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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Bomb threats at Jewish centers originating overseas” by Eric Levenson and Anne Claire Stapleton: “Law enforcement officials believe many of the threatening calls to Jewish community centers have originated overseas… The FBI said the bureau and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division are “investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country.” But details on that investigation have been scarce, and it’s difficult to know the extent of these threats.” [CNN] • Bomb Threats To Jewish Centers Were Made Using “Spoofing” And Voice-Masking Technology [BuzzFeed]
“Trump begins his first speech to Congress by denouncing wave of anti-Semitism” by Maxwell Tani: “In the first sentences of his joint address to Congress… the president decried the defaced Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats made against Jewish community centers across the US… “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”” [HuffPost]
Abe Foxman emails us… “Trump said what needed to be said. It was clear and unequivocal. Now our community should move forward and work with local and national law enforcement to apprehend the culprits and design strategies to protect our community from anti-Semitic attacks and threats. And we should all stop politicizing U.S. anti-Semitism here and in Israel.”
Martin Indyk: “Good on Trump for his clear condemnation of anti-Semitism and racism at the top of his SOTU speech.” [Twitter]
Chemi Shalev: “Trump will soothe many Jews by condemning attacks right at the outset.” [Twitter]
Earlier headlines… “Trump questioned who is really behind anti-Semitic threats and vandalism, official says” by Mark Berman: “When Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) asked [Trump] about the recent threats against Jewish facilities, the president responded by condemning the statements but then “suggested the ‘reverse’ may be true,” Shapiro said. “I don’t know what the president meant by that statement,” Shapiro said in a statement. Trump “made this reference that sometimes it’s the reverse” and then “used that word ‘reverse’ several times,” Joe Grace, a spokesman for Shapiro, said in a telephone interview Tuesdayafternoon.” [WashPost; BillyPenn]
Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci tweets: “It’s not yet clear who the #JCC offenders are. Don’t forget the Democrats effort to incite violence at Trump rallies… I’m saying until we know for sure it’s highly irresponsible to jump to conclusions… I have stood with and will stand for the Jewish People for my entire life. Those that know me know.” [Twitter]
“Top Trump ally: I didn’t mean to link Dems to Jewish center threats” by Max Greenwood: “What I was really suggesting in that tweet is that we actually don’t know who’s behind it,” Scaramucci told CNN’s “New Day.” “And so what you’re finding is there’s a lot of allegations being made and I think people are suggesting that it could potentially be Trump supporters or people who that are affiliated with the president or his administration,” he continued. “I think that is categorically very unfair.” But asked why he appeared to tie the threats to the Democrats, Scaramucci pointed out that some Democrats got caught inciting violence at Trump campaign rallies last year. “I tied it to what has happened in the past,” he said.” [TheHill]
CNN has seen better chyrons than yesterday’s — “Trump to address Jewish threats tonight” [Pic]
ISRAEL MOMENT — “I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.”
“Ivanka’s role in Trump’s speech” by Mike Allen: “A senior administration official emails: “The speech was all [Stephen] Miller, but Ivanka worked hard on it with him on many of the parts, especially affirming that the president’s desire to have an uplifting and aspirational speech was right. … A week ago, Ivanka and Dina Powell [senior counselor for economic initiatives] met with the president on those parts of the speech with Steve Miller and Hope Hicks, and talked about those issues and how they would resonate in an important way.” [Axios]
“Dems stick with muted ways of exercising art of dissent” by Nancy Benac: “Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who’s hugged the center aisle seat for 29 years of speechmaking by presidents of both parties, took a pass on an aisle seat this year – and made a point of announcing it.” [AP]
Benny Johnson: “Sobbing widow of slain Navy Seal receives 2 minute standing ovation. Debbie Wasserman Schultz & Keith Ellison stay firmly seated, no claps.” [Twitter]
“Winners and losers from President Trump’s big speech to Congress” by Chris Cillizza: “C-SPAN’s Howard Mortman: I loved Howard before this. And my love for C-SPAN is also well known. But, this image, captured by Howard, of Trump en route to the speech, made me love him even more.” [WashPost] • See the viral picture here [Twitter]
“Trump’s speech to Congress marks the real start of his presidency” by John Podhoretz: “He even seemed to criticize it himself in his closing words… It seemed, stunningly, an implicit acknowledgment that many of the fights he has been conducting over the past 39 days have been trivial ones, and it is time to rise to the moment… The formal presidency has begun.” [NYPost]
President-in-law: “Pelosi to Democrats: Treat Trump voters like a friend whose boyfriend is a jerk” by Dana Bash: “[Nancy Pelosi] also described the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, a top White House aide, as starry-eyed to the point that he missed the mark with Democrats. “We went to the meeting when Jared was there — and he said, ‘Is everyone so excited about the change?’ And we’re like ‘What?’ I said, ‘No, we’re so excited about the women’s march,'” recalled Pelosi.” [CNN]
ON THE HILL — Yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged AIPAC to “get on board” and support the Taylor Force Act to cut off US assistance to the Palestinian Authority if they continue their policy of paying monetary rewards to terrorists and their surviving family members. “We all appreciate AIPAC. I have briefed them about the bill. They supported the concept. They want some changes,” Graham said. “To my friends at AIPAC, this is a chance to get on board.” [JewishInsider; Haaretz] • Trump Admin, Congress Behind Effort to Cut U.S. Aid to Palestinians [FreeBeacon]
— AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann: “We strongly support the legislation’s goal to end these abhorrent payments, and we are committed to work with Congress to build the bipartisan support necessary for a bill to pass.” [JPost]
Sander Gerber, Fellow at the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs and former Vice Chairman at Woodrow Wilson Center, tells us: “The Taylor Force Act is a chance for Republicans and Democrats to unite in an act of decency: stopping the Palestinian Authority from using American tax dollars as blood money, including the murder of an American hero, Taylor Force. There should be no party lines drawn in the fight against terrorism. Both Republicans and Democrats belong together -on the front line – saying, ‘Enough of the appeasement of the Palestinian Authority.’ I think anyone who actually reads the Palestinian Authority’s legislation to support an infrastructure of terror will be shocked and feel compelled to sign on to the Taylor Force Act.”
HEARD IN GENEVA: “U.S. seeks end to U.N. rights council’s ‘obsession’ with Israel” by Stephanie Nebehay: “Trump’s administration is reviewing its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council, seeking reform of its agenda and an end to its “obsession with Israel,” a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday. The United States “remains deeply troubled by the Council’s consistent unfair and unbalanced focus on one democratic country, Israel,” Erin Barclay, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, told the U.N. Human Rights Council. Barclay questioned whether focusing on Israel was a sensible priority, adding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was bombing hospitals while North Korea and Iran deny millions of their people of freedoms of religion, peaceful assembly and expression. “In order for this Council to have any credibility, let alone success, it must move away from its unbalanced and unproductive positions,” Barclay said.” [Reuters]
JI’s Aaron Magid asked several senators whether they support President Trump’s call for Israel to “hold back on settlements.” — Senator Ron Johnson: (R-WI): “I have not particularly appreciated any administration pressuring Israel into unilateral concessions to a negotiating partner that is not negotiating in good faith that doesn’t acknowledge the right of the state of Israel to exist, including the Trump Administration.”
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ): “The question of settlements is one of several issues that have to be dealt with in the context of the pursuit of the path to peace. But at the end of the day that is the question for the government of Israel to deal with and if the administration is calling for them to ultimately have a pause as they try to figure out a plan — this is a new administration — to the extent that it intends to get engaged in trying to create a peace process, then it might be worthy of heeding the President’s call so that in fact they can have an opportunity to figure out whether there is a plan to put forward to succeed to acquiring peace.”
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN): “I think that having some front end caution where the parties are trying to figure out the best way to go forward is always a good way of going about a new relationship that has been fraught with difficulties in the past. The Trump administration is trying to figure out the best way to help the process of peace to go along. To always move slowly in a new relationship is a good thing to do.”
“DNC Chair Perez defends Rep. Keith Ellison’s past statements about Israel” by Yahoo News: “Keith Ellison is a friend of the Jewish community. I know that. I know him very well. He’s spent a lot of time with the Jewish community. We were just together earlier today and we accepted an invitation to address together a community (in Maryland) that has been torn apart by recent threats. And he is a civil rights leader… I am confident that we will be moving together.” [YahooNews]
CATCH THE IRONY? — Ellison told Jewish Insider on Tuesday that he “does not support” David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s nominee for US Ambassador to Israel. The Minnesota lawmaker explained his opposition: “Because I believe in the two state solution. Because he said some horrible things about people here in our own country that I don’t agree with, and that’s my opinion.”
KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev: It is conference season in Jerusalem this month. After the Conference of Presidents annual gathering last week, this week the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) is holding its 2017 Conference on the Future of the Jewish People. Yesterday the conference, led by Dennis Ross, Stuart Eizenstat and Leonid Nevzlin, along with participants including Ellliott Abrams and Norm Coleman, met President Rivlin and Supreme Court President Miriam Naor. The Prime Minister — who was set to address the gathering this evening — canceled at the last minute.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s main rival these days in the polls, Yair Lapid, used the opportunity this morning to deliver a strong statement to JPPI on the rise of anti-Semitism across the Atlantic. “At times it seems like the only unifying force of the Jewish people in these times, is our shared fear and outrage from the revival of anti-Semitism. There we unite… The days in which the Jewish people hid from anti-Semitism are over. We will face it together. From here, from Jerusalem, we say “enough.” Jews won’t hide anymore, Jews won’t be scared anymore and we expect the governments of the world to fight anti-Semitism decisively and with all their might. Jewish blood will not be cheap anymore,” Lapid said.
Last month, when Elliott Abrams was tapped to be Deputy Secretary of State, expectations in Jerusalem were high — as was the disappointment when President Trump rejected him a few days later. Kafe Knesset spoke to Abrams on the sidelines of the JPPI conference. “Obviously I’m disappointed it didn’t work out, I do hear it from a lot of people here in Israel because obviously they would prefer to have someone they know in that position. The President had the absolute right to make that decision but obviously I think he made the wrong decision, and he ought to be looking forward to who can help this administration rather than backward to the primary campaign,” Abrams told Kafe Knesset.
Kafe Knesset: How high is the Israeli-Palestinian issue on the President’s agenda, how involved do you think he is going to be?
Elliott Abrams: “It is clear that he would like to achieve a breakthrough that Clinton, Bush and Obama tried and failed to achieve. That is one of the reasons that he involved Jared Kushner in this, that is a signal of commitment. I don’t think he will be personally involved, nor should he be on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.
What would you advise Jared Kushner?
Abrams: “The one piece of advice would be to study the record, and that can be done by getting documents and histories from the State Department historians. It could be done by talking to previous American officials and negotiators. I think there is no substitute for knowing what approaches have been tried and why they failed.”
Is the embassy move going to be another unfulfilled campaign promise?
Abrams: “We will know the answer in June when the President needs to sign the waiver. That is the first time he needs to say something. It’s my hope that he would do something. One doesn’t have to go from doing nothing, which is what Clinton, Bush and Obama did, to announcing that you’re starting construction this morning on a new embassy complex. I would like to see him say something, perhaps, like the embassy will be in Tel Aviv and the Ambassador would be in Jerusalem, or that I have ordered the State Department to develop a plan to move the embassy. This will obviously take multiple years.” Read the entire interview with Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Main Line critic of Trump policy awaits hedge fund judgment [PhillyInquirer] • American Dream Miami mega-mall heads to final vote this summer, to open in 2022 [RealDeal; MiamiHerald] • Baltimore-area apartment portfolio sells for $247 million [BaltimoreSun] • Appeals Court Upholds Verdict in Favor of Lord & Taylor Against Lerner Enterprises in White Flint Mall Case [BethesdaMag; BizJournal] • Leviev wins $209M judgment in corporate split [RealDeal; NYPost] • Trump’s Son-In-Law Is Shaping Health Care Policy, And The Fate Of His Brother’s Obamacare App [HuffPost]
STARTUP NATION: “Apple already has 1,000 engineers working on AR in Israel” by Hannah Roberts: “Augmented reality (AR) will likely be Apple’s next major product innovation, according to analyst Steven Milunovich and his team at UBS. “According to some industry sources, the company may have over 1,000 engineers working on a project in Israel that could be related to AR,” the note also says.” [BusinessInsider]
RISING STAR: “General Mills’ Venture Fund Invests in 20-Year-Old’s Startup” by John Kell: “Daniel Katz is a 20-year-old Cincinnati native who created a protein-packed snack brand that’s generating nearly $10 million in annual revenue after just two years of business. And General Mills likes the brand so much it has become a financial backer. “This is the first investment I’ve taken outside of my family,” Katz told Fortune in an interview. “For the last two years, I’ve been essentially running this [alone] and it was getting to the point where I realized I couldn’t maintain it on my own.” [Fortune]
MEDIA WATCH: “Time Inc. Asks for Formal Bids From Potential Buyers” by Sydney Ember: “Five parties, including Meredith Corporation and a group led by Edgar Bronfman Jr., have indicated interest in buying Time Inc. in its entirety, according to one of the people, who requested anonymity because the plans are private.” [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “Moishe Indig, latest focus in de Blasio probe, has long ties to mayor” by Laura Nahmias and Sally Goldenberg: “People close to Indig describe him as the unofficial, and unregistered, lobbyist for issues important to the Aroni Satmar community… “He’s the Bill Clinton of the Hasidic community.” .. On Feb. 11, 2016, Indig and other Satmars attended an hour and a half long meeting with de Blasio at City Hall in the Blue Room, with several real estate developers, including Extell’s Gary Barnett and Park Tower Group’s George Klein… In a television interview Monday night, de Blasio said recent reporting on his relationship with Indig — including a report City Hall aides have strenuously denied suggesting de Blasio played a part in helping Indig with Department of Buildings-related problems at a yeshiva under his control — has been an unfair composite.”” [Politico]
“GOP lobbyist claims Russia is behind murder of Seth Rich” by Louise Boyle:“GOP lobbyist and DC lawyer Jack Burkman has formally appealed to Congress to investigate following new evidence he says he’s obtained that Russia may be behind [Seth] Rich’s murder… While Burkman is reluctant to elaborate, he revealed he was recently contacted about the investigation by a man claiming to be a former U.S. intelligence officer. The source is an older man, 65-70 years old, who claims to have been a contractor in Iraq in the 1970s, he revealed. ‘The source has claimed that it [the murder] was arranged by the Russian government at a very high level,’ Burkman said.” [DailyMail]
JEWISH AGENCY NEWS: “Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky has acceded to The Jewish Agency Board of Governors’ request that he remain as the organization’s leader for an additional year after his second four-year term concludes in June. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also expressed his support for Sharansky’s continued service as the organization’s Chairman.”
DESSERT: “Looking for a Trump Doctrine in the White House Kitchen” by Kim Severson and Marian Burros: “Some people have speculated that Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who gardens with her children and whose favorite recipes include broccoli kugel and her mother-in-law’s veal Marsala, may take on some of the duties. But don’t expect to see her stamp on White House food, other than perhaps more kosher meals for her Orthodox Jewish family. Ivanka Trump will not be a shadow first lady, said Risa Heller, who handles personal communications for her. In a statement, Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman, said, “Ivanka is not involved, but looks forward to seeing the traditions continue under the first lady, who will do an amazing job overseeing these important and historical institutions.”” [NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Film and television actor, best known for his role as James T. West in the 1965-69 television series “The Wild Wild West,” Robert Conrad (born Conrad Robert Falk) turns 82… Painter, sculptor, filmmaker and author, his illustrations have appeared over 500 times on the covers of various national publications including Time and Newsweek, Robert Grossman turns 77… Real estate developer, was part owner of MLB’s Kansas City Royals (1983-1991) and three sports franchises in Memphis, Tulane’s basketball arena is named in his honor, Avron B. Fogelman turns 77… Professor emeritus of Jewish Studies at Los Angeles Valley College and the editor of “Shofar,” a peer-reviewed academic journal of Jewish Studies, Zev Garber turns 76… Hollywood executive, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, Chairman of Dick Clark Productions, and a co-owner of both the LA Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, Peter Guber turns 75… Israeli historian, author and journalist, Tom Segev turns 72… Cantor at the Jewish Community Center of Paramus, Congregation Beth Tikvah, Sam Weiss turns 67… Member of the US national soccer team since 2004, played in England for 14 years and in 2017 joined Major League Soccer’s Orlando City, Jonathan Spector turns 31… VP of Special Projects at ASAPP, a NYC-based software technology company, Joshua Lachter turns 30… Harvard Law School student who was on the Surrogates and Strategy team in the Hillary Clinton campaign, Hannah Klain turns 26 (h/t Playbook)… Librarian at the Anti-Defamation League’s NYC HQ, Marianne Benjamin… Chief Strategy Officer for Bend the Arc, a Jewish Partnership for Justice, Jonathan Lipman… Director of Major Gifts at Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute, Dara Schapiro Schnee… Kevin Golden…
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