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TOP TALKER: Kushner = Kissinger? — David Ignatius writes… “Kushner is apprenticing for the role of Trump’s Henry Kissinger. He’s the secret emissary, the evaluator of talent, the whisperer of confidential advice. He’s the only person in this White House who Trump can’t fire, really. All these qualities strike me as beneficial, so long as Kushner uses them to make Trump a better president who learns how to compromise and govern. Trump’s problem is that he’s used to operating a family business, where people such as his daughter and son-in-law and a few hired guns are the only operatives he needs and trusts. He doesn’t seem to understand that he runs a public company now. His stockholders are the American people. He has disclosure requirements. He has fiduciary responsibilities.” [WashPost]
“Russian banker who met with Jared Kushner has ties to Putin” by Thomas Frank and Marshall Cohen: “The meeting is raising questions both because of the sanctions and because Kushner spent years as a real-estate developer and was trying to attract financing for a building project of his in Manhattan. The White House said Kushner was acting as a Trump adviser — not as a private developer — when he met with Gorkov… VEB confirmed the meeting with Kushner in a statement to CNN, though described Kushner in his role as head of Kushner Companies, not as a representative of Trump.” [CNN] Exasperated Spicer tosses out salad dressing analogy to defend WH [CNN]
“Anbang, Kushner End Manhattan Talks as Lawmakers Cite Conflicts” by Hui-Yong Yu and Keri Geiger: “China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. and a company co-owned by the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner have ended talks to redevelop a Manhattan office tower, a deal that had drawn scrutiny from lawmakers citing ethics concerns.” [Bloomberg]
THE ONION CHIMES IN… “Jared Kushner Quietly Transfers ‘Solve Middle East Crisis’ To Next Week’s To-Do List: “Ushering in lasting peace across the Mideast is definitely still a big priority for me, but given everything else I’ve got going on right now, I’m just going to need to bump it to next week when I have a little more time on my hands,” Kushner reportedly said… “I was really hoping to at least knock out the Arab-Israeli conflict before the weekend, but this week’s kind of gotten out of hand. It’ll be fine, though—I’ll just carve out an hour or two next week, hunker down in my office, and sort it all out then. If I can push back a couple business calls, I can definitely get this whole Middle East situation ironed out by Wednesday—Thursday at the latest.”” [TheOnion]
HAPPENING TODAY — at 5PM: Vice President Mike Pence will preside over a formal ceremony to swear in David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel in the Indian Treaty Room at the White House.
“Abbas expects Arab summit backing ahead of talks with Trump” by AP’s Mohammed Daraghmeh: ”Abbas met with U.S. President Donald Trump’s international envoy, Jason Greenblatt… Referring to the settlements, Abbas said Tuesday that “we are now waiting how things are being dealt with between them (the Americans) and the Israelis.” At the same time, he said, there are “lots of questions from the American side at this stage, and we answered all of their questions.” … Greenblatt met Tuesday with the Qatari and Egyptian foreign ministers as well as the European Union’s foreign policy chief on the sidelines of the summit. In Twitter messages, Greenblatt said he was talking to them about ways to support Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.” [ABCNews]
“US planning Israeli-PA-Gulf peace summit this summer, sources say” by Michael Wilner: “US officials are quietly gauging interest in the event, according to Israeli sources… No event has been formally planned… But several discussed the idea as a concrete goal of an administration seeking a momentous foreign policy victory… “Trump said at his press conference that he wants a settlements slowdown, and he talked about the outside-in approach using the regionals. So this is not that far of a jump,” said one former State Department official involved in Middle East peace issues. “One plus one equals two.”” [JPost]
“2 months in, and Trump’s Israel policy looks a lot like Obama’s” by Zack Beauchamp: “Trump turns out to look a lot more like every single president who has been in office since, really, President Reagan on the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” the Israel Policy Forum’s [Michael] Koplow says. “He’s trying to get the two sides together, recognizing that Israeli settlement activity does pose a problem for a peace deal, and not giving the prime minister a green light to do anything he wants… “He [doesn’t] seem to have any real policy views other than that he wants to get to a deal.” [Vox]
WORTH RE-READING — from the last time a Republican White House dealt with the Israel-Palestinian conflict — “How serious is the Bush Administration about creating a Palestinian state?” by Connie Bruck in The New Yorker’s Dec. 15, 2003 issue: “In the 2000 Presidential campaign, George W. Bush was sharply critical of Bill Clinton’s efforts to pressure Israel for a peace settlement with the Palestinians. “In recent times, Washington has tried to make Israel conform to its own plans and timetables,” Bush said… Then in November, 2001, Bush seemed to change his mind, telling the United Nations General Assembly, “We are working toward a day when two states, Israel and Palestine, live peacefully together within secure and recognized borders.” He had now endorsed, more explicitly than any previous President, the creation of an independent Palestinian state.” [NewYorker]
ON THE HILL — Senator Bob Menendez tells Jewish Insider he’s open to give Lindsey Graham the bipartisan backing he wants to pass the Taylor Force Act. “I have a degree of sympathy for finding ways to change the Palestinian Authority’s views that you support people who are dedicated to killing Jews — whether that is a more calibrated denial of money versus what I am hearing, which is an outright cut, — is the only question for me,” Menendez told JI’s Aaron Magid yesterday. “I think something should be done… I don’t know that Israel needs a collapsed Palestinian Authority next door to them.” Menendez was one of only two Democratic Senators to vote for David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel in last week’s vote. [JewishInsider]
“Pay for Slay in Palestine” by WSJ Editorial Board: “President Trump hasn’t commented on the Taylor Force Act, but Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats co-sponsored the original bill in the Senate last year. A White House endorsement would be timely as Mr. Trump has invited Mr. Abbas to Washington “in the near future.” Whenever that meeting happens, ending the PA’s bureaucracy of terror should be atop the agenda.” [WSJ]
Key Senators Non-Committal About New Iran Sanctions Bill — by JI’s Aaron Magid: Influential Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee declined to take a position on the bill introduced last week to boost sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile program and support for terrorism. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), considered the most independent Republican on foreign policy told Jewish Insider, “We haven’t come to a decision on that yet.” Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) offered a similar non-committal response. The former Vice Presidential candidate told Jewish Insider, “I’m taking a look at it. We were not involved in the drafting of it so I have had my time spend time on it, and I’m not ready to take a position yet.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT): “I haven’t made a decision on it. I supported the Iran nuclear agreement because it reserved our right to be able to impose new sanctions against Iran for its expansion of the ballistic missile program or continued violations of human rights or support for terrorism. I don’t have any problem with sanctions that are right sized against Iran’s non-nuclear activity. I just want to make sure that this legislation doesn’t have the unintended effects of unwinding the nuclear agreement and that the sanctions are right sized to the violations.” [JewishInsider]
INTERVIEW — Member of Knesset Erel Margalit spoke to JI’s Jacob Kornbluh about his political campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu on allegations about possible conflict of interests in Israel’s arms deals and the need to pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace. “I think he needs to go – on a moral level before on a criminal one,” Margalit, who is expected to compete for the Labor Party leadership later this year, said about Netanyahu in an interview on the sidelines of AIPAC’s Policy Conference in DC.
“Besides the investigations, his government is falling apart. I think that anybody who has the right mind – in Israel – needs to get ready with a new government, with new leadership. Because I think there is a high chance that this government doesn’t hold up. I was meeting here with people of the Administration and I know that a major regional deal is being discussed. I have been leading the Converging Interest Plan which calls for an economic security set of cooperative efforts in the region. I am happy that people are talking about that, but it needs completely new leadership. It’s not just words, it’s not just talk, it’s deeds. And we have heard enough general discussions. And with all the Arab countries that I am speaking to, people are saying, ‘Look, we are very excited about this. We are very excited to work with Israel, but we need a political solution – a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and we need Israel to say that. Even if it’s not going to be easy to close a deal, we need the Israeli leadership to say that that’s what they are aiming for.’”
Margalit on Trump’s push for peace: “I am meeting people. I am trying to discern what the intentions are. I like the fact that — you know, business people understand each other. I met a few people that come from the business world who are connected to this administration, and the message is: Guys, there is a deal that needs to be done and Israel can either be reactive or proactive; could either be a leader or a follower. And I think Israel should be active… I think there is a new set of ideas that are needed in Israel, a new set of energies, and perhaps it’s time for new leadership as well. Maybe it’s time for the startup nation generation to come into the first row of political leadership. I am hoping that would be the case.”
KAFE KNESSET — Bar Mitzvah Summit — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: “Ariel Mishal, one of Deri’s closest aides and director-general of Deri’s Negev and Galilee Ministry, invited all of the top officials to his son’s Bar Mitzvah. The Bar Mitzvah turned into a high-level summit, which included Kahlon, Herzog and Shas leader Aryeh Deri. Herzog, just back from AIPAC, was the center of attention, holding not-so-discrete discussions with Deri and Kahlon, who arrived at the event after his nighttime meeting with Bibi. Deri tweeted that he enjoyed speaking with Herzog and called to him to join a unity government: “The challenges facing Israel require Herzog and his party join the government.”
That tweet was enough to raise speculation and concerns amongst Labor party members that Herzog could be planning a new move to postpone his upcoming primary elections yet again. Aware of the never-ending party suspicions towards him, Herzog swiftly tweeted in reply that he calls on Deri to support the alternative government he has been plotting during this last crisis. “Come join my alternative government. It’s the right path for Israel,” he wrote. Tomorrow, the Labor party convention is set to take place and approve the July 3rd primary date, after months of Herzog trying to stall the process. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
“Hamas launches manhunt in Gaza for ‘Israeli assassins who gunned down one of its leaders'” by Raf Sanchez: “Hamas has launched a manhunt in the Gaza Strip following the mysterious killing of one its military commanders, which the group says was carried out by Israeli assassins. The lslamist militant organisation has placed the isolated Mediterranean enclave of Gaza on lock down as it hunts for the killers of Mazen Faqha, a Hamas leader who was shot dead on Friday. While it searches for the alleged Israeli hit squad – and any Palestinian collaborators – Hamas is preventing men younger than 45 from leaving Gaza and imposed a media blackout on details of its investigation.” [TheTelegraph]
SCENE LAST NIGHT — in NYC: Dan Senor and Campbell Brown hosted a conversation at their Tribeca apartment with the co-creators of the hit Israeli TV show ‘Fauda’ — Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff. Since debuting on Netflix this past December, the show has dominated the talk around town, and among many of our readers. During their off-the-record discussion, Raz and Issacharoff detailed several real life experiences that inspired them to create the show. Given its tremendous popularity, Fauda sounds like it’ll be around for several more seasons to come so stay tuned!
Spotted among the diverse group of attendees: David Remnick, Gail Collins, John Podhoretz, Emma Bloomberg, David Nevins, Joel Klein, Nicole Seligman, Pepper Binkley, Gary Ginsberg, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Alexandra Pelosi, Michiel Vos, Paul Singer, Terry Kassel, Richard Cohen, Patricia Duff, Rabbi David Ingber, Seth M. Siegel, Ken Kurson, Gabe Sherman, Bart Gellman, Dafna Linzer, Mosheh Oinounou, Jenna Gibson, Chris Altchek, Kovie Biakolo, Margaret Hoover, John Avlon, Roger Bennett, David Segal, Vanessa Bennett, Jacob Buchdahl, Max Boot, Charlotte Morgan, Melody Margolis, Ariela Dubler, Jesse Furman, Jonathan Alter, Cyrus & Peggy Vance, Richard Zabel, Ilan Benatar, Naama Shefi, Stephen & Ellie Backer, Debbie Hochberg, Daniel Bonner, Elena Lefkowitz, Daniel Mael, Wendy Singer, Eugene Kandel, Ira Akselrad, Susan Akselrad, Jeff Feig, Alexander Libby.
** Good Wednesday 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 [email protected] **
FIRST LOOK — from NPR’s How I Built This podcast, Guy Raz interviews Haim Saban: “As a refugee growing up in Tel Aviv, Haim Saban remembers not having enough money to eat. As an adult, he hustled his way into the entertainment business, writing theme songs for classic cartoons like Inspector Gadget and Heathcliff. But producing the mega-hit Mighty Morphin Power Rangers put him on track to becoming a billionaire media titan.” [NPR]
SPOTLIGHT: “Ad agency rebrands with the name of its Jewish founders” by Kate Bassett: “In a stand against xenophobia, the agency has renamed itself Valenstein & Fatt, putting the name of its Jewish founders (Lawrence Valenstein and Arthur Fatt) above the door for the first time. ‘We started delving into its history and realised that its founders hadn’t been properly recognised; their names meant nothing in the wider industry,’ says CEO Leo Rayman. ‘This also felt like the right time to make a statement against the rising tide of extremism and prejudice.’ For the next 100 days, all the company’s branding – from email signatures and client presentations to the reception walls – will bear the names of the agency’s original founders.” [MT; CNBC]
“TPG ends Strauss Coffee saga” by Dan Primack: “Private equity firm TPG Capital has agreed to sell its 25.1% stake in listed Israeli coffee producer Strauss Coffee back to the company for around $279 million… Why it’s a big deal: Because this marks the end of a protracted saga between TPG and Strauss, which first got together via a $293 million TPG investment back in 2008. At issue was Todd Morgan, a TPG employee and the firm’s rep on Strauss Coffee’s board, before he was later named CEO. In early 2014, however, Morgan was fired over TPG’s objections, which became public via a court fight.” [Axios]
“Amazon confirms acquisition of Souq, marking its move into the Middle East” by Ingrid Lunden: “The announcement caps off several months of speculation about the fate of Souq. The company had originally been in talks with Amazon to acquire a 30 percent stake that would have valued that company at $1 billion, before entering into negotiations for an outright sale. Others reportedly interested in the company included eBay and Emirati retail group Majid Al Futtaim.” [TC]
TALK OF OUR NATION: “Selling Judaism, Religion Not Included” by Jennifer Miller:“If there ever was a moment when Shabbat was poised to become the new yoga practice, it’s now. “Jewish culture is in the mainstream, it’s popular, and that’s something any brand would want to jump on,” says Danya Shults, 31, founder of Arq… Of course, there has long been a mainstream taste for Jewish humor and food (see: Seinfeld, bagels, challah French toast), but the fervor is something new. “I see rabbis doing really creative things, saying, ‘Come in and try this out,’ ” says Rabbi Ari Moffic.” [Businessweek]
DESSERT: “A Rabbi Walks Into a Bar — and Enforces the Law” by Noga Tarnopolsky: “At Bell Wood Bar, finding a bottle of Glenfiddich Scotch stamped by a recognized London authority, Rabbi [Shmouel] Semelman exclaimed, “A hechsher! Amazing!” But at Dorothy, a nearby bar he had visited a few weeks earlier, matters went downhill. “No, no, no!” he said. “Chartreuse? I took this down two weeks ago. Why is it back?” The barman, terrified, said he served it all the time and no one had complained, further infuriating Rabbi Semelman. “You have to decide if you want to be kosher or not,” he said. “If not, no problem. We live in a democracy. But the people will not be cheated!”” [NYTimes]
SPORTS BLINK: “Staff members with Baltimore ties reflect on Team Israel’s surprising WBC run” by Peter Schmuck: “The team that represented Israel in the World Baseball Classic defied all odds to win its first four games and capture the imagination of baseball fans around the globe, but that miracle run in South Korea and Japan really wasn’t the reason Team Israel physical therapist Yoni Rosenblatt came back to Baltimore swelling with pride in his Jewish heritage. “It’s the people you meet along the way who kind of pull you aside and say ‘You don’t understand what this means to me,'” Rosenblatt said. “Whatever that is. I got text messages from guys dealing with stuff that was tough in their lives — religiously or otherwise — and for them to see a Jewish star on a guy’s hat in such a positive light. To see Israel portrayed so positively when so often it’s in the news for the opposite…what an honor to be part of something like that.” [BaltimoreSun]
BIRTHDAYS: Hollywood mogul, co-CEO of entertainment and media agency William Morris Endeavor, Ariel Zev “Ari” Emanuel turns 56… Evolutionary biologist, geneticist, academic and social commentator, professor of zoology and biology at Harvard for many years, Richard Lewontin turns 88… Florida plaintiff’s attorney, he earned a $300 million fee for suing the tobacco industry, the University of Florida law school bears his name, Fred Levin turns 80… Chemist, professor at both Hebrew University and UCLA, winner of the 1974 Israel Prize, Raphael David Levine turns 79… Attorney, NYT best-selling author, sports agent for many atheletes including Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Kirby Puckett and Eddie Murray, Ronald M. Shapiro turns 74… Houston-based labor law, employment law and personal injury attorney, active in Jewish organizations, Carol Nelkin turns 72… Orthopedic surgeon, former professional boxer, entrepreneur, author, speaker, screenplay writer, movie producer and philanthropist, Harold “Hackie” Stuart Reitman, MD turns 67… Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for economics, University of Chicago professor Roger Myerson turns 66… Billionaire, computer scientist and quantitative hedge fund pioneer, founded D. E. Shaw & Co., major financial backer of Hillary Clinton, David E. Shaw turns 66… Chairman of consulting firm Roubini Global Economics and professor at NYU, he was a senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton administration, Nouriel Roubini turns 59… JoAnne Papir turns 57… National Press Secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, David A. Bergstein turns 29… Analyst at Aurora Energy Advisors, he was the student commencement speaker at his 2013 George Washington University graduation, Alexander Zafran turns 26… Senior administrative assistant in Christie’s impressionist and modern art group, Annie Rosen… Visiting fellow at The Washington Institute in the program on Arab politics, former special assistant to President Obama, Eric Pelofsky… Born in Atlanta, raised in Johannesburg, now VP of business development at Crowdpac, Liz Jaff (h/ts Playbook)…
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