Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Michael Oren on his future | Experts question accuracy of Mideast peace plan ‘leak’ | The Forward ends its print run

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TOP TALKER — The Atlantic Magazine’s March cover story — Yoni Appelbaum writes… “Impeach Donald Trump: With a newly seated Democratic majority, the House of Representatives can no longer dodge its constitutional duty. It must immediately open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and bring the debate out of the court of public opinion and into Congress, where it belongs.”

“Even if the impeachment of Donald Trump fails to produce a conviction in the Senate, it can safeguard the constitutional order from a president who seeks to undermine it. The protections of the process alone are formidable… Congress must decide whether the greater risk lies in executing the Constitution, or in deferring to voters to do what it cannot muster the courage to do itself.”

“Trump is easily the most pugilistic president since Johnson; he’s never going to behave with decorous restraint. But if impeachment proceedings begin, his staff will surely redouble its efforts to curtail his tweeting, his lawyers will counsel silence, and his allies on Capitol Hill will beg for whatever civility he can muster. His ability to sidestep scandal by changing the subject—perhaps his greatest political skill—will diminish. As Trump fights for his political survival, that struggle will overwhelm other concerns. This is the second benefit of impeachment: It paralyzes a wayward president’s ability to advance the undemocratic elements of his agenda.” [TheAtlantic]

— Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s Editor-in-Chief, notes“In our recently posted digital feature, “Unthinkable,” 50 of our writers examined the most outlandish moments of Trump’s first two years in office, incidents that we could not imagine occurring in other administrations, whether Republican or Democratic. If you’ve read “Unthinkable,” you’ll understand why I consider Yoni’s cover story, “The Case for Impeachment,” worth publishing.”

— Yoni tells us he started working on the March cover story back in September.

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — CH13’s Barak Ravid reports, based on notes from a recent briefing by a U.S. official: “President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan would propose a Palestinian state on as much as 90 percent of the occupied West Bank, with a capital in East Jerusalem – but not including its holy sites… The plan would entail Israel annexing Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank while isolated settlements would either be evacuated or their construction halted. Trump wants the proposed Israeli moves to be supplemented by territorial swaps with the Palestinians, and for East Jerusalem’s walled Old City – site of major Jewish, Muslim and Christian shrines – to be under Israeli sovereignty but with the joint management of the Palestinians and Jordan.” [Reuters10TV]

Senior White House official tells us: “As in the past, speculation with regards to the content of the plan is not accurate. We have no further comment.”

— Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt, however, did have further comment. “While I respect Barak Ravid, his report on Israel’s Ch. 13 is not accurate,” Greenblatt tweeted. “Speculation about the content of the plan is not helpful. Very few people on the planet know what is in it… for now. Over the coming period, unnamed sources will peddle narratives to the media and others based on motivations that are far from pure. Peddling false, distorted or biased stories to the media is irresponsible and harmful to the process. Israelis and Palestinians deserve better. I highly recommend that people listen only to official statements directly from POTUS, David Friedman, Jared Kushner, or me about the plan.”

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM ― Former Knesset Member Dr. Einat Wilf emails us: “The response of Israelis to Trump’s peace plan will in large part depend on the reaction in the broader Arab world — if Israelis would get the sense that by saying yes to the deal, they would receive full peace and normalization with the entire Arab and Islamic world, and that the Arab world will mobilize to ensure that the Palestinians finally put behind them their maximalist demands for the entirety of the land in the form of ‘return,’ the response will be a resounding yes.”

The Yamin HeHadash Party, led by Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, said in a statement: “The United States is Israel’s greatest friend, and President Trump is a true friend of Israel. However, Israel’s security and Israel’s well-being precede any other interest. Therefore, the Yamin HeHadash Party will not sit in a government that will divide Jerusalem and establish a Palestinian state.”

WAS THIS A TRIAL BALLOON? ― Amb. Dan Shapiro tells us: “It’s hard to know how authoritative this report is. If this were the plan that the Trump Administration presents, it would almost certainly be rejected by both sides. Besides the Palestinians’ estrangement from Trump, this plan would fall short or is silent on several issues of importance to them. On the Israeli side, the current coalition, and an ongoing election campaign, are not hospitable to several elements of the plan.”

“I continue to believe that it likely that no plan will ever be presented, and it is a near certainty none will be presented before a new Israeli government is in place. At some point, presentation of a well-rounded, realistic vision of two states  — which this is not — could be useful, not as a basis for near-term negotiations, but as a tool to help keep the two-state solution alive and viable for later negotiations when different leaderships have emerged.”

CFR’s Martin Indyk emails: “The details make the Trump Plan sound very close to the Kerry Plan, which makes me suspect that it’s not accurate. Besides, one thing Kushner’s team does very well is not leak.”

Elliott Abrams: “I have no reason to think this report is accurate and I actually think it’s wrong.”

Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller tweets“I remember in 1999, telling my friend and colleague Dennis Ross how impressed I was that [Ehud] Barak had offered Palestinians 85% of West Bank, thinking that we might be able to do a deal. Not sure what I was smoking. In 2018, neither Bibi nor Abbas can accept that.”

2020 WATCH — Israel Will Be The Great Foreign Policy Debate Of The Democratic Primary — by Emily Tamkin and Alexis Levinson: “I think every 2020 presidential contender will be asked how can they stand by Benjamin Netanyahu when he openly supports Trump’s border wall and compares it to his own draconian policies,” said Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats… which rose to prominence in 2018 with its early backing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez… The questions regarding Israel won’t change: Do you believe that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel? Should the US Embassy be in Jerusalem? Should the United States provide aid to Israel? Does the United States support Israel’s right to defend itself? But if candidates want to win young left-leaning voters, the candidates may find that they have to give different answers.”

‘WEDGE?’ — “IfNotNow… will launch a “public push to get 2020 candidates to not attend [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s] annual conference in March,” founding member Yonah Lieberman told BuzzFeed News. By not attending AIPAC, he said, presidential hopefuls would “show the growing progressive coalition that they stand with us.” In 2016, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders made headlines by skipping the conference.”[BuzzFeed]

Robert Fisk on what another Bernie Sanders run means for Israel and the Middle East… The Draft Beto movement is raising money for a 2020 presidential run and releasing a campaign-style video… On the first day since her announcement, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand road tested her 2020 campaign themes at a diner close to home… Sen. Cory Booker has relied on outside money and big donations, even as potential rivals swear off super PACs… Sen. Chuck Schumer on the growing list of presidential candidates: “Let a thousand flowers bloom.”…

Group aligned with Ocasio-Cortez prepares to take out Democrats — by Laura Barron-Lopez and Heather Caygle: “Justice Democrats, the liberal group that engineered Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s meteoric rise… is ready to go to war. The opening salvo? An eight-minute video released Wednesday starring Ocasio-Cortez and calling for a new crop of activists and community organizers to run against the Democratic machine.” [Politico]

WATCH — PBS host Christiane Amanpour asks Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) if she regrets previous comments about Israel’s ‘evil doings’ in Gaza. “What is really important to me is that people recognize that there is a difference between criticizing a military action by a government that has exercised really oppressive policies and being offensive or attacky [sic] to particular people of faith,” Omar replied. [Video]

SCENE IN JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with approximately 60 members of AIPAC’s leadership and board, including AIPAC President Morton Fridman and past President Lillian Pinkus, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Wednesday. [Pic] • “The most important thing that happened in the last year, in our region is the decision by President Trump to move out of the [Iranian nuclear] agreement,” the PM said in remarks to the delegation. [Video]

ROAD TO THE NEW KNESSET — In an apparent dig at his former party, Naftali Bennett told AIPAC leaders that the New Right is against religious coercion… Yair Rosenberg on why Naftali Bennett decapitated the settler right and what it means for Israel’s future… The United Torah Judaism party, which includes the Agudath Israel and Degel Hatorah factions, signed an agreement for a joint list… Benny Gantz has chosen a dozen people to top his list in the April 9 election, with former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi expected to receive the No. 2 slot if he joins the list… Gantz released on Thursday his campaign slogan: “Israel first”… In a rare acknowledgment of Likud’s narrative, Labor head Avi Gabbay is quoted in a leaked conversation that Gantz’s views were the same as Labor… New polls show Likud expanding the lead over its rival parties… Ynet reports: The White House is considering holding a state dinner to express “presidential support” for Netanyahu when he visits Washington, DC in March…

PROFILE — This Man Must Decide Whether to Indict Israel’s Netanyahu — by Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber: “When Avichai Mandelblit first considered an offer to join Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration in 2013, he told Israel’s prime minister that he’d accept if he could finish his doctorate and stay out of politics, aides to him say… But now as Israel’s attorney general, he is at the center of one of the country’s biggest political storms… “He basically holds Israel’s political destiny in his hands,” said Shalom Lipner.” [WSJ] • Netanyahu turns fire on attorney-general as election looms [FinancialTimes]

PODCAST PLAYBACK — Outgoing MK Michael Oren discussed why he isn’t running in the April elections and what’s next for him on the Jewish Journal’s Two Nice Jewish Boys podcast with Naor Meningher and Eytan Weinstein: “My party (Kulanu headed by Moshe Kahlon) sort of disintegrated. It didn’t deliver on the promise it made… I was there to deal with diplomacy. but as a member of the party, I suffered the consequences. So the party doesn’t look like it’s going to make it into the next Knesset. But it doesn’t have any interest in foreign policy and that’s where I come in. I might have stood a chance for the primaries in Likud but there are currently about 20 candidates for every position in the Likud, and my ability to maybe get into Knesset in a position that actually would have influenced foreign policy and influence decision making on a national level was limited almost to naught.”

Q: So you’re not saying you’re done with politics?

MO: “Not in the least. It’s just a hiatus for now. My political career has just begun, and I’m already aiming for the next Knesset after the [upcoming] one and I will build a base that will be wider and more effective… I can write books that can influence many, many thousands of people, I can appear on TV, and I can speak my mind – things I couldn’t do when I was in politics… One of the most difficult things in politics was that as a member of the government I can’t publish books. I can write them but I can’t publish them. And I write every morning… And yes, I have written some books and now I will be able to publish them.” [JewishJournal]

MUELLER WATCH — Rick Gates Tells Mueller About Trump Team’s Dealings With Israeli Intelligence Firm — by Erin Banco: “Rick Gates, the former campaign aide to Donald Trump, is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe… Gates has answered questions specifically about Psy Group, an Israeli firm that ex-employees say drew up social media manipulation plans to help the Trump campaign… Mueller’s team also asked Gates about interactions with Psy Group’s owner, Joel Zamel, and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who worked as an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.” [DailyBeast

DEEP DIVE — Jewish strategists concocted George Soros smears — by Oliver Moody: “The architects of Viktor Orban’s war on Mr. Soros have now been revealed to be two secretive American political strategists, themselves Jewish… The campaign’s mastermind was Arthur Finkelstein, a Republican pollster who worked for Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and is said to have advised Donald Trump to go into politics. His business partner George Birnbaum, a former chief of staff to Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said that the pair had identified Mr. Soros as the ideal scapegoat for Mr. Orban in 2013. “The perfect opponent is one whom you punch over and over again and who never hits back,” Mr. Birnbaum, 48, told Das Magazin, a Swiss weekly.” [TheTimes]

Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin writes… “Keep religious tests out of the Senate: It’s a shame that a Catholic nominee should face this kind of hostile questioning during his confirmation process. In previous decades, adversarial hearings were used in attempts to keep Jews out of the judiciary.” [LATimes]

** Good Thursday 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: Leon Black’s Apollo Nears Deal to Buy Arconic for More Than $10 Billion [WSJ• Blackrock’s Larry Fink Calls on Businesses to Lead, Not Just Live, With Purpose [NYTimesFinancialTimes] • Fortissimo buys Shari Arison’s Salt of the Earth [Globes] • How Hudson Yards developer Stephen Ross is changing the way New York is built [FinancialTimes] • Israeli games developer Playtika buys Austrian card games maker [Reuters]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — Why Buy From Amazon When You Can Buy From Your Friends? Thanks To Storr, You Can — by Brittain Ladd: “Torie Crown, Storr head of business development, described the company as a “transactional Pinterest.” … “The brands we have on board are really forward-thinking,” says Crown, “In a world where Facebook and Instagram ads are increasingly expensive and less effective, brands see Storr as a new opportunity to connect with the customers who genuinely love their products.” [ForbesGlossy]

SPORTS BLINK — Malaysia says it won’t host any more events involving Israel: “Malaysia’s foreign minister said Wednesday that the government will not budge over a ban on Israeli athletes in the [2020 Tokyo Paralympics] and has decided that the country will not host any events in the future involving Israel… Israel’s Paralympic Committee said later Wednesday that together with the International Paralympic Committee, it hopes “to find the right solution before July.” “We believe that any additional statements at this stage may only be harmful,” Leah Schneider, an official representing the committee, said in an email.” [AP]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Jason Spindler survived 9/11. Then he died at the hands of terrorists in Nairobi — by Siobhán O’Grady: “After Jason Spindler graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2000, he moved to New York to work as an investment banker on Wall Street. Then 9/11 happened. That morning, as thousands of people fled from the collapsing World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan, Spindler did the opposite: He ran straight into the rubble and began pulling people out, his college roommate Kevin Yu told The Washington Post on Wednesday… Spindler survived the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, but he was killed Tuesday when terrorists stormed an office and hotel complex in an upscale neighborhood of Nairobi. He was one of at least 21 people who died in the attack by al-Shabab militants… Yu said Spindler, the oldest of three brothers from Houston, was a “ball of energy” who served in a remote area of Peru as a Peace Corps volunteer and traveled the world in search of adventure and fulfillment.” [WashPost]

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cancels 2 upcoming events — by Eli Watkins: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will not attend scheduled talks in the upcoming weeks in Los Angeles and New York, following her surgery in December… The 85-year-old justice was supposed to attend an event on January 29 at Los Angeles’ Skirball Cultural Center. A long-planned conversation between Ginsburg and the financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein was scheduled for February 6, and the 92nd Street Y said Wednesday that it was working to reschedule the event.” [CNN]

Ultra-Orthodox rabbi visits North Korea — by Talia Lakritz: “Mier Alfasi spent five days touring North Korea, calling himself the first Chabad rabbi to visit the country. He couldn’t speak openly about Judaism and hid his religious books and ritual objects from authorities. But he did wear his black hat and bekishe… “I heard on the news that Trump and Kim [Jong-un] were talking together and I decided that maybe this is a good time for Chabad to come,” he told This Insider. “I thought, I’ll check it out. I’ll be the first Chabad rabbi ever to go to North Korea.” [ThisInsider]

MEDIA WATCH — Storied Jewish publication The Forward ending 121-year print run — by Keith Kelly: “The Forward is stopping — its print editions. The storied Jewish-American publication is suspending its print operations and plans to lay off about 40 percent of its editorial staff — including Editor-in-Chief Jane Eisner — while moving to digital-only… The Forward will continue to produce an English-language and a Yiddish-language edition online. “The Forward is taking the next step in making our brand more relevant to our readers and more connected to their lives,” said publisher and CEO Rachel Fishman Feddersen.” [NYPost]

TRANSITION — Laura Adkins, deputy opinion editor at the Jewish Daily Forward, will join the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) later this month as opinion editor.

SCENE YESTERDAY — William Daroff, Daniel Gordis, Jonathan Schanzer, Danielle Pletka, Ann Lewis and Archie Gottesman spoke at Israel on Campus Coalition’s Winter Field Professional Retreat in Georgetown. Representatives included staffers from AIPAC, Hillel, Israeli-American Council, A Wider Bridge, the Philos Project, and JNF, among other groups. [Pic]

Nathan Diament, Executive Director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, met with ⁦Rep Elissa Slotkin⁩ (D-MI) on Capitol Hill to discuss policy priorities. [Pic]

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) had dinner with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “We talked about my passion for economic justice and fighting for corporations to pay their fair share,” Tlaib writes on Instagram. “This man gets me.” [Pic]

DESSERT — Shari’s Bistro, a new gourmet kosher restaurant on the bay, is now open in Somers Point, New Jersey — by Ellen Weisman: “Shari’s Bistro at 800 Bay Avenue in Somers Point is “not like any other kosher restaurant you’ve ever been to,” said Ira Trocki, who opened his new, picturesque Glatt kosher restaurant overlooking the bay on November 30. What sets it apart? First and foremost, its location: a fully restored Victorian mansion, built in 1884. “It’s not often that a Jewish person can eat in a gorgeous kosher restaurant,” stressed Trocki. What’s more, this beautiful Victorian building backs onto the bay.” [JewishVoicesNJ]

BIRTHDAYS: Former member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1980-1996), in 1967 he was the attorney who won the Supreme Court case banning state laws against interracial marriage, Bernard S. Cohen turns 85… Former two-term member of Congress from Iowa (1973-1977), he is the father-in-law of Chelsea Clinton, Edward Mezvinsky turns 82… Host of television’s tabloid talk show “Maury,” originally known as the “Maury Povich Show,” Maury Povich turns 80… Reporter, columnist and editor covering religion, education and NYC neighborhoods for The New York Times (1984-2014) and author of four books, Joseph Berger turns 74… Australian neuroscientist, engineer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and former Chancellor of Monash University (2008-2016), he is designated as Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel turns 66… Economist, professor, New York Times best-selling author and social entrepreneur, he has written eleven books and is the founder of six companies, Paul Zane Pilzer turns 65… President and co-founder of Bluelight Strategies, a marketing and media relations, Steve Rabinowitz turns 62… Executive health care editor at Politico, she was a long time correspondent for Reuters (1984-2008), Joanne Kenen turns 61…

Majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans and investor in dozens of companies, Dan Gilbert turns 57… Professor of Law at Harvard University, Jesse M. Fried turns 56… Film director, television director, screenwriter and film producer, Bart Freundlichturns 49… President of the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute since 2014, he was previously a member of the Knesset for the Kadima party (2007-2013), Yohanan Plesner turns 47… Kansas City-native, now DC-based Director for PR firm Finsbury, previously VP of media strategy at Ketchum, and for 15 years prior to that a reporter for both Reuters and Bloomberg, Jeremy Pelofsky turns 44… Odessa-born, dancer, choreographer and dance instructor, widely known as one of the professional dancers in “Dancing with the Stars,” Maksim Chmerkovskiy turns 39… J Street’s senior grants and marketing associate, Becca Freedman turns 37… Deputy chief of staff at the City of Hoboken, he was previously a fundraiser for the ADL (2017-2018), Moishe House (2015-2017) and the JCC Association (2014-2015), Jason Freemanturns 30… Politics reporter for CNN, she was previously the national political reporter at RealClearPolitics and a writer for the Washington Examiner and Buzzfeed, Rebecca Berg Buck turns 29… Freelance writer and social media manager at Emily’s List, Alyssa Franke turns 27…

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