Daily Kickoff

Crunch time for Bibi | Trump consults Adelson on Bolton | The race to replace Larry Fink | Peter Max art saga

Photo credit: Haim Zach (GPO)

President Rivlin accedes to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for an additional two weeks to form a government on May 13, 2019

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DRIVING THE DAY — Benjamin Netanyahu’s fate as Israel’s prime minister will be determined by midnight Israel time. Avigdor Lieberman, the former defense minister and the head of the small, 5-member party Yisrael Beiteinu, will decide whether Netanyahu will continue to serve as Israel’s leader for a 5th term and become the longest serving Israeli PM in history. Netanyahu would also likely avoid indictment while in office, or be forced to seek the people’s trust once again, should he retain the office.

At this hour, efforts to reach a compromise that would allow Netanyahu to present a government are still ongoing. In the meantime, members of the Likud and Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu continued to blame each other for the crisis.

Knesset members are currently debating a bill to dissolve the 21st Knesset, pending a final vote just before midnight. If a deal is not reached that will allow Netanyahu to present a majority government in the coming days, Israeli citizens will head to the polls for the second time in six months to elect a legislative body and a governing coalition that could look similar to the current one — barring any unforeseen circumstances. Watch the Knesset debate live [KnessetChannel]

DONOR CIRCUIT — Real estate mogul Aby Rosen appears to back Buttigieg: New York real estate developer Aby Rosen posted a photo with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday. “Mayor Pete,” Rosen wrote in his Instagram post with the 2020 presidential candidate in Manhattan, adding a sunglasses emoji.

Rosen, the developer behind New York hotels including 11 Howard and The Gramercy Park Hotel along with The Jaffa in Israel, is also a business partner of The Kushner Companies. In advance of the 2016 presidential elections, Rosen erected a large billboard with the words ‘Vote Your Conscience!’ in reference to the tagline of the Never Trump movement. [JewishInsider]

WHO WE ARE WATCHING — Los Angeles-based investor Joe Sanberg is considering joining the crowded field of candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 2020.

Sanberg told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that he would uniquely talk about poverty “every hour of every single day” in a potential presidential run. “Everything I do, and the way I think and believe, is bound together by the notion of tikkun olam,” he declared in 2016.

He has said the most important part of his identity is his Reform Judaism. After the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue massacre last October, Sanberg tweeted, “I am Jewish.”

Sanberg has traveled to Iowa, Ohio and South Carolina to test the waters of a presidential run. In April, Sandberg attended a Passover Seder hosted by J.D. Scholten, a Democrat who runs the Working Hero non-profit in Iowa. In 2018, Scholten lost his bid to unseat Rep. Steve King (R-IA). “The religiosity of that evening was light — a brief rundown by Sanberg on the Passover lessons of slavery and freedom followed by a rabbi explaining the elements of the Seder plate,” the LATimes described the event. “Sanberg spent most of the evening in conversation with dinner guests, asking them about their own financial circumstances and how they felt things had changed since they were children.” [JewishInsider]

They Donated to De Blasio. But Here’s What They Think About His Run for President — by David Goodman: “‘I’m certainly not a supporter of him running for president. I’m not a supporter of anyone at the moment,’ said Barry Diller, who is funding the construction of a park-island on Manhattan’s West Side. ‘He was very helpful to us in building, and supportive of building, the island that we’re building in the Hudson River.’… Howard L. Gottlieb, an Illinois political donor, said he could not even remember making his $5,000 contribution, one that federal filings show occurred in October. ‘I’m 95 years old,’ he said. ‘Do you think I remember every dime that I’ve ever given to anyone, especially as insignificant as that?’ He added that he had no interest in seeing Mr. de Blasio as president.” [NYTimes• De Blasio vows to reject money from lobbyists — seriously [NYPost]

Gloria Steinem at a rally hosted by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in support of paid personal time legislation at City Hall on Tuesday: “Mayor de Blasio is among my top four choices for president, and the only male human being who is on that list.”

2020 BRIEFS — Trump and Biden campaign traded jabs on Tuesday over North Korea’s remarks… Joe Biden is the front-runner by every measure — except enthusiasm… Elizabeth Warren is gaining ground in the 2020 field, one plan at a time… Kamala Harris picked up endorsements from some Democratic power brokers in South Carolina…

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Russia criticized the upcoming Bahrain summit as an attempt at “imposing an alternative vision” for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “The persistent desire by the U.S. to replace a comprehensive political solution with some economic ‘bonuses’ for the Palestinians is of deep concern,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. “At this difficult stage, collective efforts to launch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are needed, rather than unilateral ‘deals’ of opportunistic nature.”

A source familiar with the planning told Reuters that the U.S. expects that Egypt, Jordan and Oman, as well as the G7 countries, will send representatives to the conference.

White House senior advisor Jared Kushner is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday ahead of the planned Bahrain summit. Kushner is joined by Mideast Peace Envoy Jason Greenblatt, Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook and Deputy Assistant to the President Avi Berkowitz.

On Tuesday, Kushner met with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI in Rabat. The delegation also attended an iftar dinner with the king, Crown Prince Moulay Hassan and Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita. [Pic]

Kushner met with King Abdullah II in Amman on Wednesday. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly departed Amman just four hours after Kushner landed.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Tamara Cofman Wittes of the Brookings Institution on a conference call, hosted by Israel Policy Forum, from Tel Aviv: “The survival of Jordan to me is pretty core to the survival of the Middle East. The King [of Jordan] is already in a very delicate position… a majority of the Jordanian population is Palestinian. If we’re going to see significant, mass mobilization in the wake of an annexation move anywhere in the Arab world, you’re going to see it first in Jordan. I think that given the existing domestic challenges, it just adds this much more fuel to the fire.”

Cofman Wittes said that King Abdullah II faces an impossible choice on the Trump peace plan. “What is a head of government supposed to do in that circumstance?” she asked. “He cannot sell out his national interest, even for the highest price – is basically saying, ‘Yes, I am prepared to destabilize my own rule, my own life-span in power for the sake of whatever check you say you’re going to write to me or you say whatever pledge you say the Gulf is going to give to me.’ I just don’t think that’s a deal any King of Jordan is going to go for.” [JewishInsider]

TOP-OP — William Galston writes… “What’s Beijing Doing in Haifa? 
Many Israeli officials speak of the need to balance the benefits of their country’s economic relations with China against the imperative of a strong security relationship with the U.S… Do­ing busi­ness with China is not the same as do­ing busi­ness with a democ­racy. Does Is­rael re­ally want to en­able Chi­na’s rise at the cost of weak­en­ing its re­la­tion­ship with its great­est ally? It’s not too late for Mr. Ne­tanyahu to turn back, start­ing with the port of Haifa.” [WSJ]

STATE VISIT — Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)
, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is in Israel on his Mideast tour. On Tuesday, Engel met with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. “Enjoyed a far ranging discussion in Israel this morning with HFAC Chairman Eliot Engel and his staff,” Ambassador Friedman tweeted. “Bipartisanship is a hallmark of America’s unbreakable bond with Israel.” [PicJewishInsider]

This morning, Rep. Engel spoke at a conference, titled “Democracy under stress: Shared values, common challenges,” hosted by the Israel Democracy Institute in partnership with the Brookings Institute in Jerusalem.

Engel also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem. “I have always been very supportive of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and I will always continue to be,” Engel said alongside Rivlin. “Friends will sometimes have disagreements, so will spouses and family members, but that shouldn’t and won’t obscure the bigger picture. We are friends and allies and the values we share are more important than anything else.” [Pic• Engel later met with MK Yair Lapid (Kachol Lavan). [Pic]

DESANTIS IN ISRAEL — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman hosted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a reception at the ambassador’s residence in Herzliya on Tuesday evening. In a speech at the reception, DeSantis boasted about Florida being the first state to sanction Airbnb over its decision not to list properties in Israeli settlements in January. “You remember when Airbnb came out with its discriminatory policy, it was Florida that acted first, and we said, ‘This is not going to happen. And if you boycott Israel, we are going to boycott you.’ And that led to Airbnb reversing its policy,” DeSantis told the audience. “That’s a good thing.”

“We have already, I think, done a lot,” the Republican governor continued. “But I think that we have a natural relationship with Israel because we have very similar values in Florida as we do in Israel, and we have a lot of affinity groups — not just Jewish Floridians. We have a lot of other folks throughout Florida who really have an affinity for the state of Israel.” [JewishInsiderPic]

Today: 
Israel’s Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan joined Gov. DeSantis on a visit to Gush Etzion for a briefing about the fight against BDS. [Pic]

DeSantis is holding a controversial cabinet meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem at 8:30 am EST. [Livestream]

LATEST ON IRAN — On Wednesday, National Security Advisor John Bolton — visiting the United Arab Emirates — alleged that the sabotage of four oil tankers off the coast of the UAE came from naval mines placed “almost certainly by Iran.” At the same time, the White House is “trying to be prudent and responsible” in attempting to avoid war with Tehran, Bolton told reporters in Abu Dhabi. “The point is to make it clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kinds of actions risk a very strong response from the United States,” he warned.

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE  — Trump Undercuts Bolton on North Korea and Iran — by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman: “Mr. Trump picked Mr. Bolton in part as a reaction against the narrative that the current and retired generals in his administration were really running things, and in part to find a polar opposite of Mr. Bolton’s predecessor, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. It also helped that Mr. Bolton had the support of Sheldon G. Adelson… At a recent meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Mr. Trump pulled Mr. Adelson aside and asked how he thought Mr. Bolton was doing… Mr. Adelson said that if Mr. Trump was happy, then he was happy.” 

“But it was not clear if he was happy. When Mr. Trump sours on an adviser, he often conducts informal surveys of people in his circle asking how they think that adviser is doing, his way of contemplating whether he should make a change. In the case of Mr. Adelson, the president may have also been testing the reaction of Mr. Bolton’s backer, wary of offending the Republican megadonor.”[NYTimes]

TOP TALKER — President Trump allegedly accused Jewish people of “flipping”  under pressure, according to an upcoming book by Michael Wolff, Siege: Trump Under Fire, set to be released next week. “The Jews always flip,” Trump is quoted as saying by Wolff when three members of his inner circle — Michael Cohen, Allen Weisselberg and David Pecker —  decided to cooperate with the Mueller probe. The excerpt was reported by the Guardian.

Democratic Majority for Israel condemned comments made by William Happer, an aide to President Trump, comparing the demonization of carbon dioxide to the treatment of the Jewish people under the Nazis. “It’s hard to know whether William Happer knows less about climate change or the Holocaust, but it’s clear he should not hold a responsible position in government,” DMFI said in a statement to JI. “Happer’s comparison of the Nazi treatment of Jews to what he calls the “demonization” of carbon dioxide is deeply insensitive and offensive. He should resign. Republicans, including President Trump, who refuse to call out this hurtful language from political allies, but are all too quick to weaponize such language if it suits their political objectives, are hypocrites.”

TALK OF THE TOWN – Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) condemned on Tuesday antisemitic graffiti that was discovered spray painted on the side of the Chabad of Staten Island synagogue. The community organized a cleanup and unity rally attended by the district attorney and officials from the New York City Police Department. The graffiti read “Synagogue of Satan.” “It’s important that we condemn antisemitism today. I say that as a Jew, I also say that as your congressman,” Rep. Rose said. “We as a people are so much better than this. We continue to lift each other up and refuse to give in and let whoever committed that act of hate outside, we refuse to let them win.” [Video]

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? 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: The race to replace Larry Fink[InstitutionalInvestor• Eddie Lampert sues Sears Estate, demands trial and $130 million [Bloomberg• Why the timing of Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor’s IPO push is frustrating its rivals [Variety]• Patrick Drahi’s Altice USA’s new phone service will run on Sprint’s mobile network and rely on Wi-Fi[WSJ• Palo Alto buys Israeli cybersecurity firm Twistlock [Reuters• Israel is banking on cannabis as its next big industry [LATimes]

SPOTLIGHT — David Tepper Leaves a Void That’s Tougher to Fill —  by Nir Kaissar: “The hedge fund industry boasts some of the best money managers on the planet, but good luck investing with them. There are precious few, and it’s never clear who they are in the beginning. By the time their skills are apparent, they’ve already amassed a fortune and no longer need investors’ money. Investors were reminded of that quandary last week with the news that David Tepper, founder of hedge fund Appaloosa Management, plans to return money to outside investors and focus on managing his own fortune, which includes the Carolina Panthers football team he bought last year. Tepper founded Appaloosa with just $57 million in 1993 but soon closed the fund to new investors as his fame grew and money poured in… Tepper is the latest in a long line of elite managers who have left the game in recent years, or plan to.” [Bloomberg]

PROFILE — It’s Too Late to Retire, Robert Morgenthau, NYC’s Longest-Serving DA, Says as He Approaches 100 —by Susan DeSantis: “When you meet Robert M. Morgenthau, it feels like nothing has changed. His office on the 31st floor of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz is as messy as ever. His assistant, Ida Van Lindt, is still with him after 44 years… But of course, a decade has passed since Morgenthau, New York City’s longest-serving district attorney, was one of the most feared men in America. And it’s no surprise that as he approaches his 100th birthday, he has had to make some concessions to age… Nevertheless, there is one point on which he is adamant. It is too late to retire. ‘My grandfather used to say opportunity comes to everyone. The secret is to recognize it and not let it go by. I didn’t recognize the opportunity and let it go,’ he confides in an interview.”

“Born in New York City in 1919, Robert Morgenthau is the son of Elinor and Henry Morgenthau Jr., who as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury helped craft the New Deal. The younger Morgenthau, who grew up near the Roosevelts’ home in Hyde Park, got to know the president and his wife Eleanor well. ‘People would ask why didn’t Roosevelt bomb Auschwitz,’ Morgenthau, a supporter of Jewish causes, says during the interview. ‘The answer was the Air Force was busy bombing priority targets and that didn’t include Auschwitz.'” [NYLawJournal]

What do you do with a problem like Al Franken? — by Ben Terris: 
“‘I’m not talking,’ Al Franken said, declining an interview request outside the studio where he was going to record an episode of the Al Franken Podcast. Franken, 68, is talking, but only on his terms: into a microphone, in the studio, where he gets to set the agenda during the interviews and exercise editorial discretion afterward… He does have an audience: After he announced the podcast on Twitter, it quickly hit Apple’s Hot and New chart, and according to the website Chartable was for a brief time the ninth most popular podcast in the country… Just because you can’t hear it on Franken’s podcast doesn’t mean the conversation isn’t happening elsewhere. On the presidential campaign trail, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) gets asked on a regular basis about her decision to call for Franken’s resignation… And when the podcast isn’t rolling, Franken will gripe, according to friends and co-workers, about what was ‘taken away’ from him.” [WashPost]

DEEP DIVE — Dementia Stopped Peter Max From Painting. For Some, That Spelled a Lucrative Opportunity — by Amy Chozick: “In the 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Max was a countercultural icon, a rare painter to achieve name recognition in the mainstream. His psychedelic renderings could be found on the cover of Time, the White House lawn and even a postage stamp. But several years ago, he received a diagnosis of symptoms related to Alzheimer’s, and he now suffers from advanced dementia… For some people, Mr. Max’s decline spelled opportunity. His estranged son, Adam, and three business associates took over Mr. Max’s studio, drastically increasing production for a never-ending series of art auctions on cruise ships, even as the artist himself could hardly paint.”

“Peter Max Finkelstein was never very discerning about his art. He was the son of German Jews who fled Berlin in 1938 and settled in Shanghai, where Mr. Max discovered the primary hues he’d been deprived of under bleak Nazi rule. Eventually, the Finkelsteins moved to Brooklyn, and by 1968 their son was a bona fide Pop Art sensation. But while other protagonists of the movement — like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein — used their art as a commentary on commercialism, Mr. Max’s happy palette defined it.” [NYTimes]

ACROSS THE SEA — Germans urged to wear Jewish skullcap ahead of anti-Israel protests — by Jack Guy and Antonia Mortensen: “Germany’s antisemitism commissioner has asked all citizens to wear the kippah in solidarity with the Jewish community… ‘I call on all citizens of Berlin and across Germany to wear the yarmulke next Saturday if there are new, intolerable attacks targeting Israel and Jews on the occasion of Al-Quds Day in Berlin,’ said Felix Klein in a statement… His latest comments come after he was criticized after apparently discouraging German Jews from wearing the kippah… In response German newspaper Bild published a cut-out kippah skullcap on its front page Monday, urging readers to show their solidarity with the country’s Jewish community in the face of rising antisemitism.”

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed rising antisemitism in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday. Germany has ‘always had a certain number of antisemites among us, unfortunately,’ said Merkel. ‘There is to this day not a single synagogue, not a single daycare center for Jewish children, not a single school for Jewish children that does not need to be guarded by German policemen,’ she added.” [CNN]

CAMPUS BEAT — During Israel visit, Pitzer College President reaffirms opposition to BDS: On Tuesday during a visit to Israel, Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver reaffirmed his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli academia. ‘Academic boycotts of any nation set us on a path of breaking the free exchange of ideas. To boycott a country on the basis of their policies is by definition a blanket indictment of the nation itself, and by extension its citizens,’ Oliver said at the University of Haifa’s annual Board of Governors meeting. The Pitzer College Council, a governing body of faculty and student senators, voted on March 14th to suspend Pitzer’s only study abroad program in Israel with the University of Haifa. President Oliver immediately rejected the motion. Ron Robin, president of the University of Haifa, presented Oliver with a ‘Hamsa Hand.’ ‘This is what inspired leadership looks like, in academia or in any setting,’ Robin said. [JewishInsider]

DESSERT — Rowan Says Lobster Deck Is Labor Of Love As Zoning Board of Appeals Considers ‘Lawless’ Conditions — by Michael Wright: “‘This is a labor of love,’ said Marc Rowan, who bought the Duryea’s property in 2014 and has been battling East Hampton Town ever since for approval to expand and renovate restaurant space. ‘This is not my business. I am not in the restaurant business. If Duryea’s makes a dollar more or a dollar less, that doesn’t matter to me. I’m doing this because I want to do it—because I love that place.’” [27East]

REMEMBERING — Tony Horwitz Dies at 60; Prize-Winning Journalist and Best-Selling Author — by Sam Roberts: “Tony Horwitz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author known for embedding himself in the worlds he wrote about… died on Monday in Washington…  His wife, Geraldine Brooks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, said he had collapsed while walking in Chevy Chase, Md…  Mr. Horwitz… wrote for The New Yorker on the Middle East before amplifying his brand of participatory journalism in nonfiction books… While reporting in the Middle East, he lay down on a battlefield to block Iraqi earthmovers from burying Iranian soldiers in mass graves so that their comrades might claim the bodies, the financial journalist Michael Lewis recalled.” [NYTimesWSJ]

BIRTHDAYS: Investment banker, previously US Ambassador to France (1997-2000), in the 1970s he was chairman of NYC’s Municipal Assistance Corporation which kept the city out of bankruptcy, Felix Rohatyn turns 91… Longboat Key, Florida resident, Paul G. Morton turns 81… Jerusalem-born and London-educated, he served as a member of the Knesset for the Likud party (2002-2003) and then as Israel’s ambassador to Japan (2004-2007), Eli Cohen turns 70… Winner of two Emmy Awards and a Grammy, Danny Elfman turns 66… Television writer, producer and actor, best known as the creator of the sitcom “Arrested Development” as well as the co-creator of “The Ellen Show,” Mitchell Hurwitz turns 56…

Wichita, Kansas resident, Ellen Ginsburg Beren turns 54… Economist on the faculty of the University of Chicago, co-author of the best-selling books in the Freakonomics series, Steven Levitt turns 52… CEO and Executive Editor of 70 Faces Media, the parent company of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Amiram (Ami) Eden turns 46… Paris-born and London-based businessman who is a founding partner of Blandford Capital, until 2018 he was a partner at Greybull Capital, Nathaniel Jerome Meyohas turns 45… Fashion designer, founder and creative director of the fashion label Shoshanna (launched in 1998), style director for Elizabeth Arden, Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss turns 44…

Film producer and former corporate lawyer at Skadden, Arps, he is the son of Blackstone Group’s Stephen A. Schwarzman, Edward Frank “Teddy” Schwarzman turns 40… Jewish Insider’s national politics reporter, Jacob Kornbluh turns 38… Swedish-born pro-Israel activist, she is a contributor to Israel Hayom, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein turns 38… Private equity rising star and Jewish communal activist, Alexander Berger turns 36… New York State Policy Director for the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, Jacob “Jake” Adler turns 33… Israeli-born baseball player and coach, now working in the Seattle Mariners’ player development program, he coached for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Alon Leichman turns 30…