Daily Kickoff: Jared Kushner’s rare interview | Trump says Evangelicals appreciate his Jerusalem move more than Jews | Brenner’s new chocolate lab

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TOP TALKER — The Trump administration is expected to make their much-anticipated Middle East plan public ‘soon’ — This comes amid the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to engage with the White House negotiation team. Jared Kushner’s interview published in Arabic in the Al-Quds daily news publication on Sunday is seen as an attempt by the White House to talk directly to the Palestinian people about their upcoming plan. In the interview, Kushner questioned Abbas’ ability and willingness to take the needed steps for a peace agreement.

KEY QUOTES FROM KUSHNER’S INTERVIEW — “We have done a lot of listening and have spent our time focusing on the people and trying to determine what they actually want… I think the Palestinian leadership is… scared we will release our peace plan and the Palestinian people will actually like it because it will lead to new opportunities for them to have a much better life… I do question how much President Abbas has the ability to, or is willing to, lean into finishing a deal. He has his talking points which have not changed in the last 25 years. There has been no peace deal achieved in that time… The global community is getting frustrated with Palestinian leadership and not seeing many actions that are constructive towards achieving peace.” Read a full transcript of the interview here [JewishInsider

HOW IT PLAYED — Jared Kushner Criticizes Abbas, Questioning His Ability to Make Peace — by David Halbfinger: “Asked what the leaders of other Arab nations wanted to see in an Israel-Palestinian settlement, the White House aide mentioned nothing about a sovereign Palestinian state or of Palestinian refugees. He also did not mention Israeli settlements on the West Bank or using the 1967 lines as a starting point to draw borders; and nothing about East Jerusalem serving as the Palestinian capital… Notably, Mr. Kushner did not mention Mr. Abbas’s counterpart, Mr. Netanyahu, or offer any criticism of the Israeli side.” [NYTimes] • Erekat Fires Back at Kushner [Haaretz]

REACTION — Ghaith al-Omari, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute, tells us… “I think the Trump Administration is trying to engage the Palestinian public directly to get them to pressure their own leaders. That’s nothing new. Previous American leaders have done it – Bill Clinton was known for this. However, they are coming at it from a deficit in the sense that after the Jerusalem embassy move, the UNRWA decision – what is seen as very strong American support for Israel – and the fact that the ‘deal of the century’ has been loaded with such bad implications for Palestinians, it is going to take more than one interview for the message to get through. I don’t think the Palestinian public is ready to hear their message.”

“As long as the administration doesn’t say what’s in the plan, they allow others to define the plan for them, and that’s exactly what is happening right now. You have generalities versus reports – even in the Israeli press – that talk about Abu Dis as the Palestinian capital etc. In a sense, the U.S. is up against others who are defining it in stronger terms. But also they are starting from below scratch because already a negative image of them has been created.”

Elliott Abrams emails us: “I am struck by two things. First, there is very strong criticism of the PA leadership, by name. It is almost reminiscent of President Bush’s comments about Arafat in 2002. He is trying to appeal to Palestinians directly and is asking them not to allow poor leadership to block progress. The second was this phrase: “Simply resolving core issues without creating a pathway to a better life will not lead to a durable solution.” This is an important point that any agreement must visibly improve lives and not just be a paper peace.”

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro: “Seeking to speak directly to the Palestinian people is worthwhile, but it is not a substitute for maintaining a dialogue with their leaders. It is almost certainly true that a significant number of Palestinians are frustrated by the shortcomings for their own leadership, even as they also hold Israel responsible for their circumstances. And it is conceivable that some could support a resolution of the conflict that their leaders cannot bring themselves to endorse. But within limits. A plan that offers Palestinians a state on the 1967 lines with swaps and a credible capital in East Jerusalem would have a chance to gain significant support, even including accepting concessions on security, refugees, and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. A plan that envisions a rump Palestinian state in portions of the West Bank, or only islands of autonomy with no characteristics of sovereignty, and no serious presence in East Jerusalem would not.”

“Dennis Ross, a veteran Middle East peace negotiator, said Mr. Kushner’s conjuring of an economic leap forward for Palestinians could be “appealing,” but he warned that leaders of neighboring Arab countries would require a political compromise between Israel and the Palestinians to be able to support an American-led deal. “Arab leaders need to be able to justify their position by pointing to what the Palestinians would be getting and what is important to Arab audiences,” he said.” [NYT]

‘NO DAYLIGHT’ — Netanyahu: US voiced ‘absolute support’ for Israel’s policy in Gaza — by Ariel Kahana and Daniel Siryoti: “After holding two meetings with U.S. envoys over the weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that the American officials had expressed “absolute support for Israel’s policies and our actions to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel near the Gaza border.” [IsraelHayom]

After US, Israel also backs away from UN human rights body — by Jamey Keaten: “Israel had “lowered” its participation at the council to align its stance more with the U.S. position… Rolando Gomez, a spokesman for the council, confirmed that Israel was not participating in the council plenary Friday, where its seat sat empty. Israeli diplomats have not participated since a council discussion Thursday on discrimination against women.” [AP]

REPORT — US freezes Palestinian aid budget — by Eylon Aslan-Levy: “The United States has quietly frozen its aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) pending review, i24NEWS has learned. The move comes two months after Congress passed the Taylor Force Act… A Senate Foreign Relations Committee aide told i24NEWS, “Our understanding is that US funding to the West Bank and Gaza is on hold pending an administration review.” Separately, i24NEWS  understands that the West Bank and Gaza office of USAID… has not received its budget for the upcoming fiscal year and therefore has not been able to put its projects out to tender.” [i24News]

HEARD YESTERDAY — President Trump on the Jerusalem Embassy move in an interview with the TBN Christian network with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: “I tell you what, I get more calls of thank you from evangelicals, and I see it in the audiences and everything else, than I do from Jewish people. And the Jewish people appreciate it, but the evangelicals appreciate it more than the Jews, which is incredible… It really affects Jewish people in theory more, but… the evangelicals really appreciate it and that makes me feel good.” [Video]

President Trump, Deal Maker? Not So Fast — by Peter Baker: “His 17 months in office have in fact been an exercise in futility for the art-of-the-deal president… No deal on Middle East peace. No deal on the Qatar blockade. No deal on Syria. No deal on Russia. No deal on Iran… “Trump is a bilateral player, in part because that’s what he is used to from his building days, but also because he keeps himself the king, the decider, the strongman,” said Wendy Sherman, who was Mr. Obama’s lead negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal…  “Deal making as president,” Ms. Sherman said, “is a multidimensional proposition where the stakes are war and peace, prosperity and depression.”[NYTimes]

HAPPENING TODAY — President Trump will meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office at 2:00 PM EDT.

ROYAL VISIT — Prince William set to arrive in Israel today: “William’s three-day tour will include a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center, a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a soccer game promoting coexistence, in Jaffa.  The Duke of Cambridge is also is set to meet with a Holocaust survivor and members of the Kindertransport… The prince’s itinerary includes two mystery items: A stop in central Tel Aviv on the afternoon of June 26, “for an event that will be announced during the visit,” and a  “cultural event” in Tel Aviv on the morning of June 27.” [Haaretz

— Meet Sheldon Ritz, Director of Operations at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem who’ll welcome Prince William to Israel with tea and scones![JewishNews]

INSIDE THE ADMIN — Mattis is out of the loop and Trump doesn’t listen to him, say officials — by Courtney Kube and Carol Lee: “Defense Secretary James Mattis learned in May from a colleague that President Donald Trump had made the decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, and scrambled to get his boss on the phone before a formal announcement was made… Mattis had pushed back against Trump’s likely decision to abandon the Iran deal for months, but after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster left the administration earlier this year, he stopped objecting so vocally.” [NBCNews]

Ivanka and Vodka, on the Rocks — by Maureen Dowd: “Sipping vodka under chandeliers in a cool private club on the Lower East Side, the New York elite… were shaking their well-coiffed heads over the fall of the first daughter. Why had she stayed mute for so many days about the torment her father was inflicting on thousands of immigrant children? … “It’s really easy for someone whose sole job in the White House is women and children to issue a statement — even Melania did it,” Emily Jane Fox said in an interview… “It just shows how fake Ivanka is,” Fox continued. “She’s crafted this whole image of herself that’s not actually her. And the real her is cooler, slightly more interesting, funnier. She curses like a sailor… What you’re seeing now is the unmasking. She can’t control the narrative anymore because she’s so inauthentic. It has really come back to bite her.” [NYTimes]

MEET THIS TOP TREASURY OFFICIAL — Along the Silk Road — by Menachem Treiber: “With his proficiency in Chinese, international attorney Moyshe Silk is the first chassidic Jew in a US Administration senior slot — and a linchpin in current China-US trade negotiations — by Menachem Treiber: “Last October, when Reb Moyshe (Mitchell) Silk left his influential position as a senior partner in the global law firm Allen & Overy to become Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Department of the Treasury, he arrived for his swearing-in ceremony holding an ancient tome. Instead of the Bible typically used for such ceremonies, Silk — bearded, black-hatted, and ever-connected to his chassidic roots — brought along his treasured ancient Tikkun Korim that had belonged to Rebbe Mordechai of Nadvorna.”

“Silk heads the Treasury’s Office of Investment, Energy, and Infrastructure, where he formulates and implements American policy relating to international investment and designs international programs for US exports of energy and infrastructure — and China features heavily in his investment portfolio.”[Mishpacha]

2018 WATCH — Primary challengers hoping to unseat New York incumbents on Tuesday — by Nolan Hicks and Carl Campanile: “Upstart hotel magnate Suraj Patel is trying to topple veteran Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the 12th District, which includes eastern Manhattan and parts of Queens and Brooklyn… And businessman Jonathan Lewis is taking on Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel in the 16th District… Engel was first elected to Congress in 1988. On Long Island, Democrats are lining up to challenge two GOP incumbents — the 1st District’s Lee Zelden and longtime lawmaker Peter King of the 2nd District. Five Democrats are running to challenge Zelden. Businessman Perry Gershon, a political newcomer, has gained an edge in the money race by largely self-funding his campaign.” [NYPost]

SCENE YESTERDAY — Dana and Marc Gibber, along with Barry and Suzanne Gurvitch, hosted a NORPAC event to support Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) in Long Island. Pictured from L-R: Dana Gibber, Florence Wolf, Rep. Elise Stefanik and NORPAC Long Island President Trudy Stern [Pic]

South Carolina Runoff Signals a Pro-Palestine Shift Among Democrats — by Zaid Jilani: “Mal Hyman, a sociology professor at South Carolina’s Coker College, is running in South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District against Republican incumbent Rep. Tom Rice. Hyman faces a runoff election on June 26 against state Rep. Robert Williams, who won 41 percent of the vote to Hyman’s 30.4. Hyman has been unabashed in his support for Palestinian human rights. Rather than sidelining foreign affairs, he has made the topic a feature of his campaign.” [TheIntercept]

Trump Calls Jewish Congresswoman ‘Wacky Jacky’ at Nevada Rally: “Trump was in Las Vegas to assist Dean Heller, the only Republican U.S. senator seeking re-election in a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016… Trump praised Heller for voting to cut taxes, and said U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, Heller’s Democratic opponent, would vote to raise them. He declared that he had a “great nickname” for Rosen before allowing the audience to egg him into saying it: “Wacky Jacky.” [Haaretz]

Bernie Sanders Is Winning Converts. But Primary Victories Remain Elusive — by Sydney Ember and Alex Burns: “If his policy agenda has caught on widely among Democratic candidates, and succeeded in moving the party to the left, Mr. Sanders himself has struggled so far to expand his political base and propel his personal allies to victory in Democratic primaries. He has endorsed only a handful of candidates in contested primaries, and three of them have recently lost difficult races in Iowa and Pennsylvania… For a figure of his prominence, who may run for president a second time in 2020, the midterm elections could represent a significant missed opportunity if Mr. Sanders fails to usher any allies into high office.” [NYTimes]

2020 WATCH — Why Michael Bloomberg may be eyeing a 2020 run: “Yes, Bloomberg 2020 seems more than a stretch,” [CNN’s John] King said. “But so did Trump in 2016.” King said a veteran political operative who’s talked about this with top Bloomberg advisers put it this way: “He wants to run against Trump. The Bloomberg guys think Democrats will owe him a shot. We will see.” [CNN]

A Parlor Game at Rebekah Mercer’s Has No Get Out of Jail Free Card — by Jane Mayer: “In March, on a ski vacation at a rented house near Vail, Colorado, [Mercer] brought a batch of copies of the “Rules of Play” for an elaborate parlor game called the Machine Learning President. Essentially, it is a race to the Oval Office in three fifteen-minute rounds. “Tonight, the name of the game is power,” reads the first page of the “Rules of Play.” Each player, it goes on, “will assume a new political identity.” …

“Among the possible roles are Mike Pence, Elizabeth Warren, Black Lives Matter, Russia, Y Combinator, Tom Steyer, Wall Street, Evangelicals, the Koch Network, and Robert Mercer himself… The player who assumes the persona of Robert Mercer starts the game with six hundred million dollars in “cash” to implement his “policy wishlist.” … The Rules include a description of Mercer’s father’s “character.” They continue, “The Mercers are building a global far-right movement to embed Judeo-Christian values” while “keeping government small, ineffective and out of the way.” [NewYorker]

DRIVING THE WEEK — The Aspen Ideas Festival takes place this week in Aspen, Colorado. Jeffrey Goldberg, Editor in Chief at The Atlantic, kicked off the festival yesterday with some comedy: “We’re way up high in the mountains, vast forests around us, we share this habitat with various different species, some of you might not be familiar with… so you could be walking or hiking along one of the paths here and there’s a chance that you will come face to face with… a billionaire (laughter). There are rules governing these encounters issued by the state of Colorado that I want to articulate for you. The first is do not run. The second is make yourself look as big as possible (laughter), or if you can’t do that make yourself look as famous as possible (laughter). The third rule is do not on this first encounter ask the billionaire to fund your documentary on climate change. You have to wait until the second encounter before you do that.”

“I want to say a word about marijuana. Those of you who have not been here before, the marijuana sold in Aspen is very high quality, high THC level marijuana. I’m not speaking this from experience, I haven’t used marijuna since the Reagan administration personally, although I’m thinking of taking it up in the new administration (laughter). The combination of altitude and the high strength of the Aspen marijuana can really be noticeable, especially for us speakers. I can always tell immediately who has been partaking. For instance right now, I can see that David Brooks is stoned out of his gourd (laughter) so I just want people to be careful.” [Video

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: BlackRock’s Larry Fink: The New Conscience of Wall Street? [Barrons] • AT&T expressed interest in CBS to Shari Redstone before Time Warner Deal [WSJ] • Norman Pearlstine, the brand new editor of the Los Angeles Times, discusses the paper’s plan for rebuilding and his desire to find a worthy successor [CNNMoney] • Netflix Fires Chief Communications Officer Jonathan Friedland Over Use of Racial Slur [NYTimes]

PROFILE: “Shari Redstone’s Path to Power” by Keach Hagey: “As a child, Ms. Redstone was her father’s favorite. While her older brother was reserved, she inherited her father’s auburn hair, blue eyes, intelligence, combativeness and obsessive streak. It was in the dubiously romantic setting of a Boston University tax-law lecture that she met her future husband. A slight man with intense brown eyes and an air of great confidence, Ira Korff was the scion of a prominent family of Boston rabbis, with a dizzying number of professional degrees. Mr. Redstone, who valued academic achievement above all else, saw a lot of himself in his eloquent, ambitious son-in-law, and recruited him to join the family business. Ms. Redstone, meanwhile, decided to stay home with their three children.”

“Mr. Redstone doted on his grandchildren, making his home kosher for them. But his first love was his business. When his daughter told him her marriage to Mr. Korff was ending, his response, according to people close to the family, was, “Does that mean Ira’s going to leave the company?” Mr. Redstone tapped his consigliere, Philippe Dauman, to figure out a way to keep Mr. Korff in the fold, giving him a long-term consulting contract that angered his daughter. People close to the family point to this episode as the initial break between father and daughter.” [WSJ

— Hagey’s new book The King of Content: Sumner Redstone’s Battle for Viacom, CBS, and Everlasting Control of His Media Empire comes out tomorrow [HarperCollins

TRANSITION — Isaac Herzog, Israel’s Opposition Leader, was unanimously elected by the Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency to succeed Natan Sharansky as Chairman during the opening plenary of the Board’s June meetings in Jerusalem on Sunday. “A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, no matter his denomination or the type of kippah he chooses to wear or not to wear on his head,” Herzog said in his acceptance speech. “I promise to work hard on promoting Jewish unity and to partner with the Prime Minister and the government to achieve this crucial goal.” [Pic]

— “US ambassador to Israel David Friedman told the crowd that Herzog’s appointment was “a fitting and appropriate extension of the public service of the Herzog family and its historical contribution to the Jewish people.” [JPost]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Binyamin Netanyahu wipes away ‘ready meal’ charges — by Anshel Pfeffer: “What some Israelis see as remarkable about the latest indictment [of Sara Netanyahu] is that the prime minister’s name does not appear in the long list of frauds that allegedly occurred in his official residence, at meals that he was served and that were paid for out of his office’s budget… Political polling experts are convinced that none of the allegations against his wife have caused him any harm… The fact that he continues to run the country despite her serial scandals has toughened his image in their eyes as a leader impervious to pressure, whether from hostile figures such as Barack Obama, the former US president, or the rage of his wife.” [TheTimes]

As Israel Pushes to Build, Bedouin Homes and School Face Demolition — by David M. Halbfinger and Rami Nazzal: “Any day now, the Israeli Army says, bulldozers will arrive to wipe the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar off the map. For decades, Israel has wanted to clear a large section of the West Bank of several thousand Bedouins — who raise sheep and goats in the creases of the hills east of Jerusalem — to make room for the expansion of Jewish settlements… With the Trump administration providing diplomatic cover, right-wing ministers in Israel pressing to exploit that while it lasts and international support for the Palestinians focused for the moment on Gaza, a new ruling by a settler-majority panel of Israel’s Supreme Court appears to have freed the government to proceed with the removal of entire Bedouin communities on the West Bank.” [NYTimes

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Audio released of Roseanne’s first interview following racist tweet — by Sonaiya Kelley: “One day after Roseanne Barr’s eponymous ABC sitcom was cancelled following a racist tweet, the disgraced comedian did a phone interview with spiritual advisor Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. On Sunday, weeks after the cancellation, audio from that conversation was made available to the public. Though Boteach initially refused to release the interview, the 36-minute conversation was finally uploaded onto the rabbi’s Soundcloud account Sunday morning… “It’s really hard to say this, but I didn’t mean what they think I meant,” Barr told Boteach in the audio. “And that’s what so painful. But I have to face that it hurt people. When you hurt people, even unwillingly, there’s no excuse.”” [LATimesFacebook]

TALK OF THE TOWN — After heart attack, Northeast Florida rabbi bikes across Florida promoting physical, spiritual health — by  Teresa Stepzinski: “A little more than a year after undergoing emergency surgery for a heart attack, a Ponte Vedra Beach rabbi is bicycling 600 miles down the coast of Florida to share a message of “Healthy Body, Healthy Soul.” … “While one might see physical health and spiritual health as unconnected, physical health assists one’s body to be a vessel to serve God and be a source of goodness to others,” [Rabbi Nochum] Kurinsky said Friday — roughly one day and 20 hours away before embarking on his eight-day journey.” [Jacksonville]

DESSERT — A blend of cultures, cuisine at Falafel Taco in Pleasantville — by Aleesia Forni: “Tucked in a small storefront at 30 Wheeler Ave., adjacent to the Pleasantville train station (in New York), husband-and-wife owners Jonathan Langsam and Rosie Hernandez opened the doors of Falafel Taco in April. The eclectic menu at Falafel Taco, which mixes together Mexican favorites and Middle Eastern staples, traces its roots to Langsam and Hernandez’s attempts to cook food that satisfied their blended families… The result is a menu that includes a Mexican matzo ball tortilla soup, Mexican latkes with avocado hummus and an Israeli corn salad.”[WestfairOnline]

Brenner opening new ‘chocolate lab’ in Union Square — by Jennifer Gould Keil: “Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man was a home run for its co-founder Oded Brenner — until a non-compete agreement following his sale of the company forced him out of the chocolate business for five long years… Now he’s back, older and wiser, creating even wilder, original and, he says, more “mature” concoctions, and life is sweeter than ever. This week, Brenner, still known as the Bald Man, opens Blue Stripes at 28 E. 13th Street in Union Square.” [NYPost]

BIRTHDAYS: New Jersey-based criminal defense attorney, Miles Feinsteinturns 77… Music publicist in the 1970s and 1980s for Prince, Billy Joel and Styx, later an author on human behavior, Howard Bloom turns 75… Founder and CEO of Bel Air Partners, Sheldon J. Sandler turns 74… Real estate developer in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Miami and founder of The Continuum Company, Ian Bruce Eichner turns 73… Woodland Hills, California-based mentor, coach and consultant for business executives through Vistage International, Gary Brennglass turns 66… President of his family’s Chicago-based investment firm, Henry Crown and Company, a director of JPMorgan Chase and General Dynamics, he is also the managing partner of the Aspen Skiing Company, James Crown turns 65…

Member of the Knesset since 2013, she is a leader of the Meretz party, Michal Rozin turns 49… Real estate agent and media personality, he appears together with his wife, Kyle Richards, on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Mauricio Umansky turns 48… CEO of the Boston-based Achievement Network, Mora Segal turns 45… News Editor at The Forward, Helen Chernikoff… Founder and director of The Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, Natan Slifkin turns 43… Fashion model and television presenter, Michele Merkin turns 43… Marketing communications coordinator for Leidos, Isaac Snyder turns 31… CNN reporter since 2014, covering the first family, politics and pop culture, Betsy Klein

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