Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff - February 15, 2017

WH tumult complicates Bibi's visit | Dermer's vindication | Corker doesn't endorse Friedman... yet | Platt to produce 'The Fox Hunt'

JI Staff
Mike Flynn and Donald Trump, September 29, 2016.
Mike Flynn and Donald Trump, September 29, 2016.Credit: John Locher, AP
JI Staff

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DRIVING THE DAY: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the White House at 11:50 a.m.


Netanyahu and Trump will then meet privately

-- Yesterday, senior White House officials said in a press briefing that Trump will not push Netanyahu to reiterate his (2009) support for a “two-state solution” or dictate any preconditioned terms on the two parties. “It's something the two sides have to agree to. It's not for us to impose that vision,” a WH official said. "We're looking at the two sides to come together to make peace together and we'll be there to help them.”

-- The official said the term "two-state solution" has not been particularly well defined. "If I ask five people what a two-state solution is, I get eight different answers A two-state solution that doesn't bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve," the official said. "Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution if that's what the parties want or something else, if that's what the parties want, we're going to help them. We're not going to dictate what the terms of peace will be.”

Issues on the agenda: Iran, settlements, “a possible meeting between the Israelis and Palestinians,” whether to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and the recent UNSC resolution in December critical of Israel.

Goals: According to the senior administration official, the meeting would "usher in a new relationship between Israel and the United States -- something that Israel has not seen in well over eight years, a relationship that will show there is no daylight, that we are fully cognizant of the situation that Israel finds itself in."

KAFE KNESSET in DC -- by Tal Shalev: Netanyahu’s team divided their time yesterday between the Blair House and the Israeli Embassy, where they spent a few hours to discuss the most sensitive issues on the table (for years, Netanyahu and his team have been quite anxious about electronic eavesdropping in the Blair House and prefer to discuss confidential items elsewhere). They then had a meeting and short dinner with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department. Even after the Tillerson meeting, the PMO was not forthcoming on details of the meeting, issuing only a brief statement that in the two hour meeting regional issues were discussed and that Netanyahu invited Tillerson to Israel in order to “establish an independent working relationship.”

A senior Israeli aide told Kafe Knesset that Flynn’s resignation definitely cast a cloud over the pre-meeting deliberations “exhibiting just how liquid the situation here is these days.” After lunch, Netanyahu will be meeting the Israeli press corps for a short briefing, before continuing to Capitol Hill for a series of back-to-back meetings with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and other senators. Tomorrow morning he will be having an early morning breakfast with Vice President Mike Pence. Read today's entire Kafe Knesset [JewishInsider]

“White House Upheaval Complicates Netanyahu Visit” by Mark Landler: “The resignation of Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, deprives Mr. Netanyahu of his strongest ally inside the White House for raising pressure on Iran With Mr. Flynn no longer in the picture, and Mr. Mattis and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson are traveling, the Netanyahu-Trump meeting is likely to include Mr. Kushner and Mr. Bannon. That lineup, analysts said, could tilt the conversation more toward a potential peace initiative than to additional steps to pressure Iran Other analysts, however, said the upheaval in the White House would lower expectations for Mr. Netanyahu.” [NYTimes]

“Netanyahu arrives to Trump White House in turmoil” by Laura Rozen:


"‘An Absolutely Crazy Time to Hold a Meeting with the President of the United States’" by Susan Glasser:


“What Does Trump Want from Netanyahu?” by Daniel Shapiro: “Netanyahu and President Donald Trump benefit from a valuable channel of communication between Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, each of them perhaps the single person closest to their respective leader It’s traditional for Israeli prime ministers, at their first meetings with American presidents, to seek a commitment to a principle of no surprises But Trump will want it to be reciprocal How will Trump respond when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on his first visit to Israel, is greeted with a major surprise settlement announcement, as has often happened to others in the past? Netanyahu would be wise to offer the same commitment.” [TheAtlantic] What Has Netanyahu Really Got to Offer Trump, the Deal-Making President? [Haaretz]

President-in-law: “Jared Kushner's ready for his global debut. Could he be just the man Trump needs in the Middle East?” by Gillian Turner: “After months of behind-the-scenes work cultivating ties on both sides of the Arab-Israeli divide, Jared Kushner is ready for his debut on the global stage this week This will be Donald Trump’s first pow-wow with Benjamin Netanyahu as president, and SLOTUS (America’s son-in-law) cum unofficial special envoy for Middle East peace, will be by his side....” [FoxNews]

Trump friend Thomas Barrack, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, on Kushner and the Middle East: "Barrack said with a new set of leaders in the Arab world wanting a solution, the timing is right. “Israel aligned with tolerant Islam is the answer,” Barrack said. “And I think that that’s what Jared is pushing towards trying to use those relationships and a clean canvas with his influence on the president to say, ‘Have a soft hand, be culturally sensitive. This would be an opportunity for you, Mr. President, to maybe do something along the lines of what President Reagan and [Margaret] Thatcher did in bringing down the wall.”" [CBSNews]

"The Ambassador Who Came In From the Cold -The vindication of Ron Dermer" by Amir Tibon: "Dan Meridor, a former senior Cabinet member in two of Netanyahu’s governments, told me that he “did not like the confrontational approach” of Netanyahu and Dermer toward President Obama—but that now, with Trump in power, Netanyahu might need Dermer, whom he considers brilliant, more than ever... An open line to Kushner is better than what many of Dermer’s colleagues currently enjoy, four weeks into the Trump administration... The downside, and danger, of such an approach, is the effect it could have on Israel's relationship with the Democratic party going forward. “The most urgent task for an Israeli ambassador in the U.S. right now is to preserve bipartisan support for our country,” Danny Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to Washington from 2002 to 2006, told me." [TheAtlantic]

“Many U.S. Democrats skeptical on chances to reset Netanyahu ties” by Patricia Zengerle: “Israeli officials said Netanyahu's aides have been aware of the need to re-establish a semblance of bipartisan even-handedness, even as the Prime Minister works to create a personal bond with Trump.” [Reuters]

"CIA chief meets Palestinians' Abbas in first top-level talks" by Karin Laub: "Two senior Palestinian officials say CIA chief Mike Pompeo secretly held talks in the West Bank with Mahmoud Abbas, the first high-level meeting between the Palestinian leader and a Trump administration official. The officials said on Wednesday that the meeting took place a day earlier at Abbas' headquarters in Ramallah." [AP]

"President Trump, Will You Save the Jews?" by Thomas Friedman: "If Netanyahu’s weak leadership and the overreach of the settlers in his party end up erasing the two-state solution, the debate within the Jewish community will move from “left versus right” to “right versus wrong.” That debate will not be about which are the best borders to defend the state of Israel, said the Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halbertal, “but whether the state is worth defending in moral terms.”" [NYTimes]

ON THE HILL: Sen. Bob Corker declined to endorse David Friedman for Ambassador to Israel ahead of Thursday’s confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When asked by Jewish Insider if he supports Friedman’s candidacy, Corker replied, “I want to go through the process. I think he is a very qualified nominee but as with all nominees that come before our committee, I want to have the hearing to understand more fully who he is” Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) appeared to show some willingness to back Friedman. “My private meeting with him indicates someone who is different than some of those public comments,” Menendez told JI’s Aaron Magid. “I look forward to hearing his official response before the committee.” [JewishInsider]

Via NYT’s Mark Landler:


"Trump's Pick for Israel Envoy Not an Extremist, Jewish Group Tells Senate" by Amir Tibon:


TRUMP TUMULT: “Flynn's ouster leads to more chaos in Trump world” by Eli Stokols, Tara Palmeri and Annie Karni: “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has privately expressed frustration at not knowing whether to contact Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss the administration’s Middle East policy And Cruz is not alone. "I can't figure out what's going on over there," said a foreign policy staffer in the office of another GOP senator.” [Politico] TOP TALKER: "Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence" [NYT]

“The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn” by Eli Lake:


“Kellyanne Conway Claims She Doesn’t Know Who Retweeted A White Nationalist From Her Twitter Account” by Tasneem Nashrulla:


"The hottest invite in town: Donald Trump's supper club" by Sara Murray: "


** 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Clipper Realty is buying an 11-story Brooklyn Heights rental building from the Jehovah’s Witnesses for $87.5 million [RealDeal] Trump's claim that his "friends" can't get loans is not backed by data [Crains] Elliott Exits Position in Interpublic Group [WSJ] Top Israeli VC Says Startup Nation Drives U.S. Economic Growth [Bloomberg]

STARTUP NATION: "Step inside Israel's thriving startup scene in the first episode of WIRED's Holy Land series" by Victoria Woollaston: "In the first of five episodes in the Holy Land: Startup Nations series, titled The era of permanent revolution, WIRED visits Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to investigate how technology and innovation are emerging to become the region's dominant themes." [WiredMag]

"That ‘Free’ App Isn’t Free: How Self-Improvement Became a Market" by Beth Kobliner: "Liking Joe Lieberman, for example, could lead Facebook to decide you have an "ethnic affinity" with Jewish-Americans and sell that information to marketers who may want to sell you Manischewitz." [NBCNews]

SPOTLIGHT: "Ivanka Trump Logistics Firm Sued for Discrimination" by Spencer Woodman: "In November 2015, a 67-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman named Marilyn Cohen filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a freight logistics firm named Alba Wheels Up International, which has helped facilitate more than a hundred shipments of Ivanka Trump brand merchandise from China. The suit, filed in the southern district of New York, alleges the Cohen suffered an array of discriminatory harms at the hands of her superiors at Alba. Cohen not only claims that she was shunned for her religion and her age, but she also describes one of these slights as intermingling with overt sexism. As Alba is only a contractor of her brand’s licensee, Ivanka Trump, an Orthodox Jew herself, is likely to have never heard of the lawsuit." [Racked]

HOLLYWOOD: "Fox 2000 Catches ‘The Fox Hunt’ For ‘La La Land’ Producer; ‘Spotlight” Screenwriter Adapting" by Anita Busch:

[Deadline; Variety]

"PewDiePie Show Canceled by Google’s YouTube" by Jack Nicas:


"Saved From Holocaust: ‘He Loved Me and He Wanted to Keep Me’" by Corey Kilgannon: "For Isaac and Rosa Blum, who became teenage sweethearts 75 years ago in a ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland, that moment came as they and thousands of other terrified Jews were being herded to a death camp by Nazi soldiers. “I saw her walking in front of me,” Mr. Blum recalled. “I went up to the German and told him, ‘That’s my sister,’ even though she was my girlfriend.” Miraculously, they were both pulled off the line and managed to survive the Holocaust by working as slave laborers in a munitions factory. The following 70 years have been a cinch by comparison, the couple said on Monday in their two-story house in the Manhattan Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn." [NYTimes]

DESSERT: "Houston’s Top Chefs Cook Kosher Next Monday" by Alice Levitt: "When diners hear the name Luis Roger, the chef at BCN Taste & Tradition, they likely think of crisp-skinned suckling pig. Mark Holley of Holley’s? Probably some delicious shellfish. But next Monday, February 20, such ingredients will be literally off the table. Those chefs will join five other big names to cook a five-course meal as part of the Gourmet Kosher Extravaganza, an annual benefit dinner for Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Houston branch. It’s one thing to eat an all-kosher dinner prepared by some well-respected secular chefs, but when’s the last time you attended a meal that had a goal of raising money to establish a cyber security research lab?" [Houstonia]

"Pastrami on wry: Jewish deli scores customers, retweets with Trump-mocking signs" by Lauren Gill: "Call it a schmear campaign! The owner of popular Boerum Hill bagel and lox joint Shelsky’s is creating a buzz in the neighborhood and on social media with sidewalk signs that poke fun at President Trump and his bungling administration — the latest of which is “Thanks to customer feedback, we no longer sell Ivanka brand lox, whitefish, or herring,” in reference to Nordstrom dropping the First Daughter’s clothing line." [BrooklynPaper]

BIRTHDAYS: Professor emeritus of American Jewish history at Columbia University, Arthur A. Goren (born Aryeh Gorenstein) turns 91... British actress, Claire Bloom, whose paternal grandfather shortened his name from Blumenthal, turns 86... Chair of Jewish Studies at Arizona State University, a scholar of Jewish philosophy, Norbert M. Samuelson turns 81... Professor of cognitive science at both the University of Michigan and Indiana University, Pulitzer Prize winner, Douglas Hofstadter, turns 72... Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1-1991 to 1-2017, Elliott Naishtat turns 72... Cartoonist, editor, teacher at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and long-time contributing artist for The New Yorker, Art Spiegelman (born Itzhak Avraham ben Zeev) turns 69... Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, television, film and stage actress, Melissa Manchester turns 66... Burson-Marsteller’s Founding Chairman Harold Burson, who comes into the N.Y. office nearly every day, turns 96 (h/t Playbook)... Host of the radio program "Jewish Moments in the Morning" since 1983, president of the Nachum Segal Radio Network, Nachum Segal turns 54... TPM’s Josh Marshall, the pride of Upland, Calif., turns 48 (h/t Playbook)... Deputy executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Alex Siegel turns 31... Washington director for the New Israel Fund, Karen Paul-Stern... Yogi Sanders... Eric Distenfeld...

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