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DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Trump Chooses Hard-Liner as Ambassador to Israel” by Matthew Rosenberg: “[David] Friedman, whose outspoken views stand in stark contrast to decades of American policy toward Israel, did not wait long on Thursday to signal his intention to upend the American approach. In a statement from the Trump transition team announcing his nomination, he said he looked forward to doing the job “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.” Mr. Friedman’s appointment was quickly praised by the Republican Jewish Coalition, whose executive director, Matt Brooks, called it “a powerful signal to the Jewish community.”” [NYTimes; WashPost]
“Will Trump’s Ambassador Box In Bibi From The Right?” by Jacob Kornbluh: The question observers of the U.S. – Israel relationship are now pondering is whether Friedman will be ‘more Catholic than the Pope’ in regard to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? The Ambassador appointment is a dream come true for Friedman, who lobbied for the job since it became clear that Trump will occupy the Oval Office. On Election Day, Friedman told Jewish Insider that he hopes Trump “makes that choice” of appointing him. Not everyone in the pro-Israel community is as enthusiastic. Allies of Netanyahu are concerned the new U.S. Ambassador might attempt to box in the Prime Minister from the right by teaming up with leaders such as Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Yehudi Party, and who recently called for the abandonment of the two-state solution after Trump’s win.
-- “Friedman might make policies more than most Ambassadors would if Trump would delegate it to him and take a more hands-off approach, which he seems to indicate he wants to do,” said Professor Brent Sasley, calling the pick ‘dangerous.’ “People like Friedman, and some of the other people in Netanyahu’s government, might push him on some of these issues like Jerusalem, settlements, or annexation of the West Bank that would make things very uncomfortable for Netanyahu. He could feel pushed and boxed-in.”
According to former ADL National Director Abe Foxman, the pick is significant given that Friedman has a longstanding close relationship with Trump, also serving as Trump’s “public voice” and advocate on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nonetheless, “the bad news may be that he has espoused publicly positions which may be to the right of the Israeli society and the current Israeli government position on a two-state solution,” said Foxman.” [JewishInsider; Playbook]
Aaron David Miller tells Jewish Insider: “Unprecedented that an announcement of an Ambassador would be made this early. Clearly designed to send a signal that there will be a change in tone, style and perhaps substance in the US-Israeli relationship from the Obama Administration. Clearly the positions attributed to Mr. Friedman on a variety of issues, including settlements, a two-state solution break radically from Mr. Trump's predecessors and on some issues such as annexation of the West Bank from Israeli policy too. Key question is how much influence will he actually exert on the president and in the circle of his national security advisers. Ambassadors usually don't have much. In fact if the past several Administrations are any indication, the Ambassador is often bypassed as presidents and Israeli PMs create higher level channels of communication."
Eli Lake: “I get the sense the Trump administration will have a different view on settlements than the current administration.” [Twitter]
Chemi Shalev: “David Friedman, Trump's radical-right ambassador, makes Netanyahu look like a J Street lefty” [Haaretz]
Worth Noting: Former Sen. Joe Lieberman is Senior Counsel at David Friedman's law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP
KAFE KNESSET -- Jerusalem's View of Friedman -- by Tal Shalev & Amir Tibon: Jerusalem woke up this morning to the news of Trump's decision to appoint David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel. As could be expected, the reactions were mixed. Jewish Home Leader Naftali Bennett was the first to tweet a joint photograph wishing Friedman good luck and touting him as a "great friend of Israel," continuing the general celebration he and his supporters have had since Trump's victory. Bennett's well known buddy, Yair Lapid, expressed his anticipation to meet Friedman in "his rightful office in our capital Jerusalem." On the other side of the political spectrum, Tamar Zandberg from Meretz demonstrated solidarity with the Jewish left in America, retweeting J Street's adamant rebuttal of the appointment stressing Friedman's reference to the group "worse than Kapo's."
Last month, Netanyahu told his ministers to keep a low profile and not deliver any statements regarding Trump, so most coalition members stayed mum on Friedman's appointment. Besides Bennett, Tzipi Hotovely, Likud's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that his appointment is "great news for Israel... His positions reflect the will to strengthen the status of our capital right now and the understanding that the settlements were not the real problem in the area." Friedman was actually first tapped for the post here the day after the elections according to a Channel 2 report, although senior Israeli officials at the time did not believe he would be the choice.
Michael Oren, currently serving as Deputy Minister for Public Diplomacy and former Ambassador to the US, told Kafe Knesset this morning that he has never met Friedman but is "looking forward to working him." Oren pointed out that "It's unusual – maybe even unprecedented - for an ambassador to come into any position with a very specific policy, especially one that departs from long standing established policy. He says he wants to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which from my part is blessed, let's go! The question is if he's been instructed to say this or that it's his own position. I am very much in favor of the Idea of moving the Embassy to our capital we welcome the change of policy."
“Will Trump move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem?” by Andrew Hanna and Yousef Saba: “We’d never been at this point before, where the guy’s already won and he conveyed it was a high priority for him,” said David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute of Near East policy. “The fact that Conway repeated it now is different,” agreed Daniel Kurtzer, who served as ambassador to Israel under George W. Bush Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer was an original co-sponsor on the Jerusalem Embassy Act and has expressed support for relocating the embassy. “Senator Schumer has long supported moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and has called on both Democratic and Republican Presidents to make this happen,” Matt House, Schumer’s spokesman, told POLITICO in an email.” [Politico]
Aaron David Miller: "The move would damage and undermine American interests and credibility. The only question is how much damage might be done — and that’s not the right metric for evaluating a policy move, especially if you’re getting very little in return... Second, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is comatose and clearly not going to advance anytime soon. But there’s a difference between being dead and dead and buried, as one Israeli pol once quipped to me. Moving the embassy would chill such prospects and even kill perhaps a promising regional approach to peacemaking now that Israel’s relations with several key Arab states have improved." [WSJ]
Nathan Diament: “Mazal Tov to David Friedman for Donald Trump nomination to post @usembassyta -that Twitter handle to change soon.” [Twitter]
-- One option Trump allies have discussed would involve Friedman, if confirmed by the Senate, working out of an existing U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. According to a person who has discussed the plan with Trump advisers, the administration would essentially deem the facility the American embassy by virtue of the ambassador working there.” [AP]
Trump’s foreign policy advisor Walid Phares discussed Israeli-Palestinian conflict and embassy relocation in a briefing to Arab Ambassadors: “Phares did tell the group that Trump was personally interested in trying to make inroads on a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. He said that he expected Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to be intimately involved on the issue, while mentioning that his daughter Ivanka was expected to be involved on climate change policy. Phares hedged when asked about pledges by Trump and members of his transition to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to those in the room, saying that such a move was "complex" and, if undertaken, would be part of a "process" that would take a long time.” [CNN]
TOP TALKER: “Available to the Highest Bidder: Coffee With Ivanka Trump” by Eric Lipton and Maggie Haberman: "Ozan M. Ozkural, a London-based investment manager, found a creative way to gain one-on-one access to the new first family: He bid nearly $60,000 to have a cup of coffee with Ivanka Trump for a charity event she was hosting. Mr. Ozkural wanted to meet with Ms. Trump — who is considering playing an informal role in her father’s administration — to gain insight into topics like President-elect Donald J. Trump’s possible future dealings with Turkey and other nations where Mr. Ozkural invests, he said As of Thursday evening, the highest bid for the coffee auction — $67,888 — had come from Russell Ybarra, the Tex-Mex restaurant-chain owner, who said in an interview Thursday that he wanted to urge Ms. Trump to persuade her father not to go too far in restricting immigration laws.”
-- “The Obama administration prohibited any member of the first family from directly soliciting charitable donations, said Norm Eisen, who served as an ethics lawyer early in President Obama’s tenure The Obamas also allowed their daughters’ high school to auction off magazines they had signed, Mr. Eisen said, but they did not auction off access to themselves. “You never, ever want to have government officials using their public office for the private gain, even for a worthy charity,” Mr. Eisen said.” [NYTimes]
TRANSITION TOWER -- “Richard Haass under consideration for State Department deputy” by Eliana Johnson and Shane Goldmacher: “Haass, a veteran of both Bush administrations, has served as director of policy planning at the State Department and as a senior director on the National Security Council. He was in Trump Tower last Friday, the day before Trump met with Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson and finalized his plan to nominate him as secretary of state, and spent an hour last summer briefing Trump on foreign affairs. Trump has praised Haass, who is a regular presence on one of his favorite television programs, MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I respect Richard Haass, who’s on your show a lot,” Trump told the show’s hosts in May. “And I like him a lot. I have a few people that I really like and respect.” One Trump transition aide confirmed that Haass is under consideration for a senior-level position at the State Department, but said that Bolton remained the most likely choice for the deputy secretary position.” [Politico]
“Democrats warn State Department of potential Trump ‘witch-hunts’” by Josh Rogin: “We believe your Department should work to ensure a smooth transition of power,” said the letter, led by ranking Democrat Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.). “However, individual civil servants, Foreign Service Officers, and other staff should not be singled out for their work in support of policy objectives that clash with the next Administration’s goals, leaving them vulnerable to retribution by the incoming Administration.” [WashPost] Want a Job in Trump’s Administration? Get on Chris Collins’s Spreadsheet [WSJ]
“Trump’s Team of Rivals, Riven by Distrust” by Thomas Wright: “The greatest clashes will be over how to tackle specific issues. The first may be Syria, where Trump told the New York Times that he disagrees with all of his advisors on how to act The Iran nuclear deal is a second stumbling block — the religious warriors favor an extremely tough policy toward Tehran, but there are serious doubts about whether Trump would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities if the deal collapsed. There is also Trump’s proposal to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which could raise tensions in the region.” [FP]
“Alt-right Ally and Christmas Campaigner Who Is Stephen Miller, Trump's Jewish Policy Adviser?” by Judy Maltz: “Despite his Jewish background, Miller saw no reason to separate religion (that is, Christianity) and state. In a column he penned for the Duke student newspaper titled “The Case for Christmas,” Miller condemned the administration for banning Christmas trees and other religious symbols from the campus during the holiday season, noting that “Christianity is embedded in the very soul of our nation.” One of his key mentors during his college years was arch-conservative David Horowitz, author of “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.” Horowitz eventually started Miller out on his political career by introducing him to Sessions.” [Haaretz]
“Trump’s triumph: Netanyahu is in a good mood” by Danielle Berrin: “In a stunning switch from his usual apocalyptic diatribes — including, most notably, to the U.S. Congress — Bibi was in a triumphant, optimistic mood. During a 30-minute, carefully planned press conference, with questions and questioners selected in advance, the Israeli prime minister decided to flout the rules and go off script.” [JewishJournal]
Chemi Shalev: “Netanyahu and Dermer Prefer Muslim-baiting Trump to Jew-loving Obama: In a month, Obama will vacate the White House and make way for a totally different regime. His love of Jews will be replaced by hostility towards Muslims, which Netanyahu and Dermer apparently prefer. Netanyahu, Dermer and others of their ilk will rejoice at the changing of the guards, but many others, including most American Jews, as well as Israeli moderates and leftists, will feel dejected and abandoned. Tell me which group you belong to, Trump celebrants or Obama mourners, and I’ll tell you who you are." [Haaretz]
ON THE HILL: “Booker adding foreign relations to assignments” by Herb Jackson: "Booker, 47, announced on Thursday that he will take a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee, a post that involves regular security briefings, near-weekly meetings with foreign leaders, oversight of State Department programs, and access during overseas trips to the kind of high-level officials that the president and secretaries of state and defense meet Booker will join fellow New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez on the committee. Menendez, a Democrat from Paramus who was chairman in 2013 and 2014, has been in sync with Booker on many international issues, but they split on President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran.” [TheRecord]
"Aleppo’s fall is Obama’s failure" by Leon Wieseltier: "Contemplating the extermination of Aleppo and its people, I was reminded of a sentence that I read this summer. It appeared in an encomium to Elie Wiesel shortly after his death. It was a sterling sentence. It declared: “We must never be bystanders to injustice or indifferent to suffering.” That was Wiesel’s teaching, exactly. The problem with the sentence is that it was issued by the White House and attributed to President Obama. And so the sentence was not at all sterling. It was outrageously hypocritical. How dare Obama, and members of his administration, speak this way?" [WashPost]
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SPOTLIGHT: “America’s New Dealmakers-in-Chief” by William Cohan: “Mnuchin, soon to be 54 years old, started as a trainee at Salomon Brothers while still at Yale. During the hiring process, the Salomon guys wanted to know why they should take a chance on him since he was just going to end up at Goldman Sachs, where his father Robert was a legendary partner who ran the firm’s equity division and created the business of trading big blocks of stock. Mnuchin told the interviewers not to worry. He wanted to do his own thing, away from his father. After Yale, as expected, Mnuchin promptly turned his back on Salomon and headed to Goldman Sachs, the better long-term option for him. (Mnuchin’s older brother, Alan, is the one who broke the family mold, at least a little. After a stint at Goldman, he was a media banker at both Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers before starting his own advisory boutique.)” [Politico]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “Downtown Des Moines Marriott sold for $34 million” by Joel Aschbrenner: “The 33-story hotel is Des Moines' third-tallest building and features more than 400 rooms. City Center Corp., the hotel's current owner, said the sale is scheduled to close Friday. Singerman President Seth Singerman (Co-Chair of the Jewish Federation of Chicago’s Young Real Estate Division) said the company intends to continue operating the property as a Marriott and will consider some upgrades and renovations In addition to serving as a conference center and downtown’s largest hotel, the Marriott has also become a political hot spot, hosting swarms of politicians and journalists every four years during the Iowa caucuses.” [DMRegister]
STARTUP NATION: "At Israel’s MIT, education, not affirmative action, triples Arab enrollment" by Dov Lieber: "Currently 20% of students are Arab... Twelve years ago, when just 7% of students in the Technion were Arab, the university began its NAM program. When the program began 12 years ago, the dropout rate among first year Arab students at the Technion was 75%. Currently, according to Lavie, that rate has plummeted to 15%, a figure very close to that of the Jewish student body. In a positive sign for the economic potential of the Arab community — where employment rates are low partly because a majority of women do not work — Lavie pointed out that 61% of the 527 Arab students in the incoming class is female." [ToI]
TALK OF OUR NATION: "'Meet 'Bubby', A Dating App For Nice Jewish Boys, Girls, And Goys, Too" by Caleb Pershan: "Most actual Bubbes, or Jewish grandmothers, prefer to do their well-meaning nagging and cajoling in person or over the phone. "Bubby," is a chatbot and app, a spin on the slew of dating services and communities like Tinder, Bumble, J-Swipe, and so forth. But unlike some of those (cough cough Tinder), Bubby's emphasis is on love — the old world, shared values kind. As Bubby co-founder Sarah Persitz tells SFist, her app is "a curated space inspired by Jewish values and tradition." The app, created by Persitz, Stephanie Volftsun and Jordan Klein, was launched in February and is still in beta testing, but a well-heeled collection of friends of friends of friends in San Francisco and New York are already finding great dates through Bubby." [SFist; SFChronicle]
PROFILE: “Orthopedic Surgery Resident Develops a Unique Photographic View of the World” by Jeff Meade: “A couple of years ago, Dr. Ayzenberg’s father gave him his camera to sell for him on eBay. While waiting for a sale, he held onto it, and after coming off night shift wandered about the city shooting photos. “They turned out better than I thought,” he says. “I put them up for sale on Craig’s List just to see what would happen.” What happened, much to his surprise, was that they sold Given his busy schedule and demanding hours as a resident, the city of Philadelphia became Dr. Ayzenberg’s first subject. He would come off shift and head out into the streets, camera in hand—looking not so much for something that had never been photographed before, but for new ways of looking at old places.” [EisteinHN]
SCENE THE OTHER NIGHT IN VA - via Rabbi Jack Moline: “More than 100 guests from all over Virginia attended Gov. Terry McAuliffe's 3rd annual Hanukkah party at the Governor's Mansion. Guests included many rabbis, agency reps and Jewish supporters. Delegate Eileen Filler Corn and State Senator Adam Ebbin were among the guests, as was DGA Finance Director Noam Lee. Many guests left the White House party early to brave the traffic to Richmond. The Governor was introduced by his senior policy advisor Jennie Moline O'Holleran and spoke about the admiration he had for Jewish community and said a major announcement about a new trade deal with Israel will be announced in about 60 days. The refreshments included a new craft beer the Governor helped develop.”
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Israeli-American pianist and Distinguished Professor of Music at Indiana University, Menahem Pressler turns 93... British chemist and Research Professor at the University of Nottingham, Sir Martyn Poliakoff turns 69... First OMB Director in the Obama administration (2009-2010), former CBO director, now Vice Chairman of investment banking and Managing Director at Lazard, Peter R. Orszag turns 48... Astrophysicist and Professor at Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute, Adam Riess turns 47... Senior writer for Politico and co-author of Politico's Playbook, Jake Sherman turns 31... Manager of Government Relations and Public Policy at Google, former White House intern (2004), Jesse Suskin... Partner in the downtown Denver law firm of Silverman & Olivas, formerly Chief Deputy District Attorney for Denver, Craig Silverman... Chairman of the St. Andrews Chapter of Republicans Overseas UK in Kirkcaldy, United Kingdom, Drew Liquerman... Senior Vice President at CRC Public Relations since 1998, previously Communications Director at U.S. Term Limits, Adam Bromberg... President and co-founder of The New Agenda, an organization helping women and girls succeed, following a career at Morgan Stanley and Wasserstein Perella trading bank debt, Amy Siskind... Ray Watts... Melissa Wisner...
Member and former Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Shirley Abrahamson turns 83... Founder and CEO of LionTree LLC, an independent investment bank located in NYC, Aryeh Bourkoff turns 44... Israeli soccer goalkeeper who played 386 matches for Maccabi Haifa (1994-2013) and 51 matches or the Israeli national team (1998-2010), now a coach for the national team, Nir Davidovich turns 40... Assistant Online Editor of "Commentary," Noah Rothman turns 35... Chief executive of Upworthy, formerly the board president of MoveOn[dot]org and a co-founder of Avaaz, Eli Pariser turns 36... Deputy CFO/COO for Martin O’Malley's presidential campaign, then a Regional Operations Director at Hillary for America, Daniel Ensign turns 26... Actor, singer-songwriter and musician, starred in the Nickelodeon television series, "The Naked Brothers Band" (2007-2009), Nat Wolff turns 22... Life-long advocate on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers for the International Rescue Committee and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), Sheppie Glass Abramowitz turns 80... and Sheppie's son, Director of the Committee on Conscience, which conducts the genocide prevention efforts of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Michael Abramowitz turns 53... VP of Strategic Planning and Marketing at Queens, NY based NewInteractions, Paulette Mandelbaum... Washington attorney and Vice Chair of The American Jewish International Relations Institute, Stuart Sloame... CNN political producer, Rachel Streitfeld...
Co-founder of DreamWorks Studios, Academy Award-winning director of "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" plus many other box-office record setters like "E.T." and "Jaws," Steven Spielberg turns 70... Philanthropist who is the founder and chief executive of Third Point LLC, a NYC-based hedge fund focused on buying and repairing troubled companies, Dan Loeb turns 55... Office Manager at Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, Ramona Cohen... Principal with the communications firm 30 Point Strategies, formerly a White House speechwriter and Jewish liaison for George W. Bush (2002-2005), Noam Neusner... Chicago-based, Midwest Deputy Political Director for AIPAC, Marc Ashed... Miriam Brooker... Emily Cooper...
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