TRANSITION — Eli Groner, who most recently served as director general of the Israeli prime minister’s office under Benjamin Netanyahu, has joined Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT) as their Israel-based managing director. KDT is a subsidiary of Koch Industries and is run by Charles Koch’s son Chase, whom Groner will be reporting to in his new position.
WHY IT MATTERS — Chase Koch, 41, is assuming a bigger role at Koch Industries and the well-known Koch network of top donors. According to a recent in-depth Politico story, Chase is far from the partisan his dad and uncle David are thought to be. The story describes what’s being referred to inside the Koch network as ‘the shift’ which emphasizes bipartisanship and coalition building around policy issues over partisan politics.
IS ISRAEL PART OF ‘THE SHIFT’? — Over the past several years, much has been made about the Koch Brothers influence in foreign policy circles. Recent pieces —include “Koch Brothers Give a Megaphone to the Anti-Israel Fringe” (Bloomberg; 2016) and “Koch Dark Money Funds Anti-Israel Darlings” (Tablet Mag; 2018) — have highlighted the Koch brothers support of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, co-authors of the 2006 book The Israel Lobby, along with Charles Freeman who is similarly focused on Israeli influence in DC.
The first deal that Koch Disruptive Technologies announced after it launched in late 2017 was a $150M Series E round for INSIGHTEC, an Israeli medical company working on MRI-guided ultrasound devices. With the addition of Groner, Israel will be the first satellite office for KDT.
Asked to comment on his hiring, Groner told Jewish Insider in an email: “This should be seen as a vote of confidence in the ingenuity of Israeli entrepreneurs. Koch Industries has built one of the largest private companies in the world with a culture of principled entrepreneurship, and I’m thrilled that the Koch leadership has made the decision that Israel will be the first satellite office of Koch Disruptive Technologies.”
It’s worth noting that other well-known donors critical of Israel have not shied away from investing in Israeli companies either. George Soros had been an investor in SodaStream, Teva and the Alrov Group, owner of the David Citadel and Mamilla Hotels. However, given the large shift — generational and political — taking place in Koch world, perhaps Chase Koch, with his annual visits to Israel, will be changing headlines about the Kochs and Israel as well.[JewishInsider]
OVER THE LONG WEEKEND… As Jared Kushner readies for spring launch of Trump’s Middle East peace plan, he has rebuffed major U.S. allies’ requests to circulate the plan out of fear of leaks… State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert withdrew herself from consideration to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations on Saturday… At the Munich Security Conference, Vice President Mike Pence called on European allies to withdraw from the Iran deal as German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the decision to stick with the 2015 accord… Pence likened Nazi genocide to Iran’s threat to Israel and warned against anti-Semitic authoritarians… Netanyahu has tappedLikud MK Israel Katz as acting foreign minister… Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) told her hometown newspaper that she’s sorry for causing hurt with tweets on Israel, hopes to rebuild trust…
HEARD YESTERDAY — Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Conference of Presidents leadership conference in Jerusalem: “We see false allegations against Jews, tragic attempts to kill Jews and, since the establishment of Israel, a new kind of anti-Semitism: denying us – and only us – the right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland. Anti-Zionism is a new form of anti-Semitism. It should be condemned forthwith by everyone.”
— In his remarks, Netanyahu also mentioned there’s “growing opposition in some parts” of the U.S. to Israel. But stressed that “what’s important is that this support, which is stronger than ever, remains bipartisan.”
Netanyahu met with a delegation led by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Monday. [Pic]
Jackson Diehl writes… “The Democrats have an Israel problem — and it’s not Ilhan Omar: Along the way, [Netanyahu] has openly wedded Israel’s government to the Republican Party and helped to divide U.S. opinion on Israel along partisan lines. That bond has intensified during the Trump administration: Netanyahu has embraced, defended and even imitated a president who is regarded unfavorably by a solid majority of Americans and passionately despised by most Democrats… By now, having outlasted both Clinton and Obama, Netanyahu seems to have written off the Democrats as losers who can’t harm him… What happens to Netanyahu this spring will have more impact on the Democratic Party’s relations with Israel than anything Omar or Tlaib do. If he remains in office, an already troubled relationship is sure to get worse.” [WashPost]
HEARD THIS MORNING — The Daily podcast, hosted by the NYTimes’ Michael Barbaro, focused on the Democrats and Israel this morning. The episode features journalists Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg discussing the recent controversies involving freshmen Democrats — Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib:
Barbaro: What is inside of these charges against [Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)], of having trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes?
Weisman: “On the one hand, the language itself sounds anti-Semitic. But when is anti-Israel sentiment or anti-Zionist sentiment simply anti-Semitic? And that is a very difficult, difficult line to draw. Some people think that anti-Zionism itself — opposing a Jewish state — is by definition, anti-Semitic. But other people would say no, you’re allowed to have foreign policy views even if they are foreign policy views that some people find reprehensible, without being accused of bigotry, and that Ilhan Omar might really, really not like the Jewish state or what the Jewish state does in the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean that she hates the Jewish people. And an apparatus has existed in Washington now for decades that has pulled both parties into the view that Israel is sacrosanct, and that criticism of Israel is tantamount to criticism of Jews.”
Stolberg: “I think that Tlaib and Omar are the edge of the next wave. Right now, most Democrats on Capitol Hill are still in lockstep with Israel, but their constituents are not, and that means that the Democratic Party is going to kind of have to have a reckoning about Israel. I asked the Democratic Caucus Chair, Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), whether or not Omar’s underlying point that we need to have a more open conversation about Israel, is something that Democrats would entertain? And he was very strident in his answer to me that the Democratic Party stands with Israel. It was like really the straight party line answer. But it’s easy to see down the road that there are going to be more Rashidas and Ilhans in the future, and progressives who are a rising force within the party are trying to force that discussion, and many young Jews are trying to force that discussion. So at a certain point, Democrats can’t avoid this conversation. And if you look at it over the long term, it really could herald the breaking of the long-standing bond between Democrats and Israel. We’re not there yet, but you can see it from here.” [TheDaily]
Minister Naftali Bennett, possibly referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar, calls ‘Congresswoman’ an anti-Semite — by Raphael Ahren: “’There is a growing legitimacy to openly express anti-Semitism,’ Bennett told American Jewish leaders at [the COP] summit. ‘This congresswoman is an anti-Semite, loud and clear. The single factor which can influence anti-Semitism, the increasing anti-Semitism, is the strength of the State of Israel… The stronger Israel is, the more protected every Jew in the world is, regardless of their specific relationship with Israel.'” [ToI]
2020 WATCH — Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) was questioned over his support for Israel in his first presidential town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Saturday morning. The two questions, one on Syria and military funding and the other on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and BDS, elicited from Sen. Booker rough sketches of some of his early policy positions. “I am against BDS because I am deeply concerned that we have roots in the BDS movement that do not have any sense for proportionality about other countries. Where is the Chinese BDS movement because of what they’re doing to the Uighurs and to other folks? But you do not hear that. Israel is a country that has a right to exist and a right to defend itself,” Booker said to applause.
Booker also pledged that if elected president of the United States, he will be “committed to finding that two-state solution, and along the way, restoring funding to those non-profit [UN] organizations that are trying to do best to restore a sense of dignity and self-determination to the Palestinians.” Read the two exchanges in full here [JewishInsider]
— Booker said, in a gaggle with reporters, on Sunday: “We have seen painful realities surge in our country, a rise in anti-Semitism, anti-Islamic attacks. We’re seeing just a vicious, horrific, cruel violence that’s motivated by bias and hate. We need to do more to protect all Americans and make sure all neighborhoods and communities are safe.” [CNN]
Bernie Sanders announced the launch of a second presidential campaign in an interview with Vermont Public Radio Tuesday morning, followed by the release of a 10-minute video… ‘Are you with us?’: Michael Bloomberg calls in his chits… In a letter to supporters, Howard Schultz promised he would do ‘nothing to re-elect Donald Trump’… Amid accusations of staff mistreatment, Amy Klobuchar grapples with Minnesota mean… 2020 hopefuls hunt for viral moments… Barack Obama is quietly giving advice to 2020 Democrats, but David Axelrod says that they shouldn’t expect any endorsement… House Republicans have identified 55 Democrats they regard as vulnerable in 2020, including many freshmen, and are determined to be more aggressive on the offense in 2020… Trump the pundit handicaps 2020 Democratic contenders… Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld will challenge Trump for the Republican nomination.
TURTLE BAY — Trump Considering Powell, Craft, Grenell, James for UN Job — by Jennifer Jacobs: “President Donald Trump is considering four people to be his next UN ambassador: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner Dina Powell, the current ambassadors to Canada and Germany, Kelly Craft and Richard Grenell, and John James, a former Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Michigan… Top White House aides have also discussed nominating Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump if no front-runner emerges.” [Bloomberg]
— Maggie Haberman tweets: “[Sec. of State Mike] Pompeo does not want another UN ambassador in the mold of Haley, who will carve out their own path.”
DRIVING THE DAY — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met separately with the prime ministers of Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem after Poland withdrew from the scheduled Visegrad Group (V4) summit amid a furious war of words over the Holocaust. The three leaders then joined Netanyahu for lunch at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
HOW IT PLAYED — Israeli Summit of European Powers Collapses Amid Holocaust Dispute — by Drew Hinshaw and Felicia Schwartz: “Both countries’ governments, led by nationalist, right-leaning parties, are otherwise like-minded on a number of issues and have grown close in recent years, each throwing vocal support behind U.S. President Trump… But ahead of elections this year, both Poland and Israel are attempting to rally bases whose feelings around the Holocaust run deep.” [WSJ] • “The cancellation was a stinging defeat for Netanyahu.” [LATimes]
REPORT — Netanyahu held secret meeting with Morocco’s Foreign Minister — by Barak Ravid: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a secret meeting with Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s foreign minister, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last September… An Israeli official told me that Netanyahu stressed in the meeting that Israel wants to normalize relations with Morocco. He also said that he is interested in visiting Morocco publicly.” [Axios]
KAFE KNESSET — John Kerry Enters the Campaign — by Neri Zilber: The war of viral videos between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz continued, with the Likud releasing a clip yesterday accusing Gantz — IDF chief of staff then — of supporting the Obama administration’s idea for a multinational force in the Jordan Valley. “Fact: Benny Gantz supported the establishment of a Palestinian state and the abandonment of Israel’s security,” the narrator says, before lauding Netanyahu for scuttling the plan. This was a tendentious and false accusation, many observers pointed out — not least Gantz’s running mate, Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, who back then was Netanyahu’s defense minister and opposed (more than any other official, including Netanyahu) former Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2013-2014 peace efforts. Subscribe to read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here[KafeKnesset]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Warren Buffett maintains stake in Teva [Globes] • British lawmakers torch Facebook, accuse Mark Zuckerberg of ‘contempt’ [VanityFair] • Lightstone Group’s David Lichtenstein says that Amazon’s about-face on its New York megacomplex was the ‘worst day for NYC since 9-11’ [RealDeal] • SpaceIL, a spacecraft funded by Morris Kahn and Sheldon Adelson, set for launch [CNN] • Alex Sapir turns to relatives to complete Surfside development [MiamiRealDeal] • German drugmaker Merck sets up Israel incubator to tap into chip, sensor tech [ToI] • Maryland-based Cyber Engineering Services reports that Chinese hackers have stolen technical data for the Iron Dome rocket-defense system from Israeli computers [NationalInterest]
HOLLYWOOD — Barry Diller on Netflix, Amazon and why ‘Hollywood is now irrelevant’ — by Eric Johnson: “‘Hollywood is now irrelevant,’ Diller said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher… ‘It used to be if you could get your hands on a movie studio, you were sitting at a table with only five other people,’ he added. ‘And so that table dominated media worldwide. That’s over.’ On the new podcast, Diller praised Disney CEO Bob Iger as a ‘superb executive,’ but predicted Disney would only do ‘okay in streaming’ when it launches its streaming service Disney Plus later this year. ‘Netflix has won this game,’ he said… ‘No one can get, I believe, to their level of subscribers, which gives them real dominance.'” [Recode]
Netflix Picks Up Chris Evans Starrer ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’ — by Mia Galuppo: “Netflix has picked up true-life thriller The Red Sea Diving Resort in a global deal that excludes China. Chris Evans stars in the feature from writer-director Gideon Raff… The story centers on a group of Mossad agents and brave Ethiopians who, in the early ’80s, used a deserted holiday retreat in Sudan as a front to smuggle thousands of refugees to Israel. Evans plays Ari Kidron, the Mossad agent who leads the mission together with courageous local Kabede Bimro, played by Williams.” [HollywoodReporter]
Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s ‘Synonyms’ wins Berlinale — by Thomas Escritt: “Nadav Lapid’s ‘Synonyms,’ an anarchic story about an Israeli who tries to suppress his origins after moving to Paris, won the Berlin Film Festival’s coveted Golden Bear award on Saturday. The film, a faintly comedic, semi-autobiographical study of identity and the ambivalence of national belonging, tells the story of Yoav, played by newcomer Tom Mercier, and his struggle to reinvent himself as French.” [Reuters]
TALK OF OUR NATION — Future rabbis plant with Palestinians, sow rift with Israel — by Isabel Debre: “In a stark departure from past programs focused on strengthening ties with Israel and Judaism, [a] new crop of rabbinical students is reaching out to the Palestinians… This year’s student program also includes a tour of the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron, a visit to an Israeli military court that prosecutes Palestinians and a meeting with an activist from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip… The program is run by ‘T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights,’ a U.S.-based network of rabbis and cantors.”
“With hundreds of young American rabbis sharing such sentiments, some in Israel find the trend alarming. ‘I worry about a passion for social justice becoming co-opted by far-left politics among future American Jewish leaders,’ said Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a Jewish research center in Jerusalem.” [ABCNews]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Anti-Semitic Attacks Fuel Continuing Rise in Hate Crimes in New York —by Sharon Otterman: “There were 55 hate crimes reported in New York City this year as of Feb. 17, an increase of 72 percent over the same period last year, the police said. Anti-Semitic crimes made up almost two-thirds of that, for a total of 36 crimes reported so far this year, compared with 21 last year… The wave of anti-Semitic attacks in Brooklyn continued on Saturday, when two men threw an object into the large front window of a Chabad Synagogue in Bushwick, Brooklyn, at about 2 a.m. No one was injured. The attack, which shattered the window, is being investigated as a possible bias crime, police said.” [NYTimes] • Cops hunting for bigot who attacked Bushwick synagogue during Shabbat [BrooklynPaper]
LABOUR-EXIT — Seven lawmakers quit Britain’s Labour Party over Brexit and anti-Semitism — by Karla Adam and William Booth: “Seven pro-Europe lawmakers abruptly quit the opposition Labour Party on Monday over their frustration with its leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of Brexit and anti-Semitism allegations in the ranks. The seven said that they would sit in Parliament as an independent group… At a morning news conference, Parliament member Luciana Berger said she had become ’embarrassed’ and ‘ashamed’ of the Labour Party, which she said was ‘institutionally anti-Semitic.’ Berger, who is Jewish, added she was leaving behind a culture of ‘bullying, bigotry and intimidation.'” [WashPost; Bloomberg]
— MP Chuka Umunna writes: “I have been ashamed of the anti-Semitism which has been allowed to percolate through the party at all levels. Not only does it fly in the face of the party’s history of fighting racism but it has revealed attitudes which are anything but respectful, liberal or open minded. I no longer wish to be part of such a culture.”
Gatherings against Anti-Semitism to take place in France — by Samuel Petrequin: “Marches and gatherings against anti-Semitism are taking place across France following a series of anti-Semitic acts that shocked the country. Answering a call from political parties, thousands of protesters and several government members are expected to take to the streets Tuesday.” [AP] • Anti-Semitic Taunts by Yellow Vests Prompt French Soul-Searching[NYTimes; WSJ]
DEEP DIVE — The Israeli Conman Who Impersonated an Oligarch’s Son, Defrauded Women – and Disappeared — by Uri Blau: “A few weeks ago, after six months of intensive research that crossed borders and continents, the staff of the Norwegian tabloid VG located [Shimon] Hayut in Munich, Germany… The reporters soon discovered that Simon Leviev, as he calls himself, is actually an Israeli man who served a prison sentence in Finland, was extradited to Israel and tried there but disappeared before being sentenced… Hayut grew up in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak… His father, Yohanan Hayut, is the chief rabbi of El Al… The reporters at VG found him in Munich thanks to a tip from a Swedish woman who fell into Hayut’s trap and cooperated with the tabloid by contacting and agreeing to meet with him… Lev Leviev has filed a complaint with the Israel Police against Hayut.” [Haaretz] • Watch the full documentary here [VG]
SPOTTED — Ike Perlmutter and his wife Laurie were having dinner at the Trump International Golf Club in at West Palm Beach, Florida on Sunday night via Playbook
A TMZ videographer spotted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC on Monday. RBG will be on the benchTuesday morning for the first time since her surgery in December.
MEDIA WATCH — Michael Wilner, the DC bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post, is joining McClatchy as its White House correspondent. h/t Playbook
MAZEL TOV — Michael Hess, the grandson of Leon Hess, is engaged to fashion designer Misha Nonoo, who is also the Jewish matchmaker credited with setting up Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Nonoo, born in Bahrain to an Iraqi father and English mother, is the niece of Bahrain’s former Jewish U.S. Ambassador Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo.
DESSERT — The Fairmont Hotel Dallas Debuts a Kosher Kitchen — by Eve Hill-Agnus: “After a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Feb. 19 that will welcome key figures in the city’s Jewish community, the Fairmont Hotel Dallas will become the only hotel with a dedicated on-site kosher kitchen in downtown—welcome news to anyone planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, wedding, or other special event, as well as to the hotel’s catering staff, which had seen a rise in kosher events in recent years. The unveiling coincides with the hotel’s 50-year anniversary.” [DMagazine]
BIRTHDAYS: Burton Epstein turns 90… 2004 Nobel Prize laureate in physics, he is a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, David Jonathan Gross turns 78… Former chairman of the board and CEO of Sony Corporation, chairman of the board of trustees of the American Film Institute, Howard Stringer turns 77… Co-Founder of integrated digital marketing agency Hawkeye / Mosaic, now known as Publicis Hawkeye, Sharon Edelman turns 71… Founder and president of the eponymous Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, she is on the boards of the Whitney Museum, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Aspen Institute, Laurie M. Tisch turns 68… and also the birthday of her first cousin once removed, founder and CEO of the e-commerce app, Spring, Alan Tisch who turns 31… Haifa-born, real estate investor, managing partner of Encino, CA-based Hager Pacific Properties, Adam Tuvia Milstein turns 67… Novelist, essayist and short story writer, winner of a 2005 MacArthur genius fellowship, Jonathan Allen Lethem turns 55… Communications director since 1997 for US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kevin D. Bishop turns 48… Vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and chair of World Likud, Yaakov Hagoel turns 48…
Canadian media personality, conservative political activist, writer and broadcaster, Ezra Levant turns 47… Chief innovation officer at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority since 2015, Joshua Levi Schank, Ph.D. turns 44… Founder of NYT’s DealBook and co-creator of Showtime’s “Billions,” Andrew Ross Sorkin turns 42… Jewish rapper, part of the alternative hip hop group Darshan, better known by his stage name Eprhyme (pronounced “E-Prime”), Eden Daniel Pearlstein turns 39… Writer of the “In the Know” gossip column for The Hill newspaper in Washington, where she covers Congress, DC’s social scene, celebrities and politics, Judy Kurtz Altscher turns 35… Ben Birnbaum turns 34… Former MLB pitcher for the Phillies (2011-2012), he now runs Big League Advance, a company that invests in minor league players in exchange for a percentage of their future MLB earnings, Michael Schwimer turns 33… Samantha Zalaznick turns 32… Actor who played the young autistic Jacob “Jake” Bohm in the Fox TV series “Touch,” later portraying a young Bruce Wayne in another Fox series “Gotham,” David Mazouz turns 18… CEO of Taglit Birthright Israel since 2008, previously an Israeli diplomat at embassies and consulates in Istanbul, Bonn and NYC, Gidi Mark… Daniel Blum…