Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: April 11, 2018

Dershowitz's day at WH: Advice on Middle East.. & Mueller? | J Street's dinner list | Artichoke War: Rome's Jews vs. Israel's Rabbinate

Chip Somodevilla AFP
Chip Somodevilla AFP

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BREAKING -- "Paul Ryan confidants say he's not running again" by Jonathan Swan: "House Speaker Paul Ryan has told confidants that he will announce soon that he won't run for reelection in November. One of Washington’s best-wired Republicans said: “This is a Titanic, tectonic shift. This is going to make every Republican donor believe the House can’t be held.” [Axios

Statement from Brendan Buck, Counselor to Speaker Ryan: “This morning Speaker Ryan shared with his colleagues that this will be his last year as a member of the House. He will serve out his full term, run through the tape, and then retire in January. After nearly twenty years in the House, the speaker is proud of all that has been accomplished and is ready to devote more of his time to being a husband and a father. While he did not seek the position, he told his colleagues that serving as speaker has been the professional honor of his life, and he thanked them for the trust they placed in him. He will discuss his decision at a press conference immediately following the member meeting."

WHEN IT RAINS... Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, told his staff this morning he is retiring. [TampaBayTimes]

COMING SOON: J Street will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a dinner on April 16th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. The event coincides with the group's annual conference. The evening will feature a keynote address from Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and a conversation with former Mideast Envoy George Mitchell, moderated by Susan Glasser. 

Ahead of the event, J Street released a list of 99 public figures who have agreed to serve on the honorary host committee for the evening, including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, James Baker and John Kerry; former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former Vice President Walter Mondale, former Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, former Hillary Clinton aide Jake Sullivan; former Obama Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, former Obama aide Rob Malley, former Reagan aide Marshall Breger, Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, former Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller, former Massachusetts governor and 1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, former Congressman Barney Frank, former Senators Ted Kaufman and Gary Hart; CAP's Neera Tanden, HBO's Richard Plepler, and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad. It is unclear how many names on the list actually plan to attend. 

Daniel Kurtzer, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt under Bill Clinton and as Ambassador to Israel under George W. Bush, told us that he signed up as an honorary committee member in honor of J Street President Jeremey Ben-Ami even though Kurtzer will not be attending the conference. "He is a friend." 

Aaron David Miller also does not plan to attend and said he has "no real involvement beyond a briefing or two," but added "I like and respect" Ben-Ami. 

Why It's Noteworthy: The list is impressive and indicates the influence the group would have maintained in a Hillary Clinton administration. However, it also highlights the irrelevancy the group has faced in the Trump era. 

A JEWISH DEM WHO HAS INFLUENCE AT THE MOMENT... Last night, President Trump dined with professor Alan Dershowitz in the private residence of the White House. The dinner came after a "pre-arranged meeting" regarding Middle East peace with Trump and White House staff, as described by Dershowitz. Asked by The Washington Post whether he offered any legal advice about the Russian investigation and Mueller, Dershowitz replied, “I’m not going to discuss what I discussed with the president.” In an interview with Slate, Dershowitz said he couldn't judge Trump's state of mind and "didn't see fury, seething," but "he seemed upbeat about the Middle East when we talked about it."

TRUMP TUMULT -- The day after his personal attorney Michael Cohen was targeted by the FBI, President Trump spent much of the day "brooding and fearful and near a meltdown" over the expanded Robert Mueller probe, and actively considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump and his aides have reportedly discussed firing Mueller for months. Shortly after the raid, Trump's legal team had a "tense" meeting with Mueller's staff as part of ongoing negotiations about a potential one-on-one interview. 

IN THE SPOTLIGHT... Michael Cohen, the ‘ultimate Trump loyalist,’ now finds himself in the sights of the FBI, a situation he described yesterday as difficult for his family. In an interview with CNN, Cohen said the raid was "upsetting, to say the least." Cohen has reportedly confided in associates in recent weeks that he is fearful of being a fall guy for his boss. Meanwhile, it was reported, that the interim Manhattan U.S. attorney, Geoffrey Berman, recused himself from his office’s investigation into Cohen, leaving the probe in the hands of his deputy Robert Khuzami. 

"Robert Mueller Is Asking About This Little-Known Chapter Of Michael Cohen’s New York Life" by Anthony Cormier, John Templon, Chris McDaniel and Jason Leopold: "Monday’s FBI raid... was reportedly an attempt to seek information on... Cohen’s history as a New York City cab owner. Questions have arisen about Cohen’s work with Symon Garber and Evgeny Freidman, two Soviet-born New York taxi barons who managed his fleet... There is no indication that Mueller’s team is investigating Garber or Freidman for wrongdoing. One witness who was asked about them was asked about a total of 40 people or companies with ties to Cohen... Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, has been in the taxi business for decades, and was charged in the early 1990s with knowingly conspiring to defraud the IRS." [BuzzFeed]

Republican donors remain silent on Cohen news -- by Brian Schwartz: "GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson... hasn't yet expressed an opinion about the investigation into Trump's loyal comrade, associates close to the billionaire told CNBC... So far in 2018, he has contributed minimally to the congressional elections, but people close to him say that's expected to change before Election Day... A spokesman for Adelson declined to comment... Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman and real estate tycoon Geoffrey Palmer, both top donors to the Trump's re-election campaign, declined to comment about the raid." [CNBC]  Meet the wealthy donors pouring millions into the 2018 elections [WashPost]

ON THE HILL -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endured 5 hours of questions from some 40 senators. Zuckerberg mostly stuck to well-prepared talking points. [Highlights]

TODAY -- Zuckerberg will face another day of questioning at the House Energy and Commerce Committee. [CSPAN] What to watch for [NYT]

HOW IT PLAYED -- "Senate fails its Zuckerberg test" by Dylan Byers: "What the first day of the Zuckerberg hearings made clear is that many American lawmakers are illiterate when it comes to 21st century technology... The senators' lack of understanding allowed Zuckerberg to evade important, unanswered questions about the extent of Facebook's data monitoring and why the company hasn't been more transparent with users how their data is used and how it's been abused." [CNNMoney]

-- "Facebook's Zuckerberg Earns Likes for Washington Performance" by Sarah Frier and Nico Grant: "Before the appearance ended, public speaking and crisis-communication experts gave Zuckerberg high marks for his statements and delivery. Based on past public appearances under scrutiny, expectations were low. Facebook shares jumped more than 5 percent to the highest level in more than two weeks." [Bloomberg]  The Daily Show: "Facebook unveils new, lifelike Mark Zuckerberg ahead of today's hearing." [Instagram]

DRIVING THE DAY -- "Trump Weighs More Robust Military Strike Against Syria" by Peter Baker, Helene Cooper and Thomas Gibbons-Neffa: "President Trump and his advisers on Tuesday weighed a more robust retaliatory strike against Syria than last year’s missile attack, reasoning that only an escalation of force would look credible and possibly serve as a deterrent against further use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians... Possible options included hitting more than a single target and extending strikes beyond a single day." [NYTimes

TRUMP TWEETS THIS AM: "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" [Twitter]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: "Netanyahu expecting Trump to strike in Syria" by Barak Ravid: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in security consultations on Monday that he thinks there is high probability President Trump will order a military strike in Syria... The official said Israel published a formal statement blaming the Assad regime for the attack on Monday night as a consequence of this assessment by Netanyahu. The official said the purpose was to give diplomatic support for possible U.S. military action." [Axios]  Despite blowback over Syrian strike, some Israelis say more military action needed [WashPost

"Iran vows to retaliate against Israel for Syria strike" by Oren Lieberman: "Speaking in Damascus at a two-day conference on Jerusalem Tuesday, a senior advisor to Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, told Iran' state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that Israel's "crimes will not remain unanswered." [CNN]  The Israeli security cabinet is meeting today to discuss the situation in Syria.

Former Israeli Air Force General Amos Yadlin tweets"There are two ongoing and significant developments for Israel’s northern front: the discussion in the U.S. regarding a response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons and the discussion in Iran regarding a response to the alleged Israel’s strike on the T-4 airbase. As it stands, the two issues are mutually exclusive but they can converge into a significant event vis-à-vis Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. The Iranians will probably respond to the strike attributed to Israel, even if not immediately... If the situation escalates to a direct Israeli-Iranian confrontation or brings about problematic Russian interference, Israel will need U.S. assistance."

TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST -- "Gaza Barrier Can't Withstand an Assault by Mob, Fencemaker Says" by Jonathan Ferziger: "Thousands of Palestinians marching on the Gaza Strip’s border could trample the 10-foot-high fence... “It would take about 30 seconds to cross,” said Saar Koursh, chief executive officer of Magal Security Systems Ltd., which built the Gaza fence and is vying to work on the wall President Donald Trump wants to erect on the U.S.-Mexico border. “This fence wasn’t built to stop riots like you see now. It was built to give real-time indication if somebody is trying to cross the border.” [Bloomberg

"Israel Faults Soldiers Who Filmed and Cheered Shooting of Palestinian" by Isabel Kershner: "The Israeli military on Tuesday censured soldiers who filmed and cheered the shooting of a Palestinian man across the barrier fence in Gaza several months ago. But at the same time, the military defended the shooting of the man... The military said the conduct of the censured soldiers was not what was expected of its forces, adding that they would be dealt with by their commanders." [NYTimes

"Saudi student enjoys tech tour of Israel" by Lidar Gravé-Lazi: "A total of 55 students from 25 nations, including Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Malaysia, Jamaica and China... took part in the trip [organized by the Imperial College Israeli Society]. While the trip focused on the hi-tech scene in Israel, the [Saudi] student said he was able to see and experience for himself many aspects of the country, some of which challenged his preconceptions... The anonymous student also said he was very surprised to see Arabs living, studying and working in Israel, and even women wearing Hijabs. “I thought all Arabs had been kicked out of Israel, so I was very surprised to see some,” he said." [JPost]

"The Real Danger in Qatar-Gulf Feud is Iran, U.S. Officials Say" by Ian Talley and Gordon Lubold: "U.S. officials have grown concerned that the protracted conflict is endangering Washington’s strategic interests by pushing Qatar, a global financial hub, more deeply into Iran’s sphere of influence... U.S. officials say they are worried a shift by Doha into Iran’s political and economic orbit would give Tehran access to U.S. dollars, money it then could funnel to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthi rebels in Yemen and other militant groups in the region." [WSJ]  United States says risks remain for those considering doing business with Iran [Reuters]

** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Carl Icahn's $5.4 Billion Exit Strategy Soothes Auto-Parts Retailers [Bloomberg]  Will James Packer take Crown private? Don't bet on it [SMH]  Ex-Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on Saving the Future of Jobs [Wired Nightclub mogul Sam Nazarian reloads lavish party pad in L.A.'s 90210 [LATimes]  Tel Aviv is leading the co-working trend with these insane offices [Quartz]

STARTUP NATION -- "Palo Alto Networks to Acquire Cybersecurity Startup Secdo" by Meir Orbach: "Palo Alto Networks Inc. has entered a definitive agreement to acquire Israel-based cybersecurity startup Cyber Secdo Ltd... The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but one person familiar with the matter... said the sum of the acquisition was around $100 million. Secdo develops patented technology that combines endpoint detection and response (EDR) with security automation capabilities." [Calcalist]

PROFILE: "Finding the Right Corporate Message Isn’t Always Easy" by John Ortved: "Born and raised in Manhattan, Hildy Kuryk graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in political science. She worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and as a fund-raiser for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign before joining the finance wing of the Democratic National Committee... in June, Ms. Kuryk decided to strike out on her own and start a consulting film, Artemis Strategies, which she is pitching to clients as a vehicle to help them craft their message for socially aware consumers. Kuryk has picked up some splashy clients, including Nordstrom, the news briefing service the Skimm, as well as Condé Nast." [NYTimes]

EMBASSY ROW -- "Meet the Diplomat at the Center of the U.S.–China Trade War" by Viola Gienger: "Most of the time, [China’s U.S. ambassador] Cui Tiankai’s job is to be the warm schmoozer... In the early days after Trump’s election victory... Cui found his China whisperer. With an introduction by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in December 2016, Cui began cultivating Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner." [Ozy]

"How to Defeat Drought: Cape Town is running out of water. Israel offers some lessons on how to avoid that fate" by Seth Siegel: "Israel’s second grand water initiative — desalination — ... began in the 1960s. Around that time, an experimental desalination facility in Israel produced a cubic meter of water (264 gallons) for $14. Israel now produces the same volume for about 50 cents. By filtering seawater through holes that are about 0.5 nanometers wide, the desalination process captures all dissolved material, including salt, while the fresh water passes through... These two technologies alone could prevent, or at least postpone, another Cape Town-like crisis. Yet both are expensive and sometimes out of reach for countries on the lower end of the economic development scale. But Israel also leads in low-cost efforts to reduce the use of water for agriculture." [ForeignPolicy]

"Israel Wanted to Bar Entry to Dublin's Mayor Over BDS Ties – but Got His Name Wrong" by Noa Landau: "Israel announced on Tuesday it had barred Dublin Lord Mayor Mícheál Mac Donncha from entering the country – while he was already in the West Bank city of Ramallah after having flown in through Tel Aviv. The Interior Ministry later admitted Mac Donncha had entered Israel due to a typo." [Haaretz

ACROSS THE POND -- “Israeli Labour party suspends relations with Britain's Corbyn” by Ori Lewis: “It is my responsibility to acknowledge the hostility you have shown to the Jewish community and the anti-Semitic statements and actions you have allowed as leader of the Labour party UK,” Israeli Labour party leader Avi Gabbay wrote in a letter to [Jeremy] Corbyn, announcing the suspension. [Reuters]  

TALK OF THE TOWN -- "Holocaust Museum surpasses fundraising goal, now aims for $1 billion" by Peggy McGlone: "The Never Again: What You Do Matters campaign set out five years ago to raise $540 million by the museum’s 25th anniversary. The campaign reached that goal 18 months ahead of schedule and has now brought in $715 million from 366,000 donors... The Washington museum announced Monday evening that it would increase its goal to $1 billion by 2023, its 30th year. “We see that we have all this momentum that we really want to seize,” museum director Sara J. Bloomfield said... The new fundraising goal was announced at Monday’s 25th-anniversary tribute dinner, when the museum honored all survivors of the Holocaust with its highest honor, the Elie Wiesel Award." [WashPost]

"An Obscure Magazine From 1934 Predicted the Nazi Genocide" by Sarah Wildman: "In March 1934, a collection of North American thinkers from the religious... to the journalistic... gathered to observe a yahrzeit, a memorial of loss, marking the first anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s ascension to power. They met in the pages of Opinion: A Journal of Jewish Life and Letters, a then-monthly magazine that, these days, is all but forgotten... “There tends to be a misperception in the general public today that Americans didn’t have any sense of the threat of Nazism as it was unfolding, and the opposite is true,” says Daniel Greene, a history professor at Northwestern University and guest curator of the new exhibit Americans and the Holocaust at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The monographs printed in Opinion eloquently reinforce that point." [ForeignPolicy]

PREMIERING TODAY -- “GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II” airs at 10 PM on PBS in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. The documentary spotlights the 550,000 Jewish men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces from 1941-45, some experiencing anti-Semitism and racism for the first time. Included are interviews with Mel Brooks, Henry Kissinger and Bronx-born TV legend Carl Reiner, among others. [NYPost; Video

HOLLYWOOD -- "FremantleMedia Boards Israeli Drama ‘Fertile Crescent’ From ‘False Flag’ Creator" by Elsa Keslassy: "London-based FremantleMedia is on board to co-develop, co-produce and handle global distribution on “Fertile Crescent,” an ambitious drama set in the Middle East which is being created by the talent behind “False Flag,” Maria Feldman... “Fertile Crescent” centers on a seemingly picture-perfect French family shattered by the death of their estranged daughter in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Years after her tragic death, Antoine, her younger brother, is convinced he saw her in a TV program showing footage of female Kurdish fighters and sets off to find her in the Middle Eastern crescent-shaped region." [Variety]

TALK OF THE TOWN: "The Italy-Israel Artichoke War" by Barbie Later Nadeau: "Nothing says Jewish-Roman cuisine like carciofi alla giudia, or artichokes prepared in the Jewish style. They’re a fried staple found in every kosher restaurant in this city and across Italy. But late last week, Yitzhak Arazi, Israel’s chief rabbi in charge of kosher imports, who generally sets the pace for the entire kosher world, warned in an interview with Haaretz that artichokes aren’t really kosher after all and immediately banned all imports. He did not differentiate between those grown in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries and those grown specifically for the Italian market—but he did refer to the way Rome’s chefs prepare their beloved vegetable for the Jewish community."

“The heart of the artichoke is full of worms, there’s no way you can clean it,” he said, adding that the Roman Jewish style of frying the vegetable makes it even more difficult to get the pests out. And because worms, along with reptiles, amphibians, and most other insects except certain types of locusts, are not considered kosher, eating the Roman-prepared artichokes is now off-limits for observant Jews who want to stay kosher. “It can’t be kosher. This isn’t politics, it’s Jewish religious law.” On a rainy Monday lunch time along the Via Portico d’Ottavia that slices through the heart of Jewish Rome, no one had removed their artichoke shrines or scratched the item off the menu." [DailyBeast]

DESSERT -- "In New Orleans, Crawfish Boils Can Be a Jewish Tradition Too" by Naomi Tomky: "On the last Sunday in May, as happens so often in spring in Louisiana, a room fills with tables covered in red-checked tablecloths and set with endless rolls of paper towel. Bright red, boiled through with local spices, ready for their tails to be pinched and their heads sucked, the ripe crustaceans await some 150 or more diners. What sets this crawfish boil apart is the location and the audience: It’s a fundraiser for the Brotherhood of Temple Sinai, held inside the Jewish synagogue. Temple Sinai is Louisiana’s biggest and oldest congregation of the Reform Jewish movement, a form of the religion with very little focus on keeping kosher. A 2013 Pew Study found that only 7 percent of Reform Jews in the U.S. keep kosher." [AtlasObscura

"4 DC Area Vegan Restaurants Are Now Kosher Certified" by Dani Klein: "Four existing vegan restaurants in the Washington, DC area are now kosher certified under the auspices of Ohav Shalom, the National Synagogue... The restaurants now under supervision are: Evolve Restaurant and Vegaritos in Takoma Park (DC), Sweet and Natural in Mount Rainier, and Everlasting Life in Capitol Heights." [YeahThatsKosher]

5 Must-Haves From Beirut's Booming Vegan Street Food Scene: "Every tourist will readily admit that the most memorable — and adventurous — meals are the ones you come by in the street. That’s no exception in Beirut: No matter what city alley or seaside corniche you explore, you’re bound to be greeted with wafting aromas of good food. Beyond meat shawarma wraps and chicken taouksandwiches, there’s actually a plethora of delicious and satisfying grub to whet every vegan appetite..." [Ozy]

BIRTHDAYS: Australian billionaire, executive chairman of Visy Industries and Pratt Industries US, the world's largest privately owned packaging company, Anthony Pratt (family name in Poland was Przecicki) turns 58... Executive chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies, on several charitable boards including the University of Pennsylvania and the 92nd Street Y, William P. Lauder turns 58... Actress who played the title character on the 325-episode soap opera satire "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," she was married to Woody Allen (1966-1970), Louise Lasser turns 79... Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and syndicated columnist, co-founder (2010) and director of "The Conversation Project" focused on end-of-life care, Ellen Goodman turns 77... Founder and CEO of the USA Network in 1977, she is the co-founder and chairman of Springboard Enterprises, Kay Koplovitz turns 73... Barry Schwab turns 71... Sarita Dery turns 69...

Senior advisor of WomenStrong International, a consortium of non-profit organizations in five nations supporting women-driven solutions to urban poverty, Sydney Rubin turns 66... Managing partner and a founder of LA-based law firm Glass & Goldberg, Marshall F. Goldberg turns 64... Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 1999 from the Pittsburgh area, he serves as the Democratic Caucus Chairman, Dan B. Frankel turns 62... Co-founder of Caracal Global Strategies and founder and CEO of Brigadoon, Marc A. Ross turns 47 (h/t Playbook)... Israeli-based angel investor and entrepreneur, David Galper turns 43... Senior sales and relationship manager at Citadel LLC, previously a VP at Goldman Sachs and a Major League Soccer midfielder, Jordan Cila turns 36...