Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Trump floats summit with Iran without preconditions | Israel’s UNRWA dilemma | Paul Grinberg has eaten at 99 of the 100 top restaurants

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PODCAST PLAYBACK — Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield talks about growing up in the remote backwoods of British Columbia, Canada on NPR’s How I Built This podcast with Guy Raz: “[My parents] had restored an old log cabin that was built around the turn of the last century. Didn’t have running water until I was 3, didn’t have electricity till I was 4… My mother’s father, who came from Poland to Montreal in between World War I and World War II, was coming to visit them. And they had a bathtub in the front yard and, you know, just like trying to eat the food that they were growing and didn’t have many possessions. And he was like, ‘I can’t believe I escaped the shtetl in Poland and sent all of you to university, and now you’re back living in this dump.'”

Raz: You are now a billionaire, I mean, at least on paper. Does that eliminate stress in your life? Does that mean that everything’s set? Everything is taken care of?

Butterfield: “One nominal correction, we’ve been around for a long time as a company and I have four co-founders so I’m not even a billionaire on paper (laughter). Yeah, it certainly makes my life easier… There’s all that research that beyond a certain amount of money it doesn’t make your life any better.”

“I really feel like there’s three levels of wealth in the world. The first level is I’m not stressed out about debt. People who no longer worry about their credit card bills or student loans. Level two is I don’t care what stuff costs in restaurants. There’s a level where suddenly it doesn’t really matter. And then the ultimate level of wealth is I don’t care how much vacation costs, how expensive the hotel is or which flight we go on. Beyond that, I really don’t think it makes any difference. So I feel incredibly fortunate and it’s great to have all these resources but I’m just going to give almost all of it away because I don’t get any additional happiness in spending it. And there’s a lot of suffering in the world and a lot of inequality and I think that’s a place the whole company can make a difference.” [NPR

DRIVING THE CONVO — Vowing to make sure the Iranian regime “never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon,” and just over a week after threatening Iran with military means, President Trump instantaneously opened the door yesterday to a meeting with Iran’s leaders without preconditions.

“I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet,” Trump said during a press conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “I don’t know that they’re ready yet. They’re having a hard time right now. But I ended the Iran deal; it was a ridiculous deal. I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet, and I’m ready to meet any time they want to. And I don’t do that from strength or from weakness. I think it’s an appropriate thing to do. If we could work something out that’s meaningful, not the waste of paper that the other deal was, I would certainly be willing to meet.”

Possible date: September 18-25 alongside the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

HOW IT PLAYED — Trump says he’s willing to meet Iranian President Rouhani ‘anytime’ and without preconditions — by Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and Felicia Sonmez: “Direct presidential negotiations with Iranian leaders would be another break with Republican orthodoxy and a potential point of friction with Israel and with Arab allies in the Persian Gulf who are united in opposition to Iran.” [WashPost]

— “In a televised interview later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed preconditions for such a meeting, in contrast to Mr. Trump’s offer.” [WSJ; CNBC

JINSA’s Michael Makovsky tells us… “I am banking on the Iranians to spare us such a summit in the near future. Given Trump’s recent summits with the North Korean leader and with Putin, I think it’s best that the President learned from them before hurdling towards another one. I think the issue though is less about pre-conditions than about building leverage and having clear objectives. And one mistake with the Putin summit is — setting aside the fact it was one-on-one and we don’t fully know what was said — that we didn’t build enough leverage with the Russians before the summit.”

“The main issue with the Iranians is their expansion into Syria, and I think that before even consider any such dialogue with the Iranians it’s important for the U.S. to boost its leverage in Syria and the region, and at the minimum bolstering Israeli military capabilities and bolstering our support for the Syrian Kurds.”

— Washington Institute’s David Makovsky tweets“Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is probably counting on Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei to scuttle the sudden offer of Donald Trump to meet to Iranian President Rouhani. Bibi may not be able to count on Trump in this instance but can count on the Ayatollah.”

FDD’s Mark Dubowitz tells us that the Iranian regime, faced with the risk of a dying economy that could possibly lead to the end of the Islamic Republic, would likely take Trump’s offer and meet “sometime soon.”

However, Dubowitz cautioned: “The Mullahs will want to drag out these negotiations into 2021 on the assumption that Trump will be out of office and a more flexible U.S. president will be in place. Trump should be careful not to fall into this trap. It’s critical for the Trump Administration to maintain the maximum pressure until all of the twelve demands on Iran laid out by Secretary Pompeo are fully met.”

Former Ambassador Dennis Ross emails… Trump’s comments “reflect that Trump is about a deal with the Iranians, not regime change. Iran is unlikely to say yes now, but the worse their economy becomes, the more they will look for a way out. Now, however, they will ratchet things up. Hence the Houthis firing on Saudi oil tankers off the Bab el Mandeb, something that has the Saudis suspending tankers going through the Red Sea. That can lead to a rise in oil prices. The Iranians will seek to show they can hurt our interests as we pressure them.”

Martin Indyk tweets“Now America’s Middle East allies taste what it’s been like for Japan and Europe to watch while Trump embraces their adversaries. For BB, MBS and MBZ it’s their worst nightmare.”

CFR’s Richard Haass‏ tweets“It is one thing to meet without preconditions, something else to meet w/o careful preparations and a notetaker. Both the Singapore and Helsinki summits disappointed and arguably caused more problems than they solved; we do not want or need that with Iran.”

Wendy Sherman, the leading U.S. negotiator of the 2015 nuclear deal under President Obama, tweets“Mr. President, Iran just might have a precondition — rejoin the community of nations in support of the JCPOA that ensures Iran can never obtain a nuclear weapon.”

VIEW FROM TEHRAN: Hours before Trump’s statement… Tehran had poured cold water on talks with Washington. “With current America and these policies, there will definitely not be the possibility of dialogue and engagement, and the United States has shown that it is totally unreliable,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told a weekly news conference on Monday. [Reuters]

THOUGHT — Aaron David Miller‏ tweets“We’re like suckers — rats in [a] maze — responding to every tweet, comment by the first President unable to define the national interest apart from his own overriding desire to be the story all day every day.”

ON THE GROUND — Syrian government retakes Golan Heights frontier with Israel: “The Syrian government regained control of the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time in seven years on Monday, after Islamic State-linked militants gave up their last pocket of territory in the area.” [AP]

— “Israel has reportedly asked Russia to ensure that Syrian government forces do not harm or massacre civilians in the south of the war-torn country as they complete their takeover of the area.” [ToI]

Russia Says It ‘Cannot’ Kick Iran Out of Syria Like Israel and U.S. Want — by Tom O’Connor: “They (the Iranians) are playing a very, very important role in our common and joint effort to eliminate terrorists in Syria. That is why, for this period of time, we see as non-realistic any demands to expel any foreign troops from the entirety of the Syrian Arab Republic,” [Russian Ambassador Anatoly] Viktorov told Israel’s Channel 10 news… “We can talk with our Iranian partners very frankly and openly, trying to persuade them to do or not to do something,” he added. When asked if Russia could expel Iran by force, he answered: “We cannot.” [NewsweekNews10]

TALK OF THE REGION: Israel’s ‘UNRWA dilemma’ — by Ben Caspit: “On the one hand, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees does not have many fans in Israel… There is another side to the coin, however, and it involves a single date: Sept. 1. On that day, tens of thousands of Palestinian students are scheduled to start the new school year… Many Palestinian schools, especially primary schools, are financed by UNRWA, which has announced that given its dire finances due to the freezing of American aid, the schools cannot be opened. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is well aware that this poses a major problem, potentially generating the energy and critical mass to ignite the Palestinian street in the West Bank at any moment.” [Al-Monitor]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Jason Greenblatt‏ tweets“Met today with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah at the White House. We had an important conversation about current dynamics in the Middle East and the Administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.”

Rob Malley writes… “What Saudi Arabia’s position means for Trump’s Israel–Palestine strategy: Although Saudi Arabia is counseling Washington to wait for a more favorable regional context before unveiling its ideas, the administration might not feel it needs Saudi public acceptance. More likely, the U.S. will go forward with its plan — even in the face of absolute rejection by the Palestinian leadership, which it has given up on — if the administration can bank on a “yes, but” from Israel… and a “no, but” from key Arab countries.” [Axios]

Huckabee, Scaramucci: No ‘unpredictability’ on Trump’s support for Israel — by Herb Keinon: “When you analyze the president, he is really one of the most consistent people you will ever meet,” said Anthony Scaramucci… “The president has a lot of posturing in his personality because he knows that will force people to the table to get the objectives that he wants.” But when it comes to policy – be it tariffs, trade, or Israel – Trump is “very consistent,” he said.

“Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee… said that Trump is “absolutely committed to the relationship and alliance to Israel,” and there is no “unpredictability” in that support… The president, Huckabee said, has “already shown that he is respectful of Israel’s right to a sovereign, secure space,” adding that in the plan “I can pretty much guarantee you that Jerusalem will not be divided.”” [JPost]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Huckabee at a dinner hosted by Dr. Joe Frager at the King David Hotel ln Jerusalem: “Israel gets treated around the world a lot like my daughter (White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders) got treated at the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.”

Is U.S. Embassy lifting ban on official West Bank settlement visits? — by Tovah Lazaroff: “US Ambassador David Friedman’s condolence call in the West Bank settlement of Adam on Sunday, left settler politicians wondering if a policy change had been made to allow American officials to visit Area C. “It seems as if we are talking about a change in US policy with respect to the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria,” a spokesman for the Binyamin Regional Council said in a statement… Efrat Council head Oded Revivi said, “It is encouraging to see Israelis treated equally by the [Trump Administration] without paying attention to where they live.” [JPost

THIS AM IN ASPEN: Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will speak about her newest book, Fascism: A Warning, at the Aspen Chabad Jewish Community Center.

COMING SOON: In a new book, Bob Woodward plans to reveal the ‘harrowing life’ inside Donald Trump’s White House — by Manuel Roig-Franzia: “Simon & Schuster announced that it will publish “Fear: Trump in the White House” by Bob Woodward on Sept. 11… In the book, Woodward’s 19th, the 75-year-old journalist and author “reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies,” the publisher’s release states.” [WashPost]

2020 WATCH: Inside the Trump 2020 Campaign’s Wild Attempt to “Keep America Great” — by Gabriel Sherman: “With eyes on 2020, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are pushing Trump to adopt more moderate positions… According to a former White House official, Kushner and Ivanka have also been polling more inclusive language on transgender rights. “The 2020 campaign is about the rehabilitation of Jared and Ivanka,” the source said. In late June, one outside Trump adviser explained to Kushner that the population of white voters shrinks by one million every year. Kushner expressed alarm at the speed of the changing demographics, a source familiar with his thinking told me… It is widely assumed among Trump advisers that Kushner, who was instrumental in the hiring of Parscale, will depart the White House at some point after the midterms to oversee the 2020 campaign.”

“The possibility that Trump won’t run in 2020 has motivated Republicans serving in his administration to position themselves in ways that would be unthinkable in a normal White House. U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who is widely considered to have presidential aspirations, has staked out the Establishment lane. She’s courted Wall Street donors at private dinners in Manhattan and has socialized with former Paul Ryan adviser Dan Senor and his wife, Campbell Brown.”

“Haley rarely mentions Trump in her public speeches. According to a Republican close to Trump, Trump has been annoyed with this omission. “He’s gotten feedback she never mentions his name at events,” the Republican close to the White House said. “Nikki is ambitious. She’s going to run. It’s just a question of when,” a former West Wing official said. “Her staff is very careful when they speak to other people. They always say 2024; one of Haley’s people told me 2024 is code for 2020.” [VanityFair]

David Brooks writes… “The Third-Party Option: To have a chance, the third-party candidate would have to emerge as the most radical person in the race. That person would have to argue that the Republicans and Democrats are just two sides of a Washington-centric power structure that has ground to a halt. That person would have to promise to radically redistribute power across American society.” [NYTimes]

Dershowitz Scolds MSNBC Panel: ‘Don’t You Dare Accuse Me’ of Defending Trump — by Tamar Auber: “Things got heated on MSNBC’s Kasie DC on Sunday as former Assistant US District Attorney Mimi Rocah, Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, and host Kasie Hunt battled it out over if Dershowitz was actually, in his arguments, making a case for President Donald Trump… “You are implying in a kind of McCarthyite way that I am somehow defending Trump and that I am making his case. Shame on you,” Dershowitz scolded. He added: “I am making a civil liberties case. I am not part of the Trump defense team and don’t you dare accuse me of doing that… I would be making the identical case if Hillary Clinton had been elected and they were trying to stretch the law the way all four of you are trying to stretch the law to target somebody who you disapprove of.” [Mediaite]

Former Senator Al Franken (D-MN) in first interview since resignation: “I put my heart in the job. I miss the whole job. I loved that job, I loved the job as Senator… It was very meaningful for me and bittersweet, I would like to still be there.”

On running for office again: “I don’t know. I haven’t ruled it out, and I haven’t ruled it in.” [CBSMinnesota]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork Will Renovate UBS Office in Its Biggest Design Deal [Bloomberg] • Alli Webb Couldn’t Stand Working With Her Brother. Then They Started a $100 Million Company Together [Inc] • Kushner’s Cadre Fails to Win Backing From SoftBank [Bloomberg] • Uber shutting down self-driving trucks division, after purchasing Israeli company Otto nearly two years ago, to focus its efforts on self-driving cars [TechCrunch]

STARTUP NATION — YellowHead launches data visualization for app store optimization — by Dean Takahashi: “Israel-based YellowHead is launching a data visualization platform for ASO so that developers can get better results from ads. The new data analysis tool brings together data from the Google Play Developer Console and App Store Connect via applications programming interface integration, and it turns the results into actionable insights. The tool automatically updates data on a daily basis in a completely private and secure manner.” [VentureBeat]

CBS to Appoint Outside Law Firm to Handle Probe Into Moonves Allegations — by Joe Flint and Keach Hagey: “CBS Corp.said its board of directors was in the process of selecting an outside law firm to handle an independent investigation into allegations Chief Executive Leslie Moonves sexually harassed women. No other actions were taken on the matter at the Monday board meeting… CBS’s statement Monday made no mention of Mr. Moonves’s status.” [WSJ]

— “Les Moonves was spotted out on Sunday night at Nobu Malibu with his wife, Julie Chen, and a group of friends. Said a Hollywood insider of Moonves: “Les is out instead of hiding . . . He went to one of the biggest, most powerful places in Hollywood. That is a statement. If you want to see anyone or be seen, you’re going to Nobu.” Also at the eatery, we hear, were NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer, his former son-in-law Tobey Maguire, hip-hop producer Scott Storch, Haute Living COO Seth Semilof and PR exec Ronn Torossian.” [NYPost]

After Les Moonves’s Downfall, CBS Investors Fear the Reign of Shari — by William Cohan: “If Moonves ultimately goes, as seems likely, it will presumably be just a matter of time before Shari tries to merge CBS and Viacom once more. And that’s what CBS investors fear most… With Moonves gone, there will be less impetus for the blood feud to continue. Look for [Joe] Ianniello and the CBS board to find a way to settle with Shari, with her getting the better part of that outcome… That Shari now has the best chance to not only be her father’s successor but to openly defy his wishes—while he is still alive, no less—is the ultimate irony, as she herself must realize.” [VanityFair]

HOLLYWOOD — ‘Fauda’ Star Lior Raz to Co-Star With Ryan Reynolds in Michael Bay’s ‘Six Underground’ — by Borys Kit: “Lior Raz, co-creator and star of the Israeli TV political thriller Fauda, is joining Ryan Reynolds in Six Underground, the action pic that Michael Bay is directing. Netflix and Skydance are behind the project, which is scheduled to begin shooting next month in locales such as Italy and the United Arab Emirates… Character details for Raz were being kept secret. Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Don Granger are producing Six Underground, along with Bay and Ian Bryce.” [HollywoodReporter]

INTERVIEW — Israel’s Herzog vows to bridge Jewish divide — by Aron Heller: “Three years after he narrowly missed out on becoming prime minister of Israel, Isaac Herzog says he looks forward to becoming the “prime minister of the Jewish people” in his new role as chairman of the Jewish Agency… “I was ready to be prime minister of Israel. I wanted to be prime minister of Israel. And yet now I am actually intrigued by this new challenge,” he said… Ahead of taking office at the Jewish Agency on Wednesday, he said he met with all members of the country’s governing coalition to deliver a stern warning. “I explained to them openly and I said it both publicly and privately: ‘Everything you say and hear in Israel hurts the hearts and gives a lot of pain to our Jewish brothers and sisters outside who love Israel, who respect Israel and who are part of its strength,’” he said. “There are enough elements who want to tear up this relationship, so calm down.” [AP]

ACROSS THE POND — Corbyn ally says ‘Jewish Trump fanatics making up’ antisemitism claims — by Verity Bowman and Pippa Crerar: “Peter Willsman, a member of the party’s national executive committee, was taped at a meeting this month when the NEC refused to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. Willsman said he would “not be lectured” by Jewish supporters of the US president “making up duff information without any evidence at all.” [TheGuardian]

— “A senior Labour source confirmed to Sky News that Mr. Corbyn was present at the meeting while Mr. Willsman made his remarks about anti-Semitism.” [SkyNews]

REMEMBERING: Herman Shine, One of the Few to Escape Auschwitz, Dies at 95 — by Daniel Slotnik: “At least 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz, the complex of three main camps and dozens of sub-camps in German-occupied Poland that had the heinous distinction of being the largest killing center of the Nazi regime during World War II. About 1.1 million people died there. Fewer than 200 escaped and lived. One was Herman Shine. Indeed, Mr. Shine lived to be one of the last surviving escapees from Auschwitz. He died on June 23 at 95 at his home in San Mateo, Calif.” [NYTimes]

DESSERT: After Eating at 99 of the World’s Best Restaurants, a Gourmet Whiffs at 100 — by John Clarke: “Paul Grinberg set out to eat at the world’s top 100 restaurants. Since 2011, he has had meals at 99 of them. Yet the last restaurant on his list—a small members-only sushi house in Japan—has remained maddeningly out of reach. “I can’t get into one restaurant in Tokyo? That’s just crazy!” said Mr. Grinberg, who lives in Orinda, Calif., and manages international operations for Encore Capital Group , a finance company in San Diego.”

“All that eating hasn’t added much to his 5-foot-6 140-pound frame, in part because of regular workouts. He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family that kept kosher and rarely went out for meals. Today, he rebels against his frugal upbringing with extravagant tasting menus that can feature as many as 20 courses. “When I do something, I’m all in,” he said. “Obsession is part of my personality.” He said he can’t decide on his favorite dish but his favorite food is toro sushi, or tuna belly.” [WSJ]

BIRTHDAYS: District Attorney for Manhattan for 35 years (1975-2009), Robert M. Morgenthau turns 99… Graduate of Yale Law School in 1951, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights (1985-1992), chairman of the American Jewish International Relations Institute, Ambassador Richard Schifter turns 95… Investment banker, chairman and president of Blum Capital, he is married to US Senator Dianne Feinstein, Richard C. Blum turns 83… Actress, who went on to become CEO of Paramount Pictures and president of production at 20th Century Fox, Sherry Lansing turns 74… Nobel laureate in Economics in 1997, known for his quantitative analysis of options pricing, long-time professor at both Harvard and MIT, Robert C. Merton turns 74… Scholar, professor, rabbi, writer and filmmaker, who specializes in the study of the Holocaust, Michael Berenbaum turns 73…

Founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, in 2015 he bought a 16th century copy of the Babylonian Talmud for $9.3 million, Leon David Black turns 67… Author of 31 best selling mystery novels, many with Jewish themes, Faye Kellerman turns 66… Software entrepreneur, he is president of Ameinu and serves on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency since 2008 (where he is also a member of the Executive Board since 2017), Kenneth Bob turns 66… Manhattan-based criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, radio talk show host and television commentator, Ronald L. Kuby turns 62… TV personality and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban turns 60… Senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center, he was the director of the Los Angeles office of the American Jewish Committee (2017-2018), Dan Schnur turns 55…

Born into a practicing Catholic family in Nazareth, Israel, investor and majority owner of the Detroit Pistons, Tom Gores turns 54… Writer, known for her best-selling memoir “Prozac Nation,” Elizabeth Wurtzel turns 51… Manager of MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies, he was an MLB outfielder (1998-2010), the first player known as the “Hebrew Hammer,” Gabe Kapler turns 43… Political activist and the founder and president of Stand Up America, a progressive advocacy community, he is also the president of Hudson River Ventures, Sean Simcha Eldridge turns 32… Senior manager of corporate communications at Samsung Electronics North America, Danielle Meister Cohen turns 30… Aryeh Canter turns 28… CEO at Leenie Productions (a multi-media company), she serves on the board of the Northbrook, Illinois-based Haym Salomon Center, Helene Miller-Walsh… Adam Rosenberg… David Goldenberg… Richard Rosenstein