Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff - February 28, 2017

Trump considers cutting anti-Semitism envoy from budget | Dershowitz interview | Jack Abramoff's new adventure | Wired on Shimon Peres

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Governor's Dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Governor's Dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2017. Credit: Reuters

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FOR THE 'IN JARED WE TRUST' CROWD: “Prince Jared Is Trying to Consolidate His White House Power” by Emily Jane Fox: “Kushner and Netanyahu recently shared dinner with Tillerson, before Tillerson's overseas trip, a source familiar with the situation told me. And Kushner, who enjoys something of a sprawling, amorphous West Wing portfolio (he is nominally in charge of job creation, cutting governmental I.T. costs and brokering peace in the Middle East, among other issues), appears to have grown more comfortable in meetings with foreign officials, despite his lack of political or diplomatic experience..." 

"One person close to the Trumps told me that when Kushner and his wife, Ivanka, sat down for a casual lunch in the White House soon after the inauguration, the president looked his son-in-law in the eye and mused that he had a lot on his plate, pointing to his commitments on jobs, I.T., and the Middle East. Still, Kushner has yet to lose his faith, even as other members of the president’s inner circle fall in and out of favor... he, too, isn’t immune to the brush-off from his father-in-law, this source said. “Trump yells at him in front of people all the time,” the source close to the family told me. “He’s in line, too.” [VanityFair

--Additional sources close to Kushner likely wanted to shift the narrative a bit after Vanity Fair's previous story two weeks ago was headlined -- "Far from being a moderating influence on his father-in-law, Kushner has embraced his inner Bannon" 

FIRST LOOK: “Does Stephen Miller Speak for Trump? Or Vice Versa?” by Joshua Green: “Miller drafts the president’s major speeches, including the one Trump will deliver to Congress on Tuesday night. When Miller goes on television to defend Trump's words, he’s often defending his own writing. In a sense, Trump is giving voice to Miller as much as the other way around... In his Tuesday speech to Congress, Trump will finally make a direct appeal for support. The imperative will then shift from talk to action. Trump is, in large measure, counting on Miller to navigate the treacherous legislative terrain and find ways to coax and reassure skeptical lawmakers. “I understand his vision, his ideas,” Miller says. “I can be an implementer.” It won’t be a natural role. Miller’s experience on the Hill as an angry tribune of populist conservatism rarely involved the messy give-and-take of legislating. Under Sessions, his energies were directed at halting a president’s agenda. Enacting one of his own is so far proving to be much harder." [Businessweek]

HE'S BACK: "From K Street to Congo: Abramoff's new adventure," by Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan: 
"When Jack Abramoff was released from prison in 2010, he was pitching himself as a self-styled political reformer looking to tell the truth about a system he illegally exploited for personal gain. Now the disgraced D.C. lobbyist is back and immersed in a stranger-than-fiction project with an African strongman, controversial Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and 'friends in Europe' to -- in his telling -- defeat Islamic terrorists... Abramoff agreed to act as a liaison between his European friends... the president of the Republic of Congo, and Rohrabacher to try to establish a coalition of African states to defeat the terrorist group Boko Haram. Abramoff's friends... were in talks with the country's controversial president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, to try to enlist the United States to support the coalition..." [Politico

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is holding a press conference today to introduce legislation, which would cut off US assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA). “The Taylor Force Act” is named after an American Army officer who was killed in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian terrorist last year while on an MBA entrepreneurship study abroad program. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Congressmen Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) are expected to attend the presser as well. 

-- Representatives Ted Budd (R-NC) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) introduced a similar piece of legislation in the House on February 1. The House bill has received 8 co-sponsors, all Republicans. During the last Congressional session, Graham, Dan Coats (R-IN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) co-authored the Taylor Force Act. However, the bill never passed the Senate and received no Democratic support.

--ICYMI: Sander Gerber spoke about the legislation last week at CPAC [YouTube]

“Keith Ellison’s rise to second-in-command at DNC worries some Jewish Democrats” by Rafael Medoff: “I’m just happy that Perez defeated Ellison, but concerned that it was close,” Rabbi Menachem Genack, a prominent Jewish supporter of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, told JNS. “The future of the pro-Israel Jewish community does not rest well with Democrats,” longtime Democratic Party consultant Dr. Hank Sheinkopf said after the vote.” [JNS

Alan Dershowitz tells us: “I am okay with the fact that Keith Ellison was defeated. I am not okay with the fact that people say he was defeated because of a ‘smear’ campaign. It is not a smear to expose somebody’s anti-Semitism and his long history of bigotry. That’s the right thing to do. I am not happy that he was picked to be Deputy Chairman. But at least we beat him to be Chairman.”

Responding to Mort Klein, Dershowitz explained why he decided not to quit the Democratic Party despite Ellison being appointed in a senior position: “We won this fight, and I am going to continue to fight to win victories. Keith Ellison got a consolation prize. I will make up my own mind as to whether and when to remain in the Democratic Party just the way Klein has to make up his mind whether to remain in the Republican Party in light of the fact that there are obviously some people within that party that are inconsistent with his views and my own views. I think we both have to fight within our own parties to make sure that the Israel issue remains bipartisan and that the Democratic Party must have a zero tolerance policy toward anti-Semitism. It’s a fight worth fighting for. We won the Ellison fight, we won the fight over the platform, and I think we can still win if we stand together.”

"Keith Ellison’s Loss Leaves A Sour Taste For Progressives" by Ruby Cramer: "Liberal support for Ellison, a Minnesota congressman beloved by Bernie Sanders voters, “was a very clear message, given to the party by its progressive base, by young people,” Ries said. “The DNC instead decided that they knew better.” [BuzzFeed]

TOP TALKER: “Trump to Propose 10% Defense Increase in Budget Plan, Aides Say” by Shannon Pettypiece and Jennifer A Dlouhy: “Trump and his aides also are reviewing whether to eliminate many special envoy positions, the people said -- diplomatic staff assigned to key regions and issues, including climate change, anti-Semitism and Muslim communities. State also handles a substantial chunk of U.S. foreign aid, which the administration officials said is being targeted for major cuts.” [Bloomberg]  Retired generals tell White House: Don't cut State Department [CNN

Ira Forman, former U.S. Special Envoy of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, tells us (on his birthday): “I can’t believe someone at the White House won’t have better sense than to realize that this is a disaster. I just can’t believe that they would even think of this given the relatively small budget needed to run this office. The office exists by legislation. It’s just a matter of someone signing up to fund it. This is as bipartisan as an issue as you can get, and I just hope folks at the WH come to their senses.”

Abe Foxman emails... “I think that would be a sad message to send. America was proud of the fact that it was the only country that understood the history of anti-Semitism to the point that it made it a responsibility of the American government to monitor and combat. The U.S. government instructed and mandated its ambassadors around the world to report and combat it. And what it did was, it caused other countries to set up special ambassadors to the Jewish communities on Jewish issues. The special Ambassador to combat anti-Semitism at the State Department is one of those things that ‘make America great.’”

“Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in Talks to Be State Department’s No. 2” by Felicia Schwartz and Peter Nicholas: "The decision isn’t yet final and other candidates may be under consideration, officials said Mr. Huntsman, who had at one point been considered as a candidate for secretary of state, has also been critical of Mr. Trump... He endorsed Mr. Trump for president in September, but in October called for Mr. Trump to drop out of the race after a recording leaked of Mr. Trump making sexually aggressive comments about women.” [WSJ

TRUMP TUMULT -- Major Garrett: "News: 3 sources tell me Todd Ricketts hitting heavy financial separation issues; withdrawal as Dep. Commerce Sec nominee a real possibility." [Twitter

HEARD YESTERDAY - At J Street’s National Conference in DC, Senator Bernie Sanders lauded the organization as a ‘powerful’ pro-Israel group while rebuking Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Welcomed by a thunderous applause, the Vermont lawmaker asserted, “the hard truth is the continued ‘occupation’ and the growth of Israeli settlements that the ‘occupation’ sustains undermine possibility of peace and it contributes to suffering and contributes to violence.” [JewishInsider

-- J Street conceded yesterday that the campaign against David Friedman will not lead to their desired outcome. However, they stressed that the ultimate goal is to isolate Friedman from the White House decision-making process. “I do expect a roughly party-line vote in the committee. I also acknowledge that there’s very little precedent for a nominee being struck down in an actual floor vote,” Dylan Williams, Vice President of Government Affairs for J Street, told Jewish Insider. “With that in mind, it’s important to realize that a large part of this fight is about where this administration should take U.S. policy with respect to Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” According to Williams, Friedman’s long-held views on the issues are looming over the battle going on between the national security establishment and President Trump’s close advisors over what the administration’s policy should be on the two-state solution. If the outcome of the campaign against Friedman would result in diminishing his influence on policy, Williams declared “we would see that as a victory.” [JewishInsider

Martin Indyk: Friedman “is going to be in Jerusalem, he’s not going to be in Washington. He is not going to be in the White House. His ability to actually influence policy when his job is to implement policy shouldn’t be exaggerated.”

KFILE -- Andrew Kaczynski's latest: "Trump Israel ambassador pick said State Department has been anti-Semitic for 'past 70 years'" [CNN]

“Palestinian envoy warns against moving US embassy in Israel” by Richard Lardner: “Maen Areikat (chief of the PLO delegation in Washington) says an "emotional decision" to shift the embassy's location "is going to have very, very negative repercussions" and could seriously complicate and undermine any future efforts to resolve the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis Areikat says the Palestinians have made their position clear, directly and indirectly, to the Trump administration.” [AP

TALK OF THE NATION: "Bomb Threats Were Directed At Jewish Centers In 18 States In Just One Day" by Mike Hayes and Claudia Koerner: "Local media and police confirmed reports of threats on Monday in Alaska, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan, Alabama, Maryland, Indiana, Virginia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, California, Arizona, Washington, and Nevada... The San Francisco office of the Anti-Defamation League also received a bomb threat Monday afternoon... The FBI and Department of Justice, meanwhile, have launched investigations into the rash of bomb threats." [BuzzFeed

"Spicer condemns JCC bomb threats and cemetery vandalizations" by Aidan Quigley: 
“The president continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned into the reports of further vandalism at Jewish cemeteries,” Spicer said. “The president continues to condemn these and other forms of anti-Semitic and hateful acts.” [Politico

"Opposition Leader Herzog: Israel Must Prepare to Take in U.S. Jews Fleeing anti-Semitism" by Allison Kaplan Sommer: 
"I call on the government to urgently prepare and draw up a national emergency plan for the possibility of waves of immigration of our Jewish brothers to Israel,” Herzog said at a meeting of his Zionist Union Knesset faction, where he expressed shock and strongly condemned the outbreak of anti-Semitism in the United States, France and other places in the world. Herzog, however said at the same time that he was “convinced that the American government would do everything it can to harshly and aggressively eradicate this phenomenon.” [HaaretzNewsweek]

KAFE KNESSET -- by Tal Shalev: One of the politicians who received a harsh blow from the State Comptroller report on Operation Protective Edge -- which was finally published this morning -- is former defense minister Moshe Yaalon. Yaalon is condemned in the report for failing to inform the cabinet of the tunnel threat and failing to prepare the IDF for it. Yaalon dismissed the findings as political for months, and has stepped up his defense efforts in recent days. Yaalon has been focused on Naftali Bennet and accused him of leaking from the holy shrine of the security cabinet... Yaalon, who resigned from his post last May and is currently planning to establish a new party and to run for the leadership of the country, is having a tough month. Last week, the judges who convicted Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier who shot the Palestinian terrorist in Hebron last March, condemned Yaalon for making early public statements about the case before it was properly investigated.

Another interesting fight unraveling is between Netanyahu and Yosef Shapira, the State Comptroller. After the PM brushed off the critique yesterday and implied that the Comptroller is undermining the IDF and security echelon, Shapira released a statement today attacking the what he called "deligitimization attempts, especially from the political system, which are probably aimed at deterring the Comptroller and damage his standing," he said in a special statement today. "It is important to focus on reading the report and learning the lessons from it and not badmouthing." President Rivlin, playing responsible adult, backed Shapira today and emphasized the watchdog's responsibility to the Parliament and the public. "It is not the time for exchanging blows, but for learning lessons and implementing what needs to be repaired."

Earlier today, Rivlin met all of the North American senior Israeli diplomats who are in Israel for the annual gathering of consultations and meetings, including Ambassador Ron Dermer and NYC consul general Danny Dayan. Rivlin, addressed the rise in anti-Semitic incidents. "When we say 'never again' it means the whole world. Israel and its diplomatic representatives should stand strongly against these events and I commend President Trump for saying it clearly last week. It should be said again and again without any hesitation." Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

** Good Tuesday 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 **

SPOTLIGHT: "Ex-UBS Bankers Target Israeli Millionaires With Wealth Broker" by Yaacov Benmeleh: "Two former UBS Group AG bankers are exporting their Swiss private-banking advisory business to Israel as a boom in the country’s technology industry prompts a rise in the number of millionaires and money managers. Zurich-based Zwei Wealth Experts AG, founded by Patrick Müller and Klaus Wellershoff, opened their first overseas office in Tel Aviv this month. “In many ways, Israel is a very representative market to test our approach," he said in an interview from Tel Aviv. “There is wealth and a curiosity for new solutions." Israel’s high-tech boom is creating a new generation of millionaires after the value of assets sold in 2016 rose to their highest level for four years..." [Bloomberg]

"Strategic Cyber Ventures aims to build ‘supermax prison’ to halt hackers" by Aaron Gregg: "Strategic Cyber Ventures, a D.C.-based investment firm backed by New York hedge fund Hudson Bay Capital, recently added a second local cybersecurity start-up to its portfolio. The $3.5 million investment announced Monday went to a four-person start-up called Polarity. “Ron [Gula] and I were both tired of incredible talent leaving the NSA going to Silicon Valley to raise money,” said Strategic Cyber Ventures partner Tom Kellerman... The investment firm started when Hudson Bay chief executive Sander Gerber, a long-time friend of Kellerman, persuaded him to leave his position and get into the investment game." [WashPost]

STARTUP NATION -- Wired Magazine's latest episode in their Future Cities series: "We examine Shimon Peres’s extraordinary legacy in shaping Israeli innovation, tracing the evolution of the country’s world-leading eductation and R&D. We visit miLAB at IDC Herzliya, a prototyping centre that focuses on physical-digital interaction, an IDF intelligence unit to learn about the military’s unique hierarchical structure and autonomous drone startup Airobotics. Finally we travel to Jerusalem, a city ‘complicated beyond description’, where we hear from Andy Dwonch of Gaza Sky Geeks, and Hani Alami of JEST to learn about how the political landscape in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem affects innovation." [YouTube]

"30 Photos That Will Make You Want to Book A Flight To Israel ASAP" by Carrie Goldberg: "Israel is a country diverse and vibrant in culture, color and flavor–so much so that we dubbed it one of the top places to visit in 2017. We tapped travel photographer Sharon Zobali for her tour of the country's biggest hubs–in photos... key sites that will make you want to book a trip sooner rather than later." [Bazaar

DESSERT: "The Southeast Asian Snack I Drove Across Israel For" by Katherine Martinelli: "At home in New York, I was accustomed to ordering Thai food on any given night when I was too tired to cook, rainy evenings, lazy Saturday afternoons, you name it... When we moved to Israel, Thai food was hard to come by. In the small city where we called home, there wasn’t a single Thai restaurant, and I did lug home Thai take-out from a reputable restaurant in Tel Aviv... While it can be frustrating, it also forced me to be creative and figure out how to make it on my own. Burritos, Chicken Tikka Masala, and even meatloaf all made it into my repertoire when living in Israel." [Food52]

SPORTS BLINK: "World Baseball Classic 2017: Can Israel surprise in its debut?" by Chris Cwik:
 "The team will be led by former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jason Marquis, but will also feature Ike Davis, Craig Breslow and Sam Fuld. Every one of those players has experienced success in the majors. " [YahooSports]

BIRTHDAYS: Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1972, Professor of Science at Brown University since 1958, Leon Cooper turns 87... Professor emeritus of Mathematics at the University of California, San Diego, Linda Preiss Rothschild turns 72... Screen, stage and televison actress and singer, Ilene Susan Graff turns 68... Former State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Ira Niles Forman turns 65... NYTimes op-ed columnist and 2008 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, author of more than 20 books, Paul Krugman turns 64... Stand-up comedian, actor and voice actor, Gilbert Gottfried turns 62... Self-described as "America's most notorious lobbyist," Jack Abramoff turns 58... Editor-in-chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Andrew Silow-Carroll turns 56... Jerusalem-born businessman and philanthropist, worked as a NYC taxi driver after completing his IDF service, started and sold several companies in the automotive field, Mordechai (Moti) Kahana turns 49... Executive Director of the Montreal chapter of ORT, Emmanuel Kalles... Jessie Singleton, MBA candidate at Harvard and former chief digital officer for NYC (h/t Playbook)... Samantha Friedman...

Folks who won't have a true birthday (2/29) for three more years: President of the Global Markets Institute at Goldman Sachs where she was the long-time Chief Investment Strategist, Board Chair at Jewish Theological Seminary (2009-2015), Abby Joseph Cohen turns 65... Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Paul D. Rosenthal turns 57... Former US Supreme Court law clerk and now UCLA law professor, Eugene Volokh, turns 49...

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