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PALACE INTRIGUE -- "Jared Kushner Resists Losing Access as Kelly Tackles Security Clearance Issues" by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman: "Kushner... concerned that [John] Kelly has targeted him personally with the directive... has insisted that he maintain his current level of access, including the ability to review the daily intelligence briefing when he sees fit. But Mr. Kelly, who has been privately dismissive of Mr. Kushner since taking the post of chief of staff but has rarely taken him on directly, has made no guarantees, saying only that the president’s son-in-law will still have all the access he needs to do his job under the new system... Mr. Kushner and [Ivanka] Trump have been critical of Mr. Kelly in conversations with the president... Kushner and Ms. Trump have told people around the White House that they have been vocal in their attempts to defend Mr. Kelly but are being treated unfairly in return." [NYTimes]
-- Statement from Kelly: “As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico. Everyone in the White House is grateful for these valuable contributions to furthering the president’s agenda. There is no truth to any suggestion otherwise.”
-- “This is the new war,” one person who spoke with Kushner said, though they didn’t expect the standoff would drag on. “Jared may have finally met his match,” the person close to the White House noted. “Who knows how this one goes?” [VanityFair]
HEARD LAST NIGHT -- Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on CNN Tonight: "Just to take one issue, the Middle East peace, negotiating between the Israelis and the Palestinians - it's absolutely critical that [Kushner] have access to the most sensitive intelligence information to know what's going on."
Aaron David Miller tweets: "Apart from whether Kushner ought to be allowed to function with an interim clearance, based on years in biz, doing Arab-Israeli negotiations does require access to top secret and codeword 411." [Twitter]
INSIDE THE ADMIN -- "VA chief Shulkin's job is safe, White House says, unless 'other stuff comes out'" by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, Lisa Rein and Josh Dawsey: "White House officials have told Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin that his job is safe, according to people familiar with the matter who indicated Tuesday that President Trump decided to 'stomach the story' about [David] Shulkin's alleged misuse of taxpayer money during a 10-day trip to Europe. The president's decision was communicated to Shulkin by White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly... Trump "personally likes Shulkin," the official said, cautioning, however, that "if other stuff comes out, this could change, but for now, he's safe."" [WashPost]
TURTLE BAY RECAP -- "Trump’s Attempt to Strike “Ultimate” Middle East Deal Faces New Setback" by Colum Lynch: "The United States struggled at the United Nations on Tuesday to persuade the world that America is in the best position to maintain its exclusive leadership role in mediating an end to the decades-long conflict... Abbas’ speech received a rousing applause from the packed Security Council chamber... [Ambassador Nikki] Haley said she was “sorry” that President Abbas had neglected to remain behind after delivering his speech to listen to Security Council members. But she made it clear Washington would not go along with his plan. Washington, she said, realizes the Palestinians leadership was “very unhappy” with President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. “You don’t have to like that decision,” she noted. “You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: that decision will not change.”" [ForeignPolicy; WashPost]
HALEY'S HIGH HEEL KICK -- "I will decline the advice I was recently given by your top negotiator, Saeb Erekat. I will not shut up. Rather, I will respectfully speak some hard truths." [CSPAN]
HOW IT PLAYED -- "Abbas Spars With Israel at U.N., as Kushner Listens On" by Michael Schwirtz: "Amid the name-calling, no one seemed to acknowledge the surprise presence of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, who sat quietly with the American delegation in the Security Council chamber... Mr. Kushner was joined in the Council chamber by Jason D. Greenblatt, Mr. Trump’s Middle East envoy... Mr. Kushner held closed-door talks with several United Nations ambassadors after the session." [NYTimes]
White House spokesman Josh Raffel emailed... “We appreciated the opportunity to listen to his speech. We were hoping to hear some new and constructive ideas and the recognition that Jerusalem is holy to Jews in addition to Muslims and Christians is a step in the right direction but as Ambassador Haley warned setting forth old talking points and undeveloped concepts for each of the core issues will not achieve peace. We are trying to do the opposite and will continue working on our plan which is designed to benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian people. We will present it when it is done and the time is right.”
-- "Trump team briefs Security Council on Mideast peace plan" by Michael Wilner: "According to the diplomatic sources, Kushner and Greenblatt said of the plan that “both sides are going to love some of it, and hate some of it.” The US team underscored their belief that Israeli settlement activity is unhelpful to the pursuit of peace, but told council members that past US demands for freezes had proven counterproductive. They declined to say whether such a demand would be included in their forthcoming plan." [JPost]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert at a press briefing: "Look, if at some point we believe that other countries could be helpful to the peace process, we would certainly be willing to bring them in. Is the time right for that right now? I’m not sure we’ve decided that, but that is something that could certainly happen in the future. "
REACTIONS TO UN ACTIVITY YESTERDAY -- Aaron David Miller tells us... "The only nuance, I think, is that Abbas didn't rule out U.S. participation. He did rule out the notion of the U.S. as the only mediator. The Palestinians have been singing this song for a long time. I think in a galaxy far, far away that might work, but back on planet Earth, it won't, in large part, because the Trump administration is not going to engage in a multilateral forum. I think the only thing that will save Abbas at this point would either be the political passing of Netanyahu or alternatively a Trump peace plan that goes well beyond what people believe is now actually in it, that is to say, a really substantive, credible position on territory and some course corrective on Jerusalem. Barring that, it seems to me when they present their plan, Bibi's going to say, 'Yes, but ' and Abu Mazen is going to say 'No.'"
Former U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro emails... "Abbas may have taken one step down from the very high tree he climbed in his terrible January 14 speech but there are many more rungs on the ladder below him that he would need to descend to be in the ballpark of negotiations for a two-state solution. His proposal for an international summit has no serious prospect of happening. The question is if Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt present a serious plan for two states -- with things both sides love and both sides hate, as they stated -- can they get Abbas to respond with something other than outright rejection? And can the Israeli government swallow the things it won't like if it does not see Abbas as a peace partner? If one or both of those are out of reach, then the real purpose of such a plan is not to reconvene negotiations now, but to put down an anchor to keep a realistic two state solution alive for the future or postpone negotiations until different leaders are on the scene."
Ilan Goldenberg texts... "An international conference would be a non-starter especially since everything you hear about the US peace plan is not necessarily consistent with previous UN resolutions."
Martin Indyk tweets: "Abu Mazen’s UNSC speech this morning was moderate in tone and gave the 2Js (Kushner and Greenblatt) something to work with. Glad to see they honored him by attending." [Twitter]
ON THE GROUND -- "To Push Iran Back, Israel Ramps Up Support for Syrian Rebels, 'Arming 7 Different Groups'" by Amos Harel: "Dozens of rebels who spoke with [Analyst Elizabeth] Tsurkov described a significant change in the amount of aid they receive from Israel. Moreover, she said at least seven Sunni rebel organizations in the Syrian Golan are now getting arms and ammunition from Israel, along with money to buy additional armaments... Rebels told Tsurkov that Israel has recently begun helping them by launching drone strikes and antitank missiles at Islamic State positions during these battles." [Haaretz]
"Iran General’s Profile Rises as Tehran Flexes Mideast Muscle" by Sune Engel Rasmussen: "Gen. [Qassem] Soleimani, who is 60 years old, is the public face of Iran’s efforts to arm Shiite militias in Iraq and salvage the regime in Syria, and one of Iran’s biggest celebrities, trailed by photographers when he visits the front lines. With a white beard and a head of hair to match, he poses for selfies with Iraqi and Syrian militiamen and is the subject of tribute videos on YouTube. The Quds Force he heads is the elite unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for operations abroad, a force that answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei." [WSJ]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR -- "Netanyahu Peril Grows, as Trusted Aide Agrees to Testify" by David Halbfinger: "Late Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu’s situation became even graver, as one of those arrested — a top government official who reported directly to Mr. Netanyahu on the Bezeq affair — reached an agreement with prosecutors to become a government witness... By Wednesday morning, the first hairline crack in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition had become visible, as a fellow member of Likud, Oren Hazan, called on Mr. Netanyahu to step aside." [NYTimes] New Netanyahu Corruption Allegations: The Details [NYTimes]
"Early election seen as increasingly likely as PM's troubles deepen" by Mati Tuchfeld: "Many MKs think that Netanyahu will seek to move up the next general election, currently set for Nov. 5, 2019, allowing voters to decide the fate of his government, rather than resign from office. The fact that his Likud party is seeing an upswing in political polls may contribute to the Prime Minister's decision to hold an election." [IsraelHayom]
HAPPENING AT 12:30 PM ET: Prime Minister Netanyahu will speak at the Conference of Presidents' annual gathering at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem.
TOP TALKER -- "Some Florida Republicans begin push for stricter gun measures" by Katie Glueck and Alex Daugherty: "I already have impressed upon people I talk to, the way the law is now is incorrect, it's wrong, it's a moral obligation to make certain changes to the law," said Ronald Krongold, a Miami-based board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, speaking with McClatchy several days after a gunman in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people in a school shooting... Krongold said he's not issuing ultimatums, but that “this issue could influence who I support and who I don’t." [McClatchyDC]
"Is Israel a Model When It Comes to Guns, as Mike Huckabee Says?" by Isabel Kershner: “Contrary to the advocates’ arguments for more guns, Israel has strict gun control. Those citizens who are licensed to own a personal weapon have generally undergone some military training. Guns are not seen as a hobby, but as a tool for self-defense, and if necessary, to help protect others from terrorism. "As we are a people’s army, a lot of the population has at least undergone basic training and knows how to handle and conduct themselves with a weapon,” said Simon Perry, a criminologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “We don’t have a gun fetish here,” he added... “We don’t worship guns, we don’t sell assault rifles to people, we don’t have a genius creation like the NRA, we don’t regard every bunch of guys a ‘well regulated militia’ and we’re pretty much done fighting the British,” Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli diplomat... wrote in a sarcastic tweet." [NYTimes]
** 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. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israeli visual aid company OrCam valued at $1 billion [Reuters] A federal judge shot down an attempt by Steve Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management to have all filings in a discrimination case against the firm kept under seal [NYPost] Kushner Cos. Sued by Times Square Food Hall Tenant Over Lease [Bloomberg] Och-Ziff's Plea Deal May Be Upended With Restitution Claim [Bloomberg] Glencore’s $200 Million Predicament: How to Handle Payments to Dan Gertler Under U.S. Sanctions [WSJ] Intel plans to invest $5 billion to expand production at its Kiryat Gat plant in southern Israel, Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen said on Wednesday after talks with the U.S. chipmaker [Reuters] Moovit raises $50 million for its public mobility platform in round led by Intel Capital [VentureBeat]
"George Soros may invest more in fighting Big Tech" by David McCabe: "Billionaire investor George Soros launched a brutal attack on big online platform companies at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. Now, his influential organization is "certainly examining new ways" to tackle the growing power of tech giants..." [Axios]
"Bill Browder ‘Briefly Detained’ After Filing Corruption Claim Against Swiss Prosecutor" by Nico Hines: "British businessman Bill Browder says he was briefly detained and questioned by Swiss authorities on Monday night, a week after lawyers acting on his behalf lodged court papers attacking the credibility of Switzerland’s federal prosecutors. The court filing... demands the recusal of one of Switzerland’s top prosecutors because of his links to an alleged Russian double-agent who was working with the Swiss prosecutors’ office." [DailyBeast]
"Migrant Deported by Israel Back to Africa Recounts Ordeal" by Rodney Muhumuza: "[Yohannes] Tesfagabr said his group of Eritreans was not taken through the official immigration desk when they arrived in Uganda. Instead, they were ushered in via the cargo area, herded by a Ugandan official who stayed quiet most of the time. They were bundled into two taxis and driven to a hotel in the capital, Kampala. Their passports were confiscated by a man who spoke Tigrinya, a language widely spoken in Eritrea... Hours later, the undocumented Eritreans were dismissed from the hotel... "They take you like a dog, like a donkey," he said, talking about migrants taken to the Holot detention center in the Negev desert. "They do what they want. They don't have any law for us ... Because I know if I go over there, I can't be a human being after." [AP]
"Spain helps keep alive archaic language of Sephardic Jews" by Cristina Fuentes-Cantillana: "Ladino, a language taken abroad by Spanish Jews expelled from Spain in the late 15th century, uniquely preserves many elements of medieval Spanish, but some fear it is dying out. The Spanish Royal Academy has given it a lift by taking a first step toward creating a distinct academy for Ladino that will nurture the archaic language." [WashPost]
HOLLYWOOD -- "Israel’s Spiro Films Boards Nir Bergman’s ‘Here We Are’" by Elsa Keslassy: "Written by Dana Idisis, “Here We Are” is a family drama revolving around the relationship between a mentally challenged man in his early 20s, Guy, and his single father, Aharon... The project has been in development for three years and is expected to start shooting in the winter. It’s being backed by the Rabinovich Fund, the Yes satellite services and Gesher Multicultural Film Fund." [Variety]
COMING SOON -- Wonder Woman and Luke Skywalker expected at the Oscars: "Wonder Woman and Luke Skywalker will be at the Academy Awards — or at least the actors who play them onscreen. Oscar producers announced Wednesday that Gal Gadot and Mark Hamill will appear on the show, along with fellow "Star Wars" actors Oscar Isaac and Kelly Marie Tran." [AP]
REMEMBERING -- Holocaust survivor Sam Bloch, who preserved the memory of the victims of Nazi atrocities, dead at 93: "Bloch, who grew up in an area that was then Poland but is now part of Belarus, was 16 when his father was killed in a mass execution by Nazi forces in 1941. After taking shelter with a Polish farmer, Bloch joined a guerrilla brigade called the Bielski partisans, who hid in the woods and attacked German soldiers... Bloch was appointed chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council's board of advisers in 1981 and was a founder of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors." [NYDailyNews]
"Billy Graham, minister to presidents and millions worldwide, dies at 99" by William Lobdell and Russell Chandler: "After [Richard] Nixon's election in 1968, Graham grew closer to his longtime friend, and that closeness would bring him considerable embarrassment in 2002, when tapes of a White House meeting from 1972 were released. On the tapes, Graham was heard agreeing with Nixon that the American media were dominated by left-wing Jews... The remarks shocked Graham supporters and Jewish leaders because the preacher was seen as a staunch ally of the Jewish people. In addition to his unflagging support of Israel, Graham also protested the treatment of Soviet Jews and chastised his fellow Southern Baptists for singling out Jews for conversion. When the tapes surfaced, Graham initially issued a short apology, saying that he didn't remember making the comments. When the controversy continued, Graham issued another statement... "My remarks did not reflect my love for the Jewish people."" [LATimes]
SPORTS BLINK: "A Cellar Product From A Vintage NBA Player" by Steve Lipman: "[Amar’e] Stoudemire, 35, who late in his NBA career boasted of his Jewish roots on his mother’s side and played pro ball in Israel last season, this week unveiled three varieties of Israeli wine whose labels bear his name. The trio — Stoudemire Reserve, a Cabernet Sauvignon; Stoudemire Grand Reserve, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot; and Stoudemire Private Collection, a mix of several varieties — were produced at the “Stoudemire Cellars” of Kfar Shamai in the Upper Galilee... “He loves wine. He made it kosher because he made it Israel,” Gabe Geller, director of public relations for Royal Wine, said of Stoudemire." [JewishWeek]
DESSERT -- "Jewish-Grandma Cooking for the Small-Plate Generation" by Hannah Goldfield: "Jewish deli food and appetizing are not the world’s sexiest culinary traditions (it’s hard to sound cool asking for a “schmear”), but in the past few years a wave of restaurants with young proprietors—Mile End, Russ & Daughters Café, Frankel’s—have remarketed pastrami sandwiches and bagels with smoked fish to appeal to a new generation. At 2nd Floor Bar & Essen (Yiddish for “food”), above the 2nd Ave Deli, on the Upper East Side, the millennial makeover goes a step further: the kinds of Old World dishes my great-grandmother made for her family of seven in their East 105th Street tenement kitchen are given the fussy small-plate treatment." [NewYorker]
“Alon Shaya will open restaurants in New Orleans and Denver” by Todd Price: “Celebrated chef Alon Shaya, who was fired from his eponymous restaurant last September, will soon be cooking again. On Tuesday (Feb. 20), Shaya's Pomegranate Hospitality announced that it would open two restaurants this spring: Saba in Uptown New Orleans and Safta in Denver's The Source Hotel... Zachary Engel, previously the chef de cuisine at Shaya, will be the culinary director for the two restaurants. Both Saba, which means "grandfather" in Hebrew, and Safta, which means "grandmother," will offer contemporary Israeli cuisine.” [Nola]
CORRECTION: While former Sen. Joe Lieberman was featured on the official list of attendees for the Munich Security Conference this past weekend, we're told he was unable to attend. Our list of attendees in yesterday's Daily Kickoff mistakenly included him.
BIRTHDAYS: Award winning science fiction and mystery author of more than 20 novels and 40 short stories, Richard A. Lupoff turns 83... Developer of the L'Ermitage Beverly Hills in 1976, subsequently for some time the owner of the Bel Age and Mondrian hotels, Severyn Ashkenazy turns 82... Co-founder of Dreamworks and noted collector of American artists' work, since 2015 his name is on the Lincoln Center complex in NYC, David Geffen turns 75... Vice-chairman of the NBA's Detroit Pistons, he was a sports agent for basketball and baseball players, Arn Herschel Tellem turns 64... Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes during his 30 years at the Wall Street Journal, he is the director of a fiscal and monetary policy group at the Brookings Institution, David Meyer Wessel turns 64... President of Yale University, Peter Salovey (Soloveitchik) turns 60... Billionaire investor, he owned the Cleveland Browns of the NFL (2002-2012) and Aston Villa F.C. of the English Premier League (2006-2016), Randolph David "Randy" Lerner turns 56... Special assistant to President Trump for legislative affairs, Paul Teller turns 47...
Reality television star with frequent appearances on "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," Jonathan Cheban turns 44... NYT best-selling novelist, Jonathan Safran Foer turns 41... Chicago Cubs player who was hit in the head on the first pitch of his MLB debut resulting in a a compound skull fracture, Adam Greenberg turns 37... Rochester, NY resident, Joshua Futerman turns 30... Pitcher in the Chicago White Sox organization who picked up two saves for the Israeli team at the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifier, Brad Goldberg turns 28... Israeli rhythmic gymnast who competed in the 2012 Olympics and other international gymnastic events as a member of the Israeli team, Polina Zakaluzny turns 26... Monsey, NY resident, Efrayim Katz turns 25... Professional tennis player, in 2015 he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, Noah Rubin turns 22... Miriam Fischer...
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