Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff - April 7 2017

White House to host Seder | Reaction to US strikes against Assad | Wynes for Congress? | Yitz Applbaum's Passover Wine Picks

JI Staff
Trump said on February 25, 2017, he will not attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner, breaking with an annual tradition in which the US president attends a light-hearted roast held by journalists and attended by celebrities.
Trump said on February 25, 2017, he will not attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner.Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP
JI Staff

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EXCLUSIVE -- KEEPING TRADITION: Sources at the White House tell us that the Trump administration is planning to continue the tradition set by President Obama of hosting a Seder at the White House this coming Monday night. The sources did not yet know whether Trump or Kushner would participate and noted that it is still in the planning process. They explained that Trump’s participation is very much up in the air due to the situation in Syria. [JewishInsider]

GAME CHANGE: "U.S. strikes Syrian military airfield in first direct assault on Bashar al-Assad’s government" by Dan Lamothe, Missy Ryan and Thomas Gibbons-Neff: "The U.S. military launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago. The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, dramatically expands U.S. military involvement in Syria and exposes the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, both backing Assad in his attempt to crush his opposition." [WashPost; Guardian]

JI READERS REACTION -- Elliott Abrams tells us: "Every US ally, starting with Israel, must be gratified to see the President act. The message to Putin, Kim in North Korea, China’s President Xi in Florida with Trump, Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran, and of course Assad is that they cannot take Trump for granted. He will not analyze endlessly and then decide that there are always too many risks, so he has very much complicated their lives now. That’s a very good thing for our security, as is reinforcement of the century-old rule that chemical warfare is a crime that will be punished. If you read the briefing by National Security Advisor McMaster and Secretary of State Tillerson last night, you get the sense that serious people are coming to the fore in this new administration. Yes, this was a very small action we took in Syria, but it was one Trump’s predecessor would not take. This small, one time action will reverberate loudly around the world."

Abe Foxman emails us“POTUS did the right thing. It is finally a significant gesture on behalf the innocent victims of hate. If only it had happened against Auschwitz or Treblinka. This act will not put an end to all the hate and death. But it is a welcome message and hopefully a new beginning.”

Daniel Shapiro: "Many Qs remain, but on balance, Trump's decision to strike Syrian air fields associated with the CW attack was correct and well-executed." [Twitter]

Bret Stephens: “President Trump has done the right thing and I salute him for it. Now destroy the Assad regime for good.” [Twitter]

ON THE HILL YESTERDAY -- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution that condemns the Assad regime for launching the grisly strike. The resolution was introduced by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bob Corker (R-TN). Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) declined to vote in favor of the resolution and recorded his vote as present. At the same time, leading Senate Democrats Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) have warned the President about proceeding with a military response in Syria without first receiving approval from Congress, as former President Barack Obama requested in 2013 after Assad previously used chemical weapons against its own people. [JewishInsider] Rand Paul: Trump needs Congress to authorize military action in Syria [TheHill]

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: "It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government. This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia." [BusinessInsider]

"Israel’s former chief rabbi says a Holocaust is happening in Syria" by Ruth Eglash: “Of course, this is a ‘shoah’ of the Syrian people and it did not start today. For the past six years since they have been living in a Holocaust,” said [former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir] Lau, using the Hebrew word for Holocaust. [WashPost]

KAFE KNESSET -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: Most of the opposition was united with the coalition in praising Trump, with a Twitter parade of compliments. Isaac Herzog tweeted that the Tomahawk missile attack sends “an important message against the Butcher from Damascus, at a perfect time and perfect place.” Yair Lapid went with: “Better late than never. There are times when use of force is the moral act.” Still, some warned against rejoicing so vocally, such as Zionist Union’s always contrarian leadership candidate Erel Margalit, who said the public celebrations are “unnecessary and dangerous to Israel, and can push us into a complicated military confrontation. Israel can support a justified attack even without public statements.”

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) told Kafe Knesset: “The American attack sends a clear message to Assad and Khamenei that if they cross red lines, they will pay a heavy price. It’s also a signal to Russia of a new American policy and new rules for conducting a dialogue with the superpower over Syria and the Middle East. The Trump policy of reacting and initiating is going to replace the Obama policy of leading from behind, which failed and led to a significant strengthening of Iran and its regional proxies.”

According to Katz, the US operation brought back the Arab confidence and trust in the US leadership, and increases the potential for creating and strengthening a “regional security axis, which includes Israel, to stop Iran and push it out of the region. The most important thing for Israel,” Katz added, “is US support for preventing a territorial connection between Iran and Lebanon, through Iraq and Syria, which could create an increased missile threat to Israel and reestablish the northern front that will threaten Israel and require constant alertness.” Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

GIFT OR NOT? “Moscow surprisingly says west Jerusalem is Israel's capital” by Herb Keinon: “The statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry reads, “We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” This is a sharp shift in Russian policy, which until now has formally held that Jerusalem should eventually be under a permanent international regime Russia's ambassador to Israel will meet with Foreign Ministry officials in the coming days to discuss Moscow's decision and its ramifications.” [JPost] Israel 'studying' Russian statement on Jerusalem recognition [Ynet]

MORE from el-Sisi’s meeting with Jewish leaders in DC During the meeting, according to two attendees, the Egyptian President questioned why people are surprised about Russia’s increased role in the Middle East since the prior White House decided to abandon its leadership role in the region. "If you leave a void someone will come in and fill that gap," el-Sisi emphatically said. We're told former Obama administration official Dennis Ross replied, ‘You’re correct, we did.’

PALACE INTRIGUE: “Steve Bannon Calls Jared Kushner a ‘Cuck’ and ‘Globalist’ Behind His Back” by Asawin Suebsaeng: “It’s been an “open secret” that Bannon and Kushner often clash “face-to-face,” according to senior officials “[Steve] recently vented to us about Jared being a ‘globalist’ and a ‘cuck’He actually said ‘cuck,’ as in “cuckservative,’” the administration official told The Daily Beast “Globalist” is a term typically used by nationalist, pro-Trump right-wingers against political opponents; however, the term has also come under fire for at times carrying anti-Semitic tones. (Kushner is Jewish.)... One senior Trump aide said that Bannon was also frustrated with Kushner “continuing to bring in Zeke Emanuel to discuss health care options,” for instance "Steve thinks Jared is worse than a Democrat, basically," another official close to Bannon said.” [DailyBeast]

“Kushner and Bannon Battle for the Soul of the Trump White House” by Rosie Gray:

[TheAtlantic; WashPost]

"In Battle for Trump’s Heart and Mind, It’s Bannon vs. Kushner" by Maggie Haberman, Jeremy Peters and Peter Baker:


President Trump is considering a broad shakeup


REPORT: "Kushner Omitted Meeting With Russians on Security Clearance Forms" by Jo Becker and Matthew Rosenberg: "The omissions, which Mr. Kushner’s lawyer called an error, are particularly sensitive given the congressional and F.B.I. investigations into contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates." [NYT]

King Abdullah speaks to The Washington Post about his efforts to revive the peace process -- by Lally Weymouth: “Q. When you met President Trump before, you told him that moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be disastrous in the region? A. I was asked about this, and my response was there is going to be a fallout if it is not part of something more comprehensive. The president said, “Look, I am very keen to move the Israelis and Palestinians forward and to find a peace process that actually works, and let’s all work on this together.” Q. Wasn’t it right after your conversation that Trump encouraged Israel to freeze settlements? A. I think people are giving me way too much credit. They are saying that I had something to do with it. I don’t know if I did. I just expressed my views.” [WashPost]

“Dershowitz details chat about Israel with President at his estate” by Annie Linskey:

[Boston Globe]

“Let’s Keep Israel a Bipartisan Issue” -- Congressman Josh Gottheimer writes...


TOP-OP: "If Palestinians are serious about peace, ‘martyr’ violence should not pay" by David Makovsky, Ghaith al-Omari and Lia Weiner:


SPOTLIGHT: “Operation seduction: Lapid captures Israel’s mainstream support” by Mazal Mualem:


2018 WATCH: "Billionaire J.B. Pritzker announces run for Illinois governor" by Aamer Madhani:


WORD ON THE STREET -- Jeremy Wynes is set to announce a run for Congress: Wynes, the Midwest Regional Director for the Republican Jewish Coalition and formerly AIPAC's Midwest Political Director, is exploring a run against Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider for Illinois' 10th congressional district. Wynes was seen making the rounds at this year's AIPAC Policy Conference and has met with NRCC. When reached for comment, Wynes told us: "The 10th District deserves a representative who can actually get things done - someone with their own voice and new ideas who isn't afraid to lead. I've gotten a lot of encouragement from friends on both sides of the aisle who think I fit that description. So I’m strongly considering running, but right now I plan to enjoy Passover with my family and make a final decision soon after the holiday.”

** Good Friday 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: Israel Aerospace Industries signs near $2 billion missile deal with India [Reuters] David Cordish Says He Isn't Worried About MGM National Harbor Competition [WBAL] 5 Lessons Entrepreneurs Worldwide Can Learn From Israeli Culture [Entrepreneur] 23andMe, Inc. Granted First FDA Authorization to Market Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Health Risk Reports [Newswire]

"Who paid the American-Israeli bomb hoaxer? Jewish teen had Bitcoin account worth millions" by Josh Robbins: "Israeli police say that the Israeli-American teenager suspected of making hundreds of bomb threats against Jewish community centres (JCCs) in the US has a Bitcoin account worth millions of shekels. The discovery raises suspicions that the 18-year-old was paid by a third party... Today (6 April) police extended his detention for a third time." [IBTimes]

HOLLYWOOD: “Ron Meyer Honored With Simon Wiesenthal Center Humanitarian Award at Politically Charged Gala” by Lawrence Yee: “Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has co-chaired the tribute dinner 25 times, [said], “In recent times, forces have been released in our country — and around the world — that are intolerant and intolerable.” While others talked broadly about the current cultural climate, Barbra Streisand — who presented Meyer with the Humanitarian Award — specifically called out Donald Trump’s administration. “We are living under an administration that deliberately omitted Jews from its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. We are living with a president that, in his own words, wants to ban a specific religion. All this while the president praises authoritarian leaders and calls our free press the enemy of the people. This is a president who uses words calibrated to incite the beast in people, not the best in people.”” [Variety]

"How Oslo Dramatizes the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks" by Marie Brenner: "A phone call, in fact, launches Oslo, J. T. Rogers’s electrifying three-hour drama, opening in April at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont after a critically acclaimed Off Broadway run last year. The setup is irresistible: the fraught behind-the-headlines negotiations 25 years ago when representatives of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel secretly met in Norway and battled their way to the 1993 Oslo peace accords. How did this byzantine insider’s story come to the stage? A chance meeting on the playground of their daughters’ school started the friendship between director Bartlett Sher and Norway’s U.N. ambassador, Mona Juul, and her husband, the sociologist Terje Rød-Larsen. In time, the largely unknown history of Juul’s and Larsen’s roles as clandestine go-betweens came to light." [VanityFair]

PROFILE: "Meet the 19-Year-Old Israeli Designer Making Gorgeously Grown–Up Clothes" by Rebecca Stadlen: "Glancing at Maya Reik’s Instagram feed—with its elegant black-and-white portraits, Art Deco influences, and close-ups of intricately embroidered silk kimonos—you’d never guess that the sophisticated, well-traveled woman behind the page is a 19-year-old high school dropout. The self-taught Israeli designer, born and raised in the coastal village of Beit Yanai, founded her Tel Aviv-based line, Marei 1998, less than two years ago, and since then has designed two collections; assembled a bicontinental team; set up production at the same Italian factories that work with The Row, Gucci, and Stella McCartney; and presented during Milan fashion week—accomplishments that would be impressive even for someone twice her age." [VogueMagazine]

WINE OF THE WEEK -- Passover Edition -- by Yitz Applbaum: I am often asked which wines I recommend for the “four cups” on Seder Night. Over the past several years I believe that I have come up with a reasonable solution to avoid the paralysis that comes from the paradox of choice: I actually drink 8 cups! For the traditional four cups, I drink very good mid-priced Israeli wines (after all, the Exodus from Egypt had Israel as its destination). Here are a couple of suggestions: 1. Flam Classico 2. Gvaot Petit Verdot 3. Barkan Altitude 4. Har Odem Volcanic Shiraz

To dive deeper into the mood of Magid, and to better enjoy the great friends and family we are with, I enjoy four additional cups to match each of the traditional cups. For these wines, I tend to go a bit higher-end because with the traditional four, we need to drink most of the cup rather promptly, and for the second four, we can take our time and savor the wine. A few recommendations for the higher end: 1. Matar CB 2. Yarden Rom 3. Segal Unfiltered 4. BenHaim Grand Reserve Cab

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS -- FRIDAY: Co-author of Politico Playbook -- the indispensable morning newsletter for the political class -- and most frequent hat tipper to Jewish Insider's birthday editors, Daniel Lippman turns 27... Political activist and former US military analyst who in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of the Vietnam War, to The New York Times and other newspapers, Daniel Ellsberg turns 86... Professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University, Marilyn Ann Friedman turns 72... President of Yale University (1993-2013), now CEO of Coursera, an education-focused technology company, Rick Levin turns 70... Born in Haifa, a professor at the Pennsylvania State University since 1981, folklorist, ethnologist, historian, educator and author, Simon J. Bronner turns 63... NYC socialite and founder of Pretentious Pocket, a silk pocket square business, Justin Ross Lee turns 34... Professional golfer who joined the PGA Tour in 2015 when he won Rookie of the Year, won his first PGA Tour event in 2016 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic near Memphis, Daniel Berger turns 24... Jane Sobo... David Farahi...

SATURDAY: Comedian known for his nightclub performances in Las Vegas, Shecky Greene (born Fred Sheldon Greenfield) turns 91... Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and political writer, longtime contributor to The New Yorker magazine on national security matters, Seymour Myron "Sy" Hersh turns 80... French actor who has appeared in over 60 movies during a career spanning five decades, Jean Benguigui turns 73... Bassist for the rock band Grand Funk Railroad, Melvin George "Mel" Schacher turns 66... Russian-born businessman and philanthropist, emigrated to Israel in 1972, appointed in 2005 as President of the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities of Russia, Arcadi Aleksandrovich Gaydamak turns 65... Member of the National Assembly of Quebec since 2014, previously executive director of the Quebec region of the Canadian Jewish Congress (1998-2004), David Birnbaum turns 61... President of Wesleyan University since 2007, previously president of California College of the Arts, known as a historian, curator, author and public advocate for liberal education, Michael S. Roth turns 60... Member of Knesset since 2015 (Likud), chair of the Knesset's important House Committee and chair of the governing coalition, David Bitan turns 57... Television journalist, political director for NBC News and moderator of NBC's Meet the Press, Charles David "Chuck" Todd turns 45... Professional baseball pitcher who played briefly for the Milwaukee Brewers and currently works as a coach in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, Matthew Lee "Matt" Ford turns 36... Israeli actor, entertainer, model and TV host, Ofer Shechter turns 36... NYC-based head of investor relations for the Israeli Ministry of Finance, focused on global debt capital markets, Jason Reinin turns 35... Television personality and entertainer, best known for starring on the first season of the reality TV series Beauty and the Geek, Richard Rubin turns 34... Musician, singer, songwriter, radio personality and the lead vocalist and guitarist of the indie rock band Vampire Weekend, Ezra Michael Koenig turns 33... Dan Smith of UN Watch, Tamid and AmEx fame... Jeffrey Kramer... Janet Goldstein (h/t Playbook)...

SUNDAY: President of CNN Worldwide since 2013, Jeffrey Adam "Jeff" Zucker turns 52... Retired singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician, Thomas Andrew "Tom" Lehrer turns 89... President of the Duberstein Group, a government relations and lobbying firm in Washington, and a prominent Democratic Party activist, Michael S. Berman turns 78... Retired fighter pilot and brigadier general in the Israeli Air Force, credited with 7.5 enemy fighter jets shot down, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest-ever and longest serving combat pilot, Uri Gil turns 74... EVP of real estate and business development at nationwide homebuilder KB Home, vice-chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, previously a partner at Sidley & Austin, Albert Zane Praw turns 69... Rhode Island resident Gail T. Kritz turns 65... Fashion designer for his own world-wide chain of eponymous stores, previously creative director for Louis Vuitton (1997-2014), Marc Jacobs turns 54... Visual artist, performance artist and co-founder of the arts ensemble Processional Arts Workshop, known for his creation of the large-scale puppet performance works, Alex Kahn turns 50... Attorney, author, political commentator, movie critic and blogger, Debbie Schlussel turns 48... VP at the Marino Organization, a NYC-based strategic communications firm, previously an advisor to New York governors Spitzer and Paterson, Ross M. Wallenstein turns 39... Actress and writer best known as the model for the RGX body spray commercials, Rachel Sarah Specter turns 37... Israeli actress who has appeared in Israeli films, Italian films and US television programs, Moran Atias turns 36... San Francisco-based private equity analyst at Bertram Capital, Soraya Hoberman turns 26... Jonathan Bollag... Lester Garfinkel... Herbert Levine...

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