing that the Trump Administration can do is to declassify the entire agreement, publish it so the Congress and the American people can look at it and see the negotiating record and understand all of the terms as they were put forward with the parties.”
Bolton: “I think ‘on notice’ means the JCPOA is one heartbeat away from disappearing… The Iran deal is a one-day agreement that we are renewing day-by-day. And it’s that close to disappearing entirely… I would have ripped it up in the early days of the Administration. The deal was a strategic mistake for the US. It’s not getting any better with age. A clear and unambiguous political statement that the deal is unacceptable would have been the strongest way to go. But we are getting very close to that as it is.”
“Diplomatically, it is very difficult to envision multilateral sanctions being effective again in the short term… The path to make it impossible for Iran to get nuclear weapons economically is now nearly out of the question. I think you have to got to look at other alternatives… My view is that is should be declared American policy to overturn the regime in Tehran because that is the only way ultimately that you will get Iran to back off from the pursuit of nuclear weapons.” [JewishInsider]
Sen Bob Corker: Defunding UN is ‘Taking a Hammer’ When ‘Scalpel’ More Useful — by Aaron Magid: The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told Jewish Insider on Thursday that the Cruz and Graham bill is “taking a hammer that something a scalpel might well be more useful.” The legislation was referred to the SFRC on January 12 but the Tennessee lawmaker appeared skeptical that it would pass the committee. “I don’t know our committee is going to take it up,” Corker noted. He also explained that he supports addressing “anti-Semitic behaviors” at the international body, but using more targeted measures. “That’s using a blunt instrument when there may be a better way of getting a better outcome,” Corker concluded. [JewishInsider]
Menendez: Senate Resolution condemning UNSC “should still proceed” — by Aaron Magid: Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) clarified on Thursday that the stalled S. Resolution 6 assailing the December UN Security Council vote critical of Israel is still alive. The New Jersey legislator told Jewish Insider outside of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, “As far as I am concerned, it should still proceed.” “It is still valuable to have the Senate on record in opposition to what the rest of the world says that the actions taken by the former Administration is not in the views of the majority of the members of the US Senate,” Menendez added. When asked when he expected the bill to proceed to a Senate floor vote, he noted, “That’s up to the Republican leadership.” 78 Senators have co-sponsored the bill. [JewishInsider]
TRUMP TUMULT: “Pro-Trump Jewish group reprimands White House for omitting Israel from ‘underreported’ attacks list” Annie Karni: “I am deeply perplexed as to how the administration put out a statement on terror attacks that haven’t been reported without Israel being on that list,” Mort Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, said in an interview on Thursday. “It’s painful and perplexing — especially on top of the Holocaust gaffe… I would like someone to explain it to me because I don’t get it. No country has had more terror attacks than Israel.” [Politico]
DNC WATCH: “Ellison or Perez? Jewish Dems name their candidate” by Daniel Schere: “Perez has the advantage of having served both at the federal and local levels of government. This gave him the opportunity to meet prominent national political figures, such as former AIPAC President Howard Friedman and Ann Lewis… Rabbi Steve Gutow, former head of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs… said he thinks Ellison’s experience as a community organizer is a valuable asset to a party in need of more grassroots-level advocacy. He saw this when he first met Ellison in 2007, when the two men took the “food stamp challenge,” trying live in Washington on the federal food stamp allotment for a week to raise awareness of poverty and hunger… Gutow said he has found Ellison to be a “very real” person who has the ability to “speak to people of the party.” [TheJC]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Idan Ofer proposes Teddy Sagi buy Oil Refineries [Globes] • A land swap between the Bureau of Land Management and billionaire retail magnate Leslie Wexner in western Colorado is on hold for now [WRAL] • Sam Nazarian Refinances Hudson and Delano South Beach Hotels [Yahoo] • Stan Kasten and the Dodgers might be selling piece of its franchise [PasadenaStarNews]
SPOTLIGHT: “Kushner Family Is in Talks to Buy Miami Marlins” by Andrew Ross Sorkin and Michael J. De La Merced: “The Kushners — led by Joshua Kushner, a venture capitalist, and Joseph Meyer, his brother-in-law and key lieutenant for the family’s investments — have pursued the Marlins for several months, devising a complicated financial arrangement that would include bringing in partners later, these people said. Neither Jared Kushner, who married Ivanka Trump in 2009 and is a top White House adviser, nor Charles Kushner, the family patriarch who spent over a year in prison for illegal campaign donations, tax evasion and witness tampering, is participating in the effort, these people said.”
“Yet it was unclear whether a deal would be reached, or whether the family would prevail in any bidding contest. Forbes reported on Thursday that the team had a “handshake agreement” to sell the team for about $1.6 billion, a figure that the people involved in the process said the Kushner family has contended was too high and refused to pay. Any deal would have to win the approval of Major League Baseball, which would closely scrutinize the buyer’s financing and would probably seek to ensure that Charles Kushner had no role in operations. As part of the financing for the Kushners’ bid, which was being shepherded by the boutique investment bank LionTree, the family would plan to bring in additional partners to help defray the costs.” [DealBook; Forbes]
“Jared Kushner’s Father Charlie Attempted To Buy NBA Team Within Past Eight Years: Charles Kushner, the father of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, is part of a potential purchase group of the Miami Marlins of the MLB. Charles Kushner also attempted to purchase an NBA team within the past eight years, according to a source… Jared Kushner submitted a bid to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012.” [RealGM; ESPN]
“Why Melania Trump’s Lawsuit Is the Trumpiest It Gets” by William D. Cohan: “During the deposition, Trump cited two specific examples of how O’Brien’s article (in the NY Times)—and the diminished perception of his net worth that it fostered—cost him future earnings. Both opportunities, he said, came to him through Howard Lorber, then the chairman of Douglas Elliman, a real-estate brokerage that was part of Prudential Finance. A month or so before O’Brien’s story appeared, Trump testified that Lorber had called Trump to see whether he wanted to work with the Italian owners of a building at 400 Fifth Avenue to develop it into a major hotel and condominium tower… But then the Italians read O’Brien’s reporting. Lorber called him back and told him the Italians had decided not to proceed with a deal… As Lorber put it to me recently, the Italians got spooked about Trump after reading O’Brien’s article…”
“The second lost business opportunity involved Lorber directly, Trump testified. The idea was to create something to be called Trump Realty, essentially a branded unit within Douglas Elliman’s best real-estate team. Trump, who stood to get as much as 25 percent for lending his name, said in his deposition that he had more than 20 conversations with Lorber about the project. “He loved this idea,” Trump said. “He liked it more than I did.” The day after O’Brien’s story ran in the Times, Lorber told Trump he was having second thoughts.” [VanityFair]
TRANSITION: Eric Pelofsky, a former special assistant to the President and senior director for North Africa and Yemen at the National Security Council, has joined The Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a visiting fellow. “As we have seen in the first weeks of the Trump presidency, issues across the Middle East remain at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda,” said Robert Satloff, the Institute’s Executive Director.
TALK OF THE TOWN: “Jewish Motorist Helped by Stranger … Who Turns Out to Be Gov. Cuomo” by Isser Berg: “After half an hour of largely unsuccessful work, three SUVs driving on the highway suddenly pulled over. A passenger in one of them rolled down the window and asked [Noach] Fisher, “Do you need help?” Pointing the trooper and the HELP truck, Fisher said, “I already have help.” But the stranger in the SUV insisted, “Let me help you.” He exited the car and tied the chain from his SUV to Fisher’s. “The man was under my car and working for 15 minutes, tying the chain, pressing the buttons, instructing me ‘turn right,’ ‘turn left,’” says Fisher… Fisher, who says he never uses internet or social media, did not believe that the man who had been under his car in the snow for 15 minutes was none other than New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.” [Hamodia]
WINE OF THE WEEK — Kitron Lika 2009 — by Yitz Applbaum: It is rare to find an Israeli winery that I have not heard of. It is even rarer for me to be so quickly impressed as I was by the Kitron Winery. Nestled in the hilltop of Hosea in the Galilee, I visited Kitron with a wine expert from Italy and my pilot-friend Hershko. This was destined to be a fun trip. But “fun” turns out not to be the right word. “Blown away,” “massively impressed” and “taken” would be more accurate.
The winery is built using the gravity approach — there are no pumps and no forced de-capping. The wine is punched very gently and goes from tank to barrel with only gravity to guide it. I tasted many of the wines there and they were all wonderful. In future columns I will describe more of them. Today, I will start with the Kitron Lika 2009. It is a Cabernet Shiraz blend. Meir, the proprietor, believes in seriously oaking his wines. This wine is no exception. The ruby red Cabernet coats the front of your palate and the peppery Shiraz stays on the back of your tongue for a long time. I drank this wine with cheese and vegetables and home-cured olives. It was a perfect combination.
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company Robert Allen “Bob” Iger turns 66… Founding figure of Postminimalism’s conceptual art, long-time resident of Manhattan’s West Village, Lawrence Weiner turns 75… Rabbi in Vienna, Austria (1983-1989), in Munich (1989-1997) and Berlin (1997-2015), Yitshak Ehrenberg turns 67… Swimmer, who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Mark Spitz turns 67… Philanthropist and environmentalist whose family dedicated the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, previously an executive at City National Bank of Florida, Jayne Abess turns 62… Host of CNBC’s “Mad Money” and a co-founder of TheStreet, Inc., former hedge fund manager, and best-selling author, James J. “Jim” Cramer turns 62… Journalist and syndicated newspaper columnist whose work has been published on the op-ed page of the Boston Globe since 1994, Jeff Jacoby turns 58… Former NASA astronaut, famous for his mezuzah in the International Space Station, awarded a Ph.D. from Cal Tech in 1997, Garrett Reisman turns 49… Columbus-based executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities Howie Beigelman turns 43… Israeli pop star (having sold over 200,000 albums), songwriter, musician, record producer and part of the duo “TYP” also known as The Young Professionals, Ivri Lider turns 43… Managing partner at Roberti Global, previously an aide for Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and then-Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Israel “Izzy” Klein turns 40… Candidate for Vice President of the United States in the 2016 election as the running mate of Evan McMullin, entrepreneur and digital media strategist, Mindy Finn turns 36 (h/ts Playbook)… Executive Producer of the “Architects of Change” series and “Shriver Report Snapshots” at Maria Shriver’s Shriver Media, previously at ABC News, CBS News and Politico, Michelle Levi Noe… Founder and principal of The Tool Shed Group Jason Katz… Avital Mannis…
Second son of former President George H. W. Bush, 43rd Governor of Florida (1999-2007), candidate for US President in 2016, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush turns 64… Ilana Ozernoy, VP and deputy head of comms at News Corp (h/t Playbook)… National medical director of Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care, former EVP and chief medical officer for Erickson Retirement Communities (1989-2005), Gary E. Applebaum, MD turns 58… Tight end on the NFL’s Carolina Panthers for four seasons (2003-2006), having played college football at UCLA, Mike Seidman turns 36… Chief of Staff for Congressman Bob Dold (R-IL-10), David B. Stern… Chaya Yehudis Neuberger… Shirley Munch…
Best selling author, known for children’s and young adult fiction, Judy Sussman Blume, turns 79… Author, former member of the Knesset (1992-2003) and then chair of the Tel Aviv City Council (2008-2013), Yael Dayan turns 78… Prime Minister of Israel (1999-2001), Deputy Prime Minister (2009-2013), Defense Minister (2007-2013), highly decorated IDF soldier and general, Ehud Barak turns 75… Economist David D. Friedman, whose father was Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, turns 72… Jeremy Iloulian, a J.D. candidate at Duke Law and a Hogan Lovells alum (h/t Playbook)… Google’s computer genius, author, inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil, turns 69… Co-Chairman of Disney Media Networks and the President of Disney-ABC Television Group Ben Sherwood turns 53… Film director Darren Aronofsky turns 48… Comic book author and illustrator Judd Winick turns 47… WSJ management reporter Rachel Feintzeig (h/t Playbook)… MLB player Adam Stern turns 37… Periodontist in Newark DE, Barry S. Kayne, DDS… Gary Arminoff…
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