PROFILE — How Stephen Ross Became the Most Powerful City-Shaper Since Robert Moses — by Carl Swanson: “Stephen Ross, the 78-year-old founder and chairman of the real-estate-development firm the Related Companies, is the man behind the curtain in this Oz. Hudson Yards is the largest and most expensive real-estate project in America — 28 acres, at almost a billion dollars an acre. A strenuously engineered and resourcefully financed marvel, it was set in motion by the Bloomberg administration, which saw the northern terminus of the High Line as a good place for residential high-rises and office towers. But it was Ross who built it into what my colleague Justin Davidson refers to as a veritable nation-state, making Ross, just possibly and for this moment, the most powerful man in New York, a Robert Moses for our age of concierge mega-urbanism.” [NYMag]
SPOTLIGHT — The Greatest Investor You’ve Never Heard Of: An Optometrist Who Beat The Odds To Become A Billionaire — by Madeline Berg: “Herb Wertheim may be the greatest individual investor the world has never heard of, and he has the Fidelity statements to prove it. Leafing through printouts he has brought to a meeting, you can see hundreds of millions of dollars in stocks like Apple and Microsoft, purchased decades ago during their IPOs. An $800 million-plus position in Heico, a $1.8 billion (revenue) airplane-parts manufacturer, dates to 1992.”
“Born in Philadelphia at the end of the Great Depression, Wertheim is the son of Jewish immigrants who fled Nazi Germany. In 1945 his parents moved to Hollywood, Florida, and lived in an apartment above the family’s bakery. A dyslexic, Wertheim struggled in school and soon found himself skipping class. ‘In those days, they just called you dumb,’ he remembers. ‘I would sit in the corner sometimes with a dunce cap on.'” [Forbes]
TOP TALKER — Flynn-backed plan to transfer nuclear tech to Saudis may have broken laws, say whistleblowers — by Ken Dilanian: “Whistleblowers from within President Donald Trump’s National Security Council have told the House Oversight Committee that efforts by former national security adviser Michael Flynn to transfer sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia may have violated the law, and investigators fear Trump is still considering it.”
“Tom Barrack, a prominent Trump backer with business ties to the Middle East, also became involved in the project, the report says… The proposal, which involved enlisting the U.S. nuclear power industry to build nuclear plants across the Middle East, was backed by a group of retired generals who formed a firm called IP3… Among those involved with IP3 [are]… former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross.” [NBCNews; NYTimes]
— “The Cummings report notes that one of the power plant manufacturers that could benefit from a nuclear deal, Westinghouse Electric, is a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, the company that provided financial relief to the family of Jared Kushner… on the family’s deeply indebted New York City property at 666 Fifth Avenue… The Oversight Committee report… may have special relevance this week as Kushner begins a trip to the Middle East.” [WashPost]
TALK OF THE REGION — Ambitions for an ‘Arab NATO’ Fade Amid Discord — by Dion Nissenbaum: “Abandoning the idea of an ‘Arab NATO’ with broader ambitions has dimmed enthusiasm among key players… For now, the alliance is focusing on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman. The U.S. is planning to host a meeting in Washington on Wednesday with key players to discuss the training centers and other military challenges… Trump administration officials describe the alliance as a work-in-progress. ‘It’s an airplane that’s being built as it’s flying,’ said a senior State Department official.”
“Arab countries also are resisting efforts to bring Israel into the alliance planning. ‘We do have strong lobbying from the Israelis,’ said one senior State Department official. ‘They want in now. But some of the countries warned us: Don’t make this the back door for Israel in the region, so we have to be careful about that.'” [WSJ]
Egypt Turns Back Veteran New York Times Reporter — by Declan Walsh: “Egyptian officials detained a New York Times correspondent after he arrived in Cairo on Monday, holding him incommunicado for hours before forcing him onto a flight back to London without explanation. The move against the correspondent, David D. Kirkpatrick, is an escalation of a severe crackdown against the news media under Egypt’s strongman leader, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.” [NYTimes]
HEARD YESTERDAY — Ilhan Omar apologizes to Jewish groups for hurt caused by AIPAC tweet: “’Let me reiterate my sincere apology for any actual hurt my words have caused,’ Omar said on Tuesday afternoon, according to someone present on the call. ‘I know there are a lot of people who in the last weeks have expressed support in trying to say this isn’t anti-Semitic or this shouldn’t be looked at in that way.’ … The call Tuesday included a range of centrist and liberal Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, the refugee resettlement agency HIAS, Americans for Peace Now and Bend the Arc.” [JTA]
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Palestinian president says door is open to dialogue with Trump — by Barak Ravid: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told a Democratic congressional delegation today in Ramallah that dialogue with the Trump administration… could possibly be re-opened. Abbas told the Democratic delegation, which was brought to Ramallah by progressive U.S. lobbying group J Street, that in order to renew the dialogue with the Palestinians, the Trump administration must announce it is accepting a two-state solution and backing off Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is ‘off the table.'” [Axios]
MEANWHILE… U.S. Palestinian mission to merge with Israel embassy in March — by Dan Williams: “The United States Consulate General in Jerusalem, which serves Palestinians, will be absorbed into the new U.S. Embassy to Israel in March, a U.S. official said on Tuesday… ‘The merger of the consulate and the embassy will take place on March 4th or 5th, at which point the position of the consul-general will end, said the U.S. official.”[Reuters]
— Dan Williams adds on Twitter: The Agron Street facility will serve as Amb. David Friedman’s residence.
Flashback to October 18, 2018 — Ambassador Martin Indyk “suggested that Friedman may also be eying the Consulate location on Agron Street in Jerusalem to serve as his official residence. ‘Once the Embassy to Israel was relocated to Jerusalem it was only a matter of time before Ambassador Friedman set his sights on the Consulate with its elegant, historic residence in the heart of downtown Jerusalem,’ Indyk speculated.” [JewishInsider]
Aaron David Miller tells us: “The merger reflects the determination of the Trump peace team to change U.S. policy toward core elements of the Israeli-Palestinian issue not just on paper but on the ground too. This move reinforces the reality that U.S. policy toward the Palestinians is now more derivative of U.S. policy toward Israel; and will also create the very real impression that the Administration envisions a solution, not in terms of two states but one – some variant of state minus – with most of Jerusalem perhaps with some adjustments under Israeli sovereignty. Coming a month before Israeli elections it will also reinforce the bond between Trump and Netanyahu on the Jerusalem issue. Will it help Netanyahu? Like my Bubbe said about her chicken soup: It couldn’t hurt.”
Amb. Daniel Shapiro: “Finalizing the merger before rolling out the peace plan is an indicator that Trump is not pursuing a two-state solution. That’s a mistake. It accelerates the slide toward a binational state. Our diplomatic posture should be consistent with our strategic objective: ending the conflict in a two states for two peoples solution, and keeping that option alive and viable even when it appears impossible. I’m confident that the next Democratic administration will restore a separate diplomatic mission to the Palestinians.”
Hungary to open office with ‘diplomatic status’ in Jerusalem — by Raphael Ahren: “‘I just informed the prime minister that the Hungarian government decided that we will open up a trade representation here, which will have a diplomatic status, so we will appear now in Jerusalem officially as well,’ Prime Minister Viktor Orban said, standing next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the two leaders held a bilateral meeting in the capital’s King David Hotel.” [ToI] • EU official criticizes Hungary PM Orban for campaign posters [AP]
Court Says Adelson, Israeli Banks Must Defend Palestinians’ U.S. Suit — by Andrew Harris: “Bank Leumi Le-Israel BM, Bank Hapoalim BM and billionaire Sheldon Adelson must defend a lawsuit in the U.S. accusing them of conspiring to force Palestinians out of Israeli-occupied territories and of war crimes, a U.S. appeals court ruled… The defendants include Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison, former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, construction firms, real estate company Re/Max LLC, Motorola Solutions Inc., and former U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams.”[Bloomberg]
TRANSITION — President Trump announced on Tuesday the nomination of Jeffrey Rosen as Deputy Attorney General, to replace outgoing Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Rosen currently serves as Deputy Secretary for Department of Transportation. Previously, he was a senior partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of Management and Budget from 2006 through 2009, and General Counsel at the Department of Transportation from 2003 through 2006.
Jay Lefkowitz, a senior partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, emails: “Jeff is an ideal choice for Deputy AG. He has the perfect combination of policy smarts and legal acumen along with extensive executive branch experience including in the White House. Most importantly, Jeff Rosen is the straightest arrow I know. His integrity is beyond reproach. Along with Bill Barr, Jeff will help restore trust in our government.”
Reihan Salam poised to bring Manhattan Institute to new highs: “The Manhattan Institute just got a new president: the brilliant, heterodox writer Reihan Salam… Salam, 39, will succeed Larry Mone, who led the Manhattan Institute through 24 years of enormous growth, solidifying its role as a national leader in public policy and positioning it as the premier home of ‘quality-of-life conservativism.'” [NYPost]
INBOX — Will Ruger, the spokesman for the Charles Koch Foundation, sent us a statement following our report yesterday on a former Netanyahu aide, Eli Groner, joining Chase Koch as the managing director of Koch Disruptive Technologies’ new Israel office and what it might mean for the Koch’s approach toward Israel: “The Charles Koch Foundation supports research to improve US foreign policy. It does not address Israel. We have not been critical of Israel or supported work critical of Israel. The Charles Koch Foundation works with universities like Harvard, MIT, USCD and others to support some of the most respected political scientists in the country. These distinguished scholars are leaders in their field, regularly published and widely cited in top academic journals and publications like The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, and The Atlantic.”
2020 WATCH — Bernie Sanders Hires Top Progressive Advocate, Faiz Shakir, as Campaign Manager — by Gideon Resnick, Spencer Ackerman and Sam Stein: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has tapped Faiz Shakir to serve as his campaign manager for his second run at the White House… Shakir joins the Sanders operation from the American Civil Liberties Union where he served as national political director since early 2017… Shakir, 39, is almost certainly the first campaign manager of a major presidential campaign who identifies as a Muslim. His candidate, Sanders, is Jewish.”[DailyBeast] • Bernie Sanders Is the Democratic Front-Runner[TheAtlantic]
— The Sanders campaign said that it raised over $4 million in the first 12 hours after the announcement from 330,000 individual donors.
Alan Abbey, Director of Internet and Media at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem who covered Mayor Bernie Sanders for the Burlington Free Press 38 years ago, emails: “Back in 2016, when no one in the media-Beltway clique took Sanders seriously, I was a lone voice in pointing out his appeal, which was essentially the flip side of Donald Trump’s: disgruntled, forgotten Americans responded to both of them. Bernie, to his credit, appealed to their better nature, while we know how Trump appealed to their basest instincts. This time, smarting from being wrong the last time, I predict the media will overcompensate, and immediately crown him the frontrunner, or at least first among equals in the top tier. They will be as wrong now as they were then.”
“Sanders is correct in saying that many in the Democratic Party have swung closer to his stances. Yet he should have sat back and enjoyed the fruits of his long labors and become a kingmaker. His endorsement would mean a lot to one of the new candidates. Yet he hasn’t done so, and will contribute mostly divisiveness, especially with his views on Israel. A Democratic Party that wants to win the White House does not want to see Israel emerge as a wedge issue for an influential voter and donor class. The torch has passed to a new generation. Let the new kids on the block swing a bat.”
New Hampshire gives Harris a hard time for rarely showing up… O’Rourke won’t rule out being vice presidential candidate… Trump campaign tries un-Trumpian approach to 2020. “We have a vastly different operation,” according to Michael Glassner, who serves as chief operating officer… Maryland Governor Larry Hogan says Trump looks ‘pretty weak’ for the 2020 general election…
KAFE KNESSET — Gantz Launches Unprecedented Attack On Bibi — by Neri Zilber: In a speech at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds last night, Benny Gantz unveiled the electoral list for his Hosen Le’Israel party, yet the main news was the scathing, personal, and uncharacteristic (for him) attack he unleashedagainst Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gantz blasted the PM for leaving Israel in his youth and his “Boston English,” and for makeup sessions, acting lessons, television studios, and luxury suits — all contrasted of course with Gantz’s long military career training generations of commanders and nights spent in muddy foxholes.
Gantz, running second in the polls to Netanyahu’s Likud, lauded the team lined up behind him on the stage, and said: “In these elections Israel must choose: either Bibi before all — or Israel before all.” Netanyahu, for his part, hit back immediately, telling Gantz in a video message that “he should be ashamed” at himself for such personal attacks. Subscribe to read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [KafeKnesset]
DISPATCH FROM DENVER — What it takes to produce ‘SXSW for Jewish teens’ — Pulling off a five-day gathering in a sprawling convention center with hundreds of speakers at plenary and breakout sessions is no easy feat. Self-styled after the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, which convenes around 400,000 guests each March, BBYO put on its International Convention (IC) in Denver, Colorado this past weekend and drew 3,000 Jewish teenagers from over 40 countries, representing a total of 713 communities throughout the world.
“We’re competing for the most programmed audience in the world,” BBYO’s CEO Matthew Grossman tells Jewish Insider over coffee in a hotel lobby next to Denver’s convention center. “To get these kids to commit five days to be doing something Jewish, we’ve got to be able to offer them something that’s better than they can get anywhere else in their teen lives. We’re modeling this after a South by Southwest kind of experience.” [JewishInsider]
** 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: Carl Icahn urges Caesars Entertainment to sell itself [Reuters] • Hedge-fund giant Citadel hires Samantha Greenberg away from her own fund [WSJ] • Palo Alto Networks Pays $560 Million for Information Security Automation Firm Demisto [Calcalist] • Teva expects sales injection from U.S. EpiPen market [Reuters]
DEEP DIVE — Slowed-down nation: How Netanyahu’s alleged Bezeq graft stalled Israeli internet — by Shoshanna Solomon: “Four years after the reform process began, and three-and-a-half years after it was derailed, Israel has been left with internet speeds that are not only slow, but are increasing more slowly than in other countries. According to a report published in July 2018 by M-Lab and compiled by Cable that looked at internet speeds from June 2017 to May 2018, Israel ranks 70th out of 200 nations surveyed, and is losing pace compared with other nations. The nation has an average download speed of 7.64 megabits per second, below the global average of 9.10 Mbps, for the period studied… And as of August last year, Bezeq and Hot still controlled some 95 percent of the internet market.” [ToI]
Paul Tudor Jones Hits Palm Beach With Mick Mulvaney by His Side — by Amanda Gordon: “Paul Tudor Jones sat with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on Saturday night in Palm Beach. It might’ve been the closest the hedge fund manager has come to achieving alpha in his decades-long fight for the Everglades. Just six days earlier, Florida’s new governor, Ron DeSantis, sent a request to President Donald Trump for $200 million in annual funding for Everglades restoration…Sitting at Jones’s table were Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president who served in the Trump administration; Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots and Ken Langone.”[Bloomberg]
PODCAST PLAYBACK — Daniel Krauthammer discussed reciting Kaddish in honor of his father, the late Charles Krauthammer, on The Ben Shapiro Show: Sunday Special — Ben Shapiro: You’ve also been paying tribute to your dad by going around and saying Kaddish on a daily basis at various synagogues. I was wondering if you might want to talk a little bit about that.
Daniel Krauthammer: “Yeah, I mean it’s a very personal private thing that is not something I’ve talked about or made a big deal of, but you know it’s a Jewish tradition that you say the mourners’ Kaddish, which is a prayer for close family who have passed and that you do that for a full year after the passing of a parent, and it’s something I started doing and it just felt to me like a very meaningful way to connect with my father. And being neither of us were, or are, very religious or kind of believers in the literal sense, but being Jewish was incredibly core and important to who my father was and his whole identity, and is to me as well. And so connecting through that has been an important and meaningful thing for me.” [Video]
COMING SOON — ‘Fauda’ begins season 3 production — by Amy Spiro: “On Tuesday, star and creator Lior Raz posted a sneak peak at the front page of Fauda’s third season’s script on his Instagram story. The script – with an English cover – listed the show as created by Raz and Avi Issacharoff, written by Noah Stollman, directed by Rotem Shamir and produced by Liat Benasuly… While the team is keeping a tight lid on plot developments, it was reported last week by Israel Hayom that Israeli actress Marina Maximillian will be joining the cast in season three, and portraying a Shin Bet investigator.” [JPost]
ACROSS THE SEA — As anti-Semitism rises in France, Macron’s government struggles to respond — by James McAuley: “President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday condemned a steep rise in anti-Semitic violence in France as tens of thousands gathered nationwide to protest repeated attacks on Jews… On Tuesday, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated in the eastern French city of Quatzenheim, with swastikas scrawled on about 80 graves. ‘Anti-Semitism is the opposite of what France is,’ Macron tweeted as he made his way to the site… Despite any number of speeches and campaigns against anti-Semitism, the violence against Jews has continued.” [WashPost; WSJ]
LABOUR-EXIT — 8th MP quits UK Labour, joins Independent Group over anti-Semitism — by Tom McTague: “Enfield North MP Joan Ryan has become the eighth Labour MP to quit the party and join the Independent Group… In an interview with the Times, Ryan said she could no longer stay in the party after watching fellow MP Luciana Berger announce her decision to quit Monday. ‘A young woman, a Labour MP, has to leave the party because she’s Jewish, because of anti-Semitism… I can’t see her leave and be driven out and stand by. I’m just not willing to.'” [PoliticoEU; TheTimes] • Labour MP suggests breakaway MPs may be ‘financially backed’ by Israel [TheJC]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Why Is This Luxury Developer Building ‘Kosher’ Condos On The Upper West Side? — by Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt: “Here on the Upper West Side, in the bastion of liberal Judaism, a small tightly knit ‘yeshivish’ Orthodox community is building its own world alongside the rainbow-tallit-wearers of Romemu, the egalitarian leaders of Hadar, and the throngs of young Jewish singles looking for love. Here, in the capital of progressive Judaism and left-wing political activism, a quiet evolution is taking place, and the Chamberlain is just the latest attempt to capitalize on the growing presence and power of observant, identifiable Orthodox Jews playing a leadership role in the future of American Jewry… These are white-collar professionals, financiers and real estate developers who happen to wear black hats to synagogue, who have studied in Haredi yeshivas, whose wives wear wigs and whose sons go to the Yeshiva Ketana, on Riverside Drive. And developers are working hard to attract those wealthy Orthodox families to Manhattan.” [Forward]
REMEMBERING — Albert Vorspan, who rallied Reform Judaism for social justice, passes at age 95 — by Joseph Berger: “Albert Vorspan, who steered the Reform movement and other Jewish organizations toward immersing themselves in social causes, particularly the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans and opposition to the war in Vietnam, died on Sunday in New Paltz, NY… A bespectacled onetime pipe smoker with a jovial laugh, Mr. Vorspan was famous in the Reform movement for his jokes as well. In addition to his tracts on social justice, he published four humor collections. One is titled, “My Rabbi Doesn’t Make House Calls: A Guide to Games Jews Play (1969). But he also had his share of critics. In 1988, he drew attacks from a number of Jewish leaders for an article he wrote for The New York Times Magazine that in part faulted Israel for not offering greater autonomy to Palestinians.”[NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Born in Tehran, Iran, emigrated to the US in 1950, co-owner of NYC-based TF Cornerstone, owner of 8 million square feet and 7,000 apartments in NYC and DC, Kamran Thomas Elghanayan turns 74… University Professor of Social Science, Anthropology and Italian Studies at Brown University, winner of a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, David Kertzer turns 71… Physician and acupuncturist based in Valley Village, California, Andrea Hoffman Kachuck turns 68… Nursing home administrator in Hazlet, New Jersey, Benzion Schachter turns 68… Founder and former president and publisher (1992-2016) of 18 Media in the San Francisco Bay Area, now publishing “Punch,” M. Sloane Citron turns 63… SVP of News at CBS-owned local television stations, David M. Friend turns 63… Senior editor at Politico since 2010, David Cohen turns 56… Professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, Shmuel Aaron Weinberger turns 56…
Senior cantor at University Synagogue in West LA’s Brentwood area, Kerith Carolyn Spencer-Shapiro turns 49… Comedian, actress, and writer, best known for portraying Gina Linetti on Fox’s series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Chelsea Peretti turns 41… Actor best known for his role as Joel Maisel on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, he also had a recurring role as Dwight the Troubled Teen on more than 50 episodes of the Late Show with David Letterman, Michael Zegen turns 40… Former starting pitcher in Major League Baseball (2006-2008) for the Houston Astros and the Colorado Rockies, Jason Hirshturns 37… Executive director at NYC-based Integrity First for America, Amy Spitalnick turns 33… Ethiopian-born Israeli fashion model and television personality, winner of the Israeli version of “Big Brother,” Tahounia Rubelturns 31… Levi Shemtov (but not DC’s Chabad leader) turns 26… Senior Program Officer at Maimonides Fund, Aimee Weiss…