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Daily Kickoff: Trump’s peace plan rollout in jeopardy amid Israeli coalition crisis

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DEEP DIVE — How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis — by Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg and Jack Nicas: “In July, organizers with a coalition called Freedom from Facebook crashed a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, where a company executive was testifying about its policies. As the executive spoke, the organizers held aloft signs depicting [Sheryl] Sandberg and [Mark] Zuckerberg, who are both Jewish, as two heads of an octopus stretching around the globe… A Facebook official quickly called the Anti-Defamation League… to flag the sign… That afternoon, the A.D.L. issued a warning from its Twitter account… The criticism was soon echoed in conservative outlets including The Washington Free Beacon, which has sought to tie Freedom from Facebook to what the publication calls “extreme anti-Israel groups.”

“A research document circulated by Definers to reporters this summer, just a month after the House hearing, cast George Soros as the unacknowledged force behind what appeared to be a broad anti-Facebook movement… Definers pressed reporters to explore the financial connections between Mr. Soros’s family… and groups that were members of Freedom from Facebook, such as Color of Change, an online racial justice organization, as well as a progressive group founded by Mr. Soros’s son. (An official at Mr. Soros’s Open Society Foundations said the philanthropy had supported both member groups, but not Freedom from Facebook, and had made no grants to support campaigns against Facebook.)”

“In at least one instance, the company also relied on Senator Chuck Schumer He has long worked to advance Silicon Valley’s interests on issues such as commercial drone regulations and patent reform… In July, as Facebook’s troubles threatened to cost the company billions of dollars in market value, Mr. Schumer confronted [Sen. Mark] Warner, by then Facebook’s most insistent inquisitor in Congress. Back off, he told Mr. Warner… Mr. Warner should be looking for ways to work with Facebook, Mr. Schumer advised, not harm it.” [NYTimes] • Sheryl Sandberg repeatedly tried to downplay Russia’s involvement in misinformation on Facebook, report says[BusinessInsider]

Who does Facebook fire after a bombshell New York Times investigation? — by Kurt Wagner: “The truth… is that the issues outlined in this story came from the top. Whether it was poor decision-making, or an absence of decision-making, Facebook’s problems ultimately trace back to just two people: Zuckerberg and Sandberg.” [Recode

DRIVING THE DAY — Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman submitted his resignation today in protest to a cease-fire reached with Hamas in Gaza. Lieberman dispatched a one-sentence letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, informing him of his decision to step down. The move weakens Netanyahu’s hold on power and could force him to call for early elections at a not-so-convenient time. A poll released yesterday showed 74 percent of Israelis are dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s performance in the most recent confrontation with Hamas.

Netanyahu’s key coalition partner and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told Netanyahu today that for the sake of the economy, a date for early elections should be set as soon as possible. Shas leader Aryeh Deri also supported that stance in his meeting with Netanyahu.

HOW IT’S BEING PLAYED — Trump’s Middle East Plan Dealt Another Blow With Israel Turmoil — by David Wainer and Nick Wadhams: “Israel’s political turmoil isn’t just a problem for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: It’s the latest blow to President Donald Trump’s hopes to unveil a grand Middle East peace plan his son-in-law has spent almost two years on… Israeli officials already had been urging the Trump administration not to release its proposal too close to the elections, afraid that a plan demanding concessions from Israel would hurt Netanyahu’s chances when hard-liners already accuse him of being too soft on Hamas.”

“Yet even before the latest developments, Trump was showing increasing frustration that the Israeli leader — with whom he’s forged a close personal bond — wasn’t doing more to help the plan overseen by son-in-law Jared Kushner come to fruition… Trump complained in recent meetings that Netanyahu hasn’t been “flexible” or “forward-leaning” enough on the plan.”

“Some analysts, including Natan Sachs, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, say there’s now a chance the plan will never see the light of day.” [Bloomberg]

JI INTERVIEW  — Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), explains Lieberman’s resignation in an interview with Jewish Insider: “Before Lieberman became defense minister, I would say he was less pragmatic and more of a populist. He was seen as a guy who’s particularly tough on terrorism, tough on Palestinian extremism. And then, as he steps into the defense ministry, from everyone that I’ve ever talked to in Israel about his time in office, he became a pragmatist, which is what the job requires. And he did what was expected of him, which was to approach this pragmatically. It is why we didn’t see major wars in Gaza in the past two years despite multiple provocations.”

“I think as he has stayed in that role, from all accounts, he’s lost some of his popular political appeal, and I think that there is probably a realization on his part now that he can’t gain much more. He’s already spent a significant time in the role, it will be on his resume, but the politician in him has lost. Right now, he’s going into opposition light. I think he is testing to see whether this helps him politically in any way. I think a lot of this really does stem from this fact that he’s gotten what he can out of the defense minister position and he has been touting what I would call the pragmatic, careful Bibi line, and that’s not how Lieberman made a name. ”

On Israeli criticism of Netanyahu’s handling of the situation: “I think that even if 74% of the population disapproves of Bibi at this moment, I think that when you look at his overall popularity and the overall Israeli interpretation of his time in office, he’s not seen as soft. He is seen as a guy that has guided Israel through a particularly turbulent political moment. This is a man who’s not risk-averse. He’s still carrying out daring operations, but those that are seen as perhaps a limited risk to the country’s overall security posture, and he has guided Israel away from wars that may distract it from the more important battles that lie ahead. In other words, Bibi is preparing for a war in the north, which may be coming soon, it may not. We don’t know. But it’s not in Israel’s long-term interest to engage in a battle with Hamas and he’s keeping his eye, I think, on the ball.”

Moran Stern, Adjunct Lecturer at the Program for Jewish Civilization in Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, tells us… “As talks about possible Knesset elections are in the air for some time, Lieberman saw the recent round of clashes between Israel and Hamas as a golden opportunity to differentiate himself from his two main contenders from the right: Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett. Lieberman, it can also be argued, learned from the experience of other defense ministers who worked under Netanyahu before him: he will not be willing to take the blame for strategic failures whereas Netanyahu enjoys the glory of successful operations – such as obtaining secret Iranian documents or persuading the Trump administration to de-certify the agreement with Iran.”

“It will be interesting to see if Lieberman will be able to capitalize on his resignation to boost his electoral support. I would not be surprised if we see his party significantly weaken or even not crossing the threshold.”

David Makovsky, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, emails us… “Prime Minister Netanyahu is risk-averse when it comes to diplomatic moves to peace and when it comes to ground incursions relating to war. This may be key to his longevity as premier. He does not see the value of having Israeli soldiers risked being killed in taking over Gaza. Specifically, they believe the military priority should be in ensuring that Iran does not gain a foothold in Syria for the purposes of entrenching its advanced military infrastructure as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon. By comparison, Gaza is a distraction. Lieberman represents a minority opinion in comparison to Netanyahu and the military.”

Herb Keinon writes… “March’s AIPAC conference could influence next Israeli election date: In looking at the different math and calculations behind choosing a time for new elections, there is one important date that stands out in Netanyahu’s mind: March 24… the date of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference in Washington DC. Netanyahu loves that event… Once in Washington he will, of course, meet the US president… Both those elements – a rousing reception by 18,000 people to a powerful speech on a big stage and a bear hug from the US president – are things that Netanyahu would love to have his domestic audience witness just prior to elections.” [JPost

Netanyahu met today with U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. “I want to congratulate the President and your team for the powerful sanctions against Iran,” Netanyahu told Hook, according to a readout of the meeting. [Pic]

Putin says no meeting with Netanyahu planned: Russian President Vladimir Putin said today in Paris that he discussed with Netanyahu Israel’s downing of a Russian Plane in Syria in September, and that no meeting between the two leaders is being planned. “We talked about the tragedy that had occurred in Syria, of course. I mean the loss of our plane and our people, our military personnel,” Putin said during a press conference following the East Asia Summit. “No specific dates of a future bilateral meeting were negotiated,” he said, adding that there were “no plans for talks in this format for the time being.” [Tass]

ON THE GROUND — Botched Gaza mission sheds light on Israel’s elite Maglan unit — by Mehul Srivastava: “On Sunday evening, a civilian car pulled up at a Hamas checkpoint set up among the warren of streets in Khan Younis… Inside were Israeli soldiers, including members of the elite Maglan unit renowned for slipping behind enemy lines to collect intelligence or destroy targets. Some, according to a local resident, were dressed as women. What happened next is unclear. But within hours, seven Palestinians were dead, including a Hamas commander, along with an Israeli lieutenant colonel… [A] retired official [said] that missions into Gaza were so precarious that they required high level political approval, usually from the prime minister.”

“A senior Hamas official said that the group’s initial response to Sunday’s incursion was furious, even to the point of risking war, because it was convinced that the unit was a hit squad.” [FinancialTimes]

In Hebron, mourning a Palestinian killed in Ashkelon by a rocket fired from Gaza — by Adam Rasgon: “The funeral [of Mahmoud Abu Asabeh] was almost entirely devoid of chants and factional flags, which are commonplace at funerals for Palestinians killed in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… No senior Fatah or PA officials attended the burial service. In contrast, a month ago, many high-level Fatah and PA officials took part in a funeral for a Palestinian who was allegedly killed by settlers in the northern West Bank. Few journalists covered the event.” [ToI]

— Jewish Agency Chair Isaac Herzog instructed the Jewish Agency’s fund to aid victims of terror to offer emergency assistance to the family of Abu Asabeh, who had a legal working permit in Israel. [Twitter] h/t Lahav Harkov

SPOTLIGHT — In Florida Recount Fight, Democratic Lawyer Draws Plaudits and Fire — by Ken Vogel and Patricia Mazzei: “Marc E. Elias, who is representing Senator Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, in the Florida recount, has been at the center of an unusually large number of high-stakes political fights. His role in the Florida battle… has thrust him even further onto center stage as the Democrats’ lead lawyer and spokesman, making him a tempting foil for Mr. Trump… Mr. Elias is perhaps best known for his role in helping to deliver a handful of previous recounts to Democrats, including in the bitterly fought two-month battle over a Minnesota Senate election in 2008 that brought victory to Al Franken… Mr. Elias has earned a reputation as one of the most formidable election lawyers in the country, and arguably one of the most influential of unelected Democrats in Washington.”

“Right now, though, the Democratic Party’s leadership and base appear united in cheering for Mr. Elias’s aggressive tactics in the Florida recount, and galvanized by Republican attacks on him… The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, one of Mr. Elias’s clients, has gone so far as to send out summaries of the coverage of Mr. Elias’s conference calls with reporters, a treatment more typically reserved for the candidates themselves.” [NYTimes]

Muslim Trailblazer Ilhan Omar Admits She Backs BDS — Now That Election Is Over — by Aiden Pink: “Tuesday marked the start of “freshman orientation” in Washington, D.C… Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minneapolis and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, quickly met up with some of her fellow trail-blazing colleagues like Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But back at home, many of her Jewish constituents were grappling with remarks her office made on Sunday to a website called MuslimGirl, claiming that… Omar’s campaign told them: “Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS movement.” [Forward• Omar confirmed that position in a text-message conversation with TC Jewfolk on Monday.

2020 WATCH — O’Rourke Invited to Iowa, Called Most ‘Authentic’ Democrat Since Obama as Presidential Speculation Mounts — by Jessica Kwong: “Speculation that Beto O’Rourke may make a presidential bid in 2020 despite losing his Senate race to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz last week has swirled after he received an invitation to visit the Polk County Democratic Party in Des Moines, Iowa, the state whose caucuses are considered the first presidential votes… O’Rourke reportedly has not yet responded to the invitation. He was rumored to have been in Des Moines, Iowa City or another part of the state over the weekend.” [Newsweek]

Bernie Sanders: ‘We have a president who is a racist’ — by John Bowden: “Speaking to the National Action Network, a nonprofit group founded by Rev. Al Sharpton, [Sanders] received applause from the group’s members for his condemnation of the president. “But we must be honest and straight-forward and say that we have a president who is a racist,” Sanders, who is thought to be a likely 2020 presidential contender, said.” [TheHill]

Rob Malley writes… “How the world might prepare for a Democratic resurgence: Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel are some of the countries that have invested most heavily in their relationships with Trump in an effort to fortify bilateral relations. But now that the omens regarding 2020 seem less favorable to Republicans, countries that banked on Trump might have to start hedging their bets by endearing themselves to the Democrats.”

“Countries targeted by the U.S. — mainly Iran — could also decide to wait Trump out. What they will interpret as the growing possibility of a one-term president makes it easier for Tehran to bide its time, hunker down even as sanctions ramp up, ignore Trump’s violations of the Iran deal, and refuse any offers to renegotiate a new one in the hopes that a Democrat will rejoin in 2021.” [Axios]

** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: MassChallenge is looking for a new CEO[BostonGlobe] • The Redstone Saga Faces Another New Turn[VanityFair] • Levi Strauss plans IPO that values company at up to $5 billion, sources say [CNBC] • Hines lands $425M refinancing on River Point office tower [TheRealDeal] • Watch Marc Benioff try to explain what he’s going to do with Time magazine [Recode]

AEI’s Dan Blumenthal writes… “Israel’s Embrace of China Is Sorely Misguided: Israel is finding itself on the wrong side of a shift in geopolitics, and is allowing itself to become too cozy with a viciously repressive regime (one sign, incidentally, of the profound dissimilarity between Jewish and Chinese civilization). Yet this does not mean that Israel has to go out of its way to antagonize China. Washington is not asking any friend to do that—and Washington, for its part, has a role to play in its outreach to Jerusalem, much as it is attempting to do with others throughout Europe and Asia.”[MosiacMagazine]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — U.S. says defendant in Elliott Broidy hacking case has diplomatic immunity — by Josh Lederman: “The former U.N. diplomat accused of helping steal and distribute Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy’s emails is entitled to diplomatic immunity… It’s the latest blow to Broidy’s legal campaign against Qatar and the individuals he says hacked him on its behalf… A spokesman for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, whose office oversees recognition of U.N. diplomats, says it reviewed Morroco’s accreditation of [Jamal] Benomar… “Based on this information, we have registered Benomar with diplomatic privileges and immunities,” Haley’s office… said in a written statement.” [NBCNews]

TALK OF THE TOWN — DC Neo-Nazi Who Called Pittsburgh Murders A ‘Dry Run’ Arrested; Has Deep Ties To ‘Alt Right’ — by Jessica Schulberg, Nick Baumann, Ryan Reilly, Travis Waldron and Luke O’Brien: “Jeffrey Clark, the 30-year-old man federal agents arrested here Friday after he called the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting a “dry run” … wasn’t shy about being a neo-Nazi… Clark lived in a rowhouse in Bloomingdale with his father, sister and younger brother Edward William “Teddy” Clark, who killed himself on Washington’s Theodore Roosevelt Island on Oct. 27, the day of the Tree of Life shooting… In May 2017, the Clark brothers teamed up with far-right “Pizzagate” propagandist Jack Posobiec… to shoot footage for a film Posobiec was working on about Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer whose murder near the Clarks’ home in Bloomingdale has spawned numerous far-right conspiracy theories.” [HuffPost]

LONG READ — The Cost of Courage: The 2 Couples Who Rescued My Family From The Nazis — by Uri Berliner: “In recent months, I’ve learned that my life is bound together with two families who took enormous risks to save my father and my grandparents from the Nazis. What I have discovered about the rescuers is both wondrous and bleak. One family, the Furstenbergs, has thrived; another, the Mynareks, is gone, seemingly without a trace… 80 years later, my father, Gert Berliner, age 94, has been reconnected with the Furstenbergs… Various members of the Furstenberg family have visited my dad and his wife, Frances, at their home in Manhattan.” [NPR]

DESSERT — How to Attend a Party Full of DC Insiders — by Hayley Garrison Philips: “As a third of Politico’s beloved daily newsletter Playbook, Daniel Lippman spends his nights out on the town at some of the city’s most exclusive parties, looking for “spotteds” or the next story lead. We asked for his advice on how to work a room… Since DC is such a networking town, I think people are less shy than in other cities. I would think in terms of the upsides and benefits to talking to and meeting new people, not in terms of potential downsides, because most people in DC are here to pursue their career and to meet new people, so you can gain a lot if you don’t have that fear of conversation.” [Washingtonian]

BIRTHDAYS: Biochemist and winner of the Israel Prize in 1957, professor of microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (1966-1993), David Sidney Feingold turns 96… Actor best known for his role as Lou Grant in two TV series, former president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ed Asner (born Yitzhak Edward Asner) turns 89… Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and the leader of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, he was a long-time member of the Knesset (1977-2003), Rabbi Haim Drukman turns 86… Little Rock, Arkansas native, founder of Guardsmark, a privately owned security company with 17,000 employees which he sold in 2015, noted art collector, Ira A. Lipman turns 78… Author of dozens of children’s books and young adult fiction, frequent NPR guest, Daniel Pinkwater turns 77… Pianist and conductor, formerly Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim turns 76… Stephen Wolff turns 73…

Former Chairman and CEO of Film and Music Entertainment, now a consultant and movie producer, Lawrence (Larry) Lotman turns 71… NYC-based consultant for non-profit organizations, he previously held senior positions in the NYC government and Board of Education, Perry Davis turns 70… Immigration and nationality attorney in Southern California, Michael D. Ullman turns 69… Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museums of Tolerance, Rabbi Meyer H. May turns 66… Executive producer and director of television programs, including Friends (1994-2004), one of the most popular TV programs of all time, Kevin S. Bright turns 64… Member of the Knesset since 2013 for the Yesh Atid party, he was previously the Minister of Welfare and Social Services (2013-2014) and mayor of Dimona (2003-2013), Meir Cohen turns 63… Senior project manager at Boeing, Michael A. Lewine turns 55…

Member of Knesset since 2015 for the Likud party, she was previously a journalist at both Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma’ariv, Nava Boker turns 48… Founder and chairman of Perilune Capital and founder of Harspring Capital Management, Carey Robinson Wolchok turns 47… Mortgage executive,Joshua Shein turns 46… As a 12-year old baseball fan in Yankee Stadium, he interfered with a ball batted by Derek Jeter in the 1996 ALCS that was ruled to be a game-tying home run, Jeffrey Maier turns 35… White House reporter for The Associated Press, he was previously a political reporter and White House correspondent at Time Magazine, Zeke Miller turns 29… Acting national director at Mission: Readiness and Champions for America’s Future, Ben Goodman turns 29… Client strategies analyst at Targeted Victory, Alison Borowsky turns 24…

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