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KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: Netanyahu has decided to extend Ron Dermer‘s term for one additional year as Israel’s ambassador to Washington. The extension, through October 2018, will be presented this Sunday at Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting. Ahead of the US elections, talk in Jerusalem was that if Hillary Clinton were to be elected, Dermer would likely have come back home, but as he is now the top contact person for the Trump administration, the PM wants him to stay as close as possible to the White House. After the Trump meeting last month, Netanyahu told his fellow cabinet ministers that Dermer would establish a special consultation mechanism with Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt to coordinate Israeli moves vis a vis the settlements.
This coming Sunday that mechanism might come into play as another contentious piece of legislation is back on the agenda at the Knesset. The right wing settler lobby for Greater Israel is pushing for a preliminary vote on the Maale Adumim bill, which applies Israeli sovereignty to that West Bank city. The bill, sponsored by Jewish Home and Likud MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Yoav Kish, was initially put on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s agenda on the 22nd of January, two days after Trump’s inauguration, but Netanyahu succeeded in convincing the MKs to postpone the bill until after his meeting with the President. Now, Smotrich and Kish are resubmitting the bill for the ministers to vote on this Sunday, and are accompanying the efforts with a massive SMS campaign pressuring the cabinet to approve the bill.
Smotrich told Kafe Knesset that “the government and the Knesset must be attentive to the public sentiment. 80 percent of the Israeli public supports applying Israeli sovereignty in Maale Adumim now, without any correlation or dependence on the existence or absence of a diplomatic process. So this is a decision the government must make and a move the Knesset must lead.” Netanyahu’s office has refused to comment on whether the PM is going to let the legislation move forward but pressure from the right is mounting. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset [JewishInsider]
SCENE YESTERDAY IN NYC — The Hudson Institute hosted a luncheon at the University Club featuring Yousef Al Otaiba, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, dubbed “the most charming man in Washington” by the Huffington Post. The off-the-record discussion, moderated by Hudson Senior Fellow and Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani, focused on the UAE’s economic success and its two main national security challenges: Iranian behavior and ‘religious’ extremists. On the heels of a Bloomberg Businessweek report earlier this month detailing how Israeli firms quietly conduct business in the Gulf, a number of questions from attendees focused on the possibility of future ties between the UAE, along with the broader Arab world, and Israel.
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “The State of Trump’s State Department” by Julia Ioffe: “They really want to blow this place up,” said the mid-level State Department officer. “I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.” [TheAtlantic]
“Has Trump Already Sidelined His Secretary of State?” by Romesh Ratnesar: “Few people close to Tillerson believed he was destined for government service, except his wife. “You didn’t know it, but you’ve been in a 41-year training program for this job,” she told him. “You’re supposed to do this.” … His charges had reason to believe that with a pragmatic corporate titan in command, the department would reassert its primacy over American foreign policy—and ease global anxieties about the new president’s nativism, naiveté, and flirtations with noxious strongmen… It hasn’t happened. Far from curbing Trump’s excesses, Tillerson has been blindsided by them.” [Businessweek]
“The Hurdle for Huntsman at State: Trump’s Loyalty Test” by Eli Lake: “Norm Eisen, who served as Obama’s special counsel for ethics and government reform, told me he believes Huntsman would be an “outstanding person” to fill the role as deputy secretary of state. Nonetheless, he said Huntsman will need to make a clean break from his family’s business. “He is going to need to make the same kind of clean break that Mr. Tillerson made and that Donald Trump has refused to do,” said Eisen.” [Bloomberg] • Jon Huntsman Is in Running to Be Russia Ambassador [CNN; NYTimes]
“Trump allies, donors play the ambassador parlor game” by Theodore Schleifer: “Lew Eisenberg, the most recent finance chair of the Republican National Committee, is reportedly under consideration to be Ambassador to Italy. Asked this weekend whether there have been any developments on his assignment to the country, Eisenberg would only joke that he enjoyed watching the “rumors” and that he considers Italy a “staunch ally.” … Morris Goldfarb, a New York businessman close with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, is also said to be courting a posting.” [CNN]
TOP TALKER: “When a hedge fund billionaire ‘buys’ democracy” — David Magerman writes about Robert Mercer —“Mercer, the co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies and my boss’s boss, holds views with which I disagree and, in some cases, find abhorrent. Nevertheless, I fully support his desire to engage in conversations about his views, financially support like-minded politicians, and speak out in support of political actions that further his goals… However, there is a difference between giving someone money to support their views, on the one hand, and investing in someone in a contractually binding way to see that the politician’s views and actions are supplanted by the donor’s, on the other. Robert Mercer hasn’t invested in Donald Trump because he believes in Trump’s campaign platform…. He was effectively buying shares in the candidate, and Robert Mercer now owns a sizeable share of the United States Presidency.”
“Donors to a variety of causes, political, religious and social, do not think of their donations as gifts, with no strings attached, but investments that carry the entitlement to influence decision-making, hiring, and mission. I know this because up until recently I was one of those donors. I tried to buy influence in the schools in my community, in my synagogue, and in other communal institutions. These investments all failed for one key reason: communal institutions are not for sale, and you should not be able to buy stock in them. They require donations in order to operate, but they should serve their community, not their donors. When communal organizations, or governments, allow their donors to subvert their missions, they inevitably betray their missions, as our government is betraying us now. I have learned this lesson, and it is time for Robert Mercer and the rest of the 0.001 percenters to learn it too.” [PhillyInquirer]
INTERVIEW — The Second Jewish Republican in Congress — by JI’s Aaron Magid: While 24% of Jews voted for Donald Trump last November according to the Pew Research Center, Representative David Kustoff (R-TN) is not shy about his support of the President. In an interview with Jewish Insider from Rayburn building on Capitol Hill, the Tennessee lawmaker rated Trump’s performance as an “A.” Praising the President’s immigration Executive Order, Kustoff explained, “Everything he’s done, he promised. He’s following through on his commitment from the campaign.”
Waking up each morning between 3:15 and 3:45 AM, he usually only eats one meal throughout the day. Kustoff spoke to Jewish Insider from a cramped office filled with volumes of the United States Code in the back of the Financial Service Committee, where he serves as a Member. A staunch conservative, the Tennessee lawmaker repeatedly emphasized the importance of tax reform and rolling back Dodd-Frank… Commending the President’s work in combating anti-Semitism, Kustoff blamed the Democrats for failing to quickly confirm Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which he argues makes tackling the threat more difficult. Read the entire interview here [JewishInsider]
HAPPENING TODAY ON THE HILL: Members of the House, co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, will hold a press conference and release a letter calling on the President to “prepare and implement a comprehensive strategy to combat anti-Semitism in light of the recent waves of anti-Semitic threats and attacks since January 1.” The co-chairs include Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Kay Granger (R-TX), Marc Veasey (D-TX), and Peter Roskam (R-IL).
“Schumer asks FCC to allow JCCs to trace bomb threat calls” by Rachel Shapiro: “Schumer is asking the FCC to grant a special waiver to Jewish centers and schools that feel threatened, saying the centers “need valuable intel to help stop the threats and thwart these phony calls that have a real economic and psychic impact.” … An FCC spokesman said… “The FCC is actively exploring what steps the FCC can take quickly to help Jewish Community Centers and law enforcement combat these threats.”” [SILive]
“Ellison asks Justice Dept. to investigate Jewish cemetery vandalism as hate crime” by Mallory Shelbourne: “In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions released Tuesday, [Rep. Keith] Ellison calls for the vandalism to be “swiftly and thoroughly investigated.” … In the letter to Sessions, Ellison wrote that “anti-Semitism poses a grave threat to our democracy, and every American’s Constitutional right to freely practice religion.”” [TheHill] • Homeland Security offers support to Jewish communities [Politico]
HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND: Governor Cuomo is taking an economic development trip to Israel on Saturday. “I’m also going to bring a message of solidarity,” Cuomo said at an Orthodox Union Student Rally in Albany, “and I want to say to the people of Israel and I want to say to the Jewish community, ‘In New York, you are not alone, and every person in the state of New York with any decency and understanding of what it means to be a New Yorker stands with you at this moment, and we speak with one voice condemning this repugnant behavior and we stand arm in arm with the Jewish community through this time of hardship.’ I say that to you today. We’ll say that to the people in Israel this weekend.” [JewishInsider]
“Cuomo Won’t Meet With Arabs During His ‘Solidarity’ Trip to Israel” by Will Bredderman: “This is a very short trip, I’m literally there for just about a day, and we’re going to do economic development meetings, and I won’t have an opportunity to do anything much more than that,” he said, saying he would spend the trip conferring with Israeli government ministers. “I want the Jewish community to know that we support them 100 percent, and we are arm-to-arm with them in this battle.” [Observer]
Councilman David Greenfield tells us: “Governor Cuomo has always been at the vanguard of Jewish community relations. Especially when the Jewish community is under attack by a spike in anti-Semitism, this sends a clear message that the Governor is pro-Israel and committed to his Jewish constituents.”
HEARD YESTERDAY IN JERUSALEM — Addressing the Jewish People Policy Institute conference via video (due to a cold), Prime Minister Netanyahu lauded Trump’s response to a rise in anti-Semitism: “World leaders need to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism wherever it is found. And I appreciate the fact that in the last few weeks and days, President Trump and Vice President Pence have taken a strong stance in condemning anti-Semitism. This is what we expect too from European leaders… because Jews around the world should not live in fear.”
JI’s Aaron Magid asked Members of Congress whether they support the Taylor Force Act — Rep. Trent Frank (R-AZ): “It’s time to do that. There are sincere people even from Israel who disagree with me on that. I am convinced the support that we have given to much of the Palestinian Authority has only has empowered them to pay terrorists to kill Jews and other innocent people.”
Rep. Jim McCgovern (D-MA): “I don’t support cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority. I’m interested in supporting constructive measures, which will help both sides negotiate a two-state solution. There are some people here who are trying to sabotage that.”
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israel Quietly Begins Exporting Natural Gas to Jordan Amid Political Sensitivities: To keep the Israeli side at arm’s length, the gas is technically being sold to the Jordanians by an American company [Haaretz] • Facebook fights charges that it fueled Palestinian uprising [TheVerge] • Jared Kushner’s Brooklyn townhouse finds buyer [NYPost]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “The Secret to Selling Manhattan’s Biggest Condo Project: Raise Prices” by Oshrat Carmiel: “Manhattan’s biggest new condo tower has reached a milestone: Buyers have signed contracts for 100 units at the property that Extell Development Co. is building on the Lower East Side. Only 715 more sales to go… At the same time, Extell is raising prices. “It tells the market that we’re confident about our product and that we are selling well, selling fast,” Raizy Haas, Extell’s senior vice president of development, said on a tour of the 8,000-square-foot (743-square-meter) sales gallery, carved inside an active self-storage warehouse. “We feel there’s still room for future price increases.” [Bloomberg]
2020 WATCH: “Will Disney’s Bob Iger Run for President in 2020? Hollywood Friends Are Nudging” by Tatiana Siegel: “Sources say Iger has told friends he is considering their nudges that he make a run for president in 2020 as a Democrat. There’s a hitch. Any political future would hinge on Iger, 66, finding a Disney successor, of course. Sources add that he has since consulted with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg about making the leap from the board room to high office.” [HollywoodReporter]
MEDIA WATCH: “CNN Chief Jeff Zucker Unveils Plan to Dominate Digital” by Marisa Guthrie: “Amid his feud with the president (“We all know the truth”), Zucker is taking his battle for TV news dominance online with a monthly audience of 100 million and a strategy to beat Vice and BuzzFeed, move stars like Anthony Bourdain and W. Kamau Bell to the web, and launch Casey Neistat, the vlog star he hired on the advice of his teen son.” [HollywoodReporter]
“Beau Biden’s [Jewish] Widow Hallie Biden Is Now Dating His Brother Hunter” by Lindsay Kimble: “Hallie Biden and Hunter [Biden], 47, began dating after Hunter split from his wife Kathleen… In a statement to Page Six, Hunter said, “Hallie and I are incredibly lucky to have found the love and support we have for each other in such a difficult time, and that’s been obvious to the people who love us most. We’ve been so lucky to have family and friends who have supported us every step of the way.”” [People]
DESSERT: “Meet the non-Jew who wants Hebrew and kosher food in LAUSD schools” by Eitan Arom: “If elected, [Gregory] Martayan, 33, a public relations consultant, has promised to install Hebrew education in L.A. Unified schools, deliver kosher food to campuses that request it and institute a zero-tolerance policy toward anti-Semitism — all within six months… “Sometimes a goy like Greg can be more helpful to Jewish causes than a Jew,” said Andrew Friedman, Martayan’s campaign co-chair and a well-connected attorney in the Orthodox Jewish community. Martayan’s candidacy pits him against two candidates who are Jewish: incumbent board President Steve Zimmer and Nicholas Melvoin.” [JewishJournal]
BIRTHDAYS: Holocaust survivor, he is the co-founder of one of the largest real estate development companies in Southern California, philanthropist Max Webb turns 100… Restaurateur, lawyer, financier and former owner of Braniff International Airlines, Jeffrey Chodorow turns 67… Former US Senator from Wisconsin (1993-2011), failed to win the seat back in a spirited election race in 2016, Russ Feingold turns 64… Deputy chief of staff for Representative Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Yuri Beckelman turns 35 (h/t Playbook)… Senior coordinating producer at talent agency William Morris Endeavor – International Management Group, Sally Rosen… Editor and Director of Communications at Twin Cities, Minnesota’s TC Jewfolk (a Jewish news, events and culture online media hub), Lonny Goldsmith… Anesthesiologist in Skokie, Illinois who graduated from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine, Samuel M. Parnass, M.D…. Eric Goldscher… Daphne Lazar-Price… Donni Lurman…
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