Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: August 1, 2018

Israelis blindsided by Trump's comments on Iran but 'reassured' no shift in U.S. policy | Speaker Paul Ryan discovers Jewish roots

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Donald Trump, 31 July 2018
Donald Trump, 31 July 2018Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

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DRIVING THE CONVO: House Speaker Paul Ryan uncovers Jewish roots on PBS show — by Beth Harris: "The Wisconsin Republican discovered his family history while filming a segment for the upcoming season of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” Gates said Tuesday at a TV critics meeting that he traced Paul Ryan’s heritage back to his 10th great-grandfather born in 1531 in Germany. The research showed Ryan is 3 percent Ashkenazi Jewish."

“You could have knocked him over with a feather and then he was very proud of it,” Gates said of Ryan’s reaction. “We don’t know who that Jewish person was, but we know it was on his mother’s German line, which makes sense. So somebody who was a Christian German slept with a Jewish German person and that’s where that came from.” [APWashPost]

Politico's Jake Sherman tweets"Paul Ryan is the first Jewish speaker of the House."

-- Ryan's Press Secretary AshLee Strong replies"Breaking."

Former Paul Ryan advisor Dan Senor tells us that Ryan called him late at night on July 11th to break the news. "I have something really exciting to tell you, I just learned that I’m part Jewish. I'm officially a member of the family!" Senor jokingly replied, "Just our luck, we Jews finally get a Jewish Speaker except it’s a Speaker that’s about to retire!" 

Senor noted that during their time together on the campaign trail, he and Ryan would sometimes share Shabbat dinner. Senor said he would make the Kiddush and Motzi and Ryan knew some of the blessings from Jewish family friends in Janesville. "Perhaps now he can use them every Friday night," Senor said.  

TALK OF THE REGION — PA slams US ambassador for 'provocative' visits to settlements — by Khaled Abu Toameh: “The Palestinian Authority accused the US administration and its “Zionist staff” of working towards imposing their policies on the international community. The PA’s condemnation came after Friedman paid a condolence visit Monday to the family of Yotam Ovadia who was stabbed to death Thursday in a terrorist attack in Adam." [JPost

Amb. Friedman responds“Yesterday I visited a young widow grieving the death of her husband, murdered last week by a Palestinian terrorist. I was heartbroken by her tears and those of her in-laws who had lost their only son. Today, the PA Foreign Ministry condemned my visit. Nothing more to say.” 

Mike Huckabee says he may buy home in West Bank settlement: "Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee... laid bricks and spread cement Wednesday in a new neighborhood in Efrat. He says he may one day “purchase a holiday home” there. Huckabee... says he’s sure President Donald Trump would have been pleased to join him, “because he is a builder and he loves to see construction sites.”" [AP]

INTERVIEW — White House Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt talked with Hamodia’s Sara Lehmann about the Trump administration's Middle East policy:

Greenblatt on the two-state solution: “Different people think it means different things, and in isolation, it does not really mean anything The Israeli Palestinian conflict is so nuanced, so complicated. No one understands what a two-state solution really means, particularly when it comes to issues related to Israel’s security or recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. There are just too many layers Without the right context, it’s just a slogan, which is why we don’t use it.”

Does Bolton agree? -- Greenblatt: “In terms of President Abbas, we have not advocated for regime change. That’s not for us to do. We don’t dictate to others who to choose as their leaders or negotiators.”

Support for Nikki Haley: “I’m sure you’re also well aware of Ambassador Haley’s work at the U.N. She’s been doing an unbelievable job for Israel, defending Israel, and trying to reset the conversation at the U.N. I think she is making changes; she is dedicated to this.”

Greenblatt on whether he gets the Dershowitz Martha’s Vineyard treatment: “Most of my friends respect what this administration is trying to accomplish. I’ve definitely experienced a few people who are just anti-the Trump Administration and have therefore cut off ties with me. That has been very disappointing to me. You know people for ten, twenty years and then they turn their nose up at you in the street. Thankfully, it’s been very few but it’s surprising... I also think, after a year and a half, people understand that coming up to me at shul to tell me we can never achieve peace or explain their way to achieve peace isn’t the way to help the administration. So we’ve gotten past that as well.” [Hamodia

HEARD LAST NIGHT — President Trump touted the Jerusalem Embassy move at a campaign rally in Tampa, Florida: "We took an existing building, we played around with it; we renovated it, we fixed it up. We used Jerusalem stone, one of the finest stones, actually, in the world." 

-- Claims no one else would have moved the embassy: "Can you imagine Crooked Hillary doing that? Honestly, can you imagine? ('lock her up' chants) In all fairness to her, could you imagine anybody else doing that? Nobody else was going to do that." [CSPAN]

-- Trump on Iran: "I hope it works out with Iran. They are having a lot of difficulties right now. I hope it works out well, and I have a feeling they will be talking to us pretty soon. And maybe not, and that's okay too." [CSPAN

White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley aboard Air Force 1: The President "has been clear on what he wants from Iran, and that is to end its destabilization efforts, its actions of being the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. And he’s been tough on Iran for that very reason... We’ve ramped up sanctions on Iran, and we’ve bolstered some of our partnerships to try and put more pressure on Iran. So this continues. But as he said yesterday... he does want to meet, he wants to come to a solution. And when we have an announcement, we'll let you know." 

Ordinary Iranians on Trump Talks Offer: ‘Why Not Try the Americans?’ -- by Thomas Erdbrink: "Jamshid Moniri, a 45-year-old building contractor sweating under the Tehran summer sun, summed up what many ordinary Iranians think. “Of course we should talk to Trump,” he said on Tuesday. “What is wrong with talks? We’d be nuts not to talk to him.” [NYTimes]

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: Trump comments on Iran don't signal policy shift, U.S. assures Israel — by Barak Ravid: “Senior U.S. officials reassured Israel today that regardless of President Trump's public call for direct and unconditional talks with Iran, there is no change in the administration's tough policy against the Iranian regime, Israeli officials tell me Trump's statement on talks with Iran blindsided the Israeli government... After the statement, Israeli officials asked whether there had been a change in policy, an official said.” [Axios

-- "Yaakov Amidror, a former national security advisor, joked that Israelis should always worry about everything, but on a more serious note estimated that Trump’s remarks do not yet signal a significant departure from his aggressive approach toward the regime." [ToI

Former advisor to seven Israeli Prime Ministers, Shalom Lipner emails us... "Was safe to assume that Iran - at least for now - would stick with righteous indignation and refuse Trump's initial overture. But that could easily change. Iranian leaders are undoubtedly studying the North Korean precedent. And it might not be long before we have a repeat of Singapore, where a hostile leader (Kim Jong-Il) signed a mostly meaningless document with Trump and was offered respect and rehabilitation in return. Tehran could do worse than to make a similar transaction. And then Israel could have a big problem with Trump if it maintained its belligerent stance toward his administration's newest friend and partner." 

Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emails us... "The worst thing Israel could do with President Trump’s Iran statement is to take what are the inevitable tactical shifts in diplomacy and read into them much larger strategic changes that Washington might contemplate. It must be recalled that there is a wide chasm between the U.S. and Iranian positions which make a full rapprochement between them highly unlikely. President Trump withdrew from the Iran agreement, calling it “defective at its core.” Yet Iran still clings to the agreement and shows no sign of any willingness to modify it. The U.S. wants Iran out of Syria, but Iran remains steadfast in insisting that it will remain. Overall, Iran’s expansionist ambitions are visible from Morocco to Iraq and Yemen. It is now openly threatening the freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea."

"Historically, the U.S. has always been prepared to give diplomacy 'another chance' – like the famous meeting between Secretary of State James Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz before the First Gulf War. That meeting was hardly a signal that President Bush (41) was about to accept the policies of Saddam Hussein."

Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro tweets"Trump's famous unpredictability now enters his Iran policy. He says he wants to meet Rouhani without preconditions. Pompeo then rushes out to list a series of preconditions. The trouble, if you are an ally of the United States, is: who do you believe? Trump's record on such summits, which he prefers be improvisational, rather than well-prepared, raises concerns... A clever Iranian play might be to draw Trump into talks. Because if Trump actually gets in a room with the Iranians, God only knows what could happen. Certainly, his advisers and America's allies don't know." 

Aaron David Miller writes “Trump's Iran offer is just more 'all about me' diplomacy: We should have channels to Tehran, if only to lessen the dangers of an unnecessary and dangerous war. But without a broader policy toward Iran, a summit with a senior Iranian is not only a key to an empty room, but another one of Trump's unproductive and potentially dangerous "all-about-me" summits.” [CNN

ON THE GROUND -- Russia says Iranian forces pulled back from Golan in Syria; Israel unsatisfied -- by Polina Nikolskaya and Dan Williams: "Iranian forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons in Syria to a distance of 85 km (53 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, TASS quoted a Russian envoy as saying on Wednesday, but Israel deemed the pullback inadequate... [Alexander] Lavrentiev said Iranian service personnel whom he described as advisors could be among Syrian army forces who remain closer to the Israeli border." [Reuters]

ISRAEL — DIASPORA RELATIONS: Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat write “We’re Staunch Zionists. And We Are Worried About Israel’s Democracy: The Israeli government and public need to become more aware of the long-term consequences of steps that may, over time, weaken Israel’s democracy. Israel can ill afford to lose a majority of Democrats or a substantial percentage of American Jewry; throughout its history, the American Jewish community has been and remains a pillar of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. It needs to remain so, and that is why we are speaking out now.” [Forward

Gershom Gorenberg writes... "Netanyahu weakens support for Israel in the United States: With a few exceptions, the Israeli media has paid scant attention to Democratic dissatisfaction. Immediate crises on the borders take up too much bandwidth... As for Netanyahu, he appears oblivious. Perhaps Israeli diplomats have cautioned him that his actions could affect the attitude of a changed Congress after November, or of a Democratic administration after Trump. If so, there’s no sign he’s listening." [WashPost]

INSIDE THE ADMIN: Kelly Agrees to Remain Chief of Staff Through 2020 at Trump’s Request — by Rebecca Ballhaus, Byron Tau and Peter Nicholas: “White House chief of staff John Kelly told staff on Monday that President Trump had asked him to remain in his post through the 2020 election... Mr. Kelly told staff he agreed to the president’s request.” [WSJ

-- “There also have been recent discussions inside Trump’s orbit about Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as a possible successor to Kelly. A Trump loyalist who also is close to Ivanka Trump and Kushner, Mnuchin was being encouraged by some allies to consider the post But Mnuchin did not seriously entertain the entreaties and is happy in his role” [WashPost

2018 WATCH -- Trump endorsed David Kustoff (R-TN), a Jewish Republican in Congress, for reelection: “Congressman David Kustoff has been a champion for the Trump Agenda - I greatly appreciate his support. David is strong on crime and borders, loves our Military, Vets and Second Amendment. Get out and vote for David on Thursday, August 2nd. He has my Full and Total Endorsement!" 

-- Flashback: In an interview with Jewish Insider last March, Kustoff rated Trump’s performance an “A.” 

Ted Cruz bashes Beto O’Rourke for accepting funds from J Street PAC; Democrat notes they are from individuals -- by Rachel Cohrs: “Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign is criticizing his challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, for accepting contributions collected by a political action committee that backs candidates based on their support of a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Cruz released a statement Monday deriding O’Rourke for taking $167,408 in contributions this election cycle collected by the J Street PAC. The PAC did not contribute directly to O’Rourke-- it bundled donations on O’Rourke’s behalf... O’Rourke has made rejecting PAC money a calling card of his campaign." [DallasNews

Muslim candidates band together in Michigan — by David Weigel: “[Rashida] Tlaib... would join Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) as the second Palestinian American in Congress. At a forum at a Detroit synagogue on Friday night, she told Jewish voters that she wants more integration between Jews and Muslims in Israel. “We need to be much more honest about the fact that the walls are not working,” Tlaib said in an interview. “We need to be honest about the dehumanization on both sides, frankly. And more importantly, we need to be not choosing a side. What I bring to the table, growing up in a Palestinian American household, and coming to Detroit, is an understanding that there’s so much comparison between what happened there and what happened to African Americans here.”” [WashPost

SPOTLIGHT: Russian Agent And A GOP Operator Left A Trail Of Cash, Documents Reveal — by Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier: "Last summer, [Paul] Erickson sent two wires for $15,000 to a California company established by the son and brother of Jack Abramoff, a disgraced former lobbyist who is Erickson’s longtime friend, political ally, and business partner. The company, Landfair Capital Consulting, was incorporated in March 2017. Abramoff’s son, Alex, a recent college graduate, is the CEO and sole director; Abramoff’s brother, Robert, is the registered agent. Because the company was newly established and based out of the home of Alex Abramoff, who does not list it on his public profiles, bank investigators flagged it as a possible shell company established to hide Jack Abramoff’s interests. Abramoff has not been accused of wrongdoing."[BuzzFeed]

Accused Russian Spy Maria Butina Told American CEO: Send Cash to Moscow — by Betsy Woodruff: "The story starts in June 2008, with legendary American businessman Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the one-time CEO of insurance and financial services giant AIG. Greenberg’s Starr Russia Investments III bought 20 percent of Investtorgbank, a Russian bank." [DailyBeast]

** 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. **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Shari Redstone's Company Accuses CBS Executives of Destroying Evidence[HollywoodReporterDeadline]  CBS Alleges Videotape of Ailing Mogul Sumner Redstone Felled Board Member [WSJ]  Kobre & Kim Partners With Bentham on $30M Fund Aimed at Litigating Claims for Israeli Start-Ups [TheRecorder]  The story of the 37-year-old who took over the New York Times and is taking on Trump [WashPost]

Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at Treasury Chris Campbell is leaving his post. Marc Rowan, co-founder of private equity firm Apollo Global Management, told Politico's Ben White: “He’s just an incredibly smart and incredibly nice guy. Democrats and Republicans really loved Chris and found him to be a straight shooter. He’ll be very attractive in New York between his time at Treasury and before that at Senate Finance.”

SHELDON & SCOTUS: Kavanaugh Sided With Trump Casino in 2012 to Thwart Union Drive — by Josh Eidelson: “Judge Brett Kavanaugh sided with Trump Entertainment Resorts’ successful effort to thwart a unionization drive at one of its casinos The casino has since shut down. But labor advocates point to the case -- as well as ones where he backed management at Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Venetian hotel and at SeaWorld after an orca killed a worker -- as evidence that Kavanaugh may hobble enforcement of workplace laws and the already-embattled union movement.” [Bloomberg

MEDIA WATCH: Kushner Family Newspaper Cuts Ties With Writer Who Attacked Kremlin Foes -- by Steven Perlberg: "The Kushner family–owned New York Observer has cut ties with a writer who has, since 2014, authored dozens of pro-Kremlin articles for the website, the most recent a story in April offering Russia’s spin that the British staged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons..." [BuzzFeed]

The Times Appoints Cliff Levy to Lead Metro, Throwing a Monkey Wrench in the Future Executive-Editor Runoff -- by Joe Pompeo: "On Tuesday afternoon, The New York Times [announced] the appointment of Cliff Levy, a veteran reporter, editor, and digital-newsroom seer of sorts, to lead the Metro section... But the real story behind the Levy appointment has implications beyond what happens at Metro... According to Times sources familiar with the process, the move was pitched to Levy as an important gesture, and one that would make him a stronger candidate for executive editor when the time comes." [VanityFair]

Noah Pollak tweeted a 12 part thread: "A thread about Forward reporter Josh Nathan-Kazis using Al Jazeera as a source on a forthcoming story in which he will smear pro-Israel groups that are working to combat the BDS movement..." 

Pollak emails us: "I have seen emails from Josh Nathan-Kazis in which he states that his forthcoming report is based on materials leaked to him by Al Jazeera — specifically transcripts of secret recordings made by a spy Al Jazeera sent to Washington to infiltrate Jewish groups. Those recordings were supposed to form the basis of an Al Jazeera "documentary" promoting ugly tropes about Jewish political power, but the Qatari regime compelled Al Jazeera to shelve it. At what point was The Forward going to inform its readers that the basis for its allegations is a film too extreme even for Al Jazeera? Here's something else Forward readers should know: Mr. Nathan-Kazis hasn't seen video or heard audio to substantiate the "transcripts." He and his editors are simply trusting that documents supplied by a notorious anti-Israel activist in Qatar are accurate." 

When asked for The Forward's response, Editor-in-Chief Jane Eisner declined to comment about the publication's work in progress but added, "Much, if not all, of what Noah Pollak asserts is not true."

Documentary Examines Largest Immigration Raid In U.S. History: "What started was the biggest immigration raid in U.S. history: 389 immigrants were detained of which 287 ended up being deported," says Univision's Almudena Toral, who produced "America First," a new documentary on the [Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse plant in Postville, Iowa] raid... "This town has a high percentage of immigrants, but still, the county where it's located at voted majority for Trump, over 58 percent for Trump. And it wasn't unusual. We met a lot of Trump supporters. The interesting thing is that a lot of them voted for Trump on a one-issue basis. So some of the ones that lived in Postville were pro-immigration, but for example, the economics and jobs [were] a huge issue for them, so they voted for him that way, or [on] national security, some of the Jewish people."[WBUR]

ACROSS THE POND: Corbyn apologizes over event where Israel was compared to Nazis — by Sarah Marsh: "Jeremy Corbyn has apologized for speaking at an event where the actions of Israel in Gaza were compared to the Nazis. The Labour leader acknowledged he had appeared with people “whose views I completely reject” when he hosted a Holocaust Memorial Day event in 2010, while he was a backbench MP. He apologised for the “concerns and anxiety” it had caused." [TheGuardian

SPORTS BLINK -- New book reveals Tom Brady freaked out at Patriots owner Bob Kraft after Deflategate: "In the new book 12: The Inside Story of Tom Brady's Fight for Redemption, authors Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge claim that the quarterback was caught completely off-guard on May 19, 2015, when Kraft announced he would not appeal the loss of multiple draft picks, $1 million fine and four-game suspension for Brady in a press conference alongside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell." [DailyMailNYPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Formerly CEO of multi-billion travel and hotel franchisor Cendant Corporation, now CEO of 54 Madison Partners LLC, Henry Silverman turns 78... Israeli film director and screenwriter, winner of the Israel Prize and Professor Emeritus at Tel Aviv University, Ram Loevyturns 78... Founder and chairman of NYC-based Midtown Equities, a major developer of nationwide real estate projects, he started his career as the owner of a record label and then as a video game publisher, Joseph Cayre turns 77... President of Brandeis University from 1994-2010, he is now a professor at Brandeis and the president of the Cleveland-based Mandel Foundation, Jehuda Reinharz turns 74... Egyptian-born British businessman, graduate of both Oxford and Harvard Business School, he has been described as "the father of British venture capital," Sir Ronald Mourad Cohen turns 73...

Israeli born businessman and film producer, later CEO of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad turns 70... Santa Monica, California resident, Eric Biren turns 66... Long-time media writer for The Washington Post, then at the Daily Beast, and now at Fox News, Howard Kurtz turns 65... US diplomat now serving as the Charge d'Affaires at the US Embassy in Cuba, he was the US Ambassador to Bolivia (2006-2008) and the Philippines (2013-2016), Philip Seth Goldbergturns 62... Elected for three terms in the Minnesota Senate (2006, 2010 and 2012), she ran for the US House of Representatives in 2016, Terri E. Bonoff turns 61... Born in Israel, raised in Cleveland, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience and the director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D. turns 59... Government relations strategist in the DC office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, previously chief of staff for Senator Al Franken and more recently senior counselor to the Secretary of HHS, Andrew ("Drew") Littman turns 57... Senior Rabbi of the British movement for Reform Judaism, Laura Naomi Janner-Klausner turns 55... SVP for External Relations and Chief Communications Officer at The Center for Strategic and International Studies, H. Andrew Schwartz turns 50...

Former US Ambassador to Israel (2011-2017), Daniel B. Shapiro turns 49. When asked what's a fun fact people in DC might not know, Shapiro tells Politico's Birthday of the Day section: "I met my wife, Julie, at Jewish summer camp (in Wisconsin) when we were 14 years old. So we prioritize sending our daughters to a camp similar to the one we attended, and try to spend at least one weekend visiting and guest lecturing each summer. We are hoping to get at least one son-in-law out of it.”

The son of two Hebrew University professors, himself a professor of mathematics at Princeton (since 2004) and Hebrew U (since 2009), winner of the 2010 Fields Medal, Elon Lindenstraussturns 48... HAFTR and YU graduate, tech entrepreneur and political correspondent, Ari Zoldanturns 42... CEO of Moishe House, David Cygielman turns 37... Staffer for Hillary Clinton in her Senate and State Department posts, now an SVP at corporate and personal branding firm Main & Rose, David Helfenbein turns 32... Communications and policy specialist and analyst in the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, previously president of the Binghamton University Zionist Organization, Yael Rabin turns 26... Director of New York Government Relations at Agudath Israel of America since 2017, previously Executive Director of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, Yeruchim Silber... Treasurer of the Harvard Law School Republicans,Asher Perez... Vice President of Student Engagement and Leadership at Hillel International, she is a co-founder of Ask Big Questions, a national initiative of Hillel,  Sheila Katz... Culver City, California resident, Allene Prince...