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DRIVING THE WEEKEND — World leaders and government representatives are expected to attend the Munich Security Conference, a high profile annual security gathering, held this weekend in Munich, Germany. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster and CIA Director Mike Pompeo will represent the U.S. at the conference. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak on Sunday, followed by a Q&A discussion moderated by Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the MSC. [Agenda]
REPORT — George Soros boycotts Netanyahu lunch in Munich: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke today to dozens of heads of some of Germany’s largest corporations during a lunch hosted by Netanyahu and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Funds. According to Israel Hayom’s Eldad Beck, George Soros declined an invitation by the organizers to attend the lunch due to Netanyahu’s presence.” [IsraelHayom]
“Netanyahu to Follow Putin in Munich Wake-Up Call to the West” by Marc Champion, Jonathan Ferziger and David Wainer: “A decade ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin chose the West’s annual security conference in Munich to say “what I really think” about the U.S. … Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu plans to use this week’s event for a similarly blunt wake-up call about the threat of war with Iran. “The prime minister will tell the world if you want to avoid a huge war in Israel — stop Iran,” said Yaakov Amidror, a retired general and former Israeli national security adviser… It isn’t clear Netanyahu will be able to muster the support Israel seeks — any more than Putin succeeded in doing so a decade ago. “In the end,” said Amidror… “Israel is alone.” [Bloomberg]
DRIVING THE CONVO — Senate Republican have updated the Taylor Force Act (bipartisan legislation that would cut off U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until they cease payments to families of terrorists) by removing a sunset clause that would have required Congress to re-pass the bill in several years, Senate Republicans also pulled vaccinations for children and wastewater projects. The two exemptions were added to the bill passed unanimously by the House of Representatives last December. A previous exemption for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, a specialty health care facility, was maintained.
— “Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is expected to bring the new version to the floor imminently, several sources told Al-Monitor.” [Al-Monitor]
WHY IT MATTERS: On Sunday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer promised to do “everything I can to pass” the bill by unanimous consent. “I’ve checked with every Democratic senator,” Schumer said. “Not a single Democrat would block it.” The new version, however, which we’re told is still backed by Schumer, could face opposition among some Democratic lawmakers, forcing a floor fight.
Schumer’s spokeswoman Marisa Kaufman tells us… “Senator Schumer strongly supports the Taylor Force Act and, as Minority Leader, will do everything possible to help get it passed. Just this week, Senate Republicans made changes to the House-passed version, which senators are now closely reviewing.”
Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) urged Majority Leader McConnell and Schumer to bring the Taylor Force Act for a vote on the Senate Floor in a letter signed by another 62 House members. “It is time we hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for financially incentivizing terrorism. My colleagues and I urge the Senate to provide this critical legislation with a vote without delay,” Lamborn said in a statement.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? We’re told the bill was ‘hotlined’ earlier this week, which means leadership notified the Senate that they want to pass the bill by unanimous consent. Apparently no Republican Senators objected but it is unclear if any of the Democrats will object. If even one Senator objects, the bill will head for a floor vote. If the Senate passes the new version, the House would either have to pass the identical version of the bill or there could be a conference committee where members of both the House and the Senate work out a compromise bill, which is then passed by both chambers.
A Foreign Relations Committee aide tells us… “Senator Corker is proud of this bill. It reflects emerging consensus for the U.S. to finally ensure that no American tax dollars can benefit the Palestinian Authority until they end the despicable practice of rewarding terrorists like the one who murdered Taylor Force. The legislation received strong bipartisan support in committee, and we expect it to pass both chambers by a wide margin and become law in the near future.”
QUESTION REMAINS: Where is the White House on the updated version of the Taylor Force Act?
‘DAYLIGHT’ EXPLAINED — “In Pursuit of Peace, Trump Generates Rare Friction With Netanyahu” by Mark Landler: “The lack of visible progress, and the cone of silence, surrounding the peace initiative have raised questions about how much of a plan the White House really has. Several officials, however, said that the proposal being devised by two of Mr. Trump’s aides, Jared Kushner and Jason D. Greenblatt, was detailed and substantive, and that Mr. Trump’s willingness to risk friction with Mr. Netanyahu over it showed that he was more, not less, committed… Aides recount, for example, that last month, when he reached Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on his cellphone in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Mnuchin relayed that he was in a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. Mr. Trump requested to speak to the king, whom he then asked for help in dealing with the aggrieved president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas…” [NYTimes]
HEARD YESTERDAY ON THE HILL — Former Senator Joe Lieberman during a panel discussion on Hezbollah and Iran in the Middle East hosted by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) on the Hill: “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments on recognizing the reality that Hezbollah plays a role in Lebanon’s political process is “confusing and troubling… it is at best confusing, and at worst it puts us on a slippery slope to accepting the unacceptable… It gives Hezbollah a pass it doesn’t deserve.” [Pic]
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL): “Separating Hezbollah’s political wing from its military wing is like saying on a plane that the left wing is good, but the right wing is bad. Both are part of the plane. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization at its core.”
“Tillerson on Thursday says Hezbollah must be constrained” by Nicole Gaouette: “Tillerson, speaking at a news conference in Beirut alongside Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said [Hezbollah] “uses terrorism to advance its political agenda inside Lebanon, across the region, and around the world… It is unacceptable for a militia like Hezbollah to operate outside the authority of the Lebanese government,” Tillerson said. “The only legitimate defender of the Lebanese state is the Lebanese Armed Forces.” [CNN]
SCENE YESTERDAY IN AMMAN — Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations met yesterday with Prince Feisal bin Hussein, the brother of King Abdullah II, in Jordan as part of a Mideast tour, which included a trip to the UAE. “Talks covered efforts aimed at achieving a just and all-inclusive peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis based on the two-state solution and the resolutions of international legitimacy,” the Jordan Times quoted a government news agency. “Prince Feisal stressed that the issue of Jerusalem must be settled within the framework of a holistic and long-term solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” [Pic]
The annual Conference of Presidents’ Mission to Israel begins Sunday at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. President Reuven “Ruvi” Rivlin will speak at the opening gala. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address the conference on Wednesday.
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — “In Netanyahu’s Israel, the Divisiveness Is Now All About Him” by David Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner: “Mr. Netanyahu’s Israel is as polarized as it has been in generations, and under his lengthy tenure, the national conversation has become steadily more toxic. Now, as the prime minister awaits a possible criminal indictment, his efforts to cling to power could pose even greater strains on a society that already seems at risk of tearing itself apart… Some, including in Israel’s national security establishment, worry that Mr. Netanyahu has practiced partisanship at the expense of the country’s long-term interests.” [NYTimes]
“Bibi Is Burning Down the House” by Michael Koplow: “Netanyahu has always done or said whatever he thought he needed to in order to remain in power. Annexing settlements, even if it is limited to the Jerusalem bedroom community of Maale Adumim, would bring unparalleled international condemnation, a crisis with neighboring Jordan, and turmoil among West Bank Palestinians, but it would also go a long way toward ensuring that Netanyahu is not replaced by his own party… While the conflagration might be months away, there is no doubt that Netanyahu is preparing to strike the match.” [ForeignPolicy]
INSIDE THE ADMIN — “VA chief fights for his political future amid internal strife and allegations of subterfuge” by Lisa Rein, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Josh Dawsey: “Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s standing with Trump appears tenuous, a White House official said. Trump, who has held Shulkin in high regard and publicly praised his efforts to turn around the troubled agency, is said to be upset, though there are no immediate plans to fire him… White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly summoned Shulkin on Thursday afternoon, but details of their conversation were tightly held… White House officials have been told not to defend or attack Shulkin, the officials said.” [WashPost]
NEW DC FIRM: Michèle Flournoy and Tony Blinken have started WestExec Advisors, a new strategic advisory firm. Flournoy is the co-founder and former CEO of the Center for a New American Security and former under secretary of defense for policy, while Blinken is a former deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser to President Obama. Other principals include Robert Work, Avril Haines, David Cohen, Lisa Monaco, Matt Olsen and Dan Shapiro. Nitin Chadda and Sergio Aguirre are the firm’s founding partners. [PoliticoPlaybook]
Romney makes it official: He’s running for Utah Senate seat: “The former presidential nominee made his campaign official Friday in an online video after a delaying his launch following a deadly shooting at a Florida high school. Romney is considered a heavy favorite for the Senate seat held by Orrin Hatch. The longtime Republican senator is retiring. Romney has been a persistent critic of President Donald Trump, but those close to Romney say he’ll focus his campaign instead on Utah.” [AP]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Why Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway loves loathed Israeli drug stock Teva [CNBC] • Bezeq Is Said to Accept Elliott Demand to Hire New Directors [Bloomberg] • Antony Ressler’s Ares Becomes Litmus Test for Buyout Firms Mulling Tax Change [Bloomberg] • A battle for control of Russia’s Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) resurfaced on Friday as billionaires Vladimir Potanin and Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich made counter offers for each others shares [Reuters] • Carlyle’s Three Founders Take Home $193 Million in 2017 Payouts [Bloomberg]• Harry’s Raises $112 Million to Move Beyond Shaving [NYTimes] • Penn Alumni Argue Over Yanking Steve Wynn’s Name From Commons [Bloomberg] • Ron Perelman’s Creeks Puzzles Almost Solved [EastHamptonStar]
SPOTLIGHT — Trump’s Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to Firm of First Lady’s Adviser” by Maggie Haberman and Ken Vogel: “The company that received the biggest payment — $26 million — was WIS Media Partners of Marina del Rey, Calif. Records show that the firm was created in December 2016, about six weeks before the inauguration, and its founder… was Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a longtime friend of [Melania] Trump’s… Ms. Winston Wolkoff has subsequently been brought on as a senior adviser to the first lady’s official government office…”
“An operative who worked with the inaugural committee… said Ms. Winston Wolkoff’s firm handled everything from securing venues and table settings to arranging Instagram filters and satellite feeds, as well as the transportation of heavy equipment. The operative said Ms. Winston Wolkoff personally received $1.62 million for her work.” [NYTimes]
“Steve Schwarzman Makes The Biggest-Ever Donation To A Public High School” by Susan Adams: “Billionaire private equity titan Stephen Schwarzman startled educators gathered at the annual American Association of School Administrators conference today when he announced that he was giving his public high school in suburban Philadelphia a gift of $25 million… Schwarzman’s donation to Abington High School appears to be the largest-ever gift to a single public school…” [Forbes]
PROFILE — “The Jewish sheriff leading the response to the Florida school shooting quotes the Talmud” by Ben Sales: “Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel… is the county’s first Jewish sheriff, and it’s an identity he has embraced. A 2016 campaign flier reported on that year by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel centers on the role that faith in general, and Judaism in particular, plays in his life… In speeches, Israel is known to quote the Bible… “As Broward’s first Jewish sheriff, I carry a heavy burden knowing I am making history,” the campaign flier said… Israel told the Sun-Sentinel that he attends the Parkland Chabad…” [JTA]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Museum manager fired for plot to block Israel celebration” by Carl Campanile: “The head of the Queens Museum and a top deputy have been ousted after a boneheaded move last year to try to prevent Israel from celebrating its 70th anniversary at the facility… The investigative report found that museum director Laura Raicovich and deputy director David Strauss “exercised poor judgment” and “knowingly misled” the board… Raicovich had a massive conflict. She was a staunch critic of Israel and did not disclose her hostility to the museum’s board, the report said.”[NYPost]
PIC OF THE DAY — Redskins’ Josh Norman spotted in Israel while on a week-long trip organized by American Voices in Israel. Former MK Dov Lipman: “Of particular note was his “chai” necklace which he was been wearing with great pride for four months!” [Pic]
SPORTS BLINK: “N.B.A. Stars Get Into the Hollywood Game” by Brooks Barnes: “Hollywood is very much on the N.B.A. superstar’s mind, however. [Kevin] Durant and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, started an entertainment company, Thirty Five Media, in April. Last month, YouTube tapped them to develop sports programming… On Tuesday, Apple said it was working with Thirty Five Media and the Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer to develop “Swagger,” a drama partly inspired by Mr. Durant’s rough-and-tumble adolescence. “I’m looking forward to giving my input and sharing my insight,” Mr. Durant said of the project, which Mr. Kleiman described as “‘Friday Night Lights’ with ‘Power’ and ‘The Wire’ mixed in.”” [NYTimes]
DESSERT — “The 38 Essential Tel Aviv Restaurants” by Keren Brown: “You can easily walk or bike — use the citywide Tel-O-Fun rentals — across the entire city, from its beachfront boardwalks to its grittier neighborhoods, experiencing Tel Aviv through its kaleidoscope of eateries. Yemenite, Moroccan, Tunisian, Spanish, and homegrown Israeli food can all be relished here, from hole-in-the-wall food joints to a groundswell of fine dining, and everything in between, while fresh produce can be picked up for a song in one of the city’s many bustling open-air markets.” [Eater]
WINE OF THE WEEK — Benhaim 2004 Grand Reserve Cabernet — by Yitz Applbaum: “Before I decide which wine to review, one of the questions I ask myself is whether a wine is distributed widely enough for the reader to obtain it. For this reason, I was unsure whether to highlight the Benhaim 2004 Grand Reserve Cabernet, one of my favorite bottles. When I recently found it for sale online, I figured it was appropriate to review. Of course, once I found it online, I bought a bottle immediately and had a terrific experience drinking it.”
“The Benhaim 2004 Grand Reserve Cabernet is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and is aged for 24 months in predominantly new French oak. The 13 years in bottle have allowed this once highly tannic wine to mellow out and balance. The opening is primarily characterized by a blissful sweetness and the finish is equally memorable with notes of mellow plum. The finish lingers a while and continues to engage the palate long after the liquid has vanished. This wine still has a few years to age in the bottle and is worth collecting. Drink it with anything. It can stand alone, with no food, even under intense scrutiny.” [Benhaim]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Business magnate, activist shareholder and philanthropist, he served as a special advisor to President Trump on regulatory reform during 2017, Carl Icahn turns 82… Founding national director of American Friends of Lubavitch, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov turns 81… Educator, theorist, writer and professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Michael Joseph Shapiro turns 78… Ecuador-born, interim executive director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County (MD), veteran of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum as counsel and director of external affairs (1988-1999), Ralph Grunewald turns 62… Marrakech, Morocco-born co-founder and managing partner of Avenue Capital Group, Sonia Gardner turns 56… Co-director of “Women for Israel’s Tomorrow” (better known as Women in Green), a grassroots Israeli movement supporting settlements and annexation, Nadia Matar turns 52… Associate Regional Director of Birthright Israel Foundation, previously at NYC’s Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation, Marissa Schaevitz Levey turns 34… CEO of FinePoint, a PR, communications and professional development company, Meredith Fineman turns 31… Singer-songwriter and guitarist, Danielle Haim turns 29… Deputy national health, science and environment editor at the Washington Post, formerly at Politico, Susan K. Levine… Amy Kurtz… Rachel Rubenstein… Eric McDonald…
SATURDAY: Former Treasurer of Massachusetts, he was President of AIPAC (1992-1996), Steven Grossman turns 72… Executive Director of HUC-JIR’s American Jewish Archives and professor of Reform Jewish History at HUC-JIR, Gary Phillip Zola turns 66… One of the most popular Israeli basketball players of all time, Miki Berkovich turns 64… Israel’s Minister of the Interior and leader of the Shas party, Aryeh Deri turns 59… Partner in the DC office of Skadden, Arps specializing in communications, national security, CFIUS, Congressional investigations and government policy, Ivan A. Schlager turns 57… Filmmaker Michael Benjamin Bay turns 53… Emmy-winning journalist, currently co-host of Bloomberg’s “Masters in Politics,” former executive producer of Meet the Press (2002-2013), executive in residence at American University, Betsy Fischer Martin turns 48… Israeli actress, Linor Abargil turns 38… Actor and filmmaker, Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns 37… Public policy official at San Francisco-based Stripe, an online payment firm, previously at the US Treasury, National Security Council and Goldman Sachs, Samantha Vinograd turns 35… Senior multi-platform editor for CNN Politics, formerly at Politico and Reuters, Dianna Heitz turns 34… Executive Director of the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life (the Columbia / Barnard Hillel), Brian Cohen… Executive editor of McClatchy Washington and a Politico alum, Kristin Roberts… Miriam Schulman…
SUNDAY: Democratic US Representative from New York since 1989, ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel turns 71… Portfolio manager at Capital Group, Hilda Lea Applbaum… Chief Development Officer, Valley Alliance of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Lori Tessel turns 55… CEO of an eponymous Baltimore-based branding, marketing, PR, advertising and design firm, David F. Warschawski turns 47… Actor Isaac “Ike” Barinholtz turns 41… Singer-songwriter and pianist, Regina Spektor turns 38… Born in Israel and raised in Baltimore, national director of development for J Street, previously the West Coast Director for the OneVoice Movement, Adee Telem turns 37… Instagram celebrity known commonly as The Fat Jew, he is a writer, actor, model, vintner and entrepreneur, Josh Ostrovsky turns 36… National political correspondent for The Washington Post and author of The Daily 202, James P. Hohmann turns 31… Dylan Sandler turns 30… Supreme Master of the Board of Governors of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the global Jewish college fraternity (2014-2016), Larry C. Leider… Associate producer at CBS Evening News, Rebecca Kaplan… Stacey Gardner… Ben Wofford… Scott Liebman…
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