Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Iran the only victor of Iraq war says U.S. Army | Tom Friedman: Israeli-PA peace not the key to Mideast stability | Trending: Schmaltz

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DEALING AT DAVOS — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that the Trump administration would roll out their anticipated peace plan after the Israeli Knesset elections on April 9th. “We’ve begun to share elements of this across the region,” Pompeo said in remarks via satellite to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday. “It won’t be a U.S.-driven process. Ultimately, the Israelis and the Palestinians will have to come to an agreement. But we think that the foundations that we have laid and the work that we’ll do immediately following the Israeli elections will set conditions where we can have a constructive conversation.” [Video]

— Three senior White House aides tell the Jerusalem Post’s Michael Wilnerthat Trump’s peace team is gaming out a timetable for the release of their plan possibly even before a governing coalition is formed in Israel. According to Israeli law, the candidate nominated by the president for prime minister has 42 days to form a coalition.

Dov Zakheim tells us: “It depends very much on what the Israeli elections are going to look like. And the question is even if the next prime minister is not Netanyahu, will it be a right-wing government, which all the opinion polls seem to indicate it will be? So the Palestinians have to really wait and see how that government settles out. And then they can see whether they’ve got a kind of de Gaulle, or even a Sharon, who’s prepared to make a deal from the right, or whether it’s just more of the same. So the combination of a right-wing Israeli government and Trump in the White House doesn’t exactly reassure them.”

But Zakheim cautioned, “While there’s basically a year and a half to make a deal if the administration can pull it off, there are a few other things that right now are bothering the White House, I suspect, a lot more than an Israel-Palestinian peace deal. There’s the Mueller report. Trump wants to talk to the North Koreans again. And, right now, you’ve even got the government shutdown. Nobody knows how long that’ll go on. The president said he could tolerate it for months. So there are quite a bit of things that are a higher priority. The incentives just don’t seem to be there for a major push until some of these other issues get resolves. ”

Addressing Jason Greenblatt’s recent Twitter exchange with Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi, Zakheim recalled: “Ashrawi is a professional pessimist. I haven’t spoken to her in years. But years ago, I saw her reasonably often, and when Yitzhak Rabin was elected (in 1992), I bet her a case of wine that he would make peace. And she said, ‘Absolutely not.’ And course, they then had Oslo, and I never heard back from her. She still owes me the case. I’d want it to be kosher, but she never paid up.”

Dan Arbell, a 25 year veteran of the Israeli Foreign Service and a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, told JI in a recent interview: “Summer of 2019 is the last moment that the plan could be introduced because it’s just a little over a year before the 2020 presidential elections. Obviously, if the administration wants it to succeed, the timing should be earlier than summer 2019.”

Tom Friedman writes… “More Schools and Fewer Tanks for the Mideast: I’d keep our special forces in Syria, though, but not because we’ve yet to defeat ISIS. ISIS is a direct byproduct of the wider regional struggle between Sunnis and Shiites, led by Saudi Arabia and Iran. ISIS arose as an extreme Sunni response to the extreme efforts by Iran and pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria to ethnically cleanse and strip power from Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. As long as Iran pursues that strategy, there will be an ISIS in some form or other. That’s why the only peace process that could have a stabilizing effect across the Middle East today is not between Israelis and Palestinians — but between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” [NYTimes]

TOP TALKER — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) apologized for tweeting that “Israel has hypnotized the world” during the Gaza war in 2012 in a Twitter interaction with NYTimes opinion writer Bari Weiss on Tuesday, following her op-ed about the matter. “In all sincerity, it was after my CNN interview that I heard from Jewish orgs. that my use of the word “hypnotize” and the ugly sentiment it holds was offensive,” Omar wrote. “It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy is disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive.”

Weiss replied“Thank you, Rep. Ilhan Omar, for reading and for addressing. Please consider this an open invitation to the NYT opinion, where I would be happy to talk more about anti-Semitism and Israel with you.”

ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt tweets: “Hats off to Rep. Omar for her honest apology and commitment to a more just world. Open and respectful conversations will help us achieve this goal.”

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Near the end of the New York Times “The Daily” podcast yesterday, featuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), host Michael Barbaro concludes: “In the weeks since their swearing in, Representative Tlaib and a group of like-minded freshman have continued to make headlines, especially on Fox News. Tlaib has announced that when the pro-Israel organization AIPAC organizes its bi-annual trip to Israel for newly elected Members of Congress, she will organize her own, with a trip to the West Bank [with] a focus on issues like ‘Israel’s detention of Palestinian children.”’

Israel lambasts The Guardian for accusing it of ‘killing with impunity’ — by Raphael Ahren: “Jerusalem on Wednesday accused The Guardian of “cheap moralizing” and of willfully distorting the facts, after the British newspaper accused Israel of lightheartedly killing Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border… “The Guardian has decided to engage in an exercise of cheap moralizing, deliberately ignoring Palestinian terror and violence,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel.” [ToI]

AT THE UN — Upcoming Poland Conference Not a Stage to ‘Demonize’ Iran, U.S. Says — by Farnaz Fassihi: “The acting U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Jonathan Cohen, told the Security Council the U.S.-led conference on Middle East stability in Poland [next month] wasn’t a “venue to demonize or attack Iran” or to reopen arguments about the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. Rather, he said, it would be a “global brainstorming session” with an agenda on cybersecurity, humanitarian aid in Syria and Yemen and extremism… Mr. Cohen said that the meeting also would acknowledge Iran’s missile activity and other destabilizing actions.” [WSJ]

— “Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the conference would fail to bolster Middle East security because of its “one-country aspect” and failure to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” [France24]

UNESCO’s Director General Audrey Azoulay talks to Roger Cohen about the U.S. and Israel’s decision to quit the organization despite recent reforms: “The debate about over-politicization was legitimate given how the organization was being used, especially in the last decade. There was a loss of credibility. I have tried hard to reduce the politicization and work for consensus. In the light of the progress made over the past 12 months, I deeply regret the withdrawal of the United States, a founding member, and Israel.”[NYTimes]

Eli Lake writes… “How Much Is Ireland Willing to Pay to Boycott Israel? Legislation scheduled for debate this week in Ireland’s lower house would criminalize any transactions with businesses or individuals living in Israel’s West Bank. The “Control of Economic Activity Bill” would impose jail for up to five years and heavy fines on Irish citizens that import or sell products from the territory Israel won in the Six Day War… Because of Ireland’s low corporate tax rates, many of the world’s largest companies keep their wealth there… The Irish legislation, if it becomes law, would force Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook to choose between their Irish tax haven and their business in the Jewish state.” [Bloomberg]

— A Congressional source tells JI: “The Irish opposition is taking the country off a cliff. We’ll take action but that’s nothing compared to what the Trump admin is going to do. There’s a law.”

Israel halts transfer of Qatari funds to Gaza as border tensions spiral — by Judah Ari Gross: “Israel refused to allow a previously approved $15 million transfer to the Gaza-ruling Hamas terrorist group from Qatar on Tuesday… The move came after an IDF officer was injured by sniper fire on the border of the restive enclave, and a Hamas fighter was killed in a reprisal shelling by Israel.” [ToI]

Tensions Rise Over U.S. Arrest of Iranian News Agency’s American Journalist — by Rick Gladstone: “Iran said Tuesday it had formally protested the F.B.I.’s arrest of an American newscaster who works for the Iranian government’s Press TV… The arrested American, Marzieh Hashemi, has been held for more than a week as a material witness in an unspecified criminal case and has appeared before a grand jury in Washington twice.” [NYTimes]

The U.S. Army says Iran is the only victor of the Iraq War — by Tim Fernholz: “The US Army has concluded that Iran was the only victor of the eight-year U.S. campaign to remove Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and replace him with a democratic regime. That’s one of the findings of a massive historical study released Jan. 17, the first major military review of the Iraq war’s lessons.” [Quartz]

FOGGY BOTTOM — Top diplomat for European affairs resigns from State Department — by Carol Morello: “A. Wess Mitchell, the top diplomat in charge of European affairs, will resign from the State Department next month… Mitchell said his resignation is not a protest of the administration’s policies or the direction of foreign policy.” [WashPost]

TRANSITION — Former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. (Ret.) H.R. McMaster has joined the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) to serve as Chairman of its new Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP).

ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — A new poll indicates that Likud would lose four seats, but maintain its overall lead over rival parties if Netanyahu is indicted next month… Benny Gantz will break his months of near-silence at a campaign launch of his Israel Resilience party next week… Naftali Bennett took aim at Gantz’s military credentials on Wednesday, accusing the former IDF chief of failing to tackle Hamas in the 2014 Gaza war…  ‘The Ambassador’ contestant Mehereta Baruch-Ron announced on Tuesday that she is running for a Knesset seat with the Meretz Party…  Tehila Friedman, a research fellow at the Hartman Institute and a candidate on the Yesh Atid list, pledgedto represent Diaspora Jews if elected as MK…

2020 WATCH — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) raised $1.5 million in the first 24 hours after announcing her candidacy… Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) says he’s nearing a 2020 decision as he swings through key southern states… Booker was spotted yesterday visiting a law firm in Midtown Manhattan where he hinted about his plans to run for president… Top Democrat donors on Wall Street told Fox Business they are waiting on Joe Biden to announce his 2020 intentions before writing any big checks to other presidential hopefuls… South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced on Wednesday that he’s forming an exploratory committee for a 2020 presidential bid… Tom Steyer is launching an effort to make every Democrat campaigning to run against Trump first come out in support of impeachment…

** 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: John Paulson mulls shutting his hedge fund [FinancialTimes]  Elliott Management letter puts eBay on notice to improve stock performance, sell StubHub [TechCrunchWSJ] • Arconic buyout scuppered by dispute over pension liabilities [WSJ] • Eli Tabak selling HBO’s ‘The Deuce’ warehouse studio [NYPost] • Bobbi Brown 2.0: Reinventing Her Life And Career At 61 [Forbes] • Watch CNBC’s full interview with the Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein at Davos [Video] • What we know about Jeff Bezos’ religious beliefs in wake of divorce [ThisInsider] • OurCrowd, 7thirty launch $30 mln fund to invest in cannabis tech [Reuters] • Bingo Wholesale store, a partnership with Israeli grocery chain Osher Ad, opens in Lakewood New Jersey [APP]

TALK OF THE REGION — Natural gas fields give Israel a regional political boost — by Aron Heller: “Last week’s inclusion of Israel into the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in Cairo — a consortium aiming to cut infrastructure costs and lower prices — marked the first time Arab countries accepted Israel into such a regional alliance… The forum, which also includes Cyprus, Greece, Italy and the Palestinian Authority, aims to emerge as a mini-OPEC of sorts and highlights how Israel has been leveraging its newfound gas reserves into a powerful tool to expand its immersion into a region that has increasingly come to see Iran and Turkey, rather than Israel, as their greatest rivals.” [AP]

TALK OF DAVOS —  On the first day, one of the most sought-after panelists, Ruth Porat, the chief financial officer of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), discussed the health benefits of her company’s artificial intelligence at a panel called “Shaping a new market architecture.”… Stephen Schwarzman, the billionaire CEO of private equity giant Blackstone, said sarcastically that he is “wildly enthusiastic” about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed tax hike… Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon spent 24 hours in Davos, meeting with the Swiss President, New Zealand Finance Minister and senior officials of Amazon, Google and Paypal… Inside the hidden lounge for VIPs at the heart of Davos…

Bill Browder‏ tweets“Just about to start the #WEF19 in Davos. This year the US, U.K. and French governments have dropped out. As a result, the ratio of dictatorships to democracies in Davos is now seriously skewed towards the bad guys.”

DRIVING THE CONVO — The Investor Seth Klarman, in a Rare Interview, Offers a Warning. Davos Should Listen — by Evan Osnos: “Klarman doesn’t give many interviews, but, when I contacted him recently, he agreed to speak because, he said, shortsighted business practices are imperilling public confidence in capitalism itself. Among business leaders, he told me, “I think people realize that we’re not where we should be.” He added, “It’s maybe not an inappropriate ask to say, ‘Let’s all look at just where we were taking things for granted, and where maybe we were shortchanging. We took the game we were playing for granted—whether that’s investing, or business, or politics.” … Klarman believes that he and his peers need to prevent their field from being defined by some of its worst actors. “People will say the words ‘Wall Street’ with a derogatory tone. They’re talking about an immoral place, where there’s just disgusting amounts of greed and nothing good happens—which isn’t fair and isn’t true.” [NewYorker

VIEW FROM BEIJING — Israel has enough sense and self interest to avoid efforts to drag it into US-China trade war, analysts say — by Shi Jiangtao: “Sadly, the new atmosphere in U.S.-China relations is putting many countries – Israel included – in an extremely uncomfortable situation in which they are forced to pick sides,” Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a Washington-based think tank, said. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying hit out at Washington this week, describing its warnings as “ridiculous”. “The U.S. has been abusing the idea of ‘national security,’ slandering and striking down the normal commercial activities of Chinese enterprises,” she said on Monday.” [SCMorningPost] • China Blasts U.S. Over Warnings on Israeli Infrastructure Projects [Calcalist]

HOLLYWOOD — Israeli director Guy Nattiv’s short film ‘Skin’ gets Oscar nod: “Israeli filmmaker Guy Nattiv’s short film “Skin” was nominated Tuesday for the Oscar for best live action short film. The film, which was directed by Nattiv, is about a gang war in a small town that breaks out after a black man smiles at a white child at a supermarket. Nattiv wrote “Skin” with Sharon Maymon, who is also from Israel.” [ToI] • “RBG,” a film about the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was nominated for best documentary feature [CNN]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Shirt reading ‘At Least I’m Not Jewish’ pulled from popular online retailer’s website — by Brian Niemietz: “Zazzle has pulled a T-shirt off its website that has the words “At least I’m not Jewish” emblazoned across the chest. According to the Jerusalem Post… the shirt was designed by a vendor named “The Slesk Bazaar” and only sold on Zazzle’s site. The retailer took the shirt down from its online offerings and apologized on Twitter.” [NYDailyNews

A new generation takes up the hunt for Dead Sea Scrolls — by Rinat Harash and Ari Rabinovitch: “In the cliffs high above the Dead Sea archaeologists chip away with pick axes, hoping to repeat one of the most sensational discoveries of the last hundred years – the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls, a collection of manuscripts, some more than 2,000 years old, were first found in 1947 by local Bedouin in the area of Qumran, about 20 km east of Jerusalem… Archaeologists are probing higher and deeper than before. Hundreds of caves remain unexcavated and the experts are racing against antiquities robbers.” [Reuters]

DESSERT — Will 2019 be the year of the schmaltz? Two new cookbooks by Jews praise the lard —by Rich Tenorio: “A longtime staple, animal fats — both the kosher and non-kosher ones — have fallen into disfavor. But public opinion might be thawing. There are… two recent cookbooks with animal fats in the title — “The Fat Kitchen: How to Render, Cure & Cook with Lard, Tallow & Poultry Fat,” by veteran Vermont author Andrea Chesman, and “The Last Schmaltz: A Very Serious Cookbook,” by Toronto chef and restaurateur Anthony Rose. “I raised my own animals, and was so impressed by the good results you get from cooking with animal fats that I started looking into them,” Chesman told The Times of Israel… I think it’s healthier for you.” [ToI]

BIRTHDAYS: Real estate developer and former minority owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, Bruce Ratner turns 74… Educational consultant, trade association and non-profit executive, previously an aide to Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (D-NY), Peter D. Rosenstein turns 72… Manager of Innovative Strategies LLLP and JHJ Investment LLLP, board member of the Baltimore-based Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Howard K. Cohen turns 72… Israeli archaeologist, educator, on the faculty of Oxford Brookes University, Estee Dvorjetski turns 68… 41st Mayor of Los Angeles (2005-2013), in 2018 he ran unsuccessfully to be Governor of California, Antonio Villaraigosa turns 66… Broadway theater owner, operator, producer and presenter and president of the Nederlander Organization, James L. Nederlander turns 59… Former president and CEO of Staples Inc. (2016-2018), Shira Goodman turns 58… CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp since 2010, after a 20+ year career in the food business including stints at Campbell Soup, General Mills and as CEO of Manischewitz, Jeremy J. Fingermanturns 58…

National-affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, co-author of “Game Change” and “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” John Heilemann turns 53… In the news recently as the seller, together with her husband, of a $17.5 million home in Greenwich, CT, Hilary Bangash Cohen turns 48… Journalist, screenwriter and film producer, in 2009 he wrote and produced The Hurt Locker for which he won two Academy Awards including for Best Picture, Mark Boal turns 46… Creator and host of Jew in the City, Allison F. Josephs turns 39… Manhasset, New York native who competed for Israel in figure skating, she was the 2014 Israeli national champion, Danielle Montalbano turns 30… Professional soccer player who plays as a defender for DC United and the United States men’s national soccer team, Steven Mitchell Birnbaum turns 28… New York City native who competed for Israel in pairs figure skating, she and her partner won silver medals in the 2008 and 2009 Israeli championships, Hayley Anne Sacks turns 28…

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