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Daily Kickoff: Engel supports recognizing Israeli control of Golan, after Bibi asks Bolton to do same | Comparing Dead Sea Scrolls and NFL Rulebook

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DRIVING THE DAY — National Security Adviser John Bolton arrived in Israel this weekend to reassure Israeli leaders that Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria would not lessen the pressure on Iran and to reiterate the administration’s support of Israel’s security. U.S. concerns about the strengthening of Israel’s trade and technology ties with China was also a topic of dicussion during Bolton’s visit.

Netanyahu was supposed to take Bolton on a helicopter tour of the Golan Heights on Monday to convince the Trump administration of the importance of the U.S. recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. “I think that when you’re there you will be able to understand perfectly why we will never leave the Golan Heights and why it’s important that all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu told Bolton during a press conference at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem. But the tour was canceled due to inclement weather.

On Sunday, Bolton met with Netanyahu and Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen to discuss the U.S. and Israel’s “mutual response to the threat from Iran and the coordinated U.S. drawdown in Syria,” Bolton tweeted. Earlier in the day — accompanied by Ambassadors David Friedman and Ron Dermer — Bolton toured the ancient tunnels beneath the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Bolton, Friedman, Dermer and other members of the delegation get a virtual tour of ancient Jerusalem inside the tunnel complex beneath the Western Wall (Photo by AP) 

HOW IT PLAYED — Bolton Puts Conditions on Syria Withdrawal, Suggesting a Delay of Months or Years — by David Sanger, Noah Weiland and Eric Schmitt: “Mr. Bolton… told reporters that American forces would remain in Syria until the last remnants of the Islamic State were defeated and Turkey provided guarantees that it would not strike Kurdish forces allied with the United States. He and other top White House advisers have led a behind-the-scenes effort to slow Mr. Trump’s order and reassure allies, including Israel… While Mr. Bolton said on Sunday that he expected American forces to eventually leave northeastern Syria… he began to lay out an argument for keeping some troops at a garrison in the southeast that is used to monitor the flow of Iranian arms and soldiers.”

“The move to reverse course on Mr. Trump’s promised swift withdrawal picked up in recent days, even as Mr. Bolton worked to avoid openly confronting the president the way Mr. Mattis did.” [NYTimesWSJ]

Amid chaos over Trump’s foreign policy, Pompeo heads to Middle East with some explaining to do — by Tracy Wilkinson: “Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, starting this week, will swing through at least eight countries in eight days, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and most of the Persian Gulf… to explain U.S. intentions and reassure allies about the U.S. commitment to challenge Iran. “The United States is not leaving the Middle East,” a senior State Department official said, calling such suggestions “false narratives.” “We are not going anywhere… The policy of maximum pressure on Iran has not changed,” said the official.” [LATimes]

— America Isn’t Abandoning the Fight Against Iran — by Eli Lake: “In an interview, Pompeo stressed that the U.S. remains committed to kicking Iran and its proxies out of Syria — and to a broader strategy of countering Iran across the region. “That campaign hasn’t changed one lick,” he told me… Pompeo’s remarks also serve as a reminder that there are limits to Senator Rand Paul’s influence on Trump.” [Bloomberg]

BUT, BUT, BUT… Trump in a gaggle to reporters outside the White House yesterday: “We are pulling back in Syria. We’re going to be removing our troops. I never said we’re doing it that quickly, but we’re decimating ISIS… and we won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.” Reporter: How long?Trump: “It’s going quickly.”

SCENE YESTERDAY — Leaders of NORPAC, which calls itself the nation’s largest pro-Israel political action committee, hosted a fundraiser for Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY) at the home of Helene and Robert Rothenberg in Woodmere, New York. The new Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee reassured the some 40 attendees that bipartisan support for Israel would be maintained in the 116th Congress. [Pic

Rep. Engel discussed his new role as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh after the event. “There has to be a way where Congress authorizes the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to the president so the president just doesn’t have the blank check to do whatever he wants,” Engel said about Congress serving as a check to the Executive Branch on foreign policy. “After September 11, 2001, we voted for an AUMF to go after the terrorists. Each president since then has used that same AUMF. I think that that’s wrong, and that has to change.”

Engel on Israel requesting U.S. recognition of its sovereignty over the Golan Heights: “Yes, I support it. I think that Golan Heights is part of Israel and should remain part of Israel for strategic purposes. I also think that because of the situation it would be good for the United States, too. Whoever may take over Syria may try to recapture the Golan Heights. That’s certainly not something we want to see. It is also an important message to send that the close cooperation between the United States and Israel is still there, and still strong.”

Engel said he will talk with freshman members — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Rashida Tlaib (MI) and Ilhan Omar (MN) — regarding U.S. support for Israel. “I will talk to them,” he said. “I’ve already spoken to one of them. I will speak to all three of them. They may not agree with me at the end, but I’ll at least want them to hear the other point of view. You never know —sometimes when you talk to people you can convince them.”

“Look, it might not be in the past where you had 99 percent of everybody agreeing with Israel and maybe 90 percent or whatever,” the senior Democrat continued. “But it’s still gonna be an overwhelming majority of both parties agreeing that U.S. support of Israel is important. So, I’m not too worried. But we can’t sit back on our laurels. I will speak with anyone, including with any of the new freshmen, to give them my point of view about the Middle East and hopefully, they’ll agree and change their minds.”

ON THE HILL — With the partial government shutdown in its third week, Democratic Senators criticized Senate leadership for considering the passage of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 — legislation that would authorize the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding, provide new authorities for sanctions against Syria’s Assad regime, and empower state and local U.S. governments in the U.S. to counter the BDS movement — among the Senate’s top legislative priorities. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin from Maryland urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a prime sponsor of the bill, not take up any bills unrelated to reopening the government.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called it “absurd” that the first bill during the shutdown is “legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity. Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government. Let’s get our priorities right.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) tweeted in response: “They forgot what country they represent. This is the U.S. where boycotting is a right and part of our historical fight for freedom and equality. Maybe a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order, then get back to opening up our government instead of taking our rights away.”

Seth Mandel“The totally-not-anti-Semitic Rashida Tlaib levels the dual-loyalty accusation *right out of the gate.* Amazing. Every reporter going to ask all the prominent Dems about this?”

— Freelancer Howard Lovy“Not a week into it and Rashida Tlaib is already invoking the old anti-Semitic “dual loyalty” garbage. There are many things wrong with anti-BDS legislation, but when the first thing she raises is the ancient specter of Jewish disloyalty, you know this is going to be a rough ride.”

SHUTDOWN WATCH — U.S. Government Shutdown Endangers American Aid to Palestinian Security Forces — by Amir Tibon: “The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act states that international entities that receive any form of foreign assistance from the U.S. will become vulnerable to lawsuits filed by U.S. citizens in American courts… Over the past two months, the Trump administration has tried to work with Congress to amend the legislation so that it won’t prevent the PA from accepting U.S. security assistance. Attempts to amend the legislation, however, are currently in stasis due to the government shutdown… If the law isn’t fixed before the end of January, it will be too late for the upcoming fiscal year, and the PA will be forced to reject U.S. assistance.”[Haaretz]

Jonathan Weisman writes… “American Jews and Israeli Jews Are Headed for a Messy Breakup: My rabbi in Washington, Daniel Zemel, quoted the Israeli Yaniv Sagee during Kol Nidre, the Yom Kippur evening service, this fall: “For the first time in my life, I feel a genuine threat to my life in Israel. This is not an external threat. It is an internal threat from nationalists and racists.” Rabbi Zemel implored his congregation to act before it is too late, to save Israel from itself. But Israelis want nothing of the sort. American Jews don’t serve in the Israeli military, don’t pay Israeli taxes and don’t live under the threat of Hamas rocket bombardments. And many American Jews would not heed Rabbi Zemel’s call.” [NYTimes]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Unveiling of Trump’s much-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan to be delayed by months — by Carol Lee: “U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman says the Trump administration plans to release its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan “within the next several months.” “We want to release it a way that gives it the best chance of getting a good reception,” Friedman told reporters traveling with Bolton in Israel. He said the Israeli elections in April “are a factor, but not the only factor” influencing the timing of the proposal’s release… “The challenge to a peace plan is making the case for a much more sober assessment of the realities in this region,” Friedman said.” [NBCNews]

Jewish teenagers arrested in October stoning death of Palestinian woman — by Ruth Eglash: “Several Jewish teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of carrying out “serious terror offenses,” including the killing of a Palestinian woman three months ago, Israel’s internal security agency made public on Sunday… The arrests over the past week still served to stoke nationalist tensions in the country as it gears up for a general election on April 9.” [WashPost]

ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — Fratricide in Full Bloom as Israeli Election Campaign Heats Up — by David Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner: “Israeli politics is notoriously turbulent, but the drama-a-day tumult and the suspense over Mr. Netanyahu’s legal predicament left one columnist comparing the campaign to a television series and wishing only that it could be binge-watched.” [NYTimes]

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to announce his decision whether to charge Netanyahu in the three criminal investigations in February, a source close to the AG told Haaretz… The Washington Post likened Mandelblit’s dilemma to the lose-lose situation former FBI Director James Comey faced during the 2016 presidential election… Netanyahu in a 30-second clip posted on Facebook: “Don’t start a hearing before the election, if the hearing won’t be completed by the election.”

GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is reportedly behind the formation of the new right-wing party led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked… Though Bennett and Shaked have announced that they will recommend Netanyahu as PM after the elections, an editorial featured on Israel Hayom cover page on Sunday called on Netanyahu and Bennett to unite. In a two-page spread, editor-in-chief Boaz Bismuth invoked Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, “Don’t speak ill of your brothers and sisters on the Right.”… According to a report by Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, the New Right party reached out to former UN Ambassador Ron Prosor about joining the party list…

TALK OF THE REGION — Moscow’s Little-Noticed Islamic-Outreach Effort — by Hassan Hassan: “Russia’s growing presence in the Middle East is generally discussed in military and economic terms… A little-noticed trend, however, is Moscow’s focus on promoting politically pacifist Islam, which has coincided with an aggressive push by certain Arab countries to combat Islamism… “Russia is generally investing in the idea that it is not America, it is not against Islam, it is offering a moderate alternative, and their tool in this is Ramzan Kadyrov and the Chechen model,” says a political analyst of Chechen origins. “Chechnya is known … to people in the region.” [TheAtlantic]

China unveils plans to ‘sinify’ Islam amid signs of spreading crackdown — by Lucy Hornby: “China has pledged to “sinify” Islam over the next four years, amid signs that a security crackdown that has seen the internment of millions of the country’s Muslims could spread. In the past two years, China has locked up at least 1m Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic group native to the northwestern region of Xinjiang who speak a language closely related to Turkish.” [FinancialTimes

2020 WATCH —Biden Sees Himself as Democrats’ Best Hope in 2020, Allies Say — by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns: “Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is in the final stages of deciding whether to run for president and has told allies he is skeptical the other Democrats eyeing the White House can defeat President Trump… The former vice president told a senior Democratic official last week that he is both likely to run and that his aides have told him he must move quickly in this primary… Mr. Biden is under significant pressure from his party’s major donors to make up his mind — no later than the end of January — or risk watching them migrate to other candidates.” [NYTimes]

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand gauges Wall Street executives’ interest in backing a potential 2020 presidential run — by Brian Schwartz: “Gillibrand has personally been working the phones and calling senior executives at Wall Street firms in recent weeks to see whether they would back her campaign if she jumps into the race.” [CNBC]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Sam Nazarian’s SBE Group is expanding its famed Delano brand with ambitious plans to open a new Delano Hotel in the Coachella Valley [Forbes] • CBS wants Les Moonves heir to run Viacom, too, if merger happens [NYPost• Bloomberg negotiating for business news TV channel in Israel [Haaretz• Zuckerberg hospital’s aggressive tactics leave patients with big bills [Vox] •An art dealer with clients including billionaires Leon Black and Ronald Lauder is selling 10 works from his private collection[Bloomberg]

MEDIA WATCH — CBS President David Rhodes stepping down after ‘nightmare’ year — by Emily Smith and Sara Nathan: “CBS President David Rhodes is to leave the network – after a “nightmare” year for CBS… Under-pressure Rhodes — whose contract is up next month — has been at the helm of the news division for over seven years. But he’s faced a troubled year starting with Charlie Rose’s exit amid sexual harassment allegations… A TV source told Page Six, Rhodes is working on an exit deal with CBS, saying: “David wasn’t going to be fired. But it has been a nightmare year for him after a good run.” [PageSixHollywoodReporter] • Susan Zirinsky will replace David Rhodes as CBS News president, becoming first woman to lead division [LATimes]

PROFILE — Meet Dr. Miriam Adelson: the record-breaking Republican donor driving Trump’s Israel policy — by Christina Binkley: “Miriam’s influence has been deeper than many credit, although she appears to have been perfectly comfortable remaining in her 85-year-old husband’s shadow until recently… Evidence suggests that [Miriam Adelson] is the driver in the couple’s political and philanthropic activities… “Everybody says it’s Sheldon, but it’s Miriam,” says Michael Cherry, associate chief justice of the Nevada supreme court, who sits on the board of the Las Vegas methadone clinic that the Adelsons founded… Federal election records reflect that Sheldon’s first political donation, in 1984, was $1,000 to the Democratic candidate from Massachusetts for US Senate, John Kerry. Miriam’s US political contributions began in 1991 – also to Democrats.” [TheGuardian]

HOLLYWOOD — Nicole Perlman Harnesses Her Superpowers — by Dana Goodyear: “Perlman is thirty-seven and gentle… In 2014, she became the first woman to write a Marvel Studios movie, “Guardians of the Galaxy”; its audience was forty-four percent female—a record. “Captain Marvel,” the brand’s first superheroine movie, which Perlman co-wrote, comes out in March. “It was very important to us that she didn’t get her powers from her outfit,” Perlman said. Later, she wrote in an e-mail, “I put a lot of thought into the way Captain Marvel interacts with her powers, in the light of what it means to be an empowered woman.” [NewYorker]

‘Game of Thrones’ creator George R.R. Martin discovers he’s nearly a quarter Jewish on ‘Finding Your Roots’ — by Curt Schleier: “PBS’ celebrity genealogy show “Finding Your Roots” season five premiere, which airs Jan. 8, contains the most dramatic Jewish story the show has unearthed so far: “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin discovers he’s nearly a quarter Jewish.” [JTA]

SPORTS BLINK — A year ago, Brady, Belichick, and Kraft were at a crossroads, but they have found common ground: “One thing that’s certain in the NFL is change,” Tom Brady said on Thursday, before the team broke for the bye… He wasn’t so happy last year, at least not until the team traded his backup and heir apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo. But that move didn’t sit so well with Belichick, done as it was at [Bob] Kraft’s behest, to ease things with Brady. That thorny situation, along with Belichick’s abrasive coaching style, Brady’s uncomfortable devotion to (Brady’s personal trainer Alex) Guerrero, and Kraft being put in the middle, made for awkward times.”[BostonGlobe]

TOP QUOTE — TV sportscaster Al Michaels during the Eagles vs. Bears playoff game last night: “The Dead Sea Scrolls are easier to dissect than the NFL rulebook.” [Video]

LONG READ — Viktor Orbán’s Far-Right Vision for Europe — by Elisabeth Zerofsky: “[Peter] Nizak told me that, one day, he was watching TV with his son, who is six, when an anti-Soros campaign ad appeared. “I told him, ‘Do you know I work for George Soros?’ And he said, ‘No! ’ ” … Some members of Fidesz argue that [George] Soros is a left-wing version of the Koch brothers, funding organizations that conform with his political vision. Soros has spent far more money, worldwide, than the Kochs have in the U.S. “He enters into the realm of political debate, O.K., he’s welcome. But then he will meet with political responses,” Balázs Hidvéghi, the communications director for Fidesz, told me. “If you step into a boxing ring, then you shouldn’t be surprised if you get a punch.” [NewYorker

TALK OF THE TOWN — A French blogger brought down by his own tweets wants a second chance — by James McAuley: “Two years ago, Mehdi Meklat was a prince among this city’s intellectual aristocrats, celebrated as a precocious thinker and an important minority voice. Just 24, he was a star blogger for the French newspaper Libération… But in February 2017, journalists uncovered anti-Semitic and homophobic tweets on an account belonging to Meklat, and his meteoric rise was quickly overshadowed by a staggering fall. Now Meklat is back, attempting to clear his name… Meklat used the account to attack any number of public targets… In one of these, Marcelin Deschamps calls for a physical attack on Alain Finkielkraut, a conservative Jewish intellectual and the son of Polish-Jewish refugees who escaped the Holocaust… As part of his apology tour, Meklat called Finkielkraut and asked to see him. “I was touched by that,” Finkielkraut said in an interview. He invited Meklat for tea and was curious to hear what he had to say.” [WashPost]

ACROSS THE SEA — Belgium Bans Religious Slaughtering Practices, Drawing Praise and Protest  — by Milan Schreuer: “A Belgian ban on the Muslim and Jewish ways of ritually slaughtering animals went into effect on New Year’s Day, part of a clash across Europe over the balance between animal welfare and religious freedom… “It is impossible to know the true intentions of people,” said Yaakov David Schmahl, a senior rabbi in Antwerp. “Unless people state clearly what they have in mind, but most anti-Semites don’t do that.” … Belgium, with a population of about 11 million, is home to roughly 500,000 Muslims and over 30,000 Jews… Leaders of both groups say they hope that lawsuits they have filed in Belgium’s Constitutional Court might still lift the ban on slaughtering.” [NYTimes

DESSERT — Is This Duck Kosher? It’s Complicated — by Dan Nosowitz: “Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Zohar Amar, professors at Bar Ilan University… write that, in 1861, a rabbi who had just moved to New Orleans found his new Jewish community was eating a weird duck he’d never seen before. He wrote to some other rabbis back in Europe, who said that there was no mesorah on the Muscovy duck, and further that the eggs looked sort of odd, and so it should be banned… Rabbis in Argentina actually sent back two live Muscovy ducks to Europe—only one survived—for some other European rabbis to examine. Those other rabbis wrote back saying that the bird was perfectly fine to eat.. With those rulings, the Muscovy gained in popularity among Jewish farmers in the Old World, especially in France and Israel, as well as in South America. But not in the U.S.” [AtlasObscura]

REMEMBERING — Moshe Arens, Israeli Statesman and Ex-Defense Minister, Dies at 93 — by Isabel Kershner: “Moshe Arens, the Israeli politician and statesman who served three times as defense minister, and also as foreign minister and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, died Monday in Savyon, Israel… Mr. Arens, also known by his nickname, Misha… was born in Kovno, now Kaunas, Lithuania, on Dec. 27, 1925, and moved with his family to the United States at 13. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as a technical sergeant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers in World War II before leaving to fight in Israel’s 1948 war of independence… After going back to the United States for graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology and a stint in the American aviation industry, Mr. Arens returned to Israel in 1957 for good.” [NYTimes]

IN MEMORIAM — The Israel of Amos Oz — by Bernard Avishai: “In recent years, Oz coined perhaps his most influential turn of phrase, which has been picked up by virtually all politicians in the peace camp and implies the solidarity of that “slimmer” Israel. Namely, he said that Israelis and Palestinians must “divorce,” that they must split “this small house into two little apartments.” … But divorce is not a neutral metaphor, and Oz made clear that he meant something quite radical by it: that the two peoples should get more or less entirely out of each other’s lives. (He often quoted Robert Frost on the virtues of “good fences.”) In effect, he was saying that the two-state solution should finally solve what the 1948 war did not. In his view, the occupation was to be condemned because it was inviting, ultimately, a demographic nightmare, an “Arab state from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the Jordan River.” [NewYorker] • Simon Schama: Amos Oz, the novelist whose sorrowing gaze extended well beyond Israel [FinancialTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: US District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, appointed by President Clinton in 1994, Judge Paul D. Borman turns 80… Pulitzer Prize-winning sports reporter, columnist and writer, he wrote for the New York Times from 1981 to 2007, Ira Berkow turns 79… Co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, former owner of Men’s Journal and Us Weekly magazines, co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jann Wenner turns 73… Scottsdale, Arizona resident, Bob Dorfman turns 73… President of the University of South Florida System serving over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students, Judy Genshaft turns 71… Dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills, starting in 2011 he assumed control of his family’s real estate operations, Dr. Ezra Kest turns 61… Documentary filmmaker with a focus on social justice inquiries and Jewish history subjects, Roberta Grossman turns 60… Heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, his 49,000 square foot mansion is the second largest home in Los Angeles, Anthony Pritzker turns 58…

Physician, US Senator from Kentucky since 2011, he was a presidential candidate in 2016, Rand Paul turns 56… Global head of marketing and investor relations at Amber Capital, she also serves since 2017 as president of the Jewish Communal Fund, Zoya Raynes turns 43… Television and film actress and model, Lauren Cohan turns 37… Founder of Keystone Strategy + Advocacy, Aryeh Eliezer “Ari” Mittleman turns 36… Director of communications at the Center For Global Development, Holly Shulman turns 36 (h/t Playbook)… Assistant director at Hillel of Stanford University, Jeremy Ragent turns 32… Los Angeles based correspondent at Entertainment Weekly, she has written for publications including The New Yorker, The Guardian, The New York Observer, and GQ, Dana Schwartz turns 26… The first Israeli player ever drafted by a Major League Baseball team, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 2018 as part of the Manny Machado deal with the Dodgers, Dean Kremer turns 23…