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STATE OF THE UNION TAKEAWAYS -- President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address last night before Congress. While seeking to strike a unifying tone, Trump touted his accomplishments and reiterated some of his tough rhetoric on immigration and foreign policy. Here were a few key moments.
1. Doubling down on threat to cut foreign aid: Reminding the nation of his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump lamented that “dozens of countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against America’s sovereign right to make this decision. In 2016, American taxpayers generously sent those same countries more than $20 billion dollars in aid. That is why, tonight, I’m asking the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests — and only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.” Trump did not explicitly declare that the legislation should block foreign aid to all 128 nations who voted to condemn the Trump administration's move on Jerusalem.
Dan Shapiro points out: "TRUMP: We'll cut aid to countries who don't support us at the UN. STAFF: OK, let's start with Egypt and Jordan. ISRAEL: Um, about that...." [Twitter]
2. Divided on Jerusalem: The vast majority of Democrats -- with the notable exception of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Joe Manchin, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- remained seated while the rest of the chamber gave a standing ovation following Trump's remark: “Last month, I also took an action endorsed unanimously by the Senate just months before: I recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
HOW IT PLAYED -- Dan Senor: “Was actually surprised so many Dems remained seated. That’s a problem.” [Twitter]
JI READERS REACT -- IPF’s Michael Koplow: “I think that was both substantively disappointing and politically unwise. It may have been a reaction to the Pew study and an attempt to reflect what Democrats believe their base is thinking, or it may be as simple as Democrats not wanting to be for anything that Trump has done. But the fact remains that Democrats overwhelmingly voted for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital and moving the embassy when they had the chance, and that while the move has destroyed whatever forward movement there had been on the peace process, it has not led to the violence and upheaval that many - including me - predicted and expected. It is one thing to decry Trump for making the situation between Israelis and Palestinians far worse, as he has, and another to oppose a policy initiative that supported a staunch American ally, even if it was not done in an ideal manner. My hunch is that many Democrats are going to be left struggling to explain their reaction to that part of the speech.”
Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro: “On its own merits, I think most Democrats support recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, as I do. They might also be concerned that Trump's clumsy management of that issue, and his silence in the speech on working for Israeli-Palestinian peace, mean that he is prepared to squander the goodwill Jason Greenblatt built up as he traveled the region to advance that goal, and whether such a decision is consistent with our obligations to our ally, Israel.”
RJC’s Matt Brooks: "Sadly it demonstrates once again how the Democratic Party is moving away from its traditional support for Israel. With the formation of a new Jewish Democratic group, the JDCA, we ask, ‘What is their plan to reverse this troubling slide?’”
Aaron David Miller emails us "Schumer feels this passionately. Why most didn't stand is probably opposition to Trump -- and that fact that there was no effort to set the Jerusalem decision in context or to promote peacemaking. He just pocketed it as a political gain.”
3. Trump back to fix, not nix, Iran deal: Trump did not repeat his recent threat to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal. Instead, he urged Congress “to address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal.”
FDD's Mark Dubowitz tells us: "I don’t read much into this. He made it abundantly clear a couple of weeks ago that he will withdraw from the Iran deal unless the Europeans and Congress fix the deal’s fundamental flaws. He reiterated at the State of the Union how he sees the deal as “terrible” with “fundamental flaws” that need to be fixed."
4. Trump commemorates Otto Warmbier, the Jewish American student who died after his captivity in North Korea: “The Warmbier family received two standing ovations. Otto Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, of Wyoming, Ohio, stood next to First Lady Melania Trump and wept as they acknowledged the cheers. "You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all," Trump said. "Thank you very much." At that, the chamber stood and applauded for the second time. "Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto's memory with total American resolve."” [Cincinnati; Video]
5. Which Trump will emerge tomorrow? "Trump acts presidentially in State of the Union, at least for a night" by Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer: "After a year as president, Trump has proved himself capable of reading words from a teleprompter. When he chooses, the former reality-TV star can summon a performance to rival that of Martin Sheen as the aspirational President Jed Bartlet on “The West Wing.” What is less clear, however, is whether he has the ability — or even the interest — to turn his well-delivered words into tangible results without self-sabotaging or undermining his and his team’s best intentions." [WashPost]
MAGGIE ON MONDAY NIGHT -- New York Times’ reporter Maggie Haberman at Skirball Talks in advance of the State of the Union: “I think you will hear from TelePrompter Donald Trump Then I think it will get lots of praise as a potential new tone, and then I think he will tweet 8 to 12 hours later and undo all of that.”
OVERALL THOUGHTS ON SPEECH -- RJC National Chairman and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman emails us: “Disappointing and shameful that Democrats couldn’t applaud paid family leave, vocational training and $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment. They ignored the message because they want to politically kill the messenger. Americans deserve better than that. Trump made a strong case for America First.”
Andrew Weinstein, a leading Democratic donor from Coral Springs: "The tone might have been different, but make no mistake this was the same old Donald Trump. A president who claims credit for things he didn’t accomplish and assigns blame for the things he did. A president who is steadfast in his refusal to address Russia’s continuing efforts to interfere in our elections and who won’t even acknowledge the immediate threat that climate change presents or the significance of the #MeToo movement. And where is his strategy to address the opioid crisis? Trump may have spoken about bipartisanship, but he did so while appealing to his base, not to the majority of Americans who oppose his policies."
RJC's Brooks texts us... “The speech by the President was a substantive and rhetorical tour de force. Truly one of the best speeches of his presidency. He echoed themes of healing the divide and bringing people together. As the president argued for bipartisanship the Democrats in sharp contrast showed their unwillingness to even work with the President. It’s a strong kickoff to Super Bowl weekend and a win by the Philadelphia Eagles.”
The Wilson Center's Miller: “Smart and emotionally charged use of his invited guests by an emotionally detached and low energy President. Much of the vindictive and combustible Trumpian rhetoric was missing as it was in last year's February address before Congress, but it’s unlikely that the new and more sober Trump will endure."
Amb. Shapiro: “It's hard for many Americans -- not only Democrats, by the way -- to applaud a President who refuses to sanction Russia for interfering in our elections, who holds Dreamers hostage to an anti-immigrant agenda, who has been callous about hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, who has tried to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, who fails to condemn Nazis and racists marching in American cities, whose family is personally profiting from his presidency -- even when he cites an issue on which they agree."
PIC OF THE DAY -- U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman watched the State of the Union in Miami with Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, who recently disparaged American Jews as "naive and sheltered." [Pic]
Expect additional dignitaries -- involved in the U.S.-Israel relationship -- to visit Miami in the coming days... ¯\_()_/¯
BEHIND THE SCENES -- “Before Trump’s Speech, a Chaotic White House Follows Tradition” by Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman: “In drafting his speech, Mr. Trump relied on Stephen Miller and a team of speechwriters and aides Their process, which a White House official said began last fall and in earnest in mid-December for this speech, usually involves Mr. Trump telling Mr. Miller what direction he wants to take with the speech. He will then talk out some lines. Then Mr. Miller, who drafts the material with a keen ear for applause lines he has heard during the president’s previous speeches, usually revamps the speech and hands it back to Mr. Trump. On at least one occasion, the president has noticed that Mr. Miller struck a line he had said he wanted in. It is usually restored.” [NYTimes]
REPORT -- US may reject UN’s granting of Palestinian refugee status to descendants: “The Trump administration is considering halting all of its financial aid to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, and declaring that it rejects the UN criteria under which refugee status is extended to millions of descendants of the original Palestinian refugees Hadashot TV news said this “new ultimatum” under consideration by the Trump administration is one of the avenues being considered as the US seeks to press the Palestinian Authority into returning to peace talks with Israel.” [ToI]
IRAN DEAL -- “Here’s How the U.S. and EU Can Thwart Iranian Missile Programs” by Behnam Ben Taleblu and Richard Goldberg: “In a last-ditch attempt to prevent President Donald Trump from exiting the Iran nuclear deal, European leaders have finally promised to work with the United States to address Iran’s ballistic missile program. If Trump is serious about fixing the deal, the transatlantic working group now tasked with forming a common U.S.-EU position must produce nothing less than a commitment to reimpose tough sanctions on Iran should the regime’s missile development and testing continue.” [ForeignPolicy]
“Ex-CIA Director Petraeus in Israel: Everything can be hijacked, weaponized” by Yonah Jeremy Bob: “The world has entered the age of “the weaponization of everything,” former CIA director and US General David Petraeus said on Tuesday at the INSS Conference in Tel Aviv The former CIA director said that most countries are, “struggling to keep up with technological developments with...robotics, unmanned aerial vehicles, ships, subsand some of which are truly autonomous Hezbollah is quite sophisticated with both its manned and unmanned forces,” he said.” [JPost]
"U.S. defends role of Lebanon army as Israel threatens to attack it" by Dan Williams: “We will sustain our efforts to support legitimate state security institutions in Lebanon, such as the Lebanese Armed Forces, which is the only legitimate force in Lebanon,” David Satterfield, acting assistant U.S. secretary of state, told the conference organized by Tel Aviv University’s INSS think-tank. Satterfield... added that the Lebanese army “could well serve as a counter-weight to Hezbollah’s desire to expand its own influence there, as well as Iran’s reach in Lebanon." But speaking three hours later on the same stage, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman reiterated his view that the Lebanese army was subordinate to the better-equipped Hezbollah. “As far as I‘m concerned, all of Lebanon - the Lebanese army, Lebanon and the Lebanese army - are no different from Hezbollah,” said Lieberman." [Reuters]
DRIVING THE CONVO: “Israeli Embassy to U.S.: We Oppose Qatar's 'Outreach' to pro-Israel U.S. Jews” by Amir Tibon: “Israel's Embassy to the United States does not support Qatar's campaign to improve its image in the American Jewish and pro-Israel community, an embassy spokesman told Haaretz on Tuesday. "We oppose this outreach effort in the Jewish and pro-Israel community," said embassy spokesman Itai Bar Dov A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that "we have our own channels for this issue. These visits are not related to us. They are about Washington."” [Haaretz]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- Prof. Alan Dershowitz declines Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s invitation to publicly debate his visit to Qatar in an interview with i24News: “I'm not going to engage with Rabbi Boteach. He's not an expert about Qatar. He just likes to get attention by attacking people like me. He has basically suggested that I've done this for the money. I mean, I spend 50% of my professional time doing pro bono work on behalf of Israel. He gets paid for every minute he spends. Is he really suggesting that my views would be different if I hadn't been sent on a "junket," so I'm not going to engage him I did not defend Qatar. I am not the mouthpiece for Qatar. I'm not representing Qatar. I have simply asked for an objective investigation of the conflicting claims. I want to learn the truth Believe me, before I went to Qatar, I spoke to people, both in the United States government, the Israeli government; I did not need permission of a Rabbi from New Jersey to go there I came back with more questions than answers.” [Video]
TOP TALKER: “Mike Pence Never Said That Thing About The Holocaust That Everyone On The Internet Got Outraged About” by Yair Rosenberg: “Pence never said that the victims of the Holocaust were resurrected in Israel. He said that the Jewish people resurrected themselves after their own near genocide. But thanks to an incompetent transcription from a social media staffer, Pence’s quote from the clip was mangled it into an utterly absurd assertion that he never made But even as liberal Jews may have overreacted to Pence’s largely banal remarks, conservative Jews would be wise to check their schadenfreude. That’s because the entire brouhaha on the Jewish left over Pence’s comments uncannily echoes similar episodes of upset surrounding Barack Obama on the Jewish right...” [Tablet]
“A Republican who appears on white supremacist podcasts published a list of "Jews" in the media” by Michael Edison Hayden: “Paul Nehlen, a Republican who is attempting to unseat GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin, on Tuesday posted to his Twitter account what he claimed is a list of “Jews” in the media who have attacked him within the last month A cursory glance at Nehlen’s list shows that statement to be inaccurate. For example, Newsweek has twice reported on Nehlen and the reporter was misidentified on the list as being Jewish. He is Catholic and of Egyptian descent Thor Benson, a freelance writer, also reported that he was misidentified as being Jewish“So odd that Jews would criticize an anti-Semite,” CNN’s Jake Tapper wrote of the list on Twitter.” [Newsweek]
Yashar Ali replies to Nehlen: “I see you have me on this list. I'm not Jewish... I'm a practicing Roman Catholic. But I'm in some pretty good company on this list... so feel free to say I'm Jewish. Also my name in Hebrew means "straight" but I'm not, so if you're going to do a gay list please add me.. I'm single.” [Twitter]
STATESIDE -- "US court temporarily suspends Kansas anti-BDS law" by Roxana Hegeman: "US District Judge Daniel Crabtree wrote in his decision that the US Supreme Court has held that the “First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.” ... The judge granted the request from the American Civil Liberties Union to block enforcement of the Kansas law while the case proceeds. Crabtree found it is “highly likely” that the Kansas law is invalid... “A desire to prevent discrimination against Israeli businesses is an insufficient public interest to overcome the public’s interest in protecting a constitutional right,” Crabtree wrote." [AP]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Leonard Stern’s Hartz Mountain opens first phase of The Harper at Harmon Meadow [NJBiz] Wix is skipping the Super Bowl thanks to past Super Bowl success, says chief marketing officer Omer Shai [FastCompany] China's Wanda puts $1.2B Beverly Hills development project, after overcoming objections and lawsuits filed by Beny Alagem, up for sale [HollywoodReporter] Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, on How I Built This with Guy Raz [NPR]
STARTUP NATION: “Next Up In Israeli Foodtech: Pesticides, Healthier Fruit Juice” by Jennifer Marston: “Inspecto has developed a portable kit that can be used for early detection of pesticides and other contaminants in food. The company claims its product will, once it hits the market, provide a much more affordable way to detect such things. Users operate a portable scanner to detect pesticides or contaminants, then analyze the results, which they get in real time" [TheSpoon]
SPOTLIGHT: “Dog-walking service Wag — with the heavy imprint of SoftBank — is replacing its CEO and accepting $300 million in cash” by Theodore Schleifer: “Wag said on Tuesday that Hilary Schneider, an experienced executive who most recently led LifeLock, would replace the company’s co-founder, Josh Viner, as its CEO. Viner’s departure as CEO comes as Wag accepts $300 million in an unusual deal that is expected to give the SoftBank Vision Fund a 45 percent stake in the company” [Recode]
DAVOS DISPATCH: “Facebook Isn't Dancing To Silicon Valley's Humble New Tune” by Ben Smith: “COO Sheryl Sandberg — the company’s chief diplomat — made conciliatory visits in Paris and Brussels before arriving in Davos. And she gave assembled reporters a speech about the power of Facebook’s advertising product to do good even as it makes the company billions, focusing on the stories of small businesses and even desperate patients, telling the story of a man who placed an ad looking for a kidney donor for his father and found one — for just $12. But the company’s effort to maintain its self-confident, disruptive momentum has made it a singular punching bag. At one point on a Davos stage, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff suggested the social network be regulated like cigarettes. George Soros described the social platform as “harmful” and deceptive So it’s no surprise that a large part of Google’s and others’ strategy right now is hiding behind Facebook.” [BuzzFeed]
TALK OF OUR NATION: “African Deportations Are Creating a Religious Controversy in Israel” by Emma Green: “The situation lays bare a central tension for Israel, which has both a particular obligation to protect Jews and, some Jews believe, a general responsibility to represent Jewish values to the world... Advocates argue, Jewish identity should be built on values and ethics, not just membership in a tribe... For the most part, the arguments made by Netanyahu and other government officials are embraced by native Israelis. One potential reason is that native Israelis may be conditioned to see non-Jews in the state as a threat—whether to their safety or to Israel’s Jewish majority Especially for the Jewish activists who believe that Israel should be built on what they see as Jewish values, the next few weeks will be a crucial test of its identity as a nation—and how it is perceived by the world.” [TheAtlantic]
“The road to an Israeli-Palestinian deal is vanishing” by David Ignatius: “Vered Ben-Saadon says she and her husband felt a sense of biblical mission to cultivate “part of the land of Israel” when they founded their winery here at a settlement about 30 miles north of Jerusalem. And she appears to have no intention of leaving Here in these rocky hills, you sense the collision between competing narratives about the Israeli-Palestinian problem: The Ben-Saadons believe this is Israel; the Arabs in the village just to the east surely think it’s Palestine. You come away with a conviction that the “ultimate deal,” as Trump calls his still-fuzzy vision of a peace agreement, isn’t going to happen...” [WashPost]
“Israelis sue New Zealanders over Lorde boycott” by Tia Goldenberg: “The two New Zealanders, Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, penned an open letter to Lorde last year in which they urged her to "take a stand" and "join the artistic boycott of Israel." The group, Shurat HaDin, claims the New Zealanders, one Jewish and one Palestinian, knew that their letter could trigger a boycott, making them open to a suit under the law. The group, which filed the lawsuit in a Jerusalem court on Tuesday, is suing on behalf of three Israeli would-be concertgoers for about $13,000 in damages.” [ABCNews]
RABBINICAL APPOINTMENT: “Five Towns Rabbi Named To Committee To Protect Monuments Abroad” by Alex Costello: “Senator Chuck Schumer announced he plans to appoint Rabbi Hershel Billet of the Young Israel of Woodmere to the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. The commission aims to protect U.S. cemeteries, monuments and historic buildings in Eastern and Central Europe.” [Patch]
MEDIA WATCH -- Max Boot named columnist for Washington Post Opinions: "The Washington Post has named foreign policy analyst and historian Max Boot a columnist for the Opinions section. A former advisor to military commanders and top-ranking Republican politicians, Boot will write a column focused on national security, American government and foreign affairs” [WashPost]
SUPER BOWL PREVIEW -- Kraft sees disdain for Patriots, says ‘hatred’ too strong: “The Patriots owner said Monday night the booing of his team at the Grammy's the previous night in New York is "sort of a compliment, the Boston-New York thing. I'd rather be on the winning end. Remember for 34 years I used to sit in the stands and feel it from the other way." Kraft has been to nine Super Bowls as owner He believes the disdain for his team is actually rooted in respect for the Patriots. "Once we went to the Super Bowl (the first time), a lot of people who had been kind and gracious changed," he said. "I think everyone loves a doormat in this league."” [AP]
“Super Bowl team owners call Palm Beach home” by Darrell Hofheinz: “As anyone who follows news about the nation’s billionaires knows, there’s almost always a Palm Beach connection. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and Jeffrey Lurie, majority owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, are both seasonal residents.” [PalmBeachDailyNews]
DESSERT: "Miznon, Now Open in Chelsea, Dreams of Capturing New York in a Pita" by Serena Dai: "Owner Eyal Shani, who runs a dozen restaurants and is a regular presence on Israeli television, insists that it’s not a carbon copy of all the other locations. In fact, Miznon, he says, is about a sense of place. Half of the pita-packed menu will be unique to the 120-seat NYC restaurant... “It’s a completely new creation, a new dream,” says Shani... “And it’s always coming from the fact that I’m dreaming of a place, and I want to translate, to convert it into food. This Miznon is giving me a chance to do that.” ... Miznon is not the first pita-focused restaurant in Chelsea Market; Michael Solomonov’s wildly popular hummus counter Dizengoff is close... A Dizengoff spokeswoman says Solomonov is very excited about Shani’s new restaurant." [NYEater]
-- Dani Dayan: "Israeli celebrity super-chef Eyal Shani opened today “Hamiznon” in Chelsea Market. It was fun, super tasty and finally stood on the other side of the bar." [Twitter]
NEW ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE: Noga Restaurant, a new upscale kosher dairy restaurant specializing in fresh fish and handmade pasta, has now opened in the Sago Hotel at 120 Allen Street. They will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with plans to open on Shabbat with catered hot food. [Instagram; Menu]
BIRTHDAYS: Scion of a leading rabbinic family in pre-WW2 Poland, former Assistant US Solicitor General, now a private attorney with an active Supreme Court practice focused on religious liberty issues, Nathan Lewin turns 82... Baltimore-born, classical music composer as well as acclaimed movie score composer, Philip Glass turns 81... Associate professor emeritus of Talmud and rabbinics at The Jewish Theological Seminary, Mayer Elya Rabinowitz turns 79... Former Chief Rabbi of Norway while also serving as a member of Knesset (1999-2009), Michael Melchior turns 64... Founder and CEO of MWW, a PR firm headquartered in East Rutherford, NJ, he is a top "bundler" for the Democratic party, Michael W. Kempner turns 60... Co-founder, chairman and CEO of Meridian Capital Group, Manhattan-based commercial mortgage brokerage, Ralph Herzka turns 56... Classical cellist, born in Hadera, Israel, moved to Toronto at 6 years old, debut in Carnegie Hall in 1982, Ofra Harnoy turns 53...
Host of NPR's news quiz "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!," playwright, screenwriter, actor and marathon runner, Peter Sagal turns 53... Canadian-born businessman, best known for founding American Apparel, where he served as the CEO from 1989 until 2014, Dov Charney turns 49... CEO of Atlas Obscura, previously editor of Slate, David Plotz turns 48... Security technology executive at NYC's DGA Security Systems, Daniel Oppenheim turns 42... Film producer and founder of Annapurna Pictures, three of her movies have been nominated for Academy Awards as Best Picture, daughter of Oracle's Larry Ellison, Megan Ellison turns 32... Director of analytics and insights at Whistle Sports, Matthew Gottlieb... Managing director of BerlinRosen's New York office, Michael Rabinowitz-Gold (h/ts Playbook)... MassChallenge's Israel Program Manager based in Boston, formerly Social Secretary for Israeli Ambassadors Oren and Dermer, Clara Scheinmann... Grant Silow...
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