Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: June 22, 2017

Dems accuse GOP of stalling Iran sanctions | How WeWork was built | Evan Spiegel's advice to an Israeli VC firm's intern | THR 100

JI Staff
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sitting as royal family members and other official pledge allegiance to him, at the Royal Palace in Mecca June 21, 2017.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sitting as royal family members and other official pledge allegiance to him, at the Royal Palace in Mecca June 21, 2017.Credit: AFP Photo / Bandar Al-Jaloud/ SPAE
JI Staff

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TOP QUOTE: "When you're writing, be riveting, be right, and ask people to pay. They will pay." -- Jeff Bezos, speaking yesterday at the Future of Newspapers conference in Turin, Italy [CNBC]

TOP TALKER: “Wall Street Journal Fires Reporter With Ties to Iranian-Born Magnate” by Michael Grynbaum and Sydney Ember: “The correspondent, Jay Solomon, is a highly regarded veteran of The Journal and Washington diplomatic circles, and his dismissal came as a shock to the paper’s newsroom. Shortly after the firing was announced, The Associated Press published a report detailing Mr. Solomon’s communications with Farhad Azima, an Iranian-born businessman, about a venture that at times involved aerial espionage in Iran and the sale of defense equipment to the United Arab Emirates. It was unclear if Mr. Solomon ever formally entered into a commercial arrangement or received compensation tied to Mr. Azima, according to the A.P. report. In a statement to the A.P., Mr. Solomon conceded “mistakes in my reporting” and apologized to his colleagues at The Journal.” [NYTimes; AP]

”The Fall of a Foreign-Affairs Reporter” by David A. Graham: “The news stunned reporters at U.S. organizations, who frantically traded rumors and surprise on Slack and Gchat, and for good reason. Not only was Solomon a well-regarded reporter at a major newspaper, but it’s a clear breach of ethics for a journalist to become involved in arms deals or attempt to interfere in foreign relations through subterfuge. Which is not to say that it doesn’t happen For as long as journalists have covered foreign affairs, they’ve felt the pull of getting involved in the conflicts themselves, whether to earn a little extra cash, to satisfy their own ambitions of grandeur, or as a method of covering up other work.” [TheAtlantic]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION -- “Reasons the U.S. cares about Saudi Arabia's newly named crown prince” by Oren Dorell: “Diplomatic tensions with Iran are not likely to ease, but there could be an advantage to the prince's hawkish stance, [Hussein] Ibish (of the Arab Gulf States Institute) said. “It’s easier for a hawk sometimes to make a compromise, because they’re less vulnerable to being accused of giving away the store,” he said [Mohammed] Bin Salman would like to develop what today is a clandestine security and trade relationship with Israel into an open and deeper partnership, said Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Henderson said it’s unclear if bin Salman’s priority is to get a peace agreement or to find an interim solution that would “park (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) on one side of the road.”” [USAToday]

"Trump’s Preferred Candidate Wins Again, This Time in Saudi Arabia" by Mark Landler and Mark Mazzetti: "Even more than Karen Handel, the Republican who won a hotly contested House seat in a special election in Georgia this week, Prince Mohammed [bin Salman] was Mr. Trump’s anointed candidate — in this case, for the byzantine struggle to control the House of Saud. Mr. Trump views Prince Mohammed as a crucial ally in his effort to cement a Sunni Muslim alliance in the Persian Gulf... The young prince is also a favorite of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner... Mr. Kushner also hopes for Prince Mohammed’s backing, or at least his blessing, in a peace initiative between Israel and the Palestinians."

"When the prince visited Washington in March, he dined with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, at their home. When the couple joined Mr. Trump on his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, the prince hosted Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump for a dinner at his house. “There’s a certain compatibility there,” said Jon B. Alterman, the director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The president and his entourage think fellow billionaires who have an itch to get things done make the world go ‘round.” [NYTimes]

Trump spoke on the phone yesterday with the newly-appointed Saudi Crown Prince: Among other topics, Trump and Salman also “discussed efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” the White House said.

KAFE KNESSET -- More highlights from the Herzliya Conference -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman: "The Palestinians do not have the ability to reach an agreement with the State of Israel alone. Without learning any lessons from the past 24 years we will not be able to move forward. The order must be reversed: First of all, a regional agreement and only then an agreement with the Palestinians."

Tzipi Livni: "If Trump wants to correct Obama’s mistakes, he should lay the US principles on the table here and now. Netanyahu agreed in 2014 to discuss these principles with reservations. Trump should not force content on the sides but rather force them to make a decision according to existing principles. He can now lay a document on the table based on some basic principles. Netanyahu has no political problem to say yes – there is an alternative coalition in Israel for peace."

Minister of Transportation and Intelligence Yisrael Katz: "Saudi King Salman should invite the prime minister to visit Saudi Arabia, like Sadat and Begin, or send the new heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, for a public meeting in Israel."

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union): "Netanyahu is afraid of leaving the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street. So every time Bennett lifts his head, he copies him. Netanyahu, at the logical level understands Israel’s demographic danger. But then his fears enter, and he cannot think or act. He cannot act like Sharon, Rabin or Olmert. He cannot take a risk and be de Gaulle. He has no desire for action. He is shocked that Trump is somewhere else, but he is using delay tactics very well. I say with certainty that Netanyahu is not capable of reaching peace with the Palestinians. He is able to talk and delay. I think he probably tried to do that with Kushner yesterday, too, and at some stage the White House will get tired of it or decide who is to blame for the lack of the process." Full highlights and today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

JARED KUSHNER IN ISRAEL -- Netanyahu, Abbas agree peace will take time: In respective readouts of Kushner’s meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas yesterday, the White House said both sides “underscored that forging peace will take time and stressed the importance of doing everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking.” The WH described both meetings as “productive.”

Journalists barred from photographing Kushner in Israel -- by Peter Beaumont: “Journalists were prevented from even filming Kushner’s arrival at Netanyahu’s office. The Associated Press said one of its cameramen was prevented from filming the arrival of his convoy while another was ordered to delete his memory card of all images of the prime minister’s office.” [Guardian]

Prof. Alan Abbey, director of internet and media at Shalom Hartman Institute, tells us...
“It does seem as if the Trump Administration has adopted a position of listening, rather than lecturing the Israelis and Palestinians. More than anything, both sides want to be heard, first to make their case, but perhaps even more deeply, because they feel that no one listens to them. Unfortunately, neither side has been able to really listen to the other at the upper, political levels. Even as there are many small, grassroots efforts for communication and cooperation under way, there is too much blood, sadness, anger, and resentment for most on both sides. There are times when it seems as if both sides wish that an outsider would just tell us what to do and to impose their will on us. But of course, each side will howl if it perceives that Big Daddy will favor one of us over the other."

--Great Big Story highlights the Jerusalem Youth Chorus which brings together Palestinian and Israeli teens to learn about each other's experiences and forge friendships in a famously divided city — and, of course, to make beautiful music. [Video]

“Jared Kushner’s falling into a trap on Mideast peace” by Benny Avni: “Yes, Kushner and Trump may have gained some respect from all sides here, and that’s not nothing. Who knows, they may even move the ball a few yards. But Mideast peace? A June drizzle greeting a guest may be extremely rare here, but it’s a long way before it turns him into a rainmaker.” [NYPost]

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH -- "Kushner bolsters Trump Middle East peace push" by Laura Rozen:
“I think, first of all, there is a message: The US is still committed and serious,” Ghaith al-Omari, a former member of the Palestinian negotiating team, told Al-Monitor. “The fact that Kushner is with [Greenblatt] is an indication of high-level interest from the administration and also strengthens Greenblatt. It shows he is not working on his own; he has the support of Kushner. The Palestinians ultimately are looking for only one thing in an American envoy: Is this person empowered or not?” al-Omari said. “In this regard, Kushner is seen as someone serious coming and supporting Greenblatt.” The Trump administration “is making this effort a priority,” Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian-American analyst with the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told Al-Monitor." [Al-Monitor]

“Taking a Lead From Trump, U.S. Mideast Envoy Greenblatt Tweets His Every Move in Israel” by Matthew Kalman: “Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s special Middle East envoy, is discovering that there might be a downside in following his boss’s lead and constantly commenting on his every move and every thought on Twitter Greenblatt may need all of his diplomatic skills to deal with one disappointed and influential woman. “Maybe when you have a chance you can sit down with the Moskowitz family, specifically my grandmother,” suggests rabbinical student Yechezkel Moskowitz. “She did give $1 million to the Trump campaign and did not even get a thank you.” Yechezkel’s grandmother is Cherna Moskowitz, wife of the late casino mogul Irving Moskowitz. She appeared on the list of top donors to the Trump presidential campaign last year. Yechezkel Moskowitz said he was in touch with Trump aide Kellyanne Conway to suggest that Trump might like to thank her for the donation, but is still waiting for a response. “She's not in Israel. She's in Miami. I would love to arrange a meeting. Never heard back from anyone,” he said." [Haaretz]

ON THE HILL -- Dems Charge GOP with Stalling Iran Sanctions Bill -- by Aaron Magid: With the Senate passing bipartisan legislation strengthening sanctions against Iran last week by a vote of 97-2, the House bill targeting Tehran remains stalled. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Ed Royce (R-CA) told Jewish Insider, “It’s not going to be delayed long. It has to do with a blue slip issue.” The California lawmaker was referring to a constitutional requirement that all bills raising revenue for the government must originate in the House. Royce refused to elaborate when asked a follow-up question and quickly walked away.

The ranking Democrat on the Committee Eliot Engel (D-NY) blamed Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for holding up the legislation. “I think it’s disgraceful. We have an important bill that slaps sanctions on both Russia and Iran. Passes the Senate 98-2. About as bipartisan as it gets. The fastest way it could pass would be to bring it right to the floor and vote on it,” Engel explained. Citing the different committees that are citing jurisdiction including HFAC and the Ways and Means Committee, Engel added, “If you want to kill something, you make sure it passes by four committees.” [JewishInsider]

Following yesterday's Washington Post article about the Trump administration's efforts to free American hostages detained in Iran, Rep. Ted Deutch is drawing attention to the fact that article made no mention of Bob Levinson. "I feel very strongly that any article that references Americans in Iran needs to start with Bob Levinson, who is the longest held American hostage in history," Deutch told Jewish Insider on Capitol Hill yesterday... "I have been in contact with the administration. They understand the importance of the Levinson case. I encouraged them to move as swiftly as possible at every possible level to bring Bob home."

PALACE INTRIGUE: “White House Looks to Chart Steadier Course Amid Turmoil Over Russia Probes” by Eli Stokols and Michael C. Bender: “Mr. Trump continues to privately express his frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to head the Russia probe, and has at least given voice to the idea of shaking up the Justice Department He also has discussed trying to fire Mr. Mueller with friends outside the White House and senior aides [Steve] Bannon has expressed more openness to the idea Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top adviser, advocated Mr. Trump’s May 9 firing of James Comey as FBI director but has “backed off” on the subject of firing Mr. Mueller, the official said.” [WSJ] Trump Turns an Iowa Rally Into a Venting Session [NYTimes]

HAPPENING TODAY -- The funeral of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old student who died after returning in a coma from captivity in North Korea, will be held at the Wyoming High School auditorium. [ABCNews]

President Trump at a campaign-style rally in Iowa last night: “Look at Otto, beautiful Otto. Went over there a healthy, wonderful boy, and you see how he came back.” [WashPost]

“Rob Portman met secretly with North Koreans to push for Warmbier’s release” by Jessica Wehrman: “In a coffee with constituents Wednesday, Portman spoke emotionally about [Otto] Warmbier, mentioning that he secretly visited with the North Korean representatives in December that had been closely coordinated with the U.S. State Department. Portman brought photos of Warmbier to the meeting in New York, and urged the North Korean government to allow the Swedish ambassador to North Korea — the main U.S. contact with that government — to meet with Warmbier.” [Dispatch] Otto Warmbier’s family kept his Jewishness under wraps while North Korea held him hostage [ToI]

** Good Thursday 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: Gus Wenner to Sell Men’s Journal, Continuing Shift From Print [NYTimes] 12 Massachusetts cybersecurity companies with Israeli roots [BizJournals] Israel to launch index of North American real estate companies [TRD] Germany delays decision on Israeli drones, approves warships [Reuters] Israel picks landing pads to draw foreign entrepreneurs [ToI]

SPOTLIGHT: "Out with $70M: Rotem Rosen leaves ASRR Capital" by Kathryn Brenzel and Chava Gourarie: "ASRR Capital’s Alex Sapir is buying out his partner Rotem Rosen for $70 million. Rosen is leaving his position as director of ASRR, a publicly traded Israeli real estate company, according to filings on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. His departure leaves Sapir with an 80.5 percent share of the company. According to news site Maariv, Rosen was represented by the law firm of Mark Kasowitz, President Trump’s attorney. Rosen is married to Zina Sapir, daughter of the late Tamir Sapir, founder of the Sapir Organization." [RealDeal]

PODCAST PLAYBACK: WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey discussing how he first met Adam Neumann on NPR’s How I Built This podcast hosted by Guy Raz: “While I was working for the [architecture] firm, I had a co-worker - this Israeli guy named Gil - and I became friendly with him And I remember he invited me over to his apartment one weekend and I went over there, and as we are walking into the building, in walks this other dude and we get introduced - and it’s Adam [Neumann] -- it’s a hot summer day and he’s got his shirt off I remember as we were like going up in the elevator, he is starting conversations with people who are on the elevator and then he’s like holding the door as the person got off and then continuing the conversation. I don’t know Israelis at all. First of all, I am coming from Oregon. I’ve never met an Israeli before, so I don’t even know this sort of abrasiveness - which I have come to love - but there’s that and there’s Adam who just has like a really exuberant sort of personality. He was Gil’s roommate. I didn’t know that at the time though. But sort of on that elevator ride it was all explained to me along the way.”

Raz: So you and Adam just like hit it off right there?

McKelvey: “Yeah, and that sounds weird because it doesn’t really make sense. I mean, besides from the fact that we are both tall we don’t have that much in common. We are totally different people. For whatever reason, we just connected.

McKelvey on WeWork's first investment: “Before we even built the first location, we actually had an encounter with a potential investor, who was in a room for one of these potential real estate deals. So we were pitching the building, we really wanted to get this cool building down Canal street, and the owner of it was like, you know, I am not sure if I will give you the building, but I’ve got this friend who might be interested and he’s going to come over. So this guy shows up at the meeting, sits down, doesn’t really speak to us, doesn’t shake hands -- these are Orthodox Jewish guys wearing the black suit and stuff But he ends up calling later that day or the next day after the meeting and saying, hey I don’t think we are getting that building, but I want to partner with you guys. And we are like, well, we don’t really need a partner... He says, yeah, but what will it take? Whatever it takes, I want to be a partner with you... We were like, why not? Let’s throw out a number and we will make it outrageous - it is no chance he’ll say yes, but if he does, then hey we are fine - we did pretty well. We had no building, we had no signed lease even, and we proposed a $45 million valuation - that’s pretty high for a business that is unproven - and he said, yes!" [NPR]

"Snap CEO Evan Spiegel gave the best career advice to a 19-year-old aspiring entrepreneur" by Julie Bort: "Daniel Newman, a 19-year-old student at USC, grew up in Beverly Hills and loves Southern California's star tech company, Snap. So when Snap's famous founder, Evan Spiegel, came to USC and spoke to one of his classes, Newman was all over it. Newman approached Spiegel after the talk, and to his surprise, Spiegel gave him his contact information and a few days later took his call. They talked for about 30 minutes during which Spiegel gave him three pieces of career advice that has changed Newman's aspirations, and quite possibly his life..."

"Newman upped his involvement in a student organization called TAMID, a group that matches US college kids with Israeli startups for mutual advice, internships, and the like. He and the TAMID team created a "Shark Tank" like event where students got to pitch to three VCs for prize money. And all of that helped Newman land a two-month internship at an Israeli VC firm, where he's currently spending the summer. Most importantly, the conversation with Spiegel encouraged Newman to put himself out there, approach people and try and make things happen." [BusinessInsider]

MEDIA WATCH: "Sizing Up BuzzFeed: Could This Unicorn Ever Go Public?" by Andrew Wallenstein and Todd Spangler: "All of which may explain why one such unicorn, BuzzFeed, has the tech industry abuzz in anticipation of an IPO of its own — even though CEO Jonah Peretti has yet to confirm that’s where he’s headed. In an interview with Variety last week (read the full Q&A here), he makes clear he’s aware of the attention that “one possible path” is bringing to his company. “I know that there’s a lot of focus on things like IPOs or potential transactions,” says Peretti. “The thing I try to stay focused on is the work itself.” [Variety]

THR 100: Hollywood Reporter's Most Powerful People in Entertainment: "In compiling the THR 100, our second annual ranking of Hollywood’s most powerful people, we used one overarching criterion: the power of “yes.” THR 100 essentially is a greenlight list: who has the authority to take projects from a no to a yes or the talent and track record to make what he or she wants. There are objective factors, like the size of an executive’s empire (owning it helps, a la Shari Redstone), access to vast sums of money (both Megan Ellison and David Ellison)... 1. Bob Iger: Best advice I've received about power -- "Always be humble. No matter how successful you are or how good the world thinks you are, it's very important not to let that go to your head." [HollywoodReporter]

MORE LISTS: "Observer’s 2017 Young Social Power List" by Zachary Weiss: "While their parents may hail from the worlds of politics or real estate, these PYTs are striking out on their own to make a name for themselves... 6. Larry & Toby Milstein ... 7. Colby Jordan Mugrabi... 9. Gaby & Charlie Rosen... 20. James Sternlicht..." [Observer]

"Israeli man drowns while meditating face-down in Yuba River" by Michelle Robertson: "Yoav Timmer, a citizen of Israel, died at Rice's Crossing, northwest of Nevada City, around 3:30 p.m. on Friday, June 16, The Union reports. Timmer was practicing a type of meditation that involves floating face down in the water for a period of time. A friend meditating nearby checked on Timmer, according to the Sacramento Bee, and found him unresponsive." [SFGate]

“Ben Jacobs' glasses, David Fahrenthold's notebook to go on display at Newseum on June 23 by Leah DePiero: “Ben Jacobs' broken glasses and David Fahrenthold's notebook used in his reporting on President Trump will go on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., later this week, the museum said. "On Friday, the Newseum will unveil two new artifacts in its News Corporation News History Gallery: a pair of broken eyeglasses and a legal pad scrawled with handwritten notes. These artifacts may appear unassuming, but they tell powerful stories about freedom of the press in the United States," a press release said.” [WashExaminer]

"This 29-Year-Old Makes A Living Taking Insanely Cute Dog Photos" by Hannah Loewentheil: "Meet Elias Weiss Friedman.... He's also the guy behind The Dogist — the viral Instagram account that's racked up 2.6 million followers. All of those followers visit the account to look at the photos of real-life dogs that Elias snaps every day while he roams the streets of NYC. To date, he's photographed over 25,000 dogs around the world. Elias got tons of followers, and within a year of starting the account, he scored a few paid photo shoots." [BuzzFeed]

SPORTS BLINK: "Robert Kraft-led trip to Israel has profound impact on Hall of Famers" by Mike Reiss: "You could hear just really how proud [Netanyahu] is of his state and how resilient and tough they are," [Andre] Reed said. "It really teaches a lesson. It's really nice to see he's so confident about... how the region can make other nations better." Said [Jerome] Bettis, "One thing that was resounding was the resolve of the Jewish people... The message that you get -- outside of the things that happened in each person's individual life -- was their love with the state of Israel, their country. But also the understanding that they were a people who were bashed and beaten, and they were able to rise and overcome it." [ESPN]

** FRIDAY NIGHT IN ASPEN: For the second year in a row, Jewish Insider is partnering with OneTable and The Paul E. Singer Foundation to host a Friday night dinner on the sidelines of the Aspen Ideas Festival. The dinner, on June 30th, will also feature an upscale Israeli and California wine tasting from our own Yitz Applbaum. The dinner is open to all - whether you're 25 or 65, we've got a seat at the table for you. RSVP Here [OneTable] **

BIRTHDAYS: A leading securities, corporate and M&A attorney, he is a founding partner of the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Martin Lipton turns 86... United States Senator from California since 1992, Dianne Feinstein turns 84... Jerusalem-born 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, she is the director of a research center at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Ada Yonath turns 78... UK judge, who chaired high profile hearings on ethics in the media, prompted by the 2011 News of the World phone hacking affair, Sir Brian Henry Leveson turns 74... Winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics, professor at Brown University, J. Michael Kosterlitz turns 74... A justice on Israel's Supreme Court (2004-2014), previously she was the Israeli State Prosecutor (1996-2004), Edna Arbel turns 73... Member of the California State Assembly since 2012, prior to that he served as a member of the City Council and then Mayor of Santa Monica, Richard Hershel Bloom turns 64... Immediate past President of the UJA - Federation of New York, Alisa Robbins Doctoroff turns 59... Secretary of Veterans Affairs since he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on February 13, 2017, David Jonathon Shulkin turns 58... Democratic member of Congress since 2001, he is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff turns 57...

Creator of the Android operating system which he sold to Google, then executive at Google (2005-2014), founder in 2014 and CEO of tech incubator Playground Global, a $300 million fund, Andrew E. "Andy" Rubin turns 55... Member of the Knesset for the Likud party since 2009, he is currently serving as Minister of Tourism, Yariv Gideon Levin turns 48... Program director for the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Rafi M. Rone turns 46... Second baseman for MLB's Detroit Tigers since 2014, his first eight seasons were with the Texas Rangers, Ian Kinsler turns 35... Russian-Israeli Internet entrepreneur, co-founder of Russia's largest social network, Vaizra Capital investment fund, and Selectel network centers, Lev Binzumovich Leviev (not the diamond dealer) turns 33... Israeli-born NBA player since 2009, Omri Casspi turns 29... Outfielder in the Washington Nationals organization, started all three games for Team Israel in the 2016 World Baseball Classic qualifier round, Rhett Wiseman turns 23...

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