Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Inside Jan Koum’s expensive split from Facebook | Nick Muzin no longer representing Qatar | Uproar over Argentina’s ‘friendly’ snub

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PODCAST PLAYBACK — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and author James Patterson discuss their new novel, The President is Missing, in which a fictional president fights a cybersecurity attack amid intense political dysfunction, on Harvard Business Review’s IdeaCast.

Bill Clinton on researching the cyber field: “One of the things that surprised me, half of all the private capital on planet Earth going into private sector cyber defense was going to Israel. And I know the Israelis have been working on this for a long time, it started off when they were worried about, this was years ago, just the elemental threat of cell phones as terror weapons and it’s continued.” [HBR]

TRENDING — “A Growing List of U.S. Diplomats Acting Undiplomatically” by Gardiner Harris: “This week, Richard Grenell, the newly installed United States ambassador in Berlin, outraged some in Germany when he told Breitbart London that he wanted to “empower other conservatives throughout Europe,” a direct political threat to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition… Last week, David M. Friedman, the ambassador to Israel, told an Israeli newspaper, “There’s no question Republicans support Israel more than Democrats,” making an explicitly partisan argument that is generally forbidden among ambassadors… There is nothing new about ambassadors making unfortunate remarks. But the growing list of top envoys who have provoked controversy even in posts of close allies, where diplomatic duties largely include party-giving and anodyne cheerleading, has been unusual — and, for the Trump administration, potentially perilous.” [NYTimes]

“Merkel ally downplays irritation with new US ambassador” by David Rising: “A leading member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party downplayed irritation with the new U.S. ambassador, suggesting that outspoken opinions from the appointee of President Donald Trump are just something to get used to.” [AP]

HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert on the recent comments made by Grenell and Friedman“Ambassadors have a right to express their opinion. They’re representatives of the White House, whether it’s this administration or other administrations, and we hear them voicing their opinions. And they’re sometimes opinions that people may or may not like. And there is a right to free speech as well… We’re not supporting any political party. That’s not what we do. We support democracy. We support countries figuring out for themselves who they want to vote in for office. I think what Ambassador Grenell was doing was merely highlighting that there are some parties and candidates in Europe who are doing well right now.”

— “Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, responded that ambassadors should keep their personal opinions to themselves. “If a foreign ambassador tried to get involved in American politics, I’d want to see that person on the next flight home,” he said. “This is the second time in as many weeks that an American ambassador has gotten too involved in politics,” he said. “It’s unacceptable. I hope Secretary Pompeo either convinces these officials to abide by the norms of diplomacy or finds replacements who will do so.” [NYT]

“Jilted Democrats fume over Trump-Netanyahu lovefest” by Bryant Harris: “There is clearly a political electoral wedge being driven by Republicans, and I think President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu are contributing to that,” Ron Klein, the chairman of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, told Al-Monitor… Republicans counter that Democrats are unwilling to acknowledge the embassy relocation as a victory for a president they disdain. Pressure from their base, they say, has caused pro-Israel Democrats to lash out at Friedman as a channel for their frustration. “It’s tough for them to separate their pro-Israel attitudes from their attitudes when it comes to Republicans and the president,” Neil Strauss, the digital director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, told Al-Monitor.” [Al-Monitor]

“American Muslims on Trump’s iftar: Thanks, but no thanks” by Daniel Burke: “On Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s White House will host its first iftar, the sundown meal that breaks fasts during the holy month of Ramadan… But many American Muslims say they are reluctant to break bread with Trump, citing the President’s rhetoric and actions toward Muslims and other religious and racial minorities. Many American Muslims said they suspect Trump’s iftar is aimed at placating the country’s allies overseas, rather than making genuine connections with their community, with whom the president has had a troubled relationship.” [CNN]

NEW THIS AM — Lobbyist Nick Muzin tweets: “Stonington Strategies is no longer representing the State of Qatar. I am proud of the work we did to foster peaceful dialogue in the Middle East, to increase Qatar’s defense and economic ties with the United States, and to expand humanitarian support of Gaza. I look forward to speaking out in the days ahead about the challenges we faced and what more needs to be done. #AmYisraelChai”

“Embattled Qatar Is Rich Enough to Get By for Another 100 Years” by Mohammed Sergie: “It’s been a year since Saudi Arabia and three of its Arab allies hit Qatar with an economic embargo over ties to Iran and the alleged funding of terrorism. To listen to the Saudis, the embargo has been a great success… Not exactly. The country’s imports and exports are up, according to the International Monetary Fund. Qatar, the world’s richest country per capita thanks to massive reserves of natural gas, is on track to post a budget surplus in 2018.” [Bloomberg]

IRAN DEAL — “Secret Obama-era license let Iran tap dollars” by Josh Lederman and Matt Lee: “The report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed that under President Barack Obama, the Treasury Department issued a license in February 2016, never previously disclosed, that would have allowed Iran to convert $5.7 billion it held at a bank in Oman from Omani rials into euros by exchanging them first into U.S. dollars… The effort was unsuccessful because American banks — themselves afraid of running afoul of U.S. sanctions — declined to participate… Issuing the license was not illegal. Still, it went above and beyond what the Obama administration was required to do under the terms of the nuclear agreement.”[AP]

HAPPENING TODAY — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Downing Street to discuss “how best we can prevent [Iran] from developing a nuclear weapon.” Yesterday, after meeting with Netanyahu in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of ‘escalation’ with Iran and reiterated his opposition to Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA. Macron also claimed that the Jerusalem Embassy opening provoked the deadly Gaza border protests last month. “If this leads to people dying it’s not a celebration,” he said. Netanyahu, on his part, told reporters that he did not ask France to withdraw from the Iran deal because “I think it is basically going to be dissolved by the weight of economic forces.” Instead, the Israeli leader said, his focus was “to stop Iranian aggression in the region.” Macron said he shares Netanyahu’s concerns over Iran’s presence in the region.

William Galston writes… “Bibi Is Bent on Taking On Iran Alone: Sometime soon, President Trump will likely face a raft of fateful decisions. Will his administration, which has aligned with Mr. Netanyahu on issue after issue, give Israel the green light to attack Iran? If so, how much will it do to support this attack? If Iran’s retaliation targets America’s assets and allies, will the U.S. seek to contain the conflict or escalate it? Will U.S. aims expand to include regime change, which Mr. Trump’s national security adviser supports?” [WSJ]

Barak Ravid tweets“Netanyahu in first comment on Trump-Kim summit: I have enough to do with [the] denuclearization of one country (Iran) so I don’t want to get into this. President Macron & I spoke about North Korea. I wish Trump a lot of luck in his efforts to denuclearize North Korea.”

“As Trump Preps for Singapore, a Look at Past Summits That Succeeded—or Flopped” by Robin Wright: “Summitry can also fall short even when it initially succeeds. In 1978, Jimmy Carter hosted Prime Minister Menachem Begin, of Israel, and President Anwar Sadat, of Egypt, for twelve tense days at Camp David. The talks almost failed, but, in the final minutes, as the adversaries were preparing to leave, they embraced the idea of peace in the volatile Middle East and an Arab state formally recognized by Israel. Peace summits brokered by the United States since then have made limited progress, including two summits orchestrated by the first Bush Administration, in Madrid, in 1991, and by the Clinton Administration, again at Camp David, in 2000. (The one breakthrough, in 1993, which resulted in the Oslo Accords, was launched secretly by Norway.)” [NewYorker

ON THE GROUND — “In Syria, a Russian move causes friction with Iran-backed forces” by Laila Bassam and Tom Perry: “A Russian troop deployment in Syria near the Lebanese border this week caused friction with Iran-backed forces including Hezbollah which objected to the uncoordinated move… The situation was resolved on Tuesday when Syrian army soldiers took over three positions where the Russians had deployed near the town of Qusair in the Homs region… “Perhaps it was to assure the Israelis,” said [a military] commander.” [Reuters]

“Oren disputes Rhodes’ account of Israeli reaction to delaying Syria strikes” by Lahav Harkov: “[Michael] Oren, now Deputy Minister for Diplomacy, said that while he was not on the phone with Netanyahu and Obama during that conversation, what [Ben] Rhodes wrote does not reflect Israel’s position at the time… In fact, Oren said, he was so shocked by Obama’s decision, that he cut himself while shaving when he heard about it. “We were surprised and concerned,” he recalled.” [JPost] • Ben Rhodes on NPR’s Fresh Air [NPR]

Yair Lapid calls on the world to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights — by Hezki Baruch: “Speaking at a Knesset conference, Lapid said, “I turn from here to US President Donald Trump: After the courageous step you took for Israel, in recognizing Jerusalem as our capital and moving the Embassy – recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights… The first thing the word needs to see is that when it comes to the Golan Heights, there’s no coalition and opposition in Israel.”” [Arutz7]

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro writes… “U.S. recognition of Israeli Golan Heights claim would raise hopes, pose risks: The U.S. and Israel might each have a reason to hold off on formal recognition. U.S. partners among the Syrian opposition generally ignore the Golan issue, but even those who detest Bashar al-Assad might feel forced to pledge fealty to the goal of recovering Syrian territory lost to Israel. And Israel’s highest strategic priority — gaining Russia’s assistance in pushing Iranian military elements out of Syria — could be threatened if Russia saw a U.S. Golan Heights declaration as unnecessarily humiliating to their client, Assad.” [Axios]

REPORT — PA warned Paris that Gaza border clashes financed by Iran: “Iran is fully financing and pushing the Hamas demonstrations,” Salman al-Harfi, the Palestinian ambassador to France, reportedly told a [French] government official. “The PA has no choice but to support the demonstrations because so may of the participants are demonstrating against the economic situation.” [ToINews10]

MUELLER WATCH — “Mueller was investigating Trump adviser as unregistered agent of Israel, his wife says” by Rosalind Helderman: “Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos… said the special prosecutor’s office claimed to have evidence that [George] Papadopoulos had worked on behalf of Israel without registering as a foreign agent while he was serving as an energy consultant… Papadopoulos… worked as a researcher for the Hudson Institute… and then as an independent energy consultant, before he was named as a volunteer foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign in March 2016. A person familiar with the Hudson Institute said no one from the think tank has ever been contacted by the special counsel’s office regarding Papadopoulos’s work there, including on Israel-related issues.” [WashPost]

Giuliani says Mueller’s team is trying to frame Trump: “[Rudy] Giuliani… says Wednesday in Israel that Mueller’s team includes “13 highly partisan Democrats … (who) are trying very very hard to frame him to get him in trouble when he hasn’t done anything wrong.” Speaking to the Globes capital market conference in Tel Aviv, Giuliani says Trump has the power to pardon himself but won’t because he is innocent.” [AP]

“Kim Jong Un Begged for Summit ‘on His Hands and Knees,’ Giuliani Says” by Felicia Schwartz: “After Mr. Trump canceled the meeting, Mr. Giuliani said: “Well, Kim Jong Un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in.” … Mr. Giuliani counseled a similar approach to Trump administration negotiations with Palestinian officials in a future Middle East peace process.” [WSJ]

STATE-SIDE — “New York Senate Passes Bill Banning Funds To Pro-BDS Individuals, Groups” by Ben Fractenberg: “State institutions are currently barred in New York from directly taking part in a boycott against allied countries, but the current bill, which still needs to pass the Assembly before going to the governor, would extend the ban to prevent contracts or investments to pro-BDS non-state entities.” [Forward]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: David Tepper has gone full activist on healthcare giant Allergan [BusinessInsider] • Len Blavatnik’s Clal in talks to sell Taavura stake [Globes] • Josh Kushner’s Thrive Capital Strikes Gold in GitHub Deal [Bloomberg] • Matt Murray Named Editor in Chief of The Wall Street Journal [WSJ] • Shari Redstone Weighs Options: Merge CBS and Viacom, Sell or Go Shopping? [HollywoodReporter]

SPOTLIGHT: “Behind the Messy, Expensive Split Between Facebook and WhatsApp’s Founders” by Kirsten Grind and Deepa Seetharaman: “How ugly was the breakup between Facebook Inc. and the two founders of WhatsApp, its biggest acquisition? The creators of the popular messaging service are walking away leaving about $1.3 billion on the table… The WhatsApp duo of Jan Koum and Brian Acton had persistent disagreements in recent years with Mr. Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who grew impatient for a greater return on the company’s 2014 blockbuster $22 billion purchase of the messaging app, according to the people.”

“In many ways, Facebook and WhatsApp couldn’t have been more different. Facebook from its beginning in 2004 leveraged access to user information to sell targeted advertising that would be displayed as people browsed their news feeds… It is also the antithesis of what WhatsApp professed to stand for. Mr. Koum, a San Jose State University dropout, grew up in Soviet-era Ukraine, where the government could track communication, and talked frequently about his commitment to privacy. Mr. Koum, 42, and Mr. Acton, 46, became friends while working as engineers at Yahoo Inc. The men are also close personal friends, bonding over ultimate Frisbee, despite political differences. Mr. Koum, unlike Mr. Acton, has publicly expressed support for Donald Trump.” [WSJ

“Dani Dayan roasts Dr. Ruth Westheimer at her birthday party” by Mara Siegler: “At the bash at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — where 350 guests toasted the diminutive doc — Dani Dayan, consul general of Israel in New York, joked that [Westheimer] the chatty grandma asks every detail about people’s sex lives — including those of his driver and security detail. “The driver always blushes,” Dayan said. A film crew was on hand to tape the event for a documentary, “Dr. Ruth,” about her extraordinary life.” [PageSix]

HOLLYWOOD — “A first look at Hollywood’s ‘Operation Finale’” by Amy Spiro: “The first trailer for the upcoming Hollywood film Operation Finale was released this week, showcasing the dramatic retelling of the hunt for Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann… Isaac (Star Wars, X-Men) is joined in the film by the legendary Oscar winner Ben Kingsley , who plays Eichmann. Several famous Israeli faces also appear in the film, including Fauda’s Lior Raz, who will play Isser Harel, then-director of the Mossad, and Ohad Knoller (Srugim, Munich), who plays Mossad agent Ephraim Ilani. American actor Michael Aronov – who portrayed Israeli negotiator Uri Savir in the Broadway play Oslo – plays Mossad agent Zvi Aharoni in the movie.” [JPost

SPORTS BLINK — “Israel in uproar over Argentina pre-World Cup friendly snub” by Aron Heller: “The sports-crazed nation of Israel was in uproar Wednesday over Argentina’s abrupt cancellation of a World Cup warmup match following pro-Palestinian protests, with some of the country’s leaders accusing Lionel Messi and his teammates of caving to terrorism. Israel was eagerly awaiting the sold-out international friendly scheduled for Saturday night at Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium and the arrival of some of the world’s best players… But after a fierce Palestinian campaign, which included images of Argentina’s white and sky-blue striped jersey stained with red paint resembling blood and threats to burn Messi posters, Argentina’s football federation announced it was skipping the event… Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Argentine President Mauricio Macri and urged him to intervene, to no avail.” [AP]

— “For the BDS movement… the cancellation of the highly anticipated match is perhaps its biggest coup to date.” [WashPost]

DESSERT — “New kosher restaurant finds a fit in urban core” by Drew Dixon: “Ricki Ben Simon said she had long wanted to open a restaurant based on food prepared in the kosher tradition. Gili’s Kitchen Catering and Bakery at 126 W. Adams St. in Downtown Jacksonville is the embodiment of Ben Simon’s objective. “We want as many customers as possible,” Ben Simon said. “We are the kosher restaurant and the Jewish community is pretty big. So, there was a need for that.” [JaxDailyRecord]

BIRTHDAYS: Former Majority Leader in the House of Representatives and now Vice Chair of investment bank Moelis & Company, Eric Cantor turns 55… Billionaire, art collector and philanthropist, the only person to create two Fortune 500 companies in two industries, Eli Broad turns 85… US District Court Judge since 1994, on senior status since 2005, serving in the Eastern District of New York, Frederic Block turns 84… Rabbi at Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa since 1967 (now emeritus), writer, broadcaster, activist and former co-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Rabbi Reuven Bulka turns 74… Real estate entrepreneur, member of the Pritzker family and executive chairman of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Thomas Pritzker turns 68… Diplomat who has served as Israel’s ambassador to South Sudan (2012-2014) and Egypt (2014-2016), Haim Koren turns 65… Two-time Tony Award winner for acting, also a playwright and voice actor, Harvey Fierstein turns 64…

Comedienne, political critic, musician and author, Sandra Bernhard turns 63… Radio news personality, she is currently employed by iHeartRadio WOR-AM in NYC, Lisa Glasberg (better known as “Lisa G”) turns 62… Israeli conductor and musician, Nir Brand turns 57… Managing Director and the Chief Interactive Strategist for The Glover Park Group, Jonathan Kopp turns 52… Best-selling author, journalist and television personality, she has focused on addiction and recovery as well as relationships, Anna Benjamin Davidturns 48… Writer and founder of the Washington Free Beacon, Michael L. Goldfarb turns 38… ABC News reporter, Katherine B. Faulders turns 27… VP at Black Rock Group, formerly press secretary for the Carly Fiorina campaign, Anna Epstein turns 27… Writer and digital editor in AIPAC’s DC headquarters, Allie Freedman… Steve Patner