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BREAKING NEWS — REXIT REPORT: “White House Envisions Tillerson Ouster From State Dept., to Be Replaced by Pompeo, Within Weeks” by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman: “The White House has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whose relationship with President Trump has been strained, and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, within the next several weeks, senior administration officials said on Thursday. Mr. Pompeo would be replaced at the C.I.A. by Senator Tom Cotton… It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Trump has given final approval to the plan… John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, developed the transition plan and has discussed it with other officials.” [NYTimes]
According to a media advisory, Sen. Cotton is expected to participate in a Saban Forum panel discussion this weekend together with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and moderated by Jeffrey Goldberg. The panel is titled “Before Sunset: The Iran Deal and What to Do About It”
DRIVING THE CONVO: “Trump administration considers moving U.S. embassy in Israel” by Vivian Salama: “Israeli media reports Wednesday indicated that President Donald Trump does intend to move the embassy [to Jerusalem] and that a decision could come as early as Sunday. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said those reports were “premature,” adding, “we have nothing to announce.”
“This step would kill the possibility of a peace deal any time soon,” said Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “The Arab states would be furious. The Jordanians would be worried. The Palestinians would walk away from any discussion.” … “I would be surprised if they made an announcement about moving it before they come out with their peace initiative because it would undercut the initiative,” said Dennis Ross, the U.S. point man on the peace process in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. “The problem is everyone sees Jerusalem through an emotional lens and it’s so easy to misportray this.” [NBCNews]
KAFE KNESSET — The View From Israel On The Embassy Move — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Two senior Israeli politicians told Kafe Knesset they believe “this time it is serious,” citing internal pressure from Trump’s evangelical base as the main impetus for the announcement. These officials pointed to the statement by VP Pence earlier this week about the White House “actively considering how and when” to make the Embassy move. On the other hand, this morning King Abdullah II of Jordan already made clear what he thinks about an Embassy move. Other senior Israeli insiders expressed concern that the Channel 2 report itself could have thwarted any intent to make a policy change on the subject at this time.
The latest with the Netanyahu investigations: After months of chasing him around the globe, the Israeli Police have finally caught up to Australian billionaire James Packer and collected his testimony in File 1000, a/k/a the Gift Affair. Packer was questioned this week by Australian and Israeli investigators in Australia. Packer gave his version of events in response to allegations that he partnered with US billionaire Arnon Milchan, to give gifts and presents to the Netanyahu couple. Now, the police intend to question Netanyahu again, and confront him with Packer’s testimony, but according to various reports, they already have sufficient evidence to conclude the investigation and intend to finalize it and submit a recommendation for indictment by the end of the year.
However, there is a race between the Police and Bibi’s Knesset loyalists, coalition chairman David Bitan and MK Dudi Amsalem, who are vigorously promoting the Police Recommendations bill, that is aimed at preventing the publication of Police conclusions and recommendations on criminal affairs involving public and elected officials, and leave that to the Attorney General. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
REPORT: “Netanyahu asked Mubarak to settle Palestinians in Sinai” by Roi Kais: “Former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, confirmed on Wednesday past reports that in 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made him an offer to resettle Palestinians in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as part of a land swap with the Palestinian Authority. According to Mubarak, he flat-out refused Netanyahu’s offer. “During that meeting, I immediately told him in no uncertain terms that I wouldn’t even hear of such offers in that context.” According to… BBC, however, Mubarak did agree to the resettlement plan, as long as it was part of a larger agreement aimed at ending the Israeli-Arab conflict.” [Ynet]
“How Trump Is Going After Hezbollah in America’s Backyard” by Matthew Levitt: “Since it took office, the Trump administration has taken a series of actions against Hezbollah in particular — including indictments,
ON THE HILL — House hearing focuses on Saudi moves in Yemen — by Aaron Magid: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa clashed on Wednesday regarding Saudi Arabia’s increased involvement in Yemen and Lebanon. Citing reports of Hezbollah activity in Yemen, Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) asserted, “There is simply no way Saudi Arabia would allow for Hezbollah to gain a presence in Yemen and then build up an arsenal and presence on the Saudi border.”
Tamara Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brooking Institute, offered a different viewpoint of Riyadh’s military campaign in Yemen. “The Saudi decision to intervene in Yemen appears impetuous and ill-considered, miring the Kingdom in a military quagmire, producing a nightmarish level of human suffering, and strengthening both Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula and Iran,” she charged.
“The Saudis are no longer willing to prop up Lebanon while it serves as the base for Hezbollah’s military and terrorist activities in league with Iran,” said Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It is not Mohammed bin Salman who is bringing danger to Lebanon, it is not the Saudis who are bringing Lebanon into the region’s wars, it is not Saudi policy that threatens to collapse Lebanon’s coalition politics. It is the actions of Hezbollah, abandoning any national role to act as Iran’s enforcer and foreign legion.”
Ranking Subcommittee member Ted Deutch (D-FL) expressed concern about the Trump administration’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. “I’m worried that the current administration’s sole focus on the strategic relationship, while ignoring other aspects, does not help provide full American leadership on issues vital to the U.S. like human rights in the broader region,” Deutch noted. Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) added, “I’m concerned that he (Kushner) has no idea what he’s doing. He has no foreign policy experience and zero foreign policy credentials,” [JewishInsider]
“Will Israel launch pre-emptive strike against Assad?” by Ben Caspit: “What disturbs the Israeli officers more is the Iranian “Precision [Missile] Project,” intended to provide Assad and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah with the capability to manufacture their own rockets and missiles. As one top Israeli minister told Al-Monitor…, “For that, we would need to consider going to war. That should be a red line flashing brightly at us.” [Al-Monitor]
HAPPENING TODAY: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak will participate in a panel discussion with philanthropist Charles Bronfman and Bloomberg News senior editor Ethan Bronner at an event honoring Bronfman and hosted by Israel Policy Forum in NYC tonight.
SCENE LAST NIGHT: The American Israel Friendship League honored two entrepreneurs-turned-mayors at their annual Partners for Democracy dinner. The event, held at The Plaza Hotel, honored former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and current Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Both mayors delivered prepared remarks and later participated in an off-the-record conversation moderated by new AIFL President Joel Klein.
SPOTTED: Diana Taylor, Patricia Harris, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, Ira Rennert, Ingeborg Rennert, Ken Bialkin, Malcolm Hoenlein, Hart Hasten, former Amb. Dan Gillerman, Consul Gen. Dani Dayan, Richard Stone, Stephen Greenberg, George Klein, Frank Luntz, Shmuley Boteach, Max Karpel, Stu Loeser, Ari Ackerman, Lauren Ackerman, Alex Berger, Dan Smith, Caroline Mehl, Joseph Potasnik, Ken Abramowitz, Guy Franklin, Brachie Sprung, Ari Sprung, Gil Galanos.
THE DAILY KUSHNER: “Mueller’s Prosecutors Are Said to Have Interviewed Jared Kushner on Russia Meeting” by Matt Apuzzo: “Jared Kushner met this month with investigators working for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and answered questions about a meeting with a Russian ambassador during the presidential transition… The special counsel’s interview of Mr. Kushner lasted less than an hour and did not touch on the range of topics Mr. Mueller is investigating. That leaves open the possibility that Mr. Kushner could be interviewed again.” [NYTimes]
“Why the White House can’t get its political act together” by Jonathan Swan: “The Trump White House stands at the doorstep of the 2018 midterm elections with no serious political operation… And the man in charge of the political office, Bill Stepien, is seen by administration officials and conservative leaders as a non-entity — a situation senior Republicans blamed on Jared Kushner, who put him there… “Jared put somebody in there he could keep his eye on,” said a senior administration official. The source added that Kushner took other “ridiculous” political actions early in the administration, including inviting Michael Berland, a former adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, into the Oval Office to brief the president on multiple occasions. A White House official pushed back on the idea that Kushner wanted somebody he could control, saying Kushner has little involvement in the political operation.” [Axios]
“As the West Wing Is Engulfed in Chaos, Ivanka Trump Brings Her Talents to Hyderabad” by Emily Jane Fox: “Ivanka, as she noted, is an entrepreneur moonlighting in D.C. after a unique opportunity opened itself to her… During her year in the West Wing, she has been blamed for both not intervening to stop some of her father’s more incendiary positions and unduly exerting too much influence. “She’s been branding since birth. You think she’s going to stop now that she has the ultimate platform?” one person close to the family told me… The ongoing, ever-shifting parlor game about when the couple will return to New York now has them staying in Washington through the end of the school year—in June, according to four people in their social orbit… That Ivanka is thinking about how all of this can translate into a post-White House life, to people who know her, is unsurprising. “Everything to Ivanka is a business transaction,” one person who has known her since childhood recently told me. “She’s Donald.”” [VanityFair]
“Peter Thiel Turns Down a Senior Intelligence Role” by Rosie Gray: “The PayPal cofounder and billionaire investor Peter Thiel recently withdrew his name from consideration to lead the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board… Thiel informed the White House of his decision earlier this month, said one of the sources.” [TheAtlantic]
“We’re All Part of Trump’s Show” by Bret Stephens: “The president is conducting a kind of meta-politics, the purpose of which is to erase ordinary standards of political judgment. The question is not “How am I doin’?” as the late New York City mayor Ed Koch used to ask. It is, gladiator-like, “Are you not entertained?” Even those of us most aghast at this administration must confess we are.” [NYTimes]
2018 WATCH: “Paul Ryan Cancels Fund-Raiser for Lee Zeldin Over Tax Bill Vote” by Shane Goldmacher: “Several people familiar with the planning for the fund-raiser said the cancellation was designed to punish Mr. Zeldin… The fund-raising lunch event still occurred on Wednesday, but the proceeds now went to Mr. Ryan’s political operation and the National Republican Congressional Committee, rather than Mr. Zeldin’s campaign… Next month, Stephen K. Bannon… is scheduled to headline a fund-raiser for Mr. Zeldin. Arthur Schwartz, a co-host of the December fund-raiser… said Mr. Bannon had agreed to attend after Mr. Ryan canceled on Mr. Zeldin. “It wasn’t a coincidence,” Mr. Schwartz said. “After the speaker pulled out, Steve stepped in to help protect our majority in the House.”” [NYTimes]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Casino Magnate Adelson Loses Appeal of Federal Defamation Suit [LawJournal] • Accelerator for Israeli Startups in Los Angeles Raises $5 Million [CTech] • HBO Head Richard Plepler Says Regulators Need Not Worry About Price Hikes at Network [HollywoodReporter]
TOP TALKER: “Randi Zuckerberg Is Really Angry at Alaska Airlines” by Lisa Marie Segarra: “Randi Zuckerberg said on Twitter Wednesday night that Alaska Airlines workers allowed a man to continue making lewd comments to her during a flight from Los Angeles to Mazatlán, Mexico. The founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, and whose brother is Mark Zuckerberg, posted a screenshot of a letter to Alaska Airlines executives and CEO.” [FortuneMag; CNN]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “Success Academy boss Eva Moskowitz rips de Blasio for failing to open up classroom space” by Erin Durkin: “Success Academy Charter school CEO Eva Moskowitz ripped Mayor de Blasio for failing to fork over adequate classroom space in a raucous Wednesday rally on the steps of City Hall. Flanked by angry parents, the fiery former councilwoman blasted de Blasio for making a lowball offer on requests of classroom space for new middle schools. “The mayor is waging a war of attrition on the public charter sector,” Moskowitz said.” [DailyNews]
New York Times editorial — Justice Long Delayed for Nazi Collaborator: “The Justice Department says that since 2005 it has won deportation orders for 11 Nazi criminals, but only one was actually shipped out: the notorious John Demjanjuk, who died at age 91 in Germany in 2012… Absent any countries willing to take the others, nine of the 11 died in the United States. That leaves [Jakiw] Palij. He is, as a Justice Department official put it, “the last adjudicated Nazi criminal in the United States” — not to mention a man who should not have been allowed here in the first place.” [NYTimes]
“Nazi Sympathizer Profiled by The Times Loses His Job” by Richard Perez-Pena: “A Nazi sympathizer who was profiled recently in The New York Times and his wife and brother-in-law have lost their jobs, after the article prompted an outpouring of hostility to the restaurant that employed them, both he and the restaurant said… The manager… said that there were dozens of angry, crude and threatening messages and that employees were scared.”[NYTimes]
“Russian Orthodox Church Says Last Czar’s Execution Was Jewish ‘Ritual Killing’” by Gayathri Anuradha: “Authorities announced that they would investigate an anti-Semitic theory that the death of the last czar of Russia, Czar Nicholas II in 1918 was a ritual killing after comments by a bishop close to Russia President Vladimir Putin… Chief spokesman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Rabbi Boruch Gorin was quoted as saying Tuesday by Russian news agency, Interfax [In Russian]: “We, as a Jewish community are shocked not only because of the absurdity of such assumptions… This has become a typical anti-Semitic myth, used by anti-Semitic propaganda for several decades.”” [IBTimes]
DESSERT: “A Replacement for A Beloved Fish Market” by Alex Israel: “There’s already a replacement lined up for Joon Westside Fish Market, which closed a few weeks ago after being in business 26 years. Boru Boru, a Kosher Japanese restaurant, will replace Joon. The owner, Daniel Zelkowitz, is looking to reach an “underserved market” and believes serving “Kosher food that goes outside of the norm” will draw visitors in from all over the city.” [WestSideRag]
BIRTHDAYS: Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, screenwriter and film director, David Mamet turns 70… Actor, tenor and comedian, well known for his work on the Showtime series “Homeland” (2011-2017), Mandel Bruce “Mandy” Patinkin turns 65… Former US Treasury Secretary (1999-2001) and then President of Harvard University (2001-2006), Larry Summers turns 63… Historian and author of nine books, mostly focused on the US presidency, Michael Beschloss turns 62… Award-winning author, journalist, and co-founder of Berkeleyside, a news site about Berkeley, California, Frances Dinkelspiel turns 58… Actor, comedian and filmmaker, he has written, starred in, directed or produced more than 50 films, Ben Stiller turns 52… SVP for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Federations of North America, William Daroff turns 49… Reporter and editor at The New York Times since 1998 including four years as the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief, she now serves as editorial director of NYT Global, Jodi Rudoren turns 47… Executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Gilad Kariv turns 44… Former model, actress and reality TV star, now legally known as Tziporah Atarah Malkah, formerly Kate Fischer, turns 44… Wall Street Journal reporter who covers New York State politics and government, Erica Orden turns 37… Steve Albert…
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