Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff - December 30, 2016

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry giving his landmark speech on Israel, Washington, December 28, 2016.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry giving his landmark speech on Israel, Washington, December 28, 2016. Credit: James Lawler Duggan / Reuters

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TOP TALKER -- “In ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ Israel, Separate Lives and Divergent Narratives” by Peter Baker: “To borrow an analogy, there is a blue, or more liberal-leaning, Israel that thought Mr. Kerry offered painful but necessary truths in the spirit of friendship that indicted the failed leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And there is a red, or more conservative, Israel that thought the secretary of state was delusional and insulting, divorced from the harsh reality of the only real democracy in the Middle East struggling to preserve itself in a hostile neighborhood. Just as in the United States, many Israelis cling to their own facts, retreat to their own media outlets, advance their own narratives, and basically just talk with people who think like they do.” [NYTimes

“U.S. Will Veto Any Attempt to Put Kerry's Speech to Vote at UN, Key Obama Aide Tells Haaretz” by Barak Ravid: “If there was more continuity with a [Hillary] Clinton administration, I am not sure how it would have affected our calculus But the combination of the complete lack of any peace process and the directional shift of the incoming administration all factored into our decision both to lay everything out in this speech but also to abstain on the UN resolution.” Rhodes added that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest that Trump will... throw Kerry’s speech into the garbage, he said. “On January 21, the settlements will still be there and it will still be a source of grave international tension,” said Rhodes. “There will still be an international consensus that supports what John Kerry has put out. So the issue is not going away just because there is a new president After January 20, Barack Obama will no longer be available as some foil. It will be evident that the international concern about settlements has nothing to do with Barack Obama but with the settlements. There will not be this constant stirring of the pot about Obama that was used [by Netanyahu] as a distraction from the settlements issue.” [Haaretz] Critics Say Kerry’s Israel Speech Could Backfire on Obama Administration [WSJ

Israeli Ambassador Dermer on Trump's Friedman pick (amidst talk that the Friedman nomination may have played a role in Obama's UN vote): “I don't set the policies of the government of Israel, and Mr. Friedman will not set the policies of the government of the United States. That will be set by the president and prime minister.” [Politico] Friedman was photographed with Marion Wiesel and Shmuley Boteach last night [Pic]

MUST READ: “How Trump Made Israel A Zero-Sum Game” by Ben Smith: “Trump is a zero-sum figure When Obama took a step away from Israel... Trump responded with the first real foreign policy move of his pre-presidency, a decisive embrace of one side of the Middle East conflict. After all, his campaign was about choosing sides A “one state solution” has been gathering momentum for years among Palestinian advocates, who propose replacing Zionism with a federal, binational state Ballabon’s and Friedman’s position, which seems to be Trump’s, is a different kind of one state solution. The state is Israel. In a United States where partisanship seems to shape policy views it’s easy to see where this heads. There are two warring tribes. Each party supports one. Israel becomes a Republican cause, while Democrats align with the Palestinians. U.S. elections could carry even larger stakes for both sides than they have before.” [BuzzFeed

"With the two-state solution a distant dream, Palestinians ask if it's time to push for a one-state solution" by Joshua Mitnick: "These days, as Palestinians see prospects for the so-called two-state solution disintegrating, a growing number are mulling over a provocative alternative: a single binational state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. The notion is the equivalent of a demographic Trojan horse, forcing Israel either to give Arab residents full voting rights — and jeopardize the Jewish identity upon which Israel was created in 1948 — or risk becoming an apartheid state under permanent sanction by the rest of the world." [LATimes]

ACROSS THE POND: “Theresa May rebukes US for attack on Israel” by Peter Dominiczak: “Mrs May does “not believe that it is appropriate” for Mr Kerry to attack the make-up of the democratically elected Israeli government, the spokesman said. “We do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex,” Mrs May’s spokesman said. “And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally The spokesman added “We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal.”” [Telegraph; JewishNews]  Australian PM condemns ‘one-sided’ UN settlement resolution [ToI]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “American Jews Divide Over Strain in U.S.-Israel Relations” by Adam Nagourney and Sharon Otterman: “At Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, a large and politically divided congregation, Rabbi David Wolpe said Mr. Obama had “pulled the rug out from under people who said the president’s intentions toward Israel was positive and strong.” David Zwiebel, the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, said that Orthodox Jews tend to be much more conservative, and that there is a general sense among them “that the outgoing administration is outgoing and should be outgoing, and it’s time for an approach that is more openly supportive of Israel.” [NYTimes

“‘We don’t need this America,’ deputy minister Michael Oren says after UN vote, Kerry speech” by Raphael Ahren: “Kerry’s speech was very disturbing for so many reasons,” Oren told The Times of Israel. “It is disturbing that this is the point to which US foreign policy has fallen. It’s sad, tragic and dangerous. We don’t need this relationship. We don’t need this America.” [ToI

“Dan Shapiro: US decision not to veto resolution was not revenge: “We understand why it hurts Israelis to hear such harsh things. The timing [of the vote] came from other countries, and was not revenge,” says Shapiro in Hebrew.” [ToI

"Kerry’s bombshell Israel speech is one of the most puzzling things I have seen in politics" by Matthew Yglesias: "It’s a rhetorical hand grenade, but a policymaking dud. And while I have some thoughts about the substance of the speech, I’m mostly left wondering ... why? Why at a time when the country urgently needs effective political opposition to an alarming new regime that is entering office with vast power but little democratic legitimacy did the Obama administration choose to lash out ineffectually in a way that unites his successor’s coalition while dividing his own party? What does Obama hope this will accomplish? And why pick a fight he's sure to lose?" [Vox]

The real reason for Netanyahu’s showdown with Obama” by Yochi Dreazen: “Bibi is not concerned at all with anyone from the center left,” Gilead Sher, a former Israeli peace negotiator and chief of staff for Prime Minister Ehud Barak, tells me in an interview...“He’s concerned about far-right politicians inside and outside his own party that are totally against any division of the land or agreement with the Palestinians. Those are the only people that he thinks could push him out of office.” [Vox

Incoming WH Press Secretary, Sean Spicer on rumors about a possible Trump trip to Israel: “I don’t want to get ahead of anything at this point, but I will tell you that the relationship with Israel both in terms of what the President-Elect has said, and what you saw Prime Minister Netanyahu say yesterday in terms of very looking forward to working with this next administration, really should highlight to anybody who is concerned about Israel or who loves Israel, that this administration is going to put Israel in its rightful place as a true, true friend of the United States, and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East.” [HughHewitt

“Donald Trump and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Bond During Transition” by Benjy Sarlin: "I think there's a lot of excitement about this right now, but in general, presidents prioritize domestic issues and it wouldn't surprise me if Trump and Netanyahu are not making headlines every week once he's sworn in," Heather Hurlburt, a former State Department official under President Clinton, told NBC News.” [NBCNews

“What did Kerry's parting shot on Middle East mean?" by Aaron David Miller: This may well be the first time that the United States, at least in such a highly visible public forum rather than in the negotiating room, talked about Jerusalem as the capital of two states That suggests that if in fact the Trump administration does carry out a campaign pledge to move the US Embassy there, the contents of this speech may well acquire legs.” [CNN

POLLS -- What Americans think: “48% of Likely U.S. Voters feel U.S. relations with Israel have gotten worse since Obama took office Among voters who consider America’s relationship with Israel 'Very Important' to U.S. national security, 65% believe that relationship has gotten worse under Obama Among all voters, 42% believe America’s relations with Israel will get better under the new president, while 32% expect them to get worse 55% of Democrats think Trump will make the U.S.-Israeli relationship worse.” [Rasmussen

What Israelis think: What caused the United States to not use their veto in the UNSC? 38% Hostility towards Israel, 31% American interest, 18% Don’t know, 13% Israeli interest.” [KnessetJeremy

"How Bibi Duped Kerry and Obama: A Theory For Egypt’s Role in UN Resolution" by Michael Eisenberg: "So here comes the theory: “settlements” was all [Kerry] could talk about in his speech because he needed to say that peace between Israel and its other Arab regional mates was dependent on progress with the Palestinians because that is exactly the opposite of what Bibi and the gulf states were trying to do... When Bibi responded to Kerry saying he had incontrovertible evidence that Kerry collaborated with Palestinians on the resolution, he had more than the calendar appointment with Palestinian leaders. He had the people in the room. He was letting Kerry know that he was set up and may have more information on him." [Medium]

KAFE KNESSET -- by Tal Shalev: After months of behind the scenes deliberations, the police sword appears to be getting closer to PM Netanyahu. In the upcoming week, Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit is expected to authorize opening an official investigation into two affairs which involve the premier. According to Channel 2, the alleged suspicion is that Netanyahu received large amounts of funds from two businessmen, one Israeli and one from overseas. So far, the probe has been handled under a unique veil of secrecy: over 50 people have been questioned, yet no details have been leaked to the press, in sharp contrast to the two years of endless leaks former PM Olmert endured before his indictment.

Netanyahu himself published a statement this morning repeating what has become his catch phrase on the various scandals attached to him: "there will be nothing because this is nothing," insisting the allegations are baseless. His words were echoed by many of his party ministers who accused the media and the left of illegitimate attempts to topple the PM. Culture Minister Miri Regev, currently one of the closest to Bibi, said "the only interest that guides the PM is the national interest and Israel's security. I back the Prime Minister and am confident he will be leading the country for many more years."

Meanwhile, while police are about to investigate Netanyahu's connections to private donors, he is promoting - with his fan Miri Regev - a new proposal that will enable him to raise private funds to sponsor the 70 year independence celebrations, slated to take place in May 2017. Citing budget restraints, Netanyahu decided to outsource the funding of the events, and suggested he would lead the efforts as the main presenter of the fundraising - focusing mainly on the Jewish diaspora. The plan - slated to be approved by the cabinet this Sunday - has raised eyebrows inside the coalition and out of it, since traditionally, these anniversaries have been funded by the state budget. Opposition MK Yoel Hasson sent a letter to Mandelblit yesterday, demanding he put a halt on the "scandalous and unprecedented" initiative. "Looking beyond the principle question if it is appropriate for a strong state like Israel to beg for donations for its independence celebration, this proposal raises serious concerns over conflicts of interest," Hasson wrote, referring to Netanyahu's alleged connections to various private businessmen as alleged in recent affairs. [KafeKnesset]

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SPOTLIGHT: "Mark Zuckerberg says he’s no longer an atheist, believes ‘religion is very important’" by Julie Zauzmer: "“Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah from Priscilla, Max, Beast and me,” he wrote, naming his wife, daughter and dog. Then a commenter asked him: Aren’t you an atheist? Zuckerberg identified himself as an atheist for years, but on Facebook on Christmas he wrote back: “No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.” He didn’t answer further questions about what he does believe in." [WashPost]

TALK OF THE NATION -- Emma Green talks to Michael Wear, a former Obama White House staffer, about the Democratic Party’s illiteracy on and hostility toward faith: “Liberals have been trying to convince Americans, and evangelicals in particular, that America is not a Christian nation. The 2016 election was evangelicals saying, “Yeah, you’re right! We can’t expect to have someone who is Christian like us. We can’t expect to have someone with a perfect family life. What we can expect is someone who can look out for us, just like every other group in this country is looking for a candidate who will look out for them.”

"There’s a religious illiteracy problem in the Democratic Party. It’s tied to the demographics of the country: More 20- and 30-year-olds are taking positions of power in the Democratic Party. They grew up in parts of the country where navigating religion was not important socially and not important to their political careers. This is very different from, like, James Carville in Louisiana in the ’80s. James Carville is not the most religious guy, but he gets religious people—if you didn’t get religious people running Democratic campaigns in the South in the ’80s, you wouldn’t win. Another reason why they haven’t reached out to evangelicals in 2016 is that, no matter Clinton’s slogan of “Stronger Together,” we have a politics right now that is based on making enemies, and making people afraid. I think we’re seeing this with the Betsy DeVos nomination: It’s much easier to make people scared of evangelicals, and to make evangelicals the enemy, than trying to make an appeal to them.” [TheAtlantic]

TALK OF OUR NATION: "Meet the Businessman Introducing Kids in 12 Countries to Jewish Books — For Free" by Jake Romm: "Harold Grinspoon is not a scholar, he is a businessman – a fact which he reminded me of multiple times throughout our conversation. Yet, despite his protestations, Grinspoon has done more than most in terms of cultivating the next generation of Jewish learners. He isn’t a lecturer, an author, a rabbi, or in any way a part of the intelligentsia. He is simply a kind (and enormously wealthy) man who understands the importance of books to the Jewish communal experience." [Forward

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Bill de Blasio Criticizes ‘Anti-Israel’ UN Resolution” by Jacob Kornbluh: “The U.N.’s anti-Israel positioning in the Middle East does nothing to advance the peace process,” City Hall Press Secretary Eric Phillips said in a statement, released almost a week after the unprecedented vote took place. “Mayor de Blasio said clearly that the U.N.’s role in the peace process has never been helpful. Like many at home and abroad, the Mayor also acknowledged that the ultimate consequences of the U.N.’s resolution cannot be predicted and that the effect of the U.S.’s abstention is unclear,” Phillips said.” [JewishInsider

TRANSITION: “Netanyahu taps Yuval Rotem as permanent Foreign Ministry D-G” by Herb Keinon: “Rotem has been serving in a temporary capacity in that position since the resignation of Dore Gold in October. The announcement came at a sending-off ceremony for Gold in the ministry He served as Netanyahu's chief of staff in the ministry when Netanyahu – who was then prime minister – held the foreign minister's portfolio for 10 months in 1998.” [JPost]  

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Born in Borough Park in Brooklyn, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Dodgers who did not pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, Sandy Koufax (born Sanford Braun) turns 81... Professional poker player who has donated a large percentage of his $8 million in tournament winnings to charities, Barry Greenstein turns 62...  Host of The Today Show, whose father was of Romanian Jewish heritage, as seen on the Today Show's "Finding Our Roots," Matt Lauer turns 59... Fellowship Director at Israel's TAMID Group, providing internship opportunities at Israeli startups and VCs, previously Senior Development Officer at Boston's Jewish Federation, David Micley turns 29. David also celebrated his wedding to Molly Chadis yesterday in Jaffa, Israel... Psychotherapist, congregational rabbi and faculty member at Los Angeles-based Academy for Jewish Religion California, Michael Menitoff...  Deputy Director of AIPAC's Midwest Synagogue Initiative, Lital Casper Rosenberg...  Assistant Director of Campus Affairs at AJC Global, Jacob Levkowicz... Phil Goldstein... Larry Mandel... Ian Morris... Ellen Gordon... 

Israeli biochemist, Nobel Prize laureate in 2004, Distinguished Professor at the Technion in Haifa, Avram Hershko turns 79... Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg (born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin) turns 70... Author of over 20 novels, including five in the Star Trek series, Susan Shwartz turns 67... Third-term member in the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 18 in Montgomery County, Jeff Waldstreicher turns 37... One of the tallest MLB position players ever at 6'8", has been on five MLB 40-man rosters, played for Israel in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifiers, Nate Freiman turns 30... Jonathan Scheiner turns 28... Moon Grindle... Roz Singer... 

The Paul E. Singer Foundation's Daniel Bonner turns 27... German-born historian, noted for his expertise on WWII, professor and the professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill since 1974, Gerhard Weinberg turns 89... Yale Law graduate who went on to direct many films, documentaries and theatre productions, winner of a MacArthur genius fellowship, Frederick Wiseman turns 87... Austrian-born psychiatrist and medical researcher, president and vice-chancellor of Concordia University in Montreal, Frederick Lowy turns 84... 36th richest American (per Forbes), businessman and philanthropist, Ronald Perelman turns 74... US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy (2008-2009), then founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy development institution, Ambassador James K. Glassman turns 70... German-born, graduate of Harvard and then Georgetown Law, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Max Richtman turns 70... Tunisian-born, now Los Angeles-based, fashion designer, chairman and CEO of the BCBG Max Azria Group, a global fashion house that includes over 20 brands sold world-wide, Max Azria turns 68... Founder of Gutsy Women Travel, a company that arranges luxury trips for women who are traveling overseas alone, wife of Carl Icahn, Gail Golden Icahn turns 64... Senior US Senator from  New Jersey since 2006, previously a member of the House of Representatives (1993-2006), Bob Menendez turns 63... President and founder of Ampersand Strategies, a D.C.-based communications and consulting firm, previously AIPAC’s Mid-Atlantic regional political director, Josh Nanberg turns 43... Manager of data analytics and strategy at Politico and Rubik's Cube genius, Tomer Ovadia... Attorney and principal of Dupont Circle Communications, a firm assisting nonprofit organizations, previously at the National Women's Law Center and People For the American Way, Margot Friedman... 

Canadian publisher, shopping center developer and philanthropist, Avie Bennett turns 89... Poet who has published twenty volumes of poetry, literary and art criticism, professor at Columbia, Princeton, Brooklyn College, Cooper Union and William Paterson University, David Shapiro turns 70... Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-reporter for The New York Times, went to jail to protect her source in the Valerie Plame matter, now a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Judith Miller turns 69... Long-time journalist for The New York Times, also author of two books including a memoir about fighting cancer, Joyce Wadler turns 69... CEO of Loews Corporation since 1999, James Tisch turns 64... President of the DC-based S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, member of the House of Representatives from Florida between 1997 until 2010, Robert Wexler turns 56... Executive Director of the Western Publishing Association since 1996, Jane Silbering...

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