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OH HOW THE MIGHTY — Later today, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is expected to be formally charged for soliciting prostitution in a Florida massage parlor. Kraft, who denied the accusations through a spokesman, was in Los Angeles over the weekend where he attended a Friday night bash thrown by Ron Perelman and a pre-Oscars lunch on Saturday hosted by Barry Diller.
President Trump stood by his longtime friend on Friday. “He’s proclaimed his innocence totally — but I’m very surprised to see it,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
How much damage has Robert Kraft done to his reputation? — by Ben Volin: “If Robert Kraft is only charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution, and isn’t connected to the human trafficking associated with the Jupiter, Fla., massage parlor, then the Patriots owner has a chance to resolve his legal troubles quickly and relatively painlessly… Technically, each count could cost him up to 60 days in jail, but ‘nobody ever goes to jail for a first offense of a second-degree misdemeanor,’ said Valentin Rodriguez, a West Palm Beach, Fla., criminal defense attorney. ‘The penalty really for this offense is the embarrassment that comes with it,’ Rodriguez said.” [BostonGlobe]
‘Mr. Kraft’ and the Sports Owner God Complex — by Jason Gay: “This isn’t to say that Kraft hasn’t done great things for his team, his sport or in decades of philanthropy. But it turns out he is human, mortal, and fallible. Owners aren’t gods or royalty. On game day, or any other day, sports shouldn’t treat them as such.” [WSJ]
Robert Kraft, accused of soliciting prostitution, gave hundreds of millions to charitable causes — by Joey Garrison: “Just weeks ago, before Robert Kraft won his sixth Super Bowl as owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots, he was awarded perhaps a greater honor. The Genesis Prize is given to leaders of Jewish heritage ‘who have attained international renown in their chosen professional fields’ and ‘have made a significant contribution to improving the world.’ It’s sometimes called the Jewish Nobel Prize. The announcement capped decades of good works by the billionaire businessman, an icon not only in professional sports but in philanthropy.” [USAToday]
WHAT DOES GENESIS DO NOW? — Last September, the Genesis Prize Foundation announced the 37 winners of its Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality grants. In light of Friday’s large-scale human-trafficking and prostitution bust involving the honoree of Genesis’ 2019 prize, will the organization issue a statement? Or will they stay quiet and hope this episode passes? Genesis did not respond to our request for comment.
Background: Genesis has had to cancel their award ceremony in Israel the past two years after winners Natalie Portman and Anish Kapoor backed out of participating. The decision to pick Kraft, a close friend of both Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump, appeared to be an effort to avoid having to cancel the ceremony again due to political concerns.
— For the full story on Portman’s decision at the time, read our detailed report [JewishInsider]
KAFE KNESSET — Bibi Distills Campaign Message — by Neri Zilber: Now trailing in the polls to Blue and White (led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid), Netanyahu took to social media to make his pitch directly to the public. The message was distilled and defiant. He accused the future “left-wing Lapid-Gantz government” of counting on the Arab parties for a parliamentary blocking majority; of pressuring the AG to indict him “at any cost and before the election” on spurious corruption charges; and of withholdingfrom him the basic right to mount a legal defense.” Read the entire Kafe Knesset by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]
THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES — The outrage over Netanyahu’s alliance with the extremist Jewish Power party intensified over the weekend as AIPAC — in a statement on Twitter — joined the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and other major U.S. Jewish organizations in criticizing Netanyahu’s move. Despite its criticism, AIPAC confirmed in a late Saturday night announcement that Netanyahu will speak at its upcoming Policy Conference in Washington, DC (March 24-26). Gantz and Lapid were also invited to address the conference.
David Kreizelman, a former AIPAC foreign policy associate: “This has been growing for a long time, because Netanyahu over the past years has really been detrimental to AIPAC’s entire concept of bipartisan politics in the United States. He has been hurting that for a long time.” [ToI]
Netanyahu responded to the criticism in a Facebook post. “They denounce a bloc on the right with right-wing parties while the left has acted to put extremist Islamists into the Knesset to create a bloc that would overtake the right,” he wrote in Hebrew. Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom daily had a screaming headline calling AIPAC “irresponsible” for getting involved in domestic politics. Itamar Ben-Gvir, a Jewish Power leader, issued a short video clip blasting AIPAC and calling for it to “first move to Israel” and “pay the price” before they opine about its politics. “It’s clear that AIPAC wants to elevate the left to power,” he added.
Dan Arbell, an Associate Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) — Americas, tells us: “The fact that AIPAC chose to direct attention to a domestic issue, a contested issue in Israeli politics is rare. This is important and not something that you can ignore. It’s obviously a call for Bibi to be more considerate of the American Jewish community. But still, those who think that the AIPAC is going against Bibi or that Bibi is no longer in the favors of the good folks of AIPAC is the wrong assumption. And I believe that we’ll see it when the prime minister speaks at the AIPAC annual conference.”
IPF’s Susie Gelman: “I applaud the nearly unanimous condemnation by major American Jewish organizations of this outrageous move that defies all acceptable norms and values. Netanyahu’s response to this criticism was only in Hebrew, not English, so most likely it was directed at an Israeli audience. I would only add that, in Israel, the term ‘left’ has come to be synonymous with ‘traitor’ and is widely used to dismiss the legitimacy of any criticism. It’s not surprising that Bibi would lash out at his critics rather than take responsibility for what he has done.”
Yossi Klein Halevi writes… “The desecration of Israel: Netanyahu has committed the secular equivalent of Hillul Hashem: He has desecrated the name of Israel. We have at least this much to be grateful for to Netanyahu and to the leaders of the Jewish Home party: They have clarified the defining issue of this election, a referendum over whether the next government of Israel will be a government of Hillul Hashem.” [ToI]
Rabbi Benny Lau, in his sermon Shabbat morning in Jerusalem, equated the ideology of Jewish Power with that of Nazism. “A vote for [Bayit Yehudi] is a vote for the racism of Kahane,” the Jerusalem Post reported the rabbi telling his congregation.
Gershom Gorenberg: “Unlike Netanyahu’s alleged bribe-taking, his pact with the hate-spewing Kahanists is not illegal. Yet historically and morally, it is an even greater offense.” [WashPost]
Conference of Presidents’ Malcolm Hoenlein told the Associated Press: “For those who follow this, there’s a lot of concern… [Netanyahu] obviously has some political calculation that drove him to it, but politics can’t dictate everything. You have to take into consideration all of the ramifications and all of the concerns.” [AP]
Ben Rhodes tweeted: “AIPAC is suddenly shocked, shocked that Bibi is a far right politician when they have been enabling his rightward move for years.”
HEARD ON CABLE — Jake Tapper asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the issue on CNN’s State of the Union — Tapper: Does the Trump administration have any concerns about Netanyahu extending outreach to this racist political party?
Pompeo: “The United States relationship with Israel, we’re not about to get involved in an election, to interfere in an election of a democracy. Election campaigns are tough. We’ll allow the Israeli people to sort this out, and I am confident that when the election’s over the United States will continue to have a strong, important, very, very deep relationship with Israel that protects the American people and benefits Israel as well.”
Tapper: “Is it not the responsibility of an ally of Israel to reach out and say when you think the prime minister is doing something… that violates the values of that relationship and the values of the Jewish state?
Pompeo: “This administration has been very vocal when we see human rights violations wherever we find them – friends, foes, adversaries, allies. We’ve been very consistent. We do it in different ways. We do it at different times. We will certainly continue to do that.” [Video]
Defender of World Order or Trump Mouthpiece? Pompeo Is Tested by Iran and U.S. Allies — by David Sanger and Edward Wong: “A senior aide said Mr. Pompeo ‘has been all about Iran,’ dating to his time in Congress… Mr. Pompeo is banking that sanctions on Iran will compel political change there… To his frustration, the European countries that negotiated the nuclear deal alongside the United States — Britain, France, Germany — refuse to follow Washington’s lead… Few other issues have so poisoned relations with allies.” [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE REGION — First joint EU-Arab summit, an opportunity to protect against China and Russia: “Host Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi painted a ‘bleak’ picture for a region hit by wars and terrorism as he appealed for deeper cooperation, in his opening Arab-European Summit speech at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh… EU sources said the first EU-Arab summit is all the more important as the United States ‘disengages’ from the region while Russia and China make inroads… Sisi called for resolving the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict and settling more recent wars and conflicts in Libya, Yemen and Syria. ‘The picture is, in fact, bleak at present,’ said Sisi.” [France24; TheNational]
HEARD THE OTHER DAY — In a meeting with Jewish visitors in Cairo last Tuesday, Egyptian President El-Sisi reportedly told the guests that he would like to see “the revival of a Jewish community in Egypt and should that happen the government would provide appropriate religious needs.” [Pic]
The Muslim World Looks On as China Persecutes Its Muslims — by Yaroslav Trofimov: “Virtually all Muslim leaders are equally quiet, in contrast to the steady stream of condemnation that they shower on Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians and on Myanmar for the Rohingya crisis.” [WSJ]
JI INTERVIEW — Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spoke with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh at the 33rd annual International Mayor’s Conference, led by the American Jewish Congress, at the Jerusalem City Council Hall Chambers. [Pic]
“There is a wave of anti-Semitism that has been growing around the world. In Pittsburgh, we’ve been unfortunately a victim of where hate speech leads to hate crime. My goal here is to simply make sure that people understand that you’re not going to be able to defeat hate with hate,” Peduto explained why he is visiting Israel on this mission. “The Jewish community in Pittsburgh came together very quickly after October 27th, and the greater community rallied around them. I hope to have the opportunity to talk with the mayors from around the world how the importance of that aspect of dealing with a tragedy is the only way that we’ll be able to address this issue.”
“In the darkness of the Tree of Life shooting, there were bright examples of shining light,” Peduto added. “The support that Pittsburgh got not only from the rest of this country and Israel, but the rest of the world. I hope that no other city has to go through that nor any other group has to go through it. But it’s very important to realize that the support that the Jewish community received in Pittsburgh was universal.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
TRANSITION — Saudi Arabia Names a Princess as Ambassador to Washington — by Ben Hubbard: “Saudi Arabia appointed a princess as its new ambassador to the United States on Saturday, the first time the kingdom has named a woman to such a post… Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan will replace Prince Khalid bin Salman, a son of King Salman and a younger brother of the crown prince, who took the post in 2017. Also in a royal decree on Saturday, Prince Khalid was named deputy defense minister under the crown prince.” [NYTimes; FinancialTimes]
ON THE HILL — Concerns rise over Neomi Rao, Trump’s D.C. Circuit nominee — by Jonathan Swan: “A new obstacle has emerged in the path to Neomi Rao replacing Brett Kavanaugh on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court… A source close to the White House confirmation process told me that Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has “deep concerns” about Rao’s judicial philosophy and has raised these concerns with a number of key figures including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.” [Axios]
TRI-STATE SCENE: Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) addressed AIPAC leaders at Young Israel of Staten Island on Sunday. [Pic]
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) in remarks at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley on Sunday: “I will continue to be a very clear and strong voice for Israel. But we have an important responsibility to hold all of our leaders, including all presidential candidates, accountable for their positions on this critical issue.” [Pic]
WHY TWEET THIS? — Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted on Sunday: “‘We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become.’ — Benito Mussolini.”
2020 WATCH — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) released off-the-record AIPAC remarks after being asked about them in Iowa on Sunday… Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is set to hold his first 2020 campaign rally in Brooklyn on Saturday… Maryland Governor Larry Hogan urged Republicans to look beyond the ‘shrinking base’…
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Deal for 6,000 apartments marks Kushner Cos. biggest acquisition in more than a decade [WSJ] • It Started With a Jolt: How New York Became a Tech Town [NYTimes] • Drone maker Airobotics moving production from Israel to Arizona [Reuters]
STARTUP NATION — How an Israeli start-up turned the cellphone into a testing lab for kidney disease — by Lori Ioannou: “An Israeli digital health start-up called Healthy.io has developed an FDA-cleared at-home smartphone urinalysis test to help people test their kidneys for proteins, a sign of damage to the organ. Early detection makes an enormous difference in avoiding complications from kidney disease.” [CNBC] • Israeli startups join firms making lab-grown ‘clean meat’ [ABCNews]
PODCAST PLAYBACK — Hearst Magazines Chairman, David Carey in a conversation with LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff on the KindredCast podcast: “Your business is proudly in the TMT space, right? But it actually stands for something different than you thought. I think it stands for Tumult, Mayhem and Turbulence.” [KindredCast]
SPOTLIGHT — How Norwegian Cruise’s Chief Navigates the Sea-Suite — by Laine Higgins: “Now the chief executive of Norwegian, the third-largest cruise line by global market share, Frank Del Rio seeks advice from people whose skills complement his… One of his trusted advisors is Russell Galbut, Chairman of Norwegian Cruise Lines and managing principal of Crescent Heights: Over the course of the 17 years he has served on the boards of Del Rio’s companies, Mr. Galbut has become an important sounding board for questions of strategy. And while Mr. Del Rio admires his board member’s business acumen, he places the highest value on his integrity. ‘He always takes the high road. It’s part of the company’s culture.'” [WSJ]
TALK OF THE NATION — The religion of: Workism is making Americans miserable — by Derek Thompson: “The economists of the early 20th century did not foresee that work might evolve from a means of material production to a means of identity production. They failed to anticipate that, for the poor and middle class, work would remain a necessity; but for the college-educated elite, it would morph into a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community. Call it workism.”
“The best-educated and highest-earning Americans, who can have whatever they want, have chosen the office for the same reason that devout Christians attend church on Sundays: It’s where they feel most themselves… One of the benefits of being an observant Christian, Muslim, or Zoroastrian is that these God-fearing worshippers put their faith in an intangible and unfalsifiable force of goodness. But work is tangible, and success is often falsified. To make either the centerpiece of one’s life is to place one’s esteem in the mercurial hands of the market.” [TheAtlantic]
AT THE OSCARS — Barbra Streisand Honors Spike Lee’s ‘Real,’ ‘Horrifying’ BlacKkKlansman — by Evan Real: “Barbra Streisand took the stage Sunday at the 2019 Oscars to introduce best picture nominee BlacKkKlansman. In a touching speech, the Academy Award-winning actress revealed what she loved so much about Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed film… ‘So, after a lifetime of bold, game-changing work, here is Spike Lee’s masterpiece,’ Streisand said, seemingly referencing the fact that despite decades of groundbreaking work, BlacKkKlansman is Lee’s first film to be nominated for an Oscar. ‘The story of the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who joins forces with his Jewish colleague to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan — that is funny already.'”[HollywoodReporter] • Israeli Oscar winner promises to bring award to Israel [ToI]
SPORTS BLINK — Remember The Ringleader — by Michael McKnight: “For more than a century Ajax, the finest football club in Holland, has had a strong Jewish identity, not because of Eddy Hamel, the first Jew to play for them (and one of only five in the team’s history), but because of the Wooden Stadium’s proximity to Jodenbuurt—Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter. In Hamel’s day, and even before, lower-middle-class Jews formed the bulk of Ajax’s fanbase. That association still lingers today. At the team’s Champions League match against Real Madrid on Wednesday, Ajax supporters who aren’t the slightest bit Jewish will file into Johan Cruyff Arena waving flags and bearing tattoos that depict the Star of David, chanting the Dutch word for ‘Jews’: YO-den! YO-den! … Hamel’s Jewish heritage is irrelevant to his soccer career, other than the retroactive sense of foreboding it provides today, for his playing days ran concurrent with Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.”[SportsIllustrated]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Are Uggs kosher? Rabbis say the boots might violate Jewish law — by Chavie Lieber: “Ugg is categorically denying that its shoes are made with both wool and linen. In an email to me, Ugg senior service manager Mandi Geary says that the company has ‘been contacted by numerous members of the Jewish community following the release of erroneous information that our products contain both wool and linen. Please be assured that none of our current UGG footwear products contain both wool and linen.’ But according to the Shatnez Test Center in Lakewood, New Jersey, seven different types of Ugg footwear styles were found to have wool and linen in them.” [Vox]
DESSERT — In NY, new gluten-free bagel joint transforms after dark to chic kosher gourmet — by Cathryn Prince: “Orly Gottesman, the founder and CEO of Blends by Orly, a line of gluten-free flours and baking supplies, and executive chef Nir Zook, are fusing their talents in a new Upper West Side restaurant venture. By day, the space will be ‘Modern Bread & Bagel,’ a gluten-free and kosher bagel café. By night the space will transform into ‘Arba,’ a Mediterranean gourmet, gluten-free dairy and fish restaurant.” [ToI]
BIRTHDAYS: Owner of MLB’s Chicago White Sox (since 1981) and the NBA’s Chicago Bulls (since 1985), Jerry M. Reinsdorf turns 83… Former talk show host, Sally Jessy Raphael (born Sally Lowenthal) turns 84… President of the Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore (1979-1986), then EVP of the UJA-Federation of New York (1986-1999), then first-ever CEO of United Jewish Communities, Stephen Solender turns 81… Visiting scholar at NYU, he is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, formerly CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (2005-2015), Steve Gutow turns 70… Jerusalem-based attorney who has practiced in the US as well, chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel and a VP of Republicans Overseas, L. Marc Zell turns 66… Chief of the General Staff of the IDF (2007-2011), he is now 4th on the list for the Blue & White party in the 2019 Knesset election, Gabi Ashkenazi turns 65… Opinion columnist and podcast contributor for the New York Times since 2016, after 9 years as the NYT’s editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal turns 63… VP of Communications at CNN, Barbara Levin turns 63… CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo since 2015 after a 20-year career at Hillel, Rob Goldberg turns 60…
Co-President of Paterson, New Jersey-based JNS-SmithChem, LLC, Michael F. Smith turns 58… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who served as the deputy national editor of the Washington Post, she is now the director of news and new initiatives for Facebook, Anne Elise Kornblut turns 46… Travel planner based in Southport, Connecticut, she was previously SVP of marketing and communications at NBC News, Lauren Raps turns 46… Comedian, actress and writer, Chelsea Joy Handler turns 44… Actress, comic book author, producer, singer and screenwriter, best known for her roles in NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and Fox’s “Boston Public,” Rashida Jones turns 43… General manager of Covenant Wines in Berkeley, California, previously at Larkmead Vineyard in Napa Valley, Sagie Kleinlerer turns 42… Assistant Director at San Francisco-based EUQINOM Gallery, Lyla Rose Holdstein turns 37… Actor best known for his role in Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle, he is the founder and head of programming at Richard Branson’s Virgin Produced, Justin Berfield turns 33… Born in Tel Aviv, raised in Arizona, in August 2017 she moved from being Politico’s reporter covering media and politics to CNN where she is covering European business and media, Hadas Gold turns 31… 2013 US national figure skating champion, Maxwell Theodore “Max” Aaron turns 27… Julie Goldman…