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PEACE SUMMIT? "Aside from Trump limelight, Davos discreetly pushes peace talks" by Tom Miles: "Davos attendees include King Abdullah of Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah and Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. “I hope that there will be at least discussions on the situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and we will have a lot of key players in that ecosystem in Davos,” [Berge] Brende said, adding that business leaders from both sides would call for a peace solution at Davos. The exclusive venue gives key political actors the chance to meet out of the public eye, or to communicate indirectly, he said." [Reuters]
"A Year After Trump, Davos Elite Fear Cyberattacks and War" by Stephen Morris: "The threat of large-scale cyberattacks and a “deteriorating geopolitical landscape” since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump have jumped to the top of the global elite’s list of concerns, the World Economic Forum said ahead of its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland." [Bloomberg]
HEADLINE DEPT: "Breitbart called Davos a collective of ‘leftist elites’ and ‘corporate cronies.’ Then Trump said he was going." [WashPost]
DRIVING THE DAY -- Trump's Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt is expected to arrive in Israel today for a standard meeting with the envoys of the Middle East Quartet "to exchange information and continue our engagement on advancing peace," according to a White House official.
-- "Western diplomats say the meeting is going to deal among other issues with the crisis in the peace process and the Trump administration efforts to draft a peace plan.” [Axios]
Martin Indyk: “This is a Quartet meeting. It was invented back in 2001 to provide a filler when nothing else was happening in the peace process. Maybe this time will be different?” [Twitter]
David Makovsky: "Even before Abbas's speech, Israeli and Palestinian officials had very low expectations about a Trump-led peace breakthrough, despite White House advisor Jason Greenblatt's assiduous efforts toward that end... Both sides generally assumed it would not come near the parameters issued by the Obama administration, and would therefore be rejected out of hand by the Palestinians. The parties have seemingly been preparing to play the blame game for some time, and Abbas's speech made clear his view that the U.S. plan would fall short... In other words, Washington is bound to interpret his speech as a preemptive strike... Yet this posture may suit the PA and the Trump administration just fine for now. U.S. officials will be satisfied as long as the PA exists and Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation continue." [WashInstitute]
TOP TALKER -- “U.S. Aid to Palestinians Through UN Cut by Half to $60 Million” by Nick Wadhams: “It is time other countries, some of them quite wealthy, step in and do their part to advance regional security and stability,” the State Department said in a statement Tuesday, saying the money is enough to keep the agency from running out of funds while the remaining $65 million is withheld “for future consideration.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster supported the plan to reduce funding for the aid program, while UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and coordinator for stalled peace efforts in the region, wanted to cut off the money completely.” [Bloomberg]
-- “Robert B. Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he was “not a fan of massive cuts” to funding for the relief agency, saying he would prefer other solutions, such as changes to how Palestinians become eligible for refugee status.” [NYTimes]
PLO official Wasel Abu Youssef told Reuters: “This decision confirms the U.S administration is continuing in wiping out the rights of the Palestinian people. First was declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and today the refugee issue.” [Reuters]
PALACE INTRIGUE -- “Tillerson prevails over Haley in Palestinian funding debate” by Josh Rogin: “One senior administration official said that while the issue was being debated, Tillerson raised it personally with Trump and secured the president’s agreement to support the State Department’s position “This shows that we have a secretary of state who is not really wandering around in a Bermuda Triangle with no sense of mission or influence with the president, despite the press coverage,” said Aaron David Miller, vice president at the Wilson Center.” One State Department official concurred “While not flashy or concerned about what job he may have later on, the Secretary is focused on his current role.” That take can be seen as a not-so-subtle jab at Haley, who is viewed by some inside the administration as too quick to announce policies that have yet to be finalized and too politically ambitious.” [WashPost]
REPORT -- Abbas fury after Saudi briefing on Trump’s peace plan: “A close associate of the PA president was summoned to Riyadh for an urgent meeting earlier this month. There, the details of Trump’s peace plan were presented to the Palestinians for the first time, according to Hadashot news. The plan’s main clauses were as follows: less-than-full statehood for the Palestinians, maintained Israeli control over security matters, a permanent IDF presence in the Jordan Valley, land swaps not based on the 1967 borders, no settlement evacuations, and an Israeli veto regarding the final status of Jerusalem, which would be later negotiated by the parties"
“In a statement responding to the Tuesday TV report, the White House called it “regrettable that the Palestinian leadership is looking to create a false impression against an unfinished plan they have not even seen.”” [ToI]
"Palestinian President Shows the World Who He Really Is" by Eli Lake: "The Abbas we saw on Sunday was not a leader inviting his people to embrace dark conspiracies and hopeless struggle. Rather, Abbas was meeting many Palestinians where they already are. He was reflecting a movement that equates Palestinian nationalism with the negation of the Jewish state... His legacy will be that of a weak man who was unwilling and unable to challenge deep flaws in his people's liberation movement." [BloombergView]
AHEAD OF SCHEDULE? Netanyahu says US Embassy to move to Jerusalem this year: "Netanyahu told Israeli reporters traveling with him in India on Wednesday his “solid assessment” is that the American Embassy “will be moved far faster than what we think ... in the course of the year.”" [AP]
"Kids at Kushner's Old High School Were Asked to Write Letters Sucking Up to Trump – and Parents Are Fuming" by Judy Maltz: "Located in Paramus, N.J., Frisch is the alma mater of Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and one of his senior advisers. Jason Greenblatt, Trump's Mideast envoy, is a parent at the school... On Tuesday, students at Frisch received an email from Rabbi David Sher – the school's director of Israel education and advocacy – urging those who "believe that the president made the right decision" to send letters to the White House thanking Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and for beginning the process of moving the U.S. Embassy there... Several parents called and wrote Frisch Schools principal, Rabbi Eli Ciner, to complain. In response, he issued a follow-up email clarifying that "this is entirely voluntary and should be done only if you agree with President Trump."" [Haaretz]
SPOTTED LAST NIGHT IN DC -- Ivanka Trump and her son were seen enjoying dinner in the private room of the kosher restaurant Char Bar on L St. after addressing a "Conversation With The Women of America" panel earlier at the White House [Pic] Ivanka posed for a picture with lobbyist Ezra Friedlander at the restaurant [Pic]
PROFILE: "Jerusalem's new British-born deputy mayor: Israel is no apartheid state - it just has an issue with bad PR" by Joe Wallen: "Fleur Hassan-Nahoum has Donald Trump to thank for making her new job one of the most interesting and controversial in the world. She has been named as the new deputy mayor of Jerusalem... Ms Hassan-Nahoum is the first British citizen to hold a senior political role in Israel’s history." [Independent]
ACROSS THE BORDER -- “Trudeau defends Canada's no-vote on Jerusalem” by Melanie Marquis: “We are less interested in grousing and playing politics,” he said. “We are more interested in finding solutions and moving forward at a substantial level This idea of using votes in the United Nations to isolate or condemn Israel is not productive in international relations. And Canada avoids taking sides in that.” Trudeau reiterated that Canada won’t move its diplomatic corps from Tel Aviv. “I have always been very clear: our embassy will stay in Tel Aviv,” he said." [NationalPost]
SHIFTING ATTENTION: “Iran's leader accuses Saudis of 'treason' against Muslims” by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin: “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was “a big mistake” and “doomed to failure.” “Regional governments that are cooperating with the United States and the Zionist regime to fight against Muslims are certainly committing treason. That is what Saudi Arabia is doing,” Khamenei said.” [Reuters]
STILL 'MAD DOG' MATTIS? ... "How Mattis softened on Iran — for now" by Wesley Morgan: "For now, it's a striking change for the former military commander who repeatedly clashed with the Obama administration's diplomatic approach — and who once described the top three threats in the Middle East as "Iran, Iran and Iran.” In the past year, Mattis has openly contradicted Trump by testifying that Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran “is something that the president should consider staying with." [Politico]
HEARD THIS MORNING -- Sen. Lindsey Graham at a national security discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute: “Here is something most people don’t think about: Israel started to have nuclear weapons - they won’t confirm it, but everyone believe its. Name one Arab state that got nuclear weapons in response. Nobody in the Arab world believes that Israel will wake up one day and blow them off the map. When you talk to any Arab leader they are apoplectic about the idea of the Ayatollah having a nuke because they believe he will use it."
BEHIND THE SCENES: "How Michael Wolff Got Into the White House for His Tell-All Book" by Jennifer Jacobs: "[Jared] Kushner met with Wolff late in the author’s reporting, only in order to push back on anticipated attacks on him, two White House officials said." [Bloomberg]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT... "Missouri governor says affair won’t deter him from work" by David A. Lieb, Summer Ballentine and Jim Salter: "[Eric] Greitens, who has stayed out of the public eye since admitting to an affair last week, distributed a message via Facebook and email Tuesday that simultaneously apologized for his actions and asserted that some allegations against him were false and “extremely hurtful.” “I assure you that this personal mistake will not deter us from the mission we were sent here to do,” Greitens said in the statement." [WashPost] Missouri Republicans debate whether Greitens should stay or go [STLToday]
2018 WATCH -- “GOP Senate Candidate Challenging Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer Says She Not Conservative Enough -- by Jon Kipper: “While not saying he was for a wall, [Todd] Watson said that America can take lessons from the barrier that Israel constructed on parts of its border to protect against terrorism. “I think Israel has some good ideas on border security, I’d like to talk to them, but we have to get something done, against nothing,” says Watson.” [KWBE]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Three-way Battle Suddenly Erupts for Control of Israel's Bezeq [Haaretz] Leon Cooperman's Omega Advisors sells entire stake in Time Inc. [NYPost] Kushner Cos. offers site plan for Monmouth Mall overhaul [APP] Will Wilbur Ross Replace Gary Cohn as Economic Czar? [Newsmax] This Wharton alum’s startup helps college students negotiate their financial aid packages [DailyPenn]
SPOTLIGHT -- Obama Foundation million-dollar donors jump -- by Lynn Sweet: “Another $1 million-plus giver in the last three months of 2017 is Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne. In November, former first lady Michelle showed her appreciation: She was the keynote speaker for a convention in San Francisco put on by Salesforce, where Benioff led her in a “fireside chat” conversation, according to a report on the KGO website. It’s not known whether Mrs. Obama was paid for the speech or she spoke to Benioff’s group without charging a fee"
"Among the new million-dollar donors the Blum-Kovler Foundation/Peter and Judy Kovler; and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Also, the Linda and Richard Price Family Fund. Another new million-dollar-plus donor is former Obama administration official Jeffrey Zients and his wife Mary and Hollywood producer Phil Rosenthal, the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond” through his Rosenthal Family Foundation.” [ChicagoSunTimes]
RISING POLITICAL STAR: "Ex-chief of staff Benny Gantz eyes political career" by Sue Surkes: "During a speech at a conference of municipal corporations in the southern resort city of Eilat, [Gantz] said, “It’s not relevant at this moment, but Israeli society is one to which I willingly committed my life, and to which I would certainly commit my activity. What the implication is, what the situation will be, and if and when it might happen, only time will tell,” he added... In November 2015, a poll showed that Gantz would defeat Benjamin Netanyahu by a wide 44% to 32% margin... Gantz’s mandatory cooling-off period before he is allowed to run for office expires next month." [ToI]
"This Israeli plane was so good the Marines used it as an aggressor" by Harold Hutchison: "Israel faced a problem in the 1970s. The Yom Kippur War had seen them take heavy aircraft losses. They needed more planes... The Israelis had been forced to steal the plans for the Mirage 5 from France after an arms embargo. Mossad had managed to get the Mirage 5 plans in a very brilliant operation, but it was just an interim solution. Israel built 50 Neshers, which correlated to the number of aircraft it had ordered from France... Israel did get lucky when they acquired a license to produce the J79 engine... figuring out how to make the J79 work with the Mirage airframe... The planes... proved to be excellent – and so good that the United States Navy borrowed a number of them to serve as aggressors at schools like Top Gun." [WeAreTheMighty]
“A missing tourist scattered Bible pages in Israel’s desert. Is ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ to blame?” by Alex Horton: “Oliver McAfee, a 29-year-old living in Essex, England, was due home in early December following a bicycle adventure along the Israel National Trail, a 631-mile pilgrimage running north to south that includes religious sites. But he vanished in November, with few clues about his whereabouts Researchers believe Jerusalem Syndrome is the result of a trio of circumstances: preexisting mental illness, strong religious beliefs and travel to Israel that sparks a psychotic state when encountering the intense religious history of Jerusalem Volunteers recovered torn passages from the Bible weighed down by rocks, handwritten scripture and references to Jesus’ desert fasting, which lasted 40 days.” [WashPost]
INTERVIEW -- "‘Studies in Power’: An Interview with Robert Caro" by Claudia Dreifus: "A technical question: your books range from 500 to 1,200 or so pages. How does an author keep track of the storyline when you’re writing such huge books? Caro: "I outline. I couldn’t outline The Power Broker, at first. There was too much material. For months, I couldn’t figure out how to organize the book. Then, one day Robert Moses was giving a speech. Cardinal Spellman had given him an exedra, a huge marble bench for reflection. Moses was speaking at the dedication. In the front row were all these “Moses Men,” engineers, functionaries, officials. Moses said something like, “Let us sit on this bench and reflect on the ingratitude of man.” And in the front, I saw all these guys whispering. Yes, why weren’t they grateful to him? And all of a sudden, I knew that was going to be the last line of the book. “Why weren’t they grateful?” I drove back home and started outlining. I learned a lesson from that. Before I start a book, I must know the last line. If I can’t, I can’t do the book. Once I have it, I’ll write toward that last line." [NYBooks] h/t Your Daily Biscuit
ADL's Jonathan Greenblatt writes... "The Resurgent Threat of White-Supremacist Violence: If Americans don’t take action to directly address the threat posed by those who traffic in racism and hatred, they shouldn’t be surprised by the next white-supremacist killing... In recent years, much of the public discussion and the federal government’s focus have been on the violent threat posed by extremists inspired by ISIS, while less attention has been paid to the reality of right-wing violence. There’s no doubt that Islamic extremism is a significant threat, but we shouldn’t ignore any forms of extremism—we must tackle them all." [TheAtlantic]
ACROSS THE POND -- Chelsea launch campaign to tackle anti-Semitism: "Set to launch ahead of their Premier League game against Bournemouth on January 31st, the initiative, which is supported by the club’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, is part of the club’s on-going inclusion work, through the Chelsea Foundation’s Building Bridges campaign... A committee of experts will be leading the campaign, and led by club Chairman Bruce Buck, includes Ronald Lauder, Robert Singer, Malcolm Hoenlein..." [JewishNews]
HOLLYWOOD -- Lebanon reverses ban on Spielberg film: "Lebanon's interior ministry will allow the release of Steven Spielberg's latest film, "The Post", overturning a ban by the General Security authority, a senior official said Wednesday." [DailyMail]
PIC OF THE DAY -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stars in an advertisement for Indian dairy products this morning in local papers. “Utterly Bibi-ly Delicious!” [Pic]
GONE VIRAL: Sen. Orrin Hatch removes a pair of reading glasses he's not wearing during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing [Video]
BIRTHDAYS: Former member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1980-1996), in 1967 he was the attorney who won the Supreme Court case banning state laws against interracial marriage, Bernard S. Cohen turns 84... Former two-term member of Congress from Iowa (1973-1977), he is the father-in-law of Chelsea Clinton, Edward Mezvinsky turns 81... Host of televison's tabloid talk show "Maury," originally known as the "Maury Povich Show," Maury Povich turns 79... Joseph Berger turns 72... Australian neuroscientist, engineer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and former Chancellor of Monash University (2008-2016), he is designated as Australia's Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel turns 65... Economist, professor, New York Times best-selling author and social entrepreneur, he has written eleven books and is the founder of six companies, Paul Zane Pilzer turns 64... President and co-founder of Bluelight Strategies, a marketing and media relations firm, Steve Rabinowitz turns 61...
Majority owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans and investor in dozens of companies, Dan Gilbert turns 56... Professor of Law at Harvard University, he is a legal strategist fighting the BDS movement including representing the plaintiffs in a suit against the American Studies Association regarding BDS, Jesse M. Fried turns 55... Film director Bart Freundlich turns 48... President of the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute, Yohanan Plesner turns 46... Kansas City-native, now DC-based SVP for PR firm Finsbury, Jeremy Pelofsky turns 43... Odessa-born choreographer and dance instructor, widely known as one of the professional dancers in "Dancing with the Stars," Maksim Chmerkovskiy turns 38... New York Director of Institutional Advancement for Moishe House, Jason Freeman turns 29... Politics reporter for CNN, Rebecca Berg turns 28... Freelance writer and digital content manager at Emily's List, Alyssa Franke turns 26...
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