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HEARD LAST NIGHT: Appearing on CNN, Elliott Abrams addressed the President's decision to nix his expected appointment as Deputy Secretary of State. “I think it’s really destructive for the President to go back to the primary season and say, ‘People who’ve said tough things about me can’t come into the administration.’ He is hurting himself,” Abrams said in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett. Abrams said he had a productive meeting with Trump and that his past criticism of the President during the Republican presidential primary never came up during the hourlong conversation. “I was ready to address it.” The former diplomat said his guess is that WH Chief Strategist Steve Bannon “riled up” the President against his appointment. “The only person on the White House staff I know was opposed to me being hired was Steve Bannon.” [JewishInsider]
JI INTERVIEW -- Dov Zakheim, former undersecretary of defense in President George W. Bush’s administration and one of the over 50 top Republican national security officials who signed the anti-Trump letter in the presidential election, shared his thoughts about the first three weeks of the Trump Administration and the President’s conduct on foreign policy issues in a phone interview with Jewish Insider on Monday.
“They're clearly disorganized. They're running very, very far behind,” Zakheim said with regards to the tumult surrounding Trump’s first weeks of his presidency. “They don't have undersecretaries, they don't have assistant secretaries, so they don't have the people that are meant to really execute whatever the cabinet, the National Security Council, and the President want to have happen. They're relying on civil servants and holdovers so you already have a problem there and you have a second kind of problem because a lot of these people are not necessarily loyal to Trump, which is why you're getting the leaks.”
--Zakheim on Trump denying Elliott Abrams as Deputy Secretary of State: “It's very clear that either the President or his top three advisors, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, and Stephen Miller, are holding hard and fast to the idea that anybody who said anything negative about the President during the campaign is ‘treyf’ (non-kosher). I mean, you know, I signed these letters, but from the minute he became President, my feeling has been he's the only President we've got, we have to support him and I've gone on the record to say that. For the point of view, those people who are being considered for jobs, evidently that's not sufficient and it's not just happened to Elliott Abrams, it seems to have happened to others. These are the people that really have a lot of expertise and if you're going to eliminate those who wrote articles, you've probably eliminated 150 of the most experienced, talented, knowledgeable national security people.”
--On Trump’s emerging traditional stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “I'm not surprised. If the President gets briefed, he finds out the realities of things. He's got three very, very sophisticated senior advisors. James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, and Mike Pompeo are clearly much more nuanced and understanding of the situation in the region. Then, of course, he's met with King Abdullah of Jordan. Abdullah is no enemy of Israel. He's just telling the President the reality and the reality is that moving the embassy or supporting the settlements is going to make it much more difficult for the Arabs who are already dealing with Israel, whether openly like Jordan or maybe less openly like some of the others in the Gulf, it's going to make it more difficult for them to continue.”
--Zakheim discussed Jared Kushner’s role as ME envoy: “Arab leaders are used to dealing directly with the President. They don't even deal with Secretaries of State. And so you send Jared Kushner to, say King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who's old enough to be practically his grandfather, where he'll be polite to him, he'll entertain him, he'll escort him to his airplane, but he's not going to make the deal with him. These people make deals with the President and to the extent that they deal with anyone else, they'll deal with a Tillerson because they know him from Exxon. They'll deal with a Mattis because they know him from Central Command. As long as these people are not in the lead on dealing with the Middle East, I don't think anything much is going to happen.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
“Mideast Rules For Jared Kushner” by Bret Stephens: “The U.S. cannot solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; only Palestinians can. The U.S. does have an interest in strengthening ties between its allies, both for their own sake and to counter their common enemies. If the Palestinians want to be a part of the solution, so much the better. If they want to continue to be a part of the problem, they can live with the consequences. The principles are straightforward. The courage to stick to them will be the test of Mr. Kushner’s diplomatic mettle.” [WSJ]
DRIVING THE WEEK: “Netanyahu, Trump meeting to set tone for U.S.-Israeli ties” by Noga Tarnopolsky: “By far the main item on the agenda is Iran,” said Dennis Ross “The settlements came up only because Netanyahu’s right-wing has been pushing the issue. They put settlements on Israel’s public agenda, I don’t think otherwise it would have been there at all.” [USAToday] Buoyed by Trump-Netanyahu summit, ministers openly scratch annexation itch [ToI]
"Israeli PM seeks 'no gaps' with Trump ahead of White House talks" by Luke Baker: "Staff have cleared most of Tuesday for discussions with Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, and other senior advisers ahead of Wednesday's Oval Office meeting. The only event of the day is an evening meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. "There isn't going to be any daylight, no gaps," one adviser said as the prime minister left for Washington... Aside from Trump and Tillerson, Netanyahu will meet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence during the Feb. 13-16 visit." [Reuters]
JI's Aaron Magid asked several Democratic House Members whether they were interested in meeting Netanyahu on his visit to the Capitol this week.
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA): "I didn't know he was coming."
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD): "I didn’t know it (meeting with Netanyahu) was an option. I would gladly like to hear what he has to say about moving forward on a two-state solution. I assume he is coming to Congress, so I will definitely go and hear what he has to say."
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA): "I don’t know that there is going to be an opportunity to meet with him. Yeah, if he wants to meet with some Members of Congress, I would be happy to meet with him. I have met with him a number of times."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD): "Sure, why not? Never met him before."
“Americans Tepid on Palestinian Statehood” by Lydia Saad: “Currently, 45% of Americans support establishing an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip while 42% oppose it 61% of Democrats, 50% of independents and 25% of Republicans are in favor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is viewed more favorably than unfavorably by Americans, 49% vs. 30%... Currently, 32% of Democrats view Netanyahu favorably and 41% unfavorably. That compares with 31% favorably and 31% unfavorably in February 2015, before Netanyahu's speech to Congress.” [Gallup]
Jennifer Rubin: “Without need to defend President Obama’s rhetoric or positions, the Democratic Party may see an uptick in support for the Jewish state.” [WashPost]
"Can This ‘Special Relationship’ Be Saved?" by Steven Simon and Aaron David Miller: "What will things look like in four to eight years? American support for an increasingly right-wing Israeli policy will mean that Israel will have built more settlements; diplomacy aimed at a two-state solution will be stillborn or abandoned; and violence in the West Bank will require Israel to use force to restore order. Politics in Israel will continue to drift right amid a deepening conviction that it has no Palestinian partner and against the backdrop of an increasingly dangerous region. If these things come to pass, the erosion of shared values will quicken. The American-Israeli partnership will not collapse... But the relationship would become a pale version of what it once was and what it could be."
"Jewish fears of Trump White House mount on eve of Netanyahu visit" by Katie Glueck: "When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Donald Trump in Washington this week, he will do so against the backdrop of an American Jewish diaspora more fearful and skeptical of the U.S. government than it has been in decades. Interviews with more than a dozen top Jewish political operatives and leaders across the country reveal deep discomfort with a refugee ban than hits close to home, alarm about some of Trump’s top advisers and, most of all, overwhelming concerns about the administration’s rhetoric on the Holocaust and its approach to dealing with anti-Semitism." [McClatchyDC; MiamiHerald]
INTERVIEW -- Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh caught up with Congressman Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in New York City on Sunday.
“We don’t have a king in this country. We have three co-equal branches of government,” Engel told Jewish Insider with respect to the executive branch’s growing power on foreign policy issues. “I think that there are things that are important to members, and we will pass laws and hope the President will sign them I think it’s a shared responsibility and no matter who's been the president, who’s been in Congress, there is always that antagonistic kind of pulling and tugging, but I think there is a very important role of Congress to play and as the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I intend to fulfill that role.”
Q: Will a cozy relationship between Trump and Netanyahu hurt Israel's bipartisan support?
Engel: “I think that Bibi is doing what any prime minister and leader of a country would do and that’s to have good relations with the U.S I want to make it so that the U.S. and Israel are so close together that it doesn’t matter who’s prime minister and who is president at any given time The U.S. doesn’t elect Israel’s leaders, and Bibi Netanyahu has been the leader of Israel a long time and we have to respect it and work with him. I have no trouble working with him. I respect what he has done. Does that mean that I have agreed with everything he’s done? No. I didn’t agree with everything Obama did and he was from my party. Obama did some really good things for Israel, but he did some - as my grandmother would say - ‘narish’ (foolish) things. So, everything is a balance.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
TRUMP TUMULT: “Michael Flynn resigns as national security adviser” by Josh Dawsey, Alex Isenstadt, Tara Palmeri and Eli Stokols: "The list of possible replacements includes retired Gen. David Petraeus, who’s scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the plans. Vice Admiral Robert Harward and Kellogg are also under consideration... Sources close to the White House said Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was involved with the search, though a senior White House official disputed that." [Politico]
DEPT OF NOTABLE TIMING -- Michael Ledeen, who is the coauthor with Michael Flynn of “Field of Flight,” published an op-ed in the WSJ this morning titled "To Break the Moscow-Tehran Alliance, Target Iran’s Regime" [WSJ]
Aaron David Miller: "Mike Flynn was literally the personification of putting Iran on notice. A blow to those pushing for tough response on Iran -- Bibi included." [Twitter]
Dan Shapiro: "Netanyahu arrives tomorrow at a White House in utter turmoil. NSA Flynn gone. Vicious staff infighting. More heads likely to roll. Precious planning hours spent with Flynn now out the window. Major unanswered questions on Russia... Still important business to be done on Iran, Palestinians, Syria, security coop. But who in WH can focus on it with fires burning? Suspect Netanyahu will seek greater clarity from VP Pence, Sec State Tillerson -- outside Trump inner circle." [Twitter]
President-in-law: “Far from being a moderating influence on his father-in-law, Kushner has embraced his inner Bannon” by Emily Jane Fox: “As he prepares to take a central role in the meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kushner seems renewed, his power intact. To those who know him and interact with him, he is no longer perceived as the quiet, moderating force in his father-in-law’s ear, but rather a true believer who remains in lock step with Bannon and Miller and intent on pushing through their White House agenda Weeks after he took the gig, according to a longtime friend, Kushner’s office remains empty, save for a phone and some desk supplies... He is considering turning his office into a conference room, or maybe even knocking down the wall between his office and Bannon’s and getting a standing desk for himself, the source said.”
"Several sources told me that Kushner was defensive about the executive order that temporarily barred Muslim immigrants and refugees. The longtime friend said that when he pointed out that refugees had not, in fact, been responsible for any of the terror attacks on U.S. soil, Kushner, he said, answered by saying that that was not true. Kushner has encountered dissent in his own ranks. According to the longtime friend, Kushner’s brother Josh... has reportedly expressed his disapproval of the measures. Several sources say that Ivanka Trump is also concerned about the executive order, particularly as it relates to Dreamers—the children of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children who may normally be subject to deportation, but through President Obama’s executive action can stay temporarily and apply for work permits." [VanityFair]
"Emanuel trying to build ‘relationships’ with Trump team" by Fran Spielman and Lynn Sweet: "The mayor also met with Kushner... The “goal is to find a way to work together,” a City Hall spokesman said about the meeting... If relationships are based on each side getting something, an area where Emanuel could be helpful to Kushner is on Israel... Obama and Netanyahu had a chilly relationship. Still, Emanuel has considerable expertise when it comes to Israel: The son of an Israeli, Emanuel knows the players and the issues, and even if he does not agree on the Trump approach, he brings his experience of dealing with the issue in the Obama and Clinton White House." [ChicagoSunTimes]
“Christie gets called to D.C. for lunch Tuesday with Trump, sources reveal” by Brent Johnson: “One source told NJ Advance Media that Kushner reached out to Christie ahead of Tuesday's meeting and that senior White House officials speak with the governor regularly.” [NJAdvance]
"Senate confirms former banker Mnuchin as Treasury secretary” by Stephen Ohlemacher: “A bitterly divided Senate on Monday confirmed Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary... He was confirmed by a mostly party-line vote of 53-47. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined the Republicans.” [AP]
COMING SOON: "Trump's Senate Battle for Israel Ambassador Could Come Down to One Wildcard Vote" by Amir Tibon: "The only Republican senator who has thus far threatened to vote against some of Trump’s potential nominees... has been Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky... So far, Paul has not released any statement regarding Friedman... The more interesting votes to watch on the Democratic side will be those of senators considered to be close to AIPAC. It’s not clear what the lobby group will be doing behind the scenes, if anything, with regards to the nomination, if it becomes clear that it has been secured by the Republican members of the committee... The Democrats on the senate panel who are seen as close to AIPAC are ranking member Ben Cardin (Md.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Chris Coons (Del.) – all of whom have yet to comment publicly on Friedman." [Haaretz]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Glencore Buys Out Israeli Billionaire Dan Gertler With $1 Billion Congo Mining Deal [Bloomberg; WSJ] Bruce Lane's Meridian Group Raises $232M For Second DC Real Estate Fund [Bisnow] Apollo's Leon Black made $142.5 million last year [MarketWatch] Startup Backed by Spielberg and Studios Seeks to Create VR Experiences for Malls [WSJ] American Dream Meadowlands for the birds? [NorthJersey]
TALK OF THE TOWN: "Attorney looks to question Charles Kushner about his conviction" by Suzanne Russell: "Attorney Patrick Whalen has filed a motion asking the court to allow evidence of Charles Kushner incarceration in 2005 and 2006 to be admitted during testimony by plaintiff witnesses. Whalen also is asking the court to allow for Kushner, the former chairman of Kushner Companies, to be questioned about his conviction when he testifies... Jared Kushner is not scheduled to testify in the case." [MyCentralJersey]
“Steve Schwarzman Hosted an Epic 70th Birthday Party in Palm Beach” by Sam Dangremond: “The Blackstone co-founder and his wife, Christine, hosted about 600 guests at their 15,000-plus square-foot estate in Palm Beach, which is only about a mile-and-a-half from Mar-a-Lago Saturday night's party reportedly included a private dinner with a "acrobats, Mongolian soldiers and two camels," billionaire attendee David Koch told Bloomberg Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were photographed leaving Mar-a-Lago in black tie, reportedly en route to Schwarzman's party. Presumptive incoming Trump cabinet members Steve Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, and Elaine Chao also attended.” [T&C; Bloomberg]
“How Kosher Are Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner?” by Jessica Sidman: “Based on their dining destinations, it’s safe to say that the couple isn’t strictly observant. “If you are very strict kosher, you’re not going to eat in any restaurant that’s not certified kosher,” says Lise Stern, author of How to Keep Kosher... Kushner and Trump aren’t the only high-profile politicos to have to navigate Washington’s barren kosher scene. Previously, former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman was perhaps the most notable government official to keep kosher. Before the Dirksen Senate Office Building cafe added kosher meals in 2012, Lieberman told the Hill he maintained a very limited diet.” [Washingtonian]
“How The 29-Year-Old Owner Of Katz's Deli Is Bringing The NYC Landmark Into The 21st Century” by Natalie Sportelli: “While keeping the regulars happy, to [Jake] Dell, making Katz’s more accessible means putting it in front of more customers, which also means educating and attracting the next generation of regulars. “To me this place is perfect,” he says. “You have to honor that tradition and you pay homage to that tradition, and you teach a new generation about that food tradition, that it was so prevalent 130 years ago or 150 years ago and has largely disappeared over the years.”” [Forbes]
TALK OF OUR NATION: "The revival of Yiddish in music and literature" by Prospero: "Despite its radical socialist past, some of the most innovative work in Yiddish now comes from the ultra-Orthodox community. In these close-knit groups, families have preserved the Yiddish of their forefathers. Lipa Schmeltzer, an ultra-Orthodox Jew from New York State, combines club beats with lyrics about Jewish rabbis. This unusual mix has proved immensely popular: Mr Schmeltzer has released over ten albums and is known as the “Hasidic Lady Gaga”. Last year, Mr Schmeltzer was chosen to sing “God Bless America” at the inauguration of a Jewish judge in New York. Naturally, the words were in Yiddish." [Economist]
"Disney Severs Ties With YouTube Star PewDiePie After Anti-Semitic Posts" by Rolfe Winkler, Jack Nicas and Ben Fritz: "Millions of people have watched a Jan. 11 video by YouTube’s biggest star that included two men laughing as they held a banner that read, “Death to all Jews.” The man behind the video is Felix Kjellberg, a 27-year-old Swede known as “PewDiePie,” who has amassed 53 million subscribers. His success has brought him multimillion-dollar deals from YouTube and Walt Disney Co., which owns a firm that runs Mr. Kjellberg’s business. Since August, PewDiePie has posted nine videos that include anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery... On Monday after the Journal contacted Disney about the videos, the entertainment giant said it was severing ties with Mr. Kjellberg." [WSJ]
SPORTS BLINK: "Robert Kraft Talks Patriots Players Skipping White House Visit on ‘Today’" by Superfan TV: "As of Monday morning, the number of players not attending stands at six, including Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty, who have voiced opposition to President Trump. Kraft thinks the attention is overblown... Kraft doesn’t have a problem with some of his players opting out of the visit, despite his longtime close friendship with Donald Trump. “This is America. We’re all free to do whatever is best for us. And we’re just privileged to be in a position to be going,” Kraft said. " [Yahoo]
BIRTHDAYS: Recently ranked as the 6th richest person in the US ($43.3 billion), former Mayor of NYC Michael Bloomberg turns 75... Award-winning investigative journalist for The Washington Post and author, who together with Bob Woodward did much of the original news reporting on the Watergate scandal, Carl Bernstein turns 73... Former Borough President of Brooklyn (2002-2013) and New York State senator (1979-2001), Marty Markowitz turns 72... Billionaire investor, private equity manager, philanthropist, chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, Stephen A. Schwarzman turns 70... Born in Lakewood, NJ, film producer and chairman and EVP of the NFL's New York Giants, winner of a Golden Globe award, an Academy Award and two Super Bowl rings, Steve Tisch turns 68... Host and co-executive producer of "Fresh Air" on WHYY-FM in Philadelphia, an interview program distributed throughout the United States by NPR, Terry Gross turns 66... Chairman and CEO of Townsquare Media, previously Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (2001-2003), Steven Price turns 55... Jewish hockey player selected in the first round of the 2002 NHL draft, then played on four NHL teams, also a player on the United States national team, Eric Nystrom turns 34... Paulette Nessim...
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