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EXCLUSIVE -- Jewish Insider obtained an audio recording from former President Barack Obama's appearance at Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center in NYC on Wednesday evening. In a conversation with Rabbi Joshua Davidson, Obama defended his administration’s record on Israel, the December 2016 abstention at the UN Security Council, and criticized Israel’s settlement policy.
On ensuring Israel’s security: “I think it is not just in America’s strategic interest, but I think it is a moral obligation globally to ensure that Israel is secure. In light of history, that a secure Jewish state is an expression of our commitment that all people should be able to worship their God, cultivate their culture, and raise their children safely without discrimination, and that the intersection between human rights and civil rights, and combating anti-Semitism and affirming the rights of a people to their homeland, those things are all inbuilt as was often displayed during the Civil Rights movement, as people like Dr. [Martin Luther] King understood, and that’s the reason why -- this is not subject to dispute -- my administration provided more security assistance to Israel than any other administration before...”
Obama on settlements: “I deeply believe that if Israel is to fulfill its vision as a Jewish state and a democratic state, that the current arrangement in the West Bank and Gaza is unsustainable One of the reasons why [a peace deal] is becoming less and less achievable is because of settlements outside the blocs deep into the West Bank; the pace of settlements during my presidency and during Netanyahu’s time as prime minister, skyrocketed and accelerated. If you look at a map, it starts becoming like a swiss cheese matter where it is almost impossible to create any kind of functioning, continuous Palestinian state -- even one that is disarmed, even one that ensures security, it just becomes impossible to do it. And this was a source of constant tension between myself and the Likud government that was in charge, and I continued to warn the Israeli government that that posture of being able to just continue endless settlement construction was not only harmful to the peace process but was leading to very powerful objections internationally And to this day, that settlement construction continues.”
UNSC 2334: “Towards the end of my term, when the Egyptians drafted a yet another declaration with respect to settlement construction, using language that not only I, but previous presidents, had said was impediment to peace, and that if we didn’t insist that it include condemnation of violence and incitement by the Palestinians to make it more balanced, we couldn’t pull back the entire rest of the world getting off it, other than just a pure exercise of [veto] power - and I thought that was misleading because our ability to protect Israel on the international stage, at some point, does require credibility -- people believing that we are true to our principles, and, by the way, Israel's founding principles...”
Not optimistic right now for the peace process: “My hope -- going forward -- is that there is sufficient self-reflection inside of Israel, that there is change in orientation on this issue, and my hope, by the way, is there is a change in orientation by the Palestinians because as I used to tell Abbas, ‘Have you from the start -- set aside Arafat -- when you came into power, recognizing Israel and affirming that you wanted a peace deal; had you had the moral authority to insist on only peaceful protests, and based on the principle of recognizing the right of return to exist and the humanity of the Jewish people, and it was universal principles that were being taught in Palestinian schools, that my strong suspicion is that Israelis would have responded differently. That’s not what happened.’ Right now, I can’t say I am optimistic about a potential peace process. I think the Palestinian leadership is too weak, and I think politics within Israel has moved away from the prospect of the two state solution To be a true friend of Israel, it is important to be honest about it, and the politics of this country sometimes do not allow that.” Listen to the audio here [JewishInsider]
DRIVING THE CONVO -- Trump administration doubles down on Palestinian aid cutoff threat: Following President Trump's declaration that U.S. aid to the Palestinians "is on the table," White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah went on CNN to emphasize that the administration is considering not only to cut off funding for UNRWA, but also direct U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority. "Restrictions in all forms to aid are on the table," Shah said. "The many forms of aid that the United States gives to the Palestinians, directly and indirectly through UNRWA and other agencies, you know, the levels of aid and the amount of aid would be all up to subject to changes if they don't come to the table or change, at least calm down some of the anti-American and anti-White House rhetoric."
Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken on CNN with Wolf Blitzer: "This is a little bit kicking them when they're down, threatening to cut off aid after he has unilaterally decided Jerusalem... The idea of a Jewish, democratic Israel... now may be off the table because absent a two-state solution, Israel can't be both Jewish and democratic... So, President Trump is presiding over the demise of the dream of a Jewish, democratic state."
Blitzer: "Those are strong words from Tony Blinken coming in."
PLO Representative to DC Husam Zomlot at the Middle East Institute: “Our rights are not for sale... When the tradeoff is between legitimate birthrights, of dignity, of freedom, of one's right to access his own land or resources, of one's right to be unified with his family, money comes in at number 20. If the choice -- which is unfair, unprecedented, illegal, immoral -- is between starving the people of Palestine and surrendering their rights, the people will definitely not choose the option of succumbing to this unacceptable pressure. Live with it -- financial pressure and blackmail does not work when it comes to national rights." [Video]
ULTIMATE DEAL: “Trump administration looks to "shake things up a bit" in peace talks” by Kylie Atwood: “The administration is looking for ways "shake things up a bit" to get the Palestinians and Israelis back to the table, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. "There are a lot of things are under review," said Heather Nauert. "The President sees that nothing has happened with regard to peace process over many decades and they are looking for ways to get people back to the table” [CBSNews]
Amb. Nikki Haley tells UN Security Council the U.S. will not chase Palestinians lacking will to seek peace -- by Michelle Nichols: “The United States remains deeply committed to helping the Israelis and Palestinians reach a historic peace agreement,” [Haley] said. “But we will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace. To get historic results, we need courageous leaders.” [Reuters]
In interview on Politico's Women Rule podcast, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley says Henry Kissinger — with whom she shares monthly lunches — has the biggest influence on her worldview: “Whether it’s politics or whether it’s foreign policy, you tend to pass judgment, whether you should or not, on what you think is right or wrong. And what Dr. Kissinger has taught me is, get into the shoes of the other person: Think like the Russians, see what the motivations of the Russians are, then decide how you’re gonna act. Think like the Chinese, what are the Chinese worried about? Why would they be making that decision? And when you start to make decisions based on what they’re thinking, then you all of a sudden have a conversation that they can relate to.”
Explaining Trump's 'Jerusalem has been taken off the table' -- Haley says Trump was referring not to the geographical contours of Jerusalem but to the location of the embassy: “We took it off the table because we didn’t want it to be the one point they kept holding on it, because they were pulling us on both sides. What we’re saying is, both of you need to come to the table, both of you need to talk past Jerusalem and an embassy and you need to start talking about how Palestinians and Israelis are going to live togetherbut basically that’s what he was saying, is don’t use the United States as a tug of war because we’re not going to allow that to happen, so we took Jerusalem off the table.” [Politico]
REPORT -- US bought shuttered Jerusalem hotel to step up diplomatic presence in city -- by David Lee Miller: "In Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood where the U.S. operates its Consular Section, moving crews were spotted bringing boxes and equipment from the U.S. Embassy into the now-shuttered Eden Hotel... Israel’s Channel Two reported that the U.S. was planning to move consular facilities to the Eden Hotel as part of a plan to open the embassy nearby. But the U.S. Consulate General’s Jerusalem spokesperson denied that was the case." [FoxNews]
DAVOS 2018 -- "Israel's Netanyahu explains why previously ‘unimaginable’ Israeli-Arab alliances are now growing" by Natasha Turak: "There is an alliance between Israel and other countries in the Middle East that would have been unimaginable years ago. I've never seen anything like it in my lifetime," Netanyahu said Thursday on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "If Iran tries to rush for a bomb, there are many countries that will not let them," the Prime Minister said. "We would not let them acquire a nuclear weapon. There are Arab states, unnamed, that agree with me." [CNBC]
WATCH: “Ali Velshi Tracks Down Netanyahu At Davos — Bibi Mis-Networks Him” by Amber Athey: “We’re taking a look over here. Prime Minister, do you want to come and talk to NBC? We’re live right now. Come and say hello to viewers,” Velshi said as the PM passed. Netanyahu seemed to recognize Velshi and said, “you’re with CNN!” before giving him a handshake. “I’m with MSNBC now. Thanks for watching. Good to see you, sir,” Velshi gushed. “Ali, right there, right there, Benjamin Netanyahu told the world he has been your fan for decades. Bravo to you, my partner,” Velshi’s co-anchor Stephanie Ruhle praised.” [DailyCaller]
Spotted by Politico Davos Playbook: "Benjamin Netanyahu clearing the terrace at the Schatzalp restaurant, after commandos with sub machine guns cleared the line at the funicular. Playbook’s sources said Mossad agents were friendly and apologetic about regular customers being bumped from their favorite tables." [Politico]
PIC OF THE DAY -- Jared Kushner attending a young leaders dinner with Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah - hosted by Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, and Jared Cohen [Pic]
“George Soros Says Trump Administration Is ‘Danger to the World’” by Katia Porzecanski: “I consider the Trump administration a danger to the world,” the billionaire investor said in a speech from Davos, Switzerland. “But I regard it as a purely temporary phenomenon that will disappear in 2020, or even sooner.” He expects a Democratic “landslide” in the 2018 elections.” [Bloomberg] Soros to Google and Facebook: 'Your days are numbered' [Yahoo]
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY -- First lady Melania Trump tours Holocaust memorial in Washington -- by Maria Puente: “In a statement released by the East Wing, Trump said she wanted to pay respect to the 6 million Jews lost in the Holocaust and to the millions of other victims of Nazi persecution "Yet it is also through our shared humanity that we come together now in commemoration, strength, and love. My heart is with you, and we remember.” ... The tour concluded at the Hall of Remembrance where Trump participated in a moment of silence by the Eternal Flame Memorial, followed by a lighting of a candle at the Prayer Wall.” [USAToday]
New York Times editorial "Trump and the Holocaust Remembrance: A Second Chance: Saturday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. For President Trump, it is a shot at redemption. He failed a moral test on the same occasion a year ago when he issued a message that strangely left out any specific reference to the six million Jews murdered in the Nazis’ industrialized genocide... In May he visited the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem, but offended some people by zipping through it far too quickly to absorb its poignancy and power. Then he signed the guest book with a discordantly, but typically, self-referential entry He can make Saturday his day of atonement.” [NYTimes]
IRAN DEAL -- “Iran has fired 23 ballistic missiles since start of 2015 nuclear deal, explosive report shows” by Rich Edson: “Out of all the ballistic missiles Iran fired in 2017, only four or five missiles can be considered nuclear-capable. In 2016, Iran fired 10 to 11 missiles than can be considered nuclear-capable,” according to a report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.” [FoxNews]
“Iran’s Fast Boats Stop Harassing U.S. Navy, Baffling Military” by Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef: “Since January 2016, there has been an average of more than two “unsafe or unprofessional” incidents each month, according to the U.S. military. There have been 50 such incidents in the past two years, officials said. But in response to a query, U.S. military officials said there have been no such incidents since August 2017. The apparent shift in Iranian behavior comes as an international nuclear agreement with Tehran is teetering.” [WSJ]
NEW REVELATION: "Israel claims 82,000 fighters are under Iranian control in Syria" by Nicole Gaouette: "Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, told a UN Security Council meeting that he was revealing classified information about Iran to convey what he claimed are Iran's plans to dominate Syria, destroy Israel and "terrorize the entire free world." "Iran is turning the entire country of Syria into the largest military base in the world. In fact, Iran is trying to destabilize all aspects of Syria," Danon said... Even though Iran is targeting Israel first, the Israeli envoy said, "it is you who are next." [CNN]
ON THE HILL -- Dr. Henry Kissinger in a testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee: “In the aftermath of the Second World War, a group of historic countries confronted a Soviet Union enhanced by the war and imbued with a revolutionary ideology. Under American leadership, a coalition was formed that drew a line defining the limit of Soviet expansion that would be tolerated, eventually achieving containment and a negotiated end of the Cold War... The United States needs to make clear that beyond the enforcement of the JCPOA, it will oppose the emergence of any Iranian nuclear military capability. These steps are essential to shoring up and reshaping world order.” [Video]
SHMULLY VS. SHMULEY -- "Muzin and Dershowitz are on the right side of history" by Rabbi Shmully Hecht: "If you want to know what’s really going on with Qatar, or frankly with any serious matter, ignore the speculation of brash bystanders who have been left out of these engagements. In some instances they have been ignored precisely due to their inability to dialogue with anyone in strict confidence. Concerned citizens must step away from the worn-out soapboxes of uninformed commentators who (desperate to cling to any form of prominence) will repeat the same talking points, over and over again, in absolute denial of which way the wind is actually blowing." [TOI]
2018 WATCH -- “Sources: Romney expected to announce Senate bid next week, will gather signatures to get on the 2018 ballot” by Bob Bernick: “Sources close to Mitt Romney tell Utah Policy that the former GOP presidential nominee will announce next week that he is running for the U.S. Senate this year Romney held a strategy meeting earlier this week at his Holladay mansion to discuss policy for his upcoming race for Senate...Romney’s Utah campaign will be run by folks that helped his 2012 presidential race.” [UtahPolicy]
“GOP Senate candidate Lou Barletta did interview in 2006 with Holocaust-denying publication” by Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie: “Rep. Lou Barletta, an immigration hardliner running in a crowded US Senate primary in Pennsylvania did an interview (as mayor of Hazleton) with a fringe publication that promotes Holocaust denial and headlined a rally where a political activist and musician who has questioned the Holocaust and promoted conspiracies about the September 11, 2001 attacks also spoke and performed.” [CNN]
2020 WATCH: “Bernie Sanders summons team to discuss 2020” by Gabriel Debenedetti: “The top-line message the Vermont senator received from the operatives gathered during the government shutdown was a more formal version of the one they've been giving him regularly for months: You would be one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination. And if you want to run, it's time to start seriously planning accordingly.” [Politico]
TALK OF THE TOWN: New Orleans City Council rescinds pro-BDS resolution -- by Kevin Litten: “New Orleans City Council members withdrew a resolution Thursday connected with the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement (BDS) that the Greater New Orleans Jewish Federation called anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. After the vote, the City Council went into recess as protesters in favor of keeping the resolution began singing at a volume level that made the council unable to continue to conduct business.” [NOLA]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Hedge fund giant Seth Klarman trashes bitcoin, says cryptocurrencies are ‘tulip bulbs for the digital age’ [CNBC] Ackman’s Pershing Square Takes Stake in Nike [WSJ] Cuomo Uses Barry Rosenstein’s Plane for Sundance Trip [NYTimes] Penny Pritzker: The US leaving the TPP would go down in history as a mistake [Yahoo] ESPN Exploring Sale of Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight [TheBigLead] Celeb attorney Laura Wasser can help you divorce like a star [CNN]
SPOTLIGHT: George Soros on Viktor Orban's war against him -- by Neil Buckley and Andrew Byrn: "In a December interview at his white clapboard house in upstate New York, Soros hardly comes across as the traitor of Fidesz propaganda. At 87, he meets the FT straight after his daily tennis game with his wife. He sketches Orban’s authoritarian shift while sipping tea in his dining room. The “rise of the nationalists”, he warns, means open society is facing its biggest test since the second world war. But Soros insists Orban’s main motive is the pursuit of power and its trappings. “[Orban] started really going wrong when he made his father rich by giving him a quasi-monopoly on road-building materials, which was a big source of wealth,” he says, recalling the 1999 revelation. “That’s when [Orban] started building a mafia state. It’s really when he actually gained power."" [FinancialTimes]
MEDIA WATCH -- “Jeff Zucker Reassures CNN Staff at Town Hall Over Security Threat” by Jeremy Barr: “At an employee-only town hall meeting on Thursday, CNN president Jeff Zucker addressed a recent security threat against the network and promised to tackle the issue. "Nothing is more important than you feeling safe in the office and in the field," he said... He also used the meeting on Thursday to address reports that he's lobbied to become president of ESPN, a position that was vacated recently by John Skipper. Zucker said he's not leaving and has not had any talks with ESPN or parent company Disney. "I fully intend to stay at CNN and have no desire to work at ESPN," he told his employees.” [HollywoodReporter]
PROFILE -- “Be Smart: Mike Allen Wrote The Rules Of Washington And Now Donald Trump's Destroying Them” by Steven Perlberg: "Around Washington, Allen is still known for his Playbook persona, a cheerful insider comfortable with all the swamp politics people claim to hate about Washington... But at Axios, something seems to have changed about Allen’s way of doing things. A dissonance now appears regularly in his newsletter as the political press trudges through whatever wild thing Trump just said or did. Some days, Allen reports the kind of outrageous things he might not have before, like Sean Spicer threatening to “call the authorities” on him... To read Axios AM every morning is to watch Allen working out, in real time, what happens when the person who wrote the rules of Washington has to grapple with the person unwriting them." [Buzzfeed]
“In an Israeli Cave, Scientists Discover Jawbone of Earliest Modern Human Out of Africa” by Nicholas St. Fleur: “Scientists on Thursday announced the discovery of a fossilized human jawbone in a collapsed cave in Israel that they said is between 177,000 and 194,000 years old “This would be the earliest modern human anyone has found outside of Africa, ever,” said John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Wisconsin... The upper jawbone, or maxilla, was found by a team led by Israel Hershkovitz, a paleoanthropologist at Tel Aviv University...” [NYTimes; BusinessInsider]
DESSERT: “It’s hip. It’s eclectic. It’s Shabbat dinner, Wynwood style — and everyone’s invited” by Carlos Frias: “Yes, it’s a Shabbat dinner, but really it is all about the community coming together,” said Julie Frans, culinary director at the Wynwood Yard. “We break bread together and commune.” Della Heiman turned a weed-covered acre off Northwest 29th Street into this manicured, outdoor community space That, she said, made the Yard the perfect host for these group Shabbat dinners. Every month, the head chef of the Wynwood Yard, Nicole Votano, collaborates with a different Miami chef to bring a new flavor to the event. The dinners are $65 a person “I love the idea of Shabbat to begin with, and this is an opportunity to meet like-minded people. There’s no judgment,” added Votano, who grew up in London with a Jewish mother and an Italian father. “And the food is amazing.” ... Most of the meals at the Wynwood Yard are vegan or vegetarian. And a new Shabbat dinner at the nearby restaurant Dizengoff, founded by award-winning Israeli-born chef Michael Solomonov, sticks to some of the tenets of kosher cuisine..." [MiamiHerald]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS -- FRIDAY: Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist, Jules Feiffer turns 89... Actor Henry Jaglom turns 80... Singer-songwriter, socialite and political fundraiser, Denise Eisenberg Rich turns 74... Connecticut attorney, Herbert Mendelsohn turns 69... Founding rabbi of the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, NY, Rabbi Marc Schneier turns 59... Argentina's largest real-estate developer, President of Chabad Argentina, President of Hillel Argentina and President of Taglit Birthright Argentina, Eduardo Elsztain turns 58... Long-time judge in New York, appointed in 2017 to the New York Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, Judge Paul George Feinman turns 58... Santa Monica, CA resident, Brent Cohen turns 55... Better half of Congressman Ted Deutch and Development Director at Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, Jill Weinstock Deutch... Head of School at Manhattan Day School, Raizi Gruenebaum Chechik turns 46... Retired tennis pro, Justin Gimelstob turns 41... Former Obama White House Jewish Liaison (2011-2013), now Disaster Response and Resilience Lead at Bloomberg LP, Jarrod Neal Bernstein turns 38... Director of Partnerships at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Tamar Remz... Barbara Simons...
SATURDAY: Senior counsel focused on mergers and acquisitions in the NYC office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, Arthur Fleischer turns 85... Winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, he is a professor emeritus at California Institute of Technology, Barry Clark Barish turns 82... Priscilla Alexander turns 79... Builder and operator of luxury casinos and hotels, Steve Wynn (born Stephen Alan Weinberg) turns 76... Corporate venture capitalist and scientist, he served as VP at Intel Corporation (1984-1999) where he co-founded Intel Capital, Avram Miller turns 73... Topanga, California resident, Joseph Helfer turns 71... Gene Bruton turns 69... Professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam at the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Reuven Firestone turns 66... Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts turns 63... CEO of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, Daniel Och turns 57... Communications Director at C-SPAN, Howard Mortman turns 51... Research assistant at the Washington Institute, focused on the Middle East peace process, Lia Michal Weiner... Associate at Baron Public Affairs, LLC, Joshua Henderson... Charles Geffen... Josh Weinstein...
SUNDAY: Long-time Baltimore area dentist now living in Jupiter, Florida, Joel L Goldberg, DDS turns 73... Former chair of the Political Science Department of the Hebrew University, Avraham Diskin turns 71... Founding Secretary at West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, previously Western Region Coordinator for B'nai B'rith (2005-2007), Lyndia Lowy turns 69... Actress and singer, Barbi Benton (born Barbara Lynn Klein) turns 68... Rabbi Reba Carmel turns 65... Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, Shalom David Staub turns 62... Angel investor Mark N. Schwartz turns 62... Member of the New Jersey General Assembly since 2006, Amy H. Handlin turns 62... Founder of the annual Wall Street Conference in Boca Raton, Jason Lyons turns 49... Director of Financial Resource Development at The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland (Oregon), Michael Jeser turns 42... Anchor Producer at CNN, Ariel Bashi turns 36... Associate at Park Hill Group LLC, also Chair of the Tamid Group, involving American college students with Israel’s economic landscape, Max Heller turns 27..
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