Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Schumer in Senate gym presses Paul | Natalie Portman calls Israeli bill ‘racist’ | Illinois hits back at Airbnb

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ON THE HILL — Schumer in Senate gym presses Paul on Israel aid: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been pressing Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to remove a hold on the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018.

During a speech at a forum hosted by the American Zionist Movement (AZM) on Capitol Hill yesterday, Schumer said that during a routine workout at the Senate gym in the morning, he “lobbied Rand Paul to let this go, and I think we will be able to work something out.” [JewishInsider]

Schumer added: “I don’t get up and say the Republicans are anti-Israel because Rand Paul is against this pact and holding it up. But I do hear people on the other side often say, ‘So-and-so said something anti-Israel, all the Democrats are bad.’ That is detrimental to the U.S.-Israel relationship — no matter which party you’re part of — if you’re pointing to the other side when there’s such overwhelming support.”

Schumer on bipartisanship: “There are people on both sides of the aisle who try make this a partisan relationship, and that is very bad for Israel. The day Israel is only supported by one party, or one part of the political spectrum, is the beginning of the end. Throughout my career, most of the time with Democrats in the majority, I always had a Republican carry any bill that I would carry for Israel. And that’s a tradition that’s continued. The winds of political change blow fiercely, but the special relationship between the United States and Israel can’t be subject to the whims of bipartisanship.”

Kampeas tweets“Rep. Eliot Engel at AZM: begins sentence, “As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee – halavai…”

House to hold hearings on Saudi Arabia next year: “Representative Eliot Engel said on Wednesday the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold hearings after the first of the year on all aspects of Saudi behavior, including the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “We’ll let the chips fall where they may,” Engel, the presumptive chairman of the committee when Democrats take over Congress in January, said. “I think that we need to have an assessment of our relationship with Saudi Arabia.” [Reuters]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the GPO annual New Year toast with foreign correspondents: “What happened in Istanbul is horrific, nothing short of that. And I think that will be dealt with in its own way, each country will have to figure out what to do with that. It’s balanced by the importance of Saudi Arabia and the role it plays in the Middle East because if Saudi Arabia were to be destabilized the world would be destabilized, and I think that has to be taken into account.” [Video]

TERROR — Two Israelis shot dead in West Bank attack as Hamas claims earlier attacks – by Ruth Eglash and Loveday Morris: “Two Israelis were shot dead near the Palestinian city of Ramallah on Thursday just hours after the Hamas militant group claimed responsibility for a separate attack that injured seven Israelis, including a pregnant mother whose baby later died… The violence will ramp up pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has already been criticized by members of his right-wing coalition for being too soft on Hamas.” [WashPost• 2 soldiers killed in West Bank terror shooting; civilian, serviceman hurt [ToI]

— “A three-day old baby, possibly the youngest victim of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was laid to rest Wednesday night in Jerusalem.” [WashPostCNN]

Ambassador David Friedman tweets“In the past week Palestinian terrorists have killed or wounded 14 Israelis in multiple attacks. The Palestinian Authority maintains laws that will compensate these terrorists and their families for their heinous acts. The PA can be a political body OR a sponsor of terror, not both.”

DEALMAKING — U.S. lays out terms for $500 million Israel-Croatia arms deal — by Barak Ravid: “Israel and the U.S. are in talks to resolve their differences over the arms deal between Israel and Croatia involving $500 million worth of F-16 fighter jets… The Croatians are not thrilled with the U.S.’s demands — mainly because Israel won the tender in the first place because it proposed an upgraded version of the original jet it bought from the U.S. decades ago. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković threatened today to cancel the deal.” [Axios]

Netanyahu’s foreign media spokesperson resigns: “David Keyes, Netanyahu’s spokesman with the foreign press, stepped down nearly three months after taking a leave of absence after he was accused of sexual misconduct by at least a dozen women. Keyes issued a statement saying he had “decided to pursue new opportunities in the private sector.” … Netanyahu thanked Keyes in a statement “for his great contribution to Israel’s information effort.” [AP]

Natalie Portman tells Arabic newspaper Israel’s nation-state law is ‘racist’ and a ‘mistake’: “Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman said that Israel’s nation-state law is “racist” and a “mistake” that she does not agree with in an interview she gave to London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi… In the interview, which marked the release of her new film, “Vox Lux,” Portman explained that the law is a political decision that impacts the lives of many people, adding that she hopes to be part of the change that can improve Israel’s relationship with its neighbors.” [Haaretz

AT THE UN —  Mike Pompeo Calls Iran ‘Reckless’ and Argues for Tougher U.N. Stance — by Michael Schwirtz“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a rare appearance at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday… Iran, he said, had embarked on a “proliferation spree” and now possessed the largest ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East… He faulted the Iran nuclear deal… for giving Iran access to funding streams that Mr. Pompeo said had been directed to its military… European ambassadors at the Security Council echoed Mr. Pompeo’s concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile activities, but one after another reaffirmed their support for the Iran nuclear deal, which they say is working as designed.” [NYTimes]

Haley says Trump’s unpredictability was an asset in U.N. diplomacy — by Caitlin Oprysko: “To outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley the president’s mercurial nature has often been an asset. “If I need to pick up the phone and say this is what I’m gonna to do, are you good with this? We kind of partnered in that,” she said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. “And so he would like ratchet up the rhetoric and then I would go back to the ambassadors and say, ‘You know he is pretty upset. I can’t promise you what he is going to do. I’ll tell you, if we do these sanctions, it will keep him from going too far.’” [Politico

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Trump’s former lawyer and confidante Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in jail yesterday. Cohen told the judgethat his “blind loyalty to Donald Trump” had led him astray from his values. “Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds, rather than listen to my own inner voice,” he said. “He’s a liar,” the President told associates after the Cohen sentencing, as he remained out of the public eye most of the day. Trump tweeted this morning that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.”

Michael Cohen is set to spend 3 years in a ‘cushy’ prison that’s been called a ‘castle behind bars’ — by Mariana Alfaro: “New York Magazine reported that Otisville is one of the best prisons for practicing Jewish inmates. They have access to full-time rabbis. New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hoped to spend his sentence there.” [BusinessInsider

MUELLER WATCH — Get Ready for Mueller’s Phase Two: The Middle East Connection — by Erin Banco: “While one part of the Mueller team has indicted Russian spies and troll-masters, another cadre has been spending its time focusing on how Middle Eastern countries pushed cash to Washington politicos in an attempt to sway policy under President Trump’s  administration. Various witnesses affiliated with the Trump campaign have been questioned about their conversations with deeply connected individuals from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.” [DailyBeast]

TOP TALKER — While Working for Trump, Giuliani Courts Business Abroad — by Ken Vogel: “The government-run Bahrain News Agency featured a photo of Mr. Giuliani meeting in a royal palace with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa… But Mr. Giuliani was not in Bahrain… on official business. He was there to seek a lucrative security consulting contract with the government… Mr. Giuliani said that the Bahrain pitch was arranged by Robert Stryk, a lobbyist who had worked with Trump campaign officials and has emerged [as] an influential behind-the-scenes deal-maker in Mr. Trump’s Washington… Mr. Stryk also appears to have played a role in Mr. Giuliani’s effort to win a contract for security consulting work in the Democratic Republic of Congo through an Israeli firm called Mer Security and Communication Systems.” [NYTimes]

DEEP DIVE — Disgraced Trump Fundraiser Tried to Use GOP Contacts to Score Billions in Africa — by David Corn: “After helping the GOP regain the White House, [Elliott] Broidy… has generated headlines about multiple controversies—personal, political, and business. And there could be more Broidy stories to come. But the Angola episode illustrates how Broidy, having used the Trump campaign and victory to establish himself as a force within the Republican Party, did business—and indicates there is a public interest in learning the full story of how Broidy put his Trump and Republican connections to personal use.” [MotherJones]

2020 WATCH — George Soros may not back a candidate during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary — by Brian Schwartz: “Billionaire and liberal philanthropist George Soros has been telling his aides that he may not back a candidate during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary as the potentially large field sorts itself out. “He doesn’t plan to pick a horse in this race,” Michael Vachon, Soros’ chief spokesman, told CNBC in an email.” [CNBC]

Probe of U.S.-funded news network that called George Soros a ‘Jew of flexible morals’ finds additional offensive content — by Aaron Davis: “A U.S. taxpayer-funded broadcaster this fall published a ­Spanish-language opinion piece warning that the “Islamization” of Europe by migrants is… posing a danger to the United States “greater than that from the Nazis in the 1940s.” The online piece followed stories by… Radio and Television Martí that described… George Soros as a “nonpracticing Jew of flexible morals” and as a “left-wing billionaire of Hungarian-Jewish origin.” The federal agency that oversees Martí launched an internal investigation this fall after a May report about Soros was publicized… The probe has now expanded to include examining how Martí came to publish an earlier story that included anti-Semitic language about Soros… Four Martí employees have been placed on leave and two contract staffers have been fired.” [WashPost

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Jeffrey Katzenberg adds another executive at Quibi [HollywoodReporter] • Alibaba helps fund Israeli start-up developing public transport software [FinancialTimes] • Elliott Takes Big Stake in Pernod, Maker of Absolut, Chivas Regal [WSJ]

TALK OF THE NATION — Investment board says Airbnb West Bank action is illegal: “Illinois officials say that Airbnb’s ban on lodging listings in the disputed West Bank violates state law. The Investment Policy Board’s… decision means Illinois could ban investment in Airbnb if it offers public stock. Airbnb senior vice president Christopher Lehane said in a letter to the board Wednesday that Airbnb is following company policy for disputed territory worldwide… He said Airbnb is not anti-Israel.” [AP]

After Airbnb settlement snub, an all-Israel rental site goes live — by Shoshanna Solomon: “OlehStay, set up by Noam Beltran, a current student of Yeshiva University in New York, and Joseph Sokol, an immigrant to Israel, is an Israel-based home-renting site that went live Monday, having been created just 10 days after Airbnb announced its decision… The site already has a dozen properties on its list “with new ones added every few hours,” Sokol said.” [ToI]

CAMPUS BEAT — NYU Jewish Student Center Reopens After Student’s Anti-Semitic Posts Prompted Temporary Closure — by Shira Hanau: “Early Wednesday morning, the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University announced that it would temporarily close after staff discovered “several public online postings by an NYU student which were anti-Semitic in nature and potentially threatening.” … The closure of the Jewish student center comes less than a week after a BDS resolution was passed by the university’s undergraduate student government. The resolution inflamed tensions between pro-Israel groups and student clubs advocating for the resolution.” The Bronfman Center reopened after consultations with NYU Public Safety, NYPD, and other security experts.” [JewishWeek]

Bret Stephens writes… “When Anti-Zionism Tunnels Under Your House: The good news is that the conversation about anti-Zionism remains mostly academic because Israelis haven’t succumbed to the fatal illusion that, if only they behaved better, their enemies would hate them less. To the extent that Israeli parents ever sleep soundly, it’s because they know what they are up against… The same can’t be said for that class of scolds who excel in making excuses for the wicked and finding fault with the good. When you find yourself on the same side as Hassan Nasrallah, Louis Farrakhan and David Duke on the question of a country’s right to exist, it’s time to re-examine every opinion you hold.” [NYTimes

MEDIA WATCH — Tribune, Tronc And Beyond: A Slur, A Secret Payout And A Looming Sale — by David Folkenflik: “Several months after taking control of the troubled Tribune Publishing Co. in 2016, Chicago investor Michael Ferro convened a session of corporate leaders… At the dinner, Ferro railed against those who he felt were impeding him — including perceived rivals and competitors. Among them: the Southern California billionaire and civic leader Eli Broad, whom Ferro called part of a “Jewish cabal” that ran Los Angeles… Early this year, Tribune Publishing made the first in a series of secret payments to total more than $2.5 million to avert a threatened lawsuit filed by a fired newspaper executive [Davan Maharaj]… That had the effect of keeping Ferro’s anti-Semitic slur out of the public spotlight.” [NPR

TRANSITION — Bloomberg News reporter Ivan Levingston is moving to Israel next month to cover economics and government stories for the news service.

ACROSS THE OCEAN — France tax protests often feature anti-Semitic rhetoric: “The head of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Antisemitism, or BNVCA, Sammy Ghozlan, said Wednesday that “the ‘Yellow Jackets’ movement has an anti-Semitic base that repeats conspiracy theories about Jews and power.” … Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said these developments will likely result in an increase in immigration by French Jews to Israel.” [JTA

IN THE ARTS — Theater J, still roaming across D.C., revives ‘Talley’s Folly’ — by Nelson Pressley: “The moon is big and its light glows blue in Theater J’s revival of “Talley’s Folly,” the 1979 Lanford Wilson play that its narrator hopes is a waltz… The Pulitzer-winning script deals with a Jewish immigrant named Matt Friedman trying to sweep rural Missouri woman Sally Talley off her feet in 1944, despite her anti-Semitic family’s objections.” [WashPost]

DESSERT — The Rise of Lamb Bacon in Israel’s Dining Scene — by Sara Toth Stub: “Now at a branch of Beer Bazaar in an alleyway of Jerusalem’s sprawling central market, lamb bacon is a key component of the turkey club sandwich… But Beer Bazaar is just one of a growing number of Israeli restaurants serving lamb bacon. In a country where regular bacon is relatively rare due to the Jewish and Muslim religious bans on eating pork, lamb now provides a way for diners to experience the forbidden richness of bacon.” [ExtraCrispy]

An Israeli startup with ties to America’s most popular hummus brand says it made the world’s first lab-grown steak — by Erin Brodwin: “Aleph Farms, which got its start with help from an Israeli research institute and an incubator that’s part of the food giant that owns Sabra — the most popular hummus in America — said on Wednesday that it had produced the world’s first lab-grown steak… “The smell was great when we cooked it, exactly the same characteristic flavor as a conventional meat cut,” Aleph’s CEO and founder, Didier Toubia, told Business Insider.”[BusinessInsider]

Three friends elevate kosher food with a monthly pop-up like you’ve never seen — by Danielle Ziri: “The Musket Club, which made its debut in July in New York City, is a monthly pop-up supper club aimed at providing participants with a unique kosher dining experience.” [ToI]

REMEMBERING — 92-year-old Holocaust survivor dies when car hits him as he crosses the road, cops say — by John Magness“Decades after his family was murdered in the Holocaust, Alter Wiener fought to educate the next generation about the genocide. Now, the man’s family is mourning after police say he was fatally hit by a car while crossing the street in Hillsboro, Oregon… In the months before his death, Wiener made it his goal to advocate for increased awareness about the Holocaust and other genocides… Ron Wyden, a U.S. senator from Oregon, lamented Wiener’s death in a tweet: “Devastated to learn about the passing of my friend Alter Wiener — a true Oregonian and total mensch who transformed his Holocaust survival into a lesson that taught all of us about the need to fight prejudice always and everywhere.” [MiamiHerald]

BIRTHDAYS: Chairman of the Federal Reserve (2006-2014), now a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at the Brookings Institution, Ben Shalom Bernanke turns 65… Former New York State Senator (1985-2012), Suzanne “Suzi” Oppenheimer turns 84… California-based real estate developer active in the revitalization of downtown San Jose, he is a former co-owner of the Oakland Athletics, Lewis Wolff turns 83… Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood since 1988, chairman of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, and a member of the Executive Rabbinic Cabinet of J Street, John Rosove turns 69… Executive chairwoman and chief media officer of Eko (a start-up focused on interactive music videos), she was previously a high ranking executive at Microsoft and CBS, Nancy Tellem turns 66… Academic, hedge fund manager, investor, writer and adjunct professor at Columbia University, Joel Greenblatt turns 61…

Assistant Secretary for Management at the US Department of the Treasury, David F. Eisner turns 61… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2017 following ten years as a Maryland state senator from Montgomery County, Jamie Raskin turns 56… Billionaire real estate developer, he serves as co-chairman and CEO at Turnberry Associates whose holdings include the landmark Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Jeffrey M. Soffer turns 51… Co-founder and principal of The Lead PR, LLC, a NYC based public relations firm, following 14 years as SVP for communications at ABC News, Jeffrey W. Schneider turns 50… Mayor of New Rochelle, New York since 2006, Noam Bramson turns 49… Manager of Global Communications and Public Affairs for Google, Riva Litman Sciuto turns 33… President Emerita at UCLA Faculty Women’s Club, Bette Billet

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