Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff - January 25, 2017

Sen. Durbin blocks pro-Israel bill condemning UNSC | Elliott Abrams in running for Dep Sec State | Can Jared & Ivanka survive the WH?

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Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, speaks during a news conference after a Democratic Senate luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015.
Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, speaks during a news conference after a Democratic Senate luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015.Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

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EXCLUSIVE: “Durbin Obstructs Pro-Israel Bill Condemning UNSC” by Aaron Magid: “Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has delayed a Senate bill assailing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for a resolution criticizing Israel, according to fellow Democrat Tom Udall (D-NM). The New Mexico legislator told Jewish Insider outside of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) hearing that Durbin has placed a “hold” on the measure, but if the Democratic Whip were to remove his objection, Udall would offer his own independent opposition After Senate Resolution 6 passed out of committee, the measure was placed on a “hotline” to determine if the bill would receive unanimous backing with the goal of getting the legislation to the Senate floor. Once Senator Durbin anonymously objected, the legislation was delayed for an indefinite period of time.”

“While holding up a copy of Tuesday’s New York Times article describing Israel’s decision to expand settlement building, Udall blasted the current Senate legislation. “The issue is Senate Resolution 6 completely ignores the settlement issue I think the settlements have to be part of the issue if you are passing a resolution,” he said “I presented an amendment during the committee. The amendment was supported by a majority of Democrats (on the SFRC). I want the opportunity to offer that amendment on the floor,” Udall added.” Senator Durbin’s office declined to respond to Jewish Insider’s repeated request for comment." [JewishInsider

COMING SOON: “Israeli politicians heading to Washington to forge ties with new administration” by the Jerusalem Post: “Other ministers said to be exploring the possibility of traveling to Washington in the coming weeks include Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer was planning to return to Israel had Hillary Clinton won the presidential election, but his term has now been extended indefinitely by Netanyahu. Dermer is said to have a close relationship with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser to the president.” [JPost]  Amb. Dermer spotted at the Trump Inauguration using CNN's gigapixel [Pic]

Spotted: "Jared Kushner eating with another man at Founding Farmers Tuesday evening. Secret Service stood by the door" [Politico]

"Can Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Survive the White House?" by Emily Jane Fox: "Normally, the family would decamp to New Jersey for the weekend, where they would bake pies and relax by the fire and observe the rules of Shabbat—no driving, no phone calls, typically. This weekend, instead, they had free rein in all 132 rooms and 28 fireplaces in the White House. Trump, who announced that his first workday would be Monday, turned the weekend into a family celebration. The entire extended Trump clan stayed in the residence at the White House, one source close to the family told me... The tide of bad press seemed to swell on Saturday, another person with ties to the First Family told me, when Kushner was absent observing Shabbat. “He wasn’t rolling calls on Saturday when this happened,” this person told me. “To me, that’s not a coincidence.”" [VanityFair]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Israel announces first new settlement construction since Trump's inauguration” by Oren Liebermann, Amir Tal and Abeer Salman: "We are building - and we will continue to build," said Netanyahu in a tweet. The planned new homes mark one of the largest settlement expansions since 2013, according to the settlement watchdog Peace Now Most of the housing units are in the main settlement blocs, Liberman said, but approximately 100 units are in Beit El, a settlement outside of Ramallah, which received a $10,000 donation in 2003 from the Trump Foundation Trump made the donation in honor of David Friedman, his bankruptcy attorney and pick for US Ambassador to Israel. Friedman had served as President of the American Friends of Bet El Institutions.” [CNN]  “Netanyahu's office would not say whether he had consulted with the White House before Tuesday's announcement.” [AP

“Spicer Evasive on Settlement Construction, Aid to Palestinians” by Jacob Kornbluh: “[Trump] is very concerned about how taxpayer money is spent, whether it is sent overseas, and what we get for it in terms of the relationship or our support for a democracy or aid for another country for their defenses," Spicer said. "But he's going to be examining all aspects of the budget and how we look at all money because I think there is a newfound respect for how the American people's tax dollars are spent in this administration." Spicer refused to condemn or support Israel's recent approval of 2,500 new units in West Bank settlements. "He has asked his team to get together," he said. "We are going to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and we will continue to discuss that." Asked if Trump supports the expansion of settlements, Spicer repeated, "We'll have a conversation with the Prime Minister." [JewishInsiderAFP

"Trump reviewing Obama’s payment to Palestinians" by Dave Boyer: 
"Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the agency is “currently reviewing last-minute spending approved by the previous administration and will make adjustments if needed to ensure that it aligns with the priorities of the Trump-Pence administration.”" [WashTimes

“Israel plans West Bank settlement expansion amid policy shifts in Washington” by William Booth: “Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the liberal Washington-based group J Street, called the lack of swift American condemnation “unprecedented” in 50 years of U.S. foreign policy on the issue. “It may really feel good for Israel’s government not to feel the sting of an American rebuke in the wake of this latest announcement,” said Ben-Ami... “But it doesn’t change the fact that the world has made it very clear that these actions have no legal validity.”” [WashPost

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM: “IDF preparing for Trump’s embassy decision” by Alex Fishman: “In the past two weeks the defense establishment has created a series of possible scenarios – starting with a situation in which the Americans announced the construction of an embassy building and immediately place bulldozers on the ground, to a continuation of the current bluff in which declarations are made but nothing is done. In between, the other alternatives deal with the possibility of a gradual, long-term implementation, which will include festive cornerstone laying ceremonies followed by years of engagement in construction and logistics. Each alternative will have a different effect on the magnitude of the response in the Muslim world, and the army is also preparing for different levels of violent outbursts.” [Ynet Palestinian Authority President Abbas holds meeting with US consul general [Wafa

"Giuliani: Trump backs Jerusalem embassy move, but reality is complex" by Herb Keinon: "Asked in an interview with the Post whether he feels that Trump -- who was a strong advocate of moving the embassy during the campaign -- has changed his mind, Giuliani responded, “I think that now that he is in office, there are a lot more facts and arguments and people you have to consult with before you make a final decision, and it is a more deliberative process. I don't think his position has changed in any way.”" [JPost]

HEARD YESTERDAY at the INSS 10th Annual International Conference in Tel Aviv - former Ambassador Martin Indyk, Gen, David Petraeus and Prof. Walter Russell Mead, Distinguished Fellow at The Hudson Institute, discussed the Israel-U.S. relationship under the Trump Administration in a panel titled “Making the Relationship Great Again?” moderated by Israeli journalist and TV host Dana Weiss.

Highlights -- Indyk on delay in an announcement on the Jerusalem embassy: “The delay means, I would predict, it’s not going to happen because if you do not do straight away, the reasons you got it delayed are going to be there all the time of your administration.”

Indyk on Ambassador-designate David Friedman’s plan to live in Jerusalem: “I had an apartment in Jerusalem. The U.S. Ambassador has had an apartment in Jerusalem since 1995. So the notion that somehow having an apartment in Jerusalem is moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a fiction that I don’t think anybody is going to accept.”

Petraeus: “I was actually reassured by the caution on the embassy issue after last week we heard it’s going to happen. By the way, I am not sure they can hold this off forever the way previous administrations have just basically forgotten about it when nobody was pushing them to do it. This is a campaign promise. This is an individual who has said he’s going to be different, that what he has said he will actually do, unlike all these others He was a disrupter as a candidate, and now he is the disrupter-in-chief the Oval Office, and so I think it’s possible something may be done. I was reassured to see a degree of caution on this emerge, and that, I think, is positive, although I don’t think it’s something that he can just forget.”  

Walter Russell Mead: “It's very important from an Israeli perspective that Israel not let itself get identified with President Trump in the minds of American political people of both parties. Remember that he did not win the popular vote, he took office with the lowest poll ratings of any president in modern history. It would be a tremendous mistake to make it look like this is Israel’s man, this is our hope. On the other hand, he might be tremendously successful. We just don’t know.”  

KAFE KNESSET -- by Tal Shalev: The Knesset was packed today for PM Netanyahu's parliamentary Q&A session. The session began with Netanyahu, aided by debate rule bending from Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, dodging all questions about the various investigations he faces. The Bibi show at the Knesset Plenum is planned for almost two hours, and is likely to produce even more highlights as the day goes on...

Wrapping up the INSS policy conference last night, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked discussed the possible move of the US embassy to Jerusalem. Shaked pledged government assistance to any country that moves their embassy, revealing that Interior Minister Aryeh Deri has proposed an exemption from local council property taxes for those that make the move. "Changing the embassy's location would be the best evidence of a change in the American approach," Shaked said, appealing to the rest of the world to follow suit. "I allow myself to leak something that the Israeli Cabinet approved. Minister Deri stated that every country that moves their embassy will receive an exemption in property taxes.”

ON THE HILL: “Nikki Haley confirmed as new U.S. envoy to the United Nations” by Anne Gearan: “[Nikki] Haley, who has no formal diplomatic experience, won significant Democratic support. The vote of 96-4 reflected some Democrats’ view that Haley would be a sensible diplomat and speak her mind in the new administration She said she... would reassert the traditional role of the United States in recent decades of protecting Israel from United Nations action it considers biased. She also declared her support for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” [WashPost]

"Trump team narrowing search for State Department’s No. 2 official" by Josh Rogin: 
"Two leading contenders for the job now are former White House and State Department official Elliott Abrams and former State Department official Paula Dobriansky. The Trump administration has decided not to appoint a deputy secretary of state for management, a post created by the Obama administration in 2009. This means the sole remaining deputy secretary will have enormous influence over both policy and management issues in Foggy Bottom. Both Abrams and Dobriansky have diplomatic backgrounds and experience working in the often thorny State Department bureaucracy." [WashPost]

Trump Team Aims to Test Russia's Alliance With Iran” by Eli Lake: 
“Trump administration officials tell me that they will explore the extent to which Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to end this relationship and cooperate with U.S. policy to counter Iranian aggression in Syria and the Middle East. "It's important to find out what are the limits of Russia's willingness to cooperate with us with regard to Iran," said Michael Ledeen, who during the transition served as an adviser to Michael Flynn, now Trump's national security adviser Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia who was an architect of Obama's first-term outreach to Russia, told me he didn't know what Trump could offer Putin in exchange for abandoning Iran, a key ally and trading partner.” [Bloomberg]

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TALK OF THE TOWN: "Decision day: County to vote on American Dream mega mall" by Brian Bandell: "The developer, which also owns the Mall of America in Minnesota, is prepared to invest $4 billion in the Miami project through equity and a loan, said Bob Gorlow, who heads American Dream Miami for the company. Triple Five Group’s application said the project would attract 40 million visitors a year." [BizJournals

"Mark Zuckerberg Says He’s Not Running For President” by Alex Kantrowitz and Nitasha Tiku:
 “No,” Zuckerberg wrote in response to a question asking if he had any plans to run for president. “I’m focused on building our community at Facebook and working on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative,” referring to the limited-liability corporation he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, founded in 2015 to advance human potential and promote equality through major bets in education and science research. Zuckerberg did not immediately respond to follow-up questions about whether he’d explicitly ruled out a run. [BuzzFeed

"Here’s why the UN is getting interested in video games" by Colin Campbell: "Darvasi’s report also focuses on a number of games that illustrate his point. These include Peacemaker, in which the player takes on the role of either the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinian president to achieve a two-state solution. He says the game is successful because "players must think about the needs of their own stakeholders and constituents as well as their opponent’s mindset and circumstances."" [Polygon]

“Edgy humor is a mitzvah in the age of Trump” by David Talbot: “Where would we be without “Saturday Night Live” during the nightmarish reality show that is now America? We need to thank the Jews for this essential comic relief, said Michael Krasny. “Who do you think is writing Baldwin’s material?” And who is the “SNL” creator, he added? “Lorne Michaels, a Canadian Jew, born Lorne Lipowitz.” “Comedians like Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer — who’s half Jewish. They cut big shots down to size,” Krasny told me. “They speak truth to power. And it definitely provides a lot of solace in the age of Trump. As I’ve been doing my book appearances, I can’t tell you how many people come up to me afterwards and tell me how depressed they are, and how badly they need to laugh.”” [SFChronicle

"Why Ezra Klein Tries to Avoid Meetings Before Noon" by Thrive Global: "Cal Newport’s Deep Work led me to make concrete changes to my daily schedule. He’s very persuasive that we’re slowly training ourselves into distractibility, and that you don’t want the brain that results from a mix of thoughtless scheduling and constant digital interruptions. So since I read it, I’ve been trying to avoid scheduling meetings before noon, and I’m working to spend at least 45 minutes a day reading one book without interruptions." [ThriveGlobal

"CNAS Announces 2017 Next Generation National Security Fellows" by Rebecca Edelston: "The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) announced today the selection of the 2017 Next Generation National Security Leaders. CNAS selected a bipartisan group of 23 emerging leaders from a host of fields. This year’s fellows include [Jordan Hirsch, special advisor at the Paul E. Singer Family Office, and Peter Rough, a fellow at Hudson Institute, among other] members of the military; professionals with the Departments of Defense and State, USAID, NSC, and the White House; congressional staffers; industry practitioners; journalists; think tank experts; and specialists from the NGO community." [CNAS]

DESSERT: “No Avocado Toast Here: A Glatt Kosher Deli Opens in Miami” by Florence Fabricant: “I was tired of trendy food like avocado toast,” said [Zak] Stern, a 31-year-old native of Miami. “This community needs a good kosher deli, and there’s not enough people doing Ashkenazi, Eastern European food. Sephardic food gets all the attention. Most delis are not kosher, and most kosher food is not deli food... Nonreligious Jews communicate through food, not services.” [NYTimes

BIRTHDAYS: Israeli peace activist and author, whose fiction and non-fiction books have been translated into more than 30 languages, David Grossman turns 63... Dean of the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion since July 2009, Naamah Kelman-Ezrachi turns 62... Toronto-born movie and television actress, writer and social activist, a regular on Showtime's "The L Word" (2004-2009), and had a recurring guest role on the Fox TV series "24," Mia Kirshner turns 42... Benjamin Newton... Michael Glantz... Ari Cicurel... AIPAC's David Newman... Helene Ross... Robert Newman...

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