Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: January 8, 2018

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Actress and TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey, January 7, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California
Actress and TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey, January 7, 2018, in Beverly Hills, CaliforniaCredit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP

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2020 WATCH -- Oprah Winfrey's Golden Globes speech last night raised speculation for a potential presidential bid in 2020. Oprah is "actively thinking" about running for president, two of her close friends told CNN on Monday. This prompted some to ask on Twitter, “How is Oprah on Israel?” It appears she’s rather unabashedly pro-Israel. In 2007, speaking at the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity awards dinner, Winfrey said she sympathized with the people of Israel, and that she intended to accept Wiesel's invitation and come with him to Israel. While it doesn't appear that the trip took place, Oprah did join Wiesel for a visit to Auschwitz. She later refused to meet with activists of the BDS movement after she was seen wearing Lev Leviev diamonds on the cover of O magazine in 2015.

REACTIONS -- Bill Kristol tweets: "Oprah. #ImWithHer" [Twitter]

Ted Frank: “On CNN in 2016, I warned Trump he needed to pick Oprah as VP. Could regret not listening to me when 2020 comes.” [Twitter]

Huff Post's Editor in Chief Lydia Polgreen: "I love Oprah. Also, I’d be down with never having another celebrity president." [Twitter]

Yashar Ali: "Earlier this year, [Oprah BFF] Gayle King said that she would bet her first and second born that Oprah will never run for President. She used the word "never." [Video]

Yair Rosenberg: "I think the reason we enjoy speculating about an Oprah candidacy is that it's cathartic for many simply to imagine a world in which Trump is not president." [Twitter]


Tillerson eyes fix to keep US in Iran deal” by Matt Lee and Josh Lederman: “The president said he is either going to fix it or cancel it,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the AP “We are in the process of trying to deliver on the promise he made to fix it.” Tillerson said the administration was speaking with congressional leaders “on a very active basis” about a fix. He suggested Trump might be inclined to preserve the deal by waiving sanctions again on Jan. 12 if there were signs Congress would act in short order. “I don’t want to suggest we’re across the finish line on anything yet,” Tillerson said.” [AP

"Is Trump Stuck With an Iran Deal He Loathes?" by Susan Glasser: "By the end of this week... the president who called that agreement the “worst deal ever”—and refused, despite the evidence, to certify Iranian compliance with it—is expected to once again keep the deal alive by waiving U.S. sanctions on the Iranian government that were suspended when the agreement was made. That, at least, is the consensus of a half dozen of Washington’s top Iran policy experts I canvassed over the last few days. Then again, no one is really sure..." [PoliticoMag

"How the Iranian protests could affect Trump's next decisions" by Shannon Vavra: "Trump spent much of his first year in office threatening to pull the U.S. out of the nuclear deal, which he could do by reimposing economic sanctions against Tehran. But if he does that, foreign policy experts say, he risks shifting the spotlight away from the protests rather than encouraging them. If the U.S. moves forward with renewing sanctions on Iranian oil, Iranian leadership could argue that the U.S. is contributing to Iran's economic problems — and the economic problems are one of the reasons the protests began in the first place." 

"But waiving the sanctions and staying in the deal could contradict statements and tweets Trump has issued regarding the nuclear deal itself," explained Mara Karlin, a Brookings fellow. “The timing is inconvenient" for the administration, she said... Trump's national security staff still has to convince Trump to waive the sanctions by the end of this week, the aide said... The hope is that he will waive the sanctions now, per two Senate aides familiar with the conversation... Both Senate aides predicted Trump will decertify Iran's compliance with the deal, like he did in October." [Axios

"Finding the Way Forward on Iran" by Bret Stephens: "Ken Weinstein of the Hudson Institute has argued that the U.S. government “should release details on the billions in stolen assets” held by the I.R.G.C. and the supreme leader. That — and making sure ordinary Iranians learn about them, one scandalous disclosure at a time — is the right idea. Another right idea, this one from Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is to once again put Setad, along with its scores of front companies and subsidiaries, under U.S. sanctions for corruption." [NYTimes]

“What a Soviet Dissident Sees in Iran's Unrest” by Eli Lake: “[Natan] Sharansky says it's time to turn up the heat The West used carrots and sticks to lure the Iranians into a temporary bargain over the nuclear program. Why not calibrate those inducements to how Iran treats its own citizens? "It's more important to have sanctions based on Iran's treatment of political prisoners," Sharansky said.” [BloombergView]

ULTIMATE DEAL -- “Forging ahead, Trump team confident its peace plan appeals to Palestinians” by Michael Wilner: "Maybe on a personal level they are angry with us," a senior White House official told The Jerusalem Post "They're trying to make it look like we've lost credibility. But a peace process and a credible conclusion to that process can't happen without the US – they know that. And once the plan is revealed, it will speak for itself." ... " Nothing has impacted the plan, or the drafting of the plan," a second senior official said. "But when people say things about us that aren't true, we will respond." .. One official characterized bickering with the Palestinians that will invariably continue between now and then as static white noise." What ultimately matters is the content of the plan," the senior White House official said.” [JPost

MEANWHILE -- “U.S. freezes funds to U.N. relief agency, diplomats say” by Barak Ravid: “The Trump administration has frozen $125 million in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees The funding, one third of the annual U.S. donations to the agency, was supposed to be transferred by Jan. 1 but was withheld The diplomats added that U.S. officials told U.N. officials in the last two days that President Trump is even considering cutting up to $180 million.” [Axios

ISRAEL ON BOARD? “Netanyahu tiptoes around U.S. threat to cut off Palestinian aid” by Jeffrey Heller: “Praising Trump’s “critical approach” on the aid issue, Netanyahu steered clear of advocating a suspension of funding for the Palestinians. He said U.N. money for them should be transferred gradually to its global refugee agency UNHCR “with clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees and not fictitious ones, as is happening today under UNRWA.”” [Reuters

“Tapes Reveal Egyptian Leaders’ Tacit Acceptance of Jerusalem Move” by David Kirkpatrick: “How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?” Captain [Ashraf al-]Kholi asked repeatedly in four audio recordings of his telephone calls (to the hosts of several influential talk shows in Egypt)... “We, like all our Arab brothers, are denouncing this matter,” Captain Kholi continued. But, he added, “After that, this thing will become a reality. Palestinians can’t resist and we don’t want to go to war. We have enough on our plate as you know" All three recipients of his calls pledged to convey his messages, and some echoed his arguments in broadcasts. “Enough already. It got old,” Mr. Megahed told his viewers about the issue of Jerusalem.” [NYTimes

"Jerusalem should be shared capital, UK's Johnson tells Palestinian foreign minister" by William James: "Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of Israeli and Palestinian states, British foreign minister Boris Johnson told his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Malki on Monday." [Reuters]

ARGUMENT: “Israel Should Not Publicly Honor Trump” by Todd Stern: “In the waning days of 2017, Yisrael Katz, the transportation minister, proposed to name a high-speed rail station planned for the Old City of Jerusalem for Donald Trump... For Israel to embrace and exalt a leader with authoritarian tendencies who is viscerally offensive to so many core American supporters of Israel would be to ignore the indignation, disappointment, and raw anger this will provoke in wide swaths of the American public. Whether this would create a lasting rift is hard to know, but it would be foolish to take that risk.” [TheAtlantic

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “Kushner’s Financial Ties to Israel Deepen Even With Mideast Diplomatic Role” by Jesse Drucker: “Last May, Jared Kushner accompanied President Trump on the pair’s first diplomatic trip to Israel Shortly before, his family real estate company received a roughly $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim The deal... pumped significant new equity into 10 Maryland apartment complexes controlled by Kushner’s firm The business dealings don’t appear to violate federal ethics laws And no evidence has emerged that Mr. Kushner was personally involved in brokering the deal. But the deal last spring illustrates how the Kushner Companies’ extensive financial ties to Israel continue to deepen, even with his prominent diplomatic role in the Middle East Raj Shah, a deputy White House press secretary, said the Trump administration has “tremendous confidence in the job Jared is doing leading our peace efforts, and he takes the ethics rules very seriously and would never compromise himself or the administration.”” [NYTimes

“Trump campaign digital director: 'Not one person made a decision' without Kushner and Eric Trump's 'approval'” by Natasha Bertrand: “"Nobody else. Not one person made a decision without their approval," the [Trump campaign] digital director, Brad Parscale, tweeted...Kushner was Parscale's "patron," according to a person familiar with the campaign's inner workings "He's Jared's boy," the person added... But Parscale's tweet also raises new questions about how involved Kushner and Eric Trump were in episodes that have drawn the most scrutiny from investigators probing the campaign's ties to Russia.” [BusinessInsider

SUNDAY SHOWDOWN -- Jake Tapper shuts down contentious interview with Trump aide Stephen Miller -- by Jeremy Peters and Michael Tackett: “The interview, on the program “State of the Union,” quickly grew heated as Mr. Tapper accused Mr. Miller of being “obsequious” and speaking to an “audience of one.” Before it ended, Mr. Tapper told Mr. Miller that he was wasting his audience’s time. Mr. Tapper then turned to the camera, even as Mr. Miller was still speaking, and cut to a commercial. A short time later, the president praised his aide on Twitter, saying that Mr. Miller had “destroyed” Mr. Tapper in the interview.” [NYTimes; Video

-- Miller had to be escorted off CNN's set after interview -- by Linette Lopez: “Two sources close to the situation told Business Insider that after the taping was done, Miller was politely asked to leave several times. He ignored those requests and ultimately security was called and he was escorted out.” [BusinessInsider]  

"Stephen Bannon, under fire after West Wing tell-all, expresses regret over comments attributed to him” by Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey: “At Camp David this weekend, Trump “unloaded” on Bannon, a White House official said The statement, one person close to him said, was as much about stanching the defections of supporters and potential backers as it was about appeasing the president. Bannon continues to criticize Kushner and Ivanka Trump in private and calls Trump a “vessel,” an ally said.” [WashPost

BANNON'S JEWISH SUPPORTERS -- “Bannon finds his regrets aren’t good enough for Trump” by Annie Karni: “If there is anyone, like Bannon, who is a strong supporter of Israel and a strong fighter against anti-Semitism and that person ends up having less influence on the administration,” said Mort Klein, the president of the Sheldon Adelson-funded Zionist Organization of America, “that is something that would sadden me." [Politico

-- “Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who is aligned with Bannon on pro-Israel policies and had Bannon’s help last month at a campaign fundraiser, called his ally’s statement a “positive step forward” in terms of clarity. Zeldin said he wanted to see how Trump and his family will respond. The congressman added regarding Bannon’s statement “and especially with so much of the book’s veracity in question, it is helpful to have the added background.” [Newsday

INSIDE THE ADMIN -- "Gary Cohn may soon be headed for the exits" by Tory Newmyer: "Cohn, rather than consolidating the influence he sought at Bannon’s expense, appears headed for the exit following the passage of a tax code overhaul in December friendly to corporations. He’s done little to head off the chatter. In a Friday appearance on Bloomberg News, he answered a question about his plans by saying, “I’m here today.” And when Trump called him on stage at Camp David over the weekend to attest to his job satisfaction before news cameras, Cohn kept it brief. “Yes, I’m happy,” he said. “How’s that?”" [WashPost

--- Jonathan Swan: “Sources tell me the recent resignation of Cohn's deputy Jeremy Katz has been a bigger blow to the administration than many realize.” [Axios

2018 WATCH: "Mandel drops out of Ohio Senate race vs. Sherrod Brown" by Kevin Robillard and Daniel Strauss: "Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is dropping out of the state's U.S. Senate race because of a family health issue, leaving Republicans without a top-tier contender against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown... "We recently learned that my wife has a health issue that will require my time, attention and presence. In other words, I need to be there," Mandel wrote in an email to supporters." [Politico]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israel's anti-trust regulator to look at internet giants [Reuters SEC Looks Into Kushner Cos. Over Use of EB-5 Program for Immigrant Investors [WSJ]  The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion today, led by Ben Bernanke, on whether it’s time to permanently replace the 2 percent inflation target [Brookings] Frank Lowy: from humble start to global shopping giant [TheAustralian Daryl Katz Lists Vancouver Penthouse Condo For $38 Million after buying the most expensive house ever listed in Los Angeles for $152 million [HuffPost]  American Eagle CEO snags Miami Ritz-Carlton pad [NYPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN: "Barren Island’s Treasure Trove: Robert Moses levelled a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood in the nineteen-fifties. Debris is still washing ashore" by David Owen: "In the mid-thirties, Robert Moses evicted the remaining residents to make way for Marine Park... Some of the exposed material, [Robin] Nagle believes, originated in a Brooklyn neighborhood that Moses levelled to make way for one of his road-building projects, more than a decade after Floyd Bennett Field had been supplanted by LaGuardia Airport. “We don’t know which neighborhood,” she said, “but we do know the period, because when we find remnants of newspapers the dates are between early February and mid-March of 1953... People say the beach is covered with garbage, but it’s actually covered with the material traces of homes that people had to abandon when Moses forced them out.”" [NewYorker

“Looted Antiques Seized From Billionaire’s Home, Prosecutors Say” by James McKinley: “Investigators raided the office and the Manhattan home of the billionaire Michael H. Steinhardt on Friday afternoon, carrying off several ancient works that prosecutors say were looted from Greece and Italy. Mr. Steinhardt, a hedge-fund manager and philanthropist, has been collecting art from ancient Greece for three decades and has close ties to the Metropolitan Museum of Art The seizures marked the latest action in an effort by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., to repatriate looted antiquities discovered in New York City to their countries of origin.” [NYTimes; DailyBeast

HOLLYWOOD: "What Does Gal Gadot’s Husband Do? Being Wonder Woman's Sidekick Isn't Yaron Versano's Only Super Power" by Nina Bradley: "It seems fans have become increasingly curious about what Gadot's husband Yaron Versano does for a living. A quick glimpse into Versano's background proves that being married to Wonder Woman isn't his only claim to fame. While married to one of Hollywood's highest grossing actors of 2017, Versano's personal success in business is nothing to sneeze at. The Israeli real estate developer, along with his brother, once owned and operated Tel Aviv's Varsano Hotel before they sold it to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for a reported $26 million in 2015..." [Bustle]

GOLDEN GLOBES -- “Rachel Brosnahan wins the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy” by Lizzie Plaugic: “Rachel Brosnahan, who plays Miriam Maisel in Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, just won her first-ever Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy. The series is about a Jewish housewife living in New York City in the late 1950s who decides to become a comedian after her husband leaves her.” [TheVerge

"Natalie Portman Presents Best Director: ‘Here Are the All-Male Nominees’" by Daniel Victor: "Portman managed to deliver a line that instantly landed among the awards show’s most memorable. On stage to present the award for best director, [Ron] Howard began with a relatively standard introduction. Ms. Portman added, without a smile: “And here are the all-male nominees.”" [NYTimes]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Behind the Scenes of ‘Soon By You,’ the Orthodox Jewish ‘Friends’” by Emily Shire: “Often billed as a modern Orthodox version of Friends, the YouTube series follows six singles, navigating the religious dating scene of New York’s Upper West Side “The way we date might be different, but at the end of the day, we’re all just searching for that human connection,” Leah Gottfried, the creator, director, and co-writer of Soon By You told The Daily Beast.“We gain knowledge of things from TV and movies, and if the only depiction of Judaism you’ve seen is Broad City, Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, you’re going to have one interesting and inaccurate picture of what the full spectrum looks like,” [Jessica] Schechter, 30, told The Daily Beast.” [DailyBeast

"Sharks Appear On Mediterranean Beach In Israel, Researchers Don't Know Why" by Ayushman Basu: "According to a report by Haaretz, the sharks remain in constant motion and close to the shoreline boulders in a small area. It is believed that the sharks are attracted by the relatively warm waters near the shore, where they stay from the months of December to March. However, the researchers are yet to figure out where the sharks go after March. But till the sharks stay, they are a major tourist attraction." [IBTimes]

“See the Art That Tavi Gevinson Collects” by John Ortved: “Ms. Gevinson lives in a one-bedroom apartment on a high floor in a new building across the street from the Brooklyn Academy of Music On the walls of her living area and bedroom are the works of young artists — friends of Ms. Gevinson’s from high school or teenagers she’s featured in Rookie What’s with that Post-it with the word “chutzpah” written on it? “I was reading about “A Star Is Born,” the Streisand one, and how her boyfriend or hair stylist or someone wanted to direct it. He had no experience directing. And she said something like, “He had such chutzpah,” and it made me realize I could do anything. That just reminds me to have the confidence of a white straight man.”” [NYTimes

PIC OF THE DAY -- Amb. David Friedman: “Took the weekend off at a great Israeli resort. Even the cappuccino ("cafe hafuch") reflects the unbreakable bond between the USA and Israel.” [Pic

REMEMBERING: “Jerome Lefkowitz, a Force in New York Labor Law, Dies at 86” by Sam Roberts: “Jerome Lefkowitz, a labor lawyer and mediator who helped draft the Taylor Law, which grants New York public employees collective bargaining rights but forbids them from striking, died on Dec. 21 at his home in Albany Jerome Lefkowitz was born on March 24, 1931, in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx to Jack Lefkowitz, a garment industry executive, and the former Sue Horowitz. Both his parents were active in Jewish organizations. In addition to his son Jay, he is survived by his wife, the former Myrna Weishaut; two other sons, Mark and Alan; a daughter, Miriam Lefkowitz; a brother, Leonard; and 10 grandchildren.” [NYTimes

DESSERT: "Israeli company says it has produced tiniest cherry tomato" by Audrey Horowitz: "The "drop tomato" is about the size of a blueberry and the Kedma company in the country's southern Arava desert says it is the smallest one ever cultivated in Israel, perhaps even in the world... "The idea is that it is comfortable," said Ariel Kidron, a Kedma grower. "You can throw it in a salad, you don't need to cut it. It just explodes in your mouth." The seed, originally developed in Holland, was modified to match the arid growing conditions in southern Israel." [ABCNews]

WEEKEND WEDDING: “Gabrielle Melissa Leon and Mark Eric Spatt were married Jan. 6. Rabbi Michael L. Gold officiated at the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Fla. Mrs. Spatt is the program associate in Atlanta for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, which encourages high school students and young adults, through educational programs and travel, to develop a connection with Israel and Jewish values. She is also a director of both the Atlanta chapter of the American Jewish Committee and of the Coalition for Collegiate Women’s Leadership Mr. Spatt is also involved with Atlanta chapter of the American Jewish Committee, through which the couple met in 2014.” [NYTimes

BIRTHDAYS: Talmudic scholar living in Bnei Brak, Israel, widely acclaimed as the leader of the Haredi community, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky turns 90... Television, film, stage actor and comedian, Larry Storch turns 95... Moscow-born classical pianist, living in the US since 1987, Vladimir Feltsman turns 66... Founder and chief investment officer of Pzena Investment Management, a NYC-based investment firm with $35 billion in assets under management, Richard "Rich" Pzena turns 59... Founder and president of DC-based Professionals in the City, Michael Karlan turns 50... Lobbyist, attorney, patron of contemporary art and philanthropist, Heather Miller Podesta turns 48... State Senator in Maine since 2008, Justin Loring Alfond turns 43... Director of public policy and strategic partnerships for CareDotCom, she was previously deputy director of the White House Council on Women and Girls for President Obama, Avra Siegel turns 36... Dayton, Ohio native, deputy editor of Newsweek, previously at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Ross M. Schneiderman turns 36 (h/ts Playbook)...

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