Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: April 12, 2018

Israel caught in US - Russia rift | Moonves vs. Redstone | What's become of Isaac Lee's media empire | How diamonds shape NYC's skyline

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, April 10, 2018.
Alexei Druzhinin/AP

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WAR OF WORDS -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is pushing back against Trump's threats to launch missile strikes against the Assad regime in Syria. Yesterday, Putin spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone and warned him against violating Syria’s sovereignty. However, it's unclear if Netanyahu is heeding the call. Speaking at Yad Vashem on the eve of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), Netanyahu said, “I have a message to the rulers of Iran: Do not put to test Israel’s resolve.” 

TRUMP'S TWEETS THIS AM: "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”" [Twitter]

“Israel Caught in U.S.-Russia Rift Over Syria” by Yaroslav Trofimov: “It has definitely been a goal of Israeli policy to avoid confronting Russia on a number of issues that have been a cause of friction between Russia and the West,” said Dan Shapiro “But if we see an open conflict emerge between Russia and the U.S., I don’t think Israel could afford that luxury,” he added. “Israel’s primary alliance is of course with the United States. Israel will stand beside the United States, but this would be a particularly painful vise to be caught in.” [WSJ

-- "Israel ‘alone in fight’ against Iran in Syria" by Ben Caspit: "Trump apparently told Netanyahu that now that the Islamic State has been defeated and eliminated, the United States has no reason to remain there. At the same time, Trump promised Netanyahu that the United States would stand beside Israel and provide it with assistance if needed. This was a major disappointment for Netanyahu... “Ostensibly, when it comes to the situation of Iran along our northern border, there is no difference between his [Trump’s] position and that of Obama,” a senior Israeli Cabinet member told Al-Monitor." [Al-Monitor]

"Bernie Sanders: Trump has no authority to broaden war in Syria" by Max Greenwood: "President Trump has no legal authority for broadening the war in Syria," Sanders said in a statement. "It is Congress, not the president, who determines whether our country goes to war, and Congress must not abdicate that responsibility." [TheHill

Eli Lake writes “America Learned Wrong Lessons From Iraq, and Syria Suffers: It's an irony that the reason for the Iraq War was the dictator's failure to account for and destroy his stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Today Syria's dictator has not only failed to destroy such weapons, but is actually using them on his own population. It would be a tragedy if he got away with it because the U.S. president is still fighting against the last war.” [BloombergView

TRUMP WHISPERER -- Alan Dershowitz was back at the White House yesterday, less than 24 hours after he dined with President Trump on Tuesday, huddling again with senior Trump aides. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Dershowitz insisted that he's not advising Trump on the Mueller probe. However, minutes before the start of the 9 PM Hannity program, Trump promoted the program, which featured an extensive segment with Dershowitz, who suggested Rod Rosenstein should recuse himself from overseeing the Russia probe. 

“Trump’s lovefest with Dershowitz blossoms” by Annie Karni and Eliana Johnson: "The president... has increasingly turned to [Alan Dershowitz] privately as his stable of lawyers has dwindled. He has spoken with him about a range of issues, including his escalating legal troubles, people familiar with the conversations said. Top White House advisers said they view Dershowitz as an important legal asset, even if he’s not officially on the payroll For weeks leading up to Tuesday’s dinner, Dershowitz appeared to be playing a coy game with journalists who asked him whether he had been approached by the president... about joining the legal team... On Wednesday, however, Dershowitz categorically denied that Trump had personally asked him to join his legal defense team. Instead, he has used the newfound fame that alights on anyone in Trump’s orbit to tout his Middle East bona fides – and position himself as a conduit to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” [Politico

OUTSIDER WITHOUT INFLUENCE -- "Bannon pitches White House on plan to cripple Mueller probe and protect Trump" by Robert Costa: "Stephen K. Bannon... is pitching a plan to West Wing aides and congressional allies... The first step... would be for Trump to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein... Bannon is also recommending the White House cease its cooperation with Mueller... And he is telling associates inside and outside the administration that the president should create a new legal battleground to protect himself from the investigation by asserting executive privilege... There is no indication that Trump... would be willing to take Bannon’s advice or is aware of the plan... If you say his name in front of the president, it’s not a pretty sight,” said a senior administration official." [WashPost

"Michael Cohen had lunch with Donny Deutsch hours after the Morning Joe contributor said that Trump's lawyer could be on the 'right side of history' and help 'bring down the presidency'" by Jamie Jones: "Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen dined out with ad exec and MSNBC regular Donny Deutsch on Wednesday... At lunch Cohen told Donny, according to Donny,  'I'd rather jump out of a building than turn on Donald Trump.'" [DailyMail

PALACE INTRIGUE -- "Jared, Ivanka heading to Peru amid White House drama" by Nancy Cook: "Where in the world are Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner? The pair... has been largely absent from the news during a hectic period at the White House. But the two are heading to Lima, Peru this week for the Summit of the Americas... The pair has not been totally missing from public view — Ivanka Trump made an appearance on Wednesday at the Oval Office signing of a bill aimed at combatting human trafficking... A Republican close to the White House acknowledged that the married couple prefers to lay low during hectic moments because they don’t want to be associated with stories about chaos in the White House." [Politico

TRANSITION -- "Aide Ousted From White House Re-emerges at Justice Dept." by Adam Goldman: "Ezra Cohen-Watnick will play an important role at the Justice Department, advising [Jeff] Sessions on counterintelligence and counterterrorism... Mr. Cohen-Watnick was ousted in August 2017 as part of changes in the White House, one of several appointees of [Mike] Flynn who were removed by his replacement, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster." [NYTimes

"The hawkish world of GOP national-security hands sees hope for renewed relevance in John Bolton and Mike Pompeo” by Rosie Gray: “With Tillerson and McMaster there were basically no normal conservative right-wing kids getting national-security jobs. Anybody who wrote an anti-Trump letter was iced out,” [a] Bolton ally said.  “Now with Pompeo and Bolton, if it can last long enough, there’s a chance to mold another generation of conservative foreign-policy types with real experience, a real network... The people who work for Pompeo and Bolton could be the core of the movement for a long time to come.” [A Republican foreign policy] source said that even the nixing of Bush administration official Elliott Abrams last year for a top job in the State Department could be less definitive than it appears Some insiders think Abrams could have a shot at a job in the State Department again now.” [TheAtlantic]

LATEST ON THE ‘ULTIMATE DEAL’ -- “As Trump Mideast peace plan nears completion, rollout still unclear: source” by Matt Spetalnick, Steve Holland and Yara Bayoumy: “The Trump administration has nearly completed a long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan but is still struggling to decide how and when to roll it out, a senior White House official said While offering few specifics... the official confirmed it would not contain a U.S. commitment to a two-state solution, as the Palestinians had demanded. It will instead stick to Trump’s assertion that he will accept whatever the two sides agree “We are refining it,” the official said... “We are definitely still struggling on Jerusalem ... But we are very close to completing it.”

“While Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, is a pro-Israel hawk who has criticized previous U.S. peace moves, the official said the Middle East team has already met with him and believe he will be supportive.” [Reuters Abbas says Palestinians won’t accept any American peace plan [JPost]

TOP TALKER: “Killed Palestinian Journalist's Colleagues And Family Refute Israel's Hamas Claim” by Daniel Estrin: “Days after Israeli troops fatally shot a Palestinian photojournalist covering protests on the Gaza border, Israel's defense minister alleged the photographer had served as a high-ranking member of... Hamas since 2011. But State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the photojournalist had passed a U.S. government vetting process for his media company to receive a USAID agency grant. The seemingly conflicting claims by Israeli and U.S. officials about the photographer's identity are raising new questions over a killing that drew international media coverage and calls for an investigation.” [NPR

ON THE HILL -- Mike Pompeo will testify this morning before members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State. [CSPAN]

In prepared remarks released last night, Pompeo is expected to say that President Trump is still prepared to fixing the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) "if such a fix is achievable." If confirmed in time, Pompeo is expected to travel to Toronto to participate in the G7 Ministerial Meeting on April 22nd and the NATO Ministerial Meeting later that week to discuss the matter with key European allies ahead of the May 12 deadline. 

Ahead of the hearing, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sent a letter urging senators to press Pompeo about his past comments on Muslims and seek assurances that he'll reactivate the State Department's Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Senators also received a letter from ZOA's Mort Klein pushing back on the ADL's concerns. "The ADL Letter ignores and downplays Islamist threats and attacks on Jews, Americans, and others," Klein wrote. 

"Mnuchin Signals ‘Very Strong’ New Sanctions on Iran Coming" by Saleha Mohsin: "[Steve] Mnuchin, testifying before a House appropriations subcommittee, said there will be “primary and secondary sanctions” against Iran... Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Mnuchin said he was referring both to a possible fresh round of sanctions, as well as the return of previous sanctions that have been periodically waived as part of the nuclear deal. “If the president doesn’t sign the certification, the sanctions snap back into place,” Mnuchin said... “I do think the primary and secondary sanctions would have an important impact on the Iranian economy, and that’s something he’s thinking about and balancing as he makes his decision.” [Bloomberg]

2018 WATCH -- "The leading Republican running for Paul Ryan’s seat is a white nationalist" by Carter Sherman: "Long-shot candidate and self-described “pro-white” politician Paul Nehlen is now the leading Republican to take over Ryan’s Wisconsin seat... Prior to Ryan’s resignation, few believed that Nehlen had a chance at stealing the Republican nomination for Wisconsin’s first district from the Speaker; now, the GOP establishment will almost certainly find another candidate to back." [Vice]

INBOX -- Jewish Democratic Council of America: "Let that sink in: The Republican Party’s strongest—if only—candidate in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District is an open anti-Semite... And, come November, he could be a member of the U.S. Congress. We can’t let that happen... We call on the Republican Party to strongly disavow Paul Nehlen." 

RJC's Matt Brooks in a statement: "Although a fringe candidate with abhorrent neo-Nazi views was already running against the Speaker, we are very confident that with the leadership of the Wisconsin GOP, the eventual Republican nominee to fill Paul Ryan’s House seat (WI-01) will be someone who upholds the GOP’s best values and traditions."

"Former ADL director: Trump has opened the 'sewers' of antisemitism" by Juliane Helmhold: "The rise of antisemitic incidents in the United States is "worrying, but not critical," the former National Director of the ADL Abe Foxman said in an interview with Army Radio... "Antisemitism has always been here," Foxman clarified... "When you remove political correctness, when it's OK to say Mexicans are rapists and Muslims are murderers -- of course that means it's OK to be more anti-Semitic or more anti-Semitic in public." The former ADL director specified his concern, specifically calling on President Trump to "put the cover back on the sewers." [JPost

HEARD THE OTHER DAY -- by Jacob Kornbluh: New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman responded to the pushback he received for writing that the American-Jewish establishment is too preoccupied with Israel and ignores anti-Semitism at home. Weisman's comments came during a panel discussion, featuring Stanford historian Steven Zipperstein and NYTimes opinion editor Bari Weiss, at The Cooper Union on Tuesday: “There’s been a lot of pushback and I’ve had this weird pushback that I did not expect. I expected pushback from conservative Jews that I didn’t talk enough about anti-Semitism of the left. I did talk about it. But I had an odd pushback from liberal, kind of social justice Jewish organizations who were just angry that I didn’t give them enough credit. ‘We’re doing wonderful things! Why aren’t you giving us credit?’ Well, my book is something of a wake up call.”

According to Weisman, there are two ways to look at how the Trump presidency has impacted the fate of the Jewish community in America. “The tribalists view everything through the prism of, ‘What is going to be good for the state of Israel and empower and strengthen Israel,’” and therefore point to Trump’s strong pro-Israel record, he explained. The Internationalists, however, view the rise of nationalism in so many forms as usually bad for the Jews. Weisman went to claim that the security of Israel would be in jeopardy if the United States becomes a hostile nation to Jews. Read a full recap of the panel here [JewishInsider]

** 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 Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Shari Redstone likely to replace Moonves as head of CBS if no deal with Viacom, sources say [CNBC Moonves vs. Redstone: Inside the Poisonous War for Control of CBS and Viacom [HollywoodReporter]  Thrive Capital partner Chris Paik leaving to start own fund; Josh Miller is joining the firm's investment team fulltime [Axios Bernie Madoff’s Beachfront Mansion Is Selling for $21 Million [Bloomberg]  As Elliott Circles, Hyundai Readies ‘Shareholder Friendly’ Plan [Bloomberg]  WeWork is buying China’s Naked Hub for $400 million [FastCompany]

MEDIA WATCH: "As Fusion Media Implodes, Will the Gawker Orphans Hit the Block?" by Joe Pompeo: "It was around 2011 when Isaac Lee, then a 40-year-old news executive at the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, saw the writing on the wall, and it read: multicultural millennials. So Lee and Univision made a bold, some thought outlandish, series of bets. It all began with Fusion, a general-interest Web site and corresponding cable channel launched in 2012 and 2013, respectively... Lee's biggest coup was the August 2016 acquisition of a half dozen orphaned Gawker Media brands, including Gizmodo, Jezebel, and Deadspin. Less than two years after that acquisition, and seven years since Lee first started assembling his fiefdom, Univision is letting the air out of the Fusion Media Group balloon at a fairly rapid rate." 

"Lee, for his part, has still had some moments in the spotlight lately... On March 2, Lee was photographed by a Daily Mail paparazzo as he and Univision chairman Haim Saban entered Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s Washington, D.C., home for a Purim celebration. “He still runs a big chunk” of Univision, said one of the executives I spoke with. “It’s just that he’s not a part of the business he built anymore.” [VanityFair]

SPOTLIGHT: "The dismantling of Forest City Ratner" by Konrad Putzier: "In early 2003, Bruce Ratner walked into City Hall with a proposal to... erect a sports-and-entertainment arena along with 4,500 apartments and 2.1 million square feet of commercial space on (and around) an underused rail yard along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. During Ratner’s presentation, a senior policy adviser in the Bloomberg administration reportedly leaned over to deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff and whispered, “the guy has balls.” Fifteen years later, Ratner’s vision has become only a partial reality, with an arena that’s home to the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders and four of 16 residential towers up... But Ratner is now retired, and his company — once one of the most powerful real estate developers in New York — is a shell of its former self... The firm doesn’t have any other major projects in the works in New York City. Last year, Forest City Ratner Companies... quietly dropped Ratner’s name, rebranding itself as Forest City New York." [TheRealDeal]

"Rough cut: How the global diamond trade — from cartels to war zones — shaped New York’s skyline" by Konrad Putzier: "Developers who began in the diamond trade have built, acquired or have an interest in over 200 properties and projects now worth at least $20 billion, according to an analysis of Real Capital Analytics by The Real Deal. And then there’s the broader influence diamond money has on the market — entities tied to Manhattan’s Diamond District own at least 259 properties in New York City, an analysis of property records shows... “The diamond business is a cash business,” [Yitzchak] Tessler said. “So diamond people — the successful ones, at least — always have cash. And developers don’t have cash. So they all came in one way or another.”" [TheRealDealMag]

TALK OF THE TOWN -- "Polish Consulate Cancels Award for Polish-Jewish Dialogue" by Armin Rosen: "The Jan Karski Humanitarian Awards Night... recognizes Jews and non-Jews who are helping to heal the painful and in all likelihood permanent wounds that the near-total extermination of the country’s Jewish community created. But not this year: On Tuesday, the [Polish] Consulate announced that the dinner was “canceled,” owing to “factors beyond our control which will impact the overall quality of the event.” “Let’s focus on the issue of the Holocaust law. I think that’s where the attention and the priority needs to be right now,” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik... who received a Karski award in 2014." [Tablet]

HOLLYWOOD -- "Sacha Baron Cohen To Star As Eli Cohen In Netflix Limited Series ‘The Spy’" by Nellie Andreeva: "Sacha Baron Cohen is set to headline the six-episode limited series The Spy, which will debut globally on Netflix (outside of France), and on OCS in France. Written and directed by Gideon Raff, creator of the Israeli drama Prisoners of War on which Showtime’s Homeland was based, The Spy tells the story of legendary Israeli spy Eli Cohen (Baron Cohen). Eli Cohen lived in Damascus undercover in the beginning of the ’60s, spying for Israel... Baron Cohen’s interest in Syria has led him and his wife, actress Isla Fisher, to donate to a number of organizations including a $1 million to support Syrian refugees in 2015." [Deadline]

‘When Heroes Fly,’ ‘State of Happiness’ Top Canneseries" by John Hopewell: "Omri Givron, co-creator of famed Israeli series “Hostages,” proved the big winner at the first Canneseries festival taking Best Series for the fast paced Israel/Colombia-set drama-thriller “When Heroes Fly,” which he created, wrote and directed. Produced by Eitan Mansuri’s Spiro Films (“Foxtrot” and “Lebanon”), “When Heroes Fly” ... turns on a former 2006 Lebanon war combatant who reunites with his estranged commando unit comrades to rescue the love of his life, abducted by a cartel in Colombia." [Variety]

"Steven Spielberg said to turn down invite to light Independence Day torch" by Sue Surkes: "Top American filmmaker Steven Spielberg was approached to light the Diaspora Torch at Israel’s Independence Day ceremony but turned it down because of previous commitments... The multiple award-winning director said he would have been happy to come but would be filming in Japan at the time, the paper said, describing him as “very moved” by the offer." [ToI

SPORTS BLINK -- "Patriots owner Robert Kraft calls for criminal justice reform after visiting Meek Mill in prison" by Chuck Schilken: "New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft spent some time Tuesday in a Pennsylvania state prison visiting Meek Mill and emerged calling for the rapper's release and an overhaul of the criminal justice system. "Makes it clear to me we have to do something with criminal justice reform," Kraft said. "His kind of case, to be in a situation like this, it's really bad... I see it firsthand that it's just wrong. We have to find a way to correct it and also help the community help themselves."" [LATimes; TheGuardian]

COJO TO ISRAEL -- NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, also known as CoJo, is heading a weeklong mission to Israel to participate in Israel's 70th-anniversary celebration taking place next week. Other members of the delegation - leaving this evening - include Councilman Chaim Deutsch, Chair of the NYC Jewish Caucus, and Councilmembers Stephen Levin, Karen Koslowitz, Francisco Moya, Carlina Rivera, Rafael Espinal, Ritchie Torres, Alika Ampry-Samuel, and Justin Brannan. The trip is sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of New York. [JewishInsider]

DESSERT -- "Orthodox Rabbis Order Jews To ‘Stick To Budweiser’ — Or Skip Beer" by Josh Nathan-Kazis: "The unusual edict was made after the rabbis... realized in the weeks before Passover that the owner of the NYC’s dominant beer wholesaling firm is Jewish. “He’s 100% Yid,” said a rabbinic administrator at the Central Rabbinical Congress... That posed a problem for the rabbis, because while the New York beer magnate, Simon Bergson, is Jewish, he is not traditionally observant. Under certain complexities of Jewish law, that has led some Orthodox rabbis to rule that all the beer he owned during the week of Passover is not suitable for consumption by Jews... Budweiser, which is distributed in New York by its manufacturer and not Bergson’s firm, is among the few beers these rabbis say is permitted." [Forward]

BIRTHDAYS: Phoenix, Arizona resident, Anita Rochelle Goldberg turns 81... Son of NYC real estate mogul Seymour Durst, and the elder brother of Douglas Durst, head of the Durst Organization, linked to three murder investigations, Robert Durst turns 75... Media entrepreneur and philanthropist, built SFX Entertainment (a concert and stage performance promoter that was sold to Clear Channel in 2000 for $4.4 billion), Robert Sillerman turns 69... Attorney and bestselling novelist of ten legal thrillers and author of two nonfiction books, Scott Turow turns 69... Television producer, screenwriter, director and businessman, he serves as chairman of the Liverpool Football Club and the Boston Red Sox, Thomas Charles Werner turns 68... Senior Vice President at UJA Federation of New York, Stuart Tauber turns 66... Moroccan-born fashion designer, Paul Marciano turns 66... West Bloomfield, Michigan resident, Ron Mitnick turns 64... 

Partner in Holland & Knight's Washington, D.C., office, Norman B. "Norm" Antin turns 62... Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews since 2014, she is a former British Labour Party Member of Parliament (1997-2010), Gillian Joanna Merron turns 59... US District Judge for the Southern District of New York, he was a law clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall (1988-1989), Judge Paul A. Engelmayer turns 57... Realtor and VP for Keller Williams focused on Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts, Ilya Jacob Rasner turns 37 (h/t Playbook)... Comedienne, writer and actress, best known for co-creating and co-starring in the Comedy Central series Broad City, Ilana Glazer turns 31... Israeli actress, for her lead role in the 2012 film, Fill the Void, she won the Israeli version of an Oscar and Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, Hadas Yaron turns 28...