Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Inside the Jeff Zucker and Kushner/Trump relationship | Gideon Sa’ar returns | Elliott Abrams endorses Trump’s settlement policy

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NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN — HALEY AT THE UN — “US takes turn atop UN Security Council” by Richard Roth: “Some pundits predict United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley will one day run for president, but for a month, at least, she will be — of the 15-nation UN Security Council. Ambassadors take up the post each month, and April fell to Haley.” [CNN] • Headline — “UNSC Won’t Focus On Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Under Nikki Haley Presidency” [JPost]

“Ambassador to the U.N. says U.S. leverage for Mideast peace not harmed by support for Israel” by Anne Gearan: “[Haley] said she is not concerned that her strongly worded support for Israel creates the impression that the United States has a finger on the scale in any future negotiation. “I’ve been honest. That’s all I’ve done, is tell the truth,” she said.” [WashPost]

TEAM FRIEDMAN — “Orthodox rabbi to advise David Friedman at US embassy in Israel” by Michael Wilner: “Aryeh Lightstone, an Orthodox rabbi who works in Jewish education, will serve in an advisory role at the US embassy in Israel alongside Ambassador David Friedman, a State Department official confirmed on Sunday.” [JPost]

Word on the street: Lightstone is set to be Friedman’s Chief of Staff and will join the Ambassador in Israel…

Michael Fragin, a friend of Lightstone, emails us: “Lightstone possesses a comprehensive knowledge of the Jewish community in Israel and in the United States while being very well versed in DC politics at the highest levels. He will be a great asset for Ambassador Friedman as he seeks to balance the interests and needs of these varied demanding constituencies to represent the interests of the United States government.”

TOP TALKER: “Controversial Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka Backed Violent Anti-Semitic Militia” by Lili Bayer: “Asked directly on the TV interview program if he supports the move by Jobbik, a far-right anti-Semitic party, to establish the militia, [Seb] Gorka, appearing as a leader of his own newly formed party, replies immediately, “That is so.” The Guard, Gorka explains, is a response to “a big societal need.” … During the 11-minute interview, which aired on Hungary’s Echo TV, Gorka dismissed concerns expressed by the Jewish community, and in particular fears that the Guard provoked among Hungarian Holocaust survivors.” [Forward]

ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt tweets: “POTUS’ chief counter-terrorism adviser Gorka’s past support for antisemitic Hungarian Guard shocking” [Twitter]

INTERVIEW – Congressman Scott Taylor (R-VA) discussed his service in the Navy SEALs overseas, his work in Congress, and views on the Middle East in an interview with Jewish Insider‘s Aaron Magid. “Syria scares me. Syria is the most dangerous thing in the world right now,” Taylor said about the U.S. campaign against ISIS. “Unlike any other time that I know of since World War II, you have so many powers playing in the same sandbox. Israel, Russia, Turkey, Iran and us. There is tremendous potential for flash points and the inability to de-conflict. I don’t know exactly what the President’s plan is right now… I am worried about increased forces in Syria. What is the plan, what is the goal? And I want to hear those things.”

On Israel, the 37-year-old Congressman expresses skepticism regarding the two-state solution, once considered a cornerstone of American policy among both Republican and Democratic administrations. “From a military standpoint, the West Bank and Golan Heights, that land that Israel took in 1967 — from a tactical standpoint — there is no way in hell, I would give it back.” He explained that the current facts on the ground make an independent Palestinian state nearly impossible. “Most people think, there’s the Jews and there’s the Arabs. It’s just not like that because when you are actually in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, you are seeing Arab village, Jewish village – it’s just all over the place.” While few Members of Congress refer to the territory as Judea and Samaria, when asked why he uses this term, Taylor promptly responded, “Because that’s what it is.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION — Egyptian President Fattah al-Sisi visited the White House yesterday. “We agree on so many things,” Trump said during a photo spray in the Oval Office, without addressing specific policy. “We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt.” Sisi, responding in kind, expressed his admiration of the President’s “unique personality” and praised his strong stance in fighting radical Islamic terrorism. In an apparent reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Sisi told Trump, “You will find me supporting you very strongly and very earnestly in finding a solution to the problem of the century.”

— “President Trump and President Al Sisi expressed their mutual interest in supporting the Israelis and Palestinians in moving toward a genuine and lasting peace,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting.

“Al-Sisi presents Trump with the position of the Arab states in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” by Roi Kais: “Egyptian sources told Al-Hayat that Egyptian President Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi presented to US President Donald Trump the position of the Arab states regarding a just solution to the Palestinian issue based on the Arab peace initiative. He also expressed the opposition of the countries to the transfer of the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” [Ynet

“Trump Shifts Course on Egypt, Praising Its Authoritarian Leader” by Peter Baker and Declan Walsh: “Nothing could have made Mr. Sisi happier. He arrived from Cairo with a list of financial, security and political requests, but effectively he got what he really wanted in the six minutes that news media photographers were permitted in the Oval Office… The picture of the general-turned-president in the White House, hosted by an American leader lavishing praise on him, was the seal of approval he had long craved.” [NYTimes]

Dan Shapiro‏ tweets: “Count the Israeli government and people among those who are satisfied by the warm embrace given by Trump to Egypt’s President al-Sisi… Israeli officials often spoke to me about al-Sisi using the term “miracle.” They weren’t being ironic… It’s understandable why Israelis choose short-term gain, given the threats they face, and welcome Trump’s embrace of al-Sisi.” [Twitter

“Donald Trump’s Arab fantasy” by Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky: “The Sunni Arabs are almost certain to disappoint Trump on Israeli-Palestinian peace, too… The 2002 Arab summit outlined an Arab peace plan whose trade-offs go well beyond what the Netanyahu government has been prepared to offer. If President Trump wants to get the Arab states to make peace with Israel, he’ll need to bring serious pressure on both sides, particularly on issues such as borders and Jerusalem. Right now there’s zero evidence that anyone, including Trump, is ready for that.” [CNN

“Trump’s policy on Israeli settlements is the way to go” by Elliott Abrams: “What has emerged is a good policy: sensible, flexible and realistic. Which is to say, it’s a lot like Bush policy… This is very close to the George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon understandings of 2003 and 2004. Our “deal” was no new settlements, no seizure of additional land for settlements, construction in already built-up areas and no financial inducements to move to a settlement… This is smart. The alternative approach, that of the Obama administration under George Mitchell, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Obama, was not.” [Newsweek

Alternative view… “Israel restrains settlements because it doesn’t trust Trump” by Shmuel Rosner: “Israeli decision makers have difficulties in trusting Trump because they don’t know him… Thus, restricting settlement building… is a sign that Israel is hesitant to move forward and prefers to play it safe. It is taking the necessary steps so as not to hand President Trump any ammunition with which he can hammer Israel or blame it for his failure to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian final-status agreement.” [JewishJournal]

KAFE KNESSET — Sa’ar is making a comeback — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Netanyahu’s latest headache is the return of his archrival, Gideon Sa’ar, to politics. In case you forgot, Sa’ar, a former education and interior minister from the Likud, consistently held high public approval ratings and was seen by many as Netanyahu’s heir apparent, leading the Prime Minister to do all he can to try to tear Sa’ar down. So, in September 2014, Sa’ar decided to take a break from politics to dedicate time to his family.

For someone who took a break from politics over frustration with Netanyahu – though he would never openly admit as much – Sa’ar was very positive about the Prime Minister in his comeback speech at a Likud chapter in Akko. “I want to praise Prime Minister Netanyahu for protecting Israel’s interests during eight tough years,” Sa’ar said, referring to Obama’s presidency. However, Sa’ar, who in addition to hanging out with babies David and Shira, spent the last 2.5 years at the INSS think tank in Tel Aviv, warned that “there are still dangerous plans out there to pressure Israel to return to pre-1967 lines” and called for people to “support the prime minister in standing up to that pressure.”

Sa’ar added that he hopes to “strengthen the Likud for the future and guarantee that it will also lead the country in the future,” a/k/a, the post-Netanyahu era. He plans to launch a cross-country tour of Israel where he will meet with Likud activists and others to discuss his new ideas. There’s no Likud leadership race on the horizon, even if an election is called, because Netanyahu ran unopposed last year, and the vote was called off to save the party money… By the way, the family that Sa’ar took time off to spent time with includes wife and respected IBA News anchor Geula Even. At the height of the Netanyahu-Kahlon IBA-IBC crisis, the IBC announced that Even would be its nightly news anchor, a move that reportedly angered both sides of the dispute: Netanyahu, because he sees Even and Sa’ar as one and the same, and Kahlon, because he blamed IBC’s management for making it harder to end the crisis. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

IRAN DEAL: “Boeing Agrees to First Plane Sale to Iran Under Trump” by Robert Wall and Asa Fitch: “The sale is the first major deal between a U.S. company and an Iranian one since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, an outspoken critic of closer ties with Tehran. Boeing said it had received permission from the U.S. government to negotiate the sale, though it still needs signoff from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control… The deal could become a high-profile test case for the Trump administration over how far Washington will allow U.S. companies to go in doing business in Iran.” [WSJ]

“White House violated protocol by confirming Jared Kushner trip before he landed in Iraq” by Ashley Parker and Dan Lamothe: “In a breach of protocol, senior White House officials confirmed reports of Kushner’s trip before he had landed in Iraq, raising security concerns from the Pentagon… As reporters caught wind of Kushner’s trip and began calling the White House Sunday night, senior administration confirmed the early reports of the visit, including the original — and incorrect — timeline, saying Kushner was already on the ground. Asked about the mistake, a White House official Monday said their timing on the logistics of the trip had been slightly off.” [WashPost] • Kushner Iraq trip part of wider Pentagon outreach to Trump [Politico]

“The military may have found an unlikely ally in the Trump administration” by David Choi: “If I were the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I would do exactly what general Dunford has done … because he does have the trust and confidence of the President,” Mark Hertling, the former commander of US Army Europe, said of Kushner in an interview with CNN… “That will allow Chairman Dunford and Secretary of Defense Mattis to help ‘lead-up’ when President Trump perhaps might be making a decision which is contrary to the security of the United States.” [BI] • Jared Kushner Went to Iraq Because the Pentagon Knows How Trump Operates [NYMag]

“Top Obama Adviser Sought Names of Trump Associates in Intel” by Eli Lake: “The pattern of [former national security adviser Susan] Rice’s requests was discovered in a National Security Council review… The National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review… In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice’s multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. He brought this to the attention of the White House General Counsel’s office, who reviewed more of Rice’s requests and instructed him to end his own research into the unmasking policy.” [Bloomberg; WSJ]

“Susan Rice Has No Defense” by Mike Doran: “The description of Rice’s motive — a dutiful effort to understand Russia’s engagement with American citizens — is belied by the behavior of the Obama White House in its final days.” [Medium]

2018 WATCH: “Josh Mandel ramps up criticism of ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’ sanctuary cities” by Alan Johnson: “A look at Mandel’s Twitter feed from Nov. 9 through last week shows that of more than 250 postings, nearly half concerned either anti-Islamic terrorism (about 70) or sanctuary cities (more than 50)… Mandel denies a connection between his increased social-media activity and Trump. He said he has long been focused on “combating radical Islam terrorism,” but he acknowledged that his emphasis ramped up after a terrorist attack at Ohio State University on Nov. 28… Mandel, who is Jewish, said he saw terrorism firsthand in Iraq after the Sept. 11 attacks. “I believe this is the main security threat of our generation. There are radical Muslims throughout the world who are teaching their children that it’s an honor to kill Americans, Christians, Jews and other Muslims in the name of Allah.”” [DispatchFlashback: Jewish Senate Candidate Tests Trump’s Model In Ohio [JewishInsider

** Good Tuesday 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: Aryeh Bourkoff interviews Scooter Braun for the debut episode of LionTree’s KindredCast podcast [SoundCloud] • Sheryl Sandberg: Four years after ‘Lean In’ women are not better off [USAToday] • Starbucks’ new CEO tells us he’ll never be Howard Schultz — and that’s great news for the brand [BusinessInsider]  Veg-o-Matic Company’s IPO Gives Away Free Rotisserie With Stock [Fortune• Lakewood set to vote on yeshiva’s shopping center plan [APP; NJ1015] • Deco Capital and RWN pay $7.4M for Alton Road retail building [RealDeal

MEDIA WATCH: “CNN Had a Problem. Donald Trump Solved It: Inside the strange symbiosis between Jeff Zucker and the president he helped create” y Jonathan Mahler: “Kushner told Zucker over the phone in June that in the future, Trump would be doing interviews with only friendly outlets. Zucker, who attended Kushner’s wedding to Ivanka Trump in 2009, said that he thought this was a mistake. He suggested that Kushner speak to one of his contributors, the former Obama campaign official David Axelrod, whose research for Obama showed that CNN’s viewers represent a key voting bloc. “You can’t win without us,” Zucker said.”

“Zucker had breakfast with Kushner a few weeks later in Manhattan. Kushner wanted to know why CNN still hadn’t fired anti-Trump commentators like Jones and Ana Navarro…  Zucker tried to explain that even though Trump won, the network still needed what he described as “a diversity of opinion.” Shortly before Trump was sworn in, Zucker heard that he was considering giving Fox News exclusive rights to televise the inauguration and that Kushner was in the process of brokering a deal with Rupert Murdoch, whom Kushner once courted as a mentor. Zucker called Trump. “Bottom line is that I said, ‘This is crazy,’ ” Zucker recalls.” [NYTimes]

SPOTLIGHT: “At Kushners’ Flagship Building, Mounting Debt and a Foundered Deal” by Charles V. Bagli: “More than a quarter of the office space in the building sits vacant. According to an analysis by Trepp L.L.C., a data and analytics firm that tracks bank lending, 666 Fifth Avenue has not generated enough money to pay its debts for several years, forcing the owners to cover the shortfall — at least $10 million in 2015. And that gap is growing. The interest-only $1.2 billion mortgage comes due in less than two years… The spokesman, James Yolles, said Charles Kushner remained optimistic that he would secure fresh investors who would not only pay off the existing debt on the building but also finance the demolition of the current structure and the construction of a 1,400-foot tower designed by Zaha Hadid.” [NYTimesNYPost]

TALK OF THIS TOWN: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s Rent in Washington: $15,000 a Month” by Mark Maremont: “The rent is in line with that paid for similar luxury properties in the area, according to local brokers. Even so, it represents a seemingly poor financial deal for the landlord, according to real-estate experts. The owner, Andrónico Luksic, bought the house after the November election and paid $5.5 million for the six-bedroom property… The $15,000 monthly rent works out to an annual sum of about 2.5% of the home’s value, after subtracting about $40,000 in taxes and insurance that the landlord generally pays. “That’s a terrible investment” for the owner, said Joshua Adler, who owns multiple rental properties in Washington including a Kalorama house.” [WSJ• Kushner, Ivanka Trump face ethical land mines ahead [AP]

“Linda Sarsour: NYC’s queen of hate” by Lahav Harkov: “The Brooklyn-born [Linda] Sarsour, daughter of Palestinian immigrants, shared the dais Sunday with… Rasmea Odeh — convicted in Israel of killing two Hebrew University students in a 1969 terrorist attack… It’s a curious embrace of terrorism and anti-Semitism from a recipient of a $500,000 taxpayer grant from Mayor de Blasio, as Sarsour’s group, the Arab American Association of New York, was last year. Sarsour, in fact, has been an important ally of de Blasio’s since his election — a role she’s sure to reprise in the mayor’s bid for a second term.” [NYPost

“Jean-Michel Jarre to play Dead Sea concert” by Agence France-Presse: “The French musician, who shot to fame in the 1970s, will perform in front of the ancient Masada fortress in Israel on Thursday in a bid to draw attention to the “urgency of saving the Dead Sea,” he told AFP… “I want the Dead Sea, like Masada, to be part of Unesco’s world heritage,” Jarre said during a pre-show visit to the site. “This region belongs to humanity… For me, the whole point of this project is to make people aware of the urgency of dealing with the Earth as a whole,” Jarre said. “The concert will contribute to, I hope, organising the resistance against all the Trumps of the world.”” [Guardian]

“Leonard Litwin, New York Real Estate Mogul, Dies at 102” by Robert D. McFadden: “His imprint is on the Manhattan skyline in dozens of buildings he built, owned and operated — more than 8,700 apartments with high-end amenities and lofty rents. The holdings were assembled over six decades in a father-and-son enterprise that ventured into the city rental market in the early 1950s and expanded into an archipelago of towers with names like the Pavilion, the Lucerne and Liberty Plaza… He forged political connections in Albany and City Hall with campaign contributions, lobbying and payments that shaped rent laws affecting millions of tenants, as well as state and city regulations that helped the real estate industry thrive in New York.” [NYTimes]

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN NYC — JTA celebrated 100 years of Jewish reporting at its Centennial Gala held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. The event featured a conversation with French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy. Honorees included Brian Sterling, a member of 70 Faces Media’s Board of Directors, Jane Weitzman, former Executive Vice President of Stuart Weitzman, and Mark Wilf, President and owner of the Minnesota Vikings.

SPOTTED: Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan, Amir Sagie, Bluelight’s Steve Rabinowitz, JFNA’s William Daroff, JDC’s David Schizer, Michael Geller and Amir Shaviv; URJ’s Rabbi Eric Yoffie, Arielle Dombasle, Noam Neusner, Matt Nosanchuk, Thane Rosenbaum, Zygi Wilf, Museum of Jewish Heritage’s Michael Glickman, West End Strategy’s Matt Dorf and Samantha Kupferman, ADL’s Todd Gutnick, Ilia Salita, Dana Raucher, Robert Frost, Alan Divack, Joseph Hyman, Alisa Doctoroff, David and Karen Lehmann Eisner, Rob and Elisa Spungen Bildner, JTA-70 Faces Media CEO & Executive Editor Ami Eden, Daniel Gorlin, Andrew Silow-Carroll, Debbie Kolben, Dani Elkins, Leo Lazar, Shuli Karkowsky, Lee Silverstein, Lisa Hostein, Julius Berman, David Rudis, Marshall Weinberg, Caryn Roseman Adelman, Ben Harris, Cnaan Liphshiz, Uriel Heilman, Ron Kampeas, Ben Sales, Gabe Friedman, Josefin Dolsten, Marc Brodsky, Gary Rosenblatt, Seth Lipsky, Alana Newhouse, Jane Eisner, Rachel Fishman Fedderson, Matt Berger, Ken Bandler, Mark Joffe, Israeli Consulate’s Shimon Mercer-Wood and Andrew Gross, and Dvir Assouline.

BIRTHDAYS: Author of books about her childhood experiences as a Jewish girl in the Netherlands during the Holocaust, Johanna Reiss turns 85… Major League Baseball player for the Orioles, Senators, Athletics, Rangers and Angels (1996-1974), Mike Epstein turns 74… French-German politician who is a Green Party leader in Europe, Daniel Cohn-Bendit turns 72… Hungarian dramatist, novelist and essayist whose recent works are focused upon Jewish characters, György Spiró turns 71… Author of many books and over 100 articles, political historian who teaches at American University in Washington, D.C., Allan Jay Lichtman turns 70… Poet, essayist, editor, literary scholar, professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, Charles Bernstein turns 67… Chief of staff to former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (now an Australian MP), previously senior advisor to former Representatve Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Bruce Wolpe turns 66 (h/t Playbook)… Emmy Award-winning film director, producer, freelance journalist and writer, Simcha Jacobovici turns 64… Tel Aviv-born animator and film director, now a freelance director in NYC, Tatia Rosenthal turns 46…

Member of the Knesset since 2006, now a member of the Zionist Union (the coalition of the Labor Party and Hatnuah Party), Yoel Hasson turns 45… Actress since she was six years old, she has appeared in many movies and television series, Natasha Lyonne (born Natasha Bianca Lyonne Braunstein) turns 38… Israeli journalist who serves as the political correspondent and analyst for The Times of Israel, Haviv Rettig Gur turns 36… Israel’s top men’s tennis player, who has broken into the top 30 of world rankings, David “Dudi” Sela turns 32… NYC-based senior editor for Hearst Digital Media’s content studio, lifestyle writer, Daisy Melamed Sanders turns 30 (h/t Playbook)… Gloria Margulies… Phyllis Wilner

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