Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: DNC, 2020 Dems avoiding Women’s March | Ken Pollack’s new book | Remembering Ray Perelman

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LONG READ — Aboard the private jet of billionaire owner Marc Lasry as the Milwaukee Bucks are flying high — by Frank Isola: “There is commercial air travel, and then there is traveling like this; aboard a luxury private jet and landing courtside to watch Giannis Antetokounmpo lead the Bucks to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. It’s a dizzying seven-hour excursion from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey to Milwaukee and back that Lasry, usually accompanied by 12 invited passengers, makes approximately 25 times each NBA season.”

”All 30 NBA owners see the game the same way and many — including the Mavericks’ Mark Cuban, the Clippers’ Steve Ballmer and the Suns’ Robert Sarver — are not shy about voicing their displeasure publicly. Lasry is no different. In fact, the only begging that Lasry’s ever done in his life is for a foul call. Otherwise, everything Lasry has is the residue of hard work and, as he likes to say, “luck.” Before striking it rich, Lasry, 59, started at the bottom. His family settled in West Hartford, Conn., in the late 1960s with Lasry sharing a bedroom with his two sisters. Their father, Moise, was a computer programmer, and their mother, Elise, was a schoolteacher. The elder Lasrys stressed education and solid work ethic.”

“The plane arrives in New Jersey at approximately 12:15 a.m., and the mood, thanks to the Bucks’ comeback victory, is light. It’s been a long day for Lasry, who in the morning met with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) about a possible presidential run. Having Lasry’s support and resources is crucial. Lasry is a major donor in the Democratic Party. He is good friends with former President Bill Clinton, himself an alumnus of the Lasry Shuttle to Milwaukee. In fact, Lasry does a spot-on Clinton impersonation and even had Greg Monroe impressed when Lasry used Clinton’s voice during a free agency meeting four years ago.” [TheAthletic]

2020 WATCH — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced she was forming a 2020l exploratory committee during an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert… Hillary Clinton donors are unhappy with Gillibrand for speaking out against former Senator Al Franken… Mike Bloomberg said during an appearance at the University of Toronto on Tuesday that he can be elected president despite his age. “There is nothing wrong with people being young. But there is also nothing wrong with people being older,” said Bloomberg, who turns 77 next month… Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will visit all four early presidential primary and caucus states in a tour starting later this month…

ON THE HILL — On Tuesday, the House approved a resolution condemning white supremacy by a vote of 424-1. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), whose comments about white supremacy were the reason the resolution was introduced, voted in favor. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) voted against the resolution because he seeks King’s formal censure and is pushing for a vote this week.

“I agree with the language in it. So I want to ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, let’s vote for this resolution,” King said on the House floor. “I’m putting up a yes on the board here because what you state here is right and it’s true and it’s just.” [Video]

HOW IT PLAYED — Republicans Rebuke Steve King but Face Vexing Question: Why Not Sooner? — by Jonathan Martin: “Why would Republicans wait until Mr. King flatly defended white supremacy to punish him? “I haven’t been following every utterance of Congressman King. I certainly followed this one, and I think the House Republican conference did the right thing,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, told reporters Tuesday. Asked the same question, [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy shot back: “Have I been leader for years?” He said he had been the top House Republican for only “a short amount of time” and was now “in a position to take action.” [NYTimes

The Des Moines Register calls for King to resign: “Congressman Steve King should resign. He has lost even the potential to effectively represent his Iowa constituents… It wasn’t until a few weeks before the November election that top national Republicans and corporate donors started to abandon King. That was just after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. It also was just after it had been revealed that King spent time on a trip funded by a Holocaust memorial organization to meet with a far-right Austrian group associated with neo-Nazis.”

HEARD YESTERDAY — Attorney General nominee William Barr revealedduring a confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee that U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman approached him in June of 2017 about joining President Trump’s legal defense team. “My understanding was that he was interested in finding lawyers that could augment the defense team,” Barr said. “He asked me a number of questions like ‘What have you said about the President publicly?’ and ‘Do you have any conflicts?’ and so forth.” Barr added that he decided not to pursue the option. [Video]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Mueller Probe Likely to Restrict Michael Cohen’s Testimony — by Rebecca Ballhaus and Nicole Hong: “The testimony of Michael Cohen… before the House Oversight Committee next month is expected to be highly restricted to avoid interfering with the special counsel’s Russia investigation… While Mr. Cohen’s testimony may be restricted, he is expected to give an explosive recounting of his experience working for Mr. Trump… The House Oversight Committee is still in the process of consulting with Mr. Mueller and New York federal prosecutors on the terms of Mr. Cohen’s testimony.” [WSJ]

TOP TALKER — The Democratic Party Drops Its Sponsorship of The Women’s March Amid Farrakhan Blow-up — by Jackie Kucinich: “The Democratic National Committee has become the latest group to removed its name from the list of sponsors of the Women’s March less than 24 hours after one of the March’s leaders refused to denounce Louis Farrakhan during a nationally televised interview… That exchange appeared to be a breaking point for the DNC.” [DailyBeast] • 2020 Democrats Are Avoiding The Women’s March [BuzzFeed]

Rabbis Torn About Women’s March, Despite Secret Meeting With Sarsour, Mallory — by Aiden Pink: “Last week, 13 prominent rabbis held a secret meeting — with Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, leaders of the Women’s March… The gathering, say those in attendance, was productive, but painful, and still inconclusive. It generated a letter of support for the march, signed by 9 of the 13 rabbis in attendance. And as of Tuesday night, lots of the rabbis still didn’t know what they would be doing come Saturday.” [Forward]

JI INTERVIEW — Halie Soifer, Executive Director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), discussed the Women’s March and the Senate Democrats’ opposition to the motion to proceed to a Senate floor debate on the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 in a phone interview with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh.

“As of December 20th, we came out publicly against the leaders of the Women’s March, and while we support the overall objective of the march and stand behind all the sister marches that are going to take place this weekend, we called on the leadership to step down. The fact that they continue to stand in line with Farrakhan and the fact that they haven’t publicly denounced anti-Semitism, is deeply concerning. And we support those organizations who have pulled their partnership with them.”

On the Israel-related legislation: “This whole charade in the Senate has very little to do with Israel. There’s overwhelming bipartisan support for this legislation. This was a bill that had unanimous support in the last Congress before Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) held it up. The story isn’t about Israel. The point Democrats are making here is that we are now in uncharted waters right now with the government shutdown and the focus has to be on reopening the government. And we stand behind the Democrats on this. Now obviously the Republican leadership has chosen to focus on other matters. And if the vote was just one vote, perhaps it would look as they were truly trying to pass that legislation. However, if they really wanted to pass this legislation in the previous Congress, McConnell could have found a way to do that. The fact that they have now scheduled the fourth vote on the same package exposes this strategy as it is, which is to make issues related to Israel partisan, and we reject that.”

Soifer on Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s recent remarks: “It’s important not to overstate their influence within the Democratic Party. They are the only two members of Congress out of 535 members that have publically expressed support for the BDS movement. The Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate is both strongly opposed to BDS and there’s absolutely no reason to believe that these two freshmen will have any influence on the party’s position beyond the influence they may have on social media. And we saw that with the clear condemnation of Tlaib’s dual loyalty claim.”

Hallandale commissioner: Muslim congresswoman might ‘blow up’ Capitol Hill — by Susannah Bryan: “A Jewish commissioner from Hallandale Beach, Florida has accused a Muslim congresswoman from Michigan of being an anti-Semite who might “blow up Capitol Hill.” … Hallandale Commissioner Annabelle Lima-Taub signed an online petition seeking to remove Rashida Tlaib from office and posted the petition on her personal Facebook page.” [SunSentinel]

STATE-SIDE — Florida governor goes after Airbnb over West Bank decision — by Terry Spencer and Gary Fineout: “Saying he would “make them feel the heat,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday called for sanctions against Airbnb unless it reverses its decision barring lodging listings in the disputed West Bank in the Middle East… “We have a moral obligation to oppose the Airbnb policy; it does target Jews specifically,” said DeSantis… DeSantis also announced that his first overseas trip would be to Israel in May, and he pledged at least $2 million in state money to Jewish schools for security upgrades.” [AP]

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton defends anti-Israel boycott law — by Asher Price: “A state law barring governmental entities from doing business with contractors who support a boycott of Israel should not have been applied in the case of a school speech pathologist in Pflugerville — but the law should remain intact, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued in a court filing Tuesday.” [Statesman]

BOOK OF THE WEEK — Armies of Sand by Kenneth Pollack, Oxford University Press, 696 pages, $34.95.

Pollack tells us: “Armies of Sand looks at the question of why Arab militaries have underperformed so consistently in war after war since 1945, losing so many wars they should have won and winning modest victories when the material balance favored them so heavily. I look at 15+ cases of Arab militaries in combat—from the Jordanians and Syrians in 1948 to the Iraqis, ISIS, and Hizballah in 2012-2018—and I compare them to 6 non-Arab militaries. I ultimately conclude that it is a combination of underdevelopment, poor civil-military relations, and behavior patterns emphasized by Arab culture that have produced this parade of misfortune.”

“I end by warning that while Arab military weakness has been a critical element of the military balance in the modern Middle East, one that has actually led to a certain degree of stability because most of the Arab states learned by the 1970s that they did not have the wherewithal to fight conventional wars against Israel, the U.S., or one another, Arab society and warfare are both changing in very significant ways, and the next 25 years could be far more dangerous as various Arab groups and states begin to believe that they can win wars that they once tried to avoid altogether.”

Q: Could you explain Israel’s current military strategy as it relates to Syria and Lebanon, describing what it has been in the past and how it might change in the future?

Pollack: “Israel faces a real conundrum in Syria. Its goal is first and foremost preventing Iran from building a military infrastructure there that threatens Israel—like the one that it helped Hizballah build in Lebanon. Iran is building up the capabilities to mount terrorist and rocket/missile attacks against Israel from Syria. That is why Israel has repeatedly struck Iranian targets in Syria. But, Israel does not want to start an all-out war with Iran, because Jerusalem is rightly concerned that if it does so, Hizballah and Iran will fire thousands of rockets and missiles at Israel’s cities. Israel may still “win” but it will pay a heavy price and Iran would doubtless start rebuilding immediately, just as Hizballah does after every war with Israel in Lebanon. Moreover, air power is not an ideal weapon to use for this task.”

“The only sure way to tear up the extensive military infrastructure Iran is building there would be to invade on the ground, but the last thing that Israel wants is to fight a major ground war in an Arab state—one that would require it to push through, if not temporarily occupy—Syrian cities like Damascus. That would be a nightmare for Israel. It’s why Israel’s strong preference is to have the U.S. remain engaged in Syria, build up the Syrian opposition, and either defeat Iran and force it to retreat, or force the Iranians to leave in return for an American agreement to stop backing the opposition. However, any of that would require a greater American effort in Syria, not the withdrawal that Trump has announced.” [JewishInsider]

Matti Friedman writes… “There Is No ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’: Most of Israel’s wars haven’t been fought against Palestinians. Since the invasion of five Arab armies at the declaration of the State of Israel in May 1948, the Palestinians have made up a small number of the combatants facing the country… Over the decades when Arab nationalism was the region’s dominant ideology, Israeli soldiers faced Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Iraqis… The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.” [NYTimes]

Martin Indyk writes… “What Henry Kissinger Knew That Mike Pompeo Does Not: What about the Arab-Israeli peace process, through which Kissinger promoted an era of American dominance in the Middle East? Every other secretary of state since Kissinger has taken up that endeavor. Not Pompeo. In his Cairo speech, he devoted one sentence to it. He has left that difficult challenge to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who has been tinkering with his peace plan for more than two years now with no expectation that he will launch it anytime soon.” [TheAtlantic]

PALACE INTRIGUE — Chris Christie accuses Jared Kushner of political ‘hit job’ in explosive new book — by Ed Pilkington and Martin Pengelly: “In one of the most visceral passages of the book, Christie recounts for the first time how Jared Kushner badmouthed him to Trump in April 2016, pleading with his father-in-law not to make Christie transition chairman. Remarkably, he did so while Christie was in the room… Kushner went on to tell Trump that it wasn’t fair his father spent so long in prison… Trump, in an effort to settle the dispute, proposed a dinner between him, Jared and Charles Kushner, and Christie. Much to Christie’s relief, Jared didn’t acquiesce. In the end, Trump gave Christie the job. But according to Let Me Finish, Kushner had the final say.” [TheGuardian]

— Excerpt: “I did everything I could to make sure my friend Donald reached the White House fully prepared to serve. But a handful of selfish individuals sidetracked our very best efforts. They set loose toxic forces that have made Trump’s presidency far less effective than it would otherwise have been… In Bannon-speak, the KID is only one person. Not Donald Jr. Not younger son Eric. Not Ivanka or Tiffany. The kid is Jared Kushner, the husband of Ivanka Trump and the son of the real estate developer Charles Kushner, a man I once sent to prison.” [Axios]

Maggie Haberman tweets“Recurring theme from sources over last two days: Kushner is the de facto chief of staff, whether people realize it or not.”

** Good Wednesday 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: Adam Neumann Makes Millions as Landlord to WeWork [WSJ] • James and Merryl Tisch listed as plaintiffs in a complaint filed Monday by Chubb Indemnity Insurance against New York City[DailyMail] • Barry Rosenstein’s Jana Is Closing Two Hedge Funds That Lost Money in 2018 [WSJ] • Goodbye, New York. Adam Moss Is Leaving the Magazine He Has Edited for 15 Years [NYTimes] • Israel Tax Authority to Demand Over NIS One Billion From Teva [Calcalist]

U.S. Urges Israel to Vet Foreign Investment Amid China Concerns – by Ivan Levingston: “Ahead of meetings with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and the head of Israel’s cyber directorate, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette told reporters Tuesday in Tel Aviv that Israel should take “aggressive steps” to check foreign investment. Otherwise, he said, potential vulnerabilities in Israeli infrastructure could put intelligence sharing with the U.S. at risk.” [Bloomberg

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — New Mall Devotes a Floor to Online Retailers — by Esther Fung and Keiko Morris: “At the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., shoppers can browse items from close to 30 mostly former online-only brands in a 10,000-square-foot store called Fourpost, which is a collection of multiple storefronts. The studio-shop concept, which includes brands such as Hagen and Oats, a local custom wood décor retailer, has already drawn 125,000 people so far since it opened in November last year, said Mark Ghermezian, founder and chief executive of Fourpost Inc. “We get knee-deep with the brands, their stories and help them with their retail strategies,” Mr. Ghermezian said, adding that Fourpost is also focused on sales, not just brand awareness.” [WSJ]

SPORTS BLINK — Aly Raisman says she represents Americans and Jews when she performs: “A letter from a Holocaust survivor helped Aly Raisman realize that when she performed, she was not only representing her country. “I had no idea how much of an impact it would have on the Jewish community,” Raisman said Tuesday, describing her 2012 gold medal-winning routine, which included a component to the music of “Hava Nagila.” … “I didn’t realize at the time I was representing not only the United States but the Jewish community,” Raisman told the Lion of Judah conference… Raisman has become a face of the #MeToo movement in the wake of her testimony against Larry Nassar, the former U.S. Olympics gymnastics team physician… In an interview at the event, Raisman told Bari Weiss, a New York Times editor, that the attention has become overwhelming, including anti-Semitic attacks on social media.” [JTA]

Roman Abramovich makes rare Chelsea appearance fronting Holocaust memorial campaign video — by Duncan Wright: “Chelsea owner Abramovich has been keeping a low profile this season while he remains outside of the UK due to visa issues. But the billionaire Russian joined forces with a string of Chelsea men’s and women’s stars as the club launched a video raising awareness of the horrors of the Holocaust and the dangers of all forms of racism… Abramovich, Eden Hazard, and Cesar Azpilicueta are all seen holding signs with the message #WeRemember ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.” [TheSun

SPOTTED — Joe Lieberman at Tavere on E 84th street last night. [Pich/t Zachary Silver

DESSERT — A Huge Hollywood Money Group Steps Up to Save Nate N’ Al in Beverly Hills — by Farley Elliott: “A group of wealthy Hollywood types is in line to keep the iconic Nate N’ Al deli alive… [Irving] Azoff has long been rumored to be a part of the purchase team for the decades-old deli in Beverly Hills. Now the Hollywood Reporter is saying he’s not alone: Shelli Azoff, Jay Sures (UTA), Rande Gerber/Cindy Crawford, Jeff Shell, and others are said to be involved. The big-money move comes just shy of the deli’s 75-year anniversary, and remains clouded in some uncertainty.” [EaterLA]

REMEMBERING — Raymond G. Perelman, master entrepreneur and philanthropist, dies at 101 — by Joseph DiStefano: “Raymond G. Perelman, who built a fortune buying and selling factories amid America’s industrial decline and gave more than $300 million to Penn’s medical school and Philadelphia art and Jewish charities, died Monday… The son of immigrants, Perelman bought and sold scores of companies with a decisiveness that inspired his contemporaries. Perelman found opportunities even in bankruptcies… He also became one of the Philadelphia region’s greatest philanthropists, leaving his mark at the University of Pennsylvania and beyond… In politics, he tended to back Republicans, including 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Son Ronald, who works out of New York, is the head of the MacAndrews & Forbes conglomerate, which has included Revlon cosmetics and many other retail brands.” [PhillyInquirerSeattleTimes]

— Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, Chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, emails us: “To me, Ray personally reflected an important span in our history. Fleeing the persecution of Europe, living through the wartime, after which we found him actively participating and indeed becoming a leader in Jewish communal life – in Philadelphia, nationally and generally on behalf of Israel. Jewish education and continuity was of paramount importance to him, and his legacy of compassion and strong Jewish identity – which the (Lubavitcher) Rebbe inspired and nurtured – will certainly continue robustly through Ronald and his family. May his memory be for a blessing.”

BIRTHDAYS: Physicist and professor of materials science at Oxford (1966-1992), Sir Peter Bernhard Hirsch turns 94… Editor-in-Chief (1960-1995; now Editor-at-Large) of Commentary magazine, author of the 2009 book “Why Are Jews Liberals?” Norman Podhoretz turns 89… Author of 12 novels for young adults, sports journalist for the New York Times, ESPN, CBS and NBC, he served as the Ombudsman for ESPN, Robert Lipsyte turns 81… Socially conservative talk radio host and relationship advisor since 1975, on Sirius XM Radio since 2011, author of over 20 books, Dr. Laura Schlessinger turns 72… Staff writer for the Atlanta Jewish Times, Suzi Brozman turns 72… Chef, food writer, culinary editor for the Modern Library, host of PBS’s “Gourmet’s Adventures With Ruth,” recipient of four James Beard Awards, Ruth Reichl turns 71… Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hazon Ovadia, Harav Yitzhak Yosef turns 67…

Uzbekistan-born Israeli billionaire and industrialist, Michael Cherney turns 67… Founder, Chairman and CEO of RealNetworks which produces RealAudio, RealVideo and RealPlayer, Robert Denis “Rob” Glaser turns 57… First employee and subsequently first president of eBay, internet entrepreneur, philanthropist and movie producer, Jeffrey Skoll turns 54… Educational entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, she is the founder and CEO of Cognition Builders, Ilana Kukoff turns 54… DC-native, back in DC after 10 years in London, a strategic communications consultant at Podium, Debbie Berger Fox turns 46… Researcher at McGill University, in 2018 he was awarded a Ph.D. at Columbia U, he is a former speechwriter for then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senator Chris Dodd, Rob Goodman turns 35… J.D. candidate at Seton Hall University School of Law, David Ptalis turns 29… Joseph Bornstein

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