Daily Kickoff: ‘Cantankerous’ Jim Webb wouldn’t last long as SecDef, predicts GOP FP advisor | Mel & Betty Sembler reflect | New Israeli Netflix show
BIG IN PHILANTHROPIC CIRCLES — Sandy Cardin, President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, emails: “Having entered my 25th year of service to the Schusterman Family Foundation, I have decided that now is the right time to step back from my day-to-day responsibilities as President and serve the Schustermans in my new role as Senior Advisor.”
“I depart humbled by the risk the Schusterman family took bringing me on board, inspired by their unwavering commitment to tikkun olam and encouraged by their dedication to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. I am also excited to see what the future holds for the Foundation to which I dedicated so much of my life and to watch the continued growth of the teammates alongside whom I have enjoyed working, many since my earliest days in Tulsa.”
NEXT UP — “Lisa Eisen, who has been my partner in this work for nearly 18 years, will become President of the Schusterman Foundation’s U.S. Jewish portfolio, which includes our Jewish and Israel Education grantmaking, as well as the Schusterman Fellowship and REALITY program. Julie Mikuta will become President of our U.S. Education portfolio, and David Weil will continue serving as our Chief Operating Officer. In Israel, we have a new colleague, Ohad Reifen, who will serve as CEO of our activities in our Israel office while Justin Korda will continue in his role as Executive Director.”
PROFILE — Mel and Betty Sembler reflect on the GOP they helped build: ‘It’s the end of an era’ — by Adam C. Smith: “At ages 88 and 87, Mel and Betty Sembler are long-standing pillars of the GOP establishment witnessing Donald Trump upend their party… The Semblers have slept and celebrated Shabbat in the White House, and former President George W. Bush has slept in theirs, working quietly on his memoirs in a robe on their terrace. But, as much as they may not care to acknowledge it, Mel is a dinosaur in today’s Trumpian political world.”
“Today, like most of the Republican old guard once aghast by Trump’s ascendancy, the Semblers do their best to avoid criticizing the president. They prefer to talk about his administration cutting regulations than the myriad administration scandals. Friends say their reluctance to publicly question the president reflects their nature, decidedly different from Trump’s. “It’s simple,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, calling the Semblers giants in the rise of the Republican Party in Florida. “He’s a gentleman. That’s how Mel Sembler operates. You don’t find him being critical of anybody.”
— Marriage advice from the Semblers: “What’s the secret to a 65-year marriage where husband and wife are virtually inseparable? Sitting in their 25th-floor penthouse overlooking downtown St. Petersburg, both shrugged. They cite their similar backgrounds: loving, Jewish families and a mutual commitment to Judaism’s emphasis on philanthropy and charity.”[TampaBay]
DRIVING THE CONVO — President Trump is reportedly considering former Senator Jim Webb as a replacement for former Defense Secretary James Mattis. Webb, who served as Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and ran for president in the Democratic primary in 2016, opposed the Iraq War and more recently criticized former President Barack Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya and Syria.
“Webb is famously cantankerous and I wonder if he would last long in a Trump cabinet,” warned a former national security official who served in past Republican administrations. “He’d also likely be at war with the top generals within about a week.”
Dov Zakheim, who served with Webb in the Reagan administration, said during a phone interview with Jewish Insider this week that Webb “wouldn’t be a bad choice at all.” According to the former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Planning and Resources, Webb is “a serious, tense guy who stands for what he believes in. This is a man of integrity, who has strongly-held opinions. He would be very capable to serve in this position.” But Zakheim cautioned that while Webb would be closer to President Trump than Mattis, “the thing that I would ask about him is simply, how well would he do with a president who changes his mind so often?” [JewishInsider]
Elliott Abrams emails us: Webb “fits perfectly into Walter Russell Mead’s description of ‘Jacksonian’ Americans and their foreign policy views. He opposes most foreign military involvement, hates our enemies, and thinks that if we have to fight, we have to fight to win.”
New Pentagon chief discusses Syria with Pompeo, Bolton: “The meeting was the first of its kind for Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who started his new job January 1 following the resignation of his predecessor Jim Mattis… Various timelines have been floated, but Trump on Wednesday seemed vague, saying only that it would happen “over a period of time.” [AFP] • U.S. warns Iran not to launch satellites into space [WashPost]
TRANSITION — Former Presidential Envoy to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk has been appointed the next Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford University.
INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — Trump’s Iran comments defy the position of his top aides — by Missy Ryan and John Hudson: “Late last year, some of the president’s hawkish advisers drafted a memo committing the United States to a longer-term presence in Syria… The president has not signed the memo, which was presented to him weeks ago. In fact, Trump had warned his aides for months that he wanted out of Syria in short order. But [John] Bolton and [Mike] Pompeo, apparently believing like other officials across the government that the president had softened that demand, continued to relay bold plans for the country.”
“A White House official… said the United States would use “a range of tools of national power,” including sanctions and diplomatic pressure, to continue pressing Tehran to pull its forces out of Syria. “Iran knows the U.S. stands ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests,” the official said.” [WashPost]
Bolton tweeted on Thursday: “Leaving tomorrow for Israel & Turkey to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, how we will work with allies & partners to prevent the resurgence of ISIS, stand fast with those who fought with us against ISIS, & counter Iranian malign behavior in the region.”
VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — Netanyahu: U.S. acting against Iran economically, Israel operating militarily: “Netanyahu on Thursday painted a picture of close Israeli-American cooperation in efforts to stymie Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, saying US President Donald Trump “is acting against Iran at the economic level and we here in Israel are acting against Iran at the military level.” In an address to IDF cadets at Bar Ilan University, Netanyahu said he had “insisted” the US re-impose sanctions on Iran following Washington’s exit from the international nuclear accord last year, and that the US president “indeed made the courageous decision to renew them.” [ToI]
— Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed the situation in Syria in a phone call on Friday. “The discussion focused on developments in Syria, including in light of the United States’ plans to withdraw its troops from that country,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Amir Tibon reports: “An official from one of the pro-Israel organizations [in the U.S.] told Haaretz this week: “The White House made an effort to convince people that Israel will continue to receive significant backing, not only verbal, for the things it has to do in Syria to prevent the Iranians from entrenching there.”
ARGUMENT — Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky write…“5 reasons why Trump is right about getting America out of Syria: Syria is not a major source of oil. It does not pose an existential threat to Israel… The country is so broken and dysfunctional that neither Russia nor Iran will be able to use its influence there as a springboard to establish hegemony in the Middle East… Keeping U.S. military forces in place with no serious, long-term strategy or attainable objectives to guide them would not make the situation significantly better. Syria was never America’s to win or lose, and getting out now is not a catastrophe.” [LATimes]
DEALMAKING — Croatia gives Israel deadline for sale of US-made F-16 jets — by Darko Bandic: “Croatia’s Defense Ministry said it needed an answer from Israel by Jan. 11 or the Balkan country’s $500 million order for a dozen F-16 aircraft would be canceled… “We are expecting final and clear stands from both Israel and the United States on this issue and then we will make a final decision,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said. Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic said Thursday that Israel provided guarantees during the contract bidding process that U.S. officials would greenlight the sale. “Can you imagine that we do not believe Israel?” Krsticevic asked.” [AP]
— According to a Capitol Hill source: “Israel got caught with their hand in the cookie jar on this one. They didn’t think anyone in DC would notice and that they could get away with making a few tweaks to these fighter jets but Congressional staffers in both parties are scratching their heads over this one. The bipartisan consensus is ‘this is shady’ and affects jobs back in districts with defense manufacturing.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — In a preview of an interview for CBS’ 60 Minutes, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi confirmed that the military cooperation between Egypt and Israel was the closest ever since Camp David. “We have a wide range of cooperation with the Israelis,” Sisi remarked.
Mike Pompeo says US has helped foster cooperation between Israel and Arab states: “In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Pompeo was asked whether the unofficial anti-Iran alliance between the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan could lead to a major peace breakthrough. “Undoubtedly. We have set the conditions in the Middle East where these countries are now working together across multiple fronts,” Pompeo said.” [ToI]
ON THE HILL — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), James Risch (R-ID) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 yesterday. The bill would authorize the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the Obama administration and Israel in 2016, provide new authorities for sanctions against Syria’s Assad regime, and empower state and local governments in the U.S. to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The legislation incorporates four bipartisan bills that did not receive final approval in the last Congress, including the U.S.-Israel Security Authorization Assistance Act of 2018 that was blocked at the last minute by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
HIGHLIGHTS OF DAY ONE OF 116TH CONGRESS — Newly sworn-in freshmen, Reps. Max Rose and Elissa Slotkin were among a handful of Democrats who voted against Nancy Pelosi for Speaker… Norm Eisen pictured with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi… A map in Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) office had a ‘Palestine’ Post-it note over Israel… Tlaib used coarse language during a speech last night, vowing to impeach Trump… Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) took the oath of office on a Tanakh… URJ’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs and RAC’s Rabbi Jonah Pesner greeted Senator Mitt Romney after his swearing-in… Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) helped Israeli Consul General of New York Dani Dayan knot his tie… Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) welcomed guests from New York with bagels and Kosher spreads at a lunch, which was also attended by Cardin’s rabbi, Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg from Beth Tfiloh…
Pew Research: “Four additional Jewish members bring the Jewish share of the new Congress to 6% – three times the share of Jews in the general public (2%).”
Correction: The Capitol Hill events mentioned in yesterday’s DK were on the second of January, not the third.
ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — Prime Minister Netanyahu in a video posted to social media: Pre-elections indictment hearing is absurd… A new poll shows that 51 percent of Israelis voters expect Netanyahu to resign if AG Avichai Mandelblit indicts him pending a hearing… The Economist on the many challengers for PM: Israel’s opposition could defeat Netanyahu — if they are united, but nobody wants to be number two… Labor’s political divorce may cost it women’s vote… Labor Party members seek to oust leader Avi Gabbay after Livni’s ouster… Michael Oren seeks new party ‘to best serve country.’… A new ‘centrist’ Arab party has registered to participate in the upcoming elections…
David Makovsky and Dennis Ross write… “Foreign Policy Should Not Get Lost in Israel’s Election Campaign: In Israel’s upcoming election, given the potential of looming indictments… there will be other fundamental questions about national security challenges that must be addressed. And those questions, which have understandably gone to the heart of the Israeli public’s concerns historically, should be asked of both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his challengers Avi Gabbay, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, and others on the center-left.” [WashInstitute]
IPF’s Michael Koplow: “Between now and April 9, expect many more surprises, including party mergers, party break ups, tremor-inducing announcements, and who knows what else. If this week is indicative of what is to come, Israeli politics will remain the world’s best reality show.”
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Bob Iger offers free college education to employees[WSJ] • Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives are fed up with The New York Times after weeks of what they see as overtly antagonistic coverage[ByersMarket] • How Facebook’s slumping stock price could hurt Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy plans [Recode] • Silverstein Properties may be part of a hack related to 9/11 documents [TheRealDeal] • The average hedge fund lost 6.7 percent in 2018 [NYPost; CNBC] • Sapir Organization lands $115M refi for NoMo hotel [TheRealDeal]
SPOTLIGHT — Arthur Blank onto the Field as Mega Performer for Atlanta — by Marcia Caller Jaffe: “For all the talents and contributions to Atlanta and the state, we at the AJT salute Blank as Jewish Atlanta’s 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year. “Arthur Blank has raised the bar for sports and hospitality in Atlanta. From bringing home the MLS Cup to bringing the Super Bowl to Atlanta, Arthur deserves all the accolades possible,” said Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin… Jaffe: As a Jewish entrepreneur in 2018, what are you most thankful for? Blank: I’m always thankful for the love and support of my family, and that has been very true this year.” [AtlantaJewishTimes]
MEDIA WATCH — The ABCs of Jacobin: The unlikely success of a socialist print magazine — by Robert Baird: “Jacobin’s biggest recent bet was the purchase, last year, of Tribune, a left-wing British magazine that once employed George Orwell as literary editor. [Bhaskar] Sunkara’s interest in the British left is long-standing. He has established connections with the upper echelons of the Labour party, led by democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn, and Jacobin has not hesitated to defend Corbyn against accusations of anti-Semitism.” [CJR]
Rosie Gray is returning to BuzzFeed as media and politics reporter. Gray, who worked at BuzzFeed from 2012 through the 2016 election, was most recently at The Atlantic. [MorningMedia]
COMING SOON — Missing Woman, Drug Cartels and Police Corruption in New Israeli Series ‘When Heroes Fly’ — by Gerri Miller: “Four estranged Israeli army buddies who fought together in Lebanon reunite on a dangerous quest to find a missing woman in the TV series “When Heroes Fly,” a hit Israeli thriller from Keshet International and Netflix… Created and directed by Omri Givon (“Hostages”), and loosely based on a book of the same name by Amir Gutfruend, the series shifts back and forth in time to tell the story of friendships forged and destroyed lives scarred by war and the lengths men will go to for love… Tomer Kapon, who has appeared in “Fauda,” “One Week and a Day,” “7 Days in Entebbe” and worked with Givon on “Hostages,” plays the shellshocked Aviv, Yaeli’s ex-boyfriend… “When Heroes Fly” premieres Jan. 10 on Netflix.” [JewishJournal]
DESSERT — SF’s Only Kosher Bakery Expands to Richmond — by Caleb Pershan: “Richmond District fans of Frena’s kosher sweets and savory baked goods won’t have to schlep to SoMa much longer. More than two years after opening a small cafe and sizable production facility at 132 6th Street, the city’s only kosher bakery is expanding to 5549 Geary Boulevard, where it will open as soon as the end of the month…The new Richmond location boasts a brick oven, which will bake some products and toast pita pockets, which customers can order “Frena style” — stuffed with boiled egg, pickles, spicy sauce, and onion before they’re baked a second time.” [SF]
REMEMBERING — Portland Trail Blazers’ Co-Founder Larry Weinberg Dies At 92 — by Colin Miner: “In the 48 years since, Weinberg was a major part of the Trail Blazers, even after he sold them to the late Paul Allen in 1988. Weinberg died on New Year’s Day at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92-years-old… Weinberg started out as one of four owners, working with founding president Harry Glickman, Herman Sarkowsky – who also helped found the Seattle Seahawks – and Robert Schmertz, a real estate developer who would later own the Boston Celtics, to secure the franchise. By 1975, he had become the majority owner of the team. Two years later they won their first – and so far only – NBA championship.” [Patch]
— Watch: Weinberg introduced then-Vice President Joe Biden at AIPAC’s Policy Conference in 2009. [CSPAN]
Edgar Hilsenrath, 92, Writer of Unvarnished Holocaust Novels, Dies — by Sam Roberts: “Edgar Hilsenrath, a German-Jewish survivor of Nazi persecution who unsentimentally stoked the embers of the Holocaust with brutally satirical autobiographical novels, died on Sunday in Wittlich, Germany. He was 92… Mr. Hilsenrath finished his first novel, “Night,” after emigrating to New York in 1951 as a refugee from war-torn Europe. (He lived in New York until 1975.) Published in English in 1964, the novel was inspired by his dehumanizing captivity in a Jewish ghetto.” [NYTimes]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: English celebrity chef, restaurateur and television star, Rick Stein turns 72… Founder and president of the Alliance for Justice in 1979, a progressive judicial advocacy group, Nan Aronturns 71… CEO since June 2001 of the Federation of American Hospitals, the advocacy organization for investor-owned hospitals, Charles N. (“Chip”) Kahn III turns 67… Retired member of Knesset (1999-2017), chairperson of Meretz since 2012, Zehava Gal-On (born in Vilna, Lithuania as Zehava Schnipitzky) turns 63… Author of the satirical Borowitz Report in The New Yorker and New York Times best-selling author, known for creating “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Andy Borowitz turns 61… Author of 30 best-selling mystery novels and thrillers with over 70 million copies in print, Harlan Coben turns 57… Professor of Economics and Strategic Management at UCSD, Yuval Rottenstreich turns 48… Daniel Zaretsky turns 47…
Historian who has held faculty positions at Harvard, Cambridge and Princeton and is the New York Times best-selling author of four books, he is a contributing editor at Politico Magazine, Joshua Michael Zeitz turns 45… Emmy award winning producer and journalist who oversaw daily production and control room operations of “Morning Joe” and now works on Kasie Hunt’s program, Ben Mayer turns 35… Director of scheduling and advance for Stacey Abrams in her 2018 run for Governor of Georgia, Samantha Slosberg turns 31… Center fielder for MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays since 2013, Kevin Pillar turns 30… Digital editor at The Washington Monthly and contributing correspondent for The Times of Israel covering US politics, Eric James Cortellessa turns 28… Member of the 2021 class at NYU Law School, he was previously a development associate at the Association of Reform Zionists of America and an intern in J Street’s NYC office, Alexander Langer… Judah Gavant…
SATURDAY: Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party (1981-1999), the last three years of which he served as Speaker of the Knesset, Dan Tichonturns 82… Former Philadelphia mayor (1992-2000) and Pennsylvania governor (2003-2011), currently a special counsel at Ballard Spahr and co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Immigration Task Force, Ed Rendell turns 75… Paul Meyer turns 75… Former Attorney General of the U.K. (2001-2007), now London co-managing partner and chair of the European and Asian litigation practice at Debevoise & Plimpton, Lord Peter Goldsmith turns 69… CEO of Legacy Interactive / Legacy Games (founded in 1998) and President of HitPoint Studios since 2017, Ariella Lehrer, Ph.D. turns 66…
Founder and principal of DC-based Mager & Associates, a boutique public policy and advocacy consulting firm, Mimi Mager turns 65… Chairman of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeYisrael), he served briefly in the Knesset for the Zionist Union party (2015-2016), Daniel “Danny” Atar turns 61… EVP of digital video for The Hill, he was previously chief creative officer of Sinclair Broadcasting’s Circa News and editor-in-chief at The Washington Times, John F. Solomon turns 52… Professional poker player who won the 2010, 2012 and 2018 World Series of Poker Players Championship, he also has two World Poker Tour titles, Michael Mizrachi turns 38…
SUNDAY: EVP and senior counsel of the Trump Organization, he is best known as one of the advisors on the NBC reality television program, The Apprentice, George H. Ross turns 91… Professor of Chemistry (now Emeritus) at The University of Chicago since 1957, member of the Board of Governors at Tel Aviv University, Stuart A. Rice turns 87… Canadian businessman, Seymour Schulich turns 79… Co-founder of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Henry R. Kravis turns 75… Chairman, president and CEO of Phibro Animal Health Corporation, Jack C. Bendheim turns 72… Educator, author and former chief rabbi of Frankfurt am Main (1988-1993), currently residing in Antwerp, Belgium, Rabbi Ahron Daum turns 68… Attorney General of Oregon, elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, she was previously a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals (2005-2011), Ellen Rosenblum turns 68…
President and editor in chief of Rewire (once known as RH Reality Check), she is a co-author of ten books and served previously as director of advocacy at American Jewish World Service, Jodi Lynn Jacobson turns 60… Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Oleksandr Feldman turns 59… Daniel Slatopolsky turns 55… Founder of Pure California Beverages, past president of American Technion Society’s Western Region, Advisory Board Member of Spinal Singularity, Sarah Beth Rena Conner turns 52… Actor, painter and fashion designer, he is the nephew of fashion designer, Ralph Lauren, Greg Lauren turns 49… Serial entrepreneur based in NYC, he is the founder and CEO at GTTFP Holdings and the founder of Regal Wings and Jewish dating sites, Harei At and Jedding, Eli Ostreicher turns 35… Jonah P. Kaplan turns 33… Head of business development at Goldman Sachs Investment Partners (a venture capital group), she was the manager of strategic partnerships at Start-Up Nation Central and a former Fulbright Scholar in Uganda, Anna Phillips…